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.
Porch Swing in September
by Ted Kooser
The porch swing hangs fixed in a morning sun
that bleaches its gray slats, its flowered cushion
whose flowers have faded, like those of summer,
and a small brown spider has hung out her web
on a line between porch post and chain
so that no one may swing without breaking it.
She is saying it’s time that the swinging were done with,
time that the creaking and pinging and popping
that sang through the ceiling were past,
time now for the soft vibrations of moths,
the wasp tapping each board for an entrance,
the cool dewdrops to brush from her work
every morning, one world at a time.
On this day in 1888 the newly established National Geographic Society began producing the National Geographic magazine, a scientific journal with no photographs, for their 165 members. The small group of men had as their mission “the increase and diffusion of geographic knowledge.”
In spite of its global interests, National Geographic was rather a family affair when it started. Gardiner Greene Hubbard, an early investor in the first telephone company, was the first president of the Society; when he died, his son-in-law, Alexander Graham Bell, took over. Bell personally financed the expansion of the magazine, hiring Gilbert Grosvenor, the man who would soon become his son-in-law, as the editor-in-chief. Grosvenor eventually took over as the Society’s president … and then his son held the position … and then his grandson.
Along the way the magazine transformed from a dry, scholarly periodical with a dull brown cover to one renowned for its coveted maps and pioneering photography, and the Society grew from a small, elite group to one with millions of members, funding projects like Jane Goodall’s studies of chimps and Jacques Cousteau’s underwater exploration. All of which suggests, given the five consecutive generations of family members at its helm, that nepotism isn’t always a bad thing.
On this day in 1692 eight citizens of the colony of Massachusetts were hanged for their supposed connections to witchcraft. Theirs were the last of the deaths caused by the Salem Witch Trials, preceded by 11 other hangings, plus five who died in prison, and one who was crushed to death for refusing to enter a plea.
A period that roughly spanned the spring and summer of 1692, the Salem Witch Trials started when two young girls began displaying bizarre behaviors — convulsing, shouting blasphemy, and generally acting like they were possessed. The girls were the daughter and niece of Samuel Parris, a minister relatively new to town but already divisive. He’d moved from Boston where an account of young children who were supposedly “bewitched” by a laundress was published. Parris had insisted on a higher salary and certain perks as the village reverend and insinuated in his sermons that those who opposed him were in cahoots with the Devil.
After the girls’ behavior gained attention and was pronounced the result of an evil spell, several other girls in town began acting strangely too … and began naming individuals in town as the cause. The town was whipped into a frenzy and soon dozens of people — women, men, and children — were accused of and often jailed for practicing or supporting witchcraft. Many of the accusations seemed to fall along the lines of existing feuds or were directed at people who were — because they were poor, not upstanding members of the church, or marginalized in some way — not likely to mount a convincing defense.
By the time the final eight people were hanged on September 22 word about the trials was spreading throughout the state. Within weeks the governor of Massachusetts declared “spectral evidence,” or visions of a person’s spirit doing evil when in fact their physical body was elsewhere, was inadmissible. Soon after he barred any further arrests, disbanded the local court, and released many of the accused. It wasn’t until the following spring that he finally pardoned those who remained in jail. A full decade passed before the trials of 1692 were officially declared illegal, another nine before the names of the accused were cleared from all wrongdoing and their heirs given a restitution, and 265 years before the state of Massachusetts apologized for the events of that most infamous witch hunt.
Today is the birthday of English author Fay Weldon (books by this author), born in Worcestershire, England (1931). She is best known for her searing, feminist novel, The Life and Loves of a She-Devil (1983), which features a highly unattractive woman who takes revenge on her husband and his attractive lover. About the book she said:
“It seemed to me when I wrote The Life and Loves of a She-Devil that women were so much in the habit of being good it would do nobody any harm if they learned to be a little bad — that is to say, burn down their houses, give away their children, put their husband in prison, steal his money and turn themselves into their husband’s mistress.”
On this day in 1862 President Abraham Lincoln signed his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, a document that put the Confederacy on notice of his intention to free their slaves. They had until January 1, he said, to lay down their arms; after that, any slave within a rebelling state would be “then, thenceforward, and forever free.” Although he didn’t make a point of it, his proclamation — both this preliminary one, and the official one he made at the first of the new year, when the deadline arrived — did not free all slaves; those living in border states, for example, would remain enslaved. Nor did Lincoln have, of course, any way to actually enforce a liberated slave’s freedom; other than promising to no longer aid in the capture of fleeing slaves, his promised emancipation relied entirely on the Union eventually winning the war.
But continuing to fight was exactly what Lincoln hoped to avoid with his announcement. The preliminary document emphasized his wish for the reunification of the United States; as such he hoped to pay slave owners some kind of restitution for their voluntary adoption of either an immediate or a gradual abolishment of slavery. Any state that had seceded had 100 days to accept Lincoln’s offer — to give up slavery in return for monetary compensation. None had any interest in his proposed compromise, and so, as promised, the Emancipation Proclamation took effect on January 1.
The official executive order carried a huge philosophical and moral weight, confirming that the war was and had been one that centered on freedom, and is considered perhaps the most important milestone in the struggle to end American slavery. But the political maneuvering in that preliminary document did not go unnoticed or unremarked. Its other signer was Lincoln’s secretary of state, William Seward, who complained, “We show our sympathy with slavery by emancipating slaves where we cannot reach them and holding them in bondage where we can set them free.”
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®