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.