Sunday, August 09, 2020

Remembering a Marriage, Making a Life: An Essay in Photos

 My husband Howard and I met first in high school -- as pen pals in Canada's Centennial Year, 1967.  We met 'for real' in Montreal in the fall of 1974, and were engaged February 11, 1975.

We both had longer hair then than later, 
and I wore contact lenses most of the time 
instead of my "Coca-cola bottle" glasses.

With Mom and Dad
at the home of my Aunt Alice Rennie
Time to go to the church!

St. John's Anglican Church,
Huntingdon, Quebec
(est. 1834)

In the fall of 1976, with a dramatic change in provincial government from Liberal to the Parti Quebecois (Separatists headed by Rene Levesque), we decided to move West.  Howard's family was in Vancouver, but we opted for Calgary because my sister already lived there, and Howard had cousins there.  Besides, I told him, I couldn't bear 5 months of rain in the winter.  I needed snow and sunshine!

We found work, bought a house and in 1980, started a family.

The nursery was ready...

Our daughter, Gina Ruth, arrived
January 13, 1981

And then there were four...
Our son, John Martin, arrived
June 6, 1985

The kids grew...

And grew...

And grew...

There were family vacations

High school came...

Gina - 1998

Marty - Grade 11
September 2002

We got older too.  Howard's Type 1 Diabetes, which began to show its nasty effects as early as 1986, grew more destructive by the year.  There were many crises, surgeries, and a decade's worth of haemodialysis.  Still...we managed to get away on a cruise from Vancouver, B.C. up the inside passage to Alaska to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary...

On our way!  Aboard a Royal Caribbean ship,
Vancouver, B.C., July 2005

A year later, he was gone...having marked 31 years together.

My mourning has not yet (quite) 'turned to dancing' as the Lord promised,
but there are many things for which I am grateful.

My reinvented life as an artist in a central Alberta rural hamlet on the rolling prairie.

Mirror, Alberta
Taken just after moving in, September 2008

Two grown kids whom I love with my life...

Who've gone on to higher education... 

Gina's M.Ed. - U of Alberta, 2008

Marty's BFA (Drama) - U of Lethbridge, 2008

At Marty's Dip. Technology Grad - NAIT
Edmonton 2014

 And who, despite the 4 1/2-year difference in their ages, and their very different personalities,
still manage to be able to get along when they're together!  😊

Celebrating Summer at Sylvan Lake - 2009

Edmonton, October 2016

With our parents gone, I've grown closer to my sister too...

With Wendy, July 2016

I like to think we're there for each other, no matter the miles between us.

My friends and colleagues are too many to enumerate, while my neighbours remain a source of support and help for this "widdy lady", as well as good friends.

It's been a good life thus far, despite the cares and struggles of illness, the loss of loved ones, the on-going challenges of aging, and the particular chaos that 2020 has brought.  

But I'm glad I'm here, expecting to mark my 68th year next month, having built a rich store of memories, with -- God willing -- many more to come.

Eternity in a ring
From HMB - Mother's Day, 1985,
now on my older hands.
On that wedding day 45 years ago, my step-father and I danced to a song that remains a favourite of mine when I think about how "...swiftly fly the years -- one season following another, laden with happiness...and tears". 

August 9,1975 - August 9, 2006

Sunday, August 02, 2020

A Feast of First Fruits

Lammas Day, or "Loaf -mass" day is a holiday on the Christian liturgical calendar that's still observed in some countries north of the equator -- traditionally on August 1.  It marks the blessing of the 'First Fruits' of the harvest, particularly where wheat and other bread-making grains are grown.  "Lammas-tide", when the wheat harvest begins, is the name for the days between the Summer Solstice in June and the Autumn Equinox in September -- in other words, now.  

Traditionally, a loaf of bread, sometimes nested in a basket with flowers, is brought to church on that day to mark the blessing, and it is then often broken and used as the bread in the celebration of the Eucharist.

I don't eat as much bread as I used to, but when I do, I like to make it myself (I have a bread-maker because I've never been able to master the art of kneading) and I love it fresh and warm, or toasted, with a bit of butter and home-made jam.

In the last ten days or so, the rhubarb (several cups chopped and frozen; some baked into coffee cake, some stewed and eaten with yogourt) has been joined by a harvest of Saskatoon berries (12 cups in the freezer, 3 cups given to a neighbour, and an unmeasured amount eaten fresh), and this morning I just picked my third colander-full of raspberries, with more ripening on the canes.

My 'First Fruits' -- raspberries and rhubarb

I've enjoyed them fresh, in a bowl with a bit of milk and sugar, over yogourt or ice cream...and just now I've "jammed" four jars, each holding a cup or so of my favourite simple jam: berries, sugar and lemon juice.  Something tells me there's bread in my near future... 😉

The rest of my garden continues prolific as well.  Though the peonies have finished blooming, the hollyhock -- mine is white -- is just coming into its own, and there are wee pearls of cherry tomatoes starting on my seed-started plants.  

My daughter visited a couple of weeks ago; she has an app on her phone that identifies flora -- some of the time, at least! -- and found the name of this one for me.  It came with my house and there's this batch of it at the corner of the peony bed as well as a larger quantity of it competing for space now with my raspberries.  I've always found it very pretty, but it's a spreader, and has to be reigned in regularly!

"Cluster Bell Flower"

I have a long, curving flower bed on the southwest corner of my property.  Again, it came with the house, but over the almost dozen years I've been here, I've added to and subtracted from it regularly to make it mine.  The photo below is just a sampling of what's in that bed.

White yarrow, purple sage, deep pink shrub roses,
marigolds just under the rose bush,
 and orange agapanthus just beyond that.

Weather-wise it's been darned hot -- what I call "the cat days of summer".  Because my studio is hot much of the day right now, I've been dividing my time according to shade and breeze distribution.  I start out on my front stoop, in the shade of the north side of the house, and move to the back as the sun permits.

When there's just the right amount of shade from the trees above, and just the right hint of a breeze, Miss Pookie likes to sit near me on the bench in the Outdoor Studio. have a cat's life!  

I've been focused on hand-work.  The Toronto sampler is finished and now trimmed to size and pinned for hemming so I can attach the bellpull hardware.  Meanwhile, I've begun a cross-stitch entitled "Man Cave", for my neighbour John for Christmas.  John's not really the gardner in the family -- his wife is -- but he has a collection of sheds filled with all manner of supplies for car maintenance, home maintenance and garden maintenance.  One of these -- his newest -- is a mini-barn, a brilliant red (as it should be) with white trim.  I've been trying to persuade him to let me hang a barn quilt on the windowless wall that faces my side of the barn, but he's not been keen.  Perhaps he'll hang this inside, over his work bench.  Whaddya think?  😉

Designer: Peter Underhill
Source: Heritage Crafts

I have another piece to do up for his wife, Edna, of course, which I hope will suit their bedroom or living room.  It's "Spring in the Air" from Just Nan -- very feminine, very flowery, very pretty.  I've had it -- fully kitted up -- for several years, including the lovely silk threads (!), and am really looking forward to doing it up for her.

In keeping with Christmas-in-the-heat-of-summer, I've started a pair of socks for my nephew in a black-and-white marl from Patons.  I'm using the same pattern as I did a few months ago for another Xmas gift -- simple, mindless knitting which I do in the early morning over coffee, breakfast and the news, or while waiting at the train crossing.

Pattern: A Nice Ribbed Sock 
Designer: Glenna C.
I finally got back into the sewdio (indoors) early this morning (around 6 a.m.) because it was cool and breezy enough, and the sun had yet to climb very high.  I continued my work on "Star Crazy";  I've finished and attached one 8-block side border (the block is shown here), and have two of the next 8 finished.  

I've also assembled 27 little blocks in Bonnie Hunter's current Leader/Ender Challenge, which she calls "Easy Breezy".  This is the first of these challenges I've ever done, and I've only attempted it because I have such a stash of the right size squares and rectangles (all from scraps) to make a lot of 4" (finished) blocks.  These will go with my charm squares to make more tummy time quilts for the Stepping Stones program in Lacombe.  Turns out, though, that each 36" square blankie will need 81 (!) blocks -- 1/2 piece, 1/2 charm squares (and one odd one!)  Or maybe just 32 of them -- and borders!  No never mind, I'll make the blocks as I go; they're darned satisfying to do -- no templates, no half- or quarter-square triangles, no flying geese.  Just straight-up squares and rectangles (see this photo from Bonnie's instructions), bringing order to continued chaos.  😊

As for new work...I've been puttering with respect to the second piece about 'chaos' using the 'crumb-pilations' technique.  Early this morning I finally made a decision about quilting and how to mount it on the painted stretched canvas.   I'm aiming to start work on that part tomorrow a.m., if the morning is cool enough.  My daughter photographed And It's Only June: Reflections on  2020; I've now got the results in a Drop Box file, awaiting my review.

And so it goes.  August 5th brings another hair cut (hooray!!) -- it'll be seven weeks since my last one.  August 8th brings another of Joe Cunningham's online workshops -- this one, on how he uses just two colours to create a quilt -- and the 15th brings (I hope!) a road trip to a quilt shop, a mobile yarn shop, and perhaps an outdoor art show, with a gal pal.  

The 17th brings a day trip to Calgary for a dental check-up (delayed since May due to COVID).  Both Calgary and Edmonton have now mandated masks to be worn in indoor public places, like shopping malls, so I will go equipped.  My dentist's office is in a professional building connected to a large indoor mall, and it's not far from a strip mall with a Chapter's/Starbucks outlet -- my favourite books and coffee all in one place!  When I go to The Big City, a stop there is a must, and I won't mind in the least wearing a mask so I can enjoy it at my leisure before heading north again to my little piece of heaven on the rolling prairie.

Old barn at the home of my long-arm quilter
and her DH --
near the eastern shore of Buffalo Lake, Alberta

That wide sky continues to nourish my soul, which in turn "feed[s] my inner artist" -- which is Nina Marie's topic this week over at Off the Wall Friday.  I leave you with a wish for you to be nourished, inspired, encouraged, safe and well as the summer travels on through August to whatever waits in the fall.

Take care -- and come back soon!

Friday, July 17, 2020

I'm Still Here!

Really, I am!  😊

Each week of the last three+ since my last post, I've thought about posting...and then let that thought drift off in the wake of yard work (more mowing!), gardening (weeding, pruning suckers from shrubs), stitching in the Outdoor Studio, or piecing inside.

All in all, it's been a pretty good few weeks, one day at a time.  Some are better than others.  Sometimes I seem to waste an awful lot of time dithering about what I want to do; other times, I'm full of purpose and sail through the day.

My son's been home from hospital a month now and is doing better, thank you, now that he's on proper medication, with medical follow-up.  He's working hard to sort out his past and move forward, and when I can help, I do...but I wait to be asked.  No news is definitely good news these days!

As for "And It's Only June" -- thank you, Gentle Readers for your support and encouragement about that piece.  I've decided that if my brilliant photographer daughter can manage to get me some good photos of it (she's due to visit soon), I'll have a 'go' at entering it into a juried exhibit.  I managed to steam it to size -- it's just 36" square, the absolute minimum for the show I have in mind.  Now to get a sleeve on it and see what it looks like hanging on the wall!

And I've finished another new piece and am ready to quilt a third!  In early June I posted that taking a class with Joe Cunningham had 'loosened me up a bit' and that I'd started to play again with crumb blocks, without any clear purpose except to have a bit of fun.  Well...that play-time spawned some ideas and has resulted in these two new works.  The first is now quilted and mounted on a painted 12" W x 30" L x 1" deep stretched canvas. 

I'm considering them part of my "Crumbpilations" series, which I started in the winter of 2018.  The name comes from the fact that they're 'compilations' of 'crumbs' of fabric.  The first five -- four very colourful; one muted -- are landscape-themed, but these new ones have to do with the chaos we're living through right now.

Coping with Chaos
(C) 2020
Assorted commercial cottons
Machine pieced & quilted
12" W x 30" L
Can you spot the play on words in the title?  😉

It's a deep canvas -- 1" -- so I'm uncertain about framing it as it could be expensive and heavy...I'll check with my framer once I've got the second one finished.  Here's a shot of the quilting, which I did in straight lines with clear mono-poly thread:

In addition to these pieces, I've taken a clutch of landscape photos for future work.  We've had many thunderstorms in this unusually wet summer (unusual for us here on the Alberta prairie), and they've made for wonderful skies against the gold of the flowering canola...

The field at the end of my street.

And I've an idea for a new flower pot piece, featuring my strawberry pot, in which I've never planted strawberries!  Each year I fill it with impatiens or something like, and a trailing plant on the top.  I'm thinking it's time for a "Brown Pot" to go with the blue, red and green ones I've recreated...Don't you agree?

Bacopa (white) and impatiens (scarlet)
in a clay strawberry pot

In the midst of this I've continued to work on Bonnie Hunter's "Unity" Quilt-along piece, which I call "Star Crazy!".  Here it is on the 'design bed' in my guest room, at the end of 'clue' #4.

'Clue' #5 consists of a row of flying geese top and bottom, which turns this large square into a rectangle. 

I've now finished 'clue' #6 and am assembling those units into blocks for 'clue' #7.  There are thirty-four of these, and they're large -- 8" finished -- because they're really composed of four smaller 4-patch blocks.  Can you pick them out from the (ahem!) slightly blurry photo below?

Although my blocks are never  rarely perfect, I have to say, I'm rather proud of these pinwheel points! 😊

On the stitching front, I've finished the Toronto Sampler -- it's soaking in a bath as I type.  Next I have to press it and mount it onto metal bell pull hardware so I can wrap it and mail it to my friends in TO for their anniversary next month.  For a photo, you'll have to wait for a future post!

My July Socks from Stash socks are coming along nicely, with the first one finished and the second nearly there...

It doesn't look like much off the foot...that long, narrow leg (7" to the heel flap, including a 1" ribbing) looks like it might be tight and uncomfortable! 

Look at the detail of the 'artichoke' leaves, shown here at the foot!

Pattern: "Artichoke Socks" 
Designer: Megan Humphrey
Yarn: KnitPicks Sroll Tonal
Colour-way: "Summer Blooms"

And then, of course, there's the beauty and blessing of my garden, some of which I've been able to enjoy indoors this year -- a special treat on rainy days!

My "hope" roses -- a Campfire Rose -- four on one stem!
This particular one is named for artist Bill Reid.

Just some of the peonies

Galium boreale -- a wildflower,
found growing at the foot
of one of my trees

And so, as the sun shines this afternoon, I'm off for a walk, and we'll see what comes after that.  I leave you with a link to Nina Marie's Off the Wall Friday.  

Until next time...may you be safe, well and creative!

Sunday, June 21, 2020

And It's Only June...

I finally got it out of my system.  The grief and stress, that is.  Well...maybe not all of it.  But I was induced compelled propelled back into the Sewdio over the last couple of weeks to make something to deal with at least some of what's been going on.

The seed of this piece was planted in January, when the Iranians shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane carrying mostly Canadians.  Flight 752 was on its way to Europe; from there, these passengers could connect to flights home to Canada -- homes from coast to coast, including several from Alberta, the province in which I live.

I got a picture of what I wanted to make and splurged on Tussar silk fabric from MAIWA in Vancouver.  I found a small package of wool batting and a piece of linen for the backing, on sale at a LQS.  I had silk and cotton thread on hand.

And then it sat.

This often happens, because it takes some time for the "vision" I have in my head to work its way out.  This can take weeks.

This time, this process was rudely interrupted by COVID-19.  I went into a creative slump and couldn't produce anything original, let alone work out how I wanted to do this piece.  I knew only that I wanted it to be whole cloth, and have images of candle flames, initially covered with the same number of flames as there were passengers and crew on board that tragic flight.

As COVID-19 continued to take its toll, I watched with increasing despair the short shrift it was being given by the U.S. government, even as our own federal government struggled and worked hard to forge a partnership with the provinces and they, in turn, with counties and municipalities, to keep abreast of it, and to deal with the economic fall-out as best as possible.

Then came the murder of Mr. Floyd, and the subsequent self examination of our own police forces, our own descent into racism over the centuries -- from when Canada was a British colony, which of course includes the horrific behaviour of colonization, and so it goes, down through time, as we work to realize, acknowledge, rectify, reconcile and make reparations.

And the evening I published my last post, I got a call from a friend of my son: he was in the hospital.  He has mental health challenges that apparently were exacerbated into a full-blown "episode" -- by a prescription he was taking to help him stop smoking.  Ten days of care, change of medication and psychiatric counsel -- and he was able to go home.  I was unable to visit but we managed a phone call a few days before he was discharged, and we have connected online since.  I am hopeful he will remain well, but it's not been an easy time, to say the least.

The result of all of this angst is And It's Only June: A Reflection on 2020

35" W x 36" L
Materials: fine hand-woven Tussar silk, linen,
silk and cotton thread
wool batting
Machine quilted, whole cloth

The "borders" of the quilt contain these texts: 'COVID-19 Pandemic', 'Ukraine Flight 752',
 'Black Lives Matter' and 'Murder, Missing Aboriginal Women & Girls'.  

Here are some detailed shots:

"Let there be light"

"Wash your hands"

"Flight 752"

Some of the quilting -- from the back.
Candle flames -- or tears: your choice.

I'm not a skilled free-motion quilter.  In fact, I don't really enjoy doing it.  But try as I might to think of other ways to quilt this work -- including by hand -- it demanded FMQ.  Sometimes you've just gotta do what the quilt wants you to do.  It's far from perfect -- there are a couple of puckered places -- but I don't particularly care.  

I used 3 colours of silk thread on the top because I didn't have enough of a single one of them to do it all.  The back is quilted with cotton thread because the backing is linen, and the thread matched.  The quilt is finished by folding the top over to the back and hand-stitching it down as a 'self-binding'.

I have no idea what I'll do with this piece, except that I know I'll show it at the Lacombe Art Show & Sale in April 2021, God willing.  It's not going into a competition!  (I admit I was originally enticed to enter it into SAQA's call for "Light the World", opening in the fall, but the techniques are just not perfect enough and I won't "fix" it -- or make another.  This one's done.)  Meanwhile, I'll store it flat and hope for the best.

All is not gloom and doom, however.   I've had great joy from my garden...

Pots of posies

Here comes the lettuce -- and a few Brussels sprouts...
and maybe zucchini...

First roses of the season

And I have made more progress on the Toronto Sampler,
shown here before I began the last, deep section...

Meanwhile, the first of the June Socks from Stash Challenge socks is finished -- 
and I'm roaring down the foot of the second!

"Broken Seed Stitch Socks"

What with mowing The Estate, weeding the garden beds, cleaning out the eavestroughs and re-sealing around some of the vents on my roof...I am keeping fairly fit and focused.  Almost all the stitching takes place in the Outdoor Studio, listening to the birds and the hum of other neighbours at their labours.  This keeps me away from the computer; more especially, it keeps me away from bad news.  We've had far too much of it -- and it's only June!

I'll leave you with a Happy Father's Day wish for those of you who have fathers or are fathers...and with a link to Nina Marie's Off the Wall Friday where this week...she's encouraging theft!  😉  Stealing like an artist, that is!    

Wherever you are and whatever you're about this week, have a good one!