Friday, May 29, 2015

Howard Saper - Another Muzzled Civil Servant

Does prison hurt or help?  I'm part of the business that believes that what is done, should be helpful. - Howard Sapers

Today I am thanking God for CBC Radio the one publicly funded institution that hasn't been gagged by Steven Harper and his political cronies. Perhaps I should qualify that with a 'not yet'. I don't normally get off on a tangent about political matters directly, as primarily my blog posts involve some kind of creative perspective.

That said, I believe that the personal is political, and I feel the need to express my personal outrage in regards to the recent loss of Howard Saper who has been the long standing advocate, ombudsman and correctional investigator of Canada's prison system, especially in pursuing the investigation concerning federal corrections such as mental health and corrections, preventing deaths in custody, and the special needs of Aboriginal offenders, aging offenders and federally sentenced women.

I do take Howard Saper's departure personally, and as an artist I do feel an obligation to speak out. I have worked for many years and volunteered in correctional field, with troubles kids, young offenders and adults. I was also married to a First Nations man. I saw first handed, the unaddressed systemic problems, and the overwhelming warehousing in a primarily punitive, as opposed to a therapeutic system. Howard Sapher is spot on in his criticisms in the face of a government that does not care.

The fact that  Howard Saper is 'moving on' not by choice, in my opinion, but is just another example of the present government's heavy handed reactions, toward those who are considered threatening to Harper's iron fist control, and Harper's " tough on crime ", self-righteousness, and is only another attempt to muzzle watch dogs of truth and justice, in favour of whatever is expedient to his own big business, economic agenda, and to hell with people, the marginalized within our society, the honouring of First Nations Treatises,  and not to mention Canada's appalling, and grievous record for the lack of care and concern for the environment.

I can only conclude in saying, am a proud Canadian, ashamed of my government.

"The Outside Circle" by Patti LaBoucane-Benson, illustrated by Kelly Mellings, tells the story of Aboriginal gang life and the colonial trauma that underpins it. (Kelly Mellings ⓒ 2015 by Native Counselling Services of Alberta, House of Anansi)

Saturday, May 23, 2015

"When Beauty Falls In Our Hands" - Patrick Lane

I have been full of thoughts about the beauty and having so many hummingbirds visit in my yard this Spring is a joyful sight. I've also been thinking about Dante's Divine Comedy, and poetry. It might sound like a strange combination, but it all makes sense to me today, and this big hairy ball of thought is what prompted me to write this post. The beauty of synchronicity or whatever you call it, can be life changing, regardless if we experience it as being positive or negative.

I never read Dante's Divine Comedy, but recently via the CBC Radio program Ideas, the featured poet Dante reading parts of his epic poem with commentary from Dante scholars. It was interesting to listen to but it did not exactly inspire me to read Dante, but I am interested in the fact that the poem is about the journey toward God. I am also interested in learning more about the man. The epic poem is a little pretty heady for me and I can't necessarily say I want to read it.

On the other hand learning about this poet, Patrick Lane today, I am very enthusiastic about, because he shared a story that not only inspired me to read more of his poetry,  but I was very motivated to learn more about the man and the poet. I was immediately impressed upon hearing the story he shared about a rare butterfly that landed on his hand in the middle of the Winter that changed his life. Here is his beautiful story, about beauty.

"Back in early December of 1958, I was 19 years old, living with my wife and baby boy in a two-room apple picker’s shack a few miles down the road from here. I had a job driving dump truck for a two-bit outfit that was working on a short stretch of highway just down the hill from where this university was built so many years later. I remember leaving the shack and walking out to stand by the highway in the wind and snow. I stood there shivering in my canvas coat as I waited to be picked up by the grader operator in his rusted pickup truck. The sky was hard and grey. Its only gift that winter day was ice disguised as a fragile, bitter snow.

As I stood there in the false dawn, I looked up for a moment and as I did an iridescent blue butterfly the size of my palm fluttered down and rested on the sleeve of my coat just above my wrist. It was winter, it was cold and I knew the Okanagan Valley where I had lived most of my young life did not harbour huge, shiny blue butterflies, not even in summer. I remember stripping off my gloves and cupping the insect in my hands, lifting that exquisite creature to the warmth of my mouth in the hope I could save it from the cold. I breathed upon the butterfly with the helplessness we all have when we are faced with an impossible and inevitable death, be it a quail or crow, gopher, hawk, child or dog. I cupped that delicate butterfly in the hollow of my hands and ran back to the picker’s shack in the hope that somehow the warmth from the morning fire in the woodstove might save it, but when I reached the door and opened my hands, the butterfly died.

I do not know what strange Santa Anna, Squamish or Sirocco jet-stream wind blew that sapphire butterfly from far off Mexico, Congo or the Philippines to this valley. I only know the butterfly found its last moments in my hands. I have never forgotten it and know the encounter changed me. There are mornings in our lives when beauty falls into our hands and when that happens, we must do what we can to nurture and protect it. That we sometimes fail must never preclude our striving. The day the beautiful creature died in my hands, I looked up into the dome of the hard, cold sky and I swore to whatever great spirit resided there in the dark clouds that I would live my life to the full and, above all, I would treasure beauty. I swore, too, that I’d believe in honesty, faithfulness, love and truth. The words I spoke were the huge abstractions the young sometimes use, but I promised them to myself and, now, more than half a century later, I stand here in front of your young minds, your creative spirits, your beautiful lives, and I can tell you that I have tried.

I told myself that year and in the subsequent years in the sawmill crews and construction gangs I worked with that I would become a writer, a poet, a man who would create an imagined world out of the world I lived in, that I would witness my life and the lives of others with words. The years went by filled with the tragedies and losses that all our lives are filled with. My brother’s early death, my father’s murder, my divorce and the loss of my children did not change the promises I made. There were times I lived a dissolute, irresponsible and destructive life. There were times, too, when I was depressed and wretched, but I continued to believe in spite of my weaknesses and fears. I wandered the world and as I did I wrote of the lives that shared my times. And I wrote of this Okanagan Valley, its lakes and hills, its stones, cacti, cutthroat trout, magpies, rattlesnakes and, yes, its butterflies.
What I have told you is a story. It arose from my life for where else but from a life can a story come? What I promise each of you is that there will come a day or night, a morning or evening when something as rare and fine as a blue sapphire butterfly will fall into your hands from a cold sky, a fearful child will climb into your bed and cleave to you, a woman or man will weep, will laugh, will sleep with you in the sure belief that the one they abide with is governed by a good and honest love. No matter the degrees you have earned and the knowledge you have accumulated, remember to believe in yourselves, to believe in each other. In a world as fearful as our present one, I ask that you not be afraid. Today is merely an hour. Remember in the time ahead of you to hold out your hands so that beauty may fall safely into them and find a place – however briefly – to rest."

                                - Patrick Lane

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Art For A Change - Mark Vallen

Mark Vallen

Art for art sake is fine, but not nearly enough for me. But art for a change in the world, that's what really interests and impresses me. Art that is not obscure in meaning, directly speaks to the viewer this is art that interests me..

I can't remember when I first started following Mark Vallen's blog, Art For A Change, and don't recall how I even found out about it, but I know I was searching for artist's who's art reflected their own social conscience, eliciting change in the world for the better. He's had a very interesting life, and I greatly admire his talent, his intellect, and his heart. Mark Vallen's  own work is full of contemporary concerns, and his blog covers many contemporary social issues, detailed in his biography.

I admit I don't read every blog post that I subscribe to, unless there is something that really stands out. Today was one of those days where I saw in my blog list, May Day With Diego and Frida  about Mark's visit to the Detroit Institute of Arts exhibition of works by Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. It was a riveting post, and I love his review of the work. I confess I have always been very partial to Frida Kahlo's art as I admire her greatly as a person and an artist. That said I certainly appreciate Diego Rivera's powerful and poignant murals.

Monday, May 18, 2015

“The blues was bleeding the same blood as me.” - B. B. King

I listened to Saturday Night Blues on CBC with Holger Peterson May 16th 2015. Holger featured a wonderful interview he did with B.B. King in 2005, in the back of B.B.'s bus while he was touring Canada.

 Holger described B.B. King as always being a very personable, gracious and generous man. I wanted to share this great one on one conversation Holger had with The King of the Blues, where B.B. plays D.J.
 I think this interview gives real insight to the kind of man he was, as a legendary musician, and why he is so loved.

I so admire B.B. King's outlook on life. His love of learning, history, spirituality and having such a youthful heart and mind I think are some of the reasons he had such a full and remarkable well lived life, that set a real example to others. Age was never a barrier to him, and never held him back. He was still touring at 80 years of age and still flying an airplane at 70.

"The blues was like that problem child that you may have had in the family. You was a little bit ashamed to let anybody see him, but you loved him. You just didn't know how other people would take it."
                                                       - B.B. King

Friday, May 15, 2015

B.B. King - The Life of Riley

The Life of Riley
                                                     (September 16, 1925 – May 14, 2015)

I was saddened to learn of B.B. King's death today, and I thought about all the the years he'd been on this earth, his remarkable life, and great influence and contribution to the Blues and how long I've been listening to his music. I am so grateful my brother really got me interested in the Blues. He really loved B.B. and all that he represented; ideals like honesty, purity, unselfishness and love.

I've heard B.B. King described as being the King of Blues, a fine gentleman, full of grace. He always impressed me as a very humble man, and the truest of the truest Blues man, who was completely himself.

" We all have idols. Play like anyone you care about, but try to be yourself." 
                                                                                    - B.B. King

Rest In Peace B.B.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Why Make Art?

I remember sitting with one of my advisors at University and I had expressed experiencing a feeling of vapidity about making my art. I felt being an artist had no purpose, and was almost irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. I wanted to be certain my work was important, that it was going to add to the world, making it a better place. My advisor immediately understood what I was getting at, and completely empathized. We discussed this at length, and our exchange helped me simply to address my feelings openly. It helped to clarify things and to realize that most of us have moments like this, where we question our art in relation to having a higher purpose, and the reason for making art within the world.

Hearing this, some might say in response, well if you feel this way, why don't your find something that will give you a deeper sense of purpose. The fact is I rarely feel my art is purposeless, nor about being an artist. For that matter, I know I can't help being an artist, or living life creatively. I wouldn't have it any other way. Being an artist has become my vocation.

Evey artist reaches a point in their life when they feel this vapidity about their art and being an artist. Perhaps the reasons many artist do feel purposeless is related to the way we are valued of not valued in society. Art is not considered a necessity like doctors, lawyers, mechanics etc. Only when artists reach a certain elite level within the 'art world ' do they get recognition and are the given a status, or, after the have left this mortal coil. It is a sad state of affairs. Art and artists are absolutely necessary, and contribute greatly to the world in countless ways, personally, professionally and economically.

It may seem to some artists to be a rhetorical question, why make art, because we know very well the essential reasons we are artists. Often though, we are not really good at clarifying this. I think it is so important the as artists we know how convey this in a discourse, so we can change and even enlighten those would just don't understand art or artist's or why it is so vital to life.

Today I found a great blog post by Alyson Stanfield who has addressed this issue of an artist's purpose and the value of art.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

To Journal or Not to Journal?

Having so many journals, now numbering in the fourties, that I have been writing for over thirty years, I am faced ever now and then, with a question. What the heck am I going to do with these? For a long time I thought about compiling all of them into a book of sorts, not necessarily for others, but maybe. I did attempt to edit each one but the task was just too daunting, and frankly mostly painful to read, as much of the writing was day to day, stream of consciousness, mundane gobbledygook. However, keeping journals gives you a kind of immortality. I have no children to pass them onto, but who knows, perhaps the world might be interested one day! Laugh out loud!

At some point, hopefully sooner than later, I am going to maybe have some kind of ceremony, or perhaps just throw them out with the trash to unburden myself from years of all these thoughts on paper, collecting dust. I am not so sure what the point of hanging on to them would be. In spite of this, my emotional reaction is, the thought of getting rid of them, is rather like letting go of a big part of myself, kind of like a death. This is an extreme thought I know. These journals are simply my thoughts, not my life. I have internalized all of these journals and so disposing of them doesn't necessarily make them gone.

It has been documented, researched and studied, how journaling can enrich our lives, help us to make sense of our inner world, figure things out, and just provide a cheap form of therapy.

I am not sure if one can know just how journaling can change and improve your life, if one has never  practiced this daily discipline, over a lengthy period of time. I can attest, journaling certainly changed mine. I was able to fulfill many life long dreams, work through much grief and change, decrease my many character defects, and greatly improve upon my strengths and capacities.

I especially got really serious about journaling in 1994, after reading Julia Cameron's book The Artist Way, which was recommended to me by an Art Therapist. My journaling increased my creativity as an artist, and became an essential part of my creative process, and continues to be to this day.

Journaling lead me to start this blog in 2008, and to my interest in Tarot reading and my second blog, Apple River Tarot Readings. Journaling also resulted in fulfilling my life long dream of learning how to ride horses. At the age of 40 I enrolled in an Equestrian Coaching Preparation program for almost two years, living on a working horse farm.  Sixteen years later I returned to University to finish my Bachelor of Fine Arts at the age of 56, graduating in 2012. I definitely attribute both these accomplishments to regular journaling.

I understand, not every one has an interest in writing, and I think this is probably what determines why an individual would or would not keep a journal. However many well known successful individuals, writers, artists, musicians, poets and presidents through out history kept journals. Journaling dates back to the 10th century.

As a young girl like many others girls my age, I kept a dairy. You know the ones, with flowers on the cover, and the little key, to ensure no prying eyes would ever read your inner most thoughts about the boy you had a big crush on, or how you'd written swear words about your stupid brother etc. My interest in writing started at a young age, and into my teens I would write poetry and essays, but it wasn't until I became a young adult, that I was even more drawn to writing, and in particular, journaling.

Blogging is certainly a great form of journaling, minus all the mundane goobledygook, and the naughty bits. But virtual online writing will never replace the hard copy, with a putting a good writing pen to paper, into a beautiful new journal. I get excited just thinking about it! I hope I will never stop journaling!

Here is a list of how journaling can help you, and some links to explore further, the benefits of keeping a regular daily journal.