Happy Place

grassy sunset gbSurprising to me, city girl, to have found so much to love outside of the city – pinkish sunset gbI go whenever I can, and am taken aback by the enormity of the quiet, the riotous colours and life teaming so softly – big sky sunsetSunset to dusk to deepest dark of night to sunrise again, and another day begins… bird spreads wings
geese fly past clouds
queen annes orange sunriseWeekly Photo Challenge – Happy Place

Seeking Boundaries

train travelI am newly arrived.
I have just come to this place after many travels, and will settle here.
A house has been given to me, or I have taken a house – I find myself in a house that seems like maybe it belonged to someone before me, but there it is, it is mine now.train sunsetThis house, this place is out on the edge of and yet part of a community – a school? A town? A hippie commune? A camp?
I am now part of this community in my little new / old house.
But I’m concerned about security.
There have been transgressions before – incidents have occurred in the past, violations of the perimeter have been known to happen.
Absolute securing of all boundaries is necessary.chapel ndbThere are the usual doors – front door, side door, back door. This is my first line of investigation. None of them are particularly sturdy. None of them inspire absolute confidence.
But there are also 2 doors at the bottom of the stairs that lead up to the second floor – a pair of wooden doors that seal the upstairs from any intruders that may make their way into the first floor.
One of these wooden doors doesn’t close properly – it won’t lock.
This is a concern. blue glow ndbUpstairs I am rooting around in things, cleaning the place, looking for tools, turning over the problem of the less than sturdy doors, the unlocked door in my mind.
Up on this second level there are piles of rich colourful fabrics scattered around on the floors.mandala 1 ndbmoving totem ndbSome movement underneath the fabric turns out to be 2 tiny translucent kittens. As if they are so young and so new and so tender, they aren’t quite actually there yet – they are mere outlines, and are otherwise see-through.
It wasn’t in the plan for this house, to take on cats, but hey, what the heck, the wee things need a place to live I figure, and I go back to fretting about the doors, the precedent of boundary breaches, how to create more security.
In no time the kittens are already becoming cats – one orange, one a sandy brown – no longer translucent, but taking more and more substance all the time.tiger leIt will be good to have these cats around.
Animals on the property is a good thing.
It occurs to me I should consult with the other people here in the community about how to fix the doors – surely someone does carpentry, a locksmith… There must be people I can ask about securing all entrances.
But I realize the problem in this new place, as in so many places I have been…
I don’t know who to trust.sunset lake trainWeekly Photo Challenge – Boundaries

Musing on Georgian Skies

On July 3, 2012, when I’d had my first little starter DSLR camera for about 3 weeks and barely knew how to turn it on, I took the bus up to Collingwood for the first time, went for an afternoon walk and happened upon this scene –the tempest #1The wind was blowing, a storm was on its way in, and I was thrilled by the blasts of wet air, almost sea-like, and the dramatic clouds everywhere.diagonal busy cloudI walked. I took pictures. I marvelled.
At the time all that was expected of the experience was a relaxing week up north on Georgian Bay – I had no idea this was the beginning of something.ducks under billowy cloudsBut now, just about 3 years later, and many dozens of trips north with that camera and several others later, I can say…
Something happened.
Something grew.
That spot, happened upon by chance on a first day out wandering, and the surrounding hills and paths and parks, became my wild sanctuary, my muse, my special spot.canadiana new w rflctr

rocky shore

point, low clouds

the house on the hill

dragon cloud

Weekly Photo Challenge – Muse

Broken Rock Face

cormorant island
Friday afternoons are sketching class – the best day of the week.
Each week we go to a different location, a park somewhere close by, in the ‘hood, and set up to draw whatever presents itself.
This week was the Scarborough Bluffs.
tree leaning down cliff side
Such an amazing place – I’d never been this far east and south before, and wow, what a fascinating, strange place, almost like being at the ocean with the strong winds, the sound of waves on the beach, the gulls and kingfishers diving for fish –
A place to come back to when the sun is low on the horizon and the skies glow orange and magenta.
But it was interesting too how harsh and desolate the cliff faces looked in the bright afternoon light, the ravages of time and water on the shapes of the rocks –
overhang full size
edge, gull, treetop
My drawing companions tease me that no matter what I draw – a rock, a tree, an animal – it ends up looking vaguely like the human figure.
A drawing of a cliff face also seems to hold a variety of human faces, snouts and orifices –
hoodoos drawing
Another rock drawing suggest reclining figures, hairy crevices and the folds of flesh –
rock fountain drawing
A drawing of tree hints at perhaps a headless torso, arms, a belly-button –
tree torso drawing
Another tree could be an underarm, or a knee –
tree branch drawing
That is my hand, my mark, apparently.
Out in the sun and wind, facing these cliffs, blown away by the sheer force of the place, it’s hard to even put pencil to paper, the desire to simply soak in the splendour of the day is so overpowering.
Yes, this too is Toronto…
cliff lake vistaWeekly Photo Challenge – Broken

Enveloped in dandelions, enveloped in trees

curve of stairs, dandelionsThere’s a path up to a kind of open-air theatre I don’t often take. Somewhere over the months it has transformed into a dandelion sanctuary, a place for the entertaining of masses of dandelions.dandelion foregrounddandelion staricaseUp and around the corner, looking deep into the ravine, everything is lush, every last tree and bush has become green – wide of ravineAnd amongst the branches the drama of living, of survival, of hunting and feeding and resting rages on – hawk on branchraccoon in tree holeAt the pond, a small mysterious standoff unfolds –
goose on one legA lover’s quarrel, perhaps…
goose on top of treeWeekly Photo Challenge – Enveloped

Force of nature in the ‘hood

orange moon over bungalowsThe other night was a full moon.
I hopped on my bike, heading east on side streets I haven’t explored yet, past, along and through streets I’ve only heard about in the news – gangs, a shooting, a funeral.
I ended up looking over some kind of park at the back of a community centre. A neighbourhood of tall apartment buildings and bungalows. Tons of kids still out playing, even in the dark. Funny thing, how the most notorious neighbourhoods of the city are also raising the most children.pharmacy aptsSitting on a bench, listening to the kids and watching the moon, I thought of Em in France, wondered if she was looking at this very moon over there, walking her dog in the evening.
I love this about the moon, it makes me feel how small we are on a spinning planet, all looking out at the same moon.moon over pharmacyEm tells me she was indeed out seeing that very same full moon, and sends a picture of a glorious, blooming rose.
Here the roses are maybe a month away and everyone is still licking their wounds from the long brutal winter – it’s fierce frigid temperatures and endless quantities of snow, as if somehow it’s responsible for the state of the economy, tension in marriages, the deteriorating health of aging parents, aside from the devastation to any number of tender plants in gardens.
The sudden spring is still a shock of disbelief.pink blossomsclouds over smokestackwispy cloudsEach morning I’m on the patio doing sunrise ceremony, grateful for the new day and hot coffee, delighting in the variations in the clouds, watching them move from wispy vertebrae to fingers of god, hinting at summer storms to come.finger of god over smokestackfinger of god, double smokestackEven here in the crummy, notorious neighbourhoods, the skies reveal their splendour every day, and up amongst the clouds, geese and ducks pass, looking for places to settle in for the season, seagulls hurry by in singles – this one heading south, that one heading north, another crossing by east to west. Like business men they seem, rushing about with self-important determination.seagull in cloudsFrom France Em reminds me: Each fleeting moment is real and true.
tiny seagull in big finger of god skyAnd it occurs to me that even weeds have their own kind of beauty.dandelion gloryWeekly Photo Challenge – Forces of Nature

Intricate worlds

The sun is already well above the horizon, but I go on down anyway.
It’s a tiny paradise of riotous sound down here, a cacophony of birds – funny to think we associate being in nature with quiet, when it can be so very noisy.
A red-winged blackbird flies straight at me as if to say, Hello! Where have you been? It’s been a few days, and you’ve missed all kinds of things – the buds are all over the trees, the geese have taken over the duck ponds, and they fight with the muskrat who’s always after their eggs, and the turtles are back, and so much is going on… what happened to you?red-winged blackbird speaksThe push-pull – some days I think, really I don’t need any more half-assed nature photos, so I skip it, stay home and do yoga.
Other days I head out, starting with a kind of fast walk exercise intention, and then inevitably there’s an image – a flicker of light in the trees, the grasses, the movement of a bird, an animal, and I pull my camera out of my bag and I’m in, disappearing for hours into this world.willow treeBut although I love taking pictures, I know that for me the camera is really more of a pretext to hang out here.
A raccoon lumbers up a tree and I watch his slow lazy movements, camera idle over my shoulder.
A hawk circles above, a spiral climbing higher and higher on unseen currents.
Yellow finches dot the tops of trees, the red-winged blackbirds chase each other through shrubs and grasses, the ducks appear suddenly from the sky in a chaos of clumsy squawking and crashing down into the water.
I watch. I listen.tiny bird atop old treeA tiny bird sits atop an old dead tree. Minutes pass. The bird looks around, curious, assessing, no hurry.
There’s a quiet shifting sound as another turtle comes onto the rock and the first turtle makes room for him.
3 turtles on rocksI think about this lack of urgency. The rhythm of birds and animals at rest and their freedom without the pressures of money and traffic and jobs and social mores and the feeling that all us humans have been sucked into some grinding soulless machinery that is modern society. I remember that amazing, devastating article by George Monbiot

In a society bombarded by advertising and driven by the growth imperative, pleasure is reduced to hedonism and hedonism is reduced to consumption. We use consumption as a cure for boredom, to fill the void that an affectless, grasping, atomised culture creates, to brighten the grey world we have created…
Working hours rise, wages stagnate or fall, tasks become duller, more stressful and harder to fulfill, emails and texts and endless demands clatter inside our heads, shutting down the ability to think, corners are cut, services deteriorate, housing becomes almost impossible to afford, there’s ever less money for essential public services. What and whom is this growth for?

Yes, exactly.
Why do we feel the need to live our lives as if at war with our very selves?
When was it decided that joy was something we have to quash as children so we can be obedient enough to work at a job we hate and subscribe to some ThankGodItsFriday existence and care about celebrities we’ll never meet?
For whom, exactly, are we doing this?
The sun is getting higher.
Here and there I take a photo – a tree, a duck, a nesting goose.goose nestingThe ducks and geese meander about the pond, delighting in sensation, joy palpable as they douse themselves, ducking under again and again, bathing, covering themselves in water.goose face abstract waterThe light dances in the bubbling creek, but in the viewfinder I feel like I’m looking at pixels, looking at 1’s and 0’s and it separates me from this place, and I go back to just watching and listening… creek through tree trunksAnd then I feel it begin, the moment when the light, the air, some magic comes over me like a lover’s gust from behind and I suddenly feel it – lift off.
Lift off is my word for it, but it’s a sensation that comes like a rain shower – not so much over my body as some inner spirit thing where I feel like the “I”, the “me” disappears, my brain finally shuts up and I am no longer a person per se, I am just alive, breathing, experiencing this world.
It is bliss.
I wonder if it’s why some people meditate.
I wonder if it’s what runners feel during runners high.
It is a feeling of such freedom – so far far away from Monbiot’s grasping atomised culture, it is the place where time disappears.
It’s the reason I come here.
pathway turnsWeekly Photo Challenge – Intricate

Change in motion

vic park bridge sunriseLately I’ve been thinking a lot about change.

It’s something I think about even when I’m out messin around with my camera – I have a new camera, it’s a delight, but I’m still learning all of it’s functions, all the little buttons and buried menus and options, all that fancy digital stuff.

So it’s a change.

mist on pondAnd I’ll be out trying something old or trying something new, and it doesn’t always work out, but it makes me think. And one of the things I think is about is that strange human thing where we resist change, even when it’s for the good, how we tend to always seek the familiar, the known, and want to stay there, because we don’t know what it’s gonna be like on the other side, even if we know we want to need to change, want to need to go in a new direction to a new place.

For example, say you want to lose 30 lbs, and so you know you need to eat less and exercise more, but in a kind of frenzied fit of self-sabotage, you start to eat more and move your body even less, as if some part of you is digging in its heels like a toddler saying, NO. No way. Not doing that.

And you get stuck in this tense place of resistance.

I’ve been feeling this lately, a kind of vague angst that I suspect may actually be a good sign, that I’m on the verge of some kind of movement, some shift. Because I’ve been looking for, pushing for changes that need to happen in my life, and it isn’t comfortable, what I’m feeling these days, it feels like pressure –


Resistance is a natural biological function that shows up when our status quo is threatened.
Change affects us. As we begin to do things differently, we ourselves change. We can’t help but become different people as the activities that we participate in, the habits that pervade our lives shape us, re-shape us.
Clearly we all have fears…that keep our Current Ways of Being Intact.
And: even though we want to be living differently, we secretly hope that WE won’t have to change to get there.
We all have our own ways of preventing the death of a self: who we take ourselves to be. Right here. Now.
~ Joanne Hunt

bird in bullrushesIn the park, early in the morning, I was thinking about this. There was a bird in the stalks of the bullrushes. I wanted to get a picture of him. In my head was a photo I took with my old camera – if only I could do something kinda like that but with this camera with more pixels and just the right light in the bullrushes, then for sure it’d be the bomb…
bird hanging on w colorBut birds in motion are always a challenge, and at the same time I was trying to figure out the back button manual focus gizmo on the camera, and it only seemed to activate when you moved the focus ring, and would slip back out to autofocus if you lifted your thumb from it, and meanwhile the bird was moving around between the stalks and I kept losing track of him. Tricky stuff. I may have cursed. I hated and loved the new camera. And I was almost about to get the whole thing coming together when the bird flew away.bird leaving rushes newAfter standing sadly for a moment, waiting in vain for the bird to come back, I realized of course it was okay. What was really happening in that moment was about Practice. To change means to anticipate the resistance, and to lean into the resistance is to practice. Learning the new camera is practice, in the same way learning a new way of being is not a one shot overnight thing, it happens within practice.

Expect the resistance. Anticipate the resistance.

And practice.
sun in tree
Weekly Photo Challenge – Motion

Planetary Ephemera

Just before the corner at Yonge and Eglinton, I look up.
There, between the towering office and condo buildings, at this quintessential Toronto corner, I see a handful of planets.
Big. Close. Coloured like Easter eggs.
A couple of them are stripy and one has big gold stars on it like when you were a kid and got a gold star sticker from the teacher.
In a flash, I remember, Oh oh oh! Sergio taught us to make a wish, to ask the dream for what we want whenever we see gold or silver!
What do I want?
This is it, this is it, what do I really really really want….?
Whatever that means, whatever form it takes, just simply, abundance.
And I ask the gold stars on the easter egg planets in the sky at Yonge & Eglinton for abundance.
photoThe weekend is filled with friends and laughter, and by Sunday morning I make it to dance class for the first time in months and there by the door as we’re pulling on our socks, the conversation turns to an old film I cut, and these amazing ladies oooh and aaahh about how much they love that film, and what a good job, what a great film, and suddenly I realize, it occurs to me that I love my life. I love my friends, I love my work, where it has taken me, how it has touched lives. I love these people I know, people I meet in passing, the friends and teachers and talents and characters and stories and places I have known along the way.
And it doesn’t stop there. No, that’s just the beginning. Next there is an acceptance into a photo show, an invitation to join an online writing course with an amazing teacher, Em’s delightful taunting temptations to cross the big pond, and then, so exquisitely random, a super-talented musician in Australia lands upon a drawing of a lion I did and wants to use it to accompany his beautiful song about his daughter –

In whatever form it takes…
It sure as heck feels like abundance…
Beaming with gratitude…
photoThese were done with the Skyview app
Weekly Photo Challenge – Ephemeral

Ephemeral Flight

clouds tiny bird going up cool ice fxThe swallows series is currently floating somewhere out here in a blown out bluish world of towering clouds and little detail.
After much time spent experimenting with photoshop and printing, walking the aisles of art shows and talking to other artists, the cool abstract mostly-white field as an indicator of flight is beginning to appeal.
Shots that, in earlier incarnations were grainy black and white images –
clouds tiny birds b&w square grainyHave become somewhat amorphous hints at sky / clouds / bird.clouds tiny birds w cool ice fxEven the shots of endless sky and cloud, rich in black and white contrast – cloud edge of mountain slvrfxHave become airy, ephemeral, feathery blue images –
cloud edge of mountain as blueI’m starting to get itchy to get out and see some of that sky for myself…
Yay spring!
Weekly Photo Challenge – Ephemeral

Flight Rewards

IMG_0597The door to my studio is always open, so people will stop in and make remarks – the reward of leaving the door open…
Yesterday it was one of my neighbours commenting on the photo of the bird in flight, blown up onto a canvas.
“Is that a marlin?”, he asked.
A man who knows his birds.
It is, in fact, a swallow, but we got to talking about birds and their behaviours – he’d done some time trapping and tagging marlins, and I’d spent lots of time photographing these swallows –swallow square right tiltSo I was telling him about how the swallows would come out and dart around in the sky, flipping and flitting around in arcs and circles.
This one day in particular there were so many of them out in the sky – a jubilant party – I’d taken hundreds of photographs.
“Eating bugs?”, he suggested – the most likely reason for swallows to be out and around – feeding.swallow square rightYou would think, I agreed, a distinct possibility.
But the things is, the winds were so high, a storm creeping in slowly from the west, the blasts of air bringing the clouds closer and closer so intense, that it actually wasn’t a buggy moment at all. All bugs had been swept away, so the birds were just out, riding the waves of wind, purely for pleasure, for play, sometimes even flying upside down – swallow square upside downPeople often ask me if this photo is the wrong way round, cause the shape of the bird appears to be belly-up, but that is what the bird was doing, circling around on gusts of air.
Similarly, I could see my marlin-tracking neighbour was skeptical that the birds would be out in numbers without a purpose, without clear, obvious reward.square b&w silhouette bird left slvrfxBut, seriously? Flying for pleasure?
Isn’t that reward enough?
I mean, look at this world they live in –
swallow square tiny in big cloudsIf you could fly way way up into the clouds, for the sheer joy of feeling the air beneath your wings, and the view as you soar up into the clouds…square towering clouds tiny bird
cloud channel slvrfx
cloud hill slvrfx
cloud edge of mountain slvrfxWouldn’t that be reward enough?cloud tower tiniest bird slvrfxWeekly Photo Challenge – Reward
More photos here.

Thirds of Snow

snow drift square mdnt clrfxIt is nighttime. Dark.
I am crossing a bridge.
The wind blows the snow – a ferocity of stinging, blinding blizzard everywhere.
I can barely see.
It is so strong this wind, I begin to lift up into the air – just the tips of feet at first, the wind strengthens and howls, lifting me higher and higher into its violent whims.
I am in danger of getting blown right off this bridge.snow square mdnt colorfxI can see the lights of cars in the darkness, also trying to cross the bridge in the storm.
I hope they know I can’t control what is happening here.
I may blow into them.
They may even blow into me.
Nothing is guaranteed.
Nothing is under control.
snow strata shapes colorfxIt is the weather presumably – this deep winter we’re getting here, which has provoked the dream.
The other day I stood at the edges of Georgian Bay, on a field of wind-blown ice, not knowing for sure how far off the coast I had wandered, but somewhere out beyond the edge of shore into what was shapes of frozen waves over the open water.
Standing still, after the crunch of feet on snow, the silence was deafening.
Then, deep treacherous groans. Cracks. Thunders.
The water moving, pulsing, pushing underneath the ice.
georgian bay north ice fieldBut today – that image of a bridge in the dream…
Transitions, I think. The obvious metaphor.
The sensation of a dangerous period of change.
That stretch of darkness when you can’t see the other side, and have no idea if you’re going to make it.
But I’m surprised a bit, as most days I feel the calmness of a cat who knows she’s got nine lives…cats in barn door colorfxWeekly Photo Challenge – Rule of Thirds


IMG_0598There was a mess.
The mess needed space.
A place to make mess.
A place to put messy things all over the floors and the walls and any surface I can reach stretching on tippy-toes on top of the chair.
IMG_0595All my socks are covered in paint and glue and fragments of unknown ancient dirt, remnants of previous tenants.
IMG_0587Some angles look deceptively tidy, but people stop at the doorway and say “Hi!” without coming in because the mess is wall to wall.
IMG_0597Some corners have recent experiments – here drawing a wolf large on synthetic, tree-free paper, a gliding delicious sensation.
2015/01/img_0596.jpgOther walls have the well-established themes…the Cats.
At a drawing group earlier in the week, someone said, “Animals are really your thing, huh?”.
And although I hadn’t noticed it happening – it snuck up on me through dreams and metaphors and the occasional crossing of paths – it appears to be true.
IMG_0590Weekly Photo Challenge – Express Yourself