Sunday, December 18, 2016

A Second Winter's Tale...

I am afraid that I have been dodging the task to sit down and write this second tale. Quite frankly, my mind... energy and spirits were high jacked the recent dreaded news that Allison's breast cancer had returned and far too quickly after what we had all believed and hoped would be its defeat.

Needless to say... everyone was left feeling helpless...  disconsolate and completely disoriented by the prospect of more chemo... never mind the long term implications for Allison's health and well-being.

 At the epicenter of this emotional tsunami was a steadying "Light"... and force; it was Allison in all of her courageous might and glory. Her stoic defiance and Faith in the face of such a relentless enemy gave each of us the necessary strength and courage to reform of family phalanx... based upon that very strength that she had chosen to embrace and follow. To deny that act of courage... would be to dishonor "Her"... and all that we love and cherish about her.

The news has most certainly drawn us all together... but as well it has caused us to revisit and remeasure "what" truly is most important in life. Many of those previously perceived "necessities" no longer have any value in our future.

The greatest gift is quite simply our personal health. As well, each of us possesses a precious handful of close  family and friends... always close by; the ones we unfortunately believe will always be at arm's length. We have quickly seen this misconception evaporate before our very eyes... in the very blink of an eye... delivered to us in a somewhat clinical and cold manner... and by a well-meaning stranger to our circle.

In the face of this unsettling news... Allison and Andrew have set course to making plans and investigating strategies for alternate treatment options. We are indeed blessed to have Andrew's good heart... strong background knowledge in genetic and biochemical theory. His contact through his current pharmaceutical link to all major hospitals in the Greater Toronto region have provided us easier and quicker-than-usual access to experts and trial studies.

A 'regular' Christmas is hardly in the cards for any of us really. Deb and I had a plan to escape to the Barbados for a long-awaited holiday and visit with my other daughter Lisa. We felt that we would have to pass on that adventure for now... but Allison is insistent that we proceed with our plans. My heart is torn... but Deb and I have put together a flexible contingency plan which would offer me a hasty return... should that become necessary.

We will leave Rockport from Ottawa Airport on Monday, December 19th... per Allison's wishes and we shall return on February 22nd if fortune smiles upon all of us.

Wishing all of my blogging friends the blessings of Good Cheer!... Good Health and Good Painting in 2017!!

God bless... "one and ALL!

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Two Winter's Tales... Tale # One

This post presents my long time perspective on life and its impact upon the human experience. Life is built upon paradox. Simply put... "for everything (in life) there exists an opposite and equal effect to be exerted and experienced."

Usually, the two opposing and polar opposites seem to be suspended in perfect equilibrium. Neither appears to dramatically dominate or persist for an indefinite period. The middle space or fulcrum of life maintains a suspended sense of harmony.

November physically presents a physical manifestation of this precarious fulcrum in the natural world. Just lately, our family gathered at a lovely upriver cottage to celebrate our belated Thanksgiving during a weekend. What began as a truly "Indian Summer" experience with wonderful October-like weather and colour changed dramatically and abruptly into an early and unexpected snowstorm nightmare... even by river standards. The pendulum had swung without warning... catching us all in an unprepared and bewildered state.

What had just earlier been idyllic on the Saturday morphed into distinct danger and bewilderment for all of us attending. Even more so for my son Andrew, his wife Melissa and their two young children Mr. Mac and newly-arrived Whitney. It was again idyllic for Deb and I because it was our first opportunity to see and be with grand baby Whitney... and HOW VERY GRAND she is!!!

They had a four to five hour journey to return to their home in Southwest Ontario on a most treacherous and heavy truck-travelled 401 Highway. The highway was already being reported as being hazardous for travellers on travel warning information sources.

While they did manage to crawl home safely, the effects of the sudden storm continued across southwestern Ontario right into the Thousand Islands and Rockport throughout Sunday evening and into Monday. We awoke Monday morning to nothing less than a fully-fledged winter.

This complete version of winter with all of its trappings of a first major winter snowfall still continue to arouse the child and artist within to get out and "play" in it. It seems to me that the first snowfall always to erase the drabness and absence of real colour that too quickly gave up ghost and vanished along with October. Or perhaps... on this particular gloomy moment in my life... it helped to erase some the darkness that lurks too uncertainly about in the corners of my mind.

Andrew had asked if we might "board" Tilly, their eleven year old vizla "paw person" because of the hardwood floors in the borrowed cottage. Tilly had experienced a nasty fall when her long-nailed paws splayed out suddenly and the ensuing fall injured her sufficiently enough to discourage any sense of trust in slippery floors.... or in skating on hardwood floors.We had always enjoyed her company and welcomed her visit with open arms into our midst.

We did the usual grand"paw" spoiling routine with treats and copious walks... both quite extraordinary bits of attention in her young child-dominated sphere of daily existence. She caught on quickly and rebelled and sulked, as was her custom when Andrew came to fetch her. We willingly offered an extended vakay opportunity and Andrew accepted because we all had an appointment to attend with Allie's oncologist on Thursday. No sweat!

It was during one of our more extended walks into that new snowy world at the beginning of the storm that I suddenly became aware of countless design patterns that winter offered to my open mind and imagination. So great was their combined influence upon my "imagineering" nature that I dashed home... picked up my camera and warmer clothing and headed back out immediately into what I knew would be temporary and rapidly changing conditions.

Rather than fill more space with colourless expletives, I will shift into the visual language that we all share and understand in degrees to reveal and share my experience with you. Please enjoy... First Winter Snow... Rockport in 2016 !

"Islandsview"... wrapped in her fluffy, soft ermine winter costume... fifteen to twenty cm deep!

Leaves grabbing snowy white light by trapping snow... against a contrasting asphalt backdrop.

Snow-laden spruce gloves sheltering its roots from the storm and its cold

Many hands outstretched... and entwined... anxious to be part of the grand design of winter

Do you see what I see....???? I wonder... A painting perhaps???

Even fences carry the signature gestural handiwork of the sculptural hand and eye of the storm

Be they natural and wooden... or man made and metal... their architectural aspects are simply enhanced and magnified by winter's touch.

Top to bottom...

Side to side... snowy creations untouched by the human hand or mind... yet!

Here and there colour is permitted to seep through and contribute warmth and variety to winter's frigid tapestry of designs

Leaves play back n' forth... either accepting or rejecting winter's invitation to dance

Rapidly dying fall berries are given a reprieve... and willing step forward to become truly...  "fall preserves".

Final dashes of autumn red accents make fitting accessories for winter's white gown...

Even the tiniest of the towering spruce family members stand tall on their own... perhaps for the very first time.

"Stairway to Heaven"..... Remember that "oldie-but-but-goodie" folks??? But no... this one is a "cover"  that I prefer to call "Stairway From Heaven"... HA HA!!

Because this is the view seen in the opposite direction

And on this snowy day of Thanksgiving... there is this a propos snow-covered reminder that...

"All blessings... including the clean winter snow... fall from the Heavens... from the hand of Whomever you wish to worship and give thanks."

Be thankful!....

What could you do with this infusion of creative juices... images and ideas? Whatever you wish!... and with my fullest permission and blessing to do so!

I will close out today's already too lengthy post with this one last image from our now sleeping garden. These three pink tea roses hang on... even thrive, when the rest of the garden has gladly surrendered to winter. Like these hardy and grateful pink roses, I squeeze out the very last drop of the succulent juices that enrich my journey!

I am greatly blessed... and remain grateful... but greatly tested this morning.

Stay tuned for Winter's Tale # Two to follow...

Good painting and a belated Happy Thanksgiving to  ALL!!!

Saturday, November 12, 2016

"Let your Light so shine..."

I have just completed and forwarded an early morning email to Allison hoping to confirm a plan for today that we jigged together during my Remembrance Day morning visit with she and her Mom Joan. Hmmm... where did that all come from???

If you read and will recall... it was in my intended "plan" for observing Remembrance Day 2016 to visit the Band Room at Royal Military College to see the reproduction of my painting gift to Matt Dawe's family as it hung there and to pay my respects through that visit.

I had made a wonderful chicken stew - a supreme comfort food on my winter medley of favorite foods and Deb added her beyond delicious apple sauce to be shared with Allison and Joan. I (as is the usual custom) caught the ladies in their night attire - late risers they are! HA HA!!

While visiting over a nice cup o' Joan's great java we took in some of the National War Memorial service underway in Ottawa with host Peter Mansbridge, CBC's iconic version of Walter Cronkite in the hay day of good television broadcasting. Can't even mention Wolf Blitzer in the same mouthful of words of comparison or praise....

During the ensuing conversation, I suddenly and firstly realized... that I had never seen the National Remembrance Day service... except on the evening news in dribs and drabs. I realized too... the ordeal... no battle that my daughter had experienced in the last year was sadly still unfinished and that she could well need and enjoy my presence here on this particularly cold Remembrance Day.

What happened in my thoughts and planning at that time closely resembles what often becomes the path during my painting process. What I intend at the beginning seems less important... less pertinent and less satisfying to my need and intent. I simple shifted gears... "imagineered" and took the path less travelled to create a new Remembrance Day observance.

"And it made all the difference"... for all of us yesterday.

Strange how the Universe chooses the time and place to visit you. Stranger still... that it can either choose to pick "You" alone... or a group... or a Nation at large. We in Canada were given yet another reason to experience a great sense of loss... that ironically... fell upon us on Remembrance Day,. It will remain after this Nov 11th... as "the day the music died."

Leonard Cohen, our beloved and iconic francophone poet and balladeer passed away on November 10th at the age of 82. Unexpected?... perhaps. But anticipated with any sense of it happening? Not. It seems unfathomable to all who loved and treasured his gifts that his raspy voice would someday be no more. And yet... it is prophesied and given substance within his own imagination and reality.

And his prophetic words ... songs and spirit easily cross the border that separates our two nations. No fence can be built that is strong enough to constrain its message. I could choose any example from the treasury of his music... the music that has guided my life and given me uplifting courage during my own personal Darkness and struggles.

Good bless and us all safe!!! Pray that Cohen's words are correct. Contribute your own peaceful "Light"... you in your small corner... and I in mine!!!

In closing out today, I shall let Leonard Cohen's hymnal "Democracy" ... "Dance us to the end of love."

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!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

"A Pilgrim's Progress"... Part One

"Symbiosis" - canvas 24 x 24 inches

All species relate and depend upon the other's existence... in the chain of life.

Symbiosis, by definition describes a mutual relationship between two species that demonstrates a common accord of agreement to support each other in the process of survival. Would I unfairly be stretching the point today to allude that Canada and the United States have lived under such an agreement in terms of foreign policies... trade and creed for almost two hundred years???

Can Art speak and cross even political borders... without offending???

I wonder...

My borrowing of the above title from John Bunyon's allegorical masterpiece of the English language
is very timely and appropriate in so many ways to situations currently in my own personal and artistic lives. Stranger still, it is, as well most appropriate and meaningful to the American people who will head to the polls to collectively (?) on Tuesday. Their common mandate is to jointly elect a new president and leader for their country. That's the way of a democracy... right???... EH???

We, as Canadian neighbours and the world at large sit precariously perched on that same abyss of change all hoping - no... praying that the American people will continue to make use of and follow those same beliefs and principles upon which their country was founded to choose America's Destiny:

"In God we trust"... and... "ALL men are created equal with the same inalienable rights".

Whatever the name of the "God" that you choose to worship, it is incumbent upon you to embrace the teachings of that deity. In my own pilgrimage, I have sought out truth from many sources and in many places using my own intellect and conscience to guide my choices and my path. I have not always found accord with many "organized" religions because the simple fact repeats that they are organized by human beings who are fallible... and often politically-driven to serve their own visions and needs.

The fact that I cannot lay claim to any membership in one particular faith does not deter me from seeing that common principles and teachings in each faith exist which lead me to believe and to put into practise... tolerance for each of the others. We are indeed all sons and daughters of Mankind... and/or "God"... whatever you wish to believe.

I also have come to understand and believe that a radical point of view, along with advocates and their actions which embrace that radicalism exists in ever aspect of human thought or action. Strangely enough, like a cancer radicals lay hidden, but active within an otherwise very healthy mind or body. It is ever so obvious in this political race leading up to the presidency that neither candidate totally, or even in the smallest particle matches the kind of integrity that we "believe"founded "and built the Republic.

Each president faced terrible decisions in their presidencies. Many made mistakes that took generations to adequately address, or resolve. For many, their stands and decisions even cost them their very lives. Despite those mistakes and tragedies, America has risen to assume a place as a world power. Like it, or not... your country faces a true crossroad as a viable and trusted world leader. How you vote, as a people will largely determine whether you can continue forward in that capacity. Or will the world with people of conscience who have previously held out their hands in trust and friendship withdraw... and become adversaries.

I wonder...

In closing out this post, I would offer some favourite art images... paintings made by iconic Americans who taught me about "Ideas"... who pushed me to "Imagineer"... who offered me their thoughts and experiences to guide my own vision.

The first comes from the romantic brushwork of the iconic and beloved classic illustrator... head of the Wyeth family art dynasty, N.C Wyeth. Its subject... though highly romanticized and "sanitized" it clearly presents the perceived origin of the American tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving.

Note also... that the First Nations presence seems rather "token" at the table of Puritan blood... and that he "vaguely" bears a striking resemblance to the hotly under fire logo for Cleveland Indians. Hmmmmmmm...

The second image is currently on the November page of my calendar. It is a reproduction that appeared on the cover of Life Magazine on November 17th, 1921.Painted by America's beloved illustrator and story teller of the "American Way"... Norman Rockwell. His work was considered by readers of this era to be "as American as apple pie".

At the very early age of three, I eagerly waited for the Saturday Evening Post issues that arrived with regularity at our home. Some of these still reside on the dusty shelves of bookcases among the treasured collection of favourite book Friends".  I consider him an important mentor in my artistic pursuits.

Here, in this timeless Thanksgiving tribute, Rockwell's playfully active rendering reveals a rather differing view of Pilgrim - First People relationships at the first Thanksgiving. It irreverently and tongue-in-cheekily pokes fun at Wyeth's sanitized and Puritanistic diorama.

I am in no way intending to condemn either of these artists, their work, or their views. Neither am supporting any current preoccupation by many to be "politically correct". That is in itself a societal attempt to sanitize what was embraced in earlier history. I merely offer a personal view and perspective that History is a living thing. It shrinks and grows. It comes and goes. It morphs and changes... as the veils of Time shroud it more deeply in the Past... until at last it either changes or disappears from use.

I would encourage all Americans to add their vote. It is your voice... it marks your only chance to have a say about not only your own future, but the future of your children and grandchildren. It even has dire implications for all other peoples on this planet.

Who will you put behind the infamous "red button" at that critical moment?  Remember the rhetoric contained in each one of the debates. The clear answer is contained there.

Who do you think best represents the legacies and consciences of Washington, Franklin, Lincoln, King, Kennedy and Carter???

"The Power of One"... commences on Tuesday with your single vote. Use your own conscience... but DO cast your own vote!

Good Painting!... Good luck... and God speed ...



Sunday, October 9, 2016

Simple Abundance

Happy Thanksgiving... to ALL!!

"Bountiful Blessings" - oil on canvas 24 x 20 inches

This painting portrays my Grandfather Birrell's garden wheel barrow still serving in a friend's beautiful garden laden to overflowing with the harvest of the season. Aren't we also... like wheel barrows... laden with countless blessings from many harvests???

I wonder...

Recognizing Simple Abundance

All of us strive to grow during our lives in many ways. That striving is essential to healthy living to gain a necessary feeling of personal achievement and success. Most of us are successful in achieving that growth we seek.

I have personally discovered a grave flaw in becoming too focused upon the striving in itself. In becoming too focused upon growth in a linear sense... I tended to develop a set of blinders that prevented me from seeing and enjoying many ordinary but equally rewarding blessings around me.

Even in my painting life, I was overlooking and missing opportunities that were ever-present for me to explore and enjoy. I was simply travelling with my artistic blinders on... pulling the plow along to make predictable furrows. While that's what many expected from me, I found the process and the product monotonous and often without new purpose.

Here is an example of a strategy I experimented with briefly. The strategy involved imagineering... that is reaching into a previous creative crucible... reframing or recalibrating... to extract new insights. In this particular case... I discovered an unexpected image embedded in a hardened pigment-stained palette. As I proceeded to sort out shapes that existed in the muddle of colour... an entirely new direction and new still life image revealed itself.

While it's hardly a home run pictorially in terms of its execution or quality... it is none the less a good double at least... in a hit-less inning. Surprisingly... a customer came into the studio and thought so too. A run scored!

Discarded used temporary masonite palette

"Bounty" - the  imaginary 8 x 10 inch oil still life "harvested" from the previously believed fallow palette

Simple Abundance

The quiet closing hour of this crisp October day
Captures the fading moments of its brilliant rays and azure blueness - 
My eye is drawn to a rapidly unfolding and teetering heavenly drama
Paying homage and notice to the waning fingernail moon...
Now hung indelibly askew in the western sky.

The summer greens have quickly reddened along the now darkened and narrow woodland path
The cool night air offers a decidedly autumnal acrid note -
A pleasant blend of life and decay
Newly-arrived autumn can be seen... felt and smelt everywhere
Accompanied by snippets of new birdsong from high sunlit perches and stealthy flitting presences in darkened hedge rows far below.

I am alone, by choice in a world filled with rich wonders
Riches available to anyone for the simple taking -
But few understand or even care to notice of this peace-filled kingdom and sanctuary
They prefer to text and tweet in the din of modernity
While I continue upon my solitary walk through life... basking warmly and gratefully
In simple abundance.


-  a word thought composed after my evening walk about on Tuesday, October 4th, 2016

My greatest blessing this Thanksgiving comes from Allison's speedier-than-expected recovery from her surgery last Thursday. My Familyand I feel deeply blessed... and grateful for this gift... and the gift of prayers and thoughts that were sent our way at this very trying time for us. Thank you... ALL!

Happy Thanksgiving from the Sherman household to each and every one of you!

Rich blessings and Thanks... back to you from us!

"Here's a toast of gratitude... to all of you whose prayers helped me cope through this difficult ordeal!"

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Hope... Courage and Gratitude

Little could I have ever completely understood how much more meaning this sign would convey to me as my journey carried me away from Hillsdale and deposited me back home on the banks of the Saint Lawrence River. The mysterious Universe has always teased and guided me all along the way.  I have trusted (for the most part) in its intent and guidance. Some questions and answers in Life are quite simply beyond human comprehension... or control. Simply said - one's Karma.

Hope and Faith are deeply embedded in my spiritual beliefs and my psyche. They have carried me through many dark passages on my journey. Quite simply put- they have led me beside still waters... and have restored my soul... on more than one occasion. 

Once again, I am experiencing deep darkness in my journey. But that state of darkness does not fall squarely upon me. The darkness and danger hovers... unfortunately over one of my beloved family members - my lovely daughter Allison.

The breast cancer detected early last year has once touched her... suddenly... unexpectedly and cruelly... despite her massive efforts to drive the disease totally from her body over the past year. Undaunted and courageously "She"... and her family once again ready themselves to resume the fight. Our combined Faith remains fully intact in our hands and our hearts as we ready ourselves to do more battle.

On my personal front... I divine my courage,strength and will to fight from the very same sources where I have always mined them. I draw great strength from meditation and prayer while sitting in solitude and looking out over the river. I end each day with this ritual... and it offers a modicum of peace... strength and comfort. I have struggled in my earlier efforts, but have finally managed to return to the easel where I find great peace in the act of painting - I always have.

For these gifts of the my family and good friends... the river... my painting, I feel a great sense of gratitude. Despite this threat upon Allison's life... I feel deeply... and strangely blessed.

Here is a thought that found its way to me this week through this very blog. It is a quote from a well-known singer and actor, Glen Hansard. I took both comfort and pleasure from reading it and wish to share it with you in this post.

"Sometimes you give birth to something, or you're part of a team that gives birth to an idea, and it grows and has a whole life of its own and you are grateful. It's just so humbling."

Strange... how this passage should arrive out of no where and apply so appropriately to this situation. Allison's struggle with this dreaded disease (which will strike one out of nine women during their lifetime) has given birth to the formation a support team for Allison. 

The Shermantors are once again registered and committed to the task of completing the the annual Canadian Breast Foundation's CIBC sponsored Run for the Cure. The 5k run or 1k walk event commencing at 11:00 am will start and finish at Saint Lawrence College in Kingston, Ontario on Sunday, October 2nd, 2016.

Allison will unfortunately be unable to walk with her team at this year's event. She will be recovering for an upcoming surgery to hopefully attack and deal with her cancer on Friday, September 29th. Deb and I will lace up our runners and join these fifteen loving friends and medical staff to show our pride and support for Allison's ongoing courageous and determined battle to rid herself of this dreadful threat and unfair interruption to her teaching career and personal life. 

I have raised $1275.00 in donations to date on Allison's behalf. My deep wish is simply that women will not face this trauma in the future through ongoing research break throughs and discoveries made possible by worthy events such as this Run For a Cure.

Allie... breakfasting in Bruges, Belgium last month. No despair on this face. She inspires all whose lives she touches with her courage and stoic sense of humour and outlook on life!

Wanna share?... another Bruges moment...

The real "shock n' awe"... at the foot of Verones's Adoration of the Magi... a magical moment!

Perhaps one of my favourite of many photos I have of my Jemima Puddle Duck. A truly pure and thoughtful... sensitive young woman... still full of wonder and a rich lust for life and sharing in the face of trials past and present that most folks would buckle under. I am so VERY proud of you Sweet Heart!

As I mentioned earlier in this post... my painting spirit and creativity were derailed entirely for several weeks... and I was devastated... paralyzed at the thought that her cancer had returned. But her courage has enabled me to recover gradually and I have resumed my painting with vigour and determination - the very kind that my lovely daughter has modelled for me to follow. These paintings below... are dedicated to Allison and her courage. We WILL fight and conquer this demon. I paint and walk for "You"... with "You" and beside "You"... forever! I love you Sweet Heart!


"Summer's Gold" - oil on gallery wrapped canvas 24 x 30 inches

"Sailing Through Summer" - oil on Gallery wrapped canvas 30 x 24 inches

"Whisperin' Pine" oil on canvas 30 x 36 inches

Monday, August 15, 2016

August... on my Mind

Year after year... August has come and gone. Summer flowering has dried up in the deep sultry heat of July. August offers wet reprieve for parched soil... gardens... meadows and roadside wildflowers. August is surely a month of transition.

Our summer here in the Thousand Islands region has been dominated by a cruel and relentless scorching sun. So much sun that lawns and hardwood stands are devoid of their usual verdant summer greens. Many might not recover I'm afraid.

While the weather has deviated drastically from the norm... my thoughts and activities have not. I have continued to paint... sheltered from the harmful UV rays under my "Painting Pagoda" - the name aptly given by my daughter Lisa to the five by eight foot patio deck gazebo that I paint under... en plein  air!

August has long been a month of birthday celebrations for the Sherman clan. We first celebrated Deb's birthday on August 10th as described in my last post. Tomorrow... August 16th marks my Dad's 104th birthday. That is closely followed by the birthday (kept secret) of my younger sister Chris on August 19th. Sunday, August 21st will mark my Mom's century mark... her 100th birthday. It is very difficult to comprehend them being 100 years or more old.

Where has the time gone?

As has been my custom... I try to commemorate August and their birthdays with special paintings and thoughts. Many of these paintings never lose their impact in describing the importance of my
parents' contributions to my growth and development as a person and an artist.

I have chosen to "replay" a few earlier tributes below... before offering this year's August tribute to them both.

"Keep Smilin!" (from my Dad's bulletin board in his basement "Inner Sanctum"

"August... on my Mind" - an oil that displays August delights... corn and peaches for my Dad's taste buds...  Brown-eyed Susans for my Mom's table

"Summer in Transition" - a crazy quilt oil depicting a floral clock of roadside "weeds"

"A Demi-tasse Filled With Summer" - an oil still life... the kind that could be found constantly throughout the summer on our cottage dining table

"Simply... Daisies" - an oil still life... simply composed using repurposed objects - a testament to my Mom's resourcefulness and ability to make joyous things...  and to take great pleasure creating from the "ordinary" objects around her

My favourite image of all - "Thank You... For the Music"

This image conveys to me the duality of their common gift of music to our family... certainly different in many ways... but jointly significant when put together 

Closing Thoughts

It is my ritual to visit my parents' grave site on their actual birth dates. I always leave flowers... usually mums and spend a few minutes in contemplation... and yes, conversation with them. Though I know and accept that they have left this earthly sphere of existence, it is my belief that their spirit remains firmly in my heart and perhaps in another spiritual realm of existence beyond my own recognition and experience... yet.

Our cottage was surrounded by towering white pines which seemed always to whisper to me... at least I imagined that to be so. During many August days, these guardians provided shade by day and soothing "night music" to dream under. They were our friends... and we "knew" them intimately.

How appropriate... that my parents final resting place be sheltered by another of these tall sighing fir sentries! It soothes my sadness and provides a sanctuary of privacy and quiet reminiscent of our Narow's Lane Shangra-lai. It is a cathedral... a place to offer thanks and to feel centered.

               "Whispering Pine" - oil on canvas 36x30 inches... my most recent painting

How appropriate as well... to end today's post with a poem and painting combination honoring the lives of my parents based upon a theme depicting a rugged white pine on the shores of our Saint Lawrence River. It stands ever leaning to the southeast... a stance modelled and determined by the force of seasons of northwest  winds.

Time ... After Time

The new summer geese above are flying...
The white pines below are gently sighing
And just below my earthly feet..
The both of "You"
Beings of my deepest love
Are lying -  
Together in eternal sleep.

 I pause to remember you both today in Life
As simple souls who sought little
But gave much...
"You" both have survived
Flown to a place beyond Today 
Far beond this world of bitter strife -
Safe in His omnipotent hands.

With deep and abiding love... respect and undying thanks,
I bid you both adieu
Until that time 
When my span's run
And I can come... to be again with you.

I love you both... Forever.


Back to my painting... and my new direction just getting underway

Good Painting ... to All!!! Happy Summer!