Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Life In Letters’ Category

IMG_4072 cutout

Lincoln’s Birthday, Indie bookstore window photographed with Canon Powershot & edited with PhotoShop Elements, Wayzata, Minnesota, February 16th, 2009, photo © 2009-2012 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


A few years ago, Liz and I went to see Ronald C. White, Jr. at the Bookcase of Wayzata, an independent bookstore on Lake Minnetonka. He was there to discuss his new book, A. Lincoln: A Biography. I had heard him interviewed earlier in the morning on MPR; Liz and I decided to be spontaneous and go hear him speak. The little Indie bookstore was packed.

White talked about how Lincoln loved words. And because of that, his words were like poetry. White wrote his book for those who might be reading a Lincoln biography for the first time, or to introduce Lincoln to a younger generation. He also spoke about how Obama started to shine a light on Lincoln, and how he (White) was booked for speaking engagements in Mississippi and Alabama, and also in Europe where many think Abe Lincoln personifies the American Dream.

More than 16,000 books have been written about Abraham Lincoln. Yet not all of his story has been told. At the end of the Civil War, between March and April 1865, Lincoln went to Northern Virginia to meet with his generals. He shook hands with thousands of Union soldiers and visited the former Confederate capital in Richmond, Virginia. But little is known about the last week of his life before his assassination on April 14, 1865.

Historian Noah Andre Trudeau thinks that in their rush to get to Ford’s Theater, historians have overlooked this important part of Lincoln’s life. After the Civil War, the President of the United States met Generals Grant and Sherman in Virginia to talk about the surrender of the South and its impact on our country. Lincoln visited Richmond, then considered enemy territory, as an observer. He was looking for ways a torn nation could begin to heal.

Having spent my childhood in the South, and most of my adult years in the North, I am compelled to follow literature about the Civil War. One of my ancestors was a courier for Robert E. Lee. When we moved to the North, one of the first places we visited was the Gettysburg battlefield. I am fascinated by the work of photographer Timothy H. O’Sullivan who took this photo, one half of a stereo view of Alfred R. Waud, artist of Harper’s Weekly, while he sketched on the battlefield near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania in July of 1863. (See links below for the rest of the Atlantic series on photographs of the Civil War.)

Last year marked the 150th anniversary of the start of the American Civil War. Trudeau is known for uncovering its secrets. His previous books, Bloody Roads South and Gettysburg, have unveiled information about General William Tecumseh Sherman’s march to the sea in 1864, and the legacy of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Now, in preparation for the book about a largely unexamined period of President Abraham Lincoln’s life, Trudeau is in search of witnesses.

He is seeking diary entries, letters or stories of people who encountered Lincoln at the time. During the NPR story, I was surprised to hear several people call in with leads to family scrapbooks and letters relating to Lincoln. (To share information, contact him at lincoln65@earthlink.net.) About his quest for truth, Trudeau states: “My one nightmare is that I’m going to do a very good job of discrediting all the good stories.” I think it’s quite the contrary. The more stories revealed, the closer we are to weaving together the textured layers of the past, and unraveling the sometimes painful chapters in American history.


Resources:

Historian Seeks Artifacts From Lincoln’s Last Days : NPR Talk Of The Nation (LINK)

A. Lincoln: A Biography by Ronald C. White, Jr. at his Official Website (LINK)

Abraham Lincoln and Slavery | Minnesota Public Radio News (LINK) – historian Eric Foner examines Abraham Lincoln’s complex ideas about slavery and African Americans, casting fresh light on an American icon.

The Civil War, Part 1: The Places, the Atlantic – February 8th, 2012 (LINK) – First installment of amazing b&w photographs of important places in the Civil War. (Some images in the three Series are graphic.)

The Civil War, Part 2: The People, the Atlantic – February 9th, 2012 (LINK) – Second installment of b&w photographs of the Civil War. Includes a photo portrait of Abraham Lincoln taken by photographer Alexander Gardner on February 5, 1865.

Traditionally called “last photograph of Lincoln from life”, this final photo in Lincoln’s last photo session was long thought to have been made on April 10, 1865, but more recent research has indicated the earlier date in February. The crack comes from the original negative, which was broken and discarded back in 1865. The entirety of the American Civil War took place while Lincoln was in office, starting a month after he was elected, and ending just days before his assassination in April of 1865.

The Civil War, Part 3: The Stereographs, the Atlantic – February 10th, 2012 (LINK) – Third installment of the Stereographs of the Civil War with the work of photographer Timothy H. O’Sullivan


-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, February 12th, 2012, birthday of Abraham Lincoln. Related to posts: Abraham Lincoln & Nikki Giovanni (On Poets & Presidents), Presidential Poetics — Elizabeth Alexander, President Barack Obama, Book Talk — Do You Let Yourself Read?

Read Full Post »

MarryMe1dabstext2 sharp

Marry Me Mandala, for Elizabeth on her birthday, hand-drawn mandala photographed with Canon Powershot & edited with PhotoShop Elements, Golden Valley, Minnesota, January 29th, 2012, photo © 2011-2012 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.




On the day you were born,
it's plain to see, the Moon and the Stars
aligned with the Sea—
a wild heart so caring and free
a better Aquarius you could never be!

If beauty rises from the love we carry
I see no reason why we should not marry
let the rest of the world fight over what it all means,
I know our love is everything it seems.

I want to live with you all the days of my life,
through thick and thin, amid hardship and strife,
from deaths and births and the long Dark Night
spring Joy and Art, and a good snowball fight.

Last night when we danced on the studio floor
I felt your love swell inside once more.
In bearing witness, here for all to see,
it's your birthday, Elizabeth, will you marry me?






-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, January 29th, 2012, for Shug

-related to posts: Gratitude Mandala — Giving Thanks

Read Full Post »

DEC SHADE4

Say Goodbye To Tungsten Light, Golden Valley, Minnesota, December 2011, photo © 2011-2012. All rights reserved.


I burn the Christmas lights long after the day has passed. The soft warm glow of tungsten soothes me. I grew up on film photography, old school, and loathed florescent and LED. Say goodbye to tungsten; the last 100 watt bulb rolled off the DEC 2011-12-18 19.40.22assembly line in December 2011. We lost poet Ruth Stone in 2011 and singer-songwriter Phoebe Snow. They leave behind a rich legacy–their poetry. We lost Hope, the world’s most famous black bear, to the long arms of a Minnesota hunting season. Did they choose their lives, or did their lives choose them?

Goodbye December, January awaits. I look forward to the New Year. In setting goals for 2012, I can’t help but think of the things I will leave to 2011. I never heard back from my father, yet I feel glad I wrote the letter. It is one less thing I have to wonder about. Mr. Stripey Pants had surgery on Monday, December 12th. Bone rubbed on bone in his lower jaw when he chewed his food. We tried to be upbeat that morning, saying he was on his way to breakfast at Tiffany’s (the name of his surgeon). A few weeks later he is almost back to normal. The scar tissue that had formed around a puncture wound near a back tooth has been removed; it was not cancerous. I am grateful for good vet care and the resources to pay for it.

Minnesota leaves behind the 86 inches of snow from last Winter, an unfair trade for the tawny grasses and 50 degree days in the Twin Cities last week. I don’t miss the shoveling, but wonder how the Art Shanty Project will take place on Medicine Lake in January. Where is the frozen Minnesota tundra of 2011? I leave behind a broiling sweaty Summer where I did little gardening. The cedars look limp and brown. Fall 2011 was 1323477165415one of the driest on record. Rain, rain, come and play, don’t wait another day. I have grown to miss the rain.

I leave behind a year of no travel, unusual for me. My large extended family lives in Pennsylvania and Georgia, so I often plan vacations around flying back East. I missed visiting with them. In 2011, I attended no out of state writing workshops. I did not take a vacation outside of Minnesota. There was one trip to North Dakota, but not for pleasure (though it had its moments). I leave behind all the angst and sorrow created by the greed and selfishness of others. You sometimes learn the most about people when things go awry. It’s not over yet. The law requires patience, and the resources to carry through over the long haul.

Dear December, there were days you left me nostalgic and somber. But I vow to enter 2012 with optimism and gratitude. Long line for A Christmas Story at Riverview!I will long carry the joy of my brother’s visit to Minnesota the week before Thanksgiving. I carry two healthy cats, Kiev and Mr. Stripey Pants. I carry the love of a caring partner, close friends, and family. I carry excitement at the prospect of celebrating Liz’s birthday in January, and a trip to Wisconsin for a self-propelled writing retreat in February, what used to be the dead of Winter. I leave behind anger, resentment, regret; I release what is no longer helping me be the best person I can be. What people, places or things do you leave behind?

The pantry is stocked. The black-eyed peas soak in the pot, ready to bless the place I call home with good luck and cheer. I am grateful for those who stick with me in times of uncertainty. I am grateful for those who come to the aid of all HOLIDAYsentient beings in this world, not just humans. I am grateful that we do not inhabit this planet alone, that there are ancient burr oaks, Southern live oaks, slithering snakes, hairy spiders, playful black bears and white winter squirrels. I am grateful that the decisions that matter most are not left in the hands of humans.

December, I say goodbye to you tonight with gratitude and anticipation. I am thankful for your rituals. It’s the night before the New Year. What will my yearly practices be? It will be around the last fire of 2011 that I choose goals for 2012. Thank you, December, for having the courage to let go.


-posted on red Ravine, New Year’s Eve, December 31st, 2011

Read Full Post »

LAB 2 2011-06-25 18.29.26 AUTO

Walking The Labyrinth, Droid Snapshots, Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, June 2011, photo © 2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

The July Sun boils. Tomorrow may hit 100 degrees. It’s the heart of Summer in Minnesota, when deep Winter dwellers finally allow themselves to emerge from their cabin cocoons to frolic in the grass and spend intimate time with family and friends. The shadow of the July Thunder Moon will rise at 3:54am on July 1st. This New Moon Partial Solar Eclipse in the watery depths of Cancer offers an opportunity to enhance and transform relationships, and release outdated emotional patterns that might be holding us back. This is especially true of family relationships, since the sign of Cancer is rooted in home and family ties.

The partial eclipse also opposes the expansiveness of the planet Pluto, emphasizing the need for transformation of old patterns and routines. The Midsummer eclipse is a time of healing wounds, and setting intentions that allow us to work with old habits in new ways. There will be surprises that will jolt us awake and leave an opening for the clarity we need to move forward.

Be safe and have a good July 4th Holiday. Venus transits into the sign of Cancer on July 4th, calling out the feminine. Walk a labyrinth. Pay attention to the Sun, Stars, Moon, and Sky. The Earth will love you for it. Here’s an eclipse ritual I found in Llewellyn’s Sabbats Almanac. I thought it might be a good way to dive into the eclipse of a Midsummer night’s dream.



 ∞ Cancer Eclipse Ritual ∞



Think of a particular relationship or issue from the past that has been lingering or holding you back. Write a letter to the person (or people) involved that relays your honest feelings and emotions. Describe how you would like this situation or issue to change and what you need to feel better about it. Then, on the day of the New Moon, go to the ocean or find a stream, lake, or other body of water where you can be relatively private. Read your letter aloud to the spirit of the water and ask this spirit to help guide your message to the right place to allow you to heal, transform, and be free of these feelings that you have been holding on to.



-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, June 30th, 2011, Eve of a New Moon in Cancer Solar Eclipse

-related to posts: ode to a crab — haiku & mandala, Mandala For The 5th Element — The Role Of Ritual In Our Lives, World Labyrinth Day, Winter Solstice — Total Eclipse Of The Moon, winter haiku trilogy, November Frost BlackBerry Moon, Winding Down — July 4th Mandalas, Squaring The Circle — July Mandalas (Chakras & Color), The Shape Of July — Out Of Darkness Comes Light, Here’s To Rain On The 4th Of July

Read Full Post »

Carlsbad Cavern f autoPS

On The Trail In The Big Room, Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico, mailed in 1947 from Whites City, New Mexico, vintage postcard found in Monticello, Minnesota, March 2011, Colortone © Curt Teich & Co., photo scan © 2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Jim White, the discoverer and explorer of Carlsbad Caverns has his experiences written up in a book of thirty-two pages with 30 illustrations, of which 16 subjects are in beautiful colors, and a wonderful colored cover entitled: Jim White’s Own Story.” Be sure and read these thrilling experiences of a lone cowboy three days under the world in Carlsbad Caverns.”


Before Ione wandered through the Joshua Trees & Desert Sands of California, she went spelunking deep in the underground caves of Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico. She would have accessed the park’s only entrance road, New Mexico Highway 7, by turning north off of US Hwy 62/180 at Whites City, New Mexico – which is 16 miles southwest of Carlsbad, NM and 150 miles northeast of El Paso, Texas.

The scenic entrance road stretches 7 miles from the park gate at Whites City (formerly the entrance to Walnut Canyon) to the Visitor Center and cavern entrance (which explains why the card is postmarked Whites City). To make it even more confusing, the address for the park’s Visitor Center is 727 National Parks Highway, Carlsbad, NM, even though it’s located 23 miles from the actual town.


Carlsbad Cavern b

Carlsbad Caverns – Jan 23 1947, Whites City, New Mexico, vintage postcard found in Monticello, Minnesota, March 2011, Colortone © Curt Teich & Co., photo scan © 2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Carlsbad, N.M.

Here we are at the Caverns. You can’t imagine what they are. The most desolate country around here. All well. Everything going fine.

Ione.


Ione would have traveled 1300 miles from Dover, Minnesota to Carlsbad Caverns a year before the new visitor center was built, and one year after Jim White died in Carlsbad, on April 26, 1946 at the age of 63. Did you know April 16th – 24th is National Park week? What is your favorite national park? If you took a visit to Carlsbad Caverns you would find:

  • 117 (known) caves formed when sulfuric acid dissolved the surrounding limestone
  • During the Summer, the caves are home to 400,000 Brazilian (more commonly called Mexican) free-tail bats [NOTE: To learn more about bats, visit Bats, Beautiful Bats! a piece about bat evangelist Michelle McCaulley who spreads the truth about the benefits of bats and other wildlife. Michelle runs the Rio Grande Basin Bat Project, which was created by her late father, Jim McCaulley.]
  • Carlsbad Cavern is only one of over 300 limestone caves in a fossil reef laid down by an inland sea 250 to 280 million years ago. The limestone rock that holds Carlsbad Cavern is full of ocean fossil plants and animals from a time before the dinosaurs when the southeastern corner of New Mexico was a coastline similar to the Florida Keys.
  • Twelve to fourteen thousand years ago, American Indians lived in the Guadalupe Mountains; some of their cooking ring sites and pictographs have been found within the present day boundaries of the park.

Jim White began to explore the cave as a teenager in 1898, using a handmade wire ladder to descend 60 feet into the cave. As an early visitor to Carlsbad Cavern, you might have entered the cave via an old guano mining bucket. In 1901, Abijah Long, a fertilizer expert, realized that guano could be used as a nitrate rich fertilizer. The following year, Long filed a claim for guano mining inside the caverns, and he offered Jim White work as a foreman. In about 20 years, an estimated 100,000 tons of guano were taken from Carlsbad Caverns at as much as $90 a ton. It wasn’t until years later, January 6th, 1912, that New Mexico officially became a state. If you had visited the park in 1928, you may have bumped into Amelia Earhart who gave underground park tours that year.

Though there are many legends and myths about which immigrants first discovered “The Bat Cave” (Native Americans knew of the caves thousands of years before), Jim White spent much of his life trying to convince others of the need for preservation. In October 1923, President Calvin Coolidge declared Carlsbad Caverns a national monument, and Jim White became cavern guide. In 1924, geologist Willis T. Lee explored the caves with White and wrote an article for National Geographic attracting national attention. On February 9th, 1937, Jim White began selling his book Jim White’s Own Story (ghostwritten by Frank Ernest Nicholson) in the cave, and his wife Fanny continued to sell it until her death in 1964.


-related to posts:  WRITING TOPIC: ROADSIDE ATTRACTIONS, greetings from artesia haiku, Roswell, NM — Aliens Welcome Here, and for a more modern visit to the caves check out Postcards From Carlsbad Caverns

Read Full Post »

WEB 2 AUTO - IMG00713-20100724-1953.jpg

Web & Dew: The Space Between, BlackBerry Shots, July 2010, photo © 2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Over 90 inches of snow have disappeared from our lawn in temperatures that reach the 50’s by day, drop down to freezing at night. Winter is dying a slow death. Seasons change, transitions in temperament and landscape. The snowmelt runs into rivers and streams, the salt leaves potholes. But soon, tiny shoots of emerald will erupt through the dank, dead, chestnut grass. Winter must die to usher in Spring.

There is power in recognizing impending death. I remember the year my mother told me that when her time came, she was ready to die. We were visiting the South, walking down the cemetery hill from my grandmother’s grave in Georgia. I burst out crying; she hugged me and held me close. I thought the tears inside would never stop. “Honey, don’t worry,” she said. “I’m ready.”

Frankenbelly 3's Birthday - 321/365 Last year, my brother nearly died, before receiving a liver transplant at the 11th hour. It’s an experience that pulled our family together, one we share with countless others. If a person who loses their spouse is a widow, what’s the name for a child who loses a parent? Or a parent who loses a child? There should be a formal naming. For children, it should not be the word “orphan.” That implies that you never held the person close, lived with or loved your parent. There should be another word.

I think of what it must be like to be the one left behind. When I saw writer Joyce Carol Oates in Minneapolis at Talk of the Stacks last week, I bought her new memoir, A Widow’s Story. Her husband Raymond died unexpectedly late one winter night in 2008; the next morning Joyce was supposed to have gone to the hospital, picked him up, and brought him home to recover. It’s the story of loss, grief, and pain; of giant gift baskets, grieving cats, and mounds of trash; of how no one really understood. Yet in the end, she realized that everyone understood. Because Death is a universal experience. It’s just that we don’t talk about it anymore or know how to incorporate it into our lives.

Porkys Since 1953 There is more to Death than the loss of loved ones. Sometimes whole cultures die, like the Anasazi who inhabited the Four Corners country of southern Utah, southwestern Colorado, northwestern New Mexico, and northern Arizona from about A.D. 200 to A.D. 1300, and then disappeared. Cultural traditions die, too, like Porky’s Drive-In in St. Paul. It was owned by the same family since 1953, and closed its doors last Sunday, April 3rd, 2011. Animals die, and it is certain that we will probably outlive many of our beloved pets (our cat Chaco died a few years ago, June 25th, 2009).

Groups we are in community with have life spans, too. Circles of intimacy change and grow; sometimes we end up leaving people behind. Or they leave us. During one session of a year-long Intensive with Natalie Goldberg, one of the participants was killed in a car crash. The group was stunned. These were people we thought we would sit and write with for an entire year. It was not to be. I remember we chanted the Heart Sutra. I remember finding comfort in the ritual.

Cemetery Fog At Workmens Circle - 70/365 Ah, I feel a heaviness this Spring. But it’s a collective heaviness. Like something is shifting in the Universe. There’s too much going on in the world, too many catastrophes, too many unexpected deaths, too many aging and dying people, too many widows and widowers, for there not to be something going on at the Spiritual level. But that’s just my belief. I know there are people who say this occurred at every period in history. But there are certain paradigm shifts that happen and change the planet as a whole. We can either learn our lessons and get on board the train that moves forward. Or stay stuck in the past, not doing the work that’s required of us.

It’s the New Moon. New beginnings. There is value in what has come before, in the history we have with other people we were close to at one time. It’s good to honor and remember. All of that follows us, and I believe we transform it. All energy is creative energy. Even the energy of Death. It cycles back around into new life. Death can be a release of suffering. It also creates a giant abyss of loss. Maybe we’d be wise to befriend the Grim Reaper. Maybe it is others who are dying or have passed over who teach us the courage and strength to face our own death. Maybe the space between death and dying…is life.


_______________________


Transitions - Catch & Release Though many of our ancestors accepted and honored the process of Death through rituals, sitting, slowing down, it feels like our fast-paced modern world doesn’t know how to stop moving, how to have a conversation about death and dying, or where to put it in the flow of our day-to-day lives. It makes for a good Writing Topic, a good topic for discussion on red Ravine. Why can’t we talk face to face about death? Maybe it’s easier to write about it.

Take out a fast writing pen and notebook, or fire up your computer and write Death & Dying at the top of your page. Then 15 minutes, Go! Or do a Writing Practice on everything you know about any aspect of death and dying. Please feel free to share any insights in the comments below.


-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, April 5th, 2011. Parts of the piece were taken from several Writing Practices written last weekend, April 2nd & 3rd.

-related to posts: WRITING TOPIC — 3 QUESTIONS, Reflection — Through The Looking Glass, Make Positive Effort For The Good, The Uses Of Sorrow — What Is It About Obituaries?, Reading The Obits, and a great interview with Joyce Carol Oates on MPR Midmorning with Kerri Miller – A Widow’s Story — The Story Of Joyce Carol Oates

Read Full Post »


By Marylin Schultz




My Father In Front Of The Family Ford — Earl Russell Biggs II, vintage family postcard, circa early 1900’s, photo scan © 2011 by Marylin Schultz. All rights reserved.


Images from long ago—letters, photographs, postcards, communicate family history, like ribbons tying up bundles of memories. I look into the sweet innocence of children’s faces and reflect on what I do know of their lives. Little Earl Russell Biggs, II, my father, placed in front of his family’s first automobile by a proud papa. There would eventually be four generations of men in the family, given that name. Family tradition had each generation alternating the names they were “known as.” My grandfather was called Earl, my father went by Russell. My brother was called Earl and his son was known as Russ, or the nick-name,” Rusty.”

The baby, Frances Louise Oliver, my mother, was as fair in complexion as E. Russell was dark. Their childhoods would also be in stark contrast. He was born in 1910, and she was three years younger. Frances was the adored, pampered baby of her family, with three brothers and a sister, much older than she. Frances always got what she wanted, I’m told, and became a woman who maintained that expectation from life.


My Mother — Frances Louise Oliver, family photo scan
© 2011 by Marylin Schultz. All rights reserved.


Russell’s life probably began happily enough. His father and mother, Mary Dickens Biggs, lived in Childress, Texas, where he was a successful businessman in banking, and insurance, as well as owning a cattle ranch, where the family lived. Russell was big brother to Emma Ruth, five years younger than he was. In 1920, tragedy struck the young family. Mary Dickens Biggs, who was expecting their third child, died from the dreaded Influenza that took over 20 million lives in Europe and America.

The parents of E. R. Biggs, Sr. were no longer living, and Mary’s parents offered to care for the children, so the devastated father agreed. Russell and Emmy spent the next two years with the Dickens family, who were living on the Red Lake Reservation in Minnesota, where Felix Dickens, Mary’s brother, was the BIA Agent.

E. R. Biggs married his second wife, Lillian, and the two children were moved back to their Texas home. Very soon, however, Russell, at the age of twelve, was sent off to a Military Academy, and spent the rest of his school years there, only home for the summers and holidays. E.R. and Lillian had another son and daughter. It was one of those cases of a step-mother, whose “own” children could do no wrong, and the older children felt deeply, the deprivation of approval and affection. Emma, while still a teenager, had a baby, who was immediately placed for adoption, never experiencing even one embrace of the young mother who so desperately wanted to love and be loved.




(L to R) Paul, Harriet, Eloise, Mildred, & Grace Dickens, Russell Biggs (My Father) on right, Seger Indian School, Colony, Oklahoma, March 17th, 1912, vintage family postcard, photo scan © 2011 by Marylin Schultz. All rights reserved.


I always wondered what it must have been like to grow up on Indian reservations, which the five Dickens children experienced. As we know from the postcard, they were in Oklahoma, then Minnesota and later in Washington State. As a child, I remember my father’s Uncle Felix visiting us a few times at our home in California. I have a few letters that he wrote to my Aunt Emma, which were from a reservation in South Dakota. These were at a much later date, when Emma was an adult.


Side B: Back of the Postcard of Seger Indian School, Colony, Oklahoma, March 17th, 1912, vintage family postcard, photo scan © 2011 by Marylin Schultz. All rights reserved.


I finally met some of my Dickens relatives in an unusual way. After the deaths of my mother and father, I received all the family documents. In going through the papers I learned that Mary Dickens was born in McGregor, Iowa. My husband and I were scheduled to drive from our home in Bismarck, No. Dakota to La Crosse, Wisconsin, for a convention, the very next day. I looked at a map and saw that McGregor was only a few miles south, and across the Mississippi River from Prairie du Chien. I decided to see if I could find a trace of the Dickens family in the small, riverside town of McGregor.

It was a cold, gray November Saturday. The trees along the river were bare, but the drive along the river was peaceful and I was feeling hopeful. When I entered the town, I saw a building marked “Museum,” and I parked. The sign on the Museum door said something like “Closed. See you next Spring.” The only place open was the Hardware Store, so I went in. The woman behind the counter gave me a warm welcome. I told her of my quest for family members and asked if she knew of any Dickens who were still living in the area.

“Harvey Dickens lives about five miles west of town,” she replied. “Would you like to call him from here?” I answered in the affirmative just as the phone rang. She spoke to the person for a few minutes, and then I heard her say, “There’s someone here who wants to speak to you,” and handing the phone to me, with a big smile, she said, “It’s Harvey Dickens.” I gasped in amazement at the coincidence, and took the phone. I gave a very brief explanation of who I was. He invited me to come to his home, and I scribbled down the directions he gave, handed the phone back to the woman and thanked her. She smiled and wished me good luck, and I hurried to my car.


Harvey had given good directions to his farm, and I found it with no problem. The plain, two story home, painted a soft yellow, with dark green shutters at the windows, was well cared for. There was a row of pine trees to the west of the house, offering a buffer from the prevailing prairie winds, and a hedge of Lilac bushes between house and out-buildings. The tires of my car made a crunching sound on the neatly graveled driveway. Harvey opened the door of the house before I started up the steps. His smile was wide.

“Come on in, little lady, it’s cold out there!” He introduced me to his wife, Louise, and immediately I felt the genuine warmth of their welcome. They already had a box of old papers and photographs for me to look at. Harvey was a slightly built man, about 70 years old. Louise, looking comfortable in sweater and jeans, offered me coffee, as we sat down around the kitchen table.

“We have four children, but they’ve all moved away,” Louise said, filling my cup.

With a sigh, Harvey added, “Not much to keep them in a small town in Iowa, and none of ‘em was interested in farming.” Harvey took photos out of the box, pointing out each individual by name. “Better write down those names on the back,” Louise gently chided. “No one but you can identify them anymore.” I listened carefully, not recognizing any names until he said, “And this is Uncle Felix.”

“Yes,” I said, now excited, as he handed it to me. “Did he have three daughters, who lived in Washington?” He smiled broadly, and replied, giving me their names. We had made a connection, as it turned out that his grandfather was my great-grandfather. We looked at more photographs and he gave me the names and addresses of other cousins that had done more research into the family history.

We were engrossed in each others’ family anecdotes, laughing at the funny little quirks that all families have, and the morning flew quickly by. I turned down an offer of a noon meal, and told them I needed to get back to La Crosse.

“Now, if you can come back, I’ll take you to the cemetery; quite a few Dickens there,” Harvey said.

“You keep in touch,” Louise whispered in my ear, as we exchanged a hug.

“I promise I will, and thank you so much. It was a great pleasure to meet you. I feel like I’ve been with old friends,” I replied.

“Nope, better than friends, we’re family!” Those were Harvey’s last words to me as I got into my car. That brief visit opened up a whole new chapter in my family history, and as I drove across the bridge over the wide Mississippi, I felt truly blessed.




Editor’s Note: In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, professional photographers offered customers the choice of placing photographs on postcards, like the “packages” they sell today. Some were taken in a studio and others at different locations. The photo of Frances was taken in a studio, and the other two at the homes of their clients. Images From The Past was partly inspired by conversation on the postcard piece Joshua Trees & Desert Sands — Jan 25 1947.




_________________________




About Marylin: Marylin (aka oliverowl) is a freelance writer living in Wyoming. She has written essays for a weekly column in the Ventura Star Tribune and collaborated with her grandson on two picture books for children. She currently writes with the Cody Writers. Her previous pieces for red Ravine include the travel essay Rollin’ Easy and a Writing Practice, Kindness.

In 2010, Marylin was published in the book, From the Heart — Writing in the Shadow of the Mountain, a collection of work from members of Write On Wyoming (WOW), a group of authors and aspiring writers living in northeastern Wyoming. Her contributions to From the Heart include two works of fiction, To Love Bertie Lou and The Appointment Book, and a collection of haiku, Seasons in Wyoming.


Read Full Post »

Joshua Trees f auto

Joshua Trees & Desert Sands, southeastern California, postcard found in Monticello, Minnesota, March 2011, Colortone © Curt Teich & Co., photo scan © 2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

The “JOSHUAS” or “PRAYING TREES” are found throughout the desert sections of the Southwest. The coarse fibrous limbs growing in unusual grotesque shapes bear branches of dagger-like leaves.


When we visited the Trumpeter Swans in Monticello a few weeks ago, we ended up going for pie and coffee at Cornerstone Cafe. But not before we checked out the local thrift shop and a new antique store that opened just around the corner. Liz and I were drawn to a table of vintage postcards, much like the postcard from Atlanta that my Uncle Jack sent to Mom in 1952.

Vintage linen postcards were printed from 1930 to 1945 by Curt Teich & Co. of Chicago; they closed their doors in 1978. In my research, I found that the company used a color printing technique called C.T. Art-Colortone. The thick paper was embossed to give the card a linen texture, and the inks were printed on a lithography press using color separation. Linen postcards often portrayed landmarks, landscapes, and roadside attractions, but fell out of fashion in the late 1940’s when polychrome printing was invented.

I thought it would be fun to post a few over the course of the year. My favorites in Monticello were a series of postcards that had been hand addressed and mailed from somewhere across the USA, back to the small town of Dover, Minnesota. In January of 1947, Ione made it clear that she sprang from the swampy Land of 10,000 Lakes, and found it hard to love the dry beauty of the California desert:


Joshua Trees b

Joshua Trees & Desert Sands – Jan 25 1947, southeastern California, postcard found in Monticello, Minnesota, March 2011, Colortone © Curt Teich & Co., photo scan © 2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Fri. night.

We are just a few miles from Riverside. May call Ralph Keyes. Guess we are through the desert at last. Will finish the last 100 miles tomorrow. We went thru Tuscon this A.M. I called Margaret. She was so surprised to hear me. We covered miles and miles of desert and cactus. Margaret says the desert will soon start to bloom then it is beautiful. We went through El Centro where Eva Ferrier and Don used to live. Don’t blame them for leaving here. I haven’t been travel sick yet so guess I’ll be alright.

Ione.


The desert has a beauty all its own. Though I have not spent time in the California desert, I find peace and solace in the high desert country around Taos, New Mexico. I read that Mormon settlers named the Joshua tree when they traveled west toward their promised land. The shape of the tree’s outstretched branches reminded them of the Biblical story in which the prophet Joshua reaches his hands toward the sky. Joshua Tree National Park gives the tree another important place in American history: Franklin Roosevelt dedicated Joshua Tree National Park in 1936 (only 11 years before this postcard was written) to assure that California’s rapid urban sprawl wouldn’t threaten the unique desert ecosystem in which the trees thrive.

During the Ice Age, Joshua trees grew strong across the American Southwest. According to an NPR article, in the 1930s scientists explored Gypsum Cave outside of Las Vegas where they found parts of skeletons, hides, and hair from the giant ground sloth — an animal that had been extinct for 13,000 years. In layers of the sloth’s dung, there was evidence that Joshua trees were a favorite food of the sloth, including leaves, seeds, and fruits. When the desert turns dry as a bone, the only way animals like the antelope ground squirrel, desert wood rat, and blacktail jack rabbit find moisture is by gnawing through the bark of live trees. The Joshua tree is one of the “great canteens of the desert.” What would we do without ancient trees?


-related to posts: lack of oxygen haiku, Georgia Pine Over My Grandmother’s Grave, WRITING TOPIC — TREES, Spirits In The Bosque — Patrick Dougherty Leaves His Mark On Albuquerque, Tales Of A Prodigious Cottonwood, Excavating Memories, virgin cottonwood haiku, Fourteen Dozen Roses: The World As The Jungle It Is, World Labyrinth Day, Trees For The Forest Series, lone pine haiku

Read Full Post »

Lunar New Year Postcard 2011 (Side B)

Lunar New Year Postcard 2011 (Side B), 6/52, BlackBerry 52 – WEEK 6, February 7th 2011, photo © 2011 by A~Lotus. All rights reserved. Medium: E-Postcard created using MS Word 2007, Adobe Acrobat, & Adobe Photoshop CS2. Photo taken on Canon PowerShot A550. Digital Collage (Side B): Text by Lotus, clipart of lanterns from MS Word 2007, Lotus icon: from oceancurrents, QuoinMonkey icon: Chartres Cathedral labyrinth from inside the front cover of Alice Walker’s The Same River Twice.


I was delighted to receive this digital postcard collage from Lotus last night. It’s the BlackBerry 52 Jump-Off for Week 6, and the inspiration for whatever response rises to the top by the end of the day on Sunday.


Dear Lotus,

I’d love to know more about your experience of the Vietnamese Lunar New Year celebration. I am a Moonchild, and after receiving your card, I researched a little bit about Tết Nguyên Đán (also known as Tết). I wonder if it ever came up in the comments on ybonesy’s many posts about her journeys to Vietnam.

I read that the Lunar New Year falls on the New Moon, the first day of the first month of the Lunar calendar (around late January or early February), and is the same day as the Chinese New Year. Yet according to the Vietnamese Community of Minnesota site, 2011 is The Year of the Cat; for the Chinese, it is The Year of the Rabbit. It must be a season that has to hold both.

With two cats on the couch and a resident rabbit in the yard, I’d be happy to honor either. I did happen to be in San Francisco one year for the Chinese New Year. We stood on Market Street and watched the parade. It was a wonderful evening full of bright color and light. I wonder what happened to those photographs.


Lunar New Year Postcard 2011 (Side A)

Lunar New Year Postcard 2011 (Side A), 6/52, BlackBerry 52 – WEEK 6, February 7th 2011, photo © 2011 by A~Lotus. All rights reserved. Medium: E-Postcard created using MS Word 2007, Adobe Acrobat, & Adobe Photoshop CS2. Photo taken on Canon PowerShot A550. (Side A): Origami paper, glue, & masking tape. Origami by A~Lotus (Chrysanthemum Kusudama model by Tomoka Fuse).


Your origami is beautiful. How did you come to it as an art form? And the weather. In Texas, an unexpected blizzard on Super Bowl weekend. In Minnesota, -11 last night to be followed by dips into the 40’s next week. Hardly a day goes by when I don’t mention the weather in my journal. Peeling the onion. Do the layers ever stop unwinding? Whatever it is that lies at the core, I have never stopped seeking.


Thank you for your postcard,

QM


_______________


We will continue our call and response by posting a BlackBerry photo for the 52 weeks of 2011. Feel free to join us if you wish (learn about the project’s beginnings at BlackBerry 52 Collaboration). To read more about Lotus, visit her at alotus_poetry on Twitter (where she writes poetry every day in community with other Twitter poets), at Poetry By Lotus, and on her Flickr account.


-related to posts: Best Of BlackBerry 365 — First Quarter SlideShow, BlackBerry 365 Project — White Winter Squirrel, Flying Solo — Dragonfly In Yellow Rain, Searching For Stillness, icicle tumbleweed (haiga) — 2/52, The Mirado Black Warrior, The Dying Art Of Letterwriting (Postcards From The Edge)

-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, February 10th, 2011

Read Full Post »

An Open Letter To My Father

An Open Letter To My Father, BlackBerry Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2009, photo © 2009-2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


I haven’t seen my father since I was six years old. He reached out to me that day for the first time since I was a toddler. But I was scared and didn’t want to come out of my room. I was only a child; he had become a stranger. I never saw him again.

I keep a pack of letters tied with red string in a shoebox on the top shelf of my closet. What is important comes in small packages. Snippets of correspondence become family heirlooms; letters are reminders of people whose memories and handwriting I want to remember.

One letter is from my mother, dated August of 2000. I had a hard time that year and (in an extroverted moment) reached out to 7 people in my inner circle. I asked if they would write a letter and tell me what my good qualities were; at the time, I just couldn’t remember. My mother wrote a beautiful letter to me from Pennsylvania, a story about the day I was born.

In the same shoebox is a letter from my father’s two sisters. Several years ago, by an act of grace, I reconnected with my aunts after 50 years, and stood with my mother and Aunt Annette under the Georgia pine over my Grandmother Estelle’s grave (the back story and photographs in Georgia Pine Over My Grandmother’s Grave.) It was a few months later, New Year’s Day 2009, when my aunts sent the letter from South Carolina, and something more:


I feel so badly our family never got to see or know you before now. I know Mother would be so pleased about our reunion. Mother left this ring to me and I would very much like you to have it. She had it a long time and wore it as a pinky ring. This is not much, but I never want you to be left out of our lives. I hope you feel the same about us. Maybe you could try to come for Christmas one year while Annette and I are still here. We are all very much family oriented and want our kids to know you. I’m proud to pass your grandmother’s ring to you, her granddaughter.


It’s as if all that time between us never happened. My trips to the South with Mom to research and explore family history have paid off in unexpected and miraculous ways. During our brief visit, my aunts showed me old family photographs and filled me in on the paternal side of my family. They told me my father had been estranged for 10 years; a dispute had erupted after my grandmother died. I don’t take serendipitous events lightly. I believe we are reunited with the past for reasons beyond our understanding.


Letter From My Mother

A Letter From My Mother, BlackBerry Shots,
Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2009, photo
© 2009-2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


That’s why when I called my aunts on Christmas Day 2010, they told me my father had called them out of the blue; he has cancer. He found out in September 2009, a few months before they mailed the letter with my grandmother’s ring. He didn’t contact them until a year later. During their visit, they told him they had seen me and my mother on a recent trip to Georgia. He did not jump at the chance to reconnect. Maybe for him, the past is the past.

My father was 17 years old when I was born, my mother 16. They divorced two years later—still teenagers. My mother went to work and provided for us. She eventually remarried a wonderful man who became my step-father.  After the age of 6, I never saw my blood father again. And now I find I may never get another chance. Should I write him a letter? What would I say?


Dear ______,

A few years ago on a visit to Georgia, I reconnected with your sisters, my aunts, after 50 years apart. They briefly filled me in on the family history; it made me think of you. I live in Minnesota now, have lived in the West and Midwest for most of my adult life. I try to get home once a year to visit family — for me, home is both Pennsylvania and Georgia. I may be visiting the South again this year and thought it might be a chance to touch base. Maybe we could meet for coffee or dinner.

Your daughter,

__________


I start the letter, I stop the letter. The drafts seem to fall short. What would you say? Should the salutation use his proper name? Or Father. Would you ask him to meet for dinner? Or talk on the phone. What if he doesn’t want to have contact with me? Maybe you’ve been in a similar situation where you haven’t talked to a close family member in many years. In reconnecting with my father’s sisters, it’s as if we were never apart. With parents, no matter how old you are, they are still your parents. Should I send a letter to my father?


-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, February 6th, 2010

-related to posts: The Dying Art Of Letter Writing (Postcards From The Edge), You Can’t Go Back, WRITING TOPIC — MEMORIES OF CARS, WRITING TOPIC — 3 QUESTIONS

Read Full Post »

IMG01991-20100903-1627.jpg

red Ravine At The MN State Fair — Minding Our P’s & Q’s, September 2010, photo © 2010 by Liz Schultz. All rights reserved.


We spent hours at the Minnesota State Fair yesterday. Fall made her official debut with a cloudy, blustery 68 degrees. I bundled up in my Lily and Hope North American Bear Center sweatshirt and made the rounds with Liz and two friends we go to the Fair with every year (it’s a Fall ritual!). We also met our friend Teri for the few minutes she could steal away from her duties at the Fair. We had a fabulous time.

This year’s annual Minnesota State Fair post (along with a list of 71 foods-on-a-stick) focuses on writers, and our day at the Fair did not disappoint. Author Peter Smith did a book signing at the MPR booth for his new book, A Porch Sofa Almanac. You can hear an interview with him sharing his favorite Minnesota State Fair memory at MPR. We also attended a book signing by this year’s Minnesota State Fair Foundation Author-In-Residence, Debra Frasier. We met the author at the J.V. Bailey House and bought her new book, A Fabulous Fair Alphabet.

After chatting with Debra about the Alphabet Forest, we decided to stop by her little log cabin at Baldwin Park, across from the 4-H building. Kids and adults alike love it here. You can spell out your name in Fair alphabet letters and your banner will be posted on her website the next day. I spelled red Ravine (the last “e” in Ravine is from the Cheese Curds stand) and Liz took the photograph for me. The Alphabet Forest is one of the most peaceful stops at the Fair! There are benches and lots of activities for kids.

We came home last night with a bucket of warm Sweet Martha’s cookies, a new pair of cornflower blue Brasko shoes for Liz (bought from a man from Kansas with a Swedish accent), and both of the author’s books. They were all out of Camel on-a-stick but other food highlights included Peaches & Cream, and Deep-Fried Bacon Cheddar Mashed Potatoes on-a-stick with the best honey mustard I’ve ever tasted. Yes, I think we have to buy those again on Monday. We’ll be there for a ride on Ye Old Mill and the last concert at the Grandstand, Dukes of September Rhythm Review (featuring Boz Scaggs, Donald Fagen, and Michael McDonald). See you there!


-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, September 4th, 2010

-related to these posts with tons of history about the MN State Fair: MN State Fair On-A-Stick, MN State Fair On-A-Stick (Happy B’Day MN!), On-The-Go List Of Must-Haves (MN State Fair), Nightshot – Carousel, MN State Fair On-A-Stick II – Video & Stats, food on-a-stick haiku, Peach Glazed Pig Cheeks On-A-Stick, the fine art of Princess Kay of the Milky Way (and the Butter Queens), Minnesota State Fair poster artists, the history of Fairborne and Fairchild, and the tradition of Tom Thumb Donuts.

Read Full Post »


From Dad, excerpt from a two-page letter that my dad sent to me when I was 17, November 22, 1978, image © 2010 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.





From my Writing Practice on “Be Impeccable with your Word,” the first agreement of don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements:

Dad was impeccable with his word. Words were important to him. They still are. He still wants to be heard. When I was a teenager and unwilling to listen, he wrote his words down in two or three letters he then slipped under the closed door of my bedroom or left on the kitchen table for me to open after he left for work. He was like Felix Unger in some ways, a tidy man with small and precise handwriting. His handwriting is shaky now, but then his writing looked like a professional cursive font.

The letters he wrote on yellow legal pads, and so he fit a lot of words on them. He told me the things he had tried to say to me but that I would shut down. What was important to him, the things he wanted to pass on, the wisdom he wanted to impart. He worried about me, the friends I had chosen, my boyfriend. He acknowledged that even though I had many bad habits, I was still keeping up my grades, and for that he was grateful.

He did pass something on to me, didn’t he? His honesty with words. That’s a powerful gift.





Thanks, Dad. I listen to you now.



-Related to posts PRACTICE: Be Impeccable With Your Word – 15min and WRITING TOPIC — THE FOUR AGREEMENTS

Read Full Post »

Letter From Elizabeth Alexander, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2009, photo © 2009-2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Our Poetry & Meditation Group began meeting again in January. We celebrated new beginnings with the poetry of Ruth Stone (the poet mentioned in Carolyn Flynn’s piece An Evening With Elizabeth Gilbert & Anne Lamott). This Friday we’ll read the work of Pablo Neruda.

It’s hard to believe it was over a year ago when we gathered to learn more about poet Elizabeth Alexander. We went around the circle and read her poems. Then, in gratitude, sent a card thanking her for her work. A few weeks later, she would be reading at the inauguration of Barack Obama.

A few of us met in South Minneapolis that historic Winter day to watch the inauguration on the big screen at Sabathani. When Elizabeth got up to read, we knew a little about her life; we had read her poems. We never dreamed the poet would write back. Then, one frosty day in March, her letter arrived in Teri’s mailbox. We passed the parchment during poetry group:



My dear friends in Minnesota,

Thank you for your lovely card and my apologies for my late reply. I’ve found myself in an unusual whirlwind for the last few months.

It was indeed an honor to speak at the inauguration. One of the wonderful gifts that comes from reading is hearing from people like you. What a precious group you have! I hope it continues to flourish.

Yours,

Elizabeth



Last week I was listening to NPR’s Talk of the Nation. At the end of the segment Henry Louis Gates Uncovers ‘Faces Of America’ I was surprised by the voice of Elizabeth Alexander. She was responding to what Gates had uncovered after he traced her ancestry back to Edward Honeywell and Esther Power and King John of England. I thought of Elizabeth at the presidential podium. And I thought about her taking the time to respond to a card from a small Minnesota poetry group. How a letter from a young poet transcended the political. It meant the world to us. The card, the letter, the poems — the poet’s lineage.


Elizabeth Alexander At The Inauguration, Yale University, Letter From A Young Poet, Minneapolis, Minnesota, January & March 2009, photo © 2009-2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


-posted on red Ravine, Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

-related to posts:  Got Poetry? (National Poem In Your Pocket Day), The Poet Writes Back — Gary Soto, Which Came First, The Grasshopper Or The Egg?, The Poet’s Letter — Robert Bly, Postcard From Billy Collins — Kicking Off National Poetry Month

Read Full Post »

Liz Really Liked It!, BlackBerry Shots, vintage recipe card, November 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 
 

It’s almost Thanksgiving, a time of gratitude for our many blessings. And a time for good food. I walked over to the fridge this morning and under a Morton Salt “When it rains it pours” magnet was this faded recipe card for Chicken L’Orange. Liz’s mother (oliverowl) mailed it to us after a discussion on Memories, Writing & Family Recipes.

She told us that Liz’s maternal grandmother, Frances Oliver Biggs, loved that Liz liked the Chicken L’Orange. So much so, that she handwrote her comment on the back of the family recipe card she sent to Liz’s mom:

Does Liz remember the recipe for “Chicken L’Orange” that her Nana sent me? I still have the card in my recipe box. At the end is her comment, “Liz really liked it!” (Sent after Liz’s visit to CA.) It is probably similar to what you had on the Cornish game hens.

My contribution to yesterday’s meal was Grandma Caroline’s Green Salad (OLD family recipe) and a Cranberry Sauce that had orange juice and a whole jar of Orange Marmalade cooked with the fresh berries!

Now the recipe card with Liz’s grandmother’s handwriting hangs on our fridge. I told Liz I want to try Grandma Caroline’s Green Salad this year. It reminds me of my family’s version of Jell-O salad with whipped cream. Below is the recipe that Liz’s mom Marylin dropped into the red Ravine comments.

__________________________________________

 
 

Grandma Caroline’s Green Salad

 
 

1 large box of Lime Jell-O
1 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese
1 cup heavy cream, whipped
1 14-15 oz. can crushed pineapple, including juice

 
 

Take the cream cheese out of the fridge, so it begins to soften. Prepare the Jell-O, using 1 less cup of water than the recipe calls for. Chill it until it begins to thicken, but don’t let it solidify, or you’ll have a mess!

Since I only have one mixer, I whip the cream and place it in a small bowl. Then I cut the cream cheese in small chunks and place them in the mixer bowl and beat it well. When the Jell-O is a thick syrupy consistency, I add it to the cream cheese and mix until they are homogenized! (You’ll have to scrape down the sides of the bowl several times.) Next, the pineapple is mixed in and then the whipped cream, both at the slowest speed. Refrigerate until firm. Enjoy!

_____________________________________

 
 

We’re going to stop at the store today for last minute ingredients. What traditional recipes will you be sharing this Thanksgiving week? Are there any that have been passed down by your grandmother? Bob mentioned he’s making Aunt Annie’s Scalloped Oysters. ybonesy’s family always makes tamales for Christmas. And my family makes Southern Banana Pudding for almost every family gathering. Old recipes are invaluable to memoir writers. Family flavor.

Hope you enjoy Grandma Caroline’s Green Salad. And if you put together the two front and back photos of the recipe card in this post, you’ll have the Biggs family recipe for Chicken L’Orange — two great family recipes, one post. And any leftover turkey? Try Amelia’s Soft Dumpling Recipe.

 
 

Chicken L’Orange, When It Rains, It Pours,  BlackBerry Shots, vintage recipe card, November 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 
 

Post Script: The Morton Salt girl has always been a favorite icon of mine. She’s officially called the Morton Umbrella Girl and according to the Morton website, the slogan, “When it rains it pours” first appeared on the blue package of table salt and in a series of Good Housekeeping magazine advertisements in 1914. The slogan is adapted from an old proverb, “It never rains but it pours.”

You can read more about the history of Morton Salt, view vintage ads, and see the transition of the Morton Umbrella Girl from the roaring twenties to the 1968 image that we still view on packaging today. They’ve also got a recipe section with Winning Kosher Salt Recipes.

 

-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

-related to post: Reflections On The Other National Bird*

Read Full Post »

Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, Maine asked parishioners to donate to the Maine “marriage restoration” campaign. Officials said the donations were to help pay for television ads aimed at overturning a state law legislators passed last spring recognizing same-sex unions as “marriage.”

                                                          ~Catholic News Agency, 9/14/09



The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, Maine accounted for 81% of in-state fund-raising to fight Equal Marriage.

                                                  ~EqualityAmerica on Twitter, 11/4/09



…thank the people of Maine for protecting and reaffirming their support for marriage as it has been understood for millenia by civilizations and religions around the world…

While the Catholic Church will continue its commitment to work for the basic human rights to which all people are entitled, it remains devoted to preserving and strengthening the precious gift of marriage.

          ~Bishop Richard Malone, Diocese of Maine, Catholic News Agency




Dear Bishop Malone,

When I was a girl sitting in Our Lady of Guadalupe parish in Albuquerque, my dad always let me drop the tithing envelope he prepared every Sunday into the basket. I watched my knock-knees bob as I swung my legs, waiting for the usher to get to our pew. Ours was always the same usher, lanky and worn and with a thin mustache. He would stretch with the basket-on-a-stick to reach me. In the envelope went, with pennies, quarters, and bills from other parishioners.

Dad also gave to the Maryknoll nuns, and each month I leafed through the small magazine that came, showing what Catholics did in the world to help the poor. I saw pictures of round-bellied toddlers in Africa and sad-looking orphans in Guatemala. We had bake sales outside our church, and the little Spanish-speaking mothers and grandmothers who’d lived in the neighborhood for generations came together to work for those in need.

I couldn’t imagine being a girl in a church today and having my father give me money to put into the basket. What does a parent say to the child in one of your churches?

“Oh, that twenty dollar bill? It’s going to pay for a television ad that will tell the world what a sin it will be if gays and lesbians get married like us.”

“But, Mama, why can’t they get married?”

“Because, marriage is our precious gift. God only gave it to heterosexual men and women.”

Almost a third of individuals in the US who were raised within the Catholic faith leave the Church, and those who leave outnumber those who join. This means that Catholicism in the U.S. is a religion in decline. Moreoever, according to the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, among religions that experience a loss of members due to changes in affliations, Catholicism has experienced the greatest net loss.

And it’s not just the parishioners that you have failed to inspire. It is those who are supposed to do the inspiring. Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate statistics show that in 1965, there were 8,325 graduate-level seminarians in the U.S., almost a thousand ordinations, and more than 58,000 Catholic priests. By 2009, the number of seminarians is down to just over 3,300, only 472 ordinations, and just above 40,000 priests.

All over the nation, Catholic churches are closing or merging. There is a lack of Catholic chaplains in the military. The Vatican even announced last month its desire to bring on Anglican priests disgruntled over their church’s acceptance of female priests and openly gay bishops.

Is this what the Catholic Church has become—a haven for those who cannot tolerate equality? Don’t want to see women stand shoulder-to-shoulder with men? Join the Catholic Church! Don’t think that homosexuals are fit to be spiritual leaders? Join the Catholic Church! Want to keep loving and committed gays and lesbians away from the ritual of marriage? The Catholic Church wants YOU!

In my family, a priest was the best thing a boy could grow up to become. My father was altar boy in two masses each Sunday, and his cousin went into the seminary. But Father Tony, as we called Dad’s cousin, was gay. He left his parish not long after becoming a priest. Much later, stricken with AIDS, he was reinstated and allowed to give mass one last time before he died. That was two decades ago—during a kinder, gentler Catholicism.

You and your fellow leaders are the opposite of what I understood Jesus Christ to be, one who walked among those rejected by the rest of society, who advocated on their behalf, who protected the marginalized. Without havng children yourselves, you instruct us on family planning. You are celibate and unmarried, yet you claim to understand love, intimacy, and the precious gift of marriage? What conceit.

Instead of trying to protect this gift, why not work at bettering men who abuse women and make marriage untenable, or heterosexuals who step in and out of the ritual as if it were a coat? Maybe those denied the right to marry for so long will treat it as the precious gift you say it is.

My father still goes to church and still tithes. He is frail now, and sometimes he watches mass on TV. Most Sundays, my sister or brother take him. They walk him slowly to the spot he likes, in the middle of the church. Not so close as to appear overly eager, but not so far away as to seem laggardly. He left Our Lady of Guadalupe after 35 years in 2004, when the priest told him who to vote for. This latest parish has thus far not meddled in places it has no business being.

I used to be sad about the direction of the Catholic Church. But now I am ashamed and angry.

Read Full Post »

By Bob Chrisman



I possess no physical evidence to offer in defense of my father. Family stories and my own fragmented memories comprise what little I know of him. Fifty-seven years have blurred much of what I remembered, but I will bear witness for him.

At a trial, the court clerk would instruct me to raise my right hand. “Do you solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?” I would hesitate before I answered. I don’t know the “truth.” I only know my truth. But the court doesn’t want to hear my doubts. The only answer to the question is, “I do.”


BOB IMG_1781

My Father – 8 Months Old, circa 1914, Missouri, photo © 2009, Bob Chrisman. All rights reserved.



On February 28, 1914, my father, Len Chrisman, became the first child of H.T. and Annie Chrisman. In September of that same year, H.T.’s gall bladder ruptured. The resulting infection killed him. My father never knew his father, not even from stories, because his mother didn’t talk about the man.

Several men courted the Widow Chrisman. A local banker, my father’s favorite, asked her several times to marry him, but she refused.

When she remarried in 1920, she chose a widower, William Hecker, who had seven children. By all accounts, including some from his children, he was a very angry man. Mr. Hecker stipulated one condition for the marriage. “You must promise that you’ll never favor your son over my children.” She promised, and she never broke a promise.

BOB IMG_1780

My Father In His Baby Carriage, circa 1914, Missouri, photo © 2009, Bob Chrisman. All rights reserved.

My father rarely talked about the mother of his childhood. I remember him saying, “She married him because the children needed a mother. She felt sorry for them.”

The step-daughters resented her. Ruth, the oldest, had already married and left home. Fern and Gladys soon followed their oldest sister’s lead. The remaining daughter, Myrtle, who was my father’s age, loved both her new stepmother and stepbrother. The teenaged stepsons, Ralph and Glenn, took after their father. They hated my dad because he had been an only child with a mother all to himself. The remaining step-son, Everett, died in 1926. My father rarely spoke of him, except to say, “He died too young.”

Early in the marriage they lived in western Nebraska. One day the boys roped my dad and dragged him behind a horse through cactus patches. “I never cried. Mom pulled the needles out of my bottom and back with a pair of pliers. I didn’t cry then either. I never let them have that satisfaction.” His voice remained flat as he told the first part of the story, but cracked when he said. “You know, my own mother didn’t say anything to Dad Hecker or to the boys.”

A high school teacher offered to send him to college and pay his expenses. My father wanted to go. “Mom and Dad Hecker listened politely. The last thing he said was, ‘A brilliant mind like his shouldn’t go to waste.'”

BOB IMG_1782

Widow Chrisman & Her Son, circa early 1900s, Missouri, photo © 2009, Bob Chrisman. All rights reserved.


“Mom answered as soon as he finished, didn’t even take time to mull it over. ‘None of the other kids went to college. Len doesn’t need to go either.’ It wouldn’t have cost them anything. I left the room because I was so mad at her.”

Her decision doomed my dad to a lifetime of farm labor and blue collar jobs. He worked at a dairy. He worked in a foundry, a meat packing plant, and finally in a grain mill. He never fit in with his fellow workers. He read too much, thought too much.

My father met my mother in the mid-1930’s. She lived down the street from his parents. The two became friends. In the late 1930’s he traveled to Oregon to pick fruit because local jobs didn’t exist. His traveling companions were his future brothers-in law. He wrote letters to my mother. She saved them, called them “love letters” even though they contained no obvious expressions of love, other than “Love, Len.”


I asked my mother why she married him. At that time, he had been bedridden for five years. “Did you love him?”

She dodged the question. “I promised myself that I would marry someone like my dad.”

“Was Daddy like him?”

“No, he was nothing like my father. I felt sorry for Len. He needed me.” I cringed. My heart hurt. She hadn’t loved my father. I didn’t ask any more questions because I didn’t want to know the answers.


BOB IMG_1787

My Father Dressed For A Tom Thumb Wedding, circa early 1900's, Missouri, photo © 2009, Bob Chrisman. All rights reserved.


In 1942, my sister was born. My father loved her. She was his special child.

In 1943 his stepfather died, but not before he secured a promise from his wife to watch over Ralph. My father never understood why she agreed to put up with someone who had treated her so rudely, a man who cussed and swore about everything. Maybe she felt sorry for him because his vision was so severely impaired. Whatever the reason, she took care of him until her death 32 years later in 1975.

In 1952 I arrived. Unexplainably, my mother laid sole claim to me. She excluded my sister and father from taking care of me. I was her child. The possession of my life had begun.

For the first five years I slept next to my parents’ bed in a crib, then on a tiny rollaway bed. Our four-room house didn’t have any extra rooms. My father added two rooms, moved my sister to a new bedroom and moved me into her old room.

He lived his early life abandoned and betrayed by the people who loved him or should have loved him.  He had no protector, no father. Long after he died I complained to my mother about the kind of father he had been. “Don’t be so hard on him. He never learned to be a father because he never had one himself.” My father and I never had a chance to have a normal father-son relationship. That’s all the truth I know for now.




About Bob: Bob Chrisman is a Kansas City, Missouri writer who frequently writes memoir about his mother, her three sisters, and their influence on his life. This is Part II of a series of three about his father. Part I, My Father’s Witness, was published on red Ravine in August. Bob’s other red Ravine posts include Aunt Annie’s Scalloped Oysters, Hands, Growing Older, Goat Ranch, Stephenie Bit Me, Too, The Law Of Threes, and In Memoriam.

Read Full Post »

Gone are the syringes, the pages and pages of charts we logged, the droppers, prescription foods, and red plastic “discarded needle” container with the skull and crossbones. Gone is the hook over the kitchen sink to hang the IV bag; it was made out of an old tent stake. Gone are the alcohol swipes, 15-cent 18 gauge needles, extra towels, warming bowls, and bags of IV hookup tubes.

Expensive medications crammed into limited cupboard space have disappeared. The thick blue folder of Chaco’s veterinary receipts has been filed away. Last week we made a decision to donate the 10 remaining bags of .45 saline IV fluids (from the case we had special ordered to give Chaco’s subcutaneous fluids at home) to the Humane Society. Liz said she would drop the case off after work. She came home on Thursday and handed me a copy of the following letter:


_________________________________________________________________




Chaco S. was born February 22nd, 1996, adopted from the Golden Valley Animal Humane Society in April 1996, and passed away on June 25th, 2009 after a brave battle with kidney disease.

He left a huge hole in our family and will always be remembered dearly for his big purrs and head bumps.

We are donating extra bags of saline in his name. They kept him going near the end and we know how valuable they can be.


Peace, love and purrs,

The S-H Family
Liz, D., Kiev & Mr. Stripey Pants


__________________________________________________________________


This is why I love Liz. She had typed the letter up, added Chaco’s photo, and given it to the woman at the desk of the Humane Society who thanked her profusely for our donation. The intake person was simultaneously talking on the phone to a woman who had lost her cat and advising her of organizations she could contact to help her with her search.

In the short time Liz was there, a woman came in crying because she had to give up her cat. Her husband handed the carrier with their beloved pet over to the intake coordinator. Another man was at the desk to surrender a cat he had taken from a friend because he didn’t want it to be put down; it didn’t work out. He tried to explain. There is no excuse the Humane Society hasn’t already heard.

People desperately trying to find their cats; people desperately needing to get rid of their cats; people grieving the loss of their cats. And I haven’t even gotten to the dogs yet.

The woman at the desk said she would tape Liz’s letter to the box of IV fluids so they would think about Chaco whenever they grabbed a new IV bag for an animal in need. I appreciate the work of caring individuals who volunteer their time to sanctuaries, independent animal shelters, and organizations who care for animals society has tossed aside. There are 81.7 million cats and 71.2 million dogs owned in America. We need to help out wherever we can.


-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, August 9th, 2009

-related to posts: Chaco’s Creature Comforts (10 Cat Care Tips), From The Earth, Back To The Earth , Winter Solstice — The Quiet Strength Of Bear, Life Of An American Green Tree Frog, Children Helping Children (And Animals)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,581 other followers