What a Difference a Day Can Make: 2019 at the Vent

Well, Mr. and Mrs. lost the first clutch to Northern Flickers competing for the nest early in the season.  This is the second year this has happened.

But, determined, the Sparrows laid down new nesting for a second clutch.  On Sunday, when I left town, I collected some documentation of the three little chumps that were voraciously eating and the determination of the adults that flew until sunset, feeding these little ones.

I returned Monday evening and couldn’t help but being hit with the complete silence at the kitchen window.  The little guys were in no way ready, with enough secondary feathers, to fledge, so their demise was likely due to the Corvid family that successfully fledged two juveniles just four days earlier.  The two juveniles have been so vocal and so needy. The adult crows have been determined, vigilant and doting parents (if crows can be parents).  In the end, I’m reminded of how brutal nature can be.  I also know clearly that life ends on a dime.  While we wait nine months for the birth of a child, we have no idea the time or the place when that life will end.  I don’t mean to be so ‘dark’  this morning, but I am very much aware of the immediacy of loss.  And, there is no way that we can prepare ourselves.

I am also very impacted by how the instinct of the Sparrows tells them how hard to work for the life of their youngsters.  I’m amazed by parents and their love.  While I never saw it in myself, I now know how hard I worked to keep my children well, even though my resources were always meager.  It can be unnerving when one witnesses parents who are failing their children.  Even in nature, this happens, but instinct tells the adults to nurture and tend, feed and water.  As detached as House Sparrows are from any emotional bond (I imagine) with the eggs and hatchlings, they certainly demonstrate commitment.  Today, I am sad for the empty nest.  I am also very mindful of lessons that the nest teaches me.

This morning, my prayers are specifically for those mothers and fathers who have lost children, through miscarriage or at birth, through illness or through tragic accident.  There is nothing that can be said about this but again and again, “I’m sorry”.  I can not imagine or know.  I was speaking to my Auntie Eleanor, yesterday.  Now in her nineties, still, when she speaks of my cousin Laura Lee who died as a child, she tears up.  When my Auntie Ruth speaks of her daughter, Linda, who passed as a young adult, she also wells up with tears.

Glad to see that Mama was feeding her little ones ants from my garden.

Dad fought so hard. Every time he went to the nest, he turned his back on the youngsters and was vigilant to protect them.

For the Birds: Early Spring 2019

I feel a bit of a cold coming on.  Max and I just returned from the river and I’ve had two pieces of toast slathered with peanut butter and raspberry jam and I’m presently sipping my third and last cup of coffee.

Before heading to the studio, I want to write a brief post to acknowledge just how beautiful it was to visit the river, in the rain.  Every day brings its shift in weather and atmosphere and every day brings to mind a different perspective, colour and life force.  I am just so grateful.

At the prompting of my friend, Nina Weaver, I read, with great attention, the first chapter of John’s gospel and I felt, as I read, that I am getting stronger over these difficult days.  Restorative yoga has been very beneficial to me, in the fact that daily, I am more conscious of breath…taking in healing and releasing suffering.  It’s a bit of a daily prayer for me now.  Life will always be different, without my brother’s booming voice being a part of it, but let’s face it, I carry him with me.  And so, today, I will bring him with me, into the studio to paint.

Watching the birds at the pond and now the river, is such a part of my mental, emotional and spiritual health.  I can not explain to my readers how entering into the watchfulness and presence of such vulnerable creatures is healing and even sustaining.  Focus moves away from self and ego and returns to the other…and to what is necessary to wholeness and health.  I am inspired every day.

Why did I decide to post today?  Well, I gain much through the act of writing, the practice of writing.  I don’t want to lose touch with that.  It was very hard to be caring for brother at the same time as my computer sunk like a stone.  Yes, I filled some journal pages and I wrote in the margins of my Bible, but writing didn’t feel as available through that period.  Writing allows my heartache to tumble out,  releasing a particular tension.  I don’t want to take the purchase of a laptop for granted, just as I never want to take the act of painting for granted again.

First to come in the spring, were the Magpies.  Then, the Canada Geese, the Mallards and the Common Goldeneyes.  At the same time, before snow left, the Robin’s song could be heard.  The House Sparrows gathered once again, in a flurry, at my back yard bird feeder.  European Starlings, Common Mergansers, Red Necked Grebes and more.  My friends at Frank Lake have photographed so many gorgeous birds.  At my river, I don’t see the American Avocets or the Stilts.  However, I have been amused and in love with interactions with these birds in the past.  I am very much about staying close to home these days; my energy is still quite low and  so, I certainly don’t look for places to go or things to do.  The next few photographs represent a few of the birds I’ve enjoyed this spring and ones that have built up the life force within me.

You may wish to click on the image to enlarge.  As well, here are two photographs of Mr. as he returned to the nest with a fish off of the Bow River.  For those of you know me, I don’t know how to pan, so the fact that I managed even two poorly focused images of Mr. in flight, is quite an accomplishment.  Have a beautiful day!

 

Finding Nigel

Truthfully, Nigel found me!

We just hosted Christmas dinner and Nigel and Angela were with us.  I have to write this down because, given the experience of being swept up in gravy and my grandson, there wasn’t a single photograph archived of my dinner guests.  You know the one…the one where everyone is gathered into a collective and asked to say CHEESE!  There is always only one person left out of that photograph.  Well, this year…well…no need to get redundant.

12/6/17, 4:11 PM  I received this message.

Dear Kathleen, I will always remember you as “Mrs Hanrahan”. I don’t know if you remember me, but you taught me grade 7 art some years ago. I have been searching for you for some time, but it is only appropriate that I should find you now, as I am about to embark on a new adventure; teaching art. Would you be interested in a get together and perhaps imparting some of your wisdom to me?

NIGEL????  Remember you???

Of course, I remember you!

Following our reconnect were stories of remembrance of the Junior High variety…students working things out in my storage cupboard…stuff like that.  As I revisit those years, Robbie Fernuk isn’t far away.  He was a big part of the creative energy that lived in that particular art class.  So was Nigel.  Oh, how the years have sped by…

Photos from our first get together, when I got to meet Angela.  Oh my goodness!  It was as though we had never been apart.

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I treasure our friendship.  Nigel is life-giving.  He is kind and smart and funny.  Angela has  become a new friend and I hope that we have the years to build memories and share experiences.  Both Angela and Nigel are animal whisperers, brilliant, well-read and artistic.  I love them!

 

(looking for Angela’s birthday photograph, but can’t find them in my archives…sheesh)

(I just ripped them off of Facebook)

 

Nigel and Kath Rumblehouse

Nigel and Kath painting at Rumblehouse

Magic!

I’ve always used the word loosely.  No incantations…nothing showing up out of a top hat.  It’s a way of being…a choice to live in delight…even when, like today, a 2 liter jug of eggnog spills out on the kitchen floor, just minutes before having to rush out the door.  I’ve made an effort now and then to explain…but, it is too much about the un-explainable.

Yesterday, I painted with Grade Ones…tree ornaments…I thought these would be cool with a bit of an aluminum foil embellishment added.  I still paint with kids around the city, every opportunity I get, but have stopped writing so much about it.  Holding a brush is an important action…it’s something important enough to become familiar…to practice…to enjoy.  I like to paint with kids.

Every darned day that I am a guest teacher in someone’s classroom, I am absolutely blown away by the mountain of responsibility and creativity that is observable in just moments of being in that someone’s learning environment.  I am in awe of the magic of the teaching experience, interaction and output, both by teachers and by their students.

I usually go over to the window first and open the blinds.  I like to see how the light changes things.  I also have the time to reflect, something that teachers who are steeped in their careers don’t always have enough opportunity to do.  I like to reflect about the spaces where I find myself enjoying, exploring and filling with hard work.

Yesterday, Amber generously shared her students (little guys) with me.  Grade One!  Wow!  All I can remember about grade one is my coat hook and the fact that my brother ran so fast the first day of school, I felt really really panicked about catching up.  I remember a man walking about the school yard, at a point, raising a hand bell high in the air and shooing us into the building.  I still, to this day, want to call him Mr. Cannon.

I haven’t asked permission (now I have), but would like to share a couple of images I snapped while the students went up to the music room for their very first time.

Just look at these…tell me what you think.

Beautiful. Right?

The students were full of energy, but we enjoyed our time together and really engaged the process of chalk drawing and painting.  (There was no white in the supply cupboard so…I used yellow to brighten some of the colour…but, tints are just so lovely!) The students were very attentive as we went forward and I’ve captured a few little images of their work and their journal responses.  Magic.  And yes!  Could be an Easter Egg…could be a kite…could be an ornament!  In the ‘end’, it is about the means…and NOT the END!  The experience of painting is wondrous.  There!  You heard it from me!

I asked the students if they might do a journal entry about their experience and the resulting pieces were pretty amazing.  Lucas told me he didn’t want me to photograph the following drawing until he had finished the light coming from the window.

 

 

Today, I left my paint bucket out in the car.  I thought I’d meet Jen’s Grade Six students before committing to an art experience in paint, this afternoon.  I wasn’t with them for ten minutes and I knew that they would enjoy and respond well with paint.  Mayhaps it was the fact that the first wondrous thing I noticed, after looking out the window…were these!

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Gorgeous, Jen!!  Wowsah!

I decided that I’d use the very same lesson that I did with the Grade Ones.  As I delivered my lesson about tempera paint, I could have heard a pin drop.  The students were totally engaged and I was pretty grateful.  Nice people.  So, as I publish the next photos, I was wondering if my readers are able to notice the differences, schematically.

The past two days have been blessing days.

And, this evening…

Nigel left me a note.  I’m over the moon about it.  I treasured him years ago…and treasure his contact now.

Dear Kathleen,
I will always remember you as “Mrs H”. I don’t know if you remember me, but you taught me grade 7 art some years ago. I have been searching for you for some time, but it is only appropriate that I should find you now, as I am about to embark on a new adventure; teaching art. Would you be interested in a get together and perhaps imparting some of your wisdom to me?
—N
What a beautiful exchange was had…looking forward to many inspiring conversations about art education with this new arts educator!

Some of My Favourite People

Ascension Sunday was beautiful in so many ways.  Bishop Emeritus Frederick Henry was with us for the celebration of the Mass.  As much as being a part of this family has, at times, been a struggle, it feels as though I am home with my community when I share in the Mass with so many friends.  Sometimes in today’s world, we can be very MEcentric and I find that I am able to quiet that and really focus on ‘the other’ when I am in community. I sometimes wonder how the human family will look back on the world that we are creating and what our part in history will be.  I lifted prayers and offered up this Mass, in particular, for people in my life who have medical struggles and for my children.  From Mass, I stepped out into a gorgeous-weather day and decided to make my circle of the pond, with Max before anything else.

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I booked up the afternoon with a create! workshop at Wendy’s…a session co-delivered with Ruth Purves Smith, needle felting and wet felting, forgetting that I was also committed to attending Indigenous dance led by Jess McMann.  Sigh… I opted to head out to Lakeview, as I knew I planned to visit my YaYa at the Foothills Hospital afterwards.

The afternoon was glorious, back yard crafting with beautiful and engaged creatives. The birds were chirping and singing and bathing, all the while.  Ginger snaps and ice cold lemonade were served as we went about learning to make dryer balls, wet felting and creating lovely artworks.  A great way to spend the afternoon!  Thank you, Wendy and Ruth.

Not only is Ruth a huge advocate for the Custom Woolen Mills, she is a heart-filled musician and huge song writer and story teller!  I hang out with amazing people!

In conclusion, kits were put together and I was eager to get over to the hospital and my friend, to see if she would be able to try felting.

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It was a joy to watch my YaYa, sit outdoors in the shade of Foothills Hospital and manage some felting.  I will bring the project that she began along with me on my next visit and bit by bit, she can construct something beautiful.  Best she not poke her finger with one of those needles!  The day was so much brighter because I was able to hang out with her and to see the progress she has made in her healing.  Four months later, she is a strong and inspiring fighter!  Her husband is equally inspiring because he has been selfless and supportive through this very unique journey.  They are, together, an inspiring couple.

I spent the evening on my own…a little putzing in the garden…some more walking with Max…some texting with my daughter who had entered a song-writers competition.  She got to chat it up with one of my favourite Alberta song writers, Joe Nolan, and so I will aptly conclude this post with one of his tunes.

The day was a ‘Ballad of Some Sort”.  (Changed my mind…but, YouTube it!) Instead, River Ends. Both Ruth and Joe deliver music in wool socks.  I think song-writers who perform in sock feet are generally good people.

Thanks, Wendy Lees, for being a beautiful person!  Thanks to you, Ruth…for sharing the joy of creation with me, again.  Such warmth and generosity!

Love Art in Calgary Tours

Wendy Lees

Ruth Purves Smith

 

 

People of Belleville, Ontario

I’ve grown to know and love the people of Belleville and most especially, the “People of Parkwood”!  As I’ve been nesting today, I’ve been looking back on albums and photographs, ones that weren’t saved off of my memory stick and these were heart warming, so I want to archive them here.

There is a community of people in Belleville that welcomes me when I make my migrations east and that is a lovely feeling.  The lesson our family members have learned because of a lifelong connection with the military is that where ever we go, we can adjust, settle in, make new friends and reconnect with old friends.  Just this past year, I reconnected with a kindergarten teacher, Stella Pelkey and her daughter, Lila.  It was as though the years had not gone by.  We shared laughs, tears and stories of Hornell Heights and Paul Davoud School.

While visiting Belleville last summer, my dearest friend from high school years, Ramona Venegas, drove all the way from Michigan, enroute to the east coast of the United States and we shared two magical days together. This happens where ever I travel in Canada and on into the United States.  We are graced in these times with social media that links up dear friends.  Moving on is sad, but we are well cherished beyond time and distance.  This is something I’ve grown to know and understand.

Here are some of the people of Belleville…many are not here because some how they got away without having me snap a photograph.

Dear friends, Beth and Christine Self.  Beth was the youngest of the Self family, three postings to North Bay, Ontario.  Stan was our Padre and the Protestant Chapel on base and our shared activities included many barbecues, Christmas parties, sing songs, church choirs, Youth Groups and mutual support through difficult times.  I love this family, deeply…always will.

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Barb and Morley…exemplars of faith, family and love.  We met in Belleville.  Barb is a mean cook!  Morley, an inspiring minister, faithful, fun-loving and a great banjo player.  He played and entertained for my father’s 80th birthday party and my dear Mom who suffered Alzheimer’s disease, was well aware that day about how special she was as we also celebrated her birthday.  When I think of these two, I am reminded to have hope.  They took the time to come out last summer to my art exhibit and I am so grateful.kaths-art-14

My beautiful cousin, descendant on my maternal side, and I found one another in Belleville.  We have both searched and searched family roots, but from opposite sides of Canada.  Belleville connected us.  Liane is so absolutely beautiful and it was like an explosion of love and joy to meet.  Our ancestral research continues, but a link was made by her generous use of time.  (And by the way, she purchased THAT painting!)img_1649

St. Columba Church garden…this photo represents the beautiful Presbyterian community that my mother loved and my father continues to love.  As the summer’s drought was coming to an end, this photo represents the last of the harvest…only a week before I headed out on my drive back to Calgary.img_1648

At my father’s prompting and his generous contribution of shipping, I donated a painting to this newly designed and decorated meeting space in the church.  Here he is with some AMAZING human beings, Gary, Jane and Jen, the beautiful minister of St. Columba.  Jane and Gary have been long time family friends and with each of my migrations east, I have built relationship.  Prayerful, loving and supportive…these three showed my Mom and Dad such support.  They are to be cherished.  Special prayers for all three this morning, as I type.img_1633

I simply love this photograph of my father and so I include it here.  One of the greatest gifts that Mom gave to me was a relationship with my father.  I used to spend most of my time gabbing on the telephone long distance, with my Mom, as Mom and daughters do.  As Mom’s health failed, Dad did not hesitate to sign into Skype every day at 5:00 so that Mom and I could spend time with one another; singing, talking, laughing and crying.  Since 2013, my father and I have continued that ritual, chatting via Skype almost every day.  I have treasured my alternating yearly drive out to spend summers with him.  We have created memories by sharing our own time together, attending theater, going for beautiful drives, eating out and sharing the feast table in his apartment. (and sharing the odd bottle of red wine with one another)  img_1629

My cousins through my Auntie Mary and Uncle Pete, Laura, and Brenda and Gwen (no photograph…for shame) are very special to me.  They also lived the military life and ‘get it’. Distance doesn’t change our shared experience and our connection to our roots in Magrath.  On this past visit, I feel I got to know my cousin Laura (the youngest) better and was so thrilled for that knowing.  Recently, Laura traveled out west, and along with her brother, Peter, we went up the Custom Woolen Mills.  That afternoon was heaven, it was so filled with laughter!img_1604

My Auntie Mary, beautiful Auntie, attended my art exhibit.  We hardly see her enough, but when we do, it is like yesterday.  She was generous in allowing me to collage her image( a professional photograph taken by her best friend’s father during Moose Jaw days) into one of my paintings this past summer.img_1596 img_1592

Here, she recreates the dreamlike expression captured in the earlier photograph. Makes me smile!img_1585

I met Ina at Parkwood Estates.  She and I had two treasured visits in her apartment.  Now in her 90s, Ina and I spent time looking at her photo albums and she shared stories of cottage country and the process of building their cottage from the ground up.  She told me about Roy, her husband…his work, his plans and his health.  Ina shared about her teaching in Montreal, what teaching was like in the day…the expectations, the challenges and her passion for teaching.  We had very beautiful talks and now we write letters to one another.  I treasure Ina.img_1484 img_1481

Ina and Roy.img_1478 img_1477

Dianne has a thick french accent.  She comes in every two weeks and cleans Dad’s apartment.  But, she is more than that!  She offers enthusiastic conversation with all of her clients.  (Can my readers tell?)  Max loves her!  Dianne and her husband love to fish.  It is not an uncommon thing for her to bring fresh pickerel to my father and she says, “Just fry it up in a little butter.”  She does a beautiful job cleaning, but she has a big heart as well.  She exemplifies ‘goodness’.img_1427 img_1423

One Euchre table.  My Mom and Dad were always big Bridge players.  I didn’t inherit that passion nor do I understand how it is played.  I also don’t know a thing about Euchre.  While I am familiar with these people of Parkwood, I don’t remember their names.  This is a common gathering space and there is always something happening. The renovations are beautiful in this location!img_1354

Marjorie and Trevor White have been another great couple who shared many years, many experiences and many social gatherings with Mom and Dad, in the military life.  A pilot, Trev had the most wonderful stories (unbelievable stories) and was such a smart and funny man.  Marj lost Trevor recently, but she continues to share those stories of times with Mom and Dad and I love this connection.  We write cards to one another.  I need to keep this connection. Thank you, for fresh Basil from your garden.img_1353

Peter Paylor and Lisa Morris….amazing artists and artisans in Belleville!  These two are such visionaries and have huge energy in the arts community; music, visual arts and theater.  They welcomed me into their circle and for that, I will always be grateful.  All the way from Calgary, I will always support their efforts and their projects.  I love ’em.img_0941

…and who wouldn’t love this?img_0940 img_0938

A series of photographs here…just because these folks are so beautiful!  As I would leave to walk Max on beautiful summer days, I’d always stop and chat with whoever was gathering in the common space.  Usually there were laughs happening, often, serious conversations.  Bev is the one with her hand on her head here.  Bev and I shared a small conversation every single day.  She gives swimming instruction, wears a fit bit and can tell you at any time of day how many steps she’s made.  She is warm and lovely and I had the chance to sit next to her during a very special One Act Play festival in Belleville this past summer.  Her husband, Gerry, is a Belleville historian and writer of several books.  He and I met, quite by surprise, the summer that I was making a big fuss about Susanna Moodie’s marble head stone being made into a memorial.  I did a lot of research in the Belleville Library this past summer on the Marchmont Home and the BHC of the area.img_0934 img_0933 img_0932 img_0928 img_0927

Here’s Ina…always impeccably dressed.  Former school teacher, she and I shared so many stories.  I love Ina.img_0739

She explained how Roy, given that they didn’t have children, was always called upon to be MC at various people’s weddings.  He was a strong orator and he and Ina always gave the newlyweds a copy of Desiderata because they loved it so much.  Ina has this copy hanging near her front room.img_0738

Ina told me about the day that they moved into the Parkwood Estates and how Roy brought this Dogwood tree in and planted it in the corner.  Ever since then, Ina has been collecting these little birds.
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Jen, Dad’s minister, stopped in for a visit and gave Buddy a ton of love.  I love this woman so much.  She gave prayers for Mom and sent Mom on to the path of Paradise, with many blessings.  She is a strong and wonderful person and a great support to our family.img_0718 img_0716

Denny…always a big one for greetings.  He is like a welcoming committee to the apartment.  I typically found him outdoors on a short stroll or sitting on the bench when I would head out with Max on his morning walk.  Here, he is getting the machines set for Wii Bowling.img_0713 img_0712 img_0711 Heck if I could figure this out either, but weekly, Wii Bowling achieved a huge enthusiastic group!  I always stopped and said, “Hi”.img_0710

Carolyn and Bob….Carolyn is my Ya Ya in the east.  She bubbles over with enthusiasm!  This past summer we enjoyed the Festival Players of Prince Edward County under the dome tent, a beautiful heart wrenching piece, A Splinter in the Heart, that left both Carolyn and I crying at the end.img_0697

Yes.  Lisa again…here, we were at an open mic event in the ‘old boy’s club’ downtown Belleville.  Lisa had just come over from a rehearsal for an amazing steam punk piece she would be performing in in the One Act Play Festival.img_0662

More of Aunty Mary as we headed out for lunch on The Lake On the Mountain.  GOOD BEER!img_0508

Artist, Janet Beare, living a magical life in her downstairs space…a world many may not know a lot about.  MAGIC!

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Ina with her bird mug…this is the occasion when I learned that she had a bird tree and “May I come to see it some time?”img_0446

Coffee and birthday cake gathering!img_0445

Cold Creek Winery and Dave!  Amazing guy with such a huge heart!  I see Dave every time I drive out east, simply because Dad and I drink red. ;0)img_0379

Maureen and her daughter, Cathy.  Perched above the Bay of Quinte, these were the first friends we visited on last summer’s trip.  Maureen is an amazing artisan, always creating with her hands.  She was very close to my mother and kept Mom’s fingers going, creating beautiful things for the Mistletoe Market, for as long as was possible.img_0344

Barb and Rob, resident managers extraordinaire, back when I began my journeys east.  Always kind, generous and very very good at what they did.  I’m happy for them for the adventures that they have enjoyed since retiring, taking their RV across and around two countries.  They epitomize what potential is in all of us to care and give.  Love you, two.barb-and-rob

Home is what we make of the places we visit and where we nest.  We take home with us wherever we go.  People do not have to remain constantly within our view to remain constant and caring forces in all that we do.  We just owe it to them to try to stay in touch, how we can.  Wishing my friends of Belleville, love and care.

Day 4 Thunder Bay to Iron Bridge

This is the drive on the northern Superior that I love the very most and brings up the most memories.  I recommend it for every one who wants to discover some of the ‘possibilities’ that Canada holds.  It was a brilliant blue day and a perfect one for enjoying the views.

At some point, in the middle of nowhere, one of the less-concerning warning lights came up on my dash as related to my key battery…this on a long weekend when absolutely nothing was going to be open and where for miles on end, I would be in secluded and wild country.  As a result (not, at this point, thinking about my option of the manual key stuck in the fob and hoping that the battery had no connection to the ignition at all…my Dodge manual was zero help in any of this), I didn’t stop at Rainbow Falls or Rossport…two of my favourite places, but I said, “To hell with it” and hung out at Neys after paying my entrance and Old Woman Bay.

Magic…this stretch of road is simply magic!  Drive it! The image below is posted from Google Maps…  Keep in mind that because there was not a single accommodation available in Sault Ste. Marie, I forged onward just past Elliott Lake and ended my day at Iron Bridge, a heavenly spot for sure!

T Bay to SooAfter picking up our continental breakfast…a banana…a boiled egg…a muffin and a travel mug full of coffee, Max and I were on our way.  I decided not to stop at the Terry Fox memorial this time (it was going to be a long day for driving), as has always been my tradition, but I found myself crying when I arrived at the marker on the highway that pointed out the spot where Terry’s run actually came to a halt.  Very powerful to think about that and so I drove for a while, just thinking about people in my life who have suffered cancer…are presently suffering cancer…and who have both lost and fought courageously, their battles with cancer.  Prayers were made.

This is the type of morning it was, looking out onto Lake Superior.

IMG_20160730_094619 IMG_0169 IMG_0167Speaking with bikers in Marathon on a former drive, I was told that this day’s bike ride was a more physical ride than going through the Rockies…lots of up and down and certainly the most amazing views, although I didn’t stop at a number of these scenic stops this time.  I like this blog post published by a motorcycle group.

I pulled in at Schreiber to see if there was a garage open for someone to check out the Journey, but it turns out that Terrace Bay was hosting a huge DragFest competition this long weekend and there was nothing but a pump available in town.  On I moved to Terrace Bay where the local mechanic was shifting around, getting things ready to go to the DragFest site.  What a lovely guy!  Chat with him sometime at Wayne’s Esso!  He gave me some time and some confidence that the warning light that was coming up was benign, not related to anything else and that I was safe to go.

This was a relief and so Max and I, on holiday Sunday, got out and wandered for a bit at Neys Provincial Park.  When my son was just a wee boy, I took him on a hike to a spot where I wanted to paint at Prisoner’s Cove.  While I painted a little board, he played around in the brush, on the rock, in the old wrecked boats and in the shallow pools of water.  Right in front of me, however, he dropped into Superior, holding onto a solid branch as he went.  The panel and palette got tossed to the side and I dragged him up out of the cold water.  We immediately headed back to the camp site.  Lake Superior is cold!!  I have saved the small panel painted at this location.

On the beaches of pink sand, one can regularly see the trains journeying the edges of the steep banks to the west…the Barclay Islands in plain view on clear days, out on the water.  This was a favourite location for Canada’s Group of Seven painters to work…in fact, this entire region of Algoma provided subjects for many landscape paintings, both well known and lesser known.  It was a great stop.

IMG_20160730_115850 IMG_20160730_115949 IMG_20160730_122615IMG_0172 IMG_0173 IMG_0182 IMG_0185Memories of the kids spending hours building driftwood huts and designs on this beach, come to the surface.  Happy memories of painting and exploring!

Good passing lanes through this highway, huge granite walls in earthy reds jutting up hundreds of feet as the driver crests each large hill to have a wall of blue water and sky open up to them.  A beautiful drive.

Another place I always stop on this route is Old Woman’s Bay…while Max and I have never seen this well populated, the heat had brought out a slew of swimmers, much to Max’s dismay.  He didn’t get to play stick in the water and wow, was it ever obvious that he remembered!  On leash, I let him, at the very least, get into the water enough to enjoy a big cool down and to drag some sand into the car.

IMG_0194 IMG_0195 IMG_0196 IMG_0193 I was a bit worried upon my arrival in Sault Ste. Marie that I didn’t have the energy to keep on to Sudbury, but after a search and many attempts to find a spot to sleep for the night, we had no choice but to try to make it another three hours on the road.  I cranked up the tunes and headed out onto the highway.  The land had flattened out now, contoured with rolling hills and treed areas.  I was happy to see a juvenile heron standing, alert, in a well-lit ditch and this made me feel as though everything was going to turn out and I cranked up the tunes.  Neil Young, Tracey Chapman, the Stones…I was pumped.

A short distance beyond the Elliott Lake turn off, I saw a few billboards that advertised lodging in smaller towns on the way to Sudbury.  Some miles on and I saw the Red Top from the highway.  The car ahead of me pulled in, and I followed, not far behind.  When I stepped into the registration office, the gentleman who spoke to me was also taking food out to customers in the restaurant adjoining.  OH!  The food looked so good.  When I asked about lodging for the night, he told me that he was down to his last two rooms and neither of them had television.  I explained that I was hungry and tired and I certainly didn’t need a television!  He gave me paper work and off he went to the diners.  A woman was busy slicing through a thick, beautifully frosted home made cake.

I looked at the art on the walls in the greeting area…looked carefully…really couldn’t believe it, but thought I was looking at six original pieces by Norval Morriseau.  When the gentleman returned to the counter I asked him if those were originals and he smiled, saying that he was a collector.  I was aghast.

He asked if I wanted dinner as the dining room was closed, but he could prepare me a meal for take out.  The room was 60.00, so I believed it would be a great evening for stuffed pork chop, potato pancakes, hot pickles and veg.  The tray was prepared with cloth napkin, real silverware and the works.  Once, I returned to the lovely room, I got Max out for a real run in their huge yard and then picked up my meal.  The wine was poured and the celebration began!

I thanked God for the Red Top and highly recommend it to anyone who has driven from 7 in the morning until 8…such a comfort.

IMG_20160730_203204 IMG_20160730_220700 IMG_20160730_220835The next day…home…so excited and so happy!

Reflecting

I’m sorting things out, in order to spend time with my father in the east.  The Christmas cards for 2015 are in the mail.  Doctors appointments, Max’s grooming, the vehicle checks and household chores are now being tackled.  The past week has meant a lot of beautiful indoor time with booming thunder storms every afternoon.  I feel like I’m on a retreat because the house is so quiet…just Max and me.  I can eat popcorn whenever I want.  In the evening, a glass of red wine.  Last night, I baked salmon in parchment paper…fresh lemon squeezed over the beautiful pink meat.  Every ritual seems lovely and intentional.

For the most part, it’s been productive and satisfying.

I’ve decided that my pond study will wrap up the morning of Mom’s birthday, July 27.  I’ve walked the circumference of the pond at Frank’s Flats every day since October 13,2015 with the intention of taking a single Instagram photograph of a single location, a bush that grows at the pond’s edge.  I have seen it through the seasons and watched how light changes everything.  I’ve developed rituals around these observations, recording, writing captions, creating mental sketches and noting the changes in the animals and vegetation as time passes.  I’ve much reference material now and in the autumn, I want to create a response to all of it.  I’ve had some faithful followers as, for most of the experiment up until July, I’ve documented on social media (Facebook) as well.

Bush October 9, 2015Bush February 16, 2016 1056 beauty, warmth, timeBush December 1 2015 1129 the water burps blue skies up above everyone's in loveBush Dec 25, 2015 Merry Christmas Beautiful light the hawk is perchd in the evergreen

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Yesterday, at the pond, I observed the only two Ruddy duck babes, alongside Mom.  The teen-aged Coots and Grebes are now taking diving lessons and doing so very successfully.  Mr. and Mrs. everything are swimming further and further from their youngsters, although the teens still cry out helplessly and give chase, not wanting to be separated from, at the very least, their source of food.  With the horrendous amount of rain recently, I fear that the Ruddy ducks’ nests have been drowned…the two babies that I observed, came to be only days before the first thunderstorms hit, so I’m guessing all of the other mothers were sitting at that time.  I’ll see.

I think that flying lessons are beginning…I notice that the adult Coots, while remaining on the water, are flapping hard and traveling on the surface.

While I stopped putting out seed at my feeders (as a way of settling down the vole and mouse populations), I got emotional when I realized that Mr. and Mrs. Sparrow, in the vent across from my kitchen window, were trying one more time to nest.  The children are crying ravenously with each entrance to the vent from Mr. or Mrs.  I just need to see this family have a successful season, after two former attempts.

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The crows are big raiders in this neighbourhood these days, as those adults also struggle to feed their demanding young.

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As I reflect upon the last while, I continue to feel gratitude…especially for the lessons of nature and of solitude.  I like slowing things down.  I’ve been particularly inspired by a poem by Al Purdy, titled Detail and so I will post it here, along side a few photographs that I snapped yesterday.  In 1981, when doctoral work was typed on typewriters…Elizabeth Jane Douglas wrote a thesis titled the Mechanics of Being Alive: Major Themes in Poetry and Prose of Al Purdy.  This absolutely impacts my past year’s ‘work’ and ‘reflection’.

Al Purdy Abstract

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all winter long
… the apples clung
in spite of hurricane winds
sometimes with caps of snow
little golden bells
·         ·         ·
For some reason I must remember
and think of the leafless tree
and its fermented fruit
one week late in January
when the wind blew down the sun
and earth shook like a cold room
no one could live in
with zero weather
soundless golden bells
alone in the storm

(Beyond Remembering 135-36)
Al Purdy The Season of Man
Al Purdy the season of man 2
And then, there are those of us who believe that beyond this, there is so much more.  But for now, I leave this reflection.  I have a border collie, eager to run in the green wet grass.
Prayers for Billy and his family and for little Taliyah Marsman and her mother and their family.

Road Trip and Angels

I drove out to Folk Tree Lodge this afternoon after my pond exploration with Max.  After a couple of days of rain, the world was brilliant green and blue.  It was the absolutely most perfect day for a drive west toward the mountains.

White puffs of seed playfully made their way to the ground…magic!

Artist, Alvise Doglioni Majer was there to meet me, on his bike, carrying May and June.

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May has as her vegetation, the pussy willow and as her featured animal, mother and baby moose;  June, the dandelion and the bear waking after winter’s rest.  I treasure these angels so much and I enjoy my monthly ride out to see Alvise.  It was nice to compare travel stories about the Lake Superior route and eastern Canada experiences.  It makes me hungry for a big road trip!

 

I was thinking about these angels and today’s news about Tragically Hip’s musician Gord Downie.  Driving home, CBC radio played Courage…and I thought how appropriate that I should be collecting this beautiful series of angels.

Of Brutality and Tenderness

This is a post, of the sort, that I rarely write.  It will try to express, from my deepest heart, my own sense of conflict in a world that, with passing years, becomes more clearly hostile or as is explored by The Little Prince, in my favourite grown-up book, uninhabitable.

The Geographer

Within the context of this hostility, I seek out tender and beautiful moments so that I might share, as much as I can, positivity, without politicizing or pontificating or professing my own views so as to be delicate with my social media readers.  Well, today, I’m going to deliberately confront, for no better reason than to get things off my chest.  It will not matter because the world will continue to be inhabited by, according to Chapter 16 of St. Exupery’s The Little Prince…

The Earth is not just an ordinary planet! One can count, there, 111 kings (not forgetting, to be sure, the Negro kings among them), 7000 geographers, 900,000 businessmen, 7,500,000 tipplers, 311,000,000 conceited men–that is to say, about 2,000,000,000 grown-ups.

To give you an idea of the size of the Earth, I will tell you that before the invention of electricity it was necessary to maintain, over the whole of the six continents, a veritable army of 462,511 lamplighters for the street lamps.

Seen from a slight distance, that would make a splendid spectacle. The movements of this army would be regulated like those of the ballet in the opera. First would come the turn of the lamplighters of New Zealand and Australia. Having set their lamps alight, these would go off to sleep. Next, the lamplighters of China and Siberia would enter for their steps in the dance, and then they too would be waved back into the wings. After that would come the turn of the lamplighters of Russia and the Indies; then those of Africa and Europe; then those of South America; then those of South America; then those of North America. And never would they make a mistake in the order of their entry upon the stage. It would be magnificent.

Only the man who was in charge of the single lamp at the North Pole, and his colleague who was responsible for the single lamp at the South Pole–only these two would live free from toil and care: they would be busy twice a year.

I am sitting, this morning, watching two nests, two eagles, both sitting on two eggs, miles separating them…one in New Jersey, the other in Iowa.  Today or tomorrow, chicks will emerge and the miracle of life will begin…the obstacles, the weather, the natural abilities to thwart and maneuver around all of the various hazards that will daunt the juveniles and then one day if they manage, find them as adult eagles.  To watch live cameras would not be possible at one time in history.  It is a wonder that I am able to enjoy this privilege and I do not take that lightly.

The nests have taught me much over the past five years.  Moments at the nest have been both gratifying and horrifying. At one point, a chick, still like a wriggling worm with nothing but fuzz on its squirming body, managed to back out and under the tallest railings at the outside perimeter of the nest, and plummeted to the ground below, this after the tedious and daunting 35 days of incubation and the endless tending from both of its parents, once hatched.  In another circumstance, at the Hornby Island nest, a chick was caught up in the talon of its own parent who could not free that helpless bird, and eventually, having to leave the nest for sustenance, returned without the little babe.  This is how brutal life can be.

I have watched the spring birds, with amazement and horror this year. At my back yard feeder, I have watched dozens of male sparrows, harass and brutalize a single female.  A loud raucous noise, screaming, the female batting her wings fast and furiously while the males peck one another, pushing into her body.  She gets as close to the ground as she can, but they persist.  She is allowed no where near the feeder either, as the males take positions of domination.  I can only call these acts, in human terms, acts of rape and aggression.  I have seen it again and again.

I have watched two male mallards gliding in the water alongside a female; the males looking magical…bright green iridescent head feathers, brilliant orange feet paddling them smoothly through the water; the females, much smaller and dull brown.  Inevitably the wild shake of action and the loud forced honking sounds begin and the female lifts out of the water, one male furiously beating his wings a short distance at her back.  They circle the pond, over and over again, the male in wild pursuit. The female is driven into exhaustion. The energy explodes at the pond, the other male seeming to care less of the goings on on the blue spring air.

The pond is edged in human plastic…the life of the pond is choked as it swallows up our branded cups and cutlery.  One big plastic bag wraps itself around the bull rushes, the willow, the dogwood, the natural grasses and ties itself in a knot so that the pond can no longer breath.  The prairie dogs drag the styrofoam chips into their tunnels, warm insulation for the coming winter, where in spring, their kittens will be born.  The coyotes, the osprey, the herons, the field mice are all of no consequence.

At the pond, I am a witness and there are many lessons for me.

Sometimes, as a species, we believe that we are free of such traumas.  There is a false sense that we are ‘apart’ and that even if all of this and these pass, we will go on.  We do not believe, not really, that we are getting sick and that we are dying.  We believe that if our water supply is gone, if our ice caps melt, if we cut down all of our forests and milk the earth dry of her minerals and her oil supply, that we will somehow be free of any great consequence.  We do not believe that we have responsibility for any of the brutality that befalls the planet or other human beings.  Until some hellish consequence befalls us, we are not really linked to our own mortality.  As a people we become faithless, believing that religion radicalizes people and is the essence of all that fails us. Instead, humanity becomes disconnected from mother, source, creator, force, the divine, God…and aimlessly consumes like a rabid dog, everything and if it proves beneficial, every one.

The robust access to media and news, leads us to images that profoundly shock us.  I can only post one example, but one can find similarly distressing visuals surrounding ALL species…the indiscriminate poaching of animals, the inhumane practices in the farming of animals that we consume, the over fishing of our oceans and the devastating harvesting of the fruits of the 140 million year old Borneo rain forests; these to name only a few of my present day concerns.

Minke Whales

Here

Our headlines tell the story of a radicalized world, one that expresses the insane reality of a humanity that casts away ‘the other’ and looks to fulfill an insatiable and personal/collective appetite for whatever serves to pleasure. At the same time as we preach equality and inclusion, we, who have so much, do little to provide for the basic human needs required for a basic existence in other parts of the world or in our own communities. At the same time that we profess inclusion, we feel the only way to live a satisfying life is to be disconnected from spiritual practice and religion, abhorring and publicly attacking those who have not chosen a similar path.

We have counseling for our own traumas and money to spend on frivolous things, but sometimes forget that the world over, children are struggling to care for dying parents and parents are holding dying children in their arms, most often as the result of the greedy intentions of others. (this is where people ask if I am driving a car…this is where I put my own comforts into question)  We negotiate our way blindly through our lives, and think that there is no end to the luxury of it all.

It is not simply in nature that we see male dominance over the female gender. (and let us not forget the exceptions…I really don’t want to piss anyone off)   Recent news has caused me to feel resentful, as I thoughtfully consider issues around narratives of domestic violence and rape. In 2016…it is a difficult thing to understand how humanity can take the position it does, one that continues to victimize the victim, one that can go so far as to mock. As a result of trauma, years later, a victim may hear, “Get over that victim-role!”

Best written by a smart friend of mine, one of those remarkable men in my life,

“It does not inspire confidence in our species that there is an epidemic of people (mostly men) who are so narcissistic that violation in pursuit of gratification is commonplace, with seemingly tacit acceptance.”

Refugees flee in desperation due to political and social turmoil and war, entire families absorbing the trauma of losing their lives as they knew them. Issues of exploitation of women, the impoverished, children; unemployment, a lack of affordable housing, homelessness, respect for people suffering debilitating disease and disabilities of every variety, respect for the dying…all matters of concern sometimes leading to brutal circumstances.  It is all so overwhelming, that humanity becomes numb to the shear enormity of it all.  For this suffering, the remedy seems to be to self medicate, whether that be in the depths of a screen, alcohol, drugs, sex, narcissism…experiencing life on the surface seems much better than feeling things deeply.  It is easy to experience hopelessness.

Just recently, an inspiring priest in our parish, shared this talk.  For me, Holy Thursday represents that moment where life flips from brutality to tenderness and the Easter Triduum, in its complete journey similarly encompasses both.  I’ve always felt this way, it’s just that, this year, I feel like I need to articulate it somehow.  These are desperate times.

I want to, therefore, return to the premise of this writing.  And that is, that despite the brutality,  there is such tenderness in this life and living.  There is hope to be discovered in the quiet and profound intimacy of nature.  For me, there is grace, also, to be found in a long and abiding journey of faith, in my case, in the context of the Catholic church.  This journey has been marked by periods of gut wrenching pain, but anchored in an enduring personal determination,  I negotiated through the darkness and into light.

Tenderness is to be discovered in the penetrating love of mothers.  At the nest, unceasing and true to their instinctual calling, the mother remains a protector.  And generally, so it is with our species.

Decorah Mom March 24 eastern time 156

At the nest, one sees the absolute and determined protective instincts of adults for their offspring.  And within the human experience, we also see hearts that reach out in protection of others.  A few true life examples that came to mind for me over my own Easter Triduum experience…the suffering…sacrifice…dying to self…service…community of support and love…resurrection and light…

Mark and Carmen Vazquez-Mackay have, for weeks now, along with their son, spent Sunday afternoons playing with Syrian children, newcomers to our big city.  They have made an effort to allay fears and to show families who have escaped huge hostility in their own homeland, that they are welcomed and safe.  I think that this is an expression of human tenderness.

SIRIAN LOVE report #3
Today’s group was small…only 7 kids around the age of 8. Many of the families are transitioning to their first homes in Canada, so they couldn’t participate. On our walk to the park, a few of the boys fought to be the ones who held my hand for the walk; I wish I had 6 hands this morning. One boy in particular was wanting much of my attention. He is definitely a leader who keeps all the boys in check. When we were leaving the park, he yelled “No, no, no” and refused to leave. Made me happy to know the positive effect Carmen and I are having, but sad that I can’t give him more time. It took 5 minutes to pry him off the playground. When I gave my departing high-fives to the kids, this boy followed it up by blowing me a kiss…sic

Mark V

Wendy is the visionary who breathed life into create!   create! in the East Village offers free, drop-in, inclusive creative programming to all residents of the East Village. Sessions run 4 times each week.  The diverse group of people who gather and create and communicate with one another is such an absolute testament to the inclusive nature of humanity when the very best of love and concern shines through.  There is nothing like it.  To find yourself in a place where you are validated by the mere act of entering into the dance of creation is to be richly blessed and exemplifies what it means to receive tenderness.

create W

Hollee, L’Arche Canada’s National Leader, supports the vision of Jean Vanier who has committed his lifetime and inspires others to care for and tend to the human heart, no matter how lonely or isolated that heart might be.  L’Arche was founded in 1964 by Canadian humanitarian and social visionary, Jean Vanier. Distressed by the institutionalization and the isolation and loneliness of people with intellectual disabilities, Jean Vanier invited two men from an institution to live with him in a small house.

In L’Arche, people who have intellectual disabilities and those who come to assist share life and daytime activities together in family-like settings that are integrated into local neighbourhoods. L’Arche in Canada has nearly 200 homes and workshops or day programs. These are grouped into what L’Arche calls ”communities.” There are 29 communities of L’Arche located across Canada from Cape Breton to Vancouver Island. L’Arche communities are open and welcoming of neighbours and friends and often engage in various collaborations at the local level.

In a seeming brutal world, there are those who make the invitation to others to ‘belong’ regardless of differences and prejudices.  It is possible to see the world with tenderness and to nurture her…all species…the land…the oceans and one another.

Given hours that I have spent in hospitals, sitting next to loved ones who are in pain or who are fading in health and life…I have seen the very worst and the very best of humanity.  The tenderness and compassion that comes with Personal Support Workers and nursing staff, Daycare Workers and those who choose to lovingly care for our aging populations, women and men who are sometimes completely helpless and suffering with memory loss, is to be greatly commended.  While in this lifetime, these responsibilities do not appear to be valued, these expressions of care and professionalism, are crucial to our healthy formation as a people.  Bravo to those who choose patience and kindness and for environments that honour tenderness before productivity and quick delivery of service.

Blessed are those who advocate for our planet…those who research and study, observe and document, diligently fight for the humane treatment and protection of the myriad of species we share this planet with.  Theirs is important work.  There are countless individuals who take in stray animals and tend to their woundedness.  There are organizations that take on very specialized mandates in protecting our forests, waterways and our resources.  There are those who fight for the cause of other human beings who are struggling, in our city and globally.

Ramona, my high school bestie, has just returned from serving with the Peace Corp in Guyana and before that, Peru.  Her photographs over these several years and her brief stories have sometimes made me cry; I am so proud of her service and her contribution to the education and well being of others.  Ramona’s heart has always been filled with tenderness and sincere care for others.  No time for ‘selfies’, this lady is captured in photographs in the ‘belly’ of life and living.  I love her so much!

Ramona

Ramona 2

Sweet Christina, who I’ve watched grow from dream-filled teenager to smart creative woman, decided to take on a mission.  She just decided she was going to do something meaningful and so readers discover, Slum Runners!

Slum Runners is a grassroots organization working toward the creation of sustainable community-run bases that address the widely unmet needs of: education, sanitation, access to clean drinking water and affordable food. We aim to develop access to these basic resources within urban slums.

One third of the world’s urban population lives in slums. This number is continuing to climb and the need for hubs providing these basic needs
are, and will be, both life enhancing and life saving.

Our project aims to develop a scalable model implementing natural design principles that incorporate traditional knowledge and modern-day innovation.

To date we envision robust earthen educational structures, rainwater harvesting, intensive urban food forestation and increased access to school supplies.

Our pilot project is scheduled to commence early in 2016 in the urban slum of Mukuru Kwa Ngenga, Nairobi, Kenya.

Christina

About this picture…

We started the Chinese year of the monkey with ZERO monkey business. Just dirty hands and straight faces!!! Today we dug our new small garden plot a foot deep into garbage, clay and actual boulders….that is the soil we have to work with 😳 BUT we did it! We’ve got a little lasagna bed starting. So proud of our growing environment club! Soon we’ll be ready to plant seeds. Oh! And when the kids came to class I asked them to get out all the compostable materials I had listed for them to bring and found 100’s of plastic straws mixed with mango peels and grass…I finally realised I had listed “hay/straw!” 😂😂😂

There is so much beauty and tenderness that rises out of the dark sludge of everything that ails…but, this post is becoming far too long.  If you’ve pushed on through all of it…I’ll summarize my thoughts here.

I am, in walking a single pond environment every day, learning lessons about the intimate beauty of an ofttimes struggling world. I’m capturing hope and light in the bubble of my heart and going home with it.

This Easter journey was a beautiful thing…it not only exposed much about the world that is brutal, (suicide bombings, disintegrating glaciers, Yemen murders of 16 people, four of them five members of the Missionaries of Charity)  but it brought to mind, everything that is glorious about life and peace (the tending and hatching of two eagle eggs over 37 days, the love shared between my children and my family members, my Dad, the laughter shared with students at school, my daily dog-walking and nature-watching).  This is what living means…all of it.  It is all by the grace of God.

Duke 812 March 27 2016 Feeding Easter Morning