Sunday, June 30, 2013

Johnny on His Front Steps 1960

by Kimberly (our daughter and first child)
This is a portrait of my husband at age 20, sitting on the front steps of the house he grew up in.  Kimberly has the original, acrylic on canvas and unfractured.  She did the above by tearing sections of a paper mock-up, decoupaging them onto canvas, and then outlining the sections with roughly applied black acrylic paint.

Holy Smoke

I feel a strong connection to this picture.  I feel like it really captures who I am, as if it were a photograph of my soul, if that were possible.  I always get lost in thought when I'm at the kitchen sink and I think this picture shows me lost in thought or being startled or interrupted out of that deep interior place.  At the time it was taken, my nine year old son and I were doing some renovations in the kitchen.  We'd taken down and thrown away the rusty old metal wall and floor cabinets.  We built new base cabinets and a counter-top from pine planks that we got by tearing apart pallets my husband brought home from work to burn in the wood stove. We didn't have any fancy tools, just a hammer and a jig saw.  It was exhilarating to create something out of nothing.  

Holy Smoke

Last night at eleven
in my torture chamber bed
as I was drifting off to sleep
I was startled awake instead.

“What the heck was that?” I asked

You sat up and said 
“I threw an alarm clock bomb out the window.”*

I screamed, "It just missed my head!”

“But I saved our lives,” you insisted.

I replied “Who asked you to?”

The street went up in smoke.
Laughing, you remained seated
while I buried my head
and choked on your joke.

Today when I woke up at seven
you were nowhere around.
This has got to be heaven
I thought,
then  knelt
to kiss the ground
you used to walk on.

 * REM Sleep Behavior Disorder 

Thursday, June 27, 2013


Fifty-four years ago, on this day we were married.  I was sixteen, he was eighteen. No one took any pictures, my daughter photo-shopped the picture above.  I wore a royal blue silk suit with a picture frame collar and a.perky little pillbox hat of the same color.  For our honeymoon, we drove to New Jersey in his uncle's Buick, got lost, had no idea where we were going.  We drove around on strange roads in the dark until finally, exhausted, we found a motel and spent our wedding night  there.  In the office a man appeared from behind a red curtain to check us in.   On the wall of the office there was a sign that read, "All the spaghetti you can eat and one meatball."  I cried a lot because it struck me that I could never go home to my old life. The next day we went to Clementon Park, got something to eat, waded around in the lake for a while and then headed back home to a little rented house a block down the street from my parents. A year later, on our first anniversary, my parents took us out for a lobster tail dinner.  There was a jukebox there and my father played Nat King Cole, "Too Young."  It was his way of finally giving us his blessing.  Once, many years later, when my husband was looking at pictures of me from back then, he said, "It's a wonder your father didn't shoot me." 



Sunday, June 23, 2013

A Shocking Revelation

It's news to me.  He must have been really proud (not that he shouldn't have been) to invite the newspaper into his wife's bedroom.  I wonder how she  felt about it.  I never met my great grandfather Brown, nor his first wife Laura Blizzard, mother of my grandfather. All things being equal, since the article mentions Frank Murphy, the deceased 1st husband of the 2nd Mrs. Brown, I think it should have given a nod to Mr. Brown's 1st wife, Laura.  


John H. Brown, 73-year-old retired Noxen farmer, proudly welcomed a Times-Leader cameraman to his mother-in-law’s apartment at 37 West Market Street, to photograph a newly arrived infant daughter, born to Mrs. Brown early yesterday morning. Mr. and Mrs. Brown were married less than a year ago after each parent had completed varying periods of widowhood.  Mr. Brown had been a widower for eight years and Mrs. Brown for two. Mr. Brown has known his wife since she was an infant, but did not know her husband had died until he visited Mrs. Nina Root, now his mother-in-law.  Mrs. Brown was formerly Nina Steele before her first marriage to Frank Murphy. Mrs. Brown’s first marriage was blessed with nine children, eight of whom are still living.  Mr. Brown’s first union resulted in the birth of two children.  His oldest, Ira Brown, 50, lives at Pringle, while a daughter, Lena Kearny, 48, lives in West Pittston. The latest arrival was ushered into the world at 1:58 o’clock yesterday morning by Dr. Charles C. Montgomery, 924 South Franklin Street.

John H. Brown 1864 - 1947
My Great Grandfather

Ira Brown, my maternal grandfather

My grandfather, Ira, and his sister, Lena

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Requiem for a Friend - Rainer Maria Rilke and Paula Modersohn-Becker

1906 by Modersohn-Becker

Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907)
 Tragically, Modersohn-Becker died at the age of 31 shortly after childbirth. In her seven years as an artist, she produced over 700 paintings and 1,000 drawings - remarkable, considering she had no recognition from the art world or fellow artists. Now, Modersohn-Becker is recognized in art history for helping shape the transition from the Symbolism of Gauguin to German Expressionism, and -- belatedly-- as one of the most famous female artists of the 20th century.

In 1907, Paula Modersohn-Becker returned to her husband in Worpswede, despite period correspondence that indicate her desire for independence. She wrote in detail about her love for her husband but her need to delay motherhood in pursuit of freedom. Paula continued to express ambivalence regarding motherhood; she was concerned about the ability to paint while raising a child. Her daughter Mathilde (Tillie) Modersohn was born on November 2, 1907. Paula and Otto were joyous. Sadly, the joy became soon overshadowed by tragedy, as Paula Modersohn-Becker died suddenly in Worpswede on November 20 from an embolism, caused by a misguided medical instruction, 18 days of bed rest after labor. She was buried on the Worpswede Cemetery, her grave is preserved.

In 1908, Rainer Maria Rilke wrote the renowned poem "Requiem for a Friend" in memory of Paula. The poem was born from the impressions which Paula's life, death and friendship had left upon Rilke.

             Rilke by Paula Modersohn-Becker 1906                       Rilke in 1900, aged 24


Requiem for a Friend

 Rainer Maria Rilke

Are you still there? Are you in some corner? –
You understood all of this so well
and used it so well, as you passed through
open to everything, like the dawn of a day.
Women do suffer: love means being alone,
and artists sometimes suspect in their work
that they must transform where they love.
You began both: both are in that
which now fame disfigures, and takes from you.
Oh you were far beyond any fame. You were
barely apparent: you’d withdrawn your beauty
as a man takes down a flag
on the grey morning of a working day,
and wished for nothing, except the long work –
which is unfinished: and yet is not finished.

If you are still here, if in this darkness
there is still a place where your sensitive spirit
resonates on the shallow waves
of a voice, isolated in the night,
vibrating in the high room’s current:
then hear me: help me. See, we can slip back so
unknowingly, out of our forward stride,
into something we didn’t intend: find
that we’re trapped there as if in dream
and we die there, without waking.
No one is far from it. Anyone who has fired
their blood through work that endures,
may find that they can no longer sustain it
and that it falls according to its weight, worthless.
For somewhere there is an ancient enmity
between life and the great work.
Help me, so that I might see it and know it.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

To Dad - A Good Man, A Good Father, A Good Italian

For my father's 80th birthday my sister and I took him to Italy.  This picture shows his reaction when he found out we were going.  He had told us often "My father crossed the ocean seven times.  I haven't even crossed it once."  We went with a group from the Humanities Department of our local community college during Easter week of 1992. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Honeymoon in Heaven

Honeymoon in Heaven
My parents in Scranton PA, 1939 
(reworked by my daughter)

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Good Old Days

The little director:  "Alright people, that's a wrap!"

My father filmed our lives starting about 1942.  A few years before he died he had all of his old 8 mm reel to reels put on  Video Home System, better known as VHS tapes or cassettes.  He gave all of us "4 kids" the best of all Christmas gifts: a documentary of our lives, almost 4 hours long on two vhs tapes aptly named Ruth and Pete Family, parts 1 and 2.  This year everything was moved up a notch, technically speaking, and the tapes were transferred to DVD format.  Each of our 5 children received a two disc set of the Ruth and Pete Family documentary this Christmas and were thrilled, almost overwhelmed with joy and appreciation, saying "This is the greatest gift ever."

Currently, I am in the process of editing the discs.  The film clips are not in chronological order, kind of like a crazy quilt, scraps of fabric placed here and there randomly.  It's going to be quite a project, but I'm enjoying every minute of it.  I copied the discs to my desktop to find they were conveniently divided into segments and frames.  Two long days of working on this project has (have?) netted me six short videos which I've enhanced and uploaded  to Youtube, keeping original versions as well.  I've also added music more appropriate to the content and sweeter to the ear, my ears at least..  Looks like I'm going to be busy for months. 


Friday, June 7, 2013

Dancing with Gramma

I'm attracted to walking sticks and canes.  Not sure why.  This is part of my modest collection.  My favorites are the Yucca walking stick (second to left) and the simple, ordinary cane on the right.  I bought the Yucca stick from an elderly man at a flea market in Sayre, PA.  I love the way it feels in my hands with all those little nubs.  The run of the mill cane on the right belonged to my grandmother who moved into my bedroom at home when I got married and moved out.

She died in my old bed at the age of 90 on Thanksgiving Day.  It was 1959.  I was there that day, with my husband and our first child, a daughter only a few weeks old.  I was happy that my grandmother lived long enough to see my baby daughter. She seemed so pleased earlier when I visited with her with the baby in her bedroom.  And then, only a few hours later, dinner was ready and we  all took our seats at the table, waiting for Aunt Caterina to join us.  She had just taken  Gramma's dinner tray into her. We weren't expecting her to return with the sad news.  I'll never forget the way she stood in the doorway of the dining room and calmly announced "Gramma is dead."

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Party at My Place

Burn Brae

From the Philadelphia Medical Registry pgs 145-146
Edited by
William B Atkinson, A.M., M.D.
A Private Hospital for Mental and Nervous Diseases
Clifton Heights, Delaware County, Pa

This institution, although not within in the city limits, is so near them as to be properly mentioned in connection with the objects of this work. It is a private Hospital for mental disease, and derives its support from the payments made for board and medical care of patients.

No patient is received for a less period than three months. A certificate of insanity, signed by two physicians, and acknowledged before a magistrate, is invariably required.

A lady, well educated and of exceptionable manners and deportment, resides in the same apartments, and devotes her time to lady patients, thus securing them on all occasions a pleasant companion and a watchful friend.

A limited number of cases of Opium habit can be admitted.

Access from Philadelphia by the Baltimore Pike, or by car for Oak Lane Station, on Central Division of P.W. and B. Railroad, depot Broad and Filbert Streets, Philadelphia.

Consulting Physicians : Drs. Robert Bartholow and Horatio C. Wood.
Assistant Physician : Dr. Willoughby Phillips.
Physician-in-charge : Dr. R. A. Given.

All packages by express, postal and telegraphic communications should be addressed
Clifton Heights, Delaware County, Pa.

In the summer of 1859, Dr R.A. Given erected buildings near the village of Clifton and established a private hospital for patients afflicted with nervous and mental diseases. It was designed to accomodate forty patients, 20 of each sex. The main building was originaly four stories high, including the basement, subsequently a mansard was added, in which the amusement hall ( a large and handsome room) was located. Many improvements have been made from time to time in different halls, rendering the accomodations more perfect and attractive. On the ladies' side an entirely new building has been erected rendered necessary by the enlargement of the rooms in the main structure. The grounds, 25 acres in extent, are handsomely laid out and planted with a variety of ornamental trees, evergreen and diceduous.

 A farm of thirty two acres, part heavily wooded, capable of being converted into drives and walks of great attractiveness has been added; thus, besides securing to the inmates perfect privacy, affording them in their walks, the pleasing variety of hill and valley, meadow, brook and woodland. No efforts have been spared to render the building fire proof. Fire escapes are attached to both wings and in addition arrangements exist on each floor to enable the occupants to pass readily from side to side without resort to the stairs. The building throughout is thoroughly heated with steam and lighted by gas. Hot and cold water is abundantly distributed throughout the entire establishment.

“I do not think there is any thrill that can go through the human heart like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success . . . Such emotions make a man forget food, sleep, friends, love, everything.” ― Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla 
July 10, 1856 –  January 7, 1943

Passing Through
from Olafur Haraldsson on Vimeo.