Eloise

I have fallen in love — again — with a little girl with whom I have had the privilege of spending the last four months, Eloise Vella Kaplan.  When I arrived in August she was just two months old, small, fragile and mostly helpless.  Now she is six months old, curious about the world, able to hold her head up, move in circles on her belly, smile in recognition, and kick her legs to indicate “I want to be picked up!”

Eloise was born in June as my first born son, Bart, was.  I spend a lot of day time alone with her as I did with Bart, walking the city streets with a baby in a stroller because I didn’t have access to a car when he was little, either.  Watching Eloise at this age has brought back memories of Bart and what it was like to see a small life develop.  It is a miracle, even for non-believers.

During this time, I have paid more attention to and been involved with small things:  how Eloise looks with fascination at a light, how her small hand clutches one of my fingers, how she kicks her feet when she sees me warming up her bottle, her puzzlement when water flows out of a faucet.  Everything is new and of interest.  Spiritual leaders tells us that paying attention and being present are crucial for a deeper faith life.  Little people do this automatically and can be good models for us.

Eloise teaches me to wonder at falling leaves in the hazy late afternoon light; her smile of recognition brings me joy; she sits in quiet patience as her brothers cry in frustration and adults look grim; she is happy with keys to chew on and a stuffed monkey to hold.

Last Thursday I took about five minutes to settle Eloise down with some toys.  During that time brother Gus managed to scoop coffee beans out of the cannister, leave a trail of them in two rooms as he poured the remaining ones in my coffee cup, so I would “have some more coffee to drink.”  He dumped out two baskets of gloves and hats looking for a nerf gun, jumped from the top of the sofa to a spot behind it, yelling for me to try and find him.  Eloise looked placidly on.  They are both precious, but at this point I appreciate her limited mobility.

After a few minutes of exploration, she has learned to drop an object. I pick it up and hand it to her again.  After the third round of this, Gus tells me, “She doesn’t want it, Gaba.”  Sometimes the obvious eludes me.

At this time of year, we celebrate the birth of another child.  The theme of birth, gifts, new life are intertwined.  Children are a gift.  They give us hope, a belief that a fresh presence will bring something better, that renewal is possible.  Even if it doesn’t always work out in a positive way, isn’t that what we all want?

Eloise, you are a gift– to this family and to the world.

 

This is the end of this blog.  God willing, one week from today I will be back in Monterey,  leaving St. Louis with mixed feelings.  I am grateful for the time I was able to spend here, the people I have come to know, and for Grant and Emily who shared their family so generously.  Happy Advent.  Merry Christmas.

On Living a Simpler Life

For years I have thought and talked about living a simpler life, though I honestly haven’t done much about it.  These four months in St. Louis offered me a chance to “walk my talk.”  Since I am here for a short time, it didn’t make sense to bring a lot with me.  I am renting a sparsely furnished lower floor of a house.  This is what I have discovered so far.

I brought about 1/4 of the clothes I own.  I haven’t missed a thing, though I am easier to recognize by the neighbors.  “It must be Tuesday.  She’s wearing the striped T-shirt again.”  I suppose eventually I will grow tired of this limited wardrobe, but so far I find it liberating not to be thinking much about clothes (or spending money on them).

I still cook most dinners at home with one frying pan, one sauce pan, one square 9″ baking pan, one paring knife, and a set of plastic mixing bowls that double as toys for the boys when they come by.  I have even had people over for dinner (with the help of takeout!).  I don’t have a mixer, dish washer, Cuisinart, toaster oven, etc.  Of course, I am single and like simple food which makes a difference.

My living space is sparsely furnished: no sofa, no TV, no chest of drawers, no decorative pillows, no stereo.  There are hardwood floors with one area rug in the living room.  No curtains on most windows.  It makes cleaning easier which is good since I have no vacuum, broom, or dustpan.  A Swiffer does it all.  There is one set of towels, one set of sheets.

I discovered I can’t live without a radio, so I bought a small one with a clock.  I have my laptop and cell phone.  I also need reading material, but have been able to borrow most of it from the nearby library.

My landlord left artwork on the walls that I like.  That keeps this space from looking sterile.

I do miss my garden a lot.  There are some pots in the front yard that I planted.  The backyard consists of a huge lawn and nothing else.  I probably couldn’t continue to live here without re-landscaping!  I look with envy at some of my neighbors’ gardens.

To entertain my grandsons, I bought two balls (The backyard is great for soccer practice.), a puzzle, some card games, a flashlight, and a magnifying glass.  So far they seem pretty occupied with these as long as I join in with them.  We go to the park a lot, and they love the library that has a large children’s section.  I know they will grow older and want electronic games, but so far it has been easy to keep them happy.

Living without a car is limiting, but all my needs and most of my wants can be managed on foot.  I haven’t used the bus system, but it is available and easy to access.

So what have I concluded?  I am surprised that I am very content and not yearning for any of the material things I left behind.  This kind of simplicity has nothing to do with poverty.  I know I am better off than the majority of people on the planet.  With my version of “less,” there is no shortage of basic necessities.

It makes a difference that no one knew me here before I arrived, and therefore had no expectations about how I should appear or what “things” should be part of my cultural identity.  I have made friends with some people that are financially better off and who have retired from professional positions above mine, but my lifestyle doesn’t seem to make any difference.  Maybe because most of my new friends are older people, and no one is trying to impress anyone else.  Maybe it is because I am in the Midwest where pretensions are downplayed.

I know, too, that scaled back living is a choice I am making, and that I can choose otherwise if I want.  Most people don’t have that option.

What leads me to think about this is a book by Naomi Klein, “Climate vs. Capitalism,” in which she makes a convincing case that the environmental measures we are debating now: a carbon tax fee, electric cars, solar energy are not nearly enough.  The only way our planet is going to survive is to reinvent our economic system.  As long as we have a capitalistic economy that encourages growth and consumption, we are going to run out of resources and have increasing numbers of “have not’s” as well as a ravaged planet.

That idea took my breath away.  It would change everything in first world countries.  Realistically, I doubt it will happen, but I do think it is possible to rethink how we are living and to consider reducing, reusing, and sharing on a much greater level.

As I contemplate my return to California, I think of Thoreau living in a small cabin on Walden Pond for two years.  When he returned to society, did he live differently?  I don’t know, but I imagine I will return to my former lifestyle because it is so easy to slide into it, even though I claim I am concerned about the environment, and my faith calls me to live in a manner that makes it possible for others to live, too.

To resist consuming takes a daily conscious effort.  The pull of all those beautiful things is seductive.  It is so easy to accept the status quo and figure what one person does isn’t that important.

Yet during these four months, every time I listen to the news, I hear another story about the careless destruction of some part of the earth.  I recall Edward Hale, “I am only one, but I am one.  I cannot do everything, but I can do something.  And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.”

As an older person, humility has become inevitable.  At this point all I can do is something small and simple.  Maybe that is enough.

Thanksgiving Weekend

If you are reading this, you are one of the people I am greatful for.  Thank you for the gift of your presence.

Thanksgiving morning I flew to Atlanta to spend the weekend with Bart and Michelle.  Having never been to Georgia, I am able to cross another state off my list of those I want to see.  The Atlanta Airport has the busiest passenger travel in the world, according to Bart.  It was like a small city.

The city originated in 1836 as the terminus of a railroad.  Coca Cola opened its factory here in 1886.  Later, several Black colleges were built that resulted in a prosperous Black middle class despite the Jim Crow laws. In the last 20 years the population has boomed with Blacks making up 54% and Whites 38% of the population, though there is a self-selected segregation in the neighborhoods.

There is some resemblance to Los Angeles in that it is a huge city where one drives a lot along freeways with six lanes.  Most of the buildings are newly constructed, an indication of the growth taking place.  Bart and Michelle live in a lovely townhouse in an appealing neighborhood with lots of trees and gently curving roads.  Michelle has done a super job of decorating their home in a warm and light-filled manner.

We took a walk around the neighborhood and then sat down to a delicious meal they prepared.  In the evening we saw “Wonder,” a delightful film about eventual understanding, kindness, and respect between a group of children and adults.

Friday morning we drove to Stone Mountain, a huge granite hill that gradually emerged over millions of years.  We climbed to the top, a good way to work off those Thanksgiving calories, and had a 360 degree view of Atlanta.  In 1910 someone conceived a project that resulted in a gigantic carving the size of a city block on one side of the mountain.  Within it are images of Lee, Davis and Stonewall Jackson on horseback that took 60 years to complete.  This is a remarkable feat of human engineering and art that gave me an appreciation of Confederate memorials.

In the later afternoon we drove to Midtown, an area of gleaming modern edifices to visit the High Museum of Art.  It is a complex of several buildings, so we saw only a portion of it.  There was an impressive photographic exhibit of the Civil Rights Movement.  In another room was a group of large images done by a woman who spent time visiting people in solitary confinement in prisons around the country.  Though no one can be recognized, she portrayed her vision of the men who were isolated for years.  The framed works shimmered from different angles and suggested people who were losing a sense of identity.  In the middle of the room was a display of letters and diary entries from these men.  Very powerful!  The last exhibit we saw focused on contemporary African design that illustrated the diversity of the people there and their unique creativity.

We ended the day at a casual Mexican bar and restaurant with lots of noise and fun.  At home, Bart and Michelle challenged me to a game of Scrabble.  You know who won!

Saturday morning we went to the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum.  Carter is my favorite President of those who served during my life time.  Like the man, the museum is unpretentious, located in a park-like setting.  Hearing him speak in videos and remembering what he did made me yearn for that time when the President was a man to admire, even if you didn’t vote for him.  Rosalyn was a political person in her own right who worked to erase the stigma associated with mental illness.  After the presidency was over, they both continued to work for the eradication of disease in third world countries and for fair elections.  A man and woman with integrity.

My favorite activity took place in late afternoon when we visited the Botanical Gardens as night was descending to see “Garden Glow,” the display of lights covering much of the gardens.  Long strings of lights went off and on simulating rain in one area.  In another the Nutcracker Suite played as the lights blinked in unison to the music.  There were special glasses to wear that added another dimension to the lights.  Other lights reflected in the water at a pond, and a huge tree of poinsettias stood silhouetted in the dark.  It was magical!

Sunday morning we went to the church Bart and Michelle attend and heard an informative sermon on Christ the King Sunday.  It seemed like a warm and welcoming community.

Afterwards we headed to the airport for the flight back to St. Louis on the busiest flying day of the year.  All went well.  I look forward to more trips to Atlanta.

p.s. I had some great photos, but can’t seem to download them 🙂

Friday Night Pizza

Grant has been in Boston at a conference.  Friday night I thought I would help Emily by taking the boys out for pizza–their favorite meal.  I had read about a man who was reputed to make the best pizza crust in the city and who had recently opened a new spot right near us called Pizza Head.  I was eager to check it out.

As we entered the front door, I wondered if I had made a mistake.  The place was painted  entirely in black with red drips running down the wall.  Punk rock blasted from the rear.  I was the only woman in sight other than the servers and the only person over 40.  There were no other children.  Before I could reverse course, the boys had grabbed soda from the case and yelled out “pepperoni” as they raced to the back of the restaurant where there was a pinball machine.  Pizza was ordered at the bar where I discovered pepperoni and cheese were the only options.  I ordered three slices and headed after the boys.

Max dominated the pinball game, so Gus went exploring.  Suddenly there was silence–no music, no game lights.  Gus had disconnected the electrical cord!  I raced over to put it back in.  After the pizza came and a teenager was playing on the machine, once more Gus disconnected the plug.  By doing so, the teenager’s game suddenly ended.  After plugging the cord in again and admonishing Gus, I gave the teen some quarters to restart his game.  Gus needed a new adventure.  A few minutes later, I noticed that he had crawled behind a bench where people were sitting and was now cavorting in the window facing street side.  I quickly gathered our belongings and escaped.

The pizza was delicious, but the owner probably has us on his ‘do not serve’ list!

That evening Max came over to spend the night.  After 30 minutes of playing with the stuffed animals, we made popcorn and streamed “King Kong” on my computer.  The next morning Max asked if he could come over every Friday night.

Millions of leaves cover the ground.  They are beautiful even in their flattened brown state, Like an autumn snow fall.  Some float in the chilly air, landing on cars and clothes, on dog hair and human jackets.  A reminder that time is passing, and the world is changing.

 

St. Margaret of Scotland–Oh, What a Life — and Death!

The parish church Grant’s family and I attend is named St. Margaret of Scotland.  Max is enrolled in kindergarten at the school of the same name.  I was unfamiliar with this saint, so did a little research.  Though she was of the English nobility, she was born in Hungary about 1045, and married the King of Scotland.  Three of her sons later became kings of Scotland.

During her lifetime she was known for her charitable work and for her efforts at religious reform, though I couldn’t find any specifics.  She also had a “civilizing” effect on her husband who was supposedly pretty crude.  In 1250 she was canonized.

In 1560 Mary Queen of Scots had her head removed and brought to Edinburgh Castle to help her in childbirth!  In 1597 Scottish Jesuits held the head at their residence in France.  During the French Revolution, it was lost.  I think she deserves sainthood!

Her feast day is November 16, so each year the parish has a Fest on Vlad (street where the church is located) close to that date.  The church opened in the late 1800’s, and the school is celebrating its centennial, so Saturday’s celebration was special.  Mass began with a procession led by Scottish bagpipes.  Two choirs provided beautiful music to a packed church.

Afterwards there was a dinner in the hall.  This parish has a lot of young families, so there were hundreds of kids running about with glow rings.  The street in front of the church was blocked off and had fire pits, wine, and whiskey tasting.  Grant was helping with the latter event and remarked, “Mom, there were all these old ladies lining up for whiskey.”  No, I wasn’t one of them!

Max’s soccer team ended its season.  He is very proud of the trophy he earned.  Gus talks a lot about the “big bad wolf.”  He seems partly frightened and partly intrigued by this creature.  I remind him that there are no wolves in St. Louis, but I’m not sure he believes me.  Eloise has begun eating solid food.  So far, she likes bananas, avocados, and sweet potatoes.  She tries hard to propel her body in space and chews on anything she can hold. A tiny tooth is emerging.

My sister sent a quote from Winnie the Pooh last week, “Sometimes the smallest thing takes up the most room in your heart.”  That’s the way I feel about these three little children.

This afternoon I had a small pre-Thanksgiving event at my place to thank the friends and neighbors who have been so welcoming.  I do love the hospitality of the Midwest.

It was in the 20’s last week.  I am less enthusiastic about the weather as winter approaches.  Warm love to all …

 

HALLOWEEN

People in St. Louis go all out for Halloween.  Houses have elaborate decorations, everyone dresses up, and there is every kind of celebration  imaginable.

Grant, being an Astros fan, wore one of their shirts for Halloween and had a huge Astros’ flag flying from the second floor balcony.  Max was Batman, complaining that everyone at school wanted to squeeze his expanded arm muscles.  The house pictured is close to where I live.  Eloise was a pumpkin.  She loved all the activity.  Emily had a party for adults and kids.  I was introduced to the “Moscow Mule” that kept me warm all through the night.  It was lots of fun!

IMG_0190IMG_0195IMG_0185IMG_0194

Continue reading HALLOWEEN

Lincoln, A Farm, and Tea Time

“Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.”                                                                                                                     Abraham Lincoln, February 1860

On Saturday I drove to Springfield, Illinois, about one and a half hours from St. Louis.  Traveling through the flat land with few trees on a cold morning, I wondered what it was like for Lincoln and his family to move about the countryside with horse and buggy or on foot.  I wanted to see the Lincoln Library and Museum that I had heard so much about.  A fifteen year project, finished in 2005, the museum does an imaginative job of portraying the country in the 19th century.  The exhibits re-create scenes from Lincoln’s  life such as his boyhood home, built to scale, and his White House office.  I hadn’t realized that Lincoln had only one year of formal schooling and, otherwise, was self-educated.  There is music of the period playing in the background to create a sensory feeling for the times.

The most interesting exhibit to me was the moving map of the US during the Civil War that showed the shifting front, the explosive battles and the number of deaths, north and south, that mounted during the conflict.  The stories of some of the individual soldiers were told in haunting detail.

If you think politics are rough now, there is a Whispering Gallery with political cartoons, vicious news articles, and criticisms spoken aloud about Lincoln.  He and his wife were criticized for being uncouth Westerners, and he, for his appearance and his stance on slavery.  He was hated, yet never lost his moral compass.  Quite an accomplishment. Quotes from his speeches as well as oral recitations of some of them left me in tears.  In our fractured times, wouldn’t it be encouraging to have a leaders who spoke out consistently for unity and the common good regardless of the cost?

Close by the museum are the office where he practiced law, the capital where he was a legislator, and a home where he lived.

On Thursday Grant and I took Gus and Eloise to Eckert Farms, a place like Gizdich Ranch, only larger.  There were farm animals to feed, orchards with many varieties of apples to pick, a huge pumpkin field, a restaurant famous for its fried chicken, a nursery and a gift shop.  We rode a tractor-pulled wagon through the fields that the kids loved.  Eloise looked around everywhere, mesmerized by all the activities.  Grant laughed at my lunch of fried biscuits and jam, but it was delicious!

Another observation about the Midwest: people here are more considerate than those I encounter in California.  Men and women regularly open doors for me when I have the baby in the stroller, offer to help with groceries, say ‘hello’ as I walk.  I hope it’s not just because Max says I look like I’m 100!

It was 29 degrees this morning when I walked to church.  Getting around on foot may be more of a challenge as the temperature drops.  Despite the weather, I am in awe of the trees, changing from green to yellow and red,  and gently letting their leaves go.  What a metaphor for growing older.

This afternoon a friend and I walked to the “London Tea House” for afternoon tea. Inside the front door, I felt like I was in Ireland or England again.  At least 50 different kinds of tea, served in individual ceramic pots and in china cups, scones with butter and jam, pastries filled with savory meats and vegetables, and lemon cake.  It is located in an old house with wood floors that creak and doilies on the tables.  A great experience!

 

October Days

“October baseball is what it’s all about.”  James Winnefeld, Jr.

My two sons are ecstatic!  Bart, a life-long Dodgers fan, and Grant, an Astros loyalist, have followed their teams during an extraordinary season.  Now both teams head to the World Series.  Life is good for faithful fans.

St. Louis has distinctive neighborhoods, each with an ambiance and history all its own.  I spent yesterday  exploring, Soulard, one of the older communities.  It was named after Antoine Soulard, a Frenchman who surveyed the area for the King of Spain in 1770.  His wife donated land for a market that is now the oldest farmers’ market west of the Mississippi (1779).  This market has over 100 vendors selling the usual fresh produce, butcher shops reminiscent of European markets, crafts of every type, and drinks from cocktails to fresh squeezed juices.  I wandered into a spice shop filled with the aroma of herbs.  There were shelves of little bottles and packets with unusual names and scents. Mingling with a diversity of people made me feel like I was in a foreign country.

There are lots of old churches in the neighborhood, as well as restaurants, and a place called “The Sweet Divine,” reputed to have the best cupcakes in the city.  All the buildings are red brick as well as the sidewalks.

I had noticed how many brick houses there were in St. Louis and wondered why.  Apparently there is lots of exceptionally fine clay in the ground.  In the past brick-making was a big enterprise.  In 1839, 20,000,000 bricks were made!  In 1849 there was a disastrous fire that destroyed 1/3 of the city.  After that it was illegal to build wooden structures.  It is notable that all classes of people built brick houses, not just the well off. I think these homes give the city a substantial feel.  Even if the homes are run-down or abandoned, they look better than areas where homes are constructed of other materials.

Movie theaters in St. Louis are a lot of fun.  Some are in classic old buildings with huge chandeliers, velvet curtains and heavy gold molding.  One Grant took me to had comfortable arm chairs to sit in.  Many of them offer wine, beer, and cocktails to drink during the show, as well as a bigger variety of food.  Recently I saw “Marshall,” an inspiring film about the early career of Thurgood Marshall, the first Black Supreme Court justice.  At the end the audience clapped.

Max asked Grant if I was 100 years old.  I know what I’ll be for Halloween–a centenarian!

The Week That Was

“We consent to the wrong life in small ways, less by what we say than by what we don’t, maybe less by how we behave than by the behavior we accept.”       Kathleen Alcott

I came across this quote a couple of weeks ago, and it has stayed with me, seeming relevant not just on a personal level, but on a societal one–and especially in the last week.  It is hard to condense the events or to draw any clear conclusions–so much pain, amongst glimpses of beauty and goodness.

Though I live in Missouri now, my heart has been in California, horrified by the devastating fires.  Just over a year ago our family gathered in Napa to celebrate the wedding of Bart and Michelle.  It was a beautiful setting we all delighted in, impossible to believe it is now ash.

On another level an out of control fire seems like an apt metaphor for our country this week: partial withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement; the repeal of parts of the Affordable Care Act, leaving thousands of people with the probable loss of insurance; the U.S. departure from UNESCO; Harvey Weinstein …

This week I finished watching Ken Burns series on the Vietnam War.  I had forgotten the extent of civic turmoil in our country, but was struck by the public participation and challenge to the events that eventually led to the end of the war, the expansion of civil rights and women’s rights, the removal of leaders who lied.  Where is the action following outrage now?  The 1960’s and 70’s were certainly not a perfect time.  Errors were made by people on both sides, but at least people spoke up, took action, demanded change.

This year marks the 500th anniversary of Luther nailing his 95 theses on the cathedral door.  I attended a two part lecture series at the local parish on those events.  The 1500’s were also a time of great social turmoil following Luther’s actions.  He, too, was far from perfect, but he challenged church power at great personal cost bringing about eventual reform.  He translated the Bible into German, beginning the process of people being able to read scripture in their native tongue.  He also used the phrase “priesthood of the faithful” that was so important in Vatican II.  Tomorrow night Grant gives a talk on Luther.

Saturday afternoon I saw “Professor Marston and Wonder Woman,” an enlightening movie.  Though I read some of the Wonder Woman comics when I was growing up, I never picked up on the feminist or sexual implications.  The movie tells the intriguing story of Dr. Marston, a psychologist with a Ph.D. from Harvard, who developed the comic heroine to illustrate his psychological research.  It also follows the story of his unconventional personal life.  If you are interested in three people who were way ahead of their time, don’t miss this movie!

I mentioned glimpses of beauty and goodness.  Among them, my first grandson, Caleb, turned 13.  He is growing into an impressive young man who isn’t embarrassed to give his grandmother hugs.

I attended a Baroque concert on Sunday celebrating the 250th anniversary of Telemann’s death.  The Collegium Vocale, a group of nine musicians played historic instruments in a beautiful old church.  The music was exquisite.  I appreciated it more thanks to a pre-concert introduction by one of the group who gave information about Telemann’s history.  He is believed to have composed 3,000 pieces during his life.  Nonetheless, he nearly went broke when his second wife, who had numerous affairs, ran up huge gambling debts, then left him with 9 children!

I watch Eloise grow and learn.  At the beginning of the week, she could put her fist in her mouth and chew on it.  By Friday she had figured out how to grasp an object, e.g. teething ring, bring it to her mouth and chew on it.  She studies bright objects with fascination.  Watching her determined efforts and ready smile make me happy.

When I leave each day, if Gus is present, he wants to give me a kiss.  He throws his arms around my neck, plants a wet kiss on my cheek, and I know there is reason for hope.

 

 

A Rich Weekend

Imagine 600 or more people gathered on a Friday afternoon in a tree-studded park surround by a sea of grass.  Food trucks serving Mexican, Asian, Barbecue, craft beers, premium ice cream, margarita flavored cupcakes, and more are parked on one side.  Live music is coming from a makeshift stage on another side.  Dogs are tethered by their owners.  Frisbees fly overhead, and children race everywhere shrieking with delight.  It’s Food Truck Friday, one of my favorite monthly events.  Judging by the crowds, I’m not the only one.  Fish tacos are my choice to eat, but there are plenty of other delicious options.  The food is fantastic, but in addition I think people are drawn to the easy camaraderie whether people know one another, or not.  It is the end of the week.  Everyone looks happy.

Over the weekend, the “Best of Missouri” showcase took place nearby.  There were 120 booths featuring, food, drinks, crafts, art, and music representing what the state produces.  Thousands of people showed up to walk through the massive tents sampling everything from kakao chocolate to persimmon flavored goat cheese to fine whiskey.  I was taken by the teddy bears created from recycled fur coats, the succulents in small concrete containers, the hand-carved wooden toys, cardboard bee barns, wildflower seed bombs, and exquisite vases made from glass and recycled metal.  Missouri artisans create beautiful products.

Sunday two friends took me to the Sheldon Museum of Contemporary Art.  It is a concrete structure with huge open spaces that highlight large installations.  We were fascinated by the work of Hayv Kahraman, an Iraqi female immigrant whose paintings of the female body are displayed on large wooden and linen canvases.  Her work considers the impact of uprooting on the mind and body of people forced to leave their country.  The pieces were beautiful, even though they portrayed a tragic subject.

The other main exhibit was by Mickalene Thomas, a Black woman, who uses film, video, and photography juxtaposed on one another to make a statement about race and gender.

I was mesmerized watching a video in which she took four Black female artists, all singing the same song, and showed them in separate frames.  She then broke their faces into four parts and shifted them over to the other women’s faces.  It sounds bizarre, but it was oddly beautiful.  I am in awe of the creativity of contemporary artists.

Outside was installation entitled “Fence” in which a long hedge shaped piece was suspended high in the air.  It was made of bits and pieces of recycled material that captured the shifting sunlight and moved with the breeze.  We sat outside on benches talking and watching this fascinating object made entirely from junk.

Patty, one of the two women, is a real “foodie,” so she chose the restaurant for dinner.  It was located in Lafayette Park, an older section of the city I hadn’t seen before.  The buildings are all constructed of red brick with lovely flower-filled planters along the sidewalk.  We had a drink in the bar, then sat down to a delicious meal of Italian cuisine. Does it sound like there is a lot of eating and drinking here?  There is!

The days are cooler and shorter.  Leaves are beginning to change colors.  As one walks along the sidewalk, there is the familiar sound of dried Maple leaves crunched beneath shoes.  Many homes have pumpkins perched in the garden and pots of chrysanthemums lining the steps.  I love the colors of autumn and the electric energy in the air.

World news is horrifying and depressing, but is mitigated somewhat by the everyday pleasures of Midwestern life, the joy of young children eager to figure out new skills, and the glory of nature.  This week Max and Gus received their Batman and Robin Halloween costumes in the mail.  They are thrilled–so happy that I’m not sure the costumes will last until the end of the month.  Meanwhile, St. Louis is a safer place, under the protection of two super heroes.