Part 2: Uncovering Changes

 Part 2: Uncovering Changes


 Missing the Before

The City of Portland, Maine is home to 66,215 people. Bon Appetite named Portland the 2018 restaurant city of the year.

Portland has followed the pattern of city revitalization taking place throughout the country. The boom in real estate led to a lack of affordable housing and an increase in homelessness. Neighborhood histories disappear as condos replace older homes. The process to preserve historic landmarks cannot keep up with the renaissance. Long-time residents bemoan the lack of parking, the increase in taxes and uninspired architecture. Newer and younger residents revel in all the city has to offer – green space, walkability, music venues, microbreweries and ubiquitous coffee shops. Some, like Coffee by Design, served as my de facto office for a year while creating Welcoming the Stranger: building understanding through community based art in 2015.

Tourism is one of the five major industries of the State of Maine.

April 1 – COVID-19:                377 confirmed cases statewide                     9 deaths

When Maine Governor Mills issued the stay-at-home order on March 31, she said:

 “I implore you – look to yourself, your family, your friends, your loved ones, your neighbors on the front lines, first responders and health care workers fighting the virus, those who can’t stay home; the children who live around the corner, the farmer who grows your food, the grocer and the pharmacist who sell you goods, the teachers who are missing their kids; the fisherman, the sailor, the truck driver, the janitor, the waitress at your favorite diner; these are the people you are protecting by staying home. This is who you are saving.”                

 The City of Portland closed: no hotels, no restaurants, no cruise ships, no coffee shops, no bars, no barber shops and the list goes on.

The stay-at-home mandate reduced the need for car ferries to and from Peaks Island. They scheduled only 3 boats a day. At 5:30 am, I joined the line of cars waiting for the ferry. The lines continue throughout the day to accommodate construction workers, food deliveries, essential workers and returning summer residents. Masks required; social distancing at all times.


Finding Home

In preparation for my 2-week quarantine in Maine and possible food shortages on the island, I did what is euphemistically called: A Big Shop. The trunk and backseat of my car were now a mobile seat

Growing up in New England, neighbors always had “ just in case’ food.  Some they grew and canned. Some they purchased. Snow storms, power outages, lost employment, ferry breakdowns, or any number of other possible catastrophes –  and now a pandemic  – are on the list of ‘what ifs.’

The children’s book Stone Soup  has its roots in European folktales. Once upon a time, a stranger arrives in a town. He carries a soup pot but has no ingredients with which to cook. He sets to boiling water and adds a stone.

Each villager stops by and asks:

What are you cooking?

The stranger replies:

Stone soup.

Each villager then says:

That would taste much better if you added …

 – a carrot, a potato, some greens and so on and so on…And they did. The community created a soup and the soup created a community.

“Just in case” pantries are, not only for your home, but for sharing with others in need.

Finding Community

The island was deserted. All businesses were closed: gas station, laundromat, café, restaurants, library, bicycle and golf cart rentals, ice cream shop, school, museums, churches, hardware store, taxi service and non-profits. Hannigan’s grocery store was open limited hours.

Hannigans 1

Peaks Island was a microcosm of the state – if not the country.

When I first returned to Peaks Island to share in the care of my mother before she died, I was welcomed into a year-round community of  900 residents that traditionally swells to more than 5000 in the summer.

I learned the names of the mail carriers, restaurant owners, grocery store cashiers, librarians, tour guides, waste collectors, landscapers, musicians, and artists. I joined the chorale and (hoped in the future) the ukulele band.

In her book Year of Wonders Geraldine Brooks tells the story of a walled town in 1666 that chose to protect the greater community from the plague raging within its walls by allowing no one to enter the town and no one to leave.

At the conclusion of the weekly Maine CDC  Covid 19 briefing, Dr. Shah reminds everyone:

Be Kind. Take care of one another.


The residents of Peaks Island took to heart his ‘mantra.’

A Peaks Island Covid 19 response committee was formed to provide up-to-date communication, assist with shopping and transportation, food pantry access. Mental health teams offered support if requested.

Year-round residents used stimulus checks to purchase gift cards to island restaurants and shops to support their small businesses.

Masks and social distancing and stay at home orders are strictly adhered to.

Arriving summer residents are expected to self-quarantine for 14 days.

 May 1- COVID 19:                 1149 confirmed cases statewide                   59 deaths

Traditionally, Memorial Day weekend shepherds in the opening up of cottages and return of summer residents. “Opening Up” a cottage means adhering to a long list of  ‘To Do’s’ developed over time through trial and error. My friends/patrons/supporters of island arts are not able to travel to the island due to the pandemic.


Therefore, I am the designated cottage caretaker. In exchange for housing, I will oversee a roof replacement, landscape the gardens, perform general repairs and paint. My other task is to collect news of others and general goings -on.  I will respond to islanders who inquire of them. In weekly zoom meetings, we will exchange information about life in England vs US,  compare the graying of our locks and trade recipes. I will send them photographs of the most recently bloomed flower and exquisite sunsets.

Their 3-page list includes the following tasks:

Locate the hidden key if you forgot yours.

Unlock and open the doors to air out the cottage.

Get tools out that you need to proceed.

Turn on electric.

Take down shutters.

Install porch screens. (Check that no bird has created a nest on top of the screens. If so delay installation until babies fledge).

Check for damage  – evidence of leaks, torn screens, broken tree limbs.

Seek out evidence of any dead creatures and remove. (I ask the neighbor to remove them.)

Vacuum up bugs, dead flies.

Turn the water on – check for leaks.

Uncover the Goddesses. 

As part of Crossroads: Art for Contemplation, I created 7-circuit meditation labyrinths throughout Maryland to provide a place and a process for anyone to “journey inward.”

When walking a labyrinth, you enter with a question. When you exit, you may have an answer or a sense of direction or hint of movement towards something  you had not considered.

I installed ceramic sculptures of the Greek goddesses – Demeter, Persephone and Hecate – as part of the artwork. They now ‘live’ on Peaks Island. One possible interpretation of their myth asks what we learn about ourselves when we have time to ‘journey inward.’

For many, being in quarantine provides that time.

Finding Nature With My Eyes

In general, I am a big picture kind of person. When walking, I see an entire landscape – not individual trees or blades of grass. Since I am forced to slow down due to the pandemic, I am seeing ‘smaller’.

I arrived to a second spring. It feels heartless of Mother Nature to create this amazing spring while we are under strict orders to stay at home and distance ourselves from friends.

Lilacs had just started to bloom. Hostas were leafing out. The viburnum would soon provide a backdrop for the purple Siberian irises and lupines.


During my first removal of fallen branches and leaves from the gardens, I uncover plants heretofore not seen before – at least by me:

Under the juniper – Jack in the pulpit Jack in the Pulpit

Moss roses




Under the hops – covered apple trees – moss roses

Lady slipper orchid. (It is endangered so their location is secret.)

Ladies' Slippers 2

I am still hard pressed to discern between native plants and weeds. (Although a friend once told me that anything in the garden that isn’t where you want it,  is essentially,  a weed.)


Dr. Chuck Radis’ (with his brother Rick) co-authored Wildflowers of Peaks Island, Maine. The color coded pages group wildflowers by season and habitats. They describe each plant by color, placement, shape of leaves, and measurements. I refer to the book as I weed.


Dr. Chuck Radis in his book, Go By Boat: Stories of a Maine Island Doctor,  shares his time as the doctor for the residents of Casco Bay islands.


Tree rings

The stumps of maple trees felled over the winter provide seats from which to observe more “small.”  I realize how different the vista is without them. The light has changed since it is no longer being filtered through the leaves.

I count the rings on the stump: 1 light plus 1 dark ring = 1 year

Each ring has a story to tell. Maybe this tree witnessed the 1918 pandemic.

One morning, while putting on my work boots,  I noticed a shiny ‘trail’ on the exterior of one of the boots. I know slugs leave this ‘trace’ as they meander about.  Gingerly, I inspected the interior – fortunately it was empty .

SlugNo one likes slugs.

Everyone I ask:

“Of what use are slugs? “

To a person each replies:

“Absolutely None.”

For me,  taking the time to watch a slug perambulate provides new mantras on to how to go forward each day – not just during a pandemic:

Set a goal and persevere.

Keep eyes looking forward.

Slow down and take note of your surroundings.

Stay still if threatened.

“ Just being alive is enough” Suzuki Roshi


June 1 –  COVID-19:                  2352 cases statewide                         95 deaths

Finding Nature with my Ears

When I first arrived, the island was preternaturally quiet. No sounds of golf carts or cars or planes or party boats or cruise ships. No lawn mowers or leaf blowers. An island committee formed to study noise levels pre and post pandemic – in hopes of stemming the future increase in airplane noise when the friendly skies re-open.

There is one exception – one very loud exception – the sounds of birds – songs, tweets, squawks, gobbles (yes, the turkeys have landed. ) create a new island soundtrack. Every morning the birds signal the beginning of another day in quarantine.


My sister and brother in law are “birders.”  They have ‘life lists’ (To date: 286) and cool binoculars.

They learn habitats, recognize calls, possess language to describe each bird and spend time ‘looking and listening.” I have never really listened to the sounds that birds make. Until now.

Bird vocalizations includes both bird calls and bird songs.

  • Songs are used to defend territory and attract mates.
  • Calls tend to be shorter and simpler — often just one syllable long. There are different kinds of calls:

Alarm calls

Contact calls

Flight calls

Begging calls (feed me)



There are phone apps that record the song and match it to one in the data base.

Bird songs can even be used to create an opera.  Just listen.

Finding Nature with My Nose

There seem to be roses blooming in every garden. Out of quarantine and back to my daily walk, I continue to see “small.” I look at the color and shape of roses in gardens around the island.  I breathe in the smell of the rose then squeeze a blossom in my hand and inhale the fragrance. It seems the most visually beautiful are the least fragrant – some with no fragrance at all.

Hedges of the ubiquitous beach rose – rosa rugosa – circumnavigate the island.


Swedish botanist Carl Peter Thunberg first introduced the western world to Rosa rugosa (meaning “wrinkled rose” because of its creased petals and serrated foliage) in the 1770s, having come across it in Japan. So, although it is a dominant species in certain areas of the northeast and northwest of the United States, it is not native.

lowest tide

I walk the circumference  of the island – starting or ending at low tide on Centennial Beach. There is a distinctive smell – especially at dead low tide.

It is a Sulphur-y kind of smell produced by bacteria as they digest dead phytoplankton.

As a child, I would stomp along the sand in hopes of enticing a clam to “spit” – creating a tell-tale hole revealing its location. It is still a valid technique when digging for clams.

In 3rd grade I won a contest for the most books read over the summer. (I had an unfair advantage since I lived directly across the street from the library.) The prize was a chart of seashells with accompanying samples of each shell.

Walking along the beach today, it is rare to find a razor clam or a sand dollar or a horseshoe crab.

Horseshoe crabs are “living fossils” that have existed for at least 445 million years and are not really a crab.


Their blue, copper-based blood contains lysate, which reacts to bacterial toxins by clotting. Horseshoe crab blood has long been harvested to test everything from water to intravenous drugs for contamination. It’s also key to making vaccines for diseases such as COVID-19.

Searching for beach glass has replaced beach combing for shells. Beach glass hunters are readily identified by their start and stop walking, stooped posture and/or bowed heads. Children collect the shards, store them in their pockets and parents find them in the bottom of the washing machine. Glass-filled jars occupy window sills for years – and eventually discarded over time.

Seaglass shell

July 1 –  COVID-19                             3288 cases statewide                        123 deaths

Making the decision to drive to Maine was influenced by my commitment to co-author and produce a play to celebrate the Maine Bicentennial. Proceeds from ticket sales would support scholarships for island students.

Due to Covid 19 – all performance venues would remain closed until summer 2021. After 2 years of research and countless revisions, we had been holding onto the possibility we would mount a stage production.

Trunk Show” tells a story of 1924 summer stock theatre, prohibition and politics on Peaks Island through the eyes of two sisters as they prepare for an uncertain future.

Like so many art and performance groups, we hope to share our vision. However, like the “Trunk Show” heroines, the future of our cast, our play, our lives – everyone’s lives – is uncertain.

Yet, the sun still sets every night.

Nice thing about sunsets is you can't do anything to them. 
You can't improve them, repair them, prolong them, sell them or 
change them in any way at all. Miranda V.

Uncovering: Circles

The circumference (from Latin circumferens, meaning “carrying around”) is the perimeter of a circle .

The circumference of a circle is related to one of the most important mathematical constants. This constantpi, is represented by the Greek letter π.

pi….an ideal that in numerical terms can be approached, but never reached.

March 14:

My residency at the Vermont Studio Center ended abruptly. The Governor of the State of Vermont declared a state of emergency and began closing schools, bars, restaurants in hopes of containing the virus. I had been in a news-free bubble during my residency so was unaware of the severity nor the rapid spread of the virus. I packed up my installation Aletheia: state of not being hidden and headed home.


Warned by many friends to expect empty shelves at Maryland grocery stores, I stopped along the way for toilet paper.

March 15:

I self – quarantined. I had spent several weeks with artists from other states and countries and had crossed several state borders (and Canada.)  My decision coincided with Maryland’s first stay at home order:

…Leave only for essential work or critical health care – doctors , food shopping, walk yourself or walk the dog. Schools will remain closed. Work from home if you can. Wear masks. Wash your hands.

March 30:

Governor Hogan of Maryland extended his initial shut down/stay at home order:

“We are all going to need to depend on each other, to look out for each other and to take care of each other. We are all in this together,” Hogan said.

Drawing the Circle

Friends shopped for me and deposited bags of dried beans, rice, lentils, oatmeal, corn meal at my door. Yeast and flour. Fruit and veggies. Cleaning products. One brownie mix. And of course, more toilet paper.

I made cloth masks for friends and families. Using fabric from quilters’ stashes.



Just 2 weeks prior,  I had used my 100 year old Singer sewing machine to create an art installation  It might have been used during the 1918 pandemic. Maybe even to sew masks.

Sewing machine


In 1918, advanced masks like the N95s that healthcare workers use today were a long way off. Surgical masks were made of gauze, and many people’s flu masks were made of gauze too. Red Cross volunteers made and distributed many of these, and newspapers carried instructions for those who may want to make a mask for themselves or donate some to the troops. Still, not everyone used the standard surgical design or material.,the%20pandemic%20flu%20in%201918.&text=Red%20Cross%20volunteers%20made%20and,donate%20some%20to%20the%20troops.

Coffee – its consumption and creation – has featured prominently in many of my past blogs.  This time it wasn’t the coffee, but the plastic coffee bag closure used to re-seal the bag.

Tin ties

I collected them from anyone I knew that brewed their own cup o’ Joe in order to create fitted nose pieces.

I talked, texted or emailed daily with others – like myself – who live alone.

A Smaller Circumference

There are 28 stairs from my sleeping loft to my studio shower. It has been ‘strongly suggested’ by friends and family (in response to a fall and broken ankle that my next artwork should be to create a shower in the loft. This would necessitate moving the washer and dryer to a location TBD.

Building a shower where the washing machine had been seemed like a fairly straight forward project. There was existing plumbing, drainage and venting.

I am an inveterate watcher of This Old House and revere Richard Trethewey – the plumber – enough so to research his introductory quote:

it is a typical plumber’s lament…”220px-MarioNSMBUDeluxe

A Plumber’s Lament is the name of a piece of art created by Garro of Nimbus Land for the kingdom’s queen Valentina during the events of Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars. The gold-colored statue is a depiction of a plumber.

There are hundreds of internet sites devoted to Mario if you have time to research  – but I had work to do.

After watching innumerable you-tube videos, I determined which tasks were within my skill set. Next,  I called the plumber to handle the remainder (Naturally, it included re-routing the existing pipes, drains, vents, etc. )

Before leaving for the art residency I had demo’ed the old wall board and replaced it with durarock (resistant to water); applied leveling material (due to the uneven durarock installation ) and was  ready to tile.Durarock

The walls for the new laundry room and closet (the first and only closet at the firehouse) were framed in.

Then I headed to Vermont. Then I returned from Vermont. Then I continued the renovation. Fortunately, I had already purchased the materials for each project from the Loading Dock

The Loading Dock, Inc. (TLD), a building materials reuse facility, offers great deals and interesting finds to people who need inexpensive building materials and are interested in keeping materials out of the waste stream. TLD serves as a national model for communities interested in starting a reuse facility.

It is rooms and rooms of everything and I mean everything – needed for construction and renovations and just plain old cool stuff.


Because I was in quarantine, if I didn’t have it, I improvised often. (Although a neighbor did deliver some drywall screws I had run out of. It was the opposite of curbside pick-up – more like doorway drop off.)

At the end of each day, I walk to the town Wetlands Park – now 20 years old. The trees are full grown, native plants have taken root and milkweed proliferates to attract butterflies and other pollinators.


I wear my mask – but when no one else is in the park – I remove it. I revel in the ability to take a deep breath – unencumbered.

I walk on 4 foot wide paths mowed an additional foot on each side to create a 6 foot distance. I perfect the ‘swerve” to avoid unmasked walkers. I learn the names of dogs whose owners I had never seen at the park before. And encourage tottering young bicyclists.

As I installed the final tile in the bathroom and hung up the last article of clothing in the closet, the Governor issued another 2 week extension of the stay at home order.

2 more weeks of being alone

2 more weeks of relying on friends

2 more weeks of finding ways to fill the day with meaning.

Creating a Circle of Care


I graduated from high school the same year Sesame Street was first broadcast.  When I became a first grade teacher, I often relied on materials and concepts developed by the producers of Sesame Street.

There is an activity that asks children to complete a worksheet called ‘Circle of Care. ‘ The goal is to reassure kids that they are never alone. There are always people who will be there to help you.

 “The Circle of Care is like a giant hug.”

As the pandemic restrictions continued, friends offered me gift cards or brought me food as part of their weekly shopping forays. One friend offered me their stipend check since they were still employed. I was deeply touched by their offers of kindness.

I am included in their ‘circle of care.’

My Circle of Care

PC Marker

I don’t know if it’s part of aging but I have grown comfortable with silence.

Maybe I realized that I would rather sit in silence than attend a traditional house of worship.

Maybe the Quaker belief in non-violence and community led me to attend.

Maybe my increasing comfort in silence led me to Quaker Meeting or maybe attending Quaker Meeting led me to silence.

Maybe it’s not about silence but about ‘seeking that of God in everyone.”

The Pipe Creek Friends Meeting was established in 1772. Its doors have remained open since its inception.

At one time, there were only 2 attenders. They met in their living room because they couldn’t afford to heat the meeting house. Yet, they did not “lay the meeting down.”

In the 1970’s,  possibly in response to the Vietnam War and civil unrest or (according to Pipe Creek oral history) because the outhouse was replaced with indoor plumbing, the number of attendees increased. When I started to attend in 2001 there were less than 10 members. As the U.S. contemplated entering another war in 2003, more ‘seekers’ entered our doors.

Throughout the pandemic, I am ‘led’ to open the Meeting House doors on Sundays. It is a 10 minute walk from my studio. I sit silently while other members – out of an abundance of caution – ‘zoom.’  Like Quakers throughout the country.

Expanding My Circle of Care

 When stay-at-home orders were first announced, radio commentators remarked that 2 kinds of people would welcome the order: artists and writers.

Artists and writers have always had to guard their time. They need to turn inward to create characters or plot lines or images. They may need time for research or just what a friend calls ‘dreamtime.’  Time is a precious commodity during ‘normal times.’ But this is the ‘new normal.’ For many, time spreads out like a vast ocean.

vast sea

Many of us have time now but are plagued by a heavy heart.

As a community based artist I need community input, collective knowledge and skills to complete a work.

My first community based art project in 1994 in Carroll County: Seeds of Change focused on rural hunger through the lens of women’s spirituality. We grew buckwheat to make flour, distributed it to food pantries and sponsored Pancake Breakfasts through local volunteer fire departments to highlight the existence of rural hunger.IMG_1678 1994.

Twenty- five years later,  food insecurity has continued to grow throughout the country. The increasing unemployment in the pandemic have worsened the crisis.


The population of the Town of Union Bridge Maryland is 964 and  encompasses 1 square mile. Settled by Quakers, Union Bridge began as a farming community. Food production is no longer the major source of employment.  The median income is lower than surrounding cities. According to the 2010 census – 394 households were counted and 34% had children under the age of 18.

When the locally owned and operated grocery store closed in 2008, it not only deprived local teens their first job opportunity but ushered in the term: food desert.

To help meet the food needs of families in town, members of St. James Lutheran Church joined with Dream Big Union Bridge to create a Food Pantry.  Pipe Creek Quaker Meeting provides fresh vegetables raised in the community garden.

PC garden

Almost 30,000,000 school aged children qualify for free/reduced price lunches.

Throughout the school year, 45% of students receive breakfast and lunch. Closing schools for vacations, snow, and now a pandemic – leaves many children hungry.

With the help of a town council member, we were able to create a local feeding site  for curbside pick-up of breakfast/lunch. As the quarantine continues, the line of cars increases.

In other towns, residents are converting their Little Free Library into Covid 19 pantries.


May 6: Schools closed for the remainder of the year.

Extending My Circle of Care

Spring-Paper-Roll-Crafts-43Making “virtual” art is a challenge. I have a weekly craft hour with a five year old via Facetime. Fortunately, she is more skilled with how to use the technology than I am – and has more patience with it.

I decided to create ‘Take and Make’ bags for the neighborhood school-aged children. I scoured my studio for supplies, solicited toilet paper tubes from everyone, scrounged crayons, tape, scissors, coffee filters. I included directions for projects and links for more ideas. I wore gloves to assemble the materials into individual brown paper bags. Out of an abundance of caution: All materials sat for a week in my studio. They were distributed at the Food Bank.

Governor Hogan was right. We are all in this together

Going in Circles

I struggled with the decision to make my annual trek to Maine. In 2007,  I returned to Peaks Island to create a memorial for my Dad. More recently to share in the care of my Mother before she died.

I have spent the summers creating with others – music, plays, gardens, art. Making the decision to drive to Maine was influenced by my commitment to write and produce a play to celebrate the Maine Bicentennial and raise monies for island scholarships.

Maine’s Governor Mills decided to institute strict restrictions to help stave off the spread of the virus.

There is a mandatory 2-week quarantine for out-of-staters upon arrival in Maine.

I weighed the risks, to not only myself, but to others in my Maine circle of care .

My friends were more concerned that during the 12 hour drive, rest stops would be closed. *

I was more concerned about missing the last ferry and having to spend the night sleeping in my car.

As I crossed the border from New Hampshire into Maine, I  read the sign:

Maine Welcome Home.

But will  home be the same?

image sign


* My friends were correct – rest rooms and rest stops were closed necessitating detours into towns with ‘welcoming gas stations.”  The 10 hour drive extended to 12.

























A Different Line

A Different Line – Dots and Dashes

A point in geometry is a location. It has no size i.e. no width, no length and no depth.

line is defined as a line of points that extends infinitely in two directions. It has one dimension, length.

I am driving to a 2-week artist residency at the Vermont Studio Center (VSC) located in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont where a 2008 report rated 74% of the roads in poor or very poor condition. And 408 bridges need repairs of some kind.

I am going to VSC for an ‘artist spa retreat.” There will be yoga classes, healthy meals, gym and pool close by and no requirement to produce a work of art.

Nothing is a straight line when you are driving to Vermont from Maryland – everything meanders: roads, ski trails, cow paths, Green Mountain Range, and rivers.

VSC meander

All serve to create a circuitous route – no matter which direction you are heading. I have planned a 2 day drive to allow for detours. It will be easier on the body as well as what I euphemistically call the Granny car.

‘Bert and I’ records were first released in 1958. Most Mainers of a certain age can tell this story by heart when folks are asking for directions:

Detour 1:  Collar City

My goal was to be in my pajamas at the Airbnb by dark . However, I missed my exit. So I just keep following Siri’s directions. Like many others have discovered, she isn’t always up to the task.

 As the sun was setting, I was still wending and winding my way across the City of Troy. Due to the confluence of major waterways and a geography that supported water power, the American industrial revolution took hold in this area. Troy was known as the “Collar City” due to its history in shirt, collar, and other textile production.

I drive past churches of all denominations that line both sides of the street –   all with Tiffany stained glass windows and steeples that tower above each community I pass through. I was looking for the Woodside Presbyterian Church.

Henry Burden (April 22, 1791 – January 19, 1871) was an engineer and businessman who built an industrial complex called the Burden Iron Works. He designed the “Horseshoe Machine” that could produce 60 shoes a minute and became the chief horseshoe producer for the Union Army.

In 1869, Burden built the  Woodside Presbyterian Church as a memorial to his wife. She had expressed concern for the iron workers and their families who had to walk miles in inclement weather to churches in downtown Troy and wished for a church closer to the Iron Works.


Its location may have been advantageous to the workers but finding it before sunset was proving to be elusive.

A few years ago, the church was scheduled for demolition but members of the Contemporary Artist Center purchased it in 2007. For several years it operated as an arts center and artist residency.

They now offer rooms through Airbnb to raise funds for upkeep and to continue renovations. It seemed like a perfect fit for me. After all,  I had been an artist in residence in a Benedictine monastery and live in an 1884 firehouse.

Well after sunset, the granny car and I take a sharp left hand turn, climb the steep hill to the parking lot and began the arduous process of dragging in luggage and groceries while walking precariously on ice. ( YUP still winter in Upstate New York.)

WPC hill

I entered the code and the door opens into a large kitchen, dining room and studio area. CAVERNOUS is the only word to describe the edifice. There are 2 stone structures. One  is currently occupied by a composer/musician and I will be ensconced in one of the 3 Airbnb rooms in the church itself.

The church brochure notes that early inhabitants of Troy expressed their passion for architecture by using the following materials in their buildings:

WPC studio

  • Iron: cast and structural iron works (facades, gates, railings, banisters, stairwells, rooftop crenellation, window grilles, etc.)
  • Stone: carved hard and soft stone foundations, facades and decorative elements
  • Glass: a vast array of ornate stained and etched glass works
  • Wood: fine wood work.

The Woodside Presbyterian Church reflects all of them.

My host Shea (also an artist) provided a tour of the studio workspace (formerly the worship area), a small library (originally the choir loft) and my well heated room. The bed was constructed from pews – and  I fell asleep to the sounds of running water in a nearby creek and awakened to light streaming through stained glass windows. WPC room

I take a mini-walking tour to the local Farmer’s Market (well attended though temps hovering mid 20’s) and enter the Daily Grind café – a breakfast place whose walls are covered with artwork. 

Troy’s empty mills, factories and churches now provide large artist studio spaces that overlook the Hudson River. Both work space and living spaces such as the Hudson Arthaus Shelter for the Body, Art for the Soul.  breathe new life into moribund communities.

Troy is also home to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute whose graduates establish cooperative work spaces, eat at farm to table restaurants and are involved in the evolving mushroom technology.

And of course, drink lots of coffee.

On the road

Detour 2: Art and Soul of Vermont

Leap Year provides a gift of an additional day. I can think of no better way to spend it than with a longtime friend.

 I find myself taking a detour to Brandon, Vermont – known as the ‘art and soul’ of Vermont. Brandon is just a 2-hour drive from VSC as well as the home of B. Amore – my mentor and friend for more than 30 years.

The exit names seem familiar as does the scenery. It is the same route I followed to Rutland, Vermont 33 years ago where I  learned to carve stone.

B. founded the Carving Studio and Sculpture Center that helped to spark the revitalization of Rutland and stone carving. She recently published an article on ‘Sculpture Walks in Barre and Rutland, VT.’

The last time we saw each other was at the Maine Jewish Museum when she reviewed my Welcoming the Stranger show for Sculpture Magazine.

B. is never at a loss for ideas or projects. We will celebrate the publication of her most recent book – Journeys on the Wheel: Poems by B Amore and the completion of several public art projects and initiation of others in New York and Boston.

B's Book


Best of all, we will have time to tour her new studio and talk about the roads we had traveled since last we met.  We would have the time to enjoy each other’s company.  

And of course, mangia bene.



A Different Line: Dots

dots“; (2) a thoughtful or troubled pause, as in “I … I just can’t help myself”; and (3) a trailing off thought…



The Vermont Studio Center was founded by artists in 1984. Our location—situated along the banks of the Gihon River in the historic village of Johnson, Vermont—was chosen with the intention of fostering creativity through community, collaboration, and quiet reflection supported by the unspoiled beauty of the northern Green Mountains.



Sunday: High 25; Low 5

Tours, reception, dinner

Studio assignments

Over the last 30 years, VSC has grown to become the largest international artists’ and writers’ residency program in the United States. Our mission is to provide studio residencies in an inclusive, international community, honoring creative work as the communication of spirit through form.

Upon arrival, we receive a packet of forms, general information, and tour the campus.

Each building has a specific designation.


There is an ever present sound of the river as we walk. Most of the snow is gone BUT locals call the respite ‘fake spring..”

Keys are then distributed – it has the solemnity of being awarded a key to a city.  In some ways it is. Our key opens every studio.

Once settled into our rooms, we gather in the dining room.

Dining room

I join 56 artists – both writers and visual artists They come from as far away as Germany, Pakistan, Argentina, Ireland, Egypt, Korea and Canada. Their ages range from mid-twenties to 70 +. All come to have uninterrupted, concentrated studio time to work at their craft.


Protocol #1:

Tink – Tink -Tink. That is the sound of someone tapping on an empty glass to signal quiet. This is the first of many protocols that have developed over time.

Unlike my residency at St. Gertrude’s Monastery where we ate in silence, the dining room is  strictly reserved for connections and conversations. It is a designated  ‘no cell zone.‘ Everyone rapidly stashes their phones and conversations resume.

If the decibel level of the room is any indication that communication is taking place, we are adhering to the letter of the law. Our conversations even drown out the sound of the river flowing beneath us.

                    Small World:

River from dining

A friend always says Peaks Island, Maine (where I spend summers) is the belly button of the universe. I sat at dinner with a printmaker from Massachusetts – Julia Talcott.

She is a friend of Scott and Nancy Nash of the Illustrator Institute.

Vermont Studio Center says there are no expectations for the residency – no required proposals, products, presentations. When asked by fellow artists why I came – my response is consistent: – to care for my corporal and spiritual self:

Really good food 3x a day that I didn’t have to prepare

Exercise (yoga, gym, pool at local college, hiking trails)


Studio dreaming

I jokingly add I might apply for asylum in Canada.

As part of taking care of my creative self, I would be going dark for 2 weeks.:

no news, no internet, no phone

I would listen to podcasts, read and sit in silence until I had an idea for an artwork or until the end of the residency.

No Place Like Home

I am assigned to the Wolf Kahn Studios for painters.  I am somewhat perplexed as to how I ended up with painters and not sculptors but I assume there must be a cosmic reason.

VSC kahn

Like all of the VSC buildings, Kahn Studios had a former purpose before being purchased and renovated.

Kahn sideIn 1925 a group of citizens agitated for the construction of a community gym, and after a local volunteer construction effort, completed the project in spring, 1929.

It was built to serve as a community center for public gatherings, dancing, basketball and candlepin bowling lanes in the basement kept citizens recreating during the long winter months. The town sold it to VSC in 1996.

It is named for a well-known artist with ties to Vermont. Jonathan Gregg, one of the VSC founders, studied with him. Kahn belongs to the discipline of color field painting —-

WK_Red_Ridge_213810Kahn is 93 years old and still making art.


The jamb on the doorway into my space is lined with the nametags and signatures of artists that preceded me.


It is sparsely furnished:


2 work surfaces


4 saw horses


A rickety chair and stool


2 tables


Chair 2


Protocol #2:

Swapping of chairs is allowed but no outright theft.


What came before

There are remnants left by previous artists:

A Kleenex box attached to the ceiling (about 24 feet up) and

raised braille-like splotches on the floor.

I came with no clear project or plans. I am not afraid of  the white walls or empty space.

Protocol #3:

I establish a ‘no boots’ policy in my studio. I supply a chair in which to sit to encourage their removal. The chair also affords a view of the river.



There is a well-known Van Gogh image of boots.   The philosopher Heidegger used the Van Gogh image to support his treatise: The Origin of Art. I want to understand his premise but found it impossible to interpret. I viewed a U-tube class, listened to a podcast, watched a Khan Academy lecture but to no avail. But I still love the boots.


If you grow up in New England, you know that the first topic of any conversation is always the weather. Often before a greeting or asking how you are or how did you sleep, the inquisition starts. “What’s the forecast.’

The response determines what you wear and how much effort it will take to get through the day.

High or low boots?

Hat, gloves, scarf – none, all or some?

Do I need a shovel?

I listen to a podcast about the book – Weather Machine: A journey inside the forecast

In The Weather Machine, Andrew Blum takes readers on a fascinating journey through an everyday miracle. In a quest to understand how the forecast works, he visits old weather stations and watches new satellites blast off. He follows the dogged efforts of scientists to create a supercomputer model of the atmosphere and traces the surprising history of the algorithms that power their work. He discovers that we have quietly entered a golden age of meteorology—our tools allow us to predict weather more accurately than ever, and yet we haven’t learned to trust them, nor can we guarantee the fragile international alliances that allow our modern weather machine to exist. Goodreads

Predictions travel faster than the clouds.

But in New England, you just look out the window.

Window ice


A Different Line – Dashes

dashes indicate a sudden shift in thought or a break

Day 1:        15 degrees low; 36 high

Sleet, rain, SNOW (no expected accumulation)

TO DO:       Re – arrange furniture

Unpack boxes 


Red Mill birds

My windows face northeast. I have a view of the river and the Red Mill Gallery. A flock of pigeons gather on the roof. When disturbed, they fly off in unison, perform an aerial ballet and return to stasis, roosting once again on the peak of the roof. The performances are repeated throughout the day.

I walked the hill to Northern Vermont University to check out the gym and pool. However, the walk was enough of a workout that it would suffice as my cardio for the duration of the residency.

Attempting to adhere to my original idea of a VSC spa residency, I attend yoga class.  The instructors are certified yoga teachers that work multiple jobs. Like many in Johnson, they depend on the VSC to provide opportunities to practice their craft. Capitulating to the ever increasing limits placed on my body through accidents and aging, I spoke with the instructor and was assured of the gentleness of the class.

VSC yoga



However, the serenity of the space was broken by frequent ‘snow thunder’: the sound of snow sliding off the metal roof and crashing to the ground.




Day 2:       Temperature at Sunrise 37; High 55

Fog lifting to sun

Icicle window

Snow melting

TO DO:      Inventory materials

Create paper wall

Draw lines – dots and dashes



I spread out my materials and take an inventory.

oil bars, gamsol


6’ long piece of roofing rubber

6’ piece of canvas

Rope of various lengths

Sewing thread, needles

Grommet kit

Wood carving supplies

Upholstery pins, needles

Letters and numbers stencils – 2 sizes in an oatmeal box

Tools – sewing machine, iron, staple gun/staples, plumb line, hammer,

T square

Shards of sand paper

Assorted pens, pencils, markers, chalk, charcoal, erasers

Tape – duct, blue masking

Push pins

Lined writing paper

File folders

Scissors – large, small

Book making tools and supplies

As I sort  – arranging and re-arranging – I listen to a variety of podcasts whose topics include creativity, developing imagination, meditation and self-care.

Protocol #4:  Leave No Trace; Take only memories

At the end of the residency,  I will need to return the space to the way I found it –  white walls, clean floors. This usually means at least a day of painting. Huge rolls of rosin paper are provided to the painters to cover their studio floor.

Rosin wall

I decide to create a wall of paper using duct tape, rosin paper, and push pins. When completed, I begin to draw parallel lines across the ‘wall’ using a chalk line and level. It is reminiscent of children’s writing paper.

I have no idea what to do next. So I listen to another TED Radio Hour podcast

February 28: Jumpstarting Creativity –

One of the solutions to jumpstart creativity is to take a walk.  So I do.


Day 3:       20 low; 37 high

Sunny to cloudyDay 3 window

Very windy

Intermittent snow ish’

TO DO:       Sew canvas

                    Attend Presentations


VSC is unique among residency programs in the diversity of voices and visions that come together here each month from across the country and around the world. We ask that every artist- and writer-in-residence honor and celebrate that richness by embracing a shared spirit of respect, harmony, support, and non-competition throughout your stay.

If creativity is measured by the number of boxes you receive from Amazon, I am definitely not even in the running.


Almost hourly, the delivery trucks unload boxes of all sizes and shapes filled with canvas, paper, paints, stretchers, charcoal. Between deliveries, we visit studios and remark on their size or shape or light. We share our origins and a little about our work. I notice once again that I am the only non-painter in Kahn.

However,  I do have 2 pieces of raw canvas to do something with and decide to sew them together.

‘Straighten the grain’  is the mantra of home economic teachers and quilters everywhere.  I tear off a strip from each side of the pieces of canvas to insure the grain is straight. I retain all scraps and toss them onto the trash pile. My machine is 100 years old and only sews forward. I sew and sew. And sew.


Protocol #5:     Privacy/Sharing

Music is often integral to making art. Yet, there is a noticeable absence of  music or noise in general. To avoid conflict, head phones are de rigueur. The same rule applies to podcasts, news, television. Closed doors indicate the artist is at work so knock at your own risk.

Tonight is the first of a series of weekly “Presentations “- ‘’volunteers’ are allotted 7 minutes to share their work.

First to present are the poets. Followed by essayists, authors. It is a poetry slam without the slamming – at the end of each 7 minute reading, I expect snapping –

In a culture ruled by the instant feedback loop of retweets, likes and hearts, the snap (and by “snap” we mean the old-fashioned act of brushing the thumb and middle finger against one another in an effort to make a popping sound) is more often being used as a quiet signal of agreement or appreciation in conferences, university auditoriums, poetry slams and even at dinner tables.

Protocol #6:        Snapping seems NOT to be a VSC protocol.

The Visual Artists share next. As each image is projected, I am astonished by the caliber of the work, diversity of the imagery, underlying concepts, and highly developed craft.

It is hard not to feel competitive. Comparing one’s work to another’s is a fool’s errand. Mostly I feel honored to be in their company.


Day 4:       27 degrees ; High 40

Sunny, intermittent clouds

Very , very, windy

Sound of rushing river increasing as the snow melts 

TO DO:       Sand upholstery pins

Wrap clothespins

Day 4 window

As I continue to draw more lines on the wall, I listen to another podcast entitled the Source of Creativity.

After decades of acclaim, the musician Sting could no longer create music. For 8 years he suffered from writer’s block. He defines creativity as the ability to take a risk. If you are compelled to put an idea out there, then you must take the risk. You must put yourself on the line.

I am still unsure what I will ‘put on the line’ or the lines on the wall.

I re-arrange my supplies again and notice that the upholstery pins are rusted. I sand them. Then I experiment with a variety of techniques to wrap clothespins. “Pegs” have a long and history in many cultures. So I conduct research

I end up using waxed linen thread from the book making supplies.



Day 5:         Low 26; High 45Day 7 window

Sky clear blue – no clouds

TO DO:      Stencil roofing rubber

Gesso canvas


The ice has re-frozen overnight and makes walking treacherous. I overheard a discussion of “yakstrax” –. These devices are a kind of personal traction system that attach to boots or shoes. I do not have any.


I gingerly make my way across the frozen parking lot. As we stood in line for breakfast, I commented to a woman holding a ski pole how prescient she was.

Unknown to me, my brief exchange was with Louise Von Weise, one of the founders of the Vermont Studio Center and driving force behind its continuing mission.

She takes her dog on a daily walk and wondered if I wanted to go on a field trip. The emphasis on the ‘field’ part. It could be icy and being ‘yakless,’ I would need hiking poles – extras are available in her ‘mudroom.’

Most mudrooms are filled with the detritus of outdoor gear: boots, coats, hats, wet mittens, dog leashes and of course, mud.

Louise’s mudroom is a misnomer. I would label it an “Alcove Museum”- floor to ceiling shelves overflowing with artwork, unusual ephemera and mementos of a life time as an artist, arts supporter and visionary. And, of course, walking poles.

We drive to Eden (yes, that is really its name), park along a dirt road and follow the dogs along a path created by snowmobiles. It was a glorious Vermont day – replete with crystal blue skies, views of mountains and the crunch of boots on the snow. And the quintessential covered bridge (in need of repair.)

It was a perfect time to practice being in the moment.

Zen saying:

Everything is connected

Everything changes

Pay attention

When I return to my studio, I open the oatmeal can filled with stencils – numbers and letters and dump them out on the roofing rubber. I set the letters aside. I return the numbers to the oatmeal box, shake them and cast them onto the roofing rubber – like runes.


Using a sponge dipped in the gesso, I fill in each stencil. To create a more random pattern, I recast them again and again – filling the space with layers of numbers. Since the paint can is open, I decide to gesso the canvas.


Day 6:        Low 16  to a High 31

Snow melt continues and mud season has arrived today.Mud

Road grit and dust prevails.

TO DO:     Attend community workshop




The Town of Johnson, population 3446 (as of 2019 census) is a stone’s throw away from Canada and boasts:


Historic society

Library (where you can check out snow shoes; cool kids’ reading nook)

Chinese Restaurant and Downtown Bar and Pizza

Ebenezer’s Book Shop (amazing)

Johnson Woolen Mills outlet

Butternut Mountain Farm Store (supplies to make syrup)

Art Supplies Store (well stocked and helpful sales people)

Laundromat (open 24 hours)

Grocery store (attached to the liquor store or vice versa)

Sewing machine repair (I had mine serviced before I left)

2 barbers; 3 salons; Massage

2 Covered bridges ( 1 repaired; 1 waiting)

Johnson Elementary school


Johnson suffers from the ills of most small towns – lack of economic opportunity, affordable housing and youth programs. However, it is a community that seeks solutions. A coffee shop will open soon as part of a rehab program designed to provide job training to those in recovery.


Protocol #7:  Connect to the Community

A Community Pizza Oven is located at the town playground.

Pizza oven

It is a visual metaphor of the mission statement of the Town of Johnson:

The people of Johnson embrace inclusiveness and together we will build bridges to understanding, ensuring that all who live, work and visit our town feel welcome and safe. We reject racism, bigotry, discrimination, violence and hatred in all its forms. The things we embrace are kindness, gentleness, understanding, neighborliness, peace, tolerance and respect for and toward all. Together we can have a cooperative, sustainable and thriving community where everyone is honored and valued.

To support their mission, a workshop on Implicit Bias (facilitated by the Vermont Human Rights Commission) will be held in the elementary school gymnasium.

Bias workshop 2

Sitting with residents of Johnson and participating in workshop exercises, I realize how fortunate I am to be part  of their mission – even if only for a short while.

I spent the Leap Year day visiting with a friend but tonight is a full moon and the start of Daylight Savings Time  guaranteeing I will be sleep deprived tomorrow..


Day 7:        16 low; 47 degreesMud

Mud and mud

TO DO:      Prepare presentation




What if I slept all day

Waited until everyone headed to breakfast to roll over and avoid thinking

What if I didn’t make the bed

What if I stopped being brave

Or didn’t shower for a week

Didn’t eat right or do my exercises or take my vitamins

What if I stopped expecting so much of myself

What if I slept all day


On the 7th Day (s)he rested…

Actually, no one ever rests at art residencies. It is hard to take a day off. No one wants to squander the gift of time – and losing an hour through daylight savings seems particularly unfair.

I sort through my materials again. I decide to grommet the edges of the sewn canvas while I listen to podcasts on Meditation.

I write another blog entry.

I prepare for my presentation.

Zen saying:

Before enlightenment you

Chop wood. Carry water.

After enlightenment you

Chop wood. Carry water.

I do laundry.



A Different Life 

Day 8:        Low 37; high 55Huge water.jpg


Snow continues to melt

River grows louder

To Do:       Taking stock


With 5 days remaining at the residency, I begin to think that maybe the seemingly disparate objects I have been creating could be components of an installation.

Some artists embrace those moments of uncertainty before an idea is fully realized. Others – like myself – avoid the start as long as possible until the whisper of an idea gets so loud that you have no choice but to take the risk.

Wars produce the missing: soldiers as well as civilians. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is dedicated to deceased U.S. service members whose remains have not been identified. Occasionally, remains of soldiers who died during WW2 or the Korean War are found and they finally “come home.”

We are familiar with the faces of missing children on milk boxes. In the aftermath of the collapse of the Twin Towers in New York, we saw posters of  the missing pasted on walls and attached to fences. We see MIA flags flying since Vietnam.

On February 28th,  I listened to a TED podcast on ‘Jumpstarting Creativity’ as I headed to VSC. On that same day, the last news story I heard before going dark was a report on the annual search for the missing by mothers in Mexico.

Mexico’s Statistic of Horror:

There are more than 3600 mass grave sites and an estimated 61,000 ‘missing’ as a result of the government war on drugs that began 10 years ago. It is now an annual event in Mexico for families of the missing to search mass unmarked graves. Their only technology are feet, pick axes and shovels.

To the searchers,  it doesn’t matter why the ‘disappeared’ went missing – only that they deserve to be found.

In 1983 peace activists Holly Near and Ronnie Gilbert performed a song about the missing women of Chile during the Pinochet junta.  Hay Una Mujer Desaparecida

Women. Men. Children. Missing. Everywhere.


Day 9:        Low 37; high 62

Snow continues to melt

River grows louderfruit window

TO DO:      Cut Tags

Punch holes

Pull  Threads

Looking – artists are always looking – at objects, at spaces, at people – to find that illusive next piece. We search both the outer world as well as the inner for ideas. We visit museums and artist studios. I visit the Schultz Sculpture space and notice several artists working with grid imagery.

” For centuries, artists used the grid mainly as a tool to achieve proportional accuracy. But only in the 20th century did the grid itself become the subject of artistic study and inquiry.

The grid is especially salient for painters. As a network of woven linen threads, the canvas they work on is already a grid;

The painter Agnes Martin said she was thinking about how to paint innocence and there appeared in her mind’s eye an image of the grid.

Martin developed her signature format: six by six foot painted canvases, covered from edge to edge with meticulously penciled grids and finished with a thin layer of gesso. ..her practice was tethered to spirituality and drew from a mix of Zen Buddhist and American Transcendentalist ideas.

She maintained that she painted with her back to the world.

Grids are used in archaeological digs and forensic archeology.

Grid searches are used to locate missing people. It is considered a last resort technique.


Day 10:       Low  34; High 52

TO DO:       Pull threads

Construct a grid

It is always a challenge to ‘begin again.’  Every time you open a sketch pad or gesso a canvas or put a mark on a stone, it is another beginning.

Life drawing.jpg

There is a daily life drawing session with a live model in Kahn. I decide to attend in hopes of using a material that has sat in my studio for years: oil bar –  Our life drawing model is an artist in her own right. She is adept at holding poses that challenge the hands and capture the eye.

I attach my ‘grommeted  canvas’ to the wall. When I work in charcoal and chalks, I cover paper with chalk and then use my bare hands as ‘erasers’  – excavating the images.

My oil stick experimenting is more difficult than I expected. The oil bars proved not to be the best choice – the canvas is unwieldy – and I couldn’t ‘erase’ using gamsol without endangering the health of everyone in the room.

Life drawing result


I retreat to my studio – not defeated – but struck by the irony:

I am attending a ‘Life’ Drawing session at a time I am researching the dead.

I carry my health directive when I travel. I keep it in the glove compartment. Several years ago, I attended a ” 5 Wishes” workshop conducted by Hospice in which we recorded answers to these questions:

  1. Who you want to make health care decisions for you when you can’t make them.
  2. The kind of medical treatment you want or don’t want.
  3. How comfortable you want to be.
  4. How you want people to treat you.
  5. What you want your loved ones to know.

Bronnie Ware, a palliative care professional, wrote about the most common regrets expressed by the people she had cared for .

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I  hadn’t worked so hard.
  3. I wish I had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Ho‘oponopono, the Hawaiian forgiveness process, relies on 11 words to create personal peace:

I am sorry.

Please forgive me.

Thank you.

I love you.

But the ‘missing’, as well as those left behind, were denied the time to make peace with each other. And themselves.

The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and for deeds left undone. Harriet Beecher Stowe, Little Foxes, 186


Day 11:     Low 24; High 35

TO DO:      VolunteerJES takeawalk CU

Excavate the trash


Taking stock – again


A Line is a Dot That Went for a Walk 

There are artists that grow up in families that support their interest in making art.  But there are many other children who do not have  those opportunities unless it is provided by their schools.

Each year, VSC’s School Arts Program offers weekly hands-on arts instruction to over 200 students at the Johnson Elementary School. VSC artists-in-residence can volunteer to assist. I sign up.

“Challenge Yourself,” Program Coordinator Arista Alanis exhorts her students. “How many more colors can you invent?”

Her art classroom is overflowing with evidence of creativity – paintings, ceramics, puppets, origami.  Recent work is drying on clotheslines strung across the room. There is not an empty surface.

Students are expected to behave like working artists.  Each has a designated work space, smock and a high quality sketchbook.

‘To Do’

Create a castle– doors, windows, parapets – using one line. Then create ‘stained glass windows” – each a different mixed color.

JES takeawalk

They work diligently and intently – some struggle to stop as class ends. They want to keep ‘challenging themselves.’

At the beginning of my travels to VSC, I explored Brandon, Vermont – a town of 3,966 inhabitants – many of whom belong to the Brandon Artists Guild (BAG). 

The 30+ members exhibit a variety of work: paintings, prints, sculpture, ceramics, jewelry. Several pieces brought a smile to my face – especially Judith Reilly’s. Her gallery, studio and home are housed in a rambling connected farm house that spans multiple eras.  She generously gives me a tour.

Fabric art doesn’t adequately describe Judith Reilly’s work: colorful, quirky, inventive. Her process includes original image design, painting fabric, working with scraps and “free motion” machine stitching.


She conducts workshops. Author of the 12 Life Lessons for Creativity, she commented on how difficult it is for artists to complete the ‘cross the page with one line’ exercise. Adults are afraid of not ‘doing it right’.’

JR ACross

Artists have to learn to be brave or learn to live with anxiety and fear.

Young artists appear to be fearless.

Go back to go forward

I always retain my discarded sketches and scraps of material until a project is completed.  I often ‘excavate’ the pile of trash.

This time, I retrieve strips of discarded canvas to sew a grid. I gather up the strands of thread that came from ‘straightening the grain.”

It is two days before Open Studio and my departure. I am cognizant that my time is running out to complete a work before I leave. My studio floor is a holding cell.

Wall of paper

Canvas with grommets

Rubber mat with stenciled numbers

Upholstery pins


Hole punched tags

Canvas Grid

Protocol # 9:      Spray fixative outdoors.

Is what I have started – done, good enough, not worth the energy to continue or something in between?  Members of the life drawing group come to look. They ask questions. They encourage me to continue. They want me to be fearless.

I start to write on the wall.


Days 12/13:  Low  24: High 44

TO DO:       Request helpFarewell window

Attach threads


Prepare for Open Studio


The Way  It Is

There’s a thread that you follow.

It goes among things that change. But it doesn’t change.

People wonder about what you are pursuing.

You have to explain about the thread.

But it is hard for others to see.

While you hold it you can’t get lost.

Tragedies happen; people get hurt

Or die; and you suffer and get old.

Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.

You don’t ever let go of the thread.

William Stafford


Protocol #9:        Collaborate

Tink – Tink – Tink

Much of my prior work has been socially conscious. Frequently community based. Often collaborative. It is my turn to tap the glass at lunchtime. I request help from everyone in the room to tie a thread onto a tag. I cannot finish the piece in time for tonight’s Open Studio without their help.

The cosmos finally reveals the reason behind the location of my studio in Kahn. I have  the beginning of a vision for the piece. But I need painters – painters who are brave, skilled at their craft, and generous with their time to work with me.

Mimi Pantuhova  spent every moment at VSC working on her paintings – braving the cold to spray charcoal fixative outside as she layered image upon image.

Stefan Berg  is a highly disciplined, skilled full time painter who creates works of  great precision.

Brigitt Kocsis came to VSC, abandoned her previous work  to begin anew.

Each generously volunteers to lend a hand – literally.

Protocol # 10:         Express Gratitude

Tink – Tink –  Tink

The entire staff stands somber before us. Unlike our welcome – filled with expectations and opportunity – They  announce that VSC is closing out of a ‘preponderance of caution.’

Although I had managed to remain somewhat detached from the severity of what was taking place in the outside world, I suspected that we could not hide from the Covid 19 epidemic.

Most VSC attendees were scheduled to be in residency for a month. The closing would be a hardship for all – from the kitchen staff to those who had traveled so far to be part of this community. There are those who have to leave unfinished sculptures and wet canvases. Everyone is disappointed.

We must now all be fearless.

Learn to get in touch with the silence within yourself and know that everything in this life has a purpose. There are no mistakes, no coincidences. All events are blessings given to us to learn from.

  Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

With much gratitude to the staff and artists for your help – especially Mimi, Stefan and Brigitta whose assistance and support contributed to the completion of  the work: Aletheia.  Be well everyone.

Aletheia is variously translated as “unclosedness”, “unconcealedness”, “disclosure” or “truth“. The literal meaning of the word λήθεια is “the state of not being hidden; the state of being evident.”








Marking the Hours: Chapter 2

The Liturgy of the Hours is the official set of prayers “marking the hours of each day and sanctifying the day with prayer”.

Lessons learned on an island

When the fog lifts, it is a slow process.

At first, a gray curtain cascades from the sky and intersects with the water so completely that there is no horizon. It is eerily quiet – except for the incessant drone of the fog horn.

When you are paddling a kayak, you have no sense of direction. Your eyes struggle to focus on something –  anything.

Suddenly, the shroud begins to dissipate. It withdraws, slowly revealing the outlines of the masts of moored boats then their hulls and finally the water.

You catch a glimpse of the Casco Bay ferry emerging from nothingness. And all that is known and familiar becomes visible.

You regain a sense of direction.


 I am in my kayak again.  I am seeing the world from the water.

I go out early in the morning before the sun heats the air and waves begin to form. I glide across the smooth surface of the water. Kayaking is practice in living in the moment.

Jo kayak

Photo credit: Liz Johnson

When you are worried about capsizing into 60 degree water, you pay attention. You need to be aware of change. It can be a change in the tide, the current, the wind, or sound. Sometimes a change is felt without knowing where it originated – the movement of tankers and cruise ships can be felt across the channel as a subtle ripple under your boat.

It appears that the water is moving forward, but it is the wave’s energy that is moving. The scientific description is that ”waves are the forward movement of the ocean’s water due to the oscillation of water particles by the frictional drag of wind over the water’s surface. “

If you have forgotten your 4th grade science, here is a video that explains it.

The highest part of the wave is called the crest: the lowest is the trough. From the crest, it is easier to see where you are and where you are going.

It is more difficult to find direction in the trough.  It can be terrifying .

I am living in the in-between:

In between what was and what might be

In between what was done and what there is to be done

In between what was created and what to create next.

In a kayak, to  prepare for what might happen next, you sit quietly and listen.

To create, the Sisters of St. Gertrude’s believe you “listen with the ear of the heart.”


When you enter the water in a kayak, you should know where you are starting and where you want to end. You should be prepared for landing at other places if there is a storm or you are tired or you just want to stop to look for eagles or watch the baby osprey fledge.

Maps are for use on land. Entering coordinates into my phone and being guided by a disembodied voice – is convenient , as long as the battery is charged.

Charts are for use on water. Aids to Navigation – landmarks, lighthouses, buoys, beacons – are overlaid on a detailed background with depth markings. And a chart is waterproof.


I always have a chart and a compass with me in my kayak even though I mostly ‘handrail’ between and around the islands .

A handrail is a feature or landmark that leads towards your destination and one that you can follow or keep within sight. It can be manmade or natural. The most common in kayaking and canoeing is the shoreline.

flat water

Peter Turchi in his book Maps of the Imagination: the writer as cartographer

 (Using the map as a metaphor),…considers writing as a combination of exploration and presentation,…. He compares the way a writer leads a reader though the imaginary world of a story, novel, or poem to the way a mapmaker charts the physical world.. .Goodreads

“To ask for a map,” says Turchi, “is to say, ‘Tell me a story.’ “

In school – maybe even in 4th Grade – along with memorizing Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Paul Revere’s Ride,” I learned a poem by Carl Sandburg

The fog comes on little cat feet.

It sits looking over harbor and city on silent haunches

and then moves on..

In the fog, it is more difficult to discern direction.

To see where to go next, you have to wait for the fog to lift.

Sometimes you just need to stay in place.


No bigger than a shoe box. That is the directive.  It had taken 2 years to recover – physically, financially, emotionally – from my last community based artwork – Welcoming the Stranger. My commitment to myself (and friends) was to work small.  And alone. And with compassion – for myself and for others.

(Although there are 50 gallons of paper pulp in my studio currently – 50 gallons and the word small in the same sentence might be an oxymoron)

No bigger than a shoe box.                         IMG_1112

While at St Gertrude’s,  I made handmade paper and a one-of-a-kind book entitled Religare. I mined the monastery for materials and meaning. After my 3 week residency, I had the  inkling of an idea – triggered by an image – but it is not fully developed – it dances around the edges of my consciousness – elusive – It is that lack of direction that is unsettling to an artist.

I realize I need a way to express myself until the path unfolds.

Two summers ago I was a tour guide on Peaks Island, Maine. In preparing my spiel about the early settlers, I researched Greenwood Gardens, the Gem fire, and other local lore. I cobbled together a history of the Trefethen Evergreen Improvement Association – the TEIA.

From clippings, obituaries, newspaper articles, and TEIA meeting agendas, I noticed parallels with current island issues of development, tourist crowds, trash removal, water shortages, traffic noise, etc.

I became fascinated with the Daveis sisters – Mary and Mabel – and their contributions to 1920’s island life. Mary served as the first woman president of TEIA. They wintered in Portland and summered on Peaks Island living in ‘Magpie Cottage.’ They were Christian Scientists. They were conservationists and suffragists. They lobbied for water to be piped to the island when the aquifer was threatened. And succeeded.


I combined as much of the history as I could verify with a great deal of poetic license and created a one act play – Hats Off –  based on the lives of Mary and Mabel.

stage-scene.jpgExcerpt: Act 1 – Scene 1


(Takes newspaper out of purse. Flashes it in front of Mary’s face. Then proceeds to read aloud from newspaper.)

Today’s headline: Peaks Island – the “The Coney Island of Maine.”

(Mary turns from mirror to listen.)


‘The idyllic island off the coast of Portland invites you to spend a day or week  (OH PLEASE, NO) in one of our sixteen hotels or 600 cottages. Experience the many amusements we have for visitors to Peaks Island. Take a leisurely ride on the ferry (MORE LIKE AT CATTLE BOAT.) Enjoy a play at the Gem Theatre, visit the prairie dog zoo, try your hand at bowling. And when tired, rest at the beer garden.  (CAROUSE).

The smell of steamed lobster will entice you to stay for a shore dinner. Take a walk along the boardwalk to Trefethen pier to enjoy the sunset (AND HOPE YOU DON’T FALL THROUGH).

Boats leave daily from Boston. Make your reservations now to visit the Coney Island of Maine -.’

(Infuriated rants.) Just what we need – more tourists with their cars and their noise; and their garbage; their unseemly behavior. They destroy the natural beauty … They take advantage of our gentile hospitality.

(Yells out the window using a megaphone)

Slow down; Some of us live here!!

Island Shorts - Poster (1)



I submitted Hats Off to the Island Shorts festival. It was accepted. Auditions held. The cast selected. Elizabeth Davis as Mabel; Heather Murdoch Curry as Mary; Molly Johnson as Tour Guide and Liz Rollins, Director. All generously and tirelessly worked learning lines, creating costumes, commandeering props for sets. Everyone was a volunteer.



Excerpt – Act 1: Scene 2                             TOUR GUIDE/OPERATOR

This is the Trefethen Evergreen Improvement Association – the ‘Club’ – that’s what us islanders call it. Originally the Dayburn Casino – known throughout New England for its dance floor – it went belly up. The lack of dance partners due to WW1 may have contributed to its demise.

 (Guide attempts to continue – reading from a paper so looking down)

In 1922, the Casino became the permanent home of TEIA. Two of the founding members were the Daveis sisters – – Mary and Mabel—who invested time and money to support the mission:

(Looks up as if asked a question. Holds up her hand to stop. Continues reading.)

 The mission of the TEIA is to improve Peaks Island, to preserve its natural beauties, to develop its resources, to promote its health, cleanliness and attractiveness, and advance its religious, intellectual and social life.

The Daveis Sisters were instrumental in the establishment of the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Portland. They played an important role as early members of the Audubon Society in establishment of the Migratory Bird Protection Act of 1918.

Excerpt – Act 1: Scene 3

 (Mabel: Hears the eiders. Takes out binoculars and peers first to the sky and slowly lowering them down. Makes sounds of eiders –Addresses eider ducks.)

Ladies – I’m so happy to see you back here. I guess , like Mark Twain, news of your demise has been greatly exaggerated.(chuckles to self.)  I have recently been invited to speak on your behalf about the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act – protecting all nongame birds, nests, and their eggs.

(Continues to talk to eiders while looking through binoculars. Kneels and leans forward addressing birds.)

I wish you could have been with me at Harriet’s tea party in Boston. At the end of the party, 900 of Boston’s most influential and fashionable women pledged to stop wearing hats with feathers.

(Tilts head as if listening to ducks respond.)

Yes, the very same women responsible for the near extinction of your ancestors. – (Incredulous) Imagine – almost eliminated by hats. Imagine – saved by hats!!


Following the death of Mabel Daveis at the age of 87, per her wishes, the Magpie Cottage was dismantled and the land upon which it stood donated in perpetuity to the songbirds of Peaks Island and those who wish to listen to them.

(Hear the birds singing.)



This is 100th anniversary of the Migratory Bird Protection Act. Be thankful for the Daveis sister’s foresight and generosity and advocacy.


Island Shorts: 6 plays, 6 casts, 6 sets, and back-to-back rehearsals for 4 weeks. The 3 night run was a big success. To celebrate, the cast of Hats Off made a commitment to jump from the ferry dock.  With the Rollins boys in tow – Winter and Wyeth – we jumped!!!





Marking the Hours – Chapter 1

The Liturgy of the Hours is the official set of prayers “marking the hours of each day and sanctifying the day with prayer”.

Lessons Learned Living in Community

The Monastery of St Gertrude’s is located in Cottonwood, Idaho. It is 4 hours by car (6 hours by bus) from Boise. Built in 1924 of porphyry stone from a quarry on site, the monastery is on the National Register of Historic Places.


St. Benedict of Nursia, Italy lived as a hermit in a cave for 3 years and emerged with 200 guiding principles – the Rule – adhered to by monastics throughout the world.

The Sisters of St Gertrude’s support the teachings of St. Benedict as written in their mission statement:

We are a community founded by creative, courageous, pioneering women ministering to the needs of the times.

Using early Christian communities as our model, we live out the values of praying together, living together, sharing all things in common, and serving the wider community and one another.

They also offer a Residency for Artists. It is a month-long “opportunity for women visual artists, musicians and writers to spend time with their practices in a monastic setting amidst the Benedictine Sisters.“

The Benedictine sisters pray 5x a day. Since I had been researching Books of Hours and prayer,  I hoped living within a prayer-based community would provide direction for my artwork or at least words to fill the sheets of my handmade paper.


I arrived in Idaho on the first day of river rafting season and the opening of salmon fishing. The road to Cottonwood was jammed with RV’s, rafts, tents – people setting up temporary ‘villages’ along the highway.

As we crested the mountain, the Camas Prairie stretched before me.


The population of Cottonwood is 916 or so – about the same as Union Bridge in Maryland and Peaks Island in the winter. There is a coffee shop, hardware store, café that also serves ice cream, and a grocery store. The monastery is located 3+ miles from town.

cottonwood sign

Thanks to a 50+ year friendship with a generous friend living in Idaho and her SUV, I arrived at St. Gertrude’s with several boxes of art supplies and dehydrated paper pulp.

Lesson 1: Healing Hospitality

I had been corresponding with Sr. Theresa Jackson for several months. She was aware that I was  “stuck.” Therefore, the only real requirement for my stay was to help in the kitchen. It would be my first lesson in living in community. Rinsing pots proved to be the best way to meet every Sister and for them to learn about my art work. (Not to mention learning how to make Heavenly Fudge and Wacky Cake.**) .

In exchange, I would be provided with a room, meals, studio space.

With its high ceilings, oak moldings, wide baseboards, polished floors and antique furniture, St. Gertrude’s echoes the architecture of  the 1920’s. Statues of saints fill every niche and religious artworks adorn the walls.

My room consisted of a single bed, dresser, comfy chair, desk and an unfettered view of the prairie. For the duration of my residency, I chose to disconnect from all electronics: computers, TV, radio and cell phones. A book by Joan Chittister Wisdom Distilled from the Daily: Living the Rule of St Benedict Today sits on the desk. Every morning I read a chapter to learn how the Rule can be applied to current day life.

bell towers

Bells ring when it is time to pray.  The sisters ring them by pulling on ropes through the ceilings of offices located in the bell tower. The mass is led by the sisters. There are multiple prayers books. They sing in a style of call and response. Their prayers focus on issues in the world.

Lesson 2: Grateful Simplicity

There are 100 Benedictine monasteries throughout the U.S. St. Gertrude’s, once the home for 150 sisters, now houses less than 50.

Everyone has a role in the support of their community and maintaining the various buildings, community projects, and stated mission. They have  mixed sources of income-producing ventures which allow them to continue to live together and care for each other.

Everyone – sisters, cleaning personnel, workshop attendees – took meals together and cleared their own dishes.

Everyone serves themselves at meals. The compost bucket held very little waste.

At the end of the week, leftovers usually appear in a soup.

Nothing is wasted.

The 1920’s kitchen was converted to a processing center for making herbal products and raspberry jam.

Vats heated with wood once used for washing clothing are now used to process apricots and peaches for canning.

peach tub

All paper and cardboard are recycled.

Clothing is chosen from donations.

Dust cloths and cleaning rags are washed.

Before my arrival, I envisioned a bucolic setting enveloped in silence. While there were intentional silent retreats, there was always a buzz of activity  – Sisters mowing lawns, greeting visitors to the museum, preparing the rooms at the B and B and registering attendees for workshops and retreats at the Spirit Conference Center.


Spirit Center




Bed and Breakfast Inn

Historically, the sisters of St. Gertrude’s raised all their own food and animals. Today, they grow a limited amount of vegetables and fruit and herbs for a line of Nature’s Gifts products. They cultivate raspberries and when ripe, everyone harvests them by hand. The annual Raspberry Festival takes place in August and features their homemade jam.



Lesson 3: Creative Peacemaking

The art studio had been originally designed for making stained glass and small icons. Upon arrival, my clutter busting tendencies that led to the shredding of all my journals  kicked in — I cleared surfaces, organized tools, categorized books, and set up a coffee center. I even created an excel spreadsheet of the materials for future residency participants. This was another lesson in being a part of a community,  I first had to be sure changing the space was permissible.


Then I unpacked my boxes. And I sat. And I looked. And I breathed.

I make paper. I reconstitute the pulp using a blender from the raspberry jam kitchen, create a pulp bath in the sink, mop up the floor from a leak in the sink. And make more paper.


I make smaller deckles to make smaller pages that can be cupped in the hand. Collected together they form a kind of breviary. The contents of the breviary might have included psalmsScripture lessons, as well as hymns and prayers. Often breviaries were carried by women.






Sometimes a Sister would just walk by.

Sometimes a Sister would just look in.

Sometimes a Sister came to talk.

Sometimes they would ask what I was making.

Sometimes I would respond:

I don’t know yet.

Sometimes they would respond:

Just ‘listen with the ear of the heart.’


Lesson 4: Prayer awakens. Justice impels. Compassion acts.

The Sisters pray 5 times a day. Attendance at prayers is optional. At the end of each day I attend vespers and then walk a path through fields of wild lupine and swaying pine trees to the property boundary.

To view the distant mountains and surrounding river,  I climb a stile over a barbed wire fence.stile

Unlike Marc Chagall’s painting of Jacob’s ladder with angels ascending and descending from heaven, I am firmly earthbound.








The Benedictines follow the Principles of Catholic Social Justice teaching. As part of this commitment,  the Sisters watch the nightly news – in community. Often their request for a specific prayer relates to current events.

One night, their prayers revolved around concern for the children being separated from their mothers seeking asylum.

An image appeared to me as I sat in the sanctuary.


It was a woodcut by Kathe Kollwitz (1867-1945) – a committed pacifist – who had lost two sons to war. Entitled Die Mutter/The Mothers. They form a circle – of arms – surrounding their children. They were bound together in the effort to provide protection.

That night, I began work on Religare. – It is a handmade book composed of multiple accordion folds – each fold sewn to form a pocket. Within each pocket is a card inscribed with words from the Rule. The book forms a circle when opened and a breviary when closed.  Religare is translated as ‘ to bind together.’ The Benedictine sisters are bound together within their community and committed to justice through prayer.

religareIn my time at St. Gertrudes’s, I witnessed acts of kindness and compassion – within and outside the community. My role as an artist was supported. I was relieved of daily responsibilities and protected from worldly intrusion.

I resolved to seek imagery in my own work that would reflect that same kindness and compassion. But, I had done all I could do…for now.

On my walk after vespers, I listened as the wind in the trees resounded  like the ocean.

It was time to go back to the island…


** Cooking Lesson #1:  Wacky Cake

9×14 pan. Dump all ingredients into the pan.

2 cups sugar

3 cups flour

½ cup cocoa

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 TB vanilla

2 tsp apple cider vinegar

¾ cup vegetable oil

Add 2 cups of cold water and mix with a fork until blended. Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes


1 ½ sticks of butter – melted

1 cup cocoa

1 ½ tsp vanilla

2/3 c milk

Blend in 4 and ½ cups powdered sugar until correct consistency for frosting.  Frost cake shortly after removing from oven.

Cooking Lesson #2: Heavenly Hash

12 oz chocolate chips

½ c crunchy peanut butter

Melt together in microwave for 3 minutes

Add 3 cups of miniature marshmallows

½ – ¾ c crushed walnuts or pecans

Spread in buttered pyrex dish.

Cut up into squares

Wrap individually and put one piece on a pillow

Thank you to Sister Chanelle Schuler, BnB Host, for the recipes (and lessons.)



archaeology. c.1600, “ancient history,” from French archéologie (16c.) or directly from Greek arkhaiologia “the study of ancient things;” see archaeo- + -ology

STRATA 1: Studio

I am stuck.

When I said “No’ to exhibiting Welcoming the Stranger in Tucson, I broke my cycle of creation. For 9 months I research, plan, and then ‘deliver’ the art work. I then take 9 months to recover: to earn money, to eat right, to sleep and exercise, and to reconnect to friends.  And then I begin again.

During ‘recovery’ I look for a little-known piece of history that is echoed in current day events.  All my projects have focused on the past: Seeds of Change, Invisible Legacy, Heifer Relief, Palimpsest series, Liber. I then choose the materials that best convey the idea, concept or message.

Eighteen months have passed.

I am stuck.

Writers call it writers block. I call it ‘stuck.’

Sometimes when I am stuck, I clean the studio.

IMG_1114I re-shelve previously exhibited works – already boxed, labeled and stored

I sort through sketches, photos, unused materials, postcards.


I am still stuck.

Most artists keep sketchbooks and record ideas on various scraps of paper. I keep journals. I document the personal and political, big projects and small, workshops, dreams – day to day anguish and Artist’s Way morning pages. I record my adventures on trips, people I meet along the way, even the cost of gas and food. There are lists of what I hoped to accomplish, places to visit. I even found my “obituary” written at a workshop on death and dying. (Unlike Jefferson who believed he would one day be famous, I do not include copies of my correspondence.)

Sometimes when I am stuck –  I read my journals.

STRATA 2: Journals

Journal entry: Toronto, 1986

The Tate Modern in London houses the national collection of British art from the 1900 to present: the exhibit rooms are arranged by eras. – a kind of archeological foray through the history of art. It also maintains a large collection of Henry Moore sculptures.


I have a very clear memory of seeing the work before – but not in England. The Art Gallery of Ontario houses Moore’s plaster and bronze models and the stones that inspired him. According to a journal entry, I visited the gallery in 1986 but recall only a desk from his studio on which small bones and maquettes resided.

I wrote I wanted to create art and have a studio in the country.

Journal entry: Maryland, 1994

My Firehouse Studio is located in the farming community of Carroll County, Maryland. I held a 100 th birthday party for it as part of a House Tour – complete with cake and candles. However, it is more than 100 years YOUNGER than the Dielman Inn of New Windsor – only 4 miles away.

The Town of New Windsor was laid out and surveyed into 28 lots in 1797 …

…One of the most notable structures in town is the 10,000 square foot, 42 room Dielman Inn at High and Main Streets. It was a popular gathering place for vacationers from the 1870s through its closing in 1927. The proprietor was Louis William Dielman, a former professor of music at Calvert College in town. He delighted in sponsoring after-dinner concerts, musicales, lectures, skits and tableaux featuring guests who hailed from as far away as New York



An archeological “dig” takes place every Saturday at the Dielman Inn and is open to members of the community. The ‘privy’ collection includes pieces of pottery, broken tools, detritus from the 1700’s and later.

In her day job, Lisa Macurak teaches ancient history to middle schoolers but her passion is archeology. She shares her time and knowledge with anyone willing to listen while they uncover a piece of history.


IMG_0390I wanted to be an archeologist in my next life.

Journal Entry: Taos, New Mexico, 2000

I always wrote. Poems, stories, scripts, letters to editors. At one time I had a column in a local newspaper.

At the Aztec Ruins National Monument there is an exhibit that depicts the various layers in the geological history of the site and objects revealed during its excavation. There are placards with explanations based on the thinking of the archeologists at that time.

Traditional Puebloan attitudes about ruins are that every place has its life and once it has been abandoned, it is proper and respectful that it be allowed to return to the natural elements of which it was originally created.

What are the elements from which words are created?

STRATA 3: Words

I have decided to shred my journals.  As I tear out the pages and feed them into the shredder, I read each one. It is somewhat freeing – and at the same time – fills me with nostalgia.

Shredding my journals is like being an archeologist of my own life —

The annual New Year’s resolutions, recorded dreams still requiring more analysis than I have time for, and the litany of what I haven’t accomplished in my artist life as well as my personal life, fill the pages. (it also appears I have the same 30 lbs to lose – intermittently – and regain eventually. And ALWAYS need new walking shoes.)


My studio is now littered with bags of my shredded journals. I am still stuck but now I am also stuck with the detritus of my writing – a lot of it.

I always attend the Biennial Book Arts Fair. Artists exhibit their hand-made paper and one of a kind Artist Books – There are calligraphers and letter press printers. There are sculptures made from paper pulp.

When you studied Maine commerce in 4th grade, you learned about potatoes and paper. When I entered Pyramid Atlantic Arts Center doors,  I was thrown back in time to rainy days growing up in Maine when the smell of the SD Warren paper mill reached our noses. The mill was a major employer at that time.

Today, I would describe the smell as kombucha made from trees.

Gretchen Schermerhorn is the PAAC artistic director and an artist in her own right. She creates works on paper and sculptures with paper. .IMG_1016


I spent several days working with Gretchen. I combined my shredded pages with water in a Hollander beater. As the paper and water mix, a slurry is formed.


Forty-five minutes later, I have paper pulp – lots of it. Then I fill 5 gallon buckets with the mixture. It is a very physical process.

My journals produced 50 gallons of paper pulp – IMG_1020

its color derived from the blending of all the ink from all the words.IMG_1015

(For a 6 minute quick overview of paper making you can do at home, check out: Pulp and Deckle )


STRATA 4: Museum

The term archaeology, was not used until early in the 17th Century. Prior to this there was no real desire to carefully preserve the history of long forgotten cultures.

….‘However, Europe’s Dark Ages were slowly being illuminated by a revived thirst for education. The newly invented printing press had placed bibles in the hands of those outside of the clergy and there was renewed interest in the biblical sites of antiquity.’Wikipedia

Gutenberg’s Apprentice by Alix Christie is historical fiction. ‘Johannes Gutenberg was a German blacksmith whose printing press has been widely considered the most important invention of the modern era because it profoundly impacted the transmission of knowledge. ‘ The book traces the development of the printing press in a world of monastic scribes through the eyes of one of those scribes.

Scriptorium (/skrɪpˈtɔːriəm/  literally “a place for writing”, is commonly used to refer to a room in medieval European monasteries devoted to the writing, copying and illuminating of manuscripts by monastic scribes

 Thousands of books of hours made between 1250 and 1700 survive today in libraries and museums,… No two are exactly alike, although they share one group of devotions. That text, a set of prayers in eight sections meant to be said at regular intervals throughout the twenty-four-hour day, is called the Hours of the Virgin, and is the basis for the term book of hours.

One of the largest collections of illuminated manuscripts is housed in the Walters Gallery of Art in Baltimore.

Nine hundred illuminated books of hours and manuscripts are preserved in the lower level of #5 Mt. Vernon Sq.IMG_1111

Although they have been digitized and can be viewed on line , I am adamant about seeing the books in situ. They are available for viewing (by appointment only) at the Original Manuscript and Rare Book Library.

Access to the library is via a labyrinthian path for which you need a guide. Nicole Berlin majored in archeologist but spends her days researching and translating manuscripts written in Latin or Greek.

As we make our way to the Library, we stop to examine an exhibit of the history of paper and book making – with examples of the implements, tools, and materials used to illuminate manuscripts.

The library looks like a set from an Agatha Christie mystery. Shelves of ancient tomes line the walls. A globe occupies a corner of the room. Displayed on a large wooden table are 4 books resting in wooden cradles—designed to protect the fragile bindings.


The viewing process is frustrating because only the Curators are allowed to turn the pages. (No white gloves.) To view the details, I must rely on Nicole’s descriptions and analysis. We discuss the content of the books, the design of pages, intricate patterns, gilding.

IMG_1102Although we are strangers, there is a kind of intimacy created by the proximity of our heads as we peer at the pages. I am sure that we look as if our heads are bowed in prayer. Or at least a monk peering at his work as he creates an illuminated manuscript.

After years of creating large scale community based art, my friends want me to limit the size of my next artwork to that of a shoe box – .

50 gallons of pulp could be formed into paper –  a lot of it.

I may no longer be stuck.









A place of refuge or safety

A nature preserve

A sacred place

The innermost recess or holiest part of a temple or church

I am once again on Peaks Island.

It is a place where I wake to the caws of crows as they trail after the trash truck.

It is a place where bird sightings – snowy owls, guillemot, night herons, downy woodpeckers –are shared via the Nextdoor listserv

It is a place where the eider ducks are busy protecting their babies from the newly arrived eagles. The adults form fortresses with their bodies as they shepherd their babies to and fro.

It is a place when in 1946, the Davies sisters bequeathed their property to the “preservation and development of the wild beauty of the estate and the attraction, propagation and preservation of song birds.”

Sanctuary – A place of refuge or safety.

I am staying in what was formerly called the Lemon Cottage. Scheduled for demolition in 2001, my landlords – avid architectural preservationists – purchased, dismantled, relocated and rebuilt the circa 1860 style cottage – minus its kitchen and bathroom. Due to the fact they had not numbered the boards, there were a few leftover pieces post reconstruction. The cottage now serves as a woodshop, boathouse, and my “nest.”


Surrounded by trees, the Nest is ‘feathered’ with side-of-the-road furniture. In exchange for the use of the Nest, I open their cottage at the beginning of the summer. There is a 2-page list of “to do’s” – posted on Leonard (the refrigerator) including but not limited to:


Turn on the water (requires crawling under a building,) arrange for electric (flip circuits), remove tarps, charge the car battery and test brakes, remove shutters, rake leaves—take leaves to the compost bins at the community garden.


Spray for ants, vacuum up bodies; look for rodent evidence (don’t vacuum up their bodies), unpack EVERYTHING stored in plastic bags, discard dryer sheets used to deter rodents (sometimes effective.)

As I unwrap their art, I recognize works created by many of the island artists. My hosts support of all forms of art – paintings, ceramics, clothing – even my community-based work Welcoming the Stranger.

This year, I am adding sculpture to their collection. In 1998 I built labyrinths throughout Maryland.

Since then, three 8’ ceramic reliefs – Demeter, Persephone, and Hecate – have been waiting for a permanent home. They have found it at the Nest.


Here I can focus on being a naturalist, an artist, a writer. (And a cottage concierge.)

Here I can give myself permission to not worry.

Here I rest until I am renewed.

Here I am supported by friends.

It is a sanctuary built on kindness.


Sanctuary: A nature preserve

I have a bucket list. I no longer wish to visit creations produced by humans but want to experience creations that existed before humans. Each adventure requires travel and specific timing:

  • Witness the monarch migration in California;
  • Experience the aurora borealis in Iceland (with a few active volcanoes and hot springs thrown in); and
  • Kayak with humpback whales in Tongo.

There are two ‘families’ of butterflies. Those east of the Rockies migrate to Mexico; those west of the Rockies stay in California and occupy towns along the Monterey coast from October to February.

For my February birthday, my sister and I ‘migrated’ to the Monarch Sanctuary in Pacific Grove, California. Since the 1930’s, Pacific Grove has been Butterfly Town USA.

It is easier to locate a coffee shop in Pacific Grove than to witness monarchs flying. For butterflies to fly, it must be sunny, 60 degrees or above and NOT raining. 2017 has been the wettest winter in 122 years along the Monterey peninsula (and elsewhere in California.)

According to the docent, sightings were down dramatically. No one is exactly sure why. The butterfly is now a ‘climate refugee.’

There are 5 stages from egg to adult monarch.

Milkweed is critical to the process. It is the only plant on which monarch butterflies will lay their eggs and is the primary food source for monarch caterpillars.

The plant decreased 21 percent in the United States between 1995 and 2013. Scientists, conservationists, and butterfly enthusiasts are encouraging people to grow milkweed in their own yards and gardens – to create Monarch Waystations – pesticide free zones – sanctuaries.

The community gardens at both the Pipe Creek Meeting house in Maryland and on Peaks Island are home to pollinator plants and native milkweed. (And we compost.)


Sanctuary: A place of refuge or safety.

Linda Rabben in her book: Give Refuge to the Stranger traces the history of sanctuary since ancient times. She believes altruism – in primates and other animals – is at its foundation. The historical roots of the movement derive from the right of sanctuary in medieval law and Jewish and Christian social teachings.

“ ….Human beings may have given refuge to strangers for 100,000 years or more. So many societies around the world practice or have practiced it that it can be considered a human universal, a characteristic of our species as a whole.”

The Sanctuary Movement was a religious and political campaign that began in the early 1980s to provide safe-haven for Central American refugees fleeing civil conflict. The movement was a response to federal immigration policies that made obtaining asylum difficult for Central Americans.

At its peak, Sanctuary involved over 500 congregations in the United States which, by declaring themselves official “sanctuaries,” committed to providing shelter, protection, material goods and often legal advice to Central American refugees. Various denominations were involved.

Several prominent Sanctuary figures were arrested and put on trial in the mid 1980s, including its two “founders”: Rev. John Fife – Southside Presbyterian Church and Jim Corbett – a Quaker.

Busted by Federal Agents, a Tucson Pastor Keeps the Sanctuary Light Aflame for Fleeing Salvadorans – Vol. 23 No. 12

Today, Reverend Fife continues the work of welcoming strangers to Tucson.


Sanctuary: A sacred place

 The word sanctuary comes from the Latin word for sacred place.

 Tucson is located about 100 miles from the border with Mexico. It is surrounded by the Santa Catalina, Rincon, and Santa Rita mountain ranges.

It is a city that welcomes strangers.


I met Mary Koopman on the Peaks Island ferry. On our ride to Portland, we had a conversation about death and dying. She is a nurse specializing in hospice care. We have kept in touch over the years as our lives evolved. She moved to Tucson, was ordained as a Buddhist priest and established the Sky Island Zen sangha. She volunteers with a refugee resettlement program. (On my first day visiting her, we transported donated furniture to a newly arrived refugee family.)

She believes Tucson may be a place to install Abraham’s Tent and pursue another exhibition of Welcoming the Stranger.

Once again, I research possible venues, make appointments and follow leads. I travel to Tucson.

I attend the Handweavers and Spinners Guild annual meeting. More than 200 weavers and spinners were there. A member invited me to speak to her college class about community-based art.

I visit the Warehouse Arts Management Organization Gallery – housed in a 4000 sq ft historic warehouse in downtown Tucson. It has been a catalyst in the renaissance of the downtown arts district. It could house the exhibit and provide space for additional events.I meet with gallery curators and advocacy organization directors including The Jewish Historical Museum of Tucson, Jewish Community Center, YWCA.





All make time to talk with me.

All are underfunded.


Sanctuary: the innermost recess or holiest part of a temple or church From Latin sanctuarium, from sanctus ‘holy.’

My last day in Tucson, I attended the Religious Society of Friends meeting.

Quakers sit in silence and listen for that still, small voice within for guidance. It was a warm spring day. The windows were open. The curtains fluttered in the breeze.

The hour passed in complete silence.

At the potluck lunch, I spoke about Welcoming the Stranger and my ‘call’ to create the work. I provided hand outs on the history of the project, what was needed to mount the show and how unclear I was about whether to exhibit in Tucson.

Someone suggested a book in the meeting’s library: Callings – Finding and Following an Authentic Life 1998 by Gregg Levoy.

As I flipped through the pages – a phrase caught my eye:

Saying No to a Calling.

In 2015, Welcoming the Stranger was exhibited at the Maine Jewish Museum and examined the history of immigration in Maine and immigration today.

In 2016, Guilford College, a Quaker school and home of Every Campus A Refuge, sponsored its installation in the City of Greensboro, NC – an official sanctuary city.

To exhibit Welcoming the Stranger in Tucson, I would have to proceed without secured financial support or a sponsor.

A clearness committee is a group of Friends (Quakers) appointed to help a member of the meeting find clarity around a leading. A clearness committee’s job is to help the person discover whether there is clarity to move forward with a matter, wait, or take other action.

As I write this blog entry, the United States government is considering legislation to cut federal funding to all cities that declare themselves ‘sanctuary cities. action=click&contentCollection=U.S.&module=RelatedCoverage&region=Marginalia&pgtype=article


How did medieval societies decide to pursue the rule of law rather than allow mob rule?

How did the members of the Sanctuary Movement decide that their spiritual beliefs superceded the law of the land?

How does a city and its people decide to remain a sanctuary city rather than receive federal funds?

How does an artist choose between following a calling or letting it go?


I continue to listen for the still, small voice within.


Welcoming the Stranger is a 501 3c organization. If you would like to make a donation, make check payable to the Welcoming the Stranger Fund and send to:

Community Foundation of Carroll County

355 Clifton Blvd # 313

Westminster MD 21157

Or donate directly with Pay Pal:




 From French inauguration “installation, consecration,” and directly from Late Latin inaugurationem (nominative inauguratio) “consecration,” presumably originally “installment under good omens;” noun of action from past participle stem of inaugurare “take omens from the flight of birds; consecrate or install when omens are favorable,” from in- “on, in” (see in- (2)) + augurare “to act as an augur, predict” (see augur (n.)).

It’s January.

It’s cold.

It’s gray.

I am drinking Peace on Earth coffee and wearing ‘glittens’ as I write this blog. I am listening to the morning news on the radio.

img_3932Peace on Earth coffee is grown in Peru and Columbia and processed in Madison, WI. I know this because as a SERRV “customer care” representative, I was frequently asked questions about the growing and production of their coffee.


To learn more about the role of coffee in my art process refer to

The mission of SERRV International is to “promote the social and economic progress of people in developing regions of the world by marketing their products in a just and direct manner.”

 SERRV was started in 1949 by the Church of the Brethren – one of the traditional peace churches that include the Quakers and Mennonites. Peace churches are churches, groups or communities advocating pacifism or Biblical nonresistance. I first learned about the peace churches when creating Heifer Relief: Compass, Ark, Berth a multi media installation about the ‘seagoing cowboys’ of WW2.

SERRV began importing handicrafts from the world’s least developed countries as a way to alleviate poverty. Recognized for adhering to fair trade principles, it currently works with 85 small-scale, cooperatively run producer groups in 35 countries.

I wish that drinking coffee and wearing handmade gloves could pave the way to peace – between people, between communities, between countries….

But as the BBC radio program ends,  I realize the road to peace is still long.


Inauguration: the beginning or introduction of a system, policy, or period.

All we are saying…is give peace a chance.

The Beatles’ song quickly became the anthem of the anti Vietnam-war and counterculture movements. In November of 1969, a half a million demonstrators sang it in Washington, D.C. at the Vietnam Moratorium Day. I moved permanently to Washington in 1975 after graduating from Gallaudet University to become a teacher of the hearing impaired at Kendall Demonstration Elementary School.

In 1977, I attended President Jimmy Carter’s inauguration and  interpreted his speech for hearing impaired friends.

His speech outlined a road map to healing – out cities, our country, our world –

“Within us, the people of the United States, there is evident a serious and purposeful rekindling of confidence. And I join in the hope that when my time as your President has ended, people might say this about our Nation:

–that we had remembered the words of Micah and renewed our search for humility, mercy, and justice;

–that we had torn down the barriers that separated those of different race and region and religion, and where there had been mistrust, built unity, with a respect for diversity;

–that we had found productive work for those able to perform it;

–that we had strengthened the American family, which is the basis of our society;

–that we had ensured respect for the law and equal treatment under the law, for the weak and the powerful, for the rich and the poor; and

–that we had enabled our people to be proud of their own Government once again.

I would hope that the nations of the world might say that we had built a lasting peace, based not on weapons of war but on international policies which reflect our own most precious values.

In 1978, the Camp David Accord resulted in a cessation of hostilities between Egypt and Israel. Anwar Sadat was named Man of the Year by Time Magazine. He and Menacham Begin shared the Nobel Peace prize._1632849_campdavidap300

In 1981 Anwar Sadat was assassinated. Since then, there have been other attempts at peace and other assassinations ending the progress. From 2003 – 2011, there have been 37 armed conflicts throughout the world – some still ongoing – most we know little about.

In A Land Twice Promised,  an Israeli woman and a Palestinian woman intentionally begin a dialogue to share their personal and political histories — one conversation at a time – over a long period of time. The author,  Noa Baum adheres to the belief expressed by the Quaker peace hero Gene Knudsen-Hoffman:

“an enemy is one whose story we have not heard.”


All we are saying… is give peace a chance.

The 1st Amendment guarantees the right to peacefully assemble.

Philadelphia 081

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

My first protest march was accompanying my mom at the Mothers March in Portland, Maine in the 1960’s. The local swimming beach had been closed due to sewage pollution. In a neighborhood populated by a large number of low-income school-aged children, there was no alternative. Parents were unable to afford private day or sleep away camps. Prospects for recreation during the summer were bleak.

The Mothers were victorious. The City of Portland not only constructed a pool but hired life guards – many from the Munjoy Hill neighborhood.

(Full disclosure: I taught swimming there for 4 years.)

As the seat of the federal government, Washington D.C. has “hosted “ protest marches since the inception of the country.,_D.C.

1900 – 1949         7

1950 – 1999          48images

2000 – 2009         40

2010                           7

2011                           3ueuh_0001_0005_0_img0238

2012                           6

2013                           4

2014                           1

2015                           2


In the book Democracy’s Big Day – Jim Bendar tells the story of the history of protests. In 1913, prior to Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration, 1000’s of women marched for the right to vote.


Inauguration: a ceremony to mark the beginning of something.

img_3929I live in a town of 900+ people that is approximately 1 mile square. Unknown to most of the inhabitants, the street names reflect its settlement by the Quakers in the 1700s : Farquhar, Shepherd’s Mill, Quaker Hill. The Pipe Creek Friends Meeting opened its doors in 1771 and still welcomes those who “ Seek that of God in everyone.”img_3926

I became a member of Pipe Creek Friends Meeting in 2001 as we prepared to invade Afghanistan. I wanted some place in which to build community and continue my search for “a lasting peace” – though now it would be a more intimate quest through personal prayer and non violent action.

In 2006, the American Friends Service Committee created a traveling exhibit – Eyes Wide Open – intended to “present a visual reminder of the human cost of the Iraq War and provide a place for public mourning….’

The exhibit contains a pair of combat boots to represent every American soldier and marine that has died in the war, as well as a pile of shoes representing Iraqi civilians who have lost their lives during the invasion and occupation. At that time, the exhibit contained 504 pairs of boots.

National Mall - Eyes Wide Open Exhibit

From my journal May 13, 2006:

It was the day before Mother’s Day.

Bookended by the Capitol and the Washington Monument, we marched in silence. The only sounds were the steady rhythm of our feet like a steady heart beat, Shush shush, shush shush, on the pebbled path. We walked – a small group of protesters – and then gathered to listen as names of the most recent casualties were read aloud.

I had seen her earlier, affixing a red, white, and blue banner to a pair of highly polished boots. Tending this tiny shrine, she was adding a personal note and a photograph. I averted my eyes because it seemed to be such a private moment, although it was occurring in the midst of a public protest.

I didn’t know what to say.

What do you say to a mother who has lost her child to war?

 Nothing. You just listen.

I kneeled next to her. We talked about her son, how she and her husband had become Gold Star parents against the war. We exchanged addresses.

As a community-based artist, I attempt to create works that reflect individual feelings and ideas within a larger – often historic – context.

Not long after, I received a letter with a poem she had written – A Mother‘s Prayer. She hoped I could find a way to incorporate it into my artwork.


Inauguration: the formal admission of someone to office.

In classical Rome, augury sought the divine will regarding any proposed course of action which might affect Rome’s pax, fortuna and salus (peace, good fortune and well being).

INAUGURATIO was the ceremony by which the augurs endeavored to obtain the sanction of the gods.

The augur was a priest. His main role was interpreting the will of the gods by studying the flight of birds: whether they are flying in groups or alone, what noises they make as they fly, direction of flight and what kind of birds they are.

We cannot foresee the future. I could not have known that it would take 5 years to create a work of art that reflected the feelings of grief – in the nation, in the community, at a protest and in a mother that I witnessed on that day in 2006.


Sometimes it takes years for the disparate pieces of an idea to be woven into a fully realized work of art.

I dug the blood red clay at the Watershed Center for Ceramic Arts and it “marinated” in 5-gallon buckets for 10 years under a worktable in my studio.

I found the steel cage in a barn 7 years ago and stuck it in my garden where morning glories intertwined with it – making it invisible.cage-at-gallery2

It was not until five years ago that the sound of mourning doves echoed my heartache about the continuing conflicts .


Doves, are used in a variety of settings as symbols of love, peace or as messengers. Doves appear in the symbolism of Judaism, Christianity and Paganism, and of both military and pacifist groups.

And so I started to make ocarinas shaped like doves.

Each clay dove fit into the space created by my hands in prayer._llf3459





With the help of friends, I pit fired the 365 small birds.

The doves survived the flames.

The ashes became the nest.

The steel cage became the Dovecote.

Each dove is an ocarina that sounds like a mourning dove.



It’s Not Always Pretty

The effectiveness of augury could only be judged retrospectively. I cannot predict the future. I cannot know if a Presidential inauguration unifies a country or if protest marches change the course of history or if art contributes to lasting peace.

Still, I am preparing for another inauguration.

Still, I am preparing for another march.

Still, I am preparing for another exhibit.

Each time I install Dovecote: 365 Prayers for Peace, I pray as I place each dove in the cage.

I pray for peace in the cities;

I pray for peace in the country;

I pray for peace in the world.

I pray for ‘lasting peace.’





It’s Not Always Pretty Exhibit –

The Artist Gallery

216 N. Market St

Frederick MD

January 7 – January 29

Hours:  Fri, Sat 12 – 9 pm  Sun. 12 – 5

By appointment: 301 696 8187

TR Wailes delivers Dovecote.

TR Wailes delivers Dovecote.

Welding Contractors llc built the base.

365 doves to be installed.

365 doves to be installed.







Women’s March Controversy: To wear or not to wear a “Pussy Cat” hat.pussy-hats


1913 Women’s March – hats!






O God

How do I pray for my son at war?

How can I ask you to keep him safe without at the same time

asking to not keep some other mother’s son safe?

I want you to end this war.


But, while he is there, please fill him with your holy spirit

and fill his buddies as well.

Guide them, give them the knowledge you wish for them.

Fill them with love and compassion

for each other,

for those that they fight for,

and for those that they fight against.

Please don’t let them become hardened.

Be with him when he takes the life of another, for we have taught him that life is sacred

Soothe his pain, his anger, his guilt

Most of all, God, don’t let him be afraid

Make your presence known to him.

Make the love of his family known to him

the near idolatry of his sisters,

the pride of his father,

and those undefinable emotions that stirred in me when I first felt him in my womb.

Please don’t let him feel fear.

I am afraid, God,

This feeling is awful

Nearly crippling

Please don’t let him be afraid

Please don’t let him be afraid

Please don’t let him be afraid

“A Prayer to a Dying Son” was written by Lorene Davey for her son Seamus. KIA 21 October 2005.



IF I am Not going to Disney world…what next?

When I was bored as a child, I would ask my Mom for something to do.  Her response was always:

If you don’t know what to do next, just do something.

Next: Learn something.


Beach Roses—that is what most people call rosa rugosa. Rugosa means wrinkled. They are very high in vitamin C.

Rosa rugosa was first introduced into North America in 1845. The first report of it being naturalized far from the location in which it was planted occurred on Nantucket in 1899. Ten years later it was said to be “straying rapidly” and today it is naturalized on the entire coast of New England.

So I learned to make rose hip jelly. It’s a long tedious process.

1. Park at the side of the road along back shore of Peaks Island, Maine

2. Pick rose hips until your back is tired or the sun set takes your breath away. sunset

3. Sort through and discard gushy wormy ones. De- stem.rosehip-1




4. Cut in half

5. Place in large potrosehip-2

6. Cover with water

7. Simmerrosehip-3

8.Intermittently mash down with potato masher


9. Strain in cheese cloth straining

10. Freeze juice

And in the middle of winter when you are stuck in the house during a snowstorm, make the jelly.


Small world: While living in Portland prior to the Welcoming The Stranger exhibit, I re-connected with the community in which I had grown up – the Munjoy Hill neighborhood, Etz Chaim synagogue, forgotten relatives, summer camp friends, class mates – (even my senior prom date.)

Each #weavethetent event, First Friday openings or  a community workshop became a kind of ‘Pop Up’ Reunion.

One of those chance encounters was with a member of my high school swim team – Sherry Dickstein. We had served together on the newspaper, Year Book, social club, prom committee. She became a doctor and resides in Greensboro, NC. And by the way, her husband, Dr. Kurt Lauenstein, wrote a book to commemorate the 100th year of their synagogue. She sent me a copy. Maybe I would like to visit Greensboro.



Next: Read something.

Established in 1908 by prominent members of the then small Jewish community, Temple Emmanuel has always been known as a Temple of Involvement. The names Sternberger and Cone not only appear in the boxes of papers in the temple archives, but are visible on public buildings throughout Greensboro.




From its inception the congregation of Temple Emanuel was active in all aspects of the community: immigrant aid, women’s rights, schools, housing for workers, YMCA’s and the textile industry.

Small world:

Temple Emanuel is now home to more than 500 families, day school, and supports numerous community programs. Upon the completion of its new synagogue, the members of Temple Emanuel decided to retain the historic Greene Street synagogue.






This year, the kitchen is being renovated. And a hallway art gallery installed.


Next: Advocate something.sign

The streets in the Maryland town where I live are named for famous Quakers – Farquhar, Benedum,  Shepherd. (And William Henry Rinehart – sculptor but that’s another story.)pipe-creek

Since 2001, (pending invasions of Afghanistan/Iraq), on Sundays, I have sat in silence with members of the Pipe Creek Society of Friends (Quaker) community.

Greensboro, North Carolina was settled by Native Americans, Scots-Irish, African Americans and Germans. Some of the earliest settlers were Quaker immigrants from Maryland.guilford

At the turn of the century, Quakers harbored the southern-most point of the Underground Railroad in the woods surrounding the present-day Guilford College.

Guilford is known for its unique curriculum. The 2100 students there can choose majors like Peace and Conflict Studies and Community and Justice Studies.

In response to her need to “do something” about the current refugee crisis, Diva Abdo, Associate Professor of English at Guilford founded the ‘Every campus a refuge’ program.

Inspired by the Pope’s call on every parish to host one refugee family, guided by its Quaker tradition, and animated by the Arab-Islamic word for campus (حرم) which means “sanctuary.”  Every Campus a Refuge calls on every college and university around the world to host one refugee family on their campus grounds and to assist them in resettlement.

Thus far, Guilford College has hosted a Ugandan and two Syrian families on its campus grounds.

Small world:

Jane Fernandes, current President of Guilford College, was the Provost in 2000 at Gallaudet University. I graduated from Gallaudet and taught at the Kendall Demonstration Elementary School. Gallaudet College is the only liberal arts college for the deaf. Yes, I know sign language.


Next: Weave Something

While writing a review of Welcoming the Stranger for the International Sculpture Center Sculpture Magazine, B. Amore, my mentor and founder of the Carving Studio, asked:

What are you going to do with the exhibit next?

While visiting the Guilford College campus, I met with Theresa Hammond, Founding Director and Curator of the Guilford College Art Gallery. We talked – a lot. About – Quakers, Art, Welcoming the Stranger….and we made a plan to do somethingtheresa

It seemed to be a perfect confluence of events: synagogue kitchen, Guilford ‘every campus a refuge’ project and the Fabric of Freedom theme of the upcoming Folklife festival. So I returned to my studio and  started sending emails, making phone calls and contacting potential partners to find a way to bring Welcoming the Stranger to Greensboro.


Small world:

North Carolina Folklife Festival – Fabric of Freedom September 10, 11 2016

In 2014, the City of Greensboro passed a resolution declaring itself a welcoming city – “one that affirms the beauty and richness of our diversity, and one in which all are welcomed, accepted and appreciated.

This year’s theme is Fabric of Freedom. The festival is a series of arts programs that celebrate the diversity and cultural history of Greensboro, host city for the National Folk Festival (2015-2017). Exhibits, music, dance, community events, and more will be presented in venues across the city throughout September.

On September 10 and 11, I will be at the North Carolina Folklife Festival to create ‘journey loom’ weavings. Participants at the #weavethetent events will work together to add panels to Abraham’s tent.

The community weavings will be included in the Welcoming the Stranger exhibit at Guilford College Art Gallery, opening September 14 and continuing to October 30, 2016.

Temple Emanuel will also partner with Guilford to exhibit Sarah’s Generosity in conjunction with the renovation of the Greene Street kitchen.

Next: Sing Somethingmoose

 On the 19 hour drive from Maine to North Carolina in a very packed rental van, while my Installation Team that consists of my kayak coach/tent rigger/performance artist and overall good guy who is willing to carry lots of heavy stuff but drives with ear buds listening to a book – my brain was taken over by ‘ear worms.” earbudsActually one particular ear worm.

In the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis 1962 and prior to the 1964 New York World’s Fair, Walt Disney commissioned song writers Robert and Richard Sherman to create one song that could be translated into different languages as part of its exhibit for the US exhibit hall.

I may not be going to Disney world but I am going to Greensboro AND as this exhibit takes shape, with the help of so many organizations and volunteers, I realize once again,

It’s a small world after all….


It’s a world of laughter

A world of tears

It’s a world of hope

A world of fears

There’s so much that we share

that it’s time we’re aware

it’s a small world after all…

Follow the progress of the installation of Abraham’s Tent at Guilford College and events at the North Carolina Folklife Festival and Fabric of Freedom:

Instagram: #weavethetent


Susan Andre preparing display table.

Facebook:         Welcoming the Stranger Art



Gregg Bolton working on booth installation.


Guilford RA’s ripping fabric with which to weave on the Journey Looms.


Line to weave the tent.








#weave the tent at the North Carolina Folk Festival











Every year since 1987, Super Bowl MVP winners are asked in a commercial:

What are you going to do next?

They always respond with great exuberance:Disney

I’m going to Disney World.!

At the closing of the Welcoming the Stranger exhibit – a 2-year community-based art project – everyone asked me:

What are you going to do next?

I replied:



  • return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength
  • recuperate, get better, convalesce, regain one’s strength, get stronger, get back on one’s feet 

In October, the Welcoming the Stranger exhibit closed.

In November, my Mom died. **

In December, I returned to Maryland. firehousesnow

In January, ‘snowzilla’ led to a decision to paint the firehouse walls.01 snow

In February, I fell.


I fell 12’ from scaffolding.

I broke my ankle.



In’ valid

  • Latin in (not) + validus (strong) = weak
  • Suffering from disease or disability



I live in one of the least accessible places you can imagine. There are 17 steps from my front door to my living space. There are 3 more steps to the kitchen; 7 more to the bedroom in the loft.

I would be bed-ridden with my leg elevated above my heart for 6 weeks. I would spend most of my time establishing my own version of the intricate systems I had created for my Mom when she broke her hip.

I used a computer chair with wheels to transfer in and out of bed. I set up an “ accessible” kitchen. I borrowed a mini fridge into which multiple Tupperware containers appeared daily. (The empties eventually made their way back to their original owners.)Tupperware

I devised a job chart (remember I was a 1st grade teacher) listing a variety of tasks – laundry, transport, library, dishes, boredom reduction. Friends signed up for a shift. I will be forever grateful for their continuous support.

I would eventually go to Physical Therapy twice a week for several months.

I slept – a lot.

I watched Netflix – a lot.

I celebrated my birthday – not so much.

I did not make art.


  • Being without foundation or force in fact, truth or force

There is a legacy of making art while bed ridden.

Renior continued to paint while suffering from rheumatoid arthritis so crippling that his son applied the paint to the brush and placed it in Renoir’s hand.

Kahlo in bedFrida Kahlo spent 9 months in bed after an accident in which her bus collided with a trolley car. She suffered a broken spinal column, a broken collarbone, broken ribs, eleven fractures in her right leg, a crushed and dislocated right foot, and a dislocated shoulder. During her confinement, she created a series of works referencing her accident and recovery. Kahlo art

Henri Matisse turned to cut outs when a chronic illness made painting too difficult.

foto_cutoutThe cut out was not a renunciation of painting and sculpture: he called it “painting with scissors.” Matisse said, “Only what I created after the illness constitutes my real self: free, liberated.” Moreover, experimentation with cut-outs offered Matisse innumerable opportunities to fashion a new, aesthetically pleasing environment:

When a young Henri Matisse asked Renoir why he kept painting [ in chronic pain], Renoir is said to have replied, “The pain passes, but the beauty remains.”


My hat

If you are not making art,  are you still an artist?

I had spent the greater part of 2 years creating the Welcoming the Stranger exhibit. And now, I was spending most of the day staring at the walls, re-arranging my pillows and planning for the next action I would take – retrieving an object, transferring to the chair, brushing my teeth. I allowed myself 2 hours a day to be depressed.

I do not make art.

I learn.

I learn how long a bone takes to heal.

I learn how to depend on friends.

I learn how to be humble.

I learn how to be patient.

I learn how to be grateful.

I learn that chicken soup is not just a Jewish thing.


  • find or regain possession of (something stolen or lost).
  • retrieve, regain (possession of), get back, recoup, reclaim, repossess, redeem, recuperate, find (again), track down 

My art career started with the death of my Dad. In his last few months of life, he encouraged us to live our dreams – – and not wait. He had hoped to spend his retirement painting. He died at age 61.

My return to Maine and Peaks Island was to sculpt a granite memorial on the 20th anniversary of his death and to film a documentary of the process.

My mother visited my exhibit just before she died. She wove on the Journey Loom, wrote comments on the chalkboard, viewed the aprons and Abraham’s  tent. As a result of many falls and several broken bones, she was confined to a walker. Our visit to the Maine Jewish Museum two years before had led to the Welcoming the Stranger exhibit.

The CDC reports that falls are the leading cause of accidental deaths and 43% of those are from ladders. After my friends elicit a promise that I will never climb scaffolding again, they then ask:

What are you going to do next?

Just to recover physically will not be enough. I need to reclaim my life – my artist life. I need to learn to walk again on the stone path. I am not sure about what that will require, but I know one thing for sure:

I know, I’m not going to Disney World!

“Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.” Pablo Picasso


**Caroline Borofski Israelson

Community activist and long time Munjoy Hill resident.

In the 1960’s when the East End Beach was closed due to pollution, Munjoy Hill (PTA) mothers marched on City Hall demanding a swimming pool be provided for their children. Leading the march was Caroline Israelson.

Caroline Israelson passed away, November 22, 2015. She was born on March 20, 1929 the daughter of Joseph Borofski and Elizabeth (Levinsky) Borofski.

An ardent Democrat, her first foray into the world of politics and community activism was when she wrote to President Roosevelt requesting a photo with his signature. In support of the war effort, she joined others of her generation and collected scrap metal for recycling.

Caroline bequeathed a ‘Legacy of Values’ to her children. She lived by two principles:

Tikkun Olam – a Jewish concept defined by acts of kindness performed to perfect or ‘mend the world.’


The Golden Rule to treat others fairly and respectfully no matter race, religion, sexual orientation (or during the 1960’s, length of hair.)

A lifetime resident of Munjoy Hill, she adhered to an ‘open door’ policy at her Moody St. home. Anyone in need of food, shelter, coffee, conversation or counseling was welcomed at her table – day or night – whether the dishes were done or the floors washed or the laundry put away.

Throughout her life, she continued to serve the community. As an organizer and advocate – politically and socially – she sought to improve the lives of those less fortunate. She was one of the first members of the Portland Chapter of the NAACP and attended the annual Martin Luther King Day breakfasts.

She was also a member of the Anti- Defamation League, Hadassah, B’Nai Brith, National Council of Jewish Women, Etz Chaim and Bet Ha’am Synagogues.

Caroline volunteered at St. Paul’s Soup kitchen and served on the board of Serenity House. She worked with young children as a volunteer for Head Start and as a mentor at the Juvenile Youth Detention Center.

As a Notary Pubic, Justice of the Peace, Caroline performed many marriages in her Moody St. living room.

At the People Regional Opportunity Program (PROP) she worked to keep youth safe by improving recreation opportunities, advocated for affordable safe housing, and food access.

She never lived more than a mile from the corner of Moody and Munjoy Streets. After her move to Bayview Apartments, she remained political – participating in resident meetings, registering voters and monitoring at polling stations. Although her bid for a seat on the City Council ( ‘Go with Experience” ) was unsuccessful, her mentorship and endorsement was sought by first timers seeking elected office.

A tireless campaigner, she supported efforts to elect the first African American President. She had hoped to witness the election of a woman President and reminds everyone to vote in 2016.

Until her health declined in recent years, Caroline (wearing one of her colorful bandanas) was a familiar figure to East End residents . Her daily walk along the Eastern Promenade culminated in a cup of coffee – regular, cream, 2 sugars and donut – at the Hilltop Café. On her return loop, there were brief stops to pet a cat or two along the way. She continued her neighborhood forays even using a walker.

She became a die hard Red Sox fan while attending Red Sox games at Fenway when dating her husband, Leon. They saw Ted Williams play.

Caroline was sure if she were the manager, she could make them win the World Series and finally got her wish in 2003 with the arrival of Pedro, Manny and Pappi.

Known for her sense of humor as well as her sense of adventure – including a solo trip to Australia at the age of 60 – she took bus trips throughout New England with Anne Jordan and other friends….

She never stopped learning and growing. She was an early adopter of yoga and reflexology and practitioner of (TM) meditation. As a Member of Codependents Anonymous, Caroline believed in the healing power of counseling. She was often asked by neighbors to include prayers for a job or health during her Shabbat candle lighting ritual.

Caroline made her home wherever she lived. In declining health, she accepted her move to Southridge Assisted Living in Biddeford with both grace and grumbling. There she became a beloved member of that community – staff and residents alike.

She treated everyone with respect and valued her friends as much as family. Caroline cherished her life-long friend Margaret Carter that she met in kindergarten.

She was one of the first participants in a study of the use of Lithium for Bi-polar disorder. Founding member of the Polar Bears –that offered support to many individuals suffering from bi-polar disorder and depression.

Pre-deceased by her husband Leon of almost 40 years and her sister Sylvia Glantz, she will be missed by her family and friends especially the Margaret and Robert Carter Family.

Family: Jo Israelson, Union Bridge Maryland, Katherine Scott of Palo Alto California, Lynne Israelson Mason and husband David of Newburyport Mass, Michael Israelson and his wife Norma of Westbrook, Maine. Her grand children, Christine Henry, New York City, Emily and Elizabeth Scott of Palo Alto CA, Rachael Israelson and Michael Israelson of Westbrook and her nephews and nieces Joseph Glantz of Bridgton, Faith Glantz and Sasha Morelli of Portland.

Service to be held Tuesday November 24 at Congregation Bet Ha’am, 81 Westbrook St. South Portland, Maine 10:30 am followed by interment Temple Beth El cemetery, Portland 04103.

Temple Beth El Memorial Park

Following the interment, A Celebration of Caroline’s Life and luncheon will be held at Bet Ha’am beginning at approximately 12:30 p.m. All are welcome. Please bring a canned food item to be donated to local food banks in her name.

Tuesday evening from 6 pm – 8 pm, friends are encouraged to come with stories and stay for coffee at Becky’s Diner, Commercial St. Just say you are a “Friend of Caroline’s “.

In honor of Caroline’s unique fashion sense, the wearing of bandanas and/or Red Sox regalia is encouraged.

In lieu of flowers and cards, donations can be made to American Foundation for Suicide Prevention , Portland Chapter of the NAACP or the charity of your choice.