Category Archives: Art

A bow tie, (ears?) and a hot pink feather

noteMany of our most successful writers recommend a daily walk as a source of inspiration. I am beginning to see why. Both of this week’s post arose out of incidents along the route of my daily walk.

Tuesday I wrote about camp counselors’ hats in “Do you love it or do you love it?”, and yesterday I found this note on the ground:

  • Bring:
  • bow tie
  • (ears?)
  • hot pink feather

I thought, “Whoa, I want to go to that party.” 

Bow ties are making comeback, so I wasn’t too surprised by that one. But what kind of bow tie did the writer have in mind? I ran through the list of possibilities. A classic black tuxedo tie, a dignified plaid one, or maybe a large, droopy hot pink number to match the feather?

I wondered why (ears?) needed parentheses and a question mark. Most of us come with ears firmly attached, so I assume the (ears?) referred to here would be detachable accessories. Perhaps the person needed to be Yoda, or a cat, or Spock. But not for certain, because of that question mark. Perhaps a friend could bring the (ears?) instead. Or perhaps the person felt that, with a bow tie and a hot pink feather already in play, (ears?) would be just too much—over the top.

Oh yes, the hot pink feather. That really made me smile. What day doesn’t get a little better with a hot pink feather? I pictured a luscious Ostrich-sized one. A puny one simply wouldn’t do.

As I walked on I realized I was close to the intermediate school in our area, and the note was likely a leftover from the school play at the end of the year. Then I pictured a child saying to a parent, “Oh yeah. I need a bow tie, (ears?) and a hot pink feather for tomorrow.” This would happen at 9:01 p.m., immediately after all the stores had closed for the day. (Similar scenarios played out in our house more than once.)

The writer of this note dropped it along the way. Did that mean that he or she arrived home and thought, “I know I was supposed to bring something. Now, what was it again?” Did a droopy, hot pink bow tie make it to the event? What about the poor, questionable (ears?)?

Stephen King is one of those writers who recommends a daily walk. Now I understand how he comes up with those out-of-this-world ideas of his.

 

 

Pendulum swings and evolution: Tucked or untucked

A few summers ago at our cottage, I sat at the kitchen table with my then 15-year-old daughter, my niece, my nephews and my brother-in-law. While we sat, my husband—happy and unsuspecting—came in from outside. My daughter gave him a disdainful look.

“Tucked, Dad?” she said. “You look like a goof.”

My husband, who until that instant had been perfectly happy with his wardrobe, looked down  and said, “What?”

“Untuck your shirt, Dad.”

I haven’t lived as long as some, but I have lived long enough to see fashion trends circle around a time or two: tucked/untucked, platform/no platform, stiletto/flats, wide leg/skinny jeans. Each time the fashion pendulum swings back, it brings fashion that has evolved slightly from the previous version: collarless shirts/button downs, earth shoes/ballet slippers, 4-star Howicks/harem pants, etc.

My nephew had his video camera at hand, so with a room full of witnesses, I made a bet with my daughter: “Within ten years, tucked will be back in and untucked will be out.”

A few weeks later, my daughter emerged from her room wearing a pair of jeans with a belt and a shirt—tucked in.

“Your tucked, honey,” I said.

“Yeah, this shirt needs to be tucked.”

“Geez, I didn’t even need to wait ten years,” I said. “It’s already happened.”

Such a common mistake—believing that what’s now will be forever. We look around us and assume things will always be the same. We think the Berlin Wall will always stand, the Soviet Union will never dissolve, and the tattoo we ink on our skin will be meaningful for a lifetime. We underestimate our capacity to create positive change. and we forget the inevitable evolution of life and the surprising changes it creates in us.

But the pendulum swings. It always does. Evolution happens. It always does. 

Have faith, get ready, and think long and hard about that tattoo.

The sacrament of waiting: . . .

winter-waitingThe sun shines in my window this morning in a February kind of way.  Winter wanes.

I celebrate the sacrament of waiting for a new kind of spring beauty.

As our calendars turn from January to February, I share with you this beautiful poem by Macrina Wiederkehr. Macrina is a Benedictine sister, author, and lover of the spiritual who blogs at Under the Sycamore Tree. Her poem celebrates the sacrament of letting go as a natural part of life. When we’re stripped down, vulnerable, and “wearing the colors of emptiness” we live the sacrament of waiting, ready for a new, surprising kind of beauty.

The Sacrament of Letting Go

© Macrina Wiederkehr

Slowly
she celebrated the sacrament of letting go.
First she surrendered her green,
then the orange, yellow, and red.
finally she let go of her own brown.
Shedding her last leaf
she stood empty and silent, stripped bare.
Leaning against the winter sky,
she began her vigil of trust.

Shedding her last leaf,
she watched it journey to the ground.
She stood in silence
wearing the colors of emptiness,
her branches wondering,
How do you give shade with so much gone?

And then,
the sacrament of waiting began.
The sunrise and the sunset watched with tenderness.
Clothing her with silhouettes
that kept her hope alive.

They helped her to understand that
her vulnerability,
her dependence and need,
her emptiness, her readiness to receive,
were giving her a new kind of Beauty.
Every morning and every evening they stood in silence,
and celebrated together
the sacrament of waiting.

© Macrina Wiederkehr

How things happen: The stained glass story

tree-of-life-ottawaOur church, Trinity United, received some media attention in the Ottawa area recently. We created two stained glass windows.

So, what’s so newsworthy about that, you might wonder?

The part of the story that drew the media interest was the artist, Beth Jenkin, who created the original pictures for the finished pieces; she’s in her twenties, and she’s quickly losing her vision. When she began the project, she could still see, but as the work progressed, her vision failed more and more.

Now that the work is complete, she can’t see it clearly, and it is the last work of this type she will be able to do.

That heartbreaking and compelling part of the story was unforeseen at outset of this project. People who were involved from the beginning know there are many other meaningful sides to this story.

The biggest meaningful piece is a man called Chris Humphrey. (Sometimes when I’m typing his name, I inadvertently add a “t” to the end so it comes out “Christ.” That’s not so far off the mark.) I admire Chris so much that even a writer like me can’t find the words to wrap up what an exceptional human being he is. He’s much more comfortable behind the scenes, but when he’s there you can bet that he’s the one building the scenes, holding up the scenes, beautifying the scenes, making sure the scenes work properly and have good sound, and that every other person with him is taken care of back there.

At a meeting last week, Chris presented his interpretation of how this stained glass project became a reality.

how-things-happen

  1. A longing, a need. Our church building, designed by renowned architect James Strutt, is among Canada’s top 500 buildings of architectural significance. Some members of our church made their first visit it to us out of architectural curiosity. But architectural significance and beauty don’t always go together, and our building is also noted for its less than attractive exterior. The sanctuary within this architecturally significant building does not have windows. For many years the warm people who love this church have longed for, felt the need for, some stained glass to brighten our worship space.

    Trinity-United-Church

    The Trinity exterior was created to evoke the spirit of an Ark.

  2. Vision. Our church has a memorial fund to which people donate in memory of someone they love. This money is then used to beautify the building or the worship experience of the church in some way. We accept proposals from congregation members, and one of our members had a vision of light shining through stained glass.
  3. Motivation. Many visions flit into and out of our heads without taking shape in reality. For thought to transform into something physical, one or more people need motivation to take the first step. This is where Chris’s work on this project began.
  4. Inspiration. In our church, we turn to the archaic use of this word: to breathe on, or to breathe into. In this case, Beth received the breath of inspiration during one of our meditation sessions. The guided meditation led her to a vision of the tree of life, infused with light, fed by a flowing river.
  5. Creativity. Beth began her artwork—still able to see her work at that time. She began with the tree of life, and the vision she received. From there she drew on the creativity of others to make the two pieces of art true to the spirit of Trinity. Each piece has a dove to represent the active justice and outreach work of our church. Incorporated into the body of the tree of life is our Trinity Cross, designed by Rev. Dr. Glen Stoudt. trinity-logoOur cross has three flags in three corners of the cross to represent Higher Power, Body, and Soul. One corner remains open to represent our minds open to new ideas and ongoing progressive evolution. The rainbow above the Trinity Ark represents our inclusivity. One of my favourite things about these two pieces is that they aren’t generic representations of Christian ideas; they truly represent the spirit of what our church is all about. trinity-ark-ottawa
  6. Action. With the vision in place, the work began. Chris got the glass, set up the work spaces and sought volunteers to help him. He trained people to cut and solder the glass.
  7. Enthusiasm. The more people thought about this, the more enthusiastic they became. The project became a labour of love for many. Their enthusiasm drew in others to help.
  8. Community Involvement. As Beth’s vision faded shockingly quickly, she had to reach out for help. Another church member, Alex Dunn, worked with Beth to support her emotionally through her dramatic loss of sight and to help her complete the artwork. More than 30 people helped to cut and solder stained glass. We didn’t farm out this work to other people. The people of our congregation created  and completed the windows from start to finish.
  9. The cycle. Chris drew his graphic with the community involvement flowing back into inspiration, creativity, action. He believes that when a group of people see the successful fulfillment of one dream, it allows them to believe in the possibility of other miracles: the impossible becomes possible. They ask, “What next?”

I can see Chris’s ideas in other projects I’m involved in, too. A need leads to a vision and a motivation to seek inspiration. The inspiration leads to creativity, enthusiasm, action and community involvement.

And the cycle carries on in a spiral of miraculous outcomes.

__________________

Read more about the battery charger that is Trinity here:

Good Work

10 reasons to go to church

http://www.trinityunitedottawa.ca/

See more about our stained glass here:

CTV Ottawa, Regional Contact: http://ottawa.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=283883&binId=1.1443144

Ottawa Sun http://www.ottawasun.com/2014/01/15/her-vision-fading-ottawa-stained-glass-artist-still-sees-the-light

Ottawa Citizen http://www.ottawacitizen.com/entertainment/window+through+darkness/9399990/story.html

CBC Ottawa http://www.cbc.ca/player/News/Canada/Ottawa/ID/2430554003/?page=4

Reflections on reflections: What we see in the mirror

A friend sent me a link to the photographic work of Tom Hussey. Among his series is one entitled Reflections(Please take a moment to look at the work. I respect (a) copyright, and (b) his professionalism too much to copy the pictures. Here is the link: http://www.tomhussey.com/#/SERIES%20%20/Reflections/1  )

Each photograph features an older person looking in the mirror and seeing a reflection of the person as they see themselves: a young efficient nurse, a physically fit firefighter, a university graduate, a stunning young artist. The photographs give us a voyeuristic view of both sides.

When my mother-in-law lived in her long-term care facility, we put pictures of her as a young, fit woman in her room. The pictures weren’t there just for her; they were there for her care staff. We wanted everyone who walked into her room to see more than a wheelchair-bound old woman, no longer able to speak. The woman in that room once played in the Canadian Open tennis championships. (Early rounds, but still.) At the age of 80, the woman in that room could outpace me on cross-country skis. When the woman in that room looked in the mirror, she saw this:

ny-city-2

Now that I’m, ahem, getting on years, I relate to this far more than I would like. I look in a mirror and wonder, “When did those wrinkles get there?” I think, “I’m too young for such a thing to be happening to me.”

Alas, time is changing my outer self, but rest assured, when I look in a mirror, I see this . . .

Arlene editing

Editing at Maclean Hunter Cable TV – 1990

or this . . .

Dance like nobody is watching.

Dancing like nobody is watching.

or even this . . .

Conducting an early business meeting

Conducting an early business meeting

If the rest of you see a middle-aged woman, sorry about that.

Empathy: Avoiding “at least”

We think we’re being helpful.

“At least you have a job,” we say, if a friend facing financial difficulties has his hours cut at work.
“At least you have good friends ,” we say, when someone loses a mother.
“At least you have a hospital nearby,” we say, to a person sick with cancer.

We think we’re being helpful. We might even say we’re being optimistic. But what we’re really doing is avoiding the issue. We’d rather the person didn’t have the worry, the grief, the illness, and we want to brush it aside, wish it away.

Better to just empathize with what’s really going on. This RSA short illustrates that beautifully.

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