Cold breath of winter
An exhale of snow falling
Still and silent
Cold breath of winter
An exhale of snow falling
Still and silent
I understand the love between humans and dogs; after all, they are sweet, loyal, and often very good blankets, which leads me to why I will not get a dog. It is nothing to do with the species, but rather all to do with the weather. In the summer, when the grass is green, and it’s time to turn on the fan, a dog can run freely in the yard or be lead down the park path on a lead. However, knowing my perpetual desire to remain indoors during winter precludes any willingness to follow behind a frisky dog in the snow. As much as the furry friends are excellent companions, I am afraid I must not welcome even the most loving canine into my home. My selfish desire to remain warm, at all cost, is indeed guided by self-interest.
So it was said… today was the busiest shopping day of the year. The road I traveled on was packed with cars and the shopping malls I passed were jammed with people. There was a frenzy in the air that coincided with the colorful blinking lights and extra hectic pace.
However, as I approached the Stones River Battlefield, one of our National Parks, the fervor of the day was left behind. It was on this site that the Battle of Stones River began; on the last day of 1862. It was one of the bloodiest conflicts of the Civil War.
As you approach the entrance to the park you are confronted by its the aftermath. The graves of more than 6,000 Union soldiers lie in the Stones River National Cemetery. Beginning on New Year’s Eve of 1862 and ending on January 2, 1863. The national cemetery is also the final resting place for nearly 1,000 veterans who served after the Civil War through the 1970s.
Tis the season to remember ………………..
Having the ability to control so many aspects of our lives, we humans believe that we are a sophisticated species We can decide where we live, when we eat, and how we spend days.
However, one small finicky component that we often do not seem to have as much control over is our mood. The disposition of our day can be easily altered and what began as a glorious morning may be modified, turning a seemingly pleasant afternoon into a dreary day. And the culprit for our gloom may be something that we, like it or not, have no control over… none other than Mother Nature.
Mother Nature has the ability to malign our attitude as quickly as she can turn the blue sky grey. How often do we find ourselves in a sour mood when it rains or complain when it is too hot? Her seasonal whims can make entire nations grumpy, putting scowls upon the faces of folks who only a few weeks before were delighting outside, now shielding themselves from the harsh and cold winter winds.
So as much as we would like to believe we are in control …take heed, there is a force greater than our own that “shall we say” owns our temperaments…it is our dear Mother…nature!
Today’s blog finds a path to the esteemed thinker: Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946). Acclaimed photographer and art promoter, he was born in Hoboken, New Jersey, but received his formal education in engineering in Germany. Upon his return to the New York City in 1890, he set his sights on establishing photography as a “legitimate” form of art. Early in his career Stieglitz led a movement called Pictorialism, which promoted the photograph as art, with an emphasis that a photograph was created when the camera was used as a tool, like a paintbrush or palette knife was a tool. His own work grew with his artistic achievements where he began to use the natural elements, such a weather, to create effects and the camera’s focusing abilities to soften the frames.
In 1905, he founded the Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession at 291 Fifth Avenue in New York, with Edward Steichen, which later became known simply as 291. Here he was able to elevate photography to the status of sculpture and painting. His own work
In 1917 he met the great American painter Georgia O’Keeffe, who becomes his lover and finally his wife in 1924. Over a period of 20 years, he had taken over 300 individual pictures of her, which demonstrates his unique and undeniable artistic ability to capture many facets of a single subject.
I now present to you a photogravure (1892) titled Winter – Fifth Avenue by the great photographer, Steiglitz. His ability to transport a mood is forever a testimony to his creative talents and artistic eye.
Portrait of Alfred Stieglitz (1902) by Käsebier, Gertrude
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 witness “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, Emerson, 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.”
If you have ever been stymied by the loss of a word, unable to describe an object or a feeling, you are not alone. In English, as in many languages, we institute an adjective, a metaphor, or a simile to help us along. For example, let us think about snow. If it is a flurry we may call it a light snow and if it is coming down like a blizzard we may say it a heavy snow. However, in the land of snow and ice where the weather is hostile to most who inhabit the earth, there are people who communicate with snow; and within their language are lexemes (vocabulary) to describe the variety of conditions relating to snow. The Inuit/Eskimo language is credited for having over 100 of these terms however, linguistics claim the distinction is more like 50. But, regardless of the number, I believe we may all agree that it is quite eloquent a notion that one can find snow so expressive when the rest of us spend much of the winter discrediting it to nothing more than a nuisance.
Today’s blog brings to you the man who brought to us words in a compact manner, the dictionary. Allow me to introduce the esteemed thinker: Noah Webster (1758-1843). Best known for his noteworthy accomplishment as the American lexicographer, he was also a Founding Father. Born in Connecticut he grew up during the colonial days, becoming a Federalist who supported the efforts of creating a new nation. A leading statesman, who was a confidant of both George Washington and Alexander Hamilton, Webster was in Philadelphia during the Constitutional Convention writing influential essays on behalf of the nation’s founding document.
In 1783, he published the American Spelling Book; a text that was so popular it outsold every book in the 19th century except the Bible. He founded the first daily newspaper in New York City, American Minerva, as well as helping to establish Amherst College. However, it was in 1828’s publication of the two volumes American Dictionary of the English Language that we best remember him for. Webster was a change agent, known as the “father of copyright,” he remained active throughout his life promoting and legislating copyright protection.
I now bring you a snippet from a letter he penned to Senator Daniel Webster in 1826.
“When I was in England in 1825 I learned that the British Parliament had, a few years before, enacted a new law on copyrights, by which the rights of authors were much extended. This led me to attempt to procure a new law in the United States, giving a like extension to the rights of authors. My first attempt appears in the following letter [to the Hon. Daniel Webster, dated September 30, 1826]:—
‘Since the celebrated decision, respecting copyright, by the highest British tribunal, it seems to have been generally admitted that an author has not a permanent and exclusive right to the publication of his original works at common law; and that he must depend wholly on statutes for his enjoyment of that right. As I firmly believe this decision to be contrary to all our best established principles of right and property, and as I have reason to think such a decision would not now be sanctioned by the authorities of this country, I sincerely desire that while you are a member of the House of Representatives in Congress your talents may be exerted in placing this species of property on the same footing as all property, as to exclusive right and permanence of possession…’”
First image: On the way to sea @1900
For those who live in a hemisphere that awards the four seasons, it is winter that challenges us to be creative in ways that the other seasons do not. And though we often find ourselves cursing the cold temperatures, there are some who are most fortunate enough to be able to turn discomfort into pleasure… There are some lucky folks that can defrost frosty sentiments by a warm fireplace. In these homes cold hands are reminders to make a mug of hot chocolate, while icy feet walk themselves into a pair of woolly slippers.
And though many would prefer to remain indoors so as not to be bitten by its harsh winds; if you take a look from your window, winter has invited into its world some very enchanting visitors, birds. Look closely among the leafless branches, under the holly bushes, or flitting to and fro, and you may find quite a variety of winged guests, which makes you wonder how it is that they are not cold.
Against the whiteness of snow one notices the scarlet head crest of the cardinal, the black caps and bibs of the chickadees, the iridescent green and purple flossed head of the starlings, and hidden in the house eves are the rust colored sparrows. The birds of winter are like pieces of a rainbow that have broken off and flutter from snow crest to crest; they delight our world from our safe warm place in the winter.
Today’s post introduces the literary naturalist of the ninetieth century,
the esteemed thinker: John Burroughs (1837-1921). Born in Roxbury, N.Y., he is credited as an essayist, environmentalist, and the man who revolutionized the “conservation movement” in the United States. Burroughs quest to become a writer turned favorable when he befriended the poet Walt Whitman, who encouraged him to continue the path he loved. His writings and studies regarding nature later granted him the title of, “The Grand Old Man of Nature.” Best known for his observations of birds, flowers, and rural America, it is his quote that exemplifies his true feelings; “I seldom go into a natural history museum without feeling as if I were attending a funeral.”
From his book titled, Birds, and Bees Sharp Eyes and Other Papers, I have prepared a brief reading. Find a quiet moment to take in the sights revealed by our essayist and champion of nature, Mr. Burroughs….
“…These sparrows are becoming about the most noticeable of my winter neighbors, and a troop of them every morning watch me put out the hens’ feed, and soon claim their share. I rather encouraged them in their neighborliness, till one day I discovered the snow under a favorite plum-tree where they most frequently perched covered with the scales of the fruit-buds. On investigating I found that the tree had been nearly stripped of its buds—a very unneighborly act on the part of the sparrows, considering, too, all the cracked corn I had scattered for them …
… The bird that seems to consider he has the best right to the bone both upon the tree and upon the sill is the downy woodpecker, my favorite neighbor among the winter birds His retreat is but a few paces from my own, in the decayed limb of an apple-tree which he excavated several autumns ago. I say “he” because the red plume on the top of his head proclaims the sex. It seems not to be generally known to our writers upon ornithology that certain of our woodpeckers—probably all the winter residents—each fall excavate a limb or the trunk of a tree in which to pass the winter, and that the cavity is abandoned in the spring, probably for a new one in which nidification takes place. So far as I have observed, these cavities are drilled out only by the males. Where the females take up their quarters I am not so well informed, though I suspect that they use the abandoned holes of the males of the previous year…”