Tuesday, March 19, 2019

...new beauties in the garden...

This week is Spring Break, which in academia means catch up on all your research week. For me, it also means not commuting back and forth from Richmond to D.C. and not getting up at 4:30am!

While I have deadlines to meet, the outdoors keeps whispering to me. Here’s a quick post of what is growing in the garden.



Tulip Magnolia
Superstition Iris
Bela Lugosi (Daylily) returns!

Saturday, March 16, 2019

...the séance...

Last weekend, I went to a séance. Let me clarify, I went to see “Humbug: The Great P.T. Barnum Séance” at The Branch Museum of Architecture and Design. Magician, storyteller, and professional humbug artist, David London describes himself as someone who “presents original interactive magical experiences.” Yet, the fact that he has worked as a curator for a museum struck me as quite interesting; with the advertisement noting that he was bringing actual artifacts from P.T. Barnum himself, well, that’s was what sealed the deal. 

The Branch Museum
Last year I completed my graduate study in Public History where I continually focused on the intersection of education and entertainment. I bought Inner Circle tickets so that Babushka and I could sit at the séance table. It was double the price since only twelve tickets were available so that along with our lead Spiritualist there would be 13 at the table. It was completely worth it especially when those at the séance table were able to select one of the artifacts to bring to the table with us. Calm down! Everyone in the audience was required to wear white cotton gloves to handle the collection.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The first part of the show had everyone sitting in rows as Mr. London shared the story of P.T. Barnum’s life. London used a few magic tricks to share aspects of Barnum’s life. If you ever want to be pulled out of the audience to act as an assistant to a magician, wear a veil and look a little spooky. Remember, that happened to me in Eureka Springs when I attended the Illusionist and the Medium show at Intrigue Theater. Honestly, I just like veils but it works every time! While holding up an old picture and a clipping of hair of Annie Jones, known as the bearded lady, who also happened to hail from Virginia, I was completely duped into selecting just the right cards although supposedly I was channeling Annie Jones. How did the trick work? Magic!  

London looks spooky during the intermission.
I’m not exaggerating when I say this is probably the best spooky event I’ve ever experienced in Richmond. Real history, mystery, theatrical storytelling, and showmanship. David London was amazing!

The second half of the show included the séance table. I have to admit that that was not only a dominating feature in the room at 9 ft. in diameter it was the part that I most looked forward to. That says a great deal considering that Mr. London had already shared a miniature wedding album of Tom Thumb, Charles B. Tripp’s fountain pen, photos of Barnum's Living Wonders, and even a copy of Barnum’s autobiography that was even owned by Barnum himself.

Spirit horns
Many of us dabbled with Ouija boards as children. I admit that I was always the one with the short attention span who would have rather been watching a horror movie so admittedly, I moved the planchette. I’m sorry! I admitted to my friends later but I’m just not the type of girl that enjoys sitting around waiting for the dead to communicate, which many of you know from my posts about paranormal investigations and whatnot.  In the mid- 19th century, the spiritualist movement had begun to experiment with Spirit communications through table-turning where the alphabet was inscribed on a table. Mr. London’s table did not include the alphabet but it did turn making it exceptionally cool.

The Inner Circle guests sat at the séance table where we selected artifacts from the first half of the show. Babushka selected the miniature wedding album of Tom Thumb while I selected Charles Tripp’s fountain pen. Behind us there were twelve council seats for members to observe the séance. A good amount of the activity occurred near the council seats so everyone was close to some type of encounter. The artifacts were used to summon the spirit of P.T. Barnum or possibly those from his Living Wonders show. There were bells, smoke while London manually maneuvered the table in order to put the artifacts into the center. Who did we summon? Well, I’m not going to spoil his show here.  

The seance table with artifacts carefully placed.
Harry Houdini and P.T. Barnum were among the prominent sceptics of Spiritualism. While I consider myself a sceptic and even a cynic sometimes, I also seek out magic… and the magicians like when I had the magical adventure to see Magician Howard Thurston at Green Lawn Abbey, which is rarely open to the public but I lucked out that a conference trip was at the same time as a fundraising event. Wait, was that good timing or Magic?

Whatever you believe, know that this was good fun. We could all use a bit more magic in our lives even if it is just the magic of story. 

Saturday, March 2, 2019

...no one more You-er than you...

I hated all my birthdays since my teen years not because I disliked getting old but because each passing year marks a new distance of time from when everything was innocent and my friends were alive. Something changed in my forties. I started acknowledging the day, the new wrinkles, and even the new distance that I have to hold my phone in order to read texts because I don’t yet believe that I need reading glasses. I mean, I still have some arm extension left. Each time I go to dye my hair, I notice that my roots are greyer than ever. It makes me smile. No, really. I made it!

Mom gives me the best presents
The last few weeks have brought a great deal of reflections partly because of my birthday and partly because at work my Adolescent Literature course is hosting an awkwardy adolescent party. Faculty members have been searching for old, awkward pictures. I was looking for middle school pictures when I found pictures of 8th grade me. Where I’m from, 8th grade was the start of high school. I found this picture of Little Me, circa early 1988. I squint to see those old rings that I wore. I remember that Earth Day shirt and the evil eye pendant that my friend had given me. This was before anyone had died. I look happy; she was happy.

What my family looks like
The thing is, I’ve been a journal writer since middle school. There are years with gaps but for the most part, I have a vast collection of documented thoughts and happenings of my life. I recently read one of my 1989 journals where I had just met my young-love goth boyfriend whom I still reference as the love-of-my-young-life. I have fond memories of that first fella. He was three years older than me and the coolest person that I had ever met. I’m not planning to write too much about him then or now since his wife and I are social media friends. You see, I’m not so much a stalker of his current life although it is remarkable how much his wife and I have in common, but I like seeing him alive. It's a bit hard to explain to those who haven't lost close friends in their youth. Basically, I don’t get that opportunity with those who have passed on from this world. Every now and then his wife posts a picture of him or them together and I get to squint to see his young face in this older version of him. Growing up is weird. My journals remind me that what I think I remember isn’t exactly what I remember. Our brains have this magical way of protecting ourselves. Writing can disrupt that. I read through some sad entries. What surprised me is how determined I was to persevere through it all. I didn’t use those words but there was an essence about growing to be an old woman with a great life. I was hopeful.
While some of my peers are mocking their old pictures, I feel more tender. In just months, the girl in this top picture will start losing friends. She will write about it. She will also write about not-so-nice teachers discussing her wardrobe choices and saying that she shouldn't wear black so much. She will write about letters from boyfriends who will give her some awful life advice that she will not follow. I look at the picture and whisper, “hang on, Little Sharon. One day you’ll become 45.” I think Little Me would have been thrilled to know that I would make it that long.

This birthday has felt like an entire week of festivities. Last weekend, my folks, my fella, and I went to Historic Hanover Tavern, a restaurant that received its tavern license in 1733. Patrick Henry’s parents owned the place for a decade in the 1750s and Patrick Henry lived at the Tavern when he was first married to Sarah Shelton. I've written about her before. Years later, many of the enslaved workers of the tavern participated in Gabriel’s Rebellion in 1800. Basically, there is a long fascinating history surrounding the place. I selected it as our birthday luncheon because it is haunted and Mom and I like visiting such places.  

After lunch, I met my Babushka (a mix of best friend and sister) and her daughter to attend the local orchid show, where I ended up with two new beauties. I’ve tried orchids in the past but had terribly bright window locations. I’m much more hopeful about these reblooming in the future.

My actual birthday included a birthday breakfast with Babushka and then finishing a chapter submission. Tonight, my fella and I will go out to fondue and be grateful for all that we have, including a tolerance for cheese!

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

...the thin veil between seasons...

Today was a snow day and it was a lazy, magical day. I did nothing! Well, I watched some movies and read on the sofa. I fixed a big Thanksgiving style dinner that confused my husband. What can I say? I was craving green bean casserole. And, I checked a few work emails from my phone while on the sofa.

There wasn’t much snow here. We have more ice. There’s a wintry mix as I write. Yet, Washington, D.C., where I work about 100 miles north of here, was supposed to get a substantial amount of snow and ice. I don’t think they had anything like what was expected but still… we had a snow day!

It is probably best that the ground is covered with ice. We had a beautiful day earlier in the week. It was 60 degrees and our neighbor was out with his mulch. Hmph. It’s too early for that in my book.

It isn’t too early for a few reminders that spring is coming. A pansy that somehow survived our winter. And, what are these bulbs that are ready to bloom. I didn’t plant them. Our home is still providing all the mystery and magic of wonder.

I cannot wait to get out there and bring this yard to life. It deserves to be loved. This place was abandoned for too long. Well, there were renters who seemingly did not tend to the land but I am talking about seriously loving the land. Hugging the trees, thanking the soil, worshipping nature in our copse.

I have already pruned back the roses that had grown incredibly wild over the years. They’re now a third of their size. When March comes, I will prune the boxwoods that are equally wild. The two holly bushes that have been in pots on our front porch will go into the ground. I hope to add two every year and create a holly forest.

But for now, I think I will return to my winter slumber. It isn’t spring just yet.