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.