Monday, September 15, 2014

Sweet homecoming

This past fortnight has been a series of homecomings. There've been reunions of various sorts -- with relatives, some whom I haven't seen in a decade or more-- with friends that go back even more years.

I've also revisited places I haven't seen in years. I even got to visit my gramma's old house.

But the best homecoming of all has been returning home today. It's been one of those rare September days when the air is warm and sweet, hot as any day in July.

The berries still on the bush are continuing to ripen (I picked enough for a pie for the freezer and for a dessert for tonight).

The quince are nearly ripe, but autumn is clearly nearby.

Something I suppose about the angle of the light, the way it seems to break into disparate beams. The spiders are weaving their oversized nets, hoping to catch the last of the summer insects. The floppy autumn crocuses have opened their pale blossoms to these last days of warmth.

The clues are here: change is in the air. But oh, it's sure beautiful right now.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Once upon a time the sky...

...was filled with flocks of passenger pigeons. The empty sky in the photo marks a sad anniversary -- 100 years since the last passenger pigeon, Martha, died.

It's startling to think that a species could go from being the most numerous bird population on the planet to extinction, and all in the space of not much over a century. As late as the 1800s, the sky was said to darken, sometimes for more than a day, as masses of these birds flew overhead. 

And somehow I don't find it completely reassuring that scientists are considering ways of renewing the species, using DNA from the feet of specimens in the Royal Ontario Museum. Such birds wouldn't be the same, as they would be crossed species with another breed of pigeon. Besides, really, what's the point.

The best lesson we can take from the passenger pigeon is a cautionary one, reminding us of the fragility of life -- even when it seems to be in abundance.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Imagine whirled peas...


Saturday was a day that proved to be all about community. It started with an event sponsored by the SOFIA Collective, an interdisciplinary group of artists based in the north end of Surrey, the city where I live.

They've sponsored a couple of these events, forums exploring ways the arts can contribute to the health of the community.

Even though I only attended the afternoon panels, I came away filled with hopeful thoughts for our city.

The first panel, "Intersections: Art Practice in Convergent Communities" raised many questions (and comments) about the broad multicultural spectrum represented in our city. Racism, the elephant in the room we all seem to choose to ignore, was key to the discussion -- and rightly so. According to the last reliable census figures (2006, the last census to employ the 'long form' which asks respondents to identify their ethnicity), 46% of our city consisted of 'visible minorities'. No doubt, this figure is higher now, but thanks to Harper's fact-denying agenda, such numbers will no longer be available. Not that such numbers are necessary to see who we are. Attendees were united in wanting all of us, artists and others, to go forward together, regardless of what we might look like.

The second session, "Lessons Learned: A Survival Guide to Establishing an Artist-Run Centre" was much more light-hearted, even fun. And this is likely where I found the most to take home with me.

All of the speakers talked about getting together with other artists, and surprisingly, the notion of potluck dinners came up more than once. Yes, say I, food can serve as the glue (even when the food isn't sticky!) that brings us together.

So, later in the evening, when we went to nearby New Westminster for their second annual festival of food trucks, I couldn't help notice the way everyone was getting along. It wasn't a potluck supper, but the atmosphere was similar. There were lots of conversations, comparisons of food items (Oooh, where'd you get that sandwich??), good-natured kidding while standing in line, people snapping pictures with cameras or phones.

Maybe food really is the answer, even the way to world peace.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Everywhere is Anywhere is More...

It isn't very often that an art gallery has signs that encourage you to take photos of the exhibit. But then, there aren't a lot of exhibits quite like the current one on the main floor of the Vancouver Art Gallery, a wide-ranging show by Douglas Coupland.

Yes, there's plenty of Lego, not all of it quite as wildly assembled as this piece. Still, I love the ways he uses it, even when he's pointing out the mundaneness of contemporary suburbia: row upon row of identical houses. All that's missing from his show are the identical people who must inhabit those houses.

One of my favourite parts of the show is a section of Canadiana artefacts -- everything from hokey-looking lunch kits and thermoses to a tin of Uncle Ben's beer.

But don't think for a minute this exhibit is all about trinkets and toys.

Coupland's paintings and sculptures reveal an artist who's committed to interpreting art history. Some of his paintings serve as homage to the Group of Seven and Emily Carr. Others hearken to the era of Pop Art, with obvious tributes to Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol -- or, to their predecessors, Mondrian and Miro.

He even plays around with his own forms of Op Art, with pieces that require you to view them with a Smartphone, for almost a 'magic eye' effect.

It's hard to imagine anyone having this much talent, but yes, he also writes fiction. So, it's not surprising that some of his art is text-based. One section of the show, called Slogans for the 21st Century, consists of signs with Couplandesque sayings on them. An example? "It's not an illusion. Time is moving faster." Fans of his books will recognize some of these as part of the marginalia from Generation X.

Those living in or near Vancouver should try to get to the gallery soon, as the show closes on September 1st. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

It must be summer...

 ... for me to be so lazy. Already the 11th of the month, and nary a blog post.

And not only have I been staying off the blog, but clearly I've not even been using the car enough, as look at that spider who's decided to build a home on the mirror.

Maybe he (she?) just got sucked in by things appearing closer (and larger?) in the mirror. Tasty bits of tiny bugs must be looking like much bigger feasts.

Even today's drink of choice is one that's lazy. Sun tea, a recipe that makes itself by sitting outside in
the sun for the day. This batch isn't actually tea, it's more like lemonade, but is made from the much more refreshing fruit, quince.

Cheers to summer and to keeping cool!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

A presentation by France sets me thinking...


Sometimes I wonder why I love fireworks. It's a fact though. I can't help it. I do.

And really, with all that's going on in the world, I wonder whether I'd feel the same way about all that fire and noise if I lived someplace else, where the sounds of rockets flying through the air might mean imminent destruction or even death. Even though I love them, fireworks sometimes make me think this way.

This has been the week for observing 100 years since the start of World War One, a war once thought of as the 'war to end all wars'. Sadly, we know that hasn't been the case. In fact, some now think that WWI might have been the war that started a whole new round of wars -- that without it, and the divisions of lands it caused, World War Two might have never happened -- and with it, the countless other disputes, so many of which continue.

For someone who dreams of peace, the idea of loving fireworks might seem contradictory. Still, standing as part of a throng of nearly half a million people, watching the Celebration of Light beside the Pacific Ocean on a warm summer night is something that stirs me. And really, for a show that's free to watch, is pretty darn hard to beat.
video
 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Happy birthday, Amelia Earhart

When I was in Newfoundland, I took the time to visit Harbour Grace, the place where Amelia Earhart took off on her first solo trans-Atlantic flight on May 20, 1932.

The field there looked too tiny to be an airstrip, more of a place for launching kites than planes.

Her intended goal was Paris, but weather forced her to cut the trip short. Luckily, Ireland intervened. The story goes that she landed in a pasture near a small village in Northern Ireland, and didn't even know that she wasn't someplace in France.

So, why am I thinking about her today? It's her birthday, a day observed by some as 'Amelia Earhart Day'. She liked the colour yellow, so when I visited her statue in Harbour Grace, I stuffed a bouquet of fresh dandelions into her hand, an early birthday present.

Earlier this month, July 3rd, was the anniversary of her disappearance, a mystery that lingers, with occasional reports of evidence (often less-than-reliable) of what her fate might have been.

But I'm not the only one who still thinks about her. A woman named Amelia Rose Earhart recently completed the round-the-world flight path Amelia intended to make. Yet I doubt that even this will be the end of the news about this object-of-my-fascination, Amelia.

And oh yes, those feet of mine are standing on a rock in the field at Harbour Grace. I couldn't help but think that on that May morning in 1932, Amelia may well have thought to 'ground herself' for a moment before climbing into her plane, and that she may have paused for a few seconds, standing on this very same stone.