Sweet Pickles and Other Matters of Consequence

It is a wonderful thing to find yourself being able to go to the fridge during the day to retrieve a sweet pickle from a jar…to be able to sip a glass of chilled white wine while sitting writing at the computer desk in the early afternoon.

This day has been filled with magic and it feels as though it has only begun.  The birds in this neighbourhood are well-fed.  I noticed early this morning Mr. and Mrs. continue to hold up in the neighbours’ vent across from my kitchen window.  The photo is not great. It was early…the sun was just rising as I made my morning coffee.

I had a note from artist, Bronwyn Schuster.  Bronwyn was a guest artist at the Gorilla House LIVE ART battles last evening…maybe just passing through.  Not sure. I was so impressed by her art and  I don’t want to lose track of her.  Her self portrait series is captivating.  Here is her piece completed during the battles.

Max has been co-operating as a front seat passenger.  I removed his kennel from the van a week ago in order to bring a huge nativity scene home. (this is another story all together and I will write it up when we’re into ‘the season’)  In past experiences, Max has gone nuts while riding in the front seat.  He continues to have the problem of salivating all over the dash and licking the side window…but apart from those annoying habits, he is following sit, stay and quiet commands.  I’m impressed.  My readers have no idea how high strung this particular dog is, so Max-man really DOES deserve the accolades here.  Good boy, Max!

Of course, driving home from the off leash park, I listened to CBC radio and particularly enjoyed Iron and Wine’s Muddy Hymnal…simple, but powerful.

found your name across the chapel door
carved in cursive with a table fork
muddy hymnals
and some boot marks where you’d been

the shaking preacher told the captain’s man
the righteous suffer in a fallen land
and pulled the shade
to keep the crowd from peeking in

we found your children by the tavern door
with wooden buttons and an apple core
playing house
and telling everyone you’d drowned

the begging choir told the captain’s man
we all assume the worst the best we can
and for a round or two
they’d gladly track you down

we found you sleeping by your lover’s stone
a ream of paper and a telephone
a broken bow
across a long lost violin

your lover’s angel told the captain’s man
it never ends the way we had it planned
and kissed her palm
and placed it on your dreaming head

Here, you’ll find yet another excerpt from The Little Prince…words on Matters of Consequence (what really might be important).

Chapter 7: The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

On the fifth day–again, as always, it was thanks to the sheep–the secret of the little prince’s life was revealed to me. Abruptly, without anything to lead up to it, and as if the question had been born of long and silent meditation on his problem, he demanded:

“A sheep–if it eats little bushes, does it eat flowers, too?”

“A sheep,” I answered, “eats anything it finds in its reach.”

“Even flowers that have thorns?”

“Yes, even flowers that have thorns.”

“Then the thorns–what use are they?”

I did not know. At that moment I was very busy trying to unscrew a bolt that had got stuck in my engine. I was very much worried, for it was becoming clear to me that the breakdown of my plane was extremely serious. And I had so little drinking-water left that I had to fear for the worst.

“The thorns–what use are they?”

The little prince never let go of a question, once he had asked it. As for me, I was upset over that bolt. And I answered with the first thing that came into my head:

“The thorns are of no use at all. Flowers have thorns just for spite!”


There was a moment of complete silence. Then the little prince flashed back at me, with a kind of resentfulness:

“I don’t believe you! Flowers are weak creatures. They are naïve. They reassure themselves as best they can. They believe that their thorns are terrible weapons . . .”

I did not answer. At that instant I was saying to myself: “If this bolt still won’t turn, I am going to knock it out with the hammer.” Again the little prince disturbed my thoughts:

“And you actually believe that the flowers–“

“Oh, no!” I cried. “No, no, no! I don’t believe anything. I answered you with the first thing that came into my head. Don’t you see–I am very busy with matters of consequence!”

He stared at me, thunderstruck.

“Matters of consequence!”

He looked at me there, with my hammer in my hand, my fingers black with engine-grease, bending down over an object which seemed to him extremely ugly . . .

“You talk just like the grown-ups!”

That made me a little ashamed. But he went on, relentlessly:

“You mix everything up together . . . You confuse everything . . .”

He was really very angry. He tossed his golden curls in the breeze.

“I know a planet where there is a certain red-faced gentleman. He has never smelled a flower. He has never looked at a star. He has never loved any one. He has never done anything in his life but add up figures. And all day he says over and over, just like you: ‘I am busy with matters of consequence!’ And that makes him swell up with pride. But he is not a man–he is a mushroom!”

“A what?”

“A mushroom!”

The little prince was now white with rage.

“The flowers have been growing thorns for millions of years. For millions of years the sheep have been eating them just the same. And is it not a matter of consequence to try to understand why the flowers go to so much trouble to grow thorns which are never of any use to them? Is the warfare between the sheep and the flowers not important? Is this not of more consequence than a fat red-faced gentleman’s sums? And if I know–I, myself–one flower which is unique in the world, which grows nowhere but on my planet, but which one little sheep can destroy in a single bite some morning, without even noticing what he is doing–Oh! You think that is not important!”

His face turned from white to red as he continued:

“If some one loves a flower, of which just one single blossom grows in all the millions and millions of stars, it is enough to make him happy just to look at the stars. He can say to himself, ‘Somewhere, my flower is there . . .’ But if the sheep eats the flower, in one moment all his stars will be darkened . . . And you think that is not important!”

He could not say anything more. His words were choked by sobbing.

The night had fallen. I had let my tools drop from my hands. Of what moment now was my hammer, my bolt, or thirst, or death? On one star, one planet, my planet, the Earth, there was a little prince to be comforted. I took him in my arms, and rocked him. I said to him:

“The flower that you love is not in danger. I will draw you a muzzle for your sheep. I will draw you a railing to put around your flower. I will–“

I did not know what to say to him. I felt awkward and blundering. I did not know how I could reach him, where I could overtake him and go on hand in hand with him once more.

It is such a secret place, the land of tears.


Gorilla House LIVE ART Battle: October 18 2012

Theme I took on….of the three concepts offered last night…”She was pretty?”

I was thinking throughout about my mother…my grandmother…love relationships of every sort and the depth of our feelings within them.  The Antoine de Saint-Exupery quote that finally appears on the surface is “You are responsible for your rose.”

After using bits of my mother’s old sewing patterns as a basis for the collage, I intuitively took on the archetype of the bride.  It was interesting because as I walked around looking at other artist’s interpretation of the theme, the whore…an opposite archetype, was surfacing in several of the pieces.  This is why I love this approach to making art, one never knows what is going to be an emphasis.  Art is so personal.

Thanks to Elaine for purchasing this piece at auction.  Photograph to follow.  Thank you Belinda Fireman.

Chapter 21: The little prince had left his planet and had finally landed on earth. There he found a huge rose garden in a desert. Now, he had left a beautiful rose(the only rose) on his planet. He had formed a wonderful love relationship with this rose who had told him that she was unique. Here, on earth, he found a huge garden of roses.

Dejected he wandered on until he heard cries from a small fox saying “Tame me.” The little prince asked “What is it to tame?” The fox replies, “It is to establish ties. ..to me, you are nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys and I have no need of you. ….But if you tame me , than we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world.”

“I am beginning to understand, ” said the little prince. “there is a flower..”
The fox continues to plead with the little prince and says
“One only understands the things that one tames…if you want a friend tame me…” Finally the little prince agrees. The fox then details a procedure in which he will come everyday to the spot in the woods and the fox comes also. There they would view each other from a distance of safety for several days. Over time they would draw closer and closer until they had built a bond of trust. Then they would have tamed one another.

This is, of course, what we do with our friends and our spouses. Regrettably, we quite often forget the rest of the story.

The little prince and the fox proceed to follow the taming process and at the end of it the fox is overjoyed. When the time of departure of the little prince arrives, the fox says “I shall cry.” The little prince laments that the taming has done the fox no good. But the fox responds, “It has done me good.” And then he refers to the color of the wheat fields (which are the color of the little prince’s hair) that will always remind him of the little prince and the joy he has brought him.

He suggest that he go and look at the rose garden again and see if any of them are like HIS rose.The little prince does so, agrees that the roses are nothing like his rose and then returns to say goodbye to the fox.

It was then that the fox told him his secret: “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” “It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.” “You become responsible , forever, for what you have tamed. You are responsible for your rose…”

Piece produced by artist, Riley Rossmo in close proximity to me. Amazingly skilled.

Thank you, Elaine!

Gorilla House LIVE ART: October 10, 2012

Themes for the night…

1. Cowgirl
2. Eleven
3. Liquidated Damages

First snow of the season and for the sake of ‘the battle’, I made the drive downtown, feeling drained and out-of-sorts.  Beforehand and after my off-leash walk in the cold grey landscape I blasted out to the universe, a blog post about conversations. I was downhearted about technology and how it supposedly makes our lives more simple, but winds up in so many ways, deficient.  Nothing is better than a conversation face-to-face because with electronic conversations come misunderstandings.  Hmmm…I think I brought a ‘grey’ spirit into the Gorilla House with me…at least initially…but making my four trips back and forth from the van with art supplies…I had a chance to have a conversation with myself.  Self: Buck up there chump!  This evening is going to turn everything around!

And it did!  First of all, I met some new folk and got to know some ‘old’ folk better.  I sooo enjoyed my conversations and the affirmations back and forth.  Finally, I spent a wee visit in Desere’s studio space.  I got to see the bizarre white horse in the basement.  I saw other artists get started and HOW they get started.  I didn’t enter into the gyre until about twenty minutes had passed.  I love love loved my time wandering…putzing…talking about metaphors and liquidating damages…and all other topics to do with life and art.  Joy!

I’m not going to share the full analysis of my interpretation of the topics and while I find the painting looks a tad illustrative, I had fun painting on a vertical format and exploring the forms.  Calamity Jane is in the one small bit of collage attached to this piece, one of the few times she wore a dress.  Image here.  She was the only image on my large panel for quite some time…I continued to wander.

Photo Credit: Terry Storey

And then the Baobab came to be and a context I relate with so well…The Little Prince par Antoine de Saint-Exupery….these specific words, borrowed from Chapter 5 of The Little Prince.

“…But he (he being the Little Prince) made a wise comment:

“Before they grow so big, the baobabs start out by being little.”

“That is strictly correct,” I said. “But why do you want the sheep to eat the little baobabs?”

He answered me at once, “Oh, come, come!”, as if he were speaking of something that was self-evident. And I was obliged to make a great mental effort to solve this problem, without any assistance.

Indeed, as I learned, there were on the planet where the little prince lived–as on all planets–good plants and bad plants. In consequence, there were good seeds from good plants, and bad seeds from bad plants. But seeds are invisible. They sleep deep in the heart of the earth’s darkness, until some one among them is seized with the desire to awaken. Then this little seed will stretch itself and begin–timidly at first–to push a charming little sprig inoffensively upward toward the sun. If it is only a sprout of radish or the sprig of a rose-bush, one would let it grow wherever it might wish. But when it is a bad plant, one must destroy it as soon as possible, the very first instant that one recognizes it.

Now there were some terrible seeds on the planet that was the home of the little prince; and these were the seeds of the baobab. The soil of that planet was infested with them. A baobab is something you will never, never be able to get rid of if you attend to it too late. It spreads over the entire planet. It bores clear through it with its roots. And if the planet is too small, and the baobabs are too many, they split it in pieces . . .

“It is a question of discipline,” the little prince said to me later on. “When you’ve finished your own toilet in the morning, then it is time to attend to the toilet of your planet, just so, with the greatest care. You must see to it that you pull up regularly all the baobabs, at the very first moment when they can be distinguished from the rosebushes which they resemble so closely in their earliest youth. It is very tedious work,” the little prince added, “but very easy.”

And one day he said to me: “You ought to make a beautiful drawing, so that the children where you live can see exactly how all this is. That would be very useful to them if they were to travel some day. Sometimes,” he added, “there is no harm in putting off a piece of work until another day. But when it is a matter of baobabs, that always means a catastrophe. I knew a planet that was inhabited by a lazy man. He neglected three little bushes . . .”

So, as the little prince described it to me, I have made a drawing of that planet. I do not much like to take the tone of a moralist. But the danger of the baobabs is so little understood, and such considerable risks would be run by anyone who might get lost on an asteroid, that for once I am breaking through my reserve. “Children,” I say plainly, “watch out for the baobabs!”

My friends, like myself, have been skirting this danger for a long time, without ever knowing it; and so it is for them that I have worked so hard over this drawing. The lesson which I pass on by this means is worth all the trouble it has cost me.

Perhaps you will ask me, “Why are there no other drawings in this book as magnificent and impressive as this drawing of the baobabs?”

The reply is simple. I have tried. But with the others I have not been successful. When I made the drawing of the baobabs I was carried beyond myself by the inspiring force of urgent necessity.”

Here is my drawing…generously purchased by Angela!  And, I’m so excited about that!


How, all of a sudden, a photo means the world to you.

It’s been a marvelous gift.  I was given the chance to watch children move through all of their grades and then, after what seemed forever,  it was time for them to go…time for them to move on to high school.  They grew their wings and they learned independence.  As a teacher, I was especially connected with a sense of rhythm in the years.  The seasons were so fundamentally connected to the education of children.  It was magic, really. As much as the students, I anticipated the feeling of everything being new in the autumn.  Just as the leaves turned golden, I packed my new books and pens into my bag and headed into the new year.

I once heard someone say at a Convention or something, early on in my teaching career, (and the ‘someone’ was a particularly important expert in the most current approaches to teaching and learning at the time) that you must NEVER love your students.  From the very outset, I thought, “What rubbish!” and spent the rest of my career, proving that ‘take’ on things, wrong.

* an aside*  Similarly, as an artist, I was once told that you must NEVER paint a sky blue.  Those of you familiar with my landscape paintings will attest to the fact that I’m not one to hold fast to such ideas.  Perhaps it’s just my bold and stubborn nature.

But, I want to take a breath here and to follow through with my intention in writing this post this evening.  I wanted to write about and in some way, to Jessica.

If you have read Le Petit Prince par Antoine de Saint-Exupery, you will know how I feel about losing Jessica. I have loved her.  The pain of losing someone in this world, whether that be slowly through the pang of disease or suddenly…losing someone is devastating.  I can not possibly know what Jessica’s Mom, Dad and brother are feeling at this time.  I can only imagine.  But…I do claim these simple words from this book that I have always loved.

The little prince went away, to look again at the roses.

“You are not at all like my rose,” he said. “As yet you are nothing. No one has tamed you, and you have tamed no one. You are like my fox when I first knew him. He was only a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But I have made him my friend, and now he is unique in all the world.”

And the roses were very much embarassed.

“You are beautiful, but you are empty,” he went on. “One could not die for you. To be sure, an ordinary passerby would think that my rose looked just like you– the rose that belongs to me. But in herself alone she is more important than all the hundreds of you other roses: because it is she that I have watered; because it is she that I have put under the glass globe; because it is she that I have sheltered behind the screen; because it is for her that I have killed the caterpillars (except the two or three that we saved to become butterflies); because it is she that I have listened to, when she grumbled, or boasted, or even sometimes when she said nothing. Because she is my rose.

And he went back to meet the fox.

“Goodbye,” he said.

“Goodbye,” said the fox. “And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

“What is essential is invisible to the eye,” the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.

“It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.”

“It is the time I have wasted for my rose–” said the little prince, so that he would be sure to remember.

“Men have forgotten this truth,” said the fox. “But you must not forget it. You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed. You are responsible for your rose…”

“I am responsible for my rose,” the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.

I have been responsible for my students and that is why I can say that I have loved them.  Parents who lose their beautiful children have been responsible for them.  It is a cruel thing to suffer loss.  But again, I return to these words.

“Goodbye,” said the fox. “And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

I have for so many years, put my faith in God who has so generously loved me.  I know this to be true.  I claim this truth.  God will love Jessica beyond time….just as he has loved Jarrett Alley and Chris Barr and Frank L’Amarca and Peter Bielecki. and Shane Greenfield and so many other precious students of mine through and beyond time.  I hold tightly to his promise of everlasting love and compassion for those who come like children.

A former student of mine (a particularly artistic and beautiful lady) provided me with the photo posted above.  She took the photo with her phone…something she found in an album she had made.  She was unable to turn the photo and it is the size of a postage stamp, but the entire thing causes me to smile.

You see, Jessica was such a beautiful person that her image, however small, remains large in my mind.  She would pour into my classroom, ” Hi there!” and behind her, a string of friends who loved her always.  She made her feelings known…she was truly authentic and there were many times when she would stay after or come early just so that she could share the feeling of the day.  She didn’t hold back the punches and told me that she struggled with writing down ‘magic’ in her journal, but she said that she knew that she had lots of ‘magic’ in her life!  I will not forget the day she came back from high school and returned to my classroom to give me wishes and catch me up.

Jessica lived fully.  At pep rallies, I will never forget her energy and commitment to sport and her extreme love for running and digging and sharing basketball with other like-minded athletes.  Her family was a supportive, fun and positive unit and I will never forget their kindness and positive greetings.  Jessica was blessed in life!

I will hold onto this wee photograph forever.  I will always have you in my heart, Jessica.  Go with God now, and always be in Peace.