January 19, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sure enough.

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

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

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

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

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

If you have a chance, take a look.

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

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

While Coming Across Flower Paintings…

…I thought of Pauline.

She comes to mind often. Her humus recipe surfaced the other day.

I wonder if she reached out to our friend, Bobby, upon his arrival. A few more photos were tucked into albums today.

Ed, Bobby and I headed out to see Pauline, our inspiring University professor, who lived perched above Kootenay Lake in Argenta. This was in 1996-97 and I was on Sabbatical. We got lots of sketching/painting done. We slept under the driftwood shelter on the beach. It was the weekend that my friend, Lynn Kierzek, died. While I slept, I wore a painting vest that Lynn crocheted. I still have that vest.

The border collie found in the photo is not Max Man or Laurie Dog…that’s Pauline’s dog. I felt right at home. I love the memory of this time away from the city, of conversations shared along the drive. We picked up a rose bush for Pauline in Cranbrook and planted it while in Argenta. We also purchased a bottle of spice that she needed, in a small grocery shop in Coleman.

May Bobby and Pauline rest in peace and may perpetual light shine upon them.

The Etching Leads Me Down the Rabbit Hole and I Arrive at Pam Marlen

We lived on Ferguson, just off of Fox Farm Road, in Great Falls.  The Marlens were our neighbours.  Charlie, a medical professional, was a big hunter.  I remember, at my age, thinking that was a pretty amazing thing, but really different.  My Dad and brothers were big fishermen, but they had never journeyed into that world.  As for Pam, she was a life-giving free spirit.  She exuded creative and fun-loving energy.  Our families shared many wonderful times.  A little younger than me, the Marlen kids; Jimmy, Chuck and Ann, were all sweet.

When I headed to Lethbridge for University and my family was moving east, my mother had my etching framed up professionally and I gave it to the Marlens as a gift.  I believe Mr. Winenger allowed me to take the copper plate home, and yet all these years later, I haven’t a print or the plate, but have only a strong recollection of both the process and the piece.

Searching for a photograph of the etching, led me to go deeper into the rabbit hole and there I found young Chuck’s tribute to his mother, eloquently written in 2017.  I tried leaving comments on his blog, but every time I clicked “POST COMMENT”, my words were eaten up and disappeared into who-knows-where.

I think that it is the fact that I haven’t been able to connect that has led me to this series of posts because today has been a day of nostalgia since coming upon the blog post about Pam.  Once, through University, I traveled by bus to Great Falls and visited Pam and Charlie.  I have also tucked away the gift of a Fanny Farmer cookbook they gave me as a wedding gift.  It is one of my treasures.

Young Charlie’s blog…

Art Studio Poster Explaining Pam Marlen’s Glass Bead Making Process

Today would be my mother’s 79th birthday, she passed away in 1997.

Pam Marlen ( Mary Pamela Smith) 1938-1997 Artist

I have very little of my Mother’s artwork, and if not for the kindness of my little brother sending me several items I would not have any.

As-well-as designing Passive Solar Houses, Gardens, and Landscaping – She also created amazing fused glass creations, pottery, glass beads, quilting, water colors, stained glass, and probably many other items I’m not remembering as I write this post.

She would even make the  unusual fun vests she would wear to events …

Back label on Pam Marlen’s ‘Buttons to Beads’ Self-Portrait

Much of my mother’s artwork was sold and anything left after her death was distributed amongst the family; therefore, the stunning Fused Glass pieces are owned by others, but I am very happy to have what might be one of my mother’s only artistic self-portraits.

Buttons to Beads Quilt with Glass Beads by Pam Marlen

Pam Marlen didn’t do anything normal, and if she was going to do a self-portrait of course it would be something unusual like combining Quilting & Glass Bead making to make the portrait of her making Glass Beads …

Paper that was pinned to Quilt – Houston National Quilt and Beads Showing

She also included herself playing with buttons as a child in the portrait …

Pam Marlen as Child Playing with Buttons

All of the Glass Beads attached to the quilt were made by Pam Marlen and they were sewn to the quilt using buttons on the back …

Back of Buttons to Beads Self-Portrait Quilt by Pam Marlen

My mother liked to save items that she didn’t feel were worth selling because there was an imperfection on those items… she didn’t save much but some items had imperfections she liked and would save them inside her studio, just for her own collection.

I’m not sure how many people knew about her ‘imperfection collection‘, but she and I talked about them once and it was fascinating how she liked something special about each one.

Fused Glass Examples in Background

A few years ago I found 2 new glass fusing/ceramic kilns for sale at a very good price and I purchased them … While my mother had taught me a little about fusing glass, I took a private ‘one-day’ class to refresh my memory.

Link to Post: Firebox-8 Kiln Height Extension

This Firebox-8 Kiln’s Temperature is Manually Controlled

Creating Fused Glass artwork is about predicting how it will look when finished semi-melting/fusing together … Thus, having no idea how to predict, I just overlapped interesting colors of broken glass into a pattern.

Cut & Broken Glass in Kiln before 1st Melting

After the first melting the instructor was very let down that the glass had cracked, but being my mother’s son I said, “Oh that makes it even more interesting, lets leave it and do the final melting to fuse it as is” …

Broken Slumped Glass that Broke and Re-Fused in Kiln

The final kiln firing softened the broken edges and created an interesting Fused Glass piece …  I placed it on my dresser and consider it the first of many of my own  ‘imperfection collection’ artwork pieces.

I imagine there will be many future Metal Castings to add to this collection 🙂

First Try and Glass Artwork on My Dresser

In addition to saving imperfect pieces, my mother also would create small pottery pieces that she could use to test out Pottery Glaze formulas …

Mini Glaze-Test Pottery Parts by Pam Marlen

It appears the items my little brother sent to me were part of a Green Glaze test and even these little items had her signature on the bottom.

While I only have test pottery pieces by my mother, I am proud to have those items because that is how I remember her – Always experimenting!!

Bottom of the Green Glaze
Formula Test Pottery by Pam Marlen

She signed all of her Pottery with a PM symbol  (Click images for larger view)

Pottery Signature on Test Glaze items by Pam Marlen

She had shelves of these small glaze-test pottery items in her studio …

A larger piece of pottery that was probably a Green Glaze-Test item

Mary Pamela Smith (Pam Marlen) was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma to E.R. and Mildred Smith on July 31, 1938.
She created most of her artwork in or near Great Falls, Montana.

This looks like a Bowl she used to test some Green Pottery Glaze

The pottery I remember the most as a child was a natural wash look as shown in the image below with hand-touched clay items added to pottery she had thrown on her potter’s wheel.

Natural Glaze with Clay Hard Artwork on Pottery

For years she would make pottery Christmas Ornaments and give them out to friends and family… Many times having us as kids help her.

Received photos of an items my mother made that I had not viewed before …

Hat made for Pat Erickson by Pam Marlen

Pat Erickson sent these photos to me of a hat my mother made for her …

If you enlarge the photo and look closely the bugs on the hat are glass beads.

Hat with Glass Bead Bugs made by Pam Marlen for Pat Erickson

Pat mentioned Pam Marlen made this hat for her birthday 🙂

Hat created by Pam Marlen with Painted leaves & Glass Bead Bugs

Thank You Pat for taking the time to send these photos!! 🙂

.   .   .

Pam Marlen had a stroke at age 58 in April of 1997 while giving a speech to get donations for the flood victims of the Grand Forks, North Dakota flood of 1997… passing away later in the year.

She lived an interesting life … and myself being a Star Trek fan it was almost surreal to come home to visit and learn her quilting group was asked to be extras in a movie directed by Leonard Nimoy… being very private director he would rarely talk to people on set; however, he would come over talk to my mother about quilting and other artistic items.

My mother met SPOCK …Too Cool!!

… MISS YOU MOM  

. . .

Old Photos of Charles J. Marlen Jr. … So when I lose them they can be found
online in a Google Search 🙂 CMR High School called Chuck Marlen

I think this photo was taken in about 1966

This photo looks to be about 1985 … Sometime during College

Sometime in the Late 1980s

 

Chillin’ in Hot Key West, Florida

Drysuit Scuba ‘Cold-Water’ Diving in Alaska

There *grin* … at least when I pass away, something will be online. *lol*

  CHEERS!! 

.  .  .

 

The Season

Those readers who know me, know that for almost two months, I’ve been sequestered to the family room with Max, my border collie.  He’s been struggling, but at the moment, seems to have rallied after being put on a regime of medications that are helping him with the anxiety of pain and now, even tackling the inflammation.  In the meantime, we sleep here….together.  Thanks to those who have supported me.  For now, Max is making it up and down stairs, able to look out the window from his red sofa and is doing a walk around our urban circle each day.

There have been a number of events that have marked this season for me.  I’m just going to go through and gather from photos in my archives and stick them in here…I’m going to keep the writing brief.  This year, the darkness has really impacted me and I like that neighbours have strung up outdoor lights on their houses so early.  Christmas lights seem to dispel that cold and isolating feeling that might come with the darkness of winter.

Before I post the first photo,  I’d like to say that early in December, I ordered my gifts on line for the first time.  In the last week, I’ve received word that of all these, 100%, are delayed.  It’s 5 in the morning on a holiday Monday and I’m sitting here laughing about this.  Max is sound asleep on our wee cot, just behind me.

Steven and me after his very first daycare Christmas concert.  A brief video is posted below.

My Auntie Eleanor with a portrait I painted of her for her 90th birthday.  I love her so.

Daily walks at the Bow River fill me with a peacefulness.  I like to watch and learn from the various species that share this time with me.  I post a lot of those observations, here.

I did sponge printmaking with my grandson.  He’s made home made gifts for everyone this year.

Already, the male sparrow has taken up residence in the neighbour’s vent.  I will enjoy another springtime of observations…my sixth year of watching these families come and go.

Pat and I went to the Marda Loop Justice Film Festival again this year, this time being joined by Janet and Mary.  It was an inspiring experience.  I really learn so much when I attend this festival.  Thanks to all organizers.

When Wendy hosts a dinner party, the food is sooo scrumptious.  Happy birthday, Lauraine!!  Love the food, the conversation and all of the laughter.  Thank you, friends!

We attended the Bragg Creek artisan’s sale and I picked up my beautiful honey from Alvise and Paola.  Christmas wouldn’t be the same without seeing them.  A quick stop at the coffee shop to hug Randy and Jane…an ice cream.  Nanny Linda, it was so good to share this time with you.

A back yard snowman with Steven, Erin and Linda.  Fun in the snow!

I was able to paint Prince for my dear friend, Linda.  I’m pretty sad that she’ll be on her way back to London very soon.  I treasure her and I’m going to miss her very much.

Few people know that I’m deep in the application process for the Alberta University of the Arts BFA program.  The day that my sister, Val, contacted me that she had achieved her PhD, I was inspired to take this step, regardless the cost or the struggles that might come up.  In 1997, I took a sabbatical year to complete my third year of my BFA.  That’s when I met Bobby.  I’ve always been labeled a self-taught artist and I’ve really wanted to pursue my dream of actually ‘being’ an artist.  At this ripe age, it might be silly, but ‘OH WELL’.  When I went to the open house and orientation to the program, I stopped in to the Illingworth Kerr gallery and really enjoyed the exhibit, Thing to Wear.

Daughter, Cayley, and I were able to celebrate with Irene for her 70th birthday.  What a gorgeous setting at the Ruberto Ostberg Gallery.  Thank you, Phil, for the invite and your always-warm-hospitality.  We love you so much.

Linda and I went down to the Central Library to enjoy the exhibit of friend, Allan Rosales.  At this point in the season, I was beginning to feel unstuck.  I was beginning to feel lighter and like my feet were coming unglued from a deep muddy mire of grief.  It isn’t as though the losses of the past year were gone…it’s just that the grief was letting go of me and letting me stretch back into my life.  Good to bump into my cherished friend, Wendy.

My former student, Billy, asked if I would paint a tree on a headboard that he was creating and I was happy to do it for a few beautiful bottles of red wine.  I was spending my days with Max anyway.  These sorts of projects became opportunities.  I would see Billy again…a pleasure.


I reconnected with Joan.  My friend, Sheila, should be given credit for this because no matter how many years slip by, she has remained a friend over all.  I’m so grateful.  My heart is now open to share lunch with Joan on Fridays for as long as I can.  On a recent visit, Joan and I shared her books-to-read titles, stopping every so often to leaf through pages and talk about the subjects of these books.  Joan is such an influence on me.  Over the years she has given me so much in the way of ideas.  I love you, Joan.

My parish is my community of faith.  I love St. Albert the Great.  I love the narrative we share and the rituals of love, hope and peace.  I have found strength in this space over many years.  I’m grateful for this manger…and for the pure potential that I find in this space.

My cousin, Peter, took me out for a lunch to Earl’s restaurant.  I was so happy to get to do something so special.  I just don’t get out to dine.  It was fun.  Peter is one of my dearest cousins, always supporting and loving me.  No photo of him here, but, our server was a former student of mine, Nicole, so we grabbed this snap.

Pat and I never did catch up to these guys…but we were all at the Holiday Train’s arrival at Anderson’s station.  I left my phone at home, so no photos for me this year.  But, that was perfectly fine because we were really swept up in the experience.  Here, Erin, Doug and Steven, with the Holiday Train in the background.  A great initiative for the food banks across Canada.

All three of my children were with me to decorate my tree this year…along with Steven and Linda.  This means so much to me.  I know that at some point all three of them will have families and traditions of their own and won’t be able to do this.  But, this year it worked out and I’m always going to remember it.  I am grateful for you, Erin, Cayley and James.

I’m going to miss you, sister-friend!  Thanks, Linda, for coming downtown with me for the Sybil Andrews exhibit.

Extraordinary Objects.  I was boggled by this porcelain work!

Thanks to Trevor for helping me to deal with this leak.  I’m so sorry that I missed Mark’s birthday, but I was so relieved to get this managed.  I had my own frozen Niagara Falls escaping the outdoor faucet.  Crisis averted.

Dawn asked me to paint poppies for her Mom’s 80th birthday, so this happened.  I taught Dawn’s son, Justin, and beautiful daughter, Jess.  I will always be connected to this family.  May you have a magical year!

Then I made Party Mix…lots of it! lol

I was welcomed into the Saint John Henry Newman circle and did some teaching before the Christmas break.  I was so excited to connect with Hollee, another former student of mine.  I snapped a few photographs of her grade six classroom because I felt so proud of her and so excited.  We embraced often.  We both have so many fond memories of those years in Junior High School.  Thanks so much, Louise and Carl and to Lorelie.

My neighbourhood is lit up!

My daughter and her partner and their two bands, Darktime and Napalmpom, participated in Merry Keithmas at the Palomino, to raise funds for Calgary Food Bank.  I had a very fun time seeing Cayley performing Stones tunes.

I drove to Didsbury to share in the annual Christmas open house organized by University-friend, Brian.  Juan and Brian, this year’s event was another very special time.  Glad to have connected with so many wonderful people.  Your home is warm and welcoming and so absolutely spectacular!  The food, (pickled sausage, lettuce wraps, pulled pork, etc etc) was so delicious!  Thank you from the bottom of my heart.  May you be richly blessed for the coming year.

Christmas baking, this year, was a major blitz.  It was a full day of chaos.  But, I can not tell you how wonderful it was to share time with these ladies.  Visits came in the form of nephew, John, toting coffee for people and treats for Max.  Thank you, John!  I love you!  Following that, we all shared in a very special Facetime event with my brother, Cliff, during lunch.  These two visits pretty much made my Christmas already!

The bell that friend, Pat, gave to Steven.  I love these two and I’m grateful that they come to Mass with me.

Winter walks at the Bow River are peaceful and help to recharge me.  I’m grateful for all of the lessons that the river teaches me.

Mikey’s on 12th, with friends Dan, Lauraine and Wendy…treasured time and terrific tacos!

 

I’m wishing all of you and your loved ones Peace on Earth….and Good Will to All!  Rest up…there are sure to be bumps along the way.

 

December 16, 2019 Insufficient Space on Memory Card

Nothing like clicking the camera and having this message come up.  I suppose, in some ways, a person should walk through life without space on their memory card, in order to be fully present.  So, I walked the rest of the crispy morning, without snapping and clicking and containing the magic of the landscape.  Instead, I considered the beauty of the Pileated Woodpecker and the bright flash of red through the hoarfrost to be a gift to me.  The morning was heavenly, on my side of the river.

I saw our adult Bald Eagle pretty quickly and snapped some shots as the fog off the river was quickly making its way toward me.  The sound of geese and ducks rose up out of the icy Bow River.  All else was silent.  These are the photos that I grabbed before my lens withdrew into my camera and my camera shut down.

The White Breasted Nuthatch was the best that I could get yesterday, when I left Max at home and did my walk by myself.

Weather and nature contribute to struggles…constantly, I’m reminded that life contains brutality as well as beauty.

Always trying for a good shot of a White Breasted Nuthatch, but never quite getting it.

In all of that blue, above, one can see a Juvenile flying over.  It’s wonderful that recently another birder-friend, Julie has sighted one of the Juveniles close, on our side of the river.  At least one of them has thrived thus far, through the wintry weather.

As I poured over my archives last evening, On December 15, 2018 I observed an adult Bald Eagle on the nest.  At the end of my walk this morning, I noticed that an adult had landed on the nest and was doing some shifting of the snow on its surface.  So many beautiful miracles at this nest the past six years!  It’s all so intuitive and spectacular to watch unfold.  Already, I’ve been given a promise of spring.

Through All Ages

Nature teaches us lessons.  It is a powerful thing to walk along the Bow River’s edge.  I observe and learn about so many elements of nature through those observations.  I struggle as I watch my beautiful border collie, Max, decline in his abilities and in his health.  But then, I step out into the landscape that he and I have enjoyed for so many years together, alone, and I am witness to how the land, water, animals and birds have also changed over these years.  I need to be grateful for the journey and for the ever-changing  characteristics in all things, even myself.  As the years go by, I am grateful for the shifts and the adaptations and the spectacles of my life.  I am grateful for my time at the river today.  Here are the beauties that allowed me close into their world.  I was still and so they moved around me and allowed me to be a witness to a -5 day at the river.

I will share from youngest to oldest…I was engaged by all of them today…a very rare thing.

 

Marking the Advents of Our Lives

It was in 2006 that I circled the pond with Maxman, for the purpose of taking a single photograph of a bush.  I walked very regularly at this location for several years before, and was a steward of the pond daily, creating a project called Changing the Landscape: One Bag at a Time.

For almost five years I filled a trash bag with litter and left it at the side of the bin for the city to pick up once a week.  I believe that I changed the location through this stewardship, but I guess I’ll never really know.  I’ve been back to visit and the land is covered, once again, with layers of plastic and fast food containers and plastic bags do blow, like flags, in some of the shrubs and trees that grow at the pond’s edge.

During those early days, I noticed that the light and weather and time of day seemed to really impact my experience of the pond on these walks.  I began snapping photographs of natural forms as a way of archiving these experiences along journey of the revisited circle.  In the end, I focused on a single bush, noting what amazing atmosphere was observable through its branches, particularly created by the water/ice/snow and sky.  That’s when I began archiving the bush each day, a single Instagram photo to capture the light and the narrative of that particular ecosystem.

I called the place Frank’s Flats.  In the days when I picked litter, a free spirit named Frank, used to sit on the slope and drink back six beer every time I worked.  He would give me the empties and off I would go.  At end of that summer, Frank moved out to Vancouver, where he said the weather would be better for sleeping outdoors.

The winter of the Instagram bushes, I discovered that there was another young man who tucked in to sleep under the tall evergreen trees each evening.  His shopping cart, containing his few possessions was pushed in tight against the branches.  In the daytime, I’d see the large sheets of cardboard and his sleeping bag, waiting for his return at the end of the day.

This is when I had the idea to light up and decorate the bush for Advent.  Each day I added more ornaments/ribbons/led lights.

On Christmas eve, in dark of night,  I filled the mystery person’s cart with treasures…warm socks, a winter hat, chocolate, Christmas cookies, a scarf, a thermal underwear shirt, some magazines (National Geographic).  Nothing made me happier that Advent and Christmas than creating magic around that bush.

Why am I writing about this right now?  What made me think to write about this?  Well, this past couple of weeks have been pretty difficult weeks for me and my dog, Max.  He’s been struggling with a back leg injury and I’ve been deliberating about his quality of life.  I had to sneak out of the house to make my daily trip to the river last evening and I was pretty sad that I wasn’t able to take him with me.

Once at the river, I discovered this wee decorated tree, in close proximity to Lauren’s bench.  I was sort of wondering if Lauren’s family might have done the very thing that I did so many years ago, at the edge of a pond.

If, in fact, this was Lauren’s family, I captured photographs of just two birds, among several  Chickadees, White Breasted Nuthatches and Blue Jays that were making themselves known at that very spot.  I think that it’s an interesting thing that they were sporting the same colours as the ornaments on the tree.  Is it possible that angels were in my midst last evening?  Certainly, I felt blessed.

My decorating will begin on December 1, the beginning of Advent.  I don’t get the early jump start that most Calgarians do, and my ornaments will come down with Epiphany.  I am praying that Advent is a blessing time for my readers.  May you have good health and much strength for the difficult stuff.

Marda Loop Justice Film Festival 2019

The day began like this…

For several years now, I’ve been attending the Marda Loop Justice Film Festival and previewed films that are very telling about events happening in our world that might inspire deeper thought and potentially, positive action.  At the very least, seeing these films, opens up conversation about the complex issues facing our global neighbours.

At the festival, there is a marketplace of organizations that we can connect with, a choice of a couple of lunch items and a table of books for purchase as well as recommendations that relate to social justice and stewardship in our world.

At the Marketplace booths, I supported the Alberta Wilderness Association and purchased myself a cozy new hoodie.

This year’s films included One Child Nation by award-winning documentarian Nanfu Wang (Hooligan Sparrow, I Am Another You) and Jialing Zhang.  I was left speechless and while viewing, wept in the dark.

Next, Conviction, Written and directed by NANCE ACKERMAN & ARIELLA PAHLKE & TERESA MACINNES.  I enjoyed the format of this one where female inmates carried movie cameras and their bits of film were stitched into the documentary, leaving several very poignant connections to tell the narrative.  While the films address issues that are very challenging and oft-times-sad, I think that it’s important to confront society’s approach to tackling problems.  I’m always impressed that no matter the issue, there is a good heart(s) trying to make a difference.  We must never stop trying.

An exceptional documentary titled, Because We Are Girls by film maker, Baljit Sangra, was next.  This movie was particularly moving to me.  What brave ladies!  I was also so very happy that Baljit, as well as the ladies, were with us for the moderation of the discussion/question period.  I’m not contributing a monologue about any of the topics of this blog post today…just want to document…and I highly recommend that you take any opportunity to view these films.

 

The final film was set in Burma.  In Myanmar, which consists of 135 ethnic minorities, Rohingya Muslims do not officially exist. Despite historical evidence of their belonging to the Rakhine state, they are denied the rights of citizenship and confined to living in ghettos. Oh my goodness!  I am disappointed in myself for not knowing what has been happening for the people of Burma all of these years.  Such horrors inflicted upon one another!  What is with the heart of humanity that sees only differences…sees only ‘the other’….and believes that power can be used to crush the other?  Another genocide is revealed in Exiled.

I am so grateful to have shared these documentaries with Pat, Janet and Mary.  Pat, thank you for the peanut butter chocolates, that perfect slice of fruit cake between films and that tasty bit of cheese.  I know that after I have sat with the content for some time, I will have a more honest view of these issues when encountering others.

I did not wait for the discussion about the last film, but booted it out in order to enjoy a birthday dinner at Wendy’s.  I thought, as I drove, that I did not want to talk about the films.  I wanted to celebrate Lauraine and have fun with this circle of people who I care about so much.  I think that in life, we have the opportunity to live the present with good intention…to laugh, share conversation and humour, eat good food and relish in the company of our circle.  I am a blessed lady!  Thanks to Dan and Wendy for providing us with the opportunity to love one another!  It all began with a nice glass of wine!

The fish on plank…oh my…it was flavourful!  (good story, going forward!)

The buffet! Happy Birthday,Lauraine!

Cake, made by Dan!  Yummers!  Make a wish, Lauraine!

Hi, Steven and Stephen!  Thank you for the delicious salad!

These, dehydrated tomatoes from backyard summer garden…just so beautiful.

My life is full of blessings.  I am grateful for good health, everything I could dream to enjoy in terms of my basic needs, friendships and acceptance, safety for my family.  I live in peace.  I pray for those who suffer the traumas and labours of a life where there is injustice and brutality, loss…so much loss.  I was born into a country where I am safe.  It is crucial that we focus on our nation…and not on anything that divides us.  The world over should inform who we are.

Remembrance Day 2019: Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium

Yesterday I heard two presenters say that Remembrance Day is not to be confused with Veteran’s Day.  Armistice Day is on 11 November and is also known as Remembrance Day. It marks the day World War One ended, at 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month, in 1918. A two-minute silence is held at 11am to remember the people who have died in wars.

Like everyone else, I am disappointed that the Don Cherry fiasco stole so much from the highlights of a beautiful day remembering those soldiers in our families and in our Nation who offered the ultimate sacrifice in past wars, Afghanistan and because of selfless service.

I was really pleased about attending the commemoration at the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium this year and taking in the various rituals, but indoors, while cozy warm.  Last year, we headed to the cenotaph downtown and it got a bit cold at times, although it was also an amazing experience.  Next year, the field of crosses.

The seats were assigned, as we arrived.  This created a sense of calm and order.  Beautiful music was provided by the HMCS Tecumseh Band along with Jeanette Embree, Detachment Commander, CF Recruiting Center, Director of Music, Royal Canadian Navy Reserve.  What a lovely repertoire.

I thought about my Dad while singing this hymn.  I used to sit next to Mom in the Protestant Chapel pews while Dad directed or sang in the choir.  I felt them beside me yesterday…and I felt surrounded by my family, many who have served.  My Great Uncle Joseph Gallant gave the ultimate sacrifice, as did my Great Grandfather John Moors.  This hymn was a perfect one to bring everyone home to me.

While we were prompted to save our applause until the very end of the laying of the wreaths, two of our Veterans from the Colonel Belcher caused our hearts to stir and we broke into wild applause.  I cried my face off at these points in the service, as well as during the Last Post.  Our friend, Helena, laid a wreath on behalf of the Alberta Retired Teachers.  We were very proud of her for representing us.

After the commemorative service, and as we were leaving, I noticed that Ralph MacLean, the 97 year old Veteran who had served with Canadians in Hong Kong in 1941.  Please follow the link and listen to his story on the Memory Project.  Through various circumstances and very quickly, I connected with Ralph’s son, daughter and grandson, author of Forgiveness, author Mark Sakamoto.  

I won’t soon forget the kind hearts of Ralph’s family.

I had the opportunity to exchange quite a number of stories with Ralph and I feel that it was a huge blessing to meet him.  I will be visiting him at the Colonel Belcher.

As I took my evening walk, slow around the circle because Max is ailing badly, I took in the beauty of the day, my friendships with Janet and Pat, my children, the freedoms I enjoy.  I thought about my family and their huge military connections.  I contemplated including their photographs here…but, I’m leaving the images of their faces and my research in my heart.  I’ll leave it all up to peace…the sky…the river.  I will always Remember.

 

 

Nothing Could Have Prepared Me For This Day

Today’s Facebook ‘wall’ is plastered with various news blips on the topic of the cuts happening here in Alberta. I’ve made those posts.  But, rather than deleting them, I’m going to take a moment to consider what this day has actually been and been about.  Only moments ago, I brushed my teeth.  I stepped out onto the back deck and looked up at the moon.  I am taking pause and thinking about my day…my actual day…not about that veneer, that public explosion that happens for us if we dig too deep into the chaos that is today in the news.

My morning began like this.

I sat down, with coffee, and pin pointed the Barrow in Furness address where Mary Eleanor Haddow, my great grandmother, was born in the early 1800s.  I then scrolled Instagram, up on the red couch, while stroking Max’s head redundantly for almost a half hour.  I dreamed about making one more trip to England so that I might visit such places and walk Blackfriar’s road and travel, again, to France to stand at my Great Grandfather’s resting place in Etaples and maybe even get myself to Ortona, Italy.

I went to my computer station, in order to print out this map and while cropping it, my sister and I exchanged a few messages with one another.  She sent me a photograph of her and her three pup companions and I sent her a photograph of me and Max.  I love yous were shared.

I decided that Max’s injury had been quiet enough for a few days that I would take him to the river.  The air was so mild and the light, so beautiful.  We took our time; it was more a stroll than a walk, but it was so incredible.I really felt huge gratitude as the day opened up to me.

I dropped Max back to the car and then went for a last look to see if I could sight any of the coyotes.  I spotted several deer across the river, but no coyotes.  And then, the magic of friendship was enjoyed, as I saw Jeff making his observations along the pathway.  As is pretty usual, we ended up talking about cameras and such.  Today I learned about the Polaroid Cube and the Zoom Audio Recorder.

Lunch consisted of a lovely little Greek Salad at home.

After doing just a few things around the house and checking in on all things political (lol), I made a quick stop at the Dollarama Store to pick up some small canvas boards.  I felt a need to paint some poppies with my grandson before Remembrance Day.  There was a bit of a wait for him to wake up from his nap, so over two cups of hot tea, I had a nice visit with Linda and Erin.

Then, this.

I decided to stop at the river, again, on my way home, just to see if I could make any eagle sightings.  At the edge of the Bow, everything  was wildly alive, although the colour was muted which contributed to the magic of everything.  A loud cacophony of sound filled the air as hundreds of Canada Geese found their way to the river.  I was overcome.  And there, in the midst of the geese, one eagle flew assertively in and out of their crowds.  It was amazing.  I managed to capture a brief moment.  But, let’s face it,  no images were going to be focused because the light just wasn’t there.  I didn’t know what to do with my feelings about the scope and beauty in that moment, so as has become habit, I snapped photographs.

I spotted brilliant white southeast on the river, and so, took a quick peek through my camera’s viewfinder to identify the white birds and happily discovered the presence of Swans or Snow Geese, interspersed with the Canada Geese.  A quick and fuzzy snap and I was off and rushing to the location where I enjoyed watching them making their disappearance around the point and onto the river.  Darkness was settling over everything, apart from soft pink directly west.  I headed back.

 

As I pulled out of the parking lot, I saw Doug and Shirley Anne’s car, stopped, opened my window and together, we marveled at the wonder we had just seen.  The three of us felt very blessed and it was just so nice to know that I had shared the magic with friends.

Upon my return home, my son and I headed out to the Saigon Royal Restaurant for a steaming pot of Jasmine Tea and a big bowl of Pho.  I started watching for a text message from my Dad who, I knew, was on the road from Ottawa to Belleville, earlier in the day.  He promised he would text, but I convinced myself that he would struggle with that as per usual and that he is well and safe and enjoying the traditions of the Mistletoe Market this weekend.

At home, Max and I walked the neighbourhood circle and then James and I watched some cop shows on his big screen.

Just a short while ago, I stepped out on the deck and snapped a few photographs of the moon.  While I didn’t capture them, there were three soft rings of colour surrounding her tonight.  Those colours and the lovely still air remind me of the beauty that is ours.  I am grateful.  And one never knows what a single day might bring.

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