This morning at Mass, Father Krzysztof spoke of those moments of grace when a person experiences a flash of insight where revelation arises. He talked about the importance of taking pause and giving time to reflect upon these insights in order that these not disappear into memory, but rather, so that they might impact the present moment, our actions or possibly even the course of our lives.
He began with the story of a night when the stars fell. Over 200,000 meteors blazed through the night and into the morning of November 12, 1833, astounding people of the entire world. Can you imagine how such a sight such as this might take your breath away? I know that almost every day, I feel that I’m watching 200,000 meteors flying across a dark sky. In fact, I feel this way every time I am with my grandson.
In the telling of this story, I reflected a little on the circle I walk each day at the river and how by taking pause, I come to an experience of peaceful revelation and renewal.
I also remembered my student’s magic journals, written over the years. Based on the journals written by protagonist, Douglas Spaulding, of Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine, I asked my students to write down their daily revelations in a ‘magic journal’. Some of the students strongly disliked these. And, a lot of the time, their parents disliked them more.
But, as I pondered these matters today at Mass, I have no regrets for my efforts with these students. This is a practice of ‘noticing’ that I deeply treasure. If the students approached this journal with a lack of sincerity and if my efforts were not appreciated by parents, it matters not…to this day, I am grateful that I followed through with this exercise. This is insight that we can all benefit from.
This past winter was an unusual season, so mild that it was difficult to even classify it as winter. The plows came around once. We had two big dumps of snow. And, that was it. Spring came early, with many warm days in March. As a result, everything is dry.
At my kitchen window, in the neighbour’s vent, Mr. and Mrs. Sparrow have nested three times, all without success. On the first go, we had babies and Mom and Dad did a marvelous job feeding and protecting their wee ones and then all at once, one morning, there was silence. Given that the duct tape I had applied last season had fallen off (and I’m sort of glad it did because I always imagined my neighbour charging me for a repair), I believe that either a Crow or Magpie rampaged the nest. The sparrows tried two more times, but with no successful hatch. The nest is now abandoned, apart from the occasional visit from an adult. This has made me pretty disappointed because I enjoyed my daily observations of Sparrow behaviour, while I worked at my kitchen sink.
The Fort McMurray blaze happened and left the province in shock. To not mention this would just be wrong. The media images of the devastation and mass exodus from the city were terrifying. I think that this fire changed all of us in ways we could not imagine. Our hearts are still reaching out to those impacted most. In an economy that was already struggling with woes, this has contributed additional stress. My prayers continue to be for those impacted and for the fire fighters who continue to make efforts to quell this blaze. This image, from Jonathan Hayward, Canadian Press.
A giant fireball is seen as a wild fire rips through the forest 16 km south of Fort McMurray, Alberta on highway 63 Saturday, May 7, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
There just isn’t a transition from that! As a result of the differing and dry climate, different insects are inhabiting our gardens. My asparagus failed to come up this year and very few Oriental poppies. My strawberry plants are weak, as are my lupines. I learned, one morning, while taking photographs that this is all due to the destruction of the Tarnished Plant Bug, last season and this. I’ve spent these months trying to ethically rid my garden of the ‘damned’ things. Sadly, this means I will likely be chasing them away to someone else’s garden. I am thinking it will take me a couple of seasons to build up my garden again and I’m anticipating more damage next summer, given that the bugs likely produced eggs before I got on to this. Gardening causes me to think about what it must mean to farm and to weigh my decisions around protecting beneficials such as bees and lady bugs.
Tarnished Plant Bug presence Noted!
Different birds have settled into the pond area at Frank’s Flats. It’s easy for me to notice because of my close relationship with this location the past five years.
Last year, at this time, I was watching the nesting practices of Osprey very closely.
In late April, this year, two nesting platforms maintained by Enmax were pulled down as a result of future infrastructure development on the Stoney Trail ring road and so things have changed. I can only keep track of a single platform from a huge distance. There is no access at this location on Sheriff King Road, for viewing. I think that the relocation happened just in the nick of time, however, so I am grateful for the efforts of Enmax. Presently, Mr. and Mrs. are watching over a couple of eggs, if not chicks by this time.
Mr. or Mrs. showed up right on time this year, overlooking the pond south of 22X and exactly where the platforms were located last year. I’m not certain if this is one of the siblings born last season or if it is one of the adults, but I am really happy that we have this presence.
No place to go, the Osprey began building on the tops of the power poles. This photo was taken once all nesting materials had been removed, demonstrating the adult Osprey’s determination to set up camp. I quickly contacted Enmax via Twitter and from there, same-day action ensued and a new location was selected for the erection of the platform. Disappointed, I knew that I wouldn’t, with my Canon Power Shot, be able to monitor the nest this season.
From a distance, I saw that the very next day, male and female had established a home, with an abundance of nesting materials. It was a thrill to see.
I have visited a few times, just to make certain that the beautiful raptors have had a successful experience. Only a week ago, I checked in. Mr. is attentive as Mrs. sits patiently. These two are slightly behind the other nest I watch, nearing the edge of the Bow River at Sikome Lake, but they look like they are managing.
Birds have been plentiful at the pond and I’ve nudged up closer than in the past. Sometimes I imagine the birds saying, “Oh, it’s just her again!” I still haven’t made the capture of a male or female Shoveler and that disappoints, given that they attended the pond in large numbers this year. Because they are so skittish, I also haven’t a focused photo of either variety of Grebe, although I’ve captured some great out-of-focus drama! Below, see some of my collection of species this year. I am thrilled with the closeness I have developed with nature and seeming, all because I am present for a walk each day, since October 13, in order to take a single photograph of a bush on Instagram. I have been blessed!
The garden has not disappointed and continues to give me a quiet place to sip my coffee in the warm morning sun. I’ve always received peace in flowers and green. This was a very early photograph…I can’t believe how things have changed and I’ll have to get out there again to snap a photograph or two.
My Auntie Ruth turned 90, as did the Queen of England. This meant a trip to Raymond and it meant a 200.00 speeding ticket! It was a beautiful reunion of family!
I’m very interested in learning the traditions and practice of Indigenous dance. Jess has been so helpful in this regard and is a very inspiring teacher as well as practitioner. I hope to continue with this study more consistently throughout this coming year. I met Jess through Eileen since we were all in attendance to the Juno Awards event that featured Indigenous Nominees and included a power house performance by Buffy Sainte-Marie.
I hope that if you or your children are interested, you might contact me for information as the camps and study continue throughout the summer. Such a positive and physical experience! SîpihkopiwâyisîsJess McMann-Sparvier is a powerful spokesperson for her cultural traditions and is inclusive, finding the narratives so important to share. She is rooted in history and is constantly doing research. She combines her delight for music, dance, tradition and teaching and is just one of those people you must meet and spend time with!
While I may not be athletic, I find this circle of beautiful people to have a very positive impact on me and the dance forms, a definite wake-up-call to my muscles!
May and June have been full and richly lived…home repairs, teaching, paint, writing, family history. I can’t ever imagine life not being beautiful. I am filled up as I look at what has passed this last month and a half.
After 59 years of life, I decide to write about the seasons. In doing so, I face the inevitable possibility that this post will be passed by for the seeming cliche of the colours, sounds and weather of it. Do human beings ever get tired of the seasons? The rituals and festivals that each season offers?
I spend a lot of time making observations of a single pond, the flats and the slopes that move onto those flats. It’s not a large space in area, but it is just perfect for getting up close and noticing the life of it. Given the blessing of this repetitive experience, I am able to see the changes in the wildlife, water fowl, the plant life and the water. The weather imposes its own impact on everything on the space, including my choice of dress, footwear and feeling about it.
With years passing, I’ve got to admit that a person DOES slow down and notice more and mayhaps appreciate the ‘beauty in the simple things’.
I remember requiring my students to keep ‘magic’ journals and it was evident that some of them despised the activity, maybe all of them despised the activity…but I told them to hold on to those journals…shove them in a drawer somewhere…pull them out years later and treasure them. I held onto any pages that some left behind as they bounced out the classroom, tearing toward summer vacation with wild abandon. They wrote about the ‘stuff of life’…times that REALLY mattered.
Just like a friend can not insist and succeed at having their buddy quit smoking, there is no way that an adult can convince youth to slow down and take things in. (in truth, there is no way that an adult can convince other adults to slow down) Life seems to be a rush. Life seems to be about accomplishing more, making more, getting rich, becoming powerful, accumulating wealth and consuming. This is all an illusion. STOP. Literally, smell the flowers. If you STOP long enough to complete that gesture, the time it takes to smell a flower, you will have had time enough to utter, “A Huh” or to connect with something that truly counts…a connection with a memory or a connection with gratitude.
Taking pause is a gift.
I’m including a couple of photographs of the pond at Frank’s Flats that capture the seasons. If I gaze out my kitchen window, I observe the very same story at a single sparrow’s nest. In fact, just before the cold weather blew in for 2014, a male and female fledgling returned to their nest, Mr. and Mrs. long gone. One does not have to travel far, in order to watch the seasons change. This post is written as a dedication to my Uncle Bob, my father’s young brother who ,yesterday, passed from this earthly life, grew wings, and journeyed into the beauty of forever. May his soul rest perpetually, in peace.
I encourage my readers to find one place and return to it again and again. Here you will find time to meditate/pray and to connect with what is really essential to a healthy spirit, body and life.
Circle by Harry Chapin
“All my life’s a circle;
Sunrise and sundown;
Moon rolls thru the nighttime;
Till the daybreak comes around.
All my life’s a circle;
But I can’t tell you why;
Season’s spinning round again;
The years keep rollin’ by.
It seems like I’ve been here before;
I can’t remember when;
But I have this funny feeling;
That we’ll all be together again.
No straight lines make up my life;
And all my roads have bends;
There’s no clear-cut beginnings;
And so far no dead-ends.
I found you a thousand times;
I guess you done the same;
But then we lose each other;
It’s like a children’s game;
As I find you here again;
A thought runs through my mind;
Our love is like a circle;
Let’s go ’round one more time.
I know. I know. I’m behind already…not so disciplined as I imagined I could be. No excuses, just forging on. Saturday morning came around and then Sunday morning and then Monday I was called into work, which was wonderful, but totally unexpected. Through it all, I managed to get some gesso brushed onto my boards and some under painting done, but this morning I’m left with all sorts of bits. The nice thing about it is that it’s raining outside and sipping coffee and painting at the feast table feels like a luxury that most don’t have this morning.
I’ve slipped my new cd into the player and music is perfect as well.
Sketches inspired by an artist done this quickly have little in common with the originals. If you look at the details of the lower left corner of mine and then look at Poortvliet’s you will notice what I’m talking about. There is that lovely tint of green going through Poortvliet’s passage, where mine became an acidic yellow. This is only one example. Notice that on the horizon, the brush in the background of mine is a cool grey (again) and Poortvliet used a warm grey. Let’s not even talk about the gesture of the running deer, leaving the middle ground! The more I do this, the more I understand that I need to practice drawing for both proportion and the dynamic angles of the figures.
I’m convinced that my drawings of the animals and landscapes are going to be consistently different for their texture and detail. This is primarily because of the tooth of the panels I’m using and the obvious smoothness of Poortvliet’s papers. An artist needs to always keep in mind the tooth of the surface he/she is using as this has huge implications for the work.
I’ve provided an image here of ONLY three papers and the tooth. You can imagine that pigments and media act differently on each, so the difference between a board and paper would be extremely different. The difference between a masonite board and a sheet of plywood has the same dramatic impact on the image.
Poortvliet’s two images demonstrate the difference between an animal placed in the foreground and one moving into the background….larger and lower in the picture plane for close-up, smaller and higher in the picture plane for distant. This is one of the ways that an artist creates the illusion of depth/perspective.
I also notice that I use a lot of pure colour…it has been difficult for me in this practice to mute colours.
My living space is still in chaos, so I’ve been piecing things together since my return from Ontario. Bit-by-bit, the little cubbies are being gleaned for what’s to save, what’s to give and what’s to pitch. Then, before anything is put away again, a good wiping and voila! This process is painfully slow and I certainly can’t see the impact this process is having on the large spaces…yet!
Interspersed with such activities, I’m taking hikes with Max and pouring over my summer notes related to my family history. Next blog post will have something to do with my trip to Hamilton where my family tree has some serious roots!
I debated whether I had the energy to paint last night, but really miss my Gorilla House community, so a little late, I threw my board and materials into the van and headed down.
One amazing artist who became my friend through Gorilla House took on a 365 day self portrait project and I was inspired to paint her Shoulder: Day 218. Belinda Fireman is an inspiring woman and I miss sharing two hours a week with her. She keeps a blog, Drawn From the Fire and her work has been featured in a book, Journal It by Jenny Doh. So, I tossed any of the themes that were selected before my arrival at ‘the house’ and sat and painted. Belinda paints with brilliant colour, life and line and so I tried to incorporate those elements into my quick sketch. I did not over-think my piece, simply slathered on the colour. Thanks to Shannon for the purchase of this piece at auction.
I think I have two ‘readers’ of my blog…I mean, outside of my parents…my children. I still wonder why I entered into this process to begin with. I think I have a preoccupation with archiving anything and everything, and in some ways blogging put some boundaries on that and my piles and piles of albums and journals are shorter now. But what will come of it all? One really never knows.
Ironically, one of the two readers I mention, had previously nominated me for one of these blog awards and while I was touched and appreciated it so much, I felt overwhelmed with the criteria that I was to meet and still have the acceptance of the award in my ‘Draft’ file. Today I’m going to attempt to write the acceptance speech of the century and demonstrate my sincere appreciation because this nomination for the One Lovely Blog Award comes from my second reader, John Clinock of the Art Rat Cafe.
He has my admiration for a few reasons. First, he writes thoughtful comments about my posts. While it was never my intention to write for others here, sometimes it is so fulfilling to have a response to something I’ve thought about or something I’ve done. There isn’t much in the way of validation for the individual sometimes (this is a strange comment to be making during the Olympics in London, but it seems there are so often opportunities for recognition in athleticism…I digress) and so, I wish to once again, express my gratitude for taking the time to ‘respond’. Art is like breath for this blogger; it is both emotive and profound. John’s paintings inspire. His writing syntax is poetic, sensitive; his content at times, light and humourous and at other times, heart-felt and heart-breaking. I appreciate your nomination, John. So, Thank you.
The Award guidelines are:
1. Thank the person who nominated you and link back to their blog
2. List 7 random things about yourself
3. Nominate fifteen other blogs
4. Notify the fifteen nominees
5. Put the award logo on your blog.
Seven Random things about me:
– I have treasured my upbringing as the daughter of a military man and a determined and resourceful woman.
– I was blessed with three children…and they have contributed the most to my own story…they are the shape of my life. I love them.
– I have had profoundly inspiring teachers.
– I have completed the drive of the Trans Canada highway seven times in my life and last summer, for the first time, solo.
– My first job was selling corn on the cob on a stick at the Great Falls, Montana State Fair. I still remember the air, the buzz, the hot butter smell.
– Laurie-dog and Max, my two border collies, have activated me as a person…they have contributed to my good health and to my forever-happiness.
– If my children are the shape of my life, my faith is what gives that life dimension. Outside of my faith, I would be lacking the contents of every open box…I would be a circle and not a sphere, a square and not a cube, a triangle and not a cone…strange, I know…but it is true.
This next required element will be the most difficult for me…it seems extensive…but, I am determined. Next, I must nominate FIFTEEN bloggers for this same award and notify each. Here goes. I’m just thinking that these nominees may, like me, avoid the acceptance and required criteria for acceptance, but I’m nominating them regardless, just because the content of their blogs somehow reaches in to me. I have limited time for writing posts and less time for reading posts by others…but these are the blogs that I explore on a regular basis.
1. Swords of Truth….Father Lavigne, the Assistant Pastor of St. Albert the Great Parish. If you have opportunity to listen to any of his homilies on this blog, http://swordsoftruth.com you will learn something, feel something and know something in your heart of hearts. Thank you, Father Lavigne.
3. Allen Porter Mendenhall is someone who writes intelligently and gives me much to think about. His genre, to over-simplify, would be a mushing together of literary review, examination of historical writing, philosophy and thought, and the power of opinion. I wade through his words. http://allenmendenhallblog.com/ Thank you, Allen Mendenhall.
4. I don’t receive a hard copy of the Calgary Herald at the door and I really enjoy Friday’s Swerve Magazine. I find the content informative and also often entertaining. I think it shares with its readers a good cross section of what is going on in the city and what people are thinking about. I don’t know that this is considered a blog, but the posts read as such most times. If you are local, you may want to subscribe…if you live in Vancouver, you may want to find a few reasons why Calgary rocks. http://swervecalgary.com/ Thank you, Swerve Magazine.
5. (and a third of the way there) Ephemeral Gecko creates the most juicy collages in her sketchbook, daily! I’ve followed her pages for quite some time just because they are beautiful. She is great with archiving and has shared tips about dyes and dye processes on paper. An excellent resource for anyone interested in incorporating text, layers, a variety of media. Thank you, Ephemeral Gecko!
6. Beautiful Hello is simply-put, a beautiful, crisp and diverse blog. Like my own blog, it wants to have a focus, but doesn’t. Sometimes I wonder if this is a good or bad thing. Evidenced by this blog, beauty is found in family, creation, effort, design and functionality. There is a wide variety of material here. I simply read it because it is BEAUTIFUL! HELLO! Thank you, Emily Jeffords.
7. Year-Struck is one of the excellent writers hanging about with WordPress. I wonder sometimes why people like her are not featured on Freshly Pressed. I’m actually beginning to notice that this is a category for fairly ‘new’ blogs…but I would like to see Year- Struck appear on their list one day just so that more people can read her work. She uses humour and sentiment and reaches in to the core of ordinary people and experiences. I have noticed that she is not accepting anymore awards like this one, but suffice it to say that I am likely only writing about my nominations, not necessarily informing them. I think mayhaps that this is simply a way to link bloggers to bloggers and she and I will always be linked writer to writer. Thank you for your support of my blog and for your exceptional writing, yearstricken.
8. I’ve dreamed to have enough knowledge that I could eek out an existence, even in the face of world calamity. I bought all the Foxfire books while in university and sewed up moccasins from hide that I purchased in a corner store. This makes me smile as I recollect my desire to live off the land at the time. Now, I appreciate my bed and the convenience of the grocery store. A woman who is clearly able to plant, grow, harvest and create a wonderful life for her family is Throwback at Trapper Creek. I enjoy my time reading about her various challenges living off the land. Thank you, Matron of Husbandry.
9. An Afternoon With is one of the most aesthetically pleasing blogs that I spend time viewing routinely…’viewing’ being the operative word. Photographer, Michael Mundy enters into spaces and captures them at their essence. Brilliant and thought-provoking work! This is a blog I will likely always remain connected with because each time I connect, I feel as though I have been invited to step inside a space that is not my own and explore it…these spaces ARE portraits. To see what I’m talking about, spend an afternoon with Belinda and let me know what you think. Thank you, Michael.
At this point, I’m saving this draft…I hope that it resurfaces at some point and that I complete my list of fifteen nominees.
I am releasing words to the summer afternoon.
I honour the process of finally ‘letting go’, having once claimed the words to be abstract and dumb. I thought these words invented by people who had never had to ‘let go’.
Journals stacked, once shared between two people in love.
Severed…abrupt ending. A period, a comma, a pause.
I cut into the pages,
one at a time, while listening to good music blast from the speakers.
I read each one with no attachment, each one about love.
I archive bits of my heart, celebrating my words…flow…
and then say good-bye.
These are parting words.
These are reconstructed words.
Later, someone will ask me what I did today and I will say that I ate strawberries, walked the dog, listened to music, answered the phone.
For years, I have read your stories with my students. The Lake was one of them and here is the story’s introduction.
“The wave shut me off from the world, from the birds in the sky, the children on the beach,my mother on the shore. There was a moment of green silence. Then the wave gave me back to the sky, the sand, the children yelling. I came out of the lake and the world was waiting for me, having hardly moved since I went away.”
“There’s no doubt that Bradbury fans, of which there are legions, all have a favourite short story. Mine is The Lake, a piece that oozes with sentimentality, rather than martians, about the heartbreaking realities that adulthood often holds. It made me cry the first time I read it 20 years ago when I was in Grade 8, and the last time, too, a few years ago.”
I used several of your stories, over the years, to motivate the non-readers…to reach into the boys who just couldn’t stand to read…to appeal to the young ladies who were romantics and who valued your rich description. Your works were as much psychological as science-fiction, causing us to think deeply about moral choices and to wonder what we might do in the case that we were ever confronted with the same dilemmas as you gave to your characters.
Douglas Spaulding, the protagonist in Dandelion Wine, created a philosophy of living that I have held onto faithfully since first reading the book. I make daily observations of my life…and find the extraordinary in the ordinary. For years, with kids, I called this ‘magic’. When Douglas first took out his Ticonderoga pencil and a tablet, I invited my students to do the same. Dated, front and back, the students kept a daily log of their ‘magic’. I know that some of them cursed me that…I know for some, the magic was pure invention…but, in truth, I hope that something of that process appealed to them along the way. I also hope that they will revisit Douglas’s summer as they begin their own summers, this year.
April 2, 2012 3:30 p.m. Weather 12 degrees, sunshine and some cloud. It was a beautiful day at the park! Max and I took our time, clearing out plastics and packaging from the south edge of the pond and up on the north slope, edging on the road. I enjoyed the sense of life and energy, every direction I looked.
Do people really have to trash their water bottles?
I received correspondence today from both SFCRA and Chandos and I’m glad about the response on both fronts. From Chandos Health and Safety Manager…
I am just emailing you to let you know that I have coordinated a team of our staff to help tomorrow clean-up the area around South Fish Creek Arena. We will be starting around 7am tomorrow morning and should get it all completed best we can by end of day. When I say best we can I mean that some debris that may be in the dirt may be left until our landscape phase that will happen in 2-3weeks time. Otherwise I hope we can give you back the clean park you had.
And from the Assistant General Manager of the South Fish Creek Recreation Association,
I can assure you that we do take this issue seriously. As mentioned last night, SFCRA has budgeted for & scheduled a staff member whose specific duty is to clean the outside property and parking lot. We appreciate the work you have been doing; and look forward to a cleaner spring & summer season at our newly expanded facility!
I decided to tackle the section of Frank’s Flats where dog-owners like to leave their responsibilities behind. From everything the City believes, dogs are responsible for the big mess at these parks. While this wasn’t my favourite day working on this project, I did determine that there is no way that the worst of the dog messes comes close to filling a single bag! On the other hand, I’ve filled almost 40 bags with person-made litter! What does that tell you? I had fun making this film and considered, for one short moment, leaving the bright blue bags behind. In the end, I imagined that they may be thrown onto the other side of the fence, so chose to retrieve them and get them into my bin.
I met Darlene today, outside of the Tim Hortons that edges onto Frank’s Flats. I gave her one of the toques that Elma had knit for me last winter.
Darlene holds out her new toque.
She is Cantonese and has learned her english, just by being with people. She let me photograph her recycling and her material possessions. We chatted for some time about my project and some of what she does. She took the Tim Hortons coffee that a young lady passed to her, transferred the coffee into an insulated thermos and then put her cup into one of her bags on her cart. I told her how much I appreciated that she doesn’t throw her cups onto the ground. She said, “Oh yes, that would be a disgrace.”