David and I spent Thursday through Sunday in and around Indianapolis, during a time window originally set to spend with my sweet faery twin Tania Marie, her Dave and my David. Due to what have revealed themselves as very important and perfectly aligned changes in their travel plans, David and I agreed to switch around our scheduled trips. Instead of visiting my Aunt Kath and Uncle John around Autumn Equinox, we ended up meeting Tania and Dave in Madison, Wisconsin during a trip documented in Parts 1 and 2. That left this past long weekend for a trip to Indianapolis and nearby Fishers, Indiana, where my mom’s brother John, his wife Kath and my cousin, Tim live.
I mention the switch of trips, because Tania and Dave were eerily present during our entire time there. We kept seeing murals that reminded us of them, and David and I began “spoofing” their travels with photos of me on the “Indy economy version” of their year-long RV trip around the West and Upper Midwest of the US. I’ll share some of those photos here, but they’ll seem funnier if you’ve followed Tania’s spectacular photo chronicles of their adventures in the “Magick Bus.” The giggles began with a mountain goat sighting:
They continued onward with a beautiful waterfall that we “hiked” to:
Right after David texted Tania these photos, we decided to grab some Thai food, and what did my eyes spy, but a full on cosmic sync wink:
As Tania recently announced, they’ve returned to Lake Tahoe, in part for bunny Cosmo, who sat at the center of our Autumnal celebrations all together, anchoring the “Cosmos” and just being the love bunny he is. What’s weird is that this bloodstone bunny Tania gave me years ago to commemorate her beloved Nestor, somehow hitched a ride in my toiletries bag, so we had Tania, Dave, the Magic(k) bus, and a bunny, popping up at the strangest times and places:
This proved significant as our journey unfolded, but I’ll let Tania decide how much and when to share of that piece, since Cosmo is her elder rabbit, wise companion, and her baby bunny. This Nestor statue has a habit of appearing and disappearing at significant times, though, so when it inexplicably showed up in my bag as I reached for a totally different item, I felt another jolt of synchronicity.
We’ll return to what Tania began to term the “spoooooookay” volume of (sometimes literal) signs and symbols, but I want to share some of the really cool things that David and I found in Indianapolis. He planned our itinerary, as he lived in Indy for a summer about 30 years ago and had places he wanted to see again, including the James Whitcomb Riley Museum Home and Visitor Center. James Whitcomb Riley was a prolific poet, artist, musician and beloved public figure who lived in the now historic Lockerbie neighborhood of Indianapolis. A lifelong bachelor, he did have a little poodle named Lockerbie who accompanied him throughout his later life.
Although I hold a Masters Degree in English Literature, I must confess that I had no idea who James Whitcomb Riley was. I focused primarily on literature from the other side of the Pond, and the only American lit I read tended to be written by ex-pat’s. I had no idea what to expect, but after touring the home and watching the video at the Visitor Center, I understand why he became so loved by Hoosiers.
He wrote in “the country dialect” and captured an innocence that was fast fading as Indiana experienced exponential growth. The characters Raggedy Ann and Andy, as well as Little Orphan(t) Annie owe their original inspiration to James Whitcomb Riley.
The house includes beautiful 14-foot ceilings and all original furnishings. It also showcases some truly clever innovations that made this rented house Riley’s chosen location for reading, writing, and entertaining. Unusual features include: a rudimentary intercom system from the upstairs to the kitchen, a one-way upstairs window to allow the maid to see which salesmen were calling at the side door, a basement coal furnace, rain water collection, an attic cistern that allowed indoor plumbing, a (rather dangerous yet functional) hot water heater, passive heating above the kitchen, and a cardboard type wallpaper pressed and painted to look like ornately carved and polished wood. We thoroughly enjoyed our tour!
The next day, we went to Conner Prairie, a State Park that features historic buildings, a hot air balloon, early craftsmanship, interactive videos, as well as tour guides dressed in costume and fully acting out their 1816 parts. Not surprisingly, Conner Prairie attracts a lot of children. Our visit this Friday coincided with 1,200 schoolchildren visiting for the day, so it was very LOUD! We had watched a video about Conner Prairie, and it seemed so idyllic and quiet, like a journey back in time, so the noise gave me the same kind of double whammy overload I experienced at Turkey Run State Park, when I expected to find what Dana of The Druid’s Garden had described as “the most sacred woods [she’d] ever encountered. Period. Anywhere. Not just Indiana.” For the most part, Conner Prairie was loud, loud, loud, filled with shrieking, running kids that led us to ponder how we would have never been allowed to do that on a school field trip.
A few things we did particularly enjoy, though:
A woman my Uncle John calls “Curly Sue,” who, it turns out is a friend of his, had come in for an extra volunteer shift at the spinning center. She kept all the children (and us) completely spellbound with her demonstrations and descriptions of different sized spinning wheels for different types of yarns, natural dyes, and her tales of how she started a competitive fabric arts guild for children. She surprised us all when she explained how the boys’ group actually took first prize most often! In any case, we found her delightful, and it demonstrated how what had moments before been hooligans could suddenly turn into fascinated and attentive learners with the right authoritative and interested teacher.
We also loved how all the demonstrators of early crafts and skills remained in character, even talking about each other as characters, presumably with information gleaned from early letters. From the town doctor’s assistant to the uppity woman from “big city” Lexington, Kentucky, we found these talks humorous and authentic. We also loved seeing the old string mattresses, fireplaces, and herbal apothecary:
Later in the day, two unaccompanied young girls started trying to trick and tease one of the in-character workers, loudly baiting him to slip out of character and talk about “pop” and other later inventions. We watched in amusement turned amazement as this stern 1816 cartographer and explorer very firmly disciplined them with words, busting them on “wasting his time” and “asking questions they already know the answers to.” The girls went from quite bratty and disrespectful to fully engaged and interested in his story. David and I noted a lesson in here somewhere: today’s iPod and TV addled youth could return quite quickly to full attention, given the right guidance and firm expectation that they can pay attention and learn at a rigorous pace.
We also thought Conner Prairie did a great job showing a balanced view of Indiana’s deeply troubled history. The William Conner House, for example, gives a history of William Conner’s double lives: first as a frontiersman who married a Lenape woman and fathered six children, and then as a prominent white settler who helped usher all the Lenape out of Indiana –including his wife and children — only to marry a young woman just months later and then father another twelve white children while helping to found Prairietown. Interactive displays ask viewers to consider the many difficult moral choices Conner faced and to vote on whether he was a hero, an opportunistic jerk or somewhere in between. The Indians get fair treatment in all these videos, and you can’t help feeling deep compassion and solemnity when recognizing just how Indiana became a state. (We saw a similar trend the following day when we visited the Indiana State Museum’s “Indiana in 200 Objects” exhibit in honor of Indiana’s bicentennial.)
In and around our historical tours, we did some fabulous eating. Our favorite was Ezra’s Enlightened Cafe in the Broad Ripple neighborhood:
This tiny but busy spot offers both raw vegan and cooked vegan dishes, as well as fresh juices, healing tonics, kombucha and a variety of raw vegan desserts and superfood treats. We had chocolate hazelnut torte and a superfood Reishi brownie on Thursday, since we arrived after the kitchen closed. On Saturday, we returned for lunch and had a fresh green juice, followed by an angel reading at The Playful Soul metaphysical shop next door, and then we shared a “Buddha bowl” and a slice of delicious raw vegan pizza on a nut crust. We discovered the reason for the extra yummy factor:
Ezra’s Organic Farm provides most of the food for Ezra’s Enlightened Cafe. They also offer CSA’s and prepared food for the week. Total yum. It reminded me of some of my favorite raw spots in Sedona and California. Having the Playful Soul right next door allows a high vibe experience for body, mind and soul. We enjoyed the angel reading with Brian. I almost never get readings but felt led to on that day of enhanced synchronicities. We also got some unusual stones the likes of which we’d never seen or heard of before.
After lunch on Saturday, we made our way downtown to the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indian and Western Art, where David had noticed they’d be hosting a Dia de los Muertos celebration. We didn’t know what to expect, but since it was the weekend before Samhain, we figured we’d check it out before heading to the Indiana State Museum next door. Due to the festival, we got free parking and admission, and our visit quickly turned surreal with the combination of full on celebration, mostly in Spanish. We saw traditional altars created by schoolchildren, as well as organizations in memory of the dead. We’re talking a huge room full of major decorations, letters, mementos and more, with very respectful Hispanic children making their way around each altar with their parents.
Further down the hall, we ducked into some exhibits and the Tania and Dave travel spoofing kicked into high gear. We made a whirlwind tour of Sedona, the Grand Canyon, magical forests, and snowcapped mountains, just like Tania and Dave. Well, almost:
We even saw a buffalo, just like Tania and Dave:
After our adventure at Eiteljorg, we took a chocolate break and then wandered into the Indiana State Museum, where David wanted to view the “Indiana in 200 Objects” bicentennial exhibit. We did not expect even more Dia de lost Muertos celebrations there, but we found full on skeleton faces with flamenco dresses, dancers, and music. It almost felt eerily like the beginning scene in the James Bond film, Spectre. As we moved into the actual exhibit, another buffalo greeted us:
The double sighting of these buffalo seems especially synchronous, potent and poignant given the recent buffalo stampede as answered prayer to the thousands of Native Americans attempting to stop the pipeline from being built on their land. After days of learning even more about Indiana’s horrible treatment of Indians, the current events with the Standing Rock Sioux remind us that some battles continue to rage. Having seen the results of Indiana’s “triumph” over the natives, perhaps we will all send extra supportive energy to this important fight out West. I know I am.
Great Spirit is listening: “… [I]n the midst of mass arrests, mace attacks, and beatings from batons, a stampede of bison suddenly appeared near the Standing Rock protest camp. A cry of joy reportedly erupted from the Standing Rock Sioux, as they had been praying for assistance from the Tatanka Oyate during their standoff with riot police and national guardsmen.” Huge blessings and gratitude to those on the front lines for Mother Earth and Sovereignty of the Land!
The rest of the 200 objects tour was highly informative, yet also eerie in its focus on death, change, Light and Shadow. Our trip through the exhibit began to feel like a sacred Samhain ritual, and the synchronicities between Tania and me ramped up even more. Right after seeing a sign depicting the Four Elements, I took this picture of a saber toothed cat:
The rail road sign behind the cat not only links our Goshen locale with its close proximity to trains, but the rail road in question is the Madison-Indianapolis Rail Road, thereby linking our Madison and Indianapolis trips. This was like an over the top whoa moment, as we continued moving through this darkened and somewhat spooky catalog of famous people, items, inventions and events in Indiana history. To the right, you can see the state’s electric chair. Who needs haunted houses for Halloween scares?!
Signs scattered around the displays, offering philosophical commentaries that took on larger meaning in context of the layered connections Tania and I had been sharing throughout that morning and afternoon. This sign in particular arrived at just the right, confirming moment for Tania:
We continued on, and David found Johnny Appleseed’s drinking flask, which appeared after having told my aunt and uncle the night before that I was the Johnny Appleseed of Goshen:
We also saw markers for Indiana authors like the amazing Gene Stratton Porter, whose Limberlost home we visited on my birthday, and whom I realized on that day was THE huge inspiration for Grandma Van and her magical adventures with birds:
We looked at several other exhibits in the Indiana State Museum, including this giant pendulum:
It being two days before Samhain, I figured we ought to take a walk outside on the canal behind the museums, since my Uncle John and my now departed father walked there for an afternoon when my parents visited in 2013. Apparently, my dad really loved the canal walk, and we found it a perfect afternoon for sauntering along. We also found it a perfect opportunity for more synchronicities to flood into our awareness! The angel reading had mentioned owls, hawks and several other animals, but with a particular discussion of paying attention to hawks. I had seen a hawk the day before and then on the way to the museum, but check out this beauty we found under a bridge!
Knowing that Tania loves and often posts about hawks, we sent this snapshot to her, only to receive an “LOL, did you see I just posted about hawk wisdom?” Um, no, but why am I not surprised?! Here’s her Saturday post, “A Message from Hawk.”
David shot some photos of the canal walk to give a better idea of this vistas:
By this time, the day had gotten away from us, so we decided to meet my aunt and uncle at the restaurant instead of heading back to their house first. My uncle had decided he wanted to take us out to one of their very favorite restaurants, Mama Carolla’s, which turned out to be very close to the neighborhood where David lived for his decades ago summer in Indy. We figured the Tania and Samhain themed bleedthrough’s would stop now, but wait, there’s more! We arrived to find the entire staff and restaurant completely decked out in Day of the Dead costumes and decorations:
I put in my name, and our table became available just as my aunt, uncle and cousin walked in the door. Perfect timing! We sat down at the table, only to be greeted by a server in a banana costume, causing David and me to look as each other as we thought of “Banania,” our affectionate name for Tania.
Dinner was amazing! Every dish except the lasagna and ravioli can be made gluten-free, since they make it all to order. They offer vegetarian dishes, easily made vegan, too. We thoroughly enjoyed the food, the music and our conversations, as we also caught up with my cousin Tim, whom I had not seen for almost 30 years. We wound down our trip by watching the Cubs-Indians World Series and noting that “Take me out to the ball game” was composed by an Indiana native. Indeed, we are now filled to the brim with facts about Indiana originals!
The visit ended all too soon, as we toured their backyard and then packed the car on Sunday. David took this selfie of Aunt Kath, Uncle John and us, just before we left:
We had so much fun that we will definitely return! We barely scratched the surface of vegan food options and activities around Indianapolis, and we so enjoyed hanging out with John and Kath. With all the Fall colors and varied weather, it was a perfect way to usher in another Turn of the Wheel of the Year.
Wishing everyone a Happy Halloween, Blessed Samhain, and a Spooky All Hallow’s Eve!