I had a couple of weeks where I had a chance to spend the days with my grandson and don’t want to be remiss in acknowledging that time. I look back on those days with a warm and happy heart. He is changing so fast and so much and he is just such a funny person. I love to talk with him. I treasure every moment. A collection of images for our times shared will be included here…but first…
All of the poems I read on the internet…poems for grandsons…were stupid. The intentions were lovely and they were very very sweet. But, none of them suited my grandson. ‘Perhaps one day I will try to write a poem for you, my wonderful magical Steven.’ For now, the poem that best suited our little boy who loves ants and lady bugs and spiders is this one, written by William Carlos Williams, for his grandson. It is titled, The Turtle. I apologize that these bits are unclear.
I met Bruce during my years painting LIVE at Calgary’s Gorilla House. Bruce was a fixture there because he settled into a studio where, every Wednesday night, I would go and have a short gab and look at his work in progress. I never left his space without a belly laugh, although sometimes I had to sort out the kind of humour that was forever-floating around his space. More than not, I was laughing at things that weren’t funny…it was the delivery that was stellar. I think that Bruce is a bit of a wordsmith. He plays with words and as a result you are left, most of the time, not knowing what the heck he is saying. He is laughing all the while.
An example would be found on the banner of his own website. The guy was born in Jamaica. Who knew? And his introduction reads like this…
I wrote a short post about him in 2013 because he was celebrating a solo show at Gorilla House. There was something so special about those years…painting together, sharing in long conversations and celebrating art, but especially art-making.
In 2015, I purchased a little piece by Bruce out of his studio. I had seen Bruce’s funtastical art going out the door every Wednesday night at auction, for as long as I could remember, but the opportunity to bid and win hadn’t happened for me. I loved this whimsical little piece, Think Outside the Fish.
Do you know what you discover when someone is super funny? You discover that maybe they’re a little shy…just like you are. I think that’s the way with Bruce Robertson. Over time, I’ve learned that I’m an introvert who is functioning as an extrovert…does that make sense? I think that Bruce is just that way…however, we haven’t ever spoken about it, mostly because we’re feeling the same way. lol But…none of that matters. Let’s get on with the story.
This guy was born.
To this family.
And…it had come time to think about my Grandson’s first Christmas. I’ve always been a collector of art and I wanted to set this young man on the path of also being a collector. I thought if I was to commission an artist, who would it be? Well…in pondering that magical world of the womb and the discoveries to be had once leaving that nest, I very much thought about a song that I enjoyed as I considered my first-born, Little Seahorse by Bruce Cockburn.
As well, Erin and Doug had made a playlist for Erin’s birthing day and in the collection was the Beatle’s tune, An Octopus’s Garden. Second to that, in my Grandson’s first eight months, he has wound down for sleep time, reading the story, Raffi’s Baby Beluga, illustrated beautifully by Ashley Wolff.
Insert Music Here.
Putting all of this together, I wanted an artwork that reflected an undersea world that would include a portrait of my Grandson…something that would grow with him through every age…something that would be of modest size and might travel with him as his world becomes larger.
The artist for the job…Bruce Robertson! I contacted Bruce, realizing full-well, that I knew very little about him, apart from the magical characters that he created in his work, his fearlessness and his inclusion of text. I messaged him via his Instagram account, mgbrobertson.
HE SAID HE’D DO IT! YEAH!!
We met in a grocery store parking lot…we exchanged hugs and I realized how perfect this man was. I’m so excited that he helped make the magic for our sweetheart’s first Christmas. I’m hoping that one day Bruce will take my grandson mountain biking (Who better to teach him about the trails?)…it would be such a fantastic manifestation of magic! We’ll see how it all plays out.
I’ve ripped off a screen shot of Bruce’s website’s ABOUT section. I hope that if my readers need something amazing done…website? painting? collage? or if you want to discuss some other creative project, you will be in touch with him! Bruce’s late interests are in 3D modelling and animation. A combination of software is used: After Effects, Photoshop, Blender 3D, Maxon Cinema 4D Lite, etc. Self-taught in Blender 3D and Cinema 4D Lite by taking online courses at uDemy.com.
I’m not editing anything here…just came home for dinner and decided to post a quick remembrance of the visit to the Bow River after teaching today.
I thought I was looking at another flock/murmuration? of European Starlings, but what I was looking at was a tree full of Bohemian Waxwings. I was really pleased because apart from a couple of sightings at the pond, this one is uncommon for me to observe. The grey of late afternoon made everything visually flat, a most difficult atmosphere for photography, but it certainly didn’t stop the drama of absolutely everything at the river. It makes me so happy to see that there is a huge melt going on right now and there are some habitats beginning to reveal themselves.
I’ve seen so many stunningly unbelievable photographs published by birder/photographer friends of Bohemian Waxwings that I am a bit embarrassed to post my very best. And of course this little guy had to show me his very best side, didn’t he?
I’ve captured just a very few of the Waxwings that hung out with me…
Once again, I enjoyed the sound of the male pheasants gobbling from above the ridge and saw them strutting about, their brilliant red and green, signature colour, on the otherwise grey-gold hill.
There were the Crows caw cawing…the Robins perching…the Northern Flickers dancing and calling…and the Common Golden Eye males doing their hilarious back bends to impress the females who looked both bored and disinterested.
But…the most amazing thing I saw today was first, to see all of the gulls lift off the snow pack in unison, at the river’s edge. Gazing across the river, I surmised that one of the Bald Eagles was fishing and so I looked across…not above. Oh my goodness! There, flying directly above my head and only meters away, was one of the Juveniles, on a serious bird hunt! I don’t know how to pan or how to focus on a moving target, so none of it came out as a well-told visual narrative. I guess that’s why I’m writing. I could cry right now, it was so bloody amazing!
First…a loud cacophony of gull sounds and whoosh…they lifted up. This is all that my camera picked up…but, I will remember.
The juvenile Bald Eagle hovered above me…struck downward…up again…down. Moments later, he left me, crossed the river and perched in a tree. This was such a distance away, by this point, that I can hardly do the experience any justice at all. But…there is the telling…
I decided to stand there and watch. By this time, another bird watcher had joined me on the bridge. I asked him if he had witnessed what I just did and he acknowledged the magic. I thought that, for certain, this juvenile was looking to eat and that we should be prepared for the next spectacle…instead, something more amazing happened.
From seemingly nowhere, this guy arrived.
He’s been protective of the nest and a very supportive partner. Mrs. has been sitting on eggs through the past ten or so days, enduring horrible winter temperatures and lots of snow. The two adult Bald Eagles have been working together beautifully and I’ve watched the delivery of several lovely big fish.
There was no way he was going to let an intruder close in on the nest or his territory! (even if that intruder is his own)
He swooped out and over the river and aggressively bolted toward the juvenile, who then also lifted off, heading north on the river. The adult, angry, bolted at its rear, wings on both, flailing this way and that…it was beyond exquisite! Those of us who saw this all unfold were in awe and squealing in delight.
There is a very good chance that this two year old is the adults’ own progeny. Once raised, I believe the adults do not accept their youngsters back. It is brutal, but a fact of nature. There are the next babes to protect and raise up. This young fellow is on his own.
I’ve left writing and art-ing and almost everything in order to tackle the new material of my life. As a result, while surfacing out of the cave that has been my last several months, I don’t know where to begin. I don’t think the events of my life are sequential any more…they will be presented here, slightly out of order. Yes, since June, there continued to be art and music and reading and friendship and family, but archiving became the least of my concerns while I was rapidly stitching what had become a torn life, back together again. Family was and is my focus. And so…this morning, I begin, with my difference.
I leave this post for a second and think about some pages I want to slip into this narrative.
I’ll begin with something small. I am smiling here.
I took a guest teacher role one day in the spring. During one of the classroom periods, I was to meet the young group of children in the library. There, magic happened. The librarian’s name has escaped me, but the library was/is housed in St. Boniface Elementary School.
The magic began with the reading, in amazing vocal expression and pacing, a book about snails.
The book was titled Snail Trail by Ruth Brown. Hilarious! And just look at the organization and the wee project created after this reading. Snails! A great idea for your elementary classroom!
The children moved seamlessly into their places at the round tables where they conducted the business of creating their own snail characters.
Other Snail books? I’d love to hear your recommendations!
Max and I did our big hike-about and then decided for a drive out to see Alvise and to pick up the second angel. I am big on walking, with no purpose but to walk. The same goes for driving…nothing is more wonderful than getting out onto the roads to explore and to see how the seasons are changing. Arriving at the studio, it was so lovely to breath in that wonderful air that comes with being in close proximity to the mountains. Dripping with the scent of evergreen and melting snow, the morning has left me ready to curl up for a nap.
This month’s blue-eyed angel is embellished with the Equinox. The March equinox marks the moment the Sun crosses the celestial equator – the imaginary line in the sky above the Earth’s equator – from south to north. This happens on March 19, 20 or 21 every year. The animal represented on this angel is the rabbit (in our neighbourhood, these guys are just losing their winter coats) and the alder lichen, one of the rabbits’ favourites. I felt the angel was calling out for a hug and so I embraced her! Beautiful!
Welcome home, little lady!
On the drive back to the city, I really enjoyed a CBC interview with musician, Hayden. In his career in music, he has experienced and thought about all of the same things as I have as a visual artist, but for slightly different reasons. It was a very affirming experience to hear this interview.
I wanted to ease into my evening at Rumble. I didn’t want to neglect Max or my every-evening litter pick up at Frank’s Flats. I also wanted to eat something.
So, with all of those things attended to, I headed north on my epic drive to the intimate, warm and magical environment that is the Rumble House.
Bronwyn Schuster had brought to mind the idea that sometimes I might paint on a more intimate panel, instead of the large sized format that is so typical of me. And so, I worked on a beautiful 8 x 8 inch cribbed panel, perfect for fitting inside someone’s purse.
Arriving late, at 7:30, I sat down next to Priscilla who was sitting in a comfy chair next to me, busily crocheting/knitting on a self-invented slipper. I mentioned that I was going to paint a meditation. She mentioned how much she enjoys sitting near her son, Rich, so that she can hear the things he says to others as they walk by. Priscilla also said that she is in awe as she watches his paintings reveal themselves.
I was more focused on the community of people that surrounded me than anything else. Michael is always so cheerful with his greetings and it sets the tone for a wonderful experience. Paula and Brittney were busy creating their first collaborative piece, a mix of collage elements and paint. It was good to talk to Mike and to share a bit about our sadness and the loss of our friend, Loretta. Leenie! It was so good to see her smiling face and to be around her energy! I had opportunity to speak with Asa…hadn’t had a chance to catch up with him in a long time. Jo and Jeff were tucked away in a small safe place, collaborating on a beautiful piece that reminded me of a book I’m reading about a mother and her daughter, pomegranates and seeds and Persephone. Louise was back…hadn’t seen her for awhile. What a special touch that she asked me as she left if I had a ride south. (I’ll never forget the first time we met.) I chatted with James and Enriquito and finally reconnected with Jennifer. She was painting an awesome bird of prey. In fact, everyone painting in our section of the space, was painting in a warm/hot palette of colour. That intrigued me. I felt/feel nested in this place with like-minded and diverse people. I like it.
I set about painting my meditation. I incorporated text in graphite first, a piece from Jewel
As I go about each day, picking up the plastics, the discarded cups and bags from stores, the packaging and flyers that are strewn into natural environments where birds lay their nests; coyotes, their dens; ground squirrels, their complex webs of tunnels, I feel a sense of nurturing fill me up. I wish to create a safe nest for all. I wish, and optimistically so, that all human beings would open their eyes to our self-destruction. We are very lackadaisical about the landscape as we rush by, getting to the next place. And given that we can not see beneath the surface, the oceans, more than any place on earth, are crying out to be protected.
A nest meditation seemed the right thing to paint. Because the time with my Rumble pieces is so immediate, I practice the rituals of writing on the back of each piece and then archiving the work by taking a photo or two. The process of painting at the house is like a bright flame lighting up and then extinguishing, all in two hours. Funny, on this particular night, I did not sign my piece and I did not photograph it. I’m posting a photo or two here of other works that have explored this theme of nesting. Thank you to Sam who purchased my Wednesday nest containing three blue eggs, at auction.
Thanks for the image, Sam!
I treasure my place on this jewel of a planet. I am only one…but, wish in this brief moment, to make an impact. Here are some of artist-souls who impact me.
James and Enriquito
Rich (I never get a good picture of him)
Paula and Brittney
What a place! We’d love to see you next Wednesday night.
Are grade twos always wonderful? I’m beginning to think so! I only had an afternoon with these students and, again, I felt as though the children could run the show. Things felt so zen-like and orderly that the space created a sense of calm. Attendance…the trading of home reading books and the exchange of book cards…and then, reading from the collection of ‘winter books’. I was asked if I would read a book aloud and so I did. The Snow Child: A Russian Folktale by Freya Littledale.
Since I’m featuring Elisa’s class here, I wanted to show you some beautiful ideas for organizing…and it feels as though there is a real focus on numeracy and literacy in this space. I love that the children have access to lots and lots of books.
Winter theme…lots of amazing stories! Personally, I LOVE Owl Moon! Read it!
Word walls…first dictionaries! Teacher’s books saved up for each theme…love the amount of shelving in these newish classrooms, don’t you? Math manipulatives of every sort…when I took on a contract with a grade one class, I fell in love with linking toys for the sake of practicing grouping.I like the caddies on the backs of the chairs…they keep things in order. I’ve seen these in several Division I classrooms (that would be grades one, two and three for my international readers. lol)
For love of her grandson, a friend of mine orchestrated and pulled off a twelve year project. The other evening, before ordering a post-movie Humpty’s breakfast, she passed me the gift of a photo archive of the project, in the form of a book, made by her grandson (photographs by her son), a response to his experience of receiving my hand made ornaments from the time he was a little boy up until he became a young man. I am in awe of her persistence.
Each year, well before Christmas, this amazing lady organized the posting of the ornaments to connections in distant countries, beginning with Okotoks, Alberta. :0) These people would use her funds, included in the double wrapped packages, to post the gift back to her grandson, living in Vancouver. Imagine receiving an anonymous package from a different part of the world each year for twelve years!! I am so grateful that I was the artist chosen to participate in this Christmas magic. Needless to say, I shed a few happy tears while leafing through these pages while sharing an evening breakfast with my daughter and three of my dearest friends.
Usually in a bit of a rush, even to the point of waiting for the ornaments to dry, I only archived by photograph, one set of these ornaments, but got them out the door and delivered to my friend, just in the nick of time for mailing. So for me to receive this carefully constructed archive is heaven!
The speech that was written and shared with his class was written prior to his receipt of “On the twelfth day of Christmas…”
I was blessed some time ago to receive a private message from a student who is now grown up and wears a beard…someone who has lived some life. I hadn’t heard a word from him for years, but these words, like magic, appeared. If these were the last words I was to read on this earth, I would be blessed enough. But, it seems that again and again, I am graced by these experiences. And it is, I’m certain, because I live in a time when the words can be communicated. I know how grateful I remain, as a 59 year old woman, for my teachers.
This is what he said…
“Ms. Moors, I wanted to send you a message saying thank you for all of the lessons and knowledge that you passed on to me. I started classes in Lethbridge this fall and I still use the “outline” for essays and papers that you taught me in grade 9. That has helped me so much and I can only imagine that it will continue to assist me throughout my life. You also facilitated a love of reading in me and I can not express my appreciation to you for that. I hope all is well with you and that you are healthy and happy. Thank you again for everything.”
The Barr Brothers: Even the Darkness Has Arms
I was holding my breath
When the tightrope walker slipped into the moon glow
Saying all my children, follow me
MAYBE IT’S TIME TO GO
You can be cruel when you’re wise
You can be wise when you’re blue
And baby, if I have
Then I have for you
Bribing the jury to keep me in jail
Singing tea for the tiller man
And although I lie fantastically
This woman knows of my history
IT’S A MIRACLE I CAN SEE
You can be wrong when you’re right
Even when you’re right on cue
And if I die tonight
Then I die for you
All I know is they call me son
Great grandson and grandson
Great uncles and some relatives
That judge what I have done
Gonna make it right by you
Even if it’s all I do
And if it’s all I do
Then I do it for you
People have raised a whole lotta hell
About the water in the windmill
And although I stab chaotically
IT HURTS NO ONE BUT ME
EVEN THE DARKNESS HAS ARMS
But they ain’t got you
And baby, I have it
And I have you, too
One gets used to multiple horizon lines, gazing out to that distant line to the west, where the sky reaches down behind the mountains like a silken blanket. There are the foothills, layers of cityscape, residential sprawls, the river and everything else that seems to tuck up close. Autumn’s landscape often seems endless and forever-deep.
All of that can change. With the change of weather and atmosphere, perspective shifts. This morning when Max and I headed out for Frank’s Flats, it seemed the world was two-dimensional. White crystals in the air, mixed with foggy patches and a sky that was a warm white…all of this spilled over and covered those horizon lines that define and create depth. Driving, I became mostly captivated by a sense of texture and acutely aware of how close everything was to me. As I moved into the landscape, it seemed as though I was being swallowed up.
Out on the slopes, my perspective of things opened up again. While very small, in comparison to the larger landscape, this part of the world was like coming home and my breathing opened up. Max bounded down to the frozen pond with the same enthusiasm that I felt. Above us, flock after flock of geese called out to the cold air, arriving and then disappearing to the west and to the south. I was reminded again of Stanley Kunitz’s poem, End of Summer. It has been, for years, my September poem in the classroom. I miss some things about having my own classes.
I relished the time with Max in this earthy, frozen, sleeping landscape. I felt inspired to write a children’s story about how every winter, somehow the pond becomes spotted with heavy round rocks. I created a character who systematically places them there on the ice. Each spring the pond becomes more and more shallow until all at once, there is no pond water left, but a huge field of rounded stones.
When perspectives shift, we create and think creatively.
I arrived to teach social studies a full hour early this afternoon, so I signed in and then headed for Fish Creek Park to the east. It was interesting being on the west side of the Bow River. My perspective and experience of the river is typically from the east side. While the air was biting by this time, I was in heaven. I felt alone. But, it wasn’t so.
There at the base of the ancient river elms, were three men, filming hair brushes. Yes. You read that correctly.
I carried on walking north along the river, for quite some time and then thought it best to head back.
Returning to my waiting car, I had opportunity to speak with one of the three men, a crew member for Bruce McCullock’s new work, Young Drunk Punk. I deliberately took time to look at his props. We spoke, as we walked along, about our own father’s hair brushes and the lasting scent of Brylcreem. We talked about black pocket combs and all of the nostalgia associated with these objects. I explained that from a distance I had imagined that the three of them were releasing a beaver and photographing the event. When we parted, one of us said, “Go home and check your hair brushes.” The other said, “Beware of the beaver.” How fun was that? What perspective we gain by putting ourselves into the world and making observations. One never knows.