Sunday, March 15, 2015

A cold wintery Sunday with thoughts of the Shakers and life that has passed me by!

Brooklyn Street this winter
The lesson I have learned this winter is that without money…you are stuck wasting your life...yes really.  I watched via social media people who could go skiing, go to a vacation spot, go to the Syracuse basketball games, attend runs and walks, go to fund raisers. go shopping to malls, go out to eat or go to concerts...what if you have  no family that is close, and no money…?

If you are struggling to stay warm, to eat, to keep things together, to pay ridiculous energy bills… is this called living?

I had someone say to me well you can watch TV or go to the Library and get books!  With no TV because of the cost of it and no local service, with no car or bus service to get to a library…what do you suggest then?

The fact is everything costs so much money today that staying alive could take all of your funds and more. 

So in reading research I am doing on the Shakers for next year’s lectures, I was struck by what actually was their demise.  Many would think it was celibacy…but no, it was modern times and money.  

Success and wealth allowed them to become part of the “World’s People”.  They no longer were happy with the simple life of growing, working, keeping busy, praying and living separate from the world, no they now saw the need for expansion and progress…the cost…cost them everything.

They could no longer make everything to sell and had to hire workers who never provided the quality of “Hands to work, Hearts to God”.  As people left for the world they had to hire people to grow food or to buy it. Dissention reined as some want this, some that, none were really happy just staying put away from the world and all of the things they originally thought were repugnant to God.  Even fellowship was lost in squabbles over money and investments...yes they had tons of money to invest at times.  As they saw more of the worldly goods they wanted more. As the number of Believers left they could no longer keep the communities clean and neat and working. The rules they lived by changed and then changed gain...they no longer went out to seek new members.

Sad actually… a way of life that brought people together who had fashioned a society that cared about one another, that was self-sufficient for the most part…fell to ruin.  The Shakers were the longest running (one group of which is still functioning at Sabbath Lake in Maine) communistic society in America.  Millerites, Oneida Community Perfectionists, and so many others are all gone because of religious beliefs…but Shakers kept their vision of God both mother & father and failed because of money!  Believers wanted to be part of what the "world" could offer! Modernization..

I guess that is us today…we all want what the world can offer us…but for some the world has passed them by and unfortunately, they cannot be self sufficient in today’s society without the money to make them that way!

I wrote poem when I was very young, when my mother died I found that she had kept it.  It was on life passing me by…and this winter it has…

Life Just Passed Me By
I felt the wind like the touch of Spring, /Gently passing in the glow of day./
I saw a scene so far from me,
/Yet passing just a foot away.
/I heard God as I walked the hill.
/I stopped to listen and to pray, /And time just passed on by.
May heart smiled, enjoyed, and cared,
/As my lungs filled with the sweet Spring air;/ And the breeze against my face wasnt even there,/ As life just passed on by.
They laughed at me for I beamed with love, /For the grass that felt like silken glove, 
/It gave me pleasure and just a bit of love, /And time just passed me by.
/I heard the call of the meadows lark,/
I felt the tree and its rugged bark,
/But time had passed me by.
For now Im grown and now Ive lost /The simple heart that would have bought,/ With a fortune or a ransom found,/
But not even that could stop.../Time from passing me on by.
Here is a video I did on the Shaker Settlement near Albany..their original settlement...

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Winter, Tom a Hero Cat, and the Crimean War, all on another cold Sunday!

Well it is Sunday again, it is freezing cold again, and they are predicting snow…AGAIN!  March is coming in like a lion…but could it go out like a lamb?

So I am sitting here thinking about getting my Sunday blog up and wondering what in the world to blog about that might be a bit uplifting, unusual, different.  Nothing came to me.  Sure I had tons of stuff to bitch about as usual…but uplifting…hmm.

Just then the little Tommy cat came bounding in the door…I had just named him after a very famous cat called Sevastopol Tom or Crimean Tom a British Hero!  So I decided that for my blog I would tell you the story of Tom…the only hero cat I know who is in a Military Museum…STUFFED!

During the Crimean War in 1854 after a siege at Sevastopol, a port in the Crimea, the British after successfully forcing the surrender or desertion by the Russian Army landed in a place they found totally devastated.  The inhabitants and the Brits were left starving, as well as freezing in the frigid Crimean winter.  They all knew it would be a long while before supplies could come, so men and stray animals were left to scrounged for food. 

At one point, men noticed a sleek and well-fed cat that became very friendly with them… they wondered about him?  One day they followed him to the wharf area where he disappeared under some ruble.   Curious, they began to dig and there under the rubble was a Russian stash of food that had been placed there and hidden for their soldiers.  Most of the food was good, there was also clean water and... Tom got to eat the mice! (Why he was so well fed and sleek.)

Captain William Gair of the 6th Dragoon Guards (the Carabiniers) and his men eventually followed him to other hidden supply locations finding food that saved their lives. Gair and his men officially adopted him as their mascot…naming him Crimean Tom. 

When it came time to return to England, unwilling to leave him behind, they somehow secreted Tom to England with them.  The cat was honored many times and died a well taken care of cat a year later.

Since he was of “heroic” stature, Tom was stuffed and mounted and today gazes at visitors from a display at the Royal United Service Institution Museum… where he is remembered for his service to the armed forces of England!

So there, a tidbit of history... and a cat you can adopt named for a hero cat called “Crimean Tom”!
Hope the weather improves!

Monday, February 23, 2015

A cold Sunday of reality in this World of sadness and tears...Let us Pray for the ones they call the Children of today!

Sometimes I wonder what is wrong with people today.  I think some have never had real hardship in their lives.  Can we have compassion for animals but not for other people?

This weeks news headlines set off a whole flood of feelings I did not want to let into my mind right now.  I have been following some Italian news because of my 500 year ago cousin and the 150th Anniversary of the Italian Red Cross, when I can across an article on the plight of Libyan refugees trying escape in rafts and boats  across the Mediterranean to the various posts on the European side.

A policy of trying to pick them up and saving them from drowning has been called foolish…”that it is encouraging them to try it”.  In other words if they pick them up and save them from drowning they are causing this problem to escalate.  So we as humans should let them drown?  The reality is they should not have to take such extreme methods to save themselves and especially their children from starvation and war.

On line, via the web, the global warming people are screaming about climate change causing these extremes in weather…while the disbelievers are screaming back that this is all hype and just a way for some to make more money… Some say that we need more oil…OIL?  They say that we have given too many subsidies to “green energy” a source that has produced little energy? 

Mean while people in our own country are freezing and we are cutting programs to our own poor, disabled, or elderly and don’t recognize the marginalized poor that have lost their homes that have become “our boat people” living in tents and shelters?

We are a crazy lot….”War”, greed and religion, has wrought all of this…”Men fighting with GUNS and hatred”.

I guess we have forgotten too soon the price of WWI and WWII.  Herbert Hoover was the man in charge of the rescue of millions of starving people after and during both conflicts.  He had an unbelievable job considering the food had to be brought in because war had devastated the land and infrastructure…not to mention the men and animals lost! Countries unable to feed themselves.

Not good thoughts…

I am stuck here in old Eaton this year trying to save and find homes for a few cats…”dump offs”…I can’t stand to see an animal ill, injured, starving or hurt. I try to help everyone I can and …for the life of me… I can't understand why men go to war for power or religion…and how anyone could condone just letting people drown while they are just trying to save themselves and their children. 

In America we are raging against immigrants…but in reality we are raging against ourselves… as almost all of us except the “First Natives” were brought here for a better life or for religious freedom by our forefathers and mother’s.  So on this Sunday in the blog...I pray for all the “children” of the world….”The ones we call the Children of Today!”

With that thought I whipped out my guitar and sang this old Gordon Lightfoot tune...listen to the words…understand the meaning!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Valentines Day surprises, the weather and an armchair trip to Florence, Italy!

Emma Messere Elena Branca
What a year so far…Mother Nature has been throwing all kinds of terrible things at us from snow, sleet, wind, blizzards and record breaking cold.  For Valentine’s Day I am stuck here in Eaton staring outside and sitting by the woodstove trying to keep it chuck full of wood. 

For Valentine’s Day getting a card was as far from my mind as possible…who in the world would send me a Valentine?  Then came a knock on the door…the mailman???

He handed me some mail, one piece I had to sign for… my curiosity was peeked.

One was a card from Rascal my cat….I opened it and sure enough it was signed Rascal and it even read as if Rascal had picked it out…”You do a lot to keep me happy and healthy and in return,  all I do is sleep, shed, and complain about the food! So since it is Valentine’s Day, I want you to know---I’M WORTH IT!”  I immediately suspected Sarah Curtis…

The second piece of mail was a donation to “Rascal’s Find homes for the Cats”  fund I have been working on…from Florida…Thank You Bob Sherburne!

The third was from Italy…my 500 year ago cousin Emma…(a genealogist said we were related 500 years back) I tore it open and to my surprise it was a book on Florence where she had gone for a special seminar and celebration of not only World War I, but of the Italian Red Cross.  It was research she and a friend, Elena Branca, had been doing on the woman doctors who served in that war…some research that I had tried to help them with.

The book titled “Americans in Florence” is a complete guide to the city and the places associated with Americans past and present…a great “History Book”  filled with information that proved to be a most interesting read on this 35 below zero weekend.

The book is “cock-full”  of information on the famous Americans from James Fenimore Cooper, the Browning’s, Henry James, Mark Twain and anybody who was anybody… describing where they stayed, what they thought about this fabulous city, a city that was indeed “The Birthplace of the Renaissance”.

One story that I found most interesting was the story of the Ponte Santa Trinita Bridge over the Arno after WWII.  The retreating Germans blew up the bridge just before the Allied Forces liberated Florence.  To the great honor of the citizens of the town, who sought to rebuild it exactly as it once was, and with the donations of wealthy American’s like Samuel Kress, and collectors like Peggy Guggenheim,  it was rebuilt using the original plans and using the original material.  To accomplish this… the stone quarry where the original stone came from was actually reopened. 

The statues and artifacts were repaired and replace on the bridge.  One interesting story is that the head of one of the “Seasons” statues was not found and many believed an American GI took it.  The President of the Parker Pen Company offered a $3,000 reward to find it using its advertising outlets. 

Parker put out a WANTED poster stating - Age; 350 years, Size; 20 inches; Color; marble white; Weight; about 120 lbs with a previously damaged nose!  This produced nothing, it wasn’t until years later it was discovered after the dredging of the Arno,  where it had rested all along! 

Great book…I think Emma is trying to lure me into visiting Italy….  No Emma, but you should come visit me here in boring old Eaton, New York…but a word to the wise…not in the winter!!

The book is available on line ISBN 88-09-03157-1 at Barnes and Noble I bet…and worth it if you or someone you know is going to Florence … It is complete as a guide with walking tours, where to eat, galleries, what  to see…everything!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

"50 Shades of Gray", Earl Grey tea that is!

With all this chatter about “50 Shades of Gray” I amused myself over a cup of tea last night thinking about the variety I was drinking…Earl Grey.  It is one of my friend Cathy Nagle's favorites, although that might have something to do with the fact that her maiden name was Earl. 

So I thought I would “history quest” Earl Grey Tea… and to my surprise it was fascinating.

The Earl in Earl Grey Tea is the 2nd Earl Grey whose name was Charles.  Charles actually became the Prime Minister of England and it is during his administration that slavery was abolished in the UK. Charles and his family early on were seated at Howick Hall in Northumbrian, he being known as Viscount Howick.  The thing he is most remembered for however... is Earl Grey Tea.

Tons of stories float around on how he became synonymous with the tea, one account being that he saved a Chinese Mandarins son from drowning and was presented with the tea recipe…though this story has been discounted, it is as good as any.

The tea gets its unique citrusy taste from an orange variety called Bergamot that comes from Italy and the Mediterranean area.   Oil is extracted from the fruits rind and infused into a black tea (once Chinese now from many places).  One legend has it that the tea was specifically blended to cover the taste of the water in  Northumberland, home of Howlick Hall…an area whose water is heavy in lime.

Jacksons of Piccadilly claimed the original Earl Grey tea, although many companies including Twinning’s have made it. Off shoots of the original tea that add Lavender is called Lavender Lady and an extra citrus variety is called Citrus Lady Grey.

All in all... it is still one of the most popular teas made, it is even used as an infusion in cakes, scones, and other bake goods.  Its modern notoriety coming from Star Trek: the Next Generation as Captain Pickard’s favorite. Health food stores note it is high in antioxidants and its citrus base is good for tons of stuff…well, if they say so.  However... it is noted that for people who take certain drugs its chemical make up acts like grapefruit juice…if you drink more than a liter or two at once. So I guess most of us are safe…huh.

However for a cold winter’s night there is nothing like a cup of hot Earl Grey Tea…adding one of those Earl Grey cupcakes would be a great addition don’t you think.