Serendipity?

Today marks the beginning of another week and I anticipate holding my first grand baby in my arms.

On August 11,  I decided I wanted to celebrate my daughter’s rite of passage and be with her in a calm and supportive environment as she moves into the last days of her pregnancy.  I stopped, with purpose, at the grocery store in order to choose some white carnations and baby’s breath.  My father, as a ritual, would stop in to a store on his way home from work and bring my mother carnations.  Sometimes they were red. Sometimes they were white.  And sometimes they were a combination of both.  I wanted to call into our prayer circle,  my mother, grandmothers and the matriarchs of my son-in-law, as well.  During the blessing, I told the story of the carnations, placed in the center of our prayer circle.  Here they are, here. (My son-in-law snapped this photograph for me yesterday morning,  August 12, because I had a “Facebook Memory: This happened four years ago” photograph pop up on my Timeline and my mouth dropped.)

White Carnations August 11, 2017

My father sent me this bouquet on August 12, 2013, the summer my beautiful mother passed away.  Here is the photograph I took of those flowers four years ago.

White Carnations August 12, 2013

Hmmm….perhaps, just serendipity?  The hairs stood up on the back of my neck.  Mom, you are always with me and I know that you will be with us all as we take this wonderful journey over the coming week.  I love you.

Road Trips and Other Summer Blessings

This has not been like any other summer.  I’ll leave it at that.

However, interspersed with hard work, vigilance and what life brings were some idyllic times shared with people I love and I need to acknowledge that as the season, very gently, moves into autumn.  Like others, I’ve noticed the brilliant yellow leaves of the poplars appear.  Yesterday, I saw a mama American Coot slam-dunk her teenager, stopping its whining in a quick moment, shoving its head and body, deep into the water.  I could almost hear her shouting, “Get your own damned food!”  With me, it always comes down to what’s happening to the birds.  To summarize, everything is in flux at the pond and there are indicators, as Cormorant teenagers practice their flights over the water and Grebe babies are taught to vocalize, that, all is about to change.

So, I reflect.

To begin, Hollee came down to Calgary.

I always hear from Hollee, mostly through the format of the post card.  My spirit sings when I get ‘real’ mail at the post box. She does this despite being a very busy lady, given her role and the necessary travel that comes with being the National Coordinator at L’Arche Canada. (but this, in fact, makes for a very interesting post card collection!)

For a glorious week, I had the chance to share daytime events with Hollee.  When visitors come to Calgary, I always begin by taking them to the Leighton Center.  I enjoy the views so much, the short walks…the art…the chat along the scenic drive.  So, on Monday morning, a day that is closed to the public, Hollee and I headed west for the Center.

First, Hollee humoured me with a walk around the pond at Frank’s Flats.  I can’t believe I didn’t catch a photograph!  However, I DID pull off the road and snap a quick photograph of Hollee at spot where I remembered taking a photo of my sister, Valerie, years ago!

In the Leighton House, a couple of lovely exhibits, one Impressions: A Printmaking Exhibit and a Wildrose exhibit in the upstairs gallery.  We were impressed by the exquisite modelling evidenced in a couple of pieces done in pencil crayon.

The haze from the fires in British Columbia was in evidence, everywhere we drove, that day.We took a country-road drive and also, made a stop at The Blue Rock Gallery, a space I have never visited in Black Diamond.  I was so happy to finally see the works, in the flesh, by Vermilion artist, Justina Smith, an artist I follow on Instagram.  I first became interested in her work when I saw her published journals as she took a drive across Canada and captured landscapes that were very familiar to me.Of course, Hollee and I stopped for an ice cream cone at the corner store!

On Tuesday, Hollee and I attended the Glenbow exhibit.  I really thought she should see the Kent Monkman exhibit,  Shame and Prejudice: A Story of Resilience .   I had been wanting to take more time viewing it at a more leisurely pace.  Next door, the exhibit, North of Ordinary: The Arctic Photographs of Geraldine and Douglas Moodie concludes on August 27.  It was a powerful experience to visit the exhibits and to chat with Hollee about them.  I do a lot of these things alone and it’s just so great to be able to emote and converse about art, when you are feeling a response, so deeply.

First, I’ve posted portraits of Geraldine and Douglas Moodie.

Nativity Scene 2016 Installation piece by Kent Monkman.  Photographs of Kent’s paintings do no justice to them, but I wanted to carry a little archive with me, for the purpose of memory.

Baby Carriers…one small section of a very powerful space, created by Kent Monkman.

The Scream 2017 Kent Monkman a painting depicting children being rounded up from homes and families.  This huge painting was straddled by two of the Cradle walls.

A detail from Iron Horse 2015 by Kent Monkman.

The Bears of Confederation: 2016 Kent Monkman

Banquet Table installation

At some point, Hollee and I enjoyed a Spolumbo’s lunch and a quick visit to the Esker Foundation.  As well, and without photographs, we had a tour of the Calgary Reads house in Inglewood. Such a generous walk through one of the most magical houses in Inglewood.  I really hoped to knock into Ben while there, but he was out working hard with Nourish.

Wednesday found me taking a rest…I think, or maybe we did a little bit of something in the afternoon.  I don’t remember.  It’s all a blur.  And this makes me smile. I know that some where along the line, I convinced Hollee that we should go to the movie, Wonder Woman, as recommended by my daughter.  So, we did that, also….free movie and food, using our Scene cards and coupons!  I felt a little overwhelmed by the action scenes and the huge explosions.  We left the movie, sort of laughing and trying to guess Cayley’s thoughts on the movie.

Oh!  Yes!  I almost forgot that we did our epic tour of the Calgary Zoo, taking in all of the active feeding and animated goings-on of our favourite animals.  Like anyone else, I’m in awe of the experience of getting up close to animals and I DO think that the Calgary Zoo does what it can to make the enclosures interesting for the animals.  However, I can’t say that I am a supporter of keeping animals locked up and out of their natural environments.  I guess, on this particular day, I just entered into the experience at a different level.  I think, for Hollee and I, both, it brought back childhood memories…years when great big Dino stood in the center of a huge grassy parkland.  I remember visiting with my Gramma Moors when I was a child.  Oh, how things have changed since then.  Of the hundreds of photos I took of Penguins, nothing really turned out.  I’m grateful that Hollee agreed to do the Canadian enclosures with me.  The day after this, I was actually very weary!

Our last day of driving Alberta, saw us at Frank Slide.  We listened to music while I drove and that was fun!  As I put on miles, I enjoyed a lot of memories…past drives and different company…nostalgia about my parents and other friends.  It was lovely and atmospheric.  The smoke haze over everything this summer, changes the landscape dramatically.

I had never enjoyed the tours at Frank’s Slide before.  We happened to tag on to one of these outdoors, some time after enjoying a little picnic of salad and fresh fruit. We stopped off at Lundbreck Falls, on the way home.

I can’t really explain what it meant to me to be able to be with a friend for travel and visiting and relaxing.  I spend so much of my time, exploring, on my own, that it was a very different experience.  I was sad to see Hollee leave, but with the full knowledge that there will be other times.  I am just so grateful.

All the diamonds in this world
That mean anything to me
Are conjured up by wind and sunlight
Sparkling on the sea

I ran aground in a harbour town
Lost the taste for being free
Thank God He sent some gull-chased ship
To carry me to sea

Two thousand years and half a world away
Dying trees still grow greener when you pray

Silver scales flash bright and fade
In reeds along the shore
Like a pearl in sea of liquid jade
His ship comes shining
Like a crystal swan in a sky of suns
His ship comes shining

Bruce Cockburn

Wild Stone Heart and Other Matters

Hours, days, and weeks pass without writing, as I plow my way through matters of the heart.  Today, however, I feel an impetus to put down a layer of words.  It comes from a tree huggin’ place, from my utter respect for nature and for pain at watching consumption impact absolutely everything.  I am one of those consumers.  It’s not as though my ideas have transitioned much, into action.  For example, I do not live off grid.  I drive a car.  While I don’t buy a lot of stuff, I get my adult children Kinder-Surprise eggs at Easter time….that sort of thing.  This isn’t intended to be a defensive post or a judgmental post.  I simply want to archive my observations of today.

Last night, I finished another chapter of Wild Stone Heart: An Apprentice in the Fields by Sharon Butala.  I usually don’t write a review on a book until I finish it…and honestly, I’m quite a bit behind in that activity, as well…but, this book bears a lot of weight on my heart as I continue the act of circumnavigating a single pond environment every day.  I’m now moving into my seventh year.  Butala writes about her personal relationship to and with a Saskatchewan field, what it teaches her and how it calls her to grow in knowledge, understanding and spiritual depth.  This morning, her words reached into a corner of my heart.

I have been circling the same pond ecosystem every day for six years now.  Every day, I see something remarkable.  Some days I have a camera.  Some days I don’t.  Often, even if I have the proper tools with me, I choose not to snap a photograph, claiming all of the beauty for me alone.  In fact, recently, I’ve done a lot of that.  I’ve gifted myself the time for all of it…for me.  It doesn’t have to be photographed, blogged about or even written about…I walk with it…pause with it and it has been a crucial part of my healing.  It is my daily prayer.

Nature provides me with a sense of time and light and continuity.  Only weeks ago, male Red-winged Blackbirds were in chorus along the pond’s edge, nestled in the cattails, brilliant red wings on showy display.  Then, the females became visible.  Air combat broke out as the males became territorial.  They fought curious and hungry crows and even dive-bombed humans who walked or ran along the trail.  Soon, the loud chirping of hungry voices deep at the base of the cattails and not an adult Blackbird without a beak filled with dragonflies and mayflies.  Days later, clumsy juveniles tried balancing on chain link fence or on the tips of cat tails, falling and tripping through the pond environment, Mom and Dad, watching closely from a short distance away.  And now…only a few linger back.  The population has shrunk in a matter of days.  Yesterday, only two sightings of males and a single female.  And inside, I feel a sadness and a great gratitude, for what summer has meant at the pond.

The Red-necked Grebes have done well.  There was only a single loss, from what I can tell, out of six successful nests.  At the most easily viewed nest, four eggs hatched and four youngsters hung out for almost a week, when one was lost.  The American Coots have increased vastly in numbers.  Ruddy duck females are still swimming in formation, with eight and ten little ones tagging behind.  Geese in great numbers and the juveniles have been batting their wings, like crazy, while swimming on the pond, preparing for huge and harrowing flights in the autumn.

A single male Kingfisher was sighted just recently, always a little late in the season, but I’ve seen a Kingfisher here for the last three years, at this time.  I like to imagine that it’s the same bird, stopping by.

Every day is different and spectacular at the pond.

Yesterday, I looked up from the path and saw three of the most majestic bucks and five female does, edging a particularly busy four lanes of traffic on the west bound lanes of 22X-now-Stoney Trail.  The bucks, in the lead, were casing out the situation as they wished to take the females south and across this horrible maze of fencing (all types), asphalt and construction machinery.  I waited with my mouth opened wide, uttering, out loud, my fears.  It was my instinct to grab for my phone…who would I call?

With that, the three bucks, made huge leaps and bounded onto the highway, the does following…traffic lurched to a halt.  Car horns, in symphony, went off.  It all lasted about two minutes.  One of the females,  in utter terror, bounded back and disappeared into the shrubs on this side of the highway.  I swore.  I yelled, “You stupid assholes!”  I was left feeling angry and frightened for our brothers and sisters; wildlife.  I thought of the wild fires blazing west of us.  I thought of the bears that are being so hemmed in by humankind at the height of berry season.  I thought of the hundreds of gulls and crows, together, flying overhead…east…changing migration patterns.  I was left feeling very sad and very helpless.

Leaving the pond that day, I took a different route, seeking out some answer about where the deer had gone, but I was cut off by a barricade of cranes and plows.  I wondered what would happen to the female, separated from her tribe.  I came home, driving under the two osprey nests built precariously on the signage for ‘Deerfoot’ Trail.  What’s to be done about all of this?  Has it all gone too far?

What is left for me is to experience, document and remember.  In the meantime I pray for the inspired thinking of developers, biologists, scientists of every variety.  I pray that the next generation goes forward with clarity, knowledge and determination.  Our generation, I think, has made a mess of things.

 

 

 

 

 

Some of My Favourite People

Ascension Sunday was beautiful in so many ways.  Bishop Emeritus Frederick Henry was with us for the celebration of the Mass.  As much as being a part of this family has, at times, been a struggle, it feels as though I am home with my community when I share in the Mass with so many friends.  Sometimes in today’s world, we can be very MEcentric and I find that I am able to quiet that and really focus on ‘the other’ when I am in community. I sometimes wonder how the human family will look back on the world that we are creating and what our part in history will be.  I lifted prayers and offered up this Mass, in particular, for people in my life who have medical struggles and for my children.  From Mass, I stepped out into a gorgeous-weather day and decided to make my circle of the pond, with Max before anything else.

IMG_6319IMG_6295IMG_6294IMG_6291IMG_6289IMG_6286IMG_6270IMG_6262IMG_6245IMG_6243IMG_6198IMG_6317IMG_6254

I booked up the afternoon with a create! workshop at Wendy’s…a session co-delivered with Ruth Purves Smith, needle felting and wet felting, forgetting that I was also committed to attending Indigenous dance led by Jess McMann.  Sigh… I opted to head out to Lakeview, as I knew I planned to visit my YaYa at the Foothills Hospital afterwards.

The afternoon was glorious, back yard crafting with beautiful and engaged creatives. The birds were chirping and singing and bathing, all the while.  Ginger snaps and ice cold lemonade were served as we went about learning to make dryer balls, wet felting and creating lovely artworks.  A great way to spend the afternoon!  Thank you, Wendy and Ruth.

Not only is Ruth a huge advocate for the Custom Woolen Mills, she is a heart-filled musician and huge song writer and story teller!  I hang out with amazing people!

In conclusion, kits were put together and I was eager to get over to the hospital and my friend, to see if she would be able to try felting.

IMG_6321IMG_6322IMG_6323IMG_6324IMG_6325IMG_6326IMG_6329IMG_6331IMG_6333IMG_6334IMG_6335IMG_6336IMG_6337IMG_6338IMG_6339IMG_6341IMG_6342IMG_6343IMG_6345IMG_6346IMG_6348IMG_6349IMG_6350IMG_6352

It was a joy to watch my YaYa, sit outdoors in the shade of Foothills Hospital and manage some felting.  I will bring the project that she began along with me on my next visit and bit by bit, she can construct something beautiful.  Best she not poke her finger with one of those needles!  The day was so much brighter because I was able to hang out with her and to see the progress she has made in her healing.  Four months later, she is a strong and inspiring fighter!  Her husband is equally inspiring because he has been selfless and supportive through this very unique journey.  They are, together, an inspiring couple.

I spent the evening on my own…a little putzing in the garden…some more walking with Max…some texting with my daughter who had entered a song-writers competition.  She got to chat it up with one of my favourite Alberta song writers, Joe Nolan, and so I will aptly conclude this post with one of his tunes.

The day was a ‘Ballad of Some Sort”.  (Changed my mind…but, YouTube it!) Instead, River Ends. Both Ruth and Joe deliver music in wool socks.  I think song-writers who perform in sock feet are generally good people.

Thanks, Wendy Lees, for being a beautiful person!  Thanks to you, Ruth…for sharing the joy of creation with me, again.  Such warmth and generosity!

Love Art in Calgary Tours

Wendy Lees

Ruth Purves Smith

 

 

Attics of My Life

I took liberties, borrowing this title…Grateful Dead’s title for a tune on their album, American Beauty.  My brother was listening to Grateful Dead and Gregg Allman (RIP), when I was listening to Three Dog Night and Gordan Lightfoot.

Over the years, I’ve kept some excessively sentimental journal entries, scattered, some in notebooks and some typed up.  I’ve belonged to Brat Newsgroups and followed writing by other children of military fathers.  An excellent novel is based on a very similar life experience during the Cold War: Anne-Marie Macdonald’s Where the Crow Flies.

In The Way the Crow Flies, Ann-Marie MacDonald takes us back to the early 1960’s, a time of optimism infused with the excitement of the space race and overshadowed by the menace of the Cold War–-a world filtered through the imagination of Madeleine McCarthy, a spirited nine-year-old. Unaware that her father, Jack, is caught up in his own web of secrets, she at first welcomes her family’s posting to a sleepy air force base in southern Ontario.

The base, however, is home to some intriguing inhabitants, including the unconventional Froehlich family, and the odd Mr. March, whose power over the children is a secret burden that they carry. Then tragedy strikes, and a local murder intersects with global forces, binding the participants for life. As tension in the McCarthy’s household builds, Jack must decide where his loyalty lies, and Madeleine learns about the ambiguity of human morality–a lesson that will become clear only when the quest for the truth, and the killer, is renewed twenty years later.

As Father’s Day approaches and I’m thinking a lot about Dad and my family, but especially Dad, I’m putting together a bit of a reflection.  I am proud of my Dad.  I’m also pleased, in looking back, that I lived what I imagine is an unusual life, with very unique experiences.  As you dwell a bit on your father, you will think the same.  I’ve snapped some photos of bits and pieces and put them in chronological order here.  The writing is sappy and poorly executed for the most part, but, I’m glad that I’ve documented some things.

Sherbrooke, Quebec and my parents met and fell in love.  My parents knew and loved the Fortier family.  We made trips to visit my Gramma and Grampa once we moved away. I remember my Grandmother’s home and her gardens.

Mom and Dad and cool car from old negative

Summer 2009 154

Summer 2009 100

My brother, John, was born.

03-04-2009 9;32;10 PM

John, Dad and Winston, the dog.  This is either Sherbrooke or Falconbridge; I’m not certain.

Falconbridge, Ontario (Sudbury)

Summer 2009 110

And a year later, I was born.

IMG_6143

RCAF Falconbridge Circa 50s

IMG_6144

RCAF Falconbridge

Ste. Sylvestre, Quebec…50 miles from Quebec City. Brutal winters with banks of snow up to the tops of our windows.  The birth of my brother, Stuart. Playing in a creek bed some distance from the house. Back yard clotheslines.  Mom, alone, a lot.  I watched my mother sew the dress that she is wearing in the photograph below.  I remember it.

1957 Mom and Dad New Years

IMG_6145

RCAF Ste. Sylvestre

IMG_6146

RCAF Ste. Sylvestre

0027_###0019_###0010_###

Family Car

Ste. Sylvestre with Dad January 1960

IMG_6148IMG_6149IMG_6150

Ste. Margaret’s, New Brunswick...some miles from Chatham.

I guess we didn’t have a camera to snap photographs in Ste. Margaret’s in New Brunswick.  I haven’t any archive for this period, apart from a few bits of ephemera. An old fashioned bell rung outside of the school for my kindergarten and grade one year. I remember my coat hook.  I remember faking that I could play the notes on my recorder.   I remember secretly loving Holmer Berthiaume.  I remember clam digging and clam chowder.  I remember neighbourhood fun.  And, my brother, Cliff, was born.  I broke my collar bone.

IMG_6151

IMG_6152

21-06-2012 10;17;17 AM

Kath St. Margarets

A neighbour-photographer asked my parents if he could grab some photos of me.  This is one.

IMG_6183

Chatham New Brunswick Rec Center 1967

Recreation Center

Chatham New Brunswick Guard Gate 1966

 

IMG_6154IMG_6155IMG_6156

Battle Creek, Michigan

IMG_6157IMG_6158

IMG_6159IMG_6160

29-03-2009 5;17;43 PM

IMG_6163

This Blog Post was a tribute to a friend, Laurel Barclay, a friend I never forgot.

North Bay, Ontario…three different postings and some very special years.  The dock, Chief Commanda, Expo ’67 and a field trip to Montreal, Winter Carnivals, fishing…

Big Fish

Trout Lake, Cabin stays and learning to play Cribbage, Mr. Carlin and the first inkling that I loved art, hiking through the gully, Gus.

Gus Road Tripping

Gus and the Rambler Station Wagon.

North Bay Couch

My sister, Val, was born.

Mom and Val four months North Bay

IMG_6164IMG_6166IMG_6167

Tent CaterpillarsIMG_6168

Air Shows 

Hammer_Moors013

My brother, Cliff (Hammer), at one of our annual air shows.

 

IMG_6169

Teen Town

Teen Town RCAF North Bay

 

IMG_6171

I have reconnected with many of the people in this photograph over the years.  Social Media has been a blessing for Military ‘Brats’.IMG_6172

IMG_6180IMG_6179IMG_6178

On I went, during our second posting, to Widdifield High School, grade nine.  My friends were lunch time friends, including Kathleen and Susan.  Debbie Harris took the bus with me to Hornell Heights.  We were walking-to-school friends.  I have since, lost her. Later in life, I painted Miss Mitchell, the librarian, and the Library Club, using a photograph in the 1969 Pendulum as a reference.

Patricia Kirton

Widdifield Year Book 1969 002Widdifield Year Book 1969 001Widdifield Year Book 1969 009

I treasured, most, my time in the art room.  I still have some of my sketches from that time. I reconnected with David Carlin some years ago as he had an exhibit in Callandar when I was on one of my Trans Canada migrations.

P1110658P1110662

Great Falls, Montana for Grade 10, 11 and 12.  Ramona and I have done well to stay in touch all of these years.

5 of us Great Falls

Livin’ it up on Fox Farm Road!

 

CMR Mona

My best friend, CMR, Ramona

The thing about military people is that they DO have attached to them, many group photographs and records.  I will spare you this collection, but for the sake of my family members, I have photographed Dad’s collection and accessed several that he did not have from on-line research.  If ever you want these, please be in touch.

IMG_6173IMG_6175IMG_6176IMG_6177IMG_6182IMG_6184IMG_6186

Dad, you mean the world to me.  I’m grateful for your love.

IS-ness

Through the kind invitation of a dear friend, I ended up at the Calgary Catholic Retired Teachers Spring Luncheon at the Calgary Elk’s Club the day following my birthday. Thank you to Ruth, Pat and Emelia for the gracious planning.  I felt so blessed by the renewed connections and the warm embrace of the educators in my circle.  It was an absolutely magical afternoon.

Sitting on my right, was Joan.  In 1979, weeks after the birth of my first child, I took a bus from Lethbridge to Calgary, to interview with this person.  Little did I know, at that time, what a powerful inspiration Joan would become, in my teaching, but also in my way of seeing life and the world…visually…but, in so many other ways.

Last Tuesday…she gave me something more to think about….IS-NESS…the experience of being completely present in this moment.  It’s common to talk about the optimal state of ‘being’, living for this moment only.  There are many ‘gurus’ among us. “There is no past.  There can be no future.  There is only ‘now’.” These run the risk of becoming mere platitudes.  I think we all know what’s really going on…and it’s what the world is telling us is important, not what we know to be important. (sorry to be speaking for all of us here…maybe I’m wrong)

During my life, I’ve driven forward more than anything.  In youth, I thought that I needed more.  I set huge goals for myself. The wheels were in spin and forward I drove!  (when I type the word, DROVE,  an image comes up for me…a huge wind pressing at my face and the full weight of my body pushing against it). I dedicated myself to the work of that…the industry of that.  I taught full days, but didn’t wind down, painting well into the night and rising early in the morning.  I tasted what the FUTURE might be, but never really grasped it.

At some point, I opened the door, and rolled out of the speeding vehicle that was the life I had created and landed safely beside the freeway traveled by all of those around me. For the first time, I noticed what ‘other people’ were doing while I was painting, teaching and raising three children. I looked at my life through the rear view mirror and came to a lurching halt. I saw, for the first time, what it meant to stop….not to slow down, but to stop.

I am not writing this post, in judgement of my choices in youth.  If one looks at the accomplishments of ‘the greats’, one knows that their achievements came to be through commitment, dedication and mostly, sacrifice.  It is no wonder that I spent most of my life seeking success, recognition, accomplishment, production, money. These are the false promises of the human construct.

I am listening to Chris Cornell’s album, Higher Truth, as I type.  I just listened with a new ear to the song, Dead Wishes. While it is not for me to question why, at the age of 52, he took his life, it is for me to explore what it is in this human heart…every heart…that aches, struggles and seeks to be MORE.

One blessing of my life was to sit down with my children and gather for Sunday dinner; another, to seek to communicate and connect. I was rich for the opportunity to see, write, learn and experience art, music and performance…for the opportunity to be still with nature, make observations through all of my senses.  Joy came with walking my dogs, Max-man and Laurie-dog before him.  It came with sitting in the church when it was quiet.  Gratitude came with writing a poem. Magic was to hold my mother’s hand when she slept, warm under her blankets, her Buddy-dog curled into the circle of her back.  Freedom was and continues to be to turn on my favourite music and to paint in my studio, in the same way that the other might dance, with no one watching…for me alone.  IS-NESS….articulated by a dear friend.

(of course, I came home and looked through my documentation of years gone by…the photographs, mere snapshots of times shared…so much wisdom and joy contained in the flashes of light)

I was hired on with Calgary Catholic School District #1 in 1979.  My experiences for the following nine years at Holy Cross Elementary/Junior High were life changing.  This is where I learned the value of the person, above program.  To nurture a love for reading, learning, creating and self ultimately leads to enthusiasm for content, practice and consistent attendance.  I was blessed when opportunities in my career, led to both St. John Fine Art’s School and the Fine Art’s Center (in two different locations).  There, I met some of the most amazing people…educators who fearlessly impacted the district with the truth of the matter…and that is that experiences of art, music, drama and dance teach the brain in new ways, enhance all learning and create well-rounded human beings, prepared for a world that requires problem solving and new ways of seeing!  I went on to take everything I had learned to that point and participated in the opening of Cardinal Newman, a school in the deep south.  There, I continued to work as an advocate for the fine arts and to dream that they would be honoured within the curriculum.

In the following photographs, I’ve captured just a very small sampling of those educators, my mentors and friends. As Alberta is deliberating about and writing new curricula, I’m pleased to recall that I participated in the implementation of the art and drama curricula all those years ago.  It was wonderful to meet up again, with friends, and to share some stories…to speak of life and art and books and Is-ness.  Thank you.

Feast: An Edible Roadtrip

Lindsay Anderson and Dana VanVeller are the co-creators of a recent and beautiful collection of insights, recipes and images, Feast: An Edible Roadtrip

I missed Mark’s birthday celebration last evening.  Happy birthday, Mark and I’m sorry I wasn’t there to share the brilliant conversations that are so typical of your backyard gatherings and the culinary treats that always seem to surface.

I registered some time ago for a session at the Alexander Calhoun branch of the Calgary Public Library, a book talk with Julie Van Rosendaal.  I was pretty pumped about the experience.  My friend, Pat, and I were very impressed with the beauty of the blooming Mayday Trees that edged the park-like grounds  of the Alexander Calhoun.  We were greeted at the door…a lovely touch.  Immediately, we were offered our choice of tea or coffee and a selection of cookies…one with its origins in Cape Breton and the other Grandma Woodall’s Oatmeal Marmalade Cookies.

I liked the idea that we were invited to share a memory of ‘Canadian’ food that we enjoyed from our childhood.  This brought to mind a dish prepared by my Great Grandmother (Mamie) in Summerside, PEI.  I decided that I would go on a search for that recipe so that I might prepare it.

Julie Van Rosendaal was not able to present…apologies were given…and very quickly, we were introduced to Julie’s replacement for the evening, Gwendolyn Richards, writer of Pucker: A Cookbook for Citrus Lovers.  She was fantastic…very much fun, spontaneous and capable.  A great presentation, interview and conversation ensued.  I am very excited, as a result, to have a whole list of new resources in my repertoire, as well as an interest in exploring recipes from across the country, beginning with a quest for a recipe for Acadian Rauper (my recollected title for the recipe based on family pronunciations), a comforting potato based treat that attendees, last evening, described as Rappie Pie.  (and based on the image on this particular link…it is obvious there are regional distinctions)  For my reader’s information, my Mamie’s recipe was spelled Rapture and pronounced raw-purr.

More on that later…

I enjoyed the fact that the session included places to purchase ingredients locally…ways to incorporate some of these ingredients…and a bit of the background on the FEAST source book.

Here are a few recommended titles and such…

Vegetarian Cooking for all by Deborah Madison

Spilling The Beans: Cooking And Baking With Beans Everyday by Julie Van Rosendaahl

THE FLAVOR BIBLE:
The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity,
Based on the Wisdom of America’s Most Imaginative Chefs

by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg
Photography by Barry Salzman

Looneyspoons :Low-Fat Food Made Fun! & Crazy Plates By Janet & Greta Podleski

Whitewater Cooks

Patent and Pantry, a blog by Gwendolyn Richards

A wonderful evening and another successful program.

What foods and recipes connect you with family memories?

On my paternal side, my Gramma Moors always put a huge Blade Roast in the morning and it cooked on very low all day long.  For a treat at the kitchen table, it was a simple matter of dipping white bread into molasses or sprinkling white sugar onto a slice of buttered bread.

My mother, having come from the Arsenault/Gallant lineage, prepared beautiful boiled dinners…whether that was with fish, corned beef or pork hocks.  She also made the most amazing clam chowder.  My daughter, Cayley, just prepared her first pot of clam chowder the other day. ;0)

This morning, while drinking my morning coffee, I fired off an e mail to my Auntie who lives in Quebec.  She makes large batches of our family dish to this day and responded very quickly with the recipe.  I’m going to try it.  I think it’s an important practice to share our family recipes with our children.  I hope that my kids will make this one with me.

Hi, nice to hear from you… yes I make it on a fairly regular basis for Paul, your lady was somewhat right. Yes it is quite a job, but so worth it for us.  As for recipe, it is kind of this and that.  That saying I do have an official recipe from Canadian Living magazine.   It is not what mom did, at least exactly.   For us and for you it depends on how many people you are feeding.  I made a lot of extra so Paul can take it home, he really loves it.   If you want send me your address and I will copy the official one to you too.

So here it goes.  I peel 30 pounds of potatoes
                              I cook about 3-5 pounds , when cooked I mash them.
                              This  is the long part, grate with a machine the rest of the raw ones.
                              Once done, squeeze as much of the starch juice out with your hands as possible 
                              Put in a container that you can easily mix after. Fairly large
                              For the meat we always use pork, I cut a large roast uncooked into small pieces.
                              Understand that I use a roast pork loin, a large one, can’t tell you the weight
                              Also you must use at least 4 cups of onions chopped in small pieces,  I grind them in my
                              Chopper.
                              Once this is all done, mix all ingredients together,  this is when the special touch comes 
                              into play.  Mix and mix and mix again.  Everything must be mixed evenly. 
                              
                              While you are doing this in the oven should be your pans with pork fat, to coat the pans
                              For the grease  like Pam.  I do this in the beginning of everything,  the oven is at 300° until I 
                              finish mixing. 
                              I put everything in the pans, and cook at 275 the first hour, then raise to 325 for at least 
                              another 2-3 hours.
                              Don’t  forget salt and pepper, more salt than pepper because the pepper taste is strong
                              for some reason
If you remember correctly,  this is a mushy kind of meal somewhat like a casserole.   As many say a little bland. Joan’s husband uses creamed corn, Ray uses ketchup,  but we Thompson eat it just as is.
This seems complicated,  but it just about feelings, I wish I could be there to show you, I love to carry this tradition for mom, 
Call me if you need more explanation…. I would be more than happy to help.
Should this be enough, let me know how it goes. By the way, I peel my potatoes the night before, put in cold water until the next day, also I cut my meat, put fat in one bowl,  and meat in another. This is the fat I use for my pans. I have a large black spotted spaghetti pot I use for my potatoes.  Something like what you would use for a corn roast.
Hope this is enough, thanks for wanting to carry on this tradition,  it’s  a good one.
Pat

Today’s Birds: May 13, 2017

I should be out gardening.  I am typically well ahead of the neighbours, but with owwies in the elbow this year, I’m lagging.  That doesn’t stop me from feeling fired up, however, as I listen to the sound of the neighbouring trimmers, lawnmowers and the stchhhh stchhhh of their sprinklers.

It’s pretty nice getting outside for long hikes, without the lawn work, I’ve got to say.

Here are today’s birds…all at Frank’s Flats.  I continue to hope that the pond on the other side of the chain link fence isn’t drained until the fledge happens.  We’ve a lot of nesting water birds at the moment.  We have one widowed Goose (female, I think), as well as a widowed Mallard (male).  They were hanging out together for quite a bit today. However, as I snapped a photograph, the Mallard flew out of frame.

No smiling at the pond these days!  If I smiled, I would eat my weight in bugs.  Must be the reason for the excitement on the water.  The gulls, laughing in a wild frenzy, are annoying the other birds.  The Yellow-headed Blackbirds seem to be pecking away in the huge batch of blooming dandelions.

IMG_5600

Giving me the Stare Down!

IMG_5613

Female Blackbird

IMG_5620

Female Blackbird

IMG_5632

Black Headed Gull

IMG_5633

More than a few…and Noisy!

IMG_5636

One of the Male Grebes Having a Float

IMG_5637

Overseeing his possibilities.

IMG_5646

Female Blackbirds checking out the Men. So many visible, while for weeks, the men were out there doing the soft shoe on the cat tails on their own.

IMG_5654

Cranky Pants

IMG_5659

Widowed Two Weeks Ago

IMG_5670

This must be my O’ Canada Photograph

IMG_5682

Looking Up

IMG_5686

Chain Link Fence and Wigeon

IMG_5687

Gadwells and Gull

IMG_5695

Savannah Sparrow

IMG_5710

Male Red-Winged Blackbird Giving a Shout

IMG_5700

One Photograph was edited today. Guess which one? (Not this one)

The Back of The Turtle by Thomas King

I still had 100 pages to read when I drove north to the Forest Lawn Branch of the Calgary Public Library to participate in a reading circle with Aboriginal Pride with 12CSI.  These meetings are aptly titled, Chapters and Chat Meetings and the book up for discussion on my birthday was The Back of The Turtle by Thomas King.

I poured myself a hot cup of coffee and filled my plate with fresh vegetables, fruit and dip and made myself comfortable in a circle of, this month, ten people.  I was pleased to meet up with friend, Roberta, a writer I recently connected with at a Jazz event.

Michelle Robinson The Back of The Turtle

Photo Credit: Michelle Robinson (group leader and inspiration)

The meetings are always full of discussion and they ground themselves in truth and honesty.  Every person’s voice is heard respectfully and I find this process very powerful and helpful in my quest to understand and respect diversity in every aspect of life in contemporary society.  Some of the discussions that took place, this week, included science and the silencing of scientists, reconciliation and healing and the ‘Stereotypes in Toeshoes’, and a follow-up discussion about Joseph Boyden; his writing, self-identification and the CPL session of a couple of weeks ago.  A very interesting exchange of ideas.

Yesterday, I finished the book, The Back of the Turtle, and thought I’d write a brief comment.  In the end, I’ve decided that this is a beautiful novel…an easy read…nothing too complex and yet, lovely, for its setting and its contemporary challenges to the reader.  The book moves easily back and forth between Dorian’s struggles as they unfold in the role of CEO for a BIG corporation and Gabriel’s struggles as they unfold for a ‘guilt-filled’ scientist in a formerly-idyllic and Eden-like setting named Samaritan Bay.  Even the turtles have gone.

Thomas King writes a novel that offers the reader inroads to a mythological place through a combination of Christian and indigenous narratives.  He warms the heart with such rich characters as Soldier and Sonny.  He describes an intricate and symbolic beacon of hope, eventually constructed on the beach.  It is a story of optimism, in the face of utter destruction.

I loved the very heart-breaking description of the mother turtle, the empty aquarium, the empty houses…

I liked the story of The Woman Who Fell from the Sky.  Donna Rosenberg has recorded anthologies of myths from all over the world.  Very little is published about her biographically.  I wanted to link up to a version of this myth so that my readers might enjoy.

I liked the book.

For next month, we are reading The Inconvenient Indian by the same author.

The Back of the Turtle

Today’s Birds: May 10, 2017

I took my camera to my birthday brunch, thinking I would snap some family photographs, but once there, I didn’t really think about taking photographs.  So, for today’s post, I won’t have any accompanying images.  Well, I can share this one.

IMG_20170507_122845

Today’s a good day.

Instead of going to Frank’s Flats, this morning, I decided to take Max over to Sikome Lake and check on the status of the female goose on the Osprey Platform.

She finally broke her brooding silence and was honking away and very active on her nest, after about four weeks of stoic waiting.  This could only mean one thing.  And, sure enough, before leaving, I witnessed the tiny bobbing heads of some of her offspring.  As a result, my own motherly defenses surfaced and I got on the phone as soon as I got home, feeling very powerless and somehow, invested.

First, the Fish Creek Park Conservation Officer (didn’t get his name) returned my call and answered all of my questions, patiently, but also, firmly.  I felt huge confidence after he made two things clear to me, 1. it is a criminal offence to mess with nesting birds or wildlife under Provincial jurisdiction and 2. Mother Goose is doing what is natural to her, or she wouldn’t be there.   So, after saying good-bye, I decided that I was going to let go of my fears and upset over the potential loss of life and to accept that all is happening as it was/is meant to be.

Second to this interaction, I received a lovely and informative letter via e mail from Alison Anaka, the Environmental Specialist for Enmax, the company that is responsible for the maintenance and establishment of almost twenty platforms around the city. Alison has given me permission to share her information with my readers…communication that might be appreciated by my friends living, here, in the deep south.