Christopher Morley and portals

There are many thidoorwayngs that we do in our lives that may provoke one’s heart to beat a little faster. And though this activity may be as simple as turning the knob or pulling back on a handle, it is actually not the act, but rather the anticipation of what lies behind that stirs the thumping. Opening a door, a behavior that we do every day, is such an event that may cause your adrenaline to tingle and a lump in your throat to form.

From the very earliest time of your life to the present the door has made us grow limp at the knees. Take for example the first day of kindergarten, standing before the door that would suddenly escort you through a threshold that would forever leave you on one side and your mother on the other.

It was a door that stood between you and your first date, your prom, your visit to the doctor, the dentist, a driving test, and a job interview. A door, no matter what it may be made of…glass, paneled, steel, or wood, the door has the ability to cause us so much pain and so much happiness.
So the next time you come upon a door, I would venture to say, treat it kindly, for you may not know not what lies behind its portals.

Today’s blog returns the esteemed thinker: Christopher D. Morley, (1890-1957) American author, journalist, poet, and essayist. Born in Haverford, PA, Morley wrote for the New York Evening Post (1920-1923) and the Saturday Review of Literature (1924-1941), which he helped found. christopher morley 3

From his book, Mince Pie, I bring to you a snippet from “On Doors, ” a most profound look at a rather unassuming subject.

“…There are many kinds of doors. Revolving doors for hotels, shops and public buildings. These are typical of the brisk, bustling ways of modern life. Can you imagine John Milton or William Penn skipping through a revolving door? Then there are the curious little slatted doors that still swing outside denatured bar-rooms and extend only from shoulder to knee. There are trapdoors, sliding doors, double doors, stage doors, prison doors, glass doors. But the symbol and mystery of a door resides in its quality of concealment. A glass door is not a door at all, but a window. The meaning of a door is to hide what lies inside; to keep the heart in suspense.

Also, there are many ways of opening doors. There is the cheery push of elbow with which the waiter shoves open the kitchen door when he bears in your tray of supper. There is the suspicious and tentative withdrawal of a door before the unhappy book agent or peddler…
The opening and closing of doors is a part of the stern fluency of life. Life will not stay still and let us alone. We are continually opening doors with hope, closing them with despair. Life lasts not much longer than a pipe of tobacco, and destiny knocks us out like the ashes…”

First Image: 12th Century, French, limestone and oolitic

John Muir and summer

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Summer… when fireflies come out at dusk and ice melts too fast in lemonade; ice cream tastes better even though it’s the same-old flavor. It has two weather patterns, hot and very hot, and when it rains it likes to pour. We complain in the summer because the steering wheel burns our hands and the sand burns our feet. The weeds grow thick and the air grows thick and everything feels sticky. The mosquitoes swarm and the flies love the picnics. It’s too crowded at the beach and the jellyfish fills in the empty spaces. Days are long, nights are short but then, without us noticing, when we turn the calendar over Labor Day comes and goes… we feel a sudden sense of remorse because summer is no longer there to complain about!

Today’s blog brings us the esteemed thinker: John Muir (1838-1914), one of the earliest preservationist in the United State. Naturalist, writer, conservationist, and founder of the Sierra Club, John Muir is noted as the Father of the National Park Service. muirHis foresight and influence to convince the U.S. government to protect Yosemite, Sequoia, Grand Canyon and Mt. Rainier as national parks was a testimony to his writing. John Muir’s illustrious words came from a lifetime of work as a wilderness explorer, and his unyielding desire to maintain a natural environment that would not be exploited; still a rallying cry for all who wish to preserve our world.

I now bring you from his work of 1911, My First Summer in The Sierra; surely his personal reflections will remind you of the wonders that nature brings.

“… Warm, mellow summer. The glowing sunbeams make every nerve tingle. The new needles of the pines and firs are nearly full grown and shine gloriously… Summer is ripe. Flocks of seeds are already out of their cups and pods seeking their predestined places. Some will strike root and grow up beside their parents, others flying on the wings of the wind far from them, among strangers. Most of the young birds are full feathered and out of their nests, though still looked after by both father and mother, protected and fed and to some extent educated. How beautiful the home life of birds! No wonder we all love them…”

First image: Sierra Forest

4th of July

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All around the neighborhoods, in the cities, on the farmlands, in the mountains, along the grassy plains, and even rocking on the oceans and seashores. Americans are celebrating Independence Day…the Fourth of July. The skies are doused with the smells from smoky barbecues and diamond-studded sparklers…while the night skies will be ablaze with fireworks’ shows that dazzle, awe, and surprise… dogs will bark, some will hide, while children coax them out from beneath the bed with pieces of soggy hot dog buns. How lucky and grateful are we in the United States to be able to celebrate this historic occasion, while I lament that still others round the globe are unable to express freedom such as ours.

Today’s blog, in honor of the 4th of July, brings to you the words of the esteemed thinker: Edwin Percy Whipple (b. Massachusetts 1819-1886). Who? Oh, maybe you will recognize him by ‘E.P. Whipple’…is that better? Oh, still no recollection…well let me give you a bit of background about him. Of his time, he was considered a “compelling” speaker, lecturer, intellect, and literary critic; offering him an opportunity as the literary editor for the Boston Daily Globe. He was not stranger to the literary world having been the trustee of the Boston Public Library, 1868-1870. During the height of the lyceum movement*, he delivered as many as one thousand public lectures from Bangor to St. Louis.EP Whipple

From his essay The True Glory of a Nation, we take a moment to pause and read the words of Mr. Whipple…and though he may not be the most celebrated writer today, his thoughts regarding the people who “are” a nation indeed parallels the glory of why we “can” honor Independence Day.

“The true glory of a nation is an intelligent, honest, industrious people. The civilization of a people depends on their individual character; and a constitution which is not the outgrowth of this character is not worth the parchment on which it is written. You look in vain in the past for a single instance where the people have preserved their liberties after their individual character was lost. It is not in the magnificence of its palaces, not in the beautiful creations of art lavished on its public edifices, not in costly libraries and galleries of pictures, not in the number or wealth of its cities, that we find a nation’s glory. …The true glory of a nation is the living temple of a loyal, industrious, upright people…”

* Lyceum movement in the United States, especially in the northeast, was the beginning of adult education; organizations sponsored lectures and debates often on current interes

Esteemed thinker: Edwin Hubble

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The idea that the universe is infinite is a term that defies logic. Humans are a species that likes to feel that beliefs and ideas can be packaged with a beginning and an end. So when it comes to comprehending beyond our visual scope of our universe, we have a difficult time comprehending that there is a forever expanding cosmos. The notion of “endless” is mind-boggling.  NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, launched on April 24, 1990, on the space shuttle Discovery from Kennedy Space Center in Florida has given us its shared view from a space. It can see astronomical objects with an angular size of 0.05 arc seconds, which is like seeing a pair of fireflies in Tokyo from your home in Maryland. Hubble has peered back into the very distant past, to locations more than 13.4 billion light years from Earth.

And so, having passed its 25th anniversary, there are some who may not know its namesake. Today’s post brings you the esteemed thinker: Edwin Hubble (1889-1953), American mathematician and astronomer,  born in Marshfield, Missouri.  Having received his first telescope at the early age of eight, his passion for astronomy was established quite early.

Although his father wanted him to pursue different interests, Hubble studied astronomy,  physics, and law; after which he traveled to Britain as a Rhodes Scholar. On his return to the United States, he set out to teach high school and coach basketball, but, he soon switched gears and continued to pursue astronomy studies. In 1915, he earned time on one of the Yerkes Observatory telescopes, launching his new career.

He began his PhD in astronomy in 1914, but postponed his work in 1917 to enlist, serving in France during World War I.  After the war, Hubble was fortunate to be at Mount Wilson, the center of observational work underpinning the new astrophysics, later called cosmology, and the 100-inch Hooker Telescope, then the most powerful on Earth that had just been completed and installed.

He began to classify all the known nebulae and to measure their velocities from the spectra of their emitted light. In 1929 he made another startling find – all galaxies seemed to be receding from us with velocities that increased in proportion to their distance from us – a relationship now known as Hubble’s Law. This discovery was a Edwin hubblesensational  breakthrough for the astronomy of that time as it overturned the conventional view of a static Universe and showed that the Universe itself was expanding.

Hubble worked at Mount Wilson until 1942, when he left to serve in World War II. He was awarded the Medal of Merit in 1946. Returning to his Observatory, his last great contribution to astronomy was a central role in the design and construction of the Hale 200-inch Telescope on Palomar Mountain. Notes as being four times as powerful as the Hooker, the Hale would be the largest telescope on Earth for decades.

Although wishing to win a Nobel Prize, all the effort was in vain since there was no category for astronomy.

From The Realm of the Nebulae (1936), I bring you the words of the great Edwin Hubble, a man with dreams that gave us the universe. “With increasing distance, our knowledge fades, and fades rapidly. Eventually, we reach the dim boundary—the utmost limits of our telescopes. There, we measure shadows, and we search among ghostly errors of measurement for landmarks that are scarcely more substantial. The search will continue. Not until the empirical resources are exhausted, need we pass on to the dreamy realms of speculation…”

First image taken from the Hubble Telescope.

Esteemed thinker: Georgia O’Keefe

crayons  If you have ever wondered how some of your classmates may have grown up to be corporate executives one has to look no further than into your childhood. Take a mental sabbatical down memory lane and find your elementary school classroom. Picture a day the teacher asked you to take out of your desk or remove from your cubby the new box of crayons your parents bought for you. Maybe it was purchased the “Five and Dime”, or maybe it was from the toy store. Now, look at yours and then check out your neighbor’s desk. Theirs is not an ordinary box of crayons with just a handful of colors; but the jumbo pack of 64 with the built in sharpener. This is the box of crayons that was coveted by most of the kids. It’s the one that dared to be shared but in order to get inside the sacred lid had to be negotiated. This was the box owned by the student that could wield negotiations with others as if they were at the end of the conference table. To borrow a color would perhaps require relinquishing a turn on the swing, giving up being line-leader, or even handing over a chocolate chip cookie.

Owning such a box of crayons was more than a palette of colors to create pictures to impress the teacher, it was entrance into a world that allotted ‘carte blanc’ privileges; and like flying first class it could even get you window-seat on the school bus!

georgia o'keefeToday’s blog brings you the esteemed thinker” Georgia O’Keefe, (1887-1986) who was born and raised on a farm near Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. Considered one of the most prominent artists of the twentieth century, she began her career by studying at the Art Institute of Chicago (1905–1906) and the Art Students League in New York (1907–1908), where she learned the techniques of traditional realist painting. By 1915 she had begun to develop her own artistic personality, a series of abstract charcoal drawings.
Her relationship as an artist was immediately recognized by Alfred Stieglitz, photographer and owner of the famous 291 gallery; one of the few places in the United States where European avant-garde art was exhibited. Their relationship blossoms into a well-known love affair and eventually they wed.

O’Keefe’s colorful paintings are world renown, depicting landscapes, flowers, and animal bones generated from her time in New York, Lake George area and New Mexico. She was able to create intricate detail, color shadows and distinct nuances on canvas. Her passion for her art and life can be seen in all her work.
I now invite you to read a most colorful excerpt from a letter written to her photographer friend Marie Chabot in 1941. It is not difficult to imagine how she viewed the world.

“It is breathtaking as one rises up over the world one has been living in, looking out at and looks down at it stretching away and away. The Rio Grande, the mountains, then the pattern of rivers, ridges, washes, roads, fields, water holes, wet and dry. Then little lakes, a brown pattern, then after a while as we go over the Amarillo country, a fascinating restrained pattern of different greens and cooler browns on the square and on the bias with a few curved shades and many lakes. It is very handsome way off into the level distance, fantastically handsome – like marvelous rug patterns of maybe ‘Abstract Paintings’…”

Georgia O'Keefe landscape

Black Mesa Landscape, New Mexico/Out Back of Marie’s II, 1930, Oil on canvas mounted to board

 

Esteemed thinker: Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. and Memorial Day

Memorial Day 1940s

How long does it take a moment to become a memory? Perhaps the amount of time it takes for us to realize that it has passed and the only way to recapture it is to store it away for later. But there are some memories that should not be stored too snugly, too hidden away in the convenience of “not my problem.” And when things that we tend to relegate far from ease, time rolls around where we are nudged with the thoughts and reminders of those who are gone, but never to be forgotten.

So, it is a with Memorial Day, a momentous occasion where our nation commemorates the lives of men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice. Words often do not give justice to the thanks and gratitude we feel and wish to offer these great women and men of the armed forces.  As we enter into reflection, a characteristic that comes into our minds is Heroism; a word that we can define with both commonalities and personal experiences; rediscovered when we unite together or rekindled within our own private solitude.

 

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Oliver Wendall Holmes Jr.

I bring to you words of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.,  Holmes (1841- 1935), a veteran of the Civil War, delivered his address in 1884; titled “In Our Youth Our Hearts Were Touched with Fire.” His speech was given in Keene, N.H., two decades before his appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court in honor of the fallen American soldiers and the meaning of Memorial Day

“So to the indifferent inquirer who asks why Memorial Day is still kept up we may answer, it celebrates and solemnly reaffirms from year to year a national act of enthusiasm and faith. It embodies in the most impressive form our belief that to act with enthusiasm and faith is the condition of acting….

But grief is not the end of all. I seem to hear the funeral march become a paean. I see beyond the forest the moving banners of a hidden column… bid us think of life, not death – of life to which in their youth they lent the passion and joy of the spring. As I listen, the great chorus of life and joy begins again, and amid the awful orchestra of seen and unseen powers and destinies of good and evil our trumpets sound once more a note of daring, hope, and will.”

 

First image: Ashland, Aroostook County, Maine. Memorial Day ceremonies, Collier, John, photographer Published 1943 May.

Second image:Holmes: Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1902 to 1932, and as Acting Chief Justice of the United States January–February 1930

Esteemed thinker: John Muir and respecting nature

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There are few people that would disagree with the idea that humans and plants should and can co-exist. Though we know that there are many species of plants that have raised the ire of both men and woman, for the most part our relationships are of the utmost importance, especially for people. Plants provide us not only shade, food, medicinal benefits, and aesthetics, they are the source that keeps our land from eroding and provides us with oxygen to breathe. All and all it seems as though they are certainly pulling their weight.

IMG_9963 Being this is the case, with all the positives they provide, one can agree… flora and fauna do not ask for much except to be left alone. However, it makes us wonder why it is that some humans have a propensity to destroy or maim with no regard for the outcome of the plants. For example, let us take the bamboo plants that are growing in a particular zoo’s habitat; it offers us the opportunity to walk among the gatherings of these majestic plants that have grown to heights that rival a tree. Such a lovely setting it is until you examine the stalks closely and see the bamboo  has been intentionally carved and defaced with names and dates of those who felt a need to molest the plants. An intentional act with seemingly little value or purpose.

And so, the next time you come upon a plant, take heed for although you may have a yearning to claim it as your own, think twice before putting you signature on Mother Nature’s creation.

Today’s post brings back the esteemed thinker John Muir (1838-1914), a revolutionary preservationist naturalist, writer, conservationist, and founder of the Sierra Club. Born in Dunbar, Scotland in 1849, the Muir family emigrated to the United States, settling first at Fountain Lake and then moving to Hickory Hill Farm near Portage, Wisconsin.muir

In 1867, while working at a carriage parts shop in Indianapolis, he suffered a blinding eye injury that would change his life. When he regained his sight one month later, Muir resolved to turn his eyes to the fields and woods. He walked a thousand miles from Indianapolis to the Gulf of Mexico, sailed to Cuba, and later to Panama. After crossing the Isthmus, he sailed up the West Coast, to San Francisco making California became his home.

John Muir is noted as the Father of the National Park Service, convincing the U.S. government to protect Yosemite, Sequoia, Grand Canyon and Mt. Rainier as national parks through his writing. John Muir’s words came from his lifetime work as a wilderness explorer, and his unyielding desire to maintain a natural environment that would not be exploited; still a rallying cry for all who wish to preserve our world.

So, I take you out of your hectic world into a day with John Muir and his observation of trees; Feast upon this vivid excerpt from Steep Trails.

“No lover of trees will ever forget his first meeting with the sugar pine. In most coniferous trees there is a sameness of form and expression which at length becomes wearisome to most people who travel far in the woods. But the sugar pines are as free from conventional forms as any of the oaks. No two are so much alike as to hide their individuality from any observer. Every tree is appreciated as a study in itself and proclaims in no uncertain terms the surpassing grandeur of the species. The branches, mostly near the summit, are sometimes nearly forty feet long, feathered richly all around with short, leafy branchlets, and tasseled with cones a foot and a half long. And when these superb arms are outspread, radiating in every direction, an immense crownlike mass is formed which, poised on the noble shaft and filled with sunshine, is one of the grandest forest objects conceivable. But though so wild and unconventional when full-grown, the sugar pine is a remarkably regular tree in youth, a strict follower of coniferous fashions, slim, erect, tapering, symmetrical, every branch in place. At the age of fifty or sixty years this shy, fashionable form begins to give way. Special branches are thrust out away from the general outlines of the trees and bent down with cones. Henceforth it becomes more and more original and independent in style, pushes boldly aloft into the winds and sunshine, growing ever more stately and beautiful, a joy and inspiration to every beholder…”