Saturday, December 3, 2011

Synchronicity in Newport

I had fun this morning reading a recent New York Times article to N. that I had "clipped" to my phone (I love the Instapaper app) to share with him over breakfast. In the article, "Plans for a Memorial Splits Newport's Old Guard," a disparate bunch of people of historic importance from 4 centuries collide in a surprising way, and N. has encountered them all recently in his various studies: Roger Williams, Edith Wharton, Doris Duke, and Maya Lin. The article describes how some wealthy residents of Newport disapprove of Maya Lin's commissioned design for a memorial to Doris Duke in a city park Duke developed in the 1970s. Other wealthy residents who'd hired Lin meet to plan their continuing support of her design in a house once owned by Edith Wharton. Lin says her design was in part inspired by the importance of public assembly to Rhode Island's founding father Roger Williams.

Over the past two weeks, N. and Tim have been reading about the founding of Jamestown and Plymouth, the Separatists and Pilgrims, and Roger Williams' role in the Rhode Island colony in A History of Us. Somewhere the other day N. and I encountered an image of Maya Lin and her cat, which led us to look up and discuss her Vietnam Veterans Memorial. N. has long been interested in Edith Wharton's various houses and he's pored over library books with photos of hers and other Gilded Age houses in Newport. And we've gawked repeatedly at "Doris," James B. Duke's private railcar named for his daughter, which is on display at the North Carolina Museum of Transportation.

N.'s mind was fairly blown as I proceeded through the article and read the casual references to each of these four figures. I enjoyed seeing him process this surprising historical remix. Such moments when our discrete tidbits of learning converge are so rich!

1 comment:

Adrienne Pilon ("A") said...

Those connections are so fun!
Recently we watched a bit of a documentary about Maya Lin and all the controversy about the Vietnam memorial. Don't know if N. is ready for it. Ari enjoyed it...for a while. But the insights into the process of this piece were interesting.