"Pickering's Harem," so-called, for the group of women computers at the Harvard College Observatory, who worked for the astronomer Edward Charles Pickering. Harvard Computers at work, circa 1890, including Henrietta Swan Leavitt seated, third from left, with magnifying glass (1868–1921), Annie Jump Cannon (1863–1941), Williamina Fleming standing, at center (1857–1911), and Antonia Maury (1866–1952).
Someone in the southeastern United States recently bought one of my paintings and yesterday I mailed it to him. In order to save shipping costs, I packed the box myself. The end result weighed just over seven pounds and measured an unwieldy 33" by 41" by 3". In other words, though light in weight, the box was still long enough and wide enough to be extremely difficult to carry. Unwieldy-ness notwithstanding, since the FedEx satellite store was only a few blocks away, I decided to carry it there myself.
A BOX ON MY HEAD
While making my way up Broadway, the box slipped and shifted constantly. I tried several ways of carrying it but none worked for very long. Finally I had an inspiration and lifted the box up to my head and in that way I successfully made it to the FedEx store. What a comical sight I must have made, like some Dr. Seuss imagining -- a quite tall, so freckled, white lady with a box growing out of her head.
Which brings me to what happened yesterday on the way to the FedEx store: I experienced the workings of my mythic eye. My lens on the world is my "mythic eye." That means I tend to use symbols and metaphors when interpreting the world around me. And yesterday my mythic eye contemplated the spectacle of walking down Broadway with a box growing out of my head and saw something larger.
It's kind of hard to explain but in that particular moment I felt connected to other women, possibly all other women, women and how they work through their day, whether raising children or governing countries or walking around with boxes on their head. And I saw my part in that bigger picture as both unique and yet also universal. For a few moments I experienced the beautiful groove of my life and how amazing that felt to be in it. And interestingly, that moment came not at my easel -- but while managing the details of my daily life.
(top to bottom) Women prisoners at Ravensbrück, a World War II concentration camp north of Berlin, 1940's; Jean Seberg, American actress and activist, 1972; A group of Parisian art students. ca. 1896; Hedy Lamarr, actress and inventor, 1944; A farm mother and her child. ca. 20th Century. National Archives; Rosa Parks, civil rights activist, pictured here with Dr. Martin Luther King, 1955; Mahalia Jackson, gospel singer, 1962; "Instructing nurses on the use of respirator for a polio patient" By an unknown photographer, location unknown, May 23, 1958; General Records of the Department of Labor; Record Group 174; National Archives; Virginia Woolf, feminist writer, 1882-1941.