What Is Intellectual Freedom? – Libraries & The Right To Read

Experiences, Thoughts

What is Intellectual Freedom? 

Every person has the right to unrestricted access to information from all viewpoints, both while seeking the information out and when receiving it. Intellectual freedom offers open access to all forms of expression so that all arguments for or against a cause or movement can be examined. Intellectual Freedom is important for every individual regardless of who they are. Our democratic system is built on the principle of intellectual freedom. 

We anticipate that our people will rule themselves. But in order to act properly, our populace must be informed. In a variety of formats, libraries offer people the concepts and data they need to educate themselves. The right to possess, receive, and transmit ideas is included in intellectual freedom.

Photo by Element5 Digital

It has been quite a while since I updated my blog here! But, there’s been many changes these past few months of 2022. Today is a great day for me to update things considering it’s about -30°F outside and I finally have a minute of time!

School has ended for me as I’ve just recently completed my degree program for Creative Writing & English. Wooh! Now to move on to other projects, tasks, and life things. 

I’ve always spent a lot of my free time in libraries and I can officially say that now I’m employed at one. It’s an honor and a great pleasure for me to work for and in one of the best libraries in the country.

It’s not just my personal opinion either – this library is an award-winning library and I’m ultra happy to be there.

Due to the nature of the subject, I, unfortunately, will not be revealing exactly where. Sorry to disappoint you! Just kidding. I’m not sorry. Don’t take it personal. 😉

Photo by Vincenzo Malagoli

Since I’ve been working in the library now, I’ve learned about Intellectual Freedom – which has always been important to me despite the fact that I initially didn’t know what it was called.

According to the American Library Association, 

“Intellectual freedom is the right of every individual to both seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction. It provides for free access to all expressions of ideas through which any and all sides of a question, cause or movement may be explored.”

I want to explain exactly what this means in a wonderfully creative and not-so-boring way. The account I’ll be sharing here was provided by Jamie LaRue, the current library director and the previous director of the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom.

He frequently talks about the difficulties that today’s libraries face, the reasons behind these difficulties, and the function of the contemporary library.

Let’s Tell A Story

Scenario: A mother and son walk into the local library. They are browsing books and find many picture books in the kids section. The little boy picks up a book about dinosaurs and wants to check it out. 

The mother says no to the little boy and tells him he can’t read the book because dinosaurs were not in the Bible, and she only wants him to learn about things that are in the Bible. 

The mother refuses to check out the book for the child. She tells the library staff that she doesn’t want her son to have access to those kinds of books.

The next day, the child comes to the library alone. He goes right to the same section that he and his mother browsed the day before and picks up the book about dinosaurs.

He takes the book to the checkout and brings the book home. Shortly after, the mother arrives at the library with the son. 

The mother approaches the staff and says, “You knew I didn’t want him reading this. Why did you let him?”

The library staff explains to the woman that they are not allowed to dictate to the child what he chooses to read. This, my dear friends, is INTELLECTUAL FREEDOM. 

The mother is furious. She becomes enraged. She makes the boy return the book and she takes him home. 

The very next day, the same little boy comes back to the library. He finds the same book about the dinosaurs and sits down in a comfy spot and starts to read it.

The library staff look at each other and observe the boy. One librarian says, “Should we take the book from him?” And the other says, “Nope. Let him read it. It’s his right.” 

Photo by Mau00ebl BALLAND

Now this story might not be exactly the same way Mr. LaRue told it, but I’ve told it from my memory and the lesson still does suffice. Censorship is a large problem in libraries across the country and this problem continues to grow. 

In 1939 the American Library Association adopted Intellectual Freedom as part of the Library Bill of Rights.

YES, There is a Library Bill of Rights, and if you didn’t know that I hope you are just as shocked as I was when I found out and that you scream to the mountaintops about it now that you know! 

What is the Library Bill of Rights? 

The Library Bill of Rights is a statement issued by the American Library Association that expresses library users’ rights to intellectual freedom as well as the association’s expectations of libraries to respect those rights. To view, the Library Bill of Rights visit the ALA and click here: Library Bill of Rights | Advocacy, Legislation & Issues (ala.org)

The measure, first proposed in 1938 by library director Forrest Spaulding, was intended to speak out against “increasing intolerance, repression of free speech, and censorship harming the rights of minorities and individuals.”

Photo by Yan Krukov

The Library Bill of Rights is critically important to every American citizen because it is correlated to the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment. 

Free and easy access to information is significantly aided by the provision of library services that are supported by public funds.

With the First Amendment being considered, one would think that Book Bans are not that serious – but in fact, they are.

Did you know that fairy tales in general are one of the most challenging genres for book bans and censorship? These older tales are being contested, as opposed to more recent and diverse works.

Some readers simply don’t enjoy works that contradict their own particular beliefs. They take action and work to have books banned and taken out of libraries if a book contradicts their own personal beliefs. To me, that is absolutely unacceptable. 

Here’s a question. Would you rather: 

A. Have your children study skills and gather information in a secure environment like a library?

B. Find out information alone and on the street?

For me, the answer is clear and simple. A. It will always be A. 

Why Are Fairy Tales Being Censored? Are Parents Really Attempting to Ban Fairy Tales? 

YES. They certainly are. And with the research and information by LaRue, I’ll tell you why. Do you remember the story of Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf?

Of course, you do – it’s a classic. In some variations of the story, the old grandmother drinks wine. Dun, dun, dun! Believe it or not – to some people this is “promoting alcoholism to children.” Granny must be an alcoholic! 

Painting by Gustave Dore

With all due respect, if a wolf just tried to eat me or disguise himself and try to eat my family member, I feel like more than a glass of wine is appropriate as a coping mechanism for such a drastic situation. LaRue touches on this subject in more depth in the Personal Values and Institutional Purpose: Intellectual Freedom Issues in 2022 video which can be viewed for free on YouTube. 

Real fairy tales are spooky and sinister, but that’s how they should be. Books create imaginative defenses against the ailments and threats of the outside world. We get stronger as readers. These trivial objections aim to downplay the book’s profound meaning. Whether or not someone else’s opinions or ideas align with our own personal beliefs, it is up to us, as readers and leaders, to resist censorship and constantly promote intellectual freedom!


To kind of sum up my feelings about classic fairy tales, I will say this. Real fairy tales are spooky and sinister, but that’s how they should be. Books create imaginative defenses against the ailments and threats of the outside world. We get stronger as readers.

These trivial objections aim to downplay the book’s profound meaning. Whether or not someone else’s opinions or ideas align with our own personal beliefs, it is up to us, as readers and leaders, to resist censorship and constantly promote intellectual freedom! 


We all lose when books are banned.

Important resources that would help students better comprehend themselves and the world around them are inaccessible to them. If parents don’t pay attention, they could miss out on important teaching moments with their children. And communities miss out on a chance to grow and develop mutual appreciation and understanding.

Although attempts to censor books are nothing new, 2021 saw more of them than any year in the more than two decades since the American Library Association began keeping records.


Keep yourself informed. Stay informed on what is going on in the municipal councils, school boards, and library boards in your area as well as the state legislature in where you serve.

Send your mayor, state and federal legislators, and senators letters explaining your perspective and asking them to support your position. Attend the board meetings of the schools and libraries in your area.

 If you’ve enjoyed this post let me know in the comments. If you have any questions or suggestions on future topics you’d like to see me write about let me know! Thanks for stopping by. #READBANNEDBOOKS 

To learn more about how YOU can fight for your RIGHT TO READ visit www.uniteagainstbookbans.org

By the way, check out this really awesome beanie I designed 🙂 READ BANNED BOOKS Embroidered Beanie by Bookages – Etsy 


Top 10: Perfectly Petrifying Classic Halloween Poems – Horrifying, Creepy, and Full of Valuable Moral Lessons!

Literature Reviews, Poetry, Thoughts

Halloween has always been my favorite time of year. I’ve long believed that Halloween is the only day that most people can be “themselves”. The reason for this is that on Halloween we are allowed to dress up, act silly, have fun, eat candy and simply celebrate in the most peculiar (or lovely) ways. It’s the one time of year when adults and children alike can be who they’ve always wanted to be. Whether you are a pirate fairy (my favorite), a gargoyle, or simply a cheeseburger- you can get away with being that character and nobody will question it. I often wish that every day was Halloween.

Photo by Thirdman
Photo by A Koolshooter

As a lady who studies the English language, poetry, literature, and of course all things shockingly terrifying I could not help but create this blog with some of my favorite Halloween poems. Some of them you might recognize, and some of them will be new. But finally – the spooky season is upon us, so here we go!

Samhain is an ancient Celtic holiday that was observed on the first of November according to current calendars. Samhain is where the tradition of Halloween originated. On that day, people would dress up in costumes and light bonfires in an effort to ward off the ghosts that they believed would visit their homes. It was believed that on Samhain, the souls of the dead would return to the land of the living.

In my small little personal bubble, Halloween and poetry are both very important. I will tell you why.

Photo by Monstera

One of the foundational elements of the humanities is poetry, just like any other kind of artistic expression. We can better comprehend and appreciate the world around us thanks to poetry. Poetry conveys information and human values by taking the routes of feeling, sensitivity, and imagination. Even better, it molds the entire human being—body and soul. Body and soul are key elements not just in poetry, but of course in Samhain as well. Halloween and poetry are both magic and have the capability to merge worlds in a number of ways. To better put it, the celebration of Halloween and the magic of poems can help you see the world in a new way. Let’s begin. Note: Some poems below are not full versions. If you want the full version click the links provided for each poem.

1. “One need not be a Chamber to be Haunted” – by Emily Dickinson

Photo by Beyza Kaplan
One need not be a Chamber — to be Haunted —
One need not be a House —
The Brain has Corridors — surpassing
Material Place —
Far safer, of a Midnight Meeting
External Ghost
Than its interior Confronting —
That Cooler Host —
Far safer, through an Abbey gallop,
The Stones a’chase —
Than Unarmed, one’s a’self encounter —
In lonesome Place —
Ourself behind ourself, concealed —
Should startle most —
Assassin hid in our Apartment
Be Horror’s least —
The Body — borrows a Revolver —
He bolts the Door —
O’erlooking a superior spectre —
Or More —

The poem “One need not be a Chamber to be Haunted” by Emily Dickinson is about battling one’s inner demons. The speaker of the poem claims that no “External Ghost” is quite as frightening as people’s own darkest, most inside thoughts and feelings and that the “brain” can be just as “haunted” (that is, full of secrets and dangers) as any old house. The poem discusses the agony and terror that come from feeling in conflict with one’s own thinking.

Moral of the poem: Humans never really know themselves. People can be real monsters.

2. “The Spider and the Fly” – by Mary Howitt

Photo by Chris F
Said the cunning Spider to the Fly, “Dear friend what can I do,
To prove the warm affection I’ve always felt for you?
I have within my pantry, good store of all that’s nice;
I’m sure you’re very welcome–will you please to take a slice?”
“Oh no, no,” said the little Fly, “kind sir, that cannot be,
I’ve heard what’s in your pantry, and I do not wish to see!”

Mary Howitt released this poem in 1829. In the poem’s opening line, the Spider asks the Fly, “Will you go inside my parlour?” The tale describes a crafty spider that seduces and tricks a fly into getting caught in its web. When it comes to tricks and treats one must be careful.

Moral of the poem: Don’t be tricked by statements that seem nice and flattering. You might find yourself caught in a web that you can’t escape. Now that’s a horrifying thought, isn’t it?

3. Song of the Witches: “Double, double toil and trouble” – by William Shakespeare

Photo by Buu011fra
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and caldron bubble.
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the caldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg and howlet's wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and caldron bubble.
Cool it with a baboon's blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.

This post wouldn’t be complete without this poem by my guy, Billy. Shakespeare is one of my favorites. When you read these phrases out loud, they are certainly meant to sound as cryptic and chant-like as they do! Chanting as part of spell work is quite an ancient practice. (It’s part of the whole “words are magic” thing that you hear me say all the time). According to the witches, Macbeth would now face twice as much trouble (double the amount of problems). He should therefore be cautious. He’s in serious jeopardy because he killed everyone on his path to the throne.

Moral of the poem: What goes around comes around and for the love of the gods don’t piss off the witches.

4. “A Chilly Night” – by Christina Rossetti

Photo by Faruk
I rose at the dead of night,
And went to the lattice alone
To look for my Mother’s ghost
Where the ghostly moonlight shone.

My friends had failed one by one,
Middle-aged, young, and old,
Till the ghosts were warmer to me
Than my friends that had grown cold.

I looked and I saw the ghosts
Dotting plain and mound:
They stood in the blank moonlight,
But no shadow lay on the ground:
They spoke without a voice
And they leaped without a sound.

I called: ‘O my Mother dear,’—
I sobbed: ‘O my Mother kind,
Make a lonely bed for me
And shelter it from the wind.

‘Tell the others not to come
To see me night or day:
But I need not tell my friends
To be sure to keep away.’

My Mother raised her eyes,
They were blank and could not see:
Yet they held me with their stare
While they seemed to look at me.

She opened her mouth and spoke;
I could not hear a word,
While my flesh crept on my bones
And every hair was stirred.

She knew that I could not hear
The message that she told
Whether I had long to wait
Or soon should sleep in the mould:
I saw her toss her shadowless hair
And wring her hands in the cold.

I strained to catch her words,
And she strained to make me hear;
But never a sound of words
Fell on my straining ear.

From midnight to the cockcrow
I kept my watch in pain
While the subtle ghosts grew subtler
In the sad night on the wane.

From midnight to the cockcrow
I watched till all were gone,
Some to sleep in the shifting sea
And some under turf and stone:
Living had failed and dead had failed,
And I was indeed alone.

Okay, so this one is pretty deep. It was quite necessary to post the entire poem and not just an excerpt. Rosetti was a true master of horror and her poems clearly show it. Originally published in 1904, the poem explores elements of death, ghosts, and loneliness. The poem is about a young girl who is alone and wakes up at night to look for her dead mother’s ghost. In the moonlight, she sees the apparition of her mother and other ghosts. Her mother is trying to talk to her, but she can’t hear her. When her mother and the other ghosts leave for the night, she is left alone. It is a poem about feeling very alone, angry, and sad. The girl’s mother can’t talk to her, and the girl is scared and confused about what she wanted to say to her.

Moral of the poem: There is no bridge found between the living and the dead. Use your words wisely while you are alive.

5. “The Witch” – by Mary Elizabeth Coleridge

Photo by Pixabay
I have walked a great while over the snow,
And I am not tall nor strong.
My clothes are wet, and my teeth are set,
And the way was hard and long.
I have wandered over the fruitful earth,
But I never came here before.
Oh, lift me over the threshold, and let me in at the door!

The cutting wind is a cruel foe.
I dare not stand in the blast.
My hands are stone, and my voice a groan,
And the worst of death is past.
I am but a little maiden still,
My little white feet are sore.
Oh, lift me over the threshold, and let me in at the door!

Her voice was the voice that women have,
Who plead for their heart's desire.
She came—she came—and the quivering flame
Sunk and died in the fire.
It never was lit again on my hearth
Since I hurried across the floor,
To lift her over the threshold, and let her in at the door.

The Witch is a short poem that tells a story. The witch, who is the first person to speak in the poem, talks about the trials she has been through and the hard times she has had as she has traveled around the world. In the third stanza, the change of voice is present as the narrator describes “her”. In the third stanza it is evident that by letting the witch into the home and over the threshold, the narrator suffers (it (fire) was never lit again).

Moral of the poem: Be cautious of who you help as it may cost you your own “light”.

6. “The Night Wind” – by Eugene Field

Photo by Artu016bras Kokorevas
Have you ever heard the wind go "Yooooo"?
'T is a pitiful sound to hear!
It seems to chill you through and through
With a strange and speechless fear.
'T is the voice of the night that broods outside
When folk should be asleep,
And many and many's the time I've cried
To the darkness brooding far and wide
Over the land and the deep:
Whom do you want, O lonely night,
That you wail the long hours through?"
And the night would say in its ghostly way:

My mother told me long ago
(When I was a little tad)
That when the night went wailing so,
Somebody had been bad;
And then, when I was snug in bed,
Whither I had been sent,
With the blankets pulled up round my head,
I'd think of what my mother'd said,
And wonder what boy she meant!
And "Who's been bad to-day?" I'd ask
Of the wind that hoarsely blew,
And the voice would say in its meaningful way:

That this was true I must allow -
You'll not believe it, though!
Yes, though I'm quite a model now,
I was not always so.
And if you doubt what things I say,
Suppose you make the test;
Suppose, when you've been bad some day
And up to bed are sent away
From mother and the rest -
Suppose you ask, "Who has been bad?"
And then you'll hear what's true;
For the wind will moan in its ruefulest tone:

In this poem, a mother tells her son an old wives tale about the wind revealing who has been up to no good. As the poem goes on and the wind yells “yoooooo” repeatedly, it’s quite obvious who the wind is talking about. Could it be that this poem was meant to teach a lesson? Possibly. The poem also leaves a soft spot on my heart because through the poem Field is teaching children to actually listen to what nature says. The ways to interpret this poem are abundant.

Moral of the poem: Don’t gossip about who has done what. Recognize your own actions and judge yourself first before others.

7. “Spirits of the Dead” – by Edgar Allan Poe

Photo by Pixabay
The breeze—the breath of God—is still—
And the mist upon the hill,
Shadowy—shadowy—yet unbroken,
Is a symbol and a token—
How it hangs upon the trees,
A mystery of mysteries!

Poe wrote this lovely poem that explores life and death. He focuses in particular on what it means to transition from one world to another. The loss of individuals he loved throughout his life, such as his mother, stepmother, and wife is what led to his preoccupation with death. Through his narrators in his short stories and poems, Poe expresses his obsession with death, murder, fear, hatred, and worry.

Moral of the poem: Death is one of life’s greatest mysteries and should be admired for how lovely it is in its own right. Death is cyclical and a necessary part of the human experience.

8. “Halloween Party” – by Kevin Nesbitt

Photo by Charles Parker
We’re having a Halloween party at school.
I’m dressed up like Dracula. Man, I look cool!
I dyed my hair black, and I cut off my bangs.
I’m wearing a cape and some fake plastic fangs.

I put on some makeup to paint my face white,
like creatures that only come out in the night.
My fingernails, too, are all pointed and red.
I look like I’m recently back from the dead.

My mom drops me off, and I run into school
and suddenly feel like the world’s biggest fool.
The other kids stare like I’m some kind of freak—
the Halloween party is not till next week.

This one is clearly not so terrifying – unless you have anxiety about being late, fear of missing out, and not keeping a strict record of your to-do lists.

Moral of the poem: You better check your calendars! LOL

9. “The Shadow on the Stone” – by Thomas Hardy

 I went by the Druid stone 
   That broods in the garden white and lone,   
And I stopped and looked at the shifting shadows   
   That at some moments fall thereon
   From the tree hard by with a rhythmic swing,   
   And they shaped in my imagining
To the shade that a well-known head and shoulders   
   Threw there when she was gardening.

      I thought her behind my back,
   Yea, her I long had learned to lack,
And I said: ‘I am sure you are standing behind me,   
   Though how do you get into this old track?’   
   And there was no sound but the fall of a leaf   
   As a sad response; and to keep down grief
I would not turn my head to discover
   That there was nothing in my belief.

      Yet I wanted to look and see
   That nobody stood at the back of me;
But I thought once more: ‘Nay, I’ll not unvision   
   A shape which, somehow, there may be.’   
   So I went on softly from the glade,
   And left her behind me throwing her shade,   
As she were indeed an apparition—
   My head unturned lest my dream should fade.

Thomas Hardy wrote “The Shadow on the Stone,” which alludes to his wife’s spirit after his wife passed away.
In the poem, Hardy wants to be sure nobody is following him. He struggles with whether or not to look.
He worries that if he looks back, he will be alone. Hardy saw himself as a poet first and foremost.
His poetry displays a depressing outlook on life and draws inspiration from Romantic authors like William Wordsworth. He had a somewhat pessimistic view of his own time, and many of his poems express contempt for the ideals and issues of the Victorian era.

Moral of the poem: Allow yourself time to grieve the loss of a loved one. If you don’t, it may start to drive you mad.

10. “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain, (340) – by Emily Dickinson

Photo by Micael Widell
 And then I heard them lift a Box
And creak across my Soul
With those same Boots of Lead, again,
Then Space - began to toll,

But then, according to one reading or analysis of the poem, “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,” is about becoming crazy, losing one’s sense of reality, and having one’s sanity ebb away. Dickinson explores the notion of what it could be like to remain conscious after death in this disturbing poetry. She feels like a part of her is dying, or that her reason is being overtaken by the absurdity of the unconscious, and Dickinson employs the metaphor of a funeral to depict this. A funeral is a fitting metaphor for this experience. This is a poem that expresses the fear and helplessness that come with losing one’s sense of reality.

Moral of the poem: Don’t lose your grip on what is real vs. what isn’t.

If you have made it to the end, thank you for reading. These are just a few poems that I think are always worth reading. If you have any poems you think I should have included, feel free to comment below. Which one of the ten listed here was your favorite? I’d love to know! Stay safe ‘n stay spooky. ❤ K.A.

Fundamentals of Forbidden Love with Tristan & Isolde

Literature Reviews, Mythology, Poetry, Psychology, Thoughts

Note: If you are a student, I don’t mind if you reference my work. Just cite your sources. Purdue has this amazing tool that you can use to copy and paste links, and automatically generate MLA (and other) formats for your source. Research and Citation Generator Purdue Owl

The themes of romance, love, and other aspects of medieval culture are found in the story of Tristan and Isolde. These themes that are historic yet contemporary fill the ancient tale of Tristan & Isolde. This epic story of forbidden love is perhaps one of my favorite love stories ever. Themes of romance, love, loyalty - and even betrayal, have carried over into contemporary media through generations and thousands of years. This media is given to us by the dozens in the form of books, operas, plays, comics, and movies. Tristan & Isolde, the 2006 film directed by Reynolds which features James Franco and Sophia Myles is a direct adaptation of the classic Celtic love story that features two beloved characters (Tristan and Isolde, 2006).
Tristan & Isolde, 2006 film

The themes of romance, love, and other aspects of medieval culture are found in the story of Tristan and Isolde. These themes that are historic yet contemporary fill the ancient tale of Tristan & Isolde. This epic story of forbidden love is perhaps one of my favorite love stories ever. Themes of romance, love, loyalty – and even betrayal, have carried over into contemporary media through generations and thousands of years. This media is given to us by the dozens in the form of books, operas, plays, comics, and movies. Tristan & Isolde, the 2006 film directed by Reynolds which features James Franco and Sophia Myles is a direct adaptation of the classic Celtic love story that features two beloved characters (Tristan and Isolde, 2006). The movie was inspired by the medieval literature version of the tale that was first popularized in the 12th century (Greenblatt, 2018). In this lesson on the Fundamentals of Forbidden Love, we will go over why forbidden love is just so extremely delicious and tempting, as well as how this timeless theme has survived over hundreds and thousands of years.

Tristan and Isolde. Schloss Nueschwanstein, August Spiess, 1881
Tristan and Isolde. Schloss Nueschwanstein, August Spiess, 1881

Picture this: The Roman Empire is in pieces, and chaos is in charge of the British Isles. Angles, Saxons, and Jutes live on the east side, while Irish King Donnchadh rules the west side. Tristan becomes an orphan at a very young age due to his village being attacked by the Irish. His parents were murdered in front of him, and at the same moment – Isolde was mourning the death of her mother, the Irish Queen of King Donnchadh. As time goes on, the orphan Tristan becomes a man and fights many battles. In a mysterious way, he finds himself swept up on the shores of Ireland all alone; that is until Princess Isolde finds him. Isolde nurses Tristan back to good health until he is well enough to set sail again. Isolde the Irish princess can’t escape her fate that she is to wed Lord Mark, the very man who brought up Tristan after his parents were murdered in cold blood during battle (Tristan and Isolde, 2006). Though this summary is of the 2006 film, I highly recommend all to read the original and much older versions of Tristan and Isolde.

“If things were different; if we lived in a place without duty, would you be with me?” Tristan says, “That place does not exist.”

In an instant, both of their hearts shatter as Isolde tells him, “I’ll pretend it’s you…” just before she disappears behind the royal chamber doors with her new King.

Tristan and Isolde, 2006
La Belle Dame Sans Merci, exh.1902 by Sir Frank Dicksee
La Belle Dame Sans Merci, exh.1902 by Sir Frank Dicksee

Tristan would be the one who would earn her hand in marriage during a tournament set up by Isolde’s father, King Donnchadh. Tristan would win her not for himself, but for his master and leader: the future King Mark of Cornwall. Without knowing who she truly is, Isolde was won by Tristan for Mark. Isolde hid her royalty from Tristan from the moment she found him on the shores. She never told him that she was the princess (Tristan and Isolde, 2006).  However, their romantic passion and love for each other would cause a schism that has devastating consequences as a highlighted case of forbidden love. Tristan and Isolde were subject to torture in the form of not legally being able to stay together. Since Isolde now belonged to the King, Tristan was devastated and the amount of pain and psychological suffering that he endured was enough for him to be completely broken and shattered. For Isolde, the feeling was of course the same. Imagine, you are forced to marry another with zero way out when your heart belongs to someone else. Long before Romeo and Juliet, there existed this sad and beautiful story based on legends from Cornwall, Ireland, and various characters from the British Isles. Some tales say Tristan was one of King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table (Hodges, 1993), (Stevens 1973).

The young fairy-tale characters that are prohibited from being in love are only a small fraction of the romantic elements found in the 2006 movie, Tristan and Isolde. Ancient manuscript-based tales and contemporary films both incorporate the valiant hero and other more conventional components of chivalry-style romances. Forbidden love often walks hand in hand with “courtly love”. If you are unfamiliar, allow me to explain. What separates courtly love from romantic love? The majority of us associate romance and attraction with love. Romantic love may be frequently made public when there is a marriage or other public agreement. On the other hand, courtly love had nothing to do with getting married.

Courtly love, a highly conventionalized medieval tradition of love between a knight and a married noblewoman that was commonly employed in medieval European literature, was created by the troubadours (French medieval lyric poets) of southern France. Because love was regarded as an ennobling passion, the knight and his lady frequently did not marry. According to some academics, the term “courtly love” now refers to an idea of love that first appeared in the Middle Ages and caused a revolution in thought and emotion that reverberated throughout Western culture.

The courtly lord’s main goal was to please his lady, even though marriage was never an option. Courtly love was characterized by a series of stylized rites between a knight and a married, high-status lady in Europe during the Middle Ages. These idealized customs were based on the established codes of decency, courtesy, and valor associated with knights. So, though courtly love was and is a well-established concept, that does not mean it is widely accepted. Thus, we have Forbidden Love.


A forbidden love story’s famous characteristics and core components include romance, heroism, adultery, and doomed lovers who are categorically prohibited from being together (Stevens, 1973). Tristan, a valiant hero, confronts the adversary and kills him, but he subsequently sustains his own wounds. The fatal couple keeps their relationship a secret from their Kings and kingdoms (Tristan and Isolde, 2006). Romeo and Juliet have the same concepts. The notion of forbidden love—love that is outright banned by individuals, nations, or kingdoms—remains present not only in Romeo and Juliet but also in Spielberg’s most recent West Side Story film.

Both the medieval texts and the movie of Tristan and Isolde make extensive use of literary tropes and aspects. The story has a love-centered tone and mood, yet it also unfolds as a tragic drama. There are many parts of living in a royal environment that are quite pertinent, such as how Princess Isolde is compelled to hide the fact that she met Tristan; and the fact that she is made to marry against her will twice in the film (Tristan and Isolde, 2006). In the movie Tristan and Isolde, foreshadowing is a literary element that plays a key role. The philosophical underpinning of the entire movie is the foreshadowing of love and death. The film emphasizes how these two ideas are intertwined and can certainly be viewed as a single entity or concept. Due to his adoration, love, and respect for Tristan, King Mark downplayed the relationship between his wife Isolde, and his long-time companion Tristan. King Mark couldn’t accept the relationship and betrayal of the both of them, despite them having been in love long before Isolde was forced to marry him. This downplaying by King Mark is a prime example of an understatement being used and developed as a literary device within the movie (Tristan and Isolde, 2006).

Because it emphasizes an unbreakable love even when it leads to catastrophe, the Tristan and Isolde story has inspired artists since the middle ages. In addition to the surviving texts and film, Tristan and Isolde are portrayed in literature, music, paintings, and other various media. The medieval romance theme continues to be told today in all forms of storytelling and media (Stevens, 1973).
Rogelio de Egusquiza, Tristan and Isolde

Because it emphasizes an unbreakable love even when it leads to catastrophe, the Tristan and Isolde story has inspired artists since the middle ages. In addition to the surviving texts and film, Tristan and Isolde are portrayed in literature, music, paintings, and other various media. The medieval romance theme continues to be told today in all forms of storytelling and media (Stevens, 1973). Plays, poems, and operas have all been readapted with several different versions of this classic medieval tale. “Tristan and Isolde seem to have been drawn into the Arthurian orbit in the second half of the twelfth century. Marie de France wrote a lai (Chevrefoil) about them; another Anglo-Norman poet, Thomas, a long romance of which only fragments survive. From Thomas’s romance derives the greatest Tristan poem, Gottfried von Strassburg’s (c. 1210); and incidentally, a Norse version, Tristrams Saga (1226) (Stevens, 1973). Several great poems were composed during the 1800s and were based on the story. Matthew Arnold’s Tristram and Iseult; are one of them (Encyclopedia of World Mythology, 2022). The archetypes, motifs, and symbols of heroes, romance, forbidden love, and betrayal found within the movie have been repeated for as long as stories and poems have been written.

Tristan and Isolde, Death Rogelio de Egusquiza y Barrena (1845-1915) was a Spanish painter, known for his friendship with the German composer Richard Wagner, whose works he helped make familiar in Spain. Tristan and Isolde, Death (Oil on Canvas), by Rogelio de Egusquiza
Tristan and Isolde, Death Rogelio de Egusquiza y Barrena (1845-1915) was a Spanish painter, known for his friendship with the German composer Richard Wagner, whose works he helped make familiar in Spain. Tristan and Isolde, Death (Oil on Canvas), by Rogelio de Egusquiza

More often than not, Hollywood is criticized for its lack of creative movie plots. This is an understandable statement, yet one that overlooks the ageless nature of certain stories. Regardless of their distinct outward traits, these forbidden love stories will always have a lasting impression on audiences. Romantic dramas, such as the tale of Tristan and Isolde, are especially effective in this regard. The numerous versions and adaptations of Tristan and Isolde demonstrate how reinterpretation may manifest itself in diverse media. Heroes and damsels in distress are one of the oldest and most repetitive character archetypes of all time; both of which can be seen in the 2006 movie, manuscripts, and even contemporary fiction novels. Although Isolde is a princess, nothing can save her from the torture that she experiences internally through forced marriages to men that she doesn’t love. Her heart belongs to Tristan, and the both of them know it and as the movie goes on the devastation becomes clear (Tristan and Isolde, 2006).

“Yesterday at the market, I saw a couple holding hands and I realized we’ll never do that. Never anything like it; no picnics or unguarded smiles. No rings. Just stolen moments that leave too quickly”

Tristan and Isolde, 2006

“Yesterday at the market, I saw a couple holding hands and I realized we’ll never do that. Never anything like it; no picnics or unguarded smiles. No rings. Just stolen moments that leave too quickly” (Tristan and Isolde, 2006). This line takes place in a scene where Tristan and Isolde are talking in a common market and manage to exchange a few words while they hope and pray they aren’t being watched.

There are plenty of gut-wrenching and heartbreaking lines within the film that display aspects of medieval culture and even courtly love on top of the forbidden love theme. On the wedding night of Isolde and King Mark, Isolde manages to whisper to Tristan on the way to consummate the marriage, “If things were different; if we lived in a place without duty, would you be with me?” Tristan proceeds to tell her, “That place does not exist.” In an instant, both of their hearts shatter as she tells him, “I’ll pretend it’s you…” just before she disappears behind the royal chamber doors with her new King.

Herbert James Draper,(1864-1920), (Tristan and Isolde 1901)
Herbert James Draper,(1864-1920), (Tristan and Isolde 1901)

The 2006 movie which derives from medieval literature has made a large impact on contemporary Western culture. It is amazing to experience how the narrative has changed throughout time. The story even served as inspiration for Shakespeare, in which some versions of Tristan and Isolde utilize drinkable poison as an element of the story. We can directly relate various other love stories to Romeo and Juliet. If you’ve ever seen West Side Story, you know that William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet served as the basis for the musical.

Humanity can always relate to love, which is the one part of life that unites all living things. Until the end of time, stories of love, including those about unrequited love, lost love, and desire for such love will be told.

Humanity can always relate to love, which is the one part of life that unites all living things. Until the end of time, stories of love, including those about unrequited love, lost love, and desire for such love will be told.

A more recent adaptation of this particular story is set in the world of King Arthur in the 2009 book Twilight of Avalon. Isolde is the daughter of Guinevere and Mordred in this trilogy’s first book, which was written by Anna Elliott. In this version, Mark is the obvious and repugnant villain. Tristan is revealed to be Mark’s son—not his nephew—by a different woman. The internal conflict in Britain is a major source of drama in this book, as it was in the film. The story of Tristan and Isolde is a noteworthy example of how diverse media in Western culture can result in various interpretations of the same subject.

Photo by Pixabay

Richard Wagner’s opera Tristan und Isolde from 1865 also addresses this tragic love story, thus movies and books aren’t the only media for this narrative. Tristan and Isolde have the capacity to move viewers because it is a love story with a tragic and dramatic finish, regardless of the platform used to follow the adventure.

“But since I could not come in time and did not hear what had happened and have come and found you dead, I shall console myself by drinking of the same cup. You have forfeited your life on my account, and I shall do as a true lover: I will die for you in return!”

– Isolde on Tristan’s death. Tristan with the ‘Tristran’ of Thomas
Gottfried von Strassburg

“But since I could not come in time and did not hear what had happened and have come and found you dead, I shall console myself by drinking of the same cup. You have forfeited your life on my account, and I shall do as a true lover: I will die for you in return!” (Greenblatt, 2018). There’s just something that will forever be incredibly powerful about love that is so strong and so real that one would rather die than live without their lover – especially a forbidden love.

How on earth could someone say something like that? Would you rather die than live without your lover? Have you ever recalled feeling that way once, or more? What is it about this forbidden love that makes it so unique? The answer is that a forbidden romance offers you a sense of excitement. Forbidden love provides an adrenaline rush and a thrill that makes it highly appealing.

medieval mirror case depicting Lancelot and Guinevere
medieval mirror case depicting Lancelot and Guinevere

Think back to a time when someone warned you not to do something, but all it did was make you more eager to go ahead and do it anyway. We look for things that are risky and sworn as forbidden in the hope that doing so would make us happier and give us more power than the other people in our sphere of influence. Behavioral scientists make use of a concept known as the “forbidden fruit effect,” which describes the tendency to focus greater attention on topics that one has been told specifically not to think about.

Today, a popular motif in films is a love that is banned and forbidden. These stories are commonly used in literature and films for a very specific reason: it is because they are rife with melodrama and give audiences the opportunity to experience powerful feelings. The overall impact of Tristan & Isolde on contemporary ideas and Western culture is still relevant today and going strong. From von Strassburg’s Tristan and Isolt as well Joseph Bédier’s modern adaptation, all the way up to the University of Chicago presenting a live-stream concert series based on the Tristan saga (Rantala, 2021) – it is clear that this story (and the archetypes and themes found within) will be part of human history until the end of time. Themes of romance, love, devotion, and even betrayal have penetrated modern society and will continue to be found in a wide variety of literary works, including operas, plays, comic books, and movies.

And now, I will leave you with this beautiful poem that was recited in the movie titled “The Good-Morrow”.

The Good-Morrow

By John Donne

I wonder, by my troth, what thou and I
Did, till we loved? Were we not weaned till then?
But sucked on country pleasures, childishly?
Or snorted we in the Seven Sleepers’ den?
’Twas so; but this, all pleasures fancies be.
If ever any beauty I did see,
Which I desired, and got, ’twas but a dream of thee.

And now good-morrow to our waking souls,
Which watch not one another out of fear;
For love, all love of other sights controls,
And makes one little room an everywhere.
Let sea-discoverers to new worlds have gone,
Let maps to other, worlds on worlds have shown,
Let us possess one world, each hath one, and is one.

My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears,
And true plain hearts do in the faces rest;
Where can we find two better hemispheres,
Without sharp north, without declining west?
Whatever dies, was not mixed equally;
If our two loves be one, or, thou and I
Love so alike, that none do slacken, none can die.

Works Cited:

Greenblatt, Stephen, and James Simpson. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. W.W. Norton, 2018. 

Shakespeare, William, et al. The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet: Folger Edition. Demco Media, 2004.

Reynolds, Kevin, director. Tristan And Isolde. 2006.

Encyclopedia.com, Encyclopedia of World Mythology. 2022.

Stevens, John. Medieval Romance: Themes and Approaches by John Stevens. Hutchinson, 1973.

Elliot, Anna. Twilight of Avalon: A Novel of Trystan & Isolde. Touchstone Books, 2009.

Hodges, Margaret, et al. Of Swords and Sorcerers: The Adventures of King Arthur and His Knights. Scribner, 1993.

Wagner, Richard, 1813-1883. Tristan Und Isolde. Leipzig :Druck und Verlag von Breitkopf und Härtel, 1859.

Spielberg, Steven, director. West Side Story. 2021.

Rantala, M.L. “Quince Bears Fruit with Tristan and Isolde Adaptation.” Hyde Park Herald, 27 May 2021

Donne, John. “The Good-Morrow by John Donne.” Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation, https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/44104/the-good-morrow.

Top 10 Best Nature Spots and Parks in Chicago

nature, Thoughts, Travel

Originally posted by AG Digital Media Magazine. Written by Kimberly Anne

Michigan Avenue, mobsters, and more – There are many things for which Chicago is famous. However, the natural world is not considered one of them. Maybe I can change your mind! Some people may be unaware of the abundance of natural areas that are accessible within the city.  

Maybe some aren’t keen on the fact that there are more than 500 parks within the city limits alone. But the next time you are driving down the Kennedy Expressway in a fit of monstrous fury and about to flip off some jerk in a Jeep; try channeling that energy and finding inner peace at one of these 10 sites for a wilderness escape instead! 

Trust me, I know how terrible road rage can be in the city. Luckily, there are so many beautiful places that we can go and see to experience a nice and quiet moment away from the dreaded rush hour traffic. Here’s a list of the Top 10 Best Nature Spots in Chicago. 

  1. Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary 
  2. The 606 
  3. The Emerald Necklace
  4. Lincoln Park 
  5. The Garfield Park Conservatory 
  6. Maggie Daley Park 
  7. The Garden of the Phoenix
  8. North Park Village Nature Center 
  9. Henry C. Palmisano Nature Park
  10. Humboldt Park  

1. Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary 

The first on the list is my favorite because this was my go-to as a teen! The Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary serves as a stopover for several hundred different species of birds!

You will have the opportunity to see these birds as they travel through the area throughout the year. This majestic sanctuary home to wildlife, birds, and butterflies is a spot that you won’t want to miss. 

This portion of Montrose Beach is known for its laid-back atmosphere. Montrose Bird Sanctuary is home to a dune habitat as well. This is one of the best sites in the city for trail trekking. 

Therefore, you will also experience breathtaking views of the city skyline and Lake Michigan. And in addition to that, there’s a really great beach bar nearby. 

2. The 606 

What is The 606? The 606 is an old train track turned nature trail. The path, once forgotten – then nature took over. In the space between the train tracks, new vegetation and flowers sprouted, and animals settled back into their former homes. The narrative of the 606 picks up shortly after the devastating Great Chicago Fire.

As a part of its efforts to restore the city, the Chicago City Council authorized the Chicago & Pacific Railroad to lay tracks down the center of Bloomingdale Avenue (1800 North) on Chicago’s Northwest side. 

Almost a century ago, a railroad line offered service to a small manufacturing sector on the northwest side of the city. Trains passed overhead until the 1980s when activity dropped to a trickle. After that, they stopped.

By the middle of the 1990s, the rerouting of the few trains that still used the corridor and the entire cessation of freight operations had both taken place.

Above, the ancient rail line was recovered by nature, while below, the neighborhoods of Wicker Park, Bucktown, Humboldt Park, and Logan Square predominantly turned to residential use.

It was only a question of time before the neighboring communities found out about the location once more.

And in the early 2000s, people went up there informally and constructed an impromptu nature walk. They found a natural habitat with unrivaled views of the city.

3. The Emerald Necklace (Yes, the Boulevards!) 

It is quite well known that Chicago is home to epic parks including Grant Park and Millennium Park. Chicago is also home to an unprecedented network of eight parks. The Emerland Necklace area in Chicago is connected by a 26-mile boulevard system. 

Between the years 1869 and 1890, the city’s park system—also known as the Emerald Necklace—was built. The Emerald Necklace in Chicago continues to be regarded as a pioneering example of urban park architecture in the United States.

Large parks and green boulevards that presented naturalistic and formal landscapes provided residents with a place to get away from the rough edges of the city without actually leaving it. 

This allowed residents to find solace in the urban environment without having to leave the city. Within the boulevards, you will find plenty of streets and parks lined with trees. 

Starting at Logan Square, head south through a number of the city’s most beautiful parks, including Washington, Humboldt, Douglas, Garfield, and Jackson Parks.

After that, you should slap anyone who says Chicago isn’t a lovely city. It’s just not true.

4. Lincoln Park 

Let’s just start by featuring what kind of nature-y things you will find in, near, and around Lincoln Park in Chicago. By the way, these are all free of charge. 

  1. The Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo 
  2. Alfred Lily Caldwell Pool 
  3. Lincoln Park Conservatory (Right next to the zoo!) 
  4. Lincoln Park Zoo (Yes – it’s really free to get in still) 
  5. Oz Park (Oz yes, like The Wizard of Oz!) 
  6. Northpond Natural Area 
  7. Lincoln Park (the ACTUAL park) 

The world-famous Lincoln Park Zoo is located in Lincoln Park, which is also home to the renowned Lincoln Park Conservatory, the Chicago History Museum, and the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. 

Don’t forget the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pond, the North Pond Nature Sanctuary, and North Avenue Beach. Of course, there are also the important statues of Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Benjamin Franklin, and Alexander Hamilton. 

My favorite has to be Oz Park though. It’s really great for kids! In the 1890s, the author of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” Lyman Frank Baum, who penned stories for children, resided in the Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago.

An annual Oz Festival was held at the park for the purpose of commemorating the former occupant of the park as well as paying homage to the groundbreaking book, film, and author who created The Wizard of Oz. Why are you still reading? Go and see the statues at Oz Park! 

5. The Garfield Park Conservatory 

The Garfield Park Conservatory is widely considered to be among the nation’s finest and most impressive examples of its kind.  I’m not an expert, but my guesstimate is that the Garfield Park Conservatory is around 30,000 plus square feet.

The amazing edifice known as the conservatory is often referred to as “landscape art under glass.” This one-of-a-kind massive indoor greenhouse is a place that houses hundreds of different plant species. 

There are eight rooms and the interior area is almost two acres in size. The conservatory may be explored in around one to two hours at a leisurely pace.

6. Maggie Daley Park 

The Chicago Park District is in charge of maintaining the 20 acres of land that makeup Maggie Daley Park. The Maggie Daley park is located in the Loop neighborhood of Chicago.

Scott Fishman Photography

It sits in the northeastern part of Grant Park, close to the water’s edge of Lake Michigan. Previously, however, it was once known as Daley Bicentennial Plaza.

This park is home to so many gardens, playgrounds, and epic spots that you will most likely not be able to see them all in one day! Here’s a list of what is there: 

The long-serving first lady of Chicago, Maggie Daley was passionate about enhancing children’s lives. She was working to give the entire population of the city access to vibrant cultural life.

Gallery 37, a summer arts program for teenagers, was co-founded by Maggie Daley.

Likewise, After School Matters was founded. This is a nonprofit offering Chicago kids cutting-edge programs. Subjects include the humanities, communications, sciences, sports, and technology.

It is currently the biggest after-school program of its sort for teenagers in the country. So, it kind of makes sense that Maggie Daley Park is so incredibly massive (it matches her heart!). 

7. The Garden of the Phoenix 

On March 31, 1893, the United States of America and Japan collaborated to establish the Garden of the Phoenix as a symbol of their friendship. The garden also is symbolic of a permanent venue where tourists might learn about and experience the culture of Japan.

The area has endured the ups and downs of the relationship over the past 120 years, and it is today considered one of the most prominent spots in America that serve as a symbol of the relationship between the United States and Japan.

One of the most significant and intricate historic landscapes in Chicago and the whole of the country is Jackson Park which is home to The Garden of the Phoenix. This is also the location of the 1893 World’s Fair. 

One of the most beautiful features of the garden is when the cherry trees are in full bloom in the spring.

These trees have also been planted outside the garden, and during the latter half of April or the first week of May, you can typically see them in full bloom. They are close to the Columbia Basin in Jackson Park.

The traditional Japanese practice of appreciating the aesthetic value of flowers is known as hanami.

During the springtime, the blossoming trees in Jackson Park reach their peak blooming phase, which typically lasts between six and ten days.

Visit the park at this time of year to have your very own hanami experience; the timing couldn’t be better.

8. North Park Village Nature Center 

The 155-acre North Park Village location, which is located on the northwest side of Chicago, is where the Nature Center and the 46-acre nature preserve are situated.

Pathways can be found throughout and they can take you through savannas, prairies, wetlands, and forests. There is a discovery room, an interactive exhibit area, and a table with natural objects within the North Park Village Nature Center. 

These are the highlights of the Nature Center. In addition to the Nature Center and the preserve, guests have the opportunity to explore Walking Stick Woods, a wooded area that spans 12 acres and features Nature Play-themed pathways and nodes. 

9. Henry C. Palmisano Nature Park

A fishing pond, interpretive wetlands, preserved quarry walls, pathways, an athletic field, a running track, and a hill that gives dramatic views may all be found in this dynamic park. Palmisano Park was previously a quarry called Stearns Quarry. It is located on the southwest side of Chicago, in the middle of the Bridgeport neighborhood.

It has been everything from coral reefs to a quarry to a landfill to a park over the course of its history, therefore its story is one of progression.

It should not come as a surprise that each incarnation had a significant part in the creation of the next.

The park is traversed by over 1.7 miles of routes, some of which are recycled lumber boardwalks, others are concrete walks, yet others are crushed stone running paths, and still, others are metal grating walkways.

Along the quarry wall, down to the pond, and through the terracing wetlands, these pathways provide access to a variety of different environments and activities.

In addition to the breathtaking views of the city that can be seen from the mound, the scenic overlooks provide dramatic views of the pond and the marshes.

10. Humboldt Park 

The 197-acre park has a lot to offer tourists, even if swimming isn’t their thing. There are playgrounds, natural areas, walking and biking routes, and community gardens. There is even “Little Cubs Field,” a miniature recreation of Wrigley Field.

If you want to spend the day at the water’s edge, you don’t have to restrict yourself to the lakefront of Chicago. Instead, you can go to the lagoon in Humboldt Park, which has its very own inland beach.

During the warmer months, the grassy areas surrounding this well-known neighborhood park are filled with people having picnics, using grills, and purchasing food from vendors.

The Puerto Rican Festival and the Latin Jazz Festival of Chicago are two more annual events that take place in Humboldt Park.

And if you’re lucky you just might see a crocodile in the lagoon. Just kidding. But that was a thing once. But please, don’t put your pet croc in the lagoon. It gets way cold here in the winter! 

Have you been to any of these amazing nature spots in Chicago? If so, let me know in the comments below!


Poetry, Thoughts
I think there is a certain degree of warmth that comes with the feeling and emotions of bitterness and betrayal. Warmth. It has the capability to encapsulate the heart and soul with the feeling of release once you let go. The heat fills your stone-cold innermost being that was frozen due to the betrayal, due to the knowledge that a person just simply meant much more to you than you did to them. That is where the warmth comes from. The heat that rises in your body and seeps through every single cell once you feel the sense of relief that NOW - now that you know their true thoughts, you are set free and can reciprocate the same nonchalant not giving a single f--- attitude. Warmth. In a way, you might become so warm inside that you'll sweat. You'll become hot like fire blazing its way across lands and astray. Stay hydrated, and remember - some people are only meant for seasons, some of which are more prone to such fire. Nothing lasts forever. Does it? 

The Best Female Painters of All Time – Top 10

art, Thoughts

“There are no rules… that is how art is born, that is how breakthroughs happen. Go against the rules or ignore the rules, that is what invention is about.” 

– Helen Frankenthaler

Whether the brush stroke is wet-into-wet, feathering – or the art incorporates polka dots and mosaic elements; women painters have long been creating masterpieces. Some of the best female painters may not have been recognized initially because people didn’t see value in their work or simply couldn’t stand the competition, however, their vision, talent, and voice couldn’t remain in the shadows forever. The best female painters in the world have made their mark and this list will highlight 10 of the finest that you should know about!

  • Frida Kahlo
  • Georgia O’Keeffe
  • Mary Stevenson Cassatt
  • Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun 
  • Yayoi Kusama
  • Hilma af Klint
  • Louise Bourgeois
  • Artemisi Gentileschi
  • Helen Frankenthaler
  • Laura Wheeler Waring
  1. Frida Kahlo  

Beauty and pain never looked so divine and Mexican painter Frida Kahlo harmonized the two so beautifully. She primarily used oil on copper to create deliberate and striking self-portraits and still lifes.

Frida Kahlo knew physical pain and emotional turmoil, which she used to fuel her artistic fire. Born July 6, 1907, in Coyoacán, Mexico. Frida produced roughly 200 small paintings that merge elements of fantasy, folklore, realism, symbolism, and surrealism to depict not only hauntingly sensual originals but relate fierce personal narratives as well. 

“I paint self-portraits because I am so often

alone; because I am the person I know best.”

-Frida Kahlo

“I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone because I am the person I know best,” she once said

Frida’s muralist husband Diego Rivera was instrumental in helping her hone the techniques she used in her paintings, which featured vibrant colors- reds and yellows- rooted in her rich Mexican tradition. 

She died in July 1954, after which her reputation soared. In 2000, her 1929 self-portrait, Portrait of a Lady in White, was sold at auction for over $5 million, further cementing her status as one of the best women painters in the world, 

2. Georgia O’Keeffe 

Among the greatest female painters is the mother of American modernism and the queen of abstract art Georgia O’Keeffe. Born in November of 1887, O’Keeffe made significant contributions to modern art.

Throughout her career she experimented with abstract art, focusing on composition colors, brush strokes, and shapes. 

However, she remained true to her love for nature, painting desert landscapes and flowers to exude the feeling it evoked in her.

Georgia ÕKeeffe Art in New Mexico | Museums & Tours | New Mexico True

“I had to create an equivalent for

what I felt about what I was looking at –

not copy it.”

– Georgia O’ Keeffe

Over time and through the influential ideas of American painter Arthur Wesley Dow, who advocated simplifying forms, Georgia O’Keeffe developed her style, fusing abstraction with realism. She continued painting up until her death at 98 years old.

3. Mary Stevenson Cassatt

Mary is one of the best female painters of all time and is considered the only American impressionist painter to have exhibited her work with the impressionists in Paris.

Her depictions of family life, particularly the bonds between mothers and children set her apart from other painters. 

Mother and Child in Boat, 1908 (oil on canvas), Cassatt, Mary Stevenson (1844-1926)

Formal training didn’t appeal to Mary and she primarily educated herself and was influenced by the works of influential painters Edouard Manet and Gustave Courbet, and Diego Velázquez.

She also had a close working relationship with Edgar Degas who became her mentor and whose pastel work she admired. After coming across some of Degas’ pastels in a shop window, it made an impression on her.

“It changed my life! I saw art then as I wanted to see it.” 

Mary showcased her first Impressionist work in the U.S, the 1878 painting, In the Loge, a depiction of her modern woman.

In the Metropolitan Museum is the Havemeyer Collection; to which Mary was an invaluable contributor. She died in 1926.

4. Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun 

Eighteenth-century turbulence in Paris, France, and obstacles to women’s advancement did not deter the self-taught, Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun from pursuing her art, which has landed her in the top 10 women painters category. 

Élisabeth was accepted into the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture in 1783, becoming the fourth female member with the help of Queen Marie-Antoinette.

Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun, Self-Portrait with her Daughter, Julie, 1789, oil on canvas, (Musée du Louvre).

Her painting, Peace Restoring Abundance helped contribute to her recognition. She was the queen’s official artist and painted more than two dozen portraits of her. Élisabeth is known for her sympathetic portraits of the aristocracy.

Élisabeth fled during the French Revolution, but commissions from European nobility and royalty for portraits kept coming. Of the war and its impact on her art, she said, “But I could now paint no longer; my broken spirit, bruised with so many horrors, shut itself entirely to my art.

I could now paint no longer; my broken spirit, bruised with so many horrors, shut itself entirely to my art.

– Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun

It’s believed that Elizabeth produced some 600+ paintings throughout her lifetime. She died in Paris in 1842.

5. Yayoi Kusama

One cannot talk about the greatest female artists without mentioning the Japanese painter, Yayoi Kusama, who is affectionately called ‘the princess of polka dots. 

Yayoi recalls how as a little girl she experienced a hallucination that was freakish and frightening. Pictures this: talking polka dot flowers that were everywhere. This hallucination left her feeling what she described as ‘self-obliterating’. These dots became a prominent feature in her paintings. 

Yayoi recalls how as a little girl she experienced a hallucination that was freakish and frightening- of talking polka dot flowers that were everywhere. The hallucination left her feeling what she described as ‘self-obliterating’.

Yayoi Kusama | Biography, Art, Infinity Mirrored Room, Pumpkin, & Facts | Britannica

‘Polka dots are a way to infinity. When we obliterate nature and our bodies with polka dots, we become part of the unity of our environment.”

Although her mom destroyed her canvas in an attempt to discourage her, she continued with her art and eventually left Japan and made it to New York, where in 1959, her art was on display in various exhibits. Yayoi voluntarily checked herself into a psychiatric hospital in Tokyo in 1977, where she is a resident to this day.

6. Hilma af Klint 

The Swedish painter Hilma af Klint is a part of an elite group of females who are the best women painters in the world. The abstract painter began producing radical abstract paintings in 1906, that were vibrant, colorful, and out of this world.

Born in Stockholm in 1862, Hilma was a medium that was involved in spiritualism and Theosophy (any of a number of philosophies maintaining that a knowledge of God may be achieved through spiritual ecstasy, direct intuition, or special individual relations, especially the movement founded in 1875 as the Theosophical Society by Helena Blavatsky and Henry Steel Olcott (1832–1907).

Her abstract paintings can be described as occult-inspired and magical-looking.

She was called a crazy witch and between 1906-1915, she produced 193 paintings known as the Paintings for the Temple. Hilma explained that the pieces were painted “through” her with divine “force” saying, 

“I had no idea what they were supposed to depict… I worked swiftly and surely, without changing a single brush stroke.” 

– Hilma af Klint
Group IX/SUW, The Swan, No. 1 (1915) by Hilma af Klint | The Guggenheim Museum

“I had no idea what they were supposed to depict… I worked swiftly and surely, without changing a single brush stroke.” 

Before her death in 1944, she instructed her heir to keep her abstract paintings from public viewing until 20 years after her passing.

Her work was first seen in public in the 1986 Los Angeles show The Spiritual in Art. Hilma only received widespread recognition as a pioneering abstract painter when the Guggenheim Museum hosted a major survey of her work from October 2018 to April 2019 titled “Hilma af Klint: Paintings for the Future.” 

7. Artemisia Gentileschi 

Artemisia Gentileschi is in this top 10 women painters category because she is a pioneering Italian painter whose paintings reflect historical-art innovation.

Some speculate that her traumatic past -surviving rapeperhaps fueled her inspiring works of art and have characterized her paintings as autobiographical. Her paintings are also dramatic with a level of sensitivity in how color is handled and the female form is depicted.

She’s arguably the best female painter of the 17th century, with paintings that reflect the stories of women, including ambition, motherhood, and passion.

She paints herself as a woman completely in charge.

Self-Portrait as a Lute Player by Italian painter Artemisia Gentileschi, is an oil on canvas from 1616-18 with dimensions 77.5 × 71.8 cm. The painting is housed in the Wadsworth Atheneum collection in Connecticut, USA.

“As long as I live, I will have control of my being.” 

– Artemisia Gentileschi

Artemisa is the first to portray sexual predation in “Artemisia Gentileschi: The Image of the Female Hero in Italian Baroque Art.

She was a champion of the oppressed woman and her dramatic Baroque paintings reflected that position. Artemisia admired Caravaggio and her art was heavily influenced by him and she became recognized for her realism and use of chiaroscuro. The exact date of her death remains a mystery.

8. Louise Bourgeois 

Born in Paris in 1911, Louise Bourgeois was not formally linked to a particular artistic movement, but exhibited her work with the abstract expressionists of her time, like Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock.

The themes in her paintings were dramatic and sensitive, such as anger, jealousy, abandonment loneliness, sexuality, and unconsciousness. This modern contemporary figure is one of the greatest female artists whose work often reflected her own experiences or was inspired by her memories and was emotionally charged.

“My childhood has never lost its magic, it has never lost its mystery, and it has never lost its drama.” 

– Louise Bourgeois

Louise has stated, “My childhood has never lost its magic, it has never lost its mystery, and it has never lost its drama.” She had her first solo exhibition of paintings in New York in 1945 at the Bertha Schaefer Gallery. Louise was more than just a painter and also became known for her large-scale sculptures. She died at the age of 98 in 2010.

9. Helen Frankenthaler 

Helen Frankenthaler has long been recognized as one of the best women painters in the world and a great American painter of the twentieth century. This American abstract painter is widely credited for being instrumental in the transition from Abstract Expressionism to Color Field painting.

She developed the soak-stain technique (thin washes of pigment that soak into the fibers of the untreated canvas), which expanded how abstract painting could be presented.

“There are no rules… that is how art is born, that is how breakthroughs happen. Go against the rules or ignore the rules, that is what invention is about.” 

– Helen Frankenthaler

“There are no rules… that is how art is born, that is how breakthroughs happen. Go against the rules or ignore the rules, that is what invention is about.” 

Born in 1928, Helen’s professional exhibition career kicked off in 1950 with her painting, Beach (1950) in the exhibition titled Fifteen Unknowns: Selected by Artists of the Kootz Gallery. A year later, she had her first solo exhibition in New York’s Tibor de Nagy Gallery.

Helen’s true inspiration came not only from her contemporaries but from the “old masters” as well. She died in December 2011 at age 83 after an illustrious career, cementing herself as one of the best female painters of all time.

10. Laura Wheeler Waring

Among the best female painters is Connecticut-born African American artist Laura Wheeler Waring. Born in May of 1887, she was displayed in the USA’s first exhibition of African American Art in 1927.

Laura Wheeler Waring is renowned for her portraits of prominent African Americans made during the Harlem Renaissance and her beautiful landscape paintings.

She studied the works of master painters like Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Édouard Manet, and Claude Monet, which influenced her style achieved through vibrant and realistic techniques, with an emphasis on light, vivid colors, and atmosphere.

While she studied romanticism and impressionism, she leaned towards realism. Some of the portraiture subjects included Mary White Ovington, W.E.B. DuBois, and James Weldon Johnson. She was also an art educator for over 30 years. She died in 1948.

Laura Wheeler Waring, “The Study of a Student” (ca. 1940s) | PAFA

These 10 greatest female artists have left their mark on the art world and should be celebrated for their achievements.

This is just a small number of female painters, which hopefully piques your interest to explore more women painters and artists in general. Happy discovery!

A Glimpse of Nature and Paganism in Medieval Poetry


Recently, I found myself wandering around the pages of one of my textbooks. I stumbled upon the poem, The Wanderer.

The Wanderer is a beautiful and ancient poem that details the themes of grief, acceptance, and struggle. Indecisiveness, lament, nature, and paganism also make a strong appearance in the poem. The poets of the Middle Ages were skilled at writing and creating poems and verses that were impactful without having to overshare details or overuse words. This technique is found in The Wanderer, making it a perfect piece of medieval literature to examine and analyze. The version of the poem that I specifically refer to in this article is from the Norton Anthology of English Literature. Tenth edition.

The Wanderer in the Exeter Book manuscript

    The Wanderer falls into the genre of elegy and is expressed by lament. These literary devices were common in Germanic-inspired Anglo-Saxon poems. “The lament of The Wanderer is an excellent example of the elegiac mood..” (Greenblatt, 2018). Readers of this poem are able to recognize lament and elegiac tones throughout The Wanderer, and also in other epic poems, such as Beowulf (Greenblatt, 2018).  

    After analyzing The Wanderer it was exciting to see many elements of mythology, paganism, nature, and religion all combined. Throughout the poem, the tone remains somber and reminiscent. As “the wanderer” recalls memories; nature, elegy, and paganism are found throughout. What is striking is the similarity of this poem to the concept of Ragnarok found in Norse Mythology. This is a personal theory of mine after the examination of the poem and of Norse myth. The connection to Ragnarok seems evident as Ragnarok was said to have been the end of days for men and the gods. The connection between The Wanderer, Ragnarok, and nature and paganism are intertwined tightly within the poem’s verses. The Wanderer describes elements of death, mentions nature, and appears to be struggling overall with the concept of death, as well as the concept of leaving his pagan ways behind him which is a symbol of elegy. Lament and elegy within The Wanderer include the death of family, friends, traditions, humankind, and personal beliefs. 

    Based on personal analysis there appears to be a direct link between The Wanderer and the Germanic god Odin. Though there are several examples, line 80 of The Wanderer shows the connection well: 

“Battle took some, bore them away; a bird carried on above the high waves; the gray wolf took another, divided him with death; dreary spirited an eorl buried in an earthen pit. “Mankind’s Creator laid waste this middle-earth..” (Lines 80-85) 

“Odin the Wanderer” (1886) by Georg von Rosen

The mention of battle resembles Odin, due to Odin depicted as god of war. Associated with ravens and Valkyries; the bird carrying the spirits on high waves could be a symbol for the ravens or Valkyries which Odin is deeply connected with. Mention of “the gray wolf”, as personal theory, is symbolic of Fenrir, who is one of the direct causes of Ragnarok in Norse myth. The gray wolf taking “another” represents death. As Larrington mentions in her Poetic Edda translation, Fenrir is who takes Odin down. Another tale of Norse myth is The Binding of Fenrir which is a widely popular story that explains why and how Fenrir contributes to Ragnarok or the end of the world. 

Prior to Ragnarok taking place, the Norse myths say that a great winter would take place and would last for several years (Fimbulwinter/Fimbulvetr). The last bit of The Wanderer, specifically in lines 95-115, mention the darkness, the cold, and the winter that is symbolic of an end of ways and days, such as Ragnarok. The world serpent in Nordic myth also plays a key role in Ragnarok and line 97 of The Wanderer poem references only walls being left that have serpents on them. This is a foreshadowing of Ragnarok thus demonstrating heavily pagan viewpoints in The Wanderer. By the end of line 115, paganism has vanished, a new world or kingdom is born, and “middle earth” is no longer mentioned. The Wanderer appears to have let go of his traditions, and has accepted the “Father in Heaven” who has a “fortress for all”. 

Portion of The Ragnarök Frieze (Freyr, Gullinbursti, Skadi) by Herman Ernst Freund Germanic Mythology

Odin is present in this poem as well as Christ. Mention of Germanic customs, traditions, gods, and nature are therefore common themes in The Wanderer. Odin himself was a wanderer. Several stanzas found in the Wanderer highly reflect viewpoints in The Havamal, also called “The Sayings of the High One”, or “The Words of Odin”. (See lines 65-72 of The Wanderer). The resemblance to Larrington’s translation of The Havamal is nearly identical thus reflecting the paganism and nature found in The Wanderer. What is truly fascinating regarding that is The Wanderer poem pre-dates the Eddas and Havamal by several hundred years.

Stanza 6 and 7 in Carolyne Larrington’s Havamal translation directly relate to Lines 65-72 of The Wanderer. 

“About his intelligence, no man should be boastful,/rather cautious of mind;/when a wise and silent man comes to a homestead/blame seldom befalls the wary;/ for no more dependable friend can a man ever get/than a store of common sense” (Sayings of the High One, Stanza 6, Larrington, 2014). 

“The careful guest, who comes to a meal,/keeps silent, with hearing finely attuned;’ he listens with his ears, / and looks about with his eyes; / so every wise man spies out what’s ahead (Sayings of the High One, Stanza 7, Larrington, 2014). 

Identifying similarities in The Wanderer can be done by examining lines 62-72. 

“… So this middle-earth / from day to day dwindles and fails; /, therefore, no one is wise without his share of winters / in the world’s kingdom. / A wise man must be patient, / not too hot of heart nor hasty of speech, / not reluctant to fight nor too reckless, / not too timid nor too glad, not too greedy, and never eager to commit until he can be sure. / A man should hold back his boast until / that time has come when he truly knows / to direct his heart on the right path” (Greenblatt, 2018). 

The resemblances stood out instantly based on new examination and previous analyses of each text. The ideas mentioned in each ancient poem reflect Germanic pagan viewpoints which did often include nature. 

The little bit of this poem has so many symbols and devices that one could write a book on how paganism and nature around without. The examples above are only from a small analysis and prior readings that led to the connection of the sources used. For people in the middle ages, life was hard for plenty of reasons. It is important to not overlook the conflicting feelings of religion among the ancient people, as well as the importance of nature and old sayings full of wisdom.  


Greenblatt, Stephen, et al. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. TENTH ed., W.W. Norton & Company, 2018. 

Larrington, Carolyne. The Poetic Edda Translated by Carolyne Larrington. Oxford University Press, 2014. 

Blog That I Recommend for More Reading:

The Norse Mythology Blog – The Wanderer (Seigfried 2016)

Room 121

Experiences, Poetry, Thoughts

Room 121 – a Tribute to the Mule

Narrative Poem by @kimberlyanneinc

Welcome. Before you begin reading this narrative poem, I want to say thank you for being here. Room 121 is a place that you have been to before. It is a place that we have all been to before, in some way or another. It is up to you to determine what Room 121 is about. Room 121 is a diverse room filled with every kind of energy and emotion that is possible for human beings to demonstrate and feel. Room 121 is full of mysteries that are not meant to be solved. Room 121 is what you want it to be.

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Room 121 – a Tribute to the Mule

What’s going to happen in Room 121? 
I swore to myself the last time we were there that I’d never set foot in a courthouse again. 
You know it was not supposed to happen this way. 
Like an out of body experience I see the stupid happy plastered look on my face. 
Walking with you like I should be so proud when in fact I should have 
hid my face. 
Then maybe now I wouldn’t be so embarrassed 
and ashamed of being associated with your name. 
Almost reaching Room 121 I’ve practically crumbled and just might 
What will happen in Room 121? 
In Room 121 I’ll become brand new and it’s going to be like I never even knew you. 
Remember that moment in Cinderella? There’s a fairy godmother who completes the impossible. 
She made it all possible for a transformation to take place. Can you see the wand now waving? 
Waving around now right in front of her face? A transformation I’ll go 
through even though I think really, it’s you who needs one too and 
you probably need it much more than me since you have issues with your eyes, 
your ears, and all things. You need glasses so you can see. A hearing aid so you can listen. 
What is going to take place in Room 121? 
If only a real fairy godmother exists, then she could help me help you! 
With this issue of vision. 
Helping you would be much too kind considering there is no hope for you anyway. In Room 121
I will release all of the pain 
and the guilt 
and the misery 
and the shame - 
along with all of your lies and your undiagnosed illnesses 
and that fake bit of chivalry that brays out of you like a True ass.
In Room 121 I will walk in alone and I won’t mind at all because I’ll be one step closer to 
escaping any thought of you 
for the rest of my life. 

Sometimes I wonder if the world only knew 
how weak and infantile you truly are 
if it would 
Do you think it will be beautiful in Room 121? 
Then they’d be able to escape you too; but like me they wouldn’t have to run 
because you’d already be gone. 
Faster and faster just like a marathon 
of foolishness and mental fragility due to your frail existence. 
In Room 121 donning silver attire, I will walk in with pride and 
explain my mistakes of how I fell for your 
your strategies 
and your lies 
and how 
they have made me only so much more indestructible - 
Rugged and impenetrable either through the heart or unmentionables, thank you. Thank. You. 
My armor is heavy, and my battle scars are unseen. Only those who wear this armor too will 
understand what that means. 
With my head held high and curious eyes glaring at the gleam 
that my iron shield, metal plate, and inlaid sword bring - 
everyone will know that you are not a real King. 

Just another imitation descended from swindlers and shams, who could only hope and dream to move on to better things 
instead of constantly being masters of the masquerade. I’m sorry you were built that way.

The crudeness of my words, is veracious as your credentials
of being extremely detrimental. 

The fact that you are a mule, and one that is destructive is comical to say the least.  
Being a tool is exactly the purpose of such an animal. Stubborn and a certified beast 
of burden - 
of this I’m certain. 

As I lift the helmet off of my head, and start to remove my sheathing, the verdict is reached and now I am breathing. A sigh of relief blasted out of my chest knowing that I was heard and that your cowardice 
made it all so easy.

Sailing out now of Room 121 
I go away and in search of anything that isn’t you 
for eternity now. 
Sailing out now of Room 121, 
off and away there I go, here I go, to anything or anyone that isn’t you 
forever now. 

Sailing out now with my armor, weapons, and my ship, hands on my waist with the hips you will miss - 
farther than ever so you can never taste my lips 

Assailant should have been your title once long ago, but you can’t be called that anymore. 
You’ve lost this battle and I’ve won the war. Now thanks to Room 121 I am perpetually 
unassailable. And when the truth hits the ears of all who will listen, this is how the tale will go. 

Thank you for reading. If you’re a rebel writer, let me know what literary devices you can spot in this poem. I’d love to hear from you. ❤ ‘Til then, happy writing!


Experiences, Poetry, Thoughts

Do you remember the first time you brought your newborn home from the hospital? Your first baby. Do you remember counting every breath? Feeling their chest? Putting your ear next to their tiny little lips that would one day ask, “WHY?”

I’ve recalled that feeling and lived it again. But this time with no bassinet, no crib, no play pen. Instead I’m laying on the bathroom floor, worried sick. Counting breaths per second as the clock ticks. As I think of my foolish ways, and the dismay that was brought on by today, I ponder it all as I stare at my new stray. With all that I can and all I’ve got, an offering should take place.

She’s eating and breathing and drinking which is a relief. Considering her condition, as told by the vet it’s somewhat of a rendition of – well, I don’t even need to tell. You already know. She’s mostly silver, grayish, kinda blue. She has a tiny white patch on her chest too. Her eyes are the darkest green, but somehow resemble emeralds or jade that have been spun into a galaxy that lives in her gaze.

Mystic as she is no matter what is wrong, I’ll treat her like my own and sing her all the songs. The ones I always chant to the other two I have, like a ritual I plant and water what I can.

Filled her water several times, because she kept drinking and drinking. Water is a gift of life, primordial and consistently. Thinking and thinking, I call her Nixie. Tiny little sprite, washing everything down. I watch her, observing as she circles around. 9 times like the waters of Styx. If she has 9 lives, then I hope they let me have – at least one.

I hope she doesn’t go yet, because we’ve only just begun. But if she has to take her journey, she won’t do it alone. Precious little Nixie Styx, this can be your new home. ✨

Places: How They Influence Us

Experiences, Thoughts, Travel

Within the last couple of years, I have transformed; mentally and emotionally. Some of the things I did before the pandemic were unhealthy and questionable. I mean very mentally and emotionally unhealthy. I was around people who were just not good for me and my mental and spiritual health was on a decline because of it. During the pandemic, and with tons of time to be alone I had an epiphany of sorts. After realizing I had almost wasted my life with an individual who was completely toxic for me, I realized that I truly wasn’t living my life the way that I should have been or could be doing. Realizing that, I decided to make the most out of my 2021, once many COVID restrictions started to lift. 

Last year I went on some truly amazing adventures and discovered so many new places and met some lovely new people. At this point, I’m not a stranger to traveling alone. I find that traveling alone is extremely beneficial and something that everyone should do at least once in their life. I don’t mean traveling for work either, or something tedious. I mean to go, across the country, or the world – completely by yourself and for only one purpose: leisure. 

Last year, by the power of fate I made it to Iceland twice, Omaha, Nebraska (Nebriowa), and St. Louis, Missouri. I feel like I’m forgetting something, but if I remember I’ll be sure to come back and write about it. I did go to Roswell, but that was for a family visit and something I’ll discuss later on. Traveling for me is all about exploration of the world and exploration of myself. It might not seem like a lot to some, but the places I went to and the things that I saw last year have given me memories that will last a lifetime. Traveling makes you realize just how tiny you are in this giant and overpopulated world. 

Seeing Mt. Esja, among many other beauties in Iceland for the first time, was breathtaking. I did, of course, see some epic waterfalls, ate fermented shark (and didn’t puke, haha Gordon Ramsay!), and even saw one of my favorite artists perform. On top of that, I even went to Álfaskólinn, the official Elf School of Iceland, and was lucky enough to sit with a historian and listen to stories of magic and folklore (my favorite!). 

Sitting on Mt. Esja, Iceland

When traveling to Nebraska, I stood in two states at the same time while on top of the Bob Kerry Pedestrian bridge where I witnessed a marriage proposal at sunset. It was so romantic, and I was thrilled to have captured photos of the moment. (The Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge is a 3,000-foot footbridge across the Missouri River between Council Bluffs, Iowa, and Omaha, Nebraska.) I did send the photos I got to the couple after their special moment. I rode a bicycle up and down the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. The feeling of connecting with nature and history brought me such pleasure and it’s a magical place I’ll never forget. On the trail, I slowed down so I could witness a musical performance taking place on the side of the river. I saw the Durham Museum and listened to stories of military men and the brave Standing Bear. I was shocked and heartbroken at learning things about Standing Bear and his people, that they never would teach us in school. At the Joslyn Art Museum, I discovered an epic Dutch painter, Maria Van Oosterwijck. I ate the best fish tacos I’ve ever had in my life at Voodoo Taco. I wish all of the time, they’d open one up in Chicago. 

I rode all over downtown Omaha by myself on those little stand-up electric scooters and let my hair blow in the wind as I cruised the streets, examining the architecture and statues of pioneers and buffalo. Somehow I managed to make my way to a concert of roughly 70,000 people in the middle of a field that looked more like a valley than anything. It was one of the hottest days of the year, and I had no idea how I’d get back to where I was lodging. Luckily, I met a beautiful Princess in the crowd who was from Lake Okoboji. She told me about where she was from, and how people always looked confused when she said “Lake Okoboji”. It is a glacier lake that was formed 14,000 years ago by the Wisconsin Glacier and has a maximum depth of 136 feet, making it Iowa’s deepest natural lake. Bri, or Bree, if you ever read this, just know that I think you are a genuine and beautiful human being. It’s mysterious that we never exchanged contact info after hanging out and demolishing curly fries after the concert. Thank you for helping me get back into town so safely. In my mind, I’d like to think it’s because we are both Midwestern chicks who were looking out for each other that night. She initially came up to me and started chatting because, for a moment, she too was in the crowd alone. 

Somewhere, Iowa

For my son’s birthday, we drove to St. Louis. The first time we saw the Gateway Arch, it felt incredible. Seeing things in person that you’ve only read about in books or on the internet gives you this indescribable feeling! It’s like yes, we finally made it. My son particularly loved St. Louis and Missouri in general. Especially when we drove out to the Meremac Caverns and learned about the hideout spots of Jesse James. Seeing the caverns all lit up felt like being in a dream. We got to explore a part of the earth that so many other people haven’t been able to see. We also spent time at the City Museum, and it was one of the most interesting places I’ve ever seen. Everything constructed at the City Museum comes from old pieces, parts, and random works of art that were once part of the city of St. Louis. Inside the City Museum, which is both equally fun for adults and children, you can investigate the unthinkable.  I rescued a toddler while there who had apparently gotten lost. I found her crying in some loft (there are literally secret compartments all over that museum). Thankfully, her parents found her once I brought her back to the front desk! It was still wild though, considering each child gets a wristband and their parents are supposed to write their phone numbers on them! There was no phone number on hers, which made me super disappointed. My mom instincts kicked in super hard!

St. Louis, MO
Gateway Arch National Park

The City Museum is a hundred-year-old warehouse where artists have recycled the remains of the past to create miles of tunnels, slides, and climbers as well as bridges, castles, and other structures. There are secret caves inside, giant halls, and more tunnels than you can ever imagine. On top of the building, there is even a school bus on the roof and a Ferris wheel. Some of our time was also spent at the Magic House Museum in Kirkwood, MO. The Magic House is a non-profit organization that provides hands-on exhibitions and educational activities that are tailored to the specific interests and requirements of children and their families. In addition to field excursions, STEAM evenings for families, scout programs, and summer camps, the Museum provides a range of interactive learning opportunities that encourage and inspire kids of all ages toward becoming successful learners.

City Museum, St. Louis, MO

This is just a tiny snippet of what I’ve experienced last year in my “free time”. The point is, all of these places shape what I know, who I am, and how I see the world. Every time we discover a new place, we discover something about ourselves. We discover something about humanity. As much as humans seem impossible, experiencing new things and new places gives you a chance to discover the good that is left in humanity. In St. Louis, I was shocked at the hospitality we received at one restaurant. It was genuine, it was real. It wasn’t that fake smile or fake voice that many servers here in the city pull. 

In the city, when I was growing up one of my favorite hideout spots was the Montrose Bird Sanctuary. The Montrose Bird Sanctuary is a quiet preserve that is home to a diverse range of migrating songbirds and butterflies, and it also has a skyline view. When I was younger I thought it should have just been called the Butterfly Sanctuary. The last time I was there, sadly, I did not see so many butterflies. There were plenty of tall grasses and trees to hide in and around. Maybe I loved the spot due to my obsession with nature which I’m going to blame on books of my childhood like, “The Giving Tree”, for example. Or even “Goodnight Moon”. Growing up with books that taught about nature, the stars, and altruism – one shouldn’t be surprised that a favorite hiding spot of mine is just next to the shores of Lake Michigan where you can easily hide in trees. It looks much different now than it did back then. Even though it’s changed so much, it will always be one of my favorite spots. I went back and visited last year, and found a single rose floating in the lake. I considered it as a message from one of my most loved and missed friends. 

Near Montrose Harbor, Chicago IL (I promise you, I did not put that rose there!)

I’ve been incredibly lucky to experience so many things. This year, I can only imagine what else I will find. Taking none of this for granted is critical to the importance and the extent of my appreciation for all of the magical things in this world. 

Roswell, NM 2021