LA VALLEUR COMMUNICATES: Musings by Barbara La Valleur — Gaudí’s Sagrada Família — A Site To Behold!

It’s the view, along with the Mediterranean, from my daughter’s top floor flat in downtown Barcelona: Gaudí’s infamous Sagrada Família.

After days of exploring Barcelona and accompanying breathtaking Spanish countryside, which included a five-day trip to Minorca, I toured the Basilica, the largest unfinished Roman Catholic Church in the world, with my former sister-in-law, Heather Carri and her fun friend, Mike.

Designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí, construction of the Basilica started in 1882 and continues to this day. Plans are to have it complete within the next 10 years to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Gaudí’s death.

The experience was overwhelming, which could be one reason why it took me four months to post these photos!

I chose to simply walk around, be in awe, pray, take photos — along with the hundreds of other visitors — and not listen to taped history, the facts of which I would forget anyway. I didn’t write cutlines for each photo.

To view my ca. 130 photos click on this link:

You’re welcome to leave comments and/or questions which I’ll answer if I can or you can find out more on these links:

LA VALLEUR COMMUNICATES: Musings by Barbara La Valleur — Only in Minnesota: Art on Ice

For as long as the Art Shanty Projects have been around, a few years now, I’ve vowed to go — yet have never made it — until Sunday.

Of course, 16-degree temperatures were no deterrent. After all, the sun was shinning. Plus, I have a warm hooded coat, terrific fur-lined boots and toasty leather gloves.

Armed with my sharp metal-pointed German walking stick to keep me safe on the ice and my iPhoneX to record the event, I made my way through a well-worn path in the snow to the “instant village” of art shanties that’s graced Lake Harriet near downtown Minneapolis since Jan. 20.

An array of whimsical, fun, artsy small structures were strategically placed not far out on the ice covered lake near the Bandshell. Many look like they might serve as actual fish houses in off season. But there were notable exceptions.

The photos speak for themselves. To learn more about the project — and perhaps bring this brilliant, fun and art-filled event to a lake near you — check out the official website to learn how they did it:

While Sunday was the last day, take heart. It will surely return next winter, hopefully at Lake Harriet, an ideal spot to take advantage of the popular park. Be sure to put it on your bucket list. And remember to bring the kids, grandkids and dog!

LA VALLEUR COMMUNICATES: Musings by Barbara La Valleur — A €62 Bowl Of Soup! 

One of the benefits I enjoy when traveling the world is trying new dishes in the country I’m exploring.

My ever-increasing list of favorites include Germany’s humble spätzle, England’s simple Shepherd’s Pie, Scotland’s perfect Scotch Eggs, France’s yummy Brie and Bleu d’Auvergne cheeses, Cuba’s creamy flans and Spain’s authentic paella.

Shortly after arriving on Menorca, one of Spain’s three Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean this past October, I overheard people talking about the island’s famous lobster soup. “You have to try it,” was their consensus.

However, not every restaurant features this delectable specialty on their menu. So I was fortunate when my daughter, Andrea, and I were exploring the narrow cobblestone streets of Ciutadella on the island’s west coast and almost literally stumbled upon Café Bálear.

The modest-size restaurant with my preferred water view was perfect. While the main seating area is inside across the narrow street, we were drawn to the dozen tables outside positioned precariously close to water’s edge at the tip of the marina.

Menorca’s lobster soup is definitely a step up from my regular favorite tomato basil soup. Highly regarded by locals and first-time customers alike, this restaurant has been in the same family for almost 50 years.

We sat at a table joining the mostly local customers sitting comfortably under umbrellas that screened us from the late autumn sun.

Our waiter brought the obligatory menus touting numerous dishes featuring fish and seafood, freshly caught from their own boat, the Rosa Santa Primera.

We selected a starter of freshly caught shrimp to go with a crisp glass of cool wine and crusty white bread. Andrea, who has lived in Barcelona for over a year and enjoys fresh seafood often, ordered a steak.

But I knew my tastebuds were in for a treat when I ordered the Caldereta de Langosta — Menorca’s famous lobster soup — and the waiter’s body language affirmed that I had made “the right choice” despite a significant ding to my pocketbook. At €62 — that’s $73.60! — it is without question, the most expensive soup I’ve ever eaten.

We settled into our comfortable chairs, watching the ever-present birds and other patrons while enjoying our Spanish wine and conversation.

In short order, our waiter arrived with Andrea’s steak and an enormous thick brown pottery bowl — at least 16 inches in diameter — filled with a dark red broth and a huge lobster.

With accomplished flair and only inches from a 4-foot drop to the water’s edge, our waiter ladled out the rich, dark red broth in my white soup bowl and then delicately placed several pieces of lobster in the middle of the bowl, leaving me to strategically remove its delicious morsel of white meat from the spiky shell without splashing on my clothes.

After a second helping in which I managed to eat every morsel of the lobster, there was still a full meal’s worth of broth, which I was able to chill in our hotel refrigerator and enjoy cold the following day.

Somehow, it is understood that you do not share your Caldereta de Langosta delicacy with anyone at your table, although no one ever explained why.

If you go:

  • Menorca: We spent $350 each for the 45-minute round-trip flight from Barcelona, a five-day, four-night stay at the fabulous Hotel Meliã, which included the largest breakfast buffet I’ve ever experienced, plus car rental for five days.
  • Café Bálear, Pla de Sant Joan, 15. Ciutadella,*, website is in Spanish. If you’re like me and don’t speak the language, click on English for a translation. When you go, be sure to order Caldereta de Langosta — Menorca’s famous lobster soup!
  • Hotel Meliã,


My next blog will be Barcelona by Bus, followed by a Tour of Sagrada Família, Gaudi’s cathedral in Barcelona.

LA VALLEUR COMMUNICATES: Musings by Barbara La Valleur — Menorca: Mediterannean’s Hidden Treasure

If you’d asked me a couple of months ago if I had plans to spend a few days in Menorca, a Spanish island in the Mediterranean, I’d have said not anytime soon.

However, when you have a daughter who is a seasoned world traveler and lives in Barcelona, Spain, you learn to keep your options open.

Andrea found a terrific buy that included:

  • Round-trip flight from Barcelona.
  • Five days and four nights at Meliã Hotel.
  • Five days car rental.

And all for only $350 each. I said, “Book it!”

So after a few days in Barcelona spent with friends from Germany and England, we headed for Barcelona-El Prat Airport and after a 45-minute flight, landed in Menorca.

Hotel Meliã served as our “home” for the next few days. It was top-notch, beautifully appointed with spectacular water views, the best breakfast buffet I’ve ever experienced (which is saying something given I lived for 20 years in Europe and have done a fair bit of traveling). On our last day, we especially appreciated being able to check out at 5 p.m. vs. 11 a.m., since our flight was at 7 p.m. Basically, we got an extra day at no cost.

Menorca — in some places spelled Minorca — is one of three Balearic Islands, touted in tourist blurbs as “the treasure of the Mediterranean.” It is one of the best preserved and most unique natural environments in the Mediterranean. The other two islands, Majorca, much larger and more touristy, and the smaller Ibiza.

After driving along some of the 134 miles of coastline, I wasn’t surprised to learn that Menorca was declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1993.

For sure, its pristine sandy beaches are its main attraction leading to the crystal clear turquoise waters of the Mediterranean. Locals claim that it is easier to get around on a horse than by car due to the miles of meandering bridle tracks and country paths.

The island excursion turned out to be a delightful surprise and one of the highlights of my 17-day trip to Barcelona for so many reasons. We were there Oct. 21-25, which was a great time to go, since most places including our hotel had or were closing for the season the following week.

With the hotel at probably 25 percent occupancy, there were no lines or wait times for service at restaurants, cafes nor any of the other attractions we visited.

The stunning beach cove in front of our hotel had only a fraction of the normal high season swimmers and water activity that made for a more relaxing, quiet atmosphere. We shared the vast comfortable dockside seating areas with only a handful of other hotel guests — mostly from England, France and Germany — for our afternoon glass of wine or plate of tapas. A few times, I was on my own with my leg raised icing an injured hamstring — with a gin and tonic in hand to make it all better — while Andrea was off exploring the more rugged points of interest on the island.


Speaking of gin, I did try the local gin, which is famous for its characteristic distillation process used for 200 years. It is made from alcohol derived from grapes vs. grains. The taste was definitely different. I think I’ll stick with Beefeaters.

The temperatures were great, too, for which I was grateful as I don’t do well in hot weather. We enjoyed high in the 60s and 70s with cooler evenings. Keeping with the annual precipitation averages of between 3 inches to 17 inches, we only experienced a few raindrops on one day.

I was happy to take advantage of the Red Cross station next to our hotel right on the beach. It provided me with a free wheelchair for my entire visit, which came in handy when we visited some of the prehistoric sites featuring Talaiots, huge stones of megalithic construction in various locations throughout the island.

One day I hopped on a plastic 3-wheeler, and a Red Cross worker pulled me the few meters to the beach where — with the help of special water crutches — I was able to stand in the clear, cool water which was great therapy.

Given my walking limitations and the season, I thought we did pretty well to visit eight out of the 14 “unmisable” activities listed in the 2017-2018 Menorca Explorer tourist guide.

Fun things we visited:

  • Maó, a town at the east end of the island near the airport with one of the largest ports in the world; a busy waterfront with restaurants, bars, nightclubs, shops; and Town Hall with a neoclassical façade and clock. We stopped for coffee and tapas at an outdoor cafe.  Then we visited the outdoor market where I bought a cool pair of Spanish trousers.
  • Prehistoric sites where signs of ancient settlers and fortresses are left from the island’s British occupation.
  • The ubiquitous, fascinating dry stonewalls called Paret, which are constructed without mortar or cement using different size stones to create miles and miles of boarder walls typically three to 4 feet high protecting livestock and serving to separate properties.
  • A Son Martorellet production of the famous Somni black stallion dancing horses in Ferreries,
  • The Ria Factory Tour & Shop also in Ferreries (, where I bought two pairs of their famous handmade leather sandals called abacus.
  • The plentiful wild olive woods called ullastrar, oak groves called alzinar, pine woods and tamarisks near the beaches.
  • My favorite town, Ciutadella, at the west end of the island with its old quarter of labyrinth of streets, shops, bars, cafes, restaurants, churches, historic art, interesting old buildings, beautiful port and the main square called Plaça des Born with its newly restored Cathedral of Menorca.

Would love to have …

  • Gone on a boat trip around the entire island, however they had stopped for the season.
  • Taken an adventurous visit to the caves — both on land and underwater — to see fish, birds and animals like the famous Mediterranean tortoises and sargantana lizards in their natural habitat.
  • Stopped at the Menorca Museum.
  • Traced the full permitter of the island on the Cami de Cavalls to appreciate it’s ecological and environmental significance.
  • Photographed the five lighthouses which protect ships sailing near the island.

Where to stay:

Where to eat:

Watch for my upcoming blogs about Barcelona:

  • A €62 Bowl of Lobster Soup
  • Barcelona by Bus
  • Sagrada Família: Over 100 Years in the Making

LA VALLEUR COMMUNICATES: Musings by Barbara La Valleur — Barcelona: Not What You Think

It’s taken me a couple of weeks to return to reality after a 17-day trip to Barcelona, which included an extraordinary side trip of five days in Menorca.

The initial purpose of my trip was to visit my daughter, Andrea La Valleur-Purvis, who has called the Catalonian capital home for over a year. She loves it, and I can see why. It’s exciting, has a mix of old and new in terms of architecture, is international, very diverse and has countless places to eat, enjoy and experience a special part of Spain. Plus, one of my favorite parts was seeing an abundance of public art everywhere.

Yet, it turned out to be so much more than what I imagined. Having spent 20 years living in Europe in the late 1970s, ’80s and early ’90s, I still have friends and family there. So I was thrilled when they agreed to fly to Spain from Germany and England to reconnect, if only for a few days at the beginning and end of my trip.

Allow me to whine before going into the heart of the experience. You may not feel much compassion for me, what the heck you may be thinking, you just got back from Spain! What’s the complaint? But days before leaving, I pulled a hamstring and, damn it, that seriously hampered my flexibility and mobility.

Boarding passes for my 17-day trip to Barcelona.
Boarding passes for my 17-day trip to Barcelona.

Heck, on my trip to Cuba earlier this year, I took over 5,000 photos. On this trip, I didn’t even take 2,000! Waaa waaa. I even had to use a cane the entire time and wheelchairs at all the airports from MSP to CHI to ZÜR to BAR to MEN to BAR to TOR to CHI to MSP. Plus poor Andrea had to push me up steep hills and over rough track to visit historical sights. What a drag.

OK, I’m done feeling sorry for myself.

With Barcelona being front-page news the entire trip, you might be surprised to learn I saw very little of the political goings on you were reading about on a daily basis here in the U.S. All that despite the fact that Andrea lives only six blocks from the heart of the city center and within breathtaking view of Gaudi’s towering Basilica of the Sagrada Família from her rooftop terrace.

Andrea pours wine while Ingrid takes photos of our spread.

Twice, our taxi was diverted a few blocks due to demonstrations, which still remained out of our sight and sound. Late one evening while on my own and enjoying a glass of wine on Andrea’s eighth-floor terrace, I heard what sounded like three rapid fire gunshots followed by sirens two minutes later. But I was never able to confirm if the sounds were gunshots.

That said, safety was never an issue on my trip. I felt totally safe the entire time.

I photographed numerous flags hanging from balconies. But there were just as many pro as con, for and against Catalonia separating from the rest of Spain. Those flags were identified with Si! signs on their red and yellow strips with a blue triangle and white star indicating their support for Catalonia to separate from Spain. The national Spanish flags are red and yellow with the Spanish coat of arms depicting two crown-topped pillars with red banners displaying the motto in Latin, “Plus Ultra” or “more beyond” referring to Columbus’ discovery of the New World.

My friends from Germany and England, who had arrived hours before me, Andrea and I shared an AirBNB for the first couple of days. It was a newly appointed and very nice two-bedroom apartment that Andrea had booked for us, which also had a balcony view around the corner of Gaudi’s Cathedral.

The bathroom was stylish albeit small, with an open kitchen dining area. A sleeper sofa provided a “third” sleeping area three steps up to a small terrace with two separate seating areas. It was perfect, and we had a blast drinking wine, eating cheeses, breads, Spanish sausages and catching up on the past two-plus decades.

Yes, that’s the Spanish cheese I brought with me from Minnesota.

We had a good laugh when I brought out some snack cheese from my trip that I had in my suitcase when Ingrid, my German friend, pointed out it was “A Product of Spain”! Gez, not only was that illegal, but I could have gotten into deep doo-doo if caught.

Andrea rented a car so that we could cover more ground, especially since I was unable to walk any distance. We drove north to a vineyard and a wine-tasting at a well-known winery, Freixenet. (See note below.)

Thanks to Andrea’s knowledge of the area, we ate at some great places and continued catching up. All too soon, it was time for them to return home. The four of us took a taxi to the Barcelona Airport, with them flying off to England and Germany and Andrea and I taking a 45-minute flight to Menorca (spelled Minorca by some), one of the three Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean See along with Mallorca and Ibiza, where we spent a delightful five days and four night.

I’ll share more about Menorca in an upcoming blog as well as a separate blog about the Gaudi’s Basilica.

If you go to Barcelona, a few of my favorite places and things to do …


  • El Nacional,, €58 (a little over $68) for two of us, various tapas and including Cava, the local sparkling wine; it’s a destination as well as a restaurant with four featured sections; be sure to check out their bathrooms.
  • Firebug,, €53 brunch for four, brunch, bar, bistro, very nice, we sat outside both times, bathroom located upstairs; brunch for six including Cava — €74 Euros
  • Patrón,, delicious meal, which I didn’t pay for, so no idea of the cost. I sure enjoyed my paella and I ate the WHOLE THING.
  • Cuines Santa Caterina,, various different food bars indoors, outdoor terrace, fun place to share several plates of small, tasty delights! Seven days a week, check website for hours. Again, I didn’t pay the bill, but it was not expensive.

Fun things to do:

  • Freixenet, a vineyard and wine tasting, We rented a car, Andrea drove about 40 kilometers or about 25 miles north of Barcelona. It’s in the heart of the Penedés region in the town of Sant Sadurni d’Anora, a lovely drive with views of hills if not modest mountains. Tour the facility and end up in the tasting room where you have a huge selection of wines to taste. Light snacks also available.
  • Basilica of the Sagrada Familia (Holy Family), a trip to Barcelona without touring the Basilica would be like going to Paris without having your photo taking next to the Eiffel Tower. If you’re considering paying extra for the tour up an elevator to one of the tall spirals, beware: the elevator only takes you up. You have to walk down 420 steep and small, tight circular steps, which, given my cane, I was prevented from doing.

Shopping Centers:

  • — a huge shopping center on three levels, open 365 days a year from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., with 80 shops of fashion, home and decor, beauty, kids and services plus about 24 places to eat and/or drink. Andrea and I enjoyed shopping at Swarovski, where I bought her birthday and Christmas present. And a bracelet for myself, too, of course.
  • — the only open air mall in Barcelona and one of the largest in Catalonia with 230 stores. Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., right on the harbor with a small albeit lively old market, harbor ship rides and Miraestels, whimsical white floating sculptures by Robert Llimós floating in the bay.

Your tax refund:

Remember, if you want to receive a tax refund at the end of your stay, you need to track your purchases, have receipts, fill out the forms at point of purchase and when you arrive at the airport, you need extra time to go to the proper office for your tax refund. I didn’t and probably lost $100 or so I could have claimed.

LA VALLEUR COMMUNICATES: Musings by Barbara La Valleur — Deutsche Einheit

Twenty-seven years ago this past week (Oct. 3, 1990) is a date I won’t soon forget. It was the “reunification” of Germany. East met West or rather East reunified with the West.

For the world, it was a huge celebration — The Wall Fell — it was a strike for freedom, it meant democracy for millions and yes, even the hope of world peace.

Closer to home, as someone who had been living in Europe for 17 years, an American married to an Englishman living most of that time in the former “West” Germany, it was a personal devastation.

It led to the end of my life, my job as an international photojournalist freelancing full-time for seven German newspapers and my family as I knew it. Not that day. Not that month. I didn’t even realize it at the time, but that was the end result.

We had a small scientific instrument manufacturing company employing 10 Germans with customers throughout Europe and beyond. Small companies like ours were left to fend for ourselves, competing with the lucrative “East” for business. The end result was that we lost our home, our business, our retirement and while we didn’t officially go bankrupt, we lost “everything.” Our marriage did not survive the strain.

I’ve always wondered why I’ve never read anything about the hundreds, if not thousands of small companies that went out of business as a result of the Wall falling. After all, the East became an instant investment gold mine.

By 1994, I was back in Minnesota after 20 years (nearly three in England and over 17 in Germany), starting my life over at the age of 50.

Fast-forward to today, I’m a happily married, “refired” —versus retired — photojournalist as busy as ever with a Cuba photo exhibit that opened Friday at the Evansville (Minn.) Art Center and another one scheduled for the Edina (Minn.) Art Center in January.

Last Monday, I spent several hours going through hundreds of letters I’d written to my family, mostly to my mother and two sisters, during those 20 years in Europe, in preparation for writing my memoir. I didn’t stop to read most of them, but in realizing that Tuesday marked the 20th anniversary of the fall of the wall, I set aside a handful written during that time to read.

In one letter, dated Jan. 1, 1990, I was commenting to my mother about the political situation. “The financial drain on the West is enormous at the moment. It’s fabulous that the East is loosening it’s tethers, but it’s costing! There is resentment here and there. But basically, people are breathing easier.”

Only a few weeks later, in February 1990, I wrote of “changes in Germany and Europe.”

On June 23, 1990, my letter reads, “Checkpoint Charlie was dismantled on Friday, that’s really something.”

Then in a letter from my daughter, Andrea, 15 years old at the time, to her grandparents, she wrote, “East and West are joining tomorrow, people are already out tonight and celebrating. On AFN (American Forces Network, the American Army radio station we listened to), they said tons of people are at the Brandenburg (Gate in Berlin) tonight.”

The letter had a Deutsche Einheit (German Unity) stamp on it and was mailed the day after reunification.

LA VALLEUR COMMUNICATES: Musings by Barbara La Valleur — Once In A Lifetime

As a 72-year-old, I sure didn’t want to miss the once-in-a-lifetime Great American Solar Eclipse. So I went to our local library around the corner — Hennepin County Public Library on York in Edina — along with nearly 1,000 other like-minded Metro area people from infants in push chairs to seniors in wheelchairs.

It was totally fun. Even the long line to wait to get into the library was made interesting with conversations with folks like Adolf, who lives in Bloomington for four months of the year but goes to Florida to play golf with all his buddies.

Once inside, all the chairs were taken. Three kind young Edina high school students — Karsten Swanson, Addie McCuskey and Nora Clarkowski — scooted together and gave me one of their seats.

Solar eclipse photo, courtest
Solar eclipse photo, courtest

Nick Skuza, an educational assistant from the Bell Museum of Natural History and fourth-year Astro Physics major at the University of Minnesota, gave a presentation before guiding the crowd went outside. There he guided viewers to see the eclipse through a telescope.

His colleague, Kaitlin Ehret, also a Bell Museum educational assistant, showed young and old how to view the eclipse for those without eclipse glasses by using a Sunspotter, a devise that showed the eclipse on a piece of paper.

Many parents attended the free event with their children, who had made pinhole boxes to view the eclipse.

Like I said, it was totally fun. And I didn’t even have the proper glasses. Although the library staff handed out a good supply — about 200 — and many people brought their own, the majority of us didn’t have them. Not to worry. People were incredibly gracious and kind sharing their glasses with anyone who asked or didn’t! One little tyke, he couldn’t have been more than 3 years old, was randomly handing out his glasses for others to see.

Wow, it was a coming together like I haven’t seen in a long time! No one talked politics. Maybe that was it. Everyone was focused on the one thing they had in common: a keen desire to witness a once-in-a-lifetime natural phenomenon.

The next solar eclipse over the United States will be in 2024. After that? 2045. Then 2052, 2078, and, for my great-grandchildren, a great one over Maine in 2079.

What Is A Solar Eclipse?

A solar eclipse is a natural event that takes place on Earth when the moon moves in its orbit between Earth and the sun (this is also known as an occultation). It happens at new moon, when the sun and moon are in conjunction with each other. If the moon was only slightly closer to Earth, and orbited in the same plane and its orbit was circular, we would see eclipses each month. The lunar orbit is elliptical and tilted with respect to Earth’s orbit, so we can only see up to five eclipses per year. Depending on the geometry of the sun, moon and Earth, the Sun can be totally blocked, or it can be partially blocked.

During an eclipse, the moon’s shadow (which is divided into two parts: the dark umbra and the lighter penumbra) moves across Earth’s surface. Safety note: do NOT ever look at the Sun directly during an eclipse unless it is during a total solar eclipse. The bright light of the Sun can damage your eyes very quickly.

Facts About Solar Eclipses

  • Depending on the geometry of the sun, moon, and Earth, there can be between two and five e solar eclipses each year.
  • Totality occurs when the moon completely obscures sun so only the solar corona is showing.
  • A total solar eclipse can happen once every one to two years. This makes them very rare events.
  • The longest a total solar eclipse can last is 7.5 minutes.
  • The width of the path of totality is usually about 160 kilometers across and can sweep across an area of Earth’s surface about 10,000 miles long.
  • Almost identical eclipses occur after 18 years and 11 days. This period of 223 synodic months is called a saros.
  • During a total solar eclipse, conditions in the path of totality can change quickly. Air temperatures drop and the immediate area becomes dark.
  • If any planets are in the sky at the time of a total solar eclipse, they can be seen as points of light.

LA VALLEUR COMMUNICATES: Musings by Barbara La Valleur — Justice Choir: Something To Sing About

Saturday was quite the day. If you follow my blogs, you read my take on the re-opening of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden with a couple of dozen photos.

From the Walker event, I went to Westminster Presbyterian Church and continued my artful day with songs in an inaugural event that I hope will multiply throughout this great land of ours.

Song: “A Bridge is Stronger Than a Wall” by Emily Feld.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve experienced a shortage of hope in the last few months, and I refuse to “take it” sitting down. In fact, I’m taking a stand and singing, which isn’t difficult as I’ve sung in choirs as a child and in a German secular choir when I lived in Europe.

The first Justice Choir sponsored by WPC was a mixed group of about 200 people from the Twin Cities with a rehearsal in the morning and performance in the great sanctuary from 1 to 3 p.m. It wasn’t just about singing songs of hope, peace, love, human rights and freedom, though.

Song: “Another World is Possible” by FLOBOTS.

Thoughtfully organized by Tesfa Wondemagegnehu (won-dih-MAWG-nee-you), our director of Choral Ministries, among others, it also featured a dialogue with Tesfa and Nekima Levy-Pounds, activist, attorney, former law professor at St. Thomas University and currently running for mayor of Minneapolis. But she didn’t mention that.

They spoke about social justice, speaking out when we see injustices and taking a stand.

Song: “Love is Love is Love is Love” by Abbie Betinis.

Everyone present received a Justice Choir Songbook containing over 40 new and familiar songs, co-edited by Tesfa and Abbie Betinis, a St. Paul composer who coincidently was compiling a songbook to be used across the country for a national movement of justice choirs, and Ahmed Azald, a pianist and conductor from Minneapolis.

New songs will be added to the songbook in the coming weeks and month.

Song: “Resilience” by Abbie Betinis.

Tesfa said Saturday that the free songbook will be a resource for choirs across across the country due to special arrangements so other congregations, choirs, schools and communities will be able to download it soon.

I’m proud to be part of a progressive church that sponsors events such as this. In his forward to the songbook, WPC pastor, Rev. Dr. Tim Hart-Anderson wrote, “The longing for a just and peaceful world is not limited to any one religious tradition or practice. People of faith and good will everywhere want to build a new future. Westminster invites you to join the movement for justice wherever you live. There are others who will work with you. Together we can transform the world.”

If you’re interested in joining the choir or starting one of your own in your own state and/or community, go to the Justice Choir website

Song: “Sing for Justice” by Ar Had Y Nos.

LA VALLEUR COMMUNICATES: Musings by Barbara La Valleur — What The Cluck?

What the Cluck! Have we been Cluckolded?

No one can convince me that a 10-foot bright blue rooster is more interesting, artistic or pleasing to look at than Claes Oldenburg’s and Coosje van Bruggen’s “Spoonbridge and Cherry.”  I’ve loved that sculpture since I first saw it over 20 years ago. And with today’s high 90s temperatures, the water mist that fell on my face was a welcomed relief.

However, in promoting today’s (Saturday) reopening of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden complete with official ribbon cutting ceremony, the Walker is clearly communicating the blue cock has what it takes with Hahn, the German word for cock or rooster.

Despite all the negative press the Walker has received the past two weeks due to an ill-planned choice to include “Scaffold,” a sculpture by California artist Sam Durant, in its new collection.

The Native American community powerfully and peacefully protested that it was not OK to display the “sculpture” meant to be a commentary on capital punishment in the U.S. with design elements from the gallows used in the 1862 hanging of 38 Dakota men in Mankato.

Some have said Walker Executive Director Olga Viso should resign. I disagree. She acknowledged the mistake, which I might add was not her’s alone, apologized and worked with the Native American community through a mediator. The sculpture was removed in less than a week. Native American elders will be meeting this month to determine what should happen to the wood used in the sculpture, whether it should be burned or used to make something positive.

We all make mistakes. This has been a huge learning experience for countless people; I would assert far more than if everything had gone smoothly in the beginning. Who among us has not made a mistake? I believe Director Viso has learned from this mistake and in the process, due to local and national media attention, thousands of people have learned more about Native American and our history as well as how some works of art are not viewed the same by all people. I say move forward.

I was particularly proud when viewing and photographing the ribbon-cutting ceremony to witness the four powerful woman doing the honors. They were Jayne Miller, Minneapolis Parks superintendent; Lt. Gov. Tina Smith; Olga Viso, Walker Art Center executive director; and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

So, I’m happy I went today. I’ll enjoy the sculpture garden even more in a few weeks when I can walk on the grass and take photos at the angles I like to take them for my best results. No doubt, I’ll head first for the Spoonbridge and Cherry. I’m not going to be “clucked.”

LA VALLEUR COMMUNICATES: Musings by Barbara La Valleur — The Eyes Have It

OMG! “What a difference a day makes ♪♫♫♪♪♫♫♪,♪♫♫♪,” as the Dinah Washington song goes.

Went to Mayo Clinic on Wednesday and had cataract surgery on my left eye. It was a surprisingly easy procedure. The prep time actually took longer than the surgery.

I’m now officially a “Patient Lens Implant Identification Card” carrier. The brand name is AcrySof out of Fort Worth, Texas. My mother, a staunch Texan who never did quite loose that Southern drawl despite moving away as a teenager, would be happy to know I now have another Texas connection.

A few years ago when I had an eye exam and was informed I was getting cataracts in both eyes, I wondered allowed how I would know when it was time to have surgery. As a photojournalist, my eyes are my everything. The ophthalmologist assured me, “You’ll know.” I wasn’t so sure about that.

Fast-forward to the end of my nine-day Cuba trip earlier this year during, on which I took over 5,000 photos. I knew. No question. I made an appointment at my favorite health care facility when I got back. For that, I give thanks to my dear husband, Arnie Bigbee, a 32-year Mayo Clinic retiree, who provides us with outstanding health care insurance. Sure enough, time for surgery.

So Wednesday was the day. After about 40 minutes of prep time and 20 minutes of surgery, it was over. I was awake the entire time with slight sedation and numbing in and around my left eye, laying motionless in the reclined medial chair, while Dr. Sanjay Patel did his “magic.”

A corneal specialist and professor of ophthalmology at Mayo Clinic, Dr. Patel’s skilled hands inserted that 13-millemeter devise that looks like a contact lens with two tiny, curved appendages, into my eye.

The “light show” that I had during surgery was, in and of itself, fascinating; incredibly colorful.

After putting a patch over my eye, I was sent off to rest for the remainder of the day. Given the drive from Edina to Rochester, Minn., we opted to stay there overnight, especially given today’s 7:20 a.m. post-op exam.

Once the patch was off, I could not believe my eye(s)! It was like viewing a tropical jungle from my left eye and a dry dessert with my right eye.

The difference is best seen in the following two photos. The one on the left is how I “NOW” see out of my cataract-free eye. The one on the right (which I altered in my computer’s Photos program) is how the same view looks through my right eye.

I assured Dr. Patel he’d be seeing me again soon.