Booth’s Class Reads The Mitten Tree by Candace Christiansen

As we moved through Advent at what seemed to be warp speed, I had the opportunity to be with Ashley’s class of Grade fours for a day.  The students were bright-eyed and receptive…an awesome little group.  Woven through the day seemed to be a theme of gift.  So, the story book that I had packed into my bag at home, seemed like it would work just perfectly.

The story I brought was The Mitten Tree by Candace Christiansen, illustrated by Elaine Greenstein.

I felt very peaceful.  Ashley’s class knows classroom routines and the learning environment feels ordered and safe. As we shared a discussion about gift, a story of my own came to mind.

I shared with the class my son’s most perfect gift to me…so many years ago, and I felt emotional, thinking about it.

In the afternoon, I pulled out my book and read it aloud to the students.  No matter the age, students, for the most part, fall silent at the reading of a picture book.  It was no different on that day.  While I’m not crazy about this particular delivery, I did find the story on Youtube.

I would consider the painting activity to be an Expression lesson.  I did not focus too much on skills related to depiction or composition, but focused on how to hold a brush and the idea of stroking paint instead of scrubbing paint.  I guess the interesting thing about asking the students to paint two mittens is the idea that the patterns would match…so they were exploring two things in duplicate.  At some point, I adjusted my own system of sharing buckets of coloured tempera, but quickly fell back to my fail safe routine when I observed the chaos in trading that can ensue.  I had intentionally limited the number of buckets I prepared on this day for the simple reason that I didn’t want a big clean up at end of day, so I prepared 14 buckets for 24 students.  Normally, I would prepare 18.  So, you can imagine that, at times, you would hear someone belt out, “Are you done with the white?”

Thank you, Dana, for your wonderful assist.

The paintings, in the end, were lovely. The Pinterest crowd will find a whole variety of projects based on this story book including fabric arts, oil pastel drawings and paper cut outs…lots that you can do around a story. Advent and Christmas art abounds at the moment, I thought that these paintings might bring the spirit of winter into the classroom, for a longer duration.  Thank you, Ashley.  Thank you, Grade four students. I had a beautiful day!

 

Ruth Purves-Smith and David Holloway

I’ve suspended my writing for the week because I’m teaching elementary children on a month long contract and I’m focused and inspired and need to line up all my jelly beans. What I really want to sustain over this month is my time in nature because things are evolving so quickly out there…and so many new birds are on the wing.

I’m writing diligently about an art tour that I took at Pason Systems on this past Saturday…one piece at a time…it was such a fabulous experience!  I suppose I’ll publish that during the coming weekend.

But…

…here’s an exception. I felt I needed to write my gratitude for Wendy Lee’s invitations to meet and listen to the music of Ruth Purves-Smith, accompanied by the fantastic guitar player, David Holloway.  So, for Juno weekend, I ended up having time on Sunday to attend Wendy’s house concert where chili was served, chilled white wine and the most wonderful company ever!  It was a hub of Juno energy and such a down-to-earth experience.

It turns out that Ruth’s father, Bill Purves-Smith and his wife, Fen Roessingh, have a connection to my own family patriarch, John Moors…and so, Ruth and I are connected by the beautiful warm smell and coziness of wool!  My grandfather is pictured below, a young man, in the throws of excitement about wool.

John Moors Woolen Mill Magrath, Alberta

Bill Purves-Smith and a photograph that appeared on his memorial 1934-2011.

Bill Purves-Smith

This story about the collision between Ruth’s family and my own appears on the Custom Woolen Mills website…

Fen Roessingh and husband Bill Purves-Smith developed a keen interest in weaving while studying at the Leighton Centre near Calgary, Alberta in the 1970’s. After being given a truck-load of raw wool in order to pursue their weaving, they began searching to find a mill that would process it into yarn. This took them to Magrath, Alberta, to work with John Moors in his mill, Wool Carding and Spinning. John had started in the woolen mill business at the age of 12 as a bobbin boy and worked his way up to running his own mill. When Fen and Bill came to work with him, John was in his 70’s and looking for someone to take over his business. Game for a challenge and motivated by their love of fibre arts, Fen and Bill bought the mill from John and moved it to Carstairs. They then acquired a wool washing system and additional carding machines from a small mill called Custom Woolen Mills in Sifton, Manitoba. The mill was owned by Anna Weselowski who, also in her 70’s, was looking to retire. Combined, the new mill was called Custom Woolen Mills Ltd. Wool Carding and Spinning, but everyone just called it Custom Woolen Mills for short. Over 35 years later, Custom Woolen Mills is still going strong; a hub in the community, a multigenerational family enterprise, and a producer of quality, Canadian grown and manufactured wool products.  

Of course, as soon as I could, I grabbed onto Ruth…gave her a big hug…and we began to spill out the memories.  I loved hearing about her playing in the back of the mill and watching the old television…I could picture it all.

Thank you for the stories, Ruth…and the music…and the generous heart.  Thank you David for the absolutely amazing guitar accompaniment and the talk of clocks.  And most of all, thank you to Wendy and Dan for their hospitality and for the sharing, always, of music and art!  Good to see so many friends that we now share and for the introduction to so many more!

Kath's Canon Ruth Purves-Smith, Franks 040

There’s nothing like a bookshelf filled with interesting titles…and a guitar that’s about to be played!

Kath's Canon Ruth Purves-Smith, Franks 053Kath's Canon Ruth Purves-Smith, Franks 051Kath's Canon Ruth Purves-Smith, Franks 050Kath's Canon Ruth Purves-Smith, Franks 046Kath's Canon Ruth Purves-Smith, Franks 039Kath's Canon Ruth Purves-Smith, Franks 037Kath's Canon Ruth Purves-Smith, Franks 036

It was a wonderful experience…bought the recent CD….so should you!

 

Related Posts:

Woolen Mill

Objects of My Affection: Woolen Blanket

Of All the Places

The Sunshine of Your Smile

Leah Came to the Door

May 8, 2015

Going to the Country

Southern Alberta Roads

Wool Card and Spinning: My Grandfather’s Story

John Moors 1908-1988

Ancestry Geek

John Moors 1876-1918

John Moors 1841-1914

 

 

 

 

Mr. Man-Moth Flies In and Out of Rumble House

This post isn’t a tribute as much as it’s an expression of my heart felt sympathy for the loved ones who knew well, loved, shared experiences with, worked along side beautiful human beings who recently lost their lives, while making their way somewhere on blustery roads in Saskatchewan.  They lived, created, inspired…were fun and funny…sometimes despairing…sometimes challenged and challenging…I just feel sad that they are gone.

Among them, Michael Green.  Over the next long while, Calgarians will be discovering so many reasons why we miss him.  Some of this was felt at Rumble House last night, a visual arts space where artists of all walks can gather and paint with wild abandon.  As Larissa so eloquently shared last night, having struggled personally as a result of the High River floods…ones art is sometimes all that gets a person through the struggles.  “My art saved me.”  Enriquito has his story.  Dave has his story.  Frank has his story.

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I went to Rumble House with a bit of a heavy heart.  Earlier in the day I had seen an image that Frank shared on social media.  It was the image of the most spectacular and exotic moth.  I was thinking about the absence of beautiful beings and about what their journey must be once letting go of the body.  The body, through gravity, lives a part of its life grounded.  Beings interact with other beings through voice and touch and smell.  This is all so beautiful and I think that through such recent news as this, we are reminded to cherish the lives that engage us every day.  Look, with care, upon the work of others.  Value their creativity.

It is worth your while to read this poem in its entirety.  It’s lovely.  Thank you, Jess, for purchasing this piece at auction.  Thanks, Bruce and Enriquito.  Thanks for the image, Frank, and we miss you.  The moth struggles toward the light.

The poem, The Man-Moth by Elizabeth Bishop

Here, above,
cracks in the buildings are filled with battered moonlight.
The whole shadow of Man is only as big as his hat.
It lies at his feet like a circle for a doll to stand on,
and he makes an inverted pin, the point magnetized to the moon.
He does not see the moon; he observes only her vast properties,
feeling the queer light on his hands, neither warm nor cold,
of a temperature impossible to record in thermometers.
                     But when the Man-Moth
pays his rare, although occasional, visits to the surface,
the moon looks rather different to him. He emerges
from an opening under the edge of one of the sidewalks
and nervously begins to scale the faces of the buildings.
He thinks the moon is a small hole at the top of the sky,
proving the sky quite useless for protection.
He trembles, but must investigate as high as he can climb.
                     Up the façades,
his shadow dragging like a photographer’s cloth behind him
he climbs fearfully, thinking that this time he will manage
to push his small head through that round clean opening
and be forced through, as from a tube, in black scrolls on the light.
(Man, standing below him, has no such illusions.)
But what the Man-Moth fears most he must do, although
he fails, of course, and falls back scared but quite unhurt.
                     Then he returns
to the pale subways of cement he calls his home. He flits,
he flutters, and cannot get aboard the silent trains
fast enough to suit him. The doors close swiftly.
The Man-Moth always seats himself facing the wrong way
and the train starts at once at its full, terrible speed,
without a shift in gears or a gradation of any sort.
He cannot tell the rate at which he travels backwards.
                     Each night he must
be carried through artificial tunnels and dream recurrent dreams.
Just as the ties recur beneath his train, these underlie
his rushing brain. He does not dare look out the window,
for the third rail, the unbroken draught of poison,
runs there beside him. He regards it as a disease
he has inherited the susceptibility to. He has to keep
his hands in his pockets, as others must wear mufflers.
                     If you catch him,
hold up a flashlight to his eye. It’s all dark pupil,
an entire night itself, whose haired horizon tightens
as he stares back, and closes up the eye. Then from the lids
one tear, his only possession, like the bee’s sting, slips.
Slyly he palms it, and if you’re not paying attention
he’ll swallow it. However, if you watch, he’ll hand it over,
cool as from underground springs and pure enough to drink.

 

Elizabeth Bishop, “The Man-Moth” from The Complete Poems 1926-1979. Copyright © 1979, 1983 by Alice Helen Methfessel. Reprinted with the permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC. (because the Poetry Foundation provides for a share on Facebook and Twitter, I’m hoping this means that I may share the poem)

Source: The Complete Poems 1926-1979 (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 1983)

 

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A Space to Inspire: Carli’s Classroom

There are several things that make guest teaching a positive experience.  I have the opportunity, in this role, to get out there and teach in a whole number of locations kindergarten to grade twelve.  Every day is filled with discovery.  I’ve thought recently that it’s too bad teachers don’t have the opportunity to experience one another’s classrooms the way that I do.

Every physical space has its own magic and I enjoy them all!  I thought I might start featuring some of the ‘coolness’ that is out there, with the permission of the beautiful teachers that call these places home during their work weeks. Recently, I came upon a room with a very special feeling.  Not only does it carry with it a peaceful aesthetic, but it also functions well.  Carli’s class is a grade two class.  The students love and respect their space and the function of each area appears to serve them well.

To begin with, I read “Pieces of My Pedagogy” posted on the wall at the counter where I located my day’s plan.  Good stuff.

??????????To these three canvases…words are added that represent ‘What Makes My World Amazing.”  These caused me to remember the pieces of magic I hoped my grade sevens would collect over the year, much to their frustration at times.DSC_1920 Simple displays of beautiful objects and framed photographs.  Things and places to wonder about.  DSC_1923 DSC_1924 ?????????? A mirror at the sink.  Paint brushes!DSC_1926 Under a cupboard…a little nook to feel safe and peaceful.DSC_1927 The Solar System built out of papier mache…the teacher chair for sharing stories. DSC_1929When we shared, I heard all about the way that Sirius is larger than our sun…and what a supernova is…and a black hole…and how we might stretch and then shrink very fast in a black hole.  I was amazed by our conversation.  The students had a good idea about scale based on their construction and study of the planets and the stars.  That day, I selected as my story book, Stars Beneath Your Bed: The Surprising Story of Dust by April Pulley SayreGreat book!  Read it!  Very interesting conversations came up as we read this one!

DSC_1930 DSC_1932I love it when art comes from art…artists can inspire so much in us!

?????????? ?????????? DSC_1935The little clip boards are available if the students want to sit somewhere other than their  desks…sometimes they just want to get away from the traditional seating plan.

??????????At the children’s heights…birthdays…a calendar…some supplies they might need while being at their writing workshop.

??????????A message box…pencil crayons sorted by colour.

DSC_1938 The peaceful corner…?????????? ?????????? DSC_1941The tee pee… see through fabric…no more than two at a time.  Rotate through your class list.?????????? DSC_1944 DSC_1945 DSC_1946 DSC_1947 DSC_1948 DSC_1949 ?????????? DSC_1951 DSC_1952I just thought some of you would enjoy a few of these ideas.  I felt really happy in this space.  And this is where the grade twos created their images for the sentence, “A fiery shooting star flew across the midnight sky.”

DSC_1960Thank you, Carli Molnar, for giving me permission to share your space with us.

It was 2008!

In 2008, I left behind a drawing/message a day on a piece of fabric.  My friend, Cathy, then quilted it all together in love.  Today I am thinking about that friendship and in going over the bits of writing, I am considering just how rich our lives are, particularly if we have the reminders of a snapshot each day, left behind.  Yes, life is a struggle at times!  And although life does not promise to be easy, it is a many-layered, magical memoir.  I am putting MY 2008 out there, as a healing sentiment for all.  Happy Valentine’s Day.

Photo Credit: Jenn Hall

Photo Credit: Jenn Hall

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Greatness

A blog format isn’t necessarily conducive to writing on the subjects I currently need to write about.  Over coffee this morning, I quickly finished up the last two remaining posts about my recent experience on the Love Art in Calgary art tour. At 11:00 I was walking a prayer around the pond with Max.  And, yes, you read that correctly.

Before the hike, I sought out my father on Skype because I was feeling fragile.  Dad is giving me everything I need to journey my grief, everything that is, apart from what I am giving myself…and what God is giving me.  In short, Dad wasn’t available.  I went to the kitchen and ate an apricot square (I should have greased my pan, or as Dad later suggested, used parchment paper on the bottom of the pan) before making an exit.

At 11:00 the funeral Mass was beginning for a dear friend in Lethbridge and I was at a loss as to why I wasn’t there.  I’ve sat with that feeling all day long.  And just now, sitting here, I’m no closer to the answer.  The wind was a cold one from the north and on the south side of the pond, I couldn’t forge through the drift that, over the last few days, had accumulated.  So, I did an about face and headed back the way I had come.  That put me into the wind…and the cold lashing made my nose run and my eyes tear and then I was able to cry.

I seem to be losing women of greatness…women of tremendous influence…women who have inspired me and made me who I am.  And this is a difficult thing.  Because women of greatness have passed, the bones of my own mortality are being shaken and I am feeling an urgency about almost everything and that urgency sometimes exhausts me.

Last night, with remembrance of having done this alongside Gunda, I made a huge batch of cabbage rolls.  I am here alone, but I made enough for ten.  She would smile at this, I’m sure.

Cabbage Rolls and Apricot Squares

Cabbage Rolls and Apricot Squares

I know.  Like everyone else, I also say, “You never really lose someone you love.”

But, for the sake of this writing, I need to say it. I considered titling this post, Losing Gunda.  It feels as though we’ve lost her.

The truth is, I haven’t seen Gunda for the longest time.  The last time I saw her, she smiled and her eyes smiled, but she said very little.  I sent her Christmas cards.  That was the sum total of it, in the physical sense…oh, but in the spiritual sense, it was something completely different.

I think one of the most surprising blessings of my life, apart from having my children, was the moment I decided to be confirmed in my church.  Gunda inspired my faith every step of the way.  I sometimes sat on a stool in front of her…she would grasp my hands in hers…and we would talk.  She had such devotion and her devotion wrapped itself around me and never left.  So many times along the way of my life, I referred back to the wisdom that she shared with me and treasured the impact that she had on my life.  Gunda has always remained with me.

GundaI am sad today that the world has lost her beauty and her light, but I am confident in the promises of Jesus.  I will not forget her laughter.  I will not forget her raised eye brows when she was in doubt or questioning.  I will not forget how much she loved her beautiful family and her husband.  Thank you, Gunda, for connecting some of life’s dots for me.  I will continue to carry you in my heart for always.

Eternal rest grant unto Gunda, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Katie Ohe’s Idea Books

Perched on Katie’s kitchen counter…a simple black sketchbook…a place to capture her ideas while she is preparing food or perking coffee.  Some of the collages feel so familiar to me.  For one, I also enjoy using found objects such as onion/fruit sacks as underpinnings in my collage work.  Katie lovingly leafed through pages…chatting with us along the exploration.

It was in the kitchen that I shared with Katie how commercial galleries had once owned my spirit…and how, belonging, caused me to freeze.  She received that disclosure with so much warmth.  I will carry the conversation that followed, forever…a very healing experience.

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Finding a Poem For Katie Ohe

I’ve tried to write about Katie three times.  Each time, I got to a point and had to stop.  Today, I begin to write again.

As I reflect back on things that Katie said and then the unspoken power of her sculpture, I am left somehow overwhelmed.  It seems to me that she is some version of a fireball.  She is compacted energy that has been burning deeply for a lifetime and in connection with that light, I was left in awe.  So, once in awe, I had to go looking for a poem.

No luck. I found no poem for Katie Ohe.  That, in itself, is unbelievable. However, the act of looking for a poem caused me to sit for most of that particular afternoon, reading poetry, and that can’t be all bad.

After some days…more than a week…I found this.  It describes something of Katie Ohe.

A short version, my version, of one of Katie’s stories (and really, you need Katie to tell YOU her story…nothing compares).

Katie’s Dad gave Katie and her brother each a potato to peel.  Katie created a long spiral of peel…I think she said that she tried to peel the entire potato in a single peel.  (Her brother doesn’t even remember this, but Katie does.)  Her father then attached the end of her peel to a pin or a needle, suspended it by a string and then set the peel to spinning.  This image has stuck with her all of these years. (The metaphor…the image of the twirling potato peel offered up in this narrative, illuminated some very basic principles of Katie’s work…at least I think so!)

Katie spoke of Weeping Bees and Typhoon…and so much more and shared her studio space with us.  I was in awe the entire time.  I was left speechless.

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Katie Ohe IS a poem.

Where are you David Carlin?

I painted on a Masonite board while in Mr. Carlin’s class…I still have the original sketches for the painting, “Adam”, that I worked on independently through his grade nine class in 1969.  They were tucked away in my portfolio.  The oil painting has long since disappeared; likely on one of our military moves it didn’t make it onto a truck.  A muscular Adam had his leg wound up tight by a serpent…a very symbolic piece for such a young girl.  It makes me smile today, to remember.

P1120999 P1130001 P1130002It wasn’t long ago that I re-connected with ‘Mr.’ Carlin (amazing how we find difficulty attaching first names to our forever-teachers) through social media and was very excited to acquire one of his amazing pieces, ‘Jester Trickster’, through a 2011 exhibit/fund raiser where he sold his collection in order to generously support his daughter, Sarah, in a new treatment protocol offered in Albany, New York.

Jester Trickster 30 x 22 mixed media

Jester Trickster 30 x 22 mixed media

Mr. Carlin was such an inspiring mentor!  I will never forget him and his ways.  Particularly, I will always remember his sense of humour!  He was so encouraging.  As I journey back in blog-time to the visit with Dad in Ontario (wanted to blog away the poignant moments that held so many lessons while home…but Dad’s computer was too darned slow at the time!), I find myself remembering the decision to miss my 40th high school reunion in Great Falls, Montana and focus, instead, on what it was my Dad and I had to learn together through our grief.  That didn’t mean there weren’t going to be a couple of side trips though.  The trip to Hamilton had been such a blessing later in June.

I knew that my sister was a health nurse at Camp Tawingo again this past summer.  One of the joyful memories of my life was the magic of bumping into Val some years ago at a hotel parking lot in North Bay.  I was on my fourth night of driving east, pulling in from Thunder Bay and she was having her 48 hour break from camp.  It was a fortunate and very serendipitous moment.

a-huge-surprise Why not repeat it?  We decided to combine the opportunity to enjoy an exhibit, Intransit, of David Carlin’s new works with a reunion at the same Super 8 Hotel.  It was a dream to step into the Alex Dufresne Gallery in Callander and have the art work sing out the way it did.  It was spectacular, as was the feeling of excitement that was going on inside me.

As I signed the guest book, Mr. Carlin stepped up behind me, recognizing me immediately.  What a spark of magic that was!  I will never forget it…A drum ceremony opened the event and I felt washed over by good will and creativity.  It was an event I will not soon forget.  It was very quick…very spontaneous…but I needed Mr. Carlin to know that I have never forgotten him.  I also needed to see his work up close.  If ever my readers have the chance to see his art, please do!  Thank you, dear Mr. Carlin, for having been my teacher.

P1110660 P1110662 P1110663 P1110664 P1110665 P1110666PLEASE read this interview for a true sense of who David Carlin is!

Photo Credit: Carol Pretty Drum Circle Opening

Photo Credit: Carol Pretty 

Photo Credit: Carol Pretty Drum Circle Opening

Photo Credit: Carol Pretty Drum Circle Opening

Whut Cha Been UpTah? Balletlujah With the Alberta Ballet

P1100992 P1100993 It’s been over a week and I am only now sitting down to write about Balletlujah! It was a brilliant  collaboration between Artistic Director of the Alberta Ballet, Jean Grand-Maitre and k. d. lang.  My friend told me that she began to cry during the second half…I cried from the time I saw the magical prairie landscape open up during the first number, Inglewood.  Suddenly, I was flooded with memories of times shared with my grandfather, miles traveled on Alberta roads and my years of painting the landscape I’ve treasured so much the past thirty years.

P1110002I can not possibly capture for my readers, the gist of the performance.  The dancers were exquisite.  The costumes were perfect.  The lights and video effects were spectacular and the music created for me, a narrative that moved me beyond belief.  The images of buffalo, crows, fish and star studded nights were dreamy.  The contrast of prairie and city experiences was so well-developed through the music and the ballet.  I definitely felt that the piece was encompassing themes of place, home and identity…of what it feels like to love completely and without holding back.  A spectacular night!  The second last tune resonates with me personally and so I am going to link to it here.

If given the opportunity to see this ballet in the future, please do.