Here in the Netherlands it's a sad day of mourning for victims of flight MH17. Flags are flying at half-mast and various memorial services honour those who perished - including 193 Dutch citizens.
Leave these clogs unworn;
just remember I walked free
and love echoes still.
As always, click photo to view detail.
Poppies, Monet's Garden, Giverny, France.
As a journalist, I covered the Arab-Israeli conflict for many years, with friends on both sides of the equation. Some Palestinians I knew personally were assassinated; others were jailed or deported. All these years later, it's dismaying to watch crimes against humanity still being perpetrated daily in Gaza - the world's largest open-air prison, as former French President Nicolas Sarkozy noted in 2008. Both the Israeli and the Hamas-led Palestinian governments apparently haved learned little from their decades of war and mutual suffering.
The poem "A Stone's Throw Away..." that I wrote in 1998 depicts how the endless self-destructive cycle of violence and war impacts future generations and their attitudes. Sadly, the words are just as apt today:
To glance at his face, he appears just a youth
But look deep in his eyes: therein lies the truth.
Exposure to violence at too tender an age
Shaped his thoughts, bent his will, filled him with rage.
A life with sparse shelter, intertwined with abuse
A life fraught with peril, until he thinks ‘what’s the use?’
It’s only when throwing a stone he feels brave;
For a moment, he’s free: neither victim nor slave.
Perched high in the hills, boys continue to throw.
A stone’s throw to freedom; how far will they go?
Their defiance not just for the occupying force,
but for pain and despair in a life without choice.
Their houses crushed flat,* families rotting in jail,
in a fight over land that’s long cast its spell.
Thousands have died in this battle of wills
provoking world outrage; yet still the blood spills.
In Afghanistan, Gaza, the West Bank today,
war crimes are brutal; dark forces at play.
Human rights unknown in too many places.
Unimaginable sorrow etched on tired faces.
Who will speak for that child, whose voice is now gone?
Will anyone protest, ‘He should have lived long!’
That promise, bright spirit, so quickly snuffed out
by a rocket or bomb that police failed to rout.
What has this to do with me, you might ask?
My friend, we’re connected, we discover at last.
What hurts one, harms all in this vast global village,
inextricably linked in the plunder and pillage.
But for now, so secure in our comfortable beds
we can quickly change channels, when someone’s shot dead.
It can seem so remote, so distant, so far;
such madness, such violence, that bomb in a car.
We are sleeping now, perhaps one day to be jolted wide-awake.
When the wolf appears at our front door; not via videotape.
© Tara Bradford, San Francisco 1998
*Refers to the Israeli practice of bulldozing Palestinian homes.
Happy Bastille Day! Vive la France!
Photo of antique bicorn hat and 18th-century French documents. The hat is late 19th-century from the prestigious École Polytechnique, founded in 1794 during the French Revolution by mathematician Gaspard Monge. In 1804 Napoleon awarded the school military status and a slogan: Pour la Patrie, les Sciences et la Gloire ('For the nation, the sciences and the glory.)" Students (called 'polytechniciens' in French) still receive and wear a modified version of the famous bicorn in all official ceremonies.
Under supervision of the French Ministry of Defence, Polytechnique is renowned for its undergraduate and post-graduate (Ingénieur Polytechnicien) degree programs in science and engineering. Among the university's famous alumni are two Nobel Prize winners and three French presidents, including Francois Hollande.
Long before I was a photographer, I was a writer. Lately I've hesitated to write, as I couldn't report the "truth" you might expect to hear. Consequently, other than the photos, this blog has begun to feel stale and uninteresting to me. Because I'm not the same person I was back in 2006 in Paris, when I began writing Paris Parfait.
I have lovely and loyal friends of all ages, who at any given moment are going through momentous changes/disruptions in their lives. Many of them are accomplishing amazing feats on a regular basis, while juggling children and a family life. Others are completely on their own, experiencing similar situations and challenges I faced years ago as a single mom.
While I relish each and every story and admire my friends' tremendous style and bravery and emphasize with their struggles, I am at a different place in my life. I have moved on from worrying about what's fashionable to determining what fits. In case you've noticed a lack of blogging here lately: I am trying to honour my creative impulses and produce work to withstand the test of time, rather than that easily discarded with the vagaries of fashion or the next generation of social media platforms.
But I am emotionally and physically exhausted. The last year-and-a-half of my husband's serious health woes have taken their toll. At home I lounge about in the softest cottons, feeling fragile and vulnerable - while perversely trying to project an image of confidence and capability to the outside world.
Standing on my balcony, I see a girl in a rowboat, jumping out and climbing the nearest tall tree, Tom Sawyer-like. And I try to remember what it was like to be nine years old and fearless. Then I remind myself that many, many times in my life I've been fearless and even fierce, out of necessity.
I raised my daughter while living and working as a journalist in the Middle East, amidst cultural differences. When I took my daughter to pre-school, I was the only single mom. Most local women eyed me with a mixture of pity and suspicion: pity for my single status; suspicion that as a "wicked Western woman" I might try to steal their husbands!
For years, I bore responsibility for Every.Single.Thing. It was exhausting then and perhaps even more so now, with my husband's illness coupled with my own adjustments to middle age. As nearly every woman in her '50s can attest, it appears that society ironically conspires to ignore us at a time we actually have more to offer. If stress has resulted in a few grey hairs or extra pounds, we might as well be invisible.
In 2014, if women are not virtually flawless in appearance, any talents or ideas we may offer are considered negligible. The advertising-driven media reinforces this false narrative over and over, until we start to question our own worth.
On an intellectual level, I find these impossible standards and stereotypes appalling. But I am a perfectionist who is so very far from perfect (much to my dismay). And on an emotional level, I struggle with the idea of not living up to others' expectations - even if those expectations are ridiculous! All too often I've viewed each new grey hair; each stress-fueled pound with alarm - as though I've done something dreadful and should be ashamed of myself!
To counter these absurd and self-defeating thoughts, I try to focus on the positive and what I can control. Lately I am obsessed with editing: of ridding my house of unnecessary things that no longer appeal to my tastes or aesthetics. In a similar vein, I've bid farewell to certain self-interested friends, who have been quite happy to take, but never to give.
I am trying to listen more and speak less. The older I get and the more knowledge I gain, the more I realise how little we know for certain. Most of us are just winging it and hoping for the best.
"Maybe what you think is a breakdown is really a breakthrough." - Jen Lemen
Some days I prefer to cocoon and not see another soul. It's not that I'm anti-social; I just don't want my already-busy friends subjected to minutiae of the struggles I'm facing. And we creative types need a lot of time alone, even in the best of circumstances.
But I am tired of pretending everything's fine, when it's not. I'm tired of doctors not listening, when I clearly enunciate my well-researched concerns. I'm tired of being dismissed by hapless bureaucrats, who refuse to consider that their methods are clumsy and outdated.
I'm tired of not being heard; of not being seen. Maybe in the past couple of years, I've relied on photography more than writing, because it allows you to glimpse meaning for which I can't find the words.
I don't know the way forward. I'm trying to follow my mom's (and my friend Di's) advice to "take it one day at a time." But I do know that whatever happens next, this blog will be different. I want to tell the truth in all its raw pain and glory; not simply gloss over hard lessons. I don't want to limit your view to "pretty pictures," (as a couple of incurious readers requested during the last US presidential election).
I hope you'll come along for the journey, no matter how rocky the road.
Photo of artwork by my adventurous friend Christine Mason Miller and antique English ink bottles, vintage marbles and stones collected on my travels. Click to view detail.
On Monday, my beautiful mom will be 80 years young! Sadly, David and I are missing the family birthday celebrations.
Happily, my daughter Jordana is there and the gifts we sent from the Netherlands arrived in time for the big event(s).
Today, May 11th is my dad's 83rd birthday! We're all so pleased that after a rocky couple of months following surgery, he's back to his normal, active self.
Wishing the happiest of birthdays to both my amazing parents!
Photo taken in May, 2011 at my dad's 80th-birthday party.
Twelve years later and we're still dancing! Today David and I happily celebrate our 12th wedding anniversary. A wee bit of champagne may be involved, along with vintage French wine and boeuf bourgignon.
"We are not the same persons this year as last; nor are those we love. It is a happy chance if we, changing, continue to love a changed person." - W. Somerset Maugham
Saatchi is a well-known art collector and the founder and owner of the Saatchi Gallery in London. For many years, he has encouraged and promoted the work of contemporary British artists, including Damien Hirst and Tracey Emim.
The BBC named Saatchi as one of 60 'New Elizabethans' who have most influenced the past 60 years.
The Naked Eye features essays based on documentary images that have not been manipulated in any manner.
In November 2012, I was approached about including my photography in The Naked Eye. It's so nice to finally hold the book in my hands!
P.S. My photography also has been published in The Secret Language of Color by Joann Eckstut and Arielle Eckstut! The book explores the fascinating ways that color influences our lives.
Helping hands: Vintage zinc glove molds at the bi-annual brocante and ham fair at Chatou, France.
When I started blogging in January, 2006 any blog that proved successful produced original content, driven by a clear personal voice. Over the past eight-and-a-half years, blogging sadly has evolved into a more commercially-propelled platform. Advertisers ferret out blogs that receive a bit of traffic and hope to monetize that blog's readership.
Don't get me wrong: I'm not against blog advertising per se. I have a handful of blog sponsors' ads in my sidebar. These ads cover annual costs of my domain name and blog host. But I am opposed to advertising-sponsored content that infiltrates blog posts, suppressing a blogger's own unique voice.
Several times a week, I receive messages from sponsored-content traffickers. I file them in an email folder entitled "Hapless content-sellers." Two recent examples:
"My name is Danny Thomson and I am a writer at TheOutreachers.com, a relatively new social media agency.
"I was just wondering if you would be interested in us contributing a guest post for your site?
"We've done many before, and can provide examples of published work if desired.
"Looking forward to hearing from you! :)
This one's from a company called SpecialistAuthors.com:
"I have just been on tarabradford.com. Love the style of your content - you have a truly defined style to your site and I would love to contribute in a similar vein!
"I am writing to you today to see if you would be interested in accepting an article for your website. I am working for specialist authors for a period of time to hone my writing skills before I hopefully move into full onto a journalism job and I need to get as much content under my belt as possible.
"I would love to collaborate with you on topic and style. This service is completely free if we could include one hyperlink in the article. This would be from a relevant partner and would be in the (sic) completely in context with the content. The pieces I have had accepted so far were around 500 words in length and some people like to be involved others just like me to suprise them!
"The content will be compelling and I am sure your visitors and social followers will love to read it!
"Please let me know what you think, I look forward to hearing from you soon!
"Thanks & Kind Regards
Note the above writer claims he wants to "hone" his writing skills to "hopefully move into full onto a journalism job (sic)" and get "as much content under my belt as possible."(Fat chance! He didn't even proofread his letter). Despite his stated inexperience, he supposedly is the company's editorial manager. And the SpecialistAuthors.com site for which he works claims "...experts are standing by!"
Such messages not only are vague and impersonal, the authors haven't bothered to do any research before approaching me. If the advertisers read my About page - the absolute minimum one should do before approaching a blogger - they'd learn that I do not accept paid, sponsored or guest posts. I clearly state that all advertising on my site is paid on a yearly basis. Further, If these content-mill employees read even a handful of blog posts, they would discover my antipathy towards sponsored blog content.
But content-mill employees - who consider blogging strictly as a commodity - haven't done their homework before approaching potential targets; they're simply too lazy. Instead, apparently they consider if they send enough queries to enough bloggers, sooner or later, someone will bite.
In my view, if a blog doesn't maintain its original voice, there's no point reading it. I think that sponsored posts - rightly or wrongly - undermine bloggers' credibility. Over the past year, I've been disappointed to find a few of my favourite bloggers repeatedly embracing sponsored content, with their own lively voices tempered to satisfy fickle advertisers' wishes.
To me, blogging and advertising should emulate the separation of church and state. While these entities may at times cooperate, neither requires interference - or influence - from the other.
What's your view of blog posts consisting of paid, sponsored content?
No classes required!
Here's another thing about blogging: You don't need to take a class to learn to blog. Truly. It astonishes me that so many people offer online classes advising newbie bloggers how to be "successful."
But there are no secrets; just write from your heart! Write about your experiences; about what interests you; about your hopes and challenges. Use your unique creative talents; don't let someone else try to meld your originality to a passing fad or trend. And don't allow advertisers to hijack your blog, replacing your bright ideas with "cookie cutter" content - not-so-cleverly disguised to sell products or services! Just be you.
Traditional dress in the Nord-Holland town of Edam.
Here in the Netherlands, we're gearing up for Koningsdag or King's Day. Celebrations have begun honouring King Willem-Alexander. On Saturday, virtually the entire country will be awash in a sea of Orange!
All photographs taken at Edam's world-renowned kassmarkt or cheese market. Click images to view detail.
As you may have noticed, over the past few days, my blog was down. The site host Typepad - which has provided stellar service during the past 8 1/2 years of blogging - was hit by a series of distributed denial-of-service attacks. It's no surprise that Typepad rose to the occasion and restored service as quickly as possible.
Meanwhile, spring has erupted in full bloom, both in our newly-streamlined garden (pics coming soon) and via lovely flower crowns, handmade by my daughter Jordana.
We've planted six blue hydrangeas (or hortensia), in a nod to both my late grandmothers. When I was a child, their yards were filled with blue hydrangeas (and some pink ones as well).
Jordana (right) has created numerous flower crowns for spring festivities including pageants, parties, plays and weddings. Her lovely friends are modeling the designs, available in her Etsy shop Outrageous Babes. The decorative crowns also make fun and original gifts!
See more one-of-a-kind flower crowns at Outrageous Babes.
P.S. On Twitter, I'm @TaraBradford and I am participating in #100happydays (aka #100daysofhappiness). Won't you join in and tweet about your own daily reason to be happy??!! Or you can participate on Instagram or other social media sites.
Leonidas Belgian Easter chocolates and tea in Louise Campbell's Multicoloured Elements hand-painted porcelain for Royal Copenhagen.
Wishing you and your family a very Happy Easter holiday!
Remembering the remarkable writer and Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez with an excerpt from his "farewell letter:"
"...I have learned that everybody wants to live on top of the mountain, without knowing that true happiness is obtained in the journey taken and the form used to reach the top of the hill. I have learned that when a newborn baby holds, with its little hand, his father's finger, it has trapped him for the rest of his life.
"I have learned that a man has the right and obligation to look down at another man, only when that man needs help to get up from the ground. Say always what you feel, not what you think. If I knew that today is the last time that that I am going to see you asleep, I would hug you with all my strength and I would pray to the Lord to let me be the guardian angel of your soul. If I knew that these are the last moments to see you, I would say 'I love you'. There is always tomorrow, and life gives us another opportunity to do things right, but in case I am wrong, and today is all that is left to me, I would love to tell you how much I love you and that I will never forget you.
"Tomorrow is never guaranteed to anyone, young or old. Today could be the last time to see your loved ones, which is why you mustn't wait; do it today, in case tomorrow never arrives. I am sure you will be sorry you wasted the opportunity today to give a smile, a hug, a kiss, and that you were too busy to grant them their last wish.
"Keep your loved ones near you; tell them in their ears and to their faces how much you need them and love them. Love them and treat them well; take your time to tell them 'I am sorry';' forgive me',' please' 'thank you', and all those loving words you know. Nobody will know you for your secret thoughts. Ask the Lord for wisdom and strength to express them. Show your friends and loved ones how important they are to you."
At last, spring is emerging, although we hardly have had time to notice. On Monday, the gardeners will arrive to complete the work we began five months ago - removing trees and weeds and creating a calmer, more zen-like space. Before-and-after pictures coming soon...
My apologies for my absence - both on the blog and in responding to your kind emails and messages. It's a bit hectic here: trying to improve my juggling skills, but repeatedly dropping the ball. Must do better!
If you've wondered about the difference between the often-used generic reference to "Holland" vs. "the Netherlands," this clever video offers clarification (for the record, we live in the province of Noord-Holland, in the country of the Netherlands).
This "cheesy" bicycle is on permanent display on a bridge in Edam, Noord-Holland (its decorations are refreshed each season). On Monday, I was in Edam buying cheese for my daughter Jordana's Easter package (photo taken with my phone's rubbish camera).
"It doesn't look like a hospital, does it?" That was the initial reaction of a Dutch friend, who recently accompanied me to the hospital to see David. He's right: the glass balls suspended from the high, industrial loft-like ceiling are more akin to an art gallery than a hospital, creating a cheerful atmosphere. Photos (taken with the phone's camera) are of the main entrance at AVL, the Netherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam.
When we moved to our Dutch canal house two years ago, after walking through the entryway, this antique French cupboard was the first thing you'd see. But the cupboard didn't agree with the house's modern architecture, so more than a year ago - after removing the sunburst windows and drawers for a future project - I replaced it with a George Nelson bench. But that seemed a bit too "art gallery-like" for the space; eventually it was moved elsewhere, in favour of a late 1950s/early '60s Dutch low sideboard.
The white strip below the sideboard is where the painter forgot to replace the wooden baseboard; must remedy that soon! I often switch the photographs and art above the sideboard, but my collection of mid-century graphic pottery (Anton Piesche, Germany) remains - for now!
Quite the contrast from the top photo, isn't it? The current look is more my style. I like simplicity and clean lines, with one focal point providing a bit of punch or drama. I strive for the "less is more" look, but rarely achieve it. Our house is an eclectic combination of antique and modern furniture, art and treasures collected on my travels.
Since leaving Paris, I've sold nearly 250 antique and vintage items (keeping only my favourites) and purchased some modern design classics. The biggest expenditure has been on lights from Denmark, Sweden and Finland - seems the further north you move and the colder the climate, the more light is needed (or maybe it has something to do with age).
Which look do you prefer??!!
Kathmandu, Nepal. Click image to view detail.
No person in any city or any country should have to beg for food. Yet too many people are going hungry or barely subsisting, largely due to job losses and government cutbacks. In 2014, charity-run food banks in many countries report an increased demand for their services - both for soup kitchens where meals are served daily and for local food banks, which provide basic groceries for the needy.
Where governments have turned a blind eye, charities, churches and individuals have stepped in to help fill the void. The United Kingdom recently opted out of the European Parliament's fund to provide food aid to those suffering extreme poverty, depriving UK food banks of £3m of much-needed resources. In London, the Cameron government claims "food and material aid measures are better and more efficiently delivered by individual member states through their own social programmes." Yet the UK government undermines its own stated aims with inaction, obfuscation and denial. Several out-of-touch Tory politicians - including Lord Tebbit and Edwina Currie - have gone on record claiming there's "no need" for food banks and that those who use such services are scroungers, spending their meager grocery money on other things.
Faced with a government in denial of food poverty - now a bigger public health concern than diet, according to one public health specialist - too many people are forced to turn to food banks. And these food banks are operated largely by charities or compassionate individuals, not poorly-funded local councils.
David Walker, a Church of England bishop writing in The Guardian reminds us of Archbishop Desmond Tutu's words: "When you've fished enough people out of the river, it's time to take a walk upstream and see who's pushing them in." "And what seems to be casting people in ever increasing numbers into the waters is less a matter of specific policies and more about Britain's scapegoat culture," Walker said. "We've got to a point where it is widely believed that it is better for 10 innocent people to suffer than for one individual to get away with cheating the system."
Children going hungry
Sound familiar? Similar scenarios are playing out every day in the United States, thanks in part to certain privileged members of Congress voting to cut foodstamps and slash benefits - even as more and more people become unemployed and struggle to survive. Like certain Tories in the UK, these wealthy Congressmen falsely believe that those who are struggling are either "lazy" or drug addicts. They refuse to accept that wrong-headed government and corporate decisions help perpetuate the vicious cycle of poverty, hunger and ill health that grips at least 16 percent of the population.
Alas, children represent a disproportionate share of the poor in the United States. In 2012 the US Census Bureau reported that one in five American children live below the poverty threshold (just $23,050 for a family of four). A 2013 UNICEF report revealed the United States has the second-highest child poverty rates in the developed world (only Romania fares worse!) And if children are hungry, it stands to reason they may have difficulty concentrating on schoolwork and learning - dramatically affecting not only their health, but their future prospects.
Recently in Utah, a school took away 40 to 50 children's lunches, because their parents' payments were in arrears. In Texas, a boy's breakfast was tossed in the trash, because he lacked 30 cents to pay his account balance. In Ohio, Maine, Massachusetts and New Jersey similar disturbing incidents have been reported.
In Kentucky, more than 40 students in the Kenton County School District were denied lunch during state testing week, because their accounts were overdue. This sorry episode prompted one parent - appalled at the school's harsh treatment of students - to pay $56, so that no students would miss lunch. Good samaritans in other towns also have made blanket school lunch payments, so that no students go hungry.
But in Minnesota, some schools send children home with the words "MONEY" or "LUNCH" stamped across their hand! Apparently it's not enough humiliation that children with unpaid accounts have their lunches thrown out; they also have to be "branded" for all to see!
"I believe that as long as there is plenty, poverty is evil." - Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
What is wrong with our societies if so many people no longer have the basic assurances of food, shelter, health care and education? Since when did we applaud corporate-backed politicians who react with disdain and disrepect to ordinary citizens facing extraordinarily difficult circumstances? When did our moral compass start to slip, with those with money and power - the "haves" - supposedly deemed more deserving of attention (and food) than those experiencing difficulties (the "have nots")?!
We can challenge these cruel inequities. We can donate funds or food, as well as our time and energy. We can get involved with local charities and food banks that are working to make a difference. Maybe we could even start a food bank in an under-served area, as several admirable people have done in England. To find out where help might be needed most, contact your local town hall or council or consult these sites and links:
In the United States:
In the UK:
In the Netherlands:
Technorati Tags: Archbishop Desmond Tutu, BBC Panorama, Bishop David Walker, Church of England, David Cameron, Edwina Currie, European Federation of Food Banks, European Parliament, farm subsidies, food banks, Foodbank Amsterdam, foodstamp cuts, Guardian, human rights, hunger, Jr., Kenton County School District, Kentucky, KICI, Les Restaurants du Coeur, Lord Tebbit, Los Angeles Times, Mother Jones, Nepal, photography, poverty, Robert F. Kennedy, The Trussell Trust, Tories, UK, UNICEF, US Census Bureau, US Congress
Leaders from 53 countries are attending a nuclear security summit today at The Hague (Den Haag). Earlier, US President Barack Obama - accompanied by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Amsterdam Mayor Eberhard van der Laan - visited the Rijksmuseum, its tunnel pathway lined with more than 34,000 tulips. President Obama particularly admired Rembrandt's masterpiece "The Night Watch."
Photo of wooden clogs for sale in Edam, Noord-Holland.
Thursday was a rare sunny - and super windy - day, so David and I went for a hike at Het Twiske, a nature preserve in Noord-Holland. It was the first day in a couple of months that David's been well enough to go for a long walk.
A house is framed by open cattle gates at Het Twiske.
An afternoon nap (photos taken with a long lens, so as not to disturb the sleeper).
Cyclists and horseback-riders taking advantage of bright sunshine and warmer temperatures.
Hiking to build endurance and stamina.
An ancient tree bearing tiny buds, ready to burst forth for spring.
Reeds blowing in the wind.
These photos are from just a small area of Het Twiske. The preserve includes a big lake for sailing and swimming, picnic, playground and recreational areas, a cafe and a windmill, among other attractions.
P.S. If you maintain a blog or website, here's an article you may find relevant: The big steal: Rise of the plagiarist in the digital age.
A green field beyond a wicker fence and flowering tree, Froxfield Green, England.
Farewell to Tony Benn, a man of great character, who worked tirelessly to improve the lives of many, many people.
Tony Benn: A Blaze of Autumn Sunshine
Just before Christmas, I referenced a BBC Panorama documentary about the appalling manner in which Amazon.co.uk warehouse workers are treated. A woman of my acquaintance announced she would no longer have anything to do with me, as I was "always so angry." At first I was offended by Fiona's remark, particularly at a time when both my father and my husband were seriously ill. Then I realised Fiona doesn't really know me, nor does she appear to have much compassion for others. And she was trying to silence my voice, as she preferred to hear only "happy things" in her self-imposed comfort zone.
I hope I never stop being outraged - or trying to do something - about the inequities of this world. Tony Benn and his anger at injustice and inequality and his determined efforts to help others made a huge difference in Great Britain - and far beyond its borders.
As a child, I learned from observing Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Morris Dees that individuals working collectively can help change things for the better. As an adult this lesson of activism and social responsibility was reinforced by Tony Benn, the late King Hussein of Jordan, Nelson Mandela, Sen. Bernie Sanders and other courageous leaders. And I believe we have a moral imperative to speak out, wherever and whenever injustice thrives.
Tony Benn deserves our gratitude for crossing vast political divides, shining a light on injustice and championing the rights of those less fortunate. May his legacy long inspire others to follow in his footsteps and/or blaze a few trails of their own.
Listen to Tony Benn speaking to filmmaker Michael Moore about the National Health Service.
Technorati Tags: BBC Panorama, diarist, Dr. Martin Luther King, Great Britain, health care, human rights campaigner, Jr., King Hussein of Jordan, Labour politicians, Michael Moore, Morris Dees, Nelson Mandela, NHS, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Social activism, Tony Benn
Remembering Alene, whose welcoming nature, kindness, humor, strength and determination long will be remembered. Alene was a remarkable woman who came late to our family, but made a big impact. She died Wednesday at the age of 93.
As a former nurse, Alene touched many, many people's lives. She left behind a big extended family and numerous friends and admirers. I am so grateful to have known her.
On Wednesday afternoon, these flowers - along with a very fine bottle of French wine - were delivered for our neighbours. As they were out of town, I had no choice but to remove the paper wrapping, put the flowers in a vase and admire the intriguing combination of blooms and branches. Of course I couldn't resist taking pictures of such an exotic bouquet! (Click the image to view detail). Needless to say, the neighbours were delighted to return home to such a lovely surprise.
A parcel from York, England arrived, containing ink bottles in soothing shades of teal, blue and green. The nine glass bottles vary in age from late 19th-century to the 1920s. It must have been a pleasure writing letters - or books! - with ink from such lovely bottles. These little beauties are encouragement to practice my penmanship (like in the second grade!). Hmm, must buy some ink.
There was a time in New York when I eagerly awaited letters from a beau, who hailed from an exotic foreign clime. He penned frequent and multi-page missives, in green ink on heavy vellum stationery. Sadly, it seems letter-writing - particularly in ink - is a lost art.
The Mabie, Todd & Co. Ltd. Swan ink logo.
Meanwhile, one of our two resident swans honoured me with a late afternoon visit.
This exquisite antique altar cloth was bought at auction when a convent near Marseilles, France closed. Nuns made every single tiny stitch of this extraordinary cloth with reverence and love. The pristine white linen cloth features thistles, leaves, grapes and other elements of nature. The cloth was draped over the altar in the nuns' private chapel. Click image to view detail.
The double-reed gyaling, a woodwind instrument used in Buddhist ceremonies and an elaborately carved and gilded cabinet and altarpiece center a Tibetan Buddhist temple in Kathmandu, Nepal.
This temple is frequented by members of the Tibetan community-in-exile.
A statue of Buddha, wearing a golden headdress adorned with coral and turquoise stones.
Light from a high window shines on a silk fabric panel.
Remember the childhood tongue-twister "She sells seashells by the sea shore. The shells that she sells are seashells?..."
A shelf in my office displays a small collection of shells, sea urchin spines and sea creatures in French antique specimen globes.
My friend Gabrielle created this gorgeous bouquet of coral and shells in an antique French urn (photographed at her newly-renovated chateau near Versailles).
"One cannot collect all the beautiful shells on the beach. One can only collect a few. One moon shell is more impressive than three. There is only one moon in the sky.”- Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea
“There are so many fragile things, after all. People break so easily and so do dreams and hearts.” ― Neil Gaiman
Photo of man building a cupboard for his home, Bungamati, Nepal.
These unique pieces of Art Nouveau-inspired jewelry were created by Annelies Schroder of Delft, the Netherlands. The silver necklace (top photo) echoes the organic, flowing lines of nature, celebrated by the Art Nouveau movement. But the green stones and rough, unpolished crystal drops give the design a modern edge.
The pendant necklace opens to store a love note or emergency cash. The decorative silver band around the center is enhanced by a blue topaz and moonstone and may be worn as a ring. A small moonstone-and-silver half-moon amulet dangles from the pendant's base.
An abundance of goodwill
Thank you for the many lovely, thoughtful messages while David has been hospitalised. Your kind comments, emails, good wishes and heartfelt prayers have meant more than you might imagine. Last week was spent in crisis mode; thankfully, David is better now, in the sense that treatment is underway.
The road ahead ventures into unmapped territory. But thanks to brilliant doctors and excellent medical care, we remain optimistic.
Thank YOU for your support and encouragement! I have tried to reply to most messages, but if you haven't heard from me yet, please forgive the delay.
Painting the Art Nouveau metro sign at Bastille, Paris. Click image to view detail.
It's always disappointing to find negative stereotypes perpetuated by someone using uninformed and inaccurate information. So when a French newspaper asked me to comment on these assertions, I was happy to oblige. Read my response in Atlantico.fr here.
(If you don't speak French, Google translate will provide the gist of the remarks).
P.S. Thank you for the many messages of support regarding my husband's health. We really appreciate your thoughtfulness and your kind words. And I'm happy to report that my dad is back home after his latest surgery and hopefully, on the mend.
Today marks 8 years of blogging: 2,500 blog posts; thousands of photos; many friendships. Thank you for being so supportive and encouraging along the way. Merci bien. Heel hartelijk bedankt. Muchas gracias.
The storms we're experiencing are figurative, not literal. In the span of 12 1/2 months, my previously-healthy husband has endured 4 unrelated illnesses; 3 surgeries at 3 hospitals and 2 sirens-blaring ambulance rides. Yet just as in a memorable childhood book The Little Engine that Could, the train's still steaming down the track.
How does one absorb each body blow, the latest diagnosis the most threatening of all? Soon there will be more surgery in Amsterdam, to remove a tumor-riddled kidney and try to halt the advance of an aggressive, fast-growing cancer. Just three months ago, there was no sign of an invader. Now this brutal occupying force demands our attention.
Steam train on a rainy day, Watercress Line, Aylesford, England. Click photo to view detail.
As if that weren't enough with which to cope, my dad in the US has been very ill and still is recovering after major surgery. (Update Jan. 30th: Once again, he is in the hospital and having more surgery). Earlier this month, David and I were discussing me getting on a plane to visit, when the doctor phoned to say a routine blood test suggested kidney damage. A brief hospital stay for more tests followed. Then late Friday, the unwelcome news - just when we'd almost managed to convince ourselves that David's health woes had vanished with the horrid 2013.
"Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength." - Leo Buscaglia
Throughout these long days and nights, there have many whispered prayers; occasional tears and far too many fears. I've been grateful for the love and support of family and friends. And through it all, hope has remained by my side. It is a constant presence, like a slow-burning flame illuminating the way through darkness. Yes, sometimes the flame flickers and seems in danger of going out...but then it seems to catch itself and once again burns brightly.
Things I've noticed in this chaotic year of sands shifting beneath our feet:
Optimism is a gift. And language is never a barrier to kindness.
When health is an issue, everything else simply falls by the wayside. Our world becomes smaller and more focused, with clear priorities. We have so little control over what happens. But we can control how we react to unexpected challenges. And we're always stronger than we think.
The wonders of modern medicine and techological advances are astonishing. We are fortunate to have brilliant doctors and excellent health insurance (despite the bureaucratic challenges in dealing with Dutch medical care and French insurance).
We have some amazing true friends that I am proud to know. It seems we also have quite a few fair- weather friends: friends who have been guests in our home in both France and the Netherlands; friends we helped when in dire straits or facing serious illness; friends whose business ventures we supported wholeheartedly; the same "friends" who haven't bothered to send so much as an email or Twitter message. (Suddenly my address book feels a lot lighter)!
We are lucky to have possibly the world's best neighbours, who collect the English patient upon his release from hospitals and shovel snow from our front doorstep and sidewalk.
Time is finite; don't take a single moment for granted. This is not a dress rehearsal; live now. Travel. Try something new. Dance. Sing. Ride a bicycle. Read good books. Tend a garden. Do the things that make you happiest. Don't worry about the small stuff, which really doesn't matter.
The beautiful things that grace our homes or the stylish clothes we wear are of little consequence. Icing on the cake, yes, but not the cake. Cynical marketing and advertising-based ploys such as "likes" on Facebook or gaining more followers on Twitter are artificial measures that sap our time and energy. Truly. (Tell me what you think, after seeing the film Her).
Embrace what's real, here and now. Hold your loved ones close. Surround yourself with people who believe in you and bring out the best in you. And take care of yourself; nothing trumps good health! (And that's enough platitudes for one day).
The international charity Oxfam has released a shocking report indicating that just 85 people across the globe control a combined wealth of £1tn - as much as the poorest 3.5 billion of the world's population combined! This letter from Morris Dees, founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, addresses the widening economic disparity in the United States:
As I sit in my office looking out at the church where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preached during the civil rights movement, I’m reminded of something he said that addressed longstanding attitudes about the plight of America’s poor:
“It’s all right to tell a man to lift himself by his own bootstraps,” Dr. King said, “but it is cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps.”
His words are particularly relevant today – 50 years after President Lyndon B. Johnson declared war on poverty. Johnson’s initiatives have helped millions of Americans, including our senior citizens, stay afloat by providing a floor of support for nutrition, health care, and other basic necessities.
But today, during a period of income and wealth disparity not seen in nearly a century, what we’re seeing is not a war on poverty, but rather a war on the poor.
We’re being told by many politicians and pundits on the right – as they seek to shred our country’s safety net – that the poor, in effect, deserve their fate, that the jobless are lazy and don’t want to work, that immigrants come to our shores for handouts, and that the sick and the elderly should fend for themselves.
Meanwhile – as economic gains increasingly flow to the rich – poor and middle-class Americans are falling further behind. In 2012, for instance, the wealthiest 10 percent earned more than half of all income.
Something is terribly wrong – and getting worse. As the Associated Press recently put it, “The gulf between the richest 1 percent and the rest of America is the widest it’s been since the Roaring ‘20s.”
At the SPLC, we’ve always been concerned about poverty. Indeed, it’s in our name – the Southern Poverty Law Center.
In the earlier days, we fought in the courts to help poor, minority communities get their fair share of public resources and services. More recently, we’ve represented some the country’s most marginalized people – the exploited migrant workers and immigrants who labor in our fields to put food on our tables.
Right now, we fighting for disadvantaged children in Alabama’s impoverished Black Belt region who are trapped in failing schools while the state provides tax breaks to families who are able to send their children to private or successful public schools.
Our mission is to be there for those who have no other champion.
At the time of his assassination, Dr. King was in Memphis to support striking sanitation workers and was organizing a “Poor People’s Campaign” to call attention to poverty and economic injustice.
Today, we need to rededicate ourselves to Dr. King’s dream of economic justice and to helping those who are “bootless” in our country. America, he said, has “the techniques and the resources to get rid of poverty. The real question is whether we have the will.”
Technorati Tags: Alabama's Black Belt, Dr. Martin Luther King, economic injustice, economy, gap between rich and poor, human rights, immigrants, Jr., migrants, Morris Dees, poverty, President Lyndon Johnson, public resources, Southern Poverty Law Center, war on the poor, wealth
Charming ticket collector on a rainy day, riding the grand steam train Lord Nelson, Watercress Line, Aylesford, England. This gentleman closely resembles my late grandfather Monette Bradford.
"I met a lot of people in Europe. I even encountered myself." - James Baldwin