Gathering Round

A few things to say.

RE: The Hello Girls

Since September The Hello Girls and I have been cavorting together in five states - TN, MO, MD, SC, and last week in CA.  It has been fabulous - a chance to meet many new people and to hear their reaction to the story.  Thank you to all who have come to hear this story celebrating women veterans and the role they played in WWI history.

We have plans for 2016 so more will be revealed.

But for now I am concentrating on something else - the joy of being with family.

I am in California visiting my daughter Robin and her family - husband Brad and their three boys - now young men. This past week with Robin has been filled with laughter and that is just grand.

Today we are expecting more to join us. We are waiting for my daughter Karen to fly in tonight from Dulles and my grand-daughter Juliana, recently moved to Los Angeles, to drive in this evening. Tomorrow we will crowd around the table to relish the turkey son-in-law Brad is cooking for Thanksgiving. It is a wonderful gathering although there are a few pieces missing.

Son Jim and his wife Monica and their other daughter Alison are in Maryland. Our Shih Tzu is with his breeder. The cat, wrongly named "Angel" is staying with Jim and Monica. I hear she is exploring every inch of their house - including trying to make an escape through the chimney.

Holidays are a blessing, aren't they, for bringing folks together.

Through our memories and stories Jim will be with us.


Maryland Plein Air Oil Sketches, Circa 1920-30's: Artwork As Personal Story Series, No. 3

This is a picture I call The Red Barn.
It is unmarked with either a title, a date, or the name of the artist.

Today it hangs in my daughter Robin's dining room. There are three more similar plein air oil sketches on canvas of the same size - probably done on the same day. None have any identifying words on them.

On a Fall Saturday afternoon in 1976 I stumbled upon them in sort of art-junk shop in Funkstown, MD . Funkstown is a small town with a lot of history. At the time we went it also had many second-hand shops with "stuff" and other shops filled with old books. Just the sort of places I love.

The day before my cousin Tom called saying he had discovered a place in the country that we were sure to fall in love with and enjoy. It was also a place that had interesting small restaurants with "good food." We were game. Tom and his then wife Pam picked us up and we were off.  All his promises about Funkstown came true along with a good afternoon with  Tom - a fascinating word smith and artist who had charmed me since our childhood in Charlotte, NC.

I don't remember the name of the shop where these small paintings were hanging on a crowded wall but I remember being drawn to them. Jim too was smitten with them - the subtle light, the simple shapes and composition. These oil sketches are the kind of notes an artist makes as they think out the plan for a larger painting which would most probably be painted in the studio. For me, this is like the handwriting in a letter which takes you close to the person who wrote it. When I asked about the artist the shop owner said he did not know a name but he had been told it was a Baltimore woman and that the sketches were probably done in the 1920's or 30's. Being a woman and a painter, I knew I wanted them to go home with us. It was a lucky and surprisingly cheap decision - $10 each.

These pictures hung in our dining room for years. Until - you guessed it - I wrapped them up and carried them on the plane to Manhattan Beach hoping Robin would like them for her new home in California. She welcomed them - and they moved to the Bay area when she and her family did and I will be able to see them as I eat Turkey this week at her table on Thanksgiving.


Sister Mary Irenita Ecklin's 1970 Watercolor - Artwork as Personal Story, No. 2

Another piece of art work now in Robin's collection that has a strong connection to the my past - - as well as to hers.

In 1968 Sister Mary Irenita Ecklin was the Chair of the Art Department at Dunbarton College of the Holy Cross, Washington, DC. She interviewed me that year and accepted me into the academic program when I decided to return to college as an Art Major in Painting. 

I remember that she wondered how difficult it would be for me considering I had three elementary school age children - but I shrugged confidently and said, "not to worry." So I dove into classes and rediscovering myself and the changing world outside my kitchen. 

Ironically I would learn later that Dunbarton was founded in the 1930s with a primary purpose of providing college education for working women.

My children often had to sit out a day on the Dunbarton campus when I was in class on an out-of-school day for them. They came to know the place and the instructors. You see, that year, I was at the beginning of the tidal wave of women returning to college. There were only 4 married women registered at the time.  

I can't say the kids always loved being there - they have their stories about that but - - they had some interesting experiences, especially in the fine library where they set up study desks in the stacks. When Sister Irenita had a show of her wonderful watercolors I bought this one. I don't remember the price exactly,but I imagine I paid $100 or the work. We lived with it at home and for a time Jim hung it in his office on R Street downtown. It became a familiar! 

When Robin moved to New York and was "shopping at home" for art for the walls of her Madison Avenue apartment she asked for this piece and it has hung in her home since. It is now a familiar to a wider group. When I come to visit it reminds me of a warm and understanding woman who was my teacher and later my friend.

Stephen White's 1970s Wood-Cut: Artwork as Personal Story, No. 1

Earlier this week I arrived in San Francisco for visit with my daughter and her family.

The surprise for me the last few days have been realizing how many stories there are to gather by reviewing her art work and cataloging how it got to be hers. A lot of the pieces are works I made and others are works I gave her and they there is a whole category of works by Washington artists who have been part of our lives.

Don't you love art works and family treasures that have personal history for you? There is bound to be a story wrapping it!

This large Stephen White wood-cut from the 1970s has history for me and connects to my daughter Robin.

I bought it at the Mint Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina about 1974 because I loved the ladies and their hats when I saw it in the museum shop. At the time I was a graduate student working on an MFA Degree at American University which kept me in the painting studios or in the museums. The image and composition had so many echoes of Japanese art and Art Deco that I wanted it in my home.

Jim was delighted when I brought it home (which was not always the case with my building art colectionliving with it and in the 1980s loaned it to Robin for her NYC apartment. The loan turned into a gift and she brought it to CA when she moved out here. Ever since..I have loved reconnecting with this image whenever Jim and I came to visit and seeing how it is a part of her life. Amazing to do the math ... It's been part of our lives for 41 years...history building.


A look at lists

Making a list - getting ready for my trip to California. Looking forward to seeing my family and friends and catching up. There is a bitter sweetness to these trips West without Jim. Some say, "if it makes you sad,why do you go?" I used to try and explain it - I won't try now. Some people just don't get it! and, that is that!


Another story of women in World War One

Investigating another group of unknown women who served in WWI. Working at an Archive yesterday, I was going through a file of 75 to 100 carefully written responses - in beautiful cursive, using pen and ink on personal stationery - from women who had been contacted to volunteer. All answered, "I am ready to serve." Holding these notes, written 100 years ago, I imagined their voices, repeating as a chorus - "I am ready to serve." I feel so fortunate to to touch this history - to hold it in my hands - and yes, there is a story here.


Ask the Question

When Marybeth Evans, Director of the Starburst Storytelling Festival in Anderson,SC, invited me to tell The Hello Girls and to present my Flesh on Old Bones Workshop as a start-up for a community story search they are initiating, I was excited and delighted. In my experience when you ask a group to share their family stories you are in for a treat and surprises. Now I am home and winding up the paperwork that always follows a road-trip. I am thinking about last week and mulling over what happened - all good. But - I realized there was something missing. I did not have time to share this story. Because the message is so important I am sending it now. The young Pouli in this story is the KEY actor because he asks a question - something we all have to do if we are hope to find the stories in our families. The Cowtail Switc


Flying Home

As the sun was fading in the sky over the Greenville Spartanburg Airport last evening I was waiting to board this plane to fly home to Dulles Airport.

This is not my favorite air plane. I had not read the fine print on my reservation in time to make changes. So  - - having ridden one of these  - the 3 - 800 Haviland DASH - from Tri-Cities TN in September I knew how it could roar and toss and turn - no way does it ever DASH.  It pokes along. I was nervous - oh, truth - I was scared. So - preparing for the worst -  I took one half of a small pill to help with that.

And the Lord provided.

Turned out my seat mate was a clean-cut, red head with a crew cut - a grad student at Clemson University - who took one look at the propellors outside our window, which he was sitting next to - turned to me and said, - "I don't like this". I agreed, " I don't either." And that opened our two hour conversation. We began to talk and we talked and talked and talked. And best of all we laughed. We laughed all the way to Dulles Airport outside Washington, D.C.

I learned about why he came to Clemson from up North, and how he liked living in the South and more and more and more. And he was curious about storytelling and a grand-mother traveling from home to tell stories. We told stories to each other and at one point when the plane jumped - we found out that we had both laughed out loud at the Louis C.K. comedy routine about flying - "what's the matter with you people, you are sitting in a chair in the sky?"

The time sped by - slower than ususal on a plane, that's true - and louder - but, hey. it had turned into fun.

Before we landed, he took out his phone. "we have to take a selfie." And he did.
He caught the moment.

He has my email and I hope to see it after his partying is done this week-end.

The nightmare I expected had flipped into - not a DASH - but a good ride home.