October 31, 2008

Halloween evening…traditionally, a big ‘thing’ for me…loving the ‘characters’coming to my door.  Also, this year, I am  letting go of an anniversary…and we all know how those ‘firsts’ are a struggle…here is a ‘first’ for me. This evening Max and I curl up in the family room…he snoozes now in his red chair and I sip a glass of a beautiful Chianti 2005 from Castiglioni.  One of my Thanksgiving guests must have left it behind for me.  It is beautiful, and a perfect treat as I sit and write an update here.

One daughter in London, England,,,another, in New York City…my son out for the night…I find myself alone with memories of past traditions and rituals, facing again the sense of being an individual in the world.  Memory bubbles, like those strung out above a comic strip character’s head, are filled with words like, “I remember when…I miss…We used to…”  If only you could know what a happy rich family life we had, carving the pumpkin with the face that my father always carved into ours back at home.  It didn’t matter that we moved every two years or so, there were experiences that we brought with us, wherever we settled.  And I brought them with me.

It’s been a difficult week.  We were pretty late last Thursday, getting down to the river for our walk at the off leash park.  I guess the breeds run in shifts, the larger guys showing up as the sun goes down…big guys with drool, jowls, thick jaws and strong-looking legs.  Max went skipping into that mix and for a short while it put a smile on my face.  While his ‘dad’ leaned on a fence and spoke on a cell phone, a broad shouldered pit bull took off running after Max in the tall grass.  Max, as per usual, wore a smile on ‘his’ face and I saw the tip of his tail, like a flag, bobbing up and down against the purple sky.  As I continued to hike north, eventually Max was able to pull himself out of the circle, and spew his way back in my direction.  A relief!

What didn’t go so well was an encounter as we headed back south along the river.  We were making our way through a stand of trees and dusk had arrived…colours were being absorbed by night and sound became more distinct…and travel seemed faster on foot than what it had seemed in the light.  From the woods, sped a large dark form…Max saw him coming from a distance and immediately sat next to me, completely submitting and afraid.  It was only seconds and the huge furry beast was upon him.  Max was being bitten, I knew it because he was crying out in loud yelps.  I had no choice but to stand back.

Calling out to the owner, I asked her to call her dog off, at which point, she made a weak effort, calling out, “Montana”.  It seemed like forever, for her to catch up to the collision and Max continued to cry.  As the owner walked by, with NO acknowledgement, Montana, withdrew and I stepped over to my pooch.  He was shaken, but seemed alright…no limping…just a very close rub up against his Mom and then he was, like a shot, heading for home!

I breathed a sigh of relief and once home, took Max into the warm light of the kitchen to do an all over inspection.  I was very relieved to find that all was well and so for the next six days, all WAS well.  However, on Wednesday, over my noon hour, I noticed a wet spot on Max’s hip…while he was somewhat protective of the area, I got a close look and saw that there was a gaping wound and I knew by his reaction that it was hurting.

Long story short: Max had surgery yesterday morning…debriding and stitching the wound…a course of antibiotics…a day of sedation.  Now we are in the midst of a 10 to 14 day blitz with the protective cone.  I took him down to one of ol’ Laurie-dog’s favourite spots tonight for his fresh air and he seemed to be just fine.  It’s just going to take both of us more patience, protecting the eight stitches that are needing time to heal on a very open part of his body!

Dr. Marty told us both, not only is it best for my skipping happy Maxwell to stay away from the off leash parks…but it’s likely equally as healthy for me to stay away from them as well.  The occasional dog is nasty and ill- tempered…they may be protective of a toy…an owner…or just NOT feeling well.  It only takes an instant for things to turn from good to bad…and so Max and I are going to find a ‘better place to be’ for our two hour evening-wander.

Tonight we will share the evening together, curling up with Friday night television and perhaps some time in the studio…and after the excitement of the week, this all seems fine to me. Blessings on your weekend, dear friends and Happy Halloween my special  family!  I think of everything you have been in my life…the happiness we have shared and I love you.

What’s Up at the River?

There has been so much ‘magic’ at the river this past week, and even lessons taught.  But of all of the moments, there is one that really needs to be recorded here.  As Max and I had turned around…having walked the full extent of the northerly pathway, we were moving closer and closer to the river’s edge.  The sun was going down…nothing was clearly defined and there were few people and their dogs out anymore. There was a real nip to the air.  I stood still for a minute, looking at the dark water to my left.

From the tall elm just at my side, a sudden burst of motion…and then a bird with a wingspan of at least seven feet swooshed down and across the water, alighting on the branch of a tree on the other side,  I stood there captivated…and the owl’s eyes stared out at me.  Max sat at my side and we, all three, remained motionless and amazed.

Just as suddenly, and with as much gracefulness and mystery, the owl then swooped back and into the tree directly beside us.  His head moved as only owl’s heads can do and the giant bird gave us quite a show. I felt  goose bumps travel up my arms as I felt this moment  to be a gift for only me…and finally, whispering ‘good night’, Max and I set out for home.

All in a Day!

I enjoyed the day immensely…it was magical in so many ways!  The day begins early as Max likes to get going at 5:30 a.m. every day!  If I feed him after slipping outdoors, he now agrees to bring his baby and his monkey and his teddy back to bed with me and today we slept until 8:00.  What a complete pleasure!

I updated my memory quilt blocks while sipping morning coffee and then Max and I hopped into the van, heading  for the ‘Big Field’.  It felt as though it was snowing…there was a real nip to the air…but as the day progressed, the sun came out and it was just beautiful!  In the field Max leapt no less than three feet for some of the balls I threw.  He is really quite amazing how he times the whole thing…I have fun laughing and clapping for him.  He gives me so much joy! 

 One of my wee students came for her art lesson and completed her acrylic painting.  A Masterpiece!  I enjoy how laid back the time is with her…we chat away and enjoy the studio as we listen to Cat Stevens in the early morning.

In the afternoon I enjoyed a visit from two of my former students….an amazing young lady and gentleman, both with fantastic high school portfolios.  They are heading for ACAD after they graduate and I am extremely proud of them.  So smart! And so funny!  I hope that they will stay in touch as so many other former students of mine have.  I love to know that art is in their souls…and that they feel compelled to pursue this hunger that is within them.  Thank you for the visit, you two! 

Finally, the day held an amazing shared experience!  One of the gifts I gave to my daughter last year at Christmas was a Rachel Ray cook book…and this evening, she prepared a beautiful meal of cheese stuffed potatoes along with browned hamburger/vegetable topping  (steeped in  a Guinness sauce).  I am so proud of her and we were both so excited about the entire process. I am going to submit the series of photographs to Rachel Ray.  I think she’ll enjoy them! ;0)   Thank you Pigeon!

Sensei David Akutagawa

I am writing here to acknowledge the life of my teacher’s teacher…and mine, Sensei David Akutagawa.

My son and I began a journey in Karate in the Shotokan practice  when he was a little boy.  It was a very difficult time for us and we needed to become spiritually and physically empowered.  We found that by training three times a week with our Sensei Michael Prystupa at the time; we ended up blessed beyond our wildest imaginations. 

When I began  the practice of Karate-do, I learned of  a virtuous life…one of respect and diligence and humility.  I learned to go beyond what I believed to be my last effort.  I learned that I am important, interconnected with all else and that I am both a student and a teacher, for a lifetime.

When the dojo at the Talisman Center shut down, I went in search of another location to continue my training.  I sought out my Sensei’s teacher, Sensei Frank Prystupa.  I was captivated when Sensei Frank’s  son spoke of his upbringing in the study of karate.  It was a difficult thing to let go of our absolute loyalty to our teacher and so to lessen that difficulty, we decided it would be a good thing to be with our Sensei’s father.  And it was!

Now, these years later, it has been an absolute blessing to have taken the journey back to our Sensai’s teacher, David Akutagawa and to be learning the way of Renshikan, most specifically, Shito-Ryu. I was impacted to such a huge degree at a clinic that we hosted at the Mid-Sun Community Center.  The time spent listening to this man has made a lasting impression.  I think that it is a beautiful thing as well, that he professed his faith and spirituality throughout his lessons and that truly, I knew that I was involved with a very special experience.  I hope that you will take time to view the images from our April clinic.  They appear directly below the album Another Titch of Autumn.

Sensei Prystupa: Black Belt Presentation



The same day that I had the moment of “inspired realization”…my dear friend Larry pulled up to the front of the house with his wife Cathy and son, Ryan.  Larry is likely the most inspired ‘builder’ I know and he did an amazing job renovating two levels of my home these last many years.  I put my rake down….and the two of us stood in golden leaves, embracing…and he said, as he wept,  the words, “They think I have cancer.” We cried…and then I was somehow aware of ‘strength’ and ‘calm’ and almost…and this will sound weird to some of you…as though we were in the presence of an angel.  Then I spoke the words, “We’ll take this one step at a time….one step.”

I write about it today because this is the day that he had his throat biopsy…apparently this is throat and tongue cancer.  I am sitting here this evening feeling helpless….like how you feel whenever someone you care about is hurting.  As I write, I think of all that I am grateful for…good health…my children…my parents and sister…my brothers….my dear friends.  I am so truly blessed and so are my children.  We have one another.  Larry needs your prayers, as well as mine…please keep his family in your hearts this Thanksgiving.  

Larry: My Builder


Moments of Inspired Realization

Moments Of Inspired Realization

While standing out in the vast field, having thrown the tennis ball for Max, no less than 50 times (and I’ve decided NOT to exaggerate this number as I do typically), I was standing in the center of the field alone….he was charging toward the ball, when suddenly I felt ‘that’ amazing feeling.  I remember experiencing it as I saw my babies’ hands   for the very first time.  And I would often get it when I walked home from school in North Bay …the sound of crunchy snow under my feet… in the dead of winter, warm sunlight hitting the white snow…my eye lashes coated in delicate ice crystals.  I experienced that feeling when I sat on the black round stones on the beach at Scalea…watching my daughter melt into the mercurial water as the sun set.  I had that feeling this morning.  I felt the sun warm on my hair and the blue sky poured over everything.  Max wore a smile…and I felt utter bliss in the state of pure Divinity in one of those surprising moments of realization.