Esker Foundation is a Power House!

Some weekends, in Alberta, there is NO LIMIT to the number of events available to me, given that I’m interested in live music, books, art, theater and dance.  This past weekend was one of those for me.  I really wanted to see Billy MacCarroll’s Aftermath opening at Jarvis Hall, but will have to attend on my own.  The Glenbow opened its Sybil Adrews: Art and Life and ExtraOrdinary Objects exhibits.  The Bee Kingdom were hosting an open house…didn’t make that despite all of my good intentions.  A big one, Dave More: A Painter’s Gift, guest-curated by Mary-Beth Laviolette, happened in Red Deer on Sunday.  I’m happy to know that The Edge Gallery Calgary location is hosting an exhibit of David’s works, Hidden Within, opening on October 26 1-4.  And as I write this, I am reminded that I would love to see the recent works by Michael Corner that are on exhibit at The Edge Gallery in Canmore.  So…that list should demonstrate the dilemma.  And I know that it is only a beginning…we are so blessed in this province.

Did I mention that at the same time Wordfest was happening?  More on that later.

If you haven’t, try to make space to visit the Esker Foundation’s current exhibits and if possible, attend some of the engaging and inspiring programs.  Presently, Jeffrey Gibson: Time Carriers and Nep Sidhu: Divine of Form, Formed in the Divine (Medicine for a Nightmare) creates a rich dreamscape of texture and voice for the viewer. The work feels like a bridge between space and time, contributing to a bigger knowledge/experience of culture and collaboration. I find these exhibits intoxicating.

Almost soothing, the piece, Kablusiak: Qiniqtuaq located in the project space is best-seen in the night time as it becomes animated by the warm light of the projection and its complexities are more successfully captured.

On Friday evening, Jeffrey Gibson generously moved through a brief history of major bodies of work, beginning with the Punching Bag series and continuing to talk about abstraction, collaboration and garments.  It was very kind of Jeffrey to take the time to chat with us beyond question period, given that the garments and drums were being de-installed for the next day’s performance.  From Esker, Karen and I drove to cSPACE via a random path selected by Google Maps. (another story)  We were able to enjoy the work of artist and friend, Louise Lacey-Rokosh.  I met Louise some years ago at Gorilla House and I have enjoyed following her work.

I was blessed to have the opportunity to also enjoy Jeffrey Gibson’s performance piece, To Name Another, a piece that left me in tears three different times.  Did I take note of the words that most moved me?  No…  I think that the complete engagement in the sound/movement experience took all of us to a deeper place.  And while this might sound a little strange, that’s okay.

I continue to have a sense of wonder about the work that is on display and am looking forward to learning more about Nep Sidhu’s work and process.

Thanks to my sister-friends, Karen and Linda, for sharing in parts of this immersive journey with me this past weekend.   I enjoyed the yummy Ruben sandwich on the Spolumbos patio with you, Karen, on a perfect autumn day.  And Linda, I’m so happy that we had a chance to share deep fried dill pickles and a terrific Blues Jam and the Can.

A few images follow…I regret that I am missing the titles of the works below.  I will backtrack and complete the information as I collect it.  Initially, I have posted photos of some of the titles available that are linked to the subjects or interests of the artists presently on exhibit.  I really appreciate how the Esker always provides a reading list.

 

Autumn Mash Up

I am a single woman, in the last decades of my life, and sometimes I lay my head down on my pillow at the end of a busy day and wonder about being solitary in the world.  My life plays through my mind like a thin thread of film, projected on the dark wall across from me.  I am both in awe and fearful.  My life, alone, is a peaceful one.  Perhaps this is what was always meant to be.  But that acceptance and peace does not necessarily keep me from looking at the connection that others have in their partnered lives.

Autumn often causes this rerun, the movie of over sixty autumns that I can remember.  In every other autumn I would not have written the previous paragraph down, especially not in this format, perhaps in a private journal.  But, now, how does it really matter?

I remember a moment in a single engine Cessna, somewhere over Wisconsin.  We were flying north into Duluth when we got into difficulty and with time, our cloud ceiling was at 200 and then 100 and our pilot was requesting permission to land on a highway, the only visual reference we had.  Knowing that there were towers in the area and knowing that our pilot only had visual rating was frightening.  I clung to my then-partner’s hands, both of them.  Averting the first option, the wings bowed deeply sideways into the white cloud as we banked to go south and out of the fog/cloud.  When we came around,  the tree tops were an arm’s length from the plane’s belly.  I remember them as though it was yesterday.  They were conifers.  I kept saying, “The trees.  The trees.”  Not yelling and not particularly panicked.  This was a nightmare.  I had time to think, “I wonder how Mom and Dad will find me.”  I let go of my partner’s hand.  Instinctively I knew, ‘in the end I face this all alone.’

And I do.

Winter is coming.  A family of bald eagles has taught me much these past months but for several weeks, the juveniles have been distant, sent out of this territory to hunt, fish and find their own way.  The female came to some demise and is now gone.  The male has sheltered and fed the young.  A new sub adult has made herself known and has done multiple demonstrations for the juveniles.  She is a beautiful strong huntress.  The male has been close to her, but it seems that they are always in some wild discussion, resistant and yet set on a path.  Who knows what spring will bring.  It was only in the first snowfall that the youngsters returned to their nesting territory, bleating to the cold wind, about their fears and their challenges.  It was the day before yesterday’s snow that both the male and female arrived and consoled me with their familiar roosts in their favourite tree branches.  These beautiful raptors act as a unit, but live deeply their singular lives…it is what they must do to survive and for the species to survive.

These photographs were taken over these few weeks of Autumn..in no particular order.  They capture the prayers and the beauty and the journey of a single woman in a very beautiful world.

 

What I Didn’t Photograph in an Hour

Max and I walked at the Bow River when the light was flat.  The sky was cool white-grey on warm white-grey and I thought that it was interesting that I could see one thick layer on top of the other and that there was no part of white that seemed transparent.  The sky was a panel of two colours, layered.  In front of the panel, brilliant white snowflakes fell, angled, to the ground.  The wind was bitter.  I pulled my hoodie up over my ears and hair and soon after, also the hood to my coat.  My cheeks were cold, but the wind was to my back, definitely pushing us from the north.  We were walking in a blizzard.  The landscape was softened in a white fog and the river was umber/ultramarine dark.

I stood still beside Lauren’s bench and looked at my phone.  A string of little bells had set off earlier and I knew that it was my daughter.  Some people write about things in very lengthy threads.  Some break their ideas into little bits and send them like jewels across time and space and through this abstract world of possibility and connection.  My daughter’s loving messages came to me…I typed, in return…

“Teachers earn their wage.”

“I’m worried about my eagles, especially the youngsters.”

“I’m booking off tomorrow.”

“I love you.”

She replied, “Love you too”

At her ‘love you too’  (and you likely won’t believe this), one of the juveniles, deepest umber and back etched in a layer of snow, flew directly in front of and past me, over the churning river, heading south on the cold wind, his wing span, forgotten.  Yesterday, in autumn, I saw both Dad and his new woman and that had given me a lot of peace.  I know that everything is natural to these raptors, but in my depth of gratitude for what pleasure they have brought to me, I am concerned, in the same way as a person is concerned for any creature that faces such a brutal winter.

Max spooked.  He and I saw the white-tail at the same time.  She thought she needed to bolt, but I assured her very quickly by moving Max and I the opposite direction and instantaneously averted my eyes and forced my excited dog to submit to me.  We walked closer to the water.

I found it interesting that the gulls were so active, weaving in and out of one another and skimming the surface of the water.  These gulls have a huge wing span.  And they seem very hardy, performing every sort of maneuver, often directly into the wind.  I stood still, very close to the river’s edge, and watched them.  Max nuzzled his snout deep into the cold snow, now and then, eating a bit.

While foot falls seemed swallowed by the snow and sounds were muffled, airplanes overhead were loud and interfered with the great mystery that is always lurking around each bend, the unknown, the hidden…waiting through every season, especially when a woman and her dog are alone, unremarkable, quiet.

My Canon was warm next to my chest and zipped under my winter jacket.  My phone rested in my right hand pocket.  I grabbed it and snapped three photographs of the distinctive textures of shrubs, still fully leaved, having lost the sense of autumn far too quickly.

A cacophony erupted from the east and over our heads, flew, in perfect formation and with winged concavity in synchronized motion, a huge number of Canada geese.  I would have snapped a photograph.  Such a beautiful pattern against the backdrop of our second big snow.  They strategically came to rest in the shallow channel of water that separates the small island from me.  A loud bit of sorting, their voices raised havoc on the river, the gulls, now, engaged in the mix up.

Once stepping into the deep woods, I turned my eyes upward in order to look for the dark form of the juvenile, but he did not reappear, so he must have gone beyond.  The snow pelted my face, not as much flakes as crystals.  I naturally opened my mouth.  I brought my face down, in gratitude, for having seen him at all.  The sky was turning a darker shade of grey and so I continued through the tall grass, now weighted down with snow and fallen across the worn path of summer.

Eastern starlings, many of them, lifted up and out of the golden brown canopy in unison, seeming alarmed but uncertain of where to alight.  It was as though they were of one mind…but, what part of that machine would decide/move/land and why would all of the others follow?  They disappeared.  I wondered if I had actually witnessed this.

Heading back on the groomed pathway and then once again, cutting through the trees, I saw her surrounded in the shrubs and wearing an aura or a crown of golden leaves.  Her eyes were deep black, dark pools of gentleness, her nose, just as dark.  I cautioned Max.  She stood perfectly still in an almost-grey silhouette.  I spoke assuring words for absolutely no reason until we had passed.

These are the moments at the river.

This is a culmination of an hour, not snapping photographs.  This is how people used to remember.

Gramma’s Treasured Time

I had a couple of weeks where I had a chance to spend the days with my grandson and don’t want to be remiss in acknowledging that time.  I look back on those days with a warm and happy heart.  He is changing so fast and so much and he is just such a funny person.  I love to talk with him.  I treasure every moment.  A collection of images for our times shared will be included here…but first…

All of the poems I read on the internet…poems for grandsons…were stupid.  The intentions were lovely and they were very very sweet.  But, none of them suited my grandson.  ‘Perhaps one day I will try to write a poem for you, my wonderful magical Steven.’  For now, the poem that best suited our little boy who loves ants and lady bugs and spiders is this one, written by William Carlos Williams, for his grandson.  It is titled, The Turtle.  I apologize that these bits are unclear.

I love you, Steven.

 

A Beakerhead Spectacle! 2019

I’m going backwards in my life again!  I just realized that I didn’t celebrate properly, on my blog, the amazing fantabulous spectacle of Beakerhead 2019!    On the evening of September 21, there was such a razz-a-ma-tazzzz filled with inspiring displays, and a big smooosh of art and science in Calgary’s core!  I would like to express gratitude to my friend, Steven, who made this experience possible and for Pat for attending this fun evening with me.

There was a public parking fiasco to begin with…but with a second trip back to my car, that was rectified.  The fiasco led to a serendipitous visit to an art gallery where Pat and I ended up bidding on art in a silent auction (where, it seems, clients had no idea how to bid in a silent auction) and we left with some art work.

By the  time we made it on to Prince’s Island Park, it was pitch black.  There was a huge line up, larger than any I have ever seen at Calgary Folk Festival.  Personally, I was happy to discover in a timely fashion the portable toilets and then we were off to realize the magic that surrounded us.  I always really enjoy attending events with Pat because inevitably she ends up in an interesting conversation, whether that be with someone in a line up for a food truck or with a University of Calgary student working on a solar powered car design.

I’ve got to say that while the fire and the lights and the throbbing music were sensational, my favourite display of the evening was a giant pop up book based on biological studies.  I absolutely loved it.  Second to that, of course, the giant polar bear demanding everyone’s attention.  And finally, I was in awe of the beautiful resting area where above our heads, classical music and an experience of the cosmos unfolded in spinning concentric designs.

The remainder of this post will be visual in nature.  Beakerhead was a SPECTACLE this year.  I’m glad for the opportunity to attend.  Only suggestions would be to deal with whatever the issue was around accessibility to food and beverages…and mayhaps lighting strips along the pathways?? Apart from those minor edits, keep Beakerhead in Calgary.  It is pure magic!

Learning about propane.

Learning about solar and electric cars.

Open Doors YYC: The Alberta Ballet

It’s been a busy weekend, so this year I was only able to attend one event for Open Doors YYC.  I highly recommend these opportunities and have always learned a great deal about different places in our city.  I was excited, today, to be able to see the magic that is the Alberta Ballet.

I’ve often admired the outside facade and structure of the building that houses the Alberta Ballet, but have never stepped inside.  So today, along with my friend, Pat, I had my first opportunity to explore Studio 1 and Studio 2, as well as the Mezzanine.

There was no need to arrive early.  The organizers just weren’t ready for us.  With the weather being as it was, the 10:00 tour began at 10:15.

Once Tanya Chumak joined us, we were given the history of the building itself, the history of the Alberta Ballet and then introduced to the Master’s lesson we would be observing, conducted by Kelly McKinlay.

The building housed both the St. Mary’s Parish Hall / CNR Station, Calgary, Alberta. The foundation of this neighbourhood is deeply rooted in the Roman Catholic life of Southern Alberta when Our Lady of Peace was established in this area.  Upon the announcement that the transcontinental railway would be thundering through the neighbourhood, missionary Albert Lacombe travelled to Ottawa in 1884 with hopes of securing land to help sustain the French Catholic culture that was beginning to envelope the surrounding area.  Incorporated in 1889, this small parcel of land was known as Rouleauville, where streets were named after missionaries and the St. Mary’s Cathedral stood guard.

To help unify their culture and beliefs, the community decided to build the St. Mary’s Parish Hall in 1905, which is located at 141 18 Avenue SW.  The building was large enough to hold approximately 500 individuals during concerts and theatre productions, in addition to housing the St. Mary’s Boy’s School in the basement.  Unfortunately, performances were short lived in this sandstone building; upon the annexation of Rouleauville to Calgary in 1907, the building was soon sold to Canadian Northern Railway in 1911 and adapted into a railway station in 1913.  Due to the financial restraints during the war, the company decided to modify the existing structure versus constructing a new station.  With the modification came the new addition to the rear of the building and the creation of a wooden canopy in 1916.  Passenger service continued with the Canadian Northern Railway until 1971 when it was terminated.  Calgary acquired the land and buildings in 1978 and although a fire destroyed most of the interior in 1984, the building was lovingly restored in 1985 and the Alberta Ballet became the proud new occupants.

 

I was swept up with the Master Class.  I really truly loved it.  What a relaxing way to spend the morning.  I grabbed a few photos from above because the strength and form were so absolutely beautiful to witness.

Thanks to Pat for coming out to this one with me and for driving.  I feel really fortunate that Calgary offers such wonderful programs and opportunities!  Thank you Alberta Ballet!

Once home, I have to admit that Max and I really truly relaxed for the first time in a long time.  It was nice to put on three layers of flannel and to just hang out.

 

British Home Child Day on September 28

The snow has been coming down steadily since last evening and this morning there was a thick blanket.  It’s beautiful, but it is also a bit overwhelming as one anticipates the many months of darkness and cold.

The weekend, however, held many blessings.  I spent the past months contacting people, media and organizations about the importance of recognizing that on September 28th each year, we are to remember and recognize over 100,000 children who were brought to Canada to serve as indentured servants across the nation.  My great grandfather was one.  This year marks 150 years since the arrival of the first of these children.

Those who know me are familiar with my story, but I really did want to share the images of a special event that local descendants of BHC hosted at the Forest Lawn Public Library, yesterday afternoon.  It was a blessing to meet so many more descendants and to chat with them after the presentations and during the exhibition.

I really enjoy my friendships in this group, including Bruce, Hazel, Connie, Donna and Anna and really appreciate all of their hard work and their dedication.  I am also grateful to my daughter, Erin, who attended but who also dragged chairs around, assisting where she could and Kelly, Hazel’s daughter, for her wonderful support in loading, displaying and just generally being helpful and included.

Five descendants shared their family narrative with the large group of people who came out on a dreary bad-weather day.  Every generation was represented and questions were thoughtful and engaged the panel.  There was lots of time for socializing and connecting with one another.   A very special artifact for the group in Western Canada, of course, is the Memory Quilt that was lovingly constructed by Hazel.

As I drove home late in the afternoon, I felt grateful for the presentations and grateful for the people I worked with.

In the evening, I turned on my porch light, but unlike other nights, I took a moment to pause and think about the injustice that was perpetrated on so many innocents.  I hope to, over time, help in educating the public about this part of Canada’s history.

The Beacons of Light, in recognition of 150 years included the lighting of the Calgary Tower and last night’s lighting of Reconciliation Bridge.  Thanks to Bruce Skilling for his photograph of the bridge.

Photo Credit: Bruce Skilling

Photo Credit: Bruce Skilling

 

If you would like to be included in our contacts, have any questions at all or would like to suggest venues and activities, we’d love to hear from you.  You may contact me through this blog or through the e mail connected to this blog.  We also invite you to peruse our Facebook page, although our group is primarily made up of descendants living in the west.  We are most agreeable to helping you with your research questions.

Finally, I will try to post Mayor Naheed Nenshi’s remarks.

BHCGI British Home Child Group International 2019 (2)

Reconciliation Bridge lit up for the Sunflower, symbol for the BHC and Child Migrants Photo Credit: Bruce Skilling

Waiting for permission to use two other photographs of Beacons of Light.

Climate Strike

My feet are still cold.  But, now I’m dry and in a minute, I’m going to pour a glass of wine.

I started my day by posting a whole number of paintings I’ve done over the last years, some of them exhibited in a beautiful little gallery in Lethbridge by my cousin, Jo, and her then-partner.  I threw images out to Bookface Land (coined by my friend, Doug M) in order to cause people to think…not about the art, but about our planet and I sort of hoped they would think about the planet in terms of the subjects being vulnerable pieces of that planet.

I called this work, A Covenant Series, and for those of you who are not ‘into’ religion, I think it is obvious by that title, that I am.  At the very least, I’d have to say that my life is rooted in scripture.  The painting, above, is titled Genesis and at the base of all of the pieces in this body of work, I have submerged actual passages from scripture.  You see, I’m not afraid to admit that I am religious.  In today’s world, religious people can even be a little refreshing. It’s way more acceptable, however, today, to say that you are spiritual.  In that way, a lot of hard stuff can be avoided, like the horrific actions of people on other people, often in the name of religion.  Let’s start with residential schools!

Back to the subject of this post…

Human beings, as a species, have a responsibility to be stewards of the earth, water and air, as well as every living creature on/in them, and that includes caring for one another.  If you’re NOT religious, I think that this makes sense as well.  Don’t you think?

Long story/short, I have, along the way, painted some of my own fears down onto panels…fears of losing beautiful parts of our world.  Sometimes these paintings expressed themselves as landscapes. Sometimes, particular species were investigated.  Most recently, I’ve been focused on a single bush through a year.

And as several readers know, I have been very caught up in the life of a family of Bald Eagles at the edge of the Bow River.  We are so very blessed.

In the novel, The Diviners by Margaret Laurence, Morag, the protagonist is sitting and conversing with her young daughter, Piquette.  Piquette, a Metis, turns to her writer-mother and asks what a buffalo is.  The conversation between the two of them has always impacted me, as has the connection that Morag has with her river.  The fact that this child had lost connection with such an iconic animal and that she looked to her mother to describe it, caused me to think that I must begin documenting…the landscape…the river…animals.  I became a crazy lady, visiting places like Maycroft Crossing in order to see the Old Man River before the dam.  It seemed I needed to be able to collect and document life as it was for the sake of my children.

Curtis Running Rabbit-Lefthand delivered a powerful Land Acknowledgement and then offered a very few words.  His words created the one point in the afternoon of speeches that made me cry.  No, there was one other young female University student who also caused me to cry, speaking of the things that make her afraid.  Curtis talked about us being Treaty people.  In the context of this entire day, for me, it was exceptional.

Treaty and Covenant.  The one thing I know for sure anymore is that I am hell bent on protecting my grandson.   And, as I explore what this means, I feel like I can’t make very many promises.  I can’t promise him that he will have a beautiful world full of the magic of so many species of animals and birds and insects once he is a man, the age of his father.  I can’t make promises because the world isn’t sustainable.  Destructive fires are burning. Children, the world over, are starving. Traumatic climate events are more frequent. Consumption is unreasonable. And human beings are in a denial stew (something that I believe rises up out of fear).

What I am empowered to do, however, is to have my grandson see me as a Treaty person.  I want him to know that I will do everything in my power to care for the planet and the people in it.  I will be an exemplar for him.  I will stand up to injustice.  I will speak the truth.

I’m proud of those Calgarians who showed up today.  I’m proud of those participants in our great nation, Canada, who are listening to young people as they demand action. I am grateful to people the world over who have a concern for the health of our world.

The weather today in Calgary was crappy.  And tonight we get snow.  But, my heart is warm and I am determined in my walk, more so tonight than any other time on my journey.

 

Crows Fly Over Main Street

My daughter spent quite some time living in Vancouver.  For some reason I always put up a bit of a wall when the possibility of traveling there was considered.  I’ve had a friend living there for decades.  And then, Bobbie moved there.  But, I always felt some fears around its density, compactness or some unnamed unknown.  A drunk person poured an entire glass of beer down my back at a Dave Matthew’s concert in Rogers Arena one night, years ago, and the same night, I stayed in an Otto Rogers themed room. That sums up my experience of Vancouver, until recently.

On the afternoon and evening of August 20, 2019, I had opportunity to walk and see a touch of what my daughter experienced.  While I never did get to the water’s edge, I did walk a stretch of Main Street and visited one of her work places, a shop called, Front and Co.  I’ve snapped a few photographs of places along the way.  One has to admit that the vegetation is lush in Vancouver and varied.  I tried to capture that as well.

In the evening, we gathered to feast and to toast Bob.  One beautiful friend of the family delivered ‘Bob Likes Thai Food’ for dinner and another brought flowers and wine.  As we sat, sharing stories, a huge murder of  crows flew over our heads…a movement that is repeated each evening, like clockwork, over the house.  I was overcome with the magic of this, the sounds of it and will never forget it.

When it was pitch black, we walked and talked our way to the neighbouring cemetery.  There, we opened up a blanket and sat down, overlooking the lights of Vancouver.  We talked until the early hours of morning about absolutely everything, but mostly Bob.

I snapped a photograph of sculpture in the Vancouver air terminal before leaving.

I’ve recently had another dear friend move to Vancouver.  I have family in Comox.  Vancouver, I’ll be back!

Light and Cake

Happy Birthday, Nigel!!

I’m doing some back-peddling.  I’ve not been much for writing the past week or so, but I’m pulling out of the doldrums.  (Maybe because of the seven hours of sleep last night.)  I have no idea.  I’m just going with the ebb and flow.  I’m being grateful.  I began the day with a short Vimeo shared on social media by artist, Tim Schumm.  He’s been quite the adventurer in life and when I see his photographs, paintings and such, I feel a real connection with the more adventurous spirit that was my youth.

This is the video he shared.  If you have 16 minutes, watch it.  It made a difference for me today.

I felt a change inside at the conclusion of the movie.  I made a decision to be more patient and to be grateful.  Additionally, I decided to focus on kindness.  So, where yesterday, I felt a tad ‘flat’, today I gained purpose.  I also felt prepared to celebrate the lives of those who have died over the past few years without focusing on missing them.  And so, I feel as though today I was going somewhere instead of traveling nowhere…I felt, a little bit, as though I had left the doldrums.

And so, I sit to write…

Happy Birthday, Nigel!  August 23rd…and we are so grateful you were born!  Former student of mine, smart cookie, amazing chef, artiste-extraordinaire, husband to beautiful and big-hearted Angela, philosopher, literary scholar, gamer, connoisseur of music, all round good person….we are so grateful you were born!  This evening, I am celebrating our friendship.

Thank you, Angela, for the lovely barbecue in Nigel’s honour.