What Comes to Mind at the River

Reading and then meeting Kyo MacLear affirmed, for me, everything that’s been formulating inside me the past several years…about birding, art, nature and life.  Many things have formed me into this person who shows up at the Bow River around 10 on a winter’s morning, taking pause above the river and observing wildlife.

My friends and family wonder and ask…mostly not asking anymore, “What are you painting?  Why don’t you paint?”  and at those questions, I can only sit with who I am and be grateful for the grace of anything and everything that led me to this place where I find myself.  As I drove up from the parking spot this morning, I just kept saying, aloud, “I love my life. I love my life.”

I will paint again.  But, the truth is…painting was a lot about ego.  It was a lot about around-the-clock commitment.  It was about trying to balance full time work, raising children and keeping it all together.  My stomach sometimes hurt as deadlines for shows approached.  I was terrified in front of blank canvases.  I couldn’t assert myself with dealers, set boundaries or say what I needed.  I didn’t have money to buy those outfits that seem to be required if you are an artist, especially a female artist. Painting had lost its magic and so, when I paint again, it will be profound because it will be for all the right reasons, not for all the wrong reasons.

Doris McCarthy said, “Paint every day.”  I think more about her as days go by, without painting, than anyone.  She explained how those muscles work.  She explained how time also rushes by. Doris was my friend and she gave me a lot of strength. I think about Doris when I know that I will physically paint again.

Now…did the painting really stop?  I argue, “No”.  I have been intensely researching my next body of work for years now…having painted about 15 panels related to a Covenant series, I then began to connect again with the landscape.  It just happened.  It happened at the reading of two poems, the first,  The Wolf Between the Trees by George Bowering.  I used his poem, with permission, embedded in the poem along with a cup full of ash…remains of personal papers I had burned in the studio.  This is the painting…

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and secondly, a tribute poem written by Paulette Dube for the Caribou.  I’m including her words, here.  I hope you will read them.

In the new days, magic was on the surface of things, the shine of it all, quick and bright and fast as new rivers.

 Now Rivers winds Under Earth, has to be convinced, to play her deep song, entreated , to show herself.

 The Celts call these « thin places », where the other side is so close, the veil shivers your arms as you reach through.

 The First People travelled (sic) these sacred pieces of earth, to think on things in the presence of Creator.

 I know them as mountains.  I see them with my spirit eyes, walk them with blood and bone legs.  They teach, as clear as bird song or scolding squirrel lesson, bracing as clean water through moss.

 This alpine terrain is grey onion paper, thin as ash.  Feet must be wide to avoid lace-like flower and moss, spider web and lichen.        Be mindful.

 The Creator’s ear is earth as we do not see it.  Make joyous noise if you want to be herd.  Get yourself a song and string from bone to bone, a home of light and wind.

 She moves.  She feels her calf, inside, taking nourishment from her own bones and teeth.  The calf moves (as my son once did)  deep in the dreaming place.  The cow’s thickening body keeps the Small one warm, keeps him from hunger, keeps her     moving.

 Born where the dark forest gives way to lake, loon’s perfect call – silver sharp tremolo – traces the surface of this morning sky :  clear as mountain water scythes the earth.

 Loon calls from the lake face, that voice – shapes my form-    coming through the trees.

 The land reacts to our presence when we belong

 Noise of a sow grizzly and her two cubs.  To each a place, to each, a means of prayer and play.  To each, the necessary silence.

 Sacred whorl of grey and brown, blow open the gate.  Allow a wild glimpse of self.

 When you descend to leaf litter, feathered legs and all, you are an angel – touching Earth.

 The engine that is me, hears the song that is you…

 …coming together is a song I cannot bear for long.  Satiated by my own irregular rythmes.

 Promises shape who we are, what we will become –

we pray.

 His brow is unfurrowed.  Streamlined, he walks the wind, easily.

 Healing is water over stones, wind over grass, gaits – fearless.

Feral hearts wander – oblivious to fences of human design.

 Survival embodies existence but – does not define it.

 He moves through sunlight to scrub, deliberate – elemental – muscle.

 Hummingbird hears colour – Coyote knows crack in a leaf is direction – Bear walks trail made of wind.

 If Humans could once again divine the essential – would we find home ?

 A candle in a church is a thing of beauty – a flame in the wilderness is a miracle.

 Find something big to pit against – to throw loneliness into –  Amid bone, snow and stone –   caribou.  The precious, the delicate of design – we live here.

 Fire and earth – water and air – there is no room for anger.

 Memories permit us to speak of things –

our heart tends to in the night.

The resulting painting, upon hearing this poem is posted below.  The words to the poem are written into the painting.  It was at this punctuation mark in my life, at this painting and the other, that I realized my painting would always be about ‘place’.

Caribou 3

So, as an artist, what I’ve been doing ever since is sorting that out….the surface, the paint, collage, text, subject matter.  It might take a lifetime to make sense of it.  I don’t know.  But, in the meantime, I am energized and interested and creative and LOOK!  I write!

Everything I’ve been doing, in the sorting,  has made for this wondrous life of mine.  It’s taken me out into the landscape.  It’s caused me to notice more.  It’s manufactured poems, paintings, photographs and connected me with videographer, Liam of Beam Media and the photographer,  Jack Breakfast.

And this morning, I met Doug Newman.  It was after two cups of coffee at home and after two posts about books that I have read that I headed out into the cold with Max man.  The roads were bad, so I decided to get us down to a parking lot that edges the Bow River and to explore the first wintry day on the river.  There was only one other car in the lot…a man speaking on his telephone.  Max and I headed out.

This is what I wrote once back inside the car…and after snapping four photos on my cell phone…and after turning up the heat and settling in with CKUA.

I didn’t bring a camera with me, but hiked the edge of the Bow River this morning. I watched a Bald Eagle fish, its wings, so powerful. Three times, it landed on tree tops to the left of me, by 200 meters. The geese, exhausted and resting, lifted off of the dark water, along with the cacophony of gulls each time the eagle dove toward the water. Two deer swam, gracefully, from this side and shook off like wet dogs, once arriving on the shore across from me. A perfect morning.

From an interview with Kyo MacLear, writer of Birds, Art, Life… this…

Q: In the book there’s a list, the “Pantheon of Smallness,” in which you compare items such as blackbirds and Rembrandt’s etching. Equating the arts with nature was deliberate, no?

A: It was. It was also a bit playful. I wanted the readers to come in and fill in their own ideas. The Pantheon of Smallness was a way of thinking about smallness differently. Sometimes we make small things, sometimes there are small bird songs, but it can have an enormous impact. Sometimes you have to whisper to be heard. Our culture is very much one of “bigging it up,” always upping the noise level in order to produce a louder signal. What you see in the bird world is sometimes that the smallest tweet can actually pierce through the cacophony in a different way. That became a metaphor for thinking about art. Emily Dickinson did quite miniature work that had a very profound, almost epic, impact, culturally speaking.

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While typing that paragraph, I saw the gentleman leave his car, carrying a camera and sporting a huge lens.  I watched, discreetly, as he took photographs.  I saw him pan as geese took flight.  I saw him quietly observe for quite a long time.  Finally, as he turned to get back into his vehicle, I rolled down my window and we began to chat.

It turns out that Doug also posts photographs to Alberta Birds.  We introduced ourselves to one another and I began to ask him questions about photography, equipment and we shared some of our ‘bird’ moments.  It is such a pleasure to discover another birder along the quiet pathways of my every day.  It was nice to experience his enthusiasm and his excitement.  He opened up his photograph of a goose taking flight and I was in awe of the detail and the strength captured in that single image.

I love my life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

Michael Collette Mackinnon's flats

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!

Michael Collette 2

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

 

Art Flood: Grade Ones Collage Flood News Stories Onto Community Boards

The grade ones write sentences about happy days on the river and on the shore, skipping rocks and many sentences about fishing!  We play grouping games…groups of two and groups of five…groups of ten.  We look at the pictures of the floods on the front pages of several newspapers.  Using gloss medium, the students coat their white boards, apply the news stories and coat again with gloss.  The children are happy to learn that the white gloss is clear when it dries.

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Saying Good-bye to Ted

So many hearts speaking to hearts…

Yesterday saw us gathering at Ted Godwin’s memorial.  What a beautiful sharing of thoughts, memories, stories and music.  I hadn’t ever attended a funereal event where folk broke out into applause again and again or where the attendants had to graciously hint that we should eventually leave…artists, art dealers, writers, poets, musicians, AA supporters and friends all moving from the program into a reconnection-reception with one another….Ted being the common thread to all.  His life richly blessed all of us.  Highlights for me…standing before a beautiful polished urn…placed visually in Ted’s own Bow River…water reflections seeming to move as I gazed upon the composition.  The painting, something like this one.

Ted_Godwin_Days_End_on_Moab_1_1999_360On either side of the painting, sprays of white flowers and greenery…a continuation of the colour story that felt so much like our dear Ted.  To the left, a photograph of Ted from younger days, the fisherman by his river…a moving black and white photograph that told us the story of his love of that particular landscape…in his gesture and in his eyes.

Recitations of very important poetry…

Crossing the Bar by Alfred Lord Tennyson

Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;

For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crost the bar.

Requiem by Robert Louis Stevenson

Under the wide and starry sky
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.

This be the verse you grave for me;
“Here he lies where he longed to be,
Home is the sailor, home from sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.”

Testimonies of friends…prayers…the most chilling, for me, when Fred Williams opened up to all of us the opportunity to speak the names of those we had lost and loved…one name at a time, spoken…over and over the voices rose.  I felt tears stream down my cheeks for the absolute unity we all felt around this moment.

I was sitting next to an artist-friend who has certainly inspired me over the years, Bill Duma.  At the conclusion of his testimony, he read a quote from Ted’s own Lower Bow: A Celebration of Wilderness, Art and Fishing.  At this, I felt chills go down my spine.

“Standing in the water and casting to a stir at twilight in late fall, I feel a gentle sadness in knowing that it might be the last fish and last day of the season.  With a sniff of winter in the air, there is a certain finality to trips at this time of the year.  All the rhythms of nature seem attended to change and the coming of the quiet white time.  With nature putting on such a flamboyant show before winter’s slumber, one can’t help being swept up in the drama of the moment.”

Thank you, Bill.

Bill Duma Painting

Bill Duma Painting

A rich collection of pieces by Jazz musicians, Eric Friedenberg, Al Muirhead, Bob Erlendson, Kai Poscente, Phil Dwyer and Brian Buchanan was rich and demonstrated clearly, another big love of Ted Godwin’s.

Time shared with friends was so special to each of us afterwards, I’m certain of it.  Doug MacLean stopped over for a visit.  His advice and his connection early in my painting, was invaluable to me. His offerings to the art community in Calgary from the early days at the CAG and to its new location on the Stephen Avenue Mall…and finally, his continued presence now in Canmore, can not be qualified.  Doug knows his art history…gives a huge context to Canadian art and his knowledge of art history surpassed most.  It was good of him to share a visit with me after all of these years.  I met Ted through Doug…just as I met John Snow and Peter von Tiesenhausen.  I treasure you, dear friend.

Visits with Ken Christopher, Katie Ohe, Verna Reid, Bill Duma and you, Denise and Elise, were so special.  And Fred…we were blessed by your role as presider!

My Invitation to Ted's Lower Bow exhibit at CAG

My Invitation to Ted’s Lower Bow exhibit at CAG

Blue Rock...my own work painted after a horse packing trip.  I first made the acquaintance of Ken Christopher on this trip.

Blue Rock…my own work painted after a horse packing trip. I first made the acquaintance of Ken Christopher on this trip.

My treasured copy of The Lower Bow.

My treasured copy of The Lower Bow.

Soaring Eagle

Yesterday at the river, with plus 4 temperatures, Max and I were circled by a grand eagle.  He just stayed with us for about ten minutes…so absolutely magical!  The river is opening up from the deep freeze we’ve been experiencing and the light was beautiful on the snow!

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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