There Are Places I’ll Remember…

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Earlier this week, a treasured friend sent me this flag. She had I have shared decades of holiday travels and experiences, and even more decades of being kindred spirits. We are truly sisters from different parents.

I was touched by her gesture, moved to tears remembering us as young, not-quite free spirits, willing to undertake any situation because it was an adventure. I think we are still pretty adventurous; I’m not so sure about the young part.

I can’t get these Beatles lyrics out of my head. Each time my mind plays that simple melody, those simple, but haunting, lyrics, I cry. It was written in 1965, and I’ve been thinking a lot about that time. Our hearts had been pierced by John Kennedy’s assassination – the astonishment that such a thing could happen in our country, and few of us could fathom where our involvement in Vietnam would lead. It was the mid-60s;  we still had dreams. A simpler time, when the excitement of a US visit from the Beatles made us shriek with joy. Remember joy? Or maybe we were just young.

I’m missing those days, those feelings. So perhaps it’s not just places we remember.

Here are those lovely lyrics – I wish you a day of fond remembrance.

In My Life
There are places I’ll remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life, I’ve loved them all
But of all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
And these memories lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new
Though I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life, I love you more
In my life– I love you more
Songwriters: John Lennon / Paul Mccartney
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A British Review of Echoes from the Alum Chine…

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A Discovering Diamonds review of Echoes from the Alum Chine by Cynthia Strauff

Family drama, 1900s, Baltimore

On March 7, 1913, the steamer Alum Chine explodes in the Baltimore harbor. Charles Sherwood, the founder of the company that insures the steamer, is among the first to hear the blast. As he struggles to keep calm, Charles suspects that if it is the Alum Chine that has been decimated, he is now in the midst of a nightmare. While he attempts to cope with the consequences that include his son’s diffidence to the calamity, the disaster touches two other families. Helen Aylesforth is the imperious matriarch of her family whose stern demeanor belies her love for those around her, including her daughter, Cantata, who is married to Nicholas Sherwood. The Corporals have served the Aylesforths for generations. Among their six-member family is Lillian Gish, Helen’s shy, forgotten, and observant granddaughter who must somehow find her place in the world, despite the chaos around her.”

This is a story of ordinary people coping with extraordinary consequences, two families, of how they lived life in Baltimore in the early years of the twentieth century, and had to get on with that life even though enormous things were happening all around and to them.

The description of the period and of Baltimore itself is very well written – as a social history this is an excellent novel.

Do you need constant action to make a novel an interesting one? Echoes From The Alum Chine has a gentle and sedate rhythm to it, the relationships between the two families is interesting, how they cope is interesting … as a depiction of family drama in the pre-World War One era of American life, this is an interesting read.

*****     *****     ****

Well, even though the reviewer confused just whose grandaughter my lovely Lilian Gish was, we now know  what at least one British reviewer thought. And I’ll take it, happy to see that at least one copy has made it across the pond.

http://www.cynthiastrauff.com

 

On Finding Joy in the Age of Trump…

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On Finding Joy in the Age of Trump …

Each morning my head has its exercise. I hang my head in shame; I shake my head in bewilderment of what our country has become; I close my eyes in hope. I tell myself that despair is not an option, that I must summon energy from somewhere to make my voice heard, although my staunch Republican senators and representatives toe the party line, and I live in such gerrymandered districts, both state and national, that I realize that my comments, my votes, will be lost in the netherworld of the minority.

And sometimes I must look for joy. Most mornings I find it in my cats, who sit quietly with me as I read the paper, write in my journal. Some days, they climb into my lap, both of them, and take part in my 10-minute meditation.

This past week, we celebrated their fifteenth birthday. (I’ll save you googling – that is 77 in human years.) They are brothers and have never spent a day away from one another. Like all of us, they have their squabbles, but most days you can find them only feet apart.

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We celebrated their Cat Mitzvah two years ago; this year, they had a Quinceneara celebration. They appeared unimpressed, even when offered crumbs from their cake. But we humans, we celebrated. For we must take our joy where we find it.

http://www.cynthiastrauff.com

 

On Pondering the 4th of July…

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On Pondering the Fourth of July…

I’ve never considered myself to be a “patriot,” even in my early years of believing that the U.S. was certainly the best, the smartest, the strongest. I accepted those ideas, those words, without question. After all, that’s what the nuns said, or at least that’s what I think they said. I knew my father had served in the Navy. Surely that meant something, although he didn’t talk about it much and I never thought to ask, although I routed for Navy in the annual Army-Navy football game.

I always loved the fireworks; we celebrated the holiday with a family gathering of seldom-seen cousins. That was my July 4th. That, and counting the days for school to being again. I was not enamored of my unstructured, and mostly lonely, summers.

It was in 1976, our bicentennial, that I first paid attention to the wisdom and folly of our founding fathers. Certainly human, vanities and foibles at the fore. But a union of intelligence, astuteness, perception in these men, that confluence of the heavens, to be able to put forth such a foundation for this experiment in democracy. Like a fire-rainbow that is rare and evanescent, here and then gone, as it appears that intelligence and prudence and refinement in our country’s leaders have disappeared. We can only wonder if it will return, or if our republic has been damaged beyond repair.

For in retrospect, our leaders have always made dreadful and atrocious errors. Our esteemed settlers who stole land from those who believed that land could not be owned; those who ripped the children of Native Americans from their homes, to give them “better” values and vegetables; those who “possessed” others, and took comfort from Bible verses and laws to assure themselves that they were on God’s side; to uprooting Japanese and other Asian families to make our country safe. And now, perhaps our greatest misdeed – the imprisoning of those seeking sanctuary, children in cages, banning groups based on…what? That they are not like us? In the name of keeping us safe? Making us great? What is it that makes a patriot? Putting country before humanity? Or calling our leaders out for their behavior.

Oh, America, whither goest?

http://www.cynthiastrauff.com

 

On Words I Love…

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When the world is too much with me, as it is so often these days, I find retreat and solace in words. Sometime the words of my favorite authors, sometimes simply words. Words that, somehow, make me happy. Who knows why?

Here are a few:

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Bespoke

Now I was sure that this had to be some type of derivative of “to speak.” In fact, I was so sure that I used it in a poem I was working on. Bespoke. The word, the rhythm, matched beautifully, or so I thought, with the melancholy, Victorian mood I was working so hard to present.

What made me go to the dictionary “just to be sure” I cannot tell you. But it brought me up short. And so I changed the word in my poem, but I must admit that my heart broke just a little. For bespoke means custom-tailored. But I still love this word, as my thoughts drift to a bygone era in beloved England.

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Penultimate

Last but one, second last. Doesn’t this 50-cent word imply an importance that should not be eclipsed by the ultimate? Penultimate, in my mind, should be more than ultimate. Can there be such a thing? I’m writing this on the penultimate day of June, and I declare that it is much more important than June 30th. After all, this gives me one more chance. Penultimate. I like it.

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Blithely

Oh, to do anything blithely these days. Is it something that remains only for the young, those who haven’t experienced enough of the world to forever wring out any trace of blithe? I’m not sure that I’ve ever done anything blithely, so serious a world-view have I. But the word still fills my heart with something that comes close to joy. So maybe there is hope for me. And just maybe there is hope for the world.

And lastly (for blithely was my penultimate word)

reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one - a quote from Albert Einstein on a vintage slate blackboard

Albeit

How I love this word. I actually used it in my morning’s journal entry. All those Henry James novels, E.F. Benson, and other English writers of the early part of the last century. Their characters, their way of speaking, their syntax, their vocabulary gets into one’s blood. I’m comfortable living there, albeit with an understanding that we view the past through a sepia lens. Some days it is exactly what we need.

 

And so I blithely leave you, dear reader, to return to my sunporch and penultimate volume of the adventures of Mapp and Lucia. Thank you, Mr. Benson. I’m sure your wardrobe was bespoke, albeit a bit threadbare by the end of your journey.

http://www.cynthiastrauff.com