Gorilla House LIVE ART Battle: January 30, 2013

It was a night of craziness…from beginning to end…I have recently taken a teaching contract and that has really changed the dynamic of my life.  As you all can attest, a change is sometimes exhausting for a while, until a person gets into their ‘groove’.  Getting out of school and then out to the pond with Max is a bit crazy before getting down to the Gorilla House, but both things are important to me.  Max-man has made quite an adjustment, given that he sees me so little, so a good exercise is imperative for his good health.  He is a workin’ dog, that’s for sure.


I’ve got to say that even when the temperatures are low and the air is bitterly cold, a good athletic walk in a beautiful landscape is also healthy for me.  So, off we boogied!  From there, I headed out to the store to pick myself up some new coveralls.  Wowsah!  I’ve had the same painting coveralls for about twenty years.  The denim feels like cotton now and it’s just time!





So, once home, I ran to the studio and applied some texture to my panel and all guzzied up, I fed Max, gave him a pat on the head and headed down to the core, knowing that this week I’d be late!  I wasn’t there for the spin and so just grabbed two of the concepts for the week from Belinda…Fibonacci and Circus…and began to create.  I was wearing my Old Ideas t shirt from the Cohen concert and those words, old ideas, were playing over, again and again, as I drove.  I had attached the parable of the fig tree, a few precious pattern pieces that came from Mom’s sewing room and an old index page from my precious Audubon cast-off onto my panel before leaving the studio.

P1090377I further developed the layers and textures, as I considered the themes.  I knew I had no reference for a rabbit, although that was the first thing I thought to paint as my subject for the night.  I just didn’t have the confidence to produce a depiction without some information.  In the meantime, I produced a rich surface and was ready to go, blocking in my first rabbit in chalk, but quickly abandoning it because of its lack of dimension.

P1090379Next, I wandered around the Gorilla House, talking to other artists…asking them to collaborate with me on my evening piece by drawing me a rabbit.  It’s just so funny…no one I spoke to felt confident to draw a rabbit…except for Marta.  She took her brush and sketched out a very fanciful animal onto a napkin…we both laughed and I moved on.  Sylvia pulled a Telus calendar from under her palette…and VOILA!  The tone for the hour that was left, was set!  I would paint one of the whimsical, sweet animals like those that Telus has used in their ad campaign.  This was not going to be an evening of sophistication…that was all ready so obvious!

Thank you, to David, for purchasing the piece at auction, on behalf of Shauna, on behalf of darling Felix.  It was good to see you again, Melissa!  Who painted that panda?  I loved it!!  Thanks for the calendar, Sylvia and for your cheerful support always, Harold.  Marta, it was fun to meet your friend, Tina.  Thanks to all of those who attended a battle for your first time!  Here is my ‘cute’ painting.

P1090393 P1090386Thanks to Aaron McCullough of Red Dot Photography for taking this photograph.  It features my new coveralls.

Aaron McCullough taking a picture of Melissa taking a picture of Kath taking a picture.

Aaron McCullough taking a picture of Melissa taking a picture of Kath taking a picture.

Aaron's Kath

Photo Credit: Aaron McCullough of Red Dot Photography

Gorilla House LIVE ART: January 23, 2013

When I went out to the studio to pick out a board and some paint to get a ground slathered on before the art battle, I noticed that my sister-cousin-friend had a book set out next to her studio space.  It is titled, Creative Paint Workshop for Mixed-Media Artists: Experimental Techniques for Composition, Layering, Texture, Imagery, and Encaustic by Ann Baldwin.  I looked at the opened pages and thought about the fact that the book made a terrific effort to explain a process that, for me, feels always so spontaneous.  I wondered what it would be like for me to slow down my process and analyze the goings-on as I painted for the evening.


Wasn’t to be.  (insert laugh here) Had I not left my camera at home for the evening, this might have been a ‘go’ and I DID capture some of the decisions while applying my ground.  Then, I had to abandon my archive until next time.

Given that the LIVE ART battles are an intense two hours in length, I have discovered that it’s important to sort something…anything…out, in my head, prior to arriving at the Gorilla House.  The concepts are often so bizarre, that one really never knows what subject matter might be relevant, but I make certain that I have a few things in my toolbox before I go…things other than the regular art supplies.  I carry along a whole collection of references that are of interest to me or images/magazines/photographs that have recently sat with me, occupying a space in my head, agitating and delighting me, both.   I’ve noticed that several artists who are more objective with their work, pull out their phones and use references from the internet.  I don’t have that sort of phone.  So, I tend to drag junk down to the house with me.

Next, I carry along sources of text…quotes, biblical passages, books of interest to me.  I have no idea what I might access until I hear the results of the spin.

Before attending, I commit to a colour scheme.  I have found that if I don’t have a palette in mind before heading down, I have become very wound up once I begin to paint.  Under such a time restraint, there is little opportunity to mull over ideas.  So…then, the application of a ground.

I think I’ve written before about the fact that it’s easier for me to work on a surface that has been activated.  I apply a ground of gesso initially and this leaves the surface white, and seals the piece for a healthy tooth (this provides a surface that the paint can literally grab on to).  When I make reference to ACTIVATION, I simply mean that the white surface is a blank page…intimidating to some degree because there is no interaction between the surface and my mind…it is saying nothing back to me.  I activate the surface, knowing full well, that the statement there, through the course of my painting, will disappear/evolve and become an underpinning for something else.

It used to be that for every painting, I would apply five coats of gesso, alternating the direction of each coat and usually sanding and perfecting as I went.  Now, I apply my gesso in a very free form manner, in the hopes that some of the valleys and mountains remain to inform other layers.  This has been a huge progression in my work and makes, for me, a very entertaining process.

A ground, then, is simply that colour or texture that is added to the surface and provides a place for a painting/collage to happen.  For this week’s LIVE ART, I chose to use ultramarine blue, mars black, gloss medium and because we’ve enjoyed two days of remarkable hoarfrost in the river bottom, I decided to attach a layer of printed tree images…cheap paper…cheap ink…Here are some images and my very brief remarks.

P1090350In this case, I used an old paint brush, an inch and a half wide.  I dipped randomly into the blue and black squeezed out onto my palette, not concerning myself with mixing on the palette or where I would apply it to my panel.  I do notice that my marks went in a horizontal journey, arching slightly.  Notice that bits of the panel are still evident, uncovered by the dry coat of gesso.  Choosing ultramarine blue, instead of pthalo, I had pretty much determined that I would not be including in my painting, very much in the way of yellow…yellow and ultramarine blue don’t make an exquisite green like pthalo and cad yellow medium do. P1090351The drips tell you that I was, indeed, being generous with water.   Water added to acrylic paint, creates both transparency and fast coverage.  Again, I don’t add a set amount and mix…rather, I dip here and there…and back and forth I go.  My blue is purchased by the jar, but is also available in tubes.  Notice that I use a number of cottage cheese lids for palettes.  I like that this way I can keep my colour families clean and separate of one another.  Imagine what would happen if I had a blop of red on this particular palette.  Would I be able to find a dollop of pure red to apply to my painting?  Nopers!  It would be a puddle of brown before I knew it.  I use a cadmium red medium/bright red…and because it is WARM on the spectrum of reds and because blue is the complement of orange/orange-red, the two colours, together, create a warm brown….not so good if you are looking for a nice red and a nice blue. P1090354I use a student grade rather than professional artist grade paint…some artists really disagree with this and that’s ok. Some artists love a particular type of brush.  This is very personal and you learn this by using lots of paint and lots of different brushes. I have a favourite sort of brush…never use fan or round…always flat.  I can get a consistently thin mark with my brush…and a wide mark as well.  Most of the time, I use a rag to apply paint in huge and random marks.  This is great for variety.  Unfortunately, I won’t be able to capture one of those marks as a photo archive until the next piece. P1090356

This is gloss medium…it also comes in matte.  I use this for application of collage elements and I’m very generous with its use for a variety of things.  I only like this sort…it’s viscosity is perfect.P1090357It is easy to tell that these marks have been made with a brush…how?  It is a good practice to make a collection of marks in your sketchbook.  While some folk become compulsive about making a single type of mark, the more marks you have in your toolbox, the more dynamic will be your art! P1090358 This is a close-up of my palette.  The yellow and other colours are dried pigments from other painting experiences.  They won’t be a bother at all.P1090359I begin to apply the collage bits…random…undecided…intuitive.  I don’t worry about what may appear to be a mess…drips…changing values.  I do, however, pick out dog hairs.  It’s just a thing I do.  If your work is very fine and smooth surfaced, you may wish to always keep your surface clear of little flies and dog hair and such.  Given my experiences en pleine-air painting, I gave that up some years ago. P1090360Gloss medium appears to be white when you apply it, but dries as a clear coat.  I don’t smooth it to a consistent surface…but leave it in interesting medallions here and there. P1090361 You should be able to see the bubbles here…these are not good.  I use the edge of my hand to push these outward, until the air/extra medium squishes out from under the collage.  I use my brush, with paint in it, to tint and move pigment through the collage bits as I apply them.  Up to this point, I had worked on the panel for about fifteen minutes.P1090362 P1090363 If a big bubble persists, I literally, rip it open…apply some medium…and seal it up again.  I like the cracks and lines created in this process.P1090364Bits of collage will tear away and land somewhere else.  Good!  leave these bits!  They will eventually contribute to the overall interest of the piece at some point. P1090366 P1090368Then, I fixed some dumplings and let this dry…knowing I had to head to the core from the burbs in no more than 30 minutes.

P1090374 P1090375Once I arrived, I was so grateful to reconnect with the folk who have come to mean so much to me.   I got my easel set up, did a bit of dancing, a bit of visiting and then it was time for the spin.  The three concepts for the evening were…First, from Skeleton Creek by Patrick Carman, “time to clean up the mess before my parents come upstairs.”  Second, from The Lazy Intellectual: Maximum Knowledge, Minimal Effort by Richard J. Wallace, James V. Wallace, “His plays were representative of Greek Old Comedy, in which cutting invective, personal attack, absurd situations, and extravagant burlesque were important.”  And finally, from a book, The Circus, Venuses of the Age.

I had been thinking about my daughter…her recent move to Vancouver, a dance production titled Bloom and her classes in burlesque.  I thought about her exploration of the ocean views and her discovering of nature.  I found this quote, in Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass…To Old Age and included it in my painting.

“I see in you the estuary that enlarges and spreads itself grandly as it pours in the great sea.”

I am grateful to Belinda Fireman, my painting buddy, who generously purchased this at auction.  It was good to meet you, Rose.  Congratulations to Karen on a beautiful exhibit and gratitude to Elijah who has done such a professional job with the exhibit space.  Thanks to the public…when we come out of our painting frenzy, it is such a warm and wonderful thing to see all of your faces!

Pour Into the Great Sea 4 Aaron

Pour Into the Great Sea Photo Credit: Aaron McCullough

Pour Into the Great Sea3Aaron

Pour Into the Great Sea Photo Credit: Aaron McCullough

Pour Into the Great Sea 2

Photo Credit: Belinda Fireman

Pour Into the Great Sea

Photo Credit: Belinda Fireman

Common Redpoll

It was an icy cold day with the sort of cold that wound its way under my skin and into my bones.  Even before heading out, I felt a shiver…with the windchill, the temperature sat at -24 degrees.   I had noticed the visitor to the feeder before taking Max for his afternoon walk to the pond.  A Common Redpoll was diligently exploring one corner of the front yard feeder and even with the opening and closing of the door and the movement around the van, it remained….surprisingly, waiting for our return over an hour later.  A wonderful sight, the tiny bird, one of the finch family, warmed up the day with its small, but powerful, presence.

Emily Dickinson

“Hope” is the thing with feathers —
That perches in the soul —
And sings the tune without the words —
And never stops — at all —

And sweetest — in the Gale — is heard —
And sore must be the storm —
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm —

I’ve heard it in the chillest land —
And on the strangest Sea —
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb — of Me.


Photo Credit: animals.nationalgeographic.com

Photo Credit: animals.nationalgeographic.com

Bird Cloud by Annie Proulx

Bird Cloud 2

Just moments ago, I finished the book, Bird Cloud by Annie Proulx.  This was a memoir that spoke to my heart and I was very much invested in the book from its beginning.  This is NOT the reaction shared by so many critics with literary expertise, in fact, I found it an unusual thing that a review be entirely positive.

I think that the subject matter was appealing to me on many levels.  First, I liked the courage that Proulx modeled as she solicited the help of so many different people in order to build her architectural dream and new home in a very challenging landscape.  Bird Cloud is a location of extreme weather conditions, contributing to a sense of isolation.  Wyoming was such an awesome landscape and Proulx did not disappoint in terms of her description and research of the location.

Next, as so many others have shared, I feel as though I gained tremendous insight into who Annie Proulx is, not simply ‘the writer’, but also someone acutely interested in history and wildlife.  I relished her curiosity and felt excited, even at the countless failures in various steps of construction, whether it be deficiencies in the materials, suppliers and contractors or in the evidence of much after thought.

The book was most colourful as Proulx spoke of the historical relevance of the surrounding land and the nature of the those properties.  I was brought to tears while reading the last two chapters, “…all beaded, all earringed, wing feather bowstring sided…” and “A Year of Birds”.  Powerfully written, one is left with utmost respect for everything that ‘gets us here’.  I feel, not only, enlightened, but challenged to grow in both knowledge and understanding.

Regarding ‘the build’ at Bird Cloud, I felt compelled to shift some furnishings around tonight…think about my personal aesthetic…and in a very understated way, to consider links between beauty and function, new materials and old.  I think that ‘place’ is of utmost importance to all of us.

From page 169 of Bird Cloud, Annie Proulx tells us…

Curly, by David F. Barry, Template:Circa 1876.

Curly, by David F. Barry, Template:Circa 1876.

“Custer’s Crow scout, Curley, a survivor of the Battle of Greasy Grass, spoke in council in 1907 when pressure was on to sell part of the Crow Reservation to outsiders.  He said, ‘The soil you see is not ordinary soil.  It is the dust of the blood of the flesh and bones of our ancestors.  We fought and bled and died to keep other Indians from taking it and fought and bled and died, helping the whites.  You will have to dig through the surface before you can find the earth, as the upper portion is Crow.  The land as it is, is my blood, and my dead: it is consecrated, and I don’t want to give up any portion of it.'”

Source: Frances Carrington, My Army Life and the Fort Phil Kearny Massacre (Denver:Pruett Press, 1990), 314 cited in John D. McDermott, A Guide to the Indian Wars of the West (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1998), 2.

I think that this is a thorough review of Bird Cloud and gives background that my response is lacking.  Enjoy!

Sunshine and Sky

Wonders 76 Lake Michigan and Mona

I met Ramona in 1971.  With a friendship as dear as this, I learned about how much fun life could be!  Ramona had a boyfriend.  I learned about and anticipated life experiences through the sharing of her experiences.  We walked for miles and miles together and while we did, Ramona would recount many adventures and amazed, I would rattle off my stories to her.  Ramona was one of the dearest and truest people in my life during those years.

She and I would dance in her bedroom.  I always compared her to Janis Joplin.  She called me Sky and I called her Sunshine.  She strung mismatched printed handkerchiefs on strands of trim and from this, created clothing.  She would dance with her arms completely free and open, spinning in circles to Black Sabbath.  We would laugh and talk as we wandered Lakeside in the dark.  We had no need of alcohol because we were both always so ‘high’ on life.  I felt free through her…her experience of music…her freedom to dance…her story.

She wore bangles and beads and her copper hair hung well past her bum, as her mother’s always did.  Ramona sang like a bird.  I whistled, because I rarely knew the words. We made pancakes whenever I slept over and her Mom hugged and loved me.  The last time I visited Mona in Manistee, Michigan,  I treasured the fact that she made us pancakes…just like old times.

On January 11th, Ramona retired from her role with the forestry service.  Through all of her years and various locations, Ramona always kept in touch with me.  I have compiled a full memory book of her wanderings and achievements and treasure her cards and letters, holding them always dear to my heart.  I am so proud of you, Ramona, and know that we’ll be connecting to do some traveling.  Congratulations, dear friend!

The following autobiographical information was shared by Ramona as a part of her retirement invitation.  I only regret that I couldn’t be by her side as she celebrated such a milestone.

Friends, Forest Service family, volunteers and project partners; I am retiring on January 12, 2013.  After 34 years, and 5 months of employment with the Federal Government (on the Beaverhead, Clearwater, Flathead, Los Padres, Lolo, Nicolet and Huron Manistee National Forests and as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Temuco, Southern Chile.) New adventures are calling.  Here are a few career highlights, besides meeting and working with you:

® Wildfire and emergency assignments, especially as an Information Officer- for Hurricane Katrina in San Antonio, the Chicken Fire in Alaska and The Wesley Fire Complex on the Payette NF  this fall…

® Details with Wilderness; to The Aldo Leopold Center  in Missoula, and Training for Line Officers at Ninemile Station, to Guatemala with The Sister Forest Program and to the White Mountain NF -to enter trails data after Hurricane Irene

® Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness data collection, and kayaking recreation patrols on the Pine and Manistee rivers

® Working with and training volunteers and interns, from clubs and universities, and sharing information and ideas

® Monitoring Recreation Special Use Events and working with the event organizers, photographing participants

® Our partnership with “Explore the Shores” for improving Universal access to Manistee County river access sites

® Speaking to outdoor, school and youth groups, and representing the Forest Service at conventions and meetings

® Brainstorming with colleagues at Forest Service trainings, such as The Eastern and Southern Region University and at Clemson University as part of the 3-week intensive Outdoor Recreation Planner Course

® Organizing, planning for and conducting National Visitor Use Monitoring surveys with our forest visitors

® Leading trail hikes for The Forest Festival in Manistee and coordinating National Trails Day Events, as well as

® My Peace Corps assignment with the Ministry of Education in Chile, designing 5th grade environmental education curriculum, making a National Park slide program  for schools and organizing youth conservation summer camps


Scents of pine, crunchy leaves, crystal snow, nose-hair freeze, I’ll still walk the forest trails, but without badges or uniforms regales.

Glistening shores, swift flash of fish, turtle’s splash, water’s itch, paddling onward fast and slow, I’ll be there too, don’tcha know.

Singing sand, fossil stones, bits of glass, pockets full, but a chorus of friends harmonize too, “come couch surf please; we’ve places new to travel and explore with you”.

Memories newly made or old, you’ll be with me too- minus blanket hogs or snores.

Reading, beading, polishing stones…, resale shop treasure hunts, volunteering, learning to teach English to non-native speakers, or even how to do computer Webpage Design, pottery creations, water color painting, writing and music listening too; oh my… “There is so much to do”!

Re-invention, re-tirement, waking with the sun, looking forward not back, perhaps I’ll even relax.

Thank you all, it’s been wonderful!

Mona 2April 2010 014 R

Surviving Progress

If you haven’t attended the Marda Loop Justice Film Festival, this is something you may really find inspiring and give you the impetus to make affirmative action in a whole number of ways.  Each film is followed by a conversation between audience members and conversation leaders, typically experts in an area related to the film.  Last night’s film was Surviving Progress.  Potent and relevant, I left feeling a need to set more limits to my consumption and to try to influence the same in others.

Blogging actually provides a way to communicate this particular desire to a global audience.  It is the responsibility of each individual to become educated, informed and aware…it is for the collective to stand up against a politic that is solely economically motivated.  Please visit this site…and if at all possible, view the film…and after that, set limits.

The following summary from Marda Loop Justice Film Festival.

Director: Mathieu Roy, Harold Crooks

“Every time history repeats itself the price goes up.”

Surviving Progress brings us thinkers such as Stephen Hawking, Jane Goodall, David Suzuki, Margaret Atwood, Jim Thomas and many more who provide warnings, suggest solutions, and offer hope as to how the dangerous path we the world is on can move towards a more sustainable future.

Inspired by Ronald Wright’s bestseller, A Short History of Progress, SURVIVING PROGRESS, exposes the grave risks we pose to our own survival in the name of progress. The film shows how civilizations are repeatedly seduced and destroyed by “progress traps” – alluring belief systems around human advancement (technology, economics, consumption, and environment) that serve immediate needs, but ransom the future with long term consequences. While there is an extraordinary range of goods and services available on the world market, there is also increased pressure on a dwindling supply of non-renewable natural resources, a damaged environment, a faltering global economy, and large parts of the world are demanding higher standards of living in the face of bankrupt nations. Has the world become a victim of its own desire for progress?

86 min.

Introduced during the session, were a whole list of book titles…I will definitely be perusing these.

Photo Credit: Here

Photo Credit: Here

And ripped off from SURVIVING PROGRESS, THIS!!  These were such powerful icons to speak to the state of our planet…such a variety…so articulate and so knowledgeable.  I was particularly challenged and excited by the words of Michael Hudson, economic historian and global energy expert, Vaclav Smil.

Who’s Who

Margaret AtwoodMargaret Atwood author
“Instead of thinking that nature is this huge bank that we can just, this endless credit card that we can just keep drawing on, we have to think about the finite nature of that planet and how to keep it alive so that we too may remain alive. Unless we conserve the planet, there isn’t going to be any “the economy”.”

Enio BeataEnio Beata sawmill owner
“The people responsible for destroying the Amazon are the big farmers, the international corporations. The biggest farmers are senators, deputies, colonels. They’re the ones destroying the Amazon forest. Them. Not us.”

Colin BeavanColin Beavan writer / engineer / director – No Impact Project
“… before I go around trying to change other people, mabye I should look at myself and change myself and keep my side of the street clean.”

Chen ChangnianChen Changnian professor / Cheng Ming’s father
“Of course there have been some problems as well, for example, the environment.”

Chen MingChen Ming self-driving tour guide
“I’m like the monk, the master, I’m leading the members to the West, to find out the real meaning of life, to reach true enlightenment.”

Victor Zhikai GaoVictor Zhikai Gao director, China Association of International Studies
“We need to go onto a path of growth and China needs to modernize and industrialize…”

Jane GoodallJane Goodall primatologist
“Arguably, we are the most intellectual creature that’s ever walked on planet Earth. So how come, then, that this so intellectual being is destroying its only home ?”

Stephen HawkingStephen Hawking theoretical physicist
“We are entering an increasingly dangerous period of our history. But I’m an optimist.”

Michael Hudson economic historian / former Wall Street economist
“Progress has meant: ”You will never get back what we take from you”. That’s what brought on the Dark Ages and that’s what’s threateting to bring in the Dark Ages again.”

Simon JohnsonSimon Johnson former chief economist International Monetary Fund
“The bankers can’t stop themselves. It’s in their DNA, in the DNA of their organizations, to take massive risks, to pay themselves ridiculous salaries and to collapse…”

Mark LevineMark Levine group leader – China Energy Group
“What is progress ? I think… that’s too hard a question.

Gary MarcusGary Marcus cognitive psychologist
“One thing to remember of course about the human mind, is that it’s not that fundamentally different from say, the brain of a chimpanzee.”

Kambale MusavuliKambale Musavuli Friends of the Congo
“What is interesting is all the money plundered from all the international debts is found in Western banks.”

Daniel PovinelliDaniel Povinelli behavioural scientist
“If humans go extinct on this planet, I think what’s going to be our epitaph on our gravestone is “why” ?.”

Marina SilvaMarina Silva senator & former Minister of the Environment, Brazil
“It is impossible to defend models that cannot be universally applied because we would have to start from a premise that some people have rights and some don’t. Thus there is no technological problem, but an ethical one.”

Vaclav SmilVaclav Smil global energy expert
“We have to use less.”

David SuzukiDavid Suzuki geneticist / activist
“Money doesn’t stand for anything and money now grows faster than the real world. Conventional economics is a form of brain damage.”

Raquel Taitson-QueirozRaquel Taitson-Queiroz environmental police officer, IBAMA
“… I thought that I could defend my ideas, my ideals, if I was an inspector. What I can do is so small compared to what is going on right now.”

The students of Jeanne Silva Martin’s class, Escola Fabiano LosvanoThe students of Jeanne Silva Martin’s class, Escola Fabiano Losvano, Sao Paulo, Brazil
“BOY: When I watch the news on TV, I see that they are deforesting the Amazon and I don’t understand why…
TEACHER: What are the interests behind it?
BOY: Economics.”

The townspeople of Colniza The townspeople of Colniza, Mato Grosso State, Brazil
“This is our life! The forest is like a mother giving milk to her child. Do you have an Amazon forest in your country ?”

Jim ThomasJim Thomas activist / ETC GROUP
“… the engineers can try to treat life as though it was some sort of computer or engineering substrate, but ultimately the microbes are gonna end up laughing at them, that life doesn’t work like that.”

J. Craig VenterJ. Craig Venter biologist / CEO Synthetic Genomics
“By changing and taking over evolution, changing the time course of evolution, and going into deliberate design of species for our own survival at least gives us some points of optimism that we have a chance to control our destiny.”

Robert WrightRobert Wright author / journalist
“… half of being God has just been handed to us and then the question is whether we’ll master the other half of being God, the moral half.”

Ronald WrightRonald Wright author
“… we are running 21st century software, our knowledge, on hardware that hasn’t been upgraded for 50,000 years, and this lies at the core of many of our problems.”

In Other Times

When I began writing in this format in 2005, I tended to be very descriptive of the outdoors…my river hiking and observations of nature.  I realize that sometimes it may seem that my recent life is all about music and arts events.  The truth is,  my life is that thing that weaves those events and others together.

In keeping with some of my new thoughts on happiness, after a big outdoor hike with Max following a teaching day, I felt most like being warm (love these cozy socks my cousin gave me!) and relaxing.  In this city, we can tend to be on those roads too much.  Being wrapped in my fuzzy housecoat feels exactly right.

There have been some truly amazing moments shared with Max these past couple of days.  Around the perimeter of the pond, it seems that there is a whole world of discovery to be made.  Each set of animal tracks carries its own narrative and given the depth and the weight of the snow, these narratives are even more clearly communicated.

A variety of tracks make their way to what, a week ago, was a dark circle of open water, but has now shrunk to almost-nothing.  Still, there is evidence that the muskrats, birds and coyotes have visited, in hopes of hydrating.  On the wide white expanse of frozen water, now blanketed in eighteen centimeters of fresh snow, there are several narratives, the most interesting being the collision of predator and prey at the center.  It is an unbelievable thing when the temperatures are plummeting to -24 degrees, to see that animals are continuing to struggle against the elements and also fighting to find both sources of food and water.

Early in the week, a coyote stood bravely on the neighbouring train tracks, observing two magpies pecking, determined, upon a carcass.  I was interested in why it did not advance, but patiently and almost regally, waited.  As Max dug for and returned to me with a heavy chunk of tree branch, I claimed it, deciding that from this day onward, I will carry the club with me, having watched coyotes in close proximity for the last couple of weeks.  As light is disappearing from day and I am walking alone, with only the repetitious sound of footsteps and breath, I sometimes feel strangely ‘watched’.  This new tool should give me some assurance of defense if needed.

As I neared the east end of the pond, I watched a bald eagle circle three time, its powerful wings carrying it gracefully through the icy cold air.  I stopped and took pause, making certain of my identification of this noble looking bird.  He headed directly south over 22X and slowly disappeared into the distance, leaving his mate sitting in one of the top branches of a very dark elm tree.  I spent time, knee deep in a snow bank, watching her and her watching me…her head rotating to look again and again at the traffic circling off of Macleod Trail, east onto 22X.  Eventually, she tired of me or Max or both of us, and lifted off, flying in the same direction as her friend.  Stepping out of the snow, I realized that my eyelashes were crystalline…I realized that I had been crying.

There isn’t a day when I am not grateful for the beauty of the natural spaces that I journey with my pooch…whether it is at the river’s edge, across the bridge and deep into Fish Creek Park or at the pond.  Each season offers a difference in the experience of plant life, birds, mammals and wee critters at the water’s edge.  I am blessed by all of these experiences that seem to weave in and out of my life and tie my life experiences to my spirit.

Herald Nix…Alone on the Stage

Such a different flavour of music last evening compared with the music enjoyed some years back at the HiFi Club.  I really got a better sense of Herald’s writing and musicality.  This was an excellent night!


Thanks to my beautiful sister-friend and cousin, Margy, for being my passenger in a blizzard on Deerfoot…just so that she could share in my love of Herald Nix’s music.

Photo Credit: Kathleen Moors

Photo Credit: Kathleen Moors

Here’s a wee clip I captured…

And…here it is again.

My new cd…

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Andy Warhol: The Athlete Series MOCA Calgary

Pat and I attended the opening night of the MOCA exhibit, Andy Warhol: The Athlete Series.  It was a terrific event and I was not only thrilled to see the Warhol works, but also the really competent and entertaining pieces by Chris Cran, Billy McCarroll, John Wills and others.

Andy WarholIf you have the chance, I encourage you to take in this exhibit.  Thanks to MOCA for the hospitality…good music…a festive drink…even the red carpet.  OH!  And let us NOT forget our local Warhol impersonator who stayed in role for the duration!

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Steve as Andy


From Visit Calgary,

“The Weisman Warhol collection is complemented by Great Moments in Pop: a selection of Warhol works which represent many phases of the artist’s career generously loaned from Calgary private collections. The theme is enhanced by the work of respected Calgary artists that reflect upon the multiple themes of sport and art as well as homages, riffs and variations upon signature Warhol themes and styles (including Shelley Oullet, Chris Cran, John Will and Billy McCarroll). The exhibition presents the full suite of 10 Warhol paintings, the Athlete Series featuring portraits of: Muhammed Ali, O.J. Simpson, Pele, Jack Nicklaus, Dorothy Hamill, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Chris Evert, Tom Seaver, Willie Shoemaker, and Rod Gilbert.”

Herald Nix is in Town!

Yesterday, Margy and I attended the opening, The Land and and painted by artist and musician, Herald Nix.  I have been following Herald’s work, both music and art, since some time before staying at his refurbished Heritage home the summer of 2002.  We were heading for Comox, B.C. and time with my brother Cliff, and I was really interested in stopping over in Salmon Arm.

I had previously met Herald at art openings and loved the rich quality of his landscapes, seeming to have their inspiration in the light and water of his home in Salmon Arm.

Herald Nix, Untitled 2009, oil on board SAGA Public Art Gallery, Salmon Arm, BC.jpg

Herald Nix, Untitled 2009, oil on board SAGA Public Art Gallery, Salmon Arm, BC.

When I phoned to book a couple of rooms, he was in the midst of a huge transition and unbeknownst to me, so was I….I just didn’t know it at the time.  His home was absolutely beautiful, but definitely enjoying the flux and change reflected back to it by Herald.  This created all the more magic because floor boards were creaking.  Outdoors, an old meditation pond…cherry trees heavily burdened with ripe fruit and a breath taking view of the water.

By way of biographical information, from SAGA…

“The SAGA Public Art Gallery is featuring Herald Nix’s Railroad Bridges and the Lights of Town, a series of 40 oil paintings from the Sicamous Lake area of British Columbia. Painted between 1967 and 2012, the images capture the lakes, bridges, towns and massed hills around Salmon Arm with large, deft brushstrokes.

Herald Nix was born in 1951 in Salmon Arm, in the interior of British Columbia, and continues to live in the farmhouse where he grew up. In his youth he went to the Vancouver School of Art (now Emily Carr University of Art + Design). Nix makes almost daily trips into the bush around Salmon Arm or takes his rowboat onto the lakes to paint small landscapes en plein air using oil on board. His painting has been described as being “as much about the paint as it is about the places.”

Nix is a singer, songwriter and guitarist, and one of the most respected artists in the Canadian underground scene. ReverbNation (reverbnation.com) reports that he “sings like Hank Williams, writes like Steinbeck and paints like nobody else”. Variously called “alt country” or “Americana”, his music – like Chicago blues – is simple, warm and beautiful.”

Herald spent time with us in his studio…excited about the pigments that he had and showing us bits of his process…his panels, his framing.  His eyes lit up in this space.

Equally as beautiful was the fact that he sat with us on the porch…shared a beer with us…and played a whole number of songs on his guitar as the sun set.  It was a magical experience.  When I hear his music or see his paintings, the memory of this time spent in his home, echoes back to me.  It was a blessing-time.





If you haven’t enjoyed the work of Herald Nix, stop in to Jarvis Hall Fine Art or hit the Ironwood Stage and Grill tonight.