Isn’t our earth just the most amazing place? We need to treat it with care so our grandchildren will be able to enjoy its beauty the way we have.
Happy Earth Day!
A large crowd trailed behind Jesus including many grief-striken women. But Jesus turned to them and said, “Do not weep for me.”- Luke 23:27-28
Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister and Mary Magdalene. John 19:25
On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.
While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them……
And one said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Luke 24:1-6
At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out “Teacher.”- John 20:14-16
I photographed this painting Nuestro Senor el Desollado (Our Lord, The One Who is Flayed), 2004 by Paul Pletka at the Phoenix Art Gallery . It depicts the staging of the crucifixion of Jesus traditionally done in Mexico during Lent. Interestingly in this painting the artist has mixed Catholic images with images from ancient Mayan and Aztec religions, the religious traditions of Central America prior to the Spanish occupation.
Pletka’s painting reminds me of Parfleches for the Last Supper an artwork in the collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery where indigenous artist Robert Houle uses images from his Anishinaabe spiritual heritage to represent each of the disciples who shared Jesus’ last meal before his death with him.
Our understanding of the stories from our own faith heritage can be enriched when we open them to interpretation by those whose faith ancestry is different, and in the case of the heritage of these two artists,much older than our own.
I have started following quite a few of the candidates for the Democratic leadership in the United States on Twitter. These people give me hope. Whether it’s the intelligence of Peter Buttigieg, the faith of Corey Booker, the joy of Kamala Harris or the honesty of Kristin Gillibrand it is heartening to know there are people out there vying to be President who have nothing in common with the man who currently holds the office. But no one impresses me like Elizabeth Warren. What I admire most is her energy! She is four years older than I am and there she is going, going, going all day long- out shaking hands with folks as she takes an early morning walk, making speeches to packed arenas, visiting a brewery, hugging children, hiking through a National Park, talking to supporters on the phone, taking selfies with fans, chatting with the thousands who come out to her rallies, issuing new policy statements. Where does she get her energy? As I have aged my energy levels have definitely gone down. A full day of work usually means an evening on the couch with Netflix and a glass of wine for me. But not Elizabeth! She’s a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a senator and a candidate for President. And for me she’s an inspiration that no matter how old we are we can make a difference in this world in a more powerful way than we may think. Just watching Elizabeth in action gives me a burst of energy and the impetus to get out there and get going!
The title of the novel by Mailie Meloy my book club discussed last night is ironic! The book is called Do Not Become Alarmed and tells the story of two American families on a holiday cruise in Central America. During a shore excursion their children are swimming at a secluded beach and are swept away by a strong current. Although their parents are reassured by police and embassy officials that the kids will be found, the plot thickens at every turn, and along with the parents, the reader becomes very alarmed indeed!
Everyone in my book club agreed Do Not Become Alarmed was the kind of novel they could hardly put down. Meloy ratchets up the tension at every turn. Just when you think things will be resolved something else happens and you need to keep reading to find out what comes next. The book played on the fears of all parents- that heart stopping moment when you think you have lost your child in a crowd or when you get a phone call from their school they’ve been hurt.
Author Meloy juxtapositions the lives of the wealthy first world American families in the novel with the lives of local Central American people and some of the cruise ship staff who come from less developed countries. By doing this she forces us to look at some deeper questions.
My book club discussed the whole idea of rich North Americans using poverty-ridden countries as their playgrounds for holidays. Should we be doing that? While our tourist dollars might provide an economic opportunity for poorer countries what does our presence there do to people’s pride, their way of life, their culture, the natural environment? Do local people really benefit from our presence or are they taken advantage of by large corporations from other countries who own cruise ships and resorts?
Not every one in my book club liked the novel’s ending. It did make us realize that the lives of the families involved and their relationships with one another had been forever changed by their alarming experience and it was alarming to think that what had happened to the families in the book could really happen to anyone. Perhaps the title of the book should have been Become Very Alarmed!
Other posts about my book club’s books………
Difficult Women is the name of a series of portraits by Canadian artist Tony Scherman. Scherman uses an ancient technique called encaustic for his paintings creating them from hot wax and pigment. The current exhibition of Tony Scherman’s work at the Winnipeg Art Gallery features five portraits of women from Scherman’s Difficult Women series. I tried to figure out why each of them might be called difficult. Britain’s first female prime minister (1979-1990) Margaret Thatcher found her entry into politics difficult. The first two times she ran for Parliament she lost. It was difficult to unseat her once she became prime minister. She is the only 20th century British leader to serve three terms in office.The Soviets dubbed Margaret Thatcher The Iron Lady because of the difficulty of negotiating with her. It was difficult to get the better of her. When Argentina tried to take the Falkland Islands from Britain in 1982 she sent her troops to get it back. When the miners of Britain went on strike in 1984 she refused to give into their demands. The Irish Republican Army tried to kill her in 1984 by bombing a hotel where she was staying. Margaret survived! The police wanted her to go into hiding for a time after that but she refused. Margaret was a difficult woman who knew her own mind. To her things were black and white. “I want to end the conflict between good and evil in the world,” she said with bravado. “Good will triumph.”Margaux Hemingway, granddaughter of the famous author Ernest Hemingway, had such a sad and difficult life. She was a movie actress and a super model who secured a million dollar contract to be the face of Babe perfume for the Faberge company. But she struggled with many difficult addictions and took her own life at age 42 as did six other people in her famous family. Margaux had epilepsy and was dyslexic. She was sexually abused by her father and godfather. Margaux was famous and wealthy. But to say her life was difficult is an understatement. Simone De Beauvoir made things difficult for men who thought they were superior to women. She is often called The Mother of Feminism. Simone wrote a book in 1949 called The Second Sex that became extremely popular and questioned why women had let men dominate them for so long. Simone argued that women were just as capable as men of making wise choices. They needed to be independent and equal human beings. In 1928 she was one of only a handful of French women to receive a university degree. Although deeply religious as a child Simone had difficulty with the offensive patriarchy of the Christian church and became an atheist. Her father trying to understand his difficult child once said, “she thinks like a man.”Mary Magdalene has sometimes been a difficult Biblical character for the Christian church to deal with. She is mentioned in 65 passages in the Bible and took a leadership role in Jesus’ ministry, supporting him financially and emotionally. She stood at the cross when Jesus died and along with other women was the first to witness Jesus’ resurrection. The western church with its patriarchal leadership has sometimes tried to downplay her role in Jesus’ life by depicting her as a prostitute, although there is no evidence for that. The Gospel of Mary, a religious text discovered in the mid 1800s portrays her as a very wise woman who acted as a spiritual counselor to Jesus. Some scholars even suggest she was Jesus’ wife or lover which would of course be difficult for many Christians to accept. She is portrayed that way in the musical Jesus Christ Superstar and in the novel The Da Vinci Code. Throughout history Mary Magdalene has been a difficult Biblical character to figure out. Rosa Parks is a key figure in the American Civil Rights movement. One day she made things very difficult for the driver of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama when she refused to give up her seat to a white passenger. She was arrested and caused difficulty for the police when she refused to pay her fine. Rosa’s actions inspired a bus boycott by black passengers which made things very difficult for the white owners of the bus companies. The boycott eventually led to the Supreme Court of the United State declaring that the segregation laws in Alabama were unconstitutional. The difficult fight for equal civil rights for black citizens of the United States continues but the difficult and resolute Rosa Parks inspired some huge steps forward in that fight.
The Difficult Women series represents just a fraction of the collection of amazing paintings by Tony Scherman now on view at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. You won’t want to miss seeing them.