This past weekend was Homecoming for Mendota - spirit week at the high school, the football game Friday night, the dance on Saturday. When I was growing up the Homecoming dance was always sort of semi-formal - you dressed up in something different than your other dance outfits - e.g. one might eschew parachute pants in favor of a Miami Vice jacket and dress pants - but it wasn’t a formal occasion. Formal wear was reserved for prom.
This has changed somewhat over the few years since my Homecoming days, and now the dance has taken on a more formal bent. This means fancy dress and pictures.
A popular spot for the pictures portion of the activity has been Mendota Lake Park, which offers large old trees to pose in front of, and bridges to pose upon. This has reached a point at which people are waiting in line for turns at specific spots to get their snaps taken.
Our family crew and their friends independently elected to avoid the crowd and have their pictures taken out here, at the Homestead.
This surprised me a bit - from my perspective our yard is nothing terribly special from a picturesque point of view. In fact, thinking about it from that perspective mostly makes me consider the efforts to tame encroaching nature and my relative failures in that respect. But when I asked LB and Malte about it, they pointed out that greenery and large old trees were key, and we have both in abundance. LB also casually pointed out that it would be great for pictures if the tree swing could be repaired, which put that on my mental list.
I realized, thinking about this, that they were absolutely correct. One of the beautiful things about the old farmhouses here in Illinois is the lots upon which they sit. Illinois was primarily prairie, of course, before European settlers came, with stands of trees in occasional groves that followed closely along the streams. The early settlers lived in those groves and, as they moved out to farm the prairie, efforts were made to make their homesteads mirror the preferred qualities of those groves - which is to say that they planted trees.
We continue to have some trees on the property that can be seen in pictures from decades ago. Consider this pic, which I believe is at least 50 years old:
There are a couple of trees in particular that can be seen there that can still be seen today:
They are still in this picture from 2009:
And they are still there today, though the one on the right has clearly seen better days:
Or consider these two old soldiers, fir trees that were originally part of a longer tree line:
These are tall trees - I have to stand way back from them to get the taller of the two entirely in the frame, which is why it is good of the dogs to help by providing scale.
The smaller of the two also helpfully offers up a branch for the aforementioned swing:
Of course we all know that trees live a long time. Still, an old tree is often a beautiful thing. These tiny groves dot the rural countryside here, but they are slowly diminishing. The upside is that I do see land where people are actively planting tree lines around their homes as windbreaks and/or installing the next generation’s tiny groves of deciduous trees. The irony to this is that I virtually always see that around the rate newer country homes.