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Saturday, March 25, 2017

Found Objects Define Our Subject

One of the rewarding things about writing a blog and maintaining a Web site is the information that comes through by chance and circumstance.  Joan Hoffman, who curates the Holling collection at the historical society museum in Leslie, Mich., wrote that “a couple interesting Holling things have happening here.” 

She was recently contacted by a doll collector.  “She was scheduled to give a presentation at the Leslie Library and wanted to connect dolls with books and with Leslie if possible,” Joan wrote.  “She wanted to know if there were any dolls in the Holling collection.  There was a lovely Asian doll that probably came from the Hollings’ year-long trip around the world with university students.  Holling was chosen as the art instructor because of a booklet he had put together for a cruise company. 

“The doll collector and her husband arrived at our house just in time for a power outage.  However, we were able to work at our dining room table with the light from a large window.”  Joan reports her visitor went away with photos and data, and contact information for Holling's nieces. One of the nieces had saved a box of 25 dolls that the Hollings had gotten during their travels around the world and given to her each Christmas.  And she provided photos.  “The presentation was last evening and it was nice,” according to Joan.

Rocky Billy: The Story of the Bounding Career of a Rocky Mountain Goat,
by Holling Clancy Holling, 1928. NY The MacMillan Co.
Then there was the recent visit from “an older gentleman who came to our house with a large box of Holling books in excellent condition.  He wanted to give them to the museum.  One book was Rocky Billy, which we didn't have, so I was especially glad to see it.  There were Platt and Munk books that I hadn't seen.  I learned that not all of those P&M folk tale books were illustrated by Holling.  Not only did the publisher do strange things by mixing up the tales, but the illustrators were also switched.”  A true detective, Joan is now trying to sort all of that out.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Antidote to Anxiety

I’m like a lot of people of a certain age who are bewildered that young adults and kids spend hours glued to their digital devices.  I’ll confess that I check my e-mail umpteen times a day and stay overlong on Facebook.  But a book review for The Nature Fix: Way Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative in the New York Times delivered an ah-ha moment. 

Author Florence Williams avows that “we suffer from an epidemic dislocation from the outdoors…  The more nature, the better you feel.”  As little as 15 minutes spent in the woods weekly can reduce the stress hormone, she reports.  Spend 45 minutes a week outdoors and most people improve their cognitive performance.  And, in England, studies show that exposure to green spaces reduces mental health disparities.  

Reviewer Jason Marks of the Sierra Club magazine said, “Maybe what we get out of nature is…a connection to the larger community of life.” 

Literary Rx for Stress
I thumbed through my 1942 copy of Tree in the Trail and remembered the long trips I took as a kid through the Rockies, the Southwest desert, the endless Plains.  Holling’s careful thumbnail drawings of arrow heads reminded me of the collections I used to have, and how I wondered who had carved those delicate points for shooting small game.  My 1935 copy of The Book of Indians brought back memories of Oregon’s sea lions, endless meals of salmon Dad brought back from Vancouver Island, and totem poles in Seattle and Vancouver. 

This was integral to my childhood, but then, I didn’t have a cell phone or a digital device on which to play games.  Instead, my world had no endings when I was growing up in an Oregon farming and logging town.  Only beginnings.  Fields and groves were endlessly green, the Columbia and Willamette flowed forever, and country roads led to new adventures.  Life was a page of Dylan Thomas’s poetry.   

The Past Is Still Alive and Can Revive You
I confessed I stay overlong on Facebook, but this is where I saw a page from the Leslie Area Historical Society and Museum.  I haven’t been to that part of Michigan, but a note I put up about wanting to see their Holling collection brought a great comment from Andrew Campbell.   

He returned to his hometown, Leslie, a few decades ago and said We went into my kindergarten room, which had originally been an outbuilding behind the Congregational Church, a part of the set, I guess, also with a couple of real brick buildings there: the church, Jupp Funeral Home and…next to the church, maybe a parsonage.  Not only the entire physical building was there, just as it was when I was a student, except that it had been built into the church.  We entered through the Congregational Church.  I tentatively count it as the high point of my life for  ‘all the good things in life’: games!, sand box! lunch! band (I think in Leslie I/we had band every year of school!) nap!...  The odor and ambiance was just as I remembered it!!  I have always wished someone had taken me in there without telling me where we were for ultimate proof of what I say.” 

I know my new friend is also a fan of Holling.  Leslie, Mich., was Holling’s home town too.  Holling drew on the past again and again to create his books of history and naturalism and anthropology.  Getting outside of those handheld devices is a prescription for getting us back in touch with a real world.  Even if you spend just 15 minutes a week walking through a park or the woods.