The Upside to Being Ousted

It is good to have my paintings come home to me. This is truly the upside of down! When paintings DO return, I am able to look at them with fresh eyes and really enjoy them.  This particular painting has not yet been professionally photographed, but it is such an important piece to me, I thought I would feature it here!  The painting was inspired by two very special people; one, a poet named Paulette Dube who lives in Jasper and the other, a gent who uses film as his medium, Cam Koerselman.  You can enjoy some of his work on Vimeo.

Paulette gave me permission to embed her words into this painting.  I cried in the dark, while she gave her reading of these very words while Cam’s film rolled during the Caribou Blues festival two years ago.

Paulette’s words…as a response to my request of her words, were these…

You could “sail through an army of angels and not notice anything more than a mere freshening of the air.” (Thank you Ms. Lessing.)

Kathleen, well, right off let me tell you two things.  I went for a walk today and I dreamed that my work would grow legs and walk into someone’s life.  Looks like it is yours.  Next, I opened the jpg and saw the elephant and the number 5.  Elephants and me, well, I love them, and the number 5 is truth.  So, long story short, of course I will send you the text I made for the Caribou piece.  And I will do that after supper – right now, my sauce is boiling.  Wanted you to know that I am honoured to send you the little bit I have to offer right now.

Thank you,



The text embedded in the piece are, as she describes…a bastardation of works collected from, First Mountain, Thistledown Press, 2007, Gaits, Thistledown Press, 2010 and scenes written for the event.  All rights reserved by author:  Paulette Dube

Cropped: Paulette’s Words Take Flight

Detail: Atmospheric Environment inspired by Cam Koerselman

Huge  ‘magic’ led me to Ellen McIlwaine and her music as she played for the Caribou Blues festival that same weekend.  The first caribou piece was featured on the information publication for Parks Canada because of Ellen’s recommendation and for that I will always be grateful.

Porqupine Herd


Glo’s Christmas Magic

It was fun to share in a bowl of clam chowder with a dear friend today!  I went from the chaos of my own ‘shifting’ homestead (Dot #2 is moving back) into the calm and sparkle of Glo’s home.  She just has an amazing way of putting objects together so that they tell a story.  While I can never really capture this particular magic in my photographs, once again, I’ve made an effort here.  I will cherish you always, dear friend! 

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The Pinetree Line: My Rhyolite, Nevada (Ghost Town of the Mojave Desert)

Ste. Sylvestre 1957

Reading this got me thinking about my own Rhyolite, Nevada…not a place somewhere in the Mojave Desert, but a place that drifted off somewhere with the cliched sands of time, regardless. Dad was with NORAD.  In peacetime, he was able to serve Canada for 30 years of his life.  When I was really young, in my mind, my Dad was keeping the entire country stitched together and safe.  Never REALLY feeling secure, we had  bomb shelters in our basements or bunkers nearby.  This was the story of families living on the Pinetree Line.  And now, our homes are ghost towns.
Some time ago, Sam of this site, gave me permission to publish his collected photos of one of my own Rhyolite locations as it appears now, abandoned and without purpose.  In some cases, portions of our home bases were re-purposed, but for the most part, for the military ‘brats’ of Canada, these are our ghost towns.  I will try to publish some photos that capture a sense of what one of these bases was like in the 1950s through the 1960s. 
It was a different thing to have shuffled from place to place while growing up.  It was a distinct culture and likely our expectations as children were different from those of our civilian friends.  Nothing really felt permanent although our mothers learned to be resourceful, adapting kitchen curtains to fit a whole number of kitchen windows, making furnishings out of apple crates and that sort of thing.  My mother, being particularly skilled, reupholstered sitting chairs from military waiting rooms…things that otherwise, were being tossed for their damaged vinyl seats.  Being on the move required a certain mindset and that was nurtured in all of us.

1957 Ste. Sylvestre

I know that we bonded closely with our friends, but for a very temporary time.  My parents had us throw candies out the open station wagon windows as we drove away with each new transfer…and through tears, we would watch our friends gather them up while trying to wave good-bye. 

My Brother Pulls Me (Sitting in Wagon) Behind His Bike: Ste. Sylvestre

Following, is my summary of the facts about a single radar base that I once called home, a place where on more than one occasion, my mother was left alone without a car or driver’s licence, to take care of a growing family while my father made extended trips to both the Mid Canada Line and the Dew Line.  This was Ste. Sylvestre, 50 miles outside of Quebec City.

Pinetree Line

History of the Military Base (1954-1964)
In the early fifties, the fear of a Russian invasion from the north prompted the federal government of Canada and the United States to build numerous radar stations.
The highest peak of the Quebec territory was Mont Sainte-Marguerite, a part of the Appalachians . This mountain was and still is commonly known as Mont-Radar because of its connection with a military history. Mount Ste-Marguerite in St-Sylvestre, Lotbinière was chosen by the military because of its 2225 foot altitude. Indeed, between 1952 and 1964, during the Cold War , a military base communications administered by the ”  Royal Canadian Air Force  ” was installed. Its existence was placed in the context of NORAD , like about thirty similar bases on the same meridian, which is a shield of observation and communication called the Pinetree Line [1].
After four years of construction and an investment of more than five million dollars, a military base six hundred square acres in size, opened its doors September 15, 1953. In January of 1955, it was named  “No. 13 Aircraft Control & Warning Squadron “(13th Squadron). The DND had constructed three control towers operating day and night in order to sustain its adequate aerial surveillance of the area. “Tower Top Secret” whose structure is still present today was built on top of Mount Radar (Mount Ste-Marguerite). The other two, the TX, constructed on top of Mount Handkerchief (2000 ft. alt.) and the RX, were tower transceivers located a kilometer away on the surrounding mountains.

Epic Building Construction and Vintage Car

The direction of the military base rested on the shoulders of the commander with the support of up to 30 officers. For each section, there was a sergeant, a corporal, airmen and civilians (approximately 90 employees) throughout the year. Activities were organized at the base to improve the social life of people: sports competitions, maple sugar days, winter festivals, air shows and that sort of thing. All of these social activities helped to improve the relationship between the neighbouring town’s people and the military. In the large gatherings, the population was near 800 people, including women and children; only 200 to 300 were soldiers.
The village consisted of a number of buildings. At the entrance of the base was the guard house where the identification of persons and objects was required at both the entrance and exit.  This is something I remember on the approach to every community where I lived, something my civilian friends would not have understood or found a little odd.  
The buildings on base included the administration offices. The hospital served the civilian and the military population and in close proximity, was a dental clinic.  I was more than once, in awe of my mother when she related the story of a day when my older brother managed to open the oven door.  He was likely five years old at the time and I was a year younger.  It was a cold oven, but no less dangerous than had it been turned on!  He prompted me to climb onto the door alongside him and over the oven came on top of the two of us.  As my mother tells it, she put us, one under each arm, bleeding from our noses, ears and mouths and headed on foot, to the hospital!  God love her!

Military Hospital: Mont-Radar

A church was divided into two (Catholic and Protestant chapels) to meet the needs of the ethnic communities. Two schools were also built.  They welcomed 140 to 150 students from kindergarten to ninth grade. The Rec Center offered the services of a post office and housed the hairdresser (barber), gift shop, snack bar, grocery store, theater, library, gym, heated swimming pool and bowling alley. What a dream! The fire station, with its rigorous daily inspections, reported no major fires in a decade. A garage ensured the maintenance of military machinery. There was also a filtration plant, a heating chamber, a warehouse and kitchen building. In the latter there were two very busy bars, typically called clubs, offering beer for 10 cents!  To accommodate all these people, there were about seventy-five houses and shacks. Thirty mobile homes and a dozen trailers were added in the early seventies. The decision to cut back began March 12, 1964. The fact was that advances in telecommunications were making ​​redundant the expenses of maintaining such military bases. Soldiers and civilians were gradually transferred to other military bases, including those of St-Hubert, Mount Apica (Laurentides), Valcartier and Moses (Sept-Îles).

Summer Ste. Sylvestre

From 1996 to 2010, two entrepreneurs tried to develop an ecovillage, despite financial difficulties that were exposed in 2010 by a report on Radio-Canada [2] . In 2010 a new developer purchased the domain.
My parents have traveled back to the location of the radar base, finding some worn paths and little more than a ghost town.  I have made the same journey back to other homes, to find a similar story.  I will include some photos here.

The Hospital

It is possible to see a list of abandoned and partially abandoned sites here.  Thanks to Bruce Forsyth for his research.

Ste. Sylvestre Mont-Radar Courtesy of Borderline Black


Going and Coming: Norman Rockwell



Hollee Card 1971 Sophmore Charles M. Russell High School, Great Falls, Montana

So…I found Hollee Card!  And, just today, we shared in a lunch at Pho Dau Bo in Calgary and took up where we left off in 1971.  It was such a beautiful time.  I will treasure this day forever.  Lunch was relaxed and conversational…such a rich collection of remembrances and present-day experiences! I remember that ours was a friendship of JOY. Hollee’s life work has been with L’Arche.  She has treasured family and has supported them through a number of challenges.  Today, over lunch, I felt emotional because after so many years, we are still at the heart of things, unchanged.  At lunch, Hollee shared some homemade ginger snaps and so we enjoyed a cookie with our tea before departing on a bit of a dog-walk and a visit with Hollee’s auntie and uncle.

Kathleen Moors Senior 1973, Charles M. Russell High School, Great Falls, Montana

Ginger Snaps and Hand Shadows

Hollee, Kath and Gucchi Christmas 2011

Gucchi: Looking Her Best

The Aftermath

Lined Up

It seems like preparing for Christmas Day might be likened to putting order to ‘things’…finding places in the freezer for extra foods, replenishing the liquor cabinet (if you have one) and making spaces lit up and beautiful.  There is an aesthetic to most of everything that we do in that lead up.


And then what happens?  What of the aftermath?  I want to congratulate those who are presently able to put their feet up this Boxing Day and relax.  Have a breather!  Reflect!  Sit yourself down in the very midst of the chaos, warm and cozy in those new jammies and those fuzzy slippers!  Watch that movie you’ve been wanting to watch (Midnight in Paris) and sip on a coffee or a glass of wine.  This is your time!  Magic!

The kitchen counter tells a bit of the story.

I'm certain I can find a spot somewhere here, to put up my feet.

Winter on the Back Deck: Looking at the Stars

Sippin' Wine and Chillin'

This evening reminded me of winter-camping in Waterton during my years attending university.  It is an amazing thing when wine stays chilled as you’re looking at the stars.  By the way, I have identified four of the seven planets…but need to get my telescope out tomorrow night to see the other three.  The sky has been so clear, it’s absolutely stunning! 

I remember one night like this in Waterton, hiking in to a lake’s edge.  It got so very dark in the mountains and the sun set early, but the fire threw magical light and created shadows on everything!  It was much like tonight, not particularly cold, but enough so that the wine stayed chilled and the noses and cheeks felt a bite.  Curling into sleeping bags, everything was cozy for a good night’s sleep.  But, as is typical of the mountains, there was no less than a foot of snow dumped on everything come the morning, on this particular day.

I was thinking about light, as I sat on the deck benches tonight…the softness of it…how it reveals so much in the literal sense, but also metaphorically.  I can’t help but think, now that Bing Crosby is crooning and I am warm as toast, about that star that the shepherds saw and what all of that meant.  Here I am in 2011, gazing at the same night sky.  I feel blessed.  The cat purrs in the circle of my arms as I type and I think about going to the kitchen to bake a sweet treat and eat cheese and crackers.

Max after a good exercise event...snow-gazing.

What are we doing out here?

Winter Solstice

From this night on, the days will get longer.  It is the solstice!  I am particularly interested in this story… if circumstances are favourable, all seven planets will be visible in the night sky.  Courtesy of this site, I’m posting the relevant sky map for your perusal.  It is a wonderful thing to look at the huge night sky!  See you out there between 5 and 6 to see our first glimpse of Venus and Jupitor; Venus will be close to the horizon, near the setting son.

Alignment of the planets.


The Jesse Tree: Tradition and Story

Our Jesse Tree: St. Albert the Great Parish

So many years ago, my art and religion students helped me make a set of symbols for our Jesse Tree at our parish church.  All of this time later, it warms my heart to see the symbols gradually added to the bare tree throughout Advent.  I love that a history is created through our art and that these rituals each year keep us in touch with our story.  I also enjoy that in the photograph we can see a titch of the Easter Candle and the upper section to the baptismal font.  Awesome!

The story of the Jesse Tree has its beginnings with the old Testament and I will include some links and a bit of the context here.  I am hoping to begin my own set of Jesse Tree ornaments for next year and I particularly admire these.

Jesse Tree along side Illuminated Text

Day 24: Star – God’s call to us to follow the Light John 1:1-5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.