My father often told me a story about his older sister Rose and the neighborhood sprecher.
In 1918, my Aunt Rose lay feverish and weak, barely aware of her mother wiping her brow with a cool cloth. Even my Grandma Anna was beginning to lose hope. That’s when they called in the sprecher.
At this point in the story, Dad would explain that sprecher meant “speaker.” I never learned Yiddish, but some of his words stuck; this one particularly. And it has influenced me in more ways than I’d realized.
The sprecher’s role in the Jewish immigrant community was to sit by the bedside of a seriously ill loved one, to hold her spirit within her body with his words, to not let it fly away, to fight death itself with his own spirit.Read More
When I was a young photographer, I enjoyed experimenting with reciprocity failure.
While it may sound like a philosophical or psychological concept, reciprocity failure relates to the chemical limitations of film. Back in the 20th century, photographers quickly learned that each type of color film (known as its emulsion) was rated for certain light parameters. Push an emulsion beyond its rating by using a longer than acceptable shutter speed (to capture a picture in low light situations), and you’d end up with false colors. Those were the barriers inherent in the technology that pro photographers just didn’t overstep.
But… well… I never did color within the lines.
When I toyed with reciprocity failure, I purposely pushed beyond what was “correct” to seek new creative visions. I remember one moonless night Read More
Four years ago today, my Dad passed away in his sleep at the age of 99 1/2; as usual, he had fallen asleep while reading an ebook on his smart phone. I will miss his big smile and loving presence for the rest of my life. Below is an exhibit blurb I wrote about this picture, for him, about him, about us, soon after his death.
Blessing L’Chaim To life To love To continuity of blood and love and life
I created this photograph on the occasion of my father’s 95th birthday, which was also the day of his first great-grandson’s bris. Of the many photographs I have taken, this one frozen moment has the greatest timeline, pulling at my heart with memories that go so far back and so far forward that they can exist only in my imagination, spanning far more than a single lifetime.
Generations created this moment, as I composed the image and pressed the shutter button. Generations I can know only from stories told by those who came before and are no more. Generations yet to be, whom I will never meet, but whom I hope will remember the stories told by this picture.
Thank you Sala Wyman for another very nice review of my novel Jo Joe and a fun interview session….
“Set in a fictional village in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, Sally Wiener Grotta takes on the inner shards of racism with her novel Jo Joe, a Black Bear, Pennsylvania Story.
“There are always a couple of ways to deal with the topic of racism and its effects on the victims. One is to just document the facts about oppressors and victims. Another is to take a higher road: the healing of victims, families, and communities. Ms. Grotta beautifully and skillfully takes the high road.Read More
Next weekend is Daniel’s and my wedding anniversary, so I’ve decided to mark it by planting Daniel’s and Dad’s ashes.
We’ll be placing Dad’s ashes with Mother’s in the garden we had created for her, under a Japanese maple. Dad liked to sit on the porch to be with her, and I know that’s what he would want.
We’ll be creating another garden for Daniel, and next Saturday will be only the beginning. Daniel always wanted to do something about the erosion of our stream bank on our field. So over the next few years, I will be creating a mostly native plant garden along the bank. The one non-native plant I’ll be using is a weeping willow which was one of his favorite trees, and that’s what we’ll be planting next week with his ashes.
I’m hoping this will help me deal with our first anniversary alone, by honoring my two men with beauty and sharing it with my friends and family.
I’m not sure which editor first gave Daniel and me that nickname. When we were long-time Contributing Editors at PC Magazine, I remember being pleasantly surprised when various people started referring to us as Team Grotta. It came so naturally to their lips that we felt that they had been using the term for a while. Perhaps it had developed organically, put forward in staff meetings and in office discussions. “Why don’t we put Team Grotta on that project?” or “Ask Team Grotta, they’ll figure it out.”
Not that it was exclusively a PC Magazine thing. Other editors and clients took it up, as did conference and workshop organizers and, eventually, readers.
When I look back, I sometimes feel that Daniel and I were the last to hear the sobriquet. But we were delighted when we realized what a nice compliment it was to who we were professionally and personally, how well we worked together and how others had learned to depend on us.
Team Grotta. I’ll never know if it spread out virally from one person’s dubbing of the two of us as a single well-tuned entity. Or was it an outgrowth of the nature of our relationship which was evident to anyone who saw us together? Heck, a number of years ago, a young couple with whom we used to square dance told us that their toddler son thought that “DanielSally” was one name. Read More
I’m not sure when I last wrote. At least a year. No, it was more like a year and a half, except maybe for a couple of essays and one or two very short poems. I’m not talking about the reviews and features that currently represent the bulk of my livelihood, but my core writing. The novels, stories, poems and essays that reach through my throat into my gut and haul out my voice through my heart.
I write because pouring myself out onto the keyboard is how I have always tried to make sense of a senseless world. I don’t understand the pain we cause each other, the hate, the distortion of love. War and tribalism. Walls between individuals, between tribes and nations, that are built up brick by brick over years of preconceptions and propaganda. So I create stories to try to help me find the right questions to ask that might yet explain the inexplicable. Perhaps, I can also use it to try to navigate my way through the morass of this new world that now envelops me.
I write because through words, through Story, I have long discovered myself. So I shall write with the hope of rediscovery, not of the woman I am or have been, but this new woman I am now forced to become. Without my compass, without the living breathing other soul who lived within me, by my side, facing each morning as a new adventure to be shared.
Where do I start? At the end? That’s one simple sentence. Three words. Daniel is dead. In my novel The Winter Boy, I wrote, “How people die shapes our world.” Read More
I sit at a blank screen, knowing it’s time to write. That’s what Daniel would tell me to do with the jumble of emotion, pain, emptiness that has consumed me.
Some years ago, I saw a man attack another with a broken bottle. We were in Philadelphia’s Chinatown, a normally high decibel neighborhood, with sidewalk traffic as dense as the streets. Families with scampering children and couples arguing or holding hands and business folk, tourists, conventioneers, and yes, the always present hungry homeless folded in on themselves. Crowds of people walking too fast, or strolling and reading window menus, or juggling large grocery packages festooned with pictographic Chinese words. And somewhere behind the neon signs and fatty aromas, a verve of hidden life, mysterious, almost alien, yet so very familiar.
However, that wasn’t the Chinatown we saw that night. The hour was so late that the tiny corner restaurant we chose was an island of unresolved energies on a nearly darkened street. (Or at least as dark as any street in Chinatown gets.) I saw no pedestrians through the large plate glass windows during our entire meal. Just the incessant rain and the puddling reflections of a sleeping city. While we waited for our check, Daniel went into the men’s room. That’s when it happened. A sudden, vicious eruption of fists and blood, of glass gouging and slashing, unintelligible screams and flung furniture. Read More
Daniel Grotta, my dearest friend, lover, partner, husband, joy of my life, passed away two nights ago – December 13th, 2015 at 10:29 PM.
I’m told that I’m supposed to write more about him, to create an obituary to mark his passing, his existence. But words fail me right now. Words, ideas are what we share… shared… the fabric of our love that binds us soul to soul, mind to mind. I’ll write more later about him, about us. Not now.
In response to various questions: instead of flowers, if you want to give something in Daniel Grotta’s memory, please consider sending donations to these:
B’nai Harim, P.O. Box 757, Pocono Pines, PA 18350- our small, close-knit synagogue in the Poconos where Daniel so enjoyed being part of a warm, intelligent community
Newfoundland Area Ambulance Association, 441 Crestmont Dr, Newfoundland , PA – 18445 — where Daniel volunteered as an emergency responder and ambulance driver for quite a few years, saving lives and caring for our neighbors.
All we know for certain of life are the beginning and the end. It’s very similar to the genesis of my stories. First comes a person, usually born in my mind with a name and little else. At that moment of birth, I typically know how the story begins and how it will end. Everything in between is a mystery to me, an adventure I embark on, until, usually years later, I can look back and see it all as a whole creation, a life lived on papers and screen, ready to share with others.
This parallel came to mind this morning, when I heard of yet another mother finding her son’s body after he had shot himself. What it is that can lead a young man to put a gun to his head and pull the trigger? He had Read More