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Monday, January 03, 2022

London 2014: All Hallows by the Tower; The Oldest Church in Londan has Links to America!


    I've never seen so many churches in my life than in this "green and pleasant land." The face of this country is covered by small village churches and great cathedrals, with thousands of years of Christian prayer, will and determination virtually holding them together in some cases. By 1643 there were one hundred churches of note in the one square mile which makes up the official City of London as bounded by the River Thames and the old Roman walls. While I am not a Christian, I find the history enclosed in British churches a moving testimony to the greater society in which they were and are still anchored. Oft times I am completely taken aback at the connections I find inside these ancient houses of worship. 
The Tower of London is off to the left out of sight.
   All Hallows by the Tower called to me as we visited the adjacent Tower of London. I could hear the voices of centuries whispering--beckoning to me--over the modern din of thousands of tourists milling on Tower Hill waiting for buses, snapping pictures, eating lunches, and buying tickets to see the Yeoman Warders and the Royal Jewels. 
   I felt the inexorable pull of All Hallows church standing tall in the face of modern encroachment: a Kitchen Tower restaurant stands on the premises of the old churchyard, its cranked stereo spewing out loud music which would indeed wake the dead had they not been disinterred to make space for yet another commercial concern. A sign for KFC stands out in vulgar relief against the bricks of the churchyard wall. Tower Place West rises above and behind All Hallows church, a ghastly glass tribute to Mammon reaching outward toward the chapel, ready to gobble it up for some enormous sum I'm sure.
   I wanted to capture a striking picture of All Hallows church tower reflected in the modern glass building across the street from the church. As I walked away from All Hallows, toward the clear glass canopy of Tower place in order to gain a wider perspective for my camera, two foreign security guards warned me off with hand signs. I attempted to explain I wanted to stand just under the canopy to photograph the church and I was basically warned to get out with vigorous head shakes and shooing motions of their hands and arms as they began to march toward me, their unfriendly grimaces ensuring they meant business. All Hallows has withstood the ravages of time and the tidal Thames; it survived direct bombing in WWII. Will it survive another millennium without further bits being carved away for corporate greed? I sincerely hope so.
From this tower local man and diarist Samuel Pepys watched in horror as the Great Fire Of London on September 1st, 1666 raced down Tower street consuming everything in tis pat. of it he wrote, "I up to the top of Barking steeple and there saw the saddest site of desolation I ever saw. Everywhere great fires, the fire spread as far as I could see it."
All Hallows by the Tower with one of the famed Dragons which guard entry to the one square mile City of London.
  There has been a Christian community at All Hallows for 1339 years. It is located at the far southeastern edge of boundaries of the City of London, guarded from without by one of London's famous Dragons.
  This church literally embodies nineteen centuries of architecture, having been built on the foundations of an older Roman building--the remains of a tessellated mosaic floor from a house which once stood on the spot--may be seen in the under croft.  
I have walked on the very same tiles as were trod by Roman sandled feet. It is an eerie feeling, standing on the floor of a Roman home from 90 AD. If only those tiles could talk!
   There exists as well a carved arch from the Saxon church which predated the current one by a thousand years or more. It supported the walls of a sanctuary here in the 6th century and was eventually enclosed in the walls of All Hallows, only to be uncovered in 1940 by a bomb blast which destroyed the medieval church walls.

This is THE oldest known surviving Saxon arch in London which bears testament to the foundations of All Hallows in 675 AD. It stands in the west end of the nave.The top of the arch is made from Roman roof tiles recycled by the Saxons. 

The upper piece of a large wheeled stone cross was found under the nave of the church in 1951 when rebuilding commenced after the bomb damage in WWII. This burial stone is dated to 900 AD and is inscribed in Anglo-Saxon, "Thelvar had this stone set up over here..."

   The Croke Altar carved of Purbeck marble as a tomb for London Alderman John Croke (1477) is an amazing artifact. Destroyed by a direct bomb hit in WWII, his tomb was painstakingly restored from 1500 fragments. This marble altar records the effigies of the Alderman, his eight sons, his wife Margaret, and his five daughters.  

   Inside this amazingly humble and modest community church is a series of paintings on four panels of a winged triptych from the 1500's by a Flemish painter,  featuring various saints of the church and Sir Robert Tate kneeling for baptism by Jesus' cousin John. Sir John is of the family concern from which the Tate and Lyle Sugar company has sprung.
    There are brasses from the 1500's embedded in the floor of the nave picturing Jesus' resurrection and effigies of parishioner Andrew Evyngar and his wife Ellen, given as a reminder to say mass for their souls. Puritans under Cromwell in the mid 1640's defiled the face and removed some of the words.

   The Southern aisle of All Hallows is home to a Mariner's chapel with stained glass windows depicting the coat of arms of various shipping companies devoted to the church. The Port of London Authority also has links to this site in the form of a lovely wooden screen. The crucifix upon which an ivory carved Jesus hangs was created of wood from the Cutty Sark; the ivory for Christ's effigy is said to have come from the Captain's cabin of the flagship of the Spanish Armada.
   "In 1987 The Maritime Foundation initiated a memorial book for those who've lost their life at sea and have no known grave." ( Accessed online on 04/21/14.
    There are also several other parochial items of interests such as a lectern with pieces form the original medieval church, a baptismal font cover carved by Grinling Gibbons, and various pieces of gilt communion plate from the 16th century. 

  After a thorough poke about on the main floor of this church the best is yet to come in my opinion, for hidden beneath the nave is the under croft of the Saxon church, parts of which date back to the second through 14th centuries. It contains three chapels: The Columbarium, and the chapels of St. Francis of Assisi and that of St. Clare. 
   The Columbarium is a place of internment for the ashes of parishioners and those closely connected to All Hallows by the Tower. This section previously was outside the walls of the current building, and was once part of the burial ground of the Saxon church. There are three Saxon coffins within, all buried before the arrival of the Normans in 1066.
   In place below the present day altar are stone thought to have once from the alter of the chapel of Richard Couer de Lion (Richard the Lion Heart) aka Richard I, third son of King Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. He spent years in the East on Crusade and would have been acquainted with the Knights Templar's--described as rough knights in the battlefield and pious monks at chapel. 

   These men swore on the cross an oath of poverty, chastity, and devotion to the Catholic church with the charge of protecting the Christian kingdom. Theirs was the job of protecting citizens on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, from robbers, marauders, and captivity by local Muslim tribes and anyone else seeking to interfere with pilgrimage. They built marvelous defensive castles, the remains of which can still be seen today.
   Despite living only on alms at first, the Knights Templar combined two great male passions of the Middle Ages: religious fervor and martial prowess. Their ranks quickly swelled from eight to four hundred, as the Crusades grew in number from one to eight, over a period from 1118-1270. Favorite sons of the Church, The Templars' properties were exempt from taxation and ecclesiastical tithes. The Order answered only to the Pope. 
   Over time the Templar's became incredibly wealthy as members brought their wealth and real estate to the order. The Templar's kept their money in temples located in London and Paris. Their treasure was inviting to Kings and leaders who wanted it to fund wars and further crusades, and the Order went into the word-of-mouth business of making loans to kings and principalities sewing the seed of their destruction.
   Eventually the Crusades failed to hang on to the Outremer as the Christian States of the far east were known. These included the County of Odessa, the Principality of Antioch, The county of Tripoli and the Kingdom of Jerusalem.  Without lands and pilgrims to protect, the Knights Templar were seen by some powerful bishops within the Church and various princes and Kings as a plum ripe for picking. Colluding with the pope, Phillip the Fair of France set out defame the Order and destroy it, spreading lascivious rumors about satanic rituals conducted by the Templar's. 
   Knights were arrested all across France on October 13, 1307 and held in Phillips dungeon for inquisition. Phillip made it known this was done under the auspices of an ecclesiastical commission but in reality the Pope was unaware of what had taken place. Due to the cruel savagery of torture used to gain submission, nearly all the knights agreed to the accusations in an attempt to stay alive. Instead, they were burned at the stake. 
A  hiding place for Templar Knights!
   Three were saved from this fate including the Head of the Order Jacques de Molay. The pope intervened and had them secreted away to England for another trial, which eventually ended in death. And thus we come to why I've included this bit of history. These Knights were hidden away for the second inquisition, in the chapel of St. Mary--within the under croft of All Hallows by the Tower.
The Crows Nest from Sir Ernest Shackleton's ship Quest. One of the many amazing artifacts on display in the crypt museum of All Hallows Church by the Tower.
   While these spaces are worthy of visiting, the crypt of All Hallows is a definite must see as it contains a museum with artifacts from Roman occupation through the 1940's and WWII. It was here that I found amazing connections to America!!


Sir Admiral William Penn, Sr.--Friends with the High and Mighty, Fractious Neighbor, and Savior of All Hallows
   William Penn Jr., the founder of the State of Pennsylvania was baptized at All Hallows by the Tower on the 23rd of October 1644. His father, Sir William Penn was an Admiral in the Royal Navy and a Member of Parliament in the House of Commons during the English Civil Wars. He made much of his wealth applying for land grants on properties confiscated from Irish Catholics and Royalist supporters after he took part in putting down the failed Irish Rebellion of 1641.
   Meanwhile Penn Senior stayed discreetly in touch with Royalist supporters abroad, playing both sides to his own benefit. As a moderate Puritan, Penn managed to survive quite well during the Cromwell Protectorate. When it ended and the monarchy was reestablished with limited powers, William Penn Senior was on the ship which fetched King Charles II back to England. 
   While sailing over to France Penn Senior ingratiated himself with the Duke of York--soon to be awarded the title of Lord high Admiral. With this fortuitous bit of networking in hand William Penn Sr. was appointed Commissioner of the Navy Board where he worked with none other than Mr. Samuel Pepys, diarist, and who was also Penn's next door neighbor. Pepys took a dim view of William Penn, senior, saying, "To the office, where the falsenesse and impertinencies of Sir W. Pen would make a man mad to think of." (Pepys diary, 5th April, 1666). Of course it is also possible Pepys threw such a jaundiced eye upon his neighbor because he tried--unsuccessfully--to seduce both William's wife Margaret and his daughter Peggy!
   William Penn the elder is credited with saving the Easternmost part of the city during the Great Fire of 1666 when ordered the houses along street in front of All Hallows to be blasted with dynamite to serve as a firebreak which saved the church. 

William Penn Junior--Rebellious Son and Quaker Leader
No. 23: "William sonn of William Penn and Margaret his wife of the Tower Liberties." Baptized 23, October 1644.
    As his friendship with Charles II grew, Admiral Sir William Penn loaned the king £16,000.00 which was to have a profound effect on his son's future. In the meantime, William Penn the younger grew up in good circumstances, though he eschewed following in his father's religious and other footsteps. Instead of following his father's Reformed Puritan beliefs, at the age of twenty two, young Penn chose to become a member of the The Society of Friends or Quakers. This led to a falling out with his father who threw young William out of his house. Typical youthful rebellion, yeah?
Penn Jr. age 22. (Am. Library of Congress)
   A man with a deep faith in his religious convictions, Penn Junior spent time in the Newgate Prison, the Old Bailey,  and the Tower of London for writing pamphlets about this new religion inspired by his friend George Fox, one of Quakerism's founders. Thus began a time of personal tempering as William was arrested for preaching in the streets and taken first to the Old Bailey where the trail was heard by jurors who found Penn Junior not guilty despite being kept from food, fire or water for two days and nights--and for which all the jurors were then fined 40 marks and sent to Newgate prison! Penn meanwhile was arrested immediately again for wearing a hat in the presence of the court. He appealed to a court of common please which reversed the crooked finding of the lower court; thus was established the principle of English law that it is the right of the jury to judge the evidence independently of the dictation or direction of the court.

   In 1681 after his father's death, the matter of the King's debt arose. King Charles the Second granted millions of acres to Penn the Younger in the New World which the King named Pennsylvania. The now wealthy Penn and his Quaker followers settled and began building the capitol city of Philadelphia. William was a pacifist who held passionate beliefs regarding democracy and religious freedom. Many of the principles he engaged in the founding of Pennsylvania were later included in the United States Constitution. 
   Over his lifetime William Penn Junior would become a widower, marry again, travel back and forth between England and America attempting to settle land boundary disputes between Pennsylvania and Maryland, which was owned by the Duke of Baltimore. Penn died in England a penniless man and was buried in a simple grave with no headstone.
Quaker Oats are synonymous with William Penn

 Quaker Oats
   September 4th 1877 Quaker Oats became America's first registered cereal brand. According to the company "The 'Quaker man' is not an actual person. His image is that of a man dressed in the Quaker garb, chosen because the Quaker faith projected the values of honesty, integrity, purity and strength." However, early Quaker Oats advertising, dating back to 1909, did, indeed, identify the man as William Penn, "standard bearer of the Quakers and of Quaker Oats."  

John Quincy Adams-6th President of the United States
   First born son of Abigail Smith Adams and John Adams--first U.S. Vice President and second President, John Quincy Adams began seventy years of public service at the age of eleven when he served as his father's secretary on a diplomatic mission to France. He spoke five languages including Greek and Latin and graduated with a degree in Law from Harvard University.
   This son of American Independence shaped the first century of U.S. foreign policy, and a devout Puritan; an inexorable adversary of slavery and a keen practitioner of law. He served by President George Washington as U.S. Minister to both Holland and Prussia.
   Resigning from congress in 1808 John Quincy was asked by America's fourth President James Madison to serve as minister to Russia. He went on to serve as the first post War of Independence minister to Britain. As his father before him, and his son Charles would do after him, John Quincy Adams stood proudly before the King of the former mother country as a representative of his independent nation.
Old Man Eloquent
   Tapped again for public service by fifth U.S. President James Monroe to serve as Secretary of State, he later ran for the highest office in the land. After serving for only one term as U.S. President, John--a once devoted Federalist (America's first political party founded to represent the interests of bankers and businessmen) who became embittered by partisan politics--retired to his books and his farm and changed his political persuasion to Whig (the second political party affiliated in the U.S. which stood against tyranny and for economic protectionism). 
   Asked by his neighbors to serve them first in the Massachusetts House of Representatives and then in the U.S. House, John Quincy was elected to nine terms, earning his nickname "Old Man Eloquent."
   John Quincy Adams suffered a stroke in the Speaker's room in Washington on
   February 21, 1848, while serving his last term as representative. He died two
   days later without regaining consciousness. When he died, he was not only
  the last surviving statesman of the American Revolution but also the first
  national leader to have dramatized the moral issue that precipitated the Civil
  War. Although he was at times rigid, demanding, self-righteous, and even
  quaint, John Quincy Adams possessed personal integrity, devotion to
  principle, intellectual intensity, and strong will. ( Accessed 05/01/14 online)
  So what link could this son of the American Revolution possibly have to All Hallows?
   It is his wife Luisa Catherine Johnson, the only American First Lady born outside the United States. Daughter of an American merchant and an Englishwoman, her father served as U.S.Consul General in London after 1790, however during the War her family escaped London and took refuge in France. 
   In Nantes four year old Luisa first met elven year old John Quincy when he traveled through with his father.
   They met again in London after the war and at age twenty two, Louisa married John Quincy Adams in All Hallows Church, July 26, 1797.
Louisa Adams $10 gold coin honoring the First Ladies of the U.S. Issued in 2008. United States Mint.
John Quincy Adams "of Boston in the parish of America," and Luisa Catharine Johnson's signatures in the church registry.
   All Hallows by the Tower is also the home church for the parish which has administered local customs,  rites, and ritual for more than six hundred years. During the more extreme measures of the Protestant Reformation many of the old church registers and documents were a lead cistern in the tower of the church. Discovered in 1923, these documents reveal the only unbroken records of events on Tower Hill from the reign of Elizabeth the First (1558). 

   Beating the Boundaries is an ancient medieval rite reaffirming the boundaries of a parish by proceeding around them to beat each boundary marker with wands while praying for protection and blessings for the land.  The beating party for All Hallows by the Tower is made up of boys from St. Dunstans College Catford (Americans: a College over here is a secondary junior or senior high school) and the southern boundary of the parish is mid stream in the Thames!
Courtesy of All Hallows by the Tower Church
  A boat conveys the beating party with the clergy and the Master of the associated Livery Companies (originally developed as guilds, livery companies were responsible for the regulation of their trades, controlling wages and labor conditions. Before the Protestant Reformation these guilds were closely associated with various churches, sponsoring mystery plays and participating in various religious observances. They are known for example as the Worshipful Company of Scriveners, Apothecaries, or Engineers) and a selected student is hoiked upside down by an ankle to beat the boundary in the middle of the Thames!
   Every third year this ceremony includes a mock battle with the Governor and Yeoman Warders of the Tower of London at the boundary mark shared by the Church and the Tower, commemorating a riot in 1698! this being the third year, the battle will take place on the terrace between the Church and the Tower at 7 p.m. May 29th. The Beating of the Bounds will occur at 3:15 p.m.

The Knollys Rose Ceremony
 Organized each year in June by the Company of Watermen and Lightermen of the River Thames (this Guild or Livery represents 500 years of tradition. Watermen carry passengers and Lightermen carry goods and cargo), on the appointed day each year one red rose is lucked from the garden on Seething Land, conveyed to Mansion House on the altar cushion from All Hallows and presented to the Lord Mayor of the City of London Corporation (this is not the Mayor of Greater London which is a political position and currently held by Boris Johnson).
   The Lord Mayor is an officiating presence representing, supporting and promoting the businesses and people of London--a business and cultural ambassador if you will. The present Lord Mayor is a the first ever woman to hold the post since records were kept beginning in 1189. 
© Yorkshire Tea Company, 2013
   There is a lot of pomp, ceremony and most importantly spectacle involved. As Americans will learn if they are over here for nay length of time, Brits LOVE spectacle. They are masters at its creation and celebration, and can make a spectacle out of anything--even a telly advert for a cup of tea. But I digress....
   This Knollys Rose Ceremony commemorates an ancient judgment dating from 1381 in which a gentleman by the name of Sir Robert Knollys owned a house on Seething Lane. Sent abroad to fight in France with John of Gaunt (Prince of the realm), Knolly's wife bought up land across the street on which there was the City of London's threshing ground, where chaff was separated from grain. Mrs. Knollys did this because she was tired of the chaff blowing through her home and so she bought the threshing ground and put in a rose garden. she also put in a fourteen foot high footbridge over the lane to avoid walking in mud--all without planning permission. 
   Sir Robert Knollys was a respected soldier and leading citizen of the City so the penalty of a Red Rose rent to paid annually to the Lord Mayor was imposed as a symbolic fine. For this payment, permission was granted "to make an haute pas of 14 feet" across the lane. The bridge was gone by the early 16th century
according to all the maps of London I have reviewed but the legal requirement lives on as a City tradition--a beloved spectacle. This year's ceremony takes place on Monday, June 23rd.
   If you are interested, you can gongoozle as the well heeled stand with pomp in a tiny side garden surrounded by folk in ancient ceremonial garb (one man wears a tri-corn hat and a furred vest) to pluck a rose and lay it upon a pillow after which it is marched up the street cordoned off by London Police while toffs in their finest followed by Watermen and Lightermen in medieval red suits wearing billed hats and carrying oars at attention, accompany the rose to a throne room with two red velvet thrones in front of which stands the Lord Mayor in tie and tails and his wife, waiting to receive the rent. No doubt afterward the gentry retire to a drawing room for claret and company and the local yokels head off the their favorite pub for a pint.   
    There you have it! nineteen centuries or wild, wicked, glorious, sanctified history encompassed in one small square bit of Lady London! Whew!!!!

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Ice Storm 2021

"Even with all our technology and the inventions that make modern life so much easier than it once was, it takes just one big natural disaster to wipe all that away and remind us that, here on Earth, we're still at the mercy of nature." ~ Neil deGrasse Tyson, American astrophysicist, planetary scientist, author, and science communicator.

   The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) defines an ice storm as a type of winter storm characterized by freezing rain, also known as a glaze event or, in some parts of the United States, as a silver thaw. The U.S. National Weather Service defines an ice storm as a storm which results in the accumulation of at least 0.25-inch (6.4 mm) of ice on exposed surfaces...occurring at temperatures just below freezing.
   Two storm fronts collided over the Pacific Northwest (PNW) of America last Friday, February 12th. A frozen cold low dropped down out of Canada, through Washington State and crashed into a large warm, wet storm front rolling in off the Pacific Ocean, resulting in Ice Storm 2021. This was the first of three storm fronts we were warned, due to plow through Western Oregon/Portland area (we live 15 minutes south of Portland in Gladstone). The second storm was due Saturday the 13th with additional snow and the third would bring warmer temperatures and rain on Sunday the 14th. 
   For those who are not familiar with the Pacific Northwest, the States of Washington and Oregon are divided vertically by the Cascade mountain range which begins in British Columbia, Canada and continues down into California. The weather west of the Cascades is a wet, mild maritime climate much like England's. Portland, Oregon is only 98 miles east of the Pacific Ocean. The mighty Columbia River has worn a gorge horizontally across the landscape for hundreds of miles on its way down from Canada to the ocean. The Columbia River Gorge is the geographic dividing line between the bottom of Washington State and the top of Oregon--all the way to the ocean and it acts as a wind and weather funnel moving massive amounts of both off the Pacific ocean and right over Vancouver, Washington and Portland, Oregon--cities that face each other on either side of the gorge.
   With a general maritime climate and humidity that seldom ever drops below seventy percent, snow it a rarity, and Western Oregon homes and businesses are not built to withstand freezing cold weather events. Certainly Portlanders are clueless about driving in snow and ice, so this dire warning given on Thursday, February 11th, did not bode well. We have a fireplace in our apartment, but we had no firewood. A family meeting earlier in the autumn determined that we didn't have the money to buy a cord of firewood and where would we store it? Here in the greater Portland 'burbs, everything that is not locked up, is stolen by neighbors or the homeless encamped down along the Willamette and Clackamas rivers. The confluence of  both is directly behind our apartment complex, with a narrow greenbelt of trees, shrubs, and a paved pathway between us and the river's edge; lovely to look at but deadly in an ice storm as it turns out. Anyway, we opted not to buy firewood and after being evacuated for the wildfires in September, (which I have named Exodus Chapter one), the entire idea left our minds.
   Late Friday morning the snow began to fall and stick. Two of my girls were released by employers to come home early. Shiery was at a client's home, finishing up a twelve hour shift and she got stuck on the soft dirt driveway with a small hill going up to the main road. Off Mary and I went in in Kelli's Kia to rescue Sparky. My Subaru was a frozen solid mass of ice two inches thick and about as useful as a chocolate teapot! We had to traverse freeways nearly empty of traffic, and Portland streets winding up and down and around in the night time while the snow continued to fall and the streets were clogged with nearly  seven inches of snow and other drivers stuck in their vehicles. We made it, and managed to free Shiery's car with the help of one of the neighbors. By the time we arrived back home it was close to 11 pm. The wind outside was howling and the snow had changed to wet sleet sticking heavily to everything. 
   We lost electric power shortly before Mary and started out to help Shiery, so Kelli stayed home with the animals (five cats and a neurotic dog), and kept the fire going in the fireplace. We had  enough wood for one night! 

  An initial check-in with Portland Gas and Electric (PGE) indicated power would likely be out until the 16th. We needed to scrounge some wood, and get some ice for the fridge and freezer. 
   Around 1:30  am Saturday morning we looked out the window to find a frozen landscape glittering with a coating of ice. Trees, loaded with snow and ice began to lose branches as they snapped under the weight, sending a noisy shower of ice to the ground that sounded like a rush of loudly crinkling tin foil. Every now and then a sharp crack would report across the midnight air as entire trees snapped off and the wind blew them around on their way to the ground. This continued without let up for 48 hours! Saturday night we were all woken by an enormous, heavy thud that sounded like it was right on top of us. A tree had come down and hit the balconies of two apartments just down from us, removing their balconies and eventually piercing completely through the dining room wall of the ground floor apartment below them. The clean snow out our back patio was now littered with broken branches of every size and part of a fallen tree. Our animals were completely traumatized as were we. Every time we heard the beginning of another ice fall, we held our breath and waited for a tree to come crashing through our dining room window.

    I dug out my Cobb Oven and set up a kitchen on our back patio, with a cooler for our most perishable food items. I had made a large pot of Bison stew on Thursday and there was plenty left over. We also had a freshly baked Gluten Free lemon cake, sandwich fixings, some fruit, and instant oatmeal, so no one was going hungry! We heated water in a pan on the logs in the fireplace, and could also cook spuds wrapped in foil. Mary and Kelli scored some wood from her mom who heats only with wood, and that got us through the next days. By then PGE was no longer estimating a return of service! I was prepared for two weeks, as this was my second ice storm. 
   My first ice storm was back in 1996 while my children and I were living in a house on South Hill in Spokane, Washington--a city of over 340,000 and the largest city between Seattle, on the coast, and Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1332 miles eastward on the Great Lakes. This ice storm was so profoundly devastating with so many mature trees uprooted and downed, that many businesses were without power for weeks and our neighborhood was without power for two months! My children were farmed out to the homes of friends across two counties and I was managing between work as Spokane Public Radio, and the homes of friends who had power restored. Clearly ice storms are nature's means of pruning the forests. 
   I am happy to report we all survived Portland's Ice Storm, albeit a little frayed around the edges. The snow and ice are gone, clean up crews and property maintenance have tidied things up here at Rivergreens, and life is back to normal now. 

Saturday, February 06, 2021

What's Goin' On?

"Life seems but a quick succession of busy nothings." ~Jane Austen, Mansfield Park

     I do apologize to loved ones, friends, and followers for allowing four months to lapse since I last posted. There was so little to post about and I had adopted a siege mentality that made me feel as though my life was stuck in amber like an insect. A few things have changed: the Biden/Harris win is restoring a thin veneer of civility to America--at least out here in the Pacific Northwest. I noticed the day after the election results were verified, people out and about at the grocery store seemed friendlier and more willing to allow a smile to travel above their masks, to their eyes. The continuing support for Trump and the very real split in the U.S. Senate between actual conservative Republicans and Trump sycophants indicates the wheels have come off their vehicle and a fight for the heart and soul of the GOP (Grand Old Party) is occurring. In Arizona--a heavily Republican State where a lot of the Trump crazies live--7400 registered Republicans have left the party and registered with the Democrats. In Oregon--a State with a majority of conservative Republican towns, with Portland and Eugene functioning as liberal islands in a conservative majority landscape, 10,000 registered Republicans have left the party. Below is a timely interview with retired Republican Senator Danforth about this issue. 
     I've come through the darkest months literally and figuratively for me anyway, stretching from November 30th to January 31st. I've made it through one more anniversary of  Les' death and the days are growing discernably longer again. Seed and plant catalogs are arriving in the mail box--harbingers of spring and summer ahead. We've signed a fourteen month lease on this apartment so I feel now as though I can truly unpack, hang some art and pictures, and make myself comfortable. I will post pictures when it is all unpacked and sorted out. 
    I try not to think about the Pandemic since I cannot change anything. Of the four of us--my daughter Shiery, my daughter-in-law Kelli, my foster daughter Mary, and me--only Mary has no medical conditions precluding her from getting the vaccine. Shiery, Kelli and I all have multiple auto-immune diseases so we continue to take careful precautions. Mary found an Etsy site (Elimstation) that sells the best masks we've found yet: three layers of fabric with a pocket for a disposable filter; comfortable, covers my chin and lower face, has a thin adjustable nose wire, adjustable ear loops, and each mask comes with one disposable filter. There are 56 different cloth patterns and child sized masks as well. These are the first masks I can talk in, breathe in without fogging up my glasses. The three layers and disposable filters (a pack of 10 can be purchased from the same Etsy shop) make me feel far better about going out in public. 

     The BBC online included a piece about the Covid-19 virus and its main host while undergoing mutations. Apparently the virus has taken up residence in the bodies of immunosuppressed individuals on Steroids and Chemo drugs for Auto immune diseases, where it makes them desperately ill for many months due to their pharmaceutically suppressed immune systems. Without an immune system to mount a defense against it, the virus utilizes the host body as a lab, replicating itself while trying out different mutations, before killing its host and spreading on to others. There are 89 known auto immune diseases and they are all treated the same--with massive doses of steroids and usually a chemotherapeutic drug to shut down the patients' immune systems. Not good...and one more reason why both my daughter and I refuse to be treated with the standard immunosuppressive drugs for our auto-immune diseases. 
     Personally I have just experienced another apparent sign post of aging. It occurred a week ago Sunday. It had been a long day of shifting the furniture around in my bedroom, installing lights on my new headboard, taping wiring up in the back so my cat Biscuit cannot reach it to chew on, installing a curtain rod and hanging room darkening curtains, etc. At 8:30 pm suddenly a large, dark floater appeared in the vision of my right eye. It was quite large and looked like a black swirl of ink might look if dropped into a white cup full of water. I noticed a half hour later in my darkened room, flashing lights at the peripheral of my vision in my right eye, like a strobe light. Shiery has worked in health care for over twenty five years. She checked my pupils and received a normal response. I took an aspirin just in case I was having a stroke of some kind and we decided to sleep on things overnight. 
     The next day the strobe light effect was still occurring but the floater had diminished in opacity and size, now shaped like a dark ring with a clear center, known as a Weiss Ring. I also had pain radiating our from my eye socket that was gradually growing worse. Shiery called the Advice Nurse at the hospital and she recommended we come into the ER so off we went. Shiery knows all the local hospitals so she chose one that is not a major trauma center and there were only two people in the waiting room when we arrived-- a mother and her four  year old daughter. We of course were wearing masks, and there was an attendant sitting behind plexiglass in the waiting room, checking temperatures of  those accompanying patients, and wiping down the furniture after someone left the area. Nevertheless, as soon as the attendant went to lunch, the young mother pulled her mask below her nose and her child had no mask on at all and was sneezing and coughing all over the bloody place. I could see droplets of saliva fly out of her mouth which pissed us off. People apparently do not teach their children civil manners anymore, such as covering one's mouth when sneezing or coughing. We were ushered into a small room off the waiting area and a triage nurse wrote down all the relevant information.  She wore a double vented heavy duty mask, clear plastic eye protectors and a shield. I said, "I bet you never thought you would see the day when you had to gear up like a welder to come into work." We laughed grimly...back to the waiting area and finally we were ushered through a door and in to an ER room.       
     Thank the Goddess it was a room with four walls and a door and not a giant bay with six flimsy curtains separating the beds and patients. The mom and child were installed in the room next door. At one point Shiery was out in the hallway and she overheard a doctor diagnosing the child with Covid-19.
    The pain in my orbital socket grew more intense. Finally the lovely Dr. Shah arrived to examine me, and she patiently gave me detailed information after several tests which determined I do not have Diabetes or Glaucoma. My retina appeared to be in one piece so she referred me to the Northwest Eye Health Center which is located across the street from this hospital and requested that I call their office first thing in the morning for an immediate appointment with an ophthalmologist. 
     The appointment the next day with Dr. Bengtzen resulted in an eye exam for new glasses, and several diagnoses. I had something termed PVD, Posterior Vitreous Detachment. As one ages, the gel inside the vitreous sack attached to the orbital socket and retina shrinks and tears away from both the socket and the retina. This can cause retinal tearing or detachment. My retina was okay--for now. Every time the sack of vitreous gel tears away it causes the strobe-light flashing. The dark floater in the shape of a Weiss Ring was caused by the glue adhering the sack to my retina pulling away. Dr. Bengtzen was surprised that I felt any pain. 99% of people feel nothing. During my intake he noted I have an auto-immune disease called Sarcoidosis which can cause the immune system to attack--among other soft tissues--the eyes. The Doctor was quite surprised to meet a sixty four year old who was not taking any medications at all. He asked what I took for the Sarcoidosis and I replied, "twenty-one milligrams of Melatonin daily." It does not cure Sarcoidosis but it does stop it from progressing without any negative side effects. He confirmed no Glaucoma, and no scarring from Sarcoidosis but indicated I have the start of cataracts--too small to worry about right now and caused by the aging process. 
     Finally Dr. Bengtzen shared with me that I have a genetic anomaly called Map Dot Fingerprint Corneal Dystrophy. It means my corneas are fragile and easily scratched, even by my own eyelid or something as innocuous as an errant lash. 
     That's all the news that is fit to print for now. Next time, a post all about Biscuit, my little black cat!

Eight Years Ago Today

 "Your absence has gone through me like thread through a needle. Everything I do is stitched with its color." ~MS Merwin, American poet, United States Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner for poetry, 1927-2019

Eight years ago today, February 6th, 2013: Moored up at Fenny Stratford. Shopped at IKEA, and now it has begun snowing! We had a brilliant day out yesterday with our friends Sue and Ken Deveson (NB Cleddau/Boatwif blog site). We spent the entire day at their lovely home, eating a scrummy meal discussing education and all manner of things, playing Phase Ten, and having slices of homemade Coffee sponge cake with afternoon tea. They suggested we bring laundry to wash, so our down comforter and duvet cover are clean, dry and fluffy! Good thing as it is supposed to drop down and freeze again for awhile. Swedish meatballs, mashed potatoes, and Cream gravy on the menu tonight, then hot showers, warm jammies and our feet up in front of the telly for a show.

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs