Monday, July 5, 2010


Some one left a comment in response to the Samuel Johnson line that I posted on my sidebar the other day. It substituted 'tomboy' for 'female'. It got me to thinking about the term 'tomboy' and how it might apply to this line...the endearing elegance of female friendship.

The plot of Rasselas aside, I had originally posted this line because it intrigued me...was Johnson's observation about the 'endearing elegance' of two women as friends, or was he speaking of his friendship with a woman? Was it just a guy-gal pal thing, or a friendship that entailed something more? And then there was this comment left on my blog that added a whole other dimension I hadn't even thought of. Is there anything elegant about a tomboy, or endearingly elegant about a tomboy, albeit female, friendship? Was this commenter thinking about friendship as one of a tomboy with her guy-pal? Or something more?

I know how I define the term 'tomboy', but I was curious what the literature had to say. I turned to the hand-held Webster's...a girl who behaves like a boisterous boy...and that worked for me. Then I googled it and up popped the wicked-Wikipedia...a girl who exhibits some characteristics of the gender role of a boy including the wearing of typically masculine-oriented types of clothes and engaging in games and activities that are often physical in nature, and which are considered to be the domain of boys.... OK, I can buy that. The next line caught me by surprise...there is a perceived correlation between tomboy and lesbianism. Hmmph! That thought had never crossed my mind. Never.

I remember a time when I was proud to call myself a tomboy. I fit in with the boys AND the girls. It was the best of both worlds. And I never thought about the sexuality of it at all...and certainly never any elegance. Then puberty hit. I suppose my fear of all that happens to a young girl's body during the 'hormonal turmoil' caused me to cling ever more tightly to my 'tom-boy-ism'. Who doesn't remember the special 'pull-outs' for the girls during the junior high years? I attended those talks in the 6th and 7th grade, but I never really thought it would happen anytime soon. I think most of the information about the transformation (boobs and babies, but especially periods) went in one ear and out the other. I labored under the notion that it (my period) would happen, I'd get over it, and then move on. I refused to believe my mother when she told me that this wasn't a one-time deal, this was EVERY MONTH FOR THE REST OF MY REPRODUCTIVE YEARS!

Well, puberty happened and life went on. Now that I am on the other side of those reproductive years, I wonder about that tomboy thing. Do I still cling to that side of me? Can a woman of a certain age still be a tomboy? I realize that it is such a basic part of me that I had long since forgotten the tag because there were so many others that have applied over the years...friend, girlfriend, lover, wife, mom, gardener, and now student. However, somewhere along the way I figured out that I can 'be' a tomboy along with all those other roles. I still treasure all my tools and I use them to build things (did you see the foto of that grand stairway in my sidebar?). I still lace up my work boots when the job calls for it. I can dig in the dirt with the best of the Boys, but I can also slip into something that knocks the socks right off those same Boys.

I suppose that a tomboy friendship between two women could possess endearing elegance, but that comment left on my blog seems to suggest something other. The endearing elegance of a tomboy friendship between a man and a woman is a delightful thought. The woman who understands this powerful combination of tomboy and sexual creature surely has a leg up for an endearingly elegant friendship.

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Sunday, July 4, 2010

Sacred Vacation of 2010 - Final Day

I headed west...cross-country rather than down I-55 from Lincoln, IL. I wanted to check out some cemeteries that looked promising from the aerials I had google-earthed before leaving home. With my trusty 1998 Road Atlas opened to the Illinois map, my black, 3-ring binder of aerial fotos of cemeteries, and a heavy reluctance to leave Old Union Cemetery behind, I made a bee-line for Mason City, IL. From there I would zig-zag over to Virginia to see what that offered.

After passing thru Mason City, I realized I needed to take on more fuel if I was planning to wander the backroads of central Illinois. I turned around and headed back into town. After filling the tank in the MINI, I asked an older gentleman the best way to get to Virginia. He eyed me for a second, then explained, "Unless that funny-looking car can float, you best go down to Springfield, take I-74 across, then head up to Virginia. What kind of car is that anyway?"

"It's a Mini Cooper and I wanted to head over west before going down to Jacksonville."

"Can't do it. Those back roads are probably under water. I have lived here all my life...I wouldn't take the chance."

OK. Plan B. I scrubbed Virginia, IL. Maybe some other time. I headed down to Springfield, over to Jacksonville and drove into town. I stopped in an older neighborhood, along side another older gentleman mowing his yard, and asked for directions to the old cemetery. He directed me down and around, then past the high school out on the edge of town. Diamond Grove Cemetery lay out on a large tilted plane facing easterly. I could tell from a distance that it wasn't one of HWS's, but I had to go see it.

The older section of the cemetery contained family plots enclosed in concrete curbing, a distinct characteristic of the older, east coast rural cemeteries. Toward the back, up over the highest ridge, the 'newer' parts of the cemetery revealed themselves. First, here were the sections without curbing, but still containing separate family plots. These plots were laid out with the named-family's monument surrounded with the shorter markers of various family members. Further west, in the wayback near the fence row of the cornfield, was the newest section of the cemetery...the memorial park. It was hard to distinguish family plots; there were no monuments, no sense of family. The markers in this section were flush with the lawn; individual grave markers were the norm. Near the gate and up the hill, there were trees and shrubs providing softness and cover, but here, over the ridge and to the back, there wasn't any play of light and shadow. Just grass. And rows of faded, artificial flowers that had long since lost their bloom in the hot, summer sunlight. for some reason this cemetery irritated me. It was time to move on.

Quincy, IL would be my next stop. I got back onto I-74 West and did a quick calculation as to when I would get into town...sometime mid-morning on this day, Sunday, June 6th. I wanted to drive thru the old cemetery there...Woodland...but I especially wanted to visit 3 parks - 2 designed by Cleveland, and 1 designed by OC Simonds, who also expanded the design of one of Cleveland's 20 years later. HWS laid out Riverview Park along the Mississippi River and Madison Park as a neighborhood park NE of the old downtown area. Riverview Park offered a breathtakingly beautiful viewshed from the bluffs high above Miss River. I never made it to Madison Park. Completely forgot about it until I was back on the road heading north out of town. Indian Mounds, the park designed by OC Simond's, was fun to drive in the Mini. Fluid and leafy. A beautiful green belt that went on and on. Woodland Cemetery was old...again, curbing around the family plots...very beautiful, laid out on the rugged bluffs overlooking the river. Not a Cleveland, but definitely a rural cemetery.

I headed up toward Keokuk but stayed on the Illinois side to drive the Great River Road. It was a spectacular day for a leisurely drive on a 2-lane road. The verdant corridor of roadway hugged the water and the bluffs the further north I traveled. I found 2 small cemeteries in Navoo, IL., a small township and a churchyard cemetery. I was headed to Burlington, IA to check out Aspen Grove Cemetery. The aerial foto intrigued me the minute it came up on my laptop screen. Ralph Dwinel, Horace Cleveland's second son started out surveying for the CB&Q RR in Chariton, IA as a 20-something. By the time he was 30, he was still working for the railroad, but living in Burlington. When I was doing research at the Masonic Library in Cedar Rapids, IA I found the Business Directory of 1881-82 for Burlington, IA and looked up Cleveland. Sure enough, there was Ralph D., travel auditor for the CB&Q. I wondered if there might be a Cleveland connection to this cemetery.

Aspen Grove is old. Lots of curbs around the family plots. The grounds went on and on dropping into a shallow draw. The old and listing grave markers and monuments followed the swale down into the 'long view'. I walked, then circled in the Mini. Then I said, "Enough". I was ready to head home.

I think I counted a total of 20 cemetery visits on this most Sacred Vacation of 2010. Every rural cemetery dotting the Midwestern landscape is beautiful in its own way, but only a handful that I visited captured my heart and my admiration. They now occupy a place in my mind's eye. They are Graceland, Spring Grove, Old Union. These cemeteries are my inspiration. These are the burial grounds that make me believe in eternal life...that offer a final resting place for old bones to return to the soil. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.