The first day of spring was a sparkling, clear, cool day here in my part of the Pacific Northwest. I took an early morning walk through the park with a friend. Everything looked so fresh and ready to pop into the spring season. Thought I’d just share with you a few of the images that I made yesterday to celebrate the awakening of spring. Hope your first day was just as beautiful.
The Bellingham YWCA is a remarkable organization. It does incredible work within our community’s and is one of my favorite organizations to support whenever and however I am able.
The Y’s Womencare program, for instance, provides emergency, confidential shelter, 24 hour crisis support services and community education for women who are victims of domestic violence. It’s transitional housing program is available for single adult women in Whatcom County to give them a safe, supportive place to stay while connecting them with the appropriate resources to get their lives back on track and become self-supporting. The Back to Work Boutique provides low income women in Whatcom County with new clothes sot that they feel confident and look good while applying for a job. And, an especially popular program at this time of year is the Prom Dress Program, that allows young women of all incomes access to a formal dress for a special occasion. The YW currently has more than 200 formal dresses in stock.
The organization also sponsors the Northwest Women’s Hall of Fame. Since its founding in 1999, the YWCA has honored 56 contemporary Whatcom County women, living and deceased, and 12 Legacy Award winners, from the early days of the county, whose service has inspired later generations. This year’s awards event will be this upcoming Sunday, March 23 at Northwest Hall in Bellingham.
I was honored to have been asked to photograph for the event three of this year’s four awards recipients–Julianna Guy, Ann Marie Read and Deborra Garrett whom I had photographed for her campaign in 2012 in her bid for Superior Court Judge. Ramona Elizabeth Phare Morris will also be a recipient. To be selected, honorees must have made a lasting impact, served as role models for women and girls, demonstrated perseverance and vision, and overcome obstacles to achieve their goals.
Julianna Guy is a delightful woman whose eyes sparkle with life when she speaks. I had a lovely time getting to know her during our studio session. A former accountant for network and local television, she moved back to Bellingham to retire and is now persistent spokesperson for a park and branch library in the underserved Cordata neighborhood, She is now helping to create a park in the King Mountain area. Juliana formed the Cordata Neighborhood Association, resulting in a park being built & greenway being designated. She is a former SCORE counselor, helping entrepreneurs – especially women – start new businesses. Juliana is also involved with Planned Parenthood, and Big Brothers & Sisters.
Ann Marie Read and my path’s crossed many years ago when our sons were studying piano from the same teacher. I was delighted to catch up with her and to learn what she and her family are now doing. During the past twenty-five years, she has been a parenting educator at Bellingham Technical College (BTC). She has provided critical early childhood education for parents in a variety of venues, including weekly parent/child classes, free drop-in groups for low-income parents such as “Baby Connections”. In addition, she has worked with special populations, including parents participating in the “Early Head Start” program, parents from the Nooksack Tribe, and student parents in BTC’s professional technical programs. How she has done all this and been a mother of three sons too, I’m not exactly sure.
Judge Deborra Garrett is someone I also came to know through our sons who attended the same middle and high schools. (She was the subject of my blog post in August, 2012–Primarily Primaries which you can read by clicking on the link here.) Her career in Whatcom County spans more than 30 years. She has represented individuals, organizations & businesses. Often her representation provided her clients the only remaining opportunity to resolve their legal issues. In 2013, Judge Garrett became the first woman elected to a Whatcom County bench as Superior Court Judge and I was proud to contribute to her campaign by photographing her and some of her campaign events.
The fourth recipient is Ramona Elizabeth Phare Morris. She is a strong proud Native women who has advocated for Lummi People as well as all Native Americans, advocating in important areas such as jurisdictional and fishing rights, BIA Land Trust, roads on tribal land, Tribal Taxes (fish taxes) Treaty Tax Force (Nationally), Health Care and Youth Education, tax issues & concerns for tribal people. Ramona has represented the Lummi People proudly and has worked alongside many other tribal leaders .
There’s still time to make a reservation for Sunday’s Northwest Women’s Hall of Fame dinner and ceremony to recognize the contributions and achievements of these extraordinary women who have all made Bellingham a better place to live. I hope you’ll join me in supporting this, and other YWCA programs. For more information just click on the link( in green lettering) or phone the YWCA at 360-734-4820.
Since winning the Oscar for Best Picture at the Academy Awards last Sunday, the film, “12 Years a Slave” has reappeared in the theatres all over the country for people like me who missed it the first time. The film was shot entirely in and around New Orleans and at four different outlying historic plantations–Felicity, Magnolia, Bocage and Destrehan. All four are open to the public for tours.
But these are not the only plantations to have starred in an Oscar-winning film. Last year’s Academy Award winner for Best Original Screenplay–Quentin Tarentino’s “Django Unchained“–was filmed on location at the Evergreen Plantation located on Louisiana highway 18, otherwise known as River Road. Evergreen is one of several historic plantations found on this two-lane stretch of road that winds along the southern side of the Mississippi, blocked from view by the large, earthen levee. I have driven this route many times over the years during my annual visits to New Orleans. Recently, I took friends on a day trip to see Evergreen. The trip takes only about an hour from New Orleans, if you don’t stop to see all the other interesting places along the way.
Evergreen distinguishes itself from many of the other plantations in that the 250-year-old property is the only intact, antebellum sugar plantation remaining in Louisiana. In fact, it is one of the few intact plantations in the South, according to our plantation guide. In addition to Evergreen’s ‘big house,’ there are 22 cypress slave cabins lining the oak alleé, more than any other plantation in the area. Some of these structures were built in 1830. And, our guide informed us, the cabins “have never been restored, only repaired.” Interior walls once divided the cabins into two separate living spaces for slave families but were removed at some point. Otherwise, they remain much as they did when as many as 200 people lived at Evergreen during the antebellum period.
The main house, prominently visible from the road through the big black iron gate, was built in 1790 by German immigrant Christophe Heidel. Heidel constructed his home in the Creole manner, with the main living quarters raised on pillars above the ground floor protecting it floodwaters. Christophe’s great-grandson, Pierre Clidamant Becnel, renovated the house in 1832 to reflect the then popular Classical Revival architectural style. The ground floor was enclosed, as was the back gallery.
A graceful, S-shaped curving double stairway was added to the front of the house. Other outlying buildings, known as ‘dependencies’ were erected including a pair of garçonniers, where the family’s adolescent boys lived and pigeonaires. A parterre garden was designed to be admired from the home’s rear gallery. A kitchen, a milking barn, a caretakers cottage, a carriage house and an outhouse for the owners were also built.
The plantation, however, began to decay 1930s when the Songy family, who occupied it then were forced to leave when the bank foreclosed on Evergreen. The once splendid sugar plantation continued to decline until a wealthy Louisiana oil heiress, Matilda Geddings Gray, purchased it and began to bring it back to life again in 1944. Gray’s efforts continued after her death with the current owner, her niece, Matilda Gray Stream, who inherited the plantation in 1971. Stream has received numerous awards for her preservation work on Evergreen.
Today, the plantation and its 37 buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places. In fact, it was featured in Preservation Magazine‘s Summer 2013 issue where you can read more about the plantation, its history and restoration. (I am proud to say that I have been a long-time member of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.)
Evergreen is not only a working plantation again, but an educational center where students learn about antebellum life, where archaeologists search for artifacts about its cultural history, where tourists can glimpse into the past and where filmmakers, like Tarentino and others, can create award-winning films of days gone by for the cinema.
Mardi Gras is this Tuesday. No doubt there will be usual media coverage of the annual festivities in the city of New Orleans. You know the ones I mean–throngs of celebrants jamming the famous Bourbon Street, revelers showered by beads thrown from balconies and floats, inebriated masked partiers caught doing things that would otherwise embarrass them or their mothers. These are the popular media’s imagery of the holiday. But there is another side to Mardi Gras that few outsiders may know about or experience that includes activities and parties leading up to Mardi Gras during the two weeks prior, known as Carnival.
Homes and businesses throughout the city are festooned with Mardi Gras decorations much like homes are decked during the Christmas holidays in other parts of the United States. Banners are draped, flags are posted, wreaths are hung all in colors of purple, green and gold, the official Mardi Gras colors as established in 1892. The purple represents justice, green stands for faith and gold for power. Garlands of beads, both large and small, are looped above thresholds, flung over fence posts, hung from tree branches or wrapped along balcony railings. Giant-sized masks, Fleur de Lis and Krewe coats of arms are fixed on doors and gates. Shop windows everywhere, of course, sport Mardi Gras-themed displays. Some residents enjoy putting up even more elaborate displays of lights or even mannequins dressed in costume. It’s quite a show.
While visitors can pick up beads in any French Quarter shop catering to tourists or at the outdoor French Market down on Decatur Street, New Orleanians have other sources. There’s a fabulous corner shop on Magazine Street in what is known as the Irish Channel–the Brad & Dellwen Flag Party. The little, narrow store is packed with flags of every kind but especially those bearing Mardi Gras colors, the Fleur de Lis and other New Orleans specific themes.
For beads, garlands, wreaths,tabletop decorations and about everything else, they head off to Accent Annex in the Metairie area of the city, just off the freeway. A visit to this place is in itself an event. This huge store has aisles of Mardi Gras supplies, many at a fraction of the cost that you’d pay otherwise at the tourist shops in the Quarter. The store has every sort of decoration imaginable and anything that you might need to make your Mardi Gras party a hit. I make it a point to stop at the store to load up on Mardi Gras party supplies whenever I’m in New Orleans.
Crafty New Orleanians make their own Mardi Gras decorations or wreaths. I scored a wonderful wreath one year crafted by a woman who lived in the area across Lake Pontchartrain, known as North Shore, and who had placed her homemade goodies for sale at a booth one year in the French Market. I carefully carried it home in a large plastic bag when I flew back. Now I hang it on my own door during Mardi Gras season just to remind of the decorated homes there.
As they say in New Orleans, ‘Happy Mardi Gras, y’all!”