Archive for the ‘pleasures’ Category

Farmer’s Market

August 16, 2016

A block’s walk from my apartment is the venue of our local Farmer’s Market. It houses an odd mixture of vendors’ stalls – vegetable growers, artisanal sausage makers, pie makers, garlic growers, purveyors of hand-made soaps, macaroons, jams, sauces and condiments, crafters of dubious quality hand-strung jewelry, bannock frying natives, hand crocheters and knitters who use really nasty acrylic yarns of ghastly colour combinations, the occasional potter and local amateur painters of  picturesque dabblings. The prices are exorbitant. Anyhow much of what is on offer is a bit too pricey for my wallet, or would be, were it not for the coupon program for low income seniors and families, of which I count as one. So, I do not flinch too much when asked to hand over $4 for a knob of Russian.  garlic or $3 for a couple of medium sized tomatoes. There is a $6 allotment for meat weekly included in the coupons, but a package of four artisanal sausages comes priced at $9, so every other week a purchase of one package is manageable. Otherwise, one might purchase a precooked sausage on a stick for $5. A 3 oz. piece of Sockeye salmon is priced at @ $17, so that is a market I find myself reluctant to frequent.

I do find the vegetables of such excellent quality that the act of eating freshly picked and fully at optimum ripeness produce is a tremendous pleasure. The weekly coupons are a welcome gift!

Last Saturday, my favourite vegetable vendor had two generous sized Vegetable Marrows left over at the end of market. Every August I am always on the hunt for these. They are not commonly grown  or seldom available in our little city as most people don’t know how to cook them. The vendeuse, Flor, asked me what they were, as this was the first year she tried growing them. Casting my eye around her booth, I collected an onion and a clump of fresh dill. As I handed over $6 worth of coupons to purchase the marrows, onion and dill, I explaine how I was going to prepare them fro my special feast for that evening’s meal. “Heavenly it will be!” I told her. She replied that she was wanting to ty that dish, as it sounded so simple to prepare.

Here is my grandmother’s recipe for Hungarian Tokfozelek (missing the umlaut and accent ague)

1 Medium Vegetable marrow – halved lengthwise, seeded and peeled. Cut each half into thin slices across the width, set in a colander, sprinkle with salt to release excess water in the flesh. Set aside for 20 minutes.

1 Peel and finely slice one medium onion.  Saute in butter over medium heat. While onion is softening, squeeze excess water from the sliced marrows, and add them to the transparent softened onions.  Stir, cover pan and lower temperature slightly. Stir several times over 10 minutes.

3 Meanwhile chop about a handful of dill fronds, toss into onion and marrow, stir and keep cooking.

4  measure out 3/4 cups of sour cream , add to the vegetables, stir in, grind on salt and pepper, let heat to steaming.

5 Sprinkle with Sweet or Hot Hungarian Paprika.  Serve with bread, chicken, sausage ,or pork steaks.  A green salad on the side completes this feast.

I often just eat this vegetable side dish by itself, if I have eaten my daily meat alottment already.

Seasonal abundance

December 25, 2015

I sit here, in early afternoon on Christmas day, still in my fuzzy flannels and cozy indoor socks, thinking of the ongoing abundance in my life, of loved ones, old friends and new  and wish for every one of you who read this to enjoy the same sensations of satisfaction of what your life has been, is and continues to be.

On listening to Rimsky-Korsakov…

September 14, 2012

Yesterday, Martha, who is disassembling her life here and moving to London, brought me a plasti-bag full of music CDs she is de-accessioning. “Keep what you want,” she said.  “Most of these are from a time when I was trying to develop a taste for classical music, but no longer play regularly.” In spite my promise to myself to acquire no more possessions, on studying the labels of each CD, and what composer and piece of music was exampled on the different discs, these gifts from Martha seemed appropriate to where my head and heart are these days, reveling in memory, revisiting long-assumed to be dormant pleasures of sensory nature. Perhaps because it is September, a treasured time of the year for me, when memory causes me to anticipate the joys of this season, that aides memoires such as the sound of winds in the late afternoons, and specific passages of sound make me revel in being alive.

So, I popped onto my player the Scheherezade of Rimsky-Korsakov as I prepared hot water and vinegar with which to wash the tile floors in my apartment. I should know myself better by now, because, all of my life I have been unable to multi-task, especially when music is a component of what must compete for attention. After hearing about the fourth bar of the overture, I collapsed into a heap on the couch, dripping scrubbing cloth clutched in my hand – and all ears.

Memories arose, unbidden.  Of kneeling on the floor in my childhood home, right next to the radio, of a late September dusk, Anyu and Apu sitting close-by in the scuffed leather chairs, Idiko perched on the piano bench, all of us silent as Scheherazade piped through the cloth covering the radio speaker.  A few years later, coming home alone  in the afternoon from Catholic school in Kingston, after parting from Ildiko at the church where she had her daily piano practice session, letting myself into the empty brownstone parlour and for company putting on the Rimsky-Korsakov record which had arrived as donation in a box of household goods from our church. On hearing the second movement, my eyes filled with tears of gratitude in the memory of how that music had helped me then assuage feelings of nostalgia for my lost homeland, and how it had kept me wonderful company when I was feeling particularly alone.

After an unexpected lassitude overcame me, my thoughts strayed to doing guided meditation sessions while recovering from Leukemia treatment, which involved the therapist verbalizing a scenario in a soothing voice – so sound and meaning implied by word content and context was able to transport one beyond quotidian concerns into a place of respite. That fleeting moment of puzzlement was replaced by a sense memory of holding my new-born son and a reminder of the special place of safety and oneness a mother and infant shared moment can be.

At some points in the music the sound made me experience temperature change, taste sensations, colour variations and the texture of varied fabrics.  Sinewy arabesque threads wound along the lines of melody Instrument sounds implied tapestries woven of different weight and colours of fibres. A taste of fresh figs, honey, acrid sweetness of plums vied with pungently spiced  taste tidbits, the texture of roasted almonds. I was awash in sensations.

Sudden silence when the music stopped brought me back to the clammy touch of the cool washrag in my hand, the sunlight streaming through the windows, the sound of wind teasing through the aspens outside. The noises of nearby construction re-asserted itself. My tile floors remained uncleaned, but after relaxing in my newfound sense of comfort and pleasure, I tackled that chore with a vigour which surprised me.

I do wonder though, do creators of works of art ever comprehend the effect of their creations, because they are ever varied, and largely unpredictable. But the riches bestowed on the individual appreciator are thousand-fold.  Was Scheherezade an artist? She of the Thousand and One tales, the one Rimsky-Korsakov references as muse, to aid us in reviewing tales of our own, read about, told to us, or directly experienced. Hmmm…

Fussy eaters…

September 7, 2012

Glasgow Girl, my daughter-in-law, is one of the most fussy eaters I have encountered in my lifetime. She will not eat organ meats, or any meats with bone in. One cannot even present to her a dish of cooked meat without bones first removed prior to cooking.  As a result of her predelictions Mousey, also is demonstrating tendencies toward unreasonable fussiness, and it seems this dislike of bone has become one of her peeves as well.

Fussy eaters are made, not born. If one has unlimited choice, the tendency is toward refined, adulterated tastes I expect. Is there anyone out there in blog-land who might share with me great delight in eating the marrow out of soup bones.  This common fare is best served on substantial toasted bread, lightly salted, and is in my opinion absolutely delicious.

Cavemen in early days were the first to discover the delights of cracking the long bones of their killed, roasted meats, and extracting the delicious bounty of cooked marrow. As a modern suburban woman I am finding it increasingly difficult to acquire soup bones.  Poor people in my neighbourhood might utilize a good supply of these to prepare delicious broths as base of soups and stews.  However modern urban people, especially the poor, do not know of this plentiful enriching ingredient, and instead rely on purchasing highly processed, over-packaged and unhealthy junk foods.

It is to me a sad state of affairs, that in these times of seemingly unlimited plenty so many of us have forgotten a most basic rule of making use of every available part of animals we husband as food. As animals, we humans can share the seeming pleasure of dogs in extracting from animal portions every bit of taste and nutrition they might provide There is basic deliciousness in cooked connective tissue, the gelatinous portions, on the ends of soup bones well stewed, in the taste of marrow, the greasiness of which is necessary addition to help process vitamin nutrients from vegetables accompanying our meals. Such simple unfussy enjoyment seems to ba a matter of repeated experience through which taste acceptance is gradually acquired through familarity.

Twenty years ago, I provided room and board to a young native fellow from Kitkatla.  He had been raised on an Northern Island, where much of the foods eaten were obtained by fishing. When he first arrived in my home, he had broughtwith him several big cardboard cartons which smelled intensely of smoked fish.  He explained that his mother was most concerned that he would not have easy access to his favourite snack – dried salmon roe on dried seaweed.  Also in his stash of goodies from home were many cans of home-canned salmon.  He shared some of his roe and seaweed snacks – and they were surprisingly delicious, but foreign tasting to me, and I expressed to him my idea that favourite foods became such through repeated experience, and that sometimes he might not enjoy some of the foods presented to him for suppers. He said, it would be all right, because  his supply of familar foods might help allay his nostalgia for comfortable, familiar fare. And being a very young man of healthy appetite, he openly sampled the variety of foods presented him at meals.  Some he found more to his taste than others, and would gladly verbalize his analyses of flavour impressions. He most definitely wasn’t fussy. I expect this may have been on account of growing up in an environment where food sources were limited, and he did not develop a jaded, world-weary palate.

Too much choice tend to spoil our possible pleasures, I feel.

The Punisher learns the Rumba…

April 25, 2011

I am a camera, a one-eyed one at that with poor depth of field and inability to focus adequately, but still able to make out images although fuzzy, still full of information enough to extrapolate some observations. So during the last Friday Night Social and practice session decided to use the fact that I sat out so many dances and took a look at the crowd who populate these sessions. Incidentally, this opportunity made it possible for me to vicariously learn, in a half-assed fashion, some new dance steps.
The one -hour lesson this evening was beginners rumba. Unusual for this evening was the fact that many more people attended the lession portion of the evening, and they were mostly people of my vintage or older, as well as the usual obsessive dance aficionados who dance up to five nights a week. So this was a good sign, in my estimation. It does not feel so great to be the oldest woman at these occasions.
Robin’s method of doing the lessons is to line the men up in drill fashion and showing them the basic steps upon which variations of the dance are based. Then she corrals all the women and gives us the female versions of the basic steps. Next, she tells us to pair with our partners and has us shuffle around doing the basic stuff together. Having no regular dance partner I was left for “Lounge Lizard” as the only option for a partner. He seemed somewhat reluctant to partner me, so I told him it was my special role as the “Punisher” in dance classes to make men have to do a dancing form of penance. He smiled ever so smoothly and lied through his pearly whites that I was a fast learner and he was happy to partner me.
Of course, I looked around to see how Monique, the attractive librarian who presents herself as mutton dressed as lamb, complete with clinging clothes that show no panty or bra line, and with lush long dyed brown hair she flips flirtatiously at every opportunity, managed to pair herself up. She had limpeted onto Raoul, a handsome Martial Arts instructor, who always looks hot and dances even better than he looks. Need I add, that Raoul looked dashing in matte black, like a dressed down matador. He certainly is a sight for failing old eyes. I am fanning myself as I write this!
Farouk, and early middleaged Iranian man was there struggling to learn the dance with Maura, my artist friend. Poor Farouk is very much in the same position as I am at these dances – we are both mercy partners for others, and the last ones to be selected as practice partners for other dancers, so we often end up dancing together, and we do have a great time schlepping our way around the dance floor alternating with leading each other around. Farouk has the most incandescent face when he smiles and he evinces a pleasure in partnering any woman. Oddly enough, where he seems to have trouble keeping in rhythm with the music with other women, whenever he dances with me he has a certain relaxed flair as we struggle together in some arcane moves on the dance floor. He is relaxed in the same manner with Maura; she and I have decided that this is because he has adopted us as older sister types with whom he needs not be shy or awkward.
Ron and Linda, a lovely Chinese couple in their early seventies, danced up a storm. They both look like delicate wizened children, and are so obviously delighted to be learning to dance together. Linda is always gracious to send Ron over to take his punishment with me on the dance floor. He is sweet and willing, but tends to argue with me over what I am supposed to do with my feet. Mind you, I have noted that he and Linda do get into some rather heated exchanges during lessons where they end up hissing at each other while gesticulating wildly at the floor and demonstrating in turn how each of their steps are to be performed. I strongly suspect that the reason why Linda is willing to lend out her husband to another woman for a turn is so that she can have a reprieve dance with a man who shuts up and just dances!
I did learn basic rumba with “Lounge Lizard” who is much taller than me and takes big steps and has long arms to fling me out far in a turn so that I was left scrambling to get back into the proper clinch position with him. He seemed to relish flinging me around like some sandbag and then dragging me back into the clinch with flair. Oh, well. Guess both of us were getting punished.
It appeared that many of the older couples didn’t seem to enjoy dancing all that much. The deadly serious, earnest, unsmiling expressions hinted at a perhaps enforced presence at this dance. They might have had more fun playing darts at home. However, there was one older couple who were endearing. he is much more fit and healthy than his wife, and dances regularly without her. But here they were at this dance together and he took care that she was dancing at a comfortable pace, rested when she had to, and while they were dancing he gazed and smiled at her with such pleasure. When they didn’t dance, they watched other couples and made little comments to each other as if discussing the finer points of dance as demonstrated by others.
Maura did a great turn with “Lounge Lizard” at a swing number. They looked really great together. Wade, Maura’s boyfriend, put me through the Tango paces without either dropping me onto the floor or being flattened by me whilst doing “La Carpa” which always makes me feel like the Queen Mary being manoeuvred into dock by a pipsqueak tugboat. Farouk’s older brother, a fabulous dancer, undertook to practice a Rumba with me, and I felt good, as if finally I was beginning to catch on. But then, that is what dancing with a strong male lead does so well – it makes the woman into an instantly better dancer.
Before the evening was over, “Lounge Lizard” summoned me to do a Tango with him. We did quite well in spite of our height difference, for several turns around the dance floor, but when he dragged me into the initial “La Carpa” position, I stiffened and announced “No, you, don’t…don’t you dare try this with me…we look silly doing this step together.” So he punished me be making me go through several variations of a weird move where the man nudges the left foot of his partner so she moves in a circle around him, and then finishes with a flourish of Ochos and leg-rubs. It kind of looks like someone nudging their dog’s foot to make him pee on the correctly appointed post. Maybe this move looks sexy when skilled dancers perform it. We must just have looked plainly weird. Not to be daunted, and not particularly caring as to whether I look elegant or skilled ( but looking Okay might do) I took my punishment in good grace and laughed during the essays. “Lounge Lizard” does not like a laughing partner. Too bad.
The Rumba is a most forgiving dance to learn. it is not particularly grueling, nor does it require athleticism or great stamine, or major memorizing of steps to perform at an adequate competence. It was a great lesson for this night’s dance to reintroduce couples who have not danced frequently in recent time to the pleasures of moving to music.

Where do we come from? Who are we? Where are we going?

April 15, 2011

Those eternal questions we all ask of ourselves, everywhere.
My amazing younger sister Margaret has acted on her own questioning of this universal concern with self, origins, connections with previous generations and has undertaken an intensive research of our roots which provides her with much fodder for story telling and passing on what she learns to her daughter, my Mousey, Renaissance Man in order to help them grasp the strings which universally binds us – our present and of who and what we originate from – in a continuum.

Past September, she and our half-brother, Wise Psychologist, who lives and works in Berlin, undertook a journey to Hungary to find the village where our father was born in 1913, and to visit the childhood home of our mother in Buda. We spent many hours on the phone and on-line google searching maps of areas of Hungary, prior to their trip. I was happy to be useful in remembering names of villages and streets, as well as useful architectural memories which might enable them to orient themselves once they were actually in the country and searching out the various sites. It was satisfying to vicariously experience what they encountered on this trip.

Margaret kept in daily e-mail touch, and her commentary made me feel included in their wonder and delight with their discoveries. Margaret is a great photographer, and her pictures enrich and add concrete detail to some of my now faded memories. Of course, much has changed in the 55+ years of my being out of the country – for example, the village roads in Oros are now paved over, whereas when I was there as a child they were compacted dirt. The village church is now painted yellow, whereas, then, it was simply whitewashed. Still, the iconostasis glows with a remembered rich beauty that makes my heart soar.

Our paternal grandfather was a cantor/teacher hired by the diocese, and had previously served in that capacity in a town in Eastern Slovakia, and also in a small town in Romania. Unfortunately, his grave, and the grave of our grandmother were no longer extant, since there was a practice to allow graves a certain time before giving the space to more recently deceased person. However, the parish records and the now-serving priest’s wife helped them locate the exact positioning of those graves.

In Buda, they searched behind the large cathedral to find the childhood home of our mother, and in Pest found the apartment building where our maternal grandmother lived out her life in Communist Hungary.

It was a labour of love for Margaret and Wise Psychologist, as well as an unquenchable curiosity about the places where our family have earlier lived and moved about. Margaret speaks only rudimentary Hungarian, our brother, none at all. So considering this fact, it is a testament to their tenacity that they found so much to share with us here in our home now.

Daily, Margaret calls me to share her latest findings, and the information base grows apace. We can hardly wait until Old Forester comes to stay with me, because then we will be able to plumb his remarkable rich trove of family lore. We plan to lay in the good Hungarian wine and foods he so loves and then prevail upon him to share his memories with which to help somewhat answer those three questions for us. We can hardly wait!

The Conference Workshop with the three amigas…

January 23, 2010

We were as ready to lead the workshop for teachers as any oveprepared presenters might be. In fact, we were so nervous in anticipation we thought we should arrive at the conference venue two hours before our stint was to begin. Then, we found out we could only arrive just an hour prior to star time.
The evening before we went over our materials and equipment checklists, trial ran CDRs on the laptop we were to use and almost added to our burgeoning boxes items we deemed essential for workshop participants to have.
Lee conjectured, “Should we take pencils and pens for the people?”
“Are you kidding me?” I snapped back. “We are not dealing with high school students here. Surely to God no self-respecting teacher would dare turn out to a workshop sans writing equipment!”
I did think having rice-powder on hand for the participants to try out making Kolams and Rangoli was essential, so I busied myself with the trusty Braun coffee grinder and ground up a whack of rancid rice that was about to be heaved into garbage. The jar of rancid rice-powder was large enough to provide coverage of Kolams over a large area of pavement. I didn’t think people would be overwhelmed by the smell of it. Besides which, “waste not, want not” is my motto. Rice Powder, check!
Meanwhile Louise was pasting labels on all items to remain in the teaching kits, and double checking contents. Lee was reorganizing the workshop handouts and making sure all was in order. We did this in the kitchen. Rumpole came home to find the place a disaster zone and kicked his way to the bedroom to change into his grubbies. We finished our labours, drank one more cup of cold tea, loaded our stuff into two cars and parted company with plans to meet up at the Conference place with all our stuff the following morning at 7am. Lee was to pick me up at quarter of seven, practically the crack of dawn.
The morning of, I scrambled around half-asleep after a largely sleepless night, washed, dressed, got the kinks out of my hair and bolted back a couple of cups of coffee. Waited beside Rumpole’s snoozing Hyundai as I waited for Lee to arrive in her red Mustang. Bless that youngster, she had brought me a Starbucks latte. As we drove toward the Conference place Dawn broke over the horizon in a milky iridescent pearl-grey band. The day promised to be mild and dry.
When we arrived at the parking lot, Lee nipped into the building to find a dolly to haul our gear, leaving me to call Louise and let her know exactly where we were parked. Louise arrived just as I was unloading the stuff from the Mustang’s trunk. Soon, Lee returned with the dolly in tow and we loaded the containers on to it and went to find our workshop room.
Luck was on our side. We were booked into a science lab with many electric outlets, a big screen and gererous white-boards as well as two sinks. Perfect for an art workshop.
Lee proceeded to set up the electronic equipment, and much to our relief it all promised to work as required. Louise set out the handout material and placed printed visuals onto the whiteboard with stick-um. I set out art materials into stations adequate for a large group to work at without a hitch. We were so organized we had a half- hour to spare before deadline for start. We went in search of muffins to feed on. These two gals were an absolute joy to work alongside!
When teachers straggled in, with no one late ( they are so conditioned to time dictates) I was surprised to note there were no men in the group. All women, mostly young ones who looked so very young. Just three retirement-age ladies in a group of 19 souls. I suddenly felt like a creaky antique.

Lee opened up the workshop with having everyone introduce themselves. She looked glamorous in her Punjabi suit outfit of Royal blue with gold embroidery.. On her wrists she wore Indian bangles with bells attached – so whenever she needed to call people to attention she only had to shake her arms. Louise overlooked proceedings like a fond aunt. I sat by the side as grannie types are wont to.
I had prepared the lesson plans on Kolams and Rangoli and figured if someone else could present and lead the lesson, any teacher attending the workshop could also follow the information for successful presentation. The workshop participants got right down to work, experimented, made permanent examples with chalk on black paper for themselves and experimented with rice-powder Kolams on the floor. They got so involved that they worked right through the half-hour rest period. I helped with making Kolams on the floor, showing how to hold the powder in the palm and trickle it to the ground and make gestures whilst doing so. Participants made amazing patterns and expressed eagerness to show the process to students. Lee glowed with pleasure. Louise went around the room documenting people at work, so much so she went through two sets of batteries. We all had great fun, largely in silence.
We were all so occupied with making Kolams we ran out of time for the presentation of the second half of the workshop. The keeners wanted us to carry on, so we showed CDRs on Navajo sandpainting, discussed similarities and differences for those two types of imagemaking, emphasizing the ritual differences, showed the sand which to use in making sandpaintings and discussed techniques for making permanent examples with students. It helped to have two permanent sandpaintings Lee had brought back at Christmastime from Arizona. The principle of Symmetry exemplified in both types of images was a huge topic of discussion, as was the abstraction inherent in both. The teachers expressed that they could use both to teach mathematical concepts, and also to have students use symmetry in their expressions of beauty and story telling.
They also stated that since we had made teaching kits using the internet for much of our research, they could further have students continue to research and compare information found on the net.
Overall the workshop was a success. We packed up our supplies and headed back to my kitchen to decompress over a couple of pots of tea. Louise planned to take out one of the kits for high schools and use the information for teaching art during the next semester. She also decided to extend the scope of the kit by designing further lesson plans and units. She has much to work with from the kit – on Contemporary Ephemeral Art and its practitioners – with DVDs added to explore in depth the work and its underlying concepts.
Lee called me this afternoon while I had my head down for a nap. She had begun to teach the unit on Kolams and Rangoli and reported her kids were tremedously excited by the potential for making ephemeral art in public spaces. Maybe the future grafitti taggers ( taggers give such pain to the maintenance crews in our town) will make practice of leaving their mark using ephemeral materials which disappear in short time.
It feels terrific to have brough this project of ours to such a succesful conclusion. I am anticipating seeing concrete results from our project by school year’s end. The project has been a form of therapy for me, useful, encouraging, engaging. Being part of it reassured me that I still have the “stuffing” left in me with which to contribute in my small way to my community, vision problems be damned.

An ending of sorts…

January 19, 2010

Details, details, details,…always those damned details. This morning I trekked to the Art Gallery to have a meeting with the curator and the programmer regarding the status of that darned project that seems to want not to be complete. The rest of this entry is to be an extended whine, although Rumpole has repeatedly cautioned me that volunteers usually get little respect, so what was I expecting?

The curator has had our documents for a week, and as of this morning “hadn’t had the time to go through it”. Three of us have expended over 300+ hours of volunteer hours to get the project to this stage, as unpaid volunteers, yet she had not been able to make the time, say an hour, to peruse the binders, even if merely to familiarize herself with the contents in a casual way.

Tha gallery needs this project ready in order to be able to meet its “fee for service” requirements by the municipality. Three of us volunteers are delivering the project at a District in-service workshop on January 21, and yet, we have not been given clear direction from the paid powers-that-be as to how the teaching kits are going to be booked by district teachers. The curator suggested I be responsible for the bookings. I demurred, saying that the utilization of the teaching kits were to benefit the Gallery’s desire to mount a theme show of student work, and they should be responsible for the clerical duties involved. And of course, there should also be a whiff of officaldom attached to the project.
I am more than done. My work-mates are also more than exhausted after making sure all details have been looked after as closely as possible, and that trouble-shooting for potential areas of difficulty has been done.

We feel pleased at how the work has come together and that we have been of useful service in our community. We have worked hard, and wish not to be given more chores to fulfill. Let the paid workers roll up their sleeves now, and see to the successful implementation of this project.

This particular volunteer needs to read, write, walk about looking a the increasingly brighter days, and the beginnings of late winter/early spring growth. Plus, I have to sign up for ball-room dancing lessons with my young, fun, gay friend ( the only one Rumpole will allow me to take dance lessons with!) and swing this crone-like body all over the dance floor.

Late winter, dancing lessons, movement, rhythm, beat – that’s what my old body craves.

Typing (ugh)… not writing…

December 11, 2009

I have neglected my blog for the last couple of months. It seems the project I have undertaken in September has taken precedence over most of my activities. It is an educational project for the Local art gallery’s educational arm, worked on with two teachers from our local school district and funded by two public bodies – the school District and the Art Gallery.

Initially we were to come up with a kit of lesson plans on Environmental Art – a topic of huge scope. In my usual capacity of “loose cannon”, I interpreted this topic as exploring Ephemeral Arts. My rationale for this was, “Does the world need to document and compile more examples of art in a museum, when art -making can be a largely personal, communal and ephemoral activity which can be passed on through common practice repeated over and over again, and allowed to be replaced and extended by future practices?”

So, I thought and thought – about works made only for a temporary purpose, of importance in the culture within which they were made and which gave expressive colour to to lives and belief systems. Enter the notion of Kolams as made in India’s Tamil Nadu, mandalas as made by Buddhist monks as a form of contemplative practice, and of Navajo sand-painting as ritual practice in one of North America’s larges indigenous tribes. Much research followed on the heels of this notion.

And, of course, there are contemporary practitioners of the ephemeral arts – Andy Goldsworthy, Rikrit Taravanija, Diana Lynn Thompson, Alan Sonfist and others who place process above product and life cycle above permanence. How to relate contemporary practice with historic practices? There is a relationship. As always no contemporary practice is without historical antecedents. How to relate the continuum?

Three of us sat down over wine and dinner and hashed out the congruities and continuities. It is good to have several good minds working together. One of us, a young High School art teacher worked out the mechanics of relating contemporary to historical practices. man, I envy her her energy, and her ability to directly narrow down relationships. Also her ability to negotiate the, to me, complexities of computer programs and mechanisms. I have been relegated to being typist, a task to which I am definitely not well suited, and to the work of coming up with lesson plans appropriate to grades K to 7.

So I have been typing up background information as well, collated from a variety of sources. Have also played with materials to see about their suitability to the various grade groups. Lots of typing; lots of frustration with my brand new Windows program. To take a break today, I ground up a bunch of rice in my Braun grinder and made a Kolam on the threshold to my studio.

This afternoon, two of us are to make a presentation of the kits we have prepared for K – 3, Gr. 4 -7, Gr. 8 – 12 – complete with visuals and CDRs and DVDs. I have sets of dominoes, side-walk chalks, rice flour and coloured sand packed with binders full of lesson plans and visuals. We also have beautiful reproductions of a Tibetan Thangka to share with the people coming to the unveiling meeting.

Mu forefingers have grown calluses from all the typing over the past two+ months. The bound documents need layout help – I am beyond incompetent at this. My two cohorts have heavy vocational committments. WE NEED HELP! Yes, we are going to beg for help.

Now mind – we are doing this as volunteers – and as such have racked up a respectable 30+ hours on this project – and that is a conservative estimate. But if all goes well, and we get the clerical help we so desperately need, we shalll have a really fine program to lend out to busy public school teachers.

Still typing, not writing, in suburbia….G

Old to you, new to me…

November 7, 2009

Lookingforbeauty and her friend Carole are doing a timely bit of business together. They are holding and Art and Antiques Sale at LFB’s house. They have been preparing for this sale for about two weeks, dusting, washing, polishing, displaying and pricing wares they have obtained by various means during the past 20 years and which they have been amassing and stockpiling due to their true nature as magpies. Magpies love shiny pretty bits of things, and true to their nature collect little caches of found treasure that attract and please their eyes. These two ladies are truly the magpie Sisters. And now, they plan to divest themselves of these treasures, and share them with others.
There is a lot of “stuff”, objects of desire, if not always of utility, circulating out in the world. Daily more and more stuff is created to add to this mass of materal goods. There is always something new to seduce the eye, the desire for novelty and luxury and to stir a lust for acquisition or gifting.
Over my lifetime, I have successfully resisted the siren call of goods. It is not that I do not admire beauty, utility or clever and ingenious design, it is simply that I have not the need, want or desire to weigh myself down with things which give momentary stimulation or which must be stored, guarded or maintained. My possessions must not define me; I resist the pigeonholing one must submit to in order to allow possessions to signify who I am. This may be a form of perversity, of my constant need for rebellion.
One of my great pleasures is to go about looking at everything, considering the importance of things in the scheme of existence. Old stuff is fascinating; they give clues to ideas about what constitutes a good life as expressed through material accumulations, what is valued, at what level of valuation as signifiers they sit. Old stuff gets passed from generation to generation; their value being association and sentiment which have uncounted value and yet propel forward as weight which is carried and then added to with new stuff to create even more weight, impediments and preventers of a baggage free life. At once a blessing and a curse, we pass around compilations of goods to benight the next generation. I am not exempt from this behaviour.
Last evening, I braved blustery fall weather to nip over to LFB’s house to peruse the offerings she and Carole had displayed for today’s sale. I pored over the goods with the same zeal that I had demonstrated while digging in the backwoods middens of early BC settlement at Wells some 20 years ago. What treasures might beckon my magpie eyes? What wonderful objet would call out to me. “So, or so might enjoy having this for themselves?”
Well. A mold made glass plate, an example of Depression glass, caught my eye. Martha would enjoy serving pickles from this at one of her many buffet dinners with which she welcomes guests. Only $5.00. Done! I set it aside. Of! Look! there is a bisque porcelain pelican, the one I have been admiring, while it was sitting on top of LFB’s linen press for several years now. Barb loves birds and loves intricate and delicate detail and a lovely surface. This is perfect for her Christmas present this year. has Barb ever seen a live pelican? Maybe a well crafted stand-in would do, in case she never has set eyes on this wonderful bird, or may never, in her lifetime. Set it aside!
Oh, yes. YES! There is a set of beautiful etched drinking glasses, each one a different colour of glass, each one decorated with a lush exotic bloom. Lucky would enjoy handling these and serving sparkling mineral water from them to her family. Put these aside on the pile, also!
I meander around, looking, considering, wondering who had handled these during a life at which I can only guess.
There are baskets of silver, polished for presentation. Ah, but look – there is a pile of odds and ends sitting in a box. What stuff is in there, jumbled, ready to be discovered by the curious eye? What is this black and red square of about 1 inch proportions? I poke around and lift this up. It is an enamelled ear-ring, of 60’s beatnik vintage. Poke, stir, turn… aha! here is its pair.
I get a moment of flashback and nostalgia to the mid 60s, when my friends Myra, Terry and I used to go to artsy craft shops and admire goods for sale. We never had enough money for any more than our bus tickets to and from such places. But we handled and admired the hand-crafted offerings. These ear-rings might delight Our Lady of Perpetual Crisis. She loves hand-crafted ear-rings, especially arty ones. Place them in my pile of findings.
Poke around some more in the box from which these ear-rings came. Yes! A primitive looking fish pendant! It’s made of aluminum, I think and say so to LFB. “Nope!” she comments, “that is Pewter.” I scratch the back of the pendant with my fingernail, and announce to her that it is aluminum. We haggle; LFB being the friend she is lets me have it for a half-price reduction.
This one is perfect for Emma, my niece – she is a Pisces. I put the pendant in my growing bit of stuff. But I am not yet done.
Stacked by the fireplace are piles of old books. I kneel down and start to read the titles on the spines. There is a slim volume in a dustjacket. It is a 60s compilation of aphorisms on the French take on Love and Life. I open it and begin to peruse the contents. Some great stuff in here. I say to LFB, “Are you sure you want to sell this? There is a huge possibility for you to work up a Conceptual series of drawings from these. Wouldn’t those be fun to undertake?” LFB gives me a considering long look. “Okay,” she finally mutters, ” I guess, now I’ll have to keep this.” She sets the book aside on her kitchen counter, so she can give this idea more thought.

And then, I find the perfect treasure for myself. It is an olive coloured, leather bound book – its front cover loose and detached. It has a gold-embossed laurel wreath with ribbons swirling from the wreath. On the ribbons is engraved “Palmam Qui Meruit Ferat.” I hold it in my hands and feel the buttery soft binding. Turn it to look at the highly decorated spine – Land Surveying, the author, HJ Castle. On opening the book, a series of chapters on mathematical and trigonometry problems, introduction to the theodolite, leveling and surveying complete with illustrations appear, and at the end ofthe book a table of logarhythmic sines and tangents and traverse tables. For some reason, this book appeals to me – I must have this for myself. I have long been fascinated with geometry, topography and about these concepts. Illustrations explaining mechanics of breaking down information I have long considered an art form. So, this is the finding which I was happy to come uon for myself. LFB said that the book had been one of her Father’s text-books from Upper Canada College. Her dad had been a professor of Civil Engineering at UBC. His old textbook was new to me. I plan to reattach the cover and interleave its pages with appropriate diagrams I will most likely find in my peripatetic way of uncovering information – maps, graphs, photos having to do with terrain, the landscape.

It is my hope that the treasures I have obtained from LFBs magpie collecting will have the effect of novelty to the people to whom I plan to gift these.
Of course, they may not really like to be further burdened with additional stuff, however, if they so desire, they can pass these things forward. Old stuff can in this way remain new.