Solitude: A Singular Life in a Crowded World by Michael Harris

I’m struggling with writing lately…it’s been so long since I’ve posted to my blog and yet so many amazing experiences have come and gone.  Something that is keeping me from the comfort of writing is that the past six months or so I have had a number of ‘floaters’ appear in my vision; first the left eye, then the right, and now the little squiggles have moved in my left.  It’s as though my brain is constantly having to edit out these obstructions to my vision and looking at a screen just makes it worse.  A symptom of aging, the eye specialists have assured me that, as yet, the retinas are not involved.  As a visual person, this has been disconcerting and I suppose I could write an entire piece about that, alone, but I’m here to write about Solitude.

I met Michael Harris at Wordfest.  The particular session I attended impacted me so much that I ended up purchasing books from each of the four authors and am happy to say that Christmas vacation was the perfect time to curl up and read them all, as well as others from my book shelf.  I had a very intense reading period through the holiday and I spent most of that time alone, eating a little too much chocolate.

I found the book, Solitude: A Singular Life in a Crowded World, compelling.   If you troll the internet, you will see that reviews are either very positive OR are insistent that this is a book written for ‘old people’.  So mayhaps ONLY BOOMERS will like this book.  I disagree!  I think some very discerning and weary millennials are suffering the backlash of ‘real’ disconnection.

I am one of the ‘old people’ who, in retrospect, feel concern for the gradual erosion of our time alone, our sense of creativity and playfulness, our disassociation with ‘uncomfortable-ness’ and our loss of ‘written’ language’ and mark-making.  The past few years, I have become a part of a very odd little subset of humanity…people who watch birds…people who photograph birds…and in my encounters with them, I see a particular kind of desperation to connect with the innate need for genuine solitude and as a result, genuine connection.

Solitude (shortening the title for a matter of expediency) was a book that suited my constantly-inquiring mind and opened up some revelation about the current state of the human family inhabiting this earth.  From what I can see, in my very small sampling of that earth, the author is right on!  This was one of the most invigorating reads that I’ve enjoyed in a long time…well, since reading Kyo Maclear’s  Birds, Art Life and that wasn’t too long ago.

For the first many pages/chapters…I read, turning pages, while curled under a blanket on the red couch.  But it wasn’t long and I pulled out a highlighter.  My review will take the shape of the posting of some of the views that align with mine.  Here are some of my highlighted bits…please, don’t let these bits keep you from reading the entire book!

Do I get a thumbs up for this? (laughing, as I type)

Having driven the 401 so many times, all by myself, with Max, the chapter where Michael Harris explored our reliance on Google Maps and a GPS really spoke to me.  I’m ‘that lady’, out there, with paper maps and slipping in and out of small towns along the way.  I’ve been lost and I’ve gotten off the highway, using the wrong exit.  Those experiences created some initial panic at times but, in the end, I found my way.  I met new people.  I saw surprising things.

These past years, since retirement, I’ve been circling a pond…I’ve been exploring my city…I’ve been traveling Canada by road.  I’ve been traveling inward and seeing magnificent worlds.  It is a different sort of travel…not better or worse than international travel.  The only thing about my sort of travel is that people don’t ask about it.  There is no sort of admiration or public support for my kind of travel.  While one person may see a pyramid, I might be seeing this. The same wonder is to be had…the same awe.

Reading!!  When a person shares something on a social media site, how many people ‘really’ read it, from beginning to end?  I agree with the following insight.If you have not yet read Rebecca Solnit’s A History of Walking…please do.  She is another one of my favourite authors, currently.
Ah….the lost act of letter-writing!  While my Christmas cards have yet to be written, I do try to write letters with intent and it always feels wonderful to put things in the post box. I’ve been thinking a lot about my grandson and solitude.  It’s natural when you’re a Gramma for the first time.

I really treasure the ideas captured in this book.  I hope that my readers will enjoy it as much.

In the meantime, I will continue to nurture and enjoy my solitude.  It has left me, recently, being honest about not enjoying large group events where I must mingle.  It helps me admit my enjoyment of being alone and apart, as well as helps me understand why I enjoy small group visits so much.

 

Coming Home

Taking to Canada’s highways is just one of those things I love to do.  Nothing is better than a road trip!  While I didn’t snap a lot of photographs on my journey home, after eight weeks away, I did feel very emotional and in awe of Canada’s landscape and its people.  I thought as a wrap up to my blogging about my experience this past summer, I might dig into my night time notations and see if there are some moments worthy of mention.

Leaving Belleville, I took my ‘balcony shot’.  Let me go and see if I can find it.  There you go. I’ve taken one of these as a ritual when leaving Parkwood Estates every time I’ve made the drive.  (and there have been more than a few drives) Typically, five minutes away, I start crying my head off.

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I had a small container on the passenger seat next to me, filled with Dad’s hermit cookies, a recipe that was given him by my sister-in-law, Ann Marie.  The highway 401, heading for Toronto, is a rush of a place to begin a morning, but with the early start, things seemed to really move to Whitby, where I pulled off, refreshed my coffee and gave Max his first break. (And, no!  I am not going to go into such detail as I continue.)

The point in all of this is that the first leg of the journey is the toughest part of driving home, because I feel like I’m leaving family behind and it is time to turn west.  I am also somewhat on edge through Orillia (because I take hwy 12 to hook up with the 400),  concerned that I make all of the correct huckle buckles when I arrive at the Midland sign.  Once I’m on the 400, I just motor it to bypass Sudbury (my birth place) and beyond.

Driving in September meant there were fewer vacationers on the road, a few red canoes on top of cars, but not what summer brings.  I was sad that driving cottage country meant witnessing a bear cub, struck by a vehicle.  The road kill scene always breaks my heart, as does traveling behind transport trucks moving pigs and cattle in what I feel are inhumane practices.  I pledged to myself that this trip was going to be the start of different eating practices and that I wanted to become a more evolved person in regards to what I ingest.  This is not something I take lightly anymore.

However (all that eating-consciously discussion aside)…I DID stop to have fries and gravy, just because I knew it would be my last chip truck, a regular thing in this part of Ontario.  Outside Parry Sound, I noticed a remarkable memorial.  There are so many marks of humankind along the highways of Canada; many heaps of rock along the shield, in the spirit of the Inukshuk, and many memorials.  I scratched a note in my notebook…

Once home, I looked up the circumstance connected to the beautiful drum kit sculpture.  It was placed as a memorial to Cole Howard, a young man, along with three other teens, who lost his life in 2012 in a head on collision.

A Family Photo that appeared in The Star By ZOE MCKNIGHT Staff Reporter Tues., June 17, 2014

A Family Photo that appeared in The Star By ZOE MCKNIGHT Staff Reporter
Tues., June 17, 2014

A road trip as extensive as the one I take on a fairly regular basis reveals so much about the heart of Canada.  I have thought about Cole’s family as a result of their memorializing this event in this way.  The sculpture was built by retired welder and artist, Laval Bouchard.

It was only a very short while after passing a sign for Algoma Territory that the weather changed.  Dark clouds surrounded me, but I pushed on, thinking that I’d still like to make it to Iron Bridge for the night.  I was pushing nine hours driving, but it would make the drive in to Thunder Bay do-able the next day.  Max was agitated in the back.  I told him everything was going to be okay.  I remembered Dad’s words.  Weather is moving east.  When you’re traveling west, drive like the wind and you’ll go through it.  When you’re going east, hold off for a few hours and the weather will speed ahead of you.  The lightening was straight ahead of me and over my right shoulder.  Everything boomed.  Water poured in sheets across the windshield.  On the highway, some pulled over.  Transports pounded me with flying ground water.  I was being pummeled, but persisted.  Sure enough, the weather thinned and like the great monster, it hurled its way east.  Ahead, I saw the sun behind the clouds and the rain became dancing sparkles as my wipers continued to thud.

We made the Red Top Motor Inn in Iron Bridge...and happily, I chatted with the owner…more about art, this time.  He is a collector of Norval Morriseau and is a local enthusiast for the visual arts. His partner, in the back kitchen, prepared me a dinner of Huron White Fish, tiny carrots, green beans, braised roasted potatoes.  I went back to my comfie room, after throwing the whizzo for Max countless times in the beautiful yard, and poured myself a nice tall glass of red.

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The next day was a day of magic on the road…something about the rain of the day before and the sunshine the next morning.  I set off early toward Bruce Mines, tickled by the romance of the Mennonite horse drawn buggies, straw hats, little girls in black bonnets.  There was a 3/4 moon and a single vapour trail straight ahead, on a perfectly blue sky.  The soft light hit the side of a red barn in just a particular way and a soft haze danced on the fields, now ripe and full.  Red maples were set into dappled forests of olive green and yellow.  Autumn was evident around the lakes, although this would be my only encounter with the season on this drive, while I thought that I had left it late enough that I would enjoy that particular Ontario colour.

I delighted in the drama of Lake Superior on Day II  At 10 in the morning, I pulled over to spend time at the water’s edge.  Something about Lake Superior gives me confidence and causes me to bask in a sense of celebration.

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Beyond Superior, both east and west, the roads reveal the economic times to the driver…small towns are lined with abandoned buildings; eateries, motels and gas stations; and there is evidence of graffiti everywhere.  Broken windows are like giant dark eyes, that lead to past narratives and histories of the people who have now moved on.  Nailed boards cover over a former life.  I drove past Orphan Lake, Dad Lake, Mom Lake, Katherine Lake.  I sighted two eagles.

I stopped at Old Woman Bay, where a man with a very thick accent, wanted me to take his photograph, not in front of the wild and dramatic water, but in front of his sports car in the parking lot.  I fixed a lunch of Italian meats and cheeses.  A honey-mooning couple offered to take my photograph.  A wonderful offer as I am rarely a part of my archives.

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More exploring at Rossport, knowing that the beautiful and abundant experience of being at the water’s edge would be over at Thunder Bay.  The third day is always the most difficult for me, given the drive in land through the most isolated and creepy landscape I know.

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People were all off the highway.  I had very little traffic sharing the road with me.  I let the truckers chug past me on big hills.  I just wanted to take in the scenery.  Awe-inspiring. Miles later, we hit Thunder Bay and not a single room was available in a ‘cheap’ hotel!  More than once, I’ve thought how much I’d like to be driving my own little customized pull over ‘bus’/camper.  So many picturesque places along the way. But, I didn’t have a customized camper.  And, I needed to get off the road.  It had been another epic day by the time I rolled in and so I took a room in the only posh hotel in close proximity to the Trans Canada highway and I headed for the shower.

Max liked this place.  He knows class when he sees it.  I poured myself a glass of wine.

Day III, my least favourite day, but I aimed to enjoy it…to relax into it…to really look.  The encounter in Upsala with this roadside attraction pretty much says it all…

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Google Maps

Google Maps

A train thump thump thumped along a track, for it seems like, miles.  I listened to country music.  At first, the trees were dense…then ferns, gold and sepia, lined the edges of the road as the marshlands encroached closer and closer to the highway.  More Moose Crossing signs.  Cars disappeared.  I felt alone out there, so I hit cruise.  (my father would be proud) I remembered, as I do every time I drive through English River, the movie, Deliverance.  Think of the Squeal Like a Pig scene…or the Red Neck Scene…the disturbing sense of these envelop me every time i drive this road.  At Ignace, I pulled into the Scenic Viewpoint.  I had never done this before.  I drove for quite some time and came to a circle of dirt road, a bobcat, a port-a-potty and if I were to hike into the dark woods, I might be able to see a bit of the valley that the highway sign professes, is an awesome view.  I returned to the car and headed back to the highway.  Max was unnerved by the silence of the viewpoint.

I entered Ignace and pulled in for a coffee and maybe a tart.  I learned quickly that the home made tarts were back in Upsala.  I was disappointed.  A burly man in a plaid jacket moved a fridge.  The grapefruit juice I pulled from the other one, duct taped handle, was room temperature.  At the counter, paying, the middle aged woman entered into the dance of conversation.  Lonely, likely, she pulled out her phone and we proceeded to goo goo over the photos of her chocolate lab…this went on for quite some time.  The man, red faced, continued to struggle with the fridge.  The conversation ended as another customer drove over the bell hose stretched across the wet dirt at the pump.  I was relieved to get back into the car.

There were miles of straight road.  There, finally, Savanne Portage and a huge sign for the Time Zone Change.

Early fur traders used a portage at Savanne Portage to connect east to Lac du Mielieu (near Raith) to the Kaministkwia River to complete a fur trading route between Lake of the Woods and Lake Superior, at Thunder Bay. Raith marks another Continental Divide, with points to the north and west flowing into Hudson’s Bay, and points to the southeast flowing to the Great Lakes and the Atlantic.

A painted bear and moose sign dominated the side of the road, at a point, Hand crafted, it was more evidence of the remote feeling that echoes through my day.  All water, from there, flows to the Arctic Ocean.

A bloated moose in the ditch was being  pecked at by crows and buzzards.  I turned to CBC radio after miles of listening to Spotify selections.  Static, but I was absorbed by interviews and such.  Jane Jacobs spoke about gentrification.  Emily and Ogden played.

Kenora meant a picnic and a walk about.  I always take the drive through the city.  I think about Jim and Sue when I make Kenora.  I feel closer to home.  It happens suddenly.  More up and down, the landscape edges water and feels more open, in a less mysterious way than the landscape I have left behind me.  We walked under the bridge to the big muskie.  The tourists were gone.

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On the outskirts of Kenora, I felt about trees, the way I’ve felt about cattle…their heads stretching to see out the back door of transport trucks,  eyes wide, seeming to be asking…asking me.  The trees, fallen, seem to be asking…asking me.  It goes on for a couple of miles.

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Making Winnipeg, the ring road seemed forever.  I thought to call up Angie and Rylan, but I was drained.  I flopped in the Motor Inn and felt comfortable, having stayed here on route to the east.

I knew already that I would not go north to Neepawa again, as much as I wanted to visit Margaret Laurence’s home town.  Two extra hours of driving north and then back down seemed excessive, given my state at the time.

Max seemed accepting all the way along…he also flopped every time we stopped.  Happy to receive his walks every hour and a half, he didn’t look for a lot of exercise in the evening.  He took a pose…and this was it!

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We would make Moose Jaw the next day.  The weather was shifting again, becoming grey as we made our way west.  Many hawks, a truly unreasonable number of hawks, were seen in a field just west of Regina.  I wondered if they were mousing, given that the crops had come in and just stubble remained.  I’ve never seen such a spectacle.  In golden fields, horses stood neck to neck, all facing west.  I think that we can take our cues from animals.  Weather was coming.

By Moose Jaw, it was raining.  Max waited patiently while I stepped into the CHAB radio station to see if there were any archives kept.  My father used to sing live on radio with his sisters.  That would have been the early 1940s.  The receptionist explained that it would be a nightmare to keep historical archives.  This was a disappointment to me, a chronic archivist.  Who are the keepers of our histories?  I guess I thought that radio stations, newspapers and such would be a safe bet, in terms of our contemporary narratives.

Driving home the next day, was a celebration-drive.  I felt to be floating as the sky opened up so beautifully.  I love Saskatchewan and Alberta skies.  I had left home for home.  My father and sister and brother are HOME, my children here in Calgary are HOME.  Canada is HOME.  I know her well and want to know her better.  I dream to drive north…to stop…and really take in what makes the north HOME.img_1805 img_1841 img_1850

Perching on the Edge of the Bay of Quinte

Thank you, Maureen, for lunch.  Sharing time with dear friends is such a gift.  You have a pretty spectacular view from your balcony and I love how you were able to bring so much of your gardens to your new residence with you!  Thank you for lunch and conversation.  A real blessing!

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Elements of a cozy home…things that grow.

Good friends…dear friends.

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Dad…IMG_0346

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Day 4 Thunder Bay to Iron Bridge

This is the drive on the northern Superior that I love the very most and brings up the most memories.  I recommend it for every one who wants to discover some of the ‘possibilities’ that Canada holds.  It was a brilliant blue day and a perfect one for enjoying the views.

At some point, in the middle of nowhere, one of the less-concerning warning lights came up on my dash as related to my key battery…this on a long weekend when absolutely nothing was going to be open and where for miles on end, I would be in secluded and wild country.  As a result (not, at this point, thinking about my option of the manual key stuck in the fob and hoping that the battery had no connection to the ignition at all…my Dodge manual was zero help in any of this), I didn’t stop at Rainbow Falls or Rossport…two of my favourite places, but I said, “To hell with it” and hung out at Neys after paying my entrance and Old Woman Bay.

Magic…this stretch of road is simply magic!  Drive it! The image below is posted from Google Maps…  Keep in mind that because there was not a single accommodation available in Sault Ste. Marie, I forged onward just past Elliott Lake and ended my day at Iron Bridge, a heavenly spot for sure!

T Bay to SooAfter picking up our continental breakfast…a banana…a boiled egg…a muffin and a travel mug full of coffee, Max and I were on our way.  I decided not to stop at the Terry Fox memorial this time (it was going to be a long day for driving), as has always been my tradition, but I found myself crying when I arrived at the marker on the highway that pointed out the spot where Terry’s run actually came to a halt.  Very powerful to think about that and so I drove for a while, just thinking about people in my life who have suffered cancer…are presently suffering cancer…and who have both lost and fought courageously, their battles with cancer.  Prayers were made.

This is the type of morning it was, looking out onto Lake Superior.

IMG_20160730_094619 IMG_0169 IMG_0167Speaking with bikers in Marathon on a former drive, I was told that this day’s bike ride was a more physical ride than going through the Rockies…lots of up and down and certainly the most amazing views, although I didn’t stop at a number of these scenic stops this time.  I like this blog post published by a motorcycle group.

I pulled in at Schreiber to see if there was a garage open for someone to check out the Journey, but it turns out that Terrace Bay was hosting a huge DragFest competition this long weekend and there was nothing but a pump available in town.  On I moved to Terrace Bay where the local mechanic was shifting around, getting things ready to go to the DragFest site.  What a lovely guy!  Chat with him sometime at Wayne’s Esso!  He gave me some time and some confidence that the warning light that was coming up was benign, not related to anything else and that I was safe to go.

This was a relief and so Max and I, on holiday Sunday, got out and wandered for a bit at Neys Provincial Park.  When my son was just a wee boy, I took him on a hike to a spot where I wanted to paint at Prisoner’s Cove.  While I painted a little board, he played around in the brush, on the rock, in the old wrecked boats and in the shallow pools of water.  Right in front of me, however, he dropped into Superior, holding onto a solid branch as he went.  The panel and palette got tossed to the side and I dragged him up out of the cold water.  We immediately headed back to the camp site.  Lake Superior is cold!!  I have saved the small panel painted at this location.

On the beaches of pink sand, one can regularly see the trains journeying the edges of the steep banks to the west…the Barclay Islands in plain view on clear days, out on the water.  This was a favourite location for Canada’s Group of Seven painters to work…in fact, this entire region of Algoma provided subjects for many landscape paintings, both well known and lesser known.  It was a great stop.

IMG_20160730_115850 IMG_20160730_115949 IMG_20160730_122615IMG_0172 IMG_0173 IMG_0182 IMG_0185Memories of the kids spending hours building driftwood huts and designs on this beach, come to the surface.  Happy memories of painting and exploring!

Good passing lanes through this highway, huge granite walls in earthy reds jutting up hundreds of feet as the driver crests each large hill to have a wall of blue water and sky open up to them.  A beautiful drive.

Another place I always stop on this route is Old Woman’s Bay…while Max and I have never seen this well populated, the heat had brought out a slew of swimmers, much to Max’s dismay.  He didn’t get to play stick in the water and wow, was it ever obvious that he remembered!  On leash, I let him, at the very least, get into the water enough to enjoy a big cool down and to drag some sand into the car.

IMG_0194 IMG_0195 IMG_0196 IMG_0193 I was a bit worried upon my arrival in Sault Ste. Marie that I didn’t have the energy to keep on to Sudbury, but after a search and many attempts to find a spot to sleep for the night, we had no choice but to try to make it another three hours on the road.  I cranked up the tunes and headed out onto the highway.  The land had flattened out now, contoured with rolling hills and treed areas.  I was happy to see a juvenile heron standing, alert, in a well-lit ditch and this made me feel as though everything was going to turn out and I cranked up the tunes.  Neil Young, Tracey Chapman, the Stones…I was pumped.

A short distance beyond the Elliott Lake turn off, I saw a few billboards that advertised lodging in smaller towns on the way to Sudbury.  Some miles on and I saw the Red Top from the highway.  The car ahead of me pulled in, and I followed, not far behind.  When I stepped into the registration office, the gentleman who spoke to me was also taking food out to customers in the restaurant adjoining.  OH!  The food looked so good.  When I asked about lodging for the night, he told me that he was down to his last two rooms and neither of them had television.  I explained that I was hungry and tired and I certainly didn’t need a television!  He gave me paper work and off he went to the diners.  A woman was busy slicing through a thick, beautifully frosted home made cake.

I looked at the art on the walls in the greeting area…looked carefully…really couldn’t believe it, but thought I was looking at six original pieces by Norval Morriseau.  When the gentleman returned to the counter I asked him if those were originals and he smiled, saying that he was a collector.  I was aghast.

He asked if I wanted dinner as the dining room was closed, but he could prepare me a meal for take out.  The room was 60.00, so I believed it would be a great evening for stuffed pork chop, potato pancakes, hot pickles and veg.  The tray was prepared with cloth napkin, real silverware and the works.  Once, I returned to the lovely room, I got Max out for a real run in their huge yard and then picked up my meal.  The wine was poured and the celebration began!

I thanked God for the Red Top and highly recommend it to anyone who has driven from 7 in the morning until 8…such a comfort.

IMG_20160730_203204 IMG_20160730_220700 IMG_20160730_220835The next day…home…so excited and so happy!

Reflecting

I’m sorting things out, in order to spend time with my father in the east.  The Christmas cards for 2015 are in the mail.  Doctors appointments, Max’s grooming, the vehicle checks and household chores are now being tackled.  The past week has meant a lot of beautiful indoor time with booming thunder storms every afternoon.  I feel like I’m on a retreat because the house is so quiet…just Max and me.  I can eat popcorn whenever I want.  In the evening, a glass of red wine.  Last night, I baked salmon in parchment paper…fresh lemon squeezed over the beautiful pink meat.  Every ritual seems lovely and intentional.

For the most part, it’s been productive and satisfying.

I’ve decided that my pond study will wrap up the morning of Mom’s birthday, July 27.  I’ve walked the circumference of the pond at Frank’s Flats every day since October 13,2015 with the intention of taking a single Instagram photograph of a single location, a bush that grows at the pond’s edge.  I have seen it through the seasons and watched how light changes everything.  I’ve developed rituals around these observations, recording, writing captions, creating mental sketches and noting the changes in the animals and vegetation as time passes.  I’ve much reference material now and in the autumn, I want to create a response to all of it.  I’ve had some faithful followers as, for most of the experiment up until July, I’ve documented on social media (Facebook) as well.

Bush October 9, 2015Bush February 16, 2016 1056 beauty, warmth, timeBush December 1 2015 1129 the water burps blue skies up above everyone's in loveBush Dec 25, 2015 Merry Christmas Beautiful light the hawk is perchd in the evergreen

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Yesterday, at the pond, I observed the only two Ruddy duck babes, alongside Mom.  The teen-aged Coots and Grebes are now taking diving lessons and doing so very successfully.  Mr. and Mrs. everything are swimming further and further from their youngsters, although the teens still cry out helplessly and give chase, not wanting to be separated from, at the very least, their source of food.  With the horrendous amount of rain recently, I fear that the Ruddy ducks’ nests have been drowned…the two babies that I observed, came to be only days before the first thunderstorms hit, so I’m guessing all of the other mothers were sitting at that time.  I’ll see.

I think that flying lessons are beginning…I notice that the adult Coots, while remaining on the water, are flapping hard and traveling on the surface.

While I stopped putting out seed at my feeders (as a way of settling down the vole and mouse populations), I got emotional when I realized that Mr. and Mrs. Sparrow, in the vent across from my kitchen window, were trying one more time to nest.  The children are crying ravenously with each entrance to the vent from Mr. or Mrs.  I just need to see this family have a successful season, after two former attempts.

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The crows are big raiders in this neighbourhood these days, as those adults also struggle to feed their demanding young.

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As I reflect upon the last while, I continue to feel gratitude…especially for the lessons of nature and of solitude.  I like slowing things down.  I’ve been particularly inspired by a poem by Al Purdy, titled Detail and so I will post it here, along side a few photographs that I snapped yesterday.  In 1981, when doctoral work was typed on typewriters…Elizabeth Jane Douglas wrote a thesis titled the Mechanics of Being Alive: Major Themes in Poetry and Prose of Al Purdy.  This absolutely impacts my past year’s ‘work’ and ‘reflection’.

Al Purdy Abstract

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all winter long
… the apples clung
in spite of hurricane winds
sometimes with caps of snow
little golden bells
·         ·         ·
For some reason I must remember
and think of the leafless tree
and its fermented fruit
one week late in January
when the wind blew down the sun
and earth shook like a cold room
no one could live in
with zero weather
soundless golden bells
alone in the storm

(Beyond Remembering 135-36)
Al Purdy The Season of Man
Al Purdy the season of man 2
And then, there are those of us who believe that beyond this, there is so much more.  But for now, I leave this reflection.  I have a border collie, eager to run in the green wet grass.
Prayers for Billy and his family and for little Taliyah Marsman and her mother and their family.

Ptarmigan Cirque

I’ve wanted to take my daughter and son-in-law up to the Cirque for a few years and it finally happened.  I also wanted to be with my hiking friend, Cathy, who has such a natural and beautiful connection with the mountains.  And gratefully, friend, Michael, could also join us.  So, we took our pot luck and headed up Longview direction.  A bit of a late start, we got on the trail just after the first explosion of hail in the parking lot.

The hike held some really fantastic moments.  I was in bliss at the beautiful showing of wild flowers.  Everything seemed more lush because of the moisture.  Forget-me-nots blooming, electric blue, next to yellow flowers, made me think of Mom.  Pink paintbrush, wild asters, Queen Anne lace…what a show!

The smell of the air…glorious!

The company…the people I was with…fun and patient and willing.

Views…heavenly.

Weather…dramatic…frightening at times, but contributed to a different experience of these towering mountains!  Thunder booms in a bowl of tall mountains are just somehow, different!

Apart from two Instagram shots, I didn’t archive any of this, but will post the collected photos here.

To begin…images from my first hike up Ptarmigan in 2010.

Ptarmigan Cirque 032Ptarmigan Cirque 030Ptarmigan Cirque 027Ptarmigan Cirque 024Ptarmigan Cirque 021Ptarmigan Cirque 019Ptarmigan Cirque 015Ptarmigan Cirque KathPtarmigan Cirque 009Ptarmigan Cirque 004

Yesterday’s Archives, beginning with our drive to Longview.  Canola field…candy purchase at the corner gas station in Black Diamond…the chat that goes on between friends, heading for the mountains.  Michael Collett…the artist snapping the shot.

Ptarmigan Cirque Michael Collett 2016

Also, Michael’s photograph…an opening view from the trees…stops and starts of rain by this point.

Ptarmigan Cirque Michael Collett 2 2016

My two little Instagram shots…Cathy ahead of me on the shale traverse.

Ptarmigan Cirque Kath Instagram 2 2016

The meadow…rich green always awes me.

Ptarmigan Cirque Kath Instagram 2016

Cathy’s phone…she captures…or attempts to capture the flowers in the meadows.  We both agreed we have never seen them like this.  Spectacle!

Ptarmigan Cirque Cath 2Ptarmigan Cirque Cath 3

As per usual, I am the least attractive woman at the trail!  Yesterday, wearing a Pitch-In bag.  lol

Ptarmigan Cirque Cath 4

This photograph speaks for itself.  We’re in mountain bliss at this point.Ptarmigan Cirque Cath 7Ptarmigan Cirque Cath 6

My friend…

Ptarmigan Cirque Cath 11

But, what of the others?  Here are Doug’s photos…Michael seems to not be represented well in this set of photographs.  He is an intense explorer…likely observing light and colour!

Ptarmigan Doug 4Ptarmigan Doug 3Ptarmigan Doug 2Ptarmigan Doug 1

I love the artistry in Doug’s photos…the image below, I guess, shows scale.  lol Erin and Michael coming down from a wee jaunt they did on a higher trail.

Ptarmigan Doug 5

This one shows the glory of it all.Doug's Artistry

Proud of my son-in-law, Douglas…a great way to celebrate Canada Day weekend!

Ptarmigan Doug solo

Awe!  There’s Mike!Doug's Ptarmigan Mike

We made it to the parking lot…a tad wet, but very satisfied!

Ptarmigan we made it

And then…the tailgate party.

Ptarmigan doug 6

And the drive home…no less magical!  We stopped at that canola field.  The drama of the evening’s sky evolved as we headed toward the city.  This is Michael’s photograph.

Ptarmigan Cirque Michael Collett 3 2016

I’m a single woman in the world.  If I think too much about it, I can get sad about that…the fact that I don’t have a life partner, helping me reach the things high in my cupboards or rubbing my back when I get the pukes.  Truth is, I realize how grateful I am for my children, my son-in-law, his family, my family near and far and my dear friends who are always there with their thoughts, ideas, tremendous support.  I don’t know what I’d be without them!  Thank you.

 

Returning to Belleville

I’m getting ready to return to Belleville and as I do, I am not only thrilled about seeing my father and spending ‘real’ time with him again, but I look forward to visiting Belleville.  Belleville has ended up being a remarkable place, offering experiences that I would not enjoy in any other place across Canada.  I like the arts community.  I am in love with the history and the architecture.  I’ve yet to find any places with live music.  That’s a goal this year.  I’ve made friends in Belleville…not many my age…but people who are rich with stories of love and loss and youthful remembering.

Belleville evening July 21 018

Cool Breeze on a Very Humid Evening!

Writers come out of Belleville or nearby…for example, on the edge of Roblin Lake.

Dad and I attended an event at Al Purdy’s A Frame last visit…I will return for a visit to the museum and the A Frame again this summer, that’s for sure.

 

 

I will return to Susanna Moodie’s home and look for the same warmth and mystery that I remember experiencing at my last visit.  I will visit the memorial to her life that has been erected, in part, because of my explorations and non-relenting communications with the city.  Most currently published, is a graphic novel Susanna Moodie: Roughing It in the Bush by Carol Shields and Patrick Crowe, illustrated by Selena Goulding.

moodie

My mother will not be there.  But roses will be blooming or will have bloomed in Belleville.

Belleville Morning July 20 013

I will share Power and Politics with my Dad and we will sip red wine that has been ‘cooking’ at Dave’s.

I am looking forward to getting out on the high way.  I’ll be listening to myself.

Summer 2009 1687

 

 

 

 

More of Mark!

I guess I’ve published a few posts, now, about  Mark Vazquez-Mackay.

Here

and

Here

and

Here

Gee, I must be a fan!  And…I am!

Last Friday night, Mark exhibited his travel sketches at the Rumble House.  I hope that my Calgary readers took the opportunity to enjoy this show and the narratives and the hospitality.  It was a wonderful thing!  While I won’t write a lot here, I will post my documentation of the exhibit.

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The next three photographs are posted, with permission by the photographer, Rich Theroux, on the trade that I will show up for figure drawing on Thursday night. :0)

Mark V's show 4Mark V's show3Mark V's show

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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.

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Gorilla House LIVE ART: April 17, 2013

Bruce demonstrated how to do an image transfer some months back and my cousin, Margy, has been using these techniques successfully out in the studio for several of her amazing collage pieces. Last night,  I really wanted to deal with the Trans Canada Highway in some subtle way.  Since coming home from Ontario, I’ve been thinking about the extent of the highway that has become so familiar to me.  An asphalt thread, it is all that separates me from these important family members.  I decided, before even driving to the Gorilla House, to adhere my mirrored image of the map onto my board…that, along with the colour test sheet that popped out at the beginning of my print job.

One of the concepts of the night was Cruelty and Beauty.  I was thinking about the painful experience of separation and the cruel reality of physical distance (This might be an emotional distance in the case of not being able to reach into the heart of someone you love.  It might be the seeming impossibility of attaining a career goal.) ; on the flip side, the awesome experience of knowing love for those who are not physically present…how beautiful is that love…how powerful.

Ravens are dealt with in art works right across Canada.   They are icons of a changing culture across regions.  I was introduced to Prince Edward Island artist, Karen Gallant, on my ancestral search in North Rustico two summers ago.  The raven appears both as a central subject and as a supporting detail in much of her work.

Artist: Karen Gallant Prince Edward Island

Artist: Karen Gallant Prince Edward Island

Amy Switzer, North Bay, Ontario artist, exhibits with my grade nine art teacher, David Carlin and masterfully creates mixed media sculpture, often with the raven and other birds as her subjects.

Amy Switzer: Untitled (Standing Bird 3), 2008, ceramic, steel and graphite, 14 x 6 x 18 inches

Amy Switzer: Untitled (Standing Bird 3), 2008, ceramic, steel and graphite, 14 x 6 x 18 inches

installboothAnd while I am whizzing across Canada, it’s imperative that I represent an image from the west coast, known for the historical reference of the raven used in First Nations masks, totems and art for generations.

Traditional and so absolutely beautiful…

“An elegant hand-carved and painted bass wood West Coast Native Canadian “raven rattle” by Gerry Dudoward, a Native Canadian artist known for his West-Coast style carvings. The body, painted in greed,  red, white, and black, is carved in the shape of a wingless raven, with West Coast geometric motifs painted along the body, with a small carved man sitting backwards on the raven’s back.
1.6″ x 1.4″ — 4 x 3.5 cm” SIC

Raven Rattle by GERRY DUDOWARD

Raven Rattle by GERRY DUDOWARD

Emily Carr’s observations of the lush coast and her observation of totems had a profound impact on the conversation about Canadian art and Appropriation.  “Canadian Expressionist Painter, 1871-1945 Canadian painter and writer. She studied art from 1891 to 1894 at the California School of Design in San Francisco. She lived in England from 1899 to 1904, studying at the Westminster School of Art in 1899, and settled in Vancouver on her return. Her stay in Paris in 1910-11, during which she had a painting shown at the Salon d’Automne in 1911, proved far more influential on her art, familiarizing her with Impressionism, with Post-Impressionism and with Fauvism.”

Big Raven 1931 Oil on canvas 87.3×114.4cm Vancouver Art Gallery

Emily Carr

Emily Carr

Here, W. Allan Hancock’s wildlife paintings represent the contemporary approach to ooooober realism.

Ravens of Klemtu by W. Allan Hancock

Ravens of Klemtu by W. Allan Hancock

This is my own two-hour painting resulting from last nights Art Battle. I am grateful to Emily, Grace and Alex for purchasing the piece at auction and to all my friends for their warm welcome home.

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Emily, Alex and Grace

Emily, Alex and Grace