Dear Ruth,

Thank you, Ruthie!  I love you like a sister!

July 27 was Mom’s birthday and I missed her terribly.  Your invitation came at a perfect time as I had spent more than a week feeling anxious, breathless and sad that I could not speak with my mother.  Right away, I contacted my daughter Erin to see if she would be able to come with me to the Ironwood to hear Hogan and Moss and she agreed.  I really felt blessed to be in Erin’s company.  We don’t have the chance to spend very much time alone together anymore and I miss her.  I felt vulnerable and sad and even wished that I could be back east with my Dad, sister and brother, so this time out was really a treasure.

We scooched in beside Lauraine and Wendy and Karen and to be honest, I felt that beneath our smiles and gratitude to be together, we were all a little tired. But, oh, Ruth!  You looked so beautiful!  Your hand made felted jacket was spectacular!  You glowed with the excitement of your plans for Scotland.  Your generous heart was appreciated.

You took to the stage and I had no idea that you would open your set with this song…

You are always generous.  The music community loves you.  We love you for your stories, for your laughter and for the struggles that have made you who you are.  We so treasure the times that we can share.  You do so much to build others up.

Thank you for introducing us to Jon and Maria…such unique, heart felt, authentic music.  Their music is so grounded in historical narrative.  It was wonderful to share this experience and to learn so much…

Jon Hogan is an official posthumous co-writer with Blaze Foley, who died largely unheralded in 1989, but has been covered by Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, John Prine, and Lyle Lovett, and about whom a feature film, “Blaze,” by Ethan Hawke, was released in 2018. Jon Hogan was commissioned by Foley’s sister to complete three songs from lyrics found in Foley’s handwriting after his death. (“Can’t Always Cry,” “Safe in the Arms of Love” and “Every Now and Then,” BMI.

Blessings on your journey, beautiful friend.  I hope that you discover love and kindness wherever you go.

Love,
Kath

“He took his pain and turned it into something beautiful. Into something that people connect to. And that’s what good music does. It speaks to you. It changes you.”
― Hannah Harrington, Saving June

 

Lost on Range Roads!

Alright…so, I threw my meatballs together and when they were piping hot, packed up my wine glass and my bottle and my meatballs and headed for Custom Woolen Mills.  There was a big accident south bound on highway 2…I did a bit of a rubber neck there, but once that was long gone, I couldn’t believe it when I kept driving north on the highway, past the Carstairs turn off.  For a moment, there was panic…I didn’t want to really drive so far as the Didsbury exchange, but, finally resigned myself to going north for a bit and finding my way back to the mills on country roads.  When I go on a road trip, I find it so relaxing.  There is nothing better than enjoying the landscape and the wide open sky of Alberta.

Light was fading, but still there, as I headed east on whatever-its-called.  I knew that I needed to find the 791 to go south.  Hmmm…overshot that by a good 20 kms…but, not before my Spidey senses told me to go south anyway, on some range road or other…I asked myself, “How bad can it get?”  These range roads are all numbered…I’m sure I’ll zig zag my way there, eventually.  In the meantime, I enjoyed viewing a beautiful owl and many grazing deer, some with very large racks…I even considered pulling off for photo-moments, but thought, “No, you really have to get there…”  I spotted a sign for Linden somewhere on the way.  “Now, that sounds like some place I’ve heard about before…”  And on and on I went, feeling like Milo in his little car, lifted right out of the pages of The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster.

Never mind…dangit…the sun was slipping down fast.  It might be that I have to do that thing I don’t like doing.  “I need to back track.”  Heading west, the sun was blinding, as it peeked out at eye level from behind the pink clouds.  I thought to myself, “Now, don’t race…watch your way…you can find that 791…just notice.”  And I did…some miles later, I turned east again and then just needed to hook up with 272.  That, too, was a little shaky….the cattle, munching away to the north of me seemed to be snickering.  But that was likely all in my imagination.  From a distance, on the narrow (soft) dirt road, I saw the familiar silhouette of the mill on the horizon…I saw the warm lights…and said out loud, “I’m home.”

Entering in to the mill, Ruth’s voice was reaching above everything.  The audience was spell bound.  Displays of woolen things were to the left.  Lots of people were knitting.  “I love this place.  I love the smell.”  At the edge of the display created with works by Artist-in-residence, Sylvia Olsen, sat a Golden Fleece wool blanket, brought as a gift to Fenn by my new friend, Leah.  I felt nothing but happiness about being at the mill, bathed in love.

I poured myself a glass of wine…rustled up a plate of pot luck food (nothing better) and snapped a few photographs.  This morning, as I think back, I’m grateful for life and love and friendship.  Thanks to all of the folks at the mill for hosting such a wonderful event.

Some of My Favourite People

Ascension Sunday was beautiful in so many ways.  Bishop Emeritus Frederick Henry was with us for the celebration of the Mass.  As much as being a part of this family has, at times, been a struggle, it feels as though I am home with my community when I share in the Mass with so many friends.  Sometimes in today’s world, we can be very MEcentric and I find that I am able to quiet that and really focus on ‘the other’ when I am in community. I sometimes wonder how the human family will look back on the world that we are creating and what our part in history will be.  I lifted prayers and offered up this Mass, in particular, for people in my life who have medical struggles and for my children.  From Mass, I stepped out into a gorgeous-weather day and decided to make my circle of the pond, with Max before anything else.

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I booked up the afternoon with a create! workshop at Wendy’s…a session co-delivered with Ruth Purves Smith, needle felting and wet felting, forgetting that I was also committed to attending Indigenous dance led by Jess McMann.  Sigh… I opted to head out to Lakeview, as I knew I planned to visit my YaYa at the Foothills Hospital afterwards.

The afternoon was glorious, back yard crafting with beautiful and engaged creatives. The birds were chirping and singing and bathing, all the while.  Ginger snaps and ice cold lemonade were served as we went about learning to make dryer balls, wet felting and creating lovely artworks.  A great way to spend the afternoon!  Thank you, Wendy and Ruth.

Not only is Ruth a huge advocate for the Custom Woolen Mills, she is a heart-filled musician and huge song writer and story teller!  I hang out with amazing people!

In conclusion, kits were put together and I was eager to get over to the hospital and my friend, to see if she would be able to try felting.

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It was a joy to watch my YaYa, sit outdoors in the shade of Foothills Hospital and manage some felting.  I will bring the project that she began along with me on my next visit and bit by bit, she can construct something beautiful.  Best she not poke her finger with one of those needles!  The day was so much brighter because I was able to hang out with her and to see the progress she has made in her healing.  Four months later, she is a strong and inspiring fighter!  Her husband is equally inspiring because he has been selfless and supportive through this very unique journey.  They are, together, an inspiring couple.

I spent the evening on my own…a little putzing in the garden…some more walking with Max…some texting with my daughter who had entered a song-writers competition.  She got to chat it up with one of my favourite Alberta song writers, Joe Nolan, and so I will aptly conclude this post with one of his tunes.

The day was a ‘Ballad of Some Sort”.  (Changed my mind…but, YouTube it!) Instead, River Ends. Both Ruth and Joe deliver music in wool socks.  I think song-writers who perform in sock feet are generally good people.

Thanks, Wendy Lees, for being a beautiful person!  Thanks to you, Ruth…for sharing the joy of creation with me, again.  Such warmth and generosity!

Love Art in Calgary Tours

Wendy Lees

Ruth Purves Smith

 

 

Bitterly Cold Winter, Wrapped Up In Wool

Monday morning saw the accumulation of a whole lot of snow overnight.  The sun was shining and I was grateful for that, as I picked up the shovel and cleared the sidewalk, yet again.  I was excited to be heading for sister-friend time, a hearty soup and warm-biscuit lunch prepared by my Ya-Ya, Wendy Lees, and the experience of felting with a woman who knows wool, so well.  In fact, like me, wool is her history…her story.  Ruth Purves-Smith, oh, how I grow to love you!  Now, you have been my teacher and I treasure that!

Gathering together means the sharing of stories, the week’s events, creative projects, vision, frustration, hard work and yes, edits on cover letters, even dog tales/tails!

Meeting  Booster for the first time was more than fun!  This sweetie really wasn’t ever supposed to have a chance at life, but because of her willingness to negotiate around Booster’s many special needs, Ruth gave her that!  Apart from very unique dietary concerns and the fact that she has to consistently wear a little diaper, Booster seems to lead a very happy and contented life.  As Max’s best friend, I can tell you that this gives me great respect for Ruth.

Settling in, I loved the colours and textures that began to spill out into Wendy’s living room!

I’ve had opportunity before to watch a remarkable lesson on felting delivered by Leah C. Donald  to my grade three students.  However, I didn’t have the opportunity to share in the experience because it was necessary to supervise the students’ use of the felting needles and to be a part of their process.  So, I was excited to actually manipulate the media and to enjoy the hands-on practice.

Ruth brought some of her creations and I was at once, in awe.  Hmmm…no pictures of lunch, likely because I was enthusiastically ‘putting it down’.

 

I decided that I would like to create a hot pad for the table and to focus on technique.  I was definitely the slowest person in the room!  It took quite some time before I sorted out the use of the felting needle.  Thanks for your patience, ladies!

 

Yesterday afternoon was just one of those magical times that created memories, both in my heart and head, but also in my body.  The warm smell of wool, the texture and the concentration…all so wonderful!  The next time you feel really cold, I highly recommend wrapping yourselves up in wool, good food and friendship.

Support the Custom Woolen Mills, when you can.  Buy your gifts from artists and artisans.  Buy music from local artists.  Support the creation of treasures that come out of your local community.

 

My Hunter’s Moon

Listening to my new CD Out in the Storm, as I type…

I cranked up CBC radio on my drive north on Highway 2.  Fen, of the Custom Woolen Mills, had asked us to bring our own bowl, plate and cutlery, (I forgot) so I stopped off at the WIN store on the way.  For five dollars, I left with a finely crafted porcelain plate, a hippie bowl, a crystal wine goblet and three pieces of silver, a fork, knife and spoon.  Then I was on my way.

Artist, Megan Samms, was celebrating the conclusion of this past summer’s artist-in-residency program with an exhibition of her hand crafted textiles.

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These next two photographs, shared by Wendy Lees.  Megan explained that her patterns here, were patterns almost contemporary with the equipment found in the mill.

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In the front of the mill, Shibori dying was undergo,

(The following Shibori Photographs taken by the world’s greatest connector, Wendy Lees)

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…potluck feast was being munched upon

(Dancing Goat Cheese promoted by both Wendy and myself…photos to her credit)

Craig Sanok & Paul Anthony Chambers, you rock!

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…and fantastic music provided by Ruth Purves Smith and Dave Holloway and Brian Sovereign was pumping up the large group that was happily in attendance.

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I guess when I step into that world…and I wish that I did it more often, I am overcome with a sense of history, industry and family.  Some of the equipment is stuff that I grew up with in the Magrath Wool Card and Spinning Mill, but I realized only last night, that I really didn’t ever take a good look.  Last night I did.  With dates of manufacture going back to the late 1800s and the places as far away as Massachusetts and Philadelphia, a person can only feel in awe.

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Click any of the images below in order to see them larger.

That feeling of amazement transferred into my conversation with Megan, as well.  I thanked her for learning and keeping alive, the hand made craft and industry of textile creation.  In a world of manufacturing, it is good to remember what the hands can do, along with some very primitive, but dependable pieces of equipment.

Thank you to Fen, for the invitation.  Thanks to the mill staff who made the mill look so absolutely beautiful for last night’s event.  Everything in the place showed a special touch. As per usual, when I write of such things, at the keyboard, the morning after such magic, I weep, warm tears of gratitude.  Thanks, for the music, Ruth.  The very first song, for the children.  There’s a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea!  As an military family, traversing this great country so many times, my mother and father’s voices lifted together and made the miles around Lake Superior go quicker, singing our road songs.  And this one…one of the entertaining ones.  Who wouldn’t want to learn all those words?

I hope that my readers will connect with Megan’s work.  I hope that you will listen to Ruth’s Music.  And most of all, before winter passes, I hope you will head up to the Custom Woolen Mills and stock up on warm goods and supplies for your own hand making.

Thanks, Wendy, for sharing the drive through the light of a full moon, fog, and conversation.

I have so many photographs this morning, that I really don’t know how to present them.  My children have told me no one reads this blog (wrong), so, it’s irrelevant, I guess.  This, more a journal of the magic of my life, than anything else.

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Ruth Purves-Smith and David Holloway

I’ve suspended my writing for the week because I’m teaching elementary children on a month long contract and I’m focused and inspired and need to line up all my jelly beans. What I really want to sustain over this month is my time in nature because things are evolving so quickly out there…and so many new birds are on the wing.

I’m writing diligently about an art tour that I took at Pason Systems on this past Saturday…one piece at a time…it was such a fabulous experience!  I suppose I’ll publish that during the coming weekend.

But…

…here’s an exception. I felt I needed to write my gratitude for Wendy Lee’s invitations to meet and listen to the music of Ruth Purves-Smith, accompanied by the fantastic guitar player, David Holloway.  So, for Juno weekend, I ended up having time on Sunday to attend Wendy’s house concert where chili was served, chilled white wine and the most wonderful company ever!  It was a hub of Juno energy and such a down-to-earth experience.

It turns out that Ruth’s father, Bill Purves-Smith and his wife, Fen Roessingh, have a connection to my own family patriarch, John Moors…and so, Ruth and I are connected by the beautiful warm smell and coziness of wool!  My grandfather is pictured below, a young man, in the throws of excitement about wool.

John Moors Woolen Mill Magrath, Alberta

Bill Purves-Smith and a photograph that appeared on his memorial 1934-2011.

Bill Purves-Smith

This story about the collision between Ruth’s family and my own appears on the Custom Woolen Mills website…

Fen Roessingh and husband Bill Purves-Smith developed a keen interest in weaving while studying at the Leighton Centre near Calgary, Alberta in the 1970’s. After being given a truck-load of raw wool in order to pursue their weaving, they began searching to find a mill that would process it into yarn. This took them to Magrath, Alberta, to work with John Moors in his mill, Wool Carding and Spinning. John had started in the woolen mill business at the age of 12 as a bobbin boy and worked his way up to running his own mill. When Fen and Bill came to work with him, John was in his 70’s and looking for someone to take over his business. Game for a challenge and motivated by their love of fibre arts, Fen and Bill bought the mill from John and moved it to Carstairs. They then acquired a wool washing system and additional carding machines from a small mill called Custom Woolen Mills in Sifton, Manitoba. The mill was owned by Anna Weselowski who, also in her 70’s, was looking to retire. Combined, the new mill was called Custom Woolen Mills Ltd. Wool Carding and Spinning, but everyone just called it Custom Woolen Mills for short. Over 35 years later, Custom Woolen Mills is still going strong; a hub in the community, a multigenerational family enterprise, and a producer of quality, Canadian grown and manufactured wool products.  

Of course, as soon as I could, I grabbed onto Ruth…gave her a big hug…and we began to spill out the memories.  I loved hearing about her playing in the back of the mill and watching the old television…I could picture it all.

Thank you for the stories, Ruth…and the music…and the generous heart.  Thank you David for the absolutely amazing guitar accompaniment and the talk of clocks.  And most of all, thank you to Wendy and Dan for their hospitality and for the sharing, always, of music and art!  Good to see so many friends that we now share and for the introduction to so many more!

Kath's Canon Ruth Purves-Smith, Franks 040

There’s nothing like a bookshelf filled with interesting titles…and a guitar that’s about to be played!

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It was a wonderful experience…bought the recent CD….so should you!

 

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Leah Came to the Door

May 8, 2015

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Southern Alberta Roads

Wool Card and Spinning: My Grandfather’s Story

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John Moors 1876-1918

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