Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Tribute to Emily Squires

Last week I attended a tribute to Emily Squires, who had died last November 21, in New York City. Emily was a successful director, the first woman director of Sesame Street, who had won six Emmy Awards with her team for her work as Director of Sesame Street between 1995 and 2007. She also directed documentaries, including: Visions of Perfect Worlds, a conversation with the Dalai Lama, The Art of Being Human: a Portrait of Frederick Franck, which was shown at the tribute,  Five Masters of Meditation, and films about fracking and Occupy Wall Street.......

In addition to her accomplished career, Emily was also actively involved with many good causes and interested in the frontiers of consciousness and human potential as expressed in her board work and membership of organizations such as the Friends of the Institute of Noetic Sciences ("FIONS"), which had organized last week’s tribute- the Source of Synergy Foundation, Evolutionary Leaders, and The Coalition of OneVoice

I met Emily as a fellow board-member of FIONS at the end of last century and was always impressed with her creativity and good nature, which experience only increased as I got to know her as her publisher. It was in those days that she and her husband Len Belzer wrote a lovely book, Spiritual Places in and around New York City, with their favorite inspiring and restful places in this city that never sleeps, from Riverside Church to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, from the New York Open Center to Hangawi Korean restaurant. 
I can only echo what I had heard from so many at this week’s tribute, Emily Squires was a warm personality who made everyone she met feel at ease and acknowledged. She will be dearly missed.

As a testament to Emily's nature and writing,  following is a sample from the book Spiritual Places In and Around New York City written by Emily and her husband Len Belzer:

Underneath all the texts, all the sacred psalms
and canticles, these watery varieties of sounds
and silences, terrifying, mysterious, whirling and
sometimes gestating and gentle must somehow be
felt in the pulse, ebb, and flow of the music that
sings in me. My new song must float like a feather
on the breath of God. — Hildegard of Bingen

This riveting glimpse into life in the Middle Ages is an essential place on any seeker’s itinerary-
especially if you were a nun or monk in a past life. The art is celestial - paintings and illuminated
manuscripts, intricately woven tapestries from churches and castles, a treasury of gold, silver, jewels, ivories, and enamels - each chosen specifically for the Cloisters from the vast collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

But it’s the feeling of the place that makes it so rare. Madrigals and Gregorian Chants echo through high stone-arched corridors. Chairs are set in small chapels for meditation. Beatific statues of saints and Mary with baby Jesus cast their gaze upon you. Recent interest in such figures as the 11th century’s Abbess Hildegard of Bingen have stirred a new appreciation of things Medieval, and the crucial role of herbs in the Middle Ages is being reexamined. The historically accurate garden at the Cloisters gives us an idea how some of them were used. Arcane plants like fever few, agrimony, mallow, and burdock were used by the nuns and their parishioners for cooking, weaving, and painting
as well as healing.

Espalliered pear trees work their way between Gothic buttresses under warm red-tiled roofs. Covered arched walkways enclose small gardens with chirping birds, bubbling fountains, and quince trees laden with fruit. The softest of green grass calls Rumi to mind: “When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about.” All this high atop a hill in Fort Tryon Park with a sweeping view of the Hudson. Hie thee there!

(from Spiritual Places In and Around New York City by Emily Squires & Len Belzer; Cosimo Books, New York, 2008)

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