This Janus Moment- Looking at 2013

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The one thing I see ahead, for certain, in the coming year is- more personal growth.  Most of the travels I undertook in 2012 were either left over plans from 2011, or set around key events, like the Centenary of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s visit to North America and my already planned trip back to my hometown for Thanksgiving and my 62nd birthday.

This year starts on a blank slate, in that there is no unfinished business.  I do have tentative travel plans, which I will mention below, but being of service- to my Faith, to the Red Cross and in the American Legion’s “Americanism Essay” program will be my main priorities, along with substitute teaching when I am called.

There is a book on the Covenant (agreement) between Baha’ullah and His followers (Including me), which I am studying along with 2-3 other Baha’is.  We will likely meet every Tuesday, except for the two weeks I’ll mention below, until the end of May.  That is Priority # 1.

The year overall looks like this, and it can always change on a dime.

January- Post-holiday clean-up of the legion hall and a prayer breakfast are scheduled for next weekend.  The following weekend, our Baha’i hiking group will go-somewhere nearby.  A Navajo culture event at the Phippen Museum will find me in attendance at the end of the month.  In between, a jaunt down to Tucson is possible and a Red Cross service weekend in the Colorado River Valley is likely during the MLK Day weekend.

February- A special musical artist will visit us on the 9-10.  President’s Day weekend will likely find me in the Las Vegas area’s Red Rock State Park and/or Valley of Fire.  The end of the month (26th- March 1) is what we Baha’is observe as Ayyam-i-Ha (Intercalary Days), and is a gift-giving period.  It falls during the week, but we still gather on at least one night to celebrate.

March- I hope to have a DVD of photos from Penny’s life done by the 5th, to mark the second anniversary of her passing.  The 2nd-20th of this month is the Baha’i Fasting period, and those of us between the ages of 15-70, who are in good health, observe the Fast from sunrise to sunset during this 19-day period.  I work and carry on a modicum of normal activity during this time, but don’t travel or hike much, if at all.  From the 22nd-25th, I will likely visit some friends in southern California, and my son if he’s still there.

April- From March 29- April 7, I will visit friends and Mother Nature in Oklahoma and Texas, by way of Albuquerque.

May- If she wants me to, I will go out to Philadelphia, where my youngest niece is graduating college, from May 10-13.  Otherwise, the month is a Home Sweet Home time.

June- Colorado beckons, from the 1st to the 9th.  This time, I want to hike in Eldorado State Park, Boulder and up Mt. Sopris, near Glenwood Springs, as well as visiting my family in the Denver area and paying my respects at Sand Creek, near La Junta.

(I will also have to plan for June & July, 2014- La Belle France, Belgium, London, Amsterdam,  northern Germany, Copenhagen and five East European cities are on my radar.)

July-My son will turn 25, so the time around his birthday on the 7th will remain open.  Otherwise, three hikes, weather-permitting, in the San Francisco Peaks will highlight the second half of the month.

August & September- If all goes well, my long jaunt for the year will start on the 9th, with an overnight camp-out near Bluff, Utah.  From there, Arches National Park, Dinosaur National Monument, Devils Tower, Harney Peak, Crazy Horse Monument, Pipestone, MN, northern Wisconsin, Chicago, Toronto, Montreal,  Quebec-Ville, Atlantic Canada, Mount Desert Island, ME a family reunion in Massachusetts over Labor Day weekend, NYC, Gettysburg and a possible DC visit with my siblings (which could also happen in mid-May), Louisville, St.  Louis and Kansas City will occupy me until around October 6.

October- After the 6th, I will be around Prescott and back to business.

November- This year, my birthday falls on Thanksgiving.  I will not make any plans, except to be the best 63-year-old the Good Lord could want.

December- Grand Canyon Baha’i Conference will probably be the 20th-23rd.  Otherwise, I have no plans.

So that’s how my friend Janus has me set for the year ahead.  As always, Penny will be around me and I will move one step at a time, with love in my heart.

 

 

This Janus Moment- Looking Back

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2012 was several steps in the right direction for yours truly.  I viewed a video this evening about a girl who was visited by an angel, while she was in the hospital and at death’s door.  There is video footage of a bright, winged being, which cannot be explained by window light being reflected, as there are no windows or skylights in that part of the hospital.  I include this digression because, so often over the past twenty-one months, and especially this year, I have made split-second decisions based on messages which come to me instantaneously.  I have done things that I was not even remotely thinking of doing, but which redounded to my immediate benefit.  I know my beloved is right at my side, 24/7.

Let me look back at 2012:

January- New Year’s hike on Mingus Mountain; read The Third Alternative, by Stephen R. Covey, who would die later this year; worked at substituting; visited Wickenburg.

February- Bought solar oven; visited Tucson, Bisbee & Tombstone; celebrated Arizona’s Centennial; climbed Piestewa Peak and Camelback; hiked the eastern segment of White Tanks; enjoyed the music of Kevin VonderHeydt, in concert; revisited many parts of the Verde Valley; climbed Vulture Peak;  welcomed Aram back to dry land, from his first deployment; toured his ship and the USS Midway, in San Diego.

March- Visited:  San Diego Maritime Park;Julian;La Jolla; Laguna Beach andTorrance (to see friends); La Brea Tar Pits and LACMA; Los Angeles and San Diego Baha’i Centers; Ontario, CA (see more friends); Presented the video, “Education Under Fire” at Prescott Public Library and at Yavapai College; took training in First Aid and CPR at Phoenix Red Cross; attended “Oneness of Mankind Day” Music Festival at Old Tucson; visited with my brother and  sister-in-law during their Tucson trip; spent time with Aram in Phoenix; trained in Disaster Services, with the Red Cross; renewed my US passport; worked on my Phoenix property; hiked Thumb Butte; visited  Orme Farm, an organic establishment near Dewey, AZ.

April- Attended “Americanism” awards ceremonies at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, in Prescott; bid farewell to Baha’i friend Bruce Von der Heydt; presented “Education Under Fire” at Chino Valley Senior Center and at Prescott  College;  visited sites in Camp Verde and Sedona; discovered the lushness of Badger Springs, northeast of Black Canyon City;  had our first Baha’i cluster meeting.

May- Paid off a huge outstanding debt; attended a Yavapai College concert; attended an Americanism awards ceremony at Prescott High School; visited family and friends in Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas; hiked around Boulder, Mt. Sunflower,KS, Black Mesa, OK, Palo Duro Canyon and Pedernales Falls, TX;  reveled in the historical sites of Fort Worth, Austin; San Antonio  and Laredo; discovered South Padre Island; presented “Education Under Fire”, one more time at Prescott Public Library; finished reading Harry Potter series.

June- Attended graduation party for John Bradley;received Medal of Valor, from Prescott-Yavapai Nation; commemorated our 30th wedding anniversary in San Diego, South Carlsbad Beach and Julian; visited Dana Point and Laguna Beach;  visited the Nixon Birthplace and Presidential Library; attended the 50th anniversary of the Pine Springs Baha’i Proclamation, near Houck, AZ; hiked Bright Angel Trail, Grand Canyon; attended Bellemont Baha’i Summer School.

July- Celebrated Aram’s birthday, in San Diego; visited Santa Ysabel and Palm Springs, CA; joined Cowboy breakfast at Goldwater Lake; attended first “Nights of Enlightenment”, at Phoenix Baha’i Center; finished reading Books 1-5, in “A Song of Ice and Fire” series.

August-  Attended Star-Gazing Party, at the Bradleys’ residence; joined GMO-Free Prescott;  attended American Legion Post Picnic, at Watson Lake; added Chino Valley USD to my substituting roll.

September- Attended Prescott Red Cross Open House; visited family and friends in Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington, Utah and Colorado; attended Commemorations of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s visits to San Francisco, Oakland, Salt Lake City and Glenwood Springs, CO; camped in the Coastal Redwoods and Washington’s Ozette region;  revisited San Francisco’s Telegraph Hill, Portland, Crater Lake, and Seattle; discovered Point Reyes, the Lost Coast, Point Coquille, Sea Lion Caves, Oregon Dunes, Cape Flattery, Forks, WA, Wenatchee(and its fire-ravaged areas), Goldendale, WA, Rogue River Gorge, Ashland, OR, Mt. Shasta, Lassen Volcanic NP,  and Colorado Springs .

October- Visited Wolf Creek Gorge, CO; joined Baha’i Unit Convention, in Flagstaff; drove a friend to/from Algodones, BCN; attended concert at Macy’s in Flagstaff; attended Health & Wellness Fair in Bagdad, AZ; attended Red Cross training in Phoenix; began extended Baha’i group study; joined Red Cross Make-a-Difference Day  event, in Glendale; joined Junior Youth Hike at Sabino Canyon, Tucson.

November- Attended Anti-Bullying talk at Yavapai College; joined Veteran’s Day Parade;  visited family and friends in Saugus, MA and Bedminster, NJ; revisited Salem and Boston’s Freedom Trail; turned 62.

December- Had topical skin surgery; attended Grand Opening of Scottsdale Baha’i Center; attended Willow Creek Gardens Christmas Party;  co-hosted Baha’i Cluster Meeting; visited with Aram in Prescott and Phoenix; attended Grand Canyon Baha’i Conference; joined memorial service for an area Baha’i.

“and rain shall make the flowers grow.”

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Like many across the planet, I attended a screening of Les Miserables on Christmas night.  As with most theaters, our screening in Prescott Valley, AZ was nearly full.  Since high school,  this story has been on my short list of favourites.  I first read it in French, as a junior.  The message was no less clear and compelling in the film:  None of us is beyond redemption, but frequently, attaining it means casting aside ego, pride, fear.  One reviewer called the story “relentless”, in its presentation of the events leading up to the Barricades of Paris in 1832, and the aftermath of their architects’ defeat.

It is never going to be “Les Miz”, in my mind.  The human struggle can never really be trivialized, abbreviated or marginalized for convenience’s sake.  The bonds of true love, in every one of its forms, can never be broken.  The power of unconditional humaneness, towards even one’s perceived enemies, can never be broken.  In real terms, Victor Hugo was calling out for all these to become the order of his day, and of the future society.  In real time, we see the great leaders of our day putting these principles into action:  Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi, Inacio Lula da Silva and Liu Xiao Bo.

The most compelling strand in Les Miserables is the ultimate sense of Jean Valjean’s vindication, at least in his own heart.  Even Javert, to his great chagrin, recognizes the folly of his own life’s work, bestowing his Croix d’Honeur on the fallen child, Gavroche, then allowing Jean Valjean to carry the wounded Marius to safety.  None of these revelations reduces the power  of the story- it can only be felt by those who experience the story, whether in film, on stage or in print.

The despair of that age must have been palpable.  The message sent forth by the despondent Fantine, “But there are dreams that cannot be, and there are storms we cannot weather”, must never, though, be allowed to take root in these times of ours.  The dead Gavroches of Sandy Hook each had a feistiness, an unquenchable thirst for life of their own.  The Cosettes, and Eponines, of the world deserve their shot at bringing dream to reality.  The Javerts of our society need not self-destruct, but rather know that the unbending principles designed to safeguard wealth and privilege are not always tenable, nor should they be.

As I drove towards home this evening, a newscast informed that a light snow had fallen on Newtown today.  In the darksome night, there is hope radiating outward, attracting blessings, repelling the very evil that brought down this dark.

Love is not an easy thing, but to all who suffer- know that you are loved, at least in this corner.

Amity, Andy and Azadee

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I spent the past three days in Phoenix, attending a gathering of Baha’is and friends of our Faith, billed as Grand Canyon Baha’i Conference.  This has nothing to do with the great geologic symbol of Arizona; rather, it has everything to do with bridging the chasms that often exist between people.  The Baha’i Faith’s essential purpose is unity among all peoples and nations.

A hundred years ago, the eldest son of our Faith’s Founder, Baha’ullah, ‘Abdu’l-Baha, traveled throughout North America and Europe.  We have spent the past nine months commemorating the North American portion of His journey. (This was largely the impetus for my own travels of this past year, but enough of that).  He came here primarily to engender and nourish the seeds of social unity in the United States and Canada.  Amity was His message- love for one another.  Racial equality, the rights of women and justice in labour were all themes of His talks, as was the true meaning of Christ’s Message, which ‘Abdu’l-Baha saw as the primacy of love as a propelling force in the Universe.

We spent these days contemplating and discussing the legacy of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s visit.  From His encouragement, the Baha’i Faith has grown, a House of Worship has been built, and is in full flourish, in Wilmette, IL, north of Chicago.  Other such edifices have followed, with at least one Baha’i House of Worship on each inhabited continent, and several more in progress.  Our communities are also works in progress.  We go forward, in amity and in honest communication.

Among those in attendance was one of our brightest young lights.  He came unannounced, sang his delightful, light-hearted tunes and made several young girls scream.  He’s Andy Grammer and he has many more years of artistic life ahead of him.  I’ve known Andy since he was five, and he is now a Facebook friend, so I wish him love, prosperity and continued growth as an artist.  Rainn Wilson, of The Officeand Soul Pancake was also in attendance, and was a prominent presence.  I have met Rainn’s father, and appreciate the offbeat humour of both of them.

Rainn was MC on Sunday night, and introduced a drama troupe, who performed one of the most moving performances I’ve seen in many years.  It is Azadee (Persian for “Freedom”).  As many know, Iran is not exactly a Poster Child for human rights- especially for the rights of women and religious minorities.  Four beautiful young ladies, aged 11 to 17, portrayed women who have been imprisoned in Iran, for various reasons. One photographed a women’s soccer match.  Another was an attorney, representing others who were accused of crimes.  A third was a Kurdish human rights activist. (She has since been executed, and the moments leading up to her execution were referenced in this portrayal).  The fourth was a woman imprisoned for being on the Baha’i Administrative Council in Iran, known as Yaran.  A  poem by this woman, Mrs. Mahvash Sabet, follows.

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An English Translation of a Poem by Mrs. Mahvash Sabet

No Boundaries[1]
No boundaries:
     face to face,
         knee to knee,
                eye to eye,
away from all that was and is.
We gaze at the water in dingy sinks,
     at water-smeared mirrors,
          looking for a reflection,
                looking for the Light of the world,
                     that eternal glimmer of Light,
                          the spot where there is sun –
                                   a jeweled crown at the Apex of the world –
                                        a bride on the Mountain of love
                                            enthralled by the Mountain of love,
                                                 transported by the scent of red geraniums and green meadows.
And those women:
just letters —
each separate from one another,
sitting around us all, their faces . . . ghastly . . .
no sign of connection,
merely letters,
not sentences,
not even
words.
And yet it is together
          that we achieve that two-letter meaningful word “BE”:
              and become transported by the scent of red geraniums and green meadows.
No boundaries,
     knee to knee,
         eye to eye.
We didn’t know it,
          yet we unleashed
                chaos into the clamor
                         through our silence.
We didn’t know it,
           and the reflection of
                  the Light of the world,
                      in the water-smeared mirrors and dingy water –
We disturbed the silence.
We didn’t know it,
          and yet we would smile
                in the interstices of pain.
We would smile at those women –
           their feet swollen,
          mad ones with cold eyes,
          sick ones with yellow faces.
          no longer women, not even  men,
          old ones in death’s grasp, no matter the age
          and icy hungry ones
          hair shaved and faces razed
          and the ones with missing teeth
          and the young ones with yellow, swollen wounds
          and rotten thoughts
          with the paralyzing tang of decay,
          rusty voices
          and innocent women with entreating glances
          with hands like ivy
                   seeking love,
and there we were, shedding love
         in that limbo of tribulation
              speaking of sacredness
                     of Humanity,
and those isolated letters glorified us
for some time in secret
and then openly.
When that one dear woman
         flipped through the pages of a book
                for the first time
                     and saw the letters of text
                           in the simple association of meaning
                                her eyes began to glitter
                                    her smile radiated with connection
                                        and her words radiated herself.
We didn’t know it
     and those lost delusory souls —
         unaware of love —
         unaware of us —
         unaware of Plus – addition and connection
         tending toward Minus — subtraction and division–
         tried to remove us from the glossary of words.
And so,
       everyone saw the connectedness of letters
            in the simple association of meaning
                 flipping through pages
                     no boundaries
                          between one another
                              knee to knee
                                   eye to eye.

___________________________

([1] This is an English translation of a poem by Mrs. Mahvash Sabet, one of the seven members of the Baha’i leadership group in Iran, now serving their 20 year prison sentences. The poem is the story of why Mrs Sabet and Mrs Kamalabadi were transferred within the notorious Gohardasht prison. The original Farsi poem can be found here.

With special thanks to dear Ms Roxana Saberi and a beloved Baha’i friend for their comments on the translation draft.)

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————
Other than the course and outcome of my late wife’s physical suffering, there is no event that has moved me more, emotionally, than this dramatic performance.  Seeing an eleven-year-old girl portraying a brave woman who is about to be executed threw me back, in full emotional ricochet, to the events of December 14 and was only amplified tenfold by the singing of the words to the poem, by the girl’s mother.  The further link to the rape victims of India, and the brave girls of Afghanistan, Pakistan and the DR-Congo was not far from anyone’s mind or heart.
On this Christmas Day, commemorating the day, actually in Spring, when another brave young girl brought Light in to the world, two days after a fine young man paid tribute to his own late mother on the stage of our conference, might we not dedicate the coming year- the next DECADE- to bringing womankind to her rightful place as the EQUAL of   the males of our species.  The well-being of women and girls is the saving grace of men and boys.
No boundaries………knee to knee, eye to eye” , shoulder to shoulder, heart to heart.

Bunker Hill’s Beacon- Last is Never Least

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When one heads west from Boston’s North End, it’s a few hundred steps into what many young urban professionals (Yep, they’re still here) regard as a Promised Land.  The old brownstones and row houses of Charlestown, one of  the Hub’s traditionally Irish neighbourhoods, are now drawing the upwardly mobile.

I did not dwell too much on that aspect of the home of the Sacred Cod.  It is better experienced as the northern sector of the Freedom Trail, with the Bunker Hill Monument and USS Constitution as the Trail’s main draws.

Arriving on the west end of the bridge, a visitor is greeted by two parks:  City Square and Monument Square.  The first lies at the foot of the bridge across the Charles.

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Note the twin Sacred Cod in the photo to the left.  No Boston politician worth his or her .handshake would ever ignore the breadwinning fish.

Charlestown’s long-time residents are as devout as their neighbours across the river.  St. Mary’s Catholic Church is well-established, just to the north of City Square.

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Monument Square is a bit to the east of St. Mary’s.  It has Charlestown’s war memorials

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and the foundation stones of the area’s first tavern.

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Walking further up Breed’s Hill and Bunker Hill, Charlestown’s masterpiece becomes visible:  Bunker Hill Monument.

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202 steps brought me to a majestic, panoramic view of Boston’s skyline.  I am becoming a fan of this sort of activity, after visiting the Space Needle a few months ago.  This view equals that in Seattle.

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The obelisk is capped by an marble ceiling but, for freedom, the sky’s the limit.

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I decided to save the Constitution for a later date, and hurried back to Saugus just in time for my birthday dinner.  Thus did Nov. 28, 2012 end on a very happy note.

 

 

Liberty’s Flame is Guarded by Community: Boston’s North End

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The two neighbourhoods which hug the northwest sector of the City of Boston, of the Charles River and its confluence with the Mystic River are also integral to the Freedom Trail and the story it tells of our nation’s beginnings.

The North End has become best known for its Italian culture, restaurants and shops.

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There are three Roman Catholic parishes in this relatively small area:  St. Stephen’s, St. Leonard’s and Sacred Heart.  The last identifies itself as an Italian Catholic parish.

Below are, in order of appearance, St. Leonard’s, St. Stephen’s and Sacred Heart.

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The unifying element in North End life, aside from the strong ethnic identity of many of its residents, is the legacy of Paul Revere.  He is best known as a benefactor of the Revolutionary cause and as the bell-ringer of Old North Church.  Longfellow’s poem and Copley’s portrait have made Revere one of the most famous Americans of the War for Independence and Federal period to have not served in either the military or national government.

Old North Church, Paul Revere House and Copp’s Hill Burial Ground are the three most prominent landmarks of the War for Independence in the North End.

Here is the  famous North End church of the Independence Era:  Old North.

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Paul Revere’s house is preserved by an historical trust.  It will seem familiar to the connoisseur of colonial New England architecture, as it was built by the same man who built Salem’s House of the Seven Gables:  Joseph Chandler.  He built residences with low ceilings, to preserve heat, in the harsh winters of pre-central heating Massachusetts.

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Paul Revere, by profession, was a silversmith.  Silver being expensive, then as now, Revere also worked with copper and bronze, as well as with gold.  A bronze bell, cast by Revere for the Old North Church, was rung by him on that fateful night of April, 1775.  It now lies in the courtyard of his preserved home.

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The last place I visited in the North End, before crossing the bridge into Charlestown, was Copp’s Hill Burial Ground.

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Here are interred the good, the great and those of checkered repute, from Boston’s early days.  The patriot Robert  Newman, the abolitionist and educator Prince Hall and the early religious fundamentalist Mathers (Richard, his son Increase and grandson Cotton) are all laid to rest in this hallowed ground.

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Having paid my respects to one and all, I gazed out upon the Charles River.

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Tomorrow, I will recap my visit to Charlestown.  For now, I recall the words of the townies, to any young boy who hung around too long in a “Connah Stoah”, “Hey kid, go home and tell ya mutha she wants ya.”

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The Seeds, and Fruits, of Freedom: Boston’s Historical Trail

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I first walked the better part of the Freedom Trail in Boston with my Dad, in 1964.  Back then, Quincy Market was called Durgin Park and the Old Corner Book Store was still selling books.  We got as far as the Charles River, then went back to the car, so as to beat the afternoon traffic.  It was my first real understanding that freedom came after considerable struggle.

I went back to the edge of the Trail last year, visiting Boston Common and Park Street Church, during a Copley Square excursion.  This time, I was determined to walk the rest of the trail and see this beloved city through the eyes of struggle and endurance.

It was a cold, somewhat brisk day, with snow in the air, on my 62nd birthday.  The first place I encountered was the newest point on the Freedom Trail:  Holocaust Memorial.  There is no more fitting place than here, to honour the memories of those lost in the second-worst war in human history.  Jews have been an integral part of American society since the mid-seventeenth century, with sites like Newport, RI’s Touro Synagogue to prove it.  Boston’s memorial is modern, and tasteful.

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The message is clear, and only the ignorant will deny what happened.  Freedom is an ongoing struggle- lest we forget.

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The victims speak through these media.

SAM_3549          SAM_3547The foresight of Dwight D. Eisenhower provides us with further assurance.

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The first freedom fighters here included men of means and paupers alike.  They were of all the  “races” who lived in Boston at the time:  White, Black, Native American.  Their common thread, which had a distant echo in England itself, was the cry for personal freedom.  No one really was represented in government, save the upper classes and aristocracy.  Women could only speak through their menfolk.  In 1770, on a street corner in what was then the heart of Boston, push came to shove.

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The story of the five year run-up to the War for Independence is superbly told in the Old State House.  I spent an hour here, learning new details of the Tax Enactment Period and of the complex interplay between the British soldiers and Patriots, in the aftermath of the Boston “Massacre”, which actually cost five lives and six injuries.

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From this site, I walked to the Old South Meeting House, so named because it was used primarily by Quakers and Mennonites.  It was a safe haven for those meeting to discuss their grievances, in the early 1770’s.  Below, are views of the exterior and interior of this vital building.

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The morning segment of my wandering led next to the Old Corner Book Store (now a Chipotle).  It is the red brick building just diagonal from the truck.

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Next is Old City Hall, where there is a statue of Benjamin Franklin in the front yard, close to King’s Chapel.

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King’s Chapel is important, as it was the site of the first school in Boston, and a Loyalist gathering spot.  It is also the site where, ironically, the patriot William Dawes, among other notables of the colonial era, is buried.

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I had reached the point where I had left off last summer.  I n the interests of doing justice to the North End and Charlestown, as well as to my own birthday dinner later in the evening, I headed towards Fanueil Hall, Quincy Market and lunch.

En route, I saw living proof of our nation’s freedom- a group of carolers, spontaneously offering holiday cheer.  Across the street from them was the famed Parker House.

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Hot rolls aside, I was in the mood for a lobster salad and clam chowder.  Hence, it was off to the great market place.  Fanueil Hall itself serves as headquarters for Boston National Historical Park.

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For serious eating, it’s Quincy Market.

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There is a touch of kitsch at the end of the complex, as there is at all great city markets.  But, hey, ya gotta love “Cheers”.

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Next up:  The North End, home of Paul Revere.

 

 

Bewitched By History- My Salem “Pilgrimage”

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Growing up on the North Shore of Massachusetts Bay, I have been mesmerized by the history-oriented culture of places like Boston, Cambridge and Salem.  To be sure, my own hometown of Saugus had a hand in this.  Our Ironworks was the parent of the American steel industry.

During my recent, Thanksgiving-oriented visit “up home”, I made it a point to revisit some of my favourite sites in Salem, as well as to re-walk  Boston’s Freedom Trail from the point where I left off in September, 2011.

In today’s post, I want to pay homage to the “Witch City”, and share my visit there, of November 20.

Taking an easy bus route from Saugus, through Lynn, I arrived at Salem’s Chestnut Street, in the heart of the 18th Century McIntire Historic District.   It’s named for Samuel McIntire, who built many of the homes that are still preserved in this exemplary neighbourhood.

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The first place I visited in the McIntire District was Hamilton Hall.  It is so named because Alexander Hamilton frequented the house when he visited Salem.  Unlike the colonial-era homes which McIntire built, this Federal-period classic was clothed in brick.

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Its interior is suitably ornate, befitting the nation’s first Treasurer.

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After leaving the Federalist era, I jumped backwards in time, to Salem’s Days of Infamy.  The Witch House, at the edge of the McIntire District, predates Samuel, but shows the full story of the religious persecutions and the mass hysteria which led to them, in late seventeenth century Salem- and a few nearby towns.

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Due to the delicate nature of the furnishings, photography inside the Witch House is discouraged, as is of course handling of the various artifacts.  What is ironic is that it was the home of the Witch Trials’ presiding judge, Jonathan Corwin.  The structure is the only house remaining in Salem with direct ties to those dark days.  There are numerous other places in the downtown area with exhibits of witch memorabilia.

Salem has two other historic periods in which it played an important role:  The Clipper Ship Era and the Industrial Age.  Several tanning factories and some heavy manufacturing facilities were located here, in the 19th and 20th centuries.  Salem’s port was a rival of Boston’s, until the mid- 19th Century.

The economic boom enabled Salem to build impressive public buildings and places of learning, like Salem Athenaeum, which still exists as a private library.

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The County Courthouse and Salem Town Hall (now a city museum) are shown below.

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After a satisfying lunch at Nick’s Firehouse, I revisited the Peabody Essex Museum, behind the old Town Hall.  I was last there in 1965, when a grudging curator let my three siblings and me walk around the Maritime exhibit, unsupervised.  He made no pretense of liking children and teens, but I found the exhibits fascinating.  They still are- although no photos are allowed there, either.

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Nonetheless, the Museum is now popularly called “The PEM”, school groups are welcomed- even by the eldest of  docents and the Museum involves itself fully in community life.

After ninety minutes of studying paintings, household finery and marvelous Chinese ceramic ware and figurines, I headed to the brisk open air of Salem’s waterfront.  Here are the great wharves, Salem Neck, Cat Cove and all that brought wealth to the city, during the Clipper Ship Era.  The scene is preserved as the Salem Maritime National Historic Site.

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Above is the SS Friendship, a restored clipper ship, open to visitors during the summer months.  Below left  is Salem Neck.  To the right is a shore view of Derby Wharf, built by one of Salem’s most successful mariners:  Samuel Derby.

SAM_3506           SAM_3498At the end of Derby Wharf lies a short lighthouse, which once guided tall ships and fishing boats into Salem Harbor.

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Overseeing it all, for nearly five decades, was Salem Custom House, now part of the Historic Site.

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The New England Literary Renaissance was represented most notably in Salem by Nathaniel Hawthorne.  His “House of the Seven Gables” is a real place, of course, and one can still climb the steps in back of the fireplace, under the watchful eye of a tour guide.  As ever, photography is not allowed inside the house itself.

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I was, however, able to photograph the Counting House, both inside and out.  This 19th Century office space underscored Seven Gables’ maritime importance.  Properly called Turner-Ingersoll Mansion, the house was important to Hawthorne in real terms, because his older cousin, with whom he was very close, was an owner of the mansion during Hawthorne’s teen years.  His own birthplace was moved from the downtown area to the Mansion grounds.

Here are the exterior and interior ceiling of the Counting House.

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A view of Salem Neck is in order.

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Lastly, here is a peek at Nathaniel Hawthorne’s birthplace.

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Salem remains, in my heart, one of the classic American cities- always worth a “pilgrimage”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Leibster Award nomination

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I have been nominated by CherokeeWriter for the Leibster Award.  As my end of the deal, I am stating 11 things about myself, answering her 11 questions and nominating 11 other bloggers who have less than 200 followers, at least to my knowledge.

11 Things about myself:

1.  I am of  French, German, Penobscot Indian, English, Irish and Polish descent.

2.  I was widowed nearly two years ago.

3.  I feel my wife’s spirit is always with me.

4.  I am equally at home in city and countryside.

5.  I  share a birth date with Ed Harris.

6.  I am one of 13 people with my first and last name, in the entire planet.

7.  I enjoy sharing my life with many others.

8.  I am growing stronger every day.

9.  I don’t believe in aging, only in growing closer to the Light.

10.  My glass is half full.

11.  I can speak a smattering of a few languages, but I can understand a person’s heart.

CherokeeWriter’s questions:

. What is your favorite book and why?

Les Miserables.  It pinpoints and deeply delves into the human condition, looking at both sides of an all-too-common situation.

2. Pie or cake?

Pie- Apple, Blueberry or Pecan

3. Why did you start blogging?

I wanted to share my thoughts and experiences with the wider world.

4. What is your favorite fantasy creature?

The Phoenix, because it dusts itself off and keeps on going.

5. Do you have any pets? If not, do you want any pets?

I have no pets at present.  I could not do a pet justice, right now.

6. Would you like to see a woman become President?

Certainly!

7. What is your favorite food?

Lasagna

8. Do you believe in true love?

Absolutely.  I experience it, even now.

9. What was the last movie you saw in the theater?

Lincoln

10. Who are some of your favorite singers?

Joan Baez, Red Grammer, Smith and Dragoman, Gregory and the Hawk, Pink (Yes, THAT Pink).

11. Who would you want to play you in a movie about your life?

Dennis Quaid (though he’s a lot buffer than I).

Now, my questions for my nominees:

1.  Who do you regard as a worthy role model?

2.  Why do you blog?

3.  Which do you like better- a noisy, happy party or a quiet spot in the countryside?

4.  Dogs or cats?

5.  What is your favourite beverage?

6.  Is the Lottery a good thing?

7.  What brings about happiness?

8.  Who is the greatest author of all time?  Why?

9.  Do you think love can be eternal?

10.  Ocean or mountains?

11.  What has been your happiest moment, so far?