March 28, 2011

George Merryweather Presents Inventive Contraptions

Written by: Rosa Morgan

My career as a physician and surgeon kept bread on my table, but it was my inventions that secured my name, George Merryweather, for posterity. I hereby present a few of the most innovative developments of my time, beginning with one of my own. Behold the Tempest Prognosticator which garnered accolades at the 1851 Great Exhibit. There are twelve bottles of rainwater, each containing a leech within. I've taken special care to arrange my little comrades in a circle, so they may not endure the affliction of solitary confinement. When agitated by an approaching storm, the leeches ascend the tubes, dislodge a whale bone, and trigger a small hammer to strike a bell. It is a most effectual and amusing barometer.

I'm certain my Mrs. would frown upon having the "Teasmade" in our abode. Though I, with my scientific inclinations, fully appreciate its design. Ingeniously, an alarm clock triggers a switch resulting in a match striking against moving sandpaper, and in turn lighting the spirit stove beneath the kettle. Once the water boils, the steam pressure lifts a hinged flap and the kettle tilts, filling a teapot beneath. Finally, a plate swings over the stove, extinguishing its flames. Brilliant!

I've already ordered this hearing trumpet for Granny Merryweather. She is still in mourning for grandfather, and the black ribbons will particularly suit her.

I was certain this medieval looking clog was a torture device or perhaps a tool for aerating the lawn. In truth it is used to trample chestnuts and acorns, thereby separating the nutmeat from the shell.

I leave my favorite for last: the monocycle, a most stylish manner of transport invented by Rousseau of Marseilles. It could reach frighteningly high speeds of 30 MPH, and this with no gears or steering mechanism!

Ladies and gents, I encourage you to follow your dreams, no matter how preposterous they may seem. Many scoffed at my leech meteorologists, but time will prove they were wrong.

Ambitiously striving for excellence,

George Merryweather

March 21, 2011

First Days of Spring with Emily Dickinson

Written by Rosa Morgan Lockwood

This is my letter to the world,
That never wrote to me,--
The simple news that Nature told,
With tender majesty.
Her message is committed
To hands I cannot see;
For love of her, sweet countrymen,
Judge tenderly of me!

On this second day of Spring, I rise early to see the sun touch the morning. It's my ritual to greet daybreak while Homestead is quiet and my family peacefully slumbers. With my blue net worsted shawl gathered round my shoulders and slippers on my feet, I venture to the casement to look out upon the world. There I spy the robin interrupting the morn with hurried, few, express reports when March is scarcely on. The red breasted bird, chirps, "Emily, Emily, come out and play."

This is the house I was born in, and I dare say, the one where Death shall kindly stop for me. It's a circumscribed life I lead, rarely leaving my room. I've selected my own society and shut the door on the rest.

I wonder if townsfolk consider me odd and call me “The Myth” because I'm uncomfortable around them, or if I'm uncomfortable because they think me odd. It's certain my reputation is in question because others keep the Sabbath going to church while I keep it staying at home.

My life has not always been a solitary venture. Grandfather Samuel, who helped create Amherst College, instilled in me a necessity for a classical education, and so I attended public school as a youth. Mother did not care for thought, and Father feared books joggled my mind, especially the Bronte sisters' novels. I was described as a very good child and but little trouble. If only they could have peeped in and seen my brain go round.

My school attendance was hampered by ill health and the deepening menace of death. It began when Cousin Sophia passed over, and Principle Humphrey died of brain congestion. My physician proclaimed I suffered from nervous prostration, but I knew it was my fear of one day sleeping the churchyard sleep.

I've written over eighteen hundred poems, many of them inspired by nature. I shall venture from my room today, out into the garden, and I invite you to do the same.

Below is one of my poems, an ode to this beautiful Spring day.

New feet within my garden go,
New fingers stir the sod;
A troubadour upon the elm
Betrays the solitude.
New children play upon the green, New weary sleep below; And still the pensive spring returns, And still the punctual snow.

March 14, 2011

Is Sylvester Graham a Quack'er'?

Written by Rosa Morgan Lockwood

Sylvester stood at his larder, his fists clenched, blood rushing to his temples. He knew it was immoderate behavior to raise his voice, but he couldn't damper his rising anger. He hollered to his wife, "Come here!"
Sarah put down her ironing, loathe to respond. She regretted having married her tyrannical husband.
Sylvester pulled out the items hidden behind the cabbage heads. "Pepper, garlic, sugar?
You know pernicious seasonings excessively excite the genital organs. It's what I've preached against my whole life! And what is this? Horrors, white flour?!"

She sighed, "Sylvester, I know you suffered as a child; your father dying young, your mother institutionalized."
Trembling from head to toe, Sylvester crumpled onto the chair. He'd just turned fifty-seven, and he felt as if he were about to die. "Don't you understand? I've
grievous concern for society's well-being. Man has deviated from the primeval simplicity which was his birthright, becoming a victim of disease and uncontrollable passions. I put forth my Pythagorean regiment, despite butchers and bakers threatening to riot, in order to enlighten mankind."

He continued ranting, "Newspapers ridicule my methodology, slandering me a zealot, but only look to the thousands of loyal followers who have gained good health from my advice. The greatest minds of our time, Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Joseph Smith, are all loyal followers."

Sarah countered, "Look to your own ill health as proof to the efficacy of your theories, as well as my good constitution I've achieved by not listening to you." Sylvester shuddered, "You're not a Grahamite?" She shook her head, confessing, "Each morning I have a hard-boiled egg for breakfast and two hot rolls made from white flour, slathered in butter." "But hard-boiled eggs are indigestible as bullets, and white flour causes visual anomalies and giddiness," he shrieked.
Sarah added, "I also have a cup of coffee with sugar. And when I feel especially adventurous, I pour a drop of brandy in."

Sylvester went pale, his mouth dry. "Imbibing of spirits allows one to succumb to his basest urges; the most vile being masturbation, a certain catalyst for blindness." Sarah stood her ground, arms akimbo. She'd never openly defied her husband, and she was not about to back down. "I like to be giddy and I'm not blind."

Suffering a paroxysm, Sylvester was put directly to bed. After an hour of rest, his wife brought in a tray of stale Graham crackers and a carafe of water. "Your lunch, dear."
Sylvester tired to comfort himself, "Hippocrates, "father of medicine", proclaimed water is the
only fitting drink of man". If it were humanity's chosen drink, along with a regular dose of fresh air and exercise, poverty and debauchery would be wiped from this earth." His words rang as empty as his growling stomach. He whispered, "Will you pull the blinds down. And Sarah, please get me some of those hot rolls?"

March 7, 2011

Vita Sackville West in her Garden

Written by Rosa Morgan Lockwood

I was christened Victoria after my mother, but everyone calls me Vita. Though this is only a cursory description of my beloved garden and home, Sissinghurst, I shall strive to do it justice. Some of you may find this of interest due to mine and Harold's unconventional lives. We flung aside the Victorian mold which our straight-laced ancestors created for us. We glutted our youth with freedom, so that we each in turn chose who to love, regardless of marital restraints or the sex of our partner. Virginia Woolf was the most notable of my lovers. Aside from our flamboyant lives, I hope the key reason you visit our garden is the beauty and the inspiration you may find here.

Harold and I designed the garden as a series of rooms divided by high clipped hedges and brick walls, each highlighting a different color or theme. There is a comforting sense of security and even mystery within these green walls.

This photograph was taken from the top of my tower, my refuge for daily writing. Besides novels and poetry, I've written a series of gardening books: "In Your Garden", "In Your Garden Again", "More for Your Garden", and "Even More for Your Garden".
I think I may have been more clever with my titles.

The White Garden is one of my favorite rooms, especially during the evening hours when the canopy of cascading blossoms is at its peak loveliness. I'm gratified in the success of my toils, for my best ideas seldom play up in practice to my expectations.

I love all flowers, even those considered ordinary, for I do not understand snobbishness amongst gardeners.

Harold planted the Lime Walk. Whether in Spring with riotous borders or with Autumn's colorful pots, I find it a meditative place to walk.

What truly brings the garden to life are visitors, and it's the gardener's goal to lead them from one vista to another. A verdant swath with an enticing statue on the horizon is used here to great effect.

I confess, I do not always look so posh in my garden as I do wearing pearls and a velvet jacket. I believe the man who plants a garden feels he has done something for the good of the world, and I hope you'll find this to be true, here at Sissinghurst.