• Nora Koch

Updated: Dec 5, 2019


There is so much going on in this photo. Val is wiggling behind me on Apache, who does not like being kicked in the flanks. I have my bangs flicked sideways – the way I admired men having their hair in those days. I often imagined myself a boy as I played – they had so much fun in the books I read – I liked what they did better than girl’s activities. No, I didn’t want to be a boy, just liked imagining myself as one. I had a boyfriend at that time (nine years old), he and I had been an item for years.

I always rode Apache bare-back, except when preparing for a show; never wanted to bother with a saddle; and we often rode double. We had our entire 500 acre farm to ride on, half of it in woods, and the farms around us as long as we closed the gates.This is how Val and I rode down the side road to put up the sign warning people away from trespassing on land we’d learned would be developed: my great uncle was going to build a cabin on his land adjacent to ours. We didn't want him to. There were few, if any postings, save the one Val and I put up to keep people out.

My cousin Eloise and her husband Jack, having driven all the way across the state from River Falls, are visiting with their baby (note the carriage on the porch), which did not happen often. Those fins are from their car, a 1956 Plymouth Fury, perhaps where I acquired my fin envy. I believe this photo was taken, shortly before they moved to Oregon, by my Aunt Angeline, who along with my uncle Denny and cousins Cindy and Penny, still lived on their farm about four miles away.

The background looks out to the field where we sledded and skated on the sometimes ice filled pothole at the bottom of the hill and beyond, across the road to the hill where we picked wild raspberries, and where my cousin Holly and I came back from getting “lost”.

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  • Nora Koch

I’m reading The Picture of Dorian Gray. A little beyond mid-way through the book is a long chapter that details how Dorian Gray finding at his fingertips wealth and extreme good looks, devours life. It is exhausting to read about his acquisition of beautiful things and experiences, one after another, it feels so familiar – it is what our culture is all about. He is filled with Self-indulgence, deceit, and vanity, coupled with beauty.

It makes me take a long look at myself.

Attraction to aesthetics as a way of life began early on for me, as a UW Stout college student in the 1970s. I thought it was my own idea, but I suspect the concept was suggested by one of my professors. Later, living alone on Gravel Pit Drive I loved reading the books of May Sarton; I was especially taken with her descriptions of her house with the mustard yellow floors in Plant Dreaming Deep. Later, as a practicing Catholic, I still believed that life itself could be an aesthetic expression.

I fought passions; without faith I would have been lost.

Wilde embraced and eventually fought them himself. He says “. . . I wanted to eat of the fruit of all the trees in the garden of the world . . . And so, indeed, I went out, and so I lived. My only mistake was that I confined myself so exclusively to the trees of what seemed to me the sun-lit side of the garden, and shunned the other side for its shadow and its gloom.”

I have found that the trees on the shadow side of the garden have been the most fruitful. Looking, through the lense of God’s love, at what I’ve wanted to run from in my life has saved me. I am grateful for shadow and gloom and see the gift to me that they have been as I age.

Prisoner C33, Oscar Wilde, after leading a life of dissipation was imprisoned for his life choices. He lost his health there. Yet he truly loved beauty. He was baptized a Catholic on his death-bed.

It is ironic that his tomb is so hideous.

Oscar Wilde's tomb

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  • Nora Koch

It occurred to me as I have begun preparing for our Home Show, that I have used two images; one for a book and one for the 2020 calendar taken from the same place, only about 25 years apart. I am not sure why I love that, but I do.

Hill from Landscape Prayer

The Hill - Clouds

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