Author Archives: sbland

About sbland

Sue Bland (aka Poached Egg Woman) is a visual artist who lives on a farm in rural Saskatchewan. A chicken farm, to be exact, hence she eats a lot of poached eggs! Sue works primarily in paper collage and watercolours, and offers heART & SOUL PLAYshops to anyone interested in exploring their creative side and having fun.

Rice Paper Birds

Sometimes a new piece of paper can suggest a new direction, or a new way of seeing things. Such is the case with a gift of the most delicate pale blue translucent paper my daughter Laurel brought me from Toronto. For a while I just admired it hanging in the window with other strips of translucent paper being hung over it for effect. Eventually, two new pieces took shape.

I love flocks of rice paper birds. Playing with such sheer papers encouraged me to focus more on the abstract shapes of birds and the spaces between them (and less on the individual birds).

The birds don’t alter space.
They reveal it. The sky
never fills with any
leftover flying. They leave
nothing to trace. It is our own
astonishment collects
in chill air. Be glad

(Li-Young Lee ‘Praise Them’)

Tree Hugger (2)

 

“Aspen Rhythms” by Patty Hawkins, textile artist, http://pattyhawkins.com

East of our farm, a particular aspen bluff caught my attention years ago when a neighbouring farmer tried to burn it down. He set the bluff on fire twice, and after the second time, it appeared the trees would not recover. I felt heartsick. I noticed yellow lady slippers growing beneath the trees. I wanted to write the landowner but an older neighbour told me that the trees would come back. The trees did recover in time and the farmer stopped trying to burn them down. It took three or four years, but those trees began to leaf out and thrive once again.

Recently, the land changed hands again. Last fall, when my daughter and I walked down the road we were in no way prepared for the sight of a bulldozer parked by this same grove of trees which were partially knocked down. We went and had a look. Our hearts were heavy. My daughter was taking auto mechanics – we halfheartedly joked that she now knew what she could do to stop this bulldozer in its tracks.

A few days later, the bulldozer finished its work. Piles of uprooted trees, roots and brush dotted this field, and other fields around it.

The next spring, some of the trees tried to leaf out, even though their roots were in the air.

Late this fall , my neighbour set the brush piles on fire. Gas was poured around the circumference of the trees, then lit on fire.  Huge bonfires dotted the landscape. I cried as I walked that morning. When the tears subsided, I sang. Songs of lamentation.

“Aspen Seasons 1” Patty Hawkins, textile artist, http://pattyhawkins.com

Over the next few days, I visited each pile of smouldering trees and thanked them for their marvellous presence over the years, for all the animals and creatures and wild plants they had sheltered, for all the seasons they had lived through, for all of the life in their root systems which we could never see, for their beauty and their mystery and their steadiness.

A few days later, a larger semi truck arrived with a back hoes and a bulldozer. Large holes were dug in the earth and the trees were buried. The piles were gone. Not one wild spot was left on this field. It was as if the trees had never been there.

Each time I walk in that direction, I walk a circle around where these trees are. I  feel their presence. The bulldozer missed some willows stalks in one of the tree graveyards. I urge them to grow. Willow doesn’t need much urging!

I wondered what to do. How to express my grief and distress in some way that mattered? How to speak out? It just so happened that the burning and bulldozing was taking place during the week of Donald Trump’s election win. I was feeling very aware of the “echo chambers” many of us live in, especially those of us who are active on social media.

For this reason, I decided to call my neighbour and talk to him directly.  I wanted a respectful conversation. I wanted to tell him about my grief and distress. I didn’t expect my call to change him. He has invested hundred of thousands of dollars in equipment meant to alter the landscape. I wanted him to listen to how I felt. My call unnerved him I think, but we did have a respectful conversation. When I mentioned the lady slippers, he told me he hadn’t known they were there, that he had never visited that bluff of aspen. He told me it was better that I get this off my chest and not keep my feelings bottled up. He thanked me for sharing my thoughts as a neighbour. I invited him to hike with me the next spring, so he could see all the richness of life held in these aspen bluffs and wetlands.

I wrote a letter to our local newspaper. I am writing this post, a little more personal than the letter to the editor. I need to learn about the rules for cutting trees on Crown land which includes the road allowances.  That will lead me to more conversations – with those we have elected to represent us.

“Aspen Solace” by Patty Hawkins, textile artist, http://pattyhawkins.com

I think about the beauty of aspens, a tree we so easily overlook. I recall building a sweat lodge with Melody McKellar and how we asked each aspen tree for permission before we chopped it down. How we offered tobacco as thanks.  How we warmed up the trees by rubbing their trunks, so they would bend more easily as it was autumn, when their sap was flowing more slowly. How we bent them gradually so they would not snap. How it felt to work with the aspen, to get a feel for their flexibility.  How the aspen protected and held us as we prayed and sweated and sang and drummed inside. I remember what the aspen taught me about the ability to bend yet remain strong.

My friend Shirley tells me that the word in French for chopping down trees is “abbatre”. It is related to the word “abbatoir” and literally means “to slaughter”, to “cut down”, “to fell”. It refers both to animals and trees. My friend Philip explains that as a ᓀᐦᐃᔭᐤ nêhiyaw (Cree man), he sees the trees as his relatives.

In contrast, in rural Saskatchewan, we use the term “cleaning up”  to describe the act of removing aspen groves, bushes and wetlands. It is as if these wild lands are a larger version of “weeds” (defined as valueless plants growing where they are not wanted.) Those of us who live in the “aspen parkland”  may feel as though there are aspen bluffs everywhere we look. In fact,  the aspen parkland has seen a huge reduction of wild pockets of land (including both aspen bluffs, native grasslands and wetlands) in the last 40 years mostly due to the piecemeal removal I am writing about. A little bit here, a little bit there. It adds up.

Farmers, including my own farm family, have been altering the land since settlement.  What has shifted is the scale and magnitude of the destruction of wild places as both farms and farm machinery get larger. What has also shifted is our collective fragility in the face of climate change, extreme weather,  and other indicators of ecological vulnerability, such as declining bee populations. 

“Winter Walk”, batik on silk by Cathi Beckel

What has not shifted  is our attitude towards the earth. We continue to mistakenly believe that we are in charge, and do not understand how much we rely on Mother Earth. We often travel far distances to enjoy natural beauty and miss the beauty that is right down the road, or in the nearest coulee or ditch. Thankfully, there are still some farmers who take very seriously their responsibility to keep some wild spaces on their land. But, it is up to all of us to speak up about the “ecological deficit” that the removal of wild lands is leaving us with. We can all insist that governments create and enforce proper regulations. We can ask our governments  to provide farmers  with incentives and financial support to ensure that more wild lands are left intact.

Each trembling aspen tree removes up to 65.3 kilograms of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during each year of its life.* Not only do their root systems help regulate water during flood or drought but they are an important refuge  for the wild things, whether they be yellow lady slippers or other wild creatures.

We can begin by exploring the small stands of aspen to get to know the richness of life that they support. 

These small pockets of wildness may save us. 

“Colorado Gold” by Patty Hawkins, textile artist, http://pattyhawkins.com 

I would like to thank Colorado textile artist Patty Hawkin for permission to use her beautiful images of aspen on this post.  I am so grateful to have discovered her. Something artists can help us to do is see what is right in front of us in fresh ways. Thank you Patty for your exquisite responses to the aspen. Thanks also to Saskatchewan artist Cathi Beckel, whose love and stewardship for the earth around us is unflagging and inspiring. Her beautiful images in watercolour and batik always help me to see the world around me with new eyes.  This post is a companion piece to Tree Hugger(1).

  • +Trembling aspen do need to be controlled or removed sometimes – they are considered an invasive species in native grasslands for example.
  • *https://www.fortwhyte.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Planting_Trees.pdf

Tree Hugger (1)

 

 

Trees I have loved: White Pine, Christie Lake

The year was 1974. I was 17, and lucky enough to be a Junior Ranger in the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resource’s inspired summer program that ran for 68  years and has over 70,000 alumni. The place: McConnell Lake, northeast of North Bay, Ontario.

I couldn’t have been happier. First off, I was away from home. I loved the trappings of the Junior Ranger program – the yellow construction hat, the steel toed boots, the myth that after 6 nicks from an axe in the steel toe of your boot and you would be sent home. The plaid lumberjack shirts. Young women, all 17, from all parts of Ontario. I felt tough and strong and invincible! I loved the wilderness, a northern lake with 24 resident loons, more blueberries than we knew what to do with. The beautiful forests.

For the most part, our work was outdoor physical labour. We used our handy sandvicks (pictured right) to chop down brush, small trees and  to widen roads and trails. We had a particularly beautiful canoe trip where we  worked on portage trails along the fast flowing Mattawa River.

Towards the end of our summer, we made a baseball field. I remember wondering about that. It felt like a “make work” project to me – there didn’t seem to be anybody close enough to play baseball. It kept us busy. We learned about hard physical work, we sweated, we learned about repetitive tasks. I have happy memories of each of us taking turns hiding in the huge piles of brush for a break, with our work buddies keeping  their eyes open for supervisors.  To break up the monotony as we tossed logs down the line, we would identify each log as a type of food. “Ice cream sundae”, “Mars Bar” , “Buttered Popcorn” rang out over the drone of chain saws as we tossed  logs down the line to the ever growing wood pile.

Trees I have loved. White cedar, Christie Lake.

During this project, I noticed a frantic mother robin who had a nest in a tree. I remember asking one of the foremen if we could just leave that tree and come back for it later. A hard-bitten, retired lumberjack, he dismissed my suggestion with a terse no. I felt so foolish. Yet, that robin plagued me. I remember losing sleep and trying to decide if I should take a stand. I believed that if I did I would be sent home. How could I leave what was the best summer of my life? Maybe I was wrong. Maybe the old lumberjacks knew best. Weren’t old people wise?  Maybe I was being romantic. Maybe I needed to be tougher. After all, I looked tough.  I didn’t speak up. The tree went down. The mother robin mourned the loss of her children. It was probably too late in the season for her to begin a new family.

I didn’t speak up but I have never forgotten. Each time an opportunity to speak up against an injustice has arisen , I remember this story.

Trees I have loved. Birch Tree, Lake Superior

Now I know better. While the bigger justice story might have been the wastefulness of creating a baseball field where none was needed, it is my inability to have taken a stand for the robins that I remember.  I knew I wouldn’t stand a chance with a whole baseball field. The lumberjacks may have been wise in some areas of life but they were not the sage old characters I liked to imagine back then. I invested them with a wisdom and an authority that they did not deserve.

It would have been so easy to leave one tree up and come back for it later. Imagine the message that leaving one tree up would have sent? We can leave this tree standing, so we will. In a few days, the robin family will have left its nest.

But instead, it was knocked down, and another message, the prevalent message of a culture that often “takes” without thought was reinforced. Chop chop.

Trees I have loved: Willow Tree, Kerry Farm. Photo by Brenda MacLachlan

 

I am grateful for that summer. I am grateful for that story. I feel compassion for the young woman who noticed a frantic mother robin. I am grateful especially for the trees and the robin family and what they taught me then and what they teach me now. I feel a lingering fondness for our supervisors but I would no longer give them that much authority or assume they had wisdom. I am less obedient. I am learning to speak up. I am proud to call myself a tree hugger now.

 

 

This is a companion post to Letter to the Editor: Elegy for the Trees and Tree Hugger (2)

Trees I have loved. Beech tree, Christie Lake.

While writing this post, my daughter shared this book with me. From Kalevala: Heroic Tales from Finland by Ursula Synge, Bodley Head, 1977

Paraphrased from pages 11, 12 .       Vainamoinen the Wise Singer found seven precious seeds by the ocean but knew that they would germinate best in the forest. So he took his axe and he toiled, felling trees. At every stroke of the axe, the birds flew up and away. “If I clear all the forest, these birds will have no resting place. ” So he left a beech tree standing.  An eagle flew down to ask him why he had spared the beech tree.”So that the birds may perch upon it. One must have a care for every need.” replied Vainamoinen.. The eagle  said that because he had cared for the relatives, he would help him. The eagle produced flames and the cleared land (except the beech) was burned. Vainemionen took the seven precious seeds and planted them in seven furrows, calling on the Earth Mother to bless the sowing and to support and cherish each blade as it grew. He then asked Ukka to assemble the rainclouds and drive them above the field.

 

That Moment

Elaine dancing in a rainstorm, McConnell Lake, 1974. Image by Lise Sorensen (used with permission)

It is that moment just before a crashing thunderstorm, clouds on the move, thunder in the distance, electricity in the air…and we are out dancing in our nighties. Exhilarated, ecstatic, free, full of joy and and wonder and spontaneity and dancing! We are 17 years old, having the summer of our lives… for many of us the first summer away from family. A summer in the bush full of swimming, hard physical work, blueberry pies, blueberry pancakes, loons… together with 17 year old girls from all across Ontario. 

This is Elaine, dancing. As one of her friends now writes, Elaine radiated childlike curiosity and wonder for life,  natural beauty and the love she so graciously extends to the world.* Standing somewhere off to the side is Lise, with her camera in hand, an observer amongst the dancing girls, ready to receive this moment of beauty and record it. I took no pictures that summer, but must have begged Lise for this one, because for 42 years, it has resided in my book of treasures, simply called “the Spirit of McConnell”, which was the name of lake we lived beside for those two months.

Forty two years later, to my amazement and joy, I have reconnected with both Elaine and Lise.

This is the image I want to share while thousands of women all over the world are walking to Washington (Women’s March on Washington)… women coming together to speak out against oppression and discrimination, women coming together to claim their voice, to claim their rightful place and in some cases to wear “pussyhats” created by another woman somewhere; women celebrating being women together. Women rising up!

I am moved by the words of Richard Rohr, who writes, ”You learn to positively ignore and withdraw your energy from evil or stupid things rather than fight them directly. You fight things only when you are directly called and equipped to do so. We all become well-disguised mirror images of anything that we fight too long or too directly. That which we oppose determines the energy and frames the questions after a while.”

We can resist in a myriad of creative, sometimes cheeky and always life-giving ways. We can march. We can knit. We can come together in silence, as thousands of Turkish protesters did recently (baffling the police). We can listen. What would happen, for example, if we truly listened to those who have a different world view than our own?  We can still our hearts and listen to the whispers of the trees or prairie grasses. We can take time to listen to those who live on the edges, and who have so very much to teach us. If invited, we can take part in a pipe ceremony on the shores of a lake, and honour the sacred water as it laps gently on the shore. We can install colourful crocheted flowers on chain link fences in the middle of the night. We can laugh from the belly. We can buy less. We can barter more. We can ponder inconvenience. We can sing with others. We can study issues more deeply. We can take part in parades we were not invited to join. We can learn the true history of our country and wrestle with the deep shadows of our collective past, and the continuing implications  for our fractured present. We can dare to get outside our own comfort zones. We can examine our own privilege. We can be “chroniclers of wonder”. We can acknowledge the great grief and sadness that we often feel in these cataclysmic times. We can taking our breaking hearts, and create art. We can find small ways to support those on the front lines. We can thank a tree. We can learn to speak up when we see injustice, whether it be in the line up at the grocery store or a violation to our precious earth. We can fly kites. We can rise up, rise up! We can pray. If you have read this far, I know that you can add to the list. Please do!

We can dance in the rain with joy and abandon. We can record and celebrate beauty, wherever we find it. We can deeply treasure something that touches our spirit. We can search out and reconnect with old friends. We can celebrate new friends. We can take time to be with those who cannot dance in the rain, or who cannot find it in their heart to celebrate beauty. Each and every small action matters.

Today, while women all over the world are marching, I will be skating on our outdoor ice rink. I will be skating this prayer; that girls and boys everywhere will know the beautiful spirit embodied in the image above, might even for a moment know  the joy and freedom of dancing in the rain, and of feeling at one with all creation. I will be praying that sometimes someone notices and celebrates these moments with the rest of us in song or art or dance or words. I will be praying that we pay attention. I will be giving thanks. Today, while women all over the world are marching, I will be marching with them as I skate my prayers. I will be wearing my purple hat, knit by a woman I do not know.

You are invited. Of course!

  • paraphrased from Gail Wilen who sees these same qualities in Elaine now. Thanks Gail!

Letter to the Editor – Elegy for the Trees

Letter to the Editor of the Fort Qu’Appelle Times, December 2016

I am concerned about the practice of removing trees, “pushing bush”, and draining sloughs that is happening at an unprecedented rate on farmland in our area and beyond.

I walk our road almost daily. This gives me a chance to observe the wildflowers, the varieties of wild creatures including butterflies, dragonflies, bees, deer, coyote, fox, skunks, frogs, snakes and birds of all kind who make their life here. 

Last fall, a landowner bulldozed a group of trees that I have come to know very well. Not only do yellow lady slippers bloom in the shelter of these beautiful aspen, but many other creatures find refuge there as well. This was just one of a group of aspen bluffs and low lying sloughs in this area that was bulldozed. A year later, the piles of brush were set on fire and left to burn for a few days, then buried under the ground. Walking past now, it looks as if there never were trees there.

I called the landowner to share how sad and distressed I felt about the loss of these trees, as well as the scale of the destruction of similar places. He listened respectfully and thanked me for sharing my thoughts.  I invited him to come for a hike with me next spring to see how these wild places are brimming with natural life. I cannot tell another landowner what to do on his land, but I can share how I feel about it. Having a conversation with my neighbour may not change anything but at least he knows how I feel.

I know farmers who love the natural world and think hard about how their decisions affect the environment. I acknowledge that farmers sometimes do need to remove trees on their land. It is the  increased scale of “pushing bush” and draining marshy areas that disturbs me. Some will argue that before settlers arrived, the natural prairie did not have these aspen bluffs, although there were certainly many more sloughs and potholes than we see today. While that is true, in this radically altered landscape,  these small areas of bush and marsh not only provide refuge for a diversity of natural life but they add pockets of ecological richness that we desperately need.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, the Great Plains region lost more grasslands (including bluffs and marshes) to agriculture in 2014 that the Brazilian Amazon lost to deforestation. When roots systems are removed, the water holding capacity of the land is reduced significantly, affecting us all during both drought and flood years.

I urge landowners to think carefully before altering or destroying the natural landscape. The loss of these areas impoverishes us all. I want to be able to show my grandchildren a clutch of yellow lady slippers. I want them to hear the now rare sound of a meadowlark singing. Each small wild place matters.

Sue Bland, Abernethy, Sask.

Listen to a western meadowlark sing!

Into the Hawthornes

Down on hands and knees

through the door of thorny branches,

just big enough

and into the hawthornes

right in the middle

 

sssshhh…if you can stay quiet

long enough

they come back

the birds, the squirrels

to eat the red berries

 

if you can stay as still as a hawthorne

you can hear the soft wingbeat of a fairy

 

if you can stay quiet

you can catch the scent

of the coyote who slept here last night

you can feel the slow heartbeat of the earth

that is holding you

loving you

back to life

 

Jocelyn Duchek

“I’d Rather be Painting” – Meet Jocelyn Duchek

fullsizeoutput_1d62I am a frequent driver of Highway 22, but it took me several trips to turn onto Main Street Esterhazy to check it out. Imagine my delight to spot an art gallery – Jocelyn’s Fine Art Gallery – on Main Street. A large, airy space with good light, Jocelyn’s gallery features her own art, art and pottery by local and guest artists, a place for art classes, and a selection of art materials. I soon made a point of stopping in at  Jocelyn’s Art Gallery every time I drove Highway 22. (For those who don’t believe that art can stimulate economic activity, I have now purchased items from at least 5 other Esterhazy businesses!) I enjoyed seeing the new art as it came in, and I was curious about the dynamic woman behind all of this – Jocelyn Duchek. It is no small thing to keep an art gallery going in a place the size of Esterhazy (pop 3000). I wanted to learn more about this vital, friendly woman who is also a gifted artist, teacher and entrepreneur.

As a small girl, Jocelyn Duchek loved to sketch. She was very young when her dad asked her to draw a  moose for a hunting buddy of his. Her dad gave his friend Jocelyn’s moose drawing (regretting that later) and Jocelyn remembers that he bragged about that moose picture for the remainder of his days. Both her parents supported her love of drawing but there were not many opportunities for her to learn more. She wanted to try painting but she had no idea where or how to begin. As a teen, she continued to draw a lot and attended Fort San Summer School for the Arts. It was a fabulous experience for her but there was no real instruction. “Be free, be loose,” she was told. Jocelyn felt lost and wanted more in the way of guidance.

By the time Jocelyn Duchek was 24, she was married with three young children and little time for art. But creativity will find its outlet. Jocelyn poured her energy into sewing (which was practical as well), into creating dough art,  crafting porcelain dolls, and working with ceramics. She spent 7 years helping with her sister’s leather business sewing mukluks and purses. Eventually, Jocelyn returned to school which led to a career working with children with disAbilities , coordinating a respite program for their families, and later, working with special needs students in the school system.  Jocelyn put her heart and soul into this work but was beginning to feel burned out and tired. After about 10 years of this work, Jocelyn became gravely ill  with ulcerative colitis and required  a number of surgeries. As she slowly  began to heal, she went back to work part time, feeling that while it was time for a change in her focus, she didn’t really know what to do next.

img_1444In 2004,  a friend invited her to come to art class with Ward Schell.  Jocelyn uncharacteristically said yes instantly.  Off she went. “It totally opened my eyes. I learned how to start a painting, I learned how do a painting, I learned how to make it look 3-D. I still have this first little grain elevator I painted. I show it to students now. That little grain elevator led to another painting, and another, and so on. I would finish a painting and go “Wow! Did I do that?”  I was so very excited about painting. I just could not stop talking about the painting process to everyone I met.”

By 2010, Jocelyn’s enthusiasm caught fire and soon people were asking her to teach painting.burst She gave up her job, did some renovating in her home and had a small gallery there as well as a place to teach. The first classes were in her former master bedroom. She found that learning to teach was the best possible education – she took classes, she learned about colour theory. She eventually began taking photos of her work step by step, so that she could show people her process. “I just get lost in the zone when I am painting, so until I did that I didn’t really know how to teach what I was doing.” There was a great hunger in Esterhazy for art classes – both for adults and children. Jocelyn’s home became too small and  she tried out 2 different locations before moving to her present gallery space in 2014. Throughout it all, her husband Ken was “incredibly supportive.”

Jocelyn Duchek

“Room to Breathe”, 30 x 40

Jocelyn Duchek

“New Life”, 24 x 24 by Jocelyn Duchek

Jocelyn Duchek

“A Life That is Good”, 16 x 20 by Jocelyn Duchek

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of Jocelyn Duchek’s art is inspired by the boreal forest of Northern Saskatchewan. Each summer, she and husband Ken, along with friends and family camp at a number of lakes – Armet, Steeprock, Rocky. For Jocelyn, the northern forests are healing and rejuvenating places. “I don’t mind fishing,” says Jocelyn. “But I’d rather be painting!” The men would go fishing and many of the women would paint. She loves to paint abstracts as well using acrylics and  alcohol ink. She finds that the different mediums balance one another – the poured paint gives her a sense of freedom and looseness that complements her more representational work.

Jocelyn duchek

“Fluid Aura” by Jocelyn Duchek

“I just kept offering what I felt I needed and couldn’t find in Esterhazy, ” says Jocelyn. As well as wanting art classes, Jocelyn wanted a place to display her work. Early in her art career, she applied to a few art galleries and was rejected.  Part of her dream today is to offer a place for aspiring local artists to hold their first show. She offers them guidance, encouragement and know-how.

Jocelyn’s Art Gallery continues to evolve, to thrive and to grow. Recently, Jocelyn  had a vision that will not leave her alone. “I figure if it won’ t let me go, I better I act on it.” In the new year, she and Ken are going to create a “forest room” – a meditative place in the front of the gallery. When you enter this room, you will know you are somewhere special. She herself began meditating 5 years ago. “I have always been a  very busy type of person”, Jocelyn says. “Meditation has calmed me, has slowed me down a bit which I do find also helps inspire my creative side. It is catching on in Esterhazy. People are taking yoga and becoming more aware of the healing possibilities of art as well as meditation.” Jocelyn now has meditation cushions for sale, and will soon be adding Himilayan salt lamps and other like products. “You have to be inventive in a small town. You have to think about what is needed in the town and what will bring people in. It takes running classes, hosting events, selling supplies and other products. You can’t just sell art or you’d be out of business before you start.”

“I am doing what I love best,” says Jocelyn Duchek. “I have no doubt that creating art is 100% healing. For me, painting took me back to a place deep within me, that creative place that I had left far behind.” It is a great gift to all of us that Jocelyn reconnected with that long lost creative well within.buffalo-mural

Dolores and Alma

Dolores, left and Alma, right with "Four Directions"

Dolores, left and Alma, right with “Four Directions”

I want to share this simple, sweet story.

One of things I like about hosting my own art show is that I witness when a person falls in love with a piece of art. On the second day of my show, my friend Alma told me that she loved  a watercolour painting called “Four Directions” and that maybe she could afford  to buy it in September. This was a painting I had begun for a specific project. Partway through painting this piece I learned that my art was not what the client had in mind. Funny thing, this piece had moved right into me, stirred me up  and I needed to finish it for myself – project or no project. I couldn’t not finish it! I was so delighted that it touched Alma.

I woke up the next morning with one thought. It seemed to me that the painting should be Alma’s. When I arrived at the show, I put a “sold” marker on it.

Enter my friend Dolores. When Dolores first saw “Four Directions”, her hand went to her heart and she said, ” I want to buy this painting. I just love it.” I told her about Alma.fullsizeoutput_1a4a

I pondered this the next few days and phoned Dolores with a proposition to loan her the painting for four months until Alma’s birthday, at which time I would offer it to Alma.

I intended to pick it up from Dolores and deliver to Alma, as a surprise. Then I had a better idea. These two women had at least two things in common, so I asked Alma to come and meet my friend Dolores, which she did. She didn’t even ask why!

It was the sweetest get together. These two elders have each meant so much to me, as friends and as teachers. Alma is also my relative now, by the sweet virtue of my daughter and her grandson falling in love. Alma was the presiding elder at the first women’s sweats I ever attended. We have known each other for many years. Alma offers her wisdom and knowledge, her love for her native Cree language and the teaching embedded in it to many people of all ages and all nations. Alma’s voice soothes and gentles  me.  My friend Dolores epitomizes hospitality, the generous heart. I can talk to her about almost anything. Her hospitality comes as naturally as breath. She is a listener. I always leave her home feeling nurtured and treasured, not to mention well-fed. To sit in Dolores’s welcoming home, enjoying cookies and tea while these two wonderful women got to know each other was more dear than I can say.

20161109_153611

Dolores, Alma, Sue with Cherie Westmoreland photo in the background

Dolores gave Alma homemade socks. We shared stories. We took a selfie! Alma carefully carried away her painting wrapped in the garbage bag Dolores had given her. The gratitude and warmth I felt for these moments and the gifts of these two women in my life expanded into the next day, and the next, and today as well.

This post is dedicated to my own mum, Alice Sylvia Frith Bland, who died 20 years ago on Hallowe’en. I feel her presence and love often. I am grateful to all the mother figures who have blessed my life, and who continue to bless it. Thank you. Hiy Hiy.

Guest Blog: Art in the City

by Lanelle Muirhead and Dominique Baggett

Su’p, I am Lanelle (left) and I and  want to tell you about Art in the City. This day was so much fun (laughing ha! ha!) and I hope that you have as much as me while reading it. (Fun, that is!)

Hello, I am Dominique (right) and this is our post about Art in The City, a day we spent with Sue, Rebekah, Ruth and Brenda way back in July. It was Rebekah’s  birthday!!!!

Brenda, Rebekah, Ashlie, Ruth (peace sign), us (Sue took this picture)

Brenda, Rebekah, Ashlie, Ruth (peace sign), us (Sue took this picture)

 

picking out our sketchbooks at Regina Public Library

picking out our sketchbooks at  Regina Public Library

We started at the doctor’s office which was not really a part of Art in the City and was really boring.

Things got better!! We went to the library and borrowed  our very own sketchbooks which we borrowed for a year (you can see them in the picture at the top.) We never want to return them.

 

Riding fake trikes outside the library

Riding fake trikes outside the library

We saw art everywhere - even on the rug at the library!

We saw art everywhere – even on the rug at the library!

 

 

Artist: Dominique

Artist: Dominique

 

 

 

We sketched in the park with our new sketchbooks.

 

Lanelle:

“Sue would not tell us where we going next. It was a surprise. But we accidentaly guessed it! I was telling a story about a henna tattoo place and then Sue said, “Was that a guess or were you just telling Dominique a story?” We were confused….Suddenly Dominique said, “Are we going to somewhere they do henna tattoos?” Sue said, “Nooooo, but you are so close.” We thought and thought and we guessed and we guessed and finally we guessed we were going to meet a tattoo artist. We were right! Sue told us we were going to meet Ashlie of Tattoo Nebula! We were so excited!!

This is Ashley, owner of Tattoo Nebula

Here is the real Ashlie, owner of Tattoo Nebula. Look how purple her walls are.

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Ashlie sharing her sacred geometry designs(Photo Courtesy of B. MacLauchlan)

Artist: Lanelle

Here is the real Ashlie!   Artist: Lanelle

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Ashlie’s hands. Her tattoos come from sacred geometry in nature, like on the book cover

 

Tattoo Nebula was deep purple inside and very magical and we learned all about tattoos. Ashlie loves mandalas. She gave us all temporary tattoos. Rebekah chose first because she was the birthday girl.

Rebekah's tattoo

Rebekah’s tattoo (Photo courtesy of B. MacLauchlan)

Lanellle on the left, Dominque on the right

Look at our tattoos! Lanellle on the left, Dominque on the right( Photo courtesy of B. MacLauchlan)

Artist: Dominique

Artist: Dominique

Artist: Lanelle

Artist: Lanelle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Photo courtesy B. MacLauchlan

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Photo courtesy B. MacLauchlan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then we went to have a picnic with the cows at the Mackenzie Art Gallery.

Picnic, Joe Fafard cows

Picnic, Joe Fafard cows… (Photo courtesy of B. MacLauchlan)

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Riding cows (Photo Courtesy of B. MacLauchlan)

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Picnic (Photo Courtesy of B. MacLauchlan)

We saw art everywhere - even in the fossils on the Tyndall stone at the art gallery

We saw art everywhere – even in the fossils on the Tyndall stone at the art gallery (Photo Courtesy of B. MacLauchlan)

meeting the statues in the lobby of the MacKenzie Art Gallery

meeting the statues in the lobby of the MacKenzie Art Gallery…where is the statue?(Photo courtesy of B. MacLauchlan)

Dominique telling us about her statue Henry

Dominique telling us about her statue Henry (Photo courtesy of B. MacLauchlan)

Lanelle and her statue Susan

Lanelle and her statue Susan (Photo courtesy of B. MacLauchlan)

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Rebekah and Ruth (Photo Courtesy of B. MacLauchlan)

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We are doing a great job imitating this statue!

At Rebekah's house, time for a rest!

At Rebekah’s house, time for a rest!

Us two snuggled under a quilt

Us two snuggled under a quilt

We saw art everywhere - a purple kitchen floor at Rebekah's

We saw art everywhere – a purple kitchen floor at Rebekah’s

Once we were done napping, we just had to have a snack. What better place than the Mercury? There were even nebulas in the art at the Mercury!

Milkshakes at the Mercury. Dominique: I was mad at Lanelle because she dipped her fries in the milkshake. Yuck!

Milkshakes at the Mercury, plus drawing in our sketchbooks. Dominique: I was mad at Lanelle because she dipped her fries in the milkshake. Yuck! (Photo courtesy of B. Maclauchlan)

 

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How could a day of art make us so hungry?

After the Mercury, we went in search of art in the alleys and on garage doors.

In the Cathedral area

In the Cathedral area. (Photo courtesy of B. MacLauchlan)

 

Pretending to be in fear of the dragon

Pretending to be in fear of the dragon (Photo courtesy of B. MacLauchlan)

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We had so much fun!

What we learned is that you can find art everywhere!

Thanks for reading our post!!

Thanks for reading our post!!

how to behave in an art gallery

Note from Poached Egg Woman: Lanelle and Dominique’s next blog will be  about how to behave in an art gallery ha ha