Kiyooka Ohe Art Center (KOAC) on July 4, 2020

I was, just now, sitting on the red couch sipping coffee, Max sprawled out on the cool floor beside me.  I was listening to an old Live From Everywhere session with Craig Cardiff on Instagram.  He was writing a song for a couple from Milwaukee, as they shared their story of meeting and falling in love and staying in love.  I got really emotional and as I came down the stairs, strangely, big tears were plopping down my cheeks and falling off my chin.  What?  What is going on?  I think they were blessing-tears.  I just feel so blessed.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to take a morning drive out to KOAC, in order to do some yard work with a group of wonderful volunteers gathered together by wonderful connector, Alice Lam.  I was surrounded by mostly younger folk and it gave my heart such joy to see these people working so hard to make something beautiful even more beautiful.  I hope to work alongside these people again.  Thank you, Alice.

Alice is seen, here, on our lunch break, eating a fresh lively salad provided by a fantastic start up that has its own magical story.  Through the pandemic experience, Inspired Go has been a company that stepped up and connected with community, in order to make things better.  In April they announced the #feedthefrontlines campaign, providing free meals to local healthcare workers. For each box sold they donated a meal, for a total of 6714 donated meals. What an epic moment in Inspired Go’s history! It is a beautiful thing to see people in our community do great things.  Over two volunteer work days, Inspired Go provided lunch, served up by my dear and respected friend, Wendy Lees.  Thank you!

Upon arrival, Katie,  Harry and Ricardo were there to welcome volunteers.  We received a lovely overview of the studios and the expanse of sculpture garden, beginning with a gathering in Katie’s studio.  There, she richly described her process as she works on pieces connected with the concept Cluster.

I was most intrigued by Katie’s description of the selection of materials and the process of editing, along the way.  I loved her description of vessels that might contain the cluster and her process of discovery.  In the raven piece above, I especially loved the creation of the nesting materials in the bottom section.  All the while, Katie is holding strapping that will be required to pull a new bench into place.  She is always and forever thinking and solving spatial problems.

Off we headed for our various assignments.  I couldn’t wait to get to work.

Below, we head out, passing Queen of the Night, Michael Sandle.

Joe brought the gravel to fill up the space where the bench would be installed.

I enjoyed Katie’s back story on the evolution of the bench.  My readers must take the opportunity to visit the Kiyooka Ohe Art Center.  Sit on this bench!  After shutting down mole/ground squirrel activity under the Ray Arnatt sculpture, Binder, and cutting out invasive weeds, we had our break for lunch.  It was during this time that I had the opportunity to look at the gardens and some of the mid sized sculptures.

Thanks, Wendy Lees, for your homemade chocolate chip squares.  They followed our Inspired Go salads.  Yum!  Then, off to the woods in our mosquito net apparel!  What a fun bunch of hard working people!

It was at this point of the third huge pile of dead wood that the first loud boom of thunder began.  Our day was cut a little bit short by the huge foothills storm that raced through.  I’m sad that I didn’t grab a photograph of the dramatic sky at this point in the afternoon.  I hosed down my footwear and hopped in the car.  I had a chance to say good bye to Harry, but Katie was busying herself somewhere else on the property.

What an amazing day!

Through Covid-19, I have tried to support one visual artist, one musician and one gallery.  It was all I could do, although I wanted to do so much more.  As a result, I have purchased Janet’s Crown by Katie Ohe for my 65th birthday gift.  I am also, over time, purchasing Weeping Bees 2007, Brother Pear 1996, Monsoon2, 2006 and Untitled, 1977.  I’m over the moon about these acquisitions.

I don’t have a lot in the resource bin of life…but, I’ve always had enough.  I’m blessed that I was able to give my three children and myself what we needed, that we had food and shelter and I was, as a teacher, always able to make ends meet.  Often times it was the sale of my own art that provided us with what we needed at the end of the month and when things were really tough (I wasn’t always able to purchase art. lol), friends and family supported me.  Regarding visual art,  a lot of people don’t know that they can create an art collection if they budget a little bit over time.  Arrangements can be made with galleries so that the collector can surround themselves with beautiful art.  I have purchased works from various galleries in town including Gorilla House and Rumble House.

This has been the year of Katie. I purchased Katie’s prints through the Herringer Kiss GalleryKatie Ohe’s retrospective exhibit is now available to view by appointment at the Esker Foundation, until the end of August.  Do not miss this opportunity. I will always remember this year with gratitude.  Strange times often bring to the forefront of our imaginations what is beautiful about life.

It was a fantastic opportunity to spend the day out at KOAC.  What a privilege.  I highly recommend volunteer hours spent at KOAC and thank you, Harry and Katie, for this day.

A Road Trip to Blackfoot Crossing

Hollee drove down last evening so that we could head out early for a road trip to Blackfoot Crossing.  Recently, she was able to view Elder in the Making, a movie that I have not yet seen.  This movie really impacted her and Hollee asked if I would be up to a road trip to this beautiful place, a place where we are all reminded of our obligation to be treaty people.  I love Blackfoot Crossing and if my readers have not yet journeyed there, please do.  Episode 1.

Early this morning, I went out in bedroom slippers and fed the birds. (The sparrows are all raising their young and they congregate each morning, just like the wee pigs that they are. Oh my.  They are messy!) There in the back gardens, I found my first Oriental Poppy blooming and my first open Peony.  I love the lush green surrounding these highly saturated blossoms and thought about the next bush painting that is already living inside my head.

There was no shortage of conversation as we took 22X and steered ourselves east.  There was a powerful sky and a big whoosh of wind as various systems of weather were moving through the province.  We stopped at the landmark for Blackfoot Crossing shortly after Hollee noticed the graveyard from the road.  I felt determined to find Jordan’s resting place.  The wind was so strong and carried a bit of a bite.  The two of us took in the remarkable vistas.  It was an awesome first glance of the panoramic view of the valley and treaty lands.

Next, we visited Chief Crowfoot’s last camping place.

We enjoyed the brilliant colour of wild flowers throughout our times wandering.  So beautiful.

Next…Chief Crowfoot’s resting place.  If my readers haven’t read his biography as yet, I recommend Crowfoot: Chief of the Blackfoot by Hugh Dempsey.  A powerful book!

Bernard couldn’t meet up with us, but said he would include me in his smudge today.  He is such a beautiful person.  I was determined to find the place where Jordan, his son, rests and today, I found him…was able to take pause and pray.  I am grateful that Jordan’s life and mine intersected.  I treasured Jordan in his youth.  Today, I was able to remember.  The next time I travel to the crossing, I will bring a special gift that reflects that relationship and I will place it on his grave.

Wild Anemone

We had a magic-filled walk and went to the site where the museum has documented an earthen village. However, the archaeologists that were working on site today walked us through some of the more current discoveries and that was super exciting.

Wild Anemone

Wild Rhubarb?

Blue Flax

Lightning Strike

Mushroom burgers and homemade fries were enjoyed at Pete’s Bakery in Cluny.  We ended up giving Morris a ride into Strathmore after that.  He showed us a buffalo jump.  He showed us Hammer Hill.  He told us about making head dresses and about his early sketching as a young boy.  He showed us his high school.  It was lovely.

Peter’s daughter told us the story of her father.  She was such a beautiful person.  I so wish that I had asked her her name.  Eat at Peter’s Bakery in Cluny!  So good!!

I’m grateful for this day.  I’m grateful for what nature teaches us.

Safe and sound and rested, at home, Hollee headed north on the highway and Max and I went to the river.  My day began with flowers and ended with birds…and all else, made for a beautiful middle.

Bird Cloud by Annie Proulx

Bird Cloud 2

Just moments ago, I finished the book, Bird Cloud by Annie Proulx.  This was a memoir that spoke to my heart and I was very much invested in the book from its beginning.  This is NOT the reaction shared by so many critics with literary expertise, in fact, I found it an unusual thing that a review be entirely positive.

I think that the subject matter was appealing to me on many levels.  First, I liked the courage that Proulx modeled as she solicited the help of so many different people in order to build her architectural dream and new home in a very challenging landscape.  Bird Cloud is a location of extreme weather conditions, contributing to a sense of isolation.  Wyoming was such an awesome landscape and Proulx did not disappoint in terms of her description and research of the location.

Next, as so many others have shared, I feel as though I gained tremendous insight into who Annie Proulx is, not simply ‘the writer’, but also someone acutely interested in history and wildlife.  I relished her curiosity and felt excited, even at the countless failures in various steps of construction, whether it be deficiencies in the materials, suppliers and contractors or in the evidence of much after thought.

The book was most colourful as Proulx spoke of the historical relevance of the surrounding land and the nature of the those properties.  I was brought to tears while reading the last two chapters, “…all beaded, all earringed, wing feather bowstring sided…” and “A Year of Birds”.  Powerfully written, one is left with utmost respect for everything that ‘gets us here’.  I feel, not only, enlightened, but challenged to grow in both knowledge and understanding.

Regarding ‘the build’ at Bird Cloud, I felt compelled to shift some furnishings around tonight…think about my personal aesthetic…and in a very understated way, to consider links between beauty and function, new materials and old.  I think that ‘place’ is of utmost importance to all of us.

From page 169 of Bird Cloud, Annie Proulx tells us…

Curly, by David F. Barry, Template:Circa 1876.

Curly, by David F. Barry, Template:Circa 1876.

“Custer’s Crow scout, Curley, a survivor of the Battle of Greasy Grass, spoke in council in 1907 when pressure was on to sell part of the Crow Reservation to outsiders.  He said, ‘The soil you see is not ordinary soil.  It is the dust of the blood of the flesh and bones of our ancestors.  We fought and bled and died to keep other Indians from taking it and fought and bled and died, helping the whites.  You will have to dig through the surface before you can find the earth, as the upper portion is Crow.  The land as it is, is my blood, and my dead: it is consecrated, and I don’t want to give up any portion of it.'”

Source: Frances Carrington, My Army Life and the Fort Phil Kearny Massacre (Denver:Pruett Press, 1990), 314 cited in John D. McDermott, A Guide to the Indian Wars of the West (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1998), 2.

I think that this is a thorough review of Bird Cloud and gives background that my response is lacking.  Enjoy!