After spending a deliciously quiet and relaxing Sunday morning writing on my laptop while lounging in bed in my fancy spa quality bedroom at the O'Donnell mansion, I mustered the interest to mount an expedition to Cement Land, the latest project (in progress) orchestrated by Billy Cassilly of City Museum fame. Cement Land is being constructed at the site of an old cement plant that sits very near the Mississippi in an old industrial area in extreme north St. Louis. When I arrived, I made several slow passes around the perimeter of the property to see if I could see something interesting or find a way to get in. A great deal of money has obviously been spent to erect a good solid fence with a triple row of barbed wire on top, so my hopes began to fade as I pulled into gate after gate only to find no signs of life and no possible way to enter. Before I departed, I stopped to take a picture of the fence that had been constructed along one side of the property using the barrels from old cement mixers as posts. As I got closer, I realized that the barrels sat on top of a berm (which I suspect is actually cement factory tailings) and there was no fence or perimeter (and more importantly a distinct lack of a "No Trespassing" sign) where the barrel fence ended. I climbed up the steep incline and was rewarded with a sweeping view of the whole compound that had been hidden from the street. From what I could see, they weren't very far along on the project and there wasn't a single sign of life except when a little creature would skitter off into the weeds ahead of where I was walking. I headed toward a tunnel entrance I had seen from the road to see if it held anything of interest, but it was welded securely shut. The best part of the entire walk turned out to be the return trip - as I walked along the small pond that was adjacent to the tunnel entrance, I noticed that every single leaf and stick that was above the water was covered with swarms of Vishnu blue damsel flies - more than I've ever seen in one place. It was absolutely gorgeous, those vibrant blue matchsticks, hovering over an ochre and green and brown backdrop. I stood in the quiet and watched enraptured for many happy moments.
I climbed back into the car, a happy camper, and headed back to the O'Donnell homestead to meet up with Ile Ann and go to a Butterfly House that's quite near their home. Not only was it lovely to see all the butterflies fluttering delicately about hovering over all sorts of lovely flowers, but I learned a LOT of really interesting facts about butterflies at the same time. For instance, did you know that scientists believe that butterflies have the widest range of color perception (they can even see ultraviolet!) of any living creature? I always knew I wanted to be a butterfly, but now I'm even more determined. The Butterfly House also had displays of different insects and I found these gigantic milipedes particularly appealing. This little fella is all curled up sleeping, and he must have been having a good dream, because all the legs curled around his head started running just before he snuggled down deeper into his own coils. He was beautiful to watch.
After one last short visit with Ile Ann and Eugene (during which I received a wonderful care package for the road complete with a delicious ham sandwich, blueberry Pop Tarts and some cantaloupe chunks that Eugene had cut up for me), I left the O'Donnells and headed toward Columbia via the Missouri wine country. Eugene had advised me on a couple of good routes to take, so I meandered along lovely two lane roads and passed through lots of picturesque Missouri hamlets. In one of them, this sign attracted my attention and I had to turn the car around so I could take a picture.
.The Zerna's have a large meat market that sits directly behind the sales office that you can see above. How convenient is it, I ask you, to be able to shop for a new car AND smoked thick sliced country bacon at the same time?!? One stop shopping when possible has always been my philosophy. Plus, as Erin pointed out, these people are bound to be experts at manifold cooking! Too bad I was there after business hours had concluded.
As I glided back onto the simple two lane blacktop snaking through the rolling green of the country, the light started to golden and I rolled the windows down so I could smell the air and the grass and water. The clouds had been making elaborate displays all afternoon long, but all of a sudden, there appeared a vibrant and perfect sun dog! I love sun dogs and this was a really good one. A sun dog is an optical effect whereby ice crystals in clouds create the illusion of two mock suns, one on each side of the sun if you're lucky. This one had both dogs, and both were bright and persistent.
I took this close up of the left hand dog and I love how surreal it looks:
As I drove along, eyes riveted to the dramatic cloud display above me, I happened to look down at the road just in time to see a turtle shaped lump in the middle and swerve. The Missouri river was within cannon shooting distance, and the abundance of fields filled with standing water indicated that a great deal of water had moved through the area recently. This poor little fella had probably been away from home for awhile. I retrieved him from the asphalt and ferried him over to a watery ditch nearby. He stayed shut tight the entire time, although I could feel movement within the shell so I knew he was alive and kicking. What a nice thing to have happen. Getting to save a turtle is a gift.
I drove until dark and found a place to stay in Columbia as fast as I could. I'm eager pretty much every evening to get to a hotel and get comfortable so I can settle in and do some writing. I'm really enjoying my blogging.