Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day 2010

The military cemetery behind Fort Adams in Newport, RI

Music appropriate for the day - the great Eric Bogle's "No Man's Land", reaction to the death of a WWI soldier and a rumination on the nature of war and the governments that declare it.

War is sometimes necessary, but there's nothing glorious about it whatsoever. As General William Tecumseh Sherman is famous for telling some new recruits in 1879: "There is many a boy here today who looks on war as all glory, but, boys, it is all Hell." However, most wars aren't necessary at all, but rather the result of greed, aggression, or failed foreign policy - avoidable, except that those who declared them had a vested interest in waging war. Someone somewhere (I forget who now) said that if the old men who declare war had to fight in them we'd have world peace tomorrow. Another quote about war, this time about the causes, come from Baha'i leader 'Abdu'l-Baha on a visit to Paris in 1912: "Land belongs not to one people, but to all people. This earth is not man's home, but his tomb. It is for their tombs these men are fighting."

And those who suffer are the ones sent to fight for somebody else's cause. As Eric Bogle says in "No Man's Land":
And I can't help but wonder, now Willie McBride,
Do all those who lie here know why they died?
Did you really believe them when they told you 'The Cause?'
Did you really believe that this war would end wars?
Well the suffering, the sorrow, the glory, the shame
The killing, the dying, it was all done in vain,
For Willie McBride, it all happened again,
And again, and again, and again, and again.
And again, as John McCutcheon writes in his own song "Christmas in the Trenches":
The ones who call the shots won't be among the dead and lame,
And on each end of the rifle we're the same.
So today we pay respects to the young men and women who were sent to do somebody else's dirty work. We pray long and hard that humanity will come to its senses and start to see war as a last resort and not as a standard foreign policy tool. And we pray that those now in harm's way in another part of the world come home safe and sound. Bring 'em home, and bring 'em home soonest! Here's Jesse Colin Young asking the same thing in his 2008 song "Bring 'Em Home":

Photo & text © 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger; lyrics to "No Man's Land" © 1976 by Eric Bogle; lyrics to "Christmas in the Trenches" © 1984 by John McCutcheon.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Busy Holiday Sunday

Today was bird walk Sunday, so the day started out at the Norman Bird Sanctuary, and because my ride had to be back in town earlier than usual, I got more time for my regular Sunday constitutional, so I wandered a bit farther than usual, with good results.

In the Sanctuary itself we first ran into a deer along one of the trails (top left). Just beyond it is a field full of Bluebird houses; unfortunately it looks like there are no Bluebirds taking them up on the offer. But the Tree Swallows are out in force, and we suspect it's they who are taking up residence instead; I managed to get a shot of one posing atop one of the house poles (top right). Down the road at Third Beach along property owned by the NBS we saw this Willow Flycatcher perched on a wire (bottom left); there were plenty of them around, and their characteristic FITZ-hew was in the air the whole time we were down there. And finally, when I got back into Newport and wandered through Ballard Park I ran into this immature Cooper's Hawk (bottom right) perched on a dead branch over the Vernal Pond in the quarry.

Down on Hazard Rd. in the Gooseneck Cove salt marsh I found lots of Blue-eyed Grass.

And down on the Ocean Drive end of the Cove at the Green Bridge, Tern Rock is full of Common Terns.

I found some Forget-me-nots growing along Hammersmith Road.

And I got a surprise at Hammersmith Farm - in one of the fenced-in areas among the sheep and goats I saw this African Spurred Tortoise (Geochelone sulcata). I have no idea what it was doing there amidst all the heritage breed farm animals!

And finally, this shot of the tour schooner Madelaine sailing out of Newport Harbor into Narragansett Bay past the Rose Island Lighthouse, shot from Fort Adams.

And that was the long walk today. Whew! I'm tired! And a tad bit sunburned, too. It's time for some iced tea and a nap.

© 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Sight & Sound - Aspen Grove

Quaking Aspen leaves in the Aspen grove in Ballard Park.

Music: "Hunter's Twilight" by R. Carlos Nakai (flute) & William Eaton (guitar)

Photo © 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Theme Thursday - Wrinkle

Hmmmm... Well, since Megan once told me the definitions on these themes can be very wide, I've decided to consider ripples to fit the wrinkle definition.

However, this close-up of one of my denim shirts definitely fits the traditional wrinkle definition.

For videos this week, I fed "wrinkle" into YouTube's search engine. Heh, heh! Mostly I got videos touting various wrinkle creams and anti-wrinkle treatments, but there was some music in there. Like this tune called "Wrinkles" by a group called Diamond Rio. I'd never heard of them before; they seem like nice enough fellows, putting out fairly mainstream commercial Country & Western. In any case, here's their song "Wrinkles":

I also found a song called "Wrinkle" by a band called Dufus. I'd never head of these guys either. Founder Seth Faergolzia calls his music "anti-folk", whatever that means. Mostly it sounds like goofy acoustic good-time music, so check out "Wrinkle":

And last but not least, a song that's not about wrinkles, but played by a bunch of older guys who have their share of wrinkles. This is the Old and in the Way reunion band from 2002 or so - Peter Rowan, lead vocal & guitar; David Grisman, mandolin & vocals; Vassar Clements, fiddle; Herb Pedersen, banjo & vocals; Bryn Bright, bass. The band had originally gotten together in 1975; the original banjo player was Jerry Garcia and the original bassist was John Kahn. In 2002 they got back together replacing the original members who'd passed away in the meantime; the put out an album called Old and in the Gray and did a tour. This is from the tour, the band performing Peter Rowan's "Land of the Navajo". Enjoy!

Photos & text © 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Mystery Solved!

Saturday I posted about an odd anomaly I discovered in Island Cemetery - three 18th Century slate gravestones in an overwhelmingly granite and marble 19th and 20th Century graveyard. And not only that, but the dates on the stones didn't make sense. Thomas Mumford died in 1770, and his wife Abigail died in 1784, but buried next to them is one Hannah Mumford, "Daughter of Mr. Thomas Mumford & Abigail his Wife", who died on September 10, 1788 aged 11 months and 26 days. Now what was all that about?

This was by far the most obvious anomaly, but not the only one. Abigail's stone was without a doubt carved by John Stevens III - it has all his most identifiable hallmarks - but while Hannah's stone looks like a John III stone, there are a few things that were throwing me off, mostly in that there was an uncharacteristic roughness to the work. As for Thomas's stone, this wasn't the work of the John Stevens Shop at all, but who else (besides John Bull, who despite his own flair and stylistic uniqueness was nonetheless a carver of the Stevens school) was carving gravestones in Newport in 1770? Research was needed.

So I had an appointment to do some research in the library at the Newport Historical Society this morning at 10. Bert Lippincott, the librarian, gave me a card file of entries for anyone named Mumford, and while I started looking through that he found me a genealogy book of the Mumford family. This is when the picture started unfolding. Reading through the book reveals that there were a ton of Thomas Mumfords, starting with the Thomas Mumford who first came over The Pond and settled in South Kingstown (west over Narragansett Bay from here, on the mainland) in the 1650s. And believe it or not, he also married an Abigail. It looks to be a tradition in the SK Mumford family to name one of their sons Thomas, and that Thomas almost always married a woman named Abigail (I think I only found 2 Thomases who didn't marry an Abigail in the Mumford Family book at the NHS). The Thomas with the slate stone in Island Cemetery was actually the son of a Benjamin Mumford, son of Thomas III, but nevertheless he married Abigail Gardiner in 1751. This is where it gets even weirder. They had a son named (yup, you guessed it!) Thomas in 1758. The record on this particular Mumford line ends here in both the Mumford and the Gardiner genealogy books, but...

I went back to Island Cemetery this morning after finishing up at the NHS to check up on something. And sure enough, those marble stones behind the slate stones were indeed Mumfords, one of which was for the Thomas who was born in 1758 and was the son of the Thomas and Abigail under the slate stones. And he married a woman named Abigail (I swear, those Mumfords had no imagination at all!), buried under the marble stone next to his. Hannah was their daughter. [Note: Hannah's stone was carved by John Stevens III; I found his carved "J S" right down at the grass line! I can't account for the things that threw me off, except to plead that I'm still fairly new at identifying stonecarvers and still can get thrown off by the variations in an individual's body of work.]

It's tough to read these; marble wears more than slate through the ages. Thomas was born June 15, 1758 and died April 11, 1844; Abigail was born September 11, 1761 and died April 15, 1845. The last stone to the right in the top photo is forth their son John, whose dates are mostly hidden; his birth date was in 1794, but the death date was below ground.

I called Bert at the NHS when I got home to fill him in on what I'd found, and we speculated as to what happened. The first Thomas died in 1770 over in South Kingstown and was buried there, and his stone was carved by a local or at least by somebody who didn't have to cross water, say somebody from Providence or Connecticut, hence the different style. After the Revolutionary War, the second Thomas moved across the Bay to Newport, and brought his mother with him, or when she entered her final illness she went to die in her son's home (a common thing back then, I'm told). When Thomas buried his mother, he had his father moved over here next to her, and when his own daughter Hannah died he buried her next to them. And he commissioned John Stevens III to carve the stones for his mother and daughter.

By the way, this Thomas and Abigail also had a son named Thomas - Thomas G.B. Mumford, born January 16, 1815. Thomas G.B. broke the pattern, though; he married a woman named Caroline. About time!

And there's the mystery solved, with some legwork, poring through old books, help from Bert at the NHS, and returning to the scene for another look. Now it's not so puzzling any more.

Although I do wish the Mumfords had had a little more imagination; there's no excuse for all those Thomases and wives named Abigail!

© 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Scenes from the Macro-World - Sunday, Walking

Nature observed at nose's end on my Sunday constitutional.

Blackberry blossoms beside the Twin Ledges Trail in Ballard Park.

Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum) in the Aspen grove in Ballard Park.

A Ladybug on some Water Hemlock near the Vernal Pond in the Quarry in Ballard Park.

© 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Ghosts of Newport Past - Slate in Island Cemetery

I've been showing you all this marble and granite in Island Cemetery, but believe it or not there are some slate stones as well, including three 18th Century ones. I noticed this today when I wandered through there; it's been an overcast, diffuse light day, which I figured was the perfect light for photographing gravestones, so off I went.

I first started thinking about slate stones, a rarity after the 18th Century, when I ran across these three Mumford family stones: Thomas, who died in 1770 there at the left, and Abigail (1784) and Hannah (1788), below. And noticed several mysteries. The first is what these stones are doing in Island cemetery at all; they really belong in the Common Burying Ground just down the hill. These are the earliest stones in Island Cemetery, and the fact that there are other, later Mumford stones nearby suggests that the family moved these graves up the hill to be with the rest of the family. But there are other Mumford family stones down in the CBG; were these three somehow special?

Another mystery is who carved Thomas's stone. There are some Stevens Shop characteristics to the lettering and the elements on the finials and borders, but that soul effigy in the tympanum is like no Stevens effigy I've ever seen. I couldn't find mention of this stone in Luti's Mallet & Chisel; in fact, there's no mention of any of these three there. I think Vincent must have missed these when he did his research for the book.

Abigail's stone, on the left, is easily identified as the work of John Stevens III; it has all his classic earmarks, and is one beautiful piece of work. But there's something just plain "off" about Hannah's stone. In the first place it looks almost like a "counterfeit" John III stone. It has many of his characteristics, but they're clumsily done, like those floral decorations on the finials - same basic element, but clumsy and awkwardly finished. The border around the soul effigy in the tympanum is not a John III element at all, and the lettering is in a somewhat different style. Was this John III on an off day, or was somebody copying him?

But weirdest of all on Hannah's stone is the date. Thomas died on September 15, 1770, and Abigail died on May 26, 1784. So how in the world did Hannah, whose stone states that she's the daughter of Thomas and Abigail, die on September 10, 1788 "aged 11 months and 26 days"? Is it a "typo" maybe? Certainly 1768 would make much more sense. All in all, there are things about this stone that guarantee I'll be down to the Newport Historical Society asking questions and doing some digging on Monday.

But 18th Century stones aren't the only slate stones in Island Cemetery. There are such stones here and there, but there are 9 stones in particular that grabbed my attention. I suspect, from the use of slate, the lettering styles, and the decorative styles, that these were carved by the John Stevens Shop after it was bought by John Howard Benson (1927) and passed down in his family - to his son John Everett "Fud" Benson and grandson Nicolas Benson. The first three stones - Caroline Wilks (upper left), Nina Maud Wilks (upper right) and Eleanor V. Fletcher (lower left) - appear to be sisters. The last stone - William Greenough and his wife Charlotte Warren - is one of 6 stones that appear to be a family group comprising of various members of the Greenough and Rives families.

Cemeteries are such interesting places to wander in!

© 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Friday, May 21, 2010

Two... Two... Two Days in One

I was out and about yesterday and today, but since I had my Theme Thursday post up for yesterday, I decided to post both days' shots together in one post today. I hope you don't mind!


I just kind of wandered yesterday, ending up going down Bellevue Ave. and then heading over to the Cliff Walk and going back home that way. Below are the things that caught my attention. Below left is the trunk of an ancient, gnarled, and ivied Copper Beech along Bellevue Ave. There's something just so Ent-like about old Beeches! Below right is a Song Sparrow singing, with the ocean and Easton's Point in the background. And the bottom photo is yet more Wisteria, this time hanging over an old wooden fence above the Cliff Walk.


Today I went down to Ballard Park with a specific idea - to see how the Blue Flag patch in the Aspen grove in the Quarry Meadow was coming along. When I was down there Sunday there were buds, and considering the temps this week (we've been fairly warm) I wondered if they'd burst into bloom. Well, they sure had! We've had an unusually warm Spring this year, and the foliage and blooming schedule is at least two if not three weeks ahead of normal. These Irises don't usually bloom until into the second week of June. In any case, here's the patch of Blue Flag (Iris family) in the shade of the Quaking Aspen grove.

And of course I had to crawl up on one of the blooms to get a down-the-throat macro shot.

Also in the shade of the Aspen grove were these unknown white flowers. By the foliage and the structure of the flowers I'm pretty sure these are in the Lily family. The plant is somewhat low-lying, and the flowers are fairly small - 1/2" to 3/4" (1.27mm to 1.9mm). I've seen them here and there around town and they're almost always growing in shade. They're very pretty!

Down behind the Vernal Pond I found a hillside full of Celandine. Frank Amaral just cleared out this section between the pond and the quarry wall last year; it had been full of invasive plants, most notably Japanese Knotweed and Japanese Honeysuckle. Now that it's been cleared out more interesting plants like the Celandine can grow free from interference.

And at the top of that little hillside was a very dense patch of Buttercups. When you see these beauties you know that Spring is winding down and summer is not far away.

And that's two days' worth of pictures that passed quality control!

© 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Theme Thursday - Pets

For the last 20 years or so I've been living in apartments that don't allow pets, so I don't have any personal cute critters to show you. I do, however, get shots of other people's pets from time to time. Here are a few.

This is the cat who lives next door to the Clifton Burying Ground, a colonial-era cemetery at the corner of Thomas and Golden Hill Streets, up the hill behind the Newport Public Library. The charm of this particular graveyard is that it sits amidst a bunch of neighboring backyard gardens; this kitty belongs to one of those backyards, and often greet visitors to the cemetery. She often accompanies me on my crawls through the place, getting head-on views of the gravestones. She's probably wondering what this crazy human is up to.

This is Rocco, looking adoringly at his mistress (who let me tell you is well worth adoring!). This was taken at King Park on the south end of Newport Harbor, where Rocco and his lady are frequent visitors. When the summer concert series in the park is in full swing the two of them are always in attendance.

You've seen this one recently, but I had to include it here - a Golden Retriever getting a ride on his master's sit-on-top kayak at Belmont beach on the Cliff Walk.

And last but not least, Hitty's Kitties. My friend Virginia inherited these three from a co-worker (named Donna Hittie, hence the name) who died earlier this year. They are, from left to right: Merlin, Dolly, and Serafina.

Okay, on to the videos... I couldn't help myself; for a theme about pets, I just had to include one of the cartoon episodes of America's favorite domestic duo - Tweety and Sylvester.

The song that popped into my head as soon as I saw what the theme would be was Jerry Leiber and Mile Stoller's "Hound Dog". But not the Elvis version. Nope, I want to go with the original version of this by Big Mama Thornton, for whom Leiber and Stoller wrote it. So here's Miz Willie Mae in all her glory!

And last but not least... Who doesn't know about Andrew Lloyd Weber's Broadway-musicalization of T.S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. Yes, I'm talking about Cats, but I promise not to post a clip of "Memory"; I'm not that cruel! However, I do want to send this one out to my friends Ina and Kevin in memory of Gus, their sort-of resident feral cat who didn't come back from his Winter wanderings this year. So here you go, guys - "Gus: The Theater Cat". Enjoy!

Photos & text © 2007, 2008, & 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Scenic Route

I took the scenic route on the way to do errands in downtown Newport - down Old Beach Road to Easton's Pond, across Memorial Blvd. to Easton's Beach, around the corner to hit a stretch of the Cliff Walk, and a stroll through the Salve Regina University area. Naturally, I had the camera with me.

An unidentified flowering shrub along Old Beach Road.

Least Sandpipers foraging along the moat around Easton's Pond.

The very large, very ancient Snapping Turtle who lives in the moat. My friend Nikki calls it the "Primordial Beast".

Yellow Wood Sorrel along the Cliff Walk.

Scarlet Pimpernel along the Cliff Walk.

Royal Paulonia along the Cliff Walk. This tree was imported from China by garden landscapers in the 19th Century, purportedly to add a little "oriental" exoticism to the gardens they were designing for the oceanfront mansions. They've spread out from those gardens since then.

Beach Rose along the Cliff Walk. This flower is ubiquitous along the New England coast.

Wisteria hanging decorously from a porch roof on Webster Ave.

© 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Ballard Park in Macro, and Two Birds

Today was a good day for viewing Ballard Park in super close-up; lots of things blooming that are best viewed through the macro lens. The Lily-of-the-Valley and the Canada Mayflower are still going strong, but the flower that many of us have been anxiously awaiting is finally up - the Jack-in-the-Pulpits back by the seasonal stream are finally up! These aren't small flowers by any means, but the way they're constructed makes the close-up view the best view of all.

And even closer...

Of course, the Canada Mayflower is still blooming...

As is the Lily-of-the-Valley, although it's almost past its peak:

Insect life is picking up, and today I saw my first Orchard Orb Weaver spider (Leucauge venusta) of the season:

Birds are much more active now, especially now that the Spring migratories have arrived. There was lots of birdsong in the park, but since the foliage is pretty much fully out, it's tough to see more than just motion. I heard lots of songs: the usual Catbirds and Robins and Cardinals and Chickadees and Tufted Titmice, but also Eastern Towhees, Goldfinches, Yellow Warblers, Common Yellowthroats, Phoebes, Great Crested Flycatchers, Downy Woodpeckers, a Northern Flicker, and at least one Baltimore Oriole (and if that isn't a gorgeous sound!). But I didn't actually get to see any birds until I got out of the park and down Hazard Rd. to the Gooseneck Cove salt marsh. There were several flocks of Least Sandpipers skimming above the water and landing in the marsh grass, but only this one came close enough and actually posed for the camera:

There were lots of Yellow Warblers around, but they like to hide. This one finally stayed in one fairly naked tree and commenced to warbling. I got about 10 shots of this beauty, but this is the best one. Enjoy!

© 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger