Friday, September 17

cedar sun memorial

Recorded July 15, 2010 at the memorial arbor vitae (cedar) planted at the time of my mother death on the tenth anniversary of her death. It was peaceful and quiet, a bird was singing, and the wind blew the cedar fragrance around.

Miriam Nancy Jean (nee) Summers died July 15, 2000. Four arbor vitae were planted for each of her adult children. They are part of a church arboreteum in Madison, Wisconsin. My mother loved the beauty of nature.This is a tribute to the beauty she taught me to see, hear, feel... It's only a few seconds are recorded as I recorded with the digital camera.

These cedars were planted ten years ago. They were barely knee high then.  Now, they are large enough to give me a hug.  Reflecting on the light filtering through the cedar branches, I was struck by the beauty. Sometimes it is in the diffused light, the filtered solar intent, that we can appreciate the source of life.  And, in this case, the maternal source of my own life.  After ten years, I miss her. I would not have wanted her to live the painful cancerous existence and delirum that was most of her final days, but sometimes I want to revert to a childhood moment when all I needed was my mother's attention.  I remember her motherly affection, her love and nuturance at the painful times that with a single hug and kiss, and maybe a sweet lullaby, the whole world with all its mean kids and skinned knees was safe.  She would beg her to sing a song that she learned from her grandmother (nee Morris), the Four Leaf Clover Song. My fondest memories are of this lullaby and my mother playing a n ylon stringed guitar and singing in her rich opera trained voice. I don't know if the song had another name, but we added it to her obituary ten years ago. I sung it to my son every night throughout his childhood - most of which he has known without his grandmother.     
~ Irish Folk Song ~

Oh I know a place where the sun is like gold
And the cherry trees bloom like snow
And down underneath is the lovliest nook
Where the four leaf clovers grow

One leaf is for faith and one is for hope
One is for love, you know
But God put another there just for luck
If you look, you will find where they grow

But you must have faith and you must have hope
You must love and be kind and so
If you watch, if you wait, you will find the place
Where the four leaf clovers grow

Thursday, August 19

Great Lakes - Touching the Water

Touching the water of all the Great Lakes was done in memoriam of my father, Nathanael Kenneth Edward Paprock, who was born in Detroit, lived more than two thirds of his life around the Great Lakes, and, as a young man, he joined the US Navy. He loved the lakes and the water and the beauty.  He died in Texas 1st of April, 2009. 

These images are from two road trips taken in May of 2009 and July 2010.

In May 2009, we went from Madison to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to Chapel Rock on Lake Superior shore - then to the Mackinaw Straits, which connect Lake Huron to Lake Michigan. The next day we went to Indiana Dunes on the southern shore of Lake Michigan.

In July of 2010, we went from Madison to Detroit, the Detroit River, Belle Isle and Lake St Clair - which is between Lake Huron and Lake Erie. Then north to Port Huron then across Ontario's southern shores to Niagara River, the Falls and the Fort, which is on the southern shore of Lake Ontario. 

Then we went to Dunkirk, New York - a small city of my father's youth on the southeastern shore of Lake Erie.  On the route back to Madison along the southern shore of Lake Erie, we stopped at Erie, Pennsylvania and in Ohio: Cleveland for lunch (no pics), Marblehead and Kelly's Island, and the Glass Pavilion in Toledo.

These collages are from photos taken by John Brian Paprock (with those taken of John Brian by Teresa and/or Christopher).  All rights are reserved. 

Monday, August 2

Pilgrimage and Honoring Ancestors II

This summer afforded an opportunity to continue in honor and  remembrance of my father by visiting the remaining Great Lakes.  Shortly after his death in 2009, I was able to stop at Lake Superior, the Mackinaw Straits between Lakes Michigan and Huron, and the southern beaches of Lake Michigan at Indiana Dunes.

This summer, I talked my wife into visiting three Great Lakes, two countries, significant stops in four states and several large cities in a circumnavigation of Lake Erie.  Preparing for this journey, I had the good fortune of making internet connections to some cousins and second cousins which led to some genealogical information.   There is no question that my great-grandparents (on both sides of my father's family) were immigrants from Poland.  Back then it was divided up - most of Poland came under Prussian dominance. Among the first waves of Polish immigrants were my ancestors, coming to America at the end of the 19th Century. 

One of them settled in Poletown, a very large Polish neighborhood in Detroit.  My grandfather was born there at the edge of the 20th Century.  My father was born there in 1938 and all of his pre-college education was in the Detroit area. 

Another of them came through Buffalo, NY - where my eldest uncle was born in 1920.  But that Polish family eventually settled in Dunkirk, NY - where four of the six children of my father's family were born.

I found this out from a photograph of my father when he was a boy, smiling and genuinely happy.  The single word on the back was "Dunkirk."  My father rarely spoke of his childhood and then with disdain.  Throughout my childhood, we never made an effort to see any of the places of his youth.  As far I can tell, he never visited those places intentionally as an adult.

When I was a child, his parents and siblings all lived in southern California (or moved there).  My grandparents are buried in San Diego's military cemetery.

Nevertheless, we made the pilgrimage to the few addresses I could find from internet research.  Some of my siblings and cousins were excited and ask for "lots of pictures."

But, the trip had to have some adventure for my wife and son, being towed along on this pilgrimage.  So, we added visits to Motown and downtown Detroit, Belle Island, Port Huron, across the Ontario peninsula, Niagara, Buffalo, Erie (PA), Cleveland, and Toledo.  Although the last four ended up receiving only passing nods on the return to Wisconsin.

In the midst of everything, I became aware of a strange connectedness to a history my father barely mentioned and I rarely considered beyond a random Pollock joke.  My father did not pass along any tribal or ethnic pride. I am still uncertain about what my ancestry has to do with who and what I am today. 

It seems so distant.  Lake Erie could be on the other side of the world.  If it was, perhaps the pilgrimage would have had some greater exotica, some greater panache.  It was still an adventure.  And my family, my son, knows.  And we have touched the water of all the Great Lakes in honor of my paternal ancestry.

Monday, June 14

To My Son on His Graduation

June 13, 2010

Dear Christopher,

On your graduation day, I am so proud of you. You overcame obstacles and worked hard, in your own way and persevered. You found your voice and clarified your interests. I am impressed with the young man you have become. Still, I see the baby I held on my arm, the toddler I carried in a backpack, the boy I showed the amazing things of the natural world around us. I remember the summer I teaching you art and the first camera I gave you. We had many more good times than bad, more highlights than dark days, and we made it through difficulties smiling and joking, most of the time, eventually. I have been so honored to be your father through your childhood. It has been a pleasure to assist you in your endeavors and help you in your pursuits. Sometimes, I miss the little Christopher – I hope you don’t mind.

I am glad you have had so many opportunities to explore your skills and talents, but the fun has just begun! Although this day marks the completion of twelve grades of school, in many ways, you will find, your learning has just begun! It has been quite a journey for both of us and yet your journey has only begun! As you have grown (and continue to grow) in your individuality, your own person, I too have grown (and to continue to grow) in my own personhood. – I hope we both keep growing up as trees toward the sun. reaching higher every summer and stronger every winter.

There is so much more in my heart to share with you as your father. I wanted to share all of it now, but I cannot. I will always be your father, spreading my spiritual wings to guard you and shining a light ahead so that you can make the best decisions along the way.

As I write this, there is a little sadness alongside the tremendous pride I feel. It is only the realization that the boy that you were has grown up into the young man at the precipice of the future. But, in some ways, I will always see that little boy in you – hopefully, you will, too.

Congratulations my son, my precious one, my little megwich! You did it! You made it!

May God bless you now and always.



Friday, May 28

Conclusion of a Seventh Seven-Year Cycle

There I was, on the seventh day of the week, plumbing the depths of my experience, debating the rationale for my life, and trying to gauge the value of my efforts over the years. I have completed my seventh seven-year cycle. I have begun the eighth - which is also a return to the beginning.

In the natural world, every ending is only the beginning. Grab a hoop and hold it with one hand. Then trace the hoop. The end of the hoop journey is the beginning. This circular movement is what we call a cycle. The cycle in nature, where time and events are circular, is abundantly clear. We overlay a manner of keeping track of linear time - the calendar - lest we lose track of the length of history and the constant planning into the future. Without the calendar, with its dates and years, we would be compelled to continually live in the present with only reminiscent notions of legendary events and romantic intrigue of prophetic poetry.

The reckoning of days into weeks, months and years is inspired by the Creator, who created both the cyclic and the linear. The circle and line are our simplest and best symbolic representation. Often I find myself at the intersection of the circle and the line, a spiral in every direction I look.

In the beginning God said, Let there be light. And there was light! And God separated the light from the darkness. The light He called day and the darkness, night. And God said it was good. The evening and the morning were the first day. [paraphrase from Genesis]

The cycle of day and night was now quantified. The six days of creation and the day of God's rest became our weekly recount of creation itself. The orbits of the moon help to quantify the months. The fullness of the cycles of seasons help us to quantify the years. One after another after another. Seven days becomes seven years, and so on ad infinitum.

On this most recent anniversary of my birth, I was reflective and hopeful. Given the conclusion of a seven year cycle, I felt that most of the elements of my life were incomplete and un-concluded. I found myself hoping that all the difficulties, shortcomings, obstacles and tragedies would be left behind as I looked toward a horizon full of unobstructed light in the haziness of a pleasant summer afternoon.

God separated the light from the darkness and our eyes are completely oriented to the contrasts. Our eyes are so tuned that we are able to distinguish thousands of shades of gray. But in giving us light, God gave us the refracting light that spills the rainbow of color throughout the myriads shades of gray, making the subtlest of tint and tonal difference discernible. As an artist and photographer, I still prefer drama and romance of the obvious contrasts. Yet I am compelled and mesmerized by the details around me.

As I reflect on the amount of information from all my senses that is dumped into my brain to be labelled and placed into to pattern recognition boxes, I wonder about purpose and value. We tend to automatically filter this massive amount of details based upon our experiences, our education, our preferences. We are trained to ignore large portions of sensual data in favor of a limited set that falls into recognizable patterns. The older we get, the more we rely on these filters.

The sifting and winnowing of experience in linear history is essential for clarity of thought, intention and action. But the renewing of my senses, my mind, my soul is only possible in the cyclical and ever-present moment where encounter with the divine is truly possible.

Take a breath in a place of peace, where nature thrives in its rhythm of interconnecting circles of life, given by the light, the air, the water and the earth. Allow the natural cleansing action of your breath to renew the soul's life within you. ....and God breathed life into the man He created. [another paraphrase from Genesis]

As I have begun my eighth cycle, may I be energized for another seven by the renewal of the Giver of life. May I be able to discern the path ahead of me by the Giver of light. May I be refreshed by the gentle winds of the Holy Spirit so that I may be willing to accept new patterns of insight. In all of this, my greatest hope is to know the healing power of Love in every step I take into the future from this present place - so that all of broken creation may come to wholeness - that which I have encounter throughout the linear history of my life and that which I know only through the encounter of others.