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Archive for January, 2011

We recently spent a few days in Chicago.  While we have been to Chicago many times we have never toured the Oriental Institute, located on the campus of the University of Chicago.  After driving around the area a few times we finally managed to come across someone pulling out of a prized parking space.  We got lucky and were only 2 blocks away from the museum.  This was good because the temperature was right around freezing and a slight wind blowing.  Of course Chicago is the windy city.

 The Oriental Institute is a world-renowned research center for the study of the ancient Middle East.  They have a very extensive collection of antiquities from ancient Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Sudan, Syria and Turkey.  From the name you would expect it to be a collection from the Asian countries, like China, etc. It turns out that these lands were called the “Orient” at the turn of the last century.

 This was one of those museums that I wish I could visit many times and only do a small portion each time.  There was so much there it was hard to absorb it all in one visit.

 From Khorsabad, which is present day Iraq, there was a 40 ton sculpture of a human-headed winged bull. It was from the palace of the Assyrian King Sargon II.  Known as a lamassus, two of these sculptures would have guarded the entrance to Sargon’s throne room.   This colossal sculpture was discovered in 1929 and was broken into more than a dozen pieces. There were photo showing how it was discovered, crated, transported and eventually installed at the Institute.  It was amazing what good condition it was in and the amount of detail.

HUMAN HEADED WINGED BULL

HUMAN HEADED WINGED BULL

DETAIL OF HUMAN HEADED WINGED BULL

DETAIL OF HUMAN HEADED WINGED BULL

  There was displayed some carved reliefs of a procession that would have been on the walls of the throne room courtyard.  It showed a procession of officials approaching the throne room.  Here again there was wonderful detail and a few of the figures still showing a trace of  some of the original color.

COLOR ON RELIEF

COLOR ON RELIEF

RELIEF OF PROCESSION

RELIEF OF PROCESSION

DETAIL OF RELIEF

DETAIL OF RELIEF

 This Striding Lion once decorated a side of the “Processional Way” in ancient Babylon, 604-562 B.C. The Processional Way led out of the city through a massive gate named for the Mesopotomian goddess of love and war, Ishtar, whose symbol was the lion.  It was amazing how well the color was preserved.

STRIDING LION

STRIDING LION

  In another room was a statue of King Tutankhamun.  This colossal statue is 17 feet 4 inches tall, the tallest ancient Egyptian statue in the Western Hemisphere.

KING TUTANKHAMUN

KING TUTANKHAMUN

I liked these models of workers, knows as Ushebtis, because they show the original color of the figures. We get so accustomed to seeing all these sculptures and reliefs in a stone color that we forget they originally would have been painted in bright colors.  The Ushebtis were included in the Egyptian tombs to perform work on behalf of the deceased.  The Ushebtis were employed through the Ptolemaic period (1st century B.C.).

USHEBITIS

USHEBITIS

Just think about how colorful the mummies are.

MUMMY

MUMMY

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The forecasters were right today.  They were forecasting snow last night continuing until mid day today.  Which means we woke up to a postcard picture in our yard, with everything covered in a blanket of snow.  So I had to bundle up and make my way out to take a few pictures.

There are dome-like mountains of snow around my water garden boulders.

WATERFALL IN SNOW

WATERFALL IN SNOW

There is no traffic on the street and not another person out,  just a few birds, who don’t seem to mind the cold. Gives new meaning to snow birds.

Cardinal in the snow

Cardinal in the snow

SNOW BIRD

SNOW BIRD

 I still have some Christmas wreaths adorning the windows and the gazing balls in the flower box.  They take on a different look covered with snow.

GAZING BALL IN SNOW

GAZING BALL IN SNOW

This one fern just doesn’t seem to know it is supposed to go dormant in the winter.  I am anxious to see if it is still alive come spring.

FERN IN SNOW

FERN IN SNOW

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Traveling provides so many memorable moments that you can keep with you for a lifetime. You can take pictures of these moments-and I certainly do that. In fact in some places there are so many must have views that it tends to look like overkill when I cycle through my pictures at the end of the day. More than the photos, it’s the memories that create the richness of the moment.

I can look at one of my photos and think that is a really good shot. Upon looking at it more objectively I realize I think that because I am seeing more than is captured on the photo. I am seeing everything that went into that photo, everything else that surrounds that photo. Maybe it’s the many stairs I had to climb to see the view of the city, like all those spiral staircases in churches in Europe. Maybe it’s the wide vista that can never be totally captured, like being on the top of the hill at Machu Pichu.

MACHU PICCHU AT SUNSET

MACHU PICCHU AT SUNSET

 Maybe it’s having a wonderful lunch at an outdoor café in one of the little towns in Provence. All my pictures bring back so many memories.

The best memory I have, and no photo of, is our camel ride up Mt. Sinai in Egypt to see the sunrise. When trying to decide if I wanted to do this I thought, Moses went up there in sandals to get the 10 Commandments, how hard can it be.  Little did I know what a foolish statement this was.  We were awakened at two in the morning and we took a bus to where the Bedouins waited for us with camels. (This was an optional tour and we paid the money up front with our tour guide telling us the Bedouins may or may not show up, you never know.) It was pitch black and we were told not to turn on our flashlights as it might frighten the camels. Each of us had our own Bedouin guide who walked alongside and guided the camel. As we approached the camels a guide took us by the arm (actually grabbed us) and led us to his camel. Of course everyone was trying to stay with their spouse but that didn’t happen. We were all calling out to our spouses,” where are you”.  It was so dark you really couldn’t see much of anything.  We should have had some clue as what to expect when our tour guide said he wouldn’t be coming along. I had ridden a camel before on a brief ride near the pyramids and that was fun, so I didn’t think I would be uncomfortable doing this.

These were the Bactrian camels, the ones with two humps. There was a saddle between the humps, but  not real comfortable. We were in such a remote area that there were no city lights so the stars were absolutely something to behold. Just getting on the camel is frightening. They are down on all fours so you can get on.  Then they raise up their front legs first and then their back, or visce versa, I don’t remember.  They do the opposite when you get off. Anyway when their front legs go down and the back are still up, you feel like you are going to fly right over it’s head. So then we start on our journey. As I said it is pitch dark and you have no idea what kind of terrain you are on. All I knew is we were going up hill. Camels move both legs on one side at the same time, which creates a rocking motion. Then at times the camels foot would slip and sheer panic would set in. I have no idea how our guide knew where to go as you really couldn’t even see the person in front of you. Of course, you couldn’t talk to your guide as he didn’t speak any English.

There was one area of switchbacks where the group in front of me was on a higher level and were silhouetted in the moonlight. All I could think of was this is the perfect Christmas card of the Wise Men. However, I was holding on for dear life and too afraid to let go to get my camera out. But that picture is forever burned in my memory. That is why I say when I look at my pictures I am seeing all of this.

After a two hour ride we finally made it to the top. The Bedouins all laid down on the ground and covered themselves with blankets and went to sleep. As we watched shooting stars,  dancing in the sky, we got to thinking we were crazy to be doing this. What if something happened, our guide wasn’t with us and this was before cell phones, what would we do. I have never experienced such beauty and such silence. You don’t know what true silence is until you are in a situation like this. The sun came up and it was spectacular. This is also before digital cameras so I don’t have many pictures of it.

Then it was time to head back down for breakfast. That is when we found out that they can’t take the camels down hill with someone on them so we had to hike down. Our guide didn’t tell us this before we embarked on this journey. This made the experience all the more frightening. First of all, a week before I had sprained my ankle so I was all the more apprehensive about going down. Then when we saw where we came from we knew we were crazy. There was a slight path to follow but there would be big drop offs in many places. I thought I was afraid going up in the dark, if I saw where we were going I would have been completely terrified. The trip down took us three hours and to this day I don’t know how I did it. But looking back it makes for a wonderful story and something I will never forget and I am glad I did it.

P.S. I Just had to add to this story.  A couple of weeks after I published this I opened the travel section of our Sunday newspaper and there was an article about Mount Sinai.  Of course I was quite anxious to read it.  We were in Egypt maybe 15 years ago as part of a tour to Israel.  When we took the camels up to Mount Sinai there were maybe 20 people in our group and we were the only group there.  This article talks about tour buses rumbling in.  waiting to transport crowds of people to the start of the trip up the mountain. The author of the article said that before heading up the mountain he had to walk through a metal detector while soldiers checked his passport and searched his backpack.  Once on the path up, there were several huts along the trail that provided benches for resting and sold drinks, snacks and Bedouin trinkets.  He observed that once at the summit dawn revealed several hundred eager pilgrims, all vying for space.  I can’t imagine having the same frightening but wonderful , memorable experience I had in this type of environment.  Sounds like things have certainly changed. Makes me even more thankful we went years ago before it turned into a tourist attraction. I just can’t imagine enjoying the solitude and silence and wonder of it all that we experienced with so many people around.

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The Eugene Field House is a unique Historic House Museum.  Visiting it during the Christmas Season was a special treat since there was much festive décor through the house. One of the special Christmas decorations they have is a feather tree, actually 2 of them.  The large one in the living room of goose feathers

LIVING ROOM WITH GOOSE FEATHER TREE

LIVING ROOM WITH GOOSE FEATHER TREE

and a smaller one of turkey feathers in his office upstairs.

TREE  MADE OF TURKEY FEATHERS

TREE MADE OF TURKEY FEATHERS

They even allow you feel it to prove it was made from feathers.  The guide told us these trees are rare finds as they are very fragile and hard to preserve.  You will notice the wide spacing between the branches. This is because candles were attached to the branches and they needed plenty of space so the flames wouldn’t touch the branches.

The Field House is now a National Historic Landmark and a City of St. Louis Landmark. 

EUGENE FIELD HOUSE

EUGENE FIELD HOUSE

Our guide explained why being declared a National Historic Landmark was a very good thing for them.  She said the city would like nothing more than to tear the house down and build a bar or restaurant there.  It is in an area near the Cardinal baseball Stadium, so it is prime property.  They have their own parking lot which is also very beneficial to them.  They can gain extra revenue during ballgames by charging a fee for parking.

The house was Eugene Field’s boyhood home, and during the time he lived here his father Roswell M. Field served as the Attorney who took Dred Scott’s freedom lawsuit into the Federal Courts, leading to the infamous Supreme Court decision in the Dred Scott Case. However, the house became famous not for that but because Eugene Field lived there.

Eugene Field was born in St. Louis in 1850 and became known as the “Children’s Poet”. He wrote such poems as Wynken, Blynken and Nod and Little Boy Blue.  He also worked for many newspapers and became known for his light, humorous articles. Some were reprinted in out-of-state newspapers.  Making him the first syndicated columnist.

DINING ROOM OF EUGENE FIELD HOUSE

DINING ROOM OF EUGENE FIELD HOUSE

BEDROOM OF EUGENE FIELD HOUSE

BEDROOM OF EUGENE FIELD HOUSE

OFFICE IN THE EUGENE FIELD HOUSE

OFFICE IN THE EUGENE FIELD HOUSE

The flat screen TV, above the fireplace, is not of the time period.  It is there to show programs to school groups. 

 The Eugene Field House  is also a toy museum having toys from the 1790’s to present.  Eugene himself was a collector of toys and the home contains many of his personal possessions. Imagine a time before toys required batteries and multi page instruction manuals. The museum exhibits such beloved toys as board games and dolls from yesteryear. 

PART OF THE TOY COLLECTION

PART OF THE TOY COLLECTION

Once again I found in a Museum toys from my childhood or toys that I still have in my basement from when my children were young. It is a stroll back in time.

TOYS IN THE EUGENE FIELD HOUSE

TOYS IN THE EUGENE FIELD HOUSE

TOYS IN THE EUGENE FIELD HOUSE
TOYS IN THE EUGENE FIELD HOUSE

The house was part of 12 row houses built  in 1845. Today the Eugene Field house is the only remaining house of the 12. Because of Eugene Fields popularity the house was spared when the rest of the Row was demolished in 1934. I am always  thankful that someone has the foresight to preserve these pieces of history for all of us to enjoy.

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