Keillor & Company with Prudence Johnson and Dan Chouinard. A performance of classic love songs, poetry, The News from Lake Wobegon, and a conversation about Why You Should Go On Getting Older
March 4 in Kent, OH Keillor & Company with Prudence Johnson and Dan Chouinard. 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: A PRAIRIE HOME HOLIDAY. Let’s come together for a Christmas sing-along, some Poetry, the News from Lake Wobegon and some holiday cheer with Prudence Johnson and Dan Chouinard.
Dec 11 in Joliet, IL Keillor & Company: A PRAIRIE HOME HOLIDAY. Let’s come together for a Christmas sing-along, some Poetry, the News from Lake Wobegon and some holiday cheer with Prudence Johnson and Dan Chouinard.
Dec 10 in Ottumwa Iowa Keillor & Company: A PRAIRIE HOME HOLIDAY. Let’s come together for a Christmas sing-along, some Poetry, the News from Lake Wobegon and some holiday cheer with Prudence Johnson and Dan Chouinard.
A Postcard from the Volcano
by Wallace Stevens
Children picking up our bones
Will never know that these were once
As quick as foxes on the hill;
And that in autumn, when the grapes
Made sharp air sharper by their smell
These had a being, breathing frost;
And least will guess that with our bones
We left much more, left what still is
The look of things, left what we felt
At what we saw. The spring clouds blow
Above the shuttered mansion house,
Beyond our gate and the windy sky
Cries out a literate despair.
We knew for long the mansion’s look
And what we said of it became
A part of what it is … Children,
Still weaving budded aureoles,
Will speak our speech and never know,
Will say of the mansion that it seems
As if he that lived there left behind
A spirit storming in blank walls,
A dirty house in a gutted world,
A tatter of shadows peaked to white,
Smeared with the gold of the opulent sun.
“A Postcard From the Volcano” by Wallace Stevens, from Collected Poems. © Knopf, 1954. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)
It’s the birthday of sculptor and architect Maya Ying Lin, born in Athens, Ohio (1959). Her parents both grew up in affluent, professional households but they fled China in 1948, just before the Communist takeover. Her father had been an academic administrator but took up ceramics and became a professor of art. Her mother had received a scholarship to Smith and was smuggled out of Shanghai in a boat as the harbor was being bombed. She had 50 dollars and a suitcase. Both of Lin’s parents eventually took positions as professors at Ohio University, and Lin could have gone to college there for free, but they were so excited when she got into Yale that there was never a question of her going anywhere else.
Lin was studying architecture and sculpture during her senior year at Yale when she heard about a national competition to design a monument to honor Vietnam War veterans. She decided to enter and designed a sleek, black granite wall that would be inscribed with the names of 58,000 American soldiers who were killed or missing in action in Vietnam. It was dramatically different from a typical war memorial and, when Lin’s entry won the contest, a group of Vietnam veterans objected to it. Eventually, a compromise was reached, with a more realistic sculpture of soldiers nearby. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which lies in the northwest corner of the National Mall in Washington, was opened to the public on November 11, 1982.
Lin founded her own studio in 1986 and has gone on to design several more installations, including a monument to the Civil Rights Movement in Montgomery, Alabama (1989). She began reading up on the movement and was shocked at how much had been left out of her childhood education. She knew she would incorporate water into the memorial when she read a quote from Martin Luther King Jr.: “No, no, we are not satisfied and will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.” She said:
“What bothered me about going down thinking about the past in this one is that it’s not done. It’s not a closed timeline. It’s ongoing. What the Southern Poverty Law Center is struggling with is the ongoing, is the future. So I needed something to connect the past, which would be the history, which became the water table, with the talk about the future which is the quote … then the water pulls them together symbolically.”
It’s the birthday of the author Helen Churchill Candee (books by this author), née Hungerford, in New York City (1858). One of her early books was a how-to guide, How Women May Earn a Living (1900). She had experience in this area: although she came from a wealthy family, she had little money of her own and she supported herself and her two children largely by writing articles and books. Her husband, Edward Candee, was abusive, and she eventually took the children and left him. As a single working mother she wanted to make sure that other women could find ways to support themselves without relying on men. She wrote books on decorative arts, and also published a novel, An Oklahoma Romance, in 1901.
Once she was established as a writer, Candee moved to Washington, D.C., and became one of the first professional interior decorators; several high-powered politicians, including Theodore Roosevelt, were her clients. She was also a close friend of the Tafts and she decorated the West Wing of the White House when President Taft had it remodeled in 1909.
She was in Europe early in 1912 when she received word that her son, Harold, had been injured in an accident. Naturally, she wanted to return home as soon as possible. From Cherbourg she boarded a brand new luxury liner, the RMS Titanic, bound for New York. When the ship struck an iceberg near midnight on April 14 and began to sink, Candee boarded Lifeboat Six, under the command of quartermaster Robert Hitchens. She tried to persuade him to go back after the ship went down, to search for any survivors, but he refused. She wrote a dramatized account of the voyage for Collier’s Weekly magazine about an unnamed man and woman. The story, called “Sealed Orders,” included a romantic sunset visit to the bow of the great ship, and it may have inspired parts of James Cameron’s movie Titanic (1997).
Today is the birthday of rocket scientist Robert Goddard, born in Worcester, Massachusetts (1882). Goddard had been interested in outer space since he read H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds when he was 16. He started thinking seriously about rockets the following year, in 1899. As he recounted in his autobiography, he was up in a cherry tree, preparing to prune its dead branches, when he began to daydream:
“It was one of the quiet, colorful afternoons of sheer beauty which we have in October in New England, and as I looked toward the fields at the east, I imagined how wonderful it would be to make some device which had even the possibility of ascending to Mars, and how it would look on a small scale, if sent up from the meadow at my feet.”
He received a patent for his design for a liquid-fueled rocket in 1914 and another for one that ran on solid fuel. At this point, the government wasn’t really interested in the idea of space travel so he had a hard time getting grants for his research and he usually ended up paying out of his own pocket. Finally, a grant from the Smithsonian Institution enabled him to do research and publish a paper on “A Method for Reaching Extreme Altitudes” in 1920. In the paper he speculated that rockets could be used to reach the moon.
The New York Times heard about his paper and published an editorial ridiculing him. He went from “nobody” to “national laughingstock” literally overnight, but he said, “Every vision is a joke until the first man accomplishes it; once realized, it becomes commonplace.” He didn’t give up, and on this date in 1926 he completed the first successful launch of his liquid-fueled rocket in Auburn, Massachusetts. The rocket reached a height of 41 feet and an average speed of 60 miles per hour.
Unfortunately, Goddard didn’t live to see space flight become a reality; he died of cancer in 1945. In July 1969, the day after Apollo 11 departed for the Moon, The New York Times printed a correction to its scathing editorial of nearly 50 years before. The paper wrote, “It is now definitely established that a rocket can function in a vacuum as well as in an atmosphere. The Times regrets the error.”
On this date in 1877 Chief Joseph surrendered to the United States Cavalry. He was the leader of a band of Nez Perce Indians in the Wallowa Valley in northeastern Oregon and they had been ordered by the United States government to move to a small reservation in Idaho. Joseph resisted, and for a time it seemed he’d been successful since the government issued a federal order to remove white settlers from the Nez Perce lands, in support of their original treaty. Four years later the government reversed its decision and backed up the reversal with the threat of a cavalry attack. Joseph wasn’t a war chief, and he believed there was no point in resisting in any case; he reluctantly set out with about 700 followers — fewer than 200 of them warriors — for the Idaho reservation. A band of young men retaliated against the orders by attacking a white settlement, killing several people, and Joseph and his band were forced to flee from the pursuing Army. Though the warriors were outnumbered 10 to one by U.S. soldiers, they defended themselves during several battles for three months and over a thousand miles, through Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana. Joseph tried to lead them to Canada but they were finally trapped in the Bears Paw Mountains of Montana, only 40 miles from the border. They fought the Army for five days but eventually Joseph surrendered.
He was known to be an eloquent speaker and an Army lieutenant on the scene reportedly transcribed his surrender address. In it Joseph said:
“I am tired of fighting. […] It is cold, and we have no blankets. The little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them, have run away to the hills, and have no blankets, no food. No one knows where they are — perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my chiefs! I am tired. My heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever.”
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®