Monthly Archives: March 2019

Who Would You Invite to A Feast?

During Lent our church is having services centered on the theme The Hunger and the Feast. Last Sunday our pastor asked us to think about who we would invite to enjoy a feast with us if we could invite anyone living or dead.  I have been thinking about that a fair bit this week and I would agree with our pastor who said he would invite his own family-his wife and children and grandchildren.  

Sketch I did of our family at the Forks this last Christmas

Our whole family is only together once or twice a year for a couple of days since our older son lives in Saskatoon with his partner and our grandchildren. Our other son and his partner live here in Winnipeg but they are both busy professional musicians whose work often involves travel.  To coordinate our schedules more than once a year is difficult.  I would love to sit down at a feast with all of them and just visit and catch up on our lives.   I am never happier than when we are all together.  

With my Mom at Christmas a year and a half before she died

At first I thought I might want to have a feast with beloved members of my family who have died.  My amazing and supportive mother, my kind and caring mother-in-law, my two grandmothers- talented, funny and intelligent women.  But I think that would just make me way too sad.  I miss them as it is and getting a chance to see them again might only make my grief over losing them more intense. 

Posing with my daughter-in-law and her sister and the statues of The Famous Five in Ottawa

Then I wondered if I might want to feast with a famous writer like Jane Austen or a poet like Mary Oliver.  Perhaps a brilliant artist like Emily Carr or a singer like Carol King. Maybe a world leader like New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern or one of Canada’s Famous Five who convinced the courts to acknowledge that women were people in the eyes of the law. Should I invite a new Testament character like Jesus’ mother or an Old Testament character like Queen Esther? Although I would love to chat with legendary folks like the outstanding ones I’ve mentioned we don’t really have a personal connection and I might feel nervous in their presence. 

No I really think if I could share a feast with anyone it would be my family. Who would you invite to your feast? 

Other posts……….

Seeing the Great Wall With My Family

Leise Reiselt Der Schnee

I Held You Before Your Mother Did

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Inspiration to Speed the Coming of Spring Weather

“That is one good thing about this world…there are always sure to be more springs.”
― L.M. Montgomery in Anne of Avonlea
pink bike and tulips spring
In winter I plot and plan. In spring I move.  Henry Rollings

I want to pay attention to springI am going to try to pay attention to the spring. I am going to look around……and look up. I am going to…… listen.  Anne Lamontwedding in japan“If people did not love one another, I really don’t see what use there would be in having any spring.”
― Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

purple flowersFor now the winter is past. The rain is over and gone.  The flowers appear on the earth. The time of singing has come. – Song of Solomon 2:11-12

canada geese on school playground in winnipeg“Despite the forecast, live like it’s spring.”
― Lilly Pulitzer

winnipeg river in springIn spring the river rises as high as the sea.  -Zhang Ruoxu 

leaf after a rain 2012There shall come Spring rains

When all seems lost to the cold decay

And winter shall release its icy reign. 

-Sheri Walters

cherry blossoms spring japan

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now

Is hung with bloom along the bough.

A.E. Housmana toast in rome

Toasting the sun,
See spring twirl
Flower-cups in the air.
Would I could wipe from your brow,
World,
The furrows of care!

-Salomeja Neris

 

spring in the window

“I glanced out the window at the signs of spring. The sky was almost blue, the trees were almost budding, the sun was almost bright.”
— Millard Kaufman

The photos in this post were taken in Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Moose Lake, Rome, Portugal, Kyoto and Hiroshima

Other posts…….

Icy Inspiration

Australian Inspiration

Inspiration on a Walk in Sedona

Fiji Inspiration

 

 

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Filed under Inspiration, Nature

Waver – A New Album From Royal Canoe

My favorite Winnipeg band is celebrating the release of a new album called Waver this weekend at the West End Cultural Centre.  Although I’ve always been a big fan of Royal Canoe’s music their current album strikes a special chord with me.  As this feature by Ashley Hampson on the Exclaim website suggests, Waver can be viewed as Royal Canoe’s way of addressing the anxious political climate of the last several years.  The music helps listeners ultimately visualize the world as a more hopeful place. Three pieces on Waver inspire that kind of hope for me. Of course I have no idea what the talented Royal Canoe musicians were thinking when they wrote these songs, but good music evokes a meaning and message for each listener in a unique way.  Here’s what three of the songs say to me.

RAYZ which has already been released in a thought-provoking and moving video format describes people who are feeling lonely, confused and hopeless.  The song compares them to flowers growing higher and higher each day, reaching for the sun and longing to find some light to nurture them and let them flourish . “Pull me up Lord, I’m dying. Time to let the light in.”   

In 77-76, the lyrics describe a challenging scenario for our world- night is approaching, strong winds are blowing, a storm is coming, people are blinded. But we can persevere. We can refuse to be divided.  We can stay afloat, keep hanging on, stand up for what is right and call out to others. ” Oh we’re going to pull through.”

When I listen to Peep This I am encouraged to do what I can to be there for other people, my family, my friends and those in my community and world who need support. People may wear masks and disguises but we can get past those to truly see one another. “Don’t let me cry -Hold me up, hold me up- Look in my eyes- Stay by my side”

If you’d like to hear Royal Canoe perform their new album in person you can check them out at the West End Cultural Centre this weekend.  There will be shows tonight as well as on Saturday and Sunday. 

Other posts………

My Husband is Famous

Loneliness

 

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Miriam Toews Has A Complicated Relationship With Her Home Town

Alexandra Schwartz writes a lengthy feature in the current issue of The New Yorker magazine about author Miriam Toews who was born and raised in Steinbach, Manitoba.    

Toews’ eighth novel Women Talking will be released in the United States this week. Covers for the British, Italian and German editions of Women Talking are featured on Toews’ media sites. Schwartz interviewed Toews both in her current Toronto home and during a trip the two made to Steinbach to explore Toews’ roots, since characters and locations inspired by Steinbach people and places figure prominently in Toews’ novels.a complicated kindnessSchwartz also interviewed Steinbach teacher Andrew Unger who studies Toews’ best selling novel A Complicated Kindness with his high school students. Unger once featured Toews on his popular satirical Daily Bonnet website where he mused about why there wasn’t a giant statue of Toews in her hometown.  Of course Unger was ‘schputting’- a Low German word for making fun of something or being irreverent about it. ‘Schputting’ is explained in The New Yorker article with reference to Toews’ own writing.

Unger wasn’t ‘schputting’ however when he told The New Yorker that Steinbach hasn’t really acknowledged the accomplishments of Toews.  “We’ve done nothing as a community to recognize or honor her.”

Why hasn’t Steinbach recognized a woman The New Yorker calls one of Canada’s best loved and best known writers, a woman who has won international literary prizes and whose work is critically acclaimed?

I think one reason is because Toews’ books fictionalize real events and people. Steinbach residents who have knowledge of those same events and people tend to get upset because Toews didn’t write about them accurately.   

I was connected in several ways to the Toews’ family and have sometimes caught myself saying as I read Miriam’s books, “But that’s not the way it happened.”  I know that Toews is writing fiction but I understand how some people might be unsettled reading her fictionalized version of true events.

Toews’ mother Elvira puts it even more strongly in The New Yorker article when she talks about people who say her daughter “just tells lies.”  Mennonite novelist Dora Dueck confesses on her blog she initially struggled with something similar while reading Women Talking.  Dueck has high praise for the book but says she had to lecture herself that it was a novel and not journalism.

Another reason why Toews may not be lauded in her hometown is because the predominantly Mennonite population is troubled by her honest revelations about the abuse, oppression and hypocrisy particularly directed towards women by the historically entrenched patriarchy in Mennonite churches and the church’s tendency at least in the past, to ignore or silence people with addictions, mental health issues and family dysfunction.  The devastating consequences of these kinds of attitudes are being brought to light every day in every kind of church denomination but Toews’ books focus on the Mennonite church and so some Mennonites might feel they have been singled out for unfair criticism.

To balance Toews’ perceived lack of popularity in her hometown one has to remember she gives voice to many people who know from first hand experience that her accounts of growing up in in a small conservative community, and her characters’ experiences with the church ring true, no matter where they live or what religious affiliation they might have. Toews may not have enough fans in her hometown to be given recognition with her name on a building, or street sign, or piece of public art, but she does have a multitude of fans around the world who appreciate her and love to read her books.  

Other posts

Are Men and Women’s Friendships Different?

Mennonite Nuns

Violence in Christian Families

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Filed under Books, Religion

Swimming With Manatees

Dave gets suited up in the dive shop.

Today is National Manatee Day, so I am reposting this blog I wrote in 2014. We went snorkeling at Three Sisters Springs a manatee sanctuary near Homosassa Florida where we were staying with our friends Jeff and Anna.  Jeff arranged the tour for us and suggested we go on the 6am launch with a boat from the Bird’s Underwater Inc.

Getting ready to swim with the manatees in Florida

Few snorkelers or kayakers are in the water at that hour and so the manatees are laid back and friendly. The West Indian manatees wait for the sun to come up before heading out to the Gulf of Mexico to eat seaweed. 

It was very cold and we left the dock in darkness and fog with our knowledgeable and capable guide Donna.  When we arrived at the springs only the two boats from our sanctuary with about 10 snorkelers each were there.  And did we see manatees! How I wish I’d had a underwater camera. (The photos of manatee in this post were all taken from on board the boat after we’d been in the water for about ninety minutes.)  One of the women snorkeling with us said this was her fourth visit to Three Sisters springs and she had never seen as many manatee on any previous dive. 

They swam right under us. I’d think I was swimming over a high rock only to glance down and realize there was a manatee beneath me.  Once I looked over and Dave had one manatee nipping at his ankles, another with its nose right up to his face mask, and he was petting a third beside him.  

Donna told us if we were very still in the water the manatee would come right up to us and they did. I could pat their thick hide and feel the bristly hair on their bodies, touch their long whiskers, run my fingers along the scars on their skin, brush away the algae sticking to their backs, rub their bellies when they flipped over and see the seaweed in their mouths. Their flat wide tails brushed against my body and they nibbled on my hair. 

The manatees have a sort of pre-historic quality about them and that makes sense because they’ve found fossils of manatee in Florida that are 45 million years old. Their nearest relative is the elephant. 

We saw little babies and juveniles and huge adult manatees  We saw mothers nursing their babies and adults mating. We didn’t realize how cold we were after all that time in the water till we got on board and were just shaking. The manatee were so amazing you didn’t even think about being cold. Once Dave had his wet suit off and his clothes back on he stood out in the sun at the back of the boat to warm up. As we left the Three Sisters Spring area about ten new boats had arrived with dozens and dozens of snorkelers. Kayaks were beginning to fill up the cove.  The manatee wanting to escape from all the commotion were heading out to sea in large numbers and away from the spring area. I was so glad we’d come early before so many of the manatee left the cove. 

Swimming with the manatee was a great experience. I was a little apprehensive and scared about it before hand but the manatee were so gentle and it was such a thrill to get up so close to such intriguing  sea creatures. 

Other encounters with interesting creatures are described in these posts……….

Hong Kong Frogs That Sound Like Cows Bellowing

Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Bison

It’s All Happening at the Zoo

The Animals of Australia

Seeing Sea Creatures 

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Filed under Florida, Nature, Sports, Travel

Clay Conversations

robert archimbeau“Hello Robert!”  The children I am taking on a tour at the Winnipeg Art Gallery greet the photo of eighty-six year old Robert Archambeau.  I tell them all the pottery they see in the room around them was made by Robert. conversations in clayWe go over to look at the name of the exhibit A Conversation in Clay.  I ask the children what a conversation is and they all know. I tell them we are going to have a clay conversation with a friend but first we will practice how to do that together. We walk over to a group of tea pots Robert has created and talk about them using a Clay Conversation guide I’ve made.  The kids contribute so many great ideas. ceramic teapotsThey each know which teapot they like best. They notice that some teapots’ surfaces look smooth like a marble  and others look rough like sandpaper. They point out that one of the pots has a different handle than the rest. They love the rainbow colors on one and wonder if they could put hot chocolate in the pots. 

Then I send them off in pairs with a copy of the discussion guide to have conversations with a partner about the other pieces in the room. Later we get together so everyone can share what they talked about. robert archimbeau ceramicsThey tell me these pieces would be perfect for storing magic potions. pots archimbeauThe pair discussing these pots thinks one looks like a chocolate cake and the other like an apple. They say the containers could be used for cookie jars or cooking pots or for storing rice. bowls archimbeauThe children would eat soup or cereal from these bowls and they notice how each one is a different height and color and has a kind of foot or stand on the bottom. ceramics winnipeg art galleryI am told that one of these pieces looks like a honeycomb, another an acorn squash and still another has a design that reminds them of tree bark or snake skin. salad platesThese plates each with a unique leaf design inside would be perfect for eating salad. clay pot childNow I give the children clay and they fashion pieces of their own. child's clay potI love this tea cup with a happy face inside. flower potThis one is a flower vase. bagel potAnd this one reminds some of the kids of a poppy seed bagel. 

robert archimbeauAs we leave the gallery we go back to Robert’s photo to say good-bye.  His works of art have created lots of great conversations and provided inspiration for our own art. 

Other posts…………..

Stories in Stone

Portraits in Plasticene

A Head Trio

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Filed under Art, Childhood, WInnipeg Art Gallery

Making Peace With the Past- The Canada Reads Nominees

All five Canada Reads nominees this year tell stories that were written at least in part because the authors wanted to make peace with their past.  I’ve already blogged about the first two books Homes by Abu Bakr al Rabeeah and Winnie Yeung, and Brother by David Chariandy. The other three are……..

In his Holocaust memoir By Chance Alone Max Eisen relates his experiences in the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz.  He  was from Czechoslovakia and lost his entire immediate family to the gas chambers.  Eisen had dreams while he was writing his book that helped him remember details about the past which his subconscious had suppressed. He was surprised how cathartic the writing experience was.

In Suzanne author Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette tells the story of her grandmother’s life.  Her grandmother left her husband and children to go to the United States and Europe to carve out an independent future of her own as an artist, writer and political activist.  Lavalette has researched the personal history of this grandmother she never really knew in the hopes that she might be able to understand her grandmother’s choice to abandon her children.

None of the Canada Reads nominees stands out for me. All are incredibly sad.  All are either true stories or were inspired by real life events and experiences. All address multiple issues of importance- racism, war, the role of women, mental illness, immigration, anti – Semitism, single parenting, and poverty. Each ends with a glimmer of hope.

I am only a few chapters in to The Woo Woo, by Lindsay Wong, the fifth nominee but have yet to gain a real appreciation for its kind of humour or feel an affinity for the narrator, although I can certainly relate to some aspects of the Chinese culture it portrays having lived in China for six years.  

Brother is the most well written book in my estimation.  Suzanne was the hardest to read because I couldn’t bring myself to make a connection with the protagonist or feel sympathy for her.  By Chance Alone covers territory I have become familiar with from the many other Holocaust stories I’ve read. Homes has the truest voice. Woo Woo is the strangest. 

An article in the March 20th issue of the Globe and Mail suggests that the Canada Reads books chosen this year emphasize sending a message or teaching a lesson over good imaginative writing and engaging stories. I think I tend to agree. 

Unlike other years when I have the book I’d like to see win Canada Reads clearly chosen ahead of time I really don’t have a favorite this year. I’ll be curious to see what happens when Canada Reads begins today.

Other posts……..

Hero’s Walk

The Illegal

Bone and Bread

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Filed under Books, Canada