As December approaches, many of us have celebrated our Covid birthday celebrations. It was different, wasn’t it? Several of my friends are enjoying really significant birthdays and yet I chose not to celebrate with them, given the risks and the concerns around gatherings. It makes me sad that I am missing them during really special times of their lives, but I am really determined to keep the people I love safe.
Halloween was really different this year. For one, Max wasn’t home with me. I haven’t written his tribute as a post yet because I’m just not ready, but on October 31 of last year, Max reinjured himself for the final time. While he managed for another year, almost, it was a different year for him. It was quiet and his walks were shorter and more thoughtful than ever before. He really struggled through this year, the year of Covid. What I am most grateful for, however, was the fact that I was home with him around the clock and that I shared his last year with him, immersed in love. Snacks were readily available and begging was allowed. I’m sure he found this confusing.
This year, on Halloween night, I headed over to my grandson’s to celebrate ‘revised’ Halloween, where everyone in his neighbourhood was a hero, making fun for children and parents by creating a new normalcy. I was really impressed. This year, three, Steven was going out as Rider of Paw Patrol and so, his Gramma dressed as Chase, one of Rider’s Patrol. We are creating so many memories.
I took some photographs of the magic that was created by my neighbours before heading out for the dress up event shared with my grandson.
Door to door was magical, as so many neighbours made special effort to create magic for the little ones. There were all sorts of contraptions for passing out candy safely and all of this ingenuity contributed to the celebration of the night. I’m grateful that Steven was able to enjoy a night of fun. In the midst of a global pandemic it is really special to make positive memories.
There is no better way to walk the journey of grief, than immersing oneself in art, music and nature. The current exhibit, Onion Skin: a love that moves the sun and stars at Christine Klassen Gallery offered me a reprieve from this heart of sadness at the recent loss of both Max, my twelve year old border collie, and Bill Webb (my dear and forever-friend) who shared with me, just that sort of love.
I was greeted with pug love and Christine love, upon entry. Once letting me know that she was available to chat about the art, Christine was kind to let me disappear into the space. I let her know that I had walked the live streamed artist talk with her and Carl and shared that I have been greatly isolated for all of these many months. I celebrated that, in the gallery, I had distance and yet felt enormously connected. One doesn’t want to be vulnerable in such a setting, so no tears were had.
Carl’s paintings/objects are delicious in their ethereal (heavenly) handling. I was transported into the depths of my sadness, but at the same time, lifted into a place of hope and light. It was such a personal offering that it’s difficult to articulate here, in words. I could have crawled into the vessels and curled up. I was reminded of the cocoon of my warm blankets that fill my bed, a place where I have freely let my tears flow since September 28.
For the past many years, I have showed up daily, to walk a circle at the edge of the Bow River. These paintings suggested my life at the river…the vast expanse of sky that I enjoy every day, the flow and sound of the water, the light…and the Bald Eagle’s nesting bowl. The work felt familiar. It resonated with me at a physical level.
Back in the car, exhausted, I sat and wept. I wonder if this exhibit might impact you at a physical place? The galleries in town, I realize now, are peaceful places. I highly suggest you take some time out, just for you, and visit our local gallery spaces.
Thank you, Christine, for your hospitality. Seeing works by other strong women surrounding the main gallery space…beautiful pieces by Teresa Posyniak, Verna Vogel, Karen Klassen and others, was also a joy.
Congratulations to Carl White on this one. He has painted the fragility of life, its events, and its pared-down essence.
I know, first hand, how wonderful it can be to receive a Birthday parade during Covid times because my friends did exactly that for my birthday. Well, this year is pretty important because our ‘fearless leader’ turned 91 yesterday. My treasured friends in fine arts education came together to create a drive-by parade and then a Happy Birthday circle yesterday.
Joan has been one of the most inspiring people to serve as Supervisor of Fine Arts for the Calgary Catholic School District in the days when fine arts were understood to be essential to the development of learning within a child. We were a part of a period in education when Fine Arts advocacy was well and growing in schools. Teachers received regular support, exemplary modeling and resources in terms of professional development, in order that they could deliver solid programs. So, Joan was all that.
But, at the core of ‘who’ Joan is….she is a treasured friend. She has a brilliant mind. She is a superb artist, one who has looked at her world and nature with precision. Her observation skills can be surpassed by very few. Joan is an empathetic listener. Joan has an appreciation for song and celebration. She is playful and fun to be around. Little sayings filter in to every conversation. I love Joan with my whole heart and she has been a blessing in my life. Happy Birthday, Joan!
My grandson, Steven, helped me get ready for the parade by painting two banners. Unfortunately, when I hopped out of the car, I forgot that I had this taped up, post parade. It looked better during the drive by.
Joan, sharing words of appreciation. Always self-effacing, she made certain she drew attention to the strength of our team, pointing to each one, “You, you, you and you”…pointing to each one and making eye contact.
Before the fall…
Thank you to the organizers. These events are so important for these times. Each person has to determine what proximity they can have in every situation as we enter into stage 2 with the opening up of our economy. However, it is always important to keep in mind the safety of our senior citizens and those who are vulnerable due to various medical conditions. Thanks to this residence that provided us with a safe circumstance in order to celebrate our forever-friend.
As I write, I also think about our indigenous peoples, the world over, who suffered trauma at the impact of disease through trade and colonization. This is not the first time the world has seen these life events unfold. All the conspiracy theorists aside and all of my readers who deny the seriousness of these events, I feel differently, and I will remember this as a global pandemic that caused the death and illness of many the world over. It is like living in a science fiction movie. Each person has to find their way through these events in a way that works for them, with respect for the medical people who are making educated assessments along the way. We must never take people who are working in the front lines for granted.
And now…for the subject of this post. Through history, whether it be in the days of the Spanish Flu or in the families of our indigenous peoples, disease has had an impact on children. I am exploring this because adults have a way of processing what is going on, but what are the children feeling through all of this?
When it came down to our family’s journey, my grandson, Steven, very swiftly found himself without his daycare friends and teachers and couldn’t attend Wee Wild Ones SE. His parents, similarly, found themselves with changing work situations. Mommy, immediately, had no choice but to stay home. My grandson is almost three. When this all began, we were reeling and I stepped in to help at the very outset, but really had no intention of spending a pandemic as a child care provider. My son-in-law was still working out in the world, as a part of essential services, and so, at a point, when restrictions were becoming more clear and as we discovered that the severity of the illness seemed to be hitting seniors more than anyone, I became scared for my own health. I stopped providing babysitting and that was a very difficult decision.
I geared up for a number of different projects including the writing of a historical fiction, creating a paper barn owl and painting in the studio.
When I left my two week stint, babysitting, I agreed that I could return on the condition that my son-in-law was able to pull himself out of the ‘real-world’ workforce and remain home for fourteen days. Dr. Deena Hinshaw had already introduced the idea of adopting a cohort family for children to have at-home playmates, and so I applied the same concept to child care.
There are so many grandmas who wanted to do the same for their grandchildren, but who were keeping themselves isolated from their families, that I felt guilty at times or felt as though I was doing something wrong. I also experienced a lot of push back from some individuals as a result of my decision. But, as mentioned before, I made a decision that I felt would be okay for me and as long as everyone in our circle could respect that parameters of our cohort unit, I would do alright to take Steven under my wing.
Long-story-short, I have been babysitting Steven ever since. Is it easy? Nope. There are lots of days when my back and knees are sore. There are days I’d like to sleep a little longer and get home a little earlier. My border collie, Max, who is also aging is spending a lot of time alone. So, there are those things. But, I have to look at this time as being really very special, as well, and I work, daily, at creating magic for Steven as we have one another exclusively for all of this time.
I try to be child-like most of the time because Steven and all of his little peers are missing the natural socialization that comes with Library programs, swimming lessons, play groups and day care. Acting three years old all day can really create exhaustion and I find that when I get home, I’m mostly unproductive. Just recently, I’ve surrendered to the need to be an adult some of the time and I’ve given myself the time to ‘take breaks’ from play and exploration. I’ve done it so well that now Steven will sometimes be found sitting on the rocking chair. I’ll turn to him and ask, “What are you doing?” and he will reply, “I’m taking a break.”
I’m pouring over the photographs I’ve snapped through these months and it’s really difficult to narrow down and post just a few that represent what we’ve done together. We read a lot. We play outdoors A LOT. I’m trying to teach Steven as much as I can about the places that I love. I’m helping him to notice aspects of nature that are important to me. I’ve been leaning on the lessons my Paternal Grandfather taught me about respect for nature and understanding the gifts as well as the dangers that are a part of that respect. He has learned about ice shelves and has been learning to read the river….shallow water looks lighter….fast water can look murky and/or dark….”Let’s throw a stick into the river and see what happens to it. A stone?”
I am putting limits on how long I can sustain this, but I will look back on this time as being a bit of a gift of sorts to our beautiful boy. He is so very important to all of us. To all of my readers who have made other choices out of concerns for the safety of your circle, you are giving a tremendous sacrifice, as are those who have decided to take care of your grand babies through these most trying times. I have your backs…all of you.
Gratitude, also to Wee Wild Ones SE who have provided weekly FLOW events/colouring sheets/creative links and recipes for goo and mixtures, music videos and zoom meet ups…while we can’t do all of it, we are glad for the connection and send our love to all of the hard workers! I have continued respect and love for you!
Thank you to Miss Carlie for your wonderful music classes!
Yoga with Ms. Chloe sometimes gleaned amazing participation and sometimes just brought the sillies out. And Steven loved seeing his little friends on Zoom calls, but Gramma mostly missed the appointments for her outside wanderings with her little boy. When the weather is nice in Calgary, a person just has to take advantage!
Steven has been learning a lot about balance and loves to practice on logs.
Steven has been learning a lot about predators and prey. He has been learning that animals are food for one another out in nature. Here, he is pretending to be a sneaky coyote. He has observed only one coyote at the river, but knows from Gramma that there are more and that when they have their pups, they are super cranky. He’s learned to shout SHOO and to wave his arms.
He is allowed to take as many breaks as he wants. He knows that Gramma will not lift him because he’s a toddler now and can toddle. I’m happy to explore places when he takes his breaks, with my eyes, nose and ears. I tell him to let me know when he’s ready. On this day we were looking for an owls nest on the west side of the river and into Fish Creek Park.
Throwing sand at the sand beach.
North Glenmore Park and picking up plants at Wendy’s home in Lakeview.
Two Little Dickie Birds
Watching Decorah Live Eagle Cam during afternoon snack time, especially fun on wintry or bad-weather days.
In mid March, I found myself without a church community and so my first step into the world of Live Streaming was to connect with, when I could, daily Mass with St. Peter’s parish and weekend Mass with our Bishop McGrattan at the St. Mary’s Cathedral.
I light a wee candle as Mass begins and join in any sung bits and even click little heart icons when I am wanting to participate in public prayer responses. It is a very strange experience, not to be surrounded by my prayer community, but through Live Streaming, I can remain connected, celebrate the liturgy of the word, take in many inspiring homilies and journey, with support, through these troubling and isolating times.
If a person wants to connect with Live Streaming opportunities, they can be found on most social media platforms. They could keep you busy all day long, so I have a few favourite ones that I will share here.
Because I come from a creative background, I can not help but feel concerned for the many musicians who rely on income from gigs and live events throughout our city and across the nation. I often wonder how our local musicians are managing through Covid. I think it’s a great idea to attend and support at least one musician, artist or other performer through Covid times, if it is possible, without creating a struggle in your own home.
Each evening, at 7:00 Monday through Thursday, I attend I Love Ruthie, a music/book/story telling type event, hosted by Ruth Purves Smith. This event puts a smile on my face and is conveniently set between dinner and my Skype visit with my father out in Ottawa. Each evening we meet cats, see plants, hear readings from a book of the day, look out Ruthie’s window to a completely different landscape and answer the question of the day. An art book of the week is opened to an image each evening…something to think about and ponder. If you would like to attend, I can connect you with a link.
Ruthie has been self-isolated in a small Alberta hamlet named Stalwell since this all began.
I’m filing these away for ‘after the pandemic’ times because I just don’t seem to have time to take absolutely everything on. I’ve recently done some curbside purchases at the Inglewood Art Store and I’m motivated to get my own creations rolling out of my home studio.
The Glenbow Museum and Gallery have been doing Live Streaming, as have most other gallery spaces. The first one that I bumped into was ‘Staring at My Four Walls’ With Viviane Art Gallery. I loved this series. From here, I went looking and found artist talks, gallery tours and all sorts of efforts being made by supporters of the visual arts.
Christine Klassen’s Art Gallery hosted an art panel during the exhibit Papyromania featuring work by Heather Close and Rick Ducommun and I thought that was very well done.
Don’t feel intimidated by these sorts of experiences. I know that some have enjoyed Opera, Concert performances and even cooking experiences through Live Streaming.
If you are a nature buff, there are also a whole number of Live Cams set up at nests or rivers, where you can watch Live Streaming. One of my favourites is the Decorah Live Eagle Cam. I hope you will explore some of these events and experiences through Covid times.
My 65th birthday began as most days do, with time well-spent at the edge of the Bow River. The vast numbers of Midges at the river meant that Swallows were feeding in droves of thousands, skimming the water over and over again. The Bald Eagle adults were feeding new youngsters on the nest and this always creates lots of magic at the river. While the day was turning out to be grey and a little chilly, I still felt that I was able to breath, relax and do a little reflecting about what my life is all about, what I value and what is important to me.
In the afternoon, on the advice of my middle daughter, I watched a couple of episodes of the The Great Canadian Baking Show. I laugh as I think about this because the last thing I am is a baker. It was relaxing and mindless television and that was okay.
Colourful gifts were appearing on my dining table. Thank you, Kathy and Val!
I walked Max…
I captured a quick photograph of our new vent resident…
…before heading over to my daughter’s for a Dragon Pearl take out dinner. The Dragon Pearl brings up so many memories for our family. It’s been our favourite family restaurant since the children were in high chairs. I miss and love all of the people who cook and serve at this beautiful little spot in Inglewood.
While any food in a take-out situation doesn’t taste exactly the same as if you are eating it in the restaurant, it was a generous and loving thing to sit down with one of three children and to eat such delicious food. After all, my grandson was sitting at the end of the table, entertaining me with his enthusiasm about the cupcakes that were hiding over in the red pan. I opened his card and he vibrated with excitement and loving smiles.
A little over halfway through the meal, he started pointing and saying, “Auntie Cayley” over and over again. My son-in-law’s eyes started shifting side to side. He was just acting weird. So, finally, I looked over my shoulder to the front yard and saw Pigeon on the yard, pressing mounted balloons into the gardens. I saw her partner, Shawn, waving and signalling. I went to the door and was excited enough about the balloons and the company when all of a sudden cars began to file past, covered in hand made banners and decorations. The participants bonked their horns enthusiastically!
Oh my gosh! It was a stream of my friends in cars! Let me tell my readers something.
On the television feel-good news stories and on social media, we’ve all seen friends and families and teachers creating parades for friends, family members and students. It looks like a lot of fun. It also warms your heart when you see it. But, to have it happen in your own life is beyond exciting. I broke out into an immediate ugly cry, sobbing uncontrollably. I felt such overwhelming love pour into my life. It would have been perfect had my son been able to be there to enjoy it, but truthfully, it was an experience I will never forget!
We celebrated with yummy cupcakes, a sip of wine, lawn chairs and more birthday greetings, reminiscing and physical distance. I loved this experience…a combined effort of love and celebration. Thank you, friends and dear family! If you wish to really make someone’s heart swell and to fill them with an affirmation of love, try throwing them a parade. These are pandemic times, so throw pandemic parades!
Another way to communicate with your loved ones through these crazy times is through Messenger. I used to call this Face Time, but then what do I know? To enjoy a messenger visit, I have to log on to Facebook.
Go to the messages icon at the top.
In the top white band, you will see the New Group option. Click on that.
You will see a list of friends and to the right of each of their names, a circle. Click on the name of each person you want to join a particular chat.
Click the word, Create, that appears in the bottom right. You have formed your group.
When you wish to chat and see this group, instead of clicking on the telephone icon on the top right, click on the wee movie projector. A large screen will pop up and people will join as they answer their calls.
Sometimes it’s nice to establish, as much as you can, a time that works for all when using any of these methods. As well as time and day, some within your circle may have to use these technologies throughout their work week, from home, and it may be too much to expect them to use the same technologies in their down time. Be very amiable to some people opting out when you make the invitation. It can be really exhausting to always be connecting through technology. We yearn for real connection, but sometimes we just do the best we can.
I use Messenger as a way of connecting with my siblings and my father on Sunday afternoons. It has become a short, sweet gathering that I truly enjoy. We haven’t been the greatest as staying in touch with one another over the years, so this is something very new and I really really love it. Here are a couple of screen shots from messenger gatherings. We live in Comox, Calgary and Ottawa.
I’ve also used this method for one-on-one chats with my high school friend, Ramona, who lives in Michigan. With her, I can talk about worries, fears, good books and landscapes…we shared a few sunrises since beginning this connection.
My cousin Margy can always make me laugh. She can update me about family in southern Alberta. We can truly relax with one another.
I spend a lot of time alone these days…by making these connections on various systems, I am able to remain close, while far away. I love you all!
I’m of the mind that we can move kindness through the world. This week, I have encountered some beautiful and engaging moments on Instagram, Facebook, Skype and other social media. Congratulations to those of you who are being supportive, loving, generous and healing. While we don’t necessarily have all of the time in the world, there are positive people we can access in order to contribute to our own wellness.
My family drew a line in the sand once prescriptions were picked up. My son and I are following the requests of the World Health Organization and our own Provincial Dr. Deena Hinshaw by remaining at home and keeping social distance. In the meantime, we are finding our ‘new normal’. I have to say that this past week I listened to the media a lot. I’m guessing you did too. I know that the news coming out of Italy makes me very sad because my daughter and I had such a magical time traveling Italy and I find this heart breaking that their community is suffering so much loss.
In the meantime, back at home, I’m getting into gathering research for a project that I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve also connected with a lot of different uses for social media that serve me in healthy ways and offer support for others. At this time, everyone is coming to financial blows. Good for those of you who are enjoying financial stability because your houses are paid for and you have provisions to get you through this. Bless those who are struggling….but then, you’ve all heard the news during this past week.
Here are a few of the amazing connections I’ve been blessed to have in the last week.
Auntie Check-in with all of my nieces and nephews…this will be a weekly thing. I haven’t heard from Ainslie, but every one else checked in. For this, I’m using Facebook group messenger.
E mail group letters are being exchanged in some of my circles, in order to touch base with how friends are doing and what they’re doing.
I’ve always touched base with my father via Skype, although our reception has not been very good as of late and so we are using Facetime for daily check ins.
My Grandson and I are Skyping, although sometimes we have used Facetime. I love joining Steven at his breakfast or lunch table.
I’ve figured out Group Skype and a circle of my friends and I will be meeting every Friday evening at 7:30.
I’m enjoying various poets and their works on Instagram, book reviews and all connections with word.
There are many artist tours going on on Instagram as well, including those conducted by Trepanier Baer and the Glenbow. Seek them out. You won’t be disappointed. I’m really excited about the one offered by vivianeartgallery in Kensington, Calgary.It’s called Staring at my Four Walls! Check it out. And in the meantime, think about your own art and perhaps get around to archiving it.
There are a number of musicians who are connecting with us through various media and live streaming. You can fire off a wee contribution for these mini concerts. I missed Joe Nolan’s the other night, but I DID attend Ruth Purves Smith and her Swalwell event. She is reading dramatically from the classics in an intimate setting. Of course, she ended up playing us a tune. ‘We just keep on dancin’. There ain’t no other way.’
Contribution to her Pandemic Kitty can be made to firstname.lastname@example.org
This was a wonderful gathering with Ruth at the center. She shared a real time experience. You don’t have to dress up for these events…wear your pajamas! Ruth showed us her latest kitty rescue, a photograph of her mama and a portrait of her Dad. She showed us notations that her mother made along the margins of her Poe book. She drew the Northern Flicker card and thought of our communal well being. It was lovely and minimized a huge anxiety that had come over me last evening.
There are wonderful things happening all over the world. You are not alone, dear readers. I will make every effort to continue sharing some of what is available to you through the coming days.
Teachers, I am, of course, thinking of all of you over these difficult times. I know that you are all experimenting with various programs like Zoom and Google Group in order to open up remote learning for your students. You are shaving down content to meet the new guidelines coming out by Alberta Learning. You are caring for your own children at home while doing this. I am thinking of you all.