Tuesday, July 31, 2007
I also brought River with me and that was a big hit! It was the perfect thing to wear to the outdoor wedding as there was a strong breeze and it was threatening to rain and therefore a bit chilly. The color turned out to be just right, too. The bride had chosen turquoise and pink for her colors. My DIL loved it so much she has commissioned me to make a lace shawl for her, as well. The triangle shawl I started for my daughter is coming along nicely. I have finished the center triangle and have started on the edging. I bought a pair of Addi Turbos for this job just to try them out since everybody raves about them so much, but I think I am going to go back to my Options needles. They have a pointier point which makes doing things like K2 tog and K3 tog easier.
Monday, July 30, 2007
Louisa grew up under her father's tutelage and was allowed to browse freely in Emerson's famous library. She went for walks with Henry David Thoreau in the woods and according to Cheever, had a crush on him. Louisa and her sisters were enrolled in a school that the Thoreau brothers started where instruction included many field trips. She said that Thoreau taught her things about nature she had never noticed before. They went for boat trips together on the Concord river.
She survived her father's financially disastrous lecture tours and the failed Fruitlands experiment. She endured as the family was made to move 20 times in 20 years. She presented an early work she had written to James Fields, the famous Boston publisher of Hawthorne's works, and was told, "Stick to your teaching. You can't write," but kept on writing anyway and eventually became the family's breadwinner.
She assisted her father and Thoreau as they helped slaves pass through Massachusetts on their way to Canada via the Underground Railroad. When the Civil War broke out, she volunteered as a nurse and spent six miserable weeks in Washington caring for the soldiers who were wounded at Fredericksburg, the bloodiest battle of the war. She contracted typhoid and was treated with calomel (mercury) to the point of being poisoned by it and which eventually led to her death.
With Margaret Fuller as a role model, she became a suffragist and was the first woman to vote in Concord.
She wrote Little Women at the behest of her publisher, Thomas Niles, not because she had a burning desire to write it. But once started, she worked in what I call a white heat, straight through without stopping for anything—even food or sleep. She wrote about her own life, her sisters, and her own "Marmee." She was Jo, the family rebel, the one who liked to race around pretending to be a horse. She wrote about what she knew and it came from the heart and so sounded true to its millions of readers. It was an instant success.
Cheever sums up her own feelings about the book:
Little Women gave my generation permission to write about our daily lives...She transformed the lives of women into something worthy of literature. Without even meaning to, Alcott exalted the everyday in women's lives and gave it greatness.
Sunday, July 29, 2007
Among the women who belonged to this circle of friends was Margaret Fuller. Fuller died young (drowned in a shipwreck) at age 40, but before she died she had been a teacher; editor of The Dial, a quarterly journal which published the Transcendentalists papers; and was hired by Horace Greeley to work for the New York Tribune, both as a reviewer and later as a foreign correspondent, an unheard of job for a woman at the time (1844). She gave "conversations" because women were not allowed to do public speaking for pay. Her groundbreaking publications included "The Great Lawsuit: Man versus Men, Woman versus Women," which was revised as Woman in the Nineteenth Century (see also here), the major work in which she argued unequivocally for equal rights for women. Her ideas hearken back to Mary Wollstonecraft and the English feminists, but with an American twist, female liberty and democracy for all. Nichols quotes Fuller and comments on her effect on the women's movement.
"I think women need, especially at this juncture, a much greater range of occupation than they have, to rouse their latent powers." Her book is now considered a classic of feminist thought in America. Its influence was powerfully felt as early as the gathering of women’s rights advocates in Seneca Falls, New York, only three years after its publication.
She certainly was a woman ahead of her time. In Susan Cheever's book, American Bloomsbury, she is described as a forceful woman whose intellect and beauty captured not only the minds but also the hearts of Emerson and Hawthorne. While working in Europe as a correspondent, she fell in love with the Italian cause and with an Italian, the Marquis Giovanni Angelo d’Ossoli, and bore his son at the age of 39. It is still unknown whether or not they actually got married. Cheever describes her ambivalence at returning to work after the birth of her child, a situation that many young women can identify with. All three were drowned when the ship returning Fuller to the U.S. ran onto a sand bar off of Fire Island, NY. Emerson dispatched Thoreau to look for her remains and for the manuscript she was working on at the time. He found neither.
Hawthorne based at least one of his characters on Fuller, Zenobia in The Blithedale Romance, his satirical novel about Brook Farm, another utopian community outside of Boston. But Cheever seems to think that almost all of his lead female characters resemble her in some way incuding Hester Prynne in the Scarlet Letter, a story of a strong woman who defies Puritan Boston and has a child out of wedlock.
One last comment before I leave the subject of Fuller. When Margaret decided she ought to be paid for her work as editor of The Dial, $200 per year had been promised, Emerson refused and Fuller moved on.
Saturday, July 28, 2007
Alcott was certainly a very interesting character. He is best known today, aside from being Louisa's father, for his educational reforms but interestingly, he was a self-educated man and never attended Harvard as Emerson and Thoreau had. His reforms included doing away with corporal punishment and instituting field trips, learning through experience, play time or recess, and physical education. These ideas are in the news currently as some educators feel we have veered away from these ideals and gone back to a more rigid method of teaching children. For example, see the cover article of this week's Time magazine, The Myth about Boys, and another recent article in the Christian Science Monitor, Why Children Need to Learn to Play. (Thanks again, Grace.) However, Alcott was a very impractical man and relied on his friends, in particular Emerson and Charles Lane, to support him and his family.
Fruitlands began in the summer of 1843. It was similar to other utopian communities of the time and can be likened to the hippie communes of the 1960s. Fruitlands got its name because the founders decided to live a vegetarian existence eating mostly fruit and vegetables. Animals were to be respected and not used for food or labor to run the farm. As the men were often away lecturing on their utopian dream, that left the women and children to do the hard work of growing food for the community. Louisa's mother, Abba, is quoted as saying that the only beasts of burden on the farm were the women. By autumn, things started to go wrong and the community was abandoned in winter. Louisa May later wrote a satire on the whole experience called, "Transcendental Wild Oats," which you can find inside Clara Endicott Sears book, Bronson Alcott's Fruitlands. (Miss Sears is the benefactor who bought and preserved Fruitlands in 1914.)
Today, the Fruitlands Museums include several buildings including one which houses 19th century paintings, one of Indian artifacts, one a Shaker farmhouse, and finally the farmhouse where the Alcott's lived (see photo). There are also woodland trails and of course the spectacular view of the Still River valley with Mt. Wachusetts and Monadnock Mt. in New Hampshire in the distance. We explored the museums the morning of the wedding when the weather was beautiful. By 5:30, however, it was threatening to rain but thankfully never did and all the clouds that had gathered made for a gorgeous sunset!
Friday, July 27, 2007
Thursday, July 26, 2007
Sitting on airplanes has gotten to be the most uncomfortable thing going. You tell yourself it's only for a few hours. Why spend the money to go first class? But soon you are so cramped and feeling claustrophobic that you vow never to travel by air again. One of my trips was on a very small jet where everyone kept bumping their heads (including me) coming on board. The man in front of me was tall and lanky. When the steward told him that he had to put his carry-on bag under the seat in front of him, he replied, "That's where I put my feet!" I am a small person and if I am uncomfortable, I can't imagine how large people must feel.
Food has become a real problem, especially for someone like me who is trying to follow a diet. The total travel time for my trip home was 7 hours and 40 minutes plus another hour and a half to get to the airport. I had breakfast at 6 am EDT and didn't get lunch until 9 hours later. Luckily, I brought food with me or I would have starved. The snack boxes they sell for $5 are full of no-no's like cookies, crackers, candy bars, etc. Unfortunately, security confiscated my freezer pack on my way out of Los Angeles so I had nothing to keep the food cold. I have traveled before with this cold pack with no problems, but things keep changing, I guess. We used to complain royally about airline meals and I never thought I would remember those days with fondness.
Speaking of security... getting through security in Boston and Hartford was a breeze, but here at LAX it was a nightmare. My first flight was with US Airways and at Terminal 1, the line for security was out the door and down the sidewalk. Once you were inside, they lined you up in front of the stairs and then with a word from an official, everyone headed up the stairs in a mad rush only to wait in another line that snaked back and forth several times. I had given myself 3 hours to get to the gate and I just made it.
It's so hard to figure out all their rules, too. I decided not to bring my knitting on board because I didn't want them confiscating my lovely Options needles, but I wasn't about to pack my camera in my suitcase and trust that it would still be there and in one piece when I arrived in Boston. I forgot that I had a 1 oz. bottle of lens cleaner in the case but they didn't find it, or didn't bother about it because it was too small. Last February I flew with a .5 oz bottle of lens cleaner in my eyeglass case (I never thought about it) and no one found it. You are supposed to declare all liquids and gels you want to bring on board and put them in a 1 quart Ziploc bag and take them out of your carry-on luggage. Life is getting too complicated.
I packed as lightly as I could for this trip, but since the main purpose of the trip was to attend a nephew's wedding, some extras were required like a nice outfit, make-up, shoes, etc. My suitcase weighs 15 lbs. empty, so I am off to a bad start before I have put anything in it. Coming home, the Skycap at Hartford, sensing that my bag was heavy, weighed it. Fortunately, it was only 46 lbs. and 50 are allowed. I put all the books I bought (I can't resist) in my carry-on, and when I reached O'Hare and had to walk a mile from the American Airlines terminal to United, I felt it. I had brought a duffel bag without wheels as my carry-on because of that small plane that brought me to O'Hare which had a smaller limit for carry-ons. All bags with wheels were checked at the door.
On Cameras and Electronics
Now that I have done all my complaining, I will try to get those photos ready so I can talk about the more pleasant happenings on my trip. People keep asking me about my camera so here are the specs. It's a Canon EOS Rebel SLR digital camera bought in 2004. The mega pixels are about 6.3. The only lens I brought with me is an all-purpose lens, the Canon EFS 18-55 mm lens. I have other lenses, but I left them at home. All the lenses that we have bought with our previous film Canon SLR work with this camera also. The newer Rebels have more mega pixels and are lighter in weight, but I have taken over 10,000 photos with this camera and I'm still happy with it.
I used to lug my heavy laptop around with me when I traveled to download photos, but last summer my son suggested I get an iPod for this purpose. It has worked out great! I have a refurbished 20 GB Photo iPod that I use for listening to music and lectures, and downloading photos. It fits in my purse. I have 6 CompactFlash cards for use with my camera, 3 are 256 MB, 2 are 512, and one is a gigabyte, a gift from my son-in-law. He thought I would never fill it. Hah! I filled them all on this trip. I take large JPEGs almost exclusively. I tried RAW for awhile, but they turned out to be too time-consuming to manage on the computer. To process the photos, I have used Paint Shop Pro on the PC through all its permutations for years. It is now sold by Corel.
My son and his family were with me on this trip and they brought along their iPhones and a GPS system for the car. The iPhones came in handy for directions (Google), phone numbers, weather reports, and picture-taking, not to mention using them as phones. I think they also watched a couple of movies on them during our flight. The GPS system also worked very well getting us out of Logan and through Boston as well as finding new routes to places I had been many times in the past and it was very accurate. When the lovely woman's voice announced, "You have arrived," we were right at the front door of our destination.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Monday, July 9, 2007
Friday, July 6, 2007
The photos in the exhibit were from 1885 to 1895 and came from his published works, Life and Landscape on the Norfolk Broads, 1886, Idyls of the Norfolk Broads, 1887, Pictures from Life in Field and Fen, 1887, Pictures of East Anglian Life, 1888, The Compleat Angler, 1888, Wild Life on a Tidal Water, 1890, Old English Lagoons, 1893, and Marsh Leaves, 1895. As you can see from the titles, he was fascinated with wetlands and with the "peasants" that lived and worked around them. He thought of himself as an anthropologist of sorts, preserving a way of life in photos that was quickly giving way to progress. His photos of fishermen, haymakers, farmers, etc., were of interest to me because I expect my ancestors in Newfoundland looked pretty much the same as these East Anglians. A lot of the photos were shot in Norwich which is where another one of my ancestors was supposed to be from. But my favorite photos were the landscapes. These look very modern, almost minimalist, like Japanese or Chinese brush paintings.
No photography was allowed inside this exhibit so I can't show you any pictures of his photos. Anyway, they probably would not do them justice since the photos in the accompanying book I bought do not do them justice. You have to see the originals. Unfortunately, the exhibit closes this Sunday.
Monday, July 2, 2007
Inside, there is plenty to see and even though we spent the entire day there, we did not see half of it. Right in the main Entrance Hall was a massive exhibit by Tim Hawkinson called Überorgan. I love Hawkinson's fanciful works which frequently include music as does this one.
The musical score for Überorgan consists of a 250-foot-long scroll. Black dots and dashes encode the notes of traditional hymns, pop songs, and improvisational tunes. The notes are deciphered by light-sensitive switches in its player and scrambled to create an endless variety of compositions.
We heard the hourly performance several times, but I was never able to make out the tune. It sounds like whales or some other large animals (moose?) singing to each other. The photo on the right shows the huge, two-storey piano-roll mechanism that governs the sounds to be heard. You can hear an example of the sounds the work makes at the website link above.
After a garden tour, during which we never got to the famous Central Garden designed by Robert Irwin, we had lunch in the cafe. Then the four of us split up into two groups to view the special exhibits that most interested each of us. Bart and I headed for the West Pavilion to see Defining Modernity: European Drawings, 1800-1900. I love the intimacy of drawings and the feeling of freedom they give. The artist uses simple tools and is not constrained to get things perfect. You can get a better idea of what the artist was thinking with drawings.
As it happens, today's LA Times had an article about this exhibit and the difficulty the staff had in finding just the right matting and frame for each drawing. They wanted the frames, mats, and even the wall colors to enhance the drawings while not being noticed. For this viewer, it didn't work because I always look at the frames and matting the experts choose. In fact, the very first thing I thought to myself when I walked up to the first drawing was how nicely it was matted. I know how difficult it is to pick just the right combination of mat and frame for my own photos which adorn all the walls of my house and also my son and daughter's homes. There is one seascape I took in San Pedro that we all three have and each of us framed it differently and it is amazing the effect the mat and frame can have not to mention the wall color and where the picture is hung, how high or low, etc. I like to look up closely at the artwork and then stand back, in the middle of the room if possible, to get the effect of how the pieces are all hung. Sometimes, the presentation is as artful as the works themselves.To be continued...