Evening on the Big Hole

I signed the guest book at the entrance and turned my face toward the front desk.  Our eyes met and in unison, we squealed and ran toward one another.  Such a blessing to meet my friend in this amazing historical place.  I was overcome.  I was weary and elated, all at the same time.  Within an hour, Ramona had filled me in on the power of the site.  It was so nice to be with her.  I met Preston, Anna and Maria.  I was blasted by good will and hospitality.  The volunteers and employees of the Big Hole National Battlefield come from all over the United States.  It is a rich melting pot of individuals who care that truth and history be revealed to all who visit.  I was really impressed by the professionalism, as well as the variety of accents!

We went home from the visitor center to a slow cooked meal of pork tenderloin, apple, sweet potato and onion served on a big dollop of mashed potatoes.  Before the light set, Ramona and I did a very reflective walk on the battlefields.  It was as though the earth beneath my feet was vibrating…such a history.

Anna gave up her lovely room to me for the evening and took the couch for the night.  Such North Carolina hospitality!  Such loveliness. It just happened to be Anna’s last day and the completion of her Master’s degree.

I felt very blessed as I ‘didn’t’ drift off to sleep.  As the light of day began to make its way up and over the ridge and the birds began to sing, I passed out and woke some time later to the smell of coffee and swedish pancakes.  Yummers.

Click on photographs to enlarge.

 

 

I hope that some of my readers can take the opportunity to visit this location.  There were no International borders at the time of these battles…these came with colonization.  Instead, the peoples who lived on the land journeyed land by seasons and by availability of food.  For those who wish to, follow the link to the following article posted in the Great Falls Tribune.

WISDOM — In the 140 years since the Battle of the Big Hole, the site of the battle has remained a spiritual place to many who visit.

Teepee poles on the 655-acre Big Hole National Battlefield give silent testimony to the Nez Perce who gathered in along a fork of the Big Hole River. 

A marble monument honors the American soldiers and Bitterroot Valley volunteers who fought the Nez Perce. About 2,000 American soldiers fought the Indians at different points along their flight.

HISTORY: Night of the Grizzlies: Lessons learned in 50 years since attacks

“These places hold power,” Park Superintendent Mandi Wick said. “There’s something to say about being on the place where these tragedies happened.” 

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The Big Hole National Battlefield near Wisdom is one of 38 sites in the Nez Perce National Historical Park. (Photo: TRIBUNE PHOTO/KRISTEN INBODY)

On Aug. 9, 1877, Col. John Gibbon arrived from Fort Shaw with 161 men and a howitzer, which fired 12-pound shells. They attacked at dawn.

Gibbon’s men caught the Nez Perce by surprise. The Indians, on their way to sanctuary in Canada, were lulled by a largely peaceful passage through the Bitterroot Valley into believing they would be able to travel safely through the Montana Territory.

“These places hold power… There’s something to say about being on the place where these tragedies happened.”

Park Superintendent Mandi Wick

The soldiers stormed from the forested hillside into the village, firing indiscriminately into and then burning teepees.

The surviving Nez Perce rallied and fought back, collecting retreating soldier’s weapons. The soldiers dug in, while Nez Perce women packed up camp and retreated, covered by warrior sharpshooters.

The Nez Perce lost perhaps as many as 90 people, about 10-12 percent of the group, with women and children taking heavy casualties. Of the 700 who remained, fewer than 200 were warriors. Many of the best fighters died at the Big Hole.

More: 4-Hers get ‘as real as the American West gets’

The force from Fort Shaw saw 23 soldiers perish in the fight, with six volunteers from the Bitterroot dying, too. Another 40 were wounded. Gibbon, injured in the battle, and his men left the Nez Perce to Gen. O.O. Howard and his men, who picked up the pursuit after the Big Hole.

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Blue camas blooms at Big Hole National Battlefield. (Photo: TRIBUNE PHOTO/JULIA MOSS)

“It’s hard to believe events like this can happen in places that seem so serene,” Wick said. 

More: Cemetery restoration brings to life 150 years of history at Fort Shaw

Located between the Anaconda and Pioneer mountains, the battlefield is known for its camas blooms, adding a sea of blue flowers to the landscape in the early summer. It was the Nez Perce who introduced the Lewis and Clark Expedition, by then desperately hungry, to the plant, a staple of their diet. (Though the explorers liked the sweet root, they ended up sick.)

Wick recommended visitors watch the 26-minute film at the visitor center to understand the battle. Summer weekends feature cultural demonstrations and guided tours.

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The Big Hole National Battlefield visitor center is framed by tipi poles. (Photo: TRIBUNE PHOTO/JULIA MOSS)

After the battle, the Nez Perce had to discard the idea they could fight the U.S. to agreeable terms and the war took a more ferocious turn, though the Nez Perce had been significantly weakened, wrote Alvin Josephy in “The Nez Perce Indians and the Opening of the Northwest.”

The journey to the Big Hole began in the Wallowa Valley in northeastern Oregon.

The Nez Perce, or Nimiipuu/Children of the Coyote, territory covered about 17 million acres, land in what would become Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Oregon and Washington.

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Big Hole National Battlefield is the site of unimaginable tragedy as well as a sacred site to the Nez Perce people. The battle, near present-day Wisdom, took place 140 years ago. (Photo: Tribune photo/Amie Thompson)

Tribal leaders signed treaties in 1855 and 1863 setting the Nez Perce land at 7.5 million and then 750,000 acres. Then came the discovery of gold and pressure from westward-marching trappers and settlers.

More: Dick Thoroughman remembered as a ‘Giant’ among Montana historians

Chief Joseph described white men stealing horses and cattle, seemingly “on purpose to get up a war. They knew we were not strong enough to fight them.” He described young men whom he struggled to keep from “doing rash things.”

He and his band of Nez Perce stayed in the Wallowa Valley as others moved to the much-reduced reservation. 

In May 1877, General O.O. Howard ordered Chief Joseph and all Nez Perce living off the reservation to move there within 30 days and jailed elder Toohoolhoolzote.

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Big Hole River (Photo: Tribune photo/Amie Thompson)

Young Nez Perce men gathered at a camp on June 14 on their way to Fort Lapwai in Idaho Territory and reservation life decided to take revenge on some white men, killing four and raiding settlements. The chance for peace had passed, and Howard sent 130 men to meet them, punish them and deliver them to the reservation.

Instead, at the Battle of White Bird Canyon, the Nez Perce won, but they were on the run. It was the first of 18 engagements, among them four major battles.

More: Moccasin School crumbling, but you can own a piece of the history

After the Big Hole Battle, the Nez Perce continued their flight to Canada via Idaho and into Yellowstone National Park. In Crow country, they found their former allies were unwilling to aid them and continued north through the middle of Montana.

Gen. Nelson Miles (Photo: NPS PHOTO)

Just 40 miles south of the Canadian border, Brigadier Gen. Nelson A. Miles from what would be Miles City caught up with the Nez Perce. His troops came from the Second and Seventh Cavalry and the Fifth Infantry, along with Lakota and Cheyenne scouts.

On Sept. 30, they attacked the Nez Perce and fought to a stalemate, broken when Howard arrived at the Bear Paw Battlefield. On Oct. 5, Chief Joseph surrendered and vowed to “fight no more forever.” 

More: Museum volunteer records history from Montana boom town

Some Nez Perce escaped to Canada. Those who surrendered were promised they could return to their reservation, but Gen. William Sherman ordered them to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, a 1,200-mile trek on foot, boat, horse and rail.

They lived in swampy, malarial land in Kansas, and Chief Joseph, by then a national celebrity, pleaded they be allowed to return to the reservation or be granted land in Oklahoma.

Josiah Red Wolf (Photo: NPS PHOTO)

Eight years after their surrender near the Bear Paws Mountains of Montana, the 268 Nez Perce who survived returned to the Pacific Northwest, though Chief Joseph was not allowed to return and died in exile in 1904 on the Colville Indian Reservation northwest of Spokane, Wash. It’s home to a confederation of 12 tribes.

Chief Joseph spoke for justice to his last days, arguing:

“Treat all men alike. Give them the same laws. Give them all an even chance to live and grow. All men were made by the same Great Spirit Chief. They are all brothers. The earth is the mother of all people, and all people should have equal rights upon it. You might as well expect all rivers to run backward as that any man who was born a free man should be contented penned up and denied liberty to go where he pleases.”

11 people to know

Chief Joseph
The most famous Nez Prece, Chief Joseph was in charge of guarding camps along the retreat. He gave the formal surrender and is immortalized for the speech that ended, “From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever.”

Chief Joseph in 1877 (Photo: NPS PHOTO)

Chief Ollikut
Younger brother of Chief Joseph, Ollikot was “he who led the young men” and died at the Battle of Bear Paw.

Peopeo Tholekt
At the Battle of the Big Hole, this warrior helped capture a howitizer, which fired on the Nez Perce camp. He escaped to Canada but later returned to Idaho, living there until his 1935 death and preserving stories of the war.

Chief Looking Glass
Killed at the Battle of Bear Paw, Chief Looking Glass was a military strategist during the war. He led a band settled in a village on the Nez Perce reservation but was arrested on suspicion he would join Chief Joseph and his village was burned. He and followers escaped to join Chief Joseph and he was Nez Perce leader during the Battle of the Big Hole, losing his position as head of the band after the surprise attack.

Josiah Red Wolf
The last living link to the Nez Perce War, Josiah Red Wolf, five in 1877, witnessed the attack that launched the Big Hole Battle. He died in 1971.

Gen. O. O. Howard
A Union general who lost an arm during the Civil War, Howard was known for his piety and work bettering the lives of freed slaves during Reconstruction. He helped found Howard University in Washington, D.C., and was superintendent at West Point. He pushed the Nez Perce onto a smaller reservation with no notice or time to prepare, perhaps precipitating the flight to Canada. .

Gen. O. O. Howard (Photo: NPS PHOTO/LIBRARY OF CONGRESS)

Gen. Nelson A. Miles
A Civil War Medal of Honor winner and future military governor of Puerto Rico, Miles revenged Gen. Custer’s defeat at the Battle of the Little Big Horn, forcing the Lakota onto a reservation. He led his troops on the flight across Montana to intercept the Nez Perce. 

C.E.S. Wood
A West Point graduate, Wood was an infantry officer and later author who transcribed, and rumor says embellished, Chief Joseph’s surrender speech.

Col. Samuel Sturgis
The father of a soldier killed at the Battle of the Little Bighorn the year before, Sturgis and his troops were supposed to be part of a trap to catch the Nez Perce when they emerged from Yellowstone but they escaped. They met up at the Battle of Canyon Creek west of Billings.

Col. John Gibbon
A Civil War veteran, Gibbons was stationed in Fort Shaw when he got word from Howard to cut off the Nez Perce retreat. He met them near the Big Hole River and was wounded in the battle, ending his pursuit.

Emma Cowan
Among a few dozen tourists in Yellowstone National Park during the Nez Perce flight and celebrating her second anniversary, Cowan of Radersburg was captured with her siblings and her husband was shot in the head (he survived and they returned to the park three decades later).

Visit the Big Hole National Battlefield

The Big Hole National Battlefield is open sunrise to sunset daily. The visitor center is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the summer and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the winter, except on federal holidays during the off-season. Entry is free. Find the battlefield 10 miles west of Wisdom in the Big Hole Valley.

It is my intention to pick up a book or two about Chief Joseph over the coming months.

Stern Border Service Officers

All I could think about was getting over that border and getting to my treasured friend, Ramona.  The morning light was heavenly.  I left the little town of Raymond, drove east and then at the intersection, turned south for the Sweetgrass Hills.

To the right, I passed wetlands and identified American Advocets and a large group of Black-necked Stilts.  On road trips, one can not possibly stop often enough to capture all of the wonder as it slips past.  I was happy to see many winged friends and to see the vast beauty that is southern Alberta.  The past ten years or so I’ve made my life all about the fleeting moments and the tremendous beauty that reveals itself in familiar places.  I’m not big into world travel…but, I’m big into deepening my relationship with what is close up, if that makes any sense at all.  We all do life in our own particular way.

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At the border, I was met by a very stern border service officer.  Oh my goodness…a 63 year old lady approaches and ‘you have the need to be miserable’.  Mayhaps I was bringing some sort of bias to the experience. “Pull around and park in the back.  An officer will meet you there.”  Sure…okay.

The officer who joined me a short while later was much more pleasant.  She covered an agricultural survey with me and shuffled through my belongings in the vehicle…most concerned with plant matter, foods…yes, I get it.  And then I was on my way after sharing with her some pleasantries about high school years in Great Falls.

Continuing on to Shelby, I thought about the lack of gun controls…the shift in thinking.  I remembered how grateful I was to be a Canadian.  I looked forward to making Great Falls.  Once there, I contemplated taking time to visit special places and special people that remain.  I sat in the parking lot of the Flying J and felt so close to the memories of home that my family built in this place…thought of my friends and the house on Fox Farm Road.  I decided that this wouldn’t be the trip for packing in too much.  I needed to sip on my lemonade and enjoy the landscape.  I would have to make another opportunity to do all of the rest of it.

I love the landscape just south of Great Falls…Holter…and Prickly Pear.  There is only one place to stop and so it’s a chore to be overcome with the extreme beauty and at the same time, in a photo-crazy world like ours, not to be able to archive it.  I pulled over at the only stop on my side of the I-15.

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I thought about my Dad and wondered why the heck he wasn’t on this road trip with me.  I love to drive with my father.  These are places he knows and loves far better than I!

Onward!

In Helena, I had my first learning about roaming data charges.  Sigh.  Enough said.  Bob and Dan, I tried to track you down.  I thought I had an hour to play with in Helena.  Sorry.  I left your deets at home in my address book. (roaming, YOU SUCK!)

I had no recollection of the places I saw south of Helena, although I’ve traveled that road…a couple of times with a long-haul trucker, a few times traveling to see my parents in Colorado Springs, Colorado and likely before that, travels to various speech team competitions.  What I haven’t done is turned off into la la land at the Divide exit, west…Wise River…Wisdom…and all of that.  There were zero opportunities to take photographs of the wondrous landscape that unfolded after that turn off from the I-15 and my mind set to wondering as I saw such beauty reveal itself.  I thought about my new-found cousin, Charlene, who lives in Idaho Falls and a bit of a remote feeling took over me, that likely I wouldn’t be able to meet her on this trip.  All of a sudden, I heard the words escape my mouth…

“This is all for you, Kath.”  And yes…there were some tears.  The crystal blue waters weaving through verdant miles were beyond description.  The rugged rock reached vertical to either side of me.  I was overcome with beauty.

As I pulled to the right into the Big Hole National Battlefield, I felt exhausted, but so grateful.  Swallows seemed to beckon me.  I knew that Ramona would be working her shift in the visitor’s center, but decided to spend a few quiet moments looking over the valley.  Again, time just for me.  I knew that this place held huge spiritual energy and that the history for the Nez Perce peoples on this land held such provision and at the same time, horror, that I wanted to be present to the moment.  And then…Ramona.

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cSPACE

This afternoon, People’s Portrait Prize came down.  Yesterday, I was pleased to be able to immerse myself in all of the different pieces created by so many artists, all on my own.  As artistic subject matter goes, I especially enjoy portraiture.  Each artist relies on a subject/reference/idea, but puts down very personal marks during the process of painting, sculpting or drawing.  It was a fantastic exhibit, so varied and was demonstrative of the vision and effort of many people.  Congratulations to all of you!

I enjoyed the wander-about, as well.  It was a wonder I could wander out of the stairwells because I became captivated, as I always do, by Katie Green and daniel j. kirk’s Imaginarium, 2017.  I hope that they won’t mind that I did my point and shoot with my phone as I walked backwards up the stairs.  Amazing and surprisingly restful!

 

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Imaginarium by Katie Green and daniel j. kirk 2017

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Imaginarium by Katie Green and daniel j. kirk 2017

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Imaginarium by Katie Green and daniel j. kirk 2017

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Imaginarium by Katie Green and daniel j. kirk 2017

I stepped in and chatted with the gentleman at reception for Alliance Francaise (don’t know how to get that accent under that ‘c’).  I was smitten by the remarkable library and the impressive line up of activities that are handy for people who want to access resources or up their game as French-speaking Canadians.  A wonderful and welcoming spot!

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I was carried away by a variety of venues, all housed in cSPACE with a deliberate and tasteful aesthetic.  The Alberta Craft Gallery, as part of the Alberta Craft Council, was a really ‘happening’ place yesterday.  I loved the surprising and ephemeral works created by Dena Seiferling and Stefanie Staples.  Participating in an exhibit titled PERCH, is it any wonder I love this stuff?

Allison Tunis’s embroideries for Acceptable Bodies are flippin’ amazing!  Wowsah!

I guess I stopped wandering and started starting and stopping for the next longest while, completely swept up by the wonderful efforts by so many artists.  The portraits were next.   I couldn’t possibly grab a photo of all of the portraits that moved me.  My readers will get the gist…

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I’ve been following a portrait series by Chris Flodberg as he’s been posting bits here and there on social media, so it was really, with fondness, that I had opportunity to enjoy these ‘in the flesh’ so-to-speak.  These photos stink…but, I’m hoping you will follow the link that I’ve provided.  Chris is represented by the Masters Art Gallery, here in town.

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Portrait with Candles and Belt by Chris Flodberg Technique: oil on board Dimensions: 27×16 in.

I apologize…I didn’t even take note of the artist…but, had to photograph this one as I engaged it.  If you can help me out with the documentation, that would be great.

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Nick Rooney…an artist I met during my committed period at Gorilla House and then Rumble House, just always amazes me with his technical considerations, his hands-on approach to materiality and his connection with pigments as a traditional practice.

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Nick Rooney

Dawn Escobar…just a dear and beautiful human being.  This is a portrait she did of her mother.  I find it interesting that I migrated to this piece, took a photograph of it and this morning, I read the following message on social media.

“You enter with hopes of winning some thing knowing that the chances are small. Congratulations to those who did win 🎉. The second hope is that someone saw your piece and you touched them. 😊. Thank you for having the contest. See you if not soon, next year. 💐💐💐💐💐. P.s. mom enjoyed herself

Your work touched me, Dawn.

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I didn’t leave cSPACE without first stepping into Assemble Work/Shop and spoke with Anne Kirsten.  What a very exciting space.  I’m going to let me daughters know about this!  cSPACE is a bit of a wormhole…a person could disappear and not resurface for a very long time.  I just got a taste yesterday, but I’ll be back.

It was time to rush off in time to view Humans as presented by TheatreCalgary.  A nice light lunch was served and the Director, Vanessa Porteous, had opportunity to speak to us about her process, the play and future projects.

The day grew legs of its own.

 

Booth’s Class Reads The Mitten Tree by Candace Christiansen

As we moved through Advent at what seemed to be warp speed, I had the opportunity to be with Ashley’s class of Grade fours for a day.  The students were bright-eyed and receptive…an awesome little group.  Woven through the day seemed to be a theme of gift.  So, the story book that I had packed into my bag at home, seemed like it would work just perfectly.

The story I brought was The Mitten Tree by Candace Christiansen, illustrated by Elaine Greenstein.

I felt very peaceful.  Ashley’s class knows classroom routines and the learning environment feels ordered and safe. As we shared a discussion about gift, a story of my own came to mind.

I shared with the class my son’s most perfect gift to me…so many years ago, and I felt emotional, thinking about it.

In the afternoon, I pulled out my book and read it aloud to the students.  No matter the age, students, for the most part, fall silent at the reading of a picture book.  It was no different on that day.  While I’m not crazy about this particular delivery, I did find the story on Youtube.

I would consider the painting activity to be an Expression lesson.  I did not focus too much on skills related to depiction or composition, but focused on how to hold a brush and the idea of stroking paint instead of scrubbing paint.  I guess the interesting thing about asking the students to paint two mittens is the idea that the patterns would match…so they were exploring two things in duplicate.  At some point, I adjusted my own system of sharing buckets of coloured tempera, but quickly fell back to my fail safe routine when I observed the chaos in trading that can ensue.  I had intentionally limited the number of buckets I prepared on this day for the simple reason that I didn’t want a big clean up at end of day, so I prepared 14 buckets for 24 students.  Normally, I would prepare 18.  So, you can imagine that, at times, you would hear someone belt out, “Are you done with the white?”

Thank you, Dana, for your wonderful assist.

The paintings, in the end, were lovely. The Pinterest crowd will find a whole variety of projects based on this story book including fabric arts, oil pastel drawings and paper cut outs…lots that you can do around a story. Advent and Christmas art abounds at the moment, I thought that these paintings might bring the spirit of winter into the classroom, for a longer duration.  Thank you, Ashley.  Thank you, Grade four students. I had a beautiful day!

 

Magic!

I’ve always used the word loosely.  No incantations…nothing showing up out of a top hat.  It’s a way of being…a choice to live in delight…even when, like today, a 2 liter jug of eggnog spills out on the kitchen floor, just minutes before having to rush out the door.  I’ve made an effort now and then to explain…but, it is too much about the un-explainable.

Yesterday, I painted with Grade Ones…tree ornaments…I thought these would be cool with a bit of an aluminum foil embellishment added.  I still paint with kids around the city, every opportunity I get, but have stopped writing so much about it.  Holding a brush is an important action…it’s something important enough to become familiar…to practice…to enjoy.  I like to paint with kids.

Every darned day that I am a guest teacher in someone’s classroom, I am absolutely blown away by the mountain of responsibility and creativity that is observable in just moments of being in that someone’s learning environment.  I am in awe of the magic of the teaching experience, interaction and output, both by teachers and by their students.

I usually go over to the window first and open the blinds.  I like to see how the light changes things.  I also have the time to reflect, something that teachers who are steeped in their careers don’t always have enough opportunity to do.  I like to reflect about the spaces where I find myself enjoying, exploring and filling with hard work.

Yesterday, Amber generously shared her students (little guys) with me.  Grade One!  Wow!  All I can remember about grade one is my coat hook and the fact that my brother ran so fast the first day of school, I felt really really panicked about catching up.  I remember a man walking about the school yard, at a point, raising a hand bell high in the air and shooing us into the building.  I still, to this day, want to call him Mr. Cannon.

I haven’t asked permission (now I have), but would like to share a couple of images I snapped while the students went up to the music room for their very first time.

Just look at these…tell me what you think.

Beautiful. Right?

The students were full of energy, but we enjoyed our time together and really engaged the process of chalk drawing and painting.  (There was no white in the supply cupboard so…I used yellow to brighten some of the colour…but, tints are just so lovely!) The students were very attentive as we went forward and I’ve captured a few little images of their work and their journal responses.  Magic.  And yes!  Could be an Easter Egg…could be a kite…could be an ornament!  In the ‘end’, it is about the means…and NOT the END!  The experience of painting is wondrous.  There!  You heard it from me!

I asked the students if they might do a journal entry about their experience and the resulting pieces were pretty amazing.  Lucas told me he didn’t want me to photograph the following drawing until he had finished the light coming from the window.

 

 

Today, I left my paint bucket out in the car.  I thought I’d meet Jen’s Grade Six students before committing to an art experience in paint, this afternoon.  I wasn’t with them for ten minutes and I knew that they would enjoy and respond well with paint.  Mayhaps it was the fact that the first wondrous thing I noticed, after looking out the window…were these!

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Gorgeous, Jen!!  Wowsah!

I decided that I’d use the very same lesson that I did with the Grade Ones.  As I delivered my lesson about tempera paint, I could have heard a pin drop.  The students were totally engaged and I was pretty grateful.  Nice people.  So, as I publish the next photos, I was wondering if my readers are able to notice the differences, schematically.

The past two days have been blessing days.

And, this evening…

Nigel left me a note.  I’m over the moon about it.  I treasured him years ago…and treasure his contact now.

Dear Kathleen,
I will always remember you as “Mrs H”. I don’t know if you remember me, but you taught me grade 7 art some years ago. I have been searching for you for some time, but it is only appropriate that I should find you now, as I am about to embark on a new adventure; teaching art. Would you be interested in a get together and perhaps imparting some of your wisdom to me?
—N
What a beautiful exchange was had…looking forward to many inspiring conversations about art education with this new arts educator!

Gordon Lightfoot, After All These Years

There are no photographs that I can find (we probably didn’t own a camera), of the days when Dad, my brother John and I used to play the ukulele.  There are just so many tunes to play around the campfire on a ‘Uke’ but I remember them including Yellow BirdMichael Row The Boat AshoreDown In the Valley and Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.

Dad got us interested in stringed instruments very early in our lives.

Christmas St. Sylvestre

 

Whenever we gathered with friends or went camping, we had sing-songs.  In fact, we grew up surrounded by music.  Our military life took us on many family road trips and Sunday drives and all of it involved singing a repertoire of folk songs, big band era music like Abba Dabba Honeymoon,  Moon River and Mack the Knife and funny songs like “One Man Went to Mow“, There’s a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea...well, you get the idea.

Dad also owned a beautiful Gibson guitar.  Nothing made me happier than listening to him sing songs, while playing that guitar.  There are no photographs of the Gibson, but I’m certain that my father and siblings remember it as though it was yesterday.  It was a family treasure.  Dad shared…

“I was given that beautiful Gibson from our neighbour across the street from us on Briar Hill Drive in Battle Creek, Michigan. I am sorry I cannot remember their names, but they were certainly good friends of ours throughout my tour there. He was a Lt.Col in the USAF Reserve and taught high school.  One of the humorous things I remember was Mom giving him a 1 quart and a 1 pint milk bottle that somehow came with us on the move. He was so excited since he would use them during his 2 hour course on Canada. That was the total length of time for their history of Canada.  Anyway he came over one day and had the Gibson with him. He told me that it had been owned by quite a famous country singer and was given to him. It honestly looked like it had just come from the factory it was such a beautiful instrument. I simply adored it and learned to play somewhat from a book.(just our usual camping songs.).”

Because of this inspiration around stringed instruments, when I got a regular summer job at The Deluxe restaurant in North Bay, Ontario, I decided to buy my very own guitar.  I spotted the one I wanted in a music shop window on Main Street and began saving up my tips.  By end of summer, I made the purchase of my Yamaha Classical guitar…something I decided on so that I could play with ease because of the give of the classical strings instead of the resistance of steal strings.  I’ve treasured that guitar for ever since.  Yes…it’s gone out with my own kids to campfires and parties…but, it hung in and makes a beautiful sound to this day.

At the day of my purchase, I also bought a song book of Gordon Lightfoot songs.  The thing about this particular book, the chord illustrations appeared above the appropriate words, so I figured, like my Dad before me, I could teach myself to play guitar.

From 1960 until 1963, Gordon Lightfoot became a household name in Canadian homes.  He was and still is a wonderful song writer…optimistic writing, surfacing during what came to be known as the Folk Revival (just before the huge movement of Beatles music across North America and the world.)  I wasn’t like my brother, John, who next door to me in Great Falls, Montana, in a neighbouring bedroom, played the Grateful Dead and Gregg Allman.  I was playing Dylan; Buffy Ste. Marie; Peter, Paul & Mary; The Mamas and the Papas, Pete Seeger and Gordon Lightfoot.

In the end, it turns out that my older brother, John, became a person I would always admire for his ability on guitar.  He had the ear for music and was a natural.  He felt the guitar and released its spirit, where I would be measured and predictable.  I think he spent some years playing at gigs as well, and given his home in Sault Ste. Marie, he moved towards a Bluegrass style.

Once I moved to Lethbridge and attended University, I continued to appreciate more mellow voices and music, enjoying Valdy, Bruce Cockburn, Bette Midler, Cat Stevens and Paul Williams.  Somewhere along the line, I bought myself a Three Dog Night album.  It seemed that I never really had a lot of money…still don’t…so accessing concerts and getting out for musical events didn’t really happen until I ‘grew up’.  I did, however, listen to other people’s music and so became exposed to a lot of Cabaret music in the day, Beatles, Rolling Stones, Peter Frampton and Grace Jones…on and on it went from there.

Summers and Christmases, traveling back home to share times with Mom and Dad, the guitars came out…and always there were sing-songs.  Mom always asked me to play and I did.

singing and group 4 Two

singing and group 4

Family reunions brought together a large group of very talented people, many of them sharing guitar during the programs.  Cecil, Jo-Anne, my brother, John…Dad…

singing

Kath and John Reunion 1984

There have been a lot of back yard, under-the-tree sorts of moments…sitting in the stair well at the U of L, singing my heart out.  Living in residence was isolating at times.  The guitar filled lonely moments.

 

Gloria

Singing at weddings…oh my gosh, I’ll never forget not being able to find my beginning note during Lord of the Star Fields.  But things went well when I played and sang I Will and also For Baby.

Gloria's Weding

There was never the chance or the opportunity to pick up a Gordon Lightfoot ticket before this recent purchase.  But, long-story-short (fail)…last evening I had the chance to attend a concert where 78 year old Gordon Lightfoot came to Calgary, I felt, to sing just to me.  I purchased the ticket some time ago.  Without a partner, I’ve had years to practice not being shy about attending events on my own.  Strategically, when something comes up on my radar,  I pour over the seating maps for the venues and select the best single seat that I can find for that event.  Last night, I ended up in the second row of the Grey Eagle Casino Theater, with an unobstructed view of Lightfoot.  A father and teenaged daughter duo were sitting to my right.  I felt a bit sorry for the daughter because after every tune, the Dad would turn to her and say, “Did you like that one?”

To my left, two Ya Yas sat down just as the show began, a little envious of the cold gin and tonic that I was sipping, having arrived in time to access the bar line before the performance.

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I felt that the performance last night was all about good song writing.  The lyrics, beautiful narratives, for the most part, were exquisite.  I was filled with admiration for this person…for a career of dedication, struggle, and sideways living-gone right.  I really listened to these lyrics for the first time and saw them as very positive.

I got teary at the point where Gordon Lightfoot began singing The Minstrel of the Dawn…and that continued until the end of the song. Many of his songs moved me, but this one, the most.

Lightfoot is good humoured about his abilities.  He has a great lead guitar that provides the thread of his former performances.  His voice is weaker than in the past, but has all of that quality that is endearing.  Some songs were performed as shorter versions of themselves, out of need to entertain the crowd with the ‘old familiars’, but Lightfoot performed his most recent writing in its entirety and with enthusiasm.  I was really impressed.

I can’t tell a lie.  As I listened, I thought about my Dad.  I thought about what a gift it must be (and I have some experience of this already) to be able to continue to delight in your talents after so many years.  Dad, at 86, is in a choir and continues to carry the magic of his Irish tenor voice whenever he interprets music.  I was impressed by Gordon Lightfoot last night and was moved in a remarkable way.  As we move into our later years, we need to do what we can to continue nurturing our gifts.  I’m posting a video here.  I hope you will take the time to listen to the interview and then, listen to the song.

Music is something we hold inside of us…like DNA.  The stories that we carry in us are, for the most part, bits and pieces of the music we have cherished in our lives.  Live music can never be underestimated for its impact on us.

Post Script: The Next Generation

 

Wordfest and Meeting Kyo

Sitting behind me in the Big Secret Theater, this afternoon, Beth stood and as we were both putting on our coats, asked, “Did you see the Into the Quiet session this morning?”

I responded with an enthusiastic, “Yes!”

From there, I went on about how I had read the book by Kyo Maclear, Birds Art Life in early spring…February…and she shuffled through her phone to show me a photograph that she had posted to all of her friends in April.

This is Beth’s photograph and it speaks quite loudly of the magic found in the pages of Kyo’s book.

Kyo

Beth and I, I felt, had an immediate connection as she shared the utter joy of watching birds at her feeder and about the fact that she wishes to gift her friends this book.  I utterly agree about the magic of this writing and heartily recommend it to others.

I booked my tickets for two sessions only this year at Wordfest, and both because Kyo Maclear was a panelist.  One was titled In the Quiet and the other, Bionic Women Writers. I had no intentions of picking up any other book, but brought Kyo’s in my purse so that I would take opportunity for a signing and maybe a short conversation.

The following photographs are a tad (understated) unfocused…but, that’s okay, right?

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Snipped directly out of the Wordfest archives…no sense in me writing all of the biographical details again…will just link back.  That’s alright, right?

Stories of solitude, difference, survival, and winter. Listen as these four authors share their books about what it means to be alone, but not necessarily lonely, in the modern world. This event is hosted by Jeremy Klaszus.

First of all, the host, Jeremy, was fantastic!  Follow THIS LINK to read a little about Jeremy.  The flow to the panel was spectacular.  In fact, I have to say that I felt this was the most magical session I have attended for its connection.

I haven’t read anything by Michael Finkel, but he has interviewed and written about Christopher Knight.  I purchased my own copy of The Stranger in the Woods, after hearing a very provocative reading and interesting panel discussion on solitude.  I have respect for Michael’s approach to research on this one and his respect for the process.

The Stranger in the Woods (Michael Finkel)

Many people dream of escaping modern life, but most will never act on it. The Stranger in the Woods is the remarkable true story of a man who lived alone in the woods of Maine for 27 years, making this dream a reality not out of anger at the world, but simply because he preferred to live on his own.

This is a gripping story of survival that asks fundamental questions about solitude, community and what makes a good life, and a deeply moving portrait of a man who was determined to live his own way, and succeeded.

This next one gave me shivers.  Reading from his chapter, The Failing Body, I was captivated, based on personal experience as it relates to my own loved ones and their health.  I think that all of the authors reached deeply into my heart this morning because for the past ten years, while still surrounded by my loved ones and friends, I am in a constant relationship to/with solitude.  The title of Michael’s book, i A Singular Life in a Crowded World will most likely support a lot of my views on life and love and time and presence.  I had a lovely chat with Michael at book signing time.  It meant a lot to me that even in this case, he was completely present to me.

Solitude: A Singular Life in a Crowded World (Michael Harris)

The capacity to be truly alone is one of life’s subtlest skills. Real solitude allows us to reflect and recharge, improving our relationships with ourselves and, paradoxically, with others. Today, though, the zeitgeist embraces sharing like never before. Fueled by our dependence on social media, we have created an ecosystem of obsessive distraction that dangerously undervalues solitude. Harris examines why our experience of solitude has become so impoverished, and how we may grow to love it again in our digital landscape.

Kyo’s contributions to the panel discussion, as well as her selected readings, continued to support my true connection with the lessons that are written down into the pages of her book and lived out during her time journeying with a bird-watching musician, Jack Breakfast, in the city of Toronto.  An awesome read!  Do it!

Birds Art Life (Kyo Maclear)

In 2012, Maclear met a local Toronto musician with a captivating side passion — he had recently lost his heart to birds. Curious about what prompted this young urban artist to suddenly embrace nature, Kyo decided to follow him for a year and find out.

Intimate and philosophical, moving with ease between the granular and the grand, this touching memoir is about disconnection — how our passions can buckle under the demands and emotions of daily life — and about reconnection: how the act of seeking passion and beauty in small ways can lead us to discover our most satisfying life.

Clea Roberts, living on the edge of Whitehorse, Yukon…on an acreage that opens up to a huge expanse of forest, shared three poems that caused me to shiver in my seat.  The images were so exact, the phrasing was so perfect…I am so grateful that tonight I am able to hold the book, Auguries.  Not only were the readings beautiful, but the substance of what Clea had to say.  I was moved by her perceptions…about wood burning…about the dark river’s edge.  Moving!

Ancient auguries, Clea explained, were the result of knowledge/insights gained by the practice of ancient seers, drawing imaginary grids in a part of the sky and then observing the birds that moved in and out of that particular space, their numbers, their behaviours…

I feel as though all of these writers touched upon a bit of my heart that holds on so tightly to my mother…her memory…the responsibility I feel to keep her alive in other loved ones’ memories.  Grief is a journey that must be allowed.

Just this morning, I looked down at the socks that I put on my feet.  At my mother’s passing four years ago, while packing, I rolled up all of my mother’s socks and brought them home to Calgary.  They had been snipped at the ankles by my father, with scissors.  My mother’s ankles were swollen.  Of a bag load of socks, after four years, there are only two pair remaining.  I speak to my mother when I put my socks on in the morning…most mornings they are not, any longer, her socks.  Something in Clea’s poems brought my mother’s socks to mind…something that Kyo said…the look in Michael Harris’s eyes…and the words that Michael Fickel wrote into his book for me to find later.

I can’t write about the session titled Bionic Women Writers at the moment…about seeing Melanie…about any of it.  I just have to step back for a little while.  Maybe pour a glass of wine.  Maybe Skype with my father.  James has taken Max for a walk.

Auguries (Clea Roberts)

Whether speaking of erotic love, domestic life, spiritual wilderness or family entanglements, the poems of Auguries, the much-anticipated second collection from Yukon poet Clea Roberts, are saturated with their northern landscape. With poems like single larches, each in an immense white plain spare and clean, their exactness startling and arresting, Roberts showcases her sensitivity and skill in this profound collection.

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In the end, I was thrilled with all of the authors in both sessions.  Must reads…for sure…Bionic Women Writers…and other perceptions to come.

 

Grades 4 and 5 Discover Charles Pachter

…any excuse to tell the students about my memories of Expo ’67!

My teacher, Mr. Mackay, arranged a billeted field trip from DND Hornell Heights in North Bay, Ontario, to Montreal, Quebec to wander for a whole day at Expo.  With no money in our pockets for rides and such, we covered a vast distance on foot, taking in at least five different Pavilions.  I remember being in awe most of the time.  It turns out that Canada’s artist, Charles Pachter, along with Alexander Calder, was hired to work on the sculptural representations of Canada.

In his book,The History of Canada Series: The Best Place To Be: Expo ’67 And Its Time by John Lownsbrough,

Lownsborough shares the following archive…

All this aside, given that this is Canada’s 150th year…I thought it fun to share with the students what was happening in the world, 50 years ago.  To begin with, their eyes told me that they imagined a dinosaur was speaking before them…chatting away about what I was doing at the age of 12, with my teacher, my own grade five class and in the city of Montreal.  I shared during the Reflection component of the lesson, Charles Pachter’s website and his short biography.  We talked about moose, the Queen of England, satire, and simplicity of form.  I showed a few of Pachter’s works, in order to lead into a depiction lesson, followed by a painted composition.

These were the pieces of art that I shared with the students and that we spoke about, in terms of the subject matter and the arrangement of very simple forms in the composition.

Some vocabulary…satire, silhouette, flat space…

Dressage by Charles Pachter painted in 1988

NONE Charles Pachter art__ Uploaded by: Goffin, Peter

Brink by Charles PachterMoose Crossing by Charles Pachter
Bay Watch by Charles Pachter

As we viewed the works, we had a discussion about iconic Canadian animals.  I asked the students if they had ever seen the combination of coloured stripes that appears in the background of Bay Watch.  Someone mentioned a blanket.  So, for a few short minutes, I spoke about the wool blankets that were made and sold by the Hudson’s Bay Company.

The students went to the chalk board and listed animals that they wished to explore in silhouette.  I think that caribou, moose and deer were unpopular because of the challenge of the antlers and thin legs, but, there were still several students that took on the challenge.

Level II (grades 3 and 4)
REFLECTION
APPRECIATION: Students will interpret artworks literally.
A. Contextual information (geographical,
historical, biographical, cultural) may be
needed to understand works of art.

DEPICTION
ACTIONS AND VIEWPOINTS: Students will select appropriate references for depicting.
B. Drawing strategies, such as gesture to capture action, contour to study important edges and massing to show bulk or weight, are helpful in depicting animate forms.

COMPOSITION:
Component 7 EMPHASIS: Students will create emphasis by the treatment of forms and qualities.
A. The centre of interest can be made prominent by contrasting its size, shape, colour or texture from the other parts of the composition.

EXPRESSION
PAINTING:

Component 10 (iii) MEDIA AND TECHNIQUES:
Students will use media and techniques, with an emphasis on mixing media and perfecting techniques in drawing and painting.
-Use preliminary sketches as the basis for a painting, as well as painting directly.

Level III (grades 5 and 6)

REFLECTION
ANALYSIS: Students will study and analyze the individual character of natural objects or forms.
B. Natural forms can be examined for less visible characteristics.

DEPICTION
Component 4 MAIN FORMS AND
PROPORTIONS: Students will modify forms by abstraction, distortion and
other transformations.
I. Gridding can be used for systematically capturing or distorting the proportions of things.

COMPOSITION
Component 8 UNITY: Students will create unity by integrating the parts of a composition into the whole.
C. Transitions of colour, texture or tone relate the parts of a composition to a unified whole.


EXPRESSION
PAINTING:

Component 10 (iii) MEDIA AND TECHNIQUES:
Students will use media and techniques, with an emphasis on mixing media and perfecting techniques in drawing and painting.
-Use preliminary sketches as the basis for a painting, as well as painting directly.

Students grabbed their Chrome books and did a Google search for silhouettes of their selected iconic Canadian animals.  They were given a pre-gridded piece of 11 x 17 white bond paper for the purpose of depiction.  They were challenged to use ARBITRARY colour (not representative in the predictable sense of an object or location…for example a red sky)  Students did a bit of sketching and colouring on these studies in order to prepare for larger works.

The students were also asked to include the colours of the Hudson’s Bay blanket some where in their compositions.

Off they went to the races!

Next, large 18 x 24 paper was folded into 8 rectangles (in half both width and length and then lengthwise from each end, into the center), proportionally accurate with the 8 rectangles that were printed onto the 11 x 17 bond paper.  Students prepared their own coloured construction ground, on the back, by edging with masking tape. (avoid ripping edges), flipped the work and began to use the grid to make relationships as they enlarged their silhouette in chalk.

Paints were mixed, as is my typical method.  See former lessons under Teacher…and all went swimmingly.  It’s time for me to seek out a great Netflix program for this evening.  I’m sporting one heck of a head cold, but before I do, I’ll post a few of the photographs I caught of the process.

The months are closing on Canada 150.  I’m happy that I had time to spend with these grades 4 and 5 students.  They have been fantabulous!

The Boy and Me: Nature-ing

*ALERT:  This post ended up much longer than I anticipated…but, beautiful places, so make sure that you scroll down to the photographs!

This summer, I stayed around town.  There are still so many places I haven’t been…and, there are also beautiful places that I want to return to again and again.  I know that there are a lot of people who put up their noses about Calgary.  But, for me, Calgary is home and the access we have to genuinely wonderful experiences is right at our fingertips, should we wish to partake.  Because of the circumstances of early summer, I had opportunity to do a little bit of exploring with my son.  Before they disappear into the dark hole that is my desktop photo archive, I’m going to bring these snippets up to the surface.  And then, I’m heading out to the pond with Max.

McKinnon Flats.

“Archaeologists of Lifeways of Canada Limited have been contracted by Alberta Culture and Tourism to find out about early settlement at McKinnon Flats.  They’re part of Culture and Tourism’s three-year Post-Flood Investigation Program, which was initiated to record the effects of the June 2013 southern Alberta flood on archaeological and palaeontological sites along rivers such as the Bow, Highwood, Sheep and Kananaskis.  As a result of the program, 100 new archaeological sites were identified and additional information was gathered at 87 sites that had been recorded prior to the flood.  Many of these sites were found eroding from the riverbanks, with some in need of investigation before they disappeared entirely.

The McKinnon Flats site is one of these locations. Although it had been previously recorded in 1971, no-one realized that it contained deeply buried cultural deposits.  As a result of the 2013 flood, however, a ten metre strip from the front of the site’s river terrace was removed, leaving a 400 metre exposure in the river bank that contained cultural evidence. This evidence included broken bison bone, large stone choppers and rock that had been heated and cracked in a fire. Among the eroding finds were the remains of a boiling pit that had probably been used to cook meat and process bone marrow in a skin-lined pit dug in the ground.  Evidence of the pit was found in the form of almost 100 heated “fire-broken” rocks that were eroding from one of the riverbank exposures. Between the time the pit was observed in 2014 and the site was excavated in 2016, however, all evidence has been completely eroded.”

It was at this location that my son and I did a beautiful-weather-day hike and shared in a Spoloumbo’s picnic sandwich on the river bank.  A spectacular day!

Frank Lake

Frank Lake is located in the foothills fescue prairie ecoregion. The lake is a hemi-marsh, which means it roughly has the same area of open water as there is emergent vegetation. Vegetation includes mostly hardstem bulrushsago pondweedRichardson’s pondweed, and northern waterfmilfoil. The lake and its surrounding upland areas attracts many species of birds. Waterfowl and shorebirds and other birds use the lake for staging during migration, and nesting. Some birds that can be seen here include: tundra swantrumpeter swanCanada goosenorthern pintailFranklin’s gullring-billed gullCalifornia gullcommon ternshort-eared owleared grebemarbled godwitlong-billed dowitcherblack-crowned night-heron, and black-necked stiltBirdwatching is a popular activity.

The drive to Frank Lake was very relaxing, as was the walk on well-worn pathways.  Along the way, we only met two other people, so it really did give me the sense of getting away from the city and relaxing into nature.  Highly recommend!  Not to be confused with my daily pond walking at Frank’s Flats.

Nose Hill Park

I really want to get out to hike all of the pathways from all directions to the top of Nose Hill Park.  It is such a spiritually charged place!  It’s always been on my bucket list, but, living in the deep south of the city, I had to drive there, with intention and finally it happened!

The Leighton Center...I always take friends and family here.  Most of all, because of the huge dramatic view.  I feel the best of everything that is foothills living, when I visit the Leighton Center.  On this visit, I enjoyed the appearance of several Mountain Blue Birds.  I felt really excited about that.  The smoke from the growing forest fires to the west began to cloak the mountains in the distance.

Ptarmigan Cirque

Pretty much an annual hike…breathtaking for its pretty immediate views…a place to take visitors to Calgary because of the expedient pleasure in the mountains, with very little exertion.

Custom Woolen Mills

On this particular day, I had convinced my young adult children to drive out to the Dancing Goats farm, just a short distance from the Woolen Mills.  I thought that we would be able to visit the goat farm, but, was mistaken.  In fact, the owners were in the city dropping off product to a number of retail locations.  I spoke with one of them on the telephone, from the small town of Acme.

Instead, we ended up taking country roads to go to the Custom Woolen Mills.  I was happy that Ruthie was in the gift shop, so I got a wee visit with her and had a chance to take my daughter and son into the mill.  I feel so connected to the place.  I love it more and more every time I make the drive.

I also met the Artist in Residency…an amazing artist and knitter…I’ll just have to go back into my writing and figure out her name.

 

It appears that I had some amazing experiences this past summer, most of them shared with Cayley and James.  I realize that in this process of “Falling Out of Order”, there was an awful lot going on.  But, for this lovely Thanksgiving afternoon, and with a pond walk and a large plate of turkey leftovers under my belt, I realize that it is time that I settle down to mark some narrative writings by grade four and five students.

Whenever I go through the process of archiving the experiences I enjoy in surrounding areas of Calgary, I realize how blessed I am. Yes.  It’s possible to travel the world over.  But, sometime it’s a blessing to realize what treasures lie very close to you, treasures to be uncovered.  Today, I feel grateful.

Painting With Kids Outdoors on a Windy Day!

As I continue with my “My Life Falls Out of Order” series of posts…I still find little nuggets in my archives about teaching, music, nature and art moments that I wish to put in some form of reflection.

Not much to say about this one that the photographs won’t explain, but, it all began with good intentions.  When the weather is nice and the year is grinding to a close, it’s nice to get students outdoors as much as is possible.  These experiences can be based on curriculum; you just need to think it through.

So, of course, I head outside to paint.  There is a tradition of painting landscape called en plein air…if good for the Impressionists, why not for children?  Any grade…

When painting a mural, it is the teacher’s greatest responsibility to share with students the idea behind collaboration and elevation of the group’s efforts over the familiar experience of elevating the self.  Well before a project such as a group mural, lessons need to focus on the personality of line quality and the very specialization of mark making.  In a group mural, it is explained, it is important to share your marks in a variety of locations.  This will lead to a more successful piece, in that Unity will be accomplished through the weaving of many personal approaches to colour, design and line.

And…when the wind blows, just revise the initial plan.  Don’t get sad about a splatter, enjoy the impact of elements upon the collective result.