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 art PLAYshops to anyone interested in exploring their creative side and having fun.

Walk in Wonder

I check in with my smart phone at least a dozen times a day, often more. This is a relatively recent habit, as there were no smart phones before 2008. To check in with my phone requires energy and attention.

What if I checked in with Mother Earth as regularly as I check in with my phone? What if I directed my energy and my attention towards Mother Earth a dozen or so times a day? Would this make a difference? Would it make a difference to me? To the earth?

I decided to try and see for myself.

I began with something simple, something I already do. My morning walk. I started by pausing for a moment before setting off – to take note of what was all around me, to really feel the earth beneath my feet, to thank the earth for her many gifts. What if I took my first few steps with love – love and reverence directed towards the earth herself?

What if my walk was like a prayer for healing, for healing of the broken relationship between earth and us humans?

Walking this way has made a difference to me. This simple practice puts me in touch with the earth every day, deepening and strengthening my connection with her.

My whole walk isn’t this mindful – I also like to stretch my legs, walk quickly, daydream, walk backwards, sing while I walk, or just feel good about moving physically. But now and again throughout my walk, I stop – take pause, take note, remember who I am walking on, take one more step with love.

Spiritual leader Thich Naht Hahn (93 years young) practices walking meditation. He writes, “With each step the earth heals us, and with each step we heal the earth.” He recommends kissing the earth with the sole of your foot.

I can’t speak for Mother Earth, but I think walking in this way does make a difference to her. I believe the earth knows what kind of energy we direct towards her – whether it is distracted, hurried, reverent or loving. Whether we are taking from the earth with a spirit of reciprocity and thanks, or taking  from the earth with utter disregard. Right now, I believe the earth is hungry for our love – for footsteps and actions offered with attention, gratitude, and wonder.

Prayers for the earth. Prayers for ourselves. One step at a time.

“Family Walk Down our Road”, 11″ x14″. watercolour.

 

Spring is in the Air!!

Happy International Women’s day from the Kerry Farm Ice Rink, where spring is in the air.

How can I tell?

Ravens and magpies are more in evidence, swooping low. Dogs, young and old are chasing the ravens and magpies, even though we all know that dogs can’t fly.

The light is different. The March skies are starting to come.

I can skate and skate and skate until I am tired. Which is different from skating until I freeze!

The trails on our rink are sinuous and meandering, I love to follow their curves. I imagine I am a world famous speed skater (although Iin reality I skate quite slowly!) As I skate I think of the female leaders (from young to old) whose very integrity means they say what they have to say, quietly and succinctly. I am hungry for this kind of integrity in our public life. I think of all of the women in my life – my mother  and mother-in-law and grandmothers and aunts and sisters in law, my cousins, my daughters and their friends, my own friends – the women who have taught me about integrity and so much else. My skating weaves this way and that, giving thanks for all of these women, giving thanks for this day, this place, the very miracle of moving on a thin steel blade across ice.

Mia is digging….a snow sculptor

made in a cake pan, celebrating the last full moon

the layers on the inside of a snow drift

Last week, the North wind blew forming beautiful snowdrifts on the rink. Hello, Snowdrifts…this week I have been coming to know snow drifts, up close and personal. In clearing trails, I notice all of the layers of snow, some with grit in them, others pure white, some soft, some quite hard. Snowdrifts are best removed a layer at a time, and as I make a crack in the snow, the drift separates how it wants to…usually with lovely soft curves, just like the ice rink. Each piece of snowdrift is so beautiful. I place each one carefully along the sides of the paths. They look to me like a line of ancient women…standing in many different postures with the blue bowl of prairie sky as a backdrop. In the book I am reading, Braiding Sweetgrass,  Robin Wall Kimmerer describes learning how to basket weave. As she weaves, she feels as if she participates in “the beginning of a reweaving of the bond between the women and the land.” This is how I feel on the ice rink in a small way – working and playing with what nature gives us, what is already there to co-create something wonderful, and as I am doing it I am befriending  and getting to know the natural world better. In this, too, the women and the children will lead.

I give thanks.

(What I Love About) Art in the City

“Art in the City” offers young people an opportunity to experience the city differently – looking for art in all the wrong places, or at least, in unexpected places, as well as looking at art where you would expect to find it – in art galleries.  Throughout the day, the art explorers interact with art they see,  by sketching, writing, and sharing their thoughts with others in the group about what piece they love best or which piece arouses their curiousity. Each stop is a surprise. With their eyes attuned to art, they see art everywhere – on the delicate hoar frost on winter trees, in a park bench, in the pattern on a rug. on the side of a truck.

Alley Art

More Alley Art, some spontaneous and some part of an Alley Art project

Looking at ourselves in a convex mirror in one of the Twin Towers, downtown Regina

Sketching near the warmth of Joe Fafard’s bull

enjoying our Ujrainian Co-op picnic inside the magical spaces of Spafford Books. No one wanted to leave! Ever.

The most beautiful thing at Spafford Books – Oxford, the Bookshop dog

More beauty at Spafford Books

Beauty tucked into every corner of Spafford Books

At the Assiniboia Gallery

Playing Fox and Geese at the Art Gallery of Regina (making a huge doily) in the snow

At the art Gallery of Regina, viewing “Tedium”…about doilies….dancing the doily dance

Every art day needs a napping place! So much beauty, so much to take in – here we are enjoying a calm moment with the kitties of Excalipurr Cat Cafe (with cat birthday cake to follow)

With thanks to the Ukraianian Co-op, Tania Wolk, Leah, Robin and Oxford at Spafford Books, the Assiniboia Art Gallery, the Art Gallery of Regina, and the Excalipurr Cat Cafe, and Vera Saltzman, intrepid research partner

To view another Art in the City blog, by the explorers themselves, see  Guest Blog: Art in the City

untitled paper collage

Title? No title?

Title or no title? Sometimes, a title for a completed piece of art work pops into my mind, sticks, and voilà – I have a title. Sometimes, as in the piece above, no title comes.

i notice when visiting galleries, that i often look at the title of a work as a way of understanding it better. Perhaps the title offers a clue. Perhaps not.

What would you call this piece? What do you see? What feelings does this piece evoke in you? I would love to hear what your thoughts are, especially before you read on. You can contact me at sue@poachedeggwoman.ca if you have some ideas.

******************************************************************************

Here is a little bit about the making of this piece. After a busy fall, I started the New Year excited about creating art simply because I wanted to. My fall was happily busy working on a few commissions or creating pieces for classes I was taking or offering, but always creating for external reasons.

I began like I often do…by spreading out  large and small  paper pieces to see which colours grabbed me. First came the deep aquamarine or teal.

Then oranges, copper, turquoise, periwinkle, navy, fuschia, aqua, violet, yellow. Wheat paste scraps from Barbara, the deep  ultramarine a gift from Tania and Kami Jo, old shiny gift wrap, block printed scraps that have been my treasure for decades. Envelopes, shiny scraps, marbled paper. I played with these pieces of paper, tearing them, cutting them, arranging them this way and that. I glued two shapes together composed of pieces of these colours, but glued nothing down. Free floating shapes and scraps.  Pure pleasure.

 

 

 

 

 

The yellow wheat paste scraps suggested houses, so I thought, why not? I assembled all my scraps of paper on to different coloured backgrounds – orange, navy, teal.

 

Trying different backgrounds - orangeTrying different backgrounds - navyThe  two shapes consisting of torn scraps seemed to need orange backgrounds. The shapes seemed to me to be related is some way. They wanted to dance together. I had so much fun placing the shapes this way and that.  Using scraps of shiny paper, I made ladders. Using cut bits of dyed paper, I cut free floating steps in the air. Using my favourite block print scraps, I created curving and straight roads leading somewhere and leading nowhere. I felt the need for connections of one kind or another between the two shapes.

The world is reconfiguring. It has flown apart, with houses being upended and leaving earth. With new and surprising connections emerging.Collage before gluing down with a tree which was not used

 

I cut out trees, considered people, birds – none of them felt right. Somehow, stars did.final collage

The world is flying apart, and being reconfigured, and I feel full of hope. Too long for a title though!!

A week or so later, I read Shayla Wright’s post, entitled “The River Beneath the River”. Shayla Wright is a coach, spiritual mentor and facilitator based in Victoria, B.C. She posts “Lifeletters” on her website Wide Awake Heart which have nurtured and sustained me for the past year. In part of her post, Shayla beautifully articulates some of what I was feeling as I was rearranging colourful scraps of paper on an ultramarine background.

“It feels clear to me that we will not make our way through the mess we are in now, without our higher capacities. On a collective human level we are numb, fragmented, violent, and helpless. We have lost our way. Only a deep integration of our human and spiritual natures can help us face the enormous crisis that stands before us. Meditation is not going to do it. Activism is not going to do it. Our collective human evolution stands at a threshold. We have actually entered a liminal space, without a clear intention to do so. In the liminal space, we stand between the worlds. There is no solid ground. The liminal is the in-between space, the space where things pass away, the space into which new life emerges. We are standing there now, or perhaps, not standing. Maybe crawling, stumbling towards a future possibility we can barely see or hear. This future possibility is not only something we are moving towards-it is calling us. It has a magnetism. It is our strange attractor. It is asking us to become whole, to meet this moment with all of who we are. To embrace that which we have shut away. To step out of our bubbles, and travel into the unknown, the borderlands, the wild places inside us and out, what we have been avoiding.

The soul has a wild nature. It is not domesticated. It knows how to walk in the liminal space, where that which is known and familiar has fallen away. It sees in the darkness. It can hear whispers long forgotten, voices that are half formed, waiting for someone to listen and bring them into the light of day…”

Still, no title. But, it’s something to do with that liminal space, that Shayla Wright calls “in between space, the space where things pass away, the space into which new life emerges.” The colours and dance of the papers as I played with this piece spoke to me of not knowing, of confusion and uncertainty, of hope, of delight, of surprise, and wonder.

 

Ripple

In her book, Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer writes, “In a way, I was raised by strawberries, fields of them.” She goes on to explain how wild strawberries gave her a sense of the world, and her place in it. She writes evocatively about picking and eating and celebrating with wild strawberries, and also about what the strawberries taught her.

We asked this question in the group of friends with whom I am reading and discussing Braiding Sweetgrass – what about the place you grew up in gave you your sense of the world and your place in it? It is a fine question and we answered with the first thing that came to our mind. It is hard question to answer, and as my first answer (birch trees) did not satisfy me, I continue to think about it.

I am at Christie Lake, one of the places I loved dearly as I was growing up. I return once a year if I can. Each time, I see aspects of the natural world here as if for the first time, or I remember something about the natural world that I thought I had long ago forgotten.

I love to get up early and come to the beach for a swim – usually before sunlight has fully crept into and transformed our bay.

I could watch the play of light and shadow and wind on the water, the sand beneath the water, the reflections from the nearby trees and rocky shoreline for hours. I suspect that I spent many a dreamy moment as a child doing just that. In this dappled world, everything is shifting and changing every moment…it is all glimmers, possibilities, dance. The felt sense I get here belongs to this particular place, and no other place that I can think of.

I can’t come close to capturing this feeling with my Smartphone – which wants to focus in on one aspect of the scene in front of me and give it prominence. As soon as I step into the water to try to take a picture, I create ripples, changing the picture. Even if I could capture some sense of it visually, I would be missing the smell of the wind off the lake and decaying seaweed, the feel of wet sand under my toes, the songs of the birds, the waves lapping, the distant drone of a boat engine, the CheCheChee of the osprey, the feel of this air on my skin, the sound that this wind makes in these trees at this moment. I would be missing the constant movement and interplay of light, shadow, reflection.

The play of light and shadow and glimmer on the water did not raise me, but surely, it played a part in the raising of me, in giving me a sense of the world. and how I see and experience it.

Befriending Wildflowers (the noisier version)

It was a very hot and humid day when we set out to explore the wildflowers of Pheasant Creek Coulee, with small sketchbooks in hand.  Each sketchbook had several line drawings of flowers we hoped to find, with a space to name it ourselves, and a space for the common name. I had anticipated moving quickly across the pasture to the hills below but this gaggle of 5 girls and 2 moms stopped to look at  and appreciate every wildflower – they did not miss one – and gave each some very fun names. We collected a few to paint later and proceeded to a very steep hill full of western wild bergamots and a scary climb down  (for some!) that ended with a slide several feet down to the road!!

We returned to Kerry Farm a little overheated, but cooled down with a delicious potluck lunch. We found some shade to really look closely at our wildflowers and experiment with watercolour painting. Along the way, we visited Grandmother Willow (for a little tree climbing and some feather collecting) and said hi to the horses. We ended the day with some flower yoga and gymnastics as you can see.

This is a companion piece to Befriending Wildflowers (the Quiet Version)

Befriending Wildflowers (the quiet version)

“Nobody sees a flower – really – it is so small it takes time – we haven’t time – and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.” Georgia O’Keefe

“Befriending Wildflowers” was a two day art retreat which gave us time to “really see a flower” and to befriend some of the  wildflowers who live on the slopes of the Qu’Appelle Valley. By spending time with the wildflowers on the hills, by painting and drawing the flowers that called to us, we came to know a few flowers more intimately.

We were so fortunate to be able to hold this retreat at the Qu’Appelle House of Prayer  which is

Photo by Tania Wolk

nestled in the hills above Echo Lake. We painted under the shade of trees during the hot days, and hiked through woodland trails up to the top of the hills where grasses and flowers bloomed profusely in the early mornings and evenings. We were so warmly welcomed and cared for by Glenn, Margaret, Kathy and Tim.  Silence and quiet are encouraged and allow us to connect with nature more deeply than usual. For those who wished, Eucharist and “silent sitting” enriched our experience. The Qu’Appelle House of Prayer is a sacred place.

some of our “cat flowers”…instructor Kami Jo second from right

While the land (and the flowers) were our greatest teacher(s), we also learned so much from each other. Our youngest participant, Kami Jo, led a session on creating cat flowers which was fantastic. Tania helped us draw flowers in their simplest shapes, getting to the essence of the flower, and helping us see flowers in fresh ways. We painted with dominant hand, non-dominant hand, standing, sitting, upside down,  and we sometimes timed ourselves to get the feel of a flower rather than the details. We did flower yoga, and played flower charades, and  did breathing exercises. We laughed frequently. We moved  very slowly (to Kami Jo’s frustration). We called our unhurried pace “wildflower time”. We learned how painting on the ground in a meadow was a completely different experience from painting a vase of flowers.

Wildflower Joy! Photo by Tania Wolk

Photo by Elizabeth Gavin

Photo: Tania Wolk

Speaking for myself, It was pure joy to be with others who take notice and delight in wildflowers. Being with others  who are totally absorbed  in trying to get the feel of a particular flower on paper is very settling, calming and joyful. I saw wildflowers in new ways, and sometimes through the eyes of others, I saw familiar wildflowers in completely unfamiliar ways. I treasure my friendships with wildflowers – through the presence and teachings of my companions, my friendships continue to grow and thrive.

Once upon another PLAYshop, this one focusing on trees, hypnotizing chickens became the most fun thing to do. During our Befriending Flowers time, the most fun thing for Kami Jo was having the chance to drive Margaret in the golf cart! You have to scroll to the bottom for photos of that one.

I feel gratitude for the sacred place that is the Qu’Appelle House of Prayer, for the people that care for it, and for us; for the beautiful hills, grasses and wildflowers; and for each of those who took part so wholeheartedly!! Thank you.

Diane getting to know gaillardia

Gaillardia seed head, Diane

Gaillardia sun and shadows, Liz

Gaillardia, photo by Tania Wolk

Gaillardia Seed Heads by Tania

Purple Prairie clover, first impressions, Liz

Purple Prairie Clover, Photo by Tania Wolk

Cat flowers, Kami Jo

Purple Prairie Clover, Tania

Trying with marker, Kami Jo

Wild Rose, early morning meditation, Diane

Wild Rose, early morning meditation, Tania

Wild Rose, after the petals fall and before the rose hip forms. Beauty in every stage. Tania.

Liz’s flowers…gaillardia, bergamot, wild rose

Cat Flower, Liz

Wild Bergamot (using Tania’s shape method), Sue

Wild Bergamot makes us go wild and free, Diane

And the wind blew, and the bergamot got wilder!  Whoohee!!

Dancing in the Meadow, Sue

Kami Jo’s flowers, photo by Tania Wolk

Who painted the fastest of us all? (Kami Jo)

Early morning painting in the meadow

Totally absorbed as we “befriend a wildflower”

Mai Jo befriending Margaret, Margaret befriending Kami Jo. Margaret is one of the co-directors of the Qu’Appelle House of Prayer, along with Glenn Zimmer. Photo by Tania Wolk.

Saving the best for last!! Finally we are speeding up, says Kami Jo. Photo by Tania Wolk.

through the looking glass, Northern Bedstraw, photo by Tania Wolk

 

Shane’s Hands

The photo above shows my husband Shane’s hands, and behind his hands, the new view that he wakes up to every morning. Shane is pursuing his dream of spending more time in the Yukon, and has taken a 6 month massage therapy stint to make this happen. He has been here 10 weeks, the longest period of time he has ever been away from his home at Kerry Farm in Saskatchewan. It is a rare person who who can say they still live in the house where they began their life!

When I first met Shane he was a grain farmer. He is a strong person, and certainly his hands told a tale of hard work and strength. Hands that worked with the earth, with seeds, with animals, with machines and engines…hands that often held the smell of diesel. A “get her done” mentality pervaded, so often he kept working even when his hands were tired, or chapped, or hurt, or sore.

His hands aren’t only strong, they are also deft. In his recent absence from our farm, we have had lots of small (and not so small) things go wrong, things that his hands know exactly how to fix, that our hands do not. Recently, none of us could remove a long  pipe attached to a float valve in our horse watering bowl, not only because we were not strong enough, but also because we did not know the precise feel of it.

When Shane began to think about  training to be a registered massage therapist, an old friend looked at him wryly and said, “Well, you better do something about those hands.” They had cuts and nicks, torn nails and cuticles. They were like rough sandpaper. They were “farmer’s hands”.

Going back to school at age 47 was no small feat. Making the transition from grain farmer to massage therapist is not a usual trajectory in career transitions. Shane remembers the first week, when the instructor gathered all of the (mostly female) students around a large garbage can to trim their nails. “If only the guys at the grain elevator could see me now!” he thought to himself.  The “rough sandpaper” aspect of Shane’s hands could be softened with cream on the hands, protected by gloves at night or while driving. Ironically, the final softening of his hands comes when he buffs his hands with fine sandpaper.

Strength and the ability to endure are definitely assets as a massage therapist. Shane has those qualities in spades.  But massage therapists also need their hands to “listen”, to hear the stories a body is telling, to be sensitive to the whole person they are massaging. As Raye Hendrickson, a Regina massage therapist writes, “In my massage practice, I consider my hands as another set of ears – they listen to people’s bodies and know, often before before my head does, what needs special attention.”  Shane became aware that some of his fellow students have the natural gift of “listening hands” that Raye describes. While he does not count himself among those with this natural talent, he is learning and he is listening and becoming more closely attuned with the subtle messages conveyed through our bodies.

Shifting how he works with his hands has opened up new worlds for Shane. As a grain farmer, he didn’t often listen to his hands if they were freezing or hurting because the priority was a job to be done. He continues to learn to listen to his own hands and to listen to the other signals his body is giving. He is less likely to push through. He has observed that some people who come for a therapeutic massage have pushed their bodies and not really listened to them until the pain is quite severe. 

As a massage therapist, he has been open to other healing modalities including reiki, Body Talk and healing touch.

Working with his hands as a massage therapist has opened up a special relationship with those who come to see him. He understands the power of touch and the power of presence in new ways. When his parents were aging and feeling various aches and pains, he was able  to offer them comfort and solace through the healing power of touch and massage. His parents most certainly soothed him with loving touch as an infant. The circle completes itself as he offers them comfort and love in their final years using his hands.

And, who knows? Would he have felt the pull of the Yukon if he had continued as grain farmer? Perhaps. Massage therapy has opened many new worlds for Shane. Using his hands as a massage therapist has provided him with a portable way of making of making a living and making a difference as he explores new places.

Shane enjoying Takhini Hot Springs on a frigid Yukon day, hands at rest!

This post has been written in the Yukon as I prepare for an upcoming PLAYshop called Hands On! Celebrating our Hands which will be held in Regina Sat. Feb. 10th, 2018 and in Fort Qu’Appelle Sat. Feb. 24th, 2018. Other posts about hands are Hand – Word Play and Gestures

Gestures

Permission to use this image “Give me your hand” granted by Shell Rummel ©Michelle Rummel/ Shell Artistree LLC. Other work by Shell Rummel can be seen at  www.shellrummel.com . 

 

“Of course! The path to heaven

doesn’t lie down in flat miles

It’s in the imagination

with which you perceive this world

and the gestures

with which you honour it”

–  an excerpt from “The Swan” by Mary Oliver from New and Selected Poems, Volume 1, Beacon Press 2005

How does your imagination perceive this world? What are the gestures with which you honour this beautiful place? These are some of the questions we will consider at Hands On! Celebrating our Hands

Other posts considering hands are Hand – Word Play about how we use the word hand and  Shane’s Hands  about my husband Shane’s hands.

With thanks to the imaginations and  expressions above of Shell Rummel and Mary Oliver.

 

Hand – Word Play

Hand (noun)
Old English hond, hand “the human hand;” also “side, part, direction” (in defining position, to either right or left); also “power, control, possession” (on the notion of the hand’s grip or hold), from Proto-Germanic *handuz (source also of Old Saxon, Old Frisian, Dutch, German hand, Old Norse hönd, Gothic handus), which is of uncertain origin

hand (verb.)c. 1400, “take charge of, seize,” from hand (n.). Earlier verbs were hend (Old English genehdan), handle. Meaning “to pass (something to someone)” is from 1640s. To hand it to (someone)“acknowledge someone’s ability or superiority” is slang from 1906, the it perhaps meant to suggest a trophy cup, award, etc. Related: Handedhanding.

Are you handy?

Are you a handful?

(I bet you’re HANDsome!)

Hands on. Hands off. HANDS UP! All hands on deck. Hands across the ocean. I want to hold your hand. Put your hand in the hand of the….I’ve got to hand it to you…on the one hand, on the other hand….first-hand, second hand. Living from hand-to-mouth, handmade. Let us walk hand in hand. Hand over hand. Sleight of hand.

Out of hand. In hand. At hand.

In good hands.

An old hand.

My hands are full. My hands are tied.

firm handshake. golden hand shake. limp handshake

high five!

handiwork

handicap

handyperson, handywoman, handyman

Clocks: the minute hand, the second hand, the hour hand

How many hands high is that horse?

Measurement: a handbreadth

A handle is held by a hand.

At hand.

By hand.

Off hand.

To have on hand.

Off one’s hands.

Underhanded.

Peekaboo.

Lay hands on someone.

Handhold

I wash my hands of this!

Handkerchief

Handicuff (put up yer dukes!)

You are a handful!

Expressions

To bite the hand that feeds you.

To know something firsthand.

I head that secondhand.

To force someone’s hands.

To gain the upper hand.

To get your hands dirty.

To give a hand.

To lend a hand. (Can someone borrow a hand? Would you ever get it back?)

To hand something down. A hand-me-down.

To give a hand up.

To hand something to someone on a platter.

To win hands down.

To be hands off. Or hands on.

To have blood on one’s hands.

To act with a heavy hand.

When the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing.

I know it like the back of my hand. (How well do you know the back of your hand?)

What we do with our hands

gesture, touch, clap, wring, hand-writing, stir, soothe, touch, caress, drive, drink, eat, paint, pat, tap, sign, stroke, slap (if we’re Batman), wash, handshake, scratch, reach, grab, carry, blow kisses, wave, hold….

If you are curious, check out these recent blog posts:  Shane’s Hands  about my husband Shane’s hands or Gestures which asks a question (or rather poet Mary Oliver poses a question)

 

(Source: https://www.etymonline.com/word/hand. I checked our dictionary at home which has several pages of words deriving from the root word “hand”)