Fly Me to the Moon

This week has been filled with the magic of flight, whether that is metaphoric or quite literal.  This is the time of the season when every variety of wee bird or raptor seems to be in flight training and this year’s observations are even more magical because this is the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 space mission and the successful landing on the moon.

Here, a wee Northern Flicker, sound asleep OR knocked out on a paved pathway near the edge of the Bow River.  I thought he may have come to a sad ending, having likely fledged from a nearby tree, but, at my prompting, he stirred, panicked and disappeared into the wild flowers, a place that increased his possibilities, I’m sure.

Every new life is extremely vulnerable right now in the river environment and the adults of every species are doing phenomenal things, given the brutal thunder storms, hail and huge winds.  Finally, these past two days, we have had a reprieve from awful weather.

I was just 14 years old and living with my air force family on CFB Hornell Heights perched on a hill above North Bay, Ontario when the space program was initiating such wild adventures into the unknown.  That summer I would have just finished up my grade eight year with Mrs. Penner at Paul Davoud School and would be beginning grade nine at Widdifield in the city, the following autumn.  Mom would have already sewn me summer pop tops and jam jam shorts.  I was excited for time at the base swimming pool and my little sister would have been two years old.  We had a black and white television set and I would have been snipping out important news stories from the North Bay Nugget and pasting them into my scrap book. (some of them are featured below)

In my record box, (bright green floral vinyl), I had my single-play records including Revolution and I Want to Hold Your Hand by the Beatles.  It was the first summer that I would, under my brother’s chaperone, be allowed to attend Teen Town dances.

My entire family was excited about the Apollo Space Mission.

We watched the moon landing, together, on the television.  I remember the images.  I remember looking up at the moon that night, the silhouette of the huge lilac bush outside my window, and being afraid for those men, so far from home.  It was truly unbelievable.

Well, this past weekend, we shared in the memory of that experience, now 50 years ago.  On July 20, I read poetry and watched the second eaglet fledge.  For me, the day was a celebration of flight.

On the evening of July 19, there was a tremendous storm brewing.  I watched, with great amusement as Mr. and Mrs. both fed Jr. #1, the little guy that had fledged three days before.  He’s doing well, having flown across the river, and having practiced moving about to a variety of places.  Over those few days I was captivated by several close visits, as well as a variety of shenanigans across from me on the river. (most amusing being a middle-aged couple manning kayaks, one that capsized and the other that became grounded minutes before a huge deluge…the two, totally unaware of a family of three Bald Eagles feasting within meters of them).  The male Bald Eagle stared at the adult male with a look that made me laugh.  I’m posting some of my recent photos, here.

On July 20, 2019, I witnessed the fledge of Jr. #2.  I considered this a huge gift on such a special anniversary.

July 16, 2019 (a visit to the river with summer guests, Angela and Preston)

July 17, 2019 (Mom and Dad spent lots of time the first two days prompting Jr. #1 to get up higher.  The fledgling seems to ball, especially on Day 1 and the adults patiently convince him/her that they can be relied upon for food, for guidance and for presence.)

July 18, 2019

Meals on the run…sharing treats with Jr….I’m just so surprised that Mr. came directly to me.

July 19, 2020

Second Fledge and little buddy is the one located in the vertical tree. Junior #1 doesn’t like that the attention has moved away from him.

July 21, 2019

Three visits to the river.  On the second, I didn’t have my camera, but I did have the company of Deb Sharpe.  Together we watched the siblings reunited on the tree root across from us.  Jr. #1 had remained there throughout the night.  Mr. and Mrs. shared the big tree on my side of the river to watch the pair of youngsters.  It was just so beautiful.  The icing on the cake is that one of the adults soared with the Year-old Juvenile that made a visit as well, chasing him, first, out of the territory.

On my evening stroll, I listened to a bag piper sending out his beautiful songs to the river…

Other species have been evident and beautiful…and new songs have been sung.  I’ve watched, but not documented American Goldfinch and have really enjoyed the Grey Catbirds, Cedar Waxwings and Eastern Kingbirds.  I’ve also really had fun speaking with different people who enjoy my love for the river.

It is a remarkable thing that human beings have traveled into the far reaches of space through manned missions as well as through the use of technology that brings images and science back to us from Mars.  It is for us to celebrate the abilities of humanity to accomplish wondrous achievements such as this.  However, it is equally as important to recognize the charm and amazing intuitive lessons that are given by other species.  It is essential that we connect with this wonder so that we become better stewards of the magic.

I’m wrapping up this post with a song that my mother used to sing to me…among others…but, this one is a good one for this celebration.

 

In Search of Buffalo

It was when Steven’s Great Grampa and Auntie Val made a trip out to Calgary to say good-bye to his Uncle John that our family gathered at Fish Creek on a very rainy day, to take family photographs.  This is something that daughter, Erin, really wanted for her birthday.  It was important to her.  I think that most of us whined about it, but in the end, it was really very fun!  Many laughs as we shivered and got wet, taking our turns hiding in the entrance to the visitor center, closed at this particular time.  We did press our noses against the glass, however, and it was then that Steven spotted the buffalo!

There is only one thing that delights Steven almost as much as trucks and emergency vehicles and that is buffalo!!

So, this morning, Nanny, Steven and I headed to the same location in the hopes of finding the buffalo and we saw him…and so much more!  A beautiful morning…a beautiful place, one of the most wonderful spaces in south Calgary.

No touch!

“Touch, Nanny.”

Campfire!

Tee Pee!

Beaver! Awe!

Touch.

River

In Tee Pee.

Campfire!

Wolf

Berries

Poet Tree Benches

Chickens

Awe.

Wow.

Ice-e-cream

Nature Walk

What? A goldfinch and NO CAMERA!! Lifer with Nanny and Steven

Looking for Trout in the river. “Hold on, Steven!”

Grass!

Splinter…a first.

Back home, in Gramma’s garden.

Another beautiful adventure!

Breakfast for Boobies at South Centre Mall

Amazing!!  How they pulled this pancake breakfast off, with the numbers who attended, I will never know!  I feel so proud of Calgary and the Stampede and everyone who pulls together to make these events happen.  Given the line up for the actually pink pancakes, I didn’t really cover the show, the children’s events or the various ‘pink’ inspired activities, but I took in the crowd and loved just how much my grandson can adapt and invent and create his own amusements in so many situations.  It was a fun morning and I’ve tried to capture this in photographs.

Bless all of those who are suffering cancer…breast cancer and any other…bless their families and friends who are in the overwhelming situation of watching their loved ones negotiate the decisions and the medical/emotional and physical war of fighting cancer.  I love you and have profound respect for your journey.  You have my respect.

Stetson’s Band

Nanny did the cue yesterday…Gramma’s turn today.

Food and entertainment…today, avocado slathered on pancake.  YUM!

Keeping good company, except for Gramma got into a wee confrontation with someone in line…a story to be told at a later date.

A lot of engaged participants.

Cowpokes

Then, the real fun began!  Trucks!

Tank! Tank!

Then, Steven sought out employment!

We couldn’t leave the area without visiting Fish Creek Library!

This other kid…a bit of a pain.

Cement Truck and Digger

Walking a fine line all over second floor Fish Creek Library.

nvrlnd

Yesterday was a good day teaching grade six students. I mean it, the students were so beautiful and so eager to learn and relate and participate and help. I’m grateful that the day teaching was such a positive one.

My old boy Max and I hung out on the red couch for a bit after work and we both waited in anticipation for daughter, Cayley, to arrive and share in a Monday glass of wine with her mama. It’s always a blessing to chat with my kids and last evening I relished that I had two for end-of-day-catch-up. Oh, and Max!

After dinner, James and I headed down to Ramsay and nvrlnd, to enjoy the Jillian McKenna Project. Oh my! The trio was amazing! In fact, I want to write a poem today inspired by a piece that Jillian wrote…something about a meadow…and the Bow Valley Parkway. Sigh. Mayhaps I will write to her and inquire about the title. The following description was available on the invite. No idea who wrote it, so will link to the site. The piece gave me chills and today as I remember it, I feel the same way. This is the first time that a jazz piece has remained with me and so I want to celebrate it.

The Jillian McKenna project is a jazz-influenced group made up of some of the top established and up-and-coming Canadian musicians on today’s scene. Stretching what is possible in a standard jazz format, McKenna’s original music is rooted in jazz, pulling from different aspects of folk and world musics. With the Juno award winning Adrean Farrugia on piano alongside Mackenzie Read on the drums, this trio is quickly making a name for themselves throughout the country. Often using her voice as a fourth instrument, The Jillian McKenna Project is blurring genres and attracting listeners of all types.

Band members

Jillian McKenna – Bass
Adrean Farrugia – Piano
Mackenzie Read – Drums

nvrlnd is a bit of a magical place and, last evening, Carsten Rubeling was able to give some background as he toured the jazz show attendees through the art studios during intermission. Thanks, also, to Cory Nespor for his hospitality. I was captivated by the space, for the caliber of jazz, for the sense of community and for the obvious thoughtful management. Please read the linked article for the background on the nvrlnd project. My son and I have attended two events and have felt really happy with the experiences. I’m recommending nvrlnd to my readers.

I grabbed a number of business cards as I wandered past the studios. Such a variety of media and approaches. You can read about the artists, here.

Thanks to Kelly Isaak who allowed us to invade her space. Phenomenal work!

Also, Cory Nespor, thanks for opening your studio to us and if you are unhappy with the zillion photos I’ve posted here, please just let me know and I’ll pull them down. You are making magic!

Again, Carsten, thank you for your hospitality. Thank you for a venue where we can relish quality Jazz. Thanks for the wonderful casual space where artists of every kind can visit with one another and celebrate experiences. Thanks to my friend Steven for the invitation and for Wendy and Elena (possibly spelled wrong) for the connection. (Wendy, I’m taking care of your Stampede seat cushion.) Thank you, nvrlnd.

The Rare Birds

Just sipping an early coffee. James and I arrived home from Lethbridge at midnight last night and had it not been for Max and his request at the back door at six this morning, I would still be sleeping.

Yesterday was an exquisite day. I liked the surprises of it and the colour of it. In its own way, yesterday was a rare bird.

But first, there were the ordinary rituals. First, the update from the red couch.

I got Max down to the Bow River early and discovered how powerful and fast-moving it was, after all of our rain these past days. Experts assure Calgarians that these continue to be usual run off levels and that we needn’t be anxious about the swelling river, but given the floods of other years, the changes at the river can feel unnerving.

Some one doesn’t care. He always smiles on these walks.

Something to identify.

Another something to identify.

Birds were very busy and there was a cacophony of sound as it seemed they were all rebuilding, particularly the Red Winged Black Birds. At the eagle nest, I’m pretty certain that we’ve had one of the eaglets ‘fludge’ (accidentally fledge) as I’ve only been able to pick up the profile of one of the siblings these past four days. One adult continues to stand watch in neighbouring trees, but I’ve seen only one this week. We’ll see how that all plays out over the coming days. With full foliage in the trees now, perhaps I am missing things. The adults raised up only one of two last year and this may end up being a similar season. I’ve been documenting daily what I see at the nest, but am not publishing these, as a way of protecting the location of the nest.

Once arriving home, James and I loaded up and headed out on the highway, after gassing up the vehicle and buying our road trip treats. It was sad to leave Max behind, but I was super happy that my nephew, John, agreed to come and take care of Max’s needs late in the afternoon. This was a great relief and I am very grateful to John.

We got as far as Nanton before we began our exploring. There was a vintage car show going on, as well as a Barbecue cook-off and parade of garage sales. The sights and smells were wonderful. Good job, Nanton!

In Claresholm, there was a stop for lunch. The most wonderful thing about lunch was spending time with my son. I was already thinking about how wonderful it was that he wished to spend the day with me and celebrate my art. He has been very encouraging since I have begun painting again. He is a great support.

We hit Lethbridge in the midst of Pride festivities and it seemed that the core was alive with activity and fun. GO PRIDE! Karen and Mel had already visited Casa and so we hooked up at the Tim Horton’s where I enjoyed an ice lemonade and the four of us had a lovely chat. It was good to reconnect and to give ourselves the time to share. I so appreciated that Karen made this visit happen and that we were able to celebrate my art and one another. My heart was spilling over the entire day.

I tried to locate my friend, Michael, with no success and so James and I steered the boat toward Larry and Nina’s. Along the way, I shared stories about my memories of the years 1973 to 1977. I’m sure at times he was overwhelmed with the name dropping, but I love that I was able to bring him into the circle of love that I experienced through those years. Gratefully, Larry and Nina were home and we managed to really shake up their afternoon! But, oh my, it was so much fun! Talks of single-engine Cessna flights, books, family, Herb, renovations, Kaslo…it was rich and filled with belly laughs. Thank you, Larry and Nina, for letting us crash into a quiet afternoon of watching baseball. I love you.

I changed my clothes and off James and I headed to Casa for the celebration of a group exhibit as well as two other exhibits that were going on at the time. Casa is a beautiful facility and Darcy is a hard working curator! The following words shared by Lorraine Lee, the writer of the poem, Child’s Rara Avis.

The Gallery at Casa Presents:
CHILD’S RARA AVIS
work by A Cluster of Rare Birds
Concourse Showcase
June 22 – August 24, 2019

Hugh Prather wrote in Notes to Myself:
“There were seventy-five people in the lobby and only a seven year old girl was finding out what it felt like to sit on a marble floor.”

Or, in this case on a rock.

The exhibition is based on a verse written by one of the artists at the age of 17 – about sitting on a rock and looking at her world through a child’s eyes but now, on the cusp of adulthood, thinking she would no longer be able to do so. This exhibition says we absolutely can, and SHOULD, still ‘sit on that rock’ no matter how grown up we are.

Each woman in this group has used the verse as their “guide”. Some have used direct imagery from the verse, some used the idea of the verse.

– the adventuresome spirit of her grandchildren
– her own childhood memories of walking in nature with her grandmother and seeing the magic there
– believing the world to be filled with colourful, impossible creatures
– familiar landscapes but with a child’s touch of fantasy and painting style
– childhood images of magical worlds she could only dream about
– the freedom and innocence of childhood
– seeing everyday beauty, that as adults, we often pass by
– an archive of treasures suspended through her experience of her own child like sensibilities

All of us have been able, through our creativity, to reach to our child self and in the process, make some discoveries about who we are and what we believe. And, essentially to discover, or rediscover, the spirit of fun and wonder that children naturally gravitate to. To look again through the eyes of the child we used to be.

Come join us on the rock.

A Cluster of Rare Birds:
Patti Blackstaffe
Diane Brinton
Vaughan Coupland
Claire Hatton
Shauna Hayward
Laurel Krause
Lorraine Lee
Kathleen Moors
Kathy Schwarz

We met one another (this was my first time meeting the other artists) and celebrated with wine and cake. Thank you for your hospitality, Lorraine.

I will also include here, my own artist’s statement regarding the work that I am presently producing. With over 220 Instagram images archiving the life and times of a bush at the edge of a pond, I have many references for a vast exploration of time, atmosphere and presence. I am very excited about it.

My Rara Avis: Instagram Bush

A person aligns with certain values throughout the course of living a sometimes-joyful, sometimes-challenging life. My way of being is strongly influenced by literature and most specifically, by two books; Le Petit Prince par Antoine de Saint-Exupery and Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury. Both writings include lessons on noticing, presence and place. The protagonist of Dandelion Wine, Douglas Spaulding, keeps a diary throughout the summer of 1928, in the front, collecting a record of ‘usual’ things about summer and in the back, a record of the revelations about those ordinary things. My life, thus, is marked by a huge history of seeing the spectacular embedded in the ordinary.

The poem, a Child’s Rara Avis written by Lorraine Lee, aged 17, invited me to share my rara avis, my incredibly beautiful and evolving experience of a single landmark along a circular pond walk with my dog, Max, daily, in 2015. I took pause in front of this bush and observed the changing aspects of its structure and surrounding environment through the course of our walks, snapping one Instagram photo and capturing the moment as a matter of preservation. I logged the time of day, the weather and the date at each visit. Through the course of this presence, I collected samples of vegetation and other organic materials found beneath the branches of this same bush and bottled them up as an approach to archiving the moment. Douglas Spaulding, similarly, observed his grandmother bottle the ‘Summer of 1928’ in the cool basement of his home, in the form of Dandelion Wine, a tincture to be brought out in the wintertime to combat aches and colds.

In the studio, I am pouring over the references and field notes, enjoying the sensual memories and the experience of walking. I am intimately recreating these experiences by transitioning the Instagram photographs into paintings. This process contributes a seeming permanence to something that is very ephemeral. (see Chapter 15 in Le Petit Prince) It elevates my rara avis.

It is the child’s heart within me that discovered the wonder of this location. It is here that I ‘sat on a rock and watched the world’.

During the process of walking, I realized that while incubating the idea of these works, all square formats and all acrylic paintings, I wanted to also capture the act of walking. Videographer, Liam Hawryluk, of Beam Media, generously joined me on the circle and collected footage across the seasons, capturing the reality that within a very huge narrative, there is a rara avis available for personal engagement, if one chooses to take notice.

Kathleen Moors

This is the video created by Liam Hawryluk.

Liam’s company, Beam Media, produces amazing videos and I am so grateful that he took this project on. This archive means the world to me. Thanks, Liam.

I think that the first surprise, and a glorious one, was to see Kasia. It was such a quick embrace and I wish we had shared more time, but so quickly, a big chunk of my amazing family including my Auntie Eleanor, descended into the space. Thanks also to Tim and Tamaki. And, thank you, Larry and Nina. And most importantly, thank you, James. What a wonderful and surprising night. We all live such busy lives and I’m grateful for those of you who were able to find the time to give me this support. Now, please readers, forgive my blast of photographs.

Martine, Kath, Danielle

Nina, Kath, Larry

Kath and son, James

Kath and Auntie Eleanor She described my art as having a lot of movement.

Tamaki and Tim

Tristan, Robert John de Gruchy, cousin Deanna and beautiful daughter, cousin Barb, cousin Martine and daughter, Danielle and cousin Margy. In front, Kath and Auntie Eleanor

My Auntie Eleanor Witbeck

A Road Trip to Blackfoot Crossing

Hollee drove down last evening so that we could head out early for a road trip to Blackfoot Crossing.  Recently, she was able to view Elder in the Making, a movie that I have not yet seen.  This movie really impacted her and Hollee asked if I would be up to a road trip to this beautiful place, a place where we are all reminded of our obligation to be treaty people.  I love Blackfoot Crossing and if my readers have not yet journeyed there, please do.  Episode 1.

Early this morning, I went out in bedroom slippers and fed the birds. (The sparrows are all raising their young and they congregate each morning, just like the wee pigs that they are. Oh my.  They are messy!) There in the back gardens, I found my first Oriental Poppy blooming and my first open Peony.  I love the lush green surrounding these highly saturated blossoms and thought about the next bush painting that is already living inside my head.

There was no shortage of conversation as we took 22X and steered ourselves east.  There was a powerful sky and a big whoosh of wind as various systems of weather were moving through the province.  We stopped at the landmark for Blackfoot Crossing shortly after Hollee noticed the graveyard from the road.  I felt determined to find Jordan’s resting place.  The wind was so strong and carried a bit of a bite.  The two of us took in the remarkable vistas.  It was an awesome first glance of the panoramic view of the valley and treaty lands.

Next, we visited Chief Crowfoot’s last camping place.

We enjoyed the brilliant colour of wild flowers throughout our times wandering.  So beautiful.

Next…Chief Crowfoot’s resting place.  If my readers haven’t read his biography as yet, I recommend Crowfoot: Chief of the Blackfoot by Hugh Dempsey.  A powerful book!

Bernard couldn’t meet up with us, but said he would include me in his smudge today.  He is such a beautiful person.  I was determined to find the place where Jordan, his son, rests and today, I found him…was able to take pause and pray.  I am grateful that Jordan’s life and mine intersected.  I treasured Jordan in his youth.  Today, I was able to remember.  The next time I travel to the crossing, I will bring a special gift that reflects that relationship and I will place it on his grave.

Wild Anemone

We had a magic-filled walk and went to the site where the museum has documented an earthen village. However, the archaeologists that were working on site today walked us through some of the more current discoveries and that was super exciting.

Wild Anemone

Wild Rhubarb?

Blue Flax

Lightning Strike

Mushroom burgers and homemade fries were enjoyed at Pete’s Bakery in Cluny.  We ended up giving Morris a ride into Strathmore after that.  He showed us a buffalo jump.  He showed us Hammer Hill.  He told us about making head dresses and about his early sketching as a young boy.  He showed us his high school.  It was lovely.

Peter’s daughter told us the story of her father.  She was such a beautiful person.  I so wish that I had asked her her name.  Eat at Peter’s Bakery in Cluny!  So good!!

I’m grateful for this day.  I’m grateful for what nature teaches us.

Safe and sound and rested, at home, Hollee headed north on the highway and Max and I went to the river.  My day began with flowers and ended with birds…and all else, made for a beautiful middle.

Mamas and the Poop They Take!

Just a quick post as I’m moving out of my bird mode and in to my bush mode.  I know that some of my readers can, off the top, relate with the title of this post.

Parenting is difficult!

I like to make observations of birds.  I’m willing to patiently watch and be still.  Like a prayer, this is what brings me a lot of peace these days.  The practice of being still is something invaluable to a culture that values ‘busy’ so much.

These days, the old trees that grow and die at the edge of the river, are singing.  There is life that emits from the boughs and trunks of trees.  I don’t think a lot of people actually notice that.  Even if you walk in your neighbourhood to the mailbox, lately, you will hear that the houses and trees of your own community are singing.  The children need to be fed.

So, in looking up at one of the trees today, I observed a European Starling entering and exiting one of the big Elms growing at the river, over and over again.  But, interestingly enough I saw her not only entering, with food, but exiting with poop.  What?  Really?

If you think about it, it makes sense.  But, YUCK!!  Can you imagine your growing family, shouting all day long from the inside of a crowded tree nest?  Can you imagine that there is a lot of house keeping required of you, the adult?  Wow!

Bottom’s Up!

EWWWWE!

This got me thinking about the intuitive selfless actions of parents for their offspring, it matters not the species.

At the House Wren nest, one adult remains very guarded of the nesting area while the other does the constant runs to try to silence the peeping worrying kids.

The Canada Geese lead goslings from one place to another, often tending other ‘people’s kids’, while a number of adults get a wee respite.  This poor image does not even capture the wee buddies who spilled in off of that rocky shore shortly after the snapping of this photograph.

Vigilance is key during these days of raising young at the river.  Magpies and Crows, Hawks of every variety, search the tall wood for untended nests.  It is the way of nature.  Keeping low to the earth and in the dried grasses of winter, the Mallards cast their eyes in the direction of the most subtle movements.

Mr. and Mrs. continue to work in tandem at the Bald Eagle Nest.  The two youngsters continue to grow very quickly.  Dad, of smaller stature seems to be doing more of the fishing and guarding from a distance than Mom.  It was beautiful one day last week when the two of them took flight together, soaring on a perfect day, just above the nest.

I think in families sometimes, Moms and Dads find it hard to leave the kids alone for even the shortest while in order that they, too, can enjoy the world and its offerings.

Bless the Moms and Dads for the poop they take.

 

Fix It!

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!

 

For the Birds: Early Spring 2019

I feel a bit of a cold coming on.  Max and I just returned from the river and I’ve had two pieces of toast slathered with peanut butter and raspberry jam and I’m presently sipping my third and last cup of coffee.

Before heading to the studio, I want to write a brief post to acknowledge just how beautiful it was to visit the river, in the rain.  Every day brings its shift in weather and atmosphere and every day brings to mind a different perspective, colour and life force.  I am just so grateful.

At the prompting of my friend, Nina Weaver, I read, with great attention, the first chapter of John’s gospel and I felt, as I read, that I am getting stronger over these difficult days.  Restorative yoga has been very beneficial to me, in the fact that daily, I am more conscious of breath…taking in healing and releasing suffering.  It’s a bit of a daily prayer for me now.  Life will always be different, without my brother’s booming voice being a part of it, but let’s face it, I carry him with me.  And so, today, I will bring him with me, into the studio to paint.

Watching the birds at the pond and now the river, is such a part of my mental, emotional and spiritual health.  I can not explain to my readers how entering into the watchfulness and presence of such vulnerable creatures is healing and even sustaining.  Focus moves away from self and ego and returns to the other…and to what is necessary to wholeness and health.  I am inspired every day.

Why did I decide to post today?  Well, I gain much through the act of writing, the practice of writing.  I don’t want to lose touch with that.  It was very hard to be caring for brother at the same time as my computer sunk like a stone.  Yes, I filled some journal pages and I wrote in the margins of my Bible, but writing didn’t feel as available through that period.  Writing allows my heartache to tumble out,  releasing a particular tension.  I don’t want to take the purchase of a laptop for granted, just as I never want to take the act of painting for granted again.

First to come in the spring, were the Magpies.  Then, the Canada Geese, the Mallards and the Common Goldeneyes.  At the same time, before snow left, the Robin’s song could be heard.  The House Sparrows gathered once again, in a flurry, at my back yard bird feeder.  European Starlings, Common Mergansers, Red Necked Grebes and more.  My friends at Frank Lake have photographed so many gorgeous birds.  At my river, I don’t see the American Avocets or the Stilts.  However, I have been amused and in love with interactions with these birds in the past.  I am very much about staying close to home these days; my energy is still quite low and  so, I certainly don’t look for places to go or things to do.  The next few photographs represent a few of the birds I’ve enjoyed this spring and ones that have built up the life force within me.

You may wish to click on the image to enlarge.  As well, here are two photographs of Mr. as he returned to the nest with a fish off of the Bow River.  For those of you know me, I don’t know how to pan, so the fact that I managed even two poorly focused images of Mr. in flight, is quite an accomplishment.  Have a beautiful day!

 

That I Would Be Good

Throughout my brother’s illness, I kept thinking…and often said to him, “You were always enough, John.”

I don’t know why I had those words on my heart.  And I spoke them often.

I spoke to one friend about my inclination and she said to me, “You, your brother, I am more than enough!”

With the death of one of my great mentors, Jean Vanier, this past week, I listened and listened again to his past recordings.  I read over things that he wrote.  I remain completely convinced by his view that love exists when we embrace those who are most vulnerable.

A baby born to its parents is put into a position of utter trust and vulnerability.  It can do nothing to earn or keep or appreciate your hard work and your giving heart.  The infant child can only receive love.  To be ill in body or mind, or to be dying, leaves a person in the same vulnerable state of being as was once experienced as an infant.  This coming and going of humanity leaves all participants in a place of tremendous sacredness/holiness/grace and belonging.

As I consider my own challenges, I need to remember that I am good, for the simple reason that I am.  I belong in a circle of belonging.

Sometimes the world can tell us differently.  Sometimes our own heads can try to convince us that we are ‘not enough’.  There are days when we act like squirrels, gathering in ‘stuff’, thinking that somehow that ‘stuff’ will make us safe/secure/better.  There are days when we forego time with our families so that we can work harder and earn more so that we can provide more, when all our families needed most was our presence.  We need to reflect upon that presence.

To each of my readers, “You are good.”  Celebrate your wondrous design.  Have a dance.  Listen to the words to this song.  Have a great weekend.  Thanks, Hollee, for sharing birthday dinner with my family. Thanks to Cayley, Shawn, Erin, Doug and Steven, Linda and James for Dragon Pearl feasting and Crave cake! Thanks, Steven, for the jazz invite in the middle of the week.  Thanks, James for attending with your ol’ Ma.  Thanks, Wendy, Tammy, Karen, Lauraine, Jas and Dan for Sunday jam at Mikey’s.  Thanks, nephew for almost daily “I love you”s by text.  Thanks, Dad, for 5:00 Skypes.  Thanks, Val, for connecting with me in real time and in dreams.  Thanks, Erin, for restorative Yoga. Thanks, Kath, for studio painting time, bird watching, dog walking, teaching big kids and small.  Thanks Mary, Pat and Janet for tea and snacks. Thanks, Facetime Friends, for all of those online messages. Thanks, John, for everything you were for me in life and how you inspire me now.  It’s been a good week.  I love you because love never ends.

That I Would Be Good
That I would be good even if I did nothing
That I would be good even if I got the thumbs down
That I would be good if I got and stayed sick
That I would be good even if I gained ten pounds
That I would be fine even if I went bankrupt
That I would be good if I lost my hair and my youth
That I would be great if I was no longer queen
That I would be grand if I was not all knowing
That I would be loved even when I numb myself
That I would be good even when I am overwhelmed
That I would be loved even when I was fuming
That I would be good even if I was clingy
That I would be good even if I lost sanity
That I would be good
Whether with or without you
Songwriters: Alanis Nadine Morissette / Glen Ballard