The Matter of Place

Off the top…a great book recommendation made by Bill MacDonnell, Landscape and Memory by Simon Schama.

From the section of Streams of Consciousness Chapter 5…this preface by Gaston Bachelard.

“I was born in a country of brooks and rivers, in a corner of Champagne, called Le Vallage for the great number of its valleys. The most beautiful of its places for me was the hollow of a valley by the side of fresh water, in the shade of willows…My pleasure still is to follow the stream, to walk along its banks in the right direction, in the direction of the flowing water, the water that leads life towards the next village…Dreaming beside the river, I gave my imagination to the water, the green, clear water, the water that makes the meadows green. …The stream doesn’t have to be ours; the water doesn’t have to be ours. The anonymous water knows all my secrets. And the same memory issues from every spring.”
― Gaston Bachelard, Water and Dreams: An Essay on the Imagination of Matter

These summarize my general sense of landscape and more specifically, place.

Just as I think that our narratives inhabit objects, and without materialism, contain our affections and memory, I believe that particular places do the same.

On Labour Day, my son and I headed to Magrath, Alberta to say good-bye to a house…my Auntie Ruth’s home…because on September 15, it will be possessed by a new family after all of these years.  James and I listened to CBC radio programming all the way south to Lethbridge.  It seems to me that a story on whistle blowers in places of employment kept us engaged for most of the journey.  The miles, as is usual, went by quickly.  Once traveling the 23 across from Claresholm, Barons was just around the corner and then, with coulees in sight, I felt as though I was home.

Rolling into Magrath, the first stop was the old house.  My cousins have been sorting and downsizing and cleaning…a very difficult experience, as I recall from the days when my parents went through the same process.  As I stepped into the house, all of the memories of childhood and adulthood rushed back to the surface.  There’s just no stopping that particular experience.  I snapped a few photographs…while Auntie Ruth had already moved…she was still absolutely present to my experience of memory and love.

Last week, my cousin wrote that he had found a package of negatives in among Ruth’s things…and much like I do at such discoveries, he set out and had them developed.  Here, is a scan of one of those photographs.  My parents, in 1954, brother John, a year old and one, a photograph of my Grandfather, John Moors, with his dog at Greg Lake.

Read this…on the Poetics of Space. About a house, Gaston Bachelard wrote…

“His use of architectural phenomenology lets the mind loose to make its way, always ready for what might emerge in the process. The house is ‘the topography of our intimate being’, both the repository of memory and the lodging of the soul – in many ways simply the space in our own heads. He offered no shortcuts or routes of avoidance, since ‘the phenomenologist has to pursue every image to the very end’.”

If one does not move carefully through a house/home, one might not capture these bits of magic or ephemera that remain silenced by time and circumstance.  I’m grateful to my cousin who discovered those negatives, flattened amid the bric-a-brac.

From Tim Rollingson Black and White 11From Tim Rollingson Black and White 9

Our footsteps echoed in the house, as James and I traveled room to room.  And while memories flooded my walk, my son James had a completely different experience of place and quietly uttered the words, “This is so sad.”

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I remember the front door always being open or unlocked.  Family came and went.

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My father asked me to take a photograph of the front door.  Several times repaired or renovated, my father had recollection of an incident from his childhood in this part of the house.  I’m publishing that recollection, here, as it was written.

 “Well the problem is Kath this new door had the hole above it fixed. Anyway my dad and his buddies came home from hunting birds one day in Magrath Alberta . Of course they were half cut (as dad told me years later”if you are going to drink just drink good scotch and you will never have a hang over”. Well that day Dad left a shell in his single barrel 12 gauge shot gun. I being an inquisitive young lad wanted them all to know ( Mom and the whole family was in that little living room); anyway I lined up the duck flying above the door cocked the gun and pulled the trigger.. BAM you should have heard the screems and the shot about knocked me on my butt but there was a neat round hole firght through trim at the top of the door which appeared just seconds after a big guy way over 6 feet had walked in. Dad was the only one who got supreme heck for having a loaded gun in the house. Now I have bared my soul to all those interested.PS I was about 7 or so when this happened..”

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I remember fried eggs and bacon cooking….the smell of toast freshly-popped.  I remember my mother’s laughter in this kitchen.  I will always remember where my Auntie sat.

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The back room…I remember the ceiling being lined with cardboard egg cartons.  I remember my cousins and drumming and laughter.  I remember the door from this room out to the back, always open.  I remember summer.

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I remember Linda.  I remember sleepovers.  I remember lots of quilts and pillows.

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I remember food supply.

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Objects of the every day.

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I remember the gardens…the lilies…the geraniums…the hanging baskets.

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More than anything, I remember my Auntie sitting on the front porch.

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From the house, James and I went for visits with both his Great Aunties…Ruth and then Eleanor.  We are so blessed to have these women in our lives, as well as my Auntie Jackie and Auntie Mary.  I lift up prayers for all…for their health and their safety and that we keep memories such as I enjoyed with my son, close to our hearts.

Just this morning, and the reason for this post, I interviewed Auntie Ruth over the telephone, about her home.

Back in early 1940s, my Gramma and Grampa moved to Magrath, mostly in an effort to help their young daughter, Ruth, fight the symptoms of asthma.  The humid air in Ontario seemed to really irritate her breathing and  my grandparents were willing to try anything.

The first home they lived in was rented from a Ukrainian family.  I am in the process of researching their name.  Water was manually pumped from a well on the property.  There was an outhouse and bathing happened in the middle of the kitchen floor in a round tub.  Auntie Ruth remembers the water being heated in a kettle on a wood/coal stove.

Magrath had two stores at the time, the Trading Company and Louis Stevenson’s store.  There was a black smith shop on main street, as well as a show house.  There were no sidewalks in the town.

When Ruth turned 16, she remembers that the family moved into a white stucco house, the very house that James and I visited on September 1 of this year.  She remembers that Eleanor, Margaret and Johnny went off to school in the town, located where today’s school stands but, of course, a much smaller building.  During the war, Ruth worked at one of the blanket-making machines in the Golden Fleece Woolen Mill.  I’m posting a photograph of that particular mill here…it is not to be confused with the Woolen Mill that my grandfather opened up some years later.

John Moors Woolen Mill Magrath, Alberta

Many contracts came in to the Magrath Golden Fleece Woolen Mill during World War II 1939-1945.  My Auntie remembers working there.

A booklet published by the Magrath History and Museum Association and written by John Balderson, explains…

“When in full operation, the Golden Fleece Woolen Mill ran three 8 hour shifts, 24 hours a day.  Twenty-five men and women were on each shift making seventy-five individuals in total.  Two hundred and twenty five army blankets were made each day using 1,000,000  lbs of wool each year.”

Whenever my Auntie speaks about that time, she mentions the Canadians of Japanese descent who shared her machines with her.  She also talks about the shame she feels at how they were treated.  She explained to me this morning that eight Japanese-Canadian women were pulled off the Sugar Beet fields, to work in the mill.  They were all University educated and lovely, however, shy women.  Auntie Ruth  said that their housing was comprised of sheds lined up on the far edge of town, rows and rows of sheds where these beautiful and hard-working people were treated as prisoners-of-war.  My Auntie will never forget the women she worked with on her shifts.

In terms of the house, my Auntie remembers very good and also, difficult times.  She dated my Uncle Roy for four months when they got married and moved to Lethbridge, Uncle Roy worked for Western Drilling.  Ruth was 20 at the time.  Auntie Ruth will always tell you that the Korean War finished off her husband.  And all these years later, having read about the war and discovered the exposure these soldiers had to Mustard Agent and Lewisite as well as the bizarre view of PTSD at the time and the irresponsible treatment of these veterans, it is absolutely no wonder that he and his family, struggled upon his return.

I remember vacation days in both Magrath (at my Auntie Ruth’s and at my Grandparent’s place in front of the mill) and Raymond (at my Auntie Eleanor and Uncle Ted’s place).  In fact, I regret that I didn’t have the chance to grieve the farmhouse in Raymond like I did this house.  I remember much family laughter.  I remember the smell of a slow-cooked blade roast in the oven.  I remember my Grandmother’s laughter.  I remember the smell of wool.

This past weekend, I said good-bye to a place.  That does not mean that it does not remain with me…always.

 

 

Of all the Places

I ended up thinking about this place today.  I sat with my children, as we do on Sundays, ate a meal and shared stories and as they left and I find myself alone at the table, I feel a certain sadness for the passage of time.  Sundays with Gramma meant a blade roast, cooked slowly, all day long.  Sundays meant cartoons with Grampa on the sofa.  I’m grateful for my family and the memory of places that remain in my heart.  If you are in my family and have a photo of yourself on this front step, please forward it to me, so that I may include it here.

The Mill For Sale As I remember it. Woolen Mill 001 Uncle Bob Moors in Magrath Alberta July 1963

Florence, John and Bob Woollen MillRuth and Roy IMG_5619 IMG_8911 IMG_8912

Woolen Mill

They lived off of the front of a woolen mill, the only one in all of Western Canada.  The evening we arrived at the Magrath Wool, Card and Spinning Mill, was the first time I had ever met my grandparents.  It was a one bedroom apartment with a curtain strung for a bedroom door.  To the right of the front door was a small office with papers and invoices heaped high on a huge oak desk.  Some old black and white photographs were pinned to the bulletin board.

To the left, a living room opened up, with a sofa set before a half wall that was easily called the Wiley Coyote-Couch because every evening after work, Grampa would sit for the cartoons with as many grandchildren as possible nestled around and about him.  The half-wall revealed on the other side, the kitchen where most of the visiting would happen.  My Gramma was the nucleus of this portion of the home.  I still remember her, without dentures, eating a slice of white bread slathered with butter and sprinkled with white sugar.  The sound of her laughter and the appearance of her crinkled face stay with me.

Deep into the living room was a second sofa, this one was a pull-out bed.  My parents would sleep there.  Beside the sheers on the living room window, grew a huge Christmas cactus, dust woven in and out of its myriad of branches.  There was a small electric organ in front of the same large picture window and Gramma would play Aura Lee and Going Home and make my father weep.

The evening we arrived, Gramma met us all at the front door, squealing.  It seemed my father held onto her forever.  She had one of those cover-up aprons on, more like a duster…it was covered in golden flowers and was as soft as can be.  Grampa was called in from the mill…Gramma called him, lovingly, Jack.  Whenever he made his way into the kitchen from the mill, his first gesture was to lift his suspenders up and over his big shoulders.  When he smiled his eyes always filled with tears, it was just the way it was.  He smelled of this wonderful scent of raw wool and wore little pieces of grey and white fluff in his hair and on his clothing.  I loved these two with my whole heart.

The sight of my grandparents for the first time, was indeed, a little taste of heaven.  Having lived on the move so much, it was those memories that I would grow to hold onto and keep in the treasure box of my soul.

March 11, 2015: Rumble House

I wanted to ease into my evening at Rumble.  I didn’t want to neglect Max or my every-evening litter pick up at Frank’s Flats.  I also wanted to eat something.

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So, with all of those things attended to, I headed north on my epic drive to the intimate, warm and magical environment that is the Rumble House.

Bronwyn Schuster had brought to mind the idea that sometimes I might paint on a more intimate panel, instead of the large sized format that is so typical of me.  And so, I worked on a beautiful 8 x 8 inch cribbed panel, perfect for fitting inside someone’s purse.

Arriving late, at 7:30, I sat down next to Priscilla who was sitting in a comfy chair next to me, busily crocheting/knitting on a self-invented slipper.  I mentioned that I was going to paint a meditation.  She mentioned how much she enjoys sitting near her son, Rich, so that she can hear the things he says to others as they walk by.  Priscilla also said that she is in awe as she watches his paintings reveal themselves.

I was more focused on the community of people that surrounded me than anything else.  Michael is always so cheerful with his greetings and it sets the tone for a wonderful experience. Paula and Brittney were busy creating their first collaborative piece, a mix of collage elements and paint. It was good to talk to Mike and to share a bit about our sadness and the loss of our friend, Loretta. Leenie!  It was so good to see her smiling face and to be around her energy!  I had opportunity to speak with Asa…hadn’t had a chance to catch up with him in a long time.  Jo and Jeff were tucked away in a small safe place, collaborating on a beautiful piece that reminded me of a book I’m reading about a mother and her daughter, pomegranates and seeds and Persephone.  Louise was back…hadn’t seen her for awhile. What a special touch that she asked me as she left if I had a ride south.  (I’ll never forget the first time we met.) I chatted with James and Enriquito and finally reconnected with Jennifer.  She was painting an awesome bird of prey.  In fact, everyone painting in our section of the space, was painting in a warm/hot palette of colour.  That intrigued me.  I felt/feel nested in this place with like-minded and diverse people.  I like it.

I set about painting my meditation.  I incorporated text in graphite first, a piece from Jewel

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(sic)

As I go about each day, picking up the plastics, the discarded cups and bags from stores, the packaging and flyers that are strewn into natural environments where birds lay their nests; coyotes, their dens; ground squirrels, their complex webs of tunnels, I feel a sense of nurturing fill me up.  I wish to create a safe nest for all.  I wish, and optimistically so, that all human beings would open their eyes to our self-destruction.  We are very lackadaisical about the landscape as we rush by, getting to the next place.  And given that we can not see beneath the surface, the oceans, more than any place on earth, are crying out to be protected.

A nest meditation seemed the right thing to paint.  Because the time with my Rumble pieces is so immediate, I practice the rituals of writing on the back of each piece and then archiving the work by taking a photo or two.  The process of painting at the house is like a bright flame lighting up and then extinguishing, all in two hours.  Funny, on this particular night, I did not sign my piece and I did not photograph it.  I’m posting a photo or two here of other works that have explored this theme of nesting.  Thank you to Sam who purchased my Wednesday nest containing three blue eggs, at auction.

P1140481 P1140505Thanks for the image, Sam!

Three Eggs and NestI treasure my place on this jewel of a planet.  I am only one…but, wish in this brief moment, to make an impact.  Here are some of artist-souls who impact me.

Jennifer

DSC_2833James and Enriquito

DSC_2886Rich (I never get a good picture of him)

DSC_2875Paula and Brittney

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DSC_2852Oliver

DSC_2836What a place!  We’d love to see you next Wednesday night.

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Not All Music

Grief is tough.  In early July, the cement balconies and brick mortar required maintenance on the building.  If you haven’t read it, pick up The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster.  During this brief period of time, Juster’s chapters on Dischord and Dynne came to mind…more than once.

In the analysis of Chapters 12 and 13,

In the Valley of Sound, Juster ties Milo’s lesson on perspective from Dischord and Dynne to the larger theme of appreciating everyday life. Just as Milo fails to appreciate the beauty of noises, the doctor and his sidekick are unable to appreciate the nicer sounds. When he reaches the Valley of Sound, Milo learns what happens when too many people take Dr. Dischord’s perspective. Just like Milo and Dischord, the residents of this valley have an unbalanced appreciation of sounds—they seem to prefer one kind to the extreme. As Milo learns, the residents of the valley became so unable to appreciate beautiful sounds that the Soundkeeper takes them away along with all the noises as well. Notice the plot similarity here with the city of Reality, whose city disappeared because they failed to appreciate it. It seems that what people take for granted in the Lands Beyond disappears.

At the Soundkeeper’s fortress, Milo learns about sounds in much the same way he learned about words in Dictionopolis. Sounds become tangible just like words at the Royal Banquet or in the word market. When he is actually able to see sounds in their “true” forms and the elaborate catalogue system that the Soundkeeper uses to keep track of them all, Milo seems to gain a greater appreciation of both noises and nice sounds. When Milo catches the word “but” in his mouth, Juster returns to his motif of punning by playing off the popular expression “on the tip of his tongue.” Once the sounds have been restored, the Soundkeeper realizes that her inability to appreciate all sounds makes her just as bad as Dischord and Dynne. Beauty, as we learned in the last section, is a matter of perspective. The Sound keeper realizes the sense of this, referring to Rhyme and Reason, symbols of wisdom, and declares that she will try to use each sound at the right time.

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Wet Birds, Wet Dogs and Wieners and Beans

I’ve had such a beautiful day.  I just stepped in from an awesome dog walk along the south east ridge overlooking the irrigation canal, the Bow River and the city smothered in rain and cloud.  Leaving my glasses in the van, by the end of the hike, my skin was cool and wet.  If Max could laugh, he would be laughing…the way he ran and explored sort of said it all.

Back at home, I cooked up a lunch like Mom would have put on for us on days like this, wieners and beans, with a piece of toast on the side.  I miss her so much today…but feel her comfort in everything that I see or experience.  I’m grateful for her love that transcends everything.  I’m grateful for the glory in rain.

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New Digs

It was a rainy day and I enjoyed driving to my daughter’s neck-of-the-woods in order to check out her new ‘digs’.  We chilled, grabbed some Thai food (she is in a great location), wandered a second-hand shop and shared some laughter over various and unrelated topics.  I love seeing her so relaxed, pom pom slippers and all, surrounded by places she enjoys and good people. Good to see that she’s sticking to using existing holes on those walls as well! :0) Congratulations, sweetie.

Pig Butcher Board Art

My Pigeon, chillin’

Everyone Hugs…Peace Prevails

Still Life

 

 

Coming Home

Glorious Everything!

I feel blessed that I had such opportunity this summer…to travel the Trans Canada Highway again and to have arrived home safely.  A poem comes to mind as I bring these thoughts to a close….e.e.cummings

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any-lifted from the no
of nothing-human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

I Did It My Way!

All in a Day's Work! June 25, 2011

It’s been days since writing and I wanted to let my readers know what I’ve been up to.  As per usual, I forgot to take a BEFORE photo of the backyard…let me look in my archives and see what I can find! 

Boardwalk to the Studio

Ah yes…here is a wee photo before building my boardwalk!  And yes, I did it myself!  It’s fun to look back and see the transformation!  And, apart from building the deck, I did all of the physical labour, myself!  From the beginning, I dreamed of having a place where I could grow both veggies and flowers.

My parents had always been the most remarkable gardeners!  Growing up with that experience certainly caused me to love being outdoors in the evenings, picking weeds before they became baobabs. And it is certainly one of the most relaxing times of the day, sipping a coffee in a backyard garden, while checking on the changes there.  I learned so much while building my first raised bed and purchased a good level, sledge hammer and got into buying neat drill bits of all sorts, so that I could pre-drill holes and set my reebar.

First Raised Bed

From the beginning, I knew that I wanted to plant ground cover and I am an avid rock collector, always have been and I wanted to display a variety of flat rock that came from many special places.

Initially, we set them out in dirt and through time I became really frustrated with the constant issue of weeds that grew up and interspersed with the ground cover and this is why, this spring, I decided to revise the layout of the back yard.  One of the problems was also, that I had placed our veggie garden down the center.  This was just NOT aesthetically sensible, although, highly functional!

Cayley and Mud Pies

My daughter, Cayley, was a ‘treasure’ as she created a patchwork of leveled rock in our first attempt.  It was so beautiful how the yard was changing!

Sometimes I consider moving into a smaller home, but as I look at the history of this place, it would be a very difficult thing to do.  We have created so many stories here, as a family!

Hmmm….I have to race off to church…more later! ;0)  (Funny how writing always carries me away!)  Ok….so, I’m back.  This is how the rocks looked before the ground cover and the weeds took over!  I can’t find a photograph of this overgrowth, likely because I really didn’t like it!  It didn’t matter how often I weeded, I couldn’t keep up.  Now that I hope to do a bit more traveling, I need something with less maintenance and so now I’ve floated the rocks on a bed of cedar shavings.  I love the smell of cedar and this is a big reminder of my Dad’s vegetable garden near Frankford, Ontario.

Cremona Rock: Step Down

It’s so much fun going through the old archives of this project!  The rocks were gathered up from Jack Pot, Nevada, the Teton River’s edge and a whole myriad of places from here to Mexico.  There are many memories, experiences and stories tied up with this garden!

The boardwalk was finished up.  When we visited my grandparents in the Magrath area, Grampa would take us out to the Hutterite Colonies in order to finish off his wool orders.  I loved the sound of shoes on  boardwalks. The buildings on the Colonies were edged with boardwalks and I remember that this is where mothers brushed out their daughters’ long hair, all bathed in evening-light. 

 As well, didn’t you love the sound of cowboy boots on boardwalks in those old cowboy- movies we used to see at the theaters?  Everything in my garden resonates with me!  I hold on to these stories because they cause me such happiness!   

Studio Boardwalk

When I moved here, the backyard was an empty canvas…clay overrun with weeds.  It has gradually become my oasis.  Since I tackled this project  on my own, it became a source of enjoyment.

Now, I love to spend time watching the birds at the bird-feeder and putting the finishing touches on things.  The catoni asters are no longer tiny sticks in the far left corner, instead they are becoming a frame for my ‘reading space’, a work still in progress.  I looked at early photographs of May, my Mayday tree, and now she stretches her arms up and becomes a place for the birds to rest.

As I move back into my day, curling up to a good book on a sunny afternoon, I am going to include  poetry by my favourite poet, e. e. cummings.  It is a poetic-sort of moment for me.

Laurie-dog Hangs Out

Backyard Garden: Asparagus

This Asparagus Just Makes Me Smile!

Ok, soooo, this Asparagus is enjoying it’s third season!  Yes!  That’s right!  And I had to expand upon the picture so that my readers can really see the wee stuff!  I enjoy asparagus!  I know that it takes years and years for it to establish enough to harvest it, but so be it!  I will wait.  I’ve left this small plot for things to ‘get going’ and every year, even after harsh winters, it has come back and larger, so growth is happening!  I am left smiling, whenever I go to check on it and I know that more is going on beneath the soil than can be witnessed above!  Hmmm…something else I really enjoy is fiddle heads, but the season is so dang short!

Backyard Garden: Columbine

Columbine: Different Varieties

Given that I am a hiker, I have always enjoyed my early spring hikes with the Hiking YA-YAs.  We have one sister-friend who is particularly good at spotting and identifying a myriad of wild flowers.  The Many Springs hike is usually our first every year and out on the trail, we have seen wild columbine growing.  That’s what got me hooked into planting one bed exclusively with columbine, all varieties and sizes.  This is a fairly new notion and I’ve only had two seasons sorting this one out, but so far, I’m happy with the result. Maturity comes with much patience…whether you are a person or a flower!

Many Springs Trail Map

I have to apologize that my photos are not very professional looking. ;0)

Orchids!

Wild-flower gazing!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Val and Me: High Water!