Sunday, 26 July 2015


I went to the Arthritis Centre last week to see Carol, the woman who guided the 9 week course on fibromyalgia that I attended.  Living with chronic fatigue, her love is wind surfing in Maui and teaching agility training with dogs.  Me?  I much prefer cats to dogs. I am guided primarily by my eyes as I walk barefoot on South Chesterman Beach, gathering shells and taking photographs, keeping far from cresting waves.  In spite of our differing loves, and perhaps because of them, she has been a valuable resource; the combination of social work skills and a wonderful sense of humour suits me perfectly.  

The last time we met, we did the pillow dance: Carol shifting her tall frame with a pillow behind her back, high and then low, on her lap and then discarded all together, as all 4 feet and nearly 11 inches of me seemed to mirror her pantomime.  While the chairs remained uncomfortable, the laughter seemed to help.

But I digress. 

I was early, so I glanced at the books in the hallway. You Are Not Your Illness  by Linda Noble Topf, drew my attention.  Initially it was the title and then, as I wandered through the pages, it became the quotations.  I have always, it seems, been drawn to quotations, writing them down on scrapes of paper or into notebooks and sharing them with friends.  Now, however, I have another reason.  Our daughter, Hilary, sells small posters on Etsy (Raincity Prints) where she uses her wonderful sense of design to transform quotations into art. 

As I glanced through the book the following day,  the 'wonderful art of receiving' made me stop and read that section.  I find it way easier to give, whether it be time, a gift/present or a compliment. Receiving generally brings a blush to my cheeks.  The author says that when she watches her cats she sees that the act of receiving and accepting has its own special powers. She continues that we discover this when we are the neediest, and that 'it is usually because we have not allowed ourselves to receive rather than because nobody has given.'

Linda Noble Topf writes: 'Devote three full days to just receiving what others give, no matter how great or small the act may seem.  Give nothing in return beyond a simple thank you.' She followed her own advice, and continues by saying that she has given special attention to how she received the various gifts.  She lists them.  Three examples are: the letter carrier brought her mail directly to the house, rather than leaving it in her box by the street.  Someone visiting, complimented her on her hair. Her husband came behind her and surprised her with a kiss.

In a few cases, the non-deserving voice (that many of us know so well) made itself known. 'I'm not worthy of the attention' is one phrase that the author uses. However, with mindful attention, she found her heart opening and, when this happened, she knew clearly the pleasure in the giving that her friends and acquaintances had felt.  This pleasure was increased because they saw how much their gifts had meant to her.

As I write this blog entry, I now realize why I spent the two opening paragraphs talking about Carol.  It is a  written 'thank you.'  While I have thanked her after each of our three sessions together, it is only now that I am fully aware of the enormity of her giving. Time. Listening. Compassion. Humour. Acceptance. I had thought that I might give her one of my photographs as a thank you.  Now, however, I will say a simple 'thank you' and accept her generous gift to me.

Monday, 13 July 2015

learning curve

Last week, my daughter Sat-Sung, posted this timely quote on my Facebook page:

The spirit of Vincent Van Gogh must have known that our Epson printer was to be delivered today.  While my printer-mate, Patrice, thinks it might be too soon to actually print any of our images, my Aries moon urges me to go for it!  Let's see how they look.

How do the colours translate from computer screen to rag paper? Which images are the most exciting/evocative/serene?

 Does my photograph of a poppy pod impart a sense of wonder at its natural symmetry? Does its beauty extend beyond a drying seed head to something more universal?

Printing photographs seems much more precious to me than applying paint to a canvas or board, as I did for so many years. Acrylic paint is relatively inexpensive. Gesso can cover an unsuccessful work, allowing for a fresh start. Framing isn't always necessary and my finished work is simply stacked vertically.

                                        verbena bonariensis

While photographs cost nothing while their digital images remain on the computer,  the printer, with it costly inks,  and the framing, together greatly increase the cost of photographic art.

While taking pictures, I am emotionally involved, contemplating my subject's essence, capturing an experience, a moment in time.

                                          thalicrtum delavayi

I notice, however, that I am taking a more intellectual approach as I begin selecting images to print: balance, colour, composition, mood and light and, finally, what will look best translated onto paper.  I have taken over 10,000 photographs since the new year- perhaps I will print twenty.

Patrice and I just spoke again on the phone, where I reassured us both- paper is just paper, ink is just ink- remember to have fun !

                    last evening I saw a snail perched on top of a poppy head