Archive for May 13th, 2017

Touchdown week

During my brief touchdown in the US I was kept quite busy on the preparation of the material for the next assignment, a just-in-time affair that would not have been possible if one of my young colleagues had not stepped in. I am very lucky to have all this young talent around me.

There is a proposal that needed attention and there was the tying up of loose ends from the Madagascar trip. But through all of this I was nevertheless able to enjoy the changed landscape around me: the trees are green again (they were bare when I left), the asparagus are out (eating asparagus for dinner several times a week), the peas are visible, the berry bushes are looking healthy and the apple and beach plum are gorgeous with their delicate blossoms.

I wrote my annual remembrance letter to B whose daughter, Sita’s best friend, died 16 years ago of an overdose. We planted the beach plum in her memory and called it Jennee’s tree.  The tree has shown staying power. It was uprooted when the new septic system went in; it was invaded several times by a destructive colony of tiny creatures, eating its leaves, and some of its limbs died. But it is thriving again and so we think about resilient Jennee in her second life as a tree.

We attended a lecture about ‘The House at Lobster Cove.’ A wonderful book that I could not put away. Although the title suggests the story of a house, it is actually the story of a very interesting man, George Nixon Black, who lived through some of America’s big upheavals at the turn of the 19/20th century. If anyone thinks we live in a time of great upheaval now, read some history books, especially of the 19th century. Americans burned Catholic churches, feathered and tarred people of the ‘wrong’ religion (priests) and agitated against the influx of Italians and Irish. This current preoccupation with foreigners and their religion is nothing new in America.

George Nixon Black commissioned his friend, the later famous architect Peabody, to design and build the house on Lobster Cove, named Kragsyde. Olmsted designed the landscape around the house. Axel’s grandfather, after whom he is named, was the gardener and is mentioned in the book. This is where Axel sr met Axel’s grandmother, who worked at the estate as a maid.

The house was an architectural masterpiece. Unfortunately it was taken down after Black died. There is no trace of it here at Lobster Cove anymore. But the speaker and her husband, as a young couple at the time, built an exact replica using the original plans on an island off the coast of Maine. It took them 20 years. We hope to visit it one day.kragsyde

And now the day of departure has arrived again. I am switching between playing with grandchildren and packing my suitcase, favoring the former. Sita had to work in Boston and brought the family to stay with us, a wonderful advance treat for Mother’s Day.


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