Patty Griffin and Rain

I’m sitting here listening to Sirius Radio….Patty Griffin singing Rain….beautiful…mellow…relaxing.  I’m taking a breath…I just clamped my last patch job on the bottom drawer of the red dresser.  Tonight I will blog the painting aspect of the last Kandinsky composition….I am optimistic perhaps…that I will finish tonight and be able to urethane before karate tomorrow night.
The movie, Catch and Release had some beautiful elements.  I liked the quotes that were read off of the Celestial Herbal Tea boxes…I really liked those!
I was thinking….we continue doing ‘ordinary’ things don’t we….what was the last sort of tea we chose to sip?  Zinger? Peppermint? Chamomile?  the last song on the radio?  who received our last phone call?  Anyway…I liked the movie for its message about ‘knowing your life’.  I also think that the protagonist had some regrets for not letting her closest friend, her fiance, know her.  He didn’t even know that she was able to stick her entire fist in her mouth?  I type this with a smile on my face.  Sometimes we are so about ‘being proper’, that we forget to have outrageous fun!

Red Chest

Mother and daughter whizzed off to the train early this morning…a nice cup of store-bought coffee at a stop along the way…nice warmth of the blowing heat at the dash…nice listening of music…nice traveling together…NICE start to the day! She earned her driver’s licence yesterday, so members of the family and friends are in a fit of celebration!  Such a magical ‘yesterday’!  Upon my return home, I took on the early painting of the second dresser after another Home Depot afternoon yesterday and much junior-carpentry work in the late evening.
Well, in the end I decided to fill in the imperfections on the veneers of the second dresser with wood filler, smooth out the surface, repair the drawers with various bits of glue, filler, trim pieces of wood, clamps of all sizes and shapes….and to paint the main body of the drawers with the red that appears on one of my son’s walls.
We’ve parked the grey dresser up against the grey wall, with the Kandinsky facing toward us and now the idea is to place the burgundy-red one up against the red wall, with yet another Kandinsky Composition depicted on the drawer faces.  It’s shaping up…but again, a big investment in a 20.00 set of drawers.
After sanding and putzing with this older piece and discovering the beautiful, but damaged veneer underneath, I think that I could really take to this process and refinish some more salvageable pieces.  I enjoyed the physical work and the meditative aspects of the sanding.  Pictures to follow later this afternoon…for now, off to Mass and then the movie, Catch and Release with my movie Ya Yas.

Girl in Hyacinth Blue: This Week’s Book

This week’s book, Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland has convinced me that, not only is Vreeland one of my favourite writers (for now), but one of my favourite people.  Contained in the Afterward is an interview with Vreeland that captivates me because it so-closedly mimics my thoughts and experiences of life and art.
The entry point of the book is a painting by Johannes Vermeer.  It really becomes a series of short stories that are placed chronologically from present to past, a century apart, and trace the powerful impact that a beautiful image of a young girl who sits before a window, has upon its owners. 
I often think and wonder about the journeys that my own paintings have taken since beginning to paint seriously in 1990…I wonder about the people whos hands have touched my work…what their challenges have been…what conversations have been shared while my paintings, like silent observers, have warmed their walls.  It’s an interesting story…the story of art, poetry, music….and the story of books.
An excellent ‘read’…one I recommend for every artist!

Priests and Mission Impossible

The title of this entry can be somewhat misleading…and it sort of makes me smile.  After some failed attempts with setting dates, the children and I were able to co-ordinate dinner here with our Parish Priest.  What I liked most is that he helped with the cooking and we put together a dreamy meal of parsley potatoes (his recipe…YUMMERS!) and stuffed salmon (my recipe)served with tender-but-not-overcooked green beans…and the children put together the salad. The salmon was stuffed with fresh cilantro, parsley, green onion bits, white wine, virgin olive oil, a titch of cumin, fresh oregano and thyme…mmmmmmm yummers! It was a scrumptious meal!
The conversation was lively and covered all sorts of topics…and I made certain that I steered the visit to topics that were of curiosity to the kids…things that were questions or concerns.  There was good humour and fun and honesty.  The anecdotes and stories were the most fun!  I really liked it and hope we can do this again.
We were in such high spirits after Father had left (not because he left…but you know what I mean) that my son and I went and rented our week’s stack of movies.  He bought his milk duds and we curled in to watch Mission Impossible III together.  While I hadn’t heard a single good review about the film, the three of us had so much fun watching it. Of course, I add a dimension to any film with action, intrigue or tension because I tend to grip, stand and pace, and squeal…so it was a good viewing!  I tucked in, almost finished my most recent Vreeland ‘read’ and then turned off the bedside lamp to a great sleep.

Chunking Poetry

I’ve been teaching my language arts students how to chunk poetry…to pay attention to pauses through punctuation and to read in a meaningful way.  In fact, giving pause, gives poetry meaning…in the ear.  One of my male students stepped up to the front just two days ago and shared Move Pen Move by Shane Koyczan/TC Everwood…the words to the poem were so powerful, and so powerfully delivered, that I had chills and each one in the class was perfectly quiet.  Shane Koyczan/T.C. Everwood delivers these spoken words as background to a piece of music…my student is copying me a cd so that I can hear the original version.
This boy is a young musician and he will spend his life giving words meaning.  If I share the words to Move Pen Move, please do NOT think that I am intending to start your day badly…just imagine that a young man is giving a class these words with intention.  Imagine the ‘magic’ of a young man sharing such as these.  
that’s what mothers say when their sons and daughters go away
they say stay
my mother said go.
so i wasn’t there, the night she fell out of her wheelchair
so frustrated that she amputated her own legs or rather tried to with a steak knife
her life leaking on the white floor blossoming like roses on the snow.
our relationship was an anthem composed of words like, “gotta go”,
so we went, and sent our regards on postcards from the places we’d been
the stories about all the
things we’d seen that’s how it was with you and i.
why say goodbye when we could still write?
and then it took your hands,
we should have practiced our goodbyes
because then it took your eyes and
i was somewhere in the middle of nowhere watching the sunrise
over a stop sign placed down the center line of a highway
filled with sudden turns for the worst,
running back home because i gotta play nurse,
gotta figure out, which pill alleviates which pain,
which part of your brain is being used
a boxing bag as your body
became a neverending game of freeze tag taking place in
an empty playground
that was left
looking for your limbs now lost and found
and i couldn’t set you free
so we just sat there,
our heads bent towards each other like flowers
in the small hours of the morning while
light wandered in like a warning that
time is passing,
and you right along with it, bit by bit everyday
and all i can say is if i could i would write you some way out of this,
but my gift is useless and
you said no,
write me a poem to make me happy,
so i wrote Move Pen Move.
write me a bedroom where cures make love to our cancers
but my mother just motions to a bottle full of answers and says,
help me go.
and now i know something of how a piano must feel
when it looks at the fireplace
to see sheet music being used for kindling,
smoke signaling the end of some song
that i thought it would take too long to learn.
now i just sit here watching you burn away,
all those notes i never had a chance to play to you
the music of what you had to say.
but i count out the pills just to see if i can do it.
i can’t even get half way through it before i turn back into your sun,
and say,
icould hook up my heart to your ears
and let my tears
be your morphine drip
because maybe it’s easier
to let you slip away then it is to say
so i,
hold my breath.
because in the coutdown to death
the question of why melts into whe,
how much time do we have left
because if i knew what i know now
Move Pen Move!
write me a mountain!
because headstones are not big enough.
and my mother says
stop it!
write me a poem to make me happy.
so i write this:
she smile and says,
“gotta go”
“i know”.
good bye.



Cheap Dressers

I bought two dressers from the Women in Need Society for 40.00.  That was two weeks ago…and I’ve been transforming them when I’ve been feeling like some physical work.  My son and daughter haven’t had dressers for four years…ever since I stripped the entire house of wall-to-wall carpeting.  Since then, bit by bit, I have made this home our own.
The children have had their clothes systematically stored away in laundry baskets and they are absolutely thrilled that very very soon they will have real time storage in their own bedrooms.  Yippee!
For my son, I’ve chosen a couple of compositions by artist, Wassily Kandinsky. It makes sense because he was an artist very much aligned with musical compositions and my son is ALL ABOUT MUSIC! Both dressers were coated in four coats of very yucky thick paint.  Wow, that was a messy job stripping that stuff off…and then sanding…and then peeling the mess off of my basement floor.  I should have thought to use a drop cloth or some such thing.  This is the very first time I’ve taken on such a project as this.
My first set of drawers is based on a STUDY for his Composition V.  I have yet to choose the next inspiration.  You might find this background interesting.
Information on Kandinsky taken from…

(Black) is like the silence of the body after death, the close of life.

– Wassily Kandinsky, 1911

Kandinsky viewed the compositions as major statements of his artistic ideas. They share several characteristics that express this monumentality: the impressively large format, the conscious, deliberate planning of the composition, and the transcendence of representation by increasingly abstract imagery. Just as symphonies define milestones in the career of a composer, Kandinsky’s compositions represented the culmination of his artistic vision at a given moment in his career.

 “Composition V”, 1911
( 639 x 446 / 61 k / jpeg )

Later in 1911, Kandinsky produced Composition V, a much more abstract work. Here, the theme is the Resurrection of the Dead. The iconography is much more difficult to discern. Comparison must be made to more representational works that treat this theme done by Kandinsky around the same time. Reference to these more literal depictions of the motifs allow us to perceive their abstracted forms within Composition V. Several angels blowing their trumpets are included in the upper portion of the canvas. The strong black line crossing from right to left can be felt as a representation of the blowing of the trumpets. Above this line, the towers of a walled-in city are visible. Below the line, the thin application of paint produces a luminescence that affects our perception of space in that portion of the canvas. The luminescence conveys a sense of infinity through the lack of volume and the absence of perspectival illusion. Out of this void, the viewer can sense the rising of the dead.



Shotokan Training

“The philosophy is based on integration of the hard (go) and the soft (ju) aspects of karate and life. The founder said, “Don’t hit others; don’t be hit by others; the point is to avoid strife.”


Shotokan was founded by Gichin Funakoshi (1896-1957) in Tokyo in 1938. Funakoshi is considered to be the founder of modern day karate. Born in Okinawa, he began to study karate with Yasutsune Azato, one of Okinawa’s greatest experts in the art. In the earliest stages the martial art was known simply as “Te” or “Tode” which mean “hand”. The Chinese character used to write Tode could also be pronounced “Kara” and the name Te was replaced with Karate-Jutsu or “Chinese hand art”. This was later changed to Karate-do by Gichin Funakoshi who adopted an alternative meaning for the Chinese character for “Kara”, “Empty”. From this point on the term Karate came to mean “Empty Hand” The Do in Karate-Do means “way” or “path”, and underscores the moral and spiritual elements of the discipline and philosophy of Karate.

In 1921, Funakoshi first introduced Karate to Tokyo. In 1936, at nearly 70 years of age, he opened his own training hall. The dojo was named Shotokan after the pen name he used when he signed the poems that he wrote in his youth. Shotokan Karate is characterized by powerful linear techniques and deep strong stances.

There are 26 Kata in Shotokan (15 basic and 11 advanced). All have “bunkai” or actual applications for all movements in them. They all start and end at the same place on the floor (embusen).”

I’ve just returned from a great training session in the dojo! I’m so motivated and feel the difference in my training…such improvement over the years.  There’s a degree of confidence tonight that is not typically there.  It is a wonderful feeling to be striving for these goals.

Bassai Dai, translated to mean ‘To Storm A Fortress’ is an extremely strong kata, and is a very popular kata for competition. Reason being that it is flashy enough to interest spectators, but powerful enough to feel good to perform. This kata, also called Passai in other styles, is an advancement from the Heian Series. The concept of this kata is to develop power intense and destructive enough to storm a fortress, and the opening technique has been interpreted by many as the breaking down of the fortress doors, signifying the fantastic levels of power produced by the karateka. Despite such impressive displays of power, this kata is commonly regarded as a Shorin-ryu kata, since it employs many fast and sharp techniques, with particular attention being paid to the precision of the techniques.

This kata introduces many new techniques including the opening attack, which represents the attack to the fortress or castle’s doors. It also introduces yama-tsuki or mountain or U punch. One element that makes this kata particularly complex is the movement and shifting of the feet. At one point, while performing shuto-uke, you step forward, but immediately retreat. Here, the kata has taken a relatively simple technique found in most of the Heian katas, but placed it in a scenario where it is harder to perform. Therefore, this factor, along with many others, means that this kata is valuable in the transition from a beginner to intermediate. For this reason, the kata is studied at brown belt, for it has many lessons to teach the developing karateka.

Parallel Lives

When I googled the concept "Parallel Lives", I came up with 6,540,000 hits!  There have been movies and books created with the same title.  There have been those who have explored cultural parallels, socio-economic parallels, past life parallels and simultaneous life parallels.  Very few articles though, explore relational parallels and how amazing the emotional support can be through such relationships.  I think of the number of articles I perused, I would have to say that two were outstanding for me.
One came to me in the form of a shared blog by two girlfriends who met one another through some form of internet interaction.  I took the time to explore how this friendship could have possibly deepened, given that one friend lived on the west coast and the other on the east.  If this is a topic that interests you, take the time to visit this site and celebrate their lovely and rich relationship!
Second to that, explore these thoughts….there is more that connects us than physical presence.  If this isn’t so, then why do I continue to ache for my mother and feel her close, while miles apart?  Why do I smile at the thought of my sister who has shared so little in the way of ‘actual’ time in this life?  Why do I breath my daughter in, exhale her out and breath her in again every time I think of her?  She lives an ocean away!
I have been hard on myself lately and assumed that my concept of apart-together is ‘off’…doesn’t work….is a failed approach.  Truthfully, it IS in fact, a valid way of looking at relationships…and a heart-warming, lovely way to be….it is a state of BEING.  And apart-together has everything to do with living parallel lives.  While relative to cultural perspective, I think that the following introduction applies to my search.
When Parallel Lives Intersect: Experiencing Multiple Perspectives in Our Own Journeys

Nancy P. Gallavan

University of Nevada, Las Vegas

A. Maria Whittemore

Frederick County Public Schools, Frederick, Maryland

As we travel through life, our journeys offer myriad observations, relationships, and experiences. By chance and choice, our journeys align closely with and are guided by other people’s journeys; from these associations we form a sense of our individual cultural characteristics and self-identities. Simultaneously, our journeys follow courses that remain distant and distinct from other people’s paths; yet our observations and interpretations from afar also contribute strongly to the formulation of individual cultural characteristics and self-identities. Throughout life’s dynamic encounters and events, each of us continues to formulate, reformulate, and negotiate our self-identities as we traverse what seems like parallel paths-journeys that appear distant and distinct from other journeys, yet encountering equally powerful influences shaping our thoughts, beliefs, and actions. Rarely are we afforded the opportunities to investigate these parallel paths and communicate honestly with individuals who seemed far away and foreign; seldom can we truly experience multiple perspectives and cross-cultural relationships in our own journeys.


Beyond Borders

I curled up on the red couch with two of my children this weekend, really late…later than we should have…with chocolate bars yet! and lemonade and together, we watched the film, Beyond Borders.  I’m not one to imagine that Angelina Joly could really engage a role, but she did a fantastic job in this film.  This isn’t for younger children, but a definite ‘find’ for the audience who can handle the vivid images of ravaged parts of the world because the film portrays the experiences of relief workers…and then their understandable connection.  I thought it was powerful!
It is a film that brings home the sense that your immediate concerns are of little consequence to some of the bigger issues of our world.  I know…that theme can sometimes get troubling and leave a person wondering if their individual concerns are NOT really significant at all.  I don’t mean to berate the fact that we all struggle…but, we can look at solutions to difficulties just as easily as throwing up our arms…and usually if we turn our faces to others in need, our difficulties shrink in proportion…Don’t they?
Beyond Borders (2003)

Beyond Borders is an epic tale of the turbulent romance between two star-crossed lovers set against the backdrop of the world’s most dangerous hot spots. Academy Award winner Angelina Jolie stars as Sarah Jordan, an American living in London in 1984. She is married to Henry Bauford (Linus Roache) son of a wealthy British industrialist, when she encounters Nick Callahan (Clive Owen) a renegade doctor, whose impassioned plea for help to support his relief efforts in war-torn Africa moves her deeply. As a result, Sarah embarks upon a journey of discovery that leads to danger, heartbreak and romance in the far corners of the world.

Summary written by Anonymous



A friend of mine from highschool tracked me down some years ago through a google…he remembered me as a painter.  He told me the story of a painting that I had given him way back then (I still have a tendency to give paintings away).  He told me that he never framed it but that in every place he had lived, this was the only picture he displayed.
I remembered the painting because I painted it outdoors…it was the very first time I had ever set my butt down in the great outdoors…bugs biting, wetness seeping through my trousers…hot sun one minute and then an uncomfortable shade the next.  The location was a spot called the fishing hole in Magrath, Alberta…a spot where my Grampa would take my boy-cousins and my brothers to fish.  I had a palette of oil paints and a wee canvas board and I set to work capturing the old barn that was located across from the water…cattails standing along the edges.
If ever I DO write a book, I’d like to have this image, while more focused, on the cover somewhere.  It captures the will of a little artist-chick who wished only ever to make beautiful things.  Tonight I’m wanting to be in touch with her very sense of wonder and belief…to stretch out my own heart into hers and hold it gently.  Sometimes when there’s no one near, we can be our own best friend.  I hadn’t thought of ever putting this image on my blog…but while randomly dumping a zillion old e mails this evening, I found this little treasure.  I had a few more tears over the journey…and so I’ll send this little painting created on a summer’s day by a fourteen-year old dreamer, out to the universe.