Mamie and Papie

Grand-mère is the formal French term for grandmother. It can be spelled with or without the hyphen. Grand-maman is slightly less formal, and there are several informal terms, including gra-mere, mémère, mémé and mamé. Mamie is also used by modern French families. Mamie is the endearment we gave to my great grandmother, Mathilde (Sugar) Arsenault.

Grand-père is the formal French term for grandfather. Grand-papa is slightly less formal, and there are several other informal terms, including pépère and papy or papi. Arrière-grand-père is the French term for great-grandfather. We knew my great grandfather, Gabriel Gallant, as Papie.

It’s Sunday.  And finally, the temperatures are warming.  I attended Mass this morning and participated in the Rite of Sending, as I have decided to sponsor a beautiful young woman in her decision to be confirmed in the Catholic faith and to partake in the most Holy Eucharist, this year at Easter Vigil.  Later, we will gather at the Cathedral where Bishop William will receive the elect.  It is a beautiful and important rite.

Honestly, life has been tremendously difficult these past days, weeks, months and even years, but through all of everything, I continue to be a person of hope.  There have been some exceptional moments that have risen out of the struggle and for those moments and experiences, I am forever-grateful.  Blessings come in the shape of love, through friends, family and kind strangers…this love expressed through food, visits and messages.  It’s surprising how simple love is.

In your journey, you may find it a very difficult thing to reconcile….to reconcile with anything…memories, people, events.  I think it’s almost more natural to slip toward bitterness, abandonment and rage…a downward slope is always easier, right?  It takes some resilience, determination, strength and will to climb.

Every morning, I climb.  I don’t think this was always the case.  I have no cause to be stuck in the mire. My life, like your own, is a sparkle… it begins and it ends in a blink. There isn’t time or ability to shoulder the weight of bitterness and resentment. Nor is there time or ability to hang out with those who want to be angry, unloving or surly. Move toward love. Surround yourself with love.

One of the blessings of these recent days has been a re-connection with a maternal auntie and uncle. Through this re-connection,  we have together, been able to work at building a common narrative and to put to rest parts of our common past. I feel that my mother’s loving heart has provided the way for this to happen.

My uncle went through an album of his and this morning, I was sent a photograph of my Mamie and Papie… my great grandparents. I had never seen this image before. I’m not embarrassed to say that I sat in front of my monitor and wept. I was so taken by the connection I felt to Prince Edward Island and my mother’s family. I hope that if you are family and reading this, that you will save this image to your own archives and treasure it.

I have such specific memories about these two. They are very sensory memories and those of my child self. Smell of wood fire. Potato pancakes. Crispy pork fried. Tobacco. Sound of kitchen voices. Clinking milk bottles. Do I remember Papie patting beats on his legs? Place… upstairs attic bedroom. Floor vents. Light. Mamie returning home from bingo. Collecting up metal placeholder chips in morning. Earl. Great Aunties. Stories. Laughter. Salt water. Ocean. Seaweed. Family. Furnishings. Wood stove. Mamie. Knees. Hugs. Being held. Feeling loved. Mom’s happiness. People calling this magical place, ‘the island’.

I’m grateful that this afternoon finds me so grounded in the memory of my mother.  I love you, Mom.


My Lenten Journey

This has been an ‘other-worldly’ sort of Lenten journey.  I wonder if this is just what happens sometimes…where a person feels somehow ‘vacant’.  My prayers are not deeply profound or full to the brim with imagery.  They are of the ‘simple’ variety.  I know that sometimes writers and great spiritual people of history have experienced what they call the desert….perhaps I am in a desert.  I just don’t know.

In Le Petit Prince par Antoine de Saint-Exupery, the desert is a place where a huge narrative unfolds.  The story is child like in its flavour, but in its simplicity are found the profundities of life.  The taste of water, for example, is so much better with the hard work if one is collecting that water from a well.  Sometimes, at the turning of a tap, we have no appreciation for that water and can easily take it for granted.

Another insight, “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly.  What is essential is invisible to the eyes.”  In faith, there is so much that is not clearly evident to all.  This truth is echoing what the writer gleaned from  John 20: 29.  New International Version (©2011)
Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

So, the meeting in the desert between the Little Prince and the pilot offer the reader many inspired thoughts, meant for us to see our lives differently and to place value on ‘matters of consequence’ as they are…not as we, in this earthy experience, believe them to be.

Jesus meets his father in the desert.  He experiences ridicule and temptation.  He transcends and comes to acceptance in the desert.  Some days I know that I’m not so great at imitating these and think that this must be because ‘my desert’ is different…but no, they are one in the same.  And…the ball is in my court.  I have a will…I make choices…and it is in me to, without being self-righteous,  to do the right thing.

For me, a guide through the desert, is simply expressed through the five steps of St. Ignatius of Loyola’s spirituality. I collected this summary from a talk given by Dorothea Marie Epple PhD. LCSW.  I am most interested in her publications because she has explored the topics of senile dementia of the Alzheimer’s type and what this means for families, communities and our future together.  There is no desert that compares to the one where my mother and father find themselves, struggling together on a daily basis and seeing face-to-face the matters of consequence that I mention briefly above.

The Daily Examen in Five Steps

I assume that there are three kinds of thoughts in myself. That is, one kind is my own, which arises strictly from my own freedom and desire; and the other two come from outside myself, the one from the good spirit and the other from the evil.” (St. Ignatiusas cited in Ganss, 1991, p. 132) The daily examen is a simple prayer, with five steps, to examine your day for signs of God’s presence (Martin, 2010). The prayer is about finding God in your life and letting God find you. The first step is giving thanks for the good things in your day – gratitude. Savor the moment: the sunshine on a cold winter snowy day, the giggle of a child, the bloom of a flower, the kind word from a colleague, the unexplained and unexpected resolution to a difficult situation. To stop, notice, enjoy, savor and show gratitude slows us down. Martin (2010) quotes Anthony de Mellow, “You sanctify whatever you are grateful for” (p. 89). The second step in the examen is to ask for the grace to know where you acted contrary to better judgment. Martin (2010) states, “Today guilt may be undervalued. The voice of our conscience, which tells us we did something wrong and moves us to make amends, is a voice that can lead us to become more loving and ultimately, happier” (p. 89). He goes on to recognize that sins of omission or failing to bother to help another may be insights into a lack of responding to God’s invitation to grow. The third step of the examen is to review your day.  Recall everything, thoughts words, and deeds. The fourth step of the examen is to ask for forgiveness from God for sins or omissions of the day. Decide if you will reconcile with anyone you have hurt. The fifth step is asking for the grace of God’s help in the next day. There is no one right way to pray the examen. Dorothy Day revised her daily examen to the following steps: thank God for favors, beg for light and grace to see clearly, survey, repent, resolve (Ellsberg, 2008). The examen helps you to realize the presence of God…by asking you to notice where God already exists in your life, where your yesterdays were beautiful. With that awareness you will begin to notice God’s presence more and more in your day. (Martin, 2010, p. 102)

“God looks at me, and I look at God” (Martin, 2010)

Resurrection Tree

Gorilla House LIVE ART: February 13, 2013

Peter: The Man God Uses

David Go writes more eloquently about this issue than I do, so I hope that you will be led to click the link above titled: Peter: The Man God Uses.

I consciously decided to offer up my painting over the Lenten season as lessons/offerings/praise experiences to our Lord.  It began last night on Ash Wednesday at the Gorilla House.  As a part of the under painting that I whipped up at home, I included a few collage items…one, a vintage image of Superman, the Gospel reading from Luke.

Luke 5:1-11

Jesus Calls His First Disciples

5 One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret,[a] the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.

Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.

…and finally, the face of a noble king.  I threw my stuff into the van and off I headed to the Gorilla House.

I was so happy to see Cheryl; friends, Gillian, Kelly, Lauraine, Wendy and several first-time artists at ‘the house’.  It was also really special to have hammered dulcimer music played live throughout the evening by Tomko Lamb!  Wowsah!  The sound on this youtube video does not, in any way,  capture the sound that we enjoyed in ‘the house’ last night, but it may give you some idea.  If anyone has something better, I’d love to post it.

The three themes of the night were,

1. “Somehow we became friends” from Solipsist by Henry Rollins
2. Sun shower
3. Plow from the Book of Symbols

I had already decided to paint from the heart and not from the head.  So…

In my nautical piece, the waters of the sea become agitated and then, crazy-wild…that’s what life is like…and then, like the upper left quadrant of the painting, the calm and beautiful sky is gradually exposed, offering hope to the sailor, hope of respite and peace.  I’m hoping that during this Lenten journey, I can show kindness…and patience.

Since the announcement of the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, there have been reactions worldwide…some sensitive and others inappropriate and in poor taste.  I am going to simply pray for that peace that I write about when I write of the waters.  Global unity and peace will only be possible when we grow in respect of our neighbours.  I hope to be an exemplar of that.

P1090533 P1090534 P1090536P1090545

Some other goings-on at the Gorilla House.


Harold’s work on exhibit at the Gorilla House.


Harold, refurbishing fandango art.


Cheryl and Kells with all the other WOMEN!


Broad strokes for a start…

Lane Shordee, Installation Artist, hard at it!

Lane Shordee, Installation Artist, hard at it!

Jess puts her 'heart' into embroidery here.

Jess puts her ‘heart’ into embroidery here.

My dear friend in art.

My dear friend in art.

Precious friend...painter...singer...all round amazing lady!

Precious friend…painter…singer…all round amazing lady!


Ash Wednesday: An Old Idea

Song from Cohen’s new album “Old Ideas” (2012)

O gather up the brokenness
And bring it to me now
The fragrance of those promises
You never dared to vow

The splinters that you carry
The cross you left behind
Come healing of the body
Come healing of the mind

And let the heavens hear it
The penitential hymn
Come healing of the spirit
Come healing of the limb

Behold the gates of mercy
In arbitrary space
And none of us deserving
The cruelty or the grace

O solitude of longing
Where love has been confined
Come healing of the body
Come healing of the mind

O see the darkness yielding
That tore the light apart
Come healing of the reason
Come healing of the heart

O troubled dust concealing
An undivided love
The Heart beneath is teaching
To the broken Heart above

O let the heavens falter
And let the earth proclaim:
Come healing of the Altar
Come healing of the Name

O longing of the branches
To lift the little bud
O longing of the arteries
To purify the blood

And let the heavens hear it
The penitential hymn
Come healing of the spirit
Come healing of the limb

O let the heavens hear it
The penitential hymn
Come healing of the spirit
Come healing of the limb

Chapel Time: Day Twenty-Six

I didn’t take photos in the Chapel today after teaching…but it was a pretty special pre-supper hour event.  My stories seem to be just stacking up inside me…I’m not really telling any of them.
A former student of mine agreed to come and paint with me in the Chapel, so I picked her up after teaching. I’ve invited her to work on the vineyard, while I continue on with my flying from one portion of the wall to another. She is a very special lady and I have many memories of working with her in art classes grades seven to nine.  It was a pleasure to have her work alongside me.  I have not had anyone else share this sort of time with me.
Three of us went on a short walk and looked at the other banners I have painted in the church.  It was good to share this work in such a quiet atmosphere, with no other people around.  I realized again, how special it is to have the privilege of painting for God.
Back in the Chapel,  I needed to deal with the direction of the light on the vessels on the right hand side.  I remembered making a note somewhere along the way that I wanted to have the light moving from the center of the interior (the Tabernacle) onto the objects left and right.  I had painted a consistent light source from the left on Saturday…and so this needed to be changed.
I wrote onto the bottom right of the wall from the Old Testament reading in Samuel that describes that a horn carried the oil for anointing.  I wrote in gilt script again, just prior to painting the translucent alabaster jar to the very right. 
This small alabaster vessel may not have been captured by my dear photographer-friend because he left prior to that time.  I hope to load some of those photographs onto my blog when they are transferred over to me.  It was special to be included as a part of the subject of the wall project, along with my friend and a very nice thing to be hearing a shutter going off again and again. I am a huge fan of this man’s work!  I have to admit also that, given a chocolate smoothy, I slurped on my very first beverage since deciding to refrain from drinking or eating at all while painting.  It was such a treat.  Delicious!

The Chapel: Day 27