Don’t Forget to Travel

When I retired, my brother gave me luggage and said, “Don’t forget to travel.” Going on the road keeps my juices flowing. Last Thursday Tim and I took a little road trip to Mason City to explore some local architectural history.

The city recently opened the Historic Park Inn, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and meticulously restored to the tune of about $20M. It is amazing! Besides the hotel, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Stockman House is a great example of the Prairie School of architecture. On Friday we walked through a neighborhood just east of downtown of well-preserved homes from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The area includes Prairie, Craftsman, and Victorian styles. There are brass plaques embedded in the sidewalks with the name of the architect, the year the home was built, and the style of architecture.

We were pleasantly impressed by the vibe of Mason City. We ate three excellent meals at three very fine local restaurants. I didn’t expect that the local food movement had reached a town in northern Iowa. But Ralph’s is all about it. They are able to get nearly all their meat and eggs within 30 miles, and buy as much other food locally as possible.

Mason City’s other claim to fame is the boyhood home of “The Music Man.” Meredith Willson grew up there, and Tim and I both worked backstage on our high school productions of his famous play. We walked the footbridge over Willow Creek, but Tim drew the line at the tour of “Music Man Square.” Next time.

When we visited Florida last month, I painted two landscapes on the beach. I put my apron over my swimsuit, set up my plein air easel, and voila. Because the scene changes so quickly–people and umbrellas move, the light changes–there’s no pressure to take the time to get it down perfectly. I feel I captured the stormy feeling of the sky, and the carefree attitude of the coast.

A couple years ago, I made a trip to Greece and Turkey I had dreamed about since I was about twelve, and read “The Moonspinners.” My daughter and I explored Delphi, the Acropolis, and Meteora, archeological sites that inspired my childhood interest in Greek myths.

Though famously struggling these days, Greece has preserved its culture, identity, religion and homeland through Turkish, Persian, Roman, German and American occupations.  After several weeks in Greece, I concluded the secret of their survival is complete confidence that the culture that began there will prevail through time.

What’s the point? That getting out of the daily routine gives us new eyes. It opens possibilities we don’t see in day-to-day life. If I’m struggling with a project, even taking time out for a walk can loosen my mind enough to find the answer.

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