Wenjack by Joseph Boyden

It continues to be my goal to read the books of as many indigenous authors as possible this year…and to read content that will increase my knowledge, leading to better understanding of issues related to our Canadian indigenous peoples.  I have a desire in my heart to be a part of the mechanism that contributes to change, following a formal Truth and Reconciliation process.  The formal process is a mere stepping stone…the work, by all Canadians, is yet to be done.

I am grateful to have connected with author, Sable Sweetgrass, through an on line book club that Sable established and then on to a group book circle at the Forest Lawn Public Library once a month, with the gathering, Chapters and Chat, sponsored by the Aboriginal Pride and 12 Community Safety Initiative and led by Michelle Robinson.  Books offer inroads to powerful ways of viewing the world and understanding, whether non fiction, fiction, theater or poetry.  We owe it to ourselves to become educated.

This month’s read, Wenjack by Joseph Boyden, was selected as much for the weight of issues surrounding its author as for any other reason.  We decided we really wanted to have an honest discussion about appropriation of content.

The aesthetic of the book is beautiful…lovely paper, interesting and welcoming format, gorgeous illustrations and attractive associations with the natural world.  Based on the historical events of a young boy, Chanie who, in fact, was forced into a residential school system and as a result, died,  the discussion about the issues surrounding the writing of the book became a many layered, and at times painful, conversation.

I was unaware of Joseph Boyden’s reputation as an author, given that this was the first time I have picked up one of his books. Highly successful and recognized as an award winning author, Boyden’s connections with indigenous culture and appropriation of indigenous narratives has been called into question in various ways over many years.  His response has been anything but straight forward and the topic has been explored all over the internet.  An example of one such article can be found in the National Post.

I love books and I love the act of reading and it is for me to be discerning around my selection. As a visual artist, I have had to consider ethical boundaries as I explore certain topics in my paintings and it is important that appropriation is considered as I set up these boundaries.  While I am not fond of censorship, I do think, as artists, there is something refreshing about being true to our own stories.  I found our shared discussion circle to be invaluable as it contributed to expanded knowledge, in a very thoughtful way.

wenjack

 

Birds Art Life by Kyo Maclear

I was down at Shelf Life books, listening to a wonderful double book launch by  German Rodrigues and J. Pablo Ortiz.  It was a very unique evening of spanish language literature, celebrating the launch of German Rodriguez’s The Time Between His Eyes (El tiempo entre sus ojos) and J. Pablo Ortiz’s Open Sea (De mar abierto). It was an excellent event and I was happy to reconnect with Pablo and to hang with his partner and my longtime friend, Brian. After the reading, I set about looking for the book, Birds Art Life because I had heard an interview about it and knew that it would affirm my experience of the pond, the discovery of birds and the resulting experience of art-making.

It was a bit of a search, but before I left, a copy of the book fell into my hands.

Very linear in my approach to books, I finished the McCullers title, before snapping up this beautiful object of my obsession.

I rushed through my earlier two reviews, books I’ve read in the past month, so that I could get to this recommendation, Birds Art Life by Kyo Maclear.  In this book, I found something kindred to everything I have become in retirement and in the past six years of loving a single ecosystem, a pond environment within the boundaries of the City of Calgary.

I kept putting the book down, and lifting off of the sofa or my bed or the bench out in the back yard, in order to pace and whoot and say, out loud, “YES!”  Since reading The Diviners so many years ago, I have not had such physical reactions to what I am reading.

Here is an extract from the book that speaks of my philosophy and experience, very clearly.

I discovered, through the book, that my ‘SPARK’ bird, was a sparrow, more precise, Mr. and Mrs. Sparrow, some eight years ago.  Hardly romantic or colourful, strange that my true attraction to birds was discovered looking out from my kitchen window, across at the open vent of my neighbour’s kitchen…several nesting seasons…widowing…lost youngsters…and determination through all sorts of weather conditions.  I began to watch. I took out the camera, for the first time, to take photographs of sparrows.

Kath's Canon Male Sparrow Emptying Nest July 7 2015 006

From that kitchen place, my exploring began at a pond environment that I call Frank’s Flats, named after a homeless man who most evenings, watched me gather up litter into a bag a day for several years.  He drank six beer in the time it took me to fill a bag with plastics, straws, newspaper flyers and other human garbage.  He chatted with me, thanked me and visited at the end of most evenings, as I put my collection into the bin, near his viewing spot.

I think that the first time I really noticed the birds, I was drawn to the red winged black birds because of their determined mating calls.

Facebook 40 Male Blackbird

My experience of the pond has, since discovering birds, coyotes and little field mice, become magical.  The lessons I have learned about compassion, care, art and writing, have been many and profound.  I am so grateful for the number of stories and discoveries that come my way because I am always looking for the little miracles.

Kath's Canon, September 22, 2015 early aft Frank's Flats Heron 038

Facebook 7 Black Capped Night Heron

Kath's Canon September 2, 2015 Osprey, Franks, Stinky Max 062Kath's Canon August 29, 2015 Osprey, Hawk, Kingfisher 141

If you are looking for a way to deepen your experience of life and living, pick up this book.  It is a treasure and my new favourite!  It contains countless references to other writers, thinkers and artists…book titles…and the author’s connections with her own story.  I hope that my readers will discover urban nature and hold on to the power of that experience.

Today at the pond…

embed-10embed-13embed-12

 

 

My Decade at Old Sun, My Lifetime of Hell by Arthur Bear Chief

This book is very accessible to readers on line.  Download the PDF file through Athabasca University Press and pour over the book, in just a few hours over two days.

Judy Bedford lays down tracks for us in the Preface, exploring the process of actually archiving this personal record and moving through revisions.

“Arthur’s living story will evolve, and so will his written story, which will have its own future. It will reach a far wider audience, and it will affect others in ways that cannot be predetermined. Like listeners, readers have a responsibility not only to approach Arthur’s story with respect and open themselves up to his words but to ponder the relationship between his story and their own lives—to find in his experiences truths about themselves. Readers are also responsible for “retelling” the story by sharing what they learn with others.

In this way, what is written will become oral. It will not be archived. As any story should, it will live and grow—and in that there is hope of reconciliation.” –Frits Pannekoek

Arthur’s remembrances of being a young boy, growing up with his mother near by, being taken from his family and educated in residence at Old Sun, is chilling.  What his section of the book lacks in elegance, is so authentic that the reader can only feel  helpless and sad.  Arthur recalls the sights and sounds of family and home on Blackfoot Reserve # 146.  His initial memories are very tactile in nature and it’s interesting how often he mentions the touch of his mother, throughout.

It is a very hopeless thing to read about a child who is overpowered by adults who are sick, perverse and controlling.  It is made me so angry to read that dearest friends should silence one another in the dark of night, in order to avoid reprisal and further hurt.

The Afterward, written by Fritz Pannekoek is excellent because it puts into a very clear context, Arthur’s experience.  It gives the reader a very strong foundation for understanding the journey of one man in the system of Residential Schools, but also, the frustrating process of revelation…of truth…of trauma…of financial settlement…and ongoing systematic abuse, whether that be physical or emotional.

I learned so much through this book and it causes me to hunger more for understanding of current issues around the Truth and Reconcilation process.  This is a very fragile thing…and readers must understand that without the active engagement of all Canadians, the political process meant/means nothing.  I invite readers to seek out information and to familiarize themselves to the various agendas that are out there.

Thank you to Jess, for the invitations to further my study. Thank you to Sable Sweetgrass for the awesome efforts via social media.  I’m really enjoying the book suggestions and on line discussion. Thank you to Michelle Robinson and the Community Safety Initiative: Aboriginal Pride with 12CSI.

One child’s heart…forever, changed.

 

 

 

People of Belleville, Ontario

I’ve grown to know and love the people of Belleville and most especially, the “People of Parkwood”!  As I’ve been nesting today, I’ve been looking back on albums and photographs, ones that weren’t saved off of my memory stick and these were heart warming, so I want to archive them here.

There is a community of people in Belleville that welcomes me when I make my migrations east and that is a lovely feeling.  The lesson our family members have learned because of a lifelong connection with the military is that where ever we go, we can adjust, settle in, make new friends and reconnect with old friends.  Just this past year, I reconnected with a kindergarten teacher, Stella Pelkey and her daughter, Lila.  It was as though the years had not gone by.  We shared laughs, tears and stories of Hornell Heights and Paul Davoud School.

While visiting Belleville last summer, my dearest friend from high school years, Ramona Venegas, drove all the way from Michigan, enroute to the east coast of the United States and we shared two magical days together. This happens where ever I travel in Canada and on into the United States.  We are graced in these times with social media that links up dear friends.  Moving on is sad, but we are well cherished beyond time and distance.  This is something I’ve grown to know and understand.

Here are some of the people of Belleville…many are not here because some how they got away without having me snap a photograph.

Dear friends, Beth and Christine Self.  Beth was the youngest of the Self family, three postings to North Bay, Ontario.  Stan was our Padre and the Protestant Chapel on base and our shared activities included many barbecues, Christmas parties, sing songs, church choirs, Youth Groups and mutual support through difficult times.  I love this family, deeply…always will.

kaths-art-15

Barb and Morley…exemplars of faith, family and love.  We met in Belleville.  Barb is a mean cook!  Morley, an inspiring minister, faithful, fun-loving and a great banjo player.  He played and entertained for my father’s 80th birthday party and my dear Mom who suffered Alzheimer’s disease, was well aware that day about how special she was as we also celebrated her birthday.  When I think of these two, I am reminded to have hope.  They took the time to come out last summer to my art exhibit and I am so grateful.kaths-art-14

My beautiful cousin, descendant on my maternal side, and I found one another in Belleville.  We have both searched and searched family roots, but from opposite sides of Canada.  Belleville connected us.  Liane is so absolutely beautiful and it was like an explosion of love and joy to meet.  Our ancestral research continues, but a link was made by her generous use of time.  (And by the way, she purchased THAT painting!)img_1649

St. Columba Church garden…this photo represents the beautiful Presbyterian community that my mother loved and my father continues to love.  As the summer’s drought was coming to an end, this photo represents the last of the harvest…only a week before I headed out on my drive back to Calgary.img_1648

At my father’s prompting and his generous contribution of shipping, I donated a painting to this newly designed and decorated meeting space in the church.  Here he is with some AMAZING human beings, Gary, Jane and Jen, the beautiful minister of St. Columba.  Jane and Gary have been long time family friends and with each of my migrations east, I have built relationship.  Prayerful, loving and supportive…these three showed my Mom and Dad such support.  They are to be cherished.  Special prayers for all three this morning, as I type.img_1633

I simply love this photograph of my father and so I include it here.  One of the greatest gifts that Mom gave to me was a relationship with my father.  I used to spend most of my time gabbing on the telephone long distance, with my Mom, as Mom and daughters do.  As Mom’s health failed, Dad did not hesitate to sign into Skype every day at 5:00 so that Mom and I could spend time with one another; singing, talking, laughing and crying.  Since 2013, my father and I have continued that ritual, chatting via Skype almost every day.  I have treasured my alternating yearly drive out to spend summers with him.  We have created memories by sharing our own time together, attending theater, going for beautiful drives, eating out and sharing the feast table in his apartment. (and sharing the odd bottle of red wine with one another)  img_1629

My cousins through my Auntie Mary and Uncle Pete, Laura, and Brenda and Gwen (no photograph…for shame) are very special to me.  They also lived the military life and ‘get it’. Distance doesn’t change our shared experience and our connection to our roots in Magrath.  On this past visit, I feel I got to know my cousin Laura (the youngest) better and was so thrilled for that knowing.  Recently, Laura traveled out west, and along with her brother, Peter, we went up the Custom Woolen Mills.  That afternoon was heaven, it was so filled with laughter!img_1604

My Auntie Mary, beautiful Auntie, attended my art exhibit.  We hardly see her enough, but when we do, it is like yesterday.  She was generous in allowing me to collage her image( a professional photograph taken by her best friend’s father during Moose Jaw days) into one of my paintings this past summer.img_1596 img_1592

Here, she recreates the dreamlike expression captured in the earlier photograph. Makes me smile!img_1585

I met Ina at Parkwood Estates.  She and I had two treasured visits in her apartment.  Now in her 90s, Ina and I spent time looking at her photo albums and she shared stories of cottage country and the process of building their cottage from the ground up.  She told me about Roy, her husband…his work, his plans and his health.  Ina shared about her teaching in Montreal, what teaching was like in the day…the expectations, the challenges and her passion for teaching.  We had very beautiful talks and now we write letters to one another.  I treasure Ina.img_1484 img_1481

Ina and Roy.img_1478 img_1477

Dianne has a thick french accent.  She comes in every two weeks and cleans Dad’s apartment.  But, she is more than that!  She offers enthusiastic conversation with all of her clients.  (Can my readers tell?)  Max loves her!  Dianne and her husband love to fish.  It is not an uncommon thing for her to bring fresh pickerel to my father and she says, “Just fry it up in a little butter.”  She does a beautiful job cleaning, but she has a big heart as well.  She exemplifies ‘goodness’.img_1427 img_1423

One Euchre table.  My Mom and Dad were always big Bridge players.  I didn’t inherit that passion nor do I understand how it is played.  I also don’t know a thing about Euchre.  While I am familiar with these people of Parkwood, I don’t remember their names.  This is a common gathering space and there is always something happening. The renovations are beautiful in this location!img_1354

Marjorie and Trevor White have been another great couple who shared many years, many experiences and many social gatherings with Mom and Dad, in the military life.  A pilot, Trev had the most wonderful stories (unbelievable stories) and was such a smart and funny man.  Marj lost Trevor recently, but she continues to share those stories of times with Mom and Dad and I love this connection.  We write cards to one another.  I need to keep this connection. Thank you, for fresh Basil from your garden.img_1353

Peter Paylor and Lisa Morris….amazing artists and artisans in Belleville!  These two are such visionaries and have huge energy in the arts community; music, visual arts and theater.  They welcomed me into their circle and for that, I will always be grateful.  All the way from Calgary, I will always support their efforts and their projects.  I love ’em.img_0941

…and who wouldn’t love this?img_0940 img_0938

A series of photographs here…just because these folks are so beautiful!  As I would leave to walk Max on beautiful summer days, I’d always stop and chat with whoever was gathering in the common space.  Usually there were laughs happening, often, serious conversations.  Bev is the one with her hand on her head here.  Bev and I shared a small conversation every single day.  She gives swimming instruction, wears a fit bit and can tell you at any time of day how many steps she’s made.  She is warm and lovely and I had the chance to sit next to her during a very special One Act Play festival in Belleville this past summer.  Her husband, Gerry, is a Belleville historian and writer of several books.  He and I met, quite by surprise, the summer that I was making a big fuss about Susanna Moodie’s marble head stone being made into a memorial.  I did a lot of research in the Belleville Library this past summer on the Marchmont Home and the BHC of the area.img_0934 img_0933 img_0932 img_0928 img_0927

Here’s Ina…always impeccably dressed.  Former school teacher, she and I shared so many stories.  I love Ina.img_0739

She explained how Roy, given that they didn’t have children, was always called upon to be MC at various people’s weddings.  He was a strong orator and he and Ina always gave the newlyweds a copy of Desiderata because they loved it so much.  Ina has this copy hanging near her front room.img_0738

Ina told me about the day that they moved into the Parkwood Estates and how Roy brought this Dogwood tree in and planted it in the corner.  Ever since then, Ina has been collecting these little birds.
img_0728

Jen, Dad’s minister, stopped in for a visit and gave Buddy a ton of love.  I love this woman so much.  She gave prayers for Mom and sent Mom on to the path of Paradise, with many blessings.  She is a strong and wonderful person and a great support to our family.img_0718 img_0716

Denny…always a big one for greetings.  He is like a welcoming committee to the apartment.  I typically found him outdoors on a short stroll or sitting on the bench when I would head out with Max on his morning walk.  Here, he is getting the machines set for Wii Bowling.img_0713 img_0712 img_0711 Heck if I could figure this out either, but weekly, Wii Bowling achieved a huge enthusiastic group!  I always stopped and said, “Hi”.img_0710

Carolyn and Bob….Carolyn is my Ya Ya in the east.  She bubbles over with enthusiasm!  This past summer we enjoyed the Festival Players of Prince Edward County under the dome tent, a beautiful heart wrenching piece, A Splinter in the Heart, that left both Carolyn and I crying at the end.img_0697

Yes.  Lisa again…here, we were at an open mic event in the ‘old boy’s club’ downtown Belleville.  Lisa had just come over from a rehearsal for an amazing steam punk piece she would be performing in in the One Act Play Festival.img_0662

More of Aunty Mary as we headed out for lunch on The Lake On the Mountain.  GOOD BEER!img_0508

Artist, Janet Beare, living a magical life in her downstairs space…a world many may not know a lot about.  MAGIC!

img_1472

Ina with her bird mug…this is the occasion when I learned that she had a bird tree and “May I come to see it some time?”img_0446

Coffee and birthday cake gathering!img_0445

Cold Creek Winery and Dave!  Amazing guy with such a huge heart!  I see Dave every time I drive out east, simply because Dad and I drink red. ;0)img_0379

Maureen and her daughter, Cathy.  Perched above the Bay of Quinte, these were the first friends we visited on last summer’s trip.  Maureen is an amazing artisan, always creating with her hands.  She was very close to my mother and kept Mom’s fingers going, creating beautiful things for the Mistletoe Market, for as long as was possible.img_0344

Barb and Rob, resident managers extraordinaire, back when I began my journeys east.  Always kind, generous and very very good at what they did.  I’m happy for them for the adventures that they have enjoyed since retiring, taking their RV across and around two countries.  They epitomize what potential is in all of us to care and give.  Love you, two.barb-and-rob

Home is what we make of the places we visit and where we nest.  We take home with us wherever we go.  People do not have to remain constantly within our view to remain constant and caring forces in all that we do.  We just owe it to them to try to stay in touch, how we can.  Wishing my friends of Belleville, love and care.

Big Brushes! Big Paper!

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about  the Alberta Art Curriculum and where it concerns Division One students, including Kindergarten.  Division One, for those readers outside of Alberta, Canada, are Grades One, Two and Three.  Within the framework of the Expression Component of the Alberta Art Curriculum, there exists a language that, since 1986, when the curriculum was written, published and implemented by teachers,  is becoming more and more distant and misunderstood.

In the 1980s, I was blessed to be a part of the Fine Arts team under the inspiration of our Fine Arts Supervisor, one of the Supervisors in our District Program Department.  That team included a Music Consultant or two?, a Drama Consultant, and a Visual Arts Consultant/sometimes Visual Arts Specialist.  Today, I feel like writing about ‘the best of times’ in our District when Fine Arts were well-supported, vibrant, inspiring and growing!  Professional Development was offered on a very regular basis where teachers had opportunity to share ideas with other teachers in the District, learn techniques, share lesson plans and observe demonstration lessons being delivered by professionals in the field.  For many years, there had been a Fine Arts Center, a place where students were bused on a regular basis to have experiences in Art, Music and Drama.  It was an amazing time for Fine Arts in Calgary!

When the ‘NEW’ curriculum came out for Visual Arts, the schools were assured that expert teachers became familiar with how to use the document and feel comfortable with designing lessons, and further mentored non-specialist teachers to the point where they became comfortable with delivery of lessons and program.   Resources were updated, including textbooks and large visuals, in order to support the Reflection Component.  If teachers were struggling with ideas or implementation, a specialist booked one-on-one appointments and traveled to schools to explain, support, observe and assist with ordering media/resources or teaching.  This was happening in core subjects as well, but not to the detriment of Fine Arts education.

Somewhere during that process, our department developed a list of indices for administrators…these described what an administrator would see if, in fact, the curriculum outcomes were being met.  For example, walking down a hall, a person might look at the walls and be able to quickly identify what quality art works would look like at each Division.  Photo copied and cloned or teacher-made works, for example, would optimally, not be presented as student art work.

Not meaning to sound stuck up or arrogant, but truly, ‘perfect’ art is not ‘child made’ art.  Child made art is perfect because it shows the true schematic development of each individual child.  Somewhere along the line, adults, over the years that I’ve been teaching have somewhat imposed their fear of ‘not being able to draw a straight line’ onto children.  They sometimes fail to celebrate the wonky cutting and ‘out of control’ line that is imperative to developing fine motor skills.  Congratulations to those of you who treasure these discoveries.

All of these experiences and initiatives, I see as valuable and imperative to the life of the arts in schools.  It seems, however, that since then, this DISTANCE between educators and the arts, at least visual arts, has been growing larger and this concerns me.  I believed then, as I do now, that Fine Arts are essential to the healthy development and well-rounded education of children.  The parts of the brain used in each of the experiences of visual art, dance, drama and music must not be left unexplored.  Creatives are the answer to so many of the world’s challenges right now.  These have always been my beliefs.

So….what are the realities in schools today?  What are the pressures being put upon an authentic visual arts experience…for the sake of this rant,  and authentic visual arts experience for the youngest of our children?

Occupational health and safety guidelines now require that only a certain percentage of bulletin board space may be covered in paper.  Now, we see the art works, even by Division One children, shrinking.  We see their tools becoming smaller.  But, THIS IS A PROBLEM!!  We can not sacrifice who our young people are and what they need to experience based on the numbers of works that we can display at any given time.  It is possible to observe the safety requirements and still address the actual art curriculum, that also, is required.

Because of their little fingers, young children need large brushes and large paper.  If you have to rotate their works of art over a month long period, to be fair, I think that is a possibility.  Their fingers are not ready to hold tiny water colour brushes, or to manipulate lines and shapes, with paint in an 8 x 10 picture plane.

I’m ranting…let me see if I can find a little video or something that supports anything I’ve written here.  Well, HERE is a write up titled, YOUNG IN ART by Craig Roland, outlining and illustrating the natural progression of making symbols and then images.

You may want to mute the next video.  I know that I did.  Sometimes music distracts.

I think teachers of art will be less frustrated and children will be less frustrated if they can enjoy art experiences that challenge, but do not frustrate.  Somehow, it’s important for teachers to identify the stages of artistic development that exist within their classrooms.  If a student struggles with fine motor skills, media needs to be selected that will ease that struggle.

For young children, I recommend BIG brushes and BIG paper.  Drawings can easily be accomplished with a piece of white chalk.

My thoughts on Pinterest?  Did anyone ask? I’m laughing here.  Truly, this post is a rant and not anything but.  I have to say that Pinterest is both a blessing for a visual arts educator and a curse!  To generalist and specialist teachers alike, I pose these questions. Do you understand what the curricular outcomes are that are being met by each Pinterest ‘idea’?  Are the outcomes appropriate for students at your grade level?  Are you including in your art experiences, lessons in Reflection, Depiction, Composition and Expression?  Are the end products the driving force behind the lesson or is the experience the child is having while creating them, the most magical?

All things to think about…

I think that we have done a disservice to teachers cutting back on professional development where it includes topics with direct impact on teaching.  I think that these are the days where we focus most on technology, assessment and inclusion to the detriment of self-reflection, lesson and unit planning and professional sharing opportunities.  In ‘the trenches’, there is very little time to explore.

The cost of art materials is, I’m certain, escalating.  The time on the schedule is diminishing.  Visual arts education is slowly being absorbed by other subjects and being called integrated visual arts.  If students use crayon pencils and markers, there is some thought that they are practicing art.  This, in my opinion, is a fallacy.

Anyway, I feel like I need a drink after all of this.  Good for you, if you read to this point.  I hope that you know that I’m behind all my readers and I certainly use my opportunities, as a guest teacher, to explore the art curriculum with kids simply because I love it!  Sometimes the kids call me Painter Lady.  That makes me happy!  What better way to learn, create and explore ones mind, but to dip a big brush into a buttery bucket of paint and then to watch that paint flow out onto a surface?  For those of you out there, with kidlets, have fun with them.  They appreciate any opportunity you give them to roll up their sleeves and get into those gritty aspects of learning!

Valentines…a lesson, or two.

Valentines this year…Grades Three and One.

 

 

KOAC: Kiyooka Ohe Arts Centre

This morning, I’m celebrating Wendy Lees and the Love Art in Calgary tours that she provides, here in the city.  Yesterday, we had the opportunity to enjoy the intimate and generous experience of visiting KOAC.  Harry Kiyooka and Katie Ohe directed a magical tour of their property, studios and home and today I am still ruminating about the conversations, the practice and the encouragement received.  Grateful!

Katie and Harry have done so much for our community and, both visionaries, they have a commitment to leave an amazing legacy for all of us.  But right now, they need our support, both monetary and philosophically.  Calgarians need to see themselves as both beneficiaries, but also contributors to this dream.  I hope that my readers will take the time to visit the website and explore how they can be a part of this.

We began our tour with the wondrous drive out to the property under an amazing chinook arch.  The light and arch contributed to the aesthetic experience of being on the edge of the city, looking west toward the mountains.  Good conversation, laughter and shared philosophies are always a part of a Love Art in Calgary tour and this time, I reconnected with a like-minded woman, Sharon, who I had met on a previous workshop at the Esker Foundation and Melissa, who has a long history of Gorilla painting with me.  So much fun.

Melissa and I went for a wander to look at a couple of the sculptures on the property before the tour of Katie’s studio began.

img_3364

This one made a journey across the ocean in a crate…missed the sculptor’s name.

img_3362

‘Dandelion’ a kinetic sculpture created by one of Katie’s former students.

img_3368

Treasures.

Walking to Katie’s studio, we stopped and had fun, listening to Katie’s stories and being present to her larger-than-life energy!

I think this woman is such a role model for us.  She is so full of warmth and has such a generous nature.  And…she says that she writes a lot of reference letters! :0)

Katie Ohe, when speaking of her sculptures, touches them in such a special way and speaks about them in that manner, also.  It is evident that she has a very close relationship with the materials and knows and loves the process of creation in a very intimate way.  I cherish listening to her speak of her art.

 

 

Next, we went to Harry’s studio, a treasure trove full of discoveries and large canvases.

Harry is such a gentle and kind man, with such enthusiasm for the vision that has been forming over such a long period of time…a vision and partnership shared between Katie and him.  He is a huge promoter of KOAC and has announced that tickets are available for the next big fundraiser.

Next, the two artists invited us into their home and we sat and snacked and shared a coffee break, while being surrounded by amazing works of art, as well as an extensive collection and library!  Phenomenal!

 

I will never forget the strength of Katie’s hand wrapped around mine, as I thanked her for the afternoon.  What an amazing woman!

Previous posts…

Art Tour 2013

Poem For Katie Ohe

Katie’s Idea Books

Objects of Affection

Wool

Yes.  Here it is again.  Another post about wool.

It can’t be helped.  Through time and research and memory, the smell of the woolen mill is a forever-sensory-experience.  When I DO get around to writing ‘that novel’, captured between the pages somewhere will be the sound of the machines and the smell of the wool…it can’t be helped.  It is in me to share.

My readers have been patient and tolerated my obsession with this process, texture, landscape…you know it it is the landscape of this woman’s heart.

And so, I will keep words to a minimum and simply share that when my cousin, Laura, made a recent trip west, it was perfect that Laura, her brother Peter and I should drive north east to the Custom Woolen Mills, together.  Cousins, in our family, share a special bond and one can not possibly, in a post such as this, capture or contain the sort of laughter and fun that is shared when we get together, even as adults.  It’s pure joy and ridiculousness.

I am forever-grateful to our grandparents who gave us this bond and this relationship with wool and the manufacture of products from wool.  It is pretty special!

img_3342

img_3344

Peter and Laura Dewar, children of Mary Moors and Peter Dewar

img_3350img_3349img_3351img_3348img_3353IMG_3361.JPGimg_3354img_3357

 

img_20170127_134922_024img_20170127_135216_233img_20170127_135557_815img_20170127_140112_011img_20170127_140256_835img_20170127_140355_121img_20170127_140539_687

img_20170127_140944_055

Cousins, Kathleen Moors, Peter Dewar and Laura Lee Dewar

img_20170127_143649_562img_20170127_144150_691

img_20170127_170818_131

Post-Mill and we share wine, laughter and lots of Italian food.  I was so grateful to share time with you, Laura and Peter.

We spent an hour or so together, researching and playing upbeat songs off of our phones…so hilarious.  Here’s one.

 

The Principles of Uncertainty

by Maira Kalman

Two days ago, before or after Emelia’s funeral prayers, I wanted to write a post titled something like, “The Loss of Children”. About that choice of title, I thought, “Who are you to write a post titled, ‘The Loss of Children’, when you have been so blessed and your children are safe and healthy?” So much has happened, in my head, during this Christmas/New Years holiday, that I postponed the post and now I’m writing this.

I woke at 5:35.  I’ve had a lot going on in my head.  (I guess I already said that.)

I dusted off the final two shelves of books.  It’s been a two-shelves-a-day project ever since the dust settled and the window casings were clear-coated.  If you are connected to my Instagram account, you’ve seen that I’ve snapped a few shots of books, but I stopped that because it was actually distracting me from getting the job done.

A side note: I was able to, with the guidance of the book,  The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo,  choose twenty books to box up and deliver to a WIN shop.  Apart from the books in the cardboard box, I can say that the titles that remain, give me joy.

To celebrate the completion of the task and to stall Max’s walk at the pond (Facebook status: [Big fat flakes falling, beginning at around 6 this morning. It is easy to see them, lit up by street lamps. Morning light is still some time away.]), I sat under the green quilted blanket, cozy, on the red couch and read the most beautiful book, The Principles of Uncertainty by Maira Kalman.  The smell of home made turkey soup was heavy on the air…yesterday’s cooking continued because the carrots still had a tad too much crunch.

I loved this book so much that, for a short while, until my next book, it is my favourite.  Yes!  I finished it a short while ago.  It is that type of book.  For its sparseness, it is absolutely overflowing and packed with content of the heart.  It is an entire history and archive of those bits of life that are inspiring and magical, in part, anyway.  I also like that Maira dedicates the book to her mother.

Maira Kalman  is a woman of my own heart, very much captivated by the magical moments of life.  A fabulous illustrator and person.  I highly recommend this book.  I’ll be moving on to her other books.

I attended a gathering last evening at a friend’s house.  She’s just recently completed a kitchen renovation.  Ten women sharing a meal on a wintry night…just beautiful.  It is our habit to talk about everything, really.  And, at some point, we always share our current reading, authors, genres and such and last evening was no exception.  I was a bit embarrassed to share that I was still struggling my way through a werewolf story, titled Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones.  I think I’ve decided that werewolf stories are not for me.  Anyway, back to The Principles of Uncertainty, the book gives me a fresh perspective on the human condition. The themes are very personal and yet universal.  Everything is uncertain…even the books that we pick up and our experience of them.  I felt warm and happy looking around that room last evening, with the realization that, for the past twenty-five years, these women have shared their reading with me.  Ours is a delicious friendship.

the-principlesprinciples-2

I will be writing about the loss of children at a later time, not because I know that experience, but because I can’t imagine that experience.  And why? What will that do or help or prove? Absolutely nothing…just that I can.

Mrs. Shoveler

I discovered her, first, on December 14.  The temperatures, the week before, had been frigid, plummeting to -27 on some days.  I had, a couple of times, walked around the pond, breathing hot air into my wool scarf, tied tightly around my mouth and nose.  My eye lashes grew icicles.  Max, sometimes wound up with cold feet and I would stoop to clear snow from between his pads.  On the 14th, the weather seemed better.  At the bottom of the slope that edged the football field, I first saw her, recognizing her beak profile as being that of a Northern Shoveler.  “What the heck?” I thought to myself.

I had my first experience of closely observing Northern Shovelers on the far side of the fence, last summer, and never did get a good photograph of a Mr.  On the other hand, I had several very beautiful encounters, image-wise, with females.

Facebook 27 Female Northern ShovelerFacebook 29 Female Northern ShovelerFacebook 31, The Best I have Northern Shoveler

I am not one for making a big deal of things in nature, knowing that, for the most part, nature will find its way.  I watched her, thinking that perhaps she had been widowed during the extreme temperatures.  Mates will remain where they have suffered loss, for weeks, sometimes months.  I had made observations of a mating couple of geese last summer and when one had obviously lost its mate, the bonded partner remained at the same place on the pond for June and most of July.  Therefore, I didn’t make any calls for assistance right away.  Today, this is my only regret.

Finally, with the vacation approaching and having experienced two days of intensely bitter cold wind, on Frank’s Flats, I decided I should look for sanctuary for little Mrs.  What one discovers as one begins to seek support in this city is that sometimes it doesn’t come easy.  Without recounting my negative or non-productive experiences, I wish to merely express gratitude for those who did reach out with empathy and concern.  First, Bob of Birds Calgary, took the time to research, make inquiries and hook me with other organizations.  I’ve followed Birds Calgary for some years now and love the documentation of birds in our community and the narratives that some times surface on the website.

My second communication with Calgary Wilderness Rehabilitation Society, again, functioning mostly on volunteer-steam and funded by donation, seemed to be hopeful, but a New Year’s blast of winter, meant that services were taxed in other areas of need.  This was a non-emergency situation.  I’m sending on a link to their Wish List, in hopes that this experience of mine might lead to positive change and solicit support for organizations such as these.

In the end, I received the greatest and most professional treatment from the Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation (AIWC) and I certainly hope that you might, if this is one of your interests, support this organization.  Please spend some time perusing their blog.  They were quick, responsive and had a nice flow to their communication; e mail response, phone and on-line website.  The City of Calgary 311 on-line request form needs some careful attention in order to become expedient and avoid glitches.

I documented my visits with little Mrs.  Sometimes the photos were lovely…sometimes not.  Do I regret being obsessive over an injured duck for the past few weeks?  No.  I learned so much.  I regret to report that sometime in the night or the wee hours of morning, a predator did carry and kill Mrs.  I followed the edge of the pond, the tracks and the narrative until I found her soft fan of feathers in the snow.

last-morning-january-2feathers-my-lost-mrs

I’m thankful to all my friends and my daughters, for their hearts, ears and suggestions.  I love you all for caring.  I think that we are all called to action.  I think it is easy to get comfortable in our own lives, sometimes.  I think that Mrs. is a mere metaphor for ‘the other’…for the marginalized who are living in our own city.  It is important that we not become so comfortable that we forget that there are others who are cold, without shelter, circling the small pond of their own lives because it feels as though there is no way out.

I am in gratitude that nature has taught me more.

Bringing in a New Year, Mexican Style

I was blessed to have an experience of friendship and love and creativity last evening as we moved from 2016, beautifully, into 2017.  I was so full to the brim with happiness that it took me quite a while, at home, to settle into a peaceful sleep.  I watched the snow fall for quite some time…looked at rabbit tracks that wove through the fresh snow on the front yard…watched it grow into a perfect blanket in the back yard.

Wendy, Dan, Lauraine, Stephen and Steven, our time together was magical!  Thank you, and HAPPY NEW YEAR!