Valerie

I never get tired of remembering the birth of my sister. As a little girl there are only certain details that are real, so a woman, once older, has to sift out the details that would belong to others.

My memory is of the air. It was an April evening. There were shear curtains hanging on my window. The bed lined up along that wall, I turned to face the window. There was still a soft light. I already had three brothers.

I said (spoken or in my head…I don’t remember) “Dear God, if you are giving me a sister, please move the curtain.” The window was closed. I remember being hot. The blankets were tucked around my neck. I fell asleep, looking at those curtains, waiting for them to move and believing that God could do it. Already, I believed in miracles.

I fell asleep.

In the morning, my next recollection was my father touching my shoulder. “Kathy. Kathy. You have a sister.”

The next recollection was of her home coming. I remember the front hallway and a beautiful bassinet where my mother placed her so tenderly. Most wonderful, I remember my mother looking so absolutely beautiful. I remember embracing her.

In 2013, these photographs finally surfaced in a packet of undeveloped negatives. These would be photographs of Valerie, taken in the hospital. In those days, a baby couldn’t go home with a mama until after the mother had demonstrated that she could bathe the baby. It’s amazing to think that these photographs were snapped by someone in the hospital, using colour film, 53 years ago.

Next, one of my favourite photo memories, this time, in black and white film.

Next, one of my favourite family reunion photographs…simply because Val and I are together with our Mom and Dad. Little do people know when snapping a photo or two, just what that image might mean, years down the road. I’m likely more attached to these memories than most….I’m pretty caught up in nostalgia. In these days of isolation and separation from family, these become more important.

And finally…just snapped yesterday…a photo from the very current on-line communication format…my sister, Val, with her beautiful daughter, Eliane. They are both angels.

I love you, Val and Happy Birthday! You’ve always been such an efficient and hard working woman. You have had remarkable strength. You have accomplished so much and raised two amazing children. We’ve spent more years apart then years together, but I want you to know that I could not have been more blessed than having you come into my life on that April night. Mom would be so proud. She, is loving you into your life, still.

One day, when all of this is over, I really really want to go on a road trip with you. I want to go to one amazing concert with you. I want to hang with you again. I love you. And for now, remember, Love Can Build a Bridge.

March 25, 2020 Gathering of Fresh Nesting Material

I just returned from the river and had five minutes alone with Mr…one other lady was walking into the park at that time and took out her phone to capture the magnificence.  She had just happened to turn into the park and off of her usual walk, so it was fun, at a distance, to explain to her what was happening when he leapt from the perch and made his way to the ridge.  It’s remarkable that this family of eagles follows the same course.  While, again, the photos are not exceptionally clear, I was excited to see the male return to the nest where the female was sitting and then to see an egg roll (based on movement) and a shift change.  What a stunningly beautiful time at the river.

Pounce!

Wouldn’t you love to live in one of those homes…or on a single floor…or in a single room of one of those homes and see nature every day all day long?

Mrs. heading for a well-deserved rest.

Mrs. in one of her favourite look out trees.

 

March 24, 2020 Shared Incubation Duties

When I arrived at the Bow River this morning, late, Dad was low in the nest bowl, obviously on duty.  Mama had all of the ducks and gulls freaking out and from one place to the next, there arose a tremendous cacophony.  At one point, unbeknownst to me, she flew directly over my head and then I lost sight of her.  As I made my way along the river’s edge, I was able to witness the exchange of duties and Mama settled down to take over for Dad.  She’s much younger and not as experienced as he is…and so it delights me to see her intuitively taking part in the work.

To learn more about Incubation and what happens through these 35 days….

To watch a different nest in real time, visit Decorah and they capture all of this wonder close up…the egg rolling, the exchange, the sharing of food.

And in the meantime, tales from the vent…guess who was keeping warm today.

March 23, 2020 4:00 at the River

Published four years after her death, Emily Dickenson’s poem This is My Letter to the World captures a sense of her chosen personal isolation and her connection with the intimacies of the natural world.  This is a time when we need to all explore the realm and the depth of ourselves…soul, body and mind.

Earlier in the day, at the edge of the river and before the weather changed, I was pretty certain, as I have been for days, that there is at least one egg at the nest.  Mom is clearly in the nest bowl, her tail raised and resting on her brood patch, while Dad is slightly out of view, but present.  None of my photos are crisp, given my inability to zoom extensively, but keep in mind that I make observations of nature and I’m not knowledgeable as a photographer.  These are archival in their publication.

Late afternoon…

I stood alone on an embankment, a shelf just above the dark river water and saw the female eagle at 4:00 last evening.  I believe that the incubation for, at least, the first egg has begun.  Mother was well down into the bowl and then suddenly lifted up and out and straight toward me, suddenly arching down and piercing a duck.  All others flew up wildly out of the water while the powerful raptor circled around.  She came around to the evening ice and scooped, out of the water, the limp body of the Common Golden Eye.  I was stunned at the enormous beauty and power of the experience.

Before returning to the nest, she flew a wide victory circle, clamping her talons around what remained of her trophy.

 

Artists and Musicians; Poets and Priests

I’m of the mind that we can move kindness through the world.  This week, I have encountered some beautiful and engaging moments on Instagram, Facebook, Skype and other social media.  Congratulations to those of you who are being supportive, loving, generous and healing.  While we don’t necessarily have all of the time in the world, there are positive people we can access in order to contribute to our own wellness.

My family drew a line in the sand once prescriptions were picked up. My son and I are following the requests of the World Health Organization and our own Provincial Dr. Deena Hinshaw by remaining at home and keeping social distance.  In the meantime, we are finding our ‘new normal’.  I have to say that this past week I listened to the media a lot.  I’m guessing you did too.  I know that the news coming out of Italy makes me very sad because my daughter and I had such a magical time traveling Italy and I find this heart breaking that their  community is suffering so much loss.

In the meantime, back at home, I’m getting into gathering research for a project that I’ve always wanted to do.  I’ve also connected with a lot of different uses for social media that serve me in healthy ways and offer support for others.  At this time, everyone is coming to financial blows.  Good for those of you who are enjoying financial stability because your houses are paid for and you have provisions to get you through this.  Bless those who are struggling….but then, you’ve all heard the news during this past week.

Here are a few of the amazing connections I’ve been blessed to have in the last week.

Auntie Check-in with all of my nieces and nephews…this will be a weekly thing.  I haven’t heard from Ainslie, but every one else checked in.  For this, I’m using Facebook group messenger.

E mail group letters are being exchanged in some of my circles, in order to touch base with how friends are doing and what they’re doing.

I’ve always touched base with my father via Skype, although our reception has not been very good as of late and so we are using Facetime for daily check ins.

My Grandson and I are Skyping, although sometimes we have used Facetime.  I love joining Steven at his breakfast or lunch table.

I’ve figured out Group Skype and a circle of my friends and I will be meeting every Friday evening at 7:30.

I’m enjoying various poets and their works on Instagram, book reviews and all connections with word.

There are many artist tours going on on Instagram as well, including those conducted by Trepanier Baer and the Glenbow.  Seek them out.  You won’t be disappointed.  I’m really excited about the one offered by vivianeartgallery in Kensington, Calgary.It’s called Staring at my Four Walls!  Check it out.  And in the meantime, think about your own art and perhaps get around to archiving it.

Live Streaming includes a daily meet up with artist, Mark Vazquez-Mackay.  He is working on an amazing piece…magical.  If you want to observe his approach to using mixed media and structural perspective, join up….usually a 12 o’clock start up.  Just put yourself on the list to be notified.

There are a number of musicians who are connecting with us through various media and live streaming.  You can fire off a wee contribution for these mini concerts.  I missed Joe Nolan’s the other night, but I DID attend Ruth Purves Smith and her Swalwell event.  She is reading dramatically from the classics in an intimate setting.  Of course, she ended up playing us a tune. ‘We just keep on dancin’. There ain’t no other way.’

Contribution to her Pandemic Kitty can be made to music@ruthpurvessmith.com

This was a wonderful gathering with Ruth at the center. She shared a real time experience.  You don’t have to dress up for these events…wear your pajamas!  Ruth showed us her latest kitty rescue, a photograph of her mama and a portrait of her Dad.  She showed us notations that her mother made along the margins of her Poe book.  She drew the Northern Flicker card and thought of our communal well being.  It was lovely and minimized a huge anxiety that had come over me last evening.

There are wonderful things happening all over the world.  You are not alone, dear readers.  I will make every effort to continue sharing some of what is available to you through the coming days.

Patrick is working on a couple of YouTube channels and these may be of interest to you for the coming days.

Teachers, I am, of course, thinking of all of you over these difficult times.  I know that you are all experimenting with various programs like Zoom and Google Group in order to open up remote learning for your students.  You are shaving down content to meet the new guidelines coming out by Alberta Learning.  You are caring for your own children at home while doing this.  I am thinking of you all.

Where possible Moms and Dads, hook your school aged kids up with Live Cams that are set up the world over.  Many of these include teacher units and other resources.  Getting your children to connect with nature is a wonderful thing.  Message me if you wish a copy of a PDF I created based on Live Eagle Cam viewing.

For those of you who have lost your faith communities through this isolating journey, many of you will be able to connect with Live services streamed in the media.

I am sending out love from my little techno world to yours.  Be safe.  Keep distance.  Blessings.

 

 

Uh Oh: Bird Tales From the Vent

Just recently, I’ve been publicly shamed on social media for asking for photo credit and explaining my distaste for the blast of photographs being published on line of members of the public, hoarding or standing in long lines in store environments. Just my opinion, but these photographs fall into the same category as Wal-Mart shopper photos, babies having temper tantrum photos and Fat Lady photos. I just don’t get what the purpose is? Oh…I received the explanation that publishing the photo of a profiteer who was bragging about the resale potential of a cart load of thermometers had shifted the behaviour of the big box stores and convinced them to limit sales. (all myth and absolutely no idea WHO the person was and what the product was and what the motivation was) Bull Winkle Twinkle Fairy Dust! Are you kidding? Social media photographs do not convince companies such as Home Depot to change their policies? And as a follow-up, it’s interesting that Reddit has deleted the photograph, while the legacy of hateful comments remain spouting off about Capitalism and such. Haters need to hate.

I digress. Because I spoke out about the negativity of such content being shared over and over again in formats such as Reddit and Facebook, I was labeled a lunatic who takes pictures of baby deer and eagles and was reminded that I am dumber than door nails. Too bad. I look at the fact that this person didn’t read or take in my concerns or my views on this subject. He only saw his own perspective and then BLACK OUT….the thread disappeared and the big BLOCK happened. Wow! UH OH!!! I’m telling my readers, we are living in very troubled times. Kindness is required.

And…back to the ‘baby deer and eagle photos’. It is my choice to try to retain a positive expression of social media. If I get so rattled, in real time, about something political or what I view to be a social injustice, I might post, but you will notice those discussions/threads disappear off of my social media within days. I think that what the world needs at the best and the worst of times is positivity, enlightenment and gratitude. If readers/posters want to be miserable all of the time, it’s their prerogative. There is room in the world for all of us. Just don’t block me, shut me down, silence me when I wish to share an opinion along the way.

Check out ethical practice when it comes to posting photos, specifically to shame others.

On the subject of this post…another big UH OH! Some of you have followed Tales from the Vent over the past seven years. At my kitchen sink and window, I find myself in close proximity to my neighbour’s vent. Over the years, this has typically provided a nesting site for House Sparrows, but the past few years, there have been nest wars between Northern Flickers and House Sparrows. Well, look here, what was spotted this morning at the vent. OH NO! Pigeon poop potential! It’s going to be interesting to see what happens this season. I’ll keep you up to date!

The Colours That You Mix

It’s a very other-worldly feeling to be journeying life through a pandemic.  In the grocery stores, yesterday, I felt to be plunked into the opening scenes of a Sci-Fi movie.  Sometimes a person just has to find a way to ground themselves when all else; health, economy, events and travel are floundering.  I almost feel that this is a guilty pleasure in these times…writing about children and painting.  But in doing this, I feel like a rope has been tied around my ankles…someone is tugging…and I am easing my way, like an overfilled balloon… coming to rest on the ground.  This is what I do.

At one time, I wrote about painting with Green in March.

This year, my friend, Claudia, inspired me by the painting she did with her students.  My practice, as a guest teacher, is to promote painting with children.  It can be so messy…there is the preparation and there is the clean-up…but Claudia doesn’t shy away from any of that.  She is a remarkably inspiring Div 1 teacher.  Thank you, Claudia!

After seeing the results of Claudia’s art lesson, I went out into a Div 1 classroom and painted the very next week.

And following that, Gillian also painted with little ones.  Gillian has had a long and accomplished career as an educator and she is also not one to shy away from paint.

I wanted to post all of these resulting paintings at the same time in order to illustrate the variety that can be achieved with paint….same concept…same lesson…but, each and every painting is unique and each of the three sets of paintings is using a different palette of green.  If you look about the hallways of elementary schools, if you see that there is a sameness about the works that children create, there is the possibility that their outcomes have been engineered to be close-ended; it also means that the means to get there may have been closed. (the trouble with most Pinterest activities) Try letting go, just a little, at first.  The resulting projects may not be as predictable, but this is what creativity and visual art should excite in children.

Children are magical.  May they be safe and may their teacher’s be safe through these trying times.  Happy March!  Happy GREEN!

Claudia’s Palette.  (I didn’t include images of students painting because their little faces were in the photos.)

Kath’s Palette.

Gillian’s Palette

Just a Peek Through a Secret Door

This morning at Mass, Father Krzysztof spoke of those moments of grace when a person experiences a flash of insight where revelation arises.  He talked about the importance of taking pause and giving time to reflect upon these insights in order that these not disappear into memory, but rather, so that they might impact the present moment, our actions or possibly even the course of our lives.

He began with the story of a night when the stars fell.  Over 200,000 meteors blazed through the night and into the morning of November 12, 1833, astounding people of the entire world. Can you imagine how such a sight such as this might take your breath away?  I know that almost every day, I feel that I’m watching 200,000 meteors flying across a dark sky.  In fact, I feel this way every time I am with my grandson.

In the telling of this story, I reflected a little on the circle I walk each day at the river and how by taking pause, I come to an experience of peaceful revelation and renewal.

I also remembered my student’s magic journals, written over the years.  Based on the journals written by protagonist, Douglas Spaulding, of Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine, I asked my students to write down their daily revelations in a ‘magic journal’.  Some of the students strongly disliked these.  And, a lot of the time, their parents disliked them more.

But, as I pondered these matters today at Mass, I have no regrets for my efforts with these students.  This is a practice of ‘noticing’ that I deeply treasure.  If the students approached this journal with a lack of sincerity and if my efforts were not appreciated by parents, it matters not…to this day, I am grateful that I followed through with this exercise.  This is insight that we can all benefit from.

Landscape of a Day: 2 Fridays Past

DRAFT OF A LANDSCAPE -BY JULIET PATTERSON

after Paul Celan

The hare’s
dust pelt

against the juniper’s sky
now

in the eye uncovered
a question clear

in the wing
of the day and the predator

that writes
the animal’s luck, too.

Where is tomorrow?
Will tomorrow be beautiful?

Someone will answer.
Someone will remember

that dustcolored
tragedy, incidental, belonging

to no one, arriving before
as a flock of cranes

protracted in a long descent
winging blind

to field—the days
are beautiful.

If I was to archive each and every day, down to bare bones, I would get absolutely nothing done and would not fully live that day.  The day would become full of the archiving and the magic would be missed.  I’ve had several full days since living and  breathing two Fridays past, but I haven’t forgotten its beauty.  I began with a poem because poetry whittles a full written expression to its essence.  The words capture the magic of the day.

It all began as most days do, at the edge of the Bow River.  It seemed that I would be encountering strong females and it so happened that the Bald Eagles were sitting together.  The female is on the left.  She’s so incredibly beautiful.

The female coyote has raised two stunningly handsome youngsters, now one year old.  It’s been a wonderful year of viewing their forays.

Then it was off, for my very first time, to Bell’s in Marda Loop.

What I didn’t capture in photographs is the lovely person who shared the table with me.  Thank you, Teresa, for the latte and the delicious slice of home made banana bread.

Teresa Posyniak has a life-giving spirit and is a strong woman who lifts up other women through her genuine interest in them.  Her art oozes with copious texture and is both strong and fragile.  I will treasure our rich conversation and hope to follow, more closely, her exploration of topics such as resiliance.  Teresa’s is an artistic voice to listen to and I encourage my readers to connect with her work through the links I’m providing here.

I was whizzing off to Joan’s next, but not before a quick stop at cSpace.

Of course, I’m still very much in awe of this beautiful installation at the front entrance way, Yesterday Today Tomorrow by Caitlind r.c. Brown, Wayne Garrett and Lane Shordee.  This single sad photograph does not capture the experience of this piece, so readers, you will have to add this to your list.

Cassie Suche’s Sway series was refreshing, tucked away at one end of the second floor.  Very organic and slightly humourous at the same time, I really enjoyed the work created on her one-month residency.

I was blessed to have enjoyed a full day workshop with Laura Vickerson at the Esker a couple of years back.  I am truly interested in her work and ended up pouring over this booklet about Constructed Histories for more time than I had intended.  Love her work.  Love the concepts behind her work.  These spoke to me of nostalgia and memory…something that interests me.


Marty Kaufman’s blown glass…Eroded Forms drew me in.  Such milky forms.  I absolutely love them.

Of course, I don’t think I’ve ever gone into the cSpace without looking at the stairwell murals done by Daniel J. Kirk and Katie Green.  They are lovely and different times of day evoke a mysterious sense of light and so therefore, a different experience, each time a person makes their way up and down the various floors.

A new experience for me was to hit upon the Blackboard Gallery.  I went with the intention of seeing these works, the urban landscapes done by Melanie Figueroa.  She is someone I follow on Instagram, but I had never seen her work in the flesh.  This gallery is a sweet little space.  I ended up totally wrapped up in a conversation about jewelry with Melanie Archer.  I’ll be back.

By this time, I needed to set out for the lodge.  Joan and I spent a generous hour pouring over her sketchbooks, nicely organized by Sandy.  We dug in deep, sharing about light and dark, texture, pattern and the act of creating.  It’s not everyone who can enjoy a conversation like that so much, but the two of us certainly did.  Sheila arrived and we shared yet another wonderful conversation.

So, it turns out, this was the landscape of my day two Fridays past.  I think of the women in my life as being remarkable in so many ways.  I am blessed by their goodness and their strength.  I am grateful.

Friends, Family and Feasting!

I think that if you’re living in Calgary, you’re likely really happy that this has been a long weekend.  Tonight, folks are washing their work clothes and there’s the smell of steam in the air as the shirts get pressed for the coming week.  It was glorious to have that extra day.  While this weekend has seen a return of winter, it has certainly been warmed by friendship, family and feasting!

I was listening to CBC radio in the kitchen early this morning.  There was a great interview about walking, featuring explorer, Erling Kagge. It kept me happy as I drank my hot cup of coffee and prepared a nice brunchy meal for my family.

Food brings people together.  Yesterday I headed to beautiful Wendy’s home, where she has taken on a monthly gathering called Brunch with Buds. For this event, I made, for the first time, a batch of Chai french toast.  I was excited and looking forward to seeing my friends and meeting new ones.  Conversations flowed  and wove in and out of the cozy rooms.  Surrounded by art, good smells and music we were all put to ease and the stresses of the world fell away, at least for a short time.

I caught Jocelyn, mid-sentence.  But, look at that cute waffle maker!

Educator, ally, life long learner, artist and lover of live music, this is a strong woman! I Love you, Jocelyn!

Anam Kazim is a former member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta.  Here, she is posing in front of a portrait that was a collaboration of create! participants when Wendy initiated a number of classes and events in the East Village as it related to the Golden Age Club, at the time.  Artist and photographer, Michael Collette, spearheaded this collaboration.

Anam is open, warm and very articulate and presently exploring entrepreneurial pursuits, offering health and wellness solutions via natural/herbal medicine.  Anam is a strong woman.

I caught Karen Pickles in this beautiful shot.  What a driven and inspiring woman who cares for and is motivated by needs of ‘the other’.  She is another one of our circle who loves live music and is a maker.  Her mediums include film and paint, but are not limited to those.  She is the President and CEO of Stresscase and she is a strong woman!

Steven and Katrine are in deep conversation.  It might be that they are talking about Jazz, or possibly Beakerhead.  Katrine is a Geologist…that makes two Geologists in my circle of friends.  By sharing in these brunches, Wendy is giving us the opportunity to put our heads together.  I just love it!  Steven is on his way to becoming a jazz percussionist.  He inspires me.  He also has such a sense of humour.  I like that he can make me laugh so easily.  I wish I could laugh more.

I really wanted to capture a particular sensibility here, with Stephen as my subject; the hyacinth to the right, the boxes of inspirational cards and angel cards stacked on the coffee table.  Stephen is a writer and he is also one of the most incredibly supportive people I know.  His calm demeanor helps me to open up and over the years I’ve felt I can trust him with my ideas, my challenges.  He is steadfast.  I didn’t capture his blue eyes here, but he has incredible blue eyes.  Stephen is a good human being.

Suzanne Presinel looked so familiar to me, but this was our first time meeting in a situation where we could sit back and chat about ALL SORTS of topics.  We realized at some point that we’ve encountered one another at Esker programs…where Suzanne volunteers on a regular basis.  The most wonderful thing is that she is deeply entrenched in the Boomerang Bag Global Grassroots Movement, here in Calgary.  Suzanne is a strong woman.

The food….well, the food was exceptional.  That’s all I can say.  Beautiful coffee was served and the various dishes were scrumptious.  Just look at this salmon mousse and the wee chicks on this serving dish!!

Here’s a strong woman!  Lauraine has just grown to be such a special and supportive friend.  She is an amazing mother and she is a remarkable person to have in my circle.  Always helpful, she seems to fill gaps.  Lauraine is creative and like so many of us, she too, loves live music.  She inspires me to seek balance and to takes steps to simplify my life.  She is a practicing Psychologist as well as part of a high school student services team.  I can only imagine that Lauraine is likely making a huge impact on people’s lives, especially adolescent lives.  We need more like her.

I’ve met Sarah before and know her to be a generous and caring neighbour.  She loves fun and is open.  This is her friend, Kat, who I met for the first time.  I have to say that I really enjoyed our conversation and look forward to seeing her again.

And here she is….Wendy. She is the lady who made this wonderful brunch happen! Wendy is smart, funny and has a huge heart.  She works so hard.  No one works harder…but always work that makes for good and that she loves.  Wendy is a connector.  She has brought a world of people together over time.  When with Wendy, the conversation is inspiring and positive.  Despite the troubles in the world or in the community or even close to home, Wendy is one of those people who looks at a situation and asks herself, “What is it that I can do?”  She brings the positive into conversations.  She is a maker!  So much collaborative work and creation happens within our city because she makes it happen.  Teaching at the Colonel Belcher, the Central Library….working with innovators and linking up with Mount Royal…and let us NOT FORGET her amazing abilities as a creative in the kitchen.  Food just tastes way better when Wendy prepares it!  Thank you for the blessing of your friendship, Wendy.  You are such a strong woman.

I drove home feeling energized, with a whole number of conversations floating in my mind.  It was time to clean my house.  I was excited that today I would host my family for a nice hot breakfast.

Photos?  Not a one!  I guess that speaks to the fact that we were totally wrapped up in…..nope, not the food….my grandson!!  I shared Steven’s home made Valentine’s paintings with everyone and then it was all about the french toast, for Steven.

I’m grateful for my children and for Shawn and Doug.  I felt blessed.  Thank you to Cayley and Shawn for bringing our celebratory Prosecco and orange juice!  My family means the world to me.

Oh!  I DID get one photograph….QWIRKLE board!  One game under our belts!