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Category Archives: Drawing

Talking through the top of your hat at the drop of a hat.

mixed media on paper

Tundra Swans

Our lives are brief tragic beautiful and surrounded by mystery.  Black marks on a white ground – that is all these words would be but for you they are building a bridge across time and space, following the thought of other minds. (1)

Black marks on a white ground, can they really build bridges? We read books the weather other people read too much into a gesture a look read the potential danger of a situation read it all wrong. Clarity understanding but what of the quality of understanding  has that is that as dense in meaning as the pace the ebb and flow of words across the page a rhythm so lyrical quick quick slow quick quick slow a dancing rhythm the pace of breath to breathe  swallow words whole digest. How much of language uses the body? Can you envision a world without words to define it?

The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan explores all of that.

The Brief, “Between 1878 and 1881, Edgar Degas drew, painted, and sculpted Marie in numerous artworks, most famously in Little Dancer Aged Fourteen, (a wax sculpture half-life size so about thirty inches would be my guess, it always interests me how often measurements are omitted when talking about art) which appears at the sixth exposition of independent artists in 1881 alongside Degas pastels of convicted criminals…

The Tragic, “Critics lauded Little Dancer as “the only truly modern attempt at sculpture, “and saw a street urchin, in her face clearly “imprinted with the promise of every vice”.

Hundreds of young girls lived this life, half-starved because of poverty, exploited and marginalized in a world that saw what? Not who they were or what the effort cost them, nor did they think of how few alternatives their lives offered them. Marie was fortunate, her mother was a laundress, and she had an older sister Antoinette and a younger sister Charlotte who according to the book history did make something of herself in the ballet.

The Beautiful, Degas was forty six when Marie modeled for him. Thirty seven years later, the wax/fabric/hair sculpture was still in his studio. It was only after his death that his heirs “arranged to cast the twenty-eight bronze repetitions”.

The Mystery, Her name was Marie van Goetham. What was Degas trying to capture in that wax figure of a fourteen year old girl and why did he chose to use real fabric for the skirt and real hair for her head? If it was me we were talking about, it would be because it was the most expedient route to capture what he was thinking. Oh and why did he never have it cast?   A mystery.


(1) The College Survey of English Literature the Introduction to William Cowper 1731-1800

Talking about size, the Tundra Swan painting is approximately thirty inches by forty four inches. It was an attempt to explore their communal dance,  a language which I find fascinating.


New Beginnings

“Found tongues in trees, books in running brooks,

Sermons in stones, and good in everything.”


In my Grandmother’s house when the world turned over so did she. Not a dirty dish, sock, or carpet, all was swept clean for the New Year.

She had a four-inch scar on her forehead. There must have been three cars in the Swedish community of Moira, Minnesota in 1921. She was getting a ride with a neighbour to the bus station. Two of those three cars collided on a country road. There were no seat belts then, so she hit the windshield. She was on her way to Detroit, to stay with Esther, her older sister, to work in the Big Houses. She was fourteen.

Grandmother did get there eventually, and in the Big Houses (her term) the stuffing for the Christmas goose, the mistress said “had to be made with a silver fork”.

Once again, the world has turned over, in our fabricated clock. My house didn’t. But then, for me the winter solstice is the day for the world to change its face.

I dreamt of mice last night. Grandma, through the depression used to feed the ones in her house. I miss ours.

For the first time, we are putting out seed for the birds. In our old place I never needed to, we had enough to feed them, with plenty of weeds and plants growing in the gardens and fields.

That is the thing about a New Year, do we have regrets or new beginnings.

Lila Knitting

Lila Knitting

Recipies for Living

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My mind; imagination sees a never-ending line of women stretching back in time and into the future. And recipes are such a big part of that chain that binds us, family, culturally, at least with us. I gave my niece a recipe for apple butter and my sister-in-law one for apple/green tomato pie.

They are not exactly mine, yes I do tinker with them so perhaps partly but there is that word again, tinker. Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor, spy, rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief, doctor. lawyer, Indian chief.

I have my Grandmother’s recipe for mock maple syrup, using potatoes and brown sugar, and her recipe for Swedish Lumpa bread. It is all about the ingredients.


I don’t know.

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How many times a day do I say or think “I don’t know”? Very often. Too often? If I know so little how do I expect to write a novel? Well, since when has ignorance acted as a reason or stopped me from having an opinion?

At seventy I still feel the threads that bind me to earth. As a young woman of twenty what hopes I had of riding the wind in my earnestness, eagerness to be part of the bigger world.

Shall I tell the truth? Is truth absolute? I think not. Truth is by degree. But is the degree one of temperature or of compass points. I am looking two degrees left of true north. Is that magnetic north? I know longer remember.

The knowledge that the world has changed its magnetic poles from north to south and back and that they slip sideways as well and more than once through earth’s history pleases my imagination greatly.

But what is truth, is truth beauty?

As a woman of thirty five I felt the truth of this prose poem written one biting bitter winter afternoon.



Lila-book-1-eLila-book-2_eLila-book-3-e                                                                                                                                                                                       Lila-book-4-e

  a few pages from my book The Why and the Beginning, dedicated to my Grandmother, Lila.

The sun’s rays illuminated the dust motes dancing on the rough wooden boards in my studio.

So even if I don’t hit the finish line one thing is sure, by the end of the month my head will be blessedly empty of the daily noise of living. All of it re-translated into fiction and set down on these pages.

When I turned fifty the world turned too. A body betrayed by hormones, a never ending debilitation of mood, senses, bodily changes. Only time heals so they say.

Now at eighty I eat little, vegetable barley soup with bread and butter. How I do appreciate a slice of bread and butter with almost everything; soup, a steak, apple sauce, a bowl of fresh berries, fried lake perch. When growing up bread and butter (well margarine actually) filled out every meal.

Re-reading Dear Theo – In Vincent Van Gogh’s letters to his brother he talks about running out of money. In his excitement he over spent on having his work framed.  But then his life was never as important to him as his painting.

So for days and days he lived on coffee and crusts of bread. I expect also wine and tobacco. Surely this would alter the chemistry in the brain? If, as they tell us every seven years all the cells in our bodies have died and been replaced why do we remain so much the same?

The World here is very quiet.

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It is true silence is golden. But that will not help my wanting to count 50,000 words. Still I guess I’ve slowed down. It never has taken a very big push to knock me off balance. Very easy, simplest thing in the world in fact.

My favorite work of Picasso’s was always the woman ironing from his blue period. Only seen it in reproduction but it touched me deeply. Possibly the subject matter as well, those endless domestic chores that wear  women’s self away to nothingness, the toil of their existence, the unending ness of it, the repetition of it, the futility of it.

Ironing was one of those chores I refused to do except for very special social occasions – the queen, that was an experience not easily forgotten. When Chris became a Canadian, wonderful moving ceremony, over forty different countries represented. All so proud of themselves and their new country. How we should all feel about citizenship. The wedding, which was very lovely, even to Chris crying at the altar.  Meeting the governor general and the American ambassador. Too tough that was, I never get the social etiquette right. We are both clueless about these things.

I can remember mom keeping dad’s white shirts damp in the refrigerator wrapped tightly in plastic to be ironed. Then she had to starch the collars.

The collars. She spent a lot of time on that board pushing that iron around.  At least by then it was an electric iron and not one heated by coal or wood. All those Victorian flounces with flat irons – the rich sure have no idea about  the sheer labour involved in things.

Does it still matter? Perhaps not. There will always be big parts of life missing from memory. What did I do last week for instance? You just live, really. The motion of it, the chores of it, the enjoyment of it, the flow, even the rhythm of it. The past is past, a faraway country – you cannot live there. To visit too often in imagination, memory, is to rob yourself of the present moment which is all we have of life.


Lila Knitting

Lila Knitting

Late but not forgotten

kids artkids art

Such a fresh beginning, a child’s view of the world, these are reproduced from Ronda Kellogg’s book Children’s Art. An amazing introduction to the vision of the world we were born to.

The Soul Unearthed

Once again I found this bit of scrap paper on my desk, this was the quote, unfortunately I have no idea where it came from, but thought it was worth sharing.

The mystery of life is not a problem to be solved but a reality to be experienced. (1

The author lived in the same era as the artist Edvard Munch but a different country. I was always drawn to Edvard Munch’s work, it has rough edges. This from an internet source on his life,  “A testament to his importance ” The Scream” sold for more than $119 million in 2012, setting a new record.”  I really don’t think that money can measure anything, but it is interesting to me that his work is valued by just that.

(1 Aart Van Der Keeuw quoted from The Soul Unearthed

Prose writer and poet from the Netherlands, b. 1878 – d. 1931


Exploring, a multimedia work recreated.