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Not A Tupperware Party

When I first moved to Kerry Farm, I was invited to tupperware and candle parties. I always felt I should buy something (even if I didn’t need anything)  and people would say, “Oh no, you can just come – you don’t need buy anything”, but my inner voice thought I did. Eventually, I started saying no to such invitations. I wasn’t too sad when I stopped being invited.

A pleasure of my art business is delivering pieces of art or cards to people, especially when it involves a visit. Amongst my favourite  visits are those I enjoy with Margaret Heil, who just celebrated her 100th birthday with family  and friends. Margaret invites me 3 or so times a year to bring my basket of cards to her sunny living room. She selects her favourite cards – she looks at every  single card in my basket and assembles a “long list”, sorts through again for the “shorter list” which are the cards she will buy. Her very favourite card is “the Tree of Love”. We enjoy a wonderful visit. As Margaret likes to say, we go way back….something like this – her daughter babysat my husband and his twin sister when he was not yet walking, the same daughter taught all 4 of our daughters, her other daughter did books for Shane at one time, a grandson worked here one summer, our eldest daughter babysat her great grandchildren (two of whom were also twins). One of my favourite exploring spots in the coulee is owned by her grandson and daughter in law. And, so on!!

Margaret in her home, selecting cards








Recently a city friend invited to come by with cards as she and one of her friends wanted to purchase some. Those of us who live in the country well know the kind of stacked lists we get when we visit the city! On this particular day, everything went awry when my car, which I had taken in for something small, needed to stay at the shop for a few days for some fix that was not so small. No loaners were available, but I could get a rental car – and before you know it, I was behind on my list and somewhat harried. When I arrived my friend’s apartment, she had invited a few other friends, and had set her coffee table with tea, fruit, delicious dates and dainties. A party! Such a lovely surprise and welcome. The cards led into all kinds of discussions – growing up in rural Saskatchewan, chickens, where does the name Poached Egg Woman come from, and so on. One of the women (after my own heart) pulled loose change out her pocket and said, “I only have $5.50 – what will that get me?” I wanted to say, “You don’t have to buy anything” but of course, she felt like she did! Needless to say, I had a wonderful time and made some new friends. Not a tupperware party, but kind of like one. I have come full circle!!

Winter Soul#3 – Building with Snow

My memories of building snow forts as a child have to do with enormous piles of snow. Were  my childhood winters snowier than my adult winters? It would seem so. Even so, I remember a snow-filled Saskatchewan winter (1998?) when my young children and I were completely absorbed building a snow fort on the 5 meter high snow mountain created by our makeshift snow plow. This fort had stairs and rooms, stained glass windows (frozen blocks of ice with food colouring), thrones, tables, and a flag. The fort consumed our energy for days on end. A few years later, my kids were too old to have their mum build snow forts with them, but I remember the happy times they had with friends creating caves and tunnels in big snow drifts around the farm.

Since having an ice rink, I have returned to building with snow, usually in later winter when snow drifts form, and can be sliced just so with a shovel . At a recent winter PLAYshop (A WInter’s Day at Kerry Farm), my inspiring friend, Barbara Mader, built a small igloo like structure – too small for a person or a big dog, and with no door to get in. It is meant to be lit inside and you can see the beautiful results in the photos. I am always inspired by Barbara’s love of playing with snow – creating unlikely and narrow winding paths, walls for no (apparent) reason, or beautiful designs.

While Barbara was shovelling, I was hollowing out a part of a curved snow drift thinking it would be an inviting spot to crawl into when the world (the news!) got to be a little too much. A few days later, along came my art buddy Emora who loved my little cave, but really thought it should be a tunnel. Ten days later it became a wonderful curved tunnel with different views from either end.

I loved digging inside that tunnel. It was quieter than quiet in there. It was warm. It smelled like snow.  The wind howled outside but all was still within. Carving away at the sides and roof of the tunnel reveals different kinds and qualities of snow – sedimentary bands of tightly packed crystals, icy pockets, maple syrup season snow (big hard granules), and snow soft as soft can be. A white, bluey, purple, gray cave. It was like crawling right into the heart of winter and resting a while. Part of me wishes I had left it a cave, but there is something compelling about finally breaking through to that light at the end of the tunnel! For my efforts, I received great joy and delight as well as the sorest abdominal  muscles I have ever had – digging and carving  while on your stomach or back is more of a workout than I would have guessed.

If the forecast is right, tomorrow I welcome more snow, which we desperately need in drought stricken Eastern Saskatchewan. I also welcome snow because when the North wind blows (as it surely will), more drifts will be created, and curved blocks of snow are cut easily from drifts where they make their own lovely shape. It is so fun to slide your shovel into a drift and see which way a  crack forms and what shape your next piece of snow will be.

Barbara Mader, with her slick shovel, creating a secret path, 2020


Barbara Mader’s beautiful snow structure lit from within by “Larry’s Lantern”



From afar

Close up

Outside view of tunnel, Kerry Farm Ice Rink 2020

Feet first

The other side

Curved blocks of snow cut from drifts

Ice Lantern and snow design by Barbara Mader

Mystery creature

from 2013 when the drifts were THIS high

WinterSoul#2 – Ice Lanterns


“And guess what? Marina’s god mother has given her a star ice lantern mold. The perfect thing! How could she have known? We create our first ice lantern. It is magical. It is a pillar shaped star with a hollow inside it for a candle. We take our brand new ice lantern down to the rink. Once lit, the softest light shines from within the ice. And so begins the creation of ice lanterns. We are old hats at making coloured frozen blocks for snow forts using water and food colouring. Each day we make a new coloured lantern. Their soft light during twilight is magical. They are lit up like miniature igloos in a twilight world. We begin to skate less during the day and more in early morning and around sunset and after.” from my Journal of an Ice Rink, 2007

Looking back at this journal entry from 12 years ago, I am reminded how difficult (nay, impossible) it is to keep them lit if there is any breeze at all. A day without wind in Saskatchewan is a rare gift. I wonder if the winter of 2007-8 was a relatively calm one? In the years since, I have a list of people who I text if it is going to be an “ice lantern evening” (in other words, there is no wind), because I don’t really know for sure until the sun starts to set. Sometimes 2 people come, and on one memorable occasion 20 or 30 came. Amazingly, no one got hurt , many of us skating in wonder as the lanterns lit the ice. I was in total amazement at the hockey players amongst us, mostly young, who were zipping around like hummingbirds on steroids, having a ball!!

The next entries are from the same journal that starts this blog post. And while the sun rises I describe were often pale salmons and pinks and golds, the limitations of my phone camera are such that it can’t catch the exact light when the lanterns are lit. Perhaps between the writing and the photos, you can get  a bit of the feeling of how it is to skate during these magic hours.

My favourite skates have been around dawn and dusk. In the morning, when the sky is still dark and gradually lightens, the sunrise quite visible from the dugout, reflecting off the steel barn, fingers of light touching the rink.  The wonder of skating at this time is that the morning beauty remains planted in my soul for the whole day.

This morning – ALMOST no wind, some stars still out, a luminous half moon, bright shadows, hoar frost. I light the star lanterns. They are so lovely and simple (water, food colouring, a candle). They add to but do not blind the nightlight. Dark prevails or a sort of twilight dark. How I love it! A simple peace fills me, a quiet joy. I feel right with the world. After awhile, I sit quietly, just breathing, in out, joining heart and head, puffs of breath joining the morning air. The gift of being right here, right now fills me. I feel love all around. I skate again, feeling so connected to the ice, the bleached dry grass in snow, the snow drifts, the sky, feeling my body move, my soul expand, my spirit flying across the ice. A holy place, a holy time. Indeed.

In memory the ice rink has become a string of dawns and dusks, a necklace really, each soft dawn and dusk like an opal. Around sunrise, this is the hymn that comes to mind.

Bright morning stars are a’rising

Bright morning stars are a’rising

Bright morning stars are a’rising

Day is a breaking in my soul (Traditional/Appalachian)

Journal of an Ice Rink, 2007

Ice lantern molds can be ordered from Lee Valley Tools.















WinterSoul #1 – “The Ache”

Sometimes, small changes in routine or the weather alert us to new beauty just around the corner or across the road. In my case, right across the road! Our aging and arthritic dogs are no longer content to sit and watch me skate on a winters morning, and I imagine that it is not very good for their sore old hips to sit outside on a cold day. So, before a skate, we go for a walk, and have discovered a treasure trove across the road. For years, we have called this area the “Mooney Trees” after the Mooney family who planted the shelterbelt and once had a farmstead here, but the area includes a small wetland as well as woods. For the dogs, there are so many wonderful smells, tracks to follow, holes to dig. A veritable feast for the nose!! This small area is alive with grouse, partridge, owl, mice, foxes, deer, and coyotes – to name only a few.

Last week, Southern Saskatchewan was bathed in hoar frost for several days running. As I explored the Mooney trees with the dogs, I was amazed at each turn, each new vista and view. The Smart phone photos do not do my morning’s walk justice, but will give you some idea of the beauty that is right here (but that I almost missed!)

I was reminded of my discovery of artist Emily Carr in my teen years. Reading a book about Emily Carr, I came across a few pages describing “the ache”. As I remember it, Emily Carr would often be silenced and stilled by beauty, her hand going to her heart. Sometimes tears would come. She was often overcome. Something she called “the ache” filled her, and oftentimes after experiencing the ache, she would paint or write. As a teenager, I read about Emily Carr’s “ache” with recognition and also with great relief knowing that somebody else felt this way at times when experiencing beauty.

The dogs’ excitement is expressed in wagging tails, alert ears, noses to the ground….moments where they forget about arthritis as they bound energetically through the snow. As for me, I feel achingly alive and alert, rapt in wonder.

The old balsam poplar, now fallen, who is teaching me to balance

Mia (not one of the arthritic older dogs) loving to balance!

Sticks and Stones (and maybe bones)

“We could never have loved the earth so well if we had no childhood in it.” George Eliot

Sticks and Stones (and maybe bones) was an all ages PLAYshop offered twice this summer. Both days, we began at Kerry Farm, and then drove to nearby Pheasant Creek Coulee where we spent a few hours exploring the meadows, hillsides, creek bed, and wooded areas around this part of the coulee. We then returned to Kerry Farm for lunch and an afternoon of rest and creativity (and one of the days, tree-climbing).

During the July PLAYshop, the wildflowers were blooming profusely, Saskatoon berries were plump and plentiful, the creek was running due to recent rains. A bone was found! On our August day, a few of the July wildflowers were still in bloom as well as the August beauties, there were still Saskatoon berries, and the creek bed was mostly dry and kind of green where there was moisture. The grasses were spectacular – every colour of green, as well as pink, yellow, rust, purple, and reddish. No bones were found, but a number of sticks and stones came back to Kerry Farm. My highlight during the second PLAYshop was this: a boy, running past me up the hill, declaring at top volume,”OH! I LOVE NATURE SO MUCH!” Makes me smile just to remember.

Below are some photos which will give you a feel for the beauty of Pheasant Creek Coulee, as well as the open hearted spirit each person brought to the day.

Photo Credit: Jody Hyndman

Photo Credit: Jody Hyndman

Photo Credit: Jody Hyndman

Photo Credit: Jody Hyndman


How To Make Friends with a Wildflower

Photo Credit: Jo Anne Lauder

Jo Anne Lauder, one of the artists who took part in “Befriending Wildflowers – An Art Retreat” at the Qu’Appelle House of Prayer this July, took the stunning photo above, capturing the delicacy of a prairie wildflower bouquet. “Befriending Wildflowers” gave us a chance to slow down, to explore the hills and meadows around us, and to spend quiet happy time in each other’s company observing, sketching, and painting wildflowers. We painted under the green shade of trees on some very hot days, and were grateful for the cooling breeze. Grateful too, for the generous hospitality of Glenn, Chantelle, Kathy, Tim, and Simba, the cat. Their hospitality included delicious meals and surprise snacks, thoughtful reflections about wildflowers, and mowing the  steep and curving trails that lead up the hills (a Herculean act, in my opinion). If Simba detected any sense of a rush, he had a lovely way of asking for some affection, and slowing us down. We were also deeply grateful for the many gifts of the wildflowers, and the beautiful natural world surrounding us. Below are some photos of our time together, and if you continue all the way to the bottom, some preliminary thoughts on how to make friends with a wildflower.

She said she doesn’t climb hills and then SHE DID! (Wait to go, Deb!)

this beautiful view (still celebrating the climb!)

new friends

we also came “to just be”, to quietly sit

Moments of quiet absorption


a little watercolour play

Breathe while you paint (this flopped but fun experiment because how will you breathe if you are worried about getting paint on the garage door??)

Loosening our brush stroke by pasting a stivk to the end of our brush (still worried about paint on the doors!!)

early Saturday morning, beautiful mist…that is the chapel in the distance

Spreading Dogbane Foliage by Deb

Getting to know the flowers by sketching them first (Deb)

Bouquet by Deb

Purple Prairie Clover and Gaillardia by Jo Anne

Unfinished Woodland Foliage by Jo Anne

Wild Rose by Jo Anne

Wildflower Sampler (Purple Prairie Clover, Western Wild Bergamot, Harebell, Prairie Coneflower, Gaillardia, Alfalfa) by Jo Anne

Wild Rose by Teri (First ever attempt with watercolours)

Wildflowers in Tree by Marg

Alcohol Ink by Marg

Bible Journal by Marg

Wildflowers and Earth by Marg

“Nature yourself with kindness” by Marg

A partial art gallery on the logs

Spreading Dogbane and other foliage by Sue

More foliage by Sue

Back: Teri, Jo Anne, Marg Front: Deb, Sue

Some Preliminary Thoughts on Making Friends with Wildflowers

  • The old adage “Stop (or slow down) and smell the flowers” is a good one. Stopping is necessary. Smelling is great – some of us have the most beautiful scent, some no discernible scent, and some a memorable scent. You can smell us best when on your knees.
  • Once you have stopped, spend a little time with me. Really look at me. Touch me – gently, see how I feel. Notice if there are others like me around. What made you look at me? Sing me a song. Tell me what you appreciate about me. It takes a long time to get to know me well.
  • From someone who knows us well: be humble around us. We have been on Planet earth for much longer than you. We are your Elders, your teachers. (paraphrased from Robin Wall Kimmerer)
  • Don’t pick me with out asking. I will answer. Wrap my stem in a little water so I will stay alive a little longer. When you take me home, admire me, place me in a central spot, sketch or paint or photograph me. If that is not your thing, you could write me a love song.
  • Never pick me if I am the only one, or if there are very few of my kind.
  • Walk lightly. That way if you step on me I am more likely to bounce back.
  • Come and visit me often. At first you will notice me only when I am in full bloom, but in time you will learn to notice my emerging leaves, my bud, how I flower and how my middle turns to seeds. You will find me beautiful even as I am dying. Each stage of my life is wondrous.
  • Listen to me.
  • Look around and notice who my neighbours are, which butterflies, bees and flies like to pollinate me, if I am tasty to any wild creatures.
  • Sometimes leave me alone. Just like any friend, I need quiet at times.
  • I enjoy your small gifts of thanks, but the best gift of all is an appreciative heart. Or lovely water (especially in a dry year).
  • Other thoughts?

    Harebell Photo Credit: Chantelle Bonk, Qu’Appelle House of Prayer

Seeing Through a New Lense – Art in the City

From time to time, I have the great privilege of exploring Regina with a small group of youth, looking for art both inside and outside galleries. We call this “Art in the City” as most of us are from rural Saskatchewan. Often, I enjoy a research trip before hand, make a plan, and I create a little booklet so that we are interacting with the art we see throughout the day. Every time, I come home with the same bit of wisdom which is “Less is More”. What I learn over and over again, is that while it is good to introduce my young friends to things they may have never seen before, their own imaginations are even richer and they can make fun out of an open green field, an empty band stand, or anywhere at all. I am reminded ‘Hold whatever plan you have loosely, and leave lots of room for spontaneous adventures!”

Here is a quick rundown of our day:

Inspired by the wonderful Vic Cicanski show at the MacKenzie Art Gallery (don’t miss this!!), our theme was sculpture and we spent a long time with his fantastical sculptures. They made us hungry (all those fruits and vegetables!!) and so we went out to eat lunch with Joe Fafard’s bovine family. Then, we each chose a statue in the lobby, and imagined a name for the statue and a story, sharing them with each other afterwards. What is out the backdoor of the MacKenzie Art Gallery? More sculptures, yes…….but  even better than a sculpture garden, there was a huge green bowl of grass waiting for four girls to come along, kick off their shoes, and run and play games they made up under the blue sky for as long as possible. Although there were more things to see in the MacKenzie, we voted for ice cream instead. (There is a limit to how much beautiful art we can absorb at one time!) As we drove down 13th Avenue to the ice cream store, we yelled “HUBBA BUBBA” every time we saw art on a building, or a park bench or as a colourful sculpture! There were many “hubba bubbas!!” along this route. We tried to get “artistic” ice cream cones, colours that matched our fingernail polish or looked good together. After all this hard work, we went to the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, where we had a  quick nap, and met up with Rebecca Hay, Earth Science specialist, who introduced us to Scotty the T-Rex, but most especially to the wonders of Tyndall stone…we walked around the whole museum looking at the  stone frieze carved by Hubert Garnier in the 1950s. We stopped to look at our skewed reflections in a shiny truck – we were all short and fat. While looking at the stone frieze,  we found the illicit Wascana mermaid. She is  quite small , tucked in with the fishes, and not really very illicit at all. The mermaid suggested we swim so we headed to Wascana Pool, stopping in the bandstand to perform an impromptu play on the way. We had the best swim, and on the way back to the car, we ran and froze as statues of anything we imagined. The drive home was quiet.

What is your favourite piece?

Imagining a chair growing vegetables

Drawing the “carrot couch”

Some other favourite pieces

the great green bowl where we ran and played

Ice cream that matches

Ice cream that matches fingernails…exactly!!

Nap time…I obviously should have napped too because I took no photos of Rebecca and our wonderful tour of the outside of the museum and meeting of Scotty


As summer begins, these girls reminded me how you don’t need very much to have fun if you have an active imagination. They never go straight from a to b without making it into a game or a play or something to laugh about. What a joy to spend a day with 4 girls, each one knowing they are absolutely loved, each one expecting something wonderful around the next corner, each one delighting in being with their three friends. They have amazing parents, and being with this group reminded of this poem, which appears on Facebook from time to time.

Make the Ordinary Come Alive

Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is a way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples, and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.

By William Martin, The Parent’s Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents.




I return again and again to the same part of Pheasant Creek, in different seasons, at different times of day. I have learned where the wild bergamot flourishes, where the buffalo berries can be found, where the coyote digs her den, the location of the drumming  log of the ruffed grouse, or the tree that the pair of red tail hawks return to each year. While I know it as well as I know any place, I am constantly being surprised by new discoveries.

I see but I don’t see. Sometimes I amazed by what I have not noticed and what i have missed.

Take the bearberries, for example. I noticed them for a long time before I knew what they were called. I noticed them because they seemed out of place on the prairie hills with their deep green colour and the leathery feel and shiny look of their leaves. They seemed to belong more in a boreal forest.

At some point, I noticed the delicate pink bell shaped flowers that blossom in spring, or the red berries that come in the fall. In fall their leaves turn a deep red, and in early spring you will find patches of faded red bearberry leaves mixed with fresh green growth, as pictured below. Bearberry grows low to the ground as a trailing shrub, often close to stands of aspen or other trees. I usually find it on the coulee and valley hills, but it has a wide range across Canada.

Bearberry, early spring

Once I found out that this plant was called bearberry,  I learned that the leaves were an essential ingredient in kinnnickinick (blended smudging mixture used by many Indigenous peoples, with ingredients varying somewhat depending on locale).

Recently, when I was thinking I might have the beginnings of a bladder infection, I looked up herbs that can help with this. All ten plants listed can be found where I live. Top of the list and  and very plentiful was bearberry!!  I began by making tea with the leaves, but as the leaves are full of tannins, I have made cold water infusions instead (which do not release the tannins). I do this by tearing the leaves up and grinding them and letting them sit in water for 12 hours ( 1 teaspoon of leaves per cup of water). I then drain the water off and drink it through the day. It has a mild but very refreshing taste. This will only work if your urine is alkaline. Drinking a glass of water with a teaspoon of baking soda about an hour before drinking the bearberry water will alkalize your urine. A few cautions: This is not for pregnant women, and limit use to about two weeks.

Other medicinal benefits of bearberries can be found in The Boreal Herbal: Wild Food and Medicine Plants of the North by Beverly Gray (see below). It is a fantastic resource. You can also find bearberry in health food stores as Uva-Ursi, or in plant nurseries.

Bearberries are aptly named according to Beverly Gray. She writes, “In fall, bears will ingest massive amounts of bearberries, which has a numbing/paralyzing action on the intestine. Bears follow this meal  with Carex, a rough edged sedge that ravels right through their intestines, dragging with it tapeworms  and other parasites paralyzed by the bearberry.”



Beverly Gray, The Boreal Herbal: Wild Food and Medicine Plants of the North, Whitehorse: Aroma Borealis Press, 2011, pages 51-54

Mary Siisip Geniusz, Plants Have So Much to Give Us, All We Have To Do Is Ask: Anishinabe Botanical Teachings, University of Minnesota Press, 2015. (“How Cedar and Bearberry Came into the World” is well worth reading, pages 33-36)

Kahlee Keane and Dave Howarth, The Standing People: Field Guide of Medicinal Plants for the Prairie Provinces, Self-published, 2003, pages 128- 129



To Wander


wander (v.)

Old English wandrian “move about aimlessly, wander,” from West Germanic *wundrōjanan “to roam about” (source also of Old Frisian wondria, Middle Low German, Middle Dutch wanderen, German wandern “to wander,” a variant form of the root represented in Old High German wantalon “to walk, wander”), from PIE root *wendh- “to turn, wind, weave” (see wind (v.1)). In reference to the mind, affections, etc., attested from c. 1400. Related: Wanderedwandering. The Wandering Jew of Christian legend first mentioned 13c. (compare French le juif errant, German der ewige Jude).
Today was a day for wandering (to turn, to wind, to weave) in the coulee. Perhaps because I was unaccompanied by a four legged or two legged companion. Perhaps because my body felt slow. Perhaps because I could.
It was a day just before the riotous bursting of spring – the first flowers out, the aspens soft with catkins, touches of green here and there, the sky alive with flocks of snow geese and sandhill cranes.
For a time, I listened for the drumming of a ruffed grouse walking as quietly as I could. I remember doing this as a teenager…I was quiet enough and the eventual sight of the ruffed grouse drumming was unforgettable. Today, I wasn’t quiet enough… the grouse flew to another woods, but I did find his drumming log.

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.