Princeton, New Jersey
about my background, about my faith,
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My earliest memories are of the woods; "spring beauties", "jack in the pulpit" and "skunk cabbage" that announced the Spring and catching minnows in the creek. My parents loved nature (and painters of nature) and it rubbed off on the children. We vacationed in the woods from one end of the U.S. to the other. We were not a particularly religious family although we did go to church. Our father read to us; Swiss family Robinson and Dickens and we had exposure to Christian viewpoints and compassion in that way
Dad was a staunch liberal. We listened to the news together in the 50s, and heard the school desegregation cases and "hoped for a better day". If there was anything that I knew about God other than that He was the creator, it was that he cared about all races of people. When I was 15, I was asked to paint a picture on "the meaning of America"and after discussing it with my father, decided to paint a black child and a white child playing together on a beach, a prophetic painting for me.
In 1960, I attended the Phila. College of Art and although it had been my plan to just "have fun",events in the city made it necessary to take a stand one way or the other on issues that before had been purely theoretical. Art schools are famous for their philosophical extremes. I knew people who were reading Sartre and Camu and others reading Nietche and even Hitler and in addition it was the beginning of that notorious decade, the 60's! Why was it that I preferred Jonathon Edwards poetry which I was reading for my American lit class to Sartre who upper classmates thought was so cool? I was appalled when my friend wanted me to read Hitler and like a time capsule opening in my heart, I began looking for the civil rights movement and found it in a coffee house where I met my future husband. Civil rights and to a lesser degree, Eastern religion were what we discussed there. We took part in the rallies and folk singing of that era. At home we read Tolkien and Hess,listehed to Coltrane, had two sweet children, and lived in a third floor walkup near "Powelton Village" and "hoped for a better day". During those years, my art was confined to charcoals, small portraits of my children and the musicians and their wives who were our friends. Abstract flowers, remnants of my past life found their way into my few paintings. Marijuana was popular among the people we knew and during the years we were together, at least three friends, all musicians, became addicted to heroin as well. Others, we knew of, died of overdoses. How desolately sad it was to see people we loved killing themselves on drugs.
As racial conflicts escalated in the city and distrust grew, the civil rights movement changed from a peaceful nonviolent protest movement into something bitter and violent and dangerous for us. Social conflict was pulling our social network apart and tearing at our marriage. My husband wanted to move into a communal group I felt suspicious of. Then a friend and I each, separately, became victims of violence. Eventually my husband moved into the group and I moved to Princeton with the children. I went back to school for a semester and then got a job in an African American church. The pastor there was primarily political. In the leadership void that followed the murders of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, two people whose leadership was full of hope, Princeton seemed only a safer place to hide. Unsatisfied, I moved with the children to San Francisco to look into a left wing political group that was at least racially integrated. But their philosophical base was very different from Dr. King's who as a follower of Ghandi, had learned the principals of nonviolent protest from Tolstoy, who gleaned them from Jesus teaching in the "Sermon on the Mount ".
One day I went to the ER because of a nagging cough and was shocked to find that I needed heart surgery. Suddenly I was faced with my own mortality and political doctrine was woefully inadequate at that moment. I could imagine my children growing up as orphans and what had I taught them that would sustain them? I left our Marxist friends and we went to the home of an aunt and she and her Brethren prayer group began to pray for us and we went back East.
On my way into surgery I remember praying, "Oh God, if there is a God, you know what I'm like. If you want to help me, please...". I experienced an initial lightning recovery and glimpses of the Unseen but then forgot God and healing stagnated and began to regress. A second heart valve was failing. Then when I really despaired of life, my sister and her husband, who had just returned from the West coast moved in with us for a few months. They had become Christians in a revival taking place there, "the Jesus Movement". I initially thought they had lost their minds. They were trying to talk to me about "Adam and Eve"...! Then I had a fantastic dream. I was in a garden and in front of me was the tree of Life. Nobody had to tell me what it was. Then I heard a beautiful voice, the most beautiful that I have ever heard, telling me to leave the garden and I didn't even care what it said because it was so beautiful. I fell on my knees in worship and then woke up. It was the clearest dream I ever had and I knew it came from God. I knew that there must be something I had never seen before in that old story. But because it baffled me so I began reading in the New Testament for surely something uncanny was going on. I was beginning to feel a strange mixture of hope and fear. They had been living in a group started by a Hebrew Christian for about 6 months before they came. As I read the gospels, the first surprising impression of Jesus was how much he cared about people who were oppressed or poor and then I noticed him healing! An internal quiet voice began to talk to my heart in such a personal way. Was it my imagination? And the Voice in my heart and the Bible in my hands and the reality of what was going on began to coincide over the days to come. I asked Him "Do you still do things like this"? "Why don't you try me?" so I asked for healing- for time to care for my children and by my next Dr's appointment my heart valve was working so much better- not only did I feel better, but the Dr. was amazed. I recovered to a large degree and kept on reading the New Testament, I knew I was dealing with the foundation of Reality at this point and in it found "sin"(that old Adam and Eve story)and forgiveness which I so needed and new Life, God's way of dealing with our waywardness, purchased for us at the cross, enough forgiveness for the world. For thirty nine years now I have continued to respond to His Word, and God's Spirit has continued to teach me and to set me free. Over the years my husband and I became close friends again. He became an Orthodox Christian and our friendship was mutually supportive of our children and each other. I won't lie to you and say that it was easy but amazing healing took place in our relationship before he died of COPD last year. We will see each other again someday. Although I still get lost in the fog sometimes, God keeps bringing me back to Himself and I have a sense of purpose and also God's correction. He is still growing my faith and teaching me to trust Him. "Taste and see that the Lord is good. Blessed is the man that trusts in Him."
Most of my adult years, I've lived in minority communities, for six years in the city and for many more in the town of Princeton. Raising my children there was a precious God given calling and involvement in the community backed by my church, and proceeded by prayer was often with children, sometimes using art. My church background gave me a strong interest in missions and when my child rearing days were over I began using my art and graphics training for that purpose. I also paint for the love of it.