Monday, April 29, 2013

Join My Journey

I sit with a book and cup of tea in front of me. 
I realize. 
One year ago, 
I knew neither the woman who wrote the book, nor wove the 

My journey began on May 18, 2012.
My goal is to complete it by July, 2014.

As with any journey, but particularly this one, it began with a single step.  A step into a labyrinth.
Anne Hornstein's labyrinth on Miramar Beach, Florida.  It was the first state of 50 that I will visit.  All outdoor labyrinths, grounded in the earth.  All created by women.

Since Florida, I have visited a labyrinth in 20 states.  Nineteen built in yards. One on a beach.  Each with a story.  I have walked each labyrinth except the one in New Jersey, made unwalkable by Hurricane Irene. (Bianca Franchi has since rebuilt it.)  I have listened to each woman's story. 

The idea came from, well, who knows where.  That mysterious Voice that sneaks up on you from "out of the blue," or as a needling nudge that elbows you at 2:00 am and won't go back to sleep.  
"You love to write.  You love labyrinths.  Write about labyrinths, one in every state."  
An ambitious Voice to be sure!

For those of you unfamiliar with the labyrinth, it is an ancient design consisting of one path that leads from an entrance on the outer edge, in a circuitous way, to the center and back out.  

Not a maze
No confusion
One way in
One way out

"It is a walking meditation.  A tool to quiet the mind, reduce stress, open the heart." (Lauren Artress)

Here are two different types of labyrinths, from the amazing ones I've visited so far. . . 


Lani Rossetta's labyrinth 
 Center Point, Oregon (close to Medford)

Susan Gardener and Kathleen Rosemary's labyrinth 
Baltimore, Maryland 

My journey, and those of the women whose stories I'm carrying with me, will become a book.  

Labyrinth Journeys: Fifty States, Fifty-One Stories

The working title is Labyrinth Journeys: Fifty States, Fifty-One Stories.   My friend, Margie Beedle, gave me her original watercolor of the Merciful Love Labyrinth in Juneau, Alaska, the first labyrinth I ever walked.  It is my proposed cover.  I can't imagine another more meaningful and artfully created.  

As I continue this journey, I will begin posting updates on this blog, with plans to expand to a website.
My excitement and commitment to this path grow with each woman's story, with each friend who joins me for a portion of the trip, with each new labyrinth I walk, finding my own center in the process.   

I invite you to continue reading, to join me as I travel forward.  And as you do, let me know. . .
What is your path?

From the picture at the top of this posting. . .
The handwoven coaster was made by Hillary Cooper-Kinny, whose labyrinth I visited in Hudson Falls, New York.
The book, The Creative Photographer, was written by Catherine Anderson, whose labyrinth I visited in Charlotte, North Carolina.     



Monday, April 15, 2013

"An Evening With Ken Burns"

For as long as I can remember, I've been interested in the American Civil War.  I'm not exactly sure why.  Even though I grew up in the South and was mesmerized by Scarlett and Rhett as I watched the re-release of "Gone With the Wind," I somehow knew that my romanticism about the "glory" of those bygone plantation days was misplaced.  I now know that it was misinformed. Stories of slaves were never told in history class. Slavery was not the cause of the war.  It was the North trying to impose its way of life on the South, and "we" would have none of it.

It is through my own curiosity about American history and desire to learn the "whole" story that I've continued to search for understanding.  I stand on silent battlefields at Antietam, Manassas, Gettysburg and Vicksburg, imagine piles of bodies and smoking cannon.  This was a war of our own making, not waged in defense of a foreign threat. It was a war often fought between neighbors, among family, in tree-shaded front yards and across neatly planted cornfields.  What fueled such hatred, such tenacity to hang on for 4 years of death and destruction?  And how has that hatred, prejudice, "me against you" rippled through the years to today?

When I read that Ken Burns would be speaking at the American Jewish Historical Society last night, I bought a ticket.  His series on the Civil War, the highest rated in the history of American Public Television, kept me and 40 million other viewers glued to our television screens for four nights in September 1990.

His topic for the evening was, "Revisiting the Civil War Documentary 20 Years On," and the auditorium was overflowing.

               Ken Burns and Jacob Wisse, Executive Director, Yeshiva University Museum

Before Ken Burns took his seat, the room grew quiet and dark.  A large screen lightened, as if dawn were slowly making its way into the room.  A cannon appeared on a hill, a hint of music sounded in the distance and the voice of the narrator began.

We watched a 15-minute segment of the film, and I was once again engulfed in a history lesson that I didn't want to end.  Using what has been coined, the "Ken Burns effect," still photographs seemed to move, while a chorus of voices told their stories and a background of horses, train whistles, rifle fire, tricked my senses into believing I was there.

As I listened to Burns speak for over an hour, I tried to write furiously, but could never keep up, so I stopped.  He is an extremely articulate, intelligent "storyteller," as he calls himself, who speaks from years of research and passion about the Civil War and the United States.  However, there was one quote - written by him, his brother, Ric, or both, appearing during the film's introduction - which captures at least a piece of why I continue to be drawn to this war.

"Between1861 and 1865, Americans made war on each other and killed each other in great numbers - if only to become the kind of country that could no longer conceive of how that was possible."

When I was visiting Gettysburg a few months ago, I took a picture that symbolizes that paradox for me.

                                           A fence. . . a simple, wooden fence.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Sandy Still Hangs Around the Neighborhood

When I returned to New York City this week, I walked around our Lower Manhattan neighborhood to get reacquainted.  Grocery store, flower shop, pizza place, park, Starbucks. . . all as I had left them.  Unfortunately, there was another part of the neighborhood - two blocks east - which was also unchanged. Two blocks closer to the East River, two blocks closer to Hurricane Sandy's devastation.  South Street Seaport.

This time last year tourists were hopping off double decker buses, spilling onto the Seaport's cobbled streets with money to spend.

 A new skirt at J. Crew,

             pair of shoes at Aerosoles

      jeans at Gap,

followed by a beer at Heartland Brewery, maybe some tacos at Red's.   

Now, all closed.  Closed for the last five months.

As I toured the largely deserted streets, I thought about the people who had lost their jobs, business, entire livelihoods.  Where are they working now?  How are they paying their bills?

Perhaps employees with the big name stores were transferred to other locations throughout the city.  But what of the private business owners?

I walked further down Water Street to check on one of our favorite restaurants, the Bridge Café, "the oldest drinking establishment in New York City," dating back to 1794.  Sitting at a window table, Drew and I would look up at the Brooklyn Bridge and imagine the city in earlier times. The bridge must stare down, now, on her companion of 130 years and wonder when she will ever come back to life.

The Restricted Use sign remains on the front door.

Pipes are still exposed on the street out front.

But hope remains.

One of many customers on the Café's email list, I received a message this week. "Our temporary electricity is up, most of the debris and rubbish wood from the basement has been removed to make way for fresh timber.  There is still much to do, but thanks to all the support, the building that houses Bridge Café will get its new support as quickly as possible." Their donations page shows a watery scene of the Café in the midst of the hurricane, water that deluged the foundation and destroyed all the refrigeration units, stoves and ovens.

Although Sandy's victims are no longer in the news, they continue to exist.  Most are nameless to the rest of us who endured a week without electricity, but have moved on.  However, Adam Weprin and his Bridge Café family are still struggling to rebuild.  We can help them with donations and by being the first in line when they reopen.  After all, they're our neighbors.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Wherever You Are When the Sun Rises

Sunrise. . . 
obviously not in New York City.  
At least not in our part of New York City, where the sun rises over the East River and wakes up the Brooklyn Bridge.

This morning, I'm writing my blog from the back porch of our home in Arkansas.

Songbirds, squirrels, some bumbly bees, and the neighbor's nosey cat keep me company.  The school bus picked up children along our road by 7:00, "Farmer Brown" fed his goats and horses, the next-door neighbor (an acre or so over) left for work. I've seen no other humans since.  Our house is tucked back from the road at the top of a hill, surrounded by hundreds of friendly trees.

 It's hard to stay inside, even inside a screened-in porch, on a day like today.  The sky's a cloudless blue, the sunshine a soothing 68 degrees; so why fight it?  I grab my camera and let the door slam behind me.    

I love this yard, especially in early spring!  It feels like familiar friends returning from a long vacation.

Grandson Nate and I planted these tulips.  I scooped out the holes; he stuck in the bulbs, and we talked about how they would turn into flowers one day.  

The crevice beside our chimney becomes home each year to Mama and Papa Bird and their babies. We haven't been formally introduced, but are proud to have them for neighbors.

"Rosemary" adorns herself with powder blue blossoms and invites friends to enjoy her nectar.

In last summer's drought, I thought this little tree had died.  We watered her often, but weren't sure she had survived until pink buds appeared last week.  Hooray!

I return to the porch to download pictures and finish writing, reminded once again that. . . 

Each day teaches gratitude, no matter where you are when the sun rises.  

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