“I’m preparing to die. ” I visited with a woman in her eighties who told me she is spending a fair bit of time reading, writing, learning, talking and thinking about death. Even though she isn’t terminally ill she wants to be ready to die. She feels the more she can prepare herself for death and accept it as a natural part of life, the easier it will be for her and her family.
I just finished reading Madeleine L’ Engle’s book The Summer of the Great Grandmother where she describes the last summer of her mother’s life. L’ Engle says we experience a series of ‘letting go’ events or ‘deaths’ that can prepare us for the end of our life.
L’ Engle suggests we die to childhood and are born to adolescence. We die to adolescence and become adults. We die to our single selves when we become someone’s partner or parent. When we move to a new place or a new career we experience a kind of death. She thinks these experiences can teach us things that will make the end of our lives easier.
We spend much of our childhood and adolescence being educated and prepared for our adult lives. Many couples attend counseling sessions or retreats to prepare for marriage. I took prenatal classes and read books to prepare for parenthood. Many people take seminars and visit a financial planner to prepare for retirement . It makes sense that just as we prepare for these other deaths and rebirths during our lifetime we should also prepare for our final death and rebirth.
Teaching Our Children How To Die
Let’s Talk About Our Parents
My Grandmother’s Epitaph
The Winnipeg Art Gallery is all boarded up these days. There are surfboards, skateboards and snowboards on view in our Boarder X exhibit. The works by indigenous artists get you thinking about our relationship to the environment and other people in new ways. The bright surfboards in the photo above come from Australia and were created by artist Vernon Ah Kee. They have aboriginal rainforest designs on the front and use the colors from the Australian aboriginal flag. On the back of each surfboard are black and white portraits of Vernon’s relatives. Only half of their faces are shown. The colorful surfboards are surrounded by texts that were chanted during race riots in Sydney Australia in 2005
and accompained by a provocative and at times jarring video.
You can stand in front of this cityscape of Winnipeg for a long time finding new and interesting things in it. It was created by Roger Crait, who was a passionate skateboarder as a teen and young adult. To me the wings on the planes and insects look like painted skateboards and there are skateboards hiding in other places too. Both skateboarding and painting are activities that require lots of practice if you want to become skilled at them.
These cedar boards were designed by Jordan Bennet who is from Newfoundland. They were inspired by stories he heard about the land and the history of his people.
I had some elementary school students in the art gallery this week and I gave them a whole variety of felt shapes to make designs of their own in Jordan Bennet’s style. They came up with some pretty creative stuff. There’s a fascinating trio of pieces related to snowboarding. First this digital photograph by Mason Mashon where the tiny snowboarder surveys the route ahead and…..
and then these two pieces Sky Blanket and Clouds by weaver Meghann O’Brien.
Mark Igloliorte shows viewers the similarities between kayaking and skateboarding in his video installation
Skateboard-Kayak- Flip- Roll.
Boarder X brings together elements you might not think have lots in common but you’ll be excited to see how they do and you’ll find lots of personal connections of your own as you walk through the exhibit.
The Dakota Boat
Parfleches for the Last Supper
A Controversial Statue
Jaws drop, eyes widen, and voices exclaim when I take kids into the room at the Winnipeg Art Gallery where Australian born, London-based artist Ron Mueck’s enormous sculpture The Girl is on display. The little girl has just been born and her umbilical cord is still attached. Blood remains on her wrinkled and folded skin. You can see the glisten of saliva on the baby’s lips, the wet of mucus in her nose and her tiny eyelashes. You need to walk slowly all around the figure and think about it. Mueck says that while he spends lots of time making the outer surface of his giant human beings it is really the life inside them he is trying to capture. After our older son was born my husband walked around the delivery room carrying him and talking to him. “I wonder what he is thinking,” he said to me. Mueck’s sculpture has that quizzical thinking look about it. Mueck has created other life-size sculptures of babies. He made the first after the birth of his child. Mueck reflects on the strangeness and assertiveness of infants and the way a new baby tends to totally dominate our lives. Mueck’s Old Woman in Bed is on display just a few steps away from The Girl. This art piece shows a dying, vulnerable woman in her hospital bed. She is as tiny as Mueck’s baby is big. One high school girl in a group I toured through the exhibit had tears in her eyes. “My grandfather just died,” she said to me. “My mom is trying to connect with his soul.” Artist Ron Mueck made the Old Woman in Bed after visiting his wife’s beloved grandmother in the hospital. The woman is curled in a fetal position, and her wrinkled skin, so like the wrinkled skin of the baby, links her clearly with the new born girl nearby. This exhibit juxtapositions the beginning and end of a woman’s life beautifully and in such a moving and compassionate way.
The Girl and Old Woman in Bed are on loan to the Winnipeg Art Gallery from the National Gallery in Ottawa till October 4. They are not to be missed!
Portrait or Landscape
A Quick Dip into the AGO
Landscapes for the end of time
Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place. -Zora Neale Hurston
It is not the ship so much as the skillful sailing that assures the prosperous voyage. – George William Curtis
The greatest accomplishment is not in never falling but in rising again after you fall. – Vince Lombardi
Great buildings that move the spirit have always been rare. In every case they are unique, poetic, products of the heart.- Arthur Erickson
Make a joyful noise- Psalm 98:4There are always flowers for those who want to see them.- Henri Matisse
Rest is not idleness- John Lubbock
I am where I am because of the bridges that I crossed.- Oprah Winfrey
I took all the photos in this post on our trip to Australia in 2010.
Other posts about Australia…...
Edge of the Trees- An Aboriginal Perspective
Lessons From the Sydney Opera House
A Curious and Troubling Nativity Scene
I took a photo of this cartoon in 2010 when I visited the Museum of Sydney in Australia. It shows an Indigenous mother and child dressed in European style clothing, seated on a city street. Non-indigenous onlookers are gathered around staring at them. The cartoon called A Curiosity in Her Own Country is by Phil May and appeared in a Sydney newspaper called the Bulletin in March of 1888. In 1888 Indigenous people in Australia lived in poverty on reserves or in camps on the fringes of cities. They were kept out of sight. Many people rarely saw them. So it is easy to imagine that when they did, they might have stared at them as if they were unusual or exotic. Ironically in the 1800s the word ‘curiousity’ meant a unique item worthy of a place in a collection. The cartoonist satirizes the fact that the woman is seen as a ‘curiosity’ in her own country. The woman and child are drawn realistically while the onlookers are caricatures.
In 2009 Australian artist Martin Sharp created a painting called Australia based on the 1888 cartoon. It was also on display in the Museum of Sydney during our 2010 visit. Sharp’s rendition reminds me of a nativity scene. The mother and child both have halos the way Mary and Jesus often did in Renaissance paintings. The stars adorning Sharp’s painting remind me of the starry sky in Bethlehem that led curious onlookers like the shepherds and Magi to Jesus. Was Jesus a ‘curiosity’ in his ancestral home?
Both May’s 1888 cartoon and Sharp’s 2009 painting make me wonder who we relegate to the status of ‘curiosity’ in 2014.
Other posts about Mary ……….
She Was 13 Years Old
Only Five Star Hotels for the Holy Family
Thinking About Mary
“This book would make a great movie,” I thought when I was only a few chapters into The Rosie Project. So I wasn’t surprised to discover that the author Graeme Simsion first wrote the story as a screenplay and that the movie rights to The Rosie Project have already been sold to Sony Pictures.
Cath and my husband Dave
My friend Cath was reading The Rosie Project when we shared a house in Minneapolis this summer and her brief description of the plot intrigued me so when I saw a copy on sale for half price recently I picked it up.
There are really two projects going on in the book. The Wife Project created by an Australian college genetics professor Don Tillman is launched to help him find the perfect wife. Don who has Aspergers has created an exhaustive questionnaire to seek out a woman who meets all his qualifications for a mate.
The second project in the book is The Father Project. It is the crusade of a young woman searching for her biological Dad. Don with his genetics background is the perfect person to help her. In the process he begins to like her even though she is woefully wanting when it comes to meeting any of his perfect wife criteria.
Both Rosie and Don are changed as their projects proceed. And we are left wondering who in this world is really ‘normal’ and ‘ordinary’ or ‘perfect for each other?’ Is anyone?
This is the kind of book you can almost read in one sitting. Its light but interesting and funny and if it wasn’t fall I’d say it would make perfect beach reading.
By the way a sequel The Rosie Effect will be released this month.
I’d offer to let you read my copy of The Rosie Project but I’ve already decided I’m going to give it to my cousin and her husband. Simsion has dedicated his book to Rod and Lynnette which just happen to be the first names of my cousin and her husband.I don’t think they know Graeme Simsion since he hails from Australia and they live in Winnipeg; still it’s kind of a cool coincidence.
The Language of Flowers
The Aviators Wife
The Queen Who Wouldn’t Eat Gingerbread
Filed under australia, Books
Edge of The Trees by Fiona Foley and Janet Laurence
Outside the city museum in Sydney Australia I stood behind one of the 29 pillars that symbolize the 29 aboriginal clans around Sydney in 1778 when the first convict settlers arrived. Edge of The Trees, the name of the artwork comes from a historical essay describing the event from the new arrivals perspective…. “struggling through the surf they were met on beaches by other people looking at them from the edge of the trees.“
As you walk through the ‘forest’, voices in the Koori language speak the names of the 29 aboriginal clans and the places where they lived.
Some pillars have hair, shell, bone, feathers, ash and honey embedded in them and the names of native plants now extinct have been carved or burned into the wooden columns.
Because the piece is interactive you can stand among the pillars and try to imagine what it might have been like for the aboriginal people to watch the arrival of colonists who were about to change their lives forever.
I wish those of us whose families immigrated to countries and took over aboriginal lands, could go back in time and put ourselves for just a moment in the shoes of the people who saw us arrive in the places they’d called home for thousands of years. Would that change our present perspective and attitudes?
Other related posts…..
What Do Mennonites and First Nations People Have in Common