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Letter to Helen Keller from Anne Sullivan Macy  (n.d.)

Transcription of Letter

Date: 1917
To: Helen Keller
From: Anne S. Macy in Puerto Rico

Helen dear:

What in the world has happened? Another ship with not a letter from you! Can it be that you and mother are coming – that you are already on your way here? Blessed possibility! I have almost convinced myself that you will arrive on the next boat.

We find the tropical dishes delectable. I have learned to like the alligator pear with plain French dressing, it is delicious. The bread-fruit is very good too. It grows to be an immense tree. The one at the entrance to the grove is as large as the mulberry in front of your home in Tuscumbia – the one we were up in when the storm came. The fruit tastes more like ice-cream than bread. The guava is plentiful, also the mangoes. I wish I could send you some melons, but Harry Lake says they can't be shipped. They are as sweet as honey. The tiote is a very nice vegetable, about as large as an egg-plant, tasting something like a turnip. We cook it, take out the inside, mash it with pepper and butter, put the mixture back in the shell and bake it. We have all the oranges, grape-fruit and pineapples we can eat for the picking.

Helen, if your next letter should begin, "Dearest Teacher – You are wonderful to write me such dear long (?) newsy (?) letters in Braille," I should go out in the grove, find a tail-feather a mocking bird has lost, and put it in my bonnet.

Of course you can't shut out of your mind the horror of this awful war. There is nothing we can do about it but wait. I think we shall jump into it before many months. I don't see what good that will do, but we, as individuals, have done all we can to keep America out of the maelstrom. Don't hesitate to write me all that is in your mind. I know you can't talk to your family as you really feel. There is no better way to ease off the appalling sense of catastrophe than to share one's griefs and fears with another who has one's confidence.

Yes, it is unthinkable that anything so infamous should happen in the age we have been living in and calling enlightened and civilized. You can understand now why Bill Haywood derided the idea that any country is civilized. I remember his saying that our high refinement was a thin veneer concealing liars, swindlers, and murderers. I thought at the time that he was talking rather wildly, but now the abominations of this War make his statements appear mild. How easily the European nations have chucked their Christianity, their international friendships, their philosophy and humanity, and assumed unashamed the spiritual garb of savages! Truly, "where are the great ones of the earth?" It seems to me, they are all active for evil.

You know, I never have trusted President Wilson. He is an egotist, a tyrant at heart who wants to be Bismarck without Bismarck's intelligence. When the bankers get nervous about their loans, they will force him to enter the War. But you know, Helen, that in history we have found the worst things, the most dreadful disasters served as stepping-stones to a new epoch. The blight and ruin and horror of the French Revolution were necessary to awaken abject peoples to a sense of their human rights. Who knows? This War may topple to earth the brutal stupidities and uglinesses of this huge, materialized plutocracy. The waste of capital may be so prodigious that capitalism will not be able to rise again. The sacrifice will be beyond calculation, but perhaps the benefits will also be enormous. Oh dear, what a dismal letter this is! And oh, how out of key it is with my surroundings!

The sun is flinging shafts of gold across the floor. The air is sweet with the scent of orange blossoms, and the ground is aflame with the long, ribbon-like pineapple leaves. From the verandah it looks like a Persian rug, only more brilliant, and not at all inviting to stretch out on. The pineapple is lovely to look at, but it is as comfortable to the touch as – a hedgehog. If I had a grain of the sense of the humming-birds that are circling round the banana-tree like a string of fire-opals, I shouldn't have wasted so much time and so many punches on reflections about war. Aren't we foolish to fill our minds with the devilries of men instead of with the beauties of nature? But we must help each other all we can, and we must try to keep sane, all the more if we believe the world has gone mad.

Do you know, I'm getting terribly lazy? I've done not a stroke of anything for so long that I'm afraid I won't be good for much when I get to work again.



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