A Season For Helping Others

December 19, 1993|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,Contributing Writer

From atop a hill on Leaseway Farm, stone carver Jo Israelson wants to do her bit to fight hunger.

Today, Ms. Israelson and others she has invited will participate in the Seeds of Change Solstice Celebration on a hill at the farm on Ladiesburg Road, outside Union Bridge. The ceremony will include songs, the telling of a goddess myth and the building of a wall.

Ms. Israelson said she got the idea while on a six-week trip to Italy in the summer.

"I'd been sculpting pieces that I wasn't sure what they were about," she said. "I starting researching the images that appeared in my work, and the research led me to Malta."

There, Ms. Israelson discovered neolithic goddess temples. It is believed that the temples were community-oriented and devoted peace. Such temples were shaped like women, and residents planted food around them.

"It's about the notion that women are the nurturers and life-givers," said Ms. Israelson, "that the earth is a woman and gives us life.

"Were it not for earth, we would not be here."

One artifact found in the temples was a figure called the "Sleeping Goddess." Researchers have not determined its purpose or meaning.

From that figure, Ms. Israelson went to work in Italy on a sculpture that turned out to be her own "Sleeping Goddess." While arranging to ship the piece back to Union Bridge, Ms. Israelson came up with the idea of growing food in conjunction with her annual Christmas celebration to collect food for the needy.

"It's a ritual to honor the earth and remind us that we have a responsibility to it," she said. "For me, the Sleeping Goddess represents the need for us to wake up to the need of saving the earth, as well as being a more nurturing society and more giving and loving toward our fellow human beings."

When she returned, she began calling people to enlist their help. "The most amazing thing is that no one has said no to me yet," she said.

The solstice celebration will kick off a yearlong hunger relief effort. During today's ceremony, participants will gather to build a wall symbolizing their unity and plant buckwheat.

"Buckwheat is nutritious and can be ground into flour and used for a variety of dishes," Ms. Israelson said. "And we had heard that buckwheat pancakes are pretty popular in this part of the country."

Sam Lease, owner of Leaseway Farm, has donated the use of four acres and has offered to do the planting and harvesting. Southern States Co-op has donated seeds, and Union Mills Homestead Grist Mill has offered to grind the buckwheat into flour.

The buckwheat, and crops grown later, will be given to Carroll County Food Sunday and other area food banks and kitchens.

Lehigh Portland Cement Co. offered stones for the wall and the use of its trucks to bring them to the site. A local artist, Shawn Scanlon, is working with the Anagraphix Company to design some "Seeds of Change" logos, from which one will be chosen by the participants at the celebration. Gaia's Circle Ritual Group of Baltimore has been helping Ms. Israelson organize the ceremony.

"We celebrate the seasons and stay connected with nature in that way," said Elaine Quinn, a member of Gaia's Circle.

The Carroll Communications Guild is working with Channel 19 to produce a documentary on the project. All of the equipment and time have been donated.

"It's an interesting idea for community involvement," said George Shearer of Eldersburg, a member of the Communications Guild who is helping to film the documentary.

Ms. Israelson usually has individuals write their wishes for the new year on cards, read them aloud and then hang them from a Christmas tree. While she was in Italy, the researchers she met gave her pieces of stone from their work to bring back for her wall.

"The Italian workers wanted to give me some wishes they had, to be placed at the site, so they gave me the wishes that went with the chunks of stone," she said.

"There is the notion that just a few seeds grow things. I believe that if enough people want change to occur, it will occur."

The Seeds of Change Solstice Celebration is private. Anyone wishing to donate time or money to the project, and organizations wishing to receive buckwheat flour should contact the Carroll County Arts Council.

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