All posts by Susan Feathers

Family, friends, nature, books, writing, a good pen and journal, freedom of thought, culture, and peaceful co-relations - these are the things that occupy my mind, my heart, my time...

Discovering Joe Downing

Discovery is the spice of life when we encounter something or someone unexpected. In that discovery, we learn something new about ourselves or the world through the heart and soul of another as I did at the Downing Museum harbored in the Baker Arboretum in Bowling Green, KY.

“Joe Downing is one of only three Americans whose work is exhibited at the Louvre Museum, in Paris, France. “ Born in Horse Cave, Kentucky, Joe Downing grew up on a farm. His parents hoped he would become an optometrist. He graduated at the top of his high school class, then joined his peers to serve in Europe during WWII. He visited Paris at the end of the war, then returned home to finish college. But optometry would not be his path. Soon after graduation he returned to Paris and France where he remained for the rest of his life.

The Downing Museum holds most of the artist’s greatest works– a continuum that shows his evolution as a artist. When he first moved to Paris and worked as a secretary at a law firm to support his art, Joe could not afford expensive paints. He improvised with paper, crayons and staples–accessible to him at his job — to create mixed media art. That is how he began.

 

For most of his early years he lived and worked in Paris but at one point he and a fellow artist bought a house in Menerbes .  The ancient village in Provence gave him a great sense of peace he recalled to friends and family. The space with its adjoining garden created the inspiration for his major works of art. The Downing Museum is a part of the Baker Arboretum, managed by Western Kentucky University. It is a lovely place, fitting to house the works of a man whose eye for color, shape, line, and texture merged into works that give one peace when gazing upon them.

Painted on barn doors from French farmhouse, 200 + years old.
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Little House in Blue Grass

Western Kentucky University

From our community house in Tucson, I traveled Interstate 40 from Arizona to Nashville, Tennessee. There I began a search for affordable housing with the purpose to be closer to family.

Nashville is undergoing an incredible transformation with as many as 80 people a day moving to the city. With the influx, landlords and homeowners are ramping up prices and winning at the game.

I literally drove 100 miles a day looking for housing from one side of Nashville to the other, later moving outward in concentric circles to find something in my price range and requirements for community spirit, health, and safety. A friend suggested I look at Bowling Green, Kentucky, about 50 minutes from downtown Nashville.

Old Towne Apartments

This weekend I moved into a beautiful apartment complex, and I am looking forward to learning more about my new hometown. I can walk on trails across the street and to the library around the corner. I added 235 square feet to have a small guest room. My Little House on Belmont furniture is just the right size, i.e. I need not add anything except an extra bed, someday.

Today, I began exploring at the Kentucky Museum on the campus of Western Kentucky University (WKU). There I was reminded that American communities are places of surprise, hidden gems, and histories of lesser and greater community character.

I learned that during the Civil War, Kentucky was a border state with both slave owners and abolitionists as well as those who advocated for gradual emancipation. The state was at war with itself. Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln, both Kentucky-born, grew into their political and social perspectives on slavery.

Autobiography of Josiah Hensen

I was so impressed with the stories about Joshia Hensen, who escaped slavery to Canada then turned around and risked his life over and over again to bring 200  former slaves to Canada via the Underground Railroad.

The Kentucky Museum showcases an assortment of Bowling Green notables. Exhibits tell the story of ties to South Korea and to Liberia through educators at the university which has an international education focus. A loved the story about Induk Pahk, a Korean- American writer who worked for years to replicate the Kentucky Berea College program. Her campaign – “Berea in Korea” – spanned 30 years of development. While reading about her, I met the Museum’s director, Brent Bjorkman, who explained the museum will soon add an exhibit about the Bosnian refugee resettlement in Bowling Green. Six thousand immigrants were resettled making up 10% of the small city’s population, and conferring a high Muslim population. A 2016 report by the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy shows the significant contribution resettled refugees confer to the state.

And, among Bowling Green notables, Duncan Hines’ rise to fame and fortune is an excellent exhibit that demonstrates an era of growing middle class wealth in America when families looked for yummy food, eating-out,  travel, and the invention of the living room in the out-of-doors (otherwise known as the backyard barbecue). Hines met these food and relaxation innovations with over 150 different products starting with guide books on great places to eat or stay, to producing everything from outdoor grills to great ice cream and his favored cake mixes! I am looking forward to attending Bowling Green’s next Duncan Hines Festival Day and getting my slice of the gigantic cake made each year in celebration of this hometown hero!

 

I finished the long morning’s exploration at Mariah’s with a bowl of hot chili and turkey club!  I think I am in love with Bowling Green and Kentucky already! And I haven’t even been to the Derby yet!

 

Tucson Community House Update

Helen St. House in Historic Blenman-Elm Neighborhood

In late October of 2016, Tom Greco and I went house hunting for us and Jock Millenson to set up a short term living community. Each of us had a purpose to accomplish during a six-month period. For me it was promoting a new book, for Jock setting up the next summer season of holistic living communities in Greece for which he continues to provide inspiration and guidance. Tom planned to work on the E.C. Riegel Institute and specific projects in alternative currencies.

Jock Millenson on Electric Bike on way to Tennis Court

Jock arrived December 1 and stayed through the end of February before taking off for Mexico for R&R. He then planned to return to Greece in the late spring to prepare for the Kalikalos Holistic Living programs in 2017. However, while in Mexico he became very ill and is currently recuperating in New York with friends and family near by. We wish him well and hope and pray he is able to return to Greece this summer.

Tom Greco with Linda Ellinor at Solar Dollar Meet and Greet

Tom and I wrote two grant applications to support the E.C. Riegel Institute and the Solar Dollar Project. Tom and Will Foster, a colleague, hosted a recent Meet and Greet about this project, there was a lot of interest and the event was well attended. We are hopeful that subsequent business meetings will result in a demonstration project here in Tucson, a town with a strong commitment to renewable energy and local exchange.

Launched!

My book, Threshold, is “out there” and making its way around Tucson. In June, Terrain.org — an online journal of the built and natural environment — will feature a Chapter excerpt and recording of me reading on their book review pages.  The book will also be reviewed on the Fellowship for Intentional Communities blog and newsletter this month. I am beginning to think about a sequel, but still not sure. Several readers believe a sequel is called for, and perhaps a miniseries or a play might evolve from the story. All these ideas are heartening for a new fiction writer. I am leaving Tucson feeling grateful to so many readers and supporters, my publisher Fireship Press, and so many friends who have helped in significant ways to help me read and present with a variety of organizations and reading groups. But by far, my most gratifying moment came when I learned the Pima County Library System selected Threshold for their collection.

So we have all accomplished goals, managed to live together and support each other, and now pack the car or fill up storage and take off in different directions: Tom to his granddaughter’s graduation and then Greece, Jock – hopefully to Greece by way of Woodstock, NY – and me to Nashville, TN to see about finding the next “House on Belmont Street”.

Mark Hainds at Milemarker 40, Sonoita, AZ

P.S. Mark Hainds returned to walk another 400 miles of his U.S. – Mexico Border walk. I dropped him off at Mile Marker 40 in Sonoita, AZ and about right now he should be somewhere close to Yuma, where he will catch the Red Eye Special home to Alabama!

Pensacola – Tucson Meet Up!

Mark Hainds at Milemarker 40, Sonoita, AZ
Mark Hainds at mile marker 40, Sonoita, AZ

Mark Hainds, whom many of you may know from the Downtown Market in Pensacola, completed the second leg of his journey to walk the entire U.S. – Mexico Border.

PBS Film La Frontera

Mark is writing a book about his experiences with migrants, people who live in communities along the borders; agencies and churches who are working to protect and support people crossing the border, and the landscape itself. Mark is a forester by profession so he notes watersheds, tree species, and the general condition of the lands that he walks.

My friend, Tom Greco, and I rendezvoused with Mark on Hwy 82 near Sonoita, AZ today as he completed this segment of his walk. Three hundred miles: El Paso to Sonoita.

See Mark’s Facebook Page for wonderful photos of the “wall” and the murals that various groups have created, and the big-hearted people who fed and housed him along the way.

Mark and Susan
Mark and Susan

 

Mark and Tom at Tucson International Airport - Homeward Bound!
Mark and Tom at Tucson International Airport – Homeward Bound!

Tucson is home to many strong border justice organizations. Check out these two:

Borderlinks

No More Deaths

Also, Tucson was the first Sanctuary City in the U.S. through the work of the Southside Presbyterian Church Sanctuary Program which is still instrumental in working for justice for people seeking asylum in the U.S.

Mark will return to Tucson in mid-April to complete the next segment of his border walk. We hope to support him again on the journey.

How to Live Your Life at Age 85

Jock Millenson on Electric Bike on way to Tennis Court
Jock Millenson on Electric Bike on way to Tennis Court

Today, in Tucson, it is a balmy 65 degrees, strong wind, and sunny. Jock is off to the tennis court. He reminds me of my tennis coach in California when I was just 14 years old. “Fred” resembled Jock in many ways, not only his age, but the fact that he swam, ran, and played tennis everyday of the week. Fred was an inspiring elder for me, and now Jock – who is about 15 years my senior – inspires me, too.  Jock reads books late into the night and is working on updating his business website. This is his “down time” before the summer programs he founded begin again in Greece.

Jock created and manages Kalikalos, a summer school like no other. Check it out. You may wish to schedule a summer break with Jock and his instructors, and the beauty of the location.

In another email, I will write about my other Roomy, who is an internationally known expert on alternative exchange economies.

 

More Together

One of my new roommates has a saying whenever we needed a piece of furniture: “It will show up.”

At first it was annoying when we sat on two chairs with a round of glass-top (scavenged from the side of the road) and several cardboard boxes.

Living Room
Living Room

Since then, our third roommate arrived and we have completely decked out the house with thrift store finds such as my $10 desk, a $48 couch, $6 – $8 chairs, etc. One of us managed to negotiate a gorgeous long dining table for $40.

Tom at the table he found.
Tom at the table he found.

We call ourselves a “senior activist community”. Our oldest member, at 85, runs circles around us with his Tai Chi, biking, tennis, and musical practice on his recorder.

What I am learning is profound. First, together we have more for less: each of us pays $400 rent plus ~ $40 in utilities.  And, second, I am amazed at the really great “stuff” we can find at Thrift stores if willing to “wait until it shows up.”

Susan's $10 desk and chair given by a friend.
Susan’s $10 desk and chair given by a friend.

We are each adults with careers – yes, we are still working – and our own grown kids and families. So we live independently, coming together to throw a party, discuss ideas, and help each other achieve our goals. Recently we hosted a house warming with friends of each of us. The house was packed and we all had a wonderful time.

Together does bring more – more of the right kind of things that make life easier and richer.

$8 chair and beautiful Thai Art from the community.
$8 chair and beautiful Thai Art from the community.

New Gig and New House

Blenman Elm Neighborhood Home
Blenman Elm Neighborhood Home

A lot has happened since the last post on this site. First, I published my first novel (Threshold), and second, I’ve relocated to Tucson to promote it. The story takes place in Tucson primarily but it is relevant to Southwestern cities and to anyone concerned about climate change–or not.

Adobe Style Home with desert landsacping
Adobe Style Home with desert landsacping

In Tucson I am trying another new form of living: cohabiting a shared home to reduce costs and enjoy companionship. While this arrangement specifically helps me with a short term stay (6 mos.) to market my book, it is also a little experiment to see how this arrangement might work for me on a more regular basis back home.

Colors blend with sky and earth.
Colors blend with sky and earth.

First, the house will be shared by me and two friends, one I know and the other friend is new to me. We found a 3-bdrm house in an historic neighborhood of Mid-Town Tucson in walkable distance to the university, shops, post office, and library.

The house was built in 1947 by the man for whom the neighborhood is named Harold Blenman and is in the Blenman-Elm Neighborhood. The home is a brick style ranch with a xeroscaped lawn including beautiful desert plants and trees and a gazebo with picnic table and large brick barbeque. The neighbors homes are a variety of styles, also xeroscaped and in pastel colors and brick or adobe.