Category Archives: Iowa

Fairfield Iowa’s Mosaic Murals by Karla Christensen

A Winter Garden
A Winter Garden Mosaic Mural Installation (6 x 10 ft.) by Karla Christensen

We become not a melting pot but a beautiful mosaic. Different people, different beliefs, different yearnings, different hopes, different dreams.
Jimmy Carter

Artist Surplus in Fairfield Iowa

We are artist rich in our little town. We are big on talent and abundant in creativity. It takes lots of courage to go public with one’s creations or to start a new medium or a project born of pure inspiration. I just love people who go for it and start from scratch – the untrained, the outsiders of the art world. I was so happy when my friend Karla became inspired to create art using mosaic tiles. Her creations were inspired by a mix of traditional themes and symbols and her own whimsey. She didn’t have training, but she just started anyway and, step-by-step, began to learn the ropes. The ropes of her new found artistic focus included lots of tile, lots of grout, lots of tools, special paints, and even a kiln. Installing murals downtown required lots of hauling and lifting and standing on ladders and drinking lots of water in the summer heat.

She began in an apartment, in her living room where she set up a large table and made messes everyday. The joy increased and the products produced delight. She eventually rented her downtown studio space overlooking the downtown Fairfield square across from Cafe Paradiso (a convenient walk to get a latte).

Then she was invited to install murals in several downtown locations: The Winter Garden is on the side of Revelations, Fairfield’s iconic restaurant and bookstore, on the alley and around the corner from the front door. The Winter Garden gives us flowers year round. It gives us the image of a girl riding a flying bird in the sky. It helps our imaginations soar. It reminds us of Spring. It transports us to a magical realm.

Sipping Tea and Scenery

Tea and Scenery Mosaic Mural Installation (6 x 10 ft.) by Karla Christensen

Tea and Scenery captures Karla’s two favorite pastimes – the delight of sipping a cup of tea and looking at the Iowa landscape. And, she includes an image of Fairfield’s wonderful bike and walking trail, a project that involved a team of dedicated people to fund and bring to completion.


A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. What one can be, one must be.

Abraham Maslow, American psychologist known for “a hierarchy of human needs.”


Filed under Artsy Stuff, Iowa, Life in Fairfield Iowa, Topics I Love

Café Paradiso: Fairfield Iowa Offers World Class Coffee

Photo by Guy Harvey

A leaf fluttered in through the window this morning, as if supported by the rays of the sun, a bird settled on the fire escape, joy in the task of coffee, joy accompanied me as I walked.
Anais Nin

I’m a coffee drinker, one of the multitudes who must have their daily java in order to join the world. I’m a member of that group who is addicted to the caffeine buzz. I especially love lattes and the hot milky comforting feeling I get when I take my first sip. That first sip anchors me to the world and defines my space within it—especially if I’m drinking my favorite brands from my favorite coffee hangout.

Organic, Fair Trade, and Roasted Daily

I orchestrate my mornings to the tune of coffee. ~Harry Mahtar

Steve Giacomini, owner of our award winning coffee shop, Café Paradiso, once gave me a little talk on coffee and told me why his brand is superior to most brands, especially Starbucks, which he considers a bastardization of coffee (they burn the coffee beans, he says). Steve created his own blend of organic, shade-grown, fair trade beans, which he roasts daily on-site. His beans make a mean cappuccino, latte, mocha, or espresso. And, I like my coffee to be politically correct and eco- friendly. I’m grateful Steve taught me some things about coffee and how the love you put into making it can create miracles.

So, our little town of Fairfield, Iowa has become recognized by world travelers and local residents alike as a place where we can get world class coffee. And, in the tradition of great locally owned coffee houses worldwide, it has become one of our town’s havens for artists and musicians where local and international talent makes its way onto its stage to perform for its loyal patrons.


Filed under Iowa, Life in Fairfield Iowa, Topics I Love, Topics I Love

Fairfield Iowa: Alley at Dusk

“‎The simple truth is that you can understand a town. You can know and love and hate it. You can blame it, resent it, and nothing changes. In the end, you’re just another part of it.”
― Brenna Yovanoff

Small Town living

Photographers capture moments and freeze them in time. They catch configurations of light and dark, objects and space, people and things, that tell stories and reflect back to us where we have been and who we are in the world.

I love Guy Harvey’s photography, and of course, his photos of Iowa and particularly of Fairfield, are part of my story. How many times have I walked this Alley with its bricked paved road and the storefronts of local small business owners? There is Dotty’s Sewing Nook, owned by Dotty, of course – she’s been there since before I arrived in town in the early 80’s. Then there is this view of the Fairfield Courthouse with the steeple and clock. The Fairfield Weekly Reader, the small local paper where we find out what’s playing at the Coffee House or what apartments are for sale, or who has just started up a new business, has moved to another location, still in town. Paving the alley was part of a beautification project headed by locals who procured the resources – this project represents hours of care and attention, hard work, commitment, and love.

We live moment to moment and the artist captures fleeting time and anchors our life experiences to give us roots and a sense of belonging.

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Celebrating the Holiday Season in Fairfield Iowa’s Town Square

Photograph by Guy Harvey Photography

One of the best things about living in a small Midwestern town is being able to enjoy the charm of a town square. Town squares make me think of a time before people shopped at malls and when the town was the center of commerce and community celebrations. They remind me of a time when small businesses thrived and people could make a good living working for themselves and providing services and goods locally. You knew the owner of the hardware store, you took your television into the local repair shop when it went on the blink, and you relied on a corner store for a place to get a quart of milk.

I think my community of Fairfield, Iowa, is lucky to have a town green that has become the perfect venue for our numerous gatherings. It helps give us a sense of belonging to see our friends showing up at musical concerts, art walks, and cultural events. Psychologists recognize the innate need of human beings to belong and see faces they recognize everyday.

Our town square has a central Gazebo in the middle of a park and is surrounded by streets and shops on four sides. And each year, after Thanksgiving, for as long as I’ve lived here (since 1983), the town has put up the same winter holiday lights and decorations that have been part of its tradition since the fifties. We are joined and connected with proceeding generations by our enjoyment of the lights, the Santa House, the reindeer, and all of the other symbols of the season that have delighted children and adults for decades.

Happy Holidays to Everyone in the World from Fairfield, Iowa.

See more of Guy Harvey’s photos.

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I’m Proud Iowa Is Still a Blue State

Yes, I did!

Yes We Did!

“I am proud to support Barack Obama in his desire and mission to see America return to her greatness. I have carefully watched, like everyone else, the campaigns of both the democrats, as well as the republican candidate, and I could safely say that only one candidate is speaking to the beliefs I feel this country was founded on.

“I believe, like Barack Obama, that we can change our future, but not by repeating our history. …And, I will not be deterred in my support of Barack Obama because of ad campaigns that are meant to incite fear in us where our security is concerned, when the candidate running the ad voted to take us into war.”

Sheryl Crow

It’s true, I wear my politics on my sleeve – I cannot help saying what I’m for and being clear about what I’m against. I’m not a political blogger, I don’t have the credentials or the interest to be a full-time political commentator,  but today I’m relieved –  Last night I saw Barack Obama win his second term as President. I was proud of my state, Iowa, for giving him 54% of the vote.

I’m a Woman and Romney and the Republican Party are Frighteningly Reactionary

The Republican’s view of women is reactionary. Why would women want to return to the days when men controlled our bodies?  I don’t want the government in our bedrooms and in control of our bodies, and I certainly don’t want to see the reversal of Roe V. Wade.  And, why should employers and insurance companies deny women coverage for contraceptives? It’s incomprehensible that we could return to the days of back alley abortions. I want women to be free to choose – to have access to legal and safe abortions and good family planning options.

When Obama Came to Iowa

I’m a progressive, and like lots of progressives, would like to see a more progressive agenda put forward by the President. I don’t agree with his every move or decision, and have been bitterly disappointed by some of his choices. But, I think he is by far the best choice and the best shot we have. I see the alternative as going backwards, backwards in time, backwards in ideas, back to the days before laws were enacted to protect our civil rights.

Iowa has a history with the President and the First Lady. When Obama visited Fairfield for the Iowa caucuses in 2008 – we helped him on his journey to become President. Before that, we’d heard his speech at the Democratic Convention when he was the Senator from Illinois – a rising star who brought crowds to their feet and touched our hearts with his vision for a better America.

Obama has been able to touch a chord and connect with the problems and the dreams of everyday people, of Americans of all race and religion. Being Bi-racial gives him a unique perspective on race and an understanding of the commonalities that make us all part of the human family. He has a keen sense of fairness.

The opposition demonized the President and alienated the new majority

We have a new majority of the voting population that consists of Women, Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Indians, the Jewish Community, young adults, and college students  (we came together for a second time to create a powerful united force to elect Obama). What we have in common united us to vote for Obama – we want a level playing field, fairness, economic opportunities, affordable healthcare, and of course, civil rights for all.

The new majority recognizes a  need in today’s America for our President to be “uniter not a divider,” a phrase ironically coined by George Bush who never delivered that promise. We need to respect and honor our human family worldwide. The rhetoric of Obama’s opposition divides us, polarizes us, and reinforces our fears that we are, in actuality, enemies. The opposition tells us we must belong to their religion or we have fallen from grace, that we must share their moral imperatives and world views or we are on the wrong side, that we must embrace their political ideologies or we are not real Americans.

The Right Wing mythology of what it means to be an American

The Right Wing has created a mythology of what is means to be an American. This mythology supports a world view in which they occupy a moral high-ground and place of higher truth. This mythology consists of  a narrow world view, and those who buy into it default to self-righteous indignation when their fundamentalist thinking and fallacious interpretations of democracy are challenged.

When I first heard Obama speak, I felt he was speaking to a country’s better angels – angels of fairness, opportunities for all, compassion, respect, generosity and tolerance. And this week, Obama came to Des Moines to enlist our support, and once again, Iowa delivered.

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Taking Highway 1 to Iowa City

When the moon peeps over the mountain, Little girl I’ll be on my way. I’m gonna roll the highway until the break of day.

BB King

I’ve taken Highway 1 north to Iowa City hundreds of times over the years. It’s a wonderful sixty minute trip from my home in Fairfield, Iowa.  I lived there for thirteen years, where I graduated from the University of Iowa after becoming a pot smoking hippie in the late sixties, where my brother attended and taught at the famous Writer’s Workshop – my big brother brought me there in the first place.

Iowa City is in many ways “my” place. It was where I first started to feel free after leaving the east coast after graduating from high school. Iowa City has historically been a mecca for writers and artists, and was once the home of Kurt Vonnegut and many other famous authors. It was where I learned to meditate, met my closest friends, and finally felt at home. It is where I finally found what had been missing.

And this drive is reminiscent of older days, before interstates and the madness of freeways, the days of Highway 66, the days of Jack Kerouac, a time when families took off in cars for road trips across the country before you had to wear seat belts or thought about the cost of gasoline.

Going north on Highway 1, I travel through small towns that are throwbacks to the fifties – Brighton, Washington, and Kalona. I see the land on either side of me, the acres of fields that now grow genetically modified crops of soy and corn, but are still beautiful in waves of colors of wheat and green. I see cows and sheep and horses. I see the horses and buggies of the Amish in Kalona, and know I have only 20 minutes to go before I’m in Iowa City. I am always impressed by the big sky and the big open spaces, and I cannot imagine living anywhere where the sky is small or the traffic is congested, or where I cannot see the land for miles and miles.

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Things I Love in Fairfield Iowa

Hay Bales are Beautiful

It’s easy to take the beauty of our surroundings for granted…to daydream that it’s better somewhere else. Sometimes, I think about oceans – I love oceans. I remember trips through the mountains – mountains are beautiful. When you live in the Midwest, you have hay bales. You have lots of sky and space.

You have lots of things to be grateful for.

As the the great Buddha said,

“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.”
— Buddha

Today in Fairfield, Iowa, it’s fall and the the air is fresh and the sky is big and I’m grateful.

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