Interviewer: Michael and Carrie Kline
Place of Interview: Concord Free Public Library
Transcriptionist: Josh Graupera
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Audio file is in .mp3 format.
Michael Kline: Hi, we're Michael and Carrie Kline in the Board Room of the Concord Free Public Library for an interview. It's just a little past 2:00 in the afternoon, an overcast, very warm day. And would you please say, "My name is" and tell us your name?
Jenny Rankin: Yeah, my name is Jenny Rankin.
MK: And we never ask people their ages, but perhaps you'd tell us your date of birth.
JR: February 5th, 1958.
MK: '58. Okay.
MK: Would you start off, if you would, just tell us about your people and where you were raised?
JR: Sure. My dad is from southern Illinois. Is that what you mean, my family? Is that what you're talking about?
MK: Mmm hmm, however you define it.
JR: He was born in 1913 and is still alive so he's 97 years old. And he came from a farm; he lived on a farm. His family lost the farm in the Depression, and he lost the money he'd saved for college, and so he started again and earned some more money. He was the first in his family to come East. He went to the University of Virginia for two years and then transferred to Princeton. What I meant was he was the first in his family to go to college. And I don't really know why he decided to come East and go to college but he did.
MK: Hold on just a second.
MK: But he had this sudden ambition did he, do you suppose?
JR: Well, I don't—I don't really know. But he loves to learn. And he became interested in FDR and the New Deal. He worked in Washington. He was very inspired by FDR and the sort of idealism at the time. He went to Harvard Law School. He fought in WWII in the -- in Europe. So, that's part of where I come from. And he taught us about learning, and books, and politics, and caring about the world and trying to make a difference. So.
My birth mother was born on the North Shore of Boston. And she went to Radcliff and studied literature and was a social worker in the North End of Boston for 15 years in a settlement house. And she died six—eight days after I was born so I didn't know her myself. But she's part of my people. And then my mother, Phoebe Arnold, became my mother when I was 18 months old. And she's from a New England Unitarian family. Her gran--. Her father was a minister for many years, a Unitarian minister. And so, she and my dad brought up me and my sister, and they had one child of their own, my brother, my younger brother. And we lived in Beacon Hill when I was little, until I was seven and then we moved to Milton, Massachusetts. (0:03:23)
So, my mother loved gardening, and birds, and music. So, all of those are very important influences in my life. I've thought a lot about them, as you probably can tell by the way I answered the question! So. I think as a minister partly you think about how you've been formed, how you've come to where you are. So--.
MK: Is there more you want to say about that? I'd be awfully interested in hearing it.
JR: You mean about the becoming a minister or--.
MK: Yes and your formation as a person, and how you found your calling, your profession.
JR: Um. Big questions! Um. Well, I first, after--. I went to Princeton too. My dad was a lawyer. He never made a lot of money in his life, but the proudest thing for him was that all his children went to Princeton and, on scholarship. And after I went to Princeton I went to--. I lived in Paris for a year and then decided I would go to law school, kind of following my dad and trying to make a difference in the world by becoming a lawyer, and did not like law school, at all! I have to say. And, it wasn't, you know--. It was me. I was very young and confused. I went to NYU Law School in New York City. And it was very urban, and I was very confused about why I was there and what I was doing. And so I got pretty unhappy and I left and entered a kind of period of searching.
And one of the things I did was I went back to church. And I had been raised in the Unitarian Universalist Church as a child, and I returned to that church and--. I know this is kind of a long answer but it is a long answer and it is--. It is just, yeah.
MK: No, no. Not at all.
JR: And I felt that the--. I actually went back to the church that I'd grown up in as a child, which is King's Chapel in downtown Boston. And I felt that the church community spoke about hope, and suffering, and confusion, and searching. And they just seemed to acknowledge kind of the reality that I was living, as opposed to the outward culture that was more about, you know, being successful, and happy, and--. You know, sometimes that's how you are, and other times you're not. And I felt like within that church community the full range of human experience was acknowledged and talked about; and so I think I felt comfortable there.
And I--. It was a support for me as I was in this time of searching. And, you know, it was not an easy time, it was a difficult time. So, the minister there offered a class there called Spiritual Autobiography. And I took the class and that was really I think the beginning of my path toward ministry. Because I was thinking about--. I'd always ask these philosophical questions and existential questions, but I never thought of myself as religious, you know? And now I started to kind of see that maybe that those kind of questions were within the realm of religion, and that you didn't just have to believe this or believe that, but you could be seeking and questioning and that was what I was doing. And so, that was the beginning of a path that took me to Harvard Divinity School. And then I didn't think then I'd necessarily be a minister, but I wanted to go there. And there were people of all different faiths and people working in social justice. And I was by then working with the Quakers on Social Justice. And so, little by little the path opened in front of me. That's what the Quakers say they talk about the Way Opening. I don't know if you're familiar with that, but, you know, you kind of go step by step sometimes, and you don't really know where the next step's going to be so. That's how I was led into ministry. (0:07:39)
MK: So, had you become interested in theology before you went to Seminary?
JR: I don't know if I'd call it Theology, but I remember when I was at college I didn't ever go to Chapel. I considered myself probably an Atheist, but I used to love to talk with my friends about kind of the meaning of life, and the world, and what we were going to do to try to change it or help it or--. So those are more the questions I was interested in. I think meaning, why are we here, purpose, why do some people suffer and not other people? So they were theological questions. I probably wouldn't have know to use the word Theology at the time, but now I probably would call them that. I tend to use them more as existential questions, but they're probably theological questions.
MK: So then from Seminary?
JR: So from Seminary, I graduated in 1988 from Harvard Divinity School. I loved Harvard Divinity School. It was very--. A very growing time for me in my life and--. Because if I entered it and didn't know what I was going to do, when I got out I was clearly on a path of exploration and learning. Lots of different faiths there, lots of women scholars, Liberation Theology, Feminist Theology. And I graduated when I was 30. And I got ordained, engaged, and married all within about a year and a half! So, I was starting a new chapter in my life. And I did Interim Ministry for, in three different parishes, and I had children. So I started ministry trying to--. We were married for about three years before we had kids, but it was very much a time when I was trying to start a career, and also start a family, and do that balancing. And I worked in Hopedale which, is a rural parish in Massachusetts, and then in Hingham and Cohasset, more suburban parishes, and I really loved it.
I got to do ministry, try it out, but not commit forever. And with a little baby and a two year old it was a good way to start. And then I came to First Parish in Concord in 1997, and I've been here. I began as an associate minister, and my title was changed to minister about eight years ago. And I've been working in ministry with Gary Smith who's the Senior Minister. And we have developed a very collaborative and energetic team ministry. It has been tremendous fun and just, it is a great congregation. I've discovered I love Transcendentalism, I've learned a lot about Concord, Emerson, Thoreau. I've taught a lot of classes. I've just grown a lot. I've been able to as a person. So, it's been a great place for me. So--. (0:10:47)
MK: So teach us a class on Thoreau and Emerson and transcendentalism if you feel like it.
JR: Right Now?
MK: Well, it is--. This is your interview.
MK: But I can tell you that if you drift into those areas we'll be very interested in what you have to say.
JR: Ok, well, I can tell you why--. How I got interested in Emerson. Robert Richardson wrote a book about Emerson, and I read it. And he presented him very much as a human being. And I was drawn to the part of the story when Emerson is a confused person in his twenties, because as I said earlier I too was a confused person in my twenties. And Emerson had gotten married and was trying to sort of start out as a minister and didn't really know if it was for him. And his wife died. And he left his church. And he entered this period of real sort of--. His life had really come apart around him. That was the part of Emerson's story that I first got really interested in. And he went to Europe. He went to Italy for nine months, or for five months, and then to England and France. And I happen to have a brother who lives in Rome. So I was just very interested in this broken young man trying to put himself back together in part by going to Europe.
And I just got drawn into Emerson as a person. And then I started to read what he'd read. I mean, you'd think I'd know all this, I—being a Unitarian minister. But I really just dived into him. And I--. But I think it was the fact that he was human, and had losses, and struggled, that, you know, was my kind of my doorway. And it wasn't him as this big fancy, august, you know, person, the statue you see out there in the--. I love that statue by the way, but, you know, at one point he was young, and confused, and finding his way like some of us are. And I think for me, that makes when I read his later works so much more powerful. And, him losing his son when his son was five years old. I mean, Emerson lost a lot of people he loved in his life. And he had to make it through, and he did. And that resilience. I mean, as a minister I see people losing people all the time. I've lost people I've loved. And to see someone wrestle with that, and not be glib about it, or fake about it, or say it is easy, because it is not. But somehow find that inner strength inside of him. That's all part of why Emerson is so fascinating to me.
And so, then I learned about his friend Margaret Fuller, and his friend Henry David Thoreau. And there's a whole cast of characters. And a lot of them lived here in Concord and walked around these streets. And they questioned, they critiqued, they tried things out a different way. And to me they were so alive, and so passionate, and intellectually rigorous. And there's just a lot about them that has really excited me. So I spent a lot of time with them, reading about them, teaching about them, and it is a lot of fun. I'm totally surprised by all this but--. And I found a lot of people that are interested too, so that's fun, you know? So we have classes and we've gone to--. I've gone to--. Taken a group to Italy to trace Emerson and Margaret Fuller over there in Rome. That's pretty fun, huh? [laughter] I call it combining joy and joy, you know? So, and we're going to go back to--.
Carrie Kline: Joy and joy?
JR: I mean, you know it's like, if you get to do what you love as part of your work, you're really lucky in life. So I feel I'm really lucky. And were going to go back to France and do the same thing this Spring. So. And what, you know, that intellectually you know the--. Emerson talked about how we have to break away from Europe and kind of start our own American culture and be independent and yet, they went to Europe a lot. They were very influenced by European thinkers and writers. And so what was that back and forth about, you know? That was--. It wasn't as simple as, "We're going to be American." It was more complicated, so looking at that back and forth in more depth. I've done a lot of research on all the Unitarians and Transcendentalists that traveled to Europe from about 1823 to 1870. And I'm very interested in that sort of arc of travelers and what that flow back and forth meant, partly for this little Transcendental world, and partly for America as a whole. So. There. There's my class on--. [laughter]. (0:15:39)
MK: Can you help us understand the historical connection between Unitarianism and Transcendentalism?
JR: Good question. This is really fun!
CK: It is.
JR: I hope you're just as interested as I am, I don't know--.
CK: We are.
JR: Well, so Transcendentalism--. It's a really, it's a hard question. It grew out of Unitarianism in that all these people, Margaret Fuller, Emerson, Thoreau, they were all raised Unitarian, as children. Emerson's father was a minister; his grandfather was minister at the church I serve, and became Chaplin of the Revolutionary Army.
CK: Was this a Unitarian Church?
JR: Yes, the one I serve now? Yeah.
CK: Was, at the time?
JR: No it—Oh no, no. Well, because you know, there was no Unitarianism at all until 1825. That's when it sort of became established as a movement, church, denomination. So, Emerson was born in 1803, and Margaret Fuller in 1810, and Henry David Thoreau in 1817. So these people grew up in the Unitarian Church and then you know, they partly were questioning that and saying it is too narrow, it is too Biblical, it's too rigid, we want to think more broadly. Some people will say that Transcendentalism hurt the Unitarian Church as an institution, because it kind of encouraged this free thinking, and you know, you can walk in the woods, you don't have to go to church. That's an interesting whole kind of argument about the relationship between Unitarianism and Transcendentalism. So I see it as an outgrowth on Unitarianism. And part of what I've been interested in as a minister at First Parish is to look very closely at the relationship between the Transcendentalists and First Parish, because sometimes I think it's thought that there was a huge--. You know, the church was over here and the Transcendentalists over here. And in part that's because Emerson, in his Divinity School Address, said, you know, the church, the Unitarian Church is cold, formal, rigid, it has no life in it, no soul, it is dead, you know.
And it's true he said that. But it's also true that he preached 57 times at the church I serve. His wife went there every Sunday. His mother went there every Sunday. His children grew up there. His daughter became a Sunday School teacher and taught for 40 years. I mean, their personal, familial ties with institutionally Unitarianism in Concord were actually a lot more complex and deep than sometimes is recognized. And I've gotten interested in just tracing that story, because I think—. The common story told in Unitarian circles is that, oh Emerson was against the institutional church. He never went; he didn't like it. And in fact it's a lot more complicated than that. So, as a minister I'm interested in that. [Chuckles](0:18:37)
MK: So, was he the author then of Transcendentalism—or.
JR: He was a pretty central figure to it, Emerson, yeah.
MK: And he found it to be all the things that he had said the Unitarian Church wasn't?
JR: He—yes. He, found it much more full of life, soul, free-thinking. You know, back then the Unitarian--. Even though it was the Unitarian Church it was--. You know, they read the Bible every week. There was a certain way you were supposed to preach sermons. It was very sort of codified and prescribed. And Emerson wanted to think widely. He didn't want to have to write this, that, you know, like ABC. He wanted to be able to let his mind go, and think, and—. And he. So he ultimately left the ministry and became a lecturer, and was able to do that, and write books, and--. Nowadays you can be a Unitarian minister and think widely. But back then you—it was—it was still too prescribed for him. So.
CK: Do you ever wish that you could woo him back?
JR: You mean, for him to be alive now? Or?
CK: Yeah, do you ever wonder whether he would accept your way and your church?
JR: I, I do, wonder. And I actually think—. One of the things he said in the Divinity School Address was, Preach soul, soul, and ever more soul." He was exhorting these young ministry students to kind of be more awake, and more alive, and more —. And I think the spirit of the church I serve now is very awake, and alive, and there is a lot of soul there. And so I actually think that--. I mean I don't want to sound too arrogant, but I think that the congregation--. I think he'd be--. I just wonder what he'd think. I think he might be happy with what he sees, of the vitality, and the attempt to think outside the box and you know, go in new directions. And--.
MK: The questioning.
JR: Mmm hmm.
CK: How do you think outside the box and go in new directions in your work and in your church?
JR: Well, in some churches the sort of thinking is, let's do it the way it has always been done. And I feel like at First Parish in Concord, people don't say that very-- They don't say that. They say, "Let's--." So we created something called Jericho Road which is a social justice—. It's now a non-profit. But that was a group of people that I drew together and we said what if we thought about social justice here in a completely new way. Now a lot of church communities they wouldn't have done that. There's a way that social action has been done. This is how we've done it. We like it that way. And it would have made people angry to think about it in a new way. And in this church there was a group of people willing to say, "You know what, we're going to think about, we're going to just take all the rules off, everything off the table." And what they did is they came up with a very innovative model for matching volunteers with non-profits. And I won't explain the whole thing to you, but it's now about to replicate on a national scale, and it has made a lot of difference in the world. And I just, I think that's an example of innovation, creativity. (0:21:48)
MK: People who were interested in working toward social change--
JR: Mmm hmm.
MK: --you mean?
JR: Mmm hmm.
CK: Can you talk a little bit about that model?
JR: It was--. In a way--. It's the world of social entrepreneurship. So business and social justice, which often, as you know, are very far apart, or can be. But trying to say that there are--. A lot of my congregation are business people, and they have strategies and techniques and stuff. And we said, "What if we applied that kind of the thinking to social justice? And could there be some synergy there?" And there was. And--. So, they take volunteers from Unitarian communities like this one who are web designers, or lawyers, or speak Chinese or whatever. And they find the non-profits in communities like Lowell and Boston that need web designers in Lowell and lawyers, but they can't afford them, because they're too much money. And they match them in a very specified, detailed way of matching. And so, provide millions of dollars worth of services to non-profits who are on the front line of serving clients. And so it's not it is not the suburbanite kind of marching in and saying, "Oh I know what these communities need. I'm going to figure it out." Because that often gets really—not a good model. It's sort of the white person coming in on the horse and trying to solve everything thing. Instead it's the volunteer coming to the non-profit that knows the community, has worked there a long time, and saying, "Is there a way I can be helpful to you?" And then the non-profit is doing the direct service. So, that's the Jericho Road model. So--.
MK: Why Jericho Road?
JR: I came up with that name because Martin Luther King preached a sermon once where he told the story of, the Good Samaritan is walking down the road to Jericho from, I think it is from--. I can't remember, Jerusalem to Jericho or the other way around. It's called the Jericho Road. And, he gets beaten and robbed, this--. I don't know if you know the story of The Good Samaritan. But, you know, and the priest walks by on one side, and the Judge walks by. And it's the Samaritan who comes along and picks up this beaten man, and puts him on the donkey, and takes him to the inn. And so we're all called to be a good Samaritan, right, and help each other. And Martin Luther King said you know, "It's fine to do that on an individual basis, but I look forward to the day when the whole Jericho Road will be changed, so there aren't anymore people being beaten and robbed." And he compared Jericho Road really to the institutionalized oppression and structures of oppression. So that was the thought, that Jericho Road is about more than helping an individual; it's about trying to change--. It's about systemic change. That was the thought behind the name. So--. (0:24:38)
MK: Very impressive. What are some other--. What's an example of how a lawyer has helped a non-profit on the front line, or maybe, a professional person?
JR: Yeah--. Like a management consultant has gone in and helped a very large human service agency. They needed to do a strategic plan for the future. Well, if you hire someone from Bayne and Company to do a strategic plan, it costs a lot of money. And this person you know, has worked for Bayne and Company in the past, and that's the level of--. And they go, and they provide that whole strategic plan, process for free. So these non-profits are getting the highest quality of service for no money.
CK: So a non-profit looking to fill certain skills knows to go and dial up Jericho Road?
JR: Mmm hmm. Yes, well like the City of Lowell was the first place we started. So we had a director working there. So they went around, and they made sure that every non-profit in the city knew who they were. It took time to establish credibility, because a lot of people show up in Lowell and they want to help. So how do they trust that this new organization is worth anything? It took time. But, as they had one successful contract after another, and actually delivered what they said they would, people started to trust them. And then they spread to a different city and so forth.
CK: And now it is going to go national you said.
JR: Mmm hmm. It is supposed to--. And, again and I'm not so close to the details anymore so I don't quite remember. But I believe they're now in about five cities. And, they've gotten funding from--. They've gotten some federal funding. And they're trying to expand to Pasadena, and I don't remember the names of the other cities.
MK: That's very exciting.
MK: Have you had time to go and observe some of these projects yourself?
JR: I did in the early days. This has been going on for about eight years maybe now. I haven't been lately. Because in a way it has sort of become much more, you know, independent from the church, which is what--. Which is fine. This is what we, you know, hoped. I mean just for it to be you know--. It's a strong, thriving organization now with a big budget and lots of staff. And, so--.
CK: But still Christian based?
JR: Unitarian Universalism isn't--. I wouldn't call us Christian. We really have a wide variety of belief, so that--. There, you know, there are people that are Atheist, and Agnostic, and Humanist, and Christian, and Buddhist, and--. We have a big tent. And, is Jericho Road that identified now as being part of a religious organization? Probably not. (0:27:32)
MK: Probably not.
JR: So, but I--. That's a good question. How much do they identify as being a faith-based organization?
CK: So you use faith-based but not Christian-based?
JR: Mmm hmm. Yeah, yeah. Unitarian Universalism back when, you know, Emerson was around would certainly be Christian, but over the 1900's--. Over the 18 and 1900's, it became--. It evolved, some churches are still Christian, and others, but many others are not. So--.
MK: So, let's talk about Concord and social justice and how does--.
MK: How does--. How the scales tip around here? Because we don't know ourselves at all.
JR: I think it's a very--. A town--
MK: You think what is?
JR: I think Concord is a town that has many people in it that are very interested in trying to make a difference in the world. It has a lot of, you know, human rights activists, and just people that are concerned about the state of the world. Some of them have resources; they want to contribute money, time. Other people don't really care. I mean, yeah, some people are involved in their own individual life and you know. But I--. Maybe because I'm a Unitarian Universalist minister, I see a lot of people that really want to make a difference. So. And not just in my church, in other churches in town. So we've done interfaith service projects. We've pulled the churches and temples together and worked to help after Katrina and to--. We've done a number of different interfaith service projects. I think there's a lot of spirit for helping in this town.
MK: There certainly aren't many poor people I guess--.
JR: No. No. Not here. No.
MK: --to be bumping around.
JR: It's not a--. It's not a diverse community, racially, economically. It is more economically diverse than it appears. You know, there are people that, you know, teachers, you know ministers. I mean, you know, not everyone in town is a corporate executive but--. There are elderly people here, people in low-income housing. But that's not the general trend of how things are.
CK: Were you involved in efforts to integrate across those economic lines?
JR: I'm not, to be honest. It just--. You know. It's just so many hours in a day. You know what I mean? And I don't think that's a big--. I wouldn't say that's a big push here, which,maybe, you know, should be. But, but, I don't—I don't see a lot of energy around that issue here. I don't know what other people have said to you.
CK: It's not a big push anywhere in the world that I've heard. [laughter].
JR: Mmm hmm. Yeah. It's been interesting for me as a person, as a mother, to raise children in a community that is so affluent, and, you know, just to sort of help them figure out how to navigate in that. And I think it is, you know, I mean, I--. That was different from my experience growing up. I wasn't--. You know, we actually didn't have a lot of cash, but we lived in a big Victorian house and I think you know, probably in our community were considered on the upper end of things. And within Concord, my husband is a writer, and I'm a minister. We live in a small house. We, you know, we don't live in a big house, and there are many big houses in this town. So that has just been interesting for me personally. And sometimes it can be difficult for children, for teenagers. But, I believe in--. I just think we're lucky to live here, because of the education, and the beauty and the Transcendentalism, and that's what I focus on. I don't focus on, you know, our house could be bigger or--. And it's not really what I want them to focus on. I want them to--. I mean I'm a minister. I believe the most important things are courage, and love, and stuff like that. I do. And so--. But it, you know, it's something I reckon with as a person, a private person apart from being minister.
CK: Courage and love?
JR: I meant more just the whole economic--. The issue of economic diversity and lack thereof was what I was--. Meant that I reckon with.
CK: I'd just like to hear you talk about courage and love. [laughter]
JR: Well I think that that's--. You know, in a way to be a minister at this big, you know, suburban parish, these kids growing up in the world of iPods and everything and you know. But we're trying to talk to them about being courageous and being, making a difference in the world, and--. You know, we're trying to focus on some of those values and those--. That's partly what I'm, why I'm doing what I'm doing, is to try to affirm in a world where you hear a lot about evil, or corruption, or whatever that, you know, goodness exists, and truth, and beauty, and to raise that up, and to focus on it again, and to help our kids focus on it, and to affirm as a community that that's what we're working towards and that's what we think is important, or needs to be important, and not to sort of drown in all of the technology and the negativism and the--. You know what I mean? So. (0:34:06)
CK: How do you do that?
JR: How do I what? Not drown? Or?
CK: How do you uplift the good? Give us a little sense of how you work in the context of the church.
JR: Well I think that's what--. In the worship service, you know, you're trying to — you're trying to—you're trying to remind people that maybe, if their having a personally difficult patch in their life that there are--. There's strength around them, that they're going to come through the other side. That's on the personal level of sort of trying to help people--. I think that's one reason people come to church. They want to feel comforted; they want to feel like there are people that care about them, that they're not alone. Maybe they're lonely, but they come into this building, there's music, there's activity, there's people and they're part of something. And that something that will be there every Sunday. They can come back to it again. And if they're feeling a little shaky, a little lonely, a little down, you know, come and listen to some beautiful music, hear a poem, listen to--. Be reminded that maybe you're not strong today but, you know, probably tomorrow you're going to feel better. I mean I don't want to make it sound too trivial, but I mean sometimes people just need a little hope. So that's on a more personal level. And then on a more communal level it would be that in our world today that, yeah, there's violence and there's destruction you know, but there's other things too. There's people helping each other, there's people being courageous, there's people taking a stand against injustice and all that and just let's not forget all about that, just because maybe it is not spoken about on television, or newspapers, or whatever but--. We can stand for that together as a community and work for that together.
MK: Umm hmm. A little more about the church history. It was around in Emerson's time.
JR: It was around in-- . It was founded in 1636. So that's 375 years ago, next year. And the town and the church were one in the same at the beginning. I think that might be particular to New England. So the town was founded in 1635, and the church was organized and gathered a year later in 1636. So were just about to celebrate our 375th. And Peter Bockley and Simon Willard. Peter Bockley was a minister. Simon Willard was a fur trader. And they made their way out here, and it was total wilderness. And they made their way out here and decided it was a good place with fields and these three rivers coming together, and animals, and places to raise crops. And they dug out caves in this ridge of land and they--. The first building they put up was the meeting house, the church building. And that was the first building erected. They put all their possessions inside of it. Anything they wanted to shelter from the elements and--. So that was the founding era. And then the 1700s came along, and there was a very evangelical minister, meaning the Great Awakening. Daniel Bliss was emotional in his preaching, and some of the church loved that, and some of the church hated that. So there was a period of schism and controversy. (0:37:31)
MK: This was in the very early 19th century?
JR: No, this was in the 1700s. So 1740 to 1760 maybe. And then William Emerson, Ralph Waldo's grandfather, came along. And William Emerson married Daniel Bliss' daughter. So William Emerson became the new minister of this divided church. Very fractious, very difficult. He inherited this divided church, and he married the daughter of the outgoing minister who many people hated. It was a very interesting situation. So there's William Emerson trying to pull this church back together. And then along comes the Revolution. And the First Provincial Congress met at our meeting house--.
CK: The what?
JR: The First Provincial Congress. So that was a decision making body in Massachusetts around 1774, 1775, that was deciding to essentially break away from Britain. So those decisions were made at First Parish in Concord. That's where it was held. John Hancock was the President. Sam Adams was walking around. And on April 19th, 1775 General Gage, who was the British Commander in Boston decided that Concord would be the place--. He was trying to kind of diffuse this growing tension in New England, the tension between the Colonists and Britain, right? And I can't remember all the, you know, Stamp Act and all that stuff. But tension was mounting. And this British General was quartered in Boston. And his idea was, "Well, if we take away the munitions, and the gunpowder, and the arms, then there can't be a fight, because there won't be anything to fight with." So that was his plan. And he found out that a lot of gunpowder and munitions were coming out to Concord. They were--. The Colonists were moving them from Boston to get them away from the British and hiding them in Worcester and Concord. So General Gage thought, "Okay, well I'm going to attack Concord then." And Paul Revere found out about this plan. I can't drag you through all this history. (0:39:38)
MK: No, no, no.
JR: But I mean I'm trying the best I can but it's--. I don't have it all totally accurate. But. And so, General Gage sent British troops out to Concord. And Paul Revere found out about that and rode out here with William Dawes and another man who's, Samuel Prescott. And the British intervene--. You know, what is it? They found - intercepted Paul Revere as he was riding out from Boston and--. But Samuel Prescott kept on going. And it was Prescott who came into Concord and, he didn't say, "The British were coming." He said, "The Regulars are coming." And he alerted the town. And the place that all the people in town came to decide what to do in the face of these troops marching out was the Wright Tavern, which is on our church--. It's owned by our church. It's on our property. It's a building in town. It's the same building. 1740 it was built. And on April 19th, 1775, that was where the men in town gathered to figure out what to do next. We hear the British are coming, what are we going to do? Are we going to attack? Are we going to retreat? We going to do this? We going to do that? And William Emerson, Ralph Waldo's grandfather, minister of my church, was the first person on the Town Green with his musket on his shoulder basically saying, "Let's pull together! Let's figure this out!" He was a real patriot. He gave a lot of courage to his people, you know? And so the British marched into town and they--. There was the fight at the North Bridge where the first shot was fired, and that was basically the beginning of the American Revolution. I don't know--. How did we get into talking about this? I can't remember!
MK: The history of the church.
JR: The history of the church! Okay! So.
MK: Right in the thick of it.
JR: Right. Exactly. Right, the thick of it. And we still own the Wright Tavern. It's still exactly the same building. And on April 19th it was both the meeting place for those Minutemen. And at another point in the day the British took it over, and it was their headquarters. So on this very pivotal day in American History, you know, our meeting house and our church were right in the thick of things. So it is quite--. It's kind of exciting. And then later the next big era would have been the Transcendentalist era. And you know, as I've said, Emerson--. So you know, Thoreau quit the church when he was a young man. He didn't want to pay the tax. Emerson was kind of in and out of the church but his family was involved. But all the Transcendentalist funerals were held at First Parish. So Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, they were all--. There was a service there, and then their body was, you know, carried on the hearse, the town hearse which, still exists. You can go see it, the same one that carried them. Horse and buggy and the town hearse carried their bodies from First Parish over to Sleepy Hollow and up onto Author's Ridge. And you can go there now and you see all the graves of Louisa May Alcott, Hawthorne, Sophia Peabody, his wife, Emerson, Thoreau etcetera, etcetera. And visitors walk there, and they leave little acorns and things on the graves. So it is kind of a shrine. (0:42:50)
JR: Yeah. I don't know why. I can't remember. Something about stones, acorns.
MK: Tourists and squirrels, no doubt.
JR: Mmm. And then there was also a very active anti-slavery group that was started by someone in my church, Mary Merrick Brooks.
JR: Mary Merrick Brooks. In 1837, she began the Concord Female Anti-Slavery Society, and she said she did it because of her faith. Now I don't know what the ministers of the church, the male minister were saying about slavery at that time but Mary felt pass--. Do you need to stop that, or--? She felt very passionately about it. Cynthia Thoreau, Henry David's mother, was part of this society. Lydian Emerson, Emerson's wife, was part of this female anti-slavery society. And the thought was that those women got together and made such a fuss about it, such a--. Were so adamant about it. They influenced Emerson and Thoreau to speak out publicly. You see it was the women who came together first. So that was another thing that really originated from First Parish in Concord. And it was a very active group. And I don't know a lot about that chapter in our history, but I'm interested in learning more, because I think the Concord Abolition movement was strong and helped influence other things in New England. And I love the fact that it was started by someone, a layperson in our church.
CK: I wonder if the church or homes of parishioners were safe houses?
JR: Well, I wonder too. And the Underground Railroad was present in Concord. I don't know a lot about that. There's a book called Black Walden that has recently been published. And there's another book about anti-slavery in Thoreau's Concord, and I have to read both of them. I haven't read them yet, but. That's another chapter, you know, that I don't know much about but I'd love to learn more about it. And I'm curious whether--. I have a feeling the established church of the time, my church, probably was not against slav--. I wonder if they were much more moderate, but it was this very active woman who said, "Wait a minute you guys are moving way too slow. We got to move things up here." And I'd love to know more about, you know, what the minister of the time said to her and--. You know what I mean? Sort of what the traditional established church was saying, versus what these people were doing. So. (0:45:16:)
MK: This is absolutely fascinating to hear American history through the eyes of one church.
JR: Yeah. Well I think it's--. I'm obviously pretty bitten by the bug.
MK: Yeah. Yeah.
JR: So that's a good angle on it: American history through the eyes of one church.
You know, I hadn't thought about it that way before.
MK: Well it's at the core of all the major developments as we're hearing this afternoon. This church was at the core.
JR: I don't know how it continues through the 20th century. That's the century I know the least about actually. You know? I haven't gotten there--. Quite there yet. I've gotten to about 1870. [laughter].
MK: Well they brought you on, didn't they? That's a sign of something.
JR: Yeah that's a sign of change. I'm the first woman with the title "minister" in the history of the church. There have been other women who served the church as assistant and associate ministers, but that title is the first time. So. (0:46:25)
CK: Will you talk about that? And how that feels?
MK: Well, move--. Reverting back, before we get into any of these other subjects, I wonder if--. What was going on with your church during the period, for example, of the American Civil War? Are you--?
JR: I don't know.
MK: Uh huh. That's the part you're--?
JR: That's--. I haven't quite gotten there yet. I know that Emerson's son-in-law fought in the Civil War and that one of the ministers, Ezra Ripley, 63 years minister at the church, his son died in it. But I--. That--. I haven't--. I'd be very curious. I know in the Vietnam War there was a minister who spoke out a lot about Vietnam, and the church was divided. And that happened in a lot of Unitarian churches all over the country. It became a very--. A flash point really. And was a difficult time. I mean, it was difficult. There were ministers who didn't say anything about the Vietnam War. And people criticized them, because they didn't say anything. Then there were others that were very vocal, and people were upset about--. It was just tough. So--. But the Civil War, I don't know. I don't know.
CK: Well, I was interested in issues of the church and violence or non-violence, because of Emerson's, William Emerson's stance. There he is with his musket.
JR: Right. Right. And I wouldn't say that there--. I haven't studied this, but my sense is they wouldn't have had a strong stance on--. Like they weren't a pacifist church, you know? The children of the church fought in the Civil War, fought in the Revolution, fought in World War I, World War II. They were--. You know, they were kind of a standard American town in that way. There--. It wouldn't have been like a heavily Pacifist approach. I don't think they would've been a heavily aggressive approach either, but more just sort of middle of the road, you know.
JR: I'm sorry?
CK: And does that extend into the present?
JR: Probably. Yeah. Mmm hmm. I mean there were people that were very opposed to the war you know, different wars we've been involved in lately. But you'd see a more activist strand in an urban church. If you're a super activist, then probably you shouldn't be living in Concord, Mass. Even though I said a lot of people here want to change the world and help the world, but if you're--. I think, my sense is you'd be happier, if you really want to get out there in the trenches, living in a more urban area. This place would feel still too conservative somehow. Do you know what I mean? (0:49:30)
MK: I'm trying to.
MK: I'm trying to understand.
JR: Well. Let's see.
CK: Interesting statement.
JR: I mean, I used to live in Boston, so I just think there was a bigger progressive community of people that were quite, you know, maybe Pacifist. Or they were just, far to the left. That wouldn't be true here. There'd be some, but you wouldn't find that whole community of people.
MK: Because in Boston, the social tensions are more in your face than they might be here, or--?
JR: Maybe. Or maybe they just--. I don't know why. I just think as a--. There'd be a bigger progressive, far left, "quote, unquote" radical community in Boston than there would be here. Because some people probably move here to kind of get away from that stuff, right? They want to get away from tension, or conflict, or different races, or poverty, and they want to move to where it is pretty and green and tranquil. So. (0:50:48)
CK: And you?
JR: Well it's funny because you know I was such a social activist, and I think I've tried to continue that in my work in Jericho Road and all. But I have to say that I love the fields, and the forests, and the rivers. And. I just--. So it's kind of--. I've--. Maybe I just--. I lived in cities for a long time, and it was time for a change. So.
MK: Well personally I think you're allowed to love fields, and rivers, and trees, and birdsong. All those things. I think that's fine.
JR: [Laughter] Yeah. Yeah. I remember when I lived in the city and spring would come. You know it was a little depressing. All that cement and everything. It's like, "Oh my God." Whereas now, Spring, you know. I can put my seeds in my garden and--. Not that you can't have a garden living in the city, but.
CK: I was thinking about that, you know, how your relationship to the church, and your relationship to nature, and perhaps the church's relationship to nature--.
JR: Mmm hmm. Mmm hmm.
CK: Sounded like that was an issue for Emerson. (0:52:01)
JR: Very much so. That's a huge strand of Trans--. What Transcendentalism is, that Emerson and others said, "You can find the Divine in nature." And, before that, people had thought you could only find the Divine inside a church, in an institution, in the Bible, in a priest, in a minister. And Emerson said, "It is inside of you. And it's a personal religious experience and it's one that you could have outside, walking outside under," you know. He said, "Walking across a bare common--." He--. There's a very--. A famous scene in his book Nature where he says, "I'm walking across a bare common, and it is kind of cloudy, and there are puddles. And all of a sudden I have this sense of union with the entire universe and with God, and--." And it's that mystical moment of union that he said was important, and that he sought for his whole life. That sort of moment where the ego drops away, and you're kind of in touch with something beyond yourself. And people hadn't really talked about religion in those terms before, at least here in New England. I--. Maybe, you know, in Buddhism and Hinduism maybe. But. So, it was a very different kind of idea he was bringing. And Qua--. In part the Quakers talk about that idea, and he was very influenced by the Quakers. Very influenced by them. So, so, yes, the divine in nature.
The connection with nature is huge for the Transcendentalists. And of course, Henry David Thoreau. I mean, he spent four hours a day outside. Maybe more. It was like, it was like breathing. It was like eating dinner. If he didn't walk for four hours, you could just forget about it. And so he embodied that kind of mystical--. He was so fascinating, because on one hand he was a scientist, very precise, observing, recording. But on the other hand, he was in love with the universe and with the fields. And he wrote about that with that love of a poet and a mystic. He--. Those--. That--. To him--. For me, those two together in one person is very interesting. And I--. I'm not as interested in a way in Thoreau. I have to say, he's more mysterious to me as a human being, whereas I told you Emerson I felt like this sense of commonality with him, because we both had that--. I mean it's ridiculous for me to compare myself to Emerson. But you know, I felt like he kind of had a journey that I had some glimmer of. Whereas Thoreau was so sort of--. You know, he wasn't married; he didn't have children. He was so solitary that in some ways I don't feel like I can relate to him. You know what I mean? But I still am very--. I love his writing, and--. I'm still sort of captivated by him, but not so much on an emotional level if you know what I mean. You know what I mean? Like I don't feel like I really understand what made him tick.
MK: But he certainly was observant.
MK: I loved his reference to the boys.
JR: I don't know that. The--.
MK: He said, "Wherever you're trying to get to, whether it is a blackberry patch or the town fire--"
JR: Umm hmm.
MK: "--or any kind of calamity or excitement, the boys have already been there."
JR: Really? Interesting. Huh.
MK: And it was never the girls.
MK: The girls, young girls of that period apparently were--.
JR: So where did he write about that? In Walden or his journal or what? Do you know?
MK: I suspect the journal. But I'm not--. I don't know the page or the paragraph.
JR: Mmm hmm. Mmm hmm.
CK: Came up in our interviews.
JR: Really? Here? That's so cool.
CK: Probably with Peter Alden. [Note from Carrie Kline: Probably with David Wood]
MK: Yeah. Uh huh. Yeah.
CK: Because it was the boys, it was humans, it was everyday people and kids, who knew where to be when, for the gifts of nature.
JR: Mmm hmm.
CK: For the delicacies of nature.
JR: Mmm hmm.
MK: When the berry patches were ripe.
CK: As well as--.
MK: When the apples were falling from the tree, the boys were there to catch them!
JR: Mmm hmm.
MK: And the boys were always there.
JR: And Louisa May Alcott. She was right in there with those boys, I can imagine. But you know, Thoreau was one of the people that took the Emerson's children out and did that huckleberrying with them, and took them for walks, and showed them flowers. And he was a real presence in that family. And, to hear Emerson's children write about Thoreau is very interesting to hear. You know, they reminisce about what it was like when he came over and would pop popcorn with them, and play his flute, and take them for walks and--. I really love reading--. You know, it is the next generation down. How did they remember their father, Emerson? How did they remember, you know, the--. We think of these people as famous people. Well, they were just people to these children. What do these children remember? I love that whole lens on it. I haven't studied it quite as much as I'd like to, but I'm interested in that. (0:57:12)
CK: So they write?
JR: I'm sorry?
CK: So they do write? The children?
JR: Some. Some. Yeah. You know things like reminiscences and stuff. Not like big long books, but you can find things they've written. They wrote letters.
JR: I'm very interested in Lydian, Emerson's wife. I've actually been--. Interested in many things as you can tell. But I've realized that there were this whole circle of women around Emerson that helped kind of guard his privacy and make his life possible, because he liked to write from 6:00 in the morning until 1:00 in the afternoon. Well you don't get to do that and be a father of three kids unless there's some people guarding the door, right? I mean I have three kids, so. So, you know, who were those people? Well, you know, his wife Lydian. Not much has been written about her. His mother lived with them, in the house over on Cambridge Turnpike. She was part of Lydian and his mother. You know, they had servants; they ran the household; they made sure there was food on the table; they raised the children. And they did all these things that helped him, both be a father, but have time to write, and think, and walk, and--. Right?
And then there was his--. They had a family friend, Elizabeth Hoar, who was engaged to be married to his brother. And then his brother died, Emerson's brother. She stayed close to the family; she was part of that circle. Mary Moody Emerson. I mean it has just been--. It--. I don't know. See I'm just, I'm just obsessed by these people. But it's very--. It has been interesting to think of sort of what made that whole thing tick. You know what I mean? Now, Thoreau didn't have that. He didn't have that problem. He didn't have any children; he didn't have a wife. You know, he had different issues and concerns. But, as a minister and a mother, trying to write my sermons and have my time for reading and writing, you know, I realize that, you know, that doesn't happen magically. Right? So. I partly became interested in the women who helped make this great man possible. Right? I mean, they, they really did. He couldn't have done that otherwise. (0:59:24)
MK: And not just accommodated him, but pushed him. Right? You said earlier, toward--. On issues of abolition.
JR: Like the slavery thing. Yeah.
JR: Mmm hmm.
JR: And I'm interested in Lydian his wife, in part because little has been written about her. And part, I think she was a highly intelligent woman. She had a lot of illness, you know, but, in general she has been characterized--. Their marriage has sort of been characterized as kind of difficult. And I just feel like there's a deeper story there, and I'm really interested. I think she was very bright. I think they had a really deep soul connection and I--. You know, I guess I'm just questioning maybe the usual gloss as "X". And I'm thinking it might be something different. That's all. (1:00:12)
CK: The usual?
JR: The gloss on their marriage, on their you know, the ideas that, you know, that he really loved his first wife. She was young and beautiful, and you know, when she died he was heartbroken. And then he had this second one, and she was okay, but, you know. And it is like, I'm not sure, you know. I think maybe they really loved each other, and they had this very long marriage. They raised these children together. They survived the death of their son. They wrote very affectionate letters to each other. You know, I just don't--. I'm not saying that every scholar says it was a difficult marriage, but I feel like I sort of come up against that enough that I just would like to go a little deeper with that, and a little deeper with this person Lydian, who, I think, you know, could have been a very extraordinary woman to live with this man for so long, and raise these very intelligent children. I just am interested. I'm probably interested because there hasn't been a lot written about her. You know?
CK: What sort of household help in the form of other men and woman existed?
JR: Well they had a couple of servants. They always had a couple of servants. So she did have help. But she fed--. All these Transcendentalists used to go to her house for dinner, and she would entertain them, you know. And, so--. He loved--. Emerson loved to have these conversations. Bronson Alcott, these different people visiting. And when Lydian and Emerson got married, they chose to move to Concord, way out in the country. And they kind of made a pact with each other that they would have a lot of guests, because they knew that if they didn't, they would get kind of isolated and dull intellectually. So, from the beginning they had this understanding that they would have these guests. Well, of course the burden for entertaining the guests and stuff, a lot of it fell on Lydian, right? And she had servants, and she had her mother in law and you know. But, that's partly what I'm saying. She helped to create this life for him, you know. And she enjoyed the life too, I think.
MK: Though she didn't go with him very often, I guess.
JR: Lecturing? No, not at all. Because she had three--.
MK: No, how could she?
JR: She, you know, maybe she didn't want to go. I don't really know. But they had these children that needed to be fed, and clothed, and schooled, and loved, and hugged, and--. So. And he was a very affectionate, if you read his letters, a very affectionate father.
CK: He was?
JR: Very. Yeah. I personally thinks so. I don't buy the sort of cold Emerson thing. And that's in part this biography that I felt made him very human and passionate and alive. And if you read the letters that--. The letters he wrote about his little son Waldo, and you know the things, the games they play. What hap--. How he felt when he died. I'm not a--. I'm just--. This is my point of view. I'm not like a--. You know, I don't have like a PhD in this stuff. I just--. It's just my point of view from reading these letters and getting a sense of--. That's my sense, that's my interpretation.
MK: But the roots of all this intellectual curiosity go back to your father, is what you said.
JR: I think that my, my mother and father. You know I grew up in a house where books and poetry were really important, and, to be honest, Emerson and Thoreau were important, you know. And I didn't rediscover that until I was in my forties out here in Concord, but certainly--. My husband remembers that when my dad went to World War II--. He was in the Battle of the Bulge, and he was in the Army. And the book he carried inside his pocket was Walden. And he carried it all over Europe. And I had forgotten that. But my husband reminded me, so. But you know, you grow up with things as a child, and you take them for granted. And you have to kind of leave and come to them on your own. And I feel like for me moving to Concord, that's what has happened. And it has been incredibly exciting for me. So. But you're--. Yeah, I think the, I think the love of learning, and learning about the world, caring about the world, from both my parents, yeah, especially my dad. And he's still--. He's 97. He's reading Hamlet. I mean, you know, it's unbelievable. I mean, he doesn't read Hamlet everyday. But I mean he's reading. He's reading the newspaper; he's reading poetry; he's reading. He's--. You know. So. (1:04:35)
JR: Yeah. Mmm hmm.
CK: What's that?
MK: He's alive.
JR: He's alive. Yeah. So.
MK: What else should we be talking about? Sometimes we don't know where to go.
JR: You're just trying to talk to different citizens of Concord. Is that right?
MK: That's right.
CK: We're trying to understand changes in the Concord community.
JR: Mmm hmm. Mmm hmm.
CK: Transition and adaptation.
JR: Mmm hmm.
MK: Development. We've, we've heard people speak to all these issues.
JR: Mmm hmm. Mmm hmm. And partly because I've only been here for 13 years, so I haven't myself observed--. I'm sure you've heard a lot about the changes in this town from being a rural, you know, town, to the fact that there are huge mansions here now. And I haven't sort of been here long enough to sort of watch that the way many people have watched it. I've heard about it from parishioners, and I'm aware of it but because I live here. And because of my work. And because of my intellectual interest, I tend to stay focused on the part of Concord that is Transcendentalist, historic, poetic. The people in my church are kind of vital and learning, and you know. And so there are other parts of town where maybe people are more interested in, you know, what their stock portfolio is, or how big their house is, or that kind of stuff. And I'm aware that in some ways I'm kind of skewed in another direction. And I don't want to deny that those realities exist, and that there's materialism, and narcissism, and all sorts of stuff in this town. I'm not, you know. And that's true in any town probably, you know. And I also be--. As a minister have seen the pain behind a lot of that exterior. And it's so real, and so deep that, you know, that colors the way I look at it. I mean that, you know, that there could be a mansion, and inside the mansion, you know, things are not polished and pretty. So pain exists everywhere, in poor families and rich families. So. There's that part of the town that, you know, is more the hidden part, maybe. So, but you're interested in changes, so.
MK: As a--. For example, the national perception of gender issues has changed over the last 20 years. We've seen much wider acceptance. We've seen much more inclusiveness, openness. Has your church followed those trends, for example?
CK: Gender and sexuality.
MK: Gender and sexuality. Is it open to gays?
JR: Mmm hmm.
MK: Is it--?
JR: Yeah. We're a welcoming congregation. That means we've gone through a certain program, and studied, and all that kind of thing. Do we have many gays? No, we don't. And whether--. I don't know, quite know why. I think the gay population in the metro west area is large. I would just hazard a guess. I think we look too traditional. We look too much like families with a husband, and a wife, and kids, and--. We need to keep working on that. I think there are a lot of women in leadership positions in my church. But the town as a whole, there are many families here where they don't have the economic necessity of both people working. And often one of the people, usually the man, has a very high, top--. Let's see--. High level kind of a job that requires a lot of travel and a lot of long hours. And so many women in this town have chosen not to work outside the home, in order to try to have the kind of presence with their kids. And so it's probably atypical in that way. And, you know, we're trying to raise our girls to be these bright, achieving people and--. I have girls, and a boy. And I wonder, you know, once they have children of their own, are they going to be torn the way we all have been torn, about, you know, wanting to be with your children, but wanting to have a job, and all that kind of stuff. Like, the world hasn't changed as much as I think we've said it has changed, is my basic point. You know what I mean? (1:09:09)
MK: The same things--.
JR: I mean a lot of things, a lot of things are open, and opportunities exist. But, when you're a mother, if you want to spend time with your kids, there are not a lot of jobs where--. I think the world is still structured more in that, in the old-fashioned way that, you know, you want a high level job as a leader, you need to put in this many hours. And this many hours and being--. Well, this is--. I'm talking about my own life probably. That it's not easy to balance presence with your children and being a leader. And I'm--. I think that ministry is flexible, and I feel like I've been able to do that. But I look at more structured jobs, like law or corporate, you know. And it's very hard to be a top leader and spend the kind of time with your family that a lot of people want to do, for both men and women. (1:09:56)
MK: What sorts of--. Who is your husband? And what sorts of things does he write about?
JR: His name is Rich Higgins, and he was a reporter for The Globe for 20 years and now is an independent reporter and editor. He has an office in our barn, on the top floor of our barn. And he writes about religion, the environment. He works with academics on editing and ghost writing their book. And he is actually writing a book now on Henry David Thoreau and trees. He's very interested in how Thoreau saw trees. He has delved into this subject and feels that trees were really spiritual companions for Thoreau. And he--. Five different ways that Thoreau saw trees. And so. And he has written a lot about Emerson. And so we have a lot of interests in common. So. He kind of--. He helped, you know--. He wrote a lot. He wrote--. Well, Emerson's Bicentennial in 19--. 2003, Rich wrote a long article for the Unitarian Universalist magazine and, you know, I just, I respect his work a lot.
MK: So, Thoreau and trees is certainly getting right at the heart of Transcendentalism.
JR: Mmm hmm. Mmmhmm.
MK: Five ways he saw trees.
JR: Yeah. Isn't that interesting? Yeah. I can't say them all to you right now.
JR: But it's more that sort of spiritual affinity that I think--. I think Rich goes to trees, and I think he thinks Thoreau--. You know, these were--. Think of how he spent his time. I mean, he walked. He was with these trees. And he went to them. And they were like this presence in his life. And they fed him. They, they fed him. They gave him strength, they gave him--. And he wrote a lot about them in his journals. He had certain favorites he went back to. Probably—. You know, the rivers were--. You know, you could pick out the different--. It's not just trees, from the natural landscape. But, my husband is interested in trees, so that's what he's focusing on. So. I think that's kind of cool. I mean, you know, for me it's the ocean, you know. I go there for comfort and strength, but, for some people trees are very comforting. They're like companions; they're always there. You go to them. You go to them. They're strong. They don't break. You know what I mean?
MK: You can hug them.
JR: Yeah! They have roots that go down far, and they wave up high. And they just kind
of--. You know? So.
MK: Anything else? Stunning interview.
JR: Thank you.
CK: Thank you. (1:13:05)