While we didn’t verbally acknowledge it, this day, my friend Ramona’s birthday, was a perfect celebration of the Summer Solstice.
Ox Eye Daisy
While the sky was threatening and the air very humid, I was grateful that the weather held and we made our way back to our cars. It was magical to see a lovely bride and her wedding party making their way to the river’s edge and I’m glad that they had only the mosquitoes to contend with, but no lightening.
I know, first hand, how wonderful it can be to receive a Birthday parade during Covid times because my friends did exactly that for my birthday. Well, this year is pretty important because our ‘fearless leader’ turned 91 yesterday. My treasured friends in fine arts education came together to create a drive-by parade and then a Happy Birthday circle yesterday.
Joan has been one of the most inspiring people to serve as Supervisor of Fine Arts for the Calgary Catholic School District in the days when fine arts were understood to be essential to the development of learning within a child. We were a part of a period in education when Fine Arts advocacy was well and growing in schools. Teachers received regular support, exemplary modeling and resources in terms of professional development, in order that they could deliver solid programs. So, Joan was all that.
But, at the core of ‘who’ Joan is….she is a treasured friend. She has a brilliant mind. She is a superb artist, one who has looked at her world and nature with precision. Her observation skills can be surpassed by very few. Joan is an empathetic listener. Joan has an appreciation for song and celebration. She is playful and fun to be around. Little sayings filter in to every conversation. I love Joan with my whole heart and she has been a blessing in my life. Happy Birthday, Joan!
My grandson, Steven, helped me get ready for the parade by painting two banners. Unfortunately, when I hopped out of the car, I forgot that I had this taped up, post parade. It looked better during the drive by.
Joan, sharing words of appreciation. Always self-effacing, she made certain she drew attention to the strength of our team, pointing to each one, “You, you, you and you”…pointing to each one and making eye contact.
Before the fall…
Thank you to the organizers. These events are so important for these times. Each person has to determine what proximity they can have in every situation as we enter into stage 2 with the opening up of our economy. However, it is always important to keep in mind the safety of our senior citizens and those who are vulnerable due to various medical conditions. Thanks to this residence that provided us with a safe circumstance in order to celebrate our forever-friend.
In mid March, I found myself without a church community and so my first step into the world of Live Streaming was to connect with, when I could, daily Mass with St. Peter’s parish and weekend Mass with our Bishop McGrattan at the St. Mary’s Cathedral.
I light a wee candle as Mass begins and join in any sung bits and even click little heart icons when I am wanting to participate in public prayer responses. It is a very strange experience, not to be surrounded by my prayer community, but through Live Streaming, I can remain connected, celebrate the liturgy of the word, take in many inspiring homilies and journey, with support, through these troubling and isolating times.
If a person wants to connect with Live Streaming opportunities, they can be found on most social media platforms. They could keep you busy all day long, so I have a few favourite ones that I will share here.
Because I come from a creative background, I can not help but feel concerned for the many musicians who rely on income from gigs and live events throughout our city and across the nation. I often wonder how our local musicians are managing through Covid. I think it’s a great idea to attend and support at least one musician, artist or other performer through Covid times, if it is possible, without creating a struggle in your own home.
Each evening, at 7:00 Monday through Thursday, I attend I Love Ruthie, a music/book/story telling type event, hosted by Ruth Purves Smith. This event puts a smile on my face and is conveniently set between dinner and my Skype visit with my father out in Ottawa. Each evening we meet cats, see plants, hear readings from a book of the day, look out Ruthie’s window to a completely different landscape and answer the question of the day. An art book of the week is opened to an image each evening…something to think about and ponder. If you would like to attend, I can connect you with a link.
Ruthie has been self-isolated in a small Alberta hamlet named Stalwell since this all began.
I’m filing these away for ‘after the pandemic’ times because I just don’t seem to have time to take absolutely everything on. I’ve recently done some curbside purchases at the Inglewood Art Store and I’m motivated to get my own creations rolling out of my home studio.
The Glenbow Museum and Gallery have been doing Live Streaming, as have most other gallery spaces. The first one that I bumped into was ‘Staring at My Four Walls’ With Viviane Art Gallery. I loved this series. From here, I went looking and found artist talks, gallery tours and all sorts of efforts being made by supporters of the visual arts.
Christine Klassen’s Art Gallery hosted an art panel during the exhibit Papyromania featuring work by Heather Close and Rick Ducommun and I thought that was very well done.
Don’t feel intimidated by these sorts of experiences. I know that some have enjoyed Opera, Concert performances and even cooking experiences through Live Streaming.
If you are a nature buff, there are also a whole number of Live Cams set up at nests or rivers, where you can watch Live Streaming. One of my favourites is the Decorah Live Eagle Cam. I hope you will explore some of these events and experiences through Covid times.
Oh my goodness! I am not going to write individual reviews for the books that I’ve read during this pandemic (so far), not for Goodreads or for any other reason because generally, I’ve not been pleased with the selection thus far.
I was reading Hope Matters by Lee Maracle, Columpa Bobb and Tania Carter when all of this began. I know this because our March book discussion was canceled at Fish Creek Library. This was all new and at that point I think I shrugged my shoulders and thought this would be over before we knew it and that all would go on as usual. But now, all these weeks later, I realize how blessed I was in our group. I miss the group very much.
When I began Hope Matters, I was really excited about it, but as I read further in, I struggled and I came up against a lot of walls. Poetry is a tricky genre for people, generally, and this writing I found difficult to tunnel into. I think that there needs to be a hook for the reader of poetry. I am not saying the book is strong or weak. I’m just saying that something about me would not let the words in. If you’ve read the book, let me know your thoughts.
The Parcel by Anosh Irani was sitting on my bookshelf. I purchased it while attending the last Wordfest event, here in Calgary. This is a powerful and essential read. It was a solid piece of writing that evoked a great deal of emotion and brought social consciousness to the forefront as I read. I had heard similar stories before. I think, also, that movies and Hollywood has given us a picture of what life is like in Bombay. However, I feel that this author, having his own life rooted in Bombay, gave the reader an authentic experience of the subject.
My heart went out to the protagonist, Madhu. I entered into her life and felt her exasperation. While I’m grateful for having read this book, I must warn other readers that this is a dark story and it is very sad. It pulled me down. I thought to myself, at the time, “Lady, you need to find something a little lighter for these times.” As these types of novels typically are, this is a story of redemption. I recommend…but, with a warning. This author is talented and honest. You will like his writing.
I decided to read the next book that was on the list for our Book Discussion in April. The book was also on the Canada Reads list, From the Ashes by Jesse Thistle. Bravo to Jesse Thistle who gives us this powerful memoir, a story of human strength and an inspiration to anyone who feels that life has dealt them a very difficult hand. The writing is good. But, a little voice kept needling me…”Why don’t you tackle some light reading, Kath?” These books, while eventually reaching the resilience of the human spirit, are so darned sad, for the most part.
On my friend, Hollee’s, recommendation, I next read Starlight by Richard Wagamese, published after his death and with the support of his estate. I loved this book…the protagonist was a wildlife photographer living on a beautiful piece of land. Here, he intervenes in the protection of Emmy and Winnie. It is written with such eloquence and heart that I was so totally engaged. As I was running out of pages, however, I became disarmed because I felt that the ending was not going to be tied up comfortably for me…and it wasn’t. I highly recommend this book. It didn’t have the same impact on me as the other books I had read to this point of the pandemic experience, and beginning in March.
It was at this point that I picked up The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood. Because Atwood was my first born’s favourite author during high school and beyond, at some point I decided that I would read all of Atwood’s writing in order to understand my daughter a little more. Isn’t it funny that I think that might happen through books? Erin was my BIG reader in the day. I couldn’t keep her stocked in L.M. Montgomery books when she was younger. She read them all. And I haven’t.
Previously, I read Bluebeard’s Egg, a collection of Atwood short stories and really really enjoyed those! I also sailed through The Handmaid’s Tale….maybe every one does. But when it came to The Robber Bride…oh, my! I crashed into a wall. This book felt somehow surreal and it amplified my mood surrounding the epidemic that we were learning to endure at the very same time. In this book, Zenia exercises such power over three different characters; Toni, Charise and Roz, that I felt a huge frustration at their naivety. I was absorbed by certain sections where Atwood explores the particular motivations of her characters, but as a whole, it was just a really hard read. After the book, I read various reviews and discovered that the author intended all sorts of connections to be made about the 60s feminist movement and a review of this writing even compares it to the grisly tale of the Brothers Grimm. I found the book to be too raw in its subject. It made me squirm. I haven’t decided which of Atwood’s books I will tackle next, but having used three weeks (WHAT??) to read this one, I thought I’d look for something ‘mindless’. On this one, consider yourselves warned.
I enjoyed Ken Follett’s first trilogy back in the day, so I looked at my collection of Follett books on my shelf and chose one that dealt with the theft of a virus (NO, I’M NOT KIDDING) called Whiteout. Sheesh!! This one is one that you will whiz through. It is mindless. There’s a bit of a romance. There is a series of cheesy good guy bad guy stuff happen in a very bad storm. I really did give this one a try…finished it in three evenings, but it wouldn’t be one I’d recommend. Goodreads mentions that it has startling twists. Hmmm….I would beg to differ.
I think this book would provide some creative connection for high school students and for adults, spending time at home. It provides unusual approaches to making art in your own spaces and in your own communities.
My readers knew that eventually it would come to this, right? Of course I’ve picked up my Peterson’s Field Guide to Western Birds identification book! This morning, for the first time, in my neighbourhood, I saw a Thrush. This was a very cool experience! I also received a photograph in my messages from a friend who snapped a photo of a beautiful yellow and orange bird that she saw in Carburn Park yesterday! I knew what it was!! Seven years later, I’m very excited about identifying birds. Get yourself a Bird Identification book!
Last night, I opened a page turner. I’m already heart broken for the protagonist, little six-year old Kya, in the book, Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, but the syntax, description and opening up of the story are eloquent. Thank goodness! I’m living in hope that I’m now on the right track for the remainder of my pandemic reading. I’d love you to let me know what books you are picking up through these times. Leave me a message. There was a great little CBC program on just after lunch today, asking folks what they’re watching on television…what they’re reading…what they’re listening to. All good questions. Again, I’m coming from a place of privilege, that I should have the time and ability to read. I’m always grateful.
My 65th birthday began as most days do, with time well-spent at the edge of the Bow River. The vast numbers of Midges at the river meant that Swallows were feeding in droves of thousands, skimming the water over and over again. The Bald Eagle adults were feeding new youngsters on the nest and this always creates lots of magic at the river. While the day was turning out to be grey and a little chilly, I still felt that I was able to breath, relax and do a little reflecting about what my life is all about, what I value and what is important to me.
In the afternoon, on the advice of my middle daughter, I watched a couple of episodes of the The Great Canadian Baking Show. I laugh as I think about this because the last thing I am is a baker. It was relaxing and mindless television and that was okay.
Colourful gifts were appearing on my dining table. Thank you, Kathy and Val!
I walked Max…
I captured a quick photograph of our new vent resident…
…before heading over to my daughter’s for a Dragon Pearl take out dinner. The Dragon Pearl brings up so many memories for our family. It’s been our favourite family restaurant since the children were in high chairs. I miss and love all of the people who cook and serve at this beautiful little spot in Inglewood.
While any food in a take-out situation doesn’t taste exactly the same as if you are eating it in the restaurant, it was a generous and loving thing to sit down with one of three children and to eat such delicious food. After all, my grandson was sitting at the end of the table, entertaining me with his enthusiasm about the cupcakes that were hiding over in the red pan. I opened his card and he vibrated with excitement and loving smiles.
A little over halfway through the meal, he started pointing and saying, “Auntie Cayley” over and over again. My son-in-law’s eyes started shifting side to side. He was just acting weird. So, finally, I looked over my shoulder to the front yard and saw Pigeon on the yard, pressing mounted balloons into the gardens. I saw her partner, Shawn, waving and signalling. I went to the door and was excited enough about the balloons and the company when all of a sudden cars began to file past, covered in hand made banners and decorations. The participants bonked their horns enthusiastically!
Oh my gosh! It was a stream of my friends in cars! Let me tell my readers something.
On the television feel-good news stories and on social media, we’ve all seen friends and families and teachers creating parades for friends, family members and students. It looks like a lot of fun. It also warms your heart when you see it. But, to have it happen in your own life is beyond exciting. I broke out into an immediate ugly cry, sobbing uncontrollably. I felt such overwhelming love pour into my life. It would have been perfect had my son been able to be there to enjoy it, but truthfully, it was an experience I will never forget!
We celebrated with yummy cupcakes, a sip of wine, lawn chairs and more birthday greetings, reminiscing and physical distance. I loved this experience…a combined effort of love and celebration. Thank you, friends and dear family! If you wish to really make someone’s heart swell and to fill them with an affirmation of love, try throwing them a parade. These are pandemic times, so throw pandemic parades!
I just returned from the river and had five minutes alone with Mr…one other lady was walking into the park at that time and took out her phone to capture the magnificence. She had just happened to turn into the park and off of her usual walk, so it was fun, at a distance, to explain to her what was happening when he leapt from the perch and made his way to the ridge. It’s remarkable that this family of eagles follows the same course. While, again, the photos are not exceptionally clear, I was excited to see the male return to the nest where the female was sitting and then to see an egg roll (based on movement) and a shift change. What a stunningly beautiful time at the river.
Wouldn’t you love to live in one of those homes…or on a single floor…or in a single room of one of those homes and see nature every day all day long?
I’m of the mind that we can move kindness through the world. This week, I have encountered some beautiful and engaging moments on Instagram, Facebook, Skype and other social media. Congratulations to those of you who are being supportive, loving, generous and healing. While we don’t necessarily have all of the time in the world, there are positive people we can access in order to contribute to our own wellness.
My family drew a line in the sand once prescriptions were picked up. My son and I are following the requests of the World Health Organization and our own Provincial Dr. Deena Hinshaw by remaining at home and keeping social distance. In the meantime, we are finding our ‘new normal’. I have to say that this past week I listened to the media a lot. I’m guessing you did too. I know that the news coming out of Italy makes me very sad because my daughter and I had such a magical time traveling Italy and I find this heart breaking that their community is suffering so much loss.
In the meantime, back at home, I’m getting into gathering research for a project that I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve also connected with a lot of different uses for social media that serve me in healthy ways and offer support for others. At this time, everyone is coming to financial blows. Good for those of you who are enjoying financial stability because your houses are paid for and you have provisions to get you through this. Bless those who are struggling….but then, you’ve all heard the news during this past week.
Here are a few of the amazing connections I’ve been blessed to have in the last week.
Auntie Check-in with all of my nieces and nephews…this will be a weekly thing. I haven’t heard from Ainslie, but every one else checked in. For this, I’m using Facebook group messenger.
E mail group letters are being exchanged in some of my circles, in order to touch base with how friends are doing and what they’re doing.
I’ve always touched base with my father via Skype, although our reception has not been very good as of late and so we are using Facetime for daily check ins.
My Grandson and I are Skyping, although sometimes we have used Facetime. I love joining Steven at his breakfast or lunch table.
I’ve figured out Group Skype and a circle of my friends and I will be meeting every Friday evening at 7:30.
I’m enjoying various poets and their works on Instagram, book reviews and all connections with word.
There are many artist tours going on on Instagram as well, including those conducted by Trepanier Baer and the Glenbow. Seek them out. You won’t be disappointed. I’m really excited about the one offered by vivianeartgallery in Kensington, Calgary.It’s called Staring at my Four Walls! Check it out. And in the meantime, think about your own art and perhaps get around to archiving it.
There are a number of musicians who are connecting with us through various media and live streaming. You can fire off a wee contribution for these mini concerts. I missed Joe Nolan’s the other night, but I DID attend Ruth Purves Smith and her Swalwell event. She is reading dramatically from the classics in an intimate setting. Of course, she ended up playing us a tune. ‘We just keep on dancin’. There ain’t no other way.’
Contribution to her Pandemic Kitty can be made to email@example.com
This was a wonderful gathering with Ruth at the center. She shared a real time experience. You don’t have to dress up for these events…wear your pajamas! Ruth showed us her latest kitty rescue, a photograph of her mama and a portrait of her Dad. She showed us notations that her mother made along the margins of her Poe book. She drew the Northern Flicker card and thought of our communal well being. It was lovely and minimized a huge anxiety that had come over me last evening.
There are wonderful things happening all over the world. You are not alone, dear readers. I will make every effort to continue sharing some of what is available to you through the coming days.
Teachers, I am, of course, thinking of all of you over these difficult times. I know that you are all experimenting with various programs like Zoom and Google Group in order to open up remote learning for your students. You are shaving down content to meet the new guidelines coming out by Alberta Learning. You are caring for your own children at home while doing this. I am thinking of you all.
It’s a very other-worldly feeling to be journeying life through a pandemic. In the grocery stores, yesterday, I felt to be plunked into the opening scenes of a Sci-Fi movie. Sometimes a person just has to find a way to ground themselves when all else; health, economy, events and travel are floundering. I almost feel that this is a guilty pleasure in these times…writing about children and painting. But in doing this, I feel like a rope has been tied around my ankles…someone is tugging…and I am easing my way, like an overfilled balloon… coming to rest on the ground. This is what I do.
This year, my friend, Claudia, inspired me by the painting she did with her students. My practice, as a guest teacher, is to promote painting with children. It can be so messy…there is the preparation and there is the clean-up…but Claudia doesn’t shy away from any of that. She is a remarkably inspiring Div 1 teacher. Thank you, Claudia!
After seeing the results of Claudia’s art lesson, I went out into a Div 1 classroom and painted the very next week.
And following that, Gillian also painted with little ones. Gillian has had a long and accomplished career as an educator and she is also not one to shy away from paint.
I wanted to post all of these resulting paintings at the same time in order to illustrate the variety that can be achieved with paint….same concept…same lesson…but, each and every painting is unique and each of the three sets of paintings is using a different palette of green. If you look about the hallways of elementary schools, if you see that there is a sameness about the works that children create, there is the possibility that their outcomes have been engineered to be close-ended; it also means that the means to get there may have been closed. (the trouble with most Pinterest activities) Try letting go, just a little, at first. The resulting projects may not be as predictable, but this is what creativity and visual art should excite in children.
Children are magical. May they be safe and may their teacher’s be safe through these trying times. Happy March! Happy GREEN!
Claudia’s Palette. (I didn’t include images of students painting because their little faces were in the photos.)
This morning at Mass, Father Krzysztof spoke of those moments of grace when a person experiences a flash of insight where revelation arises. He talked about the importance of taking pause and giving time to reflect upon these insights in order that these not disappear into memory, but rather, so that they might impact the present moment, our actions or possibly even the course of our lives.
He began with the story of a night when the stars fell. Over 200,000 meteors blazed through the night and into the morning of November 12, 1833, astounding people of the entire world. Can you imagine how such a sight such as this might take your breath away? I know that almost every day, I feel that I’m watching 200,000 meteors flying across a dark sky. In fact, I feel this way every time I am with my grandson.
In the telling of this story, I reflected a little on the circle I walk each day at the river and how by taking pause, I come to an experience of peaceful revelation and renewal.
I also remembered my student’s magic journals, written over the years. Based on the journals written by protagonist, Douglas Spaulding, of Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine, I asked my students to write down their daily revelations in a ‘magic journal’. Some of the students strongly disliked these. And, a lot of the time, their parents disliked them more.
But, as I pondered these matters today at Mass, I have no regrets for my efforts with these students. This is a practice of ‘noticing’ that I deeply treasure. If the students approached this journal with a lack of sincerity and if my efforts were not appreciated by parents, it matters not…to this day, I am grateful that I followed through with this exercise. This is insight that we can all benefit from.
If I was to archive each and every day, down to bare bones, I would get absolutely nothing done and would not fully live that day. The day would become full of the archiving and the magic would be missed. I’ve had several full days since living and breathing two Fridays past, but I haven’t forgotten its beauty. I began with a poem because poetry whittles a full written expression to its essence. The words capture the magic of the day.
It all began as most days do, at the edge of the Bow River. It seemed that I would be encountering strong females and it so happened that the Bald Eagles were sitting together. The female is on the left. She’s so incredibly beautiful.
The female coyote has raised two stunningly handsome youngsters, now one year old. It’s been a wonderful year of viewing their forays.
Then it was off, for my very first time, to Bell’s in Marda Loop.
What I didn’t capture in photographs is the lovely person who shared the table with me. Thank you, Teresa, for the latte and the delicious slice of home made banana bread.
Teresa Posyniak has a life-giving spirit and is a strong woman who lifts up other women through her genuine interest in them. Her art oozes with copious texture and is both strong and fragile. I will treasure our rich conversation and hope to follow, more closely, her exploration of topics such as resiliance. Teresa’s is an artistic voice to listen to and I encourage my readers to connect with her work through the links I’m providing here.
I was whizzing off to Joan’s next, but not before a quick stop at cSpace.
Cassie Suche’s Sway series was refreshing, tucked away at one end of the second floor. Very organic and slightly humourous at the same time, I really enjoyed the work created on her one-month residency.
Marty Kaufman’s blown glass…Eroded Forms drew me in. Such milky forms. I absolutely love them.
Of course, I don’t think I’ve ever gone into the cSpace without looking at the stairwell murals done by Daniel J. Kirk and Katie Green. They are lovely and different times of day evoke a mysterious sense of light and so therefore, a different experience, each time a person makes their way up and down the various floors.
A new experience for me was to hit upon the Blackboard Gallery. I went with the intention of seeing these works, the urban landscapes done by Melanie Figueroa. She is someone I follow on Instagram, but I had never seen her work in the flesh. This gallery is a sweet little space. I ended up totally wrapped up in a conversation about jewelry with Melanie Archer. I’ll be back.
By this time, I needed to set out for the lodge. Joan and I spent a generous hour pouring over her sketchbooks, nicely organized by Sandy. We dug in deep, sharing about light and dark, texture, pattern and the act of creating. It’s not everyone who can enjoy a conversation like that so much, but the two of us certainly did. Sheila arrived and we shared yet another wonderful conversation.
So, it turns out, this was the landscape of my day two Fridays past. I think of the women in my life as being remarkable in so many ways. I am blessed by their goodness and their strength. I am grateful.