“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.
I feel sorry that I didn’t spend my usual time grabbing some formal family portraits on the 1st of July, but I have some sweet photographs, regardless. I took some at the elders’ table, but ladies, none of you would want me to post the photos capturing you chowing down on all of that great food. Right?
Thanks and blessings to my wonderful family. Margy you provided such a beautiful space for us to celebrate and Barb, the food was remarkable, as is always! Now I know that our traditional pasta salad is called Dill Pickle salad. How did I miss that all of these years?
Barbara, TJ and Sadie Witbeck
This post will be heavy on the images and sketchy on the reflections. However, let it be known that yet another reunion weekend has left me feeling super nostalgic and grateful.
June 30th meant the highway drive on roads lined with Canola fields and big blue sky. We set up our tent and relished an evening of magic, song and love, catching the early arriving family and those who live in Raymond, Alberta already.
Navy, or as others call her, Bean…daughter to Mack and Kecia…grand daughter to Margy Witbeck. New sketchbook. New markers.
Cousins, Sutton and Maverick.
Went to check out the beautiful home that Jess and Penny have been building…and met these two along the way.
Beautiful Maisey Witbeck and her gorgeous daughter, Bowie.
After hanging out and loving the beautiful space, we decided to go up to the Lodge and see Auntie Eleanor. No photographs of her, but we hung out, looked out a family album and then left the family room, for her bedroom so that we could pour over old mementos. Among them, these treasures. The problem with taking photos of photos is the glaring and reflection. But, these are nice to have.
Eleanor Moors and Ted Witbeck, on their wedding day.
Little baby, Laura Lee. I hope that I will receive corrections in spelling where I make mistakes.
My little cousin, Teddy (Thump) with a baby goat.
Laura Lee is in the middle and that would be cousin, Barbara on the right. Is that Cecil on the left? Help me, peeps.
Laura Lee, Jo, Barbara and Cecil.
Auntie Eleanor said that these birds were drawn by her Dad for her, so art done by my Grandfather John Moors.
I loved our little visit. Back at Margy’s, the tent photo, a wonderful family dinner of pulled pork and potato salad and then, the big bonfire, with great music and lots of singing.
My photo of beautiful baby Bowie on the trampoline.
I will include our playlist of songs as soon as Heidi sends them on to me. I don’t think it was until about 1:00 in the morning that we all made our way to bed for the night. What an exceptional day!! I loved being with my cousin, Margy, again! Loved sharing her grand babies with her and really was grateful to share this day with my son.
Photograph credit here, Maisey.
Photo Credit: Maisey Hicken campfire snuggles
Next day = Parade Day.
Got ice. Taped red and white checker table clothes to tables. Grabbed some coffee from the gas station. Ready to roll! Erin, Doug, Linda and Steven joined the family on the parade route and the fun began.
Parade opening…four Mounties and the colour guard. It’s the same every year!
John (my nephew), Douglas (son-in-law) and James (son)
Steven (Kath’s grandson) and Erin (Kath’s daughter)
Cecil (my cousin) little Lily (Cecil and Dianne’s grand daughter) and Dianne
Auntie Ruth and Danny
Auntie Jackie and Auntie Ruth
Nephews Levi and Greg are in this photo. (Recently learned that we refer to our cousins’ children as Nieces and Nephews.) WHOOP! Congratulations on your entry in this year’s parade.
Back to the house for our meal sharing and then the program and candy toss.
Dinner: Traditional Pulled Pork, home cooked beans, dill pickle salad, coleslaw and Caesar salad. No close ups of plates this year as I was too busy taking photos of my grand son.
Chalk activity as designed by Eva.
Chalk drawing, thanks to Eva.
The hostess with the most-est up on the platform, Margy. My beautiful Auntie Eleanor checking out the swaths of people.
Sadie playing the ukelele during the family program. Somewhere Over the Rainbow Cousin Clayton, holding the Mic.
Father and son playing a bit in the sand.
My family in the family program…singing Jackson. So good. I had a tear here.
The candy toss for children ages 0-4. Thanks, Penny! The candy toss, ages 4 to adult…much smaller crowd this year allowed for different age categories from usual. No photos of adult category because I was filling my shirt at the time.
I have unbelievable love for my family and feel very nostalgic after a weekend in southern Alberta. I’m posting a few family reunion memories here. Please, family, if you see photographs that you don’t have, just right click and save them to your archives. I love you all!
Just sipping an early coffee. James and I arrived home from Lethbridge at midnight last night and had it not been for Max and his request at the back door at six this morning, I would still be sleeping.
Yesterday was an exquisite day. I liked the surprises of it and the colour of it. In its own way, yesterday was a rare bird.
But first, there were the ordinary rituals. First, the update from the red couch.
I got Max down to the Bow River early and discovered how powerful and fast-moving it was, after all of our rain these past days. Experts assure Calgarians that these continue to be usual run off levels and that we needn’t be anxious about the swelling river, but given the floods of other years, the changes at the river can feel unnerving.
Some one doesn’t care. He always smiles on these walks.
Something to identify.
Another something to identify.
Birds were very busy and there was a cacophony of sound as it seemed they were all rebuilding, particularly the Red Winged Black Birds. At the eagle nest, I’m pretty certain that we’ve had one of the eaglets ‘fludge’ (accidentally fledge) as I’ve only been able to pick up the profile of one of the siblings these past four days. One adult continues to stand watch in neighbouring trees, but I’ve seen only one this week. We’ll see how that all plays out over the coming days. With full foliage in the trees now, perhaps I am missing things. The adults raised up only one of two last year and this may end up being a similar season. I’ve been documenting daily what I see at the nest, but am not publishing these, as a way of protecting the location of the nest.
Once arriving home, James and I loaded up and headed out on the highway, after gassing up the vehicle and buying our road trip treats. It was sad to leave Max behind, but I was super happy that my nephew, John, agreed to come and take care of Max’s needs late in the afternoon. This was a great relief and I am very grateful to John.
We got as far as Nanton before we began our exploring. There was a vintage car show going on, as well as a Barbecue cook-off and parade of garage sales. The sights and smells were wonderful. Good job, Nanton!
In Claresholm, there was a stop for lunch. The most wonderful thing about lunch was spending time with my son. I was already thinking about how wonderful it was that he wished to spend the day with me and celebrate my art. He has been very encouraging since I have begun painting again. He is a great support.
We hit Lethbridge in the midst of Pride festivities and it seemed that the core was alive with activity and fun. GO PRIDE! Karen and Mel had already visited Casa and so we hooked up at the Tim Horton’s where I enjoyed an ice lemonade and the four of us had a lovely chat. It was good to reconnect and to give ourselves the time to share. I so appreciated that Karen made this visit happen and that we were able to celebrate my art and one another. My heart was spilling over the entire day.
I tried to locate my friend, Michael, with no success and so James and I steered the boat toward Larry and Nina’s. Along the way, I shared stories about my memories of the years 1973 to 1977. I’m sure at times he was overwhelmed with the name dropping, but I love that I was able to bring him into the circle of love that I experienced through those years. Gratefully, Larry and Nina were home and we managed to really shake up their afternoon! But, oh my, it was so much fun! Talks of single-engine Cessna flights, books, family, Herb, renovations, Kaslo…it was rich and filled with belly laughs. Thank you, Larry and Nina, for letting us crash into a quiet afternoon of watching baseball. I love you.
I changed my clothes and off James and I headed to Casa for the celebration of a group exhibit as well as two other exhibits that were going on at the time. Casa is a beautiful facility and Darcy is a hard working curator! The following words shared by Lorraine Lee, the writer of the poem, Child’s Rara Avis.
The Gallery at Casa Presents:
CHILD’S RARA AVIS
work by A Cluster of Rare Birds
June 22 – August 24, 2019
Hugh Prather wrote in Notes to Myself:
“There were seventy-five people in the lobby and only a seven year old girl was finding out what it felt like to sit on a marble floor.”
Or, in this case on a rock.
The exhibition is based on a verse written by one of the artists at the age of 17 – about sitting on a rock and looking at her world through a child’s eyes but now, on the cusp of adulthood, thinking she would no longer be able to do so. This exhibition says we absolutely can, and SHOULD, still ‘sit on that rock’ no matter how grown up we are.
Each woman in this group has used the verse as their “guide”. Some have used direct imagery from the verse, some used the idea of the verse.
– the adventuresome spirit of her grandchildren
– her own childhood memories of walking in nature with her grandmother and seeing the magic there
– believing the world to be filled with colourful, impossible creatures
– familiar landscapes but with a child’s touch of fantasy and painting style
– childhood images of magical worlds she could only dream about
– the freedom and innocence of childhood
– seeing everyday beauty, that as adults, we often pass by
– an archive of treasures suspended through her experience of her own child like sensibilities
All of us have been able, through our creativity, to reach to our child self and in the process, make some discoveries about who we are and what we believe. And, essentially to discover, or rediscover, the spirit of fun and wonder that children naturally gravitate to. To look again through the eyes of the child we used to be.
Come join us on the rock.
A Cluster of Rare Birds:
We met one another (this was my first time meeting the other artists) and celebrated with wine and cake. Thank you for your hospitality, Lorraine.
I will also include here, my own artist’s statement regarding the work that I am presently producing. With over 220 Instagram images archiving the life and times of a bush at the edge of a pond, I have many references for a vast exploration of time, atmosphere and presence. I am very excited about it.
My Rara Avis: Instagram Bush
A person aligns with certain values throughout the course of living a sometimes-joyful, sometimes-challenging life. My way of being is strongly influenced by literature and most specifically, by two books; Le Petit Prince par Antoine de Saint-Exupery and Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury. Both writings include lessons on noticing, presence and place. The protagonist of Dandelion Wine, Douglas Spaulding, keeps a diary throughout the summer of 1928, in the front, collecting a record of ‘usual’ things about summer and in the back, a record of the revelations about those ordinary things. My life, thus, is marked by a huge history of seeing the spectacular embedded in the ordinary.
The poem, a Child’s Rara Avis written by Lorraine Lee, aged 17, invited me to share my rara avis, my incredibly beautiful and evolving experience of a single landmark along a circular pond walk with my dog, Max, daily, in 2015. I took pause in front of this bush and observed the changing aspects of its structure and surrounding environment through the course of our walks, snapping one Instagram photo and capturing the moment as a matter of preservation. I logged the time of day, the weather and the date at each visit. Through the course of this presence, I collected samples of vegetation and other organic materials found beneath the branches of this same bush and bottled them up as an approach to archiving the moment. Douglas Spaulding, similarly, observed his grandmother bottle the ‘Summer of 1928’ in the cool basement of his home, in the form of Dandelion Wine, a tincture to be brought out in the wintertime to combat aches and colds.
In the studio, I am pouring over the references and field notes, enjoying the sensual memories and the experience of walking. I am intimately recreating these experiences by transitioning the Instagram photographs into paintings. This process contributes a seeming permanence to something that is very ephemeral. (see Chapter 15 in Le Petit Prince) It elevates my rara avis.
It is the child’s heart within me that discovered the wonder of this location. It is here that I ‘sat on a rock and watched the world’.
During the process of walking, I realized that while incubating the idea of these works, all square formats and all acrylic paintings, I wanted to also capture the act of walking. Videographer, Liam Hawryluk, of Beam Media, generously joined me on the circle and collected footage across the seasons, capturing the reality that within a very huge narrative, there is a rara avis available for personal engagement, if one chooses to take notice.
This is the video created by Liam Hawryluk.
Liam’s company, Beam Media, produces amazing videos and I am so grateful that he took this project on. This archive means the world to me. Thanks, Liam.
I think that the first surprise, and a glorious one, was to see Kasia. It was such a quick embrace and I wish we had shared more time, but so quickly, a big chunk of my amazing family including my Auntie Eleanor, descended into the space. Thanks also to Tim and Tamaki. And, thank you, Larry and Nina. And most importantly, thank you, James. What a wonderful and surprising night. We all live such busy lives and I’m grateful for those of you who were able to find the time to give me this support. Now, please readers, forgive my blast of photographs.
Martine, Kath, Danielle
Nina, Kath, Larry
Kath and son, James
Kath and Auntie Eleanor She described my art as having a lot of movement.
Tamaki and Tim
Tristan, Robert John de Gruchy, cousin Deanna and beautiful daughter, cousin Barb, cousin Martine and daughter, Danielle and cousin Margy. In front, Kath and Auntie Eleanor
A baby born to its parents is put into a position of utter trust and vulnerability. It can do nothing to earn or keep or appreciate your hard work and your giving heart. The infant child can only receive love. To be ill in body or mind, or to be dying, leaves a person in the same vulnerable state of being as was once experienced as an infant. This coming and going of humanity leaves all participants in a place of tremendous sacredness/holiness/grace and belonging.
As I consider my own challenges, I need to remember that I am good, for the simple reason that I am. I belong in a circle of belonging.
Sometimes the world can tell us differently. Sometimes our own heads can try to convince us that we are ‘not enough’. There are days when we act like squirrels, gathering in ‘stuff’, thinking that somehow that ‘stuff’ will make us safe/secure/better. There are days when we forego time with our families so that we can work harder and earn more so that we can provide more, when all our families needed most was our presence. We need to reflect upon that presence.
To each of my readers, “You are good.” Celebrate your wondrous design. Have a dance. Listen to the words to this song. Have a great weekend. Thanks, Hollee, for sharing birthday dinner with my family. Thanks to Cayley, Shawn, Erin, Doug and Steven, Linda and James for Dragon Pearl feasting and Crave cake! Thanks, Steven, for the jazz invite in the middle of the week. Thanks, James for attending with your ol’ Ma. Thanks, Wendy, Tammy, Karen, Lauraine, Jas and Dan for Sunday jam at Mikey’s. Thanks, nephew for almost daily “I love you”s by text. Thanks, Dad, for 5:00 Skypes. Thanks, Val, for connecting with me in real time and in dreams. Thanks, Erin, for restorative Yoga. Thanks, Kath, for studio painting time, bird watching, dog walking, teaching big kids and small. Thanks Mary, Pat and Janet for tea and snacks. Thanks, Facetime Friends, for all of those online messages. Thanks, John, for everything you were for me in life and how you inspire me now. It’s been a good week. I love you because love never ends.
… is invisible to the eye. Both scriptural and found in the eloquent pages written by Antoine de St. Exupery, these words resonate with me on this seeming ordinary April day.
As the world’s citizens gasped in horror while the spire of Notre-Dame Cathedral fell to the ravages of fire, I not only grieved the loss/damage to such an iconic structure, but I immediately connected with my own memory and what the sense of place meant to me and my own family. I can not possibly know all of what Notre-Dame has meant over history, nor can I know the myriad of treasured moments shared there by other people just like me, from all over the world.
Instead, I think of my own three children and my, at-the-time, soon-to-be son-in-law. I think of the utter joy at the early morning surprise of a plane ticket from London to Paris, a subway ride into the core from the airpoirt and the magical events that unfolded, all of them shared as family.
Over the past ten years, if one runs just a few searches on the internet, one will find out how many of civilization’s greatest monuments have fallen, destroyed in natural catastrophes or through the mindless and hateful ravages of war. The destruction of the most cherished landmarks in human history shatters us, somehow, to the core. These are places captured in the minds and imaginations of all of us, places written about and found in movies, settings that we assume will always remain stable and present in those same imaginations.
I think we need to think about the fragility/the ephemera of our lives and our planet. This morning, again, I reflect upon what is essential. I’m hoping that through the damage done to such a seemingly permanent icon as Notre-Dame Cathedral, our human family might combine their efforts in creating a better world. Let us take pause and go into this day, empowered to make a difference.
Off the top…a great book recommendation made by Bill MacDonnell, Landscape and Memory by Simon Schama.
From the section of Streams of Consciousness Chapter 5…this preface by Gaston Bachelard.
“I was born in a country of brooks and rivers, in a corner of Champagne, called Le Vallage for the great number of its valleys. The most beautiful of its places for me was the hollow of a valley by the side of fresh water, in the shade of willows…My pleasure still is to follow the stream, to walk along its banks in the right direction, in the direction of the flowing water, the water that leads life towards the next village…Dreaming beside the river, I gave my imagination to the water, the green, clear water, the water that makes the meadows green. …The stream doesn’t have to be ours; the water doesn’t have to be ours. The anonymous water knows all my secrets. And the same memory issues from every spring.”
― Gaston Bachelard, Water and Dreams: An Essay on the Imagination of Matter
These summarize my general sense of landscape and more specifically, place.
Just as I think that our narratives inhabit objects, and without materialism, contain our affections and memory, I believe that particular places do the same.
On Labour Day, my son and I headed to Magrath, Alberta to say good-bye to a house…my Auntie Ruth’s home…because on September 15, it will be possessed by a new family after all of these years. James and I listened to CBC radio programming all the way south to Lethbridge. It seems to me that a story on whistle blowers in places of employment kept us engaged for most of the journey. The miles, as is usual, went by quickly. Once traveling the 23 across from Claresholm, Barons was just around the corner and then, with coulees in sight, I felt as though I was home.
Rolling into Magrath, the first stop was the old house. My cousins have been sorting and downsizing and cleaning…a very difficult experience, as I recall from the days when my parents went through the same process. As I stepped into the house, all of the memories of childhood and adulthood rushed back to the surface. There’s just no stopping that particular experience. I snapped a few photographs…while Auntie Ruth had already moved…she was still absolutely present to my experience of memory and love.
Last week, my cousin wrote that he had found a package of negatives in among Ruth’s things…and much like I do at such discoveries, he set out and had them developed. Here, is a scan of one of those photographs. My parents, in 1954, brother John, a year old and one, a photograph of my Grandfather, John Moors, with his dog at Greg Lake.
“His use of architectural phenomenology lets the mind loose to make its way, always ready for what might emerge in the process. The house is ‘the topography of our intimate being’, both the repository of memory and the lodging of the soul – in many ways simply the space in our own heads. He offered no shortcuts or routes of avoidance, since ‘the phenomenologist has to pursue every image to the very end’.”
If one does not move carefully through a house/home, one might not capture these bits of magic or ephemera that remain silenced by time and circumstance. I’m grateful to my cousin who discovered those negatives, flattened amid the bric-a-brac.
Our footsteps echoed in the house, as James and I traveled room to room. And while memories flooded my walk, my son James had a completely different experience of place and quietly uttered the words, “This is so sad.”
I remember the front door always being open or unlocked. Family came and went.
My father asked me to take a photograph of the front door. Several times repaired or renovated, my father had recollection of an incident from his childhood in this part of the house. I’m publishing that recollection, here, as it was written.
“Well the problem is Kath this new door had the hole above it fixed. Anyway my dad and his buddies came home from hunting birds one day in Magrath Alberta . Of course they were half cut (as dad told me years later”if you are going to drink just drink good scotch and you will never have a hang over”. Well that day Dad left a shell in his single barrel 12 gauge shot gun. I being an inquisitive young lad wanted them all to know ( Mom and the whole family was in that little living room); anyway I lined up the duck flying above the door cocked the gun and pulled the trigger.. BAM you should have heard the screems and the shot about knocked me on my butt but there was a neat round hole firght through trim at the top of the door which appeared just seconds after a big guy way over 6 feet had walked in. Dad was the only one who got supreme heck for having a loaded gun in the house. Now I have bared my soul to all those interested.PS I was about 7 or so when this happened..”
I remember fried eggs and bacon cooking….the smell of toast freshly-popped. I remember my mother’s laughter in this kitchen. I will always remember where my Auntie sat.
The back room…I remember the ceiling being lined with cardboard egg cartons. I remember my cousins and drumming and laughter. I remember the door from this room out to the back, always open. I remember summer.
I remember Linda. I remember sleepovers. I remember lots of quilts and pillows.
I remember food supply.
Objects of the every day.
I remember the gardens…the lilies…the geraniums…the hanging baskets.
More than anything, I remember my Auntie sitting on the front porch.
From the house, James and I went for visits with both his Great Aunties…Ruth and then Eleanor. We are so blessed to have these women in our lives, as well as my Auntie Jackie and Auntie Mary. I lift up prayers for all…for their health and their safety and that we keep memories such as I enjoyed with my son, close to our hearts.
Just this morning, and the reason for this post, I interviewed Auntie Ruth over the telephone, about her home.
Back in early 1940s, my Gramma and Grampa moved to Magrath, mostly in an effort to help their young daughter, Ruth, fight the symptoms of asthma. The humid air in Ontario seemed to really irritate her breathing and my grandparents were willing to try anything.
The first home they lived in was rented from a Ukrainian family. I am in the process of researching their name. Water was manually pumped from a well on the property. There was an outhouse and bathing happened in the middle of the kitchen floor in a round tub. Auntie Ruth remembers the water being heated in a kettle on a wood/coal stove.
Magrath had two stores at the time, the Trading Company and Louis Stevenson’s store. There was a black smith shop on main street, as well as a show house. There were no sidewalks in the town.
When Ruth turned 16, she remembers that the family moved into a white stucco house, the very house that James and I visited on September 1 of this year. She remembers that Eleanor, Margaret and Johnny went off to school in the town, located where today’s school stands but, of course, a much smaller building. During the war, Ruth worked at one of the blanket-making machines in the Golden Fleece Woolen Mill. I’m posting a photograph of that particular mill here…it is not to be confused with the Woolen Mill that my grandfather opened up some years later.
Many contracts came in to the Magrath Golden Fleece Woolen Mill during World War II 1939-1945. My Auntie remembers working there.
A booklet published by the Magrath History and Museum Association and written by John Balderson, explains…
“When in full operation, the Golden Fleece Woolen Mill ran three 8 hour shifts, 24 hours a day. Twenty-five men and women were on each shift making seventy-five individuals in total. Two hundred and twenty five army blankets were made each day using 1,000,000 lbs of wool each year.”
Whenever my Auntie speaks about that time, she mentions the Canadians of Japanese descent who shared her machines with her. She also talks about the shame she feels at how they were treated. She explained to me this morning that eight Japanese-Canadian women were pulled off the Sugar Beet fields, to work in the mill. They were all University educated and lovely, however, shy women. Auntie Ruth said that their housing was comprised of sheds lined up on the far edge of town, rows and rows of sheds where these beautiful and hard-working people were treated as prisoners-of-war. My Auntie will never forget the women she worked with on her shifts.
In terms of the house, my Auntie remembers very good and also, difficult times. She dated my Uncle Roy for four months when they got married and moved to Lethbridge, Uncle Roy worked for Western Drilling. Ruth was 20 at the time. Auntie Ruth will always tell you that the Korean War finished off her husband. And all these years later, having read about the war and discovered the exposure these soldiers had to Mustard Agent and Lewisite as well as the bizarre view of PTSD at the time and the irresponsible treatment of these veterans, it is absolutely no wonder that he and his family, struggled upon his return.
I remember vacation days in both Magrath (at my Auntie Ruth’s and at my Grandparent’s place in front of the mill) and Raymond (at my Auntie Eleanor and Uncle Ted’s place). In fact, I regret that I didn’t have the chance to grieve the farmhouse in Raymond like I did this house. I remember much family laughter. I remember the smell of a slow-cooked blade roast in the oven. I remember my Grandmother’s laughter. I remember the smell of wool.
This past weekend, I said good-bye to a place. That does not mean that it does not remain with me…always.
I have lived the past five years without my mother in the physical-her-voice-over-the-phone-physical way. The night I received the phone call that my mother passed away, I crumbled to my knees. Mom was my closest friend. There was NO WAY this could be! Today, the reality of it is still absurd.
Every event in my life, whether small OR significant…every milestone is a reminder. Grief never leaves, but ‘softens on the edges’. For those of my readers who have not yet suffered loss, we ‘don’t get over it’ ever! In timely fashion, CBC radio produced an amazing program on the subject early this week? end of last week. Just a sec. I’ll go find the link.
When my grandson was born, I got a bit of a sucker punch in the gut, some time after the elation and after I drove home from hospital for some much-needed sleep. Hot tears hit my pillow because in my mind the most heaven-filled experience of my lifetime has been the birth of Steven, so what might that have meant to my mother? I hurt a lot with the inability to share this precious boy with my mother.
Mom with my own son, March 1990.
So, there are always going to be those moments.
What can I do, moving forward? Well, one of the gifts that my mother gave me in moving into the everlasting is that she gave me the relationship I now have with my Dad. Let’s face it, Moms and daughters can talk A LOT. As women they become well-bonded through their experiences and their enjoyment in conversation. Since Mom gave me my friendship with my father, I am so grateful. I love that man so much! We have persisted with our 5:00 pm Skype conversations that began to happen daily when Mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, although clearly, our timing is a bit more flexible. My Dad and I talk about absolutely EVERYTHING and this wasn’t always the case. I thank Mom for this. I’m very grateful. Moving forward, I can continue to honour my experiences with my Dad.
As various forms of dementia wreak havoc on aging populations (and this is a bit of a stereotype), we need to explore a number of aspects…health care, supports for caregivers, a more generous perception of personal support workers (paid BETTER and valued for their important work), and financial support for the sake of clinical research.
Finally, I am interested in spiritual connection. My mother really valued her relationship with her Saviour. During my nature walk this morning I was thinking about how human beings are plugged into their devices, around the clock. My Mom would want people to unplug from those and to plug in to real-time conversations instead. She would want us to plug in to experiences and to explore the inner workings of our hearts and minds, no matter our leaning or our ceremony or our practice. As I contemplate this, I will take time today to consider my spirit and tend to it.
Let us be gentle with ourselves on our personal journeys of grief. Time moves on, even though we fight against it. Today, on the anniversary of my mother’s birthday, I am going to spend time in the garden. I’m taking my dog walking into beautiful landscapes. I’m going to try to live an honourable life. I am going to remember the times of laughter shared with a beautiful woman, my Mom.
This morning, I enjoyed a first…first walk along the river shared with Max, my grandson and my daughter. It was a beautiful experience for me, so have to quickly archive.
The day began with a coffee on the red couch. Max stared longingly outside…but I wasn’t up for a rush, given that I’m struggling with a really bad cold right now and feel quite the ache all over.
I took a look at the male House Sparrow who also seemed despairing, perched for two full days on my back fence, looking at the vent where he once made a home.
And yes! That sign does read Be Aware of The Dog, as opposed to Beware of Dog…a gift from my dear friend, Pat. It makes perfect sense if you one day meet Max.
At the base of the vent, all of the wee items of bric-a-brac collected over the years have been emptied out.
No sign of Northern Flicker this morning.
All this aside, once out of my pajamas and into my sloppy clothes, I did a little bit of texting with my buddy, Wendy and headed to the river.
Near the Magpie Tree and saying ‘hi’ to Max.
Mother Bald Eagle across the river from us…we should have hatching this week.
Stopping at the Chickadee Wood.
Stopping quite a bit to watch the fast moving water…the river is different from lake water or the swimming pool water…it makes noise. Steven was enthralled.
And the male Bald Eagle gave us a real surprise! He rarely perches on this side of the river and I noticed him just as we were stepping toward this tree. I quickly grabbed a couple of photographs, but directed Erin to follow me, away from the location…so as not to crowd him. Sadly, before I could set up to take a well-focused photograph, he lifted off right in front of us and flew across the river.
I told Erin that it was a real blessing for Steven that this gentleman was waiting for us…a very unusual and amazing experience.
After our walk and as we returned to the parking lot, I looked up from the edge of the river, and saw Mr. perched nearer the nest and directly across from me. I stooped and found a river stone to give to my grandson…a moment of today’s first. In the water, the stone was golden smooth. I love this little boy with my whole heart and my heart sings that I had this opportunity.
The past three days, we have been pulled out of the deep freeze and into a melt. I can not walk through the tall woods at the river, without hearing the constant mating thrums of Northern Flickers and without seeing the wild flurry as males, out of urge and instinct, chase the females, dodging in and out of branches. I can hear the echoing drum of the Pileated Woodpecker on the opposite side of the river and thrill to see my Alberta Birders’ archives of the splendid colour, later, on my computer at home. It is as though everything has come to life, suddenly. For so long, the world slept.
It all began with the Magpies. My neighbourhood, even as snow mounted on our quiet circle, was abuzz with the squawking gathering of dead branches that were tightly woven into the growing bulb of nests, peppering the remaining Elms.
Evenings, I stood in contemplation while the adult Bald Eagles, flew west and east and west and east, gathering up lining materials and tall grasses, returning again and again to the nest that was clearly visible all winter long. The juveniles have mostly disappeared, leaving the two regal raptors to forge out a life for the new. It has been an intimate and powerful encounter to watch these families throughout such a harsh winter.
While these aren’t the best of shots, I have a wee archive of the interesting approach to gathering. I can only imagine living in one of the ‘big’ houses along the ridge and having access, every day, to such wonder, just outside my windows.
I celebrate, every day, the access I have to such wonder. I really can only equate it all to an experience of grace. My friend, Michael, is someone who knows and understands what I mean by that. A person just wants to sing, at the top of their lungs…”HOLY! HOLY!”
Whether one enjoys the nesting behaviours of an eagle, or the simplicity of sparrows that nest in a stove vent…it is all so amazing.
Mr. & Mrs. 2018
As my children have become adults, I have experienced a sense of loss. Some days my heart feels empty. But, then I step out into nature and I observe what surrounds and once again, my heart sings. I am reminded that God made all of this for me. I am reminded that I need to take responsibility for such astounding beauty. Sometimes it can all be very brutal, but at other times, it is pure fragility and tenderness.
For a girl I know it’s Mother’s Day
Her son has gone alee
And that’s where he will stay
Wind on the weathervane
Tearing blue eyes sailor-mean
As Falstaff sings a sorrowful refrain
For a boy in Fiddler’s Green
His tiny knotted heart
Well, I guess it never worked too good
The timber tore apart
And the water gorged the wood
You can hear her whispered prayer
For men at masts that always lean
The same wind that moves her hair
Moves a boy through Fiddler’s Green
He doesn’t know a soul
There’s nowhere that he’s really been
But he won’t travel long alone
No, not in Fiddler’s Green
Balloons all filled with rain
As children’s eyes turn sleepy-mean
And Falstaff sings a sorrowful refrain
For a boy in Fiddler’s Green
When my London-born son-in-law hears or reads something really impressive or heart breaking or touching, he voices or writes the word, “Respect”. I think it’s a nice response. If he says it to me, simply, and without explanation or embellishment, I feel that…respect.
I’ve noticed in my world, the world of ‘EDUCATION’ that there is a loss of respect these days. Readers, don’t jump on my perceptions…it’s just what it is…my perceptions. I find students are often lacking respect for teachers. I find that professionals are losing respect, in their words and actions, for their peers. I find that people in positions of authority are disrespectful to people ‘beneath’ them. I’m wondering what is going on?
Social media offers us a plethora of disrespectful ‘threads’ day in and day out. We have, as a people, stopped listening to one another. Brief blasts of tweets or posts or images, leave conversations dangling, sometimes making us shiver with their hatred, negativity and stone-walling sensibility.
Recently, I had the opportunity to engage conversation with and learn about one soldier. I had intended to add his photograph to the bottom of a post about my great-grandfather John Moors. Master Corporal Joe Green was the person who took on the task of cleaning my great grandfather’s Memorial Cross, a sterling silver cross that would have been presented to my great grandmother Mary Eleanor Haddow 100 years ago and another to his mother, Grace Rebecca Porter, as a result of John’s death during a German bombing raid in Etaples, France. He had been lying in a hospital tent in Canadian General Hospital #51…a hospital situated with some proximity to a railway line.
Often times a person still hears negative comments about the military. There are wide-sweeping generalities made about peace and war and defense and aggression. “They shouldn’t have been over there in the first place!” Oh…to be ye, who judge. Oh, to be ye, who remain safe in your comfortable beds, with your comfortable thoughts, with your perfect opinions of other people, other countries, other politics because having been given the power, you would done everything differently!
I’ve been faulted for ‘living in the past’. But I don’t. See! I live here. I live now. But, I am absolutely NOT going to lose ties with our common past. I am always going to engage the touch stones of history, in order to do better. I am always going to remember.
Maybe it was the fact that I grew up in a military family during the Cold War years…during peace time…that I grew up with respect.
I remember attending high school in Montana. The MIA were still returning home, some of them, after the war in Vietnam. In 1969, the students were participating in fundraisers and wearing bracelets to bring their men home. Many, as my readers know, were never to return.
I picked up the Memorial Cross for John Moors and drove home. The roads were thick with deep snow, but I felt like I was floating. I was so elated to be driving home in 2018 with a 1918 Memorial Cross as my cargo.
In 2008, Master Corporal Joe Green started working in the civilian workforce at Flowserve where he pursued drafting design. “From going from carrying a weapon 24 hours a day to sitting at a computer, it takes some adjusting,” says Green on Mar. 24, 2017.Photo by Cassie Riabko
Upon reading this profile, I made the decision to write a post that dealt with this issue of respect. While reading Joe’s profile, I found myself with tears. I took pause and remembered, in prayer, Joe’s peer, Private Rob Costall. Joe’s journey has inspired, in me, a new level or respect. This is the man who all of these decades later, held our family’s Memorial Cross in his hands and with precision and care, brought it to a beautiful sheen. I received his name through the centrally located Royal Canadian Legion Branch 275 in Forest Lawn. I had met a most amazing historian, there.
I received this Memorial Cross (there were two that were sent out, one to John’s wife Mary Eleanor Haddow Moors and the other to his mother, Grace Porter Moors…this is likely the one that I am now holding), kindly, from my father’s cousin JR Moors of Roseville, California. My Dad’s Uncle Bob had kept it safe and in his care and then left it to his son for safe keeping. The day it arrived by mail, I was overcome with emotion.
Pte. John Moors Medal The Great War
And finally, with Joe’s work…the refurbished Sterling silver cross.
As a part of our experience of respect, I think it is essential that we promise care of the objects that represent our soldiers and their service. I highly recommend that you solicit the help of Joe Green, locally, in order to tend to these treasures. Please contact me if you want his information and I will have him respond to your request.
I am blessed. I am grateful. I am filled with respect.
My cousin, James Perry, on my maternal side said it perfectly…
“A good polishing would bring back the shine of that silver too, IMHO tarnished medals are brought back to life with polishing, and are part of “Always remember, never Forget” and the sacrifice our families made to keep our world free from tyranny.”