First Iris

So much in terms of new life in the gardens lately!  Last year I would have been blogging photographs of each new thing to bloom…this year, I can’t keep up with the changes!  I did so much of the large ‘build’ last year and I’m excited that the major landscaping projects are finished…weeks went by without thinking about what might be growing in my beds this season.  I’m very excited about the rock, the ground covers, my catoni asters that came up with great enthusiasm….my oriental poppies and lupins, sweet peas up against the fence, strawberries in my special son-constructed raised bed…it’s all so wonderful!
I am so busy right now between finishing up the school year, organizing the house as best I can for a visit with my sister, brother-in-law and their two precious kids (YIPPEE! and YAHOO at Stampede time!), planning the trip to Italy (I picked up my walking shoes yesterday so that I can begin to break them in) and my art work, that there is little time for sitting here writing about my life….just thought I would attempt a brief entry and mention to the world that I am celebrating the first iris bloom….one of the ones that my Mom and Dad planted on their last visit out.  There is still precious time to notice the ‘little’ things.  I love you Mom and Dad.

Being Swept Up!

The springtime has held an entire plethora of events…artistic, musical and literary. This past long weekend, in particular, found me dancing from one activity to the next with an overabundance of energy and productivity.  I continue to paint every day in the studio and have nearly completed nine significant paintings in a two and a half week period.  I see no end in sight for the body of work ahead for me.
I am in the midst of marking my final major assignment for my english students and found myself at the halfway point with that on Saturday.  There was some work in the garden although the weather was not very nice for the most part…and the darned lawnmower sits like a gargoyle on the east side of the house, broken down from last season…and my yard has an overgrown look to it as compared to the well-manicured neighbour-yards.  Sigh…I’ll have to resolve that one!  As I type, the thought crosses my mind, "I wish I had a sheep!"
On Monday I spent a good part of the day over at my workplace hanging art works for our annual art exhibit at school.  I hope to finish collecting photographs of that exhibit to share on the blog tomorrow. In the end, the show looked ‘magical’ and the events of the Tuesday evening fine arts event were spectacular.  Sometimes I wish that I could share such moments with my friends as I think they would see more of ‘what I’m about’…don’t know…maybe they already have a clue! 
Part way through the band concert, my language arts students completed their Rap-Off finals and the top three Rap teams were selected by a random group of 17 judges in the audience.  I am so proud of my students for their thoughtful lyrics and entertaining performances.  Another of my students, one who competed just this morning for a spot in a special talent search, warmed up by playing an acoustic piece by Papier Mache that had such depth…such amazing lyrics and presentation!  It was a great evening!
The book-of-the-week is The Republic of Love by Carol Shields…and it is a very good one!  I so look forward to ‘jammie’ time and reading…I always feel so relaxed…and love the quiet of that time of day. 

A Gift From a Friend

My friend sent these words to me this morning and I loved them so much that I had to post them here…where everyone could share them!   Life is truly miraculous, isn’t it?  I am so enjoying every single bit of it!  Celebrate!  You have life within you!

Living Life Backwards

I want to live my next life backwards:
You start out dead and get that out of the way.
Then you wake up in an old age home feeling better every day.
Then you get kicked out for being too healthy.
Enjoy your retirement and collect your pension.
Then when you start work, you get a gold watch on your first day.
You work 40 years until you’re too young to work.
You get ready for college: drink alcohol, party, and you’re
pretty much a free spirit.
Then you go to primary school
, you become a kid, you play, and you
have no responsibilities.
Then you become a baby, and then..
You spend your last 9 months floating peacefully in luxury, in
spa-like conditions – central heating, room service on tap, and then…

My daughter just told me last night that she’s bought tickets for the two of us to attend a Damien Rice concert in Brighton this summer!  YIPPEE!  Here’s a sample of his work until it gets pulled off by Live Spaces or You Tube.  Enjoy!

Tom Thomson

I had opportunity to listen to Joan Murray give an art talk at the Master’s Art Gallery this past week, while surrounded by historical pieces of several significant artists in Canada, but especially a gallery of Tom Thomson’s originals.  Absolutely stunning!  Joan Murray is estute regarding Tom Thomson’s life as she was from the Whitby area of Ontario and knew some of Thomson’s relations.  I own two of her books.  I find her a more eloquent writer than speaker.


Opus: A Celebration of 30 Years

I love the movie Holland’s Opus, not only because it deals with the struggles of a music teacher in a world of cut-backs, but because it captures what comes from the passion of a single individual.
This past week I invited a couple of my Ya Yas to attend my son’s Spring band concert in celebration of the 40 year anniversary of Bishop Grandin High School and a 30 year old band program….all 30 years directed by one ‘magical’ individual.  As I listened to almost five hours of music, viewed countless projected images and listened to inspiring words from past alumni, I was astounded!  What an amazing program!
Several of Elmer’s students have gone on to earn Doctoral degrees in music and to hear them share some of their fond memories of early junior high and highschool band experiences, really gave a context for their lives. On several occasions through the program, I was brought to tears or had the sense that I was being carried away on the breath of music.
It is a sad thing that more Albertans are not advocating for the continuity of fine arts programs in schools.  It seems that philosophically, the arts are no longer valued by a ‘racing’ and ‘materialistic’ society and yet there continue to be heroes who go forward with courage and very little financial support, making the magic of music, drama, dance and art happen regardless.

My New Paintings: A Covenant Series

I am celebrating the actual incubation and now “JAG” as I enjoy the motivation and the ‘song’ of a new series in the studio.  It is impossible to even contain the freedom and excitement I feel about it.
The techniques stem from early drawing classes with Pauline McGeorge at the University of Lethbridge back in 1975.  She was a phenomenal figure drawing instructor and it was there that I began the process of layering and transparency to build forms from the back-forward.  I incorporated mixed media at that time in terms of drawing media and paint.  It was then that I fell deeply in love with making art and could be found at an easel at odd times of the night…using buckets of paint, charcoal and matte medium to create figure after figure.
Since then, I have really focused on my oil painting…given my love for linseed oil and also my original artistic statement about the landscape.
Through University I became a hiker and wilderness- backpacker and this love continued on after…beginning with a very special Outward Bound experience.  About the time I left the University I became aware of issues around the possible and eventual building of the Oldman River Dam.  In fact, my Grandfather whom I write about often here, was on the Oldman River Planning Commission (just recently I viewed a plaque and photograph hanging in my auntie’s livingroom…something presented to him for his dedication and work on this project).  In the meantime, his wee grandaughter had developed quite a sense of protection for that river, given her hours and hours of hiking south in the coulees through her University years.
I had also taken on the book, The Diviners by Margaret Laurence…and adopted it as my metaphor for writing, painting and for identity.  I wished to paint the Canadian landscape, given Morag’s relationship with her daughter Piquette.  I wanted to leave an inheritance for my children….other people’s children….because I had a sense, even in the 70s, that we were consuming too much and that the shape of the landscape was bound to change, regardless of my idealism and dream for the planet (afterall, I was harvesting rosehips for tea at the time)….regardless of the initiatives of organizations like Friends of the Oldman.
I knew then that humankind was sitting on a train…much like the grown-ups on the train in St.Exupery’s book, The Little Prince.  We do not have our noses pressed up against the windows of the train like the children.  We are staring straight ahead.  We do not even notice on busy days, what we are doing to the planet.
To return to my point, I began painting the landscape in ernest, influenced by Laurel Cormack and looking back on the northern mystic….and the Group of Seven…their initial intent in capturing what was special about the Canadian Landscape.  If Piquette, growing up in Manitoba, could ask her writer-mother Morag, “What is a buffalo?”  Then…I could imagine a time when my grandchild would ask, “What is a river?”
From there, I have had the desire to move back to the media that I so-enjoyed in my drawing classes at University.  Those of you who know me understand that I have painted extensively in this approach for my parish church and a little over a year ago, painted an entire wall mural in the Chapel there. (I will photograph a single archive of this project and post it with my Covenant Series album.) This project has informed my recent shift to the Covenant series, although it’s been almost a five year transition and a very difficult one, given that I have failed to produce the number of paintings required to be successful in my commercial markets.
But….this new work is absolutely pouring out of me and I’m feeling compelled to continue this body until I am exhausted.  What was the moment of recognition?  What was the concluding moment of incubation that jettisoned me forward to the work??
I went to the Masters Art Gallery downtown for a Joane Cardinal Shubert exhibition.  She has an entire history as a First Nations person in Canada to lean upon as she explores material artistically and at the gut level.  Three of her pieces that night created for me the permission to do this new work.  I stood in front of a relief piece…a parfleche…a beautiful piece with elements of collage and drawing.  A container…a carrying satchel that held mysterious ‘something’.  I loved the piece because I knew that historically this would contain pemmican…life-giving food for the people who carried it through the winter.  However, for me…the viewer….it contained spiritual food…it offered up ‘possibility’.
The second piece was called “My Grandmother’s Dress”.  This was a huge painting.  I stood in front of it and was in awe of what it told me about a culture…a people…a relationship…an identity.  It was there that I asked?  What is it that I have in my culture? my way of being? that I can paint? draw? explore?  It was in front of this dress that I wept.
At some point during the exhibit, I walked over to the reception table and filled my napkin with wee snacks….olives…a few little greek wraps.  While sipping my wine, I connected briefly with another artist who I have enjoyed over the years….Bev Tosh.  She has taught me figurative work and inspired me as a middle-aged woman in the world of visual art, to be brave, have courage and to make a place for myself in the artistic experience.  Bev is busy painting her War Brides series and sometime this month will be attending an opening and receiving recognition for her series in the National War Museum.  As I stepped away, I had the same experience of her vision as I had had in front of “My Grandmother’s Dress”.
Finally, I was compelled to stand before the third painting.  It was up a few steps…not in the gallery space, but completed by Joane none-the-less.  It was a red sweatlodge.  The colour red is so significant to me as an artist and I felt as though I was drawn to it.  The painting was a place of peace…it felt like home…if I had had the money, I would have bought it on the spot.  It represented the same sense of ‘possibility’ that the parfleche had held.  It was as though, I was meant to fill the space up…with my own exploration of memory, identity and what is urgent for me to share.
When I went back to my studio, it was absolutely clear that I was meant to paint from my own memory.  The Covenant Series will lead directly to the bride and grooms that have been incubating for about ten years.  I’m beginning with an experience of the archetype…the hero.  I viewed my father as such when I was a little girl and he, along with a friend, saved an injured pelican from the Missouri River.  My father contributed to the well-being of a species.  This act of saving a bird demonstrated for me that one person’s decision and small act ultimately led to good. 
Given the state of species right now, it was evident to me that I could make commentary about that through my drawings/paintings…using as my starting block, the action of my father.  I will explore the capture of the single pelican for some time….then move on to the salmon and salmon farming….then onto the status of the polar bear on the melting ice sheets….and then the covenant we hold with one another….this will be an evolving series with a strong biblical foundation….relying on psalms and genesis.

The Weight of Water

The book of the week is Anita Shreve’s The Weight of Water.  This is an earlier work than others I’ve read by the same author…The Pilot’s Wife written in 1998 and Light on Snow in 2004.  I absolutely loved her style of writing and the two other books kept me entertained on my first long-hauling journey.  Light on Snow is perhaps one of my favourites for the past decade….a beautiful read!
This one is ‘dark’ and the reader is swept into a feeling of mystery and fear.  Shreve is such a successful writer in that she develops such different settings and delves into the subtle aspects of character. This story of murder and distrust was written just after the O.J. Simpson trial was ending.
The Isles of Shoals, an archipelago, lie in the Atlantic, ten miles southeast off the New Hampshire coast at Portsmouth. The islands measure three and a half miles north and south by one and a half miles east and west. There are nine islands at high tide, eight at low; White and Seavey are connected. The largest island looked to its residents like a fat pig wallowing in the sea, and hence the name of Hog. Smuttynose, our destination, derived its name from a clump of seaweed on the nose of a rock extending into the ocean.”
The protagonist is a female photographer who is capturing images and reading chronicles from March 1873 when two women were murdered on the island of Smuttynose.  She is engaged in her own emotional struggles with her poet-husband all the while exploring the internal struggles of ‘people of another time’, especially Maren, through journals/archives that she has ‘borrowed’.
I’m looking forward to working my way through the complete list of Anita Shreve’s books….a compelling author!

International Birthday Wishes

Happy Birthday to MEEEEEEEE!  I’m pretty excited.  I have received a birthday call from Cuba…..and I’ve talked to my daughter in London….received a birthday bookmark from Ontario…..sage from Nevada….it’s a pretty ‘International’ birthday!
I drove my son to school at six this morning and while getting ready here at home, am watching snippets of Calgary City TV where the Bishop Grandin Ghosts marching/concert bands are being featured throughout the morning….from 6:30 until 9:00.  I’ve seen several really good shots of my son already!  YIPPEE!  Too bad I can’t figure out how to work the video recorder!  Typical!  I’m relishing the event on my birthday regardless.  I guess it’s JUST for me!  I sent my boy with a big watermelon to cut everyone a slice after they’re finished!
Have a beautiful day dear readers!  I intend on carrying on with Grand Master M’s rap school at work today….absolutely amazing raps heard yesterday!  The competition is going to be a tough one and I have to select the top three of each of four classes before they go against one another next week, to determine the three finalists before the spring concert.  Another full day…temperature as high as plus 24 today!  Our record in Calgary is plus 28.  YAHOO!

Palermo, Sicily

After a few days in London this July, I will be flying into Palermo, Sicily for a couple of nights and days before the trek north through Italy over a three week period, ending in Venice. I just phoned my daughter in London and opened my birthday gift from her, while on the phone.  A HUGE map of Italy!!!  Yippee!  AND…my ticket to Palermo!
Our first accomodation can be viewed at the following link…this entire webite just makes me smile from ear to ear!  The guide, Giorgio is amazing and conducts tours AND treks free of charge just for staying with him.  Take time to look at some of the photographs.  So much fun!
I think that one of the physical sites I would like to take in for certain is Mount Etna, a very active volcano, having recently erupted in October of 2006.

The Pursuit of HappIness

There has been a wonderful shift in weather and while I’m sipping my morning coffee, I’ll write a brief update.  Lately I haven’t been inspired to write.  The house has been filled with people and I’ve been cooking food in the ECONO-GIGANTIC size to keep tummies in good supply.
My daughter had two of her friends, one from Salmon Arm and the other from Kamloops for a week before I drove all three of them to the airport to catch a flight to Cuba for four weeks.  They are doing an anthropology/dance course for University.  What a ‘magical’ and fun time they should have!  I felt surrounded by positive energy while they were around.  We shared many laughs and their enthusiasm was of the sort that I live with and believe in.  I am most proud of my daughter and her ability to save for and work hard for this opportunity.  This is something she has manifested because she wanted it so much.
As this group left (and we DID share in a transition feast of ribs and swartzies potatoes (do you need the recipe?) and salad stuff and fresh green beans), another group from Edmonton shared our home for the weekend.  Another fun group, with a couple of YOU TUBE film artists, so I’m sure things will be published here soon.
I still found a chance Saturday night to go to Henry’s to celebrate a couple of the Taurean birthdays among friends…there are a whole string of them in May…I LOVE IT and so we danced circles in the dance floor until almost two.
My son has been busy with band camp and music all-the-while, but at the same time, he has been pulled into the whirlwind of visits here AND fitting in a huge number of his own social events!  We have become masters at juggling things lately!
Because of the brilliant weather, I’ve been out in the garden for several spurts of digging about and transplanting….more ground cover into the rock beds, sowing of seeds like lavendar and forget-me-nots…weeding, and transplanting sweet-peas beside the fence.
I finished another pelican painting yesterday morning and I am feeling very excited about the series.  My friend pulled finishing nails out of frame molding while I painted…and it was fun to go through my music collection and chat about almost everything while we both worked.
Last afternoon held a relaxing walk at the river with my friend and our two pooches, dinner at Karma and a special viewing of the story of Winnie, the Canadian bear that inspired the Pooh series.  I am left with the smell of sage and the taste of Sicilian olives grown in California…and the anticipation of a more quiet week ahead, but a special one none-the-less.
This morning begins a competition of Ms. M’s Rap School.  My students have written raps based on global issues that concern them and I’m going to be providing prizes by end-of-month for the three top raps.  It was a fun thing learning about the genre and bringing the ‘positive’ forms of rap to the kids.  I’m looking forward to this adventure in music and in words!