>Want to Help Save Art?

>The democratization of patronage. That’s what my friend, the very gifted writer, Scott Morris, calls the new kind of patronage available to anyone who wants to support the arts these days. Scott has two published novels, The Total View of Taftly and Waiting for April. But his third and most brilliant work, a novel titled Gaines Green, has had trouble getting published due to the economy and other complex issues. He needs our help, and frankly, we need to join the new order of patrons who can save art in our times.

Read all about Scott’s story at Kickstarter:

“A Novel That Won’t Quit Needs One More Boost.” (Be sure and watch the video!)

I’ve already pledged $100. Not just because Scott is my friend (and mentor) but also because I believe it’s time to embrace the opportunities that all of us now have to become patrons… to save art. As Scott says:

“During the 18th Century—and this was painfully embodied by Samuel Johnson—Western culture began shifting from patronage to a middle-class market for books and paintings and other art forms. Yet now the model of a market that can sustain independent artists no longer coheres. A new form of patronage has emerged. While the older form relied on aristocrats and elites, the new form of patronage could be described as the democratization of patronage. Anyone interested in an artist can support that artist.”

For the past three years, Scott has served as workshop critique leader at the Yoknapatawpha Summer Writers Workshop in Oxford, Mississippi, where we first met. (He’ll be leading the critique sessions again this year, and also giving a craft talk on “Voice,” June 10-12.) He was also on faculty at the Seaside Writers Workshop I attended in 2009. He’s been an invaluable guide for me in my own work. If you haven’t read my posts about him in the past, here are a few:

“Learning to See and Write Sunsets.”

“The Writer’s Cross: Transcending the Existential Shorthand.”

It’s easy to become a patron of Scott, or other writers, musicians and artists you might want to support, on Kickstarter. If you’ve got an Amazon account, you can make your pledge through Amazon, which I did. It’s as quick as downloading a book to your Kindle!

So, please consider making even a small pledge to help this brilliant novel find a publishing home. Just hop on over to Kickstarter and read Scott’s story, and you’ll want to help.

Do it for your soul. Do it for Scott. Do it for art.

>Why I Haven’t Written About Mom Lately

>Some of you have been wondering why I haven’t written about Mom lately. I still visit her at the nursing home in Jackson, Mississippi, about twice a month. But the past few visits have left me wordless. Why? I think for two reasons: (1) They’ve actually been a little boring. As she slips farther away, there’s less to talk about. (2) I think I’ve been repressing a degree of sadness over losing her and haven’t been ready to write about it.

But that may be changing, thanks to Dinty Moore’s interview and article, both in Writer’s Digest. Read all about it over at my post on the 2011 Memphis Creative Nonfiction site:

“The Personal Essay: In Search of Insight and Enlightenment.”

On my next visit I think I’m going to cut her hair. She has asked me to, although she won’t let the people at the nursing home cut it. I’m a little nervous about doing it. I think cutting hair is a very intimate activity. Kind of like giving manicures and pedicures. Hope I’m up to the task.

>Wordless Wednesday: Cushman Row

>Thanks to Rich Zakka, my New York friend who lived in Memphis for a while, I discovered a family treasure yesterday in Chelsea. CUSHMAN ROW, a row of Greek Revival houses on West 20th Street, built by my husband’s great-great grandfather, Don Alonzo Cushman, in 1840!

Rich knew I was having breakfast at La Grainne, a French cafe just around the corner from Cushman Row in Chelsea, yesterday, and mentioned the houses, having no idea we were actually so closely related to the builder.

Sadly, none of them are for sale.

We’re off to meet Rich for lunch before heading to the airport to catch our flight back home. He’s taking us to Moustache in the West Village… voted “Best Middle Eastern Restaurant” in New York City.

>Saint Photini and the Depth and Vastness of Man

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Today is the Sunday of the Samaritan Woman (Saint Photini) in the Orthodox Church. Father Paul Yerger of Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church in Clinton, Mississippi, put this nice piece by Metropolitan Anthony Bloom in his newsletter for today, and I was touched by it and want to share it. Especially this part:

“… nothing can fill us, because man is too deep for things material, too deep for things psychological, too vast – only God can fill this vastness and this depth.”

I struggle with this every day, as I try to fill that vastness with material or psychological things.. or intellectual or artistic food. I’m pretty sure there’s nothing wrong with those things that God gave us to enjoy. (I’m off to the Metropolitan Museum of Art today for a feast of beauty created by man.) But every now and then something (like this article) reminds me that these things aren’t the water that will quench our eternal thirst. So today, like Saint Photini, the Woman at the Well, I will try to turn to God a bit more and say, “Give me that water.”

Here’s the short article by Met. Bloom: (And the icon is Coptic… I love the simplicity of the Coptic style.):

WHEN THE SAMARITAN WOMAN came back in haste to her town and called all those who lived around her to see Christ, she said: ‘Come! Here is a Man who has told me everything I have done!’ And the people flocked around, and listened to what Christ had to say.

At times we think, how easy it was for this woman to believe and how easy it was for her, from within this shattering experience to turn to others and say: Come! Listen to one who has spoken as no-one else has ever spoken, One Who, without a word of mine has seen into the depth of my heart, into the darkness of my life, has seen and known everything.

But is it not something that can happen to each of us? Christ did not tell her anything very singular, He told her who she was, what her life had been, how God saw her. But this He can tell us every day of our life, and not in a mystical experience, not as it happened to some saints, but in the simplest possible way.

If we turn to the Gospel and read it every day, or if we simply read it once in a while with an openness that we do not always possess, we may think that Christ holds before our eyes a mirror in which we see ourselves as we are: either by rejoicing at what we see, or by contrast, being shaken by the fact that we are so different from what we seem to be, or what we imagine we are.

Christ said to the Samaritan woman: Call your husband! And she said: I have no husband. Christ replied: You have spoken the truth. You have had five husbands, and the one who is your husband now indeed, is not your husband more than anyone else. Certain spiritual writers have commented on this passage by suggesting that Christ was saying to her: Yes – you have been wedded to all that your five senses could give you, and you have seen that you find fulfilment, satisfaction in none. And now, what is left to you is your own self, your body, your mind, and this, no more than your five senses can fulfil you, give you that fullness without which you cannot live.…So let us learn from this woman that we have turned, all of us, to so may ways in which we could receive the message of this world and be filled, and we have all discovered that nothing can fill us, because man is too deep for things material, too deep for things psychological, too vast – only God can fill this vastness and this depth. If we only could realise this, we would be exactly in the position of the woman of Samaria. We need not meet Christ at the well. The well, indeed, is the Gospel, the place from which the water of life may gush – but not a material well, that well is a symbol. The water which we are to drink is different. – Metropolitan Anthony Bloom (full version is here.)

For previous posts where I quote from Met. Anthony, see:

“A Preview of Authentic Beauty

“Scootch, Scootch, Bog, or Grace Eventually”


“Beginning to Pray”

>Still Waiting for a Sincere Apology from the Pope

>An op ed piece in Wednesday’s New York Times, “The Vatican Comes Up Short,” speaks to the disappointing, inadequate guidelines the Vatican has come up with for preventing sexual abuse of children by clergy. The directive, called “nonbinding guidance,” came two days before a new study of the abuse problem that “cites the sexual and social turmoil of the 1960s as a possible factor in priests’ crimes.”

Really? The Vatican is going to blame the 60s for the sexual abuse they continue to cover up?

My friend and writer, Kim Michele Richardson, author of The Unbreakable Child, keeps fighting the good fight. In her article in today’s Huffington Post, “Catholic Church Reform Should Start with ‘I’m Sorry,’” she states that she and others who were victims of sexual abuse by priests and nuns are “still waiting for a real and sincere apology from the pope and the rest of the hierarchy. In its place, the Vatican and the U.S. bishops have offered vapid pamphlets preaching ‘zero tolerance’—Band-Aid fixes to the gaping wounds of hundreds of thousands of victims and survivors.”

If you’re new to my blog, here’s my post two years ago about The Irish Commission’s report on child abuse, “The Face of God in Ireland? Memphis?”

And my Q&A with Kim Michele Richardson when her book first came out in 2009, “Q&A With the ‘Unbreakable Child,’ Kim Michele Richardson.”

Of course the Catholic Church isn’t the only place that child abuse happens, or that it gets covered up. But since it’s the largest denomination of the Christian Church in the world, it’s hugely important that its leaders own up to these abuses, quit protecting the abusers, and genuinely ask forgiveness from those they have harmed. As Richardson says, “Compared to the magnitude of the pain inflicted, the harm done and the lives shattered, one simple phrase is not too much to ask.”

>Wordless Wednesday: WHAT IS IT?

>We found this silky, knit thingy under the seat in the Jeep Liberty we rented to take everything down to Florida for our daughter’s wedding. WHAT IS IT? It’s about 20 inches long and 15 inches wide, as it’s laid out in the picture. WINNER WINS IT! (If you want it:-)

>The Meta-Moir?

>Hey, I’m off on a day trip to Jackson (Mississippi) to visit my mom, so no time for a new post here. But, *drum roll* you might like my new post at the 2011 Memphis Creative Nonfiction blog today:

“The Meta-Memoir.”

Have a great Monday!

>The (Crazy?) Woman on the Beach

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Artwork: The Title Lobby Card From Renoir’s 1947 Film “Woman On The Beach…”

A few days before our daughter’s wedding at Seagrove Beach, I met a woman walking on the beach near the wedding venue. She appeared to be in her 70s, but very fit and outgoing. She asked if I was on vacation, and I told her about my daughter’s upcoming wedding.

“Oh, can I come?” Her eyes lit up with excitement.

“Well, it will be on the beach, so anyone can watch the ceremony.”

“I’d love to come and have a glass of wine with you!”

“Um, the reception is actually a small, private, mostly family affair.”

“That’s okay. I’ll bring my own wine.”

The woman tagged along with me on my walk for about ten minutes after that and told me her story. I’ve changed a few of the details, but this is basically what she told me:

“I live on the tenth floor of that high rise down there (she points) which my son owns. I lease it from him. But now he and my other kids want to have me committed. They think I’m crazy, just because I want to live on the beach! I love it here. I walk about 7 miles every day… all the way down to Deer Creek Park and back. I’ve got lots of friends here who know I’m not crazy, and they’re signing a petition saying so.”

At this point I have to slow down because my recently broken ankle is bothering me just a bit. She notices and asks if I’m okay, so I tell her I broke my ankle 6 weeks ago and it’s healing.

“Oh, honey, I’ve got two pulled tendons in this foot and an old stress fracture in this one, but I just ignore them and keep on going.”

I look down at her feet, which are both swollen. Her body is trim and fit. Her hair is short and blond-streaked. There is something a bit crazed about her eyes and her smile. As we approach my condo I tell her I’ve got to go, but I’ll be praying for her. (I’m remembering River Jordan’s book, Praying For Strangers, and thinking how this woman would definitely have been River’s stranger had she met her, but I guess she’s mine, and I wasn’t even looking for one.)

“Okay. Take care of your foot, and I’ll see you at the wedding!”

I didn’t think about the woman at the beach over the next few days as the wedding preparations went into full gear. But at the end of the wedding, just as the wedding party was gathering for photographs, there she was. She just walked up to my daughter and congratulated her. Of course Beth had no idea who she was, so I stepped up and said, “Hi, Linda.”

She gave me a hug, and I hugged her back.

“What a beautiful bride!”

“Yes, isn’t she?” I noticed she didn’t have a glass of wine in her hand and I worried for a minute that she might follow the other guests up the steps to the reception. “Um, we’ve got to take some more photographs, but thanks for coming by.”

Smiling her crazed smile, she walked off down the beach. I couldn’t help but wonder if I might end up like her one day. If I do, I wonder if my children will let me live on the beach.

When I returned home to Memphis and thought about the encounter, I remembered Joan Anderson’s books, which I read a few years ago, especially A Walk on the Beach. In A Year by the Sea and An Unfinished Marriage, Anderson shared her account of taking a break from her marriage and spending a year of solitude at the beach. In A Walk on the Beach, she introduces the inspiring woman she befriended during that time: Joan Erikson, wife of psychoanalyst Erik Erikson. But unlike “Linda,” Joan wasn’t crazy, and her year by the sea resulted in a renewal of her marriage. The beach can be healing that way. I hope it will heal Linda enough to allow her to live by the sea for a bit longer.

>Wordless Wednesday: The Rehearsal

>Just got home from Seagrove Beach last night, having been away for two weeks, so it’s a good thing today is “Wordless Wednesday.” (Unpacking, laundry, groceries, and opening two weeks’ worth of mail is keeping me busy!) It’s hard to choose just one picture to share today, but I’ve settled on this one, taken right after the wedding rehearsal for our daughter’s wedding on the beach this past weekend. Her dad and I had an unbelievably joyous time all weekend! Watch for wedding photos and stories here soon. (and on Facebook, of course) Well, okay, here are a few more from the rehearsal.

A note of explanation about this first one: my Goddaughter, Katherine Thames, and her husband, Hardy, arrived at the rehearsal (and the wedding the next afternoon) on a bike and skate board. Perfect.

>Organizing a Writers Workshop: Part 2

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Hop on over to Jane Friedman’s Writers Digest blog, “There Are No Rules,” for my guest post today:

“Organizing a Writers Workshop, Part 2: Marketing.”

Having a great time at the beach, getting set up for rehearsal dinner on the grounds tonight! Fun watching the guys put up the tent. Have a great weekend, everyone!

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