Art and an Osher class

I am from a crowded place where siren songs
blast holes in the steady drone of traffic.
I see tall buildings and blue water and
smell bread and flowers as I walk
and sometimes unpleasant perfume
on fashionable women who walk past me.
I would like to taste the lilacs and touch
the passing dogs and cats
But never come close to the lovely ladies.
I am rather pleased with this first attempt at poetry. It was inspired by a wonderful Osher class I took last month at Carnegie Mellon. It was called “Artists as Activists Choose Pittsburgh” and facilitated by Leslie Golomb, who presented ideas about activist art and in three subsequent weeks brought in other artists who created activist work. In the final class Amanda Gross, a fiber artist, asked us to tell her something about ourselves using the following:
I am from… sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch

This is only a small part of what I enjoyed in the class. To explain, I have to make a small digression. Some weeks ago I went to the Carnegie Museum of Art to a space they called “The Sandbox” filled with “photo books” that are actually for sale. I looked at all of the books and understood very little of what I was seeing. The curator/salesperson kept asking me if I had questions. I think slowly of late, and couldn’t even begin to frame my questions. The books contained photos that may or may not have been taken by their author/editor/curator and meant nothing to me. She showed me a book she had compiled, telling me the photos were “vernacular.” That meant they were taken from a collection, made by someone else, over a period of 25 years. She got permission from the owner to put them in “her book,” which was bound professionally. I told her I made books and she gave me a look that said ‘aren’t you a sweet, little old lady.’ So, I am an old lady, not necessarily sweet, and I was confused. All of this was absolutely meaningless to me.

Back to the class: four weeks of food for thought about meaningful art, often beautiful, certainly significant. My artist friends are not here in Pittsburgh and I don’t often have a chance to participate in this kind of stimulating conversation. In the first class, Leslie, who is a print maker, talked about artists as acivists and also about her own work, which has dealt with feminism and slavery amongst other themes and ideas.

In the second class, Ben Sota, the founder of the Zany Umbrella Circus, talked about his passion for circus and how his presentations in other countries have generated thoughts about freedom in his audience.

Bec Young, a printmaker and fiber artist, talked to us in the third class. In addition to doing volunteer work in her community her prints deal with activist themes. Quoting from her artist statement: “…seek to give voice to stories that remain unheard with work that is beautiful and powerful.”

Amanda Gross, who inspired my poetry, showed us her beautiful work and talked to us about her huge community organizing project called knit the bridge, which brought people together from all over Pittsburgh. This last class tied together all of the ideas about making meaningful, beautiful art and banished the despair I felt in the Sandbox.

Dear Mage

You are so nice to keep looking for me. I am fine; better than I’ve been all year. I’ve just been lazy about writing. Spent much of the last eight months doing leg exercises to counteract my arthritis. I have also lost 27 pounds and am working on losing 10 or 20 more. I am no longer in pain, I can walk normally, and haven’t opened the Tylenol bottle for the last couple of months. I had a wonderful birthday celebration last month. Instead of giving me gifts, I asked my guests to make a donation to the Israeli volunteer organization, Road to Recovery, that helps West Bank Arab children get to hospitals in Israel. Here is a video that tells all about it.

You can learn more about them at http://www.roadtorecovery.org.il/

I’ll tell more about my celebration in my next post, which I promise will be soon. I have to get pictures from Robin and she’s out of town this weekend.

Pictures

It’s snowing. What I really want to do is hibernate in my bed, in a cave made of quilts and blankets, and remain there until the outdoor temperature is near fifty degrees and the sun is shining. I’ve been back here for one week and I’ve got cabin fever already.
So, here are the pictures from Israel; maybe they’ll make me feel better.
MeYona1

 

Yona and me, on a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean, just after sunset. The picture was taken by Haim Lev, Yona’s friend, who comes to this spot every evening, to photograph the sunset.

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Ceaserea, now a national park. When I was there in 1966 some of this was there, but much has been excavated since. You could just walk along the beach and pick up pottery shards or bits of stone.

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Tel Aviv: There was only one tall building the last time I was in Israel. Amazing how much has changed in thirty years. Highways, now much better than ours, were all two-lane and people who passed on curves obviously had a strong belief in God.

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Jerusalem. I spent most of the four days visiting friends so I didn’t see much of the city. I know that much has changed in the 30 years since I was there before.

Emek Hefer, the most fertile valley in Israel.

Emek Hefer, the most fertile valley in Israel.

Sunset from the bus returning from Haifa

Sunset from the bus returning from Haifa

 

Last day and coming home

I spent my last day with Yona. First we went to Beilinson Hospital where Yona had a brief appointment. The hospital is enormous, very modern looking and filled with people walking in the corridors. I’m used to large hospitals; we have them here in Pittsburgh; but I’ve never seen so many people in the hallways. We got to the Dr.’s reception room where a woman lying on a gurney and her daughter were already waiting. Two more women, only one a patient, walked in while we waited. Then the daughter’s husband and another family member came in along with the family of the other patient. Yona said this always happens: you go to see your doctor with your entire family and when you are hospitalized the entire family comes with food. That explained all the people in the hallways.

Yona lives near the Mediterranean in an area that narrowly borders the West Bank. We drove toward another checkpoint leading to the West Bank city of Tul Karm, only a short distance from Netanya. We did not enter Tul Karm but turned into an Israeli settlement filled with lovely homes and gardens that borders it. When the settlement was first developed it was considered high risk. Protected by the border wall, two electric fences, a no-mans land and a guarded gate, it has become a highly desirable location where children can walk home from school by themselves and play outside without constant adult attention.

Our next destination was a nearby Israeli-Arab village where we met with the principal of the school, whom Yona knew. She doesn’t really know everyone; it just seems that way. This village did not have the neat gardens and numerous trees we saw in the previous settlement. We arrived as school was letting out and saw lots of children walking in the streets.

After another lunch of hummus and falafel at an Arab restaurant we drove along the coast and looked at two more schools, this time boarding schools. I don’t know how much I could focus on my studies with the Mediterranean nearby.

It was a long day and I was happy to get back to Yona’s house and rest for awhile. My taxi came at 10pm for a 1am departure. The airport was filled with groups of kids waiting to go through security. To my amazement and pleasure I was invited to sit and security would come to me. What a change from our airports, of which I have more to say. I got through all the preliminary questions and the inspection of my bag. Clutching passport and boarding passes I went through the usual x-raying of my carryons, again with no waiting. They really gave me special treatment. I’ve decided it pays to walk around with a cane.

My plane arrived at JFK at 6am. I asked for a wheelchair and this made it much easier. I hope never to go through JFK again, but, if necessary, I wouldn’t hesitate to get a wheelchair again. My next plane (to Pittsburgh) was supposed to leave at 2:59pm. I love these time designations; like they are meaningful. Anyway, I had already arranged to meet with Renee. We each took our respective subways and met in the middle of Queens where we found a pleasant Hispanic restaurant and had a second (and third) breakfast. After a couple of hours I returned to Kennedy and she went home.

I got to the airport to find my plane had been canceled. I was standing in line so long I finally asked for another wheelchair. American Airlines put me on a Delta flight scheduled for 7pm. The wheelchair lady (very nice, as was the other one) took me to the other terminal where I found that the plane they put me on had already been canceled. They put me on another one, but that also got canceled. This time I stood in line a long time only to find I would have to wait until Sunday to get on a plane. The alternative they offered was an 8am flight from JFK to Atlanta and then a flight to Pittsburgh that would arrive at 4:15pm Saturday. I couldn’t deal with it. I went to Renee’s apartment where I slept like a rock then got on a 9:50am Megabus and arrived in Pittsburgh at 5:30. I have another nasty story about my suitcase, but I finally got it.

Pictures to come.

Tel Aviv: another adventure

Yona is grandma on Wednesday. She put me on the train to TA and went to her brood. I went, first to Museum Haaretz, museum of the land, where I saw two excellent exhibits. Israelis are amazing in their support of the arts and there is a thriving contemporary art scene here, especially considering the country is the size of New Jersey with about the same population. The first exhibit was unusual things made of paper: creased, folded, rolled, cut, shaped, made into books and made out of books. Very inventive.

The second exhibit was fiber art, again unusual creations all made by Israeli artists. The variety almost equaled Fiber Arts International in Pittsburgh, which draws entries from all over the world.

I had lunch in the museum cafe, tuna Nicoise, a nice change from all the hummus and other salads. From there I went to the Tel Aviv Art Museum, which was not as interesting to me but I was getting very tired. There is some contemporary photo and video shows, lots of 18th and 19th C. painting, and a display of miniature rooms. I have to find out more about them as a 19th C. interest. The knee finally got me. It bothers me less, but is still stiff and painful at times.

I got back on the train then took a taxi to Yona’s son’s home and got to see all three kids along with the brown and white dog who shed all over my black jacket. We then had a light supper in a Japanese restaurant.

My last day here is perhaps the most interesting. I’ll write when I get home. I leave at midnight tonight.

Old Friend

I remained in Jerusalem on Sunday night so I could meet with another old friend, Janette, on Monday morning. The weekend had been rainy and cold but Monday was lovely again. We spent time walking and talking, catching up on the several years since we were together. I saw her new apartment in a senior living place, we went to lunch and finally to an informal Hebrew conversation class she holds for three American women. It did not improve my Hebrew.

Temporarily swearing off taxis I took a bus to the central bus station, another bus to Tel Aviv, then the train to Netanya, where Yona met me at the station. It felt like coming home.

This morning, Tuesday, we went to Haifa to see the exhibit I couldn’t find last week. The exhibit was in Carmel Center, halfway up the mountain. Not being sure of the way up Yona stopped a couple of people for directions. The second man said he was going there, so he got in the car and directed her. Very Israeli.

After another Israeli-Arab salad lunch we went on an unusual excursion. Yona is a volunteer driver helping sick Palestinians, particularly children, cross the border to reach Israeli hospitals for treatment. This service is provided at no cost. At the hospital in Haifa, we picked up a mother and baby and another mother with a very sick teenage boy who could barely get into the car, although he was the one who directed Yona about where to drive. The women said nothing. We took them to the checkpoint nearest their homes where we entered easily by giving the boy’s name and they were met by their families. Yona also gave a donated computer to the boy. You can read more about the volunteer group at http://www.roadtorecovery.org.il

Last night in Jerusalem

Breakfast in this hotel has been wonderful. There is fresh squeezed joice, cold cereal, fruit, salad items, good coffee, expresso or cappuchino, sweet pastries, yesterday an assortment of pizzas, today a salmon fillet, and a cheese board. I don’t eat most of it but it was fun to look. Coffee is wonderful here and I’ve been drinking too much of it. One cup only, tomorrow.

Today I went to Moshav Yishii, near Bet Shemesh, to visit the cousin whose grandchild’s picture, playing in the sun, inspired me to come here. I had not seen Davida for 30 years. We had a great time reminiscing and looking at old pictures and new ones of her children and grandchildren who were not at home. Davida keeps animals: horses, dogs, goats, chickens, ducks, rabbits, guinea pigs, pheasants and a camel and a peacock. School groups come here to learn about the animals and play with some of them in her petting zoo.

Monday morning I will see my friend Janette then return to Yona in Hofit.