Friday, August 29, 2008

End of a Season


How often do I cling
to stem
fearful, in releasing,
some loss

Wind, a graceful partner,
sways hearts
Sweetness only ripens,

The Wind softly beckons.
No more decreasing, my
heart must

Summer is waning, so
Only in losing may
some things


Saturday, August 23, 2008


Boxes in, boxes out, boxes emptied, boxes life is a jumble of cardboard at the moment. Lots of changes are in the works. I won't bore everyone with all the details, but a few of the highlights include: my sister and her family moving into my house, me moving out and into district housing, switching from teaching elementary to secondary grades, and a whole new faculty & administration at school. Whew!

Another change has been especially difficult to talk about. And I've put off blogging about it for several weeks. Over the summer, I decided to allow my dog, Precious, to be adopted. It's something that I'd been thinking about for a while, but had been reluctant to actually follow through with because Precious is....well....precious!

The problem is that the Arctic is a seriously confining place during the winter months and Precious doesn't do confinement very well. She practically climbed the walls all last winter which led to some destructive behavior. Over the summer I decided that either I'd need to find a home where she'd be cared for and have the opportunity to get regular exercise or I'd have to buy a treadmill and hope she'd be willing to try it. I was leaning toward the treadmill when I heard there was a couple in Fairbanks interested in adopting her. They took her for a "test drive" while I was on vacation. When I got back to Alaska, I met them at their home and found that Precious was happy and healthy and having lots of fun...

...exactly the kind of place Precious needs to be.


So, it's done. Precious lives in Fairbanks now in a great home with two wonderful new parents who are ready, willing, and able to make sure she goes to bed tired every day. That's a good thing and on some level I am very happy about it. Of course, I am completely grateful to have found a loving family with whom Precious will enjoy her life rather than experience frustration eight months of the year. But the thought of life here without her quirky little personality and hilarious antics...just makes me sad.

I'll have to revisit this photo often to remind myself that it was the right thing to do.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Off Slope: Heading Home

I'm sitting in a rather uncomfortable chair at Logan International in Boston. Maybe it's not such an uncomfortable chair. Maybe I've just been sitting in it too long. This is the first of four stops on my way home and I'm going to be here for a while (longer than my computer battery will hold out, I'm afraid).

At the gate across the way, a baby is screaming discontent at the top of his lungs. Three airport workers are sitting beside me, conversing in a language I do not recognize. Somewhere down the way, a dog is yipping frantically from its carrier. Behind me, a cash register is ticking away rhythmically at a coffee shop with an obscenely long line. And all around there is a web of intersecting, yet unrelated, mumbling. Everyone seems to be talking on cell phones. Actually, some appear to be talking into thin air, but I'm giving them credit for an earbud cell phone, though I can't be sure.

The contrast of this day with my last in Nova Scotia is amazing and a little jarring. Halifax was a rainy mist of gray all day and into the night...quiet, friendly, peaceful. My plan to catch another play in the park was scratched, but the disappointment was quickly forgotten when I walked into the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.

I'd read that the home of Nova Scotia folk artist, Maud Lewis had been restored and moved into the museum. I was excited with the opportunity to see her little house as well as the museum's collection of her original artwork. I wasn't prepared for how affecting it would be.

I am embarrassed to admit that I haven't had much appreciation for folk art in the past. Mostly, it just baffled me. With images so simple and childlike, it was easy (for me) to misunderstand the real value of this art form. Having lived in Louisiana, I was aware of Clementine Hunter's folk art paintings and knew they were significant. But, the truth is, I wasn't really sure what made them so.

Learning about Maud Lewis changed that for me.

Here was a woman whose small world was full of stark extremes. Life began taking things away from her, even as a child. She lost her health, her parents, and finally her home. Considered to be an insignificant burden, it was as if she was being erased from the canvas of the living. But, unwilling to quietly disappear, Maud Lewis painted herself back in!

It was humbling to see her tiny house (less than 16 sq. meters!) adorned from top to bottom with flourishing scenes of vibrant color and cheerful composition. In spite of her circumstances, Maud retained the capacity to see and appreciate beauty in even the simplest moment or task. If her artwork appears childlike, I have to believe that's because she viewed the world through the optimistic eyes that a child would have.

I became aware of Maud Lewis when I happened across some prints in The Flight of Fancy, a beautiful shop that doubles as a gallery for a variety of intriguing and talented artists. It's located in Bear River, Nova Scotia which was on our bike route that day. In spite of my sweaty messiness, the resident artist/owner Rob Buckland-Nicks graciously took the time to answer my questions and shared enough information to truly pique my interest and encourage digging deeper. I'm so glad I stopped in!

Not only did Mr. Buckland-Nicks share his art, knowledge, and enthusiasm with me. He shared his best buddy with me as well! Without a word or move from me, this twelve-year-old sweetie quickly "assumed the position," hoping for a good scratch from an obvious dog-pushover.

My trek through Nova Scotia introduced me to a wide range of art and music. My one day at the art museum in Halifax has fueled even more questions than I had before. I was fortunate enough to see the Tom Forrestall exhibit with his unusual magic realism.

And I saw a video of a First Nations artist who sculpts with the idea that people should be able to touch the pieces he creates. Surrounded by museum placards begging visitors not to touch the artwork, the concept amazed me. I want find out more about this guy!

If you would like to know more about Maud Lewis or folk art in general, this site is a great resource as well.