Sunday, March 16, 2008

Samuel William Matthews family home, circa 1904, Liberty, Idaho

This is the early 20th century home of my husband's maternal grandparents. His mother is the smaller girl on the porch. He remembers this house thirty years later, with a big tree in the yard and bushes by the porch. I wonder if someone has assembled a book of these family-and-house pictures made in the first decade of the century. I have seen many of them; they often seem to be a picture of the house, with the people as accessories. In this case, the girls seem to have dressed up for the occasion.
Today, I finished a book that I started quite some time ago; I have been saving it, because I enjoyed it so much that I didn't want it to end. I have written before about the scientist and nauralist Bernd Heinrich, whose writings I so much admire and cherish and return to. This book is called:
The Snoring Bird; my family's journey through a century of biology.

This book is not just one kind of book, such as a memoir, or a bildungsroman or an exploration of natural history. It deals, in a fascinating and full way with so many topics (using the lens of his family members and friends to examine and even to evaluate) such as the history of the twentieth century, World Wars I and II, relations between parents and children, blended families, material economies and survival in hard economic times, luck and pluck, trends in the scientific study of nature as manifest in the taxonomy and behavior of living things and much much more like the life of a runner and marathoner.
Chapters are headed with well-chosen epigraphs from literature old and new--originally written in many languages--as well as lyrics to popular songs. These often caused me to pause and ponder them before beginning the road the chapter. I understadn why so many people used to keep "commonplace books" and record small texts that had special meaning for them. This is a practice that I am sure has become increaingly rare. I was thinking the other day of a typed notebooks of my mother's and wondering if I had stored it with her papers, or if now it is gone.
The discussion of the deep meaning of home and home places, particularly those in Maine and in Poland made me think to head this post with the picture from my hisband's family.
Here is Heinrich's epigraph from Chapter 10:

The days of our future stand before us
like a row of little lighted candles--
golden, warm and lively candles,
The days gone by remain behind us,
a mournful line of burnt-out candles;
the nearest ones still smoking.

"CANDLES," Constantine P. Cavafy
I would promise to write more on this book, but my record of breaking such promises is to be found in many previous posts.
Good night . . .

1 comment:

  1. RE: Samuel William Matthews family home in Liberty, Idaho. What a great picture. My Grandfather, Jesse Richard Matthews, is holding the sheep in front of the house/porch. Thanks so much for sharing.

    Drew Samuel Matthews (note the middle name)