Live Virtual Group Session: 6pm EDT July 13th 2020

With participants from around the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and India, we jumped into a discussion of the assemblage, “The Destiny of Latitude and Longitude” by Betye Saar.  Participants began by observing what they saw in the piece, noting the shape of the cage, which for some evoked the image of a beehive and for others had very feminine resonances, of a breast or of an antebellum hooped skirt.  The sailing vessels opened up a lot of speculation, recalling the pirate ship in Peter Pan and the world of childhood imagination; at the other end of the spectrum, some saw the history of the Middle Passage, of slave ships.  The dangling piece of rope suggested bondage, the lynching noose, and, for some, a lost promise of escape.  The hands reaching out in different directions were seen as “asking for help” or “reaching out to lift up.”  The facilitators noted that the artist, Betye Saar is African American, and that this piece (from 2010) was part of a series of works all contained in cages of different shapes.  The discussion turned to the art of assemblage, the repurposing of objects, a thing known in one context that is transformed when placed in a new context.  The African-American artistic tradition of re-purposing found objects was noted.  The surprising and marvelous experience of the piece, some suggested, was in part accounted for by the beauty and charm of the objects, including the rather innocent rendering of a crescent moon,  the toy-like ships, and the small bird seeking, it seems, a way out of the cage, in such startling combination with the hints at the horrors of the Slave Trade.  One participant observed that the piece made her feel like she couldn’t breathe.   

The prompt was: Describe an object you own that says something about your or your family’s history, and the responses were wonderful and varied, fig trees, a bronzed golfball, a desk lamp, a genetic marker for twins.  There was also an interesting and unexpected common thread of references to grandparents that manifested in the writing that was shared.

Participants are warmly encouraged to share what you wrote below (“Leave a Reply”), to keep the conversation going here, bearing in mind that the blog of course is a public space where confidentiality is not assured.

Also, we would love to learn more about your experience of these sessions, so if you’re able, please take the time to fill out a follow-up survey of one to two quick questions!

Please join us for our next session Wednesday, July 15th at 12pm EDT, with more times listed on our Live Virtual Group Sessions page.

We look forward to seeing you again soon!


14 thoughts on “Live Virtual Group Session: 6pm EDT July 13th 2020

  1. Sharing the womb with a stranger about to be labelled as a twin kin has been the integral part of my family history. Me and Ronny. My father and Aunt Peggy. My father’s father and Grandma Jane. My father’s father’s father and Sam. All of us have had the pleasure of having utera-companions. Both, me and Ronny were nourished by the same umbilical cord and both exited from the same gateway in the same hour, on the same day. All of us infact having been born on 13th May, in different years look almost alike. The sum total of our birth dates equals the same number. Thus, the destined birth, and the destined number.

    Liked by 1 person

    • al3793

      Swati, the idea of utera-companions is intriguing and comforting as is exiting via the same gateway. Sameness: the same hour, day, number. Different years and different journeys. Andre

      Like

  2. An object from my family’s history~~~

    I have a rather non-descript box hidden under the box spring of my bed.
    It has weathered decades of storage and is covered in a layer of dust,
    dust which symbolizes the passage of time, the milestones of living.
    It contains many treasures of my existence,
    tucked away and secured from the world.

    Birth certificates, awards, baby shoes belonging to me and also to my children.
    Oh, to imagine our feet were once that tiny!
    Locks of my children’s hair snipped during infanthood,
    a time of innocence and optimism of what the future would hold in store.
    Photos of my parents in black and white, reminiscent of bygone years,
    raggedy around the edges but yet bring such vivid memories back to me.
    Prayer cards from my parents’ funerals which now seem so distant,
    but yet so close in my heart.

    It is a sacred box, a box full of life’s entrances and exits,
    bolstering my spirit when I venture to rescue it.
    A reminder of my past and those I hold dear,
    but yet urging me into the future on life’s journey.
    I smile as I hold this well-worn box in my hands
    and bring it close to my heart.
    So many memories, so many hopes.
    so many dreams.

    Like

    • al3793

      Michele, the sacred box of life’s entrances and exits, of memories, hopes and dreams. I can see the little feet, the locks of hair, the prayer cards, memories held close to the heart by hands weathered by the years of crafting those memories of loving times. Andre

      Liked by 1 person

      • Mary Lisa Penilla

        Swati, I’ll say it again, I love this. Your use of numbers, and their significance, lends to the feeling of the mystical, the aligning of stars and the universe. The birth imagery is beautifully rendered – it feels so in-the-flesh (situated) and also cosmic, and beyond us, beyond the flesh, at the same time. Thank you, Mary Lisa

        Like

    • Mary Lisa Penilla

      Michele, I learned from my own mother to hang on to prayer cards from funerals. The physicality of them, the imagery, the words chosen – all brings me back to a particular time, and place, and person, by way of that time and place. I love your reference. Also, the “sacred box” recalls for me Mother Mary, who always “treasured all these things in her heart.” We should all have such a sacred place. Thank you for sharing yours. Mary Lisa

      Liked by 2 people

      • al3793

        Mary Lisa, thank you for pointing out the sacred space of Mother Mary’s heart and how it reminds you of Michele’s “sacred box”. Along side her is the dreamer, Joseph, who inspires our response to dreams that reside with the memories and hopes. Andre

        Liked by 1 person

  3. cindy

    My engagement ring, gifted from my mom to my husband, passed down from my grandmother. All I knew is that my grandpa, a Wall Street banker in the early 1900’s, got the diamond on the black market in 1933. My grandma was engaged already, but after 7 years taking Catholic lessons to be allow to marry the man, she gave up and left him for my grandpa. I loved her, and I see her in my ring, along with the mystery surrounding its procurement. Who really was my grandpa? Man of mystery.

    Liked by 2 people

      • Mary Lisa Penilla

        Cindy, I love the use of “7,” that number with the perfect, holy aura juxtaposed against the task-heavy onus of proscribed years of work to earn (?), deserve (?), be prepared for (?) a particular marital union. As if that were required of sacred love. Perhaps in some strange way it was required, at least for that pairing, at least in the mystical sense. By walking the path of 7, she gained insight into what was lacking – more mystery, more your grandfather, her true husband. Beautiful, thank you, Cindy. Mary Lisa

        Like

  4. Ruth

    What makes something historical? How old does it have to be and who gets to decide that? How many generations does it have to get handed down? Is 2 enough? Probably one of the oldest thing I own is a painting or jewelry from my grandparents.
    I am now thinking of a bracelet that I had made that has stones from my Mom, my Dad, & my Grandmother. A way to literally meld our stories and our histories together into one item. “We are one.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • al3793

      Ruth, what a simple question, “what makes something historical?” What makes it old enough to be handed down and remembered. The oneness of melded stones from your family is a beautiful image. Andre

      Like

  5. al3793

    Each summer’s end we grandchildren would wait for Grandpa to harvest fresh figs. He had several trees and I remember one in a barrel that he would wheel into the garage for the winter. Then there was this grand tree, ten feet tall with branches reaching out everywhere to hand out it sweet, textured purple fruit.

    Grandpa carefully tended that tree year after year, keeping it pruned so that each fall he could unearth the roots and day by day bend the tree down to the ground protecting it from the winter with soil, branches and leaves. Each spring he would raise it up, replanting the roots so it would produce many figs at harvest. Those figs were ambrosial for us.

    I remember an image of Grandpa pulling the tree down with a rope in a fall rain one day, like a sailor trimming a sail in a squall. The tree was an emblem of the Italian immigrant’s journey and work for a dollar a day to provide for his family.

    I now have one of those fig trees that I started from two sprigs, the “fig twig” my daughter called it. It’s now in a barrel having hibernated in the garage for the winter and I await the early fall, the time to savor it’s fruit and reflect on lives well lived.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Patricia D.

    The Bronzed Golf Ball

    A solid remnant of my father
    who migrated up from an 8-child impoverished family,
    interpreting for his immigrant mother, dreaming of a better life.
    That was, after all, the American dream. No?
    He pulled himself up, provided for his children,
    until, at long last, he could relax into a game of golf.
    We have engraved trophies with his name to prove it.
    But I prefer to gaze upon the bronzed golf ball I took
    to remember him by when he left us and his life behind.
    I wonder when and why he had it bronzed.
    Maybe to place it next to two pairs of
    bronzed baby shoes that serve as bookends.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.