The Season

Those readers who know me, know that for almost two months, I’ve been sequestered to the family room with Max, my border collie.  He’s been struggling, but at the moment, seems to have rallied after being put on a regime of medications that are helping him with the anxiety of pain and now, even tackling the inflammation.  In the meantime, we sleep here….together.  Thanks to those who have supported me.  For now, Max is making it up and down stairs, able to look out the window from his red sofa and is doing a walk around our urban circle each day.

There have been a number of events that have marked this season for me.  I’m just going to go through and gather from photos in my archives and stick them in here…I’m going to keep the writing brief.  This year, the darkness has really impacted me and I like that neighbours have strung up outdoor lights on their houses so early.  Christmas lights seem to dispel that cold and isolating feeling that might come with the darkness of winter.

Before I post the first photo,  I’d like to say that early in December, I ordered my gifts on line for the first time.  In the last week, I’ve received word that of all these, 100%, are delayed.  It’s 5 in the morning on a holiday Monday and I’m sitting here laughing about this.  Max is sound asleep on our wee cot, just behind me.

Steven and me after his very first daycare Christmas concert.  A brief video is posted below.

My Auntie Eleanor with a portrait I painted of her for her 90th birthday.  I love her so.

Daily walks at the Bow River fill me with a peacefulness.  I like to watch and learn from the various species that share this time with me.  I post a lot of those observations, here.

I did sponge printmaking with my grandson.  He’s made home made gifts for everyone this year.

Already, the male sparrow has taken up residence in the neighbour’s vent.  I will enjoy another springtime of observations…my sixth year of watching these families come and go.

Pat and I went to the Marda Loop Justice Film Festival again this year, this time being joined by Janet and Mary.  It was an inspiring experience.  I really learn so much when I attend this festival.  Thanks to all organizers.

When Wendy hosts a dinner party, the food is sooo scrumptious.  Happy birthday, Lauraine!!  Love the food, the conversation and all of the laughter.  Thank you, friends!

We attended the Bragg Creek artisan’s sale and I picked up my beautiful honey from Alvise and Paola.  Christmas wouldn’t be the same without seeing them.  A quick stop at the coffee shop to hug Randy and Jane…an ice cream.  Nanny Linda, it was so good to share this time with you.

A back yard snowman with Steven, Erin and Linda.  Fun in the snow!

I was able to paint Prince for my dear friend, Linda.  I’m pretty sad that she’ll be on her way back to London very soon.  I treasure her and I’m going to miss her very much.

Few people know that I’m deep in the application process for the Alberta University of the Arts BFA program.  The day that my sister, Val, contacted me that she had achieved her PhD, I was inspired to take this step, regardless the cost or the struggles that might come up.  In 1997, I took a sabbatical year to complete my third year of my BFA.  That’s when I met Bobby.  I’ve always been labeled a self-taught artist and I’ve really wanted to pursue my dream of actually ‘being’ an artist.  At this ripe age, it might be silly, but ‘OH WELL’.  When I went to the open house and orientation to the program, I stopped in to the Illingworth Kerr gallery and really enjoyed the exhibit, Thing to Wear.

Daughter, Cayley, and I were able to celebrate with Irene for her 70th birthday.  What a gorgeous setting at the Ruberto Ostberg Gallery.  Thank you, Phil, for the invite and your always-warm-hospitality.  We love you so much.

Linda and I went down to the Central Library to enjoy the exhibit of friend, Allan Rosales.  At this point in the season, I was beginning to feel unstuck.  I was beginning to feel lighter and like my feet were coming unglued from a deep muddy mire of grief.  It isn’t as though the losses of the past year were gone…it’s just that the grief was letting go of me and letting me stretch back into my life.  Good to bump into my cherished friend, Wendy.

My former student, Billy, asked if I would paint a tree on a headboard that he was creating and I was happy to do it for a few beautiful bottles of red wine.  I was spending my days with Max anyway.  These sorts of projects became opportunities.  I would see Billy again…a pleasure.


I reconnected with Joan.  My friend, Sheila, should be given credit for this because no matter how many years slip by, she has remained a friend over all.  I’m so grateful.  My heart is now open to share lunch with Joan on Fridays for as long as I can.  On a recent visit, Joan and I shared her books-to-read titles, stopping every so often to leaf through pages and talk about the subjects of these books.  Joan is such an influence on me.  Over the years she has given me so much in the way of ideas.  I love you, Joan.

My parish is my community of faith.  I love St. Albert the Great.  I love the narrative we share and the rituals of love, hope and peace.  I have found strength in this space over many years.  I’m grateful for this manger…and for the pure potential that I find in this space.

My cousin, Peter, took me out for a lunch to Earl’s restaurant.  I was so happy to get to do something so special.  I just don’t get out to dine.  It was fun.  Peter is one of my dearest cousins, always supporting and loving me.  No photo of him here, but, our server was a former student of mine, Nicole, so we grabbed this snap.

Pat and I never did catch up to these guys…but we were all at the Holiday Train’s arrival at Anderson’s station.  I left my phone at home, so no photos for me this year.  But, that was perfectly fine because we were really swept up in the experience.  Here, Erin, Doug and Steven, with the Holiday Train in the background.  A great initiative for the food banks across Canada.

All three of my children were with me to decorate my tree this year…along with Steven and Linda.  This means so much to me.  I know that at some point all three of them will have families and traditions of their own and won’t be able to do this.  But, this year it worked out and I’m always going to remember it.  I am grateful for you, Erin, Cayley and James.

I’m going to miss you, sister-friend!  Thanks, Linda, for coming downtown with me for the Sybil Andrews exhibit.

Extraordinary Objects.  I was boggled by this porcelain work!

Thanks to Trevor for helping me to deal with this leak.  I’m so sorry that I missed Mark’s birthday, but I was so relieved to get this managed.  I had my own frozen Niagara Falls escaping the outdoor faucet.  Crisis averted.

Dawn asked me to paint poppies for her Mom’s 80th birthday, so this happened.  I taught Dawn’s son, Justin, and beautiful daughter, Jess.  I will always be connected to this family.  May you have a magical year!

Then I made Party Mix…lots of it! lol

I was welcomed into the Saint John Henry Newman circle and did some teaching before the Christmas break.  I was so excited to connect with Hollee, another former student of mine.  I snapped a few photographs of her grade six classroom because I felt so proud of her and so excited.  We embraced often.  We both have so many fond memories of those years in Junior High School.  Thanks so much, Louise and Carl and to Lorelie.

My neighbourhood is lit up!

My daughter and her partner and their two bands, Darktime and Napalmpom, participated in Merry Keithmas at the Palomino, to raise funds for Calgary Food Bank.  I had a very fun time seeing Cayley performing Stones tunes.

I drove to Didsbury to share in the annual Christmas open house organized by University-friend, Brian.  Juan and Brian, this year’s event was another very special time.  Glad to have connected with so many wonderful people.  Your home is warm and welcoming and so absolutely spectacular!  The food, (pickled sausage, lettuce wraps, pulled pork, etc etc) was so delicious!  Thank you from the bottom of my heart.  May you be richly blessed for the coming year.

Christmas baking, this year, was a major blitz.  It was a full day of chaos.  But, I can not tell you how wonderful it was to share time with these ladies.  Visits came in the form of nephew, John, toting coffee for people and treats for Max.  Thank you, John!  I love you!  Following that, we all shared in a very special Facetime event with my brother, Cliff, during lunch.  These two visits pretty much made my Christmas already!

The bell that friend, Pat, gave to Steven.  I love these two and I’m grateful that they come to Mass with me.

Winter walks at the Bow River are peaceful and help to recharge me.  I’m grateful for all of the lessons that the river teaches me.

Mikey’s on 12th, with friends Dan, Lauraine and Wendy…treasured time and terrific tacos!

 

I’m wishing all of you and your loved ones Peace on Earth….and Good Will to All!  Rest up…there are sure to be bumps along the way.

 

November Paint

One of the components of the Alberta Elementary Art Curriculum is Expression.  Here lies the opportunity for students to explore media, personal narratives and ‘let ‘er loose’.  While I typically embed reflection and depiction in my lessons, as well as inherently guide the students to compose well (all of the strands are connected), sometimes I focus more on the act of painting or sculpting or learning what media can do.  Seasonal celebrations lend themselves well to Expression.  Those educators who lean heavily on Pinterest for their ‘art ideas’ need to remember that these are, for the most part, Expression lessons and often of the variety that focuses on the ‘how to’ rather on the child’s personal interpretation of their internal narrative. We need to be wary of the ‘paper cut out’ approach for the sake of a ‘pretty display’. I think it’s essential the ‘art idea’ bank be balanced with more unpredictable outcomes and never sacrifice the experiences that come with Reflection, Depiction and Composition.

This month the students in my care, painted.  The use of the brush continues to be a skill to be reckoned with.  Turning the brush sideways for thin marks and flat for wider marks, another technique to practice.  Dry brush and wet brush effects can be observed and discussed.

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Creating candlelight separately, to be cut out and glued to the candle after drying…one idea…in the case that you have short bits of time for painting, instead of a sustained period of time.

The resulting collages, including a wreath of evergreen that has been created using green on green, studies in pattern.  In this case a second candle will be added on the second week of Advent (taller), a Gaudete candle on the third week (taller still and pink in colour) and the fourth candle, the last week, leading to Christmas.

Fully painted Advent Wreaths, horizontally on large paper.  Concept in composition was overlapping…we did a few exercises with our bodies before beginning this…talked a little about perception.  Notice North, South, East and West marked at the compass points of the picture plane.  These dots give the students reminders to stretch their images to touch each of those edges.  Chalk allows the students to explore placement, change their minds and plan and scheme.  Pencil is debilitating at this age.  Erasers become appendages.  lol  Just get rid of both.  White chalk rocks!

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Smaller format…still, on coloured construction for an activated picture plane.  Later, to have the candle flames whitened with chalk or white oil pastel…I would suggest that these smaller compositions might have oil pastel underlines or embellishments added after dry.

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A Fruitcake Tradition

Why fruitcake?  A lot of people don’t even like the stuff…

To be honest, last evening, after cutting cherries (green and red) in half, following a really different and physical day, I was suffering a bit of a martyr complex that can sometimes hit women if they do too much in preparation for the Advent season and Christmas.  I say ‘women’ simply because my observations tell me that women value the traditions  and rituals of the kitchen and appear to do a lot of preparation for holiday seasons.  (I also know a gentleman who prepares hundreds of perogies, in the tradition of his mother, prior to Christmas…so, I’m not meaning to make this a story about who-does-what.)

In my family of origin, my mother did a lot of work in the kitchen and sat many hours, sewing our clothing at her sewing machine.  My father participated…for example, he told me that he remembered cutting the cherries in half. (news to me…and as a result, this is the first year that I cut them in half)   The reason for starting this blog post.

I set my alarm for 6:30 this morning.  I decided before I went to bed that I would get up early, mix up the batter and fruit and put it all together to rest in order to bake it this evening.  (I’ve got lots I want to do today).  Well, it turns out that I woke at 4:00 in the morning.  Wide awake.  I made a decision to rise and SHINE…shine, being the operative word.

I put the coffee on and let Max out in the back yard to pee.

I looked up Gordon Lightfoot on Spotify, after listening to one short album of The Tallest Man On Earth.  For some reason, I woke with the lyrics of Wherefore and Why on my mind.  I made a choice to enter into the fruitcake prep with happiness and with a sense of nostalgia.

Some things came to mind as I worked and I wanted to write them down before I get on with the day.

First of all, the smells of Christmas are really important.  Allspice. Molasses. Cinnamon. Nutmeg. Mixed Peel…evergreen…mincemeat.

I remembered my family while making fruitcake.  My grandparents.  My parents.  My brothers and sister.  And through the last many years…my children.

When I opened the small carton of molasses, I remembered my Gramma Moors.  A dessert treat would be to soak up molasses with a piece of white bread.  I remember her doing this while sitting at her small kitchen table.  The table was covered with a piece of floral vinyl.  I remember her soft yellow bath robe.  I remember that her feet didn’t really touch the floor when she sat at that table.  I miss my Gramma.

My kitchen is small, by today’s standards.  I realize this.  But, I have no desire for a larger kitchen.  My dishwasher hasn’t worked for almost two years.  I wash my dishes by hand. But, as I worked in my kitchen this morning, I remembered the kitchens where my mother toiled to make turkey dinners and dozens of butter tarts and fruitcakes and, for the most part, they were small kitchens.  I liked the intimacy, this morning, of my kitchen.  I enjoyed the idea that this kitchen is in a home that I have made, along with my children, all on our own.

I haven’t got a hankering to purchase or use mandolines or food processors of any kind.  I use a knife, a glass lemon squeezer, a grater…those sorts of tools.  In our family fruitcake recipe, for a single batch, we require one lemon and one orange; zest and juice.  As I squeezed these this morning, I remembered my mother’s knuckles…her hands…doing their work at the kitchen counter.  The image was as clear as day.  She pressed so hard that I remember her knuckles being red.  Every last drop of juice was won by her efforts.

Having no bowl large enough in my kitchen, I used my roasting pan and combined ingredients there.  Mom and Dad used their turkey roaster, also.  I remembered the large batch of batter resting in the family roaster.

I had a beautiful start to my day, preparing our family fruitcake recipe.  Thanks to Dad for sending me grocery money, I will be baking these up tonight, wrapping them up with the help of my girls tomorrow evening and posting them to my family, for the holiday.  Even if my brothers and sister just open the wrap and take in the smell of brandy and fruitcake, it will be enough…to remember our shared Christmases, our history and our Mom.

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When I woke this mornin’, something inside of me told me this would be my day
I heard the morning train, I felt the wind change, too many times I’m on my way
Come on sunshine, what can you show me
Where can you take me to make me understand
The wind can shake me, brothers forsake me
The rain can touch me, but can I touch the rain

And then I saw the sunrise above the cotton sky like a candycane delight
I saw the milkman, I saw the business man, I saw the only road in sight
Then I got to thinkin’ what makes you want to go, to know the wherefore and the why

So many times now, oh lord I can’t remember if it’s september or july

Then all at once it came to me, I saw the wherefore, and you can see it if you try
It’s in the sun above, it’s in the one you love, you’ll never know the reason why

Come on sunshine, what can you show me
Where can you take me to make me understand
The wind can shake me, brothers forsake me
The rain can touch me, but can I touch the rain
So much to lose, so much to gain

Winter Solstice

We move from the longest night…into the light.  You can only imagine what these days and nights must have felt like for people without power…generators.  You can imagine their singing of songs to comfort one another…the lighting of fire…a candle.  What light must have represented at the time and still does!

What does the ribbon bind? Hope, Faith, Joy, Love

What does the ribbon bind? Hope, Faith, Joy, Love

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The Green Man

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Light

I lit the three candles on the Advent wreath this morning, while I made my coffee.  I also played a Mennonite tune that my father had sent to me via Youtube…and I felt so warmed by the love and the light, that I just sat down on one of my yellow chairs and prayed.  I am grateful.

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Gaudete Sunday: Light the Advent Candle Three

Pink! Joy! Hope!  Out of the pain, suffering, challenge of every day life…out of all of the faults of humanity…I find hope and wish for peace for all!

This, from catholicculture.org

“Rejoice: the Lord is nigh.” As Christmas draws near, the Church emphasizes the joy which should be in our hearts over all that the birth of our Savior means for us. The great joy of Christians is to see the day drawing nigh when the Lord will come again in His glory to lead them into His kingdom. The oft-repeated Veni (“Come”) of Advent is an echo not only of the prophets but also of the conclusion of the Apocalypse of St. John: “Come, Lord Jesus,” the last words of the New Testament.

Today is known as Gaudete Sunday. The term Gaudete refers to the first word of the Entrance Antiphon, “Rejoice”. Rose vestments are worn to emphasize our joy that Christmas is near, and we also light the rose candle on our Advent wreath.

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Light the Advent Candle Two

Hmmm…don’t know where this archive got away from me!

On Saturday night…the night before the second Sunday of Advent, I went out to the tree lot that is always set up at this time of year, next to the Soby’s store.  It was a blustery night.  I like going to the same place every year.  The guy has a trailer…and a heater…and he always chats with me about the trees and he cuts slivers of discarded tree ends for me to take home and put in a basket on the table.  The smell of those wee bits of wood is heavenly.

So, I hauled the tree home and set it up on my own…and invited the children to come home for Sunday dinner…ribs and baked potatoes and corn…and for the tree decorating.  We even managed to get the cranberries on the tree this year.  It was a blessing-night with my girls, but sadly my son wasn’t home this year and so it just wasn’t the same.

It is a marvelous thing to see the dazzle of a lit Christmas tree in the evening.  As I look at the variety of coloured outdoor lights that have recently appeared, I think that it all makes perfect sense that we make the effort to bring light into the darkness during this season.

SECOND READING
Philippians 1:4–6, 8–11

Brothers and sisters:
I pray always with joy in my every prayer for all of you, because of your partnership for the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus. God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
And this is my prayer:
that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.

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Al Gerritsen Nativity

In the autumn, I wrote a wee bit about having opportunity to visit Al Gerritsen’s workshop.  At that time, I purchased my indoor nativity figures, sculpture that I will display and  treasure every year during Advent.  Last week I set them out on the family room book shelf, placed carefully on two meters of violet satin.

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During the same week, a couple of ‘angels’ offered an outdoor nativity scene, fashioned by the same artist…for anyone willing to transport it on their own.  I received the information on this through two of my dearest angels, Pat and Mary.  Generously, my son agreed to come with me across the city, to pick it up.  With Fred’s advise and piece of rope, we soon had the wooden figures stabilized in the bulging van.  It had felt to be an epic journey, both ways, because it  took place during rush hour traffic and on an unfamiliar route.  Thanks to the patience of my son, we unloaded the creche figures next to the studio some time near seven thirty.

Today, my neighbour, Len, came over and we set the nativity up in close proximity to the tree and the bird feeder.  It was a very enjoyable time, sorting out the pieces and making certain that the elements were secure.  When I came home from the off leash park, I found that Len had repaired the electrical cord and updated the lights that are mounted above Mary, Joseph and the little child, Jesus.  I’m looking forward to seeing the piece tonight, when all is dark.

I am in gratitude of Al Gerritsen for these pieces that already have a history, having been painted in 1994, and for the people who helped me to access them.  It gives me pleasure to display such a powerful nativity here on our neighbourhood circle.

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Light the Advent Candle One

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Prepare Ye the Way!

It is a very sentimental thing to step into the church and see the beautiful decorations each Advent season.  I moved into my place in the sixth row, next to Joanne, and felt so at home…surrounded by love and good people.

This year, I have set up my own nativity figures at home, carved by Al Gerritsen.  I had dreamed to own a set hand carved by this humble and gifted artist for so many years and because of interesting circumstances, this is the year it happened.  It was awesome to spend time with Al in his studio.  He was busy, at the time, staining another project and the entire shop was filled with that magical aroma of wood.  Before placing the creche figures, I pulled a piece of violet satin and netting over the book shelf.  The wreath is set out on the feast table and now it is time to wrap the fruit cakes for the post!

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Winter on the Back Deck: Looking at the Stars

Sippin' Wine and Chillin'

This evening reminded me of winter-camping in Waterton during my years attending university.  It is an amazing thing when wine stays chilled as you’re looking at the stars.  By the way, I have identified four of the seven planets…but need to get my telescope out tomorrow night to see the other three.  The sky has been so clear, it’s absolutely stunning! 

I remember one night like this in Waterton, hiking in to a lake’s edge.  It got so very dark in the mountains and the sun set early, but the fire threw magical light and created shadows on everything!  It was much like tonight, not particularly cold, but enough so that the wine stayed chilled and the noses and cheeks felt a bite.  Curling into sleeping bags, everything was cozy for a good night’s sleep.  But, as is typical of the mountains, there was no less than a foot of snow dumped on everything come the morning, on this particular day.

I was thinking about light, as I sat on the deck benches tonight…the softness of it…how it reveals so much in the literal sense, but also metaphorically.  I can’t help but think, now that Bing Crosby is crooning and I am warm as toast, about that star that the shepherds saw and what all of that meant.  Here I am in 2011, gazing at the same night sky.  I feel blessed.  The cat purrs in the circle of my arms as I type and I think about going to the kitchen to bake a sweet treat and eat cheese and crackers.

Max after a good exercise event...snow-gazing.

What are we doing out here?