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

 

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Reasons Not to Make Art

Ask any artist: What prevents you from making art? The most frequent response is: I don’t have enough time. Artist friends have at least 2 (often 3 jobs): a life job and an art job.

In their life job, they have families to care for, shopping lists to make, homes to repair, cars to maintain, taxes to finish, and 40+ hours of paid work to perform.

In their art job, they have shows to view, work to install, competitions to enter, financial books to keep, press releases to write, address data bases to maintain, supplies to purchase, and of course, art to create.

Leap Years come every 4 years. It’s a gift from the Universe. The Egyptians were the first to come up with the idea of adding a leap day once every four years to keep the calendar in sync with the solar year. Later, the Romans adopted this solution for their calendar, and they became the first to designate February 29 as the leap day.

So, on February 29, I had great plans to work on the design for the library sculpture. I hung up a sheet of blank paper, wedged some clay, and waited for inspiration.

Julia Cameron, author of the Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, believes you just need to make the time to make art.  It’s like exercise: just schedule it. But, creativity is harder to schedule. It doesn’t like to be pigeonholed into showing up at a particular time. After a while, you learn when the Muse has decided to take a day off. So there is nothing left to do except “prepare” for her return.

Sometimes it helps to read art books.

Sometimes it helps to look through your sketchbooks.

Sometimes it helps to write in your journal  (or blog.)

Sometimes it helps to just stack wood, sharpen tools, and retrieve your compressor.

When I completed my father’s memorial garden and granite bench, I left my compressor on the island in Maine. I bought it second hand from a guy in Lewiston Maine who had listed it for sale in an Uncle Henry’s sell or swap pamphlet. This classified ad magazine predates Craigslist by 40 years. Every week, Uncle Henry’s is packed with fresh classified ads. Mainers pick up an Uncle Henry’s, not because they are looking to buy a particular item, but to browse the classified ads for entertainment. You can sell or trade ANYTHING. http://unclehenrys.com/

A friend offered to “store” the compressor while he worked on the roof of his cottage.  At some point, it just “stopped working.” There was no one the island to fix it, so it became a kind of lawn ornament. The summer ended. My friend closed up his cottage, loaded his truck with his tools and my compressor and headed to his upstate New York home.

I didn’t have plans to carve any stone, so there wasn’t any hurry to repair it – or so I thought. A month later  I was awarded the commission for the library. Now there was a sculpture to carve and a deadline to meet.

So, he dragged the compressor to various NY repair shops, doggedly determined to salvage it.  After many unsuccessful forays, he found just the right guy and after paying $1.79 for just the right part, the repair problem was solved.

Cameron also puts great faith in synchronicity and intention. “Synchronicity is like a tap on the shoulder by the universe. It tells us to pay attention, that we’re on the right path… The way will open if you are clear where you are going.”

It takes almost as long to drive to upstate NY as it does to Maine and with the increase in gas prices, it was clear where I WASN’T going, but I needed my compressor to come to me. SOON.

Julia Cameron was right.

I received an email from a friend looking for overnight accommodations on her way to a D.C . conference. She lives in Albany. She drives an SUV. Throughout our years of friendship, she has participated in the schlepping segment of my art life – more times than I can count. It seemed only fitting to offer her the opportunity to chauffer the compressor to Maryland. They lived within 5 miles of each other. He tucked the compressor and reel of 50 foot hose into the back of the Lexus and she was on her way.

I hope you got a few extra hours of sleep on February 29, because we lose an hour this weekend. It’s daylight savings time.

There are a million reasons why artists don’t make art – no money, no time, no heat, no inspiration. However, the most frequent reason for making art is a deadline and I have one.  I have a maquette to make for the Library Design Committee. I really need that Leap Year day now.