Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Wandering further down the beach at Noosa

I don't know that I have much more to add to the post above, other than to say Noosa is hard on someone with a camera... you just keep wanting to take pictures!   (or at least I kept snapping away... i think i have 50 pictures of waves, and i can't pick a favourite)

kite surfers riding the waves
I just wasn't sure where to be pointing, or when: it was all quite beautiful.

At one point, i thought I was looking at birds in the sky, til the penny dropped and i realized i was looking at a bunch of kite-surfers out in the water.  I coudn't figure out how they managed to ride the waves in a big clump without having their kite strings tangle with eachother.

path along the cliff edge
I wandered the other direction too... and headed into the Noosa park, where a boardwalk led you through the trees, and around the point to a series of beaches and bays the kept drawing your eyes forward to the distance.

On the Noosa beach (in Australia)

waves on the beach at Noosa
Never thought I would get to Australia.  

I was tempted there by the prospect of a most fabulous workshop/symposium on "Representational Legality" (aka cultural legal studies). 

a gentle breeze in the palm trees
The workshoop was held on the Sunshine Coast at Noosa.  That is to say, a double-whammy of sorts: a feast for the brain, and a feast for the eyes. 

While i am not known to be a morning girl, it was worth getting up early to take a walk down by the beach before the intellectual work of the day started.

Some sea-foam for the feet
There was a boardwalk you could stick to if you wanted a 'sand-free walking experience', or you could kick off the sandals and plunge your toes into the warm white sand. 


shadows from behind
Even though it was 'winter' there, temperatures in the 25degree range left me appreciative of the gentle breeze blowing off the water.

The only way you could 'really' tell it was winter was by watching the light:  the days were short, and by 6pm, it was dark out. 

There was a moment there, before the sun plunged into the water, that it cast long shadows down the beach.

Catching the sun in the waves...
Since it is usually too hard to take a picture of ones own self, i was pleased to catch my shadow (proving to myself that I was actually there!)

Those short days did feel a bit wierd. 

The Canadian in me had a hard time coming to terms with the notion that a day could be both short and warm (rather than my own assumption that a winter day must be short and cold).

trying to take my own picture?!  :-)
I could get used to this! 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Duncan's "Top 5" from a year of theatre

Duncan's grandmother asked him to say what his favourite 5 theatre experiences were this year.

After some reflection, he said that for 'musicals, it was Rock of Ages (followed by Wicked and Legally Blonde). For 'plays', his favourite wewas One  Man Two Guvnors (followed by Noises Off)

It was a bit tricky coming up with a top 5 list.

 First, we needed to figure out how many things he has seen altogether. The list was large, not only because him mother dragged him to so many things, but also because his grandmother and aunt wyona came to visit so frequently during the year, and the two of them are west end junkies. They, determined to expand his horizons, and expose him to the best that live theatre has to offer, took him along with them on their excursions.

Thus, in addition to his top 5, this year duncan saw the following:

Matilda, Billy Elliot, Wizard of Oz, Singing in the Rain, Sunshine Boys, Betty Blue Eyes, The Railway Children, Britain's Got Bhangra, Cool Hand Luke - The Musical, Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka (in Russian with surtitles!?), Slave - A Question of Freedom, Comedy of Errors, Shrek, The Lion King, Chicago, Crazy for You, Masterclass, Soul Sister....

 Hmmm..... when i type it out, even i have to admit that the list is long... hahaha

Family Cruise

June was a month of travel for our family.   Along with Arta, we headed off to Southhampton to board the Independence of the Seas for a 14 day cruise through the mediterranean. If there were only time, each of us would be doing 14 different posts, capturing 5 different experiences of each day.  The days were full, full, full!  Hard to even know WHERE to start with the reports, since there was so much to see.

Botticelli's Birth of Venus
For one thing,the ship had an $8.5 million budget for art, and so arta and i spent tons of time wandering the stairwells exploring the (exceptionally well curated) collection. 

Robert Silvers' Birth of Venus

On the landing of the stairwell between each floor, you would find a smallish photo of a piece of 'classic' art.  

Occupying the rest of the space was a much larger piece of modern art 'in dialogue' with that classic.

For example, Botticelli's famous Birth of Venus was set along side a work of the same name by Robert Silvers

Silvers - close up detail
From a distance, it looks like it is just a close up of the botticelli original.
But when you look a closer look at Silvers' version, you could see that the piece was completely made up of smaller famous images of art...almost like 'pointilism', but with small computer generated images. (he is the inventor of photomosaic process).  Stunning. Anyways, there was something interesting to look at on each of the 12 levels in all 4 of the main staircases... like hanging out in an edgy art gallery with a good tour guide.

Duncan on the Flowrider
Duncan, meanwhile, was off learning how to master the flowrider.  Here is a photo, but it is tricky to describe.  Basically, water is rushing back UP hill at you, making a kind of thin layer of artificial wave you can surf on top of.
Steve signed Duncan up for lessons twice. It is WAY harder than it looks (and if you head out to youtube, you will see a ton of homevideos of people wiping out on it.Duncan reports that, while fun, you feel pretty much like you have been beat up after it is all over!  :-)

towel bunny lying in wait...
Steve and Alex spent lots of time in the Fitness Club on the top deck, with its astonishing views of the ocean.  They also spent time wondering how the cleaning staff could manage to turn seemingly innocuous towels into the most bizarre forms of animal art (ie., as the Wizard named Tim says in Monty Python's "Holy Grail", a creature "with sharp pointy teeth")

More posts on the cruise to follow.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Jungle in Gibralter (Duncan Reports on the Cruise)

up close and personal

Sorry for the delay. 

We went on a cruise for 2 weeks, but there was no time to report. 

so, here are some reports from the cruise.

For the first few days of the cruise, we were at sea.  The first stop was Gibralter. 

We took a cable car to the top of the rock to see the monkeys that live up there.
They warned us not to bring plastic bags, because monkeys think there is food in plastic bags, and will try to steal them from you. 

Someone wasn't listening to the guide very well.  They went into the cafeteria on top, but tried to bring a bag of chips out with them. 

who doesn't love chips?!

A monkey who had been sitting quietly watching everyone suddenly took off after the person and ripped the bag of chips out of their hand.  The monkey screamed at the woman and the woman screamed back.  it was hard not to laugh (but i don't think the woman was laughing too hard)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Yellowknife: walking around Frame Lake

Frame Lake

My colleague Marie-Claire and I spent a week in Yellowknife for an amazing workshop called "Activating the Heart: Storytelling, Knowledge Sharing and Relationship"). 

(More later on the workshop, which was held at Detta in Chief Drygeese Territory). 

I got to town a day before the workshop started, and so took some time to explore Frame Lake, which is just a couple of minutes from the Explorer Hotel where we were staying.
There is a great path around the edge of the lake...perfect for strolling or biking. 

It is perhaps 9 kilometers around the perimetre, and gives you a whole variety of views.

Conversations for the birds...

bird on the rocks...
There were also a plethora of birds around. You could see them sitting in the trees, having conversations with eachother, splashing in the water (one bird seemingly 'on guard' out on a little rock).


Unfortunately, there was plenty of bird food around too (by bird food i mean 'mosquitos'). 

Everytime I stopped to take a photo, (particularly in shady areas) the little bloodsuckers caught up and tried to hitch a ride on a piece of exposed skin, so i took fewer photos than i otherwise might have!  :-)

Still, it was fun following the path around, and exploring the view from the different angles. 

Add caption
The water was wonderfully reflective, suggesting a landscape below the surface.



Yellowknife summer skyline: sunsets and sunrises

What a highlight of the year to finally visit the Northwest Territories, and spend a week in Yellowknife!

The plane from London to Yellowknife landed sometime between midnight and 1am.

But from the amount of light in the sky, i would have thought it something like 8 or 9 in the evening.

It is hard to know what to make of those long summer days in Yellowknife. 

Summer solstice indeed! 

It simply is too light out to want to go to sleep.  

It would have been impossible to sleep had the hotel not had the heaviest of curtains sheilding the room from the outside.  

Throughout the week, I felt this strange sense of fatigue as the evening would wear on, and the light would continue. 

It is like part of your mind 'knows' that it is late, but your body is confused by the contradictory signals (the amount of light in the sky). 

You end up with this wierd feeling of being both exhausted and energized.
It is also hard to know if the colours in the sky are 'sunset' or 'sunrise', since the two moments bleed into eachother in a way that makes it unclear which state you are actually in.

In any event, the colours were glorious.  I just couldn't decide if my 'favourite' was the palette of pink and mauve...
.....or if it was the yellow and gold. 

Certainly, along the edge of the horizon where the sun was touching land and sky, it looked like molten lava spread across the clouds....amazing.


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Annabelle's Funeral - living with dying...

Dusk or Daybreak? The Yellowknife Sky, 2am on June 17
What great news it had been, months back, to discover that my sister Mary was pregnant, and expecting to have a baby in August. And then a shock to have the routine ultrasound reveal that the baby's heart was growing outside of the body. Though Annabell (as Mary named her) was continuing to grow and wiggle around, the defect was a fatal one. Very few children with this condition live beyond a few days, and most are unable to survive the process of being born.
And so, we have all been preparing ourselves for the funeral which would most likely follow on the heels of the birth. My aunt Moiya sewed a little dress for Annabelle to be buried in, and my brother-in-law Leo had time to build a small coffin for this little child. While Mary had hoped that Annabelle would survive to term, and that they would have some moments together, that was not to be: her little heart stopped beating. The funeral was yesterday (June 16th).
That is two funerals for our family in less than a month: Verlaine after living for 90 years; Annabelle before taking her first breath. But in both cases, I have been struck by the reminder of how precious life is, both its beginnings and its ending, and by the ways we are always living with dying. It is something of a challenge in figuring out how to honour the kinds of emotions involved in that reality, and to be present for the strange mix of joy and pain that comes with the reality of leaving.
I wanted to share some of the words that were spoken at the funeral.  First, the words my mother Arta wrote to my sister Mary when we all finally knew that this little life would not come to fruition. Second, the words spoken by my sister Mary, speaking about what she learned and experienced from the short time she carried Annabelle with her. Both my mom and my sister have helped me to think more deeply  about the many different ways that we live with the realities of dying.
Words from Arta to Mary 
Mary, I am not going to grieve for you, but find joy in what Annabelle has given you, what she has helped you to discover about yourself and your family. Your deep respect for life. Your joy in her short life. Shorter than you would wish, but you have loved her every minute of it. That will have to be enough. She has helped you remember the real fragility that surrounds birthing, how it can go wrong, how deep the grief is that you will now share with other women who lose their daughters in some way.
A baby girl. I have imagined for her a laundry list of life’s events: her first words, the first tree she would climb, her first bank account she would have, her first tube of lipstick, her first high heels (borrowed from her own mother’s closet at the age of 5), her first kiss, and later her own joy in giving birth, even her own deep grief when the realities of what goes wrong in the world might touch her. It is easy for me to imagine all of this, for I am watching your other two girls in whose lives I will see all of this. Even in the beginning there was never more than a slim hope for any of the former as being a place we could go with Annabelle. In some way, I accepted that too. But she has been fully present. I have enjoyed watching you name her, watching you bring her into the lives of her extended family with phone calls and emails, seeing you treasuring her tiniest movements, witnessing that she would have existed fully had her tiny body allowed it. Your love has been a lovely gift to her. And a lovely gift to us. Thank you Mary. And yes, bawl away. Don’t think my cheeks have been dry as I have been writing this. Love, Arta
Mary's Reflections on a Journey with Annabelle: Thoughts on Miracles, Love, Peace, Hope, Mercy and Joy
My journey with Annabelle has been one full of moments that have deepened my understanding of six important things: miracles, love, peace, hope, mercy and joy.
Miracles - It is easy to look at the world around us and see miracles, big and small, in our natural environment. We may not do so often enough, but it is not a struggle to find and appreciate the beauty around us. Annabelle has helped me to remember to turn my eye inward, to see the tiniest cell in my own body, and to remember what I have been given. Each of us is a miracle. And each breath we take is a gift. Less obvious perhaps are the miracles to be found in imperfection. From the first day that we found out that our Annabelle had fatal imperfections I knew in my heart that I could not ask for a miracle – I could not ask for her to be cured, to be born whole and healthy. But as the weeks turned to months, and Annabelle kept growing, I knew without a doubt that she was already a miracle. Not only was her heart growing outside her body, her heart itself had serious defects. And yet, she continued to grow, to wiggle, and to share her short time here on earth with me. Not to be forgotten, the miracle of the doctors and medical technologies that enhanced our time with Annabelle and helped us to prepare for her arrival. What a miracle to see her through ultrasounds, to know her body, her hands and feet, even to see her tiny little heart beating. How lucky we were to journey with the doctors to find out all we could about her condition, and prepare ourselves a much as possible for her arrival. This was truly a gift to us.
Love - Love has been watching my sweet three monkeys --- Xavier, Naomi and Rhiannon on their journey with Annabelle. The sweet words to their sister Annabelle delivered with lips to my tummy. The hugs and snuggles, arms tight around my expanding waist, or heads laid gently on my belly. The sadness, tears and questions that could not be answered. Love has been poured upon us from all directions. And this love has made our own hearts turn outward. Instead of turning inward, of focusing on our own grief, we have been reminded of the importance of loving those around us and of helping others in need. Love is Rogers House, the palliative care centre where we were given the opportunity to spend a day together as a family after Annabelle was born. That gift is priceless. Our time together there let us celebrate, grieve, and love each other in a most amazing and special way.
Peace I have been in constant awe of the blessing I have received -- that I would have peace and comfort in my heart. Grief and heartache could have torn me apart, but instead I have been blessed to find joy within my grief. I have felt overwhelming peace and comfort that things were as they were meant to be. Comfort that my family would come out of this journey stronger. Peace even when Annabelle arrived far earlier than we had hoped.
Hope - Which brings me to hope. From the beginning, there was never much of a chance that we would get to see Annabelle take her first breath, to watch her grow and learn. We never knew how long she would survive. We knew she might leave this world at any moment. But Annabelle taught me about the joy that can come from setting aside what is practical and realistic and letting myself hope for something that is almost impossible. Hoping for one moment with Annabelle alive in my arms. I finally understood the importance of letting myself want something I could not have.
Mercy - Mercy was Annabelle arriving on June 7th. I wanted so much to carry her to the very end. To hope beyond reason that she would make it to August, to keep growing, that I would meet her and we would look into each others eyes. I believe a higher power knew the time would come when I would not have the strength to wait any longer, to hope anymore. I did not want Annabelle to come this month -- I desperately did not want her to come. But when I knew her heart had stopped, despite the grief, I was somehow at peace and knew in my heart the time was right.
Joy  - After days of waiting in the hospital for my body to cooperate and deliver Annabelle, she finally arrived. I just held her and held her, trying to remember to let Leo and others have a turn. I just couldn’t stop holding her little hand on my finger and looking at her tiny feet. She was so limp, but so warm and soft and beautiful. So beautiful and perfect, despite all her imperfections. With her little eyes closed, she just looked like she was sleeping. The thing I never want to forget about those first few hours with her was my joy -- how happy and at peace I was. So, so happy to finally get to meet her, to see her little broken body and hold it close to me.
(Mary ended with a few words about gratitude...those at the funeral, and those who were not, but who had shared in the journey with Annabelle.)
And so, today is another day.
I am in Yellowknife this week.  I arrived on the plane well after midnight, astonished by the light in the sky, and the range of colours swept along the horizon.  This week, the nights are so short, and the days are so long that it is next to impossible to distinguish the sunrise from the sunset.  Is the day ending or being reborn?  I will keep that thought with me for the rest of the week.  

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A day thinking of Verlaine

the view from Verlaine's balcony
Steve and I have spent the day sorting through papers, and packing up boxes, as we get ready to close down Verlaine's apartment.

The funeral is tomorrow.

Saying goodbye is never easy. 
crabapple blossoms blowing across the grass

I found myself thinking partly about the way that 'activity' (you know, packing, organizing, sorting) provides one avenue for grieving:  a way of both distracting you from the reality of parting, and of connecting you to it at the same time by allowing memories to surface as you sort through objects that you know and that attach you to the person.

I was thinking about that as I took a pause this morning to enjoy the view from the second floor balcony of the apartment that Verlaine moved into during the last year of her life. 

clouds and blossoms white against the blue sky

The grass was green, and the trees were in flower.  I enjoyed sitting there,the feel of the wind, the sight of the white clouds rolling across the sky, and the fragrance of the trees that are in bloom all along the street.
I took my camera with me downstairs to get a photo of the trees from closer by.   The fragrance was amazing. 

I loved the way the blossoms and the clouds held their white outlines against the blue of the sky. 

some rain clouds moving in

Of course, I did notice that some of those clouds were tinged with dark grey on the bottom.  Maybe we would have a fall of rain later in the day.

I asked one woman walking by if she knew the names of the trees outside. She told me the larger white blossomed tree just out the door was a Crabapple, and that the smaller blossomed trees along the street were Mayday trees.  I am sure Verlaine could have also identified the tree names for me.  I am also sure that she too would have enjoyed walking out under the trees.

She was a woman who enjoyed flowers, and who loved to garden. It takes no work at all to pull up the image of her 'puttering around' (to use her phrase) in the backyard, trimming back the roses, or planting a few rows of lobelia or some of the more showy annuals.   

the rain beating down

Certainly, my own backyard in Victoria has been the beneficiary of her work with a garden fork (and her eye for picking out nice plants at the nursery). 

The rain did indeed come by later in the afternoon... complete with thunder and lightening. 

Nourishment for garden. 

Verlaine would have approved.


Monday, May 21, 2012

Saying goodbye to my mother-in-law (Verlaine Carter, 1922-2012)

Len and Verlaine Carter
 Steve and I got the call on Friday that his mother had died of a heart attack late that night. 

It was not totally unexpected, but  knowing something is on the horizon does not make it that much easier. 

We are back in Calgary, arranging things for the funeral, sorting through papers and photographs, and thinking of all the fabulous memories of a life well and truly lived.  She was truly a grand dame!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Rain and Sunshine (Boys)

The Sunshine Boys
Even though London was rainy today, we still got a dose of sunshine (boys)!  

Yes, Neil Simon's play "The Sunshine Boys". 

I saw it a million years ago (the movie version) with Geoge Burns and Walter Matthau. 

This time, it was in the Savoy Theatre starring Danny Devito and Richard Griffiths (aka Vernon Dursley).  Perfect comedic timing!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Sophie and Rebecca Day 2 (V&A and Chicago)

So.... even though she has long since gone home, here is the report on Day 2 with Sophie visiting! (from back in April)

Day 2 started at the V&A museum. Once again, we arrived just in time for the tour.

This time the tour was of the Medieval and Renaissance Galleries... the ones they just spent 30 million renovating. I have to say, it is well worth the visit!

We started with a stroll through Room 50, "The Renaissance City" .  It is too cool! it is exactly what it says it is... designed to give you the sense of a renaissance city, with statues and fountain, and balconies along the walls looking into the streets. (the picture above is off the V&A website... check it out here) (

We headed from there down the stairs to the medieval area, to see what we could see. 

Symmachi Panel
Our first stop was the carved ivory Symmachi Panel (400 AD) 

The carvings are beautiful, and you can see pagan elements present even though europe was beginning to be christianized at the time.

I had not known that gifts of ivory were 'restricted', and that by law ivory could only be given to high roman officials (this one was probably given to commemorate a marriage).

Gloucester Candlestick

Then it was off to see the  Gloucester Candle Stick (made in 1107). 

 If you click on the picture on the link above, the picture will expand so you can get a closeup look at it.

You can see 4 apostles represented by their traditional signs: Angel (Matthew), Lion (Mark), Ox (Luke), and Eagle (John).  You can aslo see apes and humans attempting to crawl up from the inferno towards the heavens.

Syon Cope

Next was the Syon Cope (which is a kind of cape worn during religious services)   It is old, but in pristine condition.  It would have been destroyed during the reformation, but a bunch of nuns moved it off to Portugal, so it survived intact.  

Again, you can click on the link to see it, though the picture does not do justice to it up close. The colours have faded somewhat with time...all the parts that look brown would have been a vibrant red! 

I stood there looking at it, thinking about the small embroidery stitches my mother had Melanie Phillips and I practice on the corner of tea towels when we were little.  The skill here was astonishing.  The guide told us that after the tour, we should go check out the golder spider silk cloak also in the gallery.  huh?  spiders?  yep.  I will come to that later.

Pisano's 'Christ Crucified'

From there we went to take a closer look at Pisano's "Christ Crucified". 

Hard to believe that it is ivory.  It was also interesting looking at how, over the years, the styles of representing religious figures had changed so significantly. 

Rather than focusing on monsters and demons, the religious objects begin focusing attention on emotional impacts of people who look 'like us'.

It is certainly an object of compelling beauty

While we couldn't get close to it (some reno work in the room), we also had a peek at the Devonshire Tapestry, which gives you a great sense of what nobel life was supposedly like: tournaments, hunts, and showing off your wealth in every way imaginable.

And, on the topic of wealth, we walked past the facade of Sir Paul Pindar's house.  He was a wealthy merchant, who loaned money to Charles I, and put thousands of pounds into the building of St. Paul's Cathedral.  The king was unable to repay him, so he ended up in poverty.  But... the house survived the great fire of London.  It was taken down to build the Liverpool Street Station, so you can now see the facade in the musuem... installed just as if it was a building.  It is pretty cool!  

Da Vinci's notebook...
 Another highlight was seeing one of da Vinci's notebooks!

Part of the renovation includes interactive computer stations. 

The one right beside the da vinci notebook has all of the pages scanned in, so you can flip through the pages, looking at both the original text, and at the translations for each page.

Da Johnson's notebook...
  Now what could be more fun than THAT?!   I have resolved to treat my own notebooks with a bit more respect (who KNOWS where they might end up?)  :-)

As an aside, there had been only 10 or so of us on the tour, which is luck beyond belief: no problems seeing or hearing stuff!  Oddly enough, one of the people in our group had also been in our tour group at the National Gallery the day before.... in a city of millions, that was a bit unusual.  As Sophie will attest (if you ask her for more of the story), our fellow-traveller was 'memorable' (to say the least).

the individual threads at the edge of the cloth

Before leaving, we headed off to the other side of the museum to take a look at the famous golden spider silk cloak. 


Spiders (click here).  

Online, you can see a video of people catching the spiders, and then pulling the silk out of them, keeping them for only a while, then letting them go. 

I suspect the spiders don't love it, but they let each one go after 20 minutes of 'work' (ie. having the thread pulled out of you). 

cloak woven from spider silk

You then get to watch the strands being woven together, and finally, woven into the cloak itself.

The golden yellow colour is the natural colour of the spider silk.
Wow!  Hard to believe something so creepy can produce something so amazingly beautiful! 
spider design on the cloak

 From there, we headed back to the world of bodies!   We managed to get day tickets for Chicago: the Musical, so we sat on the very front row for a couple of hours of adultery, mayhem, music and murder, all set to music.  The only question we were left with was "if you had a choice, would you be Roxie or Velma?"  Hard call!

Rebecca strikes a pose....

Sophie strikes a pose...