Thursday, April 28, 2011

When the Universe Speaks.... Listen!

The term "Universe" defies exact description or definition... even by the greatest scientific minds... simply because it "exists " far beyond the boundaries of this very temporal band of existence we know as earthly existence. I use the word in my own unique way to explain what others might refer to as Karma... Destiny...Fate... just to name a few. To "me" the Universe is simply...."Existence". I make no effort to understand it in terms of its beginning... or its end.... I simply accept that "I" exist in the Now.... and for now!

I well understand also... that in the course of one's journey... opportunities arrive... or are presented that we must respond to - Choices by which we map and travel on our individual journeys. Often we travel "in parallel"... or on similar planes with others... but more often we travel alone.... inwardly speaking at least. Sometimes it is often difficult... painful and at times even dangerous to to make certain choices offered. They visit us unexpectedly... often simultaneously with a multitude of other choices... making the process of deciding bewildering and unsettling. Ultimately... one must bare the burden of choosing... perhaps with advice and counsel... but again ultimately on one's own.

In the spring of 1989, I made a choice when the opportunity to travel to study for eight weeks in Venice, Italy in a Venice Summer School course being offered by Queen's University to complete my undergrad arts degree. It marked the end of an almost 20 year quest using extramural winter and summer courses... while teaching and raising a family to reach this goal. My school board and my family supported that decision and I was "given leave" of both responsibilities to make this happen.... a huge gift to "Me"that became a pivotal turning point in my personal and my artistic lives.

Venice was indeed Paradise "found"... for "Me." I had begun my journey at age four sketching (copying) David, the Pieta... Laocoon.... and others from history textbooks in our home. Drawing and painting provided "Me a vehicle for expression... and for escape through "Imagineering" into my own Universe. That has been so... during the whole course of my life.

Venice and my eight week "affair" with "Her" sent me back to Reality on a high at first... wanting to share everything that I had experienced with anyone willing to be trapped for endless hours. But gradually... as with all highs comes... the low! Reality paled and for many years afterward never quite measured up to that freedom and environment that I had been immersed in. I was stuck between Reality... and Paradise "lost"!

It has been a very long and painful recovery... for all of us involved. But today... the wheel has come full circle and that long ago choice: ... "To go... or not to go... that is the question!"... has finally been justified in my own mind.

My daughter Allison followed "Me" to that same place ...Venezia... using the same summer school opportunity eleven years ago this week in her last undergraduate course with our Alma Mater Queen's University. She and I both stood at the top of our class of about twenty-five students and found our True Selves in that experience. I found my artistic place... and "She"... through her intellect and persistence... a PhD in Art History... authorship and an emerging place in teaching at the university level.

Today... she is in her beloved Venice... without all of her initial fears, financial challenges and misgivings. This week... "She" will be leading twenty-five Queen's students along the streets of Venice and environs... as the teacher of that summer school class!

The Universe does "speak"... to each of us in mysterious ways. How or whether we answer... is our own decision!

Wish that "I" were there to share the Serenissima with you Allison!

But that's another story... for another... at this moment... distant post perhaps!


Allison entered a sandwich recipe contest online sponsored by Country Harvest... with three $1000 cash prizes being offered to 3 of the 10 finalists selected by the judges. Her VERY TASTY "Divine Marinated Chicken Pesto" entry was chosen amongst the 10 finalists. DO VISIT the site www.countryharvest/contest/gallery.php to see her recipe and others. The others look delicious and nutritious.... BUT Allison's Pesto Chicken is indeed ....DDDDDDDDivine! I've tried it! If you would... both Allison and I would appreciate your having a look-see... and your vote... one vote each day until the contest closes on May 15th! Sure would help a young woman... "doin' her best"... in Venice!

Good Painting!.... Voting!,,,and Heavenly... no Divine.... Intervention! HAHA!!!

Love you Jemima!!!


Warmest regards,


Friday, April 22, 2011

Paradise.... Gained... Reclaimed! - Part Two

In my last post... I bemoaned the [too] sudden "loss" of the Paradise that we most certainly "found" in the Barbados. How could a place of such new and visually stunning beauty... of unusual human warmth and acceptance... complete freedom of movement... and physical

warmth not be an ideal for the term "Paradise"... "Eden"?

I was well-acquainted with the biblical use of these two terms... but I was curious about the other possible meanings for them... so, as is my usual practice when my curiosity runs wild... I searched out their dictionary meanings. I found that Paradise and Eden... beyond their biblical relationship... shared the notion that they both represented "a place of delight... contentment or bliss." In other words... they both represented an enhanced state of mind.

This latter concept of the word Paradise better suits the notion of what Deb and I both had experienced... and the feeling of dejection... no withdrawal that we both felt upon our arrival back to Canada. We discovered... and sadly to our chagrin... that the country remained unchanged and still... much in the same icy cold clutches of winter. I think that we both might well identified with and felt the same disorientation at that moment... as the "original"cast of the biblical story... when they were expelled... forever... from Eden!

Over the past week back in Hillsdale, our earlier life and state of mind has been difficult to return to... with our minds continually volleying back n' forth between the two diametrically opposed states of mind... Eden vs Reality... and a very tropical vs polar natural environment. Add to that... the reality that small retail businesses everywhere and especially in the Arts... (including our own) are facing some uphill challenges over the next few months.

I really did enjoy our trip to Eden... Paradise... call it whatever you will... both from a tourist'point of view and from an artistic stance as well. However, I came away with much more in the way of benefits. We enjoyed visiting my eldest daughter Lisa's world... and having the benefit of her presence... knowledge of... and passion for the Barbados. I came to better understand and feel more comfortable, as her Father... with her passion and desire to fully make her life there at some time in the near future.

As a died-in-the-wool history buff... I spent much of my time there acquainting myself with the past histories of the Island... both natural and human... as a way to better understand what was unfolding before "Me." I came away with such respect for the Bajan populace as a whole. They have finally... after 300 years of slavery... injustice...oppression and suffering started to enjoy a more equitable quality of life and their rightful place as pilots of their own ship. The yoke of control under slavery and British Colonialism is disappearing... and being replaced by educated Bajan leaders who are prepared and willing to lead their countrymen towards economic self-determination and political decision-making. Their time has finally arrived!

In this process, they have managed to retain their strong and proud connection to their black cultural identity. They continue to maintain an unusual sense of humour... tolerance... and Faith in God and in themselves. We were approached only twice by some one asking for a hand out... and those individuals truly seemed in desperate need. People were visibly "making ends meet"... or as the phrase goes on the Island... "Doin' the best I can!"

Medical care... drugs and hospital care are free to all Bajans. Education is free all the way through from Primary School through to Post Secondary Education. There exists a number of exceptional community colleges and even North American University campuses in the Caribbean... each providing even the poorest, but intellectually capable and motivated students the opportunity to advance in their culture. The US and Canada... being more affluent and able to provide this same level playing field to their poor... should take notice. It CAN be done!

I had planned to run a number of posts to give a more elaborate reporting of my discoveries... but I could be locked into that task far beyond space... or interest allows. I think that you can see that I came away enriched and motivated by the experience. But more than that even... I returned more grateful for the Freedom that I have enjoyed... simply by the good fortune of my birth. The experience made me even more deeply aware of the many simple daily blessings that we all share in our Western World.

In closing... I wish to thank my lovely daughter Lisa for her generosity and love... in providing this uplifting experience for Deb and I. I am forever grateful to "Her" for this gift of the heart! I wish too... to thank her Bajan partner Dorian for spending many hours of his time showcasing his beautiful country... and opening up doors and our eyes to places and experiences that no tourist can hope to reach reach into... or come to understand in such a limited stay. Thank "You".... "Big D"!!!

I am posting the remainder of my Barbadian sketches. I hope that you enjoy them... and they might tweak your fancy... to pay a visit to this friendly... safe Jewel of the Caribbean . You will never regret the decision... I assure you!

I will use this post as well... to bid my other lovely daughter Allison... "Bon Voyage"... and safe journey to your very own version of Paradise ...found... Venezia. Enjoy your teaching assignment and research opportunity... and then get back to us to share stories about our separate Edens!

The mantra for Bajans... as posted on the walls of schools... and spoken from the hearts of their spiritual and government leaders appears so simple on the surface... but it touched my soul and I have adapted it as my own simply because... I believe its every word and will try to continue to practise it in my own daily life:

"Life is complicated. Do your best!"

Can "You"?... Will "You".... try to your best?

"I" will !

Happy Easter to all. Give thanks for your blessings for a few moments... if only quietly within!

Good Painting to ALL!

PLEASE NOTE!.... It would seem that I ahve a spacing glitch in this post that I can't figure out for the moment. If you wish to leave a comment... scroll down.....WAY DOWN! It is there! HAHA!



Sunday, April 17, 2011

Paradise.... Found... then Lost! - Part One

We're back in Canada... and as I write..... again "Lost" in a world of white! It is snowin' and blowin'... much the way it was at our departure to the Barbados on March 28th! Winter just seems to be hanging about... reluctant... no defiant to surrender his icy grasp. I will admit... that adjusting to these dramatic changes... all in the course of a few days is both difficult and discouraging. I never imagined myself admitting to that fact because I generally much enjoy the winter season. But it's true!

It seems quite reasonable to span both Paradise locations by beginning today's jpeg show with Canadian "Gold".... McCutcheon's World Class #1 Maple Syrup meeting Bajan "Gold"....Apes Hill Gay Rum... both World Class Champions in their separate classes! A fitting head-to-head meeting of the two cultures.... through their sweet...sugar -related cousins!

We truly did find... and experience Paradise on our visit. The Island is indeed a Paradise in every respect... from exotic flora and fauna... to landscapes that endlessly continue to open before you... like gifts under a Christmas tree - each unique... and each breath-takingly different than the others. I think that you can easily sense from my description that both Deb and I were in a state of rapture. I could not bring my Self to settle to any kind of painting for that reason... I was on sensory overload. I also was completely overwhelmed by the heat and humidity at first.

My thermostat runs hot at the best of times... which accounts for my ability to paint outdoors comfortably throughout the entire winter. I found myself challenged to withstand this sudden change of temperature... even though the Trade Winds continually provide relief at all times of the day... and the magnificent variety of trees and palms a ready supply of shade wherever you travel.

It was only after the first week of touring... swimming and acclimating ourselves... and Deb recovering from a very bad initial sunburn... that we were able to move about with ease... and a mind to sketching. I wore my trusty 60 sunblock every single day top to bottom... and still managed a pretty nice tan. "Mr Golden Sun"... is harsh and unforgiving of those who snub their nose to his might. A good decision to cover up!

When we visited Bridgetown to purchase my oil supplies from the art store there, I learned that the oils and canvases I had intended to purchase had been totally purchased "in bulk" and were unfortunately not available until the next shipment from the mainland. Wisely... I had foreseen this possibility and had brought along my trusty watercolours, ink pens and sketch kit in reserve. That decision paid off in spades for me and in fact worked out to be a much better choice overall.

Bajans are not accustomed to plein air painters en masse... and many are even adverse to having their photos taken... or even their houses... without prior permission. A lesson to future plein air painter-visitors! I learned that uncomfortably... from experience. Lesson Learned! I managed six nice sketches that I was satisfied with... but more importantly, I have a digital library of over 500 images to "play with" at my leisure... and be certain that I will !!!

In this post, I will offer jpeg images to attempt to introduce you to the Barbados... as we saw it and enjoyed it. This is akin to offering you an hors d'oeuvre from a banquet... but I feel that it will be interesting to share these images in conjunction with my humble sketches... to give you a taste or flavour of this magnificent part of the world!

The first sketch was done directly from Lisa's balcony overlooking the fifth fairway of The Apes Hill Golf Course... a stunning course ... with a stunning view! This first sketch shown here was done from the balcony of Lisa's home overlooking the fifth fairway of the spectacular Apes Hill Golf and Polo Club. From this vantage point... and in this same scene... I watched the four cruise ships that arrive and depart each day. A comfortable and shaded spot to put my watercolours first into action!

Let's hope that today's snow... is just a "Robin's Snow"!!!

Good Painting to ALL!