Digression. As simply as that — it becomes personal.

Thoughts that hover around me today — are when “an attack” becomes personal. When they — whoever they are — attack your home town, purposely and with vengeance.  Something that means a lot or something very typical, something we often take for granted, something they — who ever they are — fear or despise along with no conscience.

After the Boston Marathon bombings, heard from folks that had been absent from my life for 10, 20, and even 30 years.  There is a little mental list I keep. And I let them know I wasn’t there on Boylston Street, and I had been across the river. On a belated celebration of my birthday, my friend and I went to see this indie movie and about an Australian singing group during the Vietnam War, and at one point there was a scene of their show turning into all running and explosions. Remember saying to my friend: “My goodness this sound system — feels like the building is shaking.”

And of course it was, from the bombs going off across the river, but we had no idea until the film ended and went to a nearby restaurant. Wasn’t until the trial and the release of the milk and cookies run to Whole Food Market video with the time stamp — realized how close our paths crossed via local traffic in driving back to my friend’s apartment.  As simply as that — it becomes personal.

Every time I walk up Boylston Street, I think of that innocent little boy and the women that died there, and the many others that left there without their arms and legs.  All because they were out on a beautiful day, running or watching a race, a time honored tradition, in one of the most beloved parts of our city.  As simply as that — it becomes personal.

And I remember all the photos and videos of all of those brave people at the marathon running toward the explosions. Frantic pulling down clothes off racks for tourniquets, random folks in line at our hospitals to give blood. To note with the bombers still at large at that point, everyone went to work that next day, by public transportation: bus, subway and commuter trains from all diverse neighborhoods — having no idea if another attack was imminent.  Everyone stood up and pushed back. As simply as that — it becomes personal.

Later that same week — the firefight in Watertown, MA and the subsequent lock down.  A dear friend called me from Brooklyn and said: “What the hell is going on up there?”  Which was a good question.  Told him I did not know but whatever it was — obviously coming his way since they had just announced shutting down the Amtrak train to New York City. As simply as that — it becomes personal.

After it all happened, realized how small my city really is and my belief in the theory of six degrees of separation became firmly rooted.  Years later our city continues on watchful and mindful amid the unspoken personal contracts during our daily commutes.  As simply as that — it becomes personal.

Today, my thoughts are with those who perished on June 3, 2017. To all the people in London trying to identify people missing or wounded.  The emergency services personnel including police, ambulance workers who train and train to deal with these unspeakable acts.  Regular citizens who took to social media and offered shelter in their homes, or who were locked out of their homes because of this violence. All those in Manchester and London — who will never feel the same about London Bridge, that particular concert hall, tube station, or about those certain streets and pubs, that have experienced all this violence.  As simply as that — it becomes personal.

Letter to Cassandra, Thurs. 15-Friday 16, September 1796

In this letter to her older sister Casandra at home in Steventon, Jane Austen continues to write from Rowling, giving a full account of social activities including: “dining at Nackington, returning by Moonlight, and everything quite in Stile, in to mention Mr. Claringbould’s funeral.”  Per the notes the Claringboulds are described as “a farming family, at Goodnestone, Kent.”  Austen goes onto say that their brother Edward was considering taking “Claringbould” as a name, but: “that scheme is over” —  apparently this is well before Edward became Edward Austen Knight.  And apparently this “scheme” was also monetary in nature, and did not work out too well because Jane Austen continued, “nothing was said on the subject, and unless it is in your power to assist you Brother with five or six Hundred pounds, he must entirely give up the idea.”

Jane Austen cheerfully describes their visit to Nackington, home in Kent of the Milles family, giving Cassandra a round down of their house tour, including a portrait painted by Reynolds.

Glimpses here of her wicked wit abound:  “Miss Fletcher and I were very thick, but I am the thinnest of the two — She wore her purple Muslin, which is pretty enough, tho’ it does not become her complexion.  There are two Traits in her Character which are pleasing; namely, she admires Camilla & drinks no cream in her Tea.”

Sort of a vibe of eavesdropping here between sisters, I’m not saying that Jane Austen is being catty, rather she is painting a portrait for her older sister with words, and apparently two standards were very important by which she did judge new acquaintances: by the writers they admired, and how they took their tea.

The letter relays the rest of the particulars of their visit to Nackington, as well as the carriage ride home and large swath of news concerning both the Field and Digweed families.  Once news of neighbors of news is finished,  Jane Austen adds news about their brothers, and discusses travel and scheduling.  Just shy of two hundred years later, pouring over this correspondence it may seem unlikely, but this was again a large part of her life, which all had to be arranged and approved by their male relatives, “I want to go in a Stage Coach, but Frank will not let me.”

Austen closes this letter with orders for shopping and errands, “If anybody wants anything in Town, they must send their Commissions to Frank, as I shall merely pass thro’ it. –”  Followed by a referenced to buy candles?  “The Tallow Chandler is Pennington, at the Crown & Beehive Charles Street, Covent Garden.”  However, she wrapped this correspondence up by assuring Cassandra, “Buy Mary Harrison’s Gown by all means.  You shall have mine for ever so much money, tho’ if I am tolerably rich when I get home, I shall like it very much myself.”

All notes to Jane Austen’s Letters, Fourth Edition, Collected and Edited by Deirdre LeFaye, Oxford University Press, 2011.  The underline emphasis was not added but was retyped as it appeared in the text.

Letter to Cassandra, 23 August 1796

This letter or short note, was sent from Jane Austen, writing from Cork Street (in London), but per the notes Cassandra’s address is missing but mostly likely her older sister was at Steventon. Starting with the first line: “Here I am once more in this Scene of Dissipation & vice, and I begin already to find my Morals  corrupted –”  Here we get a typical glimpse of the familiarity of correspondence between these sisters, plus a dose of Austen’s wicked wit.

Jane Austen duly relies news about the weather, specifically the heat, their arrival time, the departures of their brothers Edward and Frank on their new ventures including that Henry had not been at the races.  She then closes with “God Bless You — I must leave off, for we are going out. She had previously mentioned: “We are to be at Astley’s tonight.  Per the notes, this was Astley’s Amphitheatre, near Westminster Bridge: “‘a circus for horsemanship  and other feats of strength and agility,'” also referenced in Emma.

All cites to Jane Austen’s Letters, Forth Edition, edited by Deirdre LeFaye, Oxford University Press, 2011.