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In Nelson County, VA, no one wanted a pipeline going through their property. And when surveyors found the remains of an African American slave cemetery would be in the path of a proposed 554-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline, to the tune of 5 Billion dollars, let’s just say things heated up at the local Planning Board.

“It is among at least four known African-American cemeteries in the area of Union Hill, an African-American settlement that is now in the path of a 42-inch natural gas pipeline that is proposed to sweep through Nelson from the Blue Ridge Mountains across the James into Buckingham County.

“This is the heart of the African-American community,” Rev James L Rose said. “It runs right through it.”

I’ve always been intrigued by metaphorical and physical lines. Iraq was invaded because we thought they had crossed President Bush’s WMD line; President Obama drew his line in Syria with chemical weapons, but didn’t follow through. We all draw our own personal lines in the sand of time – for instance, I will (or will never) get a tattoo!

But let’s get back to land lines. In the last eight years I’ve been crossing the Mason Dixon Line, traveling between VA and TN. I never really gave it much thought, in fact I used to think it was nothing more than an idea. A leftover relic of the Civil War, like the plaques and memorials that litter the South. But I’ve discovered that it is an actual boundary line that was drawn 250 years ago, pre-Revolutionary War, by two Brits, named surprisingly enough, Mason and Dixon!

And of course it was drawn to settle a land dispute between two families.

“For 80 years the Calvert family of Maryland and the Penns of Pennsylvania had been locked in a bloody dispute over the boundary between the two colonies they had been granted by the English Crown.“The stakes were very high,” said Mr Thaler, trustee of the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore and an expert on the Mason-Dixon project.“There was about 4,000 sq miles of territory that was in dispute and nobody knew who to pay taxes to. Warfare regularly broke out along the border.”

Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon were sons of a baker and a miner respectively who had immigrated to the new colony to make their fortune. They first collaborated on a Transit of Venus map in 1761. For this adventure, they dragged exceptional, state-of-the-art instruments through the wilderness for 5 years between Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland and Delaware. One scientist has called it the “moon landing” of that time period. Its accuracy was astounding and continues to be relevant, the very first geodetic survey in the New World!

During the Civil War, the Mason Dixon Line symbolized the border between free and slave-holding states. An outstanding engineering achievement for its day, the line came to represent a mortal wound in our country’s history. Did I feel any different after crossing that PA line in my CRV listening to This American Life podcasts? Not really.

While most of us are preparing a potato salad for a Labor Day picnic, I’m planning on Nanasitting the baby boy so his big sister can accompany the Bride delivering donuts to the Groom. He is on call in the MICU. Hospitals never close for holidays, and I guess neither does the United Nations.

This morning I just listened to Nikki Haley address the UN Security Council. She said that North Korea was “…begging for war.” I am praying Mr T’s line in the sand is permeable.

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Choosing to paint, to create for your life’s work is never easy. So many artists were only discovered by the art world late in life, or even after death. Today we visited the small town of Arles, where Van Gogh lived for a short time. He had been committed to an asylum on the outskirts of town, where he painted “The Weeders.”

The museum devoted to Vincent was small with less than a dozen of his paintings. But the exhibit that grabbed me, that caught me by the throat was about an American woman artist I had never heard of; someone who was from my home state of PA. Her paintings and a video of her life drew me into the Flapper’s world. One that was less than kind to passionate women. 

Alice Neel was a portraitist who lost her first child and her second was taken away by the state. She had a compulsion to paint and her brush strokes had as much fire as the Dutch man in the other room. You could feel the pain of her subjects. 

And when she said in an interview that she always felt guilty for painting – and not keeping house as women were expected to do – until the Whitney exhibited her work when she was in her 80s, my heart skipped a beat. 

She was a sweet, beaming grandmother at that point. And when they wanted her to stop her slide show, she peed on the floor. 

On purpose. 

How many women artists have we lost over the years? How many more have I never heard of? I am in love with Provence, even in the cold and the rain. You have won me over! Maybe this beach house idea is misguided?

Here is Andy Warhol with what looks like surgical scars. 

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April showers are nourishing all the perennials we just planted, but if you are a migratory bird looking to nest in Florida, you’d be plain out of luck. Wading birds like egrets and herons depend on fresh, clean water from rivers meeting the sea in estuaries on our coasts for their food supply, and scientists have been putting on waders to count their nests this time of year. Considering Mr T’s deep cuts to the EPA, this Audubon report is troubling:

The latest South Florida Wading Bird Report, which was published last week, offers signs of trouble for the birds and the places they live. During this nesting season, which ran from December 2015 to July 2016, surveyors were disappointed to find 26,676 nests total. That’s just one-third the number of nests tallied during 2009, one of the best nesting years in decades, and the lowest nest census since the 2007-2008 season. Of the indicator species, only two (Great Egrets and White Ibises) met their nest recovery goals. The only bird to show an above-average nesting season last year was the Roseate Spoonbill. http://www.audubon.org/news/floridas-wading-birds-had-terrible-breeding-season-last-year

We had a Great Blue Heron swoop over our Rumson garage every morning to fish in the Shrewsbury River. When you live so close to the ocean, you begin to notice the rise and fall of tidewater by the line of black silt on your Corgis’ short legs, which would sometimes cover their bellies. “Swamp Dogs” was our affectionate term for Toots and Blaze. My sister Kay was kind enough to immortalize that mother/son duo in a 1993 watercolor.

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But it’s the long, stilt-like legs of Great Egrets that are helping them navigate the rising seawater levels due to Climate Change.

And now we have a circus/barker/climate/denier as the Leader of the Free World who would like to dismantle and disrupt the federal government, and return power to “the states.” I’ve always wondered why Republicans even pursue public service when they hate it so much! If any of you are still wondering about the loss of Arctic ice or if keeping that house your aunt left you on the Jersey Shore is a good idea, take a look at Leonardo diCaprio’s interactive global temperature map. It looks like there may be a quarter of Rumson left after the flood. Seriously.

“Every fraction of a degree of global warming sets in motion sea level rise that will profoundly threaten coastal cities across the world,” explains Dr. Benjamin Strauss from Climate Central. “[Our map] shows the incredible stakes and urgency of our climate choices.”

https://www.beforetheflood.com/explore/the-crisis/sea-level-rise/

Now that you’ve put in your city, and the visual has sunk in and maybe you’ve “woke up” think about these cuts to the federal budget. Keep calling your legislators people, dig out your Wellies (English for waders or rain boots), and start looking for higher ground while planning your retirement

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The photographs I have left of my Father, who died when I was a baby, are in black and white. As are my baby pictures, stuffed into a bag in an album that has lost its binding. The Flapper gave me to her friends, my foster parents, after her automobile accident because her only other choice would have been an orphanage. My sister Kay was already taking care of my two brothers, and they had to go back to school, so who else would take care of me?

Nell only had one child, and her daughter was in nursing school when I arrived in Victory Gardens after the War in 1949. And so I was raised by a grandmother figure, as Nell was already in her 50s. And she catalogued my childhood lovingly, pasting black and white pictures with tiny black paper edges onto every page. Only my memories conjure up the white and pink explosion of the dogwood tree outside our kitchen window, the red and white tile in the one bathroom, the green grass under my feet with the white sheets billowing above.

Our TV was in black and white, and after school I would walk home from the bus in my maroon plaid Sacred Heart School uniform, to catch Nell watching Art Linkletter on Kids Say the Darndest Things. A small piano stood in a corner with brass feet and hard white teeth. Our first dog was black and brown, I remember sitting on Daddy Jim’s feet while he read the black and white newspaper, and smoked his pipe after work. I would lean back on his knees and stroke the dog’s fur, listening to his critique of the day’s news. Maybe this is when I thought I might have something to say about world events? clr-on-tricycle-20170127

When we view history through a black and white lens, we lose something of the nuance. The tone is off, and it becomes harder to relate to something that happened so long ago. It creates the distance we need to survive certain tragedies, like my Year of Living Dangerously – my psychologist brother Jim’s description of 1949. Which is why finding this photographer, Marina Amaral, is like finding a jewel in the coal dustbin of time.

Amaral’s passion is restoring and colorizing old black and white pictures. And I found a picture she posted online of a child, a Czechoslovakian girl who was the same age as my sister Kay in 1949, when she died at Auschwitz in 1943. Her name was Czeslawa Kwoka; and I remembered Nell’s given name was Kosty, which was probably changed at Ellis Island. On Amaral’s webpage, you can move a line back and forth over the child’s face, and bring color to her cheeks and blood to the cut on her lip.

“Color has the power to bring life back to the most important moments,” http://www.marinamaral.com

Today more than ever, on Holocaust Memorial Day, we must remember that the Holocaust started with the rhetoric of hate, and the silence and indifference of the rest of Europe and America. And we must vow to resist in any way we can, and we must say her name, Czeslawa Kwoka.

Photograph courtesy of Marina Amaral.

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What does the oldest established permanent floating crap game in New York have to do with politics? Let me make the case.

The words indecent, and traitorous are being thrown around all of a sudden regarding the intel pointing at Russia’s attempt, successful by all accounts, to influence our elections. The “Comey Effect” – the last supper letter he sent out simply to enflame our fears of HRC’s emails, and now his apparent inaction regarding Russian hackers – will haunt our history books forever. But amid all the Sturm and Drang (German for storm and stress), the most fascinating word of all to come across my desk is “Emolument!”

mid-15c., from Middle French émolument and directly from Latin emolumentum “profit, gain,” perhaps originally “payment to a miller for grinding corn,” from emolere “grind out,” from ex- “out” (see ex- ) + molere “to grind” (see mallet ). 

The Emolument Clause in our Constitution was intended to prevent anybody in the government who is holding an “Office of Profit or Trust” to accept any titles or gifts from any foreign government. Ever. So even if your great great grandfather once removed happened to own a parcel of hundreds of thousands of acres in Pennsylvania (yes, I admit mine did and he wasn’t once removed) and you were just elected to Congress, the Queen of England could not bestow upon you a Knighthood! Jolly good right?

screen_shot_2016_11_22_at_1-14-57_pmWrong.

Because once Mr T takes office, even IF he puts all his many global businesses into a blind trust, like Reagan, Clinton and Jimmy Carter did before him, IF his children are in charge of said companies this whole set-up by the founding fathers will be moot. And our newly elected President will be in violation of our Constitution on January 20, 2017. http://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2016/11/23/13715150/donald-trump-emoluments-clause-constitution

We already know Ivanka will be taking over Michelle’s office in the White House, so after some redecorating, how is it possible that every seductive picture seen of her on social media will not mention her designers…in fact she already made a slight faux pas in that regard during their campaign, and how is it possible her clothing and design company and in fact that “blind trust” of the TRUMP name that she and her brothers will be running, how will it not profit from all that free advertising? I mean Daddy T won the highest office in the land, the greatest reality show on earth, with all his Tweeting and free advertising didn’t he? Oh and a little help from Comey and Putin. And then there’s the obvious co-mingling of private, for-profit and government:

“As with the defense industry and the financial industry, success on a large scale in real estate often depends on government connections. Tax incentives, licenses, and inspections come more easily that way. As Trump has said, explaining his contributions to Hillary Clinton’s Senate campaigns, ‘I give to everybody. When they call, I give. And you know what? When I need something from them two years later, three years later, I call them, and they are there for me.'” http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/08/22/ivanka-trump-and-jared-kushners-power-play

We have floors in Trump tower rented out to some very wealthy people in the world. Our Secret Service may have to rent out some more floors too just to protect Melania and the heir apparent. That’s you and me folks, paying protection money ie tax dollars for a constant penthouse presence. Forget our border, Mr T wants to build a sea wall in Ireland to protect one of his golf courses, but it will also eliminate a certain snail the Irish hold dear. His family ties to the most powerful political brokers in India and the Philippines run strong and deep.

In fact, the conflicts of interest on such a global scale are so vast and intertwined one has to think that Mr T really didn’t think this through; he never in a million years thought he would be elected! He’s got a hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue and now the gym behind the police station opened up and Jimmy the Greek and Slim from Scranton walked in with billions of dollars!

It’s a rather new predicament for our young country, and may demand the Congress vote all of this is just fine with them?! Otherwise I can see years ahead of all my fine Dems on the Hill trying to impeach the guy until it reaches the Supremes, who will most likely be veering to the right by that time. But at least it’s a fight over the very fabric of our country, and not a sexual peccadillo in the Oval. Oh the humanity!  http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/26/us/politics/donald-trump-international-business.html

Tonight I’ll be heading out to dinner and a show with some friends. Naturally we’ll discuss the above and hope for a Hail Mary by the Electoral College on Monday because who could think having Putin meddle in our election is a good thing? You may have guessed already that Live Arts in Cville is doing Guys and Dolls. Democracy itself is one big messy crap shoot that Hamilton tried his best to salvage. I’m going to bet that Mindy’s sells more cheesecake, and Mr T has sold us out for 30 pieces of silver.

Take back your mink Mr T   5d87403da1fb0b5be31e86a0fc817033

 

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Alright folks, it’s been a week and a half. According to President Obama it’s time to stop all our belly aching and get back to work. At least that’s what he told his White House staff after the election – moping shall cease and desist, like they’ve been on one long, communal shiva call with the rest of the country. Even though Hillary will win almost 2 Million MORE votes than the comb-over, it’s not a Popular Vote contest, is it?

“We probably have about 7 million votes left to count,” said David Wasserman, an editor at Cook Political Report who is tracking turnout. “A majority of them are on the coasts, in New York, California, and Washington. She should be able to win those votes, probably 2-1.” By mid-December, when the Electoral College officially casts its ballots, Wasserman estimates that Clinton could be ahead by 2 percentage points in the popular vote. http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/11/clintons-popular-vote-lead-will-grow-and-grow/507455/

So what’s a girl to do, besides sign up for the Million Women’s March on January 21? Watch a little Turner Classic? Walk your dog? Meditate to a new mantra; #LoveTrumpsHate? Find things for your newly retired hubby to do, like throw out half the spice cabinet? Cook up some comfort food? Well, sure all of the above, plus I’m reading a good book of historical fiction to take me back in time, way back, to the island of St Thomas in the 1800s.

“The Marriage of Opposites” seemed like a good title, since Bob and I have always said no modern day algorithm would ever make us a match. And I love Alice Hoffman! Because it’s now in paperback, this book has been a perfect traveling companion, from NJ to Nashville and back again. What I didn’t know is that she is telling the story of a certain French Impressionist painter, a real life Sephardic Jewish man born on St Thomas who was destined to take over his family’s business but wanted instead to paint.

He was born Jacob Abraham, but instead used his French name “Camille” Pizzarro; perhaps Hoffman has changed the spelling from Pissarro to keep this a fictional tale? I was well into the book before I realized who this last child of Rachel Pomie would become, the “Father of Impressionism,” the man who married his mother’s maid and began painting outside. The friend of Degas and Monet, he preferred living in the French countryside and was influenced by Gustave Courbet. His paintings “…dignify the labor of peasants in communal villages, reflecting the socialist-anarchist political leanings that the two artists shared.”

And in synchrony with my rebellious mood of the moment, it seems Pissarro is one of many early Colonial artists currently on exhibit at the New York Historical Society: “The First Jewish Americans: Freedom and Culture in the New World” opened November 1st and runs through February 26. The first Jewish settlement of the New World was in New Amsterdam in 1654, when Brazil expelled 23 Jews to this early Dutch Colony of New York. http://observer.com/2016/11/colonial-jews-who-knew/

The curator said that during this time, Jews were not seen as “invisible outsiders.” They had certain freedoms in our new country, to worship as they wished and to flaunt society’s norms. It seems unimaginable that almost 4 centuries later, a man has won an election by preaching about discriminating against our current invisible outsiders of the moment…Mexicans and Muslims. He even dreamed of punishing women who would seek an abortion. Is this the America we all learned to love in grade school?

Once I was stung by a bee under a clothesline of billowing sheets. It is my earliest memory, the first time I felt as if I didn’t belong. Nell was not my mother, my name was different.   Today the feeling remains.

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Woman Hanging up the Washing, Camille Pissarro 1887

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Last night I had the pleasure of meeting Beatrix Ost, http://www.beatrixost.com, a surrealist artist, theatre producer, designer and fashion icon. It was like meeting a haiku, elusive yet familiar. One cannot help being drawn to her. Wrapped in a long silk, printed sheath, her hair in a turban, she wore pointy toed yellow boots from another century. It seems she divides her time between a farm in Cville and an apartment in NYC.

Ost told the group at her book signing that she had wanted to interview several interesting people – such as the war photographer who lost three limbs in an IED explosion – and she asked each person one question:

“What is the marrow in your bones?”

And so she began to tell us all what drives her to continue creating art. She grew up after the war in Germany, with very little. Hardship is a fine anvil when coming of age. She remembered an aunt who lived outside the city, on a farm. This woman had taken an American officer as a lover, and so she would drive into the city to visit Ost and her mother in a Jeep. Cars were also very rare at the time. Out of the Jeep stepped a magnificent  creature; her aunt was wearing the officer’s jacket, belted tightly around her waist, epaulets at the sleeves, and cork espadrilles. She was stunning.

A sense of style and the meaning of adornment, of creating beauty in the midst of chaos was born. And just recently she met Camille Hautefort, a young woman who was making jewelry out of salvaged bombs from Laos. The woman handed her a weightless spoon one night, it was made from the ordnance found in the highlands of Xieng Khuang province, in the village of Ban Naphia , and Ost said she was so moved she nearly cried holding it in her hand. She knew she wanted to collaborate on jewelry design.

Now this company, Article 22, is helping artisans in Laos and clearing unexploded bombs from fields. Ethical jewelry. And I thought of all the bombs our country has dropped, all over the world. Of how women and children suffer in war-torn countries because men like to play at war. Of how our local candidate for Congress, Jane Dittmar, recently tweeted:

There is an armed man outside of our Fluvanna office intimidating volunteers – if you feel uncomfortable please contact 911 immediately.

Here is a film of Ost’s “Wild, incredible paradise” in the Virginia countryside: https://www.nowness.com/story/no-sour-meadows And you will find her book ,“The Philosopher’s Style,” along with this transformative jewelry at Lynne Goldman Elements, downtown Cville. img_5437

 

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