Thursday, August 17, 2017

Making a New Journal by Hand

from the cover of my new handmade book
I recently attended a book making class that Cari from Art for the Soul organized and taught. She modeled how to make a simple 5" x 5" book.

In less than 2 hours we were able to do the following:

  1. dye rice paper for the book covers and set aside to dry,  
  2. use clips to hold the cut pages together
  3. punch three holes into the clipped pages using a hammer, block, and awl
  4. re-cut strip of material from a piece of Sari cloth to use as thick thread for binding
  5. glue dyed papers to front and back substrates to create the front and back covers 
  6. glue inside face pages to front and back covers
  7. clip front cover, pages, and back cover together
  8. re-punch holes making sure that each hole is large enough for binding materials
  9. thread needle with the strip of sari cloth 
  10. bind the book, using a Chinese-wrapped binding method. 

I took photographs as I was working so I could remember the process.  Some of those images can be seen below.

When I got home I opened the journal to the 2nd and 3rd page (I never start painting on page 1) and created the two images below by adding gesso to each page. Next I made two very quick sketches in pencil.  Then I shaded and painted the two faces using  Stablio pencil, Tombow markers, and thinned acrylic paint.

Pages 2 and 3 from my new journal

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

#PoetryBreak: Hymn by Sherman Alexie

Hymn: A New Poem by Sherman Alexie

Why do we measure people's capacity
To love by how well they love their progeny?
That kind of love is easy. Encoded.
Any lion can be devoted
To its cubs. Any insect, be it prey
Or predator, worships its own DNA.
Like the wolf, elephant, bear, and bees,
We humans are programmed to love what we conceive.
That's why it's so shocking when a neighbor
Drives his car into a pond and slaughter–
Drowns his children. And that's why we curse
The mother who leaves her kids—her hearth—
And never returns. That kind of betrayal
Rattles our souls. That shit is biblical.
So, yes, we should grieve an ocean
When we encounter a caretaker so broken.
But I'm not going to send you a card
For being a decent parent. It ain't that hard
To love somebody who resembles you.
If you want an ode then join the endless queue
Of people who are good to their next of kin—
Who somehow love people with the same chin
And skin and religion and accent and eyes.
So you love your sibling? Big fucking surprise.
But how much do you love the strange and stranger?
Hey, Caveman, do you see only danger
When you peer into the night? Are you afraid
Of the country that exists outside of your cave?
Hey, Caveman, when are you going to evolve?
Are you still baffled by the way the earth revolves
Around the sun and not the other way around?
Are you terrified by the ever-shifting ground?
Hey, Trump, I know you weren't loved enough
By your sandpaper father, who roughed and roughed
And roughed the world. I have some empathy
For the boy you were. But, damn, your incivility,
Your volcanic hostility, your lists
Of enemies, your moral apocalypse—
All of it makes you dumb and dangerous.
You are the Antichrist we need to antitrust.
Or maybe you're only a minor league
Dictator—temporary, small, and weak.
You've wounded our country. It might heal.
And yet, I think of what you've revealed
About the millions and millions of people
Who worship beneath your tarnished steeple.
Those folks admire your lack of compassion.
They think it's honest and wonderfully old-fashioned.
They call you traditional and Christian.
LOL! You've given them permission
To be callous. They have been rewarded
For being heavily armed and heavily guarded.
You've convinced them that their deadly sins
(Envy, wrath, greed) have transformed into wins.
Of course, I'm also fragile and finite and flawed.
I have yet to fully atone for the pain I've caused.
I'm an atheist who believes in grace if not in God.
I'm a humanist who thinks that we’re all not
Humane enough. I think of someone who loves me—
A friend I love back—and how he didn't believe
How much I grieved the death of Prince and his paisley.
My friend doubted that anyone could grieve so deeply
The death of any stranger, especially a star.
"It doesn't feel real," he said. If I could play guitar
And sing, I would have turned purple and roared
One hundred Prince songs—every lick and chord—
But I think my friend would have still doubted me.
And now, in the context of this poem, I can see
That my friend’s love was the kind that only burns
In expectation of a fire in return.
He’s no longer my friend. I mourn that loss.
But, in the Trump aftermath, I've measured the costs
And benefits of loving those who don't love
Strangers. After all, I'm often the odd one—
The strangest stranger—in any field or room.
"He was weird" will be carved into my tomb.
But it’s wrong to measure my family and friends
By where their love for me begins or ends.
It’s too easy to keep a domestic score.
This world demands more love than that. More.
So let me ask demanding questions: Will you be
Eyes for the blind? Will you become the feet
For the wounded? Will you protect the poor?
Will you welcome the lost to your shore?
Will you battle the blood-thieves
And rescue the powerless from their teeth?
Who will you be? Who will I become
As we gather in this terrible kingdom?
My friends, I'm not quite sure what I should do.
I'm as angry and afraid and disillusioned as you.
But I do know this: I will resist hate. I will resist.
I will stand and sing my love. I will use my fist
To drum and drum my love. I will write and read poems
That offer the warmth and shelter of any good home.
I will sing for people who might not sing for me.
I will sing for people who are not my family.
I will sing honor songs for the unfamilar and new.
I will visit a different church and pray in a different pew.
I will silently sit and carefully listen to new stories
About other people’s tragedies and glories.
I will not assume my pain and joy are better.
I will not claim my people invented gravity or weather.
And, oh, I know I will still feel my rage and rage and rage
But I won’t act like I’m the only person onstage.
I am one more citizen marching against hatred.
Alone, we are defenseless. Collected, we are sacred.
We will march by the millions. We will tremble and grieve.
We will praise and weep and laugh. We will believe.
We will be courageous with our love. We will risk danger
As we sing and sing and sing to welcome strangers.
©2017, Sherman Alexie

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

SOL17: Karolina's Twins, The Nazis, and Trump

Memory is the Diary We All Carry (M.A. Reilly, 2017)


Since I finished reading Ronald Balson's novel Karolina's Twins, my sleep has been disturbed.  I'm not sure I would have finished the novel had it not been the next book my book group is discussing. But I did finish it and for the next week, I woke from nightmares very early each morning recalling the sounds of trains, the cries of babies, the hard leather of a boot pressed against my neck.

The novel is set in Poland during Nazi occupation and tells the story of Lena, a 89-year-old Jewish woman who at the time of the Holocaust was a teenager. The atrocities described cut me and surely fueled the nightmares. While asleep, I have been replaying some of the cruelties Lena, the main character faced. This is not the first or only Holocaust-related book I have read. Yet, it hurt more than any other. I'm not sure if it is because I am a mom and relate to the immense loss mothers must have experienced at the hands of the Nazis--losses I can not set down. Or perhaps it was that my husband who was Jewish and is now dead calls forth for me all those cowards who watched the Nazis slaughter innocent lives. There were thousands and thousands of people who killed men just like Rob and would have done so at any point in his life.  They would have murdered him as an infant, a young boy, a teen, a man--and millions more would have turned a blind eye and allowed it to happen.  The question of who we are, wakes me from sleep.

Lena and Karolina know that at the end of the train ride to Gross-Rosen, their two baby girls will be murdered. Of this there is no question. When Lena describes how she and her friend Karolina each throw an infant girl from a moving train in an effort to perhaps save their lives, I felt the very weight of my own son the first time I held him against my chest.  I felt this in 2017 as I sat in a chair in my home. I could feel the solidness of his small body. The smell of him. The way he fit just perfectly against me. All of this felt imprinted. Lena knows their only hope is to leave them for chance: Will they survive the fall?  Will someone find them in time?  Will someone care for them? Will they be turned over to the Nazis anyway?

And I wondered would I have ever had the courage to throw my son that solid living body and beautiful boy, out a train window in order to perhaps save him from the certain death he would know by Nazis.


Old Man Watching (M.A. Reilly, 2017)
I'm not sure the nightmares would have come had murdered infants been all I was thinking about. From the start of the novel, I was disturbed by the wishful thinking Lena and her family engaged in when the German occupation was new. It felt too familiar. It felt like how I have been living here in the United States since Donald Trump was elected and began to staff the White House with Nazis.

Early in the novel, Lena explains the beginning of Nazi occupation,
“New rules came down every day and more restrictions were imposed. Still, we survived. We adapted. We would wait it out. We held tight to the belief that soon the world would crush the Germans and they would leave" (p. 25).
Lena's dismissal of the horror, the adaptations they made, had me wondering about home.


I imagine, like me, you know where you were when you first heard about the white supremacist march in Charlottesville, VA this last weekend and the violence they caused. I was walking out of the MET, having just finished a drawing class and as soon as I heard the location, I immediately thought of a friend  who lives there.  When I got home, I sent her a message asking if she and her family were okay and was relieved to learn quickly they were safe.

Then the death of Heather Hayer was reported, a 32-year-old woman who while protesting the Nazis, was murdered by a 20-year-old kid from Ohio who drove his car into a crowd, reminiscent of the Nice, France terrorist act a year ago. This young Nazi killed Heather and injured 19 others. He did so with determination.

As expected, the US president, Donald Trump, spoke to the country.  In moments of terrorism, leadership matters. He said this:

We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides. On many sides. 

I thought my head might explode when I heard him say and then repeat, "on many sides" as he gestured with his hands as if he could dismiss the whole matter like one calling for a bill at the end of a meal.

What sides?

A young woman was dead because a Nazi killed her on a street in America.  With his words and then silence, Trump signaled his support for the violent Nazis in our country.  Make no mistake, Trump invited them into our homes. His language was clear.  There was no ambiguity.

The very people who elected him as president were supported by the president. And they said so.

Andrew Anglin, the cretor of the Nazi site The Daily Stormer, praised Trump's response. "He didn't attack us,"he wrote in a blog post on the site. "[He] implied that there was hate...on both sides. So he implied the antifa are haters. There was virtually no counter-signaling of us all." (from here).

It's 2017 and the Nazis are here.


Faced with increasing criticism from his own party, the media, and the public, Trump still took days to make a new statement. He showed us all who he really is by his comment on Saturday and his silence on Sunday. He's his father's son. Fred was arrested in his youth at a KKK rally. Like father like son.

And now Donald Trump has invited the Nazis to come out from under the rocks and slime and parade down Main Street, full of swagger and spitting hate, and designing murder. He has invited white supremacists into the White House. They dine with him. They fly alongside him on Air Force One. They advise him.

Make no mistake, we should not adapt to this, turn the other eye, wish for better days, hope this maniac settles.

Empowering hate is what Donald Trump does most consistently and most well.  He is divisive, mistaken, and unable to function as president. He and Vice President Pence must be removed from office because they harm us.

Their choices harm us. Their allegiances harm us. Their overt support of white supremacists harm us.

Impeach Trump and Pence, now.

Monday, August 14, 2017

#PoetryBreak: Grand Mal Seizure

(Desert Panels, M.A. Reilly, 2016)

Grand Mal Seizure
                    - by Molly McCully Brown

There's however it is you call,
& there's whatever it is
you're calling to.
July, I sew
my own dress
from calico & lace.
August, they take it
off me in the Colony,
trade it in
for standard-issue
Virginia cotton.
Not much room
for my body in the
heavy slip; maybe
that's the idea.

                               For awhile the abandoning
                               was rare & then it was not
                               & would never be again.

                               Imagine you are
                               an animal in your
                               own throat.

The dormitory has a pitched
dark roof & a high porch.
We are not allowed outside.
Instead, we go to the window & make
a game of racing dogwood blossoms
knocked down by the wind.
Choose your flower as
it falls & see whose
is the first to hit the clay.
I beat the crippled girl every day
for a week. The trick is to pick
the smaller petals.

                               Most nights, they knot
                               the bed sheet in my mouth
                               so I will not bite my tongue.

                               Lay out on the pine floor:
                               rattle your own bones back
                               to the center of the world.

In the beds, the smell
of kerosene & lye.
The girls wake themselves
one after another:
spasm, whimper, whine.
Outside: cicadas.
In the distance: the bighouse lights.
Another truck comes loud up the road
bearing another girl.
There is whatever it is
you're calling to. There is
however it is you call.

(opening poem from  The Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded, Persea Books)

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

#SOL17: Manhattan through an iPhone

Disappear with a Good Book (M.A. Reilly, Whitney Museum, 2017)

There are lots of ways to tell a slice of life.  This week I wanted to do it through images. After being in Europe for a few weeks I was glad to be home.  For a few days I made images of Manhattan--mostly midtown and downtown. I made all of the images using my iPhone.

Below is a brief video showing the images. The main app I used was the Hipstamatic App.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

#SOL17: I will arise and go now

Forgetfulness (M.A. Reilly)


From somewhere in the high heavens, the places I could not see, far beyond my gaze, there was a future floating down. I was alive, feet on the earth, so I could not outrun that future and slowly it covered me up.
There is, my dear friend, in the heart of every living being, the will to go on. 
KAO KALIA YANG, Your Threads Have Come Undone: A Letter to a Grieving Husband

The words quoted here are from a letter, Kao Kalia Yang wrote to a stranger who was deep in grief. Her words are poetic, brave, fierce, and so very, very right. I have been struggling to understand what it is I have mostly learned these last two years and it is the unquestionable understanding that the will to live is an untamed pulse.  Something fundamental urges adherence to living when the self is less sure of breath. 

At first I didn't feel. Shock insulates, slows the blood. Then I resurfaced and forgot. Each step in the day was a moment to anticipate Rob. I surfaced and remembered and it hurt in ways that defy language. When light began to creep in, to sink below the shut eyes of doubt it was largely because of the company I kept. Awakening happened alongside others deep in their own bereavement--mostly women I met in grief circles. In time I shared and shouldered sorrow and joy, and these connections rerooted me to the planet, to earth. I was feet to the soil. 

A day or two ago, a friend, Sandy, commented on a set of images I have been making this summer.  The presence of blackbirds can be found in so many of my paintings and truthfully I had no reason I could name as to why their presence in each painting was so prominent. She told me what I simply had not seen:

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life

Birds in Flight (M.a. Reilly, 2017)

You were only waiting for this moment to arise 
- The Beatles


What now feels like a million years ago, though it was just the summer of 1990, Rob and I traveled north of Sligo to visit Innisfree. There we were rowed across the lake to the island and spent the day in Yeats' bee-loud glade. Born there was the promise of something permanent and something also fleeting.

I will arise and go now.

 And I am.

Monday, August 7, 2017

#PoetryBreak: Be Kind

Tara Smith on her very excellent blog, A Teaching Life, posted this poem and it is so good, so perfect for these times that I just had to repost it.  Thank you, Tara.  If you love poetry, you'll want to check out Tara's blog every Friday when she posts a poem.

Late Light (M.A. Reilly, The Badlands, South Dakota, 2010)

Be Kind 

 - by Michael Blumenthal

Not merely because Henry James said
there were but four rules of life—
be kind be kind be kind be kind— but
because it’s good for the soul, and,
what’s more, for others; it may be
that kindness is our best audition
for a worthier world, and, despite
the vagueness and uncertainty of
its recompense, a bird may yet wander
into a bush before our very houses,
gratitude may not manifest itself in deeds
entirely equal to our own, still there’s
weather arriving from every direction,
the feasts of famine and feasts of plenty
may yet prove to be one, so why not
allow the little sacrificial squinches and
squigulas to prevail? Why not inundate
the particular world with minute particulars?
Dust’s certainly all our fate, so why not
make it the happiest possible dust,
a detritus of blessedness? Surely
the hedgehog, furling and unfurling
into its spiked little ball, knows something
that, with gentle touch and unthreatening
tone, can inure to our benefit, surely the wicked
witches of our childhood have died and,
from where they are buried, a great kindness
has eclipsed their misdeeds. Yes, of course,
in the end so much comes down to privilege
and its various penumbras, but too much
of our unruly animus has already been
wasted on reprisals, too much of the
unblessed air is filled with smoke from
undignified fires. Oh friends, take
whatever kindness you can find
and be profligate in its expenditure:
It will not drain your limited resources,
I assure you, it will not leave you vulnerable
and unfurled, with only your sweet little claws
to defend yourselves, and your wet little noses,
and your eyes to the ground, and your little feet.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

#PoetryBreak: August

a farm in southern Pennsylvania (M.A. Reilly)


Silence again. The glorious symphony
Hath need of pause and interval of peace.
Some subtle signal bids all sweet sounds cease,
Save hum of insects’ aimless industry.
Pathetic summer seeks by blazonry
Of color to conceal her swift decrease.
Weak subterfuge! Each mocking day doth fleece
A blossom, and lay bare her poverty.
Poor middle-ag├Ęd summer! Vain this show!
Whole fields of golden-rod cannot offset
One meadow with a single violet;
And well the singing thrush and lily know,
Spite of all artifice which her regret
Can deck in splendid guise, their time to go!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

#SOL17: Saying Yes

Some recent painting I have been doing.
I have been practicing saying, yes.

Instead of listing in my mind the many reasons why I should not do something, I have been practicing doing. Just that. With my son achieving adult status in so many ways there is a freedom that I can now enjoy. And I have. To be truthful, I have spent this summer mostly playing with just a little bit of work thrown in. I have stretched a bit beyond my role as mom and am the better for it.

As I write this I am 650 miles from home in North Carolina--here to take an art course taught by Pam Carriker, an artist whose work I appreciate. I hope to learn a lot, especially about color mixing and portraiture.  It is somewhat unsettling to be in North Carolina without Rob, and yet it is not uncomfortable. I have learned that to be unsettled is not equal to discomfort. Being unsettled is often healthy. Time seems to have a way of smoothing the rough and taming the wild edges of grief and I am ever glad for that. I am 100-pages into a memoir chronicling the last two years and though wading into that sorrow is a challenge, I also think it deepens the healing. I have been in this state only one other time without my husband and never in Charlotte where Rob, Devon and I have travelled to and through more times than I can count. What is difficult after the death of my husband are all the new places I have traveled and experienced that Rob never got to know and never will.  But, here now I have taken a page from my husband's ways in the world and found a public space to write and it feels right.

This may sound odd but I love people. I love being around others, listening in at times, sharing at others. Given my profession as a consultant and educator I imagine enjoying others and loving children are not so unusual. But beyond profession, we all have a need to connect, to feel the human pulse that ties us spark to life. Matthew Lieberman in Social (2013) writes,

We are wired to be social. We are driven by deep motivations to stay connected with friends and family. We are naturally curious about what is going on in the minds of other people. And our identities are formed by the values lent to us from the groups we call our own (p. 2).

Here in North Carolina on my way to an art workshop, I am part of a group of artists I call my own. So I reached out when I got here to another participant who Sean (the man who picked me up from the airport) told me was also going to be at the workshop and was staying at the same hotel. Patricia is a delight and has led such an incredibly interesting life full of intrigue, foreign locales, and of course--art. We passed a lovely evening and knowing we will share this weekend experience is grounding.

This is what it means to live in the middle of things.

Making a Pamphlet Journal

A photo Julie took.  I loved the sloppiness of
the approach when painting pages.
12 hours after I got home from Italy, I travelled into Manhattan to take a one-day pamphlet journal making class with Julie Fei-Fan Balzer.  One thing I learned was that when I attend art classes I do so not to make a finished product, but rather to learn approximately how to do a technique in order to give a better try at home. My first attempts are often approximations.

This was true with Julie's class. I did make two pamphlet journals while there, but I felt limited by the size of the paper I brought and frankly the way jet lag worked against my best intentions. Opposite me at the workshop was a doctor who brought very large paper and I was fascinated by the idea of working large. The idea stayed with me. For the last week I have been working on large paper and it feels so freeing. Yesterday friends from my art journal meet-up came over and I bound the pages using the pamphlet journal binding technique that Julie showed us.

Here are a few pages. I am still working on the pages.  The pages were made with Golden Fluid Acrylics, gesso, Tombow markers, Stabilo pencils, and digital remix.

2-page spread 

2-page spread

2-page spread

2-page spread

2-page spread

2-page spread

2-page spread

2-page spread

Here are details from other pages in the journal.



detail from 2-page spread

1 page of a 2-page spread

1 page of a 2-page spread
1 page of a 2-page spread

Friday, August 4, 2017

What is unsaid is a poem

Part of a 2-page spread . 

What is unsaid is a poem.
What is unknown reveals as much, if not more, than what is known.
What is unrealized is often what I most need.

I have been working large today--painting when I should have been doing a number of other things. Sometimes the paint calls. Some days I listen. That is a definition of grace.

Thinking About Being Literate

4th graders drawing their understandings of a Greek myth (Newark, NJ)
What it means to be literate has never been stable as being literate is more about the many ways we interact with language as it forms who we are and are not than it is about a particular skill set. What drives definitions of literate behaviors here in the US are the high stakes assessments states give annually. These do not embrace contemporary understandings of being literate. Composing is still limited to essayist products, and children's capacity with reading is measured by performance on identifying and naming answers to already codified bits of knowledge.

The tacit domain is sleepy.

When we understand literacy as multiple literacies that get made and reading and writing as modes of mapping rather than modes of replication--than complexity has room to breathe and notions of learning arise alongside experiences as they unfold, enfold, and (re)fold. How 'literacy' as a singular entity is situated is more a reflection of a deep desire to maintain order by those whose power depends on maintaining territories and separations. There, learning is more about tracing, not mapping--for in the world of standards, codification is king.  The shifts as I see them are not housed solely in technologies, but rather find expression in the deterritorialized spaces that open up via curiosities, explorations, misunderstandings. And other tacit impulses.  

4 Art Books I Am Currently (re)Reading and Some Video

I am currently reading a few art books to study technique and to be inspired. I wanted to share these titles with you as each seems rather good.

1. Pam Carriker's (who I will be taking a class with soon) Mixed Media Portraits with Pam Carriker: Techniques for Drawing and Painting Faces (2015) from Northlight Books.

Here are two videos that show Pam at work creating a portrait.

2. Jane Davies' (who I want to take a course with so much) Abstract Painting: The Elements of Visual Language (2017) from Jane Davies Publications.

The techniques Jane describes here are helpful and inspire me to try my hand at abstract painting. I bought her book after watching her video, Scribble Collage: with Hand-Painted Paper with Jane Davies

Here's a brief look at the video.

JD1 Preview v1 from Creative Catalyst on Vimeo.

3. Misty Mawn's Unfurling, A Mixed-Media Workshop with Misty Mawn: Inspiration and Techniques for Self-Expression through Art (2011) from Quarry Books.

I so appreciate Misty Mawn's paintings, processes, and her book. It is one I return to in order to resample and be inspired. The last section of the book shows ways to visually journal and she is clear and the ideas are excellent.

Below is Misty's I am an Artist film.

5.  Elisabeth Bronfen's  (Edited by Janine Latham) Woman Power: Maria Lassnig in New York 1968–1980 (2017) by Petzel.

Here is a brief video featuring Lassnig's portraits.

Here is a brief video about a retrospective of her work at MOMA PS1.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Some Thoughts about Packaged Workshops

Sleep (M.A. Reilly, 2014)

I was moved when I read Identity, a wise post by J. Carey, a literacy coach (and mom) in Connecticut.  Her post prompted me to think about the interior work of writing and painting and how such work is often at odds with school structure and agency. Carey stresses the need for teachers--be it of the visual or written arts--to help learners develop authorial identity. She marks such work as a critical beginning point. I thought a lot about her post as a visual artist, knowing how hard it has been the last two years for me to even contemplate the development of a style.  I am so far from having a personal style as art technique is still a wobbly affair. Only of late, do I sense a style emerging.

Later in the day I was reading John O'Donohue's Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom and stopped after reading,
When I left home, I entered the world of thought, writing, and poetry. This work is in the invisible realm. When you work in the territory of mind, you see nothing. Only sometimes are you given the slightest little glimpse of the ripples from your effort. You need great patience and self-trust to sense the invisible harvest in the territory of the mind. You need to train the inner eye for the invisible realms where thoughts can grow, and where feelings put down their roots (pp. 134-135). 

O'Donohue seems to be saying something similar to Carey. He stresses the need for great patience by the artist. Such patience is engendered when time and focus are being controlled by the learner. When agency is limited by pre-determined curricula and allocations of time learners often do not develop identity.

I think of this when I visit schools where I consult--especially at the beginning of new work. So often these schools have bought into non-organic writing and reading workshops where a timeline has been set by an external authority and the content for a full year has been pre-determined.  Usually these schools are seeking my assistance as learning is stalled or in some cases, regressing.  When I examine the curriculum products such as packaged workshops that leave little to no room for the learner I cringe. As an artist and writer, such products are the stuff of insanity.  They also are often a major source for what has gone wrong regardless of the good intentions of the authors.

I wondered how differently we might approach learner agency, the allocation of school time, and the control and development of content if we deeply understood Carey's notion of identity and O'Donohue's discussion about the temerity of the writer. It is surely harder in some immediate ways to build a curriculum with youngsters, but without authorship it seems impossible that the harder and more profound lessons stand a chance of being articulated, let alone learned. 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Poetry Break: BEANNACHT

(M.A. Reilly)


          For Josie

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the gray window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colors,
indigo, red, green
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the curach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.

And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

from: O'Donohue, John. Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom . HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. 

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

#SOL17: Clay

Morning Light on Lake Como (M.A Reilly, Argegno, Italy, July 2017) 
Only Hope remained there in an unbreakable home within under the rim of the great jar, and did not fly out at the door.  - Hesiod


Within--there's a new, strange feeling hard to name.  Alongside each breath, a slim sense of possibility plays. It seems to whispers, All things are possible and I lately answer, Yes. And by answering, I see the woman I have been and am becoming.

It has been so long since I simply have felt like me.


Grief yields. Who knew? It felt so much a part of my blood. Cut me and I bled sorrow. Now the sadness, kindled within my own Pandora's jar, has given way to chancing, to looking down at fear by saying, yes, to life.

Friends, the antidote to grief is verb.


Love as action is stronger than grief--stronger than sorrow.  I'll tell you this:
Once, on a snowy cold February morning, my husband told me a secret. He said, "You attract others to you. That's your gift. Live brilliantly. Don't you dare hide away."

And in the 18 months that have gone by since then, I have hidden and stood among others. Both felt unfamiliar until being among others, known and new began to feel comfortable.


John O'Donohue in Anam Cara writes,
"When you find the person you love, an act of ancient recognition brings you together. It is as if millions of years before the silence of nature broke, his or her clay and your clay lay side by side" (p. 45).
We are ancient, older than our bodies, unruled by matters of time. I recognize my husband in the march of life that continues.  I see him in the wing of a lone cardinal as it glides from view;  in the way morning light on Lake Como diffuses the color of the Alps, in the absolute chatter of birds an hour before sunrise, in the sound of the subway as it yields to the station, and in the way memory lives each time my foot still seeks his in bed.


Months ago my son told me that his dad formed us. We carry him with us wherever we are. He's in us. And he is, but not in the way I first thought.  Rob would not have sought homage from his son or me, but rather dialogue. And perhaps that is one way to live brilliantly--to live in dialogue with the here and now, with you and those I have yet to meet or know, and to live with the ways our past (re)forms the present.

We are clay, ancient.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

#SOL17: Alone

Sunset at Cinque Terre (MA. Reilly, 2017, Vernazza, Italy)

After Rob died the world expanded, felt larger, less familiar. I thought of this when I was on holiday in Vernazza, nearly 17 months after his death; 2 years after he was first diagnosed with cancer. Upon arrival in this small, yet very crowded seaside town, the distance from the train station to the B&B seemed great. I wandered uncertain, not knowing where I was heading, pulling an overpacked suitcase behind me, listening to the unfamiliar bits of language being uttered. In less certain terrain, the sense of loneliness that wells up and recedes since Rob's death feels heightened, exaggerated. And yet by the time I was leaving--a mere 48 hours later, the distance between the B&B and the train station was now nothing greater than a brief stroll, and many of the words and phrases being bantered about were more practiced, known.  

Familiarity allows for a smaller world. Intimacy even more so. 


Alongside Rob's death I learned  I am alone regardless of the presence or absence of company. An existential truth we each must come to know. We all are alone. 

This sense of singularity is a human condition that good marriages, happy families, solid relationships hide somewhat. Having a loving partner for nearly three decades anchored me to the world by connecting me to him. Regardless of what happened, I knew with complete certainty that Rob would always stand with me, by me, for me. Love allowed me to feel connected, not alone. But it also did something that was less in sight. Rob's love helped me too develop a better version of myself. That's what good marriages inspire, ever better versions of ourselves. It is this sense of self that has grown alongside my marriage these last thirty years that allow me most days to be comfortable with myself. This is a gift.