W is for Weary, Work, and the Wonders of the Web

 

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April by Martiros Sarian, 1947 Oh, April – what a speedy month you have been! In, out and yikes! May is just arond the corner!

 

Wow. What a month! It looks like I might just make it to the end having made my goal of a post a day, but sheesh – it’s been touch and go! I suppose I should have known better than to try to combine a big book deadline with much of anything else, never mind a daily blogging challenge and a trip or two!

 

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Woman at Her Writing Desk, by Lesser Ury, 1898 Yep. That’s pretty much where I’ve spent the month of April. 

 

I can’t really complain. I’m so lucky to be able to do the work I love and even more lucky to be able to do it from pretty much anywhere in the world, as long as there’s an internet connection available. I don’t know where I’d be without being plugged into the web, I must say.

This book I’m working on now, for example. It’s about medically-assisted dying (euthanasia, assisted suicide, mercy killing, murder) and all the many medical, ethical, legal, moral, and personal considerations that lie behind the decision to live or die. The Internet has proven to be a rich source of raw material. From documentaries and news clips to lengthy articles in mainstream newspapers to scholarly dissertations in all manner of obscure academic journals, as well books and audiobooks, I’ve been kept busy plowing through more sources than one could hope for in terms of finding lots of background on the subject.

 

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Death and Wife, by Albrecht Durer, 1510 In a strange way, Death has been my companion for the past many month and thousands of words… 

 

I’ve also been talking to people online – through texts and emails but also through online ‘phonecalls’. I’ve been able to use an online transcription service to record and then transcribe some of those conversations. Even ten years ago, such a wealth of information would have been much more difficult (impossible?) to access. I’ve been working on this book for 18 months or so, reading, researching, thinking, listening, watching and learning in Paris, Spain, the Rocky Mountains, the Caribbean, and on the west coast. I’ve downloaded books and articles onto my phone so I can read while I’m standing in the lineup at the grocery store or while trapped in waiting rooms or getting from here to there and back on planes, trains, and automobiles. I’ve dreamt about death. Thought about it pretty much every day since I took this project on.

 

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Birmingham Reference Library, the Reading Room by Edward R. Taylor, 1881 I bet this library had a card catalogue. I must be among the last humans on the planet to have been taught how to use a card catalog. Computers were creeping in everywhere when I was at university, but to find a book at the library, one still had to thumb through the soft-with-use cards.  

 

The problem isn’t really ‘can I find the information’? it’s, how on earth do I distill all this, organize it well, and then shoehorn it into what is actually quite a limited word count, considering the vast quantity of information I’m starting with?

Whenever I think, impossible! I need to expand the manuscript! I need more words! I think of something my mother once told me. She said that you don’t really understand a subject properly until you can explain it to your grandmother from another country. By which, I think, she meant that if you really know your stuff you should be able to explain anything, even the most complex of topics, clearly and succinctly to someone who has absolutely no background or understanding of the subject.

 

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Scissors and Lemon by Richard Diebenkorn Cut. Cut. Cut. That’s what I’m doing next. Which seems a bit odd since what I’ve been doing for months is add. Add. Add. Write. Write. Write. 

 

The other lesson I learned early (in my capacity as a copywriter at a radio station) is that you should be able to convey a complicated idea (in that case, usually about a business, product or event) in very few words. A thirty-second spot can’t last 35 seconds. Concise. Precise. Economical. Those were buzz words back then, and that early training has made me aware that cutting and paring are more fun if treated like a puzzle and a game. Just how many words can you take away and still tell your story?

 

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Death of the Countess by Alexandre Benois, 1910. This might just as well be named, Death of the Writer as this is a pretty accurate likeness of me at the moment. 

 

With that in mind, I’m going to embrace my next couple of days of slicing, dicing, chopping, and cutting as I whittle away at what is currently a too-long draft. I have 72-hours before the deadline. I can do this. I can.

V is for Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands (AtoZChallenge2018)

 

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The Baths on Virgin Gorda in the BVI – can you imagine a better combination? Bouldering, beaches and swimming in balmy waters… Oh, yes! 

 

One of my favourite places in the world is the island of Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands. I was last there in 2015, just before I met Fabio during my fateful wander around Skaha Bluffs looking for climbing partners (you could say that worked out rather well!)

 

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It’s shoulder season here in the Rocky Mountains – the waterfalls are melting rapidly, so ice climbing season is likewise fast running out. But at the base of plenty of crags it’s still muddy or slushy, so it’s not perfect yet for rock climbing (though, that’s changing fast as well). Solution? Snorkelling! Of course, there isn’t much of that to be done here even on the hottest days of summer, but in the BVI… different story!

 

You can’t imagine how delighted and excited I am to be able to say that very soon I’ll be hopping on a plane and heading back to the Virgin Islands with Fabio and Ally in tow! Yay!

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For the moment, I’ll leave you with these photos of fond memories… Keep watching the blog for more photos coming soon of our next trip together!

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U is for Ungulates (AtoZChallenge2018)

 

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Landscape with Cows and a Camel by August Macke, 1914

 

The law of inverse proportions is in full effect here at the moment with one variable being how panicky I feel about my manuscript draft getting done by the deadline (May 1) and the second being how long I have to spend on my daily blog post! More panic? Less blog time…

 

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Back in my farming days, I spent a lot of time hanging out with ungulates… 

 

Today, I throw all efforts to tie into my theme to the wind and frantically scramble to find some visual representations of ungulates. Ungulates, in case you can’t quite remember from biology class, are mammals with some form of hoof. They include horses, cattle, pigs, camels, deer, and hippos…

 

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Here in Canmore, these elk are resident ungulates. 

 

 

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This bison/buffalo is on display in our town hall… 

 

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Ancient ungulate imagery… Two Camels Fighting (1530)

 

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The Moose by George Stubbs (1773)

Now, I’m going to have a quick shower and try not to disturb the neighbours with my baleful ululations (oooo – oooooo–nnnnnoooooo) as I consider the ticking clock that is ruling my existence these days… Then, perhaps a few more pages of edits before turning in.

Until tomorrow –

Ciao!

 

 

 

 

T is for Theatre (AtoZChallenge2018)

Well, I was going to write a lengthy post today about the theatre and travelling and how both are acts of transformation, but I have been utterly bogged down with work and have been staring at the screen for most of the day. So, this will be quick as I am ready to fall over.

Instead, here are a few photos from recent theatrical experiences…

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This little theatre in Paris is where I went to see How to Be Parisian in One Hour by Olivier Giraud. The show was lots of fun to be sure, but I was just as delighted by the theatre itself (Théâtre des Nouveautés). One of the oddities was the numbering system of the seats (which is perhaps why there were actual ushers taking showing audience members to their designated places). In the center of each row the two middle seats were 1 and 2. Then, moving out toward the aisles were 3 and 4 (3 beside 1 and 4 beside 2).  It would be lovely to have a place like this in Canmore (though perhaps not with the wacky numbering system)!

 

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At the Theater by Mary Cassatt, 1879. Sitting in my plush velvet seat, I could almost imagine a child like this watching from the balcony at the little theatre in Paris. 

 

Not that there is anything wrong with Black Box Theatre at Artsplace (that’s where we did Sex With Strangers earlier this year).

 

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Beginning to dress the set for Theatre Canmore’s production of Laura Eason’s play, Sex With Strangers

 

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But neither the theatre at ArtsPlace or the Opera House has quite the same vibe.

 

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Working with Deborah Ariss on Strong as an Ox for the 10-Minute Play Festivus was a ton of fun. Can’t wait for next year! (Photo by Toomas Meema)

One of the things I like best about the theatre is the way one can transform yourself into completely different characters.

 

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Here, Allegra of the usually-transluscent skin and perfect makeup transformed herself into a homeless heroin addict and I had a go at being a grumpy old woman (and Ally’s silent bus-stop companion in the play My Higher Power by Melissa Klein). This was also performed at the 10-minute Festivus at the Canmore Opera House.  

This passion for acting goes back for as far as I can remember – here’s a photo of me when I was not much older than Ally is now, getting ready for my role as Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream… 

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I’m not quite sure how I feel about this next one…

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Monochrome red (theater) by Yves Klein, 1954

 

My version…

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Yah This is Red (Except for the Curtains)

 

And that, dear readers, is what happens when I sit down to write a post when I should be placing my weary head upon my pillow…

 

 

 

 

S is for Slug, Snow, Spindrift, Spring and Street Art (#AtoZChallenge2018)

 

 

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Spindrift [Fine snow that blows off a mountain… well, I guess it could blow off anywhere, but this was snow blowing around above the Bow Valley]

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Snow is melting away before our eyes as spring finally, finally finds its way to the Bow Valley. This year, it seems like winter has been here for a very long time. 

 

S, it turns out, is full of potential when it comes to this month’s daily blogging challenge! It seems everywhere I look it’s all about transformation (the theme this month is Travel, Transformation and Transition…).

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been receiving updates on a watercolour painting from Dad’s studio…

 

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In an artist’s studio, ideas are transformed into drawings, paintings, prints, lino cuts… 

 

The subject matter? Unusual, to say the least!

 

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Slug, slowly making his way to completion… 

 

 

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Slug on the Camino by E. Colin Williams (2018)

 

 

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Stormy Seas… by E. Colin Williams (Oil on Board) I don’t think that’s actually the real title, but today is day so I’ll leave it for now… I’m sure Dad will let me the correct title. 

 

When I travel, one of the things I love to photograph is the street art I come across. Somehow, even the roughest of neighbourhoods, most rustic back alleys, decrepit sheds, and ramshackle fences are transformed when someone takes the time to add a little art… Here are a few pieces of street art spotted while wondering through Paris earlier this month…

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And, of course, I can’t leave this post without mentioning Rodin and this piece of sculpture featuring a great stone… Oh, I sure did enjoy myself in Rodin’s garden!

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Oh, one last thought… sometimes the stones themselves become works of art as in this installation not far from my place here in Canmore.

 

 

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Portal XII by Lucie Bause, 2011

 

I could keep going for hours, but it’s been a very long day staring at the computer as I work my way through the draft of the new manuscript and my eyeballs are getting more square by the minute! So, away I go to slip off to SLEEP so I can transition into T is for tomorrow!

 

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Sleep by Abbott Handersaon Thayer, 1887

 

 

R is for Red (AtoZChallenge2018)

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Kiki de Montparnasse in a Red Jumper and a Blue Scarf, by Moise Kisling, 1925

It’s one of the first colours we learn to identify as children. Our eye is drawn to the red smear in a visual composition. It’s the symbol of blood and of love, anger and the universal color of stop signs around the world. Associated with the Red Cross, the red sun on the Japanese flag (it’s actually the most popular colour used in flags with 77% of all flags including it somewhere…), red is also the least common hair colour in the human population (only 1-2% of the world’s population can lay claim to red hair).

 

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Moise Kisling obviously liked both Kiki and the colour red… (this portrait is called Kiki de Montparnasse in a Red Dress)

 

Red is one of the primary colours – the others being yellow and blue. In theory, if one mixes two primary colours you get secondary colours (green, orange and purple) and then, if you mix primary and secondary colours you wind up with tertiary colours. If you know what you are doing and have a bit of black and white you should be able to mix any colour you can imagine.

 

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As a kid, I was totally intrigued by the magical paint-mixing that went on while Dad was working. Even now when I visit his studio this process seems like a strange kind of alchemy, capturing light and form, shape and shadow by smearing colour on a flat surface… 

 

 

 

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By contrast, Piet Mondrian seems to have gone to great lengths to keep his colours clean and separate. This is Composition C (No. III) With Red Yellow and Blue, 1935

 

Also keeping it simple (colour-wise) is Roy Lichtenstein and this pop art portrait.

 

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Head – red and yellow (1962)

 

 

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This pensive child caught the eye of Mary Cassatt. Little Girl in a Red Beret dates from 1898. 

 

Would you call the child’s smock pink? Salmon? When you think about it, there are many, many words describing ‘red.’ Ruby. Carmine. Fire engine. Crimson. Rusty. And, plenty more… What’s your favourite shade of red? In case you are wondering, today’s artwork effort on my part was completely the wrong palette (greens and blues) so I won’t post here and spoil the word of the day…

 

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I went for a long walk this evening and took a ton of photographs. Scrolling through them there was a shocking dearth of red anywhere to be found. Except, in this photo which I snapped of a hula hoop hanging from a tree at the side of the trail. Who knows why a hoop should dangle just there… is it possible to drop your hula hoop and not notice? I thought the diminutive splashes of red were a lovely contrast to the more muted palette of the mountains before spring has fully sprung… 

See you tomorrow…

 

Q is for Quarry Lake (AtoZChallenge2018)

 

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Quarry Lake Park near Canmore

 

Well, sometimes the stars align, hey? I was wondering what on earth I’d dredge up to talk about when Q rolled around. After I picked A. up from a dentist appointment, we headed up to Quarry Lake for a stroll and a pizza-themed picnic. Because it’s so close (about a five-minute drive from downtown), it’s a pretty popular spot and even though the trails are  soggy at the moment there were lots of people out and about enjoying the spring sunshine (and, yes, it is very strange for me, a Vancouver Islander for so many years, to consider a snow-covered landscape to be in any way related to the word spring).

The views here are terrific – Ha Ling is one of my favourite mountains (we can see it from our condo, just across the valley), but up close and personal, it’s an impressive peak. Quarry Lake Park is also a designated off-leash dog park, which makes it a great place for pup-watching.

 

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Quarry Lake Tree (bark detail)… Keep an eye on the blog for a pastel interpretation of these great colours and patterns!  

 

The lake was still sort of frozen (everything is quite slushy this time of year) and overed with snow, but in the summer should one try to swim out a bit and dive down (good luck – it’s cold no matter what time of year you visit…), you’d have to hold your breath a loooong time before you reached the bottom as it’s over 100 meters deep in its deepest, darkest corners (if a lake can have corners…)

Once a quarry (surprise, surprise), the park is slowly reclaiming land once used for mining. And, yes, I do mean the park is doing the reclaiming. Picnic tables and toilets aside, large areas are just being left alone to slowly return to their natural state.

 

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Ha Ling from Quarry Lake Park, Mixed Media Experiment (yep, I touched Deb’s pastels… living dangerously! Don’t know what I’m talking about? Visit P is for Pastels)

 

See you tomorrow! I wonder if I’m actually going to make it through the R-S-T-U -V-When-will-the-alphabet-ever-end doldrums this year?? So far, so good… it’s looking promising!