Let Go of Fear

Shimputai of anthurium and plum blossoms

Shoka shimputai of anthurium and plum blossoms

My last post entitled Fear generated a fairly lively dialogue, which I thoroughly enjoyed even though, in the end, there was no resolution. Five people favored the juxtaposition of heart and mind while five other readers preferred art and mind. One person remained neutral leaving me with the final decision, therefore, here goes the final version:

fear of failure
paralyses art and mind
o, to be whole again

However, there comes a time when one must let go of fear, and I though I would let one of my friends, Carrie Dayshare her feelings with us on this matter.

The best I can say right now is that I am still working at it.Writing remains a pain, but fortunately, teaching ikebana keeps me in the loop. Both Brenda and I are enjoying our classes, and to see what we are up to these, just visit us at the EJCA Ikebana Club where you will see the work of our students posted after every lesson. Just as I am committed to Harmonia, our church choir at WestwoodI also enjoy creating flower arrangements for our Sunday services such as the one posted at the top of this page, and the two found below. I hope you can enjoy them as well.

Thanks for visiting.

Where have you been?


Ozias Leduc: Le Jeune étudiant, 1894

In short, all over the map, literally and figuratively. After our November concert with the Edmonton Metro Chorus Brenda and I took a short winter break in Mexico, spending two weeks at the Mayan Palace on the Riviera Maya, half way between Cancun and the Playa Del Carmen. In spite of neigbouring resorts on the Riviera, the place felt fairly isolated; even within the compound one takes public transportation to get from one area to another, including the beach and the pools. What fascinated me was the fact that the property was carved out of a tropical mangrove forest. The place has kilometers of boardwalk meant to keep you dry, but on a rainy day in the tropics you ended up shin high in water pools flooding the walkway. I’ll come back to the Riviera in a bit.

I also spent a lot of time in my head or buried deep in books, reading both fiction and non-fiction where at times it was hard to tell one from the other. The reading does explain the illustration above. The Ozias Leduc painting seems to carry with it two different titles, Le Jeune étudiant used in the caption above, but it is also often referred to as Le Jeune lecteur which happens to be the title that has always stuck in my mind. So yes, I have over the last few months done a lot of reading. But I have also been doing some studying which could also justify the use of that image. I do believe in the adage that one is never too old to learn and, therefore, I have started Japanese classes with the ultimate goal of speaking, reading and writing the language. A very ambitious project indeed, but why not, I’m still alive and well, all should be possible.

Believe it or not, I started this post a month ago promising to return to the Riviera in a bit. It obviously didn’t happen and here I am less than 24 hours from my next trip to Florida and the Caribbean. Silly me. I guess that upon my return I will have to adopt some new writing strategies, perhaps give serious consideration to the 10 minutes a day approach. What I had meant to say about the Riviera was that we had a great time there, enjoying the beach, playing golf a couple of times a week on a wonderful and difficult Jack Nicklaus design, admiring nature and the local wildlife such as coatis, iguanas, and ibis.




It felt like Spring!


Really, it did. We had gorgeous weather in Edmonton today. While our distant neighbours living along the American East Coast were hoping to dig themselves out of a couple of feet of snow dumped on them by a blizzard named Jonas, in Edmonton, which some people consider to be part of the big white North, we enjoyed a balmy 1 degree Celsius. The snow was melting, and had we been children we would have enjoyed playing in the puddles found on most sidewalks.

Balmy, of course, is a relative term, but considering that on January 24th the normal temperature would range from a low of -20 C to a high of -10 C, plus 1 C does feel balmy. Now, to put this in perspective, we will add that the record low for this day reached -43 C in 1920; the record high came in at 8 C in 1892. Yes, balmy sounds right in context.

Brenda and I went out urban poling, that is walking with poles, getting better exercise as one gets to use 90% of the big muscles walking that way. We took our usual route which takes us along the path that runs above the river alley. We couldn’t just yet take the time to smell the flowers, but we did enjoy a leisurely pace, stopping long enough to enjoy a squirrel running up and down trees, jumping from one to another. Long enough to do a bit of birding. The chickadees wouldn’t stay put long enough for a picture, but with patience and skill, Brenda was able to get a decent portrait of the Pine Siskin featured above.

Tomorrow is unlikely to be as nice, but, as the poet would say, Carpe Diem.





If we were having tea or coffee right now…



If we were having a cup of tea or coffee right now… just like we do on Fridays at Gracious Goods CafeI would be telling you, but wait, I got this all wrong, at this time of day, or night for that matter, it would be a glass of red wine, but lets pretend.

If we were having a cup of tea or coffee right now… I would be telling you all about last night’s concert. As most of you know, I have long enjoyed choral singing and I sing with Harmonia as well as Edmonton Metro Chorus. We performed twelve songs, either arranged or composed by Trent Worthington, whose music is quite clever, as well as often amazingly humourous, which is the case of the Three Cowboy Songs from the beginning of our program. My personal favorites were the three Canadian folk songs: Un canadien errant, Huron Carol and the Log Driver’s WaltzUn canadien errant is a song that always has an emotional impact and at times move people to tears. It tells the story of a Canadian exiled from his homeland, who roams, weeping, through foreign lands. Although a folkloric song, it might be at the same time quite relevant when we think of today’s Syrian refugees in search of a new home. To hear the song, just go to a previous post entitled Come Sing a Song with Me. What made this song even more special this time is that it had a totally new sound when accompanied by a throat singing duo of two Inuit women, Jenna Broomfield and Malaya Bishop, known as the Sila Singers. Later, when I have access to our recording of the evening, I will attempt to re-post that song. If I had access to the said recording I would also share Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah as arranged by Trent but that too will have to wait.

If we were having a cup of tea or coffee right now… I would have to admit that I have been blabbering long enough without passing our talking stick around. Perhaps, I shall give you a break and allow you to listen to members of the University of North Texas College of Music performing Trent Worthington’s Three Cowboy Songs.


If we were having a cup of tea or coffee right now… I would mentioned that we also did two of the Beatles’ songs, Michelle and Drive My Car, both penned by Lennon and McCartney. The Beatles might not be everyone’s cup of tea (pun intended) but, they have long been popular with members of the Edmonton Metro Chorus. A couple of years ago we had a cabaret concert entirely devoted to the Beatles, and beyond the formal programming, we had small groups and individuals performing their own Beatles favorites. The audience was invited to sing along for a number of pieces and did so with joyful enthusiasm. Did you know that in Canada we knew about the Beatles more than a year before they appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, in 1964, which created a scandal in America, perhaps equal to the reaction to Elvis Presley’s gyration on the same show a decade earlier. From February 1963 to the end of 1964, more than a million copies of the Beatles’ records were produced by RCA Victor in Smith Falls, Ontario. Wow! what can’t we learn over a cup of tea or coffee.


“Dance Me To The End Of Love”

When writing, either a blog post or poetry, I often use some form of free association and follow the thread till I reach the story in the labyrinth of my mind. There are always prompts and clues along the way. In my last post I started with Carolyn McDade‘s Come, Sing a Song with Me, which led me to expand on the choral work I am involved with at this time. The song going through my head at that moment was Un canadien errant and I posted a video of Ian and Sylvia Tyson’s rendering of the famous exile song. My colleague Soso of Un pied ici, un pied là-bas, having listened to the Tyson’s version then followed the thread on YouTube, and came upon Leonard Cohen’s interpretation of the same song. Cohen is one of her favorite artists of all time so I was delighted to share with her that at  The Edmonton Metro Chorus we will be performing Cohen’s famous Hallelujah in our November concert.

Soso had attended Cohen’s concert at the Olympia in Paris during his world tour of 2012-2013 and has only fond memories of what she sees as a once in a lifetime experience. Following up on this rave review, I got hold of Leonard Cohen Live in Dublin recorded on September 12, 2013, and promptly watched the 3.5 hours video, 30 songs live, absolutely moving. The audience was captivated, on the edge of their seats, totaly engaged in this man’s sublime performance, delivered with grace and without pretence. This somehow felt like a farewell concert, and it probably was if one considers that the artist was 79 at the time of this recording. Much could be said about many of the songs offered that night, however, I have settled on one, and only one, and the reason will clearly appear in a moment.

Dance Me To The End Of Love was the first song of the evening and immediately struck a chord. The song was first performed in 1984 on the album entitled Various Positions. In 1995, Stewart, Tabori & Chang published Leonard Cohen’s poem with reproductions of Henri Matisse paintings, the third book in a series entitled Art and Poetry. I have long been interested in the relationship between literature and the visual arts and had made it one of my academic specialties. I also always had a penchant for the work of Henri Matisse and was attracted to the boldness and sensuality of his nudes, I found his work to be an inspiration to me. I had not known of this particular publication until Brenda, my wife and best friend, offered it to me in 1996, with the following inscription: After 10 years you still “Dance Me to the End of Love”. We have since danced our way to the Okanagan then, with à pied-à-terre in Switzerland we danced all over Europe for 4 years, after which we danced our way to Malawi for one year before returning to Canada. Come next March, we will be dancing into our 30th anniversary. And beyond…

I would like to leave you with a poem of my own, largely inspired by Leonard Cohen so, thank you Mr. Cohen for lending me some of your words, and most importantly, your spirit. Thanks also to Mr. Ric Masten for the one line from his hymn Let it be a dance, it just kept creeping in. So be it.

You danced me to your side
with burning desires
You danced me to places
near and far

You danced me to your heart
over land and water too

And when I danced near
the edge of time
You danced me “tenderly”
back into your arms

You danced me “through the good times
and the bad times, too”
You danced me “on and on”
You danced me “very long”

Yes, do “dance me to the end of love”

Dance me

“Come Sing a Song with Me”

This engaging song by Carolyn McDade came to mind this morning and I couldn’t resist the invitation. Come sing a song with me, come sing a song with me, that I might know your mind. And the chorus goes on: And I’ll bring you hope when hope is hard to find, and I’ll bring a song of love and a rose in the winter time. But why today, on a rainy day, why this morning? I just woke up with my head full of music following last night’s first rehearsal of The Edmonton Metropolitan Chorus for the 2015-2016 season. And what a season it will be, with The Wizardry of Worthington coming this November, Mozart’s Requiem in February at the Winspear Centre, and at Carnegie Hall in March, and finally in May, a concert entitled Our Home and Native Land.

No, we will not be singing Carolyn’s song, but singing last night gave me hope, and singing in itself was  “a song of love”. Since my retirement, just about 20 years ago now, singing, like flower arranging, has become an important part of my life. After moving to Kelowna, I immediately joined the Okanagan University College Choir under the direction of Leroy Wiens. The choir has a long history and and was renamed Kelowna Community Chorus. Since returning to Edmonton a couple of years ago I have joined both Harmonia and  the Edmonton Metro Chorus. All was well until a number of consecutive lengthy colds left me voiceless and a full year without singing. I was sad, of course, and hopeless until I started working with David Wilson who taught me how to breathe again. If you want to sing, you need to breathe, what a surprise! Anyway, the long and the short of it is that it is working and I can sing again. The first test was this summer at the Singspiration week long camp and concert, then rejoining Harmonia last Tuesday, and again last night when David Garber led us through a first reading of The Wizardry of Worthington. Rejoice, rejoice.

The first song that came to mind this morning was Un canadien errant d’Antoine Gérin Lajoie, who wrote the poem in 1842, at age 18, setting it to a folklore tune of his days. I was singing the song last night and this morning again and just loved it, but I won’t abuse your kindness, instead I offer you Ian and Sylvia Tyson‘s rendering.

Urban Gardens


Last Friday, the very same day I wrote my Welcome to the Infinity Dream Award, Brenda and I decided to go out for an “healthy” walk, but before we reached the front door we had already planned an itinerary toward the Duchess Bakery for our first indulgence of the day: a pain au chocolat. On the way there we ran into some irresistible gardens, such as the one featured above, and Brenda started to document them on her phone. That little sign at the far right corner was the “déclencheur” and led to a series of pictures of our excursion.

On the way to Duchess, as well as on the way back home, we entered a couple of art galleries. First stop was the Bearclaw Galleryto have a look at some of  Aaron Paquette paintings. We have long admired his work and would be honoured to feature his work in our artist of the month program at Westwood Unitarian Congregation. After our coffee break we made a stop at The Daffodil Gallery, where I personally discovered the “inspirational art” of  Veronica Funk and  am excited we will be featuring one of her pieces at Westwood in November. More about these artists in future posts. Now back to our neighbourhood urban gardens.

Welcome to The Infinity Dream Award

dream award

I have been nominated to The Infinity Dream Award by Soso, a French blogger I have followed and appreciated for quite a while now. In Un pied ici, un pied là-bas she writes mostly about her extensive travels, but just as importantly, she also introduces us to some of Paris’ little gems, Paris being her home at this time. The award comes with some rules, and as I am not terribly fond of rules I would normally have given the invitation a pass; however, as I dislike passing on a challenge just as much, I will play the game. For it is just a game, not unlike the very well known Questionnaire de Proust  which is often played and quoted to this day. Is this revealing of one’s personality, most likely, but as they would say in French, le jeu en vaut la chandelle.

Now, here are the rules of the game as they were passed on to me. The commentaries are of course mine.

  1. Thank and follow the blog that nominated you. (If you so wish!)
  2. Tell us 11 facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the questions that were set for you.
  4. Nominate 11 bloggers and set 11 questions for them, then go to their blog and notify them.

As I am not familiar with numerology, I have no idea why the number 11 is repeated here, however, a quick look in google raised a number of interesting possibilities:

  • “If you continually see the numbers 11, 111, or 1111, there’s a reason. The most common way that angels communicate with humans is through the universal languages of numbers and music.”
  • “A Master Number, the 11 is the most intuitive of all numbers. It is instinctual, charismatic, dynamic and capable when its sights are set on a concrete goal. The 11 is the number associated with faith and psychics.”
  • “Some claim seeing the number 11:11 means you are a member of a special group, perhaps of spiritual light workers.”

Enough said, it is time for me to reveal 11 facts about myself:

  1. I am gladly retired and thoroughly enjoy the freedom to live mostly as I please.
  2. I enjoy playing golf, practicing, however, is an entirely different story. My handicap is a highly secretive affair.
  3. I love writing but lack the discipline necessary to be at work everyday.
  4. I love blogging but can be days, weeks, and at time months without a word
  5. I practice and teach Japanese flower arranging and delight in the use of negative space.
  6. I am an avid reader and have a weakness for a good mystery or suspense novel.
  7. On T.V. I enjoy Masterpiece Theater. Lately we have been watching Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries, an excellent Australian series available on Netflix.
  8. I can never pass on a movie that has Paris in its title or settings.
  9. Between my wife and I, we have 7 children and 14 grandchildren.
  10. When traveling I greatly enjoy unexpected discoveries and utterly dislike going down the street guidebook in hand. That being said, we have had some delightful moments from guidebook recommendations as well as with tour guides.
  11. I am not always the ideal travel companion.

We are not quite out of the bushes just yet. You might think that I have confessed quite enough,  but I still have to answer those questions provided by Soso, therefore here we go.

  1. How do you start your Sunday morning? I would love to say with coffee in bed but that would be a lie, furthermore, I don’t even drink coffee. I know, I know, some would consider that a sin. I do enoy a great cup of tea.  Truth be told, no two Sundays are alike. I will go to church when I am attracted to the topic offered, or for sure when the choir is singing as I am part of it. Such a lovely baritone voice… (;-).  The service is usually followed by brunch with friends. But there are times when Sunday is a golf day. One can always meditate on the green.
  2. What’s your favorite reading(s) of the last six months? I have read lots of mysteries by authors like Louise Penny, Donna Leon, and Val McDermid. Of late, I have been somewhat into soul searching, trying to balance who I am with where I’m at. Big words I know. Two authors have pushed me in that direction. The first one is Richard Wagameseand I have to admit I was hooked as soon as I had read Ragged Company (see Richard’s page for details on his books). This was certainly a tough read, but there is no way one can put that book down. One might not identify with any of his characters, but one can’t help but feel for them while questioning oneself. Powerful book, we all have a story, we are the story, I have learned that much from that book as well as from Keeper’n Me, and For Joshua, both by the same author. The second author I mentioned is Cathryn Wellner, and her book Feisty Aging has encouraged me to review my own aging and compare it to the many characters portrayed in her book, a very valuable exercise.
  3. What’s the kind of attitude you hate the most when travelling in public transportation? The lack of consideration given others by certain passengers who will push people around, take seats reserved for those in need, speak loudly etc.
  4. Who changes the toilet paper roll at home? Whoever needs paper at the time.
  5. How many (really) good friends do you have around? (be honest!) As you might expect, they are not legions. After reading Feisty Aging I did give the subject some consideration. When I was in boarding school, for 5 years of my life, I had one good friend. In graduate school, one good friend again. During my teaching career, one good friend. Today, in retirement, half a dozen good friends. I’m still working on this.
  6. Your best treat ever? A year in Malawi. Great safaris and a weekend at Pumulani Lodge, at the time, and perhaps to this day, one of the best resorts one could wish for. Keep dreaming…
  7. What’s your favorite quotation? That changes every day. Today I will quote Richard Wagamese: “As parents and teachers we need to tell our children this — that you can never be less than you were created to be. You never have to qualify. You never have to prove yourself. You just need to be.” 
  8. If you could relocate right now, which would be the city or country of your choice? I would like somewhere warmer, safe and affordable. Any suggestions?
  9. “I quit my job” or “I fired my boss… Which personality are you? Tough one. Over the years I banged lots of doors behind me. In the end, I chose early retirement.
  10. What could make you want to stop blogging? Nothing really. I only have 68 followers, including myself (I don’t know how I managed that one), but truly, I would do it just for me, as a personal journal. But who am I kidding? The more the merrier.
  11. Oops! There were only ten questions.

My questions for the people I am nominating:

  1. What is the most interesting place you have ever lived in or visited?
  2. In that same vein, which is the most challenging place?
  3. Who or what inspires you?
  4. What does a good day look like to you?
  5. If cost and travel time were not an issue, where would you want to spend a weekend?
  6. What would you plant in a garden of your dreams?
  7. What inspirational quote speaks to you today?
  8. Tell us about a random act of kindness you have given or received.
  9. What is your favorite indulgence?
  10. What authors would currently be on your top 3 to 10 list?
  11. What are you grateful for today?

And my award nominees are:

Joe Fafard sculpture in front of Udell Gallery.

Sculpture in front of Udell Gallery, Edmonton AB.

Demonstration at Animethon


Floral interpretation of fireworks.

The Summer holidays have come and gone and we had an enjoyable time travelling to Creston, British Columbia, to visit with family and friends. We had our granddaughter Ella along for the ride as part of her 11th birthday celebration which is an event often carried over a couple of weeks. At times, some family birthdays were celebrated over a whole month, just ask our grandson Mylan. Enough digression.

I had hoped to write earlier about our flower arrangements, but weeks went by without any being done. We were to attend an ikebana workshop in Saskatoon at the end of July, unfortunately, the event was cancelled at the last minute. Not to despair, we had been invited to do a demonstration during Animethon 22 which took place this past weekend. During this festival, thousands of young people come to Edmonton to celebrate the popular arts of Japan, most notably, the anime, and many come dressed as their favorite character.


Yesterday, August 9th was the last day of the event, and for the second year, we offered a demonstration of ikebana.  The free style above was one of the arrangements done for the occasion. Other arrangements have been posted on our EJCA Ikebana Club website. To have a clearer picture of that event, please visit our contribution to Animethon 2014.