Writing into the Light…

Finding my way with words…


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Good Things Come To Those Who Wait…

Photo by Carol R. Craley

Although the calendar has said it is spring for quite some time, I still seem to visually judge the arrival of spring by Philadelphia standards ~ developed during the first five decades of my life.  Despite living in Maine for almost 10 years now, I have learned to use the term “wicked good,” but have not adopted Maine standards for “spring.”  It visually arrives about a month later than Philadelphia.  Well folks, now that it’s almost “summer” by the calendar, it is finally visually spring and time to plant!  Are you following this???

I haven’t used my photographer’s eye for quite a while so I ventured out yesterday to record the arrival of spring before it turns into summer.  Forget my inept explanation and take a tour outside of my door right now…

Photo by Carol R. Craley


Georgia O’Keefe’s version of a rhododendron.

NOTE:  (I am not a gardener.  Playing in the dirt wasn’t even fun for me as a child.  Please don’t anticipate that I will ever be as good as many of my readers who can give the botanical names of flowers and trees or the Latin names for the birds who visit them without a pictorial guide.  I am content with the American name of the bush they grow on… or more practical names like “pink flowers that grow on the bush next to the porch out front”)

Photo by Carol R. Craley

Photo by Carol R. Craley

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Mothers ~ What We Keep ~ Images and Things

No, that is not my mother in the photo.  It is Loretta Young from her TV show, The Loretta Young Show.  The image isn’t too far off from Mom though.  My mother never owned “casual clothes” until late in life and then “casual” was a pair of fully lined wool slacks, phoufy blouse with either ruffles or a tie bow, and matching or coordinated wool blazer.  Mom owned work clothes and “dressing gowns.”  After the dishes were cleared and washed she would disappear long enough to get her Loretta Young persona going and “float” into the living room much like Loretta Young’s appearance through the French doors at the beginning of her show.

I attended a dinner party last weekend to celebrate: an 80th birthday, a 70th birthday, a happy retirement and a welcome back from your winter home.  I wound up in a “girls” conversation with several friends two of whom have lost their mothers (and 2nd parent) within the last 6 months.  The conversation turned to the difficulty in going through “stuff” those mothers had accumulated in the course of long and productive lives.  What started as an uncomfortable and difficult conversation eventually left us with tears running down our faces in laughter.

One friend discussed her unwillingness to part with an ironing board because it so reminded her of her mother, that there were so many memories and comfort feelings embedded in that ironing board and the struggle to let go.  I chimed in with the fact that an ironing board would have been the first in the dumpster for me.  I do, however, have a wooden rolling pin in my kitchen that looks like it’s been through a few wars.  It probably has enough bacteria absorbed into that wood that I dare not actually roll out a pie crust with it.  My mother taught me to cook using that rolling pin.  As long as I am alive it will be with me.  Along with that my nieces and myself have spent hours around the kitchen table going through Mom-Mom’s (Mom to me) recipe box filled with brown edged pieces of paper and index cards with food stains and grease spots savoring memories of the foods that meant comfort to each of us, especially those recipes that were connected to the BIG holiday celebrations.

Women are the ones who are most likely to go through every item, handle it, smell it and ponder it’s origin.  We construct stories from those items in an attempt to make sense of our own lives.  Men, for the most part, are better at filling the dumpster faster without reliving the significance of  every item.

Stories are the other “Mom Things” we hold onto whether our mothers have passed on or are sitting across from us at the dining table this Sunday.  My favorite “Mom Story” goes back to a particular Thanksgiving dinner.  As you can probably guess, my mother had a need to be perceived as a “Hallmark Mother.”  She dressed as a lady, she spoke with ladylike language, her nails were always perfectly manicured, her hair was always perfect (even if, as in later life, it “slept” on a Styrofoam head behind the shower curtain in the bathtub), she didn’t chew gum, she never put a bottle on the dining table (even a bottle of ketchup).  You get the drift…  And to answer the question you are now pondering, yes I was a major disappointment as I protested all of these “rules.”

Mom was redecorating the dining room.  One of the dining room walls had been paneled when that was the “in” thing in decorating.  Those years had long passed; however, the paneled wall had been redone with several different colors of paint.  Mom decided she wanted that wall wallpapered.  To remove the paneling would have caused a lot of damage to the wall.  What to do?

My brother was working at a home supply store.  He suggested she put one layer of wallpaper horizontally, then the paper she wanted vertically.  He showed up with rolls of wallpaper that had not sold in the store and were going to be discarded.  The two layers of wallpaper were applied and the strategy appeared to work.

I did say this was about Thanksgiving.  We were sitting around the dining room table with the linen tablecloth and napkins, good china, crystal and silver in place.  Our plates were far too full and our bellies were getting far too full.  The conversation was loud bouncing across three generations of family.  There was an odd sound creating a background din to the conversations.  We all jumped in our seats as the conversations were drowned out by the sound of paper rolling like a window shade.  The beautiful colonial mini-floral design that had been so carefully selected by my mother to complete her “Williamsburg” dining room rolled off the wall to reveal reclining nudes.  We could have served hot dogs and beans that Thanksgiving and no one would have noticed.  We managed to forget the food as we laughed for hours that day… and continue to chuckle every time something reminds us of that day.  It was so anti-Mom I will carry that story with me forever!

Take a few minutes this weekend to remember your Mom-stories that touch a warm spot in your heart for whatever reason.  Think about the connections represented by the symbolism of simple household objects.  Remember the images and stories that brought you joy and laughter.  Give Mom a hug and an “I Love You” even if it can only be felt and spoken in your heart.

What stories and objects are in your treasure box?


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What if Scarlet O’Hara Decided to Write a Book?

Since I retired 10 years ago I have managed to become afflicted with Scarlett O’Hara Syndrome.  While I’d like to tell you that refers to her 18 inch waist, it doesn’t.  It refers to the quote, “Tomorrow is another day.”  Read that, I now live totally in my right brain and all of the years of living with my Stephen Covey organizational methods that made me a highly successful person have been traded for a red dress and I’ve gone to the ball!

Meeting self imposed deadlines has become a thing of the past.  It took me 2 years to paint my kitchen and dining area.  First I had to find the right color, decide how I was going to organize colors and decorating, then I had to motivate myself to go buy the paint and architectural details, then there was the motivation to get up and decide “today is the day” rather than “tomorrow is another day.”  Finally, I had to gather the ladder, the cans of paint, the brushes, the edgers, the paint tape, and the wet and dry paper towels for when I start painting the floor or myself.  I’ve had no problem going from someone who had every minute of the day organized and working a 60 hour week to sending the left/organizational side of my brain on permanent vacation.

I have been researching and mentally organizing and processing a YA book for about 20 years now.  I have tons of research, but keep running into stone walls.  Each time I hit a wall, I sit back with frustration and say, “Tomorrow is another day.”  In an attempt to kick start this project again, I attended a Women’s History Month program in Washington tracing African American women from the Civil War to Civil Rights.  Fascinating workshop.  Got me motivated.

I also registered for a workshop on Writing Children’s Books which requires me to produce at least one chapter.  I created the annotated chapter outline.  I then did a first draft (which was actually about 53 drafts) of Chapter 1.  Parts are good, parts are very good, parts have no right to be on paper.  “Tomorrow is another day.”  Well, I’m running out of tomorrows (deadline for submission is June 1st) and I feel like I am throwing darts at a dartboard while blindfolded to find an approach to the story that is natural and flowing, not painful and contrived.  There is a correct framework for this story, all I need to do is to find it, then rewrite Chapter 1 by June 1st.

While this post (blast of frustration) will never be my best work… I am a good writer.  That being said, writing a book for publication is a far different thing than my professional writing or writing the results of research, writing a report, or writing a blog, or writing a letter, or writing a note on a card.

Writing a book requires just the right narrator, just the right concept, just the right dialect in dialogue, just the right pacing in unfolding the story, enough information yet not too much information, enough description so that the reader feels like they are there involving all of their senses, and do all of this while stimulating a reader to keep turning the page…

Before Miss Scarlett lets loose with another “Tomorrow is another day”  and I lose all chance of meeting my deadline, could some of my writer friends out there offer some suggestions to slow down this overactive brain and tell it to shut up so that I can write…

I’d love to hear your thoughts…


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Memories of Easter Sundays Gone By

In the northeastern United States we are still awaiting the first leaves on the trees and the trees and bushes to flower.  Planting season is weeks away and the visual and aromatic signs of spring are not yet evident.  This is the time of year this Philadelphia girl turned Mainer relearns the lessons of patience as we sit and wait for nature to come alive again.  One location in which spring is in full bloom is the floral department at the grocery store.

As I went through the door yesterday to pick up the last few items for Easter dinner I was immediately consumed by the smell of lilies.  I always associate the smell of lilies with Easter.  I used to teach a graduate level course for teachers on designing and delivering instruction for brain-based learning.  Scent is the strongest of all senses in producing imprints on the brain leading to retained memory.  Years of Easter memories came flooding back from childhood as I stood next to the heads of lettuce and clementines and was taken away, not by calgon, but rather by the scent of lilies.  I looked next to the lilies at the tulips and other spring flowers.  My eyes followed to a display I don’t remember seeing for years and years…small square boxes containing an orchid corsage.  Wow!!  That sight brought a tsunami of memories!  An orchid corsage, growing up, was always a part of my Easter tradition.

Easter was a benchmark.  It was an annual “graduation” of sorts leading to first perfumes, first lipsticks, first kitten heels.  Easter Sunday required a complete new outfit for church.  There was to be a new suit or dress with a coordinating hat.  If Easter fell too early in the year a coat was required to go with the dress.  Just before the big day a package would arrive from Gimbel Brothers from my Great-Aunt Margaret which would contain everything that went under the dress ~ it was time for new underwear and slips.  I got my first pair of stockings for Easter Sunday which meant Aunt Margaret would have to throw a garter belt in that box with the undies.

Shoes were always an issue since Mom was a stickler for fashion rules.  I knew these would be my only dress shoes for quite a while.  Some years I wanted white patent leather rather than the usual black… but Easter was before Memorial Day… a no-no.  The purse would match the shoes and the hat was always a struggle.  I’ve never liked hats, they squashed and messed up my hair forcing me to either leave it on all day or take it off and look like squirrels had been nesting on my head… yet, a lady always wears a hat to church.  The only year I actually looked forward to wearing my hat was the year I had picked a Jackie Kennedy pillbox number to go with my suit.  I even had the Jackie voice down to make it a complete package.  And… bless me, I always had my white gloves for Easter Sunday.  Soon after Easter, I would manage to lose ONE somewhere and couldn’t wear gloves until next Easter.  Funny how that happens!

Before that glove was lost and my new shiny shoes scuffed, Easter Sunday was photo day.  Pictures in our family were always taken on the front step walking out of the front door of the house.  We have DVD’s going back to the era of super 8 Kodak movies of the front door opening and people walking out of the door, pausing, then walking to the car, starting the engine and waving as they pulled out of the driveway.  The other standard spot was by the lamp post in the front yard.  It was the only spot where daffodils were planted.  I guess that means I spent my Easter Sundays as a child all decked out tiptoeing through the daffodils.

In addition to the religious celebration of Easter, it was a family celebration.  The Easter basket contained only Zitners (of Philadelphia) cocoanut cream eggs.  I still have them mailed to me in Maine every year!  The dying of the Easter eggs has always been a big deal.  Mine is a family of creative people.  It would be blasphemous to either just dye eggs a solid color and call it a day, or to repeat a method of decoration for more than one year…new year, new creative challenge.

As my brother and his family moved to MD in the DC suburbs, we began to take my youngest nieces to the Easter Egg Roll  at the White House on Easter Monday  .  Can you believe that some adults actually taught children to lie and say they had not received their souvenir wooden Presidential egg so they could have one of their own (being way above the cut-off age for receiving the souvenir children’s eggs)?  As my nieces got too old to participate we considered renting children to take to the Easter Egg Roll to continue the set of eggs.  I fortunately found out you can purchase the souvenir eggs and support the National Park Service all at the same time.  I was so excited that when I came back from sniffing the lilies at the grocery store yesterday I found that the Easter Bunny had come to my house to deliver my 2012 set of eggs.  Note the fuchsia egg front and center… it is the first White House pet to have its own egg.  Ta-da… the Bo Obama egg which he signed on the back and left a paw print (such a talented puppy!).

May all of you reading this post have a blessed Easter filled with your own traditions and benchmarks!


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Thomas Jefferson and The Jefferson Bible ~ Rim Walkers 3

Smithsonian Institution

To consider the life of Thomas Jefferson, we think about a heroic statesman, patriot and intellectual.  We visualize a man who knows what he wants and does not stop until he has manifested his dreams of how things should be.  We consider a man who, by all appearances, is known for “doing the right thing.”  To use my terminology from former posts, Thomas Jefferson was a “Rim Walker.”

I just returned from a trip to Washington, D.C. to visit family, attend a Women’s History Month Symposium  at the Capitol (more on that later) and go in search of the last of the premature cherry blossoms who could not wait to celebrate their 100th anniversary year.  A stop at the Smithsonian Museum of American History held an adventure that was unanticipated.  I noted that the “Jefferson Bible” was on display.  I battled my way through the crowds of American schoolchildren on spring field trips and headed in that direction expecting to view the small Bible that Jefferson held at his inauguration and consulted frequently.  I left the museum later wondering, “What rock  have I been hiding under?”

Thomas Jefferson, I found out, was more of a spiritual man than a “religious” man.  His views on religion were, at the very least, complex.  Those views he held private.  He rarely publicly wrote of religion, nor did he speak of religion.  He shared his views, and this ultimate creation, with only his closest friends in confidence. Jefferson was, as we know, the author of the Declaration of Independence.  He was one of the champions of Religious Freedom.

Thomas Jefferson was a devoted student of the teachings of Jesus.  That being said, the intellectual Rim Walker in him, intellectually challenged the validity of the writings of the Apostles in the New Testament.  He considered their interpretation, as published, to be untrustworthy.  Thomas Jefferson was considered to be a religious renegade, and in the 1800 presidential election he was declared an “atheist” by his opponents.

At the age of 77 Thomas Jefferson embarked on a project that settled his confused feelings about the life of Christ  and his own belief system.  He purchased six Bibles published in English, French, Greek and Italian.  He set  them side by side, and took knife to page in what many who define the Bible as the undeniable Word of God consider a blasphemous act.  Jefferson began cutting passages that accurately expressed his belief system, passing over the rest. These passages were then pasted into a new volume he titled “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth.”  This was Jefferson’s second attempt to “edit” the Bible.  His first attempt was 16 years earlier, and lost.

Hugh Talman/NMAH-SI

Jefferson was a product of the intellectuals of “Age of Enlightenment.”  The same world view that created the Declaration of Independence also created “The Jefferson Bible.”  Jefferson once wrote that he was “a sect by himself.”  He was born into the Church of England (Anglican).  The Church of England was the official religion of the State of Virginia.  He studied under Anglican clergy from elementary school through college.  He attended Anglican services all his life.  That being said, Thomas Jefferson was a brilliant intellectually curious man.  That trait caused him to question everything (hence his ability to visualize and script The Declaration of Independence).  He consistently defended his right to make his own judgements in regard to religion and encouraged others to “question with boldness even the existence of God” and to form their own judgements.  As outrageous as that sounds, especially on this Good Friday, one of the characteristics of creative people who have historically changed the world for the better is that they continually challenge assumptions about the world and commonly held beliefs.

Jefferson’s belief system was based on rational thought.  He believed that nature itself proved the existence of God.  Biblical stories of miracles such as the story of feeding the multitudes with only two fishes and five loaves of barley bread will not be found among the passages in the Jefferson Bible.  The Jefferson Bible ends with the entombment of Jesus following the Crucifixion.  There is no Resurrection in Jefferson’s rational thinking Bible.

Was Thomas Jefferson truly an atheist and an “enemy of God” as described by John Adams and the Federalist party in the 1800 presidential election?  Despite repeated attacks Jefferson won the election.  Jefferson wrote, “I am a real Christian, that is to say a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus.”  He described the teachings of Jesus “the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man.”

In 1895 The Jefferson Bible was purchased by the Smithsonian from Jefferson’s granddaughter.  In 2011 it was completely restored and repaired.  The “new” Jefferson Bible is currently on display at the Smithsonian Museum of American History until July 15, 2012.  A copy of the Jefferson Bible can be purchased in numerous forms, including one from the Smithsonian Institution itself.

On this Good Friday it is an appropriate time to ask ourselves what role, if any, religion should be taking in the upcoming presidential election.  We, are a society that rewards creative thinkers who challenge everything and provide us with a new perspective on the world.  Is it just, then, that we then turn around and delve into personal and private belief systems involving religious beliefs to evaluate and chastise whether a particular candidate should be running/elected in the presidential race based on those very private and personal beliefs?

Would we elect Thomas Jefferson in 2012?  Unfortunately, probably not.  What a loss it would be to lose his intellect and well defined belief system.  I, for one, welcome a candidate who challenges everything before making a plan of action.  That behavior, after all, is what brings about change which we say we desperately want.  That plan of action would then need to be clearly defined and concisely publicly presented based on thorough research of all aspects of the issue and designed to anticipate success with a plan A, B, C… to manifest that solution.

Do you challenge commonly held beliefs or accept them (because they come from an “authority” you are taught you should not question)?

Do you question everything and create your own world perspective?

Would you vote for Thomas Jefferson today?

Is it possible to be a believer, yet question?

Some thoughts to ponder this weekend.  I wish you a blessed weekend.

Additional Resource: “The Bible According to Thomas Jefferson” ~ http://thehumanist.org/march-april-2012/the-bible-according-to-thomas-jefferson/


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Wills vs the TSA

Hi!  My name is Willie or Wills.  Mom sometimes calls me Wills after Prince William.  She says I have a royal attitude!  I think that’s a good thing.   Although I am a rescue, I think I am mostly Norwegian Forest Cat.  That means that my ancestors were working cats on the ships that sailed from Norway to Maine… they were the mariner mousers!  Yesterday was my birthday.  I am 14 in cat years, or 73 years in equivalent human years.  I guess I better get the app ready for joining AARC.  As a special birthday present Mom said I could write a blog today to tell you a little about myself.

I moved to Maine three years ago in January.  My first Mom (my current Mom’s Mom) was sick and had to move to a place where she could get lots of care and couldn’t take me.  Mom flew down from Maine to visit Mom (this is getting confusing) in Maryland and it was decided that I had to give up my bachelor pad and move to Maine.  We gathered up my medical records and a few “happy pills,” an airline approved carrier and a plane ticket.  Mom was really mad because my ticket was only $1 less than hers and I didn’t even get my own seat!  How fair is that?  I didn’t even have luggage!!

We spent a few days practicing in the carrier.  Mom thought that serving me meals in a carrier, and throwing my cat nip toys in there would make me happily run into the carrier when it was time to go to the airport.  What a dumb bunny Mom is!  She doesn’t understand cats at all.  We get through life by making our owners feel secure that we will do exactly what they want, and then at the critical moment we surprise them by exerting our independence!  It took three people an hour and a half to get me into that carrier.  They were yelling things like “we’re going to miss our flight” and “Damn it Willie, get in there!” getting really rough toward the end.  Anyway, the best was yet to come…

Mom slid her hand in the zippered opening and dropped in a treat (which was really a pill pocket – I’m no dumb cat).  I was so exhausted from playing with them for ninety minutes that I ate it.  We left my old apartment and headed for the airport.  I think we were speeding to make up time, but I was getting as furry inside my head as I was on the outside of my head, so I didn’t care!  We arrived at BWI with enough time to get to the gate but Mom was hustling!  We checked in at the counter with our tickets.  When they asked for a photo ID Mom provided my vet records with a color picture of me so they knew I was me, and not a terrorist cat.  The grumpy lady at the counter just handed it back to Mom and said, “I don’t need this.”  As we walked away from the counter, Mom mumbled something about people in Baltimore not having a sense of humor.

We got to the area for TSA security at BWI.  Mom and I got in a line with grey bins that went through a machine.  Everybody took off their shoes… I think Pepé le Pew was on our flight… I was choking and gagging at the smell!  YUCK-E-E-E!!!  Mom wasn’t quite sure what to do with my carrier.  A TSA agent came over and said, “Ma’am, you’re going to have to take the cat out of the carrier.  We can’t x-ray the carrier with the cat in it.”  Mom was picturing three people trying to get me in the carrier for ninety minutes and said, “No.  I can’t take the cat out of the carrier.”  Mr. TSA called over a supervisor.  Now, scroll back to the top of the page… is that not the sweetest little face you’ve ever seen?  What harm could I do?  I’m a cat for Pete’s sake (who’s Pete?).  I put my paws up against the mesh on the front of the carrier, “See, bare paws, I took my shoes off… so what’s your problem??”

We were escorted to a little room off to the side.  We were left with two female TSA agents.  “Ex-cuse-e-e-e Me!  I’m a boy!!  I demand a male agent!!”  Mom took me out of the carrier since we were in a tiny room and I couldn’t get away, ferocious man eating feline that I am.  Everyone expected me to start hissing and growling and fighting to get away.  My happy pill had taken effect and I just collapsed like a rag doll over Mom’s shoulder.

One of the Ms. TSA agents took the carrier out to x-ray it to be sure I wasn’t hiding a bomb in my cat nip toy and blankie.  The other one asked Mom to hold me up and away from her body.  She waved a magic wand over me… up one side and down the other.  Then, wait till you hear this… then she put the wand down and started to pat me all over.  Can you believe this horrendous abuse of power?  This woman is just grabbing at my fur and touching my handsome male self without being invited!!  I wanted so bad to fight this injustice, but my happy pill just left me hanging there with my head bobbing up and down and my body limp.

Finally, they put me back in my carrier and we were on our way.  When we got to my new home in Maine I met Misty the cat and two giant furry things Mom called dogs.  I had never met one of them before.  Oh well, maybe I can write again and share some more stories… have a pur-r-r-fect day!


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Rim Walkers II ~ Oscar Hammerstein II

This is the second in a planned sporadic series of blogs in which I discuss people I call Rim Walkers.  Rim Walkers are those who live and work “out of the box.”  They are authentic souls who can only function when they are “walking their talk.”  Rim Walkers do not accept that anything is impossible.  They believe they just have not found the correct path to their desired goals, be they individual or social.  Rim Walkers are comfortable “living against the grain.”  They will stand up against the norm, make no apologies, and in hindsight, they will have moved society in a positive direction.  Rim Walkers move the world in a direction, and to a place, it didn’t know it needed to go.  Rim Walkers change the world.

My plan for the evening was to sit with my feet up and read.  I thought, “let me turn on the TV for a few minutes to unwind, then I’ll read.”  I poured myself a glass of ginger ale, plopped in the recliner, pushed back, and petted Willie (cat who had just jumped into my lap) with one hand while I scanned through a few channels with the remote in the other.  I stopped when I hit the New Hampshire PBS station (they were fund raising) to catch a few minutes of a show about Oscar Hammerstein II ~ Out of My Dreams.

I was stopped by comments about Hammerstein’s humanity being written into all of his lyrics.  They discussed the fact that when he saw injustice, he confronted it in word and action.  They said he used his work as a lyricist as an outlet for his social activism.  WHAT???  Oscar Hammerstein wrote fluffy little musicals containing songs with simple lyrics and dancing cowboys and girls in gingham dresses singing to the sunrise on a ranch in Oklahoma, World War II nurses trying to “wash that man out of their hair,” and an English widowed teacher who teaches the King of Siam to dance… 1, 2, 3…1, 2, 3…  He wrote great songs that years later we can remember the words to… he thoroughly entertained us… he provided great musicals for every theater from Broadway to the local high school or summer camp to entertain us with. But a social activist???  Get a grip!!!

This show proceeded to delve into the person behind the lyrics.  Hammerstein was a “sort of” former neighbor from Bucks County, Pennsylvania where I spent half of the years I have been alive on this earth.  I was captivated and invited to look beneath the surface of what I had determined since childhood, was fluffy song and dance theater.  What I discovered was, Oscar Hammerstein was so good at what he did, we never caught him doing it!

I saw South Pacific as a musical love story.  It is.  It also is a story about racism and interracial and intercultural relationships.  Without being overt, Hammerstein began to lay the groundwork for acceptance of all races and cultures.  Through the song “You’ve Got To Be Taught” Cable tells us:

You’ve got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught
From year to year,
It’s got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You’ve got to be carefully taught!

Oscar Hammerstein used his lyrics to create memorable musicals that make us sing for weeks afterward, tap our feet, and feel good.  He also shares his philosophy of acceptance, child rearing and bringing families together.  These themes run through all of Hammerstein’s work.

In the King & I Yul Brenner plays a king with power and absolute authority (not to mention a male chauvinist).  The “King” was not unlike many of the world leaders in places much larger than the mythical Siam.  Here comes Deborah Kerr, a British widow who comes to Siam to teach his children and she has the audacity to challenge his thoughts, behaviors and authoritarian demeanor.  By the end of the musical she succeeds in softening the King, making him more liberal and more of a humanitarian.  He even learns to dance in the process.

Oscar had notable neighbors.  He was friends and neighbors with both James Michener and Pearl S. Buck.  James Michener’s novel “Tales of the South Pacific” was the basis for Hammerstein’s musical “South Pacific.”  They were both, along with neighbor Pearl Buck, committed to racial and cultural equity.  In 1954, James Michener married Mari Sabusawa, a Japanese American who, with her family, was confined to an internment camp in Colorado.  The same year South Pacific debuted, Pearl Buck founded Welcome House which was committed to finding adoptive families for Asian and Asian American children, many of whom were  abandoned by American servicemen.  These children were considered “half-breeds” or “hybrids” and were not accepted in either Asian or American culture.  Buck devoted her life to finding loving homes for biracial and cross cultural children.  Michener himself adopted two biracial children through Welcome House.  Two of Hammerstein’s grandchildren were adopted through Welcome House.

An interesting side note, Oscar Hammerstein II was writing until his death from stomach cancer in 1960, just prior to The Sound of Music opening on Broadway.  The last song he wrote before he died was Edelweiss.  Many people, myself included, thought that was the Austrian national anthem or an authentic folk song of Austria.  Now that is a convincing story teller.

I am grateful for not getting my reading done this evening!  I have learned new things about former neighbors and their roles in presenting a new cultural identity for American in a period of history where these ideas were not, when blatantly thrown in your face, accepted.  Hammerstein, Michener and Buck all laid the groundwork for ideological changes that are still evolving.  They are all Rim Walkers.

As the program finished I jumped on the computer realizing that the national touring cast of South Pacific will be in Portland next week.  I’ll be putting aside my green beer and Irish music for the evening and enjoying a performance of South Pacific to see the production with new eyes.

Photo of Oscar Hammerstein II from Wikipedia.com