February 12, 2017
Since Cambridge is about an hour and fifteen minutes away from Chestertown, the new Harriet Tubman Museum (opening next month) is on my list of places to visit. I’d like to couple it with the planned commemoration that will mark the anniversary of an event that highlighted the city’s painful past, a huge fire that almost obliterated the African American section of the town.
The city’s mayor, Victoria Jackson-Stanley, who is exactly my own age, is spearheading the planning, with her goal being “not to dwell on the past, but rather to release the city from its hold” (The Baltimore Sun, Sunday, Feb 12, 2017, p. 21). Pain, loss and forgiveness are intertwined, the reason why one must revisit the past in order to try to figure out how to cope in our roles and relationships today.
Jackson-Stanley remembers the blazing of the fires and the sounds of the gunshots on July 24, 1967, the night that her dad had warned them not to go out at all, the night that so much of their heritage and livelihood went up in flames. She was 13 and Black. The only things I remember about 1967 were that I had had 4 English teachers that year, when I was in 8th grade, at a time when one’s personal developmental changes dictate the necessity of stability. I’d felt the loss. I remember going to a Girl Scout event in NYC (my first trip there) and realizing for the first time that my family must not have had much money, since my homemade Girl Scout skirt was the wrong color. The darker, dingy-looking, light-forest green was the closest (I’m certain) that my mother could find before she sewed my homemade skirt, but it was different from the thin cotton, bright Kelly-green of the standard uniforms. I was ashamed as the difference hit me. I’d been crossing the street, en masse, with seemingly a hundred other Girl Scout Cadettes, with the instant realization punching me in the gut about how much The Wrong Color marked me. Too many teachers and a wrong skirt: the life problems of a 13 year old white girl.
I want to go to this planned event in Cambridge because I know how important commemorations are. We need to face truths.
For “exorcisms” (“Exorcising a Painful Past” – the title of the article in The Baltimore Sun) to occur, we need to make showings of support. Last year, when the flying of the Confederate flags was all over facebook, one family member unfriended me for my stand on banning them. I shouldn’t have been shocked – Chestertown is a lovely little college town, but has its own deep history of racism – but I was. Another extended family member said that we should “move on,” that we “don’t live in the past.” Which was why the Cambridge mayor’s comment resonated with me. She will be criticized for dredging up “old stuff” that is “done.” It’s not “done.” She needs me to show up with support for her and for her story. So I’m making my travel plans, and in the meantime, am looking for folks on the streets of our town to see whose story I can perhaps be privileged to listen to.
February 2, 2017
I pulled A Man Called Ove out of our Little Free Library that is in front of our house, and our niece loaned me a book by the same author, Fredrik Backman, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, and I read them both about a month or so ago. Both books are about grief, a topic almost always welcome to me, since when the subject crops up unexpectedly, can throw me for a loop. I’ve found that I’d really rather make a trip to that particular place with my eyes open. That way, it’s like a visit to a dear aunt who always seems to have a whole pack of unopened Butter Rum Lifesavers in her purse saved just for my little 5 or 10 year old self, along with her unstated instructions that I don’t have to share unless I want to – a memory to surprise and savor, or to save for a rainy day.
Elsa’s grandmother (in My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry) was a storyteller who knew that “no stories can live without children listening to them.” (p 231) Her stories were made up but they helped Elsa (and others with 8 year old souls) with real life things.
Miploris is the most beautiful of all the kingdoms of the Land-of-Almost-Awake….no one lives there, [the houses] are only used for storage. For [it] is where all fairy creatures bring their sorrow, and where all leftover sorrow is stored. For an eternity of all fairy tales.
People in the real world always say…that the sadness and loss and aching pain of the heart will ‘lessen as time passes,’ but it isn’t true. Sorrow and loss are constant, but if we all had to go through our whole lives carrying them the whole time, we wouldn’t be able to stand it. …So in the end we just pack it into bags and find somewhere to leave it.
This is what Miploris is: a kingdom where lone storytelling travelers come slowly wandering from all directions, dragging unwieldy luggage full of sorrow. A place where they can put it down and go back to life. And when the travelers turn back, they do so with lighter steps, because Miploris is constructed in such a way that irrespective of what direction you leave it, you always have the sun up ahead and the wind at your back.
The Miplorisians gather up all the suitcases and sacks and bags of sorrow and carefully make a note of them in little pads. They scrupulously catalogue every kind of sadness and pining. Things are kept in very good order in Miploris…. you can’t put up with disorder when it comes to sorrow, say the Miplorisians. (pp. 220 – 221)
Sometimes people tap dance, sometimes they’re storytellers; they play ukuleles, they make cookies — all to share.
So. Just more reasons why one of the first questions I ask new guests when booking on the phone is “What is your favorite cookie??” You just never know, unless you ask, what the best kind is to share.
October 5, 2016
Some may remember “Miss” Phoebe, (from former past posts, from facebook, or from my personal stories around the breakfast table), our former Mt. Vernon Ave. neighbor, who now lives in Rock Hall in a lovely, little nursing home where she’s the favorite of all. (And of course she would be because,…well,…the word “dear” doesn’t do her justice…Let’s see; let’s add: kind, warm, thoughtful, interested, as well as interesting. The crossword puzzles that she does daily, the bird book by her bedside, the many books she reads and her up-to-date knowledge of every sports team give her lots to add to any conversation, so “interesting” is always a word to use to describe her. And that’s only the beginning of the list.) She’s, at the very least, a personal favorite friend of mine, and of so many, since she’s turning 100 years old in a week or two, so she’s certainly had plenty of time to have an extremely long list of people who’d call her “friend.”
“Miss” Phoebe told her son, Terry, that she did NOT want a party. He wondered about that – (I told him that I didn’t think she wanted a bunch of people gawking at her with her hair not done – not that she’s prissy or overly vain, but good grief, she is bedridden, after all, and her hair just gets squished and it’s just never a good hair day. Plus you just never get too-old- enough to not care about that sort of thing). Terry, of course, would do what she wanted so there will be no party. I’m visiting her today, so I’ll get the latest scoop, but I’m sure her family will be there and that’ll be plenty party enough for her, and I’m sure her favorite kind of birthday party, which I also get, since that would be mine. And we do have some things in common, after all. As I said, we’re buds.
When Terry found out she would be refusing a 100-year-old birthday party, he laughingly asked her, “Are cards all right?” She laughed back (and I can picture the grin on her pretty, creamy-complexioned face as she answered him – and yes, you can still be pretty at age 100 and I guess you have to see it to believe it) but she said, “Yes.” Soooooooooo, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be so very, very cool if she could get 100 cards on her 100th birthday,” so here I am – asking for you to send one! Her address is: Phoebe Anthony
Golden Rule Nursing Home
20806 Bayside Ave.
Rock Hall, MD 21661
Please go out TODAY to buy her a card, since I’m giving last minute instructions, so you have to do it FAST, then mail it TODAY, OK? Thanks! (If you could see that smile of her’s and the way her dimples crinkle in her face when she looks at you, you’d drop everything and hightail it to the store IMMEDIATELY. So just imagine. And then you’ll go. Don’t forget to get the stamp. Or you could take it directly to the post office.)
And now you have a great day, too! (Mine will be, because as I said, I get to visit “Miss” Phoebe today!)
May 3, 2016
‘It’s all right, Will.’ His deep voice cut through the fear that filled Will’s mind. ‘It’s over now.’
But Will shook his head, horrified by the rapid train of events.
‘Halt, I missed…twice! I panicked and I missed!’ He felt a deep sense of shame that he had let his teacher down so badly. Halt’s arm tightened around him and he looked up at the bearded face and the dark, deep-set eyes.
‘There’s a big difference between shooting at a target and shooting at a charging Wargal. A target isn’t usually trying to kill you.’ Halt added the last few words in a more gentle tone. He could see that Will was in shock. And no wonder, he thought grimly.
‘And next time you won’t. Now you know it’s better to fire one good shot than two hurried ones.’ Halt said firmly. Then he took Will’s arm and turned him toward the campsite under the fig tree. ‘Let’s see what we have here,’ he said, putting an end to the subject.
pp. 4 – 5, Ranger’s Apprentice, Book 2, The Burning Bridge, John Flanagan, Philomel Books, 2005.
Apprentice Will had made some mistakes, some grave ones, but the master Ranger, Halt, reassured him, steadied him, encouraged him and breathed promise and hope into Will’s wounded, discouraged, defeated mind. It’s a good way to go about doing things.
How one is treated matters a whole heck of a lot. In my mind, the process is just as important as the “getting there.”
After 3 weekends, My Fair Lady just ended at the Garfield Center for the Arts downtown, and I had the privilege of having a small role. One thing that Eliza said was that she felt, even though she was just a flower girl, she felt like a queen when she was with Colonel Pickering because of the way he treated her. Will, (in the YA series that has grabbed me by the throat to keep reading till I get to the end), felt like a real ranger; again, because of the way his master treated him. Reading the quote in Book Two today reminded me of how we all felt like stars – real “kings and queens” in that play. Yup. It was loverly.
March 20, 2016
“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” – Margaret Atwood
I love these words. I can’t say that they’re indicative of my personal lifestyle though, because when I finally got old enough to have time to dig in the dirt on a more frequent basis, I discovered that I only really enjoyed digging in the dirt on one day out of a whole year. (Unless I’m somewhere with children, and then it’s a different story.) But on my own, I only love this on a gorgeous day (after a recent heavy rain so that the ground is easy to work) with some lovely, light, bright spring flowers to plant. Oh, and my house has to be newly cleaned, so that the smell of clean is still evident when you open the door. And since I’m not ever drawn back to the plot to weed, yet still want the flowers to become profuse, lush and a carpet of color, untainted by unwanted weeds and entirely self-sufficient, (hehe) I have to say that I’m not a gardener. But I still love Margaret Atwood’s words. The daughter of a farmer who spent many hours, giggling with my sister, running behind our daddy’s small tractor as he plowed up the garden, while racing the birds swooping down for the worms and feeling the cool dirt beneath our hot, bare feet, I guess this is why. The dirt is still somehow between my toes. (In a good way, I mean.) Often I guess we do love ideas more than we love the actual implementation of them. Hmm. (But that’s another story).
I love trying new things – in some contexts, at least. New foods always, both to cook and to eat. Absolutely I can go on record in saying that. I guess I didn’t used to enjoy exploring new terrain, but in looking back, I’m inclined to think that was because of time, mostly. Not entirely, but maybe mostly. I play the ukulele now. (Not well, but I play. And that’s only been in the last 3 or 4 years.) I’m trying to learn to swim – just a breath at a time at the college pool, where I’ve done kickboard laps for the past 25 years. You already know about my new experience with rutabagas. I’m volunteering at the local elementary school in a new setting. I like new books. I love meeting new people. If you told me there was an opportunity to go to a workshop on mastering mouth trumpeting, I’d be there. (And there actually is a Victoria Vox concert coming soon to Chestertown. She’s an amazing ukulele performer and yep, she does this weird thing with her mouth that sounds like a trumpet, and it’s so cool that as soon as you’ve heard it once, you say to yourself, “I’ve got to know how to do that, too,” so now, by gosh, we’re going to be able to do just that)! I’m sure the list is longer, but you get the idea. You also may have gleaned, especially in these last couple of sentences that Chestertown is a really wonderfully, quirky place to visit. The 2nd annual Porch Fest is coming up in about a month, I believe it is, where musicians will be found playing on the street and well, YES, of course, on porches!! During the first 2 full weeks of June each year, Chestertown is host to The National Music Festival, where rehearsals can be enjoyed FREE all hours of each day! With Washington College here and Chestertown’s new Arts & Entertainment District designation and local theatre, artists and artisans and farm-fresh activities, vendors and opportunities (like berry picking, in season), there always seems to be something new to try here.
Just a few thoughts. It’s the first day of spring. Doesn’t feel like it today, but it is. New things are just around the corner.