Welcome to a New School Year!

I am here in my pjs, sipping coffee and checking my e mail.  Max, the border collie, has left no speck of food at the bottom of his bowl.  Outside…a light rain.  Last night’s dishes whir in the dishwasher.  Peanut-the-cat stretches his back leg and washes its length again and again.  We’re all resting back upon the day.  I enter into my third year of retirement.

For me, days like this will always mark the first day of school.  I’ll never forget that feeling of the brand new class of children sitting before me…I’ll never forget that responsibility.  I found an entry I wrote on August 30, 2006 and just want to paste it upon this page…everything still applies.  I pray for my friend-teachers and for the parents and students; for another year of magic…and that they can ‘make meaning’ together.

Making Meaning

Posted on August 30, 2006
Sitting here listening to Ben Harper… I’m so inspired by his music….reflecting back on the work day and the work in the studio and the surrounding ‘energy’ of my children.  I’ve been thinking about “making meaning”.  It’s an expression I used to use solely with my own students and their art.  I worked endlessly at convincing them that unless they could make meaning in their own art, it would somehow have limits as to how it could speak to others.
Now I’m thinking about this being a real purpose for my own life this coming year. MAKE MEANING!  I’m so ritualistic and I so love setting goals and MAKING things happen…I like to manifest my life and have for years, been reluctant to just let life swoosh over me.  I know there are pitfalls to this thinking.  For example…what if something bad happens??  What if I was to be challenged by poor health or unexpected loss?  hmmm…I wonder how I would react to these possibilities in the ‘soup’ of the moment?

Back to the subject of this entry,  I think that anything profound and really worthwhile in life requires that it be meaningful.  A relationship is deep and abiding to the degree that you personally invest and make it meaningful.  Your own music, art…your writing is profound because you have decided to make it meaningful.  You ‘show up’ to it.  You commit to it and create it from your deepest joy, sorrow or indifference.  But, you ‘show up’!  Your children grow as you respond to them, connect with them and give, not in superficial ways, but in ’meaningful’ ways.
A painting speaks to me when I make my own meaning with it.  It doesn’t necessarily matter that I engage the artist’s intended meaning; but it DOES matter that I, the viewer, bring my energy to it…and manifest something.  Otherwise, I think that art becomes wall decoration.  Perhaps Clive Bell and others would say “Heh, that’s ok…art for art’s sake…a wall decoration is alright.  We can’t all be connoisseurs. Is that how I spell that?  Who cares.”
I think that a big reason why my english language arts students have troubles with literature or reading in general, is because they have difficulty taking text and ‘making meaning’ with it.  I think that my goal is to show them the ways/strategies that I have made meaning with literature.  It seems that I love books beyond words!  smiling here…  Rarely do I say, “Don’t read this one.  It’s a book that you could never get into!”  Instead, there is always some MEANING that I have created for myself in the book.  Whether non-fiction, biography, historical fiction…it matters not!  I become that publication’s biggest fan!  Wow!!  Imagine if I can show my students how to do that!
Right now I am making meaning in the studio.  I have freed myself over time of all encumbrances around the act of painting.  I am creating works right now that speak to me and speak powerfully.  Now…in a week or so when I deliver them to my galleries (and I can’t believe they’ve shown such patience with me) I will have to be prepared to remain separate….to trust in just how important the art is to me…and how it is ok to protect its ‘meaning’.
I think that when we ‘make meaning’ in relationships…in the world of business…in our art….we become responsible to all of that.  There is an investment made.  These become ‘of the heart’.
(I remember as I type the word RESPONSIBLE….the context from Le Petit Prince par St. Exupery…such a beautiful way of describing what I’ve been writing about here…”You become responsible for your rose…”)
It is my hope that I will be able to create a meaningful school year…that I will be able to continue building upon meaningful relationships and that I can make meaning in my art.  I hope the same for each of you.
Sometimes when I think how good my book can be, I can hardly breathe. Truman Capote

To Grow

Human Growth

“The hardest step of all human growth may well be that from the child’s dependence on and aggression towards its parents, to a friendship and dialogue with them, which recognizes their grace and gifts.”

Jean Vanier, Community and Growth, p. 236

Thank you, dear Hollee!]

Old Stepstone: Cold Speck

Oh, ’tis sad to be parted from those that we love
Strange faces we see every day
Each heart string of mine is broken in time
When I think of those dear ones at home

Goodbye dear old stepstone, goodbye to my home
God bless those I leave with a sigh
I’ll cherish fond memories when I’m far away
To roam o’er this wide world alone

I stood on my doorstep one evening and morn
The wind whispered by with a moan
The fields may be whitening, but I will be gone
To roam o’er this wide world alone

Goodbye dear old stepstone, goodbye to my home
God bless those I leave with a sigh
I’ll cherish fond memories when I’m far away
To roam o’er this wide world alone

And I stood on my doorstep when school time was o’er
And I wished for the time to go by
Now it has passed, and I stand here tonight
To bid this old stepstone goodbye

Goodbye dear old stepstone, goodbye to my home
God bless those I leave with a sigh
I’ll cherish fond memories when I’m far away
To roam o’er this wide world alone
To roam o’er this wide world alone

A Potted Plant: The Story of a Boy Who Grows Up to Be a Man


I received a four-inch potted plant in full bloom at the end of that particular school year.  It was so long ago that the exact year escapes me, but the photograph captures the very same plant as it appeared in early spring of this year.  The boy who gave it to me also gave me a great big hug and the words, “Thank you for teaching me.”  I brought it home and planted it in my garden and said that every spring when it bloomed I would remember the young man.

I have moved four different times since receiving this plant and I have dug it up each time, fretting that perhaps the next move would be its demise.  Instead, it got stronger and thicker and more brilliant every year.  Some summers I would be in awe of its absolute glory and I would think of and remember and pray for the boy who gave it to me on the last day of school one year many years ago.

What becomes of a boy?  He joined the army as a reservist and at the same time, completed a Bachelor of History degree.  He completed a UN Tour in the Golan Heights, with a six month tour in Afghanistan out of Kandahar Airfield.   He took a commission as an officer in Intelligence.  At the age of twenty-three, he grew into his ‘authentic skin’ and in doing so, learned that life is about hard work and knocks and that there IS love in the world for EVERYONE!

One of the lowest saddest times of his life was losing his step dad this past year.  He misses and will miss forever, the man he called his Dad.

Through it all, has been the ‘magic’.  He has seen the Mall of the Emerites in Dubai.  He has done a pilgramage to Jerusalem.  He has gone swimming in the Mediterranian.  He has walked through a Bronze Age city in Syria.  He has been to Damascus and Aleppo.  He has visited the Tate Modern and the British National Museum in London.  He has seen Gustave Klimt’s The Kiss in Vienna and walked through the forum in Rome.  He has thrown five cents into the Trevi Fountain.  He has chased sheep on the Hill of Tara in Ireland.  He has driven the same highway as I have this summer, Calgary to Montreal over and over again.  He thinks, as I do, that one of the most beautiful places in the world is Waterton Lakes National Park.

As teachers begin their next school year…and as students congregate to read their class lists,  it’s important to remember that these young boys and girls grow to be men and ladies.  Education and learning is a very magical enterprise, the rituals of autumn!  This thirty-two year old man has made me very proud and I will continue to remember him each spring when the lily blooms.