Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year - Try For Peace and a New Kind of Light

Prior to Christmas I was asked by film maker Jackie Torrens to get involved with a project about those living on welfare, the fancy word, Social Assistance. Poverty is something I have often experienced, and I am very well aware of, however I am so very grateful, and consider myself a most fortunate one, in comparison to so many others.

This coming New Year, I hope for one thing, and that is peace within each individual and throughout the world. The kind of peace that comes from being free from war, violence, having enough food, shelter and a strong sense of belonging that comes from being loved.

When I heard this recording, made in aid of food banks, by three of the most talented Maritime women singer song writers, I had to share it. This song Try For Peace sums up my thoughts about the coming year.

Wishing all a very Happy and Peaceful New Year.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Horrors - Charles Demers - Laughin' It All Away

Comedian-author Charles Demers offers his madcap perspective in a new essay collection exploring all things awful.
Comedian-author Charles Demers offers his madcap perspective in a new essay collection exploring all things awful. (Charlie Cho) 

Joni Mitchell's song People's Parties/Same Situation, with the lyric, " laughing and crying it's the same release" it's very true, but fact is, laughing is a whole lot more fun than crying. Laughing in the face of our own difficulties or finding the humour in tragedy is important, and even an essential coping strategy for life.

In my family we had to face a myriad of problems. Nothing so funny about things like death, disease and heartbreak, on the surface, but keeping a proactive and strong sense of  humour, makes all the difference to our mental health, our outlook, and can give us connection and relief from the seriousness, and we can come out from under the burdensome weight of it all, even if it's for a short period of time or is temporary.

I've learned humour is one of those three legs that keeps us upright in the chair of life. The other two are humility, and a love for humanity.

Charlie Demers has also obviously learned this lesson and in his interview he explains this in his book The Horrors, which he talked about this morning during an interview on the Current .

Many kids that grow up in difficult situations learn that humor helps immeasurably early on, and they develop a dark sense of humour. Some people might not get this, but others who have had similar experiences growing up, they completely get it. I completely get Charlie Demers, and Joni Mitchell.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Snow - Archibald Lampman

There's not a bit of snow here in Apple River, this Christmas Eve. The above photo was taken a few months back. One of those magical Winter days.

 Loreena McKennitt's song Snow, is based on Canadian poet, Archibald Lampman's poem. When I read his poem and watch this video, I certainly have snow in my mind's eye, and the inspiring beauty of Winter. Did I really say that, the beauty of Winter? Let's just say I'm getting better at embracing it as I age, no longer having to traverse the Winter roads.

Though I do remember that magical feeling when I was little, walking in the deep woods of snow covered trees Winter with my father, the fun of skating, tobogganing, and the great excitement of the first snow fall. These recaptured memories help to make Winter more enjoyable, and living in the very rural Nova Scotia I see many beautiful Winter scenes that bring that beauty to life.

Snow by Archibald Lampman

 White are the far-off plains, and white
The fading forests grow;
The wind dies out along the height,
And denser still the snow,
A gathering weight on roof and tree,
Falls down scarce audibly.

The road before me smooths and fills
Apace, and all about
The fences dwindle, and the hills
Are blotted slowly out;
The naked trees loom spectrally
Into the dim white sky.

The meadows and far-sheeted streams
Lie still without a sound;
Like some soft minister of dreams
The snow-fall hoods me round;
In wood and water, earth and air,
A silence everywhere.

Save when at lonely intervals
Some farmer's sleigh, urged on,
With rustling runners and sharp bells,
Swings by me and is gone;
Or from the empty waste I hear
A sound remote and clear;

The barking of a dog, or call
To cattle, sharply pealed,
Borne echoing from some wayside stall
Or barnyard far afield;

Then all is silent and the snow falls
Settling soft and slow
The evening deepens and the grey
Folds closer earth and sky
The world seems shrouded, far away.

Its noises sleep, and I secret as
Yon buried streams plod dumbly on and dream.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Christmas With A Laugh

The Hawk

I'm not a big fan of Christmas music with some exceptions. But when Ronnie Hawkins gets together and collaborates with Gordon Lightfoot and Robbie Robertson, well I listen. This interview with The Hawk and Gordon Lightfoot is priceless, and I really like the song they've written and performed.

I love to hear Ronnie Hawkins talk. He's so full of stories and good badness, with a wicked sense of humour. The dialogue back and forth between these two legendary talents is a real treat, and I'm sure to go down in the CBC Radio archives.

Whenever I hear Ronnie Hawkins, I always think about my brother, who idolized him so much, having grown up in Toronto during the 50s with his music.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Baring Witness

Author Bryan Doerries says that veterans can benefit from ancient Greek tragedies because they speak to the timeless trauma of war. (Thatcher Cook/Flickr cc)

What this post is about is difficult to put into words. It evokes very deep thought and human emotion in me..

Since I was a kid I loved the stories of the Greek myths. I couldn't get enough of Jason and The Argonauts and The Golden Fleece. Especially within the past six or seven years I've become even more drawn to Greek Myth, and have learned more about it through my study of Tarot through the Mythic Tarot Deck which relates stories about archetypal warriors.

I understand now the reason for my attraction to Greek tragedy and Myth is directly related to my love of  story telling, my interest philosophy, and in the human condition.

 I had never imagined until today, the implications and connection I would make with this, the story of war, and baring witness to suffering, exactly what Byran Doerries  talked about this morning on CBC Radio, The Current. His theatre project entitled, Theater of War clarified this for me, and I am once again so amazed and taken aback with the power of art and creativity to bare witness, to heal and to foster the community of human kind.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Vladimir Kireev - The Winter

The Winter 2014 by Vladimir Kireev
One of my fellow bloggers who lives in the Netherlands posted this beautiful painting, by Vladimir Kireev, and so I had to share it. His work looks to me like that of an old master, though he is a young man. This painting drew me in as soon as I saw it, and immediately gave me the feeling of Winter Solstice.

It would be strange for me to say I love this time of year, with the impending Winter. I must admit there are many things I do appreciate, not to mention being so grateful I no longer have to travel on bad highways in snowy weather, or even snow storms. It's become easier for me to embrace Winter, and I always look forward to the Winter Solstice, and the weatherman is predicting milder weather compared to last years record snowfall which was brutal.

 I lost count of how many times I went off the long country road during my many years of travel, to and from work, and school, a two hour drive one way.  I count my blessings for all the kind neighbours that rescued and assisted me when I was stranded in one way or another.

I'm also very grateful for all those that read my blog from all over the world, who comment, and who take the time to read my ramblings and sometimes my rantings. Thank you to all, and I want to wish you blessings of the season.

The Mirror - Vladimir Kireev

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Tony Benedetto - Artist Extraordinaire

Central Park in Autumn - Tony Benedetto

I don't know anyone who doesn't love Tony Bennett (Benedetto). Nor do know many people who actually are aware of what a consummate artist he is. I am not referring to his singing ability, or his 70 year legendary career, selling millions of records world wide. I am talking about his creative talent and how prolific a painter he is, which has long been his other passion. Not to mention all the good work he has done in promoting the arts, especially with youth.

Having the opportunity on two occasions to travel to New York City, I fell for that city, and I especially loved Central Park, the streets, and the people I met. I loved almost everything about it. When I think about Tony Benedetto I immediately relate him to NYC. He's a real New Yorker.

Young Tony

His cityscapes of New York City epitomize the feel of the place and transport me right there.
If you are not a fan of Tony Bennett's and I can't imagine why not, at least check out his site and look at his art work. You won't be disappointed.

He goes all over the world and paints what he sees. His style reminds me of the impressionists, and even Cezanne sometimes. His use of mark making, colour combinations, varied subject matter, and impressions are very engaging, beautiful, and he's lovingly painting life, as he sees it.

I have to add what I deeply about Tony Benedetto is his loving demeanor. He impresses me as such a down to earth humanitarian, who loves and lives a humble life with much gratitude, and integrity. Something we can all aspire to. God Bless Tony.

Tony in his studio

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Time To Make The Baskets

Dating as far back to the 3rd millennium and based on available evidence, the most significant and primary characteristics of basket making has remained the same up to present day.

The symbolism of the basket in ancient cultures has been seen as representing many things, the feminine, part of the creation myth, or even symbolic of the Creator. Perhaps this is why so many feel a deep connection with the basket.

I have been a lover of baskets, as far back as I can remember.  When my family would visit my grandmother, her house was full of different baskets, woven from reeds, and wicker that she'd bought from Mi'gmaq women who would go from house to house selling their beautiful work. Some of these I still have, and I love them so much.

Winter has a way of causing me to gear down. There are positives and negatives to this, but I have come to accept that it is part of my natural rhythm and creating baskets is a comforting and I think life affirming activity to do in the dead of Winter.

I started making baskets again after recently seeing a photo of one particular basket, and I thought I can make that. Ooo big job! Basket making can be taxing and time consuming, relaxing but Winter is a good time to be creating baskets or doing anything creative. Thing is for me, I have to find the right materials and the best technique, which I haven't quite found yet, but I keep exploring and practicing my skills.

Here's a picture of the basket I found online. This one will be my next big project. It'll take me a while I'm sure!

Customize-able  Rope Basket - By Esther Chandler

In the meantime this is what I've been working on over the past couple weeks week using float rope and crochet to assemble.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Dwayne Betts - From Prison To Poetry

Dwayne Betts is a poet, teacher, and 2016 Yale Law candidate. His latest collection of poems is called Bastards of the Reagan Era. (Rachel Eliza Griffiths)

I worked with adult and young offenders for many years and volunteered in prisons as a recovering 12 Step member. It will always give me great hope seeing individuals that make 180 degree positive changes in their lives through creativity.

In the 12 Step fellowship we are told we can't keep what we have unless we give it away. When I heard Dwayne Betts talk about his life I can see he is much more than a poet, he's what I would call wordsmith,  activist, teacher and a changer of lives, giving hope to those of us who might seem or feel hopeless.

I heard him interview yesterday on CBC Radio.
His interview was inspiring and powerful.
I especially took note of how his letter writing over a period of eight years of incarceration was what gave him his voice. It exemplifies the power of the written word to change lives, and to change the world.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Chic Gamine - A Feel Good Post To Help You Shake Off Your Worries

Chic Gimine

This is simply a feel good post to help you shake off your worries.

Music soothes the soul. This time of year many souls need comfort. This group sure comforts and soothes mine, and helps me to shake off my worries. I heard them the other day for the first time ever. I never knew they existed. So happy I know about them now. I'll certainly be listening to more.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

What's In Your Dirty Sock Drawer?

Paramedic Rob Gladney - " Sock Drawer Portraits"Artist - Teresa Coulter

The relationship between art and mental health issues have long been very important to me, being an artist and someone who has been affected by friends, family and the troubled youth I worked with as a youth Care worker for 20 years, and watched them suffer from PTSD and mental health issues.

Today I listened to White Coat Black Art on CBC Radio with Dr. Brian Goldman, which I regularly do. His program is so insightful, and refreshingly honest, that gives an inside look at the medical profession, and all that it entails. Myths surrounding physicians and the world of medicine are dispelled and he shines a light on the darker and often troubling side of the medical profession. It's a wonderful show that I never miss listening to.

There are many positive and significant aspects of Dr. Goldman's show, and today was no different, but it was a stellar program. Although he has had a few programs about Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, today's particular show entitled Sock Drawer Stories was exceptional, and really caught my interest because it was about art, PTSD, hope and healing.

Artist and Emergency Service Worker Teresa Coulter created 12 powerful portraits of her fellow paramedics which are intimately and powerfully moving. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

John Trudell - Rich Man's War

Rest in Peace John Trudell - February 15, 1946 – December 8, 2015

rich man's war
john trudell

hay ah iy ya hey iy ah hey......

rich mans war,
industrial streets, class lines
money talks, turning language to paper pieces
rich man's war free man's society.
raging violent insecurity
nuclear man, nuclear woman
unclear how to act.

rich man's war
Persians cruising Europe.
America Russia
governmental nuclear views
industrial allies cutting the world
as though they cannot see blood flowing
rich man's war
Central America bleeding
wounds same as Palestine and Harlem
Three Mile Island in El Salvador
Pine Ridge in Belfast

rich man's war
the poor, starving for food
starving for land, starving for peace,
starving for real.

rich man's war
attacking human, attacking being
attacking earth, attacking tomorrow

rich man's war
thinking of always war
thinking of always war.

with machines for ancestors
new unborn generations
chemical umbilical chords are only wiring
in your electrical progress
human lives burnt offerings to the god greed
with lies for ancestors

there is no truth in some futures
rulers of minds feeding next generation's souls
to the control machine.
sacrifice ritual for the proper technology
with isolation for ancestors

there is only the present bought by the credit material uses
forging chains binding you to destruction
compliments of your deities
the industrial priest.
hay ah iy ya hey iy ah hey......
no more than neon flash
trying hiding in neon mask
have to face who we really are
at some point we had no choice.
distant star distant light
in real world we are human being
in shadow of real world we are
being human.
neon mask for neon flash.
distant thunder distant cloud
passions reign
drenched in possession
what we take is hard to do
what we do is hard to take
some ones are crazy or maybe we take turns
dreaming about some kind of life we say
"it could have been different".
but it wasn't because we weren't
no matter what, it turns out the same
a lot of things we said weren't true
industrial stories in an electric instant
neon mask neon flash neon flash.
thing is nihilistic desires
civilized gone insane
didn't imagine it turning like this
some things start good and go bad
some things get bad and stay bad.
are we caught in between living a lie or
not living at all?
eliminated choices lost in dreams we let go
memories we never got to have
something else to think about...
waking up in industrial society
surrounded by angry days,
going through motions
of not being.
wanting the best but not expecting it.
surviving paid for in dreams
feeling like a world alone
serving god with the devil to pay.
feeling like something in no place
what goes on in hell anyway?
thing is, it has to do with heart.
we have to understand what hearts are for
before we can get back to heaven or paradise
or the power in OUR MIND.
hay ah iy a hey e ya hay........

Monday, December 7, 2015

" Follow your bliss but be prepared to live your nightmare" - Mark Reay

Mark Reay and Thomas Wirthensohn

Many of us experience hard times, some more so than others. We decide how we are going to cope. Some of us make it, and cope relatively well, some don't. It is often a secret we keep from others, for a long as possible in order to keep up appearances, because poverty and homelessness in our society is cloaked in shame, guilt, and judgement.

It's easy to sit in judgment of others who don't match our preconceived notions of normal, and so I will say, if you haven't walked in their shoes, refrain from judgement. Truth is, there but for the Grace of God go I.

I thank God I have never been homeless, but many years back I was sleeping quite regularly in my vehicle because I worked two hours away from home, and couldn't afford the gas to travel at one point in time. Hitch hiking and food banks were a regular thing for me, when I returned to University at the age of 56 in 2009.

Mark Reay is a remarkable individual. He kept the secret of being five years homeless living in New York City, sleeping under a tarp, on a friends rooftop at night, and living an entirely different life by day, keeping up appearances, which to all appeared to be glamorous and successful.

Mark Reay is very obviously an individual with great tenacity, courage and resilience, and he doesn't match our notions of the stereo typical homeless person.

This documentary Homme Less is insightful, a revealing real life film by Thomas Wirthensohn about how Mark Reay lived in one of the most wonderful cities for artists, and simultaneously, one of the worst if you are homeless and poor.

 Mark was interviewed today on CBC Q with his long time friend Thomas Wirthensohn, who directed the documentary. I am certain this film will help to break down the stigma and misconceptions surrounding what it means to be homeless and poor, who should not be invisible, nor judged.

Friday, December 4, 2015

"We All Need a Home and a Journey" - Gloria Steinem

Amy Schumer & Annie Leibovitz

A few years back, I got to see Anne Leibovitz give a talk at a book store in New York City about one of her last books, called Pilgrimage. This was truly the highlight of my trip to NYC, because I have always admired her work. She is a great speaker, a philosopher, an amazing photographer and I could listen to her for hours.

Today I learned that the Parelli Calendar has recently published a feminist depiction of numerous women that are clothed, a far departure from how this calendar portrayed women in the past, always glamorous, nude portraits.

Annie Leibovitz had free rein to create the kind of portrait photographs she wanted when she was asked to do this project. It broke with the Parelli stereotypical tradition of objectifying women. It will be interesting if this  project marks a permanent change in how the Parelli calendar will be presented in the future, but it certainly is a hopeful change from the mindless concept of a hyper-pornified culture to where we are "agents of our own bodies" and the conversation  about sexuality shifts, and is defined by our own terms.

Simultaneously it may be a sign of change when you see Playboy magazine no longer engaging in nude photos of women. More than an indication of Playboy developing a politically correct social conscience, I think perhaps this is more about having to compete with a pornographic material so readily available on the internet, and how this has made the Playboy rather redundant.

Pioneer feminist Gloria Steinem who in 1963 went undercover as a Playboy bunny, was interviewed today on CBC Radio. She has previously addressed this topic when she said, " For Playboy to stop publishing nude photos of women, (of course, it never published nude photos of men) is like the NRA saying that it's no longer pushing hand guns because machine guns and assault refiles are so easily available. "

 " Playboy would have to change it's little heart and brain cells in order to express the full humanity of men or women. "

When I heard what Gloria Steinem said about how we all need a home and a journey, it rung so true with me.  And like Annie Leibovitz and all the women she photographed, we all do need a home, that is found within ourselves, on that pilgrimage to find where it is we belong, and where  and how we reclaim our power and our strength.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sand, Sea, and Smugglers - RTÉ Radio 1 - Nicoline Greer

Anas and Ammar Al-Kadry

As is my routine every night, while in my bed, I fading in and out of sleep, I listen to late night radio. In the wee hours of Saturday nights they broadcast from Ireland, through RTÉ Radio 1, documentaries which are usually very compelling, and I am more often wide awake to listen intently, because these programs are so interesting, often very moving, and leave lasting impressions. 

Within Canada we in the beginning stages of accepting 25,000 refugees, and within my own very rural community we are going through the process of getting prepared to accept a family. I've heard bits and pieces of what life has been like for these individuals, and their families fleeing for their lives, but I haven't heard anything really detailed about what has happened to them. These are powerful stories that need to be told, resulting in a real appreciation for who these individuals are, what they have experienced, as Anas and Ammar Al-Kadry, and for the kind of unimaginable, and incredible suffering, dangers they have endured and overcome.

The documentary story by Nicoline Greer, called Sand, Sea, and Smugglers conveys in an in depth way, that enables us to understand the kind of incredible, resilient strength existing within and among these individuals, a strength that many of us can only imagine in a lifetime.

This kind of documentary, and the stories refugees have to tell, might help us to rearrange our values here in our privileged Western world, and what is really important, and perhaps to even see what own purpose in life might be.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Is Clutter Killing Your Creativity?

I've had a bit of a challenging month attempting to unclutter my mind, by ridding my house of things I've been hanging on to. At least I'm getting it organized to place it curb side for garbage pick-up or released into the ether where it belongs. I truly believe this kind of clutter can block or even kill creativity. During this process I have learned that the relationship between creativity and clutter. When clutter increases, creativity decreases, and it's inverse in nature.

I distinctly remember during my art school study, where we were sharing spaces with a fellow students, a cubicle, measuring, oh I'd say about 12'x12', if that. I made an effort to keep our small studio space clean and organized, as did the fellow students I shared the spaces with. It was difficult to work, if not almost impossible. I created much of my work at home.

Students who made a huge mess in their space would inevitably drag their mess out into center of the large room, where you'd accidentally kick something half way across the floor. I think the restricted space  in our cubicles was good for some of us. But for others it wouldn't matter how much space they had, it would be a mess regardless.

Mess is stress, and a big distraction the takes away from my focus and concentration.
Yes there are some artists that work this way and they flourish in their creative and chaotic messiness, but I'm not one of them, because I know it doesn't make me feel good. We all have to decide for ourselves what makes us feel good in our creative environment, and what enables our creativity.

Often I have found I could always measure the psychological state of my well being because it is reflected in the space around me. If I was not in a positive frame of mind because I was exhausted, my house would look like it had blown up. Not a good feeling.

I believe when we hang onto people, places or things, it's based on the hope that one day we'll need it, we don't want to let go, or we are creating some kind of drama in our lives. Instead of being motivated, we can end up with feelings of guilt and shame because we can't move forward unburdened and we can't let go.

I can only speak for what works and what doesn't work for me. Some think that creative people are messy and this is conducive to the creative process and all part of being creative. It worked for Einstein. This has not been my own experience as an artist. Clutter does block, and can threaten to kill my creativity.

I'm looking forward to feeling more unfettered and creative.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Ron Hynes Man of a Thousand Songs

Ron Hynes - Photo Justin Hall

Two days ago, Thursday November 19th 2015, Canada lost a great singer song writer/musician, and human being, Ron Hynes. It's hard to know how to express the sadness that pervades the Maritimes and especially in Newfoundland/Labrador at the loss of a such an individual.

There are certain people in this world that grab your heart and soul. Ron Hynes is definitely one of those. He did this through his artistry as a lyricist and song writer, but also I think most people recognized his rigorous honesty with himself and with others and he touched people deeply.

It makes me happy and grateful  to know he found his own recovery in life, and all the gifts that he left behind will never be forgotten. Recovering people everywhere like Ron, who learned how to save themselves from themselves one day at a time, understanding what he lost, but more importantly understand what he gained in recovery, and the legacy he has left behind, that will live on forever, and will continue to touch hearts and souls alike.

This documentary, I found on CBC Absolutely Canadian, Man of a Thousand Songs, I think you'll agree, says it all.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Poet Laurette of Youth Now

As an artist, and in my past as a Youth Care Worker for 20 years, I’ve seen first hand how art and creativity changes lives for the better. I have also volunteered in correctional facilities. Many adult offenders started out as young offenders.

When youth are in Open Custody there is next to no help or support for them or for their families, once they serve their sentence in open or closed custody as young offenders, many of them go right back into dysfunctional familial environments.

If youth are in therapeutic group homes it’s different, they have more support. They’ll have a social worker, psychologist, family counseling etc.

The way the correctional system is set up, particularly closed custody for young offender, is like the adult penal system and they are simply being preened for prison.These facilities are even referred to as jails, particularly by the youth themselves.

80% of adult offenders inside prison have been sexually assaulted, a good majority are First Nations, many have been in long term foster care, in the system for years, and suffer with mental health or addiction issues etc.

Anything creative IS healthy healing, and therapeutic. They sure as heck don’t have much of a hope of “rehabilitation” the way most prisons are set up presently. So yes bring on the creative opportunity!
I say start trying to understand people, especially youth instead of trying to control them!

Here's a informative article by Sarah Poko who works for The Signal in Halifax Nova Scotia, about Youth Now Radio started by Sobaz Benjamin.

Jackie Torrens tells the compelling story on Atlantic Voice about the Poet Laureate of Youth Now .

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Conversation Versus Connection - ``I`d Rather Text Than Talk``

Over the past few months, I`d written a blog post on the subject of what has been coined as being a new word in the zeitgeist, called "phubbing". I don't know who came up with that one, but I rather liked it, because it adequately described what I`d been experiencing. Phubbing describes that thing that happens when someone ignores you, tunes you out and focuses nothing else but their cell phone. It really annoy`s me, and I find it insulting in that it`s as if the person you are trying to talk with, couldn`t care less about you. It`s all about their relationship with their phone.

 I don`t have a cell phone. There have been times I wished I had one, but the more I learn about the negative affects from this form of connection with our devices, the more convinced I am that I don`t want one, nor do I need one.

I have always had an interest in language, social interaction, philosophy, and psychology. Our contemporary digital age has changed everything, which has got some great advantages, but I`ve noted that the most concerning negative repercussionit has also changed our relationships and social interactions that has begun to disturb me.

I heard Sherry Turkle interviewed about her book entitled Reclaiming Conversation on a radio interview yesterday. She clarified for me why I should be disturbed and explained what this obsession with our devices is doing to our relationships and our ability to be empathetic human beings.

 I also found this talk she gave about this today and have posted the youtube video below. I think it`s a real opener.
 I do believe we need to make face to face, real eye ball to eyeball conversation our focus, not connection if you want to be empathetic human beings.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Trust God, Clean House, Help Others

 Something strange happened today. I spent four hours cleaning out my basement. It might not sound strange to many, but believe me this is something I've long procrastinated on doing for years, and it's become like an albatross around my neck.

A cluttered house, is a cluttered mind and it can directly affect creativity I believe. It certainly does mine, because my messes, mess with my mind, leaving me feeling waves of depression and unmotivated.

 This is the second time something like this has happened in the past two weeks. I cleaned out a back storage/laundry room last week, which also took me hours. I'm not sure how this happened. I can only attribute it to writing it down in my journal in the form of prayer, and trusted that God would help me.
Then the notion to get it done struck, I put the time and energy into it, until it was done. I'm sure it isn't that simple, and believe me I worked my arse off this afternoon, and the time before that, but maybe it is just that simple. I just know I can't sit around waiting for inspiration. Like Chuck Close says, inspiration is for amateurs.

  I'm tried as hell with an aching back, but I'm feeling lighter and encouraged to know that I got this big job accomplished.

 When it comes to big cleaning jobs, I am the queen of procrastination. Perhaps I am finally making progress in overcoming this character defect, that I've been working at now for a long time.

I have one major project left to accomplish, cleaning out the garage. It always feels good to do Spring cleaning just before Winter begins.

 Getting these big cleaning jobs done I think is a good metaphor for life, and in comes down to my recovery tools like the slogan, trust god, clean house, help others.

The lesson affirmed for me today, is once again about motivation, and how this relates to procrastination. The longer I procrastinate the less motivated I am to get things done. Once I stop procrastinating and do what needs doing, my motivation increases and I can keep going.

 Procrastination like alcoholism is a similar kind of illness. I needed to trust God, take a personal inventory and to help others in order to keep what was so freely given to me. I continue to do these things, living my life clean, sober and motivated one day at a time, for almost 22 years now come January 2nd 2016.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Peace Call

This forgotten song, written by Woody Guthrie resounds now more than ever in light of the recent events that has taken place in Paris, France yesterday. May the world hear deep within our hearts, this peace call now.

Peace Call
Words and music by Woody Guthrie

Open your hearts to the paradise,
To the peace of the heavenly angels,
Takes away that woeful shadow dancing on your wall;
Take to the skies of peace, oh friends,
Of peace of the heavenly Father;
Get ready for my bugle call of peace.

Peace, peace, peace, peace, peace, peace, peace.
I can hear the bugle sounding,
Roaming around my land, my city and my town;
Peace, peace, peace, peace, peace, peace, peace.
I can hear the horn and voices ring louder,
While my bugle calls for peace.

Thick war clouds will throw its shadows,
Darkening the world around you,
But in my life of peace your dark illusions fall;
Think and pray my union way,
Kiss everybody around you;
Get ready for my bugle call of peace.

Peace, peace, peace, peace, peace, peace, peace.
I can hear the bugle sounding,
Roaming around my land, my city and my town;
Peace, peace, peace, peace, peace, peace, peace.
I can hear the horn and voices ring louder,
While my bugle calls for peace.

If these war storms fill your heart
With a thousand kinds of worry,
Keep to my road of peace, you’ll never have to fear;
Keep in the sun and look around
In the face of peace and plenty;
Get ready for my bugle call of peace.

Peace, peace, peace, peace, peace, peace, peace.
I can hear the bugle sounding,
Roaming around my land, my city and my town;
Peace, peace, peace, peace, peace, peace, peace.
I can hear the horn and voices ring louder,
While my bugle calls for peace.

I’ll clear my house of the weeds of fear
And turn to the friends around me,
With my smile of peace, I’ll greet you one and all;
I’ll work, I’ll fight, I’ll sing and dance,
Of peace of the youthful spirit;
Get ready for my bugle call of peace.

Peace, peace, peace, peace, peace, peace, peace.
I can hear the bugle sounding,
Roaming around my land, my city and my town;
Peace, peace, peace, peace, peace, peace, peace.
I can hear the horn and voices ring louder,
While my bugle calls for peace.

© Copyright 1963 by Woody Guthrie Publications, Inc. & TRO-Ludlow Music, Inc. (BMI)

Mother's Prayers Are Carried To The Grandmother - Catherine Meyers

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

When Remembrance Day Comes Around

My dad North Nova Highlander 1941 Springhill Nova Scotia

When Remembrance Day comes round every year I always feel conflicted. I think about my father and his family who escaped Germany during WW11. My father changed his family name in hopes that people would not call him a German Jew.

Though I am not what I would call a pacifist, I hate war, and all it entails, because of it's negative affects on soldiers, their families and civilians alike.

After reading Chris Hedges book War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, I have an even deeper negative feeling about war. On  Remembrance Day I can't help acknowledge my sadness and my conflicted feelings. So I am re-posting a blog post for a second time called Home Town Battlefield

This song written and performed by J.P. Cormier brings this message of the toll that war and other traumatic experiences, takes on individuals. I recently heard J.P talk about how when he wrote this song, he then had to face and come to terms with his own PTSD, not so much from war, but from his life. I was happy to hear him talk about this openly, and candidly.

If we can't seem to end war in the world, it does give me hope to know that there are individuals being candid and honest about how PTSD has affected them, to break down the walls of stigma that surrounds mental illness, whether it be through war, or other traumatic events in life.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Allen Toussaint - The Music Man

When I heard of Allen Toussaint's death this morning I was shocked and saddened. He's the kind of person you think will always be around, but this of course is magical thinking, the way we often think about those we love.

My brother was a devoted fan of Allen Toussaint and the music that came out of  New Orleans. I attribute my music education to my brother who first introduced me to the music of Allen Toussaint's and all that it was. Allen Toussaint was The Music Man, and may he rest in peace.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Creativity Is Not A Talent

I've heard it said that the longest road is the one between the head and heart. This can be the situation for all of us. When I reflect on that in relation to art, and being an artist, I immediately think art is all about the heart. For many artists it can be difficult to have a balance between the head and heart. Often being creative, means you feel your way around through intuition and emotion, and the so called irrational part of our brain.

There are a lot of destructive myths and misconceptions about art and artists, surrounding the personality, and the character of the artist, which more often than not, only impedes understanding and perception.

Julia Cameron in her book The Artist Way made a list of these myths that I found spot on. She talks about some of these myths being ideas such as, “artists are broke,” “artists are crazy,” “artists are drug-addicted” and “artists are drunk.”

I don't concern myself too much with these myths these days, because I think the more I continue to be myself as a creative person these myths drop away. We learn more from others by watching how they live their lives, as opposed to what they say. Creativity for me is a way of living, regardless if I am an artist or not.

I strive to live my life as a creative person, and as an artist I live by the basic principles listed below, that I knew existed deep within my psyche, before I read Julia Cameron's book 20 years ago. Her book affirmed and clarified these principles, and this made all the difference for me, and changed my life.

BASIC PRINCIPLES - from the book, The Artist's Way a Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity - Julia Cameron

1. Creativity is the natural order of life. Life is energy:pure creative energy.

2. There is an underlying, in-dwelling creative force infusing all of life-including ourselves.

3. When we open ourselves to our creativity, we open ourselves to the creator's creativity
within us and our lives.

4. We are, ourselves, creations. And we, in turn, are meant to continue creativity by being
creative ourselves.

5. Creativity is God's gift to us. Using our creativity is our gift back to God.

6. The refusal to be creative is self-will and is counter to our true nature.

7. When we open ourselves to exploring our creativity, we open ourselves to God: good
orderly direction.

8. As we open our creative channel to the creator, many gentle but powerful changes are to be

9. It is safe to open ourselves up to greater and greater creativity.

10. Our creative dreams and yearnings come from a divine source. As we move toward our
dreams, we move toward our divinity.

Monday, November 2, 2015

What Does The Science Say About Art?

There's nothing that surprises me about these scientific findings concluding that art makes for better thinkers and nicer people. I think artists understand this intrinsically, especially those who work with youth.

To artists it's much more than a hunch, but more of a fact understood, that students exposed to art, learn about culture in a way that fosters intellectual and emotional intelligence in a holistic way. It's not news or rocket science, that scientific studies indicate that students gain a " greater tolerance, historical empathy, as well as better educational memory and critical thinking skills" when they are exposed to art education. Unfortunately it seems scientific study is listened to more so, as opposed to art educators and what they know about creativity.

It's a sad commentary really on society, and on a educational system that depends on science to prove what art educators have long known, that art and creativity should be considered one of the very basics, and creativity should be at the very foundation of the educational system, and reflected in the curriculum.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Café Art We Are All Homeless

 Café Art is a kind of what I'll call an art movement in the UK, galvanized by Paul Ryan and Michael Wongart in 2012. I found out this wonderful project today that was posted  on Facebook by artist Willie Baronet.

 Café Art was started by one art group a homelessness organization and one cafe. The artists all have had experience with homelessness and are given the opportunity to have their art work hung for sale in cafes.

I have become acutely aware of how this kind of art has become near and dear to my heart for many reasons, and is becoming more important to me as the years go by.

Everything I Own or Bags of Life David Tovey

Friday, October 30, 2015

The Zombie Zeitgeist - The End of The World As We Know It

When I can't blog every day my world just isn't complete. I don't throw out computers, because well, I know what happens to computers when they are sent to the recycle depots and it's horrendous. But when I am without my internet access, I realize how dependent I am on this daily activity in the same way most people are.

I don't have a cell phone which is a good thing because other wise I'd be glued to it no doubt. walking around like a mindless zombie and phubbing people and lacking the social skills to communicate face to face with my fellow human beings.

And so, today I had to go to town for a doctor's appointment, but what was foremost in my mind I admit it was making a b-line first thing, to purchase a replacement for my old Dell computer mouse that was no longer working. Once I had it in my hands, I felt better already! I was doing everything short of swinging it round my head like a lasso to get it to work. My mouse came with my old Dell desktop that I purchased...yes...20 years ago. It's had a few upgrades, but I'm afraid it'll soon be time to retire the old dino for a laptop. My Dell may be old dinosaur, but it's not a zombie, though it may have done things to my brain, that may or maybe not be positive.

In our North American culture, I've heard a lot lately about the zombie apocalypse. You hear about it on  television, radio, movies, and in books. You just have to think about the shows like The Walking Dead etc., to see this preoccupation come to life, that seems to be an increasing preoccupation.

 Yesterday I heard the Ideas program on CBC Radio, The Coming Zombie Apocalypse which gave some context to this preoccupation, and then began to make some sense to me, whereas before, I really didn't get it, other than suspecting that it has something to do with how in the western world, we hold death at arms length. It's easier to pretend our own fantastical demise, than face the realities that exist in our own lives.

Our world is indeed threatened, but not by zombies, but by us, human beings. We are alive, thankfully, and are not zombies. My hope is that we will keep it this way, until it's time for us to go, but not before our time.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Steve Bonello - Artist Extraordinaire

Honourable Gentlemen (1993). Drawing in ink and mixed media. I was probably influenced by the daring assassinations of Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino which had happened in quick succession.

I subscribed to a site that gives your the opportunity to link, review and refer you to other sites. Much of the information provided can be lacking in taste and quality websites. Though every now and again, I come across some amazing sites in particular I am talking about artist sites. I get very enthusiastic and give them a glowing review, because it is most deserving.

 I came across the art work of  Steve Bonello who is from Malta. This finely rendered, and detailed artwork is mostly done with coloured ink, pen and mixed media, which art has a classical yet contemporary quality with some great socio-political content in his cartoons and illustrations with a very humorous bent.

Bastions of the Faith (1989) Ink and mixed media (Private Collection Malta)

Steve Bonello also has a wonderful in depth blog that covers a wide variety of topics much like the subject matter of his art work.I think you will agree both his site and blog are very well worth checking out.

The Market at San Lorenzo, Florence (1989) Ink and mixed media. (Private Collection Malta)
It is difficult to go to Florence and not fall in love with the place. Apart from the wealth of art everywhere I have a soft spot for markets and this is my homage to one of the city's liveliest.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Robert Burley - The Disappearance of Darkness

Robert Burley

I am grateful for having had the experience, the privilege of learning about the art, the process, the history, and the philosophical magic of photography with an old school photography teacher, Thaddeus Holownia.

 As most artists involved with photography, I have to say I am saddened, and troubled in seeing the changes that have taken place very quickly, especially the demise of Kodak, and film processing. It appears to be the end of the a Golden Era of film.

Those of us that spent hours in the dark room of chemicals, feverishly developing film, diligently bent over enlargers, and perusing through contact sheets was what the process of photography was all about and so much more.

Thankfully Canadian photographer Robert Burley spent six years documenting what has happened to photography, eloquently and succinctly expressing in his book, The Disappearance of Darkness what many analog photographers are also lamenting.

Among many younger art students there is a re-surging interest in the traditional photographic processes, such as using large format, black and white film, gelatin-silver process, and working in a dark room.

 My hope is that it will be enough to reignite more interest in photography to include, and supplement digital photography along side of analog photography, without replacing it exclusively with digital and without a disappearance of darkness.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Key Learnings

This morning I found these nine, what they've called " learnings" from Brain Pickings in my email box. Lots of food for thought in these reflections. I have commented at the end of each one listed.

"1. Allow yourself the uncomfortable luxury of changing your mind. Cultivate that capacity for "negative capability." We live in a culture where one of the greatest social disgraces is not having an opinion, so we often form our "opinions" based on superficial impressions or the borrowed ideas of others, without investing the time and thought that cultivating true conviction necessitates. We then go around asserting these donned opinions and clinging to them as anchors to our own reality. It's enormously disorienting to simply say, "I don't know." But it's infinitely more rewarding to understand than to be right – even if that means changing your mind about a topic, an ideology, or, above all, yourself."
  • That last bit about it being "infinitely more rewarding to understand than to be right" certainly is a resounding truth with me. Annoyance, contempt  and a false sense of superiority are manifested when the ego gets in the way of our opinions and clouds any real understanding.

"2. Do nothing for prestige or status or money or approval alone. As Paul Graham observed, "prestige is like a powerful magnet that warps even your beliefs about what you enjoy. It causes you to work not on what you like, but what you’d like to like." Those extrinsic motivators are fine and can feel life-affirming in the moment, but they ultimately don't make it thrilling to get up in the morning and gratifying to go to sleep at night – and, in fact, they can often distract and detract from the things that do offer those deeper rewards."

  • One of the basic human needs is recognition, however being in pursuit and expectation of it never ends well. Having an imbalanced need for prestige or for anything out side ourselves is like trying to fill a bottomless pit, and can become addictive.  Spiritus contra spiritum is what Carl Jung called it. "The attempt to fill a spiritual void with a material reality." 

"3. Be generous. Be generous with your time and your resources and with giving credit and, especially, with your words. It's so much easier to be a critic than a celebrator. Always remember there is a human being on the other end of every exchange and behind every cultural artifact being critiqued. To understand and be understood, those are among life's greatest gifts, and every interaction is an opportunity to exchange them."

  •  Generousity is putting our gratitude into action otherwise it is just a pleasant emotion.
  • According to the Lakota tradition, the natural law of generousity states, that energy we use to communicate, returns to us fourfold.

"4. Build pockets of stillness into your life. Meditate. Go for walks. Ride your bike going nowhere in particular. There is a creative purpose to daydreaming, even to boredom. The best ideas come to us when we stop actively trying to coax the muse into manifesting and let the fragments of experience float around our unconscious mind in order to click into new combinations. Without this essential stage of unconscious processing, the entire flow of the creative process is broken.
Most importantly, sleep. Besides being the greatest creative aphrodisiac, sleep also affects our every waking moment, dictates our social rhythm, and even mediates our negative moods. Be as religious and disciplined about your sleep as you are about your work. We tend to wear our ability to get by on little sleep as some sort of badge of honor that validates our work ethic. But what it really is is a profound failure of self-respect and of priorities. What could possibly be more important than your health and your sanity, from which all else springs?"
  • We live in a culture where most people are sleep deprived and are barely functioning on a chronic sleep deficit. 
  • Driving while deprived of sleep it like driving drunk, it's a very dangerous situation.
  • Digital devices used before bed are said to be contributing to our lack of deep sleep.

"5. When people tell you who they are, Maya Angelou famously advised, believe them. Just as importantly, however, when people try to tell you who you are, don't believe them. You are the only custodian of your own integrity, and the assumptions made by those that misunderstand who you are and what you stand for reveal a great deal about them and absolutely nothing about you."
  •  Human beings are complex, and have many layers to their personalities. I think if we die without knowing or experiencing who we are as individuals, this is a tragedy. Each person brings to this life a sacred capital. This is our value and worth.

"6. Presence is far more intricate and rewarding an art than productivity. Ours is a culture that measures our worth as human beings by our efficiency, our earnings, our ability to perform this or that. The cult of productivity has its place, but worshiping at its altar daily robs us of the very capacity for joy and wonder that makes life worth living – for, as Annie Dillard memorably put it, "how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives." "
  •  I am fond of remembering that I am a human being, not a human doing. Living fully in the present moment is what brings me peace of mind. Worrying about the past and projecting into the future robs me of my happiness.

        "7. "Expect anything worthwhile to take a long time." This is borrowed from the wise  and           
wonderful Debbie Millman, for it's hard to better capture something so fundamental yet so impatiently overlooked in our culture of immediacy. The myth of the overnight success is just that – a myth – as well as a reminder that our present definition of success needs serious retuning. As I've reflected elsewhere, the flower doesn’t go from bud to blossom in one spritely burst and yet, as a culture, we're disinterested in the tedium of the blossoming. But that’s where all the real magic unfolds in the making of one’s character and destiny.
And here are the two new additions:"
  •  I remember what a wise old recovering New York nun said about recovery and I believe it can be related to living a worth while life. Growth happens little by slowly.

"8. Seek out what magnifies your spirit. Patti Smith, in discussing William Blake and her creative influences, talks about writers and artists who magnified her spirit – it's a beautiful phrase and a beautiful notion. Who are the people, ideas, and books that magnify your spirit? Find them, hold on to them, and visit them often. Use them not only as a remedy once spiritual malaise has already infected your vitality but as a vaccine administered while you are healthy to protect your radiance."
  • Wow I love Patti Smith even more now!

"9. Don't be afraid to be an idealist. There is much to be said for our responsibility as creators and consumers of that constant dynamic interaction we call culture – which side of the fault line between catering and creating are we to stand on? The commercial enterprise is conditioning us to believe that the road to success is paved with catering to existing demands – give the people cat GIFs, the narrative goes, because cat GIFs are what the people want. But E.B. White, one of our last great idealists, was eternally right when he asserted half a century ago that the role of the writer is "to lift people up, not lower them down" – a role each of us is called to with increasing urgency, whatever cog we may be in the machinery of society. Supply creates its own demand. Only by consistently supplying it can we hope to increase the demand for the substantive over the superficial – in our individual lives and in the collective dream called culture."
  •  Idealism as opposed to cynicism is the only way to go. Idealism is where hope lies and there is always hope for even for the hopeless cynic.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Artistic Old World Bread Making

 I thought it was a good day to make bread. I have a family tradition of  making bread on Saturdays, or when ever it feels like a good bread making day. I then got thinking about the significance of this tradition and why women do it. This lead me to finding a wonderful film made by Mariette Sluyter who taught others to make bread, and Bread is the name of her NFB Film that she documented, telling the stories of six women, all who baked bread.

There is something so grounding, and very special about the process of making bread. Anyone who makes their own bread knows this to be true. For most women baking bread it is an ancient practice, and has a cultural significance that provided the sustenance of life, and it connects us to one another because it is prevalent in all cultures. The  word  "companion" comes from the Latin word "with bread'.

My fondest memories are of the sweet and comforting aroma of my grandmother's fresh bread, slathering it with butter, while it was still warm from the oven. I am so glad my mother passed this tradition down to me, and when I make bread I feel this connection to my mother, and with all the grandmothers, past, present, and future.

“Bread reflects who we are as a species; the basic ingredients are the same but the outcomes are different. It is the same with humans: we share the basic building blocks but it is cultural practice that changes the outcomes. It is through breaking bread together, figuratively or literally, in a spirit of open, curious learning that we can transcend what divides us.”
                                                                          - Mariette Sluyter

The video below is of a group of joyful women laughing, talking, and participating in bread making, and you will see how creative this bread making can be.
I have no idea what nationality these women are or the language they're speaking, but it is a beautiful thing to see how they interact laughing, enjoying themselves, and are bonded with one another.
 I tried out a few of these artistic techniques with my bread making today, making three regular loaves, and a few other small braided buns.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Self-Taught Versus Formal Art Education

I believe everyone owes it to themselves to get some kind of art education. Regardless if it is self-taught or in a formal setting like in a University. There are advantages and disadvantages to both.

I have known many artists that have educated themselves. The admirable quality is the passion and the drive they have to learn. Creativity, and curiosity go hand in hand and for me, and these are spiritual like practices that directly relate to education.

I love what Laurie Anderson says about being an artist. That is a spiritual like practice, rather like being God because you are creating something.

I have to say I am so grateful and thankful that I had the opportunity to have a University education. That said, I also know I can have all the education in the world but if I don't have that thirst for knowledge and learning then I'm wasting my time.

Ken Robinson talks about the need for a paradigm shift when it comes to our academic education that needs to be overhauled, towards creativity. I completely agree with him.

Art education in a university is somewhat different than being self-taught, in that you are constantly exposed to creative thinking which is conducive to a learning environment. Having the constant exchange and interaction with other artists and educators in a formal setting is extremely beneficial and life changing, on numerous levels.

And so I have to say, though a University art education might not be perfect, I'll never regret having had one. In the mean time I continue to work on educating myself living life after art school.