Marking the Advents of Our Lives

It was in 2006 that I circled the pond with Maxman, for the purpose of taking a single photograph of a bush.  I walked very regularly at this location for several years before, and was a steward of the pond daily, creating a project called Changing the Landscape: One Bag at a Time.

For almost five years I filled a trash bag with litter and left it at the side of the bin for the city to pick up once a week.  I believe that I changed the location through this stewardship, but I guess I’ll never really know.  I’ve been back to visit and the land is covered, once again, with layers of plastic and fast food containers and plastic bags do blow, like flags, in some of the shrubs and trees that grow at the pond’s edge.

During those early days, I noticed that the light and weather and time of day seemed to really impact my experience of the pond on these walks.  I began snapping photographs of natural forms as a way of archiving these experiences along journey of the revisited circle.  In the end, I focused on a single bush, noting what amazing atmosphere was observable through its branches, particularly created by the water/ice/snow and sky.  That’s when I began archiving the bush each day, a single Instagram photo to capture the light and the narrative of that particular ecosystem.

I called the place Frank’s Flats.  In the days when I picked litter, a free spirit named Frank, used to sit on the slope and drink back six beer every time I worked.  He would give me the empties and off I would go.  At end of that summer, Frank moved out to Vancouver, where he said the weather would be better for sleeping outdoors.

The winter of the Instagram bushes, I discovered that there was another young man who tucked in to sleep under the tall evergreen trees each evening.  His shopping cart, containing his few possessions was pushed in tight against the branches.  In the daytime, I’d see the large sheets of cardboard and his sleeping bag, waiting for his return at the end of the day.

This is when I had the idea to light up and decorate the bush for Advent.  Each day I added more ornaments/ribbons/led lights.

On Christmas eve, in dark of night,  I filled the mystery person’s cart with treasures…warm socks, a winter hat, chocolate, Christmas cookies, a scarf, a thermal underwear shirt, some magazines (National Geographic).  Nothing made me happier that Advent and Christmas than creating magic around that bush.

Why am I writing about this right now?  What made me think to write about this?  Well, this past couple of weeks have been pretty difficult weeks for me and my dog, Max.  He’s been struggling with a back leg injury and I’ve been deliberating about his quality of life.  I had to sneak out of the house to make my daily trip to the river last evening and I was pretty sad that I wasn’t able to take him with me.

Once at the river, I discovered this wee decorated tree, in close proximity to Lauren’s bench.  I was sort of wondering if Lauren’s family might have done the very thing that I did so many years ago, at the edge of a pond.

If, in fact, this was Lauren’s family, I captured photographs of just two birds, among several  Chickadees, White Breasted Nuthatches and Blue Jays that were making themselves known at that very spot.  I think that it’s an interesting thing that they were sporting the same colours as the ornaments on the tree.  Is it possible that angels were in my midst last evening?  Certainly, I felt blessed.

My decorating will begin on December 1, the beginning of Advent.  I don’t get the early jump start that most Calgarians do, and my ornaments will come down with Epiphany.  I am praying that Advent is a blessing time for my readers.  May you have good health and much strength for the difficult stuff.

Considering the Notion of Gift

I love this story and so, I’m sharing it again, but with a short addendum.

Two years after I received this lovely illustrated book of gratitude from Eli, I have finally written my thank you for the gift.  Yes, I know, a thank you for a thank you…but, I just felt I needed to wrap up the circle of love with a wee painting.  The subject: Eli’s grandmother’s hands, offering an unpainted ornament to me.  Thanks to both grand mother and grand son for including me in this annual creative project for twelve years!

Kath's Canon, December 15, 2015 Christmas Tree Bush Eli's Painti 009Kath's Canon, December 15, 2015 Christmas Tree Bush Eli's Painti 008

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…”

True love comes from Nanas….everyone knows that!

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Christmas Magic

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The Magi by William Butler Yeats 1916

Now as at all times I can see in the mind’s eye,
In their stiff, painted clothes, the pale unsatisfied ones
Appear and disappear in the blue depth of the sky
With all their ancient faces like rain-beaten stones,
And all their helms of silver hovering side by side,
And all their eyes still fixed, hoping to find once more,
Being by Calvary’s turbulence unsatisfied,
The uncontrollable mystery on the bestial floor.