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...a glimpse into life on Vancouver Island, needle felting, photography, food, gardening, etcetera...etcetera
"Happiness always looks small when you hold it in your hands, but let it go, and at once you learn how big and precious it is."
Maxim Gorky

Friday, October 21, 2016

Always a good cause...

Just wanted to share with you a collage of the process of a piece
I have donated to the Habitat Acquisition Trust for their upcoming
20th anniversary bash and fundraiser.
It is a life sized Western Screech Owl, needle felted
and adhered to a base.
On the base is a verse from an Emily Dickinson poem...

“Hope” is the thing with feathers - 
That perches in the soul - 
And sings the tune without the words - 
And never stops - at all - 

And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard - 
And sore must be the storm - 
That could abash the little Bird 
That kept so many warm - 

I’ve heard it in the chillest land - 
And on the strangest Sea - 
Yet - never - in Extremity, 
It asked a crumb - of me.

HAT does an amazing job of working hard with an incredible staff of volunteers to conserve nature
and give a voice to things that can't speak.
One of their projects is to help this little owl who's population has decreased 90% in the 
last 10 years in the Victoria area due to development and predatory
Barred owls who feed on the Screech owl.
(this, from their website...)
'Unfortunately, there is considerable evidence that Barred Owls predate heavily on Western Screech Owls. When Screech Owl calls are played, Barred Owls quickly respond by flying in silently – in “stealth hunting mode”. Barred Owls are also known to predate heavily on bird nests, and may be predating on Screech Owl nestlings. The older, more complex forest where the few remaining Screech Owls live probably offer some protection from Barred Owl predation.'
For more information you can go to their website here.

Because Hope IS the thing with feathers.
The more we can protect our creatures and their habitat the better off
we will become as a species.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Ballad of Runway O'Reilly

His life was not an easy one.
Growing up alongside 4 sisters and 3 brothers, it was always a struggle for his ma and da to make ends meet.
Ireland in the 1920’s was particularly tough for such a large family but they did what they could.
All of the kids worked to keep the family fed. Tending the garden, fishing, looking after the family cows…not much time for play.
But sometimes, on his way home from the village, wee Jack O’Reilly would hop over the fence into the neighbours field and dream…first lying on his back looking up into the clouds…imagining what it would be like to hover along side those magnificent puffy shapes.
How the blue sky over the landscape beckoned to him!
Effortlessly, almost taunting were the birds high above…the swallows swooping, the hawks endless gliding, the flocks of the other, older geese in perfect formation.
Jack so desperately wanted to join them in their flight but he had much to learn about the ‘art’ of such skilled flying. He would practice his takeoffs along the dirt track, gathering as much speed as he could and then…that moment of takeoff…just barely making it off the ground and clumsily flapping his little white wings for a dozen or so yards before he got tuckered out and had to come down.
But the one thing he had always been good at was his landings. They were perfect, flawless and so smooth. Touching down at just the right moment and gently coming into a light jog before slowing down to a calm and controlled stop.
And so he followed his dream when the chance came…
The year was 1939. Jack was 19 years old. The world was at war once again. His fathers tales of the first war were mostly about his buddies and the laughs, but Jack had later learned that there was so much more that the Da would never speak of. The mud, the rain, the trenches and worst of all the bearing of witness to the horrors of death and destruction all around him.
But Jack signed up anyway. Off to Northern Ireland to join the RAF.  As a young gander he kept practicing his flight skills until he finally gained the confidence he needed. He was nicknamed ‘Runway O’Reilly’ not only for his skilled landings but  for his beautiful takeoffs which he had perfected as well.
Runway O’Reilly took many a novice pilot under his wings to teach them all he knew.
His romantic versions of flying soon turned into flights of survival and fear though.
The raids over Northern France were the worst. 
The enemy was ruthless and Jack lost many a mate. 
 He was especially endangered for his roll in various top secret missions but kept faith that he would return home to Ireland some day.
It was on such a flight near Paris, near the end of the war that Jack thought it was all over…blindsided by a blast, down he went and then…darkness.
The next thing he knew he was in a crisp white hospital bed. At first he thought he was in heaven and that the nurses moving around him were angels floating about. 
He soon realized he was in a makeshift shelter for the wounded in an abandoned stone church, the bombs and blasts still roaring all around them.
But there was one beautiful red head who was not a nurse. Genevieve was her name. She would come to feed him and help him take his pain medicine. She had been living nearby in a village when she saw Jack come tumbling out of the sky. With her sleek and quiet skills of navigating, she found him and brought help to him, transporting him to the medics in the church. She had removed his leather helmet, stuffed it in her rucksack and had forgotten about it until months later after Jack had healed and been smuggled into Spain.
He never saw her again but had dreamt of her long red hair and her kind, lovely amber eyes. It was these two things, he believed, that were the most powerful medicine he needed to heal.
Jack returned to Ireland 7 years later, married and had goslings of his own…
but he never forgot the kindness of Genevieve and always wondered what had become of her. 
He hoped she had made it through the war safely. 
On sunny, spring days, Jack will find himself gazing those times so long ago...
...the kindness and bravery of one special soul would never be forgotten.

Curious about that red head in the army hospital?
You can read Genevieve's part of the story here

'The Ballad of Runway O'Reilly' will be on display (and available for purchase) at 
The Sidney Fine Arts Show October 14th, 15th and 16th.
You can see more about the show here

A  few details about the piece...
Jack O'Reilly is needle felted over a wire armature with wire
in his wings to give them shape.
He is 13" high and 13" form wing tip to wing tip...

His helmet was handmade by me from a synthetic leather with tiny metal grommets  and
his scarf is a piece of eco dyed silk I made as well ...

Jack is adhered to a part of a vintage toy globe on top of a vintage
wooden thread spool, complete with a tiny compass.
I have signed and dated the piece on the bottom...

One of the most special parts of the piece is a scaled down copy of a real telegram
sent to my Great Aunt Thora by my Great Uncle Leonard.
It was at the end of the war while he was still in France.
It reads "All o.k. Thank God it's over. Chin up. All my love."
It has been treated by a form of glue to stiffen and protect it and is adhered into a slot in the globe ...

Thursday, September 8, 2016

How I spent my summer holidaze...

 Remember having the pencil in the notebook during the first week back at school
  trying to corral all of those wild times you had all summer??
The time spent outdoors from dawn to dusk 
seemed endless (and only because you were called in to dinner!) . 
Cottage bound, car packed to see the cousins at the lake...the fire pit, the days
when all you wore all day long was a bathing suit and a towel around the waist...ah, sweet
childhood summers.
This summer was a working summer for me.
And I don't mean a 'going to work' I mean working at moving.
Once moved, it was all about moving in, painting the new house inside...(A LOT!)
But oh so much easier when there's nothing IN the house yet!
But I did have some fun and just to send you a glimpse of how
the non working side of my beautiful warm days were spent...
As with every summer, my young niece Stephanie came to spend almost
2 months here...such a lovely person to have around...always singing and ever so helpful!
We went out on a spontaneous night on the town in Victoria one evening
and found ourselves poking about in Chinatown as usual.
We were taking a selphie in front of my favourite door in Fan Tan Alley...
...when we were invited up to have a look inside!
Since I was about 12 or 13 years old I had always wanted to see what was behind
#23 1/2! So up the 50 stairs and into the home of a gentleman who's restoring the place...
 My 'real' camera is out of commission so had to rely on the iPhone for pictures...
Looking into the courtyard of a disappearing landscape...
 ...before it gets swallowed up by developers.
Speaking of developing...over a century ago a hole was blasted through this piece of land to allow a shortcut for water to be diverted to the small town of Port Alberni nearby. This 'Hole in the Wall' landmark is what is left behind. Stephanie, Good Pal Irma and her new pup Silas and I took a day trip up there to check it out....
It really is something to see...the hole is about 12 feet in diameter and on such a hot day it was a gloriously cool place to be... 
As mentioned Good Pal Irma has a new puppy!! 
Poor old Frank succumbed to cancer. He was Griffins brother.
We went on so many adventures together so now the torch is passed on to young Silas.
Irma wanted me to get his brother but with moving and all I'm just not there yet. Maybe in the spring.
Up the creek there are hundreds of cairns or Inukshuks that other wanderers have left as 
markers to their journey here. It was quite spectacular!
Another adventure I went on with a friend down from Denman Island was to visit this place...
My family has some history grandfathers brother, my great Uncle Leonard, was married
to Thora Harrison. It was her great grandfather who built this 600 acre farm in 1870 and is one of the oldest continuously operated farms on Vancouver Island....
It's a lovely place...
But it has several different stories to it's past, one being that of a pregnant mare urine milking facility.
This urine is used in the pharmaceutical industry and does not have a pleasant history.
The current owner says she still gets shivers when she goes into this particular barn.
This chewed up window frame could be evidence of very bored,
 penned up horses who didn't get out much...
Now it is a happy place and a refuge for rescue animals...
I have much more to write about this place but for now I leave it on a happy goat note...
One of my criteria when we were looking for a place in town was that of being able to ride my bike to a shop. So after finally getting my bike on the road again, I peddled down to the end of our street and explored this fantastic trail system...
This is the Colquitz River Trail which meanders along the Colquitz Creek 
and through Garry Oak meadows and bog lands...
I am so grateful to have this within such easy reach.
It took me 10 minutes to ride to a large shopping area without being on the road ONCE!!
During these melancholy days of autumn, I am once again missing my
old furry love Griffin to ramble with...
I found this very weathered baseball deep in the grass beside the creek.
I wanted it to speak to me of how far it came and the kids who lost it and what a great home run it must have been that hot July afternoon at the ballpark not far away...
In some places along the trail I felt as if I was Huck Finn travelling under the cool weeping willows...
Sadly the worst part of our move is that our 9 year old Rueben went missing.
It's been a month and a half now and still no sign of him.
He was a real country cat and was not very happy living in the close proximity of other houses and cats. We postered the area heavily, put him on all of the websites on social media we could think of but still nothing. We are not giving up hope though. I've heard some incredible stories of cats who have reappeared after long absences. I read the other day of a cat who found it's family after 9 YEARS! If Rueben did try to go back to where we moved from it's a long long journey of 35 kilometers but you just never know...we have alerted the new owner just in case.

So that's a few highlights (and a big low) of my summer this year.
I am currently trying to fit my old large studio into a much smaller space and hopefully
in the not too distant future I will start to create again.
The grey, wet days will help me in that sense.
Time to hunker down and feel the fall.
Hope you are all well.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

On not being Roy and Grace...

One of my first 'dates' with Tom was going to look at a house he was interested in buying.
A year later I moved into the house and the following year we were married there in the garden.
That was 17 1/2 years ago and now we are preparing to say goodbye to this house...
For the first 13 or so years our neighbours across the road were an older couple
named Roy and Grace Kennedy. They had lived in the house they built for 60 years.
Roy was a machinist who could make and fix all manners of things.
He had the funkiest ride-on lawn mower that used to cough and sputter and 
it would take him 2 or three days to cut his front grass of about a third of an acre.
He was a tinkerer. Always busy in his shop.
His wife Grace was a city girl from the mainland and she once told me
"I never liked it here."
Imagine living somewhere for 60 years and never liking it or at least learning to like it?!
I had my days like that here sometimes though.
Years and years ago I felt I didn't have a lot going on here.
I had left my job and friends and most of my family back in the city and even though
it was only a 45 minute drive away, I still felt a bit isolated and lonely.
So Tom had a beautiful separate 10 x 20 studio built for me.
It was my escape, my haven, my saviour in times of darkness.
It was where I went to allow my creativity to flourish, to experiment without
the need to clear it all away at supper time.
In the end I made a life here.
I made some dear dear friends.
I became involved with the yoga community, the foodie community
and started working at the local flower shop.
I became involved in the Fine Arts show and exhibited there several years in a row, 
and again made some close friends through the arts community.
From day 1 we always had a garden...
It got bigger, fuller, structures were built.
Some plants thrived, some failed...all a learning process.
Several cats have come to rest here.
We had chickens, goats, horses and bees...
And of course, for 12 years, we had Griffin...
So much a part of our landscape that I still think I see him out of the corner of my eye
lying on the porch or surveying his Kingdom from his perch on a mossy rock by the back door...
So how do you leave it all behind?
You don't.
You carry it all with you in your heart and soul.
As the Be Good Tanya's sing
"You pass through places and places pass through you.
And you carry them with you 
on the soles of your travelin' shoes"
How true!
This place will always be part of who we are.
Who we were.
Who we've become.
We hope to have someone buy it who will carry on where 
we are leaving off.
Health reasons will carry us to a more manageable home closer to the city
where we will dream up new schemes and adventures.
Different pictures will form in our heads and take us down other
dusty, intriguing roads.
It's a lesson in letting some things go.
But never the memories...the picnics in the secret garden, the walks to the lake,
the warmth of the fire on windy, wet days and snowy, quiet nights.
Big full moons through the bedroom window.
The pulse of this place is here in our hearts.
And we leave some of our own blood, sweat and tears in the soil.
Our voices may be heard in the trees.
Our laughter, the barks, meows, clucks and whinnies...
all arrive to greet whoever may unlock these doors.