Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Paint, Paper, Scissors

Rain, again, today! Rain. Sun. Rain. Sun. At the moment . . . rain! It seems that this has been the way all summer long. All spring as well. I am trying to love this day - clouds, sun, wind, clattering cutlery, nervous cats, pieces of colourful paper sticking to my fingertips, the soles of my feet, the edges of the kitchen sink. Really, when I think of winter (which I try not to do), THIS is very, very good. I am reading Terry Tempest Williams - Finding Beauty in a Broken World - a deeply compelling call for resurrection, for healing, for assembling, reassembling, putting together the pieces of a broken world, and making beauty. I am not sure how this book found me this summer, but we met. It is a FABULOUS book. She is a wonder! Our lives are filled with fractured pieces of so many kinds. Each time I read T.T.W. I feel more whole.


For the past few weeks I have spent my days and evenings collaging with pieces of colourful paper left behind by children with whom I have worked, or the remains of past projects of my own, or fragments of art work done by friends and sent to me. Scissors and paper, pieces of other people - these are my tools right now. Some gel pens, too. The pages of my sketch/writing book are splashes of colour waiting for words. These days I never arrive at an empty page - there is always colour waiting for me and each page has a history. Each page evolves on its own - beginning very randomly and growing towards order. I have decided that I would live inside these summer pages, if I could. . .

Saturday, July 25, 2009

We Have a Butterfly!

Still in Her Chrysalis

Thursday Morning - Just heading out the door to walk, I glance at the container on the fridge and see how thin and transparent the chrysalis has become. Beneath the shadowy skin, I see wings, black wings trimmed with white polka-dots. I decide to stay home instead. I polish the kitchen windows, one eye on the glass, the other on the chrysalis. And then . . . it begins - so quietly, you would never know it was happening. The skin splits apart and a butterfly, crumpled like a a wad of wet kleenex, emerges. Ta-Da!

Just Emerging

All day, she hangs upside-down, at first pumping her wings full of fluid, then just letting them drying.

Such Beautiful Wings

Towards evening she crawls onto my finger and then onto a pink lily. She is nearly ready to take to the sky, but it is too cloudy and cool for her wings to work. I decide to keep her safe one more night. . .

Meeting Alex Eye to Eye

The next morning, my nephew, Alex, (a.k.a. Bug Boy) calls. He was at my house the day she hatched from egg to caterpillar - as tiny and thin as an eyelash. He saw it happen. He has been at his cottage at the lake since the beginning of July but today, he has come into the city to have his vision checked- "20-20!" he declares. I already knew that. If it was possible to have better than perfect vision, he would have it. He sees wonder in the tiniest, creepiest crawly things. He celebrates it all the time. I pack up the butterfly and head for Alex's house. He wants to show me the milkweed he found in his backyard- "A bird must have pooped out the seed, because we didn't plant it, " he says, breathlessly happy. At the end of June, all he wanted was milkweed growing in his garden. Miracle of miracles, now he has it! We open the butterfly box and the butterfly crawls onto Alex's fingers. He carries her from flower to flower, introducing her to his lilies and his geraniums and the tiny purple flowers he and his mother have planted in the front yard. We try to convince her to leave, but she hangs around, not yet ready to say good-bye. Later, I take her home for one more night, give her milkweed flowers for supper, and watch her sleep. Tomorrow I will set her free . . .

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Clean Windows

The days this week have been perfect and sunny, the evenings a bit rainy and thundery which has made the world many shades of green - the best colour to be.  When it is summer in Winnipeg, it is hard to remember ever wanting to be anywhere else. There is sky and river and days that last long into evening - seemingly no need to sleep.  Today I cleaned my sunroom windows, an arduous task - taking them apart, spraying, polishing, spraying, polishing, one side, then the other side, another side and another side - layers and layers of glass. So much work. But when I was done all I wanted to do was sit and feel the clean light in my eyes.  All of winter's grit gone. Tonight, in my house, even the darkness will shine.  No better way to spend a day.  Here are three more portraits by the remarkable "art girls".     

Abby Chirping Prism 

Skylar Fading Bamboo
Chloe Walking Avocado 

Monday, July 20, 2009

Being Art

Niko Freckle Cloud 

Here are three of last week's Art Girls - each with her own special name, each shining in her own special way. These were large portraits, big enough to cover the windows of my house.  On the last morning of camp, they were taped to the sunroom windows, facing out onto the sidewalk, looking out at the world.  Anyone passing by could see what had been happening inside all week long while it was raining outside.  At one point, while painting her portrait, Niko smudged her face with her rainbow fingers, "I don't think she wants to be art today," she said somewhat whimsically.   Of course she did, she just didn't know it yet.  And here she is with two of her friends - all of them quite happy to be art. 

Jami Rainbow Songbird 
Siena Clattering Cricket 

 On the second day of camp last week a friend and her son, who are moving to Victoria, dropped a note in the mail slot of my door.  All of the Art Girls were just getting started when we heard the letter slipping through the slot.  I opened it and there was a lovely farewell note along with a fridge magnet:  a painting of a polar bear with the words When I grow up - I want to be art.  So wonderful!  It reminded me of the little boy I once taught who told his mother that when he grew up he wanted to be a Humane Society - "You know the place that saves animals," he explained, "that's what I want to be."  What wonderful aspirations - to be art, to be humane, to save animals.  Three more portraits to post tomorrow . . . 

Saturday, July 18, 2009

No Better Way to Be Together

The Art Girls

Jami's Portrait: My Real Name is Rainbow Songbird Clock 

Chloe's Says They Are Just Friends

Yesterday was the last day of art camp at my house. The week ended with blue sky and sunshine, the same way it began. All the windows and walls were covered with art and Skylar brought crepes, fresh fruit, and whipped cream - the kind that comes in a pressurized can. Is there any better way to celebrate when you are 10 years old? We went into the green backyard and everyone made sweet and messy strawberry/raspberry wraps.  We exchanged gifts, wrote poems for each other and at the end of the morning we took all the left-over paint outside and covered the sidewalk with sparkling hearts and handprints. We painted with our toes and the soles of our feet. Some of the paint was semi-permanent, so the week will not really be over until it all washes away. Even then, it will not really be over. I know The Art Girls are checking this blog. I will post more portraits tomorrow. I think we can keep this going for a while yet . . .

A poem by a previous Summer Art Girl (she was 9 when she wrote it!)

Justin Linton

Your feet know
the way home.
They can tell you
the alphabet.
They can lead you
to the forest
and show you
many things, like
a special tree
in the sky
and beauty.

Your feet can do that.
They can.

And toe-painting, too. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

So Much Colour!

Niko's Wild Hands

Siena Painting Green

Chloe Collaging

Jami Twisting and Twirling Her T-Shirt Yesterday 

Abby's T-Shirt Today - WOW!  

This is my favourite week of the whole year - Definitely Not School Summer Camp at my house. For one week each summer my house becomes a studio where kids paint and write and make a wonderful mess. Each day I am surrounded by so much beauty - the kind you find on paper, but also the living, breathing kind.  This summer there are seven of us.  If a house could glow because of what was happening inside, mine would be shining like the sun. It is raining outside but we are making our own light inside.  


Monday, July 13, 2009

Caterpillars No More

Now He's J

Slipping Out of His Old Self


My kitchen caterpillars are now all chrysalises - four of them. Because of them, I have been spending a lot of time in the kitchen, not wanting to miss their moments of transformation - and it does happen quickly. Annie Dillard wrote: "Beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will sense them. The least we can do is try to be there." Well, I have been trying to be there for these particular moments of grace. The one pictured here managed to wiggle and sway and squirm his way out of his old skin, sloughed it right off, and then, sadly, fell to the bottom of the container. This part of the transformation is always the scariest. Their lives are so tenuous - attached to the future by such a thin thread. Most of them do not fall, but when they do, it is worth an attempted rescue. I tied a thread to his stem and taped the thread to the lid, hoping to give him just a little hope. Now he is suspended again, but, I think, a little damaged. The other three are just fine. Amazing wonders are happening inside their little green shells. I always imagine the light inside to be very green.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Hungry Caterpillars in My Kitchen

I found monarch eggs two weeks ago in the milkweed patch along the river path. I carried the leaves home, placed them in a jar, and waited for the eggs to hatch. I am never positive it will happen, and when it does, the caterpillars are tiny and black, so small I am never sure they are not just specks of dirt. My eight year old nephew came for a sleep-over that weekend and slept right beside the eggs. The next morning, they were eggs no more, they were caterpillars. For the past two weeks they have been eating and eating and eating. They have grown big and fat. Today the first one crawled up to the lid of the jar, fastened himself on, flipped upside down, and slipped out of his old skin and became a jade green chrysalis. Hard to believe that he is now becoming something completely different - a dream with wings.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Summer View From My Kitchen Window

Summer View From My Kitchen Window
I am already more than a week into my summer holidays and just beginning to settle into this greenest of seasons - so glad to be at home with my windows and my light. I am just learning how to post these blogs, spending too much time in front of my computer, not enough time with the sky.  The morning began with thunder - an hour of pouring rain and thunder!!  Long after sunrise, the sky was still dark and ominous, but then suddenly the sun broke through. I put on my garden shoes, grabbed my camera, and went out to the flowers . . .   

After the Rain

After the Rain
After all that wild weather, the day lily leaves were covered with such quiet raindrops . . . 

After the Rain

After the Rain
One side of my yard is lined with leafy peonies - the grandmother of all flowers - pink, white, deep, deep red.  I have been deadheading the flowers all week long, but this one, just opening, survived the storm. I have lived in my house for nearly twenty years; these peonies were here long before I moved in and with any luck will be here long after I am gone.