Cleaning Up the Desk Top Computer

I think I was looking for my photograph archives from a trip I took with my son, the summer of 2009, when I came upon some images from the end of the teaching year and celebrations with my students; specifically, my grade nine art students, our life sized sculpture exhibit and my grade seven home room.

It was that year that I invited my students to bring in a special object for our prayer table…so, every Monday, it would be the next person’s turn.  It started with me…and a stone. Jarrett Alley, a former student of mine, had passed away in 1997 at the age of 13. His place in the classroom was two rows back, but directly across from the framed article that remained, for all of my teaching years, a tribute to his life.

I think I always intended to copy and pass on a photo to each student at the end of that year, but evidently that never happened!

I’m going to loop the photographs here.  My students, of over thirty years of teaching, remain in my heart.

For the most part, I am out of touch with these students, so if my readers know any of them, please share.

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Equinox Vigil 2015: Union Cemetery

This was the first time that I attended the Equinox Vigil.  I was primarily motivated because it was a lovely evening for weather.  For the first days, leaves were dancing down the street…a slight wind, warm sun, blue sky dappled in cloud, cool air.  It was a perfect autumn evening.  The fall equinox falls on Wednesday of this coming week.

I thought that I would bring to the non-denominational event, thoughts and prayers for my dearly departed Mom and my family.  I would open up to a reflective and prayerful evening in the Union Cemetery.  The evening opened with a beautiful sky and dance.  This piece, Rico. Michael was a piece created with Calgary’s departed, Michael Green, at heart.

Kath's Canon, September 19, 2015 001 Kath's Canon, September 19, 2015 004 Kath's Canon, September 19, 2015 008Various musicians were present to the event…first and throughout the evening, Simon Fisk and Robin Tufts.  Their music was both haunting and spirit-charged.  Absolutely beautiful.  I stood in the dark at one point and just listened and was moved because of this powerful setting.Kath's Canon, September 19, 2015 018 Kath's Canon, September 19, 2015 019I wrote Mom’s name on one of the Memorial Lanterns, lanterns that would be processed twice throughout the evening…light in a dark place.  This ritual felt a lot like writing Mom’s name into the Book of Remembrance at my parish church.  Each year, when the Book of Remembrance is placed for all to see,  I pray for her peace and our peace…those left behind and missing her.

Kath's Canon, September 19, 2015 020 Kath's Canon, September 19, 2015 022Kath's Canon, September 19, 2015 023 While I oriented myself to the setting and the event, I missed a couple of events that I had hoped to enjoy…one, the Quickdraw Animation film screen, a tribute to Chris Reimer, ‘Dude, That’s Insane’…

and Kris Demeanor, poet and musician.Kath's Canon, September 19, 2015 026Kath's Canon, September 19, 2015 028 Kath's Canon, September 19, 2015 030At the top of the hill, at the M Horseshoe of the Union Cemetery Rayne-Anne Latchford illuminated lives, by sharing with us, a number of stories of personalities who lived in Calgary, but who passed and are now laying, for the most part, in unmarked graves.  She has a passion for history and for the narratives of people.  She also spoke beautifully about how ‘now’ is the time to share stories with one another and to connect with our families.  It is the stories that will remain.

Kath's Canon, September 19, 2015 031 Kath's Canon, September 19, 2015 033I could listen to historian, Harold Sanders for hours.  Thank you, for sharing with us history of Calgary’s cemeteries and letting us know just how much we can learn from the people who are resting in our midst.  I hope to have opportunity to return to Union Cemetery in the light of day and make some discoveries on my own. Kath's Canon, September 19, 2015 037Being surrounded by music for the evening added to the atmosphere of the sacred.  Thank you to the Calgary Renaissance Singers & Players for their beautiful sound.

Kath's Canon, September 19, 2015 039 Kath's Canon, September 19, 2015 043Kath's Canon, September 19, 2015 047 Kath's Canon, September 19, 2015 051Beautiful installations were sprinkled throughout the Cemetery pathways…this one, the Breath of Life Memorial by Eveline Kolijn.

As it became dark, I settled in with a hot cup of spiced tea and chatted with friends.  It was good to see you Michelena, Billy, Jenn, Bev, Bill, Steve, Don and friends and Dale.  Walking alone, down the hill, the sky appeared lighter than the ancient evergreens that flanked me.  I looked up and gave thanks to my ancestors.  I also prayed for the many students who have passed away since teaching them…for my daughter’s and son’s friends who have passed…for my relations, most recently, my Auntie Margaret and my Uncle Bob.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.
May they rest in peace.

Amen.

Leah Came to My Door

Early this morning…over my first cup of coffee, I posted this.  I think this. I live this. I shared this.  I didn’t think it was anything out of the ordinary…but now I do.

AncestorsI had a preparation period very first thing, after a long weekend and after walking my Grade threes down to the gymnasium.  WHOOT!  What a way to begin the week.

The work and busyness of marking, planning and hanging up last week’s giants began.  I was hard at it, with head down when I looked up at the door.  There stood Leah.

I met Leah on my birthday, 2015.  I had turned 60.  My mother was missed.  I hadn’t had a chance to speak with my sister.  I was, on that day, filled with thoughts of mothering, sistering, womaning and just feeling connected to sister-friends, in general.  Meeting Leah, such a spectacular creative, was really important.  She was such a gentle and soulful presenter of the process of needle felting, with my students and I listened intently to her engaging presentation because I know, for fact, that I want to try this.  Once we had even a few moments to chat, I learned that one of her favourite places to visit and to collect supplies is north on the highway to Carstair’s Custom Woolen Mills.

I had the shear joy of sharing with her that much of the equipment in the mill was equipment that my grandfather, John Moors, used and maintained over his career in Magrath, Alberta.

John Moors Woolen Mill Magrath, Alberta

As an aside, I told her that I’ve been on the look out for almost twenty years for a blanket from that mill.  Once, a dear friend, living in Grand Prairie at the time, gave a special gift to me and that was the corner of her wool blanket.  She realized that it was from the Magrath mill…but I guess, was unwilling to part with the cozy blanket and wrapped up the label in a Christmas card just for me.

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Now…don’t get me wrong…I DO appreciate that gesture, but as I explained to Leah…I would dearly treasure a Golden Fleece wool blanket.  She said, “Kath…leave that with me…I’ll keep my eye out for one.”  I took pause, thinking to myself, “Hmmm…this lady doesn’t know how hard I’ve looked.  I don’t think she’ll ever have any luck.”  But…as we do, we believe in the kind gestures of others and Leah DID seem sincere.

Well…you know what’s next.

Leah left the doorway and stepped up to me with a reusable bag in hand…saying as she stepped before me, “You remember that I told you I would keep my eyes open…”

I looked into the bag…and this treasure…this object of my dearest affection, was there.  I saw a green wool blanket…the most beautiful colour with its Golden Fleece, Magrath, Alberta label.  I pulled myself into the embrace of this beautiful woman and fell to tears.  Unbelieving…filled with joy…remembering my grandfather, amazing John Moors.  I knew that, for fact, my grandfather had remembered me.  Our ancestors and their love is unstoppable and endless.  It is important to keep eyes wide.

We chatted for a while.  I remembered the smell of the mill.  Leah said that she knew that moist wool smell from Carstairs.  Wool connected us.  She just kept nodding.

The paraphrased story from Leah…”The night before your classes to be taught on May 8, I was cutting up my woolen blankets in preparation.  These would be used for the students’ needle felting.  I came up to this blanket (having not met you) and decided that it was just a beautiful woolen blanket.  It even has a tiny piece of red wool woven into it.  I asked my son if he might like a nice blanket for his car and he accepted.  And then I met you.

I went home from the workshop and thought that I had recently seen the Magrath label somewhere.  Sure enough, when I checked the green blanket, there it was.  It was meant for you.”

I took a contract at this school…

I ended up with this amazing collection of grade threes…

The workshops for MOTHER’S DAY had been set and dated during the month of September…

The workshop would be needle felting and the instructor, Leah C. Donald…

I had been asked because of booking error, would I be willing to take Friday morning…

Without hesitation and regardless of missing a prep, and focus time in Math and Language Arts, I said…YES!

I met Leah who loves wool…almost as much as I do.

And….the rest is magic.  And the rest…is history.

Thank you, Leah, for being a channel of ancestral love.  Thank you for the red thread and for the woolen blanket.  It will be wrapped around me on my red sofa tonight.

I have found a tremendous friend in you.

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Leah Donald…contact her via ArtFelt Studio.  Book now, teacher friends, for next year!

This morning, I lit a candle.

The day has been filled with Christmas light.

DSC_1791I got up early this morning…Max and I did a before-the-sun-came-up walk.  On the circle, Christmas lights on houses and in trees still dazzled the snow-sprinkled morning.  A cold bite to the air, I pulled my hood up and we made our way into day, leaving our footprints behind, the first in fresh snow.

The magic continued.  As is usual, it was possible to hear one good classical tune on CKUA on my drive to the church, where upon my entrance, I was greeted by the familiar voices and smiles of old friends.  After a short morning prayer, I decided to light a candle.  It is the feast day of the Holy Family and I couldn’t stop thinking about my family…Dad, Mom…my brothers and sister and my children.  Mom would have me light that candle and say a prayer and acknowledge, with gratitude, the blessings of this season and my life, and so I did.

Social media enjoys its fair share of cynicism about God, Jesus and ‘religion’.  While somewhat accepting of ‘spirituality’ and spewing a constant blast of Rumi quotes, many people generally dismiss the power of belief and embrace the power of ‘I’, ‘me’, ‘now’, ‘manifestation’, ‘selfie’, and ‘self-gratification’ instead.  I’m not here to knock all of that and all of them, but I’m here to proclaim just how powerful faith is for me.  I felt as though when I lit that candle, a tidal wave of love spilled over me.  I experienced ‘God-be-with-you’ in the truest sense.  I am grateful for the grace and power of the divine within me.

I’m a big one for family history, studying my maternal and paternal lineages intensely for the past five years. The Liturgy of the Word was filled with family history today…stories of hope and amazement.

The Mass was filled with blessings of every kind. Deacon Greg shared a heartfelt homily that touched me deeply.  Sometimes personal narratives just have a way of reaching into the soul and healing something.  Greg’s stories of faith, family, struggle and joy were so meaningful and so relevant.  I cherish my family deeply and I’m so grateful for their love and support always.  Each member of my family, whether they be in Lethbridge, Raymond, Magrath, Ottawa, Halifax, Comox or Calgary, is light to me.

During Offertory, we sang the Little Drummer Boy.  Today’s version, with some percussion, sent chills up my spine because I felt as though Mom was sitting right beside me.  This carol was always her favourite and my spirit lit up at the first tap of the drum.

Three baptisms…Isaac, Ethan and Noelle.  What’s not to absolutely love about baptisms?  The children from the congregation gathered, wearing their new Christmas outfits, excited to celebrate in the welcoming of three new infants into our community.  Ethan and Noelle appeared to be twins, looking so fragile and sleeping so soundly.  Father Cristino gently blessed their small round heads with water and there was barely a peep from either of the wee angels.  Isaac was fully immersed and his back stiffened at contact with the water, when all at the same time, he let out a cry.  Wrapped up in a cozy blanket, Daddy held him close and he was quickly consoled.  The congregation was invited to applaud our welcome and our excitement for this beautiful event.  That small candle continued to light up my heart.

The Consecration at the celebration of the Holy Eucharist left me gobsmacked.  My readers might have to look up the term in their urban dictionaries.  I just could not find a term that would suit this moment better.  Gobsmacked, it is!

This day has been a very special day for me because of its beginning.  The snow continues to flutter gently to the ground.  My daughter came by and shared a meal of beef barley soup.  We snuggled.  Max played whizzo outside and flew through the snow…again.  The light has long since left the sky.  The Christmas tree lights are once again plugged in.  While the sky is very dark, it feels as though I am lit up.  I am grateful.  I am happy.

 

Greatness

A blog format isn’t necessarily conducive to writing on the subjects I currently need to write about.  Over coffee this morning, I quickly finished up the last two remaining posts about my recent experience on the Love Art in Calgary art tour. At 11:00 I was walking a prayer around the pond with Max.  And, yes, you read that correctly.

Before the hike, I sought out my father on Skype because I was feeling fragile.  Dad is giving me everything I need to journey my grief, everything that is, apart from what I am giving myself…and what God is giving me.  In short, Dad wasn’t available.  I went to the kitchen and ate an apricot square (I should have greased my pan, or as Dad later suggested, used parchment paper on the bottom of the pan) before making an exit.

At 11:00 the funeral Mass was beginning for a dear friend in Lethbridge and I was at a loss as to why I wasn’t there.  I’ve sat with that feeling all day long.  And just now, sitting here, I’m no closer to the answer.  The wind was a cold one from the north and on the south side of the pond, I couldn’t forge through the drift that, over the last few days, had accumulated.  So, I did an about face and headed back the way I had come.  That put me into the wind…and the cold lashing made my nose run and my eyes tear and then I was able to cry.

I seem to be losing women of greatness…women of tremendous influence…women who have inspired me and made me who I am.  And this is a difficult thing.  Because women of greatness have passed, the bones of my own mortality are being shaken and I am feeling an urgency about almost everything and that urgency sometimes exhausts me.

Last night, with remembrance of having done this alongside Gunda, I made a huge batch of cabbage rolls.  I am here alone, but I made enough for ten.  She would smile at this, I’m sure.

Cabbage Rolls and Apricot Squares

Cabbage Rolls and Apricot Squares

I know.  Like everyone else, I also say, “You never really lose someone you love.”

But, for the sake of this writing, I need to say it. I considered titling this post, Losing Gunda.  It feels as though we’ve lost her.

The truth is, I haven’t seen Gunda for the longest time.  The last time I saw her, she smiled and her eyes smiled, but she said very little.  I sent her Christmas cards.  That was the sum total of it, in the physical sense…oh, but in the spiritual sense, it was something completely different.

I think one of the most surprising blessings of my life, apart from having my children, was the moment I decided to be confirmed in my church.  Gunda inspired my faith every step of the way.  I sometimes sat on a stool in front of her…she would grasp my hands in hers…and we would talk.  She had such devotion and her devotion wrapped itself around me and never left.  So many times along the way of my life, I referred back to the wisdom that she shared with me and treasured the impact that she had on my life.  Gunda has always remained with me.

GundaI am sad today that the world has lost her beauty and her light, but I am confident in the promises of Jesus.  I will not forget her laughter.  I will not forget her raised eye brows when she was in doubt or questioning.  I will not forget how much she loved her beautiful family and her husband.  Thank you, Gunda, for connecting some of life’s dots for me.  I will continue to carry you in my heart for always.

Eternal rest grant unto Gunda, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Walking While an Eagle Flies Overhead

A friend shared something earlier today from Rebelle Society: Creatively Maladjusted’s blog titled Joseph Campbell, on the Art of Being Alive.  I’ve written about Joseph Campbell here before and often think about things he’s taught me over the years.  As we celebrate Gaudete Sunday, these particular words stand out for me…

“It reminds me of Isaiah‘s biblical poetry:

“{You} will find new strength. {You} will soar high on wings like eagles. {You} will run and not grow weary. {You} will walk and not faint.”

But between soar and soaring, Joseph advises: “Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.”

And you’ll be home, no matter where you are.

And it’ll be a new day, everyday.”

Today, I took Max out to a beautiful ridge above the Bow River and above our city…the Chinook winds were breathing new life into the landscape after such an extremely cold period accompanied by plenty of snow.   From the outset of our hike, a bald eagle flew overhead.  I was in awe of the power of its wings in such a strong wind and equally amazed that he stuck with us for the duration of our walk, hanging on the air and then diving, reaching up and then hovering, over and over again.  What a blessing to be able to make such observations for an hour-long walk and to be swept up into the awe of ‘being alive’.  What an amazing thing to have such a mighty and regal bird seem to look into my eyes for a sustained period of time, sometimes from as close as ten feet away.

This experience brings new meaning to the words

“{You} will find new strength. {You} will soar high on wings like eagles. {You} will run and not grow weary. {You} will walk and not faint.”

 

Sixteen years ago, today, a young student of mine passed away.  It seems like yesterday.  Where have those sixteen years gone?  Today, walking in those hills, I felt as though I was given a little taste of heaven; joy in me…joy above me…joy beneath my feet…joy in my heart and in my head.  All that I saw or experienced was glory-filled.  It is such a privilege to encounter the divine in the places and people who surround us.  It is a privilege to be a part of this journey.  I am grateful…for Jarrett…for Mom…for those who have graced and grace my life each day.  I am blessed.

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H. J. Mcfarland Memorial Home

Mom’s last weeks and days and hours were spent at H. J. Mcfarland Memorial Home in Picton, Prince Edward County, Ontario.  For me, it was very important that Dad take me on a bit of a journey of the grounds and halls that they shared together during that time. I wanted to see the gardens that Mom saw, before the roses came into full bloom.  I wanted to see the crops in the fields that they saw together, growing and changing day by day, as Dad pushed Mom’s wheelchair.  He said that in the first days, there was nothing but soil…and then the lovely green of spring sprouts came to be.  Gardens and the landscapes of Canada were always so inherent to Mom.

P1110198The day that I visited, I saw the courtyard that Mom would have seen from her window.  I saw the roses in full bloom and I sat in the shade of the gazebo where together, my parents would take quiet rest.  I looked out at the sprawling grounds and saw the mighty trees.  I could not help but connect with a sense of life’s cycles and about the continuity of all life: from the dawn of living things until the dusk…and finally, rest…knowing that the darkness is a step into light everlasting, aptly written by Rabindranath Tagore.

“Death is not extinguishing the light; it is only putting out the lamp because the dawn has come.”

…and from the Psalms…

Psalm 18:28
You light a lamp for me. The LORD, my God, lights up my darkness. (NLT)

The women and men who cared for Mom during her last days and supported Dad as he walked this journey, were people of great blessing.  Mom was given the dignity and light that she so deserved.  She was given beautiful meals.  She was able to touch soil for the last time, potting small plants in the springtime.  Mom and Dad were given respect and kindness and for this and more, I will always be grateful.

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Recently, I watched a Frontline documentary about assisted living and I know that for some families, there is a huge deficiency in the care that is given for their loved ones.  As our population of ‘boomers’ continues to grow, I think that it is imperative that there be stronger guidelines for the sake of those we love and advocacy on the part of all governments and citizens, for strong practice in the arenas of social, spiritual, physical, mental and psychological responsibility to our aging populations.  While I don’t wish for this post to become political, there is much to be said about these issues not being swept under the carpet, but for light to be shed on related issues.

I am in awe at the strength that my father showed in his walk with his precious wife and my mother and her journey with Alzheimer’s disease.  Because of his inspirational ‘walk’, I am far more aware and sensitive to the vast numbers of caregivers who are daily-struggling with some version of his own truth.  Society has to re-focus their best efforts where all of these interconnected issues come to intersect.

This being said, and looking again at the purpose for this post, I want to close by saying that I am grateful for the care that Mom received at H. J. Mcfarland Memorial Home. Below, a brief description of the man who generously donated the property and facility that in the end, was my mother’s last home in Prince Edward County.

A Man Called Harvey: A profile of H. J. McFarland, Picton’s longest-serving Mayor

Harvey McFarland grew up as a poor farm boy in Roblin, Ontario. His childhood experience drove him to seek a better life. After a series of jobs as a logger, and threshing grain and hauling rock with his team of horses, Harvey started a construction company that made him a millionaire.

Harvey James Mcfarland

Harvey James Mcfarland

Epiphany

I will light up the Nativity this evening…and tomorrow evening, will tuck it away for the year…but, I will not forget the message of hope and the gift at the manger as I go forward into this year.  Epiphany.

e·piph·a·ny

noun, plural e·piph·a·nies.

1. ( initial capital letter  ) a Christian festival, observed on January 6, commemorating the manifestation of Christ to the gentiles in the persons of the Magi; Twelfth-day.
2. an appearance or manifestation, especially of a deity.
3. a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.
4. a literary work or section of a work presenting, usually symbolically, such a moment of revelation and insight.

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Complete Contentment

The morning ritual, with the first coffee sitting on the desk, is to read a few blogs, the news on line…check the e mail and then set out to create a day.  Tom Phillips is playing down at the Ironwood tonight, but I didn’t think to reserve a spot until last Friday…so, I’m on a waiting list. My dancing partner, Bee, says he can get me in…but New Year’s Eve is not the night to drive down to a place and then find out that they can’t sandwich you in to an event.

Being single is weird on New Year’s Eve.  Regardless, there are ways around that and things that you can do to cause you to feel those anticipatory jitters about how wonderful life is without a partner.  Like I say…going to one of those spots where people LOVE music is one of those welcoming ideas for singles.  I have many single friends who just love music so much that it’s great to be with them and their passion for all things beautiful as you ring in the New Year.  I’m pretty sure that the Gorilla House is open tonight…now, there, I could mingle with like-minded artists…maybe paint…have a drink…and one thing is for sure, have a barrell of laughs!

Being peaceful…now, that’s always a great way to bring in the New Year.  Slicing yourself up a bit of good sausage (will have to talk to the daughter about where she picked up the Christmas sausage…it was amazing!)  OH!  Here’s the information on the packaging for the strawberry/rubarb pie purchased at the same location…The Log Barn 1912!  Amazing food!

So…yeah…put on some music…slice up some good sausage…put out the gherkin pickles, cheese and crackers…for the brave, a tin of oysters!  Open a glass of wine and light up the candles.  Play some music. MAGIC!

I think one of the most memorable ‘quiet’ New Year’s Eve events I enjoyed was one shared with my son.  We went over to the movie theater and watched the Last Samurai.  We stepped into the cold winter night at around 1:15 a.m. that year.  The movie had been such a beautiful metaphor somehow.  We talked quietly about the whole experience as we drove home.

So, yeah…the point is.  Bless your own life with divine light for the new year.  Give yourself everything you need to be a healthy, positive and affirming force for others.  Be generous of heart and go easy on the pity parties.  Create!  Challenge!  Question!  Love! And…delight in the small things.

My small thing this morning… the light…a small shape of light, perhaps reflected off of a Christmas ornament on the tree on to my bookshelf.  It was beautiful and I may be reading too much into this (readers laugh here) but, I consider it to be a sign…an offering…an offering of light for this day and the year to come.  I’m taking it that way.

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A friend of mine posted the lyrics to this tune and I’m going to post the music here.  One of the deeply inspiring experiences of 2012 for me was to sit and listen to Leonard Cohen.  Sit back…enjoy…and remember to be kind to yourselves.  Happy New Year!

Wednesday Afternoon: The Tree of Life

It may seem that this project has been going forever, but that’s ok.  Very gradually the branches of the tree are reaching up to the outside edges…the bubbles are being developed with layers of paint and the angels are one-by-one embellished with marks that create a bridge with the background.  Today was the first day that I felt as though this major project is almost completed.  I have really enjoyed having Marilyn join me on my afternoons in the St. Anne’s room.

 

I felt excited as we worked this afternoon…time flew and everything seemed freeing where the paint was concerned.  As a result, I left the church later than I had planned.  I was looking forward to the Confirmation this evening, of 90 grade six students.  I’ve been keeping a number of those students in my heart and prayers as I’ve painted on the wall this past month.  Their names are on the wall.