I haven’t had my furnace cleaned this year. Back in December, just as the Omicron surge hit, I called the man who had installed my new furnace a few years ago and made an appointment for a maintenance cleaning and safety check. He arrived on time, which was a nice surprise. But when I answered the door, he was standing on my stoop, about two feet away from me, and wasn’t wearing a mask. (I was.)
I asked him if he had a mask in his truck. If not, I could give him one. (Back then, I kept a box of surgical masks on hand, in case. Now, I keep some extra KN95s.)
His answer “I don’t wear masks” was said with a good-ole-boy smile that I might have considered charming in other circumstances.
I was dumbfounded and just stared at him.
“Is that a problem?” he asked.
I said, “Yes.”
That brief interaction left me shaking and feeling violated. As the day progressed, I began to feel angry that someone would refuse to wear a mask in my home while a highly infectious virus was filling the hospitals yet again. Hell, this is myhome! My anger eventually turned to righteous indignation.
Back then, the issues were clear. If you respected others and cared about public health, you wore a mask and socially distanced whenever you were outside your established bubble, and you got vaccinated as soon as possible. In contrast, those who refused to follow such basic protocols (which my grandmother would have called common decency) were the kind of people Read More
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
Words and charts and calendars delineate today as special, different. But my instincts are more in sync with nature’s ongoing cycles than man-made points of reference. My body and my heart see this dawn as nothing more or less than another day, another adventure. Who knows where it will lead us? As with every other day, I hope I’ll live up to the challenges, and perhaps will create something that is different from anything I created before. The same hope as yesterday and tomorrow and tomorrow.
And just like any other morning, I wish a good, creative, hope-filled day ahead for you.
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
A few years ago, I broke both my arms. One moment, I was happily strolling along with our young puppy galumphing at my side. The next, I was sprawled face down in the asphalt of a parking lot.
More shocking than the thwack of pain was the blink-of-an-eye speed with which it all happened. I had tripped over a hidden metal rod in a supposedly landscaped island, and suddenly I had no control over my own body. Gravity took hold and threw me to the ground. Though only a few months old and still untrained, Watson was a good puppy and sat next to me until a stranger came by to help me get up.
Can you imagine what it was like to have both my arms in slings for months, useless, unable to do the most basic things for myself? One of the more memorable moments was after a few weeks of frustrating (and boring) passivity, when I was Read More
According to rumor, Mr. Rogers carried this quote from the author Mary Lou Kownacki in his wallet: “There isn’t anyone you couldn’t love, once you’ve heard their story.” Whether or not he did, it’s a lovely thought that reflects an important pillar of my life’s work.
We all judge strangers based on our initial impression of them. Their physical appearance. Their smile or frown or vacant stare. What they are wearing. How they carry themselves or the sound of their voice. It’s a natural instinctive reaction to new stimuli that I suppose helped our ancestors when we were hunter/gatherers, when new encounters could lead to life or death decisions.
Though we have evolved since then, modern life is Read More
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
A few weeks ago, Shannon and Toni, the two women behind the Duolit blog , challenged the writing community to come together to support a fellow author who can no longer speak for her own book. The Cell War Notebooks is the compilation of Julie Forward DeMay’s passionate, honest, heartwarming blogs written during the last seven months of her life as she lost the battle against cervical cancer.
Shannon and Toni asked us to write a blog about hope in Julie’s memory, to help spread the word. Of course, I said yes. The problem for me was that they wanted everyone’s blogs to be posted on the same day – January 31st. Unfortunately, I was installing another American Hands exhibit on the 31st. I had thought that I might actually get to it that night, but after organizing and hanging over 100 pictures at the University of Scranton, I fell into bed, unable to think, let alone write.
So, here’s my blog on hope in memory of Julie Forward DeMay, a couple of days late, but perhaps, just on time.
How often I have hoped for things that have never come true. Haven’t we all?
When I was a young twenty-something, I began to wonder if hope were nothing more than a palliative, a drug we use to blind us Read More