Janet and I had lunch and a lovely winter walk yesterday. The Poquonnock River Walkway runs along the east side of the Poquonnock River and we started at the north end of it. As we walked south a huge flock of Canada geese floated down the river, honking among themselves. We wondered what all the “conversations” were about. When we turned around and headed north again the geese, and a couple of swans and ducks who had joined the procession, turned around and started swimming north, too. Were they talking about us perhaps?
The trees silhouettes were so pretty against the cloudy sky.
In rivers the water you touch is the last of what has passed and the first of that which comes. So with time present.
~ Leonardo da Vinci
(The Meaning of Rivers: Flow & Reflection in American Literature)
I’ve been on a journey of discovery this winter, making use of Ancestry’s powerful search engine to add more and more branches to our family trees. Part of the excitement comes from finding new distant cousins through DNA matching. And a cousin, who I haven’t seen in many years, recently submitted her DNA sample to Ancestry. When I popped up as her genetic first cousin she contacted me and said, “I guess it works!”
But the search engine at Ancestry is constantly rummaging through the paper trail, too. It searches hundreds of databases, periodicals and books, some of which I never would have dreamed of looking at. A couple of weeks ago a little leaf (a hint) popped up next to the profile of my 3rd-great-grandmother, Ann Isabella (Hughs) Thompson, who was born in Ireland in 1830, came to America, and then married my 3rd-great-grandfather, sea captain Martin Thompson, the Norwegian ancestor (born Ingebrigt Martinus Hansen) who I’m always going on about.
I’ve never found the identity of Ann’s parents and my few attempts to research her origins have never been successful. The only thing I knew about her was a story I had been told about her religion. She lies buried with her husband in Swan Lake Cemetery in Dennis on Cape Cod. I was told she was Catholic and that Martin’s relatives wanted her body removed from the Protestant family’s plot. Martin’s second wife was born in England and sometimes I wonder if she was the “relative” who wanted Ann’s body disinterred.
So then, imagine how startled I was when I followed the “hint” to a publication called Saints’ Herald Obituaries, 1885, p. 426 and read the following:
Ann L. (Thompson) was baptized and confirmed a member of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints on 30 September 1874 at Dennisport, Barnstable, Massachusetts, by C. N. Brown.
Birth Date: About 1830 Death Date: May 1885 Death Place: Dennisport, Barnstable, Massachusetts Spouse: Captain Thompson
Religious differences are forever popping up on our family tree. And many of our ancestors have changed religions, sometimes later in life. Ann was 44 when she did so. I am more and more convinced there is something in our DNA, traveling down the through the ages, stirring up conflict in almost every generation.
But until now it has always been the men I’ve found stories about. I’ve often wondered what my female ancestors were thinking and believing. If they disagreed with their husbands did they keep their thoughts locked up inside? Finding out about Ann’s conversion was so remarkable because she is the first female ancestor I have found who apparently believed differently than her husband and had the gumption to follow her own spiritual path.
Olea Crøger (1801-1855) was the daughter of a pastor from Heddal Stave Church, known for collecting Norwegian folk music and folklore.
After the Reformation alterations to the church were slowly made. The date of the painting showing the crucifixion of Jesus by an unknown artist is 1667. The one above it, of Christ rising from his tomb, was painted by Lars Osa about 1908.
The Heddal portals are a mixture of fauna and floral ornamentation. The western portal is dominated by leaf carvings but the vines transform into snake shapes with poisonous heads. Other animal bodies can also be seen. … These motifs were renown in Norse religion and superstition but were reinterpreted in Christian art. They did of course provide a sense of familiarity for churchgoers who found it difficult to let go of their old heathen faith. At the same time these wild depictions became a symbol of the battle between good and evil in the world. This was a central topic both in the new and old faith.
~ Heddal Stavechurch guidebook
I noticed that most of the columns inside the church had a simple carving at the bottom of the arches, but on either side of the southern entrance portal columns there was a carving of a creature of some sort (above). In the picture below you can see the simple carvings of three oval leaves (?) on the bottom of the arches, about the same level as the lights.
So I asked the docent about it. She explained that men used to enter the church from the southern portal and were thought to be more likely to bring corruption into the church, so the gargoyle was needed to scare off the evil. The women, on the other hand, used the northern portal and were already protected by the Virgin Mary.
It was chilly that day and we appreciated a cup of hot cocoa in the visitor center. I was delighted to find these copies of paintings on the backs of a couple of chairs. I’ve been using Theodor Kittelsen’s calendar art in my posts on the 15th of each month since August.
Saturday we took a day trip to New York to visit Larisa & Dima, to see their new digs in Manhattan, an apartment on the top floor of a six-story walk-up. We huffed and we puffed and we made it all the way to the top with just a few pauses to catch our breath! After some refreshments and a tour of their sunlight-filled rooms – a marked advantage to being so far up – we went back down the stairs and then it was a hop, skip and a jump to the subway station, where we purchased our passes and spent the rest of the day zipping around the city.
Our night-owl daughter Larisa has wanted to live in ‘The City That Never Sleeps’ for as long as any of us can remember. As we followed her and Dima here, there, and everywhere, we got the wonderful feeling that she was born to live in New York and is thrilled to be living her dream at last. She certainly worked hard to get there and is making a difference in the lives of others as a social worker.
We spent a good chunk of time in the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan. Since my ancestry is half Ukrainian we visited The Ukrainian Museum. We saw the current exhibition, Borys Kosarev: Modernist Kharkiv, 1915-1931. Kosarev (1897-1994) was a Modernist artist who managed somehow to survive Stalin’s intellectual purges in the 1930s in Ukraine. Outside we found a street named after Taras Shevchenko, a famous Ukrainian poet, artist, illustrator and humanist. I posted one of his poems on my blog several months ago: “My Friendly Epistle”
In the neighborhood we also found the sublime St. George Ukrainian Catholic Church…
The church is across the street from McSorley’s Old Ale House, New York City’s oldest continuously operated saloon, where the likes of Abraham Lincoln, Woody Guthrie and John Lennon have found refreshment and inspiration. The floor is covered with sawdust and the beer was good, Tim reports. (Being gluten-free I could not partake…) Established in 1854, women were not allowed to enter McSorley’s until 1970!
On a side note, several months ago I updated my iPod and suddenly was no longer able to shuffle individual songs on my playlists. Even Tim couldn’t figure out how to do it, and so he suggested that perhaps one of the younger folks could solve the mystery. I handed the iPod to Dima and in a few seconds he handed it back with the problem resolved! Thanks, Dima!! Our trip home was very merry as we sang along with a more varied selection of tunes. It was a great way to end a great day!
The summer breeze was blowing on your face Within your violet you treasure your summery words And as the shiver from my neck down to my spine Ignited me in daylight and nature in the garden
~ Van Morrison
♫ (In the Garden) ♫
I walk without flinching through the burning cathedral of the summer. My bank of wild grass is majestic and full of music. It is a fire that solitude presses against my lips.
~ Violette Leduc
(Call of the Wild: Quotes from the Great Outdoors)
June 21, 2011, 1:16 p.m.
June 20, 2012, 7:09 p.m.
Some keep the Sabbath going to Church – I keep it, staying at Home – With a Bobolink for a Chorister – And an Orchard, for a Dome –
Some keep the Sabbath in Surplice – I, just wear my Wings – And instead of tolling the Bell, for Church, Our little Sexton – sings.
God preaches, a noted Clergyman – And the sermon is never long, So instead of getting to Heaven, at last – I’m going, all along.
~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #236)
Save your sermons for someone that’s afraid to love If you knew what I feel then you couldn’t be so sure I’ll be right here lying in the hands of God If you feel angels in your head Teardrop of joy runs down your face You will rise
Adrift! A little boat adrift! And night is coming down! Will no one guide a little boat Unto the nearest town?
So sailors say — on yesterday — Just as the dusk was brown One little boat gave up its strife And gurgled down and down
So angels say — on yesterday — Just as the dawn was red One little boat — o’erspent with gales — Retrimmed its masts — redecked its sails — And shot — exultant on!
~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #6)
Now that I have a Kindle and can read for hours on end without bothering my eyes, I have delved into a huge comprehensive biography of the life of Emily Dickinson, My Wars Are Laid Away in Books: The Life of Emily Dickinson. The above poem struck a chord with me.
What I’ve been learning is that Emily grappled with an exhausting spiritual struggle during her childhood and young adulthood. One by one more and more of her family members and friends experienced evangelical conversions each time a revival made its way to her mother’s church in Amherst, Massachusetts. Emily was never moved to convert, winding up a solitary holdout, and I suspect it was the hypocrisy and inconsistencies in the dogma as presented by her teachers and ministers that never sat well with her.
Some keep the Sabbath going to Church — I keep it, staying at Home — With a Bobolink for a Chorister — And an Orchard, for a Dome — ~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #236)
Emily found spiritual fulfillment and ecstasy in nature. I think it can be found in the creative arts, too, and in healing. I will read on, as I just got to the “Adrift!” poem yesterday, but my feeling is that once she made peace with this realization, she was able re-trim her masts, re-deck her sails, and get on with her true vocation, her poetry, her spiritual expression, her own way of worshiping.
As a child my intuition rebelled against my father’s atheism. The first chance I got I latched on to a religion with just as much oppressive dogmatism as the scientific atheism from which I was trying to escape. But while ‘gurgling down’ in my spiritual struggle, it slowly dawned on me that religion and science are simply different ways of trying to make sense of and explain the world and the universe. The assumptions of both can be terribly flawed and misguided. Organized religion and organized science can both be dogmatic and self-righteous. People who worship science, in my opinion, give up their own experience of the divine to the men in lab coats, our modern-day priests. Ideally there is a balance between Logic and Wonder, however.
When I started reading Emerson and Dickinson I found myself home at last with the ideas of transcendentalists:
The transcendentalists felt the presence of God in their intuition, but they advised that intuition should be guided by reason, and not follow its own course unaided. They discerned that God speaks directly to the self within us. They stressed the value and importance of personal mystical experience over beliefs, doctrines, rituals, and institutions. All their insights derived from their inner life. Their movement was a reaffirmation of the inner way of introversion or interiority.
~ Wayne Teasdale
(The Mystic Heart: Discovering a Universal Spirituality in the World’s Religions)
How I admire Emily for holding on to her inner life!