Digression: Thanksgiving 2017 and the tradition of sending holiday greetings with a poem over email.

In the spring of 1998, started to work for a large state agency, my previous employment had chiefly been very small, grassroots nonprofits.  Logistically it was really impossible for me to send Holiday or Christmas cards to everyone I had met agency-wide in those first six months.  Instead, sent a winter-themed poem: “Skating” by Wordsworth over email.  At the time our email system was limited/in-house only, and this tradition soon expanded to spring and fall for Thanksgiving.

Try to make the poems as diverse as possible from a range of poets.  Only sent one of my poems out once, and actually it was a fall poem.  Over the years I’ve sent out poems by ee cummings, Robert Lewis Stevenson, Lucille Clifton, Amy Lowell, and a few authors better known for their fiction, including L.M. Montgomery, and Willa Cather among others.  Last winter I discovered poet Mary Oliver, and got a great response, many people were already familiar with her work, others were not, but looked her up online to find she lives on Cape Cod.  Quite honestly the winter poem, is often the toughest one to choose because I try to steer clear from religion and winter imagery can be evocative of dark themes.

The poems are sent out still over email, I find most folks still read email on their smart phones.  And send them out to co-workers, friends, family and former colleagues in batches, least my internet mail provider think I’m a spammer.  All over the United States and overseas. This past summer one of my colleagues asked for a poem on her birthday so I’ve expanded to a birthday poem sent by email as well.  It’s a bit of a weird tradition but I like the idea of spreading poetry in little waves — really makes me happy.  Enclosed is the poem I chose for Thanksgiving/fall 2017 — another poem from Mary Oliver.  Best wishes to you and yours on this Thanksgiving and fall.

Song for Autumn by Mary Oliver
In the deep fall
don’t you imagine the leaves think how
comfortable it will be to touch
the earth instead of the
nothingness of air and the endless
freshets of wind? And don’t you think
the trees themselves, especially those with mossy,
warm caves, begin to think
of the birds that will come — six, a dozen — to sleep
inside their bodies? And don’t you hear
the goldenrod whispering goodbye,
the everlasting being crowned with the first
tuffets of snow? The pond
vanishes, and the white field over which
the fox runs so quickly brings out
its blue shadows. And the wind pumps its
bellows. And at evening especially,
the piled firewood shifts a little,
longing to be on its way.

Digression: Bookstore Memories — The White Rabbit.

The White Rabbit Bookstore, was one of the first proper bookstores, I visited as a child in the city.  To my memory it was long and a bit narrow.  There were wooden shelves of books, mid-low to the ground, so children had easy access.  Also dolls, stuffed animals and toys on display throughout perhaps on the higher shelves or on top of bookcases not so much for sale but as decorations.

Sometimes think it in a slight way was similar in concept to vision of writer/director Nora Ephron’s fictional store, “The Shop Around the Corner,” in the film: You’ve Got Mail.  Except not as airy or with such quaint displays.  Remember the walls were a pale green, sort of a light olive color and the lighting was warm but not natural.  There was an area, similar to a window seat, toward the back.  Can recall sitting down there for a bit and my mum coming to get me and I do remember buying one of the Little House books there.  I believe it was, Little House in the Big Woods, which I was surprised to find it was the first book in the series.  For I had read Little House on the Prairie first, ordered through one of the monthly Scholastic catalogs at school, and after reading the series always took issue with the television series and how the show really diverted from the books.

The White Rabbit, I’m presuming was named for the character in Alice in Wonderland. Over time my memories of it have become dimmer, because I was probably about seven or eight years old when I visited in the 1970’s.  Was located in the newly renovated and opened Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall Marketplace. Not in Quincy Market’s main building which had been transformed from a food distribution center to a food court, with small stalls and pushcarts as part of urban renewal project, but either the North or South market buildings which featured retail and restaurants on the ground and first floors and offices upstairs.  These days, the North and South buildings remain but the upper/first floor small shops have pretty much been eliminated, either for retail of the ground floor tenants having additional space, or for offices.  As a local teen I set my sights on working in Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall, and I did — starting senior year  in high school and for a few years in college in South Market during summers and school breaks.

We may have made only one visit to The White Rabbit Bookstore, but it made a grand impression. Only other memory of that day, and visit to the marketplace with my mum, was eating lunch at the Magic Pan restaurant, located upstairs in the main Quincy Market building.  Apparently, as I have rechecked online, it was a small chain restaurant that served different kinds of crepes.  By the time I started working in the marketplace in the late 1980’s the Magic Pan was gone, replaced by another restaurant and comedy club, which faded away as well.

Not sure when The White Rabbit bookstore closed.  Again have tried searching online but The White Rabbit Bookstore, along with many of the other departed stores and restaurants, that I recall from over the years in Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall Marketplace seem to have just faded into the ether without a trace into the larger abyss of Lost Boston.


Digression: Invitation — Nov. 6, 2017, New York City–Where are the women? New Central Park monument.

Via the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Trust — NYC Parks, Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer, & The Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony Statue Fund cordially invite you to attend the launch of: The Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony Woman Suffrage Movement Monument, Monday, November 6th, 2017, 11:30 a.m. The Mall, Central Park (between 67th and 68th Streets) RSVP to 212-360-8143 or Colombina.valera@parks.nyc.gov — Organized in partnership with New York Life and The Central Park Conservancy.  For more information please visit these websites: Elizabethcadystanton.org; MonumentalWomen.org and CentralParkWhereAreTheWomen.org

“I have good news.”

In Ang Lee’s film adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, Emma Thompson portrays Elinor (and Thompson also wrote the screenplay for which she received an Oscar), says this line to Edward (portrayed by Hugh Grant).  The scene drawn on reams of awkwardness as in the original novel. Colonel Brandon has generously offered Edward the living at his estate at Delaford, so that Edward can realistically have a living after being cast off by his family and marry Lucy.  And the Colonel asks Elinor to deliver the news, completely unaware of course, that Elinor herself is in love with Edward.

Austen’s original lines in her book are not as succinct as in the film version: “I have something of consequence to inform you of, which I was on the pointing of communicating by paper.  I am charged with a most agreeable office, (breathing rather faster than usual as she spoke).”  Here I find Austen’s insertion of Elinor’s description of fast breathing rather telling.

Austen is setting a scene of frayed nerves, with compressed emotions, and continues to convey a very precarious scene unfolding, “What Edward felt, as he could not say it himself, it cannot be expected that anyone else should say for him  He looked all the astonishment which such unexpected, such unthought-of information could not fail of exciting; but he said only these two words:  Colonel Brandon!”

“Yes,” continued Elinor, gathering more resolution as some of the worst was over, “Colonel Brandon means it as a testimony of his concern for what has lately passed–”

And I’m going to leave off on quoting the passage there.  Returning to the the film version, the scene was awkward with Elinor (Thompson) and Edward (Grant) sort of shifting around, avoid eye contact, until Elinor (Thompson) sort of opens her arms, and gestures for Edward (Grant) to sit, while saying, “I have good news.”

Often I think of the line and it’s origins.  The idea that is a composite or a riff off one of my favorite author’s pivotal scenes often recalls me to sort of say it was a good long pause. Rather like the delivery of actor Emma Thompson, when I have the rare occasion to say it, often at work.  “I have good news,” is not something I say with any regularity and I try to keep (unlike Austen’s Elinor), a good even breath and tone.

These days as we enter the month of October, and are in reminders of the color pink and breast cancer awareness — it’s all we can hope for really.  My maternal grandmother was diagnosed in 1975, but lived until 1999.  My mom was diagnosed in 2014 right before my dad passed away, her surgery was just a small one, but the timing was terrible, she had to have it during my dad’s last days in ICU — and so I was left to run between buildings in Mass. General Hospital in Boston.  The realization of an only child’s worst nightmare.

Before my mum was diagnosed I was not considered high risk but that all changed.  And in February of 2016 my mammogram lit up.  After ultrasounds and biopsies — it wasn’t cancer but my surgeon, who like most surgeons I’ve met is not a big talker — told me simply it was a polyp in my duct and they were going to take it.  To note, he also does genetic profiling which is why I think I was assigned to him chiefly due to family history and my age, etc.  And learned about the high rate of change of cells, and read about the high incidence of cancer often beginning in the duct afterwards.  My surgery was minor, so I was back to work after a few days. Had a follow up mammogram a few months later.  As recommended my mother went in for the genetic testing and it turns out she doesn’t have any of the genes that are a pre-cursor to breast cancer — so I don’t have them either.  That was good news.

The close watch also requires an MRI every 6 months as well, which are difficult because: 1) MRI’s are very expensive and they must be pre-approved by my insurance company as medically necessary at least one week before, 2) the MRI must be done during a certain physical time of the month and Mother Nature often does not cooperate with the scheduling. The MRI is to keep an eye on a group of cysts–they are not cancerous yet (I had an MRI biopsy in the summer of 2016 they came back clear no high change of cells or anything yet) and it seems some people have a lot of cysts, just like acne or moles, but still they are just part of the whole close watch.

The last MRI was in May 2017 — after several attempts and rescheduling  it was done not at MGH Boston but outside the city, I had to go to work, leave, catch a shuttle  bus that did not take me right there, but luckily a nice lady on the bus helped me find it a few blocks away it via the GPS on her phone.  The tech was nice enough but they were short handed and one point he thought he may have perforated my vein hooking up the IV, finally it was all sorted out I just wanted to get it over with and we did. Ending up climbing out of the MRI machine myself because they were so understaffed and took a regular bus back to the train and the city.

By the time I got back to work there was only enough time left in the day to check email and mail and sort things out, and then my cell phone rang. It was the nurse practitioner (NP) covering for the NP from my surgeon/doctor’s office.  And I sort of freaked out but she said, “I have good news.”  The MRI results were back, and the cysts everything was the same, etc. She told me they would schedule me again, and the date awaits on the calendar. I’m hoping that Mother Nature and everything will comply, and again I just hope for that line, “I have good news.”




Digression: Places I’ve been to Tea & tea parties I’ve held.

Some of the places I’ve been to tea — although generally I am a fan of caffeine in all forms: coffee, tea, chai, and hot chocolate. My mum and I though share a love of taking tea, because after I graduated high school and before I went to university we went on a tour of London and the countryside together.

Harrod’s in London.  My travel journal from 1988 notes, we took the bus to get to Harrod’s and people nearby heard us talking, and they were nice and helpful directing us to the correct stop.  We had tea in the formal restaurant on a upper floor — dimly remember long, draped tables and it was very quiet.

Wren Coffee House.  Per my journal I noted Piccadilly at St. James’s Church.  Remember it was attached to a pretty church. We had been walking around and saw they had an outdoor craft market so we popped in and bought a very cute little Mrs. Hedgehog pincushion made out of dried brambles.  Then we went into the cafe, my accounts noted I paid f1.50 for tea both my mum and I. Remember we were just ahead of the rush, and we were sitting a table, but then folks all came in and queued up.  Per online searching not sure if I made an error on the address or if the location has changed — church adjacent still remains. Although via JSTOR(dot) org, I found a reference to the cafe and the Friday and Saturday outdoor market in a book published about the history of the Episcopalian Church back in 1993.

The Hawthorne Hotel, Salem, Massachusetts.  Moving forward, over the years, I’ve attended several “Pink Teas” at the Hawthorne Hotel.  This historic hotel was built in 1925, by George Poor, the original founder of the Sylvania Lighting Company, and is located near Salem Common.  We attended the pink teas and often brought other friends, via an acquaintance  who organized the tea to raise money for a local hospice and outreach services — held in the pleasant, sunny, large function room on the main floor. For many years, this woman always volunteered for the tea, dressed in a lovely gown, would come and play the harp, so beautifully almost made you want to cry. Sadly, she passed away, and sometimes there was other entertainment such as Irish step dancing or a demonstration on scarfing tying.  The dress code isn’t mandatory but mostly pink, everyone breaks out their fancy hats, gloves and even a few cheeky boas.  Few times over the years, I’ve walked around selling raffle ticket for the donated gift baskets — my mum and I also contributed a few themed baskets as well.  Sometimes at the Hawthorne, the staff have put the pastry and mini sandwiches on the table on one of those pretty tier dishes, other years because of the size of the crowd and a good year for fundraising, it was more of a buffet — switching between the savory and dessert courses.

Tea and Sympathy, Greenwich Village, New York.  This tea shop was founded in 1991.  Had tea here with two college friends, somewhere in the mid to late 1990’s.  Think we went for one of their birthdays. Remember the tables were small and they did give us a one of those tiered serving dishes of little sandwiches and pastries and I remember thinking we were sort of relieved of how they served, because we weren’t sure how everything was going to fit on the tiny table!  They also have a small shop and online store where they sell jam, curds and other imported goods. The same owners have a fish and chips shop a few doors down on Greenwich Ave., and an authentic black British cab they rent out (actually didn’t know about the cab just learned that from their website).

The former Ritz Carlton Hotel on Arlington and Newbury Streets, Boston MA. The former Ritz is now a Taj — to note, for several years now the Ritz Carlton has a new location on Tremont Street in Boston.  On one of my mum’s special birthdays I took my mum and one of my mum’s dearest friends (one of my “auntie’s”), out for the day.  We rode on the Swan Boats and then went to the Ritz for tea.  The room was very old world elegant with pretty chintz couches and formal service, there was also a harpist playing. Was very relaxing and pleasant and we enjoyed it.  Haven’t been the to the Taj for tea yet, but only for lunch. Had invited several of my “aunties” to attend a Women’s Equality Day event sponsored by the Women’s Suffrage Celebration Commission at the Swan Boats (a long time woman owned business), and we went afterwards to the Taj, and I treated them for lunch, which was lovely.

The Four Seasons Hotel, Boston.  For another one of my mum’s special birthdays a few years back, with two of her dearest friends or my “aunties.”  Was a little different we sat at a table, a little bit more modern type of tea and service. The room was very elegant and there was a nice view of the Garden across the way.

George H. Wightman House, Wheelock College, Brookline, MA, and catered by Vintage Tea and Cake Company, Belmont, MA.  Have attended a couple of teas hosted by JASNA Massachusetts.  The Wightman House was built was a private residence from 1902-1930, when it was sold to Gordon College, Hebrew College and finally to Wheelock College in 1999.  JASNA MA chapter was meeting there regularly in a comfortable, lecture room since I joined, but the teas were held in a special formal room, with a fireplace which I suspect was their original parlor or drawing room.  The teas were catered by Vintage Tea and Cake Company with lovely tables set up for us to select our own vintage tea cup and saucer. Different teas also clearly marked in vintage teapots and a nice selection of scones, pastries and treats. Sadly, Wheelock is merging with Boston University, but they have generously offered JASNA MA a new meeting place on their Boston Campus. To note, the Wightman House is in Brookline, and is on the national register of historic places, which has me quite relieved it won’t be torn down to make more awful luxury condo towers.

As for the Vintage Tea and Cake Co., I really wish this catering company existed back when I threw a tea party for a very special birthday at my auntie’s for my mum. The local caterer I used back in 1998, skimped on the sandwiches so my auntie and I whipped up tuna salad sandwiches to fill in.  The mini-tarts I got though from a local french bakery (Peaches and Cream, in East Boston–now located 2017 in Chelsea, MA), were a big hit.  They were beautiful mini-works of art like stained glass, and I had ordered larger fruit tart for my mum to blow out her candles — which my grandmother thought was just awful.  She did not understand why I did not have a cake but everyone had fun dressing up, and I took along extra hats for those who did not have them or forgot — which we hung on the vanity in my aunt’s front hall entry.  The Vintage Tea and Cake Company also has a small store front shop too, in Belmont, MA.

Gore Mansion (Gore Place), Waltham, MA.  This was a special event I attended with a friend and fellow Janeite via JASNA MA.  We had our lecturer/special speaker in the carriage house and then attended a lovely tea in the mansion.  Christopher Gore was a Harvard educated revolutionary who served as a MA governor and senator, and he married Rebecca Amory Payne in 1785, and they were quite a large part of society.  JASNA members were treated to a tour of the mansion after the tea.  Gore Place is a museum open to the public as well as a working farm.

The Cozy Tea Cart, Brookline, NH.  My latest tea outing, was also a recent JASNA MA event, held a little further north in Brookline, NH.  This was a small tearoom with long tables with an extensive menu including a lot of gluten free items.  There was a full tea available, and also a lovely shop were they sell their own tea blends, as well as honey and other locally made items, and other tea-related merchandise.

And I’ve also thrown exactly two (2) parties at work in both our old and new conference rooms.  The first was for a friend when she left to work out the Mass. Supreme Court — causing me to have to tape together multiple tablecloths from underneath — tricky business although I hid the seam with a “faux runner” made out of colored paper. And this past summer was my second attempt which was a bit more casual, for a volunteer attorney leaving us for a new job — with mango chutney from my aunt in Hawaii and pepper water crackers as our savory and my Alice in Wonderland teapot — which was part of my gift from the Division when I briefly transferred out to another part of the office.