One: Ingredients for Heaven

ingredients for heaven on earth,

In our little piece of heaven, my husband and I often share an aperitif under the leafed canopy in our backyard before supper. On such an occasion I leaned back in my lawn chair and looked up beyond the lime-green interruptions at a perfectly blue sky. A sudden inundation of gratitude glowed within my being. I am blessed. As I thought about how heaven had come about, a few important ingredients came to mind.

Important ingredients

Without these ingredients the many blessings so easily slip away. I remember a time when depression dogged my daily life. Fear had me in its deadly grip and heaven was far away. Even today, should I forget to name the good in each moment, I may awake to the old familiar fatigue draining all vitality from every step I take. Hence, being present is important.

Blessing instead of curse

Blessing instead of cursing is another of the ingredients. Rather than joining the throng criticizing government, church and spouse, I choose silence for the most part. Each negative thought and word dismantles the good around and within us, blinds us to the beautiful. Truth is, our world is far from perfect. Instead of criticism, however, a few steps in the direction of kindness and patience make a solid foundation for heaven on Earth. “Thank you” uplifts weary souls. A smile can do wonders for an overburdened spirit.

Gratitude is one of the ingredients

Another ingredient is gratitude. While everyone can decide to be grateful, the choice is far from unanimous. Maybe if we were more grateful, heaven would be closer.

Detachment

Among the ingredients is the knowing that nothing belongs to me. All my comforts, my home, my family, everything belongs to the one who gave it to me. I do not own my spouse or any of the members of my family. My home is a borrowed dwelling where I am responsible for upkeep and beautification. Moving forty times in my life has taught me detachment. Although I must admit if a tornado blew through I would be upset for a while.

Sharing is among the ingredients

Sharing shows up among the ingredients. Although Covid-19 has put a damper on sharing, it is still possible. We look forward to new ways to share the wealth of our blessings. Every time we come together we ripple the goodness creating a larger space in which heaven may grow here and now. Walking in solidarity with those less fortunate moves us toward a better world. We can sign petitions, donate to charities, move beyond our comfort zones to include those outside our circles.

Peace is a blend of ingredients

A certain peace permeates our little piece of heaven because it does not depend on external measurements. Our home is not large, our family is imperfect, our community insular. Imperfections give us something on which to work and keep us humble. Remembering we are not alone and the whole is not our responsibility, gives us room to be the best we can be. I do not need to do it all and it is not about me.

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One: Prejudice

prejudice, respect

All of us carry prejudice in our being. Most of the time I am not even aware of the bias escaping my lips until someone else points it out. I do admit to preferential treatment for my grandchildren who are the most beautiful people in the world. I may be forgiven for this opinion. Other points of view may be more damaging than helpful.

Travel opens prejudiced eyes

Maybe I have an advantage to seeing more clearly our nation’s personal prejudice. My introduction to living as a foreigner in a foreign country came at an early age. As a result it opened my eyes to the diversity of the world. I also learned my way may not be the only way. A brush with poverty also taught me how I may enjoy a privileged position in the world.

Positions of privilege

Positions of privilege come in many forms. My husband is often annoyed by the fact a sweet smile helps me avoid minor traffic infringements. I suspect at the bottom of this phenomenon lies the prejudice: females are the weaker sex. I chuckle and take advantage of a belief I know to be false. It helps with the finances and I try to avoid further infractions until I fall back into old habits.

Prejudice is insidious

Yet, prejudice is insidious. It lurks under our best intentions. Acts of charity may have a superiority complex as its foundation, for example. Much of the work done with the poorest of the poor and the marginalized has a colonial look about it. As a white, financially secure upper middle class we assume we know better than the other and it feels good to give. It is good to give. However, we might ask the other what it is he or she needs most before we do anything.

Walking in solidarity demands respect

Walking in solidarity requires putting prejudice aside. Instead, we take a stance recognizing the other knows better than we do. As a result, we walk together toward a solution which benefits everyone. It is not about money. Often the problem lies in a lack of respect. Generally, women may understand this better than men because we encounter many forms of missing respect. Add colour or economic status to the equation and the problem deepens.

Prejudice dissolves with listening

Our present dilemma focuses on the prejudice of colour. In Canada we have turned a long-standing blind eye to the lack of respect for our native peoples who fill our prisons as a result. Lately, with an increase in a refugee population, this lack finds its home in other races as well. The choice is to continue in our biases or embrace the differences by befriending the stranger. It is only through the act of listening, real listening, that we come to understand and respect the other. And it is time to change.

Event reminder

As a reminder: AIMAE is still on in Vancouver. I have a wall all to myself at the FCA gallery. Do check it out.

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One: Submissions

submissions, AIMAE, drawing, ink,

The form of submissions for various competitions has changed over the years. It is much easier these days. I used to fuss with colour graphs and slides, special lighting, in and outdoor experiments, all to find the best way to archive my images. Digital is so simple by comparison.

Submissions still require a mountain

Formerly, one could not submit anything without using a slide format. Some required prints on photo paper with a colour code. Then we went to CDs accompanied by the paper mountain in the form of cover letter, CVs, statements and other paraphernalia.  Submissions still require the mountain, just not in paper form.

Photography is still crucial

These days everything is digital. Even the exhibitions. Thankfully that will change shortly. The photography segment of submissions is crucial to success. Yet, no matter how excellent the photograph, it does not capture the subtleties of any work done in multiple layers. Only seeing the painting in real life, can one appreciate the depth and breadth of the artist’s capacities. Often my work shifts colour as one walks by. Different light makes a huge difference, almost like having several paintings in one depending on the time of day.

Submissions are specific

Submissions continue to be demanding, however. Every organisation requires a particular way in which the images are labeled and sized. Titles for artist’s statements and project descriptions are also unique to each competition. I suspect it is an easy way to eliminate several artists who do not take the time to read the fine print. After all, when one receives over six hundred entries to a single competition, one needs to look for an easy way to reduce the size of the elephant.

Digital makes things easier

submissions, FCA, Landscapes
“Oneing” 36x60in neomosaic/mixedmedia on gallery wrap canvas $3456.00

Lately, I have taken advantage of the digital display only. My favorite gallery cannot accommodate any painting over four feet in width. With the latest submissions for landscape and others I have included the diptych “Oneing” which measures ten feet wide. So fun. We will see if it is accepted. The competition is closing soon.

Successful submissions

submissions, drawings, prints, opening
Invitation to AIMAE

In the meantime, the doors to galleries are opening with restrictions and artwork is once again on display. All my submissions have been very successful lately. The Federation of Canadian Artists’ gallery in Vancouver is thankful for the timing of the reopening. Their exhibition “AIMAE” opens tomorrow. I have five pieces showing in this exhibition. So exciting. 

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One: Knees

My knees have seen a lot of use lately. Gardening requires this humble position if one wishes to do a good job of weeding or planting. Unlike former times, however, they require a cushion.

Learning about soil conditioning

Happily, cushioned or not, my knees seem to be getting stronger. At least what I suspect is arthritis has diminished as I discover a few surprises. A friend gave me a tip about leaving the soil covered for winter. I thought the leaves would blow away so I threw some cardboard over them. My discovery: crushed leaves don’t blow away. They also condition the soil so the beds are even better this year than last. Looking forward to some fresh vegetables.

The view from my knees

While my garden is not huge, it is productive. In the picture, just behind me on my knees, is a newly planted asparagus bed. In the background we can see a newly finished composter. The lawn is made up of mostly dandelions and clover. New topsoil will level it out, perhaps next year, when we reseed it in clover. For the bees. The dandelions will seed naturally.

On my knees ecologically

As you may notice, we are into ecology. Composting reduces the amount of garbage which ends up being mostly wrappings. One small bag every two weeks. One large bag of recyclables every three or four weeks and a large bag of non-recyclables every two months or so. Now that the composter is in place we will see what the winter brings and how much soil it produces. Another learning curve. This curve has brought me to my knees as I listen to my friend talk about the biological make up of soil and how the caragana growing in our neighbour’s yard is the reason our spruce are so healthy. No, I will not be devoting much time to study. I will be asking questions though.

on my knees, protest, ecologically harmful,
“Traces” 30x40in neomosaic/mixed media on Arches 140lb cold press paper $1180.00

I protest with my paintings

On a different note, Instagram is buzzing about a recent painting I completed. It is pretty. Underneath, a sadness sends me to my knees in another way. Copper strips represents the booms used for fishing nets. The avocado sacks occupy the between spaces . I painted the water aqua. “Traces” questions our right to drain the oceans of fish or pollute the waterways with plastic. I see no political will to change.

Releasing sadness on my knees

On my knees, I place my sadness in the hands of one greater than me. My hope rests in the creator of our beautiful common home. She can change the hearts of those who can correct our course, install a circular economy and balance the bounty for everyone. In the meantime, I recycle, compost and eloquently protest with the beauty of my work and its message.

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One: Our Normal

our normal, balance, circular economy, living wage

Governments are anxious to reopen for business as usual. Returning to our normal may be the desire for most people. A few renegades, like me, demand better. We can do way better than the status quo.

What does our normal look like?

To begin with, let us examine what our normal looks like in our world. Generally, a chasm exists between the wealth of the Northern Hemisphere and the poverty of the Southern Hemisphere. Our privileged lifestyle is largely funded by the underpaid and overworked.

The natural world

Another sad scenario plays out in the natural world where “Over the past 50 years, …, populations of land-based species have fallen 40 percent, freshwater species more than 80 percent, and marine species 35 percent.” National Geographic May 7, 2020. Exploiting natural resources without considering the consequences of maintaining a viable planet may mean our demise. Our normal may kill us.

Good news

As a result of being a long term member for Development and Peace, an NGO set up in 1967 to work with the disadvantaged of the global south, I am privy to some very encouraging news not viewable in the local press. Native Peoples have much to teach us about keeping the balance. The National Geographic is another source of excellent information. The pandemic has changed our normal significantly. Perhaps it may be wise to maintain some of the changes. And Richard Rohr ranks with the rebels in the spiritual realm by welcoming leaders of all faiths and genders to his centre of Action and Contemplation. Cooperation instead of competition.

My kind of normal

Also, limited world resources insist on a limited use of those resources. Living simply, within a circular economy, would allow everyone to have a living wage for satisfying work. By living wage, I mean enough funds for food, clothing, shelter, and leisure. Leisure is essential for a healthy population. Education and health should be classified as a right rather than a privilege for everyone, equally, independent of income. This is a normal I could embrace.

A new normal

As my artwork suggests, our world is falling apart. Having lost our way with the advent of the industrial age and the pursuit of personal gain, we no longer consider the general good. Balance is no longer part of the equation. Gold rules. Should we return to business as usual, our normal will destroy any chance of survival in the beautiful world we know today. As a people we must demand a better outcome. The choice is change or die.

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One: Connection

internet, connection, playing cards, relationships

In our world supersaturated with electronic messaging, one would think connection would be easier. After all, we have come a long way from the days of the telegraph.

Connection through emoji

The electronic alternative to a hug, of course, has become the norm these days. Personally, I am delighted to be able to make the connection with our son in Montreal every Sunday. Playing cards through the internet is almost as much fun as it is in person. I do miss the hugs though.

Temptation to withdraw

While we isolate in our protective bubbles, however, the possibility to withdraw presents a temptation to some. I choose to rearrange my schedule to be present to those who wish connection. And I choose to leave love notes for those who do not. Why?

Connection is crucial

At the end of the day, what I have done will not matter as much as the relationships I have built over a lifetime. Connection is crucial. I am not necessarily good at it either. Isolating myself in my studio comes very naturally to me. Coronavirus has not changed my routine in any significant way. I still paint. Remembering people’s birthdays is still a problem for me. I continue to fall short in what I wish to accomplish on any given day.

Personal and professional connection

So, I choose to come out of my shell and make the phone calls to long lost friends and family. This connection allows me to know they are still safe and well. I care. On a professional level, the weekly conference calls keep me motivated and informed. Sharing some time and ideas lays the foundation for future projects and keeps us sane.

Lots of ways to connect

Connection may make the difference between hope and despair. A little love note, telling someone I am thinking of him or wishing her well, is not too much to ask. Listening to long stories from another who has no one else to hear makes for joy. A thousand possibilities present themselves should we choose to engage.

Closer connections

Should you wish to have a closer connection with me and my comings and goings, do follow me on Instagram, Facebook or LinkedIn. It seems to the best way to connect these days.

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One: Mice

mice, sealing, control,

One of the problems with having a dirt crawl space is mice. The unwelcome guests find the cozy warmth inviting for the winter months and occasionally they venture into our space upstairs.

Slowly sealing mice entrances

Since I find I am not as pressed these days to meet deadlines and such, I have decided to tackle some of the jobs waiting in the wings. The mice have waited a long time. Four years in fact. Actually, putting insulation along the walls below did deter quite a few. Apparently they do not like the taste. Still, a few is not enough.

Mice do not like steel wool

I have located several places through which the mice manage to invade. I may revisit the end of the kitchen cupboard where I used several packages of steel wool to fill the rather large gaps around pipes. Under the illusion that the space needed to be flexible for plumbing access, I left this removeable. The lack of evidence of their presence in the cupboard is, however, encouraging.

Filling holes and sealing baseboards

Mice really do not like steel wool. Yesterday I spent all morning in the pantry which used to be the cupboard space for a washer/dryer combination. The installation of new pipes and drainage system for the new location left large holes in the walls and in the floor. I am fairly good at drywall. Patching the walls took a little time because the holes were so irregular. Using some silicone, I sealed the base of the walls, put in some baseboards and sealed them as well. I used the silicone to stabilize the steel wool which I jammed into the gaping holes and reloaded the pantry. After all, it did not need to meet any fancy finished look.

Mice beware!

Next, the little storage cupboard on the other side of the freezer. I defrosted that too. Much easier to do than the larder, I inserted steel wool along the bottom of the baseboards before nailing them into place. Having sealed off top, bottom and corners, I looked with satisfaction at what I hoped would be impenetrable barriers. Mice beware!

Projects for later

Another highway for the mice population is the furnace room. That is for another day. I some of the little creatures show up in the living room where they tend to show up, I will remove the baseboards and steel wool the joints. Also, for another day.

Besides mice control

Besides renovations and mice duty, I am totally engrossed in some new work and planning a new series. For daily updates you can follow me on Instagram or my Facebook page.

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One: Vigil

vigil, death, resurrection, renewal, easter

Keeping vigil forms part of many religious expressions. In the Western Christian tradition, the one with which I am most familiar, Holy Saturday is one long day of anticipation for the resurrection of Jesus. That was yesterday. Today we are into alleluias and celebration.

Vigil for the dying or dead

Globally, at this moment, many keep vigil for the dying or the dead. Thanks to technology, our family draws closer together as we accompany those living in other countries, on other continents in their time of need. Covid-19 is taking its toll.

Our vigil

The shape of vigil varies from tradition to tradition. For me, yesterday was a day of cleansing. I cleaned the house. A task long overdue. Tonight, we place a lighted candle in the centre of the kitchen table as our way of being many miles away at a funeral taking place around two in the morning. The same small act of solidarity repeated from a week ago.

Natural cycle

Prayer is another form of vigil. Many pray for the renewal of the Earth during this time of crisis. There is hope. Although our particular society spends billions on methods to look younger and avoid death, the natural cycle in all of life is death and resurrection. Death is a doorway into something new and often better. We stand on a threshold at this very moment. Do we change, or do we go back to business as usual?

Many forms of vigil

Other forms of vigil use flags and ribbons, prayer packages hung in trees. All forms have one thing in common: reverence. A calm hope prevails in the sadness. Actions move slowly and in unison. Hearts and souls come together for a common goal. We all long for a resurrection.

Blessings

As we keep the vigil during Covid-19, I wish each of you a blessed time of reflection and hope. This too will pass. May we all have the courage to step into something new and better as we move past the sadness and into the light. All is welland all will be well.

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One: Isolation

isolation, blog, neomosaic, sold, internet

Isolation: a common state of affairs among artists. Creativity requires alone time. Generally, we gather information, caresses touching our souls, as we live in the world. Ideas swirl, coalesce, reform within the period of incubation. Then we withdraw to put our light to paper. Subsequently, we re-emerge to show the world the results, be it visual, musical, theatrical, choreography or a combination of all.

Isolation suits me

isolation, light in darkness, acrylic, grays,
A light in the darkness

As a result, our present circumstance of isolation suits me for the moment. Incubation can still occur in the inundation of virtual information. I am spending way more time on my computer, usage up thirty-three percent from last week and growing. The internet is a blessing, enabling me to keep in touch with those I love and stimulating my brain. Too much of a good thing can also be a curse. Requires supervision and limitation.

Stepping out of my comfort zone

isolation, acrylic on paper
Doorway to light

Our new normal demands rethinking schedules and priorities. Moving into the virtual sphere precludes an expertise absent in my repertoire. Pushed out of my comfort zone, I am considering making videos instead of taking photos. I long for my former isolation. My studio is cozy. However, help abounds. All I need do is ask or google it.

Continuing isolation

isolation, mixed media on paper,
Winter Sun brings light

Since the statistics show how our isolation, social distancing, is essential for flattening the curve, I am willing to comply. We are in this for the long haul. I look forward to changes in other aspects of the governance of our world. Rather than hanging on to what was not working before, we can implement new ways of living. Simplicity is key. Staying at home forces us to embrace a simpler lifestyle at a slower pace. We will all be the better for it.

Some statistics

A final note. The statistics aforementioned also indicate we might not do well if we let go of our isolation too soon. The graph is taken from historical annals dealing with the Spanish Flu and supplied by the National Geographic. My hope is the larger population continues to help one another sharing their light while those in charge may abandon the general good for personal aggrandisement.

Even in isolation, with the help of the internet, sales are possible. A special thank you to the discerning customer who purchased “Stuck/immobile” earlier this week. Another learning curve challenges me: shipping internationally. Hang in there with me. All will be well.

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One: Attitude

attitude, crisis, choosing,

Our state of mind often determines whether we receive challenges with ease or with trepidation. Fortunately, our attitude lies within our control.

Attitude depends on the wolf I feed

To begin with, it seems as if reactions are uncontrollable. first of all, I must recognize the consequences within me of the thoughts and ideas around me. I get to choose which wolf to feed. My attitude depends on whether or not I feed the wolf of fear. 

Takes time to change

While I recognize the long period of time it has taken to change my attitude from fear to confidence, I celebrate the peace I enjoy today. I welcome this period of isolation as it gives me time to reflect on the most important issues of the day. I get to choose where to put my energy. 

Attitude of adventure

A global pandemic awakens the world to new possibility. We could build a new world instead of rebuilding the old one. Obviously, the old one is not working anymore anyway. Yet in order to rebuild we need an attitude of adventure embracing possibility.

Art world stresses attitude

Certainly, in the art world things are changing rapidly. There is little doubt it will never be the same. It could be better. Amidst the closing museum, galleries and festivals new venues are opening. For an interesting discussion on these topics listen to the Art Angle Podcast.

New possibilities

The attitude of solidarity grows as we reach out to connect in new ways. People have power in solidarity. The solution lies in the ground swell of those demanding a more equitable distribution of wealth. Protecting our planet and its resources also comes to the fore. Creating a circular economy becomes priority.

All is well

We live in exciting times. Let us embrace the new and the miracle of possibility. A positive attitude will lead us to new ideas and new solutions. In the meantime, rest. Reconnect. Open to the possible. Celebrate. All is well.

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