Category Archives: Women Friends

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!

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.

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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.

Fall Scraps of Sunlight

Having just spent two days playing with paper with others, one day being a collage PLAYshop at the Qu’Appelle Valley Centre for the Arts, and the second day taking place here at the farm (Scrap basket free for all), I can honestly say, I would love to spend a whole week like this. Except I might not still be married! My patient husband had to borrow a chair to sit down to eat lunch, his current reading material was hidden under a scrap basket and his usual paths had detours but he managed with good humour. It is all cleaned up now and I am still married.

Following are photos from the PLAYshop and scrap basket adventure. A few highlights first:

  • I liked that we had people from age 9 to over 70, grandmothers and granddaughters, mothers and daughters, aunties and nieces, good friends, people who had come before and people who gave it their first try.
  • Joanne brought a beautiful paper wasps nest, and this paper was used for many creations. See if you can spot them.
  • We visited but sometimes were so absorbed and other than music in the background all you could hear were so many pairs of scissors as they cut through paper.
  • It was November 7th and 8th and “the sun poured in like butterscotch and stuck to all our senses .” (thanks Joni Mitchell). Who could believe this weather in November? The sun was so bright I was uanble to get a picture of Sunday morning’s scrap basket crew.
  • On Saturday, we got to pop in at the pop up market!!

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I have  three big scrap baskets, full of treasure. Today’s challenge was to just use what was in the scrap basket to create something beautiful.
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Joan's beautiful creation from saturday's PLAYshop. She came up to the farm Sunday and found just what she needed to complete her collage. see the next photo.

Joan’s beautiful creation from saturday’s PLAYshop. She came up to the farm Sunday and found just what she needed to complete her collage. see the next photo.

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Immersed in Nature

Do you have the patience to wait

Till your mud settles and the water is clear?

Can you remain unmoving

Till the right action arises by itself?

 Tao Te Ching

Photo Credit:http://thesimplefrontporch.wordpress.com

Photo – http://thesimplefrontporch.wordpress.com

a joint blog entry by Sue Bland and Debra Brown

Sue : I am not a patient person. Mostly, I do not have the patience to wait until my mud settles and the water is clear. To remain unmoving is very difficult for me. More often than not, I rush ahead with plans and lists and schemes. The wisdom of the twenty seven words above seems written for me.

Last year, when I was searching for venues to hold my art retreats and PLAYshops and my friend Debra was considering opening her farm home in the Eastern Qu’Appelle Valley for retreats, we wondered, slowly, tentatively…is this something we could do together?

the view from the top of the hill - misty moiety weather- at valley View Farm (well named)

the view from the top of the hill – misty moisty weather- at Valley View Farm (well named)

This simple question,  and the eventual answer to it, has taken us on a journey together , something we both came to see as a ceremony of sorts.

We talked about the question, let it rest, dreamed about it and slept on it. In time, the answer to our question arose, and it was YES. When would we hold it? We thought about May, dilly dallied, rejected May. Somehow, late August felt exactly right to both of us.

The burr oaks

The burr oaks

Together we came up with the title – Immersed in Nature: An Art Retreat at Valley View Farm. 

We prepared, each in our own way.

Debra: I sorted, cleared, reorganized more layers of 75+ years of family habitation. While this challenged me on many levels, I never lost the clear knowing that offering this retreat with Sue was a gift, the right “next step” to explore the long-held dream of offering sacred space for people at the farm.

Sue: I am so moved by the beautiful hills and valleys, grasses, woods and wetlands at Valley View Farm. How could this sacred place change and inform the way I offered a PLAYshop or an art retreat? If I truly listened, what did the natural world have to say about how we might approach our time together? I wanted our art to emerge from the nature were were immersed in. I wanted to offer exercises that might shift, ever so slightly, the way we see, experience and respond to the natural world. I practised close to home – in my beloved Pheasant Creek Coulee. There I sketched and painted, or simply sat and took in the beauty. There, I considered the visual elements of line, shape and colour.

the colours of the grasses

the colours of the grasses

Our enthusiasms and efforts were buoyed by registrations and expressions of interest. As we got closer to the weekend, a few people cancelled. Should we go ahead? Doubts surfaced. What if everybody cancelled? We determined that we would go ahead, no matter what. The ceremony of this joint venture was well underway, and even if it was just the two of us, we would see it through until the end because we very much wanted to.

Happily, we had three participants, each of who brought her own special gifts and interests to our shared weekend.  What follows are some “moments” that stood out for each of us.

Sue: Coming downstairs to see guests each with a dark coffee in tow in the sunporch, a book or journal nearby; companionable silence.

Debra: the land being received with such appreciation and delight on our introductory misty-wet walk up the hill, and throughout the weekend

Big Bluestem grass with wolf willow

Big Bluestem grass with wolf willow

More Big Bluestem (taller than I am)

More Big Bluestem (taller than I am)

Sue: a silent walk, sharing wonder and delight with others, but not using words

Debra: women moving and creating in their own rhythms, filling the house with waves of peaceful silence and rich conversation

Sue: the smells coming from the kitchen, as Debra created magic… with plates of such aesthetic beauty and such fresh taste, you could die and go to heaven

Debra's unbelievably scrumptious food

Debra’s unbelievably scrumptious food

Close up!!!

Close up!!!

Debra: the radiance of one participant, after a final pre-departure walk (and drenching) in the hills

Sue: the sound of charcoal on paper as we drew

Creating art…blindfolded!!

Creating art…blindfolded!!

Debra: the insistent presence of Nature throughout the program. ‘Immersed’ we were [or was that baptized and blessed?] by the rain, the shimmering dew on the grasses and verdant forest

the last of the blazing star

the last of the blazing star

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Collage- shape, line

Collage- shape, line, colour

Selecting paper treasure for the trip home

Selecting paper treasure for the trip home

Would we do it again? When the weekend was over, we really weren’t sure. A week later we met and talked about all we had learned, what we would change, what we would celebrate. Then, with the need to follow the insistent thrum in her core, Debra said, “There is something new rising in me”. That insistent rising is the seed of Sweet Darkness: A Mid-Winter Silent Retreat . And so, this ‘ceremony’ continues to ripple through our lives and into the world.

Sue's mandala (left) and Debra's mandala (right) . Each created without looking at the other!

Sue’s mandala (left) and Debra’s mandala (right) . Each created without looking at the other!

Creating LeeAnn’s Dragon

with thanks to Eric Carle. I love this book entitled DRAGONS DRAGONS and Other Creatures That Never Were

with thanks to Eric Carle. I love this book entitled DRAGONS DRAGONS and Other Creatures That Never Were

the basic shape

the basic shape

in my happy place with scissors, paper

in my happy place with scissors, paper

the basic dragon joins the birds on the window

the basic dragon joins the birds on the window

red dragon, yellow underbelly, purple wings

red dragon, yellow underbelly, purple wings

It is a big step moving from flying birds to a flying dragon. I am grateful for LeeAnn’s encouragement and Eric Carle’s amazing art. Hmmm…polka dot belly – NOT the effect I was looking for. Looks more like a nursery room dragon that the mischievous, slightly vampish dragon I was hoping to create for LeeAnn.

mmmm, not sure about that underbelly, not sure about those polka dots. What self respecting dragon would have dots on her belly?

mmmm, not sure about that underbelly, not sure about those polka dots. What self respecting dragon would have dots on her belly? She is also missing two legs, her eyes and her sharp teeth…not quite ready to go out in the world.

Trying out colours for a wing. I like this wing!

Trying out colours for a wing. I like this wing!

One wing done, one to go. Still wondering about belly?

One wing done, one to go. Still wondering about belly? Also trying to figure out the best way to create scales for the red parts.

But very happy with this wing...created while Canada won GOLD in women's hockey. This is a STRONG wing!

But very happy with this wing…created while Canada won GOLD in women’s hockey. This is a STRONG wing!

Back at it… a few months Later (April 11, 2014)

I wasn’t sure about the polka dots or how I would do the red scales, so the dragon had a break. In the meantime, the unfinished dragon and LeeAnn met each other.

worked on the head... looks too dark

worked on the head… looks too dark

I like the teeth but am not sure about the eys

I like the teeth but am not sure about the eye

the red scales

the red scales

a close up of the red scales

a close up of the red scales

feet are on, second wing started, another dragon joins LeeAnn's dragon

feet are on, second wing started, another dragon joins LeeAnn’s dragon

Eye surgery. A wicked cut, lightened the green, outlined the pupil with purple candy wrapper and added dark blue eye liner

Eye surgery. A wicked cut, lightened the green, outlined the pupil with purple candy wrapper and added dark blue eye liner

Almost done... new eye job, this dragon is smoking. have a few final bits and want to add claw nails - sparkly, special for LeeAnn

Almost done… new eye job(I changed the eyebrow and I like it – it looks more threatening than the eye above), this dragon is breathing FIRE!! I have a few final bits and want to add claw nails – sparkly, special for LeeAnn

LeeAnn's dragon gets a pedicure. Special nails from the cigarette foils she so kindly donated, sharpened with a file and sparkling with glitter nail polish.
LeeAnn’s dragon gets a pedicure. Special nails from the cigarette foils she so kindly donated, sharpened with a file and sparkling with glitter nail polish.

a close up of the nails

a close up of the nails

 

Heading for the gas tank...whoops, we could have a fire!!

Heading for the gas tank…whoops, we could have a fire!!

Letting leeAnn's dragon fly outside

Letting leeAnn’s dragon fly outside

The Red Dragon meets the Red Beast (the girl's beloved truck )

The Red Dragon meets the Red Beast (the girl’s beloved truck )

two views of LeeAnn's Dragon - getting ready to head North

two views of LeeAnn’s Dragon – getting ready to head North

 

Magic Wings

 

All my life, I have believed in the “little people”. As a girl, I loved making them small homes of moss, birchbark, sticks, shells, berries, seeds and leaves. My daughters also created these places for the fairies in the garden.

The past few days have seen me creating fairies – one for my favourite tree planter called “Tree Planting Fairy”, and a second for a dear friend who is in the midst of the adventure of moving called “Moving Fairy”.

"Tree Planting Fairy" in process (when she had a green face)

“Tree Planting Fairy” in process (when she had a green face and was not yet stuck to the paper)

detail - "tree Panting Fairy" changes to yellow orange face!!

detail – “Tree Panting Fairy” changes to yellow orange face!!  Note  shovel.

"Tree Planting Fairy" Rice and other papers, gum, cigarette and candy wrappers, doily from Paul Paquin's house

“Tree Planting Fairy”
Rice and other papers, gum, cigarette and candy wrappers, doily from Paul Paquin’s house

 

"Moving Fairy" catches the morning sunlight

“Moving Fairy” catches the morning sunlight

"Moving Fairy" has at least two sides. Created from a recycled watercolour painting, this is her autumn side.

“Moving Fairy” has at least two sides. Created from a recycled watercolour painting, this is her autumn side. She is versatile and meant for travelling – old house, new house, moving truck, car, just about anywhere. She is dressed for any weather. In her satchel is everything she will need.

This is her Ice rink side - her dress is partly made of torn photos of the deep blue ice on the rink.....

This is her Ice rink side – her dress is partly made of torn photos of the deep blue ice on the rink…..Other materials include rice paper, candy wrappers, cigarette foils, part of a badminton racket string, metallic thread

 

 

 

My first ever “What a Lark!” party

I received a phone call from Laureen after she visited my post entitled “An Exultation of Larks”. Winter was not loosening its grip on us. It seemed like it would go on forever. During this particular winter, Laureen had broken her leg and been homebound. So the longest winter in memory was even longer for Laureen!

Laureen was certain that she could bring on spring by dreaming up a party that celebrated women’s enduring friendships, the promise of the birds returning and a chance for all of us just to be, to play a little and have some fun. My part in the party was to read from my children’s book, Madame de Toucainville’s Magnificent Hat and to lead the women as they created their own colourful rice paper birds. We would have a lark together!

All of this was a surprise for Laureen’s friends.They knew they would be fed, and they each brought a pair of scissors but they knew not why! Many had never been in the “Lantern” before – at the back of the Early Learning Centre in Regina. Laureen has friends from many walks of life – some were meeting here for the first time. Laureen began with a warm welcome, a short rant about the evils of plastic and packaging (and what she was going to do about it). She had prepared a delicious bag lunch for each woman attending – no plastics were used. Homemade quiche, chocolates, cookies and a beautiful fruit cup. I first met Laureen at a True Knit Art Show. Laureen is a warm, loving, and creative person full of joie de vivre and it was so much fun to be with the women in her world for an afternoon. Below are some pictures of how together, we encouraged spring to come and stay in Saskatchewan. “What a lark!” it was.. Thanks, Laureen!

P.S. For those who attended, I never did share where Poached Egg Woman comes from. Click here to find out!

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