Thursday, September 28, 2017

Basking in the warmth of her spirit...

Tap images to enlarge

Allison often joked that: "She was the curator of friendship..." and on Sunday afternoon at the gathering of three hundred or more of her students, friends and family who gathered to celebrate her too short... but wonderful life... that description seemed ever so obvious and appropriate.

The setting for the event... The Ivy Restaurant and Resort was chosen by her mother Joan because Allie so enjoyed the combined ambiance... food and closeness to the River and The Thousand Islands which she knew intimately and loved so dearly. Even the unusual presence of the muggy heat wave  added an additional surreal and unexpected flavor which further set the mood for this special event.

The intimate evening of sharing revealed and interfaced the many facets of Allie's academic and personal lives. It seemed that the gathering knitted together the lives of so many seamlessly of all of those attending into a tapestry of love... humility and thankfulness. Each of us departed with a better understanding and the immensity of our good fortune to have walked that short distance in her company.

While all of us as Allison's family were abundantly familiar and aware of her generous spirit and her unbridled and often irreverent sense of humour... few us (including myself) outside of  her academic circle of peers and colleagues fully understood the respect and prestige that her academic world  held her in. Allison rarely spoke of her accomplishments, preferring to minimize recognition and singling out. It was her "work" and her students that mattered most to her.

I believe that the quality of her person which meant the most to me...  that I will sorely miss most... was her unique ability to blend her vast gift of intellect and her sense of inner child. She never ceased to value nor to display that child openly and proudly. It was that difference that set her aside in the hearts of all who met her... and came to love her.

Here is a gift that Allison presented me with in September of 2008. Little could either of us known how closely the course of the theme of the book by Professor Randy Pausch would run parallel to  Allison's own journey in 2017. Perhaps... at that specific moment, the Universe offered a glimpse into her future. I could entertain that thought...

Her other gift along with that book... were the words she chose to pen to me on the fly page within.
Today... those words...

"Leadeth me beside still waters... and help to restore my soul."

Thank you dearest Jemima... "I" love "You" Forever!...  and I shall honour my promise to live for you


"I see your face... in all the old familiar places..."

God speed!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Taking Back Joy


"As we get older we define happiness less in terms of excitement and more in terms of peacefulness."
                                                   -page 103 "Option B" by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant

I find this statement to apply to all facets of my life. Though I have always needed to experience solitude throughout my life and actively sought it out through my plein air painting experiences, I find now that noise and the chaos of crowds is actually painful to me. More and more, I retreat from the din and avoid having to attend parties and gatherings where I can't filter out conversation from noise.

My evening walks are more than for the sake of exercise. They primarily allow me to gather my thoughts... organize my ideas and to look without interruption. In a passage I have always favored from "another wonderful guide book:

"He leadeth me beside still waters... and it restoreth my soul."

It is when I am on these walks that I encounter "signs" (to me at least) of  Allison's renewed presence in my life...  manifest in the simple blessings of Nature and life that we shared together. Hand feeding chickadees... netting butterflies... capturing preserve sealers of twinkling August fireflies. All such perceived simple blessings weave us together into a tapestry of complete Peace and Joy.

                 "Peace is joy at rest and joy is peace on its feet." (Reverend Veronica Goines)

This personal perception of my continued connection to Allison might cause many to scoff... equating this to denial at best, or worse... delusion. But no matter the skeptics' views... "She" remains firmly embedded in my consciousness in a fashion that offers Hope in lieu of despair on a daily basis.

I have accepted that her spirit has left its physical vessel. Her presence now exists only in memories we each carry of her. But that spirit and energy which belonged to her alone and defined her continues to manifest itself in ways that only we shared... and understood.

I choose to take back Joy... and to pass it forward through my thoughts and actions to honor her... and my Self. Art and painting are the cement and underpinnings of our separate life's work. Hers was  achieved through research and scholarship. Mine through a combination of art history and fine art. Both shared a common passion and pivotal centre - Venice.

"La Serenissime" - the  Molo in Venezia - oil on canvas 36 x 36 inches

Forever serene!

Love you Jemima 

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Mindfulness... Gratefulness and Responsiveness

My post today embraces lingering feelings and thoughts that emerged within me during of my most recent plein air experience. I returned to the field in search of a quiet retreat from the noisy tourist traffic and constant bus traffic in the village.. and the incessant growl of whining jet skis and motorcraft out on the river.

It required little more than a few words of encouragement from my painting friend Paul Taylor from Rochester, NY to pack up our gear to seek out a site where we could escape the din and enjoy some plein air painting. I suggested a short twenty minute jaunt to the sleepy backwater hamlet of Lyndhurst... a place where I knew there was lots of painting material that would interest us both.

Paul chose a site up on the road which runs across the three span stone bridge spanning the Lyndhurst Creek. Constructed in 1856-7, it is the oldest existing bridge in Ontario and still functions in linking Lyndhurst to the neighbouring communities of Delta and Lansdowne. I set up just below the bridge on the shore of the pond looking westward towards the United Church.

My painting was to become a smallish vertical 10 x 8 inch sketch on panel which began poorly due to my agitated state. I could not get my right hand to "behave" in its usual way. It simply couldn't settle down to business and permit me to draw... as is my usual approach to establishing a beginning.

Rather than continuing to fight against the problem... which I knew would persist, I chose to shift my approach from mapping my beginning... to massing. I built form out of massed colour blocks to shape composition. I then took a walk away from the resulting colour patchwork to gain some space to think... relax and recalibrate before stepping back to the painting to finish.

I decided to add only minimal detail and to survey the whole thoroughly to ensure that I hadn't missed necessary information. I simply looked for the remainder of the session while Paul finished up. I decided to complete the few remaining licks needed to finish... away from the site back at the studio from memory. No camera reference!

Mindfulness... is the act of bringing one's attention to experiences occurring totally in the present moment. The plein air painting approach maximizes the opportunity and the atmosphere most conducive to encourage this state.

Gratefulness... is the combination of many blessings that I realize and appreciate more than ever in my life since Allison's tragic passing. I am grateful for the treasured memories of Yesterdays which remain protected forever in my heart. I am mindfully grateful... for the Today that I have been given to enjoy and share with my friends and family that I love. Finally... I am grateful for the gift of being able to dream and envision a Tomorrow... and hopefully... to be given the time to actualize it.

Responsiveness... The culmination of Yesterday's plein air adventure was this small oil sketch. Though surely imperfect... it mirrors  a small, but significant insight into the journey that I have begun to establish a "new normal". It was executed out of physical necessity, using an alternate response to solving the problem of commencing a painting on location.

Electing to navigate one's daily life and solve daily problems incorporating these principles enhances the opportunities for success... and joy. Are they such hard to achieve objectives????

I wonder...

Good Painting to ALL!!! ... and Rich blessings!

                            " A Lazy August Morning in Lyndhurst" - oil on panel 10 x 8 inches

                                 "A journey of one thousand miles begins with a single step."
                                         - from the Tao Te Ching ascribed to Laozi