Keillor & Company with Prudence Johnson and Dan Chouinard bring their show to Frankfort, KY for a performance of classic love songs, poetry, The News from Lake Wobegon, and a conversation about Why You Should Go On Getting Older
Keillor & Company with Prudence Johnson and Dan Chouinard bring their show to Maryville, TN for a performance of classic love songs, poetry, The News from Lake Wobegon, and a conversation about Why You Should Go On Getting Older
Fort Lauderdale, FL
Keillor & Company with Prudence Johnson and Dan Chouinard bring their show to Fort Lauderdale, FL for a performance of classic love songs, poetry, The News from Lake Wobegon, and a conversation about Why You Should Go On Getting Older
Palm Desert, CA
Keillor & Company with Prudence Johnson and Dan Chouinard bring their show to Palm Desert, CA for a performance of holiday songs, humor and The News from Lake Wobegon.
Town Hall, New York City
A Prairie Home Companion American Revival comes to Town Hall in New York City with Christine DiGiallonardo, Heather Masse, Rob Fisher and the Demitasse Orchestra, Rich Dworsky, Walter Bobbie, Sue Scott, Fred Newman and Tim Russell.
Seven in the Woods
by Jim Harrison
Am I as old as I am?
Maybe not. Time is a mystery
that can tip us upside down.
Yesterday I was seven in the woods,
a bandage covering my blind eye,
in a bedroll Mother made me
so I could sleep out in the woods
far from people. A garter snake glided by
without noticing me. A chickadee
landed on my bare toe, so light
she wasn’t believable. The night
had been long and the treetops
thick with a trillion stars. Who
was I, half-blind on the forest floor
who was I at age seven? Sixty-eight
years later I can still inhabit that boy’s
body without thinking of the time between.
It is the burden of life to be many ages
without seeing the end of time.
Jim Harrison, “Seven in the Woods” from The Essential Poems. Copyright © 2016 by Jim Harrison. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC, on behalf of Copper Canyon Press, coppercanyonpress.org. (buy now)
Mormon pioneer William Clayton invented the modern odometer — one that resembles those we use today — on this date in 1847. He invented it during the Mormon migration from Missouri to Utah. He’d been trying to keep track of how far they’d traveled by counting the revolutions of a wagon wheel: 360 revolutions per mile, and he counted them all. But after a few days of that, he got bored. He wrote in his journal:
“I walked some this afternoon in company with Orson Pratt and suggested to him the idea of fixing a set of wooden cog wheels to the hub of a wagon wheel, in such order as to tell the exact number of miles we travel each day. He seemed to agree with me that it could be easily done at a trifling expense.”
A carpenter named Appleton Harmon constructed a device to Clayton’s specifications and Clayton dubbed it the “roadometer.” His records of the journey were published in 1848 and proved invaluable to the “Forty-niners” of the Gold Rush the following year.
It’s the birthday of novelist and poet Rosellen Brown (books by this author), born in Philadelphia (1939). Her novels include Tender Mercies (1978), Before and After (1992), and Half a Heart (2000). Brown is proud of the fact she sustained a writing career while bringing up two daughters, and she still relies on some of the routines she developed when her kids were small. “I start every day by reading a little something,” she told TriQuarterly.
“I’ve always done that in order to change the cadence of what I’ve been listening to, especially with children around. You know, you start the day saying, ‘Yes, there is a matching sock somewhere,’ or, you know, ‘Hurry up, you’ll miss the school bus.’ And then I … had to sit down and try to get into a very different place by reading something. But what that ends up doing to me within a few pages is [it] makes me terribly envious, jealous — makes me want to do it myself.”
It’s the birthday of Farley Mowat (books by this author), born in Belleville, Ontario (1921). He wrote books of history, young adult novels, and nonfiction books about the people and animals of Canada. He grew up on the Canadian prairie. By the time he was 13 he was going off alone on 30-mile snowshoe trips across the Saskatchewan plains and he had started his own nature magazine called Nature Lore. Later he wrote a nature column called “Prairie Pals” for the local newspaper.
When he was 18 he went off to Italy to serve in World War II and it was there that he started writing his first books. One day he was sitting in an armored vehicle, bracing himself for the sound of bullets and grenades. He said he felt a “sense of revulsion against my own species,” and so he started writing about his dog back home. He later said, “I went back to the only safe place in my mind — my childhood. It was my escape, and it saved my bloody life.” The book became The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be and it was published in 1957.
He wrote in that book:
“I suspect that at some early moment of his existence he concluded there was no future in being a dog. And so, with the tenacity that marked his every act, he set himself to become something else. Subconsciously he no longer believed that he was a dog at all, yet he did not feel, as so many foolish canines appear to do, that he was human. He was tolerant of both species, but he claimed kin to neither.”
Mowat is probably best known for his books about the Canadian Arctic. He first became interested in the Arctic as a teenager when his great uncle took him on a birdwatching trip in the Arctic tundra. While he was there he saw a huge herd of caribou moving across the land and the image has stuck with him for the rest of his life. In the summer of 1947 he took a job with the Canadian government as a biologist in the Northwest Territories. His assignment was to write about wolves and their effect on the caribou population. He found out that it wasn’t wolves that were causing the caribou to die out, but human fur trappers, and he wrote about it in Never Cry Wolf (1963). The Russian government banned the slaughter of wolves thanks to Mowat’s findings and the book became a best-seller.
While he was in the Arctic Mowat was adopted by a small Inuit tribe. They taught him a pidgin version of their language and he lived with them for more than six months. There were only 40 of the Inuit left out of a population that had numbered in the thousands. Mowat tried to get the Canadian government to help conserve the Arctic mammals that the Inuit depended on for their survival, and when that didn’t work, he wrote a book about them, People of the Deer (1952).
It’s the birthday of Florence Nightingale, born in Florence, Italy, to a wealthy English family (1820). Her parents didn’t have any sons and her father gave her many of the advantages that would have gone to a son. They were very close and he treated her as a respected companion and gave her a well-rounded education in the classics, languages, philosophy, and mathematics. Her mother, on the other hand, wanted to see her marry well. She became increasingly upset as her daughter turned away suitor after suitor. Finally, when she was 25, Nightingale told her parents that she wanted to become a nurse. Since nursing was a working-class occupation her parents were horrified but she believed she had been given a purpose by God.
In London Nightingale met Elizabeth Blackwell, the first female doctor in America. Blackwell encouraged and inspired her and she finally obtained her father’s permission to study nursing when she was 31. In 1854, with the British Army crippled by outbreaks of typhus, cholera, and dysentery during the Crimean War, she took a group of 38 nurses to Turkey. She became known as “the lady with the lamp” because she would quietly make her rounds among the patients at all hours of the night. Conditions in the field hospitals were appalling, and she began a campaign to reform them, but the military stonewalled her. She used her London newspaper contacts to publish accounts of the horrible way wounded soldiers were being treated. Finally she was allowed to reorganize the barracks hospitals. She thought that the high death rates were due to poor nutrition and overwork; it wasn’t until after the war that she realized the role that proper sanitation played in patient care.
After the war she continued to fight for military hospital reform and the education of nurses; she was soon one of the most famous and influential women in Britain, second only to Queen Victoria. In 1860 she founded the Nightingale School and Home for Nurses, but she had returned from the war an invalid herself, possibly suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, or a brucellosis infection that she picked up in the Crimea. For the last several years of her life she was blind and in need of constant nursing herself.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®