A late-summer afternoon custom-made for an outdoor birthday party drew me to the nearby home of Hoosier author and naturalist Gene Stratton Porter. Mrs. Porter would have been 151 on August 17. Guests at her home on Sylvan Lake near Rome City, Indiana, celebrated the author’s birthday with music, storytelling, walks through the garden and birthday cake on Saturday and Sunday at an annual festival called Chautauqua Days. Mrs. Porter supported the adult-education movement of her time, named for Chautauqua Lake in New York state, where the first gatherings were held.
Mrs. Porter was born in Indiana and had homes in Geneva and on Sylvan Lake. She loved the swamp and woodlands surrounding this man-made lake and explored them regularly. Her biography on the Limberlost web site says Mrs. Porter wrote 12 novels, 7 nature books and 3 books of poetry, as well as numerous children’s books.
Local storyteller and writer Lou Ann Homan portrayed Mrs. Porter on Sunday afternoon, to the delight of her friendly audience. As she moved in and out of character to share details of Mrs. Porter’s life, Homan urged visitors to emulate Mrs. Porter’s practice of writing daily in a journal and sketching things that interested them in nature. Two little girls enjoying the event with their mother during the session I attended took every word to heart and I later saw them walking to Mrs. Porter’s “Cabin at Wildflower Woods” with Homan to share some birthday cake.
Today, as I searched for my 100-year-old copy of Gene Stratton Porter’s “A Girl of the Limberlost”, I took a moment to calculate that Mrs. Porter was 61 when she died in an auto accident in California. Exactly my age. She’d already spent all her adult life reflecting on those things that mattered most to her — nature and her family.
In the spirit of Mrs. Porter, I have a renewed commitment to continue to pause and reflect on the moments, people and events that inspire and encourage me on this journey.
Limberlost North is located at 1205 Pleasant Point on the southern shore of Sylvan Lake, near Rome City, Indiana. The historical site is open April 1-December 1, 10 am to 5 pm Tuesday through Saturday, Sundays from 1 pm to 5 pm.