Tag Archives: history

Surrender

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Imagine you were the Moslem king who surrendered your kingdom to the Christian king in Spain in 8000 CE. You would give up your possessions in a noble procession that marched forward for hours upon hours. You would proudly show the best of your wealth and majesty. You would have dignity in the surrender because your conqueror allows you to prepare your pageant, allows you to present him with what comprises your self, though you may have little choice but to give it all up. I realized the magnitude of such a surrender when I watched the procession at the festival to honor the occasion in Murcia in September. Were I still teaching world history, I would use this experience to try to help my students comprehend what was involved in surrendering.

I wonder when in my personal life I have surrendered, for whatever reason, with such pride or dignity to some event, with such intention of gloriously giving all I have to that which overpowered me. For several weeks I have been at hospitals with my dad as he tries to recover from a serious medical condition at age 83, and at the same time I’ve been on the phone empathizing with my cousin who has given in to cerebral palsy and at age 66 has decided to move into a care center. Both of them know their biggest surrender is coming and each is very weakened. Dad lives 3 hours driving time south while Kathy lives 3 hours north of my home. I’ve been away from home a lot lately. Today I gave myself the day off from supporting others and committed my energy to housekeeping that I’ve been letting go. At least dusting and organizing my things is something I can take power over for a few hours. As I watch these 2 people I have known all my life in their processes of surrender, I realize I must surrender them, I have to let them go soon. I will have to give them up to a higher power. Can I do it with dignity and calm intention? I think so. It’s an inner surrender, the attachment. It’s been done by others throughout history.

I selected these photos for the  Weekly Photo Challenge: Shine.

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Who’ll Turn the Grindstone?

ax-grinding-great-grand-1946

Ax grinding was a necessity 70 years ago. A well sharpened tool made work more satisfying. Skill in ax honing was an art. The man or woman at the grinder peddled foot pumps to turn the grindstone. Notice the grinder’s posture as he leans against the tree and holds the blade at a certain angle. He looks fully focused on the task, perhaps in mindful meditation as he listens to the steel and grindstone in harmony with the motion he creates using his body.

When I feel nostalgia* for times gone by, like this sort of work that was part of rural life before I was born, I wonder if people really felt satisfaction from such tasks. Certainly life moved at a slower pace for most before all our modern conveniences, but was it any more pleasant or annoying than our lives today?

*Nostalgia:  a wistful or excessively sentimental yearning for return to or of some past period or irrecoverable condition. (Mirriam-Webster  Dictionary)

How do you spell ax or axe? Where did the phrase “an ax to grind” originate? What is the story “Who’ll turn the grindstone?”?

By the way, that’s my Great Grandfather Barlow grinding the ax in this image from family archives. He was known for this skill and for growing bountiful vegetable gardens. And this image is my response to this week’s photo challenge:  nostalgia.

For a beautiful photograph of a blade sharpener in a different culture click here. The photo tells a story.

 

Edge

The Arch of Madrid!

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If I sat on the edge of the city arch, would you sit with me? Would you watch the coming and going and secretly comment on the fashion of the times as they pass by? I think it would be rather dreary and dull, don’t you? To sit on the edge for ever so long and never participate in the worldly affairs of human beings, the dull little things.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Edge

 

A Box Full of Treasures

box and burn barrel
Treasure was shipped for Mom by a moving company, handled with care as labeled.

Tidying up the music room I’m determined to deal with each unpacked box as I come to it. Don’t just move it somewhere else, but find a place for the contents, even if that place is another box that goes to the thrift store or the burn barrel. This is not the last of several boxes of cards and letters my mom kept from 1977 through 1999. I brought them home when she died in 2006 and I’ve gone through them a little at a time. They’re time capsules.

I spent a few hours sorting this box, making piles to burn, keep, or send to my stepsister or kids or cousins. And as I reflect on these old hand written messages, I’m tempted to pull yet a few back from burning.

We seldom write or keep correspondence today, sent through the mail. Social media has taken the place of hand written letters. Letters, to me, are treasures of my family’s development, markers of growing together through life stages and historical events, signs of what was happening in my country and how people felt about it.

Reflecting on why Mom kept these, why they mattered to her, why they still matter to me, takes time. I don’t take it lightly. Here’s a short list of some things I like from this box of treasures.

I like

  • that Mom’s best friend’s cards and mine have the same style. No wonder and I’m named for her, too.
  • photos that I can hold and touch, not on my computer screen
  • my parents, our family, and their friends have a hilarious sense of humor
  • letters from my kids when they were very young to their grandparents
  • memorial cards from Grandma’s funeral, and those of other relatives who grew old
  • wedding and graduation announcements and thank you notes
  • cursive hand writing, like hearing the sender’s voice speaking to me, I recognize the characters
  • newspaper clippings with pictures and stories of my son and my parents
  • my favorite uncle’s signature initials in beautiful cursive or like our family’s ranch brand
  • my history, even the uncertain times and secrets, and all the love shared through letters
  • news and notes and jokes from all my aunts and uncles and many many of my parents’ friends
  • when people sent letters to say they have nothing new to tell, but wanted to remind us they love us

Today, no surprise, a friend brought me another letter with photos from 1976. I had to take time to think and feel about crafting this writing because after I sorted the letter and photos, making one of the stacks for a cousin, he called. He told me that another cousin’s wife died that day. She died while I was reading through the box of cards and letters, and her memorial will be on Mom’s birthday Saturday. Things like this happen to me often enough that I don’t even question the connections any more. I’m just happy that I am aware and that I recognize what a treasure my gift of connections is. All we have to do is pay attention. This experience was designed to happen the way it did.

In Writing 101 from Blogging U we were assigned to write and post a list, and in another assignment to select one word from a list of six and use it as a prompt. This posts meets both those assignments.

The Wall

Bran Castle might be one of several structures that inspired Bram Stoker’s setting for his dark novel Dracula. Some of the photos I made here feel eerie. I messed with this image a little in Adobe Photoshop CS4 to see if how I could alter it for this week’s photo challenge, creepy. It’s the shaded north wall of the Transylvanian castle as I approached it. Which of these images creeps you out the most?

Creepy North Wall
Creepy North Wall

This is only slightly adjusted for tone and contrast, mostly the way the picture came out of the camera. I like the glowing light reflected in the windows.

Creepy North Wall 1
Creepy North Wall 1

A little more adjustment brings out some details and enhances the sky slightly. See more shadows in the stones and a brighter whiter wall.

Creep North Wall 2
Creep North Wall 2

A little more monotone look, or black and white.

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Creepy North Wall 3

Tinted, oldish look.

Creepy North Wall 4
Creepy North Wall 4

Tint is adjusted and the color range changes. Using the curves tool, now we see contrast between warm and cool tones.

Creepy North Wall 5
Creepy North Wall 5

I adjusted a previous version with the level or straighten tool (in crop menu) to see how it would look if the roofline or floorline were leveled, creating a 90 degree horizon line. With just a very slight adjustment, I can’t see the horizon line much more level, if any. But I like what happened to the cloud effect. From my position on the stone path when I captured the image I doubt if it would have been possible to get a 90 degree horizon. I would have had to climb out the rock wall to get that perspective. Not allowed, I’m sure. The approach perspective was likely an intention of the architect. Cameras were not handy when the fortress was erected atop the rock, but the image in the eye of guests or invaders would have subtly influenced the mood. Yikes!

So, does one of these images strike you as more creepy than the others?

Masks Keep Order in Transylvania

I’m always delighted to see hand crafted masks and those I encountered in Romania were most impressive. Masks represent the strange symbolic world. They serve to protect the home by warning off evil or beckoning good wishes. Romanians hang masks on their homes, in the forest, and display them on mantles and walls. They create masks and wear them in ritual dances for life’s greatest passages like birth, marriage, and burial. As the year passes through time, masks worn in ceremonies ease the passage from one world of time, or season, to the other, especially at New Years rituals. I photographed the masks I saw on my tour with the Horror Writers Workshop Transylvania. But fear not, the faces I encountered were not all so scary. Some were downright fun. Petre Vlase tells about Romanian masks expertly here if you want to learn more about the tradition.

Wood masks 3Our inn’s host Lorenzo at, Mamacozonacilor Pensuine in Bran set these on the mantle in the dining hall to scare off evil during our writers workshops and tours. These two were hand carved by an elderly man in Bran.

Richard's chairLorenzo gave this mask to Richard Thomas, our guest horror author and instructor in exchange for Richard’s promise to return next summer. Richard took this protection home to guard his writing chair where he composes some wicked tales. Photo by Richard Thomas, enhanced by me.

masks and flowersRomanian masks aren’t all so frightening. These fiber masks hang on homes. The male head of the household wears one in a ceremony and asks for certain wishes or hopes for the home. I found these displayed on ancient homes that were moved from various sites in Romania into Herastrau Park in Bucharest. They are hand crafted from fabric, animal hair, fibers, dried beans, and other materials. The inside where you put your face is all black felt. In some mask wearing traditions the person wearing the mask goes into the void when putting it on, becoming the character of the mask. That’s why masks are often black inside. I don’t know if that’s true in Romanian tradition.

2 masks on treeMany of these furry masks have something dangling off the nose. Most wear this sort of hat attatched.

1 more mask on wallThe teeth are made from dried beans drilled and sewn in.

1 mask on wallFur can be real or otherwise.

3 macrame facesThese look to be more for display than wearing. They are macrame, probably hemp. Now here’s a use for wooden spoons.

4 macrame facesNo two are quite alike.

wall of masksOwls see more than we can, so useful to display on the home.

2 white fur masksThese are the only old man masks I saw. They are at a souvenier shop at an ancient fortress we visited.

blood drooling faceRather absurd, don’t you think? This face is on the wall in Dracula’s birth home, now a bar and restaurant. I couldn’t hold the camera still. Yikes!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASome masks like this ceramic candle holder in a restaurant in Brasov are just decorative and plain old fun.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA mask on the wall helps set the tone of the place. Relax and enjoy a pipe

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or whatever.child faceChilren are represented in some masks. The lighter side. It’s not all dark and scary.

horse faceAnimals, too. This is not really a mask. It was made by a film crew that used the Bran Castle as a setting. Now that’s scary. It inspired a new horror story for me. You can’t miss this monster and rider as you enther the fortress.

skull with horns at Bran entranceWe couldn’t figure out the meaning behind this but no doubt it means to be scary. This was at the top of the steep path to Bran Castle.

face in forestFigure out this one. It’s on a hill alongside the road in one of Transylvania’s most haunted forests. We were warned that wolves do live in this forest. If you were in the Horror Writers Workshop Transylvania, dont’ tell what we discoverd about this spooky sight.

I’m thrilled that as soon as I came home from Transylvania I was asked to direct a spooky play this fall. You can be darned sure I will use some of this inspiration for masks, props, and the set.

Filtered memory

B & W tree & gifts

I’ve been working on this vintage photo, late 1950s, for a couple of years to make a Christmas card. Haven’t settled on it yet. I decided I can’t eliminate the flash reflected in the window and that’s OK. It shows the technology and amateur nature of the moment. I’m trying some photo filters to see how they effect the mood of the photo. Our memories are filtered, coloring some pieces more than others and holding out unneeded or missing chunks, highlighting and projecting forward other ideas and feelings. Only some parts remain and we have to choose to keep them or modify them until our reality shifts and rests where it will, still pliable. Memories can change over time. Maybe that’s why I keep returning to this photo. It shows in black and white a moment in time.

My parents no doubt made this shot before we got up and discovered what Santa left. One of those sets of wooden skis is my first pair, just a strap over the boot, dangerous and exciting. They decorate my home now, one with a tip broken off. My grandfather made the doll bunk bed cribs for his daughter, my aunt, and now they were handed on to me. I handed them on to my daughter when the time was right. My uncle crafted the spotted horse for my little brother. Notice the springs that attach it to the frame; it bounced magnificently! We didn’t care that the paint ran on the spots. The giant shiny red wagon was for my older brother. In summer we caught multitudes of wiggly tadpoles and put them in it, with water and a great big toad. Mom called us to lunch and we pulled it home and parked it in the shade of a willow tree. When we came back to it only the toad was there. We always had maps on the wall and I still do. Living in a small rural town we were curious about the rest of the world. My grandparents brought the maracas for Dad when they went to Mexico. Mom played that huge upright grand piano. It’s in my music room now. Our living room was small, but the piano belonged there. We belonged there, cozy together in a time when everything was right for the children and we hadn’t a clue what our futures would be like, and it didn’t matter. We made our dreams and they evolved as we grew. We lived in the moment then. I try to live in the moment now, too. I realize many people don’t have pictures from their childhood and many did not have an extended family, active in their upbringing. I know I am lucky beyond measure.

Catrock Letters, Thanksgiving Day 1918

Here’s an excerpt from one of the Cat Rock letters in which Frank writes to Edith, who he is courting, about his Thanksgiving day.

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A piece of the letter Dec. 14, 1918.

Dec. 14, 1918

“You asked me how I spent Thanksgiving. Well, I worked on the track all day but we had a nice supper at Edith’s [his cousin] after the day’s work was over. We didn’t have Turkey but we had chicken, 3 of them, and cranberries, cakes and pies. We expect Oscar home for Christmas and will celebrate it at Mrs. Vaughn’s or the section house. They haven’t decided that yet. I hope you all [have] a happy Christmas and merry new  year, and many of them.”

This is out of sequence in the series of courtship letters, but it applies to this week’s Thanksgiving holiday in the U. S. when turkey, cranberries, and apple or pumpkin pie are traditional dishes. I’m sharing an excerpt from one of Frank’s letters to Edith. He writes her from the railroad section house at Cat Rock where he lives and works. His cousin, also named Edith, and her family have been living at the section house with Lewis (you’ll meet him in another letter). Frank said they “have been here for some time.” By now the section house has become home to quite a few workers and families, including Frank’s brother Tom and their mother. Oscar, another brother, is in the army in World War 1. I need to research the section house floor plan. Maybe there was more than one building where people lived.

The next piece I plan to write for this series goes back to the first letter written in July 1918 and continues from there. I will post the series as I go along in the Cat Rock Letters page here. https://skybluedaze.wordpress.com/the-cat-rock-letters/

Read about how I found the series of courtship letters here. https://skybluedaze.wordpress.com/2014/09/30/i-found-a-book-it-hasnt-yet-been-written/

Read the first vignette based on the first letter here. https://skybluedaze.wordpress.com/2014/09/30/cat-rock-the-first-dance/

Washtucna, No Town for Old Dogs

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Washtucna, Washington, USA. We pulled over for coffee at the highway stop shop where they also offer a menu of hot dog dressings and sell antique dishes. Hot dogs on  a road trip? Let’s see if we can find an interesting locals diner in town instead.

The welcome sign at the edge of town invited us to cruise Main Street and shop local businesses. The whole town was closed, many buildings boarded up, something like a ghost town! We spotted Sonny’s, the only place open in town, and determined it was not the cafe-tavern for us. The only people we saw were the two coming out of the tavern, a driver watching wild turkeys from his car parked by a stream in a park, and one woman in bright pink pajama pants who stood on her porch and yelled at us to get off unmarked private property, a scrubby deserted lot across the highway from her home. We didn’t even see a dog. But we did find plenty of subjects to photograph before we ate hot dogs and hit the highway again.

We drove to the not-so-far end of town and made our way back to Highway 26. Looks like population 100 or maybe less. Stark! Washtucna has at least 5 tiny parks, put in so they could qualify for a grant. Nobody we talked to at the highway stop remembered anything else about the grant.

We toured town in gusty wind, and then ate our hot dogs in the parking lot of the Sunflower Park next to the highway. There, four signs warned us that dogs are not allowed so we kept the German Shepherds in the van. After lunch I photographed the four signs and more. When I walked through the little grassy area I discovered why dogs are banned. And possibly why there are no dogs to be seen in this ghostly town, except hot dogs.

Here is my photo tour of Washtucna. Click the first photo to start the slide show. Look for silos in the background, signs of the grain industry that thrived here almost a hundred years ago. Today I get hints of a setting for a horror or sci-fi tale, or maybe an unlikely romance story. Zombies…and dogs…lots of dogs…

To see my photo-journal of my autumn trip across the Pacific Northwest click this link.  https://skybluedaze.wordpress.com/2014/10/28/pacific-northwest-autumn/

For another town tour go to Aberdeen, Scotland with Rachel. http://rachelsquirrel.com/2014/10/06/footdee-aberdeen/

Show me your town or one you pass through on your travels. You can send me a link in comments. Happy trails!