Maria Mitchell In Her Own Words

May 20, 1882.  Vassar is getting pretty.  I gathered lilies of the valley this morning.  The young robins are out in a tree close by us, and the phoebe built, as usual, under the front steps.  I am rushing dome poetry, but so far show no alarming symptoms of brilliancy.

The steps she refers to here, are a wonderful and rather grand wrought iron sweep of a staircase that comes down from the center front of the Observatory.  Having stood on them, walked down them, and photographed them rather in-depth (I am something of a photographer of architectural elements – ask my husband – if I have a camera on a walk, it takes FOREVER for me to get down a street), I can tell you that they make a wonderful home for a bird!  Just in those few simple words (from a woman who was a natural scientist as well), you get a sense of warmth.  The smell of flowers – including the freshly picked lily of the valley which has such a fragrance as to perfume the air outside all around them – the peace and quiet with the gentle rusting of the birds in the trees and their songs, and the gentleness of late spring.

Her dome poetry is, of course, for her renowned Dome Parties she held for her students at the end of every school year in which they had celestial refreshments under the dome and Maria would write poems about each of them – and they would of her and one another.  I can feel the gathering.

JNLF