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  • Writer's pictureAmy Q. Barker

Digital Detox and Channeling my Inner Gene Stratton-Porter

Updated: Jul 11, 2021

I’ve been on vacation this week and so I decided to stay off social media (a digital detox) to let my brain, mind, body, soul, and spirit have a rest, reset, restart.

I have to say, it felt wonderful! I hiked every day, visited three Indiana State Historic Sites, met several newfound kindred spirits, finished the final edits on my new book (YES!), and spent the week cherishing friends, family, food, love, and life. I couldn’t have asked for a better week.

Below, I’ve provided some of the highlights. I hope you enjoy sharing my journey!

7/3/2021: Spring Mill State Park

· Pioneer Village in the middle of nowhere, that has been there since the 1800s.

· Huge working Grist Mill.

· Restored buildings with period pieces.

· Workers in the buildings doing the actual trade from that time—weaver, tanner, blacksmith.

· Also, schoolhouse, garden, tavern, spring house, meeting house, apothecary, mercantile, museum, nature center, State Park Inn.

· Beautiful hiking trails with option to visit/explore caves.

· What I loved: the smell of the buildings—real wood fireplaces, old wooden floors, the herbs, spices, candles, tallow, the quilts, the things on the walls and in the rooms, furniture, etc. all very authentic and special.

· The inn is nice too—bought a wood block from the little crafting and quilt store, and a T-shirt that says Stay Wild.

7/4/2021: Morgan Monroe State Forest – Low Gap Trail

· Remember when your parents used to tell you that they had to walk two miles to school and both directions were up hill? Well, this trail felt like that—up hill both ways! Very steep, both directions.

· Thickly wooded trail with a lot of ferns and woodpeckers.

· Very muddy and buggy.

· Only saw one other person in an hour. Very desolate. Perfect for writers trying to work out something in one of their stories (like me!).

7/5/2021: Clifty Falls State Park

· Very rugged trails, which I love. What does very rugged mean? A LOT of tree roots and stumps on the trail, very steep hill climbs, walking along a creek bed that is filled with a thousand misshaped stones, some slippery, TONS of cobwebs, easy to get lost, trails not very well marked or defined.

· Sad that it was so dry, the falls weren’t much to look at.

· Saw a belted kingfisher, a pileated woodpecker, and a lot of fish.

· I was SO tired after hiking up and down the mountainside four times and then getting lost and walking the rest of the way back via the road to my car. I had a LONG nap when I got home.

7/6/2021: McCormick’s Creek State Park

· Falls were flowing, but it was busy down on the creek, so instead I hiked a path deep in the woods, trail 9, which I loved and would do again in a heartbeat. No ONE else was out there.

· Heard many beautiful songbirds, so thankfully not all of them have perished from the new unknown fungal disease we've been hearing about.

· Saw a flock of crows ganging up on a hawk in the woods.

· Ate at the Inn, which has wonderful salads with the best salad dressing., dove into my current read, Patricia Sands' The Promise of Provence.

7/7/2021: Cabin at Wildflower Woods (Gene Stratton-Porter Historic Home in Rome City, IN)

First—if you don’t know who Gene Stratton-Porter is, please check out her Wiki—she was an amazing author and person! She sold 50 million copies of her books—50 MILLION!

One little teaser from her Wiki:

Of the fifty-five books selling one million or more copies between 1895 and 1945, five of them were novels written by Stratton-Porter. Among Stratton-Porter's best-selling novels were Freckles (1904), A Girl of the Limberlost (1909), The Harvester (1911), Laddie (1913), and Michael O'Halloran (1915).

My notes on the day:

· BEST day ever BY FAR.

· All because of my INSTANT connection with my tour guide, Sarah.

· She was amazing and it was an all-around “kindred spirit” day on about 50 fronts.

"Limberlost West"

· First, let me talk about the house; spectacular with amazing black cherry moldings and paneled walls in the entry way, then opening into a bright, airy dining room with a fireplace, followed by built-in bookcases galore, desk office area with beautiful window overlooking east side of the house, screened-in porch overlooking amazing garden.

· I loved the fireplace, made out of some type of local composite stone material that is natural to the area.

· Also, her photographs scattered throughout the house, which are of moths/butterflies, but also herself and her daughter and husband.

· I asked Sarah if the descendants went on to have kids and she said yes, there are still great-great-granddaughters around and one is coming to visit on Tuesday! I was sad to miss her. Sarah said she wasn’t working that day, so would miss her too. I wondered what the granddaughter would think about strangers traipsing through the house. Sarah told me that one of the reasons that Gene moved to California is because people used to try to come onto the property to get a glimpse of her (which is crazy because this place is in the middle of NOWHERE), but then again, here I was, making an entire day trip (3.5 hours) to get to her home and spend the day drinking in her ambiance and juju, so I guess I understand!

· The other things I loved: the frogs in the pond, who all jumped away from me, except one who stared at me with his froggy dagger eyes. The amazing views of the lake from different benches strategically placed along the shore, the rain that fell on us and I didn’t care because it was still beautiful and I could imagine Gene sitting in the rain, drinking in her surroundings for inspiration.

· The fact that The Harvester (my favorite book by her) was written about this lake (Sylvan Lake) before she even built her house—I believe she must have had a premonition about it being her future home and how much it would come to mean to her and had to write a book about it.

· During the break between the house tour and the grounds tour, Sarah allowed me to sit with a super-secret notebook which contained copies of Gene’s actual handwritten field and nature notes combined with instructional information about writing. I really felt such a connection with Gene as I sat on her bench and read through (and absorbed into my pores!) every ounce of her.

· The grounds and garden tour with Sarah was awesome—it rained, but we had umbrellas and I didn’t care. The wisteria over the trestle was extensive and the most magnificent I have ever seen. The gardener does a wonderful job keeping up the native flower beds that Gene herself tended to and loved so much.

· One little tidbit—Sarah told me the stalks of jewel weed, which were blooming, are a natural antidote to stinging nettles! I wish I had known that a few days before at Clifty Falls, when I got a stab of them in my leg. I felt the burn for the next hour, and then poof, it was gone.

· We stood next to Gene (and her daughter Jeannette’s) gravesite, which Gene had requested be placed next to this huge lone-wolf Chinkapin Oak and Sarah read a script out of The Harvester where a character was purposely buried on this spot because of its loveliness and because the “fingers of the roots” would reach out and protect them and this site of beauty.

· I loved all of the stories about Gene—how she was revolutionary for her time—she wore pants and took nature photographs and supported a staff of people. Everything about her was inspiring.

· She had several live-in employees (7 bedrooms upstairs!), including a secretary who typed her works, a gardener, a chef, housekeeper, etc.

· She had funny names for her daughter/granddaughters, including one granddaughter called Morning Face, so I sat on the bench with her name and smiled to myself, thinking about how whimsical Gene was and how I will always try to be that way with my grandbabies.

· Even though Gene contracted the Spanish Flu and apparently had to move to California for her health (then sadly got hit by a trolley and died before she ever had a chance to live in the huge mansion she built in Bell-Air), I am so thankful that the state of Indiana has been able to restore and maintain this house that has such deep meaning for me and for so many others.

· At the end of the tour, I didn’t want to leave, so I walked around the grounds for a while longer, drinking in the feel of the woods and Gene’s presence with me.

· It was a magical day.

7/8/2021: Limberlost State Historic Site, Geneva, IN

· Started the day by hiking in the rain through the wetlands—saw many birds and thought Gene would be so proud that the wetlands that had been so decimated in her lifetime were brought back to life.

· At the house, tour guide, Curt, was very thorough—he talked for 2.5 hours! I have no idea how he memorized all that information.

· Three others on the tour with me—two nice students from Ball State—one from Sri Lanka and one from Jordan, and their professor. We were ALL so impressed with the accomplishments of the author—what she did in her lifetime, starting right in this tiny town in central Indiana, in this cabin surrounded by a swamp.

· Beautiful woodwork throughout the house—on the walls, on the floors, on the moldings.

· Also on the walls, these decorative moldings that are original and made of a product I never heard of (Lincrusta). Very delicate and beautiful.

· SO many photographs—of herself and her family and wildlife

· She was a spectacular illustrator, painter, photographer, writer, musician, naturalist, artist—all around very talented.

· Wove in TONS of references/people from real life into her stories.

GOT a photo of me holding my books, "Rue" and "Punk" in front of Limberlost! LOVE

7/9/2021: T.C. Steele State Historic Site (House Museum) in Brown County, IN

· T.C. Steele was a landscape and portrait artist from early 1900s. His paintings are rare and sell for about a quarter million dollars today (when they come up for sale, which is almost never).

· Beautiful grounds—200 acres on a hill overlooking a huge, wooded valley, including formal garden.

· Surrounded by a forest of mature trees in every variety, but several of the original Oaks in the front yard are still standing and were reflected in his artwork from 1907.

· All original furniture, books, decorations (including hand-stenciled curtains and cupboards by T.C.’s wife, Selma).

· Studio tour very relaxing—to sit and absorb the works in a quiet, peaceful setting with overview from tour guide, I just loved it.

· Two older gentlemen from Seymour, IN were on the tour with me. They had a lot of questions which made the tour very interactive.

Hope you have enjoyed my digital detox week of rest, enrichment, and reset.



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