Recently, I curled up under cozy blankets and felt myself calm as I watched this beautiful film. I highly recommend it. Mesmerized by the beauty of nature every day, I am so blessed to enjoy the ‘magic’ of the Bow River and the wildlife that surrounds me.
Continuing on with my collection of writing by Timothy Findley, two nights ago, I completed The Wars. This novel really spoke to me, given my recent research about my Great Grandfather, John Moors who lost his life in Etaples. Robert Ross, the protagonist, takes the reader through a more-than-real experience of the front in World War I. I like that from the beginning, the story is pulled out of a box of archives…photos, journals and letters that would have been kept over many years. The reader returns to these bits of nostalgia throughout the narrative and finally, at the end. (Always good stuff for someone who adores memorabilia.) I also adore the use of references to the visual arts, art history, music and literature and Findley does this very well, especially I find, in this novel. This was, for me, a page-turner and I felt huge empathy for the soldiers and the animals in this beautiful and yet, horrific book. The Stay-At-Home-Bookworm writes,
“You go down the steps to the hold of the S.S. Massanabie with Ross and smell the stench of hundreds of horses kept frightened in their own filth, with not a single porthole opened for fresh air, you see the only light provided by an oil lamp and feel the heaving of the ship. Your own revulsion is indistinguishable from the boy’s as he is required for the first time in his life to kill a living being, a horse that has fallen and broken his leg, and you see the white of the horse’s eyes as he stares with confusion and pain at his murderer.”
Another perspective on the book, here.
Freaky, right? Well, I chose not to ignore the image of a rabbit that came hopping into my consciousness/dreams at 4:00 a.m. two nights ago. I got up out of bed, turned on the lights in the family room and drew this rabbit. I’ve always had some unexplainable ‘thing’ for rabbits and have yet to discover why. I’ve had four experiences that began to define this attraction and I will briefly describe them here.
First, there was this dress! My mother sewed this on her treadle sewing machine for my school photograph. She always made certain that we were dressed to the nines for school photo day. How sad for her that she had no control over what my hair would do after recess or the expression I might have on my face! This makes me pause and smile. I still remember the feel of the fabric, the bow that was tied at the back, the colour of the taffeta and how beautiful I felt, even as a grade one student. The reason I still remember it? You’ve got it! The bunny trim! There was nothing softer or more ‘magical’ from my little-girl perspective! I had no idea that a rabbit had lost its life. I didn’t think about that. I was caught up in the tactile/visual experience of this white trim.
Secondly, Flo Hunter was my mother’s closest friend and our closest neighbour. Our family was stationed in St. Margaret’s, New Brunswick at the time. Peter-the-rabbit was the Hunter family pet! He was a wonderful white over-fed bunny who had been with Flo and her children for some time. I envied her children this bunny because for many years, our only family pets had been cats and dogs, Pal being our dog at the time. He was a mutt who was strung out on our backyard clothesline. I remembered that the PMQs backed onto a large field and then a forested ares. I can picture that still.
Well, I decided one fine summer day that, while my playmates were well-distracted with games of kick-the-can and such, I would steal Peter and have him for my very own. I carried him down to the basement and locked him into a foot locker that was hidden under the stairs. There, in the dark, I imagined that I would take him out any time I wished and play with him. Surely this plan would work out perfectly!
When the Hunters noticed Peter was missing, the entire neighborhood went on a search for the lost bunny. It was nearing dusk and the children and adults, both, were weaving in and out of yards and even exploring the woods out back. I still remember the children’s wild cries. “Peter! Oh! Peter!!” The Hunter children were in tears and Flo’s arms were flailing! So that I would not be found out, I remember engaging in the search, acting concerned and calling Peter’s name also. And sadly, I was even articulating my own theories about where Peter might be hiding.
It wasn’t until later that evening, or even the next morning that I fessed up; the guilt was just too much for me to carry any longer. When we went to the foot locker, we found Peter….inhaling….exhaling….inhaling….exhaling very slowly as though he was on his last ‘bunny legs’. I have absolutely no recollection of the outcome, my shame, or the consequence for me, but Flo and her children were ecstatic at the returned bunny rabbit. Looking back, I can not help but wonder what was going on in my head at the time of the bunny caper…and what was my passionate attraction to bunnies?
In the late 1990s I lived on a beautiful ridge lot, just above the Bow River. It was a ‘magical’ place to live because I could easily disappear into the river bottom and see all sorts of wildlife; plants, birds and mammals. It was absolutely amazing. One night I was in the living room and looking across the street when I saw the flash of lights in the field stretched out before the ridge. I stepped out, in my nightgown, onto the front porch and then gradually down the front steps, trying to make sense of what I was seeing. As the lights danced horizontally across the field, I also noticed the flash of red eyes and the white form of a rabbit racing one direction and then another, in extreme fear. The entire nightmare unfolded as I ran, in my pyjamas, into the dark field, shouting. A couple of young people were shining flashlights into the eyes of the frightened rabbit and as it became mesmerized, the other was beating a golf club onto the ground, trying to beat the rabbit, as sport. The air rang with the sound of their laughter until they heard my shout and abruptly ran the opposite direction. I saw the white form of the rabbit disappear into the night.
The fourth experience took place late at night, likely ten years ago. I used to go running in a wide open field a short distance from here. I would do several rounds of the perimeter once the sun had just set and Laurie-dog would run along side me, taking little breaks to explore and exercise as well. This particular night, the air was cool. I remember the rhythmical breathing as I almost completed the first lap. All of a sudden the air split wide open…an explosion of movement! Laurie ditched me and took off into the center of the field. Before my eyes were what seemed to be hundreds of white rabbits racing in all directions. It was as though a silent field was suddenly undulating. I had never seen anything like it!
I do not know why these encounters with rabbits have been a part of my emotional formation. I do not understand if there is any real significance to the symbol of the rabbit in my life or what I am meant to do. Just recently, however, I have been reading about and viewing news items coming out of Canmore, Alberta. A rabbit cull is underway. Maybe that’s why I am experiencing recent agitation around the image of a rabbit. For a short while, at least, I’m going to explore this subject in my art work and see where it all leads.
Cliff’s love of sport-fishing goes back, respectfully, to our paternal grandfather. I think also, he grew in admiration for the fishermen of the east coast while visiting that beautiful province after meeting his wife, raised up in Port au Port, Newfoundland. He has his own business and is captivated by the beauty of the west coast. He continues to inform me of the issues around salmon and seal populations.
Sometimes I am just amazed by the accomplishments of my brother, our family’s middle child. His service to our country will always be something that our entire family will be proud of. Good laughs are always shared when he is around!
I know! Susie…you go by the name, Susan Clark or Susan Edwards. This evening, the ‘handle’ matters not. I hope you don’t mind. I remember you as Susie Deal. If I went down to my drawer of momentos, I would find your class photograph. We exchanged those. At the moment, I write about a childhood friend. Oh! I guess we were more than children. Those were our highschool years, Great Falls, Montana…Charles M. Russell High School. I guess I must have written something about loss in your year book in 1972 because this was your response.
I am happy to see that you continued in your journey of art, as I did. Painting, then, always connected us. If I could/can not be with you through any of this, I have to pay tribute to your life and our teen years together, as you certainly were a beautiful part of all of that! Distance was able to separate us, but only physically. You have remained in my heart. As I read the various tributes that are being written about your life and what you contributed to the Helena region, I can only tell you how proud I am of you and your accomplishments and hope that is enough.
Thank you for sharing the laughter of our youth and for the many deep conversations…thank you for art room experiences that challenged our combined creativity and for sharing in the relationship that we enjoyed so much with Mr. Winniger. Thank you for your friendship! I will continue to keep you in my prayers and I will always celebrate your life, dear Susie!
I found this on the Calgary Arts Development website this morning. First of all, I really enjoyed Jonathan Safran Foer’s books, Everything is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. If you haven’t picked them up yet, you may wish to. It’s the number as well as the context of the voices that Safran Foer uses that most intrigues me and as you come to the end of his work, you feel as though you’ve been on a journey.
I haven’t seen Everything is Illuminated…and the other film is coming out in December! Here are the trailers.
Terry Rock includes in his blog entry of November 10, this quote. I found this such a powerful analogy as I was skimming various resources on line, looking for work that will somehow connect me with the arts. It is a disheartening thing when I can find work as a flag girl paying almost $25.00 an hour directing traffic around massive construction puzzles, but that opportunities in the arts are few and not so lucrative. I’m not meaning to open up that entire ‘public arts’ and ‘arts grants’ tirade again…simply put, I just felt that the Safran Foer quote was perfect and spoke to my heart.
“As our City Council embarks on a few weeks of budget deliberations, confronting tough choices on how to spend limited public dollars to continue building Calgary as “a great place to make a living, a great place to make a life,” (from Imagine Calgary) I’m reminded of one of my favorite exchanges in literature:”
I bought you some books in Lutsk, he told her, shutting the door on the early evening and the rest of the world.
We can’t afford these, she said, taking the heavy bag. I’ll have to return them tomorrow.
But we can’t afford not to have them. Which can we not afford more, having them or not having them? As I see it, we lose either way. My way, we lose with the books.
– A conversation between Yankel and Brod in Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything is Illuminated
Last evening I attended my very first PechaKucha on the theme, Reclaim. It is interesting that it was also the tenth anniversary of the PechaKucha in Calgary, sponsored by Calgary Arts Development. Pecha Kucha is described in detail here.
“PechaKucha Night was devised in Tokyo in February 2003 as an event for young designers to meet, network, and show their work in public.
It has turned into a massive celebration, with events happening in hundreds of cities around the world, inspiring creatives worldwide. Drawing its name from the Japanese term for the sound of conversation (“chit chat”), it rests on a presentation format that is based on a simple idea: 20 images x 20 seconds. It’s a format that makes presentations concise, and keeps things moving at a rapid pace.”
I’m going to include a short synopsis of the ten contributors to this year’s ‘chit chat’.
1. Kris Vester – Slow Food
A speedy, but important talk about our food. I thought about this wordpress chick as I listened and viewed the slides in the dark…she inspires me and even though I am a suburbanite in a sprawling city, I have food growing in my back yard and I am canning and I delight in all of it. Thank you, Kris.
2. Lorna Crowshoe: Aboriginal Issues Strategist, Social Policy and Planning, City of Calgary
This presentation was the only one that left me weeping. It was a beautiful story of Lorna’s family and her people, supported by archival images from the Glenbow and other sources, of our place along the Elbow and Bow Rivers. There was such an eloquent and powerful message delivered about the culture of our city. I appreciated the message so much! Here, on a shelf beside me, are books I have read about the great chiefs of our province. As Lorna completed her talk, she dedicated her thoughts and stories to the chiefs at the signing of Treaty Seven. She projected a black and white image of these great men. It was at that moment, the tears flowed.
3. Gene Poole: Founder of the Calgary Cassette Preservation Society
Ok, so, visit the blogspot link above for the jist of Gene’s talk…pure entertainment…a burst of energy and something that we can all relate with, the life with our former cassette tapes. I encourage any of my readers who are interested, to forward your cassettes to Gene. And yes, the audience did break into a bit of a giggle at the introductions. His name is a unique one!
4. Brian Johns: Wildlife Biologist retired from WCAA after 35 years of service.
This was the only ‘chit chat’ participant who caused me to write notes! With my interest in endangered species, I was completely captivated by this quick introduction to the demise and struggle of the Whooping Crane. It is to this beautiful bird, that Brian now invests his energy; intellectually, physically and spiritually. I learned much about the recovery project, beginning with the migration of the Whooping Crane from Wood Buffalo National Park to Aransas National Park on the Gulf Coast of Texas. Beautiful birds, when left on their own, known for their longevity and for their connection with their mate for a lifetime. In early May the couple’s call is made in unison and is a call, not only of the ritual of mating, but of hope for the species. Typically, there is the possibility of two eggs for each couple of birds, with the likelihood that only one of the chicks will survive the obstacles of nature and industrial development. Given their survival, the chicks will migrate with their parents in September. I will continue to learn about the challenges of the whooping crane and educate myself about the captive breeding programs that are taking place. Some of the biggest challenges to the population’s natural migration routes are overhead power lines, housing interference in Texas and of course the fact that birds bred in captivity have no natural sense of migration.
5. Ben Millen: Board of Directors of the New Gallery and the John Snow House
This talk was just revealing about another positive venue that is open to pure potential in the City of Calgary. As Ben was speaking, I was thinking about the ‘possibility’ for my daughter of a performance piece to be performed in the John Snow House. John Snow once held her hand as they, together, walked through the Canadian Art Galleries viewing a retrospective show. He took the time to send her a litho print and personal letter, archives that I still hang on to for her enjoyment one day. I think that the John Snow House is an obvious fit. I need to speak to her about this!
6. Kathleen Bell: Depression/Eating disorders, Communication Officer Calgary Counselling Service.
This was an eloquent presentation given regarding the Break the Silence/Stop the Violence initiative in Calgary. Imagery was used to enhance the listeners experience and to convey the message that helping one individual at a time is important. She did this through a refreshing delivery of The Starfish Story. Excellent!
7. Sonny Tomic: Manager, Centre City Planning and Implementation City of Calgary
While I think that Tomic’s intent was to speak of the ‘Spirit of Place’ and the Tao Principle, his narrative became slightly unhitched as he mentioned that his slide presentation was the wrong one. Hmmm….None-the-less, he was able to think on his feet and the presentation was entertaining, at the very least. There were some awesome slides of proposed international projects in architecture and ones that were seen through to fruition.
8. Jesse Moffatt: Manager of Collections and Artifact Care Cantos Music Foundation
Awesome! Who would have known? Cantos Music Foundation is doing amazing stuff!
9. Dr. Roger Saint-Fort: Associate Prof and Chair Mount Royal Environmental Science
I guess this presentation was the most disappointing. While the focus, as introduced by Dr. Saint-Fort, was to be on water purification technologies and how they will benefit Haiti, the slides were somewhat disjointed. This is a topic that really interests me and I would have really enjoyed more coherence and focus.
10. Mike Morrison: Blogger and Writer
This ‘chit chat’ certainly was entertaining, and for me, as a blogger and writer, an encouraging presentation as well. Generating fascinating posts on his blog, Mike’s Bloggity Blog, Mike had the entire auditorium in fits of laughter. I am glad for his success and I certainly feel more ‘hopeful’ about the potential of this medium as a relevant communicator in today’s world.
One of the reasons I haven’t published a new post recently is that my daughter and I took on the family tradition of making the Christmas fruit cake. In all of the years I can remember, my Mom and Dad have made this effort together and no matter how far away we have lived from them, they have sent us a Christmas fruit cake. This year they are unable, so it is a blessing to share in the ritual with my first-born. Here is a slide show to watch the process. I will post the recipe later.