Tuesday, 20 December 2016

a new year

"We have focused on a return to our essential spiritual nature during the High Holy Days just concluded, casting off the burdens of old unfulfilled dreams, engaging in inner and outer acts of forgiveness, and stepping renewed into the New Year."
            -Rabbi Ted Falcon

The New Year mentioned here is the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, (Hebrew רֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה‎, literally meaning the "beginning"), however I am using the term here to encompass not only this spiritual beginning but also the onset of 2017.  Still more  significant, I am welcoming my own step into newness.    

Though less dramatic than the snake shedding its entire skin, we notice that our old skin over time dries and flakes off exposing a new, softer layer. In this casting off and regeneration we expose who we truly are. We let our imperfections show. We are sincere.

   "... the word; ‘sin’ means without and ‘cere’ means wax. So even though we may be banged up and blemished by life, we allow ourselves to be seen without polish." * .  By looking deeply and honestly into our non-perfect selves we open the window for others to truly see us as well.  

Referring again to Rabbi Ted Falcon's teaching, I see some of the magical dreams I have released and some that still cast a faint shadow on my being.

I remember many decades ago when I realized that I actually wasn't going to be a marine biologist. I  understood that it had been an "if only" dream that I really truly wasn't interested in fulfilling.  It was the fantasy of turquoise water and marine life tucked beneath the white grains of sand.  It was a place far removed from the city and its smell of gasoline. Far removed from the norms surrounding me. An escape from being me.

 It was a a dream so far-fetched that I didn't need to feel defeated for letting it go.  My parents and sister didn't even know of my fantasy.

Another story I repeatedly told myself was that my sister was far more capable than me. She had a real and important job as a professor at McGill University.  I was just a dabbler.  A teacher for several years, antique store owner in Vancouver for another few, farmer/herb grower (Harvest Herbs in Duncan) artist, AIDS support worker. Mother, wife, community volunteer. 

I wondered what I had really achieved.

'A reporter at the magazine Vanity Fair asked David Bowie, "What do you consider your greatest achievement?" Bowie didn't name any of his albums, videos, or performances. Rather, he answered, "Discovering morning."' 

In his Newsletter, Rob Brezsny's continues:
'Delve into the thrills of beginnings. Magnify your appreciation for natural wonders that you usually take for granted. Be seduced by sources that emanate light and heat. Gravitate toward what's fresh, blossoming, just-in-its-early-stages.'


I am forgiving myself for years and years of self-deprecation and I feel myself opening to the joy that comes from casting away old chains. There are a few tiny rusted bits still clinging, but they are on their way to the bottom of the sea!  

Let this be a year of joy and renewal, a time of light and the mystery of shadow.  

A  time to feel the mist and the wind, the smell of the sea and the gentle touch of loved ones. 

A time to recognize the brevity of life and to embrace it fully with hope and honesty and love.

"Since we never know we are asleep until we wake up, awakening is always a surprise."
             -Rabbi Ted Falcon

                                                  * in my notes with no reference!

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

what can we do?

This has been a painful month for many of us. While the near steady rainfall in Victoria has further dampened my spirit, I am asking myself how my pain and anger can be converted into constructive acts. 

Rob Brezney writes: "How do we refrain from hating other people even as we fight fiercely against the hatred and danger they have helped unleash?".

My niece Andrea teaches at Occidental College in Los Angeles.  She and her students  are feeling battered and fearful.  Through tears she told me that when her daughter goes away to university in the fall, she will become politically active, working to return hope and power to the disenfranchised.  Working for the change she believes in.

                     This is a constructive direction for disappointment & anger.

These few weeks of November have taken their toll on my art. It is my routine that as I leave the house, I double check that I have my keys, license, Visa card and camera.

This month, my camera has remained at home.

This has got to change!

David Levithan reminds us: "Remember that at any given moment there are a thousand things you can love."

In my March 13, 2016 posting I mused about 'what's important'.  I have just reread the entry and I can feel my heavy heart begin to lighten.  It is as if I wrote it to comfort me now.

In this spring time blog, I noted the importance of  'hope following disappointment'.  Hope, the essential ingredient for positive change.  Hope to motivate and guide us away from despair and negativity.

'A feeling of trust' is the archaic definition of hope and the one I am holding on to.

I am walking with a friend in about an hour ~ I will have my camera with me.

Thursday, 6 October 2016


Yesterday, my daughter Sat-Sung asked me what I would like for my up-coming Libra birthday. After barely a pause, my answer was "I don't need anything and I don't want anything. What I would really like for my birthday is for you to do a conscious act of kindness for someone. This does not involve money. It is (simply) a kind act."

Our world needs kindness and compassion so add some extra for my birthday!

With the arrival of ‘our’ sponsored family from Syria this month, I am more aware than ever of the importance of reaching out with love and of countering injustice with compassion.  Aware, as well, of the kind generosity of people who are helping these future Canadians.

With the beginning of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, I realize again that life is transitory and uncertain.  I see that I must consciously examine my life and act exactly as if this is my one chance.  "Every person born into this world represents something new, something that never existed before, something original and unique..." *

My journey is to actualize my very own potential, following my own path, not walking in the footsteps of another, attempting to achieve what has been already accomplished.

There is a beautiful passage in the Mahzor for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, edited by Rabbi Jules Harlow and published by The Rabbinical Assembly in New York.

"Rabbi Susya said, a short while before his death: 'In the world to come I shall not be asked: ' Why were you not Moses?' I shall be asked: 'Why were you not Susya?' "

My challenge in this year 5777 of the Jewish calendar is to open myself with more daring. To breathe more deeply into my being. To own my uniqueness. Not everyone will like this mirror of me and my biggest challenge will be to stay on course, to ignore the media's persuasive slogans whose messages infer the "if onlys" and the "not quites".

When authentic selves meet we can listen and be heard. When we meet we can honour without either of us being "the other."  We can move towards our fuller selves rather than leave ourselves small and unexamined.

For Rosh Hashanah my wishes were:

  ~may love & compassion guide us
  ~may there be peace within us and throughout the world
  ~and may the work of our hands, heads and hearts be for tikkun olam**

When I was assisting clients at the Food Bank at St. John's last week, I chatted with a new volunteer.  I shared a thought that I bring with me each time I come. My way of being and my caring may be the only kindness this person experiences during this entire day.

We are the fortunate ones.

 It is essential that we embrace compassion and kindness and share it generously.

*Mahzor published by The Rabbinical Assembly in New York 1998 Printing
** repairing the world through human kindness and action

Saturday, 17 September 2016


Today I rediscovered a page from a Times Colonist advertising flyer under a pile of paper on my desk.  I believe it is from Hillside Centre.  It triggered a blast of annoyance in me both when I saved it and now again when it resurfaced.

The page I am referring to is a Sarah Baeumler interview A Woman of Style.

Now, let me confess straight away that I didn't know who she was.  I rarely watch television unless it's to watch Rafa play tennis.  I have over 100 hours of PBS and the Knowledge Network shows saved to watch 'later' and have never watched GHTV's House of Bryan.

I am clearly not a follower of the current who's who and what's what.

I did a google search and found information of her early dance study and a dance studio she opened.  Pictures of her 4 children and other facts about the full life she leads.  She appears to be a very capable woman.

In the photograph, Ms. Beaumler is posed looking into the camera,  head tilted slightly to the side, legs crossed and hands showing her matrimonial ring.

Her make up is flawless, emphasizing her eyes.

Okay, so far.

The annoyance I feel relates to her clothing.  I am not suggesting that she chose her outfit for the photo shoot-  that isn't generally the model's prerogative.   I am suggesting rather that dressing in factory-torn jeans rolled at the ankle, pink and blue patterned high heels and an over-sized sweater does not represent style to me.

Style is expressing your individual self through what you wear. Merriam-Webster.com calls style 'a distinctive quality, form, or type of something'.

Baeumler is dressed in recycled grunge- replacing the combat boots with high heels.

I took a side road on my style journey, and found an interesting article on groupon.com
        Even in Fashion, History Repeats Itself
        BY: MICHELLE SCHUMANN | 8.5.2014 |

There’s no denying that fashion is cyclical. Because of this, some of today’s trends are decades—even centuries—old. We dug up the history behind three of today’s most popular, and mapped out their connections to philosophy, politics, economics, and youth culture.

Its roots: Bohemian’s younger sister, grunge was another countercultural movement started by impoverished, anti-materialistic artists. Those artists were the breakout stars of grunge music’s first wave, led in the late 1980s by Seattle bands such as Nirvana and Soundgarden. The musicians’ habit of layering flannel shirts, dirty tees, ripped jeans, and combat boots was thought to be influenced by both the region’s chilly weather and prominent logging industry.

There is nothing stylish in Baeumler's outfit. She is wearing a near carbon copy of the unexciting, unimaginative costume worn by many young women on the Canadian West coast. It doesn't seem to me to be a distinct expression of who they are.  Rather it is a trend, a fad.

Style is something all together different.

A friend recently told me that she had taken her granddaughter shopping for school clothes.  As they drove to the shopping mall, Deb asked her to consider what her style was.  The question was "what is your style and how would you like others to see you".  She followed with a number of choices - casual, sporty, bling, gothic, hippie, business.

A discussion followed and the young teenager decided it was 'casual & elegant'.  So, as they went from store to store, there was a guiding focus. Gone was time spent looking at frills and low cut tops. This was replaced by trying on clothing that suited her style and self-image.

My style revolves around a restricted colour palette and simplicity: black leggings and simple black or dark navy tops take most of the space on my shelves.  Black dress pants and tops are for special.  When I feel like it, I wear an amber necklace. Simple, relaxed with a wee touch of sophistication. Other women wear similar clothes, but I don't look to them for confirmation.

Laying out my clothes to pack for our Montreal trip, I see that the only white things are the wrappers on Lindt chocolate bars!

I believe that the photograph of Baeumler shows not 'A Woman of Style' but rather a copycat fashion-driven appearance.  It is a safe, media-approved look that says nothing about how she perceives herself as an individual.  This sameness casts a veil over her intrinsic beauty.   It diminishes rather thsn enhances.

                     be bold             or not             but choose

Friday, 29 July 2016


"I've begun to realize that you can listen to silence and learn from it.  It has a quality and a dimension all its own. "
        -Chaim Potok The Chosen

Silence expresses itself in an infinite number of ways.

There is the silence of destruction when a town is destroyed
The silence when a crying infant slips into sleep
The silence following a lover's last breath
And the silence as the fog rolls in from the sea

It is the sound when an artist steps back from her easel to look at a finished painting

Silence can be a loving companion or a symbol of emptiness
A calm presence or words held back

A rare gift in a world of noise

I have been immersed in a new photographic journey these last two weeks- working with curling sheets of paper in our studio/gallery.   Four or five times a day I have randomly repositioned the paper creating a new visual story.

There is a wonderful peacefulness as the sun enters through windows and skylights,  creating ever-changing shadows and highlights.  Moving around the newly created visuals, I take over 100 photographs.

'"...this paper gesture stuff is so great",  an artist writes on my Facebook page.

 From this comment, I realize that, yes, the paper is my model and I'm back in figure drawing class with its minute-long poses.

In this sunlit place of calmness, I am bathed in silence.  This silence like a gossamer cloak, enveloping me with protective white light.  It is empowering, not passive.  It appears to me as an expression of love in its most elemental form.

I emailed a few of these new images to friends.  Judith Castle, a passionate poet, responded this way: "I love the deep, powerful energy of silence in these photos." And Susan wrote "I love the power of the shadow and your use of light."

                                      the powerful energy of silence
                                           the power of shadow

I could not have imagined more perfect responses to the quiet depths of my seeing.

Henry Miller, in the Tropic of Cancer, wrote "...face to face with myself, with only the music of my heart for company."

“Silence is a source of Great Strength.”
― Lao Tzu

Friday, 24 June 2016

a sense of wonder

I have been thinking a lot these days about wonder, or, more specifically, about a sense of childlike wonder; a state of openness and joy, a sense of curiosity and surprise. Perhaps even a state of amazement and awe.

Wondering too about maintaining this joyous wonder into our later years.  Noticing if this wonder-spark needs rekindling and exploring various ways to hold the match.

For the fun of it, I Googled 'childlike wonder' and was rewarded with 11,500,000 results in 0.53 seconds.

First, I looked at HappinessInternational.org whose promising lead line was 'Where Did Your Childlike Wonder Go? 7 Steps To Get It Back In An Hour.'  Urging you to sign up for the Happiness Toolkit, you would then 'be offered a chance to register for the (trade-marked) Happiness Planner Discovery Edition.'

Another site offers '14 Ways To Keep Childlike Wonder Alive In Adulthood'. Here Briana West advises us to 'Fascinate yourself with what you're fascinated about. Be fascinated that you can be fascinated.'

Not to be outdone in wonder-land, there is a listing for '33 Ways to Be Childlike Today- Tiny Buddha'.  Many of the suggestions are no more than actually doing some of the things you did as a child: building a Lego village, reading a children's book or running and skipping.

It equates doing childish things with childlike wonder.

I beg to disagree.

I lean, rather, towards a note from Albert Einstein: 'People like you and me never grow old', he wrote a friend later in life. 'We never cease to stand like curious children before the great mystery into which we were born.'

Yesterday early morning I went to Beacon Hill Park and stood before the lily pond. The patterns and innumerable shades of green were infinite.  The shadows rimmed some of the leaves in darkness, creating another layer of patterning.  Small water lilies were scattered like jewels.  I took over 100 photographs.

At 2 o'clock I  returned again with my camera. Once again I stood in awe of nature's magic.

No skipping rope, no intellectual gobbly gook, no workbooks.

Simply an open heart.   Joy in the moment.  Wonder without judgement.

Perhaps best described by Marc Chagall when he said  'I am a child who is getting on.'

please click on any photograph for a full-sized image