Tuesday, December 7, 2010

On the Road with Mary

A Virgin a Day
Days 3,4,5,6 and 7
A Virgin a Day is the title of this Meme Project. It is a tribute to Our Lady of Guadalupe. It started on December first and will culminate on the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which is December 12th. Of course I continue to dedicate all of these posts to my Mother, Carmelina Rosa Caruso Spado. A memorial to her love and devotion to her family, and to the Blessed Virgin Mary. 
To participate, see Rebecca’s recuerdo mi corazon blog. There, you will get more definition and instructions as well as see other’s submissions, which, If I may add, are quite fascinating, artistic, poetic and bold.
I just returned from a quick trip out East to Washington DC. That's why there are no Virgin posts from Round Circle for Days 3,4,5 and 6. So, I continue this fabulous project with Day 7. I went alone and when I wasn’t listening to the radio or singing to myself, I was thinking about whatever popped into my head. I knew that I wanted to write stories to fill in the remaining six days of, what I consider to be a great project meme, A Virgin a Day. I was reading the comments on another person’s blog, and one made by a friend of mine. She referred to my posts as Encyclopedic. I guess the others were, to a degree, and so is this one. But hopefully, I’ve added some personal flair. Certainly don’t want to get a reputation.
It wasn’t only on this latest trip that I noticed the existence of Mary on the side of the road. Mary is everywhere. Statues in Catholic cemeteries standing guard over the graves of loved ones, or in a religious goods store that might have examples from the sublime postcard to the extravagant hand painted life size plaster rendering fit for a church. You'll find her In lawn and garden shops, and at roadside vendors who sell cement statues of everything from the aforementioned Mary to a giant elephant. When In New Mexico, the displays at every garden shop and gift store is Our Lady of Guadalupe with her colorful clothing and background fan of glory.

Cement lawn ornaments being sold at the side of the road

You can find small grottoes outfitted with Our Lady by the side of the road while in the Southwest. Up here in the Northland, not so much, but I did pass by a grotto in Dickeyville, WI. A small town in the extreme Southwestern corner of the state, close to where US Highway 61 meets the Iowa border.

This is called The Dickeyville Grotto. It sits on the grounds of The Holy Ghost Church in Dickeyville, WI

This grotto was built by Father Matthias Wernerus during a time period between 1925 and 1930. A stone mason, he used all kinds of materials from all over the world. This passage, from their website, mentions the materials used:
It is a creation in stone, mortar and bright colored objects-collected materials from all over the world. These include colored glass, gems, antique heirlooms of pottery or porcelain, stalagmites and stalactites, sea shells, starfish, petrified sea urchins and fossils, and a variety of corals, amber glass, agate, quartz, ores, such as iron, copper and lead, fool's gold, rock crystals, onyx, amethyst and coal, petrified wood and moss.

Here is a close-up example of some of the stonework.
Click to enlarge any of the photos. In this example, you can see the colorful assortment of stones used at the Dickeyville site. Quite an undertaking when you consider the size of the entire area
The grotto of the Blessed Virgin is the frontal piece of this area, situated at the side of the Holy Ghost parish church. Here is a photo of Our Lady, inside the grotto, protected under glass.

The Virgin Mother under glass at Dickeyville

Other Virgins can be seen with a keen eye while traveling through rural areas on two lane roads or in towns and cities. The statues are everywhere. Some white plaster, some painted with her majesty wearing the robin’s egg blue robe. Some people build mini grottoes to hold her, like little houses, and some buy a grotto from a store that might specialize in such matters, like Lawn Ornaments and Fountains.com.  They also have a great selection of statues of Mary
Mary in a Bathtub is a way of life
And then there is Mary in a Bathtub. I’m not going to tell you that there isn’t some humor involved, but then again, this is serious Virgin Business. Ever since Mrs. Spadoman and I got married and started traveling, we have spotted these roadside Marys. We drive a lot of small two-lane roads across the United States. Here’s how it started for us:
“Mary.” Barb said, pointing her finger in the direction of a statue in someone’s front yard.
“What? Those are everywhere.” I’d say in a matter of fact response.
Five minutes later
“Mary, Oh, and another Mary, one in a bath tub", she’d exclaim.
“So, how many have you seen today” I ask.
“I have three, you don’t have any, you better start lookin’” she taunts.
“I’m not playing this game, those are all over the place.” I say sarcastically.
“You don’t have a choice, it’s a way of life, like seeing a VW bug, Oh look, Mary in a bath tub, I have four.”
You get the idea. We don’t go anywhere and not have this competition. VW beetle automobiles, signs where someone has used a “K” where a “C” should be used and Mary/Mary in a bath tub. We have used the phrase Naked Mary, to denote no bath tub or other grotto being used, and the yard statue stands “naked”.  Of course you don’t get credit for any Marys that are seen in a cemetery or at a church, those are public domain.
Here’s a photo of a simple Mary in a grotto at someone’s home close to where I live. 

A typical rural Wisconsin roadside Mary seen displayed in a home made grotto

The Catholic religious stores and garden centers that sell lawn art usually have a plastic “aura”, or bath tub-like enclosure, that can be used with your statue, like the one seen in the photo below, more info at THIS LINK.  

You can buy this one, along with a statue of Mary, online.

It takes quite an artistic talent and a lot of brute strength and determination to use an old claw foot cast iron 350 pound bath tub, but some do it, and some make the wooden structures themselves as well. Here’s an example of a tub model from Google Images.

That's a big bath tub!

So, that’s my Virgin today. The Blessed Virgin Mary, on display, at the side of the road, along with a way of life for spotting her. I can't help but wonder how many people's lives might be transformed by the site of these simple images of the Mother of God. For that matter, I wonder if anyone else has the way of life?

By the way, as I was writing this article, I asked Mrs. Spadoman where she thought we have seen the most. Her response? Upper Peninsula Michigan in Ironwood, Bessemer and Wakefield. The area seems to be loaded with them. She’s winning, I’m sure, but no one has an actual count.


rebecca said...

welcome home!
love love love your virgin post this morning. i dream of making a mosaic grotto and my heart leaps when i see each newly discovered sanctuary.

and counting virgins....replacing the counting cows we grew up with as a family on long road trips.

Annie Jeffries said...

Another reason to return to Wisconsin. I have family in Rhinelander whom I have not seen for literally decades.

Your roadside virgins are wonderful and this grotto and church has been added to my list of places I want to visit in the U.S.

Chuck said...

Thanks, my friend...looks familiar to me here in MN

Meri said...

Now I'll have to watch, because I can't remember seeing any here in Washington (outside of churches and cemeteries). Surely there must be some Mary adorers here in the Pacific Northwest!

Fran aka Redondowriter said...

Your absence was worth waiting for. Hope you had a good trip. I remember New Mexico as being a haven of shrines and religious statuary and I love the cemeteries. How fun it would be to keep track of sightings with your wife.

eb said...

we used to see them everywhere - or frequently up here where the French Canadian culture is strong...
went looking - so far only one in the bathtub - love your post!

keep counting,
btw - today's virgin (tomorrow's post)is our Lady of Carmel...

xox - eb.

Mel said...

Oh my.....Dickeyville! Been there, done that. And it is a lovely bit of craftmanship. Quite the undertaking if you pay attention to the details they put into it.

Great photos of it--and of the bathtub Mary. *laughing* I'll add that to the repetoire of games himself and I partake in when we're on an adventure.
Might distract me looking for traintracks and old depots, but I'm good with the distraction!

Welcome home, sir! Nice to have you back!!

Noelle Clearwater said...

I don't think that your posts are encyclopedic at all. I find them fascinating and each one carries a distinctive touch of compassion and love from Mr. Spadoman. This one in particular really touched my heart. i love the idea of a grotto made up of shells from the sea, urchins, and bits of glass, all this from the bottom of the ocean but in Wisconsin! It is so beautiful, so colorful and created out of love. I think the Mary sighting game is a lovely idea too. Thanks for all the great information. I feel like I have travelled with you a bit.

Paula Scott Molokai Girl Studio said...

Joe-what a remarkable post! So very entertaining AND educational (I hope you don't mind that reputation).
I love the Mary sightings game! Today at Rebecca's site was the FIRST time I ever saw one in a bathtub. How could that be? Sigh...
I want one of those-Mary in the bathtub like at Rebecca's page.
I just know I am going to obsess about it until I get one...

turquoise cro said...

MANY KUDOS to Father Matthias!! I'd LOVE to see that beauty full grotto!!My kids used to count red cars, blue cars, Fords, Chevys and Buicks! Do they still make Buicks?!!! I loved Buicks!

english inukshuk said...

oh this made me smile so!

love the Dickeyville Grotto - we don't have places like that in England, but I have seen similar in Ireland

the google image photo is a find!

I know I say it almost everytime, but - boy! - I love the way you write

a very personal, entertaining and interesting encyclopedia!