Category Archives: Reflections

My Favorite Necklace

Having coffee on the deck of my niece Hannah’s house on the shores of Lake Erie in September 2014

About a year ago one of my favourite necklaces broke. I hadn’t realized till then how it had become my ‘go to’ necklace.

Breakfast before a guided tour in Split Croatia in October 2019

Getting ready to enjoy a deep-dish pizza at the home of our friends Kelly and Aaron in Chicago in November of 2011

With my daughter-in-law Alisa on the boardwalk in Point Pelee National Park in Ontario in August 2017

A farewell luncheon arranged by some of our students before we left Hong Kong in July 2011

At Thanksgiving supper with my niece Grace in October 2012 in Cottam Ontario

During the time the necklace languished in my jewellery box broken and unusable I couldn’t believe how often I reached for it thinking it would fit perfectly with whatever outfit I happened to be wearing.

A walk on Hecla Island in September 2020

With my friend Sue in January 2014 strolling on the beach in Sarasota Florida

I knew I had bought the necklace at a women’s clothing store in Hong Kong but how long ago? I decided to go through my photos and see when I had first started wearing the necklace. 

Visiting with my former high school student Jovie in March 2011 in Toronto

With Aphrodite at the Nelson Atkins Museum in Kansas City in July 2015

It was only when I saw how many photos I had with that necklace that I realized it had perhaps become one of the most central pieces of jewellery in my fashion wardrobe. I recently took it to a jewellery repair shop and had it fixed and I am so glad to have it back. 

Reading a chapter from my novel at a literary night my husband organized in October 2019

Visiting my Aunt Mary in Hesston Kansas in March 2017

Holding hands with Thomas Edison in Fort Meyers Florida in February 2014 

Celebrating our fall birthdays on my friend Glenys’ deck in Steinbach with my friend Esther September 2020

With a photo of Churchill, Roosevelt and Lenin at the Livadia Palace in Yalta Ukraine in June 2011

Visiting a daycare centre in Runaway Bay Jamaica in January 2014

Posing with the painting Orient IV by Bridget Riley at the Museu Coleção Berardo in Lisbon Portugal in January 2018

The photo evidence would seem to indicate that I’ve had this necklace for at least a decade.  I have made many good memories in wonderful places and with wonderful people while wearing the necklace. It was a bit expensive to fix, but definitely worth the cost. I am ready to visit new places and make new memories in my favourite necklace.

Other posts…………

 I Held You Before Your Mother Did

Beer, Baseball and Literature

On the Boardwalk

 

 

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Why Do People Collect Things?

Mom with one of the Royal Doulton Figurines she loved to collect

My mother-in-law Anne, collected Royal Doulton china figurines. She loved beautiful things and she had a curio cabinet in her living room where she kept her Royal Doultons.  Each woman in our family received one after her funeral. In this picture, Mom is holding a figurine called Fair Lady which she received as a Christmas gift.  It was the one I inherited as a keepsake. 

Note seashells on furniture cushions, seashells on the coffee table and seashell picture frames underneath the coffee table

Many people collect things. On a trip to Mexico, we visited a woman who collected seashells and items connected with seashells. One room in her house was exclusively for her seashell collection. There were seashells from all over the world everywhere. The room was furnished with couches and chairs with a seashell pattern on the upholstery. There were lamps with shades covered with shells. Sculptures made of shells and books about seashells sat on the tables. Family photos in seashell- encrusted frames lined the shelves. Even the business card the woman gave me was decorated with a photo of a large shell.

My mother collected buttons in this button box

People have a natural tendency to collect things. Seashells may not be their passion but whether its coins, stamps, postcards, spoons, buttons, or more bizarre things like teabags, chocolate bar wrappers or traffic signs we human beings seem inclined to be collectors. Dr Steve Anderson, a neurologist at the University of Iowa says our need to collect may harken back to an earlier point in our evolution, since many animals hoard things, especially food.

According to Susan Pearce, author of the book Interpreting Objects and Collections one in three North Americans collects something. There are many different kinds of collections and collectors.

The earrings I bought in Ukraine

Some collections are souvenirs. I collect earrings from the places we visit on our travels. My sister and her husband have a collection of traditional painted masks from many of the countries where they have travelled. 

Some collections are gifts. For years my brother gave my mother a china plate every Mother’s Day with a message or saying about mothers on it. He hunted through antique stores and curio shops, often for weeks, until he found a unique plate and a design. 

Some collections are of practical use. A couple who were our teaching colleagues in Hong Kong collected Starbucks coffee mugs from every place they visited. 

Our friend Rob collects military memorabilia. Photo by Jordan Ross/The Carillon

The desire to learn new things can also be the impetus behind a collection. Dave and I have a friend who collects military artefacts. He has uniforms, machinery, vehicles, sheet music, maps, books, flags and photographs. His collection has helped him learn a great deal about military history. 

Some people collect things because of their monetary value. I used to work with a woman who collected Barbie Dolls. She assured me someday she would sell her collection and make a mint of money.

Our son in a shirt he received as a gift from our friend who collects Superman items

Susan Pearce says there are some collections which she terms ‘magic’. There is no rhyme or reason for collecting them but they have a certain appeal or attraction for the collector. I imagine this might apply to the collection of snow globes my brother used to have or a friend’s large collection of Superman memorabilia

Collections can remind us of positive experiences and important people in our lives. They can help us learn new things. They can be practical or magical. Collections can enrich our lives.

If you enjoyed this blog post you might also like………

My Mom’s Button Box

Earrings and Tombstones

Among the Birch and Pine

 

 

 

 

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Beautiful Debris

A plate made from the recycled ceramic debris pictured around it

Smashed! That’s the title of an article in the latest edition of the magazine Positive News. It talks about the Granby Workshop in Liverpool England which makes new dinnerware and decorative tiles by recycling discarded ceramic crockery. About 68 million tons of ceramic waste is sent to the landfill each year in Britain. The Granby Workshop is trying to reduce that number.

The Granby Workshop reminded me of my visit to the Temple of Dawn in Bangkok, Thailand. It is covered with millions of pieces of smashed ceramic bits that skilled craftspeople have turned into works of art on the exterior of the temple.

The Temple of Dawn was built by King Taskin in the 1700s. He wanted to find a way to use the millions of broken bits of beautiful china that had to be discarded when ships arrived from China with ceramic dishes. Some of the dishes always smashed in the ships’ holds on the journey to Thailand.

Winter Sun From the Ski Trail by Sharon Loeppky

The article about the Granby Project also reminded me of my cousin Sharon Loeppky who makes these absolutely stunning pieces of art from discarded bits of smashed china and ceramics she finds in rubbish heaps.

Isn’t it lovely and interesting how the bits and pieces of broken things can be turned into something new and beautiful?

Other posts………..

A Giant Recycling Project- The Temple of Dawn

An Artist in the Family

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Thoughts About 100,000 Nails

Metropolis by David Partridge

This is a mural called Metropolis which I photographed on a visit to Toronto’s City Hall. Created by artist David Partridge it contains 100,000 nails.

Metropolis is composed of nails of many different shapes and sizes to illustrate that cities are made up of very diverse kinds of people. It makes me think about the rich and interesting diversity of human beings that make up Canada with its approximately 38 million people and our world with its 7.5 billion people .

At the centre of the mural which represents the heart of the city the nails are very close together. There are many places in our country and our world where people live in close proximity. Downtown Vancouver is the most densely populated area in Canada. When I lived in Hong Kong I often went shopping in the Mong Kok district which is the most densely populated place on earth.

As you move out from the centre of the mural the nails are further apart since they are representing the suburbs of the city. In Canada, many people live in smaller communities. Both my husband Dave and I grew up in a small Canadian community and so did our parents.

On bicycle trips I have taken in China and Croatia and Germany and on drives in rural Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Portugal and Australia and other places, I have come to realize just how many marvellous and infinitely diverse small towns and villages provide homes to the people of the world.

The furthest edges of the mural represent the area just outside the city where the metropolis gives way to rural living. Although fewer and fewer people in Canada and the world live in isolated and sparsely populated regions there are still some. I think about an isolated bed and breakfast we stayed at once that literally hugged the rugged shore of Newfoundland or the house we rented in rural Iceland where there were no other homes for miles around.

A really interesting thing about the Metropolis mural is that if you drop a coin anywhere near the top of it that coin will make its way through the maze of nails down to the bottom and create a beautiful musical sound as it travels. The day we visited the mural we saw a large group of tourists lined up along the wall and they all let their coins go at the same time and it made this grand and lovely symphony of sound.

For me, the mural of 100,000 nails can represent the unique populations of Canada and the amazingly diverse populations of our world living in different places in different ways. Wouldn’t it be great if we could all come together in one gigantic mural of sight and sound where everyone creates a cohesive whole but at the same time everyone is seen and heard?

Other posts…….

A House with a View and So Much More

House With a View in Newfoundland

Farmers

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What If God Is Just A Stranger on A Bus?

The Parable of the Lost Silver Piece by Godefridus Schalcken 1643-1706- The Hague

I appreciate the many metaphors for God in the Bible- a rock, a shepherd, the light, the wind and a king.  I’ve always loved the feminine metaphors in Scripture comparing God to a human mother, a mother hen, a mother bear, a mother eagle and a woman searching for a lost silver coin. But I had never considered the metaphor of stranger in relation to God, till I listened to an interview with Irish philosopher Richard Kearney. 

Abraham and the Three Strangers by Marc Chagall

Kearny pointed out how God came to Abraham and Sarah in the guise of three strangers to tell them the news they were to become parents. Abraham and Sarah welcomed the strangers and gave them food. 

Trinity by Andrei Rublev- 1411 or 1425-27

Kearny said when the Russian Orthodox painter Andrei Rublev created his famous icon of the Trinity he chose to portray them as the three strangers who visited Abraham and Sarah. 

The Cestello Annunciation by Sandro Bottecelli -1489

Mary, Jesus’ mother also welcomes a stranger in the form of the angel Gabriel who tells her she is going to have a baby.

In his interview, Kearny referred to Botticelli’s painting of Mary and Gabriel because Mary does look somewhat hesitant about accepting this strange being who brings such astounding news. Mary is reaching her hand to the stranger at the same time as she is backing away. 

We know Jesus referred to himself as a stranger, when he said, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.”

Supper at Emmaus by Caravaggio 1601

After Jesus’ resurrection, he appears as a stranger to fellow travellers on the road to Emmaus. They chat with Jesus and even have a meal with him but don’t recognize him.  

Philoxenia Love of the Stranger by Rev. Charlie Baber a comic artist for the North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church. Look closely at the poster to see who Baber has chosen to be the three strangers in his take on the original Rublev icon.

What does the metaphor of God as a stranger teach us? We are so often wary of strangers, yet if strangers’ faces reflect the face of God then at the very least we owe them a smile, a greeting, and perhaps an invitation to share conversation.  

I am finding during the pandemic that just like me, the strangers I pass as I walk outdoors seem hungry for positive recognition and interaction, isolated as we are from other people so much of the time. 

A number of years ago there was a news story about a Winnipeg transit driver who stopped his bus on a chilly morning to get out and give his shoes to a barefoot stranger. The story garnered international attention. The bus driver seemed surprised at all the media exposure he was receiving. He figured most people would do the same thing he did if they saw a stranger in need. 

In 1995 singer Joan Osborne had a hit song called What If God Was One of Us? The chorus goes………

What if God was one of us……………….. just a stranger on the bus trying to make his way home?

Other posts about strangers on buses………..

Another Friend for the Moment

Bus Chat

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My Word for 2021

Acceptance is going to be my word for 2021.

I want to learn to be more accepting of whatever the coming year may bring. I know there will be some hard things to face. The pandemic and its restrictions haven’t been easy to accept and will probably continue to be challenging in 2021. But I want to make the best of what happens and not constantly think about what my life would have been like if things were different.

Doing a 7 kilometre walk along the river on New Year’s Eve

I want to accept my body as it is. I’ve spent a good deal of time and money on trying to keep my body at a certain weight and trying to make it fit the conventional ideas of what a woman should look like. This year I want to accept and appreciate my ageing body for what it can do and what gifts it offers me.

I want to be more accepting of people who have ideas that are different than my own or have chosen life paths very different from my own. This year I want to enter into dialogue with those people and look for what we have in common and try to understand them.

Trying to look relaxed before reading aloud a chapter of my current work in progress 60s Girl to a group at an outdoor event

I want to accept offers to try new things and not let my own doubts or anxieties prevent me from stepping forward.

I want to accept that not all days need to be productive. That especially during a crisis like we are experiencing right now some days I need to just be and not worry about checking off things on my ‘to do’ list.

Last year was the first year I chose a word for the year and I think trying to focus on it made my year better in many ways. I hope that will happen this year too.

Other posts………

The Pandemic in Six Words

My Grandmother’s Epitaph- Words to Live By

Words of Wisdom on a Wine Bottle

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The Year in Review

Kent Monkman’s The Scream which depicts indigenous children being rounded up and taken away to residential school

In January I was very busy giving tours of Kent Monkman’s Shame and Prejudice exhibit. It was one of the most popular shows the Winnipeg Art Gallery has hosted during my eight years of employment there. I toured hundreds of people through the exhibithigh school students, members of my church, business people, seniors groups, teachers, scientists, friends, government workers, college students, university students, social workers and regular gallery visitors.

Golfing at the Star Fire Course in Arizona with Dave’s brother Paul and our sister-in-law Shirley

In February we were in Phoenix Arizona and had a great time hiking, golfing, swimming and sight-seeing with friends and family. A highlight for me was seeing the musical Beautiful about the life of recording great Carole King.

On the Provencher Bridge in Winnipeg

In March due to the pandemic we were back home in Winnipeg, broken-hearted over a cancelled family vacation in Arizona with our children and grandchildren and isolating in our apartment. For weeks we ventured out only around sunset for walks on the almost empty streets near our home.

By April we had our bikes ready to hit the road and we bundled up in layers and broke our isolation each day with cycles that were several hours long. We found lots of cool places in Winnipeg we had never visited before including an alleyway full of Arctic wildlife.

By May restrictions had lifted enough that I could start visiting my Dad outside at the assisted living building where he makes his home. The isolation of the previous months had taken a heavy toll on him.

In June golf courses had re-opened and Dave and I began a weekly ritual of inviting another couple for socially distanced golf games and then enjoying a meal together on an outdoor patio somewhere.

In July we were invited to an alternate Winnipeg Folk Festival celebration on a prairie farm and I walked the maze our hosts had cut into the field behind their barn.

In August we celebrated our 47th wedding anniversary. I found some old slides at my Dad’s and had them scanned into photos. I discovered many pictures I wasn’t even aware existed including this one of us setting off on our honeymoon in 1973.

In September we spent a couple of beautiful days on Hecla Island with friends, hiking, golfing and exploring.

In October we did a tour of a very unique exhibit of paintings by Van Gogh.

In November we went on so many wonderful wintery hikes on Winnipeg trails and Dave introduced me to the joys of his new birding hobby. We were so excited to welcome a new granddaughter Nora Dot to our family.

In December I packed up gifts with pictures of stockings and sent them off to our children and grandchildren in Saskatoon and delivered actual stockings to our children and granddaughter in Winnipeg. Christmas would be celebrated via Zoom and FaceTime.

On one of his recent radio shows my son said that someday in the distant future we will think about 2020 and say to people………”Remember the year of the pandemic?” We might have to jog our memories to bring it to mind. I hope that’s true. There were some good things about this year but I have no desire to have another one like it. I hope at least the last half of 2021 will be a brighter and happier time and that by 2022 my year-end review might once again be filled with images of personal visits and interesting adventures with family and friends, reviews of plays and concerts, and rich travel experiences.

Other posts………….

A Pandemic Summer

2011- A Year of People in My Life

Highlights of 2016

2019- The Year in Review

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From Double to Half- My First Kijiji Experience

I posted an ad for an antique dresser on Kijiji at the beginning of December. It was my first time trying to sell something on the site so I was elated when within minutes we received a response. Our potential buyer offered to give us double our asking price. They would send a mover to pick up the dresser.

We bought this dresser in 1979.

We were asked to pay the mover two hundred dollars in cash for their services and then the buyer would send us a cheque to reimburse us for the moving charge as well as pay us double what we’d asked for the dresser. Sound too good to be true? That’s what we thought. A quick internet search revealed this is a common scam. The buyer does indeed send a mover who ends up with your item of furniture and $200. The cheque never materializes or if it does it bounces.

Over the month we had numerous inquiries about the size and condition of the dresser and whether we would deliver it, but no offers. We dropped the price and received even more inquiries none of them serious. However the number of folks who had viewed the ad kept increasing so we decided to give it a little more time.

Finally yesterday a buyer negotiated me down to half of what we’d originally listed the dresser for and said she would arrange for pick up. I took the deal. I needed to get rid of the dresser and the woman immediately sent me a valid e-transfer for our agreed price. Her movers are picking the dresser up this afternoon.

Lessons from my first Kijiji sale that might apply to life……

Be wary of things that sound too good to be true.

Be willing to modify your expectations to get the job done.

Be patient.

In a future blog post I’ll let you know why I had to sell the dresser. It is actually something I’m pretty excited about!

Other posts…………

Pumpkins for Sale

Calculator Conversation

Merchants Photographed Around the World

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Word of the Year- How Did I Do?

Listen was my word of the year for 2020. When I chose it last January I wrote that I wanted to get better at ‘listening’ in lots of different areas. I think I was pretty successful in some of them, but not as successful in others.

I said I wanted to start listening to more podcasts and I did. Some I especially liked and wrote about were Mobituaries with Mo Rocca, Heavy Weight with Jonathan Goldstein, 1619 with Nikole Hannah Jones and Through Line with Rund Abdelfatah & Ramtin Arablouei. Other podcasts I enjoyed quite regularly were This American Life and Hidden Brain.

I also wanted to start listening to more music and different kinds of music. To inspire me I subscribed to Apple Music and have added lots of new songs to my playlists this last year. Dave and I regularly listen to my expanded music library while driving although this has been the source of some debate.

My son with his band Royal Canoe just before their phenomenal show on ice instruments at The Forks in Winnipeg in January 2020

My son Bucky was actually largely responsible for the widening of my musical listening horizons in 2020. His band Royal Canoe got the year off to a bang with their Glacial Show. In January they played music from their albums on instruments made of ice to huge crowds down at The Forks in Winnipeg. That was certainly one of my most unique musical experiences.

Since his careers as a touring professional musician and a music booking agent came to an abrupt halt with the pandemic my son started all kinds of new ventures and one was a weekly radio show. The music he played on his program was almost all new to me and introduced me to many artists I had never heard before.

No matter the weather Dave and I have been heading out on walks during the pandemic. We try to get in our 10,000 steps every day.

I said last year that I wanted to start listening to my body and get enough exercise but I also wanted to learn to listen to my body when it told me to rest. The pandemic has certainly meant my body gets more rest since there aren’t lots of places for it to go. However, I have still tried to listen to my body calling to me to get outdoors and keep fit. My husband Dave has been a great inspiration encouraging me to walk or cycle with him every day.

Signing the contract for my book in June

Another goal for 2020 was to listen to critiques of my writing and take them seriously and act on them. I did that by submitting work to contests and editors and my writers group and getting lots of great feedback I took to heart. That resulted in a book contract.

A family conversation prior to the pandemic

I had one listening goal where my progress is questionable. I wanted to talk less and listen more and to be a more sensitive listener so I could improve my relationships with others. Not being able to get together with people to visit and not seeing them in person to sense their mood or body language has made listening in a more sensitive way a challenge and is something I will need to keep working on.

I haven’t picked a word for 2021 yet. I am still thinking about it. I’ll let you know when I’ve decided on one.

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Stories of Brokenness

My husband Dave poses with the sculpture Broken Jug by Frank Stella. I photographed him at Museu Coleção Berardo in Lisbon in January of 2018

When I was a little girl I accidentally broke a cut glass sugar bowl that my mother had inherited from her grandmother. I don’t remember exactly how I came to drop the bowl but I do remember the look on my mother’s face when it shattered on the floor. She didn’t get angry but she looked so incredibly sad and then she started to cry. I felt just terrible.

It is painful to be the cause of someone else’s brokenness, especially if you didn’t mean to hurt them.

Broken tree embraces a car on my street. The photo was taken on September 9, 2020

As teenagers, both of my sons had their hearts broken by young women who ended relationships with them. I can still hear the brokenness in their voices when they told me and remember how frantically my mind raced as I tried to think about what I could do to ease the pain they were feeling. Later they both found life partners who have brought them much happiness and so I know the end of those relationships was probably the best thing. But I haven’t forgotten how helpless I felt as I witnessed my children’s brokenness and tried to provide some empathy and encouragement to them.

Our natural instinct is to reach out to those we love when they are experiencing brokenness.

Broken tree I photographed in Beaudry Park on November 26, 2020

I have broken relationships in my life. I have hope that some will heal. I have tried to make peace with the fact that some will never heal completely. I have found there is only so much you can do to heal a broken relationship. At some point, your own sense of self-respect and integrity is on the line and you can’t cross it to heal the brokenness so you just need to let it be and not let it damage you or other whole relationships you have.

Not all brokenness can be mended completely or without lasting scars. 

I photographed these boys playing on broken tree branches near Luang Prabang in Laos in the spring of 2009. 

I was once observing a science lesson in an elementary school classroom where the student-teacher I was mentoring was doing a tug of war activity with the children. She was using the game to illustrate different concepts of force and motion. And then suddenly the rope broke! I thought the young teacher would be flustered as her lesson plan went awry but instead, she asked questions and initiated a discussion with the children that made the broken rope a really educational experience for them.

We can learn things from experiences of brokenness.

Kosovar boy looks through a bullet hole in a broken bus window in 1998. Photo by Yannis Behrakis. I was given permission to take a photo of this image at an art exhibit in Dubrovnik in September of 2019

I broke my wrist in December of 2017 and the first x-ray didn’t show it was broken. When the pain didn’t go away for weeks I went to get another x-ray and they discovered my wrist was indeed broken and there was a reason I’d been having all that pain. Sometimes we may not accept that a relationship or perhaps our own spirits and hearts have been broken but when the pain persists we are forced to face that fact.

It isn’t always easy to recognize and acknowledge brokenness.

The art piece Sphere Within A Sphere by Arnaldo Pomodoro shows a broken world. I photographed it at the Vatican in February of 2010. 

Our world seems so broken right now.

In this uncertain and stressful time, it is healthy to recognize the brokenness we may be experiencing and the brokenness we may have caused for others.

Our hearts will be enlarged when we show empathy for the brokenness we witness.

There are things all of us can do to heal the brokenness in our world, in our communities and in our families but we need to accept the fact that we can’t mend it all.

We can learn a great deal from our experience with brokenness.

Other posts……..

Come Healing

Lisbon By Design

War is Hell- Especially For Children

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