Tag Archives: mountains

Look at all Those Patterns! (14/365)

 

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Somewhere over the Rocky Mountains

Look at all those lines and patterns! I don’t usually sit in the window seat when I fly (I prefer to be on the aisle so I can stretch my legs and escape for occasional sprints, stretches, and visits to the loo without having to crawl over sleeping seat mates). Today, though, the plane between Calgary and Vancouver was half empty, so I had a whole row to myself and wound up looking out the window a lot.

 

Dad has always said that learning to draw begins with learning how to see. Everything (the landscape, a coffee cup, a person’s face, a hummingbird) can be broken down into visual elements – line, pattern, colour, etc.).

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Somewhere over an airport carpet

 

 

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Somewhere in my notebook… (taking inspiration from both mountain range and carpet and somehow resembling neither…)

Dad, meanwhile, sent me some info on the German painter Josef Albers. Albers was obsessed with shapes, patterns and colour…

 

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Brackish Water Biarritz VIII, 1929 by Josef Albers (Collage)

One of his best known series of paintings (aptly named Homage to the Square) features squares…

 

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Homage to the Square, 1967 by Josef Albers

Various squares in all manner of color combinations and proportions occupied his painterly efforts for nearly 30 years! Using squares in his compositions, Albers experimented (endlessly) with the ways in which colours interacted depending on their placement next to each other.

Speaking of colour combinations of note, some Canadians may recall the fuss that was kicked up when the National Gallery purchased Voice of Fire by the American painter Barnett Newman.

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In the early ’90s the National Gallery picked up Newman’s blue, red, blue painting for a cool 1.76 million dollars. Granted, it’s a pretty large piece (18′ tall), but you can imagine detractors squawked. Not only was this a piece of work that generated some head-scratching (blue-red-blue? that’s it?), it was painted by an American!! Shouldn’t Canadian taxpayer money at least be used to purchase Canadian art? [Note, I am merely paraphrasing the discussion at the time… don’t throw things at me…]

 

In a 2014 Ottawa Citizen article by Peter Simpson, some rather crazy numbers get tossed around. At that time the Newman painting was estimated to be worth more than $40 million USD! Perhaps the rash purchase back in the day was actually a pretty smart investment. Not that public galleries buy art primarily as an investment, but it is nice to know that sometimes the curators get it right.

Perhaps I need to do an 18′ high version of my dot…

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

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!

 

 

M is for Mountains and Mary (but not Montmartre)

 

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Mary Vaux – mountain-lover and subject of a one-woman show performed by Shirley Truscott

 

Last night we headed out to see A Portait of Mary Vaux at ArtsPlace. A mountaineer before women were allowed to be mountaineers (and, really, being forced to tackle glacier travel in long, heavy wool skirts hardly made scrambling around in the Rockies any easier), Mary left quite a legacy of mountain writing, botanical drawings, photographs and precise scientific records of glaciers on the move.

 

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In 1887 Mary Morris Vaux Wolcott got serious about climbing. She was the first woman to reach the summit of Mount Stephen (10,495 ft)

 

 

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Balsamorhiza sagittata(arrowleaf balsamroot) This painting of Balsamorhiza sagittata (arrowleaf balsamroot) was done by Mary Vaux.

 

Listening to Mary’s words written long ago reminded me just how lucky I am to live here. Poor Mary had to travel from Philadelphia whenever she needed a mountain fix!

 

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The mountains were in a strange mood today – uncertain whether to welcome spring or hang onto winter for a little longer. I meandered into town, my headphones in, listening to music. Last night’s performance was accompanied by the cellist, Elizabeth Sorochan and this reminded me just how much I love the cello. As a matter of fact, I’m listening to 2Cellos right now… The music certainly suits the mood of the day…

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The mountains might have been misty, but the ice has mostly melted in the valley bottom.

 

Occasional snowflakes flitted around as I wandered, lost in a mix of musing and meditation. Mellow. Mmmmm….

I had plans to write about Montmartre and some Malers (Maler being the German word for painter…). There are plenty of German artists to pick from, but I think most will have to wait for another day…

In keeping with the theme of women artists, botany, and the letter M, I’ll finish up with this one by Maria Sibylla Merian.

 

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Pineapple and Cockroaches by Maria Sibylla Merian (1705)

 

See you tomorrow!

Climb On

Turtle Island, Lake Louise

Turtle Island, Lake Louise

I don’t even know where to start with the past month or so of climbing adventures. Started on Vancouver Island with some local cragging (Fleming Beach and Mount Wells with various friends) before heading east… Squamish was stop number one – managed to squeeze in a bit of fun at the Smoke Bluffs and then tackled Deirdre, a multi-pitch on the apron of The Chief. Who knew there would be a queue at the start of this popular climb? Turns out it’s not only quite common to pick a number and wait your turn for popular climbs, it’s also very common to start chatting, swap contact info, and later send fellow climbers photos of each other. The climbing fraternity is a friendly one – small enough that everyone pretty well knows someone who knows someone – and large enough that on any given day one is likely to run into total strangers from halfway around the world and neighbours from back home.

Eli - met in Lake Louise and the next day climbed Gooseberry (the back side of Tunnel Mountain in Banff)

Eli – met in Lake Louise and the next day climbed Gooseberry (the back side of Tunnel Mountain in Banff) with him and Fabio – glorious afternoon – spectacular views, fun climbing – who could ask for more?

After Squamish it was off to Canmore (climbed Ha’Ling), the crags at Heart Creek and Cougar Creek, Banff (Black Band Crags and then the multi-pitch Gooseberry).

Freezing our backsides off at the top of Ha'Ling in Canmore

Freezing our backsides off at the top of Ha’Ling in Canmore

While up in the Rockies it was impossible not to also visit Lake Louise. Though winter kept threatening, the day we climbed was nothing short of glorious.

In Banff, met up with a friend from Australia and spent an afternoon playing about - can you beat that backdrop? (Black Band, Tunnel Mountain)

In Banff, met up with a friend from Australia and spent an afternoon playing about – can you beat that backdrop? (Black Band, Tunnel Mountain)

After three weeks of climbing nearly every day (the last couple of climbs in Cougar Creek near Canmore were finger-chillingly cold) it was time to pack up the tent and head west again – to Skaha, climbing mecca in the Okanagan Valley. Pulling into town it was a balmy 24 degrees and the next five days were just lovely. We climbed a mix of stuff – harder, steeper stuff with teeny ledges and crimpy finger holds that tested one’s nerves and balance, some cracks (including Assholes of August, which we climbed twice – the first time in the near dark, the second on a sunny afternoon). What was most exciting (at least for me) was starting to lead – both sport climbs and gear routes (where there are no pre-existing bolts in the rock).

Getting lowered after a slab climb at Heart Creek - a bizarre feeling to basically be holding on with friction when climbing some of these slabs.

Getting lowered after a slab climb at Heart Creek – a bizarre feeling to basically be holding on with friction when climbing some of these slabs.

Leading adds a whole other level of terror to the whole climbing experience. Unlike top-roping, the lead climber heads up first, clipping draws into secure bolts (and then the rope) along the way. After clipping, there is always a stretch of time (the distance between bolts varies and depends on the particular climb) and it’s during this bit of time after you have climbed beyond your last clipped in protection (increasing the possible distance you will fall if you come off the wall and before the rope catches you) that the mind starts playing tricks. And, once the mind panics, it’s a terrible feeling to be stranded above the safety of the clipped draw, frozen against the face of the rock, convinced upward movement is impossible, horrified at the thought of climbing back down again… That is exactly what happened on my first lead – complete mental meltdown. Incapacitating. I wound up coming back down, Fabio led the route, I top-roped it (and realized I could in fact climb past the tricky spot without much trouble) and then re-led it. Switched gears and climbed some other stuff and a couple of days later led a couple of climbs of the same wall without difficulty.

Not a super difficult climb, but my first successful sport lead so I was feeling pretty exhilarated at the top!

Not a super difficult climb, but my first successful sport lead so I was feeling pretty exhilarated at the top!

If clipping into bolts can get exciting, placing gear (nuts, cams, and other bits and pieces of climbing gear used when there are no bolts), then trad climbing is even better – or, worse, depending on whether you are inspired or horrified by adrenalin surges. I had my first couple of experiences leading on gear routes – easy enough climbing, but a whole different ballgame when you add in the strategy of where to stand (in a relatively balanced, comfortable spot) while choosing from the assorted gadgets dangling from one’s climbing harness, fiddling to wiggle nuts or cams or whatever into any available crack or corner, then clipping a draw to the protection and, finally, the rope into the draw. Though hugely stressful at times (I wound up bailing off a route as dusk was closing in and I completely lost my nerve – poor, patient Fabio had to climb up and rescue what gear I had managed to place), I think the trad climbing is the most interesting and compelling of what I have tried so far.

Location of my first gear climb - a modest crack when compared to something like Assholes of August - a climb located a little farther along and higher up the same crag

Location of my first gear climb – a modest crack when compared to something like Assholes of August – a climb located a little farther along and higher up the same crag

The additional mental puzzle of figuring out what’s available (both in terms of the rock and the gear) and then keeping a cool head while matching the two up makes the whole experience of getting up the wall all the more challenging. Starting to learn these new skills has also had the side benefit of taking some of the pressure off challenging myself to climb harder routes – the elbow brace is holding up remarkably well, but the injured arm is still injured, so I have to be careful not to overdo it, especially when climbing day after day. The easier grades mean the physical climbing is not so bad, but the leading those routes or starting to try my hand at gear placement keeps things… entertaining.

Assholes of August - we climbed this one twice - once as darkness was falling, the second time in daylight - lots of fun. Maybe next time I'm in Skaha I might be able to lead this one... It never hurts to have goals!

Assholes of August – we climbed this one twice – once as darkness was falling, the second time in daylight – lots of fun. Maybe next time I’m in Skaha I might be able to lead this one… It never hurts to have goals!

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From a bit farther back – Assholes of August is the crack on the right…

All of this, of course, has taken me outside almost every day, hiking into some of the most beautiful places in the world and climbing some of the most spectacular rock anywhere. I wonder if one ever gets tired of the vistas one encounters as one  hauls oneself up and over the top of a cliff face. I hope not.

I do like these crack climbs...

I do like these crack climbs…

Lake Louise

Lake Louise

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View from up on a ledge somewhere on Outhouse Wall, Lake Louise

Day 4 – Bliss (Photo 101)

Choose Your Bliss

Define Bliss – Day 4 Photo 101 Challenge

Define my bliss. Hm. The Good Buddhist Answer would be that my bliss is wherever I find myself, that no one moment is better than any other moment, that all moments are contained in this singular eternity, this breath, this heartbeat.

Was it Churchill who said, "There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man."

Was it Churchill who said, There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.

But of course, bliss is easier come by in some places than others. For me, very often those moments of pure peace, contentment, and … yes, bliss are found outside – sailing, hiking, climbing, riding my horse, digging in the garden, paddling a kayak, surfing, snorkeling. Or, standing still at the edge of the ocean just as the rain begins to fall, or at the top of Lone Tree Hill, my jacket unzipped, the wind blowing through me, or beneath the crashing weight of a waterfall pouring off a cliff far above. Those are the moments when my molecular structure shifts a little, becomes less tied to the mundane (do I need to pick up a bottle of milk on the way home?) and more open to/intrinsically intertwined with/influenced by some fundamental organizing principle underlying all things in the universe.

My Bliss - Banff, Circa 1970

My Bliss – Banff, Circa 1970

I have heard it said that to find clues about where to find your current bliss you might want to return to those things that made you happy when you were a child. There I am in the mountains with my jacket unzipped, waiting for the wind to blow through me. I’m also with my brother, and I have certainly learned that there are few things more important for the attainment of deep contentment than time spent with those you love most.

Yoga by candlelight, on the path to bliss... (Photo: Ally Pony)

Yoga by candlelight, on the path to bliss… (Photo: Ally Pony)

That said, sometimes the most profound moments of peace are found in solitude, when there is nobody else to hear my breathing. Which, in a pleasing circular sort of way, brings me back to where I began this post – bliss as breath and breath as universe.

Wow. I should refrain from writing posts late at night! Fact is I am too tired after having had a wonderful afternoon sailing followed by dinner and a movie with my dear father to even attempt to sensibly reflect on the idea that ‘all moments are contained in this singular eternity…’ What the heck did I mean by that anyway?