Sunday, August 23, 2009

Underwater Photography Expedition

I had the opportunity some time back to participate in a week-long underwater photography program taught by world-famous U/W photographer, Stephen Frink, in Key Largo, Florida. After one has entered the water and established "neutral density", they give the "okay" symbol to their dive buddy, letting them know it is safe to proceed with the dive, which is what I am doing in this photo.

There are many steps to prepare for a dive in the ocean, and carrying complicated and expensive photography equipment, adds to the preparation needed. All this can create alot of stress for the diver, which is something you do not want to experience underwater. Therefore, on this trip, I developed my own "modified" and "personalized" version of the Twenty-Third Psalm: "The Lord is my Divemaster, I will not fear. He maketh me to go down into the deep waters. He restoreth my air. Yea, though I swim through the water with sharks, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me. Thy wet suit and thy BCD, they comfort me. Thou prepareth a boat above me in the presence of my dive buddies. Thou annointeth my head with water, my air supply runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dive in the oceans of the Lord forever"
The photo above shows me at "church school"!
The long, blue-striped tube-looking object on the left center of the photo above is a type of fish commonly seen in the waters around Key Largo. The other objects include sea fan, plus several varieties of colorful corals. All these are reminders of the importance of protecting the coral reefs located throughout the world. Completion of this program, meant I had taken enough PADI-approved scuba diving specialty courses to qualify me as a "Master Scuba Diver". I think I was more proud of that scuba achievement than I was of getting the "Master of Science" college degree! Achieving Master Scuba Diver certification certainly covered a longer span of years than the Master of Science degree. And guess which one I have framed, and hanging in a room in my house? You're right---the scuba one. It hangs right next to a little plaque I received in high school declaring that I had won "Honorable Mention" in the Skin Diver Magazine Summer Scholarship for Marine Science Junior Fin Fans. You see, I was a "fin fan" of Lloyd Bridges who had a popular television program back in the last century called "Sea Hunt". It was that show, plus a childhood spent on area lakes/rivers at every opportunity, that influenced me to start out my freshman year in college majoring in marine biology. There have been many, many "miles of smiles" between then and now, and life continues to be an adventure! Blessings! TriciaPosted by Picasa

Friday, August 14, 2009

Expeditions by Tricia (AND PRESIDENT OBAMA!) to Wakarusa, Indianaa

It's not that often that I am in a geographic location at the same time as a U.S. President, but, by sheer coincidence, that was the situation last week when I was in northern Indiana for the Quilt Garden Tour, at the same time that President Barack Obama made his historic visit to the little town of Wakarusa, Indiana (population about 1,800).
One of the reasons for his choice of Wakarusa to make a major announcement, was the high rate of unemployment in that county of Indiana. The area was hit very hard by the effect of the declining economy on the Recreational Vehicle (RV) industry. RV production had been big business for that area. Many of the employees in such factories had a background in the Amish/Mennonite culture, prevalent in northern Indiana. One aspect of that culture is their tradition of learning the skills of furniture-making and wood-working. The RV industry was able to make very good use of such skilled and hard-working employees as were found there.
How ironic it is that in a town where you are very likely to see horse-drawn vehicles and adults using bicycles for something besides triathlon preparation, the former Monaco RV company (now owned by Navistar, Inc.) will be receiving $39 million from the U.S. government to develop 400 advanced battery electric delivery trucks at the Wakarusa facility. The 6-ton trucks will each have a range of 100 miles. The grant is part of a $2.4 billion government program aimed at accelerating the manufacture and deployment of American-made, next-generation batteries and electric vehicles. The Goshen News quoted President Obama as saying, "For too long, we've failed to invest in this kind of innovative work, even as countries like China and Japan were racing ahead. That's why this announcement is so important---this represents the largest investment in this kind of technology in American history."
I took the photos above of the Monoco RV facility, as they were just beginning to get ready for the President. According to local TV news stations, Elkhart County officials just learned of his visit the Friday night before he was scheduled to be in Wakarusa for a speech on Wednesday, August 5.
The Wakarusa Dime Store (famous for its XL-size jellybeans) was doing a booming business, selling packages of specially-marked beans with the Presidential seal (upper left photo). The increased visits to Wakarusa's downtown probably helped boost sales for the beautiful quilt the town is raffling off, in conjunction with the 2009 Quilt Garden Tour (upper right photo and That increase in the number of visitors is also probably the reason there were no local newspapers to be bought from the machines outside the post office, the day after President Obama visited (lower right photo). One hand-made sign I saw in a store window caught my eye (large, middle photo), because that store proprietor was demonstrating a Biblical viewpoint---to pray for our country's leaders---whether or not we agree with them. It is found in I Timothy 2:1-4 "I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone---for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth." (NIV) So let that be our prayer as we wish miles of smiles to all those "walking in Wakarusa"!Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Quilt Gardens Tour

I had the wonderful opportunity last week to participate in a very unique event called The Quilt Gardens Tour ( , that is currently in progress throughout the Amish Country of Northern Indiana. And guess what, folks----it's FREE!!! It's like going on a treasure hunt in the most beautiful locations you can imagine! There are 16 "official" gardens, that contain some 80,000 blooms, all of which are growing in an arrangement that is representative of a quilting pattern. The gardens are placed in 7 different communities along the Heritage Trail, and the event was named in the "Top 100" events nationwide, as judged by the American Bus Association. Personally, I think a more accurate description would be in the "Top 5" events!
The upper left photo shows the quilt garden in Wakarusa (if that name sounds familiar, it's probably because it was recently in the news when President Obama gave a speech there last Wednesday, as he announced plans to use some of the budget stimulus funds in a manufacturing "plant"---no pun intended--- located in Wakarusa). The upper right photo shows the "Breezy Days" pattern located at Linton's Enchanted Gardens. The lower left photo with the hearts pattern is perfect for its location in ElkHART, Indiana; the lower right photo shows a pattern called "Birds Eye View" and is planted beside a historic log cabin that houses a shop called "Quilt Designs".
The Quilt Gardens Project Manager, is Sonya L. Nash, pictured in top photo above, in front of the quilt garden and tour kiosk, at McCormick Creek Golf Course in Nappanee. The pattern is called "Recovery", symbolizing the town's recovery from a devastating tornado in 2007, as well as their continuing recovery from the recession troubling the the U.S. economy. The lower photo shows me in front of the quilt garden at the Menno-Hof Information Center in Shipshewana. The pattern in that garden is called "Dove at the Window" and is symbolic of the story told inside the Information Center. A visitor there learns of the Amish and Mennonite people that settled in Northern Indiana, after leaving Europe, in their search for freedom from religious persecution.
In addition to the quilt gardens, there are also 16 "official" murals along the Heritage Trail (see for a map of the Heritage Trail) that have been erected this year by groups that wanted to participate in this event, but perhaps did not have the space required to qualify for an official quilt garden site. The top left photo above shows the Elkhart County Historical Museum director explaining to a tour group, the significance of the mural located on the front of their building in Bristol. The same artist who painted it, Jeff Stillson, is also the artist who created the design for the official U.S. Postage Stamps depicting quilt patterns a few years back. The mural on the red barn is located at the Meadow Brook Farm, which also has an agricultural-crops-based quilt garden. The mural on the lower left above is located on the Goshen College campus, and the one on the right is also in Goshen at the Old Bag Factory.
Besides the opportunities to be out of doors touring the gardens and murals, there are numerous indoor activities with a quilt theme that one can participate in. There is a quilt exhibit at the Goshen College Library (upper left), viewing of archival quilts from the Civil War era at The Elkhart County Museum (lower left), tours showing how quilts were used in a typical Amish home (upper right), and actual "quilting bees" in progress, such as the ladies seen in lower right photo, as they worked together on a quilt at the Das Dutchman Essenhaus Quilt Show. In addition, our group was able to enjoy a charming, live stage production called "Quilters--The Musical" in Middlebury. In the same way that it took an overall plan to make the Quilt Tour a success----which must have been hard to envision to the person who just planted their 140th flat of marigolds---so God has a master plan for our lives. And, just as the Quilt Garden Tour has the official Master Garden Instruction Book that you can download from their website, so the Divine Master Gardener has an Instruction Book that we are free to "download" for instructions on how to create something beautiful from our lives. A favorite verse that sums this up is from Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you hope and a future". Wishing you "miles of Heritage Trail smiles" as you make YOUR plans to see the Quilt Gardens of Northern Indiana!Posted by Picasa