LINES FROM LYDIA: ANOTHER LIBRARY

ANOTHER LIBRARY

by Lydia Bogar

I love “The Low Country”–its history, culture, and food–which makes the Carolinas a good draw.  But the fact that my “best-est” friend lives on Pawley’s Island makes it an even more alluring destination.

I am also a book and library junkie who particularly likes reading local histories while visiting.  In the process, I’ve become a bit of a Civil War buff of which there is a ton in this area.  On Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina, there is a gem of a library that provides all of that and more.

For the past forty years, the Edgar Allen Poe Public Library on Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina has enjoyed its new “old” home in the upgraded Gadsden Battery.

The Battery, built in 1903  and named to the National Register of Historic Places in July of 1974,  hosted four six-inch guns during its active military.  The gun mounts remain in place today.   The walls are two feet thick, and it survived a direct hit by Hurricane Hugo in 1989.

Colonel James Gadsden, for whom the Battery was named, was an engineer during the War of 1812, and during the Seminole Wars, he was the Quartermaster General of the Florida Volunteers at Fort Moultrie located just down the road.  The fort is open to visitors and provides great views of Charleston Harbor, perfect for sunrise photographers

Why Poe?  The American writer was stationed on Sullivan’s Island in 1827, and he used this unique barrier island as the setting for his story, The Gold Bug.  The 2,000 square foot library (serving Sullivan’s Island population of nearly 2,000) houses over 15,000 books and remains well protected from storms (including its most recent visitor, Irma).  As part of its most recent upgrade, the library is now equipped with both Wi-Fi and computer work stations. If, like me,  you are a history buff or, also like me,  enjoy seeking out unique, even strange buildings, the Edgar Allen Poe Library is for you.  (The address is 1921 Ion Avenue, and the GPS coordinates are 32.7597 N, 79.8406 W.)

Another truly unique spot is Dunleavy’s Pub, around the corner from the library, at 2213 Middle Street.  The pub is a piece of real New England in the deep south whose owners are transplanted New Englanders themselves.  They  host a fabulous annual party on Fenway’s Opening Day and have treated patrons to celebrations of two of the three most recent Super Bowl wins–in style. (Their web address is www.dunleavysonsullivan.com and their coordinates are 32.7632323 N, -79.8367511 W.)

After all, who doesn’t get thirsty at the library?

BOLLI Matters co-editor Lydia Bogar soaks up a little low country flavor.

Our own “Renaissance Woman,” Lydia has done everything from teaching English to doing volunteer emergency service.  We’re lucky to have her volunteering, these days, to help with BOLLI Matters!

MORE MEMOIR WRITING FROM DENNIS GREENE: FERTILE NEW MEXICAN TOPSOIL

Fertile New Mexican Topsoil

By Dennis Greene

            I have always wondered if my mother’s penchant for cleanliness prevented me from achieving my dream of playing for the Celtics.

In July of 1958, I went to work at Philmont Boy Scout ranch in Cimmeron, New Mexico.  When I set out, I stood five foot nothing but was full of enthusiasm.  But, by the end of the summer, after I had immersed myself in this unbelievable outdoor adventure, I had grown almost eight inches.

I  kept a low profile on the ranch work crew to avoid the attention of Smith Mullens, the trail boss. He was a tough little cowboy who didn’t say much but had a formidable look.  On one day, though, I was assigned to work with him  in a well shaft where it was impossible to avoid his notice.

“Hey, New England, when was the last time you took a shower?” Smith asked.

“I’m not sure, ” I answered. “There ‘s not much water out here in the desert.”

“It looks like there’s enough dirt and grit on your neck to grow taters, and I don’t want to think about what’s crawling in your hair, ” Smith drawled. “I have a mind to take my horse brush to you.”

“I’ll be sure to shower the next time we are at base camp, ” I promised, without any real intention of following through. I believed my filthiness might be the cause of my recent growth spurt, and I didn’t plan on washing until I was much taller.

“I’m not sure it can wait that long,”  Smith said ominously.

Smith was more of a doer than a talker.  Shortly after we finished installing a pipe, I found myself surrounded by the entire work crew. They grabbed me, threw me down in the grass, and stripped me naked. There was lots of laughing and taunting, but I wasn’t amused. I fought like a crazed wolverine but was overwhelmingly outnumbered. Two buckets of icy water hit me, and I was soaped up, head to toe, with a bar of rough laundry soap.

Then Smith Mullens appeared.

“OK, New England.  Time to shed some of that rich New Mexican topsoil,” he said,  approaching with his horse brush.

For the next few minutes, it felt as if I were being flayed alive. The laughter and taunting receded into the background as that brush scrubbed the dirt from my flesh. I thought I could see mud or blood running down my limbs and torso. It was a relief when the guys lifted me up and tossed me into the watering trough. I came up sputtering to the sound of fifteen teen-age idiots laughing their asses off.

I was so mad I wasn’t even a little embarrassed, but that night, I had to admit to myself that I felt a good deal less gritty.  But because of the kind of work we did, I soon managed to become just as dirty as I had been before the bath, and I remained covered with that New Mexican topsoil for the rest of the trip.

When my parents met me at the bus station in Albany, my mother was aghast. I thought I noticed a few tears forming, but she brushed them away quickly. We were supposed to meet a bunch of my parent’s old friends in Pittsfield for a little vacation, but she would not even allow me in the car. She got a hotel room within walking distance of the bus terminal where she ordered me to disrobe, threw away what I had on, and told me to remain in the shower until she returned with new clothes. Then, she had my dad escort me to the nearest barber for a haircut and my first shave. When I was finally presentable enough to pass her inspection, she allowed me to rejoin the family, and we headed to Camp Winadu.

I still wonder how tall I might have been if she had let me continue to grow in that rich New Mexican topsoil for just another month or two. At six-foot five, I think I could have made it to the NBA.

BOLLI member and SGL, Dennis Greene

Dennis spent his early years in and around New Bedford, Massachusetts as a reclusive bookworm, avid Boy Scout, high school basketball player and thespian.  He now lives in Wellesley where he is writing a coming of age memoir, trying to improve his golf game, attending courses and leading a new science fiction course at BOLLI–and taking frequent naps. 

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                Share your memoir writing with BOLLI Matters readers!                 Send items to susanlwurster@gmail.com

MARCH’S SENIOR MOMENT WITH ELEANOR JAFFEE: THE OPOID CRISIS

THE OPIOID CRISIS, ME…AND YOU

By Eleanor Jaffe

     I don’t know about you, but the current opioid epidemic in the U.S. feels… distant.  I don’t personally know anyone or anyone’s child who is “hooked.”  But when I think more deeply, I must admit that prescription drugs almost did me in about twelve years ago.  At that point, it was less well known that prescription drugs, painkillers, are often the gateway to addiction.  At least it wasn’t known to me.

      It wasn’t really known to physicians, either.  Siddhartha Mukherjee wrote in the NY Times Magazine on February 4 that “We were living, then, in what might be called the opioid pre-epidemic…Pain, we had been told as medical residents, was being poorly treated (true) —- and pharmaceutical companies were trying to convince us daily that a combination of long and short-acting opioids could cure virtually any form of it with minimal side effects (not true.). The cavalier overprescription of addictive drugs was bewildering….”

     So I write this as a cautionary tale.  Major surgery may be in your future as it was in my past, and terrible pain may accompany it.  The use—or overuse—of painkillers, Vicodin, Percocet, or Oxycodone, can lead to dependency or getting “hooked.”  That’s what happened to me, at least temporarily….and innocently.

   My major surgery about twelve years ago was double knee replacement.  My painful arthritic knee joints which had limited me in so many ways were replaced by artificial ones.  Both were done at the same time during the same surgery, and while it was a success, I was in terrible pain for several months. 

    I needed “heavy duty” drugs to keep me going, to tolerate movement and physical therapy, even to sleep.  The labels read, “Take 2 every 4 hours,” and “Take 2 every 12 hours,” and “as needed.”  At the same time, the advice was to “Stay ahead of the pain,” that is, anticipate that you will be in pain, so take the medication before the pain seizes you.

     But if you “Stay ahead of the pain,” how will you even know if you need the pain killer? And how will you know when it is time to ease off the medications? This was the conundrum, at least for me.

     My surgeon was no help.  When I told him, after one month, that I had become melancholy and depressed, was frequently crying, and had no appetite (I lost 14 pounds in 6 weeks), and (almost distressing of all) I could not understand what I tried to read!  He simply told me to “get off the drugs.” But when I tried to stop the meds completely, it was worse.  I was in terrible pain.

     Another physician—my son who practices physical medicine and rehabilitation 2,000 miles away in Utah—advised that I needed the meds, but that I needed to get on a regimen of phased withdrawal, gradually reducing and then extinguishing my needs.  “I can’t believe this is happening to my own mother!” he said.  It took three months to get past the need for the drugs.

     Physicians are now well aware that prescription medications—their prescriptions—provide gateways to addiction.  Physicians are supposed to limit the amount of these prescription meds to a few at a time.  Additional meds now require additional prescriptions.  And yet, too many are willing to keep signing prescriptions.

     This is a “painful” story in many ways:  my gullibility regarding pain medication, my “addiction,” my poor choices, my surgeon’s insensitivity and mismanagement of my condition post-op, and more.  But in light of the opioid crisis facing all of us in this country, I share this dismal and frightening medical history with you.  After all, you, too, may be a candidate for major surgery with its accompanying pain.  Be wary of these painkillers.  In the short term, they relieve your pain.  In the long term, they cause addiction and possibly even death. 

“Senior Moment” writers Eleanor Jaffe (left) and Liz David

As I grow older, I am more interested in the conditions, changes, services, culture, and even politics affecting me, my husband of over 50 years, my friends — and my 100 years old mother.  What does it mean to be growing older in today’s society? 

      

FEBRUARY SENIOR MOMENT WITH LIZ DAVID: NARROW BRIDGE

NARROW BRIDGE

by Liz David

In 1988, I wrote a thesis entitled “A Narrow Bridge” in partial fulfillment of the requirements for my Masters Degree in Expressive Therapies from Lesley College. The major purpose of the thesis was to explore fears and how they get in the way of healing and then to conceptualize ways to deal with fear.

“Life is but a narrow bridge with no beginning and no end, and the main thing, the main thing, is not to be afraid,”  said Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav.

The following is a piece I discovered as I was researching the thesis. I offer it as an inspiration and a challenge.

                                                TRANSFORMATION

The old woman who was wicked in her honesty asked questions of her mirror.  When she was small she asked, “Why am I afraid of the dark? Why do I feel I will be devoured?” And her mirror answered, “Because you have reason to fear. You are small, and you might be devoured.  Because you are nothing but a shadow, a wisp, a seed, and you might be lost in the dark.”

And so she became large. Too large for devouring.  From that tiny seed of a self, a mighty form grew, and now it was she who cast shadows. But after a while, she came to the mirror again and asked, “Why am I afraid of my bigness?” And the mirror answered, “Because you are big.  There is no disputing who you are.  And it is not easy for you to hide.”

And so she began to stop hiding. She announced her presence.  She even took joy in it. But still, when she looked in her mirror she saw herself and was frightened, and she asked the mirror why.  “Because,” the mirror said, “no one else sees what you see, no one else can tell you if what you see is true.”  So, after that, she decided to believe her own eyes.

Once, when she felt herself growing older, she said to the mirror, “Why am I afraid of birthdays?”  “Because,” the mirror said, “there is something you have always wanted to do, and you know time is running out.”  And she ran from the mirror as quickly as she could because she knew, in that moment, that she was not afraid, and she wanted to seize the time.

Over time, she and her mirror became friends, and the mirror would weep for her in compassion when her fears were real.  Finally, her reflection asked her, “ What do you still fear?” And the old woman answered, “I still fear death.  I still fear change.”  And her mirror agreed.  “Yes, they are frightening. Death is a closed door,” the mirror flourished, “and change is a door hanging open.”

“Yes, but fear is a key,” laughed the wicked old woman, “and we still have our fears, “ she smiled.

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So, “life is but a narrow bridge with no beginning and no end and the main thing, the main thing is not to be afraid.”

If we can teach ourselves to approach life as a bridge with no beginning and no end, as if life were an endless bridge onto which we are placed on a section labeled “present,” then we have the potential for healing our wounds rather than remaining stuck in our pining for past desires or future hopes, both of which are fantasies that do not serve us because they remove us from the present.

There are no magic formulas for overcoming fear but developing the skills it takes “not to be afraid” is possible.

It takes courage!

  1. Develop understanding and knowledge of our fears
  2. Develop awareness and sensitivity to the times when we are afraid, in the moments of fear itself.
  3. You may think it is not possible, but try making a decision not to be afraid, or, at least, to put fear on the back burner.
  4. Imagine making a choice whether or not to be fearful, scared, or worried about the future.
  5. Imagine making a choice not to be afraid of change, loss, death
  6. Imagine, as the old woman in the piece above did, choosing to make fear the key to moving beyond fear into living a fearless life!
  7. It takes courage!

Courage may not be the absence of fear but, rather, courage enables us to move ahead in spite of fear.

Rollo May once said that “To live into the future means to leap into the unknown, and this requires a degree of courage for which there is no immediate precedent and which few people realize.”

Courage seems to be connected with knowing that there are choices and the ability to make them in the face of fear. Returning to the metaphor of life as a bridge, imagine this life-bridge as filled with choices. We do not choose to be born.  Most of us do not choose to die. We choose on the life-bridge between.  Rabbi Nachman’s life-bridge is the dwelling place of the things we have the most control over–our choices.

May also said that  “A man or woman becomes fully human only by his or her choices and his or her commitment to them. People attain worth and dignity by the multitude of decisions they make from day to day.  These decisions require courage.”

Courage gives us the ability to make choices knowing that mistakes are possible and making them anyway.  Our  choices further our quest to live life without being afraid. This requires knowledge of the self,  being self-centered  in a way that has nothing to do with being selfish but has a lot to do with authenticity.

May talks about courage as well.  “Courage is not a personal virtue or value among other personal values like love or fidelity,” he says.  “It is the foundation that underlies and gives reality to all other virtues and personal values.  He  also points out that courage comes from the same stem as the French word Coeur, meaning heart.

LET ME INTRODUCE MYSELF

My name is Courage

I live in the place of the heart

My door is always open to friends

And strangers alike—welcoming all

I can be very helpful when danger or fear develop

But like it most when I can just hang out

My favorite color is white, which allows me to be quite visible

But not alarming

What is puzzling is that people seem to forget about me living in their hearts

They behave as if they don’t know I exist

Or, worse yet, they know I am there and are afraid to make friends with me

Sometimes I feel crowded in my residence

Because the owner of the heart sublets to fear

And fear thinks it owns the owner

But I am honest, confident and valiant

And the main thing, the main thing is…

I am not afraid

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“Senior Moment” writers Eleanor Jaffe (left) and Liz David (right)

My passion is to help others to gain deeper understanding of themselves and the changes, losses, gains, and glories of aging. So, “grow old along with me–the best is yet to be.”

 

 

 

MINING MARILYN’S MYSTERIES: APPRECIATING POE

“Our Ms. Brooks,” mystery novel afficionado and SGL, writes a weekly blog focusing on titles and authors both new and “seasoned.”  As I explored her “Masters and Mistresses” collection, I happened on this tribute to Poe and thought you might enjoy it.  Thank you, Marilyn!

(Clicking on Marilyn’s title below will take you to her website and a deep well of material!)

EDGAR ALLAN POE: An Appreciation

Well, a bit of an apology is in order.

Last December 28th I wrote an appreciation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  In it I said that “To me, he is the father of the modern mystery story (apologies to Edgar Allan Poe, but that’s my opinion).”

One of my readers wrote last month to suggest that I write an appreciation of Poe.  He said that writing a post wouldn’t necessarily mean that I liked Poe, only that Poe shouldn’t be excluded.  And Mr. W. R. B., you are right; Poe certainly is a worthy Master.

Of course I had read many of Poe’s stories, as I imagine most people have, either in high school or in college.  In my mind Poe was quite old-fashioned, and his stories were not up to the caliber of Doyle’s.

I have just re-read two of Poe’s stories, “The Murder in the Rue Morgue” and “The Purloined Letter.”  While I still think that Poe’s stories are harder for the modern reader to find engrossing than Doyle’s, I was struck by something unexpected.  I had not realized how much Sherlock Holmes owed to Chevalier C. Auguste Dupin.  The similarities are too numerous to be coincidental; I believe that Doyle read Poe’s works (Doyle was fifty years younger than Poe and was born ten years after Poe’s death) and took several of his devices and plots and made them his own.

First there is the obvious pairing of a brilliant, eccentric detective with a not-as-astute narrator (Auguste Dupin/the unnamed narrator vs. Sherlock Holmes/Dr. Watson).  Of course, this device came to be used by many other authors, including Agatha Christie (Hercule Poirot/Captain Arthur Hastings) and Rex Stout (Nero Wolfe/Archie Goodwin).  In fact, avid mystery readers are familiar with the fact that the vowels in Sherlock Holmes are repeated in their exact order in Nero Wolfe.  A very clever homage, in my opinion.

Second is the way each author shows the brilliant reasoning power of his detective.  In “Rue Morgue,” Dupin and the narrator are taking a stroll.  There has been no conversation between them when Dupin says, “He is a very little fellow, that’s true, and would do better for the Theatre des Varietes.”  After a moment, the narrator realizes that Dupin has exactly followed his thought process since, in fact, he had been thinking that the particular actor was better suited to comedy than tragedy because of his extremely small stature.  The narrator insists that the detective explain, which Dupin does, showing how seven steps have enabled him to follow his friend’s thoughts perfectly.

In “The Adventure of the Dancing Men,” Holmes and Watson have been seated in silence for several hours when Holmes remarks, “So, Watson, you do not propose to invest in South African securities?”  Admitting his total astonishment at Holmes’ statement, Watson asks how Holmes came to that conclusion.  The detective tells him, showing how in six steps he went from seeing chalk between Watson’s fingers to deducing that Watson had decided against the investment.

And third is the “coincidence” of plot.  In “The Purloined Letter,” Dupin visits a man suspected of having an incriminating letter he plans to use for blackmail hidden in his apartment.  When a shot is heard outside, the shot having been arranged by Dupin as a diversion, the man rushes to the window and Dupin is able to substitute an identical-looking letter and leave with the original.

In the plot of “A Scandal in Bohemia,” Holmes tricks his way into Irene Adler’s home to find out where she keeps the photograph of herself and her former lover, the photograph the lover has hired Holmes to find.  The detective has arranged for a fake call of “fire” from outside to force Irene to reveal where she has hidden the picture, her most valuable possession.

Even granting that some of Doyle’s writing owes a great deal to Poe, I believe that Doyle comes out ahead.  His style is much more natural, his characters more realistic.  So, although both men were gifted writers, my vote still goes to Doyle.  In my opinion, it’s a case of the student surpassing the teacher.

Our MYSTERY MAVEN Marilyn Brooks

I’ve always been a reader and, starting with Nancy Drew (my favorite, of course), I became a mystery fan.  I think I find mysteries so satisfying because there’s a definite plot to follow, a storyline that has to make sense to be successful.  And, of course, there’s always the fun of trying to guess the ending!

My blog, published every Saturday, can be found at:   www.marilynsmysteryreads.com.

 

 

 

FROM SUE’S “SMALL SCREEN”-ING ROOM: SOME GOOD SOAP…

SOME GOOD SOAP

by Sue Wurster

It’s that time of year again–when many of us retreat into our cocoons and pull out the remote.  And for me, when that time comes round, there is nothing more satisfying than a good, solid dose of Masterpiece Theatre style soap.   Ever since the debut of Upstairs, Downstairs  in this country,  I’ve been hooked on British television.

Last year, my binge of choice was Doc Martin followed by Call the Midwife.   I recently discovered Land Girls, which helped to ease my pain over the cancellation of Home Fires after only two seasons that ended on quite the cliffhanger…I guess we’ll never know why the show was cancelled or who ended up falling over the cliff’s edge…

Land Girls was commissioned by the BBC to commemorate the 70th year since the outbreak of World War II.  The three-season series  (15 episodes in all) follows four volunteer members of the Women’s Land Army who are working in the fields at the Hoxley family estate during the war.

Another gem set in a small rural community in England during the war is Home Fires.  The focus, in this case, is on the women who comprise the local Women’s Institute who devote their energies to various and sundry home front causes during the war.   The cast is led by the marvelous Francesca Annis and Samantha Bond, and the only disappointment in the two series is that there has not been a third…

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At the moment, I am completely addicted to the acclaimed Australian series,  A Place to Call Home.   Often referred to as “Downton Down Under,” the series is set in post WWII Australia and focuses on the central character of Sarah Adams who, after twenty years absence, has recently returned to the country to start a new life.  The wonderfully enigmatic Marta Dusseldorp fully embodies the role of the mysterious Sarah in this highly satisfying soap.

Interestingly, A Place to Call Home was originally slated to run for two seasons, and the last episode of the second wraps up the various plot lines quite nicely.  But when given the unexpected go-ahead for an additional season, that ending was revamped.  There’s something quite engaging about being able to see both.  Luckily, it went on to enjoy not only a third but fourth and fifth seasons as well (and they all consist of 10 or more episodes), so, as I’m currently in the middle of season three,  I’m in good shape for a while.

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Of course, I’ve often wondered just why it is that I so prefer British television to American, and I’ve decided that it has to do with focus.  To me, BBC storytelling seems to be driven by character rather than by situation–and for me, that seems to provide more “heart” to the mix.

These items are available on DVD.  Land Girls is available on Netflix, and Home Fires is on Amazon Prime Video.   A Place to Call Home is streaming on Acorn TV and Britbox.  (If you’re a BBC junkie like me, the latter two are well worth the price.)

BOLL Matters co-editor Sue Wurster

So, if you’ve got suggestions for me and my fellow BBC addicts, please share in the box below!

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