Tuesday, July 16, 2019

A stormy afternoon - July 15

Storm clouds approaching from Canoe
With Janet now working from home, the pottery area is off limits during the day (she needs/deserves the quiet!) 

But every day, as 4:30 approaches, I am reminded of the opening theme from The Flintstones, where the sqwak of the bird signals the end of the work day!  

Two wheels, ready for the workday to begin!
The is the moment that Tonia and I rush over to Janet and Glen's for an evening of clay time! 
Still a few hints of blue over Sicamous
And so, on Monday, the three of us converged at 'the studio' (that is, under their deck), eager to open the kiln and see how the last bisque load survived. It was going to be time do start glazing.    

But as we worked to unload the kiln, we could see dark clouds rolling in from the direction of Canoe. 

We could see lightning on the other side of Bastion

There was still some blue sky on the Sicamous side of the lake, but the clouds were most certainly rolling in our direction. 

Soon, we saw a few lightning strikes on the other side of Bastion Mountain.   

Those strikes that we didn't see, we certainly could hear!

It was delicious sitting under the porch, feeling the wind blowing in, hearing the thunder, knowing the rain was falling on the other side of the lake, and wondering when it would arrive on our side. 

Here is a little video clip so you can see the spread of weather across the horizon.

adding underglaze under the porch!
Eventually, the clouds broke right overhead and the rain came down.

But Tonia, Janet and I were happily occupied under the deck, safe from the rain, listening to groovy tunes on Satellite radio.  

Tonia sat at one wheel throwing pots, while Janet and I sat putting wax resist and under-glaze on our newly bisqued bowls, mugs, and pendants.    

clouds headed up the river
We maybe had a half hour of soaking rain, and then the clouds moved along, delivering water to others further down the lake.

We all took turns reflecting on the delicious smell, mostly as a saucy way of using the word "Petrichor" in a sentence (since we all recently learned that this is the correct word to describe the smell of a long-awaited rainfall).

And the sun comes back.
Now, the Sicamous end of the lake carried the clouds in what looked almost like a sling of light, and the sun broke out again at the Canoe end of the lake.

Could there be a more perfect evening?!

Hey!  It looks like the sun is wearing sunglasses....

Thursday, July 11, 2019

The morning walk in the woods with Arta

a bed of clover under our feet
This morning, I interrupted Arta in her gardening to see if she had time for a bit of a walk.  We usually just go up and down the road, engaging in conversation.  This morning, she suggested that we check out "The Grandfathers Path", and "David and Shauna's Path".   Both of these would take us through the woods.   

And so we headed off, down the main road until we hit the entry to the Grandfathers Path.   

It is thus named since two of the grandfathers (Glen and Greg) have done the work of clearing trees and branches, and maintaining the path.   
Fungi like ruffles around the edge of a skirt

It is one that, if followed all the way, connects us up with the old logging road that is now part of the trail to Sicamous.

The beginning of the path is full of grasses and plants that make the movement slow, but that also disguise the presence of the pathway's entrance.   

Once you move past the knee high grasses and into the woods, the path opens up somewhat.   Because we have had so much rain this year, the forest floor at this point is like a bed of clover.  It was magical walking over top of the ground that felt like a thick rich carpet.

a forest floor of fallen birch, and a carpet of moss, ferns and more
Old trees lay felled along side the path (some felled by nature, others by those maintaining the path), their decaying trunks hosting another world of moss, lichen, fungi and insects.  

I find myself  thinking about the Secwepemc story that tells us Coyote's first wife was a tree.  

I also myself looking at the highly decorated decaying wood (in one case, looking almost like the ruffles on the edge of a skirt), and thinking about Suzanne Simard's work on the ways trees talk to each other.  

The downed logs seem clearly a part of "the economy", sending their collected wealth and resources back into life of the forest around them.  

Railcars visible in background as train passes by
Walking along the path, you feel in another world.   At the same time, there are reminders that the 'ordinary world' is only a step away.   At regular intervals, the bird song is joined by the sounds of the train: the railroad tracks are close enough that you could maybe hit them with a stone (well... if you could throw a stone much farther than I am able to, and if you had it in your mind that throwing stones was an appropriate behaviour!)

We continued to follow the Grandfathers Path until we came to the second of two streams.  

At that point, we took a sharp right to go up the hill, following David and Shauna's path (a steep path that takes them on a more direct route down to the sandy beach).

Along the way, where branches block the path, they have not cut them, but instead woven them back into each other, so that path is clear, and the trees are untouched.   It feels a bit magical at points.  

Sun shining through a group of cedar trees
The path runs along a steep ravine.  It is hard to capture the depth in a photo, but it is glorious to walk along.   You are surrounded by medium-growth douglas fir and cedar trees.   And then if you follow the path to the bottom of the ravine, you come again upon the stream.  At the season of the year, it is a small wandering trail along the forest floor.  Given the depth of the ravine, you can imagine a history of earlier times (and maybe times to later return) where the water rushes through this channel.   

To get a bit of the sense of depth in the ravine, check this photo out.  I am at the top, and Arta is half way down (I think of this as a Where's Waldo/Arta photo) beside a big tree.  You can also see a tree that has fallen, running from one side of the ravine to the other.

And here we are at the bottom of the ravine, with a little video of the stream. 

And then, time for the walk up the hill again, and back in time for breakfast!
Time to head back up the hill

I seem to be obsessed today with the moss on the fallen trees

Arta scrambling up ahead of me, with her walking sticks.  Gotta get me some!

Back at the top of the hill, with the view from David and Shauna's place.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Ocean and Clouds -- the ride back home

I spent a week in Vancouver for the Congress Meetings (Canadian Law and Society Association, and the Canadian Association of Law Teachers).   Both meetings were great.  

What really grabbed me on the last day was the sky.  It was a gorgeous blue, but with huge puffy white clouds on the horizon.  I was hoping that the amazing sky would hold up for the ferry ride home.   My expectations were met and exceeded.   The trip home was just stunning.  Here is my photo essay.
Loaded up and waiting at the dock.  Other ships already moving.

Clouds on the horizon on the land side of the ship

I love the contrast in colours between sea, land, clouds and sky

the view back to the ferry terminal.  Cloud looking ominous below

half way home, the two ferries cross paths in Active Pass

Add caption

Passing the half way mark towards home
And then the clouds began getting darker

Loving the sparkle on the water
Darker skies, but still glorious.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Island Life - The Trip to Vancouver

the view from the Pacific Buffet
The thing about living on an island, is that leaving is not so easy:  it is a choice of flights, or ferries.   And so, the ferry it was, for a trip over to Vancouver for a week of conference going at the 2019 Congress.

Going through Active Pass on the ferry just NEVER gets old.
Another ferry approaching

The breeze up on the deck is glorious

three hills, back to back

flatter islands, reaching out into the water

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

The Story of the Plate - a meditation on attachments and transformations on the occasion of Arta's birthday

Today is my mother's birthday: May 8, 1940.  That makes her 79! In the fashion that is typical of Arta, here was the email note she wrote to her children earlier in the week on the question of birthday presents: 

 "If anyone wants to give me a gift, then here is what I would like.  Something about you, on the blog.  Where you have been, what you are watching, what you are doing, reading, enjoying, dreading? Something you wish would happen to you but hasn’t?  Anything you wish to post on the family blogspot would work for me."

A piece of writing?!  THAT is what my mom wants?  Writing on what I have been doing, reading, enjoying, dreading?  There is so much to choose from.  

Sealskin barette, beaded box, my little pony, pine needle rattle, wizard coins
Maybe something about law?

Today is class 2 in the 4-week intensive that Val Napoleon and I are co-teaching during May ("Indigenous Law: Research, Method and Practice").   

As I result, my head has been wrapped up in questions about Law, and the stories we tell about the ways that we live law, and the ways that law shapes us.  
What things does a "Notice Board" help me notice?

This is just such a story.  At least, I believe it to be a story about law. I leave Arta to make the connections.

To set it up, I can say that yesterday, I had a visit from my 6-year-old friend Mylah (the daughter of my colleague Sarah Morales).  

I love having visits from young people.  

What gets "filed" on the side of a Filing Cabinet?
You always learn something.   

One thing you learn is that adult conversations and adult spaces can often be boring to younger folks.  

At least, that was true when Alex and Duncan were little people (rather than the towering menfolk they have become), so I always tried to keep some 'stuff' in my office that might be available for small people to discover, to play with, or to talk about.  

Do walls do more than hold up ceilings?
Maybe it means my office space is somewhat eclectic (or chaotic, or crowded), but so be it.  There are all sorts of objects there that can open space for conversation.  

When Mylah arrived the other day, she asked if I would tell her again "The Story of the Plate".  

Hanging on the Wall...
Huh?  It took me a moment to remember that, on her last visit, I had told her about one particular piece of art that hangs on my wall.  

I had just not thought of what I had told her as being a fully formed "Story", until she asked for a re-telling.  

So... here is the version of the story that I told Myla.

THE PLATE - A Story of Attachment and Reattachment

This dirt is delicious!
Once upon a time, there was woman who worked at a law school in Fredericton.  She loved her job teaching law.  But she also loved mud and dirt.   Really loved it: loved to play in it, to dig her hands in it, and (when she was little) even to eat it.  

Though she slowly grew out of her love of chewing on rocks, she continued to love mud.  So, when she started teaching law, she decided she would also take pottery classes, so she could still play in the mud, and make things.  

One of things she made in her 1997 class was a plate! It was so much fun to make.  She got to roll snake shapes, and throw lumps of clay, and pinch and press things, and then stick it all together.  The plate was maybe (definitely!) a bit too big, and too heavy, but she loved it. The clay was a rich earthy brown, and the glaze colour was full of blues and greens.   She felt quite attached to her plate.  She brought it with her to the law school, and sometimes, on days that were special, she would bring cookies to class for the students, and serve them on her plate.  

Life was good.

A close up of the edge of the plate
In 1998, the woman had a baby.  What an adventure.  Now she too had a little person living in her house, a little person who also liked to explore things, and sometimes eat dirt.  

In 1999, as the little boy got bigger, he would sometimes come to work with her.  He would occasionally take a nap while she was working, but more frequently, he liked to explore.  

There were lots of books in his mother's office, but they were mostly boring:  too many words, not enough pictures, and they didn't taste all that good.  He kept exploring, and he saw a green plate sitting on a low shelf.  It was shiny, and had lots of textures on it.   

He tried to pick it up, but it was very heavy and it slipped out of his hands.  With a deep "thunk"ing noise, the plate fell down, and broke in two pieces, right at the little boy's feet.    

He was more startled than hurt, but he was also sad.  He knew that his mother had told him not to touch the plate.  He knew that his mother loved the plate, and he felt sad that he had broken it.  
He let out a wail. 

A Play in Two Parts (or rather, a Plate in Two-Parts)
The woman was, truth be told, also a little bit sad that the plate had broken.  It had been fun to use.  But she did not want her little boy to feel bad.  After all, things break all the time.  That's just life.  And indeed, the woman found herself remembering how she had accidentally broken some beautiful pink earrings of her own mother's when she had been a little girl.  

As the little boy was crying, and the woman was trying to comfort him, the woman's colleague David Townsend walked past the door.  
David saw the broken plate, and the sad little boy, and told them that he had some very powerful glue at home, and that he could glue the plate back together, re-attaching the pieces that had been broken!

The woman thought about it.  Should they try to repair the crack so that the plate could retain its function?  Even though David said the glue was strong, she also knew that the plate was probably too heavy to really be repaired.  And that crumbs would gather in the cracks.   And that the glue would be a reminder of the break.  

And then she started wondering about why she was so attached to the plate in the first place.  Was it because of its utility? Its function?  Its ability to carry cookies? 

She realized that she didn't need this particular plate to carry cookies; other plates could fill that function. And even though her plate was in two pieces, she still felt
 attached it. It continued to be capable of carrying things -- memories!  Memories of the feeling of the clay in her hands,  memories of time shared with friends in pottery class, memories of the ways earth and glaze change in the heat of the kiln, memories of a little boy playing in his mother's office, memories of transformations.  

Hooks attached!
So maybe the plate was not really 'broken', but was only 'changed.'  What had been one, was now two.  Her little boy, in the dropping the plate, had made visible another side of its worth. The plate had changed from being primarily a functional object into one of deeply aesthetic value, a tool for thinking, a hook for memory.

She asked David if he could use the glue to attach two hooks to the back of the plate, so she could hang the two pieces on the wall.


Transformations, and attachments.  

Since then, the broken plate has hung on the wall of the woman's office, first in Fredericton, and now in Victoria.    

She did get a label made for the wall, so the piece could be appropriately named. She did wonder how best to name it.  She settled on this: 

Johnson, "Mother & Child" (1997-1999)  

The woman liked the title.  

It was ambiguous. 

It could be that "Mother & Child" was a way of describing the object: two pieces, both related to each other in an intimate way.  But the phrase could equally refer to mother and child as co-creators, with the date marking the time period of the collaborative process (from the time the plate came out of the kiln, to the time the boy dropped it on the floor).  

The ambiguity gives her pleasure.  

In her legal theory moments, she thought about giving it another title, something like "Postmodern Post-partum".  But that would be a story for another day.

Happy birthday Arta.  I hope the day and year is full of stories of law and relationship, of attachments, ruptures, reattachments and tranformations.  Life is good.