The Gift of Immigrants

Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 9.47.58 AMYou’re young, alone, and surrounded by strangers who speak a language you don’t understand. You’re weary, having travelled thousands of miles into the unknown, because everything you knew and loved has been destroyed.

Meet Bessie

This is the tale of the woman Baltimore came to know as its premiere kosher caterer, Bessie Bluefeld. About 100 years ago she followed her husband Charles from Ukraine to settle in Baltimore.

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You can meet Bessie this weekend at the Atlas Intersections Festival, Atlas Performing Arts Center on H Street NE.

DC actor Terry Nicholetti performs this history/theater one-woman performance on Saturday at 1:30 and Sunday at 2:00 pm

GET TICKETS

A Tireless Worker for Peace & Justice

Rev. Delores
Rev. Delores M. Roberts-Mason Dec. 28, 1942 – Nov. 16, 2015

In celebration of Dr. King’s holiday, I want to honor the Rev. Delores M. Roberts-Mason, who dedicated her life  to “the least, the last and the lost,” empowering children through reading, performing arts, education and religion.

Mrs. Roberts-Mason was a natural at empowerment. She pursued her first degree  while her two children were young, and took them with her to campus on weekends. “I want them to assume they belong in university,” she told me.

The list of Delores’ accomplishments is long.  during her 30 years with DC DHS she touched many lives, uplifting, educating, encouraging and empowering families who had fallen on hard times. Her testimony before the House and Senate Select Committee on Aging in 1989 was helped pass legislation protecting seniors. Howard University honored her as an Outstanding Woman of Washington for her work with young people.

When I met Delores in 2004, she was the head of Zoe Life Ministries, a faith-based youth empowerment organization that ran reading, performing arts and non-violence programs with area kids.

Armed with only volunteers, Rev. Delores and the Zoe Kids & Teens Theater Group wrote, produced and performed numerous musicals including Day of Reckoning, Heart of an Angel, Why and more. The typical production took 2 years from script to performance. Dedicated volunteers worked with the kids on dance, acting and music. But it was Rev. Delores who recruited, wrote, rallied and wrangled the entire magnificent enterprise into being.

RevRobtsPeaceSummit2011
Rev. Delores Roberts-Mason at the Walker Mill Middle School Peace Summit 2011

The Teen Peace Summit was a special school day dedicated to violence prevention held at Walker Mill Middle School in Capital Heights, MD.  Tapping her extensive network of professionals in many fields for leaders, Rev. Delores created a dozen or more break-out sessions with topics like Conflict Resolution, How to Say NO, Seeing One Another through Art, and more on the morning of this special day. The afternoon saw awards presented to students for accomplishments in writing, speaking and art.

Rev. Delores had many gifts, but perhaps the most important was the ability to help people open up and share the best part of themselves. She touched many lives in her work, certainly my own. I believe she had the heart of an angel.

You can listen to a beautiful radio tribute to Rev. Delores here:
MPI celebrates the life of Rev. Delores M. Roberts-Mason

If this story moves you, give more of yourself to those in need, from the heart. It’s what Rev. Delores would have encouraged you to do.

 

 

“Don’t You Wonder Sometimes?”

I heard poet Tracy K. Smith read her poem by this name on Studio 360‘s tribute to David Bowie. Tracy won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for her collection called “Life on Mars,” inspired in part by the Starman in his many identities.  She credits him with showing her “the imagination as something that is capable of creating a whole new world and a whole new sense of self.”

I thought it was a pretty fabulous poem.
“Don’t You Wonder Sometimes” — Tracy K. Smith 

1.
After dark, stars glisten like ice, and the distance they span
Hides something elemental. Not God, exactly. More like
Some thin-hipped glittering Bowie-being – a Starman
Or cosmic ace hovering, swaying, aching to make us see.
And what would we do, you and I, if we could know for sure

That someone was there squinting through the dust,
Saying nothing is lost, that everything lives on waiting only
To be wanted back badly enough? Would you go then,
Even for a few nights, into that other life where you
And that first she loved, blind to the future once, and happy?

Would I put on coat and return to the kitchen where my
Mother and father sit waiting, dinner keeping warm on the stove?
Bowie will never die. Nothing will come for him in his sleep
Or charging through his veins. And he’ll never grow old,
Just like the woman you lost, who will always be dark-haired

And flush-faced, running toward an electronic screen
That clocks the minutes, the miles left to go. Just like the life
In which I’m forever a child looking out my window at the night sky
Thinking one day I’ll touch the world with bare hands
Even if it burns.

2.
He leaves no tracks. Slips past, quick as a cat. That’s Bowie
For you: the Pope of Pop, coy as Christ. Like a play
Within a play, he’s trademarked twice. The hours

Plink past like water from a window A/C. We sweat it out,
Teach ourselves to wait. Silently, lazily, collapse happens.
But not for Bowie. He cocks his head, grins that wicked grin.

Time never stops, but does it end? And how many lives
Before take-off, before we find ourselves
Beyond ourselves, all glam-glow, all twinkle and gold?

The future isn’t what it used to be. Even Bowie thirsts
For something good and cold. Jets blink across the sky
Like migratory souls.

3.
Bowie is among us. Right here
In New York City. In a baseball cap
And expensive jeans. Ducking into
A deli. Flashing all those teeth
At the doorman on his way back up.
Or he’s hailing a taxi on Lafayette
As the sky clouds over at dusk.
he’s in no rush. Doesn’t feel
The way you’d think he feels.
Doesn’t strut or gloat. Tells jokes.

I’ve lived here all these years
And never seen him. Like not knowing
A comet from a shooting star.
But I’ll bet he burns bright,
Dragging a tail of white-hot matter
The way some of us track tissue
Back from the toilet stall. He’s got
The whole world under his foot,
And we are small alongside,
Though there are occasions
When a man his size can meet
Your eyes for just a blip of time
And send a thought like SHINE
SHINE SHINE SHINE SHINE
Straight to your mind. Bowie,
I want to believe you. Want to feel
Your will like the wind before the rain.
The kind everything simply obeys,
Swept up in that hypnotic dance
As if something with the power to do so
Had looked its way and said:
Go ahead.

We Can Be Heroes

Farewell to the musician who provided the playlist for my young life, and the artist who gave sound and vision to the androgynous, artistic, alien of my soul.

In a world with no road map, as the traditional life of my parents and grandparents became quaint and irrelevant, Bowie blazed across the firmament, operatic troubadour of the next moment.

He released sings I thought I hated: they made me uncomfortable, then liberated me. There was music that described the poignancy of life’s moments, like A New Career in a New Town. There was a heart’s anthem, Heroes, which I was blessed to experience twice in concert. There is so much more.

David Bowie reinvented himself relentlessly as an artist and performer, helping me survive my many metamorphoses. And now I find he has released a new record on the eve of his death, that speaks to the challenge of dying itself.

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How can we ever know what our art can mean to the world? And how can I parse the world without this artist?

Hail and Farewell, and Thank You.

A New Year Dawns

I’ve been grumpy about the unseasonably warm weather – over 70° leading up to Christmas just didn’t feel right. But heading into the end of the year, Voila! And it’s so crispy cold that the bay has frozen.

There is a beauty to the frosted morning, a certain chilled pink and blue glaze over lawns and hills. White clouds lift from chimneys like weightless cotton candy. I don’t think of the water as noisy, but the hush when the bay freezes is palpable.

I love winter. It has it’s place in the cycle of life, for hibernation, rest, reflection. It’s a time of meditation, reading and stirring a cauldron full of veggies to warm the belly. For a cat in the lap. For contemplation and planning, for reviewing and resolving to move ahead.

skatersWelcome, winter. Thanks to the Solstice we know your time is limited. I will enjoy you while you’re here.

Guest Blogger at Cheryl Holloway’s Author blog

I’m honored to be featured today at Cheryl Holloway‘s blog here:

How to Succeed at NaNoWriMo

Please go read, and give Cheryl some love. It’s the second year I’ve been invited to do thisand I’m honored.

Cheryl interviews indy authors of all types and genres, and I’ve discovered interesting writers and books. So she is a big help to authors who want to share their work. And she is a very reliable blogger – I know I will have something interesting to read at least once a week.

Cheryl writes romance, and heart-touching short stories. She’s written biography and young-adult fiction. Essentially, she understands people very well. And, she makes a great writing buddy! This is her first NaNoWriMo, so share some encouragement and share the blog too.

girl-writingBut there’s something I’m avoiding: 

Something that came up while I did this interview: I have yet to complete the rewrite of one of my NaNo novels. I’ve edited and rewritten about one half of last year’s. But the previous two stories (3 years of writing) languish unimproved. Were they terrible?  I don’t think so. I know the stories were interesting. But I have some blocks there – am I reluctant to see just how bad the rough drafts really were??

So, before NEXT YEAR’s NaNo, I will have at least one solid draft of a complete novel. There, my commitment to you!

But wait! Here’s more good news:

I have been submitting Short Stories to contests and journals, in search of prizes and publication. So far, no results. I only started in August, and the first one is a tiny one. I’ll hear about the second one much sooner – in 2 weeks! And I have a third story almost ready to go.

So I am floating my balloon out into the literary landscape.

But for today, it’s NaNo time! And I have  words to go before I sleep.

The Last of the Granny Witches

I come from a long line of weather witches and empaths. My foremothers are czech farmers. Deep within, we know the ancient ways.

Appalachian Ink ~ Home of Anna Wess (and Granny)

We are a peculiar breed. Our roots grow deeper than the cedars, and yet we don’t know precisely where or who it is that we grew from. We are a mystery as old as these hills themselves, and it doesn’t take much figuring to know that we are enigmas of intentional design and destiny.

gw1

God knows our names.

We are not Northerners — damn Yankees, the men folks’ Confederate influence called them — and this we know without a doubt. I myself was always preened into believing I was a Southern child, born out of notions of gallantry and romance, but the fact is, I ain’t a low country belle and I’ve never picked a shred of cotton or been to a debutante ball.

We are not peaches.

And these mountain women before us were not delicate flowers or distressed coquettes. In these old heirloom hills, the women are…

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Tidewater Retreat

On October 17-19 I was on retreat with my AWWG sisters in Mathews, VA. I had never visited this part of Virginia before and was smitten with the peace and big sky. This is a bit of my scribblings.

In the Tidewater we have our own weather.

Pattern: clouds march offshore, moving south along the coast. Clear inland. This is counterintuitive to our inland weather, usually West to East.

Broad soft curling rivers of salt marsh sweep and weave, flush and suck, swell and drain up and down the seaboard like lungs. The silt that creeps into corners, the poisons that filter down from our civilized behavior fan out and settle. 

But then: the sea fills to bursting, inhales a great wet breath up into the rivers. Back toward their source, breathing saline into small channels, seething between reeds tangled with plastic trash, dragging the scum with her when she falls back away toward the moon.

Like the trees, there’s an exchange. At first it’s not so obvious, but here is the swish and pulse of our body’s lymphatic health, breathing salt soup life, in and out of our pores.

She seems boundless, indefatigable, infinitely absorbent. We clever ones already test her limits, tinkering with the chemistry set of the globe. It looks like the calcium cities built over eons by coral will be bleached dead before we ever learn their language. And yet they gave us Florida.

Here the dawn comes: extraordinary color the camera won’t get. Greeny sky, violet pink clouds, slate blue waters, all very Maxfield Parrish: smooth fields of tonal color and flawless gradients. The clouds feel muscular, bubbling, and constrained along the beach like eager horses. Later in the day they will wander toward and lumber over us. In the Tidewater we have our own weather.

Pluto and the Texture of the Infinite

Horsehead Nebula

In ancient times, (or when I was in grade school) the planets were  very smooth, like billiard balls. We had no detailed images, only descriptions of what they might be. Images of the galaxies and nebulas were quaintly fuzzy.

This recent Hubble image of Horsehead Nebula shows a different animal.

Over the past 40 years we humans have sharpened our focus. The Hubble Space Telescope and numerous planetary explorations have yielded not only amazing data but astonishingly detailed images as well.

Dramatic view of the Pluto system as NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft flew in for close-up on July 14; then passed behind Pluto to see the atmosphere glow before watching the sun passes behind Pluto’s largest moon, Charon.

Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/Stuart Robbins

Watch this a few times and enjoy the ride: how you find the bright dot in all that darkness, spiral in, and then glory in the uniquely Plutonian landscape. This, the orb that had it’s planetary status revoked! 

(You may find it odd that I am adamantly pro science and still hark to astrology, but consider hearing me out. The following gives a cultural perspective on the ninth rock from the sun.)

Astrologically Pluto has a profound gravitas, the inescapable resonance of the everpresent but unseen, representing our own soul.

Prominant Astrologers had some interesting things to say about Pluto’s change in status.

from Rob Brezhny of Free Will Astrology:

Scientists no doubt had sound, rational reasons to exile Pluto from the traditional solar system and transfer its realm to the Kuiper Belt with the other dwarf worlds, but they were also under the influence of deeply unconscious forces too. The expulsion of Pluto marked a symbolic turning point in the triumph of scientism, a mode of thinking that values only what’s visible, measurable, and categorizable. But Pluto is more than the rocky planetoid representing it: Pluto is an essential phase of human consciousness.

The overall downgrading of Pluto is a milestone in the modern attempt to depreciate the soul’s mode of awareness and make it subsidiary to the deductive mind. To banish Pluto is to deny that living in the soul has any value to us.

See how smooth it looks? Now watch the video with actual photos.

Visionary Activist Caroline Casey offers this:

The god of the Underworld, was amused by being called “Dead as a planet.” “Of course I’m dead, I’m the god of the dead.”

And used to being dissed, exiled, albeit at tremendous cost to cultures that do so. Of course human dementors would like to stick their fingers in their ears, and say, “no, no, no, we deny the invisible. We deny the dead, the invisible, the principle of power, the abuse of power known as plutocracy, now rampant.” Death is cheap, not valued, marketed wholesale, so that even the god of death is appalled.

 

My Shadow, the Fannibal

One definition of myself holds that I’m a kind-hearted person who shouldn’t love violent and scary stories, serial killers or for god’s sake CANNIBALS.

But, due to the mysteries of fandom, I find myself on the edge of my seat tonight, and tweeting with a few hundred thousand, maybe more, Fannibals for the finale of the NBC TV series Hannibal.

I swore I wouldn’t watch it. I didn’t like the books, and Silence of the Lambs was too creepy. I don’t need a vicious killer show to watch, life is too short. I don’t remember what changed my mind, but it was only a few months ago that I watched the pilot episode and I was hooked from the beginning.

I’ll not try to sell you on the show; it’s been cancelled, (although vigorous Fannibal lobbying may have some clout) it’s about an elegant murderous cannibal and a mentally unstable profiler who have an unhealthy obsession with one another – not everyone’s cuppa.

If I did make my case, it would sing the praises of the writers and particularly their excellent gender swapping of key characters. Also, the use of myth and alternative states of consciousness is fascinating as well. The Wendigo and antler theme are amazing and beautiful.

I would also laud the art department, including the food stylists, who work under the direction of none other than Jose Andres of restaurant fame. Everything to look at in this show is a feast for the eyes.

Well, one more surprise, for me, as I am still scratching my “I’m supposed to be a nice girl” head: I’m cleaning out folders on my Mac and find a painting from 2010 called Integration, that I created for some very deep and intense therapy work.

henkelp3intergrate

It’s very Hannibal-esque. I guess I should have known.