Saturday, December 3, 2011

On the Road With Mary

A Virgin a Day
Day 3

Excuse me as I post this from last years A Virgin a Day

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 almost pass by the Dickeyville Grotto, located in 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  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.


Kim Mailhot said...

You and Mrs. Spadoman will have to drive through Quebec one day, but maybe not on the bike, the roads are horrific these days. Mary and also statues of her Son in his older years on Earth, can be found in almost every garden outside of the cities, lounging in the bathtub shaped grottos. I would bet that they would leave Upper Michigan in the dust in terms of their numbers.
Have a peaceful weekend, Friend.
Light and love !

somepinkflowers said...


love U R back to posting!


as i started to read
this posting
i did realize
i had read it last year...

you know what that means????

{{ besides
that my memory is good }}

at least now
i know i have been reading you
for one whole year,
possible more,
and that makes me

Spadoman said...

Kim... That's funny! Quebec would leave the UP in the dust. I told Mrs. Spadoman and she immediately said, "Let's go, I want to see that!" Now I'm wondering if anyone else plays this game or any like it. Thanks for stopping by today. I appreciate your visit.

Some Pink Flowers... One year! Do I get an award, or do you? I would if I could remember that far back. You should for the total recall. Thanks for coming by, and thanks for the continued support.

deb did it said...

~Bathtub Marys~ I love them everywhere! Thanks for reposting...a good thing to do on occasion as we have new follower friends all the time during this sacred journey we share together

GlorV1 said...

Glad you are doing well now and wonderful post. Love the Lady in that huge tub. Have a wonderful day.

Spadoman said...

Deb.. Thanks for coming by. Like minds I guess, that's how i was feeling about reposting. There are some that never saw it the first time around, and others, Like Some Pink Flowers, that are very proud of themselves that they had a memory that went back a full year.

Gloria.. Thanks for stopping by amd a big thanks for the support. I know it would be a much harder chore to be motivated to stay well without the many friends, like yourself, that have been around through it all. Thank you so much.


Paula Scott Molokai Girl Studio said...

It's not something that I ever thought about-that WI would have so many yards with Mary in them. Perhaps you can explain that to us in a subsequent post-I feel like I need a bit of WI history as far as who settled there. Must've been a lot of Catholics! But, I love your posts and stories and sharing of info. I learn a lot from you, my friend!

carol l mckenna said...

Lovely photos of Our Lady ~ special ~~ thanks, namaste, Carol (A Creative Harbor)

Unknown said...

Amazing! I read your article last year, before I knew anything of Virgin a Day. My husband and I were talking about Our Lady of the Bathtub, and planning our own outdoor grotto, when I ran across your article. Funny - is it really? - that we would bump into each other again a year later.

Mother Mary is a wise, wise woman!

Thank you for reposting, so that we could meet again!


Spadoman said...

Paula.. Thanks so much for your visit here. I will find out more and post. It would be a good project. Of course I'll never admit that I don't already know the answer! LOL

Art Muse Dog and carol.. Are there two of you? Just wonderin'. Thanks for stopping by.

The Rosary Lady... Stuff like what you mention happens for a reason. These are the connections that dear Rebecca talks about. Now, we've connected again. Earl;ier today, when i visited your place, I had the urge to photograph and send to you the pictures of the Rosaries that i have from my mother. Maybe I'll just do that. Thanks for coming by.

Fran aka Redondowriter said...

When I first read your post I didn't notice this was from last year and I thought, oh my gosh. He's feeling so good he went to Washington, DC. You rest up now, Spadoman. I had a friend long ago who had a Mary in a bathtub. Thanks for sharing your photos; I had never heard of Dickeyville.

rebecca said...

i believe in the light of mary, and i believe in the practice of reposting!
i loved this today as much as i did one year ago. maybe it is because i have always loved roadside shrines...and bathtub virgins....
and you.

Unknown said...

This was wonderful to read and the pictures - just great. I live in the Bible Belt so Mary is hard to find - but I manage to find one here or there. Honestly the most Mary's in my town are probably in my home!!! So just travel from room to room to see Mary!!

Gayle said...

I am so glad you reposted, because I for one did not see it.....
I love grottos, and am happy to have a new game "spotting Mary in the bathtub that won't leave me bruised , like the VW game does.
Thanks for that!!

Spadoman said...

Redondo Writer... Thanks for coming by today. The Dickeyville Grotta is quite the place. These things are strewn across the country here and there and I usually find themm by staying onn the smaller two-lane roads as I travel. And you are correct, I'm not travel;ing justbyet, in fact it will be quite some time before i can leave this roost.

Rebecca.. Sweet Rebecca, you're the best and bring out the best in everyone. I'm fortunate to have you as a friend. I love posting for Mary during this time and I'm glad reposting is allowed. Thank you for your gracious visit here to my pages.

WoodWife.. I'd love a tour of your place to see the Mary collection. There are beginning to be quite a few here at Spadoiville as well. Thanks for coming by.

Vintage Green.. Glad you are considering playing the Mary game. remember, you have to get on the slower two-lane roads and byways, you'll never see Mary on the Interstate except in church yards and cemetereys. Thanks so much for stopping by.

Mel said...

I love it.

Once was good--twice, just priceless.
What a precious memory and what great games for the road.
I swear I'm stealin' that one. Oughta get more points for Mary in the bathtub, though!


I hope you're fairing well, sir.
I trust the angels watching over you.

Jeannie said...

I still don't get it but I do love that grotto of whimsy and Mary in a bathtub.

Spadoman said...

Mel... Thanks for dropping by. I chose to repost the bathtub one since you mentioned it the other day. I think I shopuld have been photographing all the tubs kust like the quilt barns. That'd be another good contest. I could even create maps for a MIBT Trail through the Midwest. Hmmmm, there's a thought.

Jeannie.. Wonderful that you dropped by, thanks very much. Not sure I "get it" either. I really do like the art. I certainly didn't understand it when I was growing up Catholic. Quie frankly, I don't relate religion to the image of Mary and with some people, that's all they do with her. Are you sure there aren't any bathtubs around where you live?

*jean* said...

i am familiar with the area you mentioned in da yooper! another great area for BVM's in a tub, is around the Niagara Falls area in and Mrs. S might want to visit the West Bend Grotto in northern Iowa sometime, it's really something...I am in Mpls. and we have a place up by Siren...we're practically neighbors!!
great pics BTW

*jean* said...

here is the link for the Iowa grotto...

Magical Mystical Teacher said...

The grotto dazzles the eye and, somehow, comforts the heart.

Priti Lisa said...

I love to learn new things and see places, so I am glad you re-posted this :) That grotto is amazing for sure. I love the idea of spotting Marys while traveling...they are rare in my area so the really stick out.

Noelle Clearwater said...

Hi Joe,
Really enjoyed this tour of bathtub and grotto Mary's. I remember the Dickeyville grotto Mary from last year. It was one of my all time favorites. It reminded me of something that a sea captain would have created in response for a desire to "get religion" late in life. So sweet. I love the game you and Barb play. I can just imagine it and it reminds me of just how comfortable people become with one another after so many years. Very cool post.
Peace Love and Hugs,

Spadoman said...

*jean*... hank you very much for stopping by. Yes, we must be neighbors if you are in Minneapolis. I'm in River Falls, WI. Thanks for the link. I'll have to get to West Bend one of these days. Have you been to the huge Our Lady of Guadalupe shrine near LaCrosse, WI? I'll be writing about it on Day12. We'll have to talk some time. I spend a lot of time back and forth through Siren, Spooner, Hayward and Ashland. Thanks again.


MMT.. I love when I pass through an area and see a shrine or grotto, (or anything kitsh for that matter). Thanks for coming by.

Priti.Lisa... Thanks for coming here, and thanks for your comment. I must tell you I love your username! There are so many and easy to spot around here, and even more so in the Southwestern US. Where are you?


Noelle... Glad you liked and remembered the post. When you walk around places like this and see how much work someone has done, it is like seeing a dedication of their life to something and very inspiring. Thanks for dropping in.