Sunday, March 30, 2014

In My Writing Space

On the shelf above my computer in my writing space I have a greeting card. In fact, if you look about my website you will see it pop up (as well as other representations of eclecticism I keep in my writing space, such as my Dr Who stress squeezy, my globe and my African violets).
The greeting card depicts a boy and girl from a bygone era, with the little boy’s arm tucked around the little girl’s waist, with her arm snuggly holding his in place. They are walking away from us, across a park. Flip over to the back and the card description reads: A boy places a protective arm around his young companion during a walk in the park in London, England – 1937. It’s adorable… I love her cosy ribbed tights and his sticky-out ears, amongst many other delightful details.

The writing on the front reads: TO THE WORLD YOU MAY BE JUST ONE PERSON; BUT TO ONE PERSON YOU MAY BE THE WORLD.  My husband gave me this card for my birthday last year. I loved it at first sight. He knows I’m a sucker for cuteness, details, images with stories in them and meaningful sentiment. Then I opened the card and he’d written: TO ME YOU ARE MORE THAN MY WORLD, YOU ARE MY UNIVERSE. Front of card sentiment, considered yourself trumped! And I’m thinking if he bought me this beautiful, romantic card and wrote that melting message in it, I think he means it!

I look at this card every day. Sometimes I imagine if we had known each other as little kids we would have been best friends, if we’d been in the same class at school always in trouble for talking, and if we‘d attended the same high school we would have been dubbed the couple most likely to get hitched. We did go to my high school formal but partnered other people. We met when I was just turned eighteen.

Three children later, lots of married years and the highs and lows, ups and downs of life under our belts, he is still giving me heart-melting cards. Sometimes when we are sharing a significant occasion or if I’ve really amused him, he’ll say, I wouldn’t want to be sharing this moment with anyone else but you.

Aw, such as when I gave him a card for our anniversary in January. The front has a sad, big-eyed character saying: BEFORE I MET YOU I WAS A LONELY WEIRDO [let’s face it, writers are at least a little weird]… inside it my big-eyed character, now with a grin, is declaring NOW I'M NO LONGER LONELY! HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!  It still brings infectious chuckles of laughter. It sits on top of the fridge. Considering how numerous visits to the fridge are, I can’t think of a better place.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Bumping into History at the Old Courthouse


History teaches us so much about who we are now and how we got here, for it probes our thoughts and opens our eyes, unplugs our ears. This is our world. How did it, and we, get this way? Why do we do the things we do, have the attitudes we have, be as complex as we are?

I tend to go searching for it, as so many historians and history buffs do, but sometimes it finds you!

Being on the spot when something historical goes down is one effective and exciting way of having all those probing questions have their way with you. One such event happened to Tank and me on our visit to St Louis, Missouri, in June 2012. The day we came to town we had no idea that a particular landmark event was about to take place beside the steps of the Old Courthouse. That event was the unveiling and dedication of the Dred and Harriet Scott Statue.

The Dred Scott case is famous.  Dred Scott was a black slave who sued for his freedom. He began in 1846 and didn’t give up until the case made it to the US Supreme Court in 1857. The final decision in the case was made by Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Roger B. Taney, who ruled that Dred & Harriet were not citizens and therefore could not sue and had to remain slaves. The consequences of this influenced Abraham Lincoln, the outbreak of the civil war and the emancipation of slaves. The Scotts were freed after the case but by their owners, the Blow family.

These links are excellent:

As an extensive group of people gathered around the front of the Old Courthouse, milling patiently in the high summer heat, with the statue still cocooned in its red shroud, all manner of thoughts paraded through my mind.

For Tank and me, it seemed that history was calling, a history stretching back over 150 years to antebellum America when slavery was a hot political and social issue. And, appropriately, an issue of liberty and property, no less, for you may recall that liberty is being free from oppression and property is ‘you’, and no one has a right to you and your worth but you (to paraphrase John Locke)! But of course these principles did not extend to black slaves in America, as the decision in Dred Scott's case illustrated only too well.

Here we were, standing on the old steps where thousands of men, women, children and babies were bought and sold as chattel. Sobering and chilling. But now, in this same spot, a black slave and his wife were being remembered and celebrated for their courage, determination and historical significance.  What an auspicious moment!

Civil war swept this 'antebellum' era away. And slavery and the slave trade in America were finished. A new era was coming, of progress and prosperity, of great waves of free emigrants and different masters. And all the while and forever after the wound of slavery ran long and deep. Festering due to the racism that underpinned it, slavery scarred the nation for the century to come.

However, on this particular day, June 8, 2012, the worst of what humanity can perpetrate upon itself was remembered as both tragedy and triumph… Dred & Harriet Scott, their heads held high, by the steps of the Old Courthouse in St Louis, looking out across the Mississippi, and into a future of freedom and hope. They made a difference.

Present at the dedication, Dred Scott Madison, Jr., great-great-grandson of Dred & Harriet, and his cousin Lynne Jackson, who worked tirelessly to have the statue erected on the south lawn of the Old Courthouse in St Louis.
He said, "I have often told her she's doing God's work, and she is, just as our great-great-grandmother and grandfather did. They dared to defy man's law and represent God's law. This is truly a nation under God, something that could never have been while slavery was in existence."

The plaque beneath this image displayed in the Old Courthouse Museum, St Louis, read: 'In the presidential election of 1856, the question of whether Kansas would be admitted as  a free state or a slave state dominated the debate. In August 1856, St Louisans gathered at the Courthouse to hear about this issue. So many people attended that the crowd overflowed into the street.'

The plaque beneath this image displayed in the Old Courthouse Museum, St Louis, reads: 'These westward pioneers, camped on the banks of the Mississippi River across from St Louis in 1846, could be headed west to settle in Oregon Territory. Is this black woman, in the left foreground, a slave or a free person? What would her future hold in her new home in the West?'

Images above are entirely from my 2012 album 'Go West, young man...or woman as the case may be'


Monday, March 17, 2014

Queen City of the Plains


A display of images that fall into the ‘now and then’ category - 'yesteryear & present day' - is a useful and entertaining way of viewing history. My research tours to the US have led me to Denver twice and it is one of my favourite cities, one I would always be happy to return to. The photos in this research montage are from my album ‘Western Odyssey’, acknowledging  Denver Public Library and Denver Union Station.

Denver was dubbed ‘Queen City of the Plains’ and for good reason. Like so many western towns, in her early days she was rough, but on the back of the mining of precious metals this hard-working, hard-drinking mining town soared to prosperity, surpassing all expectations. Mining, manufacturing, smeltering, ranching, the railroad and much more delivered wealth, culture and a large population. Denver became a world-class city.

The rough elements  - prostitution, crime and corruption - remained, their notoriety and function deftly incorporated into one booming city of enormous wealth, whose inhabitants stretched from poor migrants working the gardens along the creek to millionaires of supreme power and influence.

By the 1880’s, when The Liberty & Property Legends are set, and where volume three First Country takes the reader to Denver, this city epitomises the Gilded Age in The West.

'Toward Denver City let us know propel,
of its strange sights and startling wonders tell.'

Pike's Peakers of '59 ~ Lawence N. Greenleaf 

Friday, March 7, 2014

Our local paper writes up Liberty & Property Legends

I am particularly thrilled to have this feature in my local newspaper today. There's a great sense of appreciation, and satisfaction too, in being recognised in this way. And it's always great to get the word out about my growing saga, with the recent release of FIRST COUNTRY ~