My Poor Overworked Phone

In 8th grade we were asked to write about our relationship with technology (or something like that – i cant remember the exact prompt). I don’t think this is what my English teacher was expecting:

            I should unplug and connect with my family because I think it would be nice to give my poor overworked phone a break.  All week long the phone is a workhorse – it works at 2000% capacity.  At any given time, it is playing music for me, letting me search various extremely important things on at least ten different browsers, letting me send and receive texts at the speed of lightning, downloading email form my personal and my school account, keeping me up to date on all activity on Snapchat, refreshing my Instagram feed, keeping me apprised on everyone’s every move on Facebook, letting me switch between a movie on Netflix and a movie on Amazon Prime, and telling me exactly where I am every second of every day on both Google and Safari maps. 

I may not know for extended periods of time where my family is – but I know every second that I am awake – and probably asleep too – exactly where my phone is.             

My phone needs a break from me so it can relax, rejuvenate, and recharge its batteries by connecting in peace with its charger – without the constant interruptions from me even when it is trying to charge itself. 

And perhaps while it is doing that, I too will get a chance to recharge my batteries, and to connect with what’s really important in my life.  I too will get the chance to nourish my soul by spending a few peaceful and meaningful uninterrupted minutes with my family. 

Full Moon Names

Last week I heard the full moon referred to as the Beaver moon.  In the past, I have heard the term Strawberry Moon, and I started to wonder at the origin and meaning of these names. The moon, its beauty, its soothing, eternal presence in the dark night sky, has fascinated almost every culture from time immemorial. But it has also served a purpose as the timekeeper of the world. Before there was a Gregorian or a Julian calendar, the moon with its recurring 28 day cycle helped people keep track of time.  While different cultures have given different names to the moon, many of the full moon names we hear nowadays have come from Native Americans who kept track of the time using the phases of the moon. The tribes named the full moons to coincide with the activity or events that occurred at that time in North America, and these names were later adopted by Colonial Americans.

Wolf Moon (image courtesy Old Farmer’s Almanac)

The January full moon is called the Wolf Moon for the wolf that howled from hunger because of the shortage of food during this midwinter month.  The full moon of the cold snowy month of February was called Snow Moon.  As the winter subsided in March, and the tribes saw trails of worms on the newly thawed earth, they called the full moon at this time the Worm Moon. As the harsh winter ended, a pink wildflower bloomed n the prairies and meadows across the continent giving the April full moon its name, the Pink Moon. May brought warmth and flowers in abundance and its full moon was called the Flower Moon. The strawberry harvest season gave the June full moon its beautiful name – Strawberry Moon. 

Buck Moon (image Old Farmer’s Almanac)

In July the male deer starts to regrow his antlers, and this gave the July full moon its name, the Buck Moon.  By August, the lakes were full of sturgeons and gave the full moon their name, Sturgeon Moon. September was harvest time and corn was the most abundant crop harvested, hence the name Corn Moon.  In October, the tribes prepared for winter and hunted deer and fox by the light of the bright and low October moon which they called the Hunter’s Moon.  In November, the intrepid beavers built dams on the rivers to get ready for winter, and the Native Americans who saw this annual activity called the full moon the Beaver Moon. Another explanation for this name is that it was the last few days for the tribes to trap beavers for their fur that would tide them through the upcoming winter.    And finally the December full moon is called the Cold Moon in response to the cold weather that gripped the region in December.

Full Moon Names (image Old Farmer’s Almanac)

How absolutely amazing is this? And what an incredible connection between nature and man. It speaks of the strong connection that Native Americans had with their land, with the animals they shared this land with, and with all of the nature that surrounded them. When we say the names of the moon – they are simply names because we don’t need them to mark the passage of time.  But for Native Americans in years past, the Worm Moon must have brought so much excitement – the cold winter was ending, the earth was warming up, soon there would be long sunny days, the meadows would be full of wildflowers, and trees would finally start to bear fruit.  The Hunter’s Moon would have given them time to prepare and hunt for the cold months ahead.  It seems incredible to be so in tune and in touch with nature.  With progress and change we lose things, and this has to be one the saddest things to lose – that oneness with nature, that awareness of the earth, its animals, and its bounty.

Happy 190th to this Badass Indian Queen

Rani (Queen) Lakshmi Bai – this brave, young queen of the Kingdom of Jhansi stood up to the British after her husband died and refused to hand them her kingdom. Her brave words, “Main Jhansi nahi dungee,” – “I will not give you Jhansi,” to the British still reverberate with the people of India who revere her as a Goddess.

Rani Lakshmi Bai’s image from the Victoria and Albert Museum in a temple.

She was born on November 19, 1828 and married the ruler of Jhansi in 1842. After her husband’s death she became Queen Regent to an adopted son. At the same time the British East India company was expanding its territory in India, and annexing kingdoms without natural born heirs. Rani Lakshmi Bai was having none of that, and when her attempts at negotiations failed, she took up arms against the British and led the people of Jhansi in the Indian Rebellion of 1857 which was the first battle for independence – 90 years before the country finally gained independence in 1947.  She died fighting the British in June 1858 at the young age of 29.

Her bravery has reached mythic proportions and Indian school children recite poems written about her bravery. John Latimer, a member of the British Central India Field Force, wrote a letter on 24 June 1858 to his Uncle in which he speaks of her courage and bravery:

Proud and impetuous, she required but little persuasion, she girded on her father’s sword raised the standard of her ancestors and entered the palace of Jhansi at the head of the troops. Her life has been a brief and eventful one and gives to the revolt – its only romantic tinge. Whatever opinion the world may entertain regarding her cruelty, her courage shines pre-eminent and can only be equaled, but not eclipsed by that of Joan of Arc. She played for a high game, and even when she found out she had losing cards did not despair, but looked defiant to the last.”

The Power Shift

Dress, 1960s
Museum of London Display Case   

How do you roll up the Vietnam War, the civil rights marches, the youthful and modern presidency of John F. Kennedy, the voice of Martin Luther King, the Greensboro lunch counter sit-ins, the landing on the moon, Twiggy, the liberation of women, and above all the magic of the Beatles into one thing? For me the answer lies in the Museum of London in a simple short black and white polka-dotted mini dress with a diagonal line across it;  the faces of the Beatles on one side, and a guitar on the other. 

The power of this dress lies in its simplicity, its lack of fussiness, and its revolutionary length – all of which defined a generation.  The generation that was born at the end of World War II, came of age with the uselessness of the Vietnam War, spent their college years marching for equal rights for all, refused to dress like their parents, or listen to their parents music – this generation perhaps made the world a better place for future generations more than any generation before or since then.

It was a simple shift dress, the kind that is worn by a young girl – it defied the hold of Paris couture houses and rose from the streets where the young people marched and demanded a better life for the rest of us.  It was a dress that an unskilled young girl could have stitched together – but it made the most skilled designers in the world sit up and take notice.  The shift was shifting power – from the couture houses to the street tailors, from the upper classes to the middle classes, from the elite to the masses, from Harvard to Greensboro state college, from Oxford to Liverpool, and for the first time, in tiny amounts, from men to women.

A sense of gratitude washed over me as I stood in front of this dress, and the generation that wore it – they made it possible for me to be in control of the length of my hemline – and of my future. 

Beatles Dress.4

This is a guest post from Tara Sawhney who is studying in London for one semester.  This was a vignette she wrote after a visit to the Museum of London.

11:00am on 11/11 of 1918

John Singer Sargent (1856 – 1925) completed his monumental war painting Gassed which shows the devastation of war in March 1919. Lt. Wilfred Owen, MC worte the first draft of Dulce et Decorum Est at the Craiglockhart War Hosital in 1917. He succumbed to his war injuries and died one week before Armistice Day.

Dulce et Decorum Est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.—
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Scaramouch , should we fandango?

I fell in love with Queen when, strangely enough, I was working on my National History Day project in 8th Grade.  The topic that year was a person who had made a difference, and I picked Bob Geldof for his work in the 1980s to help the Ethiopian famine victims.  It was while working on this that I saw Queen’s Live Aid performance and fell in love with their music.  For the next few weeks I heard “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and “We are the Champions” endlessly – especially “Bohemian Rhapsody.”   The song just mesmerizes you – it’s a magical combination of opera, rock, with international melodies thrown in and the most unbelievable lyrics.  The song was written by Freddie Mercury himself – and it’s evident from the lyrics that there was a lot more substance to him than one would expect from a self-centered rock star.  Let’s look at some of the words that one never hears – Scaramouch – what exactly is a Scaramouch?

“I see a little silhouette of a man

Scaramouch, Scaramouch will you do the fandango”

According to the Webster dictionary a Scaramouch is a character in the Italian commedia dell’arte that burlesques the Spanish don and is characterized by boastfulness and cowardliness.

Ummm….. Ok? – well that clears that up. Again – more substance than one expects from a rockstar.

And a fandango for those who care to know is “a lively Spanish dance for two people typically accompanies by castanets or tambourine.”

No one really seems to know what exactly the song means – and that perhaps adds to its enduring popularity.

 

Freddie Mercury T-Shirt
Freddie Mercury’s Image on T-Shirt

Freddie was born Freddie Bulsara to a Parsi family. Like so many colonial families, his family relocated from India to Zanzibar, and then to England.  All of these influences shaped his life and his music.

Freddie was not only a brilliant songwriter, singer and piano player – he was also a marketing genius. By the time of Live Aid, Queen’s popularity was on a decline.  Freddie knew this, and saw Live Aid as a chance to change all that. In a short performance, he sang all of Queen’s best hits and was in complete control of the crowd on both sides of the Atlantic.  He gave an flamboyant, charismatic performance – perhaps the best ever in a live concert.   With that he ensured his  music would live on forever.  And last week, more than 25 years after his death,  when I walked into a store, I realized he had managed to do just that.

Freddie Mercury.1

French Provincial in Orlando

I have been seeing this house almost every day for years – it’s right by my school. And every time I drive past it, I am amazed at its beauty – with its aged look, an almost sagging roof, whitewashed brick, intricate woodwork, long gothic looking windows, and somewhat overgrown garden. It looks like it should be in a village in France – not in Orlando.

When I started to research the house, I learned it known as the Ingram House, and was designed by a celebrated American architect James Gamble Rogers II (1901-1990), who practiced mostly in Winter Park and is known for his work in the Spanish Revival, Mediterranean Revival, French Provincial, and Colonial Revival Styles.

Mills Library at Rollins College in Winter Park

Rogers II is responsible for giving Winter Park its look because of the many gorgeous buildings he designed in that city – among them Casa Feliz, Barbour Apartments, Greeneda Court, and numerous building at Rollins College. He also designed the Florida Supreme Court building in a Greek Revival Style.

Another really interesting fact about Rogers II is that he is the nephew of renowned architect James Gamble Rogers (1867-1947) who designed many buildings at Yale, Northwestern, and Columbia Universities.

(Images courtesy Winter Park Library and University Websites).

Lychees in London

In the first week of August, my family and I went to London to drop my sister to college and squeeze in a family vacation in what really has to be considered the heartbeat of the world. Every nook and cranny of that city is bursting with life – and with diversity – a true microcosm.  One of the places I enjoyed the most in this trip was Borough’s Market.  A market has existed in the place since at least 1014 -so it’s over 1000 years old – which is a difficult concept for a girl from Orlando to put her head around – by comparison Disney has existed in Orlando since 1971 – not quite 50 years yet!! According to Conde Nast Traveler, “London’s oldest market is a warren of smoking street food, old-school fruit-and-veg shops and the finest pubs, bars and restaurants.”

 

 

There were sizzling stalls of North Indian, South Indian, Ethiopian, Chinese, Japanese, Lebanese, Thai cuisines; there were bakeries to salivate over for days; butchers, fishmongers – a seemingly endless parade of stalls.  One of my favorite stalls was an old fashioned fresh fruits and vegetables stall -something that had perhaps remained unchanged over hundreds of years. The place was simply bursting with color – and freshness.  It was such an absolute delight to see the store – and to meet its very happy and friendly owner Michael.  Of course I bought lychees from this very proper English greengrocer – and that pretty much is what London’s all about!!

A Labor Day Tribute

The Statue of Liberty Soliloquy 
BY Jim Johnson 

Give me your poor, your mouth breathing, your drooling
Give me your tired masses.
I have floors to clean, tables to set, guests to feed.
Give me preferably your Scandinavians.
I have shoes to shine. So hurry up now, give me your Blacks.
I have laundry. Give me a few Orientals.
I have flowers, lawns to trim, fruit trees. How about some Latinos.
I have boats to unload. Give me some Irish then.
I have minerals to mine. Give me any from the
slag heaps of Europe.
I have this thin soil to till. So send me some serfs.
I have trees to cut. Finns will do.
Just give me your workers, your farmers. Give me your all.
I exclude no one ? not even democrats. Socialists,
communists, intellectuals excepted.
I have so much work to do.

This tribute to both immigrants and labor was written by 2008 Duluth Poet Laureate Jim Johnson.

Georgetown University & Cupcakes

At the beginning of summer vacation, I went to Washington DC with my sister and mom. After a busy end of school year full of projects and finals, it was a perfect break.  I’ve been to DC a few times, and after seeing the museums and such, I love to head over to the M Street area to get right in line for Georgetown cupcakes.  It’s always such a treat – and I think standing in line in anticipation of the cupcakes makes them taste that much better.

Georgetown.1
Georgetown University

This time, we decided to explore Georgetown University’s campus before heading down to get the namesake cupcakes. The campus was almost empty except for a truck company picking up tents – perhaps rented for graduation ceremonies the week before. I don’t know what it is about old University campuses – but they just radiate history – it’s almost as if time has stood still there while the world around them has moved on.  The feeling of time standing still was made even stronger by an empty building with no students and iPhones to bring us to the present.  And almost like a prop, on one of the old wooden benches that line the hallways of Healy Hall, sat a formally dressed young student hand writing something in a beautiful leather bound journal. I couldn’t have made that up even if I tried – the scene was so surreal.  And suddenly, I could see myself there, studying where so many have studied before me, studying simply for the sake of knowledge – what a privilege to immerse oneself in a quest for knowledge in a place like this for four years!!

Georgetown.9.

And this time the line was shorter, and the cupcakes tasted better than ever – a sign perhaps??