Esteemed thinker: Rupert Brooke

sea

Water is life. Without it we would perish. Our planet, the Earth, is exceptional for seventy- percent is covered by water, yet much of it is not potable being as the oceans and seas are too saline for humans to consume, but perfect for the countless animals and plants that coexist in its realm; from microscopic plankton to the giant blue whale; they can thrive within its boundaries. Though not all is salty; fresh water exists in all states of matter from foggy vapors to sheets of ice to running streams…

We turn on spigots when we are thirsty, purchase bottles of it to carry about, catch it when it is scarce, and pay homage to it for its return through prayers. We even go out of our way to vacation near it, live by it, or build pools to swim in it. We use it to clean, to soak, to wash, to nourish our plants. But with seemingly an abundant supply of this miracle substance, there are many who are not as lucky and its scarcity has sent generations of people in search or even war over it; while others have to build and secure methods in order for water to reach their lands and homes. Our love affair with water however is fickle and though we are ecstatic with its arrival during droughts, there are times when we curse its presence…like during floods.

Yet, no one can resist the beauty of water; it takes a multitude of forms and allows our senses to go through as many sensations and emotions as there are ways. The oceans’ shores are mesmerizing with their soothing churn of the tide… where eyes gaze out onto a distant horizon line and then our curiosity leaps over and steps beyond. The thunder of the river foams as though boiling in anger, crashing and cascading over rocks pounding and pummeling all in its path. The misty rain can be as gentle as an atomizer or as harsh as a hailstorm of pebbles. It can put one to sleep or wake us out of a sound dream.

And so, water holds great power over humanity, although most do not think much about it taking its existence for granted that it will always there, available, and clean…yet like all things in nature, the Earth is in a constant flux; changing ever so slightly as with erosion or with one grand natural disaster, as in an earthquake. Nevertheless, what does not change is the simple fact about water… we are beholden to it…

rupert brooke Today’s blog introduces a man who is not known today by many readers yet in his lifetime he held the title of being a literary national hero even though he died at the young the age of twenty- seven. I present to you the esteemed thinker: Rupert Brooke (1887-1915 ). English born poet, scholar, dramatist, literary critic, travel writer, political activist and soldier, his work exemplified patriotism and lyrical genius. Also known for his good looks and sentimental poetry, he made influential friends in both literary and political circles; an illustrious line-up of names such as Winston Churchill, Henry James, Virginia Woolf, and Yeats, who once described him as “the handsomest man in England”. Brooke lived during a grey period in England’s history, the start of World War I after which he earned notoriety as ‘one of the famous War Poets of the First World War’.

His quite famous work “The Soldier” is one that will most likely ring a bell to those who read poetry…Here are just a few lines to rouse your memory …
If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;…

I now bring you the words of Rupert Brooke, extracted from a letter he sent to the Westminster Gazette in 1913 about his trip to Niagara Falls.

“…. He who sees them instantly forgets humanity. They are not very high, but they are overpowering. They are divided by an island into two parts, the Canadian and the American.

Half a mile or so above the Falls, on either side, the water of the great stream begins to run more swiftly and in confusion. It descends with ever-growing speed. It begins chattering and leaping, breaking into a thousand ripples, throwing up joyful fingers of spray. Sometimes it is divided by islands and rocks, sometimes the eye can see nothing but a waste of laughing, springing, foamy waves, turning, crossing, even seeming to stand for an instant erect, but always borne impetuously forward like a crowd of triumphant feasters. Sit close down by it, and you see a fragment of the torrent against the sky, mottled, steely, and foaming, leaping onward in far-flung criss-cross strands of water. Perpetually the eye is on the point of descrying a pattern in this weaving, and perpetually it is cheated by change. In one place part of the flood plunges over a ledge a few feet high and a quarter of a mile or so long, in a uniform and stable curve. It gives an impression of almost military concerted movement, grown suddenly out of confusion. But it is swiftly lost again in the multitudinous tossing merriment. Here and there a rock close to the surface is marked by a white wave that faces backwards and seems to be rushing madly up-stream, but is really stationary in the headlong charge. But for these signs of reluctance, the waters seem to fling themselves on with some foreknowledge of their fate, in an ever wilder frenzy…

But there they change. As they turn to the sheer descent, the white and blue and slate color, in the heart of the Canadian Falls at least, blend and deepen to a rich, wonderful, luminous green. On the edge of disaster the river seems to gather herself, to pause, to lift a head noble in ruin, and then, with a slow grandeur, to plunge into the eternal thunder and white chaos below… “

Esteemed thinker: Samuel J. Tilden

NY public library

There is an adage that bears repeating, “the best things in life are free”; yet in spite of its hopeful message if you were to ask much of the population there would be a multitude of naysayers. After all, most of what folks are looking for can only be purchased. However there are many who would agree that Mother Nature does offer all her wonders, but often within her generosity are forces she possesses that can eradicate a home with an evening storm, capsize a way-faring vessel with a wave’s thirsty gulp, and destroy a city with a shrug of her fault line.

But to those who are willing to keep hoping and set skepticism aside, you have only to look within your neighborhoods. There are places where one can obtain knowledge, leisure, amusement, and harmony all for free. It is a location that welcomes you during the coldest of winter days and the hottest of summer afternoons. This place you say; all this for free? Upon which I remind you of the public library.

Today’s post brings to you the esteemed thinker: Samuel J. Tilden (1814-1886), a prominent political figure and philanthropist. who was cheated out of the presidency by the electoral college. Born in New Lebanon, New York. His early education was sporadic due to chronic poor health that followed him into adult life where he attended Yale University and studied law at NYU.  Tilden_of_NY

A man of great principals, in 1848 he led the revolt of the Democratic party in New York State against the creation of five slave States. He opposed slavery and was an active supporter of the Union during the civil war.  Known as a reformer, he fought  against bribery and corruption, bringing down New York’s powerful and corrupt Tweed Ring that controlled and defrauded New York City for years.

Tilden was elected the 25th governor of New York. His popularity as a strong advocate against corruption won him the presidential nomination, becoming the Democratic candidate for president in the hotly disputed election of 1876. A look back in history would describe him as having been cheated out of the presidency by the electoral college.  However, Tilden’s acceptance of his defeat was most honorable and may have prevented the country civil unrest, even though he won the popular vote against Rutherford r B. Hayes.

Having never married he remained a bachelor and acquired considerable wealth. With no heirs, upon his death he left the majority of his estate in trust for the establishment of a free public library for New York City. This bequest eventually helped build the New York City Library in Manhattan.

I now bring you a Harper’s Weekly cartoon, originally printed in January 27, 1877 and drawn by the famous Thomas Nast.  Titled  “Compromise- Indeed” it conveys concerns the Electoral Commission Act passed by Congress to resolve the disputed presidential election of 1876.

Tilden cartoon

 

First image: New York Public Library

 

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

Sierra forest Lake_of_the_Lone_Indian_JMW

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

Esteemed thinker: John Muir and respecting nature

IMG_9913

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…”

 

 

Esteemed thinker: Lillie P. Bliss

Armory_Show_1

The past is a reservoir of names who have left behind their legacies and still continue to enrich our lives… and though they may have been well-noted during their lifespan, time has worn away their memories like the erosion of a seawall. The twenty-first century is especially hard on the past for the present barely has time to take a breath, when sudden at the next exhale the future becomes the present. The bombardment of information is a snowstorm burying facts at an unprecedented rate. So fast is this entombing of details that for those of us who wish a more leisurely promenade are saddened; often what we wish to savor unexpectedly  whizzes by without having a chance to take hold.

Today’s blog brings you a most notable woman, the esteemed thinker: Lillie P. Bliss (1864 – 1931 )American  art collector, patron, and co-founder of the Museum of Modern Art with Abby Aldrich Rockefeller and Mary Quinn Sullivan. Born in Fall River, Massachusetts, she was the daughter of a successful textile merchant who moved his family to the Murray Hill Section of New York City when she was two. Her ambitious and well-connected father became Secretary of the Interior under President McKinley where Lillie acted as hostess for him in Washington when her mother was taken ill. Llilie Bliss

Lillie became an active supporter of the arts, at first particularly of music however her interest in modern art was inspired by the Armory Show of 1913 and her friendship with the painter Arthur B. Davies. Although modern art at the time in the United States was often criticized as inferior, Bliss saw the value in the new art and collected work by, among others, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Matisse, Picasso, and Davies. In 1929 she became one of the founders of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and when she died two years later she left most of her paintings to the Museum.

And so as tribute to Ms. Bliss, who we can thank for having the foresight to embrace and preserve the arts, we dig deeply into the pile of forgotten names. As remarked by Nelson Rockefeller, “It was the perfect combination. The three women, among them, my mother, Lillie Bliss and Mary Sullivan, had the resources, the tact and the knowledge of contemporary art that the situation required. More to the point, they had the courage to advocate the cause of the modern movement in the face of widespread division, ignorance and a dark suspicion that the whole business was some sort of Bolshevik plot.”

First Image: Armory Show of 1913

Second image: 1924

 

Esteemed thinker: Louisa May Alcott

When it comes to hearty, size is not always the defining feature. Most of us have the perception that “big” equates to strong, however that particular idea is frequently a misconception. It is often in nature where we wsnow on crocusitness “small” being just as robust as  its counterpart. A mighty oak is surely a visual spectacle of greatness however; it is the tiny crocus that often seems to defy all weather challenges put forth upon it.

The crocus is one of the first blooms appearing even as early as January; a time when most dwellers of North America are still donning winter coats. So don’t be surprised to see these flowers’ colorful little “heads” pop up out of the ground before all the others… and they will remain faithfully in bloom, with buds held high defying its covering of snow, gently unfolding towards the sun as if they were sunbathing on the beach!

Today’s blog brings you the acclaimed American author, Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888). Born in Germantown, Pennsylvania, she is best known for her novel Little Woman. Alcott’s parents were progressives for the time, taking part in the mid-19th century social reform movement, supporting the abolition of slavery and even acting as station-masters on the Underground Railroad. They were also active in the temperance and women’s rights movements.

Louisa May Alcott was educated mainly by her father, although Thoreau, Emerlouisa may alcottson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Margaret Fuller were family friends, also providing her lessons. She began writing when she was young, and she and her sisters enjoyed acting out some of her stories.

During the American Civil War, she volunteered to sew clothes and provide other supplies to soldiers. Including volunteering to be a nurse in Washington, D.C.

Her career as an author was wide spread, including stories and poems. A lesser-known part of her work are the passionate, fiery novels and stories under the pseudonym A. M. Barnard. In her later life, Alcott became an advocate of women’s suffrage, and was the first woman to register to vote in Concord, Massachusetts.

From her novel, Little Men (1871) I now bring you a quote; few in words but mighty in spirit…like the crocus.

 “Love is a flower that grows in any soil, works its sweet miracles undaunted by autumn frost or winter snow, blooming fair and fragrant all the year, and blessing those who give and those who receive.”