Beyond Remembering

Listening to Fleetwood Mac’s When I See You Again, as I type.

I wrote away to Amazon for Beyond Remembering: The collected poems of Al Purdy before driving east, the morning of my mother’s birth day,  July 27.  Since then, I’ve been pouring through the poetry and visiting the places that Canada’s poet, Al Purdy, visited and sometimes thought and wrote about.  I heard Eurithe’s strong voice over the telephone, positive and supportive and carried to me all the way from Sidney, British Columbia.  Al’s wife gave me the generous permission to use bits of Al’s poetry in my paintings, all produced in my studio bedroom, generously offered to me by my loving father his summer.

I’m still working on small panels and told myself they would be completed by September 1 and I will hold myself to that and I will rest for September, taking in the new autumn air and visit my brother and sister in Ottawa before I drive west to Calgary.

If you haven’t had a connection with Al Purdy’s writing, do give yourself that opportunity some time, when it’s right.  The summer of 2013 was the right time for me.  I had picked up George Bowering’s book about his friend, Al, his writing…and I became suddenly, profoundly connected…not just with Al Purdy’s writing, but also George Bowering’s writing and more than before, Margaret Atwood’s.  I was excited by Al’s connection to my all-time favourite author, Margaret Laurence, and went in search of correspondences between the two and poems where he wrote about her…even to the point of the description he gave in one of his poems of his writing space and the images of both Gabrielle Roy and Margaret Laurence that hung there, on his wall.

Yes…I became a fan.  George Bowering co-authored a book with Jean Baird, The Heart Does Break: Canadian Writers on Grief and Mourning.  Drowning in a dark pool of grief for my mother, all of these beautiful circumstances, all surfacing through poetry, writing and literature, gave me a nudge into my personal journey of grief.  I have to say that tentatively, visually, my relationship with the folk of the Gorilla House (you know who you are) and then the Rumble House in Calgary, also provided a string to my practice.  But, I have to face it, for years, I’ve been broken and not particularly functioning on any level as an artist.  I painted in my head and pulled off these two hour blast outs every Wednesday night.  I was happy to let go of them at auction on the same night because I was suffering too much to want to hold on.

Somehow, I knew that this summer I had to create a segue into my practice of painting.  I had unloaded all of the furniture and other stuff that I had pushed into my studio space, as a physical way of avoiding painting.  I finished projects that were created as a way of distracting me from the fear, the incapacitation and the flat out avoidance of canvas or panel or paint.

And so I find myself here, painting the shape of Purdy’s words, in as much as I can over a period of four weeks.  I am sitting here crying as I type.  Dad isn’t home.  Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Nicks…singing to me through the single speaker.  And…I feel good to be in the act of painting again.  A bit illustrative in nature, I don’t necessarily believe that this is the direction my work is going…but, it is the beginning of the direction and for that, I’m grateful.  It makes sense that I should begin in this beautiful, lush, humid, Victorian city of Belleville, on the edge of the Bay of Quinte…not far from Purdy’s resting place and his little A Frame on Roblin Lake.  I know that when I get home, I already have a ‘shitload’ of content from a pond that I love, that will give me a subject for my winter’s exploration.

I will add the poems, a bit at a time, to this post…I really need to get back to those small panels I mentioned.  After all, it’s the 28th of August.

Mom, I love you.  I love you with all of my heart.   Something about what I’ve painted this summer is about you…home…Canada…experience that is the very most mundane…things in the day-to-day that all too often go unnoticed.   Painting again, with joy…not pain…is home for me.

Thanks to Mary and Pat…two friends back in Calgary, who tentatively asked…and supported my journey of grief as it related to my painting.  Thanks to Pricilla.  You know why.  Thanks to my Dad, who feeds me.

The paintings can be seen, thanks to the generous opportunity given by Lisa Morris and Peter Paylor at Artists and Artisans: Studio and Gallery on Front Street, show beginning on Thursday, September 6, with a bit of a sha-bang on the 11th from 2-4 and with the potential of after hours viewing any time.  I hope some of you can see these.

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From the poem, May 23, 1980 in the collection, Beyond Remembering…the final stanza.

I have grown old
but these words remain
tell her for me
because it’s very important
tell her for me
there will come one May night
of every year that she’s alive
when the whole world smells of lilacs.

Al Purdy

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Threads in our Tapestries

One of the last things Ramona said to me before we shared our last hug and she headed out in search of 401 east, was that we’ve always been a thread in the tapestries of our lives and it is so true.  We have stories that go back to this time…

RamonaRamona and I spent two evenings and a full day of magic yesterday and of course, I had to post a wee tribute to that in the form of a blog post.  I haven’t a lot of words, because in some strange way I feel drained…elated…reflective and so, more than anything I take pause.  I’m replaying the song that she mentioned on our morning wake up yesterday morning.

I took Ramona on a magical trip into the county, as far as Sandbanks Provincial Park, the beach and the dunes, with stops including downtown Belleville, Oeno outdoor sculpture Gardens and Gallery, Ameliasburgh for cemetery walking and museum gawking, Picton for lunch and wandering and, of course, a stop for a Reid’s icecream cone.  I am grateful to remember Ramona as one of those people who was formative in my vision of who I wanted to become in life and how I wanted to get there.  Ramona has humility although she has accomplished such great things. Given service with the Peace Corp in Chile, Peru and Guyana, Ramona knows what, of life, is valuable and has a healthy relationship with ‘stuff’. She is smart about almost everything.  She treasures those who are in her life and is positive, supportive and empathetic.  Ramona is the light that comes into a grey day and washes everything with hope.  Not perfect, she has used her imperfections, struggles and sorrow, to throw trouble on its head.  Ramona rises to the surface.  I want to never take any of this for granted.  I have been so fortunate.

Our day was touched by Monarch butterflies and heart felt stories, everywhere we went.

IMG_0755IMG_0764 IMG_0774 IMG_0780 IMG_0783IMG_0767 The cemetery edges on a conservation area…lovely scene…very pastoral.  It was a dry summer as is evidenced by the vegetation.  If I have the time, I’ll place a mum here, before I head east…I placed an acorn on Al Purdy’s stone.  I’m grateful for the way that his poetry has inspired so much painting this summer!IMG_0770 IMG_20160826_114603848The Ameliasburgh Museum….Ramona and I figured on so many ways that we might make it more accessible to visitors.  We would do a bit of a redo and that had us giggling and analyzing throughout our wander. Honey cans and apiary stuff…I DID feel grateful that the citizens have been gathering and preserving history.

IMG_0785 IMG_0786 IMG_0787Wool and fibers…of course, I always have an interest in such as this. IMG_0793

IMG_0788Church archives and objects from a number of local churches. IMG_0789 IMG_0790Down at the cemetery, we met some very friendly people who were direct descendants of the Roblin family and they shared the art events that were coming up at the county over the long weekend.   IMG_0794 IMG_0795 IMG_0796 Of course…the old school house!IMG_0797 IMG_0798 IMG_20160826_121517345_HDR IMG_20160826_121727636Oeno…

IMG_0805 IMG_0804 IMG_20160826_125411020 IMG_20160826_125404478_HDR IMG_20160826_125525271 IMG_20160826_125134559 IMG_20160826_125059528IMG_0800 IMG_0801IMG_0799 IMG_20160826_125006354IMG_20160826_130559737 IMG_20160826_125530387IMG_0813 IMG_0814 IMG_0817 IMG_20160826_125658030IMG_0807 IMG_0808 IMG_0810 IMG_0812 IMG_0820 IMG_0819 IMG_0821 IMG_20160826_130955334After Oeno, we were famished and so high tailed it to Picton where we found a lunch spot that made up our desired menu for us…more stories…more easing into the day and two satisfied tummies.  A little shop and then off we headed for Sandbanks.

IMG_0823 IMG_0824 IMG_0828 IMG_0831 Wormwood or Artemnisia, the natural provision for Absinthe.IMG_0834 IMG_0837 IMG_0839Milkweed… IMG_0841 Wild grapes…IMG_0843 We’ve walked Lake Michigan together…now, Lake Ontario!IMG_20160826_145741773 IMG_20160826_145715993 IMG_20160826_155039307I’ll post the Ramona-ready-to-drive-off photo, when I’m feeling less emotional about it, tomorrow.  I love that girl!

 

The Idea of North

The AGO has hosted an exhibit titled The Idea of North: The Paintings of Lawren Harris curated by Steve Martin.  The show opened on July 1 and comes down on September 16.  While I won’t have a chance to take this one in, I was able to attend a local exhibit at the John M. Parrott Gallery here in Belleville, titled A Tribute to Lawren Harris, co-curated by Peter Paylor and Susan Holland, featuring 21 different artist’s works.

In neighbouring Gallery One, Valerie Kent exhibited her works In Celebration of Markets, a flamboyant and culturally charged exhibit that was very compementary of the Harris Tribute exhibit.  Fun to get out and see a show and picked up a book written by Belleville-born writer, Frances Itani, Deafening, at the second hand shop in the front gathering space.

A lovely and reflective time for me in the city and a lovely diversion as I was eagerly awaiting my high school buddy’s arrival for a girlfriend visit and walk down memory lane.

The pendant below…work by Lisa Morris.

IMG_0740 IMG_0741 Thus, if I paint a house…I assume the shape of that particular house, experience its form, its meaning, its relationship to the soil it rises from, the skies that bathe it in reflection of their colours and mood, the neighbouring houses, the mood of the particular house, its age, its inner life; and the more direct my experience of that is, the more I permit that house to dictate to me how I hall paint it and the more certain I am to arrive at pure experience in my art and to create an intense equivalent in terms of my art or my first hand experience.  If my experience is clear and deep enough, the life I get into my picture of that house and the formal relations it dictates for its own expression will become universal.  – Lawren HarrisIMG_0743 IMG_0744 IMG_0745 IMG_0746 IMG_0747 IMG_0748 IMG_0749 Sculpture by Peter Paylor IMG_0754Valerie Kent’s work.IMG_0751 IMG_0752IMG_0750

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

The summer of 2013, I was also staying with my father.  That is the summer that India swooped into my hands and I read her.  Grieving for my mother, I went deep into a couple of epic narratives, Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts and A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry.  I immersed myself, much as I am this summer, in a lot of Al Purdy poetry and George Bowering poetry, as a way of dealing with loss and feelings that not only bubbled onto the surface, but became like open boils on my heart.  To go back further, to the summer of 2011,  I became captivated by Belleville and picked up everything I could that was written by Gerry Boyce, local historian (who happens to now live in my father’s building), and began stalking Susanna Moodie; visiting her house on Bridge Street west, visiting her resting place, even locating original marble at Campbell’s monuments and of course, read her writing and what others wrote about her and her sister, Catherine Parr Trail.  Summers with my father have proved to be interesting literary events, every time.

This summer, I brought along The Goldfinch by Donna Tarttt, a novel that every one was talking about, but one that I had not taken the time to read.  In retrospect, I regret that I did not previously read The Secret History.  In most reviews I find that there are comparisons being drawn between the two books and typically, The Secret History surpasses the other for its construction, originality and popularity.  It’s now on my ‘to do’ list.

So…my thoughts on a book that is likened, in part, to Rowling’s Harry Potter, Dickens and Breaking Bad?  I guess I can only review this one through my own eyes and that’s why literary reviews can be very interesting…they are so personal.  Dr. Joan Macleod’s words come to mind. “You notice what you know.”  Anything you do, see or understand is coming from a prior knowledge and experience, without any intention to do so.  While I may perceive some Goodreads reviews to be desperately arrogant where this novel is concerned, I can’t fault those authors because they may have been looking for something very different where a ‘good book’ is concerned.

I have no choice but to break this one down…

First and foremost, for me, is that ‘THE GOLDFINCH’ (the 1654 painting done by  Carel Pietersz. Fabritius ) was the element (yes, it became a character for me) that I would not lose sight of throughout the novel.  I fell in love with the painting at the first moment that Theo saw it through his mother’s eyes.  Once described by the author, I was captivated.  I would be concerned from that point forward until the end, about what was to happen to the painting, but also, what the painting had to say to me, the reader.

Now, not every one would be captivated by the painting and its symbolism.  I would propose that readers who have adored a piece of art in a dusty art textbook or on an art card or reproduction for years and then see it for the first time ‘in the flesh’, know what I’m talking about, here.  Edgar Degas’s sculpture, The Little Dancer, is that for me.  I saw the sculpture in so many forms, but until I saw it in three dimensions in the center of a room at the National Art Gallery, the first exhibit to be showcased in the new building the summer of 1988, I did not realize just how much a person can be left breathless by art.

I remembered weeping when I saw her. (but enough of that)

The point being that, while others are annoyed by the last fifteen pages of the novel, I was engrossed in them.  An examination of the subject of the painting and its treatment was crucial to me.  While many readers found the high keyed description annoying, excessive and boring, I lavished in it, likely because I’m that sort of writer. (this makes me laugh)  To be honest, though, there were sections in Las Vegas where I tuned out…also, places where I found myself skimming.  Did that happen for you?

Some critics describe the portion of the book set in Las Vegas to be the strongest portion, but this was the section I had the most difficulty with.  Not to draw comparisons, but it was the drug culture and experience in Shantaram that I found the least interesting.  I find that ‘druggies’ quickly become treated as stereotypical mono-faceted characters.  There isn’t anything that surprises me in the writing of their habits, their related bad choices or the consequences of those.  I really didn’t care ‘how many’ pills Boris or Theo were taking…or how much vodka they were drinking.  So, can you tell?  This section rubbed me the wrong way.  (Note that I’m trying not to ruin the story for others here, by being rather vague.)  I guess we needed Vegas because we needed to know Theo’s father.  Boris just rubbed me the wrong way…throughout.  I wasn’t all that taken by his character, the way he was written or the seamless way that he managed to undo his past mistake.  Oh my!  That was all too easy and a disappointment.  (no spoiler alert required…see!)  READ THE BOOK.

What I loved…apart from the Goldfinch…the painting…the symbolism there…Welty’s love for the painting, Theo’s mother…

I relished everything and anything to do with the old house, the writing of Hobie and his life in the downstairs wood shop.  Pour on the detail!  Would this engage every reader? No.  But, moi???  YES!  Antiques, wood, bric-a-brac, trades, recuperation, recreation and the interesting characters who came and went in Hobie’s life.  This was the ‘stuff’ of life and I think that Theo had stability in this setting.  It was a relief whenever and however he landed there.  Pippa was a beautiful maiden…a disappointment that the relationship didn’t feel resolved, but interesting none-the-less.

Andy and the Barbour family…another layer of story, a setting, somehow separate from the number of others.  The Barbour family becomes a microcosm, each character struggling in a unique way.  One can get wrapped up in their world, as well.  Written as a separate, but somehow connected, passage to the larger narrative, the ‘endings’ for each of these characters become concerning and the reader is left asking, “How does any of this impact Theo, after all?”

My readers, here, may have already wondered about the multiple settings and the long litany of characters…well, I suppose that this is where Tartt receives most of her criticism.  In the end, however, I view the book, in culmination, as a fanciful narrative about everything that is ‘us’…the traumas, the celebration, the consequences and the histories within one life.

I am staying in an apartment building that overlooks a very Victorian landscape, well manicured lawns and beautifully constructed, if not ornamental, homes.  I’ve met so many individuals who live here and each one comes with their own complex story.  This book is like that, oodles of tales within a single character’s life time.  They enter and they depart and at the end of it, we are left with the tale of a single image, an object of affection and the fact that it was something that remained, however ephemeral.

A Goldfinch bound by a small tether…for a lifetime…to its own life.

I recommend the book and will be looking for The Secret History.

I liked this review/analysis.  You might also.

 

goldfinch-donna-tarttMy Shantaram Review

 

 

 

 

A Splinter In the Heart

An adaptation of the coming-of-age story written by Al Purdy, A Splinter in the Heart was performed, yesterday afternoon,  by the Festival Players at Rosehall Run in the county.  The screenplay adaptation was written by David Carley.

What a beautiful Reader’s Theater to watch…under the blue sky…under the white tent…on the edge of a vineyard.  It was absolutely magical.

Directly from Carley’s site, I’ve included some lines from the play.  From these lines on, both Carolyn and I wept quietly in our seats…right until the very end.  And how appropriate that I should have mapped in an ancient tree on a large panel before Dad and I headed out to the venue early in the afternoon.  I just completed the painting late this afternoon.

‘Portugee would ask, “You ever stand in a pine grove, Patrick? It’s like you feel yourelf changing into a tree. There’s a brown forest floor under your feet from the needles, and there’s wind, higher up, a sound of the sky. Yep, for just an instant, you feel like a tree. And the trees themselves, they was made into ships, sailing ships for all the seas. And I always wonder, “Did them trees ever feel what it was like to be a ship?”

You ever feel like a tree, he’d ask? And every time he asked it, I knew it was the ONLY thing that was worth feeling.’

I didn’t know that Bob and Carolyn were attending and I was so excited to see them! Over the years,  I have worked with drama students on various reader’s theater performances, including my favourite, Love You Forever, by Robert Munch.  I always wrote my own scripts for these performances.  I’ve also seen some professional productions by One Yellow Rabbit and really enjoyed those, also.  But, I have to say, yesterday afternoon’s performance definitely tugged at my heart strings.

The sound devices and staging of the production were fantastic, along with the exquisite performances of the actors.  I will always remember this production.  Very powerful, in its execution and in its content.

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On the evening of Gord Downie’s final performance with the Tragically Hip, just up the 401 in Kingston…this.

The Belleville Club: An Open Mic Session

My ‘Connectors’ (read Malcolm Gladwell’s work) here in Belleville are Lisa Morris and Peter Paylor.  The other night they brought me into a circle of live music and friendship at ‘the ol’ boy’s club’ in Belleville.  How cool is that?  I met some very friendly and lovely creatives during this live mic session, a night demonstrating the variety of music and energy that weaves through this beautiful city, edging on the Bay of Quinte.  The photographs pretty much say it all…just want to make sure that I document things as they unfold during my stay.

I’m trying to balance socializing a bit…engaging the landscape…and painting, while visiting Dad.  It’s a different sort of trip this time around because I brought a good part of my studio with me.  I’ll eventually get around to writing about that experience as well, but shortly, I’ve got to head back to the easel, so here is a representation of the images I collected during the music and the fun.  Thanks to Larraine Milligan, an awesome figurative artist, for showing me the upstairs rooms in the club.

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A Turtle Pond

Just down the hill from my father’s home, edging on the Waterfront Trail, a section of the Trans Canada Trail, is a wee piece of magic, a turtle pond.  I spent some time exploring the edge of the pond as I was snapping photographs of ancient trees, in preparation for the last large painting that I’m working on, here in Belleville.

The light and the textures during this afternoon stroll, were remarkable!  The turtle antics were simply fun to watch!

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The Lake on the Mountain

Dad, my Auntie Mary and I headed up to the Lake of the Mountain in a bit of an around-about way, but that was okay.  We had a wonderful lunch (Dad’s treat), but I failed to get one of the waiters to snap a photograph of the three of us.  I think that this is a beautiful piece of landscape, with an interesting physical story.  I love coming here.

I remember, first, visiting the Lake on the Mountain the summer that my sister got married.  I’ve also enjoyed a lunch at the very same restaurant with my dear friends, John and David.

IMG_0490 IMG_0488 IMG_0484 IMG_0483 IMG_0481IMG_0497IMG_0501 IMG_0500IMG_0483The Lake on the Mountain will be starting to bottle their wonderful beers in the autumn; they are presently just sold by the keg.  I had a Reuben sandwich along with an IPA dark and it was a delicious pairing.

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IMG_0478 IMG_0477Good to see that my Auntie Mary is colouring in her colouring books!  Loved seeing her!  Thanks for the lunch, Dad!

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Perching on the Edge of the Bay of Quinte

Thank you, Maureen, for lunch.  Sharing time with dear friends is such a gift.  You have a pretty spectacular view from your balcony and I love how you were able to bring so much of your gardens to your new residence with you!  Thank you for lunch and conversation.  A real blessing!

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Elements of a cozy home…things that grow.

Good friends…dear friends.

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Dad…IMG_0346

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Dad Bottles Wine at Cold Creek Winery

It’s always nice to document something a little out-of-the-ordinary.  Dad has been working with Dave at Cold Creek Winery at 21 Mill Street, Frankford ever since he bought and made up his own kits out on Glen Miller Road, out Frankford-way.

I wasn’t any help at all, but enjoyed the interactions and the chat while Dad, assisted by Dave, bottled up three boxes of vino together.  Dave isn’t a real ‘technology/social media’ dude, but he offers such personalized and friendly business that he’s as busy as he needs to be!  I enjoy that, he’s an art enthusiast and a bit of a historian as well, so the stories that he shares are always colourful and entertaining.  I’ve always left having learned things, from my visits at Cold Creek and that’s awesome!

The process involves washing and rinsing bottles, filling, corking and heat-wrapping the tops.  Fantastic…and likely only took thirty minutes in total, maybe 45 because I learned about Dave’s enthusiasm for the art of artist, R. G. (Gary) Miller.  When I got home, I looked up his history and the back-story on the Mush Hole work and was saddened and captivated, all at the same time.

The image of the wooden sculpture that I’m going to post, a heron in flight, is not a completed sculpture, but was carved by Dave’s father.  It is so beautiful.

Thank you, Dave and Dad, for such a great afternoon.

Wine, of every variety, in carboys…everywhere!

IMG_0355 IMG_0356 Washing and rinsing…IMG_0361 IMG_0362 IMG_0363This gizmo vacuums the completed recipe into the bottles. IMG_0364 IMG_0366 Corker…my Dad’s a tough guy still!  Did the whole job!IMG_0367Yes!  That’s right!  A Calgary Flames jersey hanging out here in Ontario! IMG_0368 Stories abound, at this point.IMG_0371 IMG_0372 IMG_0375 IMG_0377Yup!  That would be 21 Mill Street…back in the day. IMG_0379 IMG_0380Front of the store. IMG_0382Beauty. IMG_0383Grateful…now, for a glass!