Monday, October 17, 2011


It's been a little over three years since I started this blog and I think it's time for a fresh face, don't you? Given that, and after looking around a bit, I decided to start the process by moving over to WordPress. I even have a new 'name,' inspired by my latest post about Will Shakespeare and his 'Juliet': This is just the beginning (again ;0) but I think it will be fun. I am still tweaking the page over there, so bear with me, okay? I'll give alerts here about posts on the Sole Sister site for awhile, but I hope you record the new address as THE address. See you there!

Friday, September 9, 2011

In Her Shoes

STILETTO, a dagger developed in southern Europe and in common use in the 16th century. It had a slender blade about six inches (15cm) long that tapered to a sharp point. Employed only as a stabbing weapon, the stiletto's blade had no cutting edge, but was three- or four-sided to give it firmness and strength. Some stilettos were sturdy enough to penetrate light armor, and some were so small and light that they could be used by a woman. The stiletto's handle was protected by a simple cross guard, or quillon. [Encyclopedia Americana, c. 1980 Americana Corporation.]

In my fashion I was thinking of the Twelve Dancing Princesses so I thought I'd rework a composition in acrylics I'd sent off last Christmas as a gift - some shoes in vibrant hues, hues with a 60s vibe. As I worked with the sketches and colors I heard over and over in my mind, "Why, then is my pump well flowered."

Why was the Creative Voice directing me to "Romeo and Juliet" as I painted fanciful shoes? Was it just that women's high heels are also called pumps? Repeatedly, in my mind, I circled around the prompt of Romeo and pumps, closer and closer until I finally hit the mark: heels, pumps, stilettos. Then: stiletto, dagger, Juliet. On the heels of that revelation came the epiphany that the stiletto, a type of dagger, was Will Shakespeare's incredibly elegant and compact icon describing much about his 'Juliet,' his 'Dark Lady.'

Previously I posited that Juliet's manner of death, stabbing herself with a dagger, was actually a dramatization of the Lucan paradox (Luke 17:33), "Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it." This woman had chosen to take her life in her own hands. She would guide her destiny.

It is worth exploring now the wider significance with which the playwright imbued the stiletto. Given the references in the play to soles and pumps I believe Will Shakespeare is telling us that his love, his 'Juliet,' his 'Dark Lady' took her financial welfare in her own hands as well and was, in some way, associated with shoemakers, or 'cordwainers' as they have been called for centuries.

My research of the Cordwainers turned up at least two facts I find most interesting and pertinent to this discussion. It is significant to note that the Worshipful Company of Cordwainers is and was located in Cheapside in London - just a ten minute or so walk from the Globe Theater.

Another fact, to which the playwright may be alluding when the Nurse indicates that whoever marries 'Juliet' will have 'the chinks,' is that Henry VI granted the guild a Royal Charter in 1439. A Royal Charter was an important and positive development for a business then, as I believe it is now. This charter likely means that the Company of Cordwainers were shoemakers to the monarchy.

It would be interesting to know the 'Dark Lady's' exact association with the cordwainers. Did she own a shop? Did she herself make shoes? Perhaps she designed them? Unfortunately, there is a very slim chance anything can be learned from the company's records because in 1666 the original hall burned down and most of the records were lost.

The longer I consider the dominant revelation that 'Juliet' took control of her own life by use of a stiletto, a stiletto Shakespeare also wants us to know is a shoe, I find myself wondering if the 'Dark Lady' felt compelled, even at a young age, to fashion for herself a pair of shoes that in some way used actual stilettos as heels. If so, why?

Why would a young girl - a girl barely a teenager and a bookworm, if I read Lady Capulet's lines aright; a girl ardently sought as a bride; a girl Romeo describes as "Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear" - feel it necessary to include stilettos in the fashion of her shoes?

I can only surmise that her beauty, financial wealth, and elevated social status (perhaps nobility) were threats to her welfare at times. Her choice of a stiletto tells me she absolutely meant to defend herself should she find herself cornered, backed against a wall. It would be a close, dangerous fight, but fight she would. Further, if she was of noble birth, her beauty would likely have been known to the court. She may often have been present at court. Those stilettos would have served as a distinctly unquestionable warning to any lotharios. You'd best watch your step when you dance with a woman wearing those shoes.

This focus on 'Juliet's' shoes fleshes out for us the relationship between herself and Romeo, the 'Dark Lady' and Will Shakespeare. When 'Juliet' muses, "What's Montague? It is nor hand, nor foot," perhaps the line references the son of the glover and the shoemaker? Romeo's line in Act II Scene iv, "Why, then is my pump well flowered," gives us a much more intimate look at the relationship between the playwright and the Beauty. In addition to the sexual connotation I believe it tells us that Will Shakespeare wore shoes from the 'Dark Lady's' shop. Perhaps they also were 'too rich for use' and 'too dear' to be worn on other than grand court occasions?

Beyond that, however, I believe Will Shakespeare was dramatizing for us his theme of "the marriage of true minds." I have written elsewhere that the playwright was presenting the 'Dark Lady' to us as a figure embodying love, compassion, mercy and enlightenment, someone committed to and involved with all living and suffering. When Will Shakespeare tells us he wore 'Juliet's' shoes he is is telling us that like the 'Dark Lady' he puts himself in the shoes of others and walks the path of compassion in hope of guiding others to enlightenment.

Does he not use the language of heavenly bodies of light, the Sun and the stars, to characterize Romeo and Juliet? It is not hard to imagine that he caught the double meaning of 'sun' in Spanish, el Sol, and the sole of a shoe!

The playwright characterizes this facet of their relationship upon this path in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" as being "of imagination all compact." Both lovers, crazy perhaps for their imaginings, were poets, their hands composing feet into verses out of respect for and commitment to humanity.

Will Shakespeare used the trend for exaggerated heel height to characterize his 'Juliet's' elevated consciousness. I greatly appreciate their commitment to compassion as more than a 'fashion.'

Friday, August 26, 2011


It is Friday today and it is my 52nd birthday. When I consider all that has come before, and all that is to come, I can only say that every moment, every choice was part of a Now. My fervent wish, whether on my birthday or not, is to stay in each moment and see it for its Beauty.

Now I would like to share some of my favorite quotes relating to Beauty.

First, as you would expect, there is Romeo's description of his Juliet: "Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear." ("Romeo and Juliet," William Shakespeare, I.iii. 54)

I admire also Keats's immortal lines from "Ode on a Grecian Urn": "Beauty is truth, Truth beauty/ That is all ye know on earth and all ye need to know."

There is a portion of the midday Canticle in the Celtic Daily Prayer from the Northumbrian Community I find quite lovely: "Teach us, dear Lord, to number our days/ That we may apply our hearts unto wisdom./Oh, satisfy us early with Thy mercy/That we may rejoice and be glad all of our days./And let the Beauty of the Lord our God be upon us/And establish the work of our hands."

Finally, a quote from Brian Andreas at : "She said she usually cried at least once each day not because she was sad, but because the world was so beautiful and life was so short."

[[Photo: Lily in the Morning Light, Barbara Butler McCoy, August 2011.]]

Friday, August 19, 2011

Georgia and the Civil War

This morning I read about the items found at an archaeological site near Savannah, a Civil War POW camp abandoned just before Gen. Sherman reached the sea. Immediately I thought of some photos I took last year at Fort Pulaski, also near Savannah. The foreboding sky in some of them attests to the storm approaching the fort that afternoon; it imparted something of what the atmosphere may have felt like for those in the fort in the early days of the fighting. The fort was quiet the afternoon of our visit, almost church-like. While I am in no way an authority on the events and battles of that conflict I can say that I have noticed that same atmosphere at nearly all of the battlefields I and my family have visited over the years.

Enjoy the photos.

[[Photos: From top: Cannon atop Fort Pulaski, Barbara Butler McCoy, August 2010; Crossing the Moat at Fort Pulaski, Barbara Butler McCoy, August 2010; Walkway on top of Fort Pulaski, Barbara Butler McCoy, August 2010.]]

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Peace, Mardi

Thank you for sixteen-and-a-half fun and loving years, Mardi. We will always remember your beauty and sweetness.

[[Photo: Mardi McCoy, 1995-2011]]

Monday, August 8, 2011

Thirty Years

A lovely day for us today: my husband and I celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary.

Many people have remarked upon this milestone, and even we have moments when the scope of this leaves us a little dazed.

If I were to say anything about the longevity of a marriage I think it would be that the fabric of married life is much like the lace of my gauntlets in the photo. A couple works the threads of their lives into a pattern. Sometimes the pattern is a mystery to them, sometimes they see it readily. Sometimes the threads snarl or break. Sometimes their skill is evident, sometimes their clumsiness. Sometimes outside forces rip into their work, sometimes they tear it themselves.

Always, the best results come to those who believe, to paraphrase St. Paul, "Love always wins."

Happy Anniversary Gerry.

[[Photo: Newly-minted Mr. and Mrs. Gerald McCoy, St. James the Less Catholic Church, Columbus, Ohio, 1981]]

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Pardon Old Fathers

"Pardon old fathers" - that phrase came to mind as I wrote in my journal about a recent trip to Hendersonville, NC and environs with a dear friend at the end of June.

Why "Pardon old fathers"? As you can see, I was drawn to the charm of a few barns in various locations and the photos evoked memories of childhood visits to my grandparents Butler's home in rural Algonac, MI. An iconic big red barn stood on the property, near the garage, and Grandpa Butler very kindly and patiently would let me use the barn door as a target whenever I wanted to pretend I was an Indian huntress. (Remember, this is about 1964 ...)

So, the barns at Connemara Dairy Farm on the grounds of the poet Carl Sandburg's last home, a National Historic Site
in Flat Rock, NC, and on the road to the Yummy Mud Puddle studio of Claudia Dunaway and John Richards gave me the chance to 'shoot' barns once again, with less damage.

While not technically a barn the personality of Shawn Ireland's shop, near his kilns, just made me smile. My friend purchased a gorgeous bowl as an early birthday present for me, which I use nearly every morning as my teacup.
My friend and I covered quite a few miles - even climbed to Chimney Rock and Hickory Nut Falls - in our three-day- stay in the area, and rested a spell on the grounds of the Penland School our last afternoon. I haven't been able nor do I ever hope to forget the graciousness and talent of all the artists we met, the stunning beauty of all the artwork, the delicious food at locally owned restaurants, and the breathtaking natural beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Last year I initiated an experiment wherein I sought out alternative sources for Christmas gifts for my loved ones and friends. Some of the gifts I made myself (paintings, photos, clothing I sewed myself) and some came from places like the Spruill Gallery in nearby Dunwoody. So, on this short trip I was quite happy to get a start on some of my alternative Christmas shopping for this year there in the shops and galleries.

Too, the visit has inspired me to try new methods and materials, so this
Christmas should be interesting!

Since I am posting all these photos of barns I thought the stunning anthropomorphic paper rooster who rules over The Well Bred Bakery deserved a space in this gallery!

[[Photos: Top, Water Trough at Connemara Farms Dairy, Barbara Butler McCoy, June 2011; Second, On the Way to Yummy Mud Puddle, Barbara Butler McCoy, June 2011; Third, Shawn Ireland Pottery Shop, Barbara Butler McCoy, June 2011; Bottom, Paper Rooster on the Mantel, Barbara Butler McCoy, June 2011]]