Wednesday, December 28, 2016


My bright butterfly tribute to mark the Turning of the Life Wheel/For all those who we cared about and lost from this Turn---those who brought joy and light to the human race, and to whom I wish light and joy as they embark on the new journey. I guess it was time to bring this little one out as a "group" salute and farewell.

2016, I will salute your leaving us, but it will not be a bright and sunlit farewell. Some flights deserve to leave in darkness and cold. Flap those wings, and just ... fly away.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016


....Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything (there is a crack in everything)
That's how the light gets in
Ring the bells that still can ring (ring the bells that still can ring)
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything (there is a crack in everything)
That's how the light gets in
That's how the light gets in
That's how the light gets in

Songwriters: Leonard Cohen (21 Sep 1934 – 7 Nov 2016)
Anthem © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Thoughts for today

I often say I aspire, with each birth anniversary, to retreat backwards and increase my idealism and caring nature until I reach the wisdom I had as a child. My birth anniversary this year marks a "milestone" event (NO I WILL NOT SHARE WHAT THE DATE IS OR HOW MANY YEARS IT MARKS -- thanks for understanding!).

 This year was always going to be a very reflective one, and one in which I plan to revive everything I possibly can about the years in which I was MOST idealistic. Conscious effort! And, as usual....I believe many will think I'm silly, nuts, unrealistic, a "creative dreamer".... etc.


"There's something happening here
What it is ain't exactly clear
There's a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware
I think it's time we stop, children, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down..."
Written by Stephen Stills • performed by Buffalo Springfield - 1967
Copyright © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

Monday, November 14, 2016

Quote of the Day

"The pounding of the drums, the pride and disgrace

You can bury your dead, but don't leave a trace

Hate your next-door-neighbour, but don't forget to say grace

And you tell me over and over and over and over again my friend

You don't believe we're on the eve of destruction. mmm, no, no

You don't believe we're on the eve of destruction...."

PF Sloan. "Eve of Destruction". 1965

Sunday, November 13, 2016

More thoughts, and plans.

"I'm not giving up, and neither should you."

Election Week Cold Open

Hillary Clinton (Kate McKinnon) performs Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." 
[Season 42, 2016]

 Watch, then act!

"We are so excited about the energy and interest in the Women's March on Washington. We only started working on this yesterday and are overwhelmed with the support and many great questions.

Interest in the Women's March on Washington has grown so quickly. I am leading the MA Contingent (at least for now).

This is an INCLUSIVE and PEACEFUL march and EVERYONE who supports women's rights are welcome:

- Women & Girls & Femmes & GNC & GF
- Men & Boys
- Families
- People of Color
- Immigrants
- LGBTQI Community
- Folks with disabilities
- ALL religious communities
- Climate Change Advocates
- Anyone else who wants to peacefully march!

We are looking for organizations with whom to partner/reach out to and we are working on the speaking program. PM if you have ideas, suggestions, or would like to get involved in a deeper way.

We are looking into chartering busses from various regions in the state. It all depends on interest and cost. We will be looking for donations at some point, but we won't be able to make final decisions about travel for another week or so. If you are unable or not interested in taking the bus, then please arrange your own transport. You may be able to find others here who are interested in carpooling.

If you would rather stay overnight and not travel to and back from DC on the same day, then please feel free to make your own hotel arrangements. But, please note that we are also working on a block of rooms. There just aren't guarantees we will be able to get rooms to accommodate all of us.

We are working on a website which will be a better way to address questions, ideas, and concerns that you have. Once that is up and running we will let you know here.

A little bit about me:
I am a public health social worker and a lifelong advocate for racial and social justice. I am a single mom, work full time, and am in school. I say all this so that if I dont' get back to you right away, please be patient. I am very committed to this work and this March and will respond as soon as I can!"

Wednesday, November 9, 2016


As a gardener...I cling to the idea...
that for new life to begin, dying of the old is a necessary part of the process.

As a musician, I cling to the comfort that sorrow can bring forth some of the strongest songs.

As a writer, I realize that stories can engender strength for the future.

As an historian, I am committed to understanding.

As a woman, I am simply...weeping.

As an American...I am ashamed.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

July 19, 2016

Some flights deserve to leave in darkness and cold, for no amount of light would have reached into the darkness within.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

A cry for kindness in our generally meaner society

I've been really unhappy lately by the generally meaner society we have been seeing grow over the past couple of years, and now I hear about homeless people literally being bulldozed out of cities and laws proposed outlawing helping people in need on the street,etc. It seems appropriate to tell of a gift I got some years ago.

Some years ago I was in Boston as usual and was eating my lunch at Whole Foods near the Conservatory. I happened to glance up from my book and saw an older woman kind of hovering in the lunch area, and then she sat down at a table but did not seem to have anything to eat. She looked around, quietly, at other tables with folks eating at them a bit though..

After a while, I walked up to her and said I was going to buy a cup of coffee for myself and could I get her anything? She shook her head and I kind of asked her gently if she minded very much if I gave her my dessert (I think it was a cookie or something). She told me she was a diabetic and couldn't eat that, and I said, well come with me and pick out whatever you want.

We went together, she made her own choices, I bought it and thanked her; sat and talked for a minute or so and then left her in peace. I wanted to respect her dignity and not make her feel like a charity case.

Sometimes, when I think I have it hard, I think of that day. Believe me, I got more nourishment that day than my little lady did at Whole Foods.

When I read about laws passed against helping those in need, or folks encouraging cruelty to people down on their luck, I think that we as Americans are truly starving ourselves of the nourishment that matters.

And we will eventually die of that starvation. We are already weak from it.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Boston archeology

My first time participating in an archeology dig!
Former site of 19th century tenements, in North Boston, courtyard next to Paul Revere house

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Writing cave

This book I am writing has been wrestling with me bigtime but I SHALL prevail !!!!!!!!!! Back in the cave again....

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Maggi's Prediction

Maggi's Predictions (share yours!):
*Violence possible, even likely 
@ both conventions

*Trump may get to convention as "nominee" but is "defeated" (read: has already made some kind of backstage deal) (see comment below) 

--GOP nominates other candidate, possibly Paul Ryan

*Bernie lasts. til convention; chaos as Hillary takes nomination; rules get challenged; setup for real progressive to take stage for 2020

*by which time the middle class has drowned and social unrest has built on both sides of political spectrum and all age groups

*war clouds thicken (military-industrial complex, the beast of many heads)

*progressive ticket emerges to agitate and win limited domestic reform in 2020 term, but the reforms swim upstream since the balance is so out of whack major overhaul is needed more 

--and that's too longterm for short attention span Americans

*Trump buys his own country, names after himself

*We get another woman prez who is left to clean up ... as women do so often in everything

Wednesday, April 20, 2016


Perspectives differ, but there is much to be happy about in Sanders' candidacy and successes, just as there are, for different reasons, in Clinton's. I will vote for the Democratic nominee, because I'm a decent human being above all, but I do secretly wish Mr. Sanders was able to win the nomination. If the revolution we do so desperately need doesn't happen NOW, then WHEN? I grew up hearing that as a very young woman...for everything worthwhile...if not NOW then WHEN? I am no longer very young, but I'm still saying that, still hearing that, still hearing "wait, be practical," instead of "yes, we can do that!" ....and that, alone, is something to remember....perhaps to mourn. Perhaps to CHANGE.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Birdie Loves Bernie!

This is the poster to use!
Credit for the Birdie Poster:
Vienna, Austria
(they are on Twitter)

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Zero Tolerance for Gun and Gunlovers

This is why I have crossed the line about tolerance for guns. Among other reasons....We had friends in Newtown.  And I taught children for many years. Their faces haunt me.

"The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting occurred on December 14, 2012, in Newtown, Connecticut, when 20-year-old Adam Lanza fatally shot 20 children aged between 6 and 7 years old, as well as six adult staff The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting occurred on December 14, 2012, in Newtown, Connecticut, when 20-year-old Adam Lanza fatally shot 20 children aged between 6 and 7 years old, as well as six adult staff."

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Mother Nature...


Thursday, March 3, 2016

"Grace, Beauty, and … Masculine Fire?" article published

A version of a longer piece I've been working on has just been published on the Mass Humanities Public Humanist blog  (Massachusetts Foundation for Humanities and Public Policy)

The article addresses an issue we're still struggling with as a culture:

 "Gender-based role expectations continue to create social and professional boundaries high and wide. How women who seek positions in traditionally male-dominated professions behave, appear—or sound—in public continues to create borders that “should not” or “must not” be crossed. Those judgements often supersede discussions of talent or ability.

How did a progressive educator in 19th-century Boston, Boston Conservatory founder Julius Eichberg, help women break some of these borders — armed with little more than a violin bow? How does the professional classical music world still delineate boundaries to what women “should” or “can” do — and how is the struggle against those borders to achievement coming along?"

 Group portrait of unidentified violin students and teachers in staircase ca. 1898
from Lillian Shattuck scrapbook, including two hundred and three photographs of her violin studentsca. 1900-1915

Portrait of four unidentified students ca. 1910-1920
from Lillian Shattuck scrapbook, including two hundred and three photographs of her violin studentsca. 1900-1915

Credit: With special thanks to the wonderful Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

Grace, Beauty, and … Masculine Fire?

Grace, Beauty, and … Masculine Fire?
by Maggi Smith-Dalton

     “Take some more tea,” the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly.
    “I've had nothing yet,” Alice replied in an offended tone, “so I can't take more.”
    “You mean you can't take less,” said the Hatter: “it's very easy to take more than nothing.”

In October, 1880, the New York Times noted a performance at Masonic Hall by Miss Helen Potter, a touring actress of some renown who specialized in concert platform recitations, readings, and impersonations of famous people (both living and dead). The stage was shared with “her company, known as the Pleiades … which includes … a company of ‘much talent’ … the Eichberg quartet” [sic].

The company’s performance at Philadelphia’s Academy of Music in April, 1881, noted that the  Eichberg Quartette, “four young ladies of girlish appearance,” garnered generous applause for mastery of their instruments; while their performance at the University of Michigan in 1881 was awarded “the honors of the Evening” by the student newspaper, although “their playing at times lacked masculine vividity and fire.” They rendered their selections with “grace and beauty,” however—apparently satisfying the critic.

In Cuba, NY, their performance was “repeatedly applauded,” although Miss Potter’s impersonation of Susan B. Anthony revived memories of “the late ‘unpleasantness’ in our town over woman’s right to limited franchise.”

The Eichberg Quartette continued to poke at the borders of women’s “franchise” to professional public success with their bows, despite lack of masculine “fire.” For this group of talented young women were pioneers, the beneficiaries of a progressive education at an equally young Boston Conservatory and its legendary founder/director, Julius Eichberg (1824-1893).

Eichberg, who also served as superintendent of musical instruction in Boston’s public schools, enthusiastically espoused “equal opportunity” for both genders, and promoted educational efforts to open doors and bust borders wherever he could.

The Eichberg String Quartette, founded 1878, was the first professional female string quartet. In nurturing these young women, Eichberg can rightly be termed a visionary. The original group, c. 1879, included Lillian Chandler (violin); Lillian Shattuck (violin); Abbie Shepardson (viola); and Lettie Launder (cello). By the turn of the century, some of these players would extend Eichberg’s legacy by becoming highly influential educators themselves. Lillian Shattuck (b.1857), for instance, established a successful music school in Boston (1895-1936). Another student, Edith Lynwood Winn (1868-1933), would not only teach but become an ardent advocate for women musicians through her articles for national music journals.

Prejudice proved a formidable barrier to talented women in music, as in other professions. As late as the 1840s very few women took up violin as a solo or an ensemble instrument. The piano, the voice; these were “womanly” instruments, and the way women looked while singing or demurely seated at the piano was vital to acceptance of their professional endeavors. Women looked “awkward,” unattractive, when bowing a violin, it was thought; and playing instruments which were held between the legs was completely unacceptable.

Fighting stereotypes could be slow going. “Even twenty years ago it was an odd sight, and one that rarely failed to elicit … comment, not always charitable, when a … young woman carried a violin case through the streets of a city,” observed T.L. Krebs in November, 1893, happily noting the progress for women instrumentalists made by then. Yet the same article stated firmly that women could never master musical theory or “the solution of profound musical problems” in composition as her intellectually superior male counterpart would.

Women’s prospects for orchestral work, outside an all-female ensemble, were deemed ludicrous due to their lack of capacity and strength for “arduous rehearsal,” ability to concentrate attention on a conductor, and perform in public for “two to three hours at a stretch.” Such work, claimed the writer of an article, reprinted in a November 1895 issue of Scientific American, would “send her physical forces completely to the wall.”

It all seems quaint now, yes? After all, women are fully integrated into the professional world. One’s gender should never dictate the kind of instrument one should play or with whom one collaborates. A female in a powerful position is natural and right. Women need not offer only “grace and beauty” (in addition to talent) to be successful.

And yet … “There is also … a physiological restraint … sometimes women are discouraged by the very physical aspect….” So said Bruno Mantovani, director of the Paris Conservatoire, during a France-Musique radio program … in 2013.

And yet … “The important thing is, a woman should be beautiful, likable, attractive. Musicians will look at her and be distracted from the music! … The essence of the conductor's profession is strength. The essence of a woman is weakness.”  So said Yuri Temirkanov, music director of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, in a 2012 interview (Nezavisimaya Gazeta).

Sadly, female conductors today are as rare as female violinists used to be. But education is leading the way again.

In South London, young female music students are learning to step into the command podium at Morley College. Marin Alsop conducts not only orchestras but masterclasses for aspiring women conductors. And the Boston Conservatory today boasts alumni of both genders who have earned their Master of Music in Orchestral Conducting.
Then, as now, education serves the very best tea and the finest bread to those with hunger for open horizons. The legacy of educators like Julius Eichberg and Lillian Shattuck lives on.

Let’s spread a feast, shall we?

About the author:
Maggi Smith-Dalton began her singing career in cabarets and nightclubs and has maintained a parallel career as a public historian most of her life. Her work now combines historical musical performance and lecture, specializing in American music, history, and culture of the 19th  and early 20th centuries. A former Boston Globe history columnist, she is the author of two books and co-author of a third. With her husband, she has recorded four albums and toured the USA and abroad. Website:  Blog:

read the Public Humanist version here:

Tuesday, February 16, 2016


My profession provides all these which dances in your heart, singing to greet each hour, stories to weave for delight and awe, and silence, yes much of that for dreaming and meditation, for listening...the silence 'twixt the tone giving shape to the tune.
It's a wonderful life, and a life-affirming profession.

A metaphor for our times

Springlike warmth after the subzero cold! A benediction. Yesterday the goldfinch returned to our feeders after long, long absence. I haven’t seen (although I have heard) a chickadee in months. This past summer, new neighbors cut down a magnificent soaring old pine tree, habitat for so many birds and other creatures which kept our garden alive and colorful. I mourned the tree, and I have mourned the subsequent disappearance of many old friends who formerly visited our backyard feeders. They fled the violent death of a tree which has grown on the edge of our two properties for generations. A metaphor for our times, when wars of all kinds rage.

The gardener longs to till the soil, but must wait a while longer. Meanwhile, the warmth caresses my face and hands as I fill the feeders I have kept stocked as best I could while the weather itself seemed to wage war.

But blessings have returned, and I am grateful for them.

Monday, February 15, 2016

The prose also rises.

Whew. Article done, resting now, like bread, to rise. Then an edit. Then a bake. Then a mailing. Then on to book #1 of 2.

Speaking of baking...I have added rolls to my regular baking output. It's weirdly primal, baking bread, isn't it? I also baked my own "cheese snack crackers" and I think that Cheez-It may never see us again...

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Stuff I'm doing

Practicing my Irish for tomorrow night's singing at BOCO's World Fest.

Trying to write an article (thank heavens for deadlines)...then two books on the table, one that needs editing, one that needs more than a half-dozen opening paragraphs. Yesterday I realized we had no wine in the house (things get very lean in the house at this time of month). This last qualifies as an emergency. (‪#‎firstworldproblemsfersure‬)

Democrats: DO NOT toss negativity. Leave that to Republicans. Support whichever Democrat gets the nomination and let the hate-slinging before and after emanate from the Republicans, who give every indication they love to wallow in slime.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Welcome the coming of Spring

Yesterday I changed all the garden flags from winter scenes over to Springtime ones, because it was Imbolc eve. Well, how do you like my magical powers over the weather today?

Friday, January 29, 2016

Upsetting trends!

I read these stories today and they really upset me.
"In their new book, The App Generation, education professors Howard Gardner and Katie Davis argue that kids today are becoming more risk averse. “Rather than wanting to explore, to try things out by themselves, young people are always pushing to find out exactly what is wanted, when it is wanted, how it will be evaluated, what comes next and where we end up,” they said in a recent Q-and-A....."

"An elementary school in Kentucky is installing “pedal desks” so students can pedal while they work. Estes Elementary School kindergarten teacher Faith Harralson won a $12,000 grant from the school system to install “pedal desks” in her classroom. Harralson said the desks help “when kindergartners get tired of sitting still.” Yeah. You know what else helps with that? Recess....."


Maybe we should just return free, unencumbered, unmediated, non-directed childhood PLAYtime to the kids for heavens' sake! I laid in the grass watching ants build their nests, explored the creek in the woods near the house and caught tadpoles, made up my own games with others and with myself (I had a swell Swiss Family Robinson/Robinson Crusoe setup in the back yard where I reenacted scenes from the books, made acquaintance with fairies and nature spirits, rode my bike everywhere (it was actually of course a white and silver stallion cleverly disguised as a bike). I can only shake my head over "kids don't know how to explore." So sad.