Every year we plan a leaf tour. We oooh and awe at the flames and spikes of autumn color. We had a re-winding and fast forwarding day interspersed with russets and golds and fields of greens.
This year was no exception, but turned into an exceptional unplanned experience and memory bank treasure.
The morning of the leaf tour, Chessie, our cat of long ago, came my imagination as I published The Joy of Buckwheat post. In the Buckwheat Story, Chessie Studies Flowers photo seemed to fit the visual image I felt that day. Why is Chessie on my mind?
Our Leaf Tour Rewind
Off we go to Weko Beach, sand, dunes, water, and snow fences waiting for winter. On the road into the beach glittering sunlight sparkles through tall painted trees. I noticed craggy rock outcroppings, steep grades and gullies recalling Pennsylvania and Virginia forest views in past autumns.
The dune grass is unusually green this year due to frequent rain. We pause awestruck by water and sky, stillness and motion. We search for flickers of Chicago skyscrapers across the vast expanse of water. We notice the curve of the Earth on the horizon.
Refreshed by the energy of nature, we wandered onward, free of agendas and timed schedules.
* "Time Tunnel Approaching!"
We had planned to dine at Wheatberry Restaurant in Buchanan, Michigan. Hardy fare with a Southern feel and music accompaniment set the stage as we looked out the panorama windows at sun coin leaves and the river nearby. The tables were simply set, tablecloths were plain brown paper. I liked that, recycle and no wash up required.
I felt the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. I saw again in my imagination Big Ridge mountain and our home in Tennessee where our collie kept our young kids in our yard. As I sat and touched the table, I felt connected to a restaurant meal in Tennessee. I remembered friends had treated me on my way out of town, moving from misty mountains into the vast stretch of the great plains.
The food at Wheatberry was note perfect. Hot yellow corn bread slices with country butter greeted us! We all remembered corn bread baked in a big old cast iron skillet. Hand mashed potatoes, lumpy like I enjoy them, were thick and creamy, with skins on, tasting of butter and cream. Small or large plates were available for any appetite. Three Sisters plate featured bean mix with onions and peppers, topped with polenta. Thick tomato basil soup, with a touch of cream, was sprinkled with cheese. The deserts reminded me of The Pioneer Woman cooking show. Blueberry crumble served steamy hot with chilly ice cream, key lime pie made with fresh squeezed lime juice and coconut crust topped the day.
After eating we continued wandering down and about. I recognized the territory of Route 12 in SW MI. Somehow I had always connected Rt 12 with The Chessie Car, a railroad box car on display in a field complete with logo of the C and O (Chesapeake and Ohio) railroad. I love old railroads, scenes from the past. As a child I loved the Chessie cars, they had a cat painted on them!
We went down Rt. 12....The Chessie Car wasn't there! I looked.
"Where is it?"
I know we had seen the boxcar many times on past ventures. We tuned into New Buffalo, Michigan and turned left at the next intersection route 239, heading for the interstate and home. I always daydream when someone else drives. I like that. Daydreaming straight ahead and staring at the road, I suddenly and for no reason I turned my head to the right and saw the Chessie Car Logo shaking me out of my daydream. I guess I had daydreamed the wrong route number!
"Turn in here!"
We turned into a small road way leading to the New Buffalo Railroad Museum. "It won't be open late Sunday afternoon," I thought.
"It was open!"
* "Time Tunnel Approaching!"
Inside the museum were a wealth of photographs, moving model trains complete with roundhouse and sidetracks, small boxcar, engine and caboose models of the Chessie Line and other rail lines, articles, and posters about trains in the past picturing coal burning engines (oh boy) the black and white smoke I knew so well emitted was emitted from ancient smokestacks. When the trains came, we ran and closed the windows! My parents and I lived on a wooded hill above a roundhouse. The whistles and chugs of engines running, switching, and grinding echoed day and night. We knew what the different whistles meant! I can even make out a freight train whistle to this day.
I remembered my Dad and our electric train set up. I loved picking up the Lionel Train cars, I loved the tracks, I loved the farmhouse scenery complete with small toy animals I had hand painted. Each one different, including collies of all different coat colors.
Then I wandered into a sunny corner on the ground floor of the museum. My intuition paid off big time!
First I saw the old Royal and Underwood Typewriters. I snapped their photos.
Then, I turned slowly to survey the old framed pictures on the wall to the left.
My heart leaped up! I smiled!
There were three glass framed drawings of of cats! Not just any cat but the Chessie Cat!
Our Determined Chessie
The top picture was of the Chessie Logo drawing for the C and O Railroad, The Chessie Line. A tabby kitten rested under a blanked with her paw and face peeking out That's how our own cat, Chessie, got her name. She was in the same position when she was a tiny kitten. We had seen a Chessie car that day on a freight train. Chessie, our kitten, had a name!
The middle picture showed Chessie and Kittens, all three in the same position with kittens on smaller scale.
The bottom picture looked like our grey Tom, face and all. His portrait was a headstudy. His name is Peake.
I flashed back to the Chessie Handkerchief my aunt had given me, complete with Chessie, Peake, and Kittens in color embossed into the cotton! On the handkerchief, Peake is painted in full body image, smiling proudly with his eyes closed.
OH MY! I stood in awe and wonder and marveled at the artist's skills.
Later, we even toured the Chessie boxcar and Pullman sleeper car. Both were open!
When we left the museum, coming into the present moment, there were Canada Geese in a nearby pond. Several were grazing and some rested. Two geese slowly strutted across the driveway in front of us, walking mindfully like a person practicing Tai Chi. A sentinel goose kept close watch. We turned toward home, elated satisfied happy campers on our day trip through time.
Capping off Autumn Fest view of North Lake Park, Grand Mere Dunes
Just yesterday, while stopped for a passing freight train, we spotted a (gasp) Chessie boxcar on the train. We haven't seen one for years. I always look. Still in operation, the Chessie Line lives again.
What are the odds of seeing her? A freight train whistle is blowing right now as I write.
"Paired particles separated my millions of light-years will move in instantaneous concert with each other because time and distance are themselves an illusion,"
John Stewart Bell, physicist
The Joy of Buckwheat (Oct 2014)
Wander and Ponder (Oct 2013)
The Little Chessie that Could (Sept 2011)
Silver Stars and Moonbeams (March 2011)
Phantoms (May 2011)
* Dinosaur Train, PBS Kids, Learn about dinosaurs from ages past. Travel through the time tunnel. Animated Comedy and Education for kids of all ages. Oct 24, 2014, The Haunted Roundhouse, Volaticotherium a small furry mammal, similar to today's flying squirrel announces, "Just call me Vlad!"
Wheatberry Restaurant, Buchanan, Michigan USA
The Pioneer Woman, frontier food for hearty folk
New Buffalo Railroad Museum, Michigan USA, route 239
Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad, the Chessie Line
Dahlis Roy: Visionary Artist, Author, and Tai Chi Instructor
Shell Collage, Weko Beach, photos by Dahlis
Autumn Flowers, water color painting by K.B. Wilson
Determined Chessie, photo by Paul
North Lake Park, Autumn, photo by Rob