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!

 

Bleasdell Boulder

This past summer, I learned just how genuinely accommodating my father can be.  I tend to have many over-riding passions; reading, writing, history, art and family history.  Once I connect with a story, some one else’s story, I tend to want to explore it for its details and for its nuances.  This is what happened when I read Francis Itani’s Deafening.  Because the book was so regional and because summer brought me smack dab in the middle of her setting, I had to explore that.

Similarly, after Dad and I attended the County Festival Player’s rendition of  A Splinter in the Heart, an adapted screenplay based on Al Purdy’s novel…I just had to look deeper.  The following summary, borrowed from and linked to Goodreads.

 Al Purdy’s only novel, A Splinter in the Heart, is an unforgettable coming-of-age story that unfolds against the real-life tragedy of what came to be known as the Trenton Disaster. Set in 1918, it tells the story of sixteen-year-old Patrick Cameron and the events that will change him – and the Ontario town in which he lives – forever. Over the course of one summer and fall, Patrick finds love with a girl whose betrayal he cannot foresee, confronts the death of his beloved grandfather, and comes to terms with a neighbourhood rival. All the while, his hometown of Trenton lives precariously in the shadow of a dynamite factory, a sinister reminder of the Great War, which brought such prosperity to the town. Vivid with character and event, and evocative of time and place, A Splinter in the Heart is a moving portrait of a young man’s journey into adulthood in an era of change.

My father generously agreed to take me to see the location of the old munitions factory and also to visit Bleasdell Boulder in one of the region’s conservation areas.  The erratic is mentioned as a place for romantic meetings between young people in the early 1900s and likely, even today.  Well researched, Al Purdy’s writing, especially his poetry, is linked to specific places right across Canada.  I had a very enjoyable time, visiting many of these places, structures and houses most times demolished or changed, but natural geography, remaining as he might have experienced in his own lifetime.

So, on a beautiful late summer day, Dad and I headed out for a short hike to the erratic, Bleasdell Boulder.  I discovered that my Dad takes strides, much like my paternal grandfather…long and fast.  I had quite a time staying up to him.  Thanks, Dad, for going exploring with me!

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Little Birds

Thank you, Jenn, for your wonderful class!  They were amazing, respectful and so appreciative of everything I had to share with them.  I enjoyed being in your class.  I’ve collected a few ideas here that I thought other teachers might appreciate.

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These art ideas are colourful and include subjects that grade three students adore, ANIMALS!  I turned on Duke’s LIVE Eagle Cam while the students wrote their journal pages this morning and they were amazed.

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I browsed around as they worked and discovered some wonderful guidance in the word walls, the charts and the resources that are posted for student use throughout the classroom.

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This afternoon, I spoke to the students a little bit about how we can sometimes feel abandoned by God, at times when big things happen, like the news of so many people having to leave their homes in Fort McMurray.  This morning in Health, we had learned about several ways to calm ourselves down when life is stressful and we practiced a five minute meditation together.  It was amazing how calming that time was!

So, we wondered this afternoon,’when something big happens, what are some ways that we can calm down the stressful feelings we are having?’  Well, it is really helpful to know that there are kind and caring people around who are going to be there for us.  I spoke to them about the Footprints prayer and that sometimes when we don’t experience God close to us, “it is then that HE carries us”.  We are not alone.  Look at the lilies of the fields.  Look at the sparrows…the tiny birds…if our Father loves them, how much more does He love us?

I moved from this shared conversation into an art activity where I spoke to the students about observing a sparrow family in a vent across from my kitchen table.  I’ve watched these sparrows for the past six years.  At this point, there were all sorts of stories shared about nests/eggs/sparrows and I tried to listen to every one of them.

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The students are really getting to appreciate that a visual journal is for practice and exploration.  I was really impressed by their studies.

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I handed out small-scale pieces of heavy toothed white paper for their final compositions. While students were drawing, they took turns painting swirling sky colour onto blue construction mural paper, in order to create a sense of spring and atmosphere.  The students added colour with pencil crayon, to their final depictions and after observing several projected images of sparrows.

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Collaborative projects are a way of displaying smaller projects that are skill oriented.  Thanks for your class today, Jenn.

March 11, 2015: Rumble House

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.

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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

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(sic)

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.

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Three Eggs and NestI 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.

Jennifer

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DSC_2886Rich (I never get a good picture of him)

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DSC_2836What a place!  We’d love to see you next Wednesday night.

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Wood!

That’s it…three sessions of scrubbing down my sanded furniture and I’m ready to apply the primer.  I thought I’d capture a photo of the living breathing wood before I seal its pores again with paint.

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After some discussion with daughter #2, I’ve decided to free-form the pieces for my bedroom to capture the feeling of autumn.  So…forget Marc Chagall.  Onward and outward, Kathleen Moors!

I used this furniture for healing.  It took me a long time to recognize that…but it is so!  Alzheimer’s disease steals layers of memory so incredibly slow.  My heart goes out to every reader who has had to find strength through years of watching your dearest loved ones make this journey…and I pray with everything in me for families who have just received a diagnosis and who need to find creative and accepting ways of taking this same walk.  I came to discover as I peeled back the layers of paint over so many nights and weekend afternoons that GRACE is what helped me…GRACE is what healed me and the quiet of hours picking away at paint in the warm light of my studio.  Mom, you remain, with all of your memories, inside of me always.

 

I picked up the green vanity on September 12 of 2011 and the other pieces August 22, 2013. The fronts and backs of every piece were totally suffocated in multiple layers of paint.  I will not be removing paint from furnishings again…let it be known!

Vanity Headboard Stripping Paint

 

 

 

Gorilla House LIVE ART: March 6, 2013

Ryan 33 House 17 Ryan 8 House 25 Ryan 14 House 22b Ryan 18 House 20I had no choice but to paint Ryan last night.  Losing Ryan has left an open wound for the community that paints every Wednesday down at the Gorilla House.  Aptly, one of the themes was LIFE.  I painted LIFE.

Photo Credit: Wendy Lees

Photo Credit: Wendy Lees

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From Le Petit Prince par Antoine de Ste.-Exupery, these words…

But he did not answer my plea. He said to me, instead: “The thing that is important is the thing that is not seen…”

“Yes, I know…”

“It is just as it is with the flower. If you love a flower that lives on a star, it is sweet to look at the sky at night. All the stars are a-bloom with flowers…”

“Yes, I know…”

“It is just as it is with the water. Because of the pulley, and the rope, what you gave me to drink was like music. You remember– how good it was.”

“Yes, I know…”

“And at night you will look up at the stars. Where I live everything is so small that I cannot show you where my star is to be found. It is better, like that. My star will just be one of the stars, for you. And so you will love to watch all the stars in the heavens… they will all be your friends. And, besides, I am going to make you a present…”

He laughed again.

“Ah, little prince, dear little prince! I love to hear that laughter!”

“That is my present. Just that. It will be as it was when we drank the water…”

“What are you trying to say?”

“All men have the stars,” he answered, “but they are not the same things for different people. For some, who are travelers, the stars are guides. For others they are no more than little lights in the sky. For others, who are scholars, they are problems. For my businessman they were wealth. But all these stars are silent. You– you alone– will have the stars as no one else has them–”

“What are you trying to say?”

“In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing, when you look at the sky at night… you– only you– will have stars that can laugh!”

And he laughed again.

“And when your sorrow is comforted (time soothes all sorrows) you will be content that you have known me. You will always be my friend. You will want to laugh with me. And you will sometimes open your window, so, for that pleasure… and your friends will be properly astonished to see you laughing as you look up at the sky! Then you will say to them, ‘Yes, the stars always make me laugh!’ And they will think you are crazy. It will be a very shabby trick that I shall have played on you…”

And he laughed again.

“It will be as if, in place of the stars, I had given you a great number of little bells that knew how to laugh…”

Afternoon in the Garden

 

Fridays spent relaxing…walking the hills that overlook the city…wandering book stores, experiencing the wind as leaves do somersaults down the road…it’s all so wonderful.  My mums…the last of the plants to bloom.  Good-bye beautiful summer…hello frosty mornings.

To Grow

Human Growth

“The hardest step of all human growth may well be that from the child’s dependence on and aggression towards its parents, to a friendship and dialogue with them, which recognizes their grace and gifts.”

Jean Vanier, Community and Growth, p. 236

Thank you, dear Hollee!

Old Stepstone: Cold Speck

Oh, ’tis sad to be parted from those that we love
Strange faces we see every day
Each heart string of mine is broken in time
When I think of those dear ones at home

Goodbye dear old stepstone, goodbye to my home
God bless those I leave with a sigh
I’ll cherish fond memories when I’m far away
To roam o’er this wide world alone

I stood on my doorstep one evening and morn
The wind whispered by with a moan
The fields may be whitening, but I will be gone
To roam o’er this wide world alone

Goodbye dear old stepstone, goodbye to my home
God bless those I leave with a sigh
I’ll cherish fond memories when I’m far away
To roam o’er this wide world alone

And I stood on my doorstep when school time was o’er
And I wished for the time to go by
Now it has passed, and I stand here tonight
To bid this old stepstone goodbye

Goodbye dear old stepstone, goodbye to my home
God bless those I leave with a sigh
I’ll cherish fond memories when I’m far away
To roam o’er this wide world alone
To roam o’er this wide world alone

Morning At the Bird Feeder

Songwriters: VALLANCE, JAMES DOUGLAS / REYNE, JAMES MICHAEL

There’s a light in the valley
There’s a heart all alone
And the door is always open

Go away from your window
Pull the shades way down low
And in a whisper words are spoken

Higher and higher
Taking you there
You’ve got to fly
You’ve got to care

When the feelings gone
And you can’t go on
Slave
When things ain’t right
You wanna stay all night
Slave

Looking for someone
Who will always be strong
And who will not let you hide

You need your defender
For right or for wrong
You know the path is deep and wide

When the feelings gone
And you can’t go on
Slave
When things ain’t right
Don’t give up the fight
Slave

thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes.
e. e. cummings

 

Lectio Divina: John 15:5

I am the vine; you are the branches

Looking Around, Believing    
by Gary Soto 

 
How strange that we can begin at any time.
With two feet we get down the street.
With a hand we undo the rose.
With an eye we lift up the peach tree
And hold it up to the wind —  white blossoms
At our feet. Like today. I started
In the yard with my daughter,
With my wife poking at a potted geranium,
And now I am walking down the street,
Amazed that the sun is only so high,
Just over the roof, and a child
Is singing through a rolled newspaper
And a terrier is leaping like a flea
And at the bakery I pass, a palm,
Like a suctioning starfish, is pressed
To the window. We’re keeping busy —
This way, that way, we’re making shadows
Where sunlight was, making words
Where there was only noise in the trees.