Apollo with Lyre

The small New England town of West Brookfield MA is blessed with a well-preserved and beautiful public common. The land for the common was made possible by the generosity of David Hitchcock and Dwight Foster. In 1791, they both agreed to set aside this space for the benefit of the town and its inhabitants. J. Henry Stickney, in 1874, provided a fund toward the beautification of the space that included planting trees and creating walkways. In 1884, George Rice provided the funding for the construction of a reservoir for fountains installed on the common. Today, the two fountains are in excellent condition. Every day during the warm weather months, the woman with the jar pours out water into the basins. The two thinkers below her ponder the day. And, a little cherub above a public water fountain stands by the road waiting to quench the thirst of anyone walking by.  This is an imaginative story of what the spirits in the statues may have to say about their experiences living among us.

Apollo with Lyre

“My Song, My Song,” finally, it’s in the air. Dear Iris gifted me this lyre on my last birthday. After praying for an age, a way to let out my itch to sing is in my hands. “My Song, My Song!” My fingers sting as I pluck the strings. The tone does sound like the air. The card that came with the present said it all, “better than dry words, better than lonely wind swirls, the lyre will free your spirit to become merry in song. Play your best,” Goddess Iris

My sister Artemis is jealous; all she got was a quiver of arrows and a long bow. The last time I saw her, she was crossing the bridge into Siracusa. She likes to walk under a starry sky with moon shadows all around. “My Song, My Song!” Oh, bliss!

Yesterday was grand. The wind was kind and blew the fountain spray my way. I felt it tickle my wings. I can just about see them over my left shoulder. The naiad, Delfina, and her two friends Tilda and Pastora from Cyprus. I pray the zephyr takes my splendid voice to her tender ears. “My Song, My Song!” Pastora has the garland of marguerites around her neck.

Years ago, I was closer to the women and shared the same water reservoir. When town water lines were dug in, I was moved to give passersby a fresh drink of clean water. I like watching the street and seeing all the humans strolling along. The little kids cool their thirst at the water fountain below. The guy with the beagle always stops and gives his pooch a drink. The bikers fill their bottles. The birds love to fly through the water spray at the women’s fountain. They land on my shoulder and preen a bit.

Temple of Apollo Photo taken at Ortigia May 2015

People call me a chubby angel but that’s not my name. I am the young Apollo with Lyre by Vernetto. My twin sister Artemis and I were born on the islet of Ortigia near the ancient town of Siracusa on the island of Sicily in the Mediterranean Sea. The remains of my temple are still standing near the gateway to Ortigia. The proper name for it is The Apollonion, built in the 6th century B.C. during the Age of the Greeks.  My temple survived the Byzantine Age, Arab Age, and Norman Age and made it to the Spanish conquest of the island in the 1800s. The blocks and columns were taken apart and used to construct other buildings and churches. What stands today is the foundation and a few of the mighty walls to show how grand a place it was.

Artemis has a fantastic fountain built in her honor a few feet away in Archimedes Square. It is a glorious, large tribute to the transformation of the nymph Arethuse into spring water. The mermen ride the sea creatures in the basin pool showing passersby the days of glory when the Greek gods and goddesses ruled the day.

Some of this glory is carved into the base holding me up. Everybody admires the swans and cattails on the plate. You know that is Poseidon’s trident. He gave it to me as a going away present, he said if I am ever homesick and want to visit Mom, just strike the tongs, dive into the sea and it would carry me back to Ortigia. It is studded with pearls and bronze, the tips were made in the furnace at Aetna. It is so special, no one else has one, I am sure.

The little peeps around the foot of the pedestal are my echoes. When I sing, “My Song, My Song” they chime in giving it a little dash of cherub sweetness. I am Apollo, the son of Zeus and Leto. Seekers come to me for healing, truth and prophecy. I am the sun. I am the light. I will help form community. I will protect flocks of animals. I am the god of song and music.

The fountain with the naiad pouring out the water into the basins below is beautiful. The two women sitting underneath are called Meditation. I’ll share a little secret, that pensive air they create with the chin in their hands is really a put on. They just act all serious and calm. Delfina who stands above it all, is watching and they never break their silence with her there. You see, they cannot find the book. They put it down and it “walked away.” It was “stuck” in my hands when I arrived and is now under my left hip. It is my book now. It has the answer to the riddle Delfina asked them. They cannot answer her and are stuck on what to do next. When they answer it right, the jug will finally be empty of water. “My Song, My Song” Oh I love to sing “My Song, My Song”. My joy will never end!

The Fountain of a Naiad with two figures in meditation

Oh my stars! That imp is doing it again! All these years and he has only one tune one simple tune. Why can’t he move it along now? What a bimbotto? (A fat baby.)

My story is ancient. I hear the townspeople talking below and some have said I remind them of Rebekah at the well in the Old Testament. I am a naiad; a water spirit. The spray around the fountain creates water music. I wear a laurel wreath to signify my affinity with Apollo. The Greeks called me a Crinaeae; the spirit of a fountain. My destiny is to pour water from this jar to make the way easy for fertility and wealth. Every morning, Apollo pulls his chariot across the sky and brings us the light. At night, I bathe in sacred moonlight cast by Selene, Artemis and Hecate, the goddesses of the Moon. The stars align and tell me a story. Many creatures come to the fountain in the night. The play of the water lulls us into a transcendental state of being.

The two figures below are indeed from Cyprus. This fountain represents the element of air, water and earth. The water tinkles in the air while the women below ground us. They were very fond of practical jokes and mischief before I gave them something to do. I would not be surprised to discover where Tilda’s missing garland ended up. Our work here is to be beneficial as well as beautiful. The human visitor can look upon us and wonder what are they thinking?

The riddle is: What is always on its way but never arrives?

So, what is the answer?

Every day, we are here. I am as hypnotized as anyone watching and listening to the waters flow. This place gives us something important to do. We were made to be pleasing and so we do. We love sharing our waters with the dogs as they pass by. We love to cool the senses on a hot day. We love to be here and be admired.

I am the naiad of this water fountain. Apollo calls me Delfina. Oh stella! I hope my water jar is never empty. My joy will never end!

by Frances Ann Wychorski

Some of the facts for this story were provided by an article in the Quaboag Historical Society Newsletter, Bringing the Ladies Home: A Brief History of the fountains on the West Brookfield Common by William Jenkins. The full text can be reached by clicking on the link.

Some of the facts for this story were provided by Ortigia: The heart of Syracuse Tourist Guide,  OGB Officina Grafica Bolognese June 2013

The photograph of the Temple of Apollo was taken by the writer on the Island of Ortigia in May 2015. Here is a photo of the magnificent statue of Artemis in Archimedes Square. Sicily is a great vacation destination for those curious about Greek mythology. The ruins and sites are well preserved and numerous on the island. Go for the sun, food and history.

Artemis Photo taken in Ortigia May 2015

The Labels are Pretty but Where Do I Start?

Today is the day, something special is happening and finally, it’s time to stop driving by the store and go on in to help yourself to a bottle of wine. The neighborhood shop displays rows of neatly racked bottles sorted by country. There are six-pack individual serving size-bottled wines too. Hmm, what do I want? The artwork on the labels entices the customer’s eyes. French? Chilean? Australian? Californian? The prices start at $10 and go as high as $100. The clerks are ringing up sales at the counter and there’s no one to ask. Which country? What brand? What’s good? It’s a little intimidating when the moment comes to buy that first bottle of wine.

There are four (4) categories of wine: sparkling, white, red and blush. Wines have a taste range from dry, medium dry, semi-sweet to very sweet. Wine is made from a variety of fruits, grapes and honey. There are old world and new world wines. Small wonder that making a selection can cause hesitation.

The flavor and quality of wine is predicated on multiple factors. Wine ages in a variety of containers including wood and stainless steel. The climate, soil and environment will affect the fruits. The production will affect the quality. The technique and science behind winemaking is extensive and complex. The taste will be different on every tongue and change when paired with different foods. Wine should complement the food and enhance the taste in the mouth.

At Dinner

Depending upon the level of service at the restaurant, ask the waiter to recommend a glass of wine with the meal order. If there is a wine steward or sommelier, take advantage of the opportunity and say you are a novice with wine selection. Ask them why they served a particular variety. The wine with the meal may be more expensive per glass, but, it allows for a variety of samplings without committing to an entire bottle. When in doubt, ask for the House Red or White. In general, red meats and Italian dishes have a dry red wine. White meats and cheeses generally serve a dry white wine.

At Wine Shop

Check in your area for a store that specializes in selling wines. They may have special tastings or events for the public. Before sampling any wines, listen to the presentation if there is one. An informal public event with wine and crackers may not be helpful. The cracker may help clear the palate, as will water, but as the wine is without the meal, it will not taste the same when you serve it with the dinner. Also, if you are not used to drinking wine, and there is no food consumed, you might run the risk of driving inebriated. Wine can be strong if you are not used to it.

Perhaps ask the clerk for advice on the first bottle. The owner, depending on the size of the shop, may be the clerk and could be happy to talk to you about this. This also may or not be helpful, depending on their level of salesmanship. I went into a shop looking for a specific name brand and when it was not available, the owner did not make an alternative suggestion. At this moment, ask what their best seller is and consider that as a guide to purchase.

At Wine Tasting – Public Event

A larger spirit, beer and wine seller may offer special opportunities for public tastings. This type of event can be crowded, noisy and confusing. The servers at the table may be sales rep for the distributor and not have much information to share. This type of event might be best for an experienced buyer.

However, asking a customer in the same aisle what they are buying can be a best bet. Most people are happy to talk for a few minutes about what they like. Hopefully, they will take you right to the bottle and show the recommendation. This may be the best opportunity to try something new.

Private Tasting

Some establishments may have the estate owners sell their wines at private events. This is a fine opportunity to learn about the production, family history, and the intangible quality of suggestion by association. If they seem like nice folks, the wine will follow suit. Perhaps this sounds whimsical, but it is how I narrowed down two selections of estate wines from Italy. The seller/owner said you would know it’s a good wine by how fast the bottle is empty. If it does not empty, it was not so good.

At Vineyard

Check in your area for a vineyard that produces and sells wines. They will typically have an afternoon set aside just for tasting and sales. This can be an exciting day out including a small tour with the owners. They can talk extensively about the fruits that make up the wine and how it is made. The occasion will have other shoppers in the store and offer a chance for a quiet conversation about their choice. Remember to ask what they didn’t like and learn from their experiences.

Tour Guide

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts publishes a Wine & Cheese Trails Guide. The booklet lists Wine and Cheese Makers as well as Direct Market Dairy Farms. Each establishment is listed by name, website, complete address, and hours of operation with tasting times, description and grapes grown. The most interesting inclusion was:

Wine & Cheese Trails

Green River Ambrosia, Greenfield MA

Founded in 2007, is a small artisanal meadery making the finest honey wines with local honey. Containing fresh water, raw honey, yeast and the occasional local and/or organic herb or fruit.  Green River Ambrosia meads provide the taste of a season of hard work by their bees.

So check with your local or state agricultural office, county extension service, or a CSA for more information on local wineries.

Italian Wine Suggestions

I tried all of the above when I began my quest for my first bottle of wine. The selections I make now are directly related to the wine tasting events held by the estate owners. The sincerity of the sellers and the reaction of the other tasters helped me decide what was best for me. The majority of the people at this event knew or seemed to know what they were drinking and what to say. I listened and learned.

Italian wines are regulated in country. Bottles with the DOC or better the DOCG label will be of superior quality.

I have two favorite vintners: Pieropan from the Veneto region of Italy and Tenuta delle Terre Nerre from Sicily.

If you are relying on this article for a selection, I would suggest Pieropan Viticoltori in Soave. This is a light-bodied dry white wine paired well with fish and chicken. I have this with macaroni and cheese and found it quite nice.

Another superb dry white wine is Montenidoli Carato, Vernaccia di San Gimignano. Of all the wine, purchased thus far, this had the higher cost. However, everything about the wine is superior even to the use of natural cork to cap the bottle.

The Tenuta delle Terre Nerre, Aetna Rosso 2012, a full-bodied dry red wine is another suggestion. This is a stronger wine and best with pasta, spiced dishes, game and dark meats. This wine goes well with hot chili.

Another top quality dry red wine is La Botte dell’Abate Riserva Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.

At some point in your sampling, you will find the grape of preference. I like Nero d’Avola. A grape native to Sicily. The fragrance of this wine is as delicious as the liquid. The flavor is strong, spicy, smooth and thick.  I find the brands Colosi Rosso and Cusumano are a modest price and consistently good.

All the wines mentioned have a sale price between $15 – $35.

I hope this has been helpful. I am still exploring wines and have started cooking with them. I often pour a small amount of the red wine into my home-made marinara or pizza sauce. That along with a dash of fennel does wonderful things to a tomato-based sauce. The wine truly does make the meal. Each enhances the flavors and textures of the other. Wine and food are grounding and uplifting at the same time. They taste good and make a body feel good inside and out.



Winter Ramblings ~ Solstice Celebration

And so it arrives today, the first day of winter. The wheel of the year turns the old Earth towards the sun once again. Hail the precious seconds at dawn and dusk when our great star creeps back into our daily lives. The dreary darkness gives way to the light. The return of the light ~ Winter Solstice.

unnamedThe day is calm and warm. Snow and ice cling to the earth already. The harsh frost filled morning melts into a tranquil afternoon. On this day, celebrate simply with an offering of seeds and suet to the birds. Enjoy the blue jays, morning doves, juncos and sparrows. Welcome the chickadee and finch. Give them a free meal today. In remembrance of the Earth, put out a simple feast of cake and wine. A little something to thank her for all she gave us this year and all she will give next.

At this time of year, I always remember Thoreau and his reflections from Walden Pond.

“For sounds in winter nights, and often in winter days, I heard the forlorn but melodious note of a hooting owl indefinitely far; such a sound as the frozen earth would yield if struck with a suitable plectrum, the very lingua vernacula of Walden Wood, and quite familiar to me at last, though I never saw the bird while it was making it. I seldom open my door in a winter evening without hearing it; Hoo, hoo, hoo, hoorer hoo,” Thoreau, Walden: Winter Animals.

How pleasant to pause in the yard and hear the nuthatch ambling up the maple tree. The grey squirrels take their graceful leaps and bounds searching for food. The sun watches all low on the horizon. The river twinkles in the distance through the trees. A blessed place this is to take a rest. Now is the time for reflection on what has past and what is now and what is yet to come.

barn-owl-in-snowCelebrate the simple life at home with the creatures of the earth and sky. Make a sincere offering of thanks. Stay warm, stay well and blessed be.


Niche Art Retail on Social Media

Glass girlsGlassgirl’s Studio & Gallery in downtown West Brookfield Massachusetts is a unique emporium. In an area noted for antiquing, the shop sells a funky collection of handmade jewelry, art prints, and contemporary gifts more common to touristy towns like Northampton or Nantucket. Proprietor Jennifer Geldard, an international glass bead and jewelry artist, says, “its an uber-cool place to stop.” The challenge is attracting customers in a sleepy little town of 3,000. After two years in her current location, she has established a local and regional following. But, don’t think old retail. The savvy merchant brings the buyer into the store the virtual way. The social media sites, Pinterest and Facebook, help a niche retailer reach regular and new clientele.

Geldard is a self-taught lampworker using a propane torch to melt rods of Murano glass around a metal bar into intricate inlay beads. She started her craft 20 years ago, finding a network of artists and collaborators in on-line forums. Attendance at trade shows widened her connections and artistic skills. Geldard has taught bead classes in Switzerland, Germany, Austria, and England. Her customers can shop for jewelry and art illustrations on the shops professional social media pages. Sales are sometimes made with the iPhone app Facetime allowing clients to see the item advertised a lot closer.

GeldardGeldard prefers to devote her time in studio to her art. “I am an artist, I don’t want to spend my energy trying to advertise my jewelry and art. I make enough money to pay the costs, that’s all I want to do, take care of the rent so I have the freedom to create. I couldn’t survive here on my art and jewelry alone, I had to bring in the other merchandise to pay the bills. I brought in Rebecca recently to share the retail space. My focus is on being a successful artist. The town supports that after two years of building a following.” Many of her best clients are other glass bead makers. The time, effort, and expertise required to produce a quality finished piece is understood best by others in the profession.

Geldard also wants to do children’s book illustration. She is taking an on-line course from Make Art That Sells with Lilla Rogers. Instructor Gabriella Buckingham says, “it is a unique resource for artists who are passionate about what they do and determined to make a living out of their art while staying true to their style.” The course teaches the artist how to create a professional portfolio and pitch it to an editor. Techniques for selling are learned including how to teach and live feed sketching from in the studio.

2b2934_a885aeaf47944524b7eda47ba68e89b7.jpg_srz_310_310_85_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_jpg_srzRebecca Fay has taken over a corner of retail space with her Worcester Art & Frame Shop. One more service now offered in town bringing more foot traffic into the store. The shop has some challenges in location being set back on Main Street between Haymakers Grille and Premier Online Services. Geldard has been puzzled how to grow her business as foot traffic is limited to walkers and visitors attending local events.


Glassgirls Studio & Gallery

Jennifer Scott Geldard, Glass Art, Illustration and Design

Make Art That Sells

Worcester Public Library: Privacy Comes First

WPL IIWorcester, in the heart of the commonwealth, is Massachusetts’ second largest city. Worcester Public Library (WPL) at Salem Square in the downtown district provides services for 181,000 residents. Immigrants may take English language and citizenship classes. Entrepreneurs participate in small business workshops. There are book clubs for different generations of readers. History buffs and genealogists have access to maps, databases and records for Worcester County. The motto of the library is: Your Open Door to Opportunity. The privacy rights of all patrons are an integral part of daily service. When WPL automated materials check in and check out, it gained efficiencies and a deeper layer of security for patrons.

The decision to automate services at WPL is the result of collaboration between former Worcester City Manager Michael O’Brien, city councilors and former Library Director Wei Jeng-Chu. The automated materials handling service (AMH) was installed in April 2013. The Lyngsoe System AMH costs $320,000 and includes radio tags on materials. Danielle Mattei, circulation manager, said the former director called it “the Willy Wonka Machine.” Patrons return materials at the outdoor or indoor kiosk. The interactive keypad offers direction in English, Spanish, Vietnamese and Chinese. A scanner reads a barcode on materials placed in the drop off box and whisks it down a conveyor belt to the appropriate bin.

Head Librarian Geoffrey Dickinson is pleased with the speed of getting materials back out for loan. “WPL has an annual circulation in excess of 900,000 items per year,” said former Circulation Services Manager Anne White. “A returned item passed through many hands and several days before getting back on the shelves. Now everything is completed in less than a day…in August the average turnaround time was down to five hours.”

The check out provided by Bibliotheca Library Systems cost $135,470. Patrons activate the service with a library card and pin number. A scanner reads the barcode. A receipt shows only the name of the items loaned with a return date. There is no name or card number assigned. When the materials are returned, the information is deleted from the records. Any fines are noted on the receipt. The patron may also check material out at the staffed service desk near the kiosk. A librarian at WPL said patrons may want to refer to something previously loaned, but the information cannot be retrieved.

This feature of the drop off and check out systems protects the privacy of patrons. Both the Council of American Library and Association of Librarians strongly recommend “the names of library users to be confidential.” Why? “Intellectual freedom and the right to research can be preserved only if patron privacy is respected,” as stated in the Slate article, June 2015, by April Glaser, “Long Before Snowden, Librarians Were Anti-Surveillance Heroes.” The Patriot Act, passed in October 2001, gave the National Security Administration access to library records under Section 215. This provision expired in June 2015. While active, librarians could be subject to subpoena from FBI for patron records. Librarians were prohibited from telling patrons about the records request. Therefore, the actual number of requests is unknown. In 2005, a library in Bridgeport Connecticut received a national security letter from the FBI for patron data. The library staff “filed a brief in the Supreme Court to challenge the Patriot Act,” said Glaser. In September 2007, U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero heard the case and found the entire national security letter provision of the Patriot Act was unconstitutional. “In October 2001, a University of Illinois survey found that 85 libraries had been contacted with government requests.” The American Library Association released a survey in June 2015 showing that law enforcement officials had contacted libraries at least 200 times since 2001 with formal and informal inquiries about their internal records, Eric Lichtblau wrote in The New York Times.

WPL Privacy Policy “champions the protection of personal privacy.” If a subpoena or letter is served on the library, hoops have to be navigated before data is released. The librarian contacts the City of Worcester Law Department to determine if procedure has been followed. If confirmed, the Board of Directors are notified before the library will comply with the request. This also applies to public searches for information in the library online search catalog and public computers. Within 48 hours, the automated systems wipe the records clean of activity. The FBI and other authorities may want to know what patrons are accessing but at WPL it is almost impossible.

tumblr_inline_mvbeh2bIFf1rfy72eThe installation of the automated system did not cause any job loss, Mattei said. In fact, because of the efficiency, Bookmobile city service has expanded. Two libraries on wheels, Libby and Lilly, provide monthly services to retirement homes, community centers and several private and public schools without libraries or librarians on staff. Efficiency in automation also allows the Library to fulfill its goal of maintaining five branches in Worcester. “The WPL is a community center not just for books but technology providing 24 hour service on-line. Technology enhances service, it does not replace it,” said Mattei.