Mamie and Papie

Grand-mère is the formal French term for grandmother. It can be spelled with or without the hyphen. Grand-maman is slightly less formal, and there are several informal terms, including gra-mere, mémère, mémé and mamé. Mamie is also used by modern French families. Mamie is the endearment we gave to my great grandmother, Mathilde (Sugar) Arsenault.

Grand-père is the formal French term for grandfather. Grand-papa is slightly less formal, and there are several other informal terms, including pépère and papy or papi. Arrière-grand-père is the French term for great-grandfather. We knew my great grandfather, Gabriel Gallant, as Papie.

It’s Sunday.  And finally, the temperatures are warming.  I attended Mass this morning and participated in the Rite of Sending, as I have decided to sponsor a beautiful young woman in her decision to be confirmed in the Catholic faith and to partake in the most Holy Eucharist, this year at Easter Vigil.  Later, we will gather at the Cathedral where Bishop William will receive the elect.  It is a beautiful and important rite.

Honestly, life has been tremendously difficult these past days, weeks, months and even years, but through all of everything, I continue to be a person of hope.  There have been some exceptional moments that have risen out of the struggle and for those moments and experiences, I am forever-grateful.  Blessings come in the shape of love, through friends, family and kind strangers…this love expressed through food, visits and messages.  It’s surprising how simple love is.

In your journey, you may find it a very difficult thing to reconcile….to reconcile with anything…memories, people, events.  I think it’s almost more natural to slip toward bitterness, abandonment and rage…a downward slope is always easier, right?  It takes some resilience, determination, strength and will to climb.

Every morning, I climb.  I don’t think this was always the case.  I have no cause to be stuck in the mire. My life, like your own, is a sparkle… it begins and it ends in a blink. There isn’t time or ability to shoulder the weight of bitterness and resentment. Nor is there time or ability to hang out with those who want to be angry, unloving or surly. Move toward love. Surround yourself with love.

One of the blessings of these recent days has been a re-connection with a maternal auntie and uncle. Through this re-connection,  we have together, been able to work at building a common narrative and to put to rest parts of our common past. I feel that my mother’s loving heart has provided the way for this to happen.

My uncle went through an album of his and this morning, I was sent a photograph of my Mamie and Papie… my great grandparents. I had never seen this image before. I’m not embarrassed to say that I sat in front of my monitor and wept. I was so taken by the connection I felt to Prince Edward Island and my mother’s family. I hope that if you are family and reading this, that you will save this image to your own archives and treasure it.

I have such specific memories about these two. They are very sensory memories and those of my child self. Smell of wood fire. Potato pancakes. Crispy pork fried. Tobacco. Sound of kitchen voices. Clinking milk bottles. Do I remember Papie patting beats on his legs? Place… upstairs attic bedroom. Floor vents. Light. Mamie returning home from bingo. Collecting up metal placeholder chips in morning. Earl. Great Aunties. Stories. Laughter. Salt water. Ocean. Seaweed. Family. Furnishings. Wood stove. Mamie. Knees. Hugs. Being held. Feeling loved. Mom’s happiness. People calling this magical place, ‘the island’.

I’m grateful that this afternoon finds me so grounded in the memory of my mother.  I love you, Mom.


John Moors (1876 – 1918) Recent Connections

This is a very brief post that serves only to express gratitude for the recent and generous connections I have made related to my Great Grandfather John Moors (1876 – 1918).  What a wonderful thing it is to have cousins discover my writings and research and to respond!  These Paternal relations include Charlene, Jacqueline and now, James. Thank you, for your connection. For about 15 years, I’ve been fanatically engaged in research on both my mother and father’s sides of the family.

Some would ask, “Why does it matter?…or… “What does it all mean, anyway?”…but, there is something innate within me that wants to know who my people are.  It is a weakness.

Long-story-short, I have always looked for a photograph of my Dad’s Grandfather, in uniform.  Every Remembrance Day, I was disappointed that I had only the image of his wedding day.    He died and is buried in Etaples, France.  He was lying in General Canada Hospital #51, when during the night, a bombing raid orchestrated by the Germans, decimated most of  the location and killed John Moors. I’ve thought that he should be remembered. Don’t get me wrong.  I was happy about having the wedding photograph…but, imagine my excitement when, randomly, Charlene sent a photograph over the internet from her home to mine…and to, in a flash, have my Great Grandfather’s visage appear face-to-face with me on a screen in 2018.  GAHHHHH!

Enough said…first, our family’s single archive up until now…my Great Grandmother Mary Eleanor Haddow Moors in the center front and my Great Grandfather John Moors back right.

wedding jpg best copy of Great Grandfather John Moors

I took this photograph of a photograph that my Auntie Eleanor had hanging in her home.  When it comes to gathering family history, I’m not super fussy about archival quality of images.  It’s a simple blessing to have  moments of history sustained and easily available to as many family members as is possible and as quickly as possible.  I think I’ve written about this before…that ‘in the day’ how would family members even include one another in these histories?  We are sooo blessed!

Here he is!  My Great Grandfather!  What a handsome man!  My father said he had striking red hair, much like my own Grandfather Moors did and now, my own beautiful daughter.

John Moors Great Grandfather

I’m hoping that Betty Silver’s daughter has an opportunity to see this as I know that she was on the look out for the very same image, saying (as other relations remembered) that a large framed photograph of John in uniform hung in the family dining room.

Second to this, Charlene shared what looks like a younger image of this John.

John Moors Great Grandfather 2

He looked dapper.  I try to imagine as I look at this image, that here is captured the 13 year old who came by ship, on his own…a British Home Child who worked very hard on at least three farm placements including Elora and two outside of Guelph.  This was likely taken during his Hamilton days.

And finally, a family photograph including my own Grandfather John Moors, his young brother Robert (Bob), his sister, Grace and his mother, Mary Eleanor Haddow Moors.  Mary Eleanor had striking dark eyes and hair…I see a lot of my father in her.  This would have been taken some time after the passing of their father and husband John Moors.

Grandfather John Moors

And finally, something that I just received tonight…icing on the cake!  My first cousin once-removed, James, has provided photographs of front and back of John’s military medal.  I’m so grateful that unlike so many families, this object has been cared for and cherished so that now, so many years later, all can enjoy.  Blessings on my family for their generous work.  My cousin, Teddy Witbeck, has been doing a remarkable job working on our family tree on Family Search.  As we continue to piece together our history, his work can be accessed.  Trust me, you will have a great head start that way!

Love you all.

John Moors back side medalJohn Moors medal front

I’ve written away and had much support attaining John’s military record…this medal assignment was included there.

John Moors (17)

Three Chicks Visit the National Gallery of Canada

The September long weekend was filled to the brim with family, football, food and adventuring. My nieces, Ainslie and Eliane, and I caught a drive down to the gallery on a perfect sky blue day in Ottawa.  I was giddy, as I had been anticipating the exhibit of Chris Cran’s work for some time.  I am so darned proud!  I’ve always assumed that Chris was so much younger than me.  We are closer in age than I had imagined.

Back in the late 1980s, Chris opened his studio up to me and my then-spouse and generously shared, in his witty fashion, his bigger-than-life pinhole camera and the work that he was exploring at the time.  I’ve never forgotten his generosity that day and it remains evident, in so many ways, that he is an active and contributing community member where all of the arts are concerned in Calgary.  Through Chris, I met another awesome dude out of Salmon Arm, Herald Nix, and have become a big fan of his music, as well as his art.  For many reasons, I was so excited to have the chance to enjoy the retrospective of Chris Cran’s work, elegantly and historically displayed in one of my favourite art galleries.

This post will contain just a few images, all Chris’s work.  I’ll share about other works that I enjoyed in separate posts.

img_0949 img_0950 img_0951 img_0952 img_0954 img_0955 img_0957 img_0958 img_0959 img_0961 One of the security guards, Thomas, gave us many insights on our tour of Chris Cran’s work.  He took in every word of Chris’s tour offered during the exhibit’s opening days. He was so generous to pass short narratives on to us.  He could not give permission for us to photograph him while he was wearing his uniform, but I guess I had nabbed this one before that conversation. img_0963When I went on the studio visit, Chris was working on the Stripe and Halftone Paintings.img_0964img_0968 img_0966 img_0967 I saw something very gestural in this piece and so the girls humoured me by becoming the forms in the piece.  Love them so much!

img_0972 img_0970 img_0971 img_0965These are a mere smattering of images from the exhibit.  I really was swept up in the experience of being in such an aesthetically pleasing space wandering in and out of gallery spaces, in awe.  Later, I will post the few Instagram shots I took, as well.

img_1021 img_1022I feel so grateful when magic like this takes flight and lands in my heart.  I love you, Eliane and Ainslie, for being with me.


The Lake on the Mountain

Dad, my Auntie Mary and I headed up to the Lake of the Mountain in a bit of an around-about way, but that was okay.  We had a wonderful lunch (Dad’s treat), but I failed to get one of the waiters to snap a photograph of the three of us.  I think that this is a beautiful piece of landscape, with an interesting physical story.  I love coming here.

I remember, first, visiting the Lake on the Mountain the summer that my sister got married.  I’ve also enjoyed a lunch at the very same restaurant with my dear friends, John and David.

IMG_0490 IMG_0488 IMG_0484 IMG_0483 IMG_0481IMG_0497IMG_0501 IMG_0500IMG_0483The Lake on the Mountain will be starting to bottle their wonderful beers in the autumn; they are presently just sold by the keg.  I had a Reuben sandwich along with an IPA dark and it was a delicious pairing.


IMG_0478 IMG_0477Good to see that my Auntie Mary is colouring in her colouring books!  Loved seeing her!  Thanks for the lunch, Dad!

IMG_0511 IMG_0510 IMG_0509 IMG_0505

My Mandy-Girl

Call it ‘by any other name’, but I have to say that the time spent with my niece, Mandy, was pure heaven.  Up until recently, this is all I ever really knew of my girl…here, in the arms of my younger brother.  A sweet little red head…quiet…introspective…artistic…vulnerable.

Cliff and MandyAs she grew, she sent her Gramma and Grampa a drawing that Grampa still has hanging in his hallway.  Mom and Dad were/are so proud of her.

I received a special card in the mail, an image that I framed and have displayed in my sanctuary…another treasure.  I noticed at that time that my niece was becoming a little artist.

??????????In 2008, on my daughter’s wedding day, along with the rest of the family, Mandy left her words on my studio wall.  It was such a blessing to be together on that day.  I will never forget it.

??????????“Life is special, and yours will always be unique, as will everyone’s.  Don’t waste a moment of it, but always take a second within those times to step back and absorb what is happening.  Reflect on it, turn it into something you’ll remember always and will still be just as alive when you think of it. – Mandi”

And then…a collision with her energy and our own time shared recently at my place!  What a gift!

DSC_0488 Mandy Arrives Mandy Market Collective 2 Mandy Picking Garbage With Me Mandy in Snow Storm September 2014 Mandy With Cousins Mandy Market CollectiveWe shared special talks and shared peaceful silence…we were creative together…purchased B.C. fruit together…shared meals and wandered the city together.  I will always appreciate that this time was for us alone.  I’m so very happy for that.  I drove Mandy to the airport and then cried, (as I always do when I drop special people to the airport), driving south on the Deerfoot.  When I arrived home, I found Mandy’s words…pages of them…stacked on my red table, along with a parting gift.  This little penguin purchased at the Market Collective, will remain an object of affection for always.  Thank you, Mandy, for taking a break to come and be with your Auntie.  I can hardly wait until my niece, Eliane, does the very same thing.  And, mayhaps, when her hectic life slows down, I might even have a couple of weeks to go exploring with and get to know my niece, Ainslie in this same way.  Love you, my precious girls!  Love you, Mandy.


Lawrence Hill Comes to the City of Calgary

Last weekend was intentionally scheduled around the One Book One Calgary event and the visit of the author, Lawrence Hill, to Calgary.  I was unable to attend his final talk on his most recent book, Blood: The Stuff of Life, but have caught up via the various pod casts available on line.  I hope that my readers will take the chance to listen/view these as I think they contain some real gems, especially for those who, like me, are in a determined search for their family connections.  I seem to be a descendent of a ‘powerful’ collection of people and through the toughest of times, no matter their story’s origin, they prevailed.

Lawrence Hill’s talks are not about slavery, but about the power of the human will and its forever-digging-out of the mire, in order to experience the light.  He also reminds us that in this contemporary world, slavery continues to exist, reminding us of the vast numbers of women and children who are used as slaves the world wide, for every sort of travesty including the sex trade.

I’m providing a link to the Massey Lectures and some of the resources here.

When I asked Lawrence Hill, at one of his book signings, if he might write the story of a character in my life, he delegated me that task instead, saying clearly…”This is your story to write.”  It was a quick but very ‘loaded’ conversation and I left the library that day feeling empowered somehow.

The weekend was a rich one filled with thought provoking lectures that turned out to be both entertaining and deeply moving.  The Calgary Public Library continues to provide programming developed around The Book of Negroes throughout the month of November.  I recommend that my readers look over the possible programs here.

P1140135 P1140138 P1140139Thank you to the Calgary Public Library for the amazing program that they offer and for the lovely opening reception in particular.  We are very fortunate here in Calgary.

Southern Alberta Roads

P1130699What a wonderful feeling to hit open roads…heading south always gives me some sense of going home to my peeps.  I weep when I see this blue up against this yellow…reminds me of grampa and our talks as he drove, with his racing cap on (ball cap turned backwards).  The past two days, I moved between Raymond and Magrath and Lethbridge…connecting with that feeling, pretty much the whole time.  Interviewing two of my beautiful aunties about family history was a joy.

I started Tuesday morning off with bacon, eggs, hash browns, toast and coffee at Ying’s Chinese and Western Cafe.  I love that there is no choice here…no brown and white toast, for example.  This was where I bought my penny candies as a little girl…and where grampa went in to catch up on the stories.  I chatted with these folk (different-but-the-same) over my first two coffees.  Thing is, the place looked so different years back.  Apparently, one of the fellas told me, May died some years ago and Mark lives in Lethbridge.  There used to be booths with high backs…dark wood.  These Canadians were a part of my childhood story.  I felt blessed in remembering.

P1130678 P1130680From there, I went out to the cemetery to have some time with my relations who have passed and who rest in such a beautiful and peaceful spot.

P1130683 P1130684 P1130690The mill…a spot where family photos were taken…keeps on changing as it changes hands.  For our family, though, it will always be connected to that smell of wool and grandma’s roast beef.

P1130691 P1130693 Sister in MagrathOn the Steps of the MillIMG_5619Ruth and RoyWoolen Mill 001P1130516

Gorilla House LIVE ART: November 7, 2012

Ok…so, back to the easel and rockin’ with the Gorilla House animules!  I had a wonderful time.  I took the pressure off of myself by bringing a reference.  I knew that no matter what the themes, I wanted to recognize Remembrance in some way…remembrance, memory, family.  Given my huge interest in family research, I also wanted to bring into the mix at least one character, intimately…some one I have come to know through my research.

Here are the themes as received from the wheel of doom…some connect to my intentions…however, not directly…you decide.

1. school yard wimps and…
2. judgement
3. watching reality t.v.

I began by setting down the words to W.B. Yeat’s poem, A Dialogue Between Self and Soul.  As the words lifted up…I moved the lines upward…as they fell, I moved them down.  This is just a spectacular poem.  I know.  I know.  It’s long and you have stuff to do today.  Trust me.  Read it and you will be somehow changed.

Dialogue Between Self and Soul
By William Butler Yeats

{My Soul} I summon to the winding ancient stair;
Set all your mind upon the steep ascent,
Upon the broken, crumbling battlement,
Upon the breathless starlit air,
‘Upon the star that marks the hidden pole;
Fix every wandering thought upon
That quarter where all thought is done:
Who can distinguish darkness from the soul?

{My Self}. The consecrated blade upon my knees
Is Sato’s ancient blade, still as it was,
Still razor-keen, still like a looking-glass
Unspotted by the centuries;
That flowering, silken, old embroidery, torn
From some court-lady’s dress and round
The wooden scabbard bound and wound
Can, tattered, still protect, faded adorn.

{My Soul.} Why should the imagination of a man
Long past his prime remember things that are
Emblematical of love and war?
Think of ancestral night that can,
If but imagination scorn the earth
And intellect is wandering
To this and that and t’other thing,
Deliver from the crime of death and birth.

{My Self.} Montashigi, third of his family, fashioned it
Five hundred years ago, about it lie
Flowers from I know not what embroidery —
Heart’s purple — and all these I set
For emblems of the day against the tower
Emblematical of the night,
And claim as by a soldier’s right
A charter to commit the crime once more.

{My Soul.} Such fullness in that quarter overflows
And falls into the basin of the mind
That man is stricken deaf and dumb and blind,
For intellect no longer knows
i{Is} from the i{Ought,} or i{Knower} from the i{Known — }
That is to say, ascends to Heaven;
Only the dead can be forgiven;
But when I think of that my tongue’s a stone.

{My Self.} A living man is blind and drinks his drop.
What matter if the ditches are impure?
What matter if I live it all once more?
Endure that toil of growing up;
The ignominy of boyhood; the distress
Of boyhood changing into man;
The unfinished man and his pain
Brought face to face with his own clumsiness;
The finished man among his enemies? —
How in the name of Heaven can he escape
That defiling and disfigured shape
The mirror of malicious eyes
Casts upon his eyes until at last
He thinks that shape must be his shape?
And what’s the good of an escape
If honour find him in the wintry blast?
I am content to live it all again
And yet again, if it be life to pitch
Into the frog-spawn of a blind man’s ditch,
A blind man battering blind men;
Or into that most fecund ditch of all,
The folly that man does
Or must suffer, if he woos
A proud woman not kindred of his soul.
I am content to follow to its source
Every event in action or in thought;
Measure the lot; forgive myself the lot!
When such as I cast out remorse
So great a sweetness flows into the breast
We must laugh and we must sing,
We are blest by everything,
Everything we look upon is blest.

Then…the painting.  Although the chin area isn’t resolved…and some other things…I captured a gesture of my great uncle, Walter Haddow as he was photographed at Camp Borden in 1915, before heading out with the 40th Field Artillary Battalion to war.  He was one of the lucky ones.  He came home.  My great-grandfather did not.

Thank you, Peter, for purchasing this piece at auction and I’m so glad that this served as a reminder of your grandfather.  Also, thanks to the many individuals, new to the Gorilla House, who stopped by and spoke to me about the poem and about the painting, my process and the subject matter!

Searching Out the Ancestors

I continue the journey of discovering my family tree.  Yesterday, Max and I headed out on a summertime drive to Drumheller, Alberta, in order to locate the final resting place of my great uncle, my great grandmother Mary Eleanor Haddow’s brother, John ‘Jack’ Haddow.  The afternoon yawned wide open with sunshine and miles of crops, golden and dancing in the easy wind.  It was divine.

Once in Drumheller, I collected my free tourist map from a small corner store.  Outside, a collection of teens had congregated, sharing smokes and slurpees and when I asked them for the directions to the Drumheller Municipal Cemetery, they were lovely and gave me specific directions and landmarks.  Then I was on my way.

I took Max for a nice walk around the perimeter of the property and scanned the map that was displayed at the front entrance.  I didn’t have any idea what had brought my relations to the west in the first place and wondered if I would have any luck in finding John.  Once Max was back in the van, I began the search and basically sorted out that there were blocks based on period of history and looked for the section from the 1920s.  Soon enough, I located John ‘Jack’ Haddow, and next to him, his daughter Edith M. Haddow who had passed away in 2009.  I sat down and spent a good long while…saying family prayers and just taking in the beauty of the location.

A large plaque is on display at this location because it marks the section that was set aside for victims of an epidemic of influenza that moved through the region between 1916 and 1923.

“During the roaring 20’s, all of the Drumheller Valley communities were coal towns. From gambling and bootlegging to strikes and racial tension, the valley was full of action and entertainment.”  This information and image collected here.

On my great uncle’s death certificate the cause of death is listed as typhoid, but these were the years of the Great Influenza Pandemic between 1916 and 1926.  John Haddow passed in 1921.  He was fortunate that it wasn’t necessary to bury him in one of the common graves.  He was a young man, only 38 years of age, with a wife, Mary Boyd and two children, John and Edith.

I have previously located Mary Boyd Haddow McLennan’s resting place in the Queen’s Park Cemetery in Calgary, along with her son, John ‘Jack’ Boyd Haddow.  It is a generous thing that someone provided a new headstone and saw that Edith could rest along side her father in Drumheller.  Now I am very interested in finding those individuals who loved Edith into her later years as we, also, are connected by our history.

When Max and I headed east to check out the little hamlet of East Coulee, I felt really blessed that I had located two of my relations.  I am enjoying learning about each character’s life as I go.  I’m going to assume that John found work as a coal miner as there were so many opportunities at the time, in this location.  (LOOKY HERE! Within an hour of this writing, a dear distant cousin on the Haddow-side, wrote to me and told me…”Jack was a rancher in Drumheller … he raised cattle and was a cowboy.”  Mystery solved!  Thank you, Anne! And now I shall have to delve into the ranching history of the area!  Looking forward to it.) I thought about all of this as I looked at the coulees, hills and hoodoos on both sides of the road, undulating and richly-coloured in mauves, taupes and rose layers.  Vegetation was sparse apart from the dash of bright yellow in the brown-eyed susans.

On the way back to the city of Drumheller, I stopped at a wee shop and bought myself a double scoop ice cream cone…maple walnut…my Dad’s favourite.  It had been an exceptional day.