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Today is Flag Day. It was on June 14, 1777, that the Second Continental Congress approved the Stars and Stripes as the flag of the United States with a star for each state and 13 red and white stripes to commemorate the original 13 colonies. Of course, in 1777, there were only 13 states, and therefore only 13 stars, and their arrangement wasn’t consistent: Sometimes the stars were in a circle, sometimes in rows, and there were a few occasions in the 19th century in which the stars appeared in the shape of a star. Our current incarnation of the flag has been around since 1960 with Hawaii’s admission to the Union. In the event that Puerto Rico is officially made a state, there are already some 51-star designs in the works.
Woodrow Wilson formally declared June 14 to be Flag Day in 1916 and Congress established National Flag Day in 1949. It isn’t a federal holiday, although Pennsylvania celebrates it as a state holiday and has done so since 1937.

It’s the 210th birthday of Harriet Beecher Stowe (books by this author). Harriet Elizabeth Beecher was born in Litchfield, Connecticut, in 1811. Her father, Lyman Beecher, was a prominent Congregationalist minister and he was a great proponent of education. The family moved to Cincinnati in 1832 and Harriet married Calvin Ellis Stowe in 1836; he was a clergyman and scholar and he encouraged her to continue writing, which she had already enjoyed doing for several years.
Although Ohio was a free state, Cincinnati was separated from Kentucky slave-owners only by the Ohio River and Stowe was very aware of conditions through her encounters with fugitive slaves. She also read a great deal of abolitionist literature, and when her husband took a teaching position in Maine she began writing a long tale of slavery, Uncle Tom’s Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly (1852), which caused a national sensation. When she later met President Lincoln in 1863 he reportedly remarked, “So this is the little lady who made this great war.”
In 1996, novelist Jane Smiley wrote in Harper’s:
“Ernest Hemingway, thinking of himself, as always, once said that all American literature grew out of Huck Finn. It undoubtedly would have been better for American literature, and American culture, if our literature had grown out of one of the best-selling novels of all time, another American work of the nineteenth century, Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”
Smiley explained that by making the racism and slavery a personal matter between two individuals, rather than a political and institutional evil, Huck Finn fails even where it succeeds, by allowing white people to feel good about getting over their racism without ever actually doing anything about it. Smiley wrote, “Personal relationships do not mitigate the evils of slavery.” In Huck Finn, she writes, “All you have to do to be a hero is acknowledge that your poor sidekick is human; you don’t actually have to act in the interests of his humanity.” She concludes:
“I would rather my children read Uncle Tom’s Cabin,even though it is far more vivid in its depiction of cruelty than Huck Finn, and this is because Stowe’s novel is clearly and unmistakably a tragedy. No whitewash, no secrets, but evil, suffering, imagination, endurance, and redemption — just like life.”

while there’s still time…

DemelsaHaughtonIllustration

illustrator: Demelsa Haughton

About William Stanley Merwin born this day , Sept 30th in 1927:

Merwin eventually moved to Hawaii and set about restoring a former pineapple plantation on Maui to its original rain-forest state, a painstaking and years long process.
He said: “I think there’s a kind of desperate hope built into poetry now that one really wants, hopelessly, to save the world. One is trying to say everything that can be said for the things that one loves while there’s still time.
On writing, Merwin insists on regular practice. He said: “I’ve found that the best thing for me is to insist that some part of the day — and for me, it’s the morning until about two in the afternoon — be dedicated to writing. I go into my room and shut the door, and that’s that. You have to make exceptions, of course, but you just stick to it, and then it becomes a habit, and I think it’s a valuable one. If you’re waiting for lightning to strike a stump, you’re going to sit there for the rest of your life.”
He died in March 2019 at the age of 91.

Music in the Mountains

StoneForest, China

Music is an art form whose medium is sound and silence.
Its common elements are pitch (which governs melody and harmony),
rhythm (and its associated concepts tempo, meter, and articulation),
dynamics,
and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture.
The word derives from Greek μουσική mousike; “art of the Muses”.

Fugi
beats a bass drum.

Hawaii
strums calypso.

Catskills
sound the violins.

The Rockies
trumpet horns.

The Smokies
shush their castinettes:
an Appalachian song.

The timbre of the sounds resounds:
redwoods’ bass,
driftwood’s chant.

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