This is one of my favorite pieces of music. It says so much about our integrity and sacredness as human beings. I hope you enjoy it as much as i do. It is definitely on my regular listening
I was born November 22, 1941, very shortly before the bombing of Pearl Harbor and our full involvement in the war. My father was an Army non-commissioned officer for most of his days in service. He went off to the war shortly after I was born; I am not really sure how long he was gone or what countries he was in.
When I was perhaps two or three, my mother and father and I drove to Rhode Island from Ft. Jay, New York, where we had been living and where I was born. We drove to get my maternal grandmother, for my grandfather had passed away, and she could not afford to live on her own. In those days, a widow whose husband died in the army, a sargent I believe, got some $50 a month.
My father’s background was very strange. He came home from school one day when he was 16, at the heart of the depression. He had other brothers and a sister, but his family had abandoned him. So I think he might have struck out to live as best he could, and as soon as he was able, he joined the army. In order to be accepted, he had to give his salary to a poor family. He would receive room and board, but they would get his salary. He told me once that they never once sent him a card or thanked him.
Dad apparently found out where his birth family was living, but they never accepted him back, and to this day, I live with the mystery of what caused that. I do know that his only sister who was younger than he was committed suicide, shooting herself in the head. Even after my dad and mom got married, his family still never accepted us and so we never knew them at all and no one spoke about the issue.
Neither my mother or father ever finished high school, so schooling was very difficult through all elementary and high school learning. We lived in the same town in El Paso, TX until I grew up except for a couple of years when we were sent to Okinawa. But we returned to El Paso afterward and we always lived on the outskirts of town and only my mother had friends, and that was later in life. I was not allowed to have friends except the little girl my same age next door. And she never came into my home; any playing we did was outside or at her home.
I cannot remember when it began, but my father began to molest me. I might have been as young as three or five. For a young child to have to suddenly think of the people who are considered the world and all the child knows and learns from to suddenly be faced with people they somehow know but who have turned into monsters is almost unimaginable. Everything that is known must be unlearned because nothing seems to make sense anymore. The mother is not there for the child, but accuses the child of being the cause of the issues when she is confronted with the truth. The world was suddenly shaken on its very foundation, and the child caught amongst people who were no longer there to attend to her most basic needs.
Every little child has a sacred little place in his or her mind where he or she goes into and no one else enters it. It is the place of childlife magic. It was as though someone went in that little sacred place and broke all the dishes. Even if the dishes were to be repaired, they could never be capable of magic again.
This was how I lived my early life. I felt ashamed and yet there was no one I could trust to tell, and in my mind, I was probably the only one in the whole world with such a burden on my soul, one that I struggle to understand to this day. But somehow other children saw something in me that conveyed my shame at being a victim, and they bullied me all the way through school. I hid on the playground in the bushes at recess, and would only go home when all the other children had left. But as hard as I tried to avoid them, I often failed. One day another young girl held a knife at my chest; to this day none of it seems real. Another day some boys grabbed me after school and threatened to cut off my fingers with some kind of equipment that looked like a guillotine and was used to cut cigars. They ultimately let me go, but the layers of needing to hide and not being accepted were building up thickly.
I often wonder which nightmare was worse. I ran away several times, but always got caught, for I had no place to go. And I could not give a reason to the police who found me riding my bicycle after dark down the streets not so far away. I was punished of course, often staying in my room for a month or two at a time when I came home from school, even eating my dinner alone, and no one speaking to me, though my grandmother shared my room. I think she would have, but she was a vulnerable hostage as it were too. She did manage to whisper good night, but that was it.
We went overseas to Okinawa with my grandmother for a couple of years when I was in 2nd and 3rd grades. By then, my younger brother had been born sometime before we went to Okinawa. He was five years younger than me. I remember his innocence and how I felt a need to protect him even though I had no one to protect me.
The whole world seemed to be insane. The wives and children of the men there seemed really crazy. One day a woman who lived nearby in another quonset set her home on fire and ran down the street naked screaming. The children were even worse, and bullying was an everyday occurance, and this time instead of one or two children it was a gang regularly. I was shot with a B B gun, luckily with no long-term damage from where the B B hit, and I wad “crowned” with a skull as I was tricked into going into a cave in the hills. And once again, I was threatened with having my fingers cut off with a film cutter that looked a lot like the previous cutter that I had experienced.
We lived through typhoons that threatened to topple our quonset, and weekly practices of having to run into foxhills on the beach and take shelter until we were released verbally. My father shot and killed a boa constrictor that somehow had found its way into our quonset. The beaches were littered with the remains of landing crafts covered with rust, and the hills and mountains contained many jars filled with bones and belongings of native peoples who had died in the war. The native peoples were extremely impoverished, and the military people were ordered to take in at least one person to help with household chores and make sure they were fed and cared for. When we got sent home again, they ran all the way to the ship we had to board, holding onto my parents’ legs and sobbing to have them come with us.
This is a long and painful journey to recount to you, so if you have difficulty reading this, you may want to stop reading now. I will be posting the next episode within likely a few days, There IS a good message to come from this living nightmare and pain, but as in all horror movies, you have to watch the bad parts first. This is written to all those who have suffered in some way in their lifetimes from painful memories whose doors they have not been able to close. Most of us have chosen over the many years to hide issues of identity and abuse away because it is too difficult to deal with and we are living in fear that society will judge us negatively and perhaps hurt us physically. In the end result, we hurt ourselves more than anyone else possibly can.
I want to point out that there are a lot of really wonderful teachers in the schools today, and we will always have some bad ones too.
Now being of the senior persuasion, it has been a lot of years since I was in school. If we picked a century to start, it would be the early 1950’s thru some of the hippy years.
I was not the kind of child who tried to get in trouble normally. But somehow or other, I seemed to attract it. Let’s see how many of these things you might have had to do.
Sitting in the front corner of the room with your chewing gum stuck on your nose through the whole class.
Sitting in the front corner of the room with a dunce cap on your head.
Writing 100 times or more BEFORE you left the class, some crazy sentence that was way too long, even if it made you late to your next class, for which you would also get punished.
Getting dragged by your hair down to the principal’s office because you got up to sharpen your pencil just before the teacher started to dictate some shorthand while she was still talking.
Getting a clown face of makeup (and you did not wear makeup) because you played hooky one day.
Getting told that cows had more brains than most people, especially bad children.
Getting your knuckles hit with a ruler because you did not have your hands in proper position on the keyboard.
Being told your biology specimen you identified was incorrect and that if you questioned that, you would get an F (and later finding out it was contaminated when we got it).
And of course I had my exciting adventure in Bible School, which I wrote about in a previous post.
BUT . . . some of those teachers would turn over in their desks if they knew that I had actually grown up to accomplish some things. Not sure how I did it, but I did, yes I really did . . .
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” George Bernard Shaw – Dramatist (1856 – 1950)
I was thinking about how much fun I have had when I allow myself to play freely as this child is doing. The freedom to explore the world we don’t see everyday, sometimes when it is right in front of us, is a wonderful thing.
I remember when I was turning 65, how I decided to put on some African music I had and begin to dance to it naked in my own home. And then I got the idea to paint my breasts and make prints from them onto cloth. I had no idea what these simple parts of my own body look like from a different perspective and it just seemed a fun way to play. There is nothing strange or silly (well, silly I can live with) about it. It was playing, and discovering, and it was immensely a fun way to celebrate. In the end, the two prints I made – one white and one multi-color, ended up becoming quilts that looked nothing at all like breasts.
I once saw the installations of art by a famous artist who did basically the same thing with parts of his body he said he never saw before. It was amazing, for he had manipulated the images that he got, and nothing was even recognizable as whatever it was originally, but it was immense fun to think about someone to be unafraid to play and to discover whatever there was to find.
It isn’t just the human body with which people are afraid to play and discover. It is things we all take for granted. The cracks in sidewalks, the marks on trees, the forms of all sorts of things out in nature, and perhaps a million other things that we really don’t know at all except from a distance. It isn’t just about playing with toys or playing games that we played as children. It’s about getting to know the world we live in, up close and personal. Have you played lately?
I remember that my mom had more “mom-isms” than probably most of the moms on my block. If you don’t know what a mom-ism is, your mom probably never had one, but you might ask her what mom-isms her mom or grandma used to use. A mom-ism is when you make a remark, such as “Oh Mom, I can’t.” And your mom replies, “Really? Did you know that there is no such word as ‘can’t’ in the English dictionary?” Or perhaps she might say, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” Think back on some your mom or grandma might have said. I know some of you have some in the back of your memory. They were intended to have us not give up easily, or perhaps guide us in some other area of life. The quilt that is painted and stitched below is one of my mom’s mom-isms. I would say something like “I just am not sure if I can do it,” or perhaps “Mom, I am afraid to do it,” and she would reply, “Oh, take the bull by the horns.” I have no clue where these mom-isms came from, but they were definitely an important memory in my youth. I will look forward to seeing some of yours. Perhaps you have pop-isms, or grandma or grandpa-isms. And you know, these worked too. Look how worried this huge bull looks compared to the little cowgirl. Have fun remembering!
“Take the Bull by the Horns” by Anne Copeland
Just what IS accidental art? Doesn’t everyone who paints or does mixed media or art quilts or other art forms have to plan everything out ahead? How can it be art if it is not “designed?”
Have you ever watched a child creating art? Children don’t plan their art. They just start making lines and marks and coloring all over the page and generally using their full imagination. There is a freedom and spontaneity that you cannot help but enjoy, even if you are a professional artist or person who doesn’t care for art. It reminds you of some part of yourself that many people lose as we grow older and have to deal with the everyday issues of life.
This is my favorite form of art. All of these pieces were created in a matter of minutes, often pulling scraps from my friend Jamie Fingal’s fabric scrap can or my own, and using a glue stick or pins initially to put down whatever pieces I found. Honestly, none of these are planned. They just came to be born as I allowed myself to go into my childlife, just playing and having fun. They are all in various stages as I was making them. The flowers with the frog were from my boob prints, and so much fun to play with. I don’t think any of these took me longer than 15 – 20 minutes to create in whatever forms they are here. There is no attempt to “match” anything, to be precise, and even the stitching that comes later on to finish them is just wherever my hand feels like guiding the machine. I don’t need to put colors in the “right places,” or worry about whether it looks like it is “supposed to look.” The striped “cat” below was just a scrap of fabric I found in exactly the shape it was. We used to give little blocks like this to friends who perhaps hurt themselves in a fall, or maybe had surgery. They just become something as we go along, but there is no thought given to trying to create any particular thing.
The Learning Tree Classroom Door Decoration by Anne Copeland
In my lifetime, I have come across two teachers who have been the best teachers I have ever known. The first one I knew as a young teenager, struggling through being a shy person, and one with very little to inspire me at school.
She was a young teacher, very pretty and she drove a red convertible Corvette. We all loved her. She would bring photos and newspaper clippings and jazz music to the classroom, and we would all write about it. She taught us so many things just by all the things she was introducing to us.
After one of our writing assignments was being handed back to us with our grades, when she got to me, she whispered in my ear, “You are going to be a great writer.” My heart soared and my paper had an A on it. I went home smiling in my heart, and the first chance I got to have money to pay for it, I got some business cards that said my name and address with “Writer” on it. How clearly and easily I had made that decision.
Years later, I ran into an old classmate from that class and I told her about how great that teacher was. And then she told me that the teacher had told all of the young people in the class including my friend the same thing. What a lasting legacy she left with all of us. I wish I could ever find her again to thank her.
I have another more recent friend I met in an online correspondence course, The Silent Eye Mystery School, a fantastic class that involves Archaeology (one of my degrees), History, Philosophy, Psychology, Science and Spirituality. Three wonderful people founded and run the course: Steve Tanham, Sue Vincent, and Stuart France. We have been traveling via posts all over England studying all the great ruins, the churches, the castles and the amazing forts. All three of them have written lots of fantastic books.
In one of the posts online, I met a lovely lady named Jennie, and she is one of the most dedicated preschool teachers I have ever known. https://jenniefitzkee.com/author/jlfatgcs/ is her writing, and her blog is called “A Teacher’s Reflections.”
Jennie writes: “I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It’s the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That’s what I write about. I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease’s bestselling book, The Read-Aloud Handbook because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.”
I would like to give each of these women some sort of certificate of honor if I could. I have worked in the school districts myself, and I appreciate a truly incredible teacher as these two women have been. Thank you both for helping to make a positive difference in young lives.