Happy Birthday, Mom!

My mom, Mary Geraldyne Severance Rivard, was born April 7th, 1925, in Casper, Wyoming. She died July 13th, 2015, and today would be ninety-seven years old. Her Memorial Service took place August 15, 2015 in Glenwood City, Wisconsin and was attended by many friends and relatives, whom I hadn’t seen for years.

My mom was smart, very smart. Valedictorian of her high school class from Turtle Lake, Wisconsin, she got a music scholarship to Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, but didn’t complete her degree because she fell in love with my dad, married and moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he finished his law degree. They soon settled in the town where they raised seven children, and where my father practiced law.

When my mom was unable to have anymore children she decided to return to college at the University of Wisconsin River Falls UWRF. She pursued a degree in Art Making and Education and eventually got a teaching position at New Richmond, Wisconsin. She was an accomplished artist in all mediums, and a highly admired teacher. Her students loved her so much they called her Ma Art which was shortened to Mart. Only in first grade when she returned to school, having a working mom meant I had to make my own lunch, which didn’t always happen, but mostly I was proud of her effort to pick up the pieces and go back to school and to work. She got up every morning and drove one half hour in the ice and snow to school. An accomplished teacher, she set up a student teacher program through UWRF and mentored many young artists and budding teachers. Not only that, the variety and creativity that flowed from her own students was astounding.

Mary continued to love music. My cousin John heard her sing Silent Night at St. Anne’s in Turtle Lake, and said she sounded like an angel. As a member of the community she served as choir master of the St. John’s congregation in Glenwood, as well as artist of the church creating banners to be hung on the main altar for the liturgical seasons. A multitalented person, we have in our possession today, many paintings and objects of art she made.

As a person Mary advocated for people who suffered due to a lack of opportunities. She abhorred racism and any forms of injustice committed against people who weren’t part of the in-crowd, so to speak. A free spirit, one of her favorite poems was the following by Robert Frost.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in the wood, and I,

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

My mom will be remembered for her loving and generous spirit, for her gifted hands and clarity of mind, and above all for her undying patience in the midst of the storm. And though she isn’t physically on this earth, her presence is felt in every footstep I take, for she is the one who taught me to walk.





St. Petersburg, in the Rain

I’m grateful for the travels I made before the arrival of Covid and the invasion of Ukraine by the Vladimir Putin Government. St. Petersburg is a case in point. These pictures were made in 2015. We took a ferry from Helsinki to St. Petersburg, and back again. I admit I was nervous about getting inside a ferry, to be swallowed up not only by a huge vessel but one that was staffed entirely by Russian patriots. Old stereotypes learned as I grew up, surfaced in my memory, for sure. Very happy when the doors of the ferry let us out at the port of St. Petersburg, we were greeted by a young tour guide named Maria, who accompanied us to the hotel. Accommodations and service were excellent.

In general I will avoid commenting about characteristics of persons and places. I can only recount the feelings I had in my interactions with individuals during our stay. On the ferry I made friends with a female Russian server, with whom I kept in contact through facebook, but she mysteriously disappeared from my social media radar after a time. My irrational imagination wanders to the idea that, maybe she was a spy, a feeling that is totally unfounded.

During one of our days in St. Petersburg, seated at an outdoor café, I took these pictures of people as they scurried down the street in the rain. Each had their own reaction to the weather, and various ways to keep themselves dry, or not. It’s not to be assumed that these people were Russian, but they were wet.

Second woman with an ordinary umbrella rounded, and in seemingly good shape.
Young man without an umbrella getting very wet.
This man doesn’t appear to be bothered by the rain. Just making his way one step at a time.
Young woman with a tent-like umbrella and a green bag.
This young person peaking out of the opening in her jacket, was probably wishing she had an umbrella.
No umbrella, and happy as a lark. By this time the rain had subsided.

Cemetery at the Alexander Nevsky Monastery

The Alexander Nevsky Monastery is located in St. Petersburg, Russia. The surrounding grounds contain four sections of cemeteries and is an extensive compound of open spaces with broken crosses, areas with impressive funerary sculptures, a section for academics, writers and intellectuals, and a section for Communists. The monastery is named for the Medieval prince, Alexander Nevsky a Russian hero who lived from 1221 to 1263. Nevsky was canonized a Saint in the Russian Orthodox Church.

Please click on the image to view the gallery.

Belles of New England, via Quebec

A complementary colorized photo by friend, David Dreimiller of the original monochrome, enhances the women’s faces and the distinct differences in the color and detail of their dresses.

Ten months ago in May of 2021, I was reading a book called “Belles of New England,” by William Moran. I selected this book out of respect for my Great Grandmother, Emilie LaHaie, who migrated to Maine around 1873 with her parents, two brothers, and sisters. In the photo above Emilie is standing second to the left in the back with her seven sisters and mother, Julie Desfosses. It’s likely her wedding day. Although Emilie and her sisters were of French Canadian stock, her initiation into American life began when her mother and sisters started working in the New England mills. Emilie remembered before she died in Turtle, Wisconsin what it was like to work from dawn until dusk in the mill at age twelve years old, and when she came home was obliged by her mother to spend the evening in prayer. She worked hard like this until she married Delphis DuBois in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1884. Emilie and Delphis subsequently migrated to Wisconsin, along with all her sisters, mother, and one of her brothers, Frank LaHaie. They spoke French but not English very well, nor did they read or write either language, with any fluency to speak of. To avoid isolation and culture shock, it was extremely important the entire family lived in close proximity to each other to comfort, support and keep each other company.

I let them be called Belles of New England because in the book this referred to the young women of all ancestries who worked in the mills. Mary Lyon an advocate for women’s education and rights is quoted as saying about the women of the mills. “As other women vanished from the mill cities, they also left behind scant details of their lives except for their record as pioneers in American labor history.” They were as Mary Lyon said, ‘the bone and sinew and glory of the nation.’

Emilie’s life after the mill was spent in having numerous children, and continued hard work on the family farm. Fortunately she had the presence of her daughters and sisters for care and help, but her life passed throughout the decades at a great price. When she told her stories about the mill in her last years of senility, it was repetitive, and grandchildren and great grandchildren weren’t very good at lending an ear. But the stories were told and people like my mother listened and showed an interest. She always told me Emilie worked in the mill in Fall River, Massachusetts, and other places too. In telling, we remember. Je me souviens.

A picture I took the day before yesterday on a hike.  This is about a mile from my house through the woods.  Running off the wetlands, a stream of water runs under a foot bridge right before a walk up a huge hill.  At the top of the hill you can look across the valley to the other hills, almost mountains.  One spring red trilliums popped up along the rivulet.  The rocks in the area are now covered with moss.

Everything is Swirling

Everything is swirling

Coming together as One

Deciphering

Isolating

Things

Places to Go

People to See

Things to Do

Between You and Me

Can’t hardly keep them straight

Making Plans

is overwhelming

they tend to not come true

or fall on their face in a puddle

of Mud

It’s not possible to

reach the forest

through the trees

The options are multitudinous

the inertia concrete

If you can’t stop growling

you shall be beat.

And as they say

Accept the phrase;

Things that can’t go on forever don’t.

Things that can’t go on forever

can go on much longer than you think.

Like my refrigerator

Or the flowers in the woods that speak.