Archive for the ‘Non Fiction history’ Category

PostHeaderIcon Tale of Two Thanksgivings



In the early days of the Commonwealth, the Colony of Massachusetts, the residents believed themselves to live in a covenanted society. This is an Old Testament philosophy that tied residents to one another and the community to God. Although the Puritans, and the Separatists, (the Pilgrims of Plymouth) differed slightly in their practices, they were Calvinists who believed that the actions of one person would effect God’s blessings, or lack thereof, on the entire community.

It is this belief, that the every individual was responsible for the welfare of the whole, that led to fast days and thanksgivings, and these were called regularly by the General Court, which is now the Massachusetts Legislature.

Fast Days were called when calamities, such as Indian attacks and battles during the series of wars that began with the King Philip’s War 1675 and concluded with the War for Independence, (1775-1781) occurred. Disease epidemics, flood, drought, and particularly bad winters were also reasons for fasting. Fast Days were spent at the meeting house and little food was eaten, as all human needs were replaced with prayer.

Fast days became less religious over time, and many towns offered speakers at local Atheneums rather then fasting at the local church. They disappeared from diaries, no longer mentioned by the early nineteenth century.

Thanksgivings were born from the same tradition as were fast days. Thanksgivings were called by the General Court for successes and survivals; the end of a drought, soldiers safely home from war, harsh winters endured or soft, mild winters, and most famously bountiful harvests. These were as religious as the Fasts, days of thanking a generous God for the bounty of His love and whatever blessings He had bestowed.

The pattern of legal Thanksgivings follows that of Fast Days, called by the General Court whenever occasion warranted during the early years of the Commonwealth, and becoming fixed at two per year by the beginning of the eighteenth century. According to the diaries, by 1704, the two Thanksgivings were fixed at  — the first Thursday of April, roughly the Massachusetts state holiday known as Patriot’s Day, and the end of November or early December – today’s Thanksgiving holiday. (The New England Puritans did not celebrate Christmas, believing that every day was given over to the celebration of Christ’s birth.)

So whatever happened in the Plymouth Colony in 1621, and whatever FDR did to create this holiday in the rest of the nation to help stores sell their Christmas goods, Thanksgiving was a religious and state holiday in the Massachusetts Bay Colony and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts that began in 1630 and was gifted to the rest of the nation by Sarah Josepha Hale after the Civil War and by FDR in 1939.


PostHeaderIcon Heavy Snows in March


Boston Harbor 1765

On March 4, 1776 the New Englanders under command of John Thomas, began to cart the cannon up the hill to Dorchester Heights. Other people, townsfolk of Roxbury and helpers, had put hay on the streets to muffle the sound of the heavy wagons. These were the cannon brought to Boston by Henry Knox, and his small team from Fort Ticonderoga in New York. As men brought the heavy cannon up the hillside, others were constructing sticks (or fascia) into redoubts to look like an actual fort system built into the hill. The weather cooperated in favor of the Americans, giving them a screen of white, rain and heavy snow to work behind.

General William Howe, commander of the British in America, had observed the Americans gathering on the heights, but he had seen no reason to hurry to take the hill, as it was nearby and easily climbed from the ocean side. On March 5, 1776, (sixth anniversary of the Boston Massacre), Gen. Howe woke to the sight of cannon aimed directly at the British fleet in the harbor. He may have suspected the truth, that the Americans had no cannon ball, and their powder was probably as wet as the mud under their feet, but he could not gamble with the ships or the lives of so many men — not for this tiny, wretched town in the beginnings of a small-pox outbreak.

Howe agreed to terms, and surrendered to town to Gen. George Washington. The British evacuated, twelve days later, on March 17, 1776. Saint Patrick’s Day, known in old Boston as Evacuation Day.


Excerpt from Beside Turning Water

Dorchester Heights, March 5, 1776
Suddenly Alex was glad Nina had help enough without him. He had hopes that his role was over for the day, maybe even longer, but he hadn’t counted on an all-out battle at the edge of town. Again, war had a way of interrupting plans.
“Peele, so glad you are here with a wagon. Excellent. These men need transport to the Heights.” Alex turned around. Men were already seated in the wagon, shovels and rifles stacked neatly against the hinged tailgate. They were bundled in their greatcoats and covered with sailcloth tarpaulins. They were ready to leave. Alex took a deep breath, readied himself for another long night, fixed his cloak and hood over his head, and shook the reins. He turned the team and wagon and headed back the way he came, turning south in order to join Henry Knox’s cannon on the hill.
The wind howled. Alex pulled his cloak closer. He could have missed this, back in his small rooms in Boston, completely unaware that the tide of the siege was about to turn. It would have happened that way if that idiot Josh had not appeared with his pistol in a civilized parlor in Boston. Perhaps even General Howe was unaware of what was happening on Dorchester Heights, almost directly over his quarters on Castle Island. He might be hunkered down, riding out the storm, staying warm and slightly drunk on his favorite brandy. As for Alex, he wasn’t missing this important moment. He felt alive and ready.
He had heard snippets of Henry Knox’s project during that one moonlight trip to Cambridge. The night that had been the most frightening of his war, that is until this afternoon, when Nina blocked the bullet meant for his heart. He reminded himself that she was alive, and she had help. He dragged his mind back to the men behind him. Planning for this mission had started last November. Henry Knox was to bring sixty cannon from Fort Ticonderoga in New York, across the long southern border of Massachusetts, and position them on the Heights, the last undefended hill looming over the closed town.
The warm, wet winter caused Knox trouble from the first. In many places, the snow was not thick enough to support sledges carrying the cannon. Roads were not frozen, and then, too often, the ice on the rivers cracked. More than once the men had to drag a cannon out of freezing water. Conditions were so unusual that the mission, predicted to take three weeks, took nearly nine.
Now, with the help of every farmer and militiaman in Roxbury, the materials were ready to be moved up the Heights and positioned on the hill facing the harbor. The goal was to shock the British with cannon aimed at their ships and redoubts built into the hill, manned and ready to repel any assault from the sea. Washington was ready with terms. The British were not to further loot or burn the town, but to hurriedly pack and leave, to simply evacuate. Under the terms, the Americans promised not to blow the masts off or sink the British warships.

The townspeople, men, women and children, had built large numbers of fascia, the bundled sticks that would cover redoubts and make them look deep and permanent. Each redoubt would be armed with a cannon staring down at Howe’s headquarters, or at a Man o’ War anchored in the harbor. The storm that was battering the region would only help the Americans, adding needed cover to the dangerous operation.
Alex pulled the team to a halt at the base of the hill known as Dorchester Heights, in the little farming town of Roxbury. The roads were covered with hay-straw, muffling the racket made by the heavy wagons rumbling through. The George beckoned, and the men went in for orders, an ale and some food before they climbed the Heights to work. Already, men were bringing barrels of heavy sand to the summit to arm the holes built into the side of the frozen hill. These would be ready to roll down on any invading force of Royal Marines should they attempt to take the hill. Alex climbed off the bench and swore at the storm, as his leg buckled under him and he grabbed the wagon for support.
He’d hoped the weeks of semi-rest as a loyalist fop might have hastened the healing, but inactivity had only made the leg weaker. He pushed aside the thought that the leg might never heal and stomped around the wagon, trying to get some feeling back into his cold feet. He looked around to see who might be in charge of the ordered chaos.
After a few minutes he saw the tavern keeper’s daughter, and asked her who might direct him. She pointed to a small shed partway up the steep hill. Hidden in the apple orchard, a small puff of smoke rose from its chimney. Alex wasn’t surprised to find that General Thomas was using the little shed. Out of the back, it had a view of the men working on transforming the hill. He knocked at the door.
“Come in. Oh, Peele, what are you doing out in this weather?” The man had obviously just walked in himself. He was covered with ice and drenched to the bone. He laughed at his quip.
Alex brushed snow off his shoulders and closed the door behind him. “Evening Sir, I ended up in Cambridge due to a small errand, and was sent here with a wagon load of supplies and men. Wondered if there was anything I could do to help.”
Thomas, who had gotten to know Peele slightly from their talks, watched him rubbing the same spot on his leg he had favored months before. “We can always use help, fill in where there is an opening. No digging possible, the frost is two feet thick on that side of the heights. We are camouflaging the redoubts. Move to the forward lines and see if the field commanders need anything.”
“Yes sir, I will.” He made as if to turn and leave, when Thomas’s words stopped him.
“Son, do you mind if I speak out of turn?”
Alex nodded.
“Peele, I haven’t been a practicing doctor for some years now, but I know a problem when I see one. If it was my choice, I wouldn’t want you in my regiment. I could just about guarantee that you would be trampled in retreat or worse. If we were to send you as a refugee into the next city, doing there what you did for us here, like as not you’d get caught by someone you diced with at the Province House. They’ll happily hang you.
“So go do whatever you can find to do around here tonight. Then take that leg and go build this nation. Leave the fighting to the men who haven’t got shot yet.”
“Yes, Sir, thank you, sir. General Thomas?” the old soldier looked up, “It’s not going to be that easy, is it?” The old soldier nodded acknowledgment as Alex got up to leave.
“No Peele, I imagine someone will need your unique skills again before this war is over. Could be sooner, could be later.”
The General went back to his work. Word was, this engagement would be the last one of John Thomas’s long career, and he wouldn’t leave his Roxbury farm to move on with the Continental Army. Alex left him to complete his victory. It was going to be a hell of a morning for William Howe, and Alex felt an urge to be back in Boston to see it. First, he would do what he could to help here at the Heights, and before dawn he would make his way back to his rooms in the town. As for his skills being unique? He doubted they were, but he was a good observer, a fine rider and could usually find a way to do what needed to be done.

Read the rest .




PostHeaderIcon December 16, 1773. Boston’s Destruction of the Tea

CP Front Cover_smallExcerpt from Chapter 1: Cardinal Points

The mood was charged, as though there was lightning flashing in the air, although there was no storm. Curious at the large crowds, he followed a mass of people to the square in front of the large brick church on the corner of Milk Street. The crowd had moved into the square from a meeting at Faneuil Hall, and now gathered in front of the Old South Meeting House. It was enormous, large enough so that it contained nearly every adult in the town. It was also very quiet. Every man, woman, and young person who had not been lucky enough to get a seat inside on this cold damp night stood at the big windows, straining to hear the speeches. Occasionally the voices inside would make a point or call for a vote, then loud “huzzahs!” and “fies!” would pour from the windows.
It was a typical December night on the New England coast. Jason pulled his collar closer, but didn’t mind. Coming from the north of England, he sort of liked it, but others found the freezing drizzle, constant rain, snow, cold and fog to be unpleasant. He shuffled his feet when the crowd moved, and listened. The arguments had been going on all week, and the crowds were here because of a shipment of East India Company tea – that small leaf, from a small plant, grown very far away, taxed by Parliament, and desired by nearly everyone. And held for ransom, it seemed, on three ships, the Dartmouth, the Eleanor and the Beaver – ships docked, but not yet passed by the customs men.
The three were loaded with legal tea, and their large cargo was ready to offload. The owners, who well understood the mood of the town, were prepared to sell cheap, just to maintain order, and give Parliament their bitty tax. But the mood of the town said that the ships should sail away with their cargo untouched.
The arguments in the Meeting House had to be finished this night because the ships had been docked for weeks, and tomorrow the customs men could legally seize the tea and sell it in the shops. What those same customs men did not know was that among Jason’s possessions on the Chardon, anchored just off Windmill Point, was a lovely little cargo of tea from Holland. Of course, his was not legal tea, smuggled as it was, and then seized as a prize from a French merchantman.
So, as far as the East India Company and their cronies were concerned, his tea, nicely hidden in wine casks, was to rot onboard. The only way he would be allowed to bring his tea into town was to smuggle it in on a dark night. Now, the governor, with his stubborn insistence that the captains of the three tea ships not return to London with their cargo, had made the town too ‘hot’ to sell any tea, even good quality Chinese tea, carefully smuggled.
It was unlike Jason to stand and listen to political discussions. Generally, he did not concern himself with Parliament and their doings. His brothers did that for him. He hadn’t heard from either of them in a while, and there wasn’t time at the present to get their intellectual, reasoned, Parliamentarian reading on the situation concerning the Boston tea. Governor Hutchinson was about to make his decision, and no doubt it would be to land the tea. The governor knew the mood of the town, but Thomas Hutchinson had never listened to the desires of his fellows, and he was not starting now.
It seemed odd, and yet not, to find himself outside Old South, with the young men of Boston. He had been a sailor since he was fourteen, and maybe he had always wanted to defy authority and carefully and methodically throw cargo off a ship into a harbor. Bostonians’ natural aversion to taxes and restraint of trade might be giving him a unique chance to fulfill that dream, and take part in what was sure to become an important moment in history, something rare in any life.
Jason knew he could not open his mouth to speak. He occasionally was able to sound like a lowly seaman, but he could never sound American. The handicap had never bothered him, and the last times he had stayed in Boston, it had not mattered. But tonight he might sound like a spy, and he was not in the mood to follow the tea into the cold, wet harbor.
After word came from the governor to land the tea, the crowd broke up. Slowly, small groups moved into taverns and parlors around the plaza. He found himself with a group walking up School Street to the Cromwell’s Head Tavern. There, a dark-haired girl, her own hat low on her head almost hiding her face, was distributing feathers and applying black war paint and burnt cork patches to disguise the participants.

PostHeaderIcon An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving in 1848


Jackson Homestead Newton, Massachusetts. Now home of the Newton History Museum

This is a small essay that was written, or perhaps typed from notes, in 1953. The essay is available in three places worldwide: at the Newton Free Library, the Boston Athenæum, and at the library of the Massachusetts Historical Society. I encountered “An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving” when I was doing a project in the Newton Room at the Newton Free Library. Two years ago I searched to see if a copy of this charming memoir existed anywhere on the internet, it did not, which was a shame, so I went to the library and photographed the pages.

Below is a mildly edited, (only a comma and a word or two has been altered) version of the 1953 typed edition of this story from 1848. Unfortunately I don’t know who did the 1953 edition, but the 1848 was written in adulthood by Sallie D. Gilbert who was one of the “Little Ones”  in the story.

Jacksons of Newton

Jacksons of Newton

An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving in 1848
Jackson Homestead, Newton, Massachusetts

By Sallie D. Gilbert

Dear Children, I wish you could look back with me into the dear old Kitchen Thanksgiving week, Grandmother and “The Girls” hadn’t a minute to spare then. “The Girls” were Aunt Ree, (Lucretia), Aunt Cutty, (Caroline), Aunt Peli, (Eileen) and Aunt Frank, (Frances).

Aunt Mouse was too young to be trusted with much, but she could pick raisins off the stem.

How gladly we all would have had a hand in the wonderful doings. As it was, we could only open the doors a little way and peep through the cracks, and then should run back to the rest of the children, “oh my! The pies are going into the oven,” and then every child would strain to look through the door, I think Grandmother would have let the whole horde of us rush in, for we’re never in Grandmother’s way; but this “getting ready” was mighty business to “The Girls,” and they could not have us under their feet. There was the meat to chop, and the apples to chop, the raisins to boil and then to chop; the citron to chop; and all to be mixed and seasoned. O, the good things that went into that seasoning:

Grandmother would taste.
“A little more salt,”

“Luck would taste,
“I think it ought to be sweeter.”

Peli would dip a spoon in, and taste, and Frank would taste, and each would suggest, but say,

“My! Isn’t it good!”

O, if we children could only taste, too, but our good time was coming. Grandmother would see to that. When every pie was filled, then we might draw a finger all around the inside of the great red earthen pan and then lap our fingers with a gusto; and how the boy would gloat over his luck if he could scrape a “bit lot” onto his finger; but this was after the pies were in the big brick oven. Then, and only then, could “The Girls” breathe content.

Aunt Cutty would put a pie on the shovel and push that by the long handle away to the back of the oven; then another pie and other till there was no more room. As I remember, the great oven was expected to back forty pies at a time. I know it seemed immense and mysterious.

The mince pies – forty in all – were made early in the week, the cranberry, whenever they could be. How beautiful they were, with no top crust, but the rich crimson color showing out between the diamonds and the scrolls that Duck made with delicate strips of crust. We children looked at those pies with wonder and admiration. Thorwaldson, with his moldings of clay, could not have commanded more adoration than we had for our Genius. By Wednesday night all the apple and squash pies must be done, for Thursday morning was hurrying time for the great dinner, which must be served by two.

That was a dreadfully late time for dinner but Mr. Gilbert must preach at West Newton and all his family take the sleigh after church. We little Gilbert girls were allowed to carry our dolls to meeting under our cloaks, and O! The trembling of joy of walking up the long aisle to the minister’s pew, and feeling if people only knew what we had under our coats! Of course, the dolls must go to Thanksgiving at Grandmother’s.

Then Uncle Lewis Hall was in the choir of his church, and he and his family must have a long time to drive way up from East Cambridge. The dinner must be late. All men folk went to church; but of course the women, i.e., those who were to have guests, could not go on any account.

The old pantry then was a good sight to see. Everything had been shoved aside to make room for pies and pies and pies. Every shelf – reachable – was covered with rows of them. We children would flock into the pantry, and gaze in admiration, and count them over and over – – so many mince (they were the royal pies), so many cranberry, so many apple, and so many golden squash.

Thanksgiving morning that dear old kitchen was a hall of plenty. Always through the winter a line across the room with hung with “crooked neck” squashes, and their golden color made them a gorgeous decoration, but on Thanksgiving morning everything was color. There were tables of pies in array already for serving, the pudding Grandmother was making at another table with no sparing of good things, “The Girls” were preparing the turkey and making ready the vegetables. Plenty everywhere. Plenteousness was necessary to call forth the true Thanksgiving spirit, which on this day was full of thankfulness for the abundance with which God had blessed our dear land.

Frank might be beating the butter and sugar together for pudding sauce to complete the glory of Grandmother’s masterpiece. It could not be beaten too much. Mouse could chop the heart and gizzards for giblet gravy, and I think Bill would even assist at that, though he was now too much a man to join us “children” in most things – – i.e. in our plays. He must have been quite seventeen on this Thanksgiving day of which I am especially reminded.

Cranberries had been stewed the day before, but there was bread to be cut, tables to set, pickles – Grandmother’s special stuffed mangoes- ouster sauce for the boiled turkey – so many things and so much to do. Every grown person was hurrying to and fro, and gradually order was evolved, and O, with what beautiful results. Of course, I was not an eye witness to all this, but keen reporters were on hand.

O, the ecstatic glow when our sleigh whirled into the yard. The horse himself knew it was a festive time and pranced gaily up to the door, sleigh bells tingling, and then what a greeting! All the household rushed to the door and shouted welcome. That we did for each new arrival. Uncle Tim and his family had long been on hand. They only had to come from over the way, but the Fullers were coming with Uncle Henry’s handsome horse. His horses were always fine creatures.

Aunt Sarah had been to Eliot church, so she made an early appearance at the Homestead, and the Halls earlier than you would have thought possible from so far away; but a sleigh-load of lively people might made any horse do his best. Soon all had arrived, and then what merry laughing and talking there was from that time on. I think the old walls must still be holding some of that merriment, for they still inspire “Good times.”
Then came the procession to the dining room and no royal progress ever commanded more rapturous attention than we children with open eyes gave the incoming troop.

Uncle Ed Triumphantly bore the huge turkey aloft. That was the roast one, Uncle Bill brought in the boiled one, another one came baring the steaming chicken pie. “The Girls,” one after another, carried potatoes, squash, turnips, cranberry sauce, giblet gravy and oyster sauce. Celery was already ornamenting the tables. Truly those tables groaned with abundance. It was easy to be thankful.

There was one long table in the old sitting room made festive enough, one would think, by the windows filled with blooming plants through which the sunbeams were playing, and there were, besides, two square tables, the one in the front corner for the “Young Folks” and the other by the secretary, surrounded by the “little things” whose mothers had made them as pretty as possible. Indeed, we granddaughters all had new gowns that gave us an undertone of proud happiness with all the gaiety.

“The Old Folks” i.e. Grandfather in the center, and Grandmother opposite with their children and their children’s consorts round about the board – were at the long table. On this particular Thanksgiving Day the newly engaged couples “Key” and Henry B. William, and Aunt Mary and Charles Curtis – were not expected to do any serving, but to be served with honor. How ancient they at the long table seemed to us “Young Folks,” yet they joked just as much as we did and every joke brought a merry shout. What was wanting in wit was made up in laughter, but, indeed, the wit was no mean affair. It could not be where Uncle Tim was; and Bill and others had often spicy speech. They were bright people about that table, and Grandfather looked proudly around on his family, forty-two of us were gathered in that room.

Ah! After the reverent grace, you should have seen our grandsire when he stood up to carve the mighty turkey. He sharpened his knife anew, and then went to work with a will. He was a masterly carver. He cut off the wings; he slashed off the drumsticks, and divided the joints; carved slices from the breast, and slit off the wishbone; parted the neck (that was always Uncle Tim’s choice), easily separated the side bones with their delicate dark meat; spooned out the stuffing; “broke the back” and then in no time delivered light or dark meat, drumsticks or wings on a plates ranged around, passing each in turn to Grandmother, saying “There, Mother,” and she heaped upon it all the vegetables and cranberry sauce, while married daughters lent their aid in helping to gravies.

Uncle Tim sat at one end of the table and helped from the huge chicken pie and some son-in-law carved the boiled turkey.

Everyone ate all he could, and then would say, “I must have a little of that boiled turkey. It looks too tempting to leave.”

“Well, I can’t go through Thanksgiving without tasting Mother’s chicken pie.”

“My! Mother but this beats any yet!”

There was much laughing when little Mary Gilbert passed her plate the third time for squash, and would eat nothing else. Her dinner was finished, older people were not so wise.

At length, all declared that they could really eat no more, for Grandmother’s smoking pudding had been brought in on a lordly dish, amid unbounded applause, and of course, everyone had taken a piece of that, and, so to speak, smacked his lips over it, and then “The Girls” brought in four kinds of pie and flanked the plum pudding with the tempting things; so that one said, “Well Mother, I’m full, but give me a sliver of that mince pie, and you might add a mouthful of that squash,” And others followed suit.

The little ones were soon through and playing in the entry. Aunt Frank, looking so pretty, had seen to their wants.

Next, the young folks left in haste to play “Old Bear” on the stairs, and at last the elders could do no more. Some adjourned for a run to help digestion; Grandfather and the older men, to tell stories around the parlor fire. “The Married Girls” cleared the table and washed the dishes, while “The Unmarried” ate their long-delayed dinner. It had been a hard working day for them. Grandmother rested.

Great was the shouting in the halls. Full liberty reigned on this day, and no child was hushed.

“Old Bear” was our special Thanksgiving game. The old bear would hide in the back upstairs entry, or in one of the four small chambers – all pitch dark; and we children, gathered in Grandmother’s room would creep down the stairs warily into the darkness of the back-hall. I remember well how I thrilled over the bravery of Steve and Will Gilbert as they heroically pressed forward to meet the enemy, while I, trembling, stood on one foot in the rear ready to run the moment we heard a growl and the bear sprang out and caught the first one he could, while the escaping ones fled to the light. The one who was caught became the bear in the next raid. I was always glad to be the bear, for it was better to be alone in the dark, than to be sprung on and startled. The “Rag Closet” (now the Box Closet) was a favorite hiding place for the bear. These were the days when the tin-peddler’s cart came around at regular times, and rags – sold by the pound – were exchanged for bright tin-ware. Then, the rags in the household were carefully saved, and assorted into white and colored. Just before the time for the coming of the peddler there would be a high pile of rags in the closet, and we would bury ourselves in those rags; and so, finely hidden from view, we could wait for our best chance to pounce on the victim.

One Thanksgiving Day, late in the afternoon, we were all summoned to the parlor. Grandfather and Grandmother occupied seats of honor, while others sat anywhere, or stood in the doorways.

I wondered when I saw my mother and Aunt Sarah sitting side by side, near the fireplace, for Mother was blushing, and Aunt Sarah was holding a written sheet of paper in her hand. Nearby, and no one was allowed to sit in it, stood Grandmother’s great grandfather’s chair. It was usually placed by the wall.

Aunt Sarah read aloud “The Old Armchair,” which you all know now, but it was a surprise to me. I looked at Mother with astonishment and pride, and said to myself,

“She is a poet! Wonderful!

Truly, I think Grandfather was as proud for shortly afterwards he had poem printed and gave it around to his friends and relatives.

The next year, the scene was almost repeated, for then Mother had written “the Daguerreotype,” and that was read.

I think this reading quieted us all, for soon we said goodby and drove away to our homes. Sighing to think we must wait a whole year before such a glorious day would come again.

Arriving at home we could eat so supper, for, truth to tell, we had hied to the storeroom from time to time just for ‘a taste” of those “splendid pies;” not that were hungry, but we could not neglect such a wonderful privileges as were allowed on this day of days. We might delve right into the midst of the finest pie there, and just think – – we need not eat the crust, if we did not want to; though why it could be a privilege not to eat that delicious flaky crust, none could tell.

I have neglected to say that Grandmother made a hundred pies, that she might have wherewith to give liberally to all – the poor and lonely – as a token of fellowship and love. The day before, the children were sent forth as almoners, in all directions, to carry the baskets heaped with good things.

One year, Grandfather loaded his sleigh with a full Thanksgiving dinner and drove to the Poor House. There he dined with the inmates and by merry jests and genial conversation brightened their day; then came back home to enjoy his home festival with his children.

That was before the days of the great immigration, and there were but seventeen inmates at the Poor House. They were of feeble mind or “Wanting” as the expression went, and victims of intemperance.

Since great benevolent societies are of recent birth, that benevolence was unpracticed and unknown to our forefathers – – or so the present generation is apt to think; but in those days every man knew his neighbor, and no one was allowed to suffer want.

In later years, Grandmother had a tree with presents on it for the grandchildren on Thanksgiving afternoon, and placed it between the nursery door and the fireplace.


Those of you who read this tale of Thanksgiving long ago – – whether you be “Old Folks,” “Young Folks” or “little things” – – please remember that the Old Homestead still stands to welcome you, as of old, through its front door. Its walls are still rich with memories of the laughter, the heroism, and the kindness that graced it for centuries.

Will you not visit us and see the great kitchen fireplace, and the old brick oven where Grandmother baked her mince pies – – forty at a time – – the dining room where forty-two sat at a sitting; the spacious halls where the children merrily played “Old Bear”, the parlor where the family poems were read; and the yard into which the horses pranced with their sleigh loads of Thanksgiving joy.

We will welcome you there!

PostHeaderIcon Hurricanes

In light of the hurricane, I thought I would post Kate Fort Codington’s memoir of the 1926 Miami Hurricane, it had no other name. This is the storm the U. of Miami took as its mascot, so to speak.

Above the Storm

On Friday, September the 18th, I arrived in Miami with my family. Arthur had rented a charming house in Shenandoah, a residential section of red hibiscus, purple bougainvillea, and orange begonia blossoms. Grapefruit trees grew about the house and filled the vacant lot across the street. The fruit was nearly ripe and clustered in giant pendants, yellow-green, among settings of jade leaves. White curtains blew a greeting at the living room windows, a white apron enveloped the new maid, white clouds piled the rim of the horizon, and white sunlight flooded everything.

Life will be simpler here – thought I. I sat in the loggia listening to the wind through the coconut palm, like the clapping of little hands. I looked ahead into the years; I saw the children stretching up, brown and strong, their backs glistening from the bouyant water – always out with the wind and sky.
“Come,”Arthur interrupted my daydream, “don’t nap, let’s take a ride, plenty of time to unpack tomorrow. The maid understands the electric stove and will have dinner ready.”
We drove everywhere in the balmy brightness – to the indigo ocean which lay with the white foam of his long locks rippling across the sand. We watched the waves, coy in their entrancing loveliness, never whispering that the hour of their enchantment approached, and that soon they must rise as leviathans and dig themselves caverns in the beach. Little John took a stick… “I will spank Mr. Ocean,” he giggled, “He must learn to mind.”

We drove home at sundown. Clouds scudded the sky, the wind grew steady. “Do you know,” Arthur spoke casually, “a big storm is predicted tonight, a hurricane.” “Not really?” I questioned, “perhaps down here all winds are called hurricanes, it looks like rain to me.”
After the long first day we went to bed early. A window in our room refused to shut. Oh well, a new house, we would fix it tomorrow. The night deepened. The rain began. The wind became stern, sterner. “Arthur, get a hammer, the rain is drenching the bed.” There was no hammer. We strained at the sash as water flooded the room. Then the lights went off. “We’d better go downstairs,” grimaced Arthur as he struggled at the window, “I’ll lock the door, maybe it will keep the water from running down the steps.”

We met the children in the hall, all but baby Emily who slept in my arms. Their eyes were wide and frightened. “Mother, the house shakes, is it an earthquake?” We descended to the living room and lighted a candle. Outside – fury, wind, rain lashing the darkness. Water seeped in around the windows dripping from my room upstairs. “Oh, the poor landlord,” moaned the children, “his pretty tables and chairs, Mother, you don’t mind if we keep them mopped.”After a while the eyes of the workers grew heavy and I piled pillows on the floor. The walls trembled about us. The locked door upstairs rattled like a machine gun, and yet the family slept.
“Mother,” my two boys stood above me, “there’s a man out there. He’s been knocking a long time.” I rose wearily. Such stillness, such heaviness, perspiration stood on the faces of the children, still asleep. A tall spare man stood at the door. “Lady, I’m Joe Ludlam your neighbor. The electric wires are down, the wife and I have an oil stove— thought maybe you’d like to come to our place and cook your breakfast.”
“Such a storm,” I gasped, “Are you a stranger too?”
“…born here.” He stretched out his long mahogany arms. “Come on over when you get ready.” “I’ll take you in the car.” Arthur was suddenly beside me. “Then I’ll drive around and see the damage.”
The car, faced south in the porte cochere. I climbed to the back seat with a coffee percolator and a box of oatmeal. Arthur took the wheel. Then it happened – we had thought the storm was over — when with a hiss it was back upon us.

There were cries from the house as the hurricane unfurled from its treacherous lull and struck us with its fangs. THE CHILDREN! “Stick by the car, I must go in,”Arthur’s words sped by me. The wind threw him to the ground, then tore the screen door from his hands as he managed to scramble to the house. “Thank goodness,” I sighed to myself, he’s all right, the flashlight signaled that all was well.

There I sat. Shut tight in my ark of safety with the hurricane swirling around me. Its sound, a long shriek as of escaping steam, no gusts, no diminuendos – just that harsh, high, indomitable note – the mad unison of wind and rain. Later I tasted the rain, it was salty, a mixture of ocean and rainwater, blown three miles inland. The grapefruit, which had survived the night, avalanched about me. Trees blew over, every leaf from every twig shot by like a bullet, or hit the windshield with the sound of metal. I began to move. The car was backing from the porte cochere; instantly I was on my feet – my ark of safety – how did Noah’s wife feel when she was left alone to steer?

Inside Arthur was saying, “Mother’s all right, she’s leaning over, I guess she’s saying her prayers.” But I was not saying my prayers. I had felt full, physically depressed. But sudden terror cleared my mind and I realized that IF I let go of the brake, I would be killed. Thoughts of the family tore at my heart. As I looked behind me pieces of roof went whirring by, losing themselves in the semi-darkness, beating as blind birds against the iron lamp post. A large blue car, from next door, shot straight as an arrow across the street, crashing into the grapefruit trees. Again my car began to move chattering with its brakes like an old woman.”0 God, o God.” Yes, Mother was praying.
My help came from the fact that the wheels were turned and as the wind pushed it, the car backed in front of the house, cutting off the force of the wind. I opened and slammed the door and crawled to the porch. “Stick by the car.” I had stuck long enough.

A whoop of delight greeted me as I entered the living room – but such a room! Rain swept in furiously, and the house rocked like a three-legged stool. A high stone coping had protected the roof, but under the loosened bars of the steel awning-frames, all the east and south facing windows had caved in. The rest were broken by Arthur with his baseball bat, so that flying glass would not hit the children. The two davenports were pushed against the flapping southern door, and manned by Arthur, the two boys and little Mary, her blond hair messy with rain and worry. The faces of these volunteers were pale, but their eyes triumphant. In a corner crouched my two high school girls, Tallulah and Catherine, holding Baby Emily who kicked and tore at her dress. Her staccato screams could be heard above the storm. “If the house begins to go, Arthur,” my voice sounded far away. “Let us run to the grapefruit trees. We can hold on to the roots. The wind’s less dangerous than concrete blocks.” But the house did not go, and the storm grew no worse. I took off Emily’s dress, her nerves relaxed and she slept.
“Poor Mr. Hilburn, see how we’ve ruined his house, I mopped till the door busted in,” ten year old Artie grinned self-consciously. Little John mopped his face. “This old Hurricane’s a whopper, but he ain’t a-going to knock us down. Look at me hold this sofa.” Then I smiled. We all smiled. Soon we were shouting jokes at each other across the din.
We were experiencing the exhilaration of great danger. Little Emily had shed the only tears.

It was two o’clock in the afternoon before it was all over. Suddenly the quaking, rattling, roaring ceased. Light streamed palely over the sea of the living room, where overstuffed chairs huddled like stranded whales in sodden misery. Baby Emily lay curled in the one dry spot, just at the turn of the staircase. For a while we collapsed about her. It had been a bit hard – all in forty-eight hours – to travel a thousand miles, descend two thousand feet from mountains to seashore and, hampered by the depression of a low barometer, fight the enemy as we had fought.
“Mother, that same man’s at the door.” There he stood with his air of relaxed kindliness. “My wife’s cooked dinner,” he said. “We want you all to come over – oh, yes, all of you. We’ve got kids too and know that they can eat.” Food! Except to nibble occasionally on a loaf of bread, we had not thought of food since Arthur and I started out so cheerily with our breakfast in the car.

Sarah Ludlam, Joe’s wife, stood above the crowd, tall, straight, her hair straight and black, her face browned with forty years of Florida sun, her eyes jubilant. To me she will always typify the spirit above the storm. With water half way to her knees, she had cooked for her family of seven, our family of eight and the family of five next door. “We knew that we all would be a-needin’ this stove, so we saved it first.” Oh, that dinner! Fried eggs, potatoes, beans and coffee, that big pot of coffee! Our hosts moved among us, unpretentious and eager in their giving, wholesome as the saw palmetto of their Florida fields. “Take money for this dinner? Why sir, we are storm neighbors, this is no time to pay.”

We returned to our house, the water was two feet deep in the upstairs rooms. To save what plaster we could, the elder members of the family rolled up skirts and trousers and began to bale. My room was utter dilapidation – the furniture was paintless and the bedstead shot with glass.
“Poor Mr. Hilburn!”

What we did not yet know was that we were saving the house for ourselves – that a stern Florida lease would make us pay for such a wreck.
That night we slept at Arthur’s partner’s home. His wife Nancy came over with open arms, “Our house is built Georgia fashion, all boards and shingles and close to the ground.” I will never dream of marble halls again – leave them to the tourists. Sunday morning, after-a drive through the desecrated city, we returned to our gored windows and soaked trunks in Shenandoah.

Joe Ludlam had lost everything in the storm— the roof of his warehouse and all that was under it. “We must carry each other,” Sarah Ludlum spoke quietly. She baked bread for all her neighbors, “there ain’t a loaf in town.” Afraid of typhoid, we all had to use bottled water, even for the dishes.
Sarah had a sewing machine on her front porch. “Come over, neighbors and sew when you get a breathing spell. The church is a-calling for clothes. Women are sick and dying in the hospitals and the babies are naked. Women, our men need cars and the children need watching, let’s do our rescue work right here.” This we did. I made gowns and slips between dish washing and drying and cleaning the endless mass of clothes. The burden of apparel! Surely a bathing suit and a pair of pajamas were all any one would ever need again. But worse than the struggle with the clothes was the struggle with the debris about the place. Bushels of grapefruit added to the complexity of unidentified roofing and garbage cans. The heavy sun pressed on us as we worked.
Sarah Ludlam’s sewing machine was a real personality. It whirred constantly, accompanied by another sound – the artillery of hammers. The men did not wait a single day to start the roofs. No one had waited – that was the secret of rehabilitation. Sarah had cooked us dinner with her feet in the waters of the Hurricane. Bits of merriment floated about the machine.
“Susie Blake in Coconut Grove tied pillows on the heads of her children to keep the plaster from killing them.”
“Three boats came up in our yard. One stuck its head in the kitchen window. It was packed with brooms and coffee. We unloaded her and off she went.”
“Why, the water was five feet in our living room. Ma Warren was the only one who couldn’t swim so we tied her to the ironing board.”

It was on Sarah Ludlam’s porch that I heard of tragedies, of reclamation, of the generosity of the outside world.
Sarah and Joe were losing their home. “We can’t pay the interest any more, but friends will keep us, storm friends, and things will pick up. When I think of the drowned at Hialeah and Okeechobee, I know that Joe and me ain’t no harder hit than we can bear.” Only with death is grief. I looked at her face bending above the sewing machine, silhouetted against the quiet sunset. The storm was over. It had left its mark upon us all – upon many the mark of the cross which would linger long into new and more selfish days. Prosperity, even that, could never dim that mark from Sarah Ludlam’s soul.

The rattle of the hammers ceased. Sarah smiled and folded her work. A bird called shrilly. “Bless his heart, a catbird. The Hurricane didn’t blow that little fellow so far away after all.”

Above the Storm
Break the palms and twist the pine-tops From the sky.
Split the clouds.
Behold, Jehovah Passes by.

“No, sir,” said the man at the filling station, “I ain’t asking you more for gas. This ain’t the time to go up on prices. God knows what happened at the Beach.Them that tried the Causeway was swept in the Bay, and out at Hialeah the dead are floating around.” “Arthur,” I said, “let’s go home. I’ve seen enough.” It was Sunday morning, the day after the Hurricane – a day of glittering brightness. We had just driven the entire length of storm-rent Miami to Arthur’s office in the Buena Vista section. That the tarred roof of the building lay near us on the ground suddenly did not seem to matter. There was something sinister behind this devastation – the one- horror, death.
Slowly we picked our way back through the storm-shattered city.

Gaunt she lay, naked, torn. Her tall, slender buildings, emaciated through loss of glass and tile, reached like palsied fingers toward the sky.
Beneath a clutter, wreckage of land and sea, were the ruthless lacerations of flood and tempest. But this time I drove by with unseeing eyes – drove by ships huddling in the streets, by palms with their haughty plumes buried in the sand, by ragged holes in concrete walls from which protruded bathtubs and splintered bedsteads, look as though the city’s mouth had been pried open to show the cavities in her back teeth; drove by people who moved noiselessly, saying nothing, their eyes wide, their hands fluttering over little things – sweeping the drenched steps of a lopsided house, hanging muddy garments on an upturned tree, dazedly touching the motley rubbish that once had been a home.
Something to do – their hands must move until they can think themselves through this agony of ruined toys. Only with death is grief. “Out at Hialeah the dead are floating around.”

PostHeaderIcon Frontier in 1708 part III

The Huguenots were the French Calvinists.

By 1562, their numbers had reached 2,000,000 adherents, mostly in southern and central France. This was about 10% of the French population. Because they were seen by the Catholic Church and many of their fellow countrymen, as schismatics, something worse then heretics, they were prosecuted. There were numerous religious wars between the aristocratic houses, the Catholics fighting those that had converted to Calvinism, between 1562 and 1598. The worse single day in Huguenot history wacross huguenots in August of 1572, St. Bartholomew Massacre, when entire towns across the country were burned, and at least 10,000 people were killed. After this Huguenots believed that Catholicism was a bloody treacherous religion.

The government and monarchy tried to calm the sectionalism apparent in the religious warsn and in 1598 the Treaty of Nantes was signed by Henry IV. This gave Huguenots the right to worship, and travel through countries controlled by the Inquisition. The Treaty also gave Protestants civil rights, by separating civil from religious law. The Treaty of Nantes was revoked by Henry IV’s grandson Louis XIV, in 1685.

Although it was illegal, many Protestants had their lands stolen and goods confiscated, enduring countless episodes of persecution. Because of this, even before the revocation of the Treaty, thousands of Huguenots fled from France. They brought with them the French love of good tales, food and joie de vivre.

In her book on the history of fashion, Milla Davenport wrote about the Huguenots’ leaving from the perspective of the trades and skills they removed from France.

“The greatest mistake of Louis’ life, the Revocation of the Treaty of Nantes, for which the Church had longed… The Protestants who were among France’s most worthy and industrious citizens were driven to sympathetic neighboring countries; some of the most prosperous districts of France were depopulated and reduced to poverty as weavers, printers, watchmakers and goldsmiths set for England, Switzerland, Alsace, Holland and Germany on the road to rivalry and supremacy in these arts.” The Book of Costume: vol 1., Milla Davenport, Crown Publishers, New York, New York. 1948.

Matilda’s mother, like Boston’s Peter Faneuil and Paul Revere, was a HuguenotFaneuil Hall c. She was born in Boston, the second stop after the family left France. The Huguenot church in London was established the century before, in1550 by the first emigres. As many Calvinists did, Phillipa’s family came to New England in 1660 and settled in Boston. Phillippa married John Huddleston in 1689. Her younger brother moved to New Rochelle, New York to apprentice with an uncle in his trading business, as Peter Faneuil did.

So with an Englishman, an Agawam, a Marranos and a Huguenot I’ve created the eighteenth American polyglot for my next book, The Silent Bell. Nothing in her captivity is like what Matilda read in her captivity legends, instead the reason for her captivity has its roots not in New France and New England but in a medieval legend, and old hatreds.

Matilda has the key to enable or to destroy the past. If she is not careful her family’s enemy will reclaim their power and she must prevent that by holding her secret tight.

PostHeaderIcon Frontier In 1708 : Part II

truestoriesofnew00bake_0011David Rose, the hero of my tale, is one of Pieter Schuyler’s men. Of course not very much detail is known about this sort of operation, but in True stories of New England Captives carried to Canada during the old French and Indian wars, by Charlotte Alice Baker, and published in 1897,

Schuyler did not relax his efforts to protect New England. He openly protested against New York’s maintenance of neutrality whereby marauders passed unmolested, to attack the people of Massachusetts; and remonstrating in the name with the Governor of Canada, he said it was his duty to God and man to prevent as far a possible the infliction of such cruelties. Se sent friendly Indians, as scouts into the enemy’s country, and reported all he could learn of the designs of their captors in regards to them. pp137.

David was abducted ten years before the start of this story, and moves fluidly between Mohawk and French society. After he meets Matilda, he seeks out Schuyler to ask about her. Schuyler is 1.schuylersurprised, since her name had not been released either to him, or to Massachusetts governor Joseph Dudley. Schuyler sets David on a mission that is in essence our story, he must discover why Matilda is different from other captives, and how he can save her from the man who wants her secrets.

David and Matilda are typical enough residents of the new world, to be remarkable to ours. Because the population of New England was so low, it made sense to me that there would be little that was typical, and I invented two people who embody nearly all possibilities of background, but not culture; English Puritan culture ran strongly among all the ‘others’ who lived with them.

David’s father is John Rose, born Joao Roaz. John converted to Puritanism after he fell in love. The conversion was not difficult because Calvinism is, as he jokes, an Old Testament based covenanted religion. John was born in Lisbon to a family of hidden Jews, called in Spain and Portugal during the Inquisition, Marranos (meaning swine). John ran away from his family at thirteen. Preparing for a secret Bar-Mitzvah which might cause the arrest of all his extended family was too much for him, as was an apprenticeship with a member of the his father’s guild which bored him. When he entered the English world he adopted the name John Rose.

Growing up in Lisbon, the home of the greatest explorers of the time, gave young John a fantastic opportunity, and he slipped away on a ship. In time his ship is overtaken by pirates and he joins them, finding himself part of the Anglo-Atlantic world and in trouble he jumps ship in Boston, Massachusetts. There he meets a native Algonquin of the Agawam people. She is probably the first dark eyed, dark haired beauty he has seen in months, and he fell in love with her immediately. Mercy’s family are fully assimilated into Puritan New England, (all the Agawam were by 1675.) She is fun to write because she is devoutly Puritan, and celebrates her Thanksgivings with clam bakes and steamed corn.

Next Matilda:

PostHeaderIcon The Frontier in 1708

I am currently undertaking a story that takes place on the frontier in 1708. The frontier in this case is not the wild-west, but northern, central Massachusetts in this case Groton and Haverhill. (See my post on the mysterious stranger) These towns bordered the deep woods of northern New England and were settled by people who were enticed by land to take on the risk of living in this region. It was in fact a dangerous place, full of wild animals, cougars, rattlesnakes, wolves as well as all the smaller predators. The English had not considered the Indians enemies until a legal disturbance in Plymouth Colony led to a conflict named for the Sachem whose English name was Philip. Soon after, southern, central/northern Massachusetts, as well as ConneHaverhill signcticut and Rhode Island, were part of the conflict between the English settlers and the local Wampanoag tribes called King Phillip’s War or Metacom’s Rebellion, it lasted from 1675–78.

Although King Philip’s War sets the frontier towns as dangerous places, more important to my story, is that both were attacked from the north, in a series of border invasions, and abductions enacted by the French Army, who used their Indian allies against the English Protestants. Queen Anne’s War, was the second European war with a North American, intercolonial element. It was known in Europe as the War of the Spanish Succession, and fought on the American frontier from 1702-1713.

Groton signI have created a story in which Matilda is burned out of her home when town of Groton is under a fictional attack in 1708, and brought to Canada and delivered to the Maqua village. That was, and is a real town, although its location changed depending on soil fertility and safety of the townsfolk. The town was inhabited mostly by Mohawk, but nominally controlled by French Jesuits. These were Catholic Indians who had been schooled by the priests to hate the English Protestants, and the Agawam and other praying (Protestant Indians). In fact one diary by a visiting French priest says he was surprised to find that the Indians were taught, and believed, that the English had killed Christ, their god. Their hatred for the English was created and fed in this manner.

The English government did not send English soldiers to fight the French Army in North America, as the French did to fight the English. This left protection of the towns to the local militia, and farmers/tradesmen who were known as minutemen, meaning that although they were no in the militia they would be ready at a moment’s notice to protect their town. Every New England colony had a standing militia, and tradition held that the colony just to the north was defended by the colony to the south. This worked well in the Maine territory of Massachusetts, southern Massachusetts, aided by Connecticut and New Hampshire, aided by Massachusetts. (Vermont was a disputed region and not yet a separate colony.) However, this system of protection against the Canadian French broke down in New York west of the Massachusetts border.

The Albany area was still controlled by Dutch traders and landowners who owed much of their wealth to the fur trade. Skins were brought down from the north and west to Albany where they were shipped down the Hudson River to the harbor at New York and on to Europe where the desire for beaver skins was insatiable. It was more important to the Dutch landowners to keep trade open, than to protect the lives of English captives, so they gave French and Mohawk armies free reign with their lands.

This was not true of at least one Dutch/New Yorker, Pieter Schuyler. Schuyler was the mayor of Albany and agent for the English relating to prisoners. He often made official exchanges of prisoners between the English and the French, but some records imply that he put “spies” in the Indian villages to monitor English prisoners there.

If you have read my previous books, you know I can’t resist a spy.

More soon.

PostHeaderIcon Mud : New England’s Extra Season

mud new england


This is a tire track left by a city snow-plow in a park.

After last winter’s almost surreal amount of snow, this winter has been a balm for our backs and psyches. Of course we’ve shoveled snow a few times in the past two months, and more may yet fall from the skies, but anything that has fallen has dutifully melted within a day or two. But, of course it has been wet and cold with good melts in between, and that creates mud. Mud in New England is so much a part of late winter it gets its own season, and this year mud season has lasted most of the winter. I wrote this a few winters ago, and this year seemed like a good one to bring it back.


Before the age of corduroy roads; in places where no one had the good sense or ability to lay down a bed of gravel, the roads of New England were dirty and dusty. In the summer, towns sent out large barrels of water which were carted through busy streets and country roads, spraying water to keep down the dust. In winter, the roads were rutted and frozen. During the cold months snow-covered roads were more easily passable, and therefore snow-covered streets were preferable to those that were clear or melted.

But between the snowy or rutted roads of winter, and the dry, dusty streets of summer, there is a separate season. It comes just at the end of winter: we call it mud season. After months of hard freeze, the warm days and cold nights create inches thick mud that seems to sink downward with no end. Some years there is no one freeze that lets go at the beginning of spring. Some winters there is a never-ending freeze/thaw cycle; mud season from November to April.

In fields and woodlands, this cycle brings the ubiquitous boulders, called fieldstones, from deep in the earth. Deposited by three miles high glaciers from the Wisconsin Ice Sheet that ended about 25,000 years ago, these rocks were pried out of the fields each spring, and moved to the edges of the fields by strong young men, creating the stone walls that outline the border of every New England homescape.

This year mud season has been fantastic. Even with concrete sidewalks and macadam streets, the mud from yards and gardens oozes over, practically bubbling up in an icy mess that gets into the deep treads of our Vibram soles and covers floors of mud rooms, kitchen doorways, and front halls throughout the region. All this mud reminds me of a story told in early New England on this subject.

In times past, the mud of early spring was often many feet deep. One day, during such a year, a horseman was riding down a muddy road when he saw a fine hat lying in the lane. Because the hat was a nice one, and worth a bit of money, the rider got off his horse and went to pick it up. When he looked at the road under the hat, he noticed the face of a man staring up at him from the muddy road. “Are you all right?” the rider asked the face of the man in the road. “I’m doing fine,” replied the face, “but I’m worried about the horse I’m riding.” The implication, of course was that the animal was under the man, buried deep in the mud .





PostHeaderIcon It’s Summer

Lucy Cobb Graduation, 1903

Lucy Cobb Graduation, 1903

It’s summer and it’s hot. For reasons having to do with 110.3 official inches of snow in Boston this last winter, and unrelenting cold until late May 2015, I have not put the air-conditioners into the windows. So far my refusal to do so is sticking and sticky. I cope with the heat by recalling our visits to Atlanta every summer. I loved it there, and it was hot in my grandparents’ house, therefore heat makes he happy — or some such nonsense.

Summer also reminds me of music. Most of the family are musical, some fully express their art through their music, others only partly, but it is there. Kate was a pianist and music teacher all her life. She also wrote about making music.



The Schubert Quartet

We fought with music –
we the four –
our bows like battle sabers,
seaying stabbing,
glassanding down to nothingness;
while interwove
with static of our faces – tense as frozen flowers,
worshiping abstraction
omnipotent as love.

When morning came
with gray and empty sky,
we sought again the oracle.
But eyes were drooped with apathy,
and notes and dotted spaces
vague as angel tracts.
And we forgot antiphonies of tone
can reunite like stars among the billows,
astonishing with light.

Reminiscent of Bach

The ivy presumes ten thousand years
In shaping her fugue to the chapel wall
And makes indelible the tone
Of her green music,
Resonant with stone.
New vine ascends, but only to repeat
The ancient theme,
The polyphonic form –
Star, star, and star, and still more leafy stars
Through cadence, clef and chord –
An also universe
Whose pattern is the Lord.

Kate's Recital Program, 1903

Kate’s Recital Program, 1903