Mary Beth Writes


 I have a lot of pictures; most are photographs Len or I took, but I also have an incredibly random collection of internet stuff saved over many years.

I’m feeling random today, so I’m sharing a few of them. There will be no rhyme or reason to this. Some days one just deals with what comes along.

This first photo - above - is dedicated to the Lab Workers everywhere. 

Andrea Kowch is a brilliant painter. I saved this image because it’s what it feels like to take care of your life while your life is burning down around you. I hope you don’t know what I mean but I bet you do. Her bio for more info is here

If you have an hour or you have kids – watch this awesome PBS Nature documentary

Sweeny Todd Teddy Bear makes me laugh every time I scroll past. I have no idea where I found this or why it exists.

I’ve only read Pride and Prejudice twice. I’ve watched the 2005 film (with Judi Dench as Lady Catherine) so many times I can play the movie in my mind.

Here is a truly fun fact. You know that scene where Darcy strides through the field at dawn? Lizzie is also up and walking (I love a heroine who walks a lot) because Lady Catherine riled and insulted her the evening before. Matthew MacFadyen’s facial expression is unbelievably romantic; he's so in love with Lizzie he can hardly breathe, his whole yearning soul is written on his face.

I recently heard an interview with Macfadyn. He said they were shooting the scene so early he was barely awake. He didn’t have his contacts in yet so he couldn’t see very well and was trying to not trip. He was worried about his wife who was going to have their baby any day.

Love that movie.

When a map is worth a dozen history books:

The last time we visited to South Dakota’s Black Hills, Len and I asked a park ranger questions about bison. She explained that in blizzards, cattle huddle in a circle. Because the outside cows are cold they push inwards towards the middle which often crushes and kills animals in the middle of the herd.

Bison in blizzards gather in a herd but they don’t form a circle They stand facing the direction from which the wind is blowing. Their heads and shoulders are cloaked in those tough warm coats. Smaller bison can stand behind ones with bigger shoulders. They close their eyes and their noses are designed to warm their breath before it gets all the way into their lungs. Bison can stand for several days through a blizzard.

Which means if you get stuck outside today in our minus zero temps, find yourself a bison and stand behind it. Hope it didn’t have beans for dinner last night.


If a picture is worth a thousand words ... we just discussed thankfulness, misery, cleverness, dark humor, unacknowledged racism, and "How cold is it where you are?" 




I see how cold it is in SE WI and remember it well, although it has been several years since I have experienced it. Living in AZ has changed my idea of cold. When I walk the dog it has been 34, but sunny. Snowbirds here are in shorts. FT residents sometimes wear down and earmuffs! No bison in the desert.
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It's bitter cold here today, I think about 1 degree. But our front porch is all windows - installed decades ago, not designed to be passive solar anything - and right now it is warmer on our porch than in the house. A sunny day in January and it's 80 on the porch.

Love your photos of the labs (all the different colors!) and the Andrea Kowch painting (so much going on)! I have way to many photos, but I find it hard to delete them, except for the many duplicates and triplicates on my new laptop bought last April. It was somewhat perilous, but I transferred all of my decades of accumulated files - including photos - from my dying Window's based PC laptop to a new Apple Air laptop. Why the Apple imported most of my photos with duplicate and triplicate, which takes enormous amounts of space on the drive (and in iCloud). So I am gradually going through them to delete duplicates, and place them in subfiles (albums) on various subject items: family, our condo, our Up North cabin, Sleeping Bear Dunes, dozens of Frank Lloyd Wright houses, Chicago, Art Institute, trips to Mexico, Central America, Bolivia, New York, DC, Miami, or San Francisco - and yes, European Baroque Architecture captured mostly from internet photos since I have been to Europe only once. Once in a while, I run a slideshow of my 300+ baroque photos as I listen to one of my baroque music playlists. Totally inspiring and dazzling to the ear and eye. Five degrees in Chicago, but subzero with the wind. Probably the same as you are experiencing in WI. Stay warm!
Mary Beth's picture

Oh wow. I would listen to Baroque music and watch those slides. That sounds beautiful, with your city lights outside your windows. Theology professor, Paul Hessert (AKA Yoda, which I mentioned to him once and his eyebrows just about left his face) ... Hessert said we build new buildings all the time but when we truly want to question, seek comfort, pray or worship, we find place that is "hallowed by use."

I remember a documentary about Emperor penguins that told how they huddle together for warmth, especially when the group is incubating eggs. But they apparently shift around every minute or so, so gradually those on the periphery move towards the center and those in the center move outward, sharing the group warmth. Community!
Mary Beth's picture

So penguins are a bit (or a lot!) smarter than cows... Are cows the only animal that require people to take care of them?

When I was in college many moons ago; a crow showed up on campus. He, or she, was tame, obviously someone's escaped pet. It would come around people sitting outside, and hop around. Folks would take coins and other shiny stuff and lay it down, and the crow would pick it up, and carry it to a pile of leaves in the corner of a bench, burying the loot. It's intelligence was so apparent, and we would sit silently watching it until we had to leave for class. It was the talk of the campus - "Have you seen the crow?" It hung around, and after a few days, my English professor took it home and cared for it.
Mary Beth's picture

The Nature show talks about this - crows learn us, they figure out who among us will leave them things. They tell their friends who of us are good. There is a true story of a neighborhood where a nice old guy left peanuts for crows to eat. One day that man had an accident. Shoveling or mowing his grass or something like that. The crow started screaming, other crows came to help screech and scream. People in the neighborhood were amazed at the racket, came outside, discovered the guy and took care of him. I love this story.

Yup, I save photos of a lot of different subjects. Of course I love to take screenshots of now gone streetcar and heavy rail branch lines that I remember as a kid, before I was taking photos. I realize that I have at least one image that I shot after I read about you and Len hiking by the Niagara Escarpment, in Wisconsin no less! Of course, I knew that I had seen it around Niagara Falls and Hamilton ON. However, when I read your article, I looked for a map image of the whole shebang, so I could see how it’s western tip ended up in Wisconsin. I then realized that I had also seen some of its rock outcroppings in the UP, shortly after driving over the Mackinaw Bridge.
Mary Beth's picture

Sometimes I look on Google images for a place I've heard or read about. Sometimes, if I am writing to an older person (and when they are older than me...) I look to see if there are houses or infrastructure photos from the place and time that person was young. There are treasures to see.

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A-Z Barbara

Barbara 1/26/2023

A-Z means I’m writing short takes on random topics and I’m going in alphabetical order. I love this quote: “Study hard what interests you the most in the most undisciplined, irreverent and original manner possible.”

That’s the spirit I’m pursuing: Undisciplined, irreverent, and original.

A-Z, Alaska


I’ve never been to Alaska. I’m sure I’d love it but going there is not a big dream for either Len or me.

However, this. When our son was around 12 he developed a crush on all things Alaskan. Kid who lives in a ranch house on a Midwestern cul-de-sac wants to get lost in tundra and mountains with moose and wolves. Yup.

At first he just talked, dreamed, read books, and watched shows about Alaska. Then, at 14 he got a part-time job as a janitor at a vet clinic and he kept that job until he went to college. It was a good fit for a kid not drawn to homework.

A to Z


I am not exactly depressed, but I can whip up a pretty good glum at almost any moment. There have been about three sunny days since Thanksgiving, and four colds, and I’m feeling it. How about you?

We can’t even properly whine. Not with the Atmospheric Rivers of Doom in California, and tornadoes in the south. And all the other glum and hateful news.

Sara Kurtz & Healthcare by Zip Code? Really?


Many of you have been very generous in the past. Please think about making a donation to the GoFundMe account of Sara Kurtz. Donate here. 

Who is Sara? She’s a friend of my niece Susan.

Len Explains Fusion Energy

The photo is of Lisa Meitner. The BFF of one of our kids is (quite likely) a great grand niece of this amazing woman. 


MB: Len occasionally explains very complicated science things to me or our kids in such a way that we actually understand it. One of our kids asked him what the big deal was about fusion. Len wrote this and I thought some of you might like to read it.

Long live curious people and long live nerds. 


Almost. Two Years Later


 I remember where I was two years ago this afternoon. Do you?

I was writing. I knew I had another hour to just work by myself and I was happy about that. I love no interruptions.

Len was downstairs. I heard him turn on the TV. We NEVER watch TV during the day so it was weird when he called up to me, “You should come down here. Something’s happening.”

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