Sanctuary

Sanctuary

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 https://peaksisland.nextdoor.com/news_feed/.

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. https://youtu.be/2rlHaF4vq1g

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:

Outside:

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.

Inside:

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. https://thestonepath.wordpress.com/2013/02/

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. http://www.monarch-butterfly.com/monarch-migration.html

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.

http://www.cityofpacificgrove.org/visiting/monarch-butterfly-sanctuary

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. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ocWgSgMGxOc

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.)

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/08/140819-monarch-butterfly-milkweed-environment-ecology-science/

 

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.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanctuary_movement

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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RwHOACm3Yaw

 

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. https://www.facebook.com/welcomingthestrangerart

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. http://pima.quaker.org

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.

http://www.gregglevoy.com/callings/index.html

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.

https://www.fgcquaker.org/resources/clearness-committees-what-they-are-and-what-they-do

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. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/09/02/us/sanctuary-cities.html 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:

http://www.carrollcommunityfoundation.org/funds.asp?fund_id=252

 

Next.

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.

rosehip-01

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. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosa_rugosa

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.

 

kurt-book

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.

img-location-moses_cone_801x200

 

 

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. https://www.tegreensboro.org/who-we-are/our-history

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.

te1924

 http://www.greensboro.com/jewish-temple-to-keep-greene-street-building-temple-emanuel-soon/article_178bd6f5-0158-553f-8987-54f48674659d.html

 

te-new

 

 

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. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pipe_Creek_Friends_Meetinghouse

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.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guilford_College

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. http://www.everycampusarefuge.org

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.
hege-library

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. https://www.ourstate.com/guilford-college-president-jane-fernandes-finds-her-voice/

 

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, https://carvingstudio.org asked:

What are you going to do with the exhibit next?

http://www.sculpture.org/documents/scmag16/may_16/may16_reviews.shtml

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.http://www.unitingnc.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Welcoming-Greensboro-Report.pdf

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. https://nationalfolkfestival.com/fabric-of-freedom/

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. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earworm

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….

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It%27s_a_Small_World

 

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-tent

Susan Andre preparing display table.

Facebook:         Welcoming the Stranger Art

 

gregg-tent

Gregg Bolton working on booth installation.

ras-ripping

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

line-at-tent

Line to weave the tent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

overall-ncff

#weave the tent at the North Carolina Folk Festival

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

– ING Part 3 (b)

2nd Law of Thermodynanics – Law of Entropy

aka Murphy’s Law

In particular, Murphy’s Law is often cited as a form of the second law of thermodynamics (the law of entropy) because both are predicting a tendency to a more disorganized state.

It is impossible to delineate all the tasks that need to be accomplished in a multi-media installation nor to predict all the problems that will need to be addressed. To-do lists and post-its are often inadequate. So for the most critical of needs, my hand becomes a bulletin board.

IMG_2305

In her one-woman show, The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, Lily Tomlin portrays a homeless woman who was once an executive and leads her life via the post-its attached to her clothing. http://www.amazon.com/Search-Signs-Intelligent-Life-Universe/dp/B001O9CFCC

Count-ING Down

Murphy Challenge #1: Weather

Temperatures would be in the upper 80’s during the entire installation. (Maine in September!! Who knew?)

The Maine Jewish Museum is not air-conditioned.

TEN: Prepping Walls

Maine Hardware is the go-to place for most Peaks Islanders. http://mainehardware.com The employees are knowledgeable AND they provide FREE popcorn.

IMG_3233

Ladders, tarps, paint, coffee, blue tape, levels, sand paper, spackle, scrapers, coffee, buckets, paint trays, rubber gloves, coffee… a seemingly endless list but the multiple trips enable us to replenish, not only supplies, but popcorn. (Which is important if, in addition to the coffee and donuts, it becomes another source of nutrition during the 10-day installation.)

NINE: Painting Walls

Etz Chaim sealEtz Chaim synagogue was built in 1921.  After several incarnations and years of disuse, it was restored and became the Maine Jewish Museum. http://mainejewishmuseum.org The 1920’s construction and previous renovations meant locating studs was an ongoing struggle.

Murphy Challenge #2: Construction

The spackling, sanding and painting of the museum gallery walls took place the same week that construction began on the new bathrooms …There were moments of dueling drills and lurching ladders but we were able to share the space as well as extension cords – and of course, the donuts.IMG_2897

 IMG_2899EIGHT: Stenciling walls

Working around the daily operations of the museum, as well as respecting religious tenets, resulted in a type of shift work. The key to progress was FLEXIBILITY. (And a willingness to ‘couch surf’ after missing the last ferry.) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CouchSurfing

While attempting to wrestle a Journey Loom through a door way that was a smidgeon too small…. I noticed a helmet clad bicyclist chalking arrows on the road.

IMG_2905Noticing my plight, she helped maneuver the loom into the building. A painter in her own right, Ebyn Moss volunteers – at arts centers, community organizations and non profits. She is a Board member of the Hour Exchange. http://www.hourexchangeportland.org and lives her life adhering to its tenets.IMG_2925

The settling of the foundation of the building during the past 94 years created uneven walls. There was a 1” drop over 50’ making it difficult to determine level. Ebyn was undaunted. She had worked for MacKenzie Childs. Doing what? Stenciling. http://www.mackenzie-childs.com

(Another beshart moment – Bookmark this link https://thestonepath.wordpress.com/2014/05/ for more beshart moments.

IMG_2921The word begat is sometimes interpreted as ‘to bring forth.” The stenciled ‘walls’ of Abraham’s tent are intended to remind us that we are all part of the same ‘family.’ http://www.enterthebible.org/blog.aspx?post=2646

Over 3 days, Ebyn stencilled the word ‘begat’ 2000+ times.

Murphy Challenge #3: Colliding Events

Stenciling the word begat on 2 – 50’ x 10’ walls while beautifully appointed young women and their families attend a previously scheduled Bat Mitzvah proved to be challenging – but not insurmountable. And, the work on the new bathrooms continued…

SEVEN: Engaging Press

For years, artists just sent their press releases to the local newspaper. They would include the 5 – W’s and a few photos. Today, vying for the attention of the press requires more than just notifying the newspaper. There are free papers, community papers, magazines, and social media to notify and continually update. Maintaining a presence in the public eye requires time and energy – both in short supply when installing a multi media exhibit.

Sometimes it is a matter of timing. For weeks prior to the exhibit opening, the plight of refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants occupied local, national and world news. Amidst the spackling, sanding, stenciling, Press Herald and Portland Magazine reporters appeared with their photographers for an interview and pictures of the exhibit. (And some of my closest photographer friends did the same.)

IMG_2967

Murphy Challenge # 4: No there there

We had ‘begats.’ There was no tent; there was no carpet; there were no community weavings. The exhibit was still in process – I had words and ideas but was STILL short on visible objects.

It is easier to talk on the radio where words and ideas ARE the medium. WMPG is a community radio station that broadcasts from a small house located on the campus of the University of Southern Maine (my alma mater.)IMG_2280

I arrived paint spattered, harried and sleep deprived. Chris White is the host of Tuesday Night Talk Radio Club. His interview framed Welcoming the Stranger within the context of the Portland community and the New Mainers. Articulating the thought and history behind my vision clarified for me – and hopefully the listeners – my hopes for the exhibition.

http://media.usm.maine.edu/~wmpg/archivefiles/Toosday/TNTRC_150901.mp3

SIX: Creating QRs

For each aspect of the exhibit, there is a sound collage. I combined real life interviews with scripted histories, sound effects, ambient noise, and music to create a kind of sound track — but without pictures.

The sounds of children practicing Hebrew formed the basis of the sound collage for Abraham’s Tent. Laura Boenisch is the principal and director of B’nai Portland, an Independent Hebrew School. With a degree in music education, Laura taught herself to chant Torah tropes so that she could help prepare her son for Bar Mitzvah. https://www.facebook.com/bnai.portland/info?tab=page_info.

We met in the Sanctuary. When I attended synagogue as a young girl, I was excluded from the first floor and relegated to the balcony. Standing at the bimah, Laura chanted the story of Abraham and Sarah from Genesis. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bema.

 

FIVE:             Supporting History

I almost missed the meeting…I flew out of the Museum covered in paint. In a packed hearing room in Portland’s City Hall, I raised my hand to testify in support of the designation of India Street as a historic district:

(In my neighborhood…) there were those fortunate enough to have grandparents or great aunts and uncles to tell stories of how their families ended up in Portland, Maine.

There might have been photos of family members posed in of local stores and houses and churches and synagogues. There may have been photos taken on holidays, family events – graduations, weddings, funerals. You could take a walk. around the India St. neighborhood – past the old synagogues, St Peter’s, Micucci’s, Amato’s, Abysinnian Church http://www.abyme.org, and North School – and experience history as seen through their eyes and the architecture that was still in existence.

Map 1914

And for those not so fortunate, the buildings, businesses, streets must remain. It is easier to imagine when waves of immigrants settled in what is comparable to the lower East Side of NYC when you can walk by historic structures that greeted those new arrivals. …when you can walk from the docks, along India Street, and experience the immigrant history of Portland.

In that moment, I was focused on immigrants of the past and how their story mirrored the underpinnings of my exhibit. http://portlandlandmarks.org/blog/event/a-neighborhood-in-transition-immigration-and-the-india-street-neighborhood/

FOUR: Retrieving the ‘Carpet’

A 50’ x 8’ ‘Persian carpet’ made of roofing rubber and stenciled with images of seaweed and compass roses requires a 50’ floor on which to design, paint and polyurethane. This 200+ lb. piece of art needs a space in which to reside until delivered to the museum. The Colby College Art Department  https://www.colby.edu provided a space in which to work until the carpet was completed. (The room measured only 40’ long so requiring continuous rolling, folding, unrolling.)

IMG_2767The maintenance staff monitored my progress and occasionally conducted a critique. They were mostly favorable. (Although they did wonder why the room smelled like the ocean. It was the bucket of seaweed I was using to make stencils.  I commuted back and forth to Waterville applying the final coat of polyurethane the night before the pick up.IMG_2957

Murphy Challenge #5: Elevator

The rolled carpet was too long to fit in the elevator. 200+ lbs. is very heavy. Two of us could not heft it. We tried. Several times. I set out to find some students. There were none to be found. I returned to find the maintenance women carrying the rolled carpet down 2 flights of stairs to the delivery truck. (I hope you are both reading this. Thank you, again.)

THREE: Installing the Tent

A year ago, the tent installation team designed a hanging system based on an idea in my head. The actual production and installation proved to be more challenging.IMG_2783

Murphy Challenge #6: No Tentmaker

Although I had received donated yarns, collaborated with volunteer spinners, and engaged citizen weavers, there were only 275 square feet of woven tent panels. The weaving was spearheaded by Jane Herbert https://www.facebook.com/Westbrook-Fiberarts-411482502345348/     However, I needed 500 square feet. (Not to mention, that I had no idea how to make an actual tent.)

IMG_2659At the final Journey Loom weaving event,  I met Melodi Hackett. A weaver in her own right, she wove and warped looms throughout the 2 day event. and then she asked:

What kind of help do you still need?

I need a tent maker.

With a straight face, Melodi responded: I make tents. She had worked as an exhibit tent designer. (Yes – another beshart moment. I told you to bookmark that page.)

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A week before the installation, the tent makers began production. Measure, cut, serge, sew. Measure, cut, serge, sew.

Melodie at machine
IMG_2820

 

 

 

 

When I started kayak lessons 4 years ago, I did not ask my instructor if his mother was a weaver and if he knew the difference between warp and weft. As it turned out, the answer to both questions was ‘Yes.” (I know, I know – beshart.)

IMG_2840I envisioned the ‘tent’ as an ocean – ‘mirroring the movement of waves.’ And Gregg Bolton https://gbolton.smugmug.com was able to translate my idiosyncratic aesthetic into a physical reality. After 12+ hours of balancing on ladders and planks, occasional invectives (mine not his) and of course, donuts, the tent was installed.IMG_2931

IMG_2944 IMG_2935 IMG_2947 

 

 

 

 

TWO: Installing the Journey Loom Weavings

Respite from the heat came as a result of hanging the community weavings in the air conditioned Community Room. IMG_2909

No Murphy Here. –

Well, OK. Murphy took up residence in this room for 8 weeks. Every time a community group needed to use the room for a meeting, Murphy re-arranged the furniture.IMG_3236 IMG_3235

 

 

 

 

ONE:             Hanging Aprons

Seven women, seven aprons, seven tallit bags,  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tallit seven genealogies and a series of invented postcards that highlight their efforts on behalf of the immigrants of the 1920’s comprised Sarah’s GenerosityIMG_9697

Carefully arranged and meticulously measured, the aprons were installed outside the Sanctuary.IMG_9710

 

 

ZERO:

  • Set up reception
  • Set out guestbook
  • Create Artist Binder
  • Fold 250 brochures
  • Find somewhere to shower
  • Comb hair
  • Set up sound system
  • Check toilet paper in bathrooms
  • Prepare Artist Talk
  • Hope people come (They did. More than 150 at the opening. 100 at First Friday. And more.)

Murphy Challenge #7Seriously Hot

Neither Velcro nor double-sided tape adheres to plaster walls when the temperature exceeds 85.

  • Re – hang Aprons !!! Use nails.

Where’s the Cab?IMG_2769

 My ad hoc interviews with a taxi driver from Burundi and an Iraqi prisoner-of-war were intertwined with the story of Bela Gross read by a recent Russian asylum seeker and recorded for play back on the sound system of a Crown Vic cab donated by ASAP Cab. http://www.asaptaxi.net IMG_2988

Exhibit attenders would sit in the cab and listen to their stories. Upon ‘arrival,”they received a receipt with links to the current immigration, asylum, refugee laws and stats.

 

Exhibit – ING

 September 3 – October 25, 2015.

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

20150903_174123

IMG_3136IMG_9724

20150903_174050

 

ER

Abraham’s Tent, Sarah’s Generosity, Habeas Corpus QRs are posted on:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCz7MUQKodiZXQUb7tcog17A

 

Connect – ING

Community Events were held during the month of October. IMG_3104

IMG_3088

Weaving Workshop – Cheryl Holbert

 

 

Color of CommunityIMG_3142

Reading and Book Signing – I’m New Here http://www.annesibleyobrien.comIMG_3160

IMG_3180World Music – Casco Bay Tummlers http://www.cascobaytummlers.com and Burundi Batimbo Beats

 

 

 

‘When Jews were New Mainers’ symposium with Colby CollegeIMG_3211IMG_3202

 

IMG_3208

 

 

 

Clos-ING

14 days to install; 7 to remove. I realize the world only took 6 days and there was a day of rest at the end – but the resting will have to wait.

For now, there will be tear-filled goodbyes, sanding, spackling and painting, crating and storing of the exhibit, more tear-filled goodbyes and then a 14 hour drive back to Maryland.

There is no way to know if this exhibit will have any lasting impact within the community. But as I prepare to leave, the following editorial appeared written by Arthur Fink: A Real Community Has No Strangers

http://www.pressherald.com/2015/09/20/maine-voices-a-real-community-has-no-stranger/

….Do see this exhibit, ask how we welcome strangers (or don’t) and let yourself be transformed…

 ..I left the exhibit asking myself, “Who are our ‘strangers’ today? And how can we welcome them with grace, acceptance, dignity and genuine openness?”

…We can open our hearts, connect with those who may appear to be “different” and forge a more inclusive, caring and compassionate community. I hope and pray that we will!

 

PS from Murphy:IMG_3237

The bathrooms are finally done.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No Coincidence – No Story (Part 2)

Bashert…meant to be.

 Who were the immigrants held in quarantine on House Island in 1923??

I am a long time mystery reader. Following in the foot steps of my favorite detectives: Detective Porfiry,Sherlock Holmes, VI Warshawski, Kinsey Millhone, and my latest Flavia de Luce (an 11-year-old amateur sleuth), I begin my ‘investigation.’ I contact everyone in Maine who might have information about the immigration history of Portland.

Many of the early immigrants coming to Portland, Maine settled in the Munjoy Hill area. Italians settled on India and Middle Streets and started businesses such as Amato’s bakery (1903.) http://www.amatos.com/

Munjoy-Hill-Map

Aside: Mystery of the Black Dahlia

One of the greatest unsolved mysteries involved a woman who had grown up on Munjoy Hill and moved to Hollywood where she was brutally murdered. http://mainetoday.com/profiles/the-black-dahlia-lived-on-munjoy-hill-an-unsolved-murder-from-the-vaults/

 The Irish immigrants congregated in two main neighborhoods and the streets connecting them along Portland’s waterfront: the west end, later known as Gorham’s Corner, with its Saint Dominic’s parish (the oldest Catholic Church in Portland, dating from 1833); and the east end, better known as Munjoy Hill, with its Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (1866). Michael Connolly http://www.amazon.com/They-Change-Their-Sky-Irish/dp/0891011102

Book Cover

I contact the Maine Irish Heritage Center www.maineirish.com and Italian Heritage Center www.italianheritagecenter.com in Portland. They generously send out my request for anyone whose relatives were detained or were processed through the quarantine station on House Island to contact me. No positive responses to date.

 COINCIDENCE: I went to school with the Maine Irish history expert as well as the editor of the Italian American Heritage newsletter. Both are from long standing Munjoy Hill families.

The other immigrant group that may have entered Maine via House Island were Jews.

Documenting Maine Jewry is a collaborative genealogy and history of Maine’s Jewish communities. MaineJews.org is a kind of crowd source web site for gathering and posting pictures, articles, oral histories, music, etc. related to Jewish history in Maine. www.mainejews.org

As an artist, I unravel my ‘art-related mysteries’ by spending hours in library stacks. Most of my ‘clues’ are obtained in face-to-face interviews and through personal networking.

This investigation will take place in on-line archives. There is so much information to wade through. It is daunting. The study and practice of organizing, preserving, and providing access to information and materials in archives is called archival science. Science is the operative term. Finding information requires thinking like a scientist – not necessarily like an artist. Fortunately, archivists (and librarians) are incredibly helpful individuals who are generous with their time and expertise.

Harris Gleckman knows the content of the MaineJews.org site – both catalogued and still to be catalogued. He directed me to an out-of-print book published in 1954.

COINCIDENCE: My aunt babysat for the web master when he was a child living in Forest Park. (Seriously.)

 Band, Ben,  Portland Jewry: It’s Growth and Development , Jewish Historical Society, Portland , Maine, 1954

Written in celebration of 300 years of U.S. Jewish settlement, Band wrote in his preface:” Jewish communities were asked to compile a record of their development and growth.” His book was a collaborative approach – an example of early crowd sourcing. There were 17 chapters that outlined the history of Jews in Maine beginning in the 1800’s. It is only available on line.

I read.

Looking in the past

Maine’s earliest Jews came from Germany in the late 1880’s.

They learned English and established “religious services, supplies of kosher meats and a burial ground. They often earned their living peddling, the junk trade and the second hand clothing and tailoring.“

tailorASIDE:

The skill listed by most immigrants coming to Ellis Island was “tailor” due to the great need for garment workers. Most had no training. They learned through word of mouth during quarantine that it was the skill to have to gain entrance to the US.

Most of the 2 million Jews that came to America in the 1920’s were from Eastern Europe. Often less educated and less affluent than their earlier counterparts, they came to America hoping for a chance for a better life.

In the 1920’s, the City of Portland struggled to assimilate the influx of Eastern European Jews and other recent immigrants. One of the largest anti-immigrant Ku Klux Klan rallies (by some accounts, 10,000 Klansmen) gathered in Portland in 1923 to protest the presence of these new “foreigners.”

I read more.

….When immigrant ships landed in Portland in 1923 and 1924, 218 passengers were detained on House Island. The Council of Jewish Women set up kosher kitchens there under the supervision of Mrs. Lena Perry. Chapter X: New Social and Fraternal Organizations-Band

Looking in the present

The names of the original settlers of House Island also appear on the gravestones at the Peaks Island cemetery. So, I send out my request to the Peaks Island list serv. Responses were supportive of my efforts but yielded no leads. Then a photo attachment appears in an email from Kim Mac Isaac.

Kim, a historian and archivist herself, is the former executive director of the 5th Maine Museum. Kim’s family has been on the island for generations. She even remembers rowing over to House Island to explore the old quarantine station before its demolition. She had a photograph. (So far, it is the only one I have seen.)

quarantine-lge

COINCIDENCE: While sculpting a memorial bench for my dad and creating a native plant garden on Peaks Island in 2008 -10, I was able to support myself by cleaning the 5th Maine Museum. http://www.fifthmainemuseum.org/

 

The Maine Jewish Film Festival features films that ‘explore the Jewish experience through drama, comedy, documentary and short film formats.’ Works are screened at multiple venues and in multiple cities throughout the state.  http://www.mjff.org/

I create a postcard to hand out to each attendee. I distribute the postcards in hopes of finding anyone who had family members that were detained on House Island or allowed to immigrate into Maine after being processed there.

ASIDE:

My short film – Chorus of Stones – that chronicles the creation of the memorial on Peaks was rejected by some of the best film festivals including the Maine Jewish Film Festival. https://vimeo.com/2999812

pcback500 postcards later, I had not received one solid lead. Everyone thought it was an interesting mystery but could not provide any additional clues.

COINCIDENCE: A researcher who works at the US Holocaust Museum in DC picked up my postcard while she was at the festival. She thinks she can help find the names of the immigrants who passed through House Island quarantine station. I work a few blocks from the Museum.

Looking in the Archives

I continue to delve into the archives of the Maine Historical Society, the Memory Network, the Portland Room of the Portland Public Library, the New England Archives in Waltham, the Osher Map collection and Judaica Collection at the Glickman Library, University of Maine. I read books about immigration and U.S. immigration policies of the 1920’s including those cited in the Congressional Record. The rhetoric and debate reflects the immigration concerns of today.

As the implementation date of the 1924 Quota Act approached, passenger ship companies worried about the loss of business that would result. So, they doubled the number of ships leaving for America. When Ellis Island and Boston could not manage the deluge of immigrants, some ships were re-routed to other quarantine stations: House Island.

Immigrants allowed to remain in the U.S. could then be sent by rail to New York or Boston. Others were returned to their country of origin.

  • What I didn’t find were all the names of people who were held there.
  • What I didn’t find were the names of Portland residents whose family members came into Portland through House Island.
  • What I didn’t find were the names of those returned to their country of origin.

What I did find were the names of the women who established the Portland Council of Jewish Women (later the National Council of Jewish Women) who set up the Kosher kitchen. *

A friend once described the State of Maine as a small town. If that is true, the Jewish population of New England must be a neighborhood. I have just enough postcards to send to synagogues from Maine to Boston.

It is Passover week in which Jews commemorate the exodus of the Jews from Egypt more than 3000 years ago. It is an 8-day holiday in which you are obligated to tell the Passover story. This year, I listen with a new perspective: Passover could be thought of as a story of immigrants.

It is also a week of consuming symbolic foods. We eat matzo rather than leavened bread as a reminder of the haste in which the Israelites fled Egypt. There was not enough time for the bread to rise. http://homecooking.about.com/od/foodhistory/a/passoverfoods.htm

MatzohA week passes. Passover ends.

I arrive home one night and listen to the message on my answering machine:

My name is Jim Waldman. I am the Controller at the Temple Beth Elohim in Wellesley, Massachusetts. Our secretary was out today and I had to open the mail. http://tbewellesley.org/index.aspx

Imagine my surprise when the first 2 names on the list of the founders of the Portland Council for Jewish Women were my great grandmother Millie and her sister.

Millie’s great niece  (Bunny) lives in Maine. She is 94 years old and has a perfect memory.

Bashert?

I had just purchased a ticket to Maine to visit my Mom. I guess now I am going to visit ‘Aunt Bunny,’ too.

 

 

*Portland Council of Jewish Women, 1920

Name First Name Home Address Husband’s business
MRS. Eldar MARKSONb. 1879 –d. 3/10/1925 Portland ME) Jennie 237 State St. Markson Bros. Clothing504 Congress Street
Mrs. Maurice MARKSON(b. 1880 – d. Feb 10, 1966) Mildred S. 100 Neal St. Markson Bros. Clothing504 Congress Street
MRS. Jacob SCHIEBE(b. 1873 – d. 12/12/1964) Jennie 94 Vesper St. Tailor22 Monument Sq #402
MRS. Jacob ROSENBERGd. 5/12/1949 Helen 48 Western Promenade. Rosenberg Brothers real estate85 Exchange St. Room 305,
MRS. Benjamin PRESS Molly 224 Eastern Promenade Real Estate
MRS. Jacob SAPIROd. 3/13/1968 Anna D 93 Morning Street Husband worked9 Plum Street
Mrs. Eli PERRY Lenna 170 Cumberland Ave. E. Perry and Co Junk117 Lancaster St.

Lying Fallow

lie fallow  Lit. [for farmland] to exist unplanted for a period of time.

I am the empty cup.

While attending a workshop on Creating One’s Own Sabbath Experience with Tom Bassarear and Yvette Yeager, I was asked to select from a table of items the object that represented myself – in that moment. I chose the empty cup.

http://www.amazon.com/Sabbath-Finding-Renewal-Delight-Lives/dp/0553380117/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1378156657&sr=1-1&keywords=muller+sabbath

Long-term projects – raising children or maintaining a house or recovering from an illness or caring for a parent or making public art – consume personal, physical and spiritual resources. Juggling 2 or more of those activities at the same time can deplete us.

 I am the empty cup.

 Nature Abhors a Vacuum

According to the ancient philosopher Aristotle, “Nature abhors a vacuum.” Aristotle based his conclusion on the observation that nature requires every space to be filled with something, even if that something is colorless, odorless air.

 I am the empty cup.

At my core, I am a maker: I make sculpture. I make movies. I make food. I make time for others. I make plans. I make decisions. In this moment, I want to make time to ” fill my cup” with whatever comes along.

What if that involves picking up a friend at the airport and then taking a 10-hour drive? What if that is living with 100+ people I have never met? What if that is honest and authentic sharing – with strangers. And what if that is a week of really good food someone else has prepared?

Indra’s Net in Massachusetts

I was invited to be a Conference Speaker at the 2013 Northfield Conference. The Northfield Conference is an annual week-long event that has taken place in western Massachusetts since 1893. http://northfieldconference.org/history/

It’s difficult to explain a place that is an intentional multi-generational community for individuals and families. It takes place on a small private school campus along the Connecticut River. The conference is all-volunteer.  The program originates from the participants and throughout the year planning meetings take place.  I was invited to speak about my art work – specifically the Invisible Legacy Series

The theme was Indra’s Net  – a metaphor that demonstrates the principles of Interdependent Origination.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indra’s_ net. Indra’s net is conceived as a net, or web.

•     at each juncture there lies a jewel;

•     each jewel reflects all the other jewels in this cosmic matrix;

•     every jewel represents an individual life form, atom, cell or unit of consciousness;

•     each jewel, in turn, is intrinsically and intimately connected to all the others;

•     thus, a change in one gem is reflected in all the others.

My friends think of me as a consummate networker. Whenever they need to find specific help, borrow something, know something, or find someone, they come to me. I am often less than 6 degrees of separation from anyone I meet – no matter where I am. I am the Kevin Bacon of my circle of friends and associates. http://oracleofbacon.org/

I decided to “disconnect” for the week- no cell phones or internet. I wanted to be fully present at the event.  (My friends took bets on how long I could stay unplugged. I lasted the week but the first 3 days of withdrawal were tough.)

We now have the ability to be connected and interconnected with friends, family, even strangers. We believe that we have more intimacy in our lives. We believe that being accessible 24/7 make us less lonely. There is a Toyota car commercial featuring a young woman sitting behind a computer worried that her parents only have 19 “friends.” Her parents are shown going off on a bicycle adventure. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TUGmcb3mhLMhave She is depicted sitting alone, inside, accompanied by her laptop.

In his article: Is Facebook Making Us Lonely, Stephen Marche writes:

Yet within this world of instant and absolute communication, unbounded by limits     of time or space, we suffer from unprecedented alienation. We have never been more detached from one another, or lonelier. In a world consumed by ever more novel modes of socializing, we have less and less actual society. We live in an accelerating contradiction: the more connected we become, the lonelier we are. We were promised a global village; instead we inhabit the drab cul-de-sacs and endless freeways of a vast suburb of information. http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/05/is-facebook-making-us-lonely/308930/

Loneliness and being alone are not the same thing, but both are on the rise. We meet fewer people. We gather less. And when we gather, our bonds are less meaningful and less easy.

For an hour each morning at the Northfield Conference, a conference attendee is invited to give a scheduled talk that pertains to the theme. The talk is intensely personal and allows listeners a glimpse into the lives of others. Sometimes speakers reveal secrets; sometimes a life- altering event; sometimes a struggle in the moment.

Whatever is shared during this special hour is held in deep respect and provides the topic for small group discussions following the presentation.  Invisible Legacy examined the lives of my great grandmother and grandmother who lived most of their lives in the Augusta Mental Health Institute in Maine. (AMHI)

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAI never had a conversation or a connection with either. I learned about their lives in the papers of the AMHI archives. I learned my grandmother was an entrepreneur, consummate salesperson and seamstress. My great grandmother was self-reliant. She raised 9 children while her husband sold surplus goods from a wagon.  I learned about how their lives were reflected in mine in ways I could not have predicted.

pcfront Invisible Legacy is an installation of antique furniture reupholstered in canvas upon which images, stories, medical reports, interviews, photographs, drawings related to the lives of women I never knew are printed. The work creates a conversation about, not only their lives, but the lives of others like them. http://www.joisraelson.com/Sculpture_Invisible%20Legacy.html

The invisible legacy continues even in death. It is estimated that there are 300,000 unmarked graves on the grounds of former and even current psychiatric hospitals throughout the US. http://www.pressherald.com/news/forgotten_2012-05-27.html?pagenum=full

In shutting down an upstate New York institution thousands of empty suitcases from patients were discovered in the attic. Each suitcase was a testament to a life restrained – disconnected.

For several days after my talk, many Northfield participants would talk to me about a mother – a father – a sibling – who suffered from mental illness. More often, they would reveal their personal struggles with this ‘invisible’ disease.

These were conversations about anger and sadness – loss and change – hope and survival. Each conversation was a reflection of another. “A change in one gem creates a change in another…”  I was changed – by the depth of interactions – and the forging of new connections.

Indra’s Net in Maine

I walk across the island to the ferry, take the 20-minute boat ride across Casco Bay and then walk the mile+ to my mom’s apartment on Munjoy Hill.

There have been many changes along the street that leads to the ‘Hill.’ Dark bars have given way to upscale coffee shops and organic bakeries; used furniture stores to high end yarn shops and strip dives to a pizza place with so many topping options it makes decision making almost impossible. http://www.ottoportland.com/

At the corner of North and Congress – in the window of a former bakery – hangs a very large stained glass mosaic made of jewels and silver wire. It is a physical manifestation of an Indra’s Net.

I opened the door to the shop and felt genuinely welcomed from the moment I entered. Laura Fuller has been working with glass for seventeen years. She began putting three-dimensional objects in her stained glass panels while still in school. Although discouraged by her instructors from pursuing this innovative technique, she continued to incorporate found objects into her complex glass reliefs.DSC_0005

There is a pixie-like gentleness combined with a deep intensity that emanates from Laura when you are in conversation. That combination of lightness and strength belies, or maybe reflects, the loss of her child to a rare disease. http://laurafullerglass.blogspot.com/

Each unique piece expresses not only her story, but also that of the objects incorporated within. For Laura, each object is a reflection of the complex narrative of life — past, present and future:

Objects are our representatives. ‘Living’ solid, fruitful, domestic, useful lives: independently functional. These objects, having given 2 to 200 years of faithful service, became hidden. In drawers, closets, dumps, underground, and in the ocean – waiting.

I will send Laura objects to use in a piece that will reflect my interconnectedness with others and myself. I am the empty cup that is now being filled with intimate and heartfelt conversations with strangers.

I am part of Indra’s Net.

Next Steps on the Stone Path

To Be An Artist is to Trust

When it is time to share the work, I must trust in the viewer. I must believe that he or she will approach my work with respect and curiosity. I must realize that viewers bring their life experiences to the work. They arrive with knowledge and emotions. They take whatever time they require to discern meaning. They take from the piece what they are able to and what they need. I have no influence or power. And then, I rest. www.joisraelson.com

libersidejk LiberfrontJKDSC08425-S

 

Liber is not my first public artwork for a library. I was 9 years old when the Marada Adams School was built across the street from my house. The elementary school was a 2-story brick structure. A public library was housed on the first floor. You had to be 6 years old to obtain a card. Even though I had been reading for a year, I was only 5 and a rule is a rule. I then petitioned for special dispensation and won. I selected books by trailing my fingers along the spines until a title caught my interest. For most of my childhood, I spent my free time taking out and returning books.

My 3rd grade class was asked to create images for a concrete frieze that would be installed on the face of the new school. It would be approximately 42 feet long and 8 feet high. Everyone created a paper cut-out that depicted an outdoor activity. My ‘girl jumping rope’ image was chosen for replication in the mural.  (You ask:  How do I recall which of the images was mine? I am still upset that I removed her braids when cutting out the image.) See page 5. http://issuu.com/munjoyhill/docs/aug2011munjoyhillobserver

After 53 years as an icon and gathering place in the neighborhood, the school/library was raised to make way for affordable housing and a small park. As a result of a “save the mural” campaign, the frieze was de-installed and a committee of architects, developers, current and former neighborhood residents and one sculptor  (me) met to determine its fate. The only decision we could agree upon was to retain and store the mural. No other plans were finalized. My jump rope girl awaits a new home – hopefully in the old ‘hood.

Oh the Places You’ll Go

June is graduation time. The current 9-month calendar was established when 85% of Americans were involved in agriculture and when schools were not air-conditioned. But the 180-day rule still applies in most states – agrarian or not. The creation of Liber took 9 months  – from the selection of the stone in Indiana to its installation at the library.

The school bus stops in front of my studio and the screeching of brakes serves as my alarm clock. The often ill-clad and frequently half-asleep students clamber aboard each morning.

My countdown week for the installation coincided with final exams and graduation. While they prepared for tests, I prepared for the installation and dedication of Liber. I am not sure who was more anxious.

Graduation

I always send 2 books to the graduates in my life:   Oh, the Places You’ll Go    and    What Now?

What Now

Dr. Seuss
In 1993, upon leaving my ‘real’ job in training, group facilitation and curriculum development to   become a sculptor, I received Dr. Seuss’s book as a parting gift along with a chisel and hammer. In his inimitable way, Dr. Seuss outlines the ups and downs of life – making choices, losing one’s way, flying high, falling down, following paths, changing direction…waiting for the way to open. He ends his tome with these stanzas:
                   
You’ll get mixed up, of course,

As you already know.

You’ll get mixed up with

many strange birds as you go.

So be sure when you step.

Step with care and great tact

And remember that

Life’s a Great Balancing Act…

 

And will you succeed?

Yes, you will indeed.

(98 and ¾ percent guaranteed.)

Kid you’ll move mountains!

 

So…be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray

Or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,

You’re off to Great Places!

Today is your day!

Your mountain is waiting.

So…get on your way.

What Now? 
Liber was barely installed and the dedication complete, when the questions started:

How do you feel now that it’s done?

What would you do differently?

How much does it weigh now? (Answer: 9000 lbs.)

What are you going to work on next?

What now?

Based on her commencement address at Sarah Lawrence College, Patchett tells her own story of attending college, graduating, and struggling with the inevitable question, What now?

“From student to line cook to teacher to waitress and eventually to award-winning author, Patchett’s own life has taken many twists and turns that make her exploration genuine and resonant. As Patchett writes, “‘What now?’ represents our excitement and our future, the very vitality of life.”

I write thank you notes. I post my last blog entry. I clear out the temporary studio. I clean my long neglected house.  I detail the truck. I pay bills. I go to the hair stylist and acupuncturist (in that order.)  I sell off electric tools in hopes of recouping some of the out-of-pocket monies. I donate my 25 year-old pneumatic and hand tools to the Vermont Carving Studio.

Before I start a project, I get my house in order. And when I complete a project, I do the same. As a clutter buster, I reassure my clients:

“If you discard what is no longer useful to make room for what is really important, the ‘empty’ space will fill with exactly what you need. Just trust.”

In What Now? Padgett highlights the possibilities the unknown offers and reminds us that there is as much joy in the journey as there is in reaching the destination.

Everything is gestation and birthing. To let each impression and each embryo of feeling come to completion entirely in itself, in the dark, in the unsayable unconscious, beyond the reach of one’s understanding, and with deep humility and patience to wait for the hour when a new clarity is born; this alone is what it means to live as an artist in understanding as in creation.

Rainer Maria Rilke

To see a slide show of the entire installation process photographed by Dan Stack, click here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/97203147@N05/

Additional photos provided by Joseph Knights

During the making of Liber, many people walked along the stone path with me. Each one contributed to the success of the journey.

If you don’t see your name on the list and feel it should be, I apologize for the oversight. Please know I appreciated your support.

  • Lynn Wheeler, Scott Rinehart and staff at Carroll County Public Library and members of the Sculpture Committee
  • Sandy Oxx and Susan Williamson, Carroll County Arts Council
  • Tom Rio, Bruce Lockard and all the crew at the Carroll County Roads Operations and Public Works
  • Public works cleaning crew who didn’t give me a hard time when I trailed dust (like Pig Pen in the comics) throughout the building
  • Independent Limestone
  • Stonebelt Transport
  • Digging and Rigging
  • Mathias Monuments
  • Welding Contractors LLC, Kyle Palumbo
  • Starbucks staff at Safeway (Jen, Gabby and Diane)
  • Dan Stack, Photographer and Joseph McKnight, Photography
  • Friends who provided physical, emotional, spiritual sustenance (Maggie, Eileen, Barb)
  • My Book Club (Elizabeth, Judy, Linda)
  • Members of the Pipe Creek Meeting
  • Homer Yost and Becky Laughlin for artistic feedback
  • Those who took care of my body – Dawn, Alison, staff at the YMCA
  • Mary L. Dewey Family