The Harpist: Another Way of Storytelling

As a visual storyteller, I have always been drawn to the power of the still photograph. One image can convey so very much and if strong enough, bring one to stop and breathe it in. I chose to create another way of relating the powerful and gentle story of Marilyn Lemke who is receiving chemotherapy for her second bout with breast cancer. Marilyn allowed me to come into her home and listen as she shared her life story. A former teacher who decided to play her harp at the bedside of those in hospice. It was there that she met Nancy Ostroff, a hospice nurse. Nancy saw first hand how soothing the music was and she and Marilyn became quick friends. Nancy began taking lessons from Marilyn every Monday. At other times, Marilyn has travelled around the world with Jerry Lacey while sharing a relationship spanning decades. Both were such valued and strong supports when Marilyn learned her breast cancer returned. They now sit by her side at every chemo treatment, doctors’ appointments and recently surgery to remove a brain tumor. Marilyn has made a choice to approach each treatment in a very gentle way . She visualizes each drop as a cleansing while playing her harp throughout. I had the great honor of seeing how her music brought a peace and certain joy to the infusion room at Fox Chase Hospital. Rather than stay in each small section of the room, curtains were drawn and patients were all talking. Before Marilyn began, the only sounds were that of machines and quiet whispers. Her music drifted in and melted that sterile, secluded environment. Marilyn is still very much a teacher by her gentle example. I was given a glimpse of very strong bonds of love, courage rather than fear and peace rather than war. I am so very grateful.

A Great Woman, Gentle Music and Loving Friends Standing Up To Breast Cancer

I met Marilyn Lemke by chance…at the Lancome Counter where she had just received a make-over sponsored by Fox Chase Cancer Center (although she is so beautiful without the make-up!) Marilyn was so easy to talk with. She related that this was her second bout with breast cancer and previously she saw it as a battle, this time around Marilyn brings her harp to each treatment and puts herself in the mindset of receiving a gentle cleansing. Marilyn is such an inspiration to me in the way she meets this challenge with courage, dignity and grace. She radiates a sense of peace. We became fast friends and I just knew I had to tell the story of Marilyn, her harp and her very loving friends, Nancy and Jerry.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Too many of us know friends, mothers, wives, sisters and brothers with this disease. May a cure be in sight.

2012 copyright Frances Schwabenland

Gentle Greatness

I believe there is a synchronicity to life. In an exquisitely unfolding universe, there is a plan and a purpose for all. Today was one of those days when a chance meeting turned into a truly inspirational day. I met Marilyn and her great friend Nancy, while just waiting for a salesperson. We got to talking and she related that she and Nancy play the harp for hospice patients and that she herself was going through her second bout with breast cancer. In order to make the best of this very challenging situation, Marilyn takes her harp for each session of chemo. Her great friends, Jerry and Nancy, accompany her to every Friday session. When Marilyn can’t play, Nancy takes over. I could not stop talking and thinking about this amazing woman and the strong bonds of friendship which surround her. I just knew I had to share her story, her courage and her uplifting spirit in the face of adversity. I am so very grateful to Marilyn for allowing me the priviledge to accompany and photograph/video her today while she received her chemo treatment. I have her music, video and photographs to gather together, but I just wanted to pass on the very beginnings of this day.

All rights reserved. No unauthorized use, distribution, sales, lending or duplication is permitted without written notice from Frances Schwabenland, copyright 2012.

Amish Mud Sales

Since the 1960’s, the last Saturday in February marks the beginning of the Amish Mud Sales. This past Saturday, the local community in Strasburg, Pa auctioned off beautiful quilts, farm equipment, buggies and antiques. Homemade chicken corn soup and whoopie pies sell very quickly. The food connoisseur and bargain hunter alike will love this sale. They will continue throughout the spring (hence the name “Mud Sale”) and proceeds support the local fire companies. For Further information and dates, click on the following link: Amish Mud Sales.

Copyright 2012 Frances Schwabenland. Images may not be copied, printed or otherwise disseminated without express written permission of Frances Schwabenland.

The Amish are devoted to God, family and land. They do not permit the use of electricity, telephones and radios in their homes; nor do they drive cars holding to the belief that they can be closer to God by not being caught up with the things of the world. The Amish are usually very private but in order to support their community, their devotion is evident by the numbers who prticipate in this very public forum.

With Joy and Laughter

The Italian phrase for “giving birth” (thanks to my older brother for this!) is “Dare Alla Luce” which literally translates to “give into the light”. May we all experience the wonder of giving birth

Give Into The Light

…with much “gioia” (joy) and “risata” (laughter)!

Peru is but a wonderful memory now.






My laptop has very little memory left. 5,000 images of Peru and 9 hours of video are running through it. My heart is in the same state, filled to capacity with memories of people who are no longer strangers, sounds with such exuberance and inflections, new foods and new places explored. A far off land that now feels so very close.

There was one statement and one question which seemed to be on everyone’s mind when they met me. The question was, “Have you seen Machu Picchu yet?” I’ver heard it is awe inspiring and mystical. A true wonder of the world. A site not to be missed but I have to say, I did miss it and it was planned that way! Machu Picchu is for another time. This trip was about being with amazing and gifted people.

Roxana and Jose, a young couple who are just starting out with the hopes and dreams of fullness and a promising future. I loved photographing their looks, the moments they reached out to touch each other in both gentleness and laughter.

Hermenegildo and Irma, a couple, who renewed their vows after 50 years of marriage. They were truly celebrating this fullness which flows from the day in and day out little things. On the morning of the celebration, I walked through the gate to find Hermenegildo cutting the flowers he had grown and then arranging them into the bouquet Irma would hold throughout the day… he was so tender and so in the moment – I was totally taken by this man and his wife! The entire family also know how to throw a great party!

The statement repeated to me was, “You better put your camera away and not keep it out.” At first I was thrown into fear thinking that Peru must be far worse with a high rate of robbery than many other countries I walked through comfortably with my camera. That perception quickly changed and I came to realize that the Peruvian people were just very diligent in taking care of me and ensuring that my stay would be both happy and healthy. They were constantly looking out for me and enfolding me. “La Familia” has now become “Mi Familia” and I am so very grateful! The people are the true wonders of the world! Si! Si! Si!