Cabarets and Conviviality

Monday Morning Musings:

“Life is a cabaret, old chum

Come to the Cabaret!”

–John Kander and Fred Ebb, “Cabaret,” from Cabaret

 

“Which of all my important nothings shall I tell you first?”

–Jane Austen, Letter to her sister Cassandra, June 15, 1808

 

On a summery autumn day,

we left the sunlight

to enter the smoky den–

(the Cabaret, old friend)

Germany in the 1930s

but goose steppers are looming

the winds of war are moving

soon the guns will be booming

but for now, there is consuming

beer and goods,

here in the night,

the women are beautiful

the men are beautiful

they slink and glide

in barely-there wear

the Emcee, in heels and gowns

feather boa and garters,

looming

grooming the audience

flirting and diverting

we’re there, but here

then, but now

I’m surprised–

though why–

startled at my own emotion reaction

because it’s no longer an abstraction,

“Tomorrow Belongs to Me”

and Nazi insignia–

my throat constricts,

the body knows what the mind refuses to accept

(more goose steps)

I hear “some very fine people” gather

drivel and blather

echoes of then and now

the need to fight and disavow

what do politics have to do with us

the characters ask

We’re Germans,

(We’re Americans)

that can’t happen here,

our rights will never disappear

people standing tall and proud

arms held straight in devoted salute

They worship him

(no matter what he says)

small steps with profound consequences

(build a wall and many fences)

the slippery slope

and where’s the rope to pull us back

to ring the warning bell

to tell us now that all is well

So, what would you do

My brave young friend?

Would you pay the price?

What would you do?

What should we do?

What will you do?

 

 

We walk and talk

a wonderful production

the set well-designed,

the orchestra well-tuned and engaging

the voices delightful

the direction, insightful

altogether, quite a show

but—

(rightfully so)

a little too close to current events

(Maybe this time)

we’ll be lucky

maybe this time

he’ll go away

 

We wander some more

through old city streets

encounter wedding parties

one right after the other

brides, grooms, sisters, brothers

“the wedding stalker,” my husband says,

but it makes me happy to see love and joy

(where some want only to destroy)

affirmations of love and life

after the violence, hate, killing, and strife

 

We drink coffee

stroll across the cobblestones

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where men met to create a nation

to establish here a firm foundation

(remember the ladies, Abigail said)

but no, they simply went ahead

We’ve come a long way, baby

but still and all–

life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness

flawed men with lofty ideals

feet of clay

and yet they found a way

it’s still the best we have

pledges made then and now

pledges these couples make in wedding vows

to love and cherish

to pursue life and happiness together

to do their best

we must do our best

(to join together)

 

After the play, we join our friends

friends of years

through love and tears

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kindred spirits

saying farewell to one couple’s house

not their first

but one where babies were born and nursed

here a family gathered

here we’ve shared many meals

often, like tonight Chinese food

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viewed one way

something we’ve done before

but there’s always something new and something old

moments to cherish and hold

close here to heart and mind

to bring out and remember

should we ever find the need to,

we say farewell to the house

but not the friendship,

remember that time, we say?

That day?

And then?

Remember when?

“What do you talk about? one friend’s daughter asked.

How do you describe the talk of old friends?

We talk of all our important nothings

and then we talk some more

of children, homes, work, and retirement

of travel, plays, movies, and books

of bats in our houses

and grandchildren in our beds

of catching mice

and stalking cats

of coffee cups and chocolate cake

of food and wine

and all the time

of then

and now

and all things fine

(and some things not so)

until finally it’s time to go.

We part with hugs effusive

despite the hour

and as the moon peeks from her cloudy bower

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we part–

Auf Wiedersehen,

but not goodbye

À bientôt

Enjoy life’s show–

it may be a cabaret

but if so, the set changes every day

and yet love, the light, true friends remain

and all our important nothings

in turns out

are really something

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Time Bends and Echoes

Monday Morning Musings:

“Time present and time past

Are both perhaps present in time future,

And time future contained in time past. . .

What might have been and what has been

Point to one end, which is always present.

Footfalls echo in the memory,

down the passage we did not take,

towards the door we never opened,

into the rose garden. My words echo

Thus, in your mind.”

T.S. Eliot, from “Burnt Echo”, No. 1 of “Four Quartets”

 

“So much of history is mystery. We don’t know what is lost forever, what will surface again. All objects exist in a moment of time. And that fragment of time is preserved or lost or found in mysterious ways. Mystery is a wonderful part of life.”

–Amy Tan, The Bonesetter’s Daughter

 

This week–

a photo,

hidden within a mislabeled envelope, appears

challenging history

what is known and what may be,

tangible, frangible,

certainly mysterious

does it show what we think it shows?

Can it?

Will we ever know more of lives that soared and crashed?

The photo,

a door opened into the past,

within it the people still live

a passage, a channel

leading this way or that

perhaps many such secret passages exist

burrow along well-traveled pathways

winding passages that bend and shape the straight roads of time

time past, time present, time future

 

We go to a play,

three men enter a room, one at a time,

Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens, Count Leo Tolstoy

(Barefooted and dressed as a peasant, he says

don’t call me Count, throughout the play.)

The room is furnished with a drawered table and three chairs,

in the drawer, the men will discover notebooks and pens.

(Jefferson is amazed at a pen with ink–amazed he did not think of it himself.)

Though they lived in different times,

each man has just died and entered this room,

At this discovery, Jefferson remarks,

“Evidently time bends.”

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Bulletin board in the lobby of the Lantern Theater.

The door lock after each enters the room,

they cannot exit until—what?

Each man is a writer,

and it turns out each wrote his own version of the gospels,

each man was a visionary of sorts

who wrote about reforming society,

each failed within his own life to uphold the standards he envisioned

and in this amusing and entertaining play,

the men write and argue,

debate their ideas,

and write some more,

facing the mirror—us–

we, the audience, the fourth wall

hear their words,

hear them confess their deeds and weaknesses.

And what if they did meet,

and what if they did debate and discuss,

and what if we could hear them,

bending time

 

On a beautiful summer day,

after the play

we walk the streets that bear traces of Jefferson everywhere

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a medical school and university named for him.

Centuries ago, he walked these streets

sat in a room, penned (with quill) his elegant words*

of sacred rights, of equality and independence,

even while he continued to enslave others,

words that led to a revolution,

words that still resonate today,

I imagine him,

his long-legged stroll across the cobble-stoned streets,

conversing with his unlikely friend John Adams,

perhaps opening a door into a rose garden

there

the scent lingers in the air

the words echo

time bends

Charles Dickens visited Philadelphia, too.

in March 1842, he stayed at the United States Hotel

on Chestnut Street near Fourth,

the part of the city

now called Old City

where Jefferson and other delegates declared our independence

I imagine their ghosts meeting on these city streets

that Dickens found much too regular

longing for a crooked street–

perhaps seeking a place where time bent

and echoes lingered in the air

 

Dickens met with Edgar Allen Poe,

they discussed poetry.

Dickens had a pet raven, Grip,

his stuffed body rests in a glass case

at the Free Library of Philadelphia

Dickens wrote about Grip in his book

Barnaby Rudge,

which was serialized in the Philadelphia Inquirer,

and Poe reviewed the book for a Philadelphia publication in 1842,

mentioning the raven,

and Poe later writes a poem about a raven

whose word “nevermore” echoes in the air

and through time

 

And on this beautiful summer day

we sit outside at a café,

drink wine

(and beer)

 

eat cheese

(luscious)

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I wonder to my husband

how it would have been—

what if a woman had been in that room?

He says, was there one who wrote gospels?

I don’t know,

though I think there must have been

perhaps, lost to history,

or yet to be found,

a mystery,

perhaps to be revealed

in a mislabeled envelope,

or amidst remnants unearthed from a secret passage

in the locus of past, present, and future.

We sit at the table

(a window becomes a mirror

old buildings blend with new)

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watch the people,

listening to words echo

lingering in the breeze

 

We saw The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens & County Leo Tolstoy: Discord by Scott Carter at the Lantern Theater Company in Philadelphia.

We went to Tria Café Washington West

A photo said to be of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan was in the news this week.

*Jefferson’s rough draft of the Declaration of Independence 

Day and Night, Hope 2017: NaPoWriMo

Monday Morning Musings:

“They lived in narrow streets and lanes obscure,

Ghetto and Judenstrass, in mirk and mire;

Taught in the school of patience to endure

The life of anguish and the death of fire.

 

All their lives long, with the unleavened bread

And bitter herbs of exile and its fears,

The wasting famine of the heart they fed,

And slaked its thirst with marah of their tears.”

From, “The Jewish Cemetery at Newport,” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, full text with annotations here.

 

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,

Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,

Here once the embattled farmers stood

And fired the shot heard round the world.

–from “Concord Hymn” by Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

April came in with showers, dreary and cold

seemingly, spring was stopped, would not unfold

with flowers and green

then, suddenly, it took hold.

 

We took my mother out to lunch

sat on the porch to enjoy the air

watched dogs pull the owners, sniff,

noses in the air, aware

of scents in the air, of food, and treats

of magic there

 

It was a day she thanked us for

to enjoy the sights

(what she can still see)

to have the food

(not her typical fare)

to feel the air

and hear the ducks quack

and the geese honk,

in her ninety-fourth spring,

another voyage around the sun.

 

 

Passover began that night

but in our crazy way,

the family celebration,

(our celebration of family)

was not until five nights later.

Was it just me thinking about freedom

and how Passover seems more relevant this year?

 

My family arrived,

we missed a few,

sisters, a daughter and her wife,

we hug and kissed,

poured the wine, and began,

taking turns reading from a Haggadah

I put together several years ago,

it probably needs to be updated,

but still, one grand-nephew laughed at the jokes,

“Tonight we drink of four glasses of wine—unless you’re driving”

and all took part in the reading of the Passover Play,

 

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rewritten every Passover,

one daughter’s work this year,

with Trump jokes, Hamilton references, and lines about family quirks and neuroses,

 

 

We said,“Dayenu,” and attempted to sing “Go Down Moses”

(not very successfully)

then we ate,

and ate,

and ate some more,

 

 

my great-niece, played her ukulele,

and my daughter sang

(I miss hearing that voice)

and then it was time for dessert,

we took pictures,

 

wrapped up leftovers,

and forgot the Afikomen,

after everyone left,

the cats came out to sniff

noses in the air,

aware of scents in the air,

on the tables

and through the windows,

Was Elijah there?

 

The next morning,

I saw the moon,

her dark half

not quite hidden

darkness and light

opposites,

black and white

good and evil,

April’s changeable moods

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Moon at dawn

In the newspaper,

I read about the new Museum of the American Revolution

to open on April 19th,

the anniversary of the Battles at Lexington and Concord

the shots heard round the world,

it’s the anniversary, too, of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising,

1943,

lasting for almost a month

captive Jews,

desperate,

fighting for their lives

fighting for freedom

 

The first American president,

a slaveholder,

led an army,

fighting for freedom,

he met with the enslaved poet

while he was still a general,

after she had written poetry in his honor,

as president, he met with leaders of the Touro synagogue

in Rhode Island, championing the Bill of Rights

and freedom of religion

 

Another poet would visit that same synagogue in the next century,

he’d write strangely prescient lines of ghettos, starving, and fire,

would write of the Passover meal with its bitter herbs and salty tears

in the twenty-first century,

we would still think of that time,

of all those times,

we thought war would be over

dip spring greens into salty water,

oh brave, new world—

 

We laugh, eat, drink, and sing at Passover,

holding evil at bay,

the table,

charmed circle,

is filled with more non-Jews than Jews,

and more non-believers

than believers,

 

Around us

(Do you hear them?

Do you see them in the shadows?)

ghosts from the past,

echoes,

ghosts of memories,

memories held like ghosts,

flitting at the edge of consciousness

dancing in a ring,

(they all fall down)

ancestors, known and unknown,

the blood of slaves,

the blood of the lamb,

the blood of men, women, and children who cry

who die,

even now

 

My family,

crazy like the April weather,

how I love you,

and love is love is love is love is love

and so, we love,

even as the ghosts hover,

just beyond us

hidden,

the dark side of the moon,

and we laugh,

and we eat,

and we hope

 

 

This is Day 17 of NaPoWriMo. Today’s prompt is to write a nocturne. Perhaps I’ve written half a nocturne.

I am honored to be today’s featured poet for the poem I posted yesterday, “If Only.”

 

 

The River’s Song

Monday Morning Musings:

 “Go forth, and the whores cackle!

Where women are, are many words;

Let them go hopping with their hackle [finery]!

Where geese sit, are many turds.

The Castle of Perseverance, 15th Century morality play

 

“The river sings and sings on.

 

There is a true yearning to respond to

The singing river and the wise rock.”

–Maya Angelou, “On the Pulse of Morning”

Full text  here.

IMG_4251

What is the song of the river?

though I listen,

noisy are the thoughts unbidden

that flow within my brain,

meandering tributaries, bearing gifts

some chaff, some worthy

But hush, listen.

 

What is the song of the river

as it gently laps against the rocks?

A song of history

from its birth in Ice Age glaciers

to its passage to the sea?

A song of fish, of shad,

of Lenni Lenape

then European settlers,

migration of fish, migration of people

cycles repeated through time.

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What is the song of the river?

A song of birds in flight?

of cargo ships and Huck Finn rafts

Commerce and recreation,

the bustling colonial port,

capital of the early nation

still thrives,

though not as before

when cargo came by ship—

tea, rum, wine, tobacco, and people–

and passage to and from New Jersey was by ferry.

Now there are highways, bridges, and planes.

What is the song of the river?

A song of history

of battles fought

of soldiers dead

of memorials, reenactments, remembering

of fossils and relics.

Generations and regeneration,

children squealing with joy at butterflies

of gardens resurrected

of couples talking

of men and women jogging steps

of people seeking Pokemon,

yes, that here, too.

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And what of the geese?

And what of their turds?

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Yes, they’re underfoot,

chased by children and men in carts

And what of my words?

Do they cackle and crackle

like old whores?

Or do they stream like the river,

my song of musings?

I’m reminded of the history of women

who wrote,

long ago,

poetry, history, and letters,

Milcah Martha Moore, Hannah Griffits, Susanna Wright,

and others

who shared their work with other women

and some men, too.

It’s a song that carries to this day,

along both sides of this river, the Delaware.

 

What is the song of the river?

The sound of people celebrating

though we cannot see the water

from the festival site whose name pays tribute to it.

But we sit with friends

and we talk and we sample wine

Our words flow like the river

singing a song of friendship

and joy to be alive on a summer day.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Further Information:

Red Bank Battlefield

Merril D. Smith, The World of the American Revolution: A Daily Life Encyclopedia 

New Jersey Wine Events

Crowns and Independence

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We got crowned! (Our youngest child was married.)

 

Monday Morning Musings:

 

 “Love is the crowning grace of humanity, the holiest right of the soul, the golden link which binds us to duty and truth, the redeeming principle that chiefly reconciles the heart to life, and is prophetic of eternal good.”

–Petrarch

“We need to help people to discover the true meaning of love. Love is generally confused with dependence. Those of us who have grown in true love know that we can love only in proportion to our capacity for independence.”

–Fred Rogers, The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember

 

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

–Nelson Mandela

 

It has been a mostly beautiful weekend to celebrate the birth of our nation,

colonies declaring independence from the crown

I think of how crown rhymes with clown,

and it amuses me–

I think of all the clowns who’ve worn crowns

and how often the jester or fool has been the wise man.

 

Last year on this day, the Fourth of July,

Independence Day,

My husband and I wore paper crowns,

parents of the bride

a nod to custom,

and an affectionate tribute to a family tradition

of the birthday crowns we construct.

Our daughter carried a fan she designed

with a quotation from Jane Eyre,

“Reader I married him.”*

 

She and our now son-in-law vowed to love and cherish

each other, to join together

forming “a more perfect union”

like colonies becoming states, and then a union,

it is a process that goes beyond the simple declaration of intent

of independence and dependence

a balancing act,

not dependence,

rather, respecting one another,

and enhancing the best in each.

Perhaps our nation could benefit

from a bit of marriage counseling.

 

We had planned to see a baseball game with them,

baseball, the great American pastime,

what could be more perfect?

But because it was raining with violent storms in the forecast

we went to dinner with them instead–

food, that like our nation, was a mixture of all types,

vegan entries, steak for my husband, salads,

Buffalo sauce and Sriracha

many flavors and textures

sharing space on the table.

 

The weather had improved by the next day,

glorious weather for celebrating,

though we stayed at home

listening to fireworks in the distance.

We watched a movie, Belgian, but in French

(Remember how France joined us in fighting

their English enemy though France was still

a monarchy with a King who wore a crown?)

Two Days, One Night,

Marion Cotillard, a wife and mother,

works in a solar-panel factory,

with the help of her husband and support from friends,

she spends the weekend asking her co-workers to vote for her to keep her job,

even though if they do so, they will lose their bonuses.

We make all sorts of negotiations in life,

When is it right give up something that will benefit ourselves

in order to help someone else?

It is a decision each must decide.

Dependence and independence.

 

The sun rises, a crown of pink and orange

beaming golden rays into the azure sky,

spokes like those of Lady Liberty’s crown

promising liberty, standing on a broken chain,

given to the United States by the people of France,

inscribed with the date, July 4, 1776,

a symbol,

not a reality for all

but something to strive for

Liberté, égalité, fraternité,

Emily Dickinson said,

“Hope is the thing with feathers,”

but hope is also the sun rising and setting

each day

and hope is the joining of two in marriage

and love is our shining crown.

Embed from Getty Images

 

*This essay by Claire Fallon discusses the line “Reader, I married him,”

Second of July

 

BEP-GIRSCH-Declaration_of_Independence_(Trumbull)

By Frederick Girsch at the American Bank Note Company, for the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (Restoration by Godot13) [Public domain or CC BY-SA 3.0 ( via Wikimedia Commons)

 

Pomp and parades

to celebrate this freedom day,

pomp and parades

for the declaration, brigades

will fight, fireworks can’t convey

the costs, the lives lost, yet I say

Pomp and parades

 

Celebrate it

with illuminations and shows

celebrate it,

to posterity, we’ll transmit

our hopes through this inspired prose,

this declaration we propose

celebrate it

 

This is a double rondelet. I used some of the words from a letter John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail, about the events of July 2, 1776. Full text here.  On this day, the Second Continental Congress approved the motion for independence, which Richard Henry Lee of Virginia had brought forth in a resolution on June 7. The Continental Congress approved the actual Declaration of Independence document, written mostly by Thomas Jefferson, on July 4th. Most of the delegates signed the document on August 2. It is believed that Thomas McKean of Delaware signed at some point in 1777.

And if you’re interested, you can read more about the daily life during this period of American History in my World of the American Revolution: A Daily Life Encyclopedia.

 

February Surprise: I Carry Your Heart

Monday Morning Musings:

My daughters and I threw a surprise 60th birthday party for my husband this past weekend, just before Valentine’s Day. He thought he was going to a party for one of our daughters. Today is the official celebration of Washington’s birthday (now always on a Monday). It is sometimes called “Presidents’ Day” and combined with Lincoln’s birthday. The line “I carry your heart with me (I carry it in my heart)” comes from E.E. Cummings.

 

On February 22nd,

When I was young,

We colored and cut,

We painted and pasted

Images of George Washington

Our first president.

A true commander-in-chief

Tested in battle.

The American Cincinnatus,

The first US President,

A slaveholder,

Fighting for freedom.

He carried the hopes of a nation

In his heart.

 

Our February schooldays,

Included holiday units,

George Washington and Abraham Lincoln,

Whose birthday we celebrated on the twelfth of February.

And so we carried home to our parents

Our construction paper masterpieces,

Revolutionary era silhouettes,

And tales of truthful George and Honest Abe,

Two leaders in war time–

One war to create a new nation

The other to keep it from dissolving.

Revolution and Civil War,

Battle lines crossed, battlefields bloodied.

And as for politics. Do you think it uncivil now?

Look again at the past.

Early campaigns filled with slander, lies, and duels.

Representative Preston Brooks

Beat Senator Charles Sumner with a cane

In a senate chamber in 1856.

Remember that?

I can imagine it today–

Perhaps battery by selfie stick

After a series of vitriolic tweets.

Any subject is possible.

But then it was a bill, new territories,

Popular Sovereignty, Bleeding Kansas,

And Civil War.

Slavery,

Owning other humans.

Indefensible, irredeemable

And yet, we forget

Events long gone, now

Backlit, perhaps a bit of uplighting,

To infuse a rosy glow

And make the past seem romantic?

O Captain! my Captain!

O heart!

Crimes of the past we carry, along with our celebrations.

 

We also celebrated Valentine’s Day in school,

A holiday that combines ancient Roman fertility rites

And Christian saints.

There’s a combination.

Charles, Duke of Orleans, wrote one of the first Valentines

In 1415 to his wife.

He had been captured at the Battle of Agincourt

And wrote poetry while imprisoned in the Tower of London.

He was held captive for twenty-four years,

Plenty of time to reflect and write, though I think it

Just a teeny bit drastic for a writer’s retreat, don’t you?

But no such poetry for our school day parties.

We had pre-printed Valentines–

Roses are red, and violets are blue–

To place in the paper bags decorated with hearts,

A Valentine for each classmate.

We had cupcakes and juice,

Sweet crumbs clinging to our fingers

Like dreams in our hearts

We carried both throughout the day.

 

Our first date, was a school Christmas dance.

Just before my birthday,

A cold December night,

But we were warm with teenage hopes and expectation,

The giddiness of youth.

My mom told my aunt, you “seemed like a nice boy.”

I don’t know what your parents said.

We’ve celebrated many birthdays, and Valentine’s, too,

Since that long ago night.

I’ve carried your heart with me (I carry it in my heart).

 

This year you were surprised

Both by the passage of years–

Are we both nearly 60?–

And by the party.

I worried about the last minute snow

That people would not show,

That things would not go as planned.

But all went went.

And you,

Yes, surprised,

And touched, I think,

By the love that people carry for you

In their hearts.

 

Our daughters, also with February births,

Like you and our Presidents. Our

Family celebrations carried through the month.

We had Valentine’s birthday parties for them

When they were young.

Little girls making heart-shaped cards,

Pink and red, glitter and glue,

Gifts for us and for each other.

Chocolate cakes, sundaes with mountains of toppings,

And sleepovers in the living room.

Later they had their own Valentines,

High school dances, and college romances.

And now our babies are grown

They’ve found love

Beyond parents, friends, and pets

Though those remain, of course,

Because love grows when it is nurtured

It is infinite and endless.

It cannot be contained, though it is carried.

There can never be too much love

To fit,

To hold,

To carry in my heart

With your heart.

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Valentine’s Day Wine and Chocolate at Monroeville Winery

A Review of World of the American Revolution

The World of the American Revolution: A Daily Life Encyclopedia.

Merril D. Smith, Editor

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This set offers readers a comprehensive and well-documented study of the American Revolution and the people who experienced the conflict.  . . The well-written entries are organized alphabetically, and each entry on a specific subject contains a historical overview and concludes with a bibliography for further reading. . .A great deal of research, sensitivity to people and subject matter, and thought went into compiling this encyclopedia. It not only offers a broad understanding of daily life in the time period but it also discusses women and the diverse populations in North America, including Native Americans and African Americans. This set is a valuable addition to any library, and it offers readers an important historical understanding of the everyday lives of people who lived before, during, and after the American Revolution.

Harrison Wick, Booklist, December 15, 2015

Nice birthday present for me! I think your local library, school,  and historical society probably need a copy of this. Maybe two. 😉

 

The Water is Wide, but It Connects Us All

Monday Morning Musings:

“The water understands

Civilization well”

–Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Water”

There’s a spin instructor

At my gym.

She sometimes lifts her water bottle

And says, “community drink.”

When she says that

I picture a group of people

In a smoky old tavern

Passing around a mug of ale.

History brain.

And as soon as I think “history brain,”

Referring to myself

You understand,

I begin to ponder drinking in

Revolutionary Era America.

At the City Tavern

In Philadelphia

The bill for “55 Gentlemans Dinner & Fruit”

In September 1787

Went mainly for alcohol.

Madera, Claret, Porter, and Beer,

And don’t forget the “7 Large Bowels of Punch.”*

George Washington

Had a distillery at Mount Vernon,

The largest one in North America

At that time.

His hogs were fed the slops.

No waste on the farm.

Perhaps his neighbors

Drank to his health

With the whiskey

They bought from him.

Eighteenth-century toasting

At the table could be an ordeal.

With each guest toasting the health

Of everyone there

And on

And on

Till they could toast no more.

But perhaps it was better

Than drinking water in the city.

Dr. Benjamin Rush once

Lauded the murky water

Of an urban well,

Saying that its mineral waters

Could cure a host of conditions

From flatulence to rheumatism.

But it turned out its peculiar scent and taste

Was due to its connection to a privy.

Ooops.

I guess the doctor is not always right.

Well, well.

There’s a scene in A Town Like Alice

Where an Englishwoman

Returns to a village

In Malaya,

A place where she lived and toiled

During the war

After the Japanese took control

And force-marched her with

Other women and children

Over hundreds of miles.

She had money after the war,

An inheritance,

I think,

And so she goes back

To ask the headman of the village

To let the women have a well.

A small thing

But huge to them.

The scene has stayed in my mind

After all these years.

And I think about how in many parts of the world

Women and children are at risk every day

Because they must fetch the water used for

Cooking,

Drinking,

And washing

From miles away.

They can be assaulted

Or kidnapped

Or killed.

And women in some places

Do not have sanitary facilities

During their monthly periods

And so they cannot go to school

Or to work.

Water.

Those of us who have it

Take for granted that we can turn on a spigot

And there it will be.

And I just realized we haven’t seen

The Walking Dead survivors boiling water

To drink

Not that I remember anyway,

I could be wrong.

But then I guess if you’re already

Infected with a zombie virus

It doesn’t matter much

About the water.

Water from faucets,

Wells, springs, and rivers,

The Amazon,

The Nile,

The Thames,

The Tiber,

The Ganges,

And the Delaware

That flows not far

From my door.

The Delaware River from Red Bank Battlefield

The Delaware River from Red Bank Battlefield

All giving rise to cities

And civilizations.

And the oceans–

The magnificence of whales

Killed to supply people with

Oil for lights and corset stays.

The tides call to them

And to us.

I think about my four-year-old daughter

Twirling and jumping on the beach,

Sheer delight at seeing the ocean

For the first time.

Then the day both girls

Were terrified by a storm

That arose suddenly

On that same beach

As if Poseidon himself

Had awakened–

But was not very happy.

Nothing like a grouchy god.

Air and water blended

Into a mist,

The sand whipped us

In tiny, stinging pellets

As the wind howled

And the waves crashed.

And then just as quickly,

All was once again calm.

Water

And life.

Playful otters

Who cavort in rivers

And salmon that swim upstream

To spawn.

Fanciful beings who

Live between water and land,

Selkies,

Mermaids,

The Lady of the Lake,

And Nessie, too.

We build bridges over troubled waters.

And we sing in the rain.

We paint water lilies

And glance at reflections,

Illusions

And ripples

Time passing

On the water.

I'm fascinated by reflections on the water. Knight Park

I’m fascinated by reflections on the water.
Knight Park

IMG_2962

We humans spend nine months

In a fluid-filled sac,

Emerging from the womb

To gasp, breathe,

And let out that first cry

Announcing,

“I am here.”

Like our ancestors

Who surfaced from the sea

To build a life on land.

But still,

The water calls.

Spinning thoughts

As I pedal

And the wheels turn.

Connections,

Community,

Though the water is wide.

Raise your glass.

Drink.

IMG_2963

Sources:

* “Entertainment of George Washington at City Tavern, Philadelphia, September 1787

http://teachingamericanhistory.org/convention/citytavern/

Merril D. Smith, The World of the American Revolution: A Daily Life Encyclopedia (ABC-CLIO, 2015).

A Town Like Alice (miniseries 1981 with Helen Morse, Bryan Brown, and Gordon Jackson) based on Nevil Shute’s 1950 novel.

There are so many versions of the folk song, “The Water is Wide.” Here is James Taylor singing it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=opfEk_Yoksk

Well, Look What Arrived At My Door Today!

IMG_2724

The World of the American Revolution: A Daily Life Encyclopedia, edited by Merril D. Smith. That’s me!

I also wrote many of the entries.

You can also get it here. Or here.

Your local public or school library certainly needs a copy. Your local historical society or museum does, too.

Apparently Volume 2 is especially tasty.

I love history!

I love history!