Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Another ... and Unexpected Adjustment to Celebrating Christmas

Once again this season... it has been necessary for us to  adjust our Christmas celebrations. What would normally be our traditional ritual of gift-giving and merriment has been out of necessity altered to limit both of these practises.

Deb and I have been laid low by a sciatica kind of injury to our right sides from the hip down to the knee in my case... down to the ankle in Deb's. The pain is both excruciating and debilitating for us both. Activity and mobility is extremely limited and requires rests after short intervals of use and application of ice packs to ease the pain.

Our life has centered around medical appointments and treatments.... none of which seem to eliminate the symptoms as yet. This... after almost six weeks of self treatment. Something has to give to break this loop of pain so that we can get on with our "normal" lives and move forward with the new plans and a chapter in our lives that we have been moving towards slated for April, 2019.

I have an unfinished project currently on my easel that scolds me incessantly when I am able to get down the stairs into the studio.  will not reveal any part of it until I can present it fully finished. It has been in the wings for too many years already and getting it to the point that it currently sits only happened with dear Allie's urging and encouragement.

Stay tuned... it shall be finished... sooner than later!!!

I wanted to post this Season's Greetings from our house to yours and felt that it should carry visual input... to accompany my wishes to each of you important blogging friends. I owe you much for your continued encouragement and support throughout the year and during difficult passages in my journey.

This said... I wish to extend to each of you a truly Blessed Christmas... a Joyous and Healthy New Year. And Rich painting success and growth.

Rich Blessings... and Good Painting!

                                             "River Spirit" - oil on canvas 20 x 16 inches
                                             (Gifted to Allison, Joan and Andrew Sherman)

                                        "Down East Vigil" - oil on canvas 20 x 16  inches
                                               (Gifted to Liam and Bryn Sherman-Parris)

                "When Play was conducted joyfully... en Plein Air" - oil on canvas 20 x 16 inches
                  Gifted To Lisa Anne Sherman-Shamray and her children Ryan, Braden and Mica

                                              "Sugar Moon" - oil on canvas 22 x 18 inches
                                               Gifted to a good Friend  Jeanine Burns at Xmas

I chose this one to close out my Christmas 2018 post to commemorate a full moon for Christmas Eve  this year. It shall not occur again for 19 years. Just in case my "brush with life" might have run its course... I leave evidence that I witnessed... and fully appreciated its celestial beauty and wonder this Christmas.

"God bless us... each and every one"

Monday, November 26, 2018

Unfinished Business...

I rarely have a painting project misfire and allow it to hang about. Even in the field when I am working en plein air and directly from nature... rarely do I carry home  a "start" that has misfired. I am accustomed and never reluctant to simply "scrub it" on location, rather than have it haunt me back in the studio.

However, yesterday morning a smallish twelve inch square that had been toned with black gesso and partitioned with a white chalk pencil into four quarters caught my attention. I remembered that
I had taken the canvas along with my paint box and easel to the large lawn of my landlord located directly across the from our home.

The location affords one a very picturesque and high perch overlooking the river. The combination of the rich colors of the maples and the gazebo and the dramatic river backdrop captured my attention immediately. I anxiously dove in to work from a plan from somewhere inside me by attacking adjoining quarters with two separate views from what lay in front of me.

Unfortunately, or perhaps not... Fate intervened and drew my session to an abrupt and unavoidable close. Rain pelted me... drenching my enthusiasm and sending me scurrying for home. When inside, I simply tossed the black orphan unceremoniously into a dark corner of my shared downstairs studio workspace with Deb.

That plein air misfire remained untouched and unnoticed from late in the fall of 2010 when I had first begun painting it... until now. Had its presence and potential not been drawn to my attention by my wife (and most trusted art critic) Deb... it might well still be sitting with its face to the wall unnoticed...and unfinished.

Given that long delay in proceeding, I futilely searched my mind for any semblance of an idea or direction to stimulate my movement... or my interest to resume action. Pitching it still seemed the best way to remove the roadblock!

Strangely... a recent and wonderful discovery that arrived seemingly (by chance???).. or by way of a  richly written murder-mystery novel by the award winning Canadian writer Louise Penny. The novel provided me a new and totally unexpected spark of inspiration to forget about what my earlier actions and idea might have intended originally.

Her writing spoke to me and challenged me to reach within and to search my memory reservoir for any prior event that might provide me a structure upon which  I might build  a newer concept and direction. That new concept would not be bound by those previous stalled failures which blocked my movement forward.

Looking at this malnourished body of unfinished work, I searched to associate what lay before me under the light of my easel to some semblance of such a memorable event. From somewhere in the dust and cobwebs of my teaching past, the black canvas shouted, "Come play!"
And I did.

A single growing memory chained steadily with others to form an increasingly strong and pleasurable visual image. I recalled endless hours of pleasure and Joy for me in a yard filled with many children. What was called "yard duty" by many of my colleagues remained to me a "breath of fresh air" from the restraints of classrooms. Even then... I preferred to "work" en plein air!

You see... Life is about choices. Those made and those passed over.  Joy and Happiness so often are  related to attitude HOW we perceive simple pleasures and daily opportunities. Life is then... purely a position of personal perspective. The choice for all things and outcomes is indeed based totally upon these realities and our combined willingness and ability to recognize and make something good from them.

This once half resolved wee painting owes its existence to many influences. Beginning with its rediscovery by Deb, its painful breech-birth and exile to the corner ... followed by an eight year hiatus in limbo might have prevented its second look. Not really the usual schedule of events that usher a painting into a promising life or future.

The next... and totally unexpected influence in its creation was the serendipitous  intervention by Louise Penny's novel "Self Portrait" into my painting process. This magnificent and intriguing novel literally fell off the shelf in The Beggar's Banquet Bookstore and into my hands.

I am now on my second award winner by Ms. Penny. It too provides a rarefied reading experience. My reading habit and ritual has been regained! I am truly blessed. My bedtime companion has returned!

Oh!.... And by the way. Did I mention that these novels are totally based upon art themes... locations and characters? But that's another story... for another day!

And finally. The completion of  the 12 x 12 inch canvas "Fall Four Square"was re-energized and returned into reality... powered by a simple school yard game that I was honored to share with grade school children. I offer this canvas as a token of gratitude to each young participant who shared the pure Joy of sharing time and laughter for many recesses spread across my twenty-seven year teaching career.

Being childish...is a trait. Something that I am proud to say I continue to cling to and value. It sustains "Me"... in the worst of times... bolsters my Faith and offers me Hope.

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

PS As with many things in both my and painting lives, I think ... work... play and paint - and taught using a thematic approach. One good thought and solution often leads to another... and another.

Stay tuned...
 "Let the games begin!"

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Remembrance Day 2018... "Lest we forget."

On this cold November 11th, 2018, I found myself... as I have many times among the quiet crowd of many faces of citizens of Brockville who were gathered to commemorate the sanctity of this special day  which is set aside yearly. The day is celebrated by people around the globe to mark "Armistice Day"... for too many far flung conflicts.

This year's celebration focuses on the original armistice which ended World War War One, November 11th, 1918. It was seen then, a full one hundred years distant from today... as "the end of a war to end all wars." All who attended this year's service here have lived through another World War with its catastrophic horrors and inhumanities committed by all nations.

As well, even the youngest attending this service today have borne witness and felt the impact of loss of family members and neighbours. This is so... even in this very small River paradise... so very remote from the sadistic savagery committed by me just like ourselves upon innocents.

If anger and inhumanity still dwelt in the minds of veterans or families in attendance here... I did not sense it. What I did feel was the obvious genuine sense of grief, loss and deep sadness that I read on all faces around me. It seems incredulous and unthinkable  to me that any one of us could venture forth to take up arms ever again.

And yet, I witnessed with my very own eyes young men carrying automatic weapons... more fierce even than the weaponry that young men were given to bear in previous conflict(s). I watched... and heard applause as these young men and women "cadets" barely in their teens paraded proudly past us. They were already being groomed to assume their role as "cannon fodder"... sacrificial lambs .

These were the sons and daughters of the past for whom we all grieve here. What happened to those Words of Remembrance that we all rehearsed? The meaning of those words seem so shallow to me today:

"At the going down of the sun EACH day... we will remember them."

And on the very heels of these same words come another mouthed and h
ollow grouping...

"Lest we forget."

For many years I brought my classes here to stand with me... to learn by watching what that gift was to me. The Poem Flanders Field was read on this Remembrance Day by Michael Trussell, What a gift it was to me to know that we had shared that very same poem in my Grade Eight Class so many years ago... when we were both younger.

Here we are some fifty years later... Remembering... and sharing that very Peace that our fathers, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles and neighbours had laid their lives down for. I guess that there remains
Hope...   through Faith

The torch be yours to hold it high..
If ye break faith with us who died, 
We shall not sleep
Though poppies grow
In Flanders fields

Captain Matthew Dawe - killed on July 7th, 2007 while serving with the Princess Patricia Light Infantry in Afghanistan

Last Post - Gone now is my dear Friend and Mentor Jack Shepherd, Korean War Veteran to join comrades-in-arms

                                                 "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?"

                            My small painting gifted to the wife and son of Matt Dawe
                                                on behalf of our Sherman Family

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Celebrating Allie... October 20th , 2018

I have struggled for a couple of weeks... trying to prepare myself for this emotionally charged day in October... the most difficult day we as a family face together. had (falsely and prematurely believed) that I had reached a level of comfort and acceptance in regards to our loss of this shining star in our Universe. So I returned to my therapy and have begun to renew my vigour and courage. I now... more than ever accept the fact that this struggle will be a lifelong one.

For several days I tried to begin a new painting to assist this passage. None have appeared to date. I played around with thoughts and ideas in my head and then sat down at this keyboard to collect my thoughts in an orderly fashion in a new post... to perhaps support these thoughts with previous painting themes that Allison and I had enjoyed together.

I decided to course through the many cards and gifts from friends that have gathered here n my studio. Some hit the mark... sort of... but I came to a realization when I found these two tributes that I needn't look any further. I would use Allison's own words to share with you rather than my own.

So these are from her when she was valiantly at war with that wretched disease. I hope that you discover a renewed strength and purpose in your own life... as I have ... driven by her wisdom and fearless passage into whatever comes next.

                                                        Allie and Venice... forever one!

Yesterday was her official birthday... Saturday, October 20th. We would have celebrated her39th birthday together, so we decided to gather in Kingston at the ginkgo tree that several of her grad students had planted to honour her life.

These jpegs record that celebration by her family and friends in the Kingston area.

                                                    Mom and Dad... till her biggest fans.

Dawn, Allie's secretary and friend at Queen's... Mom... Deb and Andale McTavish, wife of Allies'                                                                            Grad supervisor

                                                     Happy 39th Birthday Sweet Heart!

No celebration would be complete ... without Allie's beloved lifetime friend, Winnie the Pooh in attendance

Throughout most of my adult life I falsely believed that parents were given the responsibility to "educate" their children. As a teacher, I continued to foster that belief. It is only through my journey with Allie... even in its darkest moments that I have come to realize how very wrong and misled I had been.

Allison was "an old spirit"... all of us who knew her and came to know her and love her and to understand the depth of her gift as a friend and mentor. She possessed that very rare ability to accomplish  and maintain both. 

The breadth of her knowledge... even at a very young age was something that attracted all ages to her. It was her karma to carry and share that gift of love and knowledge throughout a very short lifetime...  measured in years. But I will share this quote that she embraced from the Sufi mystic, Rumi. I feel it is a good place to stop and to wish all of you ... Happy Fall and rich Blessings from the Sherman Family.

" I learned that every mortal will taste death.But only some will taste life."
                                                                                      - Rumi

Saturday, October 6, 2018

"Count your blessings... Name them one by one..."

I specifically chose the group of words to introduce today's post. I did so because I feel they certainly reflect the true spirit of our celebration of Thanksgiving. Harvest has always been the perfect time to give thanks. Simply because it is at that time in the year when there is plenty. The cruelness of the winter cold is yet distant. Even in earliest times, the harvest bounty cultivated a sense of gratitude in all people for the smallest of blessings in life.

Those same words used in the title form the first line in a Thanksgiving hymn that we sang as a family with the rest of a then small Mormon congregation in a tiny rented place of worship. That congregation has since grown in strength and numbers substantially. Their meeting place has grown into a beautiful place of worship. The blessings that have been bestowed upon them as "believers" have arrived out of their own hard work and commitment. I will add the word Faith to further support the reason for the blessings that they have received.

The next line in that same hymn of Thanksgiving reads as follows:

"Count your blessings... see what God has done."

I suppose it might seem strange to many... that I can still believe in a God...  who many might think has turned his back on the prayers of our cancer-stricken daughter and our our own pleas for His intervention. Not so. We only asked for the courage to endure the painful passage... together ... in continued Faith and Hope....and a belief  in a life beyond this.

On most days Faith supports us in that struggle. But there are days... even weeks when that Faith or belief in anything is tested. I seek solace and direction from therapy. It helps refocus and me and acts as a release from the anger that does build on occasion. For the most part, we feel greatly blessed... blessed to have had such a beautiful spirit in our midst!

I reflect upon the many other blessings in my life to help regain a thankful perspective and outlook in my daily life. Amongst these are my other beautiful children and members of my immediate family. Our circle is indeed a powerful and constant source of pride... love and support. Each one is different and brings to the circle a special spirit and presence. I am grateful for each member. Deb, Joan, Lisa, Andrew, Melissa, Liam and Bryn. Sprinkle into the main company additional new members... our combined grandchildren and a company of loyal lifetime friends.

We are indeed... very blessed.


The Queen's University Quarterly is a respected literary publication which is devoted to "the best things Canadian". It features articles by prominent Canadian writers based upon politics, literature, science and the Arts, as well as poetry and fiction. It combines skillfully written articles with artfully photographed images to visually enhance the contents. I am now truthfully embarrassed to admit that I had never read the publication... even though I am an alumnus and had seen it many times before offered in the good bookstores that we frequent.

Only by chance alone on Friday, I bumped into an artist friend while shopping for Thanksgiving dinner items. Our chat stretched out into a lengthy conversation.. and during that time Michael asked me if I had read the current issue of the Queen's Quarterly. I smugly offered that I had never felt any need or compulsion to read that "high brow" periodical.

He immediately came back with,"Well you should read this one. There is a dedication to Allison in it." He further offered to drop by an extra copy he had on hand so that we could avail ourselves of the opportunity to read it . This morning, he dropped by for a coffee and left us a copy. After reading it...  I now realized that I completely misread and misjudged the value of this periodical. At $6.50 per issue, I will be aboard for all future issues... and not just because of the tribute to Allison.

Never turn a deaf ear to the Universe's offerings. Here was an unexpected blessing from the Universe... delivered via Michael. It suddenly became a much needed lift in my spirits heading into an otherwise bleak and emptyThanksgiving celebration... minus our lovely spirit Allison.

I wish to acknowledge this beautiful tribute to Allison by Anne Koval - curator, art writer, art historian, and poet. She is currently a professor of art history at Mount Allison University. Her credits are too numerous to list here , but can be found on p.432 in her article : Evan Penny: Ask Your Body (his exhibition piece at the 2017 Venice Biennale).

Check out the Queen's Quarterly - well worth he $6.50 and time  taken!

"This review is in the memory of Dr Allison Sherman, a brilliant and much-loved art historian , professor, and coordinator of Queen's University' s Summer School. She is fondly remembered for her sage advice to hug a column whenever the opportunity arises."

Death and its Darkness seems much less the victor... when the warmth and the Light embodied within this remembrance of her life and contributions is taken into account.

"She" and her life DID matter... to so many. We are greatly blessed....

I love you FOREVER Jemima!

I thought that I would conclude this post with a small collection of my favourite Fall images. In looking back over these I realize that each one does indeed capture  a chunk of my own time and the journey that I have made. Please enjoy... and

Happy Thanksgiving to ALL!!

"Les Couleurs d'Automne" - oil on canvas 30 x 24 inches

"Simple Blessings "

"Autumn Tumbles In"- Algonquin Park 

"Fall Reflections" Algonquin Park - 8 x 10 inches

"Bounteous Blessings" - oil on canvas 30 x 24 inches

"Fall's Symphony" - oil on canvas 48 x 36 inches

"Merrily... Merrily... Life is But a Dream" - oil on canvas 30 x 24 inches

"Autumn's Glow" - oil on canvas 16 x 20 inches

"The Dimming of the Day" -  White's Falls - oil on canvas 30 x 24 inches

" The Real Canadian Idylls- Kananaskis " - oil on canvas 48 x 36 inches

Tuesday, September 25, 2018


The meanings for the word change within the dictionary are dramatically variable. In its broadest sense, change can be said to be the act of becoming different and that can apply to almost anything observable. People become different through change. Seasons certainly change and the landscape shouts out clearly that a change is in the air. Both people and seasons can appear different by simply changing their dress. That is the case at the moment. Both will change out of necessity and simultaneously... as fall moves towards the cold of winter. This is all a part of  a natural cycle... so it does not totally come as a complete surprise.

However... there are parts of life that demand change that cannot be predicted or anticipated. Adaptation to those changes is not simple and in fact... can be very painful. The adaptation most likely will be long lasting.

Loss as an example... and therefore the process of change that is absolutely necessary to navigate the process of grieving often requires the expertise and skilled support of a neutral party... a therapist. I am indeed fortunate to have such resource... and I have returned to her seeking more support because I felt myself losing ground that I had fought hard to gain when Allie first passed away.

We have just completed our second meeting in our second round of counselling. I already feel much more relaxed and confident.The first session really was just reviewing what the basic elements of change were that we put in place for our first go around earlier on. Both she and I agreed that painting outdoors was cathartic and healing for me. As well... my blogging offered a  vehicle to organize and express my thoughts and ideas. So here I am... back in the saddle again!

I started the process of readying myself for the task by cleaning up my studio space and preparing my painting equipment to engage in a plein air outing. My drifting away, or even my bravado/ego had falsely led me to think that I had the bronco tamed. Not so!

But I did persevere and face the dragon. Today's combination of writing and painting... I think bear that out both in words and in paint. What I decided to focus upon was that change begins... and ends with me.What do you think?

I wonder...

My world recorded here within this piece of prose best describes the changes that have once again begun to change the world in which I live. Being blessed to have this visual feast to enjoy once again really did lift my spirits and (almost) fill my empty heart. Perhaps my words will do the same for you if you too are struggling in your life.

Autumnal Changes in Late September

The sumac is now starting to blush
Migrating turkey vultures soar
Effortlessly, and endlessly overhead
One leering eye transfixed upon on the living, 
The other...
Always searching hungrily for the dead.
Geese are noisily gathering...
Honked farewells nearly said.

Morning mists and river spirits
Have begun their feathery rising
And Dawn... arrives too late it seems
Struggling to awaken
The creatures she reigns over
Who feel somewhat forsaken
Unnerved and bewildered
By the absence of the light too soon stolen away.

                     On location at Poole's Island, Thousand Islands Parkway east of Rockport

"Summer 2018... Slip-slidin' Away"
Oil on canvas - 11x14 inches

                                                  Happy Fall Painting and Blessings ... to ALL!!!

Monday, September 10, 2018

September's Song

My unusually lengthy absence from the blog is not due to a lack of interest. Nor has it been for the lack of things that I longed to say. Rather... it was because summer 2018 became the confluence for me of a number of personal and business decisions which demanded my fullest attention and unfortunately pulled me away from everything creative and.. including my painting.

Some of those issues resolved themselves quickly, but others remain that have still to be dealt with patiently and in concert with Deb before they can be fully addressed. Let's just leave it at  ... we have a "work in progress" that demands that we pay attention and that we be patient. But necessary changes are on the horizon!

Stay tuned... 

Change is what September is always about. It is especially a time of seasonal transition obvious in all areas of the Natural World. Summer has simply lost its sizzle... and its verdant greens give way to ripening yellows and golds. Animal and bird activity has stepped up dramatically. Gathering and training exercises for the young are in full swing. There is a smell in the air... and a freshening kiss on one's cheek that strikes an undeniable chord that summer's reign has come to an end. These are but the first notes in the fanfare which signals the beginning of September's Song.

The month is a wistful and melancholic moment for all River Folk. It is that annual time for goodbyes and as we age...new questions pose the uncertainties of another arrival of spring. We who love the river feel it. I did this week as we shared one last meal and said our final goodbyes to two very close families.

I have painted one or two special paintings which I believe translate these soulful feelings into paint. I would like to share them with you at this time. I'm sure that they will strike a common chord in your heart too. Such feelings are universals in life.

                                            "September Song"- oil on canvas 10 12 inches

This smallish painting has been a popular greeting card choice. It is a plein air sketch which I feel captures the forlorn reminders of that idyllic and laid back period when vacationing families swam, fished and tanned away the seemingly endless and heady days of summer.

Sunny blue skies suddenly gave way to heavy and threatening clouds... which were all too eager to dump their endless buckets of cold rain. Tepid breezes and zephyrs were replaced overnight by gusting winds and sheeting fronts of unpredictable foul weather.

Once active cottages once  filled with activity and joy, now simply await final closing. Boats will be tended to and set away into winter storage safely from the perils of river ice until a distant next summer. I think that the composition and depth help emphasize the sense of longing and sadness as well as the distinct feeling of distance into time.

                                             "River Vesper" - oil on canvas 30 x 24 inches

A different space on the river for certain... but everything otherwise faithfully portrays the same September changes and reflective mood.

And finally... there is Allison's portrait. Perhaps more of the essence of what motivated me to undertake this composition to celebrate her too brief journey in my own unique way. Perhaps the inclusion of this work in the post suggests a new reason for feeling wistful... even sad and longing for something that has now irretrievable slipped away in life's relentless current.

Hmmmm.... I wonder.

I would like to conclude this post with a song...an old standard in our Sherman house. This song has been creatively covered by so many icons from every musical genre since its compositional creation by Kurt Weill and lyrics by Maxwell Anderson for Broadway. My two favourite covers are by Willie Nelson and Aretha Fitzgerald.

I will place Aretha in the spotlight today to celebrate her life and recent passing. It is impeccably Queen Aretha and so suits our listening to every word and note.

I truly hope that you will  read and listen in to the post. So much beauty and wisdom in one song... in such a small musical measure of time.

Enjoy! Glad to be back.  Rich blessings ... and Good  Autumn Painting to ALL!!

Friday, July 20, 2018

Don't Fence Me In...

Each summer, I encourage a wild swat of milkweed to root itself safely down the entire length of our entrance way to the gallery. Each year it increases in its numbers and density and in so doing... it attracts and encourages different types of butterflies to visit during each day in the summer.

The road crews nearly everywhere clear cut all milkweed and other wildflowers from along Ontario roadsides and highways. In so doing, they are unwittingly removing plants that allow bees to pollinate and with milkweed... they remove the sole plant upon which endangered monarch butterflies will lay their eggs for incubation.

According to a Toronto Hospital Fundraising brochure claim..."Each year, monarch butterflies across North America make the expedition from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico. This 3,000 kilometre journey signifies the butterflies strength and perseverance and is a beautiful symbol of determination and courage."

It seems easy to explain why each of us in our family relate the Monarch's journey and the characteristics of this remarkable insect when we think of our daughter Allison's journey to battle with breast cancer. Several of her friends joined her mother Joan to release live monarchs to carry out their journey as a tribute to Allie's unkind and untimely leaving to go to a place that we can never hope to visit with her.

In my own case, I seek to create a natural free resting space for those that find their way to me on their long migration. Strangely enough, I have one mischievous fellow who visits every
day, who takes joy out of teasing me... as I try to catch her image with my camera. That game of hide-and-go-seek is not restricted to the patch itself. From time to time, she tries ... it seems to tease me out of the gallery to rejoin the game.

The tease finally captured... momentarily...

                          Another bewitchingly beautiful gossamer playmate... the swallowtail

Aside for the feeling of closeness that I feel to Allison... I am gobsmacked by the fragrant gift of the patch's perfume... gift enough for my efforts. But the total overall joy this wee space affords me is more than enough payment for my attention and effort.

The life cycle of this beautiful creature of Nature chronicles the distinct stages of its life cycle in a very visible fashion. I records the brevity of life itself... but the contribution that each butterfly makes during its limited lifespan. Each life does matter...

I will end this post with words that are not mine... but for certain they speak of the deep feelings of Faith and Hope that these winged creatures inject into my life.

One Day Butterflies

Aren't we all one day butterflies
not aware of time.
Searching for partners or honey
until Death kisses us.
Then in his arms, tenderly rocked
waiting for a new chance to fly away again
and join the dance
of the one day butterfly.

And to these wonderfully expressive words and lines I choose to add a painting which offers a similar message.

                                        "Don't Fence Me In" - oil on panel  24 x 20 inches

                                                                Dare to dream
                                                                              outside of the box
                                                     that causes so many to fall short
                                                                of greater things.
                                                                              Reach out and risk flying
                                                                  To Discover
                                                                               true Joy and Happiness
                                                          Which only the complete
                                                                                       Freedom to fly

                                                                        Soar onward... fearlessly!

                                         Good Summer Painting... and rich Blessings ... to ALL! 

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Gone fishin' !

Prelude to Summer

I have been struggling lately with my Muse... and for the longest time ... she was winning. I seemed to be operating at a stand still. The usual fare that I dish out seemed irrelevant. Even the landscape that I love no longer spoke to me as it customarily does. I lacked direction and purpose.

I customarily listen to CBC radio when I travel about... I find music soothing and the radio hosts... both male and female interesting and intelligent to share time... and ideas with. Simply put... they encourage thoughtfulness... and common sense thinking - a very rare commodity these days within so much of other media or government sources.

I owe the much-delayed occurrence of today's post to such a morning sharing/collaboration! I simply decided to "go fishin" - just do something [different]... for my"Self". Over a few days of "truancy"... here's what transpired. I snagged a "golden opportunity" to explore new ground.

River Boy and his golden catch!

Yellow Perch anyone???

Surprised????... Certainly not something that you... (or I) might have attributed as my subject matter or focus. It did please me to come away refreshed and once again focused. It too, carried my memories from out of my deep past here on the river... days when I hurried at first light down to dip a worm into the sheltered waters of that weathered white clapboard boathouse.

There in that place, I spent hours peering in great anticipation as schools of yellow perch scurried to snare my bait. It became a daily tactical encounter to entice the bigger perch to bite... before the fry cheated them of a meal... and me of the thrill of the capture. By gone days... and little boy ways!

This activity would repeat itself each and every morning of the two weeks that we rented this cottage at the Narrows Lane Road. It would set me out on a path of adventure of many fishing trips and a lifetime of many hours of endless pleasure... never mind the feeds of freshly fried perch.

If nothing else... this simply-for-fun project pays homage to that now completed chapter of my river life. Hmm... maybe a novel in the wings of my consciousness???

I wonder...

"Summer breeze... makes me feel fine..."

I began this post several days ago with the fullest of intentions and adequate preparation to carry out the task. And then... out of no where a suffocating blanket of summer heat and humidity descended upon all of Eastern Ontario, including the Thousand Islands region where we live.

We are blessed to live in this region of usually predictable weather patterns... especially during the summer. The winter comes with deep cold and snow, but as Canadians... we grow up with... and accept this fact. It is even a part of our unique cultural heritage. Activity and holiday celebrations during this season are built around the cold.

Here... at this juncture in my fish tale lies the necessity to further explain my delay in posting. The deep heat and humidity truly cripples my creative spirit and activity levels. It simply makes me feel ill. Earlier in life I regularly painted out in such conditions happily and productively... and often not even in shaded conditions. I am paying for that earlier indiscretion... BIG time now.... "Silly 'ol bear,"

Just prior to this deep heat wave.... my thoughts swept through events drawn from my early youth and the many idyllic hours of summer fun and life on the River. My most memorable experiences are usually tied into multi-sensory influences/perceptions blended with activities which relate exclusively to summer.

The smell of rain striking the sizzling hot pavement  is one such strong and reoccurring memory. Another is the feel of a soft summer zephyr ever so gently kissing my cheek. Neither sensation is linked to any other season. Both of these powerful memory inducers denote S-u-m-m-e-r...

These powerfully summer reminders link up with music and seem to possess the ability to turn the pages of one's life journal to exact "pages"... including places... dates... activities and specific people. This occurrence also displays the ability to link those sharing the same experience... creating an unbreakable bond between them. These songs become unquenchable and intoxicating anthems that we all share.

"Pass the bottle... Amigo!"

Where were you during the summer of 1972... when Seals and Crofts recorded their iconic summer anthem "Summer Breeze"? This summer anthem like so many pieces of music that get deposited into our memory banks along our separate journeys seem almost to link us together magically for the remainder of our lives.

Timeless they seem ... perhaps nudged forward into the present by a smell... a sound... or a sight that keeps repeating as a each new summer emerges.

It was only this past week while I was making my way to Lansdowne to do grocery chores that my constant radio CBC companion conveniently belted out "Summer Breeze". I was immediately transported back to 1972.

"It was a very good year"- a memorable summer for me.

Have you had the experience of having a song enter into your psyche... and having difficulty getting it to leave? It plays... over and over, despite many and conscious attempts to set it aside. It simply won't leave. Until it's suddenly vanishes without warning... as mysteriously as it appeared. 

Before the heat wave swept in so viciously in the week earlier, those sweet summer caresses followed a similarly rapid fire pattern. Summer breezes seemed to follow me everywhere I went. 

I apologize for the delay in posting... but life does get in the way at times. So I offer the "fishy excuse... and a YouTube sharing. Along with these, I include a very BIG and combined greeting to both sides of the River:

      HAPPY FOURTH... 
                    and CANADA DAY ...                             
              HAPPY SUMMER...

                              TO ALL!!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

My Art... Is my Armor

My life... like everyone's has had its fair share of challenges... disappointments and losses. I would offer that in each case, I have always felt able to "right my ship" and recover through involving myself in my art. I have always felt that the process of creating art was therapeutic... even healing on many levels for me. There is unquestionably a deeply spiritual and meditative connection within me that permits me to "slip the surly bonds of earth"... and to rise up.

Just this week our family were invited to be part of an unveiling of one of my larger Venetian oil paintings by the Art History Department at Queen's University. I had previously gifted the painting to be unveiled on this occasion to my now deceased daughter Allison. It had hung in her office at the university until shortly before her passing.

Shortly after her death, the Art History Department had inquired about the possibility of their acquiring it. Their intent was to have it hung in the graduates' lounge where it could remain as a constant reminder of Allison's presence in the very place where she had spent most of her academic life.

At the end of her academic career at Queen's she was acting chairman/counsellor for new graduate students in Art History coming to pursue their studies at Queen's. As well, she organized and taught at the Venice Summer School Program conducted in Venice, Italy. So it seemed to me appropriate that it should be returned to that space permanently.

The event was such an appropriate and moving tribute and honor hosted by the University. The fact that it was held in the lounge immediately following the convocation of her final Phd students made it all the more special. The gathering drew together several of these students along with several of Allison's teaching mentors and peers... our family members and a few selected close friends.

Several of us were invited to speak after the actual unveiling. Following the ceremony refreshments and  more conversations and fellowship followed. The day recognized and spoke of the power of Allison's generous gifts... and her continuing presence in our lives. I truly felt her presence...

The use of one of my paintings in such a setting and in such a fashion where it would continue to serve as a reminder of Allison's presence and accomplishments offered me the greatest feeling of satisfaction and pure Joy. This is an example of how such an instance and involvement of my art cloaks my spirit in a sort of of armor. I departed from this occasion uplifted and deeply proud that my art and Allison's gift became one... that it was entwined with her love of Venice.

                              "La Serenissima (The Serene) at the Molo, Venice" - oil on canvas 36x36 inches

Joan and I along with the painting and plaque dedicated to Allison's Memory and contributions

                               Allie's Family... her loving Brother Andrew and Mom and Dad

Armor... and Allies

I wish to conclude this late posting by dedicating this post to an artist friend in recognition of her generously unbelievable "Heart" gifts to our family. Though I have yet to actually meet her face-to-face, my blogging friend Suzanne Berry and I have shared  a rare friendship and spiritual connection.

Shortly after I completed my portrait of Allison and from out of nowhere...  Suz reached out to me and asked if she might "have the honor of painting a portrait of Allison as a child or young girl. " I conferred with Joan and we selected five pictures of Allison that we particularly loved.

A short three weeks later, a parcel landed on my doorstep from Suzanne which contained... TWO equally magnificent and touching portraits of Allison... one for each of us. What she was able to capture twice over... was the very essence of what Allison was throughout her life - inquisitive... searching... reflective and ever in touch with the world that she loved and lived in so fully.

                                               "Allison's Garden" - canvas 18x24 inches

                                                        "Little Dancer" - 24x18 inches

I will leave you to arrive at your own conclusions to enjoy as we do... the gift with which Suzanne was able to produce in each of these two painting portrait masterpieces. The nuances of tone... and the reality of each as she designed it... flawless and intuitively brilliant!

Joan fell in love with "Little Dancer"... and I was more than happy and satisfied to have Allison in her Garden to live with me...

I salute the magnificence of your painting skills and gifts Suz. But even more... I reach out respectfully and with love to you for the generosity and caring that you have offered our family. Rich blessings... to you always! Our deepest thanks!!!

Love and Hugs,

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Love Points the Way...

                                                                   "How Sweet  it... was!"

Allie and Joan hand feeding the Chickadees at The Cataraqui Conservation Sugar bush Festival on April 4th, 2015.

Navigating the First Anniversary of Allison's Passing - April 26th, 2018

Strange... how that thief mourning bears down on and overtakes one with little or no prior warning.
We just passed through the much-dreaded first anniversary on April 26th and seemed to have weathered that dreaded day.

We created a diversion to bypass that sad marker by creating a festive dinner party for twenty of Allison's Family members... closest friends and Queen's University peers. The Olivera Ristorante in Kingston was chosen because (according to Allison)... "It was the only @#$*ing place in Kingston that knew how to make pasta... the Italian way."

And as the event played out... she was right. Everything... including the weather was perfect and the setting on Market Square was beautifully and tastefully decorated to match the wonderful food and friendly, efficient service. The room was filled with laughter and Allie's presence could certainly be felt everywhere around the table. The "Curator of Friendship" worked her magic... so that each of us attending left the restaurant feeling uplifted. The laughter and smiling said it all!

Navigating... exactly describes our intent to mark this important last moment in Allison's beautiful earthly existence. The word bittersweet comes immediately to mind, but to me the word has always extended the opportunity for personal choice. Choosing to accentuate the sweet more closely fits the timbre that Allie herself would demand of us.

As I looked around the long table... watching and listening, my mind (as always) injects art and symbolism. It struck me... how much like da Vinci's famous "Last Supper" painting that this gathering resembled that event. The interaction at our event was hardly choreographed... and at times sounded rather chaotic. But the presence of various conversations... around a central figure made me smile... "The Curator of Friendship"... was certainly centrally present!

Love did  indeed point the way... away from pain towards  Joy!... which meant celebrating Mother's Day in a slightly different way. I did indeed make my annual visit to my Mom and Dad's final resting place in Brockville on Saturday evening to spend time and place flowers of remembrance and gratitude.

On Sunday, Deb and I had agreed to drive to Kingston and to share our own personal Mother's Day with Joan. We treated Joan to an early brunch at a downtown eatery, Peter's Place and then drove to Allison's commemorative ginkgo tree to hang decs and to place a beautiful cluster of bright pink gerbera daisies.

This year, celebrating meant enjoining our separate celebrations to become one and I believe that like our anniversary acknowledgement in April... "being together"... made the sense of loss less heavy when three hearts shared the burden and added uplifting laughter and happy notes of remembrance.

                                          "Preserving Spring..." - oil on panel 12 x 10 inches

When the children were very young we shared magical moments and interludes with Mr. (Fred) Rogers. While many thought his program "too childish" and without the excitement and drama of the popular action figures of the period... Allison and Andrew... and I revelled in the precious moments of safety and wisdom that we recognized as "special"... even then.

Trolley, King Friday, Lady Evelyn and Mr. McFeely taught us things about ourselves and others that have shaped our actions and guided our hearts right into adulthood. Joan has graciously shared two "Fred" books that she had gifted Allison with in recent years. The magic of those early years remains... in every page that I read.

I would like to share one passage from the smallish book "The World According to Mister Rogers - Important Things to Remember" with you in concluding today's post. It seems so relevant.

"I believe it's a fact of life that what we have is less important than what we make out of what we have. The same holds true for families: It's not how many people there are in a family that counts, but rather the feelings among the people who are there."

During the course of family life, each of us comes face-to-face with the loss of family members. Those losses can be devastating to an individual member... and even to the health and well-being of the entire group.

If we can but remember... that each of us accepts and integrates loss in our own unique way... and that if we can keep our hands joined in love and supportive understanding....

Love will indeed... point the way
Safely through the grief and darkness
And back into the Light.

I am deeply blessed...

Thursday, April 26, 2018

"Believe in MIracles"... and I do!

One year ago today our lovely daughter Allison Morgan was too suddenly carried off by the ravaging beast - breast cancer. All of her courage and determination could not stave off the relentless and savage attack upon her entire body.

There was little doubt that this heinous killer of too many young women did in fact achieve its goal to rob her of her health and her right to live out her already celebrated achievements. But what it could not claim... was any victory over her indomitable spirit and will to live. She maintained that right up to the very end.

Her courage and determination continues to fuel courage and possibility for each of us who knew her... loved her and respected her intellect and bravery. I get up and go ahead each day... determined to carry out the life she expected me to finish in her stead. I paint... therefore... "I am."

"Winter's Sweet Surrender" says so much about the grace and dignity Allie maintained during her valiant struggle. The coldness of Death has been overcome. What is left is the rich and lasting afterglow... signalling the possibility of Spring... ans Summer.

We shared the grandeur of Nature... the beauty of Fine Art... but never more than the art and Architecture of her beloved Venice. We shared something else which continues to bridge even the abyss of Darkness and Death. We shared an unwillingness to give up the miracle of childhood. We forged ahead in an adult world... attending to the necessary duties of daily life that come with "growing up."

But we always found time to bring out the "Child Within"... and to play together. She was never ashamed of her childhood toys... her Friends right up till the end of her life. Her Friends were with her at each convocation to accompany her to receive her diplomas. They were all gathered about her in her "sick bay" nest.

                                                                   Age Four... with Piggy

                                                          Ella in tux and Al graduate at Queen's

She and I shared a deep and abiding love of the Muppets... and in particular Ms. Pig her alter ego while I assumed that of Kermie. It was a match made in heaven... one which remains to this very moment. I miss that Pig that could turn on you and then kiss you in one foul swoop! It was magical!

In closing out this post today... I wish to say that our family is meeting and throwing an evening for eighteen of Allison's art associates at her fav pasta joint tomorrow evening. Bro' Andrew and family are coming to be with us here at the Rock for the weekend. Lots of laughs... good Italian food... and of course,we'll be tipping glasses of Allie's Prosecco to toast her.

I think she will be strongly present in spirits... smiling down upon us from somewhere over our rainbow...

I wish to share something very,very personal with each of you that Allie and I shared and believed in. I think that there is a message for us all  in it... not just for children. As a child... she "understood" even then. She was an ..."old spirit."

                                                  A very early Allie and Dad "Art-i-fact!"

Rich blessings to ALL!

I love you FOREVER Sweet Heart!