Herman Maril, Father’s Day Appreciation

Dad enjoyed the interaction of looking at student’s work and discussing with them what they thought they saw. He’d ask them questions and they would have to rethink how they’d put their perceptions down on paper, analyzing ways to make their work better. I sensed their respect and enjoyment of the class as soon as they entered the room and it made me feel proud.

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Father’s Day is approaching, and thus I thought it fitting to reprise an essay I wrote about my dad, Herman Maril the artist.   For Herman Maril fans, you can learn more about his career and work at HermanMaril.com.

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Portrait of Nadja Maril, age 17 By Herman Maril ( 1908-1986)

My father, Herman Maril, used to take me to work with him once a year. On this one day, I’d wake with him at five in the morning, when the sky was still dark, and put on the clothes I’’d laid out the night before. We’d sit by the window waiting for the taxi driver to arrive.

My father would be drinking a cup of coffee and eating a package of orange cheese flavored crackers, spread inside with peanut butter.
“Here take one,” he’d say offering a cracker sandwich.
“Too early in the morning to eat,” I’d say .
More of these crackers could be found inside his desk at the University of Maryland, College Park, where he taught painting twice a week. A full professor and head of the studio department for many years, my father arranged his class schedule so that he only needed to make the trip from Baltimore to College Park twice a week, while he fielded phone calls regarding administrative matters seven days a week. His “at home” days gave him time in his studio to sketch and paint.

Dad didn’t drive, although he retained his driver’s license for identification. That’s why we were waiting for a taxi. Years earlier when I was about two years old, he’d forgotten to put on the emergency brake after getting out of the maroon Studebaker sedan, my parent’s first car,, while I was still in the backseat. The Studebaker started rolling backwards down a hill and while he was able to jump out and stop the car, he took it as a sign to stop driving. My dad was not interested in the mechanics of driving, he wanted to look out at the scenery; people, colors, shapes, and landscape. So my mother took on the role of family driver, leaving my father’s mind free for other things.

Frank, the taxi driver, drove my father to the downtown Baltimore bus station where Dad would take a bus to College Park . Dad was one of his regular customers, and in the morning there’d be banter between the two I could barely follow. Frank’s Baltimore accent was thick and I was too fascinated studying the pattern of criss-cross marks on the back of his neck to listen closely and decipher the words. The wrinkles signified to me that Frank was old. How did those marks get so deep, I’d ponder. A scrawny man, he wore a baseball cap and his nose was shaped like a beak. My father seemed to enjoy talking to Frank, but then he enjoyed talking to just about everyone.

Unlike my mother, who was somewhat aloof with people she didn’t know, my father would engage in conversation with just about everyone we encountered. I admired this trait because I was always afraid to talk to anyone I’d just met, fearful I’d say the wrong thing. I longed to feel comfortable enough to speak to strangers.

The bus ride to College Park was a blur. Sometimes I dozed off while my father looked out the window, perhaps studying the scenery, formulating a future canvas he might paint.

The walk up the hill to the building that housed the art department, in one of the many red brick buildings, was a long one. I struggled to keep up with my father’s confident steps. I was excited. Which students would I meet? What would those college students, almost adults, be talking about and what would their pictures look like?

I remember once spending the day in another professor’s class, a printmaker, where I created an entire etching on copper plate from start to finish. Excited to learn a new skill, I proudly showed my father the prints I’d created when I returned to his classroom but also recall saying, “What a relief to smell canvas and paint. The smell of ink and acid is awful.” The smells of my father’s studio were familiar and comforting.

Another year, I remember I was the model, for a drawing class. One of the students had neglected to bring paper, and when everyone was directed to sketch me sitting perched on a desk, the student had to use a roll of brown paper towel from above the sink.

“No money for art supplies?” My father chided. The student kept working
I peeked at the various sketches. The only ones I remember were the ones in blue pen on the. brown paper toweling. Despite the lack of materials, those sketches looked the best.
“Is he one of your best students?’ I asked. My father tried not to show any preference for particular students, believing everyone had potential. He ignored my question.

Dad enjoyed the interaction of looking at their work and discussing with them what they thought they saw. He’d ask them questions and they’re have to rethink how they’d put their perceptions down on paper, analyzing ways to make their work better. I sensed their respect and enjoyment of the class as soon as they entered the room and it made me feel proud.
Adjacent to his teaching studio was a small office with a battered oak desk. He’d retreat there to smoke his cigarettes. When the sergeant general started cautioning the public on the dangers of smoking, Dad changed from Kents to Larks for their lower nicotine levels, but he couldn’t totally give up cigarettes. “Daddy smoking is bad for you,: I’d tell him. “Don’t worry I don’t inhale.” He’d say.

Smoking was one of the small pleasures important to my father’s enjoyment of life. The other small pleasure was a good cup of coffee. The coffee needed to be real perked coffee, not instant, full-bodied and hot. Find a place that served a good cup of coffee and he was highly appreciative.

Food was also something my father enjoyed, but the food did not need to be fancy. To economize, he brought sandwiches with him for his lunch which he washed down with coffee. In later years, he’d tell us about lunches he enjoyed with his colleagues at a Chinese restaurant near the school. He’d extol the virtues of lots of vegetables and rice with very little meat, before stir fried cooking and Asian diets were popular in the US. He’d describe the sauces in great detail and I would salivate thinking about the exotic food he was describing. Perhaps, that’s why to this day, I enjoy cooking variations of stir-fried Asian dishes.

For many years, in my office desk drawer I used to stash a few packages of peanut butter crackers, preferring the ones that were golden brown. They’d take the edge off my hunger when I wanted to continue working and I needed a small snack. I’d wash the crackers down with a strong cup of coffee. The habits of our parents are hard to break.

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Nadja and Guitar by Herman Maril 1971

Maril Aaron Levin Photo_email size

Keep Me Posted- Short Story Published

No one ever dies on Facebook or do they?

I’ve been away from the computer for several weeks. Just back from China with my husband Peter celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary.  This photo shows me standing by the Yangtze River.  Catching up on publishing news after my return, I can share that my short story “Keep Me Posted” is now online in the April issue of the Scarlet Leaf Review. Here is the link. If you have comments, please share them on the magazine website. Thank you!

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Just back from China

Nadja Maril, Writer and Blogger

I’m switching this blog up a bit.  Several years ago when I started blogging, my objective as an editor of a local Annapolis area magazine was to promote events around Anne Arundel County. Thus I named my blog “Write On Annapolis”.  While I’m still doing some marketing and freelance magazine work, part of my day is devoted to writing fiction.

I’ve also been writing a poetry, which I’ve also been posting here, as well as still writing memoir.. What I find difficult to do is to promote my own  writing. I’m very good at promoting causes, organizations and businesses, but when it comes to promoting my creative work I often run out of steam.  So I’m going to try to use this blog to share my writing accomplishments and pursuits with the world and I will start by posting a link to my short story published in Scarlet Leaf Review (a work of fiction) entitled “Trying to Be Normal”. I’d also like to share that another short piece of mine was recently published in the first issue of Fire Pit a literary magazine published by Eight-Stone Press. It is entitled “The Real Thing.” If you’ve followed my previous career as an antiques dealer, you’ll find it enlightening.

I hope to share more publishing successes as I continue to write short stories and will be embarking on another National Novel Writing Month adventure starting November lst. Thank you for reading. Without readers, where would writers be?

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The sun was in my eyes, so there is a bit of a squint but I am wearing a Nano T-shirt in honor of the upcoming National Novel Writing Month. This photo was taken by my husband Peter on the Corn Hill Beach in Truro, Cape Cod, my most favorite place to write.

 

Herman Maril, Africa, and Imagery

“The Essential Herman Maril” is the title of the art show currently featured at  Acme Fine Art in Boston.  The exhibit of works selected by Gallery owners James Bennette and David Cowan provides the viewer with an opportunity to become acquainted with some of the subject themes important in my father’s life. . His career spanned from the 1930s until his death in 1986. There is the boat, the sea, construction in the city, a garden with clothes line, looking out through a kitchen window, and one of my favorites–a black rotary wall  telephone .  My father painted what he knew and what he saw; selectively reducing and refining figures and shapes to depict on the paper or canvas what he felt to be important.

My dad, who divided his time between Maryland and Cape Cod, did some traveling and he sketched when he traveled. Writers put their notes in a journal.  Herman’s notes took the shapes of trees, coastlines, people, and buildings.  He visited the Southwest, California, Mexico, Spain, Italy, and Portugal, but he never made it to Africa although he had a modest collection of African Art that he prized. In addition  to several masks and  locks from a Chief’s hut, there was a sculpture fetish that was said to have been caked in mud  and  containing a lion’s ear when Herman purchased it.. He admired the simple carved shapes of these treasures, which he displayed in the front hallway and living room of our home at a time when such objects were not particularly fashionable.

As a child in the days when there were only three or four television stations, I’d watch wildlife nature shows with my dad,   mesmerized by the images on the black and white TV. Expansive plains, tall grasses waving in the wind and the close-up of a hungry lion in pursuit of dinner, chasing a fast moving gazelle had us on the edge of our chairs. It was a shared time, just me an my father, and during my recent visit to East Africa I thought of him often, wishing he was with me to see the expansive plains, baoba trees,  lions, zebras, gazelles, giraffes, and wildebeests in person.

When I told my brother David Maril  I was going to Africa, he sent me a photograph of the bird sculpture Dad had painted in the oil painting below, “Artist Contemplating African Bird” now in the collection of  Adirondack Community College, originally acquired by his close friend the poet William Bronk, known to our family as Bill.

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“Artist Contemplating African Bird” oil on canvas by Herman Maril, Collection of Adirondack Community College

David  was hoping I might be able to identify the origin of the sculpture, if I saw something similar.While I saw many large handsome birds during our travels on the Wami river and on our safari excursions overland by jeep inside Ngoronguru Crater and Masai Mara National Reserve, I saw no original pieces of bird sculpture during my visit. Walking in and out of all the tourist shops that line the narrow streets of the Stone Town portion of Zanzibar I mostly encountered the usual wood carvings I suspect are probably mass produced in China. My husband Peter and I found one quality merchant who was selling the older tribal pieces along with fine Middle Eastern jewelry and artifacts– but no bird sculptures.

Our favorite memories from the trip are those moments seeing the animals on the move in their natural environment. Watching hundreds of zebras, wildebeests, and gazelle making their way across the Serengeti Plain in search of fresh grass and sitting in a boat yards away from massive Hippos, hearing their deep sonorous groans as they submerge themselves underwater and reappear,  is an experience of a lifetime. It reminded  me that wildlife, and the variety of animals we grew up visiting at the zoo,  is not something we can take for granted.  It’s important we  try to preserve the earth  and protect our endangered species that include the Black Rhinoceros and Leopard, both of which I had the privilege to see, albeit from a far distance. (This is when field binoculars come in handy).

Nature and the images  we see, whether they are exotic animals  or the shape of flowers that bloom on the tree outside our window, can inspire the artist in all of us. You don’t have to travel half way around the world to see something worthy of inspiration, but some times taking a journey can give us perspective to appreciate what we have when we return home.

 

 

 

Long Nook Beach Truro After Winter

 

Climate Change

Swathed in layers of sweaters

beneath jacket and gloves

I tighten my hood covering hat and ears

Wind pushing against my body

I advance to explore

The pristine beach

Bottle green ocean and cliffs of sand.

A straight line is etched in the sand

Its origin a mystery

I seek the creature who drew the line to the sea

And find a small square rock.

Stones and pebbles falling

Urged downwards by the wind

Slipping, tumbling rolling down the dunes.

Zig zags, pressed ovals, triangular marks

Patterns impressed by the weight of the earth

Returning to the sea.

I am amazed by the uniqueness of each individual trail

All temporary, easily erased by a change of breeze or tide

I bear witness in my lifetime

To the change in the silhouette of dunes and shoreline

Shifting sandbars and creation of islands

Loss of homes, cities, cultures and species

And the small wonder of lovely patterns

I witness for a moment, pressed into the sand.

–by Nadja Maril

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“Little White Lie” will be showing Saturday March 28th at the Annapolis Film Festival

  • Just stopped by a panel discussion event at today’s Annapolis Film Festival on “The Pitch” and am looking forward to seeing a few movies this weekend.  In case you’re curious, I got to preview one of the wonderful feature documentaries entitled, “Little White Lie,” written, directed and produced by Lacey Schwartz;  and below I share a post/review.The evening I watched “Little White Lie” I’d just returned from a visit to my family home in Baltimore. Standing around the dining room table, my brother David Maril, our cousin Ron Becker and I tried to identify a stash of old family photographs. We searched our memories trying to recognize names and face of relatives going back several generations. There were photographs of my grandfather, a child sitting on a rocking horse and as a soldier in postwar France. Another larger photo showed my grandmother, as a young girl posing for a picture surrounded by her parents and four brothers and sisters in Bel Air Maryland where the family once had a farm. My grandmother, the eldest child, was ashamed of having been born in Russia. When the courthouse burned down and the birth records destroyed, she told everyone she was born in America. That was her little white lie. But some lies are much larger.The documentary “Little White Lie” begins with archival footage of the Jewish community in Brooklyn during the mid 20th century and there are old photographs and a timeline showing the Schwartz family arriving in the United States at the end of the 19th century. There is footage of old home movies showing parties, bat mitzvahs, picnics and other family events. Everyone looks happy.

    We all grow up hearing stories about our grandparents and great-grand parents. But what if a one line of our ancestors had been completely wiped from the family history and another group of ancestors put in their place? What if our true heritage has been hidden?

    Lacey Schwartz grew up believing both of her parents were her biological parents and that she was the descendent of Eastern European Jews, but that was only half the truth. The little girl and young woman in the family movies has darker skin and fuller features than her parents. When she asks questions about her appearance as a child she is told that her mother’s family had a Sicilian great-grandfather and that is why her skin is so dark. She accepts their explanations and when she looks in the mirror does not acknowledge her bi-racial heritage.  Children believe their parents.

    The movie is framed within the preparations for a wedding, Lacey’s wedding. As she tells her story, she shares with the viewers her belief that she did not feel ready to join her life with someone else’s until she understood the actions of her parents. They divorced when she was a teenager. What did her father know about the identity of Lacey’s biological father? Did he realize his wife had been unfaithful and that her lover had been African American? Why had her mother not been forthcoming with the truth about her heritage ? Her biological father was a family friend named Robert Parker, but he dies when Lacey is 30 with no opportunity to develop a relationship.

    Lacey’s dad Robert Schwartz is the only father she has ever known. Although her bridegroom is African American, Lacey holds steadfast to Jewish traditions complete with the breaking of the glass as the two are pronounced man and wife. She decides to retain her last name of Schwartz, delighting in the double symbolism. The word “Schwartz” means black in German.

    One of the many fine films coming to THE ANNAPOLIS FILM FESTIVAL.

Ice Day Poem by Nadja Maril

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Ice Day

By Nadja Maril

As soon as I see the sun

I reach for my coat in the closet.

It is time to walk

On this ice day.

Frozen bits melt into drops

Slide down gutters, pipes, trees

Plop on to the cold wet mush we once called snow.

 

I match my steps to my dog’s  wet prints on the asphalt

Keeping her leash firmly taut I choose my path

Carefully inspecting the speckled road and pavement

Remnants of ices to be avoided, clumps of salt

Detours created for the sake of Chloe’s paws.

 

This is a strange time of year

Transition from Winter into Spring

Cold and wet ooze

Sloppy puddles, chilly mush

I think of snow cones so desirable in summer

Now distasteful as the wind blows briskly on my face.

 

The sun’s rays warm  my armor

Heavy jacket, wool cap and padded gloves

Ultimately  arctic blast seeps into my bones

Hastens my return to shelter

Listening to spinning wheels and scraping shovels

I admire the still blue sky from my window.