If you have consciously or serendipitiously arrived here, welcome. I’m Fran, aka Redondowriter, and my interests include family, friends, writing, reading, art, computers, storytelling, spirituality, photography, animals—and exploring the layers of everyday life.
When I was buying gifts to bring back home during my February pilgrimage trip to Israel, I included five gifts to myself among 20 or so that I purchased. One was a hand carved rosewood rosary from Bethlehem, a beautiful plaque of the sixth station of the cross (Veronica wipes the tears from Jesus's face), a small plaque from Bethlehem's Milk Grotto near the Church of the Nativity, and two metal hamsa hands in cobalt blue.
About: The hamsais an ancient Middle Eastern amulet symbolizing the Hand of God. In all faiths it is a protective sign. It brings it's owner happiness, luck, health, and good fortune.
The hamsa hand is known by many names—hamsa, hamsa hand, hamesh, hamesh hand, khamsa, and chamsa. It is also called the Hand of Miriam, named for Moses and Aaron’s sister, Hand of Fatima. There are two main styles of a hamsa hand: the most popular is the stylized hamsa hand with two symmetrical thumbs, but there are also hamsa hands that are not symmetrical and shaped like actual hands.
Either hamsa hand can be worn with the fingers pointing up or down, and both are believed to offer its owner happiness, peace, and prosperity, as well as protection from the ayin ha'ra, or the evil eye. The renewed interest in Kabbalah and mystical Judaism has brought the hamsa pendant back into vogue, and many artists are using the image of the hamsa hand in various aspects of their art including hamsa jewelry, paintings, sculptures, wall hamsas, and amulets.
Origin: Although the hamsa hand has been symbolic in Islam and Judaism for centuries, archeological digs in the Middle East provide evidence that the hamsa pre-dates these religions and originated with the Phoenicians and was used as a protective symbol for an ancient Middle Eastern goddess. The hamsa hand has always been associated with a female entity offering protection from evil and misfortune.
When I had traveled in Greece and Turkey three years ago, I don't remember seeing hamsa hands, or maybe they weren't on my radar screen. Evil eye amulets were everywhere in both countries, however, and hamsa hands usually have an eye in the center. I found out that belief in the evil eye is very old. It is mentioned in the Old Testament of the Bible and references to it appear in cuneiform texts of the Sumerians dated to 3000 BC.(How about that knowledge for Trivial Pursuit?)
I purchased this one from a small gift shop inside the old city of Jerusalem from a small shop right outside the Jaffa Gate. Here I am with the two men working in the shop that day who were joking with all the women tourists about ways they might come to America.
As some of you know, I collect cobalt blue glass and both the hamsa hands I purchased, were in that color.
This hamsa hand is keychain size and it is my plan to incorporate it into a mixed media art piece of some sort. The larger one is hanging with my other sacred objects on a wall next to my bed.
Have you heard of or do you have different variations of hamsa hands? A Google search showed hundreds of pieces of jewelry available as well as stylized wall hangings.
This morning I observed one of the student advisory groups hotly debating something but I was busy and zoned out. I remember thinking that I rarely hear them in such lively discussion. Later their advisor asked me what I thought about what the kids had been talking about.
I admitted I didn’t know their topic and she said, “The Greg Mortenson expose.” I had heard on NPR that stories about building schools in “Three Cups of Tea,” and “Stones for Schools,” were being questioned, but I didn’t know the details. She told me that journalist and author Jon Krakauer had run an expose piece of Mortenson’s accounts of building schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan on 60 Minutes; she said the students were very upset to find out that perhaps Mortenson’s stories were not true, or greatly exaggerated.
Then the advisor handed me a copy of the May 2, 2011 Newsweek article from The Daily Beast called, “Shattered Faith,” and I felt so confused. “No way,” I kept saying to myself as I read it. Kind of like I was a little kid and my mom or dad had told me one of my uncles was a bad man. Even the practices of his non-profit Central Asian Institute were called into question.
Big sigh! Mortenson is internationally famous for his humanitarian work; he has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, for heaven's sake. His first book was my school’s (and countless other schools and libraries) One Book for 2010. He spoke to our student body last year and is a very successful fund-raiser; his role model was Mother Theresa. His book is required reading for our troops going into Afghanistan.
Like the author of Newsweek’s article, I WANT to believe in Greg Mortenson, even though I admit that I did query myself about certain stories when I read "Three Cups of Tea." Creative, gifted people sometimes are not perfect, but please don’t let this expose be true. I’m one of the people in this world that longs to have a hero; there are so few these days. The jaded and cynical 73-year-old me whispers, “You always were so gullible. We didn’t call you Pollyanna for nothing.”
If you haven't been following this story, a Google search will bring you countless hits about the expose, but this link from the Daily Beast was also interesting to me.
If you are familiar with Greg Mortenson’s work and the controversy now swirling around him, I’d be curious to hear how you are reacting. He apparently is having a heart procedure and though he has replied to questions raised by 60 Minutes, he isn't speaking out right now. Is it possible that he did do a lot of good, just not as much as he reported he had? I wish I were in one of my old college philosophy classes and we were debating this for situation ethics.
The night before my son Joe and his family left to return to Port Angeles, WA, we had family lasagne dinner at my house, Joe's request. Whitney, 24, and Anthony, 21, had to work but everybody else was there. In my living room closet, home of the mannikin Sophia's clothing, I have some stuff that kids seem to love. Old costumes and hats for Halloween, Renaissance Fair, etc. are there--and I have a sack filled with rhythm instruments. In the living room itself there is a wonderful drum, a set of chimes, and finger cymbals.
After a parade, the four little boys sat down for a jamming session.
And right before everyone left, the band members agreed to a publicity shot. From left is Fritz, 6; Arlo, 2 1/2; grandma; Henry (will be 8 this weekend), and Zach, 5. Life doesn't get a whole lot better than this.
Since I returned from Hawaii a few weeks ago I have not worked in my art journals, although I have written frequently in my hand-written journal.
Today, after church, I played around with the layering of my new written journal--and got inspired to actually work in the art journals as well. I'm in various stages on six different pages.
Easter always inspires me to begin again, even more than new years does. I thought about the resurrection a lot today and I also thought a lot about inevitable changes. My sister Betty in Tumwater, WA made the extremely difficult decision recently to sell her home and move to a retirement home. Though she is in remission from lung cancer now, she has had an emergency gall bladder surgery and a TIA since treatment ended. My Energizer Bunny sis says she has lost her confidence to live safely alone. Our other living sister has been in a nursing facility for almost a year.
Though one shouldn't clean house on Easter, I suppose, it seemed like a good day to start "cleaning out" and "cleaning up" while I thought about resurrections and change. I finished the living room today, with incredible detail. The lady who helps me clean house isn't due for another week and after the grandkids left, there is lots to clean and organize.
So, I've sprung into spring by getting focused on my beautiful home. I am so grateful to live in a place and a structure I call Sanctuary. My sisters have also loved their homes and cared for them as I have and I'm thinking a lot about how blessed each of us has been. Life has often been hard for us all, but they have been good role models to me for aging.
When Mary Lou and I were on our pilgrimage tour in the Holy Land in February, we walked the Via Dolorosa, or the Way of the Cross. The time we spent in Galilee, Nazareth and all the places of Jesus's ministry was deeply moving to me and I had apprehension about Jerusalem. Holy Week has always been hard for me, but I will admit that being in Jerusalem following Jesus's journey beginning on Palm Sunday brought new insights into my Christianity.
And then it was time for the Passion walk. We walked from our hotel in the Old City to the Way of the Cross at 5 a.m. and to my surprise, we actually carried a cross four at a time from station to station. The last stations are actually inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This was the second station after Jesus condemnation and when he is first given his cross. Mary Lou and I are the ones in the red coats carrying the cross.
I was so occupied with family the entire day and evening today but I frequently remembered the significance of Good Friday. I will never forget this experience.
This is Holy Week but, except in my heart, I have not observed it inside a church because I know I have my priorities straight. The reason is that my son Joe, DIL Laura, and Zach and Arlo are staying for a week and I've tried to spend as much time as I can with them when I haven't been at work.
This photo is of the boys playing at the Veteran's Park playground on Monday, one of my non-work days. The park is only a block and a half from my house and proves to be a good back yard for them, along with the beach. Laura took the photo of Zach below with her iPhone sometime this week. Don't you love those footprints in the sand?
They have had a busy week visiting their cousins Henry and Fritz, going to the La Brea Tarpits, and today to the Long Beach Aquarium. My son Joe installed iTV for me this week (an incredible little gadget) so when they tire of running Mollie in circles in the courtyard, we watch segments of Fireman Sam from Netflix--on my TV. I'm definitely in the 21st century. Last night we had art night at my dining room table although I was so busy I never took any photos but Laura did.
And here's one from the aquarium today. They went with their other grandparents there.
So, tomorrow's Good Friday and I'm thinking of being on the Via Delorosa only eight weeks ago. I'll post a photo of our walk tomorrow. I'm off tomorrow but I think they are going sailing out of King Harbor with one of Joe's buddies from school days. He had a really fun night last night meeting a few buddies he hadn't seen for 20 years. Tomorrow night is one final family dinner for my kids and grandkids. Mollie and I will probably take a long nap on Saturday. Like my mom always said, "It's a good thing God gave kids to young people," but visits are sure nice.
I have long admired the work of the late artist Keith Haring and there is a trace of that style in Miripolsky’s work—or Miripolsky’s work in Haring’s.
Below is a not-so-good photo of the 11 x 18” print I took when I first visited Miripolsky's art space. It is called Los Angeles (The Angels) Loteria No. 1. I love madonnas in general and depictions of Our Lady of the Angels specifically. Miripolsky says in the art book about the Loteria Series, “For the composition of my loteria card I chose the monumental Los Angeles City Hall to represent the heart of the city, which is embraced by Our Lady the Queen of the Angels. She is holding the torch of liberty clutched in one hand and Los Angeles represented as the key to the world in the other hand. City Hall is wall papered with oranges as an acknowledgment to L.A. rich past of growth and abundance. The angels are trumpeting the city, they are the messengers, the protectors and guardians of our sols. The whole city sparkles and Los Angeles is truly the City of the Angels.”
Next is a photo from Aardvark’s blog from 2008 showing Miripolsky during the letter press printing process.
And the last is of me with the artist who had just signed a print my youngest son Tony purchased for me for mother’s day because I loved it so. As it turns out, Miripolsky wrote "Happy b’day, Fran," so I told Tony it will be his gift to me for Mother’s Day and my birthday.
I won’t be a cheapskate and try to frame this myself. I’ll have it professionally done. Thank you, Tony and Gretchen for such a wonderful gift.
What a great day that was--and this week because my eldest son Joe's family is here all week. The only down side so far is that Joe lost his wallet last night as we were all walking to a restaurant. Peaks and valleys; that is what life is all about, I guess.
Yesterday my eldest son Joe, his wife Laura, and my grandsons Zach (5) and Arlo (almost 3) came to stay for a week from Port Angeles, WA. Our entire family joined together today in downtown Los Angeles for a visit to the most incredible open studio art walk I've ever experienced: The Brewery Art Walk. Located in the old Pabst Brewery , the Brewery Art Group hosts a twice annual open studio weekend at the worlds largest art complex.
All five of my grandsons went (granddaughter was working), plus all my grown children and their spouses and now that I have experienced it, I'll definitely make it a major "have to" in the months to come.
My daughter-in-law Laura took these three photos of her boys participating in a kid's art collaborative. I missed seeing this, so was delighted when she e-mailed these Postcards from Paradise to me from her iPhone. Rebecca hosts Postcards from Paradise at Recuerda mi Corazon. Be sure to stop by.
This is Arlo in the foreground and Zach in the background.
This is Zach up close.
And this is Zach after he completed his part of the art work.
I was so delighted two days ago to find that one of my favorite bloggers, Rain at Rainy Day Thoughts, had recently watched a documentary on the late Trappist monk Thomas Merton and was drawn to his life and to his work. Merton has had a profound effect on my life since I first read Seven Storey Mountain in the late 1950s. It had been written in 1948 but I didn't convert to Catholicism until 1958.
I would later write my M.A. thesis on Merton and even made a Merton pilgrimage of his upper west side NYC environs when I was with students at Columbia University for a journalism program. The Columbia archives gave me access to his papers, I visited with the then pastor at Corpus Christi Church where Merton received instruction for his conversion to Catholicism and baptism. It's only a few blocks from Columbia and the pastor had many stories to tell. I visited apartments Merton had lived in and some of his known hang-outs. It was a deeply moving experience for me.
I think I have copies of all the books Merton wrote and many written about him and his Thoughts in Solitude contains the passage of his that I have pasted next to my home and work computers:
Thomas Merton: From the Love of Solitude, Part II, “Thoughts in Solitude”
“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore, I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”
When I conduct spiritual journal workshops I sometimes use a handout called Writing Springboards From Thomas Merton. I am amazed how Merton's writings speak to so many people cross-religiously and cross-culturally. He is a phenomena.
The following excerpt from one of the documentaries about Merton, "Soul Searching: The Journey of Thomas Merton," shows his beloved hermitage, but it also features his voice. When I listen to this, though I never heard him speak in person, I am thrown back to a time when I studied him endlessly, wrote about him, and listened to audio tapes of him lecturing or reading from his books. This particular clip's last sentence is particularly haunting knowing how he died.