MINISTERIAL MUSES— Doors of Reckoning—2.15.2019

Posted February 16th, 2019 by anna and filed in "Real. Authentic. Florida.", Manatee County, FL, Ministerial Muses
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I was introduced to the art of Missionary Mary Proctor by Zoe and Jerry Von Averkamp. She was the first artist they invited to show in their gallery, Divine Excess Folk Art, in the Village of the Arts here in Bradenton. In truth, her work introduces itself. It speaks to the viewer from the walls in the universal language of symbols. It stirs feelings and calls back memories. It generates a sense of being connected to a larger whole and, when necessary, it heals.

Mary was born to 11-year-old Pauline Cooksey in 1960. She was raised by her grandparents, a mixed-race couple. She tells us that her white grandfather was “hated by his own peoples” but stayed with her black grandmother anyway, “stood through the test”. As for her grandmother, Mary has immortalized her in her art, telling viewers of the woman’s everyday struggles, steady values, and enormous faith.

Mary herself became pregnant in the ninth grade. (“I messed up. I just wouldn’t listen to my grandmama.”) She dropped out of school to care for her child and the additional children that her mother had produced. After her grandfather died, her grandmother began to struggle with alcohol addiction. (“She was a good woman … but she had a rough time.”)

At seventeen, Mary met and married Tyrone Proctor (“a good man”). They moved to Tallahassee. He became a fireman. She became a nurse. She left nursing after a decade and opened a day care center. Five years later, she began devoting her time to scavenging for things to sell at a local flea market. It wasn’t long before she opened Noah’s Ark Flea Market (now the American Folk Art Museum & Gallery—Where Kids and Art Come First), filling her yard with furniture, dishes, jewelry, buttons, and beads.

Then in 1994, her life changed forever. Her grandmother, aunt, and uncle died in a house fire. She had a vision the night it happened. (“I saw light going all the way up into heaven.”) Fighting suicidal darkness in the aftermath, she remembered her grandmother’s words: “If you want an answer, there is such peace surrounding a tree.” So she sat under an old oak tree with her bible and prayed for thirty days until a light came over her and she heard a voice say, “Get a door and paint”.

I am the door; if anyone enters by me, he will be saved. —Gospel of John

So paint she did. And then she added salvaged objects to the doors (and windows) to add dimension. The paintings often include spiritual messages and observances. Most often the words speak to the strength of women surviving duress, hinting at anger without ever letting it overtake the work. The art is powerful. Not everyone is comfortable with the rawness of it. (I can’t help but remember the early days of Basquiat’s career, when he was painting from the gut onto salvaged materials.) Her work, despite its challenging, straightforward content, has found its way into homes, galleries, and museums all over the country.

 

It was in the Baltimore Visionary Art Museum of Outsider and Folk Art that Zoe and Jerry discovered Mary. The museum was featuring their collection of Mary’s art doors. When the couple realized that she was a Florida folk artist, Jerry (now deceased) suggested that they drive up to Tallahassee to meet with her. They became instant friends at that first meeting. They purchased Mary’s Blue Willow Plate Story door, which Zoe still has in her studio. Zoe speaks of Mary’s beautiful soul and about how much she treasures her friendship.

 

As the world seems to be getting more and more insane, Missionary Mary L. Proctor continues to paint a compassionate universal truth that reminds people of who they truly are.

© 2019 Anna Jedrziewski and Spirit Connection New York, Inc.

Ministerial Muses—11.1.2018—Tree of Life

Posted November 2nd, 2018 by anna and filed in Ministerial Muses
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Reprinted from Let the Spirit Guide You!

GODDESS TALKING
Voices from Inside the Mountain

This issue of Let The Spirit Guide You! is embarrassingly late. Normally I am very self-disciplined and self-motivated. For the last month, however, I couldn’t seem to make myself sit down at the computer and pull this issue together. Then a 97-year-old holocaust survivor was gunned down by an American anti-semite at a service in her synagogue in Pittsburgh. She survived Hitler, only to be slaughtered in one of the friendliest multi-cultural neighborhoods in the world.
Like the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC did before them, the Tree of Life Synagogue rose above their personal grief to affirm love instead of hate, forgiveness instead of revenge, and celebration of lives well-lived instead of fear.
My friend, Carol Sendar, was a child during World War II. She carried the memory of her parents fear that the Nazis would bomb their Staten Island home with her until the day she died. I thought of it as residual family trauma. On Sunday, I realized that she lived her life with the knowledge of just how close beneath the surface this terrible hatred was.
A year after Carol died, the family invited me to join a small group that attended the unveiling of the headstone on her grave. It was then that I learned of the Jewish custom of leaving stones on the headstone during graveside visits. It was a special moment to be included in that meaningful ritual by her mother, brother, sister-in-law, and niece and nephew. I was distraught to see that custom used as part of a photo op. At the same time, I was grateful to Rabbi Myers for not playing into the political drama by refusing a Presidential visit, instead making sure that the Presiden’s attention (and the media’s) was focused on the human beings who had been killed.
My sense is that this incident is a pivotal moment in American history, perhaps a turning point built on the many, many incidents that have come before it. I am still too caught up in my own emotions to see clearly how this will move through time and be recorded by history. It does, however, seem that something about the quiet, determined, and dignified grieving in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh might be the equivalent of Edward R. Morrow finally speaking out against Joe McCarthy’s reign of terror decades ago.
We are living in transformative times. I just heard that Generation Z is already more diverse than not. A white majority in America is soon to be a thing of the past. The rise of violence to try and turn back that tide is an admission of the futility of those efforts. They are desperate attempts to maintain the viability of opposition to a changing world.
But survival of the species is the first priority of the human race. As those of us who have been in this battle for decades begin to waiver, young people are stepping up to take over. Instead of battering at establishment infrastructure like my generation did in the 60’s, they appear to be carefully strategizing, looking for ways to use the system to accomplish what they want. I am watching the politicians who aren’t chasing haters launch appeals to the young people who are just now becoming old enough to vote. I believe that I’m seeing more and more people betting on the future instead of the past.
For those who follow numerolgy, 11 is a master number that represents enlightenment. (The duality comes into equal balance preparing to be elevated by creative merging.) 11 people died in the Tree of Life Synagogue on Saturday. I believe that the transition we are living through now is the movement from the dominance of 11 to the dominance of the master number 12 (the 1 overseeing the duality of 2). I believe that the violence of September 11, 2001 signaled the beginning of the manifestation of this major change. My sense is that the Tree of Life Synagogue violence signals the completion of that cycle. After 9/11/2001, the healing groups that I work with spent much time helping the victims of that incident successfully make their transition in the wake of the trauma. As I scan the 11 victims of the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting, I feel no need to reach out to help with their crossing. Their faith and the faith of their fellow congregants has already seen them safely to the other side. (I mean no disrespect by imposing my own interpretation of the afterlife onto them.) These people died with elegance and the quality of their sacrifice is being carefully guarded by their spiritual community, and by extension, the neighborhood they worshiped in.
This incident has taken me to the depths of despair, but with an open door. My generation might be leaving future generations with a mess but we have also pointed them toward the seeds of their survival. And we remain in the game as best we can.

Ministerial Muses—4.28.2018—Santa Muerte


“They shouldn’t be disrespectful to Santa Muerte,” she heard a voice say. She had come out with her morning coffee and discovered that the totem to the saint which she had created, with a metal cross, roses, acorns and skulls, had been bent sideways during the night. She knew it wasn’t the wind. The pole it was attached to was too slender to offer much resistance.

“No,” she thought, “it was the young dealers across the street.” They had a habit of vandalizing her property in small ways. (Killing a plant with transmission fluid. Breaking a window in a shed. Leaving an old tire in her driveway.) The bend in the pole looked like it had been made by somebody grabbing it and hanging off it. “Santa Muerte shouldn’t be messed with,” she heard.

There were times when she could see an image of “Grandpa”, the father to the young dealers, laughing at her. She always knew when she saw it that they were targeting her again. This time they had targeted the totem she had created to request Santa Muerte’s energy of protection for her property. (A raised middle finger to the folk saint if there ever was one.)

She shouldn’t have been surprised that they were willing to challenge the Saint of the Abyss. The drug culture had come to believe that Santa Muerte worked for them, no spirituality involved. They “worshipped” her with the same violence that they used in business. And their wrath was swift when she disappointed them. They thought themselves to be the purveyors of destruction. They considered Santa Muerte to be their handmaiden.

The truth is that energy is not negative unless human thinking perceives it that way. Death was walled off when society began embracing the fear of women. Women gave birth, so it must somehow be their fault that people die. And dying is a bad thing, right? We are only now beginning to question the validity of that line of thought. Crops must die in the fall and return their unused nutrients to the soil to prepare for a new crop in the spring. Santa Muerte of the Abyss brings rejuvenation and prosperity. But sacrifice is required. For every step forward, something must be left behind. We must dance with death in order to truly embrace life.

When a new step up in awareness is approached, there will be a loss. Something valued by the aspirant will be taken away, a favorite piece of jewelry, a favorite scarf, a treasured skill, even a desired person. The aspirant must then choose. Either keep looking to the horizon for what is about to emerge, or turn back and focus on resentment for what is gone. It sounds simple enough but it is the difference between moving forward and having to go back to the beginnning in the next life and try again.

The bent pole bothered her but she didn’t seem to be able to make herself deal with the task of straightening it. There was an energy around it that pushed back. “Let them see what they did.”

She wasn’t home when “it” happened — and it was weeks before she even found out that “it” had happened. But suddenly she was overcome with the need to straighten out the pole that Santa Muerte”s totem was attached to. There was a sense of relief when it was finally righted. She expected it to be vandalized again, but oddly it was left alone, upright and intact.

Then she approached a neighbor one afternoon for a favor and found out that one of the young dealers had been badly injured riding his motorcycle (just before she had straightened out Santa Muerte’s pole). His stepson was following behind on a scooter. He turned to see where the child was. It was on a curve, a curve that the dealers had parked full to purposely create a traffic hazard for law-abiding neighbors. The car, who probably didn’t see him coming because of the mess on the right-of-way, hit him. It happened at the end of her driveway. The driveway that she had to back out of knowing that she couldn’t see cars/trucks approaching and they couldn’t see her because of the constant mess the dealers had in the right-of-way.

The people that she talked to didn’t know whether or not the young dealer survived, but the crash pad that he and other dealers inhabited up the block was vacated by all of them the next day. Was there an inter-cartel war going on? Did one of the neighbors finally reach the end of their rope with the constant abuse and take matters into their own hands? (Someone had driven into the young dealers’ yard awhile back to run over a vicious dachshund they let run loose terrorizing the neighborhood.)

Sometimes an accident is just an accident. But her legs had gone weak under her when her neighbor showed her a picture of the young dealer lying at the end of her driveway with paramedics on either side of him. She had asked to be protected from the negativity. She was careful not to ask that it be sent back from whence it came. She had left “how” up to Santa Muerte.

Excerpted from The Fairie Encounters © 2018 Anna Jedrziewski and InannaWorks

Ministerial Muses—4.8.2018—Arts&Eats

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Arts and Eats is closing.

I’m desolate to be losing one of my favorite restaurants, but I’m so glad that Jim and Donna are going to scale back on the stressful pursuit of business advancement and begin adding personal enjoyment time to their lives (like a trip to the Galapagos in September).


Star Chef Jim Copening (941-243-1492) will be available for private engagements.


Artist/entrepreneur Donna Slawsky hasn’t let on to what she will be up to but I’m sure it will be something exciting.

Arts and Eats’ grand finale will be their special Mother’s Day spread. They are booking up quickly for their last month. If you haven’t experienced Jim’s down-to-earth gourmet creations, I suggest you make a reservation soon. The Village of the Arts will miss them, but those of us who have been regular customers will be looking forward to the next chapter.

This husband and wife team represent the entrepreneurial best of what Bradenton has attracted the past few decades. I hope the developer overlay that is sweeping over Manatee County now has left some room for motivated, high-level talent like theirs to find a foothold here going forward.

© 2018 Anna Jedrziewski and Spirit Connection New York, Inc.

Ministerial Muses.4.11.18

Posted April 1st, 2018 by anna and filed in Manatee County, FL, Ministerial Muses
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Beyond Lady Day and Emerson’s Bar and Grill

I was lucky enough to see Nina Simone sing Strange Fruit at The Village Gate in 1970. And I listened to Billie Holiday’s recordings of it so many times I had every nuance memorized. So when I heard Melba Moore say that she didn’t try to imitate Billie Holiday for her portrayal of Billie at the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, I was relieved. Little did I know …

At first, I told my friend Bernie that I didn’t want to go see another rendition of Billie’s down and out life and career. Years ago, I came to believe that most of that is just people ripping her off in death like they did in life. (The sound of Billie’s plaintiff voice, coming from an old 78 as I cried, got me through one of the worst times in my life. Her artistry is sacred to me.) But after seeing In The Heights earlier this year, I told Bernie that I thought we should give WBTT a chance. She managed to get us two seats for this afternoon’s performance, just before the play sold out.

The theatre was set up like a small cabaret. I was confused in the beginning about whether to respond to the production as a cabaret performance or a stage play. I pulled my natural enthusiasm in and followed the audience’s lead. I felt they were a little restrained but I heard a gentleman (not of color) say to his companion on the way out, “That was really something.” “Billie’s still changing lives”, I thought.

By the time Levi Barcourt (as Jimmy Powers) nudged “Billie” into Strange Fruit with his piano, there was no Billie Holiday, no Nina Simone, no Melba Moore. There was only the energy of the moment. Ms. Moore’s voice wrapped itself around my heart as the tears poured down my face. At the end of the show, what happened to Billie Holiday in her short life is very clear. It is also very clear that the only time she was free of the pain it caused her was when she was singing — and someone was listening, really listening.

Part of the power of the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe is probably because people of color still deal with the oppression of racism. The unique creative window this highly-talented group has opened is getting a lot of support, both from within and without, because of the tremendous opportunities that window makes possible. I have seen three productions now. While all three have dealt with racial issues (I am Caucasian) without mincing words, they have all taken audiences to a place of universal response to the core experiences of being a human being. All three times, I have recognized myself in the anger, fear, and struggle to survive it all. Kudos and gratitude to Ms. Moore for riding that wave to such an extraordinary level.

© 2018 Anna Jedrziewski and Spirit Connection New York, Inc.

Ministerial Muses—3.11.2018

Posted March 11th, 2018 by anna and filed in "Real. Authentic. Florida.", Manatee County, FL, Ministerial Muses
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Celebration of Herbie Rose!

Mother Nature held the rain at bay yesterday as people gathered in The Village of The Arts to celebrate the life and memory of Herbie Rose, premiere Florida artist and visionary founder of The Village of The Arts.

Village restaurants contributed food for a spectacular fest.

Graciela Giles, Herbie’s wife, thanked everyone for coming and began the festivities by introducing Argentinian dancers to get things off to “lively” start.

Then Graciela invited people to come to the mike and share their thoughts about Herbie. The heartfelt, and often humorous, remarks reflected Herbie’s quiet and inspiring touch. Among those speaking were Mayor Wayne Poston…

…and Jo Ellen Gorris, one of the first artists to embrace Herbie’s vision for our extraordinary artists’ community.

Herbie’s legacy is just beginning to be recognized. As an artist, teacher, and community activist, there are few who can match his contribution to Bradenton and to Florida. May his memory become stronger as the years go by.

Ministerial Muses—2.25.2018

Posted February 25th, 2018 by anna and filed in Manatee County, FL, Ministerial Muses
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When I read the advance materials about the Toni Dove exhibit at The Ringling Museum, I didn’t have a clue what it was going to be. Interactive they said. I expected to wave my hand at a machine and see it projected a dozen times on the walls around me. But The Ringling’s seven-year Art of Our Time initiative, spearheaded by Steven High, has been producing spectacular, don’t-miss exhibits, so I put it on my calendar.

My friend Bernie and I arrived at the Member’s Preview yesterday in time to hear the last half of curator Matthew McLendon’s talk about the exhibit. “I encourage you to read the written material on the walls,” he said. “I’ll be wandering through the exhibit in case you have any questions.” Bernie and I decided to have a cup of coffee and a cinnamon bun before we ventured into the galleries. Once we finally moved to the exhibit, we were drawn into a world that was as mesmerizing as it was confusing. We quickly found ourselves in a small room with a light-up mat on the floor and images being projected on the wall. I waited my turn as instructed by the mat. When the mat gave me permission to move forward, I discovered that the mat has three different stations. When you stand on one of the stations, it lights up and the image on the screen changes. I was moving back and forth on the mat when Matthew McLendon popped in and told me that if I waved my arms, the image would be altered. I expected to see my motions projected back to me (mind sets are difficult things to let go of). Matthew explained that the piece didn’t reflect my motions, my motions changed the image that was being displayed. I was “manipulating” the image. “A five-year-old would understand this right away,” I thought.

Not long after that Bernie and I wandered into another darkened room just as Dove’s Spectropia was beginning. There were benches so we sat down. An hour and fifteen minutes later, we emerged from the room. We had seen the future. Spectropia is best described as Last Year in Marienbad meets Steampunk in a mother board someplace in Japan. What we saw turned out to be a recording of a live, interactive performance of the piece. Like disc jockeys manipulate recordings to create their own sound performances, Dove manipulates recorded imagery and sound to create ever changing versions of her visual works.

Slowly, it was all beginning to make a little sense. It’s a lot to take in in one day but two things stood out amidst the cutting-edge technology: there are highly creative intellectual threads running through Dove’s work, and the imagery, though strange, is exquisitely crafted.

Spectropia will be presented live by Toni Dove in the courtyard at The Ringling on March 9. She will present her other major work, Lucid Possession, in the Historic Asolo Theatre on April 13 and 14. Bernie and I already have tickets.

© 2018 Anna Jedrziewski and Spirit Connection New York, Inc.

Ministerial Muses.2.11.18

Posted February 10th, 2018 by anna and filed in "Real. Authentic. Florida.", Manatee County, FL, Mid-Town Manatee?, Ministerial Muses
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Changes in a changing neighborhood

Much to my relief, Jeff Wallace is back next door running our historic neighborhood auto repair business. Legally, it’s Jeff’s Auto Repair now, but it will always be Jack’s Auto Repair to those of us who have lived here for decades.

Jack Wilson founded the business back when my grandparents were living here. He still comes back from West Virginia every winter to help out next door. Jack hired Charles Godshall and sold him the business when he retired. Charlie hired Jeff and sold him the business when he retired. Jeff added the Tuesday Night Book Club, a funky lot who meet once a week and make the neighborhood a safer place after dark. Once the unlicensed junk auto businesses started rolling over the neighborhood a decade ago, making things as unsightly and unlivable as they could for pre-existing homeowners and small businesses, Jeff finally decided it was time to move to Georgia. But the ties to Old Florida aren’t easily broken and in a few years he was back. A year ago he was able to move back to the original Jack’s Auto property, next door to me. The Tuesday Night Book Club is meeting next door again!

Jeff’s renewed presence is such a gift to me. He doesn’t sell drugs or stolen auto parts (no gang members dropping by). He’s a terrific mechanic who’s always busy with legitimate work. He runs a licensed business, subject to inspection, and he pays taxes, lots of taxes. His employees don’t wear electronic ankle bracelets or drive vehicles with window-rattling stereos and expired license plates smeared with mud. He doesn’t park heavy commercial vehicles on the public right-of-way nights and weekends and leave the engines running for hours making noise and gas fumes. He doesn’t let old, noisy industrial compressors run outdoors for hours and hours. He doesn’t pour toxic waste products along my property line after dark. He doesn’t abuse his guard dogs to make them vicious and then let them run loose in the neighborhood to poop in other people’s yards so he doesn’t have to clean up after them.

But it wasn’t any the above things that prompted me to write this Musing. It was, rather, another historic event. A few months ago, Jeff hired the first woman mechanic in this “good old boy” neighborhood.

He hired Abbie right out of school and is training her. And—I admit much to my feminist surprise—so is the original “good old boy” Jack Wilson. She’s already starting to pull her own weight, with high praise from both her mentors. I happened to be there last week when she finally got a car with a difficult problem started. Jeff said, “I’d tell you ‘you’re the MAN’ except I can’t”. Abbie and I quickly agreed that we both had enough ego-strength to accept being called “the MAN” if it was meant as praise. To which Jeff replied, “Grab the other end of this while I tighten it, Abbie …”

©2018 Anna Jedrziewski and Spirit Connection New York, Inc.

Ministerial Muses—11.6.2017

Posted November 6th, 2017 by anna and filed in Manatee County, FL, Ministerial Muses, The Faerie Encounters™
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Moving out of what had been her home for almost five decades just about did her in. She was physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted by the time she finally arrived back in Florida. The new world she thought she had seen emerging just before she left town to go north appeared to be gone. What remained was a house filled with boxes and badly in need of repairs, and a yard which had gotten impossibly overgrown while she was busy packing up her life up north.

The last few years in New York had been increasingly hostile. She no longer recognized the city that she had cherished for so many decades. As her building became more “high class”, it also became noisier. The Board, unwilling to risk lawsuits by people who could afford expensive lawyers, did nothing to stop it except issue the occasional memo asking tenants to be “considerate” of their neighbors. The streets which she had once roamed with enthusiasm, now scared her. People she had known most of her adult life began to distance themselves from her as she voiced her frustration and her fear.

By dumb luck, she had ended up living in one of the most expensive neighborhoods in Manhattan Yet she felt like a prisoner of war, trapped in a one-room space, being tortured by her upstairs neighbors at all hours of the night and day, with no way to regain control over her circumstances except to leave.

But leaving (selling and moving) was easier said than done. When the Board declined to approve the financials of her first buyer because the woman only made $455,000/year, she knew it really was war. But she was lucky.

Her broker lived in the building and fought to get her top dollar for her apartment, partly because the broker was a nice person, and partly because the sale price affected the value of her own apartment. Unexpected acquaintances showed up to help dismantle her built-ins and pack up her belongings. They quickly became family.

As she took down her room dividers/storage units, the apartment became a mire of stacked boxes. Neighbors, who had been fun to socialize with occasionally, showed up to drive carload after carload to a storage unit to get some them out of her way so she could keep packing. She desperately needed that show of support as she fought to save the equity in her apartment as well as her sanity in a world that now seemed intent on destroying her.

The father of the buyer whom the Board finally approved nickel-and-dimed her, literally, until the last second. But her lawyer (recommended by her broker) successfully held him at bay and protected the equity which she had worked so hard to build up.

When she left her home for the last time, there was no wrenching at the loss. The empty shell that was left was not the home that she had built and loved. She headed back to the faeries without looking back. But the battle had taken it’s toll. She was walking wounded. There were days she found she could barely sit up, and it was six months before she could once again take pleasure in watching the salamanders dance in the flames of her fire pit.

It was a year before she could again connect with the Lady in White. When she was finally able to do that, she discovered that the faeries had had their own battle to fight while she was salvaging her life. The Invisible Helpers arranged to send her a book about Santa Muerte and she realized that the drug dealers in the neighborhood were probably petitioning the folk saint to put a curse on her. (Santa Muerte is the saint that drug cartels build altars to. But when they don’t receive what they ask for, they are brutal in their response, literally beating the saint’s statue to punish her. Clearly they are not appealing to this icon’s higher aspects.)

As she regained her health and began to be proactive again, she let Santa Muerte know that she was offering her property as a place of refuge. She spoke to the higher aspects of the Lady of Death and asked for her protection from the negative intentions of the neighborhood dealers. She purchased a filigreed iron cross with an opened blue rose in the center of it. She attached two acorns under the rose to draw fertility and creativity, then added a chain of skulls at the bottom to pay tribute to the ancestors. When she attached it to a solar light post at the center front of her property, she could feel the energy shift instantly. And the faeries began surfacing almost immediately. Within a few days she could feel the hum of their energy through the Goddess Garden again. They brought her will to live back with them when they returned. She was still physically exhausted (and showing signs of PTSD) but she faced each day with expectation instead of despair. The voices of the Loved Ones were speaking to her again.

© 2017 Anna Jedrziewski and InannaWorks

SNOOTY™ — Ministerial Muses 8.6.17

Posted August 6th, 2017 by anna and filed in Manatee County, FL, Ministerial Muses, Snooty™
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The following is reprinted from Goddess Talking™ in the July 2003 issue of Let the Spirit Guide You!


Snooty™ deferred parenting until later in life. It wasn’t his choice. He was born into an alien world and separated from his own kind from the age of one. His friend Sally tells me he displays all the necessary signs of virility, but by the time his subjects were able to build him an environment large enough for a pool-mate, it was illegal to breed manatees in captivity. Those close to him mourn the loss of his genes to the species.

No one knew his mother was pregnant when she was captured and brought to the old Miami Aquarium. On July 21, 1948 (yes, a Cancer), his was the first officially recorded birth of a manatee in captivity. Soon afterwards, in 1949, he came to Bradenton to help the city with its DeSoto Celebration. Known as “Baby Snoots” then, he quickly won hearts and was invited to stay (fortunately with a name change). It is a love affair that continues. I’ve always told friends from out of town, that when Snooty dies the people of Bradenton will burn the city charter, board up the windows, and move on. Truthfully, I suspect that, when the time comes, he will find a way to help us through his death as successfully as he has welcomed us into his life.

Surrounded by admirers, his every need met by a loving staff, he could have lived a life of wealthy indulgence. He hasn’t. Nobody accepts their responsibilities as conscientiously as Snooty. Over the course of his 55 years in public service, 24 of them as the official Manatee County mascot, he has personally greeted more than a million people. Always a teacher, he is now a recognized part of the Manatee County School System. With the help of his staff, he answers letters from school children all over the country. Concerned about his own kind in the wild (there are less than 3000 manatees left in Florida), he volunteered for hearing tests at Mote Marine Laboratory. He has even managed to turn his annual Birthday Bash into a Wildlife Awareness Festival.

It was February 1998 when Snooty received his first young, pool-mate, Newton. Newton had been injured in the wild and suffered ongoing health problems. In August of 1998 Newton lost his battle to recover. The people
of Bradenton grieved openly, huddled together in supermarket aisles, parking lots and gas stations. But Snooty had proven himself as a foster dad.

His next protégé was Mo, a healthy, but orphaned, youngster. When he was old enough, Mo was successfully released into the wild. (He has since been struck twice by boaters and is currently recovering at the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa.)

Not long after Mo’s release, Palma Sola arrived at The Parker Manatee Aquarium to receive the benefits of Snooty’s expertise and helping flipper. Palma Sola was successfully released into the wild on February 13th of this year. At last report, he was doing well. (You can track his progress at www. WILDTRACKS.org.)

As I write this, Snooty and his staff are looking after DeSoto Park, a year-old manatee who was injured by the boater who killed his mother. Snooty is effortlessly helping DeSoto Park learn what he needs to know to survive in a world which Snooty has never known.

Snooty’s gifts to his human populace still, however, surpass his gifts to his own species. His mere presence is healing to us. People often come to discuss their problems with him. Some just watch him twist and loop through the water as a meditation to relieve stress.

Okay! It’s possible I’ve been projecting a little. But don’t dismiss me until you go and look into Snooty’s eyes for yourself. If you’ve ever known sadness, your will see it there. If you’ve ever known compassion, you will see it there. If you’ve ever aspired to learn the Wisdom of the Ages, you will wish that he could speak to you. And then, you’ll see him grin.