Education

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What I really mean is, with apologies to Pink Floyd: “we don’t need no education.”  Actually, I am rather ashamed of this cartoon. When I drew it, I called it “Pussy Grab 100.” I was thinking of the need for sex education in schools and at all levels of society. Then I thought of all the ways in which people were actually learning to abuse each other, rather than learning what ‘the other’ is about and how to get on with her or him or them. Sometimes we forget that man is born of woman, not the other way round, in spite of the mysterious magic of the legendary Adam’s Rib. And remember: there was only one Adam and only one rib. In addition, not many people, adults or children, leap full grown and  fully-armed from the thigh of an Alpha Male Greek or Roman god. Respect for the mother and the potential mother, surely this is the first thing that every child in every walk of life must learn.

Men should be learning to treat women with dignity and respect, not to trample upon them and abuse their rights. Women should be learning to respect themselves and their bodies. In my book women should maintain control over their own bodies. If there is indeed an international code of human rights, and if it is indeed still being respected, then surely we should be thinking of a parallel international code of women’s rights. It would contain the right to self-determination, the right to be protected, not by superior male members of the same family, but by a code of laws that allow women to move forward as independent human beings with inalienable rights of their own. These would include  a right to health care for themselves and their off-spring, a right to education and self-education for themselves and their children, a right to a space in which to bring up their families in safety and in harmony with the earth and its more humane principles.

I hear a whisper in my ear … but the principles under which human beings live are the laws of the jungle, nature red in tooth and claw, might is right, entitlement to the amount of justice that humans can afford to purchase, the right of the powerful to grab everything they want and make it their own, the right of the male head of the family to determine the fate of his women and off-spring, the right to attend male sex education classes that begin with Pussy Grab 100 and continue with a series of lessons that would make the venerable Marquis de Sade blush and turn over in his grave. And remember, while the Marquis de Sade wrote in impeccable French, such modern day lessons can now be found online, in verbal and visual form, and for free.

Democracy: for me, one of the keys to democracy is the way in which the majority treats the minority (or minorities) over which it has gained power. Is there an understanding of the minority point of view, consideration of the needs and desires of the minority? If so, then democracy functions. If not, then cultural rights, language rights, educational rights, human rights are swept away, legislated out of existence, scattered like leaves before a hurricane force wind that shows no mercy. When that happens, we have de-mock-racy not democracy. When de-mock-racy happens, it’s winner take all, and may the gods help the hindmost to help themselves to scrabble for whatever remainders they can glean.

Snow Flies

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You hear it all the time: “we’ll do it before the snow flies,” let’s wait until the snow flies,” “when the snow flies.” Warning … Freudian Slip … I wrote “sow flies” and the spell check didn’t catch it. Maybe it was thinking “pigs on the wing”, pink pigs from Pink Floyd, or maybe pigs really do have wings. Why shouldn’t they? The hart does.

Anyway: I have spent a long time in Canada, more than half a century, much more than a teenager or a kid in kindergarten: horse flies, black flies, mosquitoes, hornets, green hornets, bud worm, butter flies, lard flies, yard flies, dragon flies, no-see-ums (felt but rarely seen), and many other types of flies, but I’ve never seen snow flies, though everybody talks about them. So  what do they look like? Alas, when I Googled them, I found nothing.

So, I imagined what they might look like and there, in the cartoon above, after close observation, you see a multiplicity of the Canadian snow flies I found in the garden during the first snowfall of winter. They are gorgeous, and only a scratch upon the surface. You’ll recognize many of them, of course, but a few may be new to you. But then, perhaps you’ve never thought about it: I know what a snow fly is, you say, and I’ve seen a no-see-um, and it’s only in Ontario that you die with the black fly playing an angel’s harp upon your ribs, and we live in the Maritimes, not Upper Canada.

Down here, in New Brunswick, it’s all dulse and dulcimer, and we know exactly what a snow fly is, don’t we? Well, make this an entry in Wikipedia, and everyone who follows this blog will know what a snow fly looks like, won’t they? But if we do nothing, nobody will know, and then when the snow flies, or when the snow flies hit the fan … nobody will know what’s happening … think about it!

Crow

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“What is this life, if full of care, / we have no time to stand and stare,” W. H. Davies wrote, expressing our need for solitude and silence. Sometimes we must just walk in the woods and be alone with our spirits. Too much excitement, too much Brexit, too much mid-terms, too much suspense, too much controversy, too much shallow thinking, too much knee-jerk reaction, too much emotion = too little time to be alone, to sit and think, to work things out for oneself … so, let the snow fall, let the drifts deepen, let the snowflakes accumulate.

There are so many things I want to do that I am not doing any of them. I must take some, make some, time to sit back and relax, I guess. The well is empty. It’s time to be on my own, to meditate, and to allow those inner springs to fill up and flow again. That may not take long. Woods, crows, cardinals, and the hushed whisper of falling snow will do the trick.

It’s been a long time since I last posted. I guess life gets in the way. A beautiful cardinal sat on my feeder this morning, but by the time I had found the camera, our family of crows had frightened him away. Here’s the last (of five) just arriving in the tree. He’s not as pretty as the cardinal, but he’s very stark against the falling snow, speckled too, in places. Vade mecum. I will be back.

 

 

The Painting Lesson

The Painting Lesson
KIRA 

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Geoff is teaching the participants in the creative retreat how to paint a cone flower. He plucked several on the way to the workshop and placed a couple in a cup of water so we could study them in close up. Mine are on the table just to my left hand. The golf cart outside is the main means of transport when it is time to move me from place to place. It’s so much easier to sit in comfort rather than to pick my way carefully over slightly uneven grass. Geoff has shown me how to paint the background to my flower. Alas, my background is nothing like his background. I often wonder if this is because I went to school in England, while he went to school in Canada. Certainly our backgrounds are very different. Geoff took the Golf Cart keys from Mad Max. Hence the drive over to Studio #1, where I wrote for a month in June 2017 was very smooth. Mad Max is very kind and gentle. Until he gets behind the wheel of a golf cart. Then he earns his nick-name: Mad Max. My plastic chair is about to collapse and land me on the floor. But I don’t yet know that. It will happen about three minutes after this photo was taken, but the camera had gone by then. Fortunately. Or the next picture would show my rear end raised into the air in all its glory with my little legs kicking.

 

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This next photo shows my painting with my lovely cone flower painted in. My cone flower does not resemble Geoff’s cone flower, nor does it look like the real thing that sits on the desk in front of me. I hope you can see my  cone flower in the painting, but if you can’t, don’t worry. My best advice is search for something that doesn’t look like a cone flower and you will find mine. We are not sure what happens when I paint. Whereas all the obedient students have only one large realistic flower in their painting, my painting sprouts flowers as if by magic. They just appear, like dandelions. They are everywhere and in all colors. It’s quite the bouquet, really, though that is not what it was meant to be. It was meant to be a cone flower. Geoff says I have a unique and powerful style of my own. I think this is instructor-speak for “Roger, you can’t paint for love or money and, as a painter, you are as dumb and stubborn and inflexible as a knot in a lump of wood, but shucks, I’m not a negative person, so I’ll call your messy message unique.” Thanks, Geoff. It’s nice to be unique. Much better than being an abject failure. When Clare saw my painting, she thought my eye-sight was going, so she made an appointment for me to see the optician, or whatever he’s called, next week. Or the week after. I couldn’t make out the date. Her hand-writing is so blurred. Maybe her hand-writing is unique, too. Either that or she also needs an eye-appointment.

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This is the final product. Geoff says it is very strong and demonstrates the strength of my personality. I think it looks like a cross between a Tangled Garden, a nightmare bristling on the facade of one of Monet’s Cathedrals, a Van Gogh flowery sky, and a walk in the park with Picasso when he was trying to relearn how to paint as a very young child would paint. The other participants say they like the energy of my brush strokes. Brush strokes, a lovely idea. I hold the brush like a carving knife and, pretending the canvas is a lump of recalcitrant cheddar cheese or a fierce Shropshire Blue, I attack it with my bristle sword, hacking it into colorful lumps that can be whatever the viewer thinks they might be. Speaking of cheese, this painting is the sort of dream that comes in the night to haunt me when I have eaten too much cheese. The slashing of the nightmare with the paintbrush sword brings a moment of release and a wonderful feeling of relief and relaxation when canvas and cheese are cheerfully hacked and the contents of their souls released into a heaven-haven of paint. Ah soul: I think you can see one or two souls flitting through my tangled garden. I’ll tell you a secret, though: I don’t know how they got there. I thought I was painting butterflies at the time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holly-Hock

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Holly Hock Hangs on …

I keep calling my Holly-Hock ‘he’, but I am beginning to think that if Holly Hobby was a lady, then this tough old plant is a lady too. A limpet lady. She has gone through three quite hard frosts now, one early, and two back to back, earlier this week, followed by two days of heavy rain. The rest of the garden is withering or withered. Clusters of dry blackened stems surround this old lady, but she still stands tall and proud. Not only that, but she casts more and more flowers out to greet us.

We have kept lots of seeds and will sow them soon, some are in the ground already, in the hopes that she and her offspring may flourish. For this lady is a symbol of hope. Hope in the face of frosts, cold winds, heavy rains. Hope in the seeds that she produces and scatters. Hope in the generation and the regeneration of a beauty and a strength that, if lost, may never be found again. Hope in old age that our children will survive and lighten our countenances with their love.

So go, you Holly-Hock seeds. Bury deep, send out roots, sleep for a while if you need to, and when the spring sun peeps over the horizon after a hard, long winter, be ready to bloom again. We, your faithful followers, will be waiting for you, with hope in our hearts.

Jack Frost

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Jack Frost

Or, since I live in a bilingual province, should that be Jacques Frost? Whatever. He visited the garden last night and did his usual job on our tomatoes. There are a couple of survivors this morning and we have now rescued those, but last night we neither took the toms in nor covered them up.  Oh dear. The result?

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As for the hollyhock, it was looking very sorry for itself early this morning. But, with a little bit of warmth and sunshine, he rose to the challenge and, while looking a little battered, soldiers on and on.

A wounded warrior, this tomato, though. The birds will get him, or the deer, or something. The cat has been very worried about intruders recently, birds and others. Here she is, inspecting the back porch from her watch tower beside the sliding door.

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Seeds

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Seeds

As creative artists, we seek to leave seeds and plant seeds. Just one idea, seeding elsewhere authenticates us as artists and creators. Some seeds fall on stony ground, we know that. Others do not take immediately, but lie dormant for some time. Some, a few, a very few, a happy band of siblings. drop, root, and grow into the flowers we always wanted to create.

We must always have confidence in our seedlings. We must believe that they will survive, somehow, somewhere, in spite of the random nature of the universe. Write with that belief. Create with that belief. Be strong. believe. Even when others doubt you and, what is worse, you doubt yourself. Never doubt yourself.

My Hollyhock doesn’t doubt. It came from nowhere and gifted itself upon us. Now it has gifted us with pod after pod of wonderful seeds. Some will be lost. The squirrels, chipmunks, and mourning doves, not to mention the passerines, will get others. But some will survive, take root, and flourish, just like this one did.

Believe, my friends, believe. And never stop creating.