Poppies on my mind

Sunday May 14, 2017

Looking ahead to the coming week where I have three performances of Ready to Serve I stopped by the local Chapter Meeting Place of the American Legion where they had paper poppies  waiting for me. I will be giving these out to those who come to hear the story as a remembrance of those who served in WWI.

Monday  May 15,  2017

This small bed of delicate Iris made me feel happy as I approached Holiday Park Senior Center where I would be telling Ready to Serve. Glad to report that the audience loved it and there were many surprises - -      

a nurse who served in the Air Force for 8 years, and commented about the how during the Viet Nam plastic surgery repairs for were performed on damaged faces, 

a woman I had not seen for 4 years who always came to my stories reminded me that she met Jim at one of my early tellings at Strathmore Hall.

and during the Q and A  - an octogenarian who told the audience she learned about WWI when she was working for the U.S. Air Force in Germany during the 1950s where she taught herself about WWI and then led tours of the WWl Battlefields from Verdun to many more.  Even stranger, her name is Eloise - can you believe it.  She lives close by and I am looking forward to coffee with her. 

It was a lovely day.

Tuesday  May 16, 2017

Today I am concentrating on The Capital Fringe and other things having to do with storytelling business like
preparing marketing and making plans for the next two months.

Looking forward to this on Saturday May 20, 2017



When I read today that the RBBB Circus is closing down in May 2017 I felt a wave of sadness at the loss of the 146 year old spectacle.  I went to my first amazing RBBB circus in Charlotte in 1944 when I was 8 years old. There were many others - with our children in other cities and I have several stories I tell with the Circus at the Center. I could not resist going back on Wednesday in 2008 - to see the spectacle and to ignite memories.

This is a copy of a blog post I wrote in 2008 after Juliana and I spent the day at the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus at the Verizon Center, Washington , DC.

A Memorable Day in 2008 - 

Circus Day

Grand-daughter Juliana and I rode the subway downtown and the first thing we saw when we emerged at Gallery Place were the trailers parked along the streets near the Verizon Center. The circus carries a lot of gear. Each trailer is numbered and the ones we walked past were 66, 65 and 67. 

Our seats were right down front.When we sat down we struck up a conversation with the smiling man and his daughter who were sitting next to us. After a while he asked up, " Are you ready for your surprise?"

"what surprise?"

"You know - you're sitting right up front."

"Does it involve water? Should we be wearing raincoats.?"

He laughed . "No no, nothing like that. Its a good surprise. Just relax. You'll see."
Hmmmmm. Ok, I thought. Juliana and I looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders and went back to watching the place come to life.
Men in black were busy on the center floor. Putting out the rings, setting up equipment. Clowns appeared. As the stands filled more clowns ran around the floor, coming over to the crowd, performing tricks, waving, charging the atmosphere. One clown tried to jump over the railing in front of us to get into a little boy's lap but never made it - one prat fall after another.

At precisely 10:30 am the band struck up its music, Tyrone McFarland, the Ringmaster appeared - - the Greatest Show on Earth opened as the audience cheered. How can you describe a spectacle as it unfolds before your eyes. The circus is bright, colorful, and glittery and when the delightfully costumed clowns and the performers in their shiny, sequinned costumes, riding elephants and pracing horses, parade in front of you - well, your imagination takes over and you enter the a world of fantasy and fun.

The star of the show was Bello Nock. The show was billed as Bellobration.

Bello is a multi-talented guy - known for his hair-raising tricks. - hence the hair-do. He sings, clowns and scares you a bit with his sky-antics - as he climbs a pole and then performs tricks far, far above the crowd - and later climbs all over a rotating machine as it spins high over our heads.

He shows his nice-guy ness when he brings a couple of youngsters from the audience onto the floor - center stage - to help him with his stunt. He treats them with respect and kindness and puts them at ease surrounded by thousands of strangers.

Other enjoyable acts: The acrobats who stack themselves five high by being propelled up to the next catcher.

Trapeze artists who rise over-head and then amaze and give you a catch in your throat as they swing back and forth, higher and higher and then jump into the hands of a "catcher."
All the excitement I remembered from when they thrilled me as a kid.

Ringling Brothers Circus is pure entertainment - and it winds up with the classic elepant march and display. 

And was there a SURPRISE? I should say so - it was US.

Juliana and I not only came to the circus - we joined the circus and it was an absolutely thrilling surprise.
As the music for the finale of the first act started a colorful six car mini-train chugged out on the floor. Each car was filled with clowns. They pulled up and stopped right at our seats. One of the clowns walked over to the steps and held out her white gloved hand to me and led me onto the sidelines. Juliana and forty other people - adults and kids - followed. First a clown placed an orange "Bello" hairdo on each one of us and then led us onto the train cars to take their places.

The trains moved onto the center stage. We were laughing and waving to the crowds as we moved among the clowns and performers, animals, and all on the main floor.

The man who had known about this "surprise" took our picture. I snapped pictures on all sides as I tried to see everyting - up close.
It was a moment.
It was quite a morning. The show started at 10:30 and ended at 1 pm. And every minute was FUN! Pure entertainment.

I was looking to add some touches to my circus story. I would say I more than got that wish.


Gathering Many Years in One Memory.

A meet-up that stretches across years.

Lemon Cake is my favorite.

When I start with this picture it usually means I am thinking it through like over the back fence.

I  noticed that my last post was about childhood friends. What a serendipity - yesterday I began thinking how fortunate I am in the people I have met and known over the years.

Out-of-the-blue Thursday I received a message from Sas Colby, a super creative artist from Berkeley, CA, asking if I had time for a meet-up on Friday. I have not seen her in easily 15 years, if not longer - so  - there was no choice even when I was facing a wall to wall list and deadlines due by Sunday - I said yes.
We settled on meeting at The Phillips Collection at 11:30 am for lunch, conversation, and to see Helen Frederick's show.

It snowed over night but the roads were clear next morning. As I started out the sun came out. A good sign.

I met Sas in the 1970s through another mutual friend, California artist Joyce Aiken. Joyce and I were working together as leaders of the newly founded Coalition of Women's Art Organizations. When she showed me slides of Sas' work I loved it and hoped one day I would meet her face-to-face - and I did.

March 15, 1979 I was in San Francisco for the Opening of Judy Chicago's Dinner Party Project at the San Francisco Art Museum.
It was a landmark event and women artists from across the country crowded into the huge room where they had set up a mammoth table and the vivid ceramic plates of the Dinner Party.

Joyce invited me to come with her to a  party afterwards in Sausalito to celebrate - and that's where I really talked with Sas for the first time - and she was what I had expected - lively, friendly, fascinating and easy to talk with.

This was California in the 1970s which was quite a different world than 1970s in staid and proper Washington, DC. From the front porch of the party-house we could look across the Bay to San Francisco which was shimmering magically with a bright yellow moon hanging in the sky over it. Later  when I described it to Jim, a native Californian, he nodded and allowed as how he had been under the same spell many times himself.

Before meeting Sas at the Phllips I retrieved CELEBRATION from my bookshelf just to refresh my memory. The book was dusty and squeezed in between two bulky text books. It is a large paper-back book I bought from her that night at the party.  It is a reflection by the participants in a week-end retreat with Anais Nin in Connecticutt several years before (1974?).  It was the first book I had encountered about a gathering of women artists for discussing their art work, difficulties and life-issues. In addition - - the typed test was printed in a faint purple. As I turned the pages it brought back the excitement and magic of being in San Francisco for the Dinner Party Gathering.
Sas had signed it: "remember the Sausalito moon on moonless nights". March 15, 1979.
Obviously I still do.

I have seen Sas over the years when she came to DC to teach her wonderful workshops on artist-books, which is her forte. She has one of them in a show at the Smithsonian right now. I took several of those workshops at Pyramid Atlantic and she does not disappoint in creating a joyful and creative atmosphere and leading people to think outside the box.  How could she not - because she rarely thinks inside the box and that freedom lights up a room. Her work and the word of her creativity draws very interesting people together - which makes for a remarkable workshop experience.

When Sas and I met at the Phillips yesterday all the intervening years dropped away. We hugged and decided to eat first. When settled in at the Cafe we started talking as though we had been together yesterday. The lunch was delicious especially the lemon cake. However, although the food was tasty, it was the memories accompanied by giggling and laughing that was the nourishment.

Our conversation slid easily from the 70s, bounced through the 80s and 90s  to the present as we caught up with each other. We also talked about things in the world that matter.

We left the Cafe for the treat of sharing some time seeing Helen Frederick's brilliant show at the Phillips - Acts of Silence - a strong and provocative show that speaks to the endangered environment.

We are both long-time admirers of the work of Helen Frederick - which adds a another dimension to appreciating the work.

I asked a friendly stranger passing by to snap a picture so we could document the moment and share it with Helen.

It was a grand afternoon but I have realized there is much more to this meeting for me than just a fun reunion between two friends.

Tomorrow is the fourth anniversary of Jim's death. Since the 1970s The Phillips was a favorite stop for Jim and me where we had a lunch in the Cafe and then visited the collections or special exhibitions. Since Jim died I have only been to the Phillips twice. I let our membership lapse. I stepped out of that piece of our life together.

Yesterday was my first time back with a quick step - to see a friend. It turned out to be a door opening to me with an invitation to come back to a the world I love. I walked into the galleries where I felt the warmth of a welcome from familiar paintings.  Before I left I re-instated my membership.

As we walked through the galleries Sas and I talked about the art. We rushed up to a large Milton Avery painting gasping over the composition and colors. I was captured by an over-sized and vivid painting by David Hockney.  I told Sas I would have to come back and sit with it soon. The guard heard me say that and stepped over saying, "Come soon - before the cherry blossoms bloom and all the tourists flood these rooms." Good advice.

It was a Celebration - -
                  and now I know Jim will be along with me.


Taking Stock of March

Taking stock of March.

There has been a lot going on - from lovely sun warmed days to icy snow.

There was a time when March was just another month - but since March 6, 2012 the month of March dominates my year - every year.  I don't know whether it makes it to "Ides of March" but it  really marks a seismic change in my life that is very difficult for me to accept and live with.

March 6 was the fifth anniversary of Jim's death in 2012. It works for me to close my front door and stay home.  We moved into our home in 1970 so the house has collected many memories which wrap me in hugs.  There are tears. In the evening there is time with our family, and a Mass for Jim. Next next day, warm and sunny, I took beautiful red roses to Arlington.

Five years - there is change - no doubt about that  - - but I am learning to live with it -

After the first few days of March an utterly icky virus settled in and brought me no joy at all. Saw doctors, took tests and medicines and felt miserable - just as so many are also been doing. Its hard for me to be sick without Jim near-by because he was always my favorite doctor - - thank God my primary doctor is terrific - calls, takes care and keeps in touch. A blessing.

Last week-end even though I was not 100% better I told Ready to Serve for a full-house audience at a very nice library in Abington, MD.  The room was filled with fabulous listeners and some people shared WWI stories from their own families - which is always a real plus.

Every year I vow I will complete may income taxes early and smirk as I send them on their way. Well, I did not do that again this year.  The past few days my daughter Karen is helping me get my Taxes together before I leave for Georgia next week-end to tell the nurse's story in Athens.  This is my fourth time telling stories there and I am looking forward to telling the story and to seeing these folks who like my stories enough to invite me back.

Over-all - not just in March - there is the daily pall from 1600 PA Avenue.



What's happening?

Today I received a missive from a small email group of 1954 High School Classmates.  The person who starts a new threads leads off with personal information and ends with, "what's going on with you?"
I am using an adapted version of my response as this Post because it touches base with some things I wanted to write about.

Around here Jim was the one who really enjoyed the daily Washington Post and carried the stacks of it out. I subscribe to the WASH Post, NYT, and others on the internet - which is a lot easier when the news is too much to bear - click its gone - and certainly too heavy to carry to the street.

W, I love blogs - so when I read your references to Sharon Randall I followed you to her blog - where she talked of "being alone with  five sets of dishes and no one to feed."  I do like her. Thanks for the lead.

You say you are also over-whelmed by dusty dishes. That's a familiar feeling for me too.  Its now five years since Jim died and I am considerig taking dishes and lots more to the street as part of a mammoth neighborhood yard sale April 29. I must be serious about doing it because I remember the date on the flyer that was stuck in my front door.

What's happening you ask?

My show about the WWI nurses has caught on. Librarians across Maryland have waked up to the fact that this is 2017 - the 100th Centennial of the US entering WWI - and realizing they do not have a program about it, particularly not one about women.They are passing the word that there is an old woman in Chevy Chase who has such a story. They call me. After living in MD for 53 years, this year  I am traveling the State to places I never heard of .

Last week someone called from a Victorian seaside town three states away and we agreed on a date in November. Ah - the Fringe last July was worth it - so much so that I have entered the Fringe again for this year too. I hope I am not being overly optimistic!!!

To  further delay cleaning the basement, attic and closets I am back to meeting with artists at American University every week to discuss our artwork. Its great being with folks I have known since graduate school at AU in the 1970s and talking art-speak. The complicating time factor is the expectation that each of us is making new art to talk about - - to heck with basement, attic and closets - - - they will have to wait.

Yesterday a friend of mine died in California. Not a surprise. I had been following a blog written by her daughter. I was following because the family does not know me. No-one would have me on their "list to call."

Eleanor and I met in the 1970s when we were both whole-hearted activists for equal rights for women in the arts. She was an amazing woman - a creative, marvelous and well-known artist and teacher coast to coast, a caring friend, a determined activist for fairness  - a regular TN steel magnolia and a unique and brilliant eccentric. Although I haven't seen her in several dozen years, I weep at her leaving.

She was an important member of the cast of people who have been a part in my life - there were times when she was an unforgettable "lead player"- - - a role she will hold with me forever.

That's how it is for all of us isn't it?

So that's what's particularly happening with me these days - its probably better not to launch into what's happening in the world right now! YIKES!!!!

Lovely to be in touch with all of you.