Tuesday, September 27, 2016

High Five

People laugh when I invite them to a birthday party for my dog or when they hear I'm serving carrot cake with cream cheese icing so the dog can have a piece.
It's an excuse for a dinner party and really, why wouldn't we celebrate our dogs' birthdays like we celebrate our human birthdays? Most dogs are so much more deserving of the party!
So Abby is five years old today. In November, in eight weeks, we mark five years since she joined our family. A lot happens in five years -- a lot happens in one year -- so it's important to celebrate milestones and eat cake. 

Friday, September 23, 2016

Honk If You Like Being Busy

My life is like a gaggle of geese. Ever tried to herd geese? Ever tried to walk across a yard full of geese? It's chaos. It's loud and noisy and somewhat scary because the geese sort of look like they're going to charge you then they back off then they honk and holler and squawk.
All of sudden, they figure out you're not there to hurt them and they waddle off to find someone else to harass for forty seconds.
Geese are odd. I love them.
My life has taken an odd turn but I've never been more content.

All summer, I've been waffling about taking an online course at the Atlantic School of Theology, a foundations course, the starting point of -- whatever (but not a career in ministry, I know for sure). At the same time, I felt pressured to take a program that would license me as a lay worship leader but the schedule was inconvenient.
So there was this pressure, like a gaggle of geese coming at me across the yard, to do these courses just as I'm about to embark on fulfilling my life's dream of becoming a published book author.

Curiousity and a love of learning won out, however. I signed up for the AST course then promptly read the first 100 pages of the textbook.
Just last week, when I had accepted that, yes, I can do this course and no, it won't interfere with my writing, an email popped up in my inbox offering an online Licensed Lay Worship Leadership course.
Interesting. I want to be licensed because it's my calling to help rural communities but I resented the "this is the way we always do it" insistence on weekend retreats. So not being one to ignore signs or gift horses, I signed up for that LLWL course as well.
From zero to two online courses in less than a month! Seems extreme, perhaps, but this is my country reality: I haven't done much in the way of further education in part because I'm not keen on the travel involved (the other part was that I couldn't decide what I wanted to do). Can't very well say no to opportunities for self-directed schooling when they present themselves.
Even if they descend into my life like a gaggle of geese spying an intruder across the yard.

Crazy, you say. You ask if I really need these distractions just when I'm about to launch a book and set out on some kind of book tour (whatever that means for a first-time regional author)?
And my answer is...a shrug.
Online is the answer, actually. It's possible to do everything from my house.

And here is what I've remembered already in a week that added a grant application and a presentation to an Alzheimer support group into the usual mix of textbook reading and worship service planning: The greater my creative output, the greater my creative output.
As long as I make time for walking and yoga, I can juggle it all for the next three months.
Ever seen geese juggle? Perhaps I'll just still to forty seconds of honking and hollering and squawking whenever I feel overwhelmed.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Drawing Conclusions About Art (and Self)

As published in the Citizen-Record newspaper on Wednesday, September 21, 2016, by Sara Jewell.

Discovering a new way of looking at, and creating, landscape.

As summer slides into autumn, I’m bidding a reluctant farewell to 2016’s Summer of Art.
Long-time friends as well as my long-suffering husband are familiar with my love-hate relationship with painting: I want to do it but I’m terrible at it. So when I announced I’d signed up for twelve weeks of classes at the ArtQuarters studio in Pugwash, my husband looked at me like I’d dyed my hair purple. Having witnessed my painting meltdowns in the past, I suspect he thought I was wasting my money.
Those art classes were money well-spent and provided the bonus of supporting retired art teacher Louise Cloutier’s long-time dream of opening an art studio. Seriously, if Louise could teach art to high school students for thirty years, she could teach me for one summer.

What made the classes unique were Louise’s mini lessons in art history. By showing us how art has been created since humans first began drawing in cave walls, and providing examples of the works of masters like Rembrandt, Matisse and Picasso, we gained an appreciation for the evolution of technique.
If you’d known this, you wouldn’t have been surprised when you looked in the windows and spied us dipping lengths of white string into glue and laying them on thin squares of wood boards or ripping painted paper and gluing them to pieces of cardboard.
But I was surprised when I took that particular creation to church on Sunday to share my image of a person praying in a garden, depicted in ripped paper, and a member of the congregation joined our classes the next day. I never thought I’d inspire someone with my artwork.
This is the importance of lifelong learning, of saying “Yes” to new experiences. Not only do you learn a new skill, you also learn about yourself. You may say “I can’t draw” but Louise Cloutier is adamant anyone can create art because art isn’t limited to drawing or painting.

For me, that was the value of an entire summer creating art: Realizing I don’t have to paint in order to be creative. Even when the class in the dreaded landscape painting arrived and was, as expected, totally frustrating, I didn’t have a meltdown. I knew it was only one class so doing landscapes was not my only art experience.
In fact, it was very next week that actually reclaimed the dreaded landscape for me. Using Group of Seven paintings as inspiration, we created landscape collages using pieces of colourful material like men’s shirts and upholstery.
As I was gluing those scraps of fabric into a likeness of a Tom Thompon painting, I realized these classes were teaching me about more than art; they were teaching me about myself. Through this Summer of Art, I learned I am not a details person, preferring broad strokes to specific ones; and I like creating with my hands using texture and fabric, scissors and glue.
“We need to slow our looking in order to see,” Louise told us early on. Turns out, we also need to slow our looking in order to see ourselves, as well.

The Monday night class with our final projects. Louise Cloutier is on the left.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Book Cover Revealed

The release date is pushed back a bit, more like mid-October than end of September, but at least now you know it's real and it's coming soon to a bookstore near you. Nimbus, in Halifax, is the publisher and I'm so pleased to be one of their authors.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Short Days, Long Shadows

I love a good shadow photo and early morning offers up lovely long ones while I'm out walking the dog. It can be rather distracting, watching the dog's shadow stretching over to the yellow lines instead of watching the dog trotting along the shoulder of the road. We stopped alongside the sunflowers this morning to capture our eight o'clock shadows.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Immersed In Beauty

Even though the table is covered in pollen and Leonard is constantly inspecting then, it's wonderful to have sunflowers inside the house. It really does seem like there is sunshine in the dining room, the focal point of our home, even when the skies are cloudy. When the sun does shine through the windows, the sunflowers glow.
These are ones that keeled over outside in my husband's marvelous patch; seemed a shame to waste them even if they weren't "perfect". What is? There is more beauty and creativity in a flaw than in perfection.
I took several photos of Leonard inspecting the sunflowers and chose this one to post because it's how I feel today: I need to put my head down and get to work. I pissed around yesterday and accomplished very little, which had not been the day's original intention. But my pissiness is a combination of waiting for the Field Notes book to be published -- that distracting and utterly useless antsy anticipation -- and not having a defined, unequivocal deadline looming. I didn't even go into my badly-neglected gardens; I just pissed around. Which of course is what pisses me off at the end of the day.
There is always a new day, however, to start again and do better so this is today's "put your head down and work" image to get me back on track.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Like Clockwork

As always, the ospreys departed on Monday without saying goodbye.
After the massacre of 2015, we are grateful for the chance to see the season out, to know that this year's crop of babies survived and flew south on September 12 -- same day, every year.
Which is amazing considering there is always one baby who hangs around the nest (and now the perch), who seems reluctant to flying around the river with its siblings and parents, and this year, it seemed worse. There was one bird who hardly left the nest or the perch for any length of time and in fact, just last week, another bird brought in a fish for it.
How on earth can a young osprey learn to fend for itself on the long flight south -- to North Carolina or Texas or even South America -- if it's not fishing?
And yet this straggler was gone by evening on September 12 which is the day they always leave. Like clockwork. Like a dog knowing it's five o'clock and time for supper. How do they know? Why that day instead of the next or the day before?
I truly thought this bird might be the one who lingers too long, because it seemed so attached to its living space, yet there it was -- gone -- before sunset on Monday.
Perhaps this is the reality we aren't privy to: this young osprey won't make it, won't survive the migration, because it didn't learn to take care of itself. Maybe this is the way nature works, this is how the weak are weeded out. Only the strong, the confident and the powerful survive. Reminds me that until July 25, there was a third baby in the nest yet we have no idea how it disappeared. It's better, not knowing, not witnessing, not defending, not saving in vain.
I'm kinda glad we never know what happens to the babies born here every year.