Nuclear war



During the 1960s, I grow up under the constant threat of nuclear war. As an elementary student, I practice “duck and cover” regularly in my hometown of Bethlehem, PA. A booming steel town where everyone is certain we would be a first target; in the 1970s this fear haunts my dreams; the 1980s, the fear of nuclear war surfaces again. Non-profit organizations rally our generation to action resulting in strong advocacy for peace by women of my generation*. I play my small part through art – “duck and cover” long gone as real response. Now, it is back. In today’s Washington Post Op-Ed section appears a piece – “Why is Trump suddenly talking about World War III?“.

A coincidence. There is this, dear reader. I participate in a wonderful online writing group – Juncture – with Philadelphia writer Beth Kephart. She sends out a “new” writing prompt – not about war, not about childhood – but this is my response.

She seems so tall, my mother, as I look up at her sideways. Her profile, shoulder-length hair, dark and thick, falls in gentle waves. The white shirtwaist dress worn with a large leather belt around her slim waist. She is beautiful, my mother. She is worried. I can tell this easily, as our neighbor barges in through our front door. I see her face change – softened to furrowed brow, relaxed to taut jawline, ruby red lips at the edge of a smile to one that is frowning.

I pull at her hand, the one where her arm rests against her side while the other holds her waist tightly. She turns her head slowly, tilted so she can meet my questions. It is only then I see the fear. Her eyes are filled up with fear. I know this is bad. I know not to ask, but I will. I need to know what news walked in so boldly without a second thought to us. Yes, right through that door – the one that is always open, always welcoming.  She speaks softly – not to me, not to anyone but herself. Perhaps she needs hearing this said aloud. Her voice needing to carry the weight of the words. “Kennedy is sending ships toward Cuba. This is World War III.”

Truth told. I do not believe in coincidence.

* This calligraphy exhibit, organized by Phyllis Goodnow in 1984, travelled to many sites including the U.S. House of Representatives, Cannon Office Bldg. in the Rotunda, Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C. Hood College in Frederick, Md. and more.
Applebaum, Anne. “Why Is Trump Suddenly Talking About World War III?” The Washington Post [Washington, D.C.] 30 Oct. 2016, Metropolitan Washington ed., sec. A: A21. The Washington Post. The Washington Post, 28 Oct. 2016. Web. 30 Oct. 2016.

July4ART: part two


It is two weeks into July (almost) and I am myself moving very slowly with art; I am rusty, dear friend. My process is akin to the Tin Man (The Wizard of Oz) walking before Dorothy had the good sense to oil his joints. Thus far my stiff hand has lumbered  with pencils to:

  • draw calligraphic lines at a whim
  • color with pencils random places on the wallpaper reproduction
  • repeat these two steps on varying sizes of paper
  • reproduce a pencil drawing of the “key” onto my handmade paper (Why? I am not sure yet!)
  • use a three-hole stitch binding with two pieces of work (the simpliest, of course)
  • relentlessly ask myself, “What am I doing this for?” and “Who needs more stuff to put away?”

Letting go of reason or purpose and responding instinctively is a difficult behavior to regain after years of neglect. This process. This attempt to “make” art. This metaphor for  life.

Please note that you may read The Wizard of Oz in a beautiful color, 1900 edition online thanks to The Library of Congress.  Click HERE.

In college I read The Little Prince in French. Now, my eighth-grade students read it en français. The three, 5×7 calligraphic pieces were created by me more than a decade ago.

Working as an artist meant trying to sell work, and so the quote, being quite popular, was fair game.

Looking back, and thinking about my very young students struggling with translation, I am sad. Like le petit prince, I have the moments of disillusionment. Is the magic of words, or the intrinsic need of art-making subject to structured pedagogy and commerce  – two artificially constructed forms of human behavior? Where is the time to develop a love of reading, of experiencing words without the arduous task assigned? Where is the ability to create art without the need to produce a livelihood?small paintings

You3Have I loss my stamina for both – teaching & art – as I age?  I remember a time when being “in the act” of both filled me up. This year how do I live in the moments of these without the drag and pull into the orbits of the mundane?

While loss is my theme for this summer, pondering life on my planet sustains.

“Look up at the sky. Ask yourselves: Is it yes or no? Has the sheep eaten the flower? And you will see how everything changes…And no grown-up will ever understand that this is a matter of so much importance.”

de Saint Exupéry, and Katherine Woods, trans.  The Little Prince. New York: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1971.  Print.

Awareness of a tension or a lack of harmony, as many online dictionaries declare, and living with this disharmony do not necessarily make a miserable life. The ability to trust the presence of the discord – to allow it to live with you, not against you – offers opportunities for self-examination, which generally take the form of soliloquy or an “internal dialogue.” (You can see, dear reader, how fond I am of the dictionary.)

While cleaning out the endlessly stocked “art closet” I came across this small painting from 1997.
small  painting

Without any doubt, this has to do with waiting for art to become harmonious with my Self, once again. The burden of this becomes lightened when I take time to ponder the meaning of its absence. While I am familiar with the feelings and intellectualism associated with this void, this time its nature is different. I have placed art to the side. I have chosen to defer my artistic life. A timetable ticks inside my chest – circulates patience through my veins, so that I might return to it with a full heart and mind.

Hope is the essence of living well.




During the past two years – especially during the summer months when I am at home and able to “do art” – I find myself stymied. It is so much easier to continue with my current “work. ” My adult life is now at a balance – equal number of years as an artist to that of a librarian. Oftentimes, I find myself preparing for a project only to look at the supplies without inspiration, or love. Not long ago I found myself ruthlessly ridding the supplies -untethering myself from the burden. Gone are the pastels. Gone are the acrylic paints. Gone are the hand cut stencils. Gone is all the papermaking paraphernalia – press, vats, dyes, molds and deckle. Given away with love.

I am no longer living life as an artist.

There was a time – the halcyon days of raising children – when it was my life. I awoke thinking about it. I spent the days working on art. Pondering life and art, in the quiet moments. In the afternoons or Sunday mornings, my children created art with my supplies laid before them on the floor of the studio, or outside on our porch. My husband built papermaking presses, pedestals for stone cutting, borrowed trucks to haul large equipment to and fro throughout the various studios shared with others. The artistic life created a center for me, and enveloped those I loved, which nurtured the art work.  A beautiful circle.

I look at these years lived “in the world”  – in the library world – as a gentle interlude.  Aging brings an ache – the ache to live as an artist again. I know in my bones that it will return for it has been resting these many years – new pencils and pens will be bought. There will be other colours and fresh paints. Patience, I tell myself.

Be patient.

Prudence knew she was a rat.

Why everyone else insisted that she was a cute, little mouse,

she hadn’t a clue!


pru·dence  noun \ˈprü-dən(t)s\

1: the ability to govern and discipline oneself by the use of reason

2: sagacity or shrewdness in the management of affairs

3: skill and good judgment in the use of resources

4: caution or circumspection as to danger or risk

“Prudence.” Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 5 Aug. 2013. <;.

bow-tieYears ago I began a series of “Prudence” sketches whenever the mood hit me.  She has turned in to quite the character, of whom I am quite fond. Today, being such a beautiful day, I thought of how I might share her with you…she is a bit leery, but I assured her that you, dear readers, are very kind.

at dusk


B 002At dusk my sisters’

voices carry from the porch,

a sweet summer cadence.

I pause.

June bugs in the twilight

lighting my way.

I breathe

before joining in

their songs.

©Tina Hudak


A legacy to their children from my parents is a close relationship with my two sisters.  While we are separated by many years and our personal experiences are so different, our lives are intertwined and continue to be so.  The letter B was sketched by me in Minnesota’s Mayo Clinic in 2000 while visiting my sister in hospital after a very serious surgery.  The artwork alone is a silly, frivolous piece, but to me every touch of the pencil allowed my fear to find a concrete place and let hope remain.

This weekend they are visiting. Joy and gratitude will greet them.

Endless hours


Her Daughter’s Anger

My mother sewed

endless hours bent over

her machine.

What she has made, to me, is


Strangers wear her clothes

tossing them in piles on

their floors lay all

her years.

cp ©2012

My mother worked in the sewing mills from the time I was five years old until I went to college.  Although there was a strong union, ILGWU (International Ladies Garment Workers Union), it did not keep these women safe from “white lung disease.”  To this day, when I buy a piece of clothing, I offer a silent prayer for the hands who made it.

This small, calligraphic letter was sketched out in my quiet moments at home, which are rare.  Simply drawn, it is pen and ink with color pencil.

I would love you know what you, dear readers, feel about the autumn season.  What words best describe your feelings, memories, and attitudes toward the months where Eleanor Averitt, in her poem “November Day” writes,

Old haggard wind has

  plucked the trees

Like pheasants, held

  between her knees.

In rows she hangs them,

  bare and neat,

Their brilliant plumage at her feet.

from  Dunning, Stephen, Edward Lueders, et al, and Hugh Smith. Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle…and other modern verses. New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Co., Inc., 1967. Print.

artist's book

Artist’s book, Conversation with May

The autumn season is one I have always welcomed.  Yet, it is bittersweet for me, as it is in my bones to remember my childhood at this time of year.  I remember the start of school – pulling out the wool school uniform (heavy and itchy, buying the new, brown and white saddle shoes and penny loafers.  I remember walking to school alone at a young age. It was not unusual for me to talk aloud to myself or my guardian angel who sat on my right shoulder and was a girl, of course.  I remember still – to this day – that is was the best feeling – the wind blowing my hair across my face, the cardigan sweater buttoned all the way to the top keeping me snug. I looked forward to lunch which my mother religiously packed every day – Lebanon bologna on white bread, a small bag of Wise potato chips, a Tastykake Cremie – and I carried it in a brown paper bag along with my oilcloth to place over my desk, where we ate in our classrooms with our teacher – Sr. Rosaline or Sr. Bernadette…So, clutching my book bag I left home every morning with excitement and fear mixed together, as I stepped away from the world my parents had so lovingly created for me.

My parents were the first generation of Americans whose parents and some siblings were born in Italy or Czechoslovakia.  They never finished high-school because they were needed by their parents to work in the Pennsylvania mills. Working at least 10 hour days at ages 13 and 15, they supported their large Catholic families. In my father’s home of fifteen children, only the oldest and youngest sons were “allowed” to go to college – and they did, both on sports scholarships to Catholic universities.  My parents worked in the mills until the day they retired despite the changing times and their intellectual brilliance.  It was not until I reached my 20’s that I realized how much they sacrificed for their daughters.  We were expected to go to college – all three girls.  And we did, and then some.

So, I find during this advent of autumn that it is no surprise I live where I have been living for 30 years – that I married, raised our children, and work here, in this small town of ____. It is a community where many immigrants struggle and sacrifice as did my parents, in order to give their children much more than they will ever have themselves.  They want what my parents wanted for us – a good education to secure success.  When the fees for this and that come home in the backpacks (as they soon will), I often wonder at the toll this takes in the private lives of these families.  Yet sacrifice is what they do for their children.  Times have indeed changed, but not where it matters.

This essay, written for the library where I worked, was originally published in 1998 under “Notes From Your Children’s Librarian” and has been re-edited for this posting.

“Great Time,” a poem by May Sarton written in 1929.

During a decade of my life, I found the journals of May Sarton to be a great inspiration for my art.  As we so often do, we find ourselves in a “conversation” with a writer.  This artist’s book was a small tribute to such a conversation.  The paper is linen fiber imbedded with leaves, pulled in a Japanese style of papermaking; pencil, acrylic paint, calligraphy, collage and bookbinding are all by the artist. cp.


The start of the school year – at least in public schools – begins next week for teachers, and the following week.  Because of my own attachments to autumn this earlier “beginnings” pains me.  One always wants those sweet and dear experiences to remain for the younger generations…I suppose this is nostalgia.  The students walking to and from school accompanied by the hum of the cicadas and warm, late summer breezes are creating their own memories.  I wish for all of them the love of learning and joy in friendship for this new year!

August 2012


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