Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Brilliant Beacons

“Derive happiness in oneself from a good day’s work, from illuminating the fog that surrounds us.”  French impressionist painter Henri Matisse
"Luxe" by Henri Matisse
In “Indiana at 200: A Celebration of the Hoosier State,” a product of the Indiana Bicentennial Commission, appears “Fog” by poet William Buckley, accompanied by a photo by John Whalen of kids playing on a Lake Michigan beach with Gary Works in the background. Buckley wrote:

. . . hot wild core of the earth, heavier than
we can ever imagine.
D.H. Lawrence, “Underneath”

From cold winds
that bring signals
through our factory walls,

to the high dunes
where you can stand and see Chicago
shimmer on the rim of a great lake,

where market-clatter and jazz
is silent in the marram;

from Sauk Trails,
where all those stories and dreams
that have died since the Potawatomi
can be heard in a muffled wave,

you can still hear through the warm fog of our land

mills ladle a hot core
of nickel,

and bone.

Buckley also used lines from D.H. Lawrence’s “Work” to introduce “Bog,” invoking, as did “Fog,” the contrasting environments of nature and industry.  Lawrence wrote:
  When a man goes out into his work
   he is alive like a tree in spring.
 Herb and Charlotte Read; Post-Trib photo by Heather Augustyn

below, Joseph Pete
Highlighted in “Indiana at 200” are environmentalists Herb and Charlotte Read (“Open space is a resource we must preserve”), Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson (“the best thing about Gary is its people”), and NWI Times reporter Joseph Pete.  proud of his Eastern European heritage, Pete wrote:
  The Ottoman Empire drafted my great-grandfather, who then fled from Macedonia to the United States.  After landing at Ellis Island, he heard opportunity awaited in Gary, which U.S. Steel had just transformed from frigid marshland off Lake Michigan to a bustling company town that drew immigrants from the world over.  He ended up toiling in the sprawling Gary Works then the largest steel mill anywhere.
  Some say the mills are a husk of what they were, with a fraction of the workforce.  But they remain Northwest Indiana’s second-largest employer and are still vital economically.  Lake and Porter Counties have led the nation in steelmaking for more than 30 years and together crank out more steel than any other state.

Reviewing Eric Jay Dolin’s “Brilliant Beacons: A History of the American Lighthouse,” Nathaniel Rich wrote that lighthouse construction followed in the wake of maritime disasters in treacherous coastal waters, beginning in 1716 in Boston Harbor.  Opposing them were scavengers nicknamed “mooncussers” who profited from shipwrecks. Until radar and radio technology rendered keepers obsolete, they endured loneliness, dangerous storms, lightning, and fires caused by combustible whale oil.  The 1789 Lighthouse Act transferred control to the federal government; throughout the nineteenth century, American lighthouses were much inferior to European counterparts due to bureaucratic incompetence and economic self-interest.  Nathaniel Rich wrote:
  During periods of low visibility, keepers had to sound fog signals, which, depending on the era might involve blasting cannons, shooting guns, ringing bells, or blowing horns.  In 1906, after an automated bell broke during a fog in San Francisco Bay, the keeper Juliet Nichols beat it with a hammer twice every 15 seconds for 24 hours and 35 minutes, until the fog lifted.  A mechanic fixed the bell the next day, but on the third day it broke again and Nichols again beat the bell through the night.
above, Frank Schubert; below, Michigan City Lighthouse
By the time that the last keeper, Frank Schubert of Coney Island Lighthouse, died in 2003, the Coast Guard had begun auctioning properties off to preservation groups and individuals looking for vacation homes.  Michigan City’s original lighthouse dates from the 1837.  Its successor, built in 1904 and automated in 1960, is now a museum.

I don’t normally read the Bucknell magazine “Notes” since class of 1964 scribe Beth Wehrle Smith mainly reports on deaths, retirement trips, and those with grandchildren at Bucknell.  Kathy Meara is still married to class of 1962 grad Paul “Silky” Sullivan – the nickname the same as the 1958 Kentucky Derby winner.  I wonder if he still goes by “Silky” and whether it is common to Sullivans, like “Dusty” Rhodes and “Moon” Mullins.   This note from Sigma Phi Epsilon brother Dave Christmas caught my eye:
  My career was as a pilot with TWA, flying around the world for more than 36 years and becoming a 747 captain.  I may have been remembered as flying a small aircraft from the old Lewisburg grass airstrip for sightseeing flights and taking up parachute jumpers for the university parachute club.  As a side note, I had a crush on Carolyn Martin and took her for an airplane ride.
One wonders: will Carolyn attempt to get in touch with Dave?  I recall she was quite pretty.

I’ve got CDs on heavy rotation by Hold Steady, Accept, Sara McLaughlin, Titus Andronicus, and the Lumineers, whose song “In the Light” contains these lines:
Memory’s old but I just can’t let it go

In the light, right in the light.
 Joe Pye Weed near Harrison Street north of IUN

IUN biologist Spencer Cortwright reported on the Joe-Pye weed, a tall plant native to the Calumet Region with lavender-colored flowers that, in his words, “look like an exploding firework caught still.”  

Butterflies love its nectar.  A variety of bees do, too.  But what is the legend of Joe Pye?  It's not entirely clear, but it does appear that Joe Pye (Jopi in the native tongue) was a real Indian healer knowledgeable about herbal medical remedies who promoted making teas and other concoctions from the species that would one day bear his name.  These treatments reportedly helped cure diseases.  The president of Smith College in around 1820 swore that Joe Pye tea solved his wicked fever!  Whether its medical properties are real or not, it is a great wildlife plant and beautiful to boot!

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