February 6, 2016
Pere Marquette State Park
The locals say something that sounds more like Pierre Marquette. In fact, for years that’s just what I thought it was. A park for a French explorer named Pierre. Pere is not in our lexicon. Which is a little odd. The French were here at least until 1763 and left their mark on the landscape. James Fenimore Cooper wrote a little about the real estate changing hands.
We live in Illinois. Spelled with a silent “S” at the end. I live in Illinois but work in St. Louis (you say the “S” on that noun…unless you are Judy Garland). Well, not St. Louis, down the street from Creve Coeur. Little towns dot the landscape named Prairie du Rocher or Portage de Sioux. We are just up river from the place Lewis and Clark camped before their big adventure. The place where the Mississippi, Missouri and Illinois rivers all meet.
All these French labels surround us but to get here we drove through Jerseyville and McClusky. It’s all a big cultural mix up. The French were the first Europeans here….long after the Cahokians left. Some of the names the French gave stuck. But we don’t speak French. We don’t speak German either…but I grew up in New Minden. We don’t speak British either. It’s a big cultural mix-up.
Who was Pere Marquette? What is this place? Well, it turns out to have little to do with Pere Marquette. But that doesn’t matter. It’s a New Deal public works conservation area with a flashy name. Again, doesn’t matter. Marquette was here once, said “Hello” to the Illini people, boosted the morale of the troops stationed here then went to Michigan. It is a nice place to see bald eagles. There are cabins, there are rooms at the lodge. The pool is nice. The trails are challenging. The food is fried. The Wi-Fi is functional.
Julie and I come here often. That should sufficiently describe how we feel about it.
We stayed here on our anniversary in July. We had to enter through the back roads because the river was covering the highway. We got an inch of rain every day in June and the river, normally a series of ribbons in the distance, was a solid mass of swirling, muddy water with the accompanying mosquitoes. At that time we stayed in a cabin. “Cabin” is a loose term. It was a stone building with a shake-shingle roof divided into three air-conditioned, comfortable living areas. One queen bed, two bunk beds. Perfect for the family seeking a weekend getaway. We decided one night was not enough.
This weekend we are staying at the lodge for two nights. This is more like a hotel room. The Wi-Fi is more reliable in the lodge than in the cabin but the cabin was more comfortable. But the rooms don’t matter. There is plenty to do outside.
Or you can sit inside and edit pictures for Instagram. Please note the stack of books she is ignoring.
The place is packed this weekend with some sort of mom retreat. 100 or so moms comparing stories from the trenches, laughing at children who throw fits and stop breathing and grateful to have a weekend away from diaper duty. Are the kids with husbands or parents or ??? Based on the enormity of the diamonds on display I would suggest there are husbands somewhere. I wonder how they are holding up.
How am I holding up? We are years past diapers. But for 10 days out of every month our daughter is in the hospital. Julie is there with her. And I still have a job. And a farm. And three other children. And a marriage.
Julie and I found a break in the chemo schedule. It’s time for a checkup. This has little to do with missionaries sent by Louis XIV (Don’t say the “S”, the “X”, the “I” or the “V”), President Roosevelt, moms on retreat or children with life-threatening illness. The focus is simple. I love Julie. Julie loves me. But the busyness of our medical needs has prevented us from connecting. We are busy. Just busy. Busy all the time. And it is taking its toll.
Last night, in spite of the sound of free mothers roaming the hallways, Julie and I went to bed early. The we slept in a little. We ate breakfast at the little restaurant then took a long hike on the trails. The walk gave us time to talk. What are we each doing? What are the kids doing? What can we do to better meet their needs? What are our short and long-term goals? Are we still aligned in our goals? Why is it so hard to get rid of stuff in our house?
This isn’t just a chance to relax and take a nap. It’s a chance to relax, take a nap and finish reading a book or two. And to talk to my friend Julie.
Because we really need some time.
Make sure you are making time.
And for those who wonder, “How does this fit on your farm blog?” I offer this answer.
There is no farm without Julie.