There is no better way to walk the journey of grief, than immersing oneself in art, music and nature. The current exhibit, Onion Skin: a love that moves the sun and stars at Christine Klassen Gallery offered me a reprieve from this heart of sadness at the recent loss of both Max, my twelve year old border collie, and Bill Webb (my dear and forever-friend) who shared with me, just that sort of love.
I was greeted with pug love and Christine love, upon entry. Once letting me know that she was available to chat about the art, Christine was kind to let me disappear into the space. I let her know that I had walked the live streamed artist talk with her and Carl and shared that I have been greatly isolated for all of these many months. I celebrated that, in the gallery, I had distance and yet felt enormously connected. One doesn’t want to be vulnerable in such a setting, so no tears were had.
Carl’s paintings/objects are delicious in their ethereal (heavenly) handling. I was transported into the depths of my sadness, but at the same time, lifted into a place of hope and light. It was such a personal offering that it’s difficult to articulate here, in words. I could have crawled into the vessels and curled up. I was reminded of the cocoon of my warm blankets that fill my bed, a place where I have freely let my tears flow since September 28.
For the past many years, I have showed up daily, to walk a circle at the edge of the Bow River. These paintings suggested my life at the river…the vast expanse of sky that I enjoy every day, the flow and sound of the water, the light…and the Bald Eagle’s nesting bowl. The work felt familiar. It resonated with me at a physical level.
Back in the car, exhausted, I sat and wept. I wonder if this exhibit might impact you at a physical place? The galleries in town, I realize now, are peaceful places. I highly suggest you take some time out, just for you, and visit our local gallery spaces.
Thank you, Christine, for your hospitality. Seeing works by other strong women surrounding the main gallery space…beautiful pieces by Teresa Posyniak, Verna Vogel, Karen Klassen and others, was also a joy.
Congratulations to Carl White on this one. He has painted the fragility of life, its events, and its pared-down essence.
Another way to communicate with your loved ones through these crazy times is through Messenger. I used to call this Face Time, but then what do I know? To enjoy a messenger visit, I have to log on to Facebook.
Go to the messages icon at the top.
In the top white band, you will see the New Group option. Click on that.
You will see a list of friends and to the right of each of their names, a circle. Click on the name of each person you want to join a particular chat.
Click the word, Create, that appears in the bottom right. You have formed your group.
When you wish to chat and see this group, instead of clicking on the telephone icon on the top right, click on the wee movie projector. A large screen will pop up and people will join as they answer their calls.
Sometimes it’s nice to establish, as much as you can, a time that works for all when using any of these methods. As well as time and day, some within your circle may have to use these technologies throughout their work week, from home, and it may be too much to expect them to use the same technologies in their down time. Be very amiable to some people opting out when you make the invitation. It can be really exhausting to always be connecting through technology. We yearn for real connection, but sometimes we just do the best we can.
I use Messenger as a way of connecting with my siblings and my father on Sunday afternoons. It has become a short, sweet gathering that I truly enjoy. We haven’t been the greatest as staying in touch with one another over the years, so this is something very new and I really really love it. Here are a couple of screen shots from messenger gatherings. We live in Comox, Calgary and Ottawa.
I’ve also used this method for one-on-one chats with my high school friend, Ramona, who lives in Michigan. With her, I can talk about worries, fears, good books and landscapes…we shared a few sunrises since beginning this connection.
My cousin Margy can always make me laugh. She can update me about family in southern Alberta. We can truly relax with one another.
I spend a lot of time alone these days…by making these connections on various systems, I am able to remain close, while far away. I love you all!
When I arrived at the Bow River this morning, late, Dad was low in the nest bowl, obviously on duty. Mama had all of the ducks and gulls freaking out and from one place to the next, there arose a tremendous cacophony. At one point, unbeknownst to me, she flew directly over my head and then I lost sight of her. As I made my way along the river’s edge, I was able to witness the exchange of duties and Mama settled down to take over for Dad. She’s much younger and not as experienced as he is…and so it delights me to see her intuitively taking part in the work.
Published four years after her death, Emily Dickenson’s poem This is My Letter to the World captures a sense of her chosen personal isolation and her connection with the intimacies of the natural world. This is a time when we need to all explore the realm and the depth of ourselves…soul, body and mind.
Earlier in the day, at the edge of the river and before the weather changed, I was pretty certain, as I have been for days, that there is at least one egg at the nest. Mom is clearly in the nest bowl, her tail raised and resting on her brood patch, while Dad is slightly out of view, but present. None of my photos are crisp, given my inability to zoom extensively, but keep in mind that I make observations of nature and I’m not knowledgeable as a photographer. These are archival in their publication.
I stood alone on an embankment, a shelf just above the dark river water and saw the female eagle at 4:00 last evening. I believe that the incubation for, at least, the first egg has begun. Mother was well down into the bowl and then suddenly lifted up and out and straight toward me, suddenly arching down and piercing a duck. All others flew up wildly out of the water while the powerful raptor circled around. She came around to the evening ice and scooped, out of the water, the limp body of the Common Golden Eye. I was stunned at the enormous beauty and power of the experience.
Before returning to the nest, she flew a wide victory circle, clamping her talons around what remained of her trophy.
If I was to archive each and every day, down to bare bones, I would get absolutely nothing done and would not fully live that day. The day would become full of the archiving and the magic would be missed. I’ve had several full days since living and breathing two Fridays past, but I haven’t forgotten its beauty. I began with a poem because poetry whittles a full written expression to its essence. The words capture the magic of the day.
It all began as most days do, at the edge of the Bow River. It seemed that I would be encountering strong females and it so happened that the Bald Eagles were sitting together. The female is on the left. She’s so incredibly beautiful.
The female coyote has raised two stunningly handsome youngsters, now one year old. It’s been a wonderful year of viewing their forays.
Then it was off, for my very first time, to Bell’s in Marda Loop.
What I didn’t capture in photographs is the lovely person who shared the table with me. Thank you, Teresa, for the latte and the delicious slice of home made banana bread.
Teresa Posyniak has a life-giving spirit and is a strong woman who lifts up other women through her genuine interest in them. Her art oozes with copious texture and is both strong and fragile. I will treasure our rich conversation and hope to follow, more closely, her exploration of topics such as resiliance. Teresa’s is an artistic voice to listen to and I encourage my readers to connect with her work through the links I’m providing here.
I was whizzing off to Joan’s next, but not before a quick stop at cSpace.
Cassie Suche’s Sway series was refreshing, tucked away at one end of the second floor. Very organic and slightly humourous at the same time, I really enjoyed the work created on her one-month residency.
Marty Kaufman’s blown glass…Eroded Forms drew me in. Such milky forms. I absolutely love them.
Of course, I don’t think I’ve ever gone into the cSpace without looking at the stairwell murals done by Daniel J. Kirk and Katie Green. They are lovely and different times of day evoke a mysterious sense of light and so therefore, a different experience, each time a person makes their way up and down the various floors.
A new experience for me was to hit upon the Blackboard Gallery. I went with the intention of seeing these works, the urban landscapes done by Melanie Figueroa. She is someone I follow on Instagram, but I had never seen her work in the flesh. This gallery is a sweet little space. I ended up totally wrapped up in a conversation about jewelry with Melanie Archer. I’ll be back.
By this time, I needed to set out for the lodge. Joan and I spent a generous hour pouring over her sketchbooks, nicely organized by Sandy. We dug in deep, sharing about light and dark, texture, pattern and the act of creating. It’s not everyone who can enjoy a conversation like that so much, but the two of us certainly did. Sheila arrived and we shared yet another wonderful conversation.
So, it turns out, this was the landscape of my day two Fridays past. I think of the women in my life as being remarkable in so many ways. I am blessed by their goodness and their strength. I am grateful.
You have a little story book that still sits next to the rocking chair in your room. The words to the story say it all. Steven. Steven, I love you and you mean the world to me. I hope that this year will see us sharing many adventures. You are a blessing to your family.
I’ve a collection of photographs from your second birthday party at the lake. And I have a photograph of you with your Uncle, reading one of your new library books.
I feel sorry that I didn’t spend my usual time grabbing some formal family portraits on the 1st of July, but I have some sweet photographs, regardless. I took some at the elders’ table, but ladies, none of you would want me to post the photos capturing you chowing down on all of that great food. Right?
Thanks and blessings to my wonderful family. Margy you provided such a beautiful space for us to celebrate and Barb, the food was remarkable, as is always! Now I know that our traditional pasta salad is called Dill Pickle salad. How did I miss that all of these years?
Barbara, TJ and Sadie Witbeck
This post will be heavy on the images and sketchy on the reflections. However, let it be known that yet another reunion weekend has left me feeling super nostalgic and grateful.
June 30th meant the highway drive on roads lined with Canola fields and big blue sky. We set up our tent and relished an evening of magic, song and love, catching the early arriving family and those who live in Raymond, Alberta already.
Navy, or as others call her, Bean…daughter to Mack and Kecia…grand daughter to Margy Witbeck. New sketchbook. New markers.
Cousins, Sutton and Maverick.
Went to check out the beautiful home that Jess and Penny have been building…and met these two along the way.
Beautiful Maisey Witbeck and her gorgeous daughter, Bowie.
After hanging out and loving the beautiful space, we decided to go up to the Lodge and see Auntie Eleanor. No photographs of her, but we hung out, looked out a family album and then left the family room, for her bedroom so that we could pour over old mementos. Among them, these treasures. The problem with taking photos of photos is the glaring and reflection. But, these are nice to have.
Eleanor Moors and Ted Witbeck, on their wedding day.
Little baby, Laura Lee. I hope that I will receive corrections in spelling where I make mistakes.
My little cousin, Teddy (Thump) with a baby goat.
Laura Lee is in the middle and that would be cousin, Barbara on the right. Is that Cecil on the left? Help me, peeps.
Laura Lee, Jo, Barbara and Cecil.
Auntie Eleanor said that these birds were drawn by her Dad for her, so art done by my Grandfather John Moors.
I loved our little visit. Back at Margy’s, the tent photo, a wonderful family dinner of pulled pork and potato salad and then, the big bonfire, with great music and lots of singing.
My photo of beautiful baby Bowie on the trampoline.
I will include our playlist of songs as soon as Heidi sends them on to me. I don’t think it was until about 1:00 in the morning that we all made our way to bed for the night. What an exceptional day!! I loved being with my cousin, Margy, again! Loved sharing her grand babies with her and really was grateful to share this day with my son.
Photograph credit here, Maisey.
Photo Credit: Maisey Hicken campfire snuggles
Next day = Parade Day.
Got ice. Taped red and white checker table clothes to tables. Grabbed some coffee from the gas station. Ready to roll! Erin, Doug, Linda and Steven joined the family on the parade route and the fun began.
Parade opening…four Mounties and the colour guard. It’s the same every year!
John (my nephew), Douglas (son-in-law) and James (son)
Steven (Kath’s grandson) and Erin (Kath’s daughter)
Cecil (my cousin) little Lily (Cecil and Dianne’s grand daughter) and Dianne
Auntie Ruth and Danny
Auntie Jackie and Auntie Ruth
Nephews Levi and Greg are in this photo. (Recently learned that we refer to our cousins’ children as Nieces and Nephews.) WHOOP! Congratulations on your entry in this year’s parade.
Back to the house for our meal sharing and then the program and candy toss.
Dinner: Traditional Pulled Pork, home cooked beans, dill pickle salad, coleslaw and Caesar salad. No close ups of plates this year as I was too busy taking photos of my grand son.
Chalk activity as designed by Eva.
Chalk drawing, thanks to Eva.
The hostess with the most-est up on the platform, Margy. My beautiful Auntie Eleanor checking out the swaths of people.
Sadie playing the ukelele during the family program. Somewhere Over the Rainbow Cousin Clayton, holding the Mic.
Father and son playing a bit in the sand.
My family in the family program…singing Jackson. So good. I had a tear here.
The candy toss for children ages 0-4. Thanks, Penny! The candy toss, ages 4 to adult…much smaller crowd this year allowed for different age categories from usual. No photos of adult category because I was filling my shirt at the time.
I have unbelievable love for my family and feel very nostalgic after a weekend in southern Alberta. I’m posting a few family reunion memories here. Please, family, if you see photographs that you don’t have, just right click and save them to your archives. I love you all!
There’s nothing beautiful about this! This situation is a symbol for all things that can ‘go wrong’. This is one of countless conundrums that can take over time, temperament and wallets, in the swoosh of a moment! This is the babysitter calling in sick early morning. It is the tire that is flat after you’ve fixed the perfect lunch and feel that you’ve got life by the tail. And in this case, it is the hoses on my thirty-year-old washing machine on delivery day!
The single day that I don’t teach this week and it was my intention to paint in the studio and wait for the call about the delivery of my brand new washing machine. This is the day I decided to visit the hospice for afternoon Thursday tea. It is the day when I was starting my day with a poached egg and a piece of whole grain toast. It is wild how perfectly we imagine our days. Well, at least I do.
But sometimes…and not always…there is a challenge lurking around the corner. It is the news that my loved one is going to die. I stare blankly at the doctor. I feel that I am being dangled helplessly over a giant precipice.
It is that full glass of Pepsi that I perch on the counter. I put the ice cube tray away. The popcorn is hot. I knock the glass over and on to the floor. Broken glass and sticky bubbly, everywhere! Ouch!
At the point when either event (or something far worse or something much more benign) happens, it is my choice as to how I respond. My own responses are often surprising, but also, during a certain set of circumstances, perfectly predictable.
I thought it would be a simple thing to disconnect the hoses on my washing machine. It’s hung in there for so long. I’ve lived in the same place of 20 years and I’ve never turned off these valves, NOT ONCE. So, with delivery to happen today, I decided to go to my laundry room and turn off the water and disconnect my hoses before bed last night. I was already in my pajamas when this story unfolded.
It was 10:45 when I made my first clockwise turn. I noticed for the first time ever that the handle for one of my ‘nipples’ (I’ve learned that this is what they are called) had broken off. But, this is what the other one looked like after that clockwise turn.
Panic set in at this point. As my readers might surmise, the next step was naturally to go to my tool box and to find a set of pliers. Surely I could turn the nipples to the right, with pliers. As I madly gripped the first nipple, the pliers slipped around the metal and nothing seemed to move.
I think I made my first cry out to the universe at this time. It was 11:03. Trevor’s name appears in my cell phone contact list as THE PLUMBER. So what if it was after eleven at night, right?? I texted Trevor in a wild breathlessness. I don’t know what I thought he could do from the warmth of his bed. I just needed a plumber-connect like one might need a psychologist-connect.
I took photos (these photos) and began to communicate a narrative of panic through the medium of text. When I clicked SEND the photos whirred around and around and never did leave my phone, a feature of my phone/text/approach that is consistent with every other time that I am given one of these life situations. I was given a message that I could try re-sending. Over time, I deleted the photos and settled back into a state of self-actualization. (At this point of writing I laugh out loud. I think that in the panic, choosing to write is a real stumbling block. Couldn’t I be painting? No. As this story continues to unravel for my readers, you will all see that presently I am in a holding pattern. I can not paint while in a holding pattern.) From Trevor, I learned that indeed, I needed to turn off the water. And yes, the faucets should be turned clockwise.
Phone put down, I began to look for a water turn off valve. I walked upstairs to my computer where I began watching Youtube videos about replacing washing machine hoses. Oh my goodness. There wasn’t a single set of valves that looked like those on my machine. Click Click Click…minutes rolled by as I became saturated with too many ideas, too many calm confident male voices performing such ‘simple’ procedures on their washing machines.
Max, my border collie, looked on with a particular look. I know he was quietly thinking, “I wish I could roll my eyes.”
I explored my house for all of its personal plumbing lessons. If I didn’t know my pipes before, I think I do now.
By 11:50, I texted my friend, Wendy. Her partner is a phenomenal fix-it guy. But, again, what was I doing sending out SOS messages to my dear friends in the middle of the night? Wendy is an amazing woman who is busy, with her fingers, hands and arms in so many things! I thought, too late, ‘Wendy is probably sleeping.’
I went to bed, feeling exhausted and defeated, but not after having a chat with my son in the cold dank laundry room. He made all of the right recommendations. His first inclination was to ask for pliers in order to turn off the valves. (I told him I couldn’t bear any more drama before sleep.) The second suggestion he made was to turn the water off at the main valve. I told him, in my small voice, “Let’s just go to bed.”
This morning, at the crack of dawn, I left a phone message with Dan at Dr. Heat and Air. I thought it best to get calls out to all the perfectly wonderful guys in my life. On my own, I have learned to rely on my village a little. It’s taken time to feel confidence in doing that when in life, I always, in every circumstance, relied on myself. Certainly, on days like this one, it is good to know really competent people in a variety of fields. Beats GOOGLE all to heck. While plumbing isn’t Dan’s expertise, he always gives me an ear and has wonderful recommendations. Most important, he offers a voice of calmness and causes me to feel that I still have control and I can still solve problems. He gave me that this morning, as well as another recommendation for a plumber.
I emailed Trevor the photographs. I asked him for recommendations on name brands for good valves and asked if he would suggest any good ones. I told him I’d keep him up to speed. (poor guy)
By this time, my friend Wendy was awake. She sent me a calming message (as only Wendy can do) suggesting that, these challenges are tough. (EMPATHY, right from the get-go) Turns out she had put in a huge shift the day before, but that she would leave a message for her partner to contact me.
That brings us HERE. I poured myself a cup of coffee and made a decision to ground myself. I began this writing.
And since beginning this writing at around 9:30, Max barked at the front door. My dear friend and Wendy’s partner arrived, two wrenches in hand. He was in the lowest level after giving Max’s rope a playful tug, two minutes later. Five minutes after that, with water spraying a bit here and there, he completed the task and gave me directions for turning the water back on. I stood in my tracks and wept, saying again and again, “Thank you. Thank you. It was so hard. It was all so hard.” A supportive hug and he was on his way to plant tomatoes and I was left standing, asking…
“What was that all about?”
Challenges are a part of life. We can discover new things about ourselves by tackling them. We can connect with people through our challenges. We can be creative and we can create. Obstacles are not put in front of us as punishments or to make us stronger or even to teach us lessons. Obstacles and challenges are just a part of what life is. In the past twenty four hours I’ve learned a lot about washing machines, hoses and a little more about plumbing.
As my friend said, before leaving, “In the end, it’s just water.”
My washing machine has been broken since just a week before my brother’s diagnosis with Stage 4 Cancer. The fact that a new washing machine will be here by evening causes me a strange bubbling up of emotion. I know that John’s death and this story are not connected at all. But, they feel connected. It is ironic that it took so much energy, brain power and community support to get these hoses disconnected!
So many gestures have been made for me and my family the past while. I don’t want to forget any of them. As I set out on the journey of another day…the journey of an hour…I am taking pause for reflection. I am saying, Thank You.
When everything slows down…becomes more simple…I notice more. I see the love and the detail that goes into simple things and simple gestures of love; right down to the way a package is wrapped.
I asked Wendy, about a month ago, if I might write about her on my blog. She said, “Well, what is there to write about? But, yes, sure. That would be fabulous.” ‘Fabulous’ was something that Wendy said…about good food, beautiful places, and even about a wild flower found along a trail. As I pour over the myriad of wildflower images that I snapped along our various walks and hikes over the years, I selected these two because today, they seem to mark my feelings best and capture the magic of what a true friend is. The first flower is a wild orchid. We were always so excited when we spotted a variety of orchid….typically hidden and not very showy…just remarkably beautiful and tucked away in some rich loam under a bush, usually in the shade.
Yesterday morning my sister-friend slipped out of this world and moved mysteriously into the next…and she did this without ever seeing my words written down.
I’ve decided to sit with thoughts of Wendy this morning, while the sun shines bright on the snow. Somehow it feels warmer today.
I attended the concluding evening of a church mission that was hosted in our parish last evening, prayed for the peaceful repose of Wendy…for the journey that my brother is taking…for my family and dear friends. The priest shared something interesting, once finishing up the Gospel reading about service…the one that’s read every Holy Thursday about Jesus bending down and washing his disciples’ feet… he said, serving one another does not always mean saying a whole lot…sometimes it means just sitting and being with the other. So, this morning, I’m sitting with thoughts of Wendy and I’m not going to say a whole lot.
There will be a whole number of people who over the coming days and weeks, months and years, will talk about Wendy’s accomplishments because she was indeed, an accomplished woman, coach, teacher, political force to be reckoned with, orator, curriculum writer, baker, crocheter, wife, cadet…she was all of that and more, but this morning as I contemplate why the huge ache in my heart, I realize that it was the enduring presence that is Wendy, the friend, to me that I most celebrate. So, I will not let this post be about anything but that, her love and wisdom and friendship. What I wish to most strongly communicate is Wendy’s courage and fortitude and extreme vulnerability…those qualities that Wendy gave through her presence with me and with our group, affectionately named the Ya Ya sisterhood.
The other sisters; Val, Darlene, Carla and Cathy; had the blessed opportunity to work with Wendy some years before our first meeting. It was Val who invited me to join in the regular gatherings with her circle of friends in order to enjoy food, drink, lively conversation and a hot tub now and then at Darlene’s. I was a very vulnerable person at the time, digging deep in order to stay afloat, raising three children on my own, all the while trying to do a great job as a teacher. I am forever-grateful for the friendships that were established at the time and how they have continued to change my life for richness of experience, knowledge and love.
Our activities included regular hiking, gourmet dining hosted by Wendy and her husband Darren and wonderful daughter, Becca…basement movie gatherings and themed photo opportunities. We consumed, voraciously, the times we had together, always rallying around the person(s) who was/were feeling most overwhelmed at the time, offered genuine support to one another, invaluable advice and resource-sharing. Wendy gave me confidence. She also had one heck of a sense of humour. She was a straight-shooter and never muted a point. Her determination and will was contagious. We have, over the years, all benefited from her drive and her commitment.
Wendy had an ability to roll with the punches. She lightly jested that she was much like a unicorn because her health matters that gradually grew to be insurmountable were uniquely challenging. I admired how hard she pushed against every obstacle and I was inspired by the strength of her family and the love that the three of them shared.
On Monday, I sat watched Wendy enjoy a bowl of Thai Soup while I ate a Greek Salad in the Fanning Center cafeteria. It was all so ordinary. We said ordinary things with one another. And, I’ve decided that this is what life is, a long string of ordinary moments. It is right to enjoy each of those. A cup of ice. Saying hello to the other person in the elevator. Advocating for support. Leaning down for that embrace at “Good-bye”. Laughing at the ritual of asking a complete stranger to take a photograph…
Late that night, my cell phone rang…I didn’t get it in time. It was Wendy’s number on my phone.
I called back and Wendy didn’t pick up. I’ll always wonder what Wendy might have said. More than anything, I will remember.
Oh what a treasure to have shared the mountain air with Wendy…fabulous food…nice drinks on a back deck, laughing and talking and looking up at the stars. I will love you always, dear friend…and nothing will take these years from me.
It is 4:00 in the afternoon, on Valentine’s Day. It has been a blessing to look over photographs and to think about all of the wonderful times we have enjoyed. Good-bye, good and faithful servant.
These images are a small sampling and many moments are buried in my archives or sitting on some one else’s camera…but these offer the gist of a remarkable friendship.