Weddings, Butterflies and…Hair Ties???!!
“A wedding in a Covered Bridge!”
I say excitedly to David. Then I think to myself, of course it’s a wedding. We seem to have impeccable timing where weddings are concerned. There is absolutely no telling how many times we’ve stumbled across a couple about to exchange I-Do’s on a beach, beside a waterfall, in a state park overlooking a field of wildflowers and countless other places. Maybe it’s because more and more folks are picking out beautiful natural backdrops for their big day in lieu of the traditional church building. And, maybe it’s just because those beautiful natural places are what we tend to find in our travels.
Having been a part of some 400 weddings in our past life as B&B/Wedding hosts, it could be that we are naturally drawn to them in some instinctual way. Weddings always make me smile reminiscing about our other life, take me back to the day some 28 years ago when we said “I Do” in a Tennessee state park and somehow I always get a bit teary eyed.
Some people have the same connection with butterflies and they point out that they see butterflies everywhere they go and to be perfectly honest we kind of find them as well. There again, butterflies typically like to hang out where we do. 🙂 There is another thing that we find, almost on a daily basis, that I haven’t heard anyone else mention. That’s black ponytail holders! Most of the time when we park the car and walk into a store we’ll find one just lying on the ground. We can be on a mountaintop at 13,000 feet and there’s a ponytail holder. On a sidewalk in a small town a black ponytail holder will somehow be right in our path. Walking down the beach to catch the spectacular sunset and yep, there in the sand is a black ponytail holder. The nice thing is that I have an endless supply of ponytail holders. Well, not really because we haven’t saved them all but I swear it’s crossed my mind that I should set up an Ebay account and try to sell them. Or, at the very least, figure out some craft that I could use them in. It’s become so common place now that if we don’t find one within a few days of where we are, we start second guessing if we are in the right place. Well, okay, not really. We aren’t that crazy. Yet!
Talking about confirmation of being somewhere at the right place and the right time. Today, we’ve seen countless butterflies, a few ponytail holders and now we’re sneaking peeks at the wedding party gathered at the end of a covered bridge in Iowa. Which is the whole reason we are here by the way. “Here” is Winterset Iowa, and “where” is the Holliwell Covered Bridge.
The Covered Bridges of Madison County
More than twenty years ago we read The Bridges of Madison County together. It was a cute thing we started doing when we were dating. I’d read a chapter then he’d read a chapter. Back and forth until we’d read a whole book together. I remember falling in love with the story of Robert and Francesca and most likely over-romanticizing their love story a bit but tucking the desire to one day see the covered bridges painted so beautifully by Robert Waller into a safe little place in my heart. We went to the movies a few years later and watched Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep bring it to life once again.
Imagine our surprise yesterday when we were just a few miles from our next campground in Iowa to see a sign from the interstate, “See the Bridges of Madison County.” If we weren’t pulling our big ole Rolling Roof, we would have stopped right then and there. I am sure there was a ponytail holder lying in the road and most certainly I saw a few butterflies fluttering in and out of the wildflowers and corn that grew along the highway.
So, we’ve spent today bagging covered bridges, exploring the quaint historic town of Winterset and simply being where we are meant to be.
Not only is Winterset home to 6 of the remaining covered bridges in Madison County, but it’s the birthplace of John Wayne and there’s a museum right next to the house that he was born in that showcases everything “Duke” that you could ever want to see. Yea, I’m a girl but I LOVE westerns. Well maybe tom-girl is a better description of me, but it’s my Daddy’s fault. I can’t count how many evenings I would sit beside him watching ol’ John save the day. There’s a wonderful Quilt Museum in town too and we’re told that if you stick around long enough you’ll run into Mary Fons of Fons and Porter. Okay, maybe you need to be a quilter to know who they are but just trust me, Mary Fons and her Mom are royalty among quilters. They are like the Beetles in the Quilt Kingdom. The day I toured the Quilt Museum, (David slipped away at the door and went on a walk-about down the streets lined with 200 year old oak trees and lovely antebellum homes) their featured artist was Victoria Findlay Wolfe who is another amazing quilter. As I gazed and felt enamored by each piece I let myself drift back to those warm memories of quilting with my Mom and it made me cherish even more the quilts from my Grandmother that I still have with me. Victoria’s quilts are masterpieces and I felt so honored to be allowed to view and touch them. I even got to be a part of a bed turning and put on a pair of white gloves and help turn down the breathtaking quilts one at a time and hearing the inspiration behind each design.
“I have one thing to say, one thing only, I´ll never say it another time, to anyone, and I ask you to remember it: In a universe of ambiguity, this kind of certainty comes only once, and never again, no matter how many lifetimes you live.” Robert James Waller from The Bridges of Madison County
I am certain that we were meant to come to Winterset. I knew it the moment we parked at the square and noticed that there was a farmers market going on and a young man playing guitar right beside us and yes there was a pony tail holder on the ground too. I am certain that I am living and traveling this country with my one true love. I am certain that there is something magical about this Iowa town that has been pulling me here all these years. And it’s not just me. In just one day we met a handful of people that shared their similar stories of kismet, synchronicity or magic that brought them to Madison County Iowa. At the little store by the Roseman Covered Bridge we met Beverly. The fact that she recognized my southern Tennessee accent as being kindred, she was from Clarksville TN, made an instant connection. Her love of the book and later the movie had brought her to Madison County on vacation and a few years later she exchanged vows with the long ago lost love of her life on the Roseman bridge. Today she works less than 500 feet away from that 135 year old covered bridge and enthusiastically shares with visitors her new love for Iowa and for the bridges of Madison county. We heard several more compelling stories of how these bridges and this area are continuing to change people and causes folks to migrate to this hamlet of a town a quarter of a century since the book was published.
Maybe it’s the pony tail holders and the butterflies that some of us are following. The miles and miles of corn all blowing in the wind seem to be waving us in. The windmills lazily but steadily turn with the Iowa wind. Perhaps it’s the quilting history and ol’ John Wayne that pulls us over off of I-80. Or maybe it’s the true love that Robert and Francesca felt in their fleeting four days together here in Madison County taking photographs of the covered bridges and the book written about these two romantics many years ago that causes us to make a pilgrimage off the beaten path to find it again. I snap our last picture and try to position us to make a selfie similar to the shot of Clint and Meryl at the Roseman bridge. It didn’t turn out as charming as the original, but the memory of this fine warm spring day in Iowa and the Bridges of Madison County will linger for many miles to come.
Slide show of Madison County Iowa