Sunday, March 19, 2017

Chapter Fifteen: In which my tendon is stabbed, I attend my first Yankee Swap, and I support the Boston Women's March

It seems that it has been ages since I last wrote, and I suppose it may as well have been for how much has occurred. The beginning of 2017 has been very difficult in many ways, and I apologize at not making time or energy to write about it. This chapter will focus on January, which I will tell about in three stories. 

The CT Scan
I had a mysterious, undiagnosed bladder problem and spent a lot of time getting a CT scan, a cystoscopy, and trying modified diets only to find that nothing detectable was wrong. Eventually my symptoms went away and these health issues of November to January have been relegated to my shelf of undiagnosed or diagnosed yet unexplainable, intrusive health problems. But, if nothing else, I am grateful that I am no longer dealing with it. I will, however, tell the story of my CT scan.

Making the appointment for my CT scan was odd. It was hard to communicate with the fellow, and I felt doubtful about the experience and whether I'd even successfully secured an appointment despite the time slot he said he was holding for me. Well, when I showed up to my appointment, the receptionist told me that I had no appointment. My referral had never even been sent from the hospital. Fortunately, the technician hadn't left yet and the receptionist was able to immediately call for my referral, so I waited. I waited for an hour instead of the estimated 20 minutes the receptionist had given me. I had been told to come with an empty bladder. The technician requested that I drink three cups of water 20 minutes a part because I needed to pee before I went in.

Anyway, when I was finally led into the scanning room, I was nervous. One particular reason was that I had recently stopped taking birth control because it interfered with my epilepsy medication. If there was a chance of one being pregnant, one isn't supposed to have a CT scan because of the radiation. Well, I wasn't pregnant, and, logically, I knew that. But when there is a chance, there is a worry. Then came the IV. The technician stabbed my tendon repeatedly trying to shove the IV needle in. He didn't know it was tendon at the time, so he shoved harder when it wouldn't "take." He stopped suddenly when it occurred to him that it might not be a vein he was prodding. Taking out the needle, he said "Looks like that was a tendon. Oops. You're going have a bruise." He grabbed a band and wrapped it tight around that spot to lessen the bruising and then put the IV in my vein. The vein stung for the next 10 minutes. Initially, I had asked if it was supposed to sting. He said no and told me to let him know if it didn't stop. Well, 10 minutes later he asks me, I said it still hurt, and he decided to grab my arm at the entry point and push and move it around while in my vein until I started tearing up, at which point he looked at me and asked, "Am I hurting you?" I nodded my head yes. So he stopped. He said the scan was nearly over and quickly walked out.

The scan took another 30 minutes our so. I was in pain, extremely nauseated, and claustrophobic to boot. So I sang to myself. Spencer has a fragment of a song that he sings to me when I'm in need of comfort, when I have anxiety, or when I ask him to. He's done this since we were first married. Well I sang this segment from "Everything's Alright" to myself on repeat for 30 minutes, and I honestly think that's what kept me calm and collected.

After I re-entered the lobby, I had to wait another 30 minutes for the image disk. Then I checked out. The receptionist seemed uncomfortable. I had been driven into Cambridge through a taxi service that the establishment provided. I guess that I technically lived out of the bounds of their distance limit, although the man that I had called to set up the ride had mentioned nothing. The receptionist paid the bill when I arrived, which was gracious, but on my way out, he, rather passive aggressively, told me about the limit and that I never should have been allowed to use the taxi service from out in Belmont in the first place. Trying to smooth it over, I said that I could take the bus home, but he wouldn't be consoled. He wanted me to not require the taxi, yet when I said I could take the bus, he felt like a heel and objected. I was exhausted and nauseated and felt like I was going to fall over, so I just wanted to leave. I finally told him to call the taxi, which would take me to Harvard Square and that I would take the bus from there. It felt like a compromise. Still looking aggressively pensive, he called the taxi.

An hour later I was home. There were many tears, the dam kind of bursting, and much comforting on the part of Spencer. Sleeping was difficult that night. I was nauseated, dizzy, in quite a bit of pain, and the inside of my vein felt like it had been scraped around the edges. I can't really describe how my tendon felt . . . it felt bad with a ton of ibuprofen in my system. But I started sobbing and felt like I was going to faint later that night only to realize that the pain killer had worn off. I took some more. Within a few days though I was fine. I'm astounded by the body's resilience and ability to heal. 

My First Yankee Swap
The rest of January and my winter recess, I worked, did a bit of crocheting and extra sleeping and had some downtime with Spencer, but on the whole, it was the least restful break I have ever had. There were two definitive highlights however. The first was our church ward's Yankee Swap. Essentially we brought a white elephant gift, technically an odd Christmas gift they'd received, and swapped them through a fun game. Spencer and I though it was hilarious that an insult had transformed into a label for a treasured tradition. "Yankee" has been an insult for over 200 years. It was originally just a term for Americans, albeit an insulting term. Eventually it became a label for people thought of as distrustful traders, street-smart, intelligent but craftily so. (Just picture it: A bunch of Yanks come to an evening of gifts, bringing the "worst gifts" from last Christmas, and then proceed to steal each other's gifts in the attempt to come out with the best stuff.) Eventually it became an exclusive term for "our Northern Neighbors." Here's the idea behind it.

"If you're in Mexico, anybody north of the border is a Yankee. If you're over the border, its someone from above the Mason-Dixon line. If you're above the Mason-Dixon line a Yankee is someone from New England. If you live in New England, you know a Yankee is some one from Maine. You go to Maine looking for a Yankee and they'll tell you its an old hard tack farmer out in the country. Finally, if you go up to Maine, find yourself an old hard-tack farmer, and ask him where you can find a Yankee? He'll tell you "Well, yuh take thet ruhd theh, noth 'bout 12 miles, till yuh come tuh the fok, n'beh right, go 'nother 8 miles till yuh get t'the end. When the ol gent with the shotgun comes out t'meetchuh, why thet's a Yankee. Eyuh." http://mullenclan.com/misc/YankeeSwapRules.htm

At this point, "Yankee" basically refers to someone from New England. It seems that this identity has been thoroughly embraced. At this point it's become an event unto itself, but it's still hilarious. Feel free to browse all the sites dedicated to Yankee jokes; they're pretty great. http://yankeejokes.com/


Anyway, some people brought weird gifts that recurred every year and were now a tradition (a small basketball crockpot that every receiver had signed). So here's the game: every person who brought a gift received a number, and we opened presents from lowest to highest number. So the gift pile dwindles. The catch, though, is that you can swap gifts up to three times. So the person opening the gift is Owner #1. The next person opens their gift, doesn't like it as much and switches with Owner #1. This new person is now Owner #2. A few presents down the line, a person opens a gift that they don't like, but they really like Owner #1 and now Owner #2's gift. So they swap. Because Owner #3 is the third owner, it is now their gift for sure. It has been swapped it's maximum amount of times. And that's how it goes. It was a blast! Spencer and I ended up with a framed and signed photo of one of the parent's teenage boy in the ward. It was the best, 80s-esque picture ever. The gift also included an extra large sleeve of Toblerone. We fared pretty well in my opinion. 

The Boston Women's March
The second highlight was the Boston Women's March the weekend before Spring Term began. It really was inspiring.  The buses were packed with energized and pleasant people chatting. Everyone headed to the same place with shared conviction broke down the social barriers that usually keep people quiet and to themselves through their commute. The Red Line Subway had the ticket gates thrown open, letting everyone through and onto the train cars for free. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority had adjusted the line schedules, sending empty cars back and forth between the Boston Common and Harvard in order to quickly transport everyone. Every time an empty car rolled into the station the crowds cheered. Not everyone was as lucky as I was because I only waited five minutes before being carried along and shuffled into a car that was filled to capacity. It had only one last space for one last body, and I claimed it.

Once I arrived in the common, I waited for an hour for my cohort of friends whom I was to meet but had gotten slowed at a station with fewer cars coming back and forth. Even so, I had a delightful time reading signs, looking at the pussy-cat hats, and spotting a Betsy Ross costume, Suffragette costumes, etc. There was no cell service because of the sheer mass of people overwhelming the signal, so it was a miracle that I found my classmates, a sheet stroke of luck amidst the throng. The rest of the experience was characterized by waiting. The Boston chapter had planned for 20,000 people and nearly 175,000 people showed up. Many people weren't actually able to march due to logistical issues, bottlenecks, etc., but we all felt good for having shown up to show our support to the causes, values, and people we loved. My friends and I, with Spencer joining us later, spent the rest of the day resting, talking, and making soups for dinner and brownies for dessert. We finished the evening by watching some Planet Earth because I had never seen it and that just wouldn't do.

Then term began.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Chapter Fourteen: In which I make a Christmas wreath, hear the bells on Christmas day, and ring in the new year

The month of December was particularly difficult for me. As you can see by my extreme tardiness in posting this chapter of our experience in Boston, I have had no spare minute with which to write. Needless to say, I am back and I have lived to tell you the tale.

December began in a whirlwind way. The first week of December was the last few days of class. So the beginning of the Christmas season was accompanied by the beginning of my two week reading and finals period. Even so, I did my best to still feel a little Christmas spirit now and again.

On December 1st, we started the Christmas season with my ritual decorating. We began by putting up our first New England handmade wreath. It is a tradition in our ward  (along with another ward)  to make Christmas wreaths each year. Volunteers pre-tie the bows and collect evergreen branches. At the wreath-making activity, we all received the circular frame and set to work with shears and wire. I was a bit befuddled by the whole process when a wonderful woman offered to assist me.  She said that she had been doing this for decades (this tradition has been going on for fourty years +). Anyway, she taught me a brilliant technique for wrapping pine boughs and helped me for about ten minutes until my wreath was well underway. This was especially kind since I had arrived late. (I attended HDS' s Seasons of Light, which was a beautiful evening of music and readings from each tradition. The room was lit by candle light, each candle grouping relating to different traditions, like the menorah for example.) Anyway, Seasons of Light was why I was late. But with the guidance of that wonderful woman and the help of my friend Zoe, I left with a beautiful wreath that I had made. I felt awesome. My craftiness knows no bounds!

Back to decorating. Hanging our Christmas wreath and smelling the scent of pine, we dug out the Christmas decorations. We put up our one string of lights around the door frame and couch, and we placed our tiny tree on the piano. Pulling out the Christmas ornaments, we reminisced about lovely past adventures we had experienced and other lovely things as we put each one on the tree. (We try to buy or make a Christmas ornament for every place we've been.) We played a bit of Christmas music,  Spencer quietly tolerating my tastes in Christmas music until it was time to turn on Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Looking around the room, I felt that New England was a wonderful place to celebrate Christmas.


After this lovely introduction to the Christmas season, Spencer and I helped plan the ward Christmas party. We went to meetings and helped determine the theme of "Light the World through Service," which, interestingly, was determined shortly before the LDS church came out with this same theme. Funny how things happen to correlate. Spencer and I were specifically in charge of the "service chain." Every Sunday in December we would pass out slips of Christmas-themed paper which the members would then write on and give back and then we would staple them into a chain. The chain grew of course, and at the Christmas party we displayed it around a large Christmas tree. It was a lovely show of the service in which our ward had engaged. 

Early in the month Spencer and I also attended a special Christmas event at the National Park Historical Site, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's home. For the Christmas season,  the site opened its doors for a special out-of-season event. The tours and open house didn't cover every room in the house or the grounds as the in-season tour does. Instead, each room that was open to guests was themed around a different holiday that the Longfellow family celebrated. The dining room was thanksgiving, the sitting room was Christmas, the study was New Year's, and the living room was Twelfth Night. A harpist was playing. Next to the home there were crafts and refreshments.

The rooms were beautiful (I've honestly never seen such a beautiful, intricate, hodgepodge home. The home, known as Craigie House, was gifted to Henry and Fannie by Fannie's parents, the Appletons, for their wedding. (Quite the present I dare say.)

There was a bust of George Washington in the entry way because Longfellow was proud that Washington has occupied the home for a brief time during the Revolutionary War. There were also a lot of busts in the study specifically. There were honestly like ten small busts of people like Cicero, Dante, Shakespeare, Aristotle, and others. Seriously, he has so many perhaps they were muses for Longfellow. The study also had a lot of paintings of his friends like Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorn, and others, and one painting was one done by his wife, Fanny, who was rather talented of him while sitting in his chair. The architecture was interesting because it was so ornate and generally mid-Georgian. But the study had bamboo trimmings and much of the furniture and display objects were from Japan. Charles was quite a traveler when he became an adult. He even lived in Japan for two years and sent things back. He got a tattoo there and had companions, one of which was Ohanna. (So edgy.) Here are a few fun facts from the open house:
  • Twelfth night parties were an excuse really to hold a party 12 days after Christmas, so not everyone celebrated Twelfth night. Even the Longfellow's didn't celebrate it annually. One year the Longfellow's had over all of the Harvard freshman among others and danced and partied. (Hard partiers in the Longfellow home.) The event of the night was when a massive cake (a variation on fruit cake) was brought out. The cake had a coin or something similar mixed in, so everyone got a slice and then someone found the coin in their slice. This person became the queen or king of Twelfth Night; they would sit in the special chair and everything.
  • In one room we saw letters to and from Santa. One letter from the oldest son, Charley, when he a a little boy asked for a soldier hat or some other item that soldiers use, and Santa wrote back. He said that he would give Charley a few toy soldiers because "he doesn't mind if a boy plays with toy soldiers, but he does not approve of playing at being a soldier." (Interesting in the future light of Charles running away to the Union Army.) The second son, Ernest, was told to be better about brushing their teeth by Santa. There were also letter from his three daughters, Annie, Edith, and Alice. All I could think of was, "well played Santa, well played." :)
  • Thanksgiving was a relatively new holiday as well. I know, it is truly shocking that it was not always celebrated by Americans. But it took even longer for it to be associated with pilgrims and Native Americans. It was originally just a sporadic day, not necessarily yearly, that was dedicated to people giving thanks. Church-goers would usually fast the service and then prepare a grand meal. If I'm not mistaken, Thanksgiving didn't even become a national holiday until President Lincoln declared it so, and it wasn't super integrated or consistent even then. And once again if I'm not mistaken (it's been a while since the tour), the Longfellows were the first family in Cambridge, Massachusetts to celebrate a formal Thanksgiving holiday.
  • Finally, I'll share something about Christmas. Christmas trees were a relatively new thing as well. Taken from the Germans, the Longfellows kind of liked the idea and started integrating it into their Christmases. Another fun fact, one year Charles Dickens came to Christmas. It was his first public reading tour of "A Christmas Carol" in the United States, which started shortly after this Dickens/Longfellow Christmas. How lovely. (p.s. "A Christmas Carol" is a Christmas classic, so it's time you made "The Chimes" a New Year's classic. Dickens knows where it's at . . . at least with his novellas. Here's a insider secret: Richard Armitage, The Chimes, Audible, go find it now.) Back to Longfellow. Perhaps the most poignant thing I know about Christmases and the Longfellows is a tragedy on Christmas that is detailed in this short clip recorded from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas concert with Brian Stokes Mitchell a few years back. 

Herrmann hints at it, but while trying to put out the flames and save his wife, Fanny, he sustained horrible burns on his hands and face. Everyone knows Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's iconic beard, but few people realize that he has such a beard because he could no longer shave due to his facial burns. So in a very real sense he carried the tragedy of his wife's death on his face and hands, which at least on his face, were hidden beneath his beard. This tragedy and the horror of the civil war birthed the poem that eventually became the Christmas song, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.

Here is one more relevant additional fact: there are a few more verses in the poem, "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day," that address the Civil War specifically. But those have generally been left out of Christmas songs because they are so time-period specific. They are, of course, quite moving though, so I suggest everyone go read the poem in its entirety. And remember that fact about Christmas letters to Santa? Remember how Charles asked for soldier garb and was denied by a Santa who said that he was fine with boys playing with toy soldiers but not with play-acting as soldiers? Well, this young Santa to Charley interaction becomes increasingly poignant because Charles snuck away from home and enlisted in the union army as a young man, feeling that it was his duty to aid his country in the conflict. Henry did not want him to go and did not give him his permission/blessing. Charles only barely survived, receiving an injury and being brought home by his father. As a final note, upon reading Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poetry, you will notice that many of them are simply observations of his home and life like "The Old Clock on the Stairs," or "Twelfth Night," or, obviously, "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day." Needless to say, I am very excited to go back in the on season to get a full tour. 

Anyway, the rest of December for the most part, seemed to fly by as much as things can while wading through a pile of sludge. I'll be short about it, but I survived finals. It was 15 days in the end, and I had to write five essays. So I mapped out a schedule of writing and generally stayed to it. I wrote two five-page essays and three twenty-page essays in the end. I think I used something around 10 books to do research and tons of articles. How did I do it? Spencer. He fed me and edited every single paper: every single one! Also, I didn't really didn't go outside, but I did it. Also, I think the Lord gave me a much needed boost and clear mind. I prayed for it nightly as I basically collapsed
anyway. Needless to say, Harvard finals put the capital H and the dropped R is Harvard. 

Because we were flying to Texas to attend the baby blessing of Spencer's brother JJ, we opened presents on the 20th after I finished my final essay at 10:30 pm an hour and a half before the cut off. Then we packed and went to the airport at 4:45 am. We didn't sleep. Then we were in Galveston, Texas. We were in Galveston for a little less than a week. It was warm and nice to have family time together. For me it was a bit hard because I was rather dazed from finals, dealing with some health issues, and feeling a bit emotionally tired. We all did our best to make it feel like Christmas, a few small gifts on Christmas day, a nice Christmas Eve meal, gingerbread houses Christmas night, a small decorated tree, and the Doctor Who Christmas Special. I, with the help of Hannah's mother (Hannah being JJ's wife) was able to find Tillamook 3-year vintage sharp white cheddar cheese for Spencer's stocking. Seriously guys, so difficult. It's only sold in a few places in the country and shipping is like $25 dollars, so I'm so glad I found it in a Houston HEB. I crocheted my sister's baby blessing blanket, booties, and headband set, and I defiantly wore my Doctor Who Christmas Sweatshirt despite the weather. We went bike riding on the beach, flew kites, spent a day in Houston, where we visited a museum and a Japanese garden and saw huge old oak trees. Anyway, there are too many pictures to post here, so you can find the album 2016 Texas Christmas on my Facebook page if you would like to browse our adventures.
So there you have it. That was December. Well, mostly. When we got home from Galveston, we spent a lovely week doing basically nothing. It was so great. We had dinner with our friends, Kim and Mike. We had lamb and salad and potatoes (quite excellent), finished with chocolate chip cookies, and talked into the night. We rang in the new year with a kiss and some Final Fantasy VII. 

The new year brought work, Sherlock, and renewed goals. What are my goals? (Thanks for asking although you didn't.)
  • Exercise six times a week like I did from January to June last year (till epilepsy, moving, and graduate school struck).
  • Eat three meals a day (yep, this is a real goal. I often forget to eat due to business and a freakish talent to focus on something for like 10 hours at a time), so yeah, eat.
  • Plan weekly dates and hold weekly Family Home Evening. (Don't give in to homework!)
  • Keep up with family and friends by phone or skype every other week to once a month.
  • Seek out ways to help Spencer in the home with domestic chores and other things despite school. And work on a few communication things with conflict resolution.
  • Daily scripture study and prayer.
  • And finally, actively complain less.
Thanks for your patience and for slogging through this post. And much love my friends, family, peers, and whoever else reads this blog. I hope you had wonderful holidays and feel invigorated albeit slightly disoriented at the start of a new year. (2017 just isn't as lovely written. Too bad.)

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Chapter Thirteen, Part Two: In which I find solace at Walden Pond post election and delight in the best ever apple cider and egg nog

Hello everyone,

I am back to talk of happy things. :)

Actually, just to get it out of the way . . . We've all spent a month reeling from the elections. I am massively disappointed, upset, frightened, and determined. My classes that week spent much of our time processing what had happened and how that affected our lives, our families' lives, others' lives, what we could do and what we should do. HDS has been designated a sanctuary due to a statement by the faculty and a petition led by the students. We will see in the future what this will mean for us, the students, the campus, etc. Anyway, this is not the platform on which I want to address the election, except to say that I am so grateful for the chance to vote this election as well as the elation I felt when I had. I will never cease to be grateful that I can vote. I may feel unheard, inaccurately represented, frustrated by systems and inefficient traditions, corruption, biased presentations of information, and a million other things, but I can vote. And in honor of Thanksgiving, I would like to recognize how very grateful I am for that right.

Anyway, as I've alluded to, election week was a very hard one. When life is too much, I have a few things that never fail to make me feel that if not all is right with the world, that at least things can be right within me. The first is listening to music that reminds me of my family. This includes Frank Sinatra, a few 1940's Christmas CD compilations (the Crooner's for sure, oh and Judy Garland), jazz, a lot of scores and classical pieces, and others like Simon and Garfunkel and the Beatles. The second is sitting down to play the piano. I don't often get the chance to do so anymore, and many of my happiest, most cathartic moments as a child to young adult was sitting at the piano and playing for hours as family life swirled around me. The third is retreating to nature. Being in nature holds a power, a tranquility, and an aliveness that always stuns me and rejuvenates me. So the weekend of election week, Spencer and I along with our friends, Zoe and Alex, headed up to Lexington and Concord to go out to a nearby piece of nature. As you can see, I've already posted a few picture of Wilson Farm so let me tell you all about it.

First we went to Wilson Farm in Lexington. It was incredible. The extent of what they produced and the mini grocery store that they had produced entirely from their farm. I'm serious: it was a full-blown grocery store with absolutely incredible apple cider, the best egg nog I've ever ever tasted, and apple cider doughnuts. They grew lots of plants, had livestock in the back that we could visit, a bakery, a Christmas section, everything. I will definitely be going back. It is one of my most favorite places I've been to since moving to greater Boston. It is just so quintessentially New England.

After our magical stop at Wilson Farm, we drove the short distance to Concord to visit the domain of Henry David Thoreau, and the pond in which Amy March (Little Women) almost drowned in when she fell through the ice while ice skating with her other sisters. Walden Pond. And let me tell you, It was stunning, absolutely breathtaking. It wasn't even the height of the autumn colors anymore, and it was still gorgeous.

We started by checking out Thoreau's cabin. The cabin we saw was a replica of Thoreau's home for the few years he was at Walden Pond. But Thoreau was obviously proud of it because he wrote extensive notes about the dimensions of the cabin and wood pile, as well as the placement of all of his furniture and the stove, etc. I mean the guy built it himself, so I suppose that explains his detailed enthusiasm. And yes, there was a statue of Thoreau. And yes, Spencer and I, as we always do, walked in his footsteps for a moment by emulating his deeply ponderous pose.




After seeing Henry David Thoreau's cabin, Zoe, Alex, Spencer, and I proceeded to trek the short walk down to Walden Pond. As I mentioned before, the leaves were no longer at the height of their color before the turn to earthy brown and brasses and golds and fall from their branches. But even so, it was perfect.

We walked along the shoreline, looking at leaves, talking, circumnavigating a bird that was stubbornly standing/sleeping on a rock and would not move. For real though, the bird was there for over a half hour with a few people stopping to look every so often. That bird displayed some serious fortitude and calm. There were people swimming (like triathlon training swimming) in the pond. (Yes, this is allowed, even invited.) And families were out enjoying the last few breaths of autumn before the weather turned and the leaves descended. There was a light breeze which would sweep the leaves from their grasps on the bark and would send them swirling into whirls of rustling, swooshing leaves until they would gently float down, almost like snow, settling on the water, the sand, and our hair. The fallen leaves would occasionally catch a breeze and dance across the sand, flying just over the surface, seeming to lilt to and fro. I really can't describe how lovely and peaceful it was.

Rounding a slight corner, we came to a small inlet. Spencer decided to skip some stones. (He really is very very good at skipping stones. I think at tops he got five or six skips from one stone, which in and of itself is a classic and tranquil image. Also, he's attractive with all his random talents.) Anyway, Spencer's stone-skipping, created a movement among us, and soon Alex, Zoe, and I had joined him is scouting out the best stones for skipping. Spencer was the best at it, with Alex following closely, and then me with varying success, and Zoe with varying success. Spencer and Alex instructed us as to techniques for holding the stone, flicking your wrist and holding your arm to get the right spin to make it glance off the water. It was serious business.


Walden Pond turned out to be exactly what I needed. Quality time with friends, quality time with nature, a small and lovely way to check a site I want to see while living here off of my list (although, I assure you, I'll be coming back), and a small way in which I was able to dislike Henry David Thoreau a little less. (Here's the deal: the guy makes a hole big deal about living in nature and then situates him on his friend's land, ridiculously close to town, and had his mother and sister come to do his laundry and such every week. Talk about "roughing it" in style. Needless to say, this has always colored my opinion of his work. Also, I don't particularly enjoy his writing style although he does have him moments.) Anyway, a new visitor center is also being constructed with really cool rustic, wood log structures. It's really cool but hard to describe.

We stopped in the gift shop and the guy tending the register there gave me a free postcard that showed all the types of leaves that grew and fell at Walden Pond. As an avid scrapbooker, I was very grateful. I, what, saved a whole 25 cents, but it was the gesture that moved me.

Another thing I found in the gift store was the postcard here which says one of my favorite quotes from Thoreau. This is what I mean when I say that "Walden" is dense but holds some real treasures. I mean, what a beautiful iteration of why human beings return to nature, as though it holds some great secret, again and again. "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." Nature really does hold some secret, and returning again and again demonstrates our faith that that something is there and that we can learn it given time, and that by learning it we will truly help us live better lives. After such a harrowing month, Harry Huff's death, drowning in homework resulting in a few emotional breakdowns, the election results, this is what I needed.


Saying goodbye to Walden Pond, Henry David Thoreau, and his little cabin, we headed back to Belmont and life away from the woods.

Once at home, Zoe, Alex, Spencer, and I got our the Apple Cider Doughnuts, Apple Cider, and Egg Nog we had bought at Wilson Farm. Wow! So delicious. Literally the best egg nog I've ever had. I often feel like egg nog gets stuck in my throat like a nasty film, but this egg nog had all the flavor and creaminess with a thinner smoother texture to it. Not runny and no less creamy, just . . . better. The apple cider was wonderful and potent. The apple cider doughnuts tasted perfectly of apple cider and dense cake doughnut (they were divine warm). Sorry my picture is distinctly without apple cider. . . . We drank it all. Also all the doughnuts were devoured. I had to halt all consumption to snap a photo of this solitary doughnut. I'll be going back come Christmas season for sure. The rest of November was much less idyllic than our short two-hour jaunt into a New-England farm and the beauty of Apple Cider and Egg Nog, and the tranquility of Walden Pond. But I'll tell you about it anyway because there are bright moments.

One of the most harrowing weeks of my first semester was in the middle of November. It included two or maybe three essays all due at the same time. One fell through sending that part of my grade from a 100 % to 90%. (Don't worry, it is a small percentage of my overall grade.) It was the first moment that I hadn't been able to turn everything in though. It was really disappointing. The disillusionment of being able to "do it all" in graduate school comes to every graduate student: usually sooner rather than later, but it comes. And this was my moment. I had to decided to take a hit to my grade because I simply didn't have time to read the pages required to write a 500-word response. I felt pathetic. But after hours and hours of trying to finish two other essays, I decided to sleep and eat instead.

I also prayed a lot. My Virginia Woolf essay of The Waves simply wasn't coming together with it then being the night before I had to read the essay out loud in class. I was distressed; I prayed a lot; Barely finished it; revised it before going to bed at 3 a.m., and woke the next morning with five hours of sleep and revised it again. It was 700 words over word count and I just didn't know what to do. So while at work, I emailed my professor (basically my favorite person/professor ever. I really do love her.) and told her of my misgiving, anxiety, and emotional and physical state. She emailed me back saying,

"Dear Natalie,
Thank you for your message and please have no worries. I am just grateful you have been able to prepare something during these difficult and emotionally chaotic days. We ill indeed love you, no matter how many words over the limit you are! I always appreciate your contribution to the class, and I am looking forward to this contribution as well.
Breathe deeply—and don't worry, Stephanie"

I may have cried a little. After work I rushed to the library, printed off my paper, and read it in class. Everyone loved it. Stephanie Paulsell (just so you know her full name) gave me a warm and deeply kind smile, and I felt that everything was going to be alright. I can do graduate school. I can. I honestly believe that the Lord gave me my Virginia Woolf class. I have only had a handful of classes that had a similar level of comradery, genuine love and appreciation for everyone there, and affirming direction from a professor. Another such class was my Transatlantic Literature Women's Studies survey course at Brigham Young Univerity taught by Brandie Siegfried. I don't think I will forget either woman. They have shaped my life in unforgettable ways.

I also got to skype and call many lovely people. Spencer's parents one Sunday and my family the next. My friend Anne received a medical release from her mission, and we were able to skype. It was so good to talk again. I think we talked for three or four hours. It was just wonderful. We've been writing pretty consistently, so it felt like picking up where we left off. My college roommate Paige also skyped me. I was able to call my high school best friend, Sarah, which was long overdue. She's pregnant! (So is my sister McKenzie! All the babies.) Abby, my other college bestie calls me every other week, which provides me much-needed strength and emotional support. It always helps to know that loving relationships can continue to exist despite distance. And I get to hear frequently from my other lovely friends. So great!

Games at the Goodsells
Also, Thanksgiving! HDS held a Community Tea of Thanks. Community Tea is a weekly meal and social gathering that HDS provides for our little community in order to foster love, friendship, community, collegiality, and simply to make sure we're eating. Well the week of Thanksgiving they had a full Thanksgiving meal and invited us to bring others. So I brought Spencer with me, and we had a wonderful evening socializing with good friends and eating good food. Each tradition at HDS had a representative open the evening by giving a blessing of sorts (whatever was truest to their tradition), and I was asked to represent the LDS church. So I explained our emphasis on gratitude within our prayers and then offered a prayer of gratitude. It was nice. For Thanksgiving day, Spencer and I went to our fellow ward members and neighbors the Goodsells. The meal was wonderful, the company delightful, and the post-meal games fun. Unfortunately Spencer has contracted a cold and passed it on to me. But things continue to go well, and I really do have much to be grateful for. I continue to work towards a smooth and successful ending to my first semester at Harvard Divinity School. I got almost all of my Christmas shopping wrapped up and only have a few more presents to crochet. And now I can simply enjoy the Christmas season (and do homework of course). We're going to visit Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's home as a part of our holiday season, (he wrote my favorite carol, "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day") and I am so excited.


Cheers to the season, my last week of classes, and seeing a light on the horizon.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Chapter Thirteen: In which I process grief and sing at the Old South Church in memory of Harry Huff


I've spent a few weeks processing my grief over Harry Huff's passing. I think I'm finally ready to talk about it all. Here's the story:

Halloween had just ended. November had begun. All Saints Day passed with little event, at least for me. The only oddity was that I had not received an email from Harry (Harry Huff is the music director at HDS. He leads the Noon Service Choir I'm a part of.) about the music we were to sing the next day at Noon service. It was odd because Harry always emails us telling us if we are to sing or not, and if we are to sing, what music we will be singing. I set the confusion aside; maybe we weren't singing or maybe something had simply come up.

The next day, All Souls Day, I decide to go to Noon Service a little later than usual, assuming that we weren't singing so there was no need to come early to rehearse. On my way up the stairs to the Andover Chapel, I ran into Sophia (my friend who crafts with me and also sings in the choir). I asked her, "Are we not singing today? I figured we weren't since Harry didn't email us, so I didn't go to rehearsal." Sophia, with a worried expression, stopped me and touched my arm and said, "Natalie, I just heard that Harry had a brain aneurysm last night." I looked at her expressionless. I seemed to have turned off for a moment, uncomprehending her words. "What . . . ?" Then, "Oh no . . . Does anyone know how is he doing or if he is going to be okay?" We continued to walk up the stairs and into the chapel where the other choir members who had assumed we were singing stood around the piano. A man with dark curly hair and very much not Harry was sitting on the piano bench. Sophia informed me as we walked that as far as she knew, Harry was in critical care.
So we sang. Dazed, I was surprised any of us got out a note.
The service was scheduled to be hosted by the denominational counselors this week, who adjusted their plans to center us around prayer for Harry. We began by being updated on Harry's condition, which included only minute details past what Sophia had already told me. Yes, he was in critical care. Yes, his pastoral leaders were by his side. Yes, his condition was extremely dire. No, we couldn't go visit him. No, his chances of survival were not good. Yes, we could pray.

Each counselor scheduled to speak gave remarks and thoughts to provide comfort, give solace, and send our love to Harry. Finally moving out of shock, I began to cry. Tears fell quietly down my cheeks. I hadn't planned on crying today; how could the world so suddenly change? Then it was the Baptist counselor's turn to speak. He began by saying that when faced with times like these, he turned to music, as Harry had taught him to, to soothe the ache that nothing else seemed to reach. Sitting down to the piano, he began playing a familiar tune. As his soulful voice began to ring out, I recognized the song: Simon and Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Waters.

Within moments there wasn't a dry eye in the room. Tears quietly trickling turned to streams of grief and hiccups of disbelief. Sophia began sobbing next to me. How could I, so sorrow-stricken, provide anything to Sophia? So I put my hand on her leg. Not much. Perhaps a reflex: this is what you do in moments like these. Perhaps more than a reflex: a reminder that we weren't alone, that life, the dear and difficult embodiment, can provide affection and communion and not just pain.

When you're weary, feeling small,
When tears are in your eyes, I will dry them all.
I'm on your side, oh, when times get rough
And friends just can't be found
Like a bridge over troubled waters,
I will lay me down,
Like a bridge over troubled waters,
I will lay me down.

When you're down and out,

When you're on the street,
When evening falls so hard,
I will comfort you.
I'll take your part, oh, when darkness comes
And pain is all around,
Like a bridge over troubled waters,
I will lay me down,
Like a bridge over troubled waters,
I will lay me down. 

Sail on silver girl, sail on by.

Your time has come to shine,
All your dreams are on their way.
See how they shine. 
If you need a friend,
I'm sailing right behind
Like a bridge over troubled waters,
I will ease your mind, 
Like a bridge over troubled water,
I will ease your mind.

Tissues began being passed around, along with a paper copy of a hymn, My Life Flows On in Endless Song: one of Harry's favorite hymns. We sang for Harry. (The words of this rendition are not the same as the lyrics I have listed, which are the lyrics we sang for Harry.) 


My life flows on in endless song
Above earth's lamentation.
I hear the real though far-off hymn
That hails a new creation. 
Through all the tumult and the strife
I hear the music ringing.
It sounds an echo in my soul.
How can I keep from singing!

What though the tempest 'round me roars,
I know the truth, it liveth. 
What though the darkness 'round me close,
Songs in the night it giveth. 
No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that rock I'm clinging. 
Since love prevails in heav'n and earth,
How can I keep from singing!

When tyrants tremble as they hear
The bells of freedom ringing,
When friends rejoice both far and near,
How can I keep from singing!
To prison cell and dungeon vile
Our thoughts to them are winging, 
When friends by shame are undefiled,
How can I keep from singing!

And then we prayed. "We know you are holding Harry, Lord. Please hold him tight."

That night, after I'd watched a Japanese film about grief and death for class (go figure, right?), I went home and told Spencer about Harry. Shocked and sad, he held me, stroking my hair till I sobbed everything I'd held in all day, saying, "We were just becoming friends . . . we were just becoming friends." Eventually, Spencer suggested Ibuprofen for my pressure headache. The whole body is affected by grief. Headaches, sore eyes, a stinging weight on your lungs and heart, mechanical movements of necessity, sensitive senses, the brain swimming through fog, everything itching to feel alive, to flee the closeness of death, to pull your loved one from its grasp but fingers not stretching far enough.

The next morning, I found out that Harry had passed away in the early hours of the morning. I quietly teared on the bus on the way to a campus where Harry wouldn't be anymore. I drank peach herbal tea and recalled the kindness that Harry had shown me; he'd made me feel at home at HDS by being excited to see me every week at Noon Service. He'd had enough faith in my ability to give me a solo in "Will I?" from Rent that we sang at a Noon Service, and he had laughed with delight when I did well. He had generously offered to give Spencer and I a private recital, history lesson, and demonstration of his E.M. Skinner organ, saying that he was simply delighted to do so and meet Spencer. He had riffed out all types of songs from soundtracks, scores, classical, jazz, and others. I can't really express my gratitude that I got to see him play his magnificent organ before he died.


Weeks passed. I seemed to pass through fog and despondancy till I at last emerged holding my sorrow, able to look at it at last.


~~~~~

A memorial service for Harry was held at Old South Church yesterday. After a few weeks of processing everything, I still don't know how to express how Harry could make such an impression upon my heart in such a short time or how to express my gratitude that he did. Yesterday, I went two hours early to sing in the pick-up choir for the service. We learned 10 songs. The service was honestly the most majestic and comforting service I've ever been to. The first 30 to 45 minutes were entirely dedicated to music. Outside, bagpipes were playing. The organist began by playing, "Psalm Prelude Set 1, No. 3 (Psalm 23, Verse 4)" by Herbert Howells. Then the choir sang "My Shepherd Will Supply My Need," the tune it was set to having been composed by Harry. After our singing quieted through the cathedral's Sanctuary, hand bells began to sound, barely perceptible at the first. Called The Old South Ringers, they played "Prayer for Humanity" by Linda Lamb. We (the choir) sang "Precious Lord, Take My Hand" by Thomas A. Dorsey. This is a stunning a capella number that I hope to sing again. George Sergeant, the organist, then played For deinem Thron tret' ich, BWV 668" by J.S. Bach. Once again, the Old South Ringers and a flute (played by Ainsley Land) sounded in a Celtic melody, "Celtic Farewell" by Linda Lamb. I didn't want to break the silence as the last note faded, standing and singing "O Lord, May the Words of My Mouth" by Bruce Saylor with the choir.


I had been holding it together quite well till Willido Sordillo began to play "Come Sunday" by Duke Ellington on his tender, soulful alto sax. Tim Harbold accompanying on the piano. Everyone felt it: Harry seemed so close, and it hurt to not hear him delight in the music although I knew he was. Tears began to stream, tissues being passed around among the choir members. (Here is Harry playing it himself.)



It turns out that Harry had been, on top of being a dedicated member and contributor to the Old South Church congregation, a loyal and full participant in the Society for Classical Reform Judaism. He had memorized and knew the Hebrew for Kaddish recitations. He even traveled to Jerusalm to be re-baptized in the Jordan River. He brought home a shofar from his trip, so it was quite right that the shofar be sounded before we continued on to the next hymn.

Following the shofar, we sang "When in Our Music God Is Glorified" by Sir Charles V. Stanfrd. At this point, Harry's reverends, past and present, his rabbi, and his friends spoke, comforted, expressed love and sorrow, and reminisced about Harry. Every so often, the procession of speakers would pause, and the choir would sing a hymn. "'Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit' from 'Win Deutsches Requirem by Johannes Brahms. We also sang an anthem composed in the memory of Harry Lyn Huff, specifically for this service, "Give All the Love," by Carson Colmen, the words by Ralph Waldo Emerson. 



After more beautiful words and remembrances and tears and laughter, we sang, "In the Sweet By and By" by Joseph P. Webster. This is one of Harry's favorite hymns, and he insisted it be sung at his funeral. So we did, for him. After reciting "The Lord's Prayer," the choir sang, "There's a Wilderness in God's Mercy." The final song was "A Repeating Alleluia" by Calvin Hampton. After singing it once through, the congregation joined their voices with ours, and we all sang and processed out of the Sanctuary. I could hardly sing for tears and gratitude.

I have never felt so hopeful while being allowed to also sorrow the loss of a friend, having come together to express gratitude for a happy, playful, loving, generous man, who had changed all of us for good. The stained glass windows with stories of Christ's life, suffering, and resurrection were shining, light streaming through. The space, music, words, and people were beautiful.

A lovely reception followed the service, giving Harry's friends time to meet, mingle, comfort, and reminisce over a light lunch.

Harry had two beloved cats:
Tigger and Kanga.
I apologize that this is so long. But one last thought. I wish I knew who said this, but this quote explains well how my grief has felt. "Grief, I've learned, is really just love. It's all the love you want to give but cannot. All of that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go." This is how it felt to lose Harry, to have him, in some ways, disappear, and to not get to say goodbye and thank you, not knowing that the last time I saw him would be the last. I cried out all the potential our friendship had suddenly been bereaved of. But, I would add a small but significant adaptation: "Grief is just love with no place to go for now." I fully intend to become better friends when I someday join him and the others I love on that distant shore. 


Although I've experienced a loss, I am so grateful for the time I was given. Yes, I miss Harry Huff. But I'm so glad I was able to know him: missing him is worth it.



If you would like to get to know Harry Huff a little better, take a look at Old South Church's tribute to Harry Lyn Huff. You can also search Harry Huff on YouTube and listen to his wonderful music, such as "Will There Really Be a Morning" from his For Your Delight Album.
http://www.oldsouth.org/news/old-south-church-mourns-passing-minister-music-harry-lyn-huff

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Chapter Twelve: In which Spencer and I do all the Halloween things

Hello everyone,

This is way overdue, and I'm sorry for that. I'm trying to come up to breathe between the readings and essays and work and such every so often, so blogging has been, unfortunately, put aside for a few weeks. Actually, case in point, I'm actually supposed to be working on an essay right now, but my brain is going to explode so I'm blogging.

Anyway, October was a fantastic month, and you've already heard about some of it (visiting the Back Bay, the beautiful autumn leaves, etc.), so I thought I would quickly tell you about about how the rest of our Halloween season shook out. So our October/Halloween season really focused around three major events: Harry Huff's private Halloween organ recital, seeing NTLive's Frankentstein starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller in theaters, and visiting Salem, Massachusetts. You've already heard about Harry and the E.M. Skinner organ, so I'll tell you about our other two Halloween-y adventures!

Image result for frankenstein cumberbatchSo National Theatre Live is an incredible source of quality theater. They film plays put on by National Theatre and then send them to theaters so that a wider audience can pay to see the performance that way. Frankenstein has now shown through an initial screening and a series of encores at least three times as opposed to the usual one showing. I first heard about the play screening three years ago, but I could not afford to go. :( So when I heard that it was being screened as a part of this encore series, I was thrilled! I'd waiting years for this. It was also fitting that it was October/Halloween . . . excellent. So I bought our rather expensive tickets and figure out all the public transit and wait. The day arrives. I'm waiting at the station for Spencer to come into Cambridge from Belmont, and it is getting later and later. I'm starting to become more and more stressed. We'd planned in some buffer time and soon that time is gone. He still isn't there. Now we will certainly be late. He still isn't there. I walk from the connection to the next station hoping he'd be there and he isn't. I'm walking back to the connection when I hear Spencer's voice shout Natalie from a crowd. We'd barely missed each other since I wasn't at the connection and he'd gone looking for me. Spencer and I rapidly walked to the bus stop and waited. Spencer explained that there had been a massive accident that had stopped traffic so the buses couldn't get through. Hence why he was late. Even with such an excellent explanation, I couldn't be comforted. I'd waited for this for years; tickets had been pricey. This was our chance! And now I was going to miss a significant portion of the show. Well, we got to the theater 20 minutes into the play crawled into seats awkwardly and watched the rest of it. We basically missed the creation of the creature. No big deal, just the most iconic part ever! (Needless to say, I'm unforgivably bitter at the public transit even if it wasn't their fault.)

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The upside of this story is that what we did see of the play was incredible. Both Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch had mastered both the role of Dr. Frankenstein and the creature and would take turns playing each role. They did this because it was too physically taxing to play the creature repeatedly. Nuts! (You'll notice the picture with half their faces looking like the creature and half like Dr. Frankenstein. That's why.) The version that we saw had Benedict Cumberbatch as the creature and Jonny Lee Miller as Dr. Frankenstein. Cumberbatch was insane in the way he was constantly contorting his body and grunting and learning speech. Him discovering movement, snow, birds singing, language, love, hate, reading, loneliness, etc. was so so moving. My heart just hurt as the play unfolded, just as it has the few times I've read Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. This is an accurate and beautiful rendition of her work. Something I've always hoped to see. Anyway, if you all ever get the chance to attend a NTLive screening of pretty much any play, go! Oh, and don't be late.

On the 28th, Caleb drove down from Maine for our monthly outing. This month we were going to Salem. I have always loved Arthur Miller's The Crucible and felt that October was a good time to go see the place where it all happened. It turns out that Salem is also a National Park because of its maritime history, which we didn't know, so we'll have to go back eventually and learn about that aspect of the city. This trip, though, was dedicated to the Salem Witch Trials. We arrived in the afternoon and spent much of it wandering through the town. It was raining, which Caleb remarked meant our trip was now the quintessential New England experience. We visited Nathaniel Hawthorne's House of the Seven Gables, walked by the Harbor, and took some extra time at the oldest graveyard in Salem and the Salem Witch Trials Memorial, although we knew we'd stop by again on our tour that evening. We stopped in at a bunch of shops and all I can say is all the incense! I did get a nice necklace with a metal circle forming a tree and a beautiful white stone with green veins on its surface. It was a green tree agate stone, which is supposed to be an extremely stabilizing stone that helps provide a powerful connection with the energy of nature. I figured that was something I could use, besides the fact that it was lovely and I've always collected rocks, so I got it. Spencer and I had chosen as our main activity a Witch-trial-focused historical tour scheduled for that evening, so Caleb chose to have us go to the Witch Dungeon Museum.

The dungeon was a recreation based on the recorded dimensions. At the peak of the trials the jail held 150 accused. Debtors prison was a horrid reality, and those who had made a plea, either guilty or not guilty, were under the law put into prison to await trial and then had their possessions and land liquidated to pay for their time in prison. Based on what a prisoner could afford they could pay to have a larger cell, have fewer people in the cell with them, to receive more food, to receive blankets, etc. In the recreation the cells are covered with bars, but in the original dungeon the cells were covered with door leaving the prisoners in absolute darkness. To the above right is a view into one of the smaller cells (the mannequin is there to demonstrate proportion). She couldn't have even laid down. So basically horrifying and inhumane. The youngest accused was a four-year-old girl who ended up going insane from her incarceration. :( By the end of these hellish nine months, five people had died from the conditions in the dungeon. But those who survived and were eventually released, emerged homeless, having had all their possession sold to pay for their time in the dungeon.

Later in the evening, we took the historical tour. Here are some of the interesting things we learned:

  • The Salem Witch Trials occurred during a vulnerable time for the Puritan colonists because the Queen of England had decided that they didn't need a governor as much as Canada, so she moved his jurisdiction. This left Massachusetts without a central body of law.
  • Girls were kept inside and ignored until the marrying age, which was quite young. And so it is believed that the girls were simply thrilled with any form of attention. Until it got out of hand, that is. After a small amount of acting out on the part of the girls, the adults of Salem realized that they could manipulate the girls, who by this point were too scared to say they had been pretending from the start (I mean people were dying), in order to get back at those against whom they'd held long-standing grudges. Being a Puritan, you know, you're supposed to be pure, so this was an ideal way for the adults to exact revenge, take out jealousies, and acquire the accused's land, etc. 
  • You may be wondering how any of these silly testaments held up in a court of law. Well, at this time, specifically in Salem, spectral evidence was accepted as legitimate proof of condemnation. Those who had "signed the Devil's book" acquired a spectre, their essence/soul/spirit that they could send out to terrorize others while their body remained sleeping in bed for example. So one simply had to testify that a person's spectre had terrorized them, and the evidence was considered irrefutable. 
  • Accused witches were sent to prison and stripped to find any moles, birthmarks, or other body marks as evidence of their spectre. The Devil would leave a mark where the spectre was tied to you though it could roam according to your will.
  • Confessing you were a witch most often led to acquittal and "rehabilitation" and "reintroduction" to society, which is why so many people were being accused. If you confessed, you were expected to divulge the names you'd seen written in the Devil's book. This pattern was started by the slave Tituba, who was the first accused (bet you can't guess why >:( . . . ) and was of course frightened and simply did what was told her: she confessed, expressed her deep contrition, and provided names when they were asked for.
  • This pattern of finger pointing made it likely that a person would become guilty by association. But when Rebecca Nurse (an elderly and deeply revered woman in the community) was accused, 39 Salem residents put their lives on the line to sign a petition for her release and in defense of her character. This was a turning point in the trials because previous to Rebecca Nurse, the slave Tituba and the poverty-stricken outcast, Sarah Good were the type of people being accused. It's unfortunate, but few felt inclined to stand up for these people.
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  • Two men were eventually accused and killed for defending their wives and opposing the legitimacy of the court and trials themselves: John Proctor and Giles Corey. John Proctor was hanged and is the protagonist of The Crucible (No, he did not have an affair with Abigail. She was a young girl in reality and that was creative license by Arthur Miller.) Giles Corey was pressed to death. Unfortunately, his wife Martha ended up dying by hanging even so.
  • Giles Corey was a wealthy man (his property covered all of Salem and a few of the surrounding cities) and had noticed that those with land were being accused and their land being seized and resold for profit. He knew that it was only a matter of time before he was accused. So he secretly signed over his land to two of his sons-in-law, the two that lived outside the jurisdiction of the Salem courts (by this time people outside of Salem but within the court's jurisdiction were also being accused and brought into the prison). When he was accused, he refused to give a plea, which meant he couldn't be tried. Remember that once a person offered a plea, regardless of what it was, their property was forfeit and seized by the law, and they remained in prison till their trial. So he refused to plea. In order to try to force him to plea (obviously so they could sell his land), the officials submitted him to torture by pressing. This is the only time this method of torture has ever been used in America's history. They laid him in a ditch and place a board on him. Every hour they would add a large boulder to the board on his body. Note that this was not intended to kill Giles Corey; they were trying to force him to plea. But Corey remained silent. The only time he spoke was to say the words, "More weight." I'll skip past some of the more grisly details (Wikipedia it if you want to know), but Giles Corey survived two days under this immense pain and died, pressed to death. Once Corey was dead, the officials went to collect his land only to find that he no longer owned it. The pressing was all for naught, the plea wouldn't have made a difference. Giles Corey had outsmarted the system, refusing to cooperate with corruption even so. 
  • Elizabeth Proctor was accused, but her hanging was postponed because she was pregnant. She remained in jail while John was hanged. She was in jail for months and gave birth to her son, whom she named John, in prison. She was eventually released (because of the governor's return), but as a convicted person she was considered dead by the law, she no longer existed. It took seven years for her to gain back her legal rights and a small fraction of the wealth that she and John lost due to the trials. 
  • The governor only came back to restore order once his wife was accused. He released 153 prisoners. 
  • In November 2001, the Massachusetts legislature passed a bill exonerating by name the victims of the Salem Witch Trials, 300 years after their occurrence. 
A quote by Elie Wiesel, who dedicated the memorial. The words in the white bar at the bottom are the words of those accused and executed.




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The Salem Witch Trial Memorial has 20 stones, one for each victim (19 being hanged and 1 pressed to death). Their names, means of death, and date of execution are carved onto their respective stone. Elie Wiesel dedicated the Memorial. Fourteen women and six men were killed. Their is lots of cool symbolism in the memorial, I would suggest you check it out.
The Memorial is next to the oldest graveyard where Rebecca Nurse is buried among others. One of the judges is buried there (relative of Nathaniel Hawthorne's I believe), and one judge was buried secretly because the family was afraid that the members of the community would dig him up and tear him to pieces.
Interesting fact: Salem's economy is almost entirely based on tourism, so it wasn't doing too hot before the town realized its tourist potential and got on the historical site band wagon. The revival of Salem's economy though, was the TV show Bewitched, which renewed the general population's interest in witches and witchcraft. Hence the statue dedicated to her.
Spencer loves it when I take all the pictures of him and tell him to smile. This is a moment of rebellion. :) He is standing on an abstract map of Salem.


I already mentioned the maritime history of the are briefly. But Spencer has a good pirate voice, and if he had a beard he would have been Red Beard. He also didn't have an eye patch, so he's improvising. :) 

 Okay! End of picture reel. So that was Salem. It was very sobering but also a wonderful day with Spencer and Caleb. As Elie Wiesel said, "Only if we remember will we be worthy of redemption."

The rest of October included a ward Halloween party, which included Spencer and I throwing together very very rushed costumes. (Spencer was a lumberjack of sorts and I was a Hogwarts student.) We had a really quite Halloween. I did homework, and Spencer bought a bag of candy with Almond Joys in it because he loves me, and we ate that . . . for days. So. Much. Candy. I also watched "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" online, since after trick-or-treating every Halloween growing up, we'd come home and watch that film. Turns out that it is the 50th Anniversary of "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown"!
Read all about it here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chuck-mirarchi/its-the-50th-anniversary-of-the-great-pumpkin-charlie-brown_b_12456016.html
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Anyway, it was very nostalgic and a perfect way to end the most Halloween-filled October I've ever experienced.