Category Archives: Creativity

Once upon a Time…

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“Media are major industries, generating profits and employment, they provide us with most of our information about the political process, and they offer us ideas, images and representations (both factual and fiction) that inevitably shape our view of reality.” (David Buckingham, Media Education)

I immigrated to the United States in the fall of 1990.  Iraq invaded our adopted country of Kuwait (my family was originally from Palestine) in August of that summer and after weeks of fleeing and general bureaucratic drama we finally landed in little Rhode Island, making us refugees twice in three generations.

The most memorable part (even though there were many) of leaving the only home I ever knew in Kuwait was the fact that I was only allowed to bring one toy and one book along on that journey.  This was a tall order, an only child and grandchild who (until then), but been lavished with every toy, craft, and Barbie dream house set available in the 80’s.  I spurned the cabbage patch kids and Barbie bedroom set for the soft and cuddly panda bear I aptly named Dabdoob. (Doob is Arabic for bear).

The infamous Dabdoob posing with a photo of my youngest child

The infamous Dabdoob posing with a photo of my youngest child

I provided emotional support to poor little Dabdoob (he was a bit guileless in his young years) on the journey out of Kuwait; military checkpoints, arid desert heat, custody battles, embassy lines, patriarchy, you know the usual…and the main way I did that was by reading to him.

The book I chose was my favorite at the time, Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid.  Now, before we get any farther, I need to clarify this was NOT the Disney version.  Happily ever after was ambiguous for the Little Mermaid, who ended up essentially sacrificing her life for that of her love, the prince.  You can read this version Here. It was clear that even at that young age, I already had deeply entrenched ideas about gender, female power (or lack of it), and societal expectations.

A mermaid has not an immortal soul, nor can she obtain one unless she wins the love of a human being. On the power of another hangs her eternal destiny.

I mean you may as well take out “mermaid” and replace it with female here and take it from there.

Unseen she kissed the forehead of her bride, and fanned the prince, and then mounted with the other children of the air to a rosy cloud that floated through the aether

Yup, here she is, giving it all up so that the prince can have this other lady while she floated through the aether until she can earn an immortal soul…

anyone wanna tell her they are other fish in the sea...?!

anyone wanna tell her they are other fish in the sea…?!

 

Well, needless to say, Dabdoob was totally taken by it, but I wasn’t buying any of it. I liked my princesses strong and loud with big badass hair but it would be another twenty years before Hollywood and the general media caught up.  At least it kept us occupied while my mom replenished our water supply in the intense August heat, or when we ran out of gas on the outskirts of Bagdad.  The familiar story lulled us to sleep in the back of my mom’s read Honda at the desert sky darkened and filled with stars.

Flash forward a couple months in America, I found myself repeating first grade since I had zero English. I have vivid memories of my teacher being really nice and patient. For one of our projects that year she had us write stories.  My oral English was fine, but I hadn’t mastered reading or writing yet.  She let me tell her my story while she transcribed my words for me to copy down later and this was the result:

The Poor Princess

The Poor Princess.  Wait? Is she levatating?

 

 

And here is the story page by page:

 

dat penminship tho

dat penmanship tho

 

story-2

 

What's better than a cookie eating monster vanqushing princess?

What’s better than a cookie eating monster vanquishing princess?

 

story-3

 

story-4

 

happily-ever-after

Big hair dont care

 

last

The end.

The princess didn’t need anyone’s help, just her own ability to eat a magic cookie. BAM!

In 2nd grade I created a princess that was also able to enlist the help of forest creatures and the natural environment to kick invading colonial forces (okay, an evil witch) out of her land- er, castle.

I wrote this one is 2nd grade!

There was ALWAYS a princess...

The princess was made a refugee, wonder where I got that idea from?! Ha!

 

My stories have gotten more complex over the years (probably not by much!) But the ideas of going against the general or popular grain of social expectations, especially ones reflected in the media remains at the heart of my writing. Dabdoob is not impressed though, he doesn’t like making waves.

Before the war, surrounded by my bday loot!

Before the war, surrounded by my bday loot!

 

 

 

 

The Flood

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The Flood ( Summer 2016)

 

Wellfleet

 

It is there.

There I must go before returning. Before tending to responsibilites.

There I must go.

There I must see.

It becomes clear as I round the bend that there is simply no more road.

Cars that traveled before me have submitted to their fate, their unfinished plan and pulled over to park.

I decide I must do the same.

It’s gleeful to change course.

To be forced to stop.

To surrender.

To be gently reminded of my smallness

What insignificant monarchs we are. inconsolable children who must have their way.

Nothing and everything, divinity in the smallest, but humble acts.

Magic in washing dishes, tending to children, cooking meals.

No longer will we seek out what can be found within

pilgrimage not to a holy site, but to the corner store for milk and eggs.

Basic duties are holy.

Magic everywhere. ruin everywhere. despair everywhere.

Hope bleeds out of our eyes like open wounds.

How beautiful destruction can be.

The road, now two feet under water is still hot from the sun under my submerged bare feet, but the water passing over it is cold.

Bay water that spilled its banks like an over full tub.

The sea birds seem to not have noticed.
I feel relived that the earth, the storms, the flooding, mirrored what I felt, what we have been going through.

so much pushing and pulling, plotting and planning-arguing and counter-arguing- when I should be surrendering instead.

Not Since 1948

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Super moon

Beavermoon

Tonight we meet again.

Not since 1948.

Is it mere coincidence?

68 years ago we gazed at the moonrise from verandas overloooking the sea

We sipped sweet mint tea and spoke in hushed tones as the sky darkened

perhaps even gasped at she climbed the horizon, illumating her glorious fullness.

What A marvel! I could hear my great grandfather say. How bright it must have appeared to them then in the cloudless Levant evening.

Was the moon whispering messages then, as she is today?

Or it enough to just shine her glow on all our dark spaces.

“I see you” she exclaims dryly.  Like a sibling’s weary game. “You can come out now.”

Be prepared

Come together

Build your dreams

There is no where left to hide.

 

 

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The Shore/ Submit

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The Shore

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My relationship with the shore has always been this.

Nothing but sea and sky.

Nothing else in my head.

How far ive drifted from even this, my most basic of anchors.

It’s enough even just to feel the edges now,

the edges of myself seem satisfying now.

Ill take it.

I recognize it’s not just me, but Earth that is also trembling.

She is heaving, insides upturning. like so many times before,

Millenia folded upon millenia, reaching, streatching.

We become like the dry river bed spreading like tentacles that quickly dry in the sun’s encompassing snare.

Unsure when our banks will taste the water but still we reach.

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Submit

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Submit I said.

He knows this is his challenge, says he can not, will not submit.

The word vibrates like rain striking the ground

Soon this, I can so plainly see, will be under the sea

To submit, I know is not a surrender but an act of active listening

like turning to face the wind so she knows you have aknowledged her

I describe it as an instinct, knowledge we were born with; to submit is to activate the divine deep in the marrow

We were taught how to submit, to place forehead on ground in supplication

There is peace to be found in greeting the earth

But what is prayer to us now?

Oceans removed from where we were meant to be

He will not bow down

Submission requires pliancy, the ability to bend as to avoid breaking

I ask the earth to remind me and here I am doing the reminding.

Sometimes its easy to forget, among the sameness and drudgery- that we are in love

That we are saving each other

that we are catching each other when we fall

that our souls are in communion

we were drawn together for this unraveling-of this I am certain.

 

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Story Research: What’s in a Name?

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There is much to be said about the origin of words and especially, names.

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Whenever I hit a snag in getting a writing idea off the ground, I brainstorm some concepts and look up the etymology of the words.  Almost always that sparks inspiration and a clearer sense of direction for my writing.

For example, take a look at the etymology of name:

one’s reputation”             “well-known,”             “the essential thing or quality”

When you know someone or something’s name, you know the main, or essential quality of the thing… or I could take this to mean that one’s name could also describe qualities they are well-known for… this would hopefully help me with naming characters.

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As a mom, I’ve had the opportunity to name these little people who are my children. I was taught this was the single most important task as a parent as the name has the potential to describe a child’s personality and place in the world. I probably feel this way because of stories my grandmother told me as a child.  A little bit of family folklore:  my grandmother used to say that parents think they name their children, but the name actually already exists out in the world and parents only hear it when the creator wanted them to hear it.  Apparently, the name was their destiny anyway as it reveals information about how they would be in the world. She told me that it was no coincidence that my name is Nada, meaning hope. Yes, very nice, thank you Grandma!  I could get into an interesting debate regarding fate versus free will and all the opposing views that often exist side by side, but that’s for another day!

So what’s in a name? For my creative writing, I am inspired by looking at whether names run with or opposite of what is expected. I think it would be fun to create imagery, settings, and characters based on this concept. There is lots of space here to create multilayered meaning, or irony.

Also, I can’t talk about naming without seeing it from a post-colonial lens: that which you name, you own and control. luckily, many of the original names of places in and around Rhode Island survived all these years.

Roger Williams and the Narragansetts

                               Roger Williams and the Narragansetts

In 1636 Roger Williams, founder of Rhode Island, settled on the east bank of the river and was told its name by the local Narragansett Indians. The name “Moshassuck” means “river where moose watered”.

Here’s some more name info I’ve gathered:

  • Woonasquatucket River (pronounced /wuːnˈɑːskwəˌtʌkᵻt/, Algonquian for “where the salt water ends”
  • Quinnipiac River: (Quinnipiac) “where we change our route”
  • Conanicut Island: (Narragansett) named for a 17th-century chief Canonicus
  • Conimicut: (Narragansett) thought to be named for granddaughter of Canonicus
  • Hockomock Swamp: (Natick-Abnaki) “evil spirit” or “hellish place”
  • Siasconset: (Narragansett) “at the place of many/great bones” (whales?)
Providence

Providence

  • Pawtuxet: Little falls confluence of north and south branches of the river at river point village in Warwick. empties into Providence River at Pawtucket River.
  • The place we call Federal hill,  was known as Nocabulabet: place between the ancient waters
  • Moshassuck : river where moose watered source: pond in lincoln’s lime rock preserve.
  • Woonasquatucket: where the salt water ends, Where I wrote about Here!   

This post wouldn’t be complete without a break down of the name I choose for the blog itself several years ago: Now Approaching Providence.

Providence means God’s grace-and grace could mean- among other things- favor, esteem, regard, pardon, mercy.

Turks Head in downtown Providence; looking graceful.

Turks Head in downtown     Providence; looking graceful.

The name fit as I often feel like I might be approaching, but not quite arriving at… Providence.

 

Happy Writing!

Short Story Research: Taxidermy

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“… And here at last, was a real naturalist — the man who had been the first to explore Lake Okeechobee, who had been bitten by centipedes, who had written a book, who had collected turtle eggs for Agassiz [Louis Agassiz was the director of the Harvard University Museum of Comparative Zoology at the time], and who had been so nearly paralyzed by arsenic, absorbed in his mounting of skins, that he walked with a sort of quick scuff and shuffle!” ~Dallas Lore Sharp

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The early 20th century was marked by an obsession with the act of preserving- whether plant, animal or human.

Folks have always been obsessed with living forever, but taxidermy took it to another level! Early on, arsenic was even used as a preserving agent, hence Jenks resulting paralysis.

Could this obsession with living forever be connected with fears related to expanding urbanism, the failings of European colonies, and increasing industrialization? I see it as all connected and all waiting for a juicy horror story featuring some gory taxidermy details! Yum!

                “Had Bicocur lived in ages past, hc would havc heen accused of witchcraft and enchantment. What wonders has this excellent naturalist been able to unite in his cabinet. These are truly immortal.”  

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Ahh taxidermy!

In 1894, the curator of the Jenks Museum of Natural History at Brown University was returning to the museum from lunch when he dropped dead on the very granite steps that led to the institution he loved and tended for 23 years.

Annie Johnson, a Brown alumna, chronicles in the spring of 1962 how an attic filled with spears, pottery and other artifacts was discovered as a wrecking ball was set to demolish Van Wickle Hall on campus. The items ended up at Brown’s Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology, says Dwight B. Heath, emeritus professor of anthropology at Brown.

How could I not be inspired to create some sort of short story on this Jenks dude and the resulting “artifacts” that were dumped?!

Here are some notes I’ve gathered to help me with the writing process:

taxidermy (from the Greek for arrangement of skin[1]) is the art of preparing, stuffing, and mounting the skins of animals (especially vertebrates) for display (e.g., as hunting trophies or museum display) or for other sources of study (like species identification) or simply the preservation of a beloved pet.

– In the 19th century, hunters began bringing their trophies to upholstery shops, where the upholsterer would actually sew up the animal skins and stuff them with rags and cotton.

-In France, Louis Dufresne, taxidermist at the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle from 1793, popularized arsenical soap in an article in “Nouveau dictionnaire d’histoire naturelle'” (1803–1804). This technique enabled the museum to build the greatest collection of birds in the world.

Additional resources:

http://www.ravishingbeasts.com

 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taxidermy#Tanning_and_early_stuffing_techniques

The ornithological cabinet of Jean-Baptiste Becoeur and the secret of the arsenical soap: http://www.rhinoresourcecenter.com/pdf_files/119/1193254263.pdf

 

photo-6 copy 3

 

This is just the tip of the taxidermy iceberg folks!  Ima keep digging!

 

Ambrosia

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Ambrosia

I will leave the light on

For you.

For me.

For the vision of me this new love allowed.

For the life I so easily divined from first we met.

After shadows so dark they threatened to choke out what little remained.

Unknown

A vision felt but not seen

Darkness, after all can be fertile

imagination sparked

There is no going back

They used to stutter my name

Even in the midst of the daily drudge, The hustle of bills and care taking, attention to detail.

That glow remains.

images

 

I think of you first whenever I approach a book store display.

Endless possibility

 

I want that spark, that light, to come away from the periphery

to settle in and become my center.

My north star.

It is there when the daily battles with myself toss me in darkened waters

onto unfamiliar shores

When I find it hard to remember my name.

You return all my senses back to me, to remind me of my divinity

This whole language I have with myself, in which you are mysteriously fluent

Unknown-1

 

A hidden and fortified room I built

where the strongest and most vulnerable pulp resides

Where it shelters, conjures

pulls at the sticky sweet nectar, ambrosia.

Unknown-2

you understand it without knowing, communicate without sound

I let you in

you clear out the cobwebs, keep away marauders.

Unknown-3

 

I love you more than I knew was possible

darkness sweeter and deeper than I could conjure

When I lose the way,

when thousands of lifetimes scramble my frequency,

The light bends in a way that makes me feel your presence

your intention

 

 

I hear you whispering my name

and I return.

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Short Story Research: Creatures!

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Who doesn’t love a good creature story?

classic mermaid folks

just a classic mermaid here folks

Nothing gets my imagination fired up like a tale involving mysterious creatures.  Below are some of the creatures I have been researching for some upcoming story ideas.  Enjoy!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Cackatrice

-Can cause death with a single glance

-Eyes can turn you to stone

-Protection involves-carrying a mirror

-breath is poisonous

-Enemy is a weasel

Cackatrice

The Regal Cackatrice

The Soucouyant

The soucouyant is a shape-shifting Caribbean folklore character who appears as a reclusive old woman by day. By night, she strips off her wrinkled skin and puts it in a mortar. In her true form, as a fireball she flies across the dark sky in search of a victim. The soucouyant can enter the home of her victim through any sized hole like cracks, crevices and keyholes.

Soucouyants suck people’s blood from their arms, legs and soft parts while they sleep leaving blue-black marks on the body in the morning. If the soucouyant draws too much blood, it is believed that the victim will either die and become a soucouyant or perish entirely, leaving her killer to assume her skin. The soucouyant practices black magic. Soucouyants trade their victims’ blood for evil powers with Bazil, the demon who resides in the silk cotton tree.

soucouyant

Lovely Soucouyant

To expose a soucouyant, one should heap rice around the house or at the village cross roads as the creature will be obligated to gather every grain, grain by grain (a herculean task to do before dawn) so that she can be caught in the act. To destroy her, coarse salt must be placed in the mortar containing her skin so she perishes, unable to put the skin back on. Belief in soucouyants is still preserved to an extent in some Caribbean islands, including Dominica, St. Lucia, Haiti, Suriname and Trinidad.[4]

 

The Kappa

The Kappa

These scaly-skinned humanoids hail from Japanese folklore. The name roughly means “water-child,” and myth has them inhabiting Japan’s ponds and rivers. The hairless plate on the kappa’s head carries water, the source of their power. Sometimes they’re tricksters. Sometimes they’re killers. Either way, kappa make excellent stories.

The Kelpi

The Kelpi

Oooh! A mer-horse!  The Kelpi

You’ll find kelpie myths near water too, but only in Scotland. Their names are associated with horses, and this is their native form. But they’re just as likely to take on the guise of a human. That makes it easier to lure unsuspecting men and maidens into the water.  Read more on the Kelpie:  HERE

 

The Ichneumom

Pliny the Elder [1st century CE] (Natural History, Book 8, 35–36, 37): ” The ichneumon is known for its willingness to fight to the death with the snake. To do this, it first covers itself with several coats of mud, drying each coat in the sun to form a kind of armor. When ready it attacks, turning away from the blows it receives until it sees an opportunity, then with its head held sideways it goes for its enemy’s throat. The ichneumon also attacks the crocodile in a similar manner.”
Isidore of Seville [7th century CE] (Etymologies, Book 12, 2:37): “That which is produced from the smell of this beast is both healthful and poisonous in food.”  Ewwww!

The Ichneumon

Our old pal the Ichneumon

Leonardo da Vinci [16th century CE] (“The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci” edited by Jean Paul Richter):” This animal is the mortal enemy of the asp.

The Asp

The Asp

It is a native of Egypt and when it sees an asp near its place, it runs at once to the bed or mud of the Nile and with this makes itself muddy all over, then it dries itself in the sun, smears itself again with mud, and thus, drying one after the other, it makes itself three or four coatings like a coat of mail. Then it attacks the asp, and fights well with him, so that, taking its time it catches him in the throat and destroys him.”

The one and only Cthulu

……and of course I live in Providence so I can’t leave out Cthulhu!  According to Wikipedia, Cthulu is considered a Great Old One within the pantheon of Lovecraftian cosmic entities. The creature has since been featured in numerous popular culture references.Cthulhu’s anatomy is described as part octopus, part man, and part dragon.

Cthulhu

Dead but dreaming

I wonder what lurks beneath these waters…?!! hmmm?!

Providence River

Providence River

 

I hope these inspire me as I set out to create my own Providence River monster! My wheels are turning; More info about our local gator: HERE

 

The Climb

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da boys

I am home with the kids and revising all the time what that means to me.  I am not gonna lie; at first, I  had every intention of going back to teaching in September, when my youngest was six months old. After all, teaching and being a working person has  forever been part of my identity.  But… the economy had different plans and after several job applications and interviews took me nowhere, my partner and I revisited our family budget and realized that it more than works for me to stay home.

Budgeting aside, it’s been far from easy.  This baby was not a regular sleeper and there is still the older child to think about… its much different from just having the one kid…in many ways it would be easier to be work outside the home because at least I would get some mental space, some time with adults, even just an opportunity to complete a thought.  ( If this blog is any example, I’ve been drafting this and several other posts on and off for several months!)  But, as with everything, we’ve learned to adapt and adjust. With the support of my partner I take self-care and me-time very seriously. This support is not something I take for granted since I know and (and feel myself) how very strong the current of “status quo” is on mothers and women in general in terms of caretaking and valuing what we do.  As much as I understand and want to change gendered roles and the effects of patriarchy, that shit is so deeply woven even in the most “woke” of us that I often stumble.  So, no, I could not do this at all if my co-parent wasn’t the determined badass that he is.

With that said, once I get over the ever-present mom-guilt, I try to get writing time in at least one evening a week, go to excercise classes at the local YMCA a couple of times a week, and get together with other moms and in general, grown-ups as often as I can.  Winter time feels isolating enough as it is, but not getting out and about while taking care of young children felt extra isolating. Now that the baby turned one and with Spring around the corner, the care taking load feels much lighter and life, less overwhelming.  I encourage all moms new and seasoned to find their tribe.  We were never meant to go at this alone. That is why I decided to include this lovely comic by Bill Watterson, the creator of Calvin and Hobbes.  This hit me right in the feels:  “To invent your own life’s meaning is not easy … but it’s still allowed.”  

So while my “life’s meaning” might have been defined in one way when I was a 22-year-old new teacher, I am allowed to revise what that means to me know that I am 32-year old mother and always in the future.

You’ll be told in a hundred ways, some subtle and some not, to keep climbing…and never be satisfied with where you are, who you are, and what you are doing…

Yes, yes, and yes!  Oh my goodness does this ring true in a million ways!  I needed this reminder that self-care, self-love and just being in the moment is a revolutionary act. After all, these kids will grow up in a blink and the work world will still be there waiting for me…

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Thanks for the reminder;)

Short Story Reseach: Intro and Scituate Reservoir

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For the next few months, as a way to get organized and have a place for all this randomness I’ve been collecting, I am going to post various articles related to my short story research.  Hopefully this results in encouraging some forward momentum for my writing projects and engagement with a wider community on inspiration and the artistic process.

Short Story ideas? Below are two Providence Journal articles of interest. The first covers the nearly forgotten history of the human cost of the Scituate Reservoir, our state’s main source of drinking water. The second is about some atmospheric anomalies (um? strange, huh?) that made little Scituate a vital piece of America’s war effort in WWII. Not sure how I will incorporate this information yet, but the wheels are turning!

Scituate Reservoir

Scituate Reservoir

SCITUATE, R.I. — On an April day in 1915, Scituate residents went about their daily routines checking for the mail wagon, plowing fields, stopping in at Fred Jacques’ Richmond village store, pausing perhaps, to discuss the weather.What they got that day was certainly a grim forecast, but it had little to do with the springtime skies.Weeping through the ringing crank telephone was the storekeeper’s daughter Vera bearing stormy news: The Rhode Island General Assembly had passed a bill that would drastically change the face of their town, news that would have an effect on a large portion of its 3,342 residents. A reservoir, to provide water for the city of Providence, was to be constructed through the heart of Scituate. It would eventually erase five decades-old villages — Rockland, Ashland, South Scituate, Richmond and Kent, and portions of other villages.Some 1,195 homes, churches, mills, shops, schools and farms — even hundreds of graves — would be moved, torn up, demolished. Many of the homes and farms to be erased had been in families for generations, and the fear and anger, historical accounts say, tell of townspeople protecting their property at gunpoint, while other residents took their own lives, unable to witness the loss of homes and livelihoods. Some people packed up and moved elsewhere rather than witness the newly formed Providence Water Supply Board blot out their villages.But those 10 years, 1915 to 1925, were documented and hundreds of photographs were actually shot by the Providence Water Supply Board before buildings, many large, ornate and handsome, were torn down.

Lost Villages of Scituate

Lost Villages of Scituate

Some 1,500 of those photographs can be found at the Providence City Archives, notes city archivist Paul Campbell, with 30 presently on exhibit at the North Scituate Public Library through July 1 in a project called “Before the Reservoir: Pictures of Buildings That Are No More.”“These photos showcase some beautiful architecture, but also capture some of the reactions that people had in this traumatic event,” said Rachael Juskuv, North Scituate Library’s reference librarian and organizer of the project, which captures aspects of village life before the reservoir. “A hired photographer,” she said “traveled to each house and had to explain to each person what he was doing.”The exhibit marks the beginnings 100 years ago of this major change in Scituate, attracting a good bit of attention at the library, where Juskuv said most people are aware of the villages that disappeared under today’s large stretch of reservoir, but given the passage of time and residents, the reality of it is growing dim.

Fortunately, in the 1970s and ’80s, several residents realized that memories and facts regarding the 1915-25 town event would be lost if those who remembered didn’t document what they knew. Several films, videos, books and projects came together as a result, such as a 1988 Scituate Lions Club video, seven hours of slides and memories; a 1985 graduate course video; individual town histories, including a 1981 cookbook, illustrated by Marion King Wieselquist .More recently, several “Images of America” series books have been published, one written in 1998 by the Heritage Room Committee called “Scituate,” and another, “The Lost Villages of Scituate,” compiled in 2009 by Raymond A. Wolf, 73, a town native who recalled his late mother lamenting the loss of her village of Rockland.“She never got over it,” he said. His mother, Helen O. Larson, died at age 94 in 2005.“The pain and agony of seeing her dad’s mill torn down, her school torn down, the store where they shopped torn down — many people she never saw again,” he said of those who moved on. His books contain dozens of the photos taken by the Providence Water Supply Board, including one of his mother’s family farm.

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Haunting photos of large mill complexes and rambling homes with wrap-around porches are in his book and in the library exhibit.“My father said some of the houses that were moved were sold for $50,” said Esther Tidswell, 78, a lifelong Scituate resident and daughter of the late local historian Frank Spencer. It was her father, born in 1908, who devoted many hours to recording his Scituate recollections for the Lions Club video.Scituate native Wayne K. Durfee, 90, now of Narragansett, a retired University of Rhode Island professor, recalled the reservoir as “just being there” by the time he was born in 1924. It became a place in his boyhood for youngsters to sneak a swim on a hot day, hoping “the city men” patrolling it wouldn’t catch them. Both Tidswell and Durfee pronounce the town name as Scit-u-ate, as they say it was pronounced when they were children. Durfee even recalls the reservoir being referred to as the “reser-voi.” And he said he regrets not paying more attention to his mother, a schoolteacher, when she spoke of local history. But much of it can be found in Scituare libraries, including a 1975 newspaper article written by the late mapmaker and historian George E. Matteson, who captured in an essay that 1915 day, April 21 as he has it listed, when the news came to the village store.These 100 years later, the Scituate Reservoir stands as a stunning surprise when it appears beyond the hundreds of grown-up evergreen trees planted to protect the watershed area.

According to historical information emailed by Lauren DeRuisseau, public information director at Providence Water, the “reservoir system and treatment plant on the north branch of the Pawtuxet River in the town of Scituate still provides water to most of the State of Rhode Island … The original treatment plant was state-of-the-art at the time of its construction. The plant was considered to be among the most technologically advanced of its day, and for many years was the only plant of its type in New England.”While many people suffered great loss a century ago, some, Raymond Wolf included, say in the long run, the addition of the reservoir helped maintain the rural character of Scituate and, he asks, “what would Rhode Island do without it?” Sixty percent of Rhode Island residents get their water from it.

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Global eavesdroppers: In World War II, dozens of radio operators in Scituate dialed into enemy conversations worldwide

seventy years ago this week Rhode Islanders swarmed into the streets with other joyous Americans celebrating the end of World War II. It would be three more months before the world learned of Rhode Island’s top-secret role in defeating Germany and Japan.
It was a tale of espionage, now virtually forgotten, centered in, of all places, an old farmhouse in Scituate.
The clandestine mission that went on up there on Chopmist Hill from 1941 through 1945 not only helped defeat the enemy, historians say, but brought to Rhode Island the representatives of a new organization called the United Nations, looking for a headquarters location.

“They even had plans to build an airstrip if the United Nations ended up here,” says Scituate Town Historian Shirley Arnold. “Can you imagine that? In Scituate?”
No one knows the story anymore, she says. “All the old-timers are gone.”
There was nothing remarkable to see on Chopmist Hill in 1940 when, a year before the Japanese would attack Pearl Harbor and bring America into the war, a Boston radio technician by the name of Thomas B. Cave drove up Darby Road.
England was already at war with Germany, and Cave knew it was inevitable that the United States, already fortifying Great Britain with supplies and weaponry, would enter, too.
Cave worked for the Intelligence Division of the Federal Communications Commission, charged with finding a hilltop in southern New England that could serve as one of several listening posts to detect radio transmissions from German spies in the United States.
What he discovered up at William Suddard’s 183-acre farm was nothing short of miraculous.
Because of some geographic and atmospheric anomalies, Cave reported he could clearly intercept radio transmissions coming from Europe — even South America.
As a Providence Journal story revealed after the war, military officials were initially skeptical. They wanted Cave to prove his remarkable claims that from Chopmist Hill he could pinpoint the location of any radio transmission in the country within 15 minutes.
The Army set up a test. Without telling the FCC, it began broadcasting a signal from the Pentagon. From atop the 730-foot hill in the rural corner of Scituate, it took Cave all of seven minutes to zero in on the signal’s origin.
In March 1941, the Suddards obligingly moved out of their 14-room farmhouse, leasing the property to the FCC.
Workers set off erecting scores of telephone poles across the properly, purposely sinking them deep to keep them below the tree line. They strung 85,000 feet of antenna wire — the equivalent of 16 miles — around the poles and wired it into the house.
They fenced off the perimeter, erected floodlights and established armed patrols to keep people out. They filled six rooms with banks of sensitive radio receivers, transmitters and directional finders.
Then the FCC turned loose a 40-member spy team of men and women to listen in on the world —although none of them knew the full extent of the information they were cultivating.
The interceptors kept tabs on more than 400 different enemy radio transmitting stations broadcasting on any given day. They ferreted out secret low-frequency transmissions hidden under the beams of commercial radio stations abroad.
Much of what they intercepted were coded messages that were then recorded and sent electronically to Washington’s “black chamber” for decoding.

Shaping the war
The Chopmist Hill listening post soon became the largest and most successful of a nationwide network of 13 similar installations. Its ability to eavesdrop on German radio transmissions in North Africa, for instance, was so precise that technicians could actually listen in on tank-to-tank communications within Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s infamous Afrika Korps.
The Germans’ battlefield strategy was then relayed to the British, who under Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery eventually defeated Rommel at El Alamein.
The Chopmist station is also credited with saving the Queen Mary, the pride of England’s maritime fleet, as it was about to sail with 14,000 troops from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to Australia.
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The station intercepted orders from Germany to the Nazi’s submarine wolf pack operating in the south Atlantic to sink the ship. The radio station alerted the British, who ordered the ship to change course.
Cave, who supervised the Chopmist Hill station, told The Journal in November 1945 that virtually all the wartime messages sent by German spies working in the United States were intercepted in Scituate.
Often, those German spies were allowed to continue operating so counterintelligence officers could run down their sources of information.
One of Scituate station’s most important jobs was to intercept German weather reports from Central Europe.
The reports, broadcast at a frequency undetectable in England, flowed easily across the Atlantic to Chopmist Hill. The information proved vital for British bombing raids over Germany.
Occasionally the station assisted in air and sea rescue operations. On one occasion a plane carrying actress Kay Francis got lost off the coast of Florida en route home from a USO tour. No other radio installation on the East Coast had picked up the pilot’s distress calls, but the Chopmist Hill station did, guiding the plane home safely.
In 1981, George Sterling, who had been the FCC commissioner during the war, told a Providence Journal reporter that he never understood why the United States was caught by surprise in the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor since the Chopmist Hill listening station had for months been intercepting Japanese messages in the Pacific indicating an impending attack.
Once war broke out, the station thwarted Japanese attempts to bomb the United States using unmanned hot-air balloons laden with explosives. The Japanese had placed radio transmitters on the balloons to track them as they rode the jet stream across the Pacific in the hope they reached the West Coast of America. Many did, and the Scituate eavesdroppers heard the balloon signals. They relayed the information to Washington. U.S. fighter planes intercepted and destroyed the balloons.
Germany surrendered on May 7, 1945, a week after Hitler committed suicide in a bunker in Berlin. The Japanese agreed to surrender on Aug. 14, 1945, five days after the U.S. dropped a second atomic bomb, on Nagasaki.
UN takes a look
The remarkable radio capabilities of Chopmist Hill captured world attention after the war when, in November 1945, the FCC permitted a Providence Journal reporter to visit the monitoring station.
Two months after her story ran, seven inspectors from the United Nations Organization were climbing an icy fire lookout tower on Chopmist Hill and scanning the rural landscape below for what might become their new headquarters.
The Jan. 26, 1946, issue of The Providence Journal carried the lead headline: “Chopmist Hill District is rated One of Top Potential Locations for UNO Quarters by Committee.”
The story described how inspectors were seriously considering the site as its headquarters because of area’s unmatched capability to reach every corner of the globe by radio.
“This is a possible site,” Dr. Stoyan Gavrilovic, of the Balkans and chairman of the inspection committee, told reporters during the tour. “It meets most of the technical points. It is good.”
During the tour the inspectors went into a room in the Suddard farmhouse where on one bank of radio equipment signs hung listing the cities of Lisbon, Madrid and Cairo — the cities the radios were tuned to. One of the inspectors asked Cave, directing the tour, what was the range of the radio station?
“Well, Sydney, Australia,” replied Cave. “That’s about the farthest place there is.”
The inspectors said they were also looking for a wide tract of land to build an airport as well as a headquarters. Cave said the site offered about 50 square miles of property spanning Scituate, Foster and Glocester that could be available, although about 1,000 people would have to be relocated. The inspectors were in town for only a couple of days before heading off to inspect possible sites around Worcester and Boston.

In the end, the United Nations officials settled on New York City after John D. Rockefeller Jr. offered them $8.5 million to purchase a six-block tract of land along the East River.
Today the Suddard house still stands behind the same ornate stone wall it did more than 70 years ago. But the hill around it, once mostly pasture and scrub, is covered with tall trees and dotted with new homes.
The house, privately owned again, reveals few clues to what happened there the last time the world went to war, save for a tall, thin radio tower in the yard, now covered in ivy, reaching for the clouds.

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more info: http://www.quahog.org/factsfolklore/index.php?id=5

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