Thursday, September 11, 2014

Walking with Aunt Dot By Beth Kinsella Sakanishi


Years ago, when I was back in Rochester one time, I went to visit Aunt Dot with Jim. We hopped from subject to subject, happily talking our way from the present, to the past, and back. At one point Aunt Dot and I were talking about her fabled ‘green thumb’ and how she would love Japan with all its flowers, flowering bushes, flowering plants, flowering trees, some of which she would recognize (dogwood, azalea wisteria) and some native to Asia or Japan, or just needing a warmer climate than western NY, which she would not (bush clover, the ‘handkerchief tree’). 

I went back to Japan and had the good idea to put together a photo album of the things I saw blooming in my walks around the neighborhood. As I walked for about an hour or so, many days, at that time, I saw a good variety. I started it with the intention of doing a ‘calendar’ of flowers: photos of what I saw each month, with just a phrase or two to identify what I had photographed. 

But then I got sick and could not do those walks at all for a long time. So I never did finish the ‘flower calendar album’ for Aunt Dot. 

She must be up there whispering in my ear, though, because I have never forgotten the impulse and often think of it, and her, on my walks, which I have taken up again. 

I decided to start a sort of blog recently (just for me, really, and perhaps Mom and Dad), where I can explain to them what I see in my walks that range in all directions, through a varied landscape, month by month. I worked on an entry for August/September a few days ago, after thinking for days in a row, as I passed a certain temple, “I must take photos of those crape myrtle trees in bloom,” and then walking the ten minutes there, finally, and taking some photos. 

 Crape Myrtle Tree--Japan

The photos alone would not mean as much as if I explained different things about this temple area, so the few paragraphs I had in mind, became pages, and thus my ‘Masuo flower calendar’ was born, from the original idea for Aunt Dot. 

I thought of her the entire time I was taking the crape myrtle photos. They are a tree that originated in Asia, but my friend Rebecca, from California, knew them, so though I had never seen them before coming here, she had. The Japanese call them ‘saru suberi’ (‘saru’ = monkey, and ‘suberi’ = slippery) because, with its smooth bark, “even a monkey would slip down its trunk.”

They usually start to bloom sometime in August and are the perfect lacy, delicate texture and pale colors against the searing, bright blue sky, made even more delicious in September, when we start to get what I call ‘shredded clouds,’ wisps of white against a paler blue sky. The tiny blossoms of the crape myrtle can be pink, white, or a light lavender. One website I looked at called the last variety ‘Twilight lavender,’ which I rather liked. 

They are delicate blossoms, though, and since August and September are typhoon season, we sometimes wake up and after the strong wind and rain, find the poor crape myrtle blossoms spread across the entire road, a beautiful carpet of pastels against the black pavement or bits of color strewn across puddles. 

It is these small details I have kept track of in my head for years, in the album I continued to ‘make’ for Aunt Dot. There is a pilgrimage that Tim and I have been wanting to do ‘someday’ for years: it is 88 temples on Shikoku Island. The founding priest, Kukai, went to China in the 8th century, came back and helped popularize Shingon Buddhism in Japan, creating this 1200 kilometer pilgrimage route, among other things. When you walk it, you are advised to ‘walk with Kukai’ in your heart. I think that, when I am on my long walks, delighting in this or that flower or someone’s garden, I am really ‘walking with Aunt Dot’.

Doris and her Love of Plants!

--In an email, Beth added a few days ago: “Here’s to Aunt Dot! 
IF the weather cooperates — a big if at this time of year -- I will actually be in Kamakura on her birthday and part of my itinerary is to check out two temples that have bush clover blooming. Bush clover is another flower I have never seen and I discovered recently that this is because it is native to Japan. Even so, I had never seen it near me, and so look forward to seeing it at these two temples that are famous for having two different kinds (one white, one red). Aunt Dot will definitely be with me on that trip!”

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Taylor Reunion Songbooks By CB Taylor Kinsella, Pat Kinsella Herdeg and Chuck Lochner

Looking through various music books in Mom’s collection, I came upon a yellow folder titled ‘Taylor Reunion Songbook’. “I remember these!” I exclaimed, although in truth I never made many of the early reunions. I had heard the stories of the dark starry nights and the crackling bonfire as cousins, aunts and uncles encircled the flames and sang by the light of the fire to songs that were familiar to the oldest generation. And, I remembered long drives up to our cottage in Canada, singing these songs as we drove.
So, I asked Aunt CB to write a few words:

 Dennis and Ann Catherman, Aunt Barb and Uncle Harold with Kathy looking over their shoulders, 1980

“Reunions started after Mom died. We all needed to get together to report on jobs each of us were doing, and also just needed to be together! It fell into a pattern of a weekend in September, near my parent’s wedding date (September 30th, 1915), and we started at one another’s houses.

As we grew up, we had a piano at home, and we each took lessons. And, at every Taylor get-together (B.W. and his boys), they always sang hymns. So it was natural for all of us to sing. We sang in two and three part harmony. Esther usually played the piano as she was the best, but we sang anything. We also sang in the car when we were going to Grandma Baker’s in Center Lisle  or to B.W.’s in Batavia. So it was natural for us to sing at reunions.

 Aunt CB, Aunt Ruth and Chuck Lochner on guitar, 1980

After a bit, I put together this songbook and had about forty songs (this current songbook contains 222 songs!—Pat).When we went to the park in later years, we had a little table organ to use, but we didn’t need it; I would just start them off and anyone would call out a song to sing. In later years, the younger generation did not seem to have the same enthusiasm for singing as we four girls did, so we were outvoted; the songbooks were put away.”

Mom remembers some songs in particular when driving in the car:

  • ·         ‘American the Beautiful’

  • ·         Old McDonald’

  • ·         ‘I’ve Been Working on the Railroad

  • ·         ‘You Must have been a Beautiful Baby’

  • ·         ‘In My Merry Automobile’

  • ·         ‘When Johnny Comes Marching Home’

When singing around the piano:

  • ·         ‘When It’s Springtime in the Rockies’ (ALWAYS, Mom writes—lovely to harmonize. According to Mom, this was their signature song, and to quote her ‘We really rocked on that one!’)

  • ·         ‘I’m Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover’

  • ·         ‘By the Light of the Silvery Moon’

  • ·         ‘In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree’

  • ·         ‘Let There Be Peace on Earth’ (Another good harmonizer writes Mom)

  • ·          ‘In the Garden’ (Mom writes that Aunt Doris had this played in the background at her funeral. When Mom explained to the minister how much this meant to Doris and her siblings, the minister had them sing it at her graveside.)

And, at Taylor Family Reunions, the little kids especially enjoyed:

  • ·         ‘Puff the Magic Dragon’

  • ·         ‘On Top of Old Smokey’

  • ·         ‘He’s Got the Whole World in his Hands

The songs Pat remembers so fondly include:

  • ·         ‘O Tell Me Why’

  • ·          ‘Hang Down Your Head Tom Dooley’

  • ·          ‘Bicycle Built for Two’

  • ·         ‘Five Hundred Miles’

  • ·         “Hello Dolly’

  • ·         ‘Swing Low Sweet Chariot’

I KNOW cousins have more favorites, more memories of these Taylor Reunion songs. Add in the comment section!

 Chuck Lochner, so often our guitar player, writes: “Ahh those Taylor genes. Brings back the vision of Esther on piano with her siblings gathered around singing ‘Heart of My Heart, How I love that Melody.’ Memories Forever.”

“Heart of my Heart”ends with -- “I know a tear would glisten if once more I could listen To the gang that sang ‘Heart of my Hearts’. How I would love to see the gang of Taylor siblings once more singing that song, no doubt in perfect harmony.

Looking forward to another Taylor Reunion in September!

 Bob Taylor and Aunt Doris, 1980, No Doubt discussing the words to 'Little Miss Bliss' !

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Woodlawn Taylors’ Six Month Battle with Typhoid By Cordelia Waller Taylor and Emma Carson Taylor, With Help from Pat Kinsella Herdeg (in 2014)

 Aunt CB, or Mom to me, has written several times over the years about the many cases of typhoid associated with the Taylor Homestead of Woodlawn, in Oakfield, NY.

In 2000, she wrote of a visit she and Dad and her sister Doris made to Woodlawn many years after it had been sold out of the family (and, as Woodlawn has since burned down, we are very grateful for this visit and the many pictures and written memoir of the visit):

Woodlawn in 1900

Behind the shed is a well, also enclosed, which is the famous cause of many cases of typhoid in the family over the years.

The journals of Emma C. Taylor detail these illnesses of typhoid with many queries to God as to their origin. It was unknown to them then that the animal barn, less than 100 feet away, certainly provided a fertile drain for the germ to enter the well water as it seeped through the rocks beneath.

In 1903, my great grandfather Bryant Waller (or ‘B.W.’) Taylor was 44 years old. He and some of his family came down with typhoid in the middle of June.

His mother, Cordelia Waller Taylor, writes of this painful time in her journal. But first, it is January 1st of the New Year, 1903, and Cordelia gives thanks for the past year and expresses her love for her family:

“January First: New Year’s Day.


This is the beginning which is all we can know and can say about the ushering in of the new year.

Our eyes are mercifully blinded as to the events of the coming year. I have not the slightest desire to lift the curtain to see the end or to take the reins in my own hands for guidance. But will resolutely follow our Heavenly Leader who never makes any mistakes or leads astray.

Our two lives have been mercifully spared through fifty years of married life (ed. She and her husband Daniel Rockwell Taylor).

The blessing of God has rested upon us in all our ways notwithstanding our unworthiness and imperfections. The celebration of our Golden Wedding was the chief event to us last year and Bryant and Emma were the leaders in it all and such a beautiful heavenly and glorious surprise they made for us. May the Lord richly reward all the precious children for the tender thoughtfulness and loving words and deeds they have ever given us. They have left nothing undone for our comfort and happiness and in our declining years, they are our chief joy, comfort and blessing in this life.

May his banner of love ever be over them.”

Golden Wedding Spoon, Gift to Cordelia and Daniel on their 50th Anniversary

Then, in early summer:

Younger Bryant--Taken about 1885

“June 3rd: Dear Bryant’s 44th Birthday—he and Emma go out to Mr. Carson’s at a meeting of the Grange and how glad that they can go. The Lord bless the dear boy and all he has. The dry parched earth is begging for rain and I feel that it will come in God’s good time.

June 12th: The dear ones from Jacksonville have come, and how glad we are to meet again and how thankful that our lives have all been spared (This is Bryant’s brother Carlton and his wife Jeannie. They spend summers in Oakfield and then go back to Jacksonville, Illinois to teach at a school for the deaf). All are well, but weary with hard teaching and work and so glad to get to this dear little home, and the house is being newly painted, and so beautiful—white with green blind. How happy we all are.

June 18th: Daniel and I go up home till Saturday night. Poor Bryant is far from well, and we must see what we can do.

June 26th: Go up home for two days to lend a hand. Find poor Bryant a very sick man and how my mother-heart aches for him. Dr. Turk comes every day. Dear little Floyd is coming up all right, but Bryant’s gain is slow.

The Typhoid is a terrible disease, but I think the Dr. with the blessing of God on his treatment will bring them safely through. Dear Bryant is getting so emaciated—the first dangerous sickness in his life—grace is sufficient.

June 28th: All remain at home this Sunday, but Carlton goes up to care for dear Bryant.

June 30th: Spend the day up home and help and care for berries. Dear Carlton is looking very weary caring for poor Bryant day and night. He must take a rest. All are doing well.

July 15th: A long time has passed, little Diary, since I last wrote. The critical illness of poor Bryant has been a heavy burden on our hearts. Hope has almost died at times, but the great Physician has been pleased to bless Dr. Turk’s treatment and there is a change for the better. Little Floyd is dressed and beginning to take solid food. How glad our hearts all are.

July 19th: Can it be that I have been permitted to go to our dear church once more? Carlton is with dear Bryant a part of every day, and cares for him some nights. Dr. Turk tells me Bryant is much better but no one is allowed to see him but the caretakers. Thinks he will be able to sit up in two weeks. Poor dear boy—what a hard struggle he has had. May the Lord sustain him and fill his heart with His love and peace. Excellent sermon today from John 14:19.

July 24th: Daniel and I go up home for a few weeks for a needed change and rest and to help as needed.

Dr. permits me to see dear Bryant today, this a.m. I must go from my knees with perfect self-control. The dear boy looks up into my face with a pleased look and says “ I’m glad to see you, little Mother, dear”. And then we talk a few minutes and I go till 3p.m. and then I go to him again with a spoonful of custard which he enjoys. Poor boy! So thin and white and so patient withal. May this terrible affliction be sanctified to the spiritual good of all.

July 26th: No going to church from here, but we have an omnipresent God, and who rules in all our affairs. We have our quiet Bible study and reading and meditation. Leon is growing no worse—a mild attack—and hope it will soon be over.

July 28th: Clara and I go down to Carlton’s to pick berries—other pickers are there and we bring home 17 quarts of red berries. The best picking is over. Our time is limited and we get what others picked.

August 2nd: No going to church today. All too weary and worn, but hope to go next Sunday. Hope on as ever. The sick ones improving and all are so thankful.

Taylor Family in 1904--Florence and Mildred in front, Floyd, Clara, Emma and Lloyd in middle and Leon and Bryant in back

August 5th: Little Mildred was two years old last Saturday and this is the 11th birthday of the twins. Dear Bryant comes down stairs the first time in six weeks and what a joy fills our hearts. The children go to Oakfield to Sunday School picnic.

August 6th: Mr. and Mrs. Carson (parents of Emma Carson, Bryant’s wife) go home today. They have done us a world of good in very many ways. The Lord bless them and prolong their lives.”

August 23rd: Daniel, Raymond and I go to church this beautiful day, after a heavy blow for two days. Excellent sermon from Acts 19:20.

So, by the beginning of August, the Taylors believed the worst was behind them.

A cousin of Bryant’s, Raymond Taylor, aged 32, was living with them. Raymond’s parents (Elliot and Sarah Taylor) had a farm named ‘Homestead’ just down the road from Woodlawn. But, Elliot died unexpectedly in 1889 and Sarah died in 1902. When Sarah died, Homestead was sold, so Elliot moved in with his cousin, Bryant and Emma Taylor and their family.

In early November, Emma writes in her journal: “But, we are all here. That means a great deal with the Typhoid lurking for the last six months. What were our feelings at having Raymond come down with it? Symptoms were such that it was thought best to take him to the hospital at Batavia where he is receiving good care and attention from Dr. Turk who helped us all out. Raymond was so faithful and was in fact the only one to carry on things here as far as chores go for a while, that it seemed a pity he should have typhoid.”

Emma does not write for another month. “We all know what came to Raymond—Death, and unexpectedly. He seemed to be getting on as well as could be when suddenly on November 16th at nine o’clock in the morning at the hospital at Batavia he died. He was buried beside his father and mother.”

November 16th was the wedding anniversary of Daniel and Cordelia Taylor. Cordelia writes in her journal: “Our 51st anniversary and I am thankful to see an improvement.  Raymond passes away at the hospital this morning—poor stricken boy from his birth, and I believe it is well with his soul now. He served the Lord to the best of his ability, and it was his wish to go and be at rest.”

So ends this typhoid episode. As Cordelia writes on the New Year--   the family’s ‘eyes are mercifully blinded’ to what will be ahead in their lives. One year later, Cordelia’s oldest child, Clara Taylor Henry dies at age 48 at her home in Wisconsin. Four years later, Bryant and Emma’s beloved Mildred, now age six, dies of typhoid and scarlet fever. Her mother Emma writes: ‘Our little six year old lamb has gone Home.’ Emma describes her white casket nearly covered underneath the last home flowers of the season--bachelor’s buttons, pansies (the flower she loved so well), asters, bluebells and pretty maple leaves.’

Amidst the heartache are stories of happiness and achievement for this family centered around the farm at Woodlawn. We are so grateful to both Cordelia and Emma for writing their journals. It allows us to remember and honor their stories, and reminds me of the ancient Celts who kept memories alive through their rich oral tradition of reciting tales of great battles and loves. One hundred and ten years from now, how will we be remembered?