Tuesday, December 6, 2011

December 6, 2011–The Hole and Wings

Dearest Readers,

Apologies to all who have heard this story.

D-Day...Dig the Death Hole Day.
Today, Tuesday December 6th, the anniversary of my mother’s death, was supposed to be the start date of my Hole Project...A 30 minute daily performance dig of a 7-foot deep hole, to be a conduit for asking Mom the nature of death, and a way to confront my own fears.
I was wrong. After all my talk and plans, meetings, hole drawings, paintings and site testing, I don't need to do it anymore. I seem to have resolved many of my issues around death. Here’s what happened:

June 1-September 2, 2011...Drove 11,400 miles across America with the radio and CD player off. I did a lot of thinking behind the wheel, and reading at night. I discovered that I did not want to read the Catholic books I had brought.

Instead, I devoured the daily thoughts of Pema Chodron a Buddhist nun and resident teacher at Gampo Abbey on Cape Breton in Nova Scotia.

Oct. 30th...Met at Mulberry Fields in Candler Park, Atlanta with artist friends left to right- Jesse Harris, Ginger Birdsey, Ruth Schowalter, me in my skull skirt, and Susie Winton (not pictured). We shared ideas about ways to include the community in the hole project.

We stood on the proposed hole site brainstorming ideas. Nothing quite gelled. Left to right, Ginger Birdsey, Susie Winton, me, and Jesse Harris. Thanks to Ruth Schowalter for taking this photograph.

Nov. 5th...Volunteered at a Women’s Retreat at St. Thomas More Church in Decatur. Greeted my friends, helped with dinner and prayed, but when I left the building that night, and walked home in the dark, I knew I had crossed a threshold and closed the door on my struggles with Catholicism. I knew I was “forgiven”. I was free to leave.

Nov. 13th...Took the Vows of Refuge at the Shambhala Meditation Center in Decatur. I am now embarking on the Buddhist path. In a public ceremony I was one of six “refugees”, seeking refuge in the Buddha (not as a savior), Dharma (teachings)and the Sangha (community). I was overjoyed to share this moment with my grandkids Jack and Rosie, my daughter-in-law Linda, and my son, Osman who came out to support me. Thanks to friend and condo neighbor Mary Alma Durrett for taking this shot. Thanks also to Karen and Wayne Phillips and Susie Winton for coming out.

During the ceremony we "refugees" were given names by the visiting Buddhist teacher Arawana Hayashi. These were based on silent interviews she conducted with each of us the previous day. Mine turns out to be Kunga Sheltri, which in Tibetan means All Joy Crystal Sword. This is the joyful, gentle sword of fearlessness. I want to live up to that, but you can still call me Cecelia!

Nov. 22nd...Filled out the Georgia Advance Directive which is a legal medical document describing my death and hospice treatment preferences should I ever be in a terminal vegetative state, and assigning a health care agent and two backups. My three children were in town for Thanksgiving– Osman, Semra and Ayla Ercin. Two artist friends came as witnesses–Susie Winton and Ruth Schowalter (the photographer here). My daughter-in-law Linda was there, and two grandchildren Roman and Rosie who ran around and under the table. When I turned 65 this year, my health provider gave me the forms to complete for them to keep on file. After completing and signing the paperwork, a few of us remained at the table, reviewing my preferences for a “good death” if I’m ever in hospice. This led to a group discussion of our beliefs about death, God and the possibilities of an afterlife. I was exhausted!

Nov. 22nd 9pm...Turning point...Driving home with Ruth after the “death panel”, it dawned on me that I had done it. I had resolved some sort of pressing death issue, and did not need to dig the hole. It would be a waste of artistic energy and time.

Nov. 26th...Sat at the proposed hole site to think.I'm comfortable with my decision not to dig.

Nov. 28th...Finished Return of the Hand to Hand Project. Ready to move on.

Nov. 29th...Woke up with a craving to paint wings.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

October 15-17–Georgia-Florida Loop

Dearest Readers,
It’s not over yet! The Hand to Hand Roadtrip Across America continued last weekend through South Georgia to Thomasville, on to Tallahassee Florida on Saturday; across to Jacksonville, back to Tally Sunday, returning to Decatur on Monday via Milledgeville and Athens. One thousand more miles added to the circuit for a grand total of 11,400 miles delivering H2H artwork around this country. Scion still holding up. Not so good me. Came down with a cold again. Little Etta James stayed home.

From Middle Georgia southward, the earth changed from our hard-as-a-brick red clay to soft sandy soil. I shot this dirt road near Montezuma, then a field of bursting cotton near Vienna, and a stately pecan grove outside of Cordele. Stopped for gas in Sylvester and got snagged among the participants and cars at the annual peanut festival there. Lots of kids were lined up to use the bathroom at the Shell convenience store. The weather is sunny, dry and in the low 90’s.

First stop Thomasville pop. 15,000 near the Florida border. This is Rich and Lori Curtis in their home beneath one of Rich’s paintings. He teaches art at Thomas University in town. Lori works in plantation tourism.

We’re holding one of their six collaborative hand and glove photo close-ups depicting a narrative of hand gestures as they recorded their reactions to the Iraq War events of their week in 2008. This piece became the cover shot for the Hand to Hand catalog.

Rich took me to lunch at Grassroots, a coffee shop and cafĂ© in historic downtown Thomasville. The town grew up in the 1800’s as a cotton and nut plantation center, and in the 20th century became a tourist town because of its location at the end of the railroad line, before interstate highways changed travel patterns to Florida.

This is Rich with his artwork in the multi-store venue of “Flaunt-25”– a show of 25 artists’ works on 25 local store walls. His wood, paint and zoological assemblages address his opposition to the hunting culture in the area, and the killing of local wildlife for stuffed trophies. I took this picture of an elaborate taxidermy shop downtown selling rugs, lamps, chandeliers and knickknacks made from animal parts.

On the way south out of town I stopped at Pebble Hall Plantation, which is open to visitors.

Twenty minutes outside of Thomasville I crossed into Florida, and then on to charming Tallahassee, the state capitol with its old courthouse and government buildings downtown surrounded by live oaks and lush landscaping. There’s a bird and wildlife sanctuary nearby, accessible by boat, that I did not have time to visit. Turtles, waterfowl, armadillo, heron, hawks, owl, deer and even bears I’m told live near. Tally has a small town feel. Everything is fairly close.

The first thing I did when I arrived in Tallahassee was to meet my artist friend and former Atlantan, Judy Rushin, at a baby shower she was hosting in the neighborhood. This is Judy with Mama Anne and her new little boy Gabriel. Most of the guests are artists or art teachers with Judy and Anne at FSU. Lots of Anne’s work and local art hangs on her walls. I was honored to be a part of the group.

Saturday night Judy took me to an art auction to benefit Space 621, an alternative gallery in the Railroad Square art and theater area. We stopped by Occupy Wall Street/Tallahassee where we talked with a student activist who told us about their march on the capitol earlier. He did not want me to take his picture. We saw a group discussion and a long line of folks waiting for free food donated by a restaurant. Yay 99%!

I returned Sunday morning to find the demonstrators breaking down the encampment. They’ve arranged with the city to stay in the greenspace downtown only on weekends. They will return next Friday night.

Then I took off to Jacksonville along straight-as-an-arrow I-10 – two and a half hours each way. I listened to an early Bob Dylan compilation CD set that my condo neighbor lent me, and “Remarkable Creatures”, an audio book about the life and discoveries of Mary Anning, a young fossil hunter along the English coast who predated Darwin. Good stuff for a monotonous highway.

I arrived around 1:30 pm at the Jacksonville home of glove artist Neha Luhar-Trice and her husband Chris. He just received tenure as a professor of photography at the University of North Florida there. Unlike compact Tallahassee, Jax is a big seaside city that sprawls along the ocean and beaches, across inland waterways, among burgeoning apartment complexes, and a downtown with skyscrapers visible in the distance.

Chris took this picture of Neha and I seating by a shaded pond and fountain near their home. I’m handing her one of her gloves depicting her reaction to an extreme week of civilian killings in Iraq in 2010. This piece addresses the bombing of a textile factory by insurgents, and the death of eighty workers.

Neha made a colorful and very tasty Indian buffet of bhel, a puffed grain mixture (in the foreground), topped with a selection of chopped tomatoes, onion, raspberries and a tamarind chutney with dates and cilantro. Wow!

Then back along I-10 to Tallahassee and a second night as guest of the Rushins.

Meet the whole family-Judy, Rob and their smart, creative kids Anna and Ben. We’re having dinner Sunday night on their deck overlooking a backyard of thick semi-tropical vegetation. Pasta shells with homemade tomato sauce, grated cheese, wine and baby field greens are on the table. Raspberry sorbet and Symphony chocolate squares for dessert.

I snapped this shot of Judy in her studio standing next to some painted and drilled wood studies. Here are two of her paintings...a large green canvas that Rob photographed for an album cover, (He’s a musician in the band Reba-Seger http://www.facebook.com/people/Reba-Seger/100002473126201), and an orange panel diptych from Judy's newer series.

Monday I said goodbye to Judy and Rob and headed back north to Georgia around 10:00 am.

After crossing the border, I headed North and East, cutting diagonally across Georgia. I bypassed Macon, driving further northeast to Milledgeville, the former old capitol city, a pre-civil war town spared by Sherman on his incendiary March to the Sea. My first stop of the day was at the home of glove artist Megan Tiedeman Bowen who I had met in 2006 when she was an art student at Georgia College and State University there. I was a visiting artist.

Here I am at her front door holding two of her six gloves with the dates emblazoned, and slashed with red threads. Megan was not able to meet me when I arrived, so I took the picture, and left the package of artwork on her porch as we had planned.

5:30 pm-Last stop-the sewing studio of Sara Spurlock in Athens. She was finishing making costumes for the Canopy Repertory Company, an aerial dance ensemble performing an adaptation of Shakespeare’s A MidSummer Night's Dream this weekend. We’re holding one of her six little canvases with inked marionette and puppeteer hands connected by embroidered threads. Her sweet, quiet Chihuahua looks on.

Arrived home in Decatur at 7:00 pm, the road still humming in my head.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Miss Mole Climbs Out of Her Hole to Occupy Wall Street in Atlanta

Miss Mole (me) has been inching her way out of the tunnel of a September virus–slowly creeping upward for over a month. Yesterday she finally poked her head above ground, and jumped on a MARTA train to join the Occupy Atlanta rally in downtown Woodruff Park.

She’s demonstrating her solidarity with the Occupy Wall Streeters in NYC, and with people gathering in over 100 cities across America. This grassroots movement is expressing its anger at the political system for its lack of action in the economic crisis, at the big banks and the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few.

When the mortgage bubble burst in 2008, the Wall Street financial institutions were deemed too big to fail. They received taxpayer bailouts, have bounced back and are now enjoying profits,

while the people of America and the world (the 99% who are not the wealthiest) are struggling, with little help from the Washington political parties.

What an evening it was! The demonstration of hundreds of people was more than just a big mix of like-minded folks holding signs. It was real democracy in action.

The gathering was called the General Assembly and the moderator, facilitator and scribe got right down to explaining the process of consensus decision making,introducing the different subgroups dealing with medical, legal issues, and the Demands. There was no sound amplification besides a bull horn, so the crowd repeated the speakers’ words in successive waves, flowing outward to the edges of those straining to hear.

This rough poster is a flow chart showing how agreement or disagreement with the agenda would take place.

People raised a thumb or wiggled fingers to express agreement. The process was cumbersome and time consuming with so many folks there, but I think the subgroups will take up the fine points of developing a list of demands and next steps to be agreed upon.

U.S. Representative John Lewis, a veteran of the Civil Rights Movement, wanted to address the crowd in support of the OWSers. His request was put to the crowd for acceptance, but two attendees felt the agenda should be adhered to first. There was no consensus, so John Lewis was asked to speak after the agenda. Unfortunately he could not stay, and he graciously bowed out. It was the people’s decision or lack of decision that let that happen.

As night fell, Miss Mole went back to her den in Decatur. Some in the crowd agreed by consensus to sleep there in the park and begin to “Occupy Wall Street/Atlanta.” In the shadow of the Equitable Insurance building and Georgia-Pacific tower, owned by the Koch brothers of Kansas City, the people (and a girl-mole) are speaking their truth.