Daily Archives: May 26, 2013

Beyond the Shadow of War: The Living Memorial Sculpture Garden

This is a piece I wrote which was first published on The Piker Press in 2005. I thought it would be nice to share it with my blog readers on this Memorial Day weekend. All photos in this post are clickable to enjoy a larger view.

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TheGreatestGeneration

Situated in the high desert of Northern California, in the shade of Mt. Shasta, there lies a sculpture garden dedicated to all veterans. The USDA Forest Service offered this land for the creation of a memorial. Bronze artist Dennis Smith served his country as a Marine and brings to life a personal and intimate portrayal of our history. His philosophy of art (“…to uplift, edify and educate”) is apparent throughout the garden and labyrinth.

On a perfect late spring day, my husband Kip and I drive away from Redding, north on highway 5. We exit in Central Weed and head north on highway 97 toward the stark beauty of the high desert. To our southeast, Mt. Shasta rises into a clear blue sky, her snow covered peaks shining in the sun. We find the Living Memorial Sculpture Garden one mile north of County Road A-12, in the heart of Siskiyou County and are greeted at the entrance by The Peaceful Warrior sculpture. With one bronzed arm raised to the towering pines, the figure appears triumphant. As our car enters the parking area, my eyes are drawn to the Hot LZ Memorial Wall, which on this day (only a week after Memorial Day), it is covered with the red, white and blue of small American flags and the rich colors of dozens of bouquets of wildflowers. Names of veterans, living and dead, are etched in the wall’s granite surface. Glinting in the sun atop the wall are two bronzed sculptures of helicopters. Mt. Shasta’s snow covered slopes soar behind them and I can imagine the helicopters, blades whirring, lifting into the Spring sky.

MtShast&FlagWe drive away from the parking area and down a dusty road where junipers and pines blow in a gentle breeze. Purple Penstemons, Northern Buckwheat and Hawks Beard are just a few of the dozens of species of wildflower which cover the ground. Dennis Smith’s sculptures catch the sun’s rays, throwing light toward the rocky outcroppings on the northern end of the park.

Kip and I climb out of the car. The breeze blows away the heat of the sun and wild thyme and sage flavors the air. We walk out to the POW-MIA sculpture. A soldier lies in a cage, ankles bound, hands curled limply at his side. People have placed wreaths, bracelets, flags and notes in front of him. An American flag, sun bleached and tattered, flutters. My throat tightens and tears blur my vision. The silence here is broken only by the occasional rumble of a truck making its way along highway 97; and the sweet trill of a single bird.

TheWhyGroupKip and I take our time wandering among the sculptures. We wait for awhile at the site of The Flute Player, symbolic of peace and tranquility. It is said when the wind blows just right, the sound of a flute comes forth. But not today.

We walk out to The Nurses memorial. An injured soldier rests on a stretcher carried by two men; a nurse, hand outstretched as if giving a blessing, leans over him. Someone has tucked a tiny bouquet of blood red Desert Paintbrush inside the injured man’s hand. I imagine the thump-thump of a helicopter’s rotors, the thud of distant bombs, and the soothing voice of a nurse in the chaos. I imagine a soldier in pain who looks into the eyes of another and is comforted.

Kip and I move on. We feel the despair at the Korean War Veteran Monument; and hope as we gaze at the outstretched arms of the central figure in The Why Group.

ForPapa01The minutes tick by. I am filled with a peace that is hard to define. This site is dedicated to war veterans and one might think the violence of war would find a place among the monuments. But Dennis Smith, who believes that “through art we have the means to peacefully consider violence,” has created a remembrance that fills the observer with reverence and tranquility. On this day, Kip and I are alone among the bronze and dwarfed by a mountain. We stumble upon other tributes left where once only wildflowers grew. “To Papa,” says one; “To my brother,” says another. Crude bunches of flowers, small flags, piles of rock nest in the desert grasses, almost hidden; and their presence touches us, makes us feel this place is special.

When finally we climb back into our car, our words have been silenced. I roll down my window, allow the wind to blow past my face. Dust sifts and billows beneath the car’s tires. We leave the parking lot and turn south onto highway 97 toward home. I glance back once more to see the Peaceful Warrior standing guard.

http://LivingMemorialSculptureGarden.org

Sunday Salon – May 26, 2013

Sunday Salon

May 26, 2013

Good morning and welcome to this week’s edition of The Sunday Salon. Visit the Facebook Page for links to other bloggers’ posts.

I hope my US readers are enjoying their Memorial Day weekend. We’ve had beautiful weather here – sunshine and in the 70’s, although today is a little cloudy. Normally, I would be going on a hike or taking a bike ride, but my ribs are still healing from my fall a couple of weeks ago, so instead I’ll be doing more sedentary activity which will definitely include reading!

Armchair BEA 2Next week is the BEA in New York City and the Armchair BEA for those of us who could not make the trip to New York. I’ll be participating in the daily events for the Armchair Bea (see the complete schedule here). And there will be giveaways here on Caribousmom on several days…so I hope you’ll come back this week and join in the fun! Also, it is not too late to sign up to participate – go to this post to register.

seaofpoppiesWe’re getting ready to have another discussion over on the Chunkster Blog in June. Our Chunky Book Club read is Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh and discussion questions will post by June 15th and be open indefinitely. I hope you’ll consider joining us over there (learn more about the Chunky Book Club). If you have not read Sea of Poppies, I can tell you it is a fantastic, richly textured saga (read my review). Ghosh’s second book in this proposed trilogy, River of Smoke, is also an amazing piece of historical fiction (read my review). Have you read either book?

BurgessBoysLast week I talked briefly about Elizabeth Strout’s newest novel – The Burgess Boys. I ended up with very mixed feelings about this book (read my review). On the one hand, no one can fault Strout’s prose and the way she develops character. But despite those talents, something fell a little flat for me in the book plot-wise. I wasn’t completely convinced that the Somali immigrants in the novel were much more than a plot device to add conflict, and overall the novel was a bit of a downer. That said, there are plenty of glowing reviews out there for this book – so don’t take my word for it. If you’ve enjoyed Strout’s work in the past, you might want to give this one a try.

othertypistA book I can highly recommend, however, is the one I just finished this week. The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell is a twisty, well-plotted page turner with a terrific unreliable narrator (read my review). I really loved this novel and I flew through the last half of the book. It should be no surprise that the publisher of Rindell’s debut is Amy Einhorn Books. I have come to really trust this publisher for some A+ reads … and The Other Typist is yet another success for them. This book would be a terrific pick for book clubs.

Tuesday'sGOneMy current read is also turning out to be really good. Tuesday’s Gone by Nicci French is the second book in the Frieda Klein series. A third book, Waiting for Wednesday, is being released in the UK this month. I’m not sure of the US release date, but I would think we would not have long to wait. At any rate, Frieda Klein is a psychotherapist who gets entangled in investigating murders, kidnappings, etc… I read the first book in the series (Blue Monday) and this is what I wrote about Frieda:

Frieda is a complex character who at first left me a bit cold with her reserved and careful demeanor. But as the novel progressed, I found myself empathizing with her character and wanting to understand her psychological underpinnings. (Read my complete review).

In Tuesday’s Gone, Frieda is much more approachable for the reader. Although this novel could stand alone, I think readers would be well-served to read Blue Monday first before starting Tuesday’s Gone. Look for my review soon!

I hope I’ll be able to fit one more book into my reading schedule before the end of the month…but I’m not sure which one of the many wonderful books in my stacks I’ll pick up yet.

How about you? What will be YOUR last read for the month?