Don’t Give Up…

…without a fight.

Have you ever been put in a situation…or put yourself in a situation…where you lose control, completely.  You find yourself cornered/humiliated/vulnerable/speechless?  You lose your voice?  Loud voices are coming at you.  You see mouths moving and eyes wide open.  But, you really don’t hear a word that the voices are projecting.  You want to catch up on the conversation and what is happening, but you are so shocked that you’re NOT SAFE, that you are deemed useless, defenseless and feel only things in your body?  Oh. I’m sweating.  Oh, my heart is pounding.  Oh. Am I going to throw up?  Am I going to cry?

I’ve been thinking a lot about what is going on in a world where this is allowed to happen.  We become enraged when we remember these collective experiences happening historically, in the unbelievable and horrific impacts of colonization and slavery, of racist and immoral conduct in war.  (Presently watching the Netflix series on Vietnam, with my son.  Watch the entire series, beginning with French colonization…see what atrocities happened there.) We are shocked and freaked out when it happens on the world stage in the forum of politics, religion and foreign policy. (I can’t even name all such horrors.)

The strong prey on others.

The privilege of power; whether that is white or big or strong or conservative or educated or rich…the privilege of power is a demon in the face of building relationship or building community or building trust.

The second clutch of sparrows was attacked on the hottest day of summer.  It might have been a Magpie or a Crow.  I wasn’t home to see the events.  The Crow and the Magpie have youngsters to feed…their aggression is without thought for kindness, but for survival.  That’s the difference between human beings and Crows.  We can choose to communicate kindly, even in the face of conflict.  It is our moral imperative to do so.

Mr.  did not give up without a fight.  How do I know this?  Because his feathers show the scars of the attempt to protect his youngsters.  Mr. and Mrs. have grieved at the empty vent these past two days.

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I ask myself if I had stayed home from book club, would things have turned out differently.  Maybe not.

 

The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of The Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel

This is a quick post.  I read Michael Finkel’s book, The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit in two evenings…it was more an experience, than anything.  Written about Christopher Knight, a man who at the age of twenty slipped into a thick wood and didn’t have a conversation with another human being for thirty years, this book is an unusual narrative, with moments of real revelation. I was fascinated by the story and throughout, couldn’t really come to terms with a mixture of emotions…revulsion, sadness, envy or curiosity (of the ambulance-chaser sort).

Honestly, I think it is the most interesting thing that Christopher Knight and the family that knew him, opened up to Michael Finkel enough for him to collect the content for this writing.  So, the process of research and respectful communication of this content was just as fascinating to me and generously included.

I had read, a long time ago, Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer.  I suppose one could make comparisons between the two books.  However, I think that Christopher Knight’s methodical approach to stealing food and supplies is what, ultimately, kept him alive over decades and in the end, led to his capture.  Enduring isolation of the northern Alaskan wilderness, Christopher Johnson McCandless was in true ‘survival’ mode, leading to the eventual and mysterious loss of his life, probably four months after disappearing.  It was obvious, in reading both, that there were motivations to disconnect from society, but both men did that in very different ways.

From Goodreads, I’ve lifted these words.  I like that Michael Finkel responded to the reader…

I haven’t read this but not likely to. The mere fact that he stole from people that worked hard for what they had…the fact that for 27 years this community in Maine lived in fear because of these unsolved burglaries that he committed is beyond shameful. He didn’t live off the grid. He lived off of other people who worked for a living. “He survived by his wits and courage” ?? No. I don’t think so.

Response from Michael Finkel: “Hello. I’m the journalist who wrote this book. Chris Knight — the hermit — is not portrayed, not for a page, as some sort of angelic hero in the book. Knight himself did not want to be portrayed that way. He confessed to 1,000 break-ins, one of the most extensive burglary cases in U.S. history. He tormented people. But — he also never physically harmed anyone, never carried a weapon, never stole anything of great monetary value, never shattered a window or kicked down a door. He had a wildly unusual idea for how to live, and he lived in a way radically different from any other human you will ever encounter, and he has an awesome and daunting brain — he is, I feel certain, a genius — and he has insights into modern society and solitude and the meaning of life that you will find nowhere else. “Take the good with the bad,” Knight told me, when speaking of how he should be portrayed in my book, and I did. I firmly believe that in the good are some incredible insights, and in the bad is a fascinating true-crime tale. And please note — Knight is receiving no money from this project. A summer camp for children and adults with mental and physical disabilities (The Pine Tree Camp), from which Knight frequently stole, will instead be receiving donations.”

Having read the book, I am glad to encounter this response, as it does represent the book very well.   I felt, at times, compassion for Christopher Knight, wondering what feelings and experiences within him, motivated such a disappearance and disconnect from his life.

As Calgary suffers such a bitterly cold winter, I also truly engaged the stories of survival that involved planning and revising a nest/camp.  The description of winter, alone, is enough to keep me from ever wondering about doing this same thing!

Christopher Knight told this story, as much as Michael Finkel did.  If my readers enjoy adventure or are taken by very unusual characters, this is the book for you.

It was good to meet Michael Finkel and to have him expand upon the narratives that connected him to his character.

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Mosaic 101

Wendy Lees is a vital leader in our visual arts community here in Calgary.  She has spearheaded so many wonderful projects and visual arts tours, either through making, leading or inspiring.  I’ve treasured her friendship for years now and I’m so grateful for our meeting.  I was blessed, yesterday, to have the opportunity to learn the first basic baby steps to mosaic art, in the comfort and organized studio that is her own home.  What a fun experience and what great people!

Wendy took on the magical practice of  create! in the East Village some time ago…and through that program, I met some of the most authentic and beautiful people of a lifetime.  Gladly, a few of them were able to attend the Mosaic 101 workshop, so renewing those relationships was an additional blessing!

If you have opportunity to participate in or attend any of the programs that Wendy advertises, DO!  Such fun!  It’s not just about techniques and skill development…it’s about community and connection!

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Love the focus and concentration that surfaced during the program!

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It’s Been This Kind of Day

I have to thank my new birder-friend, Bob, for his share of the story of Mrs. Shoveler on the Bird’s Calgary site, today.

I began writing on-line in 2005. In writing to an ‘imagined’ public, I discovered a public voice.  I learned to write about events that took place in my rather simple life in a way that could be explored and shared with any reader. There was a line that I refused to cross, a line that delved into the realm of the very personal.  I’ve enjoyed learning to narrate my life, while reigning in my voice to a degree.  In my head, I always remarked, “Only write what you feel anyone could read.”  I suppose the closest I ever came to crossing that line was at the loss of my mother.

I was in my father’s office, at the computer desk, the summer of her passing.  It was so bloody humid.  Dad tried to keep me from opening the windows because we had to have air conditioning or we were going to melt!  Whenever I would sit to write at the computer, I would secretly slide the window open to the right of me…in the night time, there was such stillness…not a breeze.  I remember writing this.

A lot of bloggers get weary of the process of writing after a while, but for some reason, I find the flow of evening-writing,  a wonderfully relaxing practice.  My initial story of Mrs. Shoveler and my effort to retrieve her from a small piece of open water achieved over 400 hits in an hour after publication.  I know.  I know.  I don’t really have a swollen head over this.  It’s not what the on-line crowd would call ‘going viral’, but, I was deeply touched that so many readers care about wildlife enough and in this case, a hen Northern Shoveler, that they would peruse the events that took place in the bitterly cold days of last December.  The follow-up story, involving the re-appearance of this dear bird, sent the numbers soaring yet again.

Well, today, with gratitude to Birds Calgary, more readers have visited and I’ve really enjoyed comments and messages and reactions.  So, readers, thank you for all of that.

This was my day…while Max and I played in snow and I met Abir again, after so long, and I made and enjoyed such a beautiful stew…while every thing was happening in my life, this is what was going on in the hum of the background.

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The Stuff of Life: Musical Moments

I have every intention of writing a post here, but, no guarantees. (Three days after writing this introduction, I return to the keyboard.) It’s another ‘hot one’ outside. (As I sit to put the punctuation on this blog post, an entire month and more has gone by.  It is raining outside, with a night time temperature of 13 degrees. I invite my readers to just sit back and enjoy the ride!)  We’ve had a long string of beautiful days and after such a rough winter, is it any wonder that writers step away from their keyboards and artists abandon their studios?  It’s time to make discoveries and later, pull back into the world of studios when  the snow flies and the world is once more, asleep.

I thought I might report on the folk festival daily, but that also failed after Thursday’s reviews, so here I will attempt a sketchy recollection of summer moments and the recent ‘stuff’ of life.

Dad arrived safe and sound, completing another Trans-Canada drive from Ontario and this has been a joy for me; to be able to cook together, eat beautiful foods together and to kiss one another good night before heading for bed.  Our conversations can be interesting and charged with new awareness and revelation OR frustrating and awkward.  We’ve never seen eye-to-eye on several topics and everyone knows it, but I respect no one more than I respect my Dad, for his knowledge, his generosity and his huge conviction. My Dad and I are both religious people and we treasure those discussions.  He knows his scripture and when I share my thoughts about nature, the land and my feelings (both positive and negative), he comes from the same framework and so he inspires me.  Dad loves me and it’s so nice to be on the same red sofa, in the same rooms…the same house…with THAT love.  We are sharing beautiful times.  I love my Dad.

July 27th marked Mom’s second birthday without us, and us without her.  I happened to be down at the folk festival.  Dad was visiting our relations in southern Alberta.  Daughter, Cayley and I melted into the day.  I told her that I didn’t want to be rushing and so I had my first coffee on my back yard deck while watching the birds at the feeder and doing a bit of gardening.  My Mom would have enjoyed all of that.

Sharing a tarp with my children, first we enjoyed Sam Carter.

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I think that one of the most blessed moments of that day was when Matt Patershuk  was emcee at a workshop and decided to end the set with a participatory event that involved the improvisation of You Are My Sunshine, a tune that my mother led our family in singing on so many wonderful road trips.  Mom so enjoyed road trips AND sing songs.  This was a true gift.  There were several really magical moments shared during Folk Festival.

The first concert that I ever attended came after I left Great Falls, Montana and attended University in Lethbridge, Alberta.  The Yates Theater hosted an intimate concert featuring an up-and-comer, Bruce Cockburn.  A young, gangly man, he walked out to center stage, carrying his own wooden stool and an acoustic guitar.  Above him, was hung a mirror ball that came to life during his tune, All the Diamonds in the World.  It was such an amazing concert.  I routinely listened to his early albums on Mark Mehrer’s turn table in my residence.

Yates LethbridgeI enjoyed Bruce Cockburn at both a workshop and an evening concert.  Both experiences were moving as I felt so plugged into the music.

P1180216Nigerian, Seun Kuti, truly rocked the Main Stage on Saturday night.  Cayley and I moved right up to the front row for this…energy…drums…rhythm…voices that were strong and full of conviction.  This was mesmerizing!  Walking to the C Train that night, we felt pulled into the crowd…music connecting all.

Amazing dancers/back up singers!

Amazing dancers/back up singers!

As I continue to jot these musical moments, I am realizing that in no way am I capturing my delight and engagement in these acts.  In fact, I feel that there is no way that I can even list all of the musicians that I discovered this year at folk festival.  I’ll attempt some highlights, beginning with Leonard Sumner of Little Saskatchewan First Nation, Manitoba.  He has evolved to a style that combines a folk/country rhythm with a rap lyric.  I was touched by this young man’s connection to a unique narrative and was impressed by his song writing, a tool to reach others and to encourage healing.  For similar reasons, I enjoyed Nick Sherman of Sioux Lookout, Ontario.

New to me, as well, was The Provincial Archive of our own Edmonton, Alberta.  I enjoyed them at an early workshop on the final day as well as their own stage in the heat of the afternoon.  Nice thing was, they led us in a final tune, a Pete Seeger tribute.  We all joined in singing If I Had a Hammer, a tune that wound up the final performances of every stage all over the grounds that afternoon. Very cool for lots of reasons.

I waited, excited, to hear Matt Andersen on the Main Stage on Sunday Night.  I have enjoyed his music for years.  His guitar playing was fantasmic and his last tune of the night blew us all out of the water…a great ending to a highly successful 2014 Folk Festival.  I guess I’d have to say that I prefer to see Matt take a stage on his own…no back-up, but the Mellotones showed up and really owned the stage along side ‘the man’.

Music…a huge net that captures the stuff of our lives!  Universal. Powerful. Magic.

The Waltz We Were Born For
Walt McDonald, 1934

I never knew them all, just hummed
and thrummed my fingers with the radio,
driving five hundred miles to Austin.
Her arms held all the songs I needed.
Our boots kept time with fiddles
and the charming sobs of blondes,

the whine of steel guitars
sliding us down in deer-hide chairs
when jukebox music was over.
Sad music’s on my mind tonight
in a jet high over Dallas, earphones
on channel five. A lonely singer,

dead, comes back to beg me,
swearing in my ears she’s mine,
rhymes set to music that make
her lies seem true. She’s gone
and others like her, leaving their songs
to haunt us. Letting down through clouds

I know who I’ll find waiting at the gate,
the same woman faithful to my arms
as she was those nights in Austin
when the world seemed like a jukebox,
our boots able to dance forever,
our pockets full of coins.

Our Three Eaglets

Given our daily morning visits to Duke Farm’s LIVE EAGLE CAM, the grade ones have been keeping a daily journal of the events at the nest. I’m starting to get nervous.  As soft white-grey down gradually is replaced by dark grey feathers, and soon black feathers, I get concerned that something might happen to one of the juveniles.  In fact, I suppose we’ve been fortunate so far that nothing bad has happened due to a predator’s attack or such as that.  The little guys are starting to beetle around their nest and I have no idea how the adults keep catastrophe from happening in the form of a nose dive to a sad ending.

The students and I have shared a bit about this sort of thing.  I think I said, “Boys and girls, what will happen if something bad happens at the nest?”  One boy responded, “Miss Moors, I’ve seen a couple of rabbits squashed by cars.  I’ll be OK.”

“So what do you think could happen that would be sad on our live cam?”

“Maybe a predator will attack.”

“Maybe a baby will fall out.”

“Maybe something will happen to the Mom or the Dad.”

Smart kids!

Regardless of their promised resilience…I am soon going to end our project and morning viewing.  So far, we’ve seen live fish dropped into the nest…two breakfasts of turtles (the turtle shells still lying vacant in the soft grass of the nest…and today my students noticed a frog’s leg sticking out of one of the eaglet’s beak.  The children have learned that eagles have lots of whitewash in their poop and it very regularly shoots out…the scientists keeping records for the Live Cam call it ‘shot’, not poop.  Good thing to learn!

I considered making a slide show of the following images taken from their journals, but really, they are so very sweet, you may want to pause and read.  Through the eyes and hearts of wee ones!

A recent log from the Duke’s Farm Live Eagle Cam…

Update 4/15/2014
For viewers, please note that as the chicks mature and become more independent in the nest the adult will not be inside the nest bowl as much as they where a week ago (most activity from the adults will either be feeding or sheltering chicks from rain). The adults still stay close to the nest in neighboring trees to keep an eye of the chicks and potential threats.

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create! on Friday

We gathered at the Golden Age Club in the East Village this afternoon for a second painting activity.  It was a glorious thing to see Harold and the T-girl and to be able to get big hugs from them.  Needless to say, we all miss Gorilla House and I ache for the friends who I met there.  After setting out the basics on the tables, I relished sitting back and relaxing as a number of folk came in…we conversed and shared in treats donated generously by Brulee Patisserie.

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Photo Credit: Wendy Lees

The participants in create! were enthusiastic and patiently explored the notions of foreground, middle ground and background as well as how to create the illusion of form out of a flat shape.  Building upon the skills explored earlier this week, we began to speak about issues of composition; static versus dynamic and added shades into the mix.  The break out moment was the exploration once each artist had created three spheres, dynamically placed, into their compositions.

I was blessed by the sense of calm that filled the room…bathed in afternoon sunshine, create! was the place to be.  Thanks to Dan’l for the Mona Lisa joke…to Larry for his stories of Vimy…to Fran, for reading the Bricklayer’s Lunch Hour by Allen Ginsberg and for memories of her sister, Louise Marie Rose…to Jennifer, for painting in violet…to Noelle who wore pink and painted pink…for Georgia for asking about contrast…to d-rae for focusing so intently on the details and to two new painters, a daughter and her mother because they painted after years of watching Bob Ross on television (“We don’t make mistakes; we just have happy accidents.”), without ever having painted…for Wendy Lees who shared her dream with all of us when she opened up programs in EV.

It was an afternoon of light and joy and peace.

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Photo Credit: Wendy Lees

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Photo Credit: Wendy Lees

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Photo Credit: Wendy Lees

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Photo Credit: Wendy Lees

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Photo Credit: Wendy Lees

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Photo Credit: Wendy Lees

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Photo Credit: Wendy Lees

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Photo Credit: Wendy Lees

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Photo Credit: Wendy Lees

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Photo Credit: Wendy Lees

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Photo Credit: Wendy Lees

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Photo Credit: Wendy Lees

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Photo Credit: Wendy Lees

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Photo Credit: Wendy Lees

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Photo Credit: Wendy Lees

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Photo Credit: Wendy Lees

Something Fishy

Gentrification in any fast-growing urban center is a notion to be reckoned with.  Some of my readers will have noticed that there have not been any recent Gorilla House LIVE ART posts.  I have to tell you, on the wheelings-and-dealings behind the decisions/negotiations/done deals, I have no insights.  I only know the outcome and how the outcome impacts many.  I especially know how this ‘move’ impacts me.

The short-of-it is that Gorilla House, the building AND the community, was over run by development and its central and convenient location is being transformed into a sushi restaurant.  Yes, indeedy, another Calgary restaurant!

From what I can tell, the inaugural battle was held on July 17, 2012.  Its archive can be viewed on YouTube and its impact will be felt for years to come, at least in the sense that the Gorilla House experience was transformative for individuals, whether they were/are artists or observers.  It was just a really nice shift.  The experience was NOT pure-perfection, but it was inspiring.

I remember well before July 17, Gorilla House founder, Rich Theroux was bandying back and forth with me in various message boxes about his vision for live art battles.  I would have to say that I didn’t initially understand his concept, but I WAS supportive and excited for him in regards to his vision.  His enthusiasm was incredible and he was completely accepting of my wait-and-see attitude and I hope that he knew always that I had his back.  I consider it an honour that he respected my thoughts and feedback as he moved through this process.

Let me introduce you to Rich.  He is an artist, teacher and friend.  He had a vision and it was the Gorilla House.  Like a mat, it was pulled out from under him.  Now there are ‘rumblings’ of a shift.  In the meantime, a network of new artists and friends are also shifting.  It will be interesting to see what happens.

Rich TherouxI considered introducing my readers to the personalities that came into play during the experience that was Gorilla House LIVE ART…but then there were too many to write about and I wouldn’t want to leave a single person out.  We grew to love one another by sharing this really unique experience.  Art bound us, but oh, it was so much more.  I would never have met such a caring bunch of people had I not spent time creating two-hour paintings for such a sustained period of time.  I often wondered how I would have met these people had it not been for ‘the house’.  There were people from every ‘walk’ of life, each a treasure, each a teacher, each a creative and each a friend.

I’m going to especially miss this lady, Jennifer Stinson.  She is pretty much the kindest person you could ever run into.  If I could, I parked my easel up against her lawn chair.  Of the lawn chair and this photograph, she writes.

“This was the very first night that I came to Gorilla House, Aug 22, 2012. I can’t believe there was a photo of it. Yes Kath, it started out in a GH Red Dot album!

After this I began bringing a camp chair to sit on. Eventually, Rich offered my chair a home in the vault so I wasn’t hauling it back and forth weekly. Eventually this chair disintegrated from use… so this week Rich sent me home with three replacements. Gorilla House was like that. Anything good you brought, you took back threefold.”

I wish Jenn many blessings and can never truly tell her what her friendship has meant to me.

Jennifer Stinson: Photo Credit Red Dot Photography

Jennifer Stinson: Photo Credit Red Dot Photography

People came and went, some for a very short blip of time and others for the long haul.  It didn’t matter which.  Each individual was a part of what made it gel and caused me to return again and again.  There are people who will remain forever-friends and I am grateful for each of you.

Because of Wednesday painting, I created all of these paintings and more.  Over a year, I found the ‘gorilla’ in myself.

Photo Credit: Red Dot Photography

Photo Credit: Red Dot Photography

The original video was filmed By: Vincent Varga and Andy Szarka

Edited By: Vincent Varga

Meeting Max Licht at the Gorilla House

Recently I’ve been thinking about the number of amazing individuals I have met at the Gorilla House.  This is a place where art boings creative spirits, one against another.  Before I typed ‘boings’, I typed ‘slams’…then I was thinking we sort of ‘rub up against’ one another, but that doesn’t work either.  Don’t really know how to describe it, but we more than ‘meet’ one another…that’s for sure!  Mayhaps this is where the term ‘connection’ comes in…the Gorilla House is a house of connection!  On Wednesday evenings, I shake my head as I head for home.  The artists…the visitors…every individual provides for a truly unique sort of community building.

As Max stepped up to the front, during the auction portion of the evening, he was introduced and I remember shouting out, “Max?”  Lindsay looked over at me and said…”He gets that all the time.”  I told her that my beautiful border collie is named Max…she openly laughed and said, “Oh…I guess that’s a first!”  We laughed together.  As I looked at the piece he then raised up to auction, I wanted it to be mine.

My Max set strategically close to one of my Covenant pieces.

My Max set strategically close to one of my Covenant pieces.

Max and Lindsay were visiting from Victoria.  I only wish that I had captured a photograph of Lindsay’s work! Thank you for your courage and your belief, Lindsay! Both Lindsay and Max were just super open to the Gorilla House experience and gratefully, I was able to purchase Max’s gouache illustration at auction! I recommend that my readers take a look at illustrations by Max Licht here.  I am so over-the-top thrilled to own this piece, titled The scale of the problem; there are no words.  Thanks for visiting us, you two, and please stop by again!

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The Scale of the Problem, poorly photographed by Kathleen Moors, painted by Max Licht

The Scale of the Problem, poorly photographed by Kathleen Moors, painted by Max Licht

Lisecki and Remnants of a Past

Darcy Lisecki and I shared a short conversation while I pulled out my paints last evening.  He passed these two photographs over to me and likely saw my eyes light up.  He had found them tossed…garbage.  We shared a few words about that and then he gave them to me.  I’m pretty grateful.  These will be added to my treasures of a past conversation, mostly between Gordon and Eddie.

P1130257 P1130258Sunday, August 24, 1938

(Gordan’s photo, not mine)

Taken up the infant Elbow R. into Rockies from a car (Eddie’s) at nightfall. Very typical.  But here the ‘ranger road’ ie. really only for use of fire wardens in land rovers, got so rough we wondered if we’d even get back.P1130259 P1130263Eddie wading thro Bragg Creek nr. where we picknicked. (taken by Gordon)

When I asked him when he first began to make art, Darcy told me that he sold his first piece of art to his Grade four teacher.  It was a drawing of a chair in perspective.

This got me thinking about a recent project…