Norway Part VI

I knew ahead of time that I would have a strong reaction to Edvard Munch’s paintings just from reproductions I have seen in the past. Something so personal about the anguish of life that Munch created on canvases–what we humans experience, but don’t dare talk about is what drew me to this museum.

But on arrival at the Museum, I was immediately drawn to a contrasting side of Munch shown in “the Voice,” first created in 1893 for “Study for a Series: Love,” but in 1894 becoming one of his paintings for “The Frieze of Life.” I liked the caption on the poster written in English…to explain to myself life and its meaning. To me, the woman in “Voice” is living in the moment, being, thinking and unusually at one with herself. It made me think that to know anguish and pain, you also have to know joy and contentment.

I was riveted to the 1894 painting “Ashes” because of the power of the woman in body, even though she herself seems lost–not just the cowering man holding his head. One review I read suggests the painting “depicts the end of a love affair, with the man in despair and the woman indifferent…the death of love.” I don’t see that there was ever much love there…but passion, yes.

A study for the 1910-2 painting “Galloping Horse” also caught my attention. It is a reverse image to the painting, a powerful wild-eyed horse galloping down the street, people strewn to the side, jutting mountains in the background forming a V as if making way for the dominant horse to be the one FORCE seen.

We left the deeply impressionist/symbolic work of Munch, to enter the present reality of today…shopping for a Norwegian sweater. If you’ve never had one, I will let you in on a secret truth: they last a lifetime. (I still have one from when I was thirteen, one my cousin Lillebeth knitted for me when I was sixteen, and one I bought for myself when I was visiting Mom in Norway with my kids when they were children.)

While Paul went off to look for batteries and SanDisks for his camera, I sweater shopped. And after several hours at several stores, chose a beautiful dark gray and off-white one with a dusty pink scarf for Cora.

On the way back to Lillebeth’s house, we made it to the American Embassy just in time to pick up my passport! Actually, Paul ran ahead lickety-split, and pleaded with the guard to let me in. We were about two minutes late. The guard probably thought THOSE… AMERICANS!

We were a very tired duo when we finally made it back to Lillebeth’s house. She had gone onto Kristiansand to start her summer vacation. She left us her house, an elk steak to cook, and an extraordinary dessert in her fridge: pommes d’amour. One bite of the nutty, buttery, liqueury dessert and I was back in my aunt Tattie’s (my Norwegian grandfather’s sister’s house) for tea. Or was it afternoon coffee?

Next morning, we made our own coffee on Lillebeth’s unusual stove and once again ate some pommes d’amour. There is a God! We locked up the house according to instructions, and a little sadly, wheeled our suitcases to the bus on our way to see Vigeland Park before we caught our train to Kristiansand.

Paris Part IV

Next morning, Paul and I went back to Le Rostand where we once again indulged in a delicious petit déjeuner, sipping our hot coffee in the most leisurely fashion. I ate the entire meal. Things were looking up!

We had lots planned for this Sunday and intended to walk everywhere, if possible.

Such fun things as:

• Sainte-Chapelle
• Cathédrale Notre Dame
• the place on Rue de Rosier in the 4th arrondissement where Paul had lived for six weeks
• the ultimate ice cream cone. (I had read about “the best ice cream cone” to be had in Paris in a book in our hotel room and wanted to try one.)

Such not fun things awaited us Monday morning as in :

• finding the American Express office to pick up my new card.

Lining up for a tour of Sainte-Chapelle, I saw this lovely girl with her mother who looked so much like the women in Paul Gauguin’s Tahitian paintings, I just had to snap her.

Once inside the upper chapel of the medieval Saint-Chapelle, I took in the beauty of the stained-glass with the ghost of my great-grandfather–Louis Comfort Tiffany–over my shoulder. Without truly knowing, I thought it made sense that he had studied this 13th century colorful glass, the vibrancy of the red and blues–the hallowed effect they bestowed–and learned from what he saw. I thought he must have incorporated this knowledge and built on it in the creation of his own stained-glass, such as “Four Seasons.”

Paul and I kept walking…with our Sunday plans to Notre Dame :

to Rue de Rosier:

To Paris’s best ice cream cone at Berthilon, Rue Saint-Louis en l’lle (I had mocha and it was the most delectable chocolate ice cream cone of my life!):

On our way back towards our hotel, we licked our ice-cream cones and took in the charming scene on this sunny afternoon on Pont de la Tournelle:

Paul and I simply forgot to be worried about my lack of passport. We were happy in the moment creating a new path of being together in Paris as the older couple we are now:

….And, things did work out the next day. We found the American Express office where my new card awaited me. We arrived at the airport early and I was allowed to travel to Oslo with just my thin little paper police report. (This was July 4th . I doubt this would have occurred after Oslo was hit with such unexpected chilling news on July 22nd.)

But on the personal level–on which I am writing–here was a stark contrast to be had between the ghosts of my father, Grandmother and Anna Freud in England, and the ghost of the break-up of Paul and me when we were young in Paris. The ghosts in England would haunt me forever, whereas Paul and I lassoed our ghost rather well. In spite of some very tense moments we added an exciting, enriching adventure to our lives together, overwriting the old story.

…As for the ghost of my great-grandfather, Louis Comfort Tiffany, who was unbelievably the father of Grandmother, I would have to say the beauty he created in stained-glass gives gifts to the soul so profound that his ghost is one to hold onto.

Paris Part I

What other ghosts remained for me to confront on this trip across the Atlantic?

Ghost as in:

phantom?
the seat of life or intelligence?
the soul of a dead person believed to be an inhabitant of the unseen world?
a false image in a photographic negative?
spirit?
a red blood cell that has lost its hemoglobin?
ghoul?
specter?
poltergeist?
banshee?

Ghost as in:

supposed spirit remaining after death?
a faint shadowy trace?
haunt?
shadow?
specter?
shade?
wraith?
secondary image?
nonexistent person or thing?
same as ghostwriter?
soul?

It was over forty years since I had been in Paris. And, the last time I was in Paris, Paul and I were, well… WE BROKE UP.

Paul had since been back for six weeks in a role as a university professor. He knew the city quite well. I used to speak French and read French and felt thrilled by all things French. I had taken a two week course at the Sorbonne when I was sixteen, had spent two summer months with a French family near Lyons when I was seventeen. I majored in French in college, spending a semester at the University of Rennes in Brittany. I was dying to re-experience my love for everything French.

I suppose you could say Paul and I were trying to lasso a ghost from our youth as in reTRACE, put it in the pen and start anew.

July 1.

As our high-speed train sped towards Paris my spirits picked up. Who wouldn’t like the idea of spending a few romantic days in this city of great beauty, with its distinguished gardens, sublime architecture, exquisite French cuisine, abundant selection of excellent French wines, lovely language of the senses, plus exotic people and their languages visiting from all over the world sprinkled into the atmospheric mix?

I had booked us a room near the Luxembourg Gardens–a room with a flowered terrace–as my gift for Paul’s birthday. We arrived at the hotel before lunch, set our suitcases in our room, then took off on foot to find the restaurant Polidor, 41 rue Monsieur Le Prince, recommended by a friend for a casual and delicious lunch. We had suprême de poulet velouté de morilles, purée……16 €…about $21. It was yummy–a sort of poached chicken with mashed potatoes and a white creamy sauce, although I did not taste the morels and I only ate half (a small tragedy caused by the “organic slinky” stomach problem from London).

On our way back to the hotel, we strolled through the Luxembourg Gardens holding hands while we took in the splendor of this park.

This city is intoxicating, I thought. A city for lovers. For friends. For families wanting some culture. A city of beauty, imagination. A city that makes people expand. In such an intoxicating atmosphere, nothing could ever go wrong…again.

The next morning we had our petit déjeuner, a croissant and thin bagette, butter, jam, fresh squeezed orange juice, and a hot coffee at the open and light-filled terraced Le Rostand across from the Luxembourg Gardens. I ate a little.

Afterward, we found our way to the Musée D’Orsay to see the exhibit: “Manet, inventeur du moderne,” but were perturbed when we saw the long line. However, it went pretty fast. We were in by 10:22.

I responded strongly to the way this exhibit was presented, all the paintings and writings about them centered around twelve questions, rather than in a linear fashion. This inventive presentation captured the breadth, depth, diversity, and historical significance of Edouard Manet’s work leaving me with greater understanding of how he refused to be pinned down with a past conception of his work as an artist, and of how he continued to try to capture what he saw in the present–however shockingly unpopular. Hence: “Manet, inventor of modernity.”

Lunch was at Le Miroir, 94 Rue des Martyrs–métro stop: Pigalle. Our friend had also recommended this bistro as reasonably priced for the quality of the food, presentation and ambience with no tourists around. (He was right!)

I thrived on watching, listening and tasting our roast lamb with little vegetables, one I indentified as julienned turnip–perfectly cooked, but couldn’t really eat much (a second culinary tragedy). As I listened to the voices of the people sitting near us, I realized my French was coming back to me. Quel Bonheur!

That afternoon, on this second day in Paris, we walked up a steep hill in the Pigalle area to visit the majestic Sacré Coeur.

It wasn’t until we were back in our hotel room later in the day that I noticed my shoulder bag felt a little light. Quickly looking inside it, I was relieved to see my iPad. But something else of importance wasn’t there.

England Part XIII

I remembered the feeling throughout the whole house as told by the sign in the backyard:


Sometimes, you shifted weight from one foot to the other for ages before Grandmother and Anna Freud’s cook/housekeeper, Paula, came to answer the door. If you walked into the dining room, it was for a particular purpose. You didn’t walk upstairs unless very specifically asked to do so. You NEVER went into Sigmund Freud’s study. The warmest atmosphere is the house was in the kitchen where Paula made us grandchildren feel welcome with her wonderful cheese straws and Austrian cookies, and outside in the garden–which was tenderly groomed, with a lush lawn and a beautifully chosen and nurtured flowers.

The house was like those Russian dolls that open to reveal another secret doll, and another and another…what secret lay in this doll, you wondered? What secrets were upstairs behind bedroom doors? What secrets were in Professor Freud’s study? Behind what closed door did my father go when he spent so many hours in this house? What secrets kept him riveted to such an atmosphere? Why did everybody act so carefully in this place? Did no one laugh out loud; get excited about ANYTHING in any normal way?

Jeez, it was enough to give you the creeps!

Today, June 30th, I was INVITED into Sigmund Freud’s study; “Spend as much time as you would like,” I was told. I have to admit I was curious. I had a vague sense of the room from my father’s memorial…something about the combination of THE COUCH, the desk, the old books, the oriental carpets, the abundance of Greek, Roman, and Egyptian artifacts had a heavy commanding commemorating-lives-of-the-dead sort of tone.

I walked right in and took it all in.

The couch:

The books and Egyptian mummy masks:

The artifacts:

Some of Freud’s things were very beautiful, such as this sculpture of horse and rider:

A shrine of remembrance, I thought, as I left the room: Sigmund Freud to mythological representations from the past, Anna Freud to her father. How very strange that my father’s life was marked here!

Thoughts from a Trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art

My last day in New York City this past week, I took myself to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. My eyes were drawn to the wall niche where hydrangeas–slightly pink, slightly blue, slightly lavender–raised their plump arms towards the upper reaches of the Great Hall. Passing through this room, I climbed the large steps to the exhibit I wanted to see: The World of Khubilai Khan: Chinese Art in the Yuan Dynasty. The Met’s program notes describe the exposition as covering “the period from 1215, the year of Khubilai’s birth, to 1368, the year of the fall of the Yuan dynasty in China founded by Khubilai Khan.”

I spent an hour and a half with the guided audio tour taking in the paintings, sculpture, textiles, and other decorative arts. I came away with a sense of the art and culture of this period; my favorite single piece, was a drawing in ink on a handscroll entitled: Noble Horse by Gong Kai, which beautifully captures a once robust and noble horse, his jutting ribs depicting neglect while retaining nobility–a symbol of lament for the fallen dynasty.

Time running out before the clang of the airport call, I wandered down the stairs and into The American Wing. My purpose: to eat an early lunch in view of the Tiffany windows so that–in my mind’s eye–I would take home a piece of my great-grandfather’s (Louis Comfort Tiffany’s) art.

Whilst in my reverie, a woman put her coffee and danish down at my table and sat down. Before long, I knew she was Dutch, lived in rural east Holland, had not recovered from her husband’s death, but was trying hard to move on. Her two grown sons were applauding her uncharacteristic trip to get out in the world with this trip to New York. Then she found out exactly what I was doing at this table in this room, with this view, in this museum at this moment in time.

She said she was thrilled to have a personal meeting story to take home and tell her sons.

A “Published Book” by Students for Students of Students Has Impact

The book Written and Illustrated by: A Revolutionary Two-Brain Approach for Teaching Students How to Write and Illustrate Amazing Books by David Melton is a wonderful tool for adapting to your school’s writing programs, but only if there is a teacher in charge who cares deeply about children, writing, art, books, and professionally finished products.

For eight years, I developed my own writing program using this book. Each year, the student books got better and better. As the writing program grew in reputation more students wanted to write a book, to have a book by the end of the program to take home and keep. A book they could display on their own shelves, knowing they had created it from its very inception to its self-manufactured sewn and pasted product. (Many of them looked like professionally published books.)

Ron Knox for the Lawrence Journal World wrote an article “Student writings will be added to West library” about the pride some of my students took in their books. In order to have a book to take home and one book for the library these students had to make two. It took a semester of work to complete them.

I liked when Knox said, “After the students and their parents cleared the room, Burlingham spoke softly about her student’s accomplishments.

“Patience,” she said, “that helps bring them along.”

The class, although part of the school’s gifted program, was open to everyone. Some of the kids could flat-out write, she said. Some struggled to finish their projects.

For the words of the students and a photo open this link:
http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2006/feb/01/student_writings_will_be_added_west_library/

Teaching Kids to Connect to Art

My webmaster suggested that I write some blogs about the teaching of writing as it connects to art, since this is a subject that has interested me for many years, a subject that I concentrated on as a teacher of kids: kids who were gifted; kids who were “average”; as well as some with dual exceptionalities, such as gifted and having Asperger’s syndrome.

At the Philadelphia Museum of Art many years ago, I attended a workshop called Writing through Art. We teachers sat on little stools with pads on our laps and took down notes about what we saw and felt in a painting or sculpture before us; then we learned how to take our own words and compose poetry or prose with them.

I took the ideas from this workshop back to the classroom and experimented with them. Over the years, I had great success with the method. I found that any kid could write a good poem.

Here’s one example of how it works:

I blew up Roy DeCarava’s photographs from The Sweet Flypaper of Life, not showing the accompanying narrative by Langston Hughes. These are very engaging portraits of black people living in Harlem: an old woman standing tall and proud against a wrought iron fence, a young family on a Sunday outing at the Hudson River, mischievous boys letting water out of a fire hydrant on a scorching summer day, a girl dressed up all in white for a confirmation, crossing a dirty empty city lot.

The photos were laid out on the floor. (I think there were 40 of them; I duplicated favorites.) Each student picked one he/she liked. Then, on a piece of paper with three headings—seeing words, action words, feeling words—the students studied their photographs and jotted down notes.

Man in a suit
Girl with a bow in her hair
Two boys in shorts

What’s the man doing?
Sitting on a log

What’s the girl doing?
Playing down by the water

What are the boys doing?
Sitting on handkerchiefs on the log

How are the different people feeling?

The man’s feeling proud of his family
The girl’s happy to be by the water
The boys feel good sitting next to their father

And how does the photograph make you feel?

The photograph makes me feel interested and joyful. It’s different from my life, but I’m glad they’re having a good time. I’m always happy by the water myself.

What words on your page interest you the most?

Girl with the bow in her hair

That’s a good title.
Start from there.

GIRL WITH A BOW IN HER HAIR

Girl with a bow in her hair
Plays down by the water
She doesn’t dare get her feet wet
Cause it’s Sunday

Her brothers sit stiff on handkerchiefs
Gazing at the black river
They are still, next to their proud father
On the old log
Having a quiet Sunday time

This technique works with any piece of art that interests kids, but they need choices with which to identify.

I’ve had success using the photographs from Charlotte’s Web and Stone Fox with younger kids because kids have such strong feelings about the characters in those books.

A Place I Loved

My cousin Dorothy recently sent me a photo of a pastel painting by our cousin Annie Heller. It shows the back of what was once our family cottage—Thorpe View—in Walberswick, Suffolk, UK.

The painting made Dorothy cry. The painting made me cry. It is so lyrical and emotional in its rendition of a beloved dwelling. The pigs lived right next door over the stone wall. On rainy days, the smell of pig manure would permeate the air. We got used to it. Thought of it as part of the aromatic atmosphere. Okay, maybe we lit out on our bicycles on “those” days, farther away from the pigs, to catch tadpoles in the marshes. We took in a different earthy smell, one with squishy grass—lots of it—and if the sun chose to come out, that grass would light up, a bright Kelly green.

At Thorpe View, when the weather called for it, which it often did, there would be a constant coal fire burning in the fireplace. When you looked out the living room windows, you could see who was coming and going in the village, there being only one main street. I liked to be in that room and hear the horses clop by, and glance out to see who was on top.

At Thorpe View there was a long rectangular wooden table in the living room where we ate meals and played games. It had all sorts of little nicks and notches in it, which gave it character. I liked to feel the grooves with the tips of my fingers, imagining how they got there.

When you went out the door of the cottage, you would find yourself exactly in the place my cousin Annie painted.

Here is her pastel painting of Thorpe View:

The Importance of Siblings, My Cousin, and Old Friends

I have two sisters and two brothers, and each one of them is a part of me. For many years, I lived relatively close to them all. Now I live fifteen hundred miles away. I can’t just get in my car for a quick visit. I have to save $, and plan carefully so that I can see them all.

May 8th I flew to Newport to begin my week east with my cousin Dorothy. I unfolded myself into her life: walks on the beach, yoga, lobster pizza, clam chowder, talks about books, family, health. I am now reading a book that Dorothy’s husband, Jim, recommended: Memories, Dreams, Reflections—C. J. Jung’s telling of his life story. It is an educational experience, filling me up with new ideas, making me think about the formation of individuality and identity.

After a few days, I rented a car in Newport and drove to my older sister Krissie’s house in Connecticut. It rained the whole time I was there, so we didn’t do much other than drive around to see the countryside in the rain, and talk. We got into our sister zone, where we discussed beloved places from our childhoods, memories of our parents, our children, her grandchildren, animals, plants, and books. We went to her local library, where we talked to her friend the librarian. Krissie took home several books that the librarian recommended, two of which I have read: The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson by Jerome Charyn, and Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman by Jon Krakauer.

After a couple of days with Krissie, I drove into NYC to drop off my rental car. Once there, I immediately resumed my NY identity, dodging traffic through familiar streets. Yeah, I’m young again! I can manage New York’s vibrancy and complexity. Yes, I can!

I happily walked from the Upper East Side to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where I sat on one of the benches in the entryway for an hour enjoying the different mix of people, looking at their clothes, listening to their voices.

I’ll come back tomorrow to experience some art, I thought. Before I left, I decided which exhibition I wanted to see: “American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity.”

I was treated to dinner and spent the night at the apartment of one of my oldest friends. This friend and her husband have seen me through many different lives. When I looked across the table at them, I still saw the eighteen-year-olds I knew from college. What does each of them see looking at me?

The next day after the Metropolitan, I took my suitcase to Penn Station and placed it in baggage. Then, because I was late, I quickly headed to the Museum of Modern Art to meet my youngest brother, Michael John, for lunch and the Cartier-Bresson exhibit. Although we didn’t really talk about what we each saw, I did go back when my brother said, “Did you see Jung, Capote?” My brother is a writer. He has recently written a treatment and is about to begin work on the screenplay.

I made it to New Jersey Transit in time for the ten to four. My older sister Randi (pronounced Rondi) met me at Princeton Junction. This sister does not really drink wine, but over dinner she sipped a little with me. Her husband cooked and we talked. Listening to her discuss her life, I thought that what she says makes a lot of sense. When I went to bed, she put a little nightlight in the bathroom for me. As a child, she was always my light in the dark, and perhaps I was a little that way for her, too.

Early next morning, my younger brother Stephen picked me up, drove me to his house, and cooked me breakfast. His wife’s chickens had laid the eggs we ate. Warm and yummy! Stephen and I talked about his art projects. He took me to see his wife’s flower shop, then drove me to the airport.

I made it back to Lawrence without any travel hitches. Paul bounded toward me at the airport, as happy to see me as a joyful puppy. I am filled to the brim with my love for sisters, brothers, a cousin, friends, husband, and, not mentioned in this blog, my adult children, and adult stepchildren.

Chalk Painting on the Sidewalk

Last fall I wrote a blog titled “What’s in a Tidbit.” It was about a neighborhood gathering for an older couple who were leaving their home of 37 years to move into a retirement apartment.

Yesterday I was taking a walk around the neighborhood. As I came up the hill and turned the corner on our block, I passed the house of the people who had hosted the gathering. Knowing they are spending this week in New York City, I thought about where they might be staying: East Side, West Side, Theater District, etc.? I have a penchant for the Upper West Side, so I decided to place them there. I wondered what art exhibits they would be seeing. Having recently scanned the New Yorker art museum listings, I placed one of their outings at the Guggenheim to see “Haunted: Contemporary Photography/Video/Performance” because I had read that “much contemporary photography and video is haunted by the past, often by its own recent history,” a conception of contemporary photography I have thought true myself.

As I walked past the house of our departed neighbors, my eyes caught a vision chalked on the sidewalk of sky flooded by rainbow, rain, and floating clouds; a few steps over it, a heart, a dancing flower, a starburst. In the myrtle off to the side stood a little bottle-green watering can.

I remember seeing my aging neighbor down on her knees amongst these delicate purple flowers digging away at something, her upper torso rigid, bent over.

Sometime in the past couple of months, a young family has moved into the house my older neighbors moved out of. The old mailbox has been painted an orange-red. The children now own the sidewalk with the drawings from their minds.