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.

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!

Days and Art at Vancouver General Hospital

I dread flying. (The fears stem from multiple days on a cross-country flight in a single engine Cessna…but, that’s another story.)

When I heard that one of my best friends, spiritual guides and artist-buddies was moving at warp speed toward death (as we all are), I had to fly.  It is with gratitude for a few people and circumstances and timing that I write these words down.  Everything lined up so that I could be with Bobbie.  Bob and I shared over twenty years of friendship and he inspired such rich and wonderful magic in my life.  It was an unwritten pact of sorts that led me to his bedside and into the wonderful circle of his family.

When we landed, I took words of a highly-traveled friend, Hollee, to heart and pretended, to some degree, that I was Dora the Explorer.  I had some reservations about flying into Vancouver, not being familiar with the ‘big’ city at all.  I had flown into Vancouver with a friend many years ago in order to enjoy a Dave Matthew’s Band concert and the Art Gallery, but hadn’t ever found my way around on my own.  So, on the advice of Hollee, I took my time finding my way to the Canada Line, enjoying the beautiful art displayed throughout the airport.  Bob would have loved that I did this.

I successfully found my way to the Broadway/City Hall stop and then began my short walk to the hospital.

Peter met me at the elevator on the 16th floor of the Palliative Care Unit, after a convoluted wandering of the hospital, having thought I would find Bob on the eleventh floor. When I stepped around the corner and into Bob’s room, his arms extended and opened up to me.  The embrace of two old friends was delicious.  He uttered his delight and I parked my bag.  I knew that I would make this room my home for the coming days, although Bronwyn had graciously offered me a bed.

I write this post to celebrate the type of care and the environment where Bob spent his last days.  The Palliative Care unit was exceptional.  It was a comfortable space for both residents and families.  And there was art…everywhere!  Referred to as the VGH/ UBC Hospital Foundation Art Collection, the collection gave me the opportunity to disappear into various visual experiences throughout my stay.

“We are grateful to our donors for their contributions to this innovative program,” says Dr. Bev Spring, a physician with the Palliative Care Unit at VGH. “Art helps to create an atmosphere aesthetically and attitudinally where emotional and physical healing can happen. This is important for the heart and soul of the hospital – and the hearts and souls of those who find themselves on the giving or receiving end of care here: patients, their families and staff alike.”

I collected a series of photographs…none of them great, because I was so impressed.  I wasn’t in Vancouver for site seeing or for a vacation.  And yet, the space where my dear friend spent his last days was absolutely beautiful.  I’m so grateful for that.  This post is written in order to celebrate Bob’s life.  He held, in his imagination, such knowledge, practice and understanding of place, aesthetics and image-making.  This collection would have awed  him.

I sat through the wee hours of morning on August 20th and felt an overwhelming peace.  Of course, I was weary, but I was and am so grateful for the people who are in my circle.  I am so blessed.  Bob was a gentle and kind man.  His spirit lives.

 

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.

Tribute to a Friend

“Later I will tell him: our courage comes out in different ways. We are brave in our bold dreams but also in our hesitations. We are brave in our willingness to carry on even as our pounding hearts say, “You will fail and land on your face.” Brave in our terrific tolerance for making a hundred mistakes. Day after day. We are brave in our persistence.”
― Kyo Maclear, Birds Art Life: A Year of Observation

My dear friend, Bobbie, lived bravely, passionately and his spirit transcends everything that bound him to the earth…I love you and my life has been incredible because you have been here for me…for us.  No words for now, but I’ve sipped coffee this morning in the quiet of the house, Max at my feet, revisiting our friendship.  These are, in part, moments along the way.  But, we spent most of our friendship looking out at others and beauty.  So, I can not possibly share all of the immensity of that.  Know that you were loved, my beautiful Bob.

ACAD third year…and we gathered to celebrate spring.  I will forever be grateful for meeting you.

After meeting you, you were a part of every celebration.  My children love you.  My friends love you.  And we became family, all of us.

Bob is found written into so many journal pages…a few appear in this post.

I will let Ed know…

Gatwick Airport, before the train.

Oh, the places we have seen!  Angel Glacier, beautiful hikes…so many hikes…walks…galleries…Paris, Giverny, London…Argenta…road trips…books, art, family, friends.

I am blessed for having Liz, Janet, Bronwyn, Peter, Artemis, Cedar…I am blessed for the circle of love.

John Frederick Vallance: Farewell, Friend

December 30, 1924 – Ayr, Scotland
June 24, 2019 – Calgary, Alberta

In June, we lost John Vallance.  I want to leave a brief account of his life, here, because John became a true friend to so many during his time in Calgary.  It was a blessing to share in the celebration of his life, along with daughter, Billie,  friends of the British Home Child Descendants group that loved John so much and the generous folks of Trinity Lodge.

John and I both ordered a big plate of beautiful liver and onions the day that I met him in Didsbury, Alberta.  There, along with Bruce,  many stories and much laughter were shared.  I knew we would be good friends.  John was still living in his own house at this time and sure wasn’t crazy about moving into Trinity Lodge.  He was, all his life, a strong and independent man.  It was going to be a transition.

It was at this first meeting that I had the chance to share my own family history with John, the story of my Great Grandfather John Moors.

I have linked to John’s history here.

Child Migrant John Vallance is now considered “the chief” of his family’s clan. But for 50 years he had no contact with his four younger brothers and sisters.  Here is John’s story and how the Empress of Austrailia was the start of a new life for him in Canada – (article as it appears in the Summer of 2003 “the Barnardo Guild Messenger”)

MY MOTHER, Nancy, died in late 1937 at the age of 34. My father John was a fireman on the London and Mildland Scottish Railroad in Ayr, Scotland.

At 12, I was the oldest of five children, with two sisters and two brothers.  In March 1938, a few months after my mother’s death, I was sent to the Barnardo’s home in Stepney, then later that year to Kingston and Bromborough. In April 1939 I was sent back to Stepney for a couple of months before being sent to Bognor. Then in July that year, just before war broke out, I departed for Canada aboard the Empress of Australia.

I was one of a party of 30 boys and girls (one of whom was called Mary Love) who arrived in Quebec a month later. We were taken to Barnardo’s head office in Toronto where we were farmed out to foster homes.  My foster parents were Mr. and Mrs. Walter Davies, an English couple who owned a mixed farm in Burgersville outside of Woodstock, Ontario.  The Davies had no children and were good to me. I learned all about farm life, and enjoyed this new phase of my upbringing.  My only regret was that I never went back to school to complete my education.

Early in 1941 I left the farm and went west to Assinobia, Saskatchewan, where I worked on a wheat farm and ranch for three years before following in my father’s footsteps and joining the Canadian Pacific Railroad as a fireman.  A year later I enlisted in the army, where I qualified as a paratrooper.

I spent 30 years in the Canadian Army, including spells in Korea, where I was a Platoon sergeant, and in Germany. Later I qualified as a marksman and trained pistol and rifle teams at the Royal Roads Miltary College in British Columbia. I was released from the army in June 1974.

While in the army, I married Elizabeth a wonderful lady from Brandon, Manitoba. We had four beautiful children, two boys and two girls.  Sadly Elizabeth died in 1997. But my children are all doing well now and I have three grandchildren. I live alone with my dog Buddie in Calgary.

After Elizabeth died, my daughter Candace encouraged me to try and find my sisters and brothers. I remembered how I had arrived in Canada all alone, with no one to say “Here, John. Here’s a nickle. Buy yourself an icecream.” It was a sad life in that way.

My daughter and I sent a letter to 10 Vallances living in Ayr, Scotland, whose details I had found in a book about the history of the Vallance family around the world.  Within 10 days, I discovered that I had one brother and one sister still alive, my sister Isa in Enlgland and one brother George in Tasmania. I phoned Isa, who was very surprised, as she thought I was dead. She is married with three daughters and lives in Yorkshire. She told me she was planning to visit George the following month and asked if I could fly to Tasmania for a reunion. I immediately said “yes”.

I arrived in Tasmania to find George in hospital undergoing a hip transplant. He has two sons and a daughter, all working for the Tasmanian government. We had a great reunion and made the front page of the local paper with the headline “Siblings reunited after fifty years”. I now have the family life I missed as a child.

I found out that my older brother Robert, had served in the Royal Navy during the war, then went back to work as a miner in Scotland and died of lung cancer. My sister Lily served with the Woman’s Land Army in England and Scotland during the war.  They both have families in Scotland who I later visited.  I also found out to my surprise that both Robert and George were in Barnardo’s homes before being sent to foster families together.

I am now considered the chief of the Vallance clan. As I never had the benefit of a proper education, I have created a college fund for each of my three grandchildren.  I now feel at peace with the world, and that I have done my duty as a good Canadian citizen. And I am still a Barnardo’s boy.

What an amazing human being with such a phenomenal history.  John’s friends and family shared amazing recollections of John as a young man, a father, a husband and a child growing up, separated from his family of origin through devastating circumstances.  John’s resilience and willingness to educate others was huge.

I’d like to give a special thank you to Hazel who has been a diligent worker for descendants of British Home Children here in Alberta, for without her efforts, I may have never met John.  Thank you, Hazel, not only for the beautiful quilt, but for your thoughtful initiatives in caring for our John.  He will be missed.

Claresholm, Alberta Heritage Days event.

John may you rest in peace and may perpetual light shine upon you.  To Billie and all family and friends, may you find strength for the coming days…

A Scottish piper accompanied the family.  Beautiful words were shared by John’s daughter and his grand son.  There wasn’t a dry eye in the room.

Photo Credit: Hazel Perrier

John and dear friend, Bert.

John on his wedding day.


Simple Gestures of Love

So many gestures have been made for me and my family the past while.  I don’t want to forget any of them.  As I set out on the journey of another day…the journey of an hour…I am taking pause for reflection.  I am saying, Thank You.

When everything slows down…becomes more simple…I notice more.  I see the love and the detail that goes into simple things and simple gestures of love; right down to the way a package is wrapped.

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Tribute to a Friend

I asked Wendy, about a month ago, if I might write about her on my blog.  She said, “Well, what is there to write about?  But, yes, sure. That would be fabulous.”  ‘Fabulous’ was something that Wendy said…about good food, beautiful places, and even about a wild flower found along a trail.  As I pour over the myriad of wildflower images that I snapped along our various walks and hikes over the years, I selected these two because today, they seem to mark my feelings best and capture the magic of what a true friend is. The first flower is a wild orchid. We were always so excited when we spotted a variety of orchid….typically hidden and not very showy…just remarkably beautiful and tucked away in some rich loam under a bush, usually in the shade.

Yesterday morning my sister-friend slipped out of this world and moved mysteriously into the next…and she did this without ever seeing my words written down.

I’ve decided to sit with thoughts of Wendy this morning, while the sun shines bright on the snow.  Somehow it feels warmer today.

I attended the concluding evening of a church mission that was hosted in our parish last evening, prayed for the peaceful repose of Wendy…for the journey that my brother is taking…for my family and dear friends.  The priest shared something interesting, once finishing up the Gospel reading about service…the one that’s read every Holy Thursday about Jesus bending down and washing his disciples’ feet… he said, serving one another does not always mean saying a whole lot…sometimes it means just sitting and being with the other.  So, this morning, I’m sitting with thoughts of Wendy and I’m not going to say a whole lot.

There will be a whole number of people who over the coming days and weeks, months and years, will talk about Wendy’s accomplishments because she was indeed, an accomplished woman, coach, teacher, political force to be reckoned with, orator, curriculum writer, baker, crocheter, wife, cadet…she was all of that and more, but this morning as I contemplate why the huge ache in my heart, I realize that it was the enduring presence that is Wendy, the friend, to me that I most celebrate.  So, I will not let this post be about anything but that, her love and wisdom and friendship.  What I wish to most strongly communicate is Wendy’s courage and fortitude and extreme vulnerability…those qualities that Wendy gave through her presence with me and with our group, affectionately named the Ya Ya sisterhood.

The other sisters; Val, Darlene, Carla and Cathy; had the blessed opportunity to work with Wendy some years before our first meeting.  It was Val who invited me to join in the regular gatherings with her circle of friends in order to enjoy food, drink, lively conversation and a hot tub now and then at Darlene’s.  I was a very vulnerable person at the time, digging deep in order to stay afloat, raising three children on my own, all the while trying to do a great job as a teacher. I am forever-grateful for the friendships that were established at the time and how they have continued to change my life for richness of experience, knowledge and love.

Our activities included regular hiking, gourmet dining hosted by Wendy and her husband Darren and wonderful daughter, Becca…basement movie gatherings and themed photo opportunities.  We consumed, voraciously, the times we had together, always rallying around the person(s) who was/were feeling most overwhelmed at the time, offered genuine support to one another, invaluable advice and resource-sharing.  Wendy gave me confidence.  She also had one heck of a sense of humour.  She was a straight-shooter and never muted a point.  Her determination and will was contagious.  We have, over the years, all benefited from her drive and her commitment.

Wendy had an ability to roll with the punches.  She lightly jested that she was much like a unicorn because her health matters that gradually grew to be insurmountable were uniquely challenging.  I admired how hard she pushed against every obstacle and I was inspired by the strength of her family and the love that the three of them shared.

On Monday, I sat watched Wendy enjoy a bowl of Thai Soup while I ate a Greek Salad in the Fanning Center cafeteria.  It was all so ordinary.  We said ordinary things with one another.  And, I’ve decided that this is what life is, a long string of ordinary moments.  It is right to enjoy each of those.  A cup of ice.  Saying hello to the other person in the elevator.  Advocating for support.  Leaning down for that embrace at “Good-bye”.  Laughing at the ritual of asking a complete stranger to take a photograph…

Late that night, my cell phone rang…I didn’t get it in time.  It was Wendy’s number on my phone.

I called back and Wendy didn’t pick up. I’ll always wonder what Wendy might have said.  More than anything, I will remember.

Oh what a treasure to have shared the mountain air with Wendy…fabulous food…nice drinks on a back deck, laughing and talking and looking up at the stars.  I will love you always, dear friend…and nothing will take these years from me.

It is 4:00 in the afternoon, on Valentine’s Day.  It has been a blessing to look over photographs and to think about all of the wonderful times we have enjoyed.  Good-bye, good and faithful servant.

These images are a small sampling and many moments are buried in my archives or sitting on some one else’s camera…but these offer the gist of a remarkable friendship.

Hikes:

Kath's Canon June 28, 2015 Flower Walk 073

 

 

 

Food…

 

Photo Booth