Mar. 23, 2009
The White Museum
My aunt was an organ donor
and so, the day she died,
her organs were harvested
for medical science.
I suppose there must be people
who list, under "Occupation,"
"Organ Harvester," people for whom
it is always harvest season,
each death bringing its bounty.
They spend their days
loading wagonloads of kidneys,
whole cornucopias of corneas,
burlap sacks groaning with hearts and lungs
and the pale green sprouts of gall bladders,
and even, from time to time,
the weighty cauliflower of a brain.
And perhaps today,
as I sit in this café, watching the snow
and thinking about my aunt,
a young medical student somewhere
is moving through the white museum
of her brain, making his way slowly
from one great room to the next.
Here is the gallery of her girlhood,
with that great canvas depicting her father
holding her on his lap in the backyard
of their bungalow in St. Louis.
And here is a sketch of her
the summer after her mother died,
walking down a street in Berlin
when the broken city was itself
a museum. And here
is a small, vivid oil of the two of us
sitting in a café in London
arguing over the work of Constable
or Turner, or Francis Bacon
after a visit to the Tate.
I want you to know, as you sit there
with your microscope and your slides,
there's no need to be reverent before these images.
That's the last thing she would have wanted.
But do be respectful. Speak quietly.
No flash photography. Tell your friends
you saw something beautiful.
It was on this day in 1775 that Patrick Henry gave a speech to the Second Virginia Convention, proposing that the colony arm itself against the king to fight for independence. Almost no one spoke openly of armed rebellion because it was considered treason against the king. Those convicted of treason could be sent back to England to be hanged.
Patrick Henry spoke against the king as a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses. When he compared King George III to Brutus, the assassin of Caesar, someone in the House shouted, "Treason!" Henry responded, "If this be treason, then make the most of it."
He took the floor on this day, in 1775, and made his most famous speech. No one actually transcribed his words, but the speech was reconstructed later by people who had been there, including Thomas Jefferson. Patrick Henry said: "There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free ... we must fight! ... Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace — but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! ... Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!"
It's the birthday of Fannie Merritt Farmer, (books by this author) born in Boston (1857). She published the first cookbook in American history that used precise cooking instructions and level measurements. Her cookbook was filled with recipes and also advice on how to set a table, scald milk, cream butter, and remove stains. At first, all the publishers turned her down because they thought all these recipes and techniques were things that young women could learn from their mothers. But Fannie Farmer finally got her cookbook published, and it was an enormous success.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®