About Painter Lady

In love with life and the wee surprises, like transparent bubbles...moments that are the magic of everything!

Friends, Family and Feasting!

I think that if you’re living in Calgary, you’re likely really happy that this has been a long weekend.  Tonight, folks are washing their work clothes and there’s the smell of steam in the air as the shirts get pressed for the coming week.  It was glorious to have that extra day.  While this weekend has seen a return of winter, it has certainly been warmed by friendship, family and feasting!

I was listening to CBC radio in the kitchen early this morning.  There was a great interview about walking, featuring explorer, Erling Kagge. It kept me happy as I drank my hot cup of coffee and prepared a nice brunchy meal for my family.

Food brings people together.  Yesterday I headed to beautiful Wendy’s home, where she has taken on a monthly gathering called Brunch with Buds. For this event, I made, for the first time, a batch of Chai french toast.  I was excited and looking forward to seeing my friends and meeting new ones.  Conversations flowed  and wove in and out of the cozy rooms.  Surrounded by art, good smells and music we were all put to ease and the stresses of the world fell away, at least for a short time.

I caught Jocelyn, mid-sentence.  But, look at that cute waffle maker!

Educator, ally, life long learner, artist and lover of live music, this is a strong woman! I Love you, Jocelyn!

Anam Kazim is a former member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta.  Here, she is posing in front of a portrait that was a collaboration of create! participants when Wendy initiated a number of classes and events in the East Village as it related to the Golden Age Club, at the time.  Artist and photographer, Michael Collette, spearheaded this collaboration.

Anam is open, warm and very articulate and presently exploring entrepreneurial pursuits, offering health and wellness solutions via natural/herbal medicine.  Anam is a strong woman.

I caught Karen Pickles in this beautiful shot.  What a driven and inspiring woman who cares for and is motivated by needs of ‘the other’.  She is another one of our circle who loves live music and is a maker.  Her mediums include film and paint, but are not limited to those.  She is the President and CEO of Stresscase and she is a strong woman!

Steven and Katrine are in deep conversation.  It might be that they are talking about Jazz, or possibly Beakerhead.  Katrine is a Geologist…that makes two Geologists in my circle of friends.  By sharing in these brunches, Wendy is giving us the opportunity to put our heads together.  I just love it!  Steven is on his way to becoming a jazz percussionist.  He inspires me.  He also has such a sense of humour.  I like that he can make me laugh so easily.  I wish I could laugh more.

I really wanted to capture a particular sensibility here, with Stephen as my subject; the hyacinth to the right, the boxes of inspirational cards and angel cards stacked on the coffee table.  Stephen is a writer and he is also one of the most incredibly supportive people I know.  His calm demeanor helps me to open up and over the years I’ve felt I can trust him with my ideas, my challenges.  He is steadfast.  I didn’t capture his blue eyes here, but he has incredible blue eyes.  Stephen is a good human being.

Suzanne Presinel looked so familiar to me, but this was our first time meeting in a situation where we could sit back and chat about ALL SORTS of topics.  We realized at some point that we’ve encountered one another at Esker programs…where Suzanne volunteers on a regular basis.  The most wonderful thing is that she is deeply entrenched in the Boomerang Bag Global Grassroots Movement, here in Calgary.  Suzanne is a strong woman.

The food….well, the food was exceptional.  That’s all I can say.  Beautiful coffee was served and the various dishes were scrumptious.  Just look at this salmon mousse and the wee chicks on this serving dish!!

Here’s a strong woman!  Lauraine has just grown to be such a special and supportive friend.  She is an amazing mother and she is a remarkable person to have in my circle.  Always helpful, she seems to fill gaps.  Lauraine is creative and like so many of us, she too, loves live music.  She inspires me to seek balance and to takes steps to simplify my life.  She is a practicing Psychologist as well as part of a high school student services team.  I can only imagine that Lauraine is likely making a huge impact on people’s lives, especially adolescent lives.  We need more like her.

I’ve met Sarah before and know her to be a generous and caring neighbour.  She loves fun and is open.  This is her friend, Kat, who I met for the first time.  I have to say that I really enjoyed our conversation and look forward to seeing her again.

And here she is….Wendy. She is the lady who made this wonderful brunch happen! Wendy is smart, funny and has a huge heart.  She works so hard.  No one works harder…but always work that makes for good and that she loves.  Wendy is a connector.  She has brought a world of people together over time.  When with Wendy, the conversation is inspiring and positive.  Despite the troubles in the world or in the community or even close to home, Wendy is one of those people who looks at a situation and asks herself, “What is it that I can do?”  She brings the positive into conversations.  She is a maker!  So much collaborative work and creation happens within our city because she makes it happen.  Teaching at the Colonel Belcher, the Central Library….working with innovators and linking up with Mount Royal…and let us NOT FORGET her amazing abilities as a creative in the kitchen.  Food just tastes way better when Wendy prepares it!  Thank you for the blessing of your friendship, Wendy.  You are such a strong woman.

I drove home feeling energized, with a whole number of conversations floating in my mind.  It was time to clean my house.  I was excited that today I would host my family for a nice hot breakfast.

Photos?  Not a one!  I guess that speaks to the fact that we were totally wrapped up in…..nope, not the food….my grandson!!  I shared Steven’s home made Valentine’s paintings with everyone and then it was all about the french toast, for Steven.

I’m grateful for my children and for Shawn and Doug.  I felt blessed.  Thank you to Cayley and Shawn for bringing our celebratory Prosecco and orange juice!  My family means the world to me.

Oh!  I DID get one photograph….QWIRKLE board!  One game under our belts!

Love and Heartache With the Hello Darlins

Video

As I sit down to write about an evening of Love and Heartache, I take pause, wondering how musicians feel about amateur videos being plastered around on-line. I’d like to post a couple here, but I hesitate. I’ll continue to take pause until such a time as I can connect with the artists. (Alright…so, I have permission, but my oh my, this takes time.) Return tomorrow for the inclusion of a little bit of music!) If anyone wants to see Purple Rain or the introductory acts, just let me know and I’ll add them.

It would have been a blessing if I had the opportunity on Valentine’s evening to babysit my grandson so that his Mommy and Daddy could enjoy the evening together. I know that my daughter had stocked the snack cupboard with chips and gin, so I was set. Their little family has been really really busy lately and dealing with, it seems, one type of cold or flu after another for a month, now. However, I was only too happy to accept the invitation to attend the selected event with my daughter, alone, because her husband had been struggling with illness for the entire week.

Kit Johnson, who, it turns out, attended Widdifield High School, as I did, in North Bay, Ontario back in the late 60s, was the opening act on the Ironwood stage. The show would be one dedicated to songs of Love and Heartbreak. It was obvious, from the start, that there was a positive and supportive audience gathered and I knew it was going to be a good-vibe sort of evening. I was really happy to be sharing an event with my daughter! Patrick led us in and we were seated in the very front, sharing a table with a lovely couple who seemed lit up with cheerfulness. Almost immediately, they shared that they were delighted to pick up these tickets for Valentine’s night.

Here, Kit is sharing the stage with Calgary-based vocalist/producer Candace Lacina and keyboardist/producer Mike Little. Hello Darlins was comprised of a fabulous cast of professional studio musicians. Apart from the percussionist, every single person did vocals that night and GOOD vocals, to boot.

The evening was a generous outpouring of talent, voices and positive intention. The music was top notch as a whole variety of blues, Americana and country spilled out into the crowd. Special guest, Joey Landreth, certainly contributed skill and energy to the mix! It was a perfect night!

I have the sweetest clip of guitarist, Murray Pulver, playing a tune that he sang to his bride twenty years ago, this after announcing that he didn’t think he had done the number since. Nice interlude from Joey. Love spilled forth as he performed.

Loree Harris Macdonald has a warm and buttery voice and did a fabulous job as back up singer to these dynamos. Such a commitment to the art was so evident in all of the musicians who shared this stage.

Allison Granger’s fiddle music and vocals…unbelievably sweet! Oh, man. No photos…most of the time, I was gobsmacked, singing along or recording. I have a cool one where she breaks out in a solo after Joey hands it over to her…so wonderful. That’s Mike Little on the organ. Amazing, dude!

Brett Ashton was tucked away in the back, near percussion (Thank you, Kent Macrae!) but seriously, who doesn’t love the bass? Big surprise?? The man can sing! I think mouths dropped and there was a hush in the room as he sang…if you can stand the cliche…like an angel.

I got pictures of this man. Who wouldn’t? He happened to be standing right in front of us. A remarkable musician! See Joey Landreth perform! Check out some of the professional videos published out there and wet your whistles. I suppose when people share their little bits from concerts, they are trying to capture a memory, as much as anything. They rarely represent the musicality, sound or the beauty and aesthetic of the event.

Producer/songwriter/performer Daron Schofield was exceptional, leading us near the tail end of the second set, with an interpretation of Purple Rain. I recorded the whole darned thing, I was so smitten, so I didn’t get a still photo. I wanted my sister-friend (a HUGE PRINCE FAN) to see the recording. In the end, I’m sad that I didn’t get a nice portrait shot.

As for Candace and Mike, well, they just seem to have hearts that are constantly bursting open and sharing good feeling with all. In fact, I was surprised that at the break, Candace made her way to me and hugged me because she felt so supported by me as I sang along. She agreed with me that the energy in the audience was magical. In the meantime, Mike was congratulating Larry and Cory, who, it turned out, were celebrating their 32nd wedding anniversary on Valentine’s Day.

This post hardly captures or even summarizes the energy and love that filled the Ironwood on Valentine’s night. Erin and I were tired when we set out to attend the event that night, agreeing that we needn’t stay for the whole show. In the end, I was thrilled by the show from beginning until end and we finally made our way slowly to the door during the encore. I highly recommend Hello Darlins, if you see tickets go up anywhere in our fair province.

Good to see you, Jackie and Rick!

If you’re in the band and this makes its way to you…let me know if I can post a clip or two. It was a brilliant performance. Thanks, Kit.

Tanya Tagala and Sheila Watt-Cloutier at Convention

Thursday was a beautiful day. Cayley and I attended Teacher’s Convention together.  I’m proud that my daughter has chosen the teaching profession and prouder, still, that she takes her profession to heart.  She is a strong woman.  We share in a lot of the same concerns for our planet and its people.  We also really believe that there’s a lot of power in education and that it is essential to change, healthy perceptions and strength of character.

I have been blessed that over the last while, I’ve had a number of strong women coming into my circle,  These include artists, writers, mentors and friends. I feel in awe of their abilities to inspire and build up communities, families and their own experiences in so many impacting ways.  Strong women have always been in my life; don’t get me wrong.  But, recently, I’ve been really looking at what these women have done to influence me.  I’m noticing them more.

Our sessions in the afternoon began with a talk by Tanya Tagala, author of Seven Fallen Feathers and All Our Relations.  (No photos for any convention sessions, so, I’m sharing one of the Massey Hall lectures delivered by Tanya…very similar content.)

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This was a very powerful talk, delivered with humour, honesty and generosity.  Tanya’s first hand experiences and personal narratives increased our understanding of our story as Canadians.  I know that many of my readers do not feel as I do on issues of Indigenous peoples and their rights.  We are willing to fight for the rights of others, but so often neglect our responsibilities to our Indigenous, Metis and Inuit neighbours across the nation.  I just don’t see how we can walk away from the treaties that our ancestors signed, in good faith.  We are all treaty people.  This is not an imagined past.

I value Tanya’s work; her writing and her voice.  She is strong and positive and she speaks the truth.  Every child deserves safety, clean water and shelter….it is not a child’s fault that they were born under the weight of history!

Cayley and I went for a movement break after the talk.  We were quiet for the most part, but talked a bit about the open mic question session and what questions we feel are still unanswered for us. We were reviewing, in our minds, what needs to happen to shift our delivery of content in our classrooms.  It was lovely to meet up with Lana and Heather during the break.

Next, we heard, in the same hall, Sheila Watt-Cloutier, a beautiful woman who I had met a Mount Royal University some years ago, with my sister-friend, Karen.   I feel blessed to have had a second opportunity to hear Sheila speak and encourage my readers to take the opportunity when you can.  Please read her book, The Right to Be Cold.

Sheila shared a great deal of information and global concern for the melting north and the melting permafrost.  We need this global cooling system.  There are species that now arrive in the north, never-identified by the Inuit peoples.  This strikes me as a manifestation of our consumption and greed.  It is so easy to forget Canada’s north, abandoning her for all of the social and economic concerns of the south.  We need to make these connections and be more deliberate in our protection of her.

There were such stiff rules about picture taking…and procedural rules around book-signing, but Cayley managed to grab a quick photo from a distance of Sheila and me, together, in conversation.

This is not a very becoming photograph…but…I took an opportunity to chat, give a context and express my interest.  Sheila is a beautiful, authentic and very smart woman who has accomplished great and wonderful things in her life.  Thanks, Cayley for sitting on the sidelines and capturing this engagement.  Does it seem like anyone around me is concerned?

After the session, Cayley and I went To Bar Anna Bella’s for a cocktail and to bond.  It was a lovely relaxed atmosphere and we were all on our own.  I had the Osmoz Gin from France.  Yum!!  Magic!

As we left, the winter festival was setting up.  I found it ironic and a little sad that this is what met us just around the corner.  Interesting that a great big ‘plastic’ igloo should appear out of nowhere.  Calgary moved on to the Glow Festival.

 

 

 

 

An Hour With Anna Gustafson

Sometimes it feels like I’m flying in to the evening programs at Esker Foundation.  The trek north on Deerfoot Trail is never optimal around the dinner hour.  It seems that the folk who have struggled their way south through rush hour traffic have made their way home for their wardrobe changes and are then all headed back to the core for their evening events.  Calgary is such a sprawl!  All that aside, when the program lists are published for the Esker Foundation, I always try to log on and register and fill in my calendar for the coming months.

Today, Anna Gustafson delivered a ‘making’ workshop at the Esker.  These programs are especially inspiring.  Because I wasn’t able to fit this one in, I was really motivated to listen to her talk last night and to see her work in Esker’s Project Space.  This exhibit, titled Object Lessons is accessible from the huge picture windows on street level 9th Ave SE.

Anna spoke about her transition from a piece titled Ghost Salmon (very serendipitous) into her shrouded works.  Initially, the image that she projected on to the screen of her Ghost Salmon work brought me back to some ideas I had once explored in my own studio.  My brother, Cliff, who runs a salmon charter in Comox named Cliff’s Chinook Charters, now has this piece at home with him.

Anna described her connection with other species and her sense of urgency around having a deep regard for sustainability.  I felt as though we were connected in our thoughts through some sort of umbilical…I was captivated.

Enjoy Anna’s beautiful website and click on this link in order to read through her process.

As she spoke about shrouding objects that represent our full-on consumption, I thought very much about the bags of litter I picked for such a long period of time at a single pond here in south Calgary.  Nothing ever seemed to change about the landscape that I picked….after months and years of clearing the flats, new litter would just move on in.  It came in waves.  It was no wonder that Anna’s fish nets filled to the brim with shrouded single use plastics hit me in the gut.

The exhibit is happening, in partnership with the New Gallery and Anna Gustafson is extending an invitation to the public to help her with the harvesting of particular household objects including remote controls, film and slide projectors, film cans, slide carousels, flashlights along with white cotton and linen fabric for shrouding. Donations can be brought to The New Gallery from 3 February to 19 April.

Anna has a very detailed record of where she is gathering these objects, as seen below.

I find it interesting that as I attended a second event last evening, I should still be thinking about Anna’s work as I encountered this display.  Well done, Anna, and thank you.  Thank you, Esker Foundation.

Painting From the Ground Up!

I will often have elementary teachers ask me why I paint on coloured construction paper rather than white paper or manilla coloured paper.  First off…let’s talk about a ground.

ground or primer is the background surface on which you paint. It is usually a coating such as a gesso primer, which physically separates your painting from the support. It is the foundation of a painting, applied onto the raw canvas, paper, or other support.

When it comes to elementary children, the teacher can provide the foundation for any painting and drive her/his own chosen outcome, in a way, by selecting the colour of the ground.  I always recommend construction paper.  It is reasonably priced, compared to the cost of bond paper and it has tooth!  Just like the teeth in our heads, paper has tooth.  The more tooth, the more easily it is for oil pastels, chalk pastels and tempera paint to adhere.  This is something to think about as you choose your activities and this is something they don’t always teach YOU in your methods classes.  Believe me, the learning never ends.

I thought that this week I might try painting the same subject (Valentines) with Division I students, but provide different coloured grounds.  What happens when you create a ground other than white, is that you highly energize the surface before you even begin.  It feels exciting and fun to go ahead with a project.  Next, a coloured ground will do something to colour, in this case, tempera paint.  Sometimes the effect is NOT desired…you will learn what works by experimenting with what is stock piled in your storage spaces.  Let the students leave little bits of their paper ‘shining’ through in places.  Notice how delightful these are compared to white paper coming through in places.

This week, with grades one, two and three, I reinforced the techniques of using a flat brush to make wide lines and the same brush to make thin lines.  Demonstrate, initially, to show the students how to pivot their brush to create thin lines.  They are actually surprised by this simple tip.  Now…for the grounds.

PURPLE CONSTRUCTION PAPER GROUND

BLUE CONSTRUCTION PAPER GROUND

YELLOW CONSTRUCTION PAPER GROUND

The paint colours you provide the children with are also important considerations.  For a class of 26, you want to mix up 15 buckets (two brushes in a bucket) (only 1/4 full) of mixed tempera.  In the three projects above, red and white are pure and out of the bottles.  Every other colour has a little something else mixed in.  You can do it!  For tints, pour in the white to fill the bottom of the bucket and add a drip of another colour.  See what happens.  You’ve done those colour mixing experiments with your students in science…you can make lovely tints of orange and add a bit of red and see how it changes.  No!  Don’t add black to red to make dark red!  Instead, add a little titch of blue and see what happens!

So, take a look at the paintings above and ask yourself how each ground changed the experience of very similar colours.  The paintings on yellow, were painted with an analogous colour scheme…red, yellow and white.

The other two sets of paintings included blue and so they were painted using a primary colour scheme….red, yellow, blue and white.

There’s a song out there, “I Hope You’ll Dance!”  My motto is, “I Hope You’ll Paint!”

Have fun!  And happy Valentine’s next week!

Wonder and Awe

Yesterday morning, at the edge of the Bow River, I met the new female Bald Eagle. I’ve been observing for the same nest for six years. I’m uncertain, still, about what happened to Mrs., the older female that had raised several young successfully over the years. She was a powerful bird, but last year, was looking a little haggard. From what I’ve read, she would have been either killed or pushed out of the territory by a younger female eagle. It is the way of youth and age.

This photo archives the last evening that I observed Mr. and Mrs. together at the Bow. The female is always slightly larger in breadth than the male. She is sitting on the left.

The photo, below, is from one of the last series I took of our Mrs., this after a series that showed that likely she had an injury to the talons on her left leg.

A young four/five year old appeared out of nowhere soon after, replacing Mom, in her amazing efforts to raise and feed the newly fledged juveniles. I took to calling her ‘the huntress’ because she had such a remarkable speed and was so generous in providing food for the two juveniles. I never captured a clear photograph of her with my Canon Powershot, but will see if I can’t get permission to post a friend’s photograph later.

The juveniles, now a year old, if they have managed through the winter, are now called Immature Eagles. They show slight mottling of the brown feathers and a little bit of yellow coming into their steely blue-grey beaks. I think that only one remains, but not really certain because after six weeks with the adults, they are pushed out of the hunting territory and forced to hunt on their own. I’ve made several sightings this winter of an Immature Eagle and also a two year old that is likely the one surviving fledge from the 2018 nest. Only 2% of Bald Eagles make it through their first winter.

A huge cold snap locked Calgary into -40 temperatures (with wind chill) for over a week and during that time, the huntress disappeared, although I made several sightings of Mr.

Then, something curious happened. Several of the Bow River birders and photographers were posting photographs of a new raptor, easily identifiable by her beautiful streamlined head and beak. My first observation of her was at a great distance above the river, looking down at her feeding on a deer carcass with an Immature eagle.

And now…I arrive at the ‘wonder and awe’ theme. Yesterday morning, I arrived at the river’s edge while the weather was still a melt. The wind blew ferociously the night before and melting snow puddled the banks and the pathways. I spotted her immediately and archived several amazing moments as this beautiful new female brought two large branches to build up railings at the nest. Shortly after, she and Mr. began to hunt together, soaring in circles, flying south, then returning to me until finally, she landed in a branch on my side of the river and with a good view of hundreds of Common Goldeneyes that were gathered too close for their own good.

My mouth dropped and I quickly started snapping photos. Three times, she left and returned, each time swooping low above the alarmed birds and then returning. This new female Bald Eagle is incredible and it will be a fantastic year, watching any nesting outcomes. Clearly younger, she is sleek looking and is very powerful.

Rebellious Alberta Women Artists

Last night, I attended a session titled Rebellious Alberta Women Artists, hosted by the Esker Foundation.  Thank you and gratitude to Esker Foundation for another class act! AGA’s Curator, Lindsey Sharman, did an amazing job of moderating a discussion/conversation with Toyo Kawamura, Teresa Posyniak, Lylian Klimek, Vera Gartley and Katie Ohe, allowing for a beautiful organic flow and powerful conversation about art, feminine presence, space, materials, context and making.  Nicely paced and not forced, this platform was beautiful from beginning to end.

Peppered with humour and heart felt grit, I found myself both weeping and laughing tummy laughs.  While a hugely-attended program, it seemed as though I was in a living room, hearing the voices of friends.

This morning, as I sit to write this post, however, I wish that I had the notes that were pouring out the tip of my neighbour’s pen and into her notebook.  I told myself to just savour the words and to let them surface as they will over the coming days, weeks and months.  I feel forever-changed.  Some experiences just do that for you.

Toyo Kawamura was such a gracious participant.  In terms of her narrative, a few stories were particularly special to me.  First, I was caught up by her memory of 15 minute drawing practice every morning while attending school, as a child in Japan.  I was impressed by Toyo’s consideration of the ocean currents, the use of sand in her work and recent meaningful shifts in her work.  Toyo shared several recollections of teachers, especially, her private art lessons with Mr. Michio Kuwada (a member of Shinseisaku association of artists).  Finally, I was delighted to listen to her describe time spent with her grandson, teaching him the art of Ikebana and her consideration of the space/atmosphere around an arrangement, as much as the elements within the arrangement.  This reminded me, very much, about my observations of a single bush at a pond and how light/atmosphere and weather impact the appearance of that bush.

Teresa Posyniak and Lylian Klimek then proceeded to amaze me.  When it gets to writing about Teresa, I have to say that it gets way too personal.  First thing this morning, I made certain that I left her a note via her website. Her words took my breath away.  (I know this post seems overly dramatic, but I refuse to understate my experience.)  Beginning with her artistic timeline and speaking about Sanctuary to the near present, I could relate with so many of Teresa’s concerns and why she responds through such powerful work.  Please, if you have the chance, link up with Teresa’s website. These are two very strong women who have explored large format works throughout their careers and have an amazing connection with the diverse qualities of materials.

I enjoyed Lylian’s description of her childhood wanderings and discoveries.  How the structures and experiences of the space and the land in Saskatchewan served as jumping off points for her work and her thinking.

I have to find a way to go north to Edmonton so that I can enjoy the exhibit presently on display.

Finally, Vera Gartley and Katie Ohe took the platform. I can only say that I felt as though I was sitting at a kitchen table delighting in the warmest and most authentic conversation ever between Vera and Katie.  Please tell me that someone was recording this.  I found myself in tears through this section…quiet weeping, however…I certainly didn’t embarrass myself.  At different points I was saying to myself, “This is historical…this will never happen again in quite this way.”  It was rich, thoughtful and inspiring to the greatest degree.  Thank you, Vera and Katie for your generous contributions to the evening’s event.

You spoke of humour, space, community, choices, dedication and the art.  Two inspiring mentors for the women of today!

Thank you to Lindsey who had the sense to let things flow.  Thank you, again, to Esker.

Katie said, “You’re the Painter.”

Video

There are certain people in the world who have the knack for inspiring me to be a better person (and I use the term BETTER as it expresses itself in humility, kindness, empathy and plain hard work and creativity) and one of those people, for me, has been Katie Ohe.  I don’t know that she knows that she has that influence with me, but this is how some one who is truly remarkable can be laying down seeds in other people’s hearts.

I’ve written about her a few times.

In 2013, I wrote about the objects that live in Katie and Harry’s home.

In 2017, I wrote about KOAC and the experience of a studio tour, led by my creative friend, Wendy Lees.

And also, in 2013, I looked for a way to process my connection with Katie through a poem.  You see, she had taken some time, in the light of her kitchen window, to leaf through the pages of her sketchbook with me, and to talk about the experience of having ‘painter’s block’.  She spoke with me about painting.  She asked me, with all sincerity, about me.  I felt affirmed.  I felt filled.

A few weeks ago, I knew that the exhibit of Katie’s work at the Esker Foundation, was drawing closer.  As would be the case, I thought that Katie might be surrounded by many people…important people…at the opening. I couldn’t imagine myself getting anywhere near her. When I saw that the Herringer Kiss Gallery was hosting an exhibit of early works by both Katie Ohe and Harry Kiyooka, I thought that I would take the chance to visit her at that opening, so that I might make contact and wish her blessings for the big event.

It turns out that I had a lovely chat with both Katie and Harry in the peace of the gallery.  She looked into my face and her eyes looked that remarkable blue and as she held one of my hands in both of hers, she said, “You are the painter.”

These words were/are transformative words.  I am changed in the way that I think of myself, in the way that I feel and in the way that I am processing the events of my life, even the simple every day events.  I can’t explain it.

Included here, a few of the images from the opening at the Esker Foundation.  I got no where near Katie.  It was such a mighty celebration of her art and her life, I felt it was just marvelous to witness her with friends, former students, well-wishers.  As I was negotiating my way from the bar and past the steps to the nest, at one point, she looked up and literally our gazes met in the big hubbub and we smiled at one another.  That was enough.

(I know…i sound like a blithering goofball here, but, Katie is a hero for me, as she is for so many others.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Robbie Burns Day With Joan

Video

Early morning, before my walk at the river and after a phone call with my friend, Joan, Max and I attempted a selfie session, with a variety of results. He began by turning his back to the camera. Here are a few of his very personalized expressions.  I was just so relieved in the morning because the afternoon before saw Maxman downing a half a large fruit cake while I was wandering about watching coyotes.  As a result he had to visit the vet and, gratefully, Dr. Justine, averted any more drama.

In the afternoon, I headed for Trinity Lodge.  I had an opportunity to enjoy a performance with Joan in her new residence.  Joan has made a recent move to the Lodge and I was pleased to find her in terrific humour and to have a beautiful friend in Sophie.

Together, we watched a Robert Burns tribute delivered by St. Andrew Caledonia Society of Calgary, in preparation for today’s official anniversary.

First a wee pipe, then a brief history was given by Ian, followed by a recitation of this poem.  Well, it’s longish and so that I don’t lose my readers, I’ll post it at the end.  The title is To a Mouse: On Turning her up in her Nest, with a Plough, written in 1785.

The Program:


Bringing in the Haggis:

I really enjoyed that the residents to the left and right of me were able to, in part, recite the poems and songs that were shared in the afternoon.

I feel very grateful that Joan is making adjustments to her new residence.  I see myself enjoying many wonderful times with her.  Sophie, Joan and I went to the Bistro and sipped our Lattes while sharing many fun stories.  Once home, I took Max out for his neighbourhood walk and anticipated my evening attendance at the Katie Ohe retrospective at the Esker Foundation.  Overall, it was a beautiful day.

To the Mouse

On Turning her up in her Nest, with the Plough, November 1785

Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a pannic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi’ bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee,
Wi’ murd’ring pattle!

I’m truly sorry man’s dominion,
Has broken nature’s social union,
An’ justifies that ill opinion,
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
An’ fellow-mortal!

I doubt na, whiles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen icker in a thrave
‘S a sma’ request;
I’ll get a blessin wi’ the lave,
An’ never miss’t!

Thy wee bit housie, too, in ruin!
It’s silly wa’s the win’s are strewin!
An’ naething, now, to big a new ane,
O’ foggage green!
An’ bleak December’s winds ensuin,
Baith snell an’ keen!

Thou saw the fields laid bare an’ waste,
An’ weary winter comin fast,
An’ cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell-
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro’ thy cell.

Thy wee bit heap o’ leaves an’ stibble,
Has cost thee mony a weary nibble!
Now thou’s turn’d out, for a’ thy trouble,
But house or hald,
To thole the winter’s sleety dribble,
An’ cranreuch cauld!

But, Mousie, thou art no thy-lane,
In proving foresight may be vain;
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

Still thou art blest, compar’d wi’ me
The present only toucheth thee:
But, Och! I backward cast my e’e.
On prospects drear!
An’ forward, tho’ I canna see,
I guess an’ fear!

Translation:

Little, cunning, cowering, timorous beast,
Oh, what a panic is in your breast!
You need not start away so hasty
With bickering prattle!
I would be loath to run and chase you,
With murdering paddle!

I’m truly sorry man’s dominion
Has broken Nature’s social union,
And justifies that ill opinion
Which makes you startle
At me, your poor, earth-born companion
And fellow mortal!

I doubt not, sometimes, that you may steal;
What then? Poor beast, you must live!
An odd ear in twenty-four sheaves
Is a small request;
I will get a blessing with what is left,
And never miss it.

Your small house, too, in ruin!
Its feeble walls the winds are scattering!
And nothing now, to build a new one,
Of coarse green foliage!
And bleak December’s winds ensuing,
Both bitter and piercing!

You saw the fields laid bare and empty,
And weary winter coming fast,
And cozy here, beneath the blast,
You thought to dwell,
Till crash! The cruel plough passed
Out through your cell.

That small heap of leaves and stubble,
Has cost you many a weary nibble!
Now you are turned out, for all your trouble,
Without house or holding,
To endure the winter’s sleety dribble,
And hoar-frost cold.

But Mouse, you are not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often askew,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!

Still you are blessed, compared with me!
The present only touches you:
But oh! I backward cast my eye,
On prospects dreary!
And forward, though I cannot see,
I guess and fear!

 

 

January 19, 2020

I wasn’t going to write today, but here I am, a glass of Malbec to my right, and so much to think about.

Today would have been my brother’s 66th birthday. I turn 65 in May. He and I were so very close. It pains me that we didn’t share as much in our later years. He became a private man. Still, we made time to share good meals with friends. We enjoyed live music together. We were both very proud of our city. I love all of the growing-up memories of John. He was sometimes rebellious. He was robust. He was quite a live wire. I like the memories of him grilling steaks and burgers. He knew what he was doing there.

I have been thinking about John all week. Birthdays celebrated with families are so special. He should be here to celebrate with us. Now, he is ‘with us in spirit’. That’s something people say…but words like that just crack open my heart and cause it to bleed, all over again. I feel bad for people who try to make just the right remarks when you’ve lost someone you deeply love. I’ve often been one of those people. Let’s face it, there are no really helpful words. Best to just say ‘I’m sorry’. I don’t blame or judge people for things that they’ve tried to say. I know that their intentions are good. Grief does weird unbelievable things to a person. There’s no real understanding it. I miss John, though, every day…just as I miss my mother.

Family went out for lunch together. I liked being with John’s son. We were ‘hospice buddies’ and call ourselves that to this day. There’s no way that one can know what that experience is like until one might find themselves living it. I take a moment as I’m typing and lift a prayer for families who are in the midst of all of this. I take a moment and pray for the beautiful hearts who give palliative and then hospice care…and the nurses…the doctors. A tear drops.

Our family was the very best through the pain of losing John. If family does work. We did our best work through that time.

My grandson broke out into a lively version of happy birthday when he received his vanilla ice cream on dry ice. He even got the part about ‘Uncle Johnny’. His timing was impeccable. A Moxie’s lunch to celebrate my brother was the perfect choice.

From the lunch and our good-byes, I had to head right for the river. For one thing, the temperature was steadily moving up and was -11 when I pulled up in front of the house. I can clear my head at the river. Through John’s last months, I always felt uplifted while at the river’s edge, even on particularly difficult days.

I first walked along the bank in a north west direction. Across from me, the beauty and tranquility of deer and geese. After five days of -30 to -40 temperatures and a bad wind chill, it seemed that all of nature was breathing deeply in and breathing deeply out. Such a lovely thing. Interestingly enough, in the icy times of winter, I always notice that the deer consume the geese droppings. Such was the case today. Vegetation must be minimal by now and what better way to consume some nutrition! Nature cares for itself in so many different ways.

Once heading south on the path, I experienced the most remarkable moment! In a flash, a coyote rushed out of the tall grass and a deer bound into the frozen river. The coyote lurched to a stop on the very edge of the ice. I was frozen…couldn’t move…didn’t even think about capturing the moment on my camera. Too late, I recorded the deer’s challenging swim and its exit from the cold water. I watched until it found its way, some distance, up onto the bank. It wobbled on the ice and then bolted for the cover of the brush.

I was relieved but remember pausing to wonder how all of the beautiful creatures that inhabit the river valley manage to eek out a living.

Continuing on my hike, I was mindful that the coyotes are hungry. I figured that if one coyote came out of the brush, there were others. They work diligently together in order to eat, especially in these circumstances of frigid temperatures. Above me, to the left, I saw two. Do you want to observe a coyote? Listen for the Corvids (Magpies, Crows and Ravens) because all follow close behind the predators.

Sure enough.

I was pleased to observe this young beauty consuming something. It was either a rabbit or a pheasant. I could hear the pheasants articulating in the high brush as I made my way south. Looking closer, a Raven decided to peck away at the carcass.

Around this time, I bumped into Lloyd. I really can’t believe the distance he walks down in this same spot, in fact, he goes so far as to cross the ice to the island almost every day. He asked, in his jovial way, ‘Why he hadn’t seen me lately?’ And I told him that apart from one day during the deep freeze I came down to make my typical observations. He walked with me as far as the beaver dam. Together, we looked at the reflections on the smooth pond ice. He told me a story of skating ponds in his childhood….such magic! Walking, I told him about the incident with the deer. We parted ways. As he left, he said, “I hope you spot your eagles”.

The remainder of the walk was very peaceful. I thought that I might discover more deer, given that the stressed white tail flew out from this side of the river, but no sightings. Several beautifully large and articulating Ravens flew amongst the bare branches. All was magical. Then, as if from nowhere, the young Eagle appeared. I haven’t captured any really clear photographs, but I would guess that it was either one of the one year olds from last summer’s nest, or a two year old. Its colouring is getting to be mottled. One thing for certain, it wasn’t the Huntress, one that I expected to see. A Raven flew in and gave this youngster some company for a short while. Dad was no where to be seen.

This day was a beautiful day. Again, it reinforced the fact that life is filled to the brim with both beauty and brutality. We have no choice but to take it all and in whatever ways it makes its way to us. We can control the ways that we respond, but apart from that, we should always keep a Plan B in our back pockets.

Arriving back to the car, I cranked up the heat and checked my messages. Doug sent a link to a marvelous series of photographs. I think that the images exemplify everything I believe about nature, life and the wonder of it all.

If you have a chance, take a look.

Here at home, safe and warm, a friend from the river, fired off a message to me. I was eating from a hot bowl of stew at the time. The message was about a deer that was wounded and down, just beneath 130th Ave. She met Lloyd while out on her hike (love my network of river friends) and thought that this deer was possibly the character from my narrative. I will never know. Initially, I thought, by description, the deer was above the bank, but as the information became more clear, I learned that this deer is wounded and is out on the ice tonight. It would be an impossible thing for anyone to assist it tonight, impossible to keep it from its suffering. While this is upsetting to me and to my friends, we have sometimes no choice but to accept what we can’t control. I’m hoping that the coyotes/eagles are able to make good use of its sacrifice.

This, it turns out, was quite a day. Blessings to those of you who have sent wishes today. Blessings on my father.