daily prompt: michelangelo’s you

My personal sculpture would be one that’s been in the carving process the last 27 years.

Even now tweaks are made,

updating the piece,

bringing it ever nearer to perfection,

realizing that may never be accomplished,

and being fine with that.

A mom…

…giving without question,

…expecting little in return,

…loving the shared moments,

…of laughter, sadness, doubts, fulfillment.

Upon my headstone…

…she was the best she could be…




lenin…a capitalist?

Lenin statue in Fremont, Seattle, Washington

Image via Wikipedia

Leafing through a local news magazine touting summer excursions around town, including the environs around Seattle, I was highly intrigued by one article in particular. Life Of The Party by Warren Kagarise, says “In Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood and, for a time in Issaquah, Vladimir Lenin, so reviled and revered throughout the 20th century, is just the dictator next door.” Sitting at Fremont Place North and Evanston Avenue North sits a bronze replica of the once powerful ruler, a 16 foot tall, 8 ton, statue. I’m sure you’re wondering as I was…”What the h–k is a memorial honoring a former arch-enemy doing in our midst?” Well, I’ll tell you. It’s a long and winding road as to how Lenin came to be in the midst of a small, democratic community far from his native land.

Lewis Carpenter, an American from Issaquah, Washington

“who was teaching English in Poprad, found the monumental statue lying in a scrapyard ready to be sold for the price of the bronze. In close collaboration with a local journalist and good friend, Tomas Fulopp, Carpenter approached the city officials with a claim that despite its current unpopularity, the sculpture was still a work of art worth preserving, and he offered to buy it for $13,000. After many bureaucratic hurdles, he finally signed a contract with the mayor on March 16, 1993.”

With the help of the statue’s Slovak Bulgarian sculptor, Emil Venkov, the statue was cut into three pieces which were shipped to Carpenter’s hometown. Much of the $41,000 shipping fee was financed through mortgaging his house. Unfortunately, “On February 18, 1994 in the midst of the uproar in Seattle that was set off by his import of a statue of a communist leader, Lewis Carpenter was killed in a car accident.  The statue, now part of his estate, was left lying in his backyard. The family contacted a local brass foundry, who offered to move it off the property.” In 1995 the statue came to rest at a location south of where it currently sits. At that time Carpenter’s family was asking $150,000 to part with Lenin; as of 2006 the price has been $250,000. Any takers?

How and why did Lenin’s statue make it from rural Issaquah to Fremont, an urban neighborhood on the fringes of Seattle’s center? Enter Fine Arts Foundry owner and sculptor Peter Bevis. It was he who’d been asked to melt down the statue. Although he’d met Carpenter and Venkov when they toured the foundry in the early 90s, when the latter was searching “for a space to sculpt a proposed piece, nothing resulted from the appointment.” Bevis learned of Lenin’s statue from another sculptor. “Hey, I know this woman in Issaquah who has an 8-ton statue of Stalin, and could you melt it down or do something? She doesn’t know what to do with it.” Of course it turned out to be Lenin, toward whom Bevis felt more charitable since the communist leader had wanted some rights for his people, unlike Stalin whom Bevis felt “was just a thug.” Relocating the statue to Fremont cost Bevis $10,000.

Wanting to see this curiosity for ourselves, my husband and I drove into the city. Expecting to see a monstrosity which stood out like an eyesore, we were pleasantly surprised to see that Lenin’s statue blends in well with its downtown Fremont surroundings. There’s a Bohemian feel to the area, or as my husband called it “the last of the hippy towns.” I was kinder, describing it as a “city with a small town feel.” According to the magazine article, “Fremonsters, a lable neighborhood denizens sometimes use, developed a grudging tolerance, if not outright acceptance, for the statue.” However, that wasn’t always the case.

“Some people said, ‘He was a murderer. He killed my family,’ ” Bevis recalled. …the statue induced strong and sometimes-unbridled emotions. Bevis received death threats after the installation.

“People also threatened me and said, ‘Well, we’re going to throw a rope around his neck and pull him over.’ Well, you see, in America we honor private property,” he said. “You can’t just go and destroy other people’s stuff.”

(The base is bolted down in order to prevent a coup d’etat in the neighborhood.)

From what my husband and I saw of Fremont today, the “welcome mat” is laid out for one and all. There were bicyclists, skateboarders, young couples sporting tattoos on their uncovered arms, a guy with a mohawk atop his bald head, teeny-tiny dogs and overweight ones tethered to leashes, proudly held by their owners, a black man in a suit laughing on his cell phone as he dined at an outdoor cafe, retirees out for their daily walk, a trio of giggling, young women eating mouthfuls of ice cream from waffle cones, an indulgence they looked to partake of daily. Since it was late in the day, about 6 p.m., the Sunday flea market vendors were breaking down their tents and displays. That’s probably why we weren’t having to elbow our way through crowds of sightseers like ourselves. They’d probably all come and left before we got there. It was just as well. No one got in my way as I stopped to snap a photo of some detail that seemed so typical of funky, fun, freedom-loving Fremont.

In his adopted American hometown, Lenin let his “hair down,” as a 

…backdrop for bare and jiggling bodies astride bicycles at the Fremont Fair, a summer solstice celebration. …is also festooned in lights for Christmas…(which) includes a radiant Star of David atop the statue as Santa Claus greets boys and girls at the base. Lenin, rather than leading to a glorious future, instead encourages peoples to patronize neighborhood merchants.

Fremont revels in such contradictions. The neighborhood embraces the statue, often in ways to spoof Lenin and communist politics.

The statue clutched a huge Winnie the Pooh toy for a time and, in a workers-of-the-world-unite moment, held a sign to support striking machinists. Celebrants doll up Lenin in drag queen makeup for the Fremont Fair and gay pride celebrations. 

Kirby Lindsay, “a longtime Fremont resident and columnst behind the neighborhood news website, The Fremoncentrist” declares:

“If you want to accuse us of being capitalists, I got it. If you want to accuse us of being irreverent, sure. If you want to accuse us of being outrageously liberal, you might have a point,” … “But communists?” 

…lenin never looked better…i think i even saw him smiling…at his good fortune…hugmamma. 😉

humility, with a southern drawl

I was invited by a very, dear friend to attend Sunday Mass at her church, the diocesan Cathedral. I’d been in it before, some time ago. Upon entering the nave, I was surprised for I hadn’t remembered its simplicity. The seat of the diocese from which the Bishop administers to local area churches, usually instills awe and if not fear, then certainly timidity. Rather than gazing upon impressive architectural details, I noticed the people sitting quietly in pews, others walking down the central aisle looking for seats. When my eyes came to rest upon the front where Mass would be celebrated, I was perplexed by its lack of ornamentation. The altar was empty; 3 wooden chairs sat to the right. To the left stood the podium, partially blocking another wooden chair. And across the back, imposing in size, was a white marble sculpture of Jesus on the Cross, the Blessed Virgin standing beneath and to his left, eyes gazing upon His face, and St. John standing on the right. Cradling Jesus’ feet was a woman, perhaps Mary Magdalene. 

In contrast to the starkness below, the dome over the altar displayed colorful paintings. The lone, central figure was God, left hand extended holding the world with a cross on top. The figures to His left and right may have been of a risen Virgin and St. John, but I’m not certain for I only glimpsed them momentarily. Having seated ourselves, I continued to look around for other tell-tale signs of grandeur befitting the Bishop’s Church. They only seemed apparent beyond the pillars that flanked either side of the nave. Structural details such as cornices, sculptures and stained glass windows enhanced the otherwise, unassuming house of worship. Use of soft pastels in hues of blues, peaches and beiges both in paint colors and floor tiles, imparted an air of serenity.

Awash in calm, I observed those around me. Smiles lighting up faces as friends recognized one another. Young sons kept separate by a mom, as the family of 4 made their way into a pew. A middle-aged, silver haired couple, husband with his arm lovingly draped about his wife, fingers massaging her shoulder. Two 30-ish year old women with ebony, straight, shoulder-length hair, dressed similarly in print skirts and simple black tops, quietly stepped into a pew a couple of rows ahead. One turned her head looking over her right shoulder, a smile lifting the corners of her lovely face. Was she part-Asian, part-Caucasian, or part-Hispanic, part-Caucasian? It was difficult to tell, but she was pretty nonetheless. The single element which disrupted the contemplative surroundings was the couple seated directly in front of us. Blonde hair in a short pony-tail, the woman, dressed in short jean skirt topped with a white, slightly off-the-shoulder blouse, cinched at the waist by a beige, elastic belt, spoke in non-stop whispers to her male companion. I found myself repeatedly focusing my attention elsewhere, trying to assimilate the peacefulness that enveloped me. It wasn’t difficult.

For me the “jewel in the crown” is always the person celebrating the Mass, and I wasn’t disappointed. Different from youthful, 38 year old, 6’4″ tall, dark and handsome Father Bryan, the pastor of my church, Father Edward Steiner, the Cathedral’s rector, was nearer my age, 5’10”, bespectacled, pleasantly rotund, with silvery-blonde hair, mischievous eyes and a ready smile. When he began his homily his voice, not booming like Father Bryan’s, but soothing and comfortable, invited me to rest my back against the bench, to sit-a-spell. With a lilting, southern drawl, Father Steiner spoke of humility, the Gospel’s lesson.

I’m certain I’ve heard this particular Gospel many times over many years. Perhaps maturity gained with age and a lifetime of experiences, coupled with Father’s engaging demeanor kept me hostage throughout his homily. Drawing our attention to the calendar, he reminded us that there were only so many days left until Christmas. The congregation joined in his chuckles. Continuing on, Father said that most of us give obligatory gifts, among these are those to teachers, secretaries. Not intending to dissuade us from gift-giving, he encouraged that we do it for more substantive reasons than obligation. He then explained the cultural premise of the Gospel reading.

According to Jewish practice whoever was positioned directly across from the host while dining, was held in the highest esteem. The remaining positions were then distributed with consideration for the host’s regard toward those invited, the least favored being seated at his feet. Mediterranean practice had diners lying on their sides, dipping torn pieces of bread into serving dishes shared by all. Western practice is less stringent, with the hostess assigning, or not assigning, seats at the table. If in the latter case, a person seats himself across from the hostess and is asked to move, then that guest is humbled. Where if a guest is moved from a lesser position to the most prominent seat, then that person is rewarded for her humility.

Rather than inviting guests to dine based upon a sense of obligation for their having first invited us, Father Steiner suggests we invite those who are unable to return the favor. By bringing the humble (“low in status” according to Webster) to our table we are advancing their honor, and our own. In giving gifts, we should do so not with the expectation of receiving, we should give because we want to honor those to whom we give, knowing that they are unable to give in kind. We honor them, and we honor ourselves.

Among Jews, striving for honor was a constant. But it seemed to be a subsequence of humility. When Mary told Jesus that a wedding reception was running low on its supply of wine, she intended that he do something. Knowing that he would help to preserve the groom’s honor, Mary was advancing her own Son’s honor. Without fanfare and with only a handful bearing witness, Jesus performed a miracle to keep the wine plentiful. This act, done with humility, brought honor to Himself while maintaining the honor of His host.

After Mass I thanked Father for his sermon. The same warmth that emanated during the eucharistic celebration continued to flow from him as we chatted. When my friend and I took our leave, allowing others patiently waiting to speak with Father, I hugged him in Aloha. Comfortable in returning the gesture, Father elevated a humble follower to share his proximity to God, thus honoring me and in the process, advancing His honor as well.

I meant it when I told Father Steiner that my experience with southern hospitality is that it is akin to Hawaiian Aloha. Both have their faults for sure, but they have their blessings as well. Rather than use a broad stroke to define a culture, I prefer to use a fine brush to detail their compassionate and positive qualities. Focusing upon the humbler side of human nature advances its honor, and the honor of all mankind, and ultimately, God’s.

hugs for a humble southerner, Father Steiner…hugmamma.