Sunday, 9 October 2016

South to Salida

Early morning wander #8
Morning rush hour traffic jam

The main purpose of my adventure to Colorado was a two-week artist residency in the city of Salida, a three-hour bus ride down US 285 that’s mostly south, a bit west, and 2,000 feet up from Denver. “City” is a bit of a misnomer though, because while it is the county seat it’s only 5,500 souls big. With a lovely historic downtown, a well-known and heavily used whitewater river (the Arkansas), and stunning views in every direction, it’s a great place to visit.

Early morning wander #10
Tenderfoot Hill, the local landmark, early in the morning

Ostensibly, the original plan had been for me to do “something” at their annual Fiber Festival, but after the summer I had, I was grateful that they hadn’t contacted me, and I was obligation-free. I wandered the stalls on Saturday, talking to most of the shepherds who had something for sale.

As a fleece judge, I’m always on the lookout for breeds I haven’t seen a lot of, and I was rewarded with a long conversation with a gentleman who raises Targhees in Utah. I had only see the sheep once before, years ago, at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, and while I had read the breed description, there’s nothing like a little hands-on learning time. I bought a bit of roving to bring home with me to spin as well.

Tenderfoot Hill at night
Tenderfoot Hill lit up at night

I found much to love about Salida, and I wish I could have stayed longer: it’s on the list of “places I’m not finished with yet.”

Everyone I talked to — whether doing morning aquacize at the community hot springs pool, walking on the bike path, knitting at the weekly meeting at Fringe, touring the craft distillery, or queuing for the best burger and fries I’ve ever had at Salida’s one-and-only food truck — was polite, interested in why I had come from Calgary to Salida, and happy to answer any questions I had.

Such a change from living in the big city….

Fall colours
Aspen trees turning up near the summit of Monarch Pass

The only opportunity I had to go somewhere other than by walking came in the second week, when my “minder” graciously drove me up to Monarch Pass, on the Continental Divide, at a whopping 11,312 feet above sea level, which is higher than a lot of mountains here in the Canadian Rockies.

But I was there to have some thinking time, mostly, and I did a lot of that: writing too, but I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out what happens next in my life. Since I got back, the picture’s somewhat more clear, at least in the short term.

And I created a small, site-specific installation too — that’s the photo below. More information on it at a later date.

Thanks to Susan J. Tweit for the invitation and hosting!

Another Universe (overview)

It was a long and tiring day coming back: up at 0600 to catch the bus back to Denver, lunch and a walk in Denver before hopping the train out to the airport, the flight back to Calgary, a long customs line, and then to my “home” for the next while, house-sitting for friends.

I came close to simply falling into bed by then (it was well past 2230), and would have, had it not been a friend’s birthday, and I was determined to go to the party: when I turned up, my appearance was a total surprise. We sat drinking beer and talking for another 90 minutes before I crawled into a cab to come home.

It’s good to go places, but it’s better to come home, especially to a reception like that.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Another airplane, another destination

Boettcher Memorial Tropical Conservatory

Apart from the one stop in Stapleton airport and a ski trip (by bus) to Steamboat Springs, both many years ago, I had never spent time in Colorado until I arrived in Denver on Tuesday last week.

It’s a stunning airport, and even though it’s large — I had to take a train from my terminal to pick up my baggage before picking up the rail line into the city — my baggage arrived. Quickly, even. I’m looking forward to exploring it more when I catch my return flight to Calgary.

Lotus and friend

By the time I got into the city, found my AirBnb, got myself changed into more appropriate attire (it was close to freezing when I left Calgary, and 90˚ F (xx ˚C) when I got to Denver, so I swapped shoes for Birkies and long pants to shorts, dug out my hat, and set off for the Denver Botanic Gardens (where I shot these pictures: the lotuses are part of their Monet pool this is simply amazing) and then set off to pick up a couple of things at the nearest Trader Joe’s.

Lotus Example #1

Wednesday morning, I was up bright and early to catch one bus, and then a second to go to Boulder to have lunch with a friend, and to simply hang out. Apart from lunch at the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse (a photo of the interior is at the bottom of this post: click the link I’ve attached to the name to read the fascinating story of this amazing building),

I also had the opportunity to visit two of Boulder’s most venerable stores: Shuttles Spindles and Skeins, where I was a good girl and didn’t buy anything, and McGuckin, where I indulged my Dremel fantasies as they stock every single bit you can get. I’m going home with a nice selection of fun things I could never find in Canada.

Lotus Example #2

Coming home from Boulder as the sun set, the sky was like someone had taken a large book of gold leaf, ripped it apart, and threw it up into the sky: the fingers of golden clouds shot up from the mountains as the bus sped away to Denver. I tried to get a picture, but it was too difficult on the bus.

Thursday was my big adventure to downtown Denver: bookstores, galleries, museums, and a great lunch rounded out the big city adventure.

Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse #1

Friday morning, I picked up some new business cards, loaded my bags up, and headed for the bus depot. A pretty empty bus left in the early afternoon, bound south and west down US 285: the next part of the adventure was about to begin. More about that in the next entry!

Friday, 26 August 2016

The 55 Days of Crazy, Part 4



Well, The 55 Days of Crazy turned into The 74 Days of Crazy before I quit counting: trying to sort out everything that happened, especially during One Yellow Rabbit’s Summer Lab Intensive, will be a process that I don’t see a definitive end for in the foreseeable future.

In some ways, that’s not a bad thing: so many ideas spinning around within the room with my fellow students has spilled over — with some interesting consequences — into the rest of my life, while at the same time, I’m dealing with some health issues that have turned the time after Day 55 into a sinkhole of emotions stemming from an ongoing health issue.



Although unresolved, I do see some (pretty darned small, but better than the alternative!) progress in the latter, and I haven’t let it get in the way of taking advantage of getting out of town when an opportunity presents itself. At the top of this post, one of the mist-covered mountains surrounding Canmore, where I took in the Sunday of their Folk Festival on the August long weekend.

Ostensibly, I was there to help staff the CJSW booth, but with a small crowd and three people, we all took the opportunity to visit with friends, check out some of the musical acts, and partake of the wonderful food on the site.

Wasp season

The rest of the stills are from last weekend’s trip west of Bragg Creek, a satellite community to the west-south-west of Calgary, where the rolling foothills being their serious shift into the Front Ranges of the Rocky Mountains. Peaceful, quiet, and a stunningly beautiful and hot day awaited us.

I was out with a friend, having a preview of an MFA thesis, which consisted of a land installation project. It’s a lovely, moving, thoughtful piece (which I’ve not shared here, for the obvious reasons), but us visitors were plagued by several large wasp colonies: they didn’t sting anyone, but they were certainly bothersome.



It was a rare break from a lot of other busy-ness: writing a grant report, then another grant, and finally editing a friend’s book: staggered deadlines — in that order — with the last one needing to be out the door over the Labour Day weekend.

The day after Labour Day, I head for Colorado to do some networking and, most importantly, a two-week, by-invitation-only, artist residency. I have much to think and write about in a new physical environment, and explore a radically changed emotional one.



Monday, 18 July 2016

The 55 Days of Crazy, Part 3

Towering above

I always knew the last half would be hard: three solid weeks of One Yellow Rabbit’s Summer Lab Intensive, followed by a full week of volunteering at the Stampede. Heck, just the week at the Stampede is hard enough.

Our days as Labbits (as participants in the Lab are known) quickly developed a pattern, with mornings were taken up with movement: anywhere from sixty to ninety minutes of yoga, a short break, and then developing our own dance vocabularies. An hour break for lunch was followed by two hours of writing (theory, practice, inspiration: you name it) class, another short break, and then two more hours of visual/performance, with some writing exercises inserted into the mix on occasion.



And then home for a quick dinner, a glass of wine (or three), and then collapse into bed to let my mind try to digest all the new information being pumped through it. I found that I couldn’t read anything more complex than two childrens’ books I read as a child because of the overload of stuff I was being exposed to. In the beginning, I thought the problem was because I was the second-oldest person in our class of twenty-five, but I discovered that I wasn’t alone in that problem, especially the first week.

At the end of week one, we received our “final” assignments: we had to develop and perform a ten-minute solo piece. I had been jotting down ideas for mine for awhile (knowing that something like this was coming), and so was faced with three possible alternatives. I tried Plan A, but I quickly realized that it wasn’t going to work. Plan B would have stretched me, but also probably broken me in the process, so I opted for Plan C, which was a glorified artist talk. (Many of my fellow Labbits had asked to see my work, so I figured it was one way to kill two birds with one stone.)



At the same time, we were broken into groups, assigned a number of characters to use, and told to write a twenty- to forty-minute play that we had to perform for the others the last Thursday of Lab (Friday and Saturday being the performance days for our solo works.) To say that I was out of my comfort zone would be an understatement, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In the group piece, I got to be a foul-mouthed, judgemental witch, as well as a passive-aggressive talking dog: talk about typecasting, eh?

That being said, the group piece went off without a hitch, and despite some technical difficulties in my solo work, it too was a hit. After everyone was done on Saturday, merriment thence ensued, and we headed up to the Alberta Theatre Projects’s Rehearsal Space (and their deck) to watch the fireworks. I lamented that I hadn’t brought my tripod and good camera until someone reminded me that I had my new iPhone, and it did well enough. Being the wuss that I am, I bailed when I had an offer of a ride home.



The physical changes from the Lab are easy to spot: I can almost touch my toes, and my flexibility has improved substantially, although I need to do more, and so I’ll start taking classes again. I’m still working through all the psychological changes — we all are, I gather, from the emails we send regularly — but there’s nothing wrong with that.

Meanwhile, I’ve resurrected an old project, and I have grant writing and reporting duties to take care of before I hit the road again after Labour Day. Plus there’s new work to build, journal-writing, and the never-ending process of getting back into shape.



Sunday, 19 June 2016

The 55 Days of Crazy, Part 2

From pot to plate #1

One advantage of having family that possesses a crabbing licence is the likelihood of a fresh-trapped meal. Within 30 minutes of leaving the water, these big boys were in my cousin's sink, struggling in vain to get out.

From pot to plate #2

Yes, Weapons of Crab Destruction (i.e., a hammer and pliers) were used effectively to dispatch them humanely, although I was fascinated by how long the pincers kept trying to attack my cousin (the official crab killer in our family), after she removed the carapace and even separated the two sides of legs.

It was my job to steam them up, and then rinse thoroughly with cold water to arrest any further cooking before they made an appearance at our dinner table, complete with chilled wines and ciders.

Three people, with three large crabs, made for a hearty meal with a lot of leftovers, some of which I used to make up a big sandwich to take on the plane with me when I flew to southwestern Ontario for a few days.

Herd of turtles

Ostensibly, I was there in both relational (the family reunion of my wee mannie) and professional (the designated "official photographer" of same) capacities, although, as usual, I managed to get over to the local millpond to see what changes had happened in the 20 months since I had been there last. It was a hot afternoon the second trip I made there (the first was on a cold, windy day, and I left the camera in the car), and I was grateful the resident turtles were sunning themselves on one of their regular tree perches.

Keeping in line

The morning I left, I made one last stop, and discovered this Canada goose family.

And then it was time to hit the 401, drive to Paris for lunch, Kitchener to gas up the car, and get to the airport in good order for my packed flight, complete with screaming babies, back home. Although I watched the last game of the Stanley Cup finals, I had this as my earworm.



The week back in Calgary has been filled with cooking, cleaning, creativity, and the most wonderful gift of all: a 90-minute coffee break with a good friend on Friday morning. Tomorrow, I launch myself into three weeks that will open up a new world of my artistic practice and my life in general.

Stay tuned.

The 55 Days of Crazy, Part 1

Beach walk #7

I've known for a few months that from mid-May to mid-July was going to be pretty busy, and as I now find myself halfway through, I've had a couple of days at home to reflect on the first stretch, which involved a lot of travelling, and plan for the next, which will be much more introspective, although equally exciting and exhausting.

One of the best parts of travelling, for me, is being able to take my camera and just go wandering off whenever possible: all the photographs in this post and in Part 2 are from those opportunities.

I flew out to Vancouver on May 24, and the only item on my agenda when I booked my ticket was to be the judge for the Lower Mainland Sheep Producers Association fleece show the following Saturday. Of course, as "luck" would have it, that was the one really cold, wet, and windy day, and we (the secretary, volunteer teams of fleece handlers, the scribe, and yours truly) got quite chilled. Thankfully, we were able to take frequent breaks to warm up with hot food and beverages, which at least made the day bearable.

Of course, the next day, it was gloriously sunny and warm, so I set off to White Rock, near the U.S.-Canada border, to walk the beach when the tide was out.

Beach walk #11

As I was about to turn around and retrace my steps back to my temporary home, I spotted this bald eagle, calmly surveying Peace Arch Park and the U.S. Customs area, but staying on this side of the line: I found that tremendously humourous, for some strange reason.

Last leg

Two days later, I took a "milk-run" ferry from Tsawwassen to Long Harbour, on Saltspring Island (the photo above is from the last leg of that journey, from Otter Bay on North Pender Island), then two shuttle busses to Vesuvius, and another ferry to Crofton on Vancouver Island to meet up with a friend from university days for a few days of touring some of the local wineries and craft distilleries, and having as much regional cuisine as humanly possible.

Life list

We also toured a few attractions, particularly the Kinsol Trestle, which was stunning in its size and complexity of construction. It was there I added another bird to my life list: the dark-eyed junco (Júnco hyemális), Oregon race.

The weather was warm, but fairly cloudy, and a few brief rainshowers made the timber path a little slick, but when the sun emerged, it was magical.

Delicate

By week's end, it was time to head back to Vancouver for a dinner with high school friends, the opportunity to eat even more fresh seafood, and to prepare for the next leg of the voyage.

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Nature Girl

Looking up

The last two weeks of house-sitting were crammed with too many things crowding my brain, and I'm still trying to resolve what remains: this is typical, but I was more keen than usual to find a way to avoid most of them. As is my usual modus operandi, I resorted to abandoning the city for the countryside.

Public art through the viewing port

First up was actually going south and east to Ralph Klein Park when it was open: I had great hopes of seeing lots of action in the constructed wetland ponds and exploring the large public art installation.

Sadly, there weren't many birds, and the installation is still fenced off: the problem, I've been told, is that when the grassy pyramids were built -- you can see one on the left in the picture above -- they were built by just piling up fill, instead of constructing them like one would do in a backyard, by having a good layer of humus on top of the fill.

It's why the grass isn't "taking" on the pyramids, and until someone who can do anything about it figures out the problem and fixes the issue, it will continue to be off-limits.

In the distance

The second adventure, on Beltane, took me north and west to Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park. I hadn't intended to walk very far, just wanted to get away from the crowds up near the parking lot, find a place to sit down and pour the contents of my overthinking brain out through my disposable fountain pen onto the page, and leave.

Well, that was the plan.

Of course, by the time I escaped the crowd, I had to keep walking to find a place to sit down: that was eventually accomplished, but by the time I took a different set of trails back to the car, I had walked ten kilometres.

And I probably got as much good thinking done while walking back as I scratched onto the paper while sitting down near the river.

Idyllic path

Another outlet for my thought-crazed brain lately has been filling in for the regular host of Breaking The Tethers on CJSW: three of the last four weeks have seen me playing an eclectic selection of music on Monday mornings: check out last Monday's episode here.

The advantage of filling-in is being able to check out all the new music that's been coming in to the station: I sure hope I get to check out the new album from Mammal Hands when it drops at the end of the month. Here's a video they've released of one of the tracks!



Sunday, 8 May 2016

True blue

Blue and stinky

If you own a pair of blue jeans, you're familiar with indigo, the dye used to colour them. Indigo, which is a legume like peanuts, has a long and fascinating history and while not the most straight-forward procedure to get the dye into the cloth, it's not that challenging if you have all the supplies and a proper studio in which to work.

As I don't, I took advantage of a half-day class with Lyn Pflueger, a wonderful felter, dyer, spinner, and weaver (and long-time friend) who lives near Calgary, to explore shibori techniques and indigo, a classic combination, at a half-day adventure put on by the Esker Foundation.

Clamped

The first technique we did used folding and clamping before putting our packages into the indigo pot: here's mine hanging up after two dips. I got too keen on the clamping part to the extent that the fibres in the centre were untouched by the dye, but I did get kind of a nice border pattern.

Second dip completed

Time for technique two: sewing. It would be an understatement to say that I'm a sewer: in fact, I so don't like sewing that I knit as many things as possible without seams. Heck, I even avoid darning-in ends whenever possible! But for this project, I took needle and thread in hand, choosing two straight-forward patterns named "mare's teeth," which forms the border, and "spider web" at the centre of the piece of fabric.

After two dips, drying, pulling the threads out, then washing, the finished result is below: I'm rather pleased with it, although I have no idea what I'll do with it.

Yet.

Sewn shibori plus indigo

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Letting the river run

Keeping watch

Although it's been painfully dry here in the city, and virtually all of the snow melted ages ago, the Bow River is still fast-flowing, especially downstream of where the Elbow meets it. The level's not that high -- yet -- but a recent wander along the southern shore in Inglewood surprised me with the speed of the water.

There are also a growing number of summer residents arriving and setting up "home": it wasn't until I zoomed in on this Canada goose that I realized I was being watched, instead of being only the watcher.

Washed up

Because of the 2013 flood, the river channel has altered substantially, and it's now possible to walk out on what was once riverbed and which is now a pebbly beach, strewn with detritus: I must admit, I prefer this feather to the many single shoes I found in my wandering.

New Growth

Along the riverbank, there are larger and larger splashes of green as well: I heard someone complain the other day that things are just so brown until they were reminded that it's still early April.

When I was a child, we had a great sun trap on the south side of our house, and it was highly unusual that our tulips would be up and blooming in time for Mother's Day, but when I was walking through an inner-city neighbourhood Monday evening after a meeting, I saw several clumps of tulips already at their prime. It's hard to be a climate-change denier with that evidence here these days.

Watery reflection #2

And although it's challenging to see some of the scenes in this video, particularly the twin towers in New York City, it was this song that sprang to mind while I was out walking.



Friday, 18 March 2016

Abstract thoughts

Territorial

Despite a couple of brief snow showers in the last few days, spring is definitely early here in Calgary, and few people are happy about it. Farmers and ranchers are desperate for more moisture on the land, and many of the political jurisdictions surrounding the city have implemented restrictions on open burning. Last year, a careless smoker started a large grass fire south of the city that was difficult to snuff out.

It's also the season when Canada geese start staking out their territories, and usually the prime areas are still covered in snow: definitely not the case with this pair (above) I found near the Calgary Zoo last Saturday though.

Mountain Ash, Close-up #1

Although cloudy, I took my lunch down to eat along the river: it was good to get outside -- I was at a class experimenting with colour at the Esker Foundation -- for some fresh air and an opportunity to shoot a bit, since I'm trying to use my camera more between my travel adventures.

Spring tidbit

The beavers had obviously stopped by this spot along the pathway as well.

Spot of colour

In some ways, it was difficult to find something to photograph, with the brown grass and the bare tree branches, so I was glad to see this colourful jogger come into view.

And when I returned after lunch break, I brought some of the colours from outside into my afternoon creation.

Faster than the eye can see

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Anniversaries

Flash

And so begins my tenth year with this blog.

Even though the focus has transmuted from being "all about the work" to encompass how "my life has changed the work," I appreciate how it has helped me sharpen the language in and out of the studio of what, how, and why I've taken this road.

Picnic zone

It's also the start of my sixth year of being alone, and I am finally back to the point in my artist's life where I've mostly returned to where I was "before": studio days are long and productive, with a number of pieces close to completion, two residencies upcoming this fall (one by invitation), and other exciting happenings on the horizon.

Where once I couldn't fathom reaching the end of the week, I'm now organizing myself for 2017.

Patch of life

In the past, major shifts in my life in the last have often revealed themselves in the amount of time I end up writing, and I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about why. Sometimes, it's been here on the blog, but mostly, it's been in my journal.

Since I returned from Nassau, when I took it with me on the high-speed boat trip to the private island, I've really been churning through the pages. I think one reason is that it got somewhat damp when my plastic bag was not 100% efficient at keeping out the moisture from the sodden towels in my carrybag, and there is much scientific evidence that the sense of smell can evoke some of our strongest memories.

The faintest whiff of the sea when I open it to write with my fountain pen releases fond memories of that day, as well as my adventure to Lasqueti last November, and I am seized by the peace and inner stillness from those times. Those adventures have become, in fact, gifts that keep on giving back to me.

Regeneration

There was not a dissimilar revelation yesterday, when I made the pilgrimage to Big Hill Springs Provincial Park, with the granite plaque and memorial forest that celebrates the wee mannie.

I realized that the most important change in the five years has been that I have gone from having a black hole devour my life, to having a life with a black hole in one corner. While I still have hysterical moments when I edge close to it, I've learned to not lose myself entirely to it.

Falls Wall (video)

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Therapy by nature

Honk

My regular winter house-sit tends to be a very fruitful time artistically: even in the years when I haven't spent much time in the studio creating, the solitude and quiet have always fostered much thought that I've tried to build upon in the rest of the year.

I've been building, sketching, and writing far more this stretch, however, which pleases me no end: I have projects in a number of different rooms, in various stages of the process, and it's enjoyable to be able to do work on more than one piece at a time, as there's always something to glue or colour, and then wait for them to dry and move on.

Liquid and frozen

And when I haven't been in the studio, I've been reading more than usual, being social, and pushing myself -- physically, intellectually, and emotionally -- in any number of directions.

All at the same time.

Plus planning adventures for the next while: places to go, people to see, things to do.

Chunk

But there's not much, other than the pictures from last Sunday's photoshoot adventure, to talk about here: my journal is bulging, however, and I ran out of ink in my disposable fountain pen, writing.

My plan to absent myself from social media didn't last a week, although I have cut back substantially.

Texture + bokeh = ?

Books for Sale

The shop is currently empty.