Memory

I wanted to title this post, “A Duty to Remember”, but those words have already been taken…written about in eloquent fashion by Ziya Meral in a thesis titled A Duty to Remember? Politics and Morality of Remembering Past Atrocities.

Before writing about art or music or time spent at the pond…before making observations of even the present moment, I bow my head and pray for the families and friends who lost loved ones on September 11th fourteen years ago.

In 2005, I launched this blog and I’ve been writing pretty consistently ever since.  Often bloggers grow weary of the act and abandon their writing after some time.  Surprisingly, this has not happened with me.  The morning of September 11, 2005, I wrote these words…

Posted on September 11, 2005

I was spinning my wheels that morning. There were things to get done as always and so I busied myself with those rituals when one of the children called upstairs to me, “Mom, what is the World Trade Center?”

As I remember it, I stepped out from the bathroom, into the hall where I could see the television clearly. A voice said, “A plane just flew into the World Trade Center.”

As I set myself down on the couch, a plane hit the second tower. Smoke and flame billowed heavenward….it was truly something that seemed unbelievable. It remains so.

It is very early in the morning. I’ve just come in from the studio…it is only right that I should remember in the silence of this first bit of morning the many who lost their lives and the families they left behind, shattered and rebuilding to this day.

I also notice what I was painting at the time.  In fact, I was pouring my heart into a series titled, My Heaven Series.  I was recording landscapes where I had, over fourteen years, walked my beautiful border collie, Laurie-dog.  I completed this series as he was growing old and unwell and just before observing his horrible death and growing in acceptance of his passing. Those walks overlooking the Bow had been our ritual for fourteen years. It was the beginning of the end of my painting for commercial galleries because after sending photographs to one of these galleries, the art dealer said, “Too much sky.”  I felt those three words stab me.  And I knew that the ‘business’ of painting was killing me.  My post…about painting My Heaven Series, here.

Being in My Head

Posted on September 21, 2005

There is really little else going on…..but the music and the painting. When I sit for my short breaks Laurie-dog sits beside me and I scratch behind his ear. That’s how simple things are. I’ve poured myself a glass of Dad’s homemade Shiraz. This will make the next round of work more festive somehow. Perhaps I’ll play Santana and rev things up a little. I take the children to watch Santana this Saturday. The tune…Make Somebody Happy comes to mind right now. I’ve added a photograph album of my space. I call my studio The Chapel….so I now have my space in this space. This concept makes me smile.

Heaven in My Studio

Heaven in My Studio

How do I find that these two posts are connected…and why do I write of memory? Very often when we are grieving or suffering loss or trauma, other voices speak to us, meaning well, but delivering messages like these.

“We have only the present.”

“Don’t live in the past.”

“Let go.”

“Move on.”

“That is history.”

“In time, you will heal and you will focus on today.”

Our personal losses; the loss of a marriage, the death of a loved one, the end of relationship, the death of a pet, leaving one place for a new place may pale in comparison to the atrocities that are our collective memory, loss and trauma, but we still need the respect from others, to remember. Memory is what we are left.

On September 11, we have a ‘duty to remember’ and I take directly from the Ziya Meral thesis, these words…

Duty to Remember
Our collective, the human family, continues to reel from the atrocities of genocide, war and crimes against humanity. Whether we are writing/speaking/thinking about reservation schools, colonization, sins of ‘the religious’, the death camps, torturing of detainees…and the list goes on…we have a duty to remember.  And consequent to that, we have a duty to change.  We have a responsibility to live our lives differently.  Today, I remember.
 

Threes!

I haven’t written many blog posts lately!  I’m very busy teaching a four month grade three contract these days.  I began the last week of February.  I really enjoy my students, but we are super busy!  Each student, taking on an altar ego and the mantle of a super hero means that school is a very busy place.  When not a super hero, then there are always the roles of mathematician, engineer and wildlife biologist to fulfill!  It’s a busy life we live.

As a result of all of the ‘busy’, my body flops onto the red sofa shortly after dinner and sometimes I even nod off.  I just can’t even believe what heroes teachers are to take on such a huge part in children’s lives.  Since retirement, I think I’ve become one of the most outspoken advocates of teachers I know.  It’s one thing to support teachers in theory; it’s another to know and understand what they are living each and every day.

In the morning we have quiet focus time on the mat…I log onto Duke Farm’s Live Eagle Cam, much as I did during my grade one contract a couple of years ago.  I made up a booklet that was grade specific, using the content provided for a higher level study.  Duke Farms provides a wealth of information.  This year we have two eggs on the nest and the weather has been brutal in the east.  We have some sad moments as we observe female or male sitting until their own bodies are absolutely covered by snow.  I think I captured a screen shot one day…yes…here’s the nest on March 1 and that snow crept up a few times so that only the adult’s beak was exposed.  The children seem to be enjoying observing life on the nest and I am holding out hope that the eggs will successfully hatch over the coming week.  Here are the blog posts directly from Duke Farms.

March 1, 2015 Duke's FarmsI have a few photos of my little nest, but it hardly captures the intensity of the space when the children enter and begin swirling through their day.  There is never a pause.  There is so much to learn.

In the morning, each morning, for just about ten minutes, I read aloud from the BFG by Roald Dahl.  When I asked my adult daughter what she remembered about grade three, she told me that she remembered Roald Dahl and all of the wonderful books that he wrote.  And so, just for wind down time, the children and I are sharing those words.

The BFG makes us laugh…and he shares some very intelligent, however nonsensical, words.

quote-dreams-is-very-mystical-things-the-bfg-said-human-beans-is-not-understanding-them-at-all-not-roald-dahl-222445DSC_3020 DSC_3019Books for inventions and schematics of every kind…this week…a dream making machine.  INVENTORS! DSC_3014

DSC_3015 ??????????

Each pod of desks is a city in India (Mumbai and New Delhi) or the Ukraine (Kiev and Odessa) or Peru (Lima) or Tunisia (Tunis).  The students are just getting their pavilions researched and constructed.  This makes it very easy for calling up a rep from each city to pick up things or deliver things to their group.  They share responsibilities and connect it to their place in the world.  Sorry for the out-of-focus photo…will try to get a better archive.  Most of the art has been collaborative to this point.  This Klimt tree will be evolving over the seasons.  A place to publish descriptive words and elaborative detail.

DSC_3013 DSC_3012 DSC_3004Students collect bling for all sorts of everything and post them on their plain-jane brown paper wrap Super Three frames.  By end of year, these will be the most highly decorated frames in existence. The students are wildly motivated.

DSC_3011 DSC_3010

DSC_3009 DSC_3007 DSC_3006 My brother and father both sent explanations of their military medals and ribbons so that I could share with the students what an honour it is to be decorated. I showed these to my students and explained what a sense of pride is felt with such achievements.  They were very excited about the possibility, as Super Threes, of receiving such as these. While having gold star days are an every day occurrence, receiving a ribbon is more special and rare.  I’ve got a huge stash of them and jot down the reason for each ribbon presentation on my note cards.  The children have to then share with me what they are going to do to earn the next.  Again, every child receives recognition and praise.

Dad's Medals DSC_2642Our class medals and ribbons.??????????Our gathering place.

DSC_3002We keep many different publications going…books of THREE (a place to look at why Three is such a powerful number), WHEN-THEN books When__________ (teacher provides an action) Then___________(what action results, giving students opportunities to explore how choices and results connect) and Save the Day booklets (students explore how they want to use their super powers for good).

DSC_3034?????????? ?????????? ?????????? ?????????? DSC_3027The students are engineers. After the students tested for stability in a large, medium and short cylinder, they had opportunity to explore how to increase stability.  Whoosh!  They are some sort of inventors.  At the end of the frenzy, they decided that the base of a structure should be wider and heavier and include some sort of connecting material in order to be more stable. :0)

DSC_2974 ?????????? ?????????? ?????????? DSC_2985 DSC_2984 DSC_2983Thanks to all of you peeps who have supported me and shared your wisdom.  You know who you are!  And, no, you won’t be seeing many updates!  Now, “Come, MAX!  Let’s go!”

 

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.

DSC_2892

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

jewel-quotes_4474-1

(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.

P1140481 P1140505Thanks for the image, Sam!

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

DSC_2833James and Enriquito

DSC_2886Rich (I never get a good picture of him)

DSC_2875Paula and Brittney

DSC_2870Asa

DSC_2852Oliver

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

DSC_2847

 

Shredding and the Story of My Life

A way to rid myself of a preoccupation with accountability and keeping records is experiencing a big shred.  For about five years I had to be accountable with my records for reasons outside of my control. (and no, it was NOT the tax man) During this period of time, I did not throw away a single receipt and I became an expert at storing, organizing and archiving every financial record that came in or out of my life.

Once I had established these routines, I had the most difficult time letting go of this responsibility or unlearning the ridiculous habit of recording/filing and storing all of this paper baggage.  In fact, it took me about ten years to heal enough to relax and let go and now, just recently, to shred.

As I emptied the binders/notebooks and stacked the records in front of me, I experienced a great sadness that I had felt such a responsibility to account for my spending to this degree.  Unlike regular budgeting and tax preparation, this stack of paper was something more.  And recently,  as I shred each paper, I remember that, at this same time, I was mothering three children, working full time, actively participating in church ministries and trying to make a go as a professional artist.  How ridiculous that likely late at night, I was taking such pains to keep meticulous records.

My advice to others… be cautious of demands that might be made on you by ‘the other’.  Did these records assist me or benefit me in any way?  I’ll leave you to ponder this.  A scriptural passage from last week’s readings comes to mind…Mark 12:17.

??????????Three bags full later, I have half a stack left. (and yes, I wish I had a fire pit…is it legal to burn documents in a fire pit?) Regardless, my heart feels lighter and one entire file drawer is empty.  I will always have an impeccable method of storing my records and I will keep items for the suggested period of time.  However, they will have their purpose and NOT carry excess weight.

DSC_0866  On a lighter note…shredding has another meaning, one I was not familiar with.  I never said that in popular culture, I was astute.

Recently, I came upon an article on line about shreds…as in musical shreds.

From International Business Times January 24, 2014, this.

You would believe your eyes but not believe your ears if you watch this version of One Direction’s “Story of My Life.” The hit song by the most popular boy band has not sounded as awful as it does in this video. The musical chords are all out of place and the vocals are just too bad to listen to even for a few seconds. But before you start making your opinion about your favorite boy band; let’s tell you that the boys of One Direction are the latest victims of a “shred” video! Let’s find out what this new term “shredding” is.

When a famous musician/boy band gets their popular music video dubbed in by really bad singer, it’s called “shredding.”
Here’s a shred…

I’m smiling as I shred…

When One Does Not Keep Up

I suppose we all have something that we want to keep up.  It might be writing in a journal, doing a sketch each day or a painting each week.  For you, is it jogging? Yoga? Weeding the garden? Volunteering? Visiting your Gramma weekly?  ‘Keeping up’ with something/anything is an invented internal pressure; don’t you think? It’s a story we tell ourselves.  Does anyone else want us to keep up?

It’s possible that the concept of keeping up began with the coining of the term, Keeping Up With the Joneses, an idea that had more to do with a person trying to reach a different social status.  We’ve all heard of the t.v. series, Keeping Up With the Kardashians…something else, all together.  If a person scans the internet, they will find a huge number of references to ‘keeping up’ and so more and more I discover that children are over-scheduled during the school year, parents are over-committed, exercise programs lack variety, painting becomes work, diet programs become unhealthy and expensive and society, in general, loses focus on much of the magic that surrounds.

The wonder of minutia disappears because no one can see the ‘ordinary’ when life’s responsibilities get in the way.

What does one do when one does not keep up?

Most on my mind at this very moment is the idea of where to begin my writing after these months away.  I’ve been absent to my blog for the duration of my father’s visit.  It’s been a priority for me to soak up every minute of our time together and in doing so, there are many subjects that I hope, over the next long while, to write about.  Our visit has been a rich and important experience that I will always cherish.  So, where to begin?

Perhaps the idea is to simply begin to write, free of any/all expectations and not concerned with any particular order.  There is something about ‘ordering’ our thoughts, paintings, sketches and writings that makes ‘beginning again’ tricky. The next number of posts will be random explorations.  Each post will be a container, storing small pieces of memory. Why?  Hmmm…well, that’s another question.  I’ve tried to explain to family and friends the why-of-it, this obsession of mine, but with no luck.  For now, I am just following my bliss.

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Eggs!

As Easter approaches and we anticipate the end of our Lenten journey; as we live in hope that snow will soon disappear and be replaced by green, my grade ones have been exploring eggs and new life.

Each morning, after attendance, I sign on to the Live Eagle Cam of Duke Farms and we see what the eaglets and their wonderful parents are up to.  It is most common for eagles to lay two eggs each season, but this year we got three.  I’ve been following Duke Farms for a few years now, simply because it is great entertainment to see the antics at the nest, the determination and the utter devotion.  Sometimes bad things happen.  Life is just like that.  But in the meantime, it is quite something to observe a live fish being dropped into a nest and the amazing care that is given to these fuzzy critters that seem clumsy and disproportioned!

Eagle 54This was a screen shot I took after the second egg came along.  A running commentary is located so that viewers can observe the scientific timeline of events.

Update 4/1/2014
The 3rd egg has hatched. The 3rd eaglet is smaller than the other 2 who hatched on the same day.

Update 3/31/2014
The 3rd egg appears to now have a pip (hole) in the shell. Hatch should occur today or tomorrow.

Update 3/29/2014
2 chicks have hatched in the nest. Parents are starting to leave food in the nest such as fish and waterfowl to give the nesting parent and young food. The 3rd egg has not hatched yet.

Update 2/24/2014
A 3rd egg was laid on 2/23/2014 in the afternoon. Thanks you viewers for your valuable observations throughout the nesting season.

Update 2/20/2014
A 2nd egg was laid the afternoon of 2/20/2014.

Update 2/18/2014
An egg was laid in the afternoon of 2/17/2014*. Snow in the nest should begin to dissipate as temps rise during the day over the next few days. The cam will remain zoomed close in on the nest bowl to aid in detection of additional eggs.

Each day, my grade one students are writing a sentence in their journal about the new thing that happened that day.  Their pictures are AMAZING and I will include those next week when I record our discoveries.

This morning, I took this screen shot.  Mrs. is sitting on a fish that she brought to the nest yesterday.  This is the sort of thing that the grade ones love!  They also enjoy when both adults spend time together with the eaglets.

Eagle April 12, 2014This past week, in art class, we painted eggs to represent new life…all with tints.  This was an exploration of straight lines, curvy lines and zig zag lines.

P1160097 P1160098 P1160099 P1160100 P1160101 P1160102 P1160103 P1160104 P1160105 P1160106 P1160107 P1160108 P1160109 P1160111 P1160112 P1160113 P1160114 P1160115 P1160116 P1160117

 

Where are you Brenda Draney?

It was blustery.  I thought about the slowest way I could possibly drive to the Esker Foundation, located on 9th.  I have attended other events related to the exhibit (film viewing, panel discussion, artist talk) since the opening of Fiction/Non-fiction.  There was no way weather was going to keep me from a painting opportunity where Brenda Draney would be doing some sharing…some wandering…some listening.  Everything I’ve been ‘incubating’ about since Mom’s passing (story, connection, identity, loss), would be a part of the afternoon’s experience…so, I was going to forge through the weather, regardless.

Once I arrived, I chose a seat that faced out toward the street…wide, tall windows stretched before me.  I could see onto the neighbouring roofs and watch the snow blowing.  Above me, the pod that houses the administrative space…a nest-like feature, caused an immediate sense of comfort and coziness.  Meeting Sharon, the artist across from me, led to a very quick and impact-full connection.  I felt happy.

I had dumped a pile of old black and whites into a zip lock bag before leaving home and proceeded to shuffle through them, looking for references. It didn’t take me long.  I won’t go into details…I won’t share the stories that connect me with the images…but, I will say that there was an immediacy.  Topics shared on my visits with Brenda and Sharon yesterday afternoon included, but certainly weren’t limited to; identity, memory, stories, mothers, objects of affection, nostalgia, art, teaching, journals, writing, voice.

At the conclusion of the afternoon, I felt so empowered and so grateful.  Brenda Draney is like an angel who was brought into my circle for the purpose of some reflection…some connection and some healing.  It was the most delicious of afternoons, and certainly a gift to myself.  Thank you, Brenda.

P1140140 P1140146 P1140147Technically speaking, it was a tricky thing to choose to use greys for the entire day…but, this session wasn’t so much about the technical aspects of watercolour (a completely foreign medium), but about meaning. I spoke to Sharon about the curtains that Mom had sewed on her treadle sewing machine, even when we were in military-poverty in those early years living in Ste. Sylvestre, Quebec.

Incubator: Brenda Draney from Latitude 53 on Vimeo.

Brenda Draney, Church 2012

Brenda Draney, Church 2012

Changing the Landscape: One Bag At a Time

Frank's FlatsIt’s official.  The City of Calgary has determined that Frank’s Flats, this year, is city parkland and I now have their support with the crud that mounts up at the location due to the user groups that are just a little irresponsible!  Yeah!  Justin Brown assured me that I would have help with the spring clean-up and he followed through, sending out a team that scoured the slopes, much quicker than I could possibly do ONE BAG AT A TIME.  So, now it is for me to maintain the park and hopefully solicit some support from other like-minded individuals in the area.

Nature is at its finest in this area, even when it is filthy.  The ground squirrels pull the plastics into their nests, not comprehending that this is human waste; but they adapt to the function of such plastics and paper.  Even on the nesting platform being used by Osprey, there is a huge piece of plastic that bats in the wind.  I am amused watching the activity on this platform and watched the grand predator try for over an hour to chase a Canadian goose off of the platform.  When I left the park that evening, the goose was continuing to fight for the nest in the sky, neck outstretched at each nose dive from the beautiful falcon.  This went well into the next day, but finally two days later, the goose had succumbed to the stubborn bird.  Please see fantastic images capturing this event on the Birds Calgary blog.  Now it is fun to watch the male bringing home the catch of the day routinely.

As sun was setting one evening, I watched six white swans fly overhead.  The muskrats are back and ducks of every variety are nesting.  A coyote who was guarding a spot under  the evergreens has finally disappeared, likely pressured out by all of the human presence and back onto the wilderness corridor on the other side of the fence.

Frank’s Flats is a beautiful spot for nature lovers to watch wildlife at its best.  I want this place to be safe and solicit the continued support of the City of Calgary, Bishop O’Byrne high school, South Fish Creek Recreational Center, Shawnessy Library and the various retail stores (Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Tim Hortons, Wendy’s, Jugo Juice) in the stewardship of this land.

I encourage my readers to take some responsibility for stewardship of your own surroundings.  Teach your children by being a living example of how to care for other species.

 

The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway

I opted to stay home this morning.  It feels like heaven to shuffle to the coffee maker…return to bed with a hot cup of coffee…the bedside lamp lit…and finish reading a book.  The Cellist of Sarajevo was a two-sitting read…a wonderful relief to some degree after the very dense book, Songs in Ordinary Times.

I had wanted to read this one for a long time and just recently found a copy in the second hand shop.  Based on a most devastating time in our history, in Sarajevo, this fiction brings us into the lives of ‘real’ characters and what they endure in the streets and torn ruins of a place that at one time seemed in ways, idyllic.

Art transcends the brutal hatred, insensitivity and dehumanizing conditions of war.  The cellist represents all that is beautiful about the human spirit.  I warn you that the following documentary is graphic…and captures images of the horror of greed and misguided belief.  I hope that you will watch it for its duration and never forget.

Words, once they are printed, have a life of their own. Carol Burnett

The Gyre

gyre [dʒaɪə] Chiefly literary

n

1. a circular or spiral movement or path
2. a ring, circle, or spiral

vb

(intr)to whirl

[from Latin gȳrus circle, from Greek guros]
I went back to the location where, for three months or more, I picked up a bag of trash a day; mostly plastics and fast food containers.  While drinking my coffee this morning, I spent time watching a couple of TED talks.  They got me wondering about the landscape that I had tended.

After listening to the artist, Dianna Cohen, I then moved on to Capt. Charles Moore.  By the time I had finished these two films, I became determined to make a conscientious effort to minimize my consumption of plastic even though the globe is deeply entrenched in its production, use and thoughtless discard.

Unfortunately, when I went back to Frank’s Flats, an idyllic place for many ecosystems and a harbour for waterfowl, I found so much plastic and waste that it brought me to tears.  I just find our community so detached from its actions.  I don’t really know what steps I can take to contribute to a change.  I pick up one bag of garbage every time I visit this special location.  It is a piece of land that I hold dear.