I am always enamored of places where time has stood still; even in ruins, they bear the marks and imprints of days gone by when life's engines moved at a slower pace. My parents went to Cuba forever ago and their stories and pictures remain imbedded in my memory. My mother loved Latin music and dancing, nightclubs, and full-skirted dresses. If the international community had been allowed to create another in Cuba, it would have destroyed their culture.
My husband, Terry, and I recently visited another historically preserved area in NE Iowa. , one of those places where progress moves slowly (thank God) and much of the past remains. Terry was born and raised in Decorah, Iowa, a Norwegian settlement. It is cut out of the high limestone bluffs of the Upper Iowa River. Much of the original town has been restored including the beautiful Vesterheim Museum which houses artificacts from the original settlers including stunning painted Rosemaling and magnificent scrolled hand carved furniture. We also visited the Laura Ingalls Wilder museum in nearby Burr Oak. Surrounded by rolling farmland, it was the perfect setting for her early books and the hotel remains where her family worked and lived for a few short years.
We stayed in the large Victorian house where we lived for a few years in the 70s. It's now called The Old Hospital Lodge, now restored into a B&B in Highlandville on the Little Bear, a popular trout stream in Iowa. Not much has changed. The large wooden structure was well cared for and the inn business was thriving for a town of under 100! An RV park had been added next to the only existing store. (The only other store is now for sale.) Adjacent to the house still stands the 100 year old brick bank building currently occupied by a friend from the old days who is currently renovating. What drew her back from Oregon and California, I wondered. And why does it feel so peaceful to return to this land that time has forgotten?
We were fortunate to visit on a Saturday night when many college students were on break and attending a dance at the old schoolhouse. The Highlandville dance was one of the few large social events we enjoyed years ago. Whereas in the past, grey-haired farmers played the fiddle and honky tonk piano, now the band was comprised of people our age. Our generation had taken their place as the elders. We still own 8 acres and plan to build a small energy-efficient log cabin as a get-away there. It would be a great place to write and paint. No electricity or plumbing, no phones, few distractions.
There seems to be a renaissance occurring in NE Iowa. The Vesterheim has fostered a rekindling of arts and crafts through workshops. Homemade quality yarn goods and carved wood abound. The beautiful grounds of Luther College appeal to young people who are also drawn to the natural beauty and low-stress life style. Perhaps the area is a roadmap for city folk back to a slower paced, gentler lifestyle that beckons us to live more simply and return to healthier lifestyles free of pressures to build bigger and better.
It was peaceful there. We no longer carry the burdens of ambitious dreams; we're more content with our lives as they are. There is a secret there amid the castle rocks and tiny hamlets, the secret of a simpler life and the joys of old friendships and quiet walks amid the streams of life as we grow older and wiser.
Already, I long to return.