Sunday, June 19, 2016

Eric Roche - With These Hands

I'm not an insomniac but I do listen to late night radio, RTÉ Radio 1, Ireland  in particular I always really enjoy because of the story telling that the Irish are so good at.

Last night I learned about Eric Roche. His brother Bryan was featured in this documentary who told his older brother Eric's story, entitled With These Hands his life as a musician, and mostly it was a touching tribute and testament to the deep love between brothers. It is also the beautiful story of learning how to live and how to die. I identified so much with Eric's younger brother Bryan and what he shared about his big brother Eric because I also lost my big brother, who taught me so much about life.

Today I listened to some Eric Roche's youtube videos and was blown away by his talent and interpretations of so many songs. If you haven't heard of him or his music, check him out. The guy was a beautiful soul and  freakin' amazing virtuoso talent!


Saturday, June 18, 2016

I'm Curious About Alberto Manquel

I am far from being an academic and scholar or even an avid reader, though I do make an effort to read especially philosophical or psychological books and books about creativity. I love life long learning.

Alberto Manquel is all these things, those he sees himself as a reader. I have never read any of his books and never even heard his name until yesterday on my favourite program CBC Ideas. Last night's show was about the listeners and the episodes that they most loved, and why.

What sparked my interest was a clip froman episode that featured Alberto Manguel. What was said about language being a form of love, and how stories is the language that defines "what we are", affirms "that we are" and how this is about our mutual perception, really struck me. I had to find out more about this dude Alberto Manquel.

There was mention of his new book creativity, called Creativity. From what I've learned, this book it's more about Alberto Manguels' curiosity about curiosity. I am of the opinion the creativity is curiosity, about asking questions and discovery. It greatly saddens me to see an educational system that is generally lacking in creativity, curiosity and questions, the opposite of what it should be.

As Einstein once said,  " He had no special talent beyond being passionately curious, we can say that there is no other avenue to cultivating creative work aside from impassioned curiosity. "

Alberto Manquel says " Schools and colleges have become training camps for skilled labour instead of forums for questioning and discussion. "

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Shadow and The Scapegoat

Like most people listening to the news coming out of Orlando the past few days, I have been deeply saddened and disturbed to hear once again this kind of rampage of violence perpetrated against innocents. This seems to be the present the way of the world.
Words fail to describe my feelings and to try to determine the reasons I believe are a combination of complex issues, so difficult to pin point and understand.

I think Carl Jung and René Girard have given on of the best explanations of the human condition contributing to the violent events that have happened and continue to happen in our very questionable, so called, civilized society.

 Carl Jung's perspective regarding the shadow that exists within all of us, and René Girard's description of the scapegoat make the most sense to me, but these are not to be seen as a fait accompli and a resignation from doing all that we can do to address hatred, and to actively speak out and advocate against the abuse of power and control. We must denounce those who want to suppress social justice and who instead promote hatred.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Roy Henry Vickers - "The Medicine of the Healer..."

B.C. artist Roy Henry Vickers (Robert “Lucky" Budd)

I've been doing a lot of thinking about First Nations spiritual philosophy lately, and on Thursday it was timely to hear an interview with an artist I was unfamiliar with. Roy Henry Vickers is First Nations and has a very insightful and personal vision into the world of addiction and recovery and how his art helps him to tell stories that heal.
" The medicine of the healer is stories."

 Oh Great Spirit whose voice I hear in the wind
Whose breathe gives life to the world
Hear me
I come to you as one of many children´s
I´m small and weak, I need your strength and your wisdom
May I walk in beauty
May my eyes ever be hold the red and purple sunset
Make my hands respect the things that you have made
And my ears sharp to hear your voice
Make me wise, so there I may know the teachings you have for your children´s
The lessons you have hidden in every leaf and rock
MAKE ME STRONG , not to be superior to my brothers and sisters
But to fight my greatest enemy My self
Make ever ready to come to you with straight eyes
So when life is as a sunset, my spirit will come to you
Without shame

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Yesterday We Ran Out of PAINTS


Yesterday we had our last PAINTS session with grades 3-5. It was a bitter sweet day. I think we were all sad it was over. Hopefully we'll be able to have another go round in September.
What a great bunch of amazingly insightful, imaginative and creative kids they are.

It's hard to put into words the feeling I had after they'd all collaborated in a very special exhibit of their artwork created over the past eight weeks. I was so proud of them all and I could see the pride they had in themselves.

 All the other classes and teachers in our little rural school were invited in to see what they had done. The kids were paired off in groups at particular stationed areas of the room, where we had their art work displayed on tables. As the other classes entered the room the students would give a brief description of what the artwork was about in relation to the Circle of Courage.

It immediately became so obvious how important this overall conclusion to our PAINTS program was, and that this exhibition was such a vital part of the whole program. It made it real, gave it a depth of meaning to the effort the students had made and brought it all together.

First Workshop -  Belonging/Community/History - Sculpture/Hand building techniques with ceramic clay creating symbolic Animal Totems represented in the Circle of Courage.

Drawing, Painting and Collage using various mediums and techniques were all an important part of our creative process.

Second Workshop -  Independence/Connection between Self/Others/Environment awareness and social harmony - Mandalas

Third Workshop - Generousity/Developing Empathy - Earth Wall Tiles

Fourth Workshop - Mastery/Achieving Goals - Masks

The Circle of Courage project is based on the model of positive youth development founded on the universal principle that to be emotionally healthy all youth need a sense of belonging/attachment, mastery/achievement, independence/autonomy and generosity/altruism.

Each session explored the basic universal growth needs through art activities such as hand built sculpture using ceramic clay, applying techniques for hand built animals that represented and expressed the animal totems in the Circle of Courage.  These animals were the Bear, symbolizing Belonging, the Buffalo, symbolizing Mastery, the Eagle, symbolizing Independence and the Deer, symbolizing Generousity.

Our afternoons began and ended with engaging discussion about the topic and workshop. The students all enthusiastically created pictures using various drawing mediums and tempera painting on paper prior to creating each project.

 Discussions also took place regularly surrounding colour, the colour wheel, mixing and application of colour, techniques and introduction to learning about graphite drawing pencils.
We always had a time of reflection at the end each session for each student to express what was learned and then there was a brief introduction of what was going to happen in the coming week. This always proved to show how insightful these young budding artists were about creativity and their understanding, insight and connection with themselves, the world, and their environment. I was very much impressed!

I presented online examples and brought in my own artwork of paintings, sculpture, drawings of sacred geometry/mandalas, online resources of historical examples of masks and their uses in all cultures and I showed them a youtube video of Mummenschanz is a Swiss mask theater troupe who perform in a surreal mask and we discussed all of these in relation to art and the Circle of Courage.

We concluded PAINTS with an very enjoyable and wonderful exhibition in the school and we were all very proud and very happy!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Circle of Courage - Garbage Bags - Youth Care Workers - The World

I am sorry to be wrapping up the PAINTS ( Professional Artists in the Schools) program with the kids, grades 3 to 5, in our local school this coming week. I so wished it was continuing and in a perfect world, art would be offered to youth each and everyday in schools, as the educational foundation that enables youth to connect with themselves, others, with the environment and their world. The PAINTS program I offered was based on the First Nations Circle of Courage which reflects basic human needs and the values of Belonging, Independence, Mastery and Generousity/Empathy. These were expressed through the art work and creative imaginations of these insightful youth who have inspired and left me feeling hopeful.

In my other life and vocation as a Youth Care Worker for 20 plus years, I became acutely and personally aware through my work with youth and families within the system, of the crisis that exists with youth on both a national, and global scale.

It pains me greatly when I hear the proverbial cheap lip service, and rhetoric of how youth are our greatest resource. This is not what is reflected in reality throughout the world, when you see the proven statistics accounting for child abuse, poverty, homelessness, or suicide among young people baring the burden of mental health and addiction issues.

Many troubled youth at risk who have spent years within foster care, group homes and custodial facilities, especially those who have been involved in the courts, are eventually more often than not preened for the adult correctional system especially if they don't get the help they need.

Once a youth has served their sentence in open or closed custody, they are basically on their own without enough to no support and return to dysfunctional homes, they choose to live on the street or couch surf, go missing or in the worse case scenario, are found dead.

With the influx of people moving to the urban and city areas these complex problems are compounded and
 intensified resulting in more serious issues.

There are many theories and reasons that have long been discussed in order to resolve this crisis among youth. But for me it has mostly been empty talk with no concrete resolutions particularly when politicians or government is involved and falls upon deaf ears. I don't put my faith in politics or government. However they still need to be lobbied and pressured to do the right thing for families and youth.

There are some folks who I believe are making a difference. The front line workers, those who genuinely care enough to advocate for kids and families, and the youth themselves, such as organizations like Hope Blooms.

 Violet-Rose Pharaoh who started the garbage bag challenge is raising awareness and funds to provide suitcases to kids in care. Time and time again I saw kids who were carrying around all of their belongings in garbage bags and this is what they left group homes with.
Violet spent much of her childhood and youth in care.

Another person, a Youth Care Worker who is making a difference through Twitter, is Mark Cherrington.
Dr. Bernie Krause is another individual who understands how humans need to be living harmoniously with connection to the environment instead of trying to conquer it.

There are no simple solutions to the crisis among youth and families. I do believe however that if values are imparted to children that fulfill their needs in order to give them a true sense of belonging, independence, mastery and generousity, these would in turn make a huge difference in the well being of our youth, our families and in our world.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

My Cat-My Muse


Ever since I can remember I have always had cats, and have been enamored by them my whole life. I remember everyone of them, their names and personalities.

I know animals are very therapeutic, but I've never really read anything until today, about how cats in particular can be a creative stimulant and act as a creative muse. But this makes complete sense to me. On a physiological level they do lower blood pressure and have a calming and comforting affect on humans. In order to concentrate we all need to be relaxed and this in turn would definitely help to enable and foster creative musings.

Today after losing one of my sweet puss-cats suddenly to a unknown pre-existing heart condition, this sad day got me thinking about how much I loved my little Fluffo Flower cat. She was a little ball of fluff, with a very small physical build, but with huge gentle personality. She would often stick out her tongue at me reminding me not to take myself and life too seriously, and she was so good humoured, playful, full of affection, with such a loving personality.

Even being so sick, she hopped up in my lap to be close to me, before she was taken to the vet. I prayed for a miracle, but it wasn't meant to be. I cried and have been sad all day. I'll really miss my very special little Fluffo soul.

Fluffo made me think about how I wished people could be more like cats, loving unconditionally, with the ability to show us how to be playful, and to remind us to use our imaginations to define our world.

"If you want to concentrate deeply on some problem, and especially some piece of writing or paper-work, you should acquire a cat. Alone with the cat in the room where you work … the cat will invariably get up on your desk and settle placidly under the desk lamp. The light from a desk lamp … gives a cat great satisfaction. The cat will settle down and be serene, with a serenity that passes all understanding. And the tranquility of the cat will gradually come to affect you, sitting there at your desk, so that all the excitable qualities that impede your concentration compose themselves and give your mind back the self-command it has lost. You need not watch the cat all the time. Its presence alone is enough. The effect of a cat on your concentration is remarkable, very mysterious."

- Muriel Spark, A Far Cry From Kensington

Fluffo Flower