“Sometimes you have to let go of the picture of what you thought it would be like and learn to find joy in the story you are actually living.” ~ TinyBuddha
Even though I work in oral history, I don’t have time to do many interviews (that’s not what I was hired to do anyway), but on occasion, I’m able to carve out a little time and spend some of it hearing someone’s story. Today I was privileged to sit down with friend and colleague Gail Kennedy. You’ve met Gail many times. What you might not know is that she gave 47 years of service to the UK Libraries and accumulated a unique perspective on the profession and the library system along the way. Plus, she has an incredibly moving personal story. As always, I enjoyed our time together. I’ve never been in her company that I didn’t learn something new and leave feeling inspired. I think she had a good time, too.
“Perhaps the biggest mistake I made in the past was that I believed love was about finding the right person. In reality, love is about becoming the right person. Don’t look for the person you want to spend your life with. Become the person you want to spend your life with.” ~ Neil Strauss
Today, Solidago Literary Journal was at the Lexington Farmers Market representing Brier Books at the Homegrown Authors table. Catherine, Susan, and I talked with people interested in what we were doing, gave away free bookmarks, marveled at the woman with a dog in a baby carrier strapped to her belly, and sold a few copies to complete strangers; “not sympathy sales” as Catherine called them. We saw a few old friends (Gail Kennedy smiling below, and Bethany I-didn’t-catch-her-last-name smiling above), and made a few new ones as well. In between all that we plotted the future of Solidago, solved the world’s problems, and ate sausage breakfast biscuits. Okay, I ate the sausage breakfast biscuit. All in all, It was a rousing success and I remain humbled by just how cool this project is. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever been involved with.
“How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours.” ~ Wayne Dyer
Two long-time colleagues retired this week. Gail Kennedy, pictured here with Ruth Bryan, was one of them. I’ve worked closely with Gail in these later years, and I’ve gotten to know her rather well through our shared love of art. I will miss her kindness in the hallway, her smile in the lobby, her sharing of knowledge and passion for learning. She left us each personalized cards in our mailboxes filled with words of kindness in keeping with her spirit. Gail will be back from time to time, and I look forward to seeing her on the job and anywhere I run into her. Thank you, Gail, for sharing yourself with us all for so long. I hope we returned the favor.
“In a way life itself tracks a person’s generosity, much like an airline might track frequent flyer miles. The more you give, the more you earn, the higher you fly, and the further you go.” ~ Robin Jackson
Today I did something I’ve never done. I went to a protest march; the Women’s March. I tend to keep my political views to myself. The outhouse provides me a positive, creative outlet. Politics don’t really belong here because I don’t find them particularly positive. But today I have to talk about it. I exercise my right to vote at every election, and I take that very seriously. A century ago, women were beaten and scorned and God knows what to get me that right. I refuse to dishonor them by not going to the polls. My father and his brothers, even my mother through her military service, fought to uphold this right as well. I honor them when I cast my votes. As a progressive in Kentucky I often lose, but I go to the polls anyway. You can call me a lot of things, but sore loser isn’t one of them.
I did not go to the march as an anti-president protestor. I never want our presidents to fail. I don’t want congress to fail. Nobody wins if/when these things happen. No, I went to the march because ours is a democracy admired around the world for its ability to survive whatever gets thrown at us, and that survival depends solely on people getting off their asses when they don’t like what they see and doing something about it. I went to the march because of the inexcusable behavior during the campaign that allowed America’s underbelly of racist, sexist, cruelly insensitive hypocritical culture, the level of which is nearly incomprehensible, to raise its head. It’s not the campaign tone alone that I have a problem with; it’s the culture to which that behavior gave voice. Disturbing though it is, I am not at all surprised by it. You don’t have to be a minority to know it’s there. You just have to be willing to acknowledge it.
A man did not win the American presidential election. Apathy won the election. Frankly, I think having a president who did not earn his seat by popular vote, buoyed by a single-party controlled congress that, thus far, appears perfectly alright with whatever happens regardless of the consequences, will be an excellent thing for this country. Let’s hear it for this reawakened bravado of the McCarthy-era wealthy, white patriarchy. You can’t fight what you can’t see. So, here it is, front and center. If you don’t like it, do something about it. If you do like it, enjoy it. I suspect this current Washington line-up is just the punch in the gut that Apathy needed. After what I witnessed today, the mid-term congressional elections are in 2018, and this resistance train is mighty and moving fast. Things will change.
I went to the Women’s March today expecting nothing but women. Boy, was I in for a surprise. There were just as many men. They made my heart sing. There were young people and elderly people. There were people in wheelchairs and babies in strollers, and gay people and straight people and people somewhere in between, and black and brown and white people, and people in costumes I didn’t understand at all. There were friends and colleagues and strangers all around me. This might have been called the Women’s March, but this was really The People’s March. This is what democracy looks like, and it was breathtakingly beautiful.
I’ve seen estimates for Lexington’s Women’s March between 5000-9000 people. There was an estimated 2.5 million protestors across the country today, apparently making this the largest protest in American history. I marched today for my mother, and my grandmothers, my aunts and cousins, friends and colleagues, and for all the men I know who would never condone the behavior that’s been unleashed. Jim Brown and Lance Hughes felt particularly close. I marched for my dad who loves me from the bottom of his heart and would never, ever, ever talk about me like a piece of meat. He is a decent, honorable man. We are so blessed to live in a country that gives us the right to peaceably assemble, and for our voices to be heard. God knows we’ve got our faults, but America is already great, and I reject any suggestion that it is not. I’m not a political junky or an activist. My view here is simple compared to the complexity of the situation. All I really know is that I love everybody. I don’t care what a person’s religion is, or who they sleep with, or how many sins they may – or may not have – committed, or what color their skin is. If they are kind, respectful human beings, I welcome them in my world, and I hope they would welcome me into theirs. To me, this is what being Christ-like looks like, and it is breathtakingly beautiful. It is also fundamental to my political views.
“I have always believed, and I still believe, that whatever good or bad fortune may come our way we can always give it meaning and transform it into something of value.” ~ Hermann Hesse
I had the most inspiring lunch today with my friend Gail Kennedy. She wanted to show her appreciation for my photographing the Men of Note concert a few weeks ago, so off to lunch at the Julip Cup we went (best carrot cake ever). Better than the food, though, was our talk. We had the best conversation. I am hard pressed to think of someone as positive as Gail – even about things that would be utter devastation to most. I came away feeling energized and so blessed to have the chance to get to know her. I didn’t have my camera with me, and I forgot to pop off an iPhone shot, so I thought I’d use these tulip photos. They’re very Georgia O’Keefe, especially the white one, and since Gail was the Fine Arts Librarian for many years it’s only fitting they stand in for her.
“Be silly. Be fun. Be different. Be crazy. Be you, because life is too short to be anything but happy.”
My friend Gail Kennedy, who told me about the Easter sunrise services last Sunday, also invited me to photograph the celebration she and Ruth Bryan organized for the Men of Note archives. The evening featured some of the members of the band (the oldest is about 85), as well as the UK Jazz program. The latter performed throughout the night and included the UK Jazz Ensemble (above) and Repertory Ensemble. The Men of Note was the longest continuously performing big band in Lexington’s history (1967-2009). UK’s Jazz ensemble performed arrangements by Men of Note while individuals of the band performed alongside the younger players. I can’t say enough great things about UK’s Jazz Ensemble. These kids are so seriously good it hurts (in a good way). That I managed to get a group photo with only one guy’s eyes closed is a pure miracle. It was a really, really fine evening of music and good friends.
“If you’re getting overwhelmed by life, just return to the immediate present moment and savour all that is beautiful and comforting. Take a deep breath, relax.” ~ unknown
At the invitation of my friend Gail Kennedy, I attended, albeit late, Sunday services at Central Christian Church in downtown Lexington this morning. I was immediately taken with the contemporary appearance of the stained glass window behind the chancel called “God at Work in the World.” It is unlike any stained glass window I’ve seen with a Christian motif. Its colors are quite literally a rainbow (upon which Jesus stands) and the depictions much more modern than the traditional stained glass storyboard. Gail loaned me a wonderful booklet detailing the prodigious symbology throughout the church, including a description of this window. The top section is a rose, the center of which is God, and each petal represents God’s work in the world. The lower panes depict God made human through Jesus and the many works he represents. I was most especially moved by the lower left panels showing the hungry being fed; the thirty given water; the Good Samaritan.
What the booklet doesn’t tell me, and what I was unable to find in any online resources, is when the window was installed and who the artist was. I would love to know both. In the meantime, I intend to go back to Central Christian for another service (hopefully on time). I’m grateful to Gail for the service invitation, and the hour-long tour afterward. I look forward to more great conversation with her about the church, spiritual journeys, and art.
Make it a habit to tell people thank you. To express your appreciation, sincerely and without the expectation of anything in return. Truly appreciate those around you, and you’ll soon find many others around you. Truly appreciate life, and you’ll find that you have more of it.
~ Ralph Marston
It was such an interesting soiree last month a la Emily Post-style high tea that Ruth Bryan decided to do it again. This time it was at her house and it was Christmas themed. Stacy Yelton and I were “intimate friends of the hostess,” meaning we did the serving. That really meant Stacy did the serving and I took pictures. If you’re not familiar with high tea protocol, being asked to be an intimate friend is the highest honor bestowed on a guest. We were both quite honored to be asked.
This tea branched out from Special Collections to include Ruth’s mother and stepfather, as well as some of her other close friends, all very sweet people with names I don’t remember, sadly. When we’d had our fill of tea, garnished with some fine imported British Isle sweet treats, we repaired to the living room and sang Christmas carols accompanied by Ruth’s fantastic piano playing. Sang and sang we did until, finally, we needed more tea. That’s when all the “old ladies” (see December 15 post) converged at the tea table once more: Stacy Yelton, Gail Kennedy, Judy Sackett, and Nancy DeMarcus who won big hugs for the awesome hat. What kind women I have the good fortune to know. I’m always so honored to be in their company. I even wore a dress!
“Peace is the result of retraining your mind to process life as it is,
rather than as you think it should be.” ~ Dr. Wayne Dyer
Today, we had our holiday potluck for Special Collections Research Center. After we dined on some truly fabulous dishes – like Jason Flahardy’s smoked ham, Gail Kennedy’s killer coconut pie, Deirdre Scaggs awesome pumpkin bundt cake, and Crystal Heis’ sweet potato chili – we played a rousing game of Jeopardy. With Gordon Hogg as Alex Trebek and Shell Dunn (wo)manning the technology, four tables of players squared off on Malaprops, L’s, and Furry things. In the end, the “old ladies in the back,” Stacy Yelton and Judy Sackett (lovingly termed by the old ladies in the front, Gail Kennedy and Nancy DeMarcus), won the game. Then, Danielle Gabbard sort of broke her foot. Like I always say, it’s not a party ’til ya break something. What is… Happy Holidays from Special Collections.
“Seek to do brave and lovely things which are left undone by the majority of people. Give gifts of love and peace to those whom others pass by.” ~ Paramhansa Yogananda
Meet UK Provost Christine Riordan. We met taking this picture. Actually, we were never formally introduced, but I suspect she’ll remember me after today, or at least she’ll remember her visit. She was scheduled to come by Special Collections for a tour. Yesterday, we scurried about prettying up the place. Housekeeping buffed the marble floors while the rest of us dusted places that hadn’t been dusted in years. There was a feeling of excitement in the air, as if The Queen herself was coming. We were told to meet in the lobby this afternoon to greet Provost Riordan before the tour. Associate Dean, Deirdre Scaggs, made a very brief announcement, and then we were adjourned, but we didn’t really move. So, camera in hand (of course), I walked over to Provost Riordan and “snap.” Laughter.
I had seen provost Riordan speak once before today. I felt something familiar about her, not in appearance so much as her tone and the manner in which she carries herself. I had a feeling she would be okay with such a spontaneous moment. Plus, we needed a little something to break the ice. Not only was she okay with it, she upped the ante. Without missing a beat, she grabbed her phone and said something like, “If Ellen can do it….” It was a truly fabulous moment. Much laughter ensued.
How well my assertion played out depended solely on Provost Riordan’s reaction. It could have gone very badly. Instead, she was not only gracious about my invading her personal space, she was downright fun about it. The smartest people I know have the same ability as she to laugh, go with the flow, and be kind in unexpected situations. Thank you, Provost Riordan, for being cool, and sharing the peace and love with us. You made for a great day.
[Ellen selfie: Christine Riordan, Deirdre Scaggs, Marie Dale, Shell Dunn, Crystal Heis, Kopana Terry, Stacy Yelton, Ed Brown (with his head cut off), Michael Slone, Robert Holland, Judy Sackett, Gail Kennedy, Sarah Dorpinghaus, Megan Mummy, Justin Student, Lewis Warden, and the top of Jaime Burton’s head with lots of unidentified hands, probably Seth Newell and Jason Flahardy]
[Botton photo: Dean of Libraries Terry Birdwhistell being the first to find the tweet; Deirdre Scaggs and Megan Mummy also admiring the tweet]