Thursday, November 10, 2016

A Pilgrim's Progress... on Remembrance Day 2016 - Part Two

The tradition of pilgrimaging can be found to have been practised in many cultures and religion down through the annals of history. The religious practise can be seen to serve two purposes. Firstly, to venerate  a holy place, or shrines to the faith. And secondly, to fortify and maintain adherence to the fundamentals of a belief system by its people.

In the sectarian practise of pilgrimaging it can be created to unify moral values and principles and the unique identity of a nation. We as Canadians... and nation states around the world are set to embark on an annual pilgrimage... each to its own shrine of Remembrance to recognize and remember its sons and daughters who laid down their lives in foreign places in serving and protecting their country. They have made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of us all. They gave up their Tomorrows... so that we could have Today... and our Freedoms.

I have made this pilgrimage during my entire journey. Wherever I lived, I made that pilgrimage annually. Often it was with whole classes of my students. Other times it was with my children when it was possible... to not only pay my own respects, but through my presence and example to encourage these young people.... so far removed from the tangible evidence of war in their blessed lives that war demands its payment. That payment has most always been the lives of youth - people their age.

"Lest we forget... "

Often, my feelings and emotions encourage and urge me to paint my thoughts to be shared in a more lasting way. Wearing a poppy for a single day in the year is hardly enough (to me) to say thank you... and that I will never forget you and your sacrifice.

I have honestly tried to live my life in a manner that says thank you through my daily kindness and by assuming an active role in developing  Hope and Possibility for the children of Today and Tomorrow. Art... in all of its forms crosses all boundaries and is a mighty tool for shaping values... and usually without the use of force. Together, the Arts unfold a universal message that speaks in many tongues... to every culture... and to every individual.

WW II was a part of my family fabric and heritage. I was born on the very cusp of that catastrophic event and felt the residual effects of fear and uncertainty that were spawned with it. And yet... I was born and have lived in the most blessed time mankind has probably ever known. I am ... truly blessed... and am Grateful.

My family and each of us as members are currently engaged in another kind of potentially deadly conflict. Though we ourselves do not carry weapons... nor do we point them menacingly at others, we face a common enemy who has no face. An enemy who who shows little or no mercy for whomever it selects from our midst to engage with. And we MUST choose to do battle with the same voracity... courage and unity that any army unit has been forced to respond with. Each day... we battle together... without fanfare... and mostly without complaint. We do so out of unconditional love for our Family... and each of its members. WE WILL NOT YIELD... or SURRENDER!!!!!

This is Allison's message of Hope sent by her to America and the friends from her journey who live there. I am so very proud of her character and courage in the face of the terruible ordeal that she has fought through so bravely. Her example to the numerous young women that she shares a classroom and journey with parallels the very same example that Hillary Clinton has presented to the daughters of America. Her example to young women of the  Present and Future and... no matter their party's color... anywhere on the electoral map remains her singlemost legacy of her service to her country.

These two women from two very wlks of life present the truest legacy of the most valid measure of one life's worth. It's the goodness and generosity that they conscientiously and consistently demonstrate each day that inspire others. Their message cannot fail... because it has been placed in the good hands and hearts of so many good souls and open minds to be passed on.

Remembrance Day, November 11th, 2016

Here are two individuals that will be in my heart at 11:00 am tomorrow. It will be a sad moment for certain... but it seems appropriate that they represent two veterans from two campaigns across the span of over sixty years.

The first is my son Andrew's hockey pal and fellow student, 27 year-old Captain Matthew (Matt) Jonathan Dawe PPCL who lost his life tragically along with five others under his command in a roadside bombing in southern Afghanistan. So moved was I to respond and reach out to Matt's family that I created a painting to honor his memory. I sent along that small canvas to Matt's wife Tara for his son Lucas.

A year later I was contacted by a representative of Royal Military College in Kingston, the school from which Matt and his Dad Lt Col Peter Dawe had graduated earlier in their military careers. They asked if I would consent to the smaller painting being made into a larger giclee print to be permanently hung in the Band room in Matt's memory at a Remembrance
Day ceremony. I was unfortunately unable to be in attendance because I was in Brockville at another ceremony.

I will seek to spend the first part of Remembrance Day 2016 in Brockville to honor Jack Shepherd and a send pilgrimage to RMC, Kingston to the Band Room to honor Matt.

Captain Matthew (Matt) Jonathan Dawe PPCL

"Where Have All the Flowers Gone" - oil on canvas 14 x 11 inches

I attended the Remembrance Day ceremony last year in my home town, Brockville , a scant 25 kilometers down river from Rockport where I currently reside. When it was at all possible, I always tried to return to Brockville to assume my place as a fellow citizen at the cenotaph as I had done for so many November 11ths in the past.

It always touched me greatly to watch the Brockville veterans of all wars assume their places facing the cenotaph for those precious two minutes of remembrance. It struck me ever so greatly on this particular occasion, that many of the familiar faces were missing from the ranks of this battalion of Brockvillians. Time ... had in fact carried so many away in just that very short space of time.

Standing at full attention was a man that I knew as a friend and mentor during my growing up years. It was Jack (The Chief) Shepherd clad in meticulously pleated grey pants, navy blue raincoat and a II RCR beret rigidly and defiantly erect amongst this dwindling, fatigued remnant of past campaigns. It was very cold... and the time seemed to drag on while their "at attention" posture was kept until "Last Post and Reveille could be sounded.

Jack's attentive and aware son John tried unsuccessfully to encourage his father to wisely "fall out" - but to no avail. He marched... eyes forward with his comrades -at-arms the necessary half block to the planned "fall out" location.

This was to be Jack's very "last" and final post. He passed away peacefully during the following summer. I had realized at the time that Jack was truly failing rapidly... so I  found a good location and recorded this image of this momentous occasion in his life. He was so very proud of his RCR affiliation. More so... because he and the Canadians serving in Korea were only recognized by our government (in its infinite wisdom) as true "veterans". They were shunned as veterans and were basically unrecognized as such by their country. Shame on us!

I attended Jack's funeral and placed one in the hands of both of his sons, Johnny and Paul... both friends I spent time with in my hunting years. Jack was a true professor of outdoor education... without university credentials. I am forever in his debt for many things.

Jack  (The Chief) Shepherd's (on the right) Final Parade. "Fall out!" ... with dignity and full grace Chief!

At this point, I will close out this already too long post using two paintings. However... I offer no apology to my readers for this length. This annual pilgrimage ritual is worthy of the time I spent writing it. It is worthy... if you so choose to be read and kept close in your own lives. That choice remains yours. I thank each of your for visiting... and for pausing to read its contents.

The first painting is my own from a number of years back when I water colored my way around. It was not intended to be purely a "Remembrance Day" painting as such... but is does speak to that purpose and use now... so many years later. It is a "cover"akin in its compositional elements and style to "Lady In Waiting". A bit perhaps the same... a bit different message in other subtle ways.

But that's a story for another day.....

NO Title... NO signature... ????? watercolor on 1/2 sheet 300 lb Arches paper

I wonder???.....

"Lady In Waiting" - watercolor on full sheet Arches 300 Lb paper

This last painting is most certainly not mine. Wish that it were in some ways. But I offer it to all of my own many American relatives, Friends and neighbours. I think it so eloquently brings forward the basic essence of America's Past... Present and Future dremas and values.

This Rockwell painting appeared on theMay 27th, 1922 cover of Literary Digest. It makes the illusion to Betsy Ross (a woman).... bird cage above her head,,... soldier's hat on the table both elude quietly to the struggle for Freedom which the Flag represents. The title?..... OH SO APPRPRIATE"

"Mending the Flag"

Get at it America!!! God bless ALL!!!... and a solemn Veteran's Day of Remembrance!!

Good Painting... to ALL!


  1. A moving narrative, Bruce, which I was privileged to find by accident whilst visiting Susan Smolensky's blog.

    I have made similar pilgrimages to your good-self but, alas, this year it will be too far for these old bones. Instead I have paid my own tribute to fallen comrades and friends (

    I love what I have seen of your art, and become a follower; I hope you don't mind.

  2. Good evening John!... Thank you for your visit and your kind support! I too... am a great admirer of Susan's art - a very talented and genuine lady.

    I feel deeply honored to have you aboard as a "regular" blog visitor. I shall look forward to our shrings and chats. My first visit to your beautiful and moving site indicates that we have much in common... kindred spirits on parallel journeys.

    Good Painting and Health in all that you do.
    Warmest regards,