Thursday, March 24, 2016

Palm Fronds In Paris, Bombings in Brussels

Some things are constant around the world.

Like daring, precocious little boys.

Like palm fronds on the Sunday before Easter..

I discovered this on a trip to Paris with my daughter years ago, chaperoning her high school choir's tour of France and Switzerland. Among many venues, the choir was scheduled to sing at Englis - Saint Augustin church in Paris.

As soon as we arrived, a group of French 'boy scouts' converged at the door. Rambunctious and rowdy, they wrestled on the 150 year-old steps of this 19th century church. My four boys had stayed home with my husband in the States.  The sight of this was so comforting. Boys are wild the world over, not just in my family.

The boys tumbled into the church and went straight for the candles. I couldn't believe my eyes. They didn't just dip their fingers in the melted wax, they poured the hot liquid over their bare hands, squealing in painful delight. The more pain, the better. I felt my parenting vindicated as I watched these European youths at church. Despite their boisterous beginning, they managed to settle down and behave quite well during the very long service.

As the church filled up, attendees were handed not palm fronds, but bush twigs for the Palm Sunday celebration commemorating Jesus' Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. I was surprised there were no palm leaves. But, of course!  This is Paris in March, not California or Florida where I've lived. Shrub sprigs will have to do! I saved one all these years, it struck me so.

But the palm fronds and shrubs sprigs are not the point. It was Jesus' royal procession into Jerusalem and the people's worshipful response.

The people hailed him by waving the palm leaves.

They cried, "Hosanna!" which means "Lord, save us!" They believed that Messiah would save them from the oppressive Roman rule and restore a better government.

Save, He did. But it was an internal and spiritual saving accomplished on a cross days later. He saved and saves us from the tyrannical rule of ourselves.

How appropriate in the light of the Brussel's attacks and our chaotic presidential campaign. We are in great need of saving politically and spiritually. No one argues there is something terribly wrong with humankind. Some call it sin or a destructive nature or negativity. 

"Hosanna, hosanna! Lord, save us!" would still be the cry of many today. The phrase is no less meaningful 2000 years later.

Let's pick up our palms and  bush branches and praise the One who saves. Messiah has come!  Let's give Him rule of our hearts. If we could all be changed on the inside, the outside world might look quite different!

Friday, March 18, 2016

Henry Flagler: Cultural Pioneer

Flagler College, St Augustine
Last weekend I traveled to St Augustine for a reunion with my New England cousins. We stayed at the Sarah Petty Anderson house in the heart of America's first town, within walking distance of all the major sights like the San Marco Fort and the renown Flagler College. What a gorgeous structure Flagler built back in 1888 as his first hotel to support his railroad system the sun-seekers of a century ago!

Flagler Museum courtyard
Even though I was far from Wellington, I mused on how Flagler impacted these two cities and all the communities along Florida's coast. 

Hi second hotel was built in West Palm Beach. 

If it weren't for pioneers such as Henry Flagler, we wouldn't have Wellington, much less the art and culture we enjoy in this community.  Sure, someone else probably would have built the railroads and settled the swampy land. But he did it, and his story is worth retelling and appreciating.

Upon a visit to Jacksonville for his wife's health, Flagler bought the Jacksonville, St Augustine and Halifax railroads in partnership with John D. Rockefeller. 

Flagler built his first hotel in St Augustine, The Ponce de Leon Hotel, which is now Flagler College. It was and still is considered an architectural marvel. After establishing three hotels, and the huge Memorial Presbyterian Church, in memory of a deceased daughter,  he and his Florida East Coast Railway continue southward. 

He purchased an existing hotel in Ormond Beach, then visited Lake Worth, which he referred to as a "veritable paradise." He built his second hotel, The Poinciana, boasting as the largest all wooden structure in the world with a dining room that seated 1600.

Poinciana Hotel
Then came another little (I jest) local hotel named the Palm Beach Inn, known to us as "The Breaker's."

The Breaker's Hotel, Palm Beach
Art and Architecture

Though not an artist, per se, his sense of beauty in architecture paved the way for arts and culture to grow and thrive as beautifully as the flowers for which this state was named. 

Flagler College lobby - St Augustine

In fact, over time, much of the land he owned became sites for several cultural establishments, such as The Norton Museum of Art, the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens, and the Palm Beach County History Museum and 1916 Courthouse. All these were part of his Model Land Company, owning 2 million acres from Jacksonville to Key West.

In 1902, Flagler raises his Palm Beach home, called Whitehall, which brings me to the thrust of this article, because it's Around Wellington.

There's a lot more to see than the 75 rooms, including ballrooms and dining rooms.  Whitehall, this Gilded Age specimen, is of course open for tours, but it also offers cultural events and tours of the Breaker's Hotel.


Here are some upcoming events at the museum. 

Saturday, April 9, 3pm - Blue Grass Concert - Flatt Lonesome and Lonesome River Band - tickets $35

Saturday, , May 7, 11:30am - Mother's Day Tea

Sunday, May 5, 12 noon  - Mother's Day Tea

Sunday, June 5th  - Founder's Day - Free tours of the Flagler Estate

Watch a Lecture about the Architects of The BreakersSchultzeWeaver_lecture_thumbnail-3738
This lecture on architects Schultze & Weaver was part of the 26th Annual Whitehall Lecture Series on "The Architects Who Designed Palm Beach's Iconic Buildings." Jonathan Mogul is the Academic Programs Coordinator at the Wolfsonian at Florida International University. He co-authored "Grand Hotels of the Jazz Age: The Architecture of Schultze & Weaver."

Lecture on Breaker's architects

With all this to do in our own backyard, there's no need to travel to St Augustine just to see amazing art and culture unless, of course, it's to visit cousins.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Farewell To February. Hold On To Your Valentine.

It's the month of love, candy, president's birthdays and sweet valentines. We honor, celebrate and whoop it up with chocolate, flowers, date nights and mushy cards.

Vector by Sannare -

Even with the leap year and longer month that brought the unusual "29th" of February, we must say good-bye, at last.

But, bid our Valentines farewell, we won't. Most of us shouldn't. Those of us who live in marriage land would do well to hold on tight to our lovers!

At 39 years of marriage, I often campaign for the institution. Not because it's been continually happy and fulfilling, but because I believe in the bond, the knot, the covenant. And also, darn it, because I really love my husband. Marriage is the bedrock of a country; the glue of society.  It is the deep-seated security of children and creates more stable and productive citizens.

Some call marriage a mystery. Some call it an art.

When my mother moved from Florida to San Diego in 2002, one of her paintings didn't survive the trip. A corner of the canvas already peeling off the frame, by the time it reached California, it had crumpled into a fetal position. Once an impressionistic swirl of forest greens and earth tones depicting "A Mid-Summer Night's Dream," it now lay as a shapeless pile of paint and burlap.

Ruel Crompton Tuttle, 'Uncle Rulie' to my mother and the family portrait artist, created a trio of scenes from Shakespeare's play, including "Puck" which still lives on my brother's bedroom wall. But this one, hurt and hopeless, was headed for the trash.

In an effort to resuscitate the ailing artwork, mom drove it to the Balboa Park Museum. Can the picture be saved? As damaged as it was, refurbishing would only cost a few hundred dollars. But, for some strange reason, none of us made the effort, nor paid the price for restoration. And no one went back to the museum to get it.

Fifteen years later, we find this formerly abandoned painting online, intact, restored, beautiful. And going for a pretty penny. Our negligence was someone else's gain - a vivid lesson in perseverance, or the lack thereof.

This story could well be applied to people, instead of paintings.

How many of us deem the damaged relationships as discards? We mark a marriage remnant as irreparable. We declare "I'm done," when with a some effort and investment, the marriage could regain it's former value. It could be an exquisite work of art. Instead, we prematurely abandoned a masterpiece in disguise.

I've seen couples heal despite the betrayal of infidelity. Still, many leave for the most trivial offenses.

So, on the heels of February, here's to forever love.
Messy and marvelous love
Lush and lack-luster love
Exhilarating and exasperating,
Enduring love.

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