Friday, October 31, 2008

Salem Witch Museum

The Salem Witch Museum is an excellent source of information on the infamous witchcraft trials of 1692. It is also one of the most popular tourist attractions in Salem, Massachusetts. And October, not so coincidentally, is one of the most popular months to visit Salem.

Because the victims of the 1692 trials were not witches, it is curious that the folklore of the “Halloween witch” has found such a home here. One must not begrudge a source of commerce, however, especially in days like these. Just ask the Village of North Tarrytown, New York, which has changed its name to Sleepy Hollow, another good Halloween spot, and where the local police sport the emblem of the Headless Horseman, just as they do the witch on a broomstick in Salem. When it comes to public relations, I suppose you have to run with what you’ve got.

Giving the candy corn and black and orange balloon celebration at this time of year in Salem its due, let us not forget the victims whose infamous executions brought us this curious October festival environment in this historic town. The innocent people named below were hanged.

Bridget Bishop
George Burroughs
Martha Carrier
Martha Corey
Mary Easty
Sarah Good
Elizabeth Howe
George Jacobs, Sr.
Susannah Martin
Rebecca Nurse
Alice Parker
Mary Parker
John Proctor
Ann Pudeator
Wilmott Redd
Margaret Scott
Samuel Wardwell
Sarah Wildes
John Willard

Giles Corey was pressed to death.

For more information on the Salem Witch Museum, have a look at this website.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Silsby Free Public Library - Charlestown, NH

Here’s a look at the Silsby Free Public Library in Charlestown, New Hampshire.

Designed by Hira Beckwith, the Romanesque structure built in 1891 is typical of its era, constructed of stone and brick, and slate, of course, granite from the Granite State.
Beckwith, a local building contractor from Claremont, erected many other public buildings in the area, and built several homes in Claremont. A contractor, he also attended the Asher Benjamin School of Design to study architecture.
Libraries are the life’s blood of small communities, even if they are small libraries.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Apple Picking

Here’s a look at the fall apple crop, and a view of apple picking as a life lesson by poet Robert Frost. It’s been a good year for foliage, hasn’t it?

After Apple-Picking (1914)
By Robert Frost

My long two-pointed ladder's sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there's a barrel that I didn't fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn't pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.

And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it's like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Nathan Hale Homestead - Coventry, CT

It has come down to us that Connecticut schoolteacher-turned-rebel spy Nathan Hale remarked, "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country," only moments before he was hanged by the British.

While it is probable these may not be his exact words, his death in 1776 moved deeply both the British military present, and the Americans who for generations would use these words as a rallying cry in times of national crisis. He was only 21 years old at the time of his execution.

Above is a photo of the Nathan Hale Homestead in Coventry, Connecticut, where Hale’s family farmed 400 acres. This is where Hale spent his life before attending Yale, before volunteering to obtain military intelligence for General George Washington as a First Lieutenant in the Continental Army, before he died in the service of country yet to be born.

Today the Nathan Hale Homestead, staffed by costumed interpreters, is a quiet place to reflect on how big a sacrifice it is to give up one’s life, and irresistible peace of one’s own home for no guarantees of success or even that one’s sacrifice will be remembered.

For more information on the Nathan Hale Homestead, have a look at this website.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Summer Sunset - Last Look

One last look at a summer sunset, in this new era of chilly mornings and leaves the color of flame. One of the interesting things about living in a place with four distinct seasons, is that the season just gone past can seem as distant as the Pleistocene age.

Was it ever really that warm, the sky that golden? Or did we just dream it? Farewell then, as the old movie travelogs used to say, to summer sunsets off Cape Ann, Mass.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Christopher Columbus Statues

From the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Detroit Publishing Company Collection, here is a 1904 photo of the statue of Christopher Columbus in Boston, one of many statues dedicated to the 15th century explorer about whom we still know rather little, and what we do know has been so couched in myth.

Vandalism, rather than floral tributes, have befallen some Columbus statues, including Boston’s over the years, due to protest over the treatment of native peoples, and their decimation as a result of colonization.

There are a great many Columbus statues in the northeast, a product first of Italian-American pride, the holiday later adopted by the nation to celebrate American cohesiveness.

Here are sites with interesting notes on the many monuments to Columbus in this country, and a site with photos of most of them.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Autumn at Old Sturbridge Village

Here are some photos of Old Sturbridge Village, a living museum replicating life in New England from the late 1700s to about 1830. With farm, village, and over 40 buildings in its little world, it makes for a remarkable place to visit. Here, the self-sustaining community prepares for autumn, harvesting from the kitchen garden, from the fields and orchards, stacking the woodpile, and closing the shutters that bang in the wind.

James Whitcomb Riley of Indiana, born middle of 19th century, who reached his zenith of fame at beginning of 20th century, wrote folksy poetry no longer in fashion. Though he was not a New Englander, his Hoosier dialect likely fits the sentiments of this man and this woman in these photos as they set themselves for was used to be called “puttin’ by.” Like squirrels storing their acorns, people once set a great deal of importance by preparing for the winter. They used to have a lot more to do than just buy a new plastic windshield scraper for the car.

Now, in this season of glorious autumn, a reminder of our frailty as well as nature’s immortality, which currently hits us with precarious economic tides, we may as well sit back and remember the virtues of “puttin’ by.”

A word then, from James Whitcomb Riley:

“When the Frost is on the Punkin”

When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock,
And you hear the kyouck and gobble of the struttin' turkey-cock,
And the clackin' of the guineys, and the cluckin' of the hens,
And the rooster's hallylooyer as he tiptoes on the fence;
O, it's then's the times a feller is a-feelin' at his best,
With the risin' sun to greet him from a night of peaceful rest,
As he leaves the house, bareheaded, and goes out to feed the stock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock.

They's something kindo' harty-like about the atmusfere
When the heat of summer's over and the coolin' fall is here --
Of course we miss the flowers, and the blossums on the trees,
And the mumble of the hummin'-birds and buzzin' of the bees;
But the air's so appetizin'; and the landscape through the haze
Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days
Is a pictur' that no painter has the colorin' to mock --
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock.

The husky, rusty russel of the tossels of the corn,
And the raspin' of the tangled leaves, as golden as the morn;
The stubble in the furries -- kindo' lonesome-like, but still
A-preachin' sermuns to us of the barns they growed to fill;
The strawstack in the medder, and the reaper in the shed;
The hosses in theyr stalls below -- the clover over-head! --
O, it sets my hart a-clickin' like the tickin' of a clock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock!

Then your apples all is gethered, and the ones a feller keeps
Is poured around the celler-floor in red and yeller heaps;
And your cider-makin' 's over, and your wimmern-folks is through
With their mince and apple-butter, and theyr souse and saussage, too! ...
I don't know how to tell it -- but ef sich a thing could be
As the Angels wantin' boardin', and they'd call around on me --
I'd want to 'commodate 'em -- all the whole-indurin' flock --
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock!

Kindly have a look at this website for more on Old Sturbridge Village.

Been there? Done that? Let us know.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Whitehall Inn - Camden, Maine

This is the Whitehall Inn on High Street in Camden, Maine. If you’ve not been here or even passed by, you may recognize it from the movie “Peyton Place” (1957).

But its film stardom is only a footnote in this famous inn, founded in 1901. Among its famous visitors was at least one nobody who started on her road to fame here. This of course was the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, who wrote her watershed poem “Renascence” on the top of nearby Mount Battie and recited it before guests and staff at the Whitehall Inn in 1912. One impressed guest helped send the talented girl to college, and a giant in American poetry was that guest’s gift to all of us.

From the final stanza of “Renesscence” by Edna St. Vincent Millay:

“The world stands out on either side
No wider than the heart is wide;
Above the world is stretched the sky, --
No higher than the soul is high.
The heart can push the sea and land
Farther away on either hand;
The soul can split the sky in two,
And let the face of God shine through.”

For more on the Whitehall Inn, kindly have a look at this website.

Been there? Done that? Wrote a poem in the dining room? Let us know.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Raising Sheep

The above photo shows a flock of sheep in an Amherst, Massachusetts meadow. Things have changed a bit from the days when a 1664 law in the colony "required youths to learn to spin and weave." But wool production and the raising of sheep for food as well as wool continues to be a an important part of agriculture in New England. More than 500 farms in Massachusetts alone raise sheep.

Here's a site with interesting information on the history of sheep raising in New England and its place in farming today.