IS-ness

Through the kind invitation of a dear friend, I ended up at the Calgary Catholic Retired Teachers Spring Luncheon at the Calgary Elk’s Club the day following my birthday. Thank you to Ruth, Pat and Emelia for the gracious planning.  I felt so blessed by the renewed connections and the warm embrace of the educators in my circle.  It was an absolutely magical afternoon.

Sitting on my right, was Joan.  In 1979, weeks after the birth of my first child, I took a bus from Lethbridge to Calgary, to interview with this person.  Little did I know, at that time, what a powerful inspiration Joan would become, in my teaching, but also in my way of seeing life and the world…visually…but, in so many other ways.

Last Tuesday…she gave me something more to think about….IS-NESS…the experience of being completely present in this moment.  It’s common to talk about the optimal state of ‘being’, living for this moment only.  There are many ‘gurus’ among us. “There is no past.  There can be no future.  There is only ‘now’.” These run the risk of becoming mere platitudes.  I think we all know what’s really going on…and it’s what the world is telling us is important, not what we know to be important. (sorry to be speaking for all of us here…maybe I’m wrong)

During my life, I’ve driven forward more than anything.  In youth, I thought that I needed more.  I set huge goals for myself. The wheels were in spin and forward I drove!  (when I type the word, DROVE,  an image comes up for me…a huge wind pressing at my face and the full weight of my body pushing against it). I dedicated myself to the work of that…the industry of that.  I taught full days, but didn’t wind down, painting well into the night and rising early in the morning.  I tasted what the FUTURE might be, but never really grasped it.

At some point, I opened the door, and rolled out of the speeding vehicle that was the life I had created and landed safely beside the freeway traveled by all of those around me. For the first time, I noticed what ‘other people’ were doing while I was painting, teaching and raising three children. I looked at my life through the rear view mirror and came to a lurching halt. I saw, for the first time, what it meant to stop….not to slow down, but to stop.

I am not writing this post, in judgement of my choices in youth.  If one looks at the accomplishments of ‘the greats’, one knows that their achievements came to be through commitment, dedication and mostly, sacrifice.  It is no wonder that I spent most of my life seeking success, recognition, accomplishment, production, money. These are the false promises of the human construct.

I am listening to Chris Cornell’s album, Higher Truth, as I type.  I just listened with a new ear to the song, Dead Wishes. While it is not for me to question why, at the age of 52, he took his life, it is for me to explore what it is in this human heart…every heart…that aches, struggles and seeks to be MORE.

One blessing of my life was to sit down with my children and gather for Sunday dinner; another, to seek to communicate and connect. I was rich for the opportunity to see, write, learn and experience art, music and performance…for the opportunity to be still with nature, make observations through all of my senses.  Joy came with walking my dogs, Max-man and Laurie-dog before him.  It came with sitting in the church when it was quiet.  Gratitude came with writing a poem. Magic was to hold my mother’s hand when she slept, warm under her blankets, her Buddy-dog curled into the circle of her back.  Freedom was and continues to be to turn on my favourite music and to paint in my studio, in the same way that the other might dance, with no one watching…for me alone.  IS-NESS….articulated by a dear friend.

(of course, I came home and looked through my documentation of years gone by…the photographs, mere snapshots of times shared…so much wisdom and joy contained in the flashes of light)

I was hired on with Calgary Catholic School District #1 in 1979.  My experiences for the following nine years at Holy Cross Elementary/Junior High were life changing.  This is where I learned the value of the person, above program.  To nurture a love for reading, learning, creating and self ultimately leads to enthusiasm for content, practice and consistent attendance.  I was blessed when opportunities in my career, led to both St. John Fine Art’s School and the Fine Art’s Center (in two different locations).  There, I met some of the most amazing people…educators who fearlessly impacted the district with the truth of the matter…and that is that experiences of art, music, drama and dance teach the brain in new ways, enhance all learning and create well-rounded human beings, prepared for a world that requires problem solving and new ways of seeing!  I went on to take everything I had learned to that point and participated in the opening of Cardinal Newman, a school in the deep south.  There, I continued to work as an advocate for the fine arts and to dream that they would be honoured within the curriculum.

In the following photographs, I’ve captured just a very small sampling of those educators, my mentors and friends. As Alberta is deliberating about and writing new curricula, I’m pleased to recall that I participated in the implementation of the art and drama curricula all those years ago.  It was wonderful to meet up again, with friends, and to share some stories…to speak of life and art and books and Is-ness.  Thank you.

People of Belleville, Ontario

I’ve grown to know and love the people of Belleville and most especially, the “People of Parkwood”!  As I’ve been nesting today, I’ve been looking back on albums and photographs, ones that weren’t saved off of my memory stick and these were heart warming, so I want to archive them here.

There is a community of people in Belleville that welcomes me when I make my migrations east and that is a lovely feeling.  The lesson our family members have learned because of a lifelong connection with the military is that where ever we go, we can adjust, settle in, make new friends and reconnect with old friends.  Just this past year, I reconnected with a kindergarten teacher, Stella Pelkey and her daughter, Lila.  It was as though the years had not gone by.  We shared laughs, tears and stories of Hornell Heights and Paul Davoud School.

While visiting Belleville last summer, my dearest friend from high school years, Ramona Venegas, drove all the way from Michigan, enroute to the east coast of the United States and we shared two magical days together. This happens where ever I travel in Canada and on into the United States.  We are graced in these times with social media that links up dear friends.  Moving on is sad, but we are well cherished beyond time and distance.  This is something I’ve grown to know and understand.

Here are some of the people of Belleville…many are not here because some how they got away without having me snap a photograph.

Dear friends, Beth and Christine Self.  Beth was the youngest of the Self family, three postings to North Bay, Ontario.  Stan was our Padre and the Protestant Chapel on base and our shared activities included many barbecues, Christmas parties, sing songs, church choirs, Youth Groups and mutual support through difficult times.  I love this family, deeply…always will.

kaths-art-15

Barb and Morley…exemplars of faith, family and love.  We met in Belleville.  Barb is a mean cook!  Morley, an inspiring minister, faithful, fun-loving and a great banjo player.  He played and entertained for my father’s 80th birthday party and my dear Mom who suffered Alzheimer’s disease, was well aware that day about how special she was as we also celebrated her birthday.  When I think of these two, I am reminded to have hope.  They took the time to come out last summer to my art exhibit and I am so grateful.kaths-art-14

My beautiful cousin, descendant on my maternal side, and I found one another in Belleville.  We have both searched and searched family roots, but from opposite sides of Canada.  Belleville connected us.  Liane is so absolutely beautiful and it was like an explosion of love and joy to meet.  Our ancestral research continues, but a link was made by her generous use of time.  (And by the way, she purchased THAT painting!)img_1649

St. Columba Church garden…this photo represents the beautiful Presbyterian community that my mother loved and my father continues to love.  As the summer’s drought was coming to an end, this photo represents the last of the harvest…only a week before I headed out on my drive back to Calgary.img_1648

At my father’s prompting and his generous contribution of shipping, I donated a painting to this newly designed and decorated meeting space in the church.  Here he is with some AMAZING human beings, Gary, Jane and Jen, the beautiful minister of St. Columba.  Jane and Gary have been long time family friends and with each of my migrations east, I have built relationship.  Prayerful, loving and supportive…these three showed my Mom and Dad such support.  They are to be cherished.  Special prayers for all three this morning, as I type.img_1633

I simply love this photograph of my father and so I include it here.  One of the greatest gifts that Mom gave to me was a relationship with my father.  I used to spend most of my time gabbing on the telephone long distance, with my Mom, as Mom and daughters do.  As Mom’s health failed, Dad did not hesitate to sign into Skype every day at 5:00 so that Mom and I could spend time with one another; singing, talking, laughing and crying.  Since 2013, my father and I have continued that ritual, chatting via Skype almost every day.  I have treasured my alternating yearly drive out to spend summers with him.  We have created memories by sharing our own time together, attending theater, going for beautiful drives, eating out and sharing the feast table in his apartment. (and sharing the odd bottle of red wine with one another)  img_1629

My cousins through my Auntie Mary and Uncle Pete, Laura, and Brenda and Gwen (no photograph…for shame) are very special to me.  They also lived the military life and ‘get it’. Distance doesn’t change our shared experience and our connection to our roots in Magrath.  On this past visit, I feel I got to know my cousin Laura (the youngest) better and was so thrilled for that knowing.  Recently, Laura traveled out west, and along with her brother, Peter, we went up the Custom Woolen Mills.  That afternoon was heaven, it was so filled with laughter!img_1604

My Auntie Mary, beautiful Auntie, attended my art exhibit.  We hardly see her enough, but when we do, it is like yesterday.  She was generous in allowing me to collage her image( a professional photograph taken by her best friend’s father during Moose Jaw days) into one of my paintings this past summer.img_1596 img_1592

Here, she recreates the dreamlike expression captured in the earlier photograph. Makes me smile!img_1585

I met Ina at Parkwood Estates.  She and I had two treasured visits in her apartment.  Now in her 90s, Ina and I spent time looking at her photo albums and she shared stories of cottage country and the process of building their cottage from the ground up.  She told me about Roy, her husband…his work, his plans and his health.  Ina shared about her teaching in Montreal, what teaching was like in the day…the expectations, the challenges and her passion for teaching.  We had very beautiful talks and now we write letters to one another.  I treasure Ina.img_1484 img_1481

Ina and Roy.img_1478 img_1477

Dianne has a thick french accent.  She comes in every two weeks and cleans Dad’s apartment.  But, she is more than that!  She offers enthusiastic conversation with all of her clients.  (Can my readers tell?)  Max loves her!  Dianne and her husband love to fish.  It is not an uncommon thing for her to bring fresh pickerel to my father and she says, “Just fry it up in a little butter.”  She does a beautiful job cleaning, but she has a big heart as well.  She exemplifies ‘goodness’.img_1427 img_1423

One Euchre table.  My Mom and Dad were always big Bridge players.  I didn’t inherit that passion nor do I understand how it is played.  I also don’t know a thing about Euchre.  While I am familiar with these people of Parkwood, I don’t remember their names.  This is a common gathering space and there is always something happening. The renovations are beautiful in this location!img_1354

Marjorie and Trevor White have been another great couple who shared many years, many experiences and many social gatherings with Mom and Dad, in the military life.  A pilot, Trev had the most wonderful stories (unbelievable stories) and was such a smart and funny man.  Marj lost Trevor recently, but she continues to share those stories of times with Mom and Dad and I love this connection.  We write cards to one another.  I need to keep this connection. Thank you, for fresh Basil from your garden.img_1353

Peter Paylor and Lisa Morris….amazing artists and artisans in Belleville!  These two are such visionaries and have huge energy in the arts community; music, visual arts and theater.  They welcomed me into their circle and for that, I will always be grateful.  All the way from Calgary, I will always support their efforts and their projects.  I love ’em.img_0941

…and who wouldn’t love this?img_0940 img_0938

A series of photographs here…just because these folks are so beautiful!  As I would leave to walk Max on beautiful summer days, I’d always stop and chat with whoever was gathering in the common space.  Usually there were laughs happening, often, serious conversations.  Bev is the one with her hand on her head here.  Bev and I shared a small conversation every single day.  She gives swimming instruction, wears a fit bit and can tell you at any time of day how many steps she’s made.  She is warm and lovely and I had the chance to sit next to her during a very special One Act Play festival in Belleville this past summer.  Her husband, Gerry, is a Belleville historian and writer of several books.  He and I met, quite by surprise, the summer that I was making a big fuss about Susanna Moodie’s marble head stone being made into a memorial.  I did a lot of research in the Belleville Library this past summer on the Marchmont Home and the BHC of the area.img_0934 img_0933 img_0932 img_0928 img_0927

Here’s Ina…always impeccably dressed.  Former school teacher, she and I shared so many stories.  I love Ina.img_0739

She explained how Roy, given that they didn’t have children, was always called upon to be MC at various people’s weddings.  He was a strong orator and he and Ina always gave the newlyweds a copy of Desiderata because they loved it so much.  Ina has this copy hanging near her front room.img_0738

Ina told me about the day that they moved into the Parkwood Estates and how Roy brought this Dogwood tree in and planted it in the corner.  Ever since then, Ina has been collecting these little birds.
img_0728

Jen, Dad’s minister, stopped in for a visit and gave Buddy a ton of love.  I love this woman so much.  She gave prayers for Mom and sent Mom on to the path of Paradise, with many blessings.  She is a strong and wonderful person and a great support to our family.img_0718 img_0716

Denny…always a big one for greetings.  He is like a welcoming committee to the apartment.  I typically found him outdoors on a short stroll or sitting on the bench when I would head out with Max on his morning walk.  Here, he is getting the machines set for Wii Bowling.img_0713 img_0712 img_0711 Heck if I could figure this out either, but weekly, Wii Bowling achieved a huge enthusiastic group!  I always stopped and said, “Hi”.img_0710

Carolyn and Bob….Carolyn is my Ya Ya in the east.  She bubbles over with enthusiasm!  This past summer we enjoyed the Festival Players of Prince Edward County under the dome tent, a beautiful heart wrenching piece, A Splinter in the Heart, that left both Carolyn and I crying at the end.img_0697

Yes.  Lisa again…here, we were at an open mic event in the ‘old boy’s club’ downtown Belleville.  Lisa had just come over from a rehearsal for an amazing steam punk piece she would be performing in in the One Act Play Festival.img_0662

More of Aunty Mary as we headed out for lunch on The Lake On the Mountain.  GOOD BEER!img_0508

Artist, Janet Beare, living a magical life in her downstairs space…a world many may not know a lot about.  MAGIC!

img_1472

Ina with her bird mug…this is the occasion when I learned that she had a bird tree and “May I come to see it some time?”img_0446

Coffee and birthday cake gathering!img_0445

Cold Creek Winery and Dave!  Amazing guy with such a huge heart!  I see Dave every time I drive out east, simply because Dad and I drink red. ;0)img_0379

Maureen and her daughter, Cathy.  Perched above the Bay of Quinte, these were the first friends we visited on last summer’s trip.  Maureen is an amazing artisan, always creating with her hands.  She was very close to my mother and kept Mom’s fingers going, creating beautiful things for the Mistletoe Market, for as long as was possible.img_0344

Barb and Rob, resident managers extraordinaire, back when I began my journeys east.  Always kind, generous and very very good at what they did.  I’m happy for them for the adventures that they have enjoyed since retiring, taking their RV across and around two countries.  They epitomize what potential is in all of us to care and give.  Love you, two.barb-and-rob

Home is what we make of the places we visit and where we nest.  We take home with us wherever we go.  People do not have to remain constantly within our view to remain constant and caring forces in all that we do.  We just owe it to them to try to stay in touch, how we can.  Wishing my friends of Belleville, love and care.

Bitterly Cold Winter, Wrapped Up In Wool

Monday morning saw the accumulation of a whole lot of snow overnight.  The sun was shining and I was grateful for that, as I picked up the shovel and cleared the sidewalk, yet again.  I was excited to be heading for sister-friend time, a hearty soup and warm-biscuit lunch prepared by my Ya-Ya, Wendy Lees, and the experience of felting with a woman who knows wool, so well.  In fact, like me, wool is her history…her story.  Ruth Purves-Smith, oh, how I grow to love you!  Now, you have been my teacher and I treasure that!

Gathering together means the sharing of stories, the week’s events, creative projects, vision, frustration, hard work and yes, edits on cover letters, even dog tales/tails!

Meeting  Booster for the first time was more than fun!  This sweetie really wasn’t ever supposed to have a chance at life, but because of her willingness to negotiate around Booster’s many special needs, Ruth gave her that!  Apart from very unique dietary concerns and the fact that she has to consistently wear a little diaper, Booster seems to lead a very happy and contented life.  As Max’s best friend, I can tell you that this gives me great respect for Ruth.

Settling in, I loved the colours and textures that began to spill out into Wendy’s living room!

I’ve had opportunity before to watch a remarkable lesson on felting delivered by Leah C. Donald  to my grade three students.  However, I didn’t have the opportunity to share in the experience because it was necessary to supervise the students’ use of the felting needles and to be a part of their process.  So, I was excited to actually manipulate the media and to enjoy the hands-on practice.

Ruth brought some of her creations and I was at once, in awe.  Hmmm…no pictures of lunch, likely because I was enthusiastically ‘putting it down’.

 

I decided that I would like to create a hot pad for the table and to focus on technique.  I was definitely the slowest person in the room!  It took quite some time before I sorted out the use of the felting needle.  Thanks for your patience, ladies!

 

Yesterday afternoon was just one of those magical times that created memories, both in my heart and head, but also in my body.  The warm smell of wool, the texture and the concentration…all so wonderful!  The next time you feel really cold, I highly recommend wrapping yourselves up in wool, good food and friendship.

Support the Custom Woolen Mills, when you can.  Buy your gifts from artists and artisans.  Buy music from local artists.  Support the creation of treasures that come out of your local community.

 

Bringing in a New Year, Mexican Style

I was blessed to have an experience of friendship and love and creativity last evening as we moved from 2016, beautifully, into 2017.  I was so full to the brim with happiness that it took me quite a while, at home, to settle into a peaceful sleep.  I watched the snow fall for quite some time…looked at rabbit tracks that wove through the fresh snow on the front yard…watched it grow into a perfect blanket in the back yard.

Wendy, Dan, Lauraine, Stephen and Steven, our time together was magical!  Thank you, and HAPPY NEW YEAR!

 

The Women Who Raised Me by Victoria Rowell

the-women-who-raised-me

Last evening, I had the chance to hang out and chill with my sister-friends.  Thanks, Darlene.  The only disappointment was that Wendy wasn’t with us.  It was the intention to hop right into the hot tub, but, as per usual, the snacks came out and the conversation began.  It doesn’t matter how often we see one another, there is lots to say.

Being with friends is a very healing experience.  There is much that is revealed by getting ideas out of heads and hearts and hearing the perspectives of women you completely trust because of the years that you have shared.

I thought that since this got me thinking about my long-time friends, I would share a book that I read early in October.  It’s a good one.  I’m big on reading Memoirs.  Not everyone is keen on that genre.  If, however, you wish to read a book that has a heart warming component, this is one you might want to consider.

Victoria Rowell shares with the reader, sometimes-complicated, but always-treasured relationships with women who ‘raised her’.  I think that we all have teachers and friends and extended family who have supported us and certainly we know the beautiful thing that is a relationship with a mother or a sister or an aunt…but, for reasons out of her control, Victoria’s mother could not be in the picture that was her life, not to a deeply nurturing extent.  This book is about the women who stepped up.

I am blessed to belong to several circles of friends.  While I am not a part of a traditional family of my own (with a life partner), I have been deeply blessed by the friendship of women in my life (sure, and a few guys, too…you know who you are).  While I would have liked it to work out that I had a life partner who would be a help mate and spiritual companion, I have learned that life offers us a richness in ‘other’ forms of relationship if we are receptive to those invitations.

Of this book, I particularly enjoyed the opening chapters where Victoria lays down the tracks of her life by introducing us to the history of her family.  I think that we are all rooted in stories and her stories were fascinating. Matters of fostering and adoption live at the core of this memoir. While I typically go for more complex writing, this one flowed nicely and made me feel happy for the women in my life.

You might enjoy, The Women Who Raised Me by Victoria Rowell.  3 1/2 out of 5 as Goodreads ratings go.

“Do not look around thee to discover other men’s ruling principles, but look straight to this, to what nature leads thee, both the universal nature through the things which happen to thee, and thy own nature through the acts which must be done by thee. But every being ought to do that which is according to its constitution; and all other things have been constituted for the sake of rational beings, just as among irrational things the inferior for the sake of the superior, but the rational for the sake of one another.”

Marcus Aurelius

Cutting Myself Some Slack

I have to admit, I’m not at the top of my game lately.  A person can be confronted by and, possibly, absorb a lot of gut-wrenching stuff via the media, daily. (the state of Syria, regional economics, pipelines, the American debates and election, unemployment and the economy, involvement of Russia in global agitation, the status of North Korea regarding armaments, the state of our environment and the care for dwindling species…these are just a few concerning factors that spewed out the tips of my fingers at the keyboard…free flow)  If that ‘removed’ material isn’t enough, then there are also the daily stressors that one must face, sometimes alone, and these can really nail a person down, both in body and spirit.  The important thing is to do something about it by changing patterns and practices.

This past weekend was one of those weekends for me.  Not really ‘into’ any interactions with my wider circle, I focused on ‘being’ with smaller groups, staying closer to home and eating good food.  Quality time with my daughter and my ‘real life’ friends was very healing.  I am grateful for that sense that the rest of the world can motor on at warp speed while I take a little vacation from the nonsense that becomes my whirling life.  What we’re trying to prove, I don’t exactly know.  What I’ve been doing, I do.

The weekend began with a gathering of my hiking YaYas and our ritual gathering photo op with prop.  Thanks to Cathy for hosting.  What a relief it is to talk and talk and talk and laugh.  And wow…those hugs at the end of an evening!

img_2343img_2345img_2346img_2348img_2353

Walking the circle of the pond at Frank’s Flats…always calms me and makes me live more deliberately or consciously.  Walking, itself, causes the lungs to fill up and with ‘real’ air.  The light filters in and replaces worry or dischord.

img_2356img_2361

Contemplating my closest companion…our friendship…activity.  There are many funny moments created by my Max-Man.  This weekend, I was grateful for my fur-boys, both dogs, Laurie-Dog and Max-Man and cats, Piper, Edgar and Peanut.

laurie-dog-3img_2369

On our Saturday afternoon walk, a flock of fourteen Trumpeter swans flew overhead. There is nothing like their sound pulling out of a blue sky.  I didn’t care about zooming or panning, obviously, but I can not look at this patch of blue, without remembering what that was like.  I always consider these events to be Holy events and I have been graced with the blessing of many such moments.img_2378

On Sunday morning, I went to early Mass.  For me, the peace that comes with this celebration can’t be replaced with anything else.  I was also very grateful to be embraced by the MacDonalds in the parking lot, afterwards. Such good people.

Off to the grocery store, I filled my basket with cheeses, beautiful squash, vegetables and fruit and some Kaslo sourdough pasta.  I had selected a lovely Cannelloni recipe to prepare for dinner.

Sunday offers the opportunity for people to recline and have a little snooze, or as my Dad calls them, a Sizz under the Fuzzy.  I had one of those and then…

I drove to Hull’s Wood…a part of my life, here, in Calgary’s fringe.  Jess has begun her teaching of this semester’s Pow Wow dancing.  I highly recommend this practice to all of my readers.  We began with the peacefulness of a smudge ceremony and the blessing of sweetgrass and sage.  Then…cardio…then practice.  This week, some basics in handling a single hoop.

img_2380img_2383img_2384img_2386

I had missed a few openings on the weekend.  I especially wanted to see the exhibit, For You and Me hosted by the Paul Kuhn Gallery, curated by artist, Ashleigh Bartlett.  As well, I had wished to offer my support of Mark Vasquez-Mackay and Rich Theroux for their opening, Mindfulness at the Rumble House.

I decided, on the way home from Pow Wow dancing that I would stop off at the Queensland Community Center and spend some time with Mark’s mural on the building.  On a perfect autumn day, it was a wonderful option for viewing art and giving one of my peeps, some support.

img_2388img_2390img_2392img_2393img_2395img_2399

At home, Cayley and I made Cannelloni together.  It was fun to share the kitchen and I’d like to do that more often.  The process of cooking can be a very relaxing thing.  When I went to my room in search of my bedroom slippers, I noticed that my daughter had also folded my clothes from the dryer.  Kindness from others is likely  the best medicine out there, for anything that might ail you as an individual…it is also the best medicine for the world.

I would like my readers to share what it is that they do to relax, to find their center…to be at peace.  We don’t have to control everything all of the time.  But, how do we let go of that need to control everything?

Threads in our Tapestries

One of the last things Ramona said to me before we shared our last hug and she headed out in search of 401 east, was that we’ve always been a thread in the tapestries of our lives and it is so true.  We have stories that go back to this time…

RamonaRamona and I spent two evenings and a full day of magic yesterday and of course, I had to post a wee tribute to that in the form of a blog post.  I haven’t a lot of words, because in some strange way I feel drained…elated…reflective and so, more than anything I take pause.  I’m replaying the song that she mentioned on our morning wake up yesterday morning.

I took Ramona on a magical trip into the county, as far as Sandbanks Provincial Park, the beach and the dunes, with stops including downtown Belleville, Oeno outdoor sculpture Gardens and Gallery, Ameliasburgh for cemetery walking and museum gawking, Picton for lunch and wandering and, of course, a stop for a Reid’s icecream cone.  I am grateful to remember Ramona as one of those people who was formative in my vision of who I wanted to become in life and how I wanted to get there.  Ramona has humility although she has accomplished such great things. Given service with the Peace Corp in Chile, Peru and Guyana, Ramona knows what, of life, is valuable and has a healthy relationship with ‘stuff’. She is smart about almost everything.  She treasures those who are in her life and is positive, supportive and empathetic.  Ramona is the light that comes into a grey day and washes everything with hope.  Not perfect, she has used her imperfections, struggles and sorrow, to throw trouble on its head.  Ramona rises to the surface.  I want to never take any of this for granted.  I have been so fortunate.

Our day was touched by Monarch butterflies and heart felt stories, everywhere we went.

IMG_0755IMG_0764 IMG_0774 IMG_0780 IMG_0783IMG_0767 The cemetery edges on a conservation area…lovely scene…very pastoral.  It was a dry summer as is evidenced by the vegetation.  If I have the time, I’ll place a mum here, before I head east…I placed an acorn on Al Purdy’s stone.  I’m grateful for the way that his poetry has inspired so much painting this summer!IMG_0770 IMG_20160826_114603848The Ameliasburgh Museum….Ramona and I figured on so many ways that we might make it more accessible to visitors.  We would do a bit of a redo and that had us giggling and analyzing throughout our wander. Honey cans and apiary stuff…I DID feel grateful that the citizens have been gathering and preserving history.

IMG_0785 IMG_0786 IMG_0787Wool and fibers…of course, I always have an interest in such as this. IMG_0793

IMG_0788Church archives and objects from a number of local churches. IMG_0789 IMG_0790Down at the cemetery, we met some very friendly people who were direct descendants of the Roblin family and they shared the art events that were coming up at the county over the long weekend.   IMG_0794 IMG_0795 IMG_0796 Of course…the old school house!IMG_0797 IMG_0798 IMG_20160826_121517345_HDR IMG_20160826_121727636Oeno…

IMG_0805 IMG_0804 IMG_20160826_125411020 IMG_20160826_125404478_HDR IMG_20160826_125525271 IMG_20160826_125134559 IMG_20160826_125059528IMG_0800 IMG_0801IMG_0799 IMG_20160826_125006354IMG_20160826_130559737 IMG_20160826_125530387IMG_0813 IMG_0814 IMG_0817 IMG_20160826_125658030IMG_0807 IMG_0808 IMG_0810 IMG_0812 IMG_0820 IMG_0819 IMG_0821 IMG_20160826_130955334After Oeno, we were famished and so high tailed it to Picton where we found a lunch spot that made up our desired menu for us…more stories…more easing into the day and two satisfied tummies.  A little shop and then off we headed for Sandbanks.

IMG_0823 IMG_0824 IMG_0828 IMG_0831 Wormwood or Artemnisia, the natural provision for Absinthe.IMG_0834 IMG_0837 IMG_0839Milkweed… IMG_0841 Wild grapes…IMG_0843 We’ve walked Lake Michigan together…now, Lake Ontario!IMG_20160826_145741773 IMG_20160826_145715993 IMG_20160826_155039307I’ll post the Ramona-ready-to-drive-off photo, when I’m feeling less emotional about it, tomorrow.  I love that girl!

 

Perching on the Edge of the Bay of Quinte

Thank you, Maureen, for lunch.  Sharing time with dear friends is such a gift.  You have a pretty spectacular view from your balcony and I love how you were able to bring so much of your gardens to your new residence with you!  Thank you for lunch and conversation.  A real blessing!

IMG_0329IMG_0332IMG_0334IMG_0335IMG_0348

Elements of a cozy home…things that grow.

Good friends…dear friends.

IMG_0344

Dad…IMG_0346

Hwy. 62IMG_0353

The Week in Review: Compassion Under Contemporary Conditions

The week began with Live Painting at Congress 2016, a huge event hosted by the University of Calgary that included ‘six interdisciplinary symposia to exhibit the university’s most compelling and leading-edge thinking and research.’  The symposia on Compassion Under Contemporary Conditions was inspired by University of Calgary assistant professors Shane Sinclair and Graham McCaffrey, ‘who share a mutual research and practical interest in the topic and in sparking conversation and debate around some of the realities of compassion.’

The topic, Compassion Under Contemporary Conditions, really inspired me and I was thrilled that I would have opportunity to hear Margaret Atwood speak as I find her very entertaining, closely linked to family and very very smart.

At home, I shot about loading easel, panel and STUFF into the car. At the U of C, I was met, early, by Allan Rosales who made the invitation for me to submit my artistic intention a week earlier.  Allan was helpful and very gracious. I also met Zareen and friend, from the University visual arts department, as they displayed a beautiful art exhibit based on compassion.  It wasn’t long and I was settled alongside artists Mark Vazquez-Mackay and  Rebecca Zai.  As the day opened up, Mark seemed to be painting the various layers and facets of compassion and his piece was breath taking.  Rebecca was working from a photo reference that she had taken while on one of her international travels, a person demonstrating care for the ordinary street cats of his village.  Again, a beautiful painting!

Photo Credit: Allan Rosales  painting by Mark Vazquez-Mackay Sunday, May 29, 2016

Photo Credit: Allan Rosales painting by Mark Vazquez-Mackay Sunday, May 29, 2016

Hmmm…doesn’t seem I have a completed painting by Rebecca in my photo archives.  I’ll grab one and post later.

It was a blessing day, as it revealed itself. I thought it was very gracious of both Shane and Graham to come and introduce themselves and chat a little about art and life.  While my painting was not completed by end of day, there were a lot of different feelings that I moved through in the process and I was very excited to begin the journey of painting a body of work based on British Home Children that I’ve been researching for probably, WAY TOO LONG.  I interviewed descendant, Janet Fair, such a long time ago. Her grandfather, Sidney Emms Prodgers, was about to become my very first subject.

IMG_6128

 

IMG_6129

 

IMG_6131

IMG_6132

Red underpinnings…the pain of the stories.  Gold…elevating the experiences of these lost/forgotten/abandoned children.

 

Application of Collage bits to the panel...S. S. Scotsman, the ship that carried Sidney, at age of 11, to Canada...facility where Sidney was surrendered as an baby, maps.

Application of Collage bits to the panel…S. S. Scotsman, the ship that carried Sidney, at age of 11, to Canada…facility where Sidney was surrendered as a baby, maps.

IMG_6136

The complete biography written in gold…information received via electronic mail from descendant, Janet Fair

IMG_6135

 

IMG_6137

 

IMG_6138

 

IMG_6139

Photo Credit: Allan Rosales

Photo Credit: Allan Rosales

?

Photo Credit: Allan Rosales

Sidney Prodgers 13324271_10153628288000108_1360837927_o (1) Waqas 1

Photo Credit: Waqas (Rebecca….last name?)

Sidney Prodgers 4

Home!  I’ll take Sidney into the studio to complete…so happy with the process!

I was grateful to hear Margaret Atwood’s talk on Compassion…the humour woven throughout, colourful  experiences of nurses and health care providers, historically, leading up to contemporary issues, as well.  I thought a lot about my sister as I listened.  I’m grateful for Valerie Jean Fiset, more than she will probably ever know.  She has had a most inspiring journey and I am so proud of her.  I likely should have brought along some of my Atwood books for signatures…I’m not surprised that I forgot.

Another blessing during the course of the day was to have a visit with a dear friend, Dr. Rita Irwin.  Our friendship began while we both achieved our B. Ed degrees at the University of Lethbridge.  She wandered over to my location, along with three of her witty and smart friends, and had a short but amazing visit.  Another strong and accomplished woman; I simply loved our shared big hugs and the familiar ring of Rita’s voice and laughter.

Rita...second from left.

Rita…second from left.

Of Brutality and Tenderness

This is a post, of the sort, that I rarely write.  It will try to express, from my deepest heart, my own sense of conflict in a world that, with passing years, becomes more clearly hostile or as is explored by The Little Prince, in my favourite grown-up book, uninhabitable.

The Geographer

Within the context of this hostility, I seek out tender and beautiful moments so that I might share, as much as I can, positivity, without politicizing or pontificating or professing my own views so as to be delicate with my social media readers.  Well, today, I’m going to deliberately confront, for no better reason than to get things off my chest.  It will not matter because the world will continue to be inhabited by, according to Chapter 16 of St. Exupery’s The Little Prince…

The Earth is not just an ordinary planet! One can count, there, 111 kings (not forgetting, to be sure, the Negro kings among them), 7000 geographers, 900,000 businessmen, 7,500,000 tipplers, 311,000,000 conceited men–that is to say, about 2,000,000,000 grown-ups.

To give you an idea of the size of the Earth, I will tell you that before the invention of electricity it was necessary to maintain, over the whole of the six continents, a veritable army of 462,511 lamplighters for the street lamps.

Seen from a slight distance, that would make a splendid spectacle. The movements of this army would be regulated like those of the ballet in the opera. First would come the turn of the lamplighters of New Zealand and Australia. Having set their lamps alight, these would go off to sleep. Next, the lamplighters of China and Siberia would enter for their steps in the dance, and then they too would be waved back into the wings. After that would come the turn of the lamplighters of Russia and the Indies; then those of Africa and Europe; then those of South America; then those of South America; then those of North America. And never would they make a mistake in the order of their entry upon the stage. It would be magnificent.

Only the man who was in charge of the single lamp at the North Pole, and his colleague who was responsible for the single lamp at the South Pole–only these two would live free from toil and care: they would be busy twice a year.

I am sitting, this morning, watching two nests, two eagles, both sitting on two eggs, miles separating them…one in New Jersey, the other in Iowa.  Today or tomorrow, chicks will emerge and the miracle of life will begin…the obstacles, the weather, the natural abilities to thwart and maneuver around all of the various hazards that will daunt the juveniles and then one day if they manage, find them as adult eagles.  To watch live cameras would not be possible at one time in history.  It is a wonder that I am able to enjoy this privilege and I do not take that lightly.

The nests have taught me much over the past five years.  Moments at the nest have been both gratifying and horrifying. At one point, a chick, still like a wriggling worm with nothing but fuzz on its squirming body, managed to back out and under the tallest railings at the outside perimeter of the nest, and plummeted to the ground below, this after the tedious and daunting 35 days of incubation and the endless tending from both of its parents, once hatched.  In another circumstance, at the Hornby Island nest, a chick was caught up in the talon of its own parent who could not free that helpless bird, and eventually, having to leave the nest for sustenance, returned without the little babe.  This is how brutal life can be.

I have watched the spring birds, with amazement and horror this year. At my back yard feeder, I have watched dozens of male sparrows, harass and brutalize a single female.  A loud raucous noise, screaming, the female batting her wings fast and furiously while the males peck one another, pushing into her body.  She gets as close to the ground as she can, but they persist.  She is allowed no where near the feeder either, as the males take positions of domination.  I can only call these acts, in human terms, acts of rape and aggression.  I have seen it again and again.

I have watched two male mallards gliding in the water alongside a female; the males looking magical…bright green iridescent head feathers, brilliant orange feet paddling them smoothly through the water; the females, much smaller and dull brown.  Inevitably the wild shake of action and the loud forced honking sounds begin and the female lifts out of the water, one male furiously beating his wings a short distance at her back.  They circle the pond, over and over again, the male in wild pursuit. The female is driven into exhaustion. The energy explodes at the pond, the other male seeming to care less of the goings on on the blue spring air.

The pond is edged in human plastic…the life of the pond is choked as it swallows up our branded cups and cutlery.  One big plastic bag wraps itself around the bull rushes, the willow, the dogwood, the natural grasses and ties itself in a knot so that the pond can no longer breath.  The prairie dogs drag the styrofoam chips into their tunnels, warm insulation for the coming winter, where in spring, their kittens will be born.  The coyotes, the osprey, the herons, the field mice are all of no consequence.

At the pond, I am a witness and there are many lessons for me.

Sometimes, as a species, we believe that we are free of such traumas.  There is a false sense that we are ‘apart’ and that even if all of this and these pass, we will go on.  We do not believe, not really, that we are getting sick and that we are dying.  We believe that if our water supply is gone, if our ice caps melt, if we cut down all of our forests and milk the earth dry of her minerals and her oil supply, that we will somehow be free of any great consequence.  We do not believe that we have responsibility for any of the brutality that befalls the planet or other human beings.  Until some hellish consequence befalls us, we are not really linked to our own mortality.  As a people we become faithless, believing that religion radicalizes people and is the essence of all that fails us. Instead, humanity becomes disconnected from mother, source, creator, force, the divine, God…and aimlessly consumes like a rabid dog, everything and if it proves beneficial, every one.

The robust access to media and news, leads us to images that profoundly shock us.  I can only post one example, but one can find similarly distressing visuals surrounding ALL species…the indiscriminate poaching of animals, the inhumane practices in the farming of animals that we consume, the over fishing of our oceans and the devastating harvesting of the fruits of the 140 million year old Borneo rain forests; these to name only a few of my present day concerns.

Minke Whales

Here

Our headlines tell the story of a radicalized world, one that expresses the insane reality of a humanity that casts away ‘the other’ and looks to fulfill an insatiable and personal/collective appetite for whatever serves to pleasure. At the same time as we preach equality and inclusion, we, who have so much, do little to provide for the basic human needs required for a basic existence in other parts of the world or in our own communities. At the same time that we profess inclusion, we feel the only way to live a satisfying life is to be disconnected from spiritual practice and religion, abhorring and publicly attacking those who have not chosen a similar path.

We have counseling for our own traumas and money to spend on frivolous things, but sometimes forget that the world over, children are struggling to care for dying parents and parents are holding dying children in their arms, most often as the result of the greedy intentions of others. (this is where people ask if I am driving a car…this is where I put my own comforts into question)  We negotiate our way blindly through our lives, and think that there is no end to the luxury of it all.

It is not simply in nature that we see male dominance over the female gender. (and let us not forget the exceptions…I really don’t want to piss anyone off)   Recent news has caused me to feel resentful, as I thoughtfully consider issues around narratives of domestic violence and rape. In 2016…it is a difficult thing to understand how humanity can take the position it does, one that continues to victimize the victim, one that can go so far as to mock. As a result of trauma, years later, a victim may hear, “Get over that victim-role!”

Best written by a smart friend of mine, one of those remarkable men in my life,

“It does not inspire confidence in our species that there is an epidemic of people (mostly men) who are so narcissistic that violation in pursuit of gratification is commonplace, with seemingly tacit acceptance.”

Refugees flee in desperation due to political and social turmoil and war, entire families absorbing the trauma of losing their lives as they knew them. Issues of exploitation of women, the impoverished, children; unemployment, a lack of affordable housing, homelessness, respect for people suffering debilitating disease and disabilities of every variety, respect for the dying…all matters of concern sometimes leading to brutal circumstances.  It is all so overwhelming, that humanity becomes numb to the shear enormity of it all.  For this suffering, the remedy seems to be to self medicate, whether that be in the depths of a screen, alcohol, drugs, sex, narcissism…experiencing life on the surface seems much better than feeling things deeply.  It is easy to experience hopelessness.

Just recently, an inspiring priest in our parish, shared this talk.  For me, Holy Thursday represents that moment where life flips from brutality to tenderness and the Easter Triduum, in its complete journey similarly encompasses both.  I’ve always felt this way, it’s just that, this year, I feel like I need to articulate it somehow.  These are desperate times.

I want to, therefore, return to the premise of this writing.  And that is, that despite the brutality,  there is such tenderness in this life and living.  There is hope to be discovered in the quiet and profound intimacy of nature.  For me, there is grace, also, to be found in a long and abiding journey of faith, in my case, in the context of the Catholic church.  This journey has been marked by periods of gut wrenching pain, but anchored in an enduring personal determination,  I negotiated through the darkness and into light.

Tenderness is to be discovered in the penetrating love of mothers.  At the nest, unceasing and true to their instinctual calling, the mother remains a protector.  And generally, so it is with our species.

Decorah Mom March 24 eastern time 156

At the nest, one sees the absolute and determined protective instincts of adults for their offspring.  And within the human experience, we also see hearts that reach out in protection of others.  A few true life examples that came to mind for me over my own Easter Triduum experience…the suffering…sacrifice…dying to self…service…community of support and love…resurrection and light…

Mark and Carmen Vazquez-Mackay have, for weeks now, along with their son, spent Sunday afternoons playing with Syrian children, newcomers to our big city.  They have made an effort to allay fears and to show families who have escaped huge hostility in their own homeland, that they are welcomed and safe.  I think that this is an expression of human tenderness.

SIRIAN LOVE report #3
Today’s group was small…only 7 kids around the age of 8. Many of the families are transitioning to their first homes in Canada, so they couldn’t participate. On our walk to the park, a few of the boys fought to be the ones who held my hand for the walk; I wish I had 6 hands this morning. One boy in particular was wanting much of my attention. He is definitely a leader who keeps all the boys in check. When we were leaving the park, he yelled “No, no, no” and refused to leave. Made me happy to know the positive effect Carmen and I are having, but sad that I can’t give him more time. It took 5 minutes to pry him off the playground. When I gave my departing high-fives to the kids, this boy followed it up by blowing me a kiss…sic

Mark V

Wendy is the visionary who breathed life into create!   create! in the East Village offers free, drop-in, inclusive creative programming to all residents of the East Village. Sessions run 4 times each week.  The diverse group of people who gather and create and communicate with one another is such an absolute testament to the inclusive nature of humanity when the very best of love and concern shines through.  There is nothing like it.  To find yourself in a place where you are validated by the mere act of entering into the dance of creation is to be richly blessed and exemplifies what it means to receive tenderness.

create W

Hollee, L’Arche Canada’s National Leader, supports the vision of Jean Vanier who has committed his lifetime and inspires others to care for and tend to the human heart, no matter how lonely or isolated that heart might be.  L’Arche was founded in 1964 by Canadian humanitarian and social visionary, Jean Vanier. Distressed by the institutionalization and the isolation and loneliness of people with intellectual disabilities, Jean Vanier invited two men from an institution to live with him in a small house.

In L’Arche, people who have intellectual disabilities and those who come to assist share life and daytime activities together in family-like settings that are integrated into local neighbourhoods. L’Arche in Canada has nearly 200 homes and workshops or day programs. These are grouped into what L’Arche calls ”communities.” There are 29 communities of L’Arche located across Canada from Cape Breton to Vancouver Island. L’Arche communities are open and welcoming of neighbours and friends and often engage in various collaborations at the local level.

In a seeming brutal world, there are those who make the invitation to others to ‘belong’ regardless of differences and prejudices.  It is possible to see the world with tenderness and to nurture her…all species…the land…the oceans and one another.

Given hours that I have spent in hospitals, sitting next to loved ones who are in pain or who are fading in health and life…I have seen the very worst and the very best of humanity.  The tenderness and compassion that comes with Personal Support Workers and nursing staff, Daycare Workers and those who choose to lovingly care for our aging populations, women and men who are sometimes completely helpless and suffering with memory loss, is to be greatly commended.  While in this lifetime, these responsibilities do not appear to be valued, these expressions of care and professionalism, are crucial to our healthy formation as a people.  Bravo to those who choose patience and kindness and for environments that honour tenderness before productivity and quick delivery of service.

Blessed are those who advocate for our planet…those who research and study, observe and document, diligently fight for the humane treatment and protection of the myriad of species we share this planet with.  Theirs is important work.  There are countless individuals who take in stray animals and tend to their woundedness.  There are organizations that take on very specialized mandates in protecting our forests, waterways and our resources.  There are those who fight for the cause of other human beings who are struggling, in our city and globally.

Ramona, my high school bestie, has just returned from serving with the Peace Corp in Guyana and before that, Peru.  Her photographs over these several years and her brief stories have sometimes made me cry; I am so proud of her service and her contribution to the education and well being of others.  Ramona’s heart has always been filled with tenderness and sincere care for others.  No time for ‘selfies’, this lady is captured in photographs in the ‘belly’ of life and living.  I love her so much!

Ramona

Ramona 2

Sweet Christina, who I’ve watched grow from dream-filled teenager to smart creative woman, decided to take on a mission.  She just decided she was going to do something meaningful and so readers discover, Slum Runners!

Slum Runners is a grassroots organization working toward the creation of sustainable community-run bases that address the widely unmet needs of: education, sanitation, access to clean drinking water and affordable food. We aim to develop access to these basic resources within urban slums.

One third of the world’s urban population lives in slums. This number is continuing to climb and the need for hubs providing these basic needs
are, and will be, both life enhancing and life saving.

Our project aims to develop a scalable model implementing natural design principles that incorporate traditional knowledge and modern-day innovation.

To date we envision robust earthen educational structures, rainwater harvesting, intensive urban food forestation and increased access to school supplies.

Our pilot project is scheduled to commence early in 2016 in the urban slum of Mukuru Kwa Ngenga, Nairobi, Kenya.

Christina

About this picture…

We started the Chinese year of the monkey with ZERO monkey business. Just dirty hands and straight faces!!! Today we dug our new small garden plot a foot deep into garbage, clay and actual boulders….that is the soil we have to work with 😳 BUT we did it! We’ve got a little lasagna bed starting. So proud of our growing environment club! Soon we’ll be ready to plant seeds. Oh! And when the kids came to class I asked them to get out all the compostable materials I had listed for them to bring and found 100’s of plastic straws mixed with mango peels and grass…I finally realised I had listed “hay/straw!” 😂😂😂

There is so much beauty and tenderness that rises out of the dark sludge of everything that ails…but, this post is becoming far too long.  If you’ve pushed on through all of it…I’ll summarize my thoughts here.

I am, in walking a single pond environment every day, learning lessons about the intimate beauty of an ofttimes struggling world. I’m capturing hope and light in the bubble of my heart and going home with it.

This Easter journey was a beautiful thing…it not only exposed much about the world that is brutal, (suicide bombings, disintegrating glaciers, Yemen murders of 16 people, four of them five members of the Missionaries of Charity)  but it brought to mind, everything that is glorious about life and peace (the tending and hatching of two eagle eggs over 37 days, the love shared between my children and my family members, my Dad, the laughter shared with students at school, my daily dog-walking and nature-watching).  This is what living means…all of it.  It is all by the grace of God.

Duke 812 March 27 2016 Feeding Easter Morning