A CLASS ACT: Memoir Writing

WHAT HAVE WE HERE?

by Marjorie Roemer

The following pieces represent just one week’s response to a writing prompt in my BOLLI course Journeying Toward Discovery: Writing and Remembering (fall of 2014). The assignment was a classic one:   write in response to a photograph or other visual image, a painting or a drawing.  Put yourself in the picture, or write about the history of the photograph . . . how you see it now, how you experienced it then.

For me, these pieces are not necessarily examples of the best writing to come out of this remarkable group of writers, but they are significant for the spotlight they throw on what BOLLI members bring to their courses.  The assignment is an old chestnut, one we might give to kindergartners as well as to senior citizens . . . write about an image, a task that brings to the fore the depth of experience that informs everything we do and say.

The pieces which follow give some insight into the range of that experience and how imagination and history together shape consciousness.

 

CHIACCHIERA

By Sam Ansell

SAM

What have we here? Why it’s a Ken Heymen photograph of three little girls enjoying a hen fest.  (In Italian, “gossip” is the onomatopoetic word chiacchiera, pronounced key-AHK- ee-AY-rah.)

The redhead on the right is no doubt dishing up the dirt on some mutual acquaintance.  She’s leaning forward in confidential mode but is glancing to the left to make sure unwanted listeners aren’t overhearing.  Notice how she’s clutching her stomach as if trying to contain her excitement.

On the left, the little blonde beauty is leaning forward so as to drink in every detail.  She’s so absorbed that’s she’s on one leg, scratching it with the other. (God help the local boys when this one reaches adolescence.) Meanwhile, the brunette in the middle seems somewhat limp and uncomfortable, her pained expression hard to read.  Maybe she’s a little out of her depth with these high-powered gossip mongers. Maybe she’s afraid the gossip will get back to the person or people under discussion and she’ll be blamed.

What makes the episode especially ironic are the dolls, reminding us that these are the future mothers of America.  Our lovely blonde is clutching her doll tightly in a sort of protective mode. The girl in the middle again shows anxiety: she almost seems to have forgotten that she has a doll while the little redheaded babbler on the right has left her doll in a baby carriage – gossip is more fulfilling than doll supervision.

Another remarkable fact about the picture is the symmetry. The four heads (including the middle girl’s doll) form an elongated diamond while the same doll is the fulcrum of the whole shot.

This picture is an example of what the great French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson calls “the decisive moment”: The moment in which an experienced photographer, taking in a thousand details, grasps that those details will shortly coalesce into something very special and has a camera at the ready.  The Inexperienced would only have seen three girls yakking, but Ken Heyman instinctively recognized that something extraordinary was about to happen and got the right shot. It takes only a fraction of a second to shoot a great picture; it takes a lifetime of experience and great talent to anticipate and get it.

 

RE-READING A PHOTOGRAPH

By Marjorie Roemer

marjorie

Nobody liked this picture.   Nobody even liked the vacation.  It’s March 1992, a celebration for my mother’s 86th birthday.  We are at Penn State, where my daughter Liz was working on her PhD. After having done a big party in New York for my mother’s 75th birthday, I decided that we should do something special for each one of her birthdays. I can’t remember all of them. This would be the next to last, a long weekend visiting Liz in State College. I arranged to have my son David and his wife Celeste fly up from Boston, my mother fly up from Florida, and I flew in from Cincinnati. We had a suite at a Sheraton hotel, I think, replete with Jacuzzi. It should have been fun. My husband Don decided, perhaps wisely, to pass on this particular festivity.

I don’t remember too much about the weekend. We went out for a number of dinners at the best restaurants in town. I remember ordering a cake from a bakery and having it served at one dinner. What went wrong? Liz was probably distracted with work and felt this to be an intrusion. I have only three clear memories: Liz’s car was making a funny sound and my mother said: “Let your brother look at it. He’ll know what’s wrong.” That didn’t play well. Then at the big dinner for her birthday celebration with the cake, I said to my mother: “You have a piece of spinach stuck in your teeth.” She replied: “Can’t you ever say anything nice?” And finally, I ran the Jacuzzi and somehow managed to turn it on when there was not quite enough water in the tub. The water went flying around the bathroom like some kind of dramatic wind and rain storm. I can’t remember now if I had to call for help in my naked predicament. I just remember it as a small disaster.

And finally, the picture. I thought it would be fun to have a family picture taken, so I arranged for this one at the Mountain View Studios. The photographer was very nice, and that part was sort of fun. He took a lot of shots. In the end, when I got the proofs, they were pretty disappointing. There was not one picture where everyone looked good. I remember going to a bar in Cincinnati with my friend Susan Durst, a photographer, and asking her to help me choose the best. We spread them out on a table and studied them. Finally, we hit on this one as the one where no single one of us looked embarrassingly awful. When I sent the pictures to the family, everyone complained. “That’s a terrible picture of me. I hate it,” they said.  My mother wouldn’t even look at it.

Now, some twenty-two years later, I don’t mind looking at it.

 

MISSING PIECE

by Jane Kays

jane kay 1

The torn black and white photo leaves me in the dark. One person was ripped away, and it is my father who survived the separation. He is fancily suited and shod as if for an occasion.  In another photo, wearing the same attire, he stands beside his daughter, Charlein. I could call her my sister or step-sister, but she was born in 1918, and the years between us create a disconnect.

jane kay 2

            Who tore the photo, and why?  More importantly, who was removed? I have studied this off and on for some time, always wondering and creating different scenarios.  In the one unripped photo where Charlein stands with our Dad, her white dress, soft and innocent at her ankles, the crushed band that encircles her waist, and then more softness surrounding her breasts, perhaps not yet fully developed, support the idea that she may be a teen.

Her Dad, my Dad, wraps his arm around her waist, a dad-hug way. She reaches across his shoulder to drape her fingers along his arm, making these two a snug fit, genetically entwined. How often have they embraced while Charlein spent most of her life, since infancy, living with her aunt, away from her father?

I sleuth through other photos looking at my father’s hairline, new wrinkles, and the style of his suits to appropriately age him as he poses in this picture. I notice he wears wing-tipped spectators, popular in the thirties. And I decide that these photos were taken when he was married to his second wife, Dorothy.

Was it Dorothy who was torn away and even thrown away? And might this be Charlein’s high school graduation? And did they all attend together? The weather is warm, springlike. My imagination buoys me and I am ready to answer all my questions about the torn photograph.

When my father met my mother in the late thirties, perhaps even while married to Dorothy, he brought his belongings to their new apartment in Lynn, Massachusetts. Before he packed, he sorted through pictures and tore the one remaining picture he had of his former wife and himself. And eerily, my mother, his new wife, would have these as keepsakes to show me what my father looked like.

Rousseau once wrote, “The world of reality has its limits; the world of imagination is boundless.”

So, in the boundless stretches of my imagination I decide that this is what happened to the torn part of the photograph until I look closer with a magnified interest. I notice something white along my father’s pant leg, and something dark near the side of his face, and I notice fingers on his shoulder. They are traces of Charlein that survived the tear, her hair, dress, and her hand laying upon our father’s shoulder.

Now I know the real story. She was the one who tore the photograph because her high school boyfriend wanted a keepsake.

 

WHERE THE PATH LEADS

by Margie Nesson

margien

The ancient arches of this passageway reflect my personal images of my family’s inspirational history.  Their winding journey began from two different geographical starting points–my maternal grandfather Yisroil Myerson began his exodus in Odessa, and my father Mendel Garb left Komai, Lithuania. I envision their two paths converging at the entrance to this painting.

This cobblestone alley opens with sheltered light that represents the ways in which the lives of Yisroil and Max were illuminated by the teachings of their faith and the love of their families, guiding them toward a brighter future.  Yisroil and Mendel left home with lessons learned from their own fathers in regard to the importance of family loyalty and their obligation, as Jews, to study Torah.

The bright entrance to this artfully rendered passageway soon leads me to its dark and shadowy recesses. The shadows represent Yisroil and Mendel’s memories of their families’ struggles to survive the tyranny of Russia. Their perilous and disparate journeys, represented in the darkened shadows of this passageway, are the foundation on which our family’s commitment to justice and our compassion for those traveling difficult journeys was built.

Yisroil’s memories, represented in the dark shadows before me, bear witness to the oppression he experienced in the Russian pogroms of the 1890’s. Mendel’s shadowy memories began with the slaughter of Russian Jews during the 1917 Revolution.   I imagine this amber-colored passageway as similar to those that Yisroil and Mendel trod upon during their escapes to freedom.

A pious young man, Yisroil, began his journey from Odessa to Palestine in 1896. Leaving home, he and his brothers were bound to seek refuge in the land of our ancient ancestors, now known as Israel. Together, the three siblings made it as far as Vilna, but amidst the city’s crowded streets and alleyways, Yisroil became separated. He searched for his lost family for weeks, to no avail.  He was alone and set out to make own way.  His path took a risky detour, diverting him from the direction of Palestine.  Alone, bolstered by his faith in his God, he made his way to London where he found employment as a tailor’s apprentice.   After two years, he had saved enough money to purchase passage on a ship bound for America.

Twenty-three years later, in the middle of the night, Mendel narrowly escaped from his family home in Komai.  With only the clothes on their backs and a satchel containing their prayer book and Sabbath candlesticks, Mendel and his younger brother escorted their ailing mother on a harrowing and heroic journey.  Hiding from the murderous mobs advancing on their village, this brave threesome crept through neighboring villages in the dark of night, finally reaching the train station in Rokiskis. Hiding in a freight car, they made their way to Denmark where they boarded the ship that brought them to America.

As Yisroil and Mendel embarked on their treacherous and winding journeys,  they finally reached their  sunlit paths. Quite possibly, their dark passageways were illuminated from above, as is the one pictured here.

Yisroil and Mendel’s families had instilled in each of them a strong faith and a sense of determination that provided them with the strength they needed to overcome the incredible obstacles each encountered on his journey to freedom.   Their collective faith and individual acts of bravery provided their progeny, my family, with an inspiring legacy as we make our way in the modern world.

 

OLÉ

by Carolyn Allen

CAROLYN

For several fun years, Bob and I were invited to a Halloween party at a big house on West Newton Hill. Despite the fact that most of the other guests were outfitted as elaborate French kings, Russian peasants, or whimsical unicorns straight out of a box while ours were home-made-in-NewtonAmerica, we always walked away with First Prize.

One year, I decided Bob would make a perfect Spanish Lady, and, being the good sport he was, he readily agreed. I climbed the rickety ladder to the eaves of the garage.  Ignoring the November cold and those scary might-be mouse droppings, I rummaged through boxes of costumes, many sewn by me, and others filled haphazardly with sleeping pieces waiting to be awakened by imagination.

I discovered a ruffley red underskirt, black stretchy slippers, a black bejeweled sweater and a lushly fringed shawl.  At CVS, I found queen-sized sparkly black pantyhose.   A long black wig with saucy bangs, a big red rose, and an ivory fan completed The Look.

Bob took the costume for a trial run. Have you ever seen a man put on pantyhose? Bob lay down on our bed, stuck one leg straight up in the air, and, holding the pantyhose at arms’ length, vainly tried to wriggle his whole leg in from the top.

The night of the party, our daughter Laura channeled Percy Westmore, make-up artist to the stars.   In the mirror, As Laura blue-shadowed his eyelids and layered on rouge and lipstick, Bob wiggled his brows at himself provocatively, flirting mercilessly with his own reflection.

“You know,” he said fetchingly to his image, “I could go for you.”

Laura finished the transformation by penciling a black beauty mark atop Bob’s cheekbone.

“Laura,” he complained, “shouldn’t the beauty mark be bigger?”

“Dad,” she snapped back, “it’s in proportion to the beauty!”

Another First Prize in the bag.

We made our costumes do double-duty. After Halloween, they became the theme of our annual New Year’s cards, with appropriate punny greetings:

  • Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” (“Would that you be granted a Happy New Year”)
  • A Medieval Serf (to my Queen Pretensia) (“Happy New Year from the Middle Agers”)
  • A Chocolate Moose (to my Julia Child)
  • A Bag of Bovung Cow Manure (to my Burpee Seed Catalog)

As I stare at this picture of Bob the Spanish senorita of 25 years ago, I am drawn back to a time of innocence, a time we didn’t know couldn’t last forever.

Olé!

LOST AND FOUND

by Lois Sockol

boys

At times, I was lost. Sometimes I still am. So much of me was consumed by mothering that that is who I became. It’s hard to move away to begin again the search for whom I might still be. Torah says, “God loves becoming.”

For so many years, school schedules, after school sport teams, school reports, doctor’s appointments, tending scraped knees, comforting hurts, and the routine daily tasks,. . . washing, shopping, preparing meals. . . consumed my days, infusing them with purpose, meaning, occasional tears, much laughter and love. That was the surge of my life.

Then, slowly and surely as they must, my sons’ wings took flight. First there was college, which meant less and less time as a family unit living together under the same roof where we were busy in our own and each other’s lives. Time morphed into natural separations: new jobs away from home, happy marriages, independent self-sufficient lives. How blessed I felt by it all. Our sons grown to be the fine character-driven men I had hope they would become. And how splendid and lovely were the women they married.

Yes, we had transitioned through life’s big moments. The ones I always knew were coming but for which , to my surprise, I was emotionally unprepared. I hadn’t imagined the emptiness.  I was teaching school, doing the work that satisfied me. There were activities. . . town meeting, Temple committees, the library trusteeship, friends, the trips Ron and I took, the dictates of writing and the demands of teaching, but still, it was not enough to squelch the loneliness.

Grow up, I told myself. Did you really expect to stand still, to halt the natural cycles of life? To stop the world from spinning? Did you really want that to be? Is that who you are? Of course not, I love my life as it’s unfolded, my boys as men, and cherish the children they brought into my world. The truth is that the good things that are gone have paved the way for the splendid life I now know.

In time, I too broke free of my chrysalis and, with a nascent sense of liberation, stretched my own wings a sense of release I’d never been conscious of before.

Time need not be spent but savored. No rush to manage all things. I drank in the luxury of reflection and contemplation. There is no preaching in solitude. There are no demands or obligations, no shifting of ideas in order to please.  These quiet times are sanctuaries, where, if I listen, a spark, a thought, a truth may be revealed to help me answer my greatest puzzle.  Who am I? What does my existence mean?

And so, just as my life was once a turbulent sea, it is now a quiet pond, still fed endlessly by my love for my husband, my grandchildren, my grown sons, but also the waters where I leisurely move closer to me.

 

THE INCIDENT AT ROCKAWAY BEACH, 1943

Was It My Fault?

by Eleanor Jaffe

eleanor

The war was on. My uncles were in the army, but my family was intact. In that summer of 1943, my parents rented an apartment on the beach block, 128th Street, in Rockaway. The apartment was one flight up in a small brick house. The landlord lived downstairs. This living arrangement was a great novelty for us since, the rest of the time, the five of us lived in a Brooklyn apartment on the fourth floor of a large apartment house.

The summer before, when our baby brother was born, my sister and I had been shipped to sleep-away camp for two months.  But this summer was different. We were all together, and the sand and the ocean were just one half block away.  No streets to cross, just load our stuff–blankets, towels, snacks, and pails and shovels on to a wagon and shuffle under our loads down the hot pavement to the hotter sand.  Mother and baby brother David led the parade down the street.  Dad worked in Manhattan most of the time.  The beach was so big, and we could play all day, making wet sand pies, slipping in the wet sand at the water’s edge, in, then out of the water.

In August of that summer, I turned seven years old, and Frances was then.  In the faded color photo of us, she is a full head taller than I am, and I am looking up at her. I always looked up to her. She is blond, and my skin and hair are dark.  I trailed after her; she more or less ignored me in favor of her friends.

The beach was wide and deep, maybe five miles long.  Tides shifted, and the water crept up the beach, then slowly backed down the other way.  Often, the waves were big and came crashing down on us. The undertow could be very strong. I think lifeguards were supposed to be on duty every few blocks, but they must have been few and far between. There was a war on, you know.

I learned to plow through the crashing waves to reach the relative calm water beyond.  I loved the swirling ocean waters, floating on my back, the water too turbulent to swim in more than a few strokes at a time. I suppose our general instructions were to stay together, and so, Frances and I would plunge into the waters together, often with another tall ten-year old friend for company.  I stayed right up with them, dancing from one foot to another in the deep and deeper water, struggling.

I can’t remember being in trouble in the water; it hadn’t registered that way with me. I don’t remember feeling panicked, but I must have been in deep, dangerous waters because I recall that a little skinny lady grabbed me and pulled me to the shore. She asked where my mother was.  I pointed her out: the lady with the baby on the blanket, reading.

My rescuer marched determinedly over to my mother, and proceeded to let her have it! Her little girl had been in danger of drowning, and where had she been?  Didn’t my mother know that the ocean was dangerous? Little girls needed active supervision. The undertow was strong. A good mother should be responsible and should stand and watch and supervise, not sit on her rear end.

I just stood there, not knowing what to think. This lady was yelling at my mother. Nobody ever yelled at my mother. How could this be happening? I think my mother stayed quiet. My mother certainly could raise her own voice and yell and criticize, but not this time. Baby brother David played quietly in the sand. I stood awkwardly at the edge of the blanket. Other people must have been looking and watching.

There the memory and the scene end. I don’t know if we girls had new rules for the beach. I don’t know if my mother hugged me after my rescue, my almost drowning. I don’t know if Frances was criticized for ignoring me in the water. What I learned that day was that Mothers, too, might act in ways that lead others to yell at them. That was a shock. Somehow, I had made that happen. Maybe it was my fault….

WHAT IS EVERYONE THINKING ABOUT?

By Suzanne Art

SUZANNE

It’s a beautiful warm summer day, and the boaters have stopped along the Seine at Maison Fournaise. They are relaxing on the balcony, savoring the remnants of fruit, cheese, and the local wine. It’s a time of warm comradery, isn’t it?  And yet, everyone seems lost in thought.

Aline, the seamstress who will soon wed the painter of the picture, Renoir, sits at the table in the foreground. She coos lovingly to her shaggy little grey lapdog, Foufou.  There’s no one else around that she’d care to talk to, since the man of her dreams is busily wielding his paintbrush.  She can’t wait for him to finish his sketch so that they can all resume their leisurely voyage along the Seine, and she can snuggle once again in her lover’s strong yet gentle arms.

Opposite Aline, while she is absorbed with Foufou, impressionist painter Gustave Caillebotte seizes the moment to gaze longingly at her.  If Renoir were not his very good friend, how swiftly he would act upon his strong attraction to the fetching young girl. He is unaware of the dark eyes of the actress, Angele, who looks at him as longingly as he looks at Aline.  She, in turn, doesn’t seem to notice the attentions of young journalist Adrien, standing behind her.  It seems as though everyone only has eyes for someone who only has eyes for someone else.

Louise, the daughter of the proprietor, leans casually on the railing, taking in, with a bemused smile, what is going on at Aline’s table. She fails to notice the young man in the brown bowler who has turned in his chair and is so absorbed in her.  Louise’s brother Alphonse leans against the railing directly behind Aline, feeling bored. He’s hoping it is almost time to end the luncheon and get everyone back to the boat.

To Louise’s left, in the center of the picture, Ellen, an actress, drinks from her glass, paying little attention to her table companion. He seems to be waiting for her to take notice of him, but she is lost in her own thoughts. Or is it the young man in the brown bowler who occupies her attention?

In the background stands a man in a tall silk hat.  He is Charles, wealthy art collector and the editor of the Gazette des Beaux Arts. He is chatting amiably with his personal secretary Jules. But is he really listening to his underling?

In the upper right corner are Renoir’s close friends Eugene, an art collector, and Paul, another artist. Paul has his arm around the waist of an actress named Jeanne. She responds to the flirtations of Eugene and Paul by putting her gloved hands up to her ears. Not the response they were hoping for.

It certainly does seem to be time to move on. No one is really enjoying anyone’s company, since everyone seems to be at cross-purposes.

This painting reminds me of what is wrong with our modern society. Picture a bustling café, perhaps just your local Starbucks. Every customer is totally absorbed in his own media device – even the servers are making notes on the store computer – and no one seems to be aware of what’s happening in the here and now.

 

WHITE MAN’S HISTORY

by Quinn Rosefsky

Quinn

1919, a bitter cold morning on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. ‘Hehaka Sapa’, Black Elk, wraps his blanket snuggly around his shoulders. He watches as black smoke belches from the stack of a steam engine pulling a short line of passenger and freight cars. The chuffing slows and brakes screech as the mighty beast clanks to a halt. An eagle, its wings spread wide, flies high above the desolate railroad spur. The door of a weather-beaten box car slides open and a duffle bag hits the frozen earth with a thud. A tall young man in a khaki U.S. army uniform quickly follows, hoists the bag over a shoulder, and walks towards Black Elk.

Black Elk: “Eeeyuh, ‘Matoskah’, White Bear, my son, how was Europe?”

Black Elk knew in his heart that his son would return from fighting in The Great War and was proud that his son had served, fighting for the Great White Father in Washington. As did many others, he hoped that Lakota men fighting for their country would gain white man’s respect.    

White Bear:     “I was a sharp-shooter. I scared many Germans.”

Black Elk:        “Or sent them to the Creator.”

White Bear:     “I said a prayer for each one I killed.”

Black Elk:        “That is our way.”

White Bear opens the duffle bag and rummages inside. “I met a photographer on the troop ship that carried us home; but he got sick, as did many others, from what they called ‘The Flu’. He didn’t think he’d survive and gave me this album. It is filled with pictures.”

Black Elk’s eyes darken. “Show me.” Black Elk grasps the worn album tightly and turns the pages slowly, releasing one of the photos, which drifts to the ground.

White Bear picks up the photo, turns it over, and reads names written in faded black ink. “Buffalo Bill, Capt. Baldwin, Gen. Nelson A. Miles, Capt. Moss, and others, on horseback. These names mean nothing to me.”

Black Elk:        “We must do a sweat. Then we will know.”

Holding an eagle feather to waft smoke, Black Elk smudges White Bear with burning sweetgrass. Both then enter the sweat lodge and sit. Black Elk lights a fire beneath a dome of rocks, waits until the rocks are hot, then pours water on them, filling the room with mist. The two men close their eyes. When they know it is time, they open them. Men in blue U.S. army uniforms and others in dark black suits shimmer in the mist.

First Soldier: “First thing you know, they started shooting at us from all directions. Painted warriors. We held our fire, but there were too many of them.”

Second Soldier: “We only fired at the ones with rifles. But there were so many.”

Third Soldier:  “Fortunately, we had the Hotchkiss Gun.”

Man in dark suit: “You were brave men. Our country thanks you. You have paid the debt owed to the soldiers of the Seventh Cavalry who died with Custer at Little Big Horn.”

The images fade. Black Elk again pours water on the rocks, releasing more mist. The images return. “These men speak no truth. They murdered women and children, old men. I was wounded, unable to raise my rifle, the dead piled on top of me. My shame still haunts me.”

Man in dark suit: “These men deserve medals for their bravery.”

Black Elk:        “Were our women and children so frightening?”

White Bear:     “White men have the power to write the history they need. We do not.”

White Bear and Black Elk remain in the sweat lodge, watch the white men congratulate one another and curse the Lakota until their images vanish. Then Black Elk pours water on the fire and, with his son, walks out of the lodge into a bitter cold starry night.

Twenty Medals of Honor were awarded to U.S. soldiers who fought at Wounded Knee.

 

THE PICTURE ON THE WALL

by Barbara Webber

barbarawebber

I used to skip by it, run up and down the hall by it, play with my blocks in front of it, idly stare at it, directly look at it and ponder a bit. What I pondered, I don’t know but what I do know is I did not like this picture. It showed two different kinds of leafy trees one on each side and in between some women arranged in old timey dresses standing on steps. Their severe demeanor scared me. I guess I dismissed it as something grandmothers kept around. It hung in the hall next to the far more interesting glass device filled with amber liquid which climbed up and down a spout and forecast the weather. I liked that one a lot. At ten years of age, I realized that the picture was talking about the lifecycle of women with the bottom step displaying a baby on the left under the spruce tree and a shriveled 100 year old woman under the drooping willow tree on the right. At the pinnacle point, rose a woman of 50 years and women of intervening ages stood tall on all the ascending steps and progressively stooped on all of the descending steps. Many of the women looked blank or unhappy and the older ones looked pinched and crabby.   An inset at the bottom contained a tombstone saying “Sacred to the memory of:  _______________”  where you could write in someone’s name.  My budding but limited awareness was such that death and life’s end was not my focus; what I really puzzled about was why my grandmother kept such a gloomy picture on the wall; surely there were happier scenes to put up.

My grandmother, my father’s mother never talked about it; my parents never said anything to me about it, but I doubt they thought the picture wonderful . Years later, after my father died, I must have packed it up and brought it to Boston in one of my many cardboard boxes.

I recently found the box and pulled out “Stages of a woman’s life from cradle to the grave. According to the picture, I am presently located on the second downward step and, the accompanying verse for each age notes, I am old, seek solace but only through church and when there, sit only in my allotted seat. The next step lower, shows me at 80 prattling nonsense, and at 90, I become a useless cumberer or burden on the earth; at 100, I am chained to a chair by age and knit, listlessly awaiting death.

It amazes me that this mass-produced 1850s Currier and Ives Lithograph rattled around my family for at least three and possibly five generations surviving move after move. It has minimal antique and no sentimental value and yet we all kept it. It is offensive to 21st century sensibilities and I should throw it out. But I won’t. Maybe my niece will know what to do with it.

 

A PHOTO IN  MIND

By Muriel Ladenburg

It is the summer of 1961 on one of the last days of our “Europe on $5.00 a Day” trip.  I am wearing the polished cotton dress with the scoop neck, three-quarter sleeves and dark green background splashed with huge orange flowers.  Although I have worn this dress throughout the two-month trip, it has kept its luster and shown none of the signs of wear I am feeling.  I have a toothache, and a friendly London Bobby sends us to the local station where he promises that one of the boys will “pop down to the commissary” and get me an aspirin, but when we arrive, we are invited to “pop down” ourselves.

It turns out the commissary is also an off-duty pub, and while one officer insists on sitting us at a small table and bringing us tea and sandwiches as well as my aspirin, the men at the bar are singing off-color songs about America.  As we get up to leave, having refused invitations to join the men at the bar, my husband decides to repay their hospitality by offering to buy a round.  Before I know it, we are involved in a drinking game in which I consistently win and drink and Tom repeatedly loses and pays, but we are charmed and entertained.

At some point, I am ushered to a chair, and sitting in my crisp and flowered dress, flanked by two officers, I am wearing a silly smile and a tall Bobby’s hat complete with chin-strap.  When my husband snaps the picture, I do not know that I will soon be sick and regret having had too much to drink.  I do not know that the offending tooth will need to be pulled the next day and that I will fly home with a mouth full of Novocain.  But of all the many slides we took that summer that now lie in a jumbled heap we never manage to sort through, this one in my mind has made the greatest imprint in my memory.

Jane Kay and Quinn Rosefsky continued to work on these pieces, submitting them to the 2016 BOLLI Journal which can be accessed by clicking below.  (You can increase print size by clicking on the magnifying glass icon.)

The BOLLI Journal is published every two years.  The 2018 issue is already in the planning stages.  Consider trying this exercise yourself and submitting the result!

 

 

 

BOLLI’s EXTENDED FAMILY: A “DRAMATIC” ENCOUNTER

ME
BOLLI MATTERS Managing Editor Sue Wurster

After a wonderful year of work with BOLLI’s Scene-iors and CAST groups, I decided it was time to find out what else might be happening in theatre in other lifelong learning programs.  That search sent me to the website of the American Alliance for Theatre and Education where I  found that the association’s national conference was coming up, and, this year, it was to be held at the Boston Park Plaza (the site, incidentally, of the first AATE conference I attended in 1996).   I signed up and headed into the city for some artistic rejuvenation.

And it was wonderful.  There were some familiar faces in the crowd, and catching up with these creative beings was terrific.  But what was truly exhilarating was the energy, commitment, and social consciousness evident in the generation of young drama teachers now moving into positions of prominence in our field.

One of those young teachers and I began to chat during a quiet moment before our breakout session, “Our Students, Their Stories,” was to begin.  We soon discovered that we had NYC independent school teaching in common, but when she craned to look at my name tag, we discovered an even more exciting connection.  “BOLLI?” she exclaimed.  “My grandparents love BOLLI!”

This young teacher’s grandparents are Sheila and Irving Lesnick who have been BOLLI members for about ten years.  “Actually, we like everything about BOLLI,”  Sheila enthuses.  She talks about the variety of courses she and Irving have taken, saying that “almost all of them have been excellent.  The course leaders have been great, and the course material most rewarding.”  They take advantage of many of the opportunities Brandeis has to offer–concerts, lectures, and films.

Irving & Sheila Lesnick
Irving and Sheila relax after an early arrival for a recent summer lecture.

Sheila and Irving are justifiably proud of their lovely granddaughter whom I found to be quite a bright and charming young woman. Emily recently received her master’s degree from NYU’s prestigious Steinhardt program in Educational Theatre.  She teaches drama at Riverdale Country School in the Bronx , coaching a student improv group which has performed in a variety of venues around the city.  She is particularly enthusiastic about her work with a group of 10th graders who devised an original  theatre piece around the theme of belonging.  It is this kind of devising that seems to be one of the most rewarding aspects of her work.

“Until the end of college, I thought my passion for theatre was an indulgence and a side hobby and that I should pursue my more ‘serious’ interests of social justice education,” Emily says.  “But theatre had been influential in the awakening of my activist interests, and I realized I didn’t have to separate them, that theatre could be the medium through which I strive towards justice in education. I’m lucky that my family has been supportive of my passions and vocation, and they ask really good questions that help me clarify my goals.”

Emily’s focus on theatre as a medium for social justice and activism led her and her partner Jamila Humphrie to embark on their How We G.L.O.W. (Gay, Lesbian, Or Whatever) project.  Inspired by Moises Kaufman’s Laramie Project as well as the work of Anna Deavere Smith,  they interviewed twenty LGBTQ+ young people about “how they understand their identities, where they find spaces of support, and what they perceive to be the biggest issues they face in their communities.  What emerged from these interviews was a script full of engaging, personalized data that reminds us of the urgent need to support LGBTQ+ young people in our social institutions.”  Last year, How We G.L.O.W.  toured to ten schools and community spaces and will continue to travel this fall.   Emily and her partner led a breakout session on the project at the conference.

Emily and Sue
Drama teachers Emily Lesnick and Sue Wurster–learning from each other at AATE.

Sheila and Irving certainly have reason to be proud of this remarkable young woman who is already well on her way to a prestigious career in arts education–and, somehow, I suspect that they may well have helped to inspire her along the way.

 

 

 

 

MEET MEMBER ANITA GLICKMAN: AND HER BLOOMING ART

Anita Glickman
BOLLI Member Anita Glickman

Works of art come in many forms–and for Anita Glickman, that form is botanical.

In 2005, Anita joined the Beth Shalom Garden Club in Needham.  At the time, her husband was ill, and she thought this activity would be creative and relaxing, which it did indeed prove to be.

A few years later, she joined the club’s board and held various offices.   In 2011, she served as the group’s co-president and then became president in 2012.  At the time, the club had 85 members, and it has grown since that point.

The group’s  main activity is doing the floral arrangements for the Temple’s religious services, but  their contributions to the entire Needham community are quite significant.  They enhance the Needham’s Vietnam Memorial, run a “Garden Therapy” program for special needs groups, and produce a popular annual antique show fundraiser.  The proceeds from this show help provide special floral programs at the Walker School, the Charles River ARC Center, and the Needham Public Library.  But the group’s most ambitious endeavor is its annual Needham Art in Bloom weekend event.

For this event, modeled after the annual springtime exhibit presented by the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, members of the Beth Shalom group create arrangements inspired by art work created by students at Needham High School.  The botanical and visual artists end up meeting each other during the exhibit, and the club honors the students’ work at the weekend’s close.  “The students are outstanding and so enthusiastic,” says Anita, who has exhibited for the past 8 years.  “It is such a pleasure to interact with them.”

Anita's Arrangement with Paula's Art
One of Anita’s Arrangements with its Counterpart

Last year, Needham Art in Bloom featured 59 pieces of art and corresponding arrangements, drawing over 2800 visitors to the exhibit.  Plans are already well underway for the 2017 event coming up this spring.

Anita joined BOLLI shortly after she retired from teaching in 2000. “It’s a wonderful program and very stimulating,” she says  “Over the years, I have met so many fascinating people and made so many new friends.”

To find out more about the Needham Art in Bloom project, go to:  http://needhamartinbloom.com    Lots of photos of the exhibits can be found at:  http://www.facebook.com/NeedhamsArtinBloom2013

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Be sure to leave a comment for Anita in the box below–your response is so welcome!

 

LEAVE IT TO LYDIA: The Pan Mass Challenge

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Photo by Lydia on Academy Drive, the town road leading up to Mass Maritime Academy.

On Friday afternoon, the riders and their bikes have suited up. They have their shirts and IDs, their water bottles, and their luggage. Their bikes are tagged and in the rack.  Every family member has a camera in hand. Water bottles fill the parking lot and backpacks. It is time for the Pan Mass Challenge.

The crowd is festive at Babson College, in a lovely tree shaded lot at the back of the Wellesley campus. Hugs are frequent as riders see their fellow riders for the first time in 364 days. Food has been donated and prepared by volunteers. Fruit, salads, pizza, burgers, cookies. Buckets of ice are filled with water, soda and Gatorade. Serious riders talk to the tech people, and everyone looks at the shirts and hats. Volunteers in blue shirts accept thanks from the riders and their families.

You could call it a party but for the seriousness of the mission–fund the care and research at Dana Farber until a cure is found for cancer.

Registration goes smoothly, thanks to the amazing, focused interns who have finely tuned the organization’s huge database. At the desk, cow bells ring to celebrate first-time riders, applauding their courage and commitment.

I have never ridden in the PMC, but, for the third year in a row, I am here to volunteer my time and cheer on the riders and their supporters. A work colleague rode in memory of my daughter two weeks after her death in 2013. Volunteering that year was painful and yet hopeful. It was something that I could do while still numb. I have been hooked ever since.

On Saturday afternoon and evening, at the Mass Maritime Academy in Bourne, signs, photographs of patients, and cowbells are everywhere. Four-wheeled vehicles crawl along, behind or beside the bicyclists, cheering the riders as they pedal this leg of the route. We volunteers make the two-mile walk from the parking area to the check-in site, and then, it’s on to the Big Tent.

The breeze from the Canal feels good.  Under the tent is enough food for the entire Yankee Division if they are here. And some may be–a number of veterans are riding, some with prostheses.  Baked potatoes with an assortment of toppings, pizza, veggie burgers, salad, brownies, beer, ice cream, Dunkin Donuts, burgers and dogs, and did I say beer?

The name of the game is carb intake. It has been a hot and humid day, and, despite the dark, threatening clouds gathering over the Canal, everyone is happy. Smiles abound. Riders head for the trailers for showers and dry clothes, and then it’s time for food. Some unpack their tents and grab a nap first.  The noise is.joyful–greetings, laughter, cell phones ringing, and rousing music from the bands who take turns on the stage.

As a retired Girl Scout cookie mother, I am working Site Beautification (aka clean-up detail).  And it is fabulous. I could do it with my eyes closed, but the friendship and joy that pervade here must be seen to be believed. Gloved hands bag every scrap of food, empty water bottle, and paper plate. To watch 5,000 people eat and celebrate their day’s work is a stunning privilege.

The riders thank us.  And I think about what they have done themselves.  They just pedaled up to 111 miles if they started in Sturbridge. They want to cure a dozen different forms of cancer, so that little boys don’t lose their mommies when they are four years old.

It is 6 p.m. and time for one of the highlights of the day. It’s called Living Proof. I am proud to stand with other cancer survivors, in our orange shirts, for a group photo and a glass of champagne. For some reason, it hits me, and the tears fall.  My daughter should be here, but she is not, so I volunteer and sweat in her stead, praying for other patients and their families.  This is a community of love.

FEATURE PHOTO CREDIT:  The Boston Globe, Sunrise in Sturbridge

BOLLI Matters Copy Editor and Writer, Lydia Bogar
BOLLI Matters Writer, Lydia Bogar

Former English teacher and health care professional Lydia Bogar joined BOLLI in the spring of 2016 after returning home from a stint in South Carolina where she dipped into another OLLI program.  “It’s good to be here!” she exclaims.  (And it’s good to have her.) 

AUGUST’S SENIOR MOMENT: On Eighty…

This month, both Eleanor and Liz share their thoughts on turning eighty.  

AT EIGHTY

By Eleanor Jaffe

 MOLDS

At first, you are placed into a mold: baby girl,                                          Then, you fit yourself into the mold; it’s good.                                  Puzzled, you find the mold changes as your body changes                And you begin to become a woman. The changes are not easy.

Later, you grow to become wife and mother, lover, nurturer.          Then another mold: the professional.                                                                   It sits on top of all the others – somehow.                                                  Time passes; you begin to break out of that complexity.                           It no longer fits; the children have left.                                                         Parts feel empty, meaning gone.                                                               Confused, like being a lost teenager again.

Later, you move toward new roles within a fluid mold:                    Trying them on: writer, artist, leader, teacher, risk taker.                      You become more confident.                                                                                This direction seems right, good.

In older age, there’s a refitting of some earlier molds,                            The roles of nurturer, giving and receiving love—                Grandmother, daughter/caretaker for an aged mother,                  Critical thinker, teacher, writer,                                                                Protector, comforter to the grieving.

I know myself.

I’m stepping up to become a wiser older woman                       Sometimes too outspoken, but what the hell!                                       Grateful for my loving family, husband, and friends.                                 For my still strong body.                                                                                     Blessed.

But no more molds.

Liz, when considering 80, chose to do so in a spiritual way, drawing upon her own religious tradition in the process.  No matter what our personal religious backgrounds might be, we can all certainly relate.

She says that…

To paraphrase Henry David Thoreau, when it comes time for me to die, I do not want to discover that I have not lived.

DAYENU

By Liz David

So, Hineni, here I am God,

Approaching eighty, amazed–awestruck, full of your Presence–

Still here, striving to live my life with the wonderment of childhood and the wisdom of age,

Still here, striving to live an ordinary life in an extraordinary way,

Because you, God, were there when I was born,

And I’m still striving to fulfill the promise of all those years ago when the seed that was me, Elisheva, was planted–

Elisheva, Oath of God.

Hineni, have I lived up to my name?

Approaching eighty, I look back and remember that there have been times when I thought, if I die now, it would be enough–toda raba, I am grateful for the full life You have given me

I still believe that, even as time passes and I have much less time ahead than behind.  And yet, I ask, is there ever enough? Is it ever Dayenu?

The words “we are led where we choose to go” speak to me, or was it You speaking to me, Holy One of Being, all along?

Was it You pulling the strings of my cosmos, pushing, pulling, cajoling as I made the life choices that brought me to this moment?

Hineni, God, here I am, still here, waiting for the next tug, and the one after that, and the one after that until You sever the thread that binds me to this earth

And set my soul free to join eternity with You—awestruck.

Dayenu–and that will be enough!

Eleanor and Liz
“Senior Moment” Feature Writers, Eleanor Jaffe and Liz David

 

 

 

TECH TALK WITH JOHN RUDY: Passwords

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We are pleased to inaugurate our new monthly technology feature!  On the first Friday of each month, John Rudy will provide us with good, solid, practical, hands-on (and off) information and advice about our computer use.  Be sure to respond with questions and topics you’d like to have John address in future articles.

Today’s subject is PASSWORDS.

Almost everywhere you go in the computer world, you are asked for passwords, but there have been enough articles recently to convince everyone that, despite this mandate, many files are not secure. So let’s hit the basics.

  • To be secure, a password must be long and complex. Using “123456” or “johnrudy” will be cracked almost instantaneously. That is why you want a minimum of 8 characters and should use upper and lower case, numerals, and special characters. That gives about 75 options for each position.
  • Do not use the same password for all your accounts. If you do, when it is cracked, you are open totally.
  • Not everything has to be protected in the same way. Worry about money. So bank accounts, brokerage firms, and any site that has your credit card should be protected most carefully–and each must be different. (Using “123456” for your high school will probably result in little damage.)
  • Passwords must be written down. That does NOT mean having a file titled PASSWORD.doc on your computer or a written list in your desk top drawer. This is really the subject of a subsequent article, but if you store them in a file, the file must be encrypted with a password; and if you write them down, store them in a non-obvious place, like with your cheesecake recipes. There are a number of good, automated programs that can address this issue. Another solution is to place this file on a thumb-drive.
  • Give your password file to your heir. This is not a joke. Someone you trust needs to be able to step in when memory issues, incapacitation, fatal illness occur.

And finally, when you dispose of your computer, remember that merely deleting a file does NOT, in fact, remove it from your system. Best Buy and other places claim that they fully wipe your drive when you give them an old computer. Here is a good article on the subject from a reputable source.

http://pcsupport.about.com/od/toolsofthetrade/tp/erase-hard-drive.htm

John Rudy
BOLLI Member and Tech Wizard John Rudy

John, a longtime computer expert and guide, provides this helpful hints in this monthly feature in BOLLI Matters.  In the comment box below, provide questions on passwords or any other computer/tech topic that you’d like to know more about in future Tech Talk articles.

john.rudy@alum.mit.edu (781-861-0402)

 

 

JULY BOOK NOOK: Three Books about Immigration

Book Nook reviewer Abby Pinard is back–this time, with three books about immigration.

A REPLACEMENT LIFE

by Boris Fishman, 2014

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Slava Gelman is a junior staffer at a magazine that isn’t but might as well be The New Yorker, where his assignment is to ferret out and crack wise about absurd news items in small-town newspapers. Slava lives on the Upper East Side, which isn’t but might as well be on the other side of the world from “Soviet Brooklyn” where he landed as a child on arrival from Minsk (as did Fishman), where his grandparents still live, and which his parents fled for suburban New Jersey. When Slava’s grandmother dies, he treks via subway to Brooklyn and before long is trekking regularly, roped by his scheming grandfather into crafting (he’s a writer, isn’t he?) a fictitious claim to the German government for a slice of the reparations pie earmarked for Holocaust survivors. So what if Grandfather didn’t suffer precisely as required to be eligible? Didn’t the Germans make sure to kill those who did? So begins Boris Fishman’s darkly comic and very impressive debut novel.

Fishman pulls off a difficult feat in a first novel, even one so closely grounded in his own experience. He has written a book that is both funny and genuinely moving. The Jews of Brighton Beach, who survived the Nazis and the Soviets through cunning, luck and sheer force of will, are a brilliantly drawn tough lot, re-inventing themselves once again in a place where you can “afford to be decent.” Slava wants to free himself from “the swamp broth of Soviet Brooklyn” and earn a byline by writing elegant prose but in borrowing true elements of his dead grandmother’s life to fashion false narratives for his grandfather and his grandfather’s friends, he is drawn more deeply into the past and into the community he has longed to escape.

Poor, confused Slava, torn between past and present, loyalty and honor, skinny uptown Arianna and luscious childhood playmate Vera… Is he being followed? Will his fraud be uncovered? At what cost? Will he do the right thing? I loved this book. Fishman tells a good story, one with moral ambiguity and conflicting loyalties, and his prose crackles with irony and wit. If you were in any danger of thinking that the immigrant experience has been exhaustively mined in fiction, think again. Boris Fishman is a welcome voice and A Replacement Life is a wholly original and worthy contribution.

 

PANIC IN A SUITCASE

by Yelena Akhtiorskaya, 2014

second book

“The morning was ideal, a crime to waste it cooped up. They were off to the shore. That means you too, Pasha — you need some color, a dunk would do you good, so would a stroll. Aren’t you curious to see Coney Island? Freud had been. Don’t deliberate till it’s too late. Strokes are known to make surprise appearances in the family. Who knows how long…? Now, get up off that couch!

 “Pasha had just flown in last night and didn’t feel well…fourteen hours strapped into an aisle seat near the gurgling lavatory of a dented, gasoline-reeking airplane, two layovers…would have been tough on any constitution and Pasha didn’t have just any constitution but that of a poet…If he’d been smart, he would have been born a half-century earlier into a noble family and spent his adult life hopping between tiny Swiss Alp towns and lakeside sanitoria, soaking in bathhouses and natural springs, rubbing thighs with steamy neurotics, taking aimless strolls with the assistance of a branch, corrupting tubercular maidens…

“Instead Pasha was born in 1956 to a family whose nobility was strictly of spirit.”

Meet the Nasmertovs in 1991, all but Pasha planted in Brighton Beach two years ago but pining for Odessa. Scraping by in circumstances significantly reduced in status and income (both grandparents had been physicians), three generations live under one roof in a neighborhood that replicates home, even in its proximity to the sea. Gently, hilariously and mostly brilliantly, Yelena Akhtiorskaya, herself born in Odessa and raised in Brighton Beach, captures the struggle between striving for assimilation and yearning for home. Despite their urging Pasha to emigrate and join them in Brooklyn (where he won’t have to do anything but sit on the couch so they can look at him), he is their connection to Odessa, keeper of the apartment in a prime location and the beloved dacha. Fifteen years later, Frida, the youngest Nasmertov, now in her twenties and at loose ends, visits Odessa and despite finding life there no rosier feels drawn to a place she barely remembers and that her parents and grandparents fled.

Akhtiorskaya has said that her next book might be fantasy or sci-fi. Thankfully, she wrote this one before forswearing further fiction based on her family. She is a talented writer and it will be interesting to see how she applies her talent in other realms following this fine debut.

 

I PITY THE POOR IMMIGRANT

by Zachary Lazar, 2014

third book

This is a book about identity.  Its characters — some fictional, some historical — are actual or metaphorical immigrants, products of the turbulence of Jewish history. Meyer Lansky flees pogroms in Eastern Europe, becomes a notorious American gangster and, denied citizenship by Israel, returns to the U.S. to face charges. Gila Konig, concentration camp survivor and Lansky’s mistress, never at home in Israel, emigrates to New York but always feels herself a refugee. Hannah Groff, a journalist who travels to Israel to investigate the death of an Israeli writer, unearths her own family’s history as she pursues her story and wrestles with her own feelings of rootlessness.

Underlying the displacement felt by the characters is an examination of the moral underpinnings of the state of Israel and its place in the world today. Was the writer murdered because he depicted King David as the forebear of the Jewish gangster and because he compared the founding of Israel to the vision Lansky and Bugsy Siegel had of building a shimmering city in the desert of Nevada? As a plot device, that’s an easy question to answer. As a moral/political question, it’s a heavy burden for a novel to bear and it’s not always easy for the reader to stay afloat.

Lazar skillfully weaves together multiple narrative threads across oceans and decades. When I finished the book, I was thinking that all those narrative threads were confusing and the angst suffocating. On second thought, I became more comfortable with the author’s ambition. The reflection in modern Israel of the brutality and existential threat suffered by Jews over centuries makes this more than a complex story about characters looking for a home. The novel is difficult but fascinating and ultimately satisfying.

Abby Pinard is a lifelong book nut who retired from a forty-year computer software career in 2007 and ticked an item off her bucket list by going to work in a bookstore. She is a native New Yorker who moved to Boston recently to be among her people:  family and Red Sox fans. She is a music lover, crossword puzzler, baseball fan, and political junkie who flunked Halloween costumes but can debug her daughter’s wifi.

Comments are most welcome–just jot your thoughts in the box below!

CAST-ing Our Lines! Another New BOLLI Special Interest Group

Dropping by the BOLLI Gathering Space at 60 Turner Street on a Tuesday afternoon, you might find some unusual activity underway as CAST members work to discover, develop, and refine their performance skills in the dramatic arts.

An outgrowth of BOLLI’s long-standing “Scene-iors” Acting Troupe (an annual springtime course offering in which participants work on and present a staged reading of a play for the BOLLI community-wide audience), CAST provides interested members with opportunities to engage in a variety of creative drama/theatre exercises and basic acting work.

During each CAST session, the group does some warm-up pantomime followed by improvisation, concentration, and observation exercises. The techniques explored are then applied to short scenes from short stories, novels and plays as well as poetry.

Recently, after a rousing session of pantomimed catch and jump rope, the group was split into two sections who were each charged with the task of creating tableaux highlighting “the key moment” in its well-known fairy tale. Of course, at BOLLI, this meant first spending several minutes in highly animated intellectual discussion and debate about which moments in these tales are truly seminal. (In “Red Riding Hood,” for example, is it when the wolf gobbles up Red? Or is it when the Woodsman arrives on the scene? In “Cinderella,” is it when Cindy loses her slipper or when the Prince arrives to try it on the Ugly Stepsisters?) The intensity and commitment to the work were palpable.

Later in that session, various “misunderstood” fairy tale characters appeared on an improvised Dr. Phil-like television talk show to air their woes. Here, Snow White’s Queen (Judy Blatt) and Cinderella’s Stepmother (Sandy Clifford) share their frustrations with their television audience.

MALIGNED MOMS Snow White's Queen (Judy Blatt) and Cinderella's Stepmother (Sandy Clifford)
MALIGNED MOMS Snow White’s Queen (Judy Blatt) and Cinderella’s Stepmother (Sandy Clifford)

During another session, we delved into the importance of “focus” in setting any scene and applied what was learned about the use of the eye to scenes offering particular “focal” challenges. Becki Norman, Monique Frank, and Eileen Mitchell (below) take some planning time to determine how to approach George’s Marvelous Medicine by Roald Dahl, a story in which young George’s Grandmother downs a dose of quite a nasty concoction which gives her such a jolt of energy that she shoots up to the ceiling where she is suspended for some time.

GEORGE 1
SETTING THEIR SCENE Becki Norman, Monique Frank, and Eileen Mitchell

 

GEORGE
George (Monique) is stunned to see Grandma (Becki) in robust, rising movement.

Another group—consisting of Irwin Garfinkle, Judy Blatt, and Bunny Cohen—took on the challenge provided by The Fruit at the Bottom of the Bowl, a short story by Ray Bradbury in which a man who has just committed a murder becomes completely obsessed with removing his fingerprints from every inch of the man’s home.

FRUIT
OBSESSION TAKES HOLD Irwin Garfinkle, Judy Blatt, Bunny Cohen

FRUIT 2

After the two groups viewed each other’s work, Bunny broke into a huge smile. “This is so much fun!” she said to the rest of the CAST. Then she grinned.  “Remember when we used to just stand there and read?”

The group will continue to meet on Tuesdays throughout August and then, when the new term begins, will switch to a Friday time. Watch the weekly Bulletin for meeting announcements—any interested BOLLI member is welcome to CAST a line at any point!

MEET MEMBER DICK HANELIN: “WELL-GROUNDED” PRINTMAKER

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BOLLI Member Dick Hanelin shares linoleum prints based on his photography with the Camera Club.

At a meeting of the Camera Club during the spring term, relatively new BOLLI member Dick Hanelin shared linoleum prints he has made from photos he has taken.  The amount of detail and intricacy in his work are quite stunning.  Here’s what Dick has to say about his art.

I was an elementary school teacher for 37 years and taught in New York City and Newton, MA.   As a teacher,  I integrated the visual and performing arts into all curriculum areas.  After retirement, I took a variety of art courses and found I was most smitten by creating sculptures and linoleum prints.  Through Arthur Sharenow’s course at BOLLI,  my interest in photography was rekindled, and I have used some of my photos as a springboard for creating some of my linoleum prints.

I was drawn to linoleum prints because of the bold and graphic images that can be created through the use of contrasts.  In seeking out subjects for my prints, I am always thinking about shape, texture, line, and value. These elements of design are my driving force. That is why, for example, I find construction sites and basements (not your typical subjects) as fertile ground for my prints. I try to create a tension and movement in my pieces by using both realistic and imaginative elements in my compositions.

The printmaking process begins with making a drawing and then transferring it onto a block of linoleum.  I then carve into the linoleum with a variety of tools that create marks of different thicknesses. After this, ink is rolled onto the block of linoleum. (For my prints, it’s black ink.)  Where I have cut out the linoleum, white lines, shapes, and textures will appear, while the rest of the print will be black or gradations of grey.  This process takes much time, but I find it very enjoyable.

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Hanelin_004_web copy

Dick and his wife Isobel, both career educators,  are now active BOLLI members who serve on the Study Group Support Committee. We are all benefitting from the wealth of their experience!

 

 

 

 

 

 

JULY’S SENIOR MOMENT: The Bright Side

Eleanor and Liz
Senior Moment Bloggers, Eleanor Jaffe (left) and Liz David (right)

LOOKING AT THE BRIGHT SIDE

by Liz David

The tune came up on my iPod during my morning “constitutional.”

Always Look at the Bright Side of Life.

I love the tune.

I step in time to the music, and I sing along as I walk.

But, how is it possible to always look at the bright side…

When my sister-in-law Miriam, whom I’ve known since I was nine, died a few weeks ago after ten years in a nursing home?

When my friends are facing life-threatening obstacles?

When the world is so topsy-turvy?

When terrorists kill and maim the innocent almost every day?

When children, old folks, and thousands in between don’t have enough food?

When our presidential candidates have higher disapproval than approval ratings?

When, worst of all, the Red Sox lose to the L.A. Angels by a score of 21-2? I mean, really!

The saying “when you save a life, you save the world” is true.

So, as elders, we need to connect our heads and our hearts,

To encourage ourselves and others to do what we can when we can,

To reach out to the people around us,

To make a difference by modeling what it is to really live, every day, until we die,

To, hopefully, save the world.

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