Memory and Music

This week's Thursday Theme (not to mention Sepia Saturday) involves Memory. While some will argue that smell is closely tied with memory, I maintain that music is just as strong a signifier of times past.

My father was born in 1918. He grew up with a piano in the house, one of the few luxuries his family could indulge in, and spent his childhood listening to the radio.  As an adult he seemingly had the following songs from his youth running through his head at all times, for he would burst into sentimental song at odd moments. These are all old 78 RPM recordings found on YouTube.


Far Above Cayuga's Waters (Cornell Alma Mater)


Growing the Garden

Shots from the Holy Cross Lutherans' community garden constructed this summer in our neighborhood. Design by Pomegranate.



Not often that you see an empty elevator shaft just waiting to be caught in the act.


Sepia Saturday: Occult

James Morgan Pryse (left), with HPB in a "bath-chair" and her private secretary G.R.S. Mead
Having nearly exhausted my own family history, I have begun making inroads on my wife’s.

I was soon pleased to discover that one of her great-uncles, James Morgan Pryse (Jr.), was somewhat of a celebrity, being a prolific occultist author and a confidant of no less than the (in)famous Helena Petrovna Blavatsky. Who was this Pryse fellow? Read on!

    The Pryze family lived in Tredegar, in Monmouth Co., Wales. The patriarch, whose name may have been the easy-to-remember Pryze Pryze, had a son, David, who married one Gwynfed Morgan in 1821. The couple had three children, including James Morgan Pryse, who was born April 15 (my own birthday!), 1826. Gwynfred reportedly died in 1832, and around 1838, David emigrated to America with his children, where he (or the immigration folks) changed his surname to Pryse. He eventually settled in Ohio, and died soon after in 1842.
    James Sr.
    James Morgan Pryse (Sr.) became “a preacher of some repute,” roaming Ohio, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Wisconsin. Aside from his Presbyterian leanings, he also peculiarly belonged to the Welsh order of Druid Bards. You can take the man out of Wales, but you can't take the Celtic mystic out of the man. Reportedly he often published his writings in both English and Welsh, in Presbyterian-related newsletters or journals. On May 19, 1848, he married Mary Morgan (1825-1903) in Ravenna, Ohio. They had several children, one of whom they named, with little effort, James Morgan Pryse Jr. Before his father died, in 1891, Junior was taught the legends of the Druids along with the Presbyterian doctrines. Giving up studying law for a perhaps more ethereal career in journalism, he moved frequently during his early adulthood; he even helped to create a Utopian colony at Topolobampo, Mexico, that allegedly influenced urban planning ideas of Ebenezer Howard; and from his home in New Jersey, James edited the colony’s periodical.
    The dashing James Jr.
    James moved to Los Angeles and in 1886 joined the Theosophical Society. Soon he was one of its most active members; he was so active that he moved once more, to New York, to work for the society's Aryan Press. In 1889 he moved yet again to London at the request of Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, the society’s cofounder, where he worked with her to found HPB Press. Blavatsky asked him to publish her Esoteric Instructions.
    HPB and a gaggle of her more mystic cohorts
      In 1894, following Blavatsky's death, the restless Pryse moved to Ireland to work for the Irish Theosophist. There he wrote the book The Sermon on the Mount, the first of a series of theosophical treatments of the Bible and Christian theology. In 1895 Pryse returned to New York to work with William Quan Judge, the head of the American Theosophical Society, which had broken with the international theosophical movement. After Judge's death the following year, Pryse uncharacteristically stayed put in New York and became involved with the Theosophical Society of New York, a branch which had broken with Judge's successor, Katherine Tingley. Pryse's next books were published by that society's Theosophical Publishing Co. In one of these, Apocalypse Unsealed, Pryse published the secret key to decoding the esoteric meaning of the book of Revelation
      After 15 years in New York, Pryse returned to Los Angeles, where he wrote what many consider his most important text, The Restored New Testament, a theosophical translation of the New Testament. While continuing his affiliation with the larger Theosophical Society and writing articles for its periodicals, he led independent gatherings in Los Angeles. In 1925 he founded the Gnostic Society (possibly the first modern group to describe itself as Gnostic) with six people who met in his home to discuss his metaphysical interpretation of Christianity. The society disbanded soon after Pryse's death on April 22, 1942, but has been revived
     A good many of Pryse’s works are still available on Amazon if you're sufficiently intrigued.

    Alas, there are few photos of Pryse, but a fair number for Blavatsky, who frankly was more photogenic, if rarely able to keep her hands from her own throat.





    Blavatsky Archives


    Rural Ruins

    Sometimes driving through the country hereabouts reminds me of visiting the dinosaur exhibit in a museum... massive old ribcages, shattered and patched.

    Stanwood, WA
    Lopez Island, WA
    Lopez Island, WA

    For more monochrome, visit The Weekend in Black and White.


    I catch on why a horse, why a chicken, why a this, why a that... I no catch on why a duck.

    Next month the historic, if perilously fragile, Alaskan Way Viaduct will begin to be brought down. Gone will be the spectaculastic views of Puget Sound and the Olympics as you drive along the waterfront... but those views are available from a number of locations. What will truly be gone will be the sensory extravaganza of walking under the brontosaurus legs of this two-mile stretch of concrete. I thought I'd preserve a few shots of that experience. For starters: the viaduct is one of the tenuous shelters for Seattle's homeless.


    Dog Day Loading Dock

    Depth of summer in the nether parts of Eastern Washington.  Water towers lurking behind faded signage. Camouflaged graffiti. Mysterious meters. Pavement parched under a cobalt sky. Shadows of telephone wires trisecting weathered walls. Loading bays silent and windows boarded up. Weeds. The flicker of a single swallow fifty feet up.

    Yakima WA

    Toppenish WA

    Toppenish WA