Monday, September 28, 2009

The Nineteenth Century

I've been reading books written in the mid to late nineteenth century lately and enjoying them and the picture of American society of that time.

I discovered Edward Payson Roe. Here is how that occurred. I am a member of a Yahoo Group that reads and discusses books by Grace Livingston Hill. She was a Christian romance writer from the late nineteenth century up to the 1940's when she passed away. I believe she completed over 100 stories. Her writing carries the reader back to the language and thought of an older time. Much of the conversation in the books written in the 1920's and 1930's reflect the movie vernacular of the day. Little boys in her stories use the slang of that day in phrases that have not been heard for over half a century, but can be heard in old movies from that time period.

The stories themselves are the ultimate women's stories. The heroines often cook homey dinners (which are redolent of cookbooks from the early 20th century - no "foreign" cuisine, no Italian food, even), their clothes are described, their efforts at remaking and decorating old and abused homes. Some heroine's stories occur during fall and Christmas and bring in the beauty of nature and the holidays. In short, these books are like a comforting trip to an idealized yesterday and they are still quite popular among a particular group of people. Here is a web site that quotes some of the passages in Grace Livingston Hill's books that are particularly enjoyable. Since my own mother is of Polish descent and would have been looked down upon by the Protestant majority of that day, of which Grace Livingston Hill was a member, I guess I might be termed a traitor. However, I turned away from Catholicism many years ago when taking history classes in college. I discovered that those nations whose religion was predominantly Catholic had abysmal histories. Italy, France and Spain - although at one time all were great, they faded before Britain and America's Protestant greatness. I believe the culture behind the Catholic religion, which is a paternalistic one, is responsible for the sorry states of Latin American societies. Compare Haiti, of Catholic descent, and Jamaica, of British descent - very very different outcomes. But I'm getting off the track here.

This lady has created a complete Grace Livingston Hill web site which also mentions her aunt, who also published many works in the late nineteenth century under the pseudonym, "Pansy".

Here is how Edward Payson Roe came to my attention. One of the members of the Grace Livingston Hill Yahoo Group mentioned that she had discovered a book by him and had enjoyed it immensely. She even claimed that, in his time, he was more widely read and famous than Mark Twain!! I was hooked.

I looked him up and found his books online on Google Books and began reading "He Fell In Love With His Wife". I absolutely loved the story.

Then I found out that Edward Payson Roe lived almost all his life not 50 miles from where I grew up. He was born in Moodna, NY, no longer found by that name on a map today, but which translates roughly into New Windsor, NY in Orange County. I was born farther west in Middletown, NY in the same county. His family lived right near the Hudson River and there is a Moodna Creek that comes off the Hudson and runs through the county. His grandfather helped forge the chain that was thrown across the Hudson during the Revolutionary War to keep the British from advancing and taking the vital river.

As I read "He Fell In Love With His Wife" and researched the life of Edward Payson Roe, I kept in mind that he used everyday people and examples in his stories that were gleaned from his life in Orange County. I placed my memories of the same countryside over the word pictures he painted and the story had so much more meaning for me.

So far my favorite is " Opening A Chestnut Burr" about a man who is ill and comes back to his old home place to recuperate. His old home place is Edward Payson Roe's old home place and so it is the Shawangunk Mountains and the Hudson Highlands that are spoken of in such descriptive words and lovely images. The old home place is a large home with orchards and farms around it in rolling countryside, just as the area around Middletown, NY is. The story takes place in October, my favorite month of the year, especially in areas where the leaves change color. I have lovely memories of going to Soon's Orchard in Orange County to buy apples and pumpkins and to sample apple cider. The smell of the apples would permeate the place and October in NY is one time of the year in which many days are clear and the sky is that bright blue of autumn. This is the time of what we used to call "sweater weather", when jeans and sweaters are necessary, especially in the evening, to keep warm. Sometimes there is a smokey haze in the air from the burning of leaves, although that may be against the law now. When I was a child, the people along our street would rake their leaves into a big pile (which we, of course, jumped in repeatedly) and then would burn them beside the street. That smell, the smell of apples and apple pie, the sense of being cozy inside, the feel of brisk, cold, clear air on one's face, the scenes of rolling hills covered with orange, yellow and red trees......Mr. Roe describes all this many times over and he is talking about my own home territory.

In addition, Mr. Roe was a Christian. He was a chaplain in the Civil War and his writing about those days is fascinating as well as graphic, which was not a common writing style in that day. He does describe some hospital scenes and the suffering of the men, and he doesn't try to honey-coat it. Edward Payson Roe was, in later years, the pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Highland Falls, which may still exist, I don't know.

My sister, whom I visited a few weeks ago, lives not too far up the west Hudson right off 9W. If I had known of Mr. Roe then, all we would have had to do was to drive south for about half an hour and we would have been in his home area and I could have tried to find out if his old home or his pastorate were still there.

This weekend is a 3 day weekend and my husband has to work today, so I am home alone. The windows are open in my back computer room and I can gaze at the sky and the flowers in my back yard as I read and contemplate.

I can say with surety that I have finally discovered to my satisfaction that, even though there have always been scoundrels and evil people, the general society, the civilization of the late 19th century in America was one of acknowledged Christianity (even if it was, in many cases, a form it was THE accepted form) and good manners. People who did not believe in Christianity or practice it did not speak too loudly or publicly in everyday life because they would be frowned upon. Oh to be living in a time like that again. I am so tired of "multiculturalism" and the idea that all cultures have equal value. I do not believe it and since I am surrounded by that type of thinking in this day and age, I get weary sometimes.

Well - back to the 19th century. I do have to vacuum (thank God for 20th century inventions!!!) and straighten up and do laundry today (once again, thank God for electric appliances that do the work for you). But, thanks to the modern electric age, I can get all that done in about an hour sometime before my husband gets home. Meanwhile, I'm lazing around and pondering yesteryear.

Here is another fascinating web site about 19th century children. There is the complete contents of one "Diary of a Little Girl in Old New York" which I could not stop reading.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Back Yard Garden Movie

My husband made this video for his brother, but I thought I'd include it on my blog so everyone could see the progress we've made in the back yard:

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


For the past 4 or 5 months we've had a bees nest/hive in the back right corner of our back yard. It is in a bushy area that isn't frequented too much and our whole back yard is fenced in, which provides more privacy.

Right from the start we made sure these were not "killer" or Africanized bees. We can stand within a foot or two of the hive - really. The bees just go on doing bee things - very busy bee things. My husband has all he can do not to reach out quickly and grab some honeycomb - which would be dumb for a whole gamut of reasons. Of course, the bees would get angry and would attack, but he might grab a part of the comb (still covered with many bees - ouch) that has babies in it. This is not tasty - you want the part of the comb that has honey in it.

So he will not be giving into that urge to grab - I think he has enough survival instinct to protect him in this case.

So without further ado - here are the bees:

This is a shot where I attempt to show the whole hive, except the bottom is missing - so the next shot will show the bottom where all the bees "hang" out....literally.

Here is the bottom of the hive - literally covered with bees.

In the picture above, you can see the last of the gourd sticking out - and covered with bees. This entire hive is built around and hanging from a North Carolina gourd. We bought the gourd to house birds - but only bees have come twice now. This time the bees are covering the outside of the gourd with row upon row of honeycomb - the gourd is just the base. I have no idea if there are bees inside as well, since the opening is toward the back and I'm not going to squeeze myself back there - I am not THAT curious.

Last - above is a closer up (yes, I meant to say "closer up") of the honeycomb. Maybe it's honey? Maybe it's capsules getting ready for babies. Who knows. I just feel honored that they live in my yard.

Oh - and guess who hangs out UNDER the nest to eat any dead bees that fall. Mr. Cane Toad, a.k.a. Bufo toad.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Rip My Heart Out

Of course you can tell this is going to be a post about something painful. At work today, I got a phone call from the Office Manager saying to come up immediately to her office - it was VERY important (this is not about anything happening to me or my job, just so you know before you read further).
When I got there, there was a box of 4 tiny kittens that had been found on the school grounds. I don't think the kittens were weaned yet - although they were close to it - about the size of guinea pigs. The office mgr was trying to get people to take them home, but I was wondering where the mother was.
Why couldn't they leave them where they were for 2 more weeks - let the mother take care of them. I'll bet she's looking for them now, and full of milk for them.
I know it's possible the mother abandoned them, but they were healthy and flea-free - they did not show any signs of having been abandoned.
So the usual well meaning circus began. People picking up the crying babies, who were bewildered and wondering where their mother is - and trying to feed them regular milk. The kittens were looking for a nipple - for what was familiar - and cool cow's milk isn't familiar, nor is a syringe.
I got myself out of there ASAP. I have 4 cats and 2 birds - and we have a settled eco-system. No cats resent the others so much that there is bad cat litter behavior (aka peeing outside the litter box), or resentment. All 4 pretty much get along all the time, and have learned a hierarchy amongst themselves. To bring a 5th, very dependent kitten in - possibly bearing diseases - it's just not a good idea. Besides, my husband and I want to be able to take care of what we already have. If they become ill, they need to see the vet and that costs money. We already probably have more than we can really afford.
So I didn't take a kitten. I did look online for no-kill shelters in our area and there are 2 of them, both full. At least the Humane Society would take care of them as long as they are healthy - and they are. The Humane Society does not claim to be no-kill, but they will not euthanize healthy animals that can be adopted. All 4 of these kittens fit under that header.
When I went up later, I thought perhaps the Office Mgr had taken them somewhere, but I found out that one of our employees had taken them to her nail place to see - I don't know - if anyone there might want one.
I don't trust most people's knowledge, even if their motives are good. These kittens will need special food until they are weaned - and I have a feeling most people who take a kitten will not give them the care they will need. If they keep getting passed around for the rest of the day, they will get sick from not eating or drinking.
This whole scenario does indeed rip my heart out. I could cry when I see something like this. And the people who mean well, cooing over how cute they are, but not realizing the care that they will need.
I have to let it go - not ask questions about what happened to them. Just not go there at all. Put it behind me. I just love innocent animals so much that it hurts me to see them helpless and at the mercy of people - any people.
I wish the Lord Jesus would come and fix this planet up already - get rid of the results of sin and death and suffering.
Romans 8:21-23 (emphasis and red color mine)
"Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.
And not only then, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body."

Today's Prayer

Sometimes I need a little help with prayer and I have just the book for this -
The Valley of Vision". This book is a compilation of prayers by Puritan authors of the 1600's, 1700's and 1800's. The prayers are breathtakingly beautiful. Here is the one I read today:

In Prayer

O Lord, in prayer I launch far out into the eternal world, and on that broad ocean my soul triumphs over all evils on the shores of mortality. Time, with its gay amusements and cruel disappointments never appears so inconsiderate as then.

In prayer I see myself as nothing; I find my heart going after Thee with intensity, and long with vehement thirst to live to Thee. Blessed be the strong gales of the Spirit that speed me on my way to the New Jerusalem.

In prayer all things here below vanish, and nothing seems important but holiness of heart and the salvation of others.

In prayer all my worldly cares, fears, anxieties disappear, and are of as little significance as a puff of wind.

In prayer my soul inwardly exults with lively thoughts at what Thou art doing for Thy church, and I long that Thou shouldest get Thyself a great name from sinners returning to Zion.

In prayer I am lifted above the frowns and flatteries of life, and taste heavenly joys; entering into the eternal world I can give myself to Thee with all my heart, to be Thine for ever.

In prayer I can place all my concerns in Thy hands, to be entirely at Thy disposal, having no will or interest of my own.

In prayer I can intercede for my friends, ministers, sinners, the church, Thy kingdom to come, with greatest freedom, ardent hopes, as a son to his father, as a lover to the beloved.

Help me to be all prayer and never to cease praying.

I just wanted to share this on this September 4 morning.