Tuesday, September 28, 2010


OK, I know it's not goats, and it's not cooking, or gardening, or any of the other bazillion things I do for fun, but it's on my mind.
Food for Thought
Postmodern art is defined by Wikipedia as :

"Postmodernism describes movements which both arise from, and react against or reject, trends in modernism.[20] Specific trends of modernism that are generally cited are formal purity, medium specificity, art for art's sake, authenticity, universality, originality and revolutionary or reactionary tendency, i.e. the avant-garde. However, paradox is probably the most important modernist idea against which postmodernism reacts. Paradox was central to the modernist enterprise, having been introduced by Manet. Manet's various violations of representational art brought to prominence the supposed mutual exclusiveness of reality and representation, design and representation, abstraction and reality, and so on. The incorporation of paradox was highly stimulating from Manet to the conceptualists...
One characteristic of postmodern art is its conflation of high and low culture through the use of industrial materials and pop culture imagery. The use of low forms of art were a part of modernist experimentation as well..."

OK.  In order to have Postmodernism, one needs to have first assimilated Modernism (defined by Wikipedia below):

"Modernism, in its broadest definition, is modern thought, character, or practice. More specifically, the term describes both a set of cultural tendencies and an array of associated cultural movements, originally arising from wide-scale and far-reaching changes to Western society in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The term encompasses the activities and output of those who felt the "traditional" forms of art, architecture, literature, religious faith, social organization and daily life were becoming outdated in the new economic, social and political conditions of an emerging fully industrialized world....A salient characteristic of modernism is self-consciousness. This often led to experiments with form, and work that draws attention to the processes and materials used (and to the further tendency of abstraction)."

The Magic Garden: http://www.phillymagicgardens.org/
I read this all to mean THIS in a nutshell: I have been teaching fragments, background, building blocks.  It's a postmodern world; there's multiplicity, assimilation, reaction to learned elements and principles, and informed individualized response.

Apparently, I've been walking THAT razor's edge.

Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral: http://sspeterpaulcathedral.catholicweb.com/index.cfm/NewsItem?ID=196582&From=Home
It's a postmodern world.  I saw that last Saturday, in Philadelphia.  Within one hour, I saw a stunning Catholic Cathedral, Hare Krishnas, Black Panthers and a guy in tie-dye singing folk songs; Logan Square was teeming with eclectic, ecstatic life.

Ratha Yatra Festival, the Festival of Chariots: http://www.phillyrathayatra.com/

I had no idea.  My mind is still wrapped around carrying my baby there in a back-pack in 1979, after taking mass transit for hours from Drexel Hill. It was pretty quiet in Philly in the late 70's, at least in the daylight. To a girl from Boyertown,Chinatown was pretty exotic.  So was the Italian Market.  I walked a lot in those days. 

That baby is 32 now, and I suppose I should get my head around the changing climate of the world, as well as my up-till-now relatively static pedagogy.

My baby girl
There are problems though.  NCLB has moved the focus of education even farther from the arts; there's the debate of integration vs. interdisciplinary, vs. independent subject matter.  There's the press for data, the drive for accountability and assessment.  It's a modern system in a postmodern world. I'm reading journals and articles, and researching on the University's database.  I finish my classwork and go off on tangents.  Yee-HA!

Well; there it is in a nutshell.  I'm even dreaming about it; rehashing my life, with overlapping characters; it's a 4th dimensional postmodern approach to my personal and familial history; rather confusing.  I guess you had to be there.

So please forgive me if I'm not posting regularly these days.  I'm going through one of those intellectual growth spurts that turns you on your head and shakes all of the lint out of your pockets.  I'll post some of that lint here, as I catch it.

Monday, September 20, 2010

We Had a Visitor

First, let me sing the praises of Craig's List.  Yes, you heard me right.

Craig's List.  Where else do you go when you've found a beautiful, purebred cat who was obviously well cared for, begging for food in your near-inner city yard?

She was beautiful.  Scared.  Hungry.

She loved us.

We had food.

She Needed Food.
When we came home yesterday, we saw her skitter out from behind our freezer.  We didn't think much of it.  Kitties visit here; we're cat-friendly.

She Wanted Love.

This little girl faced her fears to ask for dinner.  Peter had been working late at the farm, literally mending fences.  I was cooking dinner inside.  He called me from the picnic table, afraid to move. "Bring food".  I did.  Kiwi ate and purred.  She trusted us, and loved us up.

I suspect there's some sort of Underground Cat Railroad symbol posted in the alley.  They come to us.  We help them find their way home, wherever that is.

Craig's List showed us who to call.  Kiwi's family missed her; her daughter-cat was crying, her five-year old human boy was sad, and she was a beautiful, lost , precious member of the family.  Peter suggested Craig's List.  Good thing.  These guys would have eaten her alive.

Hobie, Who Feels at Home Wherever He Lands.

Hobie is a big boy, but loves everyone.  He would have kissed her and cuddled with her.  But he has to answer to this bully:

This Guy is Trouble.

Gris Gris is a scrapper.  He defends his turf tooth and nail.  That poor little girl wouldn't have survived intact. Our last foster kittie, Moses, was terrorized daily until we found him a happy (spoiled rotten) home. Moishe now sups on lox at his nightly whim.  I should be so lucky.

So, happy homecoming, Kiwi.  And thank you, Kiwi's family.  We know she's well loved.

What Can I Tell You?

I have a problem.

I don’t know what to tell you. I’m not saying that to stall, or put you off, but my life is so full that I can’t sift through it right now.

What might you want to read about? There are so many thoughts going through my mind; what to do about a problem student, what assignment to give in painting class, how to balance my formal painting lessons with lessons that foster creativity. There’s the learning I’m doing on the history of art education, and the way it correlates with intellectual movements and historical data; there’s the school of thought I was trained in, and the evolution of that school of thought. Creative vs. discipline based. It’s a whole new approach that happened when I was busy teaching. Then there’s the grad class itself: I’m the oldest one in the class, and the only actual teacher other than the professor. I try not to talk too much, but I just can’t help it. It’s a social dilemma. And the reading; much reading. I reserve Sunday nights for the bulk of it, giving me time to reflect.

Or should I write about the farm? You know I love the animals and find them fascinating, but that’s not all that goes on there. There’s the constant struggle for funds, the competition for grants and volunteers, the day to day shortfalls in both money and time. I know how much I’m needed there; there’s also the strain of achieving a balance in my own life. How much is enough, and can I make it all fit? There are interpersonal struggles and victories, warm, fuzzy moments and anguish, human drama interlaced with animal drama. As a board member, I’m woven into the daily operation of the farm, and all of its complications, which confuses me sometimes. I’m not a numbers person; I’m a hands-on, down and dirty calf-pulling goat milker. Oh help!

What about my creative life? Should I write about the 35 fused glass buttons I made yesterday, or the drawing I’m about to complete after hand surgery allowed me to go back and finish it? Can I tell you how afraid I was to lose that skill, and how that hand still stiffens up after I milk, or drive my car too long? Can I tell you how good it felt to pick up a pencil and make the marks in my heart with no regression, to be able to paint, and braid, and bead again? And the other half of my creative life, my kitchen, is always calling. Should I write about the 7 jars of pears I canned yesterday, or the 8 paw paws waiting to ripen, or the 3 eggplants on the counter waiting to be cooked? How about the crock full of slowly softening apples, just waiting for me to preserve them before they become a treat for the pigs?

My friends are becoming strangers to me, and I miss them. I dream about them at night, and see them on Facebook, or I email and hope for an answer. I try to think up ways to get together, and know how hard it will be to squeeze them into my schedule, but I try to make a way to do it. Do you want to hear about that? I see my 82 year old mother every week, for about an hour before my grad class. She worries when I’m a few minutes late, and plans all week for my visit. Should I tell you about the stories she tells, or the meals she cooks for me, or the health problems she’s dealing with? For that matter, should I tell you about my ex-brother in law who just found cancer, or his aging mother who’s clinging to her last living son? It’s too hard; you won’t want to hear about it. My daughter’s heart is quietly breaking again; she drove all the way to New Hampshire yesterday to try to make it stop hurting.

What about that? My daughter and grandsons? Shall I tell you how they’ve found a happy life and family, even though they’re too far away to visit now? How I know time will go by between visits, and the boys will grow up and away? And how I know it’s right for them to be there even though I’m mourning their departure? I’m wondering what will happen to our holidays now; will my daughter and I see each other, as we’ve done for the past 32 years? Is that tradition worth preserving if it disrupts a happy family day for 5 small children? I don’t think so; and what form will our holidays take, down here below them? Will we form a small, aging family of three or four, with Peter and the two grandmothers? Will they be able to come, or will we be able to go to them? No one should be alone for the holidays. I’ve done that. It hurts.

So you see, I have a problem. What should I tell you? I often rely upon images or positive moments, lightweight things that might inspire you or lift your hearts; "If you can’t say something nice…"; you get the drift. But most of these things are both, really. For nearly every difficulty, there’s a related joy. For every struggle, a release. And life moves on.

I had a dream last night. I dreamt that I was driving a truck that was pulling a camper, and the connection between the two kept getting longer and longer, making navigation difficult. Those angles were hard to imagine, much less drive. And then it snowed; the roads were treacherous. The camper was stuffed full of belongings, and there were three kittens that were my family, and they kept getting lost.

It was a difficult dream.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Snapshot: This Moment. 9-15-10

This "Snapshot Moment" was inspired by THIS blog.

My Wednesday ritual; a trip to the Amish farmland. I'm taking a course at Kutztown University, which is minutes away from my mother's apartment.  The few miles between Kutztown and Fleetwood offer me a much needed respite from my harried life.

On a cool, sunny pre-autumn afternoon, I went in search of a corn field for a photograph of the corn stalks.  I found so much more.  The air was brisk and clear, with a slight breeze and welcome warm sun. I pulled over near these Jersey girls.

Quietly munching in the early evening air, they paused to watch me, watching them. 


Curious and calm, they cautiously approached; the breeze blew, and the outside world was silent save for the tearing of grass and the chewing of cud. Liquid black eyes blinked slowly, then looked back to the grass.  Comfortable. Doing what cows do.

A few feet away, the corn stalks rattled in the breeze like rain.  I wanted to lie among them.  I wanted to sleep with my head at their feet.  I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and just listened, and time stood still.

I suspect it does that often here, on the Amish farmlands; it's a peaceful vortex, a welcome anomaly.  Filled by the richness of tradition and the rhythms of the seasons. It's a place where I can catch my breath; and I did.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Pawpaws on the Parkway

There aren't any.

At least, there aren't any in the area we walked today.  It's the Lehigh Parkway, on the shores of the Little Lehigh Creek, which feeds into the Lehigh River, which meets the Delaware River, which meets the ocean, which meets YOU.  Somehow.  But I digress.

There were other great things. Plants, critters, art, architecture, scenery. You get the drift. Goof stuff.

There were Big Pine Trees

Cool Hex Signs (Love Birds!)

Juniper (I think?) Trees

Burdock (Everywhere); as well as ubiquitous Acorns, Plantain, Sumac and Walnuts.

A Covered Bridge with a Handsome Bald-Headed Guy Standing Sentry

Light to Walk Through in the Covered Bridge

Covered Bridges are Cool, Right?

Beautiful Old Houses

Beautiful Old Spring Houses


Vistas with Weeping Willows

Some Sort of Red Elderberry that is Much Taller than the One We Eat.
And Therefor Scary.

Another Bridge

Curly Dock with Seeds

Grow Zones (YAY!)

And Cat Tails.
But no paw paws. Dang.  :).  We are blessed.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Old Dog, New Fruit: Pawpaws

I'm the Old Dog.

This years has brought me several firsts, culinarily (is that a word?) speaking.  Elderberries come to mind, as well as homemade mince meat filling; and now: Paw Paws.  It seems ironic to me that an indigenous fruit, spread by native Americans, is more foreign to this lifelong Pennsylvanian than the non-native and ubiquitous banana (to which it bears a strong similarity in taste, if not texture).  I haven't seen any local banana trees; but then again, I haven't seen any local pawpaw trees either.  This may be because I wasn't aware of what to look for.  Thanks to my local farmers market, I'm a convert. If I can't find 'em, I'll grow 'em.

That's one ugly fruit.
You have to admit, it doesn't look entirely enticing.  It looks like a small, soft potato.  The flesh looks slightly bruised, and the good ones (as in RIPE) look downright rotten.  Think persimmons, or mangoes; they need to be ripe.  My farmer sold me two of them today recommending that I eat the uglier one first, and I did; it was heavenly.  Banana custard, with a sweet, smooth finish is the best I can describe it.  Creme brulee is one of my infrequent guilty pleasures; this has that same texture, but the flavor is more tropical. The second fruit, which you see in the photograph, was less ripe, less ugly, and less sweet...but still wonderful.

But oh, so delicious!
When you cut them open,you have to dodge the large seeds (mine are going into my freezer, for planting in the spring, if I can still find them).  Just slurp out the soft flesh and spit out the seeds watermelon style.  Yum.  There are lots of good images on the web, if you want photographs.  I downloaded a few for myself, but don't want to violate copyright laws so I'll just point you to this URL for  information: http://www.crfg.org/pubs/ff/pawpaw.html; check out google images for real life pictures.  And since I know they're ripe in our area, I'll be going pawpaw hunting this week.  I'll let you know what I find.  And while I'm hunting, I'll be singing THIS song to myself.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Singing Kids

Just for fun:

You'll love it.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Stepping Out of the Box

I was going to tell you that I'll be blogging less often, but then I read this: http://thepioneerwoman.com/blog/2010/09/ten-important-things-ive-learned-about-blogging/

Read #2.  I won't be a cactus.  I just can't.

But I must warn you: things are about to change.  I went back to school.  That's right.  The teacher is a student again.  And I don't do things half-heartedly, so you're going to hear about it.  Most definitely. For instance, I realized tonight that apart from the professor, I'm the only teacher in the bunch.  And they all want to do what I'm doing.  I'm trying to step back and let them discover their own teacher's hearts.  I'm having trouble keeping my mouth shut; I hope I don't alienate anyone.  The professor is good; she makes the class interesting, and structures the class well.

So, wish me luck.  So far, I'm finding the subject stimulating; it's about the historical and ideological growth of the field of Art Education. Which is why I can't keep my mouth shut.  I feel like that kid in the front row with their hand up, going "ooh...ooh..." and just DYING to speak.  Not a bad feeling.

I'll keep you posted. Maybe I'll be doing some growing too.

In the mean time, I'm still milking my goatie girls, walking Faith, and pursuing my recently set goals.  And...believe it or not, Peter and I went camping this weekend.  That's right.  I'm stepping out of my box.  And (whispers) I actually enjoyed it.

View from my tent, Labor Day weekend
The times, they are a' changing.

I caught myself singing in my classroom this morning during my prep.  What the heck is going on here?  I'll let you know when I figure it out.