Monthly Archives: August 2018

Grandfather I Have Something To Tell You

“You never  kill an animal just for fun,” artist Michael Massie’s grandfather taught him when he was just a boy.  “You take its life only if you need it for food.”  
One day when Michael was twelve or thirteen he was camping with his grandfather, cousins and siblings.  While his grandfather went to get supplies the children were left alone for a time.  Michael  noticed a small bird called a Tom Tit, not much bigger than his thumb.  He grabbed his pellet gun and shot it. The other kids told him what he’d done was wrong.  Michael buried the little bird but never told his grandfather that he had killed it. He always felt badly about that. Making this sculpture was a kind of confession in stone thirty years later. Describing his art piece Michael says one hand is gloved to show how he covered up the truth the other is bare to say he is being open and confessing. He holds the little dead bird in his hand. 

When I take children on a tour of the current SakKijâjuk exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery this art piece is always their favourite!  They love the story that goes with it.  I heard it first from the exhibit curator Dr. Heather Igloliorte.  I like the idea of using a piece of art to reach across time and space to confess and apologize to someone you love. 

Other posts……………

Inuit Art Isn’t Just Soapstone Carvings

Stories in Stone

A Very Personal Story

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Filed under Art, Family, WInnipeg Art Gallery

Why Do We Have To Blame Someone?

This is my Carillon column this week. 

Who is to blame?  Last week the headlines of provincial news media featured a story about a car accident that occurred during a funeral procession. Thomas Novak a pastoral worker for the Catholic Church was in a procession to a cemetery, when his car was hit on the passenger side at a busy Winnipeg intersection. Novak was shaken up but not injured.

funeral-processionHowever as a result of the accident he is calling for an end to funeral processions.  He thinks they are just too dangerous.  Funeral processions are a tradition still practiced in some rural Manitoba areas, but infrequently in Winnipeg, and consequently many drivers simply don’t know the protocol surrounding them. That invites accidents. I tend to agree with Novak.  If funeral processions are a hazard why have them, particularly at high traffic times of the day? Most families now lay their loved ones to rest in private services before or after the actual funeral. Often cremation has taken place and ashes will be scattered later so no trip to the cemetery is required.

One argument made for continuing funeral processions is that people might have a hard time finding their way to cemeteries without them.  GPS technology and Google Maps make that argument a moot one. 

lyle thomas memorial garden

This plaque near the Provencher Bridge in Winnipeg pays tribute to Lyle Thomas a worker who died while it was being built.

Another reason given for funeral processions is that they are a way to show respect for the person who has died. But there are many other opportunities for doing that, including publishing obituaries, making a charitable donation in the person’s name, planting a tree in their memory, erecting a plaque or carrying on traditions they started. 

What really surprised me about this news story was how it became such a big issue and how commenters on media sites immediately looked for someone to blame after reading articles about the issue.

The first targeted group was young people, who according to many commenters don’t have proper respect for traditions like funeral processions. Young people cause accidents because they are so busy texting they don’t pay attention.  Parents were also targeted for failing to teach their children proper respect for the law and for letting their kids spend too much time on their devices, so they become socially isolated and don’t understand social norms.

Another targeted group was elderly people who according to some commenters don’t quit driving when their health no longer allows them to drive safely, and are generally a hazard.  Manitoba Public Insurance was also targeted for not having stringent enough protocols for awarding licences and not making people retake their driving tests more frequently.  The RCMP was blamed for not enforcing laws more strictly to get bad drivers off the road and for not providing police escorts for funeral processions.

Another targeted group was newcomers to Canada who according to some commenters don’t know the traditions and cultural habits of their adopted country and haven’t become accustomed enough to driving here. The federal government was also targeted for letting too many immigrants into Canada.

Organized religion was also a target of blame. Some commenters said without the religious traditions and trappings surrounding funerals these accidents wouldn’t happen.

funeral processionI was struck by the fact that finding someone to blame was uppermost in many people’s minds.  Why do we do that?   The funeral procession issue is just one of a myriad we could use as an example of how finding someone to blame and ranting about them seems to be the first response.   Why instead of laying blame can’t we have meaningful conversations, look at data, weigh possible options, propose alternatives, and find solutions?  Why do we always look first for someone to blame?

Other posts………

Pallbearers

Apartments for the Dead

Dead Yard Party

 

 

 

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Filed under Culture, manitoba, Religion

Be Present

My husband Dave with kids he taught in Jamaica

Yesterday I met with the eight university education students I will be mentoring during the coming academic year.  I asked the fifth year students to give the fourth year students some advice about their student teaching practicums which I will be supervising.   One fifth year student really nailed it. 

“Be present,” she advised.  “Turn off your phone when you enter the school and put it away and don’t turn it on again till you leave.  Nothing will happen in the seven or eight hours you are in the classroom that can’t wait for your attention. The kids need your attention.  They need you to be really present, not on your phone.”  

luncheon with student teachers

With a group of my Winnipeg student teachers and the cooperating teachers who supported them

She went on. “And be present in the staffroom.  Don’t be on your phone at lunch or on breaks.  Don’t be watching Netflixs or reading on your Kindle during the noon hour.   Actually talk to the other teachers, get to know them, make friends. It is through personal contacts like that you will get a job.” 

What a smart woman!  And her advice doesn’t only hold for student teachers, but for all of us.  Turn off your electronics and be present with your family, with friends, at concerts, at church, at work, even when you are walking down the street. Notice things. Notice people.  Smile, talk, relate.  Be present!

Other posts……..

The 4Ms

The Salmon Saved Him

Looking At Stuff in a Different Way

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Nostalgia

hymn sing programI took my father to the Hymn Sing Reunion Concert on Sunday. For readers who don’t know, Hymn Sing was a Canadian television program from the 1960s to the 1990s.  Every year a group of promising young singers was chosen to present a weekly Sunday night concert of familiar Christian hymns.  The show, filmed in Winnipeg, was hugely popular across the country, sometimes garnering a viewership greater than that of Hockey Night in Canada.

hymn sing reunionI was definitely one of the younger people at the reunion concert at Bethel Mennonite Church on Sunday afternoon which featured sixty former Hymn Sing performers. It was sold out. What drew such a big audience to the concert?  I think it was nostalgia for hymns that may not be sung in churches very much anymore, nostalgia for the kind of religious and contemplative television programming we don’t see much of anymore, and perhaps nostalgia for a time when things were a little more black and white. 

Aga RSZ-50 - Diora - E070 (wiki)I noticed in the Hymn Sing Concert program that one of the event’s sponsors was Nostalgia Radio CJNU.  Last Thursday I gave a group of staff and board members from Nostalgia Radio a tour of the French Moderns Exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. I asked them about their radio station and they told me it is run by retired broadcasters and other folks who were nostalgic for music of bygone decades, music that is sometimes hard to find on other Winnipeg radio stations. They play that kind of music everyday as well as lend their support to a whole variety of community and cultural groups including the Winnipeg Art Gallery. 

shepherd tending his flock millet brooklyn museum

Shepherd Tending His Flock – Jean-François Millet- 1860

A painting I discussed with the Nostalgia radio crew was this one of a shepherd by Jean-Francois Millet.  Lisa Small, curator from the Brooklyn Museum where Millet’s painting makes its permanent home, says one of the reasons paintings like Millet’s of the shepherd were so popular in the late 1800s  was that the rapid rise of industrialization meant many families had left their farms and villages to move to the city. They were nostalgic for their country roots. Millet’s paintings took them back to their childhoods in rural France. 

This past week I’ve been reminded that music and art can be powerful inspirations for nostalgia. 

Other posts………..

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Filed under Art, Media, Music, WInnipeg Art Gallery

Driedger Golf

This last weekend our sons took their Dad on a golf trip.  It was a gift he received from them last year for his 65th birthday. They visited three different courses in North Dakota known as The Triple Challenge.  

Our younger son drew this picture in elementary school for his Dad one Father’s Day.

Golf has always played a role in our family life.  When Dave and I got married he had summer employment at the John Blumberg Golf Course in Winnipeg and I bought him an old set of clubs at a garage sale so he could make use of the golf privileges that came as a perk with his job. When we moved to Steinbach a few years later Dave started golfing at the Fly In golf course there. He bought shares for himself and for each of our sons as soon as they were born. Dave participated in the mens’ league, golfed as often as he could, and served for a long time on the board of directors.  Our boys both had their first jobs at the golf course and worked there for many summers during their high school and university years. I started golfing in a ladies league in Steinbach and came to enjoy the game too. Since then Dave and I have golfed in many countries around the world, met interesting people and had good times with family and friends because of the game. 

Now that he is retired Dave golfs two or three times a week. Although neither of our sons has a great deal of time to play golf, busy as they are with their careers and families, they still enjoy the game, so it made for a perfect activity for the three Driedger males to do together.  

Golf is a sport that is definitely on the decline   but for our family it has been a good way to build relationships, get exercise and have fun together.

Other posts……….

I Golf For the Scenery

Golfers With an Artistic Side

I Did the Limbo on the Golf Course

Back on the Course Again

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Filed under Family, Sports

That’s Not My Kind of God Either

I have been watching the American television series The Fosters on Netflix.  It frequently addresses current political issues as it tells the story of an American family in San Diego. In the fifth and final season of the drama many of the episodes revolve around immigration as two high school seniors from the Foster family provide support to a college student from a Mexican family.  Her name is Ximena. 

Callie, one of the girls from the Foster family holds a photo of her friend Ximena at a rally to support young people in the DACA program.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement have arrested Ximena’s parents who are illegal immigrants. ICE officers arrive at a highschool dance to take Ximena into custody too. Ximena is acting as a chaperone for her younger sister at the dance.  Ximena has had DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival) status in the past but is waiting for her status to be renewed. The younger sister who was born in the United States is taken away by Child and Family services but two teenagers from the Foster family help Ximena slip out a back door and drive her to a church where she receives sanctuary. The pastor of the church provides the young woman with food, clothing and bedding. 

At one point the pastor says, “If you want to talk or pray, I’m here.”  The young woman replies, “I don’t want to pray to a God that would allow my family to be torn apart like this.”  The pastor replies, “I don’t pray to that kind of God either. I believe in Immanuel God with us and God is with you always, in your family’s strength to keep going, in your hope for the future and in the people who have helped you tonight.”  

I  think along the same lines that fictional pastor in the television program did. I find it really hard to understand people who say they believe in God and yet support the current American administration who are arresting desperate asylum seekers, separating refugee parents from their children, and refusing to fully respect and honour the DACA policy established by their country in the past.  I admit it makes me want to ask, “What kind of God are those people praying to?”  I realize of course that they are probably saying the same thing about me. 

Other posts………

Tolerating Other Christians

Standing Up For Children

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Filed under Media, Politics

A Pool of Possibilities in Our Own Backyards

Years ago I visited an exhibit at the Mendel Art Gallery in Saskatoon called The Pool Project by photographer Courtney Milne . The Mendel Art Gallery is no longer open and Courtney died in 2010 but the memory of that exhibit has stayed with me.

Image by Courtney Milne- Pool Project- University of Saskatchewan

The Pool Project was a series of photographs selected from the thousands Courtney Milne took of the swimming pool in his backyard over a period of ten years.  A swimming pool sounds like a kind of mundane subject for photos but Milne’s were absolutely stunning!

image by courtney milne from pool of possibilities

Image by Courtney Milne- Pool of Possibilities- University of Saskatchewan Library

In 1999 Milne was busy touring Canada for a new book but whenever he was home he would snap photos of the swimming pool in his backyard in various lights and seasons.

Image by Courtney Milne- Pool Project- University of Saskatchewan Library

Once he started, he was intrigued that no matter when he looked out the window of his house at his pool it appeared different. Choosing his top ten photos of the year in 1999 he realized they were all of his swimming pool, even though he had photographed some pretty exotic places abroad, and thus the Pool Project began.

Image by Courtney Milne- Pool Project- University of Saskatchewan

Milne took thousands more photos of his pool. It became a place of healing, empowerment, surprise and wisdom for him. Milne had been to some of the most famous places in the world to take pictures for his book Sacred Earth. He had traveled to Easter Island- the pyramids in Egypt- Machu Picchu- the Li River in China, but he found the greatest beauty and enlightenment simply by carefully observing the swimming pool in his own backyard. 

What is in our own backyards to discover? Can we like Milne, find places of beauty and surprise just by sitting in our backyards or out on our balconies, walking in our neighbourhoods or exploring our home province? 

“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
 Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.” 
-T.S. Eliot- Four Quartets

Other posts……….

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Filed under Art