Don’t Give Up…

…without a fight.

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

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

The strong prey on others.

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

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

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

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

 

Lost Creek

I haven’t been writing my daily post, because the story of Lost Creek just wouldn’t be the same without Ramona’s contribution and this morning, I received it in the form of an electronic mail.

Read this, will you?  Delightful!  Ramona is just one of those women who has created an amazing life.  I love her so much! (your stick is in the mail, Ramona!)

In 1975 a fellow named Tom G. came to The University of Montana, looking for candidates to apply for summer jobs with Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks. I was interested in working on a maintenance crew north of Missoula, near Kalispell. It looked promising…until he called me in to chat. He told me the 5-man crew had threatened to quit if a woman was hired to be part of the team. He said they wanted to be able to spit, fart and tell crude jokes and I wouldn’t fit in. Well…I said to Tom ” if that’s what is required I can do all those things too, and probably could share stories that would make them blush.”

He offered me another position, working mostly by myself. I would take care of Lost Creek State Park, near Anaconda and several fishing access sites on The Big Hole River-east of Wisdom.

I was issued a State pickup and found an old 1-room miner’s shack to rent near Lost Creek. A retired fellow named Sid C., from Anaconda, came with me to clean Fish Trap and Sportsman’s Bridge on the river twice a week. The summer went by quickly. Sid showed me where he picked puffball mushrooms near The Big Hole and I ate some-without getting ill.

One day, when I drove to Fish Trap alone, I saw a weird-looking 4-legged beastie in the road near a creek. It had a large head, some spots and long, long legs. Just then Mama came out of the Alder bushes. It was a new-born moose, probably with afterbirth sac pieces still on its back.

Another time I’d gone for a walk behind my shack-sweet-shack, checking out the old kilns and a mine opening. I continued up the crest of a rocky hill and about pooped my pants. A sentry male Mountain sheep and I locked eyes as he jumped up and quickly sprung away, alerting the other 3 with a huffing vocalization. I’d been downwind and coming around a rocky outcrop. After I caught my breath and slowed my racing heart I laughed.

There were both Mountain goats and sheep back then. The ewes stayed on the south canyon and bucks on the north; meeting of course during mating season. The Mountain goats were easier to find after a rain; when the rocks were shiny with water and they weren’t. I’m sorry to share that neither is found in Lost Creek Canyon now, as they all died of a lung disease. There are hopes some may be reintroduced from The Bitterroot Mountain herds.

I remember climbing all over the canyon rocks and up the talus slopes, somewhat fearlessly. I even crossed the creek near the falls by scooting my heinie along a log. On the other side I found a trapper’s or miner’s little shack- about 8 x 6 feet, made of log and hand-hewn split window and door openings. There was an old table and bed-both mounted to the wall. The roof was disintegrating and the whole shebang is no-doubt melted back into the earth by now.

This summer, when I visited with Kath, I could see evidence of a wildfire. My favorite campsite was more open. But the large car-sized boulders still held their ground, birds still sang and wildflowers flourished-maybe more so with fewer tall trees.

An afterlog…I worked with Fish Wildlife and Parks for 2 school years with the work-study program for 15 hours a week and for one more summer-doing visitor surveys along The Blackfoot River and for Salmon and Placid Lakes proposed campground improvements. In 1978 I took a job with The USDA Forest Service on The Clearwater National Forest in Orofino, Idaho; and that began a 33 year career. In May of 1979 I joined The Peace Corps and went to Chile; another story all-together. Mona 7-2018.

Isn’t that remarkable?  And, to think I was able to revisit this amazing and beautiful place and picnic with my buddy at the Lost Creek site.  Again, photos hardly do it justice.  I am profoundly grateful for the chance to do this journey with my dear friend.

We saw these two lovelies as we pulled out of the area…time to head for Butte!  Another awesome adventure!

 

 

Scenic Driving Again and Again

Morning saw us eating a hearty breakfast, chatting it up with some of the folk at the Elkhorn Hot Springs and sitting for buddy photos on the porch swing before heading it out for Wise River and the return of our sifting screen (is that what they call it?), so that it could be sent on up to Wisdom and returned to Big Hole.

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Ramona and Kath Elkhorn

Sunshine’s Photo. Included here, a local resident’s beagle.

We drove separately, into Anaconda…stopping at the beautiful places along the way. The first stop was overlooking the Grasshopper Valley and enjoying the wild growth of purple Lupins.

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Yes! Of course we did this! Two ladies who get tremendously excited by natural beauty! We had to celebrate it! We snapped photographs of one another. For those of you who don’t know…Ramona and I shared life at CMRussell High School in Great Falls, Montana 1971-1973. THEN!

Ramona

NOW!!

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Stopped, hoping to get better colour shots of the Camas in morning light.

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Real evidence of glacial work on the landscape. Very cool. Mt. Haggin Scenic Drive.

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At least 300 head of cattle were being wrangled up the highway…Ramona is in the car ahead of me, snapping away. A bull tried, unsuccessfully, to mount a cow directly in front of my car…I rolled up the window, at her refusal and then he slid his horns along the drivers side window and my car, in some sort of snorting frustration. This was an experience! Wonderful to see the worn and muddied border collie in the rear, with the cowboys. They tipped their hats and I felt that I had enjoyed a truly western experience. lol

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Just as we started back on our way…these two entered the frame.

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Mount Haggin area.

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Anaconda…the stack…we pulled into a grocery store parking lot and jumped into one vehicle. Off we headed for Lost Creek.

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Coolidge Ghost Town

Our first day had only started, with the morning given to wandering the old ghost town at Bannack!  Heading up the Pioneer Mountains Scenic Byway located in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, Ramona and I watched for the turn off to Coolidge Ghost Town.  The drive itself was awe-inspiring and while my photographs do not pick up on the amazing colour of the meadows filled to the brim with wild Camas, I’m hoping that Ramona did better.  While technology has enhanced the art of photography, it is still impossible to capture the smell of the air, the feel of breeze on your skin and true essence of light, that not only surrounds, but melts into you.  I love to travel these back roads. Ramona and I are exchanging our photos via memory stick as we were both very motivated to capture these magical times together.  These are what I have.  I want my readers to imagine the most brilliant blue that, in truth, looked like wide open lakes in the open valleys of this range.  So incredibly beautiful!

Click on photographs to enlarge.

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I enjoyed the little hike, weaving in and out of remnants of buildings coming from a different time.  With this ghost town, I DID feel as though I was taking a serious step into the past.  I enjoyed observing what remained of building techniques and even the manner in which these buildings had weathered and fell apart.

Much history to be enjoyed on line. I guess this would be my favourite summary.

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It’s All a State of Mind

I haven’t had an easy time of it the past while.  I am grateful to those who haven’t minimized my feelings during this particularly rough patch.  I am grateful for those who have shown genuine concern and unconditional love and support.  I’m grateful for those who asked.  I am grateful for those who haven’t questioned what I needed to do.  I’ve missed writing.  I’ve missed painting.  But, I’ve really enjoyed sitting still in the woods and watching the birds.  I’ve enjoyed watching the river and the pond.  The river has always taught me how dramatically everything can change.  The little critters that eek out survival on the river teach me that, in fact, life is just as brutal as it is beautiful.  Treasure the moments.  Don’t cave in the least little bit to the challenges…it only takes a moment of hesitation on the fight and you can be a goner.

The state of things in the U.S.A. and the exposure to the media via the news and social media have, in part, impacted my mind set.  While it’s not the whole picture, it certainly did not assist in a feeling of hopefulness or optimism.  Through this impact, I’ve become very mindful of supporting the Canadian economy in my purchases and spending.  And, I will continue to do so.

However, I wavered in one regard.  The only way that I would have the opportunity to see my high school bestie before she left her volunteer position at Big Hole National Battlefield in Montana for her home in Michigan, was to travel across THAT border.  My heart ached to be with Ramona, so, setting all of my concerns and worries and sadness aside, I got up one day and decided to go.

There is something inherently magical about road trips and I am no stranger to doing road trips on my own, but this time, I even left my beautiful and loyal companion, Max, behind.  This was the second time in 12 years that we were separated.  I think I heard him barking, “POOP HEAD!!”, as I pulled out of my spot in front of the house and headed for Magrath.

My Auntie Ruth doesn’t mind me hanging out with her and I really like her company.  You want a Wild Cherry icecream cone?  Of course!  You haven’t got milk or bread?  Let’s go!  It’s been a while since you saw your sister?  Heh, hop in the car!!

Driving on roads that I used to share with my grandfather…evening light…canola fields…magic!

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I cut across from Claresholm to Barons on my trips…this time, got stuck going 30 kms and hour behind a line-painter. What a hoot.

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I’m not so great with selfies…but, Auntie Ruth was willing, so the effort was well-worth it.

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Ms. Independent at 92 years of age.

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I adore these two women. I’m grateful that they are in my life. I treasure every moment. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my recorder with me because we had such a great yack and many more memories of family were shared.

I didn’t sleep well that night, so was up and on the highway at around 6 the next morning.  I filled my travel mug with hot coffee and topped up the gas $1.28 and headed east for Raymond.  I love early-morning driving.  The journey continues in Road Tripping.

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I met Bruce during my years painting LIVE at Calgary’s Gorilla House.  Bruce was a fixture there because he settled into a studio where, every Wednesday night, I would go and have a short gab and look at his work in progress.  I never left his space without a belly laugh, although sometimes I had to sort out the kind of humour that was forever-floating around his space.  More than not, I was laughing at things that weren’t funny…it was the delivery that was stellar.  I think that Bruce is a bit of a wordsmith.  He plays with words and as a result you are left, most of the time, not knowing what the heck he is saying.  He is laughing all the while.

An example would be found on the banner of his own website.  The guy was born in Jamaica.  Who knew?  And his introduction reads like this…

Large Up, Mawga Bwoy!

 

What did I tell you? Right?

I wrote a short post about him in 2013 because he was celebrating a solo show at Gorilla House.  There was something so special about those years…painting together, sharing in long conversations and celebrating art, but especially art-making.

In 2015, I purchased a little piece by Bruce out of his studio.  I had seen Bruce’s funtastical art going out the door every Wednesday night at auction, for as long as I could remember, but the opportunity to bid and win hadn’t happened for me.  I loved this whimsical little piece, Think Outside the Fish.

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Do you know what you discover when someone is super funny?  You discover that maybe they’re a little shy…just like you are.  I think that’s the way with Bruce Robertson.  Over time, I’ve learned that I’m an introvert who is functioning as an extrovert…does that make sense?  I think that Bruce is just that way…however, we haven’t ever spoken about it, mostly because we’re feeling the same way. lol  But…none of that matters.  Let’s get on with the story.

This guy was born.

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To this family.

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And…it had come time to think about my Grandson’s first Christmas.  I’ve always been a collector of art and I wanted to set this young man on the path of also being a collector.  I thought if I was to commission an artist, who would it be?  Well…in pondering that magical world of the womb and the discoveries to be had once leaving that nest, I very much thought about a song that I enjoyed as I considered my first-born, Little Seahorse by Bruce Cockburn.

As well, Erin and Doug had made a playlist for Erin’s birthing day and in the collection was the Beatle’s tune, An Octopus’s Garden.  Second to that, in my Grandson’s first eight months, he has wound down for sleep time, reading the story, Raffi’s Baby Beluga, illustrated beautifully by Ashley Wolff.

Insert Music Here.

 

Putting all of this together, I wanted an artwork that reflected an undersea world that would include a portrait of my Grandson…something that would grow with him through every age…something that would be of modest size and might travel with him as his world becomes larger.

The artist for the job…Bruce Robertson!  I contacted Bruce, realizing full-well, that I knew very little about him, apart from the magical characters that he created in his work, his fearlessness and his inclusion of text.  I messaged him via his Instagram account, mgbrobertson.

HE SAID HE’D DO IT!  YEAH!!

We met in a grocery store parking lot…we exchanged hugs and I realized how perfect this man was.  I’m so excited that he helped make the magic for our sweetheart’s first Christmas.  I’m hoping that one day Bruce will take my grandson mountain biking (Who better to teach him about the trails?)…it would be such a fantastic manifestation of magic!  We’ll see how it all plays out.

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I’ve ripped off a screen shot of Bruce’s website’s ABOUT section.  I hope that if my readers need something amazing done…website? painting? collage? or if you want to discuss some other creative project, you will be in touch with him!  Bruce’s late interests are in 3D modelling and animation. A combination of software is used: After Effects, Photoshop, Blender 3D, Maxon Cinema 4D Lite, etc. Self-taught in Blender 3D and Cinema 4D Lite by taking online courses at uDemy.com.

Bruce has a child-like disposition and is trapped in a man’s body. Bruce can do awesome skids on his mountain bike. https://www.instagram.com/mgbrobertson/

Another good friend of ours, Red Dot’s photographer, Aaron McCullough, did the photograph.

Bruce home page website

Thank you, Bruce for being such a wonderful part of Christmas 2017!

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The Power of Every Day

It is April 9, 2018 for just a short while longer.

I was downloading photographs off my Canon Powershot…birds, of course. I clicked something in the process of fiddling with the files on my desk top and images surfaced from past April 9ths and I take pause.

I’m going to slow this writing down a little. I’m going to back-track. Yesterday morning I was feeling downhearted. News has been very sad lately. We had just endured more bitterly cold days and another 15 cms. of snow. I was just heavy-hearted for a lot of reasons. I received a message from my friend Michael. He said that he was up for some naturing. The weather was taking a turn for the better and the sun was out.

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We sat ourselves down on a bench at the river, after enjoying a leisurely walk right to the river’s edge. I watched a Downy Woodpecker, from where we sat. The brilliant white gulls flew overhead. Michael plugged in a bit of Ram Dass and we took pause and listened. For both of us, Toe Knee came to mind. Then we talked about death. We talked about the releasing of everything…power, ego, money, objects, even friends and family. We grieved the loss of so many who suffer addiction, hopelessness, overdose, hunger…we talked about trauma. I know. It all seems pretty dark. But, truth is, we don’t talk about some of the things that really matter. And that is why the pain sometimes continues to go on in the background.

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Michael made me cry when he told me that the paintings that my students do are an expression of the artist in me. I was grateful for the remark. And so, today, I began my day by painting with grade threes…this, after walking Max, drinking my two cups of home brew and moving, dazed, through all of the morning rituals that began April 9, 2018.

First…my photograph of the little Mrs. She only pops her head out briefly during the morning, when Mr. heads out in search of sustenance. He is usually on guard at the vent, repeating his vocalizations again and again. This morning came with her sweet face.

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The children are beautiful, as they enter into a magical silence and become completely consumed by the process of creating.

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Small conversations about Easter break…hugs from friends I have made over the years…a really great conversation about Reconciliation and the Metis with a teacher I had met some years ago…a young student, now in grade five, putting out the question, “Do you remember me?” Number lines and plotting data, first events in stories, agendas, recess, mixing of paint, sunlight filling the room, fruit yogurt, spelling digraphs gh/ph/f…wallpaper in closets…dates in calendars…logging in and logging out…the drive to and from.

Max and I at the river…releasing. We stood under a tree and big chunks of wood began dropping onto both of us. He would shake. I would brush off. Again and again. I looked up to find this guy, ravenously chipping through the flesh of the tree.

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…and this guy observing all.

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…and this guy scooting into the tall grass.

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…and this above and around me.

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…and these two courting.

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Not to mention, these two.

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April 9 was a particularly beautiful day, as it turns out. My first born took a drive to Lethbridge today with my grandson and these two photographs, make my heart sing…Steven with his Great Granny Batsford and his Great Grampa Bergman….and soon he will meet his Great Grampa Moors. What a blessed boy! and how blessed we are by him!

Granny Batsford and Steven

Grampa Bergman and Steven

And as I downloaded my photographs onto my desktop computer, April 9, 2013 photographs surfaced. I was given the memory of my mother’s hands…and the memory of the work that she did in her life.

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April 9, 2013 Mom's Hands Folding Sheets

These were a little gift for me.

The day is almost gone and I am left with a feeling about just how powerful a single day can be. I hope to be mindful about each day I am given. I hope to remember the lesson that this day has given.

Pi/Pie in the Mountains!

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I’m sitting down to my keyboard this morning, the Ides of March, writing about March 14, 2018, 3/14…3.14…3.1415926535897932384626433... pi day!

I woke up yesterday morning to, my friend, Michael’s phone call.  The plan was to book off and get some of my chores done, pick up a few groceries and, likely, head to Foothills Hospital to see Wendy. All of that changed with Michael’s suggestion that we might head for the mountains and make some pie!

Well…throw caution to the wind, I did, and with no regrets.  Today, it turns out that we are under yet another snow advisory, with accumulations mounting to another possible 20 cms.  Exhausting!  I’m so happy that we got out there, for delicious food and beautiful sights!

The following video is credited to Michael Collett.  Michael is a talented artist, photographer and designer and he has a wonderful collection of art.  He is an inventive and passionate cook and a connoisseur of good food.  He appreciates nature as much as I do.  Over the past few years he has walked the circle of ‘my pond’, with me, more than anyone and I will always appreciate that.   Sometimes the person who is forever carrying the camera is left undocumented.  I am grateful to Michael for placing me into the event that was the magic of yesterday.

 

 

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All is Holy! Kath captured by Michael Collett

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The shape of Elbow Falls changed with the flood. Celebrating water and views. Photo Credit: Michael Collett

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Selfie with one of my dear friends. Photo Credit: Michael Collett

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Pot Roast Pie in the makings. Photo Credit and Filling: Michael Collett

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Photo Credit: Michael Collett

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Pie from the fire to the picnic table. Beat that! Photo Credit: Michael Collett

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Contemplation captured by Michael Collett

Michael systematically packed up ‘the stuff’ and we stopped along the way for butter and for ‘ends’ that had been thrown in a bin for firewood at a local timber place.  Off we headed out 22X.  After exploring Elbow Falls, we settled on Allan Bill as our picnic spot.  The butane was out in the lighting torch, so I ventured down to a picnic spot at the other end of the park, to borrow matches or something.  English was not this family’s first language, so after a bit of mime, I was graciously given a lighter for our campfire.  YES!

First I’ll post a few of the scenes that we enjoyed.  Unfortunately, as I look at these, I notice that there was a spot of something on my camera lens. :0(

 

 

Next, I’ll post a few of the photos I captured of Michael, enthusiastically forging ahead with the process of making unbelievable pies in the outdoors.  What a great time!

 

 

And finally….pi!

 

 

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An Exceptional Gathering, Romanian Style

If I write all that is on my heart before bed, I will be up very very late and tomorrow there is the food prep still ahead.  Suffice it to say that gatherings out in Chestermere with the Ya Yas continues to be one of the most delightful events possible for me.  We are six women (we missed Dar today) who have grown to support, confide and laugh loudly together and today was no exception.  The visit shifted my entire view of things and caused me such peace that I have been happily working away with my own meal preparations ever since.

As I have written several times before, Wendy’s husband, Darren, treats us like we are all princesses.  He is a genuinely talented chef, but also very entertaining with his tremendous knowledge about food, ingredients and food preparation.  If I get a minute tomorrow, I’ll make certain that I tag some of his previous menus.

But for now…just wanting to link up with Darren’s own blog and his narrative about his special creamed chicken recipe.  Today’s menu was delicious!  Homemade Borscht and sour cream, perfectly mashed potatoes and some sort of corn meal ‘stuff’…(Oh…just wait a minute; I’ll go and look it up….)

I’m back. (didn’t find the name for the dish that was made of cornmeal) OH YES I DID FIND IT….Creamed Chicken served with Mamaliga (polenta).

I didn’t grab a photograph of our dessert…poppy seed loaf and special cookies made with a substitute flour and hot tea served in ornate tea cups.

Here you go…a link up with the narratives around this particular dish, Creamed Chicken.  Such a wonderful and detailed accounting of tradition and preparation of this meal. 

Thank you for hosting, Wendy and Darren….and thank you to each of you for your generous hearts.

Some of My Favourite People

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love Art in Calgary Tours

Wendy Lees

Ruth Purves Smith