My Aunt Bess, Bess Ziek Shubin, is 99. Music was always the center of her life, and although she is no longer playing, she still talks about it with the greatest animation and reverence. Even though I was a lousy violinist, she used to say wonderful things about my playing. Anyone related to her was always outstanding. She does wonders for my ego, and this visit was no exception. She is staying with her son, Matthew, and daughter-in-law, Helen, for a few months and that is why I took a trip to Rochester, NY--to see them all. I had such a good time. Sometimes Bess' stories get mixed up now--"he" can start out as her father, become her husband and transform again within a story. Probably most of the stories are based on fact, but they can get embellished with each telling. One thing that struck me with interest was that her stories are mostly positive, and it made me reflect on the stories I tell myself, which are often negative. I found her joy in these memories so inspiring that I am going to try and reform my habits and become a hero to myself.
Matthew and Helen have been involved with the Rochester Folk Art Guild for many years. The Guild is an intentional community of people who practice crafts and study the teachings of G.I. Gurdjieff. It always sounded fascinating to me, and finally I got a chance to visit and meet some of the wonderful people living there. Walking around the various craft studios, and eating a communal lunch, I kept thinking that this is a place that answers many of the longings of my life. If I wasn't just settling into Randolph, I might be dragging Mark there now. I had a strong feeling that it would fit perfectly into the circuit that exists between Penland and some other craft centers but it would offer a more permanent home to these young artists.
Here is a picture of Helen, Matthew and their dog Uma. Helen baked the most delicious almond cake and even sent me home with a packed meal for the car that included slices of her cake.
I didn't want to show up empty-handed, so I brought two of my Flying Monkey Textiles as gifts for Aunt Bess and Helen. Back in 2002, when I left academia, I thought I would support myself through a small business of commercially woven spiritual blankets. I designed these three blankets of Hanuman and decided to limit the production to 108 of each design. However, I only ordered the minimum to begin with--something like 30 blankets each. It quickly became apparent that people who knew "Bhakti Ziek" didn't want weavings with explicit images of this magical monkey, and people who did know Hanuman didn't want to spend the $270 I was charging per blanket. When people said to me, "I can get a throw at Walmart for $60," I would respond, "Oh, can you get a blanket with Hanuman at Walmart?" Wouldn't that be cool! Anyway, although the blankets came with tags that said, "an edition of 108" it really started and ended on the more exclusive number of "an edition of 30." The boxes of blankets are shrinking, but I still have some if anyone is interested.
If you have never read The Ramayana, it is one of the great epics and fun to read (an easy version to read is by William Buck). Recently a friend sent me a link to a modern animation by Nina Paley of this story, called Sita Sings the Blues. It is a full-length animation, so settle down to watch it. Ms. Paley is definitely a creative and generous spirit.