Barbidoesmiami

How to Stay Sane in the City of No Shame


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Beyond Miami Beach…

As Advised by Great White Dog

I find myself annoyed. Am I annoyed with Miami? After eight years of living here?

Much has happened in that time. We lived here during Obama’s his entire presidency. When we arrived there were many unspoken agreements that had shaped the local culture over the twenty preceding years, from the wild-west eighties until the crash of 2009. “As long as we are having fun” was one of them. Being serious was boring. I was called a Debbie Downer at a dinner party, when I talked about water in the streets as a result of climate change (that BTW, had made every guest late for the party). Don’t get me wrong, I like having fun, but my idea of fun is  different from dressing in skimpy but expensive designer clothes, drinking outrageous cocktails, clamoring around celebs and music so intense that the only possible interaction is taking selfies with your “friends” (while hoping for one with that star).

Yes guilty, my initial blogs were all about those parties. As an outlet for my culture shock. And, after years of working in NYC and living in Milford, PA with small children, these parties were so alien, so different and took me so far outside myself, that it felt like something I needed, in the way that getting really drunk sometimes feels like a healthy dose of vitamin C. It wore off fast, the so-called glamorous lifestyle, one that I had always walked away from, in Amsterdam, Paris, London and New York. It just isn’t me. I like to drive myself hard and if I don’t accomplish stuff I set out to do, I get depressed. I do not dream of retiring, shopping and sitting by the pool for the rest of my life. I need to be heard and seen and not for gossip and what I wear. So when the party dust settled I got to work on being relevant in Miami, no matter what it took.

It took a lot… I gave it my best… I feel depleted… I can’t say I conquered and I’m kind of over trying (… plus I’m getting shit done in other parts of the world).

And yes, I realize it’s not all about me and I’m not alone. Three months into 2017 and this worn-out feeling is a national depression. Up and down the East and West Coast we aspired to be part of a wave of hope that Obama brought with him. One that I saw as a way to change and save Miami, with talks of rising sea-levels, an ocean full of plastic, recycling and up-cycling, the right for all kids to an inspired public education such as DASH, affordable housing instead of 20% occupancy in condos and private homes worth billions on Miami Beach, air-conditioned year-around.

But if it felt like I was swimming against the stream over the past eight years,  I am now swimming into a Tsunami. Will the already lavish parties get even bigger and crazier as the 1% feels empowered, emboldened in their greed and need to flaunt it, with Miami Beach as the perfect stage for competitive one-percenting? Living less than a mile from Sunny Isles, with its six Trump Towers, and the highest concentration of Russian investments in recent years, Russia’s unabashed imperialism is palpable. And after the cuts to environmental protection, the NEA, healthcare, public transportation, education, housing and human and women’s rights, what will happen to the other group, the full-time residents and working class whose statistics show that Miami’s income disparity is one of the largest in the country?

Yet it is all about me. Also. About what I can give and do and how I will spend the next twenty years of my life optimizing who I am, what I have learned and how I can reflect this back on generations to come. In another year the twins will leave for college. I will be free from the school calendar, driving and feeding and other hands-on mothering. I look at them, and how they act and feel, and I remember being seventeen and practically jumping out of my own skin with impatience, anger even at being told what to do by teachers, parents, the system. The nervous restlessness that I now recognize for what it is in my girls – their booster engines filled with ambition for their future and need for autonomy, propelling them forward. As I see this in my daughters I recognize it in myself, four decades older than they are, but the impulse is the same, I am getting ready for another shift.

So I am annoyed at Miami. Or I am just annoyed. I am practically jumping out of my skin with irritation at the status quo, and like a very old teenager I’m going to use this urge to amp it up some and get more shit done…

(But maybe not in Miami).

 

Links to projects elsewhere:

PORTFOLIO SITE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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WOMAN – OCTOBER – 2016

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I am different this month. And if I am different then millions of women are different this month. I am one of many and I am never alone. I am woman and I am different this month.

I am different because two weeks ago the Milford Readers and Writers festival happened. It happened in the town I love and I was one of the organizers. I am different because I listened to Gloria Steinem, up on the stage and in front of the logo I had designed. I am different because my long-in-the-works book, Stupid Model, was published and I sold fifty copies over three days. I am different because I was doing it with all with my friends. I am different because for those few days I felt centered and within myself.

I read a passage from my book to a room full of women and they laughed and applauded. They heard me and we connected. This changed me. Then it was over, my old and new friends went home, I tidied up the house and I too went home, leaving my home behind.

I am different now from who I was then. And I am different from who I was in September.

Together with millions of others I am restless. I am anxious. I am provoked. I am angry and I want the world to be different.

Is it true that change brings up everything unlike itself?

Together with an entire generation (or two) of women I have been forced to remember things that I had forgotten. Or had marginalized. Things that became threads woven into the fabric that made me into who I am today. Those small things that grab us and make us a little less proud. A little less confident. A little less…

I always fought when they happened. After being a scared, weepy child I stood up for myself when I walked away from my youth at age seventeen. To Paris where I fought the men who groped me on the Metro, followed me in the street clucking and whistling, took me to dinner stroking my thigh under the table while talking business with colleagues above the white linen, silver, china and crystal. I fought the photographers who demeaned me over and over and, on my last day, I physically attacked the ultimate misogynist, a famous couturier who had me thrown out of Paris.

Illustration from Stupid Model in Paris and Down Under

from Stupid Model in Paris and Down Under

Perhaps I fought because my mother fought. Fought her own demons. From the German soldiers who had controlled her town and her family when she was a teenager, the ghost of my father who drove his car into a tree and left her alone with me, a two-year-old babe, to my stepfather who was controlling and abusive and after fifteen years absconded with one of her younger friends.

I fought because those were the days that we “fought back”. A clinched fist was our symbol. Don’t fuck with us. But who were we kidding? When you could not be anywhere alone without at least one man grabbing you wherever he liked, metaphorically and physically.

I fought my way to success. I was ambitious they said, like a dirty word, dirtier than pussy and grab. Subconsciously, I learned to use sexism in a game of exchange that couldn’t be won. Like fake promises it never delivered that moment of pure achievement, because in the shadows there was always a baritone boasting – you’d be nothing if it wasn’t for me, and I can undo you.

October 2016. Women. What the fuck?

Did we really think it would come easy?

Just as it seems within reach we have to conquer our past and slay our ultimate dragon and not just metaphorically. He’s real and he looms, lies, interrupts, gropes, intimidates, demeans and threatens. Bitch is only one letter away from Witch, the she-devil, burn her at the stake, whipped into a frenzy the fearful-of-change masses promise to end her, cheering…

Change brings up everything unlike itself.

(I wonder if my daughters look at my rage the same way I look at my husband when he loses his shit in the car at the guy who just cut him off.)

It may not seem like it to the next generation, and it may not feel like it to us right now, but we have come a long way. And when Hillary is president our daughters will soon take it for granted and move on. That’s what change does: it sets the stage for more change, and they have plenty to do.

And we will have some laurels to rest on. Hopefully we can finally forget what we are feeling now, in October 2016, the fear that he can undo us. But remembering and standing together and visualizing holding hands with all women everywhere, yes, also the ones who wear T-shirts that say He Can Grab This >, we will undo him and finally allow ourselves to feel that sense of pure achievement.

LINK to STUPID MODEL:

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The Tassel Room

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Have you ever dreamt that you’re in the bathroom section of Sears and you need to pee and in this dream you convince yourself that it would be OK to go ahead in the Toro toilet showroom model?

Well…

Tonight I went to an interior style book-signing party and a celebration of “12 impeccable years of design, art and luxury” somewhere tucked between Fort Lauderdale airport and North Miami.

The invitation had come by mail and looked like a wedding invite with peacocks and “the pleasure of your company” requested by Ann Getty, John Hall Nelson and  Iran Issa Khan. There is little friends of Iran won’t do for her. Iran is after all the most supportive friend anyone can have and so when Iran beckons friends follow her to the end of the world. Literally.

Cocktails and Dinner it said and I was ready. I had a vivid idea of what could be done in a decorating warehouse. Anything! All that furniture would surely become a fabulous set, a styled background for the most over-the-top party ever. I imagined the ambience of every movie Tilda Swinton had ever been in (Orlando meets Narnia meets I am Love). Rampant fantasy settings, dimmed chandeliers, mysterious rooms made up from samples, drapes, beds, not one chair or table alike, random but real, a wonderland that would have me dreaming….

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But.

Expectation will fuck with me every time.

First I drove through the suburban nightmare of Hallandale and Dania Beach, a monotonous six-lane with traffic lights every hundred yards and rush-hour traffic that leaves one brain dead.

I tried to stay hopeful. I reminisced about the final episode of Downton Abbey that lingered in my mind.

Then I drove through a dark landscape of ominous warehouses and imagined Hollywood Studios with the set of Marie Antoinette dedans.

But this was Hollywood FL.

I turned a corner and stopped in front of a very ordinary strip mall with a very ordinary looking furniture showroom.

A showroom, a huge showroom, a brightly lit traditional Miami suburban showroom. It was just that. Nothing more and nothing less. The place where trophy wives go to decorate their plastic Greek Revival home on steroids in gated communities with names like River Highlands, Princeton Pastures and The Governor’s Club  and hope to look the nouveau part with all its Downton, Versailles, Deco Drive, Morris Lapidus, Versace, Shabby Chic, Chinoisery  and Out Of Africa style like gilded mirrors, claw footed tables, deep fat couches with red zebra upholstery, ebony and ivory inlay tables, brocade drapes, satin sheets, bronze and glass coffee tables…  all this inside while a steady stream of red and white lights whizzed by at 80 miles ph on I-95 just yards away.

But regardless, there were waiters with white gloves and trays with bacon wrapped scallops, foie gras and caviar. There were women in Louboutins and Oscar de la Renta cocktail dresses. There were old men in pink slacks, navy blazers and jolly ties, there even was one young gay man in a bright yellow short suit.

The first thing I saw upon entry was a king size four-poster bed made up in traditional dusty blues. The four tapered posts had mirrors that aspired to deco meets Morris Lapidus style.  But at  5″ wide and 6ft tall, these four mirrored  posts would make for very narrow sexy time, I imagined, walking in half dealing with my disappointment the other half busy with this bed – and the kinky couple that might be in it:

He (trying to see himself in the slither of mirror): “To the left a bit, no thats too far , to the right, up a bit yes now I can see, no dont move, well no dont stop completely…”

She: “Shit man, I prefer my mirror on the ceiling and my cuffs on the posts.”

Personally I had a vison of having the 12 impeccable years of design, art and luxury celebration in that bed, with our dinner on trays all together in bedjackets Joan Crawford style. I suggested it to my friends in attendance but every single one seemed creeped out by me.

Like it was me and not the actual place that was creepy.

I mean.

Whats the point of having dinner in a Hollywood FL furniture showroom and act like its the ballroom of the London Ritz?

Fuck’em.

In the end it turned out that it was in the tassel room.

The tassel room was where it was at.  The tassel room was what I’d had in mind all along, the tassel room was the inadvertent VIP room with not one tasseled red rope across the entrance but dozens on the walls. I had tassel room envy as soon as I saw it, but the tassel room had already filled up with women who were wearing tassel camouflage, like  Hermes prints and  feathered, beaded, puckerd, folded and pleated fabrics – it was hard to tell the tassels from the lasses tucking into their steak, asparagus and grilled veggies.

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Dejected, I headed to the lighting showroom and  persuaded one couple to dine with me, once there some thin ice was broken and a few more joined in. But I mean please, here we are dining in a lighting showroom with dozens of ugly wall sconces so why  be ashamed to play with the dimmers? And why not  joke about the brightest bulb in the room?

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After this we remembered that Ann Getty had  a book, but was this not a signing? She seemed to be there incognito, at her own booksigning party where no one ever spoke about a book but it was more of a discovery-like treasure hunt, first you had to find this publication (there was zero promotion, which was almost a refreshing, like new kind of thing) and then, once we found and purchased it, we went armed with her author picture in an attempt to find her and ask in a syrupy voice if she would be so kind to sign it.

And then it was over.

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Why am I Such an Oxy Moron?

Nothing kills a conversation faster than my introduction at a Miami bling party

Meet barbara, she makes beautiful jewelry from trash she finds on the beach…

I get a wan smile of panic, then the introducee bolts to another circle in search of  meeting star people like J.Lo’s derriere masseur, Lohan’s life coach, Madonna’s  Manolo shiner or P.Diddy’s Cuban cigar lighter…

Its OK

Its Miami

It was, last night, the Barton G. launch party of VAULT, his new magazine, held at The Villa, his new Art of Being Social intimate inn housed in the former Versace Pallazzo

boxing ring location

Barton G., a Houdini who, 20 years ago, took Miami Beach and boiled it down, distilled it, infused it, let it sit and then blew its essence out into  a gawdy kitch trippyness  he branded the Art of Being Social, naming himself the master of ceremonies –  the Jeff Koons of party planning.

We went to snoop.

The book GdeV Studio (husband and me) is  doing on Miami had just reached a point of critical mass – the days that Versace fell in love with South Beach, and built his pallazzo from ruins on Ocean Drive among the  locations trucks, NY models, Jewish retirees and crack dealers…

The VAULT launch party was the perfect pretense to have a mosey

While a boxing ring the size of a  cereal box was being lowered from 11th Street into the infamous swimming pool courtyard by a 100 ft crane (for a 3 round boxing match between a supermodel-by-day/boxer-by-night and an I’ll-fuck-your-face-up-bad boxer, which the spoiled crowd watched with as much fervor as if they were watching Jo Biden eating oatmeal) we wandered into the Villa’s inner courtyard and climbed the stairs all the way to the roof, to Gianni’s lair inside the watchtower  strewn with pillows and overlooking Ocean Drive, the beach and the Atlantic Ocean. When Alastair trespassed further he was confronted by what may have been a ghost of nineties security, a  Men-in-Black guard with the charm of Scarface.

A standoff on the Pallazzo rampart ensued.

Patrolled Versace Villa rampart

The Architectural Critic versus  the Blackwater Mercenary

(Culturally way more interesting than what was going on below in that tiny boxing ring)

I felt a chill and flashed on Alastair being thrown off the roof and me becoming another lonely widow spawned by South Beach debauchery ( Donatella being so much the brand-widow of Versace)

After chest puffing and rank pulling Blackwater won and we descended back down to where the mortals were allowed and found a quiet pocket of civility – a small wood-paneled bar that was deliciosuly air conditioned and served a variety of pink wine and champagne. Only two people had discovered it before us.

Nanci and Louis.

Alastair joked that the palazzo was  ground zero of Miami decadence and Nanci complemented my dress

In typical Miami Beach style, the evening turned on itself.

Degrees of separation were discovered that ranged from Lawrenceville to the Berkshires, high powered careers in NYC,, friends and children and a shared fascination with  life on the beach in all its excesses.

Nanci was interested in my work as an activist designer but then again she was a New Yorker

turquoise monofilament drift rope bracelet

Two weeks earlier I had rushed back from  Eleuthera because I’d been invited to be part of a  Miami Beach sustainable fashion show and award ceremony called Sustainatopia

I had made my “red carpet” dress in Eleuthera and Iona would be my model

But when we arrived it was clear that the event was as awkward as the name suggested

We hung around backstage at the Fillmore for a while but when no one seemed to know about the staging or order of show we turned around and went home. I dont think anyone ever missed us and I’d spared my 15-year-old daughter from an embarrassing cat walk across a vast and empty stage…

I was a bit sad because she looked so beautiful

Iona in the Plastic is Forever “red carpet” dress

But nothing could bring me down from my Eleuthera high and I looked forward to speaking the next day at the Impact Conference, where Pam Longobardi, Cynthia La Grou and I were billed as a panel about Envisioning Alternatives in Social Investing.

What the hell did that mean?

Hadn’t we prepared to each speak about  Driving a New Economy through the Arts, Design and Media and addressing the problem of plastic pollution? John Rosser, the organizer of  the sustainable conference, confessed  he’d  changed our title because he felt he’d  “taken a risk alienating his core constituency on our behalf.”

WTF?

FEAR?

Fear of being too green?

Fear of being too sustainable?

The fear of being unsexy in Miami and being taken for a hippie in this city full of glamor addicts.

But wasn’t he the organizer? If not him then who?

Oh well, for the party after the panel I’d  curated a small show at the Botanical Gardens and about a hundred people came to see…

Pam’s drift web installation in the Banyan Tree

Pam Longobardi drift web made from marine debris. Photo by Myra Wexler

Richard and Judith Lang photographs

red beach plastic tags collected and photographed by Richard and Judith Lang.

My new piece, from neck size to wall size, a large wall installation

rainbow strings of beach plastic

Bucking all sustainable trends like recycling and green design  Miami has turned out to be unexpectedly mercurial

Whereas Eleuthera has been surprisingly supportive and open

Soon I will go north for the summer

But I’m determined to overcome my conversation-killer stigma when I’m back next year …

Beach plastic cross bracelet with grey seed pearls


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Team Tarpum Bay

My core team: Davette, Sterlene, Zach, Lynn, Queenie, Rose, Simone and Louise, missing is Audrey,  team captain

After the Easter celebrations my studio slowly became a hub. Word was out that the lady with the beach plastic needed help. On Tuesday five women came to sew and throughout the day more joined in. Zach had been helping since the first day – my master assistant who washed the plastic, laid it out to dry, cut it up and drilled it.

harvested beach plastic drying in the sun

We had 180 tee shirts to do. 540 bits of plastic to attach. We also had to make 100 napkin rings for a fundraiser lunch on Saturday the 21st. Another 1200 pieces of beach plastic went into those. I did not think it could be done. I worried. Audrey said don’t worry. Two days later she was right and they all laughed and poked fun at my concern as if my worries were the funniest thing that had happened all week, but I had no idea there were so many talented artisans in town.

adding beach plastic to the tees

By Thursday we were doing bracelets and necklaces. Together we sat around big round tables. I prepped each piece, dismembering the monofilament nylon drift ropes that tangle all over the beaches and reefs, strangling birds and turtles and poisoning whales, dolphins and big fish.  The colors of the monofilament are striking and I look for matching beads from turquoise to seed pearls and crystals. The crafters strung them and I attached the magnetic closures.  We did dozens like this.

 

Before  &  After

Friday was earring day and everyone was excited to learn. I prepped crosses by cutting old washed-up lobster traps, bait pouches and one red and one orange crate. Zach drilled holes in their centers. I laid out the findings and gems.

 

Before & After

While we put the earrings together we  compared birth stories. Rose had six kids, Audrey one, Sterlene two. I had three in two births. We talked about which of the Tarpum Bay super markets had OJ.

Sterlene: I have to get myself some orange juice

Me: I need orange juice, I went to Bert’s but they were out

Sterlene: They were out?

Audrey: Try 6 to 10.

Sterlene: And they stay open till 10

Me: They still have orange juice?

Audrey: Yeah they have orange juice, boat came in yesterday

On the island the rhythm of shopping is determined by the boat and the assortment an important part of daily dialog. As I sat and listened to their languid drawlin’ Bahamian dialect I wished I could stay long enough until I had their way of speaking   down.

On Sunday I went to my favorite beach one last time and spent the morning drawing and collecting beach plastic.

Monday was my last day as artist in residence. I packed up all my belongings, my 180 tees, 100 napkin rings and another 100 pieces of jewelry. I was ready for the Eleuthera Earthday Weekend. But I was melancholy. I had loved my time in the Castle and the Prep building. I loved my new friends. I relished in my daily routine of working at the castle in the morning and sharing my trash to treasure process with my local team in the afternoon.  I’d miss my early evening swims in Winding Bay where dozens of giant starfish dot the sandy ocean bottom and coming home salty and tired and having a vodka lemonade while cooking myself dinner and then working more into the night.  I’d been oddly lonely, but I’d enjoyed the solitude of spending time with myself after many years of being immersed in the bustle of my wild and intense family.

Early Tuesday I moved to Palmetto Point, closer to the Beach House where I will show my new collection and One Beach film during the Welcome Party of Jammin’ for Nature, three days of Earthday celebrations sponsored by The Nature Conservancy and benefitting One Eleuthera. Tomorrow friends arrive from NYC to help and party and I shall be alone no more….

Plastic is Forever website

come and join us!


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Up South and Down North

Last Monday, observed here in Eleuthera as Easter Monday and thus a “bank” holiday, I went down North to Governor’s Harbour. This is island speak. Locals tell each other they live Down North or Up South.

My friends Chris and Carolyn  had just arrived from London and were spending their first nights in their brand spanking new cottage on the hill. I had to be there. I also wanted to see  Michele about the arrangements at the Beach House for my big event on Friday the 20th.

I rented a car from Brenda Carey, who lives in an unassuming bungalow behind the castle. Once inside I found myself in a Petit Versailles of chandeliers, throw pillows, tassels, crystal and framed pictures of baroque Bahamian scenes. Evidence that the Eleuthera car rental business is a good one.  Brenda hugged me to her ample chest on all three visits, the last time I was hugged twice because I begged her forgiveness for a schedule screw-up on the most sacred of church nights. Bad Barbi indeed, in my elaborate plan to not screw up her Easter Sunday evening I apparently ended up doing just that.

Yes, I do have my own car here, my beloved red GMC truck, which unfortunately runs on only three gears, and husband made me promise that I would not drive it on extended trips. Governor’s, 20 minutes north, is, by island standards, an extended trip and so I rented.

After spending the night at my friends’ unassuming local cottage also with an unexpected interior, this time not Versailles but World of Interiors style, I set off for my meeting at the Beach House. I opened the car door, threw my bag inside the rental, turned around to get my beach towel, and, being parked on an incline, the door fell shut. Ca-cloink. All the automatic doors had locked themselves. The keys were inside my bag that sat innocently on the passenger seat.

Not long after I was at the police station, yet another unassuming building, this time more in the Knickerbocker Gang style.

A friendly policeman, who looked like he’d had a jolly Easter celebration, was making calls for me. He was trying to locate a mechanic (or a crook) who had a car-door opening jimmy. After a few failed attempts at finding a Slim Jim we started chatting. I voiced my frustration at the independence of the rental car’s door system.

How is this possible? I lamented…

We once had a police car like that, he said.

Seriously?

Worst was that time when we stopped these two guys on the Queen’s Highway near Gregory Town. Ya man, we felt we had reason to search their car, turned it upside down, took forever, found nothing. When we got back to our car it was all shut up. So we had to go ask those guys if they’d  give us a ride back to the station.

Did they? I ask.

Of course, he laughs. We got rid of that car.


He’s behind a high counter. I put my elbows on its battered surface and look down on him. He is on his Blackberry, which is charging, and the white cord is stretched across his face, practically wrapped around his nose. Behind him is a benign looking composition book and written on the side, in green marker, it says “CRIME REPORTS” .

While he chats with a mechanic about their church’s Easter beach party I think of the pumped up US police officers who recently shot that old Vietnam vet with a heart condition in his own home.

OK, he says, Mr. Culmer will be at your car in twenty minutes….

As I walk back I wonder.

Is it these simple, funny things that make Eleuthera so lovable?

Like the burglar who politely said Hi to me on the landing of our house before bolting. Or the story of the petty thief who swiped an orange Princeton sweatshirt during a prowl across someone’s porch that was reported to the police. Twenty minutes later he was picked up wearing same bright orange sweatshirt on Cupid’s Key a few hundred yards from the police station. Or my friend Ann who called the fire station when the brush right beside her house was on fire and their response was: do you have a bucket?

And do those small but meaningful things accumulate into bigger things like caring for your community, helping when help is needed and a 99% voter turnout?


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HALLELUJAH

My family never went to church. My grandparents did not go to church. My great grandparents were the last church-going generation. After the 2nd world war my parents’ generation was alienated by religion. My father was one of thousands who’d spent four years in a concentration camp and not many of the lucky survivors ran to church after most of Amsterdam’s Jews had disappeared because of their religion. In post war Holland being an atheist was part of being modern. Still, every Christmas Eve my mother played the same Carl Orff recording of the Christmas story on our gramophone. I knew the story of Jesus, but for my family that tale had little to do with faith, it was more of a cultural thing.

So whenever I went to church, like for weddings, funerals and the occasional religious holiday with a friend, I felt like I was cheating and everybody knew. Then, at age 34, I fell for a minister’s son and his father married us on the beach in Amagansett. I’d managed to avoid the embarrassment of a church wedding, but not the minister. At first I felt like the imposter in the family but eventually I realized that the reverend Gordon paid little attention to my ignorance of all things theological.

Tarpum Bay Methodist Church congregation on Easter Sunday

But

Ever since I’ve been coming to Eleuthera I’ve been fascinated by the many different churches in each settlement and when I hear the congregations singing I sense that I might be missing out on a weekly dose of joy.

the junior choir

Today I overcame my fear of being found out and went, by myself, to the Easter service at the Methodist Church of Tarpum Bay. I spent the first twenty minutes fighting back an overwhelming urge to burst into tears. It wasn’t just that seeing the beauty of families all dressed up in Easter-best made me miss my daughters, I was also deeply touched by the congregation’s sense of dignity and love. The joy of singing together made me feel  like I’d been holding on to something very tightly and if I let go I would fall apart, maybe even have one of those seizure epiphanies, collapsing in the aisle, eyes rolling back into my head – hallelujah – my experience was that powerful. But eventually my Dutch side prevailed, I got used to the ambience and enjoyed two hours of singing along to a giant projection screen with the hymns (so much better than fumbling for the right page in the psalm book), watching children of all ages recite, sing, dance and I was even brave enough to ask permission to take pictures of the ending.