Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Nova Scotia Advocate

I was really so pleased to get an email today from Robert DeVet, the editor who runs The Nova Scotia Advocate informing me my article Not Disposable had been published.

 Filmmaker Jackie Torrens (My Week On Welfare) first put me in touch with Robert DeVet and I thank her very much for suggesting that he might be interested in me writing an article for the online paper, and he was!

The Nova Scotia Advocate is a grassroots publication with a strong social conscience, engaged in advocacy and activism within the local and provincial Nova Scotia community and is very much supported by readers.

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Love of a Family Accordion

Many people feel they're just unlucky, with a dark cloud hanging over their head, or the majority of life is spent living in problems, being overwhelmed by fear and anxiety, left wondering why things never seem to work out. Happiness and contentment appear elusive.

I certainly know some folks get more than their share of misery, and it's hard to figure out why, because it seems so unfair. I admit when I was younger happiness eluded me, and I just couldn't figure out how to get it.

It was only when I accepted that I had to let go instead of holding on, attempting to force solutions, that ultimately I couldn't control or manage. I was out of control, and my life had become unmanageable. Fear and anxiety were often my default, and I let that dictate my behaviour and reactions.

I don't have any superstitious bones and don't believe so much in luck, but I do believe in the power of prayer. This certainly doesn't mean that I get what I want. More often I get what I need, and I'm not always happy about the outcome.

What has made all the difference, is acceptance, which has been the key to my happiness and contentment, regardless of my circumstance. Now mostly I control my fear and anxiety it doesn't control me, and I exercise courage.

Creativity and courage go hand in hand and is a way of life that I believe exists within the spiritual realm.

Within the last two weeks, I've had an unusual run of things happen that are all very positive and frankly if I was the superstitious kind, I might say this has been a streak of luck, or I might be holding my breath, waiting for the other shoe to drop.  But I think most has been a result of prayer, grace, and acts of love.

The most important lesson I've learned is to live a creative life by opening my mind and heart with a willing, open spirit of trust, not devoid of fear, but with courage. It's only then that I pay attention, I become grateful, happy and content.
 Living creatively is a way of life. I can never expect that material gain will lead me to this spiritual realm, no matter what we think or gain materially.

I've also learned the more I try to hold on and force an outcome, the less control I have. I want and need to be open to the creative process in every aspect of living life fully.Instead of focusing on the outcome, I focus on the creative process.

The last thing on my two week list, that happened was having wonderful visit with my cousins, both of whom I hadn't really seen in many years. One of my cousins gave me her father's, (my late uncle and my late father's only brother),  his beautiful button accordion. Accordions have a long tradition in our family, and I took lessons as a kid when the accordion wasn't cool.

I've wanted one of these button accordions for so many years, but never ever imagined I'd be so generously and lovingly given this treasured family heirloom. Out of all the blessings I've been granted this one is so very special to me and I'm deeply touched, and so very grateful for the love of my cousins and creative family.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Stop the Killing Enforce the Law

Silent Marchers - "No More Westrays" - Andrew Vaughan THE CANADIAN PRESS

In the Maritimes people have a long family history that dates back to the old country, where our ancestors once worked in European coal mines, including my own.

Today being the 25th year of the Westray mining disaster, it's a heart breaking reminder of the inherent danger that exists, being a coal miner, and whay it means to work in what my late great Czechoslovakian great aunt referred to the coal tunnels as being "rat holes", in the coal mine of Minto New Brunswick.

What's even more heart breaking and criminal, is the lack of compassion shown toward these workers and their families. The coal companies nor the government of the day seem concerned about nothing more than the economic bottom line, with no regard for the loss of life and the price paid by it's workers and their loved ones. At the time of this explosion and the investigation that followed, no one was ever criminally charged, nor held accountable for the Westray disaster.

In the months to follow the Westray Law was legislated but to this day seems to be less than effective according to the United Steel Workers.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Stir Your Curiosity

 Have you ever had one of those days when you feel so much synchronicity, and the discovery dots are connecting right before your eyes? This is exactly what happened yesterday when about 30 individuals participated in the very rewarding Stir Your Curiosity workshop, that I wrote about in my previous blog post. It was a day full of music,video, reflection, art, mediation, yoga, friendship, sharing and good food.

Experiencing days like this when we're young, we aren't so aware, and are more than likely as children, to be very open to the natural instinct of curiosity, creativity and to simply saying, yes. This is the default, and children is usually fearless, and if not fearless, they're certainly always brave, in one way or another.

When adults are graced with moments of appreciating beauty, that come from making and taking the time to really love and care for ourselves in order to better love and care for others, this experience can seem almost magical, because happiness seems not only possible, but probable.

Cultivating mindfulness to see beauty in the ordinary, and in the simple everyday things in life, that often go unnoticed, for me is what enables human beings see with the eyes, ears and spirit of children. We can then begin to live a curious, enthusiastic, engaged creative life with courage, regardless of who we are, and whatever it is we do for a living.

" Bravery is always more intelligent than fear."

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

How Curious Are You?

You know those days that we all have, when you don't know what to do with yourself and you start feeling like you should be doing something, maybe something you really don't feel like doing? You might wonder if you're just bored. Maybe you make some muffins, play with the cat or feel guilty about what you think you should be doing? Or... maybe you decide to take time to reflect about this kind of day, realizing that your not bored, sad or lonely, but what you are experiencing is solitude, which in our distracted world, seems to be a lost art.

On this rainy, overcast Spring day I had an appointment that got postponed until tomorrow. The meeting was to discuss the above workshop I've posted that I'm really excited about attending next Saturday. The listed agenda sounds like a full day of curiosity, creativity and discovery.

And so because my meeting was cancelled today, this afternoon I'm taking time with, and for myself. I'm enthusiastic and excited to reflect and find out about the connection between curiosity and creativity. I'm taking advantage of my solitude to think deeply and discovery some new ideas, to learn more about myself and to connect with others.

Living in a society that encourages social behaviour, busyness and productivity, many of us become human doings, instead of human beings. But work and constantly doing, does not define us and can inhibit our creativity. I believe we need to know how to be, before we can do.

Taking time alone for solitude, for ourselves, is often ignored by society. It's often seen as anti-social and  must mean you're sad and lonely. In fact there are many benefits to solitude, like improving your concentration and your brain power. It provides and enables an opportunity for self-discovery and helps you to work through and resolve your problems. It also improves relationships with others.

Elizabeth Gilbert defines creativity as being curiosity and it's more important than following your passion. I completely agree with her conclusion, especially when I think about how children have a natural and innately, built-in curiosity instinct. Children thrive when they are fully engaged in this curiosity and are always making discoveries. As adults we need to learn to be the same, be vigilant, fearless, and enthusiastic about our curiosity.

Children possess an absence of fear of what they don't know. Unfortunately the older we get, this enthusiasm that ignites the senses is diminished, for a myriad of reasons. We observe less, explore less, ask fewer questions and are fearful of venturing into the unknown.

Curiosity helps us to make the connections that lead to discovery. We will become more observant. Exploration, asking questions and venturing into the unknown become a way of living a creative life.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Robert Pirsig - Telling His Own Story

Robert M. Pirsig - 1929 - 2017

I was very saddened to learn yesterday of Robert Pirsig's death, who wrote Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I was first introduced to his book back in the early 70s, at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, in one of my first official Summer painting classes.

I can say Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was the most influential book I'd ever read providing me with the foundation to my art education and completely coloured my perceptions about creativity, balance, values and the importance of quality, and to this day I'm so very grateful that Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was a required reading.

Robert Pirsig described his book as being a culture-bearer not necessarily a good or bad book and that he was simply telling his own story. I'm so grateful he did.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Are We All Off Our Nut?

A protester holds a sign during a demonstration against unemployment benefit cuts on July 11, 2012 in Oakland, California. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

You know the kind of day you have, when your mind feels like it's on tilt, your half off your nut and the world's off it's axis? This is the day I had today.

I was feeling gray in spirit and the out of doors matched my insides, that is until I made myself get outside and dig in my garden for an hour and a half.
It's been said that the antidote to worry and/or despair is action. It's true.That's what I did today and I felt better.

Right now the world does feel like it's gone wonky and it's difficult to shake of the those feelings of worry and dispair.
I listened to a great interview today with the writer George Saunders who talked about war, love and the presidency and he said something funny, but it was a simple, succinct and a truthful message, that really struck me, because I understood what he meant and I was glad he said it. He said that America was violent and stupid. He quantified this by saying that he wasn't meaning everyone in America was violent and stupid, but there's been a history of a general fraction of US society that has long been this way.

A few days back I heard another interview with Robert Reich on the CBC program Ideas, about the rise of the anti-establishment. It was also a simple, succinct and truthful message. Hands down the best synopsis I've heard about the US and what is happening there with the Trump administration in the mists of post truth, fake news and alternative facts, and thinking that's anything but critical.

"It is a deep tragedy, bordering on calamity, that we have come to this point," says Robert Reich of the Trump presidency. In a lecture at the University of British Columbia, followed by an interview with Paul Kennedy, the former U.S. Secretary of Labor and Professor of Public Policy at University of California at Berkeley details how understanding the circumstances that led to the election of Donald Trump can help shape a new democratic political sensibility."

It's not all doom and gloom. This too shall pass. There is hope, if we can put that antidote to worry and despair into action.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Barry Avrich - Blurred Lines

 Barry Avrich - Photograph - (Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail)

 I'm not surprized at all to hear this story today about the so called  'art world' that Canadian multi-talented film maker Barry Avrich calls "Pump and Dump", but this situation always makes me want to scream, giving me a sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach.

 A few years back, I'd heard another similar description of the existing corruption, present in the so called art world. I prefer to call it the art market, which the art world has become, because it's all about the money not the art.

 Jerry Saltz wrote a great article, and he calls it art flipping, and the biggest art flipper of all he says, is Stefan Simchowitz, who he's deemed the Sith Lord. New York Times writer, Christopher Glazck has called him the patron Satan of the art world, and Sarah Thorton compared Simchowitz by describing him as the Donald Trump of the art world.

 All this name calling might sound funny, but the reality is it's all sadly true, and I so wish it weren't. I wish people purchased art, truly for the love of art, not for the edification of money. But as long as we have art capitalists, I'll call them art pimps, who are such good experts at knowing how to inflate the price of art for their own greedy gain, not for the sake and love of art or artist's, but for capital gain alone, it's only going to get worse, before it ever gets better.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Where's My Easter Bonnet?

 Spring, the Easter Season and all that goes along with it, is my very favourite time of the year. I'm so grateful to be alive to celebrate rebirth and new growth. All nature is coming into it's own once again, lifts my spirit and fills me with thoughts of happiness and hope.

There are many things to pray for right now living in our troubled world, especially prayers for world peace.
I find myself praying for this more than anything else.

The one particular thing I wish for on a personal level, which to some will appear trivial and even silly but I always think about how I wish I could find an Easter Bonnet. I know this might seem like is a nostalgic left over from a my childhood and adolescence. But for me it was an important glue that edified and involved family, friends and a face to face, in the flesh social connection with our community,  a time when Easter was celebrated for spiritual reasons and it wasn't co-oped by commercialism with giant gross wax chocolate bunnies and copious amount of sugary candy brought by the big fictitious secular Easter Bunny.
 Capitalism, work and money has become what we mostly edify and value these days.

There are a group of individuals I think who haven't forgotten the meaning of Easter and celebrate accordingly. I wrote about a group of women in Nova Scotia that have continued the Easter traditions and I think you might call it having an "hattitude" of gratitude.

Happy Easter friends, pray for peace and may you find your own Easter Bonnet!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Quiet Passion - Emily Dickinson

 Many years ago I was given this beautiful hard cover book of poetry, simply titled, Emily Dickinson POEMS, broken down into a series of "Books".  I admit I'd never read any of her poetry prior to receiving this book, that reflects her loneliness, her passion for nature, love of language and life.

She was greatly influenced by the Metaphysical poets of 17th century England, and engaged in her own personal search for spirituality. Reading her poetry did give me some sense of who she was, but I think Terrence Davies film, The Quiet Passion, soon to be released, is sure to bring Emily Dickinson's personality to life.

In reading her poetry I do get some sense of who she was, but truthfully I can't say I fully appreciate or even understand many of her poems. Though she was considered a modern poet of the 19th century, I find much of her writing rather difficult to relate to. But then there are some that resonate and touch me, especially her poems about nature.

At the front of this book she wrote beautifully in 1890:

"THIS is my letter to the world,
 That never wrote to me,
 That simple news that Nature told,
 With tender majesty.

 Her message is committed
 To hands I cannot see;
 For love of her, sweet countrymen,
 Judge tenderly of me!

The BBC review of the film by Mark Kermode's really conveys his contagious enthusiasm for Terrence Davies portrayal of Emily Dickinson, and makes me very excited to see it. I'm one of those who's never heard of Terrence Davies until listening to an interview with him today, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Eric Fromm - "Creativeness Is To Be Born Before One Dies" - "The Art of Unselfish Understanding"

Before I married my loving and creative late husband I said this to him, "What I love about you Bill is that you are a human being first and a Christian second". What I meant to convey to him was this. He didn't have of all the trappings based on the kind of dogma, referencing the idea of original sin, attached to organized religion that isn't biblical in it's origin, but he knew in the depth of his heart that we're are all created in the image of God, and this is the blessing, not the curse left over from Adam and Eve.

My late husband Bill was a creative free thinker, both wounded and wise and cared deeply about life, love, and his fellow human beings.

Eric Fromm I believe was wounded and wise as well, an atheist, a philosophical humanist, civil rights activist against nuclear weapons and was involved in the protection of the environment.

He once stated in an interview. "I didn't want to participate in any division of the human race, whether religious or political." 
 Fromm saw authoritarianism, including religious beliefs, as being a threat to human freedom.

 Through his purpose in life, and his work as a psychoanalyst, meant that he was actively engaged with the preservation of the human spirit, regardless of his religious beliefs, and he was greatly influenced by a number of individuals, in particular Rabbi Salman Baruch Rabinkow, who was his most influential mentor introducing him to mystical Chabad.

My friend Rabbi Brian has a wonderful insightful website I subscribe to, Religion Outside The Box. Today he posted a great article written by his good friend Bill Johnson, about being ourselves, that I'm certain Eric Fromm would greatly appreciate and love.
Below are a few related quotes that give pause to meditate on, and I would compare them to being much like Sutras.
  • “I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being.” Hafiz
  • “Now, with God’s help, I shall become myself.” Søren Kierkegaard
  • “God has entrusted me with myself.” Epictetus
  • “You have been taught that there is something wrong with you and that you are imperfect, but there isn’t and you’re not.”  Cheri Huber
  • “Close your eyes and imagine the best version of you possible. That’s who you really are, let go of any part of you that doesn’t believe it.” C Assaad
  • “Now all that is left is for you to become yourself.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  • “O God, help me to believe the truth about myself no matter how beautiful it is.”  Macrina Wiederkehr

 I think Eric Fromm believed in the basic goodness of humanity, although he was greatly affected by man's inhumanity that he was witness to during war time. Also in his own family he'd grown up with a mother who suffered from depression and a very moody father.

 He dedicated himself to creativeness, and to the preservation of the human spirit through love. I ask myself isn't this what all religions could do, and what all human beings could aspire to, if there was only to will to do so?

I don't believe an individual needs to profess themselves as Christian in order to be a person who intrinsically understands what it means to love. I think Eric Fromm was one such person.

 "Selfish persons are incapable of loving others, but they are not capable of loving themselves either."
           - Eric Fromm 

In The Art of Listening Eric Fromm provides a list of six points about listening which is the largest part of understanding communication, language and culture. I think listening is directly connected to learning 'the art of loving.' 

 " The danger of the past was that men became slaves. The danger of the future is that men may become robots."

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Vimy Ridge - Captain Percival Anderson - Syria - Father Nadim Nassar

The Easter season, with the arrival of Lent, Palm Sunday and Good Friday and then Easter, always brings for me conflicted feelings of solemnity and hope.

The same feelings exist even more poignantly today remembering the 100 year anniversary and sacrifice at Vimy, remembering those is the Middle East and through out the world who suffer at the hands of war.

This Palm Sunday I intently listened to the story of Captain Percival William Anderson from Cape Breton who lost his life at age 32 fighting at Vimy Ridge,  followed by the Anglican Priest Father Nadim Nassar who has an impassioned message for the world and to all those who think that only wars make presidents.

"Today, we are remembering one of the most brutal battles in the first world war," he says. "Today, we should remember also what is happening in Syria is the most brutal civil war, proxy war, that happened in history." 
                                                       - Nadim Nassar

Captain Percival William Anderson

 "Arise to beauty, joy, peace, and work inspired by love. Arise from death to life anew,  for you do not need to fear even death."
                                                   - Look To This Day

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Eco-Anxiety? Really?

The Good Steward

 Considering the world of psychological and mental health disorders, dysfunction and diagnosis, I wasn't quite sure what to think when I heard about the condition Eco-Anxiety that the American Psychological Association states is increasing, and commonly found throughout the world, with the on set of rapid climate change.

 Not surprisingly, those living in isolated areas of the North are bearing witness to the affects of climate change and have been at the forefront of raising awareness of this anxiety that is threatening the destruction of  habitat, their environment, and even our world.

  When I was a kid I had a friend who's parents immigrated to Canada from Denmark. I vividly recall my friend's mother, who I think was way ahead of her time, considering it was 1966, 51 years ago, giving us fairly regular health lessons about our bodies and the environment.

 As we huddled over the kitchen table, Annette's mother would show us text books with pictures of healthy and unhealthy bodies, about breast cancer and  the like and discuss diseases. I think they must have been European medical books. She was also was very informed about global warming, explaining to us in detail how the green house affect was going to be devastating to our world, if there wasn't some preventative action taken.

 Looking back, these facts she shared were disconcerting to a couple of prepubescent girls. I know her intention was to try and prepare us for what was to come. But the thought of the greenhouse affect really did make me anxious then, and couldn't imagine what I could possibly do about it, which left me with a feeling of dread.

 I'm certain Annette was use to all these kinds of reality lessons from her mother, but I wasn't. My parents were basically comfortably ignorant, struggling with their own issues and so we were all just trying to be happy, and that seemed to be a hard enough thing to do, let alone taking on the causes of climate change that no one had ever heard of yet.

I'm not complaining about Annette's mother's lessons. I'm glad she tried to educate us at such a young age. It's something I never forgot about, and of course I'm now acutely more aware of health and environmental issues today, and I think Annette's mum was in part responsible for me being this way.

Eco-anxiety isn't something I am overwhelmed with. Having a sense of humour helps, but there sure are times when I feel despondent and about the state of the world, how greed and power supersedes the health and welfare of humanity.

Like the proactive, good steward David Suzuki says, he has to have hope, and so I too have to remain hopeful, and concentrate on proactively practicing good stewardship, instead of staying stuck in Eco- Anxiety.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Dreams Creativity and Irish Cottages

Genista Cottage, Drisogue Ballyboughal, County Dublin

 Dreams are very important and very natural to have. If we give up on them we give up on ourselves I believe.
Over the years some dreams might not be fulfilled and the outcomes change, perhaps into a better dream, leading to something different or even better.
If we do achieve and reach our dreams sometimes they don't measure up to our imaginations and we have to adjust them accordingly, which might mean we make yet another dream after having to let go of the previous one.

Having dreams and trying to reach them are opportunities to learn lessons that enable growth, regardless of  how they turn out.
The root word of creativity means is "to grow", and dreaming will expand our perceptions that enable new ways to problem solve.

Whether it be day dreaming and night dreaming, dreams are the door to our intuition. If we can imagine, we can believe, and we have then made the first step to making our dream a reality.
I've had many dreams and imaginings in the past and still do. The best dreams I've made my reality, started in my imagination, and it was so deeply satisfying to have them come to fruition.

One of my dreams that exists in my imagination is to live in a cozy, canopied Irish countryside where a thatched roof cottage is gently nestled. I think it must be my Celtic heritage that has made this my deep desired dream.

I often get online and look at various properties, which is exactly what I did last night. Oh my, after many months of searching, I finally found the most ideal, beautiful and delightful thatched roof cottage. Realistically I haven't the opportunity to make this dream come true, but it won't stop me from imagining and dreaming about it. The inside of this cottage is just as perfect as the outside.

I would love to know the history of this cottage and just why it's called Genista. According to the Facebook group Cottageolgy, yep there's a group for folks like me, the name Genista means broom.

Genista Cottage, Drisogue Ballyboughal, County Dublin

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

First Comes the Thought Then Comes the Action

I love words. I love writing words, reading them, speaking and listening to words, but there are certainly some words I really dislike, even hate, and so I refrain from using them. I especially have a great disdain for words used against others to humiliate, disrespect or abuse those who may not be in a position of power, who can't advocate for themselves or have a voice, particularly children.

When I was very actively involved in the specialized training as a Youth Care Worker, there was a plethora of information that I was constantly learning about, working with youth at risk. Some of this education I agreed with, some I didn't.

Over the years of experience working with youth, I became acutely aware of living in a society and culture that is more concerned with controlling youth, as opposed to understanding them. There are many ways to control other, and I think language is definitely a very powerful one. Historically we have witnessed cultures being annihilated or on the verge of disappearing because of the loss of language. Language is culture.

One of the topics included a youth care training session, was how certain words are used when describing youth, and I believe it's often used as a means of controlling those in trouble with the law or who have mental health or behavioural issues, and usually these are not mutually exclusive, but are often directly or indirectly related.

The word delinquent immediately comes to my mind, which I absolutely loath. We might not this hear this word so often now, perhaps because it's politically incorrect, but I do think there still exists a mindset of an increasingly hardened culture.

Words and language are so important, and the context in which they are used determine their power in negative or positive ways. Years ago it came to my attention how youth are so often described by words starting with the letter d.

Often these words label, judge and discriminate against those on the margins of society, for one reason or another,through no fault of their own, perhaps due to mental illness, abuse or addiction within their families or because of poverty, gender, ethic origin or religion.

A number of these words, we might think about completely eliminating from our vocabulary, or be mindful in our thoughts about the kind of the words we say, and how we use them, because words can build up, tear down, demean and cut deeply. It's been said, first comes the thought, then comes the action.

Here's a list of these d words. You may have heard some of these growing up or even said some of them yourself and we might not openly say them, but we might think them, when relating to others. Words are powerful, and I need to think before I speak, and weigh my thoughts, my words and use them wisely.








Sunday, March 26, 2017

"Surviving Ireland"

The island of Carnananaunachán - coordinates redacted.

Here in Canada, The Great White North, the snow veiled blanket of Winter is being finally flung off and we're all very anxious for warm temps and bugs. I'm kidding about welcoming the bugs of course, but definitely not kidding about warm temperatures, if we can all only get a grip on our online distractions. If we can only manage to pull ourselves away from our addiction to the myriad of technical devices, in order to fully enjoy the coming seasonal weather, engaging fully in our relationship with each other after surviving yet another Winter,  in spite of snow and ice storms that took place on the first day of Spring's arrival.

If you find yourself laying awake in the middle of the night, with Spring fever like me, contemplating life and happen to have the CBC radio turned on, you might be listening to RTÉ Radio 1 from Ireland. The innate story telling ability of the Irish is always so entertaining, thoughtful and sometimes very moving.

 Last night when listening, my first thought was this doc was a legitimately serious program, that addressed a particular malaise most of us seem to be afflicted with, or should I say addicted to. We can't imagine ourselves living without our technical devices and opt out to communicate with one another behind a computer screen instead of face to face. We appear to be more involved in interacting online and out of touch with our person to person real life relationships. What is most concerning is how this addiction, like many addictions is being passed on to our children.

I won't go down that mucky worm hole, and say that this program was fictional and very funny, but with an underling message and statement about reality that we all can afford to really think about and address.

In my opinion humour is one of the best ways to call attention to, or even celebrate our human state, be it positive or problematic, relating to social, political or personal issues. The RTÉ Radio 1 Comedy production Surviving Ireland  certainly does this.

 Be forewarned, dry toast and a mucky hole is involved.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Leica Lover - Jim Marshall

Jim Marshall - 1936-2010

I found an article featuring a photographer Jim Marshall. In spite of studying photography for a number of years in my art education, I'd some how never heard of him up until today, though I recognized some of his iconic photographs taken with his cherished loved Leica camera. What a fantastic photographer and I think a humble man, when it came to his inherent talent, he seemed to just consider himself a lucky one.

 Jim Marshall never saw himself as a photographer, but a reporter with a camera, describing his love of taking photographs not  just a job, but more importantly. it was his life, and his photographs he spoke of them as being like his children.

 Annie Leibovitz described Jim Marshall as "The Rock and Roll Photographer."

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Donald Trump and His Cabinet

Eric Fischl-Trump Clown

Speaking from personal experience, I'm hopeful in my belief that all people can change, even at the hour of death. We all have the opportunity for reconciliation and maybe even redemption, in spite of it seeming like some folks are never going to change. We just never know. I do know there are those individuals who in this life will choose not to change, perhaps not in this life, but I'm sure there will be a positive change in the next world, whatever that is. The old adage of how change is as good as a rest, I see as being very true.

If we can't accept the fact that people won't change, then it's best to choose to change out attitude toward them and take action to make ourselves feel better or to possibly effect change in some way or another.

When artists see others especially those in political power hell bent on behaviour that appears to be misanthropic in nature diminishing and demeaning humanity and when this has happened throughout history, artists often take to their art, out of frustration, outrage, fear and social conscience. It gives a sense of being able to perhaps empower ourselves or others without voice and enable some kind of positive change. As the writer the late Ojibwa writer Richard Wagamese stated,"Our humanity is lifted up by our art."

 I've always admired art the lifts up humanity, and Eric Fischl is just this kind of artist, although it's certainly not "pretty art", but it is truthful. Truthful change is usually difficult and risky and takes courage. What I admire about Eric Fischl is that he's had the courage to change his art and change himself over the years.

I'm sure he'd only hope that the kind of satirical work he's producing now, causes some kind of positive change, if not a change in Donald Trump and his cabinet. And we, can only hope.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Alexis Adler

Photograph by Alexis Adler
Basquiat in the apartment, 1981.

I'd never heard of Alexis Adler until today, after learning about her photos that she'd taken of Jean-Michel Basquiat when they lived together as a couple for a year before he'd become the art star that he was. The exhibit entitled Basquiat Before Basquiat, consists of her early photos that are being displayed the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver Colorado.

I listened to an interview that Alexis Adler gave today. She spoke of her relationship with Jean-Michel Basquiat during the 70s and 80s.

I've long admired Jean Michel Basquiat's work and it's another sad tragic story of a very gifted and deep thinking individual who died much too young because of addiction and depression.

The part of this story of Jean Michel Basquiat's life and death, including many artists like him, and what makes it all the more poignantly sad, is the existing dark underbelly of the art market. The way many bottom feeding art collectors flip the art of dead artists, mostly to line their own pockets. It would be an understatement to say it certainly leaves me feeling very sad to say the least, if not cynical.


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Our Authentic Heart

Margot Sluytman with Glen Flett, the man who killed her father

Margot Sluytman when she talks about the authenticity of heart, it deeply resonates with me in many ways. It releases me from obligation and allows me to exercise my free will.

I believe the Creator gives us this great gift and in turn we can demonstrate and reflect authenticity of heart in our own lives by letting go, and actualizing the slogan, live and let live. This is such an important lesson I learned when I got into my own recovery from the effects of addiction.

Working professionally in the correctional field and as a volunteer, I met several incarcerated individuals that were serving life long sentences for murder and became close to some of them on the level playing field of recovery from addiction.

 I can't imagine what it would be like to ever experience such a violent crime against someone I loved like Margot Sluytman did when Glen Flett shot her father Theodore. What I can say is that I do know after having met those who have perpetrated this crime, it's given me some insight, not too many people experience.

Having the knowledge that a fellow human being has taken another person's life, we choose to do one of two things I think. We either hold on to our resentment and even hate, or we face the reality of what's happened, when coming to grips with whatever the situation. I strongly agree with Margot Sluytman when she says all have to follow our discerning authentic heart in deciding whether to react or respond. Not unlike the prisoner, we are left with coming to reconciliation with ourselves and what we have done.

We can sit in judgement of how Margot Sluytman and others like her respond, or we can choose to look at this reality regardless of how uncomfortable it is.

Years ago I read the non-fiction and very powerful book Dead Man Walking, about Sister Helen Prejean and her friendship with Elmo Patrick Sonnier, who was on Death Row, in Louisiana State Penitentiary, Angola. As well, I saw the fictional depiction of the book based on Sister Prejean  and the death row prisoner Matthew Poncelett.

 Both the book and the movie that was reviewed by the late Rodger Ebert who said it enables "thinking beyond the boundaries of what is comfortable."

 We can sit in judgement of how Margot Sluytman and others like her respond, or we can choose to look at  reality regardless of how uncomfortable it is. Whatever we choose we ultimately have to find reconciliation with what we do with our authentic heart.

Monday, March 13, 2017

J.D. Ormond and The Sunshine Band

J.D. and The Sunshine Band

Listening to the news can be depressing. There just aren't enough good stories, very few for that matter.

 Last night I learned about a great story, while listening to My Play List on CBC Radio, with host musicians Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland from the band Whitehorse, which I really enjoyed. I'd heard this episode in 2015, so this was a repeat but it was great to hear them again and and I learned about J.D. Ormond who is Luke Doucette's brother living in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

  J.D. is a great song writer and has a band called The Sunshine Band.  Luke talked about J.D.'s writing ability and the work he's doing in Winnipeg at Sunshine House, a drop-in and resource center with the main focus being solvent harm reduction in Winnipeg. Luke played one of J.D.'s songs, performed with his band, called Saturday Night.

It sure is heartening to see artists using their art for change. I wished we'd hear about more of these kinds of stories on the news, that offer hopeful solutions, instead of what seem to be presumably hopeless circumstances.

I believe this is the real purpose of art and artist a like. To bring light and love to the world that seems full of darkness. What higher purpose can there be?                                  

Here's a really entertaining little animation created by Chantel Degagne accompanied by Luke's band, performing Luke's song, Heard That One Before.

  " Our humanity is lifted up by our art."

                                                                    - In memory of Richard Wagamese 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

International Women's Day - Chimanda Ngozi Adichie

Words can often be limiting in describing ideas, philosophy, people, places and things. Judgement can come quickly when we place labels on ourselves or on others, as we attempt to define recognizable markers of who we are and what we stand for or against.

I think feminism is one such word that conquers up all sorts of judgment and it has made me hesitate in calling myself a feminist. My general reasoning is not as a result of what I think, but how others perceive me. Then I concluded what really matters is not I call myself, or how others perceive me necessarily,  but what I believe and how my values are reflected in my daily behaviour, this it what truly matters.

In the interview I heard this morning with Chimanda Ngozi Adichie I was struck by how she described herself in relation to what being a feminist meant to her. Her description I realized, is how I have long perceived myself, "as simply being aware."

As someone who lived through the second wave of feminism I'm aware of the changes made, but am still acutely aware of how far we a still have to go joining hands, reaching back into our past and extending forward to a brighter, hopeful future.

Women in the creative field can certainly actualize change through their own vision, shaped by the example of those women who have gone before. We are greatly indebted to them for their awareness, insight and legacy they've passed on to us today on this International Woman' Day and each day forward.

Bread and Roses

by James Oppenheim

As we come marching, marching in the beauty of the day,
A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill lofts gray,
Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses,
For the people hear us singing: “Bread and roses! Bread and roses!”
As we come marching, marching, we battle too for men,
For they are women’s children, and we mother them again.
Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes;
Hearts starve as well as bodies; give us bread, but give us roses!
As we come marching, marching, unnumbered women dead
Go crying through our singing their ancient song of bread.
Small art and love and beauty their drudging spirits knew.
Yes, it is bread we fight for — but we fight for roses, too!
As we come marching, marching, we bring the greater days.
The rising of the women means the rising of the race.
No more the drudge and idler — ten that toil where one reposes,
But a sharing of life’s glories: Bread and roses! Bread and roses!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Thaddeus Holownia - The Man with the Steel Glasses

Thaddeus Holownia wears striking steel glasses for a practical reason. They don't break if he falls asleep before taking them off. (TED PRITCHARD / Local Xpress)

The only thing I regret about being one of the thousands of Thaddeus Holownia's students, is not being able to see his most recent exhibit at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, in Halifax.  Maybe, just maybe I'll find a way down there between now and May to see this amazing exhibition.

A life long friend Chris Sears, who himself is a talented photographer living in Toronto, posted a wonderful article about The Nature of Nature entitled, Photographer Holownia's keen perspective on display in 40-year retrospective, written by the talented and creative writer Elissa Bernard. I've read all the most recent articles about Thaddeus Holownia's exhibit but this is the one I really love!

 Maybe I'm biased because I was friends with Elissa's sister at NSCAD and we took painting together, sharing a studio space, but I don't think I'm wrong in saying, Elissa is a very gifted, thoughtful, perceptive and insightful writer and in her article she's composed an excellent reflection of the essence of Thaddeus's art work, the kind of artist he is and why he's very much admired by many, especially by his former students.

I loved these quotes by Thaddeus, which I think truly embody his philosophical ideas about art, creativity and what it means to be an artist. He's passed on his ethics of integrity and professionalism onto those students who recognize the importance and significance of what he's saying. The wise ones have incorporated his philosophy it into their own creative values and disciplined process.

“You live every day through who you are, and if you're active and awake, you make work or you don't do anything."

“I feel sorry for the people who didn't find their voice. I tell my students, 'Don't be lazy. This is a golden opportunity to make something happen, and time is the most precious commodity.' ”

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Nadya Kiwanibens - Horace Poolaw - Photographers

Nadya Kiwanibens is Anishinaabe and French from Anishinaabe/ Ojibwe from the Animakee Wa Zhing First Nation (formerly Northwest Angle #37) in northwestern Ontario.

Horace Poolaw (Kiowa), posing for a photo during his work as an arts and crafts supervisor. Old Town Anadarko, Oklahoma, ca. 1940. (45ACOT6)  © 2014 Estate of Horace Poolaw.

  Horace Poolaw was born in (1906–1984) a Kiowa photographer from Mountain View, Oklahoma .

 Both of these photographers portray the honest and contemporary story of Indigenous peoples through their art, in a relevant and beautiful manner. It is a poignant departure from the historical stoic and negative depiction of First Nations people, that seems frozen in the past instead of a contemporary present.

Monday, February 27, 2017

"Life is the Root, and Art is the Flower." - Isadora Duncan

Isadora Duncan with her children Deirdre and Patrick, 1913

I love this quote by Isadora Duncan.

         "Life is the Root, and Art is the Flower."

In 1969 I was 16 when I first saw the film that came out the same year about Isadora Duncan, starring Vanessa Redgrave. I remember being totally captivated by this story and I wanted to dance like Isadora.
My enchantment with her continued throughout my life and my love of dance remained form an early age.

Recently I began reading about Isadora Duncan in her autobiography. I was fascinated to learn how she saw dance as her religion and that some consider her to be a kind of mystic. Her autobiography, is very candid, truthful, and moving. The book was published, just shortly before she died very tragically in a car accident.

" Is it that in all the Universe there is but one Great Cry containing Sorrow, Joy, ecstasy, Agony, the Mother Cry of Creation."
                 - Isadora Duncan, My Life

Isadora came from a poor household, her mother was a musician, and a single mum with four children. Life seemed to be destined to be filled with much hardship for the family, and especially for Isadora who survived so much loss. I believe it was her love of dance that gave her strength.

If I could go back in time I would dearly love to know Isadora Duncan. I'm happy to learn she was a Gemini, as I've the same Sun sign.
She very much lived in the realm of the heart, identifying with Aphrodite and loving the sea.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Bagpipes Transform Lives

My friend Eugene at the Nova Scotia Boarder

I don't remember the first time I heard bagpipes but I suspect it might have been when I my family made the very first trek driving from Ontario back to Nova Scotia, when I was just a kid. Once we hit the New Brunswick/Nova Scotia Boarder crossing there was always a Piper in the middle of a big flower garden playing his heart out.

I grew up with a friend who was actually was one of those Pipers at the Nova Scotia boarder. Eugene made a fine figure in his kilt and did a grand job playing his pipes.

It wasn't until I got older that the bagpipes really resonated with me. My heart would get very nostalgic and I'd get the feeling I was being called back to another place and an ancient time.  I'm not sure if that place was the heather covered hills and dales of Scotland, but it was definitely ancient.

The history of bagpipes is ancient and after listening to a program about the pipes they held an even deeper fascination for me.

About a week later after hearing this program I learned about Jermaine Downey  who talked about his love and passion for piping and how the bagpipes saved his life. He has a special vision and mission to help kids by teaching them to play the bagpipes and believes in the power of music to transform lives.

Jermaine Downey in Scotland

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Why Do I Write?

Many years ago I had the most beautiful fountain pen. I'd bought it for a great price, at a very fine classic jewelry store that had been there for so many years but was sadly going out of business on Barrington Street, in downtown Halifax.

The fountain pen was finely crafted, adorned with gold plating. Oh it was a grand pen to write with, a Parker. Unfortunately I lost it in Newfoundland. Whoever found it, I sure hope they're appreciating and enjoying it as much as I did! How I long to have another. Parker pens are hard to find, and very expensive new. If you are fortunate to ever have one, I'm sure you'll agree, writing with a Parker fountain pen is second to none, like no other and the best experience ever, when it comes to putting pen to paper. Some day I'll be able to afford to luxuriate in this!


So yesterday I got thinking about all this writing and I asked myself why do I write? Though I know many of the benefits I never really got intentionally specific about answering this question until today, when I found this site, Write Practice that encourages those who write to take fifteen minutes to think about it and answer that question for themselves, why do I write? So I did that. It was a positive, worthwhile endeavour and this is what I've come up with.

Why do I write? Writing for me is a natural as breathing. I have to do it. I've written most all my life but now I write every day, long hand in journals and in three different but related blogs.

 I've been seriously writing daily since 1995 after reading the Julie Cameron's The Artist Way.

Writing has changed my life and continues to do that and has given me a strong sense of freedom and it's helped to actualize dreams and accomplish my goals.

 Writing helps me to get rid of my inner critic, that very negative inner voice all creatives experience.

 If I don't write everyday, my world is just not right. Long hand writing in journals is of real, vital, importance to me and  so beneficial but very different than online writing. It's a visceral experience that connects my mind and soul through the physical exercise of the tangible cursive word.

Writing is exercise. This exercise enables my body to bring the mind and emotion together. It's then transformed into a spiritual and at times sacred experience.

I write to get those creative juices flowing. I do believe when you put pen to paper first comes the thought, then comes focused action, which increases my confidence. I feel empowered and my sense of identity feels strengthened.

I write to connect to myself and in turn connect to other human beings sharing this human experience called life.

The more I write the more I come to understand why I write. The more I write, the better writer I become.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Martha Thompson Has Something to Talk About on Information Morning!

 Having my radio next to my bed side at night, I always catch the early morning show, CBC Information Morning, but sometimes it gets integrated into my dream world if I happen to nod off, which is exactly what I did today. I was dreaming about my very good friend and neighbour Martha Thompson sitting at a table, looking out her sunlit window, but in reality she was actually being interviewed about being a respite foster parent on the morning show, that had found it's way into my dream.

 The reality is I can attest I've known Martha for a over 20 years now and she has so much to offer children as a creative, kind, caring, generous, intelligent and wise woman. I'm so happy she has been able to provide this much needed service and caring to young people. Safe to say Martha and Dan love kids, and had four of their own with grandchildren. I know all of her children who have grow into wonderful humans. I only wish there were more like Martha and her husband Dan, who were willing to take children into their home.

 Martha and I have  long walks together and we often talk about kids in crisis within the system and how there is such  a dire need for available foster parents, and all that it entails.

 I just listened to the interview she gave that I missed in the early hours of the morning. I then gave her a call to thank her and to let her know how much I appreciated what her and Dan have being doing over the past five years as foster parents. They are truly a blessing to the children they bring into their home and to our community.

 As a Youth Care Worker for many years, I got a real bird's eye, close up view into how the system does and doesn't work. That said, being someone on the front lines, working with youth is one of the most rewarding life experiences a person can ever have, regardless of how many problems the system has.

 They rewards might not appear immediately, but they are guaranteed to come and you'll be a better person for it.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

My Friend Lillian - "How Deep in the Valley"

Last night I lost my beautiful, creative friend, Lillian. She was 89, soon to be 90 in March. She was very much a big youthful personality.

I don't remember the first time I met Lil, seems like a long time ago, reflecting back, but it wasn't really. She certainly left a lasting impression on me. She was always smiling, dressed with flare and was friendly with everyone, young and old and she loved to socialize, and sometimes even flirt. I think that's the way she impressed everyone who met her for the first time.

 If memory serves me right, I think Lillian and I met at a fund raiser at the local school. We were both providing Tarot readings for the participants.

Several months later she'd asked me if I'd come to work for her one day a week. I was happy to accept her offer. Prior to this I knew of Lillian, but I didn't really know who she was, until I went to work for her. We  fast became good companions and I did a variety of chores for her. Mostly we'd shared many things in common, that we both took interest in, like country living, gardening, cooking, reading, CBC Radio, singing and playing music and Tarot.

There are many memories I have of my time with Lillian. One afternoon we spent the day listening to her fabulous and treasured old vinyl record collection, on her big cabinet Hi-Fi. Just to name a few there was Hank Snow, Wilf Carter, Charlie Pride, Dave Dudley and all the old classic country music she'd been collecting for years and years. It was something, and it felt very special to be sharing this time with her.

Lillian always had one Tarot card on her fridge, The Sun. She told me this was her card, which really did embody Lillian's positive personality, a musician, optimistic, with purpose, foresight, and faith in the striving human spirit, always moving forward and transforming toward the goal.

Because we shared our belief and love of Tarot, one day I told her I would do her reading. She was very happy and open to this. We both looked forward to that afternoon. Of all the readings I've done and it's been many, I'd never seen such a positive reading.

Some might say, what kind of reading could someone her age have and how could it possibly be positive? All I can say is you'd be surprized! When I think about it now, how could it be any thing but positive?

 Lillian was full of a life force and lived a full life. She'd overcome so much, walked the hills and valleys and still had a deep faith in the God of her understanding. She knew where she'd been, where she was in the present moment, and where she was headed. Lillian without a doubt, found her wings and was glory bound, because she knew 'the way on is the the way out.' Lillian was very much the transformed  Mariposa/Butterfly Woman.

 We had lots of great heart to heart discussions, about everything from politics, the state of the world, God, our spiritual beliefs, philosophy, art, story telling, jokes, family, relationships and mostly about life. We enjoyed each other's company, understood one another and shared lots of laughter.

Lil was full of life, with a positive attitude and an independent outlook, which was very important to her. She loved having company, but she also loved her own company, very comfortable in her own skin, in her big old charming country home.

No she wasn't perfect, she had her foibles like we all do, but she liked to shoot straight from the hip, telling it the way she saw it. If I disagreed with her, she might not have liked that, but regardless, she respected me for it.

I'll certainly miss Lillian's spirit and our community is now diminished, no longer having her living presence among us. But she'll always be a big part of our hearts in our little rural tight knit community. She'll not ever be forgotten. I know my life and spirit has been greatly enriched for having known her. I'm very grateful for her friendship and the lessons she taught me. I will miss her very much.

This song is for Lillian.

Rest In Peace Diamond Lil'

How Deep in the Valley - Sarah Harmer

How deep in the valley must you go
To find what your footsteps already know
The way on is the way out
There are signs to follow
There is deep in the valley
And I'm bound to go
How deep in the valley must you stay
To know why your footsteps led you that way
The way on may be truly to stand in one place
And let the deep of the valley
Fill you will grace
And treat yourself lightly
Treat yourself kind
You've got nothing to worry on
You will be fine
You will leave this place laughing
And somebody will cry
There is deep in the valley
Wonder not why
Wonder not why go
Wonder not to stay
If it takes me and I follow
Or if I lead the way
It can come when it wants to
But it might have to wait
There is deep in the valley
I don't hesitate
I don't take it too lightly
But it don't weigh down too low
There is high on the cliff top
And there are deep creeks below
There's a green shade you can't miss
Where the spring water flows
There is deep in the valley
And I'm bound to go
How deep in the valley must you go
To find what your footsteps already know
The way on is the way out
There are signs to follow
There is deep in the valley
And I'm bound to go