Another Rock on the Wall

I watched this little video this morning…

Clear Away the Clutter and Do Your Own Thing by Richard Serra

It was very timely.  Yesterday, I took the afternoon to nourish myself.  I attended a session at the Esker Foundation, a studio in drawing. I cherished the time…time to make observations, be totally present and to translate what I was observing into marks.  Thank you, Doug Williamson, for sharing your knowledge.

Life has pounded my family and friends lately and as a way of stepping through the pain of watching their struggles, as I’ve done throughout my life, I made art.  By creating music or dancing or making marks, a person can transcend difficulties.  This is what I find.  We all have ways of integrating suffering until it begins to melt away.  Rather than being victims to our narratives, we can push on through, to become supportive to others and to not only survive, but thrive and create.

Creativity is a journey…a process…a life-saver.

Kath's Canon, November 29, 2015 Esker Drawing, Frank's 007Kath's Canon, November 29, 2015 Esker Drawing, Frank's 005Kath's Canon, November 29, 2015 Esker Drawing, Frank's 004Kath's Canon, November 29, 2015 Esker Drawing, Frank's 002Kath's Canon, November 29, 2015 Esker Drawing, Frank's 001

Kath's Canon, November 29, 2015 Esker Drawing, Frank's 010

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Kath's Canon, November 29, 2015 Esker Drawing, Frank's 020Kath's Canon, November 29, 2015 Esker Drawing, Frank's 011Kath's Canon, November 29, 2015 Esker Drawing, Frank's 022My drawing begins…

Kath's Canon, November 29, 2015 Esker Drawing, Frank's 023Kath's Canon, November 29, 2015 Esker Drawing, Frank's 024

A bit of feedback, very much appreciated. And then…coloured media, tonal considerations and coloured grounds discussed.

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It was an intense…but enjoyable afternoon!

Reveca for Rebecca

For some time now, I’ve been observing the differences between photography of the past and our practice of photography in the present.

Once I dug through my family history over a number of years, I became very excited by and treasured the discovery of old photographs.  I have the same fascination with my father’s sheet music…stuff that was printed in the 1920s, in some cases, and is now archived between sleeves of acid free paper and protective coverings.  These objects help me know who I am.

Example:

New Year's Eve Party Ste. Sylvestre

My mother and father are in this photograph.  It captures one of many New Year’s Eve celebrations.  My mother sewed her gown.  It was a deep chocolate brown.  It had an outside layer of netting on the skirt and the bodice was a rich satin. She wore a beautiful crinoline underneath.  She made spaghetti straps with piping and edged the gown in golden sequins.  Why do I remember the details?  The days leading up to the event, I sat on Mom and Dad’s double bed and sorted through Mom’s jewelry box, while she sewed the dress on her treadle sewing machine, humming, a close distance from the bed.

Another example:

Mamie

My mother, in the arms of her grandmother, my Mamie…a woman she loved so dearly.

Photographs such as these, are timeless.  They carry the collective memory of a family.  They are endearing.

In today’s culture, there is such a vast and varied array of images that float in and out of social media and through our phones and devices that the experience of sitting down with a family album on one’s knee is a very rare experience.  I think that this is, in some respects, unfortunate.

Some months ago, dear friends were sharing with me on this very subject, when a couple of photographs were pulled out, beautiful photographs of a Romanian relation, Reveca (also spelled Reveka).  I decided right then and there that I wanted to use the image as a reference for a painting and this would be completed in time for November, and for Rebecca’s birthday.  Yesterday was the day.

I sat in a comfy chair in their home and, later, moved onto the floor, pouring myself into the exploration of this woman’s face.  I liked that for a good part of the time, the house was silent and no one was around.  I liked that I could use paint to create an impression of this individual who loved, struggled and meant something to her family, such a long time ago.  It turned out to be a glorious day.  My friends returned to their home, fed me a home cooked meal and we laughed and chatted throughout the editing process.  It was a wonderful experience!

Somehow, painting transcends the story that is captured in a photograph. I am grateful, in this life, that I have learned the real joy of painting.  I remember well, words of my female mentors over the years and I hold them in my heart.

There are rarely any witnesses to what I do, when I do it…it was nice, this week, to have someone take a couple of photographs.  Thanks, friends.

Painting for RebeccaReveka

Burnsland Cemetery Tour: November 11, 2015

Max and I managed to fit in a beautiful morning hike at Frank’s Flats, arriving home as the last post and the Remembrance Day observances at Parliament Hill were just beginning.  I always get quite emotional about these rituals as I am very respectful of my family’s military roots and I am flooded with love for all of my family, as well as friends who commemorate the service of their family members at this time of year.

I decided some time yesterday to attend the tour at Burnsland Cemetery this year and to learn a little about the various Regiments that served out of Calgary and the rest of Canada.

From the City of Calgary website, this…

Burnsland cemetery dates back to 1923 and includes many of Calgary’s World War I Veterans. The Calgary Heritage Authority has deemed the cemetery to be a historically significant cultural landscape that played an important part in the settlement and establishment of Calgary as a city. 

The Remembrance Day ad…

Take a free guided tour of the 13-hectare Burnsland Cemetery and learn more about some of the heroes that were laid to rest here. There are more than 22,000 buried at this cemetery, including many of Calgary’s veterans from the First World War. This tour is also an opportunity to reflect on the Canadian Military and RCMP traditions.

The tour begins at 2 p.m. and runs until 3:30 p.m.

Burnsland CemeteryInitially, there was some confusion for me about where to meet up.  I parked within the Burnsland Cemetery, got out of my vehicle and the first person I met was someone I had met years ago, when my son was just a toddler.  Brenda Driscoll is an artist who I met when grouped with nine other Canadian artists on a horse trip up the Sheep River. It was quite a journey and I really felt close to Brenda from the onset.  She was an experienced horse woman and I had zero experience.  There were some very good laughs.  I liked her so much that I painted her into one of my monumental canvases titled, So Where Do I Begin?

There she was this afternoon, all these years later, walking quietly between the rows of markers, actually seeking out her own father’s resting place.  Together, we found our way to the group.  I already knew that it would be an awesome event.

I desperately want to learn the name of the Calgary Parks staff member who led our tour this afternoon.  She was brilliant, articulate and did an awesome job personalizing the story of war…dealing honestly with the positive as well as the very dark side of war and the mistakes, as well as successes of Canadians in various periods of our war history.

We began at the Colonel James Walker’s family plot and resting place and were given a brief history of early peace keeping in the west.

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James Walker was born near Hamilton, Ontario and became one of the original commissioned officers in the North West Mounted Police in 1873, taking part in the trek West in 1874.

Walker, like all the commissioned officers of the force, faced the same hardships as the enlisted men with the added responsibility of caring for the new recruits, (most of them city boys – some as young as 15 – with little or no experience in the frontier) and assuring their safety and the success of the expedition. Walker and Col. Macleod, at one point, had to leave the expedition and travel on alone to procure extra supplies and horses to replace those which had died along the way.

Walker was promoted to superintendent in 1876 and sent back East to arrange for new recruits. While in Ottawa, he was instructed to take some of the recruits and a troop of more experienced policemen (they were two year veterans but you became “experienced” very quickly under their conditions) to Battleford to establish a Mounted Police fort and provide an escort for the treaty commissioners who were travelling in the same area.

James Walker was pressed into national service during the North West Rebellion of 1885 when he formed the Home Guard. He was a Lt. Col. in the 15th Light Horse and served overseas in WW1 as the commanding officer of the Canadian Forestry Corps.

The next historical resting place was that of Colonel David Ritchie, MC. 1924- 1941

Kath's Canon, November 11, 2015 Grade 3 Poppies, Burnsland, Bush 062Kath's Canon, November 11, 2015 Grade 3 Poppies, Burnsland, Bush 065Colonel Ritchie was born in Cumberland, England in 1882 and lived in the United Kingdom until 1911. Having joined the Dumfrieshire County Police at age 17, he followed this career path in Canada by joining the Calgary Police Force (as it was known then), reaching the rank of Detective. He served with the plain clothes squad until enlisting in the CEF in 1915.
He arrived in England as a Lieutenant of the 137th Battalion, and promoted to Captain while in the UK. After transfer to a combat battalion in France, he was wounded at Amiens in August 1918, and was still in hospital with his leg wound when the Armistice was declared in November.

After return to Calgary in 1919, he was presented with his Military Cross by the Prince of Wales who visited the city in September of that year. He rejoined the Calgary Police Force, becoming Chief Constable (the highest rank on the Force) on 15 September 1919. Ritchie’s impact on the Force was notable, for such things as the introduction of parking tickets and the School Safety Patrol in 1921, to the first installation of radios in police cars and motorcycles.

While Chief of Police, he enlisted in The Calgary Highlanders in 1922 as a Captain, with promotion to Major following in short order. In 1924, he was promoted Lieutenant-Colonel and made Commanding Officer of the Regiment. His command lasted from 1924 to 1929, during which time he was promoted to Colonel.

After retirement from the Highlanders, became president of the Alberta Military Institute in 1930 and president of the Alberta Infantry Association the next year. His interest in sports, despite his injured leg, led to presidency of the Alberta Highland Games Association.
Colonel Ritchie died in 1941 aged 39, after having been Chief of the Calgary Police Force for 22 years. sic

While his age is recorded as 39 on the Calgary Highlander’s website, the Lieutenant Colonel would have been 59 when he passed away in 1941.

Next, to the Cowe family plot.

Kath's Canon, November 11, 2015 Grade 3 Poppies, Burnsland, Bush 061 At the Cowe family plot, we learned about the ‘Victorian’ ways of the community at the time, very hierarchical in its ways and temperament.  Colonization was just like that, wasn’t it?  We learned that a huge segment of the Calgary population was from Scotland.  This is exemplified in the Scottish thistle that appears on the decorated stone.  We focused on John who was killed in action in Gallipoli in Turkey.  Right away I thought about Russell Crowe’s most recent movie, The Water Diviner. We were told, if you went to Gallipoli, you didn’t come home…it was just that horrific.  Canadian troops were there to support the British.

Out of the narratives at this stone, I learned a brief history of our ‘Blue Puttees’, our brave soldiers, eventually to be given the title, the Royal Newfoundland Regiment.

“The losses sustained by the 1st Newfoundland Regiment at Beaumont-Hamel on July 1, 1916, were staggering. Of the 801 Newfoundlanders who went into battle that morning, only 68 were able to answer the roll call the next day, with 255 dead, 386 wounded and 91 missing. The dead included 14 sets of brothers, including four lieutenants from the Ayre family of St. John’s.”

The tour group was absolutely silent; some of us, crying.

May they rest in peace.

Kath's Canon, November 11, 2015 Grade 3 Poppies, Burnsland, Bush 066At the resting place of Catherine de Bellefeville, I learned that those who served as nursing sisters, were immediately given the rank of Lieutenant.  During this part of the presentation I learned that just over 50 nursing sisters lost their lives in the Great War, some working in hospitals where injured men were being cared for.  It was under this circumstance that my own great grandfather, John Moors, died, along with some of his caregivers on May 19, 1918.

The most painful history that was shared with me about the nursing sisters who served the allies in World War I was the story of the HMHS Llandovery Castle.  This is a story I encourage all of my readers to contemplate.  Very few people know of this horrific event.  This was a ‘floating’ hospital, required to have all lights on…a cross marking…it was required to sail apart from all participating sea vessels.  And yet, on a voyage from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Liverpool, England, the ship was torpedoed off southern Ireland on 27 June 1918 by the enemy.  Accounts and descriptions of this disaster are heart wrenching. 

May they rest in peace.

Kath's Canon, November 11, 2015 Grade 3 Poppies, Burnsland, Bush 067At the resting place of Major Reverend Canon William H. Morgan, we learned that there was dispute over how many chaplains should be engaged for the purpose of battle.  Sir Samuel Hughes, deemed both energetic and controversial, seemed to be the person with the power to decide.  There were 527 chaplains recruited in World War I, with a very small number of Catholic chaplains, given his particular bias.

One chaplain was mentioned specifically as we stood at this stone…John Weir Foote, awarded the Victory Cross after the war.

From Wikipedia, a further explanation of the circumstances of his loss, as explained by our tour guide…

On August 19, 1942 at Dieppe, France, Captain Foote coolly and calmly during the eight hours of the battle walked about collecting the wounded. His gallant actions saved many lives and inspired those around him by his example. At the end of this grueling time, he climbed from the landing craft that was to have taken him to safety and deliberately walked into the German position in order to be taken prisoner, so that he could be of help to those men who would be in captivity until May 5, 1945.

May he rest in peace.

Kath's Canon, November 11, 2015 Grade 3 Poppies, Burnsland, Bush 068Here, at the resting place of Pte. George Stewart, we were given a brief background on the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry.  We learned that Canadians were viewed as the work horses…the strong arm…by the British.  Our soldiers earned the respect of all for their courage and determination.  I hope that my readers will follow my link, studying the role that the PPCLI played in world conflict, with some very specific events and citations in the Korean and Afghanistan conflicts.

May they rest in peace.

Kath's Canon, November 11, 2015 Grade 3 Poppies, Burnsland, Bush 069 Kath's Canon, November 11, 2015 Grade 3 Poppies, Burnsland, Bush 070 Kath's Canon, November 11, 2015 Grade 3 Poppies, Burnsland, Bush 072 Kath's Canon, November 11, 2015 Grade 3 Poppies, Burnsland, Bush 073Kath's Canon, November 11, 2015 Grade 3 Poppies, Burnsland, Bush 074At the resting place of Pte. William J. Ware, son of black cowboy, John Ware, we learned of some of the disturbing inconsistencies in the day, due to race.  If you were black, you had to enlist directly with a battalion.  Procedures could not be the same.  Once enlisted, a black man was moved into a Construction battalion, assigned to heavy labour and often going ahead of armed battalions with lumber and other burdens.  There was even a resistance to taking black soldiers when recruitment offices were in dyer need of numbers.  Ware was a member of the No. 2 Construction Battalion (an all Black battalion) serving in France, with the majority of the men being assigned to the No. 5 Canadian Forestry Corps (Jura Group).

Dissimilarly, First Nations men were welcomed with open arms because, again, for stereotypical reasons, they were viewed as hunters, strong men, survivors.  The sad part of the story took place when they returned home.  Soldiers were promised a land grant when they returned home.  It was only our First Nations who were refused these grants upon their return.  Sadly, along with this, because they had served their country, their status was taken away.  I don’t know if Canadians know these things.  I didn’t.  A book recommendation on this subject is Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden.  From the Canadian War Museum, this…

A Record of Accomplishment

First Peoples troops left a remarkable record of wartime accomplishment. Several were commissioned as officers, and many served as battle-hardened platoon leaders and combat instructors. At least 50 were decorated for bravery on the battlefield. Many acquired near-legendary status as scouts and snipers, drawing on pre-war hunting skills and wilderness experience. The most decorated, Corporal Francis Pegahmagabow, an Ojibwa from the Parry Island Band near Parry Sound, Ontario, received the Military Medal and two bars for his bravery and effectiveness as a sniper. Former rodeo performer Henry Norwest, a Metis, was credited with 115 kills before his death. Alexander Smith, Jr. and his brother Charles, the sons of Six Nations Cayuga chief Alexander G. Smith, were both awarded the Military Cross.

May they rest in peace…

Kath's Canon, November 11, 2015 Grade 3 Poppies, Burnsland, Bush 076I had just recently learned about Mary Dover, and today, I found myself standing before her resting place.  Please read about the Women’s Army Corp of Canada.

May they rest in peace…

Kath's Canon, November 11, 2015 Grade 3 Poppies, Burnsland, Bush 075A tour of Calgary’s Burnsland cemetery would not be complete without thinking about the members of the Lord Strathcona Horse (Royal Canadians).  Again, a very amazing history.  It is quite an accomplishment when a regiment receives the title Royal.  The more personal narrative shared was about Gordon Muriel Flowerdew VC (2 January 1885 – 31 March 1918)

For most conspicuous bravery and dash when in command of a squadron detailed for “special services of a very important nature. On reaching his first objective, Lieutenant Flowerdew saw two lines of enemy, each about sixty strong, with machine guns in the centre and flanks; one line being about two hundred yards behind the other. Realizing the critical nature of the operation and how much depended on it, Lieut. Flowerdew ordered a troop under Lieut. Harvey, VC, to dismount and carry out a special movement, while he led the remaining three troops to the charge. The squadron (less one troop) passed over both lines, killing many of the enemy with the sword; and wheeling about galloping on them again. Although the squadron had then lost about 70 per cent of its members, killed and wounded from rifle and machine gun fire directed on it from the front and both flanks, the enemy broke and retired. The survivors of the squadron then established themselves in a position where they were joined, after much hand-to-hand fighting, by Lieut. Harvey’s part. Lieut. Flowerdew was dangerously wounded through both thighs during the operation, but continued to cheer his men. There can be no doubt that this officer’s great valour was the prime factor in the capture of the position.”

His Victoria Cross was one of twenty awarded during the battles of the German and Allied Offensives in the Amiens Area in 1918.

Today, we remember…

Well…this has been quite the post.  Can you tell that I am absolutely amazed by military history?

I missed the last two or three parts of the tour, because the story at the very next sight sent Brenda and I off, in search of her father.  At the age of one, her father died in a training accident as he was a pilot in the forces.

Our tour guide explained that typically if a plane went down at one of the many Alberta training centers, two men lost their lives, as confirmed by the matching dates on their stones.

Kath's Canon, November 11, 2015 Grade 3 Poppies, Burnsland, Bush 080We were also told that it was a very sad thing that soldiers from New Zealand and far parts of Canada came to Alberta for their training.  When a soldier died, he was buried in the country where he lost his life.  With so many pilots lost in training, this made it tremendously sad for grieving families living so far away, but it has been the way. As the group moved along, Brenda and I remained behind.  She knew only that her father had died in October, 1943 and that he was resting in Burnsland Cemetery.

After a very short time, Brenda was reunited with her father.  What an amazing experience!  May he rest in peace.

Kath's Canon, November 11, 2015 Grade 3 Poppies, Burnsland, Bush 082 Kath's Canon, November 11, 2015 Grade 3 Poppies, Burnsland, Bush 084 Kath's Canon, November 11, 2015 Grade 3 Poppies, Burnsland, Bush 085 Kath's Canon, November 11, 2015 Grade 3 Poppies, Burnsland, Bush 086 Kath's Canon, November 11, 2015 Grade 3 Poppies, Burnsland, Bush 087 Kath's Canon, November 11, 2015 Grade 3 Poppies, Burnsland, Bush 089We spent some time there…chatting…noticing the flower that was set before his stone.  As we left to walk back to our cars…I felt very grateful for the afternoon and for the opportunity to remember.

There, a short distance from my car, was my son-in-law’s friend, Brad.  Brenda and I said our good-byes, with promises to connect and I was able to take a photo of Brad along side his great grandfather’s resting place.  Such an amazing day!

Kath's Canon, November 11, 2015 Grade 3 Poppies, Burnsland, Bush 090 Kath's Canon, November 11, 2015 Grade 3 Poppies, Burnsland, Bush 091 Kath's Canon, November 11, 2015 Grade 3 Poppies, Burnsland, Bush 092 Kath's Canon, November 11, 2015 Grade 3 Poppies, Burnsland, Bush 093 Kath's Canon, November 11, 2015 Grade 3 Poppies, Burnsland, Bush 094It turned out to be quite a day for the lady with the camera…a very beautiful day!

Jenn’s Classroom on November 10, 2015

I had the morning to enjoy the fact that my egress window was under construction.  Once the crew packed up and the shop-vac was loaded into the truck, I headed over for a lovely afternoon in Jenn’s classroom!  Love what this lady does with her class, especially her writing activities!  Halloween, just passed, I have to post these…a fantastic idea for learning the art of writing descriptive paragraphs.  Give the students their own gourd!  Look at these! Amazing!

Kath's Canon, November 11, 2015 Grade 3 Poppies, Burnsland, Bush 003 Kath's Canon, November 11, 2015 Grade 3 Poppies, Burnsland, Bush 002 Kath's Canon, November 11, 2015 Grade 3 Poppies, Burnsland, Bush 001Once settled in, attendance taken, quiet reading and a recitation of ‘In Flander’s Fields’,  I got the students prepped for their afternoon Remembrance Day Liturgy in the gym.  I have to say that I’m so grateful for the Catholic School District, where we are free to openly pray and share scripture.  The celebration was so wonderfully organized by Grades 2, 4 and 5.  No surprise, but I silently shed some tears in the back of the gym where I sat…it was such a touching service.  I liked the music so much.  The grade fives sang Dropkick Murphy’s The Green Fields of France.

The Grade four choir sang, so beautifully, In Flander’s Fields. Amazing job, Tracy and Melina. I’m posting the same number performed by another children’s choir.

Once the liturgy had ended, there were only 40 minutes left to explore the poppy lesson that I had taught last week in a full afternoon.  The children, though, were so receptive and task oriented, I decided to see what we could accomplish.  Well…to my amazement…we reflected, created depictions, used oil pastel for detail after blocking the poppies in with chalk, and finally, filled in the petals with brilliant red paint.  I really like these and find the finished works remind me a lot of Georgia O’Keefe’s poppies…perhaps providing a window to a written reflection.  Thank you for your class, Jenn.  What an awesome afternoon!

I loved these sensitive little drawings so much that I’m going to post them all!

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Because

This week, tomorrow especially, we take time to think about those who have served our great country, Canada, in times of war and who have given their hearts to preserving peace throughout our history.  We remember.

We remember.

I get into lots of conversations with people about ‘memory’ and about the fact that sometimes I spend more time exploring the past than living the present.  I’m sure that some of my friends who also deeply explore their family histories and more recently, research British Home Children on behalf of other families, are also confronted this way about their preoccupation with memory and the past.  I don’t know that I would call this interest in history a hobby.  I think it’s something more.  I suppose in every generation, it is a valuable thing that some members, record, archive and sustain our histories.

As I look at the lives of British Home Children…the lives of black slaves in Canada…I am saddened when we do not find these individuals names on certain census records.  I also am disheartened when I learn fires or other natural disasters have destroyed records.  For example, while we do have some written records/narratives about David Shepard, one slave who came to the Atlantic provinces with his owner, Governor George Fanning, we can not locate his census records from Virginia, where he lived in servitude for a number of years, as a young man.  When I did the research, I learned that all records were burned in a fire.

But…I digress…again.

Recently, I began a series of posts titled, My Father’s Music.  While I have explored each piece of sheet music and archived it, I have had an amazing time talking to Dad about this music and his experience of it over Skype.  Just recently, I learned something quite magical.

Bob Pounder was a phenomenal organist who played the beautiful pipe organ in Zion United Church in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.

Zion United Church Moose Jaw organ constructed in 1907 Zion United Church Senior ChoirOften, Zion United hosted concert performers.  Because my father’s tenor voice was often accompanied by Bob Pounder, sometimes during these concerts, Dad was invited to meet the performers.  Only a few days ago, I learned that my father has met people like Mario Lanza, Paul Robeson and Lauritz Melchoir.  All three received huge international notoriety in their time. And, as my father, has said, “Where do the youth have opportunity to meet such musical geniuses today?”  He was sixteen years old and standing in the wings.  Can you imagine?  He said that Paul Robeson’s hand was huge and he had to look up at him as he was such a large man.

Mario Lanza, Dad said, performed mostly popular music in his tenor voice.  However, the two pieces I selected to post here were from films and very spirit filled.  In the selection from The Great Caruso, I am also amazed by the young choir boy’s soprano!  I’ll Walk With God was performed in the film The Student Prince.

A funny story that he shared about Lauritz Melchoir is that he was booked to perform at a certain time of the evening, but he ended up late.  It turns out that he went duck shooting and showed up at Zion, wearing his outdoor hunting clothing and boots.  He humoured the audience by sharing with them that he had heard that Saskatchewan offered some of the best duck shooting and that because he was late, he would take requests and would sing longer.  I guess it turned out to be the most awesome evening.

I can’t imagine what brought performers like these and others to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan to Zion United Church, but I think it is history that should be recorded and remembered.  Thanks, Dad, for sharing all of this!

I’m going to include here a piece by Paul Robeson, one I just love.  I’ve read some articles about Paul’s phenomenal history.  A good one is a pdf NOTE AND DOCUMENTS
Paul Robeson in Canada: A Border Story written by Laurel Sefton MacDowell.

I’m also going to post the piece Because as performed by Lauritz Melchoir.  I share this piece because Dad remembered singing this piece for several weddings in his youth.

I really treasure Dad’s memories of his music and performances.  I will never forget my Dad’s tenor voice singing so many solos throughout my childhood, youth and adult life.  These songs are very important to me.  Why?  Because.

 

Canadian Women’s Army Corps

Thanks to Pat, for organizing yet another terrific event for the sister-friends, yesterday afternoon, at the Lougheed House.  We wanted to include something special for this year’s commemoration of Remembrance Day and thought this would be different.  Proudly They Served takes into account the participation and commitment of Canadian women during World War II as they served in the Canadian Women’s Army Corps.  From the Lougheed House, programs and exhibits…

Proudly They Served: Canadian Women’s Army Corps, October 21st, 2015 until January 17th, 2016

Learn about the history of the Canadian Women’s Army Corps (CWAC) and the role of Lougheed House in providing a Calgary barracks during World War II. Hear stories firsthand in the audio tour component of the exhibit from women who worked as switchboard operators, cipher decoders, drivers, cooks and clerks during WWII. Collections featured in the exhibition include artifacts, oral histories and photographs from the Lougheed House Conservation Society, the Military Museums, the Glenbow Archives and a private collection.

WWII code breaking happened beyond Bletchley Park! Yesterday, we heard the story of Canadian Women’s Army Corp’s Veteran, Rose Wilkinson, who served as a cipher decoder. The talk was led by Lougheed House Curator, Trisha Carleton. Gathered in the beautiful Lougheed House and drinking tea from flowered cups, we enjoyed a very pleasurable and informative event.

While the sound system didn’t support the large numbers who turned out for the event, Rose was warm and well-spoken, as she shared her experience…an 18 year old farm girl who, once her two brothers went overseas, was determined to do her part in the war effort and so, against all odds, she joined up.

Many personal vignettes and narratives were shared.  Rose was grateful for the uniform, having only ever dressed in hand-me-downs.  Her brown oxfords were the first pair of brand new shoes she had ever owned.  The bunk where she slept in training was the first time she found herself actually sleeping alone, given the family’s sparse possessions.  It  took her a few nights before she got used to that.

Rose shared contributions of champion, Mary Dover to the cause, as she spoke eloquently about the differences for women in the military, at the time, as compared to a life in the military for men.  She described having had tomatoes thrown at her as she got of the train at Ottawa.  Society didn’t accept such radical change.  A woman’s place was at home.

As we listened, I could not help but feel very proud of women…not just women who served, but women at home.  Their skills became extremely diverse as they took the place of their husbands, fathers and brothers on the farms and in businesses.  In fact, just last night, I learned that my own grandmother, Florence Elliott, before even marrying my grandfather, had a job in a munitions factory, where she tamped down powder in gun shells. (A narrative I hadn’t heard until speaking about it with my father on Skype last night.)  While women’s careers in the military may still seem to us today as ‘women’s work’, these young women were among those who paved the way for women today.  Women received ninety cents a day for their service at the time, compared to the almost dollar and a ninety cents earned by the men.

Rose spoke of the fact that she was never sent overseas and regrets that to this day, but worked very hard ciphering code, specific to the Canadian armed forces.  She was only ever tempted to share messages one time…and that was when she received a code regarding her own two brothers who were listed among the missing in action.  In the end, the two had been wounded and sent home, safe.  Rose resisted the temptation to share the news with her mother at the time although she knew that her brothers were facing some sort of calamity or even dead.

When the talk concluded, I made it my business to go and introduce myself to the four female Veterans who were in attendance and to thank them for their service.  I feel so proud of them and will cherish their stories.

This exhibit will be available for viewing through to January and I strongly recommend that my readers in Calgary attend.

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Burial Rites by Hannah Kent: A Dark Love Letter

As winter comes, light fades sooner.  I set out this recent ‘read’ in order to photograph its cover, for the purpose of illustrating this post…there, on the feast table, it was too dark and I didn’t want a flash.  And so I propped it up against the back of the stove top, the over-head light, somehow very artificial.  I shivered.  The days, shorter, create a sense of landscape and environment that is in some ways, joyless.  And so, neighbours hang their orange lights and light up their jack-o-lanterns…soon to be replaced with festive Christmas lights; the act of seeking a light source in the early evenings and then, again, in morning.  Inside, after work, the heavy robes and wool socks await. It is nice to curl up in the welcoming arm of the sofa.  There is resistance to getting up after dinner and the need to go anywhere.  There is a pervasive sense of ‘waiting until spring’.

I find this such an appropriate segue into this most brief review of the book, Burial Rites by Hannah Kent.  Hannah’s voice, rich and warm, invited the listeners into the briefest of moments for her protagonist, Agnes, during her reading at a recent Wordfest event.  First time novelist, I knew that I had to purchase her book after this delivery.  So gut-wrenchingly beautiful!

I guess we exchanged a few words at the signing…I don’t remember.  I held Hannah’s hand while I spoke to her and then she signed my book.

This book IS ‘a dark love letter’.  And that, in truth, is not everyone’s ‘cup of tea’.  When I open a book, I like to be taken to a place…first.  If the setting grabs hold of my heart, then it is all I can do to put the book down.  After that, I like to get into the soul of the characters…have their motivations reveal themselves to me…embrace their imperfections.  And next, I like to be captivated by language.  I disappear into syntax and descriptive imagery.  This novel touched my soul. The novel, Burial Rites, while receiving both positive and negative reviews, is a perfect book for me.  It will remain,now, one of my treasured volumes.

Kath's Canon Burial Rites 002

Kath's Canon Burial Rites 003

Grade Threes Consider Remembrance

I read a beautifully illustrated book to the grade threes about the meaning of the poppy.  Thank you, Wilma, for leaving that for us.  I mixed up a few shades of red during the lunch hour, deciding last minute to go ahead and use tempera with the students.  I think students are always somewhat in awe when I recite the words to the poem, ‘In Flanders Fields’, by memory.  I told the grade threes that my teacher, Miss Goodrich, had us memorize it when I was in grade three.  Once in the heart, poetry never seems to leave.

I showed them a painting I did back in 1997 and told them that I hoped to show them how to depict poppies.  On the board, I showed them a symbol for poppy…how we draw or make a poppy in a simple way.

Poppy3We talked about the organic…zig zagging…crinkly texture of the poppy flower and about the construction of the central part of the flower as well.  I told them the story of my great grandfather and about how the poppies bloom in early spring in these beautiful cemeteries of France.

While I did not use this video, I suppose you might, if you don’t feel confident about drawing.

I just drew poppies from different points of view right on the white board in the classroom.  The students, on white paper folded into four, practiced depicting poppies a number of times and put a little smiley face next to the one they would use as a reference for their large composition.

I always encourage large compositions to be planned out, using white chalk.  But these days, very few schools stalk white chalk, given new technologies.  This class pulled out a red or pink or white crayon and marked their four compass points on their paper edges.  Their mouths dropped open as they could visualize that the expectation was that their poppies would touch each of those edges and be that large!  To simplify…drawings were done and revised in wax crayon, red fill in of general shapes completed; purple, yellow and black details were added last.  The poppies were then cut out.

I didn’t archive the entire process, but these photos are pretty representative.  Thank you, Wilma for your class!  They were awesome and very receptive.

Kath's Canon, October 5, 2015 Duna Sheet Music, poppies, Frank's 007 Kath's Canon, October 5, 2015 Duna Sheet Music, poppies, Frank's 006 Kath's Canon, October 5, 2015 Duna Sheet Music, poppies, Frank's 005 Kath's Canon, October 5, 2015 Duna Sheet Music, poppies, Frank's 004 Kath's Canon, October 5, 2015 Duna Sheet Music, poppies, Frank's 003 Kath's Canon, October 5, 2015 Duna Sheet Music, poppies, Frank's 002Kath's Canon, October 5, 2015 Duna Sheet Music, poppies, Frank's 009 Kath's Canon, October 5, 2015 Duna Sheet Music, poppies, Frank's 010 Kath's Canon, October 5, 2015 Duna Sheet Music, poppies, Frank's 011 Kath's Canon, October 5, 2015 Duna Sheet Music, poppies, Frank's 012 Kath's Canon, October 5, 2015 Duna Sheet Music, poppies, Frank's 013 Kath's Canon, October 5, 2015 Duna Sheet Music, poppies, Frank's 014