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Wednesday, November 30, 2022

A picture is worth a thousand words

My family members have the photography bug. My great-grandfather took pictures with glass negatives in 1900 and set up a developing studio in his basement in Washington, DC. He left his collection of glass negatives that depict visits to the family farm of his future wife while they were courting which is a treasure for the family history.  

Great-grandmother on her father's farm while courting great-grandfather, 1904 Hugh Roberts

There are pictures of pigs and chickens and miles of white-washed fences all captured and passed down through time. Some of the photos in this wonderful collection are scenes of rural Dorchester County, Maryland giving a view of the area's rich agricultural heritage.

Farm laborers in Dorchester County, MD 1904, Hugh Roberts

His passion for capturing life onto film was passed on to his daughter who stood on the shed rooftop in 1919 to capture an image of their new home on the Chesapeake.

Deale, Maryland home purchased in 1919, Ella Roberts Miller

Grandmother had a camera attached to her body and captured family grouping at every event we can remember. At a cousin's wedding in 1997, the new groom was thrilled when he believed the photo session was over after several poses.  All the rest of the family giggled as we knew photography would go on throughout the day. But today as I sift through the albums that she passed on to me I am no longer full of mirth but of gratitude, for she not only took the photos but labeled and organized thousands of shots which  I am in the process of digitizing to pass on through the family.

My mother inherited the photography DNA but turned her camera to stained glass windows depicting iconography and stories in churches meant to teach or inspire through symbolism and rainbows of color. She earned a master's degree at a Pennsylvania Seminary and began a lifetime of presenting slideshow lectures throughout the east coast depicting her research.

Church window photograph used to teach lessons, Doris Miller Bowman 1976

My favorite place to photograph is our ancestral home on the Chesapeake. Sunsets, sunrise, eagles, osprey, family members who visited, and of course the water are all caught on film to cherish this beautiful place and the family who abided there. 

Sunrise at Cedar Point, 2015 Carol Kehler

Whether your photographs are family group portraits, images of the family homestead, beautiful local scenery, or gorgeous artifacts like stained glass, pictures enhance our stories and are sometimes truly worth a thousand words.

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Gifts from an ancestor

 My great-grandmother had a garden. I can remember her unsteady gait aided by a tall walking stick as she made her way daily to inspect the turned earth. Ever the resourceful caretaker of the family, she used her plot of ground to raise tomatoes and corn and cucumbers, and okra. Although the area she called her garden was for vegetables, there were purple iris around the shed, 

a rainbow of colored azaleas bloomed in front of the porch in May, 

and a beautiful holly tree loaded with red berries every December stood guard in the yard.

In anticipation of the sale of her house years later I dug up many Iris bulbs and brought them home.  I also clipped branches of holly heavy with berries to use on cemetery Christmas wreaths as my family had done for decades. While I couldn't keep her house, I could treasure a tiny part of her yard. I was well into adulthood and still accidentally killing house plants so there was little hope that I could keep part of Granny's garden thriving, but I planted the bulbs. Each year they have spread further and in April my front yard is covered in purple.

Encouraged to try other plants I visited the local nursery and brought home sweet-smelling alyssum and multicolor of the flowers called stock or Matthiola incana. I had some success with annuals and perennials in container gardens. For several years spring and summer I combined various scents and colors in pots around my porch.  The spring the pandemic started I did not venture out to purchase plants and fully expected it to be a barren summer. But that April the purple irises returned in force along with yellow daffodils and some purple tulips that had been in my father's garden and transplanted. In May green shoots began to surface in some of my flower pots and later blossomed into Sweet William lavender flowers with white tips that spread and filled the space. 

Even though I was sheltering in place, the earth pushed up green and colorful gifts. One day while weeding and pruning I noticed a tiny pinky-size jagged shoot of green that upon inspection looked vaguely like miniature leaves from a holly tree. Nurturing the new plant for several weeks I realized as it grew that the December before the pandemic I had placed clipped branches from my great-grandmother's beautiful holly tree in my outside flower boxes for Christmas decoration. Some of the fruit had buried down into the Earth and blossomed in spring into a new holly tree.  What a beautiful inheritance down the generations. 

Although these several years I have relied on the perennials and not added the colorful annuals from a store, my flower pots provide an Oasis of Peace and reflection and continued family traditions, a new avocation for my retirement, and some surprise gifts from an ancestor.