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Monthly Archives: November 2012

Old Faces and New Places

Shrine of the Sun

Shrine of the Sun

In the early stages of writing a biography, ideas sometimes percolate on the back burner and germinate slowly through the seasons. Ideas grow as the creative cells divide. Sometimes I find myself in a locale that calls to me while I decide my next move. Usually, the place I seek is a cemetery. When I see the final destination of a person’s journey, I can visualize and speculate about the life which brought them there. Sometimes, I find inspiration, a hint of what brought them to this spot, or a familiar and surprising landmark when paths intersect.

View

View of the Eastern Plains from the Shrine

This past week, I drove an hour south of Denver to my former home, Colorado Springs, for a book launch. Pikes Peak Library District published another fine compilation, Doctors, Disease and Dying in the Pikes Peak Region, which included my chapter about Dr. Justina Ford. Before the event, I visited the Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun, high above Colorado Springs and the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. On a crisp, clear fall day, the view was expansive, dizzying and breathtaking. I had the place to myself.

Mural at shrine

Familiar history through art at Shrine of the Sun

I was thrilled and watchful as I climbed the narrow staircase of cool stone outside the majestic tower made entirely of rock and mortar, except for the metal of the inside staircase, rails, and doors. In the entrance, I spied a familiar face. Was that General William Palmer on that painted mural, welcoming travelers on the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad? I was back home now, on familiar turf, encountering an old friend from Colorado history. Was the clanking sound I heard above an uneasy spirit, or another pilgrim in this fortress? No, it was just a flagpole rope, caught by the wind, batting the metal flagpole. Perhaps the sound was demanding my attention, urging me forward.

This grand and glorious place, created by Builder of the West, Spencer Penrose, was built as a shrine to his entertainer and philosopher pal, Will Rogers, after his death in a 1935 airplane crash. The shrine also contains a chapel where the Penrose’s cremains were buried later. This enchanting haven could definitely qualify as the starting point for a new story and writing adventure.

Joyce Lohse
http://www.LohseWorks.com

 

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When you lose a friend

Sad Sky

The sky was sad and dark the day I learned my friend Gwyn Ramsey died. In fact, the sky made me think her time had come, and sent me to check her Facebook. After all, that is how we often learn personal news these days. I wasn’t surprised, since she was struggling during her eighth round of battle with breast cancer. While I mourned when she entered hospice the week before, I wrote down some thoughts to share with our writing group, Women Writing the West. This was a list I created for myself:

  1. Send a message to Gwyn. NOW!
  2. Wear a breast cancer awareness lapel pin in her honor.
  3. Find a way to honor this person with a donation that would make her smile.

I did not sleep well that night. At 3 a.m., I got up and wrote a message to Gwyn on a special card. It was a beautiful western scene of two people on horses in the snow, created by an artist friend. I told Gwyn that I always enjoyed our shared research and adventures, and she would always be a part of my journey. I took it to the mailbox first thing that morning. My heart was gladdened to think that it might be sent in time. The rest of the list was easy to follow. The pin was already on my jacket. Since Gwyn was our Raffle Queen, the donation that would make her smile was an antique book by Willa Cather for our WWW WILLA Literary Fund Raffle.

Joyce & Gwyn 09

Joyce and Gwyn in Denver in 2009

We learn of so much that is important in our lives through social media these days. When I saw the news that my friend passed away, I wasn’t sure whether to believe it. I waited a full day before I passed along the message, wondering if it would be confirmed, and it was. I’ve had trouble finding obituaries from other recent losses, and I wonder if obits will become a less used way to announce the end of a person’s life. This would have a large impact on later researchers who are seeking information about personal data.

When a person leaves this life, their internet presence continues. When I later checked Gwyn’s Facebook page, I learned that her husband followed her when he passed away just a couple of weeks later. In its way, the electronic age makes us less connected, but it also binds us closer to people we care about more than 1,000 miles away. Gwyn will also always be present through her books about western history adventure published by Treble Heart Books.

Joyce B. Lohse
http://www.LohseWorks.com

 
 

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