Windmills, Pipes and Petroglyphs – PART TWO

PART TWO – Pipestone National Monument

Pipestone

Pipestone National Monument was created by an act of Congress in 1937 on 300 acres just outside the city of Pipestone, in southwestern Minnesota. Its main purpose is to preserve the pipestone quarries unique to the area. It is a sacred area to Native Americans and is home to spiritual and cultural activities throughout the year. Our first stop was at the site of the Three Maidens, considered to be the guardian spirits of the pipestone quarries. They are very different from other rock in the area. They are granite and came from far away, deposited by the glacier when it melted thousands of years ago.

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The Three Maidens

We arrived at the visitor center soon after it opened and were in time to see the beginning of a 20 minute film about the site. The color red is sacred to the Native Americans and the red stone found at Pipestone has been quarried for over 2,000 years. This was the preferred location for the Plains tribes to quarry the stone since it is of a high quality. All tribes, even enemies, would work here in peace. The pipes made from this stone were used to mark rituals, ceremonies, prepare for war and trade agreements. The smoke from the pipes is thought to carry prayers up to the spirits.

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Native Americans in this area did not originally have tobacco so they would smoke something called Kinnikinnick which means “that which is mixed”. It is still in use and available today. It is a mixture of herbs often unique to the pipe owner. It can contain red willow bark, bearberry leaves, dogwood, sumac and tobacco among others.

You could tell this was a spiritual place from all the colored cloth prayers tied to trees along the path. A three-quarter mile Circle Path takes you through the area around active quarries, a quartzite cliff, native grassland and Winnewissa Falls. If you follow the creek from the waterfall you will see Lake Hiawatha, home to many turtles. Unfortunately we didn’t see any.

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Today only Native Americans of federally-recognized tribes can get a permit to quarry at Pipestone and there are currently only about 30 to 40 permits issued. The majority of the people who quarry here come from the Dakotas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Nebraska and other central areas of the US.

All the work is done by hand. The particular pipestone found at this location is known as catlinite. It is found in veins inside the Sioux Quartzite rock predominant in the area. The rock is one of the hardest on earth. In order to get to the pipestone it is necessary to work your way through the Sioux Quartzite with hammer and chisel until you reach a pipestone vein. This can take weeks. The pipestone is sandwiched in-between the quartzite and can be10-15 feet down into the rock.

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It had just rained so many of the quarries were flooded.

Another interesting thing about the 300 acre monument is the tall grass prairie covering it. It is native prairie that has never been plowed. Less than 1% of the prairie that once covered 200 million acres of North America exists today and some of it is here. It contains over 70 types of grasses and hundreds of plants and wildflowers. The Minnesota DNR Scientific and Natural Areas Program and The Nature Conservancy have established programs to protect and expand the native prairie.

There is a small museum with artifacts, carvings and tools on display at the Visitor Center. The Pipestone Indian Shrine Association has a small shop within the Visitor Center. They are a non-profit cooperating association established in 1955 to preserve the art of pipemaking and help with the programs at Pipestone National Monument. There are a couple of stations where you can watch artisans at work. If you are interested in history, art, nature – this is a great place to spend an afternoon.

As we were leaving we saw a man pushing a wheelbarrow full of tools and a large cooler accompanied by his two children make his way down the path to his quarry. We agreed it was a good thing he had a large cooler since it was going to be a very hot day.

From there we headed to Jeffers Petroglyphs, about an hour and a half away. Stay tuned for part three!

Quadracci Pavilion

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The Quadracci Pavilion, designed by Santiago Calatrava, was added to the Milwaukee Art Museum in 2001.  It sits right on Lake Michigan and has a moveable sunscreen with a 217-foot wingspan that opens and closes twice daily.  The museum collection includes 25,000 works from antiquity to the present covering a wide range of art.

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Mercury

This was a lazy weekend where the weather cooled off and rain moved in.  We meandered around one of my all time favorite art museums, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.  It is a grand  building with pillars and domes and little gardens.  At its center is Mercury, the patron god of travelers, the winged messenger.

after Giovanni Bologna Flemish, active in Italy, 1529 – 1608, Mercury, c. 1780/c. 1850, bronze, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Andrew W. Mellon Collection 1937.1.131

 

 

 

And just for fun …..

These sculptures were created between 1672 and 1674 for a secluded grove on the grounds of Versailles called the Théâtre d’Eau

 

An Afternoon in Paris

 

 

In 1973 I went to boarding school in Switzerland, my parents had moved to Nigeria and the school options were limited.  A friend of mine from grade school days was living in Paris so when our first long weekend break came up I headed to Paris.  It was my first trip to Paris.  It was November and snowed lightly the whole time I was there.  My friend was in school and her mother insisted I take a bus tour of the city to get an overview.  After that I was on my own.  I was 16.  There were two things I wanted to see, one was Notre Dame and the other was the Louvre.  I found Notre Dame with no problem.  I walked in to an empty building.  It was dark and took me a while to get my eyes used to it.  It was quite and peaceful.  I made my way down towards the apse and as I reached it,  light flooded in.  I looked up and saw the most beautiful rosette stained glass windows I had ever seen.  I sat down and meditated on them.

From there I headed to the Louvre.  It took me a while to find it and the entrance didn’t seem to be very clearly marked but I did manage to buy a ticket and start my tour.  I didn’t have much time so I decided to just see three things and then leave.  I found the Winged Victory and the Venus de Milo right away but I could not find the Mona Lisa.  I walked up and down an entire wing of paintings.  I saw painters set up with their easels copying the famous artworks, something I had never seen before in a museum.  Lots of great art, but no Mona Lisa.   I wandered into a room that was full of old jewelry.  No Mona Lisa there.  I was just about to give up and leave when I happened upon a small room off to the side that had a lot of paintings all hung up together on one of the walls.  I was looking at these various, random paintings when right in the middle of them, the Mona Lisa jumped out at me.  I couldn’t believe it.  I stood there transfixed.

It was a magical day.  I have been back to Paris many times but Notre Dame has always been very crowded and stifling.  The Louvre now has a grand entrance and signs all over the place directing you to the Mona Lisa which has such a big protective case that you can barely see it. I was very lucky.