Sunday, December 21, 2014

El Santuario de Chamayo and Christmas Miracles

Tucked away in a quiet corner of Chamayo, New Mexico, stands the El Santuario de Chimayo Catholic Church.  Built in 1816, it is one of New Mexico's treasures.

Built of adobe with a bell tower on each side, the chapel is 60 feet long and 24 feet wide, with walls more than three feet thick. You enter through the  adobe courtyard, after first walking up a gravel path with cotton wood trees on the right side and a wire fence on the left.  On the fence are twisted many handmade crosses and many bits of paper with humble requests, messages in spiritual bottles.

With many retablos and other folk art lining the walls on both sides of the chapel, it is a mini art museum of Mexican art glorifying God and the many saints that are part of the Catholic religion.

The church is a glimpse of the past, but the main attraction for many is the "miracle dirt."  Clay has been known through the centuries for its healing powers, and in a small side room off the pacito, or a pit containing "miracle dirt."  Yes, they do replenish the dirt from the nearby hills and one can purchase a small container or use your own to scoop up a bit of "miracle dirt" to take home.  The dirt is believed to be blessed and is used to rub on troubled parts of ones body.  In an adjacent room are crutches and testimonials of those who ascribe  their healing to the miracle dirt.  There is a legend concerning the miracles of its origin.

The power of belief is strong and walking through the church there is a sense of peace and tranquility.

May you have a peaceful and healthy 2015 and perhaps experience a miracle or two of your own.  And a special wish for peace for my Ukrainian friends.

Charles Sargent. photographer

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Sainsbury Official Xmas Ad, 2014

Be prepared to shed a few quiet tears.  This puts things in the right perspective for me.  Thank you to my good friend for emailing this to me.  I don't know if I could have found it on my own.

If only. . . .

The You tube connection has links to the making of this video and they are also worthwhile.

May there be Peace on Earth, but sometimes it is so difficult.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Drugs, the good, the bad and the ugly

Having had a knee replacement 28 days ago, I have had several "A ha"moments since.  I am two people, one who is doing well for the the surgery part, am now at a 120 degree bend, so that is very good.  And the other part, being in drug withdrawal from Tramadol.  I am one of those people who are extremely sensitive to any and all drugs, cannot tolerate any drugs, vertigo, etc. etc.  So, this has made my recovery harder.

Tramadol is horrible for me although it was the only drug I could use at the beginning for pain control.  It is not supposed to be an opiate but they really don't know how it works.

So now it is the problem of the withdrawal which is not fun as you are trying to take less and less and you have to be careful to take it with food.  Vertigo, crying jags, pain, etc.  

But for the aha moment.  I know how important drugs are and how life-saving they can be.  Years ago, I had TB and two new drugs had come on the market, INH and PAS and because I could take them, I was negative within a month, but unfortunately had to have surgery later and still had to spend a year in a sanitarium as the protocol was both old and new.

Think of the anti-malarial drugs and so many others that have saved lives.  But there is a down-side and you have to be careful. I also think about those who have cancer and have to endure the chemotherapy which is so very, very difficult.

So, I am not complaining, but learning every day and many of us are having knee replacements these days, just click on TKR on your IPhone and you will see a great deal of information from everywhere, some is helpful.

The I Phone is a godsend for me.  During the night when things are not going well, there is the You Tube and wonderful music.  I am an opera fan and have been listening to Anna Netrebko and others and the music helps.  But whatever your preference, music is there and it does "soothe the savage beast," in this case, my nemesis, Tramadol.

I am trying to treasure the small moments and know that I will get better eventually.  Reading my favorite blogs also helps, and watching Doc Martin.

Monday, November 24, 2014

An Ode to My Right Knee

This Ode seems appropriate as I recently had a partial knee replacement and wanted to write something witty and clever about the knee, but found this on the Internet instead.  Rita Dove who was our Poet Laureate from 1993-1995 wrote this perfect ode. An Ode to My Right Knee. VQR online

Hard to blog after surgery, but Thanksgiving seems so appropriate to be thankful for the wonderful surgeon and support staff at Kaiser, here in Colorado and my wonderful family, especially my sister who came here to cook for my hubby and drive him to the hospital and generally oversee the first few days of my stay at the hospital.  Our neighbors came over with full course dinners.  We are so lucky and grateful. My son Bret and his wife will bring over Thanksgiving dinner and we will be together that day.

I had a partial knee replacement which is less stressful than a full knee replacement, but not "a walk in the park."  My goal, among others, is to dance at my grandsons' weddings, and two being pre-teens and the other two boys are in high school, so there is a gap of years to practice.  I still have some living to do, and with God's grace, I will.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving in whatever form it takes all over the world and savor the small moments.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Glenn Gould visits the Soviet Union

Glenn Gould's Statue in Toronto, Canada

Glenn Gould, pianist extraordinaire

There was an interesting You Tube I stumbled across a few days ago.  I had been playing a few You Tube selections of operas, master classes, and other musical selections that are available, and I found this film of Glenn Gould and his visit to Moscow in  1957.    
This was at the height of the Cold War and there was a slight thaw as far as allowing Westerners some access.  Mr. Gould's agent thought it might help Glenn's career to do something a little different and knowing that the Russians love classical music, even though they were not permitted to hear much "Western" music like Bach, for instance (too religious), Mr. Gould was allowed to come and perform. He was the first concert pianist from North America to be invited to play behind the Iron Curtain

Just a bit of background.  Glenn Gould, a Canadian,  was a genius, but even though he was a loner, not everyone remembers him that way, he could be funny and playful, but the piano was everything, and although he did perform in public, later on in his life he preferred  to record alone in a studio.  His "Bach's Goldberg Variations" is the most famous of his recordings.  The technique, everything is unique.  He sat on a hard backed chair, with his hands below the keys and somehow as he played this way, he created something technically amazing and quite beautiful.

I do not play the piano and cannot fully appreciate what Mr. Gould does, but even if you are not a classical music lover, you might enjoy watching the You Tube clip of his visit to the Soviet Union.  

He begins his concert in the Grand Hall of the Moscow Conservatory with only a half filled hall.  Then something extraordinary happens, people begin rushing out to the telephones in the lobby to urge their friends to hear this pianist play music they had not been permitted to hear before.  The film shows people running to the theater.  There was a long intermission and then the hall was packed.  He became a kind of rock star during his stay as he gave lectures and introduced the Soviets to the music of composers that had been forbidden. The film is in English with French sub-titles.  There is much more on the internet about this reclusive, unusual musician.

He died in 1982, just 50 years old.  

Glenn Gould:  A Russian Journey  (You Tube, but cannot find anyone to thank for being able to use this)

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

El Dia de los Muertos, 2014

Part of apron fabric--"auto
El Dia de los Muertos, or The Day of the Dead, is a commemorative holiday celebrated in Mexico and other Latin countries, but especially in Mexico on November 1 and 2nd.  This day honors the dead, not with sadness and morbidity, but with food, flowers and remembrances. I first learned of this holiday when I was teaching high school in Los Angeles and this is  how a student of mine explained it.  "Mrs. R, it's boring being dead and once a year we remember my grandfather by giving him a little party.  We make an altar with foods he liked,  his special beer, with photos of us, with flowers and take it to the cemetery.  We light candles and remember my grandfather." 

 To celebrate, sugar skull candies are made and a special bread, Pan Muerto.  Figures are created to represent the dead doing everyday things, like playing marimbas, being in a mariachi band, and many other activities,  but always with a skull face.  The tradition says that on November 1st and  second, the heavens open and the souls of the dead return to earth to connect with their relatives. Not  a bad way to remember those we loved. And. . .my thanks to Vanessa Portillo who told me the story of her grandfather.  I am sending her good wishes through cyberspace.  

This is a copy of the first part of a blog post I wrote last year and a link to the creative creations of El dia de Los Muertos And. . .I bought this apron in Santa Fe this past summer and could not resist illustrating this post with a section of the fabric.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Bless the Beasts and the Children

Amid the sad, horrific stories coming from Africa, the Ebola crisis and others, there are a group of people doing something, and that is trying to save the African Elephant.  The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya, is one organization.  Their mission is to rescue the baby elephants that have been left motherless when their mothers are killed by poachers.  They also rescue and rehabilitate rhinos, other wildlife and attempt to stop poaching by various means.

I received, as a gift, a baby elephant, ZIWA, who was adopted for me by my sister.  Of course I know I am one of many adopters who are contributing to ZIWA'S care among others, but that is fine.  It helps those of us who contribute to our special causes to read a story or see a picture, even though we understand that we are essentially contributing to the whole trust.  Read ZIWA's story if you can.  Poor baby, although quite big now was not thriving in the relocation area and had to be air lifted back to Nairobi just in time before he grew too big to be shipped back in a small plane.  He is doing better, perhaps he missed "home."

And you may ask, why worry about animals when there is so much need in other areas in Africa?  I see this as the big picture.  If we can, we need to be concerned about all our creatures, not just the two-legged variety.  And where there is cruelty in one area, it is certain that there is cruelty in another.  David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is worth a look.  (this link should work)

 Elephants financially worth 76 times more alive than dead! - 10/10/2014 

Ziwa back in Nairobi
Ziwa, looking very thin
This article explains this in detail for those who say, "What does it matter.?"
and is on the web site.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Wolves are Underappreciated

Wolves are a crucial part of the wilderness life-cycle and in this amazing You Tube video, you can see what impact removing and then re-instating wolves had in Yellowstone Park.

My childhood picture of wolves was Little Red Riding Hood and The Three Little Pigs, and in some of the Russian fairy tales I heard when I was little--wolves were frightening creatures who carried away and ate little children and disappeared into dark woods.

I hope that you can access this video to see what happens when there is a balance in nature and what happens when that balance is disrupted.

How Wolves Change Rivers

Thank you to "Sustainable Man" and others who made this video.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Eleanor Roosevelt and the Moroccan Jews

These two days are the celebration of Rosh Hoshana and in commemoration of this Jewish New Year, I thought this little known story about Eleanor Roosevelt would be appropriate.

Here in the United States, we have had the interesting television documentary: Ken Burns' "The Roosevelts"  about Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and their families.  Mr. Burns put together a compelling story about the most influential contemporary families in 20th c. American history.  They were the most admired and hated public figures in America.

Eleanor did so much in her life to help others both before and after her husband died.  Her enemies said it was all political, but I don't think so.  Her question of many she met, either in hospitals or other countries where she could see a need, was:  "What can I do to help?"  Because she was married to Franklin Roosevelt, she had many contacts, but many of these contacts were through her own efforts.

In 1956, Judge Justine Wise Polier came to her with the plight of 10,000 Jews who had reached Casablanca in order to go to Israel but were prevented from leaving.  They were living in camps in very poor conditions.  The World Jewish Congress, who sponsored the exodus, thought the Sultan of Morocco supported this effort, but he did not cooperate and halted the exodus.

Mrs. Roosevelt had just received the ambassador from the newly independent Morocco. He had come to Hyde Park to lay a wreath on FDR's grave and had come as a representative of the Sultan's to convey his deep gratitude for FDR's advice on North Africa in 1943 which counseled him to protect Morocco's underground waters from oil exploration after the war (WW II).  The Sultan's emissary said because of FDR's kindness and concern, the Sultan would continue to allow US air bases in Morocco.

This was perfect timing for Mrs. Roosevelt and she wrote the Sultan the following letter, July 31, 1956:

"Your Majesty:
I wish to acknowledge your kind message transmitted to me through your representative."  She goes on to say that FDR had often told her of his hopes that some day, much of the dessert land in Morocco would be reclaimed through use of water, but not to give away his oil rights as he would need the income this would bring to reclaim Moroccan land.  

She continued by saying how much FDR was interested in improving the lot of poor people all over the world, etc.  And then after elaborating on this, which is really her philosophy, she asked if he would consider releasing those 10, 000 to be able to live in Israel where they could have a better way of life, that Morocco could serve as an example to show the world they have an interest in helping unfortunate people improve themselves and relieve Morocco of the burden of caring for them.

Within a few days of receiving the letter, those Jews of Morocco were released to go to Israel.

I do understand all of the unsaid implications and that FDR did not do all that he could during WW II to help the Jews.  But for Eleanor, it was results that mattered and here it was, her direct intervention that did help.

From: Eleanor, the Years Alone by Joseph P. Lash. Appendix B:  Mrs. Rooselvelt and the Sultan of Morocco.  pp. 338-339.  W.W, Norton and Company. 1972.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

My Estonian Grandmother--found!

Through the wonders of the Internet and my sister's research through a genealogy service called Geni, we found my grandmother, my father's mother and more information about my family.

My grandmother's name is: Emielie Natalie Kullerkupp, born in Estonia, as was her husband Anton P. Kullerkupp.  My father's name was Albert Allan Kullerkupp and he was born in Moscow in 1902.  There are many, many, Kullerkupps in Estonia and we are finding many relatives through my grandmother's siblings.
Notice how much was not correct, father not Austrian, but Estonian. Names were close, but not accurate, and more.
  This was written on December 7, 2013

Christmas, more than other holidays, brings on so much nostalgia, especially memories of our parents.  My sister and I lost our parents when we were 19, and 26 respectively.  They died within a year and a half of each other.  Although we knew quite a bit about our mother's background, we knew very little about my father's.

I noticed I have a few Estonian readers of this blog and I thought I would write what little I know about my Estonian grandmother.  

When emigres came to the United States, especially in the late 20's, early 30's, many of them wanted to keep their past secret for many reasons: to avoid reprisals, wanting to start fresh, and with new names, after cutting off all ties with regimes that were at the very least, not friendly.

I think my grandmother's name was Mildred or Marina and her last name I heard was Neurman, but I believe she marred again, so this was not my father's last name.  Her last name could have been Kueller.

She was born in Estonia in 1886 and married an Austrian.  They were divorced when my father was five and I think my father went to live with his father who lived in Moscow.  And perhaps he lived part of the time with my grandmother as well.  But I do know he went to school in Moscow, a gymnasium, they were called.  My grandfather had something to do with the Trans-Siberian railway; we have few real facts.  My father changed his name before I was born to Allan French, but his first name was Alexander.

Later, much later, after the Russian Revolution, and a few intervening years spent in Paris, my father came to the United States.  His mother followed later; the 1930 US census, lists her as living in New York with my mother and father.  I do remember that we were told she died of cancer in New York City. It was interesting as he changed my grandmother's name to Millie French.

I know this photograph was taken in Parnu, Estonia, and from the dress, perhaps in 1918 or when dresses were still long, but shoes and hose showed.

I have no photos of my grandfather as his picture was cut out of the few family photos we have.

So, the mystery remains and will probably remain.  I send her picture out in cyberspace in memory of a grandmother my sister and I never knew.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Art of the Epigraph

Ah, the art of the epigraph, that tantalizing bit of writing that is used by many authors to introduce their story, not always fiction.  What is interesting about these epigraphs, is that you are left with a puzzle, why did the authors choose those specific words?  And, as you read their words the authors' intentions are not always clear.

Any bit of writing is used--from the Bible, songs, poetry, politics, opera, Shakespeare and sometimes it is made up by the author to appear to be some well-known writing, but the epigraph is fiction as well, as F. Scott Fitzgerald's introduction to The Great Gatsby written by "Thomas Park D'Invilliers, who was not a poet, as Fitzgerald implied, but a character from another of his novels.

One of my favorites, and there are many, is from Ernest Hemingway in his novel, The Snows of Kilimanjaro,
Kilimanjaro is a snow covered mountain 19,710 feet high, and it is said to be the highest mountain in Africa. Its western summit is called the Masai “Nghe Nghe”, the House of God. Close to the western summit there is the dried and frozen carcass of a leopard. No one has explained what the leopard was seeking at that altitude. (Hemingway, Kilimanjaro, 

A line from Pablo Neruda's poetry, the famous, XX, would be a terrific epigraph to a story about unrequited love, passion, or even something dark.

"Tonight I write the saddest lines, I loved her and sometimes she loved me too."  

What is your favorite?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Pot/Marijuana legalized in Colorado--a very bad idea

Here in Colorado, my beautiful adopted state, something occurred that was not so beautiful -- the voters legalized pot.  The ramifications of this are surfacing every day.  

How did this happen?  Here in Colorado we have something called a ballot initiative, where anyone can place on the ballot a proposition as long as there are a required number of signatures. So one of the initiatives that was on the ballot was to legalize pot.  I remember thinking, this will never pass, but it did.  Why?  Follow the money, always.

There are huge profits to be made from the growers, yes we also get taxes that go to the state--somewhere.  And I am not objecting to medical marijuana which helps many with seizures and pain control, especially in cancer patients.  My mother who died of pancreatic cancer and had intense nausea and pain would have been helped.

No, I am talking about recreational marijuana.  Now it is being added to food and candy and the whole attitude is one of frivolity and being a kind of new food or wine. In Colorado, a few months ago,  one of the catering companies offered catered dinner parties where selected foods would be served that complemented marijuana--but bring your own stash. Oh so chi, chi. 

Unfortunately, the new strains of marijuana are up to five times stronger than what was available in the '60s.  In Colorado the THC levels for recreational pot is 20% or higher.  With these higher percentages, there are increased health risks.  At least two deaths in Colorado are attributed to marijuana which was consumed in edible form.  One man shot his wife after eating marijuana candy, and the other committed suicide after consuming cookies containing large amounts of marijuana.

The worst effect is that teenagers who become addicted consuming the "new" pot affect their IQ and cause irreversible damage to their brain.  The brains of teenagers are still developing so this is a real risk; their adulthood will be seriously impaired as they become addicted.

But Americans do not see this as a public health menace which it is.  There is so much misinformation and a disconnect between public opinion and science. In March a Wall Street Journal and NBC poll, Americans viewed sugar as more dangerous than marijuana.

When a society cares more about its pleasures than its children, we are in trouble.

Reference:  Wall Street Journal, "Legal Pot is a Menace." August 14, 2014

Monday, August 4, 2014

Touch and Memory

Bonds between people and animals have always fascinated me, dogs, cats, elephants and other mammals, but fish or eels?  No.  A friend sent me this You Tube video of a woman diver and I think, a Moray eel.  How could this be I thought as I watched the video.  Did she attract the eel by the small fish? I could see the creature eat the fish she had but to wind itself around her?  She was brave to wait and see what would happen--I would have been gone!

Then I thought of the two words, touch and memory.  The eel would have liked to be touched and stroked and his/her memory would have had to remember the  many months from one encounter to another.

Since it is still summer and some of you will be traveling to those watery places and perhaps doing a bit of diving.  And I would advise you--don't try this, just enjoy the video and contemplate the encounter.  Any encounters of the strange kind that you have experienced, please share.

The You Tube video has annoying ads but go to the facebook connection and you will hear the woman diver's own words which are better, and no ads.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Why I love the UK, Part III

One more thing.  What I noticed about the Brits while living there for three months, was that they do not brag.  Not like Americans who love to tell you all about themselves and their accomplishments (and their children's) within a few minutes of meeting you.  No, the Brits consider it "poor form" to brag, not posh at all. And to me, it was refreshing.  And even the professors at King Alfred's college where I stayed, would just introduce themselves by their first name.  Later, through someone else you might find out more.  

An example of this was a student at Westgate school where I was student teaching.  The senior students at Westgate school were required to write a research paper about some aspect of Winchester history and Winchester overflows with history, everything from very early times to the time when it was the capital of England, to Jane Austin's home to the famous Winchester Cathedral.  They were allowed to leave the campus during school hours to do this.  One student decided to study the hill fort, St. Catherine's Hill, which overlooks the city.

He wrote a paper in which he figured out and measured where the support structures had been.  His paper was later published in a prestigious journal and although I could tell that the teacher who told me this was very proud of the student, this was what he said, "The lad was quite clever."  "Quite clever" was the ultimate compliment. 

Now, the caveat--I understand that with social media, which is all about bragging (sharing), that has changed a bit, with Brits enjoying sharing their travels on Facebook, etc.  So much of this is cultural, and culture does change.
And I do like to hear/read about other's travels and experiences--so to me that is not bragging but sharing information and a way to learn.  So, it's "tell me what you are doing, where you have been, what are you reading?"

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Water Ski with the Dolphins: a break from blogging

Do you think about blog topics you could write about while going about your daily routine?  I thought I would give you a break with this You Tube video of California and water skiing with dolphins--what an experience!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Why I love the UK Part II

It is always interesting to step into another culture (not all of them however), to see if you can adjust, learn something, and be able to look back with good memories.

The biggest challenge for me was to teach in a system in which I did not grow up.  Sometime I will go into the teaching experience itself, but first. . .

Winchester College--I always wanted to see what the public schools were like in England, Eaton, Harrow and Winchester are the top three, and as the headmaster said while he showed me around, "Mrs., R., when one goes to Winchester College, his future is assured."  

One sunny Saturday morning, I walked to Winchester College, where I had been given an invitation to "observe," thanks to my professors at King Alfred's college where I had been staying as a student teacher. 

Winchester College was created by William of Wykehan, Bishop of Winchester in 1323.  "Amazing" I thought, as I stepped through the gate and was greeted by the headmaster. What follows is from my handwritten journal entry of that day as I was taken to the classroom, introduced to the teacher, while taking in the historic atmosphere all around.  

Saturday, 7th of November.

The class, a British history class, taught by a Mr. Peter Roberts, was a delight.  Fifteen eager, intelligent, 13-year-old boys, (two were scholars and wore their black robes, the others wore jackets and ties) studying history in a creative and independent way using primary sources to write short research papers and write speeches.  The speeches were the best part for me, as I was able to watch these future M.P's (?) give their presentations: "You are a native tribal chieftain in Britain during the Roman occupation--argue against the occupation."  Argue they did with logic and much passion.  Fellow "chieftains" questioned the speaker after each speech.

Mr. Roberts asked two of the boys to show me their notebooks which they did as they courteously explained their work.

Additional note:  Roberts is also this class's religion teacher.  An assignment that left the class thinking about if they should have any spare time was: " How do you find Joseph a human character?"

Yes, I understand that what I saw was an elitist system, boys only, at that time.  And very expensive for the parents, except for the scholarship boys who had their education paid for by the college.  And add the class system in the UK. But I am appalled by our congressmen sometimes at their inability to argue coherently, to speak with clarity, to be persuasive without name-calling.  Not just our congressmen, by the way.  And of course this post could lead into our educational system here in this country, politics, political correctness, etc.  But I wanted to share this memory I had of a special time in my life.  If you connect to the website, you can read the College's history and especially the religious foundation it had and why.

And again, thank you to my husband who made my experience in the United Kingdom possible.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Why I love the U.K, Part I

Where do I start?  First, it has been awhile since I was last in the United Kingdom, but when I do think about my visits there, fond and happy memories come rushing back.  I was living in Winchester at King Alfred's college as part of a student/teacher exchange program.

Here is a partial list of the characteristics that I admired.

*  The British sense of humor is that perfect blend of intelligence and      understated wit.  

*  And when I was there, that bit of reserve that I liked.  I learned very quickly not to be so effusive, to hold back a bit, to be more formal when I first met people.

*  Yes, I liked the pomp and ceremony.  When I lived in Winchester, Princess Diana came to visit.  The whole town came out to greet her in the center of the city, where the regiment of which she was the sponsor, was lined up. She seemed shy, looked tall even with her flat shoes.  But everyone was so excited and happy to see her.

* Not bragging about oneself is another trait I admired, so different from the United States.  And the biggest complement that a student could receive was that "he was quite clever."  Here we believe in over-complementing students, thinking that they will come up to what we tell them, while in the UK it is the opposite.   

* And yet the teachers that I worked with were very supportive of the students, but quietly, in the background. Every morning there was a short staff meeting and often a student would be mentioned who was "quite fragile," and to be aware of some problem, perhaps the parents were getting a divorce, etc. 

* But in the classroom, it was all business and quite strict.

* The Brits are friendly, but in a reserved way.  My fellow students and I from the US, enjoyed the pubs, the cozy warm atmosphere, and once someone heard our accents, the questions that followed.

* The history which surprised me at every turn.  My room at the college overlooked parts of an old Roman wall which was on one side of an old cemetery.

* And now those wonderful British television productions:  "Inspector Morse," "Foyle's War,"  "Downton Abbey," and more, all done with excellent actors and production staffs.  The contemporary mystery series is terrific as well, which we see here on Public Television.  And my new favorite:  "Doc Martin."

There is more, of course, and because of my effusive American personality, I have more to say, so there will be a part II.  (History, Literature, and Architecture to follow).

One more thing:  Hurray  for the British Pound Sterling and the British resolve not to adopt the Euro.

View from  the road  down from King Alfred's College.  Part of old Roman  wall at edge of cemetery.  St. Catherine's Hill in background., an old Iron Age hill fort.,_Hampshire

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Edgar Degas and Mary Cassatt, Part II

This is a continuation of the previous post I wrote on the collaboration of Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas.  Written in response to the Washington D.C. USA, National Gallery of Art's current display of Cassatt's and Degas's paintings and letters which highlight their friendship and collaboration.

"Little Girl in a Blue Armchair"  is an example of that collaboration.  In a letter, written in 1903, Cassatt described how Degas suggested changes to the painting and even worked on the background.  The National Gallery of Art, which owns the painting and while creating the theme around the exhibition, x ray ed the work and did find that Degas did add more depth to the painting by adding light to the upper part of the work and adding a corner which leads the eye through the room.

If you can possibly connect to the National Gallery of Art with these feeble attempts of mine to be "techy," please do.  Use the Degas/Mary Cassatt link in their web site.  The colors are breathtaking and you will see paintings and drawings you have not seen before.  

In this age of instant tragic and horrific news, it helps to take a break and view the creative genius of two artists, one an American woman from Pennsylvania and a French artist, Edgar Degas.  Connect to the website, take a breath, drink a great cup of coffee or tea, or even better a glass of wine and enjoy.    

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Edgar Degas and Mary Cassatt a Collaborative Friendship, Part I

If you are fortunate enough to be in Washington, DC, the National Gallery of Art has an interesting exhibit for all you admirers of Degas and Cassatt.  Behind-the-scenes-stories are always fascinating and this exhibit which runs through October 9, describes the working relationship between Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas.

And from the article in the Wall Street Journal , (06/03/14), "Leisure & Arts," page D-5,  "It subtly re-calibrates  our understanding our nuanced dialogue carried on in the work of two artists who operated not as mentor and protegee," but as collaborative artists who respected and admired each other's work.

Degas invited Cassatt to show her painting, "Little Girl in a Blue Armchair" (1878) at the Impressionist show of 1879--but he suggested changes and not only did he suggest changes, he even worked on the background.  How do they know this?  Recent x-rays show this, his brush strokes in the background and her alternations of some of his brush strokes.  Can you imagine someone altering your painting--there has to be trust between you, but she painted over his brush strokes.

The exhibit of 70 works on paper and canvas shows how they experimented with unusual angles and worked with many mediums: gouache, pastels, distemper (an oil based paint).  

The two of them experimented with combining mediums, unorthodox postions of their subjects and always, Degas promoted Cassatt as a talented artist, unusual in those days, the 19th century, where women did not play a starring role in business or in art.  He even said, "No woman had a right to paint like that."  

Degas was a "flaneur" a man at leisure to roam.  In those days if a man had season tickets to the ballet, the opera, he could visit these places, at leisure, even going backstage and visiting the dressing rooms.  This is what gave Degas and others a glimpse into another world that was not open to "proper women."  Mary Cassatt's subjects were on the "other side," the audience at the opera or ballet or the many paintings she did of children and families.

There is so much more to write, this will be a two part post.  Meanwhile, a lovely painting of Mary Cassatt in 1884 by Degas.  He was 50 years old, she was 40.
Mary Cassatt.Oil on Canvas.  Edgar Degas.  Dover Publications

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Guest Post from an Extraordinary Blogger

How the National Gallery, London was influenced by the death of Edgar Degas ...

I had as my theme for the recent A –Z Challenge Degas and his paintings ... under the theme title “Art, Art and more Art” ...

Hilary of Positive Letters emailed me and said she’d come across a story about Degas and the economist Maynard Keynes and could she guest blog part of the story here ... we have become friends through our posts.

Hilary is an extraordinary blogger from the UK, who has been blogging for six years.  She writes about Britain, particularly Cornwall and Sussex, and from her travels gives us wonderful tidbits of information about British history, people, places, museums and things; she occasionally adds in stories about her time in South Africa and knowledge of other parts of the world.  She is going to publish some ebooks based around her posts and blog in the near future.  So, if you are a new follower please read through some of her treasure trove of stories

Presenting:  Hilary Melton-Butcher       

"Lover of Words blog “Of Ships, Shoes and Sealing Wax and Cabbages and Kings” had as her theme for the recent A –Z Challenge Degas and his paintings ... under the theme title “Art, Art and more Art” ....

... as she says “Art is universal and even though we may not speak the same language, we can enjoy looking at the same painting and see different things in it, because of our own experiences and thoughts” ...

And I would add learn about the era – for instance her “C is for The Cotton Office in New Orleans – who knew the Degas family was into cotton brokerage and had a business in Louisiana ... 

The Cotton Market in New Orleans. 1873  Edgar Degas

So I was entranced by her A – Z entries on Degas ... now you’re here please check them out ... and follow her if you’re not already doing so ...

... as you can imagine Degas was on my mind ... and when I heard about a tie in between Degas and Maynard Keynes, the economist ... I had to post the story ...

Maynard Keynes, the economist, was a member of the Bloomsbury Group, and was a passionate supporter of the arts, but worked for the government and had persuaded the Chancellor of the Exchequer to let the Director of the National Gallery have £20,000 to purchase some of Degas’ art works from his estate.

On my blog I left Keynes in 1917 Paris, with the Director of the National Gallery, bidding for art works from Degas’ private collection of friends’ paintings after his death ...

... as the auction began the howitzers lobbed shells at Paris ... this scared most  buyers away ... leaving Keynes to purchase 27 paintings at greatly reduced prices to take back to the UK ... by artists such as Delacroix, Cezanne, Monet, Ingres and Degas’ own works ...

Keynes and the Director of the National Gallery, who was a classical artist knew what he was bidding for ... but was not fond of modernism, so Keynes bought and kept Cezanne’s “Still Life with Seven Apples” ...

... however the 27 paintings purchased were what would go on to become the foundation of the collection of modern art at the National Gallery today.

The suffragette movement had targeted the Gallery to draw attention to their cause, so at the start of the War the National Gallery was in a state of flux ... with the result that most of their paintings were stored away ...

Earlier in the 1900s the reception of Impressionist art at the Gallery got off to an exceptionally stormy start  ... but what was then, became dramatically changed through the acquisitions at this bizarre sale in 1917.

Cezanne remained a real problem ... he divided artists, even modern artists in London and the art world ...

...  the Bloomsbury Group supported crossing that divide ... and thought the most important thing in the world was to put up paintings by painters such as Cezanne and those he influenced, e.g. Degas.

 Today the most popular rooms at the National Gallery are the four galleries devoted to modern French painting over 50 years, whereas the Florentine and Flemish paintings covering about 200 years are arranged in two rooms each ...

... confirming Charles Holmes, National Gallery Director in 1917, and Maynard Keynes’ bizarre purchases to be so important to the success of The National Gallery with its collections as we know them.

Finding out about how Degas’ death gave renewed life to the National Gallery ... through the purchase of those 27 paintings from his private collection ...

... seemed to offer a way to really round off Lover of Words A-Z posts on Degas ... and to explain how important Degas is today to our British art collection.

Thank you for having me on your blog ... and my post on Maynard Keynes and those paintings can be found here:

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Memorial Day, 2014, The Gettysburg Address,

This is Memorial Day weekend here in the United States.  The Gettysburg Address in its 269 words says it perfectly, Ken Burns in his documentary presents it well.  But Lincolns words are for all the veterans of all wars. Civil Wars can be particularly horrific.  Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane, is a classic book written about the Battle of Chancellorsville.  It is written from the point of view of a young man who enlisted to fight for the North and who wanted "glory."  It is worthwhile reading or re-reading. The writing is haunting.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Women I admire #1. Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy

In the news this week is the public notice of an auction of Jacqueline Kennedy's letters to an Irish priest in whom she confided over the course of fourteen years--1950 to 1964. They span her life from the age of 21 to the year after her husband was assassinated, 1964.

Mrs. Kennedy was a very private person and she said in the letters she did not have any one to confide in, to share her feelings so when she met Father Joseph Leonard, she began writing to him, knowing he would never divulge her words, and he did not.  Father Leonard died in 1964 and all these years her letters have remained private.

Auction houses, when they have a treasure such as this, make bits of it public in order to publicize the auction and raise the bids.  How would Mrs. Kennedy feel about this?  Not good, I think.  But, all these years later, I think it is a good thing.  It gives us a personal picture of a very private First Lady, who on the surface seemed glamorous,  a bit imperious, aware of her status and her wealth, dazzling in public, and a First Lady we all admired.

In the parts of the letters which have been made public she does not seem this way at all. If anything, she was very self-aware, saying that she was overcome with ambition, "like Mac Beth."    She said that her life could look very glamorous from the outside, living in the world of "crowned heads and men of destiny -- but if you're in it, it could be hell."

Part of this was her sense of loss of her privacy and the media everywhere, but the main reason was John Kennedy's womanizing.  She understood this before her marriage, even comparing it to her father's womanizing which caused her own mother so much grief.  But it went on with more intensity after their marriage.  President Kennedy, because of the power and prestige of the presidency, could have any woman he wanted and he did.

She did not have an easy childhood either.  Her father, whom she adored, was an alcoholic who did not stay sober on her wedding day to John Kennedy, so at the last minute, she had her step-father walk her down the aisle.  We see those lovely photographs of her dancing with her husband after the wedding.  How sad she must have been inside, that her father let her down again.

I admire her even more so now.  Despite all that was going on in her personal life, she made us proud of her as First Lady.  The White House was dazzling, she was dazzling.  The trips she took to Europe and India and other countries were beautifully set, making America seem sophisticated and elegant, like Mrs. Kennedy.

I find it comforting to know she had a confidant like Father Leonard, someone who listened.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Mothers' Day. A Snowy Sunday Here in Colorado

Snow Statues (written in April for the 2012 Blog Challenge)

This is a tribute to my mother who loved to sculpt snow statues.  In the winter, if the snow was just right, on Sunday, after working all week, she would sculpt snow statues.  My sister and I wished she were like other mothers who did "normal" things because sometimes she sculpted nude statues.  "Please put clothes on them,"  we would beg her, but she followed her own muse and made ephemeral statues made of snow.  Often there would be a theme:  Christmas, a creche; Valentine's Day, lovers holding hands behind a tree; and Easter bunnies.  The lover theme she did every year on Valentine's day; first holding hands, the following year presenting a Valentine's heart, and finally, the gentleman on his knee proposing.  The neighbors loved it and occasionally photographs of her work appeared in the paper.  I wrote this poem many years after her death.  The photograph inspired it.

    Smiling into the camera,
     my hands resting on my
     little sister's shoulders,

     My mother asking us to smile
     as we squinted into the sun.

     She wanted to take 
     a picture of her creations,
     the three of us.

     I remember how she loved
     being outdoors,
     sculpting those statues,
     so many of them,
     so many different Sundays.

     As she worked, she and 
     shared the same joy,
     as she sculpted, molding
     the snow into a thing of beauty.

     All those trillions of snowflakes
     transformed into art 
     and for a few hours,
     she forgot the pain
     inside the house.