Saturday, August 21, 2010

Day-to-day today

I must admit, writing this blog everyday is becoming a bit  of a challenge.  I don’t want to write about day-to-day things, on the basic premise that ‘no one cares what I had for lunch.‘ ( I just found out tonight that there is a book with nearly that title that I will now have to read.)  However, writing about big things and big ideas would require more space and more time than a daily blog or my schedule allows. It is getting harder to come up with new ideas that fall in that middle ground somewhere between day-to-day minutia and those big ideas.  Tonight, I will give in to the day-to-day.  I promise to stay away from discussing my lunch menu (This will be easy, since I didn’t even have lunch) and maybe the rest of the day will be at least of modest interest.

We are hosting two young women from Japan for the weekend.  Mai  and Yoshiko  are visiting SVSU  and with Ellen’s recent Japanese language experience, we thought we could  provide them with English practice and provide Ellen with Japanese practice.  With communication covered, Al and I were responsible for the ‘sharing American family life’ part of the weekend.    We were told to do what we normally do on the weekend and sort of absorb the students in our usual routine.  The only problem is that we are insanely boring most of the time and spend way too much time on pretty antisocial activities- reading , writing, mowing the lawn, etc.   So, we thought we should do something else, something that doesn’t necessarily fall into the category of what we usually do, but rather something that would fall into the category of what we usually would do if we were cooler than we really are. 

So, we asked some of our cooler friends what they would do and one of my colleagues suggested the Alden B. Dow Home and Studio, which is a now open to the public as a museum.  Alden B. Dow was the son of H.H. Dow (who started the  Dow Chemical Company in Midland, MI) and a famous architect in his own (W)right.  In fact, he studied at Taliesin with Frank Lloyd Wright, an influence that clearly pervades his design.  There are many Alden B. Dow houses around the area, but in the 12 years we have been here, we never really looked into his work.  I am so glad our visitors inspired us to do so now. Alden Dow used a lot of rich wood tones, art glass, repeating geometric shapes and like Wright, he integrates nature into his designs and carefully scales each space to match its function.  Compressed spaces move you along to open spaces where you want to linger.  He was very playful and he makes use of vibrant color palette that I can best describe as ‘sherbet’ - raspberry, lime green, lemon yellow, and so on.  He loved to surprise and entice people and his home and studio have all sorts of little nooks and crannies to be explored.  The overall impression is one of simple space and light, but there are millions of tiny details and embellishments to be discovered.  How is it possible that we missed this jewel in the past?  I can see that we will be taking all of our out-of-town guests to this museum in the future. (Dear potential out-of-town guests.  This museum alone is worth the trip.  Really.  Hint, hint).

Nancy, my  blogging writer-friend  who I have mentioned before, and her daughter, Lizz, who has also studied Japanese, joined us for dinner.  Like us, they  enjoy cooking  interesting recipes and between all the cooks, there was enough tasty food for an army, really quite a feast!  Yoshiko and Mai know enough English and Ellen and Lizz know enough Japanese that communication was generally pretty easy and the conversation was relaxed and comfortable. We sat outside on the deck as daylight faded into darkness, blessed by an abundance of good food, good will and laughter. 

What kind of impression did this make on Yoshiko and Mai?  It is hard to say.  I am not entirely sure how much they understood on the  museum tour, but, hopefully  at the Dow home they saw balance and beauty expressed in a style that is uniquely American.  And hopefully, they felt warmth, welcome, good will and fellowship at the dinner table.  Sharing time with strangers reminds me once again how something as ordinary or even as extra ordinary as a Saturday afternoon in Michigan can become something quite extraordinary. 

Today I am grateful for friends in all categories- old friends, new friends, and renewed friends.

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