A Chinese Alice scholar invites you to judge: Is this an illustration of a wedding?

One of the great mysteries of Lewis Carroll’s(Charles Lutwidge Dodgson’s life) is precisely what was his relationship with Alice Pleasance Liddell, Dean Liddell’s winsome daughter.  Glancing through Charles’s photographs, we see a young girl with short-cropped dark hair and piercing eyes.  There is a particularly striking picture of her as “The Beggar Maid” in torn costume with somewhat downcast eyes.  Tenniel, of course, drew Alice as light-haired in both of the Alice books.  Was this to draw attention away from the real Alice.  Also, Alice in the two books never ages, while the real Alice Liddell aged from 13 to 19.

Alice was only 10 when Charles first told her and her sisters, Edith and Lorena, about Alice’s adventures underground.  It was Alice, herself, who insisted on Charles writing down his entertaining story.

Dodgson was a welcome guest at the Liddell’s home along with their governess, Miss Prickett.  He grew to know both her sisters and their friends.  But at some point, he was no longer welcome.  Unfortunately, there is no mention in his diaries as to the reason for the sudden change, and that has led to much speculation.  Was Charles enamored of Alice?

In the concluding verse of Alice Through the Looking Glass, Alice is highlighted so that when the initial letters of each line are read downwards, her full name appears.  This last verse deals with the passage of time, and Alice was 19 at the time, and no longer a young girl.  The references to the special boat trip in July of 1862 are particularly poignant:

Long has paled that sunny sky;

Echoes fade and memories die;

Autumn frosts have slain July.

 

Still she haunts me, phantomwise,

Alice moving under skies

Never seen by waking eyes.

 

Now enters a Chinese Alice scholar:  Howard Chang.  He is the writer of Well in the Rabbit Hole:  A New and Closer Look at Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  Not being satisfied with several points made in Martin Gardner’s The Annotated Alice:  The Definitive Edition, he asks us to look at a familiar Tenniel illustration of the awarding of a thimble to Alice by the Dodo.  Gardner saw the thimble as having to do with taxes, taken and then returned as projects.  But Howard did not agree.  He did some research into Victorian customs, and found that the thimble was a common object for little girls(since they learned to do needle work when quite young), and was also the subject of a game:  Find the Thimble.  But, to Howard Chang, the thimble represents a wedding ring, and he asks us to look at the illustration again with the following in mind:  Dodgson was a stutterer, and often called himself Dodo;  the Duck was a pet name for the Rev. Robinson Duckworth;  the Lory and the Eaglet represent Alice’s two sisters, Lorena and Edith.  He argues that “the arrangement of the characters conforms perfectly to what we usually find in a wedding ring exchange ceremony.”  So, what do you think?  Is the illustration below a depiction of a wedding ceremony in disguise that shows Charles’s deep feelings for Alice?Alice 1

 

Rogue’s Roost: Paradise in the Wilderness, Part 2

“There was a trail down each side of the river, and, at the upper end of the Roost complex, there was a swinging bridge across the river…  The bridge was supported by approximately 5/8 inch steel cables, which in turn were supported by large wooden timbers at each end and anchored to large fir trees.  The sides of the bridge consisted of wire fencing approximately two 2x12s about two inches apart.

A short distance downstream from the bridge were the tennis and croquet courts, then the main lodge.  The main lodge included a large kitchen area with a separate dining room for the servants along with two bedrooms and a bath for the Chinese cooks.  The main dining room was long and narrow with a fireplace in the middle of one side, built-in buffets on each side of the swinging door into the kitchen, and a very large, long dining table, which was placed down the center of the room.  From the dining room, there were steps down into the screen-enclosed “summer” dining room, which was a delightful spot furnished with bright-colored canvas chairs and a rustic handmade table.  The screens reached from the eaves to within about two feet of the floor and continued around two sides of the room.

From the summer dining room there was a door into the living room and another door leading to the deck over the edge of the river.  There was a large fireplace on the deck directly opposite the huge fireplace in the living room.  The fireplace in the living room was large enough for an adult to walk into and consumed huge logs, many of which were purchased from my Dad(Gus), who cut wood in the wintertime when there was not too much farm work to do…

The deck over the river was a delightful spot.  There was a large alder tree around which the deck had been constructed, and built-in seats on either side of the fireplace, which I guess would be approximately 15×45′.  There were cracks between the decking boards and , in typical ten-year-old fashion, I used to to like to lie face down in the spring sunshine and peer through the cracks at the water rushing below…

In the area of the Roost…, the river was wild and especially beautiful with many excellent fly-fishing riffles and deep holes.  I remember one particularly interesting spot directly down from the swimming pool area.  There was a huge boulder the size of a small house on the edge of the river.  The water was deep and dark and there was a whirlpool near the big rock.  It was fascinating to watch sticks and leaves being sucked down into the center of the whirlpool …

I have many happy memories of the hours spent curled-up in one of the big leather chairs with a good book, a stack of records on the phonograph, and a cozy fire in the fireplace.  It was a fairy-tale sort of place for a financially poor little girl who was actually living in the lap of such luxury…”  –Evelyn Ditsworth Walls

Although,  Rogue’s Roost no longer exists(it was washed away in the ’64 flood), it left indelible memories.  For me, it represents childhood in its most ethereal form.

I remember Mom turning our station wagon down the gravel road, which dropped sharply to the river.  I can still see the lush vegetation on either side of the road, the narrow bridge crossing the irrigation ditch, and the ineffable beauty of the surroundings.

I remember the feeling of remoteness and seclusion.  And I always felt a sense of awe when we arrived at the entrance.

I recall walking on the deck, and looking out at the rushing river below.  When I looked at all the boulders which stretched across the river, I couldn’t understand how a boat could go through.

My clearest memory, though, is walking the path from Rogue’s Roost through a garden, pungent with the aroma of carrots, to come out on a clearing to the roaring sound of the Rogue River.  There was a small beach from where you could watch the river plunge over moss-strewn boulders and pour over a large drop-off amidst a series of huge, volcanic boulders.

Rogue’s Roost will always remain a part of my most magical and mysterious childhood memories.  And from time to time it beckons, calling me to an untroubled world where the doors to this kingdom open once again, and the river flows by undisturbed.

 

A Special Holiday Card Gives Tribute to Black Oaks and Donald L. Donegan

Have you ever heard of Black Oaks?  No.  Then, I’ll tell you.  Black Oaks is a beautiful estate consisting of a main house, whose deck spreads out to embrace the swift waters of the Rogue River, and a series of smaller dwellings, each with their own features.  There are black oaks on the property, but it got its name from Captain Black, who lived there in the 1930s.  Since then, the estate has witnessed several owners, including Harris Allen, director of the Rogue Valley Ranch School, a private academy for troubled youths.  But that was many years ago.  Now the Donegan family are the watchful owners of the estate, and the llamas have replaced the cries of wayward boys.

I remember driving out to Black Oaks along Pine Gate Way, being sure to keep to the branch which led to the river.  Don, a bluff man with light hair, of Irish vintage, would lead me to the deck where his wife, “Pammy”  had already furnished with glasses of cold lemonade and an inviting platter of chocolate chip cookies.  Lively conversation would follow, with Don taking on an authoritarian air, exuding the confidence of a CEO used to being in charge.  I listened carefully, not always agreeing, but imbibing the wisdom of this successful businessman.  And so  we talked, while we gazed out at the rushing river so resplendent in its blue dress, not noticing the time which was also rushing by.  One visit followed another until one day the table was vacant, and Don’s voice had disappeared among the pine…

“As usual the Rogue River flows past our doorstep and presents a wonderful autumn aquacade, which rivals the best of Hollywood’s Esther Williams productions for our viewing pleasure.  Lithe silver bodies cut and turn through the water, acrobatically jumping, churning and thrashing as scores of the huge salmon jockey for the best spawning spots in the clear gravelly shallows.  After years of traversing the oceans, they return from hundreds and perhaps even thousands of miles to deposit their own offspring from the same spot they originated.  Quite a sight to see, and a vivid, turbulent reminder of the Cycle of Life!

Generally, autumn announces its arrival at Black Oaks with a magnificent splash of vibrant orange, yellow, and red leaves fluttering in the breezes.  But this year has been a little different.  One of our showiest past performers just off the corner of Don’s home office had to be removed this past spring because of damage the roots were causing to the walkways and septic system.  And somehow the other surrounding trees and shrubs seem to have taken note of the loss, and are presenting a more subdued mien in their attitude of mourning.

Perhaps this is fitting as this particular autumn lacks its usual sparkle for me because Don is not here to share it…  Don passed away on September 16 after several years struggling against the erosion of time, physical failure, and the odds against living forever.  For someone who was not expected by the doctors of the time to live beyond his twenties, he took great pleasure in trying to make the most of each day of his life, and he experienced a certain glee.. after he reached 80…

One close friend… reminded me of our younger days in California when Don and three other inseparable comrades loved to play gin rummy, hunt, and swap stories over cocktails.  Because Don had chronic health problems…  the other fellows thought Don was sure to expire first, but like the good card player he was, he turned the table one last time, and was the last to fall…”(Holiday Card from Pam Donegan)

Rogue’s Roost: Paradise in the Wilderness, Part 1

When I think of Rogue’s Roost, I am issued once more through the gates of childhood into a pristine and untainted world.  This was a world of heady aromas, incredible beauty, the substance of dreams.

Rogue’s Roost was the summer residence of Phyllis deYoung Tucker, part of a family that owned The San Francisco Chronicle.  Her main home was in Burlingame, California, an area known for wealth.  I knew her as an old lady with a bright smile, a certain elegance in her gait, who often wore a broad-rimmed hat.  She loved to walk through her garden, which was pungent with the smell of carrots, and point out her favorite flowers.  The path continued to a rocky outcropping overlooking the river.  These rocks marked the coveted steelhead hole of her chauffeur, Joe Chevigny.

The swimming pool below the main Roost was a troublesome affair.  Sharp flagstones lined the edge of the pool, and caused one man to require stitches.  I knew it only as a place to frolic in the summer, accompanied by her grandson, Nion Tucker, named for Mrs. Tucker’s husband.

Rogue’s Roost was located off of Highway 62(Crater Lake Highway), about one mile SW of Laurelhurst State Park.  My father said to look for a sign that read N. Tucker.  When I saw the sign, I knew we would begin to descend through a lush forest, ending up at the moss-covered Rogue’s Roost.  Evelyn Ditsworth Walls, whose family settled in the Laurelhurst area in the late 1880s, gives a detailed and poetic description of this special road, and of the area of Rogue’s Roost:  “The road from Crater Lake Highway down to the Roost went through a large, weighted gate, which could be opened without the driver getting out of the car by pulling on a three-foot wooden handle cantilevered to the weights at the hinged side of the gate.  The road wound down the mountainside through virgin forest carpeted with moss where lady slipper orchids and lamb’s tongue bloomed in the early spring…  The road looped around a hairpin curve, alongside the irrigation ditch and across a bridge with rustic seats on each side before plunging down the last steep hill and around the final curve.  Then the road leveled off through the landscaped grounds with a croquet court on one side of the road and a deck tennis court on the other.

The landscaping was quite informal with flagstone walks among the big trees and rockeries with coral bells, columbine, maidenhair and sword ferns.  Near the river there was a natural carpet of different kinds of moss and lichens covering the ground and the large river boulders.  I especially remember the exceptional beauty of the area in the early spring, when all the new growth would be bursting forth in its many shades of green, and again in the fall, when all the autumn shades of russet, red, and gold would emerge following the first nippy nights.  The many dogwood trees and vine maple bushes provided bright spots in the undergrowth both in the spring and fall.”

“Gee, I never dealt with that question before”: Philosophy for Children

Some years ago, Matthew Lipman, a professor at Columbia University, created the Philosophy for Children program.  The basic tenet was that children were born natural philosophers, and that many of their queries had philosophical import.   On the basis of that tenet, he created a curriculum dedicated to utilizing and developing children’s philosophical skills.  His first book, Harry Stottlemeier’s Discovery, proved enormously successful with 5th graders in a New York City school.  His project was quite ambitious, because philosophy encompasses such areas as:  ethics, metaphysics, aesthetics, logic, foundations of mathematical and scientific principles, politics, and the law.

In 1973, Professor Lipman established the Institute for the Advancement for the Philosophy of Children at Montclair State College in Upper Montclair, New Jersey.  Using money from grants, he developed philosophical readings and exercises from K-12.  He also provided a comprehensive teacher’s manual with plans for discussions and future projects.

Dale Cannon, a professor of philosophy at Western Oregon State College, describes the five basic elements in the Philosophy for Children program.  “First, a thought-provoking story and subsequent comments.  Typically, in Philosophy for Children, the students read the story aloud, even though they may have read it before.  Second, student interest is what sets the agenda for discussion.  Children are interested in talking in response to what they have read.  Third, a community of inquiry is a fundamental concept for Matthew Lipman and the program itself.  A group of children gradually develop a sense of cooperation in trying to clarify and comprehend what they are working on.  They are pondering about whether the argument makes good sense, and are holding each other responsible as well.  Fourth, a trained adult facilitator is crucial.  The facilitator needs to be able to draw out the ideas of children without saying, ‘ I want you to pay attention to these ideas, these answers, and not those.’  A trained facilitator might say, ‘Those are interesting thoughts you are coming up with, and I wonder where they might lead.’  Fifth, a set of discussion plans and exercises offer guidance when the opportunity for philosophical dialogue presents itself.  The teacher or adult may wonder,’Gee, I never dealt with that question before.  How should I respond to that.’  The discussion plans and exercises represent people who have worked with the program before and offer helpful suggestions to teachers or adults.”

Over the years, the Philosophy for Children program has made its way into many schools as a means of encouraging thinking and promoting discussion.  However, the program does not limit itself to reasoning only.  It also seeks to encourage creativity and personal and interpersonal growth.  Dale Cannon explains in further detail.  “Creative writing is one method of developing creativity.  And there are questions of a philosophical nature that relate to personal/interpersonal growth.  Some examples:  ‘What am I?  How am I like other persons?  How am I different from other persons?  What is my relationship to my own body?  What is my mind?  What is my mind like?  What is imagination?  What is the relationship between imagination and thinking or mind or thought or dreams?’  All of these are philosophical questions that are returned to again and again throughout the Philosophy for Children program.”  Matthew Lipman was a true pioneer in legitimizing a relationship between philosophical concepts and children.

“How would you like your day to be?”: The C.H.I. revisited for children

Rod’s simple question:  “How would you like your day to be?”, helps you to focus your energy and desires.  Moreover, this question could be asked to children to help them clarify what they want in their day, and to help you as a parent gain cognition of their wants.  A simple question, and yet, not so simple.   To craft one’s day requires a special kind of building materials;  those of the mind and heart.  When we put this question to children, it shows them we give importance to their desires, and that we recognize their uniqueness as human beings.  How often children get lost in the hurried shuffle of everyday affairs.  To begin each day with this simple question is to give our children a feeling of power and direction, which is often lost in a world dominated by adults and their needs.  Let’s not forget that it was only in the 19th century that child psychology came into being.  Alice in Wonderland, published in England in 1865 was the first children’s novel to investigate a child’s mental world, and it also foresaw identity crises, denial, now commonplaces in the field of psychology.  Until then, the child was often an object of neglect, tyrannical abuse, work exploitation.  Rod’s simple question brings the child into focus, and gives it a dignity and respect, which it was denied for thousands of years.

Some thoughts and reflections during the Jewish New Year

“God gave us the gift of life.  We don’t need any more.”–Allan Sherman from The Rape of APE

Another year has passed.  To the Jews, the coming of the harvest during the closest new moon marks the beginning of another year.  It is not surprising that the festival, Rosh Hashanah(literally, the head of the year) is one of the most sacred to the Jews, and, indeed, has implications for all.  The Jewish New Year is more than the turning of the calendar, it is a time to reflect on what has been, and to recognize one’s actions.  For me the previous year was truly “laden with happiness and tears”.  I lost my Mom on June 21, one week after her 90th birthday.  But in the loss, my Dad and I formed a stronger bond.  “We will get through this together”.  Nevertheless, I was forced to face a new emptiness:   For the first time, I went to Oregon without either of my parents, surrounded by family portraits.  It wasn’t easy.  Towards the end of summer, I lost my dear friend, Don Donegan, who had been Chair of the Board of Directors of Medford Education International, and had taught me much of what I know about business.  His home was Black Oaks, located on a beautiful stretch of the Rogue River.  I made many a trip to visit him on Pine Gate Way amid a crowd of llamas.  Those visits are over.  However, there were also joys.   I made new friends through the Eagle Point Writer’s Critique Group.  I saw Warm Springs Falls for the first time, and walked down to the re-named T’lomikh Falls on the Rogue River.  Another year.

What follows are some miscellaneous and scattered thoughts that came from a troubled mind:

The term “religious” fanaticism is a strange one.  When we think about a Lewis Carroll fanatic, do we mean someone that takes joy in ripping up editions of Alice in Wonderland?  Hardly.  Does a Beethoven fanatic spend time recklessly destroying CDs of Beethoven’s symphonies?  Absolutely not.  Yet, the people we often call “religious” fanatics, go about gleefully destroying God’s creations.  Does that make any sense?  Wouldn’t a religious fanatic weep when a new child was born,  kiss the trees,  or bless the stars, rejoicing in God’s creations, not destroying them?  I think so.  My belief is that there is a fanatically-oriented personality that grasps “religion”, which is often a dark mask for the groping hands of power.  By calling such charlatans “religious'” fanatics, we are often elevating criminals to a higher level.  We are, in some sense, giving validation to their nefarious deeds.  We know the power of words.  Human history has choked on them.  “Words are no shoddier than what they peddle.”  Beckett.  But when I witness the current atrocities in the Middle East, I am reminded of lines from Waiting from Godot:

Pozzo:  I am Pozzo!  Pozzo!  Does that name mean nothing to you?  I said does that name mean nothing to you?

Estragon:  I once knew a family called Gozzo.  The mother had “the clap”.

I will finish this post with lines from my dear friend, Sarah Seff Rolfe, taken from her poem, Quasars at Dacca:  “Earth, a tiny bead spinning in space, and still learning.”

May all of you enjoy a year of discovery, peace, understanding, and joy.

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