Aunt “Sissy” Rattigan saved the Treasury Department envelope, “Important: Contains U.S. Savings Bonds” recycled to store important photographs and newspaper clippings. My husband identified this 1912 candid as his grandfather, James Aloysius Corrigan.
After graduating high school, Jim worked as a clerk in a Hazleton (PA) clothing store, and held offices in the Clerk’s Union and St. Gabriel’s chapter of the Knights of Columbus. In his late twenties, Jim attended Bloomsbury State Normal School before following his brothers’ footsteps to Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1911. The thirty-one year old medical student posed for someone’s camera the following summer, nattily dressed in a wool suit, hat in hand.
I wonder what stories floated through that open window.
My husband and I were returning from vacation, northbound on Interstate 81. The highway made a backwards question mark, cutting into the southern anthracite fields of Pennsylvania. Signs indicated distances to old patch towns–Tremont, Minersville, Donaldson, Port Carbon. As we passed the Tower City exit our conversation took a genealogical turn.
T: “My mother’s mother’s people came from Tower City.”
Me: “The Monahans or the Carrolls?”
T: “The Carrolls. The Monahans were from Shenandoah.”
Me: “Hmmm…That’s a good 30 minutes up the road, even longer back in the 1870s. How did Margaret Carroll and John Monahan meet?”
T: “I never thought about that.”
We traveled on, but my curiosity took the off ramp into nineteenth century Schuylkill County. Once home, I burrowed down into Monahan and Carroll genealogy warrens before hazarding any guesses into how T’s great-grandparents met and married in 1878.
The story starts, as so many Irish tales do, with the Great Potato Famine of the 1840s.
Martin and Margaret (Kelley) Carroll made the trans-Atlantic trip by 1848, finding work and community in Minersville, Pennsylvania, the birthplace of their first child. Margaret, the future Monahan matriarch, was their third child, born in 1854. The family moved west during the Civil War, to the coal seams surrounding the town of Tremont.
Thomas and Bridget Mona(g)han left Ireland about the same time as the Carrolls, living for a few years in Liverpool, England, where Thomas earned the family’s fare as a laborer on the docks or the railroad. In 1854 the couple boarded the Andrew Foster with their little boys–the future Monahan patriarch, John J., and Michael–and crossed the wintry ocean to New York City. By the end of that decade, the Monahans lived among the residents of Swatara, a patch town south of Broad Mountain, and a bit east of Tremont.
In 1870 both the Carrolls and the Monahans lived in the area serviced by the Swatara post office. Margaret was helping her mom make a home; John was an underground laborer alongside his dad.
Patch towns had collieries, schools, stores, and churches. Surely there was ample opportunity for John to meet Margaret. Perhaps the young folks lingered after mass or danced together at the wedding of a mutual friend. I find it perfectly reasonable to presume that Margaret and John flirted, courted and wed because of geographic proximity.
In the last decades of the century, the Monahans and the Carrolls drifted, with various members settling in different towns nestled among the Appalachian hills. By the time T’s mother was old enough to have memories of visiting, aunts and uncles were centered–the Carrolls in Tower City and the Monahans in Shenandoah. But that is story for another day.
Within the last week I read an article about commitment, or rather keeping a commitment. In sum, the author stated that it is easier to practice your craft or hone your skill, develop new habits and deepen your spiritual practice if you commit 100%. No creeping “well, just this once I won’t take my binoculars” or “I’ll get to the writing tomorrow.”
So I am committed to this experiment. If I write every day on this blog or on my work-in-progress Shared Legacy narrative (more on that later), no excuses, will the writer’s block melt? If I take my binoculars or camera everywhere I go, will I spend at least a few minutes mindfully every day? And if I write and deeply look at my world, will I find myself energized and engaged?
What have you, dear reader, decided to commit 100% to? What tricks did you develop to hold yourself accountable?
Yesterday I tried to get super close to a bigger-than-a-crow hawk that sat perched on my neighbor’s play set. Tawny,heavy brow, white lores around the very big, very curved beak, yellow legs, brown and tawny back, white chest, several black stripes in the white tipped tail.
It was not a Coopers, and not a Red-tail.
It just rested and looked around, up and down, barely paying me any mind as a skulked closer, with either camera or binoculars at my eye. The hawk let out a high pitched whistle, which I instantly recognized as that sound that had pulled me outside for the last month.
It let out another whistle as it unfolded its wings and drifted over the treetops. I raced into the house to examine my shots and ID the mystery raptor…only to notice that my card was still in the computer from last photo edit. Drat!!! Fortunately, trying to frame a good field ID photo had focused my attention enough on the hawk’s details that I could trip the empty-camera-card-slot-failure into a success.
I got really close to an immature Broad-wing Hawk!!!
And I ran out of time to weed before dinner prep. *snaps fingers* Shucks…
Just so we are clear…Gardening is merely the prompt to birding in my backyard. Binoculars, I have found, must accompany the trowel, or at least be a dash distance nearby, or I just procrastinate the dirt work. Even then, birds trump plants. Like yesterday…
Night temperatures fell past dew point, and this morning’s herb garden was bejeweled in water beads, leaving even weeds pretty. Yesterday’s chore had to be completed before the cilantro got crowded out by crabgrass and some mystery choker. Summer contact calls were music to weed by so out I went, binoculars, trowel, weed bucket. When I could distinctly see sage, oregano, cilantro seedlings, and thyme, I declared gardening done, and strolled around, glasses in hand, just in time to watch a mustached Northern Flicker and his partner send their sharp beaks between blades of dew-soaked grass. In the distance, an adult male Northern Cardinal fanned his feathers wide, and a pair of Mourning Doves fluttered in to join his hedgerow morning spa.
Gardening is a gateway chore to my passion. I relax, content.