An evening of storytelling with Nancy Corson Carter

By Melissa Gamble

The Never Quite Ending War book coverOn Wednesday, June 27th, I attended a reading by Nancy Carson Carter on her new book,  The Never-Quite Ending War: A WWII GI Daughter’s Stories. Nancy illuminated stories of her family, both those that are her own and others that have passed down to her. Many of the stories she shared with us were typical childhood experiences and family memories that shaped her understanding of self, community, and family. However, these stories were all told with a lens that Nancy has developed years after her childhood. After years of learning, study, research and stories shared, Corson Carter has come to understand her childhood and family dynamics through the everlasting imprint of World War II.

Corson Carter spoke candidly about how the War followed her father for the rest of his life and as such, it stayed with her family too. Her father joined the military because “nobody in the Corson family fought in World War I, so I have to go, there’s honor to uphold”. She recounted the various ways patriarchal culture structured her father’s entrance into the War and parenting of his children, all of whom were girls. For example, the family’s desperation for a son manifested in her Father’s embarrassment and anger. A constant question that Nancy poses to the reader is, “What if I had been a son?” It is this question that permeated much of Nancy’s discussion on patriarchy, the War and how it was commonplace for men who had come back from World War II to “not talk about the war.” She wondered if her father would have shared more about the War with sons, had he had any.

The author’s storytelling relies heavily on visuals and poetry. She narrated her story with a photo board that contained newspaper clippings, photographs, maps and printed articles. It was a replica of the bulletin board she used in her writing process to connect her family’s story with broader narratives of the War. Additionally, she gave the audience great insight into the ways in which she utilizes haikus, letters to her dad, maps, and photographs in her book as a medium of connection and intimacy between the War, her father (who passed away in 1996) and her family experiences. Perhaps, it is in these visuals and poems that one can best communicate longing and  desires for understanding home, belonging and personhood.

Ultimately, Nancy reminds us that war never ends, as the aftermath is consequential and has everlasting effects for those who go to war, those who are victims of war, those who have loved ones in war, those who stay at home, and generations that come after its “formal ending.” Wars are never just events, but rather worlds that continue to shape the personal, the political and the relational. We are still haunted in the aftermath of our wars. As such, Nancy ensures that we remember that healing is intimate, and peace is too.

Art-Party and Fundraiser for Bryant Holsenbeck’s Book, “The Last Straw”

By Andrea Davis

When people are gathered for an art party, one may imagine paint, canvases, and brushes, or at least some paper and scissors. Since Bryant Holsenbeck was involved, something would be repurposed. But, despite official assurances that the artist herself would be there to guide and assist, I never thought all present would have the opportunity to create her or his own Bryant-style creature!

Sunday, April 22, 2018, was a delightful Spring afternoon and the sunlight and gentle breezes beckoned folks out of their homes and into RCWMS to create whimsical critters and to raise funds to send Bryant’s book to press. Those first on the scene may have been daunted by the pile of textile scraps and the neighboring stash of yarn and string in a rainbow of colors, but Bryant was quick to show people how to begin to shape a creature. She demonstrated how to tuck and wrap the pieces and to look to see whether you might have the start of bunny ears, a mermaid tail, or part of an elephant. If your now-forming fairy needed the turquoise scrap to sparkle, simply stuff less showy fabric inside. Regardless, everyone was taught that the key was to wrap the yarn tightly as one worked. A gaggle of critters took form as friends and new acquaintances chatted, some discussing the tip sheet Bryant provided with ideas to reduce waste.

Bryant became skilled at reducing waste when she began a journey in 2009 to avoid single-use plastics. This dovetails with her work as an environmental artist and The Last Straw transforms her blog into a book. Several thousand of the $5000 needed to bring this to realization was raised at this event, and you too can help bring this challenging and inspiring piece to print.

Labyrinths

by Meghan Florian

labyrinth photo by BJ Fusaro

Photo: BJ Fusaro

I wasn’t familiar with labyrinths until I started an internship at the Resource Center back in 2009. One of my duties during that year was helping Jeanette Stokes haul our large canvas labyrinth around to different spaces in North Carolina and set it up for people to walk. A few weeks ago, for the first time, I was on my own, in charge of directing a team of volunteers in how to unfold and prepare the labyrinth for walkers in Duke Chapel. I’d helped with this task numerous times but found myself wondering if I’d forget some vital detail. As we started to unroll the large strips of canvas and sort out which went where, it all came back to me. Unroll, velcro, brush off, lay out signs, say a prayer…each step followed the others, a prayerful practice, preparing a space to hold whatever people might bring to the labyrinth the next day.

I have a busy mind, and practices that center me, that help me settle into my body, have been vital for me in recent years. Walking the labyrinth has been one such practice. The splits and turns of the paths in my head are numerous, but the labyrinth has one path to its center. If I put one foot in front of the other, eventually I will reach it.

Once I reach the center, I am often hesitant to leave. I like to have a good long sit. Sometimes it becomes a space for joy, other times it offers the freedom to crack all the way open, to grieve. Sometimes it’s simply quiet. Once I begin the second half of the journey, the path outward, I know I have to reenter the world where paths are not so consistent.

That’s the beauty in continuing to set up the labyrinth year after year, place after place. I can’t stay in that nurturing center forever, but I can return when I need to. The sacred space the labyrinth opens up remains, even as the labyrinth is transported from place to place, people to people, a shared source of peace.

This year we rented out our two smaller labyrinths to a record number of churches during Lent and Holy Week. Contact meghanrcwms@gmail.com to inquire about renting a labyrinth for any season or occasion. I’m glad to be part of sharing and spreading this prayerful practice around the state of North Carolina. I hope the ripple effects continue throughout the year.

Meghan Florian is the Communications Director at RCWMS.

Thank You!

Thank you so much for supporting RCWMS in 2017 during our 40th anniversary year. We set a goal of raising $40,000 in the last three months of the year, and you helped us exceed that goal! We ended up raising $42,460. Thank you!

At our board meeting last week, we had a wonderful conversation about our plans for the year to come. We’re looking forward to “Reading and Writing Mortality,” labyrinth walks, an evening of songwriting with Carrie Newcomer, art and writing retreats in Durham and at the beach, and our 7th annual women’s preaching festival in the fall. And that’s just the beginning! Your contributions make all of these events possible.

We’re especially grateful to those of you who have become monthly sustainers of feminist spirituality and social justice. If you would like to set up recurring monthly donations to RCWMS, this helps tremendously as we budget and plan for upcoming programs.

Happy New Year and thank you for supporting this work!

Cheers,

RCWMS Trustees:
Barbara Anderson
Solita Denard
Jehanne Gheith
Erin Lane
Marcia Rego
Rebeccca Vidra
Karen Ziegler
Cathy Hasty
Molly Williams

Executive Director:
Jeanette Stokes

Gather the Harvest

On August eighth, twelve women gathered in the RCWMS office for one of our recurring seasonal writing workshops. A number of those were familiar faces, while a few were there for their first Resource Center program. Rebecca Welper led the group, which included women in their thirties through their sixties. The evening included prompts and quiet writing time, with opportunities to share aloud what had just been written. The prompts were based on the “Gather the Harvest” theme, inviting reflection on summer memories, the full moon, metaphorical and literal fruits of one’s labor, and gratitude. To foster an approach to writing as a spiritual practice, participants were encouraged to delve deep into their personal experience and reserve judgment about what they wrote and heard from others’ writing.

Pens flew across pages, and fingers clicked away at keyboards. At first, however, participants showed a hesitance to share, a common occurrence when new groups form. By the end of their evening, everyone found her voice, heard her words aloud, and got supportive feedback from the group. After the workshop, one participant said she appreciated the community aspect of writing together. She mentioned an “intimacy that rises within me at the onset [of the workshop] and remains. It allows for a depth of expression that I cannot always get to when writing alone.”

Connection with each other and depth of expression are what we aim to facilitate when we offer these writing workshops and weeks of writing at the beach. Have you been to one yet? This fall we have several opportunities for you to gather and write together. To see what’s coming next and register, take a look at our calendar. Hope to see you soon.

Tuesdays With Tillis

by Savannah Lynn

Tuesdays With Tillis

Photo Credit: Savannah Lynn

Bodies were scattered across the sidewalk outside of Thom Tillis’s office on New Bern Avenue in downtown Raleigh on Tuesday, June 20th. A news van was parked across the street. Bystanders stood vigilant nearby on the sidewalk, alternately looking over their fallen comrades and up at the dark, glossy windows of the federal building.

RCWMS board member Karen Ziegler, from her position prone on the grass, called the okay, and the “dead” arose.

In a gruesome premonition of the lives that could be lost should “Trumpcare” pass the U.S. Senate, sixty-odd citizens of the Triangle and surrounding areas gathered as part of the ongoing “Tuesdays with Tillis” series of protests. They staged a “die-in,” a nonviolent/civil disobedience tactic; holding tombstones reading “KILLED BY TRUMPCARE” and “R.I.P. MEDICARE,” folks used their bodies to occupy space (“dying” on the ground) and send a message to Senator Tillis. The die-in was added into the usual Tuesdays with Tillis programming: a brief introduction, a round of chanting and circling the building with signs, a reading of letters and an airing of grievances, a few songs, and an opportunity for folks to go two-by-two into the building to speak with Tillis’s staff and write comments in the visitor’s log.

Tuesdays with Tillis has been filling this space from 11:30am to 12:30pm every Tuesday (rain or shine) since the presidential inauguration in January. It was started by a group of citizens and is kept going by Karen Ziegler and Nancy Jacobs, who email out the week’s issue and program faithfully. Every week, protesters focus on a different topic, usually one that is imminently relevant in the landscape of U.S. politics. What with the debate raging about the possible repeal of the Affordable Care Act and replacement with what is being called “Trumpcare,” healthcare justice has been the Tuesday topic for the past couple of weeks. Past topics include reproductive justice, Russia’s potential interference in the U.S. election, the release of Trump’s tax returns, and the refusal of Sen. Tillis to meet with constituents. The day of the die-in, however, was one of the best-attended Tuesdays since the event’s inception in January. CBS News and other outlets ran coverage on the protest.

Tuesdays with Tillis protesters are asking for Thom Tillis to hold a town hall with his constituents in order to discuss some of the issues that have been on the minds of North Carolinians recently. Though asked by CBS to comment on the day’s protest, Tillis gave no response.

Resource Center staff members have been attending the weekly protests regularly; look carefully at the videoclips and you can spot Jeanette Stokes, as well as interns Colleen and Savannah. Come out and join us every Tuesday morning at 310 New Bern Avenue!

Welcome Interns!

We’re thrilled to have two Duke student interns working with us here at RCWMS this summer! Welcome to Colleen Sharp and Savannah Lynn!

Colleen is a rising senior from Raleigh studying African & African American Studies and Gender, Sexuality & Feminist Studies. She spends her after-class time working on sexual violence victim survivor advocacy and workers’ rights on campus.

Savannah is a rising senior from Raleigh, North Carolina, studying Psychology and Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies. Her spare time is filled with her dogs, her books, her tea, and her journals.

Being Mortal

Over the course of the past few months, Duke professor Jehanne Gheith and Duke student Katherine Zhou facilitated a workshop on Dr. Atul Gawande’s best-seller, Being Mortal. A group of seventeen members participated in the biweekly discussions, generously hosted at the beautiful residence of Dot Borden.

By delving into the book, the discussion group focused on discovering individual end-of-life priorities, bringing up death in conversation with loved ones, destigmatizing death in society, and developing personalized plans for end-of-life care. To support this process, the facilitators guided participants through targeted exercises, including working with Go Wish cards, writing prompts, and mini clearness committees.

Throughout the discussions, the group members shared many vulnerable and intimate moments together, talking about some of the things that scared or worried them the most. There were heartbreaking occasions where some of the participants’ lives reflected the intense topics covered in Gawande’s book. Through it all, the group was a transformative and healing place, where participants could feel safe and grow together.

Wishing to extend their time together, several members of the group met the week after the group ended to see Gawande’s Frontline film, Being Mortal. They are now are sharing haikus they wrote in the group and considering other ways to continue this discussion.

Mother May I?

On March 10-11, 2017 thirteen women gathered for “Mother, May I? A Narrative Leadership Workshop.” Reverend Jan Gregory-Charpentier, DMin and Senior Pastor at First Congregational Church in Westbrook, CT, came back to Durham for the second year in a row to lead this popular seminar.

During this year’s weekend intensive, the women explored their relationships to their mothers through three lenses: 1) the genogram; 2) personal mythology; and 3) the Myers-Briggs personality indicator. Dr. Gregory-Charpentier had participants write the “Ten Commandments” of their mothers (everyone knew what these were in about three seconds!). The group delved deeply into the mother-daughter relationship, looking especially for how it had shaped their sense of themselves and how they relate to, manage, and inhabit their own sense of authority. By the end of the weekend’s intense and gratifying work, the group of women had bonded with each other and came away with new insights about how they carry themselves in the world.

 

 

Art as a Spiritual Practice

Sue Sneddon approaches art as a spiritual practice. That’s why anyone who takes one of her workshops can feel safe trying something new and embracing the joy of creation. We’re so thrilled to spend two weekends every February at the coast, on beautiful Emerald Isle, playing with water colors, pastels, and acrylics, under Sue’s gentle guidance. Many would-be artists start with the beginners’ “Finding Your Medium” workshop and come back again and again for “Making Your Art.”

While getting inspiration from the natural beauty of the beach, everyone gets to stay cozy in a lovely modern beach house. We are deeply grateful to Julia Batten Wax and Emerald Isle Realty for their hospitality and for helping make the workshops possible.

Here are a few photos from this year’s workshops and several participants’ reflections. Won’t you join us next year?

         

I am art-phobic. Have been as long as I can remember. Sue kept telling me that I could do a little art. I finally gave in and asked her to teach me something that wouldn’t make me feel bad about myself. She handed me a sheet of black construction paper and sat me down in front of a huge supply of pastels. She gave me some pointers and there I went. Some colors went on the paper and I had fun and made two tiny pieces of art that make me feel good! Sue is brilliant! — Amy


Always enjoy being on Emerald Isle with Sue Sneddon for the art workshop. This year I painted a watercolor and gouache of a lighthouse, on which Sue helped me with the details. I also enjoyed spending time using acrylics and oil pastels. The beach was a fabulous place for inspiration and rejuvenation as we made art. — Amelia

As always, I so appreciated the opportunity to immerse myself in art over this weekend with Sue. When I’m there, I have (or is it take?) the time to notice the variety of colors in the sky at sunrise, the shadows of the dock pilings on the water — all of the beauty that is always around, but I rarely really notice. I had a few pieces that I’d been storing in the back of my brain to do at the beach… and having the protected time and space to do them is always so special. 
I have even, for the first time in my life, marked out some time and space to do art on a regular basis back at home!
 — Betsy

The Finding Your Medium workshop with Sue Sneddon is a fun and inspired way to learn about all the ways you can make art. Sue shares many different art mediums one at a time and you have an opportunity to try them all and discover which one makes you happy, maybe all of them. She is an attentive and encouraging teacher who really gets to know you so she can help you lose yourself in the process no matter how much or how little experience you have had making art.
 — BJ