Over the 4th of July I became very interested in the life of Katharine Lee Bates, the author of the great American song “America, the Beautiful.” I read about her at Wikipedia and other sites and soon came to admire this extraordinary woman. When I first heard the song, it was in Mrs. Nicholson’s Third Grade class at Irving School in Joplin, Missouri. We sang it in class, and even at that young age I was blown away by the soaring beauty of Bates’ imagery:
America, the Beautiful, For Amber Waves of Grain
For Purple Mountain Majesties above the fruited plain.
America, America, who sees beyond the years
Her alabaster cities gleam, undimmed by human tears.
I liked the purple mountains part, because I had actually seen them, from the window of my dad’s car as we traversed the country.
So after the 4th of July, 2008, I became very interested in Bates and almost felt that I was somehow in communication with her soul. I found a photo of her grave in Fallmouth, Massachusetts at Find-A-Grave, and learned that her life partner was Katharine Coman. Both women were professors at Wellseley College in Massachusetts, where Hillary Clinton and other famous women, like Mrs. Chiang Kai-Shek, went to school.
Coman had contracted breast cancer and died in 1910 of the disease, but Bates cared for her for the three years of her illness. After Coman died, Bates wrote a book of poetry for her entitled “Yellow Clover,” published in the early 1920’s. Bates expressed so well the grief of those left behind when a loved one dies and I was touched by her poetry, as I had found a free copy of “Yellow Clover” at Google Books, where you can download out-of-copyright books as pdf files. Earlier, I had looked for a photo of Katharine Coman on the net and none was to be found. But the copy of “Yellow Clover” that I downloaded had a photograph of her. I captured the photo and contributed it to Wikipedia where other people could view it and download it.
After that, my near obsession with Bates and Coman cooled and I was able to turn to other things. I felt that I had been able to thank Bates and show my appreciation for “America, the Beautiful” by finding this photo and making it available in the public domain. It isn’t easy to say “thank you” to someone dead for 79 years, but I had found a way to do it. I had a feeling, just a sense or instinct, that somehow I had been in communication with their souls, and I wondered if such communication were even possible.
A couple of weeks ago I saw an article on MSN.Com about mediums and communicating with the dead, so I went to Amazon and ordered three books on the subject. Today I’m reading the first, “Another Door Opens,” by Jeffrey Wands. No, I won’t believe what it says in some slavish manner, but I will look for clues that ring true with my own soul and experiences. And, if all I get from the readings is entertainment and enjoyment and perhaps, scaring myself a little, it won’t be for naught!