West Bend Grotto
I was recently fortunate to attend the Okoboji Writer’s Retreat, a three-day conference on writing, storytelling, poetry, creating documentaries, fiction, memoir and obituary stories, and opinion writing. I primarily attended the lectures and panels on opinion writing provided by Todd Dorman, Art Cullen, Kathy Obradovich, Laura Belin, and Rekha Basu. For those of you who are not media nerds, they write for the Cedar Rapids Gazette, the Storm Lake Times Pilot, Iowa Capitol Dispatch, Bleeding Heartland, and Rekha has retired from the Des Moines Register and is doing free-lance work.
I learned many things, including that column writing may include personal sharing, while editorials are to be reflective of the paper including the owner, publisher, and the editor. Op Ed, I thought was always opinion editorials, or letters to the editor, but Kathy Obradovich explained it was it was originally OPposite the EDitorial page.
One thing I learned is that columns are not the same as mini editorials or even letters to the editor. It will be my desire to continue to share informational pieces and my thoughts that will result in conversation and ideas for our Greene County readers.
I purposely returned home from Okoboji by way of West Bend. I had not visited the Grotto of the Redemption for an estimated 40 years. It remains breathtakingly beautiful. It is older than I recalled, as a brochure indicated that Father Dobberstein started the construction in 1912. He secured stones and placed them for 42 years until his death in 1954. His assistant and successor Father Louis Greving continued the work.
The Grotto contains the largest collection of precious stones and gems found anywhere in one location. It includes petrified wood, stalactites and stalagmites, malachite, jasper, huge quartz crystals, and many more.
The area now includes a 53-site campground, a large children’s play area, a park for picnics, a gift shop, museum, and American Disability Access, ADA, restrooms, and walkways.
Mediative quiet background music is piped into the various alcoves that depict the life of Christ. It is a historic religious review and very humbling to observe the painstaking laborious skills that were given to create this beautiful structure.
I checked my mileage and it was a mere 71 miles from West Bend to my house. Well worth a fall afternoon drive through the Iowa landscape of yellows, reds, and browns from the trees along the rivers and the corn and soybean harvest.
Mary writes VIEW FROM MY WINDOW from her rural home near Rippey.