Carrying the Baxter Legacy into the Future: A Case for Expanded Thinking

Comments by Connie Baxter Marlow in conjunction with the photography exhibit RHYTHMS OF CREATION: THE BAXTER LEGACY, an exhibit of images and ideas by Jack Baxter, Connie Baxter Marlow and Ali Baxter Marlow. July 14, 2000. Given that today is July 14, French Independence Day, and that our country has just celebrated our own Independence Day, I would like to speak to you tonight of freedom. This talk is given in conjunction with the photography exhibit: RHYTHMS OF CREATION: THE BAXTER LEGACY, an exhibit of images and ideas. I am therefore bound to weave together the apparently disparate elements before us into a connected and cohesive whole. The elements we have are: six generations of Baxters, the indigenous peoples of the world, Katahdin and freedom. How, you ask, can there be a thread that will bring these together? I will weave a tapestry tonight using the concepts embodied in the aforementioned elements - and by the end of this evening will have given you a new image, a new point of view that perhaps you may hang on the wall of that inner sanctum you carry deep within, and from which you might take courage and inspiration as you go forward with your lives. The title of this talk is “Carrying the Baxter Legacy into the Future: A Case for Expanded Thinking.” I will therefore use the Baxter Legacy as the backdrop. What was, is, the Baxter Legacy? First we might define the word legacy: Webster calls it “Something handed down from one who has gone before.” As a descendant of James Phinney Baxter, six-time mayor of Portland and kin of his son Percival Baxter, Governor of Maine; having been raised in Pittsfield, Maine by Jack Baxter, Maine legislator, community leader and businessman, I find that the fibers of my being reflect those ideals and the thinking that drove James Phinney and Percival to live extraordinary lives in service to humanity and all of Creation. James Phinney Baxter, my great, great grandfather, was born in Gorham, Maine, the son of a country family doctor who practiced his profession in the small towns of rural Maine. To quote my uncle Percy’s biography of his father “It was a rough and ready life where native ability and common sense were the chief factors in curing disease and healing broken bones. My father, raised in this wholesome self-reliant atmosphere, learned of the efficacy of simple remedies and became well-grounded in the rules of sane living. He preached correct living as the prevention of disease. Dr. Elihu’s big heart led him not to trouble about collecting his bills for his professional services”, which kept things simple and led to James embarking early on his business career at age 15 to finance his education. James Phinney went on to marry and raise his eight children to be, in the words of Percy, “self-reliant”. Percy goes on to state that “there was no pretense, no sham, and the usual striving for social position was unknown in his household. James

taught his children that “what a man had in wealth or position was of no moment as compared with what he was, and that character was the foundation of happiness and real success. Kindliness and consideration for others, a live-and-let-live attitude and a true spirit of democracy prevailed at all times, and the house was governed by kindness, not fear, by patience, not command.” James Phinney, according to his son “ was unaffected, patient, simple and natural, he believed in his country, state and city.” He was progressive, taking a bold stand for Women’s Suffrage, parks in his city and the humane treatment of animals. “Money was of secondary importance to him, simply a means to an end, the end being the opportunity money afforded for leisure and the time to study and work in congenial fields. He loved the out-of-doors, animals; his home and children were everything to him. He taught his children to love animals, there was no limit to the number of pets allowed them. In this way he taught them to be humane. He had vision far ahead of his contemporaries, his business career was founded on uprightness, he never exploited people for private gain. He did not seek great riches, but acquired a fortune ample enough to provide for his family and to give generously. He was devoted to books and to Art and wanted others to enjoy them. He gave libraries and founded The Portland Society of Art. His public service was entirely unselfish and he had no ambition for high office.” Percy closes his biography with a most telling sentence. “My father had faith in mankind, faith in the future of America, faith in God and faith in the world to come.” James Phinney often said that he was thankful that his lot had been cast in the State of Maine, a State that had no equal, and a people whose character and industry were unsurpassed.(1) Percy often referred to becoming “imbued” with the ideas of his father. On vivisection he stated “it is needless to say that my father’s sentiments are my own.” With that I will infer that Percival, who lived in close relationship with his father throughout his life, went on to embody James’s ideals in his personal and political life. He “went public” with them so to speak - and used political position and wealth to achieve ends in service to Creation seldom, if ever, displayed before or since in the political arena. Standing for Women’s Suffrage, women in government, opposition to the KKK; providing for the disadvantaged and the deaf; championing the animals through anti-vivisection laws, lowering the statehouse flag upon the death of his dog Garry, honoring the land and future generations through the personal gifts of Katahdin, Mackworth Island and Baxter Woods; fighting to keep the water power in Maine all etched his memory and that of his father into the minds and hearts of the Maine people. So, you ask, how does all this which occurred 70 to 100 years ago relate to indigenous peoples today, Katahdin and freedom? And where do the 3 current generations of Baxters fit into this tapestry. And what happened to the 2 generations of Baxters in our line who played out their lives between James and Jack. Before I address the first question, I will touch on the latter. And be advised that I am only speaking of the line of Baxters that are my ancestors - Hartley Cone Baxter (son of JPB, older half-brother of PPB) and John L. Baxter, son of Hartley. From what I can tell post Civil War industrial growth created great demand for the pioneering food packing company, H.C. Baxter and Brother’s (Hartley and two brothers, Rupert and James), products. The packing and processing of corn, peas and other vegetables brought wealth to Hartley, and the Baxters of Maine continued to be national leaders in the canning industry. But all the values aforementioned were strong in the psyche, and simplicity reigned. “Pretense and the

striving for social position” still were unknown. Hartley had yachts and a mansion in Brunswick, but his son John, who participated in the family business, leading it through its potato and vegetable freezing era , was a professor at heart and chose ultimately to live simply on Merrymeeting Bay in Topsham. Much of James Phinney’s wealth had passed to Percival, and the canning business, as my father once explained - at first a big frog in a little pond, became a little frog in a lake with the growth and dominance of Green Giant and other large companies from the Mid-west. Jack, John’s son and my father, who inherited a soon to be declining business, moved his family from Brunswick to the small town of Pittsfield where he could be close to the packing plants and where he played out many of the concepts that typified James Phinney’s life and beliefs; primarily public service, family, underlying simplicity and a lack of pretense. This move led to the raising of another generation of Baxters in small town, rural Maine. This upbringing left a lasting imprint on me as I went out into the world and subsequently raised a family of my own in the mountains of Colorado. Jack ultimately merged H.C. Baxter and Brother with a company in Oregon and moved West my freshman year in college. Jack went on to become the president of the food division of a Hawaiian-based Fortune 500 company. This opened up a world to me far beyond Maine’s borders. And so six generations came full circle - from the rural Maine values of farm life gleaned by James Phinney Baxter from his father and mother Elihu and Sarah - through the acquisition of wealth and power and the use of it for the highest ideals of humanity, to the return to small town Maine, and a going forth out into the world for me - carrying rural Maine and the Baxter legacy and wondering what it was that made me and my family different in a world apparently obsessed with money, status and material possessions. I became a seeker. My culture did not work for me. Something was missing. My ancestors had exemplified a way of being that seemed contrary to the order of the day. Those values of public service, extraordinary generosity, concern for all of Creation and future generations, and the courage to stand up for one’s convictions appeared to be in short supply. I began to search for the missing pieces. I transferred to Berkeley for my senior year in college in 1967 and watched my peers go to war with the establishment. I took up with an Austrian ski champion, tried to become and Austrian haus-frau, and went to Europe looking to see if it was there I’d find a way of life that embodied the deep human attributes of compassion and vision I was carrying from my ancestors. And then in 1976, I made my first journey to Santa Fe, New Mexico where I discovered what my heart had been yearning for: A people whose thinking embodied the ideals that composed me, ideals that I knew to be possible in the human condition, but weren’t, for some reason, being integrated into the current culture. I discovered on coming into contact with Native Americans and their way of life the same thing Christopher Columbus discovered when he first set foot on American soil and subsequently wrote to his king: “They are an affectionate people, free from avarice and agreeable to everything. I certify to your highnesses that in all the world I do not believe there is a better people or a better country. They love their neighbors as themselves and

they have the softest and gentlest voices and are always smiling. They may go naked but you may be assured that they have very good customs among themselves and the king maintains a most marvelous state, where everything takes place in an appropriate manner. It is a pleasure to see all of this. Tuesday, December 25, 1492.”(2) On that trip to Santa Fe, I picked up a map put out by AAA entitled “Indian Country” and it was as if that map spoke to me. It said “ You have destiny here.” It wasn’t until the early 80’s after I had married and become a mother that I came to understand that destiny. By then I had promised a great gift to humanity - children, healthy in body, mind and spirit, who would carry on the high ideals of my family. I felt, however, that in order to educate my children properly, I had to expose them to Native thinking. My life and my children’s lives became a journey into the unsung reaches of the human condition - where generosity, service to future generations, the common good and a reverence for all of Creation and an honoring of the human heart and spirit were the foundation upon which a way of life had been built. I resonated deeply to these principles and felt more at home with my Indian friends than I felt in the white culture. The photographs in my “family albums” on display in this exhibit are photos I took as a member of the famiies of the various tribes my children and I have visited over the years. These photos were never intended for display, but in an effort to honor my father as a photographer, I pulled them out, to join him and my daughter Ali in the 3 generations photography exhibit. So why, if Columbus himself could recognize the higher attributes of Native American culture, did people of his time and many who followed them seek to destroy them as “savages”? It is a complex and painful question that today runs deep in the American psyche. As James Phinney Baxter did, so do I have trust in mankind, trust in the future of America, an understanding of a higher power and trust in the world to come. To me there has been a “secret purpose to history”. I see that purpose is ultimately to bring the love in the human heart to bear on the human condition and to enhance the rest of Creation with its beauty. The human race had to play out its fear, its ideas of separation, the violent aspect of its nature, its concepts of scarcity and limitation. We have done that. All of us, the white race, the red race, the yellow race and the black race have each played out these attributes in our own way - that is what we call history. Today we sit in an art gallery, close by the grave of James Phinney Baxter and his family, pondering the possible connection of his life and beliefs to a people he himself considered “savage”. And through the eyes of his descendant we see an astounding parallel. What must James be thinking about all this? In the movie “Amistad” there was for me a key line. When John Quincy Adams asked Cinque the black man from Africa what he could do to further his cause before the highest court of the land. Cinque replied “I will do the only thing I can do. I will invoke the spirit of my ancestors. Because it is for this day that they ever existed at all.”

That we are gathered here today is not an accident. James Phinney Baxter and Percival Baxter set the stage for each of us now to take up courage and inspiration from their lives, beliefs and ideals. It is time now for us to look beyond the confines of the scientific paradigm and bring a broader reality to bear on our lives. Biologist Ludvig Von Bertalanffy is quoted in the book MYSTICS AS A FORCE FOR CHANGE as finding no necessary opposition between the rational way of thinking and the intuitive experience. He states “ In moments of scientific discovery I have an intuitive insight into grand design.”(3) From my experiences with the Native American culture I have come to understand that they have kept alive a connection with the unseen forces of the universe, they have stayed in contact with the conscious aspects of the rest of Creation, and they have held a reverence for all of life. In my understanding their knowing is not to be described as a religion or a belief system. In its pure form, Native thought gives us clues as to the true nature of things and how to walk on Earth with an open heart in balance with all of Creation. It is a trust-based paradigm, where one’s life unfolds in the flow of the love and perfection of all things. “What is the Truth or nature of things and how do we embody it in our social living?”(4) For me that is the question that our hearts are asking. Henry David Thoreau in his conclusion to Walden gave a simple, but powerful explanation of how to align ourselves with the Truth and to live it daily: “I learned this, at least, by my experiment, that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him, or the old laws will be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings.” James Phinney Baxter and Percival Baxter lived these words of Thoreau and became great men. Native American thought holds these and many other concepts and answers strangely aligned with the life and works of Christ and all the great men and women throughout history, yet it adds dimensions not yet grasped by the modern mind. And it is here that the thread of Katahdin enters the tapestry. Katahdin, known and honored as a sacred mountain by the Wabanaki people, and given in trust by Percival Baxter to the people of Maine whom he loved so dearly - is in my experience and estimation a carrier of the Truth energy and a conscious, living entity that plays an active role in the lives of anyone who comes in contact with it. The power of this mountain is felt by the skeptic, the believer, all people, regardless or race, creed, color or economic status. Neil Rolde expressed it in words we can all hear: “Katahdin has a haunting effect on people, a presence of its own, a richness even beyond its imposing natural grandeur.” (5) “For those with a geologic bent, (it) is simply the most prominent of the peaks that tectonic movement thrust up here and the eons of existence have word down. But its magic hold on us - Native Americans and we who have come afterward - keeps it as a prominent fixture in our consciousness - engendering discussions like this as we try to divine this great rock’s hold on past and present and no doubt future generations.”(6)

And I will close with the great ideal of freedom that we all dream about, have fought for and for which our great country stands. When will we be free? Free from the tyranny of our own minds. Free from fear, free from the constructs of a belief system that negates the beauty that lies within us, and that surrounds us, nurtures us, loves us unconditionally and provides for us? I say that time is now. Thank you.

NOTES: 1. From two biographies written by Percival Baxter on his father: James Phinney Baxter, Historian by Percival P. Baxter, Governor of Maine. Written for the Maine Writers’ Research Club. James Phinney Baxter, A Life-long Opponent of Vivisection: The Provisions of his Will by Percival P. Baxter, Governor of Maine. Written for the Christian Science Monitor. 2. Discovered in an art exhibit by Karen Moss at the Museum of our National Heritage, Lexington, Mass. July 5, 2000. From the papers of Christopher Columbus. 3. Mystics as a Force for Change. Sisirkumar Ghose. A Quest Book. The Theosophical Publishing House. Wheaton, IL. p.5. 4. IBID. p. 27. 5. The Baxters of Maine: Downeast Visionaries. Neil Rolde Tilbury House Publishers. p.228. 6. Neil Rolde. In a discussion in conjunction with the exhibit: Looking at Katahdin: The Artists’ Inspiration at Hinkley, Maine. Fall 1999.

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