Writing into the Light…

Finding my way with words…


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A Bucket Full of Blooms…

Many bloggers have recently been writing about Bucket Lists.  A fellow blogger, Sylvia Morice chose to turn that empty bucket into a list of completed Bucket List items.  I like the idea of focusing on the blessings we have received rather than that which is not yet ready to “bloom.”  Thus, I started my own list of blooms in my bucket.  Looking back on my life I am grateful for these experiences:

1.  I live a mile from the beach on the coast of Maine
2. I heard Pavarotti sing his first comedic opera (L’Elisir di Amore) at the Metropolitan Opera
3. I have always been loved and supported by those around me
4. While on a trip to France I:

  • Had a picnic dinner at the base of the Eiffel Tower
  • Walked through Monet’s gardens in Giverney
  • Visited the Louve, the Musee d’Orsay, the Pompidou Art Center, Sainte Chapelle, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Champs Élysées, the Arc de Triomphe , Montmarte and the Basilique du Sacré Cœr and Versailles

5. I Met Ansel Adams

6. I Saw Katharine Hepburn on stage

7. I have watched several sunrises from the summit of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park, ME ~ the first place in the eastern United States to see the light of day.

8. I have collected 12 place settings of handmade pottery from potters in America, Ireland and the Netherlands… and donated my mass produced dishes to Goodwill

9. While on a trip to the Netherlands I:

  • Visited a diamond factory and got to “play with” the diamond rings
  • Visited Rembrandt’s house
  • Bought, and can walk in, wooden shoes
  • Visited Delft and watched the artists at work, selecting several small pieces that
    wanted to move to America
  • Visited the fields of tulips in bloom

10. I flew in a single engine plane over Louis, MO

11. I sang with Marion Williams in a gospel workshop

12. Watercolor was a medium that always challenged me.  I created a self-imposed goal of creating a watercolor I could exhibit with pride.  I created a painting of Pebble Beach on Monhegan Island which was in a show at the Saco Museum in Maine

13. While on a trip to Ireland I:

  • Visited Northern Ireland on the day of the election resulting from the Good Friday Agreement
  • Sat on the edge of the Cliffs of Moher with my feet dangling 390 feet above the Atlantic Ocean
  • Raised a pint in numerous pubs
  • Followed the path of Patrick Pearse, leader of the Easter Uprising of 1916, poet and an educator decades ahead of the rest of the world

14. Saw a moose that was not in the “wildlife park.”

15. Spent a weekend in the World Trade Center hotel in New York in a photography workshop.

16. Was the co-owner/designer of a business, Christmas, Etc. designing and creating much of the merchandise

17. Have been on numerous whale watches off of the coast of Maine and have watched dolphin pods swimming and Minke, Humpback, Fin and endangered Right whales in my travels

18. Saw Michaelangelo’s Pietá at the New York World’s Fair

19. Have been blessed with jobs that met my creative needs and allowed me to put my knowledge and experience to work

20. Presented workshops at 2 national and numerous state professional conventions

21. Was privileged to be able to participate in Pow-Wows with fellow graduate students in education at Penn State.  They represented the Navaho, Hopi, and Kiowa nations.

22. Have visited and walked through Christina Olson’s house as well as Karl Keurner’s home ~ walking through Andrew Wyeth paintings.  I have watched Jamie Wyeth painting a portrait on the deck of his home on Monhegan Island

23. I have hiked through the Cathedral Woods and the high cliffs rising above the sea on Monhegan Island following rock cairns for direction and taken a tidal pool tour tasting sea urchin

24. I have watched Charles Dent live his dream in the construction of Leonardo da Vinci’s Horse and donated the horse to the Italian people.

25. Have been educated and mentored by masters in their field

26. Spent an incredible evening with Dr. Selma Burke, an African American sculptor whose life spanned the 20th century.  She was an integral part of the Harlem Renaissance and touched the lives of the most influential creative people of the 20th century.  Her most notable work was the bust of Franklin Delano Roosevelt which appears on the dime.  I am working on a book about her.

Indeed, I have not lived a life with my bucket half empty.  While there are still goals and dreams to pursue I am comfortable with the knowledge that the new blooms in the bucket will avail themselves at the appropriate time.

What’s blooming in your bucket??

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Rise Above

Karen Simon, artist

Last night I sat in my recliner watching TV.  Sitting in my lap, snuggled against my chest was my 15 year old cat, Monhegan Mist, “Miss Misty.”  As remembrances of September 11, 2001 were unfolding in special programming, I was taken back to the evening of that horrific day.  I was a 6th grade Assistant Principal in a suburban Philadelphia school district.  I arrived home in the early evening hours at the end of the worst day of my life, closed the front door, walked to the couch, sat down and emotionally let go.  Maggie, my 11 year old golden retriever, climbed onto the couch and lay down with her head in my lap.  Miss Misty jumped into my lap and snuggled against my chest much as she did last night.  Neither of my “fur kids” had any idea what was going on, they knew only that their “Mom” needed direct contact with a loving and living thing, and they were there to provide that unconditional love.  They were my “furry heroes” allowing me to release much of the stress, tension, horror and fear that had accumulated in every cell of my body during that day.  I sobbed uncontrollably for what seemed like an eternity.  I feared that purging of pain would never cease.

In the ten years since that day I have struggled and pondered attempting to craft an accurate definition for the word “Hero.”  It is definitely the word of the day on September 11th each year across America.  Some aspects of that definition are obvious.  We think of the firefighters and police officers who, as first responders, risked their lives that day and every day to preserve the safety and well being of their communities to the extent humanly possible whether those communities be local or national.  We think of the passengers on that plane over Schanksville, PA who were consumed by anger that all they believed in and stood for was being challenged.  They made a plan to act and gave their lives preserving those core beliefs.  We thank those in search and rescue who for months after September 11th, including hundreds of canines, for their invaluable contributions to survivors and families that day and in the months following that tragic day.  We think of those whose lives and hearts changed that day and led them into the military and other life commitments aimed at defending and preserving our identity and the freedom we had come to take for granted prior to September 11th, 2001.  They are the heroes who will carry us forward.

To quote Oprah, “this is what I know for sure” after ten years… Heroes are living beings who are able to “rise above” when in the face of tragedy and reach out.  They can put their personal fear and trauma aside to work toward a common good.  They can temporarily set aside a gut wrenching desire to fall to their knees and crumble in an emotionally eviscerated heap to look beyond themselves and define what they CAN do.  Heroes are those who ask “what can I do to touch another living being and do what I can to help them through this?”  Heroes realize there is strength in community.

I have struggled these past ten years with anger.  My anger at the terrorists has begun to heal with the realization that despite their horrific actions, those actions were driven by a belief in an idea that they were literally willing to give their lives to defend.  That knowledge leads me to forgiveness, certainly not acceptance, but forgiveness.  What I struggle with are those who fell to their own pain – those who had a responsibility to others and who let them down, leaving those who were depending on them with feelings of abandonment and solitude compounding their fears, confusion and anxiety.  I do not understand what I perceive as the weakness of narcissism.

What I know for sure is that we are all put on earth with a specific purpose.  Perhaps my lesson embedded in this anger is that one of the items on my “Life TO DO” list is to rise above and reach out, to bring my hard won strength to situations requiring the ability to temporarily set aside my own needs to serve the needs of others realizing that how I responded in that situation will be carried forever within all those with whom I came in contact.

Heroes are also defined as my 6th grade staff at Haverford Middle School and especially my secretary Penny.  You were all the epitome of heroes on September 11th!  You put the needs of others before your own.  Your actions that day let four hundred forty-three 11 year old students be enveloped by the knowledge that they were embraced with human love and protected, even in the face of devastation and tragedy.  Those feelings will always be within them.  Thank you… you were everything I needed that day and more.  You were, and always will be, MY heroes!