In a time when anti-semitism rears an ugly head far too often, I want to use this space to celebrate my life within Judaism.
I am Jewish. I was not born into Judaism. I was raised in a very liberal (both politically and religiously) Protestant church. The services, which were very much oriented around community action, lacked ceremony, and were emotionally bland. I did not soar in that setting (although, the beautiful organ in the sanctuary gave me chills when joined with the choir, from time to time.)
I knew something was lacking, and I “knew” my true identity when I was rather young. I think this background has led me to a deep spiritual comfort within Judaism. I did not have to go through the mandatory Hebrew school. Laws for Kashrut and for maintaining the Sabbath, and other Jewish practices were never a part of my life. I have had nobody ever tell me what it meant to be Jewish, I have “invented” it as I have gone along.
Also, I did not have parents who were traumatized by their Jewish faith. So many of my friends were children of Holocaust survivors. Those people, who had seen the scary devastation as a result of their faith, and continued to practice Judaism openly, those are my heroes.
I have a number of friends who decry organized religion. I do not see my practice of Judaism as “organized.” Perhaps, my spiritual practice is organized more as the twelve-step, “Take what you want and leave the rest” belief in a Higher Power with a deeply moral code to help me decide how to negotiate the world.
One of my most treasured possessions is my tallit (prayer shawl). This was made for me when I took on my Hebrew name—Alona Tszipporah. My name means “bird in an oak tree.” I named myself after my Aunt Allie, the strongest woman I ever knew. That was the oak tree. When I contemplated the “tree”, I immediately knew trees were too sedentary. I became the bird in the tree, blessed and nurtured by it, but able to fly beyond it.
My tallit, made by Shana, a wonderful, creative friend in Virginia, features the tree, the bird, and the wings of God. I can, and do, wrap myself in Her wings when seeking further strength, or solace.
I am deeply proud to be a part of a community which honors moral standards and learning.
This is the poem I wrote to commemorate my conversion, honoring the bird in an oak tree.
Prayer of the Oak Tree and the Bird
Let me grow straight and tall
my roots deeply grounded in the Earth,
my arms reaching up toward the bounty of heaven.
Let my skin grow as tough as bark,
Let my resolve become as strong as a tree trunk
Let my beauty be a reflection of all creation.
Let me provide cooling shade on days that are hot,
shelter within my sturdy limbs for those in need
as Love envelops us all in her gossamer wings.
Let me dance to the music of the wind.
Let me drink in the cooling waters of the rain.
Let me nourish my hunger in the warm glow of the sun.
As Spirit provides us
with all we need for a life of fulfillment,
good deeds and peace.
Let my soul soar through the skies,
resting on clouds of rich, white velvet
riding across azure oceans on gentle breezes,
flying over glorious sunsets
and quiet purple moon-rise
in search of Everlasting meaning,
a glimpse of paradise,
an encounter with eternity,
a journey to sacred space.
A year ago I set a goal for the continuing development of my art. I affirmed I
would work towards getting my name out for creating my art. At that time, I
was producing ceramic pieces which were rather lumpy. The glazes were
muddy or black. But, I did have seven large women and children. Glazes
were undistinguished, but the pieces I created were tortured and
I joined with Coalition Against Human Trafficking, and developed an exhibit,
featuring these women, called “To Restore their Dreams.” I wrote a poem
and divided it into six segments, one for each figure, and put them on large
posters. I displayed these first in my studio. We organized a film to be
shown at Mingus High School. Then I took this show to the Camp Verde
Library for three months, from May through July. Overall, several hundred
people were moved, some to tears, by the horrendous practice of
Having success with one library, I found a way to get my art into a second
library, the Clark Memorial. I arranged to put 30 pieces with the theme
“Visions of the Verde.” there for July and August. Forty people came to a
reception, and received the art positively. Their comments included
“beautiful,” “unique,” and “fun.”
I took three classes at the Reitz Ranch during this year. In January I
worked with Ben Roti on slab building. In May I took a class with Jeff Heeg,
“Finding your Voice in Clay.” In November I studied glazes and surface
decoration with Dexter Woods. Each of these classes brought on significant
growth in my art.
In the summer, when much of my art was visiting local libraries, I closed
down my studio, changed the name, and my refocussed my artistic
direction. I began the year doing ceramic assemblages with desert wood.
By the end of the summer I focussed my art on ceramic sculpture. My
studio changed from “Adrift” to “Ann Metlay Art.” Ann Metlay Art features
sculptures with definite shapes and bright colored finishes.
I reached into the art community. My art was recognized by Sedona
Monthly Magazine in January and February. Since June I have had wall
hangings in the Old Town Center for the Arts. I participated in the annual
show for Sedona Visual Artist Coalition in February. In April and October I
participated in Open Studios with SVAC.
Two of my pieces were included in the Sedona Arts Festival. And quite recently I
participated in Made in Clarkdale, a four-day celebration of the many artists of Clarkdale. Since May, my art has been displayed in the Muse Gallery in Old Town Cottonwood. In October I contributed three fountains to their outdoor
I have developed several muses for my art. Ongoing has been primitive art,
particularly African. Many of my masks demonstrate this inspiration. I have
spent much time studying cubist and expressionist abstractions, including
Picasso. And recently, after receiving a lithograph of an etching by Ynez
Johnston, a Berkeley artist, I have been looking at abstract art created in
the mid 20th century.
My most important inspiration for my art continues to be this local area. The
landforms: mountains, foothills, valleys, riverbanks. The skies, clouds,
sunsets, mist. the colors and seasons. All these can be seen in my pieces.
I frequently take photos on my trips to and from the Reitz Ranch. I use
these photos as I create my art. I incorporate poetry in about 1/3 of the
pieces I make.
Not only have I put significant effort into continuing my art.I continue to
write. I write monthly poems for a Shabbat service in Sedona. Twice a
month I publish a blog on my webpage. My writing for this has included
poetry, essays, recipes and short stories.
A final successful writing project for me has been offering “Memory Writing
Workshops” at the Clark Memorial Library. Beginning in February five to
eight women (not that we exclude men) have gathered monthly to share
their memory snippets, each time around a particular theme.
For 2020, my intention is to expand my artistic expressions. I will focus
more on my process, smoothing edges and joints. I will ferret out public response to my work, and use this in planning future artwork.
As solstice shadows deepen,
gauzy mist, like angel
wings of finespun silver,
hover, then drift over
the shoulders of the mountain.
Messengers from the Divine,
they whisper their secrets.
They have seen the glow.
Somewhere in the silence
of a wintry disturbance,
lie the harmonic chords
for an etude of Peace.
A sliver of the new moon
drifts across our darkening skies.
The promise of light returns
to the depths, where we stumble
in search of shared truths.
With hope, we portend
Days will lengthen.
Nighthawks will return to skim
across our folds of chaparral.
Thanksgiving is coming. Menus are being considered. One guest coming is a Vegan. Another avoids gluten. What to serve to satisfy everyone?
Last night I went to a potluck with that in mind. I ended up making a pot of roasted cauliflower soup. Everyone loved it.
I am a multi-faceted creative person. Always a word artist, more recently I turned to sculpture. But, always my other love has been food. I love to cook, but never follow a recipe. My favorite reading has always been cookbooks. I can “taste” the foods I read about.
Then, inspired I set out to re-create the dish. I can begin with a recipe. I check my pantry, my freezer to pull out the needed ingredients. I might even measure a few of them as I dump them together. But soon I forget to measure something. Or, I decide I do not want to include carrot. And I am off!
And then, as I am completing the dish, I come up with variations to try. Just wait until I try this recipe with butternut squash, or carrots and beets, or roasted fennel. The spices might change, but the basic technique of roasting the vegetables and mashing them together.
After my success last night, I took on the challenge of re-making the recipe while I could remember the spices I used. I carefully measured everything as I went along. Here is the recipe. You do not want cauliflower? Try the technique with roasted asparagus and carrots. And instead of the garam masala, use five-spice.
1 head cauliflower
i small yellow onion
3 cloves garlic
1/2 c avocado oil
1 nub of ginger
1 can coconut cream
2 cups coconut milk
1 T garam masala
2 t turmeric
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t paprika
salt and pepper flakes to taste
Roast top 5 ingredients for about 1 hour at 400 until it begins to brown and turn soft.
Blend with 1 can coconut cream and 2 cups coconut milk.
Add seasonings and salt to taste.
Today, by the river I saw the Cottonwood.
They held aloft their golden offerings,
under a sky of frost-tinged blue.
They allowed the gentle winds
to strip away their finest garb,
leaf by leaf, as if they yielded
their richest legacies: Lessons
learned in months of quiet
contemplation, toil from life
under ruthless sun-baked skies.
These fluttered to the ground.
I manage spring. I know how to accept
the gifts I am offered, the rich loamy soil,
the gentle rain and each seed, filled
with promise. I can take those bequests,
insert a song of praise, and transform
each into stuff of seeming beauty.
It is fall when I stumble. I am a hoarder.
I fear letting go of all I harvest.
Is this sacrifice sufficient? Couldn’t I,
with just another day, a bit more effort,
produce a more bountiful crop to share?
And, must I, like the trees give everything away?
Will I ever have enough, then? How can I be enough?
And, if I shed these golden leaves,
where will I find the comforts
I will need in the chilly blasts
of harsh wind still to come?
Today, the calendar marks the passing
of yet another month, another season.
Fall leaves impel me to yield my own donations.
I ask for the courage, the faith
to blow into the upcoming winter,
dressed in only this life-toughened bark.
I do not move on naked! See?
I’m adorned with the memories
of summers past, and the certitude
of next spring’s seed.
A visit to Ann Metlay Art, her small gallery and studio tucked into a strip of a few businesses just off 89A in Cottonwood, is to enter a world of whimsical creativity. Ann, the artist, exudes enthusiasm and spirit.
“I have been a writer all my life,” Ann explains. “When, as I aged a bit, words became more difficult to find, I discovered a long-hidden passion for ceramic sculpture. The words and thoughts I do not have immediate access to show up when I mold and shape the clay.”
Ann’s facility with words jumps off her art. Some pieces sport poems on their sides, or on the bottom. Small pieces, ready to hang near a door or in an alcove, display a blessing or a word. On their backs is the poetry. Bowls holding sprouting pinecones are inscribed with a few words of gratitude for the seedling.
“I am exploring the confluence of written thought, and the lines and shapes which accent those thoughts,” Ann affirms.
Colorful wall hangings, abstractions of the scenery found in the Verde Valley hang on her walls. One side of her gallery displays whimsical figures. The other side holds what Ann calls “scenery.”
“Look.” She points to a twelve-inch square vase, “This ‘quatric’ depicts this photo here, the broken tree. See how I carved the lines from this tree into the clay.”
I could see its relationship to Ann’s photo on the wall. A landscape photo became a four-layered sculpture with a poem on its back. A green-peaked abstract shape was clearly local hills and trees.
“I do my ceramics at the Reitz Ranch for Ceramics out in Sycamore Canyon. I drive over there regularly. Each day, as the panorama of trees, brush, water and dirt unfolds, I feel awe. I then set an intention to reproduce the patterns of erosion of a hill or the silhouette of distant mountains against the sky in the studio.
“Here.” Ann points to a photograph of a broad-branched Cottonwood. “This is my ‘Tree-Ego.’ She sits right beside the road. I greet her daily.” And, the photos of her appear over and over in Ann’s art.
Ann leads me to a stand with three chunky pots. “These are wedding pots. See how they have two spouts leading into a large single vessel?” She gestures. “They are for weddings, or maybe anniversaries. They each have a theme and a poem celebrating the commitment it takes to be married.
“See. This one features two hands, and the poem says, ‘We walk together hand-in hand. And this one has stars and a poem about sharing stars’ sparkle.”
A number of Ann’s unique pieces are priced well under $50, suitable for small gifts.
“Oh, yes.” Ann exclaims. “Each piece is different. I can never make the same thing twice. See these angels. I have made more than 50, and not one is a copy of another. “
Ann then points to a congregation of small blue forms. “These are my angels. Like everything else I create, I never set an intention before creating one of these forms. Disconnecting my brain from the process, I simply bend and twist the clay into a shape that somehow, to me, resembles as angel. Like the rest of my art, I never make the same angel twice.
“These, I believe, are my prayer for peace and civility. I do not like the place where our country has evolved, everyone mistrusting everyone else, hearing, believing, even fighting for “facts” nobody else believes. When I get disturbed by the events of the day, I grab a few pieces of clay and infuse my prayers into each of them.”
“I am a local artist. My drive to my gallery on 6th in Cottonwood and then out to the studio in Sycamore Canyon, then back home to Clarkdale, is a 25-mile circle. I rarely veer from that path. Everything I create is inspired from some location on that circuit. Look around, as you acclimate yourself to my vision, you will discover the beauty around us!”
Welcome to Ann Metlay Art!
"With all the beauty surrounding me here above the Verde Valley, how could I not create more beauty?"