Anakin Skywalker and Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day…and all it entailed.

Wednesday night at Gorilla House, Andy gave me my only Valentine card…well, that is if I don’t include the few I received from students at school the day before…green suckers attached…a melted and squishy chocolate kiss wrapped in foil.  But this…this was a real valentine!  Hmmm…the image…Anakin Skywalker (Ani).  (Does he become Darth Vader?) Does this mean something?  Andy tried convincing me that “No…no…he wasn’t the bad guy…do you know the story?  The reference isn’t bad.”  Sad to say, I have no recollection of the Star Wars story.  Time to get the PACK out and watch them again…now, that will be a way to spend Family Day!  Let me know if you wish to join me.  I’m one of the few people around who still has a VCR plugged in.

P1090580 P1090581 P1090582

I attended Teacher’s Convention…and there, met Margaret Atwood.  This was a profoundly moving experience, as I’ve written. (A second valentine.)   I attended Off the Beaten Path at the Art Gallery of Calgary.  There, I wept…and yes, thought a great deal about love and what love means.  Love means, above all things, safety…and freedom…freedom to be true to yourself, to have your own ideas and to be able to speak.  (A third valentine.)

I ate a sandwich in the shop directly across from City Hall and situated myself so that I was looking out on the street, an opportunity to people-watch. The sandwich was wonderful…grainy bread, ham, sun dried tomatoes, spinach, mustard.  I drank cold lemonade.  As Valentine lunches go, it was yummy.

A group of smiley people were directly across the intersection…waiting on the other side for pedestrians to fall into their arms, surrounded by red shirt greetings, FREE HUGS!  The pedestrians lined up on the far side of the walk, shielding themselves behind one another, strategies floating around in their heads. “How can I avoid hugging these happy people?”  Refusals to hug just seem like such defiant, unwilling refusals.  I watched with interest and in the coffee shop, we began to share our observations.  A lady sitting some distance from me at the bar, got up from her stool and came over and hugged me. ( A fourth valentine.) Five people from one table, having sipped their last bits of coffee, announced that they were going to cross as a group and give every FREE HUG candidate a hug…and they did.

After lunch, and on my way to the train, I stopped and hugged each one as well.  One young lady passed me a peace rock wrapped in cellophane.  (A fifth valentine.)

At home, I was greeted by my pooch and enjoyed the mild weather while I walked him.  I looked forward to my skype date with my parents…always at 5:00.  At 4:30 the doorbell rang and Max barked furiously.  On my step, a box.  There were those few minutes where I imagined all sorts of things and from all sorts of people…it’s so easy to fantasize yourself into a scenario of any kind.  I’m particularly good at that.  In fact, my father insists that my childhood memories are so vivid as I write them, that they can not possibly be true.  I disagree.  As I dug through the box of flowers and wrapping and vase, I finally came upon the message from Mom and Dad, computer generated on a packing slip.   I stood at the kitchen counter and cried.  (A sixth valentine.) The kitchen filled with that “fresh from the florist smell” as I clipped the ends of the flowers and arranged them in one of my blue pieces of glass.

P1090560P1090578My mother was dressed in her white long sleeved top, the one with the sparkling three snowflakes on the front,  when finally we had some connection on Skype.  I had the flowers sitting on the desk in front of me.  I told her I loved her.  Moments later, Skype failed and we stared blankly at the dark screen…her in Belleville…me in Calgary.  I phoned her three times, but she could not pick up.  My mother has Alzheimer’s disease.

My father passed the telephone to her when he called back.  We visited.  Her voice felt so small.  I missed them both.

Sitting at the computer anyway, I checked Facebook for messages…a message from my daughter in Vancouver.

“Happy Valentines Mummy! You always did such nice goodies for us in the morning. Feelin the love! Xoxoxo” (A seventh valentine.)

I thought to message my son and daughter…shortly after…

“Love you too mom, merry vday.” My son. (An eighth valentine.)

“How are the wee bubbies?  We were imagining their faces when the food thing spun round at 5pm and there was no food!  Happy Valentine’s mom, we love you! (A ninth valentine.)  I opened the gift bag my cousin had left and said an audible ‘awe’.  (A tenth valentine.)

It was getting dark as I headed out the door for my dentist’s office and my hygienist appointment.  YES!  You read that correctly!  I booked a teeth cleaning appointment on Valentine’s Day!  Who does that?  I have extreme anxiety over dentists in general…cleaning, worse.  I had packed my camera in order that I have a photograph…but the fear dissolved the possibility and you need to just trust me…I spent an hour listening to tooth picking, tooth scaping and tooth polishing and left, breathing a huge sigh of relief that once again, this procedure had passed. (An eleventh valentine.)

On the way home, I stopped into my daughter and son-in-law’s place to feed their cats.  Gabby and Mason immediately circled my legs…meowing incessantly…rubbing their slick bodies again and again, against my legs.  I felt warm.  I felt needed.  Their food was essentially inhaled and then I got to hear the sound of my own voice as I spoke to them and for them for as long as I remained in the house.  It was good to hear my voice.

I turned off the lights, locked up and headed for home…my Max-man and Peanut-meister…warm bed and good book.  Valentine’s Day 2013.

Meeting Mikhail Miller-Lajeunesse

Presently, Mikhail has taken up residence in the 809 Space in Kensington, to exhibit new work on March 7.  I met Mikhail at the Gorilla House this past Wednesday and chatted with him for a very few minutes.  He is both a gentleman and an inspired artist.  I was fortunate enough to purchase his piece at auction for an unreasonable and other-worldly price…and this leaves me…annoyed for him, but genuinely thrilled for myself!

As soon as I saw his work, I was blown away…given the sha-BANG about Valentines the very next day.  The piece spoke to me of love, of the other-worldly realm of love, of love gone wrong…of love gone right.  The two figures meld…but, the viewer is left with a question at that connection. The old idea, “he completes me”, comes to mind. My next post will actually deal with the fundamental realities of what Valentines ‘is’ for a person like me…but this does not negate the powerful tug that we all feel when the world tells us we should be eating chocolates and handing out roses.  All this aside, Mikhail’s piece is an important addition to the works displayed in my bedroom.

Ain’t No Shelter

Photo Credit: Mikhail Miller

Photo Credit: Mikhail Miller

Photo Credit: Mikhail Miller through 809 Space

Photo Credit: Mikhail Miller through 809 Space

Just a few tidbits ripped off from Mikhail’s blog and the 809 Space, in the case that you don’t click…but I hope you will.

Artist Biography:

“Mikhail Miller is a visual artist, community organizer and social activist born in Calgary, AB, Canada. Mikhail graduated from the Alberta College of Art and Design in 2006, with a Bachelors of Fine Art from the Print Media faculty. From 2008/09 Mikhail served as a work/study intern at the Banff Centre for the Arts. In 2010/11 he was curator of the Ministry of Casual Living artist-run project space. Mikhail’s prints, paintings, sculptures and community murals have been enjoyed throughout much of western Canada and internationally. Recently Mikhail spent a four-month period making new work in Oaxaca, Mexico, which resulted in two solo exhibitions at Espacio Zapata in Oaxaca and Galeria Anomalia in Mexico City. Mikhail Miller currently lives and works in Victoria, BC.”


Spendid Isolation: The Panel Discussion

I’m playing catch-up here on the blog…also apologize for not reading/responding to some of the feedback I’ve been given lately.  Teaching full days every day has swept me up into the momentum of the ‘normal’ life and I am ‘abnormally’ overwhelmed by it all.  Listening to Margaret Atwood yesterday, speaking of ‘where she writes’ was remarkably inspiring.  Writing is an act that is always with her (it is her) in her hotel room and on the planes that carry her from one event to the next.  She is not rooted in ‘a space’.  I have not written because I have taught.  After yesterday, I think that this is strange.  (I’m laughing at myself here…)

To go on with an earlier post about the exhibition of photographs at our Esker Foundation titled Splendid Isolation, I am sharing a wee bit about a panel discussion I enjoyed related to the exhibit a little over a week ago.

Olga Chagaoutdinova, Miruna Dragan and George Webber were all in attendance.  It was a pleasure to speak once again with Jim Hill and with Douglas Williamson, a couple of gentlemen I respect greatly.  I spelled Miruna’s name incorrectly throughout my note taking…as well as others, I’m sure.  I wanted to capture the gist of the responses that were, for me, so satisfying.

Page One

Page One

Page Two

Page Two

Page Three

Page Three

Page Four

Page Four

Page Five

Page Five

Page Six

Page Six




Off the Beaten Path: violence, women and art

After enjoying Margaret Atwood and sharing some brief conversations with teacher-friends, I headed over to the Art Gallery of Calgary.o the b p 1I hadn’t visited this exhibit yet and knew that this would be a good time…alone and in the quiet.  Sure enough, I was on my own in the gallery space…a single woman completing her visit, as I entered.

By the time I got to the very top floor, almost an hour later,  I was weeping.

The exhibit puts the individual in touch with the atrocities that are perpetrated against women all over the world…as individuals and as a collective.  While the public sometimes reflects a certain weariness with such issues, it is a crucial thing that citizens continue to shine light upon the myriad of global situations that are both overt and pushed under the radar.  Art has this amazing power to be able to say the things that the public silences.  This exhibit SPEAKS.

I did not leave a message on the tree because, even anonymously, the leaves that contain the stories are still too vulnerable.

Meeting Margaret Atwood


Pulling myself out of bed at the crack of dawn was not an easy thing to do on a day off, but I did it!  My contract has ended for the duration of the teacher’s convention and Family Day, but begins again on Tuesday.  This left me with the option, as a retired teacher/substitute, to attend or not.  I decided, without hesitation, to head down to hear Margaret Atwood, one of Canada’s icons…writer, teacher, environmental activist, advocate for women and all beings and inspiring speaker.

The crowd was in stitches…so perfect was her timing during the various narratives she shared.  Atwood sublimely drew us into sad tales of her ‘worst teacher’ and happy recollections of life with her mother and father.  My readers can find the short story Significant Moments in the Life of My Mother in her collection of twelve short stories, Bluebeard’s Egg.

Directly from Wikipedia, this…

Born in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, Atwood is the second of three children[5] of Margaret Dorothy (née Killam), a former dietitian and nutritionist, and Carl Edmund Atwood, an entomologist.[6] Due to her father’s ongoing research in forest entomology, Atwood spent much of her childhood in the backwoods of Northern Quebec and traveling back and forth between Ottawa, Sault Ste. Marie, and Toronto. She did not attend school full-time until she was in grade 8. She became a voracious reader of literature, Dell pocketbook mysteries, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Canadian animal stories, and comic books. She attended Leaside High School in Leaside, Toronto, and graduated in 1957.[6]

Was Taught
How to pound in a nail
How to tie a trout fly
How to knit (a neighbour taught her this)
How to make a stink bomb
How to clean off a table
How to crochet
How to wax a maple leaf
How to use a rifle
Canoeing techniques
How to raise your temperature.
1812 overture
How mushrooms reproduce
How to dissect frogs
Medley from Oklahoma
Swearing in several languages
Many ways of committing murders (mystery reader from a young age)
The fact that everything is connected to everything


Nature Studies
How to light a fire
How to make a toad on a cake with icing
A literary survey Chaucer to TS Eliot
Grammar to engineering students
Classical Literature and American Romanticism



A very interesting and honest interview…


Gorilla House LIVE ART: February 13, 2013

Peter: The Man God Uses

David Go writes more eloquently about this issue than I do, so I hope that you will be led to click the link above titled: Peter: The Man God Uses.

I consciously decided to offer up my painting over the Lenten season as lessons/offerings/praise experiences to our Lord.  It began last night on Ash Wednesday at the Gorilla House.  As a part of the under painting that I whipped up at home, I included a few collage items…one, a vintage image of Superman, the Gospel reading from Luke.

Luke 5:1-11

Jesus Calls His First Disciples

5 One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret,[a] the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.

Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.

…and finally, the face of a noble king.  I threw my stuff into the van and off I headed to the Gorilla House.

I was so happy to see Cheryl; friends, Gillian, Kelly, Lauraine, Wendy and several first-time artists at ‘the house’.  It was also really special to have hammered dulcimer music played live throughout the evening by Tomko Lamb!  Wowsah!  The sound on this youtube video does not, in any way,  capture the sound that we enjoyed in ‘the house’ last night, but it may give you some idea.  If anyone has something better, I’d love to post it.

The three themes of the night were,

1. “Somehow we became friends” from Solipsist by Henry Rollins
2. Sun shower
3. Plow from the Book of Symbols

I had already decided to paint from the heart and not from the head.  So…

In my nautical piece, the waters of the sea become agitated and then, crazy-wild…that’s what life is like…and then, like the upper left quadrant of the painting, the calm and beautiful sky is gradually exposed, offering hope to the sailor, hope of respite and peace.  I’m hoping that during this Lenten journey, I can show kindness…and patience.

Since the announcement of the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, there have been reactions worldwide…some sensitive and others inappropriate and in poor taste.  I am going to simply pray for that peace that I write about when I write of the waters.  Global unity and peace will only be possible when we grow in respect of our neighbours.  I hope to be an exemplar of that.

P1090533 P1090534 P1090536P1090545

Some other goings-on at the Gorilla House.


Harold’s work on exhibit at the Gorilla House.


Harold, refurbishing fandango art.


Cheryl and Kells with all the other WOMEN!


Broad strokes for a start…

Lane Shordee, Installation Artist, hard at it!

Lane Shordee, Installation Artist, hard at it!

Jess puts her 'heart' into embroidery here.

Jess puts her ‘heart’ into embroidery here.

My dear friend in art.

My dear friend in art.

Precious friend...painter...singer...all round amazing lady!

Precious friend…painter…singer…all round amazing lady!


Gorilla House LIVE ART Battle: February 6, 2013

I sigh deeply as I begin to write.

I was tired last night.  My cousin-sister-friend was sick.  Her ear ached.

She lifted one of my bags into the van.  She looked through the windshield dotted with saliva spewed by my dog after countless trips to the pond.  She was gift…because she didn’t complain.

We headed for ‘the house’ even though we were tired.  We actually felt more like witnesses to the evening than participants…well, I speak for myself.  I wonder about that line, as I write.

I felt so proud and grateful for the people who waited for us.  Oh yes…there were new folk…there was Stanley and his friends…people like that.  But I had a hug waiting with Andy and Aaron and Rich and Jessica and Elijah and Harold and Jen and Karen and Bruce (who I hadn’t seen in ages) and new friend, Marta, and Chen who I bumped into later…and others…several others.  I thought about how I enjoy the weekly narratives from our awesome Masters of Ceremonies, Bassano.  I smiled when I saw his mirrored glasses and heard his first selection of the night… whistle…too loud…over the microphone.

I remembered the moment I walked into the Gorilla House, just how much the people feed my soul and I was glad for doing the drive when I was tired.  I was glad to leave the dog at home with his doggie treat bribe.  I was more than grateful to be bringing a part of my life, my family, my cousin…into this space.

The topics for the evening…hmmm…they didn’t make any sense to me.

1.  From Solipsist by Henry Rollins, “Pray for me as you hate yourself and the unceasing neediness of your life”  I moved on, instead, to the very next paragraph….

“You are all colours.  You are the birth of true jazz.  You are ten thousand years of flowers blooming at once.  You are the flavour of the sunset.  You are perfect like the stars that watch over me in the night sky of winter.”  And…this is what I painted!

2. From Michael Ondaatje’s Secular Love, “And here ducks dressed in Asia pivot in foreign waters…”

and finally, out of the Book of Symbols, a Rabbit/Hare mask…

The Book of Symbols

And so…I painted what I needed to paint…the Henry Rollins truth…as I see it.  I painted my son and two daughters into this painting…the jazz, colours, flowers, sunset, the winter stars.  I painted all of that and more.  Through the evening, I met Cheryl and would like to thank her for generously purchasing my work at auction.  I would also like to tell my cousin Margy what a blessing it was to have her share this evening with me.  Thanks to Jess and Karen and Elijah for their hospitality.

I  am especially blessed by three new pieces of art…Jen, I am so glad to finally have a piece produced by you, hanging in my front foyer.

Kath and Henry 3

Kath and Cheryl

Kath and Cheryl Photo Credit: Margy Witbeck


Artist-friend, Marta. Photo Credit: Margy Witbeck

Grade Six Zentangle

Not so much writing or blogging going on in my life these days, but STILL great things are happening!  I am really enjoying a contract that gives me the chance to work with a fantastic group of students!  This slide show illustrates the end of phase two to our giant connect-to-our-neighbour-zentangles.  I think that these are going to be so exciting once finished!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.