Song of Myself

On the Dunes, James Jebusa Shannon

On the Dunes, James Jebusa Shannon

Have you reckon’d a thousand acres much? have you reckon’d
the earth much?
Have you practis’d so long to learn to read?
Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of poems?


Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin
         of all poems,
You shall possess the good of the earth and sun, (there are millions
         of suns left,)
You shall no longer take things at second or third hand, nor look
         through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the spectres in
You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me,
You shall listen to all sides and filter them from your self.
I have heard what the talkers were talking, the talk of the begin-
         ning and the end,
But I do not talk of the beginning or the end.
There was never any more inception than there is now,
Nor any more youth or age than there is now,
And will never be any more perfection than there is now,
Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now.
Urge and urge and urge,
Always the procreant urge of the world.

Out of the dimness opposite equals advance, always substance and

        increase, always sex,
Always a knit of identity, always distinction, always a breed of life.
To elaborate is no avail, learn’d and unlearn’d feel that it is so.
Sure as the most certain sure, plumb in the uprights, well entretied,
         braced in the beams,
Stout as a horse, affectionate, haughty, electrical,
I and this mystery here we stand.
Excerpt Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman

“Tell me about me,” says Dolly. (The history of dolls)


Earl Grey, please.

Earl Grey, please.

We mustn't forget dolly's things!

We mustn’t forget Dolly’s things!

Sewing was an essential task for women in the 19th Century. Little girls were taught their first sewing skills at the age of three, and many of the initial sewing projects were doll quilts. The child was able to choose her fabrics from the scrap bag, measure and cut the pieces for a simple quilt block, and hand sew with small and regular stitches. This “practice” was made more enjoyable by the prospect of having a cover for a beloved doll.

During the pioneer era, quilting was popular due to the expanding textile industry and the availability of inexpensive fabric. Quilts were needed for the westward journey and would adorn beds once the pioneers were settled. Young girls brought their treasured dolls for the journey while the women packed quilts made by friends and family as going away




Shush! Baby's sleeping or is she dead?!

Shush! Baby’s sleeping or is she dead?!



Pretty Is As Pretty Does; Kate Chase

Beauty can't buy love. Courtesy Library of Congress

Beauty can’t buy love.
Courtesy Library of Congress

Kate Chase’s mother died when she was five. Her father Salmon P. Chase had the unlucky habit of marrying women who up and died. Kate was named after Salmon’s first wife when Kate was born to his second wife. After the death of Kate’s mother (the second wife) he married yet again. A bunch of Salmon’s kids died young so he was happy when another girl was born. Kate was not. Jealousy and unresolved grief made Kate a difficult child and so off she was sent to a rigorous New York City boarding school. (Difficult girls must be sent away).

Eventually the hated stepmother died too and Kate came back to her father an intelligent and stylish young lady with shared political ambitions for her father. Is it surprising that Mary Todd Lincoln hated her? Kate threw fantastic parties. She was young and pretty.

She was about eighteen years old, tall and slender and exceedingly well formed. . . . Her little nose, somewhat audaciously tipped up, could perhaps not have passed muster with a severe critic, but it fitted pleasingly into her face with its large, languid, but at the same time vivacious hazel eyes, shaded by long dark lashes and arched over by proud eyebrows. The fine forehead was framed in waving, gold-brown hair. She had something imperial in the pose of the head, and all her movements possessed an exquisite natural charm. No wonder that she came to be admired as a great beauty and broke many hearts. After the usual commonplaces, the conversation at the breakfast table, in which Miss Kate took a lively and remarkably intelligent part, soon turned itself upon politics.” Carl Schurz Wikipedia

Yet her wit and beauty could not save her from herself. Was it the tragedy of not having a mother and being hated by the other women in her life–including that horrible Mary Todd Lincoln that led her to marrying a loser? Her father was busy. Did he not notice the hearts she broke including that of a married man? This was before William Sprague.

William Sprague, dissipated ne'er-do-well

William Sprague, dissipated ne’er-do-well

Young William Sprague a newly elected senator from Rhode Island caught Kate’s eye in his dashing uniform. He’d made a name for himself at Bull Run and his family had heaps of money. The press loved their tumultuous relationship and then their wedding (Mary Todd Lincoln refused to attend).

I imagine that Kate fancied herself a good judge of character. She thought she knew best–for who else was there to mind her? Perhaps she cried herself to sleep at boarding school lonely and afraid of the city noise outside her window. Pretty girls with intelligence usually have more enemies than friends amongst their peers and the matronly and bitter old women who resent reminders of their wrinkles and lost dreams.

I imagine Washington society women vying for invites to her galas while secretly loving every new whisper about William Sprague’s drinking and open affairs. Ha! See how the mighty have fallen and wasn’t that tiara Kate wore ridiculous? Behind Kate’s enormous appetite for expensive shoes and furniture lurked the worst sort of self-loathing. With all my wit and beauty I’ve gotten no where, she may have thought on sad and rainy days in her mansions.

Her husband arrived home early to find her lover in their living space. It was rumored that Kate’s last two daughters where not William’s. They divorced. The daughters stayed with Kate, but the son went with daddy. When Kate’s son was 25 he killed himself. Was that the final straw? Kate lived out her days as a recluse (except for when her poverty forced her to sell eggs door to door).

What if women didn’t see women as rivals? What if we looked at the co-worker through the lens of mother, of fellow lonesome traveler, of a sympathetic daughter? What if Kate had a mother?

Thanks to Kate Loveton for introducing me to Miss Chase.

Q&A; 7 Deadly Sins of Books

The joy of shoeless feet!

The joy of shoeless feet!

I was more of a crack the whip type of kid on the playground but Mandy Eve Barnett tagged me for some questions and I decided to play.


What is your most expensive book?

I’m not sure about this one. When I find an old book I REALLY want, my mind goes to mush and my limbs shake as I grab my credit card and punch in the numbers on the computer, but this book I’ve known and loved was pretty expensive and worth every penny: The Look of the West.

Fun, fun, fun.

Fun, fun, fun.

 What author do you have a love/hate relationship with?
Sigh. Grumble.

Sigh. Grumble.

Probably Wallace Stegner. His books are what I’d want my books to be if I was a brilliant writer. I love his characters, his style, his themes–basically everything about him as a writer. I hate him because he’s great. While reading Angle of Repose after writing my first novel I thought: I’m so glad I didn’t read this book before I attempted novel-writing. I would have been too demoralized!

What book have you devoured over and over with no shame?

I have two childhood series that I’ll never grow out of: The Great Brain Series by John Fitzgerald about a scheming and lovable scam-artist boy and his exploits and The Little House books.I love the seeming simplicity of the books and the bittersweet memories of Laura Ingalls Wilder.

What book have you neglected to read due to laziness?

War and Peace. My daughter and I started reading it together, but got distracted by Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.

What book do you talk about most in order to sound like an intellectual reader?

I don’t talk to most people in real life about books–for fear of sounding like an intellectual  ;) I do talk to my family ad nauseum about anything I’m researching and for a while I was obsessed with Middlemarch by George Eliot.

What attributes do you find attractive in male characters?
Random Winslow Homer painting for my own enjoyment

Random Winslow Homer painting for my own enjoyment

Men with strong minds and physical bravery. They need to be a little troubled (except for Pa Ingalls–he was perfect in the books–not the show).

What book would you most like to receive as a gift?

My own books–fully edited, proofread and with brilliant covers–all done by professionals. I enjoy doing these things myself, but if I had more cash I’d delegate to people with a lot more experience.

I’m tagging a busy and wonderful writer Kate Loveton. Her short stories are amazing and the lady herself is quite nice. Dear Kate, don’t worry if you haven’t the time. I just wanted the world to know about you!



Portrait de Gabrielle Cot by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Middlemay Farm:

Couldn’t resist this beauty!

Originally posted on The Beautiful Blog:

Portrait de Gabrielle Cot by William-Adolphe Bouguereau Portrait de Gabrielle Cot by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Title: Portrait de Gabrielle Cot

Artist: William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825 – 1905)

Nationality: French

Completion Date: 1890

Style: Realism

Genre: Portrait

Media: Oil on Canvas

Location: Collection of Fred and Sherry Ross

View original

“My biggest worry is that when I’m dead and gone, my wife will sell my fishing gear for what I said I paid for it.” – Koos Brandt


Fishing with the Fellows

Fishing with the Fellows

“In the United States, fly fishermen are thought to be the first anglers to have used artificial lures for bass fishing. After pressing into service the fly patterns and tackle designed for trout and salmon to catch largemouth and smallmouth bass, they began to adapt these patterns into specific bass flies. Fly fishermen seeking bass developed the spinner/fly lure and bass popper fly, which are still used today.[49]

In the late 19th century, American anglers, such as Theodore Gordon, in the Catskill Mountains of New York began using fly tackle to fish the region’s many brook trout-rich streams such as the Beaverkill and Willowemoc Creek. Many of these early American fly fishermen also developed new fly patterns and wrote extensively about their sport, increasing the popularity of fly fishing in the region and in the United States as a whole.[49] The Junction Pool in Roscoe, where the Willowemoc flows into the Beaver Kill, is the center of an almost ritual pilgrimage every April 1, when the season begins. Albert Bigelow Paine, a New England author, wrote about fly fishing in The Tent Dwellers, a book about a three week trip he and a friend took to central Nova Scotia in 1908.” Wikipedia




The American Angler by Thaddeus Norris

Fishing for History

Fun Fishing Quotes


The American Joan of Arc Goes Insane

Firebrand Young Lady

Firebrand Young Lady

Do you ever sometimes wish 19th century asylums still existed for those troublesome relatives who make family gatherings so trying?

My great grandmother was sent to an asylum because she had lucrative properties in Jersey City, NJ. Her evil daughter (my grandmother’s sister) wanted the brownstones and vacant squares as an early inheritance so she had her mother put away. My great grandfather tried to have her released, but somehow couldn’t, so after his wife committed suicide in the asylum, he did the same.

My grandmother was offered a piece of the inheritance but preferred to live poor as a church mouse with her husband and 9 children a few towns away in a haunted house.

Anna Elizabeth Dickinson (The Joan of Arc of the Union) came from Philadelphia Quaker stock. Her father died when she was two and the family could have used a few Jersey City properties to get by, but instead the community of Friends took care of them. Elizabeth never let poverty cloud her active and opinionated mind. She read voraciously, took a job at the US Mint and got fired at the age of 15 for proclaiming  Civil War General George McClellan a traitor to the Union.

William Lloyd Garrison the famous editor invited her to speak in Boston after hearing her oratory (favorite subjects for her were abolition, temperance  and women’s rights). Still a young girl, she became an instant sensation and toured the nation.

First she spoke highly of Abe Lincoln, but soon after meeting him she publicly and tactlessly found fault, not only with his policies, but with his appearance and mannerisms. Biting the hand that feeds you never ends well, does it?

The war finished and so did her popularity. Like a washed up celebrity of today on Dancing with the Stars Elizabeth turned to bad acting gigs and suffered the spears of critics until one day the men in white suits came to take her away.

The reasons for this are sketchy at best. There’s some evidence she did not go insane. A kind family in Goshen, NY took care of her for the last forty years of her life. They sought no early inheritance. I imagine Goshen was not such a bad place to live out one’s life in obscurity.

“The way to do a great deal, is to keep on doing a little. The way to do nothing at all, is to be continually resolving that you will do everything.” Charles Spurgeon

Three lines are better than nothing.

Three lines are better than nothing.

The history of me is one of procrastination and perfectionism. It kept me from writing until well into my thirties. That black and white checkerboard floor in my Brooklyn apartment had to be just so before I’d pick up a pen. I also had to sew homemade toys for the children, take long walks to stay in shape and be up on the latest environmental news–before writing.

But that’s history, for the most part. I get enough exercise carrying 40 pound buckets of maple sap over slushy, uneven paths through the woods. The kids can make their own toys if they want to and for 15 years I’ve managed to write most days. My writing doesn’t pay bills or land me on talk shows. I still have to do most of my own editing and designing (with mixed results) but it sure is been fun.

This morning I felt put upon and antsy. The dogs splashed through every puddle on their morning walk (after I just bathed them), my daughter’s car broke down (so I have to drive her to work) and a friend in need called wanting a lunch date at a trendy coffee shop (and I have this foster kid meeting this evening that I just don’t feel excited about).

DOESN’T EVERYONE KNOW I’M A SPOILED WRITER? When my husband went on the road for his high-stress job I felt sorry for him, but also figured before gardening this spring I’d easily edit all 4 books I’ve written, design the 4 covers and possibly start a new series. That didn’t happen of course. Occasionally I had to actually speak to family members and bond with them. I had to wash dogs and shovel snow. I secretly wished for no house guests and no sleep.

All of this set me up for trouble this morning as I nudged the dog (almost kicked) out of a muddy patch. Didn’t the dog know I was busy? I came in the house. I thought about the idol of performance. I read Charles Spurgeon and remembered how I got here; how I finally took up the pen in the first place. I didn’t set aside months in a cave as a hermit. I didn’t throw away relationships. I didn’t complain that if only I had a laptop . . . I just dipped my metal nib into the blue/black ink a little each day. After three pages I stopped. And I lived.

It's enough.

It’s enough.

“Goodness without knowledge is weak…yet knowledge without goodness is dangerous.”


What is education for?

What is education for?

“In the 19th Century, a common educational goal was to produce intelligent citizens able to function in a democratic society. Throughout the century, the expansion of immigration demonstrated the need to educate children that would be functional in English, understand and participate in the democratic process, and develop a morality consistent with virtuous behavior.” READ MORE

No shoes?! Call the authorities at once!

No shoes?! Call the authorities at once!


From “Schooling and Poor Children in 19th Century America.” READ MORE

Science students in Glens Falls, New York

Science students in Glens Falls, New York

“No different back then than in the 21st century there were parents who wanted a better education for their children.” READ MORE about the establishment of PRIVATE SCHOOLS in the US.

**Quote from Andover Academy’s 1778 Constitution

Photos courtesy Chapman Historical Museum