Thursday, May 19, 2011

I'll be offline for awhile

Just to say hello to friends,
My computer caught a "bug", and it may take awhile to get back up and running. I'm taking LOTS of pictures, and will be back with some new photos, and thoughts soon!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Heroine of mine, wno accomplished so much with gentle grace

Several days ago, Geraldine at Take a Happy Break, posted a wonderful piece about heroes and heroines, with a story of her grandmother. This set me to reflecting on individuals I've known and admired and really there are many people I've met who have been people I would be happy to emulate, and who have inspired me.

Here is abit about one of these individuals.

Regina Leader Post article, Margaret Hryniuk, August 28, 1990

I met Bessie, with a group of daycare children, when we visited the Regina Plains Historical Museum. Bessie was a gentle, tiny woman, with a far away look to her eyes, who led myself and my children on a lovely tour of this museum in 1990. She finished our tour with an interesting story of a family of gophers, she had raised as a child, with the authority of a true story teller. At the close of this story, several of my children spontaneously jumped up to run into her arms.

So when I needed to interview an older adult, as part of a Social work and Aging class I was taking the following winter, I immediately wanted to interview this woman who had captured the hearts of my children.
I was able to find her through the museum, and she readily agreed to see me. So, began a friendship which came to mean so much to me.

I learned that Bessie had been a strong, single woman all her life -  growing up on a farm just near our city; that she had taught business school for many years, as a young adult; then became the provincial registrar for the CNIB (Canadian National Institute for the Blind), until her retirement in 1968. She had been an active volunteer throughout her life -  for the St. John's Ambulance(eventually achieving the rank of Commander Sister); as an elder in her church in the inner city; and her most recent involvement was volunteering as a tour guide, with the Regina Plains Museum, I think since it's founding.

From, Making History,Regina Plains Museum, Autumn 2001
This is her and her dog Spot
 Here Bessie is featured on the front page of this museum's publication. At her death in 2000, at the amazing age of 97, Bessie had left a generous bequest to help with the development fund of the museum. But over the years she had also donated countless items from her family as artifacts for the collection, as well as many volunteer hours for the museum - sitting on the Board, acting as book keeper, and as tour guide for school children, (this last seemed to provide her alot of joy.).

Our friendship developed over a few years, and was focused on my interest in hearing her stories. Bessie had been a writer of short stories throughout her life - she had at least 10 large scrapbooks bursting with these stories which had been published in various journals. She had predominately submitted stories to Onward, a youth journal for the United Church of Canada; but as well her stories had been in a few other journals, and she had as well written articles for the Regina Leader Post. I  was enthralled with her stories - written by a true story teller, about life in the depression years in Saskatchewan. The stories were about ordinary people, in life altering circumstances and the choices people made then; some life affirming, and some destructive of moral values, and the consequences people met through poor decisions. She vividly described the shabbiness, dirtiness, and shame of being poor in the 30's in Saskatchewan - describing plagues of grasshoppers, and dust storms, from the very personal level. The narrator seemed always to view the people in the story with utmost compassion.

Bessie's health diminished in our 2nd year of friendship- she entered the hospital, and from there lived in a nursing home, although in a wing allowing independence. She became "legally blind", as she described it, saying how interesting it was for her, that after all the years of helping the blind with her work at the CNIB, she was now the recipient of these same services, and how grateful she was.

I asked her if we might make a book together for her family of nephews and nieces I bought myself one of those tiny handheld tape recorders with the tiny, cute tape reels , and we were ready.

We were able to record several lovely stories of Bessie's girlhood years on the farm, predominately featuring some amazing animal stories

I transcribed the tapes, and a friend typed it up for me, and her husband who owned a printing company bound it. We were able to send this to many extended family members, who appreciated this little volume of pure Bessie.

Even while her body had weakened, and her life circumstances had narrowed, she was able to talk into this little tape recorder telling her stories from memory, with a wonderful lilting story telling cadence. I just believe these animal stories would be wonderful to  share with children .

So I thought why not try to illustrate the stories? I like to sketch, but am not a very good or detailed drawer, mainly doing it for the fun of the process.But sometimes illustrations for children's stories are not truly realistic - maybe I could pretend to be illustrating in a kind of folk art style (not in true proportion, child like sometimes, not in perspective I think)(This is recognizing that artists who draw this way, are usually also accomplished at all the techniques of drawing).

I also thought I might experiment with illustrating with fabric art.

So I combed through her tape recorded stories for my favourite ones:

And I set to work with pencil and paper; cloth and thread and needle. Here are some examples of my attempts so far:

This is the first cloth picture I did, of Bessie's remembrances of watching the rabbits play in the light of the full moon.
I posted this a little larger,thinking it might show up better. The model for the farm house is my little house I just sold last year.

The story of rabbits playing in the full moon, in her farmyard where "they knew they would be safe from the coyotes", seems to me to be iconic or universal, as this theme is represented in other childrens literature.

Spot, the family dog featured in several stories, Here is one of "how Spot knew to get into the house - by bringing in fire wood".  I used my nieces as the children for the illustration, in contemporary clothing.
I also used my sheltie dog Rocky, as the model for Spot, and was interested years later to see a picture of Spot, who did look pretty much the same.

Bessie appreciated even the small creatures such as ants, and gophers. This illustrates a story from her girlhood of observing an anthill. Naturally her companion Spot is nearby.

Watching a mother hawk "take a bath" in some large cumulus clouds on a sweltering day, and how mother hawk swooped down to tell her babies she would be back, they would be fine.

This is from a story of Bessie's as an adult woman. She and two friends were driving on the highway when they noticed a huge migration of geese.They stopped, and got out of their car  to watch. The numbers were just overwhelming - the sky was full of geese flying in both the V formation, and what Bessie described as an A formation. Later she learned that the night before the lakes up north had frozen over unnaturally fast, and the geese took off in  unprecedented numbers - they landed in a small town in the United States, on the migration pathway, and there was literally no room to walk or drive cars, the number of geese was so huge.

I just love this story, it seems sort of mythical, there is a lovely story in a similar vein in the movie Fried Green Tomatoes, featuring ducks...not really the same, but it has a similar feel... a true yarn.I'd love to draw a picture of this with cars from the 40's, and people in the clothes of the 40's, trying to move through these geese. Bessie said there was a newspaper article about this, so that was how she came to learn about the reason for the tremendous migration of geese she'd never before witnessed.

 I still have the tapes of Bessie telling her stories, and I would like to have children have the opportunity to hear her voice, with it's wonderful, lyrical cadences telling her stories. I've thought of bringing the tapes to the museum, but don't want them to be hidden in the archives. I've dreamed of some sort of installation with photos, and mostly fabric pictures illustrating the stories, along with her voice as background, but not sure how to even think about doing this. I think I should try to have the tapes transferred to cd's and will have to look into this.

Just thought this would be fun to share. Thanks to those of you with the patience to actually read to the end of this post!!! :)

Wishing everyone a Happy Sunday - here the sun is shining and warm. I'm headed to a picnic with some friends.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Very Nice Spring Day

Today has been one of those days we've been waiting for here in Saskatchewan.

The trees are beginning to bud; tulips and other spring flowers are blooming; the air is filled with bird song from early dawn through to the blessed end of the day.

At her wonderful blog, gardenpath, Sandy has a post today with a photo of maple tree flowers.After seeing this, I decided I should take a closer look at the tree buds I and my children have been looking at daily. I'm familiar with the common flowers such as cherry and apple blossoms, and the bright green willow tree flowers, but I haven't really appreciated some of the other kinds of tree flowers.

I think this is a chestnut tree.I think the delicate rose colour is pretty.

Here a bud has opened.When I showed this picture to my children at the daycare center, the comment was "Oh, a bird".

And this is how the flower looks fully opened. Exquisite.
And because it was a glorious day, and I am loving having this new camera, I needed to take this picture too! Same tree.

It is now nightfall, and the birds are slowly quieting for the night. The songs of birds at dusk is one of my favourite sounds, there is something peaceful for me in this.Something in it of the last calls of parents for their children to come in from play. Something saying all is well. Rest now. Sleep.

Monday, May 9, 2011

My Son is Headed for Asia

Like many single parent families, a ritual my son and I observed over the years was, "leaving home for a visit to Dad".  In our case this happened usually only once a year, as Paul's dad lives in Asia.

For his early years Paul's dad would come to visit us, but once Paul was the legal age to fly as an unaccompanied minor, he began to make the trip every summer for one month.

I thought long and hard about allowing this, and talked it over with several people. The general consensus was that kids have been successfully flying to visit parents, and grandparents for years, and all should be well.

Anyways he did successfully manage to fly overseas on his own (for flights of 14 hours), manage to get to know his Asian grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins, have a good time - and arrive back home in good shape. Still it was difficult to let him go.

I don't actually wish to condone suggest this action, this for anyone else, it is just "what we did". I think that now it isn't possible to send children as unaccompanied minors (basically on their own), on international flights, although I could be mistaken.

As you see, he's off again to visit his dad in Asia - and explore teaching options for next year when his degree is complete.


Saying good by is something we've become used to over the years what with those overseas flights to see dad;  his traveling with the competitive sport of judo; and all his years away at school in Quebec. All the same I'm looking forward to his return in July!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Federal Election Day!

Today in Canada we go to the voting polls!

I'm off this morning to vote before work.

Even though we have been through this too many times in the past few years, I still feel a little thrilled when I vote!

It's a wonderful sunny day, a good one for Election Day!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Taking a walk with my camera

Just under one year ago I moved into a small condo apartment within walking distance of my childhood home. I walk by the house frequently on my walks.

 The little bungalow on Mullin Avenue often has visited me in my dreams in powerful, sometimes shattering ways, although in the last three years or so, after one particularly vivid, visceral dream it hasn't seemed to be a part of my dreaming.

Sometimes when I walk by the house or down the back lane I wonder if I might catch a peripheral glimpse of my child self, or the players in my life at the time - grandparents, aunts, uncles - I wish to but not sure if this would be good for my today adult self.

Mom loved entertaining family, she was a good cook, and a gracious homemaker - much loved by her sister - in- laws. She took lots of pictures of us growing up, leaving me a visual history which is precious. I just know Mom would have LOVED blogging!!

Here is a picture of me and my younger brothers on the step of our house.

Dylan Thomas is a favourite poet of mine, and one poem we studied at university Fern Hill, describes so well remembering one's childhood as an alive, fresh new time in our lives.I love the lines:

"Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,"

So I believe in some way the sense of freedom and easiness of early childhood is why I still enjoy walking this street.

Let me take you along the street as I saw it today.
Really the sidewalk plays a big part in my memories, I guess because children are close to the ground.

As a child I was lucky to be apart of a neighbourhood of kids who played together for hours. We really only came in for meals in the summer. The sidewalk and street was one of our play spaces. We had parades, pulling the youngest in wagons. We once spent days hammering  rocks on the sidewalk (without protective goggles of course), experimenting with turning stones into powder. And of course we played hopscotch, skipping and ball. I always had a bouncing ball, and endlessly played games either with friends or solely.Do you remember the bouncing, clapping ball games of your youth? I want to research  some of the games and songs children had for ball play.

The back lane was the other major play space of my childhood. Here some of the original fences still stand.

We had so much fun in the back lane. Running races organized by the older children of the neighbourhood; building snow forts in the winter; and playing in piles of cut grass, and leaves i n the fall. Now we have modern plastic garbage bins, but in those days there were metal garbage cans, and wooden fence like boxes to hold the cans in.

This is what is left of the original fence from our house, Mom built this fence. The rest of the fence is long gone, replaced with a more modern style.

Here is another of the original fences of a neighbour's from my childhood.
 I have clear memories of walking to school on my first day of kindergarten. I went to my friend's house, and her older sister walked us to school. We climbed over this fence, went through another yard and through to the street leading to our school. This was the route we took together for years. This fence is at least 51 years old!

This is the street leading to our school.
I plan to explore this further at another time. Just thought it would be interesting to post as is.

(As I've been working on this post my son and I learned of the death of bin Laden. I stopped to watch the breaking news on t.v., and watched President Obama's speech to the people.This feels very momentous - I will stop blogging now, just to personally process this)