Evangeline Memories

For weeks I’ve watched my blogging friend Proserpina entice her readers into accepting a simple concept – color-based blogs – and encourage them to help create a rich and expressive tapestry of personal preference. “Here is a color,” she says. “Here are its qualities. Here are some references to it in history and the arts. Does it remind you of something? How do you feel about it? How has it decorated your life?”  

Such simple questions, and yet the answers she receives build one upon another to form patterns of exquisite complexity. Readers contribute images of famous paintings, or their grandchild’s refrigerator art. They bring limericks and literature, poetry, personal photographs of beloved objects, memories from days of long-past travel and dreamscapes from journeys yet to come.

With each new color, discoveries are made. When Proserpina designated “Blue” as her first color, I was a bit disappointed. I’ve always considered blue to be my least favorite color and yet as images, videos and snippets of literature were posted, I realized “blue” is too general a term. While I dislike the primary blue of the color wheel, powder blue baby blankets, navy blue and electric blue, I wear denim and covet turquoise jewelry. I’ve reveled in the azure, aqua and cerulean of Carribbean waters and will sit for hours watching the smokey indigo of disappearing sunsets. Clearly, there are distinctions to be made.

On the other hand, red seems more straightforward. When “Red” was announced as the second color in her series, I almost could hear thirty people say in unison, “My Love is like a red, red rose…” Everyone knows Rudolph’s red nose, and everyone assumes police love to arrest drivers of red cars. Afficionados of the color may delight in cherry red, fire engine red, claret, cranberry or crimson, but say “red” to the rest of us and it’s the bright, bold color that first comes to mind. 

The third week’s color – orange – had a bit of a bite to it. I taste orange as much as I see it. It’s tied with lemon and lime for my favorite flavor and my closet is filled with its delectable cousins: salmon, canteloupe, pumpkin, peach and papaya. My favorite flower, the South African native Cape Honeysuckle, is a vibrant orange, a shimmering magnet for hummingbirds.

The photo of my honeysuckle transitioned perfectly to Proserpina’s choice for the fourth week – my favorite color, “Green”.  Anyone who’s explored woods, field or swamp in the riotous season of spring knows there are shades and hues of green still unnamed, lush, living gems that remind us life is a force to be reckoned with. From algae to tree frogs, from the barely-there clouds of swelling tree buds to the push of bulbs toward sunlight, it’s a color that will not be denied.

Now and then, words capture the essence of a color as well as – or better than – more visual images. When I read that green was to be our next focus, my first thought wasn’t of the swamp, forest or garden, but of Dylan Thomas’ perfect words:

 The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
drives my green age….

I first heard his poem in my fifth-grade classroom, just three years after Thomas’ death. It was the longest year of my young life, ruled over by a teacher whose sole mission in life seemed to be making us memorize and recite poetry. Was Dylan Thomas too much for fifth graders? “Fiddlesticks,” said Miss Johnson.  Did we really need to be reading Whitman? “He’s American,” she replied. “They need to know him.”

Being normal fifth graders, we resisted for all we were worth. Because we hated having to stand and recite in front of our giggling classmates, we also hated the poets, both the living and the dead. We hated Carl Sandburg, and we hated his fog-footed cat. We were bored by Robert Frost.  Robert Lewis Stevenson was stupid, and Lewis Carroll unintelligible.  Shakespeare, Wordsworth and Keats were old and dusty, and as for Emily Dickinson – no slanted truth for us. We thought she was terrible, and said so.

Surely we did a little arithmetic in fifth grade, or learned history and geography.  I remember only the poetry. As the months passed, we slogged and struggled through stanzas, meter and iambic pentameter until we thought we were going to throw up.  And then, blessedly, it was over.  Or so we thought.

Thirty years later, during my first night watch on my first offshore sailing passage, I was astonished by the number and beauty of the stars. Scanning the skies, picking out constellations and thinking of nothing at all, I found myself overtaken by words so familiar they surely were my own.

I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking

After all those years, the wonderful Sea Fever by John Masefield had dusted itself off and come to visit, in just the right time and place.  For the first time in decades I recited poetry, and thought of my fifth-grade teacher.

Once the dam had broken, the verse continued to flow. A trip to the Low Country meant Longfellow

The tide rises, the tide falls,
The twilight darkens, the curlew calls;
Along the sea-sands damp and brown
The traveler hastens toward the town,
And the tide rises, the tide falls.

A neighborhood dispute meant Robert Frost on fences. Carl Sandberg’s “woman named Tomorrow” eased the pain of a broken friendship.  Poem after poem rose to consciousness, some in fragments and some complete, but all accompanied by memories of Mrs. Johnson, sweaty palms, and the horror of standing before the class.

My most recent experience with revivified poetry took place on a pecan-collecting jaunt two years ago. With a three-day weekend ahead of me, I’d decided to detour and visit the wonderful cypress trees that line many Texas rivers and creeks.  Camera in hand, ankle deep in the waters of the Medina river, my casual wandering brought me to an especially beautiful pool. I was transported in an instant from Medina to Maine, the home of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and heard again his words echoing in the silence.


This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks,
Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight,
Stand like Druids of eld, with voices sad and prophetic,
Stand like harpers hoar, with beards that rest on their bosoms.
Loud from its rocky caverns, the deep-voiced neighboring ocean
Speaks, and in accents disconsolate answers the wail of the forest…

A shallow, limestone-bedded river is no ocean, and the cypress sentinels lining its banks are far from primeval, however impressive they might be. It hardly mattered. The longer I lingered in the midst of the cypress, the more I remembered of  Longfellow’s Evangeline.The more I remembered of his epic poem, the more grateful I became for a teacher who provided to my classmates and me something none of us understood at the time: the gift of words to interpret the mysteries of the world in which we live.

 “The limits of my language are the limits of my world,” said Wittgenstein. In our increasingly constricted world, language is a necessary tool for pushing back the boundaries, enlarging the view, reaffirming our humanity.  Text if you must, Twitter if you will, but tell as well the larger and more complicated truth. Tell it slant or tell it straight, but tell it clearly as you are able to a culture increasingly impoverished and narrow.  Our children, too, deserve the gift of language and the joy of literature, the pleasure of metaphor and the delight of metre to enliven them when they come to their own time of discovery and stand, slack-jawed, before the wonder of the world.

They will not find those gifts and that joy without us.



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26 thoughts on “Evangeline Memories

  1. What is the origin or significance of Evangeline? It’s the name of a Parish in Louisiana as well as a horse race track. I didn’t know it was a poem too, which I bet was penned before the parish was founded…maybe.


    Ah ~ a little technical glitch stood in your way. Just now the WordPress editor isn’t working at 100%, and hyperlinks have to be colored manually. I’d missed highlighting the one for “Longfellow’s Evangeline”, so you didn’t realize there was a link there. It’s fixed now, and I’m glad your quick question brought it to my attention. The links will take you to more information.

    In the very simplest terms, “Evangeline” is the story of the forced displacement of the Acadians, their journey to Louisiana, and the eventual reunion of Evangeline with the man she loved and from whom she was separated during the deportation. In St. Martinville there’s a monument to her, as well as the Evangeline Oak, under which the real-life couple supposedly sat. Right next to the tree is a bust of Longfellow!

    The poem was published in 1847 and Evangeline Parish was created in 1911 – a direct tribute to Longfellow’s famous work. If you travel around St. Martinville, New Iberia – the whole area known as Acadiana – you’ll discover Evangeline dry cleaners, mortuaries, drug stores and garden shops, all named for his heroine.

    I started traveling in Louisiana because of Evangeline. When I remembered the poem I became curious. I hadn’t realized the scope of the history or how terrifically interesting it is. I’ll be writing more about Acadiana as time goes on, but there’s a good bit of research still to do.


  2. Applause, applause, applause!

    Your fifth grade teacher was clearly of the Old School, and how I wish I’d had her, or someone of her ilk. By the time I reached fifth grade, poetry was practically a dirty word. It was Math we had to learn, and its bosom buddy Science. In fact, Math was so important that we were rated (“tracked”) according to our abilities with numbers. Language–reading–was secondary. I still bear the scars of that system. When years later I had to learn a bit about poetry (that happens when you’re a Lit major), it terrified me. For years. Until something resonated: Shakespeare’s beauty, Hopkins’ rhythm, Dickinson’s sly quiet subversiveness…

    I will have to find the Thomas poem you quote. All I could think of for your favorite color was “Asphodel that greeny flower…”

    Lovely piece. Thank you.


    I’ll acknowledge right here that my life might have been more complete – and certainly easier – if I’d had another Miss Johnson on the math and science side of things. On the other hand, I did have to memorize multiplication tables and such, and that didn’t do a thing to help me love or understand math. Clearly, memorization doesn’t equal understanding. I didnt start having my revelations about geometry and algebra until I started sailing. I did enjoy growing mold on jello, though. :-)

    Well, it was a different era, and my natural inclinations dove-tailed nicely with expectations about what girls should and shouldn’t study. But speaking of a different era, I’ve never heard of Asphodel“. Miss Johnson didn’t have a chance with that one, because it was published in 1955, the very year she was imposing her will on us. (Al Cyone mentions “Harold and the Purple Crayon”. Ironically, that was published in 1955, also.)

    Clearly, educational theories have changed over the years, and children’s literature is a much richer field than when I was growing up. Still, I think there’s good reason for Miss Johnson’s approach. After all, you can’t draw on resources you don’t have.

    So glad you enjoyed the read – and gave me something new to explore!


  3. I couldn’t help but be reminded of a recent article in the NY Times that noted the decline in sales of children’s picture books and an increasing tendency for some parents to expect their kids to read text-only books at a younger age.

    One of my first and favorite books was that classic combination of words and pictures (and one color), “Harold and the Purple Crayon”.

    Al Cyone,

    I just mentioned to ds, above, that Harold’s story was published in 1955, just after my days of more specifically “children’s books”. Many of the writers and illustrators who are high on today’s lists – like Maurice Sendak – arrived on the scene after I’d moved on to other things. On the other hand, I did have Gerald McBoingBoing, a classic not generally associated with its author, Dr. Seuss, and those ubiquitous Golden Books. I can see every page of “The Pokey Little Puppy”.

    Given the riches available to them today, I can’t imagine parents wanting to move their kids to text only. We didn’t have so many choices. I was lucky to have a mother who read to me from infancy, and to have been an early reader – it helped me evade problems with reading-boredom some of my friends experienced. Today, I’m even luckier. I get to watch “Where the Wild Things Are”, and then go read the book for myself. Looks like Harold will be next.


  4. Good morning and it is a good morning. Proserpina is dancing with joy through those verdant forests and rosy memories of fifth grade poetry memorization. If I say so myself, you have written another superb piece of work. From the present to the past to the present every word makes one think, remember, appreciate our journey of life and the things that we take for granted or outright rejected at some point in our lives.

    Thank goodness for teachers who teach for life and not just the moment. And thank goodness for eyes and heart that see and feel the colorful beauty that surrounds us.

    Have a wonderful and inspiring day my friend.


    What a perfect phrase – teaching for life and not just the moment. It’s the way of children and youth to resist their teachers, insisting, “I don’t need to know this. It isn’t useful. It’s not relevant to my life.” And perhaps at that moment it isn’t. But life flows on, and what seems useless now may enrich future experience, as happened for me with dear Miss Johnson’s poetry.

    Ironically, the last book that appeared in my mailbox was John Ciardi’s “How Does a Poem Mean?”, hunted down and purchased after a comment on another blog. There’s another wonderful lesson – once we have the raw materials, it’s never too late to pick up new tools and begin reshaping them for ourselves. As you know so well, school is one thing. Education is another.

    Thanks for the inspiration – creativity’s never a one-way street! Not only that, if you decide to honor purple, I’ve got a new contribution to add to the discussion!


  5. Linda,
    I love your new story… and I found out about this on Maria’s (Pros) FB page! So I came to WU to see what was up and you have a new story to enjoy. And enjoy I did. I love the way you lead into a story.

    I was not a big fan of poetry as a kid either, and you are correct…sometimes at the most unexpected times some of those poems come back to you.
    I did always love Evangeline and still remember it because not only did we have to learn the poem, we had to make a notebook and illustrate the poem. In those days we did not have computers where we could lift beautiful graphics, it took a lot of hunting thru magazines or other paper media that we could “cut” out a picture. But I was really into this project and came up with some great stuff. I may still have that project up in my old trunk in the attic.

    Again, I love your story and your beautiful photos!
    Thank you so much.


    Some of the young ones today don’t have a clue what real “cutting and pasting” was about, do they? Those wonderful school projects – they were such fun. I still remember my little stash of “National Geographic”, “Life” and “Look” magazines. Tucked into a good scrapbook with flour and water paste, they made for some pretty snazzy presentations. I’ll bet your Evangeline notebook was great.

    All of those things I did are gone now – too much moving, for one thing. After a while, it just isn’t worth boxing up that model of the Parthenon again. But the poems remain, and I suppose that’s the one value none of us could have understood as kids. No matter what happens, we still have those – well, at least until the memory disappears. The good news is that I still can remember Evangeline, even when I don’t have a clue where my car keys are, or find myself looking at mom and saying, “Whadda ya mean, I was supposed to stop at the store?” ;-)

    Such a delight to have you stop by. Now I just need to get myself back on a schedule where you have something new to read at work on Saturdays!


  6. Wonderful ode to poetry and color. Yes, that algae green is sooo vivid.

    All of this really resonated with me. Language, and poems in particular, are where I go to find recognition, a mirror of myself and my experience. That someone else is able to say it, succinctly, lyrically, is an abundant comfort.

    My husband teaches 4th grade, and a number of years ago he began teaching poems and having the students memorize them. They do Stopping by the Woods, and Cat’s Feet, among others (even Purple Cow). There is a lovely tune to Stopping by a Woods, and sometimes they sing it for the Christmas concert.

    He believes in the flip side of your coin. Your side is perfectly, humanly gratifying, at finding the memorized words within yourself when encountering beauty, or some moment of intense emotion. The other side of the coin is seeing the words in print, and recognizing them in a cultural context, because you’ve studied the poem. These landmarks of our literary history are just as important as knowing any part of our history that informs all that comes now and after.

    Beautiful, beautiful post.


    I remembered that your husband teaches at the grade school level. It thrills me to know that someone still is encouraging memorization.

    Early on in this blogging endeavor I wrote a post called “Purity of Prose is to Write One Thing”. The point, of course, is that you can’t throw everything into one entry. Focus is the thing. Clearly, this “one thing” I’ve written about isn’t the only thing. That “flip side” you mention is just as important, just as valid – so much so that it may get its own entry, some day.

    There is a bit of delicious synchronicity here you will appreciate. Some time ago, in another context on another blog, I made this comment: “I’ve written very few poems, but your story reminds me of what I’ve come to regard as the most frustrating question in the world regarding poety: “What does it mean? ‘Good grief,’ I want to say. ‘If I could tell you what it “means” in a sentence, I wouldn’t have written the poem.'”

    In response, another reader said, “A more instructive question might be John Ciardi’s: ‘How does a poem mean?'”

    It was one of those moments of pure recognition, not unlike catching a stranger’s eye across the room and suddenly knowing with a certainty that your lives will be intertwined. I’d heard of Ciardi, yes. But I’d never heard the question put quite that way, and certainly didn’t know that it also is the title of a book. Now, a copy of that book has arrived from Vermont and is sitting here, on the corner of my desk.

    Much of the learning about poetry I was forced to endure in high school and college could have been confused with my biology lab. Too much dissection, too little life. Now, with Ciardi in hand, I believe it might be time for a more enjoyable, lively look at that “other side of the coin.”


  7. Richard,

    Ah – looks like you’ve been back to the internet cafe! Either that, or they have your connection hooked up again. In any event, I certainly enjoyed the music. Believing as I do that one good video deserves another, I have a couple more for your enjoyment.

    The Evangeline Waltz is a staple at dances around Acadiana. This version of Lawrence Walker’s tune is done by Beausoleil, and is a wonderful taste of Cajun music. Unfortunately, there’s no video, so we’ll have to make do with a version by the Wippoorwills’ Big Band.

    The other video I’ve had tucked away, saving for use “somehow” is an absolutely remarkable version of the story of Evangeline, sung by Annie Blanchard, a native of New Brunswick and winner of the 2006 Prix Félix. There are versions on youtube which have the English lyrics superimposed, and plenty of places to find only the lyrics, but this is one of my favorite versions.

    I have no idea what gives this such power to affect me – the words, the music, Blanchard’s voice, my fascination with Evangeline’s story – but I can’t listen to it without crying. It’s just beautiful. Enjoy!

  8. You don’t know this but I lived in Lafayette for 3 years…did the weather on KLFY on the mornings on Passe Partout. My kitties are from Kaplan, methinks. Maybe Erath. I never knew the story of Evangeline…know it about the Acadians though…our motto was “we love you Acadiana!”


    My goodness. My first stop on my first “let’s get acquainted” self-guided tour of Cajun country was Vermillionville – a Sunday afternoon dance. I learned a lot of very important lessons that day – most of which deserve more than a comment here – but I can tell you, there’s no lack of partners for a dancing fool in that part of the country!

    This may amuse you. The first time I got up to dance, I asked an older woman I’d been chatting with what I should do with my purse and keys. She just looked at me. “Cher, you leave ‘dem right here’, she said. “What? You think this be Houston?”

    By the time I left the area four days later, I knew beyond a doubt it wasn’t Houston! ;-)


  9. The Force That Through The Green Fuse Drives The Flower is the Dylan Thomas poem from which you remembered those happy, green words. I first read Thomas when I was 13, was dreadfully confused, but have continued reading his works ever since. I find new beauties every time I read them.

    What a wonderful post this is. All those words were just waiting to be born, when the stars were right, when understanding was primed and ready.


    Your remark about understanding being “primed and ready” reminds me of the wonderful and quite true Zen proverb: “When the pupil is ready, the teacher will appear”. That’s happened many times in my life – so many times that I believe it, absolutely.

    As for Dylan Thomas, his work has sometimes attracted me, and sometimes repelled. Last autumn I nearly posted about “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night”, but it wasn’t time. With a year’s experience and reflection behind me, perhaps I can pull it off this year.

    I do so appreciate your taking the time to leave a comment, particularly since it led me to your own quite wonderful blog. You’re welcome any time.


  10. Thank you so much for the brilliant Wittgenstein quote: “The limits of my language are the limits of my world.”

    When what’s ‘literary’ is being replaced by internet lingo, such as LOL to express amusement, omg to denote a state of unbelief, IMS to apologize, and, for every fifth-grader today, the essential code POS, what kind of worlds are our younger generation stepping out to? From the perspective of Wittgenstein’s quote, instead of opening up brave new worlds, the Internet could well be setting limits to our growth.

    P.S. POS=Parent Over Shoulder… LOL


    And in a truly horrifying bulletin from the educational frontier, there now are school districts allowing texting language in written assignments, and the use of spell-check in middle-school competency tests (Oregon). A friend whose child was in a recent spelling bee at her grade school brought home a trophy for this: “unsustanible”. Of course, that should be “unsustainable”.

    My friend marched herself right up to the school to sort things out. She was told the trophy was awarded because her child’s spelling was “close” and “recognizable” and after all, alternate spellings often are used. And, as the teacher pointed out, it wouldn’t be fair for one child to get a trophy and the others not receive a reward for their effort.

    I swear to you. There it is, in all its glory – the abysmally stupid approach to education that is allowing a false “equality” to drive excellence right out the door.

    I don’t mean to go all rant-ish on you (yes, I do), but you’ve certainly given me an idea. Wouldn’t it be great if every teacher in the country was typing on a regular basis: GOT2GO POS



  11. I’ve got to put in a plug for the late, great, Dewey Balfa. I was privileged to see him perform in person and, while looking for an appropriate video, finally learned what “fiddlesticks” were!

    Al Cyone,

    What a wonderful video. I’ve never seen fiddlesticks played, and enjoyed the linked articles in the wiki. The other form of homemade percussion’s a little more familiar. I’ve done a little spoon playing myself, but anyone who imagines playing spoons doesn’t require practice, too, is just wrong. Here’s what spoons can do, all by themselves – Mr. Broussard’s as unplugged as it gets.

  12. My goodness, this sends me in a thousand different tangents. But what I recall is not of poetry, but the dreadful seventh grade geometry class, during which I struggled day in and day out. I was told this would be helpful one day and I had no idea how. But somehow, I remembered the Pythagorean theorum by a take-off written to “The Rain In Spain.” Go figure. And it actually comes in handy!

    Poetry — I love to “play” with poetry (which means writing very bad things, but they work for me). I don’t read it often. And yet, as you mention, now and then bits pop into my head. They must harken back to middle school, maybe high school. I sure didn’t learn them on my own. And I welcome them like old friends, amazed they chose to visit me after so many years of neglect.


    I have few memories of those math classes, but the memories I do have aren’t pleasant. The only conclusion I drew at the time was that the sentence “Someday you’ll thank me for this” ranks right up there with “This hurts me more than it does you”. Geometry didn’t come alive for me until August of 1987, when I was being taught to plot a position with a hand-bearing compass and suddenly looked up and said, “It’s a triangle!” I still remember the look on Captain Tom’s face. It was another example of a great truth of life: what’s self-evident to one can be revelation to another.

    I have poems I think of as “old friends”, too. Those are the ones that may or may not be considered “good”, but which help to interpret experience in a way nothing else can. T.S.Eliot’s “Four Quartets” is the perfect example. Sandburg’s “Four Preludes” comes to mind, too – of course, both of those are pretty good poetry. Unfortunately, I’ve “lost” my favorite poem. I’d clipped it from a magazine in the 70s, and carted it around as a clipping for years. It disappeared, and now I search for it sporadically. I need to enlist the help of a reference librarian who certainly would be more skilled in ferreting out lost literary treasure!


  13. I’ll have to go visit your Proserpina friend. It’s funny, when you were going through the colors we have so many similarities. In general, I loathe blue (but, not the azure of sea, or turquoise of Native American jewelry); I love red (especially in my lipstick!), and I had to smile when I came to your fondness for orange. It has now moved into one of my favorites.

    The children in my class ask, “What’s your favorite color?” and I can never answer articulately. I love them all, except for blue ;), and I’ve gone through phases of loving them. In college, it was only purple for me.

    Did you know that orange is the least favorite color of people hands down? I think that makes us very creative. Special. But, I already knew that about you.

    Really enjoyed your photographs in this post, too, and I wish I was able to comment meaningfully about poetry. Alas, I’m not. Other than to say Frost and Sandberg are two of my favorites. Probably because they’re not as confusing to me as many other poets.


    It occurred to me overnight that you might want to visit Prosperpina’s other blogsite, Librizzi Ancestors in My Heart. She’s Italian, and extraordinarily knowledgeable about the history, literature and art of the country.

    Isn’t it interesting, how we go through phases with colors? There was a period of my life when I wanted no color in my home at all – I lived with white walls, white curtains, white appliances – all of it. Now, I want color, and when I moved into my current place, I painted before moving in: galyx (Martha’s fancy spelling of galax, a lovely plant), heavy cream, kettle pond (translucent, not blue, not green), sandstone, a yellow as near to lemon-chiffon pie as I could find. Of course you must know how happy I am with the latest change to your template. And that background – it seems to me that it’s probably on the very fringes of the orange family!

    Thanks for the kind words about the photos. I’m no photographer, period. But sometimes I manage a decent image – I’m in love with the algae-covered backwater. It’s one of my favorite photos ever.

    As for the whole issue of what appeals, poetry-wise, I’ll just say this. Some poems seem worth chewing on, and some don’t. When I get to something that seems to me to be a Brussels sprout of a poem, I just move on. I have too little time left in this world to spend it gagging on what I find distasteful, whether it’s abstruse poetry or obnoxious people. I’ll sample, listen to others’ recommendations and even try a new recipe, but in the end, I want to enjoy the fare!


  14. Linda -what fun this one!!!!! How wonderful your list of poets that you found dusty and boring in 5th grade. Coming up soon behind you, we had the same ones, with Ms. Henry who kept her tissue stashed in the left sleeve of whatever short sleeve dress she was wearing on any given day.

    Ah, but Evangeline….I have to go find it on the shelf. I have my grandmother’s copy – with a green velvet soft cover….cheers! Will report back on it later after paging through it a bit. Mmmm…lovely.


    Isn’t it wonderful, having books with a history? I have my grandmother’s “Young Folks’ Pictorial Tour of the World”, which is a bit of a hoot. It was copyrighted in 1892, and as you can imagine, its view of the world is – well, usual for the time. But the illustrations, hand-tinted etchings, are superb, and the inscription from what appears to be a current boyfriend – certainly not my grandfather – is delightful. Best of all, it still had her ribbon bookmark and a slew of pressed flowers in its pages, which will be transformed into something displayable, someday.

    I do hope you find your Evangeline – it sounds like a lovely presentation of a wonderful tale.

    Since I’m here and thinking about it, I meant to ask you if you read the article in the September 20 New Yorker magazine about teen fashion blogger Tavi Gevison. It’s written by Lizzie Widdicombe and is entitled “Tavi Says”. If you haven’t read it, I think you’d enjoy it, particularly since it combines fashion and blogging. You can find the abstract here.


  15. I’ve never understood the concept of a favorite color. They’re all my favorites, including the “shades and hues of green still unnamed…” And how perfect that your post explores poetry and color. Your prose is always pure poetry, and alive with color.

    Thank you also for bringing back to the present my despised junior high school English teachers, the ones who made us read and think and tax our brains. I sure do love them now.


    I do love color. I think one of the saddest phrases in all of life is “the color drained from her face”. A world drained of color seems to me somehow drained of life. I suspect it’s one reason that, even though I enjoy black and white photography and appreciate its ability to enthrall (think Ansel Adams) or convey certain phenomena in a way color can’t (fog) I still prefer color. Coming from one whose favorite weather is fog, such a statement may seem strange, but when you’re experiencing fog, there’s no question it’s alive. ;-)

    I’ve always thought of those early teachers as being one with my grade school art teacher. She’d plop a hunk of clay down in front of us and say, “All right, class. Let’s see what you can make.” The others plopped down huge piles of history, poetry, story-telling and assorted random facts and said, “All right, let’s see what you can make of this.” The fact that it took some of us longer than others to start thinking about what we read didn’t seem to bother any of them one whit.

    I love them, too. We certainly own them a debt of gratitude.


  16. Stopped in as I couldn’t let another day go by w/out reading your latest work.

    As I continue my house organizational campaign – the childhood books of my children had their turn. At first, I thought to pass the books on, but as I went through the titles…I realized most of the classics were purchased by me and not provided in school — as I did a bit of home schooling at various times, I had opportunity to set curriculum and introduce my boys to poetry and novels not consider “vogue” anymore. After some thought, I decided to very carefully store these books. With the price of paper & the constant influence of all things computers, there is a small hope I may have opportunity to share these with another generation – perhaps my grandchildren.

    Memorization is a most important learning skill — it’s a good exercise for the brain and I did give my kids plenty to memorize. Today, in both their worlds they have each separately come back to thank me for “torturing” them when they were little. As the eldest said – I can read a machine manual, basically memorize it (he makes a song) and I can take it apart and put it together w/out a glitch. Their favorite poem is Hiawatha by Longfellow. The last time I went fossil hunting with one of my sons — we were deep in the woods…quietly sifting and digging….. out of the blue — he started reciting the words & for those moments time stood still.


    I am laughing myself silly. “Hiawatha”? If you were raised in the Upper Midwest during a certain time period, there’s only one thing that comes to mind – immediately – when you hear about Hiawatha. Behold, the famous Hamm’s beer commercial.

    The echoes of Longfellow’s poem may or may not be intentional. I think they were, because this was the section forced upon generations by their own Miss Johnsons.

    By the shores of Gitche Gumee,
    By the shining Big-Sea-Water,
    Stood the wigwam of Nokomis,
    Daughter of the Moon, Nokomis.
    Dark behind it rose the forest,
    Rose the black and gloomy pine-trees,
    Rose the firs with cones upon them;
    Bright before it beat the water,
    Beat the clear and sunny water,
    Beat the shining Big-Sea-Water.

    The fact is the beer was terrible, but the commercials were memorable, and I can remember the commercial I posted here being used in my classroom as a way of introducing the poem. The Budweiser draft horses are great, but I’m afraid they’re not so grounded in great literature!

    I had a few of my Golden Books still knocking around, and ended up taking them to a local womens’ and children’s shelter, where they’ll find new life. They have a “free store” there where women can choose a certain number of items – and I’m told more than a few of them choose a book or two for their children. Makes me feel good, and appreciate even more the literary luxuries we have.


  17. What a delight to come here on a Friday night and see so much written about the poem we are naming our daughter after (probably won’t mention that on my own site for privacy’s sake) – between the poem, our love of the deep south and the many songs we love about Evangeline, her name was a no-brainer for us.

    Wonderful post, wonderful comments!


    I’m just astonished, and so happy to know your daughter will be carrying Evangeline’s name. Like so much in the south, especially in Acadiana, her story is a living tradition, a thread so closely-woven into life’s tapestry it would be impossible to draw it out without destroying the fabric.

    I’ve been reading an article entitled “The Acadian Land”, written by Charles Dudley Warner for an 1887 issue of “Harpers”. In it he says, (The young people) “took small interest in the war and it had few attractions for them. The conscription carried away many of their young men, but I am told they did not make very good soldiers, not because they were not stalwart and brave, but because they were so intolerably homesick they deserted whenever they had a chance.”

    What a lovely fantasy it is that your Evangeline will be homesick for “her Acadiana” too, and that her first response to seeing the land marked by her name will be recognition! Now, there’s a story worth telling!


  18. Linda, reading your posts and the ensuing comments is always such a rich experience! I’m in awe of the way you can take all kinds of topics and weave them together so beautifully.

    Learning to recognize and name colors used to be one of the first pieces of knowledge children acquired (along with naming their body parts and their parents!) The love of color is primal, and should be encouraged and nurtured. One of my son’s early preschool teachers was fond of taking the children outdoors and looking for color all around them. I remember he enjoyed doing that.

    Teaching poetry was not in fashion in my elementary school. Consequently, I feel as if a large part of my literature background is missing. I read and enjoy poetry now, but I’m awfully selective about it.

    Your photos were the perfect accompaniment to this post :)


    My own grandmother hauled me outdoors for a color lesson once. I was mortified because my mother had made me a dress that was a blue and green plaid. It really was beautiful, with a dropped waist and a box pleated skirt, but as I said, “EVERYONE knows blue and green don’t go together!” Grandma made me look at the trees against the sky and asked, “Do they look all right together?” I allowed as how they did. “Well,” she said. If God thought putting blue and green together was a fine idea, why shouldn’t we do it?” End of problem.

    Don’t tell me you need an academic degree to be smart! Or that selectivity in reading isn’t a good idea, for that matter. To paraphrase an old saying and put it into your context, the music we hear shapes the song that we sing. ;-)


  19. Your honey suckle looks superb – they’re in full bloom here, light orange, dark orange, neon yellow – and my favourite, the Rocky Horror, named after Frank N. Furter’s crimson shade of lipstick!

    Varieties of Cape Honeysuckle


    Thanks ever so much for the link. I knew about the yellow, but had no idea they came in so many colors. Mine clearly is the burnt orange – I wish I had a yard to plant them in so they could really spread, although we’re still just a bit north for them. Two hundred miles down the coast, around Rockport and Corpus Christi, they can be spectacular. But mine do well enough to attract the hummingbirds, so I’m happy.

    I think we’re about done with the blooms for the year. I only have some left on the “sunny side” of one plant, so it may be time to cut a bouquet and bring in for a little fall color in the house.

    Proserpina is doing purple for her last color, so your garden beauties will have a chance to show off.


  20. There’s so much to ponder in your writing here, Linda, and it’s just so beautifully illustrated with your fine images.

    As you say, blue is not just blue, etc., and when out photographing and looking for image possibilities, it’s something I’m always conscious of.

    I just love your photo of the Cape Honeysuckle, and the rich colour contrasts you’ve captured there. And for anyone who doesn’t realise just how difficult it can be to photograph successfully in a forest, I must mention those excellent images of trees and steam, where you’ve handled the light so well.

    Finally I come to the poetry. You mention Robert Frost, and I’m really fond of those well known poems, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” and “The Road Not Taken”. I didn’t actually grow up with these, as in my time at least, they weren’t so far ranging in selecting poetry for us in school in Australia. Looking back, I see how much we missed out on — although I probably wouldn’t have appreciated it then, in any case!


    Given your skill as a photographer, I truly appreciate your complimentary words about my photography. The truth is that I didn’t begin taking photographs as anything more than vacation snapshots until I began my blog and discovered the practical convenience of having my own photos to post. What I have learned is that some photos “work” and some don’t. When I get one that does, I try and figure out what makes it better than its companions – and thus I learn about photography!

    I think if ever I were to have a photography site (which I won’t) I’d name it “Visible Words”. There is so much similarity between writing and photography in terms of composition, context, subject selection, etc. It’s been much in my thoughts recently, so perhaps a blog entry’s in order.

    About a year ago, perhaps, I ran into the work of a Scandinavian street photographer while I was reseaching Cartier-Bresson. If I can find him again I’ll send you the link. You might enjoy seeing it.

    Many thanks for the visit – looking forward to seeing Santiago through your lens.


  21. This is a wonderful piece. I love your memories of your fifth grade teacher, and wish I had her! I didn’t read much poetry when I was younger, but I love it so much now, reading and writing it.

    Your eloquence is amazing, and this piece reminded me a lot of Styron.


    How nice to see you! Anyone who visits your blog knows in a minute how much you love poetry. I suppose in the end how we come by our love of its forms doesn’t matter – all that matters is that we get a chance to get to know it.

    I was truly blessed in grade school to have wonderful teachers. The fact that I can remember each one of them – and so many of our class projects – is testament to their devotion to teaching and to us. Of course, those were the days when the Iowa Test of Educational Development was meant to simply measure our development, and teacher’s salaries weren’t pegged to our scores. “Teaching to the Test” doesn’t leave much time for creativity of any sort, let alone memorizing poetry ;-)

    Thanks so much for your kind words. I’m glad you enjoyed the read!


  22. Linda,

    I had a teacher much like Mrs. Johnson. Miss Gay introduced us to Mr. Longfellow’s Evangeline the first day of class. She was a firm believer in memorization and recitation. I can still remember the sweaty palms.

    I thought I was free at the end of the year, but I found myself sitting in front of her again a few years later. I’m not sure kids are required to commit much to memory these days, but I hope they are. Looking back, Miss Gay was one of my favorite teachers and definitely the most demanding. Thanks for reminding me of her.


    Isn’t it funny how the phrases “most demanding” and “favorite” eventually get linked? I hate and despise the attitude that says, “We’re not going to demand so much from our students, because we don’t want to damage their self-esteem”. It’s a fact that lots of us failed, trying to live up to Miss Johnson’s standards, but she’s also one who helped us understand how much we could achieve.

    It just now occurred to me – I can’t remember the last time I heard someone refer to an academic assessment as an “achievement test”. I suppose that’s another phrase that has fallen to political correctness. ;-)


  23. I’ve been meaning to comment on color for a while but “stuff” got in the way. It’s a rainy afternoon up here on the side of the mountain in Panama (What? Raining again? Six feet of the stuff in September wasn’t enough?) and a perfect time to put off writing stuff for myself and write to you.

    I like green. Not to wear, though. I always loved those first green buds on the trees after a bleak New England winter. A green no artist’s pallet can match. John Steinbeck, one of my favorite authors, didn’t like it. In “Cup of Gold,” about Morgan’s sacking of old Panama, he wrote that the jungle was an “odious, never changing shade of green.” At least that’s how I remember the quote.

    Blue is one of my favorites. Especially that blue you come upon heading east from Port Everglades through the sparkling green inshore waters and suddenly hit the deep, indescribable blue of the Gulf Stream and flying fish skitter over the wave tops to escape your wake.

    But red…now that’s the color for me. I’m the kind of guy who believes the height of sartorial splendor is a pair of cut-offs and a brightly-colored shirt with lots of parrots on it. (One afternoon sitting in Chez Charlie’s Pub in Antibes, France, chatting with the barmaid, Jane, a Brit, unknown to either of us, walked in and took a look at me resplendent in my orange shirt adorned with purple palm trees and green yellow and red parrots. “You know why American’s talk so loud?” he asked Jane. Without waiting for a reply he said,”so you can hear them over their clothes.” You’d delete Jane’s response.

    I absolutely detest shopping for clothes. This is probably the result of having been dragged into Boston a couple of times a week when I was a kindergartner so my grandmother could sift through the bargains in Filene’s Basement and Jordan Marsh. I usually wait until I’m down to my last pair of jeans or chinos before I’ll go into a store and buy enough of a supply so I won’t have to go again for another couple of years.

    In my sophomore year of high school when we made our annual trek to Puritan Clothing Store in Hyannis for our school-year fitting-out I spied the most glorious red sports jacket that had ever been tailored. Think fox hunting or the sentries at the gates of Buckingham Palace. THAT sort of red. It was the only one of its kind on the rack and it screamed at me “we were made for each other.” Naturally I had to have it. I tried it on, and it FIT!

    Of course my mother, direct descendant of the Pilgrims, was completely appalled and refused to buy it for me. But that wasn’t a problem. I’d worked all summer in the family restaurant and had the money so I paid for it myself.

    A few weeks later I decked myself out in a pair of black slacks, a white dress shirt, a clip-on black bow tie and my scarlet jacket. Three or four palms-full of Brylcreem (screw that “a little dab’ll do you, nonsense)gave me that Adolph Menjou look and I went to the first record hop of the new school year. Let me tell you, I was a HIT! Nobody had ever seen anything like it before. The girls swooned and the guys stood in total awe.

    That was the year Bobby Day came out with his one-hit wonder:

    The next year, 1959, scarlet sports coats were all the rage. I hung mine in the closet and never put it on again. Lead, follow or get out of the way. I had led.


    I’ve tried to comment on your comment twice, but “stuff” got in the way – and the first time, it was all your fault. I listened to “Rockin’ Robin”, and you know it wasn’t more than an hour later I stopped bouncing from one ’60s youtube to the next, trying to remember whatever DID happen to that gray felt poodle skirt with the rinestone leashes and….

    It was quite a time, and I want you to know “Rockin’ Robin” was one of the tunes playing when my partner and I won a homecoming dance contest. Another was “At the Hop” by Danny and the Juniors. But that was the “nice” rock’n’roll that my dad didn’t mind too much. He never was sure about stuff like this:

    I’ve been tracking hurricane Richard pretty closely, since I’ve got friends and acquaintances in the Bay Islands of Honduras and Belize. Between that and your comments about green, I started wondering – do you have “seasons” there, as we did in Liberia? Granted, it was primarily “dry season” and “rainy” season, but there was a distinction. During the dry season, there was plenty of color around, since the laterite dust covered everything. In fact, one of the best-known books about Liberia is called “Red Dust on the Green Leaves”.

    The first time I got to the Caribbean and Bahamas, I was astounded by the color(s) of the water. Just couldn’t believe it. Of course, my first view of the “ocean” was the Gulf of Mexico, in Texas, and I don’t need to tell you what that was like. Eventually I understood about rivers and silt and runoff and all that, but it still never seems as though the “ocean” ought to look like that. When I finally got to Florida and toured around there for a while, I gave them high “water marks”, too. ;-)

    You tickled me with you reference to Filene’s basement. I’ve never been to a sale there, but I’ve heard stories. Wonderful stories. And your story about the red/scarlet jacket was just wonderful – especially since I remember those days. And of course there were those other songs – “Scarlet Ribbons” and “A White Sport Coat & a Pink Carnation”. (Or, “pink crustacean, for the parrotheads out there)

    It’s funny – Proserpina, who began the color blogs, is ending them this week with “Black”, for Halloween. My first suggestion for her black blog was – Coco Chanel’s Little Black Dress. I don’t have my original, but I have the pearls. ;-)

    Thanks for the memories, and the wonderful stories.


  24. Linda,

    Just returned from a two-day visit to San Antonio’s Riverwalk which is lined with Cypress trees, reminding me of soldiers standing guard. One tree was recently dated by experts as over 300 years old; it looked no larger to my eye than most — so perhaps these trees were standing watch when Santa Ana bore down on the Alamo.

    I accompanied my daughter Kara — her last trip before the baby comes — who was out for fall break. The weather was perfect and we had fun celebrating new life and yesterday, my old one. Today, I’m thinking of you and wondering if you are celebrating another year of life with your mother near by. I hope so. HBD



    Lucky you, to have such delightful weather for a trip to the Riverwalk. I imagine you know that Comfort and Cypress Creek are only about 40 miles north of where you were, with Medina just a bit more north and west.

    I do love the Alamo, although the Mission and Presidio in Goliad are equally important historically and equally interesting to visit. “Remember Goliad” has its own cachet in certain circles ;-)

    And yes – there was a sharing of a dinner down on the water with mom and a friend. We had to pretty much shoe-horn her out of the house, but once the deed was done, it was enjoyable. Thanks for the good wishes!


  25. Poodle skirts and those wickedly pointy bras of the time that could easily put someone’s eye out. To quote Monty Python…say no more. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

    I’ll have to get back to you on the season thing here. I’ve only been down here for a couple of weeks in the “dry” season and everything was sere and dust covered then. As a reader of my blog you know we’re in the “rainy” season now which the Panamanians regard as their winter and we’ve had record rains every month. But I’ll take the rain over snow any day. Last month we had 72 inches of rain. If we accept that 10 inches of snow equal one inch of rain that would have been 60 feet of snow in one month. Yuck. December is the start of the “dry” season, our “summer” here and the schools let out.

    I’ve been watching hurricane Richard, too. Not only because it’s my namesake but I spent a couple of months there on my “Nancy Dawson” back in ’92. Belize has caught some horrible hurricanes in its history. I remember seeing pictures of Hurricane Iris that hit southern Belize around my favorite town of Placentia with 145 mph winds October 8, 2001. It damaged 95% of the homes and carried a 14 foot storm surge over what is essentially a flat portion of the country.

    Twenty people were killed and another eight listed as missing when the dive boat “Wave Dancer” capsized at the dock in Big Creek just a few miles away from Placentia. Looking at the picture it was right where I anchored three times checking in and out of the country at the Customs and Immigrations facilities there.

    I sure hope they don’t catch anything like that this time.

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