Diane Helentjaris uncovers the overlooked. Her latest book Diaspora is a poetry chapbook of the aftermath of immigration. www.dianehelentjaris.com
Flowers — the Artist’s Favorite Muse
Scientists are just now cottoning onto what the Hippies understood a half-century ago: flowers have power. Florists have been thrilled to tout Rutgers University’s research findings. Jeannette Haviland-Jones, psychology professor, working with her genetics professor husband, Terry R. McGuire, was amazed. Flowers garnered an immediate positive effect on happiness in one hundred percent of her study subjects. They also had a long-term positive effect on mood and promoted increased social contact. Dutch researchers found flowers promoted positive feelings about others. Research has repeatedly documented direct, healthful effects on cognition, heart rate, blood pressure and healing.
The Threads of Women’s Lives
As a child, author Linda Harris Sittig sometimes wore homemade clothing. Her friends in her northern New Jersey neighborhood also wore cotton dresses, corduroy pants, and pajamas sewn by their mothers. Although those other moms might have been excellent seamstresses, none could compete with Mrs. Harris’s tales of her grandfather’s Philadelphia fabric mill. They didn’t know which Irish towns wove the best linen. None rivaled the care she took to assure her daughter wore quality fabric.
The Girl Power Behind Antique Embroidered Samplers
Girl power! What can giggle-box girls do? Turns out, a lot. Growing up in Ohio, at four, I embroidered. My mother taught me. I outline stitched orange poppies with black French-knot anthers atop stamens. At around the same age, up north in Detroit, Carol Huber also learned to embroider. A favorite treat for Carol was a trip to Kresge’s topped off with the reward of an embroidery kit. Once home, she’d embroider the blue lines of the pattern stamped on the heavy fabric. I grew up to use my needle skills as a physician. Carol grew up to own, with her husband Stephen Huber, The Huber Gallery in Old Saybrook, Connecticut. The preeminent antique shop is dedicated to samplers and other school girl embroideries. The Hubers are sought-after by museums, collectors, auction houses, and historical associations for their expertise. I recently enjoyed speaking with Carol.
Fetching the Eggs
I softly knocked on the exam room door, then entered. An elderly woman perched in her wheelchair, unable to clamber onto the exam table. The diminutive floral print of her cotton dress harkened back to the 1950’s, a time when she had been in her prime. Her bird-like black eyes met mine and she blessed me with a lopsided smile, the same glance and smile she had shared when I was a little girl. I pulled out my stethoscope and warmed the diaphragm with my breath.
Handwoven Donegal Tweed’s Trials and Traditions
Coming up with gift ideas for men, according to groupthink, stretches our imagination. Ties, golf balls, and button-down shirts pile up over the years. Gift buying is a bit easier if the fellow, like my special man, happens to be bald. Hats. Hats to not only keep warm, but to protect the top of his head. Being bald is like being a cat without whiskers — a bald man never knows exactly how close his noggin is to the undercarriage of the car he’s working on. Or where the pipe under the sink is as he installs a new garbage disposal. Ouch!
A Lesson from Buffalo Bill, Pawnee Bill and the New York Suffragists
Skirts aswirl, fourteen New York suffragists strode through Madison Square Garden. Among them were prominent society members such as the Misses Portia Willis, Harriet May Mills, Gertrude Lee, and Helen Benson. These were women far more familiar with Victorian silver choices than life in the open air. Entering the mess hall that April evening in 1913, they spied their quarry in the corner and beetled over. The two white-haired men were hunkered down over a meal of roast beef, corned beef and cabbage, lima beans, potatoes, and rice pudding. Maybe a little heavy on the starch, but Colonel Cody and Major Lillie had survived on much worse. And they couldn’t be too picky now either. Edison’s moving picture shows had eaten into the Wild West business. Old pals Cody and Lillie had thrown in together to create the “Buffalo Bill Wild West and Pawnee Bill Far East” Show. By autumn they’d be bankrupt, but for tonight they were still in the game.
Love, Haight, and Tie Dye
“The heepies lived here.” My Russian landlord paused to make sure I understood. “What? Oh, the hippies.” “Yes, the heepies. Crazy colors on everything when we bought this. Psychedelic. My brothers and my father and I had to paint it all.”
Mining the Potential of Miniature Quilts
With an air of tranquility, the village in Virginia sprawls along the Catoctin Creek. To the west, the Blue Ridge Mountains rise. Less than fifty miles to the east, bureaucrats and powermongers elbow each other in Washington, DC. Yet Waterford exudes peace as if recalling its Quaker roots. Historic homes — brick, clapboard, stone, and log — string along the few streets in an array dating to the 1700s. Sprinkled among the houses nestle a one-room African American schoolhouse, a button-size grocery with sheep grazing out back, churches, and an old-fashioned post office. The entire village is a designated National Historic Landmark district. In the quiet of midday, the occasional tabby cat crosses the street unmolested.
Mentoring and An Artist’s Life
Dusk had fallen in Leesburg. Virginia. Night air, neither too hot nor too cold, wafted through the propped door of the Clay and Metal Loft. Bill van Gilder was kicking off his weekend pottery workshop with a warm-up Power Point. Lifetime learners sipped wine and nibbled cheese, listening raptly. Now, van Gilder can Power Point and social media as well as any Millennial, even though he started making pots long before the internet.
Survival Secrets of a Southern Woman Playwright
All children are playwrights and directors. Cross-legged on the floor, youngsters put toys through their paces. “Bam! You’re dead!” “Barbie, I love you.” But, for most, growing up extinguishes that particular creative flame.