I’m very much a person who references the past. I know that a lot of people suggest that you shouldn’t be looking back…I just wonder, “Why not?” I love the richness of histories, personal and on a larger scale, both. Sometimes these are the posts where I can make my readers cry. Try one or two.
As December approaches, many of us have celebrated our Covid birthday celebrations. It was different, wasn’t it? Several of my friends are enjoying really significant birthdays and yet I chose not to celebrate with them, given the risks and the concerns around gatherings. It makes me sad that I am missing them during really special times of their lives, but I am really determined to keep the people I love safe.
Halloween was really different this year. For one, Max wasn’t home with me. I haven’t written his tribute as a post yet because I’m just not ready, but on October 31 of last year, Max reinjured himself for the final time. While he managed for another year, almost, it was a different year for him. It was quiet and his walks were shorter and more thoughtful than ever before. He really struggled through this year, the year of Covid. What I am most grateful for, however, was the fact that I was home with him around the clock and that I shared his last year with him, immersed in love. Snacks were readily available and begging was allowed. I’m sure he found this confusing.
This year, on Halloween night, I headed over to my grandson’s to celebrate ‘revised’ Halloween, where everyone in his neighbourhood was a hero, making fun for children and parents by creating a new normalcy. I was really impressed. This year, three, Steven was going out as Rider of Paw Patrol and so, his Gramma dressed as Chase, one of Rider’s Patrol. We are creating so many memories.
I took some photographs of the magic that was created by my neighbours before heading out for the dress up event shared with my grandson.
Door to door was magical, as so many neighbours made special effort to create magic for the little ones. There were all sorts of contraptions for passing out candy safely and all of this ingenuity contributed to the celebration of the night. I’m grateful that Steven was able to enjoy a night of fun. In the midst of a global pandemic it is really special to make positive memories.
All my life, I’ve been amazed by the night sky. It is not an unusual thing to see me looking up, whether day or night.
I have some wonderful and very special memories about loading the van up with sleeping bags and rousing my children at two in the morning to drive out past Canada Olympic Park, in order to watch meteorite showers.
My son and I were truly blessed one night, when we were both much younger, to share the Northern lights from sleeping bags parked on our own front yard. The green dancing lights entertained us for hours.
These are moments I will never forget.
I started my hunt for Neowise comet at the dawn, driving the entire length of Deerfoot Trail at 4:30 in the morning, only to find Neowise could be seen best at around 4. Then began the night time hunt, for several evenings, from the ridge above the Bow River. It is kind of spooky walking pathways between midnight and three in the morning, all on your own. Surprisingly enough, I met up with a young man at my perch on the first evening. There were other nights just like that one, where I was being chewed up by mosquitoes while standing on benches along the river pathway, searching the sky.
When, first, I saw Neowise, I bumped into a lovely couple in the pitch black. They were wrapped in blankets, hot chocolate in hand, sitting on lawn chairs, and whispering in quiet voices. Honestly, for a moment, I was spooked. It was that couple that oriented me to the location of our comet in the heavens. From that moment, I knew what I would be looking for on following nights. Armed only with a cell phone, this is my first shot of the comet.
The next night, I went hard core…out to Okotoks Erratic at 12:30 in the morning!
The wonderful thing about that experience was that there were maybe six other photographers out and about at the location. My quick observations came from a place of NO knowledge of photography, but all sorts of things seemed to be going on. I just started taking pictures with my cell phone because there she was in all of her glory! A man was standing in the foreground, upon a huge boulder, but I thought that this gave the images more interest. In the end, a person really should go on line and see some of the wondrous photographs taken by members of the Aurora Chaser’s group. They are unbelievable!
I met wonderful and generous hearts, Daniel and Arleney and their three children in the darkness. Daniel (I didn’t know his name at the time) was the man captured in silhouette in my photographs, above.
In an act of total abandon and without thinking much about it, I asked the couple if they would snap a photo of me looking at the comet. I really think that was a tad pushy, but kindly enough, they agreed. Little did I realize at the time the knowledge and experience these two have with nighttime photography. They are TRUE aurora chasers! Here is the result. Photographer: Daniel Sanchez Salazar I will be forever grateful to Daniel for this capture of Neowise Comet.
To follow this event, I knew that I wanted my adult children, if possible, to see the comet. My first born and her husband, I realize, have their little son, bedtime and work days to think about. The other two agreed, though, that on the next night (without clouds) they would be ready to join me in the wee hours of morning. While there was a thin veil of clouds in the sky, we still managed to captured the softest presence of the comet.
2020 has been the strangest of years, hasn’t it? It is important that as often as possible, we look for the magic. We are writing our collective histories. I am so grateful that so many professional photographers and darned good hobbyists have captured this comet in all of her glory.
Next up…watch for meteorite showers and fire balls!
I was running behind, having spent some time taking care of ‘matters of consequence’ on the home front. Once turning in toward Westhills Starbucks, I felt the excitement, even in the pouring rain, of getting out to Many Springs and discovering our wild flowers.
We missed Wendy. We missed Carla. And, we missed Darlene. And, we missed Darren, too! Oliver and Cam, glad you could join! We shared many remembrances as we made our way from our meet-up and headed for the Bow Valley Parkway and then on to our hike. Only one other group was out on the trail while we were there.
Everything was lush and the colours were more saturated as we wound our way past Middle Lake and on to the parking. Only a single ‘Bear in the Area’ sign, so nothing to be concerned about.
I don’t think we saw as many orchids as usual, but we certainly saw many more wild Tiger Lilies.
IT POURED….especially as we made it back to our cars. Thank you, Val and Cathy for sharing this time. It almost feels sacred.
When the ladies send me their shots, will publish them here…photo credit: Val Vine and Cathy Szata.
As I write, I also think about our indigenous peoples, the world over, who suffered trauma at the impact of disease through trade and colonization. This is not the first time the world has seen these life events unfold. All the conspiracy theorists aside and all of my readers who deny the seriousness of these events, I feel differently, and I will remember this as a global pandemic that caused the death and illness of many the world over. It is like living in a science fiction movie. Each person has to find their way through these events in a way that works for them, with respect for the medical people who are making educated assessments along the way. We must never take people who are working in the front lines for granted.
And now…for the subject of this post. Through history, whether it be in the days of the Spanish Flu or in the families of our indigenous peoples, disease has had an impact on children. I am exploring this because adults have a way of processing what is going on, but what are the children feeling through all of this?
When it came down to our family’s journey, my grandson, Steven, very swiftly found himself without his daycare friends and teachers and couldn’t attend Wee Wild Ones SE. His parents, similarly, found themselves with changing work situations. Mommy, immediately, had no choice but to stay home. My grandson is almost three. When this all began, we were reeling and I stepped in to help at the very outset, but really had no intention of spending a pandemic as a child care provider. My son-in-law was still working out in the world, as a part of essential services, and so, at a point, when restrictions were becoming more clear and as we discovered that the severity of the illness seemed to be hitting seniors more than anyone, I became scared for my own health. I stopped providing babysitting and that was a very difficult decision.
I geared up for a number of different projects including the writing of a historical fiction, creating a paper barn owl and painting in the studio.
When I left my two week stint, babysitting, I agreed that I could return on the condition that my son-in-law was able to pull himself out of the ‘real-world’ workforce and remain home for fourteen days. Dr. Deena Hinshaw had already introduced the idea of adopting a cohort family for children to have at-home playmates, and so I applied the same concept to child care.
There are so many grandmas who wanted to do the same for their grandchildren, but who were keeping themselves isolated from their families, that I felt guilty at times or felt as though I was doing something wrong. I also experienced a lot of push back from some individuals as a result of my decision. But, as mentioned before, I made a decision that I felt would be okay for me and as long as everyone in our circle could respect that parameters of our cohort unit, I would do alright to take Steven under my wing.
Long-story-short, I have been babysitting Steven ever since. Is it easy? Nope. There are lots of days when my back and knees are sore. There are days I’d like to sleep a little longer and get home a little earlier. My border collie, Max, who is also aging is spending a lot of time alone. So, there are those things. But, I have to look at this time as being really very special, as well, and I work, daily, at creating magic for Steven as we have one another exclusively for all of this time.
I try to be child-like most of the time because Steven and all of his little peers are missing the natural socialization that comes with Library programs, swimming lessons, play groups and day care. Acting three years old all day can really create exhaustion and I find that when I get home, I’m mostly unproductive. Just recently, I’ve surrendered to the need to be an adult some of the time and I’ve given myself the time to ‘take breaks’ from play and exploration. I’ve done it so well that now Steven will sometimes be found sitting on the rocking chair. I’ll turn to him and ask, “What are you doing?” and he will reply, “I’m taking a break.”
I’m pouring over the photographs I’ve snapped through these months and it’s really difficult to narrow down and post just a few that represent what we’ve done together. We read a lot. We play outdoors A LOT. I’m trying to teach Steven as much as I can about the places that I love. I’m helping him to notice aspects of nature that are important to me. I’ve been leaning on the lessons my Paternal Grandfather taught me about respect for nature and understanding the gifts as well as the dangers that are a part of that respect. He has learned about ice shelves and has been learning to read the river….shallow water looks lighter….fast water can look murky and/or dark….”Let’s throw a stick into the river and see what happens to it. A stone?”
I am putting limits on how long I can sustain this, but I will look back on this time as being a bit of a gift of sorts to our beautiful boy. He is so very important to all of us. To all of my readers who have made other choices out of concerns for the safety of your circle, you are giving a tremendous sacrifice, as are those who have decided to take care of your grand babies through these most trying times. I have your backs…all of you.
Gratitude, also to Wee Wild Ones SE who have provided weekly FLOW events/colouring sheets/creative links and recipes for goo and mixtures, music videos and zoom meet ups…while we can’t do all of it, we are glad for the connection and send our love to all of the hard workers! I have continued respect and love for you!
Thank you to Miss Carlie for your wonderful music classes!
Yoga with Ms. Chloe sometimes gleaned amazing participation and sometimes just brought the sillies out. And Steven loved seeing his little friends on Zoom calls, but Gramma mostly missed the appointments for her outside wanderings with her little boy. When the weather is nice in Calgary, a person just has to take advantage!
Steven has been learning a lot about balance and loves to practice on logs.
Steven has been learning a lot about predators and prey. He has been learning that animals are food for one another out in nature. Here, he is pretending to be a sneaky coyote. He has observed only one coyote at the river, but knows from Gramma that there are more and that when they have their pups, they are super cranky. He’s learned to shout SHOO and to wave his arms.
He is allowed to take as many breaks as he wants. He knows that Gramma will not lift him because he’s a toddler now and can toddle. I’m happy to explore places when he takes his breaks, with my eyes, nose and ears. I tell him to let me know when he’s ready. On this day we were looking for an owls nest on the west side of the river and into Fish Creek Park.
Throwing sand at the sand beach.
North Glenmore Park and picking up plants at Wendy’s home in Lakeview.
Two Little Dickie Birds
Watching Decorah Live Eagle Cam during afternoon snack time, especially fun on wintry or bad-weather days.
A blessing that has come to me during these strange times is a weekly check-in with my siblings and Dad on Sunday, after I attend my ‘virtual’ Mass with Bishop McGratton. 10:00 am Comox Time, 11:00 Calgary Time, 1:00 Ottawa Time. These conversations are always so pleasant and I feel so grateful. While these are not ‘real time’ connections, they are more than we’ve chosen to do over the past many years, through our years of separation from one another.
I love my family. I miss them terribly. But, we are making the best of things. I hope that my readers will make sure to connect with family as much as is possible through these strange times. Happy Sunday!
I wasn’t going to write today, but here I am, a glass of Malbec to my right, and so much to think about.
Today would have been my brother’s 66th birthday. I turn 65 in May. He and I were so very close. It pains me that we didn’t share as much in our later years. He became a private man. Still, we made time to share good meals with friends. We enjoyed live music together. We were both very proud of our city. I love all of the growing-up memories of John. He was sometimes rebellious. He was robust. He was quite a live wire. I like the memories of him grilling steaks and burgers. He knew what he was doing there.
I have been thinking about John all week. Birthdays celebrated with families are so special. He should be here to celebrate with us. Now, he is ‘with us in spirit’. That’s something people say…but words like that just crack open my heart and cause it to bleed, all over again. I feel bad for people who try to make just the right remarks when you’ve lost someone you deeply love. I’ve often been one of those people. Let’s face it, there are no really helpful words. Best to just say ‘I’m sorry’. I don’t blame or judge people for things that they’ve tried to say. I know that their intentions are good. Grief does weird unbelievable things to a person. There’s no real understanding it. I miss John, though, every day…just as I miss my mother.
Family went out for lunch together. I liked being with John’s son. We were ‘hospice buddies’ and call ourselves that to this day. There’s no way that one can know what that experience is like until one might find themselves living it. I take a moment as I’m typing and lift a prayer for families who are in the midst of all of this. I take a moment and pray for the beautiful hearts who give palliative and then hospice care…and the nurses…the doctors. A tear drops.
Our family was the very best through the pain of losing John. If family does work. We did our best work through that time.
My grandson broke out into a lively version of happy birthday when he received his vanilla ice cream on dry ice. He even got the part about ‘Uncle Johnny’. His timing was impeccable. A Moxie’s lunch to celebrate my brother was the perfect choice.
From the lunch and our good-byes, I had to head right for the river. For one thing, the temperature was steadily moving up and was -11 when I pulled up in front of the house. I can clear my head at the river. Through John’s last months, I always felt uplifted while at the river’s edge, even on particularly difficult days.
I first walked along the bank in a north west direction. Across from me, the beauty and tranquility of deer and geese. After five days of -30 to -40 temperatures and a bad wind chill, it seemed that all of nature was breathing deeply in and breathing deeply out. Such a lovely thing. Interestingly enough, in the icy times of winter, I always notice that the deer consume the geese droppings. Such was the case today. Vegetation must be minimal by now and what better way to consume some nutrition! Nature cares for itself in so many different ways.
Once heading south on the path, I experienced the most remarkable moment! In a flash, a coyote rushed out of the tall grass and a deer bound into the frozen river. The coyote lurched to a stop on the very edge of the ice. I was frozen…couldn’t move…didn’t even think about capturing the moment on my camera. Too late, I recorded the deer’s challenging swim and its exit from the cold water. I watched until it found its way, some distance, up onto the bank. It wobbled on the ice and then bolted for the cover of the brush.
I was relieved but remember pausing to wonder how all of the beautiful creatures that inhabit the river valley manage to eek out a living.
Continuing on my hike, I was mindful that the coyotes are hungry. I figured that if one coyote came out of the brush, there were others. They work diligently together in order to eat, especially in these circumstances of frigid temperatures. Above me, to the left, I saw two. Do you want to observe a coyote? Listen for the Corvids (Magpies, Crows and Ravens) because all follow close behind the predators.
I was pleased to observe this young beauty consuming something. It was either a rabbit or a pheasant. I could hear the pheasants articulating in the high brush as I made my way south. Looking closer, a Raven decided to peck away at the carcass.
Around this time, I bumped into Lloyd. I really can’t believe the distance he walks down in this same spot, in fact, he goes so far as to cross the ice to the island almost every day. He asked, in his jovial way, ‘Why he hadn’t seen me lately?’ And I told him that apart from one day during the deep freeze I came down to make my typical observations. He walked with me as far as the beaver dam. Together, we looked at the reflections on the smooth pond ice. He told me a story of skating ponds in his childhood….such magic! Walking, I told him about the incident with the deer. We parted ways. As he left, he said, “I hope you spot your eagles”.
The remainder of the walk was very peaceful. I thought that I might discover more deer, given that the stressed white tail flew out from this side of the river, but no sightings. Several beautifully large and articulating Ravens flew amongst the bare branches. All was magical. Then, as if from nowhere, the young Eagle appeared. I haven’t captured any really clear photographs, but I would guess that it was either one of the one year olds from last summer’s nest, or a two year old. Its colouring is getting to be mottled. One thing for certain, it wasn’t the Huntress, one that I expected to see. A Raven flew in and gave this youngster some company for a short while. Dad was no where to be seen.
This day was a beautiful day. Again, it reinforced the fact that life is filled to the brim with both beauty and brutality. We have no choice but to take it all and in whatever ways it makes its way to us. We can control the ways that we respond, but apart from that, we should always keep a Plan B in our back pockets.
Here at home, safe and warm, a friend from the river, fired off a message to me. I was eating from a hot bowl of stew at the time. The message was about a deer that was wounded and down, just beneath 130th Ave. She met Lloyd while out on her hike (love my network of river friends) and thought that this deer was possibly the character from my narrative. I will never know. Initially, I thought, by description, the deer was above the bank, but as the information became more clear, I learned that this deer is wounded and is out on the ice tonight. It would be an impossible thing for anyone to assist it tonight, impossible to keep it from its suffering. While this is upsetting to me and to my friends, we have sometimes no choice but to accept what we can’t control. I’m hoping that the coyotes/eagles are able to make good use of its sacrifice.
This, it turns out, was quite a day. Blessings to those of you who have sent wishes today. Blessings on my father.
“It took ages to coordinate our schedules but we finally all made it to the very inviting and interesting home of Kath for a delicious clam chowder feast, visit with Max, studio tour, and big catch up!
Along with the chowder, Kath treated us to Rappie, a traditional Acadian dish she recalled from her childhood. It’s made with shredded potatoes and fatty pork – yum! Tammy and Jas brought homemade pickles, spring flowers and a canned treat. Karen brought Red River bread she’d made, and we enjoyed Christmas baking brought all the way from Nova Scotia by Stephen made by his mom, Betty. Oh, and I didn’t get the memo about drinking at noon being OK but Lauraine brought vino from the Rockyridge growing region in Calgary’s NW. Steven made the very same selection!
What a tasty and heartfelt meal. My only quibble with our gathering was there just wasn’t enough time to visit thoroughly with every one of these wonderful people ❤️”
I’m posting Karen’s bread recipe here. It’s amazing! Red River Bread Photo Credit: Wendy Lees.
Red River Bread
2 cups water
3/4 cup red river cereal
1 tablespoon butter
1/3 cup molasses
2 teaspoon salt
1 Teaspoon Sugar
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1 package dry yeast (fast rising works great)
4 1/2 cups flour
Combine 2 cups water in pan with cereal. Boil then simmer 5 mins or until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and add butter, molasses and salt. Cool completely.
Dissolve sugar in lukewarm water. Sprinkle yeast and proof for 10 minutes.
Combine yeast with cooled cereal mixture.
Using a wooden spoon mix in all of the flour to make a stiff dough.
Turn dough onto floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. Form a ball and place in a lightly greased bowl, covering the whole ball with grease. Cover with wrap and let rise (can use oven to proof) for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until ball doubles in size.
Punch down dough. Turn onto floured surface and knead until smooth. Divide dough in half and shape into loaf pans. 8×4
Cover and let rise for about and hour. Then bake at 375 F. 30-35 mins.
Loaves will be golden brown and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom of the pan.
Remove from pan and let cool. Enjoy!
Tammy and Wendy, Stephen and Steven and Lauraine, brought yummy things. I wasn’t archiving at the time, but, my buddies were. The following two photographs, though, were mine taken this morning. The next time you pickle, Tammy, I want to be there. They got eaten tooo fast for a photograph!
Photo display I made, in order to acknowledge my family.
Thank you, Jas and Tammy for the springtime flowers! So beautiful when it’s -40 outdoors.
Check out the jar of pickles in the photograph, below. This one must be Tammy’s shot. I’m sorry I didn’t get an image of the plate of baked goodies Stephen and Steven shared. Oh man! So good!
The photo journal above is a collection of photographs taken by Wendy and Tammy. We always have so many laughs when we gather. I’m grateful for all of you! Being with friends and sharing conversation/food/beverages and/or live music/dancing is so life-giving.
Please take note of Max (I snapped that one), only an hour after the lunch…completely played out!
It was 1973 and I was fresh out of High School. Somewhere in my archives, this morning, once receiving a message from a Lethbridge friend, I found, without too much looking, a copy of the University paper, the Meliorist. I laughed out loud as I read the profiles for our Mugwump Party. And guess what? We got in! I served my first year as part of the student council. This is where I met dear friend, artist and intellectual, Phil. I wanted to publish bits of this quickly and move on to the list of things to do for today.
How would I describe my importance to Mugwump, as I look back?
First Year Votes
No Fear of Speaking
Also, Easily Influenced
As I look at the profiles of these folk, I still feel very proud of these gentlemen. They DID influence me and my thinking about a lot of matters. It was through 73-77 that I formulated values and ideas that I still hold. The U of L was a perfect fit for me. I know that Phil continues to be a very strong artist (I own one of his wonderful pieces) and an involved activist. I wonder what the others have been up to.
She comes to mind often. Her humus recipe surfaced the other day.
I wonder if she reached out to our friend, Bobby, upon his arrival. A few more photos were tucked into albums today.
Ed, Bobby and I headed out to see Pauline, our inspiring University professor, who lived perched above Kootenay Lake in Argenta. This was in 1996-97 and I was on Sabbatical. We got lots of sketching/painting done. We slept under the driftwood shelter on the beach. It was the weekend that my friend, Lynn Kierzek, died. While I slept, I wore a painting vest that Lynn crocheted. I still have that vest.
The border collie found in the photo is not Max Man or Laurie Dog…that’s Pauline’s dog. I felt right at home. I love the memory of this time away from the city, of conversations shared along the drive. We picked up a rose bush for Pauline in Cranbrook and planted it while in Argenta. We also purchased a bottle of spice that she needed, in a small grocery shop in Coleman.
May Bobby and Pauline rest in peace and may perpetual light shine upon them.
As I sort and toss, a practice that seems to be going on forever, I am getting to the end (I THINK) and I might have some valuable advice to give to young artists. I may not have a hope in Hades of ever really getting my art on a roll, but for you young sprouts, now that you live in a digitized world, please try to keep a record of your progress. Second to that, take quality photographs.
An artist who really inspires me with his practice is Mark Dicey, on Instagram. @paddlecoffin If you don’t follow his work, he is absolutely breathtakingly amazing.
Part of this revisit, just last week, included digitizing my grade nine-eleven sketchbook from 52 years ago! Cough! Sputter! It’s never too late, right?
Today, I came upon a white envelope filled with some very poor quality glossy photos of some flower paintings I did for a Tribute Show for my parents. The subjects were all based on their country gardens in Frankford, Ontario. It was an exhibit dating back a lot of years, hosted by the West End Galleries in their Edmonton location. (I have that date in my art archives somewhere.) I remember, at the time, hearing other artists poo poo painting flowers, as a subject. One person gave me permission and that was Ed Bader. Thank you, Ed. At the time, I was painting my own series of poppies as a response to losing two former students to a tragic car accident. Ed pulled together a series of books featuring a number of very significant paintings created by important historical artists, dealing with the subject of flowers. He was covering for another teacher at ACAD back in 1997.
This morning, I took photographs with my phone of some of the these teeny photographs. Now, I can toss them as I’ve got a bit of a record. As more flower paintings/sketches surface, I will post them here. If you paint flowers, I give you permission. There are a myriad of subjects for art and through any subject, you can address the ideas that are floating around in your head. It’s all valid, representational or not. Make art…and keep a record of it.
These images are all fuzzy/unfocused, cropped badly to replace their original wonky formats…likely bad colour…but, they are illusions of the originals and they make me happy. I learned a lot painting these…and they are a mere sampling of the many works present in that show. I wonder where they are now.