What I Didn’t Photograph in an Hour

Max and I walked at the Bow River when the light was flat.  The sky was cool white-grey on warm white-grey and I thought that it was interesting that I could see one thick layer on top of the other and that there was no part of white that seemed transparent.  The sky was a panel of two colours, layered.  In front of the panel, brilliant white snowflakes fell, angled, to the ground.  The wind was bitter.  I pulled my hoodie up over my ears and hair and soon after, also the hood to my coat.  My cheeks were cold, but the wind was to my back, definitely pushing us from the north.  We were walking in a blizzard.  The landscape was softened in a white fog and the river was umber/ultramarine dark.

I stood still beside Lauren’s bench and looked at my phone.  A string of little bells had set off earlier and I knew that it was my daughter.  Some people write about things in very lengthy threads.  Some break their ideas into little bits and send them like jewels across time and space and through this abstract world of possibility and connection.  My daughter’s loving messages came to me…I typed, in return…

“Teachers earn their wage.”

“I’m worried about my eagles, especially the youngsters.”

“I’m booking off tomorrow.”

“I love you.”

She replied, “Love you too”

At her ‘love you too’  (and you likely won’t believe this), one of the juveniles, deepest umber and back etched in a layer of snow, flew directly in front of and past me, over the churning river, heading south on the cold wind, his wing span, forgotten.  Yesterday, in autumn, I saw both Dad and his new woman and that had given me a lot of peace.  I know that everything is natural to these raptors, but in my depth of gratitude for what pleasure they have brought to me, I am concerned, in the same way as a person is concerned for any creature that faces such a brutal winter.

Max spooked.  He and I saw the white-tail at the same time.  She thought she needed to bolt, but I assured her very quickly by moving Max and I the opposite direction and instantaneously averted my eyes and forced my excited dog to submit to me.  We walked closer to the water.

I found it interesting that the gulls were so active, weaving in and out of one another and skimming the surface of the water.  These gulls have a huge wing span.  And they seem very hardy, performing every sort of maneuver, often directly into the wind.  I stood still, very close to the river’s edge, and watched them.  Max nuzzled his snout deep into the cold snow, now and then, eating a bit.

While foot falls seemed swallowed by the snow and sounds were muffled, airplanes overhead were loud and interfered with the great mystery that is always lurking around each bend, the unknown, the hidden…waiting through every season, especially when a woman and her dog are alone, unremarkable, quiet.

My Canon was warm next to my chest and zipped under my winter jacket.  My phone rested in my right hand pocket.  I grabbed it and snapped three photographs of the distinctive textures of shrubs, still fully leaved, having lost the sense of autumn far too quickly.

A cacophony erupted from the east and over our heads, flew, in perfect formation and with winged concavity in synchronized motion, a huge number of Canada geese.  I would have snapped a photograph.  Such a beautiful pattern against the backdrop of our second big snow.  They strategically came to rest in the shallow channel of water that separates the small island from me.  A loud bit of sorting, their voices raised havoc on the river, the gulls, now, engaged in the mix up.

Once stepping into the deep woods, I turned my eyes upward in order to look for the dark form of the juvenile, but he did not reappear, so he must have gone beyond.  The snow pelted my face, not as much flakes as crystals.  I naturally opened my mouth.  I brought my face down, in gratitude, for having seen him at all.  The sky was turning a darker shade of grey and so I continued through the tall grass, now weighted down with snow and fallen across the worn path of summer.

Eastern starlings, many of them, lifted up and out of the golden brown canopy in unison, seeming alarmed but uncertain of where to alight.  It was as though they were of one mind…but, what part of that machine would decide/move/land and why would all of the others follow?  They disappeared.  I wondered if I had actually witnessed this.

Heading back on the groomed pathway and then once again, cutting through the trees, I saw her surrounded in the shrubs and wearing an aura or a crown of golden leaves.  Her eyes were deep black, dark pools of gentleness, her nose, just as dark.  I cautioned Max.  She stood perfectly still in an almost-grey silhouette.  I spoke assuring words for absolutely no reason until we had passed.

These are the moments at the river.

This is a culmination of an hour, not snapping photographs.  This is how people used to remember.




October Cross Contours

Today with grade fours, I took the cross contour ‘hand’ project that we see throughout our elementary schools and explored it, with a twist.

cross contour 1I’ve seen project-based art lessons thoroughly investigate the ‘traced hand’ out there in the field at many different grade levels, the following being tackled at a higher level.

cross_contour_hands_by_mica08-d4pl2p8The following examples involved concentric lines and a single geometric/amorphic shape overlapping those lines.  They also involve a cool colour scheme in contrast with a warm colour scheme.

elementary hand 5 elementary hand 4 elementary hand 3 elementary hand 2 elementary handBack to this October’s lesson….I first spoke to the students about cross contour drawing and used a couple of little Youtube videos to inspire.

I showed them a couple of super cool images that had been created by other artists.

cross contour dark holecross contour 3Another cross contour activity that can easily be tackled by grades 4, 5 and 6 students is the worm hole in oil pastel.  The how-to instructions can be found here.

Worm Hole Cross Contour October 2014While I noticed I did not save any archives of individual projects that I had done with students, I did find this collaborative figurative piece that my students had created on white mural paper, outside of my classroom, some years ago.

Cross Contour FiguresBack to the events yesterday, I first spoke to the students about creating a template of a flat figure of the human body.  We did this on manila tag,  filling the sheet from top to bottom.  I demonstrated simplistic shapes to represent both the hands and feet, likened to mittens.

See the exemplar here.

Kath's Canon, October 7, 2015 Elementary Art Cross Contour 003

Kath's Canon, October 7, 2015 Elementary Art Cross Contour 007The students then cut out their flat figures and, using them as stencils, traced around them onto a large sheet of paper.  These can be as large or as small as you like.  After a demonstration at the front of the class, the students were on their way.  I spoke to them, using the term ‘cross contour lines’ as often as I could.  Begin on the edge of the orange paper and draw a relatively straight line until you arrive at a pencil contour line, them BUMP to the next contour line.  Draw a straight line until you meet the next contour line and then BUMP.  And so on it goes.  With elementary students, the term BUMP seems to have meaning.  You can assist by mentioning that their bumps are not tall enough, when the cross contour flattens out to much.  See what emerges.  The students think that the mummy-sort of images are ‘cool’.

To be honest, some students are going to struggle with this, so modify with a smaller composition if this becomes evident or provide them with an alternative like the traced hand or a circle drawn in chalk on the paper.  It is best that every teacher try out this process on their own first, like always, so that they understand the process and can best communicate the process.  Have Halloween fun!

Kath's Canon, October 7, 2015 Elementary Art Cross Contour 004 Kath's Canon, October 7, 2015 Elementary Art Cross Contour 020 Kath's Canon, October 7, 2015 Elementary Art Cross Contour 005 Kath's Canon, October 7, 2015 Elementary Art Cross Contour 006 Kath's Canon, October 7, 2015 Elementary Art Cross Contour 008 Kath's Canon, October 7, 2015 Elementary Art Cross Contour 009 Kath's Canon, October 7, 2015 Elementary Art Cross Contour 010 Kath's Canon, October 7, 2015 Elementary Art Cross Contour 011 Kath's Canon, October 7, 2015 Elementary Art Cross Contour 012 Kath's Canon, October 7, 2015 Elementary Art Cross Contour 013 Kath's Canon, October 7, 2015 Elementary Art Cross Contour 014 Kath's Canon, October 7, 2015 Elementary Art Cross Contour 016 Kath's Canon, October 7, 2015 Elementary Art Cross Contour 017 Kath's Canon, October 7, 2015 Elementary Art Cross Contour 018 Kath's Canon, October 7, 2015 Elementary Art Cross Contour 019I typically like to put on music, but had forgotten.  Here’s what I had selected.

Big Moon

Moon walking…cello…Morag…notes reaching up into the sky…river sounds…dry grass under foot…cold nose…trumpet…owl answering again and again…quiet voices…clouds lit up from behind…stars, bright against the dark sky…openings between the clouds…peace…music energized by sensory intake…drums…spirit…stories…engagement…mystery…community…Fish Creek Park.

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Watching the Air Change: End of October

I love the smell of the air, although it is now so cold on the cheeks!  The birds and all that surrounds the gardens are softer and the green disappears.



The angel continues to stand vigil…the garden becomes a variety of textures and remains beautiful.


 Northern Flicker and Sparrows dare not solicit.

Northern Flicker




My mind goes somewhere else as I edge the river.

Textures...no sound, but a single chickadee.


This guy flew off with his prey shortly after I tried snapping a photo of him.  Off he went, mouse in his claws!

This guy flew off with his prey as I watched.



Bow River

 The homes on our circle have been transforming gradually.  The crime scene tape is everywhere and there are more bones than bodies!

Bones everywhere!


Magical October!

It is ‘magical’ October!  I have been blessed so much this autumn and thought that I would add a brief entry to keep a record of just some of the goings-on.

I spend many hours outside!  Some people go off-roading…I go off-leashing!  I have met many wonderful people out on these dog romps and seen many beautiful things.  Just two days ago, I was standing out in a snow-covered field as a flock of fifteen white swans flew over me in perfect ‘v’  formation.  I was left breathless; it was such an awesome sight!


Max and the family have been filmed and interviewed for the program, At the End of My Leash.  The experience was super-fantastic!  We received so much professional knowledge and support and it was just so much fun to be working with the crew.  I am really impressed by the team and by the philosophy behind the dog training.  Every day is a work-day where Max is concerned!  I want our relationship to be a really wonderful one and so the changes in me  and the new techniques are all really really important!


A couple of the most spectacular events during the process included driving out (on the first snow) to a ranch in the mountains  where we watched a true cowboy, Tom, work with his border collie, herding cattle.  Their relationship was so special!  The setting was magical…the people so open and generous and Max was beside-himself with excitement.


Another surreal event was when we met on the last Saturday of filming at an off leash park where at least ten border collies and their owners joined us for a romp in the hills.  Seeing Max with so many like-minded buddies was a hoot!  I wore a smile on my face the entire time. 

The woman I have to truly thank for all of this is the lady who worked tirelessly for a year to repair my broken finger through occupational therapy.  We used to laugh as I shared stories about Max and his antics and finally she asked if I had ever considered applying for the program.  I submitted an application months and months ago…and finally heard at the end of the summer that there was an interest.  So….thank you, dearest Kristen because this was the experience of a lifetime….and it will make all of the difference for my buddy and me!


Autumn is something else…my favourite season!  A big thanksgiving dinner was had with my true friends…the pumpkins are lined up and awaiting carving!  My students at school are wonderful and many outdoor chores have been completed.  We harvested awesome vegetables from our garden this year, painted the trim on the house and studio,  closed in the backyard and stained the fences!  A great and active season!  I am very very happy and looking forward to every day that I am given! Happy October!

October 31, 2008

Halloween evening…traditionally, a big ‘thing’ for me…loving the ‘characters’coming to my door.  Also, this year, I am  letting go of an anniversary…and we all know how those ‘firsts’ are a struggle…here is a ‘first’ for me. This evening Max and I curl up in the family room…he snoozes now in his red chair and I sip a glass of a beautiful Chianti 2005 from Castiglioni.  One of my Thanksgiving guests must have left it behind for me.  It is beautiful, and a perfect treat as I sit and write an update here.

One daughter in London, England,,,another, in New York City…my son out for the night…I find myself alone with memories of past traditions and rituals, facing again the sense of being an individual in the world.  Memory bubbles, like those strung out above a comic strip character’s head, are filled with words like, “I remember when…I miss…We used to…”  If only you could know what a happy rich family life we had, carving the pumpkin with the face that my father always carved into ours back at home.  It didn’t matter that we moved every two years or so, there were experiences that we brought with us, wherever we settled.  And I brought them with me.

It’s been a difficult week.  We were pretty late last Thursday, getting down to the river for our walk at the off leash park.  I guess the breeds run in shifts, the larger guys showing up as the sun goes down…big guys with drool, jowls, thick jaws and strong-looking legs.  Max went skipping into that mix and for a short while it put a smile on my face.  While his ‘dad’ leaned on a fence and spoke on a cell phone, a broad shouldered pit bull took off running after Max in the tall grass.  Max, as per usual, wore a smile on ‘his’ face and I saw the tip of his tail, like a flag, bobbing up and down against the purple sky.  As I continued to hike north, eventually Max was able to pull himself out of the circle, and spew his way back in my direction.  A relief!

What didn’t go so well was an encounter as we headed back south along the river.  We were making our way through a stand of trees and dusk had arrived…colours were being absorbed by night and sound became more distinct…and travel seemed faster on foot than what it had seemed in the light.  From the woods, sped a large dark form…Max saw him coming from a distance and immediately sat next to me, completely submitting and afraid.  It was only seconds and the huge furry beast was upon him.  Max was being bitten, I knew it because he was crying out in loud yelps.  I had no choice but to stand back.

Calling out to the owner, I asked her to call her dog off, at which point, she made a weak effort, calling out, “Montana”.  It seemed like forever, for her to catch up to the collision and Max continued to cry.  As the owner walked by, with NO acknowledgement, Montana, withdrew and I stepped over to my pooch.  He was shaken, but seemed alright…no limping…just a very close rub up against his Mom and then he was, like a shot, heading for home!

I breathed a sigh of relief and once home, took Max into the warm light of the kitchen to do an all over inspection.  I was very relieved to find that all was well and so for the next six days, all WAS well.  However, on Wednesday, over my noon hour, I noticed a wet spot on Max’s hip…while he was somewhat protective of the area, I got a close look and saw that there was a gaping wound and I knew by his reaction that it was hurting.

Long story short: Max had surgery yesterday morning…debriding and stitching the wound…a course of antibiotics…a day of sedation.  Now we are in the midst of a 10 to 14 day blitz with the protective cone.  I took him down to one of ol’ Laurie-dog’s favourite spots tonight for his fresh air and he seemed to be just fine.  It’s just going to take both of us more patience, protecting the eight stitches that are needing time to heal on a very open part of his body!

Dr. Marty told us both, not only is it best for my skipping happy Maxwell to stay away from the off leash parks…but it’s likely equally as healthy for me to stay away from them as well.  The occasional dog is nasty and ill- tempered…they may be protective of a toy…an owner…or just NOT feeling well.  It only takes an instant for things to turn from good to bad…and so Max and I are going to find a ‘better place to be’ for our two hour evening-wander.

Tonight we will share the evening together, curling up with Friday night television and perhaps some time in the studio…and after the excitement of the week, this all seems fine to me. Blessings on your weekend, dear friends and Happy Halloween my special  family!  I think of everything you have been in my life…the happiness we have shared and I love you.