Monthly Archives: August 2013

Up With People in Jackson (8-23/8-24)

UWP_Jackson Cover Photo SHOWTonight I’m headed over Teton Pass for an alumni reception and to see VOICES, the latest Up With People show, at the Center for the Arts. The last cast performance (reunions don’t count) I saw was in 1994, the year we moved to Idaho. Although I also walked in Old Bill’s Fun Run with Uppies in 1999 (memorable because that was the weekend of Paul Johnson’s death), other obligations kept me from going to the shows that round.

It’s interesting to me that three UWP alumni live in our very small community, and at least two others have drifted here and gone.  Jackson — where casts staged even before my time on the road — has scores of them.

I’m excited to see some old friends, find out about the public service castmembers have been doing this week, reconnect with the organization, and to see what a “modern” Up With People show looks like.

Produced, in part, by Lynn Hart, another old UWP friend (amazing to think that I stayed with his parents in Pampa, Texas, when I did public relations there in 1974!), this show, I’ve been told, is more like the “old glory days” of the 70s than some other versions from the last four decades….

JA_from_Norm_show_picFor giggles, here’s a picture of me back in the day, big mouth, shiny Leggs and all.

If you REALLY want to laugh, go to YouTube and search for various UWP videos posted there; I traveled between 1973 and 1976 so those are the ones where you might catch another glimpse of me in action.

Tickets to the Jackson shows are $20 for adults, $50 for patrons.

Here’s to a great weekend, wherever you’re reconnecting!


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The Old Bridge of Mostar, Bosnia (8/19-8/21)

Peter traveled solo to the Balkans in August 2010, and came home with wonderful memories of Mostar, a place he’d visited with a small group of fellow adventurers from Dubrovnik. He’d read The Old Bridge by Christopher Merrill before he left and couldn’t wait to see this historic place of destruction and rebuilding in person…… and since then, I couldn’t wait to see it with him, either.

In May, that plan came to fruition, as we gazed on, walked across, and were inspired by the Old Bridge in Mostar. Old_bridge_at_Mostar

Built in the 15th century, the bridge linked Mostar, joinng the Christian side of town with the Muslim side of town over the Neretva River.  A symbol of both substance and tolerance, it provided access to merchants and nearby agricultural fields for everyone regardless of faith.

During the Third Balkan War and after something like 60 mortar attacks by Croatian artillery forces, the bridge was completely destroyed, its entire span tumbling into the river below.  Watch just the very first few seconds of this video montage to see it yourself; what’s surprising is how much of the bridge was still intact before that last blast knocked it down.

That day, September 11, 1993 (our lovely hotelier told us a few months ago), the entire city cried.

I can only imagine.

But the Old Bridge has been rebuilt, reconstructed to its original glory (amazingly!) according to the medieval specifications and using as much of the stone recovered from the Neretva as possible. Archaeologists involved in the project discovered that a stone bridge was first built by the Romans on this site (oh, those Romans!)

A very small museum now graces one of the long-standing watchtowers; although damaged, they too have been rebuilt.  It was guarded over by a young man and his grandmother; between them they spoke a handful of words of English — just enough to make this treasure available to us (the specific words I remember being “Yes, we are open.”)

The Old Bridge and its surrounding area is, appropriately, a UNESCO World Heritage site, one of many we saw in May, including some we’d never heard of before researching the trip. You can read more about its long history here.

Could the war really have happened only twenty years ago?  This stone sits just off the bridge, in case those who live there or visit there need a reminder. dont_Forget_93

During the day, the cobblestone surface of the Old Bridge is crowded with people, the narrow span filled with looky-lous like us taking pictures. Crowds occasionally gather to watch young men dive in the river from its magnificent arc — if the tourists have been generous enough to entice the performance.

But late in the day, when the Dubrovnik day-trippers are gone and mostly locals remain, the bridge is often empty. That was our favorite time to be there.

bullet_torn_houseVenture just a bit outside the center of town and evidence of Mostar’s wartorn time is everywhere in the modern city. Both this small house and this sign, which marked a block-sized former public-works building of some sort, were just a quarter mile or so from our lovely hotel.

dangerous_ruin_signWe arrived by train from Sarajevo and the first substantial wreck of a structure we saw, as we made our way along the river from the station, was the once-substantial library, a loss which hasn’t yet been made whole…

In the oldest parts of the city, near the Old Bridge but beyond it as well, though, are indications that Mostar is working diligently to recover, as citizens of all faiths united to recreate their landmarks and refind their common peaceful heritage.

artist_in_mostar_wrapping_picWe purchased a lovely small painting from one of the local shops, assisted by a beautiful young artist. We appreciated her great care in wrapping our purchase so it would safely make the journey home.

The painting now hangs over Peter’s desk in our library, serving as our own reminder of this vivid place — one unlike anywhere, and yet like so many others because it meant so much to me to be there. old_bridge_painting_in_the_library The black-and-white watercolor captures well the grace and beauty of the Old Bridge; the photograph does not, however, as I adjusted the angle of the shot to accommodate today’s early morning light.

Want to see more images of Mostar? Peter put together a number of videos of our trip in May and posted them on YouTube.  Click here to watch the one of Bosnia. It starts in Sarajevo (more on it at some other point). Our train trip over and through the rugged Dinaric Alps (many many tunnels — about twenty miles of them!) starts about two minutes into the video and about half of the eight-minute clip is about Mostar itself.

Rewatching it just now gives me the strong urge to, as Rick Steves alway says at the end of his TV show, “keep on traveling.”

I’m encouraged to find other places where people have come together to renew their sense of historical glory even though they have undergone great tragedy. Uncountable ones exist, I know.

Perhaps the video or this short recollection of Mostar’s Old Bridge will inspire the same in you.

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Treasure box (8/18)

I’m a piler, I must admit; the employees at Dark Horse Books good-naturedly put up with my stacks of things, then I would try to get rid of at least one or two big ones before going away, even if it was just an overnight to Boise for an Arts Commission meeting.  I’m in that mode again, not because we have any trips planned at the moment, but because it’s part of the spring cleaning I usually start at the end of each summer….

So, over the last two weeks I have been going through a lot of old papers and baskets of collected memorabilia, clearing out what’s no longer relevant and finding some fun things along the way.  One of them was a “treasure box,” a reminder of an exercise that I created for a retreat of the Teton Arts Council.

The page inside was dated Oct. 28, ’00 — must have been when I was chairing TAC —  a few months before Spindrift was published, before I was appointed to the ICA, way before “instant sharing” of any sort.

But I remember the day, and prepping all the items to share with my fellow TAC board members. As I remember it, everyone took my silly bits of wisdom, expressed with a lot of cliches and puns, in the spirit they were given. Hope you all will do the same.

Some of the selections were “cosmic,” which means that everyone chose their own from a generous assortment. For example, I had saved little baskets, boxes, and tins for containers, the “treasures” included all kinds of things I would eventually use on my artwork (i.e., pieces of jewelry and junk, and toys, office supplies, etc.), and the wrapping paper was everything from Santas to wedding-shower-themed — get the idea?

Others from the list were passed around from a common source — a single roll of toilet paper and paper towels, a box of baggies, that kind of thing.

In case you’d like to put together your own treasure box, here are the original contents:

  • A cosmic container;
  • A clear plastic bag (to remember to try to see through to the heart of the matter);
  • A cork: must always celebrate life’s joys and more importantly — no whining!
  • A plain ‘ol clothes pin: sometimes it’s the most simple thing that can hold us up or keep us together;
  • A crayon — for color and beauty and talent;
  • Playing cards: regardless of what life hands you, you have to just deal with it;
  • Paper stuff used every day: a couple pieces of T.P. (no job is finished ’til the paperwork is done), and a paper towel — as there’s no mess so big it can’t be cleaned up — both also come in handy when you’re in a sweat (as Thomas Edison put it, “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration”);
  • A piece of cosmic wrapping paper, symbolizing all that we’ve been given that isn’t able to be tied up with a bow (like friends, family, health, and inspiration);
  • More cosmic choices, of literary stuff: a pen and and a little notepad, since we all write our own story; an envelope (a reminder to push outside it, when you need to think creatively), and an eraser — to learn from our mistakes!
  • Sweets for the sweet: hot tamales, as variety is the spice of life, a “tootsie” to always “roll” with the punches, and kisses (you know that someone loves you!);
  • A cosmic “treasure,” be it playful, emotional, about a place, a time in your life, a particular loved one, something you need, or the answer to a question.  (I picked the stone heart today — not sure what that means, it just felt right).

In putting this together, updated after 13 years (!), I decided to add:

  • A kazoo, since music is important!
  • A pipe-cleaner (another under-appreciated bit that has more uses than one realizes, unless you’re decorating a Christmas tree or entertaining some kids);
  • A key and a shell, two things I usually add to my artwork — the former to honor the idea that “when one door closes, another one opens,” the latter to represent the natural world and all its mysteries;
  • A battery, a reminder that technology is a tool (and sometimes you just need to dig a little deeper to find your own personal “juice”);
  • A bottle cap — never a bad idea to consider “putting a lid on it” before speaking out of turn;
  • And some “smarties,” the final lesson to always be like a woodpecker and use your head.

I’ll be taking the candy to the Community Foundation office to share with them at work this week. With any luck, the tin will just about close until the next time I need some inspiration — or when I rediscover it among some of today’s piles of papers — hopefully sooner than 13 years from now!


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Filed under August '13, Fun art, Matters of the heart, On Being Human, Scrapbook

Day(dream) tripping (8/17)

inspiration_I_want_a_ticket_to_anywhere_cityPASS_8_2_13One of our favorite weekend activities is talking about where we’re going next — batting around possibilities, researching frequent-flyer opportunities, checking out sites online, looking at calendars….

Or as Jimmy Buffett sings (about escaping from winter) — “I gotta fly to Saint Somewhere.”

So, this photo (I think I saw it first on CityPASS) says it all, don’t you think?

Happy holidays (as it were!)

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Piggy-backing posts (8/16)

Short and sweet today: linking you to a blog post (about Philadelphia, where else?) that’s first appearing elsewhere.

How fun to write something for my friends at CityPASS!

I researched this piece before our trip in May, sPMG_detailpending a warm and entrancing afternoon at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens.

Alicia used all the photos I sent; this is another I liked but that didn’t make the first cut. Taken from the top of one of the intricate staircases looking down into the lower level, to me it shows the depth and variety of the work and type of materials used.

And of course I *did* come away inspired about my own mosaic work…. starting with cleaning and organizing our craft room!

Here’s to a terrific weekend, wherever magical spot you may find yourself.

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A dozen little memories (8/15)

J_n_Murphys_pre_1963Today would have been my parents’ 71st (!) wedding anniversary; Judy is still in Cheyenne, so the three-J’s trip to Tubac planned for earlier this month has been postponed. But I’m thinking family anyway, and decided to take a short walk down memory lane.

In no particular order, here’s just some of the stuff I fondly remember from growing up. I hope it might hit a responsive chord in your own experience (and maybe give some ideas to all friends who are parents of young ones themselves.)

FYI: Long before the days of digital photography, I didn’t go through any old scrapbooks or such.  This image, previously scanned, captures me at my tow-headed “best”?

  1. Being with family always tops the list, including going to Evergreen, Colorado, to Grandma and Grandpa Murphy’s cabin.  Judy (always the ringleader) built a fort in the trees up on the hillside behind the house.  The first year I had ice skates (after Grandpa died, maybe two years or so after this picture was taken), Dad hoisted us down onto the frozen surface of Little Turkey Creek to skate. I can still feel the way he wrapped the ropes around me so it would be safe.
  2. Going to Kansas to see the Uphoff cousins — another routine happening — meant many hours riding across Nebraska (or Colorado); I liked sitting way in the back of the station wagon with the “hot pops” — the cans of soda that didn’t fit in the cooler in the back seat. With the Custer girls, we’d read Milly the Model comic books (so much more grown-up than Archie!) and swim at the pool near Cathy and Karen’s. At the Weixelman’s, we had marathon game days and spent hours putting together puzzles. In Westphalia, when Mimi still had her house there, we’d walk to the general store, pick watermelons and raspberries up on Hoffman Hill, and play with all the neighbor kids (they were often visiting older relatives, too). One year some of the Wichita boys (Kent? Joe?) put a salamander put down the back of my shirt –plenty of screaming about that!
  3. The family excuse for these trips was always to “paint Mimi’s porch.” I don’t think we did that more than once in all the summers we went.
  4. Another long driving excursion ended up at Fort Hood, Texas, to see Uncle Gene and Aunt Charlotte and their kids. Seemed like we would NEVER get across the Lone Star State but it was always worth it to see that huge crowd!
  5. We made other memorable road trips, too — especially one to California for Christmas. That was the first time I saw where Mom and Dad had been married, San Miguel Mission (the all-seeing eye above the altar was pretty scary!) That was the holiday we ended up having “dinner” of stuff out of the hotel vending machine since we couldn’t find a restaurant open.
  6. When traveling, it seemed like we always stayed at the Sleepy Bear motel (can’t remember what it was called!) or the one with the red roof (Howard Johnson’s) — affordable family accommodations, for sure. Both of these usually had a pool, and though I’ve never been a great swimmer, I loved splashing around (a favorite swimsuit was pink with rows of white lace around the belly — so stylish!)  And pretty much always got sunburned, much to my dismay now.
  7. Another memorable vacation was the first time we all went to Hawaii; I was in kindergarten (I think), and Mother and I went the night before everyone else, and we got to sit in First Class on the plane.  Mimi went along, too; she used to put her movie magazines in a cover so no one knew what she was reading when we were sitting on the beach. Joan and I took hula lessons by the pool at the hotel, and Dad rented a pink Jeep (matched my swimsuit!)
  8. In 1964, we rode the train East to go to the World’s Fair in New York City, with a side visit to Washington, DC. It was an all-girls’ trip: Mom, Judy and her best friend Linda Ziemer, Joan, and me.  The highlight of that trip was having our picture taken with Wyoming’s Congressman Teno Roncalio and a (then very-young) Sen. Ted Kennedy. (I need to get a copy of that from Judith.)
  9. Of course there are lots of home memories, too… we loved our big backyard and always had family friends over to enjoy dinner back there. Way before it was fashionable, we had a big grill for barbecuing. I also remember the sweet taste of ice cream made in our crank-type ice-cream maker; what a thrill to be the one picked to sit on it while the ice cream was being churned!
  10. One year, we had to pick up Dad at the Denver airport and on the way there (from Evergreen), Mother stopped at a roadside vendor and bought a bunch of cedar furniture for the patio. The guy selling it to us strapped everything to the top of the station wagon, and we must have looked like a family straight out of the Grapes of Wrath when we parked the car in the giant parking lot at Stapleton.  Dad sure got a chuckle out of his enterprising wife! And at least it was easy to find our car because of the furniture on top!
  11. The (now-defunct) Denver Post used to run a train to Cheyenne Frontier Days, and each summer my folks had a cocktail party for travel industry professionals who’d made the trip. They’d shuttle out to our place after the rodeo, and all the grown-ups would sit around out back and chat until it was time to go back to the station. When big enough to “help,”  I distinctly remember wearing a blue fake-leather cowgirl skirt and matching vest to hand out finger food — must have been maybe five or six!
  12. Also on the party theme: Mom and Dad played bridge every week in the winters, and when it was hosted at our house, the big treat (for me anyway) was vanilla ice cream with just a tiny splash of creme de’ menthe on it. Sticky even sicky sweet but certainly memorable for a youngster.

Of such is a childhood made of. Here’s to happy family times of your own!

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A little history (8/14)

I read a lot. Books give me entertainment and education, and I’ll choose something to read with different intentions from book to book.

It’s a wonderful delight when I find both of these things happening at once while I read. It’s an even rarer treat when the book throws in “enlightenment” as well as “engrossing engagement.”

Such is the case with A Little History of the World by E. H. Gombrich. little_history_book_cover Originally written in 1935 while Gombrich was an out-of-work but well-educated 26-year-old, A Little History was intended for young readers.

Gombrich moved to London in 1936, was knighted in 1972, and became one of the most famous art historians of our age. (See the book he’s most famous for, The Story of Art, for example.) He revised A Little History in 2005 and finally wrote his own English translation.

It starts with a fairly simple-to-grasp but encompassing four-page intro to history called “Once Upon A Time.” The penultimate chapter is entitled “The Small Part of the History of the World Which I Have Lived Through Myself: Looking Back.”

In between, its 385 pages has 40-in-all chapters, each fewer than 10 pages (and some as short as just two pages in length). They literally cover everything from the Stone Age to the atomic bomb. Written in a voice certain to appeal to its original target audience, A Little History does so without “talking down” to readers of any age and is appealing regardless of an indivudal’s depth of knowledge of history.

In fact, A Little History is not little at all. The book jacket says it well: “This is a text not dominated by dates and facts, but by the sweep of mankind’s experience across the centuries, a guide to humanity’s achievements, and an acute witness to its frailties.”

Quite a promise to a history lover like me.

And thus far it’s certainly lived up to that promise! I’m only about 50 pages in and I feel like I’ve learned A LOT in just that little bit of reading.

While I agree with that encapsulization of its scope, the dates ARE in there (with comparisons from one region to the other to provide insightful context) and so are the facts, covering everything from word origins (why we call austere living “Spartan”) to the very human reason the seafaring Phoenicians created the alphabet we still use today — they wanted to stay in touch with loved ones back home.

Adding to my enjoyment are the entrancing line drawings which begin each chapter and adorn the cover. By the British anarchist Clifford Harper, the woodcuts lend a grace imminently suited to Gombrich’s “amiable conversational style.”

This little volume warrants its rave reviews; Peter picked this up for me on a recent trip to Philadelphia and I have a feeling it will be one of those lifetime keepers.

While not your typical beach read, and even if you’re not a passionate cobblestone-cathedral-castle-and-culture monger like we are — I highly recommend checking it out!

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