Sunday, December 2, 2012

On the Road With Mary, Again

As we are on the road and traveling to the Southwestern USA from Wisconsin, I am not prepared to research and post new A Virgin a Day stories. This is a repost of one from Day 3, which was December 3rd, 2011.

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. 

A Virgin a Day
Day 3

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.


rebecca said...

dear spadoman,
i love this post as much as i did the first time i laid eyes on it! what is it about road side shrines? perhaps because they are so unexpected across any horizon and appear with such charming devotion and ingenuity!

i'll stop for a bathtub virgin every time!!
thank you for this glorious offering of mary love!

Meri said...

I don't know. There's just something odd about the idea of "Mary Under Glass," as if she's a delectable pheasant.

Jeannie said...

I remember and enjoy this post as well - even though I'm not all atwitter about Mary - just not the way I was raised although I am beginning to appreciate the fact that the Catholic church does have a female figure of great worth....hmmm...

I just don't get why she's always stuck in these little alcoves. I mean, she spent a night in a stable giving birth and has had to relive those conditions for the last two thousand years - I'm sure by now she's earned her way to a decent kitchen! ;)

Stephanie said...

I remember this grotto!! I have a soft spot in my heart for bathtub guadalupe's as I grew up in a town with many.


Janet Ghio said...

That grotto is absolutely amazing!! Would love to see it in person.

carol l mckenna said...

Wonderful post to 'Our Lady' ~ (A Creative Harbor) ^_^

GlorV1 said...

Love this bathtub shrine. What a wonderful idea. Great post.

J C said...

The Dickyville Grotto is amazing. Thanks for sharing. Safe travels.

Dawn Elliott said...

I posted a Virgin of Guadalupe in a bathtub today, as well! Gotta love the grotto - that's my kind of shrine!!! Hope that you're having fun on your roadtrip - travel safely!

Unknown said...

Spadoman, I too remember this post and love it just as much this year as last year. I am a great fan of the Bathtub Mary, I still hope to one day have one of my own. Also a pretty little grotto for my backyard Blessed Virgin. Seeing your post again has reignited that fire....

Magical Mystical Teacher said...

Your post is just as good the second time around as it was the first. I've followed your lead, and have honored Mary in the tub!

Virgin of the Bath

Leah said...

Wow, that bathtub picture it interesting! I don't think I've ever seen one of these before, or maybe I just haven't been paying attention. It will be nice to have something new to keep a look out for in future travels. :)

Delphyne said...

What a gorgeous grotto and shrine - I love all of the stonework and other objects, like starfish! Star of the Sea, Stella Maris. I think Fr. Matthias had a quirky sense of humor.

Wonderful post!

Mel said...

*laughing* Loved it the first time--still loving it!

I'm hoping you and the Mrs. are counting 'em up as you're crossing country together. MUCH less painful than the slug bugs of the VW kind AND they're a very creative. Holy moly...I stole over to the MMTeacher's to check it out -- if you cross anything of comparable to THAT 'WOW' factor, take TWO points!

Safe journey, sir!

Kim Mailhot said...

Mary in a Bathtub is a very very common thing in Quebec. Pretty much every farm house has one out in their garden in the country. Sometimes, there is a Jesus in his own tub as well. Your post made me laugh!
Happy trails, Man !