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It must seem that we spent weeks in Indianapolis, but it was only two action-packed days. On Sunday, we woke at our Union Station hotel and took a short, sunny walk down to Café Patachou for brunch. On the way we passed the Indiana Theater, an ornately detailed building with a grand facade of white terra cotta brick. Look near the top on the right side of the face of the building, and you’ll see a sundial. It read 8:30 when we passed, only a small rectangle full in the sun. How lucky for us to walk by just then, because the skyline blocks the sun, and it now gets just a postage-stamp of light for part of the day. On our walk back an hour later, it was deep in shadow, and the time was obscured.

Luckily arriving at Café Patachou early gave us the pick of the tables and we didn’t have to wait. Business was brisk soon after we sat down, though. Billed as “A Student Union for Adults,” it was casually comfortable — a well-lit dining room with large windows, a self-serve coffee bar and an accommodating menu. For example, I was able to fool my carb-craving tummy with their savory Cauliflower Fried Rice, which was perfect for another big day of exploring. At home, writing about our visit, I discovered from their web page the Patachou Foundation, which partners with Public Greens, an urban farm-to-table restaurant, to fight childhood hunger in Indianapolis. Their stated mission is: “To feed wholesome meals to food-insecure school children in our community and teach them to create healthy habits.” They do this through classes for children in gardening, cooking, table manners and other opportunities to connect children to the food system of their community. This is brilliant. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every industry had a mission like this? For example, a good friend who worked in an independent bookstore once told me that he thought bookstores ought to be in the literacy business — devoting time to teaching people to read, thereby expanding the ways in which books can help grow a community.

After brunch, we headed to the Indianapolis Art Museum at Newfields. In the spacious foyer was an interactive installation by an Amsterdam collective called Studio Drift. They are interested in the intersection between technology, art and nature, between humans and earth. Large flower-shaped lights are suspended from above in the “upside down landscape” of the installation called “Meadow.” Each flower is lighted from within and colored yellow or purple. They are shaped like a chrysanthemum, and in the gentle act of opening and closing. I didn’t notice at first the relationship between the movement of people walking below and the opening and closing of the flowers, but they are connected to motion detectors, so the piece is truly interactive. I watched the visitors for a while. Some just walked briskly through the foyer to get their tickets, while others looked up, bemused at the motion. One little girl in a cranberry-colored corduroy jumper lay on the floor snow-angel-ing her arms and legs, experimenting with making the flowers open faster and more slowly.

The museum houses a rich permanent collection, but also has a varied and interesting cycling of exhibitions. The museum campus includes the Lilly House, a mansion restored to its 1930’s glory, at Oldfields. The butler’s pantry made me want to host a dinner, and the garage made me want to jump in the roadster with Nancy Drew and continue our tour of the countryside. The grounds included formal gardens and wooded walking trails. We wandered into the greenhouse, where we encountered orchids, pitcher plants, succulents and even a lemon tree full of little round lemons.

On the way home, we stopped at Fishers, where we visited Connor Prairie, a heritage museum that lets us step back to a prairie town of 1836. The website showed that the outdoor exhibits had ended, and we thought we could at least glimpse the indoor exhibits. But luck was with us! For some reason, they remained open for one more day, and we got to watch an axe throwing contest, visit a trading post where the store keeper tried to interest me in the finest supplies for my kitchen and showed me what he would trade me for a few beaver skins. Sadly, I had none to trade. We saw a barnful of rare goats, Arapawa, numbering less than 300 worldwide, but Connor Prairie is working to restore the breed. The loom house was full of naturally dyed fibers and we visited with the two weavers there until closing. I don’t have time to tell you about the brick house, so you will have to visit yourselves.

Wander in Beauty; Discover Peace; Blessed Be.

Mary Lucille Hays lives in Birdland near White Heath. If you’re missing your weekly dose of Birdland Letters in The News Gazette, you can still read them every week in the Piatt County Journal-Republican and at Consider subscribing to support your small-town newspaper. You can follow Birdland on Instagram (@BirdlandLetters) and Twitter (@BirdlandLetters). Mary can be reached at or via snail mail care of this newspaper.