Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Found Projection 1

I have been doing my work. I have been practicing daily those things which I know help me to do my daily work. I have been thinking about art making and the natural world which seems to be what is emerging as the focus of my expression. Stick piles and light.

I have been quiet, I have listened with my whole mind. I watch what turns my head, what causes me to pause. The above piece appeared on the western wall of my bedroom one morning on my way out of the shower. Light streams through moving trees, glass and screen. 

Video was shot on my Samsung Galaxy Note 4.

I barely know how to speak about this piece except to say when I saw it, I said yes. It feels like a step in an interesting direction to me.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Parenting and Social Media

Dear parents, Don't air your dirty laundry on social media. Especially, do not reveal your kink. Your kids will pick up on it and that is creepy.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Detachment Parenting

This post has taken all together too long to write. It's an apt metaphor though, everything takes longer than I think it will.

I didn't read many books about parenting, just the usual early stuff about habits of smaller children. What to Expect..., Penelope Leach and etc. Mostly I read them to calm my nervous ex-husband. I went mostly on instinct and logic and knowledge of my small subject. Nowadays I read bits and pieces online when specific issues arise with my teen. Back in the day when my kid was a baby and toddler I mostly watched people who had kids and paid attention to how they were with them and what the kids were like. I have been lucky, I have some really good parent examples around me, I learned much and I am still learning today as my friends kids turn the corner into fully individuated adulthood. My understanding of parenting has grown and evolved as I have gone along. I had no idea what an intense job it would be to raise the best child I could with the tools I had.

Parenting takes balance. I am pragmatic with my choices where my parenting is concerned. In the beginning I needed to be able to work while still caring for my kid in a positive way. I altered how I approached work. I learned to conceptualize solutions during lazy afternoons following a toddler around, saving them up to work on later while she slept. I stopped traveling. I stayed at home and made myself available to my child no matter what. I created this life we have so that she would feel safe and respected, and able to thrive. It wasn't all easy despite my practical approach but it mostly was and now I can see how far we have come.

I have held this child so tightly, knowing that the whole exercise of parenting is about letting go in a million different ways. Letting go of time, expectation, the deep seated crap we have carried from our own misshapen childhoods. We weren't in a good place last fall when her world was shattered by the loss of her friend from suicide. It was a tough blow and we've had to work hard to learn to process it. I returned to my fallback position of vigilance for awhile while I grieved the violent loss of her innocence. 5 months on I feel like we are through the worst of it, I hope we are through the worst of it. On top of all that though is just the normal discomfort associated with development. The letting go is difficult, it's sticky, and at times it's just plain ugly. Little gestures, harsh words, cutting looks. It's the push-me-pull-you of detachment. Normal healthy detachment. It will strip you bare at times, waking your own sleeping adolescent self. We rise and fall but hang together.

She asked me the other day, in a text, if I was an existentialist. I was touched somehow.  I said yes and asked her if she was one too. She said yes, and I immediately felt bad about it. We have crossed a threshold in understanding. Calvin's death opened up the possibility that the unspeakable could happen for no reason. There is no sugar coating this. As the parent I can only model what I think is the correct behavior or response. We honor that we are having a difficult time while still moving forward. There will always be some crisis that stirs up our feelings, sometimes small, occasionally catastrophic. There are moments in time that we need resilience to help us through. I have labored to give her the tools needed to weather these times.

Where I am, I don't know, I'll never know, in the silence you don't know,
you must go on, I can't go on, I'll go on.

Samuel Beckett

My kid got into the her chosen school and won a scholarship to boot. When I am not trying to impart to her every piece of important (in my opinion) information, I feel she needs to know about the world, I am amazed by her. She's fantastic, a wonderful being and I like to marvel at the person she is becoming. Parenting has been and continues to be the most exciting and fulfilling activity of my life. 

Sunday, January 24, 2016


Last year, at the end of a hot dry summer there was a wind storm
we didn't know it was coming, it had been so dry and the forecast was for a rain event
instead we got high winds and all the trees still laden with their leaves
and brittle from the long hot summer, were sails and got hooked and torn
and spiraled and fell when that wind came. We got stuck in it, going for a walk at the last minute,
not realizing how strong it was and how the trees were easy victims, unprepared as they were.
A big leaf maple came down near my piles and I have felt unable to begin clearing away the debris
even though I know the piles will grow as a result

The last post on this topic

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Inspiration this week: Rita Joe, Mi'kmaq Poet

I was only a housewife with a dream to bring laughter to the sad
eyes of my people and trusting the anchor we live by to complete
the woven tale we are still telling. Quoted from the back cover of

her recent book, We Are the Dreamers
I am just an Indian on this land
I am sad, my culture you do not understand.
I am just an Indian to you now
You wrinkle your brow.

Today you greet me with bagpipes
Today you sing your songs to me
Today we shake hands and see
How we keep good company.

Today I will tell stories
Today I play the drum and dance
Today I will say what is on my mind
For being friends is our goal.

Today I will show I am just like you
Today I will show what is true
Today I will show we can be friends
Together we agree.

Today I will tell about my race
Today I will share what is mine
Today I will give you my heart
This is all we own.

Today I show.
Hello everybody, my name is Rita Joe.

Rita (Bernard) Joe was born in Whycocomagh, Cape Breton Island, on March 15, 1932. At the young age of ten she was orphaned and shortly after was sent to the Indian Residential School, located in Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia. She later moved to Eskasoni where she met her husband, Frank Joe; they married in 1954. They lived all of their lives in Eskasoni, raising a family of 10 children.

In the 1960s, Rita first began to write poetry, primarily as a mechanism in which to challenge existing negative stereotypes regarding aboriginal people. She wrote about the manner in which the Mi'kmaq viewed the world, about Mi'kmaw traditions, culture and especially about the beauty of the Mi'kmaw language. She believed that her poetry demonstrated a gentle persuasion in changing people's negatives views of aboriginal people.

Rita's poetry became celebrated nationally and through her lifetime she went on to publish seven books. She became known as the Poet Laureate of the Mi'kmaq people for her accomplished writings and also received many awards, including the Order of Canada in 1990 and a National Aboriginal Achievement Award in 1997. She also was known for her two song recordings, The Oka Song, and Drumbeat is the Heartbeat of the Nation.

Rita Joe died March 20, 2007 at the age of 75 after a long struggle with Parkinson's disease.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016


The east wall of my living room. My mothers diplomas among other things.

January again. The beginning of a new year. As usual I am reflecting. I spend a lot of my time thinking about my creative practice. I walk and look up at the trees and I take notice of what is happening in the sky. I feel small and glad. To be alive. I think being an artist is maybe the same thing as what it means to be a person. You just keeping getting up each day and making an effort. Art is just a metaphor for life, we seek it, that feeling of understanding, of realization, of contentment. It is natural to want to make order out of chaos. Housekeeping is part of it. Without concern for form, with no product in mind. Laying hands on natural things. Domestic earth arts. Lately my making has been around sewing and cooking and building up the most beautiful compost pile.  I consider my lifestyle as striving toward piousness. Without god obviously.  My job is to observe and reflect, and yes, to serve the planet in some way. We are curious to learn about the natural world. We create a life that is artful in it's approach. We are wild, and lets face it. We want to do what we want to do. That cannot be sold. To create nothing except that which can be broken down and absorbed back into the earth. Clothing, books, piles of sticks. Can the practice be the art. The beginning of the year. I am reflective. In the midst of everything. Bowie is dead. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Social Media, What is it good for?

There is a storm outside and there is a storm inside me. Everyday I log into social media sites much the way an addict practices addiction. Compulsively, with enthusiasm trailed by regret. More than a dozen times a day, I pick up my phone and make my way through my different accounts.

It's dark out all the time now, we've been through a tough fall, my husband getting used to a new job, all of us mourning the suicide of our daughters boyfriend, Paris on lock-down. White people are outraged. I watch it on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

News through the filter of Facebook is contrived, let alone the media itself is so very skewed by revenue. The honest truth is that I feel better when I avoid social media all together. When I can search out information on my own, read an article or two, not just skim the headlines in my feed. I'm doing it, you're doing it. We're selling ourselves short. Facebook makes us shallow and vain.

I think it's preferable to develop ones own opinions based on facts from multiple sources rather than from the biggest group think exercise ever. Somehow the Facebook algorithm only shares news about certain topics and this troubles me. I feel like difficult subjects are less likely to be seen. I posted a Guardian article this morning and didn't get a single like. Had I posted a photo of my daughter as a baby I would have received a lot. Facebook seems to train us to share certain content by rewarding us with likes.

It is better for me to do and keep doing, rather than do, broadcast, and then check-in relentlessly to see who has approved of my doings. It's a sad empty feeling and more and more I find myself staring longingly at my device, wishing for something to happen, instead of making something happen. Constantly comparing yourself to others can be destructive and time consuming.

Overall I am trying to check in less and when I have the urge to look at my phone that is a cue for me to refocus on my work or pick up my knitting or reading. Sometimes I succeed and other days I fail, some days I bargain.

Is it all bad? Personal development done privately in quiet spaces is ideal but one cannot ignore the aspirational qualities of social media, and like it or not it exists in our society. Does this make us falsely more cautious about how we represent ourselves, or do those representations stand up as a higher view of our selves, an ideal to work toward.

I hope for the latter.

I believe strongly in the importance of daily exercise. I walk 3 miles each day, up and down my rural road. I often record observations of those daily walks to use as markers to myself and also to help inspire others in their daily practice of movement. This is one of the positive aspects of a site like Instagram, building connection and community through the use of common hashtags. In this way we connect to others and this is beneficial for creatives I believe.

I live in a place of tremendous natural beauty, I enjoy documenting my surroundings. These photos are a record and also a clue to what I am reacting to in my environment and why. Occasionally I make a good picture and I genuinely want to share it with others whose opinion matters to me.

These days, I use Facebook less and less. I rarely type in a status update any longer for fear of the resulting sidebar ads. It's bad enough that my search histories reflect what appears in my news feed.  

Instagram is charming and easy and a picture is worth a thousand words. I find the feed inspiring and my own feed has become a great archive of my daily activities which I find useful for seeing my progress. Plus, I care about posting interesting well composed photos as a part of my #dailypractice. More and more I see social media as a great archive and record of my state of mind and that is actually a useful tool for me. I look back and see difficult moments represented in photos and written clues. When I first used Facebook I suppose I might have been more direct (although restrained, as I was trained to be in public) in my expression of my feelings about things that were happening in my life. Life changes of course and I can see how my relationship to social media as it develops as a norm within our culture is changing as well.  The creepy algorithm that directs what Facebook presents to me is troubling but I accept that it exists, so I use it cautiously.

There was a time I thought I could go without social media altogether but I must be honest, there is a tiny voice in me that wants to shout out to the other humans in the universe now and then, you never know what you will get back. The feeling of being connected to others is affirming. We are all going through similar life challenges.

Moderation and self reflection go a long way when faced with how to interact with social media. This experiment whose effects—developing for a decade now—will be felt and discussed for a long time. In my opinion it is an interesting tool but it's not the whole universe. Ok, better get this on Twitter...

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Crash Course in Grief

Create a space to mourn and connect

How did you tell me? 

It came gradually. The words slow from your mouth. He is dead. Car crash. I know immediately. Suicide. You blinked, and your whole life changed. Your eyes are open, readjusting to a new reality. This boy, we were just getting to know is gone, forever at 18. Your heart is broken, mine is broken for you and for Calvin.

I bang pots making noise, so you can hear me in your room, so you know I am nearby.

I don't know how to mourn the loss of this much innocence and potential, but here I am, taking a crash-course. Getting through the first few days was key, setting a pace. We eat regularly and take quiet walks. The time crawls by. We watch animated movies. Your friends come to visit. On the third day after the death I decided to make a simple alter in our living room, a special place I could connect with my feelings about the loss of Calvin. There is a candle to light and let burn out into the night. There are 18 smooth glass stepping stones, one for each year of his short life. There is a small plate for offerings of food, and a vessel for notes of comfort, and questioning.

Grief is a mental and physical experience. I remember this from when my mother died 18 yrs ago. I know we will need time to think deeply about what has happened, so I have decided that we should observe a 49 day period of mourning. I am borrowing the time frame from a Buddhist tradition. They believe it takes these days for the soul to be reincarnated. We will take these 7 weeks to be purposeful in our grieving, and ever gentle with ourselves in these fragile times. I am determined that we can grow through this experience, that there will be something positive that comes from it. We have passed through the first week already.

A difficult farewell

I added pictures of Calvin to his alter after the Memorial today. It was wonderful to see how many friends he had and how supported his family will be. I have never felt so sad though, it is hard to see so many broken-hearted people. Among them, my one and only child. I will not rush this time. I will savor the humanness I feel. I will hold Calvin in my heart. I will speak his name. From this emotional chaos we will make order. We will make a circle around each other. We will weave this lost boy into our soft tissue. And carry him along.
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