whaleship sails

5.25.14 ~ New London, Connecticut
5.25.14 ~ New London, Connecticut

Southeastern Connecticut is buzzing with excitement about the upcoming 38th voyage of the Charles W. Morgan, of Mystic Seaport, the last wooden whaleship in the world. Her 37th voyage was 93 years ago from September 1920 to May 1921. Mystic Seaport has been diligently working to restore her to her former glory for several years now.

5.25.14 ~ New London, Connecticut
5.25.14 ~ New London, Connecticut

Because the Mystic River is shallow, last Saturday tugboats brought the ship to New London, on the deeper Thames River, so they could add ballast and fuss with her sails, making final preparations for her historic voyage. Today we went over to see the Morgan and her crew at work.

5.25.14 ~ New London, Connecticut
5.25.14 ~ New London, Connecticut

Sea trials from New London will be June 7-8 and 11-12, and then on June 17, weather permitting, the Morgan will set sail for her first port of call in Newport. I am keeping my fingers crossed that I can get some pictures of her as she sails past Groton on her way out of the Thames River and into Long Island Sound.

5.25.14 ~ New London, Connecticut
5.25.14 ~ New London, Connecticut

The tugs will probably take her down the river so I’m just not sure at what point she will finally be on her own under full sail. I do hope I catch it!!!

5.25.14 ~ New London, Connecticut
5.25.14 ~ New London, Connecticut

A moment of mourning came over me when I realized I had picked out a postcard for my father and was startled to remember yet again that he is gone… He would have loved seeing all this!

5.25.14 ~ New London, Connecticut
5.25.14 ~ New London, Connecticut

Isn’t it amazing how these sailors can work so high up in the rigging? And imagine them doing it while the ship is rolling with the waves…

5.25.14 ~ New London, Connecticut
5.25.14 ~ New London, Connecticut

We watched the PBS documentary, “The Charles W. Morgan” last night and enjoyed learning more about her history. We’re looking forward to following her progress as she embarks on this special 38th voyage!

wisps of memory

7.24.92.NinaPintaSantaMaria
Nina, Pinta or Santa Maria (?) replicas ~ 7.24.92 ~ New London, Connecticut

The other day I was reading my spring/summer issue of Mystic Seaport Magazine, anticipation growing with every article read for the upcoming 38th voyage of the Charles W. Morgan on May 17. The last wooden whaleship in the world, newly restored, will be embarking on a voyage to several historic ports on the New England coast, from New London to Boston. It will be a thrill to photograph her as she sails past us here in Groton on her way from Mystic Seaport to the port of New London!!! She hasn’t been sailed in 90 years and she will have no motor.

As I was contemplating this wonder a couple of fuzzy memories started trying to emerge from my stress-weary brain. My father and me on a wooden walkway surrounding a ship which was being restored (was it the Amistad?) in the Henry B. duPont Preservation Shipyard at Mystic Seaport. A barrel of shavings and chips from the work on the ship. A sign inviting us to take a piece of wood home as a souvenir. I am struggling to remember, what ship, what year, if anyone else was with us…

7.24.92.Papa-s
7.24.92 ~ Papa

My father was a son of Ukrainian immigrants who had been peasants in their native land. Owning their own land here in America was extremely important to my grandparents and my father grew up with that same strong conviction. So much so that he was utterly baffled when Tim & I decided to buy a condo near the sea instead of a home on a piece of property.

Yet he honored the deep ties to the sea my mother and her ancestors had, keeping alive an interest in seafaring history even after she died. This is another facet of my father’s legacy which I’m now coming to appreciate. Not long after my mother died he took me over to the Mystic Seaport membership building and requested that I be allowed on his membership in place of my mother, so I could bring my children there. Since my parents had been life-long members, I think they bent the rules a little and allowed him to do this.

7.24.92.Jon-s
Jon, age 14 ~ 7.24.92

I think it must have been in the 1990s when we each took home a piece of that ship’s wood. He was still getting out and about before his fall in 2000. And it was after my mother died in 1991. Oh why can’t I remember more details?

7.24.92.Larisa-s
Larisa, age 11 ~ 7.24.92

A search through a 1992 photo album renews another vague nautical memory. There is my Papa, taking his grandchildren to tour the replicas of Columbus’ ships, the NinaPinta & Santa Maria when they sailed into New London’s harbor on July 24, 1992, honoring the 500th anniversary of the historic voyage. Where is the third grandchild, though? Was he camera-shy or did he have other plans that day?

Well, for what it’s worth, I leave my wisps of memory here for future generations who might find it all of some interest.

7.24.92.JonLarisa-s
Jon and Larisa ~ 7.24.92

Connecticut Renaissance Faire

9.24.11 ~ Hebron, Connecticut
9.24.11 ~ Hebron, Connecticut

Last Saturday we braved the unseasonal heat and humidity and visited the Connecticut Renaissance Faire in Hebron, Connecticut.

9.24.11 ~ Hebron, Connecticut
9.24.11 ~ Hebron, Connecticut

We saw a silk aerialist on one stage:

9.24.11 ~ Hebron, Connecticut
9.24.11 ~ Hebron, Connecticut

Then we were approached by this self-proclaimed fool who invited us to see his duel on another stage. I said we would come if he’d allow me to take his picture. He posed willingly.

9.24.11 ~ Hebron, Connecticut
9.24.11 ~ Hebron, Connecticut

We watched another show on the stage shown below, from a distance, while eating our lunch in the shade. Not sure what it was all about – there was a lot of splashing and towel snapping – no doubt they were poking fun at the man they coaxed up there from the audience.

9.24.11 ~ Hebron, Connecticut
9.24.11 ~ Hebron, Connecticut

There were costumes to be seen everywhere…

9.24.11 ~ Hebron, Connecticut
9.24.11 ~ Hebron, Connecticut

But our favorite part of the day was the falconry demonstration. I’m not sure how I feel about this sport, but the falconer explained that their birds were rescue birds and that they would have perished in the wild. In theory these birds of prey could fly away if they were unhappy with their lot in life.

9.24.11 ~ Hebron, Connecticut
9.24.11 ~ Hebron, Connecticut

I was thrilled to be so close to these beautiful creatures, but my camera was getting a workout trying to zoom in and out to get pictures of them up close and far away. This falconer was very accommodating and kept pausing in front of me so I could get a shot.

9.24.11 ~ Hebron, Connecticut
9.24.11 ~ Hebron, Connecticut

I got the sense that these falconers love and respect their birds of prey. They seemed genuinely interested in educating the public about their natural behavior. No unnatural or coerced circus tricks here.

Mystic Outdoor Art Festival

8.13.11 ~ Mystic, Connecticut
8.13.11 ~ Mystic, Connecticut

I’ve been a little sad this week, stumbling across a few painful reminders of losses in the past. One reminder was a deeply moving blog post, Silent Death-Alzheimer’s Disease story-1988, with striking photos that hit so close to home, bringing back memories of my grandmother’s decline and reminding me of what my father is going through now.

The idea of crowds and heat and humidity gave me a bit of pause, but today we ventured out to the 54th annual Mystic Outdoor Art Festival. We were lucky to find a parking spot we didn’t have to pay for and it was not too long a walk to the first booth.

8.13.11 ~ Mystic, Connecticut
8.13.11 ~ Mystic, Connecticut

The festival is a professionally juried outdoor art show, with booths for over 250 artists and over 60 crafters to display their works lining the streets of historic Mystic. One must cross over the Mystic River on a bascule drawbridge (above and below) to get from East Main Street to West Main Street in Mystic.

8.13.11 ~ Mystic, Connecticut
8.13.11 ~ Mystic, Connecticut

Before we got too far I fell in love with an oil painting of a cat sitting on a chair looking out the window, called “Oliver’s View” by Kimberley Scoble. The artist told me she painted the scene first and then Oliver cooperated by jumping on to the chair and sitting there for twenty minutes looking at something intently, the way cats do.

Because we were at an art show I was totally unprepared for a booth a few spots down for the Terri Brodeur Breast Cancer Foundation. As a kind breast cancer survivor was explaining about the Walk Across Southeastern Connecticut coming up on October 1st I got all choked up and then the tears started. I explained to her that my mother died of breast cancer twenty years ago… I don’t know if this is menopause making me so sensitive… I’m kind of surprised that it hit me like that.

Tim took me away and comforted me as I collected some pamphlets. It took me a while to regain my composure. Now that I’m home I’m thinking maybe the universe is telling me it’s time to get involved in a cause that is obviously so dear to my heart. The woman said if we couldn’t walk the quarter marathon (6.55 miles) we could take part by being in a cheering section. And in October heat and humidity probably wouldn’t be a reason for concern…

8.13.11 ~ Mystic, Connecticut
8.13.11 ~ Mystic, Connecticut

Anyhow, we went on to see many beautiful oil paintings, watercolors, photography, pastels, sculpture, acrylics, pottery, metalwork and crafts. Most were way out of our price range, and many had signs forbidding the taking of pictures. But we did buy some very refreshing all-natural frozen lemonade!

8.13.11 ~ Mystic, Connecticut
8.13.11 ~ Mystic, Connecticut

On March 6, 2000, there was a fire at the shops on 18-22 West Main Street in Mystic which burned them to the ground. Every plan proposed to rebuild the site has been rejected for one reason or another and it remains as the fire left it. A wall was erected to hide the empty spot, but there are some holes cut out of it for people to look through. For the festival, the wall has been decorated with children’s art.

8.13.11 ~ Mystic, Connecticut
8.13.11 ~ Mystic, Connecticut

Another treat was some lovely music we heard before we found the source. This woman was playing an ancient Chinese stringed instrument, a guzheng.

8.13.11 ~ Mystic, Connecticut
8.13.11 ~ Mystic, Connecticut

We stopped at the local free-range chicken farm on our way home, and at a farmer’s market for tomatoes, eggplant, squash and cherries. I’m looking forward to autumn and apples – I’ve had enough of summer!

Gallows Lane

Map & Compass flag and treasure box

Earlier today Beverly and I went hiking in the woods near Gallows Lane in New London. She was setting out flags and prizes hidden in the woods for the thirty children who will be coming to her Map & Compass activity on Saturday. The children have to use a map of the woods and a compass to locate eight places marked by the flags. Each location has a plastic box filled with a little treasures. They bring back one treasure from each box to prove they found each of the flags. (They get to keep the treasures…) I think the first kid back from the expedition gets another prize, too. It took us a couple of hours to set it all up, so they’ll be having a long walk and an adventure, too, if they manage to find them all!

The cliff where Sarah Bramble was hung from the gallows…

One might wonder how a road would come to be designated with such a morbid name. Gallows Lane. Well, it was a terrible thing that happened there. A servant woman named Sarah Bramble was executed by hanging off the cliff here in 1753. She had been convicted of murdering her illegitimate newborn daughter. So far I haven’t found out too much about her, but what I have found out makes me more curious than ever about her life.

November 21st, 1753, Sarah Bramble was executed in a cross highway that leads out of the main road to Norwich, about two miles north of the town plot. This path has ever since been known as Gallows Lane. It is a rugged, wild and dreary road, even at the present day. The fearful machine was erected in the highest part of the road, and all the hills and ledges around must have been covered with the spectators. It was computed that 10,000 assembled on this occasion; some of them probably came twenty or thirty miles to witness this repulsive exhibition. The gloom of the weather added another dismal feature to the scene, a drizzly rain continuing most of the day.

This is the only public execution of any white person that ever took place in New London. The crime of the unhappy woman was the murder of her infant illegitimate child, on the day of its birth. It was committed in April, 1752, and she was tried by the superior court the next September. But the jury disagreeing in their verdict, she was kept imprisoned another year, and sentenced October 3d, 1753. She declined hearing the sermon intended for her benefit, which was preached by Rev. Mr. Jewett, before the execution.

Frances Manwaring Caulkins, History of New London, Connecticut: From the First Survey of the Coast in 1612, to 1852, (Hartford, Connecticut: Press of Case, Tiffany & Company, 1852), 468

Sunlight through the trees and spilling over the wall…

[September 28, 1753] “at the meeting house to hear the Tryal of Sarah Bramble for murdr of her Bastard Child in March 1752.  Court Sat by Candle light.”
[October 1, 1753] “the Jury brot in their verdict & found Sarah Bramble Guilty of Murdering her Bastard Child a female in march 1752.”
[October 3, 1753] “Sarah Bramble Received Sentance of Death ys Day”
[October 24, 1753] “went to Lectureto hear Mr Jewit who pr to Sarah Bramble &c.”
[November 7, 1753] “in the aftern att Lecture. Mr Jewit preacht. the Sermon Composed to be pr to Sarah Bramble, but she declined Coming to hear itt, a Large Congregation.”
[November 21, 1753] “Misty & Rain moderately. S: Bramble. I was at home foren. in the aftern I Rid up to the Cross Highway abve Jno Bolles to See Sarah Bramble Executed for the Murdering her Bastard Child in march last was a year Since. She was hanged at 3 Clock. a Crowd of Spectators of all sexes & nations yt are among us from the neighbouring Towns as well as this. Judged to be Ten Thousand. it Rained moderately most of the day.”

Joshua Hempstead, Diary of Joshua Hempstead of New London, Connecticut (New London, Connecticut: New London County Historical Society, 1901), 616-619

Stone walls in the woods…

It strikes me how matter-of-fact and unemotional Hempstead is about this woman’s trial and execution. He doesn’t say one way or the other what he thinks about the matter. Why did the jury disagree on a verdict? Who was the father of Sarah Bramble’s child? Didn’t he have some responsibility for what happened? Was the father possibly her employer? I can’t help feeling she was probably abandoned and forced to bear the blame for the “fornication.” And why did she murder her baby, if she did? Did she want to spare it the pain of a lifetime of being referred to and excluded as a Bastard? Did she feel cornered, like there was no other way out? Honestly, I could see myself reasoning that way if I had found myself in that situation in that time period. Maybe she was suicidal…

There’s a lot of history in these woods, which are still claiming back the land the early settlers turned into farms and then abandoned when they moved westward. Today we found a pen made of stones for ewes and their lambs. The rocks were low enough for the mother sheep to leave to find food and return, but high enough to keep the lambs safe inside. Amazing how shepherds knew to build such an enclosure and how the sheep made use of it, instinctively knowing it was just what they needed for a perfect nursery!

We also found a pretty little princess pine forest…

Enchanting princess pine forest…

Growing Hope for America

John Mellencamp, Willie Nelson, Dave Matthews, Neil Young

Been meaning to write this blog all week, another rough week, migraine and Auntie recovering from surgery… Taking some refuge in listening to music…

Saturday night I had a treat – I got to watch the 25th Farm Aid benefit concert on Direct TV! I’ve wanted to go to one for years, but they’ve usually been held at locations too far away for us to attend. In 2008, Larisa and I were so excited when we learned that it would be held in Massachusetts, about an hour and a half from here. Unfortunately for us, the tickets (20,000 seats!) sold out in 5 minutes and we didn’t get to go… As far as I know, that was the only time it was held in New England.

This year it was held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but I got to see and hear everything! And I think it was probably more enjoyable listening in the comfort of home, with an unobstructed close-up view of the stage. And with earphones the music sounded very good! It must have been cold there because many of the performers and people in the audience were bundled up. The host, Tavis Smiley, even had a scarf wrapped around his neck!

Farm Aid is a worthy cause, celebrating the positive, sustainable future that family farmers are trying to cultivate with their hard work every day. It supports family farms to stand their ground in the fight against factory farms, which are ruining the quality of our food supply, spreading diseases, and polluting the environment. Listening to the information presented between performances renewed my resolve to buy local and buy organic. It’s nice to know so many people are fighting for the future of our planet.

And I didn’t know Willie Nelson had a son who has his own band… Lukas Nelson & The Promise of the Real. He’s a very intense and energetic performer, first riveting my attention during his band’s set. It wasn’t until he came back to perform with Willie at the end that I connected the dots and realized they were father and son. Lukas has his own psychedelic bluesy folk rock sort of sound.

Of course my favorite part was Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds, who did Bob Dylan’s All Along the Watchtower, and then Dave’s Don’t Drink the Water, Save Me, You & Me, Gravedigger, and Crush. Willie Nelson came out and joined them for Gravedigger. By the way, Willie’s cover of Gravedigger is very good. I refer to Gravedigger as Dave’s genealogy song, as it seems to describe the contemplating genealogists tend to do as they meander through cemeteries.

Just as rock and roll is loud and proud, so is Farm Aid. Farm Aid’s greatest accomplishment, I believe, is in the spirit. It’s the fact that we represent the spirit of the good fight, to keep something good happening. It just keeps getting stronger and stronger….
~ Neil Young

Thank you, Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp, and Dave Matthews, and all the guest artists who donated their time and resources, for keeping us focused on the important role of family farmers in America.