mad in pursuit notebook


Where Have I Been? What Have I Done? What Next?

Rochester Public MarketJun. 2-9, 2012. Today: Finding local strawberries and a smiling farmer [photo right] made our trip to the Public Market in the pouring rain [photo below] worth it.

Creative: storytelling. In the throes of the creative process, trying to put together a punchy radio script of the oft-told tale of the Barrett migration from famine survivors to Missouri farmers. I thought it would be easy to reshape the story slightly to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Homestead Act. Not so easy. I found myself digging in to both ends of their timeline: the famine (see Jun 3 entry) and the homesteading. Patrick Barrett was apparently one of those people who found himself in the path of History. His potato crop failure was THE potato crop failure of August 1846, the one that kicked off the Irish apocalypse. I'm reading PADDY'S LAMENT, Ireland 1846-47: Prelude to Hatred by Thomas Gallagher (1982), which provides horrifying details of Irish Catholic starvation and English Protestant political and economic indifference.

Railroad St, Rochester NYAt the other end of the story, I been researching the life of homesteaders by reading a novelized history Butter in the Well: a Scandinavian Woman's Tale of Life on the Prairie by Linda K Hubalek (1992) and pouring over records from the General Land Office of the Bureau of Land Management (Dept of the Interior). I had gotten most of the story when I found the homestead records (see entry here). Now I can add that he was one of the first successful homesteaders in Missouri -- #94 to get his land patent. (The land was yours at the end of five years if you had built a house on it, dug a well, plowed 10 acres, fenced a specified amount, and actually lived there.) In 1869, the first 3 land patents were granted in Franklin County. In 1870, 12 more were granted, among them Pat Barrett's. He and his neighbor William R. Sullens were the first grantees in Calvey Township, near Catawissa. I'm fascinated by this -- why? Maybe because he had come so far... And I'm proud of him and his fellow immigrant and wife Mary Gardiner.

Creative: photography. My infatuation with photography continues. Now I'm determined to try "street photography" (that is, taking pictures of strangers), which is totally out of my comfort zone. But it feels "engaged" and "in the moment." That's how I felt in Ireland, so I guess I'm feeling an engagement deficiency. I'm trying to follow the standard advice about street photography -- it takes lots of terrible ones to get the hang of it. Also paying attention to one of my gurus Natalie Goldberg: pay no attention to that voice in your head telling you how bad you are and what a stupid idea this was.

Travel plans. Added St. Louis to the first week in July. Second week to West Virginia.

& More. I have a lot more bumping around in my head -- wonderful things to do and to think about. Great conversation with Pat also over-stimulated my mind. But I could sit here all day and not get another thing done...

Jun 9, 2012