Tribute to a Friend

“Later I will tell him: our courage comes out in different ways. We are brave in our bold dreams but also in our hesitations. We are brave in our willingness to carry on even as our pounding hearts say, “You will fail and land on your face.” Brave in our terrific tolerance for making a hundred mistakes. Day after day. We are brave in our persistence.”
― Kyo Maclear, Birds Art Life: A Year of Observation

My dear friend, Bobbie, lived bravely, passionately and his spirit transcends everything that bound him to the earth…I love you and my life has been incredible because you have been here for me…for us.  No words for now, but I’ve sipped coffee this morning in the quiet of the house, Max at my feet, revisiting our friendship.  These are, in part, moments along the way.  But, we spent most of our friendship looking out at others and beauty.  So, I can not possibly share all of the immensity of that.  Know that you were loved, my beautiful Bob.

ACAD third year…and we gathered to celebrate spring.  I will forever be grateful for meeting you.

After meeting you, you were a part of every celebration.  My children love you.  My friends love you.  And we became family, all of us.

Bob is found written into so many journal pages…a few appear in this post.

I will let Ed know…

Gatwick Airport, before the train.

Oh, the places we have seen!  Angel Glacier, beautiful hikes…so many hikes…walks…galleries…Paris, Giverny, London…Argenta…road trips…books, art, family, friends.

I am blessed for having Liz, Janet, Bronwyn, Peter, Artemis, Cedar…I am blessed for the circle of love.

Some of My Favourite People

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love Art in Calgary Tours

Wendy Lees

Ruth Purves Smith

 

 

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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Bad Pictures – Big Heart

The sky is growing very dark.  It is a bit past noon on Friday.  The long weekend looms ahead of me.  I’ve got lists of arts events on my calendar, ones that I began skipping last night and will probably continue to skip through the weekend.  I have no idea why, apart from the fact that I feel so content…since the broken foot, the forced recovery period, the slower Max walks, the stopping and looking at birds, the filling of the bird feeder, the moving out of clutter.  The process has made me peaceful, but I’m not sleeping.

Today, Frank’s Flats looks like this.

Kath's Canon September 4, 2015 frank's 027Autumn is definitely moving in…my favourite season.  I even delight in the chill of the air, the kind that leaves your nose dripping.

I think the papa osprey is pushing his kids out of the nest. (I just learned recently that the female leaves the nest experience first, so it must be papa who has been teaching the kids to fish). This morning, one of the kids (female) was crying on this side of the highway, from atop a pole…no sibs at the nest as I passed by, on the other side of the highway….no sibs fishing the neighbour hood pond.  I think Dad’s saying, “Adios”.  Now what’s a kid to do?

It’s an unbelievable thing that this family will begin an epic migration and that the monogamous couple will reunite again, barring any tragic events.  This map illustrates known migration routes…so for those of you who grew weary of my amazement by these raptors this past season, know that these lives are miracles…one couple, three juveniles.  I can only wish them well.  It looks like they are heading for South America.

migration-paths Osprey I’ve learned the voice of the osprey amid the huge number of voices in this one landscape. This morning, I heard the sad vocalization by this little lady and grabbed a shot from a huge distance away just to record the moment.  I like that I turn my head at the sound of an osprey.   I like this little place in the world.  I was pleased to hear one of the youngster coyotes articulating this morning, although in the lush green of summer, they’ve managed to be very discreet and invisible.  While I have not been a professional archivist and photographer, I have intimately grown to love my time behind the lens.  If you wish to see some beautiful photos, likely of some of the same birds, look here.  I particularly love the captures of the Night Heron and the Great Blue Heron.

Kath's Canon September 4, 2015 frank's 024For the past two weeks I’ve been given many opportunities and moments to observe the Great Blue Herons and it seems that this would be every where I would go, even a siting while visiting my dear friend out in Chestermere.

I thought that I was in amaze-butts-ville because one lone heron was hanging out at Frank’s Flats, that is until two days ago.  I observed at least five in a marshland area that I could only catch from the highway.  I’d have to do a hike down into that space, probably next year.

The truly remarkable thing is that in a single day, I saw hawks soaring and learning to fly, ducks, mergansers and coots running on water for their experiments in flying (circling the pond at low level as though they were playing) and then seeing them take flight, fourteen pelicans, flashing white black white black in a triangle overhead…and then finally, observing the spectacle of two great blue herons, dodging one another in the wind, flying…weaving…playing…skimming water…reaching up…I’d never seen anything like it.  The camera just sat against my chest.  I love moments when, in today’s archive-focused-world, the camera is put on the shelf because the world ‘is your oyster’.

I’m going to post the crazy bad photo that I DID take…because I wanted to have an image that said, September 3, this happened. “Two great and fragile giants with huge wing spans were given to me to watch and enjoy.”

Kath's Canon September 2 Rumble and Franks September 3, 2015 105

September 3, 2015, I watched two herons in flight for approximately five minutes…dodging one another…staying in flight…a wonder!

It’s not that I know anything about totemic animals apart from the fact that a huge number of cultures listen to, speak to and are impacted by the creatures that share this planet with us…whether they fly or creep or roam or swim…but I do know that all of this and them, are grace…holy…

We have not taken very good care of any of this and these.

Whether in July, you notice and think about the Dragonflies that hover at your feet or in August you are looking at the Great Blue Herons, it all has a significance to your life, your heart and your mind.  Nature has taught me much these past two months and I am filled with gratitude for her lessons.  God is manifest and all is Holy.

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.

Prayer Mandala

At times when I feel grief spill over me, for missing Mom, I take out her prayer mandala and spend time building upon the piece and praying, both.  One of those times came upon me this past weekend.  As recommended by my spiritual director and dear friend, I’ve connected my creative side and my spiritual side through this form of prayer. I know that mandalas are used in countless religious traditions and these are as varied and as unique as the people who create them.  As a practicing Catholic, I have used art for the past many years, as a way of drawing closer to God.  While I am painting or creating, I don’t feel as though I’m sitting outside, on God’s doorstep…I feel as though I’m spending time, sharing his kitchen…no rushing about…no distractions…quiet and restful.

P1030399The process of creating a prayer mandala, one that is not intended for art, but for the focus and spiritual aspects of the prayer, may take much time.  As an example, the initial four concentric circles took somewhere between four and six weeks to complete, beginning in early September.  I think that more typical of a mandala, is a pattern that segments itself around a central point, where as my mandala has become a series of almost concentric circles.  I wanted my mother at the prayer’s center.

Many years ago, at a silent auction, intended to raise funds for the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, I bid on and won a mandala created by Tamarah Alister Rose AntaresShe creates exceptional works and is a beautiful woman.  I took a photograph this morning, out on my back deck, of Tamara’s mandala that hangs in my bedroom.

P1140703The process of praying my particular mandala, incorporates many of the memories I have of sharing times with Mom…but also, a bit of a journey through her life as little girl, growing woman and mother.  I am comforted through this process and while it is a deeply personal journey of prayer that I can’t share here, I think it’s alright to share that this can be a very healing possibility that might benefit readers going through similar loss.  If you’ve created a mandala, I would like to hear about it.

Four to six weeks of prayer...

Four to six weeks of prayer…

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Reading over Mom’s old letters to me…and incorporating them…remembering her teaching me the blanket stitch…of doing and undoing…of weaving…

I think it is important for the artist or spiritual being to not see or set limits to the experience of prayer.  I think that God opens up the heart and the mind…we are simply needing to be open to that.

I think this is a particularly wonderful exploration of a mandala by the Dalai Lama.

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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Finding Kearston

I found her!  Kearston is now 23…that means I’ve been holding on to this letter for eleven years!  With plans to move back to Saskatchewan to study nursing, Kearston seems to be doing just fine.  It was a blessing to share in a conversation and to know that she is alright.

It was so good to give Kearston a hug and pass her grade seven letter back to her.  I had a practice of having my students write a letter to themselves for their religion class and three years after that, would post them in the mail.  I’m still holding on to two letters that were sent back because of incorrect addresses.  In time, I know that these will also find their way into the right hands.  May you have tremendous happiness ahead, dear Kearston!

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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