As you know from my previous post, Jesse’s Dream Skirt is a children’s story about a little boy who wears a skirt to daycare. But did you know there are actually two published versions of the story?
Before it was picked up by the feminist publishing collective Lollipop Power, the story was first printed in 1977 in a “socialist journal of gay liberation” called Magnus. The magazine only had two issues before it folded, and the story appeared in issue #2. Continue reading
Jesse loves to wear things that whirl, twirl, and flow. How will the children react to him when he wears a skirt to daycare?
This project starts with a children’s book but goes beyond.
The book, Jesse’s Dream Skirt, was written by Bruce Mack (a.k.a. Morning Star or morningstar), illustrated by myself, Marian Buchanan, and published by Lollipop Power in 1979.
One of the things I’ll be sharing here is a chronicle of the making and impact of the book. Continue reading
Who is it who has such a long name? My mother. The “Buchanan” at the end came later, when she married my father, but even before that, it’s a bit of a long name. This photo will give you a sense of why she inherited family-names-as-middle-names from her family roots. (Does anyone still publish announcements like this? Is there even such a thing anymore as this kind of social column? I imagine she would be around 18 in the picture, so around 1939.) The caption says:
MISS HARRIET PATTERSON
Miss Patterson, debutante daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Sterling Patterson and granddaughter of George Dobbin Penniman, will leave for New York February 13 to visit her uncle and aunt, Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Sioussat.
If you’re interested in her mother’s side of the family, there are some genealogy books on the Pennimans, published in the 1980s, that are now available for digital borrowing from OpenLibrary.org. Her mother, my grandmother, was Harriet Wilson Dushane Penniman, given number 147.192.413 in the numbering system used in the books. So my mother would be number 147.192.413.1 (and I would be 147.192.413.13).
It was because she had such a string of long middle names herself that my mother gave me and my sisters no middle names at all. Since the culture’s convention is for women to take their husband’s last name and men to keep their own, my parents figured that my sisters and I would have our last name as a middle name if we ever married, and gave my brother one single middle name, a family name from my father’s side of the family.
My mother was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on January 17th, 1921. She died in France in May 2001.
I wanted to write up something very special about my mother today, to honour and celebrate her on her birthday, but I find myself at a loss for words. Let me give you a glimpse of her through this painting instead, a portrait she did of me when I was 8 years old.
She signed her artwork in various ways — her full name was Harriet Dushane Penniman Patterson Buchanan, which is a bit long and she never included it all. This painting, she signed simply Buchanan. It’s called “Mousey” for one very obvious reason, but I think perhaps also for another. When I was 8, I had a pet mouse to whom I gave that very straightforward (some would say unimaginative) name. Here we are, Mousey and I, in our quiet, gentle little world together. My mother took some artistic liberties in giving me lighter hair than I actually had at that time — I had gone from blond to brown at around age 4 — but I think she really captured something of the mousey shyness I experienced (sometimes painfully so) at age 8.
This is obviously not the first work she ever did, and not her only style. She attended the Maryland Institute College of Art as a young woman and although she never became well-known as an artist, she continued to paint and draw her whole life — well enough, I think, to deserve a little late recognition.
Someday I’d like to show you more of her paintings, sketches, and pen-&-ink illustrations, and there’s also so much else I’d like to say about who my mother was as a person, how she impacted me as her daughter and friend, and how fond of her everyone else who met her seemed to be as well. In the meantime, I thought sharing this oil painting with you would give you a glimpse of her talent, and help me lovingly celebrate at least this one facet of her, on her birthday.
Background notes on this poem:
- I knew Andrea Currie through yoga, when I lived in Halifax in the early-mid-1980’s. She joined the a capella group Four The Moment while I was still there, and I loved her singing voice as much as her soft speaking voice and gentle manner.
- She once made and gave me a string of origami paper cranes, which, as I understand it, have been a Japanese symbol of longevity and became a symbol of peace after a little girl, victim of the Hiroshima nuclear bombing, took on the project of making as many paper cranes as she could before she died of cancer.
- Voice of Women is a non-partisan Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) advocating for a world without war. They used to sell the poster I describe in the poem, and I hung my copy of it in the hallway where it could remind me every day to be hopeful that each and every little voice does make a difference.
Voice of Andrea
Through dusty glass pane
the branches outside my window
seem to bathe in smokey blue-grey.
to the heartbeat
of the wind,
sweep the illusory thickness
like fingers trailing thoughtlessly through water.
A leaf becomes deliberate in its wobble,
with licking motion,
of my gently-spinning paper cranes.
Double panes against the cold
have multiplied the mobile into many ghosts,
potentialities in smokey limbo.
For every voice that speaks aloud
there are ten more whispers dawning.
On the wall in the hallway
a Voice-of-Women poster
tells the story
of the coalmouse asking
what is the weight of a snowflake.
“Nothing more than nothing”
says the dove in reply.
How then does a branch
under the fall
of one last crystal?
Only one more voice is needed
to bring peace into the world.
Outside my window
the branches nod.
I think of Andrea
folding pink paper into
origami messages of peace,
giving me this gift.
is sweet and true when she sings.
is gentle when she talks.
Soft like a whisper,
like a delicate miracle of water taking shape,
using harsh conditions of cold
patterns of intricate beauty.
Copyright © Marian Buchanan, 1989
When I attended l’École supérieure des beaux-arts de Tour, in France in 1972, one of the assignments was to create an abstract self-portrait. I never got around to painting the final version, but this is the coloured-pencil sketch I did for it.
My idea for it was the experience that there are no boundaries to the Self except the artificial ones of any frame that cordons off an almost arbitrary pocket of the swirling pattern of the universe. The swirls continue beyond what is visible, connected inseparably with the rest of oneness. The blues and greens of this abstract self-portrait were the quiet colours I felt most comfortable with, and so that corner of the universe is where the kernel of seed-like heart energy nestled, but there is no real reason to consider the visible pocket to be the extent of who or what I am. Now, as at age 18, this is still how I experience my selfhood, when I consider it at all.
I do so now because of the paradox of the exercise I am about to engage in: making “myself” visible to “the world” in a more “personal” way than I have so far done through my income-earning-related online presence. In effect, saying, “This is me as a person.”
To do this, I am cordoning off a pocket of the web to serve as a living space for sharing the person-based endeavours of the personality connected to this particular vortex of swirls. Setting up a domain name that is my “actual” name in the social sense might seem to be a bit steeped in the ego aspect of selfhood. Yet being in the world does manifest as a certain localization of apparent personality, and so, here I am.