A Broader Experience

My friend, Wendy, used to delight in really unusual words.  I enjoyed the fact that sometimes, late in the evening, a word would show up in my text messages.  It might be absquatulate or blatherskite.    

I never really understood until now, what a wonderful thing that was…that my friend shared words with me in the night.

(Weird blog post alert…go no further if you are in the mood, more, to tune into Netflix.)

Lately I’ve been having a very narrowing experience that has turned out to be exquisitely broadening at the very same time.  About art, these last ten years, I’ve said that my visual world and sensory interests have become very specific…it’s as though my visual world is in close-up and while shrinking, has become utterly complex.  This started happening as it related to the act of walking. (circling the same pond every day for almost six years/walking a loop at the river every day for the past two.)

It was right about that same time, that I started taking photographs.  Until that time, I had never had an interest.  I think I was wanting to capture a moment.  Birds became a part of that experience, simply because I would find myself standing still in front of a landmark; a bush or a tree; and I would analyse, in a very sensory way, the impact of light, atmosphere, sound, the smell on the air…and from a concentrated state, I would see more than what I anticipated…a Bald Eagle gazing down at me, from mere meters away, water dripping off a branch, a bright yellow bird flitting through low brush.  In standing still, my world expanded.

I guess I first noticed this while spending time with Mom during her journey with Alzheimer’s disease. To give an example,  I remember once leaving a lady’s wear shop, Pennington’s, after an hour of shopping with Mom.  Once stepping through an inside door and into the entrance way and before moving on through the outside door to go to the car, Mom stopped.  I stood behind her, hoping that no other customers would either leave or expect to enter.  I gave her time.  I looked at her face.  Her head was tilted back and her eyes were closed.  I asked, almost in a whisper, “Mom, why have you stopped?”  She said, “Listen.”  It was then that I stopped rustling the packages weighing down my arms and stood still.  There was a very quiet but constant hum of air pushing its way from a vent above our heads…had I not stopped, taken pause, I would not have shared that moment.  After a short while, Mom just moved on.

When the events of my life, over months and even years, became very focused…it seemed that the world continued to bustle as usual…rushing…filling…overflowing and moving on.  All the while, my own focused days became slower.  They became extremely sharp- edged.  They became very specific.

These recent days… for example.

Since mid January, there is a particular rhythm to my days.  I know that particular rhythm through the events that occur, predictably, around the clock.  I find myself in the very same place at any particular hour.  Some times it feels as though I am reliving time.  Some would liken it to deja vu. The name plates beside the doors change, but the events do not.

It was a day like every other except that one of the temporary name plates read, Milton Born With a Tooth.  I drifted past because, well, a person just doesn’t stop in front of some one else’s door and I was, after all, in the rhythm of my schedule, the very same that I had lived the day before.  But, Milton’s name stuck with me.  Didn’t his life somehow intersect with mine?  YES!  I’ve written, over time, about my love for the river.  This passion began while living in the University of Lethbridge residence, perched on the edge of the Oldman River in southern Alberta.  Graduating with my degree in 1977, I had established a connection with the river that would, as it turned out, never be broken.  It was in the mid 80s, here in Calgary, that I became engaged with the group, the Friends of the Oldman River as Ralph Klein’s government seemed to be pressing ahead with the construction of a dam that would, in my view, impact our indigenous brothers and sisters, the environment and encroach horribly on species native to the region.  I was appalled.

Oldman at Maycroft Crossing

Well, Milton Born With a Tooth and the Lonefighters Society were angry too!  Imagine that, all these years later, I should find myself bringing my books and my scrapbooks to share with Milton Born With a Tooth?  That I’d be visiting with Milton…his family members…during such a sacred time as this.

At this point, my readers are asking themselves, ‘how is this connected to your subject, Kath?’  Remember, please, my original premise…that in the workings of my narrowing life, my experience is broadening.

Yesterday I attended a marvelous book discussion at the Fish Creek Library. The book, Separation Anxiety, by Miji Campbell was easily read in the week following our February book discussion. I’m smitten by this group of women… so smart, fun and accepting. While my days are very overwhelming, generally, and while I need to be very responsible and engaged as a caregiver, I will move sun and moon in order to carve out time for this book discussion group.

I slipped in to the room and on to one of the last remaining chairs, just as the moderator was making introductory remarks and introducing the author, Miji Campbell. Her face was open and the feeling in the room was relaxed and welcoming. In the corner, there was a display of very nostalgic items that resonated for me and captured easily, my own narrative as a little girl, growing up in post war/cold war Canada. There was a Barbie Doll case… A Midge doll… some old black and white photographs.

The book discussion was remarkable.  There were interesting questions and engaging responses from the author.  I listened with great interest as the relationship between mothers and their daughters was discussed, topics of birth order, mental health, anxiety and the stigma attached to treatments for such anxiety or even the act of seeking out treatments. The conversation was a real exploration of wellness, a topic that I dearly need to explore right now, but struggle to set aside time for such reflection.

As I was listening, completely engaged, my mind began to piece together wee bits of information that Miji was sharing, connections that had not been made by me while reading the book.  It was as though a light went off when, suddenly, I realized that for years, I had taught with Miji’s mother.  And even more startling was that I was good friends with her oldest sister through my University experience.  At the conclusion of the afternoon activity, I sprung out to the neighbouring Safeway store, in order to access the ATM machine and fly back to the room where I could purchase my own copy of the book and have it signed by Miji.  As I drove home, I wondered about the various layers of this reading that were intended just for me…also, I pondered what messages I was supposed to connect with through the reading and the characters, who were people very much alive in my imagination and in my memory.

Miji’s cousin, Hughe, took video rather than photo, but I am grateful that he captured our meeting!

I think that in sitting in the stillness, I notice more.  I notice the shift in weather, the changes in people, flavours, reactions.  I make new associations.

This morning, I received a brief text message from a friend.  I think it was comprised of fewer than seven words.  But, the words were potent and remarkable and they gifted me with a daytime of support and love.  How easy it might have been, given my past engagement with schedules, events and social media, that I might not have ever realized just how much power a message has…to heal…to wound…to break…to mend.

On Friday morning, I folded clothes and put them away, created just a little bit of order in my seeming chaotic life, these days.  I relished the folding…the simple pleasure of the uniformity of it…the way the order gave me a sense of space and breath.

On Saturday, I went for a drive outside of the route that has become my routine.  I was on sensory overload.   Has this ever happened to you?  There was almost too much to take in.  What an amazing and complex world we live in!  For every vehicle on the highway…a life living…a complex human being, overflowing with challenges, joy, questions, family, self-awareness, belief…open sky…melting ice on the water…stones kicked up…tires spinning…a huge machine beneath me.

Revelation is an act of noticing and being fully conscious to your life.  The protagonist, young Douglas Spaulding, of Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury was the one who taught me that specific lesson.  I want to come back to the revelations of these past months when my world stops shrinking and begins to grow again; when I am in my life as a player more than an observer.  I am wanting to remember that I am grateful, but not in a self-help-book-kind-of-way, but in a really authentic sort of way.    I think it is an important thing to see the beauty in the enormity of the sadness/challenges that face today’s human family.  I think that it is not so much about hope, but about presence.  When I am fully present, I am open to delight, surprise and revelation.

In the meantime, send one another messages.  Create a care package for some one who never anticipates receiving anything at all in the mail.  Place a treasure on someone’s front door step.  Bake cookies.  It all counts for magic in the end.

 

Epiphany Tunnel Books

Oh my gosh…not a lot of writing is going to happen here, but I have to archive an activity that I’ve actually never practiced before and had opportunity to try today.  I have to say that the most difficult aspect of teaching a grade four class how to construct a tunnel book was teaching them how to fold creases as valleys and mountains…or let’s face it, how to fold creases at all.  Do my readers remember, as children, folding fans?  That’s all that’s required, really, but folding a fan seemed, at times, insurmountable.

All other concepts…near and far…background, middle ground, foreground…no problem.  I don’t know.  I’ll have to think about just how to make the folding easier.

What I DID do…I created a template and copied it twice for each student, providing, once folded, for the two sides of the tunnel book (accordion-like).  I marked out a series of lines, dotted from one side to the opposite side.  At some point, I’ll photograph my template and share it here, but, not tonight. What’s a tunnel book, you ask?

Tunnel books can be as sophisticated OR as simple as you wish. The book collapses flat, exposing a single composition.  Once pulled, like an accordion, a three dimensional sensibility is revealed. The Epiphany tunnel books that the grade fours created after I shared the story, The Gift of the Magi, were very basic.  Take a look at these.  These illustrate the more complex tradition.

Wim de Vos is a bit of a character…but, I like that he demonstrates the kind of artistry possible where a tunnel book is concerned.

I found the following photo on Amanda Watson-Will’s site and because there is no other photographer credited, I will assume this is her archive.

Wim de Vos

This is more like it.  I only wished I had seen this one before I began my lesson.

So, after the  story of the Epiphany star and the fine art of gift offering…I got the students started on a background panel, deciding that it made sense to work from the back up to the front OR the background to the foreground.

These are a sampling of the tunnel books made by these awesome, open and enthusiastic students!  Love them so much.

Requirements for their compositions:  A guiding light, a figure, gifts, foreground, background and middle ground.

Kath's Canon, January 7 2015 Gr 4 Epiphany Tunnel Books 006Kath's Canon, January 7 2015 Gr 4 Epiphany Tunnel Books 013Kath's Canon, January 7 2015 Gr 4 Epiphany Tunnel Books 005Kath's Canon, January 7 2015 Gr 4 Epiphany Tunnel Books 003Kath's Canon, January 7 2015 Gr 4 Epiphany Tunnel Books 001Kath's Canon, January 7 2015 Gr 4 Epiphany Tunnel Books 015Kath's Canon, January 7 2015 Gr 4 Epiphany Tunnel Books 012Kath's Canon, January 7 2015 Gr 4 Epiphany Tunnel Books 017Kath's Canon, January 7 2015 Gr 4 Epiphany Tunnel Books 008Kath's Canon, January 7 2015 Gr 4 Epiphany Tunnel Books 014Kath's Canon, January 7 2015 Gr 4 Epiphany Tunnel Books 002Kath's Canon, January 7 2015 Gr 4 Epiphany Tunnel Books 007Kath's Canon, January 7 2015 Gr 4 Epiphany Tunnel Books 010Kath's Canon, January 7 2015 Gr 4 Epiphany Tunnel Books 004Kath's Canon, January 7 2015 Gr 4 Epiphany Tunnel Books 016Kath's Canon, January 7 2015 Gr 4 Epiphany Tunnel Books 018

Thank you, Colleen, for your class!  What beautiful children!

Bad Pictures – Big Heart

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

Today, Frank’s Flats looks like this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thinking About Mr. Nick

I’ve been out in the studio painting this afternoon.  A short nesting session preceded the work; or did that happen in the midst of the painting?  I organized my music alphabetically  and found all of those cases with no CDs and all of those CDs without cases.

Some where in the stacks of music was a Memorex CD-R labeled Mr. Nick Mix Vol-1, so I’m supposing that there is also a 2 somewhere in the pile of music that has not been sorted yet.  This got me thinking about Wayne.

WayneI remember the day that Wayne came into my art room and passed me this collection of songs.  He was wearing shorts and sandals.  I had showed up at his classroom earlier that same week and we planned some music for the youth choir to sing at our next liturgy.  After all of that, we sat around and jammed and I played some of the folkie tunes that I had always loved so much; Seeger, the Mamas and the Papas…that sort of thing.

While I painted this afternoon, I played the Mix Vol-1 and really listened to the selections, thinking about Mr. Nick’s motivation for including them and what they might have meant to him.  I really treasured the time thinking about Wayne.

I remembered all of the joy that Wayne had brought to our students through his love of music, writing, language and coaching.  Here’s Wayne’s  play list.

1. Our God Is An Awesome God : Kirk Franklin
2. This is My Song: Petulia Clark
3. A Summer’s Song: Chad and Jeremy
4. I Need to Know: Marc Anthony
5. musical piece, no lyrics
6. I’m a Stranger Here: Five Man Electrical Band
7. The Black Velvet Band: The Irish Rovers 1967
8: Elusive Butterfly: Bob Lind 1966
9. If You’re Going to San Francisco: Scott McKenzie
10. Where Have All the Flowers Gone: Pete Seeger
11. Only the Only: Roy Orbison
12. California Dreamin’: The Mama’s & The Papas
13. Abraham, Martin, & John by Marvin Gay
14. Classical Gas: Mason Williams 1969
15. musical piece, no lyrics
16. Across the Universe: The Beatles

Sometimes the angels just love to connect…it is a forever circle, this circle we find ourselves on!

Word Paintings

Last night, I attended Mount Royal’s guest speaker session and heard a talk delivered by Dr. Linda Henderson on the topic, Photo Essay: Method and Memoir.  She used published photo essays produced by her late sister, Janet Rose.  I felt blessed to be in attendance, not exclusively because of the deeply shared session, but also because I was able to meet Shirley.  I think that’s the bigger story here, but I’m too caught up in the floaters in my brain (ideas) to write about it.  It’s Valentine’s day and everyone is writing about love and thinking about what they’ve won and what they’ve lost.

I opened a book of poems.  Here are a series of photographs that feature some words that paint pictures…words written by Rev. Robert Aris Willmott.  This book, 19th Century Poets, was given to M.J.B. with the compliments of C.R.L. in Brantford, January 24, 1900.  Wowsah.  I love the words in this book…the engravings…and celebrate Cathy Larsen who gave it to me some years ago.

P1150196 P1150197 P1150198 P1150201 P1150202 P1150203 P1150205 P1150206 P1150207 P1150208 P1150209 P1150210 P1150211 P1150212 P1150213Always…read between the lines.  Pay attention to the Word Paintings!

A Gift From Kansas

When I returned home after time spent with my father, this past summer, I was determined to interview my paternal aunties about my family.  I had never felt such an urgency to record their stories as I did after losing my Mom, her laughter and her memories.  The thing is…once a person collects the archives, the narratives, the recordings and the photographs, it’s important to sort them into some concrete ‘container’.  They need to take a shape.

This morning, my camera battery is plugged into the wall recharging.  My tape recorder is set to pause at minute 22 of an interview with my Auntie Ruth Rollingson…my ancestral record from Dick Chandler (sent to me by my cousin, Anne) is open to L400 William Thomas Haddow and I am so excited and blessed, I am bursting at the seams!  Auntie Ruth speaks about her memories of my Great Grandmother, Mary Eleanor Haddow’s crocheting and her obsession with good manners and courteous behaviour.  Later, I will publish this recording here, as a part of the provenance of today’s MAGIC!  But for now…I have to write about yesterday’s delivery.

Mary Eleanor Haddow, with her family.  She is center back.

The Haddow Family

The Haddow Family

My grand Uncle, William Thomas Haddow (usually called Tom), married Emma Stafford.  (much more to be said about Emma…as well as her brother Charles, who apparently ended up a well known photographer in Calgary and archived by the Glenbow Museum…but that will have to wait).  Tom and Emma had two little girls; Agnes Mary (Mae) and Edith Emily.  When Edith married Robert McKeown, she received as a gift, a crocheted table cloth from my Great Grandmother Mary Eleanor.

Mary Eleanor Haddow on her wedding day to John Moors

Mary Eleanor Haddow on her wedding day to John Moors

Yesterday, I received a box delivered to my door, from my beautiful cousin Anne who lives in Kansas…you guessed it! Wrapped in tissue, lovingly, and with photographs that provide treasured provenance, the table cloth.  I broke out into tears AND hoots of every sort.  My cousin, Margy, joined me at the feast table as I retold the story for her.  I am so blessed beyond belief.  I ran my fingers over the delicate crochet, knowing that this was made lovingly by a woman I treasure simply through the few stories that remain of her.  I am grateful to you, dear Anne.

This photograph shows the table cloth in use sometime in the 1940s and includes young Anne, with her mother, Edith.

Photograph provided by my cousin, Anne.

Photograph provided by my cousin, Anne.

This next photograph shows Edith’s son, Gerry, enjoying a Christmas feast some time in the mid 1950s. An exceptional photograph…with a very special table cloth.

Photograph provided by my dear cousin, Anne.

Photograph provided by my dear cousin, Anne.

And this morning…warmed by Christmas light, the beautiful gift of a table cloth, to be treasured forever as a special remembrance and reminder of the power of family and of Christmas love.  Your generosity amazes me…I cry as I type these words.

P1140479Now, this treasure has been tucked away, to be kept safe for future generations.

 

Mom and Dad…Still Giving

I received a parcel four years ago from Mom and Dad.  It may have been the last year that Mom participated in shopping for Christmas for me before the Alzheimer’s disease stole so much from her.  I put it on a shelf…in a box…thinking that I wouldn’t ever replace a perfectly good and functioning coffee machine.  I owned my white ‘number’ since my #2 was born in 1986.  The past three weeks, I’ve been sticking doubled paper towel underneath my coffee maker so that the water that was leaking would stop spilling over my counter.

Today held the morning of magic; I went down to my basement storage area and brought out my NEW coffee maker.  In the storage room, I was squealing.   And then I went upstairs, read all of the safety concerns, set the bright blue digital numbers to the proper time and then made my first cups of coffee.  What a blessing!  The ‘whitish’ coffee maker is done…it served its years well and I pride myself that I didn’t toss it before its time had passed.

Rarely will I share BEFORE and AFTER shots…but here, it just seems a part of the celebration!

Thanks to the generous hearts of Mom and Dad!

BEFORE

BEFORE

AFTER

AFTER

 

When people go,
when people leave,
make some people cry,
make some people drink.

When people go,
when people leave,
it’s the saddest thing.

When people go,
is it like they’re asleep?
lost to the world,
in the longest dream.

Like when boats at sea,
never come back,
is it like that?

I think it’s going to be,
another long night,
i think it’s going to be,
another long ride.

When people go,
when people leave,
make some people cry,
make some people drink.

When people go,
when people leave,
it’s the saddest thing.

Dizzy in the head,
broke in the heart,
there’s no business,
it’s all art.

Until it’s far behind,
and it all comes back,
when people go it’s so sad, so sad, so sad,
so sad, so sad, so sad.

And goodnight,
and go home,
and there is nothing more to see,
just a song,
in a box,
some need to cry,
and please,
find a friend,
have a drink,
and go home,
taking two,
empty hearts,
go to bed and,
go to bed and.

Well goodnight,
go home,
there is nothing more to see,
my friend,
have a drink,
go to bed,
and tell them,
that you need them,
hold them hold them tight,

Goodnight,
go home,
there is nothing more to see.

Goodnight,
go home,
there is nothing more to see.

Goodnight,
go home,
there is nothing more to see.

I think it’s going to be a long long night.

Goodnight,
go home,
there is nothing more.

Goodnight,
go home,
there is nothing more to see.

Go home.

The Gift

A Gift From My Son

The entire idea of gifts can become a ‘cliche’ if we’re not careful…but, as I’ve discovered the past while, gifts given from the heart are absolutely amazing!  My son is twenty-one now.  When he was in grade two, he stood like a brave boy, in front of the large parent community and sang out the lyrics to Teresa Jenning’s I Wish.  I sat there in the dark, weeping.  Our family had gone through a really difficult transition at the time and I couldn’t help but cry at the beautiful lyrics.  My boy was so handsome, almost radiant, under the theater lights and he came to me squealing and smelling like candy-cane after the concert.

It was on the way home that he asked me what I would like as a gift for Christmas.  I didn’t hesitate to say…”I would like that song for Christmas!  If only we could take care of the whole world and all the lonely and sad people!”  Well, tucked inside his macaroni jewelry box, this is what he gave me…the words to his song printed by his own hand.  This is a gift I will always treasure.  I love you, my son.

I Wish by Teresa Jennings