Tag Archives: hope
This carwash is located next to the Pennypack Trail’s parking lot at Welsh and Terwood Roads. It’s closed today since they work on the weekends. The business does hand washing and detailing for cars. On a normal day you would see cars in various stages of being cleaned and lots of employees at work.
Usually the sign out by the road says something like “A clean car is a happy car”. Right now, though, this is what it says.
I could go on, but I don’t need to. The sign tells us the narrative the people at this business want us to know and to follow.
When we were in Reading, PA, a few weeks ago to visit the Goggleworks Center for the Arts, I noticed a small green building set in a tiny cemetery, right up beside the highway, as we were speeding along toward home. We’d never noticed it before, and we said – we have to try to take a look at that next time we’re here.
So, that next time was yesterday – we were visiting Goggleworks again, for their annual art festival. On the way home, we zipped off the highway exit and found the spot very easily – just a few yards down the road. We parked the car along the street and walked over – along a portion of the Schuylkill Trail that happens to pass by it.
Sure enough, there sat the brick building inside a stone wall along with an assortment of gravestones. Before we worked our way down the white-painted timbers that served as steps down the slight slope, we looked at the marker. Hmmm. Already we could tell this place had a story.
The gist of it was this: the Fix-Gerber-Bittner families established this cemetery in the early 1800’s. It was much larger than the present plot when it started out. But as time passed, it almost seemed as if this little bit of ground had a bull’s eye on it. Industrial developments all took pieces away from it. Graves were moved, somewhat carelessly, too, it seems. This small place is all that’s left. It’s essentially ownerless, now that the families are defunct.
So we went in for a closer look, down the steep steps.
We examined the building first. It had nothing to do with the cemetery – according to what I read later, it was built in the 1870’s or so by a friend of one of the families, to store dynamite (because it was outside city limits, where there was apparently a restriction on such a thing).
I examined the walls of the building – the layers of peeling paint speak to a long time it has been sitting out in all weathers.
It seems incongruous, at the least, for such a destructive agent as dynamite to take up residence in a place full of the hopes for eternal rest. I reflected on this idea a bit as we walked around the cemetery.
Another factor mitigating against eternal rest is the highway’s neighborly presence. Neighborly in the sense of – a loud intruding kind of neighbor.
We walked around. The cemetery has friends – it is being cared for by the Oddfellows in Shillington, PA.
The grass is mowed and everything is neat. But the ravages of time are apparent. There are pieces of headstones separated from their graves, and my later reading told me that it’s suspected there are unmarked graves as a result of the carelessness of those who moved graves to accommodate the various canal and highway projects. Weather has also done damage – I have noticed that marble headstones do not stand up to the years as well as granite. Inscriptions fade and melt away.
This monument commemorates several people who served in the War of 1812 and the Civil War. I know this because I checked the dates on the flags – these flag markers specify the conflict served in by each veteran as they are being honored.
This marker is the footstone to the grave of a very young person.
We left the cemetery and climbed the small hill, back up to the road. This little place gave me a lot to think about. For one thing, how unimaginable this world of today would have been to the founders of this cemetery, and what sadness they might have felt at seeing their family resting spot, thought to be forever, so vulnerable.
But I hope that they might have also seen that there are still people who care. This cemetery has friends – the Oddfellows, and the Berks County Association for Graveyard Preservation. The grounds are neat and veterans are honored. There is talk of highway construction that could affect the cemetery, but people are sticking up for it, according to a recent article in the Reading Eagle. That made me feel good. So much has changed in 200 years for this cemetery, but people still think it’s important not to forget those who were here before us.
This past weekend my husband and I made a kind of pilgrimage to see this art exhibit, Hope and Healing, held at the Baum School of Art in Allentown, PA.
Two years ago, almost exactly, I visited that year’s version of the exhibit. I was in the midst of my three years of illness and surgeries, and I was still going downhill when I viewed it. In fact, I’d say the low point of my journey occurred right after this trip, and I remember very well my state of mind and body. The art and the theme of the exhibit made quite an impression on me and I remembered it later on as I struggled to get better.
Now it’s two years later. After two hand surgeries (for a very rare and antibiotic resistant infection), three eye surgeries (retina and cataracts), a broken foot and hearing loss (due to medication complications), and depression and anxiety brought on by the uncertainties of my situation, I am doing well. When I got the information about the exhibit I knew I needed to go and see it.
It was held in two galleries at the Baum School of Art. The exhibit is an activity of Healing Through the Arts, an organization started by a local woman after her bout with cancer. The artists are all high school and college students and the purpose behind their art is to create a work that would bring hope and healing to someone who is ill. After the exhibit, the works go to various health sites and offices, free, so that they may be on view to the people who need them. Here is how the galleries looked, full of art.
We spent quite a lot of time looking at each piece and reading the artists’ statements. I was struck by the heartfelt work that had gone into each piece – they were all thought out, with care, and with layers of meaning. Obviously the artists took the task very seriously. Some of them referred to their own experiences with illness and others mentioned family or friends. And, they also cited family and friends as a source of strength for them in hard times, as well as nature and a connection with a spiritual world.
The founder of Healing Through the Arts, Heather Rodale, tells her story on the organization’s website and she mentions the concept of being cured vs. being healed. I know this well myself. I have aftereffects from my own ordeal that are permanent, but – I am healed, and I keep on going. That is the message I took away from this exhibit, and I am really grateful that it exists to have shown me this, both in the past and now.
After viewing the rooms, I took pictures of artwork that particularly spoke to me. I spent lots of time in a lot of different doctor’s offices in the past three years and I often did not hear good news. I think these pieces would have certainly brightened my spirit in those circumstances. But I also want to say, I could not photo all the pieces, and honestly, I am sure that any one of them would have helped me along my way.
I have included these examples plus the words of their artists. Please forgive the photos, it was not always easy to do justice to the piece. Take your time to look them over and read the words, too, if you have time. I think you will see what I mean about the experience of viewing this art.
The story of the chestnut oak acorn-growing attempts continues, and today’s chapter starts off with sad news. A couple of nights ago, we looked at the pot where they had been growing, set on our porch, and found – a pot of dirt. No acorns. Hungry squirrels had found the acorns and eaten them.
All that was left were the roots. I can’t tell you how upset I was about this turn of events. I felt I’d failed the acorns, who were depending on me. After all, I’d brought them home with me and put them in this pot. It sounds silly, with so many other things in the world so much more worthy of my distress, but – I felt it.
Well, all right. The next day, my husband and I were out and happened to be near the park where we first picked up the acorns in the fall. I said, let’s go over there and see if we can find any still around and try again.
It had rained the night before and the weather has been so warm that the ground was soft. I thought there might be a chance. So we went back to the picnic area at the Fort Washington State Park, near the bird stand.
Guess what. Lots of little acorns still around on the ground! Now you may remember that these acorns don’t behave like the usual ones we see around here – these lie on the ground and send out a little shoot into the earth. The acorn then provides food for the root until spring.
We decided to try again and take some home. I felt it was all right, since these acorns would never get to be trees in this location – the mowers would come along in the spring and take them down. Now, we weren’t prepared for digging, so we had to improvise. We got an ice scraper and a plastic sheet out of the car and set to work.
We brought them home and put them in a pot. This time we made it more secure. I kept the original pot with the little roots still in the ground, too – maybe, against the odds, they might survive. Who knows? I am hoping for all of these little beings to grow.
If you want to read about this story from the beginning:
I don’t know what these green plants are called and I don’t care. I do know that I see them every spring and each time I am struck by the vitality and life they have. Maybe it’s because they are so very green and fresh when so much else is still brown. Maybe it’s the way they unfurl their leaves – a slow motion explosion that ends with an exuberant green display, leaves flung out. Maybe it’s the way they are set in the dark blue-black waters in the flood plain.
I don’t know. But I do like these green plants and their enthusiasm for spring!
Do you remember the Poetry Marathon I did in January? It was another activity I did to fight against winter – an accompaniment to the Sunshine Project. I spent two hours a day for five days in a row writing poetry. Just writing. A lot of good came from those hours and a lot of poems, too. About one hundred of them, to be sure – some very short, some a bit longer. More than I had thought, but I wasn’t sorry. Far from it. I set myself to doing some editing and I got them in shape. Some had to be tossed out but most of them met my hopes. The results encouraged me to publish the collection in a book. So – here it is…
The book is called Look Winter in the Face. If you are interested in reading it, it costs $12 and here’s the link:
As I went through whole sequence of poems, it seemed to me that they belonged together. It was almost as if they were chapters in my own story of winter. Now, they can certainly be read as individuals, one at a time, out of order. Enjoying one poem does not depend on reading the others. But I wanted to show them as what they became to me: an entity, a unified body, a coherent picture made of many pieces.
So I decided to put them together as a book. Thanks to self-publishing, I could do that, and I did. It means something to me to have these poems on paper in a collection.
Poetry Marathon Links…
The Sunshine Project is over. Spring is here. Winter has passed. I am very grateful to have arrived at this point. I want to thank everyone who has followed along on this journey. It has made a difference to me to do this project and to know that others have supported me.
I will not go on at great length about what I gained from doing this activity. But I want to say that having a framework such as this project provided had benefits beyond what I had expected. Not only did I have to get out and participate in the world each day, something that has been hard for me since my illness, but I had to write about it, and reflect on my experiences. In this way each day had a shape and a meaning. I learned something every day; I went places I had never been before; I got a lot of ideas about things I want to do after the project – plein air painting, visits to local historic sites, writing poetry in libraries instead of holed up at home. I feel I’ve been on a pilgrimage and returned renewed and with greater knowledge. Thank you, Sunshine Project.
Here are all the sunshines from the project in one array.