Tag Archives: history

On my farm

“I had rather be on my farm than be emperor of the world.” ― George Washington Washington didn’t just say those words, he lived them.  At the close of the American Revolution, and again at the end of his presidency, he willingly set aside his power and returned to Mount Vernon.  Strolling the grounds of …

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Rivers are roads

“Rivers are roads that move.” — Blaise Pascal I’ve always been fascinated by maps; I could literally sit and study them for hours.  One of the first things I noticed as a child, when I would look at maps, is how the cities of America seemed to cluster along rivers and coasts.  There’s a logical …

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To look forward

We interrupt these regularly scheduled repeat postings to bring you a tribute I published here back in 2017. Rest in peace, Mr. Aaron. Unlike so many tarnished sports heroes, your legacy will always shine. We will always remember you. “I didn’t have particular baseball heroes in those days…I didn’t relate to baseball players, even though …

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Time and culture

“You’ve got to marinate your head, in that time and culture. You’ve got to become them.” ― David McCullough I think one of the best and quickest ways to defeat despair is to read a bit of history and contemplate what life used to be like.  I’ve found that nonfiction often seems best for this, …

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Success is stumbling

“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” ― Winston Churchill One of my favorite places in California is the haunting Donner Memorial State Park near Truckee.  It’s beautiful country, but there’s an eerie stillness that lingers in memory of the tragic history of the Donner Party, for whom the park …

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So much happiness

“He went to the church, and walked about the streets, and watched the people hurrying to and fro, and patted the children on the head, and questioned beggars, and looked down into the kitchens of homes, and up to the windows, and found that everything could yield him pleasure. He had never dreamed that any …

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Share to the full

“Let the children have their night of fun and laughter. Let the gifts of Father Christmas delight their play. Let us grown-ups share to the full in their unstinted pleasures before we turn again to the stern task and the formidable years that lie before us…” — Winston Churchill, in his Christmas Eve message of …

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Despite overwhelming odds

“We salute the veterans and survivors of Pearl Harbor who inspire us still.  Despite overwhelming odds, they fought back heroically, inspiring our nation and putting us on the path to victory.  They are members of that Greatest Generation who overcame the Depression, crossed oceans and stormed the beaches to defeat fascism, and turned adversaries into …

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The last thing you expect

“The last thing you expect or want in life is often the first thing to take you on your journey to life.”  – Timothy Shriver Not long before he died, John Lennon wrote a song that popularized (although it did not originate) a much-quoted truth: “Life is what happens to you while you’re making other …

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I am glad

“Let others praise ancient times; I am glad I was born in these.” – Ovid There’s a lot to think about in this brief quote.  For one thing, isn’t it amusing to realize that Ovid lived in comparatively modern times, at least as he saw it?  Terms such as “ancient” and “modern” are relative, aren’t …

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A graveyard can teach you

“Spending time in a graveyard can teach you a lot about living. When I stopped at each grave I swear I could almost hear the silent stories of perfect strangers. Their tombs like silent philosophies of all the ways a life can be lived.” — Simone Nacerima Graveyards are a common motif at this time …

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History that teaches

“The march of Providence is so slow and our desires so impatient; the work of progress so immense and our means of aiding it so feeble; the life of humanity is so long, that of the individual so brief, that we often see only the ebb of the advancing wave and are thus discouraged. It …

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If you look

“If you look at an illuminated manuscript, even today, it just blows your mind.  For them, without all the clutter and inputs that we have, it must have been even more extraordinary.”  — Geraldine Brooks I started reading aloud to our sons when they were babies, and kept it up nightly until they were in …

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Stories to tell

“With thousands of years of human habitation, this land surely has stories to tell.  The trees rustle with whispers of those who have come and gone.” — from a display at the Visitor’s Center at Fort Raleigh National Historic Site Recently Jeff and I visited beautiful Roanoke Island, North Carolina, the site of the mysterious “Lost …

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The greater part

“I am still determined to be cheerful and happy, in whatever situation I may be; for I have also learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances.  We carry the seeds of the one or the other about with us in our …

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They knew things

“We know some things they didn’t know in the past, but they knew things that we’ve forgotten.” — Ashleigh Brilliant Here’s something to ponder: if you were to time-travel and suddenly swap places with a person of your age, gender and ability who lived two or more centuries ago, which of you would have a harder …

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Exquisitely dependent

“We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.” ― Carl Sagan I plead guilty to that!  Or maybe not. On my list of things I find fascinating, my impulse would be to place “science and technology” near the bottom.  Actually, though, I’ve …

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Stand quietly before them

“We should comport ourselves with the masterpieces of art as with exalted personages– stand quietly before them and wait till they speak to us.” — Arthur Schopenhauer Whenever I visit an art gallery or museum, especially a large one such as my favorite, the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, I’m torn between wanting to rush through and see …

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To become a grandparent

“To become a grandparent is to enjoy one of the few pleasures in life for which the consequences have already been paid.”  — Robert Brault My nephew Ryan sent me this photo recently and I loved it instantly.  Since Jeff and I will soon be grandparents for the first time, I thought a post about grandchildren …

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Read history

“If you think you have it tough, read history books.” — Bill Maher I’m no fan of Bill Maher, but he has a point about history.  It’s a great way to gain some perspective.  Not long ago I read Bill Bryson’s fascinating book At Home, and I realized I’d never fully appreciated such things as electricity and sewer systems.  From …

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It still matters

“Tradition does not mean a dead town; it does not mean that the living are dead but that the dead are alive. It means that it still matters what Penn did two hundred years ago or what Franklin did a hundred years ago…” — G. K. Chesterton Tevye isn’t the only one who prizes tradition.  …

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Make them carry you

“If the winds of fortune are temporarily blowing against you, remember that you can harness them and make them carry you toward your definite purpose, through the use of your imagination.” — Napoleon Hill Windmills are a visually appealing reminder that forces beyond our control can be turned to good purpose.  Wind-driven machines have been …

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More than logical

“If we were logical, the future would be bleak, indeed. But we are more than logical. We are human beings, and we have faith, and we have hope…” — Jacques Yves Cousteau I’m a great fan of logic.  My highest scores on the GRE and other standardized tests were always in the “analytical thinking” category.  …

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Don’t forget the present

“Remember the past, and prepare for the future, but don’t forget:  the present is where you live.” — Ashleigh Brilliant The Hertford Bridge pictured above is part of Hertford College, of the University of Oxford in England.  It connects the Old and New Quadrangles of that college, with administrative offices in the older building and student accommodations in …

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The familiar exotic

“Make the familiar exotic; the exotic familiar.”  — Bharati Mukherjee I’m pretty good at making the exotic familiar, or at least trying.  When Jeff and I travel, we tend to avoid the tourist routes and go to places where the locals are: public transportation, grocery stores, municipal libraries.  The more intriguing a city is, the more I am determined …

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