Sunday, January 18, 2015

A New Year: A Chance to Reflect

When I realized that the celebration of Martin Luther King Day once more falls on January 19, I was reminded of my post from January 19, 2009. It is hard to believe that was just six years ago. At times I think the world is spinning backwards when I read of subtle changes in the voting laws that have more than subtle impact on the lives of so many in this country. I recall the marches and riots surrounding racial inequality and the Viet Nam War from the 1950s through the 1970s, and I cringe as I see personal freedoms deteriorating month by month. I am still struggling with the idea that in the 21st century, Americans still consider issues of gender, race, and religion as markers for excluding individuals from the full rights of citizenship. As a white woman, I salute Dr. King every time I experience a freedom that reflects the work he and his followers have done for human equality, not just racial equality.

As a statement of my beliefs and description of my experiences, I am re-posting my blog entry that appeared on Quilt Gypsy__Southern Style, January 19, 2009.

Reflections on Januarys Past

As I watch CNN covering celebrations and preparations, I can't help but reflect on my memories of a past Martin Luther King Day and Presidential Inauguration. On January 19, 1961, I came out of the Smithsonian Museum and walked into a snowstorm of unexpected proportions. The 53 mile ride to Baltimore, MD, where I was staying took about four and one-half hours. It was my first trip to Washington, and I was there to march with my high school band in President John F. Kennedy's inaugural parade. We were relatively privileged white teenagers representing our state in the parade. Only in retrospect can I come close to appreciating how lucky I was to have experienced part of history. It was not my last trip to Washington, D.C.

On January 17, 2000, I participated in another march. This time it was not as cold, nor as long. There were no television cameras, and the surrounding structures were not the grand marble edifices of Washington, DC: They were humble structures of wood, some boarded up, others housing families within their thin walls and patched windows. I was participating in the MLK march in a north Louisiana town, and I was honored to be asked to speak to the assembled marchers when we stopped halfway for a few minutes rest and a cold drink. Probably for the first time I realized how Dr. King's struggle applied to me: he worked for equality for all people, gender as well as race. As a child and adolescent I was aware of the racial divide in my part of the country; it was only as a young, single mother with two toddlers that I realized that the divide also included gender. I told my fellow marchers how my participation that day was the fulfillment of my own personal dream; and it was my chance to say thank you to many people who gave their all to make the world I live in a better place.

Between January 1961 and January 2000, I had the opportunity to participate in events and have experiences that would not have been open to me as a single white woman had it not been for Dr. King and his followers. But how could the fight for racial equality affect me? Part of the answer comes from the fact that the civil and cultural changes effected by Dr. King's dream and his action applied to all Americans, not just those of color. The career opportunities that I have had as a woman did not exist in 1961, or even in 1967 when I graduated college.

Now, what does any of this have to do with art? Everything! Only in a society where all people have the confidence of personal integrity, appreciation of diversity, and exposure to myriad arts and crafts, are we free to pursue our dreams and express our souls in tangible work peculiar to each of us. As I watch the 44th President of the United States assume his duties tomorrow, I will be planning my next piece, a statement of positive energy and unified hope. As this nation is a unique assemblage of mismatched fabrics and a variety of fibers, my textile art will reflect the facets of my vision of beauty and peace for all.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

She's Back . . . . . .!

After a very long absence from this page, I have decided to resurrect my blogging career. My writing "voice" has returned and so has some of my energy. I'm eager to express all of my creativity and my writing is just one of the parts. Unfortunately, my spelling and keyboarding skills will continue to handicap my productivity. One of my favorite teachers and my mentor Francis Irby Gwaltney told me in 1964: "If you can write, then write. There will always be editors to clean up your spelling and punctuation. Anyone can do the clean-up, not everyone can write." Well, FIG, here I am 49 years later. It's not a novel but it is writing. Readers, just tolerate my errors: I'm not the the market for an editor yet.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St. Paddy's Day to one and all

It's hard for me to believe that it's St. Patrick's Day and all I did to celebrate was wear a green tee-shirt while I did my household chores and run errands. That's a far cry from 1979 when I lived in Houston and was night manager for an Irish pub called Grif's Inn. Michael Joseph Griffen, the owner, recreated a neighborhood bar reminiscent of those in his native Boston, and the humble little pub became ground zero for Houston's St. Patrick's Day celebration. Each evening of the week leading up to the big Green Day and parade, Griff's offered some sort of thematic activity for the truly Irish and what seemed like every Irish Wanna-Be in Houston. There was a Guinness drinking contest one night, a "beauty pageant" on another, Griff's Inn Kazoo Band practice on a third, and on St. Paddy's eve all the staff and many of the loyal regular customers gathered to help prepare the hundreds of po-boy sandwishes that would be needed to feed the masses the following day. On the big day, the bar opened at 7:00 a.m. and many of the participants gathered for a quick swig of green beer or nip of Jamison's before heading downtown for the official Houston St. Patrick's Day Parade sponsored by the Ancient Order of Hibernians. On that festive day in 1979, Dan Pastorini (Houston Oiler quarterback) was our Grand Marshall. I guess the parade went well: We certainly had a thirsty group coming back to Griff's when it was over. I didn't get to see the parade because as the newest member of the staff, I had to stay at the bar ready to serve any of the parade goers who headed back to Griff's early to beat the crowd. And what a crowd it was!

Hard to believe that all that occured 32 years ago! My feet and back were much younger then. Today, I don't believe they would hold up to the demands I put on them way back then. In fact, I know that wouldn't. On St. Patrick's Day 1979, I worked a 12 hour shift, then danced with the customers until about 10:00 p.m. Tonight I will be doing good to stay awake through the ten o'clock news. Ah well, there are pleanty of folks at Enoch's here in Monroe who are re-inacting my memories from Houston. They are much younger than I was way back when. All their merriment will raise funds for the local St. Vincent de Paul pharmacy that serves many of those in our area who would otherwise not receive medications they need. Thanks to the lovely Yvette and Doyle Jeter who own Enoch's Irish Pub and sponsor this "fun for charity" event every year, many people receive medical assistance who would otherwise do without. I have no doubt that St. Patrick is smiling down on that darlin' man and his lady.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Quilt Gypsy is Alive and Well

After a two-year hiatus from blogging, the Quilt Gypsy has returned to the web, hopefully with something to say and some things to show. I've recently found UFO's from 20-plus years ago ready to be completed and shown off to more than my close circle of stitching friends and artists. I am so glad to get back to my quilting, sewing, and mixed media work, and I feel as if part of me is suddenly alive after having been locked away in a dark closet.

All of this reminds me that art is alive; it is part of a live force that follows an infinite path sustaining the creator and the creation (notice that there is no capital c in that statement. The Creator is self-sustaining.)

About this time of year when my daughter was nine years old (a long time ago), I noticed she was becoming irritable, then unhappy, and finally miserable as we moved through the days of early spring. When I tried to interest her in drawing and painting, two of her favorite activities, she said she couldn't do that. Probing further (as a mother is wont to do), she finally told me she had given up art for Lent. Why? I asked. Her reply was quite simple: "I'm supposed to give up something that means a lot to me." Out of the mouths of babes! I had to explain to her that her love and pursuit of art is essential to her happines. We agreed that she would limit the time she dedicated to her art during Lent, and my little girl returned to her happy self, realizing that she was making a Lenten sacrifice but not giving up something that was as necessary to her wellbeing as eating a balanced diet.

I believe that art is such an integral part of the artist that he can never experience a fulfulled life if he is denied an opportunity to pursue his creative passion. On that note I close this post wishing for everyone an opportunity to follow his or her passion, whether it be art, sports, gardening, mechanics, or any other positive, creative human experience. Go out and create!