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.

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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…

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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.

 

Food Narratives and Traditions: Pierogi

It was the second year that I had the opportunity to work alongside Michael, a friend who grew up in the tradition of his mother making Perogies, spelled Pierogi (for those who really know what they are doing).  Last time, we took the project on in my little U shaped kitchen and this year, in the far more organized kitchen in Michael’s home, edging the bike path where, at this time of year, tall trees are clothed in glorious colour.

I am very grateful for the experience and feel like I really did get into the groove of the pinching and such.  I tried to be a support back-up person for Michael who moved through the kitchen rolling and boiling and pinching as though a well choreographed machine.  We stopped about half way through our shared experience to sit and sample the goods and they were delicious, but this only after whipping downtown to see if we could pick up a batch of miniature books on the topic of the 94 calls to action, resulting from the Truth and Reconciliation process.  I explained to Michael that I really wanted to make certain that each person who attended this years THANKS-giving feast would leave with one. No such luck! We arrived at the stroke of 4:14 when the Native Counselling Center closed at 4:00.  Drat!

Back to our culinary experience…

These tasty treats will be shared around with many friends and family members over the coming days and I really hope that Michael and I can make Pierogi as an annual event.  Good music, cold drinking water and much activity makes for strong friendships.  Working side by side in the kitchen is a great way to really get to know your friends!  Highly recommend!

(Thanks to Ellinor for the sour cream!)

Amounts for a single batch…divided and rolled a third at a time, after a half hour rest in a plastic bag.

5 level cups of flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup cold milk
1 cup hot water (not boiling hot)

Whisk together your wet ingredients and then add your flour gradually.

Fillings this year… and we think we made approximately 30 dozen of these little gems because we worked up three batches in all.

#1 Potato, cheddar, homemade pickled peppers

#2 Mushroom, leek, truffle oil and dill

#3 Potato, cheddar and green onion

Thank you, Micheal, for your generous heart.

 

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.

Music to Fill a Heart: Folk Fest Thursday, July 27, 2017

I haven’t updated my blog for most of the summer.  Sometimes life just carries you to places you didn’t expect.  It’s been one of those types of summers.  I purchased my Early Bird Folk Festival tickets months in advance of the event.  It was probably a good thing because otherwise, I wouldn’t have treated myself with so much going on at the home front.  In the end, I attended the entire weekend, with the support of my family and with coverage for dog walking and other responsibilities.  Max is always a factor in my planning.

It was July 27.  It was my mother’s birthday.  I remember taking my mother down to the the island, many years ago.  We sat on a bench and shared an ice cream cone. I thought a lot about Mom that evening. I ended up closer to the entrance than any previous Thursday night and had some lovely conversation with my line mates as we waited for gates to open.  I chatted with a family group and also met a gentleman who is married to a lady from Souris, PEI, so we had some time to chat about the Cheveries, as she has her family of origin in that line.

Oh, yeah…and I found this guy, in line.  (and yes…we need to get the programs in place NOW, in regards to homeless Veterans.  I’m with you on that, readers.)

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My first and most favourite food of the weekend…a Mediterranean plate, paired with an ice cold lemonade.  Thursday evening entailed no fly sheets, a simple cozy blanket for sitting.

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Thursday night saw me plunking my butt down at the Main Stage the entire time.  I ended up very close to the music.  I felt breath and peace and music sink into me, as for the first time, this summer, I truly relaxed.  My favourite discovery was the 5:30 performance by Dawes!  Why haven’t I heard Dawes before?  What???

Immediately, the song writing touched me and I related to the music at a heart level.  I’m going to post, not one, but two videos, here.

Ripped off, directly from the Folk Festival website…this biography.

“California in the ‘70s saw the rise of the singer songwriter scene, where musicians threw off the yoke of ye olde folk songs to try their hands at new, more personal creations that melded the personal, the political and the heartfelt. California roots rock band Dawes ably carries that musical torch, even recording their first album live to analog tape in a studio in Laurel Canyon. If you need a recipe for Dawes’s sound, imagine poignant and melodic songs, heartfelt lyrics, sweet harmonies mixed together in a package that’s just a little rough around the edges.

The band’s founders are brothers Griffin and Taylor Goldsmith, so they come by the sweet sibling vocals honestly. Turns out the band’s name is part of their family roots. Dawes is Taylor’s middle name, inherited from his grandad who really liked the idea of keeping the connection and introduced them to two of their favourite artists, Bob Wills and Hank Williams. Dawes mines five albums worth of originals and occasionally serve as the backing band of their old friend and collaborator Bright Eyes (Connor Oberst). And they spread their modern take on ‘70s music, touring folk and rock festivals in the U.S., building a loyal audience for their distinct brand of indie California folk rock.
ER”

 

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A highlight for me was musician, Duane Betts, son of Dickey Betts, who joins Dawes with their touring band.  Mouth dropping guitar interludes absolutely blew me away!  A great experience in music!

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Choir! Choir! Choir!  was entertaining at 6:45, but honestly, Calgary, I would have liked to see more participation.  This makes me laugh, as I see the teacher-heart spring up.  We did a poor version of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.  It sounded nothing like the version I’ve posted, here.  I did move right up to the front and gave it my best effort, as you can all imagine.  We didn’t have Rufus Wainwright with us, but you get the idea.

 

An academic study into the effects of collective singing at one Mideast protest found that it helped the group vent negative emotions, strengthen solidarity, foster hope and experience spiritual transcendence. That’s also a typical review of a Choir! Choir! Choir! experience.

And it is an experience, more than a show or a gig. Choir! started as a weekly event at Clinton’s Tavern in Toronto, where anyone with $5 and any skill level could show up and sing along. As word and YouTube videos spread, they begin taking the experience on the road. The onstage setup is simple: usually, just an acoustic guitarist and somebody waving their arms (the conductor). The audience does the heavy lifting. No audition required: Choir! leaders hand out lyric sheets, divide the group into highs, middles and lows, teach the harmonies — and then a radio staple by Tragically Hip, Rihanna or a ’90s grunge band becomes a beautifully shared moment. Hope, solidarity and spiritual transcendence are often outcomes of a great Folk Fest stage, but never quite like this, where the magic emanates from all of you.

JM”

Up next was Coeur de pirate.  She has the pipes!  I was watching her perform through the eyes of my friend, Denise and I thought a lot about our friendship throughout the performance.  A beautiful and animated performer, she blew us all away.  It was at this point that I connected with friend, Jane, who happened to be hanging with all three of her kids and families.  I feel so blessed to have joined them on their tarp for this set.

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Billy Bragg and Joe Henry performed next.  It was difficult to separate the opinions of others regarding Billy Bragg and my experience of this music.  He is looked at like authentic ranchers would view a Rhinestone Cowboy…a bit of a star who doesn’t suffer the actual realities of hard working people.  However, I have to tell you, I was really impressed by the music.  I am nostalgic when I think of trains and this was the general drift of this set.  Joe Henry and Billy Bragg have been collaborators on a project that, I think, archives a history of music as it relates to the American Train.  I guess one would argue that this is an appropriation, of sorts.  I say this, simply, because its a subject that comes up a lot.

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I enjoyed my first night of music listening minus some parking shenanigans….so began folk festival 2017.

Feast: An Edible Roadtrip

Lindsay Anderson and Dana VanVeller are the co-creators of a recent and beautiful collection of insights, recipes and images, Feast: An Edible Roadtrip

I missed Mark’s birthday celebration last evening.  Happy birthday, Mark and I’m sorry I wasn’t there to share the brilliant conversations that are so typical of your backyard gatherings and the culinary treats that always seem to surface.

I registered some time ago for a session at the Alexander Calhoun branch of the Calgary Public Library, a book talk with Julie Van Rosendaal.  I was pretty pumped about the experience.  My friend, Pat, and I were very impressed with the beauty of the blooming Mayday Trees that edged the park-like grounds  of the Alexander Calhoun.  We were greeted at the door…a lovely touch.  Immediately, we were offered our choice of tea or coffee and a selection of cookies…one with its origins in Cape Breton and the other Grandma Woodall’s Oatmeal Marmalade Cookies.

I liked the idea that we were invited to share a memory of ‘Canadian’ food that we enjoyed from our childhood.  This brought to mind a dish prepared by my Great Grandmother (Mamie) in Summerside, PEI.  I decided that I would go on a search for that recipe so that I might prepare it.

Julie Van Rosendaal was not able to present…apologies were given…and very quickly, we were introduced to Julie’s replacement for the evening, Gwendolyn Richards, writer of Pucker: A Cookbook for Citrus Lovers.  She was fantastic…very much fun, spontaneous and capable.  A great presentation, interview and conversation ensued.  I am very excited, as a result, to have a whole list of new resources in my repertoire, as well as an interest in exploring recipes from across the country, beginning with a quest for a recipe for Acadian Rauper (my recollected title for the recipe based on family pronunciations), a comforting potato based treat that attendees, last evening, described as Rappie Pie.  (and based on the image on this particular link…it is obvious there are regional distinctions)  For my reader’s information, my Mamie’s recipe was spelled Rapture and pronounced raw-purr.

More on that later…

I enjoyed the fact that the session included places to purchase ingredients locally…ways to incorporate some of these ingredients…and a bit of the background on the FEAST source book.

Here are a few recommended titles and such…

Vegetarian Cooking for all by Deborah Madison

Spilling The Beans: Cooking And Baking With Beans Everyday by Julie Van Rosendaahl

THE FLAVOR BIBLE:
The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity,
Based on the Wisdom of America’s Most Imaginative Chefs

by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg
Photography by Barry Salzman

Looneyspoons :Low-Fat Food Made Fun! & Crazy Plates By Janet & Greta Podleski

Whitewater Cooks

Patent and Pantry, a blog by Gwendolyn Richards

A wonderful evening and another successful program.

What foods and recipes connect you with family memories?

On my paternal side, my Gramma Moors always put a huge Blade Roast in the morning and it cooked on very low all day long.  For a treat at the kitchen table, it was a simple matter of dipping white bread into molasses or sprinkling white sugar onto a slice of buttered bread.

My mother, having come from the Arsenault/Gallant lineage, prepared beautiful boiled dinners…whether that was with fish, corned beef or pork hocks.  She also made the most amazing clam chowder.  My daughter, Cayley, just prepared her first pot of clam chowder the other day. ;0)

This morning, while drinking my morning coffee, I fired off an e mail to my Auntie who lives in Quebec.  She makes large batches of our family dish to this day and responded very quickly with the recipe.  I’m going to try it.  I think it’s an important practice to share our family recipes with our children.  I hope that my kids will make this one with me.

Hi, nice to hear from you… yes I make it on a fairly regular basis for Paul, your lady was somewhat right. Yes it is quite a job, but so worth it for us.  As for recipe, it is kind of this and that.  That saying I do have an official recipe from Canadian Living magazine.   It is not what mom did, at least exactly.   For us and for you it depends on how many people you are feeding.  I made a lot of extra so Paul can take it home, he really loves it.   If you want send me your address and I will copy the official one to you too.

So here it goes.  I peel 30 pounds of potatoes
                              I cook about 3-5 pounds , when cooked I mash them.
                              This  is the long part, grate with a machine the rest of the raw ones.
                              Once done, squeeze as much of the starch juice out with your hands as possible 
                              Put in a container that you can easily mix after. Fairly large
                              For the meat we always use pork, I cut a large roast uncooked into small pieces.
                              Understand that I use a roast pork loin, a large one, can’t tell you the weight
                              Also you must use at least 4 cups of onions chopped in small pieces,  I grind them in my
                              Chopper.
                              Once this is all done, mix all ingredients together,  this is when the special touch comes 
                              into play.  Mix and mix and mix again.  Everything must be mixed evenly. 
                              
                              While you are doing this in the oven should be your pans with pork fat, to coat the pans
                              For the grease  like Pam.  I do this in the beginning of everything,  the oven is at 300° until I 
                              finish mixing. 
                              I put everything in the pans, and cook at 275 the first hour, then raise to 325 for at least 
                              another 2-3 hours.
                              Don’t  forget salt and pepper, more salt than pepper because the pepper taste is strong
                              for some reason
If you remember correctly,  this is a mushy kind of meal somewhat like a casserole.   As many say a little bland. Joan’s husband uses creamed corn, Ray uses ketchup,  but we Thompson eat it just as is.
This seems complicated,  but it just about feelings, I wish I could be there to show you, I love to carry this tradition for mom, 
Call me if you need more explanation…. I would be more than happy to help.
Should this be enough, let me know how it goes. By the way, I peel my potatoes the night before, put in cold water until the next day, also I cut my meat, put fat in one bowl,  and meat in another. This is the fat I use for my pans. I have a large black spotted spaghetti pot I use for my potatoes.  Something like what you would use for a corn roast.
Hope this is enough, thanks for wanting to carry on this tradition,  it’s  a good one.
Pat

All That Jazz!

Words spill out.  I use the word beautiful a lot!  I mention, too often, how grateful I am or how blessed I feel.  Writing helps me to take pause, to slow down and to take real measure of how truly fortunate I am. I seem to be a more positive person when I write. However, in that part of life away from the keyboard, I can become anxious, worrying and temperamental. I thought about this last evening, after an experience of improvisational jazz music that was both rich and compelling.  I’ll make a connection between words and jazz in a moment.  Readers, bear with me.

I always think of Wendy as a connector, but more than that, a dear friend.  Out of the blue, she invited me to join her for an early evening of improvised jazz.  The musicians, percussionist Robin Tufts and trumpet player, Andre Wickenheiser, created such magic in musical dialogue, that tonight, even as I write, I get chills.

We entered through the front doorway of the ‘yellow house’ and stepped into the warm light of new friendship.  Everywhere, interesting objects told stories of inspiration and the arts. Wonderful aromas wafted from the kitchen.  Introductions were made and Pat steered us toward the two pots of stock heating on the stove top.  Hanna turned meatballs in the fry pan.  I began chopping up beets on a wooden cutting board and the conversations seamlessly wove over and under and through the lovely gathering.  The only time the words stopped, was at the invitation to gather for the music.

Words stopped.

Taken from page 107

The Power of Silence: Silent Communication in Daily Life By Colum Kenny

What was about to take place was the ‘touching of a mystery’…a silencing of words.

Andre and Robin took their seats before us and Robin invoked a minute of silence.  It was heart breaking, the silence was so beautiful.  And…out of that silence was born the most remarkable improvised jazz sound.  I was transported or emptied or released…I haven’t decided which.  I relaxed.  Words left me.  I didn’t ‘think’.  It was a wonderful experience to focus on a weeping trumpet, a laughing trumpet…a percussive response; a light bell, wood, metal, skin….a cry, a gasp, a retort.  So complex, and yet so immediate and natural.

I was a little disappointed when the music came to a peaceful close.  Words, again, flowed throughout the room.  Conversations. Reactions. Circular sifting through spaces, hot bowls of soup…bread…desserts.  A glass of wine.  It was a genuinely ‘magical’ experience.

Thank you to Pat,  Robin and Andre.  It was good to meet you; Hanna and Roberta, Jaqueline, Rayne, Claudia…

Wendy, as always, thank you.

 

 

Mosaic 101

Wendy Lees is a vital leader in our visual arts community here in Calgary.  She has spearheaded so many wonderful projects and visual arts tours, either through making, leading or inspiring.  I’ve treasured her friendship for years now and I’m so grateful for our meeting.  I was blessed, yesterday, to have the opportunity to learn the first basic baby steps to mosaic art, in the comfort and organized studio that is her own home.  What a fun experience and what great people!

Wendy took on the magical practice of  create! in the East Village some time ago…and through that program, I met some of the most authentic and beautiful people of a lifetime.  Gladly, a few of them were able to attend the Mosaic 101 workshop, so renewing those relationships was an additional blessing!

If you have opportunity to participate in or attend any of the programs that Wendy advertises, DO!  Such fun!  It’s not just about techniques and skill development…it’s about community and connection!

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Love the focus and concentration that surfaced during the program!

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A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Thanks to my friend, Pat, who has this amazing way of organizing for such wonderful experiences, I attended Theatre Calgary’s A Thousand Splendid Suns a few weeks back.  It was an event for ‘seniors’ (Pat, Mary, Janet and me) in the afternoon and we enjoyed coffee, finger foods and cake, as well as a short presentation/question period with Pomme Koch who played Tariq.  Pomme gave an interesting background on the play, as well as a little about his own prior accomplishments in theater, film and such.  He had an easy manner and was very gracious, answering questions. I noticed and was annoyed by some chatters throughout this portion of the program.  During our post-event discussions (we always have them) we considered what is it in audience members that causes them to dismiss their own responsibility to contribute to making it a wonderful experience for everyone.  Who speaks when there is a performer requiring our attentions?  Chit Chat can wait, folks!

The magic of the stage performance was captivating; the sets, the characters, but especially the script; and I knew that I wanted to read the book over the coming days.  I had fallen in love with Mariam and admired the strength of Laila.  I wanted to know these women more and so once home, I picked up the copy of A Thousand Splendid Suns off my book shelf, another second hand book sale find.

Adapted by Ursula Rani Sarma
Based on the novel by Khaled Hosseini
Original music written and performed by David Coulter
Directed by Carey Perloff

I had read The Kite Runner some years ago and so I was prepared for the painful renderings of a history of Kabul and surrounding regions.  I knew, especially, having seen the play, that this would be a sad and painful story.

The bonded friendship between Mariam and Laila was the most essential element for me; a woman, reader and artist.  I was challenged through several moments of violence and violation of these women in the book.  These caused me tremendous pause and rage and sadness.  I loved that out of such hardship, this friendship grew.  While one might only focus on the darkness of their shared years, this is a story of resurrection for not only these two women, but also for the people of Kabul.  It is a story of hope, the final chapters, heart warming and sentimental.

Things I thought about…

The position of women in the context of family, culture and and the world.

The treatment of women in domestic situations.

Secrets we keep.

Who we protect.

Patriarchal entitlement.

Friendship

Nurturing

Basic Human Rights and Dignity

Jalil’s mistake.

A right to education.

Self-sacrifice

The complexities of the politics of this region.

What position does/should the world take in atrocities that occur in different regions of the world at any given time?  What is right?  What is just?

What about the children?

Forgiveness

A Thousand Splendid Suns

“One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs,
Or the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls.”
Khaled Hosseini, A Thousand Splendid Suns

A Thousand Splendid Suns

 

Collaboration

Some weeks ago, artist, Kelsey Fraser, led a workshop at the Esker Foundation on collaborative art making in both drawing and painting.  A key feature of the present exhibit, Earthlings, collaboration creates a wonderful bridge between northern and southern artistic culture.

By happenstance, the week prior to Kelsey’s workshop, I had explored collaboration with a high school learning strategies class.  Often saddled with group projects, older students often struggle with their part of a piece of work (poster, presentation, power point, report) when they are assigned to work with a mixed group of individuals.  I thought that it might be fun to explore a small non-threatening Exquisite Corpse activity in order to enjoy the experience of individual contributions for a common goal and completed work.  To begin with, we looked at the process of collaboration.

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I forgot to grab some photos of the resulting drawings. (may post later)  I had the students complete the first section on a paper folded into three (a character’s head – fantastical to representational) and then walk to someone in the room that they might not know and to trust them with the second section (the torso) and then, finally, that person would get up and pass it on to a third person for completion (the legs).  I enjoyed this exercise with a former student of mine, Tim Belliveau, when he led a session of life drawing at the Glenbow Museum.  It is a great activity for warm up and for ice breaking.  If you want to loosen up the crowd, this is a great method or if you have a fear of not ‘knowing’ how to draw, this activity removes that responsibility.

So, it was no surprise when Kelsey used some similar techniques to begin with the workshop attendees.  She began with blind contour drawings and had us circulate, working with different people on three rounds of portraiture.  The HOW TOs can be found here.

These were the three blind contours completed, where I was the subject.  It was so good to meet up with Jocelyn again!

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Next (and I’ll use this with a class some time or maybe during a pot luck party) we began a telephone game activity…page one write something, pass the booklet on…page two draw something related to page one’s writing….pass the booklet on…page three, write something related to the drawing on page two….pass the booklet on…page four, draw something related to the writing on page three….and so on through ten or so pages.

One needs to completely let go of any notions…expectations…of where this booklet goes in terms on content.  They can become pretty hilarious!

Here are a few pages from my booklet…

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Finally, the participants visited four different tables, to hook up with pencil nicks left on the edges of previous artist’s  compositions and to create their own line drawings in charcoal pencil.  Esker, the paper was of beautiful quality….thank you!  After drawing on three compositions, without looking at any of the other related drawings, we were asked to return to our original places, lay out the four compositions in sequence and to add paint.  Both challenging and thought provoking.  At this stage, the main goal would be to add harmony and unity to four somewhat disjointed pieces.  The colour added a very exciting dimension.

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Thanks to Kelsey Fraser and to Esker Foundation for a wonderful afternoon of exploring line, colour and collaboration!

“Collaboration requires focusing on everything from vision and values to how individuals can feel they are making a real contribution.”
Jane Ripley, Collaboration Begins with You: Be a Silo Buster

While I don’t think my contributions made sense sometimes, or that I had anything ‘intelligent’ to say, I also really appreciated the conversation PLACEHOLDER: An Unconventional Book Club Discussion with d.talks.  I was low on energy and very distracted and yet I had the true sense that the circle of people attending the event were listening.  Watch for future programs/events on the Esker site.

Join d.talks, in collaboration with Esker Foundation, for an evening discussion that responds to the exhibition, Earthlings, and draws upon the ceramic influences from Rankin Inlet, Cape Dorset, and Medalta in Medicine Hat. Structured as an unconventional book club, PLACEHOLDER is an intimate discussion and an opportunity for Calgarians to identify how our city and citizens affect – and are impacted by – local and global themes borne out of the work of Esker’s current exhibiting artists. Receive a list of selected texts or bring your own book, poem, or object. Let’s form a new narrative in Calgary together!