Monday, August 29, 2011


I have lived through the demise of buildings that were significant in my life. Some burned. Some were demolished. I feel a sense of loss when I think about them. The most recent loss is the home in Green Bay where Rick and I raised our five children for sixteen years. We left it in 1990, but when I heard this year that it had burned, I felt that some part of us had burned with it. I drove past it not long ago. An earth mover was moving dirt around on the houseless lot. I stayed for a few minutes and said goodbye. Goodbye to a house that had lasted a hundred years. Goodbye to all that had happened there.

Here is a list of buildings in my life, that now are gone, plus one I never saw.

1. Central School, Park Ridge IL. After my kindergarten year, the city tore it down. I transferred to Roosevelt School.

2. The Episcopal Church in Sturgeon Bay, where my family went after we moved to Sturgeon Bay when I was ten years old. It was in an old house. A new building was constructed, and still stands. The old house was torn down. No more worship in the living room. (It really was a good idea to replace it.)

3. The house in Milwaukee with our apartment upstairs, where Rick and I began our life together. It was demolished and Riverside Park was expanded into its space. Goodbye to Mr. and Mrs. Camarata, our landlords downstairs.

4. Our home in the Preble area of Green Bay. Sometime after we sold it, the city rerouted East Mason Street onto what was Cass Street, and away the house went. The new street was constructed through the lot. The last time I saw that house, it was in a newspaper photograph. Its owner was moving it across the Mason Street bridge to a new location. We lived there with our babies Dede and John.

5. Sturgeon Bay High School. It stood educationless for a number of years before it was demolished to make space for the city’s new city hall/fire department. Needless to say, the education that took place there was relocated. When I arrived in fifth grade, the building housed kindergarten through high school. As time went on the city built new elementary schools, new middle school and new high school. They built the high school on a piece of property that was home to my grade school friend Laurel Paschke. Goodbye to her old home.

6. Our family home in Green Bay on Quincy Street, described in the first paragraph.

7. Barns on the farm of my father-in-law in Arena. While he was alive, the sheep barn burned. He was retired and had not long to live when it happened, so no sheep were in residence. Later, after the farm was sold, the main barn burned. Friends told us.

8. Uncle Otto’s store in Winona MN. I never saw it, but my mother and grandmother lived above it when my mother was a child. Last year my brother and I looked at the spot where it had stood. It now is a parking lot.

Ashes and rubble. Buildings come and go. Impermanence is all around us. The World Trade Center departed. Shopping centers have come and gone. I’m glad I have a brick from my high school.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Natural Bridge State Park

A couple of days ago I visited the most unassuming state park that I have ever seen, Natural Bridge State Park. Wisconsin State Park System, the state’s brochure, even makes it seem like more than it is. It calls the park’s claim to existence “a breathtaking natural sandstone arch created by the eroding effects of wind and water.”

It’s In Sauk County, somewhere between and west of Sauk City and Baraboo, in the beginning of the Baraboo Hills. It’s small, apparently unstaffed (unless the staff office is in the pit toilet building, which it isn't), and without amenities beyond a parking lot and the aforementioned pit toilet building. Oh, and a small box that invites us to pay money into it. In my opinion, these characteristics are all positives while being a bit surprising to one who is used to the more elaborate state parks in Door County. No park office. No picnic tables. No campground. No recreational water. Yes woods and a few trails. A few small signs.
The park is about a natural formation in a rock outcropping like those at Wisconsin Dells, that is a natural bridge or a big hole in the rock formation, depending on how one thinks about it. It’s beautiful, hidden in the woods so the hiker doesn’t see it until he/she is right in front of it. I stood there looking at it and thinking about what this would be like if it was right in the middle of Wisconsin Dells instead of in the quiet overgrown rural woods. In the Dells, promoters might at least run a little train around it and offer parachute drops off the top, which is thirty-five feet high.
It’s a very good, unusual formation. It’s not surrounded by tourist hype. The park boasts nothing else except a log building in disrepair and a small stone building, both along the road. People who need to have their entertainment provided will be puzzled here and maybe say, “But there’s nothing to do…”
I drove about an hour to find this little park. I thought I was the only person in it until I returned to the parking lot and found a man there using his cell phone. Very undisturbed. I like it. has more information.