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Posts Tagged ‘concord’

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I learned recently that years before Thoreau built his famous little cabin at Walden Pond in Concord, Mass., a former slave called Brister Freeman and his family made their home in Walden Woods.

Robbins House reports, “Brister Freeman was enslaved in Concord for the first 30 or so years of his life. After taking his freedom in the late 1770s, he purchased an acre of ‘old field’ in Walden Woods. Other formerly enslaved people followed and Walden Woods became one of three black enclaves that sprung up in Concord following gradual emancipation in Massachusetts.”

I happened upon Freeman’s house site this morning when I took my walk, and because my photo is hard to read, I copied down what the marker says.

“Near here lived Brister Freeman (d. 1822)
formerly enslaved in Concord
Fenda Freeman (d. 1811) and their family

” ‘Down the road on the right hand on Brister Hill lived Brister Freeman, there where grow still the apple trees which Brister planted and tended.’ Thoreau, Walden, 1854.”

When I got home, I looked up more information. I felt woefully ignorant considering that I have lived in the town for many years.

The National Endowment for the Humanities posted about Black Walden back in 2010. It’s painful to read some of these details though we already know slavery is repellent.

“In Black Walden: Slavery and Its Aftermath in Concord, Massachusetts, published by the University of Pennsylvania Press, Elise Lemire (rhymes with sheer), a literature professor at Purchase College of the State University of New York, describes an aspect of Concord’s history that most accounts have overlooked. …

“[One] former slave, Brister Freeman, is the hero of Black Walden. He was named with a diminutive form of Bristol, after the English slave-trading port, whose ships plied routes to both Africa and the West Indies. Black Walden’s other main protagonist is Colonel John Cuming, a wealthy landholder and doctor in Concord who was Brister Freeman’s master for twenty-five years, having received the nine-year-old slave boy as a wedding present from his father-in-law. …

“Ironically, history has reversed the two men’s positions. ‘Unlike Brister Freeman, whose name survives in Walden the book and at Walden the place, where a hill [Brister’s Hill] bears his name,’ Lemire writes, ‘John Cuming has been largely forgotten.’ His large estate was broken up long ago and is now the site of a state prison; Cuming’s mansion house is a prison office building. The Cuming name survives only on a local medical building. …

“Freeman, who served alongside Cuming in the Revolutionary War, had acquired a wide range of farming and survival skills while managing the Cuming estate during his master’s numerous absences, and likely learned a good deal about local politics by watching Cuming rule the town of Concord. Though many liberated slaves continued to live on their masters’ estates as paid servants (their options being few), Freeman, who took his telling surname after gaining his liberty during the Revolution, instead managed to buy and farm an acre of ‘lousy, sandy soil’ near Walden so that he could marry and have children. ‘He was harassed all the time,’ Lemire says, ‘but he never gave up. I see why Thoreau saw him as heroic.’”

Then there’s this from the Walden Woods Project: “Brister’s Hill is a few hundred feet from Walden Pond, and was one of Henry David Thoreau’s study sites later in his life. In the late 1980s, a large commercial development was proposed on Brister’s Hill that was such a significant threat to the Walden ecosystem that the National Trust for Historic Preservation twice listed Walden Woods as one of America’s Eleven Most Endangered Historic Places. This threat, as well as another proposed development at Bear Garden Hill, spurred the foundation of the Walden Woods Project. …

“In 2013, we installed a Toni Morrison Society Bench by the Road at Thoreau’s Path on Brister’s Hill. The Bench by the Road Project seeks to recognize the contributions of enslaved people to the building of this nation. For much more about the program, we encourage you to visit the official Toni Morrison website.

Find more information at the historic Robbins House website, at the National Endowment for the Humanities, and at the Walden Woods Project. Enjoy!

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Time for a few more photos sent to me by family or gathered on a walk. What would I do without the outlet of walks?

Above I am bundled up in front of the Melvin Memorial at Concord’s Sleepy Hollow cemetery. It commemorates another bad time in US history, the Civil War. A heartbroken man whose three brothers never came home commissioned the famous Concord sculptor Daniel Chester French (who created the statue of Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial in DC) to make this lovely recognition of his brothers’ service.

French, by the way, is buried not too far from this, near authors Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Louisa May Alcott.

In the next picture, I’m photographing John’s adventurous neighbors from the bridge over the Sudbury River as one of them photographs me. The bridge is near the next scene, a meadow that the river floods every spring.

A walk on conservation land can turn up a fox if I’m lucky. Or maybe a bathtub.

What to make of the bear? I did read somewhere that folks in another town were putting teddy bears in windows to make a safe scavenger hunt for neighborhood children, but this was the only bear I encountered on my walk. He looks like he is being held for ransom.

In the last picture my Rhode Island grandchildren are making flags of countries they have invented where there is no coronavirus. According to Suzanne, my grandson’s country is “a mountainous island off of Norway [and my granddaughter’s] is filled with rainbows, unicorns, and — LOL — dolls.”

Laurie, I know you’d like a country with unicorns.

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Maybe I can hold on to the summertime feeling a bit longer with a few more photos. Not that I don’t love autumn, too, and the sense of getting my ducks in a row as I resume a normal routine, but …

Susan Klas Wright created this beautiful rendering of waves for the Spring Street Gallery’s most recent show. Elinor C. Thompson is the artist behind both lifelike and larger-than-life seashells. And I loved Robin Bell’s haunting double exposures of island scenes.

Next is a shot of New Shoreham’s Fresh Pond seen through the trees. That’s followed by another leafy vista, this one of an old, unused building labeled “Concord Water Works.”  In West Concord, there’s a pretty bridge arching Nashoba Brook behind the bakery where I bought an avocado toast Monday after walking a few miles on the Bruce Freeman Trail.

On my walk, I was startled to see a railroad light in the middle of woods. Was it public art? Something like Narnia’s lamp post?

I loved the profusion of Evening Primrose and the ubiquitous bumblebees, drunk with opportunity.

The final view represents my last Rhode Island sunset for the time being. It will have to hold me.

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Jaimee Leigh sells books at the Barrow Bookstore in Concord, Massachusetts, but during after hours, she makes literature-themed birdhouses designed for actual birds. 

Betsy Levinson was the editor of the Concord Journal for many years and was responsible for the majority of the articles, writing with exceptional grace and insight. Nowadays, she contributes as a stringer, and I see her byline most often on infomercials for local real estate, which don’t interest me as much. But in a recent front page article she did herself proud. And when I went to the locale to take pictures, I could see that other readers had been inspired to follow up, too.

This is what she reported for the Journal. “Jaimee Leigh sells books at her sister Aladdine Joroff’s shop Barrow Bookstore in Concord, but a talent for creating one-of-a-kind birdhouses keeps her busy during her hours away from the shop.

“The birdhouses aren’t just functional, either. Her creations are pieces of art, each one designed around a work of literature.

“For instance, the roof of her ‘The Hobbit’-inspired birdhouse has glow-in-the-dark lettering on the roof in the same original font that J.R.R. Tolkein made for his books.

“Then there is the suet bird cage, inspired by Henry David Thoreau’s ‘Civil Disobedience,’ which she noted was written from a Concord jail cell where he was ordered after refusing to pay taxes. Leigh inscribed words from the book inside. …

“It was four years ago that the idea of making a book-themed birdhouse came to Leigh. She was visiting her godmother in Sligo, Ireland, and attended a creative arts competition as a fundraiser for a storied estate there. She made a ‘memory box’ featuring seashells found in the area, photos and poetry. Though it wasn’t a birdhouse, it inspired her to create ‘similar things for the bookstore in Concord.’ …

″Each birdhouse ‘aims to summarize the essence of a book or story,’ Leigh wrote.

They are sealed from the elements on the outside, but she leaves the interior free of chemicals or noxious fumes that might hurt the birds.

“She bores holes of different sizes to accommodate larger or smaller birds. Recently she started fitting inch-wide ’emergency egress steps’ inside the house in case the bird finds the inside too smooth and can’t get a toehold or clawhold to get out. Leigh’s careful about using a perch on the outside because sometimes predator birds can lurk outside. …

“She has shipped birdhouses to South Korea, Canada and Texas. Others are scattered around the floor-to-ceiling stacks of books at the shop. She has donated houses to local charities for fundraising auctions. Each one can take 60 to 80 hours to complete, she said. … For information, email Leigh at barrowbookstore@gmail.com, or visit barrowbookstore.com.”

More at the Concord Journal, here.

I took pictures of birdhouses featuring the Brothers Grimm, Dracula, and Great Expectations. Regarding the latter, note that Miss Havisham’s wedding dress is evoked by lace, and the clock is stopped at the moment her bridegroom ditched her, twenty minutes to nine.

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I finally got to this year’s Art Ramble in Concord’s Hapgood Wright Town Forest — site-specific creations from the Umbrella artists planted among fallen logs and leaves.

There were quite a few other visitors on the cold, sunny day. One couple shared a laugh about their madly yapping dog, who had been spooked by the recumbent figure of Thoreau in the woods. Another couple discussed with me the best way to avoid a shadow on the chicken-and-egg-sculpture. And a friendly woman who was a United Church of Christ minister and artist herself joined me for half the walk. We helped each other spot pieces that blended in so much with the surroundings that at first, when you saw a descriptive sign but no art, you would think the work had already been removed.

I particularly liked the tiny people — one hermit in contemplation under a root, others peeking out of the bark or cavorting on a dead log.

A man with a top hat and frog face was standing next to the pond — a Slavic water spirit and trickster that I am happy to know about.

My favorite this year was the spirit emerging from the earth at the base of a tree. At first I thought, Caliban, but then looked at his gentle face.

My report on the 2016 Art Ramble is here, and the one on the 2017 Art Ramble is here.

If you live in Massachusetts or are visiting Walden Pond, which is nearby, the Art Ramble is up until Nov. 30 this year. It will make you feel like creating some art yourself — especially with leaves and sticks and mud.

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I know it’s possible to take good pictures on cloudy days, but for me, the play of sunlight and shadow is irresistible. And this time of year, Midsommar in Swedish, has so much sunshine.

Today’s photos feature my usual Massachusetts and Rhode Island haunts. A couple pictures may be slow to load as I am learning to use an iPhone and the size I chose is too big for a blog. I’ll get better at this.

The Mountain Laurel above is from one of my favorite walks — through Sleepy Hollow Cemetery into wooded conservation land. The sunflowers by my fence were a gift from one of the ESL teachers I assist in Providence.

I got a big kick out of the deciduous holly tapping on the window. It was overcome with curiosity about what I was reading so intently at the kitchen table. (Answer: War and Peace.)

The next photo shows a child’s playhouse in Concord. I have never seen any child there and can only imagine how I would have felt to have such a place to play in as a kid. I would have thought I was in heaven.

Next comes an actual home in New Shoreham, one that is not much bigger than the playhouse. Decades before anyone spoke of “tiny houses,” a member of a church I was attending lived in this very small house year-round. It was known as the Doll House, although today the damaged sign says only, “Doll.”

Next to Doll, is a tiny restaurant called the Three Sisters with outdoor seating only and antiques on the fence. (Order sandwich combinations with names like Hippie Sister, Sailor Sister, and Twisted Sister.) There is also a small junk yard (antique yard?) that is fun to investigate while you wait for your food.

In the first sky photo, I was trying to capture the lower clouds, which looked like sheep, but I don’t think they are that noticeable given the whole view.

Finally, a Rhode Island sunset. Ahhhh.

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Everything happens in June — suddenly urgent yardwork, weddings, anniversaries, graduations, Father’s Day, piano recitals, festivals, youth baseball. Sometimes there are two things you want to attend in two different states happening at the same time. That’s June for you. We could use a little of that weekend excitement in other months. (Blogger New England Nomad said almost the same thing. See the comments in his post.)

Above, my oldest grandson performs “Blue Interlude” and “Love Me Tender” for a piano recital in a setting with a delightful Old World feel.

Next are three photos from the annual Middlesex Jazz Festival in Concord. I especially liked watching the intrepid couple that got up to swing dance.

On the same Saturday as the piano recital and the jazz festival, I drove south to Providence for the hugely popular PVD Fest that Suzanne had been telling me about the last couple years: streets given over to pedestrians, performers of all kinds, costumes, food, fun activities for kids. I saw a lot of people wearing flower garlands in their hair and several in Native American dress.

It was a busy day. I slept well that night.

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060118-not-a-fox-6tag

This is not a fox. Or as René Magritte might say, “Ceci n’est pas un renard.”

I crept up on it slowly, slowly near the North Bridge, wondering why it stayed so still. Didn’t it see me?

So much for my eyesight: It was a statue. But I did see a real fox crossing a road Friday. (I knew it must be a fox because it trotted like a cartoon fox and had a long, bushy tail.) I have also seen a fawn with its mother and a little weasel recently.

Alas, I wasn’t fast enough with the camera for any of those. I can give you mental pictures only — the deer ambling in a leisurely way, the fox trotting, and the weasel a high-speed blur.

My other photos are mostly accounts of spring in New England, although I couldn’t resist shooting the funny bar inside an actual bank vault. It was located in a Harvard Square restaurant called the Hourly Oyster.

Next you have a view of the Buttrick House garden in Minuteman National Park, an evening shot of our dogwood, a morning shot of a neighbor’s lupines (they do remind me of visiting Sweden’s west coast last year), roses, clematis, honeysuckle, and topiary.

The last two photos are from Rhode Island — early morning at an old house and yellow iris near where Suzanne’s family lives.

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When you don’t have to travel, ice and snow are not the burden they are to a driver. You can wander a little outside your home and take pictures, bake banana bread, put out carrots for the bunny that appears at dawn, feed the birds, make ice lanterns.

The ice lanterns above were made by John’s children, and the photo was taken by my daughter-in-law. I love the smoky, swirly, mysterious aura that she captured.

My own 2018 ice lantern is below. My husband was critical to the enterprise. If you want to make an ice lantern yourself, check out an earlier post, here. You need a really cold day.

Right before Christmas, I took several photos of ice on trees and bushes because it looked so pretty. I know it’s not good for plants, though.

Sandra M. Kelly is the photographer behind the two photos of frozen bodies of water in New Shoreham — water that hardly ever freezes. It didn’t stay frozen long enough for her to get shots of ice boat racing, however. New England is swinging too quickly from deep freeze to balmy.

The big snow January 4th produced the mountain I noticed in a parking lot and the deceptive cushions on Suzanne’s porch furniture.

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When we lived in Minneapolis in the late 1990s, we would tell friends back in Massachusetts that we thought the Twin Cities theater scene was the best anywhere. They would say, “You mean the Guthrie?”

No, actually. We meant the many small, more-experimental theater groups that popped up everywhere.

Friday we were introduced to new one, TigerLion, which performed an outdoor “walking” play about Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson at the Old Manse. Above you see one of several stages and the warm-up team performing before the show. (Note also that the audience’s path to the next stage set is lined with apples.)

The highly physical acting style kept everyone from toddlers to adults entertained as did the whacky sound effects, wild locomotive and cabin-in-the-woods creations, and energetic choruses.

When the Royal Shakespeare Theater decided in the late 1970s that the best way to convey the uniqueness of Dickens was to recite chunks of his narration (as in their production of Nicholas Nickleby), I think they changed theater forever. The inventive TigerLion expands on the use of a chorus, at one point having it speak the conversation of the pantomiming protagonists — even the crunching of the apples they eat. (Really funny.)

The troupe wants audiences to delight in nature and save the planet from unchecked exploitation. From the website: “We celebrate human wisdom and the spirit of nature through creative works that awaken, inform, and delight. …

TigerLion Arts presents Nature, the mythic telling of Emerson and Thoreau’s mutual love affair with the natural world.  …

“A professional ensemble of actors takes the audience on a journey through the natural environment as scenes unfold around them. Bagpipes, ancient flutes, drums and rich choral arrangements are intricately woven into the experience. …

“This original work is collaboratively created with writer/actor Tyson Forbes, a direct descendant of Ralph Waldo Emerson.

“In today’s world, we are so estranged from our natural environment, and at TigerLion Arts, we feel that humankind must reconnect with nature in order to survive.  As oil spills into our oceans, as we race through our lives, as we look further and further outside ourselves for the answers, it is our hope that Nature can be a catalyst for our collective healing.”

More.

Photo: TigerLion
Energetic Minneapolis theater group recreating the interactions of Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

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Thursday I went over to the Hapgood Wright Town Forest to check out the latest iteration of the Umbrella Community Arts Center’s Art Ramble.

The center’s website says, “In honor of Henry David Thoreau’s 200th birthday, this exhibit encourages artists to create work that slows the viewer’s experience of the natural world.”

I enjoyed finding the art tucked away here and there in the woods, and I also enjoyed the beauties of the forest: a Great Blue Heron standing patiently in the middle of a pond where I could hear a bullfrog croaking, a beautiful fallen log with wavy lines, Indian Pipe fungi hidden among dry leaves.

The first of the art pieces that I chose to photograph was Mary Baum’s “Point of Entry,” a construction of mirrors covering a rock. Baum says that, in general, “her work deals with themes of belief and mysticism; the connection between the natural and spiritual worlds; and the relationship between magic and miracle.”

The second work I photographed was called “Forest for the Tree” and features small jars holding bits of tree arranged around a trunk.

Self-taught conceptual artist Heather Kapplow says the work “plays with the movement of consciousness or attention between the big picture and the more granular one (with its emphasis resting on the consciousness or attention of one particular tree). It exists as a liminal object, one that touches two worlds and acts as the passageway between. It allows the viewer to consider that there is more to our existence than what meets the eye.” (If you take children, you may want to find a way to translate artistspeak here and elsewhere around the woods.)

My favorite work was an array of “knotholes” by clay sculptor Liz Fletcher, who creates environmental art because she is “concerned about human impacts on the land.”

The title of her contribution is “Lovers of Life,” and features portraits of people who walked gently on the land, such as Rachel Carson, Aldo Leopold, and Black Elk, a Oglala Lakota (Sioux), who lived from 1863 to 1950.

Fletcher says, ” ‘Lovers of Life’ is an outdoor portrait gallery. Embedded within knotholes are images of people from various eras and cultures who devoted their creative energies to studying and protecting the natural world, and encouraging people to live in harmony with it. Knotholes on trees show where branches once grew out from the trunk. Knotholes are fine frames for these naturalists and spiritual leaders whose ideas have branched out across the world.”

I wrote about last year’s Art Ramble here.

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Mary Ann alerted me to a local art show co-curated by her artist friend Holly Harrison. I will be visiting this exhibit more than once — it’s a beautiful assemblage of artworks that incorporate words, and there’s a lot to read.

Included in the show “Inhabiting Words” are two needlework pieces by Liz Shepherd that I think will interest blogger KerryCan, given her recent post about a woman who stitched information for her citizenship test into a sampler. (Read it here.)

KerryCan wrote that the citizenship project “was created by artist Aram Han Sifuentes. Sifuentes, from South Korea, prepared for her own US citizenship test by embroidering a sampler of 100 questions and answers typical of the test questions, questions like, ‘What did Susan B. Anthony do?’ ‘Who wrote the Declaration of Independence?’ ‘What is the capital of your state?’ ” I think I should suggest this to a certain Cambodian ESL student who sews.

In Liz Shepherd’s creation for the Concord Center for the Visual Arts show, the topic is religion and its sometimes unintended consequences. Here she stitches ruminations by the late Christopher Hitchens.

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Well, we’re home and adjusting to the time change more easily than when we traveled east. Meanwhile, it occurs to me that I have a bunch of New England photos from both before and after our trip that I want to share. I call the first one “There Will Be Grapes.”

The yellow and white tulips have since died off, but the yard they graced has a floral display that keeps on giving.

My three shadow pictures feature the North Bridge in Concord, Mass., a wildly exuberant dogwood, and a vase of spring flowers.

Two antique child vehicles are on the porch of a home furnishings store.

The life forms by Korean sculptor Jaeok Lee at the Concord Center for the Visual Arts completely captivated me. The artist has written about making the tiny cabinet objects while experiencing health challenges that kept her from other projects.

“The healing quality of nature also motivates my work,” Lee says. “A few years ago, I developed an illness that doctors could not diagnose. While going through various diagnostic tests, since I did not have much energy, I started working with very small objects.

“I would go out to my garden for inspiration and would start to pinch small forms of seeds, pods, berries and flowers. Over the course of one year, I made thousands of small pieces that filled a Chinese medicine cabinet that I bought from an antique shop a few years ago.

“I named the project ‘Making my own medicine.’ The simple act of pinching the forms has been a healing experience that gave me enormous hope for my recovery.”

More at her website, here.

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Photo: Military Friends Foundation
Joining the Tough Ruck marathon means carrying a heavy load for 26.2 miles to raise money for the fallen and injured and their families. Acknowledged by the Boston Marathon.

I was out for my ordinary walk on Saturday when I soon realized I was accidentally in the way of a new kind of marathoner: soldiers carrying heavy rucksacks on their backs. They were pushing hard as they were at mile 25 of a 26.2-mile marathon.

The signs saying “Tough Ruck” didn’t tell me much, so when I got home, I looked on Google to see what this was all about.

From the website: “We are a group of military and civilians whose sole purpose is to Ruck in honor and in memory of our Fallen Service Members, Police, Firefighters and EMTs, while raising funds to support military families in times of need.

“We will walk a 26.2 mile course with our Rucks.  Military Friends Foundation is proud to announce the continuation of our partnership with the Boston Athletic Association, the National Park Service and the Old Manse for 2017.

“On April 15, 2013, the Tough Ruck members were at the finish line of the Boston Marathon and joined the first responders to help those that were injured by the horrific blasts. They truly exemplify the best of what our Nation is. …

“Each year Ruckers are awarded the first of the official Boston Marathon Medals and receive recognition from the Boston Athletic Association.

“Tough Ruck participants are made up of any member of the Armed Forces currently serving, Veterans, First Responders, or Civilians. This extends across borders and is an open invite to our allied brothers and sisters around the world.
Regardless of a Rucker’s branch of service, rank, or position, each Rucker is a person who has volunteered to band together and do something to honor our Fallen Soldiers. …

“Ruckers push themselves and are an exemplar of drive, determination, and motivation. We ask each Rucker to push him or herself to their max potential and NEVER GIVE UP. Ruckers leave all egos, negative attitudes, and apathy at the start line. You are a member of a team. …

“When you register you will be asked to select one of three a divisions.  Ruck sacks will be weighed in prior to the start time and immediately after crossing the finish line.  You will NOT be permitted to ruck if your ruck sack does not weigh in at a minimum of 15 pounds.

“Military Division – Open to all active military and veterans and retirees.  Each Rucker will wear a: blouse, trousers, safety belt, regulation issued boots, and a ruck/assault pack/regulation pack issued by branch of service.  The minimum weight in the military division is 35 pounds.

“Heavy Weight Division – Ruckers in the heavy weight division will carry a minimum of 35 pounds at weigh in and at the finish line.

“Light Weight Division – Ruckers in the light weight division will carry a minimum of 15 pounds at weigh in and at the finish line.”

I didn’t realize something was up until I heard people clapping and cheering them on outside the Colonial Inn. I love the symbolism of sharing a heavy burden.

Read more here.

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My latest photo round-up includes several from family members plus examples of my own fascination with shadows and light.

The first picture is from Erik’s mother in Sweden. I love that a Swedish gingerbread house was rendered in red board-and-batten style. Next is a funny sign about Norwegians that my husband shot in Concord. Then we have Suzanne’s photo of proto-skiers and another funny sign, this time in Vermont.

The old barn is next to the Ralph Waldo Emerson homestead. The house being torn down is the haunted one I have described before. Tearing it down revealed that it was actually haunted by a raccoon.

The six light-and-shadow photos depict a stuffed animal in bright sunlight, our front gate after a recent storm, Plato’s Idea/Form of a trash can and recycling bin, three green windows, chairs in the pocket park, and a surprising pattern of light on a window blind.

https://suzannesmomsblog.files.wordpress.com/2017/01/122516-swedish-gingerbread-house.jpg

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https://suzannesmomsblog.files.wordpress.com/2017/01/122816-grandkids-in-vermont.jpg

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