Saturday, 12 January 2019

The Textures of Life...

“I search for the realness, the real feeling of a subject, 
all the texture around it...
I always want to see the third dimension of something...
I want to come alive with the object.”

- Andrew Wyeth, Artist (1917-2009)

For the second time recently, I’m returning to the American artist Andrew Wyeth for inspiration. One of the elements of Wyeth’s paintings that I admire most is his use of earthy texture to convey a tactile sense of reality. This grittiness reinforces Wyeth’s narratives and draws me into his paintings. I experience the fecund earth, the dried leaves, the peeled paint – even the pungent aroma of hounds. Wyeth’s paintings are powerfully multi-sensory and evocative.

It is that evocative quality that I strive to reflect in my photos – a literal sense of place, complete with smells, sounds, tastes, and textures. For me, a photograph is never ‘just’ a visual experience; it runs the gamut of our senses and has more than one portal to our souls. 

With that thought as context, I offer you the following images, all made within the last month. With the exception of the sculptured case of my external computer drive, the photos come from Prince Edward County, mostly from a Sunday afternoon visit to Point Petre with Bill. For me, these photos have a multi-sensory quality to them. 

I hope you enjoy them - at whatever level appeals to you!

Point Petre #1

Point Petre #2

Point Petre #3

Point Petre #4

Point Petre #5

Top of External Computer Drive

Painted Seat, Carbon Art and Design, Picton

Wood Panel Outside Carbon Art and Design, Picton

Silhouette, House of Falconer Art Studio, Picton

Point Petre #6
Bill standing by his favourite tree.

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Home Alone

“I believe I know the only cure, which is to make one’s center of life inside of one’s self, not selfishly or excludingly, but with a kind of unassailable serenity – to decorate one’s inner house so richly that one is content there, glad to welcome anyone who wants to come and stay, but happy all the same when one is inevitably alone.”
- Edith Wharton,
American novelist, 1862-1937
Quoted in Solitude: A Singular Life in a Crowded World
by Michael Harris (Doubleday Canada, 2017)

Returning to a theme...

Needing time by myself – and enjoying time by myself – is important in my life. This preference makes me an introvert, although not everyone agrees with that analysis. For me, time alone is when my battery recharges.

My late husband – himself a world-class introvert – maintained that there had to be “spaces in our togetherness”. That philosophy helped sustain our relationship for 29 years. 

Our times apart enriched our times together.

And it continues to be a sustaining theme in my marriage with dear Bill. For instance, as I write this blog post [Thursday], Bill is teaching in Peterborough. I have the house to myself, with the exception of the dogs and cat. And I love it. I have several writing and photography projects to work on, and I set my own schedule. I keep contact with other humans to a minimum. 

I am alone, but I am not lonely.

What makes this isolation rich and fertile is that Bill will be home this evening. And I relish being together with him again. As I said, our times apart enrich our times together. 

Bill is teaching in Ottawa next week for three days, and I’m plotting what I’ll do in his absence. And I’m already looking forward to welcoming him home.

This pattern of solitude began when I was 7-years-old. I missed a year of school because of rheumatic fever, during which I spent many hours by myself. My days consisted of reading, sleeping, playing, and watching television (exotic in rural Ontario in the early 1950s). 

I learned to generate my own happiness. I became my own best friend, developing the inner resources to engage with the world by myself. 

It’s not that I actively shunned the company of others. It’s simply that I preferred my own company. 

Along the way, I’ve developed extroversion skills – meeting people, chatting them up, engaging with the wider world. One skill that I soon learned about navigating the ‘outside world’ was asking people personal questions. Because, of course, most people like talking about themselves. And it took the focus off me, thank goodness, giving me a solid place to stand on socially. 

However, too much extroverting makes me nervous and drains me. Cue the diplomatic exit...

Psychologists refer to this as being a ‘situational extrovert’. As long as I have a role – questioner, teacher, director, speaker, workshop leader, photographer – I am just fine in public. Without a role, however, I often feel socially awkward. I simply want to disappear. 

One of the things I love about photography is that I do it mostly by myself. Heaven! 

And so, while Bill has been away this week and the weather has been cold and grey, I’ve made photos inside our home. What a treat! The images are nothing exotic, but they are fun. I hope you enjoy looking at them. 

Meanwhile, I’ll get ready to welcome Bill back from Ottawa next week...

Sunday, 30 December 2018

Asking Quietly...

“You don’t take a photograph.
You ask – quietly – to borrow it.”
- Author Unknown

And so the year ends. 

Such a year it has been.

Loving Bill. 
Watching him create quilts.
Sharing “Heart & Soul” with him. 

Being with my niece in her last days. 

Exploring Australia.

Making new friends.
Losing old friends.


Being shocked.

Mostly being confused.

Making thousands of photos.

And always – always – being grateful.

The new year beckons. 
Things to anticipate.
Things to fear.

In a year-end ritual, I reviewed my 2018 blog photos.

My response?
Pleased, sometimes.
Proud, once or twice.
Embarrassed, occasionally. 

(“What on earth possessed you to post THAT?”)

Here are ten of the photographs. There are no people in them, despite my love of street photography. Not sure why it turned out that way. See previous reference to confusion. 

Something to think about.

I hope you enjoy these images and wish you a healthy, affirming 2019.

Thank you for reading my blog.

Chris's Privet, East York

Sir John A. Macdonald Bust (adapted), 
Bellevue House, Kingston 

 Victoria and Michael's Pool, 
East Hampton, Long Island

Downtown Newmarket

Behind Mark Armstrong's 
Glassworks Studio, Wellington

"Creepy Hand", 
Harry Rosen Store, Toronto

Rope Sculpture, Times Square, New York
(Sorry - don't know the artist's name.)

"Little Man" by SaraLou Miller,
Corby Rose Garden, Belleville

KIA Souls, 
Bayview Motors, Belleville

National Museum of Australia,

Sunday, 23 December 2018

Christmas Meditation

“I held my breath
as we do
to stop time
when something wonderful
has touched us.”

- from “Snow Geese”, by Mary Oliver

A Christmas meditation.

Occasionally, when I am blessed beyond measure, I become totally absorbed in photography and lose track of time. Photography is effortless. Images take over. Beauty is constant. Soul and camera merge. 

As I said, blessed beyond measure.

This happened recently on a photography outing to Prince Edward County. It was snowing lightly, dusting the countryside just enough to elegantly highlight contours and patterns. I kept holding my breath for fear of spoiling the moments. Scarlatti concertos on the car radio maintained the mood. 

The word ‘ethereal’ was created for times such as this.

The only comparison I can make is the time I have spent being transported by Andrew Wyeth’s mystical paintings. This link takes you to a meditative 25-minute overview of Wyeth’s paintings.  It helps communicate what I’m struggling to say. It is a healing balm, as is photography.

I hope you enjoy these photos. Please consider them my quiet Christmas gift to you.

Sunday, 16 December 2018

She said, "No."

Mouse:       I simply must go.
Wolf:         But baby, it’s cold outside.
Mouse:       The answer is no.
Wolf:         But baby, it’s cold outside.

- Excerpt from “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” by Frank Loesser (1944)

So, is “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” a song about a creepy guy hitting on a woman? Or a holiday confection targeted unfairly by spoil-sports?

I’ve watched the controversy about the song swirl for days now. And I find both the song and the controversy to be troubling.

The original 1944 lyrics tell the story of a man (“Wolf”) who wants a woman (“Mouse”) to stay the night with him. She says she wants to leave. He tries to change her mind. Half-way through the song, she clearly says, “The answer is no.”  He doesn’t accept her answer and keeps trying to persuade her to stay. For Wolf, “No” means the beginning of negotiations.

Sorry, folks, but that’s just not acceptable. When a woman says, “No,” everything stops – no more arguing, no more cajoling, no more whining.

No means no.

Much of the negative debate about banning the song from radio play lists has a mean-spirited edge to it. It implies that if you object to the song, you are limiting free speech, spoiling a Christmas tradition, and indulging in ‘Political Correctness’ (a term I detest).

Let’s ignore for the moment that the song has nothing to do with Christmas. Focus, instead, on a woman’s right to say “No.” This song does not take that right seriously. Some commentators believe that Mouse just wants to be wooed. “Oh she doesn’t REALLY mean ‘No’ – she’s just using her feminine charms to play the game.”

And what is Wolf’s response to Mouse’s clear message that she wants to leave? “What’s the sense in hurtin’ my pride?”

Spare me the wounded pride of a man who doesn’t get his way. How tiresome.

Back off, guys. Shut up. And keep your hands to yourselves.

With that in mind, here’s some background to “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”:

The American songwriter Frank Loesser – best known for Guys and Dolls – wrote the song in 1944 as a ‘call and response’ duet for his wife, Lynn Garland, and him to perform at Hollywood parties. In the original lyrics, the male is identified as “Wolf”, and the female is identified as “Mouse”. (See full lyrics at the end.)

The basic plot: Mouse visits Wolf on a cold winter’s night. Mouse wants to leave. Wolf urges her to stay. Mouse wavers. Wolf gives her a drink. Mouse worries about what Wolf’s neighbours and her own family will think if she stays. Wolf keeps pressing. Mouse wonders what’s in the drink he gave her and finally says, “The answer is no.” Undeterred, Wolf keeps insisting that Mouse stay. The end of the song is ambivalent – the lyrics don’t say whether Mouse goes or stays.

The song won an Academy Award in the 1949 romantic comedy, Neptune’s Daughter. In that movie, Ricardo Montalbán and Esther Williams sing “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”. Later in the movie, Betty Garrett and Red Skelton sing it again, reversing the male and female roles.

Watch the original in these clips from Neptune’s Daughter.

And here's a 2014 contemporary version featuring Orion Carlotto and Jacob Whitesides singing the original lyrics.

And here's another 2014 version, sung by Idina Menzel and Michael BublĂ©. Two children play Wolf and Mouse, which may be why Mouse’s clear assertion, “The answer is no,” is replaced by “But thanks for the show.”

It’s clear, given the many versions of the song I’ve watched on YouTube, that the lyrics have morphed over the years. Some of Mouse’s original lines (“What’s in this drink?” and “The answer is no.”) have been airbrushed out. I can understand how people who listen to an updated version of the song might wonder what all the fuss is about.

Personally, I don’t care what music people listen to. Each to their own.

However, words matter. And the debate about “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” underlines how the way we use words helps create the world we live in. When we honour a woman’s right to say “No!”, we also honour our shared humanity.

So, “No,” I won’t be adding “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” to my Christmas playlist.

“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” Lyrics (original 1944 version):

Mouse:       I really can't stay.
Wolf:         But baby, it's cold outside.
Mouse:       I've got to go away.
Wolf:         But baby, it's cold outside.

Mouse:       This evening has been...
Wolf:                  ...been hoping that you'd drop in.
 Mouse:      So very nice.
Wolf:                  I'll hold your hands; they're just like ice.

Mouse:       My mother will start to worry.
Wolf:         Beautiful, what's your hurry?
Mouse:       My father will be pacing the floor.
Wolf:         Listen to the fireplace roar.

Mouse:       So really I'd better scurry.
Wolf:         Beautiful, please don't hurry.
Mouse:       But maybe just a half a drink more.
Wolf:         But some records on while I pour.

Mouse:       The neighbors might think...
Wolf:         Baby, it's bad out there.
Mouse:       Say what's in this drink?
Wolf:         No cabs to be had out there.

Mouse:       I wish I knew how...
Wolf:         Your eyes are like starlight now.
Mouse: break this spell.
Wolf:         I'll take your hat; your hair looks swell.

Mouse:       I ought to say, no, no, no sir.
Wolf:         Mind if I move in closer?
Mouse:       At least I'm gonna say that I tried.
Wolf:         What's the sense in hurtin' my pride?

Mouse:       I really can't stay.  
Wolf:         Oh baby, don't hold out.

Mouse and Wolf:         But baby, it's cold outside.

Mouse:       I simply must go
Wolf:         But baby, it's cold outside.
Mouse:       The answer is no.
Wolf:         But baby, it's cold outside.

Mouse:       Your welcome has been...
Wolf:         How lucky that you dropped in.
Mouse: nice and warm.
Wolf:         Look out the window at this dawn.

Mouse:       My sister will be suspicious.
Wolf:         Gosh, your lips look delicious.
Mouse:       My brother will be there at the door.
Wolf:         Waves upon the tropical shore...

Mouse:       My maiden aunt’s mind is vicious.
Wolf:         Gosh, your lips are delicious.
Mouse:       But maybe just a cigarette more.
Wolf:         Never such a blizzard before.

Mouse:       I've gotta get home.
Wolf:         But baby, you'd freeze out there.
Mouse:       Say lend me a coat.
Wolf:         It's up to your knees out there.

Mouse:       You've really been grand.
Wolf:         I thrill when you touch my hand.
Mouse:       But don't you see?
Wolf:         How can you do this thing to me?

Mouse:       There's bound to be talk tomorrow.
Wolf:         Think of my lifelong sorrow.
Mouse:       At least there will be plenty implied...
Wolf:         ...if you got pneumonia and died.

Mouse:       I really can't stay.
Wolf:         Get over that old out.

Mouse and Wolf:         Baby, it's cold. Baby, it's cold outside

Songwriter: Frank Loesser
Lyrics © Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.