Thursday, May 12, 2016

Philadelphia Museum of Art

I took the above photo on Thursday last week. On Friday, the weather had descended from overcast to pure crap. So it was a perfect day to go to the museum.

I have to admit that I was a bit trepidatious. I had a whole afternoon to, um, kill; I wondered how long I'd last at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. As it turned out, I was surprised. I enjoyed myself. Perhaps part of it was because I was by myself and I didn't have to worry about how someone I was with might be reacting to what I was seeing. It was just me, myself and I.

This was by itself a source of, well, "unknown-ness." I wrote yesterday about how I felt "hollow" when I was at Independence Historical Park. I had felt very alone there. I was reminded of when I traveled to Europe for the first time in the spring of 1982. I journeyed with a college friend (who was studying in Paris) to Rome, Florence and Switzerland, then headed by myself to London. I had planned to spend several days there, then head north to Scotland. But I found, upon arrival in London, that I felt so utterly alone that I decided to cancel the rest of my trip and fly back to the States the very next day.

Me in St. Peter's Square, Rome, 1982

I was therefore surprised when I didn't feel this sense of "alone-ness" when I started meandering through the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I instead found myself actually enjoying the experience as I wandered from room to room in the "European Art" section of the museum.

Part of this was attributable, I think, to a game I had devised for myself when Mark and I toured the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam last fall (which I wrote about here): I focused on paintings of men. It was fun ... and fascinating.

The above picture is of Jacopino del Conte's "Portrait of a Gentleman." One of the things I found fascinating as I strolled from painting to painting in the European section was noticing the dress of the subjects. This gentleman's dress is not remarkable, but I found his gaze - and his fingers - interesting.

The next two paintings pictured are by Simon Vouet, a French artist who is credited with helping to bring the Italian baroque to France. He painted the following two paintings while in Rome in the 1620's. The first is of the evangelist, Saint Luke. I found the depiction utterly fascinating. This guy looks like a hipster who could (but for the dress, perhaps) work for Apple, Google or Twitter. He is so ... young and ... those eyes - disengaged? And I don't know what was with his hands. I'm sure an art historian could explain it.

The next painting by Vouet was of John the Evangelist. I wasn't totally surprised to see him depicted as even younger. Much younger. This is the disciple whom Jesus loved. And he is depicted as almost a boy. Yet perplexed, worried, concerned. With the same enigmatic hand gesture. I found myself wondering about Vouet's model for this portrait. A young Roman boy. Who was he?

Now, for something completely different. I was captivated by the portrait of Benjamin Franklin pictured below, which was painted by a woman, Anne-Rosalie Bocquet Filleul, in the late 1770's when Franklin was in Paris representing the interests of the young United States of America. I thought it the most human of any portrait of this much-lionized man that I had ever seen. The sculpture of a presumably older Franklin was also interesting.

Continuing with the "man theme," I thought this portrait by Charles Willson Peale also very interesting. Colonel Cadwalader had, I thought, a penetrating gaze, and I wondered what he looked like without his wig. I also wondered whether it was fashionable in those days for handsome men to have pot guts.

I was interested in the sculpture picture below because it is of Gian Lorenzo Bernini, one of the most famous sculptors and architects of the Roman baroque period. I had been privileged to see some of his work during several trips to Rome over the years, such as his fountain in Piazza Navonna (pictured below) that I photographed during our visit last fall.

And, speaking of our trip to Europe last fall, I adored the following two paintings of the city I fell in love with - Venice. The first is The Bucintoro at the Molo on Ascension Day by Canaletto, which shows the Doge's palace and St. Mark's Campanile (bell tower). The second, by Francesco Guardi, is of the Grand Canal and features San Simone Piccolo and Santa Lucia. It immediately reminded me of my favorite photo that I took in Venice (taken from a different angle), pictured below the photograph of the painting.

Another aspect of the Philadelphia Museum that I enjoyed were the many rooms (including wood paneling, stone work, etc.) that had been transplanted from places in England, France, Germany, Japan, China and elsewhere. Although I haven't been to a lot of museums across America, I had never seen anything like this. It gave a real feeling of being in Europe or Asia.

Several rooms from British country houses

A twelfth-century fountain from a French abbey

Ceiling from a 15th-century Chinese monastery

So, an interesting afternoon. I left the museum feeling enriched, and I'm sure some of this feeling was  attributable to the fact that I knew I was going to blog about the experience. This made me look for things, notice things, appreciate things that I might not have otherwise. This is one of the reasons I decided to continue blogging: doing do forces me to look more carefully at life.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Philadelphia Walkabout

I got back Monday night from a trip to North Carolina and Philadelphia. I went to Durham for a long overdue visit with my sister and her husband, then traveled to Philly for a visit with friends Tom and his husband, Michael. Mark and I first met Tom on our Corsican cycling tour in September 2012 then joined him and others for our second tour from Geneva to Nice in September 2014.

Martha and me

Martha and her husband, Koen

The last time Mark and I visited Martha was two years ago when we went to witness her receive her doctorate from the University of North Carolina. It was an amazingly fun weekend. Here, we're pictured with our daughter, Rachel, who came down from Philadelphia (where she was working at the time) for the weekend.

After several days in North Carolina, I headed for Philly. My first day there was spent walking around the city under overcast skies while Tom and Michael were busy at work. What follows are images from that day. 

The lead photo, by the way, is of a sculpture in the 30th Street Station in Philadelphia. Tom had told me to take the train from the airport to the station, then walk through the hall "past the black angel" where I would find a taxi to his home. I had no idea what the "black angel" would look like, but I was so taken aback by the beauty of it that I had to take a picture. "The Angel of the Resurrection" commemorates the 1307 Pennsylvania Railroad employees who died in World War II. It was the first instance of something I would experience over the next few days - the beauty of public sculpture that, living in Salt Lake, I am not often exposed to.

The Rodin Museum

Logan Square and Reading Terminal Market

There are sculptures of three recumbent Native Americans in the fountains on Logan Square, each representing one of the three rivers of Philadelphia. This powerfully-built brave represents the Delaware.

The new Mormon temple visible past the fountains and sculptures of Logan Square.

I walked through Terminal Market. I resisted the Amish donuts, pies and other baked goods, the chocolate-covered pretzels and a myriad of other temptations and settled for a chicken gyro for lunch.

Independence Historical Park

As I approached Independence Historical Park, I had many thoughts running through my mind. I thought about how my dad, step-mother, sister Martha and I had visited this spot on 4 July 1976 - the Bicentennial. How we had seen the Liberty Bell, how we had seen President Ford speak (all we could really see from our vantage point was his bald head), how I - like millions of other school children - had been taught to revere these hallowed places. 

I thought about how I had once loved American history, but how that love had been largely lost over the years for a number of reasons. How things were not as simple as they had been presented to us as school children. How I was surrounded by scores of modern school children who were being taught the same myths that I had been taught. I thought of my own children and wondered whether I would feel differently if my younger children were there with me. I thought of how I had taken my three older children to Gettysburg, Williamsburg, and Washington, DC in 2005 and how much fun we had had on that trip.


But time had marched on. And what I felt that day in Philadelphia last week was a sense of hollowness. On the mall in front of the visitors' center, a small group of people were giving speeches and prayers to mark a national day of prayer. They all sound so angry, I thought. And somehow it all seemed so hollow. 

I noticed and catalogued all these thoughts and feelings ... and walked on. There was nothing for me there that day. Perhaps some other day.*

Me (God, what socks), Martha and Dad (what a leisure suit!) on the same spot,
4 July 1976. What a 70's moment!

* While I was in Philly, I read an advertisement in the New York Times Book Review for a new book entitled Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold and the Fate of the American Revolution. I started reading it yesterday. In his introduction, the author, Nathaniel Philbrick, writes about the man who served as secretary of the Continental Congress for 15 years who wrote a memoir about his experience. Some years later, this man destroyed his yet-unpublished manuscript, feeling that the myth that had arisen around the Revolution was too powerful and too well accepted to allow for the truth of what had actually happened. "Let the world admire the supposed wisdom and valor of our great men," he wrote. "Perhaps they may adopt the qualities that have been ascribed to them, and thus good may be done. I shall not undeceive future generations." Perhaps, I thought as I read this, there was yet room for a resurrection of my love of American history.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

A New Journey ... A New Blog

Five and a half years ago, I began a journey that took me out of the closet, marriage and Mormonism.  Four and a half years ago, I began another journey when I met Mark, the man who would become my husband - a man who I fully expected to spend the rest of my life with. But 18 months into our relationship, he was diagnosed with inoperable advanced stage prostate cancer. A little over two months ago, he died.

Now, I find myself once again embarking on another journey. When I came out, I started blogging under a pseudonym, Invictus Pilgrim. When I met Mark, I closed that blog and began blogging a few months later on Nuovo Uomo. For four years, I wrote about our journey together. When Mark died, I thought for a time I would leave blogging behind me. But the urge to write reasserted itself, and after thinking about it for several weeks, I decided to start this new blog to chronicle my new journey. I don't know how often I'll write; I'm not going to put any pressure on myself.

I chose the title From Here to There to reflect the fact that I don't know where my new journey will take me. Of course, there are constants, especially my relationships with my children. But for the first time in over 30 years, I find myself living alone. Among other things, I face a new opportunity for self-discovery, which is both enticing and somewhat terrifying at times. I hope to find love again, yet I don't know where or when it will be found.

I have learned enough these past two months to know that I must be patient, that I must acknowledge feelings of loss, disorientation and fear without letting them overwhelm me, and that I mustn't "try for an outcome." In this regard, I have had opportunity during these past weeks to reflect upon a quote by John Tarrant that was used in our commitment ceremony in August 2013. It was so appropriate for Mark and I then, and it is appropriate for me now.

"Love is fundamentally honest. It doesn't try for an outcome;
it doesn't wish it had a different moment from the one it 
has now or different people from the ones it is with.
Love trusts that it is not separate from the world
because it is the world."

And so, the next journey begins.