Thursday, July 29, 2010
The Investigator was found in about forty feet of water in Mercy Bay, on the northern coast of Banks Island. It sailed in 1850 under Captain Robert McClure and essentially completed the Northwest Passage.
Archaeologists have recovered three bodies. The British government has been informed since The Investigator was a military ship.
Monday, July 26, 2010
Lately, I’ve been learning about determination. It seems to be a recurring lesson in my life, turning my innate stubbornness into the determination to make it through tough times or accomplish everything from paying rent to getting published. Being stubborn (or determined) despite internal and external obstacles (and not just collapsing in a heap of tears and rocking back and forth in the bathtub – though there is, in fact, a time and place for such things) is a lot of work. Sometimes (when it seems to be the wrong thing to do) it is easy. Other times (when you know it’s the right thing to do) it’s hard as hell. So, I thought I might cogitate a little on determination and see where it takes me.
To paraphrase Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary (1973 – I’m old), determination has several meanings such as resolving an argument through reason and discussion; the act of deciding firmly and definitively; the result of that act and decision; and the power or habit of deciding firmly and definitively. Synonyms for determination include intention, purpose, firmness, resoluteness, steadfastness, tenacity, drive, zeal, stamina, stubbornness, pigheadedness, persistence, perseverance, fortitude, will, nerve, grit and spunk (The Synonym Finder, J.I. Rodale, 1978 – yeah, still that old). The combination of the definition and the synonyms reminded me of one of my favorite quotes by Aristotle: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” (Italics mine).
Determination can be used in many pursuits, from the pursuit of excellence to the pursuit of your dog who needs a bath, or those shoes you just can’t live without. Sometimes being “determined” means something as simple as sitting down at your computer to finish that story you’re working on. At other times it means struggling to stay alive on a rock face.
Even though they seem completely opposite from each other, both fear and determination stem from our innate instinct for survival. Both impulses want to keep you alive. Fear wants to see you stay away from danger, such as the big bad animals or the suicidal rock face. Determination wants to see you make it through the danger so that once you meet the big bad animals or are faced with a horrific climb you won’t give up and die.
Both of these impulses WANT to keep you alive. That is their sole purpose.
These days we aren’t met regularly with life threatening situations (well, many of us aren’t, unless we choose to be or things happen). But both these impulses still run through us just as strong. The pursuit of a goal such as writing a book and getting published, or painting and sculpting and having an art show, do not seem life threatening, but pursuit is very primal and brings up the other primal feelings, such as determination and fear.
While we have nothing to fear, really, other than ourselves (and, of course, fear itself), in pursuing a well-written paragraph, a poem, or a painting that fear may still rear its ugly head. Fear will use memories from last week, last year, or even from when we were children, to keep us from doing something it thinks is bad for us. Those tapes that tell us we’d be better off doing the laundry than painting that picture, that we’re really not good enough to write that story, and won’t ever be good enough to pen that poem. That’s fear making sure we stay safe, that we stay coloring in the lines and playing by society’s rules. Artistic work falls outside society’s need for consumable production. It is part of the search of the unquantifiable instrinsic-ness of life. Fear tells us we will live longer if we obey the rules and stick with the quantifiable.
Here’s the thing that no one tells you – being a writer or an artist is dangerous business. Writers and artists don’t (necessarily) follow the rules. Writing, painting, or any type of artistic endeavor, is hard, dangerous work. I knew a writer who died of heart failure while he was in the middle of writing something. Writing can kill you.
What saves you, then, is determination, or the habit of determination. Because you can’t just be determined for five minutes one day and half hour the next. You need to be habitually determined, pulling on that stamina, leaning on your grandparents’ old-fashioned fortitude, forbear being the “plucky” or “spunky” one because whatever aspect of determination you use, it’s the basic tool you need to use to make you sit your ass in your seat and write that story or go to the studio and stand before that canvas or that lump of clay and work it until something emerges. That isn’t talent or insight or any of those other pretty words ascribed to artists. It’s pure nerve. It’s grit. It’s steadfastness and stick-to-itiveness. It is pure will and perseverance. Your family and friends will call you pigheaded.
Odd, isn’t it? Those are the same words used to describe Marines or Navy Seals. Yes, it really does take that kind of determination to keep on with your craft. To accomplish your mission, should you choose to take it, you have to exhibit the same type of self-discipline and self-determination demonstrated by the military. That takes strength of will, purpose, that means sustained force with intent and resolve. Being determined.
So, what are you waiting? Get to it! No guts no glory!
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Sunday, July 25, 2010
Saturday, July 24, 2010
Days of thought and pain.
The dark shades the hills.
Fields die and the grass is sere.
Anger sprouts, blossoms.
I draw my daggers but cannot fight.
I am grass left to wither in heat.
I will die here some shaded night.
Friday, July 23, 2010
The one I like best is this one. It was taken in the period we're considering, and it's of a man important to our story. It shows him at home with his family! This is ... excuse me for being 'common' ... so cool!
This has been a "bad day" for me otherwise. It started at work last night. Someone dropped partially-drunk, flavored coffee into my trash can. It was one of those chocolate flavored things. They seem to rot all on their own, and about three-thirty am I was sniffing the air and wondering who died behind my office couch. Hey! I'm a tough girl; I pulled the trash sack, tied it shut and took it out to the trash myself. No calling some poor sleepy houseboy to do my dirty work! No sirree bob! Okay, okay ... I just needed a break and some fresh air.
So ... now ... to take this out I skulk down the hallway ... well, skulk is too dramatic. I walked primly down the hall to the now-closed dinning room, take a jog right through the kitchen area, say 'Hi!" to the night service cook, snag a bit of cheese cake, ask him how his day (night) has been, gossip for about ten minutes. (You find out lots about what's going on if you gossip with employees.) I look at the clock. It's now 3:56 am. I grab my smelly sack, which does not smell too much all tied up in a wad, and toddle off out the back door toward the dumpster. Remember, I walked out the door at 3.56. I'm very sure about that. I looked at the clock.
From 3.56 until 4.20 I remember nothing. At 4.20 I'm walking back into the back door. For twenty minutes I was gone. One of the three kinds of seizures I'm plagued with does that and worse. This is not fun.
Probably I just stood more or less glazed over out by the dumpster. But I can seem and act mostly normal through one of these periods. It's as if my body had an autopilot, and I still function even though no one is at home to answer the phone.
You have no idea just how disturbing this is. For the rest of the night I was edgy and a bit lethargic. That's normal too. Fortunately, that's the down-hill part of my shift. Nothing much happens until six am. And I'm out most days by seven. I'll never get used to this. Ever.
I'm going to try a night in a patrol car next week. They know what's going on with me, and we're going to be off sitting in a dark, disused parking lot just watching a spot in the valley below. It would be silly to give details now; maybe later. I'll bring cupcakes. It will be a nice, quiet boring night but a change of routine. I'll be out with my boss. Remember "Phil" of an earlier post? He's a nice guy, a grandpa with a new baby at home. [I refuse to become a grandma with a new baby at home! I simply REFUSE!]
Voice mail on my home phone is broken. We need a new phone. ... It's not just voice mail; the whole phone died. I scrounged in Knobby Knees' basement "let's not throw it away-it might be useful room" and found an old phone without voice mail. It works. My cell has vocie mail and anyone who really needs to get me can use that.
I need to finish some lesson plans by this weekend. I have zero motivation. ZERO. Both my classes are full. Overfull, actually. They are supposed to be limited to eight students. I'll have slightly more in each. You may think that this is an easy to manage number, but you would be wrong. I get exceptionally bright students, but being bright sometimes brings other problems.
Fortunately, I'm a heck of a lot smarter than they are. (Nods to self and shoves an oreo in her face for comfort). My classes are high-demand classes, both in performance and in desirability. If a student does well in my class, they will do well in a college setting. I've had some spectacular students. One is in her first year at an Adventist college. She wants to be ... gasp! ... an engineer!
I'm stuck in 1877 today and not making any progress toward 1878. My heart isn't in it either. I need to know what happened to one of "the main guys" between April 1877 and January 1878. I only have a general view of that, but these are crucial months. ... I'm not certain it is possible to find specific details. But I'm trying ...
I need chocolate.
Back to last night. ... The whole town smelled bad for about an hour last night. We got complaints from guests. Not much we could do about it. I called the city, and they didn't know what it was either. It smelled like a feedlot, but the closest one is like 100 miles away or more. (Okay so all i know is it's not anywhere near here.) Old cow poo has a distinctive and nasty smell. ... But apparently it was something else. It went away quickly enough, I guess.
I think I've had too much coffee this morning.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
About Notre Dame: “One adept was good enough to assure me that the secret of the philosopher’s stone was hidden among these enigmatic carvings, if only he could find the clue to it.”
“And how,” asked Louis XIV of a courtier, “do you make love?
“Sir, I don’t make it; I buy it ready made.”
“The freedom of Londoners, who may in a sense please themselves in matters of revolt, is an ever-present danger to their city; and yet these stone-throwers and incendiaries make brave sailors and soldiers; they have not learned to fear.”
“Honor is like hair. It grows again.”
Of a kiss: “full and featly done.”
Of young Frenchmen: “Keep your national frippery, and in that silky livery talk your fill of nothing, vent your paradoxes, and show forth the grace of your profound ignorance.”
[This reminds me of a young man of my vague acquaintance who attends Humber College, an institution that hardly deserves the name, but which caters to young, shiftless men who imagine themselves webmasters, digital designers and such.]
From Oxford Magazine (1778): “It is pretended that the French are the best cooks in Europe; but their meat is so near carrion, that our butchers would be apt to throw it into the Thames; hence a variety of sources (ie: sauces) and ragouts, and every culinary trick is employed to hide what would otherwise be disgusting to the appetite.”
“Wits may be carriage folk, but genius goes afoot.”
“… gentlemen whose mission in life it was to keep fathers alert, husband in bad humour, and set whole families in an uproar.”
From Oxford Magazine (1775): “Wednesday evening two ladies of distinction having a dispute at a party of cards, repaired yesterday morning in their carriages to a field near Pancras, and fought a duel with pistols, when one of them being shot in the left arm the affair was ended.”
“Nothing is more dreary to contemplate than a clock.”
“It is a chain of senseless ribald lying – for the Swiss in his cups outdoes even the Gascon in that kind of thing.”
“Vice holds court at all hours and for all purses.”
“Like the prostitutes, and at the same hours, three times a day the stock-exchange dealers meet here …”
“The worst verse is written between Bordeaux and Nines; in this latitude all poets are vile, there is not an idea among the whole tribe of them.”
And finally – Because it reminds me of a group of immoral, self-serving little boys who live in Ohio, Toronto, Sweden, Illinois and a few other places of ill fame: “The young men who go about in groups, pallid, impudent, bold of eye, no very cheerful sight to a philosopher; you can hear them coming from one end of the place to the other, by the tinkle of the two watches they wear [I’m sure they’re comfortable with their sexuality!]; they go from one window to another in this labyrinth of ribbons, silks, pompons, flowers, dresses, masks, rouge-pots, and hairpins in packets of six inches long or more, eternally moving, eternally idle, a prey to all the vices; seeking in vain to hide, under an affected arrogance of demeanour, their entire unimportance to the world.”
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
even though no one reads this blog. Well, okay, so some do. But I don't have a bazillion blog readers and I want a bazillion blog readers!
Anyway ... I finished two chapters this past week (for the history book, not pixie2). They're good, I think, even in rough draft. I'm pleased. I sent them off to my writing partner today. He'll send them back all marked up soon.
A few issues still need additional research. The trouble is that I've exhausted all the sources available to me. I simply can't find the answers to a dozen questions. They seem to have fallen into the cracks of side walks in Chicago and Pittsburgh back in the late 19th century and disappeared from life forever.
I included an interesting exchange between Major Whittle and Fleming H. Revel. This isn't new material. It's well known, first making it into print in 1904. Major Whittle was an associate of Moody and Sankey and a very unpleasant man. I would like to document the conversation further. I know there was an exchange of letters as a result. But the Revel company archives seem not to exist. Thupp!
Moody doesn't play much of a part in this story, maybe not at all except occasional mention. We'll see. I don't know how far I'll follow Whittle. I don't like Whittle. If he were still alive, he wouldn't like me either!
My writing partner sent me a chapter he's in the last stages of writing. I've been making edits this morning. Excellent work. I moved several paragraphs to a more suitable place, fixed some typos and such. But mostly this is all good. I'll spend some time later today trying to find the first name of a man mentioned in this chapter. We've looked before without success.
I don't know why so many of the people we encounter in this research seem unstable. Was the religious world collectively insane in the 1870's and 1880's? I don't really believe that, but sometimes it seems so. There is a certain madness that substitutes for faith. Some of these people never had a reasoned faith, only an unreasoning love of religious feeling, a love of feeling holy and for self.
Others really impress me. One of these is a man named Joseph Moffitt. He was an English preacher who bounced from the Reformist/Cambellite movement to Zion's Watch Tower. He also read and contributed to the magazine of a disfellowshiped Presbyterian clergyman with Universalist views. Moffitt is something of a mystery, but the few articles by him (and one booklet) that exist are startlingly clear. I would have liked to have met him. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he seems to have no inflated sense of worth; he was a truly humble man as judged from his writings.
I read Robert Holdstock’s Lavondyss. It’s supposed to be a modern classic. It is well written, though there are two disconnected bits of story that are just dropped into text without background or warning. One of these is a love interest no found earlier in the story. Its appearance is discordant.
Ultimately Lavondyss is a mixture of mythological interpretation based on the archetype method of myth classification. Fine. I don’t approach fantasy that way. I have much more in common with G. S. Faber, a 19th century writer, than with modern myth classification systems. But the book remains well written.
Merely writing well is not enough. Holdstock, aside from the odd disconnected bit, tells an engaging story. So, why am I writing this post? The man tells a disturbing story, made so by his blatantly perverted sexuality. If you want your fantasy fiction spiced up with bestiality and incest, this is the book for you. I found the encounter between the main character, a young girl, and her brother in the form of his animal spirit more than a little disturbing. And it wasn’t a necessary part of the story.
In early closed societies incest did not have the taboo it does now. Fine. I know that. Creating a child character who wants to take away her half brother from her aunt whose lover he is seems to be … well … just icky. A little girl wants her brother sexually? The brother’s wife is really his aunt? Why? Why would he write this?
Yes, no mater what the original ‘truth,’ the first seed of any myth was, the frills of story that accrete to it later are creations of mind. But what sort of mind fames a story on bestiality and incest themes?
It disturbed me – worse, it disappointed me – to see such talent turned to these themes.
Monday, July 19, 2010
Between the ages of nine and fourteen my parents, who then lived in a distant town, very wisely permitted me to spend most of the schoolless part of these five years, so critical for a boy's development, with a large family on a large farm in Ashfield of this state. Although this joyous period ended long ago, the life, modes of thought and feeling, industries, dress, etc., were very old-fashioned for that date, and were tenaciously and proudly kept so. In more recent years, as I have come to believe that nowhere does the old New England life still persist more strongly or can be studied more objectively, I have spent portions of several summers, with the aid of a small fund placed in my hands for the purpose, in collecting old farm tools, household utensils, furniture, articles of dress, and hundreds of miscellaneous old objects into a local museum, a little after the fashion of the museums of Plymouth, Salem, and Deerfield. I have interviewed all the oldest inhabitants for details of customs, industries, persons, become interested in a map of the original farms, verified in part by old walls and cellar holes and apple trees, and compiled a brief history of the town. My vacation interest grew into a record, partly because so many facts of the early life and thoughts of old New England are still unrecorded and are now so fast passing beyond the reach of record, with the lamented decay of these little old towns, partly because despite certain evils this life at its best appears to me to have constituted about the best educational environment for boys at a certain
1 Reprinted from Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society, N.s, Vol. VII, pp. 107-128, 1891.
stage of their development ever realized in history, combining physical, industrial, technical with civil and religious elements in wise proportions and pedagogic objectivity. Again, this mode of life is the one and the only one that represents the ideal basis of a state of citizen voters as contemplated by the framers of our institutions. Finally, it is more and more refreshing in our age, and especially in the vacation mood, to go back to sources, to the fresh primary thoughts, feelings, beliefs, modes of life of simple, homely, genuine men. Our higher anthropology labors to start afresh from the common vulgar standpoint as Socrates did, from what Maurice calls the Ethos and Grote the Nomos of common people, and of a just preceding and a vanishing type of civilization, to be warmed with its experience and saturated with its local color.
I have freely eked out the boyish memory of those five years with that of older persons, but everything that follows was in Ashfield within the memory of people living there a few years ago. Time allows me to present here but 'a small part of the entire record, to sample here and there, and to show a few obvious lessons.
I begin with winter, when men's industries were most diversified, and were largely in wood. Lumber, or timber, trees were chopped down and cut by two men working a crosscut saw, which was always getting stuck fast, in a pinch which took the set out of it, unless the whole trunk was pried up by skids. Sometimes the fallen trees were cut into logs, snaked together, and piled with the aid of cant hooks, to be drawn across the frozen pond to the sawmill for some contemplated building, or, if of spruce, of straight grain and few knots, or of good rift, they were cut in bolts, or cross sections, of fifteen inches long, which was the legal length for shingles. These were taken home in a pung, split with beetle and wedge, and then with a frow, and finished off with a drawshave on a shaving horse, itself homemade. These rive shingles were thought far more durable than those cut into shape by the buzz saw, which does not follow the grain. To be of prime quality these must be made of heart and not sap wood, nor of second-growth trees. The shavings were in wide demand for kindling fires. Ax helves, too, were sawed, split, hewed, whittled, and scraped into shape with bits of broken glass, and the forms peculiar to each local maker were as characteristic as the style of painter or poet, and were widely known, compared, and criticized. Butter paddles were commonly made of red cherry, while sugar lap paddles were made by merely barking whistlewood or bass and whittling down one end for a handle. Mauls and beetles were made of ash knots, oxbows of walnut, held in shape till seasoned by withes of yellow birch, from which also birch brushes and brooms were manufactured on winter evenings by stripping down seams of wood in the green. There were salt mortars and pig troughs made from solid logs with tools hardly more effective than those the Indian uses for his dugout. Flails for next year's threshing; cheese hoops and cheese ladders; bread troughs, and yokes for hogs and sheep, and pokes for jumping cattle, horses and unruly geese, and stanchions for cows. Some took this season for cutting next summer's bean and hop poles, pea bush, cart and sled stakes, with an eye always out for a straight clean whipstock or fish pole. Repairs were made during this season, and a new cat hole beside the door, with a laterally working drop lid, which the cat operated with ease, was made • one winter. New sled neaps, and fingers for the grain cradle, handles for shovels and dung forks, pitchforks, spades, spuds, . . hoes, and, a little earlier, for rakes; scythes and brooms were homemade, and machines and men of special trades were so far uncalled for. Nearly all these forms of domestic woodwork I saw, and even helped in as a boy of ten might, or imitated them in play in those thrice-happy days ; while in elder popguns, with a ringing report, that were almost dangerous indoors ; hemlock bows and arrows, or crossbows with arrowheads run on with melted lead (for which every scrap of lead pipe or antique pewter dish was in great demand), often fatal for very small game; box and figure-4 traps for rats and squirrels; windmills; weathervanes in the form of fish, roosters, or even ships; an actual sawmill that went in the brook, and cut planks with Marino and black and white Carter potatoes for logs; and many whittled tools, toys, and ornamental forms and puppets; in making all these and many more I even became in a short time a fairly average expert as compared with other boys, at least so I then thought. How much all this has served me since, in the laboratory, in daily life, and even in the study, it would be hard to estimate.
The home industry in woolen is a good instance of one which survives in occasional families to this day. Sheep, as I remember, could thrive on the poorest hay or oats, the leavings of the neat cattle. In summer they could eat brakes and polypods, if not even hardhack and tansy, and would browse down berry briers and underbrush, while their teeth cut the grass so close that cows could hardly survive in the same pasture with them. The spring lambs were raised in the shed by hand, sometimes as cossets by the children, who often derived their first savings there from. Sheep-washing day was a gala day, when, if at no other time, liquor was used against exposure; and shearing, which came a week or two later, was hardly less interesting. A good shearer, who had done his twenty-five * head a day, commanded good wages, — seventy-five cents or a dollar a day; while the boys must pull the dead sheep, even,, though they were only found after being some weeks defunct. ■ Fleeces for home use were looked over, all burrs and shives picked out, and they were then oiled with poor lard. “Bees " were often held to do this. Carding early became specialized, and carders were in every town, but the implements were in each family, some members of which could not only card but could even use the fine, long-toothed worsted combs in an emergency. The rolls were spun at home, novices doing the woof or filling, and the older girls the warp, which must be of better quality. It was taken from the spindle sometimes on a niddy-noddy held in the hand, at two rounds per yard, but more commonly on a reel, in rounds of two yards each. Every forty rounds was signalized on a reel by the snap of a wooden spring or the fall of a hammer, and constituted a knot, four, five, seven, or ten of which (in different families and for different purposes) constituted a skein and twenty knots made a run. Four seven-knotted skeins of filling or six of warp was a day's work, though now, I am told, few young women can accomplish so much without excessive fatigue. The yarn, doubled if for stocking, after being washed clean of grease, next went to the great dye tub in the chimney corner. Butternut bark for everyday suits, indigo for Sunday suits, and madder for shirting was the rule. There were also fancy dyes and fancy dyeing, braiding, binding tightly or twisting in a white thread to get the favorite hit or miss, or pepperand-salt effect, a now almost incredible ingenuity in making up figures and fancy color effects for loom patterns in girls' dresses. Next the filling was quilled and the warp spooled, the former ready for the shuttle and the latter for the warping bars (both of these latter being often homemade), to which it goes from the scam or spool frame. In warping, the leese must be taken with care, for if the order of the threads is lost they cannot be properly thumbed through the harnesses and hooked through the reed, and are good for nothing but to make into clotheslines and the piece is lost. A raddle also acts in keeping the warp disentangled and of proper width before the lathe and tenters can hold it. Sometimes blue and white shirt-formed frock cloth was woven, sometimes kerseys and plaid dress patterns of many colors, or woolen sheets and even woolen pillowcases, which were as warm and heavy, although coarser, than those the olfactorial zoologist, Jager, advises and sells to his followers. The complication of harnesses and treadles required to weave some of the more complicated carpet, and especially coverlid, patterns evinced great ingenuity and long study, and is probably now, although the combinations were carefully written down, in most communities a forever lost art. On coming from the loom the cloth was wet for shrinkage and the nap picked up with cards of home-grown teasels and sheared smooth on one side, although in those days this process had already gone to the local fuller. Coarse yarn was also spun from taglocks, which were, of course, home carded. Knitting was easy, pretty, visiting work. Girls earned from two to three York shillings a pair for men's stockings, paid in trade from the store, which put out such work if desired. Shag mittens were knit from thrums or the left-over ends of warp. Nubias and sontags were knit with large wooden needles, and men's gloves, tidies, and clock stockings with ornamental openwork in the sides were knit with one hook, and the tape loom, held between the knees, was kept going evenings.
Domestic flax industry still lingers in a few families. The seed was sown broadcast and grew till the bolls were ripe, when it was pulled and laid in rows by the boys and whipped, in a few days, to get the seed for meal. After lying out of doors for some weeks till the shives were rotten, it was put through the process of breaking on the ponderous flax-brake. It was then swingled, hatcheled, and finally hanked. It was then wound on the distaff made of a young spruce top, and drawn out for spinning. Grasshopper years, when the fiber was short, this was hard, and though ticking, meal bags, and scratchy tow shirts could be made, finer linen products were impossible. After weaving it must be bleached in a good quality of air.
However it was with adults, child life was full of amusements. Children were numerous in every neighborhood, and though they were each required to be useful, they were in early years left much to themselves and were at home in every house, barn, or shed within a mile or more. There was, of course, coasting, skating, swimming, goal, fox and hounds, and snowballing, with choosing of sides, lasting for a whole school term, with elaborate forts; cart wheel and men o' morn's in the snow; collar and elbow, or square-hold wrestling, with its many different trips, locks, and play-ups, — side and back hold being unscientific ; round ball; two and four old cat, with soft yarn balls thrown at the runner. The older " girl-boys " spent the hour's nooning in the schoolhouse and either paired off for small games or talks, or played " Here we stand all round this ring," "Needle's eye," " Kitty corners," or "Who's got the button." As in the age of Shakespeare the queen's maids of honor played tag, so here all children and even adults often played children's games with gusto. In the family, as they gathered about the stove, or sometimes about the grand old fireplace in the back kitchen, with its backlog, crane, pothooks, and trammels, there were stories of the old fort, of bears, wild cats, Indians and Bloody Brook, and other probably unprinted tales perhaps many generations old. There were some who could sing old English ballads that had come down by tradition, and which had never been in print in America, and more who could sing a comic song or pathetic negro melody. Lord Lovel, Irving, Bunyan, The Youths Companion, and many Sundayschool books were read aloud. A pair of skates was earned by a boy friend one winter by reading the entire Bible through, and another bought an accordion with money earned by braiding for the women the plain sides of palm-leaf hats where no splicing was needed, at a cent per side. All families allowed the game of fox and geese, a few permitted checkers, and one, backgammon, which was generally thought to be almost
gambling; dominoes were barely tolerated, but riddles, rebuses, and charades were in high favor by old and young, and were published in all the local weekly papers. It was here that I learned that card playing, which I had often seen before but did not much understand nor care for, was very wrong, and a boy friend was taught old sledge and euchre up over the horse sheds on Sundays between services by an older son of the officiating minister. There were "hull gull," cat's cradle with two series of changes, string and knot puzzles, odd and even, and most of the games and many more than those in Mr. Newell's charming and largely original book entitled, The Games and Songs of American Children, connecting many of them conclusively with the sports and pastimes of the English people in the merry olden time of Brand. One maiden lady, whom we all loved, could spell "the abominable bumblebee with his head cut off " in an inverse house-that-Jack-built fashion, with a most side-splitting effect. There was the charming story of the big, little, and middle-sized bear, and I recall the thrill when at the turn of the story, " the dog began to worry the cat, the cat began to kill the rat, the rat began to eat the corn," etc. There were beechnutting and chestnutting parties, raisings, and days set apart for all the men in the district being warned out by the surveyor to gather and work on the roads with teams. Work was easy, as it was for the town, and stories were plenty. There were huskings, with cider and pumpkin pie, and games on the barn floor when it was cleared of corn; paring bees, with bobbing, swinging a whole paring thrice around the head, thence to fall on the floor in the form of the fancied initial of some person of the other sex ; and counting seeds to the familiar doggerel, " one I love, two I love, three I love I say, four I love with all my heart, and five I cast away, etc." Here the apples were quartered and strung, and hung in festoons to dry all over the kitchen. There were quilting bees for girls about to marry, where the then came in the evening and partook of the new species of rice popcorn, served in two large milk pans, with perhaps the most delicious homemade spruce and wintergreen beer. Spelling schools in which the parents took part, and where the champion spellers of rural districts, after exhausting several spelling books, agreed to spell each other down on an abridged Worcester's dictionary. There were weekly evening singing schools in winter, and several of us taught ourselves or each other to play the accordion and fiddle by rote, to dance single and double shuffle on a board and the steps of waltz, polka, and schottische. Even square dances were attempted to our own music, if we could get a " caller-off." This latter was here a stolen sweet, as was the furtive reading of the thrilling tales of the New York Ledger, especially those of Sylvanus Cobb, sets of which were smuggled around among the boys and read after retiring, or in sheep shed, haymow, or attic on rainy days. I must not forget the rage for trapping and hunting, by which we learned much of the habits of crows, hawks, muskrats, woodchucks, squirrels, partridges, and even foxes, and which made us acquainted with wide areas of territory. In a regular squirrel hunt, organized by choosing sides, and a dinner to the victors paid for by the vanquished party, as determined by counting tails, boys of my age were not old enough to participate. We made collections, however, for whole seasons, of heads, legs, wings, and tails, as well as of woods, leaves, flowers, stones, bugs, butterflies, etc.
The dull days in haying time brought another sort of education. The men of the vicinity strolled together in a shed, and, sitting on tool bench, grindstone, manger, wagons, chopping blocks, and hog spouts, discussed crop prices, ditching, walling, salting cattle, finding springs with witch-hazel, taxes, the preaching, the next selectmen, fence viewer, constable, and, I suppose a little earlier, wardens, leather sealers, deer reeves, surveyors of shingles and clapboards and of wheat, field drivers, … want more?
Sunday, July 18, 2010
An article in a 1906 Psycholgy journal:
Boy's Life in a Massachusetts Country Town ... Just what I need for background to a story! And I was looking for a comment on a book ... how nice.
Friday, July 16, 2010
I see a wounded man. He isn’t physically wounded, but mentally so. He’s taken the house across the street. This is in America, but he is not American. He is English, I think. He wants to smoke. I don’t want to let him smoke, but he persists in that filthy habit. I may have to relent and let him.
The two houses are on a hill. I know this hill, but as I see it now, it is different from the place I knew. The original of this is desolate, arid. Wild garlic grows there and stunted sage, but not much else. In my story-vision, the hill is green, verdant, and pregnant with forest sounds and smells.
Because the houses are on a hill, the “man’s house” is lower than the “small one’s” house. To get to street level, he must climb stairs. They’re granite, worn in the center by many feet. Too many feet have trod on the steps; they’re out of sync with their location. They’re ancient steps, not part of but in the time of this story. This is not something Mr. Man is aware of; to him they’re just his path to the roadway.
The small one is dressed by her people in frilly dresses, pretty things, expensive and well made. She never wears shoes, though she wears stockings. Most days, after her caretakers turn to other duties, she quietly slips them off and primly folds them, wiggling her toes in the freedom. It is her manner of dress that first told me what the “when” was that I was seeing. This is the late 1870’s. This is on the East Coast of the United States. Connecticut persistently intrudes into the story, and I don’t know why. The forest I see would not be in Connecticut. But, since some of this is fiction, Connecticut may get forested areas it never had. We’ll see.
The man is, I think, suffering from conscience issues. He’s changed his view of life and responsibility. He believes new things, holds ideas his friends and family reject. He has become a man of peace in a warrior dominated age. Yet, his decisions trouble him for reasons clear enough to me, but not to him.
The story each tells me is about how this man interacts with the small one on the bench. The small one is witch-girl to an obnoxious pig-eyed boy from down the hill. There is another boy. And this boy seldom talks to “small one” but he is her friend. It takes a while for Mr. Man (He hasn’t told me his real name yet) to see this.
Things happen. The pig-eyed boy produces the first whispered conversation between Man and Little. It is an eye opening experience and disquieting to Man.
Man takes to wandering the forest near their houses. It’s really new forest; parts of it were cleared in the colonial era. The remains of a farm are out there: red brick foundations, now over grown with trees; a rock wall covered in vine and bramble.
A new character shows up. Mr. Man watches from his second story balcony. The new character is a young man. I think he’s 27. He looks twenty-seven to me. He’s tall, thin, walks and stands as if he’s used to parade stance. His presence produces considerable reaction from Little One. There are hugs and kisses to cheeks and the rapid opening of a wrapped present. (I’ll not tell you what that is.)
Little one’s caretakers find the youngish man. They’re as excited to see him as the Little One is. There are more hugs, and they go inside.
Mr. Man watches this, as I said. The word “soldier” crosses his mind. He frowns. He had been a soldier once.
There is a confused bit next. Everyone tells me a different story, and I’m not sorting it out well. I think each sees what happens next in a different light. There is no absolute truth in any of their accounts, only point of view, a way of understanding that none completely shares with the other.
Mr. Man’s walks into the forest grow longer. They take him into places where I’ve been. These are places that can exist anywhere. They never look exactly the same, but they are the exact same places.
If you learn to hear the forest; if you learn to smell the forest, or the deserted land, or that space in the upstairs closet, you know these areas for what they are. They’re normal places made unclean by those who live in or cross them. Some are places where great evil and considerable good met, and the good did not triumph then. Both good and wickedness are persistent, implacable. One must yield to the other, but they seldom surrender.
And that is all they’ve told me. Except I know there is a stone in the forest. I’ve seen it covering a grave in California; I’ve seen it as an alter half buried in a hedge row in France, and I’ve seen its sister in the jungles of Yucatan.
I wish this story would go away. I haven’t got time to write it. I have more important things to write. And I’ve got my own wars to fight and nightmares to vanquish. These people will not leave me alone. Mr. Man in his sorrow and fear is pitiful. Small One is gentle. I know her, you see. We’re related in blood and attitude. But she’s as persistent as her neighbor across the street.
The youngish man I do not know. He is new to me, and he is quiet. I don’t hear his story. I only see it unfold. I wish I could take him to Starbucks and tell him things. He seems not to know just how deeply he’s fallen into a strange and sometimes difficult way of life. Love does funny things. It blinds us or opens our eyes. Sometimes it does both. He’s in love. Poor blessed man.
I’m thinking of closing this blog. I invest more time in it than I have. And few read it. I appreciate the regular readers I have. But there are no signs of real interest except for the rare comment. I should never have closed it when I started to decline. When I was a regular on Miss Snark’s blog, I had a considerable following. They all went away when I shut down the blog. It’s my fault of course. I can’t expect them to find me again after all the time that has passed.
And some days – many days – I don’t write anything. All I have to say on those days exposes misery. I don’t need to share misery. Those are dark days and, unfortunately, their number increases. I fill my blog with photos that please me or make me think or that simply interest me.
I talked to my favorite cousin this morning. We could pass as sisters. We look enough alike. Her German accent and my neutral American accent reveal that we are not. I miss her. I wish she’d move closer or that I could go see her.
It’s only vaguely related to what I’ve said before, finding a place here because of my comment on accents. I had an odd experience in the public library. One of the children’s librarians asked me to repeat something I said to one of my girls. I gave her a funny look but did as she wished. She nodded and said, “You speak English as it should be spoken.” I’m honestly not aware of speaking differently than most people who live here. I do not know what she heard in my voice. But it was an interesting comment, leaving me puzzled over what people hear in other’s voices.
One last thing. I've been reading a novel that is both distrubing and hard to put down. You've probably read books that made you feel uncomfortable and yet you could not simply abandon the story. This is one of those. I will comment more about it in a few days, maybe. ... But tell me, what books or book did you find both disturbing and addictive?
Thursday, July 15, 2010
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
We found an adze blade made of the rough grain basalt common to the river and a native knife blade made of agatized wood. It's dark, not as translucent as they sometimes are, but nice anyway.
We found two trade goods oval fish weights and one impromptu fish weight made of sheet lead. I found a piece of wrought iron handle. It's a design motif similar to Federal period work. It could be that old. It'll take an expert to tell. And then there's about an eighth of a badge. There's not enough to tell was service it's from. The shape is similar to the old style U. S. Marshall badge, but the metal seems wrong. Any plating is long gone from exposure to acid soil and river water.
It was a fun, if sweaty walk. Good day even if I hurt so badly I could scream.
Friday, July 09, 2010
It’s a solid slap to our collective face. How many ways can you prove something wrong and still have it be accepted as historical truth?
What we have is the publishing arm of a certain religion unwilling to correct fifty year old bad research … and then adding to it by more recent research that has shoved them in the wrong direction. The “truth” behind both issues is out there, and it’s easy to find.
Are you so in love with your own mythology that you want to ignore the evidence? How is maintaining a myth created by very poor research back in the late 1950’s helpful to you? Or to anyone?
Shame on you!
Thursday, July 08, 2010
There are modern reprints. I try to get originals when I can. There is one original for sale at a reasonable price, but it’s no better than this copy.
I’m not making this sound very exciting, am I? It’s always exciting to me when I acquire something like this. The conservation problems drive me a bit crazy. The best I can do is what I usually do. It will go into an archive sleeve for protection and find its place in one of my many three ring binders of similar archival material. ….
My oldest pamphlet is from 1708. I have later reprints of earlier tracts, but the oldest first printing is a booklet by a non-conformist Baptist from that year. I haven’t a clue what will happen to all this stuff when I die. Today, I don’t really care. I’m just happy to have this bit of history.
Wednesday, July 07, 2010
"They go to paradise ... as the way is to Faye." - Rabelais
“The Demon of Matrimonial Unhappiness.”
“He was another Fazio, but he buried not well and was found out sooner.”
“The beast was Martin Drunk, but seemed to have endless capacity for more.”
“We were well fed with a rumping dozen.”
“It may not be so in the Gospel according to Podsnappery … but it has been the truth since the foundations of the universe were laid.” – Dickens: Our Mutual Friend.
"Mother Carey's Chickens"
Tuesday, July 06, 2010
Monday, July 05, 2010
Hiram Corson: The Voice and Spiritual Education. 1896.
Marietta Holley: Around the World with Josiah Allen's Wife, 1905.
Jackson Gregory: The Everlasting Whisper, Grosset Edition, 1922.
Laura Dent Crane: The Automobile Girls in the Berkshires, 1910.
J. A. MacCollouch: Celtic Mythology.
Bork: Tempting of America, signed copy.
okay .... so you can cheat. ...
“Aye, sir. Pull out a cable’s length!”
A servant of Cacodaemon if there ever was one.
If the four living Calculators where here, we could do no better.”
Hint: Jedediah Buxton was one.
“He is esquire to a knight-errant, donzel to the damsels.” – Butler
A table of Entremets and Kickshaws! How delightful!
Where? To paradise, though the way is Faye.
Another such Lusus Naturae and I am turning back!
Saturday, July 03, 2010
Friday, July 02, 2010
I’ve spent most of today in bed, but now – in the late afternoon – I’m feeling better and working. My desk faces a window. A flowering Dogwood is the primary view. It needs to be pruned. Maybe tomorrow, if I feel well, I’ll do that.
I hear more than I see. I hear children shouting. They’re not mine. Mine have all trooped off to one of their aunt’s houses for games, junk food, and a day in her back yard. A small stream skirts her back yard. It’s an interesting, narrow, slowly flowing ribbon. Unless the water has become turbulent from an upstream release, you can always see the bottom. Little water-skaters, “water hoppers” we called them when I was little, slide along the water, diving for some bit of jetsam to eat. It’s a nice place to be. If I feel well enough, I’ll go out there later. If not, I’ll wish them fun and go back to bed.
I’m trying to trace down a small magazine published in Oakland in the 1880’s. It’s been a frustrating process. Apparently no intact copies exist. All that remains is the publisher’s scrapbook with clippings from the original. Gaining access is difficult, but it’s a low priority, and I may content myself with what I already know. There are two articles in history journals that consider the publisher. I will send for those via interlibrary loan. Unless this man proves more important to my research than he now seems, I’ll leave it at that.
Original research costs money. Too much money. We’re applying for a grant later this year. Grants in aid are harder to get than they used to be. My writing partner and I are debating our needs. I want to ask for twenty-five thousand dollars. I’d be happy with a fifth of that. Anything that relieves the financial strain would be nice.
To give you an idea … We’re sending off for a 78 page booklet. The university library that owns it will not copy for researchers unless they go through interlibrary loan. That means double fees. You pay the requesting library and you pay the university. Sucks lemons, huh? So … there is an initial fee of 15.00 to the local library, a 25.00 initial fee to the university and then twenty cents per page. You also pay postage at a higher rate than their true expense. That makes about 30 pages of photo copy very, very expensive.
It seems as if most libraries, especially academic libraries, put up barriers to research. Yes, yes, I know they have huge expenses of their own. … We all should live on a budget, right? Including them. …
I’ve been bouncing a short story around in my head. It just doesn’t go anywhere. I see a man, new to a neighborhood. He’s a nice guy, I think, and curious about his surroundings. I see a little girl, maybe she’s seven. He thinks something’s wrong with her. An elderly couple mind her, escorting her out in the late forenoon and finding her a place on a bench or on the steps. She says nothing most days; she just sits and occasionally she watches. … Nice Man (no name for him yet) tries to engage her attention, and fails. … What is this child? Who is this child …? I have dozens of ideas. None of them make me happy. But I SEE her. She whispers to me, but I do not hear her story distinctly.
There is evil afoot in the world, but not all evil is wickedness.