Where is the safe haven?

I don't know how to talk about what is happening in the world and right here at home these days.

Jim and I were in Italy in 2001 on 9/11 when all Hell broke here at home. We watched the airplanes collide with the Towers on a television in our hotel room. That was not the beginning of terrorism but up until then we had not experienced it from abroad on our homeland.

Somehow what happened in Brussels this week has opened  that pocket of pain I felt back then.

Earlier this week terrorists released suicide bombs and killed people in Brussels. At the airport and on a subway. Innocent travelers.

Over 30 people killed by battlefield-like injuries from really meanly constructed bombs that spewed out sharpened pieces of metal. Vicious  shrapnel. Good grief.

Americans were among the victims. A precious young woman in Atlanta lost her sweet-heart. He had called her to let her know he was stepping aboard his train, on his way to the Brussels airport and that he would soon be with her - and several days later she has to absorb that he won't be arriving soon or ever. Parents and family members agonize over their lost or missing family members. Heartbreaking.

CNN covers it all and I am drawn to it like watching a cobra as it prepares to strike me.

Now we can watch the police
work - that is definitely amazing. I remember how startled I was a few years back to see films of the military team executing Bin Laden. Now we just watch such things with our coffee in the mornings. I am not saddened by the "take out" of the #2 man in ISIS - but I am quite queasy that the mission i is talked about as being "well executed." It was an execution!

I know. I know - for the good of all. And he brought it on himself. But, I have to ask myself - why was I watching it? On television -
on Good Friday morning.

I don't have any answers about this. I don't have knowledgeable opinions because my fears and concerns block my long range view. Members of my family will soon be traveling in Europe. In my heart I would like to say "don't go." But I can't do that. I can however light a candle in Faith and pray for travel mercies and a safe return for them.

And I will be watching my own steps here at home - because unfortunately these days it does not feel like the safe haven I thought it was - or as I wish it to be.


Start Over When You Are Stuck

This week-end was tough. So, I took a break.
 Instead of holding on to what I was writing that was not working I stopped to play with an old photo from Venice using a new computer app for editing photos.  It was worth the detour.

This is the re-newed photo - a shot I took of layers of weathered advertising posters posted on a wall in Venice.

Now its re-newed with lots of the clutter cleared out so that both of us - the image and I - have more room to breathe deeply.

That was yesterday.

Now I am starting over - back to scratch with my story - which I will be telling in five days.  Back to go - with a new start.

I think I will print this new version of the photo and hang it over the computer to remind myself to take time to breathe when I am stuck.


A Powerful Print

This print - The Artists Studio by Raoul Dufy - 1935
startled me when I saw it set out on an upper display shelf in the shop at the Phillips Gallery last Sunday. It startled me because it brought back a flood of memories. I had a copy of this print torn from a magazine that I hung in my dorm room when I lived in Hampton House, the nurses home at Johns Hopkins School of Nursing in 1954-56. 

At the time I had not studied art or art history at all. I was drawn to the piece because it was bright and airy and free.

After Jim and I married I used the print in our first apartment in Baltimore, then in our two apartments in Brooklyn, and in two flat 1950s Texas ranch style houses in San Antonio. Once we reached Chapel Hill I think I retired it - but I never let it go. I bet if I went into the studio right now I would find it, faded and a bit beaten up - but still among my things.

It is layered in memories for me - not that I can tell you specifics but the piece brings back feelings an visuals of those place we lived.

So this post is part memoir and maybe someday I will take the time to recall more; to be more specific with what I see and remember. Maybe - at the moment that does not seem needed. The feeling is light and airy just like the image as well as young and happy. What more can I ask for?


Back Story for OVER THERE - One

Johns Hopkins Hospital  Circa 1952  Photo by Jim Schoettler

This black and white photo taken in 1952 is the Johns Hopkins Hospital as I remember it when I arrived in Baltimore in 1954.

Johns Hopkins Hospital  Circa 2015 Photo by E. Schoettler

Last June I took this picture of the original front entrance of Hopkins Hospital. It shows the classic Dome towering over the buildings and the neighborhood as it did the late 19C. Now it still towers over some but it is also dwarfed by modern skyscraper medical buildings that were built after the 1950s.

In 1954 I was 18 years old when I walked up the steps to the front door of Johns Hopkins for the first time. When I entered the impressive reception area it took my breath away. Standing before me underneath the round dome over head was a monumental size white marble statue of Jesus Christ with his arms outstretched and his hands open inviting people to him - Jesus the Healer. It was an unexpected figure as were the flowers on his pedestal. - some fresh: some faded. There was as older woman kneeling on the floor beside the statue with her arm reaching out before to rest her hand on his foot. I was sure she was praying for a loved on. It was the first but not the last time over the past 62 years I have seen people praying underneath that Dome.

My friend Kay Rutherford and I stopped by the reception room to pay our respects last June when we were attending the Bi-ennial Meetings at Hopkins. We both arrived at Hopkins in 1954 for nurses' training. Kay does have her RN but I dropped out of the nursing school and married a medical student who earned his MD from Hopkins. 

Its that early connection that prompted me toward the story of the Hopkins nurses who served in France during WWI with the Johns Hopkins Base Hospital 18. I am loving finding their unknown story. I will premiere the show, Over There, at the 2016 Capital Fringe, Washington, DC in July.


Golden Moments

Golden Moment         E. Schoettler,  mixed media collage

This week has had many sides to it. Sad moments as I feel the loss of Jim during the octave of his anniversary.
And along with that some golden and sweet moments.

Last Sunday - March 6: Telling The Hello Girls at the Maryland Now Conference in Baltimore - especially introducing my grand-daughter to this world of women in action and having a chance to talk with women who are serving in the Maryland Legislature. Feeling reconnected with the "world" I first walked into in 1972.

Tuesday - March 8: Telling a different version of Pushing Boundaries at the American University Museum in the Katzen Art Center. Beautiful building with all three floors of galleries showing exhibitions of work by women artists. IMPACT, the show organized by the Women's Caucus for Art to honor the women who had been awarded WCA Lifetime Achievement Awards for the past 35 years.  I had changed parts of the performance to feature more about the Washington Women's Arts Center and the early days of the Women's Caucus for Art and the Coalition of Women's Art Organizations. I was so glad artist Lucy Blankstein was there - she and I met at the Washington Women's Arts Center and we share that history. And, it is a special history  - - - My son Jim asked me last night, "did you record it?" He was quite irked when I admitted that I hadn't done that. Oops.
But I will -

Thursday March 10 I attended (virtually) a free webinar with Michael Hyatt on the internet - and it was well-worth the time. He is aggressively pushing out his new book "Living Forward" so the content of the webinar featured the content on planning your life that he has written about in his book
I like his approach and he has a wonderful, warm and approachable  manner in his presentation. I had not known of him until this - and evidently he is well-known and highly respected in the field. His advice is sound and valuable. Some notes remind me of things  I heard on Stephen Covey tapes in the late 80s and early 90s. He too reminds you to start your plan at the end - where do you want to be in ten years or how do you want to be remembered at the end of your life. "We are all going to die", he says in very calm voice that suggests you keep listening.

So I am looking at how I can plan whatever years I have ahead - making reasonable goals not lists and thinking what in my life really is important  - - so I can follow through with the important and not be distracted by the urgent. Its all in the choices, isn't it.

If you are curious, google MichaelHyatt.com. I am glad I did.

Friday March 11 - a few of us went to the 5:30 PM Mass for Jim at the Shrine of the Blessed Sacrament. As we strolled up the walkway to enter the church we were welcomed by a loud chorus from the top of a near-by tree - one determined bird singing his heart out with all his breath. The trilling bird song insistently filled the air  - we stopped to admire and listen. Jimmy and I took iPhone portraits.
It was lovely moment - - a God wink.



My husband Jim died on March 6, 2012 - that's four years ago. Those have been years that whizzed by but sometimes don't seem to have happened at all.
Time can be very mysterious.
Jim Schoettler

I never know exactly how anniversaries will work out for me
so when I realized I had slipped up and agreed to do a performance of The Hello Girls on March 6 I was apprehensive.

But it turned out totally different than I had expected.
Many things have popped up to comfort me - and to awaken me to life. I have been alert to the "messages" I received from the "universe."

God has been winking at me for several days.

If you don't believe it those kinds of serendipities - well - -

It began Friday when I agreed to meet a friend from out of town at the Phillips Gallery even though I have steered clear of that Gallery since Jim died.
It was one of our favorite places - and I was wary of it and the waves of grief it might unleash.

At lunch my friend asked how I was and I told her I was concerned about performing on Jim's anniversary - in another city a drive way. She looked me in the eye and said, "Ellouise, that will be a beautiful was to honor Jim. I know how proud he was of your work as an artist - he will be happy - delighted - you are doing that." Other people have said similar things to me - but they did not ring the same bell with me. Sitting in the Phillips Cafe - I heard it differently. I knew she was right.

I told another friend about our conversation and she said - "I think you had a visitation, Ellouise." She put a voice to what I had been thinking.

Unexpectedly my son and his daughter decided they would come with me to the performance on Sunday. We arrived early and they stepped in to help with the set-up. When my son was moving boxes and standing up the projection screen - I saw Jim in him - he was pitching in as Jim always did - - it felt like such a gift.  A message that Jim is always there.

Later that afternoon my son and I went to an evening Mass together. It was so the right thing to do.
I felt a door that I had closed when Jim died opening - - like a spiritual thawing.

I am very grateful for these feelings and for recognizing that its important to keep your eyes and ears open to receive messages when they come your way.


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.