Next?

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.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I%27m_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:

Recover.

Recover

  • 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.

http://www.pressherald.com/2015/09/04/exhibition-at-maine-jewish-museum-examines-portland-immigration-then-and-now/

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.

Scaffolding

I fell 12’ from scaffolding.

I broke my ankle.

Foot

 

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. https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/1272771?preview

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.

Inva’lid

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

There is a legacy of making art while bed ridden.

http://www.huckmagazine.com/art-and-culture/art-2/artists-bed/

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. http://www.openculture.com/2012/07/astonishing_film_of_arthritic_impressionist_painter_pierre-auguste_renoir_1915.html

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. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/carving-into-color-matisses-stunning-cut-outs/

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: http://www.henri-matisse.net/cut_outs.html

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.”

Learn

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.

Recover

  • 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. https://vimeo.com/29998120

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.’

and

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 www.afsp.org , Portland Chapter of the NAACP or the charity of your choice.

 

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7 comments on “Next?

  1. Joyce Jones says:

    Jo I had NO IDEA what kind of life you were living! So sorry to hear about your fall! I am wishing you a FULL & SPEEDY recovery. I will keep you in my prayers……Call me if you ever get back to MD. Hugs & Well Wishes, Joyce

  2. Sandy Wright says:

    What a beautiful testimony to your mother’s humaneness and goodness! Didn’t get to know her, but so glad to know you! Hope to see you soon and hope you will be feeling back to health very soon!

  3. Judy P says:

    So glad to hear from you. You have been in my thoughts, dear friend. A great tribute to your mother. She is and will be missed by many including me. Maybe her wish for a woman president will happen!! Keep in touch! Judy P.

  4. Nicole Fall says:

    Wow Jo,

    You have been through a lot ! Some of which I knew about.

    Great that friends and neighbors could help out.

    I’m getting ready to teach elementary and middle school in the city. It’s nice to be wanted after years of “no thanks”. Teacher anxiety is already in full swing. Any advice you want to give me will be appreciated. Here’s an opportunity to get super organized.

    Looking forward to hearing about your next adventure. I know there’ll be one! Take care , Nicole

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  5. Paula Mathieson says:

    Dear Jo,

    How welcome that email entry, “thestonepath”, was, and how happy I am to get your news — beautifully written and well illustrated, and a very lovely tribute to your mom.

    Please keep me posted on each talus-tibia-fibula step you take (everywhere except to Disney World — maybe to Pittsburgh?)…

    With love,

    Paula

    ________________________________

  6. Dawn says:

    Jo,
    Great entry as always. Enjoyed the great tribute to your mom. When are you coming home?!

  7. ingridrwi says:

    Dear Jo, reading just now, something came home to me about how healing takes time, with any kind of brokenness. And about what it means to be on a path: a bigger picture than whether or not we are striding forward at a particular time. Seems to me, from your stories, that you have stayed in the company of artists.

    May your tissues continue knitting themselves together as surely as the weavings you have brought about, and, in time, may your mother’s gifts and lessons, joined with other threads, help bring about the next part of your journey.

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