Wednesday, May 29, 2013

My tour-guide-turned-friend, Elissa, visited me last weekend.  She's literally the only person whose eyes don't glaze when I talk about the French Revolution, (Well, hers and Micah's.),  so it was not unlike a therapy weekend.

Elissa's husband, Matt, took this when we were in Paris in March.  The instant we saw this nun, steps in front of us as we approached Notre Dame (behind the gates to the right), we all knew this would be a remarkable photograph.  Thanks for sharing it with me, Traveling Pears.

Art as Propaganda

One of the most fascinating aspects of the French Revolution is the effect of art and literature on the minds of the people.  Jacques-Louis David's work, The Lictors Bring to Brutus the Bodies of His Sons, is a good example.

The painting depicts the Roman leader, Brutus, turned from the sight of his sons' bodies, as his wife, daughters and servant grieve.  Brutus appears determined and unmoved, resolute in the belief that having ordered his sons' deaths was merited by the fact that they'd tried to overthrow the Republic and restore the Monarchy.  The end justifies the means and all that.

The piece was exhibited in the early stages of the French Revolution despite the Court's attempt to keep it from public view. Art students felt the need to stand guard at the Salon.  I wonder how many of them survived the Revolution after the fire they helped to light roared out of control.  Just wondering.

It's nearly inconceivable to me that a human being is capable of creating such a masterpiece.  The first moment I saw it, in the Louvre, is frozen in my mind. And, it's not even my favorite of David's paintings.  I never leave the museum without visiting that gallery.  Sometimes it's the only one I visit.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

From Billy to Mom

Mother's Day

As I recover
under sunny skies,
I am grateful
for whom God provides.

I am grateful 
for still being young, 
and grateful 
for having someone.

it's not too late
 to provide
all the love 
I feel inside

sharing more
and giving more,
every day
more and more


Thinking of Her

Even in the most casual of conversations, my siblings speak of our mother with reverence.  It's in their voices.   I hear it.  And I know how they feel.  Our mother was a remarkable person - the finest person I've ever known.  And, as Jerry said in her eulogy, she made each of us feel we were her favorite.  We miss her every minute.

I began this blog weeks after my mother's passing to honor her, to vent my grief, and to bind myself,  my siblings and my father, by sharing pictures and memories of our family.  My brother, Michael (the infant in Jerry's lap, in this picture, who is blocked by Billy's head)  had put together a CD of family pictures that contained quite a few from when the family lived in France the year I was born and some of my favorite shots of her were from that time period.  My mother is so closely associated with France in my mind.  I began to read about the French history that she loved as a way to hang on to her and then vented all of that on the blog.  Venting is important, necessary for me.  There's a lot going on in my head!   Recently, my brother, Don (forefront of this picture) sent us each a CD he had made from old family slides, most of which I'd not seen, and it's like being given pieces of my mother, my childhood, my original family, that I'd never had before.  Priceless.

The pictures of my parents, before my father's eight years of isolation and torture, are so full of innocence and love.  They don't look like the parents of seven children.  (In the picture above, on the ship, they are the parents of five.)  I'm thinking it might be because they didn't micromanage our daily lives and kept theirs, as a couple, strong and intact.  "Children should be seen, not heard."  My mother's sister told me that from the day my mother met my father, when she was a Catholic schoolgirl, there was never anyone else.  It shows in the pictures of them together.

The second to last picture is my mother in Newport with Mary, her seventh, and last, child.  The icing on the cake.

Mom looks like a girl in this bottom picture.  A girl with five children.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Derby Day

No billboard in Louisville was willing to host this PETA ad, so the organization took the message mobile outside Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day.  They could've sensationalized the truth more dramatically with the picture online of a horse dumped next to a toilet in a junkyard down the road from Riudoso Downs after it had died on the track a day or two prior.  There are plenty of articles online that graphically describe the horror of racing, fatality statistics, the cruelty of the sport.  No need for me to elaborate, but thought it worth mentioning on Derby Day weekend.

"Failed to Menace"

"Failed to Menace" is one of the notations next to Liberty's (who's registered as Red Hot Drawers) name in one of the Thoroughbred racing reports online.  Owners frown upon racehorses that fail to menace.  After winning a relatively unimpressive $10,000, four year old Liberty was given to the woman who owned the barn at which Micah took riding lessons.  She was very nervous under saddle and her early training as a jumper didn't do anything to calm her.  She could and did easily jump 4'+, but in a headlong, panicky way that was sad to watch.  To me, anyway.  We bought her when she was ten and Micah definitely had to rise to the occasion.  Her new mare was kind of crazy.  I've seen runaway horses before, but nothing to compare to one of the times Liberty ran away with Micah.  She bucked a couple of times, unseated Micah, then ran, around and around the ring, in an absolutely out of control gallop like I've never seen before or since.  It took me years to relax when she'd get fired up and I don't know how little Micah dug deep enough to have the courage to get back on day after day.  

Even now, at twenty-two, Liberty needs an very experienced rider.  She's quiet enough, though, that I can relax and marvel at her fluidity and grace of movement.  It's impossible to know if her fear is a result of her racetrack experience or just that she's wired that way, but my bet is with the former.  She's been very sound, though, unlike many horses that come off the track.  

I wish all ex-racehorses could enjoy the retirement that Liberty does thanks to Courtney who owns Cornerstone Sport Horses.

Liberty's sire was named Drop Your Drawers and is mentioned in a New York Times Racing Blog article about Worst Ever Racehorse Names.  My mother would've called that name "tacky."