Friday, April 17, 2015

Springtime in Bishop Hill

I recently made it back to Bishop Hill. The sky was blue and the temperature excellent for the middle of April.

As I headed south on I-74 toward Henry County, I checked out the atmospheric conditions with my usual simple test: At which mile marker will I spot the first hint of windmills on the horizon? I caught sight of them at mile marker 16. A new record. Marker 20 has always been a safe bet—except for foggy mornings.

Driving back is always good for research. I make sure to check out the roadsides to see what’s growing, how far along it’s gotten, and to note what kind of visual impression it makes.

This day’s results: Tree branches hadn’t entirely lost their skeletal starkness. There was just enough new leaf growth to lend them a little fuzziness. The grass in the ditches was greening up nicely between patches of the dormant yellow-brown of winter. I didn’t detect anything blooming until I stopped in the village.

As always, the best treat for me was the small blue flowers that bloom between the Bjorklund Hotel and the Colony Residence. Three dainty delights take turns giving the patient viewer overlapping waves of refreshing blue every spring: Scilla siberica (Siberian squill), Chionodoxa (Glory-of-the-snow), and Mertensia virginica (Virginia bluebells). Add a few yellow daffodils to the mix and you have a fitting salute to a Swedish spring. A lovely treat that I tried to duplicate in my Bishop Hill yard.

 I came to meet up with old friends and check out changes such as:

·        The brick sidewalk by the Colony Church has been re-laid with new bricks by someone who wasn’t chintzy with them. A nice solid sidewalk with hard edges. Colony-made bricks are softer looking and irregular. Actually, they are simply softer and therefore show the wear of many feet easier.

·        The sagging wire that spanned the Edwards River by the bridge is gone. The kingfishers have to work a little more to get their fish.

·        The Blacksmith Shop has been totally redone and looks a lot sharper than when I worked there. Adaptive reuse in action.

·        The Steeple Building has a new coat of stucco and painted windows. It has to be close to its original look.

Other familiar sights near the center of the village: the post office, the Colony Store, The Filling Station, PL Johnson’s, the barn, and the bakery. All there and decorated for the season’s official opening day. Farther out: Outsider Gallery, Summer Cottage, and the Feathered Nest. Other shops and storefronts are different from when I lived there. It’s sad to see the few empty spaces, but I’m sure something interesting will come along.

Overall, I’d say that Bishop Hill is rooted in the past but not stuck there.

Not like my novel where the main part is stuck in 2008, a pre-windmill era.

Henry County has lots and lots of windmills. I left them out of the world of my novel on purpose. However, I did let them sneak in a symbolic appearance. Fair is fair.

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