November 8, 2014
Faith Journey -- Sister Mary Corita
My husband was a poet who loved words as well as visual images. I attribute his lifelong interest to the wonderful liberal arts education at Occidental College including the various criticism classes he took in art, drama, and literature. On weekends, we went on interesting dates - often to Hollywood to curious bookshops or coffee houses to hear beat poets. One Saturday, we visited Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles for a sale of lithographs by the students of art professor, Sister Mary Corita. The sale included some of the teacher's pieces.
Corita Kent was a pop artist who saw the sacred in everyday words and images. She produced large, colorful graphics filled with words and phrases about her faith. A large portrait of Wonder Bread, for instance, would convey a sense of wonder about God. Her art portrayed the messages of love and peace during the 60s and 70s -- a time of social upheaval. Sister Corita designed the 1985 Love stamp for the US Postal Service. She sold well, and fortunately, the art that Corita was discarding the day we visited the sale was affordable.
I fell in love with her creations during that visit to the college and still have about fifteen lithographs that we collected over the years. I recently donated a few back to the Corita Art Center as they keep a collection of her works, and they were missing some of those early pieces that she had discarded.
Corita taught me to look at the universe in new ways. She saw the sacred everywhere she looked. She saw it in nature, in products in the marketplace and in everyday objects at home. We bought a large lithograph of the Los Angeles Times that screamed out the gospel in the daily news. She taught me to see God in everything that touched me, everything around me, everything within me. She taught me to look for the sacred in others. It fit for me - all God created is good - and it is we humans that often mess it up out of ignorance or self interest.
October 21, 2014
I would say that throughout my marriage, I did lots of wifely things! Just like my mom, I cooked and sewed and cleaned the house. But, because Don worked practically around the clock, I also did things that my dad would have done. I mowed the lawn and painted the house. I also did the finances because I didn't like the way Don did them. It wasn't until I began working full time after the children were mostly grown that I hired someone to help clean for me. I'm not saying this to pat myself on the back -- but merely to state that what needed to get done around the house mostly was done by me with a little help from Don when he was available. And, during vacations when he was away from work, we chose to take our children and run away to Yosemite and places where we could both just relax and rejuvenate ourselves.
All of this said, one of the things I simply cannot do is to fix anything. So, those things were left for my husband when he had a moment here or there. Whether it be computer problems or plumbing, things that broke or things to be constructed for birthday or Christmas presents, he needed to be on hand for the project. I can't tell you how many times we put toys together at 2:00 a.m. on Christmas Eve after the midnight service at church -- or the number of times I read instructions while his head was under the sink fixing a leak.
Perhaps that is why I loved remodeling my house and having all those handymen around for so long. My wonderful contractor still drops by now and then to see how everything is working. When something breaks I begin feeling a bit panicky because I keep thinking I ought to be able to fix simple things without always paying someone to come to my rescue.
All this is preamble to the fact that I have been exceedingly proud of myself for the past few weeks. A light fixture broke in the basement bathroom and I didn't know what to do. But, Charles suggested that I get the part that broke from Hardware Sales. I then examined the twin fixture and figured out what to do with the part. After trying a variety of ways to extract it from the fixture when I installed it incorrectly, I finally figured it out. Remember, these things are not intuitive for me. Then, two lights blew out of my living room lamp, and I had to take it apart to extract the bulbs and, after another trip to my favorite hardware store, I finally got the bulbs in correctly and it actually worked! I have also fixed my kitchen faucet and I've just finished scraping lots of paint off of my dining room ceiling. Oh yes, I also figured out what was wrong with my VCR player. It has been a very productive week.
Now, these things I've done are really, really simple for many people. My daughter, Jeni, could do all of them in 10 minutes with her eyes closed. She took a broken burner on our stove apart when she was a young teen, fixed the problem, and put all the many parts back together without even a schematic to figure out where they went. I was aghast! When James was around four or five, I got a three-dimension puzzle for us to do. While I was trying to figure out the instructions, I looked up and he had already put it together. Nico builds Lego projects designed for much older children. I am simply not mechanical, nor do I see relationships between objects. It is my saving grace that I 'm attuned to relationships between humans.
I guess we all have our talents. But, I also have a great deal of extra pride this week for tackling some projects that would normally be beyond my ability. I guess you are never to old to learn new tricks.
October 11, 2014
The Amazing Youth
I have been so heartened by observing the special youth in the news this week. This morning I listened to the Nobel Acceptance Speech by Mahala Yousafzai, the seventeen year old Pakastani who has been speaking out about the rights of women to be educated in her country and around the world. I saw her first on the John Stewart show and was very impressed. What an amazing journey for one so young -- and what intelligence and bravery in the face of those who are threatened by her message and tried to assassinate her making it impossible for her family to return to their homeland.
I also listened this past week to Emma Watson, the beautiful young woman who plays Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter films, as she appeared before the United Nations as the Women's Goodwill Ambassador. Her speech on gender equality was moving and smart -- not surprising since she is a recent graduate from Brown University. It is impressive that she continued her education while she was growing up in the wake of such fortune and is now using her fame for some larger world cause. It certainly speaks well of her.
On Sunday I watched Bellingham High School student, Lucy Evans, speak to a group about her decision last spring to organize a march of BHS youth stand up against gun violence. She led over 100 students through the town and spoke to the mayor and politicians about the absurdity of the lack of appropriate gun laws and the right of youth to go to school without fearing that they may be shot by some person who should never have been able to buy guns in the first place. She reminded the American politicians that it is their job to protect their citizens. She was eloquent and very impressive.
Last night I was at the Pickford Theater for a special showing of "The Skeleton Twins" written and produced by Craig Johnson who grew up and was nurtured in our church and in our town. It is a sensitive and bittersweet film about a brother and sister who had a difficult youth and were struggling with their lives separate from each other until they meet once again and poignantly remember what family is all about. The showing was a benefit for Children's Literacy and Craig happily answered questions about the making of this, his second film. Craig has been all over the world talking about his film, but this particular audience was filled with friends and family who watched him grow up and pursue his dream which began in our church as part of the Joy Jesters mime group, in elementary school when he played a 6th grade MacBeth, in high school with Terry Grimes (an amazing drama teacher), in the Bellingham Theater Guild, in the University of Washington and Seattle theater, and finally to NY where he received a Masters' Degree in film. Most of the people in the audience have watched his journey with love and can only be impressed to see such success.
As a senior citizen, I am heartened by these young people who are speaking up for the less fortunate and spreading the good news whether it be the need for our citizens to insist on equal rights for others or reminding us all that relationships matter. At church lately, I witnessed Sarah, an impressive young woman, lead our very diverse search committee to the wonderful conclusion to call a new pastor (another impressive young woman) to our church. And, I shed tears while another spoke from the pulpit during a stewardship talk and bravely admit she found our church family when she was very depressed, and it was a lifeline for her. She was inviting others to share in the good news by giving our resources to an amazing community.
I think I can honestly say, with people of this caliber taking their turn to lead our town, our state, our country, and our world, we have nothing to worry about.
October 1, 2014
Back to My Faith Journey - The College Years
If you read this blog, you may remember that some time ago I began writing about my journey of faith. The first two installments included my time spent as a child in the Episcopal Church and some musings about attending the Mormon Church with my neighbors and friends. This installment focuses on the journey into the wider world of college.
I have always loved school, but college was the best of all once I found my stride. Two important events happened during my two years at Pasadena City College. The first was rediscovering my love of choral music and the second was finding a class that prodded my intellectual growth. I loved choir in Jr. High, and I played the piano in high school in a group called the "Live Five" with four friends including my best pal, vocalist Darla Daret, who sang on television with Bob Mills and Cliffie Stone. At PCC, a friend dragged me to the choir that changed my life. The teacher, Dave Thorsen, was a phenomenal director and mentor, and the reason I subsequently went to Occidental College to study with the famous conductor, Howard Swan.
It was an Intro to Philosophy class where, on day one, we examined the nature of existence. How did we know that the chair we were sitting on was actually real? How did we know for sure that we even existed? That got my attention! This abstract thinking was completely new to my brain and absolutely fascinating. No wonder I felt like a pest in Mormon Sunday School when there were bigger questions to conquer.
When I got to Oxy, I enrolled in the church history class that my Presbyterian boss, the secretary of the music department, thought was the devil incarnate because students came out of it questioning their faith. I absolutely ate up the class. I knew from the moment I went to that little Episcopal Church when I was little that I had a deep affinity for religion, but I knew little about theology or the beginnings of Christianity. This is probably a good place to interject that singing beautiful sacred music in two stellar college choirs was one of the best introductions to Biblical texts that I could ever have.
It was illuminating to find that the books of the Bible were written at different times, that events don't have to be factual to be true, that the Bible was filled with stories, metaphors, poetry, literature all gathered together from people who lived and believed in their own ways. Instead of ruining my simple faith, it deepened it, because I could finally put my heart and my head in the same place and not ignore one at the expense of the other. What an illumination that church history class was to me, and what power it had in my life. How fascinating that even in the holiest of books for the Christian Church, people had a variety of experiences and different points of view.
Theodore Gill, the president of San Anselmo Theological Seminary spoke eloquently at my college graduation. He remarked that although we were celebrating the completion of our college years, we were just beginning our learning process. College taught us how to learn and should have instilled the hunger and quest for further knowledge. As we continued to expose ourselves to different ideas, different points of view, and different worlds we would gain real wisdom.
These formative intellectual experiences were the foundation upon which I built all my later systems of religious belief. I'd like to say here that in learning to sift through what was important to me, how various theological ideas fit my experience and my temperament, in no way diminished my respect for those who believed differently. One thing college taught me is that people form their belief systems out of a multitude of experience. I personally have difficulty believing in absolutes. The more I expose myself to new ideas, the more I change my original premises.
I find it difficult to believe that all the truth in the world might reside in one particular basket. What connects me to my Mormon friends, or my Presbyterian boss, or my Buddhist neighbors, or atheists, or physicists, or philosophers or whomever is that we're all curious for a deeper understanding of who we are and why we exist. I can understand when some believe so firmly in their own answers that they want others to embrace them too. But, as you can see, that point of view only makes me more resistant.
September 29, 2014
Goodbye Summer, Hello Fall
I can see that I have ignored this blog for quite some time. I don't remember such a glorious summer where I have done absolutely nothing of any importance other than my trip to England and finally, last week, my annual trip to Ashland, Oregon, to see plays with friends. Four of us took the trek down I-5 stopping in Portland at the wonderful Powell's Books, dinner at Cafe Mingo, overnight in Salem, and into Medford Airport to pick up a friend who had flown down. Then, on to the wonderful Rogue Creamery cheese and wine shop to pick up snacks before the short hop into Ashland and our beautiful flat we rent each year.
Barb and I saw six plays in four days, and the other three saw from three to four plays. We all took a wonderful backstage tour. The Oregon Shakespeare Festival, a true repertory, runs several plays at a time -- often three using the same stage. Their actors may be in two plays each day and understudy a third. -- only some of them Shakespeare. They have a variety of offerings including one musical. Barb and I saw two comedies (Two Gentlemen From Verona and A Comedy of Errors), a new rendition of Madeleine L'Engle's "A Wrinkle in Time," the sequel to the play All the Way (that we saw two year's ago and that won the Tony's this year) The Great Society, a Groucho Marx play, Cocoanuts, and a contemporary play about cyberspace, Water By the Spoonful. All were quite wonderful. The joy of going to Ashland (I'm sure I've mentioned before) is seeing such high quality work time after time. Even if you don't agree with the way they have decided to stage a play, you cannot fault the performances.
We've had an exciting time at church. Our candidate for senior pastor was here for several days meeting people, answering questions, and generally preparing to preach her sermon. I was really impressed and pleased with our search committee. I loved her answers to all the questions asked during a lunch meeting on Friday, and was pleased that we extended her a call yesterday after she preached. She will be here in January. She has gone home to give her church her resignation, be with them for a time, and then take a month off between calls.
I have turned into a boarding house. Katie, of course, has stayed with me for several years. She is a voice teacher at the University and lives in Seattle where she teaches at Cornish and sings all over the state for a variety of orchestras and other gigs. She is in Bellingham from Monday through Wednesday. Jeni and Ron's friends, the Lintons, have a son finishing his degree in Geology this quarter and needed a place to stay. So, Peter has moved into my attic room for the duration. A nice lad. I wasn't looking for another roommate, but three months will go by quickly. Although I may pay him to stay on since he cleans the kitchen and is very quiet. It does ease the missing of James to have a big, strapping, lad on the premises.
James is launched into St. Olaf's College in Minnesota having a grand old time. He is surprising us by 1) boxing, 2) sewing costumes for the drama department, and 3) hosting a radio show. I don't know much more about these events and look forward to hearing about his experiences. Allie is living with several friends just up the street in a huge house. She has found a job greeting people at "The Little Cheerful" cafe and taking three classes at Western. Nicole is coming up in two weeks to stay with me and take the SAT -- she and Ron are going to go look at colleges for next year. Can my three oldest grandchildren really by that old? I don't feel old myself (most days).
The two little boys are growing too with Nico in second grade and Lionel finishing his last year in preschool. Not much more to recap -- I'm off to continue scraping paint from my dining room that got slopped over at one time. I'm on my third dishwasher full of glasses from last night's book group here. Life is great, weather is so so, leaves are beginning to turn into fall colors, and that's what news is like from Bellingham, Washington.
August 9, 2014
I'm so caught between these gloriously beautiful days which call for being outside and relaxing, that I am feeling very guilty for all the household chores that are not getting done. This weighs on me, so on Thursday I simply took off for Seattle and wandered around University Village and did some therapeutic shopping.
I've been on the lookout for the perfect pepper grinder for several years. After hearing a Cook's Magazine podcast, I decided to go to Crate and Barrel to purchase the one that came out on top in their product testing. Unfortunately, C&B were out of the product, but I still bought it and they will send it to me free of charge. Then, I wandered the Apple Store and Anthropology and Williams Sonoma before crossing over to see what stores are in the new huge parking structure. After a few hours of meandering through stores, enjoying a frozen yogurt and then, later, an ice tea (it was a hot day), I finally headed up to Martin and Christine's friend's restaurant, Pair, where I met them and we all enjoyed a simply wonderful small plates dinner. Driving home, I reflected how getting away just one afternoon was so very enjoyable and refreshing. It is what I miss mostly about Don being gone -- I'm not as apt to take these little diversions on my own.
I've been diligent in walking down at Boulevard Park while listening to Podcast. James, who is going away to college very soon, has been in and out of my house with the occasional all nighter since it is easier access to his girlfriend who lives in town rather than in the county like he does. It's great to see him run in and out with "Hi grandma." Yesterday, I even got his girlfriend, Sierra, to join with me in talking him into mowing my lawn. Yay for women power!
Last night I saw the new Helen Mirren movie which was delightful. I am definitely into culinary pursuits lately -- in podcasts, in movies (I also saw Chef), in cooking (my latest some apricot jam), in buying a new Ottolenghi cookbook, and meeting my birthday group at Ciao Thyme for lunch. All this while trying to be true to Weight Watchers. Oh my! Some of my habits do not particularly go together.
So, this is a blog about almost nothing. I do have to get to so many of my unfinished projects, but this is what incessant sun in Washington does do the soul. It has been glorious walking over the water each day with the warmth surrounding you. All of Bellingham is outside these days.
Now I am off to meet Charles at the Pickford -- we're going to see an old Charlie Chaplin movie. I do love summertime!
July 22, 2014
Jet lag is very strange. When I went to Hong Kong, and lately England, I was a bit weary in the first few days -- but I adjusted very well. I was able to go about daily business with some energy and enthusiasm -- perhaps it was because I was in a foreign country and excited to be there.
However, both coming home from Hong Kong, and now England, I have had a much more difficult time. I slept the first night because I had been up about 20 hours with only a very short nap before going back to bed. I even made it to my book group Saturday night after that nice sleep. But that ended that.
The next few nights I woke up every hour or so, and I was super groggy and felt totally off during the day. I accomplished very little except for emptying my suitcases, going to the market for some food after eating three meals of peanut butter and toast, and watering the garden. I did run over to church Monday morning to help Barb Storms count the offering. Thankfully, it was very small, or I would probably have made multiple mistakes. We took care of it in a short while, and I was back home to brood on my lack of any physical strength.
It didn't help that after being very healthy and energetic in England, they had a heat wave and I acquired a terrible rash on my lower legs while going through museums and enjoying our last day in London. It didn't itch and it didn't hurt, but it looked gross. It has taken several days to fade away but it, also, took its toll.
Good news at last -- Last night I went to bed at 8:00 after falling asleep catching up on programs like Endeavor (I'll have to rewatch it), and I slept completely through to 3:30 a.m. and then from about 4:15 to 8:00 a.m.. Welcome back to the land of the living!
I know this is a small price to pay for a lovely vacation in a faraway land. But, I am such an impatient person that I want to right the ship immediately. It takes a great deal of talking to myself to promise just to relax and let the process develop. I want to pick up the projects that I left when I traveled, clean the house, get into my ignored garden, finish painting the dining room, and feel like I have accomplished something.
I have made a new rule. I cannot worry about anything until I am home for one week. I guess I'll have time to catch up on my saved television programs and finish reading a novel. I'll have to pretend that I'm still on vacation. I often wonder when I had time to work.
At least I'm not going to get a heat rash in Bellingham these days -- and I won't have to water my garden for a few days. I can be grateful for small favors.
July 20, 2014
Here are some final musings about visiting England:
I have always wanted to go to England, but found my travels to be directed elsewhere. And, as wonderful as those have been, my dream has always been to find a little cottage somewhere in England, stay for at least a month, and roam at will. I wanted to get acquainted with the country of my mother's birth and to discover my grandparents home, and reacquaint myself with my mother's British cousins who now live in Wales. Somehow this has never come to be -- but when Don's niece Connie wrote on Facebook that she would be spending her leave from the Peace Corp in London and invited anyone to join her, I simply responded, "Yes." Several things led to this decision -- I was tired of trying to fashion the perfect England visit in my head, and I had lots of air miles on my Chase card that allowed me to buy a very inexpensive ticket. My thought was, "Why not go and get acquainted with the place?" And, that was my goal.
Goal accomplished! The chance to be in London for four days, travel to another very colorful city of Bath, and to visit with a good friend in West Sussex and see a real castle in a charming, boutique town was the dessert after a lovely meal. This was a whirlwind trip -- if not the travel of my dreams. When I was in Singapore and Hong Kong with Dani and Charles, I lived in their residence and went sightseeing at leisure. In a small way, compared to my kids, I was able to soak up the culture while living in a foreign neighborhood and having a feel for how people lived. Both those countries were unique and memorable -- and I would go back to either in a heartbeat although Singapore was definitely my favorite.
I would still like to go back to England for an extended stay and have the leisure to relax more and to see so many other places and sights. However, I am thrilled to get a taste of the country after so many years of dreaming about it. I loved London -- and Dani was right when she said that staying in Bloomsbury near Russell Square was a great central location. My bucket list was mostly filled -- from seeing Westminster Abbey, several museums, some gardens, eating at famous places, learning the fantastic tube and train system, seeing such famous places as Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus, Notting Hill, Charing Cross Road, going to Harrods, going to real British pubs, traveling through Victoria and Paddington Stations -- I got acquainted with so many of the things that I've read about, thought about, dreamed about. Then, going to Bath and Arundel -- both quaint in their own ways -- seeing Roman ruins and a real castle was icing on the cake.
There are certainly many things I did not see or do. But, that was ok. I was pleased with the places we stayed. All of them were fairly modest, but friendly and certainly adequate for all our needs. Our place in Bath was the nicest and the Shakespeare in London for our final day was the least comfortable -- but all served full breakfasts and all were friendly and very helpful to tourists. We also met several interesting people while dining -- especially the woman from USC who was now an art dealer in London and talked art with us after our visit to the Courtauld Gallery. Her husband was Swiss and a financier. Then there was the hostess of a restaurant who was from South Africa and had returned the night before from a safari. Those kinds of experiences enhance a trip because they are unforgettable.
So, in retrospect, I am very glad I finally dipped my toe into the Thames (so to speak). It just whetted my appetite for more. I have some relatives to discover. I chose tea with Cindy and her girls and visiting Hope over traveling to Wales to find cousins -- and that is fine. I enjoyed having my niece assist my travels since she has been all over the world. She probably made some different choices with a more elderly companion, and I thank her for that. I enjoyed hearing all about her adventure in Moldova. She will be there one more year.
All in all -- it was a winning experience. I am grateful beyond words.
And, For Martin
This is for Martin who highly suggested that I take the boat ride on the Thames that travels between the two Tate Galleries. Thank you, Martin, for the lovely experience!
The starting place -- Tate Britain
Views from the boat
The View From Tate Modern -- We Walked Across That Bridge, Martin!
Living Proof! It was An Amazingly Gorgeous Day! A London Heat Wave.
Britain Between Arundel and London
This is for my sister who, like me, has her roots in England but has never visited. These are glimpses of England from the window of the train traveling between Arundel and London -- just for fun!