This whole controversy about the statues of famous people and whether they should be removed has me thinking. Should we stop honoring people when we erect statues and rather honor ideas? I’ve featured many statues on this blog of famous Canadians I actually thought were worthy of praise, but now I’m wondering if they all had a dark side? A little research makes it clear many of them did. For example……..
Here I am with Emily Murphy on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. She was instrumental in achieving personhood for Canadian women so they were no longer considered their husbands’ or fathers’ property. Yet according to the Toronto Globe and Mail Emily wrote articles attacking Chinese immigrants, American blacks, Jews and other Eastern Europeans who had chosen Canada as their home.
Here I am in Gambo Newfoundland with a statue of Joey Smallwood. He is credited with bringing Newfoundland into the modern age and into Confederation but there are many people who saw him as autocratic and interested mainly in self promotion. They criticize the way he often sided with bankers and industrialists rather than unions and laborers.
emptyful by Bill Pechet
Perhaps it is time to stop honoring people with statues and just honor ideas instead. For example the statue emptyful at the Winnipeg Millenium Library honors the beauty of the wide open spaces of the prairies. Who could quarrel with that?
This sculpture in Quebec City honors the idea of education. An outstretched hand sits on a pile of books. The hand has a feather. This shows how an education helps us learn to read and write and become literate people. Who could quarrel with that?
Perhaps its time to stop honoring people with sculptures and focus on honoring worthwhile ideas instead.
The Famous Five
Holding Joey Smallwood’s Hand
A Pen or a Wing?
Here is a fossil of a giant sea scorpion found in North American waters millions of years ago.
Here is indigenous artist Norval Morrisseau’s painting of the water panther god Misshipehu. It moved through the same waters as the ancient sea scorpion.
The two items are displayed near each other at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Can you see any resemblance?
Ojibwa in Paris
Art That Makes You Feel Sick
Filed under Art, Nature, Toronto
At our last meeting my writers’ group discussed a recent Ted Talk given by writer Anne Lamott entitled Twelve Things I Know To Be True. I could really resonate with many of them. Here are three I particularly liked.
1. Almost anything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes. That includes you.
When I am really stuck on a writing project or work assignment the best thing to do is just leave it for a while and go for a hike, take a nap, have a shower, read a book or go to a movie. Invariably while I am doing something completely different the solution to my writing or work dilemma reveals itself. Everyone needs to take a break sometimes and we shouldn’t feel guilty about just unplugging and giving ourselves down time.
2. Family life is both astonishing and hard.
Welcoming a new child is astonishing. Saying goodbye to a parent who has died is incredibly hard. Watching your child accomplish something and knowing that in that moment they are truly and utterly happy is astonishing. Watching your child go through illness, or disappointment, or loss is heartbreakingly hard. Having a family member affirm and support you is astonishing. Accepting the criticism, silence and correction of a family member can be humbling and hard.
3. God means goodness. God is a loving, animating intelligence. Emerson said…… We learn from nature the lessons of worship. Go outside often and look up when you need to find God.
I too think of God as good. Bad things don’t come from God but God does send people to help us when we human beings mess up and bad things happen. And I do feel the most worshipful and close to God when I am outside, looking at stars, walking in a forest, wading in the ocean, or tracking a bird in flight.
In her Ted Talk Anne Lamott talks about nine other things she knows to be true. You can hear about the other six on the Ted Talk site.
Thoughts on Hope
And That Led Me
I talked with someone who had experienced a disturbing situation recently. Immediately afterward they sat down and wrote out how they might view the troubling incident in eight different ways……. with perspective, humility, humor, acceptance, forgiveness, gratitude, compassion, and generosity. After contemplating and responding to the event from each of those standpoints it seemed less daunting and distressing. I asked if it wasn’t hard to view challenging conflicts from all those different angles. I was told if you make a habit of doing so, it becomes relatively easy.
Those eight ways of looking at a difficult situation are the eight pillars of joy explained in The Book of Joy which records a five day conversation between the Dali Lama and Desmond Tutu. Author Douglas Carlton Abrams weaves their dialogue together with narration. I purchased the book for our church library and have just started to read it.
In am looking forward to learning more about how I can use the principles in my own life. I can already think of a number of situations and relationships where the pillars of joy might just come in handy.
Start and End Happy
Coin Rings- Luck Springs
Filed under Books, Religion
This unique installation at the Art Gallery of Ontario called Paris/Ojibwa is by artist Robert Houle. It is a moving memorial for Ojibwa dancers who died while entertaining the French court in 1845. The story starts with American artist George Catlin who traveled extensively in the west painting hundreds of portraits of indigenous people. He decided to bring his ‘Indian Gallery’ to Europe and display it there. He thought he might attract more viewers for his exhibit if he brought along an indigenous dance troupe organized by George Henry Maungwudaus an Ojibwa interpreter. The troupe performed in London and at the royal court in Paris where King Louis Philipe presented the dancers with medals. Unfortunately six of the troupe caught small pox in Europe. They died never to return to Canada.
Robert Houle has painted four of these ill-fated dancers, Maungwudaus’ wife Uh wis sig gee zig goo kway and three of her children and shows them on a return journey to Canada, a trip that because of their untimely deaths, they were never able to make themselves. Above the portraits are the names of the dancers and underneath each portrait is an illustration of the small pox virus that killed them. Robert Houle paints the portraits on the walls of a reconstructed Parisian salon. There is a bowl of sage on a pedestal at the front of the salon and you hear quiet drum beats as you view the installation.
Parfleches for the Last Supper 1983 by Robert Houle at the Winnipeg Art Gallery
I was drawn to Paris/Ojibwa because of its creator Robert Houle. We have an installation of his called Parfleches for the Last Supper on view at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Many years ago I interviewed Mr. Houle for a Free Press column of mine. It was interesting to see a more current work of his, especially one that tells such a moving and tragic story.
This post has been updated here.
Giving Slaves a Modern Humanity
Art That Makes You Feel Sick
The movie The Innocents will break your heart. It will inspire you with its story of women who are incredibly brave and resilient. It will also make you wonder why things haven’t changed much; why women and children are still the ones who pay the highest price for the endless need men seem to feel to wage war with one another.
Madeleine Pauliac, the French nurse who wrote about the nuns in her journal
The movie is based on a true story found in the diaries of Madeleine Pauliac a French army nurse stationed in Poland at the end of World War II. She is called to a convent where one of the sisters is about to give birth. Along with other nuns in the convent she has been gang raped by Russian soldiers. The nurse soon discovers that the nun in labor is not the only sister who is pregnant.
The movie’s story is told in a quiet but terrifying way, often with the haunting singing of the nuns at worship in the background. The film’s sights, and sounds and story will stay with you for many days after you watch it. Don’t be put off by the fact it is in French with English subtitles, in some ways that makes you watch even more intently and experience it in a more visceral way. Don’t be put off either by the dark nature of the story line. I promise it is a movie that will leave you feeling inspired and hopeful.
The Nun’s Christmas
The Chi Lin Nunnery
Over the course of my life I have kept all kinds of journals. Some are in diaries and some are online in blog form. Others are photo books or scrapbooks. Some are collections of letters. I have several long shelves filled with notebooks of every size each one crammed with reflections, lists, cards, concert tickets, my newspaper articles, programs, souvenirs, poems and books reviews. Perhaps that’s why I was fascinated by this photograph of artist Meryl McMaster I saw recently at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Meryl is standing in the snow holding her journals. One for each year. She calls her piece Time’s Gravity because she realizes how quickly our time on earth passes and how scant an opportunity we have to preserve the memories of our sojourn here. She says the journals are a reminder of where she comes from. For each annual journal she has chosen a drawing for the spine that represents an important life event in that year. I stood in front of McMaster’s artwork for a long time trying to decipher each one. Was she representing the birth of a child, meeting an important person, going on an ocean voyage, learning to play the piano, an injury that had her on crutches, and a puzzling year that was hard to figure out?
Meryl got the idea for these symbols from ‘winter count drawings’ used by North American indigenous people to create a pictorial calendar for a community’s oral history. Meryl is a member of the Plains Cree Nation.
Meryl’s symbols had me thinking about what kind of symbols I might select to represent different years of my life.
Keeping a Record
Picasso’s Grandmother is Canadian
I just finished reading The Lost Diaries of Susanna Moodie in which author Cecily Ross provides a fictionalized account of the life of one of Canada’s first authors. Susanna Moodie’s book Roughing it in the Bush was published in 1852.
Susanna left her comfortable home in England to accompany her husband John as he set off for Upper Canada where he was convinced their family would have a great future. While he pursued one money-making scheme after another, none successfully, Susanna was often left alone with her small children to manage a household, crops, gardens and livestock and to deal with blizzards, fires, illness and injury. Yet despite her endless days of grinding work and demanding child care she somehow found time to write poetry, make journal entries and paint water colors.
Her need to write and paint was no doubt partially motivated by the fact that she was sometimes able to sell her work and use the small amounts of money she received to help her family survive, since her husband was so woefully inept as a family provider. But I think her creative work was also a way for her soul and spirit to survive the physically harsh and endlessly demanding life in her adopted country. She is an inspiration to those who might think they don’t have time to explore their creative self.
When Did You Stop Drawing?
When Do We Have Time?
Filed under Books, History
Every summer since I’ve been seven I’ve spent time at this lakeside cottage. Its been in our family for three generations. My brother and his family are the current owners and they work so hard to continually improve it. They keep it looking absolutely lovely! I am so appreciative of the way they are maintaining a piece of our family history and also how generous they are about sharing it with family members. They warmly welcomed me this last weekend when I drove out for a quick visit.
I have lived in twenty- one different homes since I was born, but the cottage has been a constant in my life. Spending a day there always calms my spirit and rests my mind. Sitting around a dancing fire under a black sky brilliant with stars, long chats with family members, reading a good book in a comfortable sunny spot, eating a perfectly barbecued steak at the picnic table, having my morning coffee looking out over the glassy water, hearing a loon call, seeing a doe and her fawn on the road, dipping into the lake for a refreshing swim, watching hummingbirds, going for a boat ride and being disconnected from my cell phone and the internet. It’s the best kind of therapy.
Lord You Have Come to the Lakeshore
A Moment to Remember
Filed under Family, Nature