found agains.

 

When we were planning our kitchen renovation, i wanted a place for cookbooks. No one uses them anymore I was told, you need a spot for your computer……

I considered this for a moment – no, i need an open shelf in the kitchen for some of my cookbooks. This week when the rhubarb was ripening I pulled out a french foods book with a butter crust recipe to be worth indulging all your fat intakes for the week! Inside two photos slipped out from the pages, one of my dad, my mom and my oldest daughter when she was two. We were camping at scotch creek, i was carrying daughter two.  My heart flutters and I see myself at 21 holding my first pentax 35 ml. thumbnail (10)

The opposite photo was my Grandmother standing outside of her kitchen window which impacted the design choice for the windows in our house.  I was looking at these last year during rhubarb time, tucked them away and found them again in the flour dusted pages.

Strawberries aren’t quite ready here so these are from the market…. When my littlest daughter was two she would disappear from the kitchen and slip into the garden outside the old back porch. I would find her sitting in the soft warm spring ground with chubby hands picking strawberries and eating in the early morning sun. I rarely handle strawberries without feeling her softness as i brushed her off my garden girl, now my far and away girl. thumbnail (8)

Unpacking boxes I excitedly exclaimed, ‘oh here is my juicer’…..

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apparently that isn’t the current image that comes to mind for the term. I have always been drawn to yesterdays methods and objects. There is something that provides comfort in old tea cups, tin colanders, hand mades, heart focused, homespun.

The kitchen is the center of most homes I have loved. It will be my favorite place in the revised house, old and new and stacked together.

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Yesterday a dear friend visiting asked where is the clutter, I laugh and know it will sneak its way home in bits and pieces. We are a bit bare bones as we have just been starting to used the space on the newly renovated main floor. I believe today it will be revisited by painters and chaos, and the clutter is on its way no doubt, some built in against the design suggestions. ‘it is dated’. 😉

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In the little reading nook upstairs another few shelves house cook and gardening books, this one is built in to the island. The bright spines invite me to leaf through with a cup of coffee and consider trying something different, although most of the time i look for old familiars. My moms tattered red covered blue ribbon flour cook book vanished in her last move. We were all so sorry to have lost its favored recipes but most sorry to have lost the notes in her hand writing beside each tried and tested success.

I love the pages in books. Turning ones in my house often leads to found objects. Photos, notes, pressed flowers and leaves and with them a door opens to a memory. Perhaps dated, but then again so am I!

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I think where ever you go in this life, it is best to go as yourself.  If home doesn’t include that, it probably should. A house is the box we live in. Sometimes small and sometimes tattered, sometimes a bit more grand, but home, well that is the people that live inside the box and when you are clear about that, everything else is simply a detail.

 

 

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home again

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it has been said you can’t go home again (Thomas Wolfe) and there are a thousand ways to go home again (Rumi).

Spring brings home the Osprey which have been flying over the house and landing in the treetops singing sweetly. I have heard the loons in the morning and evening light and the hummingbirds made their first appearance yesterday. Everything is waking up and on the brink of bursting forward.spring--100

 

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This was Easter weekend and we had a gathering to celebrate the love and life of my husbands mother, whose life as well as giving me my partner has mingled with mine for almost 50 years. The extended family is a pretty large group, some of whom I had not seen in a decade. Some I had not met, a very emotional day on many fronts.  Almost overwhelming.

Returning to our home, and more specifically the woods and lake around it feels like standing on solid ground. I think in this way I lean towards the rumi quote. Finding your definition of home can be such a gift.  The people in my life, the spaces and places that anchor, the familiar builds from the family root.

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Spring and Easter offer such a sense of new beginning, of fresh starts, of moving forward and of letting go. I haven’t learned how to move forward without letting go, it paints such a literal picture of stuck. Letting go to make space for what comes next. Breathe deeply, exhale gratitude.

Our beautiful forest king came through with velvet horns the gifted antlers sit on my desk.  old friends, new life – springtime is a promise, something new is yet to come. Be patient, have faith.spring--108

As I was about to leave the busy room with many things unsaid and my breath too shallow in my chest, a warm embrace from one of my sweet nephews, ‘i just love you so much’. I smile as I hear his words and echo them back to a room with so many stories. If not in my life, still in my heart-

Above all else, I just love you all, so much.

 

 

 

sharing space

I started my morning in a long hot bath, softening muscles that are tight from a few hours car ride, one i will gladly make as many times as we can to share space with my husbands mom in the time we have. My husband is one of four brothers and a baby sister, each having partners and children and many of those children now raising families of their own. My Mother in law has two remaining sisters, being one in a family of five girls – the tributaries of this river flow far and wide.

I am thinking with gratitude how lucky it is we are within driving distance. As life happens, our family is spread about with miles and commitments between so it isn’t possible for everyone to have this hands on time that we all know is precious. What I want to share about that, for those of you who are far away is it matters most to you, but if I can, I want to ask you to shift your worry and sadness into some of the times you spent together over the years. These are the times we often talk about on the visits. The little girls in white dresses who grew up five sisters in mill towns in northern b.c. The ones who brought together their large families in the early days when there were enough little boys to make a baseball team with spares!

My youngest sister in law came along late, not to be included in a lot of the memories of the early days. When sharing memories of their dad at the celebration of his life, often it was around the four boys.  I hoped she didn’t feel left out of the family because she was and remains all of their softest place, a late addition, the only little girl albeit a tom boy despite the painted toe nails!  She and her closest sibling live in town and much of the heavy weight sits with them as the available family.

Most of the grand children have been able to spend time with their Grandma these past few weeks, all i believe within the past six months. Here is the important thing I have learned. Distance in this moment  doesn’t change how closely she holds you in her heart which is very full. Pictures on the table and the fridge and frames around the house show your faces. Her sense of connection to each of you is tangible and it seems like time between is not the factor that determines strength of nearness. She carries you each so tightly I feel you in the room. imgp67962

My husbands sweet mom is the last parent we have between us. The thought of that loss makes me feel like a small boat without an anchor in a big sea. She was thinking yesterday about the many documents and pictures she has been assembling and how it wouldn’t take much to compile them and I am sure one of the grandchildren may one day. She wants you all to know where you came from. I secretly know. despite hardships and wounds that sometimes feel close to the surface, you come from strong stock. You come from close ties and long memories. You come from a long line of love, you are family.

We live in a world that struggles with endings. We know no matter how many, there are never enough visits. There are never enough birthdays! Having lost three of four parents between us, I have learned two things with certainty. Love lingers, and, there are no real good byes. I hope we have more chats, more visits, more more more of everything but when it is too hard to be here and passage comes, you need to know she has someone always, and if it isn’t you physically there in the moment, you are remembered. you are loved. imgp0013

in this moment

IMGP0120August long weekend is sliding by.
There is an abundance of color and in my busy mind I am often dancing between reality and the paintings of Georgia O’Keeffe, floral splendor in form and color. Makes me want to give florals another shot! Yesterday I poured through art supplies, work set aside to rework, fresh new canvas in a a good run of sizes, all seemingly just out of reach.
My current deadline is to finish getting everything out of the space i used for painting, eek, and move it to the space not remotely ready to receive it – but that is life. A cliche joined by, this too shall pass, two frequent phrases in our house these days! I packed the little tractor trailer like the opening from the Beverly hillbillies several times yesterday to cart things from one old house to the other! The result being a hellish mess in both spaces! Although I must say tossing things into carts and trailers is WAY easier than the traditional albeit sensible ‘packing up’!
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It is hotter than usual in the little yellow house. That happens when you replace the roof and shoddy insulation with plastic tarp! Thank God for nights that see the temps drop or sleep would be a next year thing too.  But here it is the start of the shortened week, here I am blurry eyed but ready to roll.

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We have agreed at the start of the weekend / the summer would not be wished away. Reminders are required but the schedule goes sort of like this: some work, some garden which is less work and more meditation, mixed with some walks/ swims and some time to simply be. Saturday and Sunday went quite well, by Monday as I recognized how far I am from the finish line, and yet how I could see it if I just pushed a little harder… I lost perspective for a bit. When I asked my daughter to text her dad and say I was going to read for a bit and take a break, she added teasing, and you can’t make her start again until after dinner. He responded with, yes of course i can, just tell her I will finish up and she will come screaming back with it’s okay, aka, GET OUTTA MY STUDIO! Some things you have to do yourself even if the help is deeply tempting!
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My thoughts time travel to ‘next year’  more than I would like to be honest.  I forgive myself for that and still i realize there is the need to stay present. There is no promise for tomorrow.  Take time for all of the good things offered you. I shared a conversation about seed packets and sun loving flowers with a smile – gardeners know while enjoying the present there is always an eye on next year.
If fall and winter finds much undone-
‘Just remember in the winter far beneath the bitter snows
Lies the seed
That with the sun’s love
In the spring
Becomes the rose’
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here we go again….

2994937509_8d7fbba7cd_oWhere does the time go? For us this year it has been sifting through dust and sawdust, adding sticky notes to house plans, thinking and re thinking, what will things look like at summers end? I am quite sure our hopes to host a thanks giving with all things finished were on the side of unrealistically ambitious, aka, not happening! That said, the scaled down daughters plus, will make for a good relaxed version of the original plan. If we aren’t cooking in the new updated kitchen then we can see what cooks on the bbq and in the toaster oven! It is more about who is at the table than what is on it anyway.

 

Back to the start of this story….. About 16 months ago we decided to stay on our property and make changes, starting with the desperately needed replacement of the one existing bathroom. This was about as much fun as it sounds like -in the midst of last years hot summer, the portable outhouse, and showering off site, the couple of moments of do we have water? Eventually it was finished and we have one nice up to date room in the house!

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From there a winters reprieve of sorts while we worked with an architect to come up with drawings for a contractor to add an upper floor and reconfigure the bottom floor. The extra tricky part -we decided moving out wouldn’t work so we would be instead working around a compliant family of three adults and 8 slightly less compliant senior cats many with health issues, one blind.

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So the first incredible part was a new septic system and water lines. On our rural property we have a stream that flows from two sources, winter run off making a fast flow and an underground spring that bubbles up and keeps a slow flow going year round. It is tiny but valued by us and the wildlife. Registering the stream was required by the province and the city in order to have permits. As we protect it vigilantly this wasn’t a massive problem but it did have to involve a notary, and the clock was ticking.   The stream dictates where lines would run and tanks would be placed and ultimately dug out half the grassy part of the property for the spring but that is all back in place and green again albeit rocky!

 

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Then construction started, trenches everywhere revealed more foundation work which meant a structural engineer before permits could be approved, which meant a six week delay as we lost our priority space on the schedule.

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Then there was / is the matter of getting rid of the shocking amount of dirt dug up for a ten foot main floor addition, space for drain tiles, and sloping landscape. Dump trucks, excavators and blimey it looks like flag men will be required.  So while it looks like little has happened, shocking amounts of things in fact have.

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Oh I forgot to mention the evacuation of bats from the attic, the building and erecting of three styles of replacement bat houses which almost ended with my being crushed by the twelve foot post to install said boxes to the proper height for optimum residency. The raccoons that had found comfort zones are starting to forgive me for this outrageous breach of peace, we have a mama bear with three wee cubs, and all in all life continues as we restyle ‘normal’ on a weekly basis.  If all goes well the first section of the roof comes off  tomorrow. I have let go of time lines. The stressing over things one cannot control is a primary cause of dissatisfaction in life. Instead we are taking a work in progress pov.  The landscaping will maybe start in the fall to be continued in the spring, the studio will be a sleepy start up perhaps the summer following.

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There is a flow to life with change, it is either swimming with, fighting against or being sucked under. The best way not to drown is keep your cool, breathe, float when you can and picture yourself safely stepping onto firm ground.

So, here we go again…. still….. and forward

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how we learn

IMGP0289How we learn, it seems to me, is much like how we see. We are each given our own set of tools to bring to an experience and the backpack – our vessel, in this case the soft part that sits inside the cranium, to carry away the pieces we keep.  For three days I attended a master painters workshop last week and I carried away the bits I will use, the broader bits I will smile to have seen and the bendy bits that were a consequence of place and time. It worked out fine.

I have done few workshops in a large part because of my learning style. It can be for me frustrating and for the group potentially distracting though i try to keep myself near a door! I am it would seem  challenged by the process of being a student. I think about the year I helped in a kindergarten class and how my heart would squeeze for the little ones that stared longingly out the window. The ones who wanted to draw at listening time, or listen at singing time. or have their snack when they were hungry rather than wait for a clock. They always seemed in whatever way to be out of sync in one perspective but I know their secret was the strength in the call of their own unique path. IMGP0085

In the room where tables were set with easels and tubes of beautiful colored paint and newly stained brushes a wall of windows streamed with sunlight. I knew from when the blinds were opened I would be in trouble. The park outside is a well used one, a water feature for kids to play and school groups and families filled the space. The jewel in the shade was down a sloping path where on two sides of earth sat ponds and a wet land fringe. Cattle in the adjacent field made soothing sounds, birds of many kinds flapped and chattered in the spring job of attending to new life. Each day I began, and slipped in many visits to the pond. In those moments a coot family came very near and a yellow headed blackbird landed briefly on my toe. I can still feel the weightless curl of his tiny  feet. It was a wonderful few days.IMGP0099

My friend snapped this picture of me ‘hard at work’  😉 which I must admit I rather love. I was vexed with forgetting a camera card, buying a new one which turned out to be flawed, but on the second day another friend brought me a card to borrow and it was like finding a gift you weren’t expecting, delight! IMG_3234photo credit, Dawn Scott

The painters style while beautiful, is not one I would see at the end of my brush but some interesting tricks of colors mixed I had not considered previously will become part of my palette.  I also watched with fascination the building of a piece that was quite stunning using steps that I had not imagined.  I confirmed my growing understanding around ways of seeing and combining visual input are within a very broad spectrum. Ingrid Christensen, another master painter shared in a lecture, we see differently, one way is not right and one wrong, they are simply different. It is quite mesmerizing to see through another viewfinder, quite different from your own.IMGP0109

The trick of a workshop for me is choosing one that while dissimilar to my own style and goals gives recipes for some ways of inclusion.  In that I do not become confused on my canvas with what is mine and what was borrowed. Always there are other participants that I also learn from and lovely shared company, discussion, coffee breaks and strawberries! I think my ‘perfect’ workshop would be a variety of demo’s to attend ( I learn by seeing) some paint out options (sometimes i need to make visual notes or just to put my hands in), a beautiful setting (to fill the pumpy part of the vessel we link to love and spirit) and no pretense of a painting to take away.  It is not required to validate my weird visual notes, they are for me alone 😉 and while it may seem territorial, if you paint on my canvas I can’t reclaim it, it is no longer mine. I have learned in a few steps to hopefully quietly and hopefully politely take what i need.  However you play the game, there is so much room to interpret, we all win! 😉 IMGP0194

Check our Michael O’Toole for a look at the beautiful work from the instructor. Thank you for sharing your expertise.

 

 

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in the pines

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It started on Sunday, looking up a song from the series Justified and the play list from u tube on the edge of my computer had a list of blue grass/ blues/ and a Nirvana song. I couldn’t imagine the common ground but as soon as I hit the play button I remembered how much I loved their rendition of Where did you sleep last night. It has been playing in my thoughts from a whisper to a roar for the past couple of days.  Wikipedia states: “In the Pines“, also known as “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” and “Black Girl“, is a traditional American folk song which dates back to at least the 1870s,[citation needed] and is believed to be Southern Appalachian in origin.[citation needed] The identity of the song’s author is unknown.

 This is what I would consider a creative haunting.

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Yesterday while gardening had been the plan a too close encounter with the bear family brought me to the drawing table. I looked across to see a textured black coated canvas and plopped it on the easel. I have been loving the deeper shadowy places of spring, the way light falls and fractures through the forest on the way to the earth, or the bottom of the garden to that place where blues turn to purples and disappear to dark ground below.  ‘I stayed in the pines where the sun never shines,  i would shiver the whole night through ‘. FullSizeRender (69)

A slip of orange butterfly weaves and dances from the open field along the edge of the woods and disappears into the mystery of darkness.  I feel drawn to follow its flitting movement, a meandering walk into the lesser known. This is a place I like to take my imagination, to find and explore a less obvious beautiful.  The way we see and represent is such a personal journey.

a morning fb post from a gifted photographer

Photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in something ordinary. It has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.
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I do not spend a lot of time painting flowers though I love my garden, I adore flowers in doors.  in paintings, Georgia O’Keefe (everything) and Monets waterlilies stir my heart. The holding something until you are finished with it aspect as well – Monet is said to have painted the waterlilies over 250 times in his carreer, a fact I find staggering.  Back to in the pines, Huddie Ledbetter, a.k.a. Lead Belly, recorded over half-a-dozen versions between 1944 and 1948, most often under the title, “Black Girl” or “Black Gal”. 
So is there a point to this ramble?  I have been exploring my process. Where is the beginning? Is it in putting materials together, pulling paints choosing grounds and surface? Is it in the image refinement and alteration or is it somewhere deeper, a dream space that is simply triggered when your eyes fall upon the familiar?  For me the question has more value than the answer. It is a kind of push against the door and as I can only speak from the space of my own experience in the world of women I think there is also desire to be known, to be seen in  the mysterious and darker places without judgement.
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It’s a long steel rail and a short cross tie
I’m on my way back home
In the pines, in the pines, where the sun never shines
And you shiver when the cold winds blow
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images very early of a work in progress.