VETERANS’ DAY — A QUESTION OF FORGIVENESS

Hawaiian Lei of Double Orchids

Hawaiian Lei of Double Orchids

In the 1990’s, I was asked to read my poems on Hawaii to a friend’s class at Chaminade University.  Little did I know that her classroom was on Pearl Harbor.  I had been a child when that horrific bombing took place.  It was December.  I had a newborn little sister, soon to be part of our family Christmas that year.  It was the Christmas that never came, –our beloved America having been attacked, the world at war, so many wars.

U.S.S. Arizona Burning, Pearl Harbor, 1941

U.S.S. Arizona Burning, Pearl Harbor, 1941

We were all taught, as the South Pacific song insists, to hate.  Especially to hate Hitler, Mussolini (“was a meanie”) and all the “Japs.”

When you’re that little yourself, those teachings go deep.

No way could I have imagined taking steps onto Pearl Harbor, let alone to read poems (some of which were anti-military, as in “when are we going stop bombing Kahoolawe?”), to soldiers, –to men and women in uniform, at that sacred site.

Hawaiian soldiers taught me, in that room, in that class, “We don’t bomb Kahoolawe any more.  Each weekend, I lead a detail, removing materiel from the island….  When we are finished, we will have a healing ceremony.”

So my poem, with its longing to wrap the stafed, yes wounded, exposed red flesh/soil of that beleaguered island in white gauze, to comfort her, brought a happy ending.

The next morning, my friend (Bernadette Thibodeau, a year older, with whom I’d grown up in Michigan) and I returned to Pearl to make our own ritual visit to the Arizona, still beneath the waves, still holding its dead since 1941.

The black and white films of the bombing did not work that day.

We filed out of the theatre into searing sunlight, joining a long and silent line of mostly Japanese men.

They were all wearing leis.

Hawaiian Lei of Green Leaves

Hawaiian Lei of Green Leaves

No one spoke.

We walked onto the memorial above the doomed ship.

U.S.S. Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor

U.S.S. Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor

The Japanese moved, one-by-one, to various parts of that structure.

Each one, alone, observed a time of silence.

Then each one removed his lei and softly tossed it onto the waters.

Hawaiian Plumeria Lei

Hawaiian Plumeria Lei

The leis mixed with rainbows from still-leaking oil.

My healing with regard to that country, whom we so wounded, commenced as those leis began to fall.

Diver Touches Drowned U.S.S. Arizona

Diver Touches Drowned U.S.S. Arizona

Far Beyond Hikes and New England Beauty — Mass Moca’s Amazing Art

Mass Moca Exhibits, late October 2014

Mass Moca Exhibits, late October 2014

NJWILDBEAUTY readers know that Deb Hill and I spent a late October week in the Berkshire mountains, mostly hiking, much art, and, o, yes, food.  I’m torn today between giving you our astonishing Bennington VT stroll, our electrifying views from the Apple Barn on the way to Bennington, and the art of Mass Moca.

The last wins, for sheer outrageousness.  I’d get right back in that car and drive to Willilamstown tomorrow morning, if it weren’t for saving New Jersey Land at D&R Greenway – so we could return to Mass Moca’s thrilling and thought-provoking art installations.

Walk with us through the parking lot:

Approaching Mass Moca's Front Entrance

Approaching Mass Moca’s Front Entrance

Mass Moca Alleyway

Mass Moca Alleyway

Gramercy Restaurant, that doesn't do lunch in late October

Gramercy Restaurant, that doesn’t do lunch in late October

Techno-Beauty, Mass Moca

Techno-Beauty, Mass Moca

Campanile, Mass Moca

Campanile, Mass Moca

O, ‘Moca’ means Museum of Contemporary Art.

Those of you who’ve been up there know that this was a factory, enormous and (to me) stultifying to its human occupants.  That brilliant and courageous people conceived of transforming this enormous set of structures, determined to bring North Adams, Mass., back to life after its inescapable desertion by industry.  The courageous ones found backers, successfully creating one of the most stunning art settings of my entire life here and in Europe.

Now, North Adams is a happening town, what my mother would say, is “full of ginger.”  Probably quite literally, as the restaurant scene is lively and ever-expanding.  A delightful set of once run-down houses has been turned into a place to stay, called “The Porches.”  You can see these engaging dwellings from the museum.  Manhattanites delight in coming up to partake of their unique hospitality.

But Mass Moca’s not just about art.  Every installation teaches.  Scenes from past visits still fill my head, more irresistible than sugarplums, — teaching about the circularity of the environment, about poisons in our food, making us face the beauty of polluted landscapes, confront the inescapability of wars — all through astounding beauty.

Spectator with Teresita Fernandez Multi-Room Installation that seemed like massive bird migration, even how passenger pigeons may have been...

Spectator with Teresita Fernandez Multi-Room Installation that seemed like massive bird migration, even how passenger pigeons may have been…

Room With a View, Teresita Fernandez Installation Suffuses Another Room

Room With a View, Teresita Fernandez Installation Suffuses Another Room

Teresita Fernandez Molten Gold on Jet Black Background -- 3-D Printing!

Teresita Fernandez Molten Gold on Jet Black Background — 3-D Printing!

Teresita Fernandez Tube Installation

Teresita Fernandez Tube Installation

A Constellation of Tubes

A Constellation of Tubes

Wheeling Through the Tubes

Wheeling Through the Tubes

Tubes from the Balcony, Where Supervisors No Doubt Scrutinized Factory Workers

Tubes from the Balcony, Where Supervisors No Doubt Scrutinized Factory Workers

Original Factory Wall

Original Factory Wall

Are You Amazed Yet?

Throughout the museum, architects left walls, ceilings, floors, pillars, and even the restrooms, as they were when they were the habitat of workers.

Factory Washroom, Down the Basement

Factory Washroom, Down the Basement

Factory Bathroom, Left Mostly Intact

Factory Bathroom, Left Mostly Intact

I have the eeriest sense of understanding places like concentration camps, when I am faced with the realities of these long ago workers.

Back to Teresita's Black and Gold Art, which brings up industry, oil, gold, greed, through beauty...

Back to Teresita’s Black and Gold Art, which brings up industry, oil, gold, greed, through beauty…

Splendid and Irresistible Abstraction -- We could hardly tear ourselves away...

Splendid and Irresistible Abstraction — We could hardly tear ourselves away…

Plastics Array -- to Force Us to Contemplate the Role of Plastic in Our Lives...

Plastics Array — to Force Us to Contemplate the Role of Plastic in Our Lives…

This is the work of Lee Boroson, who is quintessentially suited to Mass Moca’s artistic and intellectual paradigm.

Each room is a journey, some easier than others.  All unforgettable.

Come back outside with us now.

Restaurant Wing, Mass Moca

Restaurant Wing, Mass Moca

Departing Mass Moca

Departing Mass Moca

We could not eat at Gramercy, despite its enchanting, old-world name.

Deb’s Garmin led us to a restored rail yard, with a famous pub.

The Freight Yard Pub

The Freight Yard Pub

We were welcomed with a real hardwood fire, and tables of formidable women and men in Harley garb.  I was told they are quite particular about their lunch stops.

I fell for their vaunted (purportedly nearby) Boston Clam Chowder and Crab Cake — a big mistake.  The craft beers were splendid and seasonal and welcome.  This is, i later learned, Burger Central.

The Freight Yard's Famous Coffee Place

The Freight Yard’s Famous Coffee Place

There’s a famous tunnel, dug through the mountains, near North Adams — a tunnel in which many died during construction.  It’s a key tourist attraction, which we neglected to visit.

Sense of Olde London in the Restored Freightyard Area

Sense of Olde London in the Restored Freightyard Area

Mass Moca is light years, but only minutes, from quaint Williamstown, of my previous post.  In fact, Mass Moca is light years from most museums I have ever visited in any country.

It is a country unto itself, with tremendous consciousness, determined to wake up its countless visitors to realities in their 21st Century world.

Truly, as Michelin says of restaurants, Mass Moca is “Vaut le Voyage” — Worthy of the Journey!