Lied Lodge

I am in the middle of America — you could face a map of the United States, throw a dart dead center, and you’d most likely hit Nebraska City. My room at Lied Lodge isn’t quite ready and my eyes are drooping down to my jaw, but I’m sitting in one of my favorite places — the main room. I’ve just gotten a cup of midwest-strength coffee (that’s maybe half as strong as a good cup of European coffee) from the white-haired gentleman at the desk I remember from last year. The same driver took two of us from the Omaha airport to here and I’m feeling weirdly as if life just rewound one year.

Why is this one of my favorite places? Lied Lodge is one of the most important environmental spots around. Driving in, Dave pointed out the golf course and explained how Arbor Day Farms built the course to model how golfcourses can be environmentally respectful — much less watering, fields tufted with indigenous grasses.

Air conditioning is comfortable here but never cold. That’s all part of the integrated environmental design with a building that generates power with biomass. The lights in this room, and I remember also in the guest rooms, have paper shades with leaf designs. I look up and my eyes stretch all the way up to the beamed roof. Feels like a sanctuary for trees. Huge single logs provide foundational bases for part of this room. The logs look untreated and they’re cracked along natural fault lines. Wood walls stop halfway to the ceiling and give way to beige painted walls that have quotations about trees lining the whole place. That’s one of my favorite things.

The huge central chimney is hung with a banner that says “Plant trees” in about 20 languages. The other thing I love is the wireless setup. I’m thinkin’ trees like wireless.

I really need a nap. I’ll be here almost six days helping to facilitate the Writing and Technology: A Professional Writing Retreat. Full of writing, talking about writing and technology, talking about teaching. Writing Project events always energize and exhaust me, sometimes at the same time.

Getting close to Lied Lodge, Dave pointed out the granaries we could see in the SE part of Nebraska City. He said, “Come fall, there’ll be grain everywhere. Stacked outside the granaries because they’ll be full.” Soy and corn oceans. I kept thinking how the cattle industry relies on grain, but cattle are supposed to eat grass, not grain. Dave drove us through downtown Omaha and the bricked street with coffee shops, bars. He explained how his dad had a corner grocery store and all the modern shops used to be the market. We passed two women outside a coffee shop: one had a pink-tinged mohawk haircut.

I asked Dave about immigrants and he talked about the Poles and the Czechs and the Italians. Said the southern part of Omaha was pretty much all hispanic.

I’m feeling written out. I’m very proud of a villanelle I finished yesterday. Poetic form sometimes helps me to write, weirdly enough.

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