Spring Birds Are Back!

I’ve had the pleasure of many wonderful bird sightings since spring began.  Some are old friends, and at least one is a new addition.  Because I don’t have a fancy camera and the birds are too shy to let me get close enough or they don’t stay still long enough for me to get a good shot, some of these pictures aren’t the best and some I had to find online – but I hope you enjoy hearing about what I’ve been seeing lately.

 

One of the first signs of spring was the return of my friends, the Red-winged Blackbirds.  They’re usually the first to arrive, so I’ve been seeing them  March 6th.  They even stuck it out through our April torture by snow.  I’ve seen several males and also several females.  I guess these folks must find my feeders quite the congenial place.

 

In April, I was further delighted by the return of the Rose-breasted Grosbeaks.  Interestingly enough, my first sighting this year was almost exactly the same date as my sighting last year.  This year, we have at least one male and one female – it’s hard to tell if I’m seeing the same or different ones every time.  Happily, even as we move through June, I still see these beauties every day.  Please forgive the fuzziness in some of the pictures.  It’s rather hard to compensate for the pattern-effect of my window screens.

 

 

 

 

 

Also back once more is our buddy from last year, turkey Raymond Burrd – though I have since figured out that “he” is a “she.”  Still, if there can be gals called Micheal, Jamie, and Ashley, having one named Raymond shouldn’t be any problem.  It’s the twenty-first century, folks.  Get over it!  She has shown up every day, sometimes more than once a day for over a week now – starting 6/4.  She’s pretty friendly – not that she’s asking me to tea or anything, but she doesn’t startle and run away or threaten me when I have to walk past her for one reason or another.  If I’m enraptured in reading, she’ll wander by quite close without turning a feather.  My neighbor said he thought she was going to hop into my lap the other day!  Although Natasha was howling out the window at Raymond in the beginning, she and Rosalind have settled down to a minor glance in the turkey’s direction while looking daggers and claws at chipmunks and morning doves.

 

We were not able to use the front porch for a while because the Robins would shout up a storm at us – they had built a nest in a rhododendron surprisingly close to one of the porch columns.  It was so surprisingly close that I happened to glance down and was shocked to see two young, speckled robins checking me out from a nest.  Needless to say, the flowers on the front steps went thirsty for awhile.  After some time, no Robins could be heard squawking in the rhododendron, so I checked and noted there were no kids in the nest or parents around.  Fledging must have occurred, and the parents probably figure they’d move to a neighborhood with less traffic for their next clutch.  That’s why I was able to take these pictures.

 

We also had a Baltimore Oriole visiting our yard.  I had heard him for some time, then found him sitting in the juniper bush outside my bedroom window.  I ran to get my camera, but he’d taken off when I got back.  I have seen him in the high trees in my backyard and hear him as well.  In fact, I’ve had lots of Oriole and Yellow Warbler sightings.  We saw both types of birds at the Blackstone River Trail and I later had about six sightings of as many as two Orioles at a time by the Quinnebaug River in Putman, Ct.  There were also plenty of Yellow Warblers, too.  I wonder if the plentitude  of Orioles has anything to do with the large number of Gypsy Moth Caterpillars invading New England now.  I could hear the caterpillars in the trees by the Q. River – I’m too delicate to tell you what I’ve been informed that I was hearing the caterpillars doing.  Let’s just say I was glad I had a hat on!

 

On a trip to the rail trail that runs from Falmouth to Woods Hole, my husband and I were lucky to see Ospreys hunting and feeding their kids. Here’s an older picture from the same area.  We also saw out first Blue-grey Gnatcatcher.  It’s quite the lively bird, and you can’t miss the white vertical bars on the sides of its tail. This link  shows the little guy in action and captures his blue-gray colors.

 

Unfortunately, I haven’t seen as many goldfinches, chickadees, Titmice, and nuthatches of late – though I have seen s few.  I know they sometimes disappear around this time to brood their young, then return with the kids, when they can fly, for family smorgasbord.  I hope they haven’t been driven out by the greedy Grackles, Mourning Doves, and Sparrows.  Though Sparrows can be pesky, I have to admit these guys are cute.

 

At least I saw the Catbird again yesterday while I was reading!  This picture is from last year.

Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers have come by, as well as a Flicker. Here are two neat, albeit window-screen-fuzzed, photos of a Hairy Woodpecker. Like most Woodpeckers, this guy just loves that suet!

 

Oriole image from Pexels.
Yellow Warbler image from:  Pixnio.

 

Carven not Craven Images: Providence

The same day that we visited Battleship Cove, we also gave ourselves a walking tour of the older architecture in the downtown section of Providence.  Yang and I had come here for a walk once before in the winter and marveled at the beautiful buildings with their ornate decorations.  We’ll start with the Shepherd Department Store Building.

 

 

 

The Shepherd Department store was once the largest department store in the country, covering an entire block and consuming three buildings.  First built in 1880, the store continued to grow and became a mainstay for about 100 years.  Unfortunately, like many of the other big department stores (Bon Marche, Filenes, G. Fox) it was undone by the viral spread of malls.  Check out the interesting background info on this store and on it and  similar ones.  Fortunately, Shepherd’s facade has been preserved, with a major portion of the building serving as  campuses for URI and CCRI, as well as offices for the RI Department of Education, making the relief of the owl pictured above both prescient and appropriate!

 

 

The archways on each of these street-corner main entrances are extraordinary to to view.

And of course, you can’t help but admire this fierce lion head  decorating the building.

 

 

He isn’t the only lion.  This building, now a dance club, is  protected by a line of threatening Panthera Leo – so you’d darn well better heed the sign warning that the rest rooms are only for patrons!

 

 

There are also far less threatening carvings or reliefs.  With this building that was once a nineteenth-century performance center, we have musical instruments:  mandolin and horn on one side and lyre on the other.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On another building, I found these reliefs:  a pilgrim-looking guy and the female head from the old dimes.  How wise to pick a relief that has rays coming from her head that can also double as pigeon repellers. Note that anchor relief just around the corner.

 

Between them was a medallion with this cherub.

 

I was  struck by the Providence Performing Arts Center.  This gorgeously ornate building covers an enormous amount of territory.  It seems like an entire block.  The front is impressive, predominating the view at this end of Weybosset Street.  The sides are no less impressive. Originally built as Loewe’s Movie Palace  in 1928, the theatre opened to an audience of 14,000. Loewe’s went through some tough times in the latter half of the twentieth century before its redesign as a  successful  multipurpose performance venue.  Click here for  background on this magnificent building.

 

Here, Yang caught me giving the side view of the theatre a once over. Yes, I do have a hat! There are plenty more shots that we took that day – the photographic not the liquid kind.  However, I don’t want to make this post too long.  Looks as if I’ll have to do a Providence,  part II!

Battleship Cove – Connecting to Dad

Last week, Yang and I finally got the opportunity to do something we’ve been promising ourselves for years:  visit Battleship Cove.  As someone who is fascinated by the WWII years and who had a father who served in the Navy, this was a special treat for me.  I’ve long heard of my Dad’s various adventures, both in the Armed Guard doing convoy duty in the North and South Atlantic and on the U.S.S, Hudson in the Pacific Theatre. Here’s a picture of the Hudson (DD475) from the USS Hudson Homepage.

We first checked out a landing vehicle, then moved on to two different PT Boats.  These guys were supposed to be small, but the one we photographed looks awfully intimidating.  Maybe its the big shark’s maw painted on it?  Small, though they may have been considered, they were pretty darned effective with their wooden construction giving them speed and agility and their firepower allowing them to take some nasty bites out of  the enemy tonnage.

 

I was especially interested in USS Jospeh P. Kennedy,  because, as it was a destroyer built during WWII, I thought it might give me a good idea of the type of vessel on which my Dad served.  The Kennedy wouldn’t be an exact match, as a Gearing-class destroyer, where the Hudson was a Fletcher-class.  The Gearing class is somewhat bigger, and this ship was in its 1970s update state; however, I thought I might still get something of an idea.  I can’t get over how you can pack so many people in this space, though it is a big ship.  When I was in the rooms where the men slept, I pitied the 60 or so guys my Dad must have tortured with his snoring.  They must have thought they were under attack!  I was also struck with how athletic you have to be to get around and stay on your feet with the steep climbs and the narrow corridors – and I didn’t have to contend with roaring seas or battle conditions!  I was stiff for days afterwards!  Still, the space was luxurious compared to what we saw on the submarine Lionfish – more about that later.

My Dad was a gunner on the Hudson, Sfc, but I don’t think he said he was on one of these monsters.  If you look at the second picture, you see the red circle warning you to stay outside the guns’ turn radius.  You wouldn’t want to get hit by this monster – unless you’d always had a hankering to turn into a pancake.  You’ll notice that I was going down the stairs here.  Too steep to descend facing down!  I think guys used to almost slide down with both hands on the rails.  But I could be wrong.

 

 

I found this picture online of the Hudson’s crew in 1945, and I think I can pick out my Dad.  He’s the one with the beard and the cocky expression on the right, in the second row, behind the last seated guy on the right with his cap on. I know that expression well! You better click on the picture and enlarge!  My Dad had a wonderful album from his Navy days, but either my brother or one of my nephews has it now.  I really want to get my hands on it so that I can scan the pictures!  If you click here, you can see the crew list with my Dad’s name!  This is also from the Hudson Homepage.  For more history of the Hudson, you can also click here.

Finally, we went on the WWII sub, the Lionfish.  this was my second visit to a WWII-era sub, as Yang and I had also scrambled through the Tigershark in Baltimore Harbor many years back.  All I can say is, tall or wide people don’t bother!  It’s amazing how much equipment and machinery you can cram into such a narrow passage.  What killed me was moving from compartment to compartment, because the hatches require you to step up and pull your legs up and along to get through.  Now you know why you see guys grab the hatchways on either side and swing their legs straight through.  It’s only for the young!  I don’t think I’d particularly enjoy bunking over a torpedo, either.  Maybe that’s just me!

 

By the time we finished the destroyer and the sub, we didn’t have it in us to explore the battleship, the biggest of the lot!  So, another day, another visit!  This display of ships was a cool experience.  Oh, and we did see that the sailors weren’t the only ones in dress whites that day.

 

On the Road Again – In a Noir Frame of Mind

 

 

In between the raging blizzards of this spring, I was fortunate enough to be able to join some wonderful fellow mystery writers to promote our books and make connections with readers and neophyte writers.  The first such adventure took Yang and I to the far north (of New York, anyway) to Ithaca and Buffalo Street Books.  Here, my friend Lisa Lieberman and I presented “An Evening of Noir,” where we not only talked about our books but about the noir films that inspired us!  Lisa’s husband Tim created this gorgeous poster for our adventure.  Note that it features my favorite femme fatale and/or smart-talking gal, Joan Bennett!  Didn’t he do a superb job?!

 

 

Lisa and I had a fun program.  I had prepared a cd of background music to help create the mood of dark, mean streets; tough detectives; mysterious dames; and haunted pasts.  Our playlist contained  multiple versions of “Laura,” “Harlem Nocturne,” “Penny Blues,” “Drink Dirty Water,” “Peter Gunn,” and even Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire,” to name a few.  And, of course, we dressed the parts, with Lisa’s swanky mink stole and slinky mystery-lady dress and my Claire Trevor femme fatale black suit with  swag, complimented by  red velvet and black feathered cap.  Watch out Phil Marlow and Sam Spade!

 

We had loads of fun talking with our audience about the trademarks of film noir  and how they influenced our novels, especially in terms of specific films.  Lisa detailed how  her experiences in Hungary and the film The Third Man  inspired the tense and dark atmosphere and tight plot twists of her  Burning Cold.  I shared how the wit, surprising reversals, and slippery characters in films like The Scar; Murder, My Sweet; and Double Indemnity shaped the latest adventures of Jessica Minton in Letter from a Dead Man.  And both us ladies of noir had a great time sharing trivia and background about the filmmakers and writers of our favorite noir films with our audience.  We had such a wonderful time, we’re thinking of adding film clips and “taking  our act on the road”!

 

My other recent appearance was on a delightful panel, with an equally delightful name:  “Stealing from the Dead.”  This Sisters-in-Crime Panel took place at Atria Bay in Barrington, RI.  I was pleased to join Frances MCNamara and Steve Liskow for a fun presentation at the community.  Both writers have fascinating books, with Frances’s latest series set in early 20th century Chicago and Steve’s in Connecticut and New York concerning the brutal reality of human trafficking.  Do click on each of their names to check out their work in greater detail.  You won’t be sorry! You can see from the picture on the left that I had a wonderful time.  If you ever want to book a Sisters-In-Crime panel for your library, school, or other such group, you can contact Leslie Wheeler at the Speakers Bureau.

I also want to extend my thanks to Margaret Shand of Atria Bay for setting up the panel.  the audience had intriguing questions and great comments for us.  My thanks to Margaret for the photo at the top of the paragraph.

 

Yang took what is probably the best shot of me, below.

Tea and Mystery at Mrs. Bridge’s Pantry

Monday, March 26th, I had the delightful pleasure of being the guest of honor at the Tea and Book Club held every last Monday (fall through spring) at Mrs. Bridges Pantry in Woodstock, Ct.  It’s an exciting experience, where I join the book club for an evening of tasty comestibles and tea, then get to talk to them and answer questions about my writing – as well as sell some books! For good luck, I wore a beautiful navy and grey two-tone suit that Yang made for me, based on a pattern he created from a vintage outfit.  Of course, I couldn’t talk about my smart-talking gal, Jessica Minton, without wearing a pin that had once belonged to one of the original smart-talking gals, Joan Bennett!

 

 

 

 

Mrs. Bridges is set in beautiful rural Connecticut, just over the border from Massachusetts.  The tea room is in a rustic wooden building.  Every day of the week but Tuesday, you can journey there for lunch, dessert, and/or afternoon tea.  They have a wide selection of black, green, red, and herbal teas.  In fact, they are a major supplier for me!  I highly recommend you visit, as I and my husband or I and my girlfriends frequently do.  The people there are so friendly and fun, you’ll feel as if you are back with chums in no time.  As you can see in the layout for the evening’s tea, there is a homey, lovely dining room.  Further, you can find on the other side of the building all kinds of teas, china, and tea-related items for sale – including Bait and Switch and Letter from a Dead Man, the perfect accompaniment to a nice cuppa!

 

 

I had a wonderful time talking to the regulars in the club about my love of mysteries from the golden age, both on the page and on the screen, and the cinematic inspirations for many of the characters in my novels.  It was also fun to talk about how evocative settings don’t just inspire a writer; they can drive you to use that place creatively.  The folks had stimulating questions about how I found time to work, did I write by the seat-of-my-pants or did I have a fully formed plot at the start,  how long it took me to complete work on a novel, or how I researched locations and events. In answer to that last point, I had fun telling them about going to New York City to test out one of Jessica’s hair-raising escapes, myself.   You’ll have to read Letter from a Dead Man to find out how it works out. Here’s a hint – it involves the lions in front of the New York Public Library.  And speaking of Patience and Fortitude (the lions’ names), it turns out that a brother and sister there that night were descended from the man who ran the business charged with moving them to the library.  Small and intriguing world, isn’t it?
It was fun to renew old acquaintances and make new friends amongst the book club folks that evening.  It was also lovely to work with Hope, who runs the Tea/Book Club, and Amber, who was our waitperson for the evening – constantly and patiently supplying me with Irish Breakfast tea!  I have a picture here of Hope and I together, but I forgot to get one of Amber.  Shame on me!  If you live in the area, check out the Tea/Book Club.  For $15.00 you have a  delicious evening  (homemade soup, tea sandwiches, dessert with homemade jam, and unlimited tea), as well as the chance to meet and talk with interesting authors (like me!).  Or just stop by Mrs. Bridges for lunch or an afternoon snack – and pick up a copy of Bait and Switch or Letter from a Dead Man while you’re there!  Dusty would approve!

 

Cape Cod: Winter Vacation Haven for Ducks!

Saturday gave us a brief break in the frigid January temperatures, so we made haste to the Cape for some bird watching along one of the shore rail trails.  We’d come here about the same time last year, give a take a couple of weeks, and made some splendid sightings, thanks to  the migration habits of ducks. Coming earlier this year proved smart, for we saw even more of some of the beautiful winter vacationing ducks we’d seen last year.

Of course the traditional mallards were there.  Here is a lovely couple we saw serenely paddling about a marsh pond.  We also sighted some more exotic types:  Buffleheads, Common Mergansers, Redbreasted Mergansers, American Black Ducks (and the Mottled subspecies), Wood Ducks, and Swans.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t get close enough for pictures of those unique sorts.  Still, this close up of the male mallard that Yang took captures his (the duck’s) brilliant emerald head feathers.

 

 

 

 

We also got some wonderful pictures of  of the rather unique vacationers.  There were loads of Eider Ducks. Last year we only got  pictures of a pair of Eiders, but this time Yang got several great shots.  First, we saw a few males floating near the shore.  The contrast of their white and black feathers is gorgeous.  Could they be art deco ducks? They certainly didn’t seem terribly camera shy when Yang snapped their pictures.

 

Later, we saw the eiders in a flock of males and females in the water.  The females are dark brown with a beautiful white band just above their beaks.  It looks like the shadow roll that race horses wear.  We had quite a number to see.  We also saw large groups of Common Golden Eyes and Great Scaups.   What I found especially interesting is that the flocks of two or three different ducks would all be grouped together, floating nonchalantly along, no one fighting for food or ascendancy.  I wish people could get along so well.  But who knows what the ducks got up to once my back was turned.   I especially like this picture of the male Eider and the male Common Golden Eye just chillin’ together.

After almost two hours of enjoying the fresh sea air and checking out the ducks, we found that the temperature was dropping.  So, we hopped in the car and proceeded to the Dunbar Tea Room for lunch – and some great tea!  People may love the Cape in the summer, but in the off-season, it can be a bird watcher’s delight!

Adventures in the Lowell Cemetery Part 2

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 I promised you a second post on our adventures in the Lowell Cemetery, so here it is!  This blog will concentrate on the unique statuary gracing the cemetery.  However, to begin, I want to revisit two of the monuments I showed you last time out.  I’ve done some additional research and discovered intriguing background on them.
First is this beauty.  I wrote about it as a penitent soul being ministered by an angel.  However, I found out that it has an intriguing back story.  A mill girl had saved up a considerable sum over the years, planning for a special monument to be erected upon her death, which came to pass in 1886, after a long life.  For various reasons, her plans weren’t implemented until some after her burial.  Finally, when everything came together for the tomb stone to be created, there was $8000 available (lots of dough back then!),  and those left in charge employed Daniel Chester French (creator of the Minute Man Monument) to create this work of art (Chris Camire).

 

This monument to the Bonney family has been the subject of all kinds of crazy stories about witches and hauntings.  However, the truth  is that it is just a remarkable monument to the Bonney family (“Mysterious Witch Bonney”).  It was created by Frank Elwell, the director of the Sculpture Department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  He titled the monument “New Life”(Camire), no references to witchcraft at all!  The tomb honors Clara Bonney, who died relatively young in 1894, as well as other members of her family (Camire) – which kind precludes the monument housing the remains of anyone executed in the Salem Witch Trials of the 1690s as some like to claim.  I’m just saying . . .
Maybe the most remarkable monument, definitely the most well known, is this gorgeous recumbent lion. Called the Ayer Lion it memorializes James Ayer, a business man so prominent that he has a major street named after him in the city.  The face is so powerfully expressive you almost forget it’s not a human.  The lion is made of the finest Italian marble and was created in Italy, by Price Joy (“The Ayer Lion,” Lowell Cemetery).

 

 

 

I don’t have any  back stories on the following statuary, but I think their beauty speaks for itself.  I did note that books and publishing seemed popular, with two monuments taking the forms of volumes.   I believe this one on the right  honors two publishing partners.   I also found the one below that showed the “open volume” of one man’s life, resting steadfast on a rock.

 

 

 

 

 

And below, is a closeup of the text of his life.

There were also some funky, creative shapes.  I love the intertwining of initials here with what could be some form of a Celtic cross.

 

I can’t even begin to tell you what this thing is supposed to be – but it does have a kind of Lovecraftian flavor,  does it not?  Speaking of Lovecraft, there were some people taking pictures of a wonderfully goth-coutured wedding party.  The groom had perfect H.P.  hair, glasses, and suit!  We exchanged conspiratorial smiles as Yang and I drove by!

 

Of course there were also plenty of  angels, women ready to guide you to the unknown, and wise matrons. Something that gave many of these statues a wonderfully eerie quality was that, as Yang noted, they hadn’t been cleaned, so they frequently were aged with wear from the elements.  This woman bearing a cross is a particularly good example.  Is she coming to get me or guide me?  Her blurred features make her seem unnervingly not quite human and her motives ambivalent.
Others could be put in unique settings like atop a tall monument or caged within the marble barriers of something like a spire.  I see the woman above as a symbol of the heaven to which we all aspire above us. Holding a victory wreath, she implies if we reach her we can achieve the victory of salvation.   Perhaps she is a guide waiting in a liminal space to lead us ever upward.  Still, what about the woman encased in marble.  Does she need to be kept in to protect us?  Don’t blink!

 

 

Uh oh!  Hope that Whovian reference wasn’t too unnerving!  Here’s a picture of the victory lady in closeup to comfort you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And what better way to end an October visit to a Romantic cemetery than with an autumn moon in a pure blue October sky?  Keats would surely approve.

Below are the web sites where I found the background information not evident from just looking at the monuments.  Check them out for more information and photos:

Chris Camire.  “What a Site!  The Lowell Cemetery Celebrates Its 175th Anniversary and ‘The Serenity of Nature.'” The Lowell Sun. 16 June 2016.  http://www.lowellsun.com/lifestyles/ci_30022685/what-site

“The History of the Ayer Lion”  Lowell Cemetery. 2015.  http://www.lowellcemetery.com/

“The Mysterious Witch Bonney.” Atlas Obscura.  2017. https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/mysterious-witch-bonney

Launching Letter from a Dead Man

Saturday, 11/18/17, Letter from a Dead Man got its official launch at The Booklovers’ Gourmet in Webster.  What a wonderful experience!  There was a nice turnout of friends, colleagues from school, fellow writers, students from WSU, and even new people I didn’t know yet.  As usual, Deb Horan had the room set up beautifully, and we all had the opportunity to partake of some yummy comestibles and beverages.  I smoothed out my vocal cords with a tasty pumpkin latte – ’tis the season!

 

We all started off by chatting about writing, teaching, and the inspirations for my 1940s-style mysteries, especially how I like to cast my characters as  favorite actors from the era: Joan Bennett and Rosalind Russell as the smart-talking Minton sisters, Lloyd Nolan as the tough-guy henchman, and Claire Trevor as the ultimate femme fatale, for example.   Interspersed with these points, I did some readings, which I’m happy to report, people found tense and intriguing.  I gave them a scene where sisters Jessica and Liz have to face off against the threats of the femme fatale’s menacing torpedo – without giving away what mysterious object he held in his hand that would prove a vital pivot for the plot.  I later read from the scene where Jessica had to flee and seek refuge from deadly pursuers behind one of the lions in front of the New York Public Library. This led to a discussion of Dead Man’s cover and the fun story where I went to New York with Yang to “test” out the scene of Jessica’s flight.

 

I was fortunate that two of my Sisters In Crime, Lisa Lieberman and Leslie Wheeler, joined me.  The three of us bounced questions and comments off one another to give the rest of the audience insights into the sources of our ideas, how we write (outliners or seat-of-our-pantsers), how we overcome writer’s block, and how good editors or writers/readers groups challenge  and inspire us to overcome obstacles in the way of getting the right words on the page and those pages into print.

 

 

Speaking of reading/writing groups, one of the posse who keeps me on my toes, my friend Judy Jeon-Chapman, was able to join us. Not only has she given me great feedback, but  there were days when she’d needle me every night to get her more chapters to calm the suspense I’d enkindled with my writing.  So, as a reward, I worked her into the third story (yet to be published)  as I was editing it!  Several of these pictures even came from her.

You can see how enthusiastic I am about talking writing here.   I also love Leslie’s “Crime Scene” scarf!

 

Maybe the best part of the day was getting to spend time with old friends and colleagues whom I hadn’t seen in a while, like Rini Kilcoyne and Jim Foley from Worcester State.  I so much appreciate how these folks support me and the good friends and coworkers they have been over the years.  I’m a lucky gal!

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s a picture of my favorite supporter!

Maybe I shouldn’t be charging him for the books?

Celebrating Claude Rains in New Hampshire

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About three weeks ago, my husband and I paid a visit to the Lake Winnipesaukee area.  I was  to be one of the reps at the Sisters In Crime booth at NELA in Burlington, Vt., so the day before we went north and visited the resting place of my favorite actor, Claude Rains.  It was a beautiful weekend!  The fall colors were in full flourish.  On the way up, we stopped in Concord for lunch then proceeded to the small, country cemetery that Mr. Rains and his wife Rosemary made their final resting place.

You can see Red Hill in the background,  much more of a mountain that a hill than some of the “mountains” that Yang and I have hiked.  One of my knees was acting up from climbing one of those smaller mountains – that was still big enough to give me trouble – so we didn’t go up that day.  I highly recommend the hike, though.  It’s invigorating and beautiful.  Anyway, that gave me more time for contemplation.

The stones for Claude Rains and Rosemary are beautiful  shiny black Gothic arches.  The script on them is also reminiscent of Gothic.  I love the sentiment of faith and endurance on both.  On Claude’s is:  “All Things Once/Are Things Forever,/ Soul Once Living/Lives forever.”   Rosemary’s says:  “When I Am Gone My Dearest,/ Sing No Sad Songs For Me,” a variation on a poem of Christina Rossetti (one of my favorite poets). I wonder whether they picked their epitaphs or if a loving family member selected them.

It’s nice to see that we aren’t the only admirers of Mr. Rains.  Yang and I left the pumpkins in honor of the autumn season of  harvest.  Someone else had also expressed his/her regard by carefully placing beautiful sunflower stalks,  before the stones.  In the center, you can also see some artificial flowers that have been set there in respect quite some time ago – we’ve seen them there over the years.  Perhaps someone else in our group payed respectful visits?

 

This cemetery is  beautiful.   I’m glad Claude and Rosemary picked it.  I have to share some lovely shots we got of the gorgeous New Hampshire foliage show.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I especially like the second one, because of the handsome guy in the shot: aka my husband who is always game for adventures in the wilds of the Northeast!

 

Finally, here are shots of the majestic farmhouse that Mr. Rains called his last home. I wonder what the inside is like? Isn’t the tree next to the house gorgeous?! We took three shots, but one came out too fuzzy.  Not supernatural interference, just our not being able to get the best lighting since we wanted to be unobtrusive.  Let no one calls those who honor Claude Rains stalkers!  I think this one might be the best shot, the crispest, anyway.  Below are some interesting links that tell you more about the cemetery and the farm house.  Just remember:  respect the privacy of others.  But I don’t have to tell that to anyone in our illustrious group!

 

So long for now and happy belated Claude Rains’s birthday to all!

Claude Rains’s Grave Atlas Obscura

O.T.I.S. – a nice description of the graveyard and the house

 

 

Adventures in the Lowell Cemetery, Part 1

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The weekend before Halloween, Yang and paid a visit to the Lowell Cemetery.  It isn’t the oldest burial ground in the city, but it’s probably the most Gothic, designed in the Romantic style, after Mt. Auburn in Cambridge, MA.  The fall colors were uneven in Lowell, as in most of central Mass.  However, we were able to get some lovely background shots, as you can see here.  Yang took this photo of the gate and a beautiful sugar maple next to it, from the inside of the cemetery.

 

The combination of fall colors and crypts and monuments made some wonderfully seasonable shots, especially since the cemetery has some unique and beautifully crafted monuments.  I love the  highlight the orange-flame gives to this crypt.

 

 

 

 

I was especially taken by this pillar topped with a kind of medieval church spire.   The burnt oranges and reds of the scenery create beautiful surroundings in the amber autumn sunset.    I was so impressed with the top of this monument, that I had to get a close up of it.  Definitely reminiscent of something out of the High Middle Ages.
Of course there were also some shots of the trees that were absolutely enthralling, too!

 

 

I was particularly taken with this relief carving of an angel ministering to penitent soul, on a stone nestled by a green pine against a background of soft  orange and golden foliage.

 

 

 

The relief carvings were some of the most striking and beautiful monuments that we viewed in the Lowell Cemetery.  One of the first ones that I noticed was of this angel presiding over the tomb with a cross.  Like many of the statues and monuments, it revealed its antiquity by the way mold, lichen, and moss had blurred its features. I love the way the sinking sun lends an gleam of divinity over the guardian angel.

 

 

The Parker crypt is guarded by two figures carved on either side of the entrance.  I’m not sure who or what the two figures represent beyond sorrow at death. Since we have a major thoroughfare in Lowell called Parker Street, and this tomb is on the elaborates side, the family must have been quite a powerful one in Lowell. No one named Ben, May, or Peter was listed on the site.

 

 

This stone combines media, stone and bronze.  Does the figure represent Death or Fate, quieting our questions and fears about what comes next with a finger to the lips.  I’m not sure if the form is male or female.  It’s more solemn than reassuring – a sober warning to the living that no secrets, hopes, or words escape from those who’ve passed beyond this vale of tears – or vale of soul-making if you’re into Keats.  Or maybe even this is a warning to give up asking questions when you enter into a realm beyond thought and languages as we know them.  Perhaps a close up will help us better read the warning of this eerie being, shroud ethereally encircling it.

 

 

Arguably my favorite monument is the verdigris-bronze piece on the front of this stone monument arching up from the hillside.  Who is buried here?  What is the person’s past?  Beliefs? to inspire such a powerful and eerie figure.  She seems like a sybil spreading her capes in warning – or is she an embodiment of Death come to sweep down on us and enfold us in her flowing, boundless cape?  I really need to do some research on the history of these wonderful works.  Are there any sculptures by famous or venerated artists in this cemetery?  At any rate, she definitely deserves a close up.

 

I have lots more photos to share, however, I don’t want you to succumb to cemetery overload.  This is enough delicious melancholy for now.  But don’t you think this place is so perfect a setting for parts of a Gothic novel?  I already have some ideas “haunting” my brain.  Anyway, I promise you another blog with more pictures soon.