Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Comforting Words

Wow, it's been a long time since my last post! I hope you all are doing well! I'm fine, but life has been pretty busy and stressful lately. Yesterday I did manage to get away to the woods for a little while which went a long way to refresh my spirit. Then a friend shared this quote today which expressed what I felt so perfectly and seemed so meaningful for these times, I just had to share it. I hope it blesses you as much as it did me! 😊

   "This accumulated depression of months slid from her at last in a moment. She had run out into the fields one day in a pet and was standing on a small stone bridge looking down on brown running water flecked with cream-coloured foam. It was a dull November day with grey sky and mist. The little brook was scarcely more than a trench to drain the fields; but overhanging it were thorn bushes with a lacework of leafless twigs; ivy had sent trails down the steep banks to dip in the stream, and from every thorn on the leafless twigs and from every point of the ivy leaves water hung in bright drops, like beads.
    A flock of starlings had whirred up from the bushes at her approach and the clip, clop of a cart-horse's hoofs could be heard on the nearest road, but these were the only sounds. Of the hamlet, only a few hundred yards away, she could hear no sound, or see as much as a chimney-pot, walled in as she was by the mist.
   Laura looked and looked again. The small scene, so commonplace and yet so lovely, delighted her. It was so near the homes of men and yet so far removed from their thoughts. The fresh green moss, the glistening ivy, and the reddish twigs with their sparkling drops seemed to have been made for her alone and the hurrying, foam-flecked water seemed to have some message for her. She felt suddenly uplifted. The things which had troubled her troubled her no more. She did not reason. She had already done plenty of reasoning. Too much, perhaps. She simply stood there and let it all sink in until she felt that her own small affairs did not matter. Whatever happened to her, this, and thousands of other such small, lovely sights would remain and people would come suddenly upon them and look and be glad.
   A wave of pure happiness pervaded her being, and, although it soon receded, it carried away with it her burden of care. Her first reaction was to laugh aloud at herself. What a fool she had been to make so much of so little. There must be thousands like her who could see no place for themselves in the world, and here she had been, fretting herself and worrying others as if her case were unique. And, deeper down, beneath the surface of her being, was the feeling, rather than the knowledge, that her life's deepest joys would be found in such scenes as this."

                                                                                   ~from Lark Rise to Candleford, Flora Thompson             

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Stormy March

The stormy March is come at last,
With wind, and cloud, and changing skies,
I hear the rushing of the blast,
That through the snowy valley flies.

Ah, passing few are they who speak,
Wild stormy month! in praise of thee;
Yet, though thy winds are loud and bleak,
Thou art a welcome month to me.

For thou, to northern lands, again
The glad and glorious sun dost bring,
And thou hast joined the gentle train
And wear'st the gentle name of Spring.

And, in thy reign of blast and storm,
Smiles many a long, bright, sunny day,
When the changed winds are soft and warm,
And heaven puts on the blue of May.

Then sing aloud the gushing rills
And the full springs, from frost set free,
That, brightly leaping down the hills,
Are just set out to meet the sea.

The year's departing beauty hides
Of wintry storms the sullen threat;
But in thy sternest frown abides
A look of kindly promise yet.

Thou bring'st the hope of those calm skies,
And that soft time of sunny showers,
When the wide bloom, on earth that lies,
Seems of a brighter world than ours.
                                       ~ William Cullen Bryant

Saturday, February 8, 2020

The Mad Wind's Night Work

 Come see the north wind's masonry.
Out of an unseen quarry evermore
Furnished with tile, the fierce artificer
Curves his white bastions with projected roof
Round every windward stake, or tree, or door.
Speeding, the myriad-handed, his wild work
So fanciful, so savage, nought cares he
For number or proportion. Mockingly,
On coop or kennel he hangs Parian wreaths;
A swan-like form invests the hidden thorn;
Fills up the farmer's lane from wall to wall,
Maugre the farmer's sighs; and, at the gate,
A tapering turret overtops the work.
And when his hours are numbered, and the world
Is all his own, retiring, as he were not,
Leaves, when the sun appears, astonished Art
To mimic in slow structures, stone by stone,
Built in an age, the mad wind's night-work,
The frolic architecture of the snow.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

A Thing of Beauty

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.

Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o'er-darkened ways
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,

Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits. Such the sun, the moon,
Trees old and young, sprouting a shady boon
For simple sheep; and such are daffodils
With the green world they live in; and clear rills
That for themselves a cooling covert make
'Gainst the hot season; the mid forest brake,
Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms:

And such too is the grandeur of the dooms
We have imagined for the mighty dead;
All lovely tales that we have heard or read:
An endless fountain of immortal drink,
Pouring unto us from the heaven's brink.
                                                               ~John Keats

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Two Hours with the Kate Furbish and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Collections at Bowdoin College

   Yesterday my father and I had an opportunity to go downstate to Brunswick and Portland, and to do something I've been wanting to do for a long time! When I first read about Kate Furbish, I felt as if I'd found a friend! She was quite a remarkable lady, who made it her mission to explore every region of Maine and document its flora. Often she traveled alone, through bogs and swamps and up steep mountainsides. She was also an artist, and her sketches and paintings are both botanically accurate and ascetically pleasing. Her work gained the respect of the eminent botanist Asa Gray. You can read a little more about her here, and I also highly recommend the book Kate Furbish and the Flora of Maine, by Ada Graham, to anyone interested in learning more about her! 😊
   Anyway, her botanical art collection is now in the archives of the Hawthorne Longfellow Library at Bowdoin College and we went there to see it!

This was only one volume! I can't remember how many the archivist said there were, but this book was huge!

I had only seen her completed paintings before, so I enjoyed seeing many of her pencil sketches and unfinished paintings as well.

They are amazingly detailed!

A sketch of Yellow Wood Sorrel...

And a more completed page showing the leaves in detail...

Northern Fox Grape...

I've seen this before too but didn't know what it was. Thoreau mentions Moosewood in The Maine Woods, and now I'll know what he was talking about!

Beautiful Flowering Wintergreen...

Wild Indigo...

I thought this one of Dyer's Greenwood was especially beautiful even though unfinished. You can barely make it out in the picture, but near the bottom is written, "To be finished".

I also loved her beautiful paintings of the most common wildflowers and weeds. Nothing escaped her eye!

Of course, her two trips to this area in 1880 and 1881 are of particular interest to me. This Milk Vetch was found along the banks of the Aroostook River in Fort Fairfield and Fort Kent.

The Aroostook River...

And this found here in Caribou, also along the river!

Another Vetch found on the banks of the St. John River...

This one was also found in Ft. Fairfield, on the shore of the Aroostook River.

Pale Touch-Me-Not or Jewelweed, found in St. Francis in 1881...

This one was very fascinating to me...a variation of the common Touch-Me-Not (Orange Jewelweed) with a whitish flower and red spots. Miss Furbish writes "I gathered this lovely plant at St. Francis, July '81. It was a small plant with spotted or banded stems."

It really interested me because I had seen a flower just like it last summer on one of our trips down to PA! My father and I were walking along a quiet dirt road when the unusual color of the flower caught my eye. I didn't have a camera with me so I picked it and brought it back to the van, where I photographed it and pressed it in a book. 

It made me so happy to know that Miss Furbish thought such a flower worthy of notice as well! 😊

Another interesting variation she recorded in the Touch-Me-Not was this one with spotless flowers, which she says were "growing quite abundantly at St. Francis in July 1881."  

Besides the Furbish Collection, I was also very interested to see Bowdoin's Longfellow Collection. They have over 1,850 volumes including first editions of his poetical works, translations, and books he used while teaching at Bowdoin, besides letters and literary manuscripts!


I didn't get to see nearly all I would have liked of course, due to lack of time and my mind going blank as to what to ask for! But I did spend a very happy hour looking through this beautifully illustrated 1870s edition of his poems. Maybe it was the silence of the reading room we were in, but so many of the poems were leaping out at me so vividly in all their truth and beauty. I've always loved the opening to Evangeline...

"This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks,
Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight,
Stand like Druids of eld, with voices sad and prophetic,
Stand like harpers hoar, with beards that rest on their bosoms.
Loud from its rocky caverns, the deep-voiced neighboring ocean
Speaks, and in accents disconsolate answers the wail of the forest."

Oh, and the beginning of The Song of Hiawatha is equally grand! 😊

"Should you ask me, whence these stories? 
Whence these legends and traditions, 
With the odors of the forest 
With the dew and damp of meadows,
With the curling smoke of wigwams,
With the rushing of great rivers,
With their frequent repetitions,
And their wild reverberations
As of thunder in the mountains?"

We also got to see a letter written by Mr. Longfellow to his sister, when he was 16 years old and a new student at Bowdoin. It is dated Oct. 12, 1823. 

And this manuscript of his poem, The Rainy Day, written about 1842. I believe this was the first of Longfellow's poems I read and I've loved it ever since. 

There were so many things to see, I think we could have easily spent at least a couple of days here, instead of just 2 hours! Besides wanting to see more of the Furbish and Longfellow collections, I would love to see their Nathaniel Hawthorne and Harriet Beecher Stowe collections. Hopefully, we will have another opportunity to visit soon! We did enjoy looking at some of the displays in the library as well, such as this from Joshua Lawrence Chamberlin...  

The letter he wrote to his wife when he believed himself to be mortally wounded...

And finally, here is Mr. Hawthorne, who is another of my favorite authors. I haven't read all his works, but I love his Twice-Told Tales and many of his other short stories, especially when they break out with some gloriously beautiful meaning for me, such as that one sentence from The Ambitious Guest, about the family in the White Mountains who "had found the 'herb, heart's-ease,' in the bleakest spot of all New England". Hawthorne attended Bowdoin at the same time as Longfellow.

*Photos used by permission, courtesy of Bowdoin College Special Archives and Collections