It’s all relative

June 13, 2021 – Mandala 2
June 13, 2021 – Mandala

Growing up on Long Island in the 1960s and early 70s, we often went to family get-togethers with my mom’s side of the family. One cousin, five years younger than me, was a gifted painter at an early age. These two pictures of Portia with her brothers (along with a younger cousin), and her parents were taken at our wedding in 1977 …

We wouldn’t see them all again until middle-brother George got married in Virginia.

Portia went on to pursue art studies at Cooper Union, Skowhegan, and the Mason Gross School of Art at Rutgers. All of which I know because she has been so successful in her professional life that she has a Wikipedia entry.

We haven’t stayed in touch over the years, but Instagram enabled me to catch up on her many accomplishments, after which I explored her website

Better late than never, I learned more about Portia and her art in a recent Woodstock-Byrdcliffe Forum presentation. She reminded me so much of her mother, Jay, both in appearance and her gentle manner of speaking. What struck me most, though, was how often she referred to what she was thinking while creating her art. I loved that.

I especially appreciated her mandalas of ephemeral flower petals surrounding birds killed by flying into the path of oncoming cars. They are both memento mori and commentary on the impact of human-wrought technology on nature. Terrible beauty.

And at the end of her Woodstock-Byrdclyffe talk, Portia mentioned that she will be installing a permanent exhibit at the 21C Museum Hotel opening in St Louis next year. That was all it took for me to finally reach out online. Hopefully we will meet again if our calendars and travel plans align.

Meantime, I made a mini-mandala of stacked stitching, learned from Jude, using Deb’s threads on black linen. But this patch may not be the one that I end up using … I had way too much fun to stop with just one.

Ring of fire

June 10, 2021 – Imitation, the sincerest form of flattery

My folks built a place out on Shelter Island when they retired in the 1980s. These days, it is my brother Art’s home-away-from-home.

Even though I haven’t been there since 2013 when we interred my parents’ ashes, I “visit” vicariously through the pictures my sister-in-law Diane posts on Facebook.

Thursday she posted a link to this partial eclipse photo in The Shelter Island Reporter

with my brother’s byline.

It was the next best thing to being there.

Process note:

I “paved” a piece of yellow linen with two strands of Deb’s thread worked in Jude’s split backstitch (today’s post coincidentally including both the sun and split backstitch) …

Memorial Day 2021

May 31, 2021 – Wishing for more than a little bit of peace

Before my older-self marched for peace, my childhood-self marched in the Mineola Memorial Day parades of the 1960s. Our scout troop would assemble with all the other parade units, then we’d march up Mineola Boulevard, across Jericho Turnpike, and down Marcellus Avenue … ending at the park next to the public library where a large stone memorial bore the names of those who had died for us.

I remember wearing white gloves and stepping in time to the drums while impatiently waiting for my turn to carry the flag (and here I insert an image from another town on Long Island, but really, it could’ve been Anytown, USA) …

At the end of the parade route, we thrilled to hear the wailing fire engine sirens and the thundering gun salute. It was all so exciting, so why, I wondered, were the grownups always so somber?

Then we’d all walk home and have a cookout and that was that. Another year, another war, another plaque

60 years on and nothing had changed as of 2019, only Covid having the power to to temporarily derail the march of time.

When I was 13 and no longer a scout, I wore a black armband and surely listened to Edwin Starr singing War on the radio … the original here … and later still, when rock videos became a thing, I must have watched this cover by Springsteen.

Seeing the graphic images at the beginning of the Springsteen video, I recall how my folks rarely watched the national news back in the day, saying they didn’t want to bring images of death into their home. These days, I can’t bear to stay in the room as the all-too-real images of death continue to spew off the screen, around the world and in the very streets of America.

There’s a lot of truth to Rachel Maddow’s saying, “watch what they do, not what they say.” I’ll believe this country is on the right track when we finally have true gun control, a national holiday celebrating the end of war, and a seat in the President’s cabinet dedicated to waging peace in the world.

Until then, I’ll mourn the war dead and honor the memory of those who believed in a cause greater than self.

And always I will wonder what might have been …

imagine if we the people had deployed armies of teachers and lawyers, doctors and nurses, construction workers and engineers, rather than soldiers …

imagine if we had fully funded the machinery of peace rather than the weapons of war …

imagine if we had vowed to be true builders of nations by killing the causes of terror with kindness rather than feeding the beast with terrors of our own making …

And then, I dare to imagine it’s still not too late to try …