Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Eeeek! Hyperventilating!

I just picked up my kitchen garbage can to find a literal invasion of sliming, pulsating maggots! I can only remember one worse maggot invasion - in the summer of 1989 when I went away for a week and absentmindedly left a flat of tomatoes enclosed in the dark of my kitchen cabinet.

I'll never forget being alerted to them by the faint buzz of trapped juvenile flies - and my horror as I pulled open the cupboard door, greeted by a swarm in my face...And then pulling out the wet, moving flat, as the bottom disintegrated into my crouched lap... Oooo, the stuff of nightmares...

I dumped a half bottle of bleach on this morning's invasion hoping to stop their advance for refuge under the fridge to no avail. O god - I had to step on them all - and as i flung the maggot caked paper towel across the back deck into the fire pit, a remnant few flailed back at me. And I'd just showered!

Oooo, what is it about a simple larvae that can reduce a grown woman to utter terror?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Sage Advice from 'Shit My Dad Says'

"Don’t focus on the one guy who hates you. You don’t go to the park and set your picnic down next to the only pile of dog shit."

The best thing about this site is reading it to Mike, who runs from the room offended, his hands covering his ears to protect his purity.

Not, mind you, that I'd ever do that...

Friday, June 25, 2010


Where else in the world can you sit on the roadside and copy great works of art onto the pavement?

Omg, I have to get here. This is a great photoblog of Florence.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

About Town

I was driving home the other day, as usual contemplating the deep heroic questions of life from behind the wheel. I have a few I play with regularly, like, 'what is happiness?' or 'what is purpose?, or 'geez, my thighs look big!', or 'where do i fit in, in life?' or 'omg! do i have cancer?' when I noticed a girl, sashaying up the street.

I'm not kidding that she was sashaying. She was a pleasantly handicapped looking girl in a psychedelic blue dress, ankle socks and rubber thongs. She was probably in the neighborhood of 300 pounds on a 5'5 frame, the kind of weight where every piece moves of it's own accord. And she was dancing as she walked to bus stop.

The day was glorious, the sun had finally burst through layers of oppressive cloud. The last few flowering spring trees and bushes were finishing up their thing. And when I opened my window, as if like magic, I could hear an orchestra of birds. A symphony of singing, squawking, whistling and cawing. I looked again at the dancing girl. I think she may have heard them too.

As I was watching her disappear in my rear view mirror, two young men walking purposefully, in stiff white shirts, black dress pants, & carrying briefcases & bibles crossed in front of me. They looked like they were in a hurry, religious fervor stretched across their tight, serious faces. Sadly, I somehow doubt they heard the orchestra of birds.


Early yesterday morning, I was down at Superstore. It was about a 33.3% morning for me. In fairness, I'd run out of coffee, the discount bread rack was low, and I was back to wrestling with my favorite deep thoughts. As I was packing my groceries, the clerk asked benignly of the person behind me, 'How are you doing?'

'100%!' a voice replied loudly & enthusiastically. I turned to have a look at who might be doing so well. Gosh, she didn't look 100%. She was a small wizened woman of at least 70, in very mismatched summer clothing, a men's fishing cap over her unruly hair, buying a club pack of sliced ham. She grinned broadly at me as she doled out her coins with bent arthritic fingers. I grinned back. I couldn't help it.


Last night a close friend called me from the Psych Ward, she's been committed at least 20 times in the past 35 years. She was in high spirits, having escaped the eagle eyed nursing staff, and hiding out using a private line in an unlocked Doctor's office. She wove run on tales of hilarity about other patients, hobos she'd shared smokes with out by the garbage bin and made keen observations of herself and the medical establishment. She told me they'd had her watch a documentary of sad manic/depressive patients, reflecting on the seriousness of their illness. 'What the hell?!' she commented on their glumness. 'I have the time of my life when I'm manic!'

Why not? If you have to live crazy - you may as well enjoy it.


Summer thought #5: Remember to look for the symphony amidst the cacophony.
Sometimes you can actually see the music.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Saturday, June 19, 2010

On Muchness

I watched Alice in Wonderland last night. My son and a close friend critiqued, 'It's weird, I didn't like it, but you probably will.' Ha. And I did.

In this version, Alice has returned to Underland (not Wonderland) as a young woman, having been before as a girl. The Mad Hatter (the crazies always say the smartest things) tells Alice that she's no longer like herself.

'You were much more muchier...(then) You've lost your muchness."


Summer thought #4: Never lose your muchness.

The Almost First Day of Summer

Do you remember as a kid, the wildly intoxicating first day of summer? Every day stretching out like an open highway, calling freedom?

I remember the promise of family vacation, the annual PNE trip, the ice cream man, the chlorined splashing at the public pool, Harrison Lake trips, the cool library on long hot afternoons, our unfinished basement where we escaped into otherworlds of dress up and imagination, the hideout under the back stairs where we formed clubs, neighborhood alliances and plotted espionage tactics, the bicycle club, kick the can in the dark...

All those heady thrills of childhood so far removed from where I sit today at the first day of summer... Man, growing up can really mess with life's simple joys, can't it?

I've been battling a growing sense of dread for weeks at the arrival of summer, it happens every year. My internal balance is inevitably challenged with the change in routine, the increase in stimulation & the heat. Summer no longer calls freedom to me, it whispers dark hauntings of not coping, of being overwhelmed, of a choked inner world.

How in the world did this exchange in perspective on summer happen without my consent or even awareness?


So this year, I'm rewriting my summer manifesto. I'm honestly not sure where to begin, so I guess that means just beginning in spite of. Today I'm thinking of a few things:

- order is a short lived illusion
- imagination, creating something & new paths of thought are wildly satisfyingly
- and, a decent nights sleep is often the difference between hope and chaos.

That's enough for Day 1, I think. I'm off to find some berries and hit the library...
This is a painting by Pino - the painting that first inspired me to pick up a brush. I have a very bad replica of this girl sitting in my dining room on an easel. Pino's an Italian artist whose influence was Pre-Raphael, Macchiaioli and Impressionism. (wow, I feel artsy saying that - not that I have much idea who Raphael and the are Macchiaoli yet, but i will.)

He's my absolute fav - and damn, he just died at 71 on May 25th. I've been trying to find him online for months, but thought his name Piso. I love the soft, romanticized quality of his work. It's exactly how I want to paint. I'm very near to dropping $95 for his art book - right out of my grocery money. Art or bread? No question there...

I'm also discovering I like painting waaaaaay better than scritch scratching a pencil across a page. The broad strokes of colour & emotion far surpass my love of graphite and eraser bits...although I have clipped a black & white pencil drawing of a gritty old man, that's captured my imagination too.

And these are the next two I'm going to try...

Friday, June 18, 2010

Love the Way You Lie

Love him or hate him, over the years, Eminem has made some incredible observations about the darker side of human nature. Personally, I applaud his insightful manic poetry and lyrical contradictions of himself. I've often found echoes of things I feel in his music.

He has a new album being released on June 22, called Recovery. My daughter was playing a track, 'Love the Way You Lie' yesterday. It's a joint project of Rhianna & Eminem's. Lest that put you off, I can say, it's one of the best statements on domestic violence, codependent relationships and the twisted thread that holds them together that I've ever heard.

Sometimes music says things the way nothing else can.

I've linked to it below, but the quality's not great since it's a pre release.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

In Case You're Into It...

This is a really great free site for pencil portrait tutorials - and I've watched tons in the past couple weeks. These are sent every couple days directly to your email, so it's not overwhelming. The artist/teacher, Darrel Tank is clear, concise and builds from the basics. Incredibly thorough.

I've just discovered I'm doing everything wrong.
Ignorance was bliss.

Free video tutorials for 5-pencil drawing method core
The original I copied from was much better, but I still can't believe I can do this...
So much fun.

Old Dog, New Tricks

Eye know these aren't the most fantastic I's ever drawn, but I'm amazed at 50 to find i can even draw at all...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Languages We Speak

'One maiden spoke in toads,
another in pearls,
and a third with the nightingale's voice.
If you ask me,
I would have to say
all the world's magic
comes directly from the mouth.'

(from "Once Upon A Time," She Said)

Monday, June 14, 2010

I've read 2 books on philosophy these past few weeks, different authors, both entirely different. One I loved, it sang with word pictures and clarity. The second I plowed painfully through, trying to decipher what in the world concept the writer was aiming to relate. The ideas were tangled in pretentious words that reminded me of a spool of thread I once saw wound chaotically through a pile of dirty laundry.

So now being an expert, have formed my forever and always opinion based on almost nothing...

I despise bullshit 'academia' language.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The house next door to mine is for sale again. It belongs to an East Indian family, who over their 20 years on this cul de sac, have enriched my life in more ways than I can count.

When we moved here from Vancouver in 1990, we had two small boys, the first two years old and the second just born. Only three of the eight building lots on the cul de sac had houses on them, the house that now sits next door, still an empty landscape of imagination.

They'd just finished digging the foundation for my friend's home, and beside our front porch, on the day we moved in, was a gigantic pyramid shaped mountain of dirt and debris. My two year son from the back seat of the car began yelling excitedly, 'CASTLE! CASTLE!'. I was delighted, thinking he somehow intuitively had absorbed my thrill of my first home being a castle. Instead, he ran from the car straight into the mountain of dirt, having found his own castle in the new neighborhood.

That castle soon became a red brick and vibrant cerulean blue East Indian style castle home, complete with the new owner's initials proudly announcing themselves in red brick on the front facade of the house. On the day they moved in, three carloads of people arrived with them, laughing and enthusiastically speaking Punjabi with each other. The youngest son in their family, maybe a year and half at the time, a tiny beany haired thing, raced straight into my house, leaving his family to themselves. His mom came running to fetch him, not speaking a word of English but able to clearly communicate both her pride and amusement at the antics of her firstborn son.

Over the years, our lives have intertwined, sometimes in person and sometimes by me simply observing their comings and goings through my kitchen window. The story of their lives has unfolded before me. From the ancient grandfather who sat outside in the garden on his commode, the father who chased wild eyed neighborhood boys out of his house flinging a bejeweled shoe, through births and deaths, weddings, new washing machine celebrations, dancing parties, visiting relatives from India, basketball games and shared chai teas and roti.

For all the bad rap thrown at the East Indian culture, I've witnessed family connection and warmth that greatly surpasses that of our private & isolated western ways.

Today, my youngest son rushed in announcing that tragedy had struck the family next door once again. Less than 7 years ago, my neighbor friend, one of three sisters, lost her youngest sister in a massive car accident. I met Cally and her remaining sister on the front lawn, they both hugged me, in broken English, sobbing, 'my very nice sister! my very nice sister!' Today, the sister who stood with Cally on the lawn that day died also.

Her 18 year old son, when he found her, grabbed her hand, sobbing, 'No mom! You're not dead!' and before fleeing from the room, put his fist deep into the drywall, leaving a hole I can only imagine must feel the same in his heart.

I'm looking across now at the house, shades drawn, knowing I need to cross that great chasm of sadness and stop in. But I'm afraid of their grief and tears.

I'm so tired of the inescapability of death. The way it ravages from us the ones we love. Sometimes I tell myself I'm crazy for living in such fear of it - but even more insane is to not. We live, we love in a temporary world. And somehow within it, must learn tolerance of uncertainty and loss or we'll surely lose our minds. I simply can't live without a hope of another world, where the ones we've loved and lost are more than just phantom voices...

I'm taking the paltry pasta salad dish I made for my family's dinner, over for theirs now, little good it will do.

What in the world can i possibly give or do that might convey my understanding of what has struck them once again?

Saturday Morning

O the sun! The sun!

It never ceases to amaze me how light can be so lifting. I just hate it when it rains like it has. The world goes flat and monotone, melancholy dripping off every living thing, stifling dampness in every breath I take...

I woke up this morning in my room, my room that isn't white. It's a colour called Orchid Bloom. Like the inner curve of an orchid where colour blushes up in to the petals. The undertone is blue with a hint of red and when the sun hits it, it becomes lit from within, like I imagine a halo might be. O my, and I can breathe again.

I've been reading Irving Stone's, Lust for Life all week. I can't read a book without absorbing the spirit of it, and Van Gogh in his impassioned artistic fervour was also crazy. But completely rationally crazy, to me. Caught between the line of this world of gravel & dust and the other world of air, wind, colour & the creative spirit. Exquisitely beautiful but also deadly. Van Gogh said of himself,

“I put my heart and my soul into my work, and have lost my mind in the process."

That is the very problem of this place. It's so near the fire, it's almost impossible to not burn with it.


I've also learned this week, it's almost impossible to paint well without being able to draw well. I've been racked in frustration trying to paint my daughter in her prom gown. As hard as I've tried, I haven't been able to get beyond producing something that looks like a painted cartoon.

It's strange when concepts make themselves known. A good painting begins with a good drawing - lack of foundation equals simplicity. It takes layers of light and shadow to create a realistic facial curve - but it takes also understanding and observation of anatomy to get it right. And you can't get it right if you emphasis your bone in the wrong quadrant, or inadvertently shadow a triangle that should be a square. It's friggin geometry.

So now, instead of flinging colour, I'm focusing on learning the basics of drawing. I've cleared away my paints, bought a sketch pad, and spend hours trying to copy, what at first glance, seem like simple lines. But art is not simple, at it's foundation is math. My gosh, can I ever get away from math...?


One last thought on my friend, Vincent - as portrayed through my friend Irving...

Van Gogh, at his very centre, was a kind man, finding love, beauty and acceptance among struggling miners, sad prostitutes, lost artists & beloved family. He was misunderstood, ridiculed by most and driven wild by his passion. And yet these insightful words, lay the foundation for his life and work:

'I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.”

O starry, starry night.

Friday, June 11, 2010

This week, I drove my son and two neighborhood brothers to the pool.

These boys are the resourceful kind who will dismantle your fence to use the slats as a ramp for their off road remote control vehicles, or will scale the newly shingled roof of your house simply because they suddenly noticed it, or accidently shift your van out of park, roll it backwards into the neighbor's chain link fence and while sitting in the driver's seat, appear innocently surprised when asked how it happened. The very illogically logical boyness of them is both comical on a good day & difficult on a not so good one.

But it was a good day - the day they tumbled in to my car, all hair, pubescent energy and stories.

'I ate 28 cotton candies at the hardware store open house Sunday!' the younger one proudly annouced.

I'm always looking for a laugh and good story so egged him on. '28 cotton candies?! How long were you there for?' I exclaimed.

Encouraged, he continued, 'All day! From 10-4!'

'Wow!' I responded, trying hard to drive & figure out the math division problem at the same time. 'So, you ate 4 and half cotton candies every hour?'

He thought briefly and corrected himself, 'No, I didn't start til noon, so I ate 7 cotton candies every hour!'

And then concluded somewhat introspectively, 'Ya, I guess that's why I got that bad headache!'


Life's little insights come in all flavours, sometimes as finely spun as 28 cotton candies...

Thursday, June 10, 2010

On Paperclips, Staples, Scotch Tape & String

I got up this morning to find one of my fav shirts had succumbed to the growing hole I've been monitoring for the past few weeks. With every washing, I've wondered how long it will be til my 5 kidded stomach pokes unceremoniously through the worn spot. Today it finally happened.

I instinctively reached for my basket of repair items, not conventional needle and thread - because that's just too, well, difficult, labour intensive and conventional. Instead, I retrieved a safety pin, turned the shirt inside out and knitted the hole together with a steel rod. The result was less than presentable and I sadly admitted either I'd need to get professional help or turf the thing. I wore the shirt anyhow today, unpinned hole and all - one last time for old times sake.

I can't count how many times I've hemmed pants with scotch tape and staples, paper clipped belts from flopping loosely, or used string as shoelaces. The underside of me isn't nearly as presentable as the outside. I repair my holes, ripped hems and empty shoe grommets with innovative things I'm largely embarrassed to admit to.

I wonder how many of us go through life, literally & figuratively - hiding that we're held together with paper clips, scotch tape, staples & string? Could I possibly be the only one?

Sometimes I look at other people and imagine the stuff they're held together with is tent twine, or bungee cords or at the very least proper mending. And that their insecurities, foibles, or peculiarities are not nearly as likely as mine to bust open at the seams unanticipated. But o, there's something about an occasional busting of the seams that connects us intimately with one another and tears down the walls of social decorum.

Those inadvertent & embarrassed tears that spring up when we talk of hard earned hope. Or the joy that comes with finding an inexpensive figurine with outstretched arms and turned up head, that reflects a new inner freedom.

My dad used to give a daily report on the comical & intriguing ways of a family of birds on our clothesline. My brother became a farmer, sausage maker and spice-ologist this year. Another friend has embarked on a book. I stop my in car in wonder, transfixed by a burning rose bush speaking fire and god.

If you look hard enough, everyone is unique, strange and wonderful. Lovable in spite of their 'coolness' and especially because of their uncoolness. The paperclips, staples, scotch tape and string that hold us together, also bind us together with each other when we feel safe enough to be real...

Sunday, June 6, 2010

I went to a funeral for a friend last week.

Going to funerals is a pretty common occurrence for me, unfortunately. I've been to 14 in recent years, and they're always an odd mix of deep loss, inadvertent hilarity, and the wonderful coming home-ness feeling of seeing loved & familiar faces, even under the worst circumstances.

This one was no different. I sat among friends, and we passed watery smiles, meaningful looks and tissues between us, safe in the comfort of each other. Funerals are never welcome, with their bleak reminder of the end line for all of us. With their 'what can never be again-ness' of a concluded life, and with their rolling waves of emotion and grief. Though we speak of continuity in the enduring spirit of a person & in the hope of seeing one another again- there still sits the inpenetrable question of how...

The fellow behind me, who I recognized as someone who had performed at the Bad Dog, proceeded to the front to pay his musical tribute to John. Maybe it was the vulnerability of him singing accapello, or maybe it was simply his deep grief, but I was moved as I never have been at a funeral. He broke down mid song in tears, regathered himself and finished strongly. But as he returned back down the aisle to his seat behind me, he cracked, and his grief spilled loudly and uncontained. He sat down, leaned forward and quaked in emotion. I think it's safe to say no one really knew what to do & so ignored him - though not really. He was alone. He was overcome. And my only recourse was pass him a tissue through the thick emotional haze. We shared a brief embarrassed glance and I turned back to the ceremony.

Funerals always seem to come to a staccato end. Too sudden, too final - and we all return to our lives, changed but unable to really grasp what's happened. From my comfortable group, I was suddenly drawn to another familiar face from the restaurant, contorted in pain and tears. She's an odd girl, a wild card outside of her world in a restrained funeral setting. I went to her, we held hands uncomfortably long, while her friend nervously looked away. She blew water and snot everywhere, then thanked me sincerely & graciously through her pain for coming to see her. I walked away more humbled than I think I ever have been.

Sitting in the back alone, was a black sheep that everyone feared may show up drunk at the ceremony. Funnily, I understand why people come drunk to funerals. It's an ending. A violent, conclusive stop to friendship & love. I think perhaps the Irish with their wakes, understand the need for some of us to blur the reality of that. Our eyes met, and he fell into my arms, hanging on for dear life. He wasn't drunk at all. Not that it would have made a difference.


As I've reflected on this, this week, I can only say my heart has pained. Pained at the death of John, pained as I've realized how very easy it is to remain within the safety of friends never seeing beyond, and pained how very much I might have missed...

My mom once wrote a poem that began:

The wind has a tale to me
As it whispers through the trees
The voices I hear are the lost ones
Bending the boughs in the breeze.

My hope is that somehow the voices of the lost ones will be the voices i always hear the loudest.

Perhaps I hear them because I am one myself.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Back in the 70's, the Bee Gees wrote a song called 'Words' that pretty much captured the heart of every teenage girl. Well, at least the ones I knew. Ok, fine - mine. I've never forgotten that song, and like most unforgettable things, I've altered the lyrics in my mind, to fit my own ideas. This morning I've been thinking about the Gibb Brothers crooning,

'It's only words, and words are all i have - to take your breath away.'

Except the real lyrics say 'heart' instead of 'breath'. I like breath better though. It's bigger and less about fantasized romantic love - more about encompassing and universal thought.

I've been reading words all week that have literally taken my breath away. I feel like I've both discovered and come home to a world where I'm already fluent in the language. But it's a language I've found so rarely outside my own head, I thought i was basically a solitary freak.

I've started reading about artists and writers, and haven't nearly begun. Their tortured psyches mirror my own. I've never understood that somewhat crazed part of me, outside of well, latent psychiatric issues, ok, fine - they're not latent, or having killed off too many brain cells from enjoying too many psychotropic recreational drugs as a teenager...

I'm also reading the philosophy of Nietzsche, and have only just begun. And to think I ditched Philosophy 101 because I was so uninspired with the wannabe hippie professor. He unfortunately, had me thinking that philosophy is only about arguing the existence of an orange based on it's invisible molecular structure. My gosh, I was done before i ever started. Granted, I was pretty smug too - I'd had my head immersed in great poetry and was writing and asking questions about the meaning of life, death, fate, chance, god, illusions and truth at 17. And if that prof was a philosopher, I was having nothing to do with him...

My best friend Grace & I, instead pondered how to translate of the 'deep meaning' of the poster on the back of her bedroom door, to our unenlightened group of friends.

'We the seeing, led by the knowing are doing the impossible for the ungrateful.
We have done so much with so little for so long, we are now capable of doing anything with nothing...'

(It was the acid that made us think we could do anything with nothing. None of those kids ever enlightened. Some went to jail though.)

Following those erratic years of musing, I stumbled in to the world of EST & self actualization for more of the same. And then in to religion. And then into self expression through painting. Expression through painting is almost the same as expression through poetry, which meant getting as close to the fire as possible without burning up . Ok fine - i did burn up. But every one of those places has added to my collective perspective and I wouldn't dispute their value.

And now, here again, full circle - Philosophy 101. Literature 101. Art History 101. Well, not real classes - cuz I still think I'm too smart for them.

But oooooooo, I love this place.

Friday, June 4, 2010


Omgosh - she was the first to walk the aisle of the MSS Graduating Class of 2010. Pomp & Circumstance was playing the background - and I was undone...

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Today's Word


This was Rembrandt's artistic purpose. To achieve beweechgelickhijt in his work. Meaning the 'greatest and most natural movement, emotion or motive.'

Wouldn't be such a bad purpose for everyday life either.