Friday, December 30, 2011

Year's End

So much of 2011 has been spent with Isaac--first, completing the transcription of his journal after eleven months of looking over his shoulder at what he wrote every day from a distance of more than a century; second, reading old newspapers until I sometimes knew more about the people and events of Isaac's place and time than current goings-on in my own world; third, researching Isaac's neighbors until I knew the names of their children and their final resting places; fourth, discovering significant history about my home state and the nation that I had never learned; fifth, feeling that I was finally ready to begin writing Isaac's story; and sixth, introducing Isaac on the internet with my blog as I shared my adventures in researching and writing the book about Isaac B. Werner. [I Love History, 10/17/2011]

Before beginning this post, I went back to Isaac's entries on December 31st for each year of his journal, [Finding Isaac's Journal, 10/23/2011] thinking I would include his words about the closing of the year. In fact, those entries were no different from what he wrote every day of the year--weather, work to be done, his health--just another day. Apparently Isaac would have agreed with NYT journalist and author Hal Borland (1900-1978) who wrote: "Year's end is neither an end or a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us."

Rather than sharing Isaac's words about the closing of the year, I decided to share some of the comments followers of this blog have sent to me. At first, most of the e-mails I received were encouragement or brief expressions of delight with Isaac. "I love this stuff--here's to Isaac and his loquaciousness." M.C. Many of you described how you were connecting with things mentioned in the posts. "You write so well it feels lyrical. I savored every word. I stopped at the word commode--my grandmother used that term, and it came to life..." A.M. [Small Town Museums--Lucille M. Hall Museum, 10/29/2011]

I had no idea so many people loved cottonwood trees until I began receiving messages about that post. Among those who wrote: "I loved your piece on the cottonwoods and on the land. It's sad that once everything is bulldozed and leveled how hollow it all seems, and how much history and how many life stories are lost." J.Y. "How I loved to listen to the leaves when visiting the farm on vacation. I loved the belt lines of trees and was so disappointed to see so many dying when we went to the reunion. Hasn't history shown the need for those tree belts? The trees and their music are so soothing, as well as beautiful." N.H. "When my first husband and I built a home north of Slater, Missouri, I pulled up a cottonwood tree growing on the banks of the Mississippi River and replanted it in the yard so I could hear the clacking of the leaves. I loved it." L.K. I was naturally flattered when someone admired how I described the dying trees: "I enjoyed the cottonwood blog. I especially liked 'Today, many tree rows look like graveyards, the trunks of fallen trees bleaching white in the sun as aging neighbors await their turn to fall.' I know exactly what you are describing, and I cannot think of a better way to have done so." D.B. [Isaac Plants Cottonwood Trees, 12/2/2011]

When I mentioned in the post about Isaac's childhood in Wernersville, PA that his teacher, Francis Trout Hoover, had written a novel with characters and plot loosely based on Isaac's hometown, one of you who lives in that area told me that "Hoover wrote that book so close to the truth, that people in Berks County were angry and embarrassed, and they didn't want their 'history' getting out..." K.R. [Isaac's Birth & Childhood, 11/4/2011]

The tornado post, with a picture that included old boots on fence posts, drew this response: "The story was told that when a cowboy died his boots went up on the fence posts." A.M. [Isaac Sees 1st Tornado, 12/9/2011]

As more of you began to check the boxes at the ends of each post to let me know which ones you found particularly interesting and what you wanted to read more of, I was glad that so many of you enjoyed the political cartoons. Kansas was the center of the Farmers' Alliance and the political party that grew out of grass roots organizations formed by farmers and other laborers. Much of Isaac's Journal includes his political experiences and opinions. It is remarkable how many parallels there are between politics in the 1890s and today. [Politics Hardly Seem to Change, 11/24/2011]

When I mentioned some of my favorite illustrators of children's books in the post about Isaac and L. Frank Baum, I was delighted to receive e-mails from two of those illustrators. Michael Hague wrote, "I think it is important for the kids to value their creativity and imaginations and have people around them who are active in the arts and embrace it as an important part of their lives." Pop-up engineer and artist Robert Sabuda's animated tornado in his Oz book certainly drew excited Ohs and Ahs from the children. Sabuda wrote to me, "I love to see everyone enjoy my books. It makes the hard work worthwhile." [Isaac & the Wizard of Oz, 12/15/2011]

No post generated more enthusiasm among those of you who follow my blog than the one about disappearing traces of the past, and part of that was the impact of the photographs. " poignant and haunting. Those images and emotions speak to me as no other. I've always been that way, finding interest and increased curiosity toward the lonely, the forgotten, the lost." T.K.B. "Of the hundreds of reasons that houses might be left as you portrayed that house, surely one of them is that people live their lives until the end, but they don't 'finish' them as one might finish a skein of knitting." S.S. "I, like you, remember my grandfather farming and how all the homes have disappeared." J.R. "Just finished your latest blog. It makes me sad to confront what I already know about the familiar things we grew up with." A.B.C. "The older I get the more I miss what I had when I was a kid. That is life for most folks, I guess." R.B. [Disappearing Traces of the Past, 12/23/2011]

The encouragement and support that so many people, friends and strangers, have extended to me since I began this blog three months ago matter very much on a personal level, but I am especially pleased that what I am doing touches the feelings of many of you. Writing the blog has made me observe things that in my hurry to tend to business I was overlooking. It has enriched every day for me to practice the habit of seeing and reflecting, and I hope some of that has been transmitted to all of you.

Yesterday as my husband and I drove a road we've traveled hundreds of times, I saw an old house in a grove of dying cottonwood trees, and I had to have a photograph of it to share with all of you who loved the posts about cottonwoods and disappearing traces of the past. My husband, who generously tolerates my affection for another man--Isaac, of course--patiently turned around and went back so I could photograph the old house.

Thanks to all of you who are following my blog and who communicate with your checks in the boxes, clicks on +1, e-mails, and face-to-face encouragement. The comments at the end of posts are wonderful, and if you haven't been opening those, you might enjoy going back to read them, or adding comments of your own. Of all the wonderful responses people have shared with me, this simple statement sums up very well what I am trying to accomplish: "I feel like I knew Isaac!" D.K. I hope you will enjoy the future posts and will spread the word so more people can get to know Isaac too!!

Since Isaac did not provide me with a New Year's message to share, I will pass along the words of Benjamin Franklin: "Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each new year find you a better man."


The Blog Fodder said...

I found your blog somehow and have been following it as I love history and farming. I am learning from you a great deal and hope you have lots more blog posts to follow.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for all your hard work and research and I do especially enjoy the pictures. The boots on the fence posts is a classic picture. I volunteer for the Centerville-Washington Twp. Historical Society in Centerville Ohio and got wind of your Blog. Have enjoyed it tremendously. You're an inspiration and the history you are presenting equally inspiring. Look forward to more.

Lynda Beck Fenwick said...

The Historical Society in Centerville has done such a wonderful job of preserving the history of that community and serving genealogists searching for family history. I'm glad you have found my blog and are enjoying it. Although they had political differences, Isaac was a friend of Aaron Nutt Beck, a grandson of Centerville founder, Aaron Nutt.