Probably most of us grew up learning the song below as part of our general observance of Mother’s Day. But I thought that many of you might be like me, having only a limited knowledge about the origins of that special holiday, so I forsook my usual subject matter to share what I could learn from ancient times of goddesses to present-day commercialism. When I noticed that I had written 2,000 words and still was not through, I realized that my subject had to be narrowed down for our purposes here. It seemed that the natural way of limiting my scope was to concentrate on just observances in the U.S. If you are a history buff and/or want to investigate further, I would recommend one web site as being pretty comprehensive:
The lineage of Mother’s Day in the U.S. has two distinct lines, each one revolving around one woman in particular. The earlier of the two efforts contains an interesting irony. Julia Ward Howe had written a song that was a call to arms during the beginning of the Civil War. The song? “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” which was published in 1862 as a poem in The Atlantic Monthly and was designed to be sung to the tune of “John Brown’s Body,” a very popular song among the soldiers.
But that was before she had seen the bloody carnage that is war. She was particularly bothered by the fact that mothers on one side were sending their sons to kill the sons of other mothers. It didn’t make sense. It was not all right. And so she took pen in hand and 10 years later (1870 or 1872, depending on whose history you read) wrote a “Mother’s Day Proclamation.” In it, mothers were exhorted to unite in the name of peace and motherhood, regardless of ethnic or national backgrounds, in order to prevent their sons from ever having to participate in the horrifying deaths such as those that marked the Civil War battles. Howe was determined that there should be a mothers-united-in-peace day, and lobbied hard for it. Her hope was to celebrate the day on July 4, signifying that our national purpose was a peaceful one. However, she did not prevail, and June 2 was selected. Although 18 towns celebrated Howe’s plea with a Mother’s Day celebration, which Howe funded, when the funding dried up, so did the celebrating.
The version of what we know as Mother’s Day was created by Anna Jarvis in 1908. Following the history of this more successful journey on behalf of a Mother’s Day can be a little confusing, because Anna’s mother’s name was Ann, and historical accounts sometimes confused the two or named them both exactly alike. It was during the Civil War that Anna’s mother, Ann Jarvis, cared for wounded soldiers on both sides of the conflict, grey and blue. She saw the humanity present in each person and wanted to help others to see from her point of view, that people are people, regardless of affiliations. Thinking that mothers would be especially open to the idea of crossing the grey and blue lines in friendship, she organized a Mother’s Friendship Day which had some modest success. However, in 1905 Ann died, leaving a distraught Anna to carry on her work.
Anna seemed to have lost her emotional bearings, and spent her days with the sympathy cards and letters that she read over and over, underlining and listing all the words and phrases that praised and complimented her mother. Eventually, Jarvis found an outlet for her grief by working to memorialize her mother in creating a day that would honor all mothers. She began in her local church where her mother had taught Sunday school in West Virginia, and at Wanamaker’s Department store’s auditorium in Philadelphia. Thus the first Mother’s Day was celebrated in 1908. Jarvis did not attend either location’s event, but did send 500 white carnations, Ann’s favorite flower, to be worn that day, and flowers became a tradition.
Commercial interests, particularly the floral industry, helped finance Jarvis’ fierce campaign to have Mother’s Day officially recognized. Her efforts prevailed in 1914 when it became a national holiday. However, when she saw commercialism gradually overwhelming the original intent of the holiday, she used her considerable energies to have the now-corrupted holiday rescinded. By this time, the holiday had gained so much popularity and commercial advantage that it was here to stay. Sadly, Anna’s health and spirit were broken and she was penniless, reduced to living in a state-sponsored facility for indigents since all her funds had gone into the battle against commercialism.
Today, many people choose to recognize Mother’s Day following Howe’s call to work for peace. Some follow the original intent for the name, by using the singular possessive “mother’s” in order to recognize each and every mother. Others use the plural as an inclusive form. In some families, it is agreed to forego all commercialism that surrounds the day. Regardless of choice, it is a holiday that is almost 100 years old and obviously here to stay.

Mother:(A word that means the world to me)

M Is for the Many things she gave me,
O Means only that she’s growing Old.
T Is for the Tears she shed to save me,
H Is for her Heart of purest gold.
E Is for her Eyes with love light shining,
R Means Right and Right she’ll always be.
Put them all together, They spell MOTHER,
A word that means the world to me.
(Written by Howard Johnson and Theodore Morse and sung in 1915 by Eddy Arnold)

Northwest Sinfonietta is in its 22nd season. (Northwest Sinfonietta photo)
Northwest Sinfonietta is in its 22nd season. (Northwest Sinfonietta photo)

Early arrivals mingle in the lobby, waiting for the doors to open for seating. Conversation is a lively hum. A small crowd gathers at the table where subscriptions for next season are being sold. The doors open and the lobby begins to clear as ushers make sure that every one knows where to find their seats.
As the lights slowly dim, late arrivals quickly settle into their seats. The audience hears the usual words of welcome, as well as a brief message about future seasons. Then, with the opening notes of Sibelius’ “Romance,” the Northwest Sinfonietta (NWS) begins its mid-season (February) concert at its home base, Tacoma’s beautiful Rialto Theater.
This 22nd season began in October with an extraordinary concert experience. To fully understand its significance, we have to go back to January 2012, when NWS and some of its patrons made an historical trip to Cuba, only the third time since 1959 this was done by a U.S. orchestra.
While in Cuba, the NWS realized that a special bond had been forged by working together with the music and their host orchestra, Orquesta de Cámara Concierto Sur (Concert Orchestra of the South). Although Orquestra is comprised of talented musicians— graduates of the National Art School, The Instituto Superior de Arte (Havana), and professors at the Benny Moré School of the Arts—this group of Cuban musicians had never traveled off the island. So it was with special excitement that the Orquesta later managed to travel from Cuba to Tacoma to join the NWS chamber orchestra for its season opener in October 2012.
That opening night became unforgettable. It began with Latin rhythms and a Spanish suite. Then the two orchestras were joined by two local choral groups and their soloists, bringing down the house with Beethoven’s Ninth. In this opening program, NWS demonstrated what it means to fulfill its mission statement: “To inspire people through music and invigorate the concert experience through excellence, innovation, accessibility, versatility and relevance.”
Although the die had been previously cast, this current season reinforces the NWS goal to include something new or challenging (or both) in each concert. For example, in the second concert of the season, NWS premiered piano originals, some written in the last few years, gathered together and played as Sinfonietta #1. In a note from the composer, Bill Doerrfeld, we learn that he “consider(s) this an entirely new four-movement work.” Closing that concert was Cecile Licad at the piano, playing Chopin. A child prodigy at the age of 3, Ms. Licad has become a favorite not only in her natal country, the Philippines, but also internationally.
Coming back to the February concert, NWS was the first U.S. orchestra to play Beethoven’s string orchestra version of Piano Concerto No. 4 in G, Opus 58. This was the U.S. premiere performance of a string version only recently found and authenticated as at least approved by Beethoven himself if not actually written by him in the string version. The masterful solo piano work of Andreas Klein so moved the audience that a standing ovation lasted beyond our ability to continue clapping.
Cuban music comes to the stage again in April. Christophe Chagnard, one of the founders of NWS and currently its music director, composed “Embargo, Suite Cubano,” which will be premiered in the April program. And the final program of the season, in May, will feature violin artistry of Mayuko Kamio, an International Tchaikovsky Gold Medalist.
It is thought by some that the current 2012-13 season is the most ambitious yet for this 35-person chamber group. In part, ambition is engendered by the fact Northwest Sinfonietta is the only professional chamber orchestra with multiple residencies. The concerts are usually in the second weekend of the months of October through May. On Friday night, NWS is heard at Benaroya in Seattle; on Saturday it plays at its home base, the Rialto in Tacoma; and most recently there are Sunday matinees at Pioneer Park Pavilion in Puyallup. In addition, it proves to be a community collaborator, having becoming adept in multiple genres, including opera and ballet and working with choral groups and internationally known soloists.
As of this writing, the next season is posted on the web site, and is available for download. But I can tell you here there will be powerful piano, collaboration on the St. John Passion, homage to a Brit (including the piercingly beautiful “Lark Ascending”) and another world premiere, this one a symphony.
Season subscriptions are available for purchase at all three venues. Current subscribers have until May 31 to renew and thus secure their current seating. For more information, see the web site or call 888-356-6040.

“A curator (from Latin: curare meaning ‘take care’) is a manager or overseer. Traditionally, a curator or keeper of a cultural heritage or institution (e.g., gallery, museum, library or archive) is a content specialist responsible for an institution’s collection and involved with the interpretation of heritage material.” From Wikipedia

The Tacoma Art Museum (TAM) currently has two curators on staff, with a third one soon to come on board. Rock Hushka, who has been at TAM for 11.5 years is its Director of Curatorial Administration and Curator of Contemporary and Northwest Art. His colleague, Margaret Bullock, has been at TAM for 5.5 years and serves as Curator of Collections and Special Exhibitions. They graciously took time in a busy day to discuss the many aspects of their work and backgrounds.
It is only recently that a few educational institutions have offered degrees in curatorial work. So, there had been no straight academic avenue that would qualify a person as a curator. Nevertheless at different times and places there are similarities in backgrounds of our two curators.
For Margaret this included the fact that art was important in family life, regardless of where they were. At an early age she learned that art was more than just a picture in a book; it was an experience, an understanding. Her undergraduate degrees were in English literature and art history. She spent some time working in the field and earned a Masters in Anthropology as well as in Art History. Before coming to TAM she did curatorial work in Taos, New Mexico and Portland. Her obvious enthusiasm for scholarly research makes her a good match for the long-range goals at TAM.
Hushka has worn many hats, to include being both an artist (fiber arts– creating some public interest when he used his own blood in one of his fiber art pieces) and curator. He earned numerous degrees: B.A., History; B.A., Art History; B.F.A. and an M.A., Art History degree awarded May, 1994. He has variously lectured and reviewed and has been published in journals. His fiber art has been part of group exhibits and curated shows. Before coming to TAM Hushka worked with curatorial staff at the Seattle Art Museum and in collections at the Henry.
In addition to appreciating the depth and breadth of scholarship and experience of our two curators, I was struck by their genuine sense of excitement and purpose. Hushka talked about TAM as a “magical place” that presents “fascinating and complex projects.” Bullock added the fact that the exhibits and collections tell a story and educate the viewer. It is rewarding to sense the excitement that is generated when those goals are met. She used the response to the Norman Rockwell show as a case in point. They both spoke to the fact that they often interface with the city, especially with Amy McBride, and collaborate whenever it is possible. “Don’t forget,” added Hushka,“that it is so important to see beauty every day.” Agreeing with him, Bullock said that every day at TAM not only affords that beauty but also is charged with a congenial sense of purpose as they work with other staff members and the community.
Some portion of that work during the last three-plus years has been putting together TAM’s first book, Best of the Northwest: Selected Works From Tacoma Art Museum. During its entire history, TAM has focused its work and resources on Northwest artists. This catalogue of more than 230 images will debut in March with introductory essays in which Hushka and Bullock outline and trace the history, to include new research and interpretation of some of the major works in the collection. The work of previous curators and directors will be included, as well as biographies of all the represented artists. As of this writing, the book was at the printers and will arrive on the shelves of the Museum Store in mid-March.

"The Storm Watch," by Barbara Earl Thomas, is among the works in "Best of the Northwest: Selected Works from Tacoma Art Museum." (TAM/courtesy photo)
“The Storm Watch,” by Barbara Earl Thomas, is among the works in “Best of the Northwest: Selected Works from Tacoma Art Museum.” (TAM/courtesy photo)

“. . .and as far as my life is concerned, poetry has saved me again and again.”

Muriel Rukeyser, American poet, Dec. 1913–Feb. 1980

All of us experience loss of one kind or another.  Sometimes we experience loss and are not particularly aware of it, perhaps because it is so commonplace, like the loss of hair on our heads.  If we do notice it, we probably give it no more than a second or two of our time, sigh an “oh well,” and continue our day.  As we age and experience more, we strategize in order to keep loss at bay.  We take supplements, faithfully exercise to keep fit and healthy, watch what we eat, and still look both ways before crossing the street.  We get educated, work hard at our jobs, buy insurance, and plan for our golden years. One day, something in our world knocks us sideways.  A job is lost, a beloved pet dies, or a spouse leaves. It is during those times, says Kay Mullen, that we can turn to poetry, an art form which “confronts everything in daily life in clear, metaphorical language. . .that takes us to the edge of what life is about.”

Kay leads workshops on using poetry to help heal and cope during times of loss and grief.  In the workshop, each participant  has time to read, discuss and write, based on a thoughtfully selected set of poems.  Although the workshops are not therapeutic counseling sessions, participants bring their own stories of loss and grief to the work that is done there.  In part, that work is to identify how poetry “works.”  As an example, Kay talked about Joseph Stroud’s “Stitching the Woe Shirt,” a carefully crafted poem about the death of his wife.  On reading that poem, one can sense the power that is wielded by the placement of only one introductory word, “inconsolable,” on one line.  Each word, each line is so powerful that “sometimes grief just oozes” out of the poem.

Mullen was initiated  into the world of loss and grief by the death of her dear husband of thirty-five years. Until that time, nothing had prepared her for all that was to come.  She had been a classroom teacher, the mother of two, who eventually became a mental health counselor and school counselor. She had, with encouragement from both her husband (an accomplished writer in his own right) and a colleague, published two, full-length poetry collections:  Let Morning Begin (Caritas Communications, 2001) and A Long Remembering: Return to Vietnam (Foothills Publishing, 2006). Her work also appeared in various journals such as Valparaiso Poetry Review, Appalachia, Avocet, Crab Creek Review, as well as anthologies: Tatoos on Cedar, Mute Note Earthward, Pontoon, Northwind. She entered  PLU’s Rainier Writing Workshop MFA program with her husband at her side for the first summer residency. And then he was gone.

Following her husband’s death, Kay devoted her time to his memory.  She spent countless hours collecting his writings, putting some together into an autobiography, others in a full-length book, and gathered together his letters, short stories and poems.  During the seven years following that, she turned her attention to her own work, her “poems of grief, memories of our first year of marriage in Alaska, poems about his illness, memories of our life together and events after his death.”  The result was her third book of poems, Even the Stones (Caritas Communications, 2012) She also managed to complete her MFA, win a Stafford award and be nominated for a Pushcart prize.

Those years were a crucible in which the strong forces of intellect, professionalism, spirit, faith and love tempered the sense of the “inconsolable” in trying to “make sense of the world after this major loss in my life.”  From her experience she is able to help others begin or continue the process of healing with poetry being the vehicle.  Her most recent workshop was in January, 2013, at Catherine’s place (a center for women in Tacoma).  Other workshops have been held at Kings Books, at the Olympia library, at Urban Grace church and even at the correctional center in Shelton.

What if a person is relatively unacquainted with poetry—who would be “good” poets to begin reading?  Mullen’s reply was, in addition to the two poets already mentioned (Rukeyser and Stroud), that a person might want to begin reading poetry by Tess Gallagher, Jack Gilbert, Lola Haskins, Mary Oliver and Billy Collins as a way of beginning to experience the “soul work” that is poetry.  A date has not yet been set for Mullen’s next workshop.