To say hot and humid would truly understate the weather in Iowa when I arrived in mid-July. When people raise their eyebrows and ask why I have been going to Iowa for a class or two at the University of Iowa for the last three summers, I say, “For me, this is fun.” Sometimes I say, “I had so much fun watching the corn grow last year, I decided to do it again.”
Arriving a day early allows me to settle in and relax before I need to get serious. I called my friend, Dorothy, whom I met on a cruise in June of 2015 who has lived her whole life in Iowa City. She was kind enough to pick me up at the Iowa House Hotel where I stayed last year as well, and we went to Mass together at the new St. Patrick’s church. It is new because the first one collapsed during a tornado a few years earlier. They did manage to salvage a number of items and find homes for them in the new church, like the statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which they left as it survived, somewhat damaged, but still standing. It is a powerful reminder of what might have happened, and that no one was injured or killed.
After Mass we went to a market cafe for an enjoyable lunch and then she drove me around the neighborhood which is lovely, with lots of hills, an abundance of flowers in front yards and we stopped at the house of the painter, Grant Woods, most well-known for the portrait of his sister and dentist standing solemn-faced with a pitch fork as a third person.
The many fields are thick with grasses, weeds and Queen Ann’s Lace, all much more dense than the fewer undeveloped lots in Northeast Ohio. They have also had much more rain than we have had this summer.
We went back to Dorothy’s condo and sat in her veranda and talked about many things, including the tentative plans she has with two other ladies to stop in Cleveland on their way to see Niagara Falls.
As the day wore into early evening Dorothy drove me to the Hotel Vetro on the campus where the registration and dinner is provided for the coming week’s classes. Usually the registration opens at 6:30 p.m. but I didn’t see any other students gathering in the lobby, so I decided to go up to the ballroom and see what was going on. Immediately I found a familiar face at the desk, John, whom I met in my first class in 2014. We chatted, I got registered and we headed into the dining room to seek out the table with our teachers’ name card in the center, and pick a seat at that table.
I was the second person to arrive at the Writing Your Legacy class table and put my bag and sweater down to go and get some water and iced tea. John was at his class table already sipping soup when I ducked past him remarking that it was a very Edward Hopper like scene with single individuals looking lonely at their meals on long tables as they waited for classmates to join them.
The Legacy class was the largest, so we remained at our dinner table to have our first class meeting while all the other groups picked up and went to other places. When we finished for the evening and everyone dispersed, I looked for John since he agreed to walk me back to the Iowa House, where he was also staying, but I did not see him so I headed out alone. A block and a half later he found me saying his group moved out of the room and when he came back for me I was gone, but alas, we connected and I was relieved not to have to walk the last stretch across the grounds of the old capitol alone. John said he was hot and how would it be if he treated me to a drink? I thought that sounded nice, so we stepped into the air conditioned room in one of a string of restaurants on Iowa Street. The waitress was friendly and she and John were both funny so in no time we were all laughing and relaxing. The remainder of the walk was not as dark as I thought it might be, so it was a comfortable path to take and an enjoyable close of the day.
At eleven o’clock Monday through Friday there is a lecture series with a featured faculty member giving a talk. What I found is that each one is worth attending as there is always something of interest to learn.
After classes on Monday all are invited to wine and cheese and appetizer repast at the fine book store on campus, Prairie Lights, where one could easily spend a fortune on beautiful books. It was crowded as it is every year, but I found a place to sit and an interesting lady to talk with until the event ended and I headed diagonally across campus once again, with all the input of the day firing synapses as I walked. Fortunately there are benches everywhere, inviting the weary to sit a few minutes along the way. The bright Brown-eyed Susans planted across the campus added cheer to the environment.