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.

Reflecting on Andy Goldsworthy With Grade Three

Back in June, I had the opportunity to teach grade three for Deb.  I created an experience that combined viewing, planning, and sculpting in nature and writing.  The students were over the moon with excitement and expressed some brilliant ideas.  I think I’ve written about a number of different ways that Andy Goldsworthy’s work has inspired my teaching…here’s one.

Grade Sevens built Goldsworthy-inspired sculpture over Easter holidays, documented their work and then wrote haiku poetry based on their sculptures in nature.

When I step into landscape of any variety, I am always hyper aware of the textures, light and the impact of one element upon another.  It really drives me as an individual in relationship with my natural world.  Andy Goldsworthy sculpture is very beautiful in its complexity and its consideration of natural contexts.  The manipulation of found materials is inspiring…the challenges seem impossible, but he finds solutions.

You may wish to try this type of project with your students, either in the spring or autumn, no matter the grade. Nice weather days are best.

I began by sharing a movie with the students.  There are several on YouTube.  Select something that is age appropriate, so, take the time to screen for yourself.  It is a good thing to learn about the artist so that you can support ideas/concepts and philosophy with the children, appropriate to age.

I asked each child to select a partner before we left the classroom. The students and I went out into the school yard and very automatically, they began their search for materials.  It was a lovely experience.  I photographed each sculpture as they completed it and once all were documented, we returned to the classroom.  There, I taught them the structure for a Cinquain and then they went to work responding to their sculptures, using words.  It is a magical experience when learning takes place despite anything you say as a teacher.  Inspire them.  Give them the tools and materials.  Then, watch that magic happen!  Congratulations, Grade threes!

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An Exceptional Gathering, Romanian Style

If I write all that is on my heart before bed, I will be up very very late and tomorrow there is the food prep still ahead.  Suffice it to say that gatherings out in Chestermere with the Ya Yas continues to be one of the most delightful events possible for me.  We are six women (we missed Dar today) who have grown to support, confide and laugh loudly together and today was no exception.  The visit shifted my entire view of things and caused me such peace that I have been happily working away with my own meal preparations ever since.

As I have written several times before, Wendy’s husband, Darren, treats us like we are all princesses.  He is a genuinely talented chef, but also very entertaining with his tremendous knowledge about food, ingredients and food preparation.  If I get a minute tomorrow, I’ll make certain that I tag some of his previous menus.

But for now…just wanting to link up with Darren’s own blog and his narrative about his special creamed chicken recipe.  Today’s menu was delicious!  Homemade Borscht and sour cream, perfectly mashed potatoes and some sort of corn meal ‘stuff’…(Oh…just wait a minute; I’ll go and look it up….)

I’m back. (didn’t find the name for the dish that was made of cornmeal) OH YES I DID FIND IT….Creamed Chicken served with Mamaliga (polenta).

I didn’t grab a photograph of our dessert…poppy seed loaf and special cookies made with a substitute flour and hot tea served in ornate tea cups.

Here you go…a link up with the narratives around this particular dish, Creamed Chicken.  Such a wonderful and detailed accounting of tradition and preparation of this meal. 

Thank you for hosting, Wendy and Darren….and thank you to each of you for your generous hearts.

Lost on Range Roads!

Alright…so, I threw my meatballs together and when they were piping hot, packed up my wine glass and my bottle and my meatballs and headed for Custom Woolen Mills.  There was a big accident south bound on highway 2…I did a bit of a rubber neck there, but once that was long gone, I couldn’t believe it when I kept driving north on the highway, past the Carstairs turn off.  For a moment, there was panic…I didn’t want to really drive so far as the Didsbury exchange, but, finally resigned myself to going north for a bit and finding my way back to the mills on country roads.  When I go on a road trip, I find it so relaxing.  There is nothing better than enjoying the landscape and the wide open sky of Alberta.

Light was fading, but still there, as I headed east on whatever-its-called.  I knew that I needed to find the 791 to go south.  Hmmm…overshot that by a good 20 kms…but, not before my Spidey senses told me to go south anyway, on some range road or other…I asked myself, “How bad can it get?”  These range roads are all numbered…I’m sure I’ll zig zag my way there, eventually.  In the meantime, I enjoyed viewing a beautiful owl and many grazing deer, some with very large racks…I even considered pulling off for photo-moments, but thought, “No, you really have to get there…”  I spotted a sign for Linden somewhere on the way.  “Now, that sounds like some place I’ve heard about before…”  And on and on I went, feeling like Milo in his little car, lifted right out of the pages of The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster.

Never mind…dangit…the sun was slipping down fast.  It might be that I have to do that thing I don’t like doing.  “I need to back track.”  Heading west, the sun was blinding, as it peeked out at eye level from behind the pink clouds.  I thought to myself, “Now, don’t race…watch your way…you can find that 791…just notice.”  And I did…some miles later, I turned east again and then just needed to hook up with 272.  That, too, was a little shaky….the cattle, munching away to the north of me seemed to be snickering.  But that was likely all in my imagination.  From a distance, on the narrow (soft) dirt road, I saw the familiar silhouette of the mill on the horizon…I saw the warm lights…and said out loud, “I’m home.”

Entering in to the mill, Ruth’s voice was reaching above everything.  The audience was spell bound.  Displays of woolen things were to the left.  Lots of people were knitting.  “I love this place.  I love the smell.”  At the edge of the display created with works by Artist-in-residence, Sylvia Olsen, sat a Golden Fleece wool blanket, brought as a gift to Fenn by my new friend, Leah.  I felt nothing but happiness about being at the mill, bathed in love.

I poured myself a glass of wine…rustled up a plate of pot luck food (nothing better) and snapped a few photographs.  This morning, as I think back, I’m grateful for life and love and friendship.  Thanks to all of the folks at the mill for hosting such a wonderful event.

My Life Falls Out of Order

I’ve left writing and art-ing and almost everything in order to tackle the new material of my life.  As a result, while surfacing out of the cave that has been my last several months, I don’t know where to begin.  I don’t think the events of my life are sequential any more…they will be presented here, slightly out of order.  Yes, since June, there continued to be art and music and reading and friendship and family, but archiving became the least of my concerns while I was rapidly stitching what had become a torn life, back together again. Family was and is my focus.  And so…this morning, I begin, with my difference.

I leave this post for a second and think about some pages I want to slip into this narrative.

I’ll begin with something small.  I am smiling here.

I took a guest teacher role one day in the spring.  During one of the classroom periods, I was to meet the young group of children in the library.  There, magic happened.  The librarian’s name has escaped me, but the library was/is housed in St. Boniface Elementary School.

The magic began with the reading, in amazing vocal expression and pacing, a book about snails.

The book was titled Snail Trail by Ruth Brown.  Hilarious!  And just look at the organization and the wee project created after this reading.  Snails!  A great idea for your elementary classroom!

The children moved seamlessly into their places at the round tables where they conducted the business of creating their own snail characters.

Other Snail books?  I’d love to hear your recommendations!