In March our Journey Daybook alums gathered at a new coffee house that is part of a developing art complex on 6th Street. I was unable to attend this Adventure but I have visited the Curia a few times since because the lovely resting place is in the middle of my zone of Gainesville Activity.
A Friday Adventure to Manatee Springs was the perfect escape from July’s heat! Drawn to the spring’s refreshing beauty, all three participants (Vicki, Susan TJ, and Patty) sat and created pages at the water’s edge, Later in the day, before their pages were completed they reviewed each other’s first attempts, as shown below. To their surprise and delight they discovered their efforts all shared a “spring-like” quality: paintings of the cool, turquoise-colored spring water! Please enjoy other JDB images by clicking on the Journey Daybook Pages page.
Lilliam hosted a Saturday Adventure on 14 June. Because she lives close to the market, the four other participants (Donna, Susan, Vicki, and our guest, Loueen) shared their lunches at Lilliam’s beautiful home. Susan took iphone photos on the spot, preserving the images for all of us to enjoy. Please enjoy the other images on the Journey Daybook Pages page.
Here is Barbara, our leader, standing by the side of the road near Lacoste, a village in the Luberon. In her Facebook post, Barbara says: A stop on the way to Lacoste to look at lavender planted around olive trees in someone’s driveway. I guess that’s as Provençal a setting as one can find. A beautiful day.
Just past midweek with the second group of Journey Daybook alums – the five participants are exhibiting an eager commitment to illustrating and writing on their journey daybook pages. From left to right are Lauren, Barbara, Carolyn and Allison. Kaydie is the photographer. My thanks to Allison for whisking these images to me! As most of these pages do, these speak for themselves in terms of exploratory narrative and emotion, exhibited in part by color use. To me, they give a real feeling of the freshness and sunlit colors of Provence. Keep checking for more journey daybook pages on their own page.
Alison’s page made at the Pont du Gard –
Mary and Jackie sent more photos and some new journey daybook pages from Paris last night. These show many of the activities that they experienced this week with Kaydie, Barbara, Patty, and Sue. I am posting the photos here. Please click on Journey Daybook Pages to see the exciting pages that this group made. In the next days, we look forward to more pages from Paris from Mary, Jackie, Sue, and Barbara.
Our stalwart president and international leader, Barbara, and Kaydie Vistelle, a French/American tour hostess from Gainesville, have spent this week with four other Journey Daybook alums touring several small villages, some of them very old, in Provence. Kaydie has booked the same old farmhouse for the years of her tours, the Gite des Tourtetelles, near Carpentras in the Vaucluse district of Provence – a green, rich, wine producing area. There will be two separate journey daybook groups, each spending a week with Barbara and Kaydie at the gite. Ironically, I have travelled and stayed in this same region over the years and in 2002 led an Adventure with alums (Gypsy and Lois) to many of the same places where the 2015 groups will be. Susan and Lilliam went on one of Kaytee’s tours in 2013. Mary and Jackie have posted several photos and some of their journey daybook pages to Facebook during this week and I have loved seeing them. I hope to include more of them as well as some descriptive text from Barbara in another post very soon. In the meantime, I have posted above a photo of Patty’s journey daybook page made at the wonderful Sunday market in Isle sur la Sorgue. The cool, fast-running Sorgue River runs throughout he center of this picturesque village. The Sunday market is an especially joyous celebration! The market “marchế” has a variety of food, handicrafts, and antiques. (Gypsy spent hours here in 2002 buying “brocantes” to fill up her colorful Cedar Key antique shop!) Patty’s approach to the market was of a more contemplative nature, reflecting the nature of the Journey Daybook Process. It is obvious that the beautiful Vaucluse region of Provence is especially inspirational for all of us! Jackie’s page, below, seems to summarize the bliss of her week’s experience in Provence.
Many organizations are quiet, devoid of meaningful activities during the summer. Not so with the Journey Daybook! As summer arrives, some of our alums are attending a special Adventure to the south of France (more about this on a later post). Groups are attending regular monthly Adventures in our area, and still other alums are taking individual, personal Adventures in our area and beyond.
A special volunteer luncheon was held last week that honored all the volunteers who work at the Florida Women’s Reception Center, the Lowell Annex, and the Marion County Correctional Center. One of our favorite inmates, Erica, who has worked with us for two years, made a beautiful, hand-lettered banner shown above. Erica is a talented graphic designer and a big help to us with our work.The wonderful food we ate was prepared by women inmates from the Lowell Annex who are part of the Culinary Arts Program. Judging from the tasty food, these women will have no trouble serving as chefs and cooks once they serve their sentences. Six Journey Daybook volunteers attended this celebration, three of whom (Ann Gill, Karen Johnson, and Anne Seraphine) are also volunteers with the Mommy Reads program. The photos below shows three journey daybook board members (Susan, Peggy, and Vicki) in front of Erica’s lovely sign.
Last week our training of 9 participants in the Journey Daybook Process came to a close at the Florida Women’s Reception Center at Lowell, FL. Each new alum received a beautiful, shiny certificate. As you can see from our group photo, everyone seemed especially joyous. What made this graduation extra special for everyone was the inclusion of a participant who was not an inmate but, rather, a long time volunteer at the prison. From our first session back in January, Karen adapted herself to the group and was eagerly accepted. She joined in the discussions and shared her thoughts and emotions in the same generous way as everyone seemed to do. This week, she sent me a reflection of the meaning of the 9-week Journey Daybook training session to her that was very moving for both Barbara and me. I am thrilled to share this beautiful message with everyone here –
“Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around us in awareness.” James Thurber
I had considered applying to take the Journey Daybook (JDB) classes off and on for several years, but I always stopped myself as soon as my mind drifted to the prospect of sharing any pages I had done with others. Everybody always politely says that it doesn’t matter if you have skill as a visual artist, but let’s face it, most of the exercises are in the drawing, painting, and design arenas. I finally got over the hump when the opportunity arose to be a member of the third JDB inmate class at the Florida Women’s Reception Center. Why did that make a difference? I have been a volunteer in another inmate program, Mommy Reads, in which we only spend a few minutes with each participant on a Saturday morning. I was really drawn to the idea of being a member of a several hour class that took place over a few months, where there would be an opportunity to get to know the other women better. In this setting I also liked the more egalitarian idea that I would probably be one of the least skilled participants in the class. It somehow seemed appropriate that I would be learning from and probably in awe of the talents of some of the women inmates, as opposed to being the volunteer who is bringing something to them.
I was not disappointed. In the first session President Barbara Beynon described the JDB process, taking special care to emphasize that journeys may be outward or inward. Obviously this is especially fitting in the prison setting. While we make a point of not looking up details about the pasts of the class members, we know the reality is that most of them face ten or more years in the FL prison system; usually several with whom we work have life sentences. One of the beauties of JDB is that none of that matters. It especially did not matter to me. I had only the most basic intellectual understanding of concepts like warm or cool colors, value or gesture, mirror or window images. I was glad that making pages is essentially a solitary process, helping me to resist my tendency to compare and envy other participants who may or may not have relied on theory but who seemed innately to make such creative and clever and intense and meaningful and beautiful pages. Even those who chose not to draw or paint something recognizable made wonderful explosions of color, sensing implicitly that there was no right or wrong in the outcome. Several participants said that JDB gave them a few hours each week when they could forget that they were in prison and just focus on being present in a calm and supportive environment where they were allowed to play or reflect and where each woman could attend to her own needs and desires. For me that was a lesson in consciousness that would have made any Buddhist smile.
It is impossible to be a prison volunteer and not come away with feelings of gratitude for things we often take for granted. Some of the reasons were clearly reflected in the pages of my classmates. One regularly painted fruits and vegetables because she missed eating them in the prison meals. Another had bursts of color to offset the drabness of the required uniforms. Occasionally the pages showed inner despair and loneliness. One particularly poignant moment came when one of the class members became aware that we bring our own toilet paper to the prison and she asked if she could have just one square. She touched it gently and then rubbed it on her face, relishing the softness of something she had not felt in that way for a long time.
It is perhaps trite but nonetheless true to say that these women are our sisters, neighbors, cousins, and friends. Each of us has made poor choices in our lives at one time or another. Who can say what those choices might have been had they been compounded by poverty, addiction, mental illness, or abuse? To use the JDB parlance, my personal journey during this training was to realize that I need to stop looking out the window and pointing the finger at others for the unprecedented and unconscionably high rates of incarceration in this country. As a society we have made choices with unintended long term impacts on families and children and it is time for me to look in the mirror and reflect on what I can do to make a difference.
And yes, the art. One of the early JDB exercises is to draw and paint your own shoe. Much to my surprise, when mine was done, it actually looked like my shoe! My own personal JDB triumph! If it is true, as Malcolm Gladwell asserts, that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field, I figure I have at least 9, 980 to go. Or as Greg Anderson has noted, “Joy is not found in finishing an activity but in doing it.”
Karen Johnson, April 2015
JDB Alums met on Sat, Mar 14 at Art Alley: Allison LeBaron’s pottery and painting studio. Allison began with a short tour of the pottery and painting areas where she does her own artwork as well as teaches both disciplines. Then, we were treated to a throwing demonstration on the wheel. Allison makes it look so easy! Pamela and a couple of others tried their hand at throwing, Mary made a hand formed piece, and the rest of us sketched the colorful surroundings. We met afterwards at Cafe C for lunch and conversation. Be sure to check out the pages we made on the Journey Daybook Pages tab.
Below, in the left, we work on the wheels. On the left, Alison demonstrates hand building.