Definitely, Don’t Blink! Evergreen Cemetery Portland, Maine

So, at last I have a moment to finally post a blog on the Evergreen Cemetery in Portland, Maine.  According to the cemetery’s web site, Evergreen was created in 1854, designed by Charles H. Howe, in the rural landscape style initiated in this country at Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, MA.  Yang and I went to Evergreen twice on our trip. The first time was on  a beautiful sunny and breezy Friday afternoon.  This was the visit where got the most pictures.  I was not disappointed by the greenery or the Romantic/Gothic sculptures atop the graves. 
Here we have some beautiful reliefs. One of my favorite reliefs was this dove, ancient with a a touch of bright orange lichen. We saw other statuary painted even more with this orange, as well as the more expected dark or pale green.  There were also these more modern doves, sculpted in bronze and gracefully merged into the granite memorial, along a twining bronze vine.  Lovely!

 

 

 

 

 

You can tell that these are the graves of seafaring people.  They don’t call it Portland for nothing!  The first photo shows a relief of an anchor and the second of a mast on the waves.  This second seems worn down and weathered more than the first.  Yang and I had a bit of a time trying to discern exactly what it was at first.  Dr. Physicist was the first to figure it out!  What would my Dad from the Navy say?
There were also some neat mausoleums!  These two are in graceful classical style.

This one is modern with a lovely carved dove and beautiful stained glass.  Like the mausoleums above, it maintains a sense of stillness, grace, and peace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s my favorite part to put on display, the one that give Dr. Whovians nightmares!  The angels and other figures. There were quite a number of grieving young women, young women pointing  souls victoriously upward to salvation, and – of course – angels.  Here are some of the most interesting.
A woman stands proudly for victory of the soul over grief and death, reaching into the blue and rising up with the ascent of the powerful tree behind her.

 

 

 

 

This victorious female incarnation of the soul bring us back to the seafaring nature of the Portland.  She holds an anchor, not to weigh her down but to assert the integrity of the sailing family whose life she honors and whose life after death she raises.

 

 

Another grieving female leans on a cross, perhaps embodying the soul’s dependence on Christ’s sacrifice on the holy cross.  Does she grieve for her own death, those she leaves behind, the stains on her soul, or for the death of her Savior?  I’ll also call your attention to the brilliant orange lichen encrusting the carven figure.  It lends beauty, but the lichen is also a life form that thrives on the monument to death, eating away at it to survive.  Dust to dust or dead stone to plant life?

 

 

As a writer, I find this angel especially interesting, for it is a writer, too!  Is it improving on Milton, telling the REAL story of our Paradise lost?  Is it recording the history of the family interred around the monument?  Do we need to climb up on the monument to see what’s actually written there – not advisable!

 

Then, here are a few gravestones I found interesting.  A globe, some Celtic crosses, an urn – enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are also some ponds to the rear of the cemetery that back up to a woody nature trail.  On the second day, we had the good fortune to see this guy in one of the ponds!

Wouldn’t all the maples in this graveyard look gorgeous in autumn’s colorful splendor?  I’ve got to make it back here then!

 

Edson Cemetery Takes the Bronze

Some people head for the Edson Cemetery in Lowell because they want to visit Jack Keruac’s grave.  Me, I’m more interested in visiting my own late  family’s digs – so to speak.  Something else that has always fascinated me about this graveyard are the two bronze (or bronze-coated) statues that dominate the landscape.  Ever since I was a kid, when my parents brought me here, I always insisted in checking out the statues of Passaconaway and the giant elk honoring the B.P.O.E.
The day Yang and I took these pictures  was really sunny, We found that when we were shooting straight up at the sky, the colors tended to wash out or the darks and lights formed too severe a contrast to capture detail.  So, my apologies for those photos that look washed out.  You can perceive more detail if you click on the photo to see a larger version of your computer or iPad screen.

 

The story behind Passaconaway is especially interesting.  He was a Sachem of the Penacook tribe in the 16th and 17th centuries who united the Wamesit and Pawtucket tribes in a protective league against the Mohawks, whose territory extended from Western, Mass.  His organization of tribes  drew on a democratic order that later influenced the establishment of English settlements.  He kept peaceful terms with the  Europeans immigrants, allowing the them to settle in what is now Chelmsford and Billerica.  In fact these immigrants admired his wisdom, honor, and good governance.  After his death, sadly, the Europeans proved aggressive and greedy, driving off their predecessors from their rightful lands (Kelley).  At least the names Wamesit and Pawtucket remain in circulation in the Merrimack Valley area, as well as other First Nation names. According to marie Donovan, the statue was commissioned by the Improved Order of Red Men in 1899, but had not been kept up over since 1967. I can well remember the changes in its appearacne over the years that I lived in Lowell.  In the twenty-first century, the organization turned to “Fred Hein and his students in the metal-fabrication shop at Greater Lowell Technical High School” to do repairs and return the statue to its glory (Donovan).

The Elks Rest Statue is also a monument that intrigued me as a child.  I have seen it refurbished over the years, but have not been able to find any background material on the statue other than that it honors deceased members of the B.P.O.E.  If anyone could add something, like when it was created and by whom, I’d love to hear.  I could incorporate the info into this blog – giving you credit of course!

 

 

 

History of Passaconaway: Michael Kelley, Tewksbury Town Crier, 12/02/2017.http://homenewshere.com/tewksbury_town_crier/news/article_e16632ee-9dbd-11e9-b94c-2b88e245c7a4.html#tncms-source=article-nav-prev
Statue Refurbishment:  Marie Donovan, “Refurbished statue of Chief Passaconaway rededicated Sunday in Lowell”  The Lowell Sun. 5/20/2011.  http://www.lowellsun.com/rss/ci_18103578

 

Promoting Books, Meeting People, Having Fun

Once school was out- permanently for me now! – I had more time for readings/talks/signings.  One of my first events was the Local Author Book Fair in Worcester at the Wesley United Methodist Church.  This was a signing and chatting rather than a reading.  I had a wonderful time.   I met lots of new readers and also got to talk with many other local writers.  Jean Grant and I did a book trade, so I’m looking forward to reading her A Hundred Breaths this summer.   I also saw some old friends.  Kate Zebrowski, whom I know from my time at Worcester State, had the table next to mine where she was promoting her  time-slip fantasy Sleepwalking Backwards as well as her poetry. Tom and Barbara Ingrassia were at the other end of the auditorium with tables for their work as well – Barbara on copyright law and Tom with his “supreme” books on the Supremes (Reflections of a Love Supreme) and self-help (One Door Closes).  By the Bye, Tom’s One Door Closes is being turned into a film that is nearing conclusion.  Stay tuned for more on that!

 

In June, I returned to my alma mater where I earned my BA, then ULowell- now UMass-Lowell, to give a talk on becoming a published author through the school’s LIRA (Learning in Retirement Association) Program.  To my delight, the talk was at the South Campus (originally Lowell State), where I did all my course work.  We were in  Allen House, a beautiful old building on a rise overlooking the Merrimack River.  There are some wonderful views, as you can see from this photo that my cameraman and husband, Yang, took.
I can remember going to some receptions here back in the mid to late ’70s when I was an undergraduate- a child undergraduate, that is.  The place was entirely redone after having been abandoned for a long time after I had graduated – no connection.  The room I presented in was done beautifully in dark wood paneling with floor-to-ceiling doors looking out on a green and then down to the river.

 

The presentation was loads of fun, with a packed house and an audience who had great questions for me on my personal experiences as a writer and on the travails of finding a publisher and promoting my work. I especially loved sharing with the audience the powerful influence of filmed and written mysteries of the golden age and film noir on creating Bait and Switch and Letter from a Dead Man.  Of course, I made sure to give a tip of my mightily feathered hat to my favorite smart-talking gal Joan Bennett and her influence on the creation of my heroine Jessica Minton.  I also got some nice comments on my hat and suit!  The nylons with the seam up the back (from the WWII Museum in New Orleans) were a big hit, too!

 

What the heck am I thinking about here? It must have been some question  thrown at me?!
Look here.  I CAN walk and talk at the same time!  Thank God no one asked me to chew gum!  One bridge too far.
Interestingly enough, I also met some people who knew folk I with whom went to grammar school and high school!  And people laughed at my jokes, too!  So, the summer has started off nicely in terms of doing readings and such.  Now, it’s on to Pettee Memorial Library in Wilmington, Vt. on Saturday, 6/22.  Hmm, which hat and suit should I wear.  Any suggestions?

 

Portland Mini-Vacation

The other weekend we had a fun mini-vacation in Portland, Maine.  It was only two days and one overnight, but we had a great time.  Luckily, the weather was beautiful!  Sunny and cool: quite comfortable.  We stopped in Portsmouth for lunch at  White Heron Tea And Coffee on our drive up.  Click here for my review.
The first day we got settled and then checked out the Evergreen Cemetery in the afternoon. There was lots of beautiful statuary.  I was also lucky enough to spot a Thrush at one point and, later, a musk rat swimming in one of the cemetery ponds. The second day, we came back and did an early nature walk.  We did hear a lot of fine birdsong – but sighting was another matter.  Nevertheless, we saw a beautiful white crane. I’ll set up a blog on the cemetery visit later.  I’m really hoping to come back here in the fall to get the gorgeous colors.

 

The second day, we also visited the Victoria House.  It’s a spectacular building with lots of intriguing trompe l’oeuil  effects in the architecture.  I’m including some pictures of the stained glass.  You can see the pelican cutting its breast to provide blood to feed the young – an important Medieval and Renaissance type for Christ.

 

In additional to walking the twisty, cobble stone streets and enjoying old-New-England ambience, we visiting one of the harbor walks where we had beautiful views and were repeatedly mocked by, you guessed it, Mockingbirds! People who know Portland can identify the islands better than I can.  I definitely think a harbor cruise should be on the agenda for the next visit.

 

 

Yang particularly got a kick out of the narrow-gauge coal-powered steam train that you could ride along the harbor.  We didn’t this time, but I hope we can do so on our next trip – again, I’m hoping for an autumn visit!  Here’s a video Cecil B. DeYang made.
Of course we could refuel with delicious exotic sustenance and tea at the Dobra Tea room.  Check out my review here. This was the least awful of the pictures Yang took of me there.  At least the food looks great!

 

“I’m Ready for My Close-up, Mr. DeMille!”

 

We’ve been seeing lots of beautiful birds as we move into June.  Many of the usual suspects are still showing up.  I managed to get some interesting close ups and Yang took some videos, so our birds are moving-picture stars!

One day when I was exercising in the parlor, I was lying on the floor, and when I cam up to window level, I saw the Rosebreasted Grosbeak up close.  So, I snuck off to get my camera and managed to take some wonderful close ups!  You’d swear he knew what was going on and decided to pose!  We’ve been so lucky to see one of the males almost every day.  We often see one male and one female together, while sometimes we also see a lone female.  We can hear their birdsong quite often.   I suspect they may be nesting fairly close by.  Maybe they’ll bring the kids to brunch some day.

 

We’ve also been blessed with some frisky catbirds who mainly love to chomp down on suet from the two such feeders we have in the yard.  I and the cats often watch them through the sun porch windows.  Today, one was chattering to me  while I was hanging out the clothes on the line. Anyway, here are some shots that Yang took for me.

 

 

The Downy Woodpeckers also like to feast on the suet as well.  Yang got a few shots of one doing so.  We haven’t seen many Hairy Woodpeckers this year – or Flickers or Yellow-bellied Woodpeckers.  Maybe the latter were too scared.

 

Yang also took some videos.  Here, we have The Adventures of Cardinal with special guest star Rosebreasted Grosbeak and a cameo by English Sparrow  Roll ’em!

 

We also have some mammals in our yard as well.  I managed to get a few shots of a baby rabbit, from which we strenuously held back both Rosalind and Natasha on separate occasions.  Enjoy watching him/her nibble.

Someone else enjoyed watching the bunny, as well.  She thought he looked delicious, er, adorable.  We made sure that she was restrained.

 

Old Friends Return!

The snow has finally been gone for some time now. Even though it’s raining and chilly today, we’ve had a whole week of sunshine and warm weather with just a touch of rain to treat the thirsty plants. And our spring birds are back! April brought a caravan of wild turkeys, one at a time, through my yard and past my sun porch. Though I was too busy watching them to take a picture, I did get some shots of one of my favorite avian harbingers of spring, the Redwinged Blackbird. He showed up at first on March 3rd, then I gradually saw more males flashing their yellow and red epaulets. They sometimes get resistance from another spring returnee, the Boat-Tailed Grackle, but the Redwings are pretty staunch in defending their places at the feeder. Just over the past week or two, I’ve been seeing the female Red-wings show up as well.
I mustn’t forget to mention the multitude of Gold Finches. They do tend to stay around all year, though the number of their appearances dwindles in the winter. However, in March and April I would see more and more of them. I loved watching their dull winter coats turn gleaming yellow as the spring progressed. I like that they are feisty and don’t let the bigger birds bully them off the feeder.
Another of my favorites is the Catbird. I first spotted one this year on May 5th, but this day I was lucky enough to catch two together, feeding with a Mourning Dove. I love how the Catbirds have such a plethora of different calls, many so musical. For me, it’s fun that one of their calls, though not of the musical variety, is “Sharon!” They’re always looking for me. It’s nice to be wanted!

 

We really hit the jackpot this week! Shortly after spotting a sleek, coppery fox gamboling in my yard, Rosalind focused my attention on the backyard feeder, and what did I see but a male Rose Breasted Grosbeak (5/8)! The next day, I heard a lovely birdsong (not Cindy) in the trees, and when I investigated, I saw the Grosbeak again! I’ve seen him at least once a day since, usually feeding on suet or black oil sunflower seeds. He’s quite the cheeky fellow, for when I was feeding the fish in our small pond, he sang me a song. When I repeated it back to him, he popped over to the nearby birdfeeder and chowed down for some time. This morning, he finally brought Mrs. Grosbeak to one of the feeders. I’m glad that these Grosbeaks are not easily intimidated by Grackles, Blue Jays, or Mourning Doves.
In the same week, (5/9) Yang called me to look at the backyard feeder, and what did I see but a Baltimore Oriole! He also appeared for a snack on the suet feeder by the side of our house, as well. I haven’t seen him in a few days, but my neighbors usually report on him. Of course for all these birds, I may not be seeing the same one every time, but it is fun to note that they seem to show up at almost the exact same date every year. It’s lovely to see old friends!
Of course, I have lots of help bird watching.

Passport to Adventure: WSU Writers Workshop

On Friday, April 26th, I had the pleasure of joining Lisa Lieberman in presenting the writing workshop “Passport to Adventure” at Worcester State University.  Like me, Lisa writes historical mysteries.  Hers follow the adventures and intrigues of Cara Walden from 1950s Hollywood to England and Italy (special guest appearance by Cary Grant!) to Hungary during the Revolution and soon to Indochina.  Lisa is also Vice President of Sisters in Crime New England.  In that role she’s been working to bring new blood, so to speak, into our organization.  This fun work shop is one means she is rolling out to do so.  I was happy that she asked me to join her.
To give you an idea of how fun and inspirational this work shop is, here’s Lisa’s description: “The Surrealists used to pool their money and buy a one-way ticket to the furthest destination they could afford. They’d send one person off on an adventure and they’d have to make their way back somehow, and tell the others all about it when they returned.  Along they way, they’d collect talismans that helped them navigate the dark places they encountered. In this workshop, we’ll be sending each of you off on an adventure and when  you get back, you’ll have the outline of a short story.”
Of course, we didn’t literally send anyone off ‑ that would be a really long workshop.  More pragmatically, we had a display of all kinds of intriguing objects from which participants could choose for the “talismans” or souvenirs. For a destination for their journey into the mysterious, we had them select one sealed envelope from an array, each with a different noir image to inspire their journey into creativity.  They had time allotted to get started on who one character in the image was and what his/her concern was.  Then, to spice things even more, I got to do individual tarot reading of past, present, and future of their characters ‑ which would aid them in thinking through where their characters had been, what conflict they were in now, and how that conflict might be resolved.  It was fun for me to give vague interpretations of the cards and then watch our writers run with them, already inspired by their images and selected souvenirs.  Wonderfully, the writers all seemed pretty well pleased with what they had come up with and planned to continue their tales.  One fellow even told me he had finished his short story and had submitted it to the Al Blanchard Short Fiction Contest.  Since he’s one of my students, of course, I’m pulling for him to win!
Our faculty liaison, Cleve Wiese was so excited by our endeavors, that he not only now has a story he wants to finish, but asked us to come back next fall to do the session with the WSU writers’ club INK.  Another faculty member wants us to do the workshop with his course The Writers Life in the spring!  And here’s the good news for everyone else out there!  Lisa and I would be delighted to come to schools or writers’ groups to do the workshop as well!  So let me or Lisa know if you would like us to work with you.  Once again, Sisters in Crime is out there making a difference for writers, published and unpublished!  Joining was one of the best decisions I ever made!

            

An Autumn Stroll in Crystal Lake Cemetery

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As autumn slips into winter, I thought it would be nice to share some images from the Crystal Lake Cemetery when the season was just beginning and color was gradually flashing into the foliage.  One Friday afternoon, Yang and I took a drive out to the cemetery for a walk and some photos, just as the sun was starting its creep into the other hemisphere.  The view across Crystal Lake beautifully gleamed with  setting sunlight. You could also see the windmills and classroom buildings at Wachusett Community College, glowing pink along with the clouds.

 

Most of the trees were still green, but there were several beautiful trees that asserted their flaming orange glory in the vanguard of seasonal change.  You might see one tree peeping from behind the out buildings.  While another slender being rose and asserted itself amongst more imposing or darker trees with its delicate blending of yellow into orange flame  from above a traditional New England stone wall.

 

I love the way this tree stands out amidst the graves:
And how about this tree tossing it’s flaming foliage against the gorgeously pure, soft blue of a fall afternoon?

Notice that flash of fire behind the weather-worn statue of the little girl atop a child’s grave.
And  there I go, with a pair of jeans that color coordinate with the tree I’m walking past.

 

So, what’s Yang pointing to here?  Must be one of thebeautiful tombstones in this small but wonderfully located cemetery.

 

 

 

I love this shot of the stones complimented by the colorful foliage across the pond. But there are some more unique stones to appreciate.

 

 

 

Consider this beautifully done Celtic Cross, for instance:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then, there is this intriguing piece where the rock appears to be only partially hewn into a monument to the Lord family.

 

 

 

Particularly interesting is this enormous tree that almost seems to engulf a family’s several tombstones.  I wonder if they had any idea how much it would expand when they first planted the enormous (I think) maple.  It’s a little hard to distinguish the leaves.  Well, this tree expanded way beyond what you might expect.  If you check out the photo below, you will see that one of the graves has been devoured by the tree.  There’s a Lovecraft story in there somewhere – or maybe just a Lucy poem by Wordsworth.  Let’s hope the latter.

 

 

 

I’m especially caught up with this stone image of a woman raised up against the autumn sky, gently darkening blue, swirled with cloud white, her lineaments shadowed by approaching dusk.  Haunting.  Lovely and haunting.

 

 

So, our visit ends and we will head off before it’s too dark and have a cozy dinner at a pub in Leominster.  We may not have had a lot of foliage this autumn, but we were able to enjoy some splashes of beauty!

 

 

Partners in Glorious Music: Scherrie and Susaye

Maybe it was because I had the great pleasure of seeing Scherrie and Susaye of the Supremes with Joyce Vincent in Waltham this summer, but when I finally had a chance to work on a post and needed some enjoyable background music, I turned to Partners.  This album is a 1979  joint effort by Scherrie Payne and Susaye Greene after Mary Wilson departed the Supremes in 1978.  The ladies were originally planned to continue  the Supremes with Joyce Vincent, but word is that the kibosh was put on the group continuing without an original member.  As a result, we have this delightful and highly underappreciated production of Scherrie and Susaye (with Joyce in there on backup).  This album should not be missed by anyone who is a fan of the ladies or loves good soulful and bluesy music.  Significantly, Scherrie and Susaye wrote all the songs on the album, providing us with great dance tunes, lovely ballads, dreamy love songs, and playful exercises in vocal pleasure.  You can’t help wondering what would have happened if Scherrie and Susaye had been allowed to write for the Supremes and Mary had stayed.
Anyway, I have some especial favorites.  Susaye’s “Lovebug” is an impish delight with her vocally ranging from kittenish to tigerish,  neatly assisted by Ray Charles as the “Lovebug,” himself.  I find her “When the Day Comes every Evening”  beautifully dreamy.  I also love the exciting bounce of “In the Night,”  “Leaving Me Was the Best Thing You’ve Ever Done” and “I Found Another Love.” Scherrie Payne’s “Another Life from Now” is powered by deep feeling and deft vocalizing that gives me chills, while breaking my heart at the message of lost love with hope for reunion only in another life from now: delicious melancholy.  This is not to say that I don’t love the other songs, but these ones stick in my head the best.  So, if you want your soul to make you bounce or groove or dream, this album is for you.  Unfortunately, although  it is now out on cd, it is exorbitantly expensive on Amazon.  However, there are reasonably priced vinyl versions available on ebay. Click here.
Isn’t it wonderful that Scherrie and Susaye are back together – and touring and recording with Joyce?  Go to their web site for more info.
Album cover:  By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6969828
Photos of Scherrie and Susaye, author’s collection, (c) Motown Records, 1979

Charles Island: Haunting and Serene

The ground may be covered with snow right now, but it wasn’t so long ago that Yang and I had an autumn day at the beach.  Of course, it was kind of a gothic day at the beach because we were visiting one of the famous Five Ruins of Connecticut, The Aquinas Retreat at Charles Island.
We hadn’t planned on starting the grand tour, but our love of ruins has already taken us to two of the locations in the set. I  posted our earlier visit to Hearthstone Castle in Danbury, CT. So, that Sunday afternoon, we trekked down to Milford, CT to finally get the chance to travel the tombolo out across the bay to

the island.  This trip had been on our agenda for years, but getting to the island is no easy feat – not because of  reefs, pirates, or sea monsters, though.  The ocean only subsides from the tombolo  during low tide and this land path  is only dry and clear enough when the moon and sun exert their strongest gravitational pull.  On top of that, colonies of egrets and cranes nest on the island from April until September, so the Wildlife Service has deemed Charles Island off limits during that time.
There’s a legend about the island holding  Captain Kidd’s hidden treasure, but the treasure we found were beautiful ocean scenes and fun walking and exploring the edges of the island that has a circumference of a bout a mile.  The going could be a bit rocky and uneven when you start out counterclockwise, but you get to enjoy the gorgeous ocean bay as much as do the lounging cormorants.

 

Then there are the ruins of the Aquinas Retreat Center.  Not many extensive ruins  to find.  Built in 1929 by the Dominican Fathers as a lay retreat, it was abandoned by 1938.  Perhaps storms or difficult access for supplies undermined its success. At this point, there are barely the scraps of stone and mortar outlines left to some out buildings and small towers.

There was also one lovely archway. I wonder if this structure could be the remains of an entrance to a chapel or shrine.

 

This space must have been a wonderful location for contemplation and communing with God through nature amidst the calls of wild birds, the surge of waves, and the rush of wind.

We also saw some nice smaller birds on the island.  Yang got a great shot of an Eastern Kingbird.

And while I was watching birds, Yang was watching me!

It was such a lovely, warm and sunny fall afternoon.  There were families and young and old couples, also making the circuit of the island, but never so many you’d feel crowded – and the cormorants didn’t seem to mind.

Say, what do you think of this place for setting a mystery novel?  In the 1860s, there was resort here.  Maybe Jessica and James need a vacation, or Liz needs a retreat – Naagh, no shopping!