Memories are powerful allies in understanding who we are.

Every day we look forward into our unknown future. At the same time we hold memories from our lived past. We look forward, we look back. Each can be valuable and of use to us in creating our future. I began this autobiographical blog entry nine months ago never dreaming how long it would take me to write this short chapter of my life!

In late September, Jeanne and I will fly to Athens, Greece with one stop in Atlanta, GA. From Athens we take the hour long flight down to Crete. This Mediterranean island is located at the crossroads of three continents. For the next two weeks, we will join eighteen other women on one of the Goddess Pilgrimages begun over two decades ago. This trip, sixty-five years later than the family camping trip I describe below, will likely be my last long distance trip. My stamina at seventy-seven differs from my thirteen year old self, but my enthusiasm and anticipation remain high, so who knows…

In this blog, I’m focusing on 1957 and the first of our many family trips. I write about both family and travel as a challenge, as an education. Both full of life long possibilities.

Every organism, including families, must grow and change as new circumstances arise. My own family of the 1950s adapted to a variety of new developments. In the mid-1950s the woman who raised my mother, her Aunt Duckie died. Duckie left her estate to Marie. She also trusted mother with the full responsibility for the care of Duckie’s disabled son, Noble. Marie had grown up with Noble who was a decade or so older than Marie. After Duckie’s death, Noble lived alone in their house on Miami Beach where mother grew up. This arrangement did not work out. Eventually my parents bought the house next to ours and moved Uncle Noble there. Caring for Noble became a new challenge for my parents.

With her inheritance my parents bought their first new car. That 1957 Chevrolet station wagon could seat nine passengers (though not comfortably). Our station wagon became our “magic carpet” allowing our family of six to take to the highway. That snazzy Townsman two-tone vehicle had a sleek aerodynamic looked which ended in pronounced tail fins–quite a contrast to the car in the first pictures above.

Chevrolet ad men dramatized the 1957 station wagons by claiming they were “born with a wanderlust – eager to go at the drop of a tailgate!” The ad below declared our vehicle to be “the beauty queen of all station wagons”.

That sleek look was enhanced by a variety of dramatic two tone color options rarely seen today. Of fifteen different options, Marie and Paul picked the station wagon with a base color of Sierra Gold with Adobe Beige accents. Outfitted with our powerful chariot, our family was headed for the open road. Family friends had recommended camping as a family-friendly, and less expensive, adventure. That first year my parents borrowed camping equipment and headed for the Smoky Mountains in East Tennessee. The park straddles the ridgeline of the Great Smoky Mountains, part of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which are a division of the larger Appalachian Mountain chain.

“All America is Your Playground” pitched other ads from this era. The previous year, 1956, “President Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act, establishing America’s 47,800-mile Interstate Highway System. As president during the Cold War era, Eisenhower advocated for an interstate highway system, believing it beneficial for military defense operations as well as for the nation’s economic growth.”1

Apparently my parents decided Lea was old enough for us to take long summer vacations. Lea was no longer “Baby Lea”. She “Graduated from Kindergarten” at five, and the next month she turned six. With our borrowed camping gear we six set off to see if, as a family, we’d like the experience of “roughing it”. Mother’s modest inheritance gave us the opportunity to travel and see the country.

Mid summer in 1957 we left the Miami area one early morning while it was still cool. It took at least seven hours to drive north on U.S. Highway 1, or Dixie Highway, to the Georgia State line. It took a total of ten driving hours to reach the Smoky Mountains–the cool haven we were seeking. It was the the middle of a hot summer.

Our fancy new car had no seat belts or air conditioning. Dad smoked Lucky Strikes and mother smoked Chesterfields. All of us breathed much second-hand smoke. That second hand smoke is now known to have similar adverse health effects as smoking. Usually dad drove and mother handled the maps and our prepacked lunches and snacks. For this trip, they now had their first and only credit card–for Texaco gas.

Dad took these photos sixty-five years ago on that first trip. Family friends, Lila and Bob Newbold, had encouraged us to try family camping. They met us in the Smokies that summer. For sleeping our family brought borrowed cots and “jungle hammocks”. A jungle hammock is a sturdy hammock equipped with a frame above to secure mosquito netting and a waterproof layer on top. See me climbing out of my cocoon of a hammock below.

Smokemont was our base camp for that trip. Mother packed several cast iron skillets which worked well over open fires. We also had a small camp stove for quick meals like eggs and bacon before setting out for our day. You can see us on our rented horses and later exploring the rushing creeks where we delighted in “rock hopping”.

Despite all the posted warnings, we were stupid tourists approaching the bears who were looking for handouts. That “photo-op” could have turned to tragedy. Today’s park regulations about protecting the bears from human stupidity are strictly enforced and can include fines. Below are three of Dad’s photos from 1957.

One of my favorite parts of these trips involved visiting homes from another era. Seeing the farmstead setup gave me a sense of what the people created and focused on. By studying the buildings I tried to picture their daily lives. From spinning wheels to quilting rails stored below the ceiling, to split rail fences, to seeing the inside of a smokehouse, I learned about an earlier time period.

We did not learn much about the original inhabitants of the area. The Cherokee, the original residents of the Smoky Mountains, were ignored by historians in those years. I’ll share the basic history of the Cherokee living in the Smokies:

“The Smokemont area was first occupied by Cherokee, who believed the Oconaluftee River was sacred. The tribe roamed the Great Smokies, but archeological findings confirm a large, permanent village existed in Oconaluftee. It is believed the settlement was destroyed in 1776 during the American Revolution”2

*When the first white settlers reached the Great Smoky Mountains in the late 1700s they found themselves in the land of the Cherokee Indians. The tribe, one of the most culturally advanced on the continent, had permanent towns, cultivated croplands, sophisticated political systems, and extensive networks of trails. Most of the Cherokee were forcibly removed in the 1830s to Oklahoma in a tragic episode known as the “trail of Tears. The few who remained are the ancestors of the Cherokees living near the park today.”3

Another distortion of historical reality became evident when I found these pictures my dad took on the day our family visited nearby Fontana Dam. Built in the early 1940s, the immense dam project was unlike anything our family had ever seen! At 480 feet high, Fontana is the tallest dam in the Eastern United States. The structure is overwhelming and the noise of the rushing water is fearsome.

At the time in 1957, we were led to believe that the dam was a “wonder” as it brought electricity to the mountain communities. The truth is more complicated. This gigantic dam on the Little Tennessee River in the eastern part of North Carolina “was built to generate electricity to bolster America’s chances of winning World War II. In order to develop atomic weapons, the Federal Government needed a source of energy to power the top-secret Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Out of that need the Fontana Dam, Fontana Lake, and Fontana Village were born.”4

This true history reminds me of the mixed consequences in 1980s of the seizure of land to create the Buffalo National River here in Arkansas. Many families and communities suffered when their land was seized to create the park. The seizure of land first from the Cherokee peoples, then for Smoky Mountain National Park, and later for the Buffalo National River brings up important questions with complex answers.

As a girl growing up in the 1950s, we were not encouraged to openly ask these questions. To create the future we want, we have to ask “who, what, why and where and when” about nearly everything. That first long vacation in 1957 with my family bonded us with each other. Traveling long distances and encountering new surroundings tested each of us in different ways. That lived experience and the shared adventure into a wider world enriched my life.

POSTSCRIPT

For those of you who are interested in learning more details I uncovered about the early inhabitants of the Smoky Mountains, in particular, the Cherokee living along the Oconaluftee River in the vast Chestnut forest, see the notes below. I’m starting this postscript section with continued discussion of the building of Fontana Dam.

“The building of Fontana was not without sacrifice and controversy. Almost 70,000 acres of land were taken through the federal government’s power of eminent domain to support the project. 1,300 families were relocated– some elderly, some widows with children, and many that had never lived anywhere else. Hundreds of homesites, dozens of small communities, and more than 20 cemeteries were rendered inaccessible or flooded by the new lake.

In addition to compensating displaced property owners, the federal government offered a $400,000 payment to the State of North Carolina and a promise to local residents to construct a road giving them access to the cemeteries containing their loved ones.” That road was never built despite the commitment of the federal authorities.5

Learning all these inter-related stories still intrigues me. Read about how logging destroyed the vast Chestnut forest:

Logging transforms the Smokey mountains in the early 1900s

The agricultural pattern of life in the Great Smoky Mountains changed with the arrival of lumbering in the early 1900s. Within 20 years, the largely self-sufficient economy of the [European immigrant] people here was almost entirely replaced by dependence on manufactured items, store bought food, and cash. Logging boom towns sprang up overnight at sites that still bear their names: Elkmont, Smokemont, Proctor, Tremont.

Loggers were rapidly cutting the great primeval forests that remained on these mountains. Unless the course of events could be quickly changed, there would be little left of the region’s special character and wilderness resources.6

The American Chestnut tree thrived, “in the cool, moist, temperate rain forest of the Smoky Mountains. “Trees grew 12′ or more in diameter, and over 100′ tall. The incredible mast production of the chestnut was the primary food for all wildlife and game species – bear, deer, elk, squirrel, the huge flocks of turkey, and was a key food for Passenger Pigeons. In some areas it made up almost 100% of the forest.

Chestnut became an important food source in the fall for the early European settlers and was a key food source for the game they harvested. American chestnuts are small, but have a rich, nutty flavor. Wild trees were tended like orchards and having a grove was a valuable asset on your land. In the mountains, where the chestnut covered mile after mile of forest, the nuts were gathered by families who traded with the stores for goods. The stores then shipped the nuts into the cities. There were not many things in the mountains besides moonshine to sell for cash, and chestnuts were an important part of the mountain economy every fall. 7

Disaster Strikes!

In 1904, a bark fungus (Cryphonectria parasitica) was accidentally introduced from China into New York City that killed off virtually the entire population of American Chestnuts from Maine to Georgia. This Chestnut Blight was easily the greatest ecological disaster in American history, though it is almost forgotten today. Over 30 million acres of chestnut forest were killed in 40 years. Much of this loss occurred during the Great Depression, so the impact on both the mountain people that ate chestnuts, and the game that depended on it in the fall was devastating.

“Intervention came when Great Smoky Mountains National Park was established in 1934. The forest—at least the 20% that remained uncut within park boundaries—was saved.

More than 1,200 land-owners had to leave their land once the park was established. They left behind many farm buildings, mills, schools, and churches. Over 70 of these structures have since been preserved so that Great Smoky Mountains National Park now contains the largest collection of historic log buildings in the East.”8

Today the park is choked with visitors.
Now you often need an online reservation to visit the favored sites in the park! Here is an example:
“Laurel Falls Trail is one of the most visited trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park with over 375,000 visitors in 2020 and parking is limited. Laurel Falls is 80-feet high and named for the mountain laurel which grows along the trail and near the falls. Parking at Laurel Falls trailhead parking area requires a ticket from September 7th through October 3rd, 2021.”9

Brief history of the Eastern Cherokee, that is, those who escaped the federal government’s “Trail of Tears” forced removal in 1830 under President Andrew Jackson.

“The Cherokee living along the Oconaluftee River in the Great Smokey Mountains were the most conservative and isolated from European–American settlements. They rejected the reforms of the Cherokee Nation. When the Cherokee government ceded all territory east of the Little Tennessee River to North Carolina in 1819, they withdrew from the Nation.

William Holland Thomas, a white store owner and state legislator from Jackson County, North Carolina, helped over 600 Cherokee from Qualla Town obtain North Carolina citizenship, which exempted them from forced removal. Over 400 Cherokee either hid from Federal troops in the remote Snowbird Mountains, under the leadership of Tsali (ᏣᎵ), or belonged to the former Valley Towns area around the Cheoah River who negotiated with the state government to stay in North Carolina.

An additional 400 Cherokee stayed on reserves in Southeast Tennessee, North Georgia, and Northeast Alabama, as citizens of their respective states. They were mostly mixed-race and Cherokee women married to white men. Together, these groups were the ancestors of the federally recognized Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, and some of the state-recognized tribes in surrounding states.”10

Notes

1 https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/interstate/history.cfm

2 https://www.wherethedogwoodblooms.com/the-history-of-smokemont/
3 https://www.nps.gov/grsm/learn/historyculture/people.htm
4 https://digitalheritage.org/2010/08/fontana-dam/
5 https://digitalheritage.org/2010/08/fontana-dam/
6 https://www.nps.gov/grsm/learn/historyculture/people.htm
7 https://chestnuthilloutdoors.com/learning-center/chestnuts-worldwide/
8 https://www.nps.gov/grsm/learn/historyculture/people.htm
9 https://www.recreation.gov/timed-entry/10088009
10 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cherokee

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I hit my first ‘Glass Ceiling’ in sixth grade at age 11!

1956, Miami Springs, Florida, USA I wanted to be a patrol girl!
I was a fifth grader when I watched as the girls and boys from the sixth grade who’d been selected to be “safety patrols” got to leave class ten minutes before school was out to take up their posts. The adults had chosen these students as trusted individuals ready to take on serious responsibilities. Only sixth graders were chosen. I wanted to be a patrol girl next year when I was a sixth grader!

What was a “patrol girl” in 1956?
In 1920, the AAA-sponsored School Safety Patrol program — children protecting classmates from traffic dangers — was established and later expanded nationwide. AAA also introduced traffic safety education into elementary and junior high schools, and pioneered driver education in high schools. AAA’s Responsible Driving textbook, first published in the 1930s as Sportsmanlike Driving, has become the most widely used book in its field.1

As the program standardized, a pledge was added: “I pledge to report for duty on time, perform my duties faithfully, strive to prevent accidents, always setting a good example myself, obey my teachers and officers of the patrol, report dangerous student practices, strive to earn the respect of followers.”2

Initially, only boys could become safety patrols, but this changed over time. Starting in the late 1940s, girls seem to have been added on a community-by-community basis. In Davenport, Iowa, a school principal is quoted in the local paper The Daily Times (May 20, 1952): “We have found that the girls seem to take more interest in their duties,” said Sister Edigna, principal of the St. Joseph School. “They remain at their post and they don’t play while on duty.”

The Sister said that the girls have only one complaint: “When meetings are held for the school patrols, the boys dominate the sessions.”

1986, Nsukka, Nigeria: Chimiamanda Ngozi Adichie, a Nigerian writer and feminist, was born in 1977 on a different continent. She experienced a similar rejection for the same reason–she was female. Ms. Adichie described her experience of wanting to be the “class monitor” while in primary school. She tells us about her nine year old self, “I was full of ambition [to be the monitor]”.

Her teacher had told the class that the student with the highest score on a particular test would be the class monitor. Adichi scored the highest, but her teacher assumed it was obvious that the position of class monitor would only be given to a boy. That was 1986 and Adichi wrote about that rejection in her short book We Should All Be Feminists written in 2012.

The continued rejection and negation of the leadership skills of girls and women is a cornerstone of any patriarchal culture. And it starts early! It is clear who benefits and who is harmed by limiting the ambitions, expectations, and possibilities for girls.

I clearly remember that Mother agreed that disallowing girls to be on the safety patrol was unfair. She did what she could to console me. Yet, we could not change the situation. I have no memory of my father’s reaction–this is telling in itself.

A decade later, as a young adult, I learned from my mother that my father had said to her, “If we have only enough money to send one of our kids to college it should be Karl because he’s a boy.” Instead of confronting him directly on his sexist statement, she said to him, “Let’s just take it one-at-a-time.” I’d always done well in school, including taking advanced classes. I assumed I’d be going to college. I was not aware of my father’s attitude. Karl was not a good student. We learned later he experienced dsylexia, a learning disorder characterized by difficulty reading. Karl’s dsylexia went unacknowledged throughout his schooling during the 1950s and 1960s.

Karl was an intelligent young man and a talented athlete. However, the unacknowledged learning disability was misinterpreted by the adults in his life. After high school he was sent to military school for a year in an effort to get him “to apply himself” and “learn some discipline”. After that year, basketball scholarships enabled Karl to attend college. Karl and I were close, but I, too, had no awareness of why he could not spell or read. It was a mystery. I’m writing about these two situations to acknowledge some of the debilitating, yet invisible, fractures creating ongoing stresses on our family.

Exploring South Florida as a Family of Six
However, in the mid 1950s we were a family looking to the future. The six of us had many family outings–from picking strawberries in the vast fields of Homestead, south of Miami, to numerous trips to Crandon Park with its zoo, sandy beach, vintage lighthouse and, best of all–the carousel. To get to Crandon Park we would cross a long causeway to reach the park located on a barrier island called Key Biscayne–that long and curving drive over the ocean waves was an adventure itself.

I can still picture the brightly painted carousel located along the beach. We each picked a favorite horse. The carousel started moving with the unique sound of calliope music filling the air. We rode our horses around stretching to reach for the prize of a brass ring.

Seeing ourselves on a “big screen”
All these photos were taken by my dad. He took hundreds of slides! He wanted to keep our family memories alive. Dad used only Kodachrome slide film which continued to be popular through the 1960s and into the 1970s. My curiosity about this film revealed this comment “Kodachrome slides have a particular look, with rich, deep colors and sharp, clean details. But the colors had subtlety, looking bright and vivid without being garish.”3 All these photos were stored for decades by my mother and my sister Marsha.

We could relive our family adventures through dad’s photos. All of our day trips, dance recitals, school plays, athletic events or scouting trips created a strong bond. Using a carousel slide projector and a blank wall as the screen, we’d pop popcorn, then drizzle it with butter and watch our family slide show together. Often laughing at our own antics.


When I look at these family slides I’m remembering all the good times my parents created for us as youngsters, for us as a family.

At the same time, parents are only one influence on their children and cannot protect them from everything all the time. About this time a young girl in our neighborhood was sexually molested by a boy not much older than she was. This violation of the girl traumatized her. The adults were ignorant of how to cope with the violation of trust. Secrets and silence made the situation worse.

Within a year or so the family of the boy moved from the neighborhood. The girl child was still feeling distressed and isolated by that experience and the silence surrounding it.

This all happened in the late 1950s during the time I was coming of age as a young adult. The social forces of strict sex roles and of male domination have not lessened!

A strong feminist, Andrea Dworkin, reminds us “Systems of power are capable of reorganizing themselves, and the fact that things look different does not mean that the hierarchy has changed.” We must take responsibility to protect all our young people from the dire consequences of woman-hating.

I woke today remembering this Marge Piercy poem I first knew in the mid 1970s. Piercy uses poetic language to express outrage at the multiple social forces pressing down on girls and women. Her words, her images, remain potent.

A Work of Artifice

The bonsai tree
in the attractive pot
could have grown eighty feet tall
on the side of a mountain
till split by lightning.
But a gardener
carefully pruned it.
It is nine inches high.

Every day as he
whittles back the branches
the gardener croons,
It is your nature
to be small and cozy,
domestic and weak;
how lucky, little tree,
to have a pot to grow in.

With living creatures
one must begin very early
to dwarf their growth:
the bound feet,
the crippled brain,
the hair in curlers,
the hands you
love to touch.
Marge Piercy, 1970

The unwillingness and inability of patriarchal institutions to nurture and protect girls in childhood, and to treat adult human females respectfully has not changed. The intense backlash against self-determination for girls has become a tsunami! Self-harm and self mutilation is now a common thread on internet sites frequented by girls.

“Artful trickery”, that is artifice, continues to deceive. “Artful trickery” causes us to internalize oppression, to accept all the negative images and values about girls and women. Multiple social forces groom girl to accept, as natural, all the roadblocks used to “keep her in her place”. This was a central part of my own childhood and of my contemporaries in the U.S. We were not encouraged, or emboldened, or directed to seek our full potential.

Without the grassroots growth of the Women’s Liberation Movement I would not be writing this. I would not be the woman I am! My life has been enriched by knowing of all the women and girls, both past and present, willing to challenge patriarchal forces including male-centered academia, businesses, religions, governments, and sciences.

Today, women who advocate for women, especially those of us who are lesbians, are the target of much hate speech from all who oppose us! We are insulted, threatened, deplatformed, silenced in other ways, and even legally prosecuted for our advocacy of our sex and for our advocacy of women’s sex-based legal rights. Our crime: we advocate for women and girls!

Is this the world you want to live in? Is this the legacy you want to leave for future generations? Please consider how your concern for girls and women can make a difference. What action, what difficult conversation, what risk, what voice can you offer? Working together we can succeed! As Susan B. Anthony said in her last public words, “Failure is impossible”.

Notes
1 https://americacomesalive.com/school-safety-patrols/
2 https://americacomesalive.com/school-safety-patrols/
3 https://medium.com/people-gadgets/the-gadget-we-miss-kodachrome-color-slide-film-8bd036d4cc5c
4 Andrea Dworkin, Life and Death: Unapologetic Writings on the Continuing War Against Women (1997)
5 Felice Schragenheim and Lily Wust took this photo using a self-timer not knowing that hours later Felice would be arrested by the German Gestapo and they would never see each other again. Interviewed in 2001, the 89-year-old Lily Wust recalled:

“It was the tenderest love you could imagine…. I was fairly experienced with men, but with Felice I reached a far deeper under-standing of sex than ever before….There was an immediate attraction, and we flirted outrageously…. I began to feel alive as I never had before….She was my other half, literally my reflection, my mirror image, and for the first time I found love aesthetically beautiful, and so tender….Twice since she left, I’ve felt her breath, and a warm presence next to me. I dream that we will meet again – I live in hope.”

Learn more about Felice who was a Jewish resistance fighter during World War II when she met Lily Wust. After realizing they loved each other, Lily left her German husband to marry Felice. Information and photos here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Felice_Schragenheim

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Carol Christ: Bold Adventurer!

Carol Christ died yesterday July 14, 2021 peacefully in her sleep at her new home in Crete, Greece. One year ago she was diagnosed with a rare stomach cancer and received extensive treatment to extend her life. Jeanne and I had plans this fall to join Carol and a few other women on the scheduled Goddess Pilgrimage on the island of Crete. Last month I wrote “Ancient Crete Pulls Me Back: September 2021!” Now Carol is dead at age 75. Carol, who in Greece was Karolina, carved out a meaningful life when faced with all the challenges women experience in a woman-hating culture.

I was profoundly influenced by the keynote address she gave in 1978 at the Great Goddess Re-Emerging Conference in Santa Cruz, CA. I was one of the 500 women listening to her words “Why Women Need the Goddess”. (You can read it here: https://www.goddessariadne.org/why-women-need-the-goddess-part-1). The impact of her observation about the power of symbol systems on each of us individually and the influence symbol systems have on all of us collectively helped guide my own life.

We did not meet until the fall of 2017 when I was one of ten women on the Goddess Pilgrimage that she had organized. Carol described herself as a ‘feminist and ecofeminist writer, activist, and educator’. Please view this eighteen minute video of Carol speaking at the Harvard Divinity School where she spoke about her life. This was the 2014 Religion and the Feminist Movement Conference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YwYygffNCAg I’m always moved by women speaking on their own behalf about their lives with no intermediary to interpret their life from afar. You will certainly gain a sense of who Carol was in her world. If you are interested in viewing her formal credentials visit here: https://prabook.com/web/carol.christ/2489386

In the presentation, Carol explained that in academia, despite her credentials as a scholar, she was overworked and then discriminated against because she rejected patriarchal religions. As a result Carol left her position as a tenured professor at San José State University in 1987. She moved to Greece and earned a dual citizenship. She learned to speak fluent Greek as an adult which proved to be very helpful to us many times on our two weeks of adventures and discoveries in Crete.

Her books and lectures have reached women around the world who are hungry for a religion that honors women. With the bold move of creating the Ariadne Institute Carol was able to offer women a grounded-in-history introduction to the Goddess. In 1992 she began offering pilgrimages to sacred sites in Greece containing artifacts of matriarchal religion.

I’ve gathered candid photos of Karolina on some of the earlier Pilgrimages. Carol put incredible energy into each day of those two weeks she escorted us around the various sites that linked us to the ancestors.

Carol P. Christ was an innovative educator!

In 2018 Carol wrote,”One of the things that separates the Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete from other Goddess tours in Greece is the fact that ancient Crete in the Neolithic and Bronze Age precedes the Olympian pantheon. [The Greek pantheon was] headed by the serial rapist Zeus and his warrior daughter Athena, who exonerated a mother-murderer and stated that the father is the only true parent of the child.

Archaeologist Marjia Gimbutas believed that Bronze Age Crete is the final flowering of the Neolithic cultures of Old Europe. According to her, the cultures of Old Europe were settled, agricultural, highly artistic, peaceful, matrilineal and probably matrilocal, and worshipped the Goddess as the power of birth, death, and renewal in all of life.”1

Carol dared to examine the deeply embedded beliefs of our patriarchal institutions including academia and religion. She invented a new life for herself. She ‘shed the skin’ of an academic. Karolina was determined to reach other women like herself willing to look beyond the familiar goddesses of the patriarchy to discover the much more ancient Earth Goddess of our Neolithic and Paleolithic ancestors.


Karolina/Carol earned my respect because she found a profound way to please herself and to educate, inspire, and delight the senses for many other women and men. Her path lead her to the Goddess of Birth, Death and Re-Generation, the Serpentine Path she wrote about. Blessed Be.

1 https://feminismandreligion.com/2018/10/29/goddess-pilgrimage-a-sacred-journey/

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Ancient Crete Pulls Me Back: September 2021!

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One More Lie: The “Equality Act”

As a proud lesbian woman for most of my life I know that every woman benefits from the existence of lesbian women! In a male dominated society every time a woman chooses to direct her life-energy to another woman regardless of the directives of society, she has expanded the possibilities for all girls and women. To defy the normative rules of enforced heterosexuality can be awkward and even dangerous. My long time partner, Jeanne, has noted that the “rubber-band theory” of political action applies here. Example: when lesbian women push the boundaries of accepted behavior, all women and all girls are encouraged to expand their push-back against the multiple pressures on women and girls. We are expected to conform to a narrow path of expectations allowed for females. Lesbians make that path wider and wider.

We are now facing an “Equality Act” that legally declares that a man (via his “gender identity”) can be a lesbian under the law! Passed by the U.S. House, the bill will be voted on soon in the U.S. Senate.

The purported intent of this “Equality Act” is to expand the classes of people and situations specifically protected under federal civil rights legislation. In the bill, three classes of people are named for additional or altered protection under H.R.5:
1. People who face discrimination on the basis of sex.
2. People who face discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
3. People who face discrimination on the basis of “gender identity”.

This bill provides that “gender identity” shall take priority over both sex and sexual orientation; meaning that a man who identifies as a woman is to be treated as a woman under the law, regardless of his sex; and so that a man can be a lesbian under the law. Young (female) lesbians are being lured into surgical and chemical mutilation of their bodies by the lie that they can escape the burdens of femaleness and homosexuality by becoming men.

Homosexual people are now called hateful and transphobic for the very thing that makes them lesbians or gay men; i.e., for excluding people from their dating pools based on sex.

A stealth campaign against homosexuality has been infiltrating much of the so-called progressive wing of politics. In my eyes, the Left has moved to the right and then claims their move to be “woke” politics. I see their political stance as the newest form of misogyny! Neither Left nor Right are reliable allies for women demanding our rights based on biological sex. H.R.5 in its present form would destroy those existing protections by effectively redefining the protected sex class “women and girls” to include men and boys!

The oppression of women and the discrimination against women is based on sex, not gender. Women have been excluded from employment, credit, military service, education, jury service, etc., based on their sex. “Gender identity” reinforces regressive sex-based stereotypes that assign dominance to males and submission to females; federal law should not be doing that.

Please note that is not possible for women to “identify” out of their discrimination by simply claiming to be men. It is biological sex that needs specific protection in the interests of justice. And it is “gender”, i.e., enforced femininity and masculinity, that needs to be questioned and resisted, if equal rights are to be achieved.

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The crux of the problem is that the Equality Act enshrines the concept of “gender identity” into U.S. law. Males base their claim that they are women on this concept which was invented by medical professionals in the 1950s and 1960s (Jeffreys) and latched onto by the transgender movement. Using “gender identity” males are able to say they “feel like” women and, with the Equality Act, the recent executive orders issued by Joe Biden and local legislation, PRESTO, their feelings are turned into what we are supposed to believe is reality.

As Tina Minkowitz, one of the authors of the Feminist Amendments to the Equality Act, has explained, with the Equality Act our legal existence as women is at stake! Here’s how this works. The Senate bill explicitly defines sex to include gender identity, saying that each of three factors – sex, sexual orientation, gender identity – is a form of sex discrimination. Here is where women are erased! Gender identity is made synonymous with sex. Discrimination on the basis of gender identity is considered to be sex discrimination.

Thus, the Equality Act makes it illegal to deny males who say they are women access to what have always been female only facilities. The Senate’s Equality Act explicitly states that there can be no female only private personal spaces: “[A]n individual shall not be denied access to a shared facility, including a restroom, a locker room, and a dressing room, that is in accordance with the individual’s gender identity.”

Giving any male who wants to the right to claim to be a woman has far reaching circumstances that goes far beyond his entry into female spaces, as is documented throughout the XX Amazons website.
Feminist Amendments to the Equality Act

Feminists in Struggle, or FIST, has proposed Feminist Amendments to the Equality Act protecting women, LGB, and transgender people by cleverly creating two new protected classes – sexual orientation and sex stereotypes – while leaving existing protections for sex in place. Each of the three classes are given clear and uncomplicated protection. The Feminist Amendments eliminate all mention of gender identity, providing protection to transgender people on the basis of sex stereotypes. By focusing on sex stereotypes, gender non-conforming people who are not transgender, including Lesbians and gay men, are also protected when they do not comply with sex role norms (demands).

The Feminist Amendments explicitly protects female only spaces from intrusion by males claiming to be women including “multi-stall toilets, locker rooms, changing rooms, communal showers, battered women’s shelters, refuges, homeless shelters, rape crisis centers, jail cells, bedrooms in residential facilities, hospital rooms, facilities providing intimate services such as massage or intimate grooming, or other places where women are sharing private facilities or are in states of undress and/or where their privacy may be compromised and or their safety may be at risk from male-pattern violence against females.” (p. 17, Feminist Amendments Equality Act) Sports programs, scholarship programs, clubs, political programs are likewise protected.

For more information on the Feminist Amendments to the Equality Act, please see:

Feminist Amendments to the Equality Act

FEMINISTS IN STRUGGLE (FIST) LAUNCHES CAMPAIGN FOR FEMINIST AMENDMENTS TO THE EQUALITY ACT


Time is Short – Act Now!

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1954, Coming of Age….

I’m writing about my life to explore the influences that have shaped my life. My stable girlhood is central to my understanding of all that has formed me.

In the fall of 1954 I was nine. Our family had grown to six. Lea, the youngest, was two years old. Lea was a beautiful girl-child with silvery blonde hair. She became the “pet” of the neighborhood. Everyone called her “baby Lea” until she was four or so. Marsha, soon to be four, was a helpful middle child. Karl, who at age 7 seemed to always have a grin on his face, was starting second grade. Every school day Karl and I rode our bicycles to school. We had no pets because mother said she had enough to take care of already. Dad worked long days at his job as a land surveyor while building the addition to our house as I discussed in my last blog in December.

Our family attended the Miami Springs Presbyterian Church most Sundays (at my mother’s urging). Our social life centered around some church functions, but especially around sports and the Miami Springs Recreation Department activities as well as school activities. I remember mother being involved in a women’s volleyball team for awhile. Dad always had bowling league activities he enjoyed. At times, we would all go bowling together. Marsha later became a professional bowler for several years.

Mother served as a cub scout leader for Karl for several years. Each Tuesday night when she did cub scout meetings, I was tasked with making dinner. My single specialty was tuna casserole made by mixing canned tuna with cream of mushroom soup. That mixture was sprinkled with crumbled potato chips for a crusty top–always Wise potato chips, then baked in the oven to be served hot. Probably I made a simple salad too. Marsha never liked this dish, so I would put a pre-packaged pie tin of macaroni and cheese in the oven to heat at the same time. Mother was always accommodating about our dinner preferences. Some say she spoiled us, but we kids appreciated her concern for our taste buds.

We were a average white family going about daily life in a white world in the deep south of the 1950s. We lived in a white community that more than likely had restrictive covenants hidden in the mortgage paper work making it illegal to sell any property in Miami Springs to blacks or Jews. These legally binding documents were assembled by the early developers of the town. In 1922, the sales brochure for the first development of Miami Springs “promised that the new community would be carefully zoned and restricted”.1

When my parents bought their basic cinder block, two bedroom house in 1947 they may or may not have been aware of those restrictive covenants. They were a young couple trying to find affordable housing even though it meant a long commute to work for my dad.

Segregated schools were the norm for public schooling in the Greater Miami area in the 1950s and into the 1960s. As a young person I never had another option. “Segregation is not always a choice or a result of self-selection. In the case of Miami, and many American cities, it was an intentional separation [by the authorities] of non-whites from whites in an effort to provide separate services, schooling, facilities, and housing. It is a part of history that can be tracked and seen through law, private deed restrictions, and bank policies of redlining.”2

I can assert that my parents were caught in the web of racism prevalent at the time, but I want to acknowledge that they benefited from a system that insured their property values would probably be stable. And, as home ownership usually allows homeowners to spend less on housing over the decades and to build equity, the whites-only covenants of that time benefited me and my family.

“Segregation, disparate access to credit and home ownership, and the consistent devaluation of homes in black neighborhoods combine to constrict the ability of African Americans to build equity and accumulate wealth through home ownership.”3 In other words “housing market discrimination is a contributor to labor market and economic inequality,” writes Gregory D. Squires.4

Mother was a avid reader of the daily newspaper, The Miami Herald, so we were aware of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling outlawing school segregation based on the landmark decision from Topeka, KS when it happened in May, 1954.

From a current Miami Herald newspaper website we learn that

The landmark Brown v. Board of Education desegregation ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court came out in May 1954, but it wasn’t until 1959 that Miami-Dade County’s schools admitted the first group of African Americans to Orchard Villa Elementary School, which had been all white. Seven-year-old Gary Range and three other black students broke barriers when they walked onto the grounds of the Liberty City school.

White students left the school, black students and faculty were transferred in, and by the summer of 1960, only one white student remained. In the 1970s, busing of students erupted as a new flashpoint in the battle over integration. Today, some civil rights activists and researchers say some schools in Miami-Dade and the rest of the country have undergone a “re-segregation” process.5

“Brown outraged white segregationists as much as it energized civil rights activists. Throughout the South, where state constitutions and state law mandated segregated schools, white people decried the decision as a tyrannical exercise of federal power.”6

US Senator Harry Byrd demands a “Massive Resistance” movement in 1956

Senator Byrd from Virginia: “If we can organize the Southern States for massive resistance to this order, I think that in time the rest of the country will realize that racial integration is not going to be accepted in the South.”

Many schools, and even an entire school system, as part of this Massive Resistance movement were shut down in 1958 and 1959 in attempts to block integration.

Byrd’s goal was to unite white politicians and leaders in Virginia in a campaign of new state laws and policies to prevent public school desegregation. White Citizens’ Councils throughout the South capitalized on whites’ dominance over financial capital, land ownership, and industry to punish civil rights participation.

Bombings claimed the lives of NAACP activists, including Harry and Harriette Moore, teachers and founders of the NAACP chapter in Brevard County, Florida (located east of Orlando). Their deaths in an explosion at their home on Christmas Day in 1951 led to protests across the nation but no immediate arrests.7 No one was ever tried for these murders. To read more about these activists follow this link https://www.history.com/news/first-civil-rights-murder-harry-harriette-moore-florida

Throughout Florida: “City ordinances require Negro [bus] passengers to ride in the rear.”

As a girl, I read about all these horrifying attacks and watched some on television news programs. I believed that “liberty and justice for all” was a sincere commitment when I saw federal government officials trying to implement school integration. I was unaware of the federal government’s involvement in ‘redlining’ various parts of cities (usually poor and/or black), which meant mortgages, other loans and insurance were unavailable by declaring the area a financial risk. I was unaware of all the other ways government, at all levels, institutionalized racism. I was naive girl who was hopeful for a better future.

Nothing changed in my schooling. Strict segregation was the reality for me for all twelve years of my public schooling. I graduated in 1963 from Hialeah High School in a senior class of over a thousand students–all white. Jeanne reports that her high school of about two thousand students in a Morton Grove, a suburb to the north of Chicago, was also segregated when she graduated in 1969.

In 1967, 13 years after Brown, a report by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights observed that “violence against Negroes continues to be a deterrent to school desegregation.” Other methods proved useful in upholding the racial caste system “such as criminalizing, arresting, and imprisoning peaceful protestors, [which]foreshadowed the modern mass incarceration era.9 The same source points out, “The Supreme Court was a reliable partner in maintaining slavery and in the campaign to rebuild and strengthen racial hierarchy and white supremacy after the Civil War. When the Court changed course in the mid-20th century and began striking down laws that authorized racial discrimination and segregation, many white people in the South felt betrayed.”

When political leaders and the leaders of other patriarchal institutions continue to make policy and to use tactics to strengthen racial hierarchy and white supremacy we all suffer the consequences. White nationalists have been re-energized by those who believe they can benefit from the chaos. “Separate services” were declared unconstitutional in 1954 when I was a young girl, but the practices that support the racial caste system still dominate the landscape of the U.S. in January, 2021.

Postscript from Florida, February 6, 2021: “Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis is pushing legislation on ‘disruptive protests’ that could lead to more arrests and more accusations of racial profiling. The proposed legislation could put protesters in jail for up to 15 years if police determine at least nine people took part in a riot.” from https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2021/2/4/2013906/-Don-t-be-fooled-by-GOP-bills-claiming-to-avert-repeat-Capitol-attack-Real-attack-is-on-Black-lives?detail=emaildkre
Notes

1 https://books.google.com/books?id=somhCAAAQBAJ&pg=PA37&lpg=PA37&dq=restrictive+covenants+used+by+Glen+Curtis+in+miami+springs+FL&source=bl&ots=Tf8dUSzDxd&sig=ACfU3U1-cFk-nUl-1RbXn6SI17vMH5ImHA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjzt_XFpMLuAhWQKM0KHRjyC0gQ6AEwCXoECAkQAg#v=onepage&q=restrictive%20covenants%20used%20by%20Glen%20Curtis%20in%20miami%20springs%20FL&f=false p.37

2 https://miami-grid.com/2019/04/10/segregated-miami/

3 https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/economy/reports/2019/07/15/469838/racial-disparities-home-appreciation/

4 https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/economy/reports/2019/07/15/469838/racial-disparities-home-appreciation/

5 “The linchpin of Massive Resistance was a law that cut off state funds and closed any public school that attempted to integrate.” https://www.virginiahistory.org/collections-and-resources/virginia-history-explorer/civil-rights-movement-virginia/massive

5 1959 photo of a mother and her two daughters https://flashbackmiami.com/2014/05/14/school-integration/

6 https://segregationinamerica.eji.org/report/massive-resistance.htmlhttps://segregationinamerica.eji.org/report/massive-resistance.html

8 https://segregationinamerica.eji.org/report/massive-resistance.html

9 https://segregationinamerica.eji.org/report/massive-resistance.html

Restrictive covenants are binding agreements (now illegal) that hold homeowners (in this instance) to certain behaviors and practices around renting or selling their house.

The term “racial restrictive covenants” encompases agreements, most of which “run with the land,” that prohibit the homeowner from selling or renting to anybody of a specific race or ethnic background. The wording may differ from covenant to covenant, but the crux of the issue is the same: Racial restrictive covenants were designed to create and maintain neighborhood segregation. from https://www.homelight.com/blog/buyer-racial-restrictive-covenants/

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Looking Back, Visualizing the Future


January, 2020 began with a crowded trunk show at Cuttin’ Up Quilt Shop in Prairie Grove. About twenty-five women squeezed together to view the retrospective of many of my quilts from the last twenty-five years. No one wore a mask. No one could even imagine the need to mask ourselves from each other!

As the new year of January 2021 begins it appears that most of us will still be “sheltering at home” for months or possibly longer. The future is unknown, yet we do have today. We, at Cedar Hill, are lucky to live in the country with a large garden to feed us and keep us exercising. As the days lengthen, our supply of solar electricity may allow me to resume machine quilting the many UFOs I’ve generated since last March.

My interest in writing about my life continues to be strong, although some interruptions and distractions have slowed the process. I appreciate each of you who has let me know that you value my posts. I continue to enjoy the luxury of sitting down to write about what I feel drawn to at that very moment. I know I am very, very lucky.

Writing has become a pleasure and a passion. I’d be writing in peacock blue ink (forbidden to us in the 1950s & 1960s at school) with the Parker45 fountain pen my mother gave me as a high school graduation present if I could still form those curvaceous letters I practiced for years. Because I’ve lost the fine motor skills to write long hand on paper, I’m now typing on this computer. Now I don’t have to worry about using white-out to fix any mistakes.

I hope you enjoy this collage–it’s my tribute to that vibrant peacock blue color!

I’ve not been an early adopter of computer technology or email. I needed to be coaxed into that new world. I’d even successfully avoided a cell phone until late in 2017 when I traveled to Crete, Greece by myself. Several years ago when Jeanne and I were making our living creating custom websites for quilt shops, she trained me to use Photoshop. Learning to resize and to manipulate photos and graphics for that job has made my blogs more fun for me to create and probably more visually interesting for readers.

Quite recently I’ve learned to use Power Point to create slide presentations—again coached by Jeanne. Now I’m learning to add audio to the presentation allowing me to carefully script the entire show slide-by-slide. These are some of the challenges that have kept me focused and busy this year.

My activist self is part of a local feminist group reading the classic This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color first published in 1981. One of the influential contributors to This Bridge Called My Back is Audre Lorde who earlier wrote The Cancer Journals about her experience with cancer and dealing with the medical authorities in the 1970s. Audre Lorde’s writing about her cancer journey, which was full of many challenges, helped give me courage to deal with my own cancer diagnosis in 1985 at age 40.

Our group of women is reading This Bridge Called My Back as part of the anti-racist reaction to current events in the U.S. We meet on zoom to discuss our readings and observations and to promote positive change.

Sewing has been a vital part of my life since I first learned to sew doll clothes circa 1950. Creating with fabric intrigues me and engages all my senses. Quilting was only a dream until 1994 when I met Lila at her quilt shop Quilt Your Heart Out in Fayetteville, AR. My passion for “playing with fabric” has helped me survive the forced isolation of the pandemic.

When I finish one project I rummage through my huge fabric stash to select fabrics I want to play/sew with next. At times, I find myself working on multiple projects–one can’t predict when inspiration will strike!

I play with each new combination of fabrics until I’ve created a “community of fabrics” that seemed destined to go together. Along the way I may modify the combination by adding or subtracting fabrics or by modifying the block design itself. In this way the entire process is creatively engaging throughout.

I’m really hoping we will be able to gather in groups again well before the next new year. Please stay safe.

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1953, Reading, Writing & Building!


Why do we read? Author and avid reader Maureen Corrigan suggests that we read for a lot of reasons, “but two of the most compelling ones are to get out of ourselves and our own life stories and—equally important—to find ourselves by understanding our own life stories more clearly in the context of others.’”1

I suggest that we bloggers write for similar reasons! Writing this memoir/blog takes me down unexpected avenues–often with many wrong turns and sometimes dead ends–as I seek new takes on my own past. New realities may dawn on me slowly or hit hard like a bumper car. My understanding of my own life story can shift and even swivel as a I research and write. I’m finding it an unexpected journey during this pandemic.

Banished to nowhere
Fall of 1953 my younger brother Karl and I entered a slapped-together elementary school named Springview Elementary. I had been reassigned to this new school. I left behind girlfriends at Miami Springs Elementary unaware that I would reunite with them five years later in junior high school. As a third grader, I couldn’t know that in the future some of those girls would became my best friends in that next decade.

As a child, I had to adjust to this new reality. This school was not a prize—some days, with a westerly wind, we would be overwhelmed by the acrid smells of slaughtered animals from a nearby glue factory. The “portables”, as the classrooms on cider blocks were called, were stuffy and hot. The playground was a sandy lot.

Karl and I could ride our bicycles to Springview Elementary. He was a first grader biking to school with his big sister. Marsha, born in 1950 and Lea, born in 1952 kept Mother busy caring for a toddler and an infant while we were away at school. “The girls” as they became known in our family were born only 18 months apart and as children were quite close.

My role of mother’s helper at home, continued at school. Almost all of our teachers in grades one through six were women. I was comfortable with them, usually. I paid attention and completed assignments. In those years we were also graded on comportment which was later called conduct. I was generally eager to please. I was my mother’s good girl, until I wasn’t….

The Springview teachers were a committed bunch and learning to read meant I could go to the library with my mother. We frequented the Miami Springs Public Library at 401 Westward Drive—too far to walk, but mother took us there almost weekly. I’ve learned that this little library, which seemed so big as a child when I stared at all those books, was started in the 1939 by the Miami Springs Women’s Club.

Part of the general federation of women’s clubs nation wide, the Miami Springs Women’s Club, like many other women’s clubs, created a public library as one of their first projects. The Women’s Club housed the library in the club’s building at 200 Westward Drive for ten years. In the 1950s the library moved to its own building–the one I roamed as a girl. Sixty-five years later this library is still in use as part of the Dade County Library System.

Reading became a valuable skill as well as a window into other lives. Later, as a young woman in the early 1970s, all the feminist books I encountered “made me see myself differently and gave me a wider sense of the world.”3 Reading would “nurture the path of resistance” for me—a phrase I’ve borrowed from author Tara Westover. I tripped over this eloquent phrase last week when reading her memoir Educated.


Four kids slept in two bunk beds wedged into the small second bedroom of the house at 336 Linwood Drive. We needed more room. Both my parents were resourceful people. Neither wanted to move–they liked the neighborhood and their close friends had bought the house next door. Marie and Paul had a thirty year mortgage and fully expected to pay it off someday (unlike most home owners today).

Paul and Marie decided to fix the problem themselves. They would make the house bigger. The lot was 50 feet wide and almost 150 deep. Dad already had a small workshop he’d built in a back corner of the lot. Popular Mechanics magazine was his tutor. The magazine was full of build-it-yourself projects of varying difficulty. It’s subtitle for each issue was “Written so you can understand it,” and was geared to an ambitious amateur handyman/electrician/carpenter. Paul tackled the project of doubling the size of the house with enthusiasm. He designed the two large rooms they wanted to add. He worked weekends and vacations for about two years. Mother and all of us helped–sometimes this meant staying out of his way.

The addition became a work-of-art! Leaving the dining room of the original house, one entered the large Florida room/enclosed porch. Beyond was a huge bedroom where Marsha, Lea and I each had our own nook. A full bath occupied one corner. We each enjoyed our own large walk-in closet outfitted with a built-in dresser drawers–all carefully crafted. The walls were a warm knotty pine, a real wood paneling popular at the time.4 The bathroom was the only part of the addition that had required outside help.

Sharing a space with my sisters helped prepare me for dorm living. In both situations there were nights when each of us lay in bed as we talked and laughed sharing stories from our day. Large windows in our joint bedroom insured good ventilation to keep us cool all summer. Cozy electric blankets kept us warm on the few winter nights it was cold. Often, on Christmas day, we usually had on shorts by lunch time. Christmas day in a tropical climate is a study in contrasts. We would wake up in the chilly dawn, the youngest kids in footie pajamas, and then gather around a live tree weighed down with ornaments and a thick layer of tinsel. Sleigh bells jingling in snow were unknown, but that fir tree was surrounded by mounds of wrapped surprises.


During those years of building on weekends our family outings were limited. But we sometimes would drive the short distance to the Miami Airport. By parking along an access road we could watch planes lift into the sky and other planes as they touched down–roaring along the runway. As a girl, I had no inkling that I would someday sail the skies covering five million miles in my sixteen years of flying.

Writing here, I revisit my girlhood and that home built on the edge of the Everglades because it is full of stories, memories and love. Why am I detailing the details of our home? This building is tribute to the father I knew as a girl. This is the house he created with sweat and ingenuity and just plain grit. I’m in awe of the man who, as a child never lived in a house his family owned. Paul enlarged a small house to shelter his family of six.

Dad was a self-trained artist in many ways—he worked with his hands and his imagination. He was a magician able to transform a blueprint into the comforting bedroom my sisters and I shared for decades. Additionally this story is a tribute to the value placed on self-reliance which I experienced growing up in the south in the 1950’s. Others built too–Dad’s youngest sister Rosemary and her husband Darryl built their own house in North Miami during that same decade.

Today another family lives within those walls at 336 Linwood Drive. According to public records, that family has lived there for 36 years enjoying, still, the everyday artistry my father crafted for his family in the early 1950s.

Notes
1 Maureen Corrigan, Leave me Alone, I’m Reading: Finding and Losing Myself in Books p. 34
2 “when women began riding bikes in the 1800s, they were required to wear heavy skirts. The low bar allowed them to mount the bikes “modestly” and was a space for their skirts to go. Back then, bikes also had “clothes-guards” that would keep women’s skirts from being caught up in the mechanics of the bike. Picture is from the 1890s.” from: https://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2016/08/26/insisting-on-boys-and-girls-bikes/
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3 Maureen Corrigan, Leave me Alone, I’m Reading: Finding and Losing Myself in Books p. 62
4 Pickwick paneling: some of my readers work with wood and may be intrigued, as I am, by the paneling and its features. “Pickwick refers to the unique edge profile of each piece of this tongue-in-groove pine paneling. Stare at the profile edge from the side and you can see: Pickwick consists of two beads with a hollow in between on one side of each board… this pickwick side also includes the tongue and on the other side of the board, there is a groove. Sometimes referred to as a “butterfly” pattern, or “WP-2” in the industry. Today, it seems that you can get Pickwick panels that are 4″, 6″, 8″ or 10″ wide.” from https://retrorenovation.com/2014/05/19/pickwick-pine-paneling-3/

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Crowded School Days

1951 first day of school Miami Springs, Florida
Kindergarten had been a positive experience for me. I looked forward to my first day of school at Miami Springs Elementary. First grade meant big fat pencils, bright crayons and lots of other children to play with. Learning to read would give me the chance to read books myself.

First day of school in September 1951 was probably another hot, tropical day in south Florida. Mother sewed me numerous summer dresses for school and I got to pick my favorite to wear that day. Marie was sending her first-born off to school, leaving two kids, Karl and Marsha at home. By next spring she would have her fourth child.

As the last entry in my “baby book” Mother wrote, “September 7, 1951 Miami Springs Elementary School–Miss Williams, Teacher.
The school was so over crowded that they have two sessions each day. Paula started the noon to 4:00 session. Mid-term it will be 8:30 to 12:00.”

September 7th would have been my brother Karl’s fourth birthday. Our parents always celebrated birthdays with cake and presents–sometimes with a children’s party where we played the blindfold game of pin-the-tail-on-the donkey. Perhaps that photo above of Karl in his cowboy outfit was taken that day–although I’m sure I never wore my cowgirl outfit to school. (Guns–did we really have play guns as children? Unfortunately, yes.)

The schools were overcrowded because so many servicemen and women returned to Miami after WWII. “Lured by dreams of post-war prosperity, unhurried beaches and warm Februaries, migrants began to pour into the Sunshine State. Florida’s population grew from 1.9 million residents in 1940 to 2.7 million inhabitants a decade later.”1

The skills I learned in those early years of schooling have served me well. Reading and writing have been central to surviving life’s challenges. As author Maureen Corrigan reminded me, sometimes I can find “a book that changes the way I ‘read’ my own life”.2 Developing my own particular handwriting was an early artistic effort which I’ve enjoyed throughout my life–especially the pleasure of writing with a well-balanced fountain pen.

Mothers, in the 1950s, were the unpaid teacher’s aides in many public schools. At times my mother was a ‘room mother’ for my class or for one of my siblings. It was quite common for classrooms to have designated room mothers who brought treats like cookies or cupcakes to the classroom for holidays and sometimes, as a surprise for the students.

School based performances depended on mothers to be able to sew costumes for each event. Mother saved this photo of Fairies & Elves from 1952 or 1953 taken at Miami Springs Elementary School. All the girls hold stars crafted of cardboard covered with aluminum foil. Were the boys envious of our wands?

Fairies & elves, Miami Springs Elementary, circa 1952

Lighthearted school programs were only part of our education. I was one of the millions of children who ducked under our desks and covered our heads to protect ourselves from a nuclear attack. In 1951, the federal government hired an ad agency to create a film that could be shown in schools to educate children (and the public) about how to protect themselves in the case of atomic attack!3 View this short television ad about Duck & Cover made to accompany that effort: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zMnKNHNfznE

I’m writing about my life to explore the influences that have shaped my life. My stable girlhood is central to my understanding of all that has formed me. Both my father and mother were responsible for the steadiness of our family ties through my school years. We were a family of six prepared to meet the world together.

At the same time, my mother, Marie, was the central figure in my girlhood. Our bond was not perfect, yet our bond was strong. Mom was funny and smart. And she was an attentive listener. Even after her death in 1979, I continue to benefit from that strong bond.

Mother’s often save mementos from their children’s early life. Marie, my mother, saved these three cards I made for her seventy years ago. These are love letters from a girl to her beloved mother. Each carefully drawn letter is a thread connecting me to her. Each flower I drew is a bouquet of tenderness. How rare is a love letter from daughter to mother? One card ends:
“Mother mine, mother mine,
I love you, love you
Love you all the time.”

Strong maternal bonds are an ancient tradition for cultures around the world. The wisdom of our ancestors honored women as creators and protectors. Women are the center of the life cycle of birth, death and regeneration. Sherri Mitchell writes about this belief in Sacred Instructions: Indigneous Wisdom for Living Spirit-Based Change.

“As Skejinawe Apid, an Indigenous woman,
I have been taught that the women nurture life into being;
we are the creators of life
and the protectors of the life that we create.
Women possess a unique magic.
As women, we are able to call forth life from the other side,
and cultivate that life in the quiet space below our hearts.
Within our bodies, we hold an opening to the divine,
a portal that allows souls to enter into this world.
Because we are connected to the divine through the space governed by our hearts,
we are also the keepers of divine intuition and heart-based wisdom.
Thus, the teachings that we carry are essential
for keeping our societies spiritually healthy and emotionally balanced.”4

In presenting Sherri Mitchell’s words, I have typed her paragraph as a poem–this is how it reads to me. Loving women in a misogynist society is its own reward. We women continue our attempts to keep “our societies spiritually healthy and emotionally balanced,” one day at a time.

1 https://fcit.usf.edu/wwii/post_war.php
2 Leave me Alone, I’d Rather Be Reading: Finding and Losing Myself in Books by Maureen Corrigan p.xiv
3 https://www.history.com/news/duck-cover-drills-cold-war-arms-race
4 “A Letter to My Mother That She Will Never Read” By Ocean Vuong May 13, 2017
https://www.newyorker.com/culture/personal-history/a-letter-to-my-mother-that-she-will-never-read
5 Sacred Instructions: Indigenous Wisdom for Living Spirit-Based Change by Sherri Mitchell p.121

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Transformation, Abundance & Celebration, 2020

“Autumn is a time of transformation and celebration, where nature dances in spectacular colors and the landscape fades into winter.” anon

In the woods or indoors, plant life can enhance our own lives–especially in the reign of Covid! Winter temperatures force me to focus on the tropical plants that now dominate my sleeping and work area of our light-filled house. With almost a hundred plants (only a few are large) I’m surrounded by a lush abundance of many shades of green. It’s my challenge to keep them happy through the long months and short days of winter. Abundant light is essential for both plants and myself. With three recycled windows each nine feet tall, both the plants and I can thrive.

“Gardens are a form of autobiography,” wrote Sydney Eddison in a 1993 Horticulture magazine. Eddison is a prolific garden writer who I wish had lived nearby so I could visit her and her garden.1 Certainly my recent post about the burro’s tail succulent I’ve lived with for the last five decades had numerous biographical elements. Gardens are appreciated by what they include and by what is excluded, as well as by what the gardener chooses to focus on developing.

“Half the interest of a garden is the constant exercise of the imagination,” is how the woman, Mrs. C.W. Earle, who wrote Pot-Pourri from a Surrey Garden in 1897 described the lure of gardening. When I looked at the overgrown burro’s tail last month, I could imagine ways to improve the looks and the health of the plant, and I saw a chance to propagate more plants from the original.

I also imagined how new plants could look in the variety of collected pots I have on hand. I felt the creative challenge. I looked forward to choosing a container and placing it in a spot to contrast or compliment other pots and plants in my intimate environment.

Growing New Plants
Here are some how-to photos and suggestions for any one trimming a burro’s tail succulent and for propagating new plants from the trimmings or fallen leaves. In the photo below, you see all the trimmings I took from the mother plant in late October. As a succulent plant, each dropped leaf and the stems I trimmed off had to cure, that is, each had to seal over before planting or exposed to water. Succulents are adapted to store water in the plump leaves in order to survive in their original dry habitats.

I cut the long stems and placed them all together on a piece of parchment paper in a sunny window to cure. I removed the leaves from the lower two inches of the stems to insert the stems in soil at planting. All the fallen leaves were arranged on the dry soil where they would live until sprouting new plants. The spiral arrangement came from an internet photo I admired. Here I’m working on the porcelain-top table near my bed that also serves as my cutting table for quilting. At other times this table holds the vintage Bernina sewing machine I use when machine quilting. Living in a small space requires versatility.

Ten days later without any water, it was time to plant the stems. I used a chopstick to make a hole in the dirt then inserted the stem and carefully patted the dirt around each. If needed, I added more dirt. Use soil that will drain easily. Over watering will kill succulents. Any leaves that fell were added to the pot–hopefully to sprout too. The added rocks and shells bring more texture and personality to the planting. I used the spray bottle to wet everything.

Watch for new sprouts on the leaves and water occasionally. Provide bright light.

I’ve discovered two vintage photos of burro’s tail growing in the original habitat of Mexico. Neither picture shows the lush growth of a protected growing spot provided by humans. The photos will give you an idea of the harsh, competitive growing conditions this succulent faces in the wild. source: http://www.plantgrower.org/uploads/6/5/5/4/65545169/sedum_morganianum.pdf

“The journey of discovery lies not in seeking new landscapes, but in seeing with new eyes.” Marcel Proust

Now in cultivation for over seventy years, burro’s tail succulents will thrive in many settings. I’ve collected favorite photos from the internet. I hope you will be inspired to grow and create your own grouping of favorite plants, pots and found objects.

Notes:

The joy of discovery happens in a variety of ways. While researching online for this article, I was introduced to the down-to-earth gardener and writer Sydney Eddison. This article will offer a brief introduction: https://www2.ljworld.com/news/2010/jul/25/ease-still-enjoy-gardening-you-age/?print
1. “Gardens are a form of autobiography,” wrote Sydney Eddison, in Horticulture magazine, August/September 1993. Her Connecticut garden has been featured in magazines and on television. A former scene designer and drama teacher, Eddison lectures widely and continues to teach a course on color at the New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York. She has authored six books on gardening.

Posted in Adventures in Arkansas, Gardens & Creativity, Paula's Memoir | 2 Comments