Saturday, December 28, 2013

A Book in Hand

“It had been startling and disappointing to me to find out that story books had been written by people, that books were not natural wonders, coming up of themselves like grass. Yet regardless of where they come from, I cannot remember a time when I was not in love with them -- with the books themselves, cover and binding and the paper they were printed on, with their smell and their weight and with their possession in my arms, captured and carried off to myself. Still illiterate, I was ready for them, committed to all the reading I could give them ...”      - Eudora Welty 

I have always been in love with books. Luckily I was born into a family of book lovers that could not physically pass a book store without stopping in "for just a second." I remember my first bookstore in downtown Springfield, Mass. it was called Johnson's. Multi-floored with new books, art supplies and my favorite area the used books. Towers of bookshelves and stacks upon stacks of books. It was glorious! The smell of old paper and ink-unmistakable. I always preferred old books; the leather covers-the softness from years of human touch, the hand tied bindings, the thin ribbon built-in bookmark,  sometimes, if I was lucky,  a small "extra" was left from a previous owner. Some little item used as a page marker and forgotten.

Some of my fondest memories of childhood revolve around books; receiving a collection of original Nancy Drew mysteries from a family friend; re-enacting scenes from Cherry Ames-Army Nurse by Helen Wells. Where we got 1940's vintage books I don't remember but my girlfriend Suzanne and I would read them and be nurses caring for imagined patients. We frequented Laughing Brook in Hamden, Mass. when I was young. Thornton W. Burgess the author of  Old Mother West Wind Stories, published in 1910, had a studio there. It was a nature preserve and our school would go there on field trips and my family would go hiking on the weekends. I loved his stories of animals and nature - Bobby Raccoon, Billy Mink, and Grandfather Frog and of course the Merry Little Breezes.

Grandmother Signe was a great collector of books; art, history, literature...upon her death we inherited approximately 3,000 of which we went through painstakingly because she was known to tuck all sorts of things between the pages including photographs and money. I kept a number of her books including a first edition Oscar Wilde-The Harlot's House. We donated the majority to the library. My favorite portrait of my Grandfather Robert is of him sitting in his library with an edition of Audubon's Birds in his lap. There is something comforting now about holding a book in my hand that they too loved. Their names inscribed on the inside covers in neat cursive writing. I wonder how many pounds of books I have moved over my lifetime? Why do I collect two of the heaviest things; books and rocks!? Love makes you do crazy things!

I keep a journal of the titles and authors of books I read every year. It is a quick reference so I can look up an author I like and see if they have written anything new. It is also a way to keep track of how many books I read a year. It challenges me. Being the last week of December and of the year I am finishing books to include. I always seem to have a few books going at the same time. I thought it would be fun to include some of the titles by women authors that I have read this year that I found inspiring and enjoyable.

Antonia & Her Daughters  by Marlena De Blasi-  All of her books are a feast for the senses!

The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte
The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen              All by Syrie James- an author I just discovered this year.
The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen     I can't get enough- all stories that you can't put down.

One Writer's Garden Eudora Welty's Home Place   By Susan Haltom   Beautiful story and pictures.

Joie de Vivre By Harriet Welty Rochefort    Makes you want to jump on the next plane to Paris...

The St. Zita Society By Ruth Rendell         Quite an intricate mystery full of interesting characters.

Dreadnought By Cherie Priest                    A rousing Steam Punk adventure.

Peaches for Father Frances By Joanne Harris                Her books are always a detailed delight.

An Uncommon Education By Elizabeth Percer          Looking forward to future books by this author.

A Pace of Grace By Linda Kavelin                        A guide to living an authentic life, inspiring!

Faery Tale One Woman's Search for Enchantment in a Modern World   By Signe Pike  Magic!

The Healing Power of Reiki         By Raven Keyes     A moving book by a creative woman of healing.

Writing Jane Austen By Elizabeth Aston       Just a fun book that pokes a little fun!

Queen of the Flowers By Kerry Greenwood       Mystery's set in the 1920's in Australia with a strong
                                                                             independent, woman detective.

Ashenden: A Novel    By Elizabeth Wilhide         I fell in love with this book. Glorious!

This year I have read 75 books thus far this year. We'll see what the final tally is by Dec 31st. The stack of new books I have been collecting are beckoning as we speak. Happy Reading.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Objects of My Heart


In my jewelry box two pieces sit side by side in silent companionship. What stories could they share with each other? Conversations of family, adventures, and celebrations I imagine are whispered quietly within. Each piece could not be more different in style or design. One is of a classical nature and the other a bit more modern in form. Each speaks to me of the personality of two women I have never met though with both I share DNA. I am their Great Grand daughter. Elizabeth Christie Kindred my Fathers Grandmother of English descent and the other Emilia Olofsdotter Widestrand my Mothers Grandmother from Sweden.

This necklace belonged to Emilia. When I take the long strand of black beads in my hand I lace them through my fingers. The stones are silky soft, smooth and each is knotted in place. The pendant, a silver round of concentric circles, the outer circle a border of inlaid diamonds. In the center a star burst with eight points and a center diamond. Like a compass in a way, the directions of North, East, South and West marked with a diamond as well. Being the hopeless romantic that I am I imagine it as a gift from my Grandfather. A statement that in life, the circle round, their love was his center. I have a picture of the two of them later in life, perhaps on the occasion of an anniversary and she is wearing the necklace.  She wore it doubled, the pendant by her throat and the long beads hanging to her waist. She holds the beads in her hand. She is elegant, kind looking. She was the mother of ten, the eldest being my Grandmother Signe. 

This piece, a lovely cameo brooch and pendant came down through my Fathers maternal side. It belonged to my Great Grandmother Elizabeth Christie Kindred who emigrated from Canada to Massachusetts and who was of English descent. Oh how my Father loved her. She raised him for a time as a child when his mother was quite ill. Kind, loving and a wonderful cook...a cuddly Grandma. I have a couple of photographs of her sitting in a wicker chair on the lawn in front of the house. She wears a long black dress, her white hair piled on top of her head. The cameo was first passed to her daughter Alberta who then passed it to her daughter my cousin "Tottie". My fathers mother, also Elizabeth, died when he was just 17. Tot never had children so she passed it to me on the occasion of my high school graduation. I wore it proudly that day. It is a brooch but has a retractable arm so you can put it on a chain. I love the twisted gold border that is interwoven with the tiniest of seed pearls. The lovely profile with straight nose of the lady with rather a full face. Much like the women of my family. The graceful folds of her sleeve and bodice that just hint at an elegant gown.  She too wears a necklace. Held to the light the background glows milky coral-pink. Was it a gift or also a piece handed down?

I take both pieces out from time to time and visit with them. Just holding them in my hands connects me to them. Did Elizabeth hold the cameo in her hand and run her thumb over the portrait as I do? I wear the pieces on occasion usually special celebrations. I wonder at the years passed and that they should have even come to me at all. I am honored and blessed to enjoy them now. Someday I'll continue the tradition and pass them to my niece, the next in line. My hope is that my essence will be absorbed into the silver and gold too like luminous threads of love that will continue on and connect us, the women of my family, to each other.

Friday, December 6, 2013

A Flint and a Fire- Sara Teasdale

Sara Teasdale.

Some years ago now, at a library book sale, I came across two small volumes joined together with a rubber band. I was living in Carlsbad, CA and that particular library used to set up a section of antique was always the first stop for me. There is something special about an old book with it's usually worn cover, dog eared pages and sometimes if I'm lucky a little something extra will be tucked amongst the pages, something forgotten. You can always tell a book that has been loved as the energy of a past owner still lingers. In this case the slim volume was "Flame and Shadow" by Sara Teasdale, published in 1920  and the other, a newer volume of the collected works of Teasdale. Both had been owned by the same person as handwriting in both was the same and obviously this woman had loved the poetry of Sara. The borders full of notes and thoughts.  I had the feeling that I had found a treasure...and I was right. I fell in love with her words and her heart.

What do I care?

What do I care, in the dreams and the languor of spring,
That my songs do not show me at all?
For they are a fragrance, and I am a flint and a fire,
I am an answer, they are only a call.

But what do I care, for love will be over so soon,
Let my heart have its say and my mind stand idly by,
For my mind is proud and strong enough to be silent,
It is my heart that makes my songs, not I.

Sara ca.1918.

Born Sara Trevor Teasdale in St. Louis, Missouri in 1884 she was said to have suffered from poor health most of her life. She traveled to Chicago frequently and was involved in the poetry scene there with Harriet Monroe, the founder of Poetry Magazine (1912), and its distinguished circle of poets of the time. Her first book of verse was published in 1907 and another volume followed in 1911 and 1915. She married Ernst Filsinger, a wealthy businessman,  in 1914 though she had been courted by another famous poet of the time, Vachel Lindsay, for some time. She and her new husband moved to New York City in 1916 and in 1918 she won the first Columbia University Poetry Society Prize which later became known as the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

Gray Eyes

It was April when you came
The first time to me,
And my first look in your eyes
Was like my first look at the sea.

We have been together
Four Aprils now
Watching for the green
On the swaying willow bough;

Yet whenever I turn
To your gray eyes over me,
It is as though I looked
For the first time at the sea.
Sara was considered a lyrical poet, her poetry sings... has a rhythm. Her 1917 book of poetry was called "Love Songs". As she aged the critics praised her growing poetic refinement. A critic of the time stated that "Flame and Shadow" was a volume to read with "reverence of joy." I agree.

The Dreams of my Heart

The dreams of my heart and my mind pass,
Nothing stays with me long,
But I have had from a child
The deep solace of song;

If that should ever leave me,
Let me find death and stay
With things whose tunes are played out and forgotten
Like the rain of yesterday.

White Fog

Heaven invading hills are drowned
In wide moving waves of mist,
Phlox before my door are wound
In dripping wreaths of amethyst.
Ten feet away the solid earth
Changes into melting cloud,
There is a hush of pain and mirth,
No bird has heart to speak aloud.
Here in a world without a sky,
Without the ground, without the sea,
The one unchanging thing is I,
Myself remains to comfort me.
I feel like my heart connects with hers as I read these lines. She is trying to find herself, define herself, make sense of her life, love and her art. It is like she is trying to heal her Self by sharing her deepest emotions and feelings. Her images of nature shows a woman who is close to the Earth...finds comfort there. A woman who is struggling with something deep inside. As the poems continue in "Flame and Shadow" you can already sense her preoccupation with death. Other books followed in 1926 and 1930. She divorced Ernst in 1929 and they say he was surprised. She moved just a couple of blocks away. She was left an invalid after a serious battle with pneumonia. She committed suicide in 1933 by overdose. Two years earlier Vachel had committed suicide.  Her final volume "Strange Victory" was published posthumously.
The Treasure
When they see my songs
They will sigh and say,
"Poor soul, wistful soul,
Lonely night and day."
They will never know
All your love for me
Surer than the spring,
Stronger than the sea;
Hidden out of sight
Like a miser's gold
In forsaken fields
Where the wind is cold.
This poem "There will come soft rains" inspired famed science fiction writer Ray Bradbury to write a short story by the same name in 1950.
There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;
And frogs in the pools, singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white,
Robins will wear their feathery fire,
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;
And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.
Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree,
If mankind perished utterly;
And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
Would scarcely know that we were gone.

Sara's grave stone in Bellefontaine cemetery,  St Louis, Missouri.
If I am peaceful, I shall see
Beauty's face continually;
Feeding on her wine and bread
I shall be wholly comforted,
For she can make one day for me
Rich as my lost eternity.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Think of Me

Elizabeth Mann was 13 years old, attending the Emerson School in Salt Lake City, Utah and it was May 16, 1925 when she started this little autograph book. It is a rather plain little book with the pages tied in, covered in a simple brown binder which is creased and the title "Autographs" stamped in gold is now fading. I found it in an antique store in a pile of books and paper ephemera. It's another from my collection that I have been sharing here on my blog. Some entries are sweet and a little corny. As the book continues her family must have moved to Eureka, NV in the end of 1925 as the entries are all noted as being from there. Eureka is in the North Central section of the state and is high desert and
located on route 50 "The Loneliest Road in the United States." It was a mining town in the 1860's mainly for silver and lead. Population today is around 1300.

                           When you are old and cannot see, put on your specks and Think of Me.
                                                            Your Friend,
                                                                 Awella Haycock

I love pumpkins. I love squash. I love you, I do, by gosh! Your Friend, Lois McDaniel

                 Yours till butter flies and the door steps. A True Friend, Kathryn Steitz

When the golden sun is setting, and your heart from care is free. When of others you are thinking
will you sometimes think of me-  Loving Sister

Some have little pictures added, like the next one. In the poem each ending was drawn and shown in symbol not the words that I have had to put. So imagine it thusly.

          When you're in love it's heart's,
       When your engaged it's diamond's,
           When you're married it's club's,
        When you're dead it's spade's.

                                         I love this one;  As you slide down the banister of life, I hope you
                                                                   won't find any slivers pointed the wrong way.
                                                                                             A Friend,

            If you can't be a pine at the top of the hill,
            Be the best little shrub, at the bottom of the rill.

 Some obviously put more effort into their entry;

                    "I would be true, for there are those who trust me.
                      I would be pure, for there are those who care.
                      I would be strong, for there is much to suffer.
                      I would be brave, for there is much to dare.
                      I would be friend to all, the foe, the friendless.
                      I would be giving and forget the gift.
                      I would be humble for I know my weakness.
                      I would look up and laugh and love and lift."
                                              Your friend,
                                               Nellie M.Sloan

And memories added later;                                   

                          Don't forget the good times we all had with ukuleles, Kodak's, and our wide
                             experience in "orchestras."         Sincerely,  Girlie   Eureka, NV  Jan 10, 1927 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Lydia- a Victorian Portrait

A picture from my antique photograph collection of women.  All that was written on the back of this photograph was Lydia. I purchased it from an antique store in Minden, Nevada. It looked like it was torn from an album, which just pains me no end! Her photo spoke to me; her intent gaze, the slight smile upon her lips, and a strong jaw. She looks elegant in her lace and large, beautiful, floral embellished hat but there is something rather small town about her. There is an interesting applique on the front of her gown that can be just slightly made out and a small pin at her throat. Lydia was lovely indeed!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Miss Crystal Beach

Miss Crystal Beach, Crystal Beach, Florida. Ca. 1925.

Look at this modern woman! I came across this postcard amongst my Grandmothers things. Note the cropped hairdo, the loose shirt and knee britches with socks and flat shoes. I love her relaxed, confident stance in the picture. No posing girlie-girl in a bathing suit! In fact rather a masculine shot.

Crystal Beach Florida was named for Crystal Beach, Ontario Canada and founded in 1912. It was founded by a Mr. Avery and a Mr. Rebstock. and their development company. Crystal Lake Beach in Canada was on Lake Erie and was a health spa at one time and an amusement park. It too was known for it's crystal cleat waters. Two gentleman from Texas then took over the development and laid out the streets in squares and they made a seaside parkway so that all the residents of the town could enjoy the beauty of the Gulf. These men were Dr. J.D. Hanby and Mr. A.D. Powers. "We will forever hold this strip of land as a park for the use of the residents of Crystal Beach." Florida in the 1920's was undergoing huge expansion as a destination and tourism area.. at least until the Stock market crashed in 29'.

My Grandmother, Signe Widestrand,  I discovered purchased property in St. Petersburg, Florida some time in the 1920's. She came from Sweden and apparently went to Florida on vacations with friends before she married my Grandfather (another Swede). She lived in New York City in the mid 20's. In fact, I have a rattlesnake skin that she said she shot while in Florida and she said they used to ride horses and go out shooting.  It's 6' long!

This postcard was sent to her from a friend also named Signe to an address in St. Petersburg and postmarked 1925. It asks when she would be coming up again. It is from Tarpon Springs, Florida which is only about  35 miles north of St Petersburg. I guess in those days thirty something miles was quite a day's journey.

I have not been able to find any information about this postcard or a Miss Crystal Beach, but it's fun nonetheless and I love the image. Think of the daring of the 1920's. The changing times. My own Grandmother wore a black, beaded, Flapper style wedding dress when she married in 1926. Our Grandmothers were inspired to dream then and they continue to inspire now.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Herb Lady of Coventry

Adelma Grenier Simmons, the First Lady of Herbs.
I'll never forget the first time I saw Adelma Grenier Simmons as she appeared seemingly to be floating down a garden path. In her long flowing cape and cap she looked like a ghost from the past and against the back drop of her colonial home ca. 1740 and the ancient trees and herb gardens I was instantly under her spell. Caprilands Herb Farm, her creation, was a magical place full of wonderful smells, beautiful vista's of farmland, lovingly tended herb gardens, and handcrafted food and decorations. My memories are perhaps rose colored but I found the place and Adelma an inspiration.

It was in the late 70's when my Mom and I discovered Caprilands in Coventry, CT. It was a lovely summers day and there was an inviting green lawn under large old trees the dark, colonial house  enveloped in green. People were laying on the lush grass relaxing after bike riding. It was a welcoming place. We were charmed by the 33 themed herb gardens. The Shakespearean with it's thyme, rosemary, chamomile, and Dianthus to name just a few. There was a Medieval garden, a Cook's Garden, a White Garden, a Silver garden, one dedicated to the Saints and one just to Bride's. So many gardens and so beautifully cared for; there was an area where they sold plants, a drying barn with bouquets of herbs hanging from the beams. Wreath's, garlands and swags were handmade and sold here as well and of course there were her many books and pamphlets. For a "budding" florist (pun intended) this place was heaven. We spent many summer's day there exploring over the next few years.

Drying barn at Caprilands.

Adelma Abbie Grenier was born December 16, 1903 in Sheldon, VT.  She was a buyer for the department store Steiger's.  It was one of those elegant stores that you went to downtown to shop and look at Christmas decorations. Apparently, she came across the abandoned farm in Coventry and purchased it with her parents in 1930.  She tried a number of things before herb farming.  She started with a small herd of some 50 or so goats.  That proved to be too hard and she sold them eventually. In fact, Caprilands is Latin for goat land.  She then tried farming but after losing all her crops one season she noticed that the only plants that thrived were herbs. Soon she was focusing on the production of herbs and the farm grew over 300 variety's. By the 1950's she was serving lunch inspired by herbs and using herbs from her gardens. Adelma wrote her first book in 1963, "Herb Gardening in Five Seasons."  All in all she published over 50 books and pamphlets on herbs, herbal craft, wreathes and decorating, folklore and cookbooks. She delighted in sharing her knowledge and stories with her visitors and gave daily one hour lectures after the luncheon. She became known as the "First Lady of Herbs." One of my favorite passages from "Herbs Through the Seasons at Caprilands" is the following;
"In the last days of November, when it would be pleasanter perhaps to stay by the fire, I start down the hillside with a basket to fill with herbs for making wreathes, part of the gardens contribution to Christmas decoration."

I can see the New England farmland and woods in November, it has a special light to the sky. It is my birth month. As kids we used to go into the woods to pick Princess Pine (in the days that you still could) to make wreaths and garlands. Sometimes we'd go out into the fields to pick dock, milk weed pods and dried grasses to decorate the house. Later in my life inspired by Adelma I studied the symbolism and folklore behind herbs and flowers to incorporate them into my floral designs.

Published in 1963.

I loved Adelma's book "A Witches Brew" and "The Strawberry Book" and used the recipes she shared to make our holidays extra special. I remember we tried to go to Adelma's luncheons but there was always a waiting list. Her food and service were legendary. Eventually my family was transferred back to California where I lived for the next 30 years so I never got to go back to Caprilands. Adelma passed away at the age of 93 December 3,1997.

Sadly I have since read that Caprilands has closed and is in a sad state. Litigation, family disputes and lawyers have lost sight of Adelma's vision and purpose. Perhaps it was her will, love and intent that kept the organization focused and moving forward. Her presence, her wit and knowledge were of course part of the draw...people were naturally drawn to her. She was Caprilands. I cherish the books that I have, autographed in her elegant handwriting, wishing me Magic in the Garden. Adelma's ashes were scattered on the grounds where they mingle with the great White Ash tree roots. She is forever a part of the land that she so loved and loved to share. Many thanks!

Adelma Grenier Simmons.

''Silver rosemary is good for mind and memory, in case you have need of that,'' she once told a visiting group. ''It's also good in tea. If you don't like that, you can wash your hair with it. If that doesn't work, you can wash your dog's hair with it.''  The wit of Adelma!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Paddling your Own Canoe

Here is another look into my autograph book collection. This one belonged to Alice Irene Renwick from Merlin, Ontario Canada. She went to the Merlin Continuation School. The book dates from Oct. 21, 1929 which I discovered was Alice's birthday. She was 16 years old at this time. Her parents were David and Jeanette Fraser Renwick. You'll be able to tell right away that times had changed from the earlier more formal and proper Victorian entries. These are more playful, casual and definitely more risqué. Alice wrote in the beginning;

School mates, friends, companions dear,
All your names are welcome here,
And all who love me I invite
In this book to write-

 My favorite has to be the following;

        In the parlor there were three,
        He, the parlor lamp and she.
        Two's company without a doubt,
        So the parlor lamp went out.
                      Olive Armstrong

When you are married
and mending britches
Think of me between
the stitches.
 Your pal- Gladys Graham

When you get a husband
And he is a clipper
Just make him acquainted
with the toe of your slipper.
  Your classmate-Manon G.

They were also fond of little one liners;

Yours till Lake Erie wears brown derbies instead of white caps.

Yours till horse's neck.

Yours till the side walks.

Of course there were still some that were sentimental;

        Friendship is a silver cord,
        which binds two friends together.
        And if this cord we never break
        We shall be friends forever.
              Lois Trevaskis

A teacher Margaret V. Skene wrote;

          Cultivate beautiful things, beautiful thoughts, beautiful deeds, beautiful surroundings.

I love the more independent and feminist spirit of the time.

Love many
Trust few
Always paddle
Your own canoe.

Your friend, Nancy

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Happy Life of a Wild Bird

Marianne North 1830-1890.

I came across the story of Marianne North when I was researching Victorian plant hunters. To say that the Victorians were passionate about plants is an under statement. In true Victorian fashion everything was bigger than life and done and often over done with a flourish! It's the adventurous spirit, the enthusiasm, that I admire about this time period and it's what I found to be inspiring about Marianne. This was a woman who dared to have an unconventional, exciting life in a time when women did not have a lot of choices.

Frederick North, Marianne's father, was a member of parliament. He traveled extensively throughout Europe and the Middle East and Marianne was his traveling companion. Early on in her life Marianne came to believe that "marriage was a terrible experiment" of which women became nothing more than an "upper servant." She was gifted in music and painting and very interested in botany. While they were in Holland she studied painting with Miss Van Fowinkel. Later in England she also studied with Valentine Bartholomew, the Queen's flower painter. Oil painting became a "vice like dram drinking" to her, she couldn't get enough. Upon the death of her father she was free. Being the eldest she inherited her fathers fortune. She was 40 years old. She now had the means to pursue her dream of funding her own expeditions to paint plants in their natural environment.

In 1871 she set off for America and Canada and eventually made her way down to Jamaica. She carried letters of introduction so it would seem she was accommodated. She rented a house in an abandoned Botanical Garden and painted furiously every morning. She was entranced by the passion flowers, banana's and exotic orchids. Polite society bored her to tears, "I am a very wild bird and I like liberty." She liked her privacy so much that when someone forced a companion upon her she would give them the slip preferring to make her own way. Nothing would stop her- not inhospitable conditions, swarming insects or precarious modes of transport. She roughed it in tents and over difficult terrain. Over the next 13 years she made her way to Brazil, Japan, Borneo, Sri Lanka (then Ceylon), Java, and India.

Marianne North.

Charles Darwin, a family friend, suggested she travel to Australia and New Zealand to paint. While there she met and studied with Marian Ellis Rowan, a famous oil painter. Her paintings and her adventures were enthusiastically received back in London. She found all of the attention overwhelming but it gave her an idea. In 1879 she wrote to Sir Joseph Hooker asking if Kew Gardens would accept her collection of paintings and a building in which to house them all. The offer was accepted and work on her gallery commenced. The only request denied her was the serving of tea and refreshment to visitors. So, in true Marianne North style she slyly painted pictures of tea and coffee plants over the doors herself so that she still got the last word on the subject.

Chilean Cactus. Chile was to be her last trip in 1884.

A grand total of 832 paintings hang in her gallery. They are grouped by country and in close, tightly packed formation. It was how she wanted it and the terms were clearly stated in her gift. The paintings are bright and alive and are not the average botanical. They are snapshots in time of the plant within  their environment as she witnessed them in person. A valuable and lasting gift of documentation. Marianne retired to Alderley, Gloucestershire and died there August 30, 1890. Her sister, Catherine North Symonds, edited her extensive journals and published them in two volumes in 1892. Aptly named, "Recollections of a Happy Life; Being the Autobiography of Marianne North."
In 1893 another volume followed, "Further Recollections of a happy life." A number of plants were named in her honor including an obscure amaryllis, Crinum Northianum, that she discovered in Borneo.

Nepenthes Northiana- Great Pitcher plant of Borneo.
Marianne North led her life on her own terms and left a botanical treasure trove for all to enjoy.
She led an inspired life and shared her love of the natural world through her paintings. One can only imagine her spirit soaring and exploring forever in search of adventure and beauty.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Sweet Roses of Life!

"Gusta" Otto's autograph book to the right with leaves on cover.1883.

Here is another look into my collection of autograph books, diaries, and scrapbooks. Augusta Otto, or "Gusta" as she was affectionately referred to throughout the book lived in Tripoli, Bremer county, Iowa. Her parents were from Prussia as so the census of 1870 says. They were farmers. Her mothers name was Catherine but I was unable to make out the fathers name, perhaps Gerrard but I can't be sure. Augusta was born in 1869 in Iowa. This album must have been a Christmas gift because the date inscribed in the cover is Dec.25th 1883 and she would have been around 14 years old. The autographs  and sentiments within span many years.
           Miss Otto-
                            Every  action of our lives touches some chord which vibrates in eternity.
                                                                                      Dubuque Oct.27,1887

                                       Dear Gusta,
                                       May time never
                                      sever the golden chain of our friendship
                                       May your life have few
                                     shadows and may you prove
                                       true to your womanhood.
                                                      Your friend and schoolmate, Susie
                                                              Tripoli, May 10, 1884

To Gusta,

Roses of Life! Sweet Roses of Life!
Strew them wherever you go.
Give them to friends. Give them to foe.
They'll lighten the burden of woe.
                    Your friend-Hessie Bennett
                     Tripoli Jan.28, 1884

                                                                               May You Never Change Except in Name!
                                                                                     Your friend, Nevada Reeder
                                                                                                          Madisonville, Ohio
                                                                                                          Dec.2, 1887
   One by one the sands are flowing,
One by one the moments fall;
   Some are coming some are going,
Do not strive to grasp them all.
           Your Friend and schoolmate,
                                 Rosa Bennett
            Tripoli, Jan. 15,1884
Tripoli High School
     Remember me Ever
                                                                 Dear Gusta-
                                                                The rough road we trust, Gusta
                                                                 Stretches far behind,
                                                                 And bright and thornless flowers
                                                                 Open to your mind
                                                                 As you ever think of others
                                                                 With a heart so kind and true,
                                                                  May the just eternal Father
                                                                  And the angels think of you.
                                                                  Is the wish of your schoolmate
                                                                             Dellie Bennett
                                                                             Tripoli, Feb.4,1889  

Friday, July 12, 2013

Lens on Life- Masha Ericksen Arms

Masha Ericksen Arms had a unique way of looking at life. She looked at life with the eye of an artist and the heart of an explorer and seeker.
She was ahead of her time in many ways; pioneering photography as a career for women  in the 1930's; being an advocate for land conservation in the 1950's and even learning transcendental meditation in the 1970's and it was not a surprise to see her as an active and vital woman and artist well into her 90's. She was kind, generous of spirit, and always curious. A natural born teacher.
 She was born Clara Harriet Ericksen Oct.4, 1908 in Fitchburg, MA. A direct descendant of Leif Ericksen. Her parents Andrew and Clara were Norwegian immigrants. Masha planned to become an art teacher and went to New York to study. She studied dance and became a model. Sometime in the 30's she picked up a Leica Model G 35mm camera and her first photo's were of vaudeville acts and circus performers. She started doing fashion photography and was then asked to do publicity shots for the King Smith Playhouse Theater in Washington, D.C.. This led to her being asked to teach photography at their school for the arts.
Masha ca.1940.


Masha developed her own style inspired by classical art and lighting. She became known for shooting natural poses in natural light and portraits in artificial light within the studio. One of her most famous clients was Robert Frost and his family. In 1938 she was recognized in a promotion "Careers for women." (see the link below to view Frost family pictures.)

Masha met and married William T. Arms and moved back to Massachusetts. They shared a deep love of nature. One particular rainy day in 1945 they came across an old home in the hills of Leyden, MA. where they were picnicking.  The "Old Newcomb" place suited them perfectly. No running water or electricity did not deter fact they thrived. Billy was a writer and historian. Masha used to have to enlarge film  by using the car battery!  In their eyes the challenges were met and overcome and made for a good story afterwards.
I remember the awe I had as a very young child when I discovered their "frig" in the closet was a natural running spring! The house was charming and warm. The old wood floors slanted and rolled. An ancient lilac said to be planted by the original builder of the home created an arbor over the back door.
Masha believed that to live a simple and balanced life  by choice was more important than any monetary reward. Her art, whether it was her photography or watercolors, was her satisfaction.
 In the late 1950's she and "Billy" compiled the "History of Leyden". They also started the "Church Woods" project which encouraged people to put aside land to be protected in the future. The program was  lauded in "Nature" magazine. Later after Billy's death Masha donated 2 acres, the original "Church Woods" to the town of Leyden. It is a beautiful and tranquil place to this day. "Every day should be Earth Day" Masha was quoted for saying in a newspaper article in the 90's. She wanted to be remembered most for trying to influence people towards saving the planet for the future.
Lill-sie & Robert Russell,
left. Signe Russell,top. Lill-Sie Russell, bottom right. Taken by Masha Arms.1950's.
A cherished moment in my life was spending a couple of days with Masha and staying up almost all night talking, Masha sharing stories of her life and family. We went through family trunks...items lovingly wrapped in tissue paper unwrapped and shared. She was most proud of her mothers wood carvings including a lovely little paring knife. She gave me an embroidery that her mother had started some 70 years earlier and never finished.  It's blue threads still vibrant and the needle in the exact spot she last stitched. I vowed to finish's still a work in progress. Masha passed away in November of 2005. She was 96 years old.
At her graveside service I couldn't speak. I was to overcome with my own grief. Masha and Billy were my Godparents. Every year of my life, no matter where life took me, I always could count on a card, letter or call. I could talk to her about any subject. She never judged or criticized. Thank you for a lifetime of love, guidance, and inspiration-for just being "you, wonderful you!" 
"The Bars" by Masha Arms. Deerfield, MA.

You can go to the following link to see more of Masha Arms photograph's.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Forget-Me- Nots

Antique autograph books and journals. Upper left autograph book is Mary
Williams, gold and brown.
From time to time I'll share the wonderful contents from my collection of autograph books, journals and scrapbooks. They are wonderful time capsules of history that capture the memories, emotions and hopes and dreams of the young women who kept them. Besides the beautiful handwritten sentiments the pages are sometimes filled with hand drawn pictures, small photo's, floral cut-outs and little surprises tucked inside.

Presented to Mary Williams by her friend Florence, October the 23rd, 1879.
                         The first entry is from Florence;

                     I have looked your album oer and oer
                    To see what others have written before
                      And now I write that others may see
                       These simple words -remember me.
                              Your true friend, Florence

They seemed to be more sentimental in their messages, more poetic in the late 1870's to early 1880's compared with some of the other albums that I have from even the late 1880's to the 1920's.

                                                     Tis' not the value of a gift,
                                               That friendships hand may tender.
                                                Tis' not the things intrinsic worth
                                                 Though gems of rarest splendor
                                               That calls the hearts best gratitude
                                                     Or wake a deep emotion
                                              The simplest flower may be the gift
                                                    And aim a life's devotion.
                                                                    Your true friend,
                                                         Mary A.Wetmore        Oct.29th,1879

                                                                       To A Dear Friend, 
                                                                May heaven's blessings on you wait,
                                                                  While journeying to thy rest.
                                                                May you while in this vale of tears, with
                                                                   happiness be blest,
                                                                And when about to close your eyes
                                                                   In deaths last final sleep
                                                                May you be seen to smile with joy
                                                                   While all around you weep.

                                                                  Fine wishes from your friend,
                                                                         Fannie Wilson           Jan 26,1880

                                                  Your book is a garden plot
                                            In which all your friends may sow
                                            Then let me place in that fair spot
                                              A simple flower, Forget-me-not.

                                        Elizabeth Amesbury      Dec 25th, 1883

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A Bright Light

To infuse an object of your inspiration with your Spirit, your true, essential Self, you focus your love upon it and that action moves you to create. No matter what my Mom focused her attention on it was infused with love.

Lill-Sie Knower on river boat tour -Sacramento,CA

Lill-Sie Knower
She was an amazing woman and her legacy was the love of her family and friends, of people she touched in all walks of life. Her light brightened many lives.
          Born on Long Island, NY she grew up in a neighborhood with many ethnic backgrounds and
          she was known to go door to door seeing what every one was cooking, hoping to get a taste.
          Helping a German neighbor prepare food for the many teachers that boarded in her home she
          learned to cook. Her potato pancakes were legendary and her pie crust as well.
          This is where her love of cooking began and she loved exploring different cultures through
          their cuisine. An avid collector of cookbooks from around the world she read them like novels
          and her family and friends were the willing testers of all kinds of wonderful dishes. Never be
          afraid to try. I don't think there were many things she didn't like. Everything she made was
          from scratch. She was allergic to preservatives and just knew they weren't good for you. To
          her preparing good and healthy food for family and friends was another way of expressing

          She carried this love on to strangers as well. If she saw a homeless person she'd bring them a
          meal. Stray cat- no problem as there was always canned food in the trunk. I remember once
          when I was a kid driving in the car one stormy evening and she saw a homeless elderly
          woman going through garbage cans. She stopped and bought hot coffee and food and
          took it the woman. Then I saw my Mom take off her coat and help the woman on with it. They
          hugged and we were soon on our way. You helped wherever you could with whatever you had
          as there was always someone less fortunate than yourself.

          Bean as she was affectionately called loved to explore and go...anywhere and everywhere. As
          kids we never had a moment to be bored. She kept us hopping with excursions to local
          museums, farms, historical sites and if not local we'd go by car, bus or train. Her love of
          learning and life kept her and us active. My parents were transferred cross country 10
          times and many regional moves in between with my fathers job. She loved to move and
          experience different parts of the country. Always something new to learn and see. Life is for
          living, experiencing in all its forms.

          Music was her other love. A gifted pianist, classically trained though she preferred Gershwin
          to anything. She had a flowing and beautiful touch. She enjoyed all sorts of music and was the
          rare Grandmother who enjoyed listening to Metallica at full blast with her Grandsons in the
          car! She played the piano for her small church in California and their joy for her music
          delighted her. It was another gift she could share. Before her passing last September she had
          been learning all 31 pages of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue so that she could play it for me on
          my birthday. Instead I played a CD of it for her as she took her last breath on this Earth.
          Music was in her soul. I like to think it helped carry her away.

          Friends and family gathered at our home on the Mesa for a Celebration of her Life. The night
          cleared of earlier clouds, stars lit up the sky and everyone shared stories, memories, laughter
          and tears. One friend remembered an evening from years earlier when we lived in the
          mountains. It was snowing, the dirt road we lived on was like a tunnel the snow was so high
          on either side. Our little home appeared from under the pine trees and lights glowed in the
          windows. He remembers the feeling of welcome at the sight of the light through the snow.
          To me that "Light" symbolizes her and how she made everyone feel. It is my Inspiration
          to continue on her legacy of light. Love you forever Mom and this blog is dedicated to you.