Poetry

Outside My Window—

Construction on the 16-story apartment building has come to a halt. An occasional car passes by, and a few people are out walking their dogs, but nobody is running downhill to catch the commuter train to New York City. Nothing seems to be happening, yet this morning when I raised the shade, I witnessed a miracle in progress! Tiny leaves are making their appearance on the oak tree outside my window, and the tree is wearing a light green halo.

It reminded me of a poem Herb wrote that will appear in a forthcoming volume of poetry—Poems and Prayers—now in the hands of the book designer.

MAGIC

How strange that we applaud a fake

as he unspools a ribbon from his ear

or pulls a rabbit from his hat

But yawn next morning when we wake

and see a universe appear

from nothing, just like that!

I hadn’t intended to be back at the blog so soon, but wanted to share this thought. The certainty of the return of spring and the summer to come is surely a comfort in what, to say the least, is a most uncertain time.

****************

I’m working on understanding the Victorian woman, trying to get inside her head. More on this subject to come.

Uncategorized

At least for the time being. 

I began writing Hints and Echoes on April 29, 2012. For almost eight years, I’ve held forth here on whatever happened to attract my attention and interest: automatic cars, cursive handwriting, robots, you name it.

Now, however, what is attracting my attention and interest— and time—are subjects that require more intensive study and research than is involved in writing a 500-700 word post. 

Chief among these subjects is a book I am collaborating on. Herb is the author, but some of my journal entries figure prominently in it and so I need to be seriously involved in the process of editing. It is a memoir, tentatively titled Mary, Me, and History, which traces the progress of our own long lives as they are interwoven with the history of the nation. 

And that’s not all—

Also as many of you know, for 20 years I devoted many volunteer hours to a historic house museum in New York City, where I eventually became the Museum historian and wrote a book about what domestic life was like for the occupants of that Museum during the middle years of the 19th century. 

There were six daughters in the family. Four of them never married and continued to live in the house until the last one died almost 100 years after she had been born in the upstairs bedroom. For years I walked among their ghosts and wondered what life was really like for them.

My interest in the Victorian woman in general has continued since those days and I have become convinced that there is more to the story about the Victorian woman in general than we are accustomed to hearing.

Maybe, God willing, I will write something profound about that subject.

But in the meantime, since there are only 24 hours in the day and we must eat and sleep, although I think it would be great if we didn’t need to do either, I find that something must give.

I may check in from time to time to write about our progress on Herb’s book and what I’m thinking about the Victorian woman.

It says here 137 people follow hintsandechoes and get the posts in their email. I want to thank all of you for your interest and for listening!

I can always be reached through the website of our publishing company http://girandolebooks.com

Holidays · Monuments and Memorials

Why We Celebrate George Washington’s Birthday Today Instead of Friday

This portrait of George and Martha Washington is in the collection of the Merchant's House Museum
This portrait of George and Martha Washington and her grandchildren .is in the collection of the Merchant’s House Museum, New York City.

Time was when George Washington’s birthday, February 22, was a vigorously celebrated patriotic holiday. Here’s how Julia Lay, the wife of a New York City bookkeeper described the city in her diary entry of February 22, 1852:

A great demonstration. The bells were rung, cannons fired, and there was a general observance all over the city. Thousands of houses were illuminated and decorated with busts of Washington and flags were on house tops and steeples and parlor balconies.

Washington, “first in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen” was revered throughout the 19th century. In 1879, congress declared his birthday, February 22, a federal holiday.

But gradually the American Revolution and the founding receded into the distance, and the reverence the people felt for Washington in earlier years faded.

in 1968 George Washington’s birthday became a casualty of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, when an act of congress shifted the fixed dates of certain holidays to designated Mondays in order to give federal employees several three day weekends. Congress did not change the name to Presidents’ Day, but because the third Monday of February falls between Lincoln’s birthday (February 12) and GW’s birthday (February 22), some people began calling it Presidents’ Day, and today it seems to be a holiday to honor all presidents, which in effect really honors none of them.

The third Monday in February never falls on February 22, George Washington’s actual birthday.

paintings · Poetry · Technology

Another Take on Conversation

About the same time as I was writing my last post on the importance of conversation, Herb was working on a post of the same subject for his blog. We didn’t plan it that way. That sort of thing happens when you’ve been married a long time. Here, from his blog, paintingsandpoems.home.blog:

SOLITUDE IS NO SOLUTION

Herb Knapp

THE MIND
Birds, bees, termites, ants, and molds
taken singly are brainless things,
but when they come together with their kind,
they act as if directed by a mind.
We, however, lose our minds in crowds,
grow drunkenly ambitious, start to build
stairways to the stars, or try to kill
our neighbors, pillage stores, set fire to cars.
Solitude is no solution though.
A mountain man’s a crowd of one,
who follows his uncontradicted will, 
as mindless as an ant without a hill.
Our minds are fragile, easily destroyed
by noise or silence, griefs or celebrations.
For minds to flourish, they must be employed
regularly in rambling conversations.

Below iis a conversation between men called “The Long Story” by William Sidney Mount.

And here is a painting of a conversation between two women called “Conversation” by the twentieth century painter Milton Avery.

Thomas Traherne: “The world is best enjoyed and most immediately while we converse blessed and wisely with men.”

Jonathan Edwards: “The being of society, as such, is conversation.”

Michael Oakeshott: “Learning to be human is learning to participate in the conversation of mankind.” 

Technology

Three Smart Phones and the Sounds of Silence

Cell_phones_image

First published on May 17, 2016. Here it is again–slightly edited.

Last Tuesday morning a couple walked into the restaurant where Herb and I were having coffee. They sat down at a nearby table; the waitress took their order, the man pulled out his cell phone and began texting—maybe emailing. For the next five minutes, she sat silent as stone, staring into the middle distance.

After a few more minutes, a second phone in his pocket rang. He took it out, spoke briefly to the caller and then returned to the  business of the first phone.

Finally, she took her phone from her bag and started scrolling. I kept my eye on them, fascinated by a real-life example of what I have been reading about in a compelling and disturbing book, Reclaiming Conversation: the Importance of Talk in the Digital Age by Sherry Turkel.

After twenty minutes, we finished our coffee and left. Not a word had been exchanged between them. I don’t know how two people who are so uninterested in each other could maintain a relationship much less a marriage for long. As someone who has remained happily married ( for a long, looong time—65 years and counting), I am here to tell you this is not the way you do it.