Visit to an “Intimate Garden” : Photos by Leslie Barnwell

There is a hush that enters the body when we respond to beauty. It quiets the noise of everyday life, we can set aside some of the troubling realities of being human and arrive at a place where we feel totally present. The magic of beauty offers the gifts of opening to what is before us with a sense of celebration and delight.
That is what I experienced when I visited Leslie Barnwell during her exhibition at the Smithers Art Gallery. It is evident that Leslie’s life as a professional artist shows itself with her sharp eye for contrasting shapes and rich colours, whether it be the hidden circuitry of veins on petals, the fuzz of surrounding stamens, or water droplets cupped in the curves of a leaf, her sensitivity for detail emerges. But there is much more.leslie alone

leslies signLeslie’s offerings ask us to “come face to face with the heart of a flower – its essence.” In order to do this we must stop and truly look beyond how they appear in mass groupings of colour or how they combine with other flowers. This takes paying attention.

Leslie does not take our ease within the techno savvy world lightly. She writes that “the ability to easily enlarge things in an act of exposure. As we draw closer to bring their beauty, their strength and vulnerability in detail, this is an act of opening to the intimate.” leslies art 5As she speaks of respecting the secret life of flowers, I am left with the depth of her offering. She is inviting us to look deeply into the heart of all things. The art of seeing is possible and relevant to how we witness not just the natural world but our own relationship within that. How we respond to life that continually opens itself, where we must slow down to appreciate the depth of what is before us is the deeper truth. In doing so we allow a space where beauty can emerge and shine forward in increasingly surprising and unsuspecting ways. Thank-you Leslie for these beauties.

leslies art revised 7
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A Conversation: exploring in relationship

Magnetic poetry was the warming up exercise. ‘Think of it as getting the imagination flowing, just like stretching before a run or throwing the ball around close to a game,” I explained to the group of Grade 9 students, newly arrived in the studio for a creativity workshop I was leading. “Explore putting words together that surprise you, there is no right or wrong. Add to your friends lines, and let go of wondering if it makes sense.”
This group from Nisga Secondary was a part of Martha Swinn‘s Creative Writing group so it didn’t take long before they were leaving their chairs to post words onto the metal bed frame I had resting against the wall. Some  giggled as they leaned over each other, others were quietly intent as they added their lines; everyone was thoroughly engaged in the process.

We moved outside for an exercise called, ‘Inside a Moment: being specific’ where the youth found a spot to engage all of their senses. ‘Write details; the smell of the lilacs, the touch of the cottonwood bark, look up at the patch of sky above the alder trees,” I invited before we moved back into the studio to take some of the words and create a collage on canvas from a wide range of  materials I had available. Three hours disappeared and when the bus driver arrived to take the students back to Aiyansh we were all reluctant to end the afternoon. Martha asked me to put the frame in the garden and send a picture so I am now, several weeks later, responding to her request and revisiting that precious time with her students.

magnetic poetry 1

The bedframe holding their words is still speaking to me, inviting me in for a further conversation.  magnetic poetry 2

And so I chose one of the lines from this collection of evocative expressions to inspire my own response; after all we are all students in relationship with each other, continually  learning and expanding.

magnetic poetry 4

Wild boy explore the translucent ocean and linger there
spread apart with reptilian instincts the tender openings
deep crevices dissolving scripts written for you
invite instead those liquid invitations you already know
speak deep words, change life.

 

 

 

 

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Poem for Callie, “Naming”

callie 2 Today is Mother’s Day, a day to acknowledge what is already so closely knit into my heart through the thread of generations. My own Mother’s loving soul, the birth of my children and the astonishment of them now, such lovely young men, older than myself at that time when they entered this earth. To complete the cycle, my son and his wife are gifted with their second child, a baby girl,  whom I recently held in my arms.  This poem came in the interlude of no time, waiting at the airport, Callie’s precious little body still imprinted in me, my heart wide open to the calliemysterious nature of rhythms. One cannot foresee the potential always for new life, healing, and the ultimate power of love.

Naming

Yesterday your name was Dream Whisperer.
Breathed through rustling aspen leaves
announcing your arrival.
Did you hear the soft blow of your calling
echoed in robins caroling before the first light?
Did you see it reflected in new blades of grass
anchored by the garden path,
glimmering in a spider’s web shiny with dew?

Today your name is Callie,
Gaelic for ‘of the forest’
(even though your mother remembers a different story.)
Network of birch groves and cedar stands,
roots growing towards each other.
When you press your body against my heart
I am not sure where you begin and I end,
knees tucked in, the fuzz of your hair line.

Perhaps your name is ‘Opening Fern.’
A perfect frond loosening your grip
from the land of imagination
where we wonder how you will unfurl
hinted by the frown of an eyebrow, the twitch of a smile
eyes flutter open like bluebells, confirmed in morning sky.
Your outstretched fingers reaching up,
they have not forgotten the pathway
through firmament.

Then I will call you ‘Winged Traveller.’
A name punctuated by plucky crows
their sharp beaks breaking lilac twigs to rebuild nests,
a community to watch over you,
ready to rally together in a moments notice.
Your name thrummed by wings of a hummingbird
phosphorescent glow exotic as batik saris,
thatched huts, white sand beaches capturing the curl of surf
lithe bodies riding waves that meld into atmosphere.

I will name you ‘Azure Skylight.’
A container spilling upward punctuated by soft clouds
at times breaking with restless cries,
a container holding the company of stars, points of light
like invisible rays knowing your place.
Perhaps you will find Polaris, true north
the guiding one anchored in your heart
filled with intention, a flag of celebration
announcing your home!

 

 

 

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Broken Open: An Invitation to “Random Acts of Mindfulness”

How is it when we become undone. When the container that holds perceptions glass bottleof who we are and how we fit into the world is broken, all that is left are sharp edges that no longer seem to fit. Do we pick up the shards and try to rearrange them in new order, finding the courage to redefine ourselves again or is the shattering complete and unrecognizable.

This is my contemplation as I appreciate the glass mosaics that were created in a workshop I lead, which was provided through the support of the Terrace Mental Health & Addictions Advisory Committee (MHAAC). This workshop was one in a series which will culminate in ‘Random Acts of Mindfulness’ – an exhibit at the Terrace Art Gallery in October of 2016. The exhibit will coincide with Mental Illness Awareness Week, a national event which focuses attention on mental disorders.  During that month the MHAAC will host a series of educational/public awareness events at the Gallery exploring Stigma and Mental Illness.glass 6 glass pieces

We as individuals and as a society are continually challenged to ‘be mindful of thoughts, beliefs, and behaviours towards individuals with mental illness.’ This is the main premise of the exhibition. Not one of us walks a path, whether it be in our own life or with a loved one, where we are not touched by the struggling soul trying to make sense and find a place in this challenging world. Despite this, the stigma against mental illness is a real barrier for individuals to feel accepted and appreciated for the gifts we all inherently possess.glass 2 glass 5

Just as we gingerly pick each piece of glass, find a new place, rearrange it according to its own unique beauty, so too can we create a new way of walking in the world. We cannot do this without the support of our loved ones, our communities and the institutions that surround us.

Become involved in your local Mental Health initiatives. Pay attention to thoughts and actions when you feel limiting reactions when confronted with people or ideas on mental illness.  Our creativity is one of the ways where we can redefine who we are and how we want to be.

Thank-you to all who came out to create and especially for the vision of the MHAAC.

glass 3 glass 4

 

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“Wild Geese” for April-National Poetry Month

Mary Oliver in “A Poetry Handbook” says that “you would learn very little in the world if you were not allowed to imitate.” That line gave me permission to consciously follow Mary’s style of poetry, not just as an exercise but as an opportunity to capture the arrival of spring with a soulful connection to the awakening earth.  Thank-you Mary, in this month of celebrating poetry, for offering such sensitive works which pierce through the everyday indifference to the land that supports and nurtures us.

Wild Geesecanada geese

Awakened to the wild geese broadcasting their arrival.
First a distant wave rolling in,
flight calls echoed
in short blasts, flapping wings,
honks cavorting, building
to a nonsensical rhapsody
squelching all other sounds as they pass

pulling me from the dark curvature of sleep.
My imagination stretching up to the still darkened sky,
seeing their V shaped arrowhead staying true to its path
with deep knowing,  lifetimes old
of when to begin this arduous journey
where towering mountain peak, nor watery expanse
seems absolute.

And in this early hour,
skin shivering in naked wonderment
I recall the porous line
marking the thread between the visible and invisible
as a remembered chorus,
reawakening my wild bird song
claiming a space with no uncertainty,
reckless in my yearning
move over, make room for me.

 

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Planting Seeds

What a joyous spring experience I had over the March break, thanks to the Terrace Public Library as well as to the Art Gallery, for inviting me to teach  a group of curious 9-11 year olds on how to make seed paper. Their enthusiasm for creative exploration as well as the atmosphere of  being surrounded by the vibrant paintings of Dawn Germyn throughout the afternoon left me as well ready to bust loose from any vestiges of winter darkness.paper seed 4

paper seed 5Seed Paper is a very clever project for kids to make as it uses simple ingredients and is a very satisfying process. Here is a quick recipe for your own enjoyment.

paper seed 3

 

 

1. Rip up paper into small pieces
2.Let soak in warm water for a couple of hours, maybe even overnight.
3.Blenderize making sure you have enough water so there is no strain on the motor of your blender.
4.Shape mixture – Put a spoonful of paper pulp mixture into the cookie cutter and use the spoon to push and move it to the sides. Sprinkle seeds onto cookie cutter and cover with additional pulp. Get it as even as you can. Make sure your shape isn’t too thin because when it dries it will get smaller, as well try not to make it too thick as it takes longer to break down, releasing the seeds into the ground.
paper seed 1paper seed 2

Happy Spring

Enjoy planting your seeds in whatever manner or realm of experience that brings you joy.

 

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A New Direction: Reading by Joyce Helwig

 

Joyce H 1Joyce H2
Joyce Helweg challenges us with her back cover blurb, ‘Have you ever dared to take a change in direction and do something you have never done before.’ This describes her first book, which tells of her wilderness trek with her husband.This series of short memoir pieces, describe with humour the 300 mile journey on horseback in north central B.C. ending at the Stikine River. Yet here’s the challenge, this 40 day trip is Joyce’s first experience with riding a horse.

Joyce shared these pieces against the backdrop of living on a 700 acre property, while working the hayfield, cattle and horses. She then turned us full circle to her present work.  With softened eyes, the down to earth, no nonsense gal opened her heart by revealing the unexpected and sudden death of her husband in 2014. Reeling with grief, Joyce set up a plan on how to survive the first year.  She went traveling, yet started a series of letters, talks she had wanted to share with her husband if she had more time. Even though she was busy, grief still arrived in unexpected ways. Joyce described waiting in a subway in England where there was a recent terrorist bombing. As her mind strayed to those passengers who innocently set off to start their day, not knowing how their lives would irrevocably change, she herself was assailed with emotion as though a bomb had exploded inside of her, leaving her overcome with the force of her loss.
This newest book in the form of letters is not only her personal work of healing, it is a roadmap to many of us on how to traverse such difficult passages. When life takes us on a complete change in direction, we are left with asking the questions, ‘What now, how do I respond now?’ I cannot help but think of a line from one of Shane Koyczan’s poems, ‘If your heart is broken, make art from the pieces.’ That is exactly what Joyce has offered to us with this next book.  Thank-you Joyce for such an inspiring example of how to be fully engaged with all of what life has to offer. You have shared a daring adventure, both by challenging your physical capacities as well as the unbridled reins of the heart.  It was a gift to hear you read.

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