Monday, March 18, 2019

Art and Architecture to lift your Monday Spirits

As I begin preparing for another trip (countdown has begun for when I will get to hear a certain Four roll her Italian Rrrrs in person rather than on a Facetime screen), I realize how much I still have to share from my last one.

Richard Wright's intricate, mesmerising,  wonderfully delicate and monumental at once, Stairwell Project in the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (in Modern Two, which used to be an orphanage, the Dean Orphan Hospital), for example. The work was commissioned several years ago with the intention that it be a permanent rather than temporary feature of the gallery, although Wright, who usually paints on walls rather than canvases, also usually has those walls painted over at the end of an exhibition.

In the gallery's leaflet on The Stairwell Project, Chief Curator Keith Hartley observes that we "tend to forget" that, within the tradition of western art, decorative painting of walls and ceilings was a common practice. He traces the development from an expectation that art be utilitarian, to the patronage of artists by aristocracy which began in the Renaissance, and then to the changing expectation which led to an individual artist dependent on the market.

The role of the marketplace, Hartley argues, had by the 1980s led to "almost a feeding frenzy for expressive, largely figurative painting," and this "climate of greed" alienated Wright. As Hartley quotes the artist, from a 2000 interview: "About ten years ago I began working in what for me was a new way. This seemed to have something to do with the action of painting and turned out to mean working directly on the wall, which in turn implied thinking about context and architecture as part of the content of the work."
I'm tempted to copy the entire leaflet here for you, but Pater's suggested a paddle in my new kayak this morning, so instead I'm going to suggest you watch this fascinating video in which Wright speaks directly about the conception and execution of the work, pointing out that the whole thing is made of two small pots of paint. . .

The video's only four minutes long, and besides telling you more about how and why The Stairwell Project was made, it gives you a much better sense of its scale and light and beauty than my photos can do.

And speaking of light and beauty. . . a sunny day in Vancouver, and we're teased with the possibility of a High in the mid-teens (Celsius) today. Time for me to get out on the water.

Your turn to chat now -- comments very welcome (and I do apologise for the difficulties you're having in posting. Some readers have suggested that using Chrome as your browser makes a difference; some find it possible to post from a laptop rather than their phone).

Friday, March 15, 2019

Sketches and Paddles and Connections. . . .

 You might remember that we took out a membership at a local Rowing Club nearby to bring kayaking back into our lives after our move to the city.  I mention our urban kayaking in this post, where I also talk a bit about the paddling we were able to do at our island waterfront home -- with a link back to a post from those paddling days, with photos. . . . 

That membership served us very well for a year. Paul used it much more than I did, but we had some satisfying, short outings together. Then last fall, he decided he really wanted to own a kayak again so as to have more control over maintenance -- the ones at the club often had rudder cables that weren't working any longer or seats that failed to adjust -- and he sought out, and found, affordable and convenient storage not too far away. He bought a used kayak and spent many happy hours through the fall and winter paddling in False Creek and if there wasn't too much wind, he'd foray east around Stanley Park and up the inlet a bit, or west along the Vancouver beaches out to Point Grey.

I didn't in the least begrudge him his many solo expeditions (I tended to stay home and write or sketch or read, so it suits both of us), but we both wanted the option of paddling together again, so he's been watching for a bigger spot at the marina. One finally came available last month, and within a week, Paul had bought a second used kayak, and the other day he brought home my shiny new paddle. I haven't been out yet (honestly, I'm waiting for slightly warmer weather . . . ), but I'm hoping to do that soon.

Meanwhile, I was flipping through some of my old journals, looking for some information that might be relevant to our upcoming trip, and I came across the page pictured above -- It's a sketch of our old paddles, resting on the rustic cedar table on our front deck where I often drank my tea in the morning -- I wasn't sketching anywhere near as often then, but this must have seemed like a moment I'd want to remember.  July 19, 2012. . . . (and then I wrote about, and included, the sketch in a post the very next day)

Below, I sketched my new paddle on Canson mi-teint paper (using a mix of gouache, Micron pen; for the handwriting, I used a white Gelly Roll) -- then cut that sketch and glued it into my journal, being careful to glue just around the margin so that I could use the sketch as an envelope -- and in the envelope, I've stashed the paddle receipt and warranty. . .

In other news, I have a writing partner/friend coming over shortly, so I need to clear some table space (currently cluttered with journals and stamp pads and ink bottles and a tube of glue and a spill of pens and markers and pencils).

Also need to have some breakfast, which is more complicated these days because it requires removing my Invisalign aligners (fortunately, I'm getting faster at that, but still don't find it easy) and then a full floss and brush (after every meal or snack! So I don't snack, which is good, right?) before fitting them back in. They've mostly stopped hurting now, though, so I think I've got off lightly adjustment-wise. . . .

Weekend plans?
And/or what about this flashback -- my 2012/2019 comparison. . . what links might you make with your 7-years-ago self?
Or any response/comment you care to make as I place the mic in your hands. . . .

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Time for a Cuppa -- Join Me for Tea?

A month from today, we'll have landed in a city far from home and begun exploring. I've booked our accommodation there and also booked train tickets for the next three legs of our trip which will take us to a destination where we will play house for six or seven weeks, pretending we live in the neighbourhood and using it as a base for a few day trips, flying off for a week during that time to visit our granddaughter (okay, and her parents, but she's the main attraction) in Rome.

Meanwhile, I'm trying to keep up with the on-line course. I have French homework for the classes that will finish the week before we fly out. There's work to be done to organize this place for the various visitors it will host in our absence, and I've managed to get all the receipts in order so that we can deliver them to the accountant and get our taxes filed before we leave.

And tomorrow, I'm having Invisalign braces installed . . . (partly for cosmetic reasons, after a lifetime of resisting, but mostly because my crowded teeth have been causing so many problems lately -- I wish I'd done this earlier, frankly)

Which is going to interfere considerably with my predilection for tea: The braces must be worn for something like 22 hours a day, apparently, and they have to be removed for eating and drinking anything but clear water.  I currently drink three large cups of tea daily, at about 15-20 minutes of sipping per cup. . . I'm doing the math, and it's not looking good if I hope to have the occasional leisurely dinner with friends, or throw in breakfast or lunch! And stopping for a glass of wine on an afternoon wandering in a French city. . . yikes!

So if you need me today, I'll be at home, savouring  my favourite tea, carefully brewed (in a porcelain teapot, of course!) drunk from my favourite "fine bone china" mug (both teapot and mug scalded first for maximum heat). . .

Friday, March 8, 2019

What I'm Wearing While Winter Lingers. . .

Mostly photos today (as I wrote last post, I'm directing the words/time into an online writing course over the next five weeks) . . . These What I Wore/Outfit of the Day snapshots record outfits worn to ward off the winter chill. 

Above: Leaving the house on a Cold day (cold enough for me, anyway, at just below freezing, with some wind), my tailored wool coat, faithful Blundstones, Eric Bompard cashmere scarf which has been worn at least a hundred times . . . .

and then this wild card of a skirt -- winter sale: 50% off, and this Scandinavian brand Minimum is already well priced, couldn't be resisted, especially when it does this . . .

 (Not at all sure that clip will work, actually -- Blogger doesn't make it easy to incorporate video. I may come back and link to an Instagram post later. . .

Just before I went out the door in this, I remembered that I'd promised to show you a photo of the leather backpack I sketched in this post. . .

 One last OOTD before my Timer Alarm dings (it's an imaginary Alarm, tbh, but I'm going to pay attention to it). I wore this to a bank appointment yesterday and then enjoyed the cosy cashmere comfort at home, after I switched out by Blundstones for my Glerups (felted wool slipper-boots I live in from October to April). This is the shift I bought in Paris the year before last -- it's fluid enough that it's easy to layer under a sweater (see here and here), even a "big" sweater like this (Vince)
Oh, and in case you're thinking, about any of these OOTDs, "But that's not very flattering," -- or if you're thinking, "I like that on her, but it wouldn't be flattering on me," Susan/Une Femme has written a post on just that topic this morning. . . .I decided long ago that dressing to look taller and thinner was simply too restrictive for my personality. Not flattering? Tant pis!

As I said in Tuesday's post, I'm reading and appreciating every one of your comments, but I am probably not going to respond to (m)any of them over these next busy weeks. Please keep them coming, though -- I know that your fellow readers enjoy them as well. Happy Weekend!

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Trying Something New -- It's Good for Me?

If you've been reading here for a while, you might have realized that over the past couple of years (yes! it really has been that long), I've been working on a memoir of my relationship with my mother.  Last October, I posted that my writing partner and I had celebrated the completion of our respective drafts. At the time, I was unsure whether I would do anything more with mine, but since then, I've begun revising it into a second draft. Turns out, after that break from the material, that I'm pleased with what I've written, and I can see more clearly what the completed memoir will do. I expect I'll tell you more about that eventually.

Meanwhile, I've been revising, and it's been going quite well, and then Instagram began showing me "sponsored posts" about an online course given by a local university, and the next thing I knew, I had enrolled myself in a six-week course on How to Structure and Outline a Novel.

Now, I have never thought much about writing fiction, but somehow last year I wrote a few chapters of something, mostly as an antidote to the emotionally gruelling work of memoir-writing. Those chapters were fun, and they showed me two things: how very ill-prepared I am to create characters and plot, especially (I think I could get setting, world-building) and that I would like to figure out how this is done and see if I could do it.

So. . . . the course started yesterday, and students are advised to allot four to six hours weekly, and I am quite sure I won't be able to do that and keep up regular posting.
I will try to continue with twice-weekly posts, but I suspect many of those will be photos only.

The photos in today's post: Top, of my mother, holding me as a baby; Middle, my journal page with a pencil sketch of that photo; Bottom: A Mural I saw in a back alley on my run yesterday -- I see myself in that little girl, myself trying to sort the puzzle of the story I've been telling about my mother, about myself as mother and daughter. . . .
I'm off now to view some video tutorials and think about the assignment I need to post later in an on-line Discussion Group. A bit odd, to be honest, being on the other side of the screen from when I was setting assignments and moderating discussions as Course Instructor. At least, I've been on the student side of the screen when I took a short Craftsy course on Perspective in Sketching, but that was in a field where my expectations for myself are low. A Writing Course, on the other hand, for a former Literature Professor (which, of course, I have not divulged to other students nor to instructors) brings some performance pressure I'm trying to ignore.  I think it's good for me, though, right? At the very least, adapting to a new software platform keeps the brain cells fresh?

What about you? I know many of you have taken online courses and/or other forms of Continued Education -- what were your biggest concerns or fears? And did those problems materialize? How did you overcome them? (or not!) And were the courses worth the effort? What were the biggest benefits you got from them? Etc. Etc.. . . I'd love to hear your stories and advice. Chat amongst yourselves, and I'll be back when I find a minute. I'll read all your comments, but I may not find time to respond to all of them. 

Friday, March 1, 2019

When Life Gives You Lemons. . .

Okay, that's a deceptive title. No need for lemonade-making here at the moment, except that we have an imminent departure of a beloved visitor on our horizon and she's heading to that Land Where Lemons Grow.  . . .

And since we have only one more day with our daughter before she flies home to Rome,  I'll just share this journal page with you and wave Happy Weekend. We've had such a good visit, relaxing around each other's various activities, sharing the space together easily. Yes, I would have loved my granddaughter here as well, but that visit would have had such a different focus with predictable  stresses that haven't arisen this week. We should chat, you readers and I, at some point, about the joys and challenges of visiting adult children in their homes and having them visit in ours. . . and the parallel joys and challenges of visiting ageing parents in their homes and having them visit in ours. It's not always easy, and for us, this visit ticked most of the boxes on the Get It Right list.

Except for missing the granddaughter. And we've begun working to remedy that. Hours were spent this week online doing travel research and booking. More later. . . .

Meanwhile, some armchair travel you might enjoy via Helena Attlee's The Land Where Lemons Grow, a cultural history that will take you through Italy with a very erudite and entertaining guide, visiting wonderful gardens and enticing kitchens. . .  I sketched the illustration of the book on watercolour paper, then cut it out and glued it into my journal. I'll fill the page later with some notes about the book and probably add a few lines about the week's other activities.

For now, as the inimitable Porky Pig used to say, "That's All, Folks"

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Learning a Thing or Two About Myself, In Retirement. . .

Some recent random aper├žus, or observations -- not quite epiphanies, but bordering on -- about this state of my retirement and my move through what some sociologists are calling Young Old Age (sometimes designated as 60-69, sometimes as 65-74). 

1. Sitting on our leather couch one evening recently, admiring the sunset colours firing up the urban skyline, I pushed aside the dismay Pater and I have shared about inevitably losing part of our view as this neighbourhood continues its rapid change from urban-industrial/commercial to a relatively dense residential/commercial mix. Instead, as I told Paul when he came back in with groceries a bit later, I decided to embrace our good fortune in already having had two-and-a-half years of spectacular urban views, with another year, at least, ahead of us. After that, yes, we may have to contend with noisy, in-our-face, dusty, intrusive construction as our view is partially erased. But meanwhile, I'm going to savour the sunsets laid out in front of us. . .It's a work-in-progress, to be honest, this attitude, but I was pleased that it emerged so spontaneously in that moment.

2. Totting up my week's exercise a few days ago, I realized that my fitness mojo might just be back (crossing my fingers and knocking wood that I'm not tempting fate by putting that on the screen!). After last year's seven courses of antibiotics (recurrent UTI), two dental crowns, way too many colds, I'm hoping I've coaxed my immune system to work with me for continued good health and mobility.

I suspect that this shift has something to do with Time and Process. . . in my experience, the anti-trifecta of Grief (my mom and his parents died 2013/14), Retirement, and A Big Move brought recurrent bouts of depression which pummelled my sense of self-worth and identity in ways I didn't expect. And weakened mental and emotional health, unsurprisingly, manifest themselves in compromised physical health. Never compromised enough for so long that I couldn't keep working at a lower level of fitness, but not where I wanted to be.

When I realized my fitness levels might be approaching my (loose) goals and that, overall, I've got more stamina and endurance than I did last year or the year before, my next thought, quite honestly, was to wonder if I'd been premature in retiring. I wondered if I might just have outwaited (scaled back my teaching load; taken a term off) the fatigue and depression that I didn't fully connect, at the time, with bereavement. And I was tickled to answer myself immediately: I would not want to be using this newfound energy for anything other than the mix of creative and educational pursuits and social, family, and fitness activities.

This week, that mix includes:

Visiting with our ex-pat daughter, hosting a brunch so that her aunts and uncles and cousins could say "hello" during her week here (I have to stop myself from writing "her week at home," because of course it's not her home anymore. She'll go back home, to Rome, when she leaves us on Saturday).
Sketching in my journal -- I made a Butternut Squash and Boursin Tarte Soleil from a Globe and Mail recipe (I'd link, but it's behind a paywall) that promised to be fun and easy, using frozen puff pastry. Well, the man who does the grocery shopping brought home frozen phyllo pastry which is a bird of quite a different feather -- and I didn't notice the discrepancy until the morning of the brunch, when the pastry was defrosted. Given the difficulties that posed -- layers of phyllo are not nearly as robust for twisting as the puff pastry would have been, at least not in my hands -- it was surprisingly edible!

Preparing a 10-minute presentation which I'll give at French class. Yes, I'm nervous. But also pleased because our instructor asked us to include the subjunctive mood, and I managed to work in five instances of it.


Gym workout and morning runs. --

And researching/planning what flights we can manage with our travel points. . . .

What about you? Has life opened your eyes recently to something that might have been there for a while without your noticing? Have you experienced an unexpected shift, a Click if you will, that only Time and "natural processes" could have brought about? Are you still working through adjusting to your age or stage of life and/or thinking forward to the next one?
And if you're not up to the big questions this morning, perhaps a tip or two on working with frozen puff or phyllo pastry -- or a culinary disaster you've managed to avoid -- or one that sunk you?

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