Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Various things

Today, I went to the pool this morning - not a usual thing. I usually go in the afternoon. But today, Ellen was planning to go to Northampton to take the g-kids to see the movie Kubo, leaving me without a car. So it was this morning or not at all. I've been having trouble with pain in my left shoulder and swimming seemed to aggravate it today. That was not true when I swam a couple of days ago. On the other hand, I just did some mowing, and that didn't seem to bother the shoulder at all. Odd. It was good to get some mowing done. I haven't been able to mow since early last summer because, a) Either I haven't been here or b) I haven't been able to start the mower when I have been here. Cleaning the air filter seems to have done the trick.

             Freshly mowed lawn

Today I have also been reading a very interesting book, The History of White People, by Nell Irvin Painter. It makes the point very persuasively that "race" is a concept in our minds, not a biological reality, and it provides a very detailed history of how the idea of a "white race" has developed and evolved over time, as well as how it came to be seen as "superior." BTW, Painter defines the term "racism," as "the belief that races exist, and that some are better than others." A useful definition. 

Tonight, I have a meeting of the Dummerston Church music committee. Someone will pick me up. 

Yesterday we also went to Northampton and for the first time since returning from our trip west, we saw the apartment where the Feinlands are staying while they wait for their new house to be finished. 

          The Feinlands apartment

It is part of a huge apartment complex - hundreds of them. It is a 3-bedroom apt., but they have set it up as a 5-bedroom one, so each person has a bed. That means that the dining room is a bedroom, and there is also a bed in the living room. A temporary situation. The new house should be ready by Nov. 1st., ahead of schedule. 

We saw the new house in progress: 

The new house in context - it's the middle one

                  Up closer

This will be the actual exterior color

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Home and into "To Do" Lists

We arrived home Tuesday evening. It was blessedly cool, and the sleeping has been good both Tuesday night and Wednesday night. Last evening we went to John & Cynthia's for a Bernie "Our Revolution" event which was being streamed nationwide. 10 people signed up to come to the house party at John and Cynthia's, but only they and us showed up! But that was ok. Bernie gave a good speech about what his campaign accomplished and what he hopes to accomplish through his "Our Revolution" organization. The emphasis right now is on electing Progressive candidates in about 100 elections at all levels across the country. Beyond that, a lot will depend on the make-up of the Congress after the election. But the struggle goes on.

Today I have a very long "To Do" list I'm working through. Ordering a grave stone for Betsey is at the top of the list. A sad errand, but one that must be done, and done right. So I'm headed to Abiatti Monuments in Brattleboro.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Library time

Today (Monday) was a library day. We are at Swarthmore, PA, and while Ellen had a chance to visit with friends, I had a chance to spend most of the day at the Friends Historical Library, which is a wing of the McCabe Library at Swarthmore College.

McCabe Library
My reason for being at the Library was to continue my exploration of the Frederick B. Tolles archive there. I have been going through the 13 boxes of materials there since 2005 - over ten years! I always find something new and unexpected. I am gradually completing the MS I've been working on for several years now, which will be titled An Untold Story: Frederick Barnes Tolles' Unpublished History of 16-17th Century Colonial America and the Story Behind It. The section I am refining is the detailed chronological summary of FBT's life, which includes a "fairly complete bibliography of his published works." I am still finding things he wrote in the archive. This time I found a 12-page anecdotal history of Swarthmore College, which he wrote in 1963. I also found notes he made discussing a larger, more definitive history of Swarthmore College that he was working on, but was not able to finish because of his illness.

I took a break from my research to walk through the beautiful Swarthmore campus and meet Ellen, Sarah and Wallace for lunch at the new Swarthmore Inn.

The central campus at Swarthmore
Lunch at the Inn
Sometimes when I am in a library, I just randomly look at books. This time, I browsed the "New Books" shelf, and picked up a book on contemporary art. I randomly opened it to a photograph of a very unusual sculpture:

Sherpa, 2008 by Tim Hawkinson
This is a life-sized motorcycle, made entirely from bird feathers. Hundreds of feathers from eight different species of birds. The original is in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The artist was inspired by a single ostrich plume, the sweep and shape of which reminded him of the gas tank of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. There is a paradox in using feathers to depict something so heavy and sturdy. But I couldn't help but think of that feathered hat, which led to the extinction of the Maine puffin (see the 8/19/2016 blog above, Full Day in Rockland). Where and how did the artist get his feathers? The article about this piece doesn't discuss that. It seems not to have been an issue for the authors. You have to wonder though. There was no plaque saying, "No bird was harmed in the creation of this work of art."

Yesterday (Sunday),  Ellen and I had breakfast at the Court Diner in Media, PA, and then met Paul and Max at Hereford Place, where Sarah and Harry live. Max and Paul swam in the pool there, although it was raining much of the time, so the rest of us came indoors. Then we had some snacks before shifting the venue to Wallace's house for supper, where Paul had a chance to share his experiences as a site manager for OSM - an often frustrating experience. Max was fantastic. He kept busy with activities and related beautifully to the adults. We knew his mom would be very proud and were sorry Jenny wasn't there to see for herself.

A very grown-up Max
In Wallace's living-room: l. to r., Max, Harry, Ellen, Paul and Sarah

Sunday, August 21, 2016

A lot of driving!

Ellen has done a lot of driving in these past weeks. We logged almost 12,000 miles on our trip out west, and then just four days after we had arrived home from that, she drove us to Maine, and then just the day after coming home from Maine, she drove us to Swarthmore, which is where we are now. And then Tuesday, she'll drive us back home! We'll be seeing Paul and Max later today. They flew out for Paul's dad's 75th birthday. It's pretty warm and humid here.

To go back, Friday morning folks gathered one last time at Jim and Mary's, before we all headed our separate ways. Mary went to work. We said goodbye to Jim, Chris and Fran, who were going to another gallery. Then Chris and Fran were going to go to the antique auto auction before driving to Portland where they would have a day before flying back to Atlanta. KS&B hung out with us until after noon. Then we said our goodbyes. 

      Packing up to go ....

                                                             .... and don't forget Brendon's contraption! 

I got a last shot of the house and Mary's garden ....

... and we were on our way. Going through Rockland, we remembered we had a headlamp out, and we didn't want to get stopped after dark by a trooper, so we went to Eastern Tire, where we had had the oil changed earlier in the week, and in addition to getting the bulb, we ended up deciding to replace our badly worn tires as well, since we knew we would be driving to Swarthmore the next day. So we hung out in Rockland for another hour. We didn't get home until after 10p.m. 

Saturday morning we did a wash, reorganized, and were on our way by about 1pm. It was a beautiful, cool morning, and it was hard to leave the house. I read aloud articles from the recent Christian Century magazine as we drove along. One was about whether it was appropriate to use "trigger warnings" in a seminary classroom. I agreed with the author's view that future pastors do need to be self-aware of their emotional response to disturbing intellectual subjects, and I realized that emotional awareness was largely missing from my own seminary education. Emotional awareness as an aspect of teaching was not well-understood 60 years ago. Maybe we have learned some things about education in those 60 years! 

Friday, August 19, 2016

Full day in Rockland

We touched quite a few bases in Rockland on Thursday: Project Puffin, the Lighthouse Museum, Cone Home, the Rockland Harbor Breakwater, and then, in the evening, Cafe Miranda and finally, the rooftop of Hotel 250 Main.

The group divided up. Chris and Fran went to an art gallery in Thomaston with Jim, then went on a two-hour windjammer cruise. They later reported that it was a perfect day for a cruise, "a 10," their captain had said. Katie and Savanna explored the harbor and Owl's Head lighthouse, and Savanna did some sketching. Ellen, Mary, Brendon and I did the many-splendored Rockland thing. 

The Project Puffin was founded in the '70's by ornithologist, Dr. Steve Kress, who is director of the Audubon Society's bird preservation program. Originally prolific on Maine coastal islands, Puffins had virtually disappeared by the early 20th century, due in large part to the demand for feathers in hats like this one: 

In 1973, Kress set out to restore puffins to 6 islands where they had once flourished off Rockland by collecting chicks in Nova Scotia and bringing them to Maine islands where, it was hoped, they would mature, go off to sea, and then, as puffins do, return to that island to mate and nest. It took eight years of effort, but eventually puffins began returning and today there are something like 750 nesting places on those six islands. The Project maintains a place in Rockland where you can see a video, a kid can explore a puffin burrow, and you can support the project by buying puffin art, T-shirts, etc., and ask questions of a knowledgeable staff person (who happened to be a graduate of Antioch New England Graduate School, where my son, John, works). 

                 An art photograph at Project Puffin

The Lighthouse Museum was across the street. We went there after Project Puffin, but not before Brendon had found a space between two buildings just wide enough for him to wedge his body in. Fortunately, there was a wooden barrier that prevented his going very far, otherwise he might have tried to go all the way to the back of the building! But he was inspired to want to find alleys in Rockland he could explore. I promised him that the next time he comes to Brattleboro, we would explore some of the fine alleys which run off its Main Street. 

The Lighthouse Museum has preserved many artifacts of the heyday of Maine's lighthouse era-the 19th and earlier 20th century. Many of these lighthouses still exist as structures, but they have been rendered obsolete by a much more sophisticated technology. It has been many, many decades since there were resident lighthouse keepers. The museum primarily celebrates the era before electricity, when the invention of the Fresnel lens by French engineer and physicist, Augustin-Jean Fresnel (1788-1827), made it possible to greatly enhance the light of a single oil lamp, and also, by means of a rotating lens, create a flashing effect which, by exploiting the possible variations in flashes, made it possible to give each lighthouse a unique identity, thus giving mariners much more accurate information as to their location at night. Their were many examples of the Fresnel lens on display. 

                      The main Fresnel exhibit room

The rotating Fresnel lens from the Petit Manan lighthouse - a particularly fine example. 

The museum also celebrates the human side of lighthouses: the remarkable people who tended them and kept their lights burning through storms and other adverse circumstances. Perhaps the most famous such person is Abbie Burgess, who as a girl, kept the light burning during a violent storm when her father had left the island for supplies and her mother was severely ill. Her story became known to millions through Harper's Young People magazine. 

                     An Abbie Burgess plaque

                   Model of a lighthouse-keepers house 

After the museum, we went to Cone Home for some luscious ice cream and then on to the Breakwater, which was a popular venue on this fine day:

           The Rockland Harbor Breakwater

Brendon, Mary and Ellen on the Breakwater with Samoset Resort Hotel in the distance. 

Brendon found a snail on the Breakwater which he became very attached to (or it to him), and he watched a long time as it crawled across his hand, leaving a trail of slime. 

             Mr. Snail makes a trail

Ellen and Brendon spent a little time on Crescent Beach, near Jim and Mary's house, and eventually we regrouped and met at Cafe Miranda for supper. It had a very varied menu, and the portions were generous.

                   We had an outside table at Cafe Miranda

                             Brendon and Savanna 

We topped the evening off (so to speak) by watching the full moon rise from the roof top of Chris and Fran's hotel, overlooking town and harbor.

Hotel 250 Main, a boutique hotel in Rockland

                                         Watching the moon rise from the roof top

                                         Rockland view

The Hotel 250 Main is brand new, and features original Maine art on every floor. Here's a shot of the lobby:

                             Hotel 250 Main lobby

A nice day! 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Cookout on the beach with sunset and moonrise

Last evening, we had a cookout at the beach cottage where Katie, Savanna and Brendon are staying. Added to the company were Jim's stepson, Chris, and his wife, Fran, visiting from Atlanta. They arrived in the late afternoon and helped with schlepping a lot of food and supplies from Jim and Mary's house down a driveway to the beach cottage. The cottage is right on the water, and there is a wall of huge boulders piled up between the cottage and the shore to protect it from storm surges. This creates an space where you can set up for a cookout. We had a charcoal grill and a portable metal fire pit. The menu was grilled salmon and grilled zucchini, corn on the cob, beet salad, green salad, and a dessert of mixed fresh fruits with ice cream and whipped cream. Some indulged in s'mores. Katie was the grillmaster. It was good! It turned out to be a beautiful evening after a day of fairly sticky weather and occasional showers. There was a spectacular sunset and an equally spectacular almost-full moon rise.

The beach cabin, with Chris expostulating

The cabin interior, from the bed alcove

Beautiful sunset, with (l. to r.) Fran, Mary, Jim, Ellen and Chris

Here are some studies of the rising moon:

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Antique cars!

The Owl's Head Transportation Museum is having an Auction of antique cars on Saturday, the 20th. They are auctioning off hundreds of antique cars, some fully restored and rare items, others more common US cars from the 1960's and 1970's. Ellen and I, and Brendon, went over to check it out. Ellen wanted some post cards. Brendon and I looked at cars. Brendon found an area where kids could work stuff, including a Model-T truck (you could sit in it, not drive it). There was an amazing array of cars there. It would be a fun auction just to watch, but we'll be home by then.

So, what would you like to bid on?

This BMW Isetta?

Or this Porche Roadster?

Or this very rare Honda "Roaster" (that's right)

Or my fave - this Model-T truck?

Brendon got to sit in a similar truck in the museum

 As a teen-ager, I worked for a farmer who owned a Model-T truck, and we rode it into town to get slop for the pigs. So I sort of remembered how it worked (the shift is in the pedals on the floor and the spark and throttle are on the wheel. The gas tank is under the passenger seat).

Tolles family gathering

Ellen, her sister, Katie, and brother, Jim, are having some time together here in Maine at Jim and Mary's Owl's Head home. Along with Savanna, Brendon, and myself. We arrived Sunday, K,S&B arrived yesterday evening. Right after arriving, Brendon picked wildflower bouquets in the yard and presented them as "awards" to each of us, inspired, perhaps by the Olympics. Last night it rained hard and the wind blew. K,S&B are staying in a rustic little cottage right on the ocean. It must have been noisy, but it didn't prevent sleeping, I guess. 

               Folks eating, with Brendon's bouquets in foreground. 

Today it is partly sunny with occasional showers. A bit ago, Katie and Brendon were looking at the tomatoes in Mary's garden and noticed something had eaten them. Then they noticed an oddly-shaped leaf. It wasn't a leaf. It was a tomato hornworm. They can decimate a tomato crop in no time. Mary had not seen any before today. Off they came, but not before I got a picture: 

                            Tomato hornworm

Meanwhile, Brendon is putting together an elaborate contraption made in the Ukraine that Ellen bought for him at a Jackson toy store. 

                       Brendon assembling......

....and what he's assembling.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

We are in Maine

Today, I got up pretty early, because my head was full of emails I needed to write, and I decided I might as well write them. Plans are well underway for Betsey's memorial service, and there are a lot of logistics relating to accommodations. Here's the story: there will be a memorial on October 8th at the Church of the Redeemer in Chestnut Hill, MA. A lot of out-of-town family plan to come, including some of the Elgin/Bartlett clan. They wanted me to scope out a motel near the church, so I did, and sent out that info. Then there will be a committal on Monday, the 10th, in Dummerston followed by a luncheon for people who knew Betsey in the Brattleboro area. For that, and for accommodations, we've turned to Hallelujah Farm Retreat in nearby Chesterfield, NH. So all that needed to get arranged and be disseminated. Then we had to pack up once again for a trip to Maine. We are having an Ellen-family get-together at Jim  and Mary's in Owl's Head. So we got ourselves ready, got on the road about noon, made some stops, including one at a WiFi hot spot to send emails, and drove to Maine. Since we never got to church, we listened to a  Guilford Church service from April, 1989 in the car - a wonderful service that was "oddly relevant," as Ellen  put it. Shirley's words reached out over 27 years and spoke to our condition. We stopped at Bob's for haddock, crab cake, slaw, fries and onion rings. On to Owl's Head, arriving at 8pm.

We are inaugurating the splendid Murphey Bed that Jim built. It is a very comfortable bed and a gorgeous piece of cabinetry. 

               The Murphey Bed closed

         Nicely balanced by springs for easy opening!

                               Ready for sleeping