Firsts

This morning, I enjoyed a first…first walk along the river shared with Max, my grandson and my daughter.  It was a beautiful experience for me, so have to quickly archive.

The day began with a coffee on the red couch. Max stared longingly outside…but I wasn’t up for a rush, given that I’m struggling with a really bad cold right now and feel quite the ache all over.

Maxman April 26, 2018

I took a look at the male House Sparrow who also seemed despairing, perched for two full days on my back fence, looking at the vent where he once made a home.

And yes!  That sign does read Be Aware of The Dog, as opposed to Beware of Dog…a gift from my dear friend, Pat.  It makes perfect sense if you one day meet Max.

IMG_6803

IMG_6800

At the base of the vent, all of the wee items of bric-a-brac collected over the years have been emptied out.

IMG_6801

No sign of Northern Flicker this morning.

All this aside, once out of my pajamas and into my sloppy clothes, I did a little bit of texting with my buddy, Wendy and headed to the river.

Near the Magpie Tree and saying ‘hi’ to Max.

IMG_6806

Mother Bald Eagle across the river from us…we should have hatching this week.

IMG_6808

Stopping at the Chickadee Wood.

IMG_6810IMG_6815

Stopping quite a bit to watch the fast moving water…the river is different from lake water or the swimming pool water…it makes noise.  Steven was enthralled.

IMG_6820

And the male Bald Eagle gave us a real surprise!  He rarely perches on this side of the river and I noticed him just as we were stepping toward this tree.  I quickly grabbed a couple of photographs, but directed Erin to follow me, away from the location…so as not to crowd him.  Sadly, before I could set up to take a well-focused photograph, he lifted off right in front of us and flew across the river.

I told Erin that it was a real blessing for Steven that this gentleman was waiting for us…a very unusual and amazing experience.

When an eagle appears, you are on notice to be courageous and stretch your limits. Do not accept the status quo, but rather reach higher and become more than you believe you are capable of. Look at things from a new, higher perspective. Be patient with the present; know that the future holds possibilities that you may not yet be able to see. You are about to take flight.

History

The indigenous peoples saw the Eagle as a symbol for great strength, leadership and vision. As if to seemingly mirror this, the eagle has been used as a ‘banner’ by many of the great empires throughout history, from Babylon to Egypt, through to Rome and even the United States. In early Christianity the eagle was seen as a symbol of hope and strength, representing salvation. The eagle appears twice in the book of Revelation; both times in a context that suggests it is on the side of God. In Islam, the eagle represents warlike ferocity, nobility and dominion.

In ancient Aztec tradition, the chief god told people to settle at a place where they find an eagle perched on a cactus eating a snake. This place is now Mexico City. Zeus changed into the form of the sacred eagle to help himself control thunder and lightning. The eagle was a strong emblem in the Roman Empire. The Hittites drew upon a double-headed eagle so that they would never be surprised. The Pueblo Indians associated the eagle with the energies of the sun – physical and spiritual – as well as symbols of greater sight and perception.

It may not be coincidence that such different cultures across thousands of years have adopted the same symbol.

IMG_6821IMG_6822

It was a magical morning, being with these two!

IMG_6827IMG_6829

Home building and insect eating.

IMG_6834

After our walk and as we returned to the parking lot, I looked up from the edge of the river, and saw Mr. perched nearer the nest and directly across from me.  I stooped and found a river stone to give to my grandson…a moment of today’s first.   In the water, the stone was golden smooth.  I love this little boy with my whole heart and my heart sings that I had  this opportunity.

IMG_6838

 

mgbrobertson

I met Bruce during my years painting LIVE at Calgary’s Gorilla House.  Bruce was a fixture there because he settled into a studio where, every Wednesday night, I would go and have a short gab and look at his work in progress.  I never left his space without a belly laugh, although sometimes I had to sort out the kind of humour that was forever-floating around his space.  More than not, I was laughing at things that weren’t funny…it was the delivery that was stellar.  I think that Bruce is a bit of a wordsmith.  He plays with words and as a result you are left, most of the time, not knowing what the heck he is saying.  He is laughing all the while.

An example would be found on the banner of his own website.  The guy was born in Jamaica.  Who knew?  And his introduction reads like this…

Large Up, Mawga Bwoy!

 

What did I tell you? Right?

I wrote a short post about him in 2013 because he was celebrating a solo show at Gorilla House.  There was something so special about those years…painting together, sharing in long conversations and celebrating art, but especially art-making.

In 2015, I purchased a little piece by Bruce out of his studio.  I had seen Bruce’s funtastical art going out the door every Wednesday night at auction, for as long as I could remember, but the opportunity to bid and win hadn’t happened for me.  I loved this whimsical little piece, Think Outside the Fish.

IMG_6780

IMG_6783

Do you know what you discover when someone is super funny?  You discover that maybe they’re a little shy…just like you are.  I think that’s the way with Bruce Robertson.  Over time, I’ve learned that I’m an introvert who is functioning as an extrovert…does that make sense?  I think that Bruce is just that way…however, we haven’t ever spoken about it, mostly because we’re feeling the same way. lol  But…none of that matters.  Let’s get on with the story.

This guy was born.

DSC_0202

To this family.

IMG_9561

And…it had come time to think about my Grandson’s first Christmas.  I’ve always been a collector of art and I wanted to set this young man on the path of also being a collector.  I thought if I was to commission an artist, who would it be?  Well…in pondering that magical world of the womb and the discoveries to be had once leaving that nest, I very much thought about a song that I enjoyed as I considered my first-born, Little Seahorse by Bruce Cockburn.

As well, Erin and Doug had made a playlist for Erin’s birthing day and in the collection was the Beatle’s tune, An Octopus’s Garden.  Second to that, in my Grandson’s first eight months, he has wound down for sleep time, reading the story, Raffi’s Baby Beluga, illustrated beautifully by Ashley Wolff.

Insert Music Here.

 

Putting all of this together, I wanted an artwork that reflected an undersea world that would include a portrait of my Grandson…something that would grow with him through every age…something that would be of modest size and might travel with him as his world becomes larger.

The artist for the job…Bruce Robertson!  I contacted Bruce, realizing full-well, that I knew very little about him, apart from the magical characters that he created in his work, his fearlessness and his inclusion of text.  I messaged him via his Instagram account, mgbrobertson.

HE SAID HE’D DO IT!  YEAH!!

We met in a grocery store parking lot…we exchanged hugs and I realized how perfect this man was.  I’m so excited that he helped make the magic for our sweetheart’s first Christmas.  I’m hoping that one day Bruce will take my grandson mountain biking (Who better to teach him about the trails?)…it would be such a fantastic manifestation of magic!  We’ll see how it all plays out.

DSC_0571

I’ve ripped off a screen shot of Bruce’s website’s ABOUT section.  I hope that if my readers need something amazing done…website? painting? collage? or if you want to discuss some other creative project, you will be in touch with him!  Bruce’s late interests are in 3D modelling and animation. A combination of software is used: After Effects, Photoshop, Blender 3D, Maxon Cinema 4D Lite, etc. Self-taught in Blender 3D and Cinema 4D Lite by taking online courses at uDemy.com.

Bruce has a child-like disposition and is trapped in a man’s body. Bruce can do awesome skids on his mountain bike. https://www.instagram.com/mgbrobertson/

Another good friend of ours, Red Dot’s photographer, Aaron McCullough, did the photograph.

Bruce home page website

Thank you, Bruce for being such a wonderful part of Christmas 2017!

IMG_6577

IMG_6580IMG_6579IMG_6576

For the Birds

I’m not editing anything here…just came home for dinner and decided to post a quick remembrance of the visit to the Bow River after teaching today.

I thought I was looking at another flock/murmuration? of European Starlings, but what I was looking at was a tree full of Bohemian Waxwings.  I was really pleased because apart from a couple of sightings at the pond, this one is uncommon for me to observe.  The grey of late afternoon made everything visually flat, a most difficult atmosphere for photography, but it certainly didn’t stop the drama of absolutely everything at the river.  It makes me so happy to see that there is a huge melt going on right now and there are some habitats beginning to reveal themselves.

I’ve seen so many stunningly unbelievable photographs published by birder/photographer friends of Bohemian Waxwings that I am a bit embarrassed to post my very best.  And of course this little guy had to show me his very best side, didn’t he?

IMG_5806

I’ve captured just a very few of the Waxwings that hung out with me…

IMG_5813

Once again, I enjoyed the sound of the male pheasants gobbling from above the ridge and saw them strutting about, their brilliant red and green, signature colour, on the otherwise grey-gold hill.

There were the Crows caw cawing…the Robins perching…the Northern Flickers dancing and calling…and the Common Golden Eye males doing their hilarious back bends to impress the females who looked both bored and disinterested.

But…the most amazing thing I saw today was first, to see all of the gulls lift off the snow pack in unison, at the river’s edge.  Gazing across the river, I surmised that one of the Bald Eagles was fishing and so I looked across…not above.  Oh my goodness!  There, flying directly above my head and only meters away, was one of the Juveniles, on a serious bird hunt!  I don’t know how to pan or how to focus on a moving target, so none of it came out as a well-told visual narrative.  I guess that’s why I’m writing.  I could cry right now, it was so bloody amazing!

First…a loud cacophony of gull sounds and whoosh…they lifted up.  This is all that my camera picked up…but, I will remember.

IMG_5853IMG_5854

The juvenile Bald Eagle hovered above me…struck downward…up again…down.  Moments later, he left me, crossed the river and perched in a tree.  This was such a distance away, by this point, that I can hardly do the experience any justice at all.  But…there is the telling…

IMG_5825

IMG_5826

IMG_5851

I decided to stand there and watch.  By this time, another bird watcher had joined me on the bridge.  I asked him if he had witnessed what I just did and he acknowledged the magic.  I thought that, for certain, this juvenile was looking to eat and that we should be prepared for the next spectacle…instead, something more amazing happened.

From seemingly nowhere, this guy arrived.

 

IMG_5785

He’s been protective of the nest and a very supportive partner.  Mrs. has been sitting on eggs through the past ten or so days, enduring horrible winter temperatures and lots of snow.  The two adult Bald Eagles have been working together beautifully and I’ve watched the delivery of several lovely big fish.

There was no way he was going to let an intruder close in on the nest or his territory!  (even if that intruder is his own)

He swooped out and over the river and aggressively bolted toward the juvenile, who then also lifted off, heading north on the river.  The adult, angry, bolted at its rear, wings on both, flailing this way and that…it was beyond exquisite!  Those of us who saw this all unfold were in awe and squealing in delight.

There is a very good chance that this two year old is the adults’ own progeny.  Once raised, I believe the adults do not accept their youngsters back.  It is brutal, but a fact of nature.  There are the next babes to protect and raise up.  This young fellow is on his own.

 

There was magic to be found at the river today.

The Power of Every Day: April 9, 2018

May the Blue Bird of Happiness…

Recently, I’ve been feeling as though nature is brutal!  I heard yesterday that our weather hasn’t been like this since 1940.  I’m not going to research to see if this is fact, but, I would have no difficulty believing it is true.  Weather impacts my feelings about almost everything.  Since the light has changed, it has given hope of spring and certainly makes the day feel more beautiful…but this cold!  And the snow!  YIKES!

At the river, I’m wondering about the natural cycles of all of these returning birds…how they will possibly sustain their populations, given this week’s temperatures of -14 and more snow and more snow.  The habitat just doesn’t seem to be available for nesting.  What are the pregnant does to do? The coyotes that have begun to den?  So…every evening and morning, as I walk at the Bow River, I contemplate nature and its ability to rise above such brutality.  When I return home, I have heat and electricity and unlike some countries and continents, I am not in fear (at the moment) of the flood, or horrid drought and raging fires.  I am so blessed.  I am safe.

I’m discovering wildlife in unusual places.  Geese are nesting, only meters away from Deerfoot Trail and a huge distance from the river.  I noticed them yesterday, huddled together, where the tall grasses emerge out of the cold snow.  This afternoon, no fewer than thirty American Wigeons were voraciously struggling for sustenance well above the river and in close proximity to human activity.  This was a first for me.

IMG_5062IMG_5055

The most remarkable thing, however, was to see at least five Mountain Bluebirds, flitting about in a mating dance and feeding on berries that remained clinging sadly to a winter shrub…

This sighting was a deeply personal experience for me…I felt as though these lovely birds were placed into this settling, just for me.  In fact, I tried waving down some other hikers to point them out and they waved and moved on, not taking a moment’s notice.  Have I lost it completely? (I’d like to thank Doug Newman for letting me know that they were hanging about…this was my first encounter and I was thrilled to learn that they are absolutely NOT shy.  Their antics were more than entertaining!)

I wrote about the Crucifixion a little bit on Friday morning…I look at this post as being about Resurrection.  The males were more than impressing the two females present…such charmers.  I am grateful for those species that will find renewal over the coming months.  We must be ever-vigilant in our care of our world, for the people living in it, and for these sentient beings that share the planet with us.  Probably more bluebird photographs than any of you might wish to see…but, I am experiencing such joy that I have no choice but to include them here.

I captured a female (much more shy) only twice, both times out of focus.  She was stunning in her beauty.

 

 

 

IMG_5124IMG_5132IMG_5125IMG_5117IMG_5139IMG_5140IMG_5151IMG_5136IMG_5110IMG_5088IMG_5166IMG_5121IMG_5081IMG_5155

On April 3, I returned and captured Mrs.  Happy 51st birthday to my sister, Valerie Jean.

IMG_5175

cSPACE

This afternoon, People’s Portrait Prize came down.  Yesterday, I was pleased to be able to immerse myself in all of the different pieces created by so many artists, all on my own.  As artistic subject matter goes, I especially enjoy portraiture.  Each artist relies on a subject/reference/idea, but puts down very personal marks during the process of painting, sculpting or drawing.  It was a fantastic exhibit, so varied and was demonstrative of the vision and effort of many people.  Congratulations to all of you!

I enjoyed the wander-about, as well.  It was a wonder I could wander out of the stairwells because I became captivated, as I always do, by Katie Green and daniel j. kirk’s Imaginarium, 2017.  I hope that they won’t mind that I did my point and shoot with my phone as I walked backwards up the stairs.  Amazing and surprisingly restful!

 

DSC_0864

Imaginarium by Katie Green and daniel j. kirk 2017

DSC_0865

Imaginarium by Katie Green and daniel j. kirk 2017

DSC_0866

Imaginarium by Katie Green and daniel j. kirk 2017

DSC_0867

Imaginarium by Katie Green and daniel j. kirk 2017

I stepped in and chatted with the gentleman at reception for Alliance Francaise (don’t know how to get that accent under that ‘c’).  I was smitten by the remarkable library and the impressive line up of activities that are handy for people who want to access resources or up their game as French-speaking Canadians.  A wonderful and welcoming spot!

DSC_0868DSC_0869DSC_0870

I was carried away by a variety of venues, all housed in cSPACE with a deliberate and tasteful aesthetic.  The Alberta Craft Gallery, as part of the Alberta Craft Council, was a really ‘happening’ place yesterday.  I loved the surprising and ephemeral works created by Dena Seiferling and Stefanie Staples.  Participating in an exhibit titled PERCH, is it any wonder I love this stuff?

Allison Tunis’s embroideries for Acceptable Bodies are flippin’ amazing!  Wowsah!

I guess I stopped wandering and started starting and stopping for the next longest while, completely swept up by the wonderful efforts by so many artists.  The portraits were next.   I couldn’t possibly grab a photo of all of the portraits that moved me.  My readers will get the gist…

DSC_0871DSC_0872DSC_0873

I’ve been following a portrait series by Chris Flodberg as he’s been posting bits here and there on social media, so it was really, with fondness, that I had opportunity to enjoy these ‘in the flesh’ so-to-speak.  These photos stink…but, I’m hoping you will follow the link that I’ve provided.  Chris is represented by the Masters Art Gallery, here in town.

DSC_0874

DSC_0875

Portrait with Candles and Belt by Chris Flodberg Technique: oil on board Dimensions: 27×16 in.

I apologize…I didn’t even take note of the artist…but, had to photograph this one as I engaged it.  If you can help me out with the documentation, that would be great.

DSC_0876

Nick Rooney…an artist I met during my committed period at Gorilla House and then Rumble House, just always amazes me with his technical considerations, his hands-on approach to materiality and his connection with pigments as a traditional practice.

DSC_0877

Nick Rooney

Dawn Escobar…just a dear and beautiful human being.  This is a portrait she did of her mother.  I find it interesting that I migrated to this piece, took a photograph of it and this morning, I read the following message on social media.

“You enter with hopes of winning some thing knowing that the chances are small. Congratulations to those who did win 🎉. The second hope is that someone saw your piece and you touched them. 😊. Thank you for having the contest. See you if not soon, next year. 💐💐💐💐💐. P.s. mom enjoyed herself

Your work touched me, Dawn.

DSC_0878

I didn’t leave cSPACE without first stepping into Assemble Work/Shop and spoke with Anne Kirsten.  What a very exciting space.  I’m going to let me daughters know about this!  cSPACE is a bit of a wormhole…a person could disappear and not resurface for a very long time.  I just got a taste yesterday, but I’ll be back.

It was time to rush off in time to view Humans as presented by TheatreCalgary.  A nice light lunch was served and the Director, Vanessa Porteous, had opportunity to speak to us about her process, the play and future projects.

The day grew legs of its own.

 

Pi/Pie in the Mountains!

pi

I’m sitting down to my keyboard this morning, the Ides of March, writing about March 14, 2018, 3/14…3.14…3.1415926535897932384626433... pi day!

I woke up yesterday morning to, my friend, Michael’s phone call.  The plan was to book off and get some of my chores done, pick up a few groceries and, likely, head to Foothills Hospital to see Wendy. All of that changed with Michael’s suggestion that we might head for the mountains and make some pie!

Well…throw caution to the wind, I did, and with no regrets.  Today, it turns out that we are under yet another snow advisory, with accumulations mounting to another possible 20 cms.  Exhausting!  I’m so happy that we got out there, for delicious food and beautiful sights!

The following video is credited to Michael Collett.  Michael is a talented artist, photographer and designer and he has a wonderful collection of art.  He is an inventive and passionate cook and a connoisseur of good food.  He appreciates nature as much as I do.  Over the past few years he has walked the circle of ‘my pond’, with me, more than anyone and I will always appreciate that.   Sometimes the person who is forever carrying the camera is left undocumented.  I am grateful to Michael for placing me into the event that was the magic of yesterday.

 

 

29214083_2032068897074636_2185664786274975744_n

All is Holy! Kath captured by Michael Collett

29216784_2032068777074648_7674228546377613312_o

The shape of Elbow Falls changed with the flood. Celebrating water and views. Photo Credit: Michael Collett

29216772_2032068733741319_4158794894023852032_n

Selfie with one of my dear friends. Photo Credit: Michael Collett

29196672_2032068783741314_113755700642971648_n

Pot Roast Pie in the makings. Photo Credit and Filling: Michael Collett

29216347_2032068807074645_779691694147764224_n

Photo Credit: Michael Collett

29196183_2032068557074670_876050294750838784_o

Pie from the fire to the picnic table. Beat that! Photo Credit: Michael Collett

29196266_2032068420408017_4167963566869053440_o

Contemplation captured by Michael Collett

Michael systematically packed up ‘the stuff’ and we stopped along the way for butter and for ‘ends’ that had been thrown in a bin for firewood at a local timber place.  Off we headed out 22X.  After exploring Elbow Falls, we settled on Allan Bill as our picnic spot.  The butane was out in the lighting torch, so I ventured down to a picnic spot at the other end of the park, to borrow matches or something.  English was not this family’s first language, so after a bit of mime, I was graciously given a lighter for our campfire.  YES!

First I’ll post a few of the scenes that we enjoyed.  Unfortunately, as I look at these, I notice that there was a spot of something on my camera lens. :0(

 

 

Next, I’ll post a few of the photos I captured of Michael, enthusiastically forging ahead with the process of making unbelievable pies in the outdoors.  What a great time!

 

 

And finally….pi!

 

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

 

Nesting

The past three days, we have been pulled out of the deep freeze and into a melt.  I can not walk through the tall woods at the river, without hearing the constant mating thrums of Northern Flickers and without seeing the wild flurry as males, out of urge and instinct, chase the females, dodging in and out of branches. I can hear the echoing drum of the Pileated Woodpecker on the opposite side of the river and thrill to see my Alberta Birders’ archives of the splendid colour, later, on my computer at home.  It is as though everything has come to life, suddenly.  For so long, the world slept.

It all began with the Magpies.  My neighbourhood, even as snow mounted on our quiet circle, was abuzz with the squawking gathering of dead branches that were tightly woven into the growing bulb of nests, peppering the remaining Elms.

Evenings, I stood in contemplation while the adult Bald Eagles, flew west and east and west and east, gathering up lining materials and tall grasses, returning again and again to the nest that was clearly visible all winter long.  The juveniles have mostly disappeared, leaving the two regal raptors to forge out a life for the new.  It has been an intimate and powerful encounter to watch these families throughout such a harsh winter.

While these aren’t the best of shots, I have a wee archive of the interesting approach to gathering.  I can only imagine living in one of the ‘big’ houses along the ridge and having access, every day, to such wonder, just outside my windows.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I celebrate, every day, the access I have to such wonder.  I really can only equate it all to an experience of grace.  My friend, Michael, is someone who knows and understands what I mean by that.  A person just wants to sing, at the top of their lungs…”HOLY!  HOLY!”

Whether one enjoys the nesting behaviours of an eagle, or the simplicity of sparrows that nest in a stove vent…it is all so amazing.

IMG_3967

Mr. & Mrs. 2018

As my children have become adults, I have experienced a sense of loss.  Some days my heart feels empty.  But, then I step out into nature and I observe what surrounds and once again, my heart sings.  I am reminded that God made all of this for me.  I am reminded that I need to take responsibility for such astounding beauty.  Sometimes it can all be very brutal, but at other times, it is pure fragility and tenderness.

IMG_3989

IMG_4044IMG_4055

Fiddler’s Green
One, two, three, four, one, two
September seventeen
For a girl I know it’s Mother’s Day
Her son has gone alee
And that’s where he will stay
Wind on the weathervane
Tearing blue eyes sailor-mean
As Falstaff sings a sorrowful refrain
For a boy in Fiddler’s Green
His tiny knotted heart
Well, I guess it never worked too good
The timber tore apart
And the water gorged the wood
You can hear her whispered prayer
For men at masts that always lean
The same wind that moves her hair
Moves a boy through Fiddler’s Green
Oh nothing’s changed anyway
Oh nothing’s changed anyway
Oh anytime today
He doesn’t know a soul
There’s nowhere that he’s really been
But he won’t travel long alone
No, not in Fiddler’s Green
Balloons all filled with rain
As children’s eyes turn sleepy-mean
And Falstaff sings a sorrowful refrain
For a boy in Fiddler’s Green

Heirloom Spoon

I have a huge appreciation for skilled craft and for unique approaches to materiality.  I’ve always supported emerging/existing artists and artisans and when I first saw Adam Weaver’s spoons, I knew that I wanted to invest in a spoon each month for a year, so that I would have a beautiful collection to enjoy for a very long time.

While attending the University of Lethbridge, my friend, Brian, carved me a beautiful wooden spoon and I treasured it for as many years as I could, when at some point, the spoon split and it was no more.  The idea of hand carved spoons has been nostalgic ever since.  Sometimes I think that with mass-production, we have lost touch with some of these hand crafted items.

This morning, Adam Weaver (Heirloom Spoon) came to my place in order to deliver January and February and so that I might select, from a collection of other carved spoons, March and April.

We shared a coffee at the feast table and I had the chance to look at and hold the spoons as he set them out in front of me.  They were all so unique and so lovely.

I’m very grateful for the new friendships, Adam and Pascia.  Thank you for taking the huge diagonal across the city to meet with me and to visit about travel, tools, art and life.  May you be richly blessed on your journey.

If interested, you can access Heirloom spoons via Etsy, as well as through various artisan events.

January: carved out of maple…a beautiful long-necked spoon with a leather toggle at one end and a beautiful scooped bowl on the other.  The wood was gifted Adam from Brampton, Ontario…so, given my family history and my connections with Ontario, this one sings to me.

IMG_4032

February: carved out of a piece of knotty birch wood, found right here at the edge of our beautiful Bow River.  It was harvested from trees cut down by some city workers.

IMG_4034IMG_3957IMG_3958

It turns out that I couldn’t resist May either…picking up a coffee scoop as a gift for my own birthday. The scoop is carved from Applewood, harvested right beside the studios at Artpoint Gallery.  They’re demolishing everything around there to build the new C-train line. :0( I love the many concentric circles that draw the eye into the depth of the bowl of the spoon.

The smaller lighter spoon is made from a piece of Ash (Latin name: Fraxinus Excelsior!) found in a small village called Clare, in England.  I like the feel of this spoon in my hand…it’s flat and seems to have some sort of interesting weight/balance thing going on.  I just like it so much.

The big ladle…I chose for March…it felt the most womb-like to me and I was thinking about the birth of my son on March 17, 1990.  Adam used the natural curve of the wood.  This piece was from an arborist-friend of Adam’s again, harvested in Calgary.  I’m wondering if this would be my favourite arborist who trims up May (Mayday) every year for me, before the spring.

 

IMG_3960

When Adam puts his tools down and stops carving, he plants and tends gardens and fits in a lot of travel… as well, he enjoys his authentic relationship with wood and beautiful objects.

 

Solitude: A Singular Life in a Crowded World by Michael Harris

I’m struggling with writing lately…it’s been so long since I’ve posted to my blog and yet so many amazing experiences have come and gone.  Something that is keeping me from the comfort of writing is that the past six months or so I have had a number of ‘floaters’ appear in my vision; first the left eye, then the right, and now the little squiggles have moved in my left.  It’s as though my brain is constantly having to edit out these obstructions to my vision and looking at a screen just makes it worse.  A symptom of aging, the eye specialists have assured me that, as yet, the retinas are not involved.  As a visual person, this has been disconcerting and I suppose I could write an entire piece about that, alone, but I’m here to write about Solitude.

I met Michael Harris at Wordfest.  The particular session I attended impacted me so much that I ended up purchasing books from each of the four authors and am happy to say that Christmas vacation was the perfect time to curl up and read them all, as well as others from my book shelf.  I had a very intense reading period through the holiday and I spent most of that time alone, eating a little too much chocolate.

I found the book, Solitude: A Singular Life in a Crowded World, compelling.   If you troll the internet, you will see that reviews are either very positive OR are insistent that this is a book written for ‘old people’.  So mayhaps ONLY BOOMERS will like this book.  I disagree!  I think some very discerning and weary millennials are suffering the backlash of ‘real’ disconnection.

I am one of the ‘old people’ who, in retrospect, feel concern for the gradual erosion of our time alone, our sense of creativity and playfulness, our disassociation with ‘uncomfortable-ness’ and our loss of ‘written’ language’ and mark-making.  The past few years, I have become a part of a very odd little subset of humanity…people who watch birds…people who photograph birds…and in my encounters with them, I see a particular kind of desperation to connect with the innate need for genuine solitude and as a result, genuine connection.

Solitude (shortening the title for a matter of expediency) was a book that suited my constantly-inquiring mind and opened up some revelation about the current state of the human family inhabiting this earth.  From what I can see, in my very small sampling of that earth, the author is right on!  This was one of the most invigorating reads that I’ve enjoyed in a long time…well, since reading Kyo Maclear’s  Birds, Art Life and that wasn’t too long ago.

For the first many pages/chapters…I read, turning pages, while curled under a blanket on the red couch.  But it wasn’t long and I pulled out a highlighter.  My review will take the shape of the posting of some of the views that align with mine.  Here are some of my highlighted bits…please, don’t let these bits keep you from reading the entire book!

Do I get a thumbs up for this? (laughing, as I type)

Having driven the 401 so many times, all by myself, with Max, the chapter where Michael Harris explored our reliance on Google Maps and a GPS really spoke to me.  I’m ‘that lady’, out there, with paper maps and slipping in and out of small towns along the way.  I’ve been lost and I’ve gotten off the highway, using the wrong exit.  Those experiences created some initial panic at times but, in the end, I found my way.  I met new people.  I saw surprising things.

These past years, since retirement, I’ve been circling a pond…I’ve been exploring my city…I’ve been traveling Canada by road.  I’ve been traveling inward and seeing magnificent worlds.  It is a different sort of travel…not better or worse than international travel.  The only thing about my sort of travel is that people don’t ask about it.  There is no sort of admiration or public support for my kind of travel.  While one person may see a pyramid, I might be seeing this. The same wonder is to be had…the same awe.

Reading!!  When a person shares something on a social media site, how many people ‘really’ read it, from beginning to end?  I agree with the following insight.If you have not yet read Rebecca Solnit’s A History of Walking…please do.  She is another one of my favourite authors, currently.
Ah….the lost act of letter-writing!  While my Christmas cards have yet to be written, I do try to write letters with intent and it always feels wonderful to put things in the post box. I’ve been thinking a lot about my grandson and solitude.  It’s natural when you’re a Gramma for the first time.

I really treasure the ideas captured in this book.  I hope that my readers will enjoy it as much.

In the meantime, I will continue to nurture and enjoy my solitude.  It has left me, recently, being honest about not enjoying large group events where I must mingle.  It helps me admit my enjoyment of being alone and apart, as well as helps me understand why I enjoy small group visits so much.

 

The Oil Man and the Sea: Navigating the Northern Gateway by Arno Kopecky

At a point, I got myself out of sync on the reading selections for the Aboriginal Pride with 12CSI reading list.  It all began at the reading of Clearing the Plains.  I haven’t reviewed this book yet because, honestly, I still have a chapter to go. (Intense)  This one should be required reading for every post secondary student…but, more on that another time!

Regardless, I attended the book clubs for those few months, as I am always so grateful for the fact that such excellent conversations occur and I learn so much.

The Oil Man and the Sea: Navigating the Northern Gateway by Arno Kopecky did not seem, by its title, to be anything I would ever consider picking up to read and yet, upon the recommendation by a book club member, I did.  While Arno Kopecky is not an Indigenous author, the book was suggested for its connection to numerous Indigenous activists, elders, fishermen and various people impacted by development and encroachment around the Northern Gateway.  This author introduced me to many of the issues surrounding the history and planning for transportation of product in a highly pristine and essential part of Canada.  One might argue that the narrative might be skewed, given that the writer is speaking from a non-indigenous voice, however, I feel that my personal journey addressing the Calls to Action involves a lot of discernment and listening..to many voices.  I have been living in a sort of fog all of these years, where it comes to this discourse.

45. We call upon the Government of Canada, on behalf of
all Canadians, to jointly develop with Aboriginal peoples
a Royal Proclamation of Reconciliation to be issued by
the Crown. The proclamation would build on the Royal
Proclamation of 1763 and the Treaty of Niagara of 1764,
and reaffirm the nation-to-nation relationship between
Aboriginal peoples and the Crown. The proclamation
would include, but not be limited to, the following
commitments:

i. Repudiate concepts used to justify European
sovereignty over Indigenous lands and peoples such
as the Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius.
ii. Adopt and implement the United Nations
Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as
the framework for reconciliation.
iii. Renew or establish Treaty relationships based on
principles of mutual recognition, mutual respect,
and shared responsibility for maintaining those
relationships into the future.
iv. Reconcile Aboriginal and Crown constitutional
and legal orders to ensure that Aboriginal peoples
are full partners in Confederation, including the
recognition and integration of Indigenous laws and
legal traditions in negotiation and implementation
processes involving Treaties, land claims, and other
constructive agreements.

47. We call upon federal, provincial, territorial, and
municipal governments to repudiate concepts used to
justify European sovereignty over Indigenous peoples
and lands, such as the Doctrine of Discovery and terra
nullius, and to reform those laws, government policies,
and litigation strategies that continue to rely on such
concepts.

This book is built for the adventurer and for the person who has a big appreciation for wild parts of Canada that, despite the challenges in favour of development, industry and encroachment, remains one of the few places that exemplify that particular MAGIC that comes with WILD.

My preamble…then, I’ll carry on about the book.  This next paragraph is from my gut…a simple formulation of my own feelings.  Yes.  I drive a car.  Yes. I purchase packaged items.  Don’t throw tomatoes.

The Canadian government has demonstrated tremendous determination to create/grow an economy built on the back of energy.  There is no way that Canadians see ‘everything that goes on’, given the vast and oft-isolated topographical regions of this country, our home.  What we don’t see, can’t bother us.  And yet, living in these far off places, our indigenous brothers and sisters are well-aware of the tapping out of resources, the destruction and the economic hardship resulting from the abandonment of industry as it becomes obsolete or sucked dry.  There are witnesses.

Documentation to some of this…check out Alan MacLean’s photos at this site.  Let’s just take a bit of a look at Alberta.

I’m just going to let you sit with those images.  I’ve been sitting with them, and all I have to say is that things are way out of control and so much about it has to do with economics and employment.  ‘Corporate’ Canada wants YOU!

Enough of a side-lined rant!

The book is a good one…it moves very quickly.  It isn’t a struggle and it is certainly not dark or apocalyptic.  Arno Kopecky and photographer Ilja Herb, take the reader on a magical journey (I felt like I was there) aboard a small sailing boat…well, is forty-one feet, small?  It seems small to me.  Neither of them had prior experience sailing.  So, one aspect of the book is the story of negotiating this boat through British Columbia’s central coast.  So, firstly, this would be considered an adventure book as in this part of our country, the inland passages are linked together by a dramatic network of fjords, islands and lush forested land masses interspersed with inlets.  I was enamoured by the descriptions of place throughout and feel as though I was introduced to the Great Bear Rainforest in a very honest way.

Second to this, I enjoyed the many personal narratives by the people and accounts about the people who, in several cases, gave these men safe harbour, assisted in repairs and often contributed to the content of the book through interviews.  Several participants have committed their lives to the protection of this land and water, knowing full well that this is likely the last great wilderness on earth.  The writer seemed naive at times, meeting such wise and dedicated individuals.

Third, I grew in my knowledge about the history and planning of Enbridge Inc.’s Northern Gateway.  My knowledge now exceeds what I’ve picked up over news stories these last many years.  The book was generous in terms of presenting several different perspectives, as well.  I learned that the weather through this region is unpredictable and that the waters to be negotiated are prone to storms and crazy conditions.  It doesn’t take much for Canadians to realize the risk that such conditions pose to wildlife and environment.

The book was beautiful in its rich description of the land, the wildlife, the people and the waters.  I highly recommend this read.  As a result of this reading, I send out unlimited positive wishes regarding our human reliance on non-renewable energy sources and the almost obsessive willingness we have to challenge the delicate eco-systems of our nation, in order to continue down the same path, rather than pour that same energy into alternative solutions.

As of 2016, this… A look at the status of Northern Gateway and other major Canadian pipeline projects

January 2018…of course….lost revenue. 

What comes of all of it is that we need to challenge our thinking.  My readers are either extremely right on this issue OR extremely left…I think that the important thing is that we discern the various implications and decide what is most important to us.  This book revealed to me the physical nature of the rugged coastline, the past issues surrounding the use of oil tankers in even more benign waters…and the high potential for an ecological disaster.

My peeps, as captured by Michelle Robinson.  I love this lady…and I love her archive of photographs!  We were visited that night by APTN National News.