Making Meaning

Sitting here listening to Ben Harper… I’m so inspired by his music….reflecting back on the work day and the work in the studio and the surrounding ‘energy’ of my children.  I’ve been thinking about “making meaning”.  It’s an expression I used to use solely with my own students and their art.  I worked endlessly at convincing them that unless they could make meaning in their own art, it would somehow have limits as to how it could speak to others.
Now I’m thinking about this being a real purpose for my own life this coming year. MAKE MEANING!  I’m so ritualistic and I so love setting goals and MAKING things happen…I like to manifest my life and have for years, been reluctant to just let life swoosh over me.  I know there are pitfalls to this thinking.  For example…what if something bad happens??  What if I was to be challenged by poor health or unexpected loss?  hmmm…I wonder how I would react to these possibilities in the ‘soup’ of the moment?
I’ll address this question in a moment…let me blither.  (as though I have my very own fanclub?  people who are out there with nothing to do but take pause and read my blitherings…and all without the publication of new photographs.  I take a moment here to smile at these imaginings!)
Back to the subject of this entry,  I think that anything profound and really worthwhile in life requires that it be meaningful.  A relationship is deep and abiding to the degree that you personally invest and make it meaningful.  Your own music, art…your writing is profound because you have decided to make it meaningful.  You ‘show up’ to it.  You commit to it and create it from your deepest joy, sorrow or indifference.  But, you ‘show up’!  Your children grow as you respond to them, connect with them and give, not in superficial ways, but in ‘meaningful’ ways.
A painting speaks to me when I make my own meaning with it.  It doesn’t necessarily matter that I engage the artist’s intended meaning; but it DOES matter that I the viewer, bring my energy to it…and manifest something.  Otherwise, I think that art becomes wall decoration.  Perhaps Clive Bell and others would say “Heh, that’s ok…art for art’s sake…a wall decoration is alright.  We can’t all be connoisseurs. Is that how I spell that?  Who cares.”  Blah blah….just let me ‘play’ with the ideas randomly…this is my little end-of-day-rant.  If I don’t make note of what thoughts weave through my mind during the day, they become tangled…more than you can even see or experience here.
I think that a big reason why my english students have troubles with literature or reading in general, is because they have difficulty taking text and ‘making meaning’ with it.  I think that my goal is to show them the ways/strategies that I have made meaning with literature.  It seems that I love books beyond words!  smiling here…  Rarely do I say, “Don’t read this one.  It’s a book that you could never get into!”  Instead, there is always some MEANING that I have created for myself in the book.  Whether non-fiction, biography, historical fiction…it matters not!  I become that publication’s biggest fan!  Wow!!  Imagine if I can show my students how to do that!
Right now I am making meaning in the studio.  I have freed myself over time of all encumbrances around the act of painting.  I am creating works right now that speak to me and speak powerfully.  Now…in a week or so when I deliver them to my galleries (and I can’t believe they’ve shown such patience with me) I will have to be prepared to remain separate….to trust in just how important the art is to me…and how it is ok to protect its ‘meaning’.
I think that when we ‘make meaning’ in relationships…in the world of business…in our art….we become responsible to all of that.  There is an investment made.  These become ‘of the heart’.
(I remember as I type the word RESPONSIBLE….the context from Le Petit Prince par St. Exupery…such a beautiful way of describing what I’ve been writing about here…”You become responsible for your rose…”)
It is my hope that I will be able to create a meaningful school year…that I will be able to continue building upon meaningful relationships and that I can make meaning in my art.  I hope the same for each of you.

Return to the Classroom

The alarm clock rang this morning and it shrieked of the end of summer and the beginning of another school year.  I don’t regret this…there is excitement about the rites of autumn beginning, but oh how wonderful to be outdoors in the garden for most of the summer!  A combination of hard work and sunshine on my face and back, made me feel strong and connected to the ‘stuff’ of life! Last night there was a brilliant pink sun setting…a huge intense ball in the sky.  Sometimes it takes on THAT glow and looks larger than large!  It was split two-thirds of the way down by a single whisper of cloud that made it look like two suns in the sky…a beautiful goodnight. A final trip to Speargrass for Sunday dinner with both of the children…a wonderful hot tub before the drive home….a small sliver of moon in the early-evening sky.  I did not see Mars later that evening…August 27 was to be a bit of a phenomenon, not to be experienced again in this lifetime. The Red Planet is about to be spectacular! This month and next, Earth is catching up with Mars in an encounter that will culminate in the closest approach between the two planets in recorded history. The next time Mars may come this close is in 2287. Due to the way Jupiter’s gravity tugs on Mars and perturbs its orbit, astronomers can only be certain that Mars has not come this close to Earth in the Last 5,000 years, but it may be as long as 60,000 years before it happens again. The encounter will culminate on August 27th when Mars comes to within 34,649,589 miles of Earth and will be (next to the moon) the brightest object in the night sky. It will attain a magnitude of -2.9 and will appear 25.11 arc seconds wide. At a modest 75-power magnification Mars will look as large as the full moon to the naked eye.By the end of August when the two planets are closest, Mars will rise at nightfall and reach its highest point in the sky at 12:30 a.m. That’s pretty convenient to see something that no human being has seen in recorded history. So, mark your calendar at the beginning of August to see Mars grow progressively brighter and brighter throughout the month. Share this with your children and grandchildren. NO ONE ALIVE TODAY WILL EVER SEE THIS AGAIN
An excellent website for keeping up with celestial events…
A ‘must’….
The scoop on Mars…
Mars Spectacular?
A story floating around the Internet this summer says that Mars will pass unusually close to Earth in late August, and will appear as large as the full Moon.

Sorry, but it’s not true.

Mars actually made its closest pass to Earth in many centuries in August of 2003. It was quite bright then, but it still looked only like a bright star, and was nowhere near the size of the full Moon.

2006 is a poor year for viewing Mars. The planet put in a good showing in late 2005, but has been growing fainter throughout this year. In August, it is barely visible very low in the west for a few minutes in early evening, beginning perhaps 30 to 40 minutes after sunset. It looks like a faint star. It drops from sight by about an hour after sunset.

The Act of Painting

The act of painting has taken hold and I am in the daily bliss of colour and light again.  I sometimes do not understand the incubation periods that preceed this ‘pouring out’ of paint…how I feel ignited somehow when the time is right?  I become prolific and know that if I could sustain this and NOT stop, then I would slowly disappear from the things that ‘everybody does’ and remain in joy at the easel.  For now I will just thrill in the experience as it is so good for my soul.  What a punctuation mark to the summer!
What has changed in the art?  To some degree I think that I have turned back the clock and with more than fifteen years of experience, have returned to the marks that I made when setting out painting landscape….with one difference, the experience informs the work and the compositions are stronger and the colour is  so incredibly ‘easy’.  At times, as a challenge or as an insecurity, I have painted quite literally.  These paintings always impress people somehow.  "Wow!  That looks so real!"  However, as one becomes confident in one’s true artist-soul, there is a release and the process of ‘making art’ becomes only a conversation between the artist and the art.  It is an absolute joy!
I think that the process of painting the Chapel wall contributed to a higher sense of what ‘art’ is and now I feel as though the art is sacred.  I feel as though I honour it and that it comes from a deeper place.  Soon I will paint the figurative pieces that have been incubating in my mind and heart for so long.  I will also take on a series in acrylic…something definitely derived from the Chapel-experience.
It seems ‘crazy’ that I have relied on a single subject for the most part….all of these years.  Of course, I have painted so many places…in so many ways…rivers, mountains…urban as well as rural landscape.  But at the base of the exploration, there has remained a single hill.  At this point I know this hill so personally that it has become an icon for me.  It becomes more and more a mass and its details disappear to leave structure and soundness.  The blue sky remains an energetic wall, somehow separate…like a witness.  The blue is what remains of my paternal grandfather…it is what remains.


We broke camp shortly after I opened my eyes.  The cows up on the hills were making their loud mooing sounds…my bare back felt chilled and there was a real dampness in the air.  When I told my son that there was no way I would get back to sleep, he told me that he HADN’T been to sleep…I smiled.
The night before we had had magical chit chat at our campfire.  It was nice to relax with him and to be aware of things around us and how the light was gradually changing on the trees and how darkness was creeping in ever-so-slowly.  He told me that he wonders about friends of his who have never camped.  He doesn’t understand why they all wouldn’t have had that experience.  He told me he thought that they are missing out.  He also told me that he wants me to take him on a REAL tenting sleepover sometime.  I asked, "You mean the sort where you go into the backwoods, with your tent tied to your backpack?  With freeze-dried food?  Up into the mountains where you listen for bears through your light light sleep?"  He answered, "Yes."  So now…this is something I will have to do and I have added it to my list of a-hundred-things-to-do-before-I-die-list.  I hadn’t imagined that I’d revisit my youth and do this yet again.  I had happily ‘hung that hat on a hook’ and was prepared to do civilized stuff for the rest of my life…maybe even buy a small trailer like Emily. 
There was discussion about the colour of the sky as light disappears….then the pelicans flew over and I told him, as I do about all birds flying over, that it was a sign.
He looked at my face, still softly lit, and smiled widely asking, "What is a sign??"
"The pelicans…the pelicans flying in a perfect V over our heads….so close…it is a sign."
"A sign of what?"
"I couldn’t tell you…but it’s a wondrous thing really!"
He laughed and said, with all of his cynicism,  "And what sort of sign would it be if one pooped on your head as it flew over?"
We both laughed.
Sometimes the children are sceptics.  I like to read their tea leaves at the end of our dinners at the Dragon Pearl.  I like to tell them of all of the promise their lives hold…and to tell them that they are traveling to distant places.  I go at it with great confidence.  My daughter is a believer.  And I believe that people manifest ideas.  We have that power.  Do you believe that??
We broke camp like troopers.  Gosh, my son is a good camper!  Silently, without any lists or demands or instructions, the bedding was rolled, the campground put back to rights, the pegs pulled…tent shook out, rolled….van packed.  Before we knew it, dog and supplies were back in their places and the heat was blasting our wet fingers and cold toes.  I looked over at him and his nose was red…a beautiful healthy sign of life and wonder!
We headed up the hill to Speargrass where our girlfriends were waiting with a feast.  Fresh fruit and dates and yogurt and flax seed….over-easy eggs and grainy bread….a big pot of coffee and english muffins with ginger marmalade. 
My little 89 year old girlfriend was packed and ready to go on an adventure…a drive south to pick up my strawberry plants from Mary’s garden.  She was loaded down with a big bag of cheesies and a bag of hard candies (what lady her age goes without hard wrapped candies?) a bag of licorice and her granola bars.  She had her camera and was ready for picture-snapping and adventure!
Our first stop was just south of Vulcan…Kirkcaldy.  We stopped at the very little spot where I picked up my Laurie-dog almost fourteen years ago.  I let him out of the van and he bounded for the little shed where he was born from Sandy, his beautiful collie mother.  Is it possible that dogs remember somehow their rolly-poly-pink-belly-beginnings?   He sniffed and ran about…and had such a twinkle in his eye!  I think he remembered.  I was glad to be the one to bring him home to visit his birthplace, before something happens and we lose our precious dog, forever.
Then…off to Lethbridge, but not without a few sidetrips….heading down into a valley to Standoff, on the Blood Reserve….and then on a dusty gravel ride along the ridge.  Out we got for photographs…and when I can publish them here next month, please do enjoy!  "An awesome view!"  At least that’s what little E said.
Finding that my dearest cousin was driving a friend north to a Calgary-airport-pick-up, we traveled into Raymond (but after a special dining-experience…popcorn chicken for E at the KFC)….the site of our annual family reunions…and much history.  We found one of my aunties at home and she kindly giggled with us and chatted and showed us so many wonderful black-and-whites of relatives.  It was magical, as was the walkabout in the old campground site where I remember my Uncle and Dad drinking coffee and the tables where we sat together and dug into summer salads and hamburgers.  I could look at the large yard opening up and remember chasing for candies and I had flashes of family programs…children singing, playing musical instruments, dancing, performing kata….it all seems that it was just yesterday!
From there, we headed for Magrath so that I could revisit the shell of the old woolen mill The Magrath Wool, Card and Spinning Mill.  My Auntie R wasn’t home, but I took my travelers to all of the spots that gave me a sense of nostalgia and roots.  We went to the Trading Company for an icecream cone.  The same stools and lunch counter…it seemed the same men chatting over grilled cheese.  Moments and places, caught in time….only years later!
We could not leave without driving slightly south of town and into the cemetery where we visited my Gramma, Grampa, two cousins and my Uncle…I told my friend and son about the day that my Gramma was buried there.  It was a blustery day….and it was quite a picture to see the family circled by Hutterite women…all holding out their polka-dot finery, their skirts…in a huge protective wall, so that inside the circle, we were in a calm.  I won’t forget that day. 
Returning to Lethbridge, E sat under an apple tree loaded with apples…in the shade, on a cinderbrick (is that how you spell that?  who cares).  My son made us big dagwood sandwiches with things I had brought in the cooler…cheese buns and mixed meats, cucumbers and tomato, cheese and lettuce.  We ate in the shade and drank water from Mary’s hose.  I miss her.  At this time of year, she would be offering us carrots from the garden…and beets to take home…she would have been showing us the size of her potatoes.
I dug up four beautiful strawberry plants, some dill, chinese lanterns and a bit of iris…transfered them into the icecream pails I had brought from home and loaded them into the van.  The entire scene became more ‘magical’ given the addition of plants.
The drive home opened up more of the beautiful southern Alberta landscape…farm machinery out and busy in the evening light.  Fields and fields of rich golden grain…miles stretching out and touching the blue sky at the horizon.  There is nothing that touches my heart more than gold up against blue.  It’s what I know best…and so I paint it again and again.
In dwindling light at home and while being attacked by dive-bombing mosquitoes, I got the plants into the backyard soil and headed into the house for a relax-bath.
It was a good thing to travel back to my roots…I know that I come from beautiful places and beautiful people.

Off the Map

This is a movie that will reach into your heart and warm you up.  It appeals to me on so many different levels that I may fall short in my review.  I will try to do it some justice and as is the case with most films, I’m sure this isn’t for everyone!
I believe somehow in relating closely to the earth, rivers and the sky. I think that perhaps I missed ‘the boat’ by being plunked into the suburbs of a fairly high-drive city and really wonder sometimes if I am honouring my life.  I filter all of this whenever I read books or watch movies.  The movie Off the Map struck so many chords that I felt to be a part of a symphony.
For the most part, we share the story through the voice of a twelve year old girl.  This was a big time for me.  It was a special time.  I somehow teetered, at twelve, between two worlds; that of the imagination and that of responsibility and engagement.
I loved the setting…New Mexican vistas…beautiful water and beautiful horizons…all bathed in the pinky glow of the southwest.  A sense of minimalist living and yet with the rich fertile offerings of the world.  A connection between art and life…of music…of stories…of reading aloud…writing letters…and writing…a sense of sailing on a huge ocean anywhere…everywhere!
This film offers up snippets of wisdom for those who wish to listen and observe.  It is like sweetgrass and quiets the heart.  If you have the opportunity, please share this film with people you love.

Emigrant Pass

Look toward horizons
from every direction
and feel the sun on your face, your back & 
swimming over the backs of your arms.
Feel the wind move over
the gargoyle faces,
guarding  nests.
They seem timeless.
Birds of prey take flight,
drawing mystical circles on a
blue sky and then dip
toward the earth.
It takes your breath away.
You pause in silence.
You take one last look at the
patterns of colour stamped;
lichen on stone;
and descend,


Beautiful pelicans…a huge v formation, perhaps forty of them less than fifty feet above us…sound of wings whistled in rhythmic up downs up downs up downs…long beaks…our necks strained back to look as they passed over us, southeast on the river…magic…my son and I quietly talking to one another by the campfire.

Mirage Mules and Bomber Bats

It’s been a few days since I’ve updated the blog.  I love to accompany my words with images, but since reaching my limit for the month and since being unable to edit my titles in my last album, I’ve not felt encouraged to write.  (Shall I also say that as per usual, I’ve ALSO been somewhat swept up with living life as well…feeling everything deeply…creating magic where I can?)
I’ve arrived home from a journey to southern Alberta with son and sister-friend.  This will require yet another photo album and some writing…it was beautiful,…but what comes to mind to write about tonight is an amazing bit of magic experienced on the last long-hauling adventure!  If you google the place; Primm, Nevada…all you will find are multiple listings for hotels, casinos and crazy entertainment.  My heart isn’t into that sort of entertainment…but truly, from an outsider’s perspective Primm, Nevada looks like one HUGE fantasyland!
We had made our drive through Las Vegas effortlessly and carried on to a point where the sun was just beginning to settle over the soft violet mountains to the west.  Time to pull over for the night…and right there at the core of Primm, Nevada!
A big stretch was needed…a nice little walk…and we headed toward a huge expanse of smooth sand…edged neatly with a wire fence.  Attached, a sign, DO NOT ENTER! (Likely something to do with DARPA!
As though to be a mirage….I saw no less than thirty animals moving toward us from the distance…and east.  Sunlight, inching ever-closer to sleep, played light-games and created illusions on the animals, making it hard to ‘read’ exactly what they were. Initially, I thought that they were horses…then camels?  oh geez!  "Look at their long ears!!  They are donkeys!!"  They walked a slow steady pace to the east-most side of the space and up against the fence.  Two, however (an adult and her young one) stopped and stared, as though hypnotized, at the woman who was slapping her thighs and shouting out, "Hello there!  Come and see us!  Hello guys!"  Nonchalantly, they joined their buddies, some distance away.
As I surrendered my efforts to draw their attention and as my desire to jump the fence or round its perimeter was somewhat discouraged, I began to turn toward the truck.  In an instant, while still caught up in the wonder of what I had just experienced, a dive-bomber bat and his buddies, began dodging here and there in the soft evening light!
Wow!  What a spectacular bit of magic!  What an awesome little event to have shared!

Picture Limits!

I’m somewhat frustrated that I am unable to load any new photographs! I’ve reached my limit for the month! Can you imagine that?? 

Another painting completed….not really large, but a rich little piece anyway…a roadside scene while traveling with my Mom and Dad to Algonquin Park some years ago.  I also started on another…Rotary Park in the autumn.  As I worked on this one, I had in mind Emily Carr again (sheesh!  She’s really in my heart right now) and her heading out to live in a park in her trailer.  She took herself deep into the ‘dark’ of the forest and brought trees to dancing in both charcoal and in oils thinned down with gasoline…drawing on raw manilla paper.  I’m thinking of my work as ‘freedom’ paintings more than anything else right now.  I’m enjoying responding to my love of the landscape and while these latest pieces encompass a broad collection of locations, I feel that they have my heart at the base of each of them.

I completed the boardwalk today….and built the strawberry and rubarb bed.  Outside, there’s a soft rain that is falling on the topsoil…beautiful rich garden soil heaped up freshly in all of the beds. 

Last evening I put in place a huge rock that some ‘river-lovers’ rolled and loaded into a special Nissan …this created a beautiful second step from my small deck to the rock patio below.  There was some real heave-hoeing going on in order to move it into its spot…a truly remarkeable thing!

Beautiful Dreamer

The journey from north to south and south to north was a highlight of my summer.  Traveling such as this clicks something inside a person…makes them feel smaller somehow in a huge world…and bigger somehow within themselves!
The landscapes that slipped by were so absolutely incredible!  As I sit here this morning, I recall the beautiful mist rising up off of Donner’s Lake and the trees, like guardian-people looking out over the smooth mirror of water.  To share this and all other such-views along the way with my dearest friend is something I will hold onto for a long time.
A "Fauve on the Bow" painting completed in the studio attests to the freedom I feel inside as I process an entire bundle of feelings around the trip and also the book, The Forest Lover.
Have a beautiful day.