Monday, July 28, 2014

Water conservation

The July 21 article by Anne Burgess, River flow determines Danver's water restrictions, reminded me of drought seasons in the past, and prompted me to write a column about conserving water. I submitted it to The Danvers Herald today.

See As lawns brown, time to conserve water (posted 8/1/14).

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Great-grandmother Nichols

Elizabeth Perkins Stanley, known to family and friends as "Lizzie," grew up in Salem and lived there until she married Andrew Nichols (September 1861) and moved into the house he had built for her at 98 Preston Street, Danvers. Their marriage lasted 60 years, and the house, expanded in 1880 to accommodate their large family, lasted over 110 years. We called it "Pine Knoll."

I've heard stories about my great grandmother, and even have some of her love letters to Andrew (1856-1861), but of course I never met her.  I well remember her house and many of her children -- especially my grandfather William and my great aunts May and Margaret.  I've inherited a few of her spoons (see Spoons from the past).   

Here is an undated photograph of her, found recently in a box of Pine Knoll papers: 

 On the back of this photo is the following writing:

I also found the February 21, 1929 issue of the Salem Evening News reporting the "Death of Mrs. Nichols" on page 18.  Within a long report of Danvers doings, her obituary appeared under the heading "DIED IN 93D YEAR."  See below (click on the image to enlarge it). 

Salem Evening News, Thursday February 21, 1929
Below is an image of page 18, with ads and full text. This old newsprint page is very fragile, ready to crumble. I've preserved the message of the text by photocopying and photographing it. I know the old acidic paper won't last.
Click on image to enlarge it.
This week I've learned that a collection of my great-grandmother's letters exist in the Clements Library at the University of Michigan. That's a surprise!  I intend to contact the library and provide more information about her life, based on this obituary and other sources from her Pine Knoll home.

Some of her diairies (from 1885-1889) are in the Boston Athenaeum, according to this catalog entry on Worldcat. Description:  "Elizabeth Perkins (Stanley) Nichols, was active in many clubs and organizations in the Danvers-Salem area including the Unitarian Congregational Church of Danvers (of which she was a founder), the Danver's Women's Association, the Female Charitable Society, the WCTU, and the DAR. Her daily entries record her social and family connections, her interest in reading, gardening, and continuing education (attending lectures and serving on Salem Athenaeum committees), and local and national politics."

Thursday, July 10, 2014


Today for my birthday I was given a set of drawing pencils.

When I came home at dusk, I sat out on our back steps and sketched the huge oak tree that towers over our back fence, and a few other trees and structures visible there. I worked very quickly, because the light was fading and mosquitos were biting. I grabbed pencils randomly, experimenting just for fun.

I've never before had a real set of drawing pencils, nor for that matter have I spent much time drawing. I don't think of myself as an artist. But recently I came under the strong influence of my artistic sister, and for the past three weeks have been enjoying the art of drawing. While visiting Jean in New Mexico, I spent hours in her art studio looking at what she and her fellow artists have created. We visited other studios, too, and the stunning southwest scenery inspired me to take many photographs. I began to imagine that "someday" I might take an art class and want to recreate those scenes.

Jean gave me a lovely book that she had made herself:
Handmade book by Jean Nichols
This book inspired me to try something different, to be more creative. Instead of just using it as a journal, scribbling words as is my usual habit, I began adding drawings. At first I drew with my pen. Then I asked Jean for pencils and an eraser. She gave me a few crayons, too. I sat in her yard and drew various scenes, enjoying the process.

Above is my ink drawing of the old bus, rusting at the edge of her hayfield. The next day I added a touch of color, because that old hippie bus had once been brilliantly painted. Below is my second bus drawing, this time in pencil. I tried to sketch the grasses that surrounded me, but that was hard to do. Drawing a bus was easier. 

In the Danvers schools I had been subjected to various ART teachers, and expected to copy exactly what they posted up in front of the classroom. I didn't enjoy art then, and concluded that I wasn't any good at it.  I preferred science. In 7th grade, however, I really responded to lessons in mechanical drawing. I loved doing perspective drawings. I recall creating one of a tree house, an imaginary tree house of my own invention. Last week, while searching for something else, I stumbled upon my 7th grade art folder!  I didn't open it until tonight, after coming inside from my twilight drawing session. Sure enough, there were examples of perspective drawing done with rulers and "vanishing points." I vividly remember those drawings and the fun of making them. 

I have no memory, however, of drawing the deer with her fawn (colored drawing above) --nor of most of the other art found in my folder. Gosh, I wasn't so bad at art. My preference for the mechanical drawing was much stronger; I had more confidence as I worked with a ruler and followed established guidelines about how the perspective should work. That part fascinated me.  

Now, at age 71, I have a fresh sense of confidence about drawing.  Any kind of drawing. I feel free to create whatever I want, without critical judgment from a school art teacher. This is much more fun!