Saturday, April 30, 2016

Blessed Walpurgisnacht! (Or Happy Beltane!)

'Tis May Eve, my dear friends, May Eve, that joyous, magickal, mystical night that brings us the blooming beauty of Spring! Thank you so much for spending National Poetry Month with me! I wish you all a wonderful May Day tomorrow!


Beltane Bride



Harken to the drums of the Beltane fire
Pounding out its rhythm as the flames leap higher
Dancing around it, your senses overcome
Moving with abandon in time with the drum

The longing in your belly starts to rise
Along with the passion that shows in your eyes
Sweat soaks your body, your bloods on fire
You tremble with the force of your raging desire

You start to chant the ancient rhyme
Calling to your lover “come to me, be mine
Come lie with me in the wildwood tonight
In honour of the Ancients, let us unite”

Then through the smoke and dancing flames you see
The one that you yearn for, wild, proud and free
Wearing the antlers of the horned god on his brow
He watches you intently, then gives you a bow

You, are his chosen one, he’ll lie with you this night
Deep in the forest under the stars shinning bright
Like the Lady and her Lord, you two will be as one
As you make love to the rhythm of the distant Beltane drum

The drums are now silent with the dawn of the new day
Your loving now more gentle, for no drum beat now holds sway
Buried deep within you, his fertile seed pours forth
With each powerful thrust of his, you feel its potent warmth

A Blessing was bestowed on you virgins both that night
By the Lady and the Lord, the only witness to your rite
Today is our Hand Fasting, he whispers softly at your side
I will love you for eternity, my beloved Beltane Bride.

Blessed Be



                         Happy Beltane (May Day) Poem  

                                ~Metal Gaia


 Between the twilight of spring and summer
The hunter has come for the may queen 
In fields of gold and beds of flower
He plows her land, so fertile and green

Erect the may pole
So we may dance 
The hunter has come, God is here! 
His crown the golden disk of sun 
Reigning in summer yet another year. 




The Beltane Chase
Traditional
Ladies:
I shall go as a wren in spring
With sorrow and sighing on silent wing
And I shall go in our Lady's name
Aye, till I come home again.
Men:
And we shall follow as falcons grey
And hunt thee cruelly as our prey
And we shall go in our Master's name
Aye, to fetch thee home again.
Ladies:
Then I shall go as a mouse in May
In the fields by night and cellars by day
And I shall go in our Lady's name
Aye, till I come home again.
Men:
But we shall follow as fat tom cats
And chase thee through the corn and vats
And we shall go in our Master's name
Aye, to fetch thee home again.
Ladies:
Then I shall go as an Autumn hare
With sorrow and sighing and mickle care
And I shall go in our Lady's name
Aye, till I come home again.
Men:
But we shall follow as swift grey hounds
And dog thy tracks by leaps and bounds
And we shall go in our Master's name
Aye, to fetch thee home again.
Ladies:
Then I shall go as a Winter trout
With sorrow sighing and mickle doubt
And I shall go in our Lady's name
Aye, till I come home again.
Men:
But we shall follow as otter's swift
And snare thee faster thou can'st shift
And we shall go in our Master's name
Aye, to fetch thee home again.
Ladies:
Aye, and I'll come home again.



Friday, April 29, 2016

Theodora Goss and my favorite faerie tale


Beauty to the Beast

Beauty to the Beast

by Theodora Goss

When I dare walk in fields, barefoot and tender,
trace thorns with my finger, swallow amber,
crawl into the badger’s chamber, comb
lightning’s loose hair in a crashing storm,
walk in a wolf’s eye, lie
naked on granite, ignore the curse
on the castle door, drive a tooth into the boar’s hide,
ride adders, tangle the horned horse,
when I dare watch the east
with unprotected eyes, then I dare love you, Beast.
Beauty and the Beast 2 by Walter Crane
(The illustration is by Walter Crane, from “Beauty and the Beast.”)

 https://theodoragosspoems.com

Ellie's Kitchen: Vegetarian Butter Chicken Stuffed Peppers With Mint Yogurt...though I'm not sure Gramma Ellie would have eaten this....

Tara from Suburble.com has some fabulous recipe ideas. Such as this one, that I will be making for dinner tomorrow, because it looks (and sounds!) great. I've never had butter chicken; my experience with Indian food is limited to the dal that I make and the one FABULOUS trip to India House Restaurant in Northampton, Mass that my husband and I took on our last wedding anniversary. (I am longing to return.) While I wait for that magical day to come again, I'll satisfy myself with food like this.

Vegetarian Butter Chicken Stuffed Peppers with Minted Sour Cream
 
Ingredients
  • 3-4 medium sized bell peppers, with top 1/5th removed, including stem and seeds
  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 1 package Patak's Butter Chicken for Two
  • 1 can of chick peas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 1 cup of plain greek yogurt
  • 3-4 sprigs of mint, finely minced
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
  2. In a saucepan over medium, saute the onions and chickpeas until onions are translucent
  3. At the same time, boil a pot of water big enough to submerge the peppers
  4. Boil peppers for 5 minutes and then remove and turn upside down in order to drain
  5. Once onion is cooked, add rice and Butter Chicken sauce
  6. Saute for five minutes
  7. Place peppers into a baking dish, fill with butter chicken mixture
  8. Bake for 15 minutes
  9. While baking, mix mint with yogurt and put aside
  10. Finish peppers with a healthy dollop of yogurt and a sprig of mint, if you're fancy like that!

Does anyone have a favorite Indian dish? I'd love to check it out. Leave me a message in the comments. Thanks!!

We are nearing the end of National Poetry Month...

and one of these years I will manage to keep up with it. Four poems today, because I am four days behind. Tomorrow, May eve, will become a poetry extravaganza, tied up with preparations for Beltane and all things joyful.

Daisy Time
 
See, the grass is full of stars,
Fallen in their brightness;
Hearts they have of shining gold,
Rays of shining whiteness.

Buttercups have honeyed hearts,
Bees they love the clover,
But I love the daisies' dance
All the meadow over.

Blow, O blow, you happy winds,
Singing summer's praises,
Up the field and down the field
A-dancing with the daisies. 


Ode on the Spring

By Thomas Gray

Lo! where the rosy-bosom'd Hours,
Fair Venus' train appear,
Disclose the long-expecting flowers,
And wake the purple year!
The Attic warbler pours her throat,
Responsive to the cuckoo's note,
The untaught harmony of spring:
While whisp'ring pleasure as they fly,
Cool zephyrs thro' the clear blue sky
Their gather'd fragrance fling.

Where'er the oak's thick branches stretch
A broader, browner shade;
Where'er the rude and moss-grown beech
O'er-canopies the glade,
Beside some water's rushy brink
With me the Muse shall sit, and think
(At ease reclin'd in rustic state)
How vain the ardour of the crowd,
How low, how little are the proud,
How indigent the great!

Still is the toiling hand of Care:
The panting herds repose:
Yet hark, how thro' the peopled air
The busy murmur glows!
The insect youth are on the wing,
Eager to taste the honied spring,
And float amid the liquid noon:
Some lightly o'er the current skim,
Some show their gaily-gilded trim
Quick-glancing to the sun.

To Contemplation's sober eye
Such is the race of man:
And they that creep, and they that fly,
Shall end where they began.
Alike the busy and the gay
But flutter thro' life's little day,
In fortune's varying colours drest:
Brush'd by the hand of rough Mischance,
Or chill'd by age, their airy dance
They leave, in dust to rest.

Methinks I hear in accents low
The sportive kind reply:
Poor moralist! and what art thou?
A solitary fly!
Thy joys no glitt'ring female meets,
No hive hast thou of hoarded sweets,
No painted plumage to display:
On hasty wings thy youth is flown;
Thy sun is set, thy spring is gone—
We frolic, while 'tis May.


Calmly We Walk through This April’s Day

By Delmore Schwartz

Calmly we walk through this April’s day,   
Metropolitan poetry here and there,   
In the park sit pauper and rentier,   
The screaming children, the motor-car   
Fugitive about us, running away,   
Between the worker and the millionaire   
Number provides all distances,   
It is Nineteen Thirty-Seven now,   
Many great dears are taken away,   
What will become of you and me
(This is the school in which we learn ...)   
Besides the photo and the memory?
(... that time is the fire in which we burn.)

(This is the school in which we learn ...)   
What is the self amid this blaze?
What am I now that I was then
Which I shall suffer and act again,
The theodicy I wrote in my high school days   
Restored all life from infancy,
The children shouting are bright as they run   
(This is the school in which they learn ...)   
Ravished entirely in their passing play!
(... that time is the fire in which they burn.)

Avid its rush, that reeling blaze!
Where is my father and Eleanor?
Not where are they now, dead seven years,   
But what they were then?
                                     No more? No more?
From Nineteen-Fourteen to the present day,   
Bert Spira and Rhoda consume, consume
Not where they are now (where are they now?)   
But what they were then, both beautiful;

Each minute bursts in the burning room,   
The great globe reels in the solar fire,   
Spinning the trivial and unique away.
(How all things flash! How all things flare!)   
What am I now that I was then?   
May memory restore again and again   
The smallest color of the smallest day:   
Time is the school in which we learn,   
Time is the fire in which we burn.


Lines Written in Early Spring

By William Wordsworth

I heard a thousand blended notes,
While in a grove I sate reclined,
In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts
Bring sad thoughts to the mind.

To her fair works did Nature link
The human soul that through me ran;
And much it grieved my heart to think
What man has made of man.

Through primrose tufts, in that green bower,
The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;
And ’tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes.

The birds around me hopped and played,
Their thoughts I cannot measure:—
But the least motion which they made
It seemed a thrill of pleasure.

The budding twigs spread out their fan,
To catch the breezy air;
And I must think, do all I can,
That there was pleasure there.

If this belief from heaven be sent,
If such be Nature’s holy plan,
Have I not reason to lament
What man has made of man?



Okay, a few more, just because.
 

Spring, the sweet spring

By Thomas Nashe

Spring, the sweet spring, is the year’s pleasant king,
Then blooms each thing, then maids dance in a ring,
Cold doth not sting, the pretty birds do sing:
      Cuckoo, jug-jug, pu-we, to-witta-woo!

The palm and may make country houses gay,
Lambs frisk and play, the shepherds pipe all day,
And we hear aye birds tune this merry lay:
      Cuckoo, jug-jug, pu-we, to-witta-woo!

The fields breathe sweet, the daisies kiss our feet,
Young lovers meet, old wives a-sunning sit,
In every street these tunes our ears do greet:
      Cuckoo, jug-jug, pu-we, to witta-woo!
            Spring, the sweet spring!



Spring

By Elfriede Jelinek

april breath
of  boyish red
the tongue crushes
strawberry dreams

                                  hack away wound
                                  and wound the fountain

and on the mouth
perspiration white
from someone's neck

a little tooth
has bit the finger
of  the bride the
                                  tabby yellow and sere
                                  howls

the red boy
from the gable flies
an animal hearkens
in his white throat
                                  his juice runs down
                                  pigeon thighs

a pale sweet spike
still sticks
in woman white
lard

an april breath
of  boyish red


Today

By Billy Collins

If ever there were a spring day so perfect,
so uplifted by a warm intermittent breeze

that it made you want to throw
open all the windows in the house

and unlatch the door to the canary's cage,
indeed, rip the little door from its jamb,

a day when the cool brick paths
and the garden bursting with peonies

seemed so etched in sunlight
that you felt like taking

a hammer to the glass paperweight
on the living room end table,

releasing the inhabitants
from their snow-covered cottage

so they could walk out,
holding hands and squinting

into this larger dome of blue and white,
well, today is just that kind of day.



In Perpetual Spring

By Amy Gerstler

Gardens are also good places
to sulk. You pass beds of
spiky voodoo lilies   
and trip over the roots   
of a sweet gum tree,   
in search of medieval   
plants whose leaves,   
when they drop off   
turn into birds
if they fall on land,
and colored carp if they   
plop into water.

Suddenly the archetypal   
human desire for peace   
with every other species   
wells up in you. The lion   
and the lamb cuddling up.
The snake and the snail, kissing.
Even the prick of the thistle,   
queen of the weeds, revives   
your secret belief
in perpetual spring,
your faith that for every hurt   
there is a leaf to cure it.
 
Okay...I'm done now! Enjoy the day, my friends!

Myddfai Reiki: 5 Unexpected Tricks for Replacing a Bad Habit with a Good One

5 Unexpected Tricks for Replacing a Bad Habit with a Good One


If you asked anyone how they managed to eliminate one of their old bad habits by replacing it with a good one, they might give you some vague answer like, “I just decided that I really wanted to do it,” or “I pushed myself.” While this may be true to them on the surface, it doesn’t give people like us any hints about what kind of mindset tricks they may have subconsciously used to do it.
Habit formation is an extremely personal endeavor, but there are some more specific ways you can increase your chances of success. In fact, some of the most effective tricks are pretty counterintuitive for most people. Here are just five you should consider.

Focus on a trigger rather than the habit itself.
If you want to eliminate your bad habit of plopping down on the couch after work to watch TV with a glass of wine in hand, you might say to yourself, “I’m going to start exercising for 30 minutes after work.” But focusing on the habitual change you want to make isn’t what’s going to get you to take action.
Instead, you need to establish a trigger point that gets you to take action. If you want to exercise after coming home from work, your trigger could be the point where you walk through your front door. Or it could be the point where you change out of your work clothes. So instead of simply telling yourself you’ll exercise after work, you can trigger yourself to take action by saying, ”As soon as I walk through my front door, I’m on my way to exercising.”

Take one extremely tiny action toward positive change.
 People often seek to change their habits because they want some sort of result. A focus on results means making changes substantial enough to start seeing progress in a reasonable amount of time, which is often uncomfortable to sustain day after day, week after week, and month after month. In fact, many of us greatly overestimate what we’re able to keep up with over the long run.
If you want to permanently replace a bad habit with a good one, aim to take one small action a day that only takes a few seconds or maybe a minute to complete. If it’s reading instead of watching TV, start with reading just one page of your book. If it’s flossing instead of ignoring your dental hygiene, start with just one tooth. You need to build the foundation of your habit first with a very small, impossible-to-not-do action first before trying to get real results.

Perceive difficult obstacles as valuable lessons.
Many of us have fixed mindsets, meaning we think we’re simply born with an unwavering level of talent, intelligence and other desirable traits needed for success. People with fixed mindsets see obstacles and their own mistakes as things that verify how capable or incapable they are of succeeding at something.
People with growth mindsets, on the other hand, see traits like talent and intelligence as things that can be developed over time through effort. If you have a fixed mindset, anything that gets in your way of performing your habit is likely to make you want to say “screw it” and quit. In contrast, people with growth mindsets recognize the hard stuff as things that will help them become better and develop more resilience.

Tell yourself you’re already a huge success.
The difference in wording may be subtle, but saying, “I want to successfully do [new habit],” is definitely not the same as saying, ”I am successful at doing [new habit].” By telling yourself what you want to do or what you want to become as if you’re already doing it or embodying it, you can reprogram your mind for success.
Your mind doesn’t care what’s real or fake in the moment, so even if you’re struggling to do a good job or feel confident in any new habit you’re trying to develop, your mind will start to believe you’re already a huge success if you just start talking to yourself as if you are. What you’re really doing here is simply using the power of positive affirmations to change your habits and make them stick.

Don’t get caught up in fantasizing.
Telling yourself you’re already successful can work, but that’s not always the case if it makes you get lost in fantasy land. One of the big reasons why visualization exercises don’t work so well for people who want to change is because they only visualize the positive outcome they want.
A UCLA study found that people who visualized themselves being involved in the process it takes to produce an outcome were more likely to stick with their new habits. To change your habits from bad to good, make sure you focus on the learning, the practicing, and the doing that will get you the results you’re looking for.

Habits can be tricky things to form and sustain, but with the above tips, you’ll be well ahead of everyone else struggling to simply force themselves to just do it.

Related Articles
How a Daily Journaling Ritual Could Make You Happier
5 Ways to Use the Spring Weather to Inspire Healthier Habits
5 Tips for People Who Just Can’t Seem to Stick to a Meditation Habit

Myddfai Reiki: 9 Hobbies Proven to Help Anxiety & Depression

9 Hobbies Proven to Help Anxiety & Depression

  • April 27, 2016
When it comes to addressing your depression and anxiety, working with your doctor on a treatment plan is wholly recommended—but that doesn’t mean your treatment plan should be comprised entirely of a traditional combo of therapy and medication.
Mental health professionals and researchers are increasingly recommending alternative therapies in conjunction with therapy and medication as treatment for depression and anxiety—and some of the activities proven to help may surprise you.

Playing Video Games
Gamer and author Jane McGonigal has called gaming “the neurological opposite of depression”—that’s because playing games activates parts of the brain that don’t usually get activated when you’re depressed—the ones associated with motivation, learning and goal orientation. And you don’t have to be a gamer to reap the benefits—if long, complex games aren’t your thing, think simple. Casual video games that are fun and easy to play in short increments have been shown to improve mood and decrease stress. McGonigal even created a game specifically to help increase your ability to stay strong, motivated and optimistic.

Volunteering
You can help yourself by helping others, studies suggest. Not only does volunteer work improve physical health, research shows it can also counter depression and anxiety, especially in older adults.

Dancing
Bust a move. Whether you can dance circles around anyone on Dancing With the Stars or your talent is mostly confined to the Macarena and the Electric Slide, working up a sweat on the dance floor (or in your living room) has its perks. Research suggests that dance beneficially modulates concentrations of serotonin and dopamine, improving mood in those with mild depression.

Gardening
Got a green thumb? Use it to boost your mental health.Research shows that over time, gardening can decrease the severity of depression and reduce rumination, the tendency to repetitively think about upsetting things. Even keeping plants and flowers around can lower anxiety, increase relaxation, reduce perceived stress levels and reduce your chances of suffering from stress-related depression.
gardening helps depression

Playing An Instrument
You’ve probably noticed what a huge effect listening to music can have on your mood. Playing an instrument makes a major impact, too. A study of older adults taking piano lessons found that reading music and playing a music instrument decreased depression, induced a positive mood and improved psychological and physical quality of life.


Going to Art Museums
Art therapy dates back to the 1940s, but you don’t need to be handy with a paintbrush to get the benefits. Making art has been shown to boost mood, but so does viewing it. In fact, studies have shown such a direct link between the content of artwork and the brain’s response to pain, stress and anxiety that hospitals are starting to choose artwork that specifically promotes a sense of optimism and energy.

Hiking
If your version of hiking is just walking somewhat close to a tree, that’s fine, too. Numerous studies have found that just being out and about in nature has a ton of mental health benefits. Forest environments promote lower concentrations of cortisol, lower pulse rate, lower blood pressure, greater parasympathetic nerve activity and lower sympathetic nerve activity, according to experiments done in 24 forests across Japan. You don’t need to go that far, either—grab a friend and take a walk in a nearby park to lower perceived stress, lower depression and reduce obsessive, negative thoughts.

Exercise
Don’t worry, we won’t tell you to start training for a marathon—researchers say that anything from a 10-minute walk to a 45-minute walk can elevate a depressed mood, providing several hours of relief. Some research even suggests that regular exercise can be just as effective as medication for reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression in some people.

Partnering Up
Whether you’re drawing, dancing or hiking, amplify the effects of your favorite anxiety-reducing activity by inviting a friend to join you. Research shows that the presence of social support suppresses cortisol levels in response to stress, increasing calmness and decreasing anxiety.

Related:
Knitting Can Make You Happier and Healthier
10 Reasons to Volunteer at an Animal Shelter
13 Amazing Benefits of Walking

Monday, April 25, 2016

Songs of Hearth and Home

     Over the weekend I went on a cleaning rampage; my youngest was recovering from surgery so I wasn't going anywhere, and as he snoozed on the couch I tackled my house. I often make jokes about the wreck that my house has become (though sometimes I am not exaggerating) but I also always comment on how much I love to be home, keeping our home as warm and welcoming for my family as I can while balancing work and writing. (And reading, I admit it.) As my family has grown and I have become more attached to homecaring, I have found myself drawn more and more to goddesses of the hearth, Hestia, Brigid, Taltiu, and so many others that formed the foundation of home so many lifetimes ago. I have missed a few days of poems again...tonight I shall make up for it with songs of the hearth and home.

Hymn 29: To Hestia

  Hestia, in the high dwellings of all, 
both deathless gods and men who walk on earth, 
you have gained an everlasting abode and highest honor: 
glorious is your portion and your right. 
 For without you mortals hold no banquet,
 —where one does not duly pour sweet wine in offering to Hestia both first and last. And you, Slayer of Argus,
Son of Zeus and Maia,
messenger of the blessed gods,
bearer of the golden rod,
giver of good,
be favorable and help us,
you and Hestia, the worshipful and dear.
 Come and dwell in this glorious house in friendship together;
 for you two, well knowing the noble actions of men,
aid on their wisdom and their strength.
Hail, Daughter of Cronos, and you also,
Hermes, bearer of the golden rod!
Now I will remember you and another song also.


(Anonymous. The Homeric Hymns and Homerica with an English Translation by Hugh G. Evelyn-White. Homeric Hymns. Cambridge, MA.,Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1914.)

Hymn 24: To Hestia

  Hestia, you who tend the holy house of the lord Apollo, 
the Far-shooter at goodly Pytho
with soft oil dripping ever from your locks, 
come now into this house, 
come, having one mind with Zeus the all-wise 
—draw near, and withal bestow grace upon my song.

(Anonymous. The Homeric Hymns and Homerica with an English Translation by Hugh G. Evelyn-White. Homeric Hymns. Cambridge, MA.,Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1914.)


Mairie Rosina
 
Nov 29, 2014
 
 
Rage and roar upon your thrones,
Love, loot and hate, be disparate,
But not for me are bawls and blows;
I’ll tend the hearth, the heart, the grate.
In the shadows I rest, my face a-glow –
Not plagued by fury as hot as fire,
Nor ambition, wrath, desire,
Nor revenge as cold as snow.
Quiet yet not dormant,
Docile though not all compliant,
You may scoff and scorn my choice
But I still hold the eternal fire –
My flame keeps Olympus alight,
I keep all safe throughout the night
And though I am not in your sight
You’ll always find me through your plight.
For I am Hestia,
First-born goddess,
The softest star.

http://hellopoetry.com/words/191229/hestia/poems/


Saturday, April 23, 2016

It's the eve of Gardening Season!!















Those of you that have been reading this blog for a year or two will know what happens to me come springtime.

I lose my mind.

Suddenly life is all about playing in the dirt, stacking pots on my back steps, and hauling Little Bit's little wagon overflowing with plants and bristling with garden tools down the street and around the corner to my plot in the community garden (which is conveniently located across the street from the Second Street Bakery, where the very nice proprietors don't mind if I wander in covered in crud) and generally ceasing all required daily-life activities such as laundry and dishes and mopping. (Sadly, many of my writing deadlines suffer as well. I really do need to work on prioritizing this year.)

One of my back step pots usually has salad greens (okay, lettuce), and this post from http://savvygardening.com/8-salad-greens-grow-arent-lettuce/ definitely caught my eye. Let's face it: lettuce is boring.

I love adding zippy ingredients to my salads, but store-bought arugula only lasts a day or two in the fridge (but comes in a package much larger than a day or two) and I don't live anywhere safe to gather dandelion greens. Here's some nifty new tasty greens to add to my (and your, if so inclined) salad green garden. Enjoy!salad greens

8 salad greens to grow that aren’t lettuce

I love making salads during the growing season. There’s nothing quite like walking out the back door with a pair of scissors or herb snips and harvesting your own salad greens. I even built a lettuce table for that very purpose. However I need variety. I’m not content to just grow one type of lettuce and call it a day. I grow a bunch of things so there is a medley of flavours and varieties in my bowl.

The thing is, you don’t have to be relegated to the lettuce section of the seed catalogue. There are so many other greens you can also grow. Here are a few of my favourites.

Growing different salad greens

Parsley: I absolutely love parsley. I know it’s often considered pure garnish, but I really enjoy the flavour and it’s great added to salads. If I’m out in the garden, I’ll pick a sprig (or three!) to munch away on. I like both flat-leaf and curly varieties. And last year, for the first time, I discovered swallowtail caterpillars munching away before they set up their cocoon business. Other herbs, like dill and cilantro (if you’re one of those people who doesn’t think it tastes like soap) are great mixed into a lettuce salad, as well.
parsley plant
I didn’t mind sharing my parsley (I plant more than I need) with the swallowtail caterpillars!
Amaranth: Niki is the one who introduced me to baby amaranth leaves. Last year I planted a lovely variety called ‘Red Garnet’ whose young leaves I harvested for salads.
Nasturtiums: When you think about it, nasturtiums are amazing flowers to have in the veggie garden. They not only attract pollinators and act as trap crops, you can eat both the blooms AND the leaves! The leaves have a bit of a peppery flavour and provide a nice flavour contrast when dispersed among a crop of sweeter lettuce leaves.
nasturtiums
I love nasturtiums for their ornamental qualities and for all the wonderful edible and non-edible reasons mentioned above!
Baby kale: I’m one of those people who didn’t jump on the kale superfood bandwagon because I was already on it! I love steamed kale and make the odd batch of kale chips, but when you pick the leaves young, they are quite edible in a salad. And have you seen my crazy kale plant? One of my local restaurants makes a delicious kale Caesar salad.
blue vates kale
My favourite kale variety is ‘Blue Vates’.
Pak choy: I find this Asian green to be crunchy and delicious and a perfect addition to or lettuce substitute. I have a packet from High Mowing Organic Seeds simply called White Stemmed Pac Choy waiting to go into the garden.
Sprouts: When I plant a row of beets, peas and sunflowers, I usually oversow (is that a word?) so that I can harvest the young seedlings for salad. Once I built my lettuce table, I deliberately planted a few rows for sprouts only! The beet ones are especially flavourful!
lettuce table
In this particular salad table planting, I have: escarole, ‘Red Sails’ lettuce, baby pak choy, ‘Lolla Rossa Darkness’ lettuce, ‘Tuscan baby leaf’ kale and ‘Red Garnet’ amaranth.
Swiss chard: I was harvesting Swiss chard well into the fall last year. Sometimes it was the only salad green I had to use at that point. I grow a variety – ‘Rainbow’, ‘Peppermint’, etc. All are delicious.
Spinach: This is a great crop for shadier areas and I love the flavour of the fresh baby leaves. Spinach will also tolerate a bit of shade!

Friday, April 22, 2016

In honor of my brave little boy...

I've allowed Little Bit to choose today's poems. He had surgery this morning, and has been a superhero all day. He brought me our copy of Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein (a book his teacher has at school). Here are his favorites:


Captain Hook

Captain Hook must remember
Not to scratch his toes.
Captain Hook must watch out
And never pick his nose.
Captain Hook must be gentle
When he shakes your hand.
Captain Hook must be careful
Openin' sardine cans
And playing tag and pouring tea
And turnin' pages of his book.
Lots of folks I'm glad I ain't--
But mostly Captain Hook!

It's Earth Day!!

And I have done nothing related to the day, as my six year old had surgery this morning. He is doing well, but let's face it, when our kids need us, the rest of the world goes on hold. Here are some tips for celebrating, appreciating, and preserving this Earth we call Home. (From The Art of Simple  http://theartofsimple.net/tips-to-go-green-at-home/ )


40 ways to go greener at home …besides just recycling

Being intentionally eco-wise is about celebrating the creativity of creation, being good stewards with what we’re given, and passing on those values to the next generation.
The thing I love most about practicing good green green habits? Nine times out of ten, they’re also the more frugal option. Being environmentally-friendly is just good economics—in our home and budget, and with the earth.
There are tons of little things we can do in our homes to play a small part in reducing landfill waste, cleaning the air, and preserving the natural landscape. But we double our efforts when we get our kids involved, helping them understand the why to our what.
When they get it, it’ll be second nature when they’re adults—and that much easier to pass it down to their children.
Here are some small, easy, green choices we can make in our homes. Choose three that you’re not already doing, and make them a habit this year.
40 ways to go greener at home (besides recycling)

40 easy ways to go greener at home—besides recycling

1.  Plant an herb garden.  It’s good to have a reminder around of where our food originates, and this one is super easy.
2.  Switch all your lightbulbs to CFLs (or at least switch a few).
3.  Create a homemade compost bin for $15.
4.  Switch one appliance to an energy efficient model (look for the “energy star” label).

Photo from Flip & Tumble 5.  Stop using disposable bags. Order some reusable bags—my favorites are Flip & Tumble. Or, make your own—they’re insanely easy.
6.  Buy an inexpensive reusable water bottle, and stop buying plastic disposable bottles (my favorite is the Kleen Kanteen with the sport cap.  Then watch The Story of Bottled Water, a short movie about the bottled water phenomena.
7.  Wash laundry in cold water instead of hot.
8.  Turn off lights when you leave the room.
9.  Don’t turn on lights at all for as long as you can—open your curtains and enjoy natural light.
10.  Drive the speed limit, and combine all your errands for the week in one trip.

Photo by Kamyar Adi 11.  Better yet, walk or ride a bike to your errands that are two miles or closer.
12.  Support your local economy and shop at your farmer’s market.
13.  Turn off your computer completely at night.
14.  Research whether you can sign up for green power from your utility company.
15.  Pay your bills online. Not only is it greener, it’s a sanity saver.
16.  Put a stop to unsolicited mail—sign up to opt out of pre-screened credit card offers.  While you’re at it, if you’re in the U.S., go ahead and make sure you’re on the “do not call” list, just to make your life more peaceful.
17.  Reuse scrap paper.  Print on two sides, or let your kids color on the back side of used paper.
18.  Conduct a quick energy audit of your home.
19.  Subscribe to good natural living blogs—I dig Shalom Mama, You Grow Girl, Keeper of the Home, Kitchen Stewardship, and DIY Natural.
20.  Before buying anything new, first check your local Craigslist or Freecycle.
21.  Support local restaurants that use food derived less than 100 miles away, and learn more about the benefits of eating locally.
22.  Fix leaky faucets.
23.  Make your own household cleaners.  I’ve got quite a few recipes in my first book, Organized Simplicity.

Photo by Kasia 24.  Line dry your laundry.
25.  Watch The Story of Stuff with your kids, and talk about the impact your household trash has on our landfills (I don’t love some of their politics, but I can overlook it when watching).
26.  Learn with your kids about another country or culture, expanding your knowledge to other sides of the world.
28.  Lower the temperature on your hot water heater.
29.  Unplug unused chargers and appliances.
30.  Repurpose something. It’s fun.
31.  Collect rainwater, and use it to water your houseplants and garden.

Photo by Lori Ann 32.  Switch to cloth diapers – or at least do a combination with disposables. Even one cloth diaper per day means 365 fewer disposables in the landfill each year.
33.  Switch to shade-grown coffee with the “Fair Trade” label.
34.  Use a Diva Cup for your monthly cycles. At the risk of TMI, I’ve been using mine for more than five years now. (Update: Eight years and counting.)
35.  Use cloth instead of paper to clean your kitchen. Be frugal, and make these rags out of old towels and t-shirts.
36.  Use cloth napkins daily instead of paper.
37.  Read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and be utterly inspired.

38.  Repurpose glass jars as leftover containers and bulk storage, especially in the kitchen.
39.  Watch the myriad documentaries on Netflix about the food industry and environment. Some of my favorites are Food Inc., Amazing Planet, Discovery Atlas, and Food Matters. My daughter was totally mesmerized with that last one—it’s insanely important that our kids understand where our food originates.
40.  Donate to—and shop at—thrift stores.  You’ll be recycling perfectly usable items, you’ll be supporting your local economy, and you’ll be saving money.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Springtime in Paris

...is something I will one day see. Since it is springtime in New England, I thought I'd wing my thoughts away to the city of light, and pay homage to their river, which I'm sure is as dear to Parisians as the Connecticut is to Her children.


Paris: the Seine at Night

Come and see the chimney-pots, etched against the light!
Half-a-moon of gold above the lovely-phantomed night;
Half-a-silver-moon below, underneath a span,
Mirrored in the vaulted dark, like a jewelled fan.

Dust in dormer window-ledge, age in bolted door,
Roof-tops leaping from the dark, jumbled towards the shore;
Beauty in the shadow-lanes, like an April pain,
Hanging in the hearts of trees, lyric with the rain.

Yellow lines across the black, shimmering and pale,
Falling from the bridges' lights, undulating, frail.
Crimson lanes beside the gold, piers that lie in wait,
Crimson lamps to warn the ships, crawling homeward late.

Come and see the magic dusk, and the silver fire!
Dome and tower, turret, gate. Moonlight on a spire.
Heart of you may wander long, through the careless day —
Soul of you that comes by night, never goes away.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

These Fields at Evening by David Morton

My drive to work passes many small farms, all becoming beautifully green just now. I return home long before evening, but David Morton's poem These Fields at Evening evokes a beautifully fantastical realm, where here and the other are never truly separate.

These Fields at Evening
By David Morton
 
THESE wear their evening light as women wear
Their pale proud beauty for some lover’s sake,
Too quiet-hearted evermore to care
For moving worlds and musics that they make;
And they are hushed as lonely women are—        5
So lost in dreams they have no thought to mark
How the wide heavens blossom, star by star,
And the slow dusk is deepening to the dark.
 
The moon comes like a lover from the hill,
Leaning across the twilight and the trees;        10
And finds them grave and beautiful and still,
And wearing always, on such nights as these,
A glimmer less than any ghost of light,
As women wear their beauty through the night.
 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Role of Feminism in The Yellow Wallpaper and The Revolt of “Mother”...another study, one to be combined with Louisa May Alcott's history



The Role of Feminism in The Yellow Wallpaper and The Revolt of “Mother”

~ Nicole Kapise Perkins


Feminism is defined as 1: the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes; and 2: organized activity on behalf of women's rights and interests (http://www.merriam-webster.com). In The Yellow Wallpaper and The Revolt of “Mother” readers see both aspects of the definition. In Freeman’s Sarah Penn we see the go-getter: the suffragette organizing equal rights marches and speeches, graciously fighting for what she believes to be right. In Gilman’s unnamed protagonist is the dreamer: she longs to be taken seriously, to be believed in. She wants to write, but her husband tells her she can’t, it’s too much work. Gilman gives readers the theory of feminism, whereas Freeman gives readers the reality.
            In the opening lines of Freeman’s story readers see that Sarah Penn is not a woman to be trifled with. Her relentless questioning of her husband is a direct contrast to Gilman’s protagonist, who voices her frustrations on paper, hidden away from her husband so he cannot ridicule her poor attempts at personal fulfillment. “ ‘Look here, father,’ Sarah demands, ‘I want to know what them men are diggin’ over in the field for, an’ I’m goin’ to know. (651)”
            How different are Sarah’s words from this woman’s: “…John laughs at me, of course, but one expects that. […] You see, he does not believe I am sick! And what can one do? [...] So I will let it alone and talk about the house… (697).”  Instead of standing firm and demanding to be heard as Sarah does, this woman allows herself to be trivialized and mocked, and while she complains of it, she complains to a piece of paper rather than solving the root of the problem.
            Following her mild but determined confrontation, Sarah Penn next tries to make her husband see things from her standpoint. Just as women involved in the feminist movement of the nineteenth century organized speeches, Sarah Penn gives reasonable circumstances for why her husband should build the family a new home: “ ‘Here,’ said she, ‘is all the buttery I’ve got—every place I’ve got for my dishes, to set away my victuals in, an’ to keep my milk-pans in. Father, I’ve been taking care of the milk of six cows in this place, an’ now you’re goin’ to build a new barn, an’ keep more cows, an’ give me more to do in it.’ (654)”
            Sarah says what she needs to say and doesn’t hound her husband any more after she’s had her say, but as soon as he’s gone she takes matters into her own very capable hands. The woman in The Yellow Wallpaper makes an attempt at facilitating change as she urges her husband to move her from the prison-like room with the disturbing wallpaper to one of the other bedrooms: “ ‘Then let us go downstairs,’ I said. ‘There are such pretty rooms there.’
            Then he took me in his arms and called me a blessed little goose, and said he would go down to the cellar, if I wished, and have it whitewashed into the bargain. (699)” Sarah’s husband may not be moved by her rationalities, but he certainly does not make light of them. One almost has the impression that he respects her too much to mock her. He certainly has more respect for his wife than John of The Yellow Wallpaper has for his wife. 
            Sarah’s decision to move the family to the new barn is based on her own rational observations. She wants a larger home, she wants her daughter to be married in a nice house and more important, her husband promised he would build her a house on that particular piece of land forty years before. The building he has erected is livable, and so they will live in it. Furthermore, she has no fear of what her husband will do or say when he arrives home and sees what she has done: “Sarah Penn had supper all ready. […] She had on a clean calico and bore herself imperturbably. […] …an inborn confidence in their mother over their father asserted itself. (659)”
            Sarah’s husband returns home from his journey and is shocked; he cannot believe what his wife has done, and yet she offers no apologies, just places dinner on the table and tells him he needs to “put in some windows and partitions.” Sarah has exerted her power as the caretaker of the family, and in the face of her power, her husband “was like a fortress whose walls had no active resistance, and went down the instant the right besieging tools were used”: his wife’s feminine determination.
            For the woman writing in The Yellow Wallpaper, her every effort to improve her situation is thwarted by her lack of courage and her husband’s high-handedness: “It is so hard to talk with John about my case, because he is so wise, and because he loves me so. But I tried it last night. […] I got up softly and went to feel and see if the paper did move, and when I came back John was awake. ‘What is it, little girl?’ he said. […] ‘Really, dear, you are better!’
            ‘Better in body perhaps―’ I began, and stopped short, for he sat up straight and looked at me with such a stern, reproachful look that I could not say another word. (702-03)”
            She understands the true nature of her illness, and yet she cannot seem to change her situation. While Sarah acts on her impulse and moves the family, this woman stays closed in the room, and her stress and depression begin to feed off her confinement. While Sarah creates a physical change for the better, this woman undergoes an emotional change for the worse. Soon, she does make a change to her surroundings. In tearing down strips of wallpaper to “get that woman out” she comes to believe she has freed herself, as she explains: “I wonder if they all came out of the wallpaper as I did? I suppose I shall have to get back behind the pattern when it comes night, and that is hard! (706)”
            In the face of Sarah’s determination to move the family to the barn, he husband agrees to let the family stay. They will not go back to the cramped little house he built so long ago. Gilman’s unnamed narrator will also stay free, as she states to the man who has entered her room and stands gaping at her in horror. “‘I’ve got out at last,’ said I, ‘in spite of you and Jane. And I’ve pulled off most of the paper, so you can’t put me back!’ (707)” What has she lost in her weakness? Her husband’s respect, herself, and in losing herself she has lost her femininity.

The Woman Behind Little Women


Again, a research project I am in the process of revising. Right around the time I finished this paper, Harriet Reisen's outstanding biography Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women was published, which will lead me to change the title of this particular study as I expand upon it. In the meantime, a (brief) background of the psychology behind my dear Louisa's work.





            The Woman behind Little Women
                                 Nicole Kapise
                  [16 November 2008]
                  

Over the course of forty years, Louisa May Alcott wrote twenty-eight books, countless letters, and kept a journal on a regular basis. Her fictional pieces showcase a myriad of characters, all very human, many based on people she knew and loved, such as her sisters and friend Alf Whitman, the inspiration for Little Women’s ‘Laurie’ (Stern, vii). 
            Her more popular books feature proud, thoughtful, ‘proper’ women; her ‘blood and thunder’ thrillers, written under the pseudonym A.M. Barnard, focused on their polar opposite. Scheming, greedy and self-serving, these women went against the grain of Victorian American society, and even Alcott herself. Alcott’s journals, kept from 1843 to 1888 (ages eleven to four days before her death at fifty-six) show her to be a very complex, driven woman. Much like Miss Celia from her novel Under the Lilacs (1877) Alcott longed to “do good, to be good in all she does,” (Cheny, 22) but she found herself lacking. Similar to Rosamond Tempest (A Long Fatal Love Chase, 1866) Alcott longed to break free from the chains that held her: her high-minded, free-thinking incapable father.
            Just as she modeled her Little Women characters after her sisters, Alcott put herself into Miss Celia and Rosamond, placing her aspired virtues on the former and her impulsive ‘improper’ behavior in the latter. However, Rosamond succeeds where Alcott believed she failed. In the end Rosamond overcomes her faults and escapes from her life of sin; to the day she died Alcott felt she had to atone for the willful, passionate nature that so vexed her father, and though she realized her dream of giving her mother every comfort in her old age, Alcott died wishing she could have done something good with her life.
            Louisa May Alcott was born on November 29, 1832, the second daughter of Amos Bronson Alcott and Abigail (May) Alcott. From birth Louisa’s relationship with her father was a difficult one, as Bronson’s Transcendentalist philosophy led him to believe that his fair coloring made him a more spiritually pure, “angelic” being. Dark-haired Louisa was a thorn in his side, and would continue to be, regardless of how much she strove to please him.
            Bronson Alcott’s unconventional views on education cost him several school stewardships, and it soon fell to Abigail, Louisa, and the oldest daughter Anna to support the family of six. At fourteen Louisa went to work, housekeeping and taking in sewing, and became a governess at seventeen. Her first paid publication occurred in May of 1852 (age sixteen) with The Rival Painters: a Tale of Rome appearing in Olive Branch Magazine. The five dollars Alcott was paid for this story exceeded the paltry amount she was paid for seven weeks’ work as a housekeeper in Dedham, MA, and set the stage for further literary endeavors. December 1852 saw The Masked Marriage published in Dodge’s Literary Museum, and The Rival Prima Donnas in the Saturday Evening Gazette in November 1854. Only a month later her dreams of “true writing” would come true when her first book, Flower Fables was published in December 1854 (Myerson & Shealy, 64-68). The end of Alcott’s journal for 1854 lists the following:
                                                School.            100
                                                Sewing.             10
                                                Flower Fables.   35
            Alcott’s income of $145 for the year far exceeded Bronson’s income of the same year, as he was not teaching, but traveling and lecturing for free (womenwriters.net).
            Alcott continued to write, teach and sew for another seven years and in 1862 became a nurse at the Union Hotel Hospital in Georgetown, Washington, D.C. She served for six weeks until typhoid pneumonia forced her to return to Concord. Her collection of essays from this time was published as Hospital Sketches in August 1863. That December The Rose Family and On Picket Duty, and Other Tales was published. A year later her first novel Moods was published. It was this that would make her a household name, four years before Little Women.
            Unbeknownst to her fans, Alcott was leading a double life. In 1866 she wrote a thrilling tale of deceit, lust and murder, then hid it away, never to be published. A Long Fatal Love Chase was far too improper for publication, she thought. It would appear in 1995, unearthed in Harvard University’s Houghton Library by editor Kent Bicknell. Building on the theme she couldn’t let go of, Alcott continued to write lurid ‘blood and thunder’ tales and publish them as A.M. Barnard. These hidden stories comprised the bulk of Alcott’s income for years, paying off the family’s massive debts and providing for her youngest sister’s education: “Wrote a little on poor old “Success” but being tired of novels I soon dropped it & fell back on rubbishy tales, for they pay best & I cant afford to starve on praise, when sensation stories are written in half the time & keep the family cosy,” (Myerson & Shealy, 139).
            In December 1877 Alcott began her serial story Under the Lilacs. This story would run in St. Nicholas until October 1878. It is a testament to Alcott’s versatility as a writer to examine the personalities of her characters. Little Women, based largely on her family, gives readers the image of a close-knit family of four sisters, each very different from the others. Marmee is Abigail Alcott to a tee: loving, loyal, and giving to all in need. Father March is perhaps Alcott’s ideal father, away serving as an army chaplain while Bronson merely meditated on spirituality.
            Rosamond Tempest, Alcott’s protagonist in A Long Fatal Love Chase is much like Jo March, though older, and bitter, railing at her lot in life. Conversely, Rosamond may be a closer reflection of Alcott’s true nature than Jo March is. Alcott’s fiery spirit is evidenced in Rosamond’s opening lines: “I tell you I cannot bear it! I shall do something desperate if this life is not changed soon. It gets worse and worse, and I often feel as though I’d gladly sell my soul to Satan for a year of freedom,”(A Long Fatal Love Chase, 1). This impetuous passion is reflected in Alcott’s journals: (1843) “I was cross today, and cried when I went to bed. I made good resolutions, and felt better in my heart. If I only kept all I make, I should be the best girl in the world. But I don’t, and so am very bad,” (Myerson & Shealy, 45).
            (1846) “I’ve made so many resolutions, and written sad notes, and cried over my sins, and it doesn’t seem to do any good! Now I’m going to work really, for I feel a true desire to improve, and be a help and comfort, not a care and sorrow, to my dear mother,” (59). In an 1882 review of her journal, Alcott adds a footnote to her 1843 entry: [Poor little sinner! She says the same at fifty.—L.M.A.]
            Rosamond’s impassioned desire for change leads her to the arms of her grandfather’s “most promising pupil” Phillip Tempest. Deciding he wants a change from his wandering ne’er do well life, Tempest decides to take Rosamond at her word: “Law and custom I know nothing of, public opinion I despise, and shame and fear I defy, for everyone has a right to be happy in their own way,” (A Long Fatal Love Chase, 5). When Tempest takes to sea with Rosamond, intent on making her his mistress, Rosamond’s sense of propriety catches Tempest in its snare and to keep Rosamond from throwing herself overboard, he marries her. A year later Rosamond’s faerie-tale world crashes at her feet when she learns her husband is a bigamist and she is his mistress after all. Rosamond flees, and the chase is on. For someone of Alcott’s social class, this idea of false marriage and divorce was incredibly radical. When Bronson’s “Fruitlands” commune experiment failed, Abigail spoke openly of taking her children and leaving him: “In the eve father and mother and Anna and I had a long talk. I was very unhappy, and we all cried. Anna and I cried in bed, and I prayed God to keep us all together,” (Myerson & Shealy, 47). Tempest’s abandonment of his first wife Marion, and his unlawful custody of their son Ippolito was Alcott’s veiled allusion to this threat to her parents’ marriage.
            In direct contrast to Rosamond is Under the Lilacs’ Miss Celia. From her first words she is amiable, obliging and kind, wholly focused on the eager little boy who leaps to her aid: “Leaning down, Miss Celia slipped a new quarter into his hands, saying, ‘Lita wants me to give you this for taking the stone out of her foot,’ ” (Under the Lilacs, 47). In Miss Celia we see none of Rosamond’s impetuous spirit, but she is in no way lackluster. Miss Celia is an independent young woman, wealthy, well-educated, and determined to make a change in the quiet little village that becomes her home: “The success of her first attempt at being a public benefactor pleased Miss Celia very much, and suggested other ways in which she might serve the quiet town, where she seemed to feel that work was waiting for her to do,” (179).
            Miss Celia is who Alcott strove to be: kind, thoughtful of others, a benefactor to those in need. Blinded by her imagined faults, Alcott never realized that she was the kind of person she wished to be. “I shall give him a set of schoolbooks, and try to get him ready to begin when vacation is over. An education is the best thing we can give him…” (Under the Lilacs, 160), writes the former governess and schoolmarm.
            With the financial security brought by her many successes, Alcott began to offer aid to may others. In an 1877 entry in her journal she writes: “Help to buy the house for Nan (Anna), ― $4500. So she has her wish and is happy. When shall I have mine? Ought to be contented with knowing I help both sisters by my brains. But I’m selfish and want to go away and rest in Europe. Never shall,” (Myerson & Shealy, 205). Alcott viewed her own wants as selfish, and her pleasure in helping others was dampened by the audacity to want something for herself. Miss Celia gives to her community freely, asking nothing in return; to her young readers Alcott was imparting a lesson in morality. Alcott’s poem My Kingdom, written at fourteen (1846) appears in Under the Lilacs, attributed to Miss Celia: “A little kingdom I possess,/ Where thoughts and feelings dwell;/ And very hard I find the task/ Of governing it well./ For passion tempts and troubles me/ A wayward will misleads/ And selfishness its shadow casts/ On all my words and deeds…” (88).
            An 1845 entry in her journal gives ‘a Sample of our Lessons.’: “’What virtues do you wish more of?’ asks Mr. L. I answer:― Patience, Love, Silence, Obedience, Generosity, Perseverance, Industry, Respect, Self-Denial. ‘What vices less of?’ Idleness, Willfulness, Vanity, Impatience, Impudence, Selfishness, Activity, Love of cats. ‘What is gentleness?’ Kindness, patience, and care for other people’s feelings. ‘Who has it?’ Father and Anna. ‘Who means to have it?’ Louisa, if she can. [She never got it.― L.M.A.(1882)]” (Myerson & Shealy, 55-56). This footnote comes from a woman who provided for both parents in their elder years, secured a home for her sister Anna and her two sons, paid for her sister May’s education and raised her daughter Louisa May Nieriker after May’s death in 1879.
            From the late 1870’s to her final journal entry on March 2, 1888 Alcott writes frequently of her lingering illness brought on by mercury poisoning from calomel treatments for her 1862 bout of typhus. She chastises herself for being “cross & blue, weak & disappointed.” Mourning the loss of her health, she still tried to see the silver lining: “The hospital experience was a costly one for me. Never well since. Yet it turned the tide & brought success,(1885)” (Myerson & Shealy, 255).
            In her fifties Alcott was still fighting to control the spirit that birthed Rosamond Tempest. Just as Rosamond made the proper decision and fled her false marriage, Alcott continued to reign in her passions. Instead of lashing out in her dissatisfaction and irritation (she once said she found writing for children incredibly dull) she poured her angst into her characters.
            Rosamond leaves her lovely carefree life at Valrosa, but her vivacious spirit continues to plague her. Her love for Tempest turns to bitter hatred, and it takes a doomed romance with a Catholic priest for Rosamond to finally realize the true road to happiness is not in love with another, but in temperance and love to herself, a goal Alcott never consciously achieved. Unfortunately this revelation comes too late, as Tempest kills Rosamond in a fit of jealousy.
            In contrast, Miss Celia finishes her life happy and loved, the wife of a minister and the spiritual mother to her happy little village. Later entries in Alcott’s journals show her to have accepted her faults and perhaps made peace with herself: “September 1 (1887)…Dr W. very kind but not encouraging. On this day Sept. 1st I make a prophesy. The end is not far off. The Drs see it & I feel it. Amen,” (Myerson & Shealy, 311).
            “January 1 (1888)…A happy day & great contrast to Jan 1st of last year. Then I was ill & hopeless & sad. Now though still alone & absent from home I am on the road to health at last & feel hopeful after much tribulation & pain for two years. Very grateful for my many mercies & better for my trials I trust,” (327).
            Alcott’s final journal entry on March 2, 1888 is short, filled with commonplace notes: “Fine. Better in mind but food a little uneasy. Write letters. Pay Ropes $30, Notman 4. Sew. Write a little. Lulu to come,” (Myerson & Shealy, 334). This simple household list is a stark contrast to Rosamond’s final words: “Let her sail or let her stay. I shall not be turned aside by this unfortunate meeting. Phillip may follow. I shall go straight on and defy him to the last,” (A Long Fatal Love Chase, 169). Two pages later she is dead, her boat run down by Tempest’s yacht. To close this book, Alcott figuratively killed the passionate, willful spirit that plagued her throughout her life.
            For the gentler side of her personality, Miss Celia, Alcott writes a pretty closing: “ ‘Come over, by-and-by, little friends, and let me thank you for your welcome― it certainly is a warm one.’ The closed gate where the lonely little wanderer once lay was always to stand open now…for a hospitable welcome henceforth awaited rich and poor, young and old, sad and gay, under the lilacs,” (Under the Lilacs, 242).
            Though Alcott loved children and was glad to help them in any way she could (she regretted in a letter to Edward Evrette Hale in 1863 that she was unable to accept a position as a nurse at the newly opened New England Hospital for Women and Children) her true passion was writing mature literature. Hospital Sketches, Moods, Success and A Modern Mephistopheles opened the doors to literary fame, and with these books she did what her father failed to do. In her efforts to prove her worth to Bronson, the “Possessed One” poured her spirit into her pen, writing stories and poems and in later years articles for the suffragette publication The Woman’s Journal. She notes with glee in 1879 that she was the first woman in Concord, MA to vote in the village’s school committee election.
            Alcott wrote because she loved literature, but also because it was a way she could make a difference. Like Rosamond Tempest, Alcott took her life into her hands, shaping her destiny with her pen strokes, and she never lost her willful spirit, regardless of how diligently she crushed it beneath the boot-heel of convention and gentility. Like Miss Celia, Alcott spent her life giving, first to her family then to the public, asking only for quiet and rest in return, but she failed to acknowledge the good she did. It is through characters like these, as well as her journals, that readers can glue together the scattered pieces of Louisa May Alcott’s restless spirit and see the indomitable woman behind Little Women.
             








Alcott, Louisa May. Alternative Alcott. Elaine Showalter, editor. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1988. (Title by editor)
Alcott, Louisa May. Behind a Mask: the Unknown Thrillers of Louisa May Alcott. Madeline Stern, editor. New York, NY: William Morrow & Company, Inc, 1975.
Alcott, Louisa May. Letter, Edward Evrette Hale, June 25, 1863; Hale Family Papers. (Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, MA)
Alcott, Louisa May. A Long Fatal Love Chase. New York, NY: Random House, Inc, 1995.
Alcott, Louisa May. Louisa May Alcott On Race, Sex and Slavery. Sarah Elbert, editor. Boston, MA: Northeastern University Press, 1997. (Title by editor)
Alcott, Louisa May. Moods. Sarah Elbert, editor. Fourth edition. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1999.
Alcott, Louisa May. Under the Lilacs. Avenel, NJ: Gramercy Books, 1996.
Cheny, Ednah D. Louisa May Alcott: Her Life, Letters and Journals. Boston, MA: Roberts Bros., 1890. (Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, MA)
Durbin, Deborah. “About the Author.” American Studies @ the University of Virginia. 2003. 11/16/08. http://xroads.virginia.edu/~Hyper/ALCOTT/ABOUTLA.html
“Louisa May Alcott.” Answers.com. 2006. 11/16/08. http://www.answers.com/louisa+may+alcott&r=67
Merriman, C.D. “Louisa May Alcott.” The Literature Network. Jalic, Inc. 2006. 11/15/08. http://www.online-literature.com/alcott
Myerson, Joel and Shealy, Daniel. The Journals of Louisa May Alcott. Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Co, 1989.
Wells, Kim. “Louisa May Alcott and the Roles of a Lifetime.” WomenWriters.net. 1998. 11/16/08. http://www.womenwriters.net/domesticgoddess/lma.html