Wednesday, August 23, 2006

World Music

I love to find things that I love :)

I LOVE this online radio program that i have discovered. love love love it...

go here

and click "listen now"

i just just borrowed a CD from the public library that i listened to and listened to and never tired of called "Music from the Coffeelands" and it was from this show and i discovered the two completely independently of each other...

well not completely love of world music kind of led me to both.

while i am on the topic i would also like to recommend the fabulous music of

amadou and mariam

amadou and mariam are both amazing musicians, they are married and they are both blind... i am a tremendous fan.

they were introduced to me by dear Georges, my friend, the Belgian demographer who is a lover of Africa too and who has devoted his life to researching the AIDS epidemic there.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


the making of the painting described below.

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my new jersey home

So now i have two homes! one in CT with mbh and one in NJ all to myself. over the last couple of weeks i have been enjoying setting up a little abode for myself here in NJ.

kitchen/dining area.

i bought the DIY kit for the table and chairs (and many other things besides) at IKEA and enjoyed the sense of accomplishment that i always feel when i manage to put furniture together successfully. mbh always likes to boast to people that i am the furniture builder in the house. he hates to do it and since i love doing it, it is usually my job. its like doing a puzzle but ever so much more rewarding in its usefulness.

i love the birch wood of the table...birch trees make me think of my mother and the Finnish forest and beating each other with fresh birch twigs in the sauna to get the circulation going.

I went one step further in my home improvement spree this time, emboldened by my success in the simple task of putting the table together. i bought a drill from Home depot! and was determined to put up a shelf on the wall. the whole experience was quite traumatic actually. I had to face fears of drilling into wires or through the wall into the neighbours apartment or that the whole building would fall down or that i would drop the drill and drill into my toes and all manner of other horrors... i did it but i didn't enjoy the experience i am afraid to say. i think i would like to apprentice for a while with a builder or carpenter just so that i could learn a few tricks of the trade. here is the shelf. (i actually bought three to put up but stopped after the first because i couldn't take the stress any more :)
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the apartment has such nice hardwood floors...i just love hardwood floors.

when i took these pictures my books were not yet sorted. I have at least two shelves worth of books from my fathers library of Baha'i books. Most of his wonderful collection went to the Zimbabwe National Baha'i center library where he spent a great deal of his later years organizing and building up their collection. many of the books have his name printed in capital letters in the cover J.D. SARGENT.

I hung up my most prized chinese painting painted for me by Yang Lin's father--an accomplished and recognized artist in Taiyuan, Shanxi. He even inscribed it to me on the right using the characters of my chinese name. I will post a picture later that i took while he was painting it for me.

Yet another prized possession is captured in this picture: Marzieh Gail's silver flower vase which reminds me of days spent with her in San Francisco learning Persian and entertaining visitors who she would humor, at their inevitable request, with stories of meeting 'Abdu'l-Baha when she was a child or "the Beloved Guardian" when she was a teenager in France. Every time she told the story she would tell it as though it was the very first time she had ever told it so as not to give her guest the vaguest feeling that she might be weary of repeating the same story so many countless times throughout her life. (I must add some of her books to my reading list to read or reread. )

spartan simplicity in the bedroom. i think i will try to keep it like that as much as possible. feels pure and rarified somehow. on the wall a picture that my father brought back from Shiraz. it seems he did some geological work in Iran or went on a trip there in the late 1960s...another question for my brother.

i love the tile on the bathroom floor :)

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My first dinner in my little apartment a couple of weeks ago: teriyaki salmon, watercress and water cress broth.

oops! forgot to plug in the rice cooker so had to eat the rice last which is what the Chinese often do anyway. i just love the cheap "china ware" i picked up at the Chinese supermarket.
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Saturday, August 12, 2006

August 12--Memorial Day for Dad

My father passed away on August 12th, 1998 in Harare, Zimbabwe of a heart attack. He had had heart disease for many years but had kept very active in his own work as a geologist and in his various Baha'i activities. He was 75 years old when he died. something that the dearly beloved Counselor said to me on the day of his funeral has stayed with me and I treasure it. He said "Your father was the most pure hearted man I have ever met."

He had a very rich and colorful life of service and adventure. I am working on a timeline of his life but will need to get around to interviewing my uncle and my brother about some of the details and post it later.

My father loved the African bush and the African people. He loved wearing and making bolo ties.

this was probably a connection he maintained with "native american" episode in his life and his time spent working in the southwest of the US. bolo ties became his signature item.

he loved collecting interesting rocks and fossils during his geological survey work and he displayed his collection on the windowsill of his study. He liked the music of Glen Miller and the African marimba and the paintings of Norman Rockwell (suspect because the latter reminded him of his New England childhood)...

one of his avid interests was constructing charts of changes in indicators of human progress over time such as technological innovations of different kinds, and seeing how for thousands of years the line was flat and close to zero and then just around the advent of the Baha'i revelation in the first half of the 19th century how the chart would suddenly make an upturn and increase exponentially

He was a very cheerful man. I can still hear his bright voice in my mind as he responded to the little children in the villages who would excitedly shout hello to the white man... he would shout back with a bright cheerfulness and enthusiasm "hello hello"... he was "Uncle John" to his African friends of all ages and he would frequently address others teasingly as "Dr. so and so" whether or not they had even graduated from college. his work as a geologist out in the field enabled him to visit Baha'is in countless villages and also teach the Faith countless others. He had blue blue eyes.

his standard response to the question "How are you?" was a cheerful "terrible... how are you?" accompanined by his ever present laugh... my mother has a story of the time she first met my father at the International Convention in Haifa... she had locked her suitcase and lost the key and had gone to my father for help. in her charming broken english she said "I have a problem" and my father responded "What!? Only ONE?" when we were driving and he made a wrong turn i would say "where are you going?" his response was "crazy baby, wanna come?" When we were waiting at an intersection he would always say "Nobody came along this road for the last five hours until we got here"... the British love the word "schedule" and seem to use it all the time, only they pronounce it "shedule" and my American father would never fail to quip "Hey where did you learn to say shedule, in shool?" If he was trying to fix something or do something and i tried to lend a hand he would often say teasingly "are you helping or becoming part of the problem?" Sometimes he would sing to me "Yes sir that's my baby, no sir I don't mean maybe, yes sir, that's my baby now"... he had a myriad of these little sayings that he would use repeatedly and i often told him i was going to write a book of the sayings of John Sargent.

he took me on trips into the bush with him, he brought me home exotic pets, he subscribed to World Magazine (national geographic for kids) for me, he enlisted my help in sorting through emeralds and told me stories about snakes and lions and elephants, he was very proud of any of my academic achievements and his aspiration for me was a phd in molecular biology. he taught me how to play chess.


My father's favorite prayer:

My God, my Adored One, my King, my desire! What tongue can voice my thanks to Thee? I was heedless, Thou didst awaken me. I had turned back from Thee, Thou didst graciously aid me to turn towards Thee. I was as one dead, Thou didst quicken me with the water of life. I was withered, Thou didst revive me with the heavenly stream of Thine utterance which hath flowed forth from the Pen of the All-Merciful.
O Divine Providence! All existence is begotten by Thy bounty; deprive it not of the waters of Thy generosity, neither do Thou withhold it from the ocean of Thy mercy. I beseech Thee to aid and assist me at all times and under all conditions, and seek from the heaven of Thy grace Thine ancient favor. Thou art, in truth, the Lord of bounty, and the Sovereign of the kingdom of eternity.
- Bahá'u'lláh
(Compilations, Baha'i Prayers, p. 18)

Excerpt of a prayer for the departed from

"Lord! I bear witness that in Thy servant Thou hast reposed Thy Trust, and that is the Spirit wherewith Thou hast given life to the world. I ask of Thee by the splendor of the Orb of Thy Revelation, mercifully to accept from him that which he hath achieved in Thy days. Grant then that he may be invested with the glory of Thy good-pleasure and adorned with Thine acceptance....
Grant, then, O my God, that Thy servant may consort with Thy chosen ones, Thy saints and Thy Messengers in heavenly places that the pen cannot tell nor the tongue recount. "
- Bahá'u'lláh

"O my God! O my God! Verily, thy servant, humble before the majesty of Thy divine supremacy, lowly at the door of Thy oneness, hath believed in Thee and in Thy verses, hath testified to Thy word, hath been enkindled with the fire of Thy love, hath been immersed in the depths of the ocean of Thy knowledge, hath been attracted by Thy breezes, hath relied upon Thee, hath turned his face to Thee, hath offered his supplications to Thee, and hath been assured of Thy pardon and forgiveness. He hath abandoned this mortal life and hath flown to the kingdom of immortality, yearning for the favor of meeting Thee.
O Lord, glorify his station, shelter him under the pavilion of Thy supreme mercy, cause him to enter Thy glorious paradise, and perpetuate his existence in Thine exalted rose garden, that he may plunge into the sea of light in the world of mysteries.
Verily, Thou art the Generous, the Powerful, the Forgiver and the Bestower."

Monday, August 07, 2006

Places I have been in the world

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Family Legends

I have heard this family legend on a couple of occasions... it goes something like this...

our great great great (not quite sure how many greats) grandfather Phineas Sargent was a whaler. The whalers would get out of the ship and into the little whaling boat to chase the whale with the harpoon. On one of GGGGrandfathers Phineas' whaling trips the boat capsized and the whale smashed the boat to pieces and GGGG Phineas happened to grab onto the piece of the boat that was still attached to the rope and the harpoon that was attached the whale. The whale dragged GGGG Phineas for quite some time and even under the water before the rope came loose from the wood and GGGG Phineas was saved.

Hmmm... I need to read Moby Dick. I don't think i ever read it.

Another family legend that i heard from Cousin Dave for the first time is about our Great Grandmother...

My grandfather grew up on a dairy farm in Vermont. His mother raised turkeys and was very successful in her turkey business... so successful in fact that she bought a car! (this was in the early 1900s) it was her car and she was the only one who knew how to drive it. i wonder what kind she had and where she bought it and what year that was exactly.

My grandfather left Vermont when he joined the service during World War 1. He was stationed in South Carolina where he met my Grandmother. They later settled in Windsor Locks, CT where he found a job.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

John Sargent 1923-1998

In May I devoted a whole month to the memory of my mother on the previous incarnation of this blog. Perhaps I will try to do something for my father this month, though I may not be able to keep it up as i have so many pressing tasks to complete this month.

My father was born January 18, 1923 in Springfield, Massachussetts and passed away August 12, 1998 in Harare, Zimbabwe. The last couple of weeks have been a wonderful way to learn more about my father's early history as I have moved into the area where he was born and raised. Added to this has been the bonus of cousin Dave's visit. I get to hear stories of my father's parents and the town where he grew up.

I can now attach places to the snippets of family stories that I remember here and there. My father, the oldest of three sons was, by his own account a "troublesome" child from the start and frequently a cause of concern to his parents. There is the story of him and a friend playing on section of ice on the Connecticut River one winter and then the ice breaking away and flowing downstream prompting the need for a hair raising rescue.

The way that i remember it, my grandparents were already worried about my father's commitment to Christianity when he was in his early teens and so invested in a private all-boys Christian high school in Northfield Massachussetts called Mount Hermon. So many years later my father continued to receive the Mount Hermon newsletter in Zimbabwe.

Cousin Dave took me there yesterday. Wow!! what a beautiful school! the school is nestled in the New England forest with majestic buildings and spectacular views.

Cousin Dave's father, the second son, was also sent there. Uncle Robert was the model son, a replica of his noble Christian father. It was nice that we two children of these two wonderful men were here to honor them together. We saw the school way off in the distance on our way there. I had spotted a yarn store called "Ewe and Me" and Dave stopped so that i could buy some specialty yarn for xl. but the shop was closed. we noticed the school off in the distance while we were stopped and i got a nice shot of it.

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There is a spectacular chapel on the campus.

We found our way inside sat enveloped by the luxurious wooden benches, uplifted by the wooden cathedral ceilings and meditated in silence. Then we imagined out loud together our fathers sitting in those very benches ennobled by the same structural beauty...

I picked up a hymnal and mused on how fortunate I was to have experienced a similar (though not quite as grand) high school chapel every morning so many years and miles away at my private all-girls Anglican high school in Harare. flipping through the hymnal I found many old favorites and started to sing them... the acoustics were phenomenal. lovely lovely.

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we took our picnic lunch in a search of a picnic spot and we came upon an aboslutely IDEAL spot on this VERY hot day. it was a spot in the cool shade of the forest by a picturesque pond on the school campus. Dave said he remembered his father telling stories about ice-skating at school and we decided this was probably where he skated.

there were some canoes nearby and oars too! we decided to borrow them and take a spin on the pond. we took off our socks and shoes and waded into the pond and with my outdoorsman extraordinaire companion guiding the way we paddled around the pond a few times.
we came upon a group of lovely water lilies complete with two frogs sitting on the lily pads.we both exalted at the perfectness of our picnic. i decided it was a present from my father :) thanks Dad! i am sure he was smiling too :)
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