...to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free....

23 November, 2011

thoughts of thanksgiving: Wendell Berry

“Eating with the fullest pleasure - pleasure, that is, that does not depend on ignorance - is perhaps the profoundest enactment of our connection with the world. In this pleasure we experience our dependence and our gratitude, for we are living in a mystery, from creatures we did not make and powers we cannot comprehend.”
― Wendell Berry

“The world is so full and abundant it is like a pregnant woman carrying a child in one arm and leading another by the hand. Every puddle in the lane is ringed with sipping butterflies that fly up in flutter when you walk past in the late morning on your way to get the mail.”
― Wendell Berry, from  Hannah Coulter

“Love is what carries you, for it is always there, even in the dark, or most in the dark, but shining out at times like gold stitches in a piece of embroidery. ”
― Wendell Berry, from  Hannah Coulter

“You mustn’t wish for another life. You mustn’t want to be somebody else. What you must do is this:
“Rejoice evermore.
Pray without ceasing.
In everything give thanks.”
I am not all the way capable of so much, but those are the right instructions.”
― Wendell Berry,  from  Hannah Coulter

“Perhaps all the good that ever has come here has come because people prayed it into the world.”
― Wendell Berry,  from  Jayber Crow

“...And we pray, not for new
earth or heaven, but to be quiet
in heart, and in eye clear.
What we need is here.”
― Wendell Berry

20 November, 2011


Any time of year, I love to go to Evergreen Cemetery,
a "garden cemetery" located in the Deering section
of Portland Maine.

"Garden cemeteries", as they are called,
began to be created in the first half of the eighteenth century.
Founders and designers of these cemeteries 
shifted from the idea that graveyards should be
solemn places where the dead rested, 
often near a church, or on the property
of the deceased.

The founders' revolutionary idea
was that the dead should be laid to rest
in places of tranquility and beauty,
and that cemeteries should also be places for the living,
with carriage paths, walkways, large and stately trees,
ornamented with sculptured monuments and natural plantings.

The first cemetery of this sort, I believe,
is the Mt. Auburn Cemetery in 
Cambridge, MA, which was founded in 1831.
It is a spectacular place of 175 acres
a short distance from Cambridge center.

Evergreen Cemetery, undoubtedly inspired by 
Mt. Auburn in Cambridge,
was established in 1854.  It is a 239 acre parcel,
resting place for the deceased,
sanctuary for the living,
and refuge for many small wild animals.
Here you find gardens, footpaths, ponds and rolling terrain.
The birds are amazing here.
The trees are majestic.

Only a part of the Evergreen cemetery is devoted to graves.
There are also extensive woodlands and 
walking paths adjacent to the burial grounds.

What draws me to this place is its natural beauty.

Soon, however, I am seduced by the stories
the gravestones suggest.
As is true also at Mt. Auburn,
you can see the graves of many locally important people here.

Mostly, though, I think about the women--the wives of sea captains,
soldiers lost in battle,
enterprising businessmen who helped to 
establish the city commercially and culturally.

I am constantly doing math when I am at Evergreen:
How old was she when she died?
Did she die in childbirth?  Did she leave children behind?
Or, alternately, how many children died in this family?
What were their ages, and how many in the space of too few years?
How did their parents stand it?
How many other children did this couple have who survived to adulthood?

Here are some examples.

This is Susie Hanson.  She died when she was 31.

Here is Warren Hanson, her husband.
He died the next year at 31 years and 2 months.
Not even a full year later.

...and look. 
Here are two of their children, who died when they were small.
Their gravestones are tiny. 

Did the mother Susie die of grief, or illness, or another childbirth?
Did Warren die of grief less than a year later?
Were there other children??

There are few family plots that don't have tiny gravestones
for lost children.
These two below are marked:  "Little Harry" and "Little Bimmy."

Often you will find a family plot
where there is one husband and more than one wife.
...and often little children as well.

You can imagine the stories--men finding second wives soon
to help to tend their children.
Women and babies dying in the same year.
Childbirth deaths?  Illnesses that today we treat with antibiotics,
or prevent with vaccines?

What was life like for these second (third) wives--
raising other women's children as well as their own?
Was there love between husband and wife,
or were there marriages of convenience
for one, and not the other?

Miranda lived for six years,
Ivory for one.
William lived for one year,
Cyrus for six.
(The last three died within three years.)
What was this like for Charles and Miranda the mother?
How many other children survived?

Oh, the stories.

There is also an eerie beauty in these stones and borders.  
Not only were they meticulously carved and sculpted,
but nature has mottled them as well.
At times, the weather and the lichen have obscured their names and dates.

And what remains is hauntingly lovely.

There is one place I visit every time.
My favorite plot, it is way in the back, just up from the pond.

Come closer.

The largest stone in the back reads:

"In Memoriam
Home for Aged Women"

Way to the right, sheltered by a huge Norway Spruce,
is the stone below.

Look at the dates.
She is 'Mother"--did she found the home?
What inspired her?
Did she work there all her adult life?
Was the home her life?
Did she die there?

If Abigail was "Mother", then here are her "children":

These women below were born after Abigail died.
Yet the Home was there for them, as well.
Who ran it after Abigail?
Was it a good place to live?
Someone cared enough to put up these stones.
Who was that??

How did women come to live in the Home?
They lived very long lives--
did they outlive all their family members?

What stories they could tell.

How many questions I would ask them if I could.

18 November, 2011

man meets turkey

I just watched a most wonderful video online 

The photos I post today came from this video,
which is an episode of 
Public Broadcasting System's show Nature.

I think every single one of you who 
peek at this blog will LOVE it.

You might be able to see it this week
on the "big screen"  (your tv),
whenever your local station airs Nature.
You can also watch it on your computer by 
clicking on the link above.
Include your kids.  Include all the nature lovers you know.
It is heartwarming and full of inspiration.

Years ago, a wildlife writer named Joe Hutto wrote the book
My Life as a Turkey
recording his experience of incubating
a dish full of wild turkey eggs given to him
by a friend.

He made turkey noises at the eggs while they were incubating,
and the eggs spoke back.

When 16 eggs hatched,
he found he was committed to raising them
as a turkey mom would.

This video is a re-inactment of Hutto's story
by filmmaker David Allen,
"starring" a different clutch of turkeys
and the wildlife photographer and actor Jeff Palmer playing Hutto.

Palmer recites Hutto's words
and the camera follows the turkey family
through over a year of mutual learning
and wonder.  

These photos are all stills from David Allen's
superb cinematography.
The lessons the turkeys learn during the year and a half
pale in comparison to the lessons learned by 
the human "turkey mom".

Five stars.  Two thumbs up.
Don't miss it!

13 November, 2011

more dubbin' around

Hello, good people.
I'm sitting here by the fire,
looking at photos I took last summer on Monhegan.

The one below was a good idea, but the light was awful 
and it kind of went flat.

I've been trying to learn Photoshop by
trying this, then trying that...
(and trying as well to remember what it is I just did.)

So I took it to P-shop.

After trying a number of things,
some of which I cancelled,
some of which I saved, here's what it became.

(I even used the lasoo tool!)

Then I 'distorted' it by applying some 'glass'....  

Dubbin' around.  Another local occupation!

12 November, 2011

local occupation

Woody Guthrie used to say of himself
that he was a 'traveling man'--
a necessary part of a large community, or nation,

whose job it was to go out in the world
and bring back to those who couldn't be there,
the news of what was going on with 
all sorts of people.

This is my homage to Woody.

Lincoln Park, Portland Maine
downtown Brunswick Maine.