so many Reasons for the Season

Sign by Becky Frank

 

A few of my followers grew up in my home village, Clearwater, Minnesota.  You knew where the Kniss’s Grocery  sat–on Main Street, downtown Clearwater. Ellis Kniss carried everything that any grocer carried in the larger towns. While it didn’t sell clothes that I can remember, the window shelves carried candy jars galore.  From lemon drops to root beer barrels, a kid could satisfy that sweet tooth for a penny.  Its main source of income was the sale of all sorts of meats, shelves of Fairway canned vegetables and fruits, juices, frozen goods, lots of fresh produce, and plenty of ice cream novelties–sherbet push-ups, Eskimo bars,  Cheerios, fudge cycles, ice cream bars and so much more for a dime or less.  But a few weeks before Christmas, Ellis also stocked evergreens for the holidays.  

 

The Foundlings

My father’s search to find our tree

would often take him out to see

if he could find at Kniss’s Store

a Christmas tree like years before.

 

Up against the mart’s north wall

stood evergreens so lush and tall.

But on the ground, my dad detected

a scrub-discarded and neglected.

 

A tree to touch his tender heart—

for orphaned man, his counterpart.

He dragged it home where we awaited

a tree to love—when decorated.

 

As it stood in stand, we realized

the tree was less than he’d surmised.

The bells and balls, a garland rope

just didn’t help. We gave up hope.

 

Out of ornaments, so what to do?

We finally admitted we were through.

Tinseled and lit, a star on top

that dried up tree was still a flop.

 

           Now years later . . . in memory,

   I think that I shall never see

  a poem as ugly as that tree—

         or one that means so much to me.

Christmas is magical.  Even during Covid-19 times, we have renewed hope in dire circumstances. We love the lights and the sparkle in little children’s eyes as they wait for Santa.  I remember well my inkling that he might not be real., but I didn’t want to ruin it for my little sister. The setting again is at the Abeln farm on Warner Lake, Lynden Township, Stearns County, Minnesota–just a few miles from Clearwater.

 

Yes, Virginia

Navy-blue, crystally winter’s night.

Glittering sifted snow, icing topped lake,

evergreens muffed in white.  I plodded

as Becky pulled me down the glossy road.

A bundle of blue, she sometimes followed,

sometimes led, sometimes jumped over my feet

as she chattered about baby dolls, Santa’s snack—

star-shaped cookies, his tummy and our chimney.

Late autumn’s whispered secret unmasked the man.

a grown up woman of ten, I played my part

for my younger sister that Christmas Eve,

although I no longer believed.

Carolers sang, “. . .won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?”

I grumbled, “It’s time to go home.”

As I turned, my eye caught a wink of light

dashing across the blue-black sky.

Becky and I tumbled through pockets of snow.

The yard glowed—lit house and trees.

I blinked.

Who’s that hunching in the shadows?

Mom, traditionally dressed in pink flannel gown,

pulled off our coats and pushed us into the living room.

Becky ran to a diapered doll and teddy bear.

I gazed at a white-veiled Barbie,

Betty Crocker Bake set, white fur-topped boots.

On the floor lay the empty green 7UP bottle

and a plate of cookie crumbs.

I ran to the window.  Cupped my hands around my eyes.

No reindeer, no sleigh.

But on that navy-blue, crystally winter’s night,

I decided to believe another year.

 

   @ Cynthia Frank-Stupnik

My prayers, like all of yours, are for better and healthier year to come, for more sunlight than darkness, for more blessings than pain.  

Merry Christmas and HOPES for a Happy New Year.

 

 

 

Warner Lake, my “Walden,” and my walking stick

Walden Pond or Warner Lake. Which is which? 

 

 

Warner Lake, November, 2020.

My sister usually knows when I am dry and need to revamp and refuel so I can write.  So one warm, Fall day, she and I hiked a bit around our lake. This is home.  We lived here for over five years when we were young. I have composed poems, essays, and even books about this area. It is honored to be called one of Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes. Even though it is about half the size of  another watering hole I am inspired by, Walden’s Pond, near Concord, Massachusetts, its size has never minimalized its occupation as a lake.  It is here at my inland sea, I seek my refuge, my muse, my soul’s nourishment, so to speak, when I wander around Warner Lake.

Often, after school starts in September, the paths and dock are nearly empty, but today we had quiet company.  Becky and I thought we had a clue to what was being gently pulled from a car when we parked  for our walk.  As we got out, grabbed our jackets, I grabbed my deerhead walking stick, and I locked up, we saw a ball of white fluff at the end of a leash.  I wondered: Maltese? White Terrier? Chihuahua? Ah, a Shih Tzu!  Nope, on all types. Instead, we would be followed by a white Persian, pulling its owner toward the lake while her boyfriend hauled the fishing gear.  What?  A cat heading for a lake?  Sure enough, the kitty laid on the blanket, but turned its head and body  away from the water.  While the couple started to fish for crappies and sunfish, they told us that they go everywhere with him, and he especially loves it here at Warner Lake.  We then settled down in quiet contemplation, me for a literary nibble, they for a chance to grill later in the day, and my sister for a photo op.

A couple years ago on a trip to Snake River Fur Post, I made an impromptu purchase that has serviced me quite well.  Until I had knee replacement last year, I hobbled around too vain to use a cane.  So there in the Fur Trading post, in the gift shop, I found wonderful walking sticks for sale.  I could have picked from bear, moose, wolf, or deer.  I chose Rudy who has guided me on my path since.  This day, he led me to where I could sit and stare at the familiar vegetation that has changed little since I was a child.  I think of our summers wher the fish jumped nearly into our boat, where I wandered down to the bridge crossing Plum Creek that flows in and out of the lake on its way to the Mississippi, and to winter where he led Santa’s sleigh across the black, starry sky for my little sister nearly sixty years ago. As I hang on to Rudy now, I do so for balance as while the knee is 100%, the back is suffering from years of injuries.

While kitty naps far away from me, (everyone knows I do not like cats) and sister takes her always surprising pictures, I feel refreshed and refocused.  It is the air, the swishing and lapping of the blue-green water, and the joy it gave my family, Camp Suima’s campfire girls, and George Warner, its namesake for the farmer who settled here in the 1860’s, and the Chippewa, Sioux, Ojibway that came long before us.  For me, this small lake creates stories and lessons my old friend Henry David Thoreau could appreciate if he were still at Walden.  I now have my next chapter.

 

P. S.  Pict on the left Walden Pond, Pict on right Warner Lake, me below at Warner with Rudy leading me on.

Dad

He was not a strong female character that I write about fin my Minnesota Main Street Women series  from Clearwater, Minnesota, but he held a few positions like in the village like mayor, church councilman, volunteer fireman, and good, steady father. Harold Frank would be 108 today. One hundred years ago, Feb. 20, 1920, he also became an orphan, along with his 2 sisters. Despite his loss, he was a quiet but strong role model for me and my two siblings. He also provided me with plenty of story and poetry material.  His strength and fortitude gave his two daughters and son quite a path to follow.

 

poems.

In hot pursuit

1 if by land, 2 if by sea…. Cindy Stupnik
is @ it again. Looking for clues on Lake Minnetonka…
Is she trying to find the footsteps of Simon Stevens,
founder of Clearwater and also the first white man
to lay eyes on Lake Minnetonka?
Is she looking for his mill site on Gray’s Bay
@ the headwaters of Minnehaha Creek?
Or more likely has she spotted the alcoholic beverages @ the bar…?
More adventures in the making.

Becky Frank

LAKE MINNETONKA

This huge body of water, circling the shores of many lovely towns like Excelsior, Deephaven, Wayzata, and Shorewood has intrigued me ever since I learned about Simon Stevens, Clearwater founder and brother John Harrington Stevens, Minneapolis founder.  Both men were born and raised in Brompton Falls, Quebec, Canada.  John Harrington, the older of the two, became colonel in the U.S. Army after fighting in the Mexican-American War. Simon followed his brother once he settled in Minnesota and helped build his house, the first house on the west side of the Mississippi across from St. Anthony.

Simon Stevens made his own history. Well-known around Minnesota during his life span, he and a group of fortune-seeking explorers paddled westward from the Mississippi River on the Minnehaha Creek approximately twenty-two miles.  The group portaged around a huge falls, but once they got to the headwaters of the creek, they viewed a huge body of water that would become known as Lake Minnetonka one day. At what would be called Gray’s Bay, they built a sawmill.  Simon did not stay around long but sold his rights to search for his own land to call home.  This would become Clearwater, at the mouth of the Clearwater River that flows into the Mississippi, and the setting for many and most of my works.

A couple of years ago, for a birthday trip, I asked my husband to take me to Lake Minnetonka to find the area where Simon Stevens and others built the mill.   This site has a wonderful hiking path, small dam, and offers lots of historic information, evening mentioning Simon Stevens.

So as I work on my next book and wanting to see if we could find any type of imprint of Simon’s, my sister Becky and I signed up for a cruise on Lake Minnetonka. We had beautiful weather, albeit a bit cool,  and viewed many luxurious homes, boats and their houses. We heard about some of the lake’s history, especially the Big Island where amusement called out to adventure seekers during the early 1900’s from nearly all over the world. Jennie Phillips, protagonist in Scruples & Drams visits relatives and friends in Excelsior, and even Jennie Phillips’s sister Ruthie’s autobiography refers to the the ride around Lake Minnetonka and Big Island Amusement Park:

The summer after my father passed away [1904] Pat [Ruthie’s older sister Harriet] and I were invited to go to mother’s sister [Harriet Ada Crossman] and family who lived at that time in Excelsior on Lake Minnetonka.   We had never been to a large city before so we were quite excited as we had to go to Minneapolis and then change trains to go out to Excelsior. . . I loved the trip over and we stood at the rail of the boat and watched the rainbow in the drops of water as they flew off the paddles of the large water wheel at the side . . .  So many beautiful homes and some places just woods.

We knew already that the park was no longer in existence. Yet, when the captain of our Lady of the Lake cruise ship drew close to the shore of Big Island and mentioned it was now a nature park, I was dismayed; I so wanted to see something of the past.

In past research for Pins & Needles, I learned protagonist Maude Porter’s aunt, uncle, and cousins settled near the lake in Excelsior as well.  Annette Robinson married Mark L. Knowlton.  Knowlton was the Clear Lake, MN, postmaster at the time.  The family eventually moved to Minneapolis and finally to Excelsior where he worked for the Pillsbury Company:

In the early 1900’s, [the Mark Knowlton] family was living in Edgewood at Lake Minnetonka and he would ride his motorbike from the Lake into Excelsior.  (Anyone owning a motorized vehicle in those days was noticed) where he’d park during the day, and catch the train or streetcar into Minneapolis.  The process was reversed in the evening.  In later years the family remembered the good bread that “Grandpa” brought home from the testing kitchens at Pillsbury.

On another trip a couple years ago, my sister and I toured more of Excelsior, trying to find where the Knowltons once lived. We found one house.  At one point in 1921, Mark Knowlton and his son purchased the James H. Clark’s home that was built to become a boarding house [and now is a bed and breakfast–the Bird House Inn] from the children of Clark and his wife. After Mark died, his son “J. E. “Jack” Knowlton who ran a horse and wagon delivery service around the lake via launch,  and was also the proprietor of Knowlton’s Cabin Camp adjacent to the south, at 411 Water Street, from 1932-1948 [took it over.]  His wife, Mrs. J. E. Knowlton,  always had roomers in the big house.  She was born Alice Howard, granddaughter of homesteader Silas Howard, for which Howard’s Point on Lake Minnetonka is named.”

Unfortunately, we saw nothing like horse and wagon, an old-fashioned motor bike, or even a mirage of a saw mill.  Our cruise did not even take us to Gray’s Bay because to get there from where we boarded in Excelsior would take a five – six hour cruise.  Since there is little to no public history tour of the lake, we had to admit that we had researched the people and had seen many  of the sites that were to be used in my next book.  (Please, if you know something we don’t know, let me know

Yes, I am  in a “hot pursuit” of characters, plots, and history again to bring alive another Minnesota Main Street woman for my next novel.  But I already have the makings of a couple HOT romances, some wiley twists and turns, a few not so nice individuals–with a juicy murder or two–and lots of historic tension.

Cindy

 

 

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Reverend Mary MacNicholl: A Woman with Vision

Unfortunately, this event has been postponed.    We will be rescheduling soon.

Spring is here, unfortunately causing lots of water and damage.  I sit on sandy soil so house and hubby are high and dry.  Other people and places–less so.  And I am taking a trip to southern Minnesota–where lots of snow and rain have made life uncomfortable for so many.  Hopefully, this melt will slow down soon, floods will recede, and white, yellow, and lavender-blue wood-sorrel will sprout on the Midwest prairies.

As I said, I am heading south over the weekend of April 6-7. Many of you remember that I earned a grant from the United Methodist Church’s General Commission on Archives and History to research and write about the life of one of my minister’s, Reverend Mary MacNicholl. She served almost entirely in Minnesota from 1950-1971.

I’ve learned so much about this woman.  As a child living in Merchantville, New Jersey, Mary MacNicholl felt an early call to become a minister, and told her kindergarten teacher her plans. We have no idea what her teacher might have thought or said to her; it was the early 1920’s, women just received the vote, and many became hopeful for their futures.  Yet, if the woman tried to discourage her, Mary stood fast to her goals and let nothing dissuade her. Truth be told, Miss Mac seldom swerved on her path, even if she had to side-track around a few boulders to get where she needed to go.

I am bringing the story of  Reverend Mary MacNicholl’s story back to one of the churches, the Wykoff United Methodist, where she first preached in Minnesota in the 1950’s and where she became the first ordained woman minister of the Methodist faith in 1958 in Minnesota  The woman minister’s courage, strength, endurance, perseverance, and quality of character impressed many.  Just as important, Reverend Mary MacNicholl, Miss Mac, Miss Mary, Mary Mac–paved a path for so many to follow.

If you are in the area, come and learn about this inspirational woman.

Wykoff United Methodist Church, Wykoff, Minnesota. 

April 7 at 10 a.m.

 

I’ll be posting again soon.  I have a big event in St. Cloud at the Convention Center the last weekend in April.  More to come.

Cindy

 

 

 

 

AND FINALLY, YOUR INVITATION

It took a while, but I am so proud of my new book, Pins & Needles.  Here is the information from the back cover:

Maude Porter’s narrative takes place in the Mississippi River town of Clearwater, Minnesota. Daughter of village founders Tom Porter and Abigail Camp Porter, she owns a millinery store upstairs of Boutwell’s Hardware Store. From here, she can keep her eye on the comings and goings of the village. What she sees causes quite a commotion, but what she hears over her newly installed telephone could spell trouble. In this sequel to Scruples & Drams, readers see what life is like in the late 1800 and early 1900’s for the “new women” who were educated, strong-minded, and holding down careers. Women like Maude have concerns about the health and well-being of many women who are overworked, under-educated about their bodies, and become pregnant way too often. While Maude understands that suffrage and equal rights are important, she also sees how the consumption of alcohol ruins families and communities and causes some men to be brutal. At first Maude believes education is the key to ridding the town of the many drunks and their brawls outside Quinn’s Saloon. Ultimately, though, she and others, men and women, come to realize that prohibition is the only answer to setting their world in order.  For Clearwater, the answer is clear: shut down Pat Quinn’s Saloon.

One of my reviewers, Dr. Sally Roesch Wagner,  stated this:  “In this historic novel set in 1909 Maude Porter and Jennie Phillips balance their careers with fighting for women’s basic rights – some openly, others behind the scenes. These old friends, who we met in Cindy Stupnik’s earlier Scruples & Drams, continue to face fearsome adversaries with growing courage and conviction. Along the way, we meet the historic characters who populate the village of Clearwater, Minnesota and get a flavor of early white settlement and its challenges. Stupnik has a gift for drawing us into the time and place, and this book hits the mark.”

Sally Roesch Wagner, Ph.D.
Executive Director, The Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation, Inc.
Adjunct Faculty, The University Honors Program, Syracuse University
Adjunct Faculty, St. John Fisher Executive Leadership Program
Public Scholar, Humanities New York

So come one, come all, to my book launch –Oct. 13, 2018, at the Clearwater United Methodist Church, Clearwater, Minnesota. Starting at 12:30, we will have music, lite snacks, cake, coffee, book signing, and around 3, a walking tour of the locations I write about in my books.

Cindy Stupnik

Sneak preview of “Pins and Needles” another novel in the Minnesota Main Street Women’s series

This week, Pins & Needles was wrapped up and sent to the printer.  I am so happy with the cover and the story.  I have had excellent editors along the way.  I hope you enjoy it as well.  It is the second in my Minnesota Main Street Women series.  My next book will be the prequel.  Once you have read Maude Porter’s story in the new novel, you’ll know who the protagonist is in the next story.

For the next couple weeks, I am offering my author’s discount for anyone wanting to place a pre-order with me.  From 28.99 down to $20 and 1/2 price  shipping (for a total of $22)  unless you come to the book launch in mid-October in Clearwater, Minnesota, at the Clearwater United Methodist Church when and where shipping is free.  AND this is where I’d love to see you to help launch this new book, have some fun, and eat cake.   Unfortunately, I can’t give a positive launch date, but the book is at the publisher/printer.

I heard that there is rain and humidity in the forecast for this weekend’s big events in Clearwater. Clearwater Heritage Days and Clearwater Rendezvous down at the Clearwater Dam, right off Highway 75.   Get out of the heat/damp weather for a while and come see and hear me at Clearwater’s Great River Regional

Library on Saturday at 11 until 12. Before and after this, I’ll be at the dam Saturday and Sunday. I’d love to see you.  I will be bringing most of my books to sell and sign.  We will have some of our “SUNDRIES” to sell as well–soaps, bathroom sprays, lotions, face creams.

 

 

 

Cindy