Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Dearest Readers,
Here I am, third row, far right with my kindergarten class from the Academy of Saint Aloysius in Jersey City NJ, 1952. We’re gathered in the blinding sunlight around the Lincoln statue for our graduation picture. My grammar school/high school was adjacent to the entrance to Lincoln Park. (The building exists today, but is now a charter school.)
Cecelia, Abe, and Henry_Lincoln Park_Jersey City
And here I am last week, back in front of Abe Lincoln, this time taking selfies with my grandson Henry–
Lincoln and Henry looking presidential
My daughter Ayla, her partner Joel, and little Henry are staying in Jersey City from Portland, Oregon for the month of August. I got to visit them and my old "stomping grounds".

In many ways Jersey City remains the same. The people and a few buildings have changed, but it continues to be a landing place for first and second generation immigrants coming to America through New York City. It is an easy “Path” subway ride under the Hudson River to the World Trade Center or midtown Manhattan. My Dad commuted to Brooklyn this way to work. (Mom and I moved to Vermont, her family home, in my mid teens after Dad passed away.)

I learned that Jersey City is the second most diverse city in the USA, after San Diego. I’m not surprised. When I was a kid, the big ethnic groups in the same neighborhood were Irish, Polish, Jewish and Italian with a smattering of German families. Many friends spoke another language to an aunt or grandmother (Italian, Yiddish). We were wildly nationalistic. On St. Patrick’s Day, some of the Italian kids wore red to counter the green we wore to school. Columbus Day was a big holiday with fireworks and celebrations.I ate gefilte fish (hated it) with my friend Maxine, and watched her Mom and Aunt Reggie play Mahjong.
Bergen Avenue
Now the area is a mélange of African-American, Hispanic, Arab, Indian, Asian and some white families. Corner stores, markets, butchers and take-out restaurants cater to native foods. Prices are cheap in these small places. I did not see any supermarkets or big box stores. Such diversity! It was an eye opener not to be able to find common brands of coffee, preserves and canned goods.
Jersey City crack weeds
What hasn’t changed is the pedestrian landscape. The same mini wheat-weeds grow
up through the sidewalk cracks. These resourceful plants have a 5 or 6-inch wheat-like shaft, and a head of little grains. Perfect for scarce soil, and direct sunlight. The sparrows love it.

Trash still abounds underfoot. All this refuse looks familiar. It becomes invisible after awhile. 

Communipaw Avenue is still the specialty auto repair street (if I remember correctly). Small transmission shops, muffler shops, oil, auto glass, tire, and other greasy places line the street that leads over the bridge to the Pulaski Skyway and the start of the old former Lincoln Highway. My Lincoln statue is the first of many along that coast-to-coast road. The truck traffic here is intense.

I was saddened to discover the old statue of Peter Stuyvesant, the Dutch founder of old Bergen City (Jersey City) in 1660 was removed in 2010 from his spot in the neighborhood. Then I read he will be returned to Bergen Square when enough money is raised, and the pedestal repaired. Yay!

Pegleg Pete

Houses in this neighborhood are very close together, even the large homes. Many are in need of paint and serious repair. A slew of three story walkups have been sheathed in boring vinyl siding. I walked passed many beautiful old cathedrals, and re-purposed churches. 
There are also remodeled brownstones like our 4th floor Air BnB.

Sunshine on window of our Air BnB apt.
I‘ll close with a selection of pictures I took of Henry at Lincoln Park’s kids water fountain area. I can hear him squealing with delight even now!

Thursday, August 14, 2014


The Known Unknown

Dearest Readers,
I’ve been eyeing this delicate pile of grey sticks stacked like a hut in the field where I’m living in Vermont. I’ve circled its perimeter and glanced inside through the nest of criss-crossed branches. I’m itching to shape it into a special place for thinking and abiding.  I envision making a low-down crawling entrance like an igloo’s, and digging a well-like hole inside with a chair positioned at its lowest point, and a hand-made pole ladder rising up out of the roof.  It is a KNOWN creative commodity fashioned in my imagination. A couple of years ago I drew plans for several as yet unrealized holes. #4, the lowest drawing, comes closest to “The Known Unknown”.

Cynther Greene who owns the field and the house in Peacham, calls this fragile wooden beauty “the burn pile”–fated at some future time to light up a solstice party.  This is also KNOWN.
Cynther - Gardener extraordinaire
I KNOW how to dig a deep hole. I blogged about the creation of a marble lined cylinder of emptiness for SculptFest 2012 at the Carving Studio and Sculpture Center in West Rutland Vermont.
The marble hole in West Rutland Vermont
I KNOW how to pace myself. My diaristic, quotidian method for almost all of my art is the way to go.

I KNOW about performance art. The thought process and physical effort is as artistic as the final product–even the possibility of failure.

What’s UNKNOWN is how to make it happen, how to proceed, what techniques and tools to use, and the method of problem solving along the way.  This challenges my fear response to keep quiet, and the visible me to proceed carrying the tiny stick of patience.

My stamina is an UNKNOWN commodity. My bum knee-cap (fractured it last year) and 68 year old creaky back are KNOWN UNKNOWNS. So, I’m being very kind to them.

The total timeframe is an UNKNOWN. Can I dig the hole before the frosts concretize the land? Can I delight in the deconstruction of the pile of sticks? Expose the site? Dig the hole? Make and fit the ladder in place? Reposition and secure the pile of sticks higher with an entryway? Sigh. All UNKNOWNs.

Here’s what I do KNOW. Every journey begins with the first step.  Over the past two weeks of work and rest days I’ve clipped away the wild grasses around the base, and yanked them by hand.

trimmed some of the sticks, 

and have begun removing branches for future use. 

Sometimes I sit in a lawn chair, once in a while I bend over or get down on one knee.
So far so good.

To be continued……