Listening to Fleetwood Mac’s When I See You Again, as I type.
I wrote away to Amazon for Beyond Remembering: The collected poems of Al Purdybefore driving east, the morning of my mother’s birth day, July 27. Since then, I’ve been pouring through the poetry and visiting the places that Canada’s poet, Al Purdy, visited and sometimes thought and wrote about. I heard Eurithe’s strong voice over the telephone, positive and supportive and carried to me all the way from Sidney, British Columbia. Al’s wife gave me the generous permission to use bits of Al’s poetry in my paintings, all produced in my studio bedroom, generously offered to me by my loving father his summer.
I’m still working on small panels and told myself they would be completed by September 1 and I will hold myself to that and I will rest for September, taking in the new autumn air and visit my brother and sister in Ottawa before I drive west to Calgary.
If you haven’t had a connection with Al Purdy’s writing, do give yourself that opportunity some time, when it’s right. The summer of 2013 was the right time for me. I had picked up George Bowering’s book about his friend, Al, his writing…and I became suddenly, profoundly connected…not just with Al Purdy’s writing, but also George Bowering’s writing and more than before, Margaret Atwood’s. I was excited by Al’s connection to my all-time favourite author, Margaret Laurence, and went in search of correspondences between the two and poems where he wrote about her…even to the point of the description he gave in one of his poems of his writing space and the images of both Gabrielle Roy and Margaret Laurence that hung there, on his wall.
Yes…I became a fan. George Bowering co-authored a book with Jean Baird, The Heart Does Break: Canadian Writers on Grief and Mourning. Drowning in a dark pool of grief for my mother, all of these beautiful circumstances, all surfacing through poetry, writing and literature, gave me a nudge into my personal journey of grief. I have to say that tentatively, visually, my relationship with the folk of the Gorilla House (you know who you are) and then the Rumble House in Calgary, also provided a string to my practice. But, I have to face it, for years, I’ve been broken and not particularly functioning on any level as an artist. I painted in my head and pulled off these two hour blast outs every Wednesday night. I was happy to let go of them at auction on the same night because I was suffering too much to want to hold on.
Somehow, I knew that this summer I had to create a segue into my practice of painting. I had unloaded all of the furniture and other stuff that I had pushed into my studio space, as a physical way of avoiding painting. I finished projects that were created as a way of distracting me from the fear, the incapacitation and the flat out avoidance of canvas or panel or paint.
And so I find myself here, painting the shape of Purdy’s words, in as much as I can over a period of four weeks. I am sitting here crying as I type. Dad isn’t home. Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Nicks…singing to me through the single speaker. And…I feel good to be in the act of painting again. A bit illustrative in nature, I don’t necessarily believe that this is the direction my work is going…but, it is the beginning of the direction and for that, I’m grateful. It makes sense that I should begin in this beautiful, lush, humid, Victorian city of Belleville, on the edge of the Bay of Quinte…not far from Purdy’s resting place and his little A Frame on Roblin Lake. I know that when I get home, I already have a ‘shitload’ of content from a pond that I love, that will give me a subject for my winter’s exploration.
I will add the poems, a bit at a time, to this post…I really need to get back to those small panels I mentioned. After all, it’s the 28th of August.
Mom, I love you. I love you with all of my heart. Something about what I’ve painted this summer is about you…home…Canada…experience that is the very most mundane…things in the day-to-day that all too often go unnoticed. Painting again, with joy…not pain…is home for me.
Thanks to Mary and Pat…two friends back in Calgary, who tentatively asked…and supported my journey of grief as it related to my painting. Thanks to Pricilla. You know why. Thanks to my Dad, who feeds me.
The paintings can be seen, thanks to the generous opportunity given by Lisa Morris and Peter Paylor at Artists and Artisans: Studio and Gallery on Front Street, show beginning on Thursday, September 6, with a bit of a sha-bang on the 11th from 2-4 and with the potential of after hours viewing any time. I hope some of you can see these.
From the poem, May 23, 1980 in the collection, Beyond Remembering…the final stanza.
13After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
14That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary, his mother, 15and they stayed there until Herod’s death. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: “I called my Son out of Egypt.”e
I’m giving myself ten minutes on the internet. It’s 4:55. It’s a Saturday afternoon and I’ve just returned home from making Sun Prints at the Public Library with scads of young folk and adults alike…a partnership between the Calgary Public Library and the Art Gallery of Calgary and several other arts organizations for their Celebration of the Arts Event. It was a challenging activity at times as the sun decided to hide behind thick cloud every so often, but generally, everyone was happy with the result. I think it’s great when parents bring their young ones out for such celebration and was really impressed by the number of Dads who patiently participated in the project we set out for them, along side their children.
We, at of St. Albert the Great parish, are blessed to have, as our priests, Father Kevin Tumback and Father Jerome Lavigne.
One of the priests who hugely influenced me in my life was Oblate priest, Father Jim Carroll. An Irish priest, he was humble and full of generosity. He was instrumental in bringing me to a life of wholeness and faith. Basilian priest, Father Clair Watrin, and Father Len Hagel inspired tremendous freedom in the demonstration of my faith. Through these people, I was given support, guidance and kindness. The knowledge that they shared with me remains with me and influences who I am today.
They’ve built a bypass so that the highway no longer cuts through Sudbury. They’ve done a lot of cosmetic work to help people forget what Sudbury once looked like. During my University years, I took the train east to visit my parents and the Sudbury area, for miles, looked like a moonscape. I remember crying when I saw it. I was born in Sudbury, or rather, Falconbridge.
1986 Visiting the Big Nickle With My Daughter
I was growing tired by this time and needed to get to Sault Ste. Marie. In my heart, I really wanted to visit my friend, Johanne. She and I sat for three years of Sundays in the sixth row side-by-side, while attending Mass at St. Albert the Great Parish in Calgary. She had spent a couple of years taking care of her daughter’s children in Calgary and finally was able to return home to Sudbury. I had hoped to see her on this trip. She had become such a special person in my life.
Instead, I drove around Sudbury and hoped that I had enough gas to make the next small town. It worked out. I had tears as I saw the stack and the rock and all of the new vegetation. The cry came from the story of my beginnings, thinking about Mom and Dad in those early days in the RCAF. I actually spoke out loud during these tears. I don’t know if Max was listening or not. It really didn’t matter. I simply had to articulate what I was feeling. I felt a little piece of my ‘story’ deeply, as I drove that evening. I knew I was getting tired and would have to stop soon. This was the last time I cried on my first day of driving.
It is August and I am home after a huge journey, both emotionally and physically. I am blessed to have traveled the miles safely and I am happy to be home in Calgary, where the skies are huge and blue and the mountains stand tall to the west. On Monday I will experience my last ‘first day’ of school and I am full of excitement about what all that will mean.
This summer I shared, with my daughter, big ‘things’ of all sorts, big bridges, Lake Superior evenings when the waves pounded up on the shore, wild lupines, good food and Millers beer…miles and miles of music and road kill, wet firewood and laughter.
I spent time with my Mom and Dad, helping them to transition into the next phase of their lives…sorting through fabrics, wool, needlework, photographs, pottery and gardening implements, clothing and papers…so much emotion wrapped up into so many wee things…and in the end, a bright flash of realization that it is all about the warm hearts and hands of those we love!
I was able to cherish my sister and her family, to eat well…to watch children, so young and full of life….riding bikes, jumping waves, colouring and giggling…..I was able to sit next to my sister at the Ottawa Blues Festival…feeling secure in her love…her support…and hoping that she felt those very things from me.
This summer I shared, with my son, the Martyr’s Shrine and Huronia, the journeys of Jesuits and soldiers…Tobermory, the ferry, meals and a campfire that just would NOT light! Duluth, Fargo, Sioux Falls, Rapid City, Rushmore, Deadwood, Badlands, Little Big Horn, Billings and breweries, Great Falls…Presidents, a driller, a special cousin, ‘big’ things of all sorts!
Max was with me through it all…and he nestles near my feet as I type. He is a good and faithful dog!
I feel blessed by this summer…and again my eyes have been opened to all that is important….love for one another….
We are so blessed in this country of ours. We are so very rich and the miles and space go on forever. Let us keep our Covenant with God to care for all of it!
We move toward the lighting of the final Advent candle and I reflect on the spiritual journey I’ve made this year. I am astounded by God’s love for us and that I have such blessings in my life! In a world where so many strong individuals confront devastation…whether that be through a battle to recover from a hurricane…to fight the result of an AIDS Pandemic…or to struggle, along with family members, when one of the family is in the midst of suffering stroke or cancer or the pain of arthritis…in THIS world, I presently enjoy health, peace, love and well-being.
As I repeat again and again to my students…spirituality (as opposed to religious practice) is to live out the concept of ‘faith in action’, always giving Glory to God who created us. I ask God to use me as an instrument…to give and be DIVINE magic in the world. Through shared DIVINITY, this Advent has given me a sense of being rooted in a huge tree! Although there is no evidence in terms of my finances or my position in the world, I am one of a ROYAL lineage.
To those who plunk themselves down on this blog….if even for a ‘passing through sort of experience’, please know that you are special and that this little lady wishes you a joyful and comfortable Christmas season. I’m hoping that you have someone to love…for it is in loving, that you will enjoy the sense of also being loveable.