Sabbath and Art

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. (Exodus 20:8 ESV)

Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. (Luke 9:14 ESV)

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I took this selfie on Friday, while I was waiting for the Jolley Trolley to take me over to Tarpon Springs. I didn’t know that taking this photo would capture the wistful feeling in my heart. These last few days of our adventure ebb and flow with a sorrow that comes after a great time of celebration. Apparently, the observation of a Jewish shabbat begins with a song of celebration and ends with a song of sorrow.

My sister, Gillian shared this insight with me after attending a shabbat ceremony with a friend this weekend. The rabbi explained why the ceremony ends with a somber chorus:

On Friday and Saturday we celebrate sabbath, as the bride or queen of the sabbath [rest]. We keep her here as long as we can. We are sad when she goes. We keep her here through our stories and music, our poetry and art. Our artfulness. He later declared that honoring her dignifies our week.”

I like how he personified Sabbath, as a beloved friend that we don’t want to leave us. That’s how I feel about this experience of being here. I am sad to leave, yet this time away has dignified our lives, given us the rest and refreshment we needed to return to the “work” of the weeks ahead.

As I looked back over the past few days, I noticed the artfulness around me.

In Tarpon Springs, the best place to experience all things sponge related and good Greek food, I surprised myself by buying a ticket to witness the ancient art of sponge diving.

The town bustled with tourists along with a blustery wind and an old world ambience.

Before the tour, I enjoyed a plate of Chicken Sophia at a small round table by the window inside the Mykonos Greek Restaurant. The olive oil and cheesy spinach filling satisfied my appetite and drew some onlookers. The patriarch of the family asked if he could sample my meal. We enjoyed some light-hearted bantering, as his chair backed up to mine. He and one of his family members ordered their own plate of Chicken Sophia, although I really could have shared my plate with them; the portions could feed a small family.

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I went to the souvenir shop across the street to buy a t-shirt for me and a cap for Les. Outside the shop, the persuasive tour ticket lady sold me a forty minute ride on their sponge boat, which included a demonstration of an authentic sponge diver, using  gear from years past.

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From my front row seat, I was entertained by the showmanship of the captain, crew and diver. Pictures are the best way to show you the artistry involved in keeping an audience captive.

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the diver in his canvas wetsuit, checking his authentic cell phone while the passengers boarded

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The captain and our tour guide explaining the five kind of sponges that they harvest. He is holding a “vase” sponge. The man next to him is an authentic Greek, Dimitri, who helped to dock the boat and get the diver in and out of the water. The captain was a self-professed Cajun.

Our diver was Italian and the crew member in training didn’t tell us his origin.

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Dimitri and second crew member placing 70lb weight on diver’s shoulders to hold him underwater (two flat stones attached to two ropes make up the weight)
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I thought the diver looked a lot like George Clooney

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weighted shoe and sponge “fork”


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he dropped off the side into the water with a rope and breathing tube hooked to helmet, the wind was whipping him around a bit even with the weights


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reboarding the boat, he did bring back a piece of sponge

I didn’t take a picture of the sponge. My backstage theater experience made it hard to suspend disbelief. This was a very well choreographed demonstration of diving. We never left the river that leads out to the gulf, so not too sure sponges grow back along the riverbank. It was a great feat of strength and stamina on the diver’s part. He really got whipped around by the wind, and needed assistance to get back. Basically, Dimitri reeled him in with the rope. I loved watching their interactions and knowing the skill it took to handle the boat and the use of the diving equipment. Just the sheer weight of his gear was a great responsibility. He repeated this performance at least three or four times that day.

We all applauded the performance, as we seamlessly arrived back at the dock, so the next group could enjoy their tour at 1:30pm sharp.

I bought some sponges and headed back to our boat.

That evening, I was inspired to make my own art on the back deck of our boat.

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supplies…my “canvas” was a recycled free newspaper sheet to which I glued scraps of paper, then covered it with gesso and acyrlic paints.
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I stenciled several different layers onto the base, then added doodles, paper ephemera and words from magazine
this was the “canvas” before I added all the layers
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close up of doodle fish…I folded the whole piece into eighths to make a little booklet
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cover of booklet
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one of the two page spreads inside…the fish is from a packet of printed die cuts…the word: la chaussee means road or causeway

What artfulness leads you to Sabbath rest?

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