Friday, September 30, 2011

A Changing Room

As I walked into my kitchen this evening of 9/30/2011 - I looked out the windows towards the water. Before me was not only a beautiful rainbow sky but also an extremely motivated group of flying creatures everywhere I looked; dragonflies, bats, seagulls, pelicans, herons, and other perching type birds such as sparrows. They were swooping and flying at a increased pace just before sunset, past each other, over the yard and water. Reminded me of the Jetson's cartoon I used to watch as a kid with all the different space craft flying around. I ran for my camera because the color in the sky was only going to stay put for a moment, I knew.

I think the flying activity is due to the weather changing. The temperature tonight will be considerably lower than it's been yet as the season is changing. That may explain the increased activity of the flying creatures - that maybe and a north wind. And not to get too serious here but it did remind me of something, that circumstances and seasons change, bringing to mind a dream that was related to me regarding walking through a large building, going from room to room, but that ultimately the journey was about going in the front door and out the back door, however long you spent in the individual rooms. And so I appreciate having the visual aide out my window to enjoy and to remind me of making the most of the time we do have, looking over how wonderfully furnished these rooms are!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Van Gogh in the Morning

Portions of letters to Theo from Vincent Van Gogh; brothers:

"Am often sketching till late at night, to record some souvenirs and strengthen my thoughts, which are spontaneously aroused when I see things".

"So what do you want? Does what happens inside show on the outside? There is such a great fire in one's soul, and yet nobody ever comes to warm themselves there, and passersby see nothing but a little smoke coming from the chimney, and go on their way".

“If you hear a voice within you say "you cannot paint," then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.”

“If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere.” 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Moving Ladder

Below is a copy of a document written to teach about Martin Puryear's Ladder for Booker T. Washington, and to the side is a photo of the piece. I saw this at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth and I was very moved by it. I thought others might  like to see it also, as well as read about it. I hope you enjoy it.  Maribeth

The titles of Martin Puryear’s sculptures might best be considered as metaphors that expand rather than limit the meaning of his works, which are spare, carefully crafted, evocative, and profound. Like poetry, much is lost in the interpretation. When his sculptures are titled after historic people, it is especially easy to misread them. In Ladder for Booker T. Washington, Puryear chose the title only after he had completed the sculpture. To think of the title as a frame for the sculpture would be backwards. Puryear’s Ladder reflects handcraft techniques he honed abroad while studying in West
Africa and in Scandinavia. The side rails, polished strands of wood, are fashioned from a golden ash sapling that once grew on Puryear’s upstate New York property; and the ladder’s now sinuous, now sharp, rails, connected by round, lattice-like rungs that swell in the middle, reflect the wood’s organic cycle of growth and change. Puryear says that he “forced” the perspective of the ladder. Although the rungs begin at a respectable 11.3/4 inches wide at the bottom, the distance between them diminishes as they climb upward thirty-six feet. Their span narrows to a dizzying 1.1/4 inches at the top of the ladder, giving the illusion of much greater height. Suspended about three feet above the floor and anchored to its surroundings by almost undetectable wires, Ladder seems to float precariously in space. Like Puryear’s sculpture, the legacy of the man for whom it was named is open to interpretation. Booker T. Washington, an eminent but controversial leader of the African American community, was born into slavery in the Piedmont region of Virginia around 1856. At the age of twenty-five he rose to prominence as the founder and first president of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. In the years following Reconstruction, the promised gains for African Americans were slipping away, and as an educator, Washington insisted that blacks be skilled both vocationally and intellectually: “When the student is through with his course of training, he [should go] out feeling that it is just as honorable to labor with the hands as with the head.” At Tuskegee, the curriculum was founded on the tenet that work in all its manifestations was “dignified and beautiful.” Under Washington’s guidance, Tuskegee became a successful and respected institution, and Washington himself was revered by many blacks and whites. However, his stand on civil rights was highly criticized by other African American leaders, such as W. E. B. DuBois, as being subservient. Washington thought that blacks need not campaign for the vote. The goal as he saw it was to establish economic independence before demanding civic equality, even if that meant using white assistance. He drew on his own life experience, recounted in his autobiography Up from Slavery, to exemplify his conviction that hard work
would be sufficient to propel African Americans to success and acceptance. Although Washington quietly supported antisegregation, he did not speak out openly against racism until the end of his life.
Puryear has used the concept of a ladder not easily ascended more than once—most spectacularly in an eighty-five-foot cedar and muslin spiral staircase created in a Paris church in 1998–1999. This artistic metaphor dovetails seamlessly with the contradictions inherent in the often contentious legacy of Booker T. Washington. The association of ladders with ambition, transcendence, danger, faith, and salvation, deeply woven into the Judeo-Christian tradition, was certainly a vital part of the educational leader’s life. The title of Washington’s autobiography Up from Slavery is a direct reference to an ascent to a richer existence, both materially and psychologically. The spiritual “We Are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder” was one of Washington’s favorites (it was also sung by the Freedom Marchers from Selma to Birmingham.
Puryear’s finely crafted ladder resonates with Washington’s belief in the dignity of manual labor expertly accomplished. But the artist leaves the final explanation of his construction open. As critic Michael Brenson has stated, “Puryear has the ability to make sculpture that is known by the body before it is articulated by the mind.”
Ladder for Booker T. Washington, 1996
20-B Martin Puryear (1941–), Ladder for Booker T. Washington,
1996. Wood (ash and maple), 432 x 2234 in., narrowing at the top
to 114 in. x 3 in. (1097.28 x 57.785 cm., narrowing to 3.175 x
7.6 cm.). Collection of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth,
Gift of Ruth Carter Stevenson, by Exchange.
What is this object?
It is a ladder.
How is it different from most ladders?
It curves and gets narrower at the top.
Have students describe the side rails and rungs of this ladder.
The side rails are crooked, like the organic shape of the trees from which they were made. The rungs are thicker in the middle.
The whole ladder is polished and assembled with fine craftsmanship.
What does this ladder rest on?
It does not stand on the floor. It is suspended from the ceiling and held in place by very fine wires. It seems to float about two and
one-half feet above the floor.
Ask students if they can see the wires holding it in place. Notice the shadows created by the ladder.
Ask students what illusion Puryear creates by making the ladder narrower at the top than bottom.
It makes it seem even taller than it is.
Remind them of the African American spiritual “We Are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder.” Does this ladder seem tall enough to
reach to the heavens?
Ask students if they think the ladder would be difficult to climb and why.
It would be very difficult because it is long and curving and it gets very narrow at the top.
Discuss with students what ladders can symbolize. Remind them of phrases like “climbing the ladder to success” and
“getting to the top.” Call attention to the title of this sculpture, Ladder for Booker T. Washington. The title of Washington’s
autobiography was Up from Slavery. Ask why this ladder is an appropriate symbol for this title. (Students should
understand that the climb from slavery to attaining equal civil rights was as difficult as it would be to climb this ladder.)
How does the fine craftsmanship of this ladder represent some of Washington’s beliefs?
In addition to intellectual skills, Washington believed that students should learn manual skills, like the woodworking represented
by this ladder, in order to support themselves.
Where does the ladder lead?
It leads to the light.
What might the fact that the ladder is raised off the ground symbolize?
You have to pull yourself up to the place where the ladder starts

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Roosting Chickens

(I know he is a rooster, Dad!)
This past Friday night my 9 year old granddaughter spent the night so I could take her to her soccer game the next morning. As always, I enjoyed my time with her. But the theme of this post is not her or grandchildren, or soccer. It's about very large chickens coming home to roost.

Coming home to roost - you will have to face the consequences of your mistakes or bad deeds. I have been joking with a friend of mine recently about the size of the chickens that come home to roost, specifically good old Foghorn Leghorn, a cartoon character from my youth, a very over-sized, aggressive and loud chicken being the chicken that comes a-roosting from unchecked family dysfunction. It's not funny but as I am basically an optimistic person, I have to find some humor in times of stress - but back to the reason I wanted to write down these thoughts.
Yesterday as I was watching my granddaughter's soccer game, which was in Navarre, Florida and adjacent to a holding pond, a mosquito the size of a hornet kept landing on me and biting me, even through my clothes. I decided that viewing the soccer game from a vehicle with the windows up and air conditioning running was a better idea, and so I did that. This tactic also allowed for some people-watching as the playground and other fields were open to my view. And my thoughts became serious as I watched.
The small boy playing in the sand who absolutely would not respond to his mother to leave. And she let him win until in frustration she snatched him up and lugged a wiggling, screaming, mad and rebellious small child across the parking lot. The sisters who had each other but were so over-weight that they walked funny. And they made me think about how all the small things that we let go end up growing, but it seems that they usually grow somewhere in a dimension where they are unseen until they decide to come home to roost, and they are large - as will be more serious issues with these two instances with children.
And so the solution? I don't know except for careful contemplation of your ways. There is a scripture in Haggai chapter 1 where the prophet Haggai is encouraging the people to give careful thought to their ways. It is not a recent problem that we take many easier routes instead of the right route, for the future.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Words in the Dirt

He had just come from a hilltop. He had come to teach. The people gathered around him, so he sat and began to speak. The rulers came also, but not to learn. The religious came with them, dragging the woman along. And they clapped their ceremonially clean hands to get his attention - "Look at this woman! See her face, the guilty! We caught her right in the middle of her sinning. Our religion tells us to kill her. What do you say?"
But he just bent down and began to write in the ground, with his finger. And ignored them, or did he? What was he writing? 
The people who came to learn waited. The rulers and the religious fumed. So they asked again, louder, "We caught this woman right in the act of her sinning. Our religious laws say to kill her. What do YOU say?"

He straightened up and looked them right in the eye - "If any of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her."

9-11: To many, this 10th Anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington DC symbolize a lack of tolerance for others and their beliefs. It was, and still is. Yet it also symbolizes the strength and tolerance of those who refuse to give way to fear and hate after such a hateful, evil act. 

Definition of TOLERANCE
: capacity to endure pain or hardship : endurancefortitude,stamina
a : sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one's ownb : the act of allowing something : toleration
: the allowable deviation from a standard; especially : the range of variation permitted in maintaining a specified dimension in machining a piece
(1) : the capacity of the body to endure or become less responsive to a substance (as a drug) or a physiological insult especially with repeated use or exposure tolerance to painkillers>also : the immunological state marked by unresponsiveness to a specific antigen (2) :relative capacity of an organism to grow or thrive when subjected to an unfavorable environmental factorb : the maximum amount of a pesticide residue that may lawfully remain on or in food
Examples of TOLERANCE
  1. tolerance for other lifestyles
  2. The plants have a high tolerance for heat.
  3. Some patients gradually develop a tolerance for the drug and need to be given a larger dose.
  4. Some patients develop greater tolerance for the drug's effects.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

storm, Storm and STORMS

I woke up just a short while ago to the sounds of the wind outside and as it is too dark right  now to see, I know that when I look out at Santa Rosa Sound from my home in Gulf Breeze I'll see a higher tide than normal and some rough waters. Tropical Storm Lee is sitting out in the Gulf of Mexico. This storm seems to have just sprung up quickly compared to other storm events where we watch them approach our area from their birthplace in the Atlantic or Caribbean Sea. I'm thinking of my friend Tommy from high school who has suddenly lost another beloved family member, one very young. My heart hurts for him. He has suffered a great deal of loss in a short time. I can't imagine what it is like so as my way to express my love and concern, I thought I would repost something I wrote in my blog in October 2009. I certainly don't know why these things happen. Words including mine are so inadequate.
St. Francis stands in my living room. I see him everyday, gazing lovingly down at the bird on his shoulder, the one who never moves. For that matter, neither does St. Francis, unless I choose to move him.
St. Francis was found very few days after Hurricane Dennis hit my hometown in 2005. He was almost buried completely under mounds of seaweed and other assorted refuse that had washed up on our property - fishing poles, lumber - lots of lumber - trash, signs, dead fish. My husband and I with some friends, after spending days washing muck out of the house, decided to walk a bit along the shoreline - a sort of treasure hunt - and there he was - laying as still as a saint under duress - and we rescued him.
Since that day St. Francis has lived silently in my living room, his only companions his birds and the assorted houseplants I decide look good standing with him. These changed from time to time, mood to mood - until one day he stood by the pony palm, the one we brought home from my mother-in-law's funeral in 2007 - the one that grows and grows. They became permanent companions that day.
St. Francis came to our house after adversity, the pony palm after a death. Visitors to my house may very well have wondered why I have a garden statue in my living room. It is because St. Francis and his friend the pony palm remind me daily that death and adversity are a part of life, sometimes companions - but life continues after death and sainthood may come from coping with adversity, for God's sake.