"squared", collage

October -
The start of a new month
A clean slate
Checking lists, calendars and schedules

Life has not been heard from.


Summing Up September

"delicate balance", collage
That surely sums up September.


Late afternoon light
and fragile dried fowers
timeless mystery.

It is in the book.
All Isiah Harrison descendants
are related to Abraham Lincoln.

But - we are southerners!

Another genealogy surprise.

Fort Harrison, Dayton, VA
September 25, 2005


Sweet Innocence

An armless baby doll
Dressed in pale blue
Sits in a worn rocker

In the 200 year old parlor.

Warmed by the afternoon sun
She smiles - as she has for 100 years
From a sweet face that touches my heart.

I never had a doll like this.
Until now.

September 24, 2005
Fort Harrison, Dayton, VA


Pieces of Memory

I love "attic" museums.
Small places where they exhibit

the bits of peoples' lives.
Where the obscure becomes important.
Some would say

"all they have is trash."

Attics are where you find the bits of memories.
Where you stumble across the forgotten
Kept because it was precious.

Southerners have an affinity for holding on -

To things.
We want the bits of history

To tell us who our people were.
So we will know who we are.

We keep stuff - for generations.
A photograph, a piece of lace, a spoon,
Books, oh, my yes, books
Letters, pens, linens, pots and pans.
And on, and on, and on.

We guard them.

They are us.
Our roots, our connections.

Katrina took it all.

I worry.

How can you know yourself
Without your stuff?


Rita, Oh Rita

Florida has been buffeted.
Texas is boarding up.
Rita is coming.

Is it possible?
Another Cat. 4 hurricane within weeks of flattening New Orleans?

Katrina victims have to move again.
The pain on their faces hurts your heart.

I saw a picture of a woman in Galveston pulling her wheelie with her as she approached a bus for evacuation.
No doubting what is ahead.

Boo hags are here.
Katrina and Rita!

Quick - paint your doors and windows blue.


Keep the Boo Hags Out

These are troublesome days.
Must be some powerful bad spirits loose in the world .

My aunt Koki used to say - "Watch out for the haints and boggars. Don't let them get you."

One of the most fearsome of all is the boo hag.
Watch out for her.
She will spin out of her skin - - and eat you up.

The only way to keep the boo hag out is -
Paint your windows and doors blue.


Nothing Like A Cat

Oh, to be this oblivious of the world.


Hoping for a Small Miracle

This morning my son sent me an article from CNN which tells of efforts to reunite pets found in New Orleans with their owners. One effort in Florida was started by a woman who read about
Snowball and could not bear the image of the little boy whose dog was wrenched from his arms. He cried until he vomited.
Some say they have found the dog.
Now they are looking for the boy.


Quiet Soothes the Spirit

For three days we have not had access to television. We have news - more than we can bear - from the internet but we do not have the noise of television around us. Talking heads and reporters are silenced.
It is quiet.
It is a blessing.
“Dwelling on the negative simply contributes to its power.” Shirley MacLaine


Beyond Words

Today I read this on a blog from New Orleans.

2:11 A.M. - ATLANTA (AP) -- As Valerie Bennett was evacuated from a New Orleans hospital, rescuers told her there was no room in the boat for her dogs. She pleaded. "I offered him my wedding ring and my mom's wedding ring," the 34-year-old nurse recalled Saturday.
They wouldn't budge. She and her husband could bring only one item, and they already had a plastic tub containing the medicines her husband, a liver transplant recipient, needed to survive.
Such emotional scenes were repeated perhaps thousands of times along the Gulf Coast last week as pet owners were forced to abandon their animals in the midst of evacuation.
In one example reported last week by The Associated Press, a police officer took a dog from one little boy waiting to get on a bus in New Orleans.

"Snowball! Snowball!" the boy screamed.
He cried until he vomited.

The policeman told a reporter he didn't know what would happen to the dog.

I sighed and hurt for the little boy.

Later as I sat in Mass tears began to stream down my cheeks and I heard that child screaming inside my head,

"Snowball. Snowball".

This image of the loss and pain of the innocent cut through all the defenses I had held so tightly in place since last Monday.

Feelings beyond words overwhelmed me as I wept.

"Snowball. Snowball"


The Value of Time

To realize the value of one year: Ask a student who has failed his final exam.
To realize the value of one month: Ask a mother who has given birth to a premature baby.
To realize the value of one week: Ask an editor of a weekly newspaper.
To realize the value of one day: Ask a daily wage laborer who has 10 kids to feed.
To realize the value of one hour: Ask the lovers who are waiting to meet.
To realize the value of one minute: Ask a person who has missed the train, the bus or the plane.
To realize the value of one second: Ask a person who has survived an accident.
To realize the value of one millisecond: Ask the person who has won a silver medal in the Olympics.

Time waits for no one.

Treasure every moment you have.

You will treasure it even more when you can share it with someone special.
from an Ann Landers column


CNN is relentless.
I can hardly bear to watch the horrors of Katrina.
I want to go back to the moment before it came ashore -
to when all those people had homes and lives
and New Orleans
and all the towns in Mississippi were whole -
to roll back to the moment before the United States lost its magic protection -
and New Orleans started bleeding homeless refugees


Moving My Studio

For years I threatened to take over the living room of our home for my studio. Its a big space and has great light. We did not use it - we use the den. That living room just sat - like a room in a museum where nobody is allowed to sit. Look but don't sit.

Iinstead as our kids vacated to their own places, I spread out into bedrooms. In fact I spread out until I was using my studio in the basement and three bedrooms.

As I oozed into those other rooms I filled them with more -more supplies and stuff. I am a collage artist and we gather and store stuff with a venegeance - and since it all has potential - we keep it forever.

Now we are making a few changes at our house. Consolidating - and I am getting the living room for a studio for real, not just an empty threat. I am moving into the living room so that our daughter can use bedrooms upstairs during a temporary stay with us.

This move is a good thing. Jim has added a wall of cabinets. The room will be a neat and wonderful working space. Great light all day. Large work space. All the things I have said I wanted.

But the move itself is absolute chaos.

I am having to sort and cull. Something has to go - or should I say some things have to go. Its hard.

I am a collage artist because I am a keeper.


Audrey Hepburn on Beauty

You never know what wisdom you will find when you are surfing.
I found this quote when I chanced on Illustration Friday - a fascinating site where artists post responses to assigned topics.

Redheaded stepchild posted this quote and an illustration for the topic: Wisdom

When asked what her beauty secrets were,
Audrey Hepburn had this response:

"For attractive lips, speak words of kindness.

For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.

For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.

For beautiful hair, let a child run his/her fingers through it once a day.

For poise, walk with knowledge that you never walk alone.

People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone.

Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you will find one at the end of each of your arms.

As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands; one for helping yourself, and the other for helping others."

Wise words.


Memory and Story - Packed Up

The night of the opening in June the Dadian Gallery was filled with well-wishers.

It felt good to have people asking questions and admiring my work. The work was made to be seen, to be enjoyed by others.

Ellouise, student, and Deborah Sokolove, Director, Dadian Gallery.

I am honored and grateful that Deborah invited me to exhibit the works at Dadian. The gallery space is wonderful and she is an expert exhibit designer. In her curator's statement about the show she wrote about my work better than anyone has. She understands and "gets" it.

Nine Squares - Textile

The show is over. I picked up the work yesterday.
The works are packed up. Waiting for another day.
Except for Nine Squares -
Someone loved it - and bought it.
It moves on - carrying some of me with it.


Cell Phone Dilemma

Today Jim and I went to Verizon to check on our service contract. Actually I hoped we were going to cancel and move to another service.

It ain't that simple.

Why did we want to change phone service? Personal reasons and that seemed good enough for us. The rest of our family is on Cingular. We could talk together and not expend minutes. And, the two phones we have have seemingly burned out. Mine crackles and I cannot make out what the other party is saying. Jim's phone just cuts off.

But - we quickly learned that regardless of what we want to do Verizon has us on the dotted line until November 3. What's more we cannot upgrade our phones until September and if we do it then we commit to another two years with them.

The woman at the Customer Service was nice enough, very calm and patient. She just did not have a solution for us. Were we to keep these phones until November, paying the monthly commitment and yet not being able to talk?

At that point I moved over to a bench against the wall and sat down. " I am out of here," I announced. Jim glared at me and patiently continued to talk with the lady.
A young man near me, standing in a Technical Assistance line, laughed, "It does feel like one of those days." Then his phone rang and he told his story to the caller.

I chatted with another man on the bench, also sitting it out. He showed me his old faithful phone, an analog phone, that was now no good. "They stopped analog service last week." He could not decide which phone to get - or to pay for - because since he was not starting a new plan he would have to pay full price.

About that time Jim called me over, "Let's see your phone. Maybe a new battery will keep you talking until November." I handed over my familiar plain and simple phone.

The lady took one look - "That one is obsolete. We don't keep those batteries here any more. We have to order them from the warehouse."

At this Jim's cool veneer wore thin.

"Obsolete? She has not had that phone for two years yet."

The lady was nonplussed.

"They come out with new models every couple of months."

Verizon will mail me the battery. Jim and I will wait it out until November and then face the Verizon store again.

I love cell phones. I can't imagine not having one.

Isn't that the problem?


Remembering Oklahoma City

In July I went to the National Storyteller Conference in Oklahoma City.
I was excited.This was my first conference. I was looking forward to stories, workshops and meeting other tellers from all across the United States.

To my surprise the most impressive thing for me in OKC was the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial.

What ever I had read about the memorial had not prepared me for the power of it - the memorial is art at its finest and turns a site of horror into sacred space and a fitting memorial for the 168 lives lost there.

The adjacent museum skillfully puts you right back into the moment of the explosion and then moves you through the next hours and days with the families and people of Oklahoma City. It takes you INTO the story.

The conference planner also arranged for some of the survivors to come to the conference to tell their stories in person. Their stories were moving and powerfully demonstrated the healing power of story. I will never forget the experience.

Maryland storyteller, Ab Logan, told me next day that he had gone back to the memorial in the evening- "don't miss it." I am grateful to him.

I left the hotel in the dark for my "dawn" plane back to Dulles so I asked the taxi driver to take me to the memorial on the way to the airport. He waited while I went in. I felt a catch in my throat as I walked through the 9:03 portal at one end of the dark reflecting pool. The chairs on the grassy rise were lighted individually - must be an up light in the ground below - the
translucent bases were glowing and the names which are etched in the base of each chair were clearly visible - shining.

Story and art - powerful partners.


Discovering Surfing

When I woke up this morning I lay in bed thinking about things I might or could write about on this blog. Then I realized - I am becoming addicted to the computer.

I love working on the computer.
I have loved working on the computer since we bought our first luggable in the 1980s.

I like the sound of my fingers touching the keys - the light click of my fingernails against the hard plastic. Typing makes me feel so productive

I love email. Being connected to people - immediately.

Recently we set up WiFi in our home. WOW!

The freedom of not being tethered to my desk upstairs in my office is exhilarating. I can use my laptop in front of the TV, on the dining room table, in the bedroom, everywhere. Instantly I am completely linked.

I have become fascinated by the internet itself - linking and linking and linking - moving further and further afield from where I start. I have discovered surfing - - surfing widely on the web. I did not understand what they meant - its a wild and free ride - - -

I feel so unfettered, yet so productive as I hear myself clicking and clicking and clicking -

No matter that the dishes are in the sink, the bed unmade, my work behind schedule, my lists growing longer and due dates looming larger and closer.



Focus on Flying

We saved the new Air Space Museum for Jamie's last day here.

A quick summary of space flight - from Gemini to Shuttle Enterprise.

Jamie with the space shuttle, Enterprise,in the background.

Putting us right in touch with current history - in front of the space shutte Enterprise there was a televison screen playing a "live feed" from the astronauts in space on the current shuttle mission. We walked around the emense expanse of the Enterprise - taking a careful look at the exterior heat shielding tiles. A close-up look like and you really understand what happened and what had to be repaired.

We also stopped by the Enola Gay, the WWII plane that dropped the first atomic bomb on Japan. It was sixty years ago today -

The coincidence of the anniversary made me aware of how important Museums like this are - they keep history before us. Forgetting would further magnify the tragedy of that day.

After we left the Air and Space Museum we took Jamie to Dulles for his flight back to California.

Driving home Jim and I talked about how much we had enjoyed having Jamie; how we had loved the time with the local family together; and we listed all the things we had taken him to see, museums, monuments, movies, etc.etc. We hope something made a lasting impression - and wondered what it will be. What will he remember? What stories will he tell?



As part of Jamie's sightseeing we included a family day in Baltimore.

Jim and I have a soft spot for Baltimore. We met at Johns Hopkins Hospital when Jim was in medical school and I was a student nurse.

Baltimore was a part of the stories my mother's step-father told. Dad Jack, John R. Baer, was born and grew up in Baltimore. His stories were part of the reason I chose Johns Hopkins School of Nursing.

We started with a focus on sports.
Babe Ruth's Museum is a delightful stop in Baltimore - giving you a glimpse of Ruth's personal history as well as his career as a baseball hero.

Our next stop was the Baltimore Aquarium.
Juliana had been a summer intern at the aquarium a few years back so we would not need to take the tour.

The family group: L-R: Monica, Jamie, Alison, Karen and Juliana.

Jim and I had not visited Hopkins Hospital in quite awhile. I doubt either of us ever thought that one day we would bring our grandchildren here. The hard part of a trip like this is staying in the present. Its so easy to be drawn into your memories that you get lost in trying to find the past through all the changes you see - and lose your audience.

The old main lobby is the one place that has not changed. This well-known monumental statue of Jesus the Healer greeted and comforted us in the 1950s as it does today and as it has for thousands of people for more than 100 years. There were fresh red roses at his feet.

A fairly recent movie,Something the Lord Made, tells the story of Vivien Thomas, an unknown African American man, who was the famous Dr.Alfred Blalock's collaborator in developing the revolutionary blue baby heart surgery at Hopkins. It is a story that vividly brings us face to face with the overt and covert insults and injustices of segregation.

We had all seen the film so we stopped in the lobby of the Blalock Surgery building to look at Thomas' portrait.

Jim and I are connected to the time of the film. As a medical student, Jim had seen Thomas at work in dog surgery. As a student nurse working in the surgical recovery room, I had cared for a child just post the surgical procedure by Dr. Blalock.

The film is emotionally wrenching for me because I am ashamed to remember how much I was of that time and lived through those days most often blind to the pain and injustice of segregation.

Jim takes the time to read the names of the others pictured on the walls. He calls me over to see this gentleman: Dr. William S. Baer, the first Chief of Orthopedics. This man is Dad Jack's uncle. I knew about him but I have never seen his picture. Yes, I believe there is a favoring around the eyes.

How funny! Medical history, social history, personal history and family history - that's quite a package.


Corn Field Next Door

We have a week-end house in PA that we love. The rural setting is a great change from city life and more importantly it is a break from the stress of the "new normal" in the Nation's Capital.

We can take time to notice the corn growing high in the farmer's field which borders our property.

Like the city slickers we are - we gape and wonder at the soil which has hardened and cracked without enough rain.

And, at the feet-like runners growing from the base of the corn stalk.
Are they reaching out for water or steadying the tall stalk?

Down the road I notice that a morning glory vine has wound itself tightly around the corn stalk.

It strikes me that even in the garden things count on others to hold them up.


Sightseeing Amid Memories

Jim and I are curious people so its no surprise that we really enjoy sightseeing and visiting museums. Jamie's visit is a good reason to re-visit places we know but have not seen in a long time.
Before we reached the museum our car was stopped by armed security at the Walter Reed front gate for an ID check. The new world reality intrudes on even an innocent sightseeing excursion.

The National Museum of Health and Medicine at Walter Reed Army Medical Center is only twenty minutes from our home so it was a quick trip. And, it has gory curiosities that appeal to a 13 year old as well as good information about the history of battlefield medicine.

Jim enjoyed the exhibits and like always takes time to read the fine print. I am more of an essence person and can skim through quickly until something grabs my attention - then, I read the fine print. Jamie, it turns out, is a combination viewer. He quickly gets the essence and then goes back through to study the fine points. I was not surprised that he spent the most time in the exhibit with the real skeletons and the real specimens which demonstrate the development of a fetus. I remember our kids being fascinated in the same places. Grandchildren are such joy - for themselves and for the memories they stir in you.

Jamie stopped at the exit to add his comments.

I peeked over his shoulder and saw just the first word,

Several things on exhibit stirred other memories for me.

Iron Lung circa 1940s

During the summer of 1944 and 1945 there were polio epidemics in Charlotte NC. Advisories were issued by the Health Department. Polio hit children first and hardest. Children under 14 years old were not to attend large gatherings or public places like movies and swimming pools. Parents were afraid.

To move my sister Lynda and me out of Charlotte - and harm's way - my mother sent us to the country. She asked the Sisters of Mercy at Sacred Heart Academy in Belmont, NC - 13 miles away - if we would come there for the summer. They agreed. And - that is another story.

Remembering Janice Thompson.
My cousin Janice Thompson was a couple of years younger than I was. I remember her as a happy, laughing red-haired six year-old little girl with freckles. On a sultry summer afternoon, without realizing the danger, her mother, Alice Thompson, took Janice to Suttle’s Swimming Pool. Within days Janice was in an iron lung and quickly dead – a victim of the polio epidemic.

Two summers ago (2003) when I was reading old newspapers on microfilm at the Charlotte Public Library the “lead” of an article on the front page of the Charlotte Observer caught my eye - First Charlotte Child Dies of Polio”. I read on and was startled – it was about Janice. I knew what happened that summer but I never knew the particulars. She's been dead 60 years - - but I felt as though she had touched me.

I asked Mama what she remembered about it. “That was the saddest thing. I can see Janice in her casket as if it was yesterday. She had that pretty red hair. Alice had dressed Janice in the navy blue dotted swiss dress – she had just worn for her birthday party. But what was the saddest of all were her shoes. They were brand new shiny white patent leather Mary Janes – just a little bit scuffed.”


A Bit About Jim

Jim and I met at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He was in his third year in medical school and I was a new nursing student. Jim was very intense about his studies. Often our dates became "study" dates and we spent hours in a hospital library with Jim's nose in his books and me sometimes dozing. Jim often helped me tackle difficult assignments. Learning all the bones of the skull offered quite a challenge.

One night when Jim came to pick me up at Hampton House (the nurses residence) he was carrying a round package wrapped in newspaper. He offered it to me. "I think this will help you learn those bones." I took it.

I felt the round hardness of a skull in my hands. Jim had borrowed it for me. I swallowed hard. "Thank you." I took it to my room and left it while we went out.

When I returned later I unwrapped the skull and stared at it. The sightless eye cavities above the gaping toothy mouth stared back. I set it on my desk and got into the bed with a book. Shortly, I turned out the light. I could still see the skull on the desk because of light from a streetlight outside. I turned away but I could not relax. I knew that skull was looking at me.

Finally I got up, picked up the skull and moved it to the closet. I set it on the floor and closed the door. I turned back toward my bed. Then hesitated, and - all right, all right - I did feel kind of stupid as I turned the key and locked the closet door.

That's where the skull stayed until I returned it to Jim.


Works for Venice Exhibition

Reflections I - Collage

Reflections II - Collage

In August Gallery 10 members will exhibit together at Venezia Viva Gallery, Venice, Italy.,

This, our third show at Venezia Viva, is timed to coincide with the Venice Bienalle. Jim and I have gone to Venice for the other two exhibitions.

Two years ago we rented an apartment and stayed in Venice for five weeks for a wonderful sabbatical from our "real" lives. It was great.

Its not working out for us to go this year.

I feel like a kid whose nose is tickling
with the smell of fresh baked Toll House Cookies
and cannot reach the cookie jar.

My cyber journal of our sabbatical in Venice , Saluti di Venezia, is on my web-page on the Stories page.


Here We Are in the Woods - with stories.

What better setting to tell stories about nature and animals than the wooded amphiteater at Woodend - the headquaters of the Audubon Naturalist Society in Chevy Chase, MD.

This is my second year as storyteller-in-residence for ANS - its wonderful
fun and I love it.

Seventy (70) kids from the Audubon Camp came to hear stories today - to think about clouds and animals and birds as an ending for their day which has been filled with nature activities and fun.

It was cooler under the trees but still sticky hot. I told a story about a cloud swallowing giant which made the point about how important rain is for the survival of crops, animals and people.
Outside and in the heat the story took on another level of REAL.
I remember being seven years old
and stretching out on soft cool moss under a shady oak tree
on a hot summer day
without out any other purpose than to just "be".
It is a sweet memory.

And maybe it is behind my slowing down in the summertime - wanting the freedom to just BE.
A Guest from the West

Jim, Karen and I arrived at Dulles International Airport at 7 pm. This was well before the 8:05 pm arrival of our grandson Jamie's Jet Blue flight from Oakland, CA. His first"unaccompanied" flight. His first solo visit to Washington.
Karen brought the latest Harry Potter to pass the time. I was practicing stories for a "story telling" tomorrow. Jim checked the map - for the most likely place to meet him.
Karen looked up from her book.
"Do you remember the first time Robin brought him out? He was so little."
Indeed I did. We had formed such a welcoming committee then too - to greet Robin and baby Jamie. Now we waited for 13 year old Jamie - on his own. There hardly seemed time for that one to grow into this one.



On a hot and steamy July day
this hand sculpture was
in a doorway
near the Instituto di Venezia where
Jim and I studied Italian.

Today -
sweltering in a heat advisory
at home in the US - -

I remember the same sizzle in Venice
July two years ago -
when - this woman sat patiently -
on the hot pavement - hoping.

I like to compare points in time.
It comforts me.
am I relieved that I can remember?