16 Days of Jackson Day Three – Summer Night Tree: Beauty at Night, Dark Knight by Day

Community Engagement

On this third day of 16 Days of Jackson, the focus turns to a multi-million-dollar piece of art prominently displayed in downtown Jackson:  Louise Nevelson’s Summer Night Tree dedicated in the spring of 1978.  On the night of December 4, 2013 a cool evening air called me to take a walk in downtown Jackson after my first visit to Nostalgia Ink.  https://www.facebook.com/NOS.Ink

I felt a cleansing and healing taking place inside of me as I took deep breaths of the beautiful night air.  Early in my walk, I stumbled upon Summer Night Tree.  At first glance, my breath was taken away.  Where was the black exploding chicken I was used to seeing in daylight?  In front of me was a majestic, multi-faceted gigantic wonder with iridescent silver tones caused by its spotlights.  I slowly circled the Summer Night Tree, soaking in each angle and coming to full realization for the first time why Louise named it the “night” tree.  It springs to life at night.  I was blown away.

The hook

The hook

The Steps

The Steps



Thunderbird close-up

Thunderbird close-up

2013-12-04 23.26.59

Looking at these images today, I realize they don’t do the masterpiece justice.  I remember taking each image clearly, as I savored the refreshing air and wondered at the scope and beauty of the sculpture.  My Toastmaster friend Grant Bauman researched and published this excellent piece on Summer Night Tree:



Fellow Exchange Club member, the Honorable Richard LaFlamme reminded me of a favorite Seinfeld episode when I shared my evening Summer Night Tree experience with him.  The legendary “Festivus” episode included the “two faced” Gwen, Jerry’s girlfriend who looked great in full lighting but scary in poor lighting, somewhat like my day/night experiences with Summer Night Tree. The episode entitled “The Strike” was the tenth episode of the final season of Seinfeld.  The two-faced girlfriend segments are here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TFeUrC2gR30

The Festivus segments are here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c8g4Ztf7hIM

Two memorable Seinfeld story lines, all in one big episode.

Special thanks to Grant for his collaboration on this Day Three post and for Judge LaFlamme’s inspiration.

Summer Night Tree during the day

Day time

Day time

artnet Galleries: Maquette for Summer-Night Tree by Louise Nevelson from Hollis Taggart Galleries

Louise Nevelson, Maquette for Summer-Night Tree



16 Days of Jackson – Day Two

Community Engagement

Oh No, Not the Livestock by Jon Hart

In the 1850s all across the country, slavery was causing a division that would only be fully addressed by the spilling of blood in the Civil War.  It was no different in Jackson where abolition and populism crossed.  Enter the figure of Abel Fitch who led an insurrection of local farmers and was also a loyal abolitionist.

Fitch gave the last full measure and over my years of residency in Jackson and researching history, his actions put Jackson in focus for the rest of the nation.  While some of his methods were questionable, Fitch’s commitment begs the questions: what can we do to make Jackson a better place and what is our passion?

Setting the stage for the Freedom Organization

Setting the stage for the Freedom Organization

The one and only Abel Fitch, Jackson's own John Brown

The one and only Abel Fitch, Jackson’s own John Brown

Abel's death leads to the creation of Freedom Organization

Abel’s death leads to the creation of Freedom Organization

Rod’s view on Day Two

So what can we do today, remembering Abel Fitch, John Brown and Sojourner Truth?

Perhaps, by visiting nearby Battle Creek and paying tribute to Sojourner Truth.

Sojourner Truth memorial in Battle Creek

Sojourner Truth memorial in Battle Creek

Or perhaps, simply by experiencing the 11 acres of beauty at Mount Evergreen Cemetery and recognizing the lives of Jackson’s founders, heroes and leaders.

View of Downtown Jackson from Mount Evergreen Cemetery

View of Downtown Jackson from Mount Evergreen Cemetery

Or if your hungry or shopping for the holidays, shop at one of the local stores owned by Jackson residents.  Today’s favorite of mine, thanks to an incredible meeting with new friends and a great conversation with Evan Farmer, visit Cuppa:  http://jacksoncuppa.com/


16 Days of Jackson – Day ONE

Community Engagement

16 Days of Jackson

From day one, my experiences in Jackson, Michigan have been full of small world confirmation connections; wonderful natural nourishment in the form of outdoor experiences, music, art and Jackson culture; true stories of innovative service unique to the Cool City in South Central Michigan; and everyday people who have survived, thrived and creatively derived aspects of the best community in the world.

Over 16 Days in December, a small group of Jackson residents will share stories, images and personal passions to state the case for our great community. This social media experiment sprouted from the “How Jackson of You” movement.

You can find my “How Jackson of You” message at http://www.dahlemcenter.org/about-us/pawprints-newsletter/

Cool Color

Today, I watched the Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison documentary. I have listened to his music for most of my life, but his work has been central in my experiences throughout 2013. My move from Northern California to Jackson — just ahead of the turbulent weather that triggered the May 20th devastating EF5 tornado in Moore, Oklahoma — included six CDs loaded and looped for the whole 2,259-mile road trip. After hours of white-knuckle driving, I finally approached Jackson County. Just after Spring Arbor, for what was probably the 20th time of the car journey, this song and these lyrics sung by Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash welcomed me to Jackson, Michigan:


We got married in a fever, hotter than a pepper sprout,
We’ve been talkin’ ’bout Jackson, ever since the fire went out.
I’m goin’ to Jackson, I’m gonna mess around,
Yeah, I’m goin’ to Jackson,
Look out Jackson town.

Well, go on down to Jackson; go ahead and wreck your health.
Go play your hand you big-talkin’ man, make a big fool of yourself,
You’re goin’ to Jackson; go comb your hair!
Honey, I’m gonna snowball Jackson.
See if I care.

When I breeze into that city, people gonna stoop and bow. (Hah!)
All them women gonna make me, teach ’em what they don’t know how,
I’m goin’ to Jackson, you turn-a loose-a my coat.
‘Cos I’m goin’ to Jackson.
“Goodbye,” that’s all she wrote.

But they’ll laugh at you in Jackson, and I’ll be dancin’ on a Pony Keg.
They’ll lead you ’round town like a scalded hound,
With your tail tucked between your legs,
You’re goin’ to Jackson, you big-talkin’ man.
And I’ll be waitin’ in Jackson, behind my Jaypan Fan,

Well now, we got married in a fever, hotter than a pepper Sprout,
We’ve been talkin’ ’bout Jackson, ever since the fire went out.
I’m goin’ to Jackson, and that’s a fact.
Yeah, we’re goin’ to Jackson, ain’t never comin’ back.

Well, we got married in a fever, hotter than a pepper sprout’
And we’ve been talkin’ ’bout Jackson, ever since the fire went…

The song “Jackson” has risen in prominence right alongside “Ring of Fire” and “Man in Black” in my music adoration.  Earlier this year, I visited Folsom Prison and spent an afternoon as a special guest of the Youth Diversion Prisoner’s Outreach Program sponsored by Robyn Cole at California State Prison (CSP) Solano in Vacaville, California.


In the same documentary, Johnny greets Glen Sherley on the day of Sherley’s release from CSP Solano.  Here’s the moment when Johnny and Glen met during the Folsom Prison concert prior to Cash’s performance of Sherley’s song “Greystone Chapel”.

Johnny Cash shakes Glen Sherley's hand before performing Sherley's "Greystone Chapel"

Johnny Cash shakes Glen Sherley’s hand before performing Sherley’s “Greystone Chapel”

Johnny’s “Folsom Prison Blues”, “25 Minutes to Go” and “Greystone Chapel” are powerful prison messages for inmates worldwide, including those at Cooper Street Correctional Facility.

The California Medical Facility (CMF), neighbor to CSP Solano, has an active inmate artist program. An original painting by one of the inmates was gifted to me by my friend Laura. It hangs between the two windows in my downtown Jackson apartment looking out over Schupbach’s Sporting Goods http://www.schupbachs.com/ and the Grand River.

Beauty out of Ashes: Original art from inmate at California Medical Facility in Vacaville, CA

Beauty out of Ashes: Original art from inmate at California Medical Facility in Vacaville, CA

The 15 subsequent stories in the 16 Days of Jackson will include storytelling involving Jackson institutions, Jackson legends and Jackson masterpieces. The art, nature and intrigue of Day One will continue throughout this community experience.  Watch as it unfolds on your favorite social media outlet.

Autumn in Jackson, Michigan

MI, Nature

As I experience each new autumn day in Jackson, I’m amazed at how much the sunlight and colors of fall entrance me and engage my attention.  This preternatural connection to nature brings added benefits to my holistic health.  I walk outside much more.  I breathe deeper breaths, smelling the scents of autumn as I breathe in and pushing out stress as I breathe out.  I engage in conversation with local residents.  Every new face is a lovable strangers to me, the true stranger, the outsider, the foreigner.

Time and time again, day after day after day, someone in Jackson blows me away with their kindness.  So often, I sense genuine interest in meeting me — that new person from somewhere else.  On October 7, 2013 I experienced a Jackson moment, for me the new signature Jackson moment.

I attempted to order two coney dogs and a large root beer float from the Cascades Ice Cream Company.  I don’t carry cash these days and I realized with a small, seasonal operation, I might be in for an “unable to pay” surprise.  I asked “do you accept debit or credit cards?”  The response from the pleasant 20-something server was a bright “we don’t, but we’re getting the machine for next year”.  She added, “but you can pay tomorrow or later this weekend.”  With shock I offered this incredulous reply “Well, here’s my card so you know who I am.  By the way, I encourage you to come out at walk the trails at Dahlem.  It’s so beautiful this time of year.”  She replied with a smile, “I went there last year with my son’s class on a field trip!”

Here’s the IOU reminder, which I will bring with me to pay my $8.25 debt today:



And here are samples of the beautiful things you’ll find on walks on Dahlem’s trails this season…







For those of you who enjoy walking outside in downtown Jackson, here are several images for you from October, 2013







Autumn Blessings!

Come walk the trails at Dahlem with me this season,