FLAGS AND FLOWERS BLOOMING – Marilyn Armstrong

On the 75th Anniversary of D-Day

The cemetery is in the center of the town, across from the dam and just a hundred or so yards from the river itself. It’s up on a hill, so it never floods, even when the rivers rush over their banks. The people who created that cemetery knew about the rivers. And flooding. They picked a beautiful spot. It has a perfect view of the dam and river, but it’s dry and safe for bones and memories.

An old cemetery, dating back to the early 1700s. It contains traces of many generations of those who lived and died in this town, this valley. Folks who lived along the Blackstone and its many tributaries fished in its lakes and streams. They fought in our wars and are buried here — Revolutionary War soldiers, Civil War veterans as well as those who fought in all the American wars since.

Every anniversary of the end of some war we fought, the cemetery blooms with bouquets and flags. The schools bring the children here, so they will remember too and traditions will be maintained. They bring bouquets of wildflowers or from the back garden. Lilacs and lilies, scarlet poppies … and always a miniature American flag. Even if there’s no special holiday, the cemetery always shows signs of caring, remembering.

Maybe it’s easier to remember here, with such a small population. Is that it? Or it’s just part of the air, the character, the history. Remembering is what we do in the Valley.

The cemetery is one of my favorite places. We’re newcomers after all, only living here 19 years. Our ancestors — Garry’s and mine — come from Sligo, Antigua, Minsk, Bialystok. We come from tiny villages in Ireland, England,  the West Indies, and a wide variety of shtetls in eastern and northern Europe. Our people were always on the move.

Valley people have been here longer. Many came from French Canada in the late 19th century to work in the mills. Another large group formed the dominant Dutch population. They built churches, businesses and factories, dairy and truck farms, shops, horse farms, and sawmills. Their names are prominent wherever the rivers run.

Newcomers, like us, aren’t rare anymore but also not common. We have no ancestors in the cemetery, at least none about whom we know. Anything is possible in America.

The valley is the only place I’ve lived where the majority of families have lived in the town or in nearby villages for three, four, five generations.

“We’ve always lived in the Valley,” they say, meaning they have lived here as long as anyone can remember. If gently prodded, they may recall at some point, long ago, they came from somewhere else. Some can’t remember when or if it’s true.

I point out they must have come from somewhere because unless they are Native American, they came to this place, even if it was a long time ago. They get misty-eyed trying to remember old family stories handed down when they were young.

It’s hard to remember, they tell you. “You know, that was 75 years ago … a long time.” We nod because it was a long time ago. We can’t remember a lot of things from our “old days” either. So many years have passed and so much stuff has happened.

In the ground – Photo: Garry Armstrong

How many wars have we fought — just in our lifetime? I can’t count them anymore. It’s endless. We honor our dead. I think we’d honor them more by ending the cause of their deaths which I doubt it will happen. Peace is not in us, or at least not in most of us. Certainly not in the people who run our countries.

So another year passes and little flags and flowers bloom in the old cemetery in the middle of town.

BRIGHT SHINY DAY

SHINE |THE DAILY POST


I am so tired this morning, I don’t feel at all shiny. Mostly, I feel like I need a few more hours of sleep. But, things to do today. Veterinarians to call. Coffee to drink. Dogs to send outside, even though it’s cold and they don’t entirely approve of snow. I understand Gibbs. He is unfamiliar with the stuff. This is his first exposure to winter outdoors, though I think he’s beginning to kick up his virtual heels a bit. But Bonnie was born on Halloween and raised during a hard winter. She loved snow and I have the pictures to prove it.

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She’s not a pup anymore. Now, she will go into the snow, but she’d rather hang out in the living room. On the sofa. With the central heat. Even though the sun is shining on the snow and all the world is aglow in the cold light of a bright winter’s day.

Odd how they change. Like people. I think if you asked her, she would tell you “Oh, I liked it well enough when I was a mere puppy, but now, I’m a grown up Scottie and I prefer to keep my paws warm and dry.” It’s hard to argue with her, but I miss my romping little girl who loved the snow.

IN MINIATURE, BEAUTY

Given “miniature” as a subject … and since, just last week I did a whole series of pictures of tiny carved Native American fetishes, this prompt certainly seems to be begging for more of those pictures. So here they are.

Every piece was hand-carved by an individual. The carvers are all either Navajo, Hopi, or Pueblo … with (I believe) a couple maybe Sioux or Cherokee. I have one carved by a local Wampanaug man who lives on Martha’s Vineyard. He carved it for me and I got to see it emerge from the antler.

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I used to have all the paperwork that told me who had carved which piece, when, and where. I lost all the papers. Not just one … the entire packet. Moreover, having bought these from a lot of different places, often directly from the carvers themselves, I can’t reconstruct the trail.

fetishes ram and bear

I don’t, honestly, care about the provenance, except for wishing I could honor the artists by giving them credit for the work. I just love these beautiful pieces.

Mountain lion, wolf, and a lovely stone horse ... and of course, my favorite dancing bear

Mountain lion, wolf, and a lovely stone horse … and of course, my favorite dancing bear

The Corn Maidens are (mostly) much larger than the animal fetishes, but they vary quite a lot in size.

These are all parts of my modest, but lovely collection of modern carved fetishes. Although some (many) are “old-style,” the oldest of these is no more than 20 years. The materials are wood, alabaster, marble, turquoise, antler, and bone.

Each of these animals and the Corn Maidens have meaning in a ritual or religious context, but none of these have been appropriately blessed. I admire the art, but I would never appropriate someone else’s religion and pretend it was mine.

I have been on the other end of that sometimes. It’s annoying. Sometimes, it’s also pretty funny.

THE DAILY POST | MINIATURE

WHEREVER IT LEADS I WILL GO

Black & White Sunday: Leading Lines

From Paula:

“Leading lines are lines within an image that lead the eye to another point in the image, or occasionally, out of the image. Anything with a definite line can be a leading line. Fences, bridges, even a shoreline can lead the eye. I look forward to seeing your contributions to this Black & White Sunday challenge. Anything in monochrome is acceptable, even with selective coloring or sepia if you fancy.”

And here are two photos where the lines lead to shore … and then home.

The wooden pier in Connecticut

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THESE HONORED DEAD

The cemetery is in the center of the town, across from the dam and just a hundred or so yards from the river itself. It’s up on a hill, so it never floods, even when the rivers rush over their banks. The people who created that cemetery knew about the rivers. And flooding. They picked a beautiful spot, but dry and safe for the bones and memories.

Downtown Revolutionary War Cemetery Uxbridge BW

An old cemetery, dating back to the early 1700s. It contains traces of many generations of those who lived and died in this town, this valley. Folks who lived along the Blackstone and its many tributaries, fished in its lakes and streams. They fought in our wars and are buried here — Revolutionary War soldiers, Civil War veterans as well as those who fought in all the American wars since.

Every Independence Day, Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day, the cemetery blooms with bouquets and flags. The schools bring the children here, so they will remember too and traditions will be maintained. They bring bouquets of wild flowers or from the back garden. Lilacs and lilies, scarlet poppies … and always a miniature American flag. Even if there’s no special holiday, the cemetery always shows signs of caring, remembering.

Maybe it’s easier to remember here, with such a small population. Is that it? Or it’s just part of the air, the character, the history. Remembering is what we do in the Valley.

The cemetery is one of my favorite places. We’re newcomers after all, only living here 15 years. Our ancestors — Garry’s and mine — come from Sligo, Antigua, Minsk, Bialystok … from tiny villages in Ireland and the West Indies and the shtetls of eastern Europe.

Valley people have been here longer. Many came from French Canada in the late 19th century to work in the mills. Another large group formed the dominant Dutch population. They built churches, businesses and factories, dairy and truck farms, shops, horse farms and sawmills. Their names are prominent wherever the rivers run.

Newcomers, like us, aren’t rare anymore but far from common. We have no ancestors in the cemetery, at least none about whom we know. Anything is possible in America.

The valley is the only place I’ve lived where the majority of families have lived in the town or in a nearby villages for three, four, five generations. “We’ve always lived in the Valley,” they say, meaning as long as anyone can remember. If gently prodded, they may recall at some point, long ago, they came from somewhere else … but some can’t remember when or if it’s true.

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I point out they must have come from somewhere because unless they are Native American, they came to this place, even if a long time since. They get misty-eyed trying to remember old family stories handed down when they were young. Hard to remember, they tell you. “You know, that was 75 years ago … a long time.” We nod, because it was a long time ago, longer than we’ve been alive, and we aren’t young.

So another year passes and little flags and flowers bloom in the old cemetery in the middle of town.

ELEMENTAL BOUNDARIES

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Americans travel a lot and we don’t give it much thought. We take our car and go. To work, shopping, visiting or just tooling around. Despite the high cost of gasoline, we are addicted to our personal vehicles. Addicted to having them constantly available. To having good roads, even in the most rural areas.

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With all the traveling we do, when does it feel as if we have gone “someplace else?” We don’t feel that way even when we commute 100 miles to work. I used to commute as much as 125 miles each way and there was no sense of taking a journey — except for being tired all the time. It was just going to work, then home. Our nearest mall is a 25 mile drive, but it’s not “somewhere else” either.

Flying anywhere, even a short distance, is genuine travel. A boat trip turns a short trip into a journey.

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Passage through another element — air or water — signals the crossing of some kind of mental boundary. Maybe a bridge is enough. Going to New York from Boston is marked by passing over bridges. Going to Cape Cod becomes a journey as you cross the Bourne or Sagamore Bridge to the Cape. Going to Martha’s Vineyard includes a 40 minute ferry ride that feels like a voyage. It was always on the ferry that I could finally relax.

Little Colorado Bridge -1

Passage over water. Passage by air. Engaging another element — an element other than earth — automatically changes a drive into a journey. Elemental boundaries.