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It has been a cool and wet few days in Calgary, even to the point where we received a skiff of snow in September!  I was cautioned that I had no room remaining on my cell phone, so yesterday I downloaded from my album onto my desktop hard drive.  The thing about downloaded photographs is that I was, once again, reminded that life has sped by, filled to the brim, even in the most simple or dark circumstances.  There is so much that I haven’t written about or recorded.

I’ve read several books since spring and would really like to update my reviews, even if they are sparse.  So, that will likely still happen.  But, for today, I feel my thoughts are incredibly influenced by the book I am presently reading, H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald.  It is my new favourite book.  I am profoundly moved by it and I’m hanging on every word.

As a result of this reading, I want to post a few photographs from recent walks at the Bow River.  Yesterday, Max and I headed out in the rain.

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When the earth is wet, there is such a rich and beautiful aroma that surrounds me while passing through the woods and beside the river.  I am at a loss for words to describe this because any description would not do the experience justice.  Also, there is a hush, apart from the drops of rain coming down from the tree canopy…it is a mystical silence…peaceful, even though I know that the entire landscape is vibrating with life in hiding.

Yesterday, stepping about in tall overgrowth, Max and I took pause…listened.  I heard a hollow clomping sound on round river stone, just to our right.  Uncertain, we remained still.  I held my breath and listened.  Max was alert.  I was alert.  A few more steps.  Stop.  A few more. Stop.  When once we began again, with a great explosion, a young deer sprung out and wildly flew deep into the trees.  Max erupted into a fit of barking and it felt like everything around us woke up!

I watched the juvenile Bald Eagle, an Osprey, a Hawk, Cormorants and Pelicans all struggle to find sustenance.  It was so amazing to watch the dynamic and to appreciate the effort involved.  At a point, the Bald Eagle, displaying his remarkable wingspan, swooped down upon an American Pelican.  He is not yet adept at his hunting and is frequently cutting corners by having others do his work for him.  Similarly, he dove into a gathering of Cormorants, investigating the possibility that there might be food among the opportunists.

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The Osprey, tucked secretly in the dark shadows of trees, swooped out aggressively, in order to give chase to the Hawk…crying out desperately as he flew so fast that I couldn’t identify him.  He had shared the east side of the river with me for a while, tearing into the hedges and thick shrubs and sage, likely in pursuit of rabbits and other small animals.  There was never a chance to get a good photograph.

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The Bald Eagle juvenile was looking intently from his low perch,  at these Killdeer…there were scores of them across the river from me.  If you’ve heard a single Killdeer, you may understand why the Bald Eagle is drawn to a location where twenty…maybe thirty…are calling out.

Can you spot two in the photograph below?

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Can you spot the Osprey here?

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I have watched the eagles for a little over a year now…given Michael’s prompting to leave the pond during the rip and tear of the Southwest Ring Road development.  I am so grateful for the life I have been able to observe at this location and for the healing experience this daily walk has begun in me.  As I write this post, I am feeling very blessed for a whole lot of reasons.  I hope that if my readers feel sometimes that life, like a sweater, is unraveling, one source of divine life and love can be found in an intimate relationship with nature.  I know that it’s helped me.  Here are a few other moments with the raptors this year.

 

 

I have been blessed by my walks at the river this weekend…I keep saying to myself, through winter, I don’t want to forget the purple.  I don’t want to forget the gold and red.  I will carry it with me.

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Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury: Chapter 21

OH!  To have had an audio tape!  I used to make my own tapes.  I read aloud late at night, staying slightly ahead of the students.  Dandelion Wine is my favourite book.  Take a listen, if you have 9 hours to spend, just sitting still, or while you’re working in your studio, just listen.  You will learn to take pause, if you let this book’s lessons sink through the tough shell that has become your busy life and settle on your heart.

This post is about Chapter 21 and Douglas’s loss of his dear friend, John Huff.  I guess if you are the daughter of a military man, this might even mean more.

Taking your time and noticing is what this post is all about.  As one pours on the years, one realizes that in order to slow things down, one needs to start noticing.

I was hot and sweaty and cleaning out the paint buckets that I had used with grade ones, painting that day, when I heard my cell phone ding.

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My friend, Michael, had sent a text that he’d like to drop by.  I thought immediately that we might go to the pond, with Max, and enjoy what was left of the beautiful day.  I rushed, swirling the pink water out of brushes and buckets, returned my tools to the storage closet and was out and on my way.

Mike was sitting on the steps when I arrived and Max’s nose was lifted, sniffing against the window.

A quick change into play clothes and we were off to the pond!  Michael patiently observed the life and light of the water, the clouds and the life surrounding this special place.  It was so nice to have a witness to Frank’s Flats and the place that I know so well.

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Michael is always taking amazing photographs, but rarely appears in any of them.  I like that he looks out at the world!  No selfies for this guy!  So, on this outing, I would be witness to his life!

We enjoyed the explorations of baby coots. I took my photo of the bush. And then we were on our way for the next adventure.  Some time ago, I had seen one remarkable photograph on Michael’s social media archive.  He told me that it was taken at McKinnon’s Flats.  I asked if ever he went back, would I be able to join him?  This was the day.  Here’s the photograph that inspired the request!

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Photo Credit: Michael Colette

I didn’t stay left on 22X and so we ended up going north on Stoney Trail.  That was okay!  Meant to be!  We began our slow enjoyable zig zag across the rural landscape, making our way, with ease, back south to McKinnon’s Flats.  I saw a bird I had never seen!  And the light and wonder of it all was very enjoyable.

The sandpiper…

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Michael’s photograph….from this location…truly captured the magic!

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Photo Credit: Michael Collette

The panorama view that opened up as we began our descent into the valley, at river’s edge, was spectacular.  Next time, I will document that.  It took my breath away.

Once at the river’s edge, Michael pulled out our picnic food.  A refreshing potato salad filled with the flavours of fresh veg and lovely dressing…and an icy cold hibiscus drink, so refreshing!  Max observed, but was hungry to be free of his leash and to explore the water’s edge.  It wasn’t long until I did just that.

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The stretch of walk we took, saw zillions of little moths lighting up the already-electric air.  We chatted about photography and light and the sky the entire way.  Out of nowhere about 75 striking white pelicans, hung on the air just above our heads.  I grabbed my camera and snapped this wee instant as a documentation of the memory, that in no way, captures the intensity of the moment.  We decided, standing still above the river, that this moment was meant just for the two of us…two good friends enjoying evening light.

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In order to really gather up my life, I need to do this.  Slow down.  Watch light.  Treasure friendship, my children, my family.  Listen to music.  Make art. Write.

I am grateful for the inspired invitation to go for a Sunday drive on Friday.  Everything that I had planned for the evening, went out the window.  And it was exactly as it should be.  My life is a blessed life.

Slow down

 

Text and Image: How My Art Comes Together

I think that art that includes text these days is being talked about a little bit…I mean…some people judge text to be a bit of a ‘device’.  It’s important that script be used like salt and pepper and that it engages the compositional elements appropriately…connecting with the images contained within the picture plane…but also leading the viewer to an engaging experience of a broader concept/issue/exploration.  Hmmm…and as I type this, I’m thinking, “Really, this is balogne!  There are NO RULES…so why are you writing this?”  What I’m saying, I think, is that this is how I use text with images.  It certainly is not how all artists use text.

When I met William MacDonnell, I first engaged (REALLY noticed) work including text.  Prior to that, I had seen text used by a variety of local artists and of course, several pop masters including Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein.   I was most moved by Frida Kahlo’s journal pages as illustrated in the book, The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self Portrait.  I first noticed in her sketches that words and images created links for one another and I thought that it was a very powerful thing to include both.  When I went to ACAD, I first included text in my Library Club series and knew then that the gilded script transcribed from my high school year books enriched and activated the surface.

Tragedy on a Country Road – 1994 by William MacDonnell Photo Credit: Legion Magazine

Patricia Kirton…one of three panels from the Library Club Series. Painted by Kathleen Moors

An entire wall in my main bathroom…people are confronted with affirmations whenever they sit down. :0)

I remember the day when I began to write on walls.  My artist-friend, Bobby, shared an on-line project posted by a conceptual/false-conceptual artist regarding writing/attaching a set of affirmations on bathroom walls. I had only, days before, lost my fourteen year old Laurie-dog and so was in need of some powerful self-talk in order to transcend the huge loss and so I dug out the affirmations that I had printed off months prior and began to write on my wall, making additional affirmations as I worked.

Similar Affirmations: Another Artist’s Efforts With the Project

And another blogger’s efforts…

My studio space includes the written words of many friends and family members.  I am surrounded by their wisdom, food for thought, song lyrics and I’m continually supported by these.

Today, when I incorporate text, I do so with Covenant in mind.  I seek out discarded bibles from garage sales and second hand shops, feeling as though the words have need of harvesting.  I also find it interesting that because scripture arrives in an unexpected place (in art) sometimes the viewers can be found engaged in the words.  If I do not apply the pages directly to the piece, I write them out and they always inform the subject in the work.

I am also fond of embedding poetry, information and reactions, depending on what I’m thinking about at the time.  Recently, I’ve parted with words from three beautiful leather bound partner journals, I’ve cut up all of these into two inch squares that are being embedded into various pieces in progress.  Ultimately, I will be using them for a Bride-Groom collage that has been in the planning phase for some time!  You can see two squares in a recent LIVE ART battles composition.

As an example…this piece is titled Psalms and contains the entire book of Psalms as its underpinning.  The pelican, historically, represented Eucharist (the Body of Christ).  J. Lee Jagers writes about it eloquently here.

“The symbolism of the mother pelican feeding her little baby pelicans is rooted in an ancient legend which preceded Christianity. The legend was that in time of famine, the mother pelican wounded herself, striking her breast with the beak to feed her young with her blood to prevent starvation. Another version of the legend was that the mother fed her dying young with her blood to revive them from death, but in turn lost her own life. — Fr. William P. Saunders in a column from the Arlington Catholic Herald (2003).”

This meaning, interestingly enough, emerged after exploring the concept of my own father, saving a single pelican that had lost its wing and was likely going to lose its life once winter hit.  I felt at the time, and still do, that my father exemplified the concept of ‘covenant’.

Sometimes the text that I incorporate into my pieces is more or less obvious to the viewer.  Presently, I am embedding journal pages and other sources, as well as biblical texts.  Every day I learn more about my enthusiasm for collage and there are always experiments at work.  Thanks for asking about the text, John…a good question!

The Pelican Story

The article is titled, “Help for Big Bird”

“Two Canadian officers proved man can give nature a hand – if not a pelican a wing – in Montana last October.

The story began in the spring when a flock of migrating white pelicans stopped for rest and food on the northern stretches of the Missouri River.

During their stay someone shot away half the left wing of one of the beautiful and majestic birds, which was then unable to continue its flight north.  The bird’s mate stayed with him for awhile after the rest of the flock had gone, and then she too flew northwards.

The injured bird apparently stayed calm during and after the ordeal of the shooting, and made himself a home on a small island in the middle of the river.  There he was protected from weather, able to find food in the surrounding water and to survive the summer in good health.

In the fall the pelican flock returned to the area on its migration south and found the invalid swimming in the river and flapping his one good wing as though attempting flight.  Once again the flock stayed for a few days and then left the injured one behind.

At this point a workman for the Burlington Northern Railroad who was aware of the pelican’s plight wrote to the local newspaper.  He told the story of the bird and expressed fear that the pelican would die in the severe winter weather of northern Montana.

Capt. J. M, a Canadian assigned to the 24th NORAD Region in Great Falls, Montana, read about the bird and decided to help it.

A few days later he and Capt. J. M, also a memeber of the Canadian Forces, entered the river in a canoe in an attempt to capture the pelican.  But they soon found that the bird’s broken wing didn’t hinder its swimming ability.  The men were unable to catch the pelican as it swam upstream through strong currents as though taunting them to ” Catch me if you can!”

Weary from the pursuit, but not disheartened, the two Canadians went back to the river the next day, but with a small motorboat.  This time they succeeded in capturing the bird after each had taken a few bruises and scratches from its powerful beak.

They then took the pelican to Great Falls and kept it overnight in a pool behind ______’s house.  The officers also tried to feed it trout, shrimp and smelt, but without success.

Next day the Montana Fish and Game Department were informed of the pelican’s capture and officials took the bird to the State Game Farm in Warm Springs and placed it in a sanctuary for injured wild fowl.

There the big bird provides enjoyment for visitors and lives a protected life because of two men who were concerned enough to act.”

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Pelicans

As I viewed Bev Tosh’s war brides and Joane Cardinal Schubert’s parfleche and Gramma’s dress….I was thinking about the simplicity of this body of work that I’m working on.  As an artist, anything is valid really.  This entire body of work stems from my reconnection with pelicans at our weir.  Every summer, in July especially, the white pelicans come to feed on our Bow River.  Great numbers of them sit on the dark river, like beautiful white boats and they feed at the weir in long lines, meticulously watching the water for the fish.

 

The first time I saw them, I cried.  It was strange that I reacted on such an emotional level.  I asked myself why?  And then I remembered the pelican that my father had helped save from an eventual demise.  It was a one-winged pelican that was left behind when all others had left for their migration in the late summer. As a child, these sorts of experiences are amplified in their importance and I saw my father as a hero.  I will post the story here for all to read and when I can find my battery charger, I will post pictures of the studio work in progress.

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Pelicans

Beautiful pelicans…a huge v formation, perhaps forty of them less than fifty feet above us…sound of wings whistled in rhythmic up downs up downs up downs…long beaks…our necks strained back to look as they passed over us, southeast on the river…magic…my son and I quietly talking to one another by the campfire.
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