Mercy Week & Mother Nature


Father Tony Adawu talking about Pope Francis and Mercy. My wife, a nursing faculty member and OB nurse, was impressed Francis clearly knows how to hold a baby.

Here we go again. Just at the end of Mercy Week 2016, as we celebrate Mount Mercy’s heritage as a Sisters of Mercy institution, we have a reminder that the Sisters of Mercy take an extra vow—a vow of service. So service is part of the ethos of MMU.

In 2008, when devastating floods destroyed neighborhoods, Mount Mercy became a staging area for Iowa National Guard troops called in to help with the disaster. But that flood took place in summer—we’re facing the Flood of 2016 in the midst of a semester.

The good news, knock on wood, is the crest is not expected to reach the 2008 level. But it will be bad, and it will do some damage to some culturally important parts of Cedar Rapids—Czech Village and New Bo, for example.

And one reason that the Flood of 2016 might not be as devastating as 2008 is whole areas wiped out by the earlier flood have left empty patches of land where once vibrant neighborhoods stood.

In eight years, lots of plans have been slowly made to protect Cedar Rapids from flooding, but little has been done. Here’s hoping Mother Nature shows us some mercy—may this be a “brush-back pitch” that gives us fair warning, rather than the gut punch that 2008 was. And may it spur government, especially the federal government which provides the most finding for flood protection and must approve plans, into action.

Anyway, Mercy Week continued on campus today, with several fine events. In a morning class, which had three sections combined for the presentation, Sister Jeanne Christensen from Kansas City spoke about human trafficking, and showed this video.

She noted that trafficking can impact anybody, and can involve enslaving another person through three strategies: Force, often physical abuse; fraud, making false promises; and coercion, or various kinds of threats, such as threatening to embarrass someone by revealing their secrets.

One theme of her presentation is that local law enforcement often treats the virtual slaves engaged in sex trade as criminals, when they need help and treatment. As the woman in the video said of her own experience: “Being arrested over and over again did nothing, absolutely nothing.”

Anyway, at least the woman in the video was able to escape from her pimp. Sister Jeanne brought home the reality that slavery is not really something we left behind in history, but rather is something that has become a modern, shadowy reality.


Sister Jeanne Christensen speaks to three 8 a.m. classes. By being there, she said, “We have all earned sainthood.”

The mood was lighter at lunch today when Father Tony Adawu spoke of Pope Francis and the Catholic Church’s Year of Mercy. He had us write down who we would want to show mercy to—and at the end noted few of us had included ourselves.

“It’s OK to be merciful with yourself,” he said. Well, that’s a relief, because I managed to accidentally erase a whole bunch of very fine images I shot of Mercy Week events today—I copied them to my computer without realizing I had files of the same name, and when the computer asked if I wanted to copy over the old files, I said “no.” I assumed I had accidentally copied the files twice and formatted my SD card before I checked.

Ouch. Mercy me.

Anyway, sadly many of the gone images were of the Peace March that took place at 11:30, but at least I posted two of those images before the fiasco. I lost some good ones—I really liked a few I shot at the end after the group reach the Peace Pole, but there’s not use crying over spilled pixels, especially when an impending flood helps make little tragedies seem appropriately tiny.


Freshman Kasey Kaimann, who wrote a op/ed reflection on today’s presentation for the MMU Times. And, Times reporters note–she was done with her story by 4 p.m. Just saying.

Back to Father Tony—to illustrate Mercy, he talked about a man in his home town in Ghana, Kwesi Essel Koomson, recognized girls in the town had little educational opportunities. He was a driving force in setting up a new girls’ school, and in coming up with a financial incentive so that local fishing families would send their daughters to school rather than off to work.

Sadly, Koomson grew sick and died a few years ago, but the school is continuing the grow, Father Tony noted.

Well, it’s good to know that parts of stories sometimes turn out well. I hope that is the case with the Flood of 2016—may it turn out to be less than we fear and puny compared to 2008. Inevitably, though, it will hurt some. May we find ways to show them mercy.

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Music & Previews of Coming Attractions


Bells ring in Chapel of Mercy–two members of MMU Hand Bell Ensemble.

Tonight was a combination event that had all kinds of interesting ingredients, like a fusion restaurant.

This is “Mercy & Mission Week” at Mount Mercy University, and events this week are meant to remind us of and tie us with our heritage as an institution founded by the Sisters of Mercy. And tonight there was a “Poems, Promises, Music & Immigrant Stories” event in the Chapel of Mercy which was both a Mercy Week event and listed as part of our Fall Faculty Series.

It was an interesting show. Music was provided by the MMU Hand Bell Ensemble—which was nice to hear, although it’s too bad I’ve had to give up my participation in that crew. Miss you ringers, you sounded great!

There was also Jonny Lipford, who plays and teaches the music of various wooden native-style flutes. Several of them were two-in-one or three-in-one instruments—meaning flutes with more than one body—which means he harmonized with himself and sounded like a flute group.

The local choir Ingenzi, made up of Africans from various countries performing in their native languages, was pretty amazing—and harmonizing—too. They had some trouble finding the Chapel of Mercy, and thus ended up being the final act, but it was quite a final act.


Members of Ingenzi, above and below.


And Father Tony Adawu, our MMU resident priest, spontaneously became part of the music, singing an African song and showing us a dance that goes with it.


Fr. Tony and audience dance.

I liked the music, but two speakers really stood out to me. Immigrant stories were shared by Gabriel Hernandez Acosta, a senior who is in his final semester, and Dr. Ayman Amer, our economics professor.

Dr. Amer told several compelling anecdotes—how his neighbors in Cedar Rapids acted instinctively to ensure his family was safe in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, how a wealthy business person in New York City—which he always had seen as the least friendly place on Earth—helped him the first day he was in the U.S., and also of his seeing snow for the first time that day.


Dr. Ayman Amer shares a few stories of coming to America from Egypt.

Snow! That story touched me personally. Dr. Amer described it as looking magical that first day in January in New York City. His story took me back to when I was a boy and our family moved from California to Iowa. Snow, if you had only seen it on TV, was indeed a magical and strange thing to actually see falling from the sky for the first time. (We moved in August, so it was a few months before I saw snow—but it still made quite an impression on me.)

Anyway, I think the whole night was most highlighted by Gabriel Hernandez Acosta, who told of his illegal journey to the U.S. as a 6-year-old. His story was well-told. It went well with the art he displayed, and both he and Dr. Amer are scheduled to speak again later as part of our fall series.


Gabriel Hernandez Acosta–speaker and also events staff for tonight’s presentation.

Hernandez Acosta will be a key speaker at the Oct. 15 “Our Immigrant Stories: Coming to Cedar Rapids and Mount Mercy,” a special community day that will feature multiple presentations. He will be a highlight of one of the highlights of our whole series, and hearing him tonight, he’s fully capable of pulling that off.

image-of-logo-colorDr. Amer will speak Nov. 15 on “The Dollars and Sense of It: What Immigration Does to our Economy.” He will also, as part of that presentation, share part of his personal story. And by the preview tonight, he has quite a few personal anecdotes to share.

About 70 people attended the concert tonight—a good turnout. I hope you were there—but if not, come to hear two of tonight’s speakers on Oct. 15 and Nov. 15. And check out all of the other events in our Fall Faculty Series.

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Oh That Crazy Amygdala


Dr. Dennis Dew gave a presentation that helped explain fear of immigrants from a social psychology perspective.

In East Africa, 3.5 million years ago, fear wasn’t the only thing to be afraid of. For our early human ancestors, the world was a harsh, dangerous place, full of all kinds of threats.

So it is not that surprising that our brains evolved with quick, subconscious reactions to stimuli. According to Dr. Dennis Dew, a psychology professor at Mount Mercy University, our almost automatic, hard-wired fears include fear of snakes, spiders and unfamiliar people.

Dr. Dew spoke tonight in the third forum of the Fall Faculty Series, Building Walls, Building Bridges: The U.S. as an Immigrant Nation. His presentation was called “Fear of an Immigration Nation: Prejudice, Stereotyping & Discrimination.”

He traced part of the fear to the ways in which are brains evolved. He also noted that humans have an innate tendency to be “cognitive misers,” and that it’s easier to quickly categorize people rather than think of them as individuals.

I liked the way he began, pointing out examples of fear of immigrants throughout U.S. history. For Benjamin Franklin, 20 years before the revolution, it was Germans who were a threat to the social order of Pennsylvania. Later, John Jay, an author of the “Federalist Papers” that helps push the convention that would write the U.S. Constitution, said that the new country needed “a wall of brass for excluding Catholics.” Well, Mexico is an overwhelmingly Catholic country. Has Donald Trump specified the building material he wishes to use?


Audience member, probably MMU student, poses a question.

Group cohesion has always been important, too, to humans, and that leads us to automatically think of an “in group,” our tribe that we’re comfortable with, and the “out groups” that we fear.

Those are just a few ideas Dr. Dew spoke of. He covered the classical conditioning and guilt by repetition that he wrote about in his Gazette guest column earlier this week.

The media came in for some of the blame, with Dr. Dew noting that there is an “if it bleeds, it leads” tendency in news reports. As an old newspaper editor, let me note that quote was originally descriptive of television news, but I think he had a point.

It all adds up too three ways of thinking that are detrimental to our approach to immigration:

* Stereotyping, which is our cognitive response, our internal picture of a class of people.
* Prejudice, which is our emotional response to the group we don’t like.
* Discrimination, which is our behavioral response.

Well, the situation is not all dire. Dr. Dew noted that while our brains our subconsciously hardwired to react to fear through our amygdala, it’s also true that we’re not strictly controlled by that region. We have higher brain functions and can recognize our pattern responses and whether they are rational.

And, he concluded, there are practical steps we can take. He suggested a few:

1) Mentally emphasize what we share. Enlarge our tribe, think of the “superordinate” group. For example, Dr. Dew said he is a middle aged white male, but in dealing with other faculty who are female and of a different age, he can think of “college professor,” the relevant, more inclusive group that both parties are part of.
2) Increase cooperative contact He noted that contact alone with immigrants may not change attitude—but it makes a difference if there is a positive task involved. It does tend to change ones outlook if one works with Habitat for Humanity with an immigrant to build them a house, for example.
3) Find out as much about each individual as we can. Reach beyond group identity. Once an individual becomes “personalized,” we aren’t so quick to mentally put them in the “in” or “out” group.

Once again, the event was well attended. The room seats about 100, and there were some people sitting at the sides. I don’t think every chair was taken, but I would estimate there were between 90 and 100 people.


Student takes notes during Dr. Dew’s presentation. Note packed room.

It was also a nice mix of faculty, administrators, students and community members. My hope is that this series, like some past ones, will build in popularity.


Dr. Dew makes a point while he looks at screen.

There are a few faces I’m starting to notice who attend each event. That heartens me—the topic at hand has not been in any way exhausted. There is much more to say—indeed, more to say than we’ll get to in the whole series.

So thank you Dr. Dennis Dew. I enjoyed your presentation.

Next week is Mercy Week at MMU, which means a brief break in the faculty forums, but there is a “Poems, Promises and Music of Many Nations” event next Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Chapel of Mercy—part of both the Fall Faculty Series and Mercy Week.

image-of-logo-colorOn Sept. 29, Dr. Mohammad Chaichian will speak on the logic of border walls, based on his sociological research into a number of such historic barriers.

It’s proving to be a very interesting faculty series, Hope you can make it to some of our events—see for more information.

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Thinking of blood lines and blood line thinking


Deb Brydon, associate professor of criminal justice at Mount Mercy University, spoke about U.S. policy towards Native Americans on Sept. 13 in Flaherty Community Room.

It’s an odd issue that tarnishes American history and still haunts our political debate today.

What kind of people are people? What kinds of humans are full humans, and who has more rights than others?

I recognize the questions themselves, if you’re an enlightened person, are offensive. The answer, frankly, is that all people are people and no one “type” is more human than another.

And yet, sometimes, we quibble. Muslims don’t belong here. Those Irish are dangerous Papists who will destroy society. America is for “Americans,” whoever those are. Due process of law protects citizens but not “aliens.” A person of color “has no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”

That last quote, by the way, you may recognize from the infamous U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Dred Scott case. The same nation that proudly proclaimed that man has “inalienable rights” has not always been willing to acknowledge the humanity or human rights of all men—or women.

So the odd issue is the way we classify people by race or class or gender into categories that make them more or less human. It’s a deep instinct, but one we all should struggle against.

Anyway, I’m thinking such thoughts prompted by a rather emotional presentation that I attended tonight. I don’t mean “emotional” in the sense of people wailing or rending garments or shedding tears—everybody seemed rather civil and calm—but I mean touching on deep emotions, cultural undercurrents that need to be recognized and talked about.

image-of-logo-colorDeb Brydon, an Associate Professor of Criminal Justice who is also an attorney, gave a presentation called “The First Americans: U.S. Policy in ‘Indian Country’” at Mount Mercy University. It was the second in our 2016 Fall Faculty Series, which is called “Building Walls, Building Bridge: The U.S. as an Immigrant Nation.”

I coordinate that series, and I recall being pretty excited when Brydon proposed her topic as we were planning the series. In calling the U.S. an “immigrant nation,” it sounds as if MMU is excluding Native Americans. But the reality is that very few of the indigenous peoples who populated what is now the United States live in their ancestral homeland.

They were killed off or moved by the peoples who took over this continent, and therefore became unwilling migrants. In that sense, they “immigrated” too, without ever leaving the U.S.


Brydon makes a point during her forum.

I didn’t think it was a stretch to include a presentation on Native Americans in an immigration series, and I’m even more grateful now that we did so. It proved to be a fascinating and powerful presentation. Brydon spoke of how the federal government became the entity that had all responsibility for Native American relations—because the Supreme Court recognized native tribes as semi-sovereign entities and in the Unites States, legal national sovereignty is strictly a federal function.

And “function” seems like an odd word to use for the changing, strangely evolving, often contradictory threads that ran through and run through the way our country treats its first inhabitants.

Consider the pipeline protests in North Dakota, and how one branch of the federal government is telling another branch of the federal government that it didn’t do enough to consult with the native tribes near whose lands that new oil pipeline would pass.

Anyway, I’m no expert in that particular controversy—I’m not anything of an expert in most of the topics that were raised tonight. But, that’s one advantage of having a series like this one at MMU—it gives us in the Mount Mercy and Cedar Rapids community a chance to hear from those who do have special insight into a key issue and a chance to grow and learn.

As Brydon pointed out, before there was an immigrant nation, “people were here.”

There were many parts of the evening that I found moving:

  • Brydon is connected through a grandparent to the Mohegan Tribe, and recounted how one of the movies called “The Last of the Mohicans” premiered with a New York gala in the 1930s. An elderly leader of the tribe was invited to attend, and reporters asked him: “How do you like our city?” He replied: “How do you like our country?”
  • The convoluted story of how Native Americans were first forced onto reservations, then forced to parcel out their lands, then lost their lands in tax disputes creating a “checkerboard” of conflicting ownership and jurisdictional boundaries was fascinating, but fascinating partly in the way World War II is fascinating. At one level, it’s a train wreck you can’t pull your eyes away from—an unfolding, confounding, infuriating narrative. What a tangled web—and yet the one constant is that, in the long run, it seems the dominant culture finds creative new way to steal from the displaced culture.
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    Genevieve Bern speaks.

    A member of an Alaskan tribe attended and gave some interesting thoughts after Brydon’s presentation. The woman, Genevieve Bern, noted, for example, that although much of the 90 percent die off of natives peoples caused by European diseases may have been unintentional, it still represents a genocidal experience form the point of view of natives.

  • Race and ethnicity and racial issues are an important subtext to the larger immigration saga MMU is taking on. Bern’s remarks helped highlight that, and are another reason I am glad she came. My one regret in our whole series is that we don’t have a more examples of various racial or ethnic perspectives, such as more discussion of the forced immigration of African Americans. Then again, I’m still hoping to get more speakers for our Oct. 15 “Our Immigration Stories” day.

One legal twist in American policy Brydon pointed out was the way in which Native Americans became associated with gambling and casinos, partly due to an enabling law passed in the 1980s. Dr. Mohammad Chaichian, professor of sociology, asked if the results had been positive for native tribes.


Dr. Mohammad Chaichian poses a question. He speaks Sept. 29 about border walls.

In an economic sense, overall, I would suspect so—but as Brydon pointed out, the track record is very mixed and differs a lot depending on who controls the casinos  “There are a lot of different experiences,” Brydon says. That sounded like a good analogy for the whole presentation, in a way.

It was a fascinating evening, and left me hungry to learn more. I don’t think you can state any higher praise for such a faculty event. So thank you, Bed Brydon. Thank you, too, Genevieve Bern and all the others who shared the evening.

As coordinator of the Fall Faculty Series at Mount Mercy, my primary reaction to tonight is gratitude. Thank you, MMU faculty, for putting on this large discussion. It was the second of many events this fall, and about 80 people attended—again, an excellent turnout for this kind of event.

Next? Dr. Dennis Dew, who wrote an excellent column for the Gazette related to his topic, speaks Thursday night on “Fear of an Immigrant Nation: Prejudice, Stereotyping & Discrimination.”

I hope to see you there. And if you have a personal story on immigration to tell, please do contact me. Oct. 15, right? Mark it down. It is intended as a day that will provide many opportunities to share.

See the MMU web site for more details.

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The Parallels to Today


A few minutes before series starts–Betty Cherry Heritage Hall at Mount Mercy is filling up.

One thing about a history lecture—it can leave you mildly depressed, thinking “we’ve seen it before.”

In the wake of World War I, restrictive immigration rules were put in place in reaction to the Red Scare. A poster from that era proclaims “America for Americans.” The poster was made by the KKK.

Throughout America’s history, this land of immigrants has struggled with fear of the newcomer. In the 19th century, it as the Irish who were destroying the fabric of this country. Late in that century, we feared the “yellow menace” and banned Chinese immigration.

Now, we are worried about Hispanics, especially Mexicans.

It was interesting to hear MMU Assistant Professor of History Allison McNeese briefly cover the story of the U.S. and Iowa from an immigration point of view. She used many period images—quotes from letters, editorial cartoons and photographs.


Allison McNeese shows a World War I Ding Darling cartoon from the Des Moines Register showing fear of the state’s large German population during World War I.

image of logo-color.jpgThe 2016 Fall Faculty Series: Building Walls, Building Bridges: The U.S. as an Immigrant Nation got off to a good start tonight. Approximately 100 people crowded into Betty Cherry Heritage Hall to hear McNeese speak.

Afterwards, there were cookies in the library by a set of posters that display information on U.S. immigration. I suppose my one regret is we didn’t have more people come down to the library to view the posters, but the good news is they will be on display for some time.

If you missed the first event, don’t despair—there’s lots more to come. More of my photos from day 1 here. Check out the whole series at

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Hoping Monticello & MMU Learn to Love Milkweed


Swallow-tail butterfly on shore of Cedar Lake.

When they sell a variety of Milkweed at a flower shop, they rename it “Butterfly Flower.” It’s a better name for PR than a plant name that has “weed” in it.

But Milkweed is not really a weed, in that a weed is an unattractive, unwanted plant. Milkweed is a very tall, robust native flower, pretty when it’s blooming, and very much wanted because it’s the only kind of plant the Monarch butterfly will lay eggs on.

I read in The Gazette this morning, in an article by our excellent local environmental writer Orlan Love, that the city of Monticello is sending warning letters to a resident due to the Milkweed plants on his property.

I made me think again of a project I would like to get started at Mount Mercy University where I teach. The U planted a community vegetable patch this summer. Why not an MMU butterfly garden? It would feature Milkweed, but also other plants that benefit pollinators.

MMU already has plenty of Coneflowers, which Monarchs love, but no place for baby Monarchs. Maybe the planters near Basile Hall would be a good spot?

Anyway, I need to find a group at MMU that’s interested in such an idea—possibly the Bike Club or Science Club or an alliance of the Bike and Science clubs? What do you think, MMUers?

Anyway, the Gazette story made me a bit sad. My heart is with you Michael Felton. May Monticello wake up and smell the nectar. Cities need to encourage Milkweed planting, not demand its removal. Just say “Butterfly Flower.” It sounds nicer, and is pretty accurate.

This afternoon, on my way home, I bicycled down to Cedar Lake. I was in the mood to see a Monarch butterfly, and knew from previous rides that the lake is a local hot spot for the orange flyer. There is a fair amount of Milkweed on the lake shore, and all I can say is, hooray for Milkweed.

I didn’t find what I was looking for. A pretty Goldfinch darted ahead of me on the trail, way too fast for me to unlimber my point-and-shoot camera. On the lake, a large white egret was looking quite fetching. And I did take some pictures of a pretty butterfly by the lake–a Swallowtail.


Egret or heron on Cedar Lake.

I didn’t feel too bad about my failure. Despite the muggy heat, it felt good just to waste some time by the pretty waters. So I turned my bike north to pedal home, but just after I had crossed the bridge at the north end of the lake, I noticed flashes of orange in some white flowers west of the trail.

Yup. Monarchs. Not one, but several were flitting about—and not just Monarchs, either, as some pictures I took are clearly of Viceroy butterflies.


A Monarch, above, and Viceroy, below, on same clump of flowers on trail north of Cedar Lake. Viceroys are smaller (despite the appearance, the insect below is only about 2/3 size of one above) and feature a dividing line on hind wing that Monarchs lack. Species didn’t seem to mind hanging together this afternoon.


Well, cool. Monarchs are not as common as they once were, which is why Monticello’s war on Milkweed is misguided. I was glad to see some near Cedar Lake. More of my photos are on this Facebook gallery.

So this fall, I am going to try again to sew some native Milkweed seeds in my gardens. You don’t plant Milkweed in spring like many other flowers, because the seeds have to experience winter cold before they will sprout.

I doubt the city of Cedar Rapids will object if I succeed and get some plants going next year. And maybe I can be part of getting some Milkweed planted at MMU, too?

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It Was Lucky We Missed Smashing the Monarch


Cloudy day–on a county highway south of Lisbon. The weather slowly improved and it didn’t rain, so clouds just added a bit of interest. I didn’t mind AC, but it would have been cool enough for an old school, windows down, drive, too.

It happened on Highway 1, south of Mount Vernon, Saturday, Aug. 27. I was driving at probably close to 60 mph (I know, the speed limit is 55, I wasn’t that far over), when suddenly, to my right, a bright orange butterfly came flitting towards the path of my van.

If it had gone too far, I would have smacked right into it—neither my life nor the lives of my passengers were worth endangering over a butterfly—but I would have felt bad. Luckily, it appeared said Monarch zigged instead of zagged and eluded the Kia of death.

Such was the drama of my Saturday drive. The drive itself was a spontaneous event—the 8-month-old grandson who is staying with us has had an ear infection and may be teething and today was a bit cranky at times. He didn’t sleep well last night, and was acting tired late in the morning, but would not go to sleep. So, Audrey and I tried an old-fashioned family remedy—the drive. You strap the cranky baby in his car seat, put it in a vehicle and head out.

It worked rather well. As I headed north out of Cedar Rapids on the C Avenue Extension, the baby slowly sacked out. And so, we just went for a drive.

It felt very 1960s. When I was young, especially between 1966 and 1972 when we lived in Clinton, Iowa, the weekend “drive” was not a rare event—the family  would pile in the car and head out to see what we could see, no particular destination in mind.

The car, back then, was a chartreuse VW microbus named Clarissa. At least for the early years, it was—although, after a brief interlude owning a Ford station wagon, it wasn’t long after Clarissa’s demise that my parents brought a shiny new 1969 VW microbus.

The “drive” was a bit different, now. Our Kia minivan today has air conditioning, for one thing, so we sojourn with windows closed. A Saturday or Sunday drive in Clarissa was windier—no AC, so windows open—and also much noisier not just because of the wind, but because the small 4-cylinder German engine in the VW squeaked and thumped like an angry sewing machine. We didn’t use the radio much back then, although today we had an oldies station on.


Sutliff Bridge. You can walk on it, but we did not because the baby was asleep, which was kind of the point, anyway.

Besides the fact that I was driving, and not my dad, another difference was bugs. Anytime we went out in the countryside for a drive in the old days, the VW bus front and windshield collected quite a coating of insects. Today, we weren’t responsible for anywhere near the bug carnage. I know it’s anecdotal—there is no careful measurement to check the accuracy of the impression—but an Iowa drive today is almost eerie for how less buggy is seems than a drive a few decades ago.

Our weekend drives, usually Sunday evenings, ended, for the most part, about the time that the family moved to Muscatine. Life became busier and more complex as the Sheller kids became teens and adults, and gas prices in the 1970s put an end to most pleasure cruising.

But today’s drive was a pleasant reminder of that bygone pastime. We meandered across part of northern Linn County—finding to our surprise that the village of Lafayette is actually a thing—there is more “there” there than one sees simply passing by on the Cedar Valley Nature Trail—and eastern Linn County near Mount Vernon is hilly and pretty. We went south of Lisbon and ended up in northern Johnson County at the old Sutliff Bridge. We’ll have to come back there and walk the bridge, sometime when the baby is awake and the place is not quite so overrun with motorcycle bar patrons.

It was kind of fun to drive, for a bit, on the route that I had ridden on RAGBRAI last year. Jesus—did I really bike some of those hills in rain?

Anyway, I don’t think we’ll be regular “drive” enthusiasts. The time of the Sunday drive as a carefree family fun activity is an artifact of a time when gas was under $1 a gallon and global warming not such a hot issue. Pleasant as today’s drive was, I would rather see the countryside from a bicycle seat. But I don’t think the bike is quite as good for soothing an uncomfortable baby.

On the way home, the baby woke up, in a pretty good mood. Grandma was riding in a middle seat beside him, and put a pillow on her head. “Look at my hat,” she said, and then the pillow slid off. The baby thought that was hilarious and chortled. So, my wife did it again, and again, and again.

No, I didn’t really tire of the joke, because it kept being funny for the baby. Such is the entertainment on a weekend drive.


Stopped at light on Highway 100 near home. A few more patches of blue in sky. Pillow has probably just slipped off of her head. Sound of baby laughing.

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