+

Spring Has Finally Arrived!

Winter 2017-2018 was LONG, but good riddance! We received piles of snow well into April this year, and it’s only been completely gone from our yard now for about a week.

20180415_162800-EFFECTS

Lake Muskoka was still covered in ice on April 15th.

20180424_103048

On April 24th, the snow had to be shovelled off our back deck so it could melt in the sun. My back garden was completely bare. Thanks to the deer for chewing the few tulips out back down to nothing. Since the snow and ice still covered the front gardens, those tulips hadn’t yet emerged, so they were safe.

20180429_143150

 

 

On April 29th, the sun is finally high enough in the sky to melt the snow on the front yard, but there is still a small patch.

 

20180429_143301

 

 

 

And there were only a few crocuses in the front garden then.

 

 

 

 

 

But now, I am proclaiming a long overdue welcome to spring!

In fact, on May 1st it seemed to go from winter temperatures the day before right into summer (while snow was still on the ground ?!@&!?). Of the snowdrop bulbs I planted, not a single one came up, in the front or in the back. They should have done so before the crocuses, which makes me think something was wrong with them. I won’t buy bulbs packaged by that company again.

Every spring, I can’t resist touring my gardens to see which of my “green babies” has just burst out from the ground, day after day. In the sunshine, I can almost watch them growing. It helps to cheer my soul after the winter blahs.

Now, everything is coming up (except for one out of 3 lupines I planted). We may have had a slow start, but it’s all catching up!

I’m so excited to see my gardens fill out this year, after all the work I’ve put into it. Finally, I can rest in knowing that I shouldn’t have to do much work with it this year, except some maintenance, but that is a peaceful activity.

Happy Spring!!

 

 

+

Mako the Golden

We lost a true friend this April. I write this to honour the furry fella, Mako the Golden.

20171016_152200

Looking back as life keeps moving forward.

Mako was always adventuresome. This dog lived the life of a true companion to his chosen master, always willing to hop in the truck (front or back) and hang out at the workplace through the day, and never missing his ride home.

He knew his pack. As with any dog, one master rose above the rest, because the dog choses on its own. Mako started with one owner, then circumstances moved him around within the same family, but eventually, he decided on the one. He went with him wherever and whenever he could.

But Mako knew and loved all the rest who came and went from the home he claimed as his own. He greeted everyone like he hadn’t seen them in ages, even if it was only a few hours since he last smelled them. Many people came and went from his lakeside home, and he hung out with everyone on the dock and in the boat(s). Ducks and fish were a few of his interests, and he couldn’t keep his nose away from a potential catch, or meal.

20140727_190633

Eyeing up a potential meal, with my daughter and my sister-in-law.

20160522_162649
Showing some interest in my son’s fishing hobby.

20140727_164112 20140727_162914 20160202_221541

My daughter had a special attachment to Mako, and the feeling was mutual. She was much more than his trusted tummy-scratcher. When his master had to be away, Mako stayed at our house and he slept in our daughter’s bedroom on his own bed. Yes, he also brought his own stuffed animal.

20160206_093234 20170806_170727-EFFECTS

At our house, Mako always looked with longing out the front door to the street where he would see other dogs, but we couldn’t let him outside without attaching a leash and walking around with him, because he wasn’t used to the city.

At his home(s) he was completely free. He romped through the hills and forest, down to the dock and lake, in search of the sources of all the scents in his world. One time, he followed his nose to discover a girl-dog at a residence not too far from his property, and he outstayed the welcome of her owners on several occasions. And during the work week, Mako had his run of the workplace property too. He was used to running, sniffing, and rolling, but he was sure to be back when the workday was done for his ride home in his master’s truck.

20180415_162741

The dock and boathouse on a frozen Lake Muskoka. April 15th, 2018.

This year, old man winter would not relent, and the lake was still frozen on the surface well into April. On the evening of the 10th, Mako made his usual request to go outside for his constitutional, but he didn’t return. It was suspected that he was visiting his girl-dog, and that he would make his way back as always. The next morning, he still hadn’t shown up. Later into the morning hours, he was found a short distance from the dock. He had, for reasons unknown, fallen through the ice, and although he tried desperately, he couldn’t get out of the freezing water for all the broken, shifting ice. In the dead of night, no one heard a sound. The extended winter is to blame, and it isn’t welcome anymore! But Mako was, and always will be, sorely missed.

I’ve not had the pleasure to know that many special dogs, but he made me want another dog of my own! It has been a while for me. Maybe I will get my wish someday, but for now, we’re all missing this guy like no other!  

 

 

+

World Autism Awareness Day 2018

April 2nd is World Autism Awareness Day, and I’m sharing my Peaceful Sea Turtle in recognition of both Autism (ASD) and Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). Some people with autism don’t like what the “puzzle” pieces signify in the autism awareness logos and materials, understandably, since those with ASD and/or SPD are not missing pieces that would make them whole, not at all. So, in an effort to respect this view, I am in the process of creating an illustrated children’s book with an alternative way of picturing neurodiversity, using the imagery of the senses, with illustrations that capture colours, patterns and texture. Just as every person is different, so is everyone with ASD or SPD.

The characters in my book are sea turtles, with one main turtle who swims apart from the others and follows her heart. Some of the illustrations (below) have been completed for some time now. Can you see the similarities and differences amongst them, the variety in their genetic makeup and the multipotentiality of talents that make each individual unique and full of purpose?!

I am currently writing the words of the story, and the other illustrations and art are still coming together in my visual mind. When it is complete, I will announce it on my website and blog.

April is Autism Awareness Month in the USA. Each year, in October, Canada recognizes Autism awareness and Sensory Processing Disorder awareness. Please continue to share the awareness literature and logos of various organizations around the world, as it all helps! These days, everyone knows someone with ASD, but they might not know anything more than a set of symptoms for classic autism, which can leave a person with a very limited, in-the-box, stereotypical view of autism. That was how I viewed autism (when I first heard of it), before I went to teacher’s college, took additional courses in special education, and continued to educate myself for the sake of people I know with ASD and SPD. In addition, I used to wonder why I experienced so many sensory issues, but I now know for certain that I have SPD myself. It accounts for many of the health issues that seriously affect my quality of life. So, yes, I know much from first-hand experience.

There are many severe challenges for people with ASD (many are listed under SPD). These challenges can be a combination of social, emotional, mental and/or physical. They can affect/hinder communication (spoken, written), even attempts at expressing feelings or describing physical symptoms; organization (of thoughts, schedules, etc.); perception of sensory input, whether hyper- or hypo-sensitive; etc. etc.  It was recently announced that 1 in 66 children in Canada between the ages of 5 to 17 are diagnosed with Autism. The figures for reported diagnoses in females is rising, due to awareness of how Autism manifests differently in females. Most of the research has been done on males to come up with the criteria for ASD diagnosis, so females have a difficult time getting an accurate diagnosis.

Neurodiversity needs to be accepted and supported. The world needs different thinkers and doers! In fact, the world would not have so many advances in science, technology, engineering, maths, and the arts (visual arts, music, theatre, etc.), if it weren’t for so many neurodiverse thinkers throughout history.

+

Happy Easter! He is Risen!

This Sunday, many will be singing, He is risen!! Happy Easter to all!

A few years ago, I wanted to create something memorable for Easter, but how can an artist create a painting that is only for one day of the year? After all, salvation is the gift from God that keeps on giving, and we can celebrate that every day of the year, not just on Easter. The finished painting is very stylized – I combined elements from contemporary art and some very ancient mosaics from early Christianity.

The painting was on display that year for Easter Sunday, and I was asked to explain what all the symbolism means, because there’s so much that can be missed. I always tend to pack a lot of meaning into my writing and my art, so I’ll try to bring it all together in a way that can be understood without too much theology. If I have missed any explanation, please let me know by commenting below.

Now, where to begin? . . .

Let’s start at the top of the painting. An ancient water jug is being held and poured (by unseen divine hands) into a chalice, where the water has turned into new wine (the bread sits beside the cup). This might remind you of the first sign that Jesus performed when he turned water into wine. In addition, near the end of his life, Jesus shared the cup (of wine) and bread with his disciples and he told them to continue to do this in remembrance of him. This practice is continued through the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, and believers also look forward to the day when they will share in the wedding feast of the Lamb after the Lord’s return, when they will drink the new wine that he promised.

The Giver

The Giver / 36″ x 48″ / acrylic on canvas

Reaching up through the inside of the cross is a tree (which looks more like a vine, but that’s okay if one thinks of John 15, where Jesus called himself the true Vine, and says that if we want to bear fruit, then we must remain in him). It was intended at first to be a tree to remind us that the cross is made from a tree, since it was prophesied that the Christ would be hung (put to death) on a tree like a criminal, even though he was innocent. It also represents the tree of life. The roots of the tree are shown to remind us that we need to become rooted and grow deeper in the faith. It is fitting that the anchor is with the roots, because Christ is the anchor who holds believers steady and firm in the storms of life (much like having deeper roots would keep us steady and firm). When believers depend on him, their faith becomes steadier in the process.

Now, for the center circle. There are three main spirals in gold which represent the Trinity. The center is yellow like the sun, the brightest thing we have seen, and yet, God’s glory is even brighter than the sun. The spirals in the center and the ropework, or braiding, in the outer circle are Celtic motifs (mainly from Ireland – my ancestry). Notice that the braid is a three-stranded cord and it has no end, again pointing to the Trinity and that God is eternal. (A friend also mentioned the meaning from Ecclesiastes 4:12 – Yes, there is meaning in art for the viewer which even the artist does not intend, but it is meaning all the same!)

Okay, so now, what is going on with the scene that the cross is overlapping? There are two cliffs on either side, between which is a chasm, and the cross is the bridge from one side to the other. What Jesus did on the cross has made it possible for us to turn from sin and accept His invitation to new life. He draws us to Himself, and we can come to him in confession and repentance to receive forgiveness for all our sins. He only needed to accomplish it once, and on the cross he did it – once, and for ALL. It’s our turn to respond, and to do so before it’s too late. Our response is to praise him, offering a public profession of our faith, which includes baptism.

Just as Jesus was resurrected with a new body, so also will believers be resurrected one day with a new body, but only because of what he has done. Believers receive a foretaste of a future resurrection when they are baptized, as it is written in Romans 6:4 (also on the painting): “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” In other words, baptized believers are buried in their sin, by the water of baptism, but they are raised as they emerge from the water into the new life of a Christ follower. This is another sacrament through which Christians celebrate what Christ has done and profess love for him publicly.

Some other symbols surround the cross: The Holy Spirit is depicted in the form of a dove, and the fire also symbolizes the presence of God’s Spirit residing within the believer (just as on the day of Pentecost). The Holy Spirit is the Helper who Jesus promised He would send when He returned to the Father. And he (the Spirit) is present with each and every believer everywhere on Earth. He sanctifies believers for the work of the Church, and he does so much more work in believers than I can describe here.

One of the fish in the water is an early Christian symbol of a Christ follower – the Greek letters spell out the word “Ichthus,” which means “fish,” but it is an early acronym to proclaim: Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour (in the Greek: “Ίησοῦς Χριστός, Θεοῦ Υἱός, Σωτήρ”; or when transliterated: Iēsous Christos, Theou Huios, Sōtēr).

The scroll represents the Word of God and was the early form of the Bible (before bounded books with individual pages). On the scroll are the letters Alpha and Omega, another of the many names of Christ found in the book of Revelation, referring to him being the beginning and the end, just as Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. Alpha and Omega also refers to Jesus being creator of all things within time, and the author and finisher of our faith. The Bible itself is a precious gift from God to humankind, since it is “special revelation” of His plan for all people everywhere and of His provision of a Redeemer/Saviour.

And full circle back to the top right where we look to the clouds, for that is where the gospels leave off… this is where we will see Christ’s return in glory! While that time is appointed by God, it is unknown to us, but believers are warned to be ready, not to be anxious or afraid, and to stand firm to the end, trusting in God’s faithfulness throughout time.

If you would like to see this painting in my online gallery, find it here.

+

Spring Art Show Entries – 2018

Finally, I came up with 3 entries into the Muskoka Arts & Crafts’ 41st Annual Spring Members’ Art Show. It took me a while, but I did it, and here they are:

Members could submit up to 3 pieces for the juried show, as long as they have been completed within the last 2 years and have not been entered to previous Spring Members’ Shows. Since I wasn’t as active in the past year creating art, I found myself in January trying to complete 3 brand new pieces (my bears and foxes were entered last year). Unfortunately, I ran out of time to complete the 3rd piece that was using the same technique. I will eventually complete it and reveal it in another post. Instead, for the 3rd piece, I chose a small one I completed a few months ago, using Pebeo mixed media products.

People often ask me about this technique. I will explain, using some older photos from when I did my first piece using this process. First, I need to plan it on paper, and then I draw a grid over it and map it out on the larger canvas area. The first time I did this, I wasn’t sure how detailed of a trimming job I could do to the acrylic skins (for fear that they would be too fragile), so the shapes are fairly simple. I was trying to achieve a stained glass “look.” Next, I needed to create the acrylic skins, which was the painting stage, but this was done “directly” on a piece of plastic, so that I could peel it off when it dried and cut out the shapes. This planning stage was time consuming, because if I didn’t like how a sheet turned out, I would have to make more, and they take a long time to dry. Sometimes my layout would need to change in the process.

The most time consuming part was prioritizing what sections of acrylic skins were to be designated for use on the canvas, and then cutting them to shape, and adhering them.  Here are a couple of pics to show the process with my much more detailed “Dancing With the Wind” piece.

As you can see, the pouring medium that is mixed with the paint to make the acrylic skins does dry to a glossy sheen. It is very difficult to get a great photograph of these pieces, so they must be seen in person!

If you are in the Bracebridge area this weekend, here are the details of the show:

29243832_1594684080600065_7770475645334716416_n

+

Seasons

In October 2017, many stressful events from the past 2 years came a head for me, and I’ve needed to step back from almost everything to take charge of my health. I’ve been extremely quiet about it, but I suppose that was easy, because I stopped working and stopped every social activity, so I guess no one was able to ask me where I’ve been or what I’ve been up to. I’ve mostly been at home, trying desperately to gain some energy and motivation for the things I have always enjoyed. Since May this year, my quality of life has rapidly declined, and it seemed to be doing so exponentially by the months, then the weeks, and finally, the days. At this point, I don’t know how long it will take me to feel 100% again, or even 50%.

I’ve been struggling to create anything, and I have only accomplished a few experimental art pieces, which I posted to my facebook account. I’ve decided to write a memoir, because I think it will help me to process the stressful life events that have contributed to my situation. So, I am gathering and organizing the details in a timeline for now.

Being unhealthy physically does have its impact on mental health, and vice versa. Most of my physical ailments are invisible, but stress has taken its toll on me in many ways. I’m currently dealing with chronic migraines, brain fog, nausea, fatigue, insomnia, night sweats (not to be confused with hot flashes), all over muscle and joint pain, back pain, abdominal pain and pressure, bloating, allergies, dizziness, and intermittent vertigo. All this contributes to depression and anxiety. Most disturbing about all this is trying to sort through it all, but I’m not sure if I can even hope to get at the root cause. Is it “leaky gut”? I already know I have SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder), but I am not officially diagnosed. As an adult, it is very difficult to find anyone who can diagnose this, because the occupational therapists generally deal with diagnosing children up to age 18. I also need to find someone who can confirm whether or not I have a chemical sensitivity, which is over and above SPD. If I don’t do the research myself, how will I ever know? I just keep writing this down for my next doc appointment, so that I will self-advocate and eventually get some answers. If I don’t write it down, I simply forget everything these days.

I’m finding that my health has forced me to enter a season of life that can be only be explained through imagery. Around Thanksgiving, I went for a walk on the Huckleberry Rock Lookout trail, taking my sweet time and breathing in the fresh country air. If you don’t already know, there was a fire that went through Milford Bay in 2012 and the evidence remains on this trail, mainly further in, as you get closer to the feature lookout. There are still some charred remains of trees, and there are many dead ones still standing, but there is plenty of regrowth, slow as that might be. With the passing of time over the years since the fire, the trail becomes more beautiful, despite the trauma it suffered. That is the hope I have for my health, that I will come through this season stronger. I just don’t know how long this will last, as I haven’t hit recovery yet.

In the meantime, albeit slowly, I am determined to gradually complete more art. I will see what Muskoka Arts & Crafts has planned for shows in 2018. Every year, they put on a Spring Members’ Show, so hopefully, I can enter some new pieces by then. One small step at a time.

+

Monarchs Making a Comeback

Remember the milkweed plants that I mentioned were nearly as tall as me and growing by the door to enter our house? Well, they keep coming back. When we moved in 2015, my husband yanked them all out, and they came back in the spring of 2016. I decided to leave a few to grow for a little while, at least until they flowered, and then I would decide their fate. What I didn’t expect was that my husband would tell me one day that there were some caterpillars on the leaves. I rushed outside to see for myself, lifting up the leaves to see their undersides, and I was pleasantly surprised to see Monarch butterfly caterpillars!

 

Of course, I couldn’t resist finding a container to care for them. It was late August 2016 and there were mud wasps buzzing all over the place, with their tunnels under all the rocks near the entryway to our house. We eventually found something to take care of that problem, but in the meantime, I knew that they prey on Monarch caterpillars, so I had to ensure whatever I could find would survive and have a chance to make the long trek to Mexico.

Obviously, I was thrilled to see all 6 of my finds mature, pupate, and transform into beautiful Monarch butterflies (all males). Bear with me on the videos of the pupation. It was fuzzy at the beginning, but I was recording it through hazy plastic. I could only stop and start the recording again, and the second part below is much clearer. In fact, I was incredibly lucky to have caught the whole 2 minute process. Every other time I’ve tried to witness this, I’ve missed it, and only came on the scene when the green pupa was already formed but still wriggling.

 

 

The following summer, being this year (2017), I found more than 25 caterpillars over time. I had 22 at one time, and released them as they emerged from their chrysalises (or chrysalides), and I added a few more, totalling 25 in all. The mud wasps were back, which had to be dealt with. I couldn’t keep any more caterpillars, as I didn’t have room, so even though I kept finding more on the plants, I left them as a test and they disappeared. They became the breakfast of either the ants or the wasps, maybe even some spiders. But, I can claim to have promoted the population of Monarch butterflies, by my small part. My husband was starting to call me “Larvae Lady.” Oh boy.

 

I’m planning on harvesting some milkweed plant seeds this year, as soon as they are ready in their pods. After the frost, I will be able to attempt to make a successful milkweed garden on the side of the garage, so that I won’t need to keep the plants by the entryway to our house. The plants do get rather tired looking after they have finished flowering.

Hopefully, if the new plants come up, the Monarchs will find them, but we will see. I’d hate to remove plants that they “expect” to find when they return. Just how do they know? If any of the ones I released makes it to Mexico (for its first time), how is its great-great grand-butterfly supposed to find my garden (for its first time)? It is all certainly an incredible mystery.

%d bloggers like this: