Interviewsand Articles

 

Newsletter #47 - A Bell in the Distance,

by Richard Whittaker, Mar 18, 2020


 

 






There’s something about a bell. Hearing the sound of a bell in the distance. It’s a fitting metaphor for these four stories, although in Pavithra Mehta’s case it turns out the bell is just outside her window. And instead, it’s a blur, a winged velocity of being that takes her on a journey to Emily Dickenson’s “Hope is the thing with feathers.” Just that first line is enough, really, but Dickenson’s poem as a whole makes a harmonious duet with Mehta’s small treasure.
     Doctor Rachel Naomi Remen was one of the people behind the appearance, over 50 years ago, of a new influence in medicine in the U.S.. Her story is an unusual example of following a gossamer thread. “I always followed that invisible calling,” she says, “but never for the right reasons.” Given the disclaimer, she quickly recognized the light.
     The new influence in medicine came out of Esalen in the late 60s and early 70s and Remen was a key contributor. Most widely known for her books Kitchen Table Wisdom and My Grandfather’s Blessing, at 83, Dr. Remen remains a vital force in humanizing the practice of medicine.
     Well before Paul Van Slambrouck became the chief editor at the Christian Science Monitor, he was a photographer. And so he remained, when he could find the time. But after his retirement, he came back to his cameras in earnest. Seeing Tomales, is an account of his passionate, three-year project in which he frequented a 30-mile radius around the small town of Tomales in West Marin County. Arising at 4:30 a.m. in San Francisco, Slambrouck would drive north where he would park his car and start walking in the first light of dawn. His collection of photographs make visible a case for how a collaboration with private land owners and public measures for limiting development might work for the good of all. If beauty is an argument for such an arrangement, his is a lyrical case for its implementation.
     And finally, meet artist Jerry Barrish. From a career as a bail bondsman to an MFA at the San Francisco Art Institute and then a bright start as a filmmaker that fell short, to a something like finding his place, his story has some unlikely twists and turns. It’s as if, finally, what remains is a hidden gem, made visible only through a long process of mining, breaking and polishing. Equally, it could be said that Barrish was able to follow the sound of a bell in the distance, the far distance. Only now, he holds it in his hand.
      Welcome to newsletter #47. - R. Whittaker  
 

About the Author

Richard Whittaker is the founding editor of works & conversations and West Coast editor of Parabola magazine. 

 

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