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A Ramble

Great Grandpa Edward Lynch told my mother that women needed an education. He remembered his mother, Sarah Ryan, a leghorn plaiter, born in London city center in 1820; she could only sign her mark on the marriage certificate when she married Michael Lynch an Irish tailor in 1843. Michael signed his name on that certificate and made sure that his sons could read and write and they were listed on the census return of 1861 as scholars. Sarah plaited straw into bonnets, bore two sons, and disappeared from records after 1861. According to family lore, her husband took his eldest son Edward to Paris where the twelve year old learned to carve stone. By 1863, Michael Lynch, the tailor with political leanings, had secured passage to America for himself and his eldest.

Edward attended the University of Illinois from 1868 to 1873, gained an engineering degree and married the daughter of his English professor. Genevieve Baker had attended university for several years alongside her future husband. She descended from a long line of women who wrote their own names, read the bible, and gained a passable education even on the Maine frontier. Genevieve wrote for magazines on the east coast and later for newspapers on the west coast. By the time of the San Francisco earthquake in 1906, Genevieve had divorced Edward and was living alone near Lafayette Square working as a reporter.

When my mother visited Edward in Pasadena in the 1920s, when he gave her volumes of Aesop tales, Shakespeare dramas and assorted folk tales and songs, when he told her that women needed an education, she followed his advice and became a schoolteacher. She turned down a scholarship to Stanford because her father, Edward’s son didn’t want her to live away from home, a glitch in the dramatic improvement of Lynch women’s educational prospects. Nevertheless by 1931, in three generations Lynch women went from plaiting straw to graduating from university.

When I grew up, my mother suggested I get my teaching credential like she had. She said, “you have few choices: secretary, nurse, teacher.” I didn’t choose any of those, at least not to start with. I preferred being a hippie and living on the land, making necklaces and milking cows. I didn’t know anything about Sarah or Genevieve and had no interest in my ancestors’ trails. But I had read all of my Great Grandfather’s books as I grew up: I sang the songs, and knew the myths and plays. My middle name was a shortened form of Genevieve. I did become a teacher and then I did something different. I went back to school and became a librarian when the World Wide Web was in its infancy. I discovered Archie and Veronica, the Bancroft library and the libraries worldwide, full of records. I gained the tools to discover and with that, I found Sarah, the leghorn plaiter and Genevieve, the reporter.

I think that Edward realized women, the other half, needed as powerful a voice as men, because without that, half the world is missing. Between his stone carving for the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, passing the state bar and lawyering for the railroad barons, managing Auburn gold mines and writing on solar flares and climate change; between his divorce and drink, in his mind, he tipped his hat and made room for his mother, his wife, and my mother with the knowledge that the world would realign itself, from his granddaughters to his great great granddaughters and beyond. But here, I pause and I tip my hat not to Edward for his inclusive vision for women, but to Genevieve, solitary and fiery, who has loaned me her voice; and I bow to Sarah, silent and stubborn, who has given me purpose. With these gifts, I have become a plaiter of straw, from straw into words, from words into stories.

Dandelion Wine

 

August 6, 1987

“Victory”

The sparrows spent the morning fighting for nesting space on the ridge above the front door. Half-dozing on a sofa in the living room, I watched them through the screen as a battle of flying wings and bitter chirps stirred up the silence. I bet this old house has seen its share of battles. The pistols embedded in the mortar of the rock-hewn fireplace belonged to Wild Bill Hickock; the neighbor man told me that Hickock and his showmen spent some summers here. They must have built the core of the house, for the rest has been added on; I could tell that.

  “Have you picked the dandelions yet, “ my aunt’s voice came from upstairs.

  “No, I’m going in a minute,” I said.

Outside armed with my bucket, I gathered the yellow flowers from the front yard. I was overpowered by the treasures of a Canadian spring, and my attention wandered around the landscape to the foxgloves, blossoming cherries, and buttercups.

“Where are my dandelions?” the voice shook my dreams once again.

 When I entered the kitchen, Mrs. Beeton’s Cookbook was on the counter opened to the section on winemaking.

 “Let’s see,” I said, “cut off all the green, cover the petals with water, place cheesecloth over the crock, and set overnight.”

My aunt flew into the job like a fast-order cook; we finished in a flash. I put the kettle on the burner to make her a pot of tea.

 “I had a bad dream again last night; I was beating up people,” I said.

“You fight in your dreams, and dream in your life, girl,” she laughed. Then with a serious look she added, “When I get angry, I scrub the kitchen floor with a toothbrush or take a long walk. Have you been to the woods yet?”

“No, I was waiting to go with you,” I said. “Did you hear the birds this morning, Auntie?”

“Every year they fight and make their peace,” she said. “We’ll have babies above the door by June.”

 She got up form her chair and went to the kitchen to turn off the boiling kettle. After making her familiar proclamation, “ ‘this wicked old world is abominable,’ my old father used to say, “ she asked for her sweater. We headed for the woods. We crossed the open pasture land; Auntie lost her breath so we sat on a log at the edge of the trees.

“Oh, isn’t this wonderful Auntie!” I said.

 I looked over at her face; she was leaning forward staring at the ground. She took several deep breaths and didn’t answer me.

“Auntie, I’ll run to the house and get you some water if you’d like some.”

 She shook her head.

 “I’m better now,” she said.

She got up and slowly meandered down the trail that cut through the underbrush. Under a gooseberry bush she found mushrooms hidden in the cool shadows. They grew in the remains of a fallen tree and found nourishment in decay. A group of red ants had made their house in the rotting mass and found protection in the depth of the powdery, wood chips. Auntie stirred the ants up with a stick.

“Doesn’t that hurt them, Auntie?” I asked.

 “What do you think? Maybe it gives them something to do. Maybe I’ve just destroyed the old queen who was weak. How do I know?” she replied. Auntie had an odd way of looking at things.

That evening while the Aurora Borealis lit the sky, we sat in the front room watching the flames in the fireplace. As the fire died down, the red-hot embers twisted, curled, and slowly blackened. Auntie looked at these changing shapes and told stories based on the images we were seeing. One ember seemed to grow as others melted to it.

 “See what’s happening to those embers when they stop popping, spitting, and fighting,” she said, “they get bigger and stronger; they grow!”

“What Auntie?” I asked.

She never looked at me but just kept on talking. “Without a good damper, all the energy goes up the chimney—it’s for naught, child—nothing comes of it. Oh it’s a pretty fire all right, but it’s the embers that keep us warm through the night.”

We slept as warm as toast that night. After several weeks we bottled the dandelion wine–it was a “killer” — and the birds hatched above the door in June.

A Balance

I don’t watch television anymore. I use my computer or smartphone if I want to find out what’s going on. That interaction is described in the video as networked individualism.

The word networked seems appropriate in the title.

I am just not sure about the other word, yet.

Vision, a definition

I visited the optometrist this week and got an eye exam. The doctor told me I had the pressure of a baby. So I walked away with confidence that I’d be seeing for a while down the road.

I have been thinking about “vision.” If I have good vision, then I can watch the shimmering scales on a silverfish, its hideout exposed when I move a pile of books; I can see it as it dives for cover. I can watch the magpies circling high over the buildings to the north and the tiny sparrows flitting from wire to wire.

When my mother stayed with me, her macular degeneration fogged her world; she had no central vision and daily mistook a red tomcat on the roof of the building across the street for a magpie. I didn’t have the heart to correct her.

Vision is a powerful thing. I woke up this morning with a vision that my guest room would be stacked with boxes ready for the movers by this coming Wednesday. It’s afternoon and I am halfway there. I create a puzzle, put it together. I can see myself leaving for the airplane with 4 suitcases and two carry-ons. I can see the door closed, the walls empty. I can see the carousel in Athens, the tarmac in Paris, the car parked in Detroit. I can see the ships docking in Baltimore; the sea crate off loaded, stored and then loaded again onto a truck headed inland.

Vision is a powerful thing. Without it, I worry. I wake up in the night and it is dark. With it, I can breathe right down to my diaphragm. I can plant Italian basil and harvest its aromatic leaves some months later. I can change things, poke the universe and it moves. With it I know I am truly alone. With it I know I am completely responsible and that I can’t duck like the silverfish. I shimmer though. I can’t sail overhead like the magpies on updrafts. I sail nevertheless.

With this sort of vision, I am directing the film and yet, I’ll leave serendipity with the edits and just maybe the credits. For instance, perhaps the red tomcat over on the roof across the street will in the final cut end up a magpie. In the end, my vision has nothing to do with optometrists and everything to do with self-trust and a flit of imagination as I fly from wire to wire, task to task, and problem to problem.

Research the Old-Fashioned or Retro Way–4T Handout

Links to Mentioned Online Information, Programs and Videos

Evaluating Research in Their Own Words

Team Up With Others: First Graders Teach Ninth Graders Lessons in Biology

The Neworked Student

Second Grade Students Talk about Their Apple Research

Video

Gratitude

Watch this TED.

Louie Schwartzberg is an award-winning cinematographer, director, and producer whose notable career spans more than three decades providing breathtaking imagery for feature films, television shows, documentaries and commercials.

This piece includes his short film on Gratitude and Happiness. Brother David Steindl-Rast’s spoken words, Gary Malkin’s musical compositions and Louie’s cinematography make this a stunningly beautiful piece, reminding us of the precious gift of life, and the beauty all around us.

Dancing Home

The gate ajar,

The front stairs dust with heat and tiles,

I two-stepped over this masonry pile,

To an open front door.

 

Holding my tiny boy’s hand,

Off-loading six hefty bags,

I yelled, “anybody here?”

I heard whispers, faint laughter,

Silly old masters, dear

Ever present circle

Subterrane of my soul.

 

Gloria.

 

Twenty-two twirls throughout years,

My babe is man.

With a broom I sweep and bow,

To jigs and reels.

I drag out trunks, crack them open.

Out bursts a pack of hopes and fears,

Unleashed and dogging my heels.

 

When I depart will this bulwark disappear?

Will its ribs rise up?

Tibia and femur?

It has happened before,

 

Gloria.

 

I take my oath and on it I persevere.

The mysteries,

My heart, sweet warrior sparrow

We flutter airborne.

This old lady laughs.

 

Hallelujah.

 

Across Atlantic’s shimmer

We waltz to a gate ajar

Over the Alleghenies

Under the Drinking Gourd

Over and Under

Under and Over

This great tapestry

We the weave

The strathspey, the swing

The glimmers, the gold dust, and the night stars. 

An Understanding at Easter

I heard the fireworks last night. You see Easter here is like the 4th of July but run by hooligans. Tonight is the night! The young thugs will run around town and find any burnable objects they can drag up and make huge bonfires on vacant lots, throw old tires on them and burn away to whoops and hollers. It’s totally illegal you see, but all in the name of Jesus and his rise, particularly on this coming night above clouds of stinking black smoke. The fireworks will be ad nauseam after midnight and the Easter Mass! The police will ring their hands and look away as they aways do here. People will rant and rave about it on Tuesday after they are back from the holiday and at work. The children will be off for another week and will have to run around and set off any firecrackers they may have missed during this spring mayhem. It is older than Jesus, that is to be sure. One thing I have come to understand about the religion, they follow festivals that predate the current one. So our ancestors must have made huge bonfires as spring arrived. Maybe they were burning the old mess of winter and making way for better weather and the planning for and planting of a fall harvest. What they burned was a sacrifice and a hope for better times. That is what I have to remember tonight: these youth do not burn for naught.

Image

Quack…

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NARA to Release 1940 Census Records on April 2nd

ancestryacesbadge

The 72-year wait is over.

On April 1, 1940, there were 132,164,569 people living in America. And today, 87 percent of Americans can find a direct family link to one – or more – of them.

When the 1940 U.S. Federal Census is opened to the public this April, you’ll have a window into every one of those 132 million lives. Their names, where they lived, who shared their house, even where they were five years earlier.

Visit your local NARA or your public library.

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