Wednesday, July 28, 2010

In Every Change

Be still my soul. The Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide.
In every change, He faithful will remain.

Lots of change going on in my life these days. In less than 5 days I will be making my way across the country to a new job in Scottsdale, Arizona. I must say I never ever thought of living that far away from New England. I never really thought about leaving New England until recently. I have loved living here, and was especially enjoying
it this summer, having the luxury of not working and thus the freedom to travel at will any and every day.

But now, I'm about to embark on a new adventure. The uneasiness I feel when I think of leaving my family so far behind is tempered by the comfort of the verse above. Be still my soul.

Photos: The view around Thunderbird Academy where I will be working; building where my classroom is (the right hand door).

Sunday, July 25, 2010

I am a Promise

I am a promise
I am a possibility
I am a promise
With a capital "P"

I was sitting in my living room earlier this evening when a strange yellow light poured in through the window that usually frames wonderful sunsets. It was so odd looking that I went outside to see what was going on. The whole sky was . . . yellow! When I turned around to go back inside, I saw a huge rainbow arching over my condo building! Then, it started pouring rain. I ran inside and by the time I looked back out my window, it had cleared up and there was a beautiful sunset!



A promise, full of good possibilities for the future. I like that!

Saturday, July 24, 2010


I'm nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there's a pair of us--don't tell!
They'd banish us, you know.

How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!

Emily Dickinson's little poem about publishing has always made me smile. I didn't realize the full truth of the poem, though, until I spent a night in Camden, Maine, recently trying to sleep through the public declarations of a pond full of frogs!

ALL NIGHT LONG they were croaking their names to the admiring bog (in this case a lovely lily pond outside of my hotel room. Even with the windows closed, I heard them loud and clear. All night long! In the morning, I took my camera outside and captured all I could see. In the end, I was the one admiring =)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Strong Enough to Stand Alone

"You have given your idol a heart, but no head. An affectionate or accomplished idiot is not my ideal of a woman. I would have her strong eough to stand alone, and give, not ask, support. Brave enough to think and act as well as feel. Keen-eyed enough to see her own and others' faults, and wise enough to find a cure for them. I would have her humble, though self-reliant, gentle, though strong; man's companion, not his plaything; able and willing to face storms, as well as sunshines, and share life's burdens as they come." ~ from "The Lady and the Woman" by Louisa May Alcott

I spent another amazing day in the company of fascinating women at the Concord School of Philosophy. This time, we had three separate presentations--two before lunch, one after. Debra Ryals from Pensacola State College spoke first on "The Condition of Women: Literature of the 19th and 20th Centuries." She focused on six authors--including Alcott--to demonstrate who women viewed themselves in terms of employment. She also talked about the importance of understanding context before you can appreciate and understand the literature. One piece of context that she shared stirred up some discussion: The suicide rate for unmarried women in the mid to late 19th century was 40% because there were so few options for them. Most often, they'd jump off low bridges into shallow water, breaking their necks. Even Louis May once thought about going over a bridge but was "saved" by a passerby. Jobs for women then weren't great or plentiful. There was no outlet for too many. They'd get depressed at the seeming dead end. This was before Freud, before psychology, before there was any helplines... This was staggering to think about.

The second "conversation" began with a presentation by Cathlin Davis from California State University-Stanislaus who talked about "Louisa May Alcott's Advice to Young Women." She used four little-known short stories to demonstrate the message that Louisa shared over and over--primarily that one person is all it takes to make a difference...and that has a ripple effect One person changes one thing for one person and they change one thing for another and they change one thing, and so on and on.. Alcott, through her sometimes subtle and other times not so subtle stories shows that the sphere of women is greater than what's been told to them and that one person absolutely can change the world. She also encourages young women to reach out with kindness, do what's right, don't give in to peer pressure, be brave enough to think and act on your beliefs, and to step out of the box that others had created for them. She not only tells them to do this, she shows them how to do it with her likable, realistic role models. Louisa has advice for young men, too. She encourages them to respect women and even to help them, work with them as equals... My oh my!

Between conversations, I had a conversation of my own with Debra Ryals mother. That was delightful as she clearly took joy in hearing her daughter's presentation. She told me about the fun they've had reading and learning together. I enjoyed meeting her. During lunch, I had a conversation with Caroline Davis and a couple other participants. We somehow found our way to talking about Anne of Green Gables which is a great favorite with many young people, but isn't often studied in academic circles, but certainly in this context could easily compete...

The afternoon conversation was spurred on by a presentation by Lisa Stepanski from Emmanuel College on "The Friendship of Bronson Alcott and Mary Baker Eddy." Turns out Eddy sent an early copy of her Christian Science manifesto, Health and Science, to Bronson Alcott hoping that he'd read and publicize it--which he did. They corresponded back and forth briefly about it, and this information led to a discussion about mid-19th century religion and spirituality which I found most interesting, and which may well lead to some independent research of my own in the near future. If I get to it, I'll share it here!

In all, it was a stimulating 6 hours in a very warm School of Philosophy building (although much more comfortable than yesterday afternoon).

Sunday, July 11, 2010

What Were We Born to Do?

I spent a fascinating afternoon at the Concord School of Philosophy on the grounds of Louisa May Alcott's Orchard House. The discussion, entitled "What Were We Born to Do? The New Women of the Transcendental Era" was part of the 2010 Summer Concersational Series entitled "In Heaven's Name, Give Her a Chance!" Defining the Sphere of Women in 19th Century America. As I said, fascinating.

The four presenters this afternoon were formidable scholars and authors. Phyllis Cole, from Penn State-Brandywine, spoke aboutMary Moody Emerson (aunt to Ralph Waldo Emerson). Megan Marshall, from Emerson College and the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard, spoke about Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, one of three sisters who were movers and shakers in their time. [Marshall wrote a book about these sisters--The Peabody Sisters: Three Women Who Ignited American Romanticism (2005)--which won the Francis Parkman Prize, awarded by the Society of American Historians; the Mark Lynton History Prize, awarded by the Anthony Lukas Prize Project jointly sponsored by the Columbia School of Journalism and Harvard's Nieman Foundation; the Massachusetts Book Award in nonfiction; and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in biography and memoir.] Helen Deese, of Tennessee Tech University and the Massachusetts Historical Society, spoke about Caroline Healy Dall. [Deese is the author of Daughter of Boston: The Extraordinary Diary of aNineteenth-century Woman, Caroline Healey Dall, and she is the Caroline Healey Dall editor for the Massachusetts Historical Society.] Finally, John Matteson, John Jay College, spoke about Margaret Fuller and Louisa May Alcott. [Matteson received the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for his book Eden's Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father. He is currently working on a book tentatively titled The Lives of Margaret Fuller.]

To say it was a formidable group would be an understatement. We met in the actual School of Philosophy that Alcott built on his Orchard House property for the purpose of educating adults. Quoting from the welcome we received from Executive director Jan Turnquist, "Mr. Alcott's dream of an adult education facility--one of the first in the country--came to fruition in Orchard House on July 15, 1870, when The Concord Summer School of Philosophy and Literature welcomed adults from all walks of life, and women were embraced as full intellectual equals." Since we were in the original building, there was no a/c or fans (noise would have drowned out the speakers. It was sweltering, but most of us were able to get past the oppressive heat to enjoy the stories the four speakers had to share. I am about half-way through Matteson's book, but I now want to read the other books (of course)...

I'll have more to share tomorrow from the things I am learning, but I'll close here by asking the question these four challenged us with: What were you born to do? Matteson says that when you ask that question, you also have to ask "what are we born to show [others]?" And what are the risks involved? As I sat and listened to the stories of 5 key women who influenced the way I live my life now, I was asking myself what
I was born to do? And to what extent have I accomplished that purpose? And what am I doing about achieving it?

Jan Tourquist's parting words were about "simmering." Louisa May Alcott didn't have a lot of time to do the work she felt she was born to do. She had other responsibilities. She talks about her stories simmering in her brain while she was simmering things on the stove. That's the nature of creativity and work for women. Men will do one or the other. But women are charged with doing both if they want to do the creativity. It is rare to have the luxury to do just the one. Certainly it was in the 19th century. I left determined to refine my life's purpose and to find a way to accomplish it even more...and better.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Still and Quiet

"I feel within me a peace above all earthly dignities, a still and quiet conscience." ~ William Shakespeare

This time last weekend, I was on my way up to Rangeley, ME to spend the 4th of July holiday with my family. Since the girls started college, we don't often get together all 11 of us, so when we have the opportunity, we make the most of it. Usually when we're at the cabin, peace and quiet reigns. This time, with so much change going on with everyone (college for the oldest boy, medical school for the oldest girl, job change for me, potential job change for my brother-in-law, possible school change for the youngest boy), our time together was not as peaceful as it has been.

Still, the surroundings demanded that we let go of the stresses in our lives and pay attention to what God had in mind for us. When He uses the whole sky to get your attention, you have to listen, take note, let go, and let Him do His work in you.