Saturday, June 24, 2017

Separating from Star

"I have a nasty addiction to brake fluid.  But I can stop any time I want."

That was about the gist of the patter during the silent auction at StarArts week the other night.  When I think about it now, newly arrived home, that corny joke sweetens the bittersweetness of departure.

And we all left this morning.

 Joe, who led the morning stretching class, rode the ferry back to Portsmouth in style:

There was joie de vivre on the ferry back to reality. But the truth is, my week on Star started with a thud when a serious bout of sea sickness sent me to the doctor:

Thanks to a dose of Zofran, a dose of sea air, and a dose of scenery, I'd recovered by the middle of the next morning.

Speaking of scenery, this place has scenery the way Manhattan has traffic:

So many images to carry away!

 Like these :

  •  Joe leading the morning stretching on the porch of the big old Oceanic hotel:

  • The dining room.  I have to admit that every time I walked into that cacophonous space, I felt like the new kid on the first day of school, over and over, looking for a friendly place to sit.  The experience underscored the introvert in me.  Nevertheless, I ended up having many satisfying conversations with the folks at my table even if the initial plunge-in intimidated me.  If I go back to Star, maybe I'll see more familiar faces the more I visit.  That seems to be the way it works with a lot of the other attendees.  Friendships build up over the years.
In fact, this place has quite a following.  There's even a cheer which folks perform as the ferry arrives and as it departs, punctuated by the cry, "You will come back! You will come back! You will come back!"

  • My room:

It was a little bit Spartan, in its own Victorian way, but it had a water view, which is more than I can say for my bedroom at home.

  • The Sons of Poseidon. Where else in the world can you find a singing group called the Sons of Poseidon? That's Peter, on the left, who has a very interesting job in Riverside, California. He interviews actors to play patients for the purposes of medical school training.

  • Lady, who is a black lab, and her owner, Jean, who is blind from birth.  Lady celebrated a birthday during our week, and to celebrate, Jean let her off her harness.
 Lady gave me my dog fix, as I'd left my own two standard poodles at home. I don't just like dogs, I love dogs.
 I bonded with Jean over a discussion of Julia Ward Howe, who was married to the first director of the Perkins Institute for the Blind, the school that Jean attended from kindergarten through high school. I told Jean that according to a new biography by Elaine Showalter, Julia Ward Howe's husband, Samuel Gridley Howe, treated her with tyrannical condescension, for example, forcing her to undergo childbirth without anesthesia  mansplaining to her that "women need discipline: 'The pains of child birth are meant by a beneficent creator to be the means of leading them back to lives of temperance, exercise and reason.'" Jean was very interested to hear all that because the great man was revered at her school.  Take a look at that biography. Samuel Gridley Howe was in love with another man, and Julia Ward Howe wrote a novel about hermaphrodite behavior,

  • The poignancy of the cemetery:

  • The quality of my felting students' art:

I'll never forget the zest with which they created it.  My goodness, those ladies loved felting:

Our sessions only took place from 10 a.m. to noon, but so many of the students spent their off-hours in the classroom, felting away:

Others took their work out to the porch in the afternoon:

It's deeply gratifying to me to be able to share one of my favorite arts and foster a passion for it in others!

I might have taken better photos if I'd taken John Snell's photography class, but of course I couldn't because I was teaching my own class.  I did get to see some of John's work, though, and I want you to see how stunning it is:

  • Conversations.  So many of them.  With Kristin, Pat, Jean, Eileen, Kathy, Ruth Ann, Michele and others.

Shine on, Star!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Silliness on Star Island

So, here on Star Island, where I'm spending the week teaching The Felted Landscape for Star Arts week,, there are lots of other activities going on besides arts.

The other night there was a storytelling hour.  One of the craziest was told by one of a pair of sisters who lived together in an apartment when they were both young and starting out.  One day one of them presented the other with a penis-shaped candle for a gift.  The other, thereupon, finding an abandoned pair of men's underpants in a laundromat, brought it home and made a display of the underpants and the candle on the other sister's bed.  Soon the two developed a running joke of passing the underpants back and forth between them, with stealth in delivery as one of their goals.  The more sneaky the delivery, the better.  The sister who won the prize for the best transfer of the underpants rolled them up into a tight package,  wrapped them in foil, and baked them into a treat she knew her sister loved and craved. a loaf of Irish bread.

Then there was the story of the thumb.  This story was about an elderly mother who, with her children's help, went to live in an assisted living place.  The children asked her which of her things from her home she wanted to take with her to her new home, and they gathered and took those things.
But after the mom got to the new place, she continually thought of items she wished she had taken with her.  Her kids would try to track down these precious items in whatever thrift shop they had ended up in.  Sometimes they were forced to resort to E-Bay, in the hope that the mom wouldn't realize that she was only receiving a look-alike, not the real thing. Mostly that worked, until the mom asked for a certain little decorative box.  The kids went back to the thrift store where it had been taken, and the box wasn't to be found.  So they went and asked the mom why the box was so important to her.

The mom said that one Sunday, when all the family except the mom had gone out, she decided to saw some wood.  In the process of sawing the wood, she sawed off her thumb, and it flew off yonder, never to be seen again...until a few months later, that is, when she found her mummified thumb in the wood pile.  She put it in the little box as a memento.  And that's the box that her children couldn't find.  Don't know if they ever did find it.

So that's why, after the story hour had ended, one of the other Star Arts conferees came up and asked me on the sly if I could give her enough wool roving to make a three-dimensional thumb.  She made the thumb--I haven't seen it yet--and deposited it in a decorative box that was for sale here as part of the silent auction.  Heh heh.  We hope the buyer gets the joke when s/he opens that box.

Then there's Eileen Frigon.  When we first met each other, she said, "I'm Eileen. I lean."  She's a wild and crazy lady, a former elementary school teacher, who likes to talk about having to warn her students not to make jokes about her last name.  She told them, "It's 'free-gone.'  When you get out of school, you're free, and you're gone."  She tells lots of stories like that with lots of friggin' craziness.  I love her.  Here she is taking her felting out to the porch of an afternoon.

Then there's the wake-up chorus.  Every morning between 7 and 7:40, a group of women goes around to all the rooms in the hotel and in the outlying cottages, singing a wake up song.  The first morning I was here, they sang "Coffee, coffee, coffee," in harmony, to the tune of "Holy, holy, holy,"  On another morning they sang, "We gather together to call you to breakfast," to the tune of the Thanksgiving song, "We Gather Together."  Then they announce the air temperature, the forecast, the menu for breakfast, and the word for the day.  Today the word was "joy."

Good word for this place.  You know what we do instead of applause, in the chapel, when someone has played a particularly lovely song on the violin or the hammered dulcimer?  Instead of clapping, we rub our hands together.  They sound like a chorus of gently rustling leaves.  Gentle and joyful.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Shining from Star

Wouldn't it be great if you could take a picture of your soul?
Then when your mother wanted to brag about you
she could show people the picture and say,
"That's my daughter, doesn't she have a beautiful soul,
all sparkly and many-colored and flowing all around her?"

Wouldn't it be great if we walked around
surrounded by our souls,
so that they were the first things people saw
instead of the last things?

This was the message this morning delivered from the chapel service on Star Island.

Yes, was my answer, yes and yes.

There's a lot of spirituality here, and maybe that's why I'm beginning to feel I'm in a spiritual home.  So much spirit! So much art!

Like this impromptu sing-along this afternoon on the porch:

And this little performance-sing along by a New York vocal coach who is one of the other instructors, accompanied by one of my co-conferees who happens to play the violin:

 And the people who are so turned on by my felting class.  They love it.  Here's my class:

 Here's some of the students' work.  They're blowing me away!

People love it so much that some of them are doing it outside our 10 am to noon classroom time.  Like this gal who took her felting out to the porch:

 It's so gratifying for me to share his beloved creative exercise from my heart.

The view from the classroom window isn't bad either:

How would you like to teach in a classroom with that kind of view?

How about the other activities?  Geology walk, botany walk, boat rides, social hour, auction, swimming, porch sitting...the list goes on.

I love it all, but especially I love the morning chapel services in the 200 year-old chapel.

One of the songs we sang this morning asked the question,

How could anyone ever tell you
You were anything less than beautiful
How could anyone ever tell you
You were less than whole?

Here on Star, they never would.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

My current adventure: a week of teaching on Star Island

I was invited to teach felting on Star Island about three months ago, and I spent the last of those three months planning my lessons, packing three big boxes of felting supplies to send to the island, and worrying.  Sometimes I think that worrying is a necessary prequel to a challenging new adventure. What could go wrong?  The boxes, with all the supplies I needed, could fail to arrive.  Or I could get sick and toss my cookies on the way to the island.

The boxes arrived.

But the cookies did get tossed.

It was a little bit choppy out there on the way to Star from the Portsmouth ferry dock.    The ferry that carried me, the Thomas Laighton,  looked like a pretty good, big, stable boat.

Not stable enough for me, though.  When I got to the island after the one hour trip, shivering with cold sweat and trembling with rubber legs, the steps up to the Oceanic Hotel, where I would be staying, looked like Mt. Everest to me.  Can you see them?

I couldn't eat dinner that night, and trembling though I was, I was required to deliver a short speech to the assembled Star Arts attendees, describing the felting workshops I would be leading every morning from 10 to 12.  I managed to do that, then retired to my room, where the tossing of the cookies continued.  I knew I was dehydrated and needed water, but I couldn't keep it down.  My head pounded. I was trembling and scared. Being alone here, I was afraid of what might happen overnight. So I decided I had to go to the island doctor, who wasn't even technically on duty at that time.  She lives in a little house not very far from where I was staying, but I had to be delivered there in a golf cart.

She was so kind.  She said she had worked in the medical unit of a big university for 23 years, and she regularly saw students who were dehydrated from throwing up, especially on weekends.  They needed intravenous rehydration, but I didn't need that, fortunately.  Instead, the doctor gave me two anti-nausea pills, Zofran.  She said they were developed for the nausea of chemotherapy, and for that reason they Then some tylenol for the headache.  After about 45 minutes, the trembling and the head pounding were about 60 percent gone, so the kind doctor walked me back to the Oceanic Hotel, where I was staying.  I slid into sleep and was awakened in the morning by a troop of women, singing in harmony outside my door, to the tune of Holy, Holy, Holy: "Coffee, coffee, coffee...."  and then announcing the temperature, 63 degrees, and the weather, foggy.

After that I knew it was going to be a great day.  And it was.  My empty stomach appreciated the breakfast.  The chapel service after that was peaceful and thoughtful. Afterward I delivered three "Taster's Choice" talks and demos, half an hour each, to give people a chance to decide which arts programs they wanted to take for the week.  What great choices:  Bollywood dancing, for example, music, writing, and photography are a few of the others in addition to mine.

I got a lot of interest.  I think over 20 people are going to take my class, a few of them men.  Here's the room where I'll be teaching:

I don't know who the random guy is.  But I can tell you there are ocean views from all the windows.

Most of my visitors this morning were fascinated by this most user-friendly and tactile of arts. I think we're going to have a good time together every morning from 10 to 12.

And there are a lot of other things to do when the art workshops aren't happening.  A geology walk.  A botany walk.  Stretching.  Chi Gong.  Yoga. Boat rides (I think I'll pass on those this time). Afternoon tea.  A talk called Ghosts and Graveyards.  An auction. A talent show.  Chapel services twice daily.  I'm gonna be so well rounded!

Meanwhile, take a look at this place!  It's over 100 years old  It's such a big rickety old building, I half expect Jack Nicholson to show his deranged face around a corner.
 But it's not scary, it's quaint. In so many ways, it's a throwback to the Victorian era ,when families would come out here and spend the whole summer.  Check out the Victorian-ness of the Pink Parlor.  Because this room is carpeted, I chose it for my pre-surgical physical therapy exercises.

And here's the dining room:
I can tell you it's cacophonous when full.  Echoey.  In fact, this whole place is echoey.  But that's part of its Victorian charm.