Where have you been?

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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!

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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.

 

 

 

 

Urban Gardens

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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.

Ikebana as a moving meditation

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This last Sunday, April 12th, I delivered a sermon at my church, Westwood Unitarian Congregation on “Ikebana as a moving meditation”.  Another one of those challenges I seem to be taking head on these days. Arranging ikebana is not an intellectual exercise, nor is it merely an artistic one, as the arrangers have to abandon themselves to their senses, pay attention to their feelings, in other words, follow their heart. Arranging ikebana is for me a spiritual practice. Here is a quote from Kasen Yoshimura, grandmaster of the Ryusai School of Ikebana:

The art of ikebana is to listen to the spirits of flowers and plants. It is how to make the voice or sentiment of the flower a visual combination with your feelings. Ikebana allows the heart of the arranger to touch the heart of the viewer.

I see in this quote, and others I could cite, a strong influence from   shinto, an earth-centered religion. Followers of Shintoism believe that nature is a spiritual world, inhabited by gods known as kamis or spirits, and those spirits are in everything: flowers and trees, animals, people, mountains, rivers, everything. Those spirits are honored and listened to.  People who are influenced by Shinto feel in their heart the beauty of nature and its incredible power. Sen’ei Ikenobo, our own headmaster writes as follows: We are moved by the beauty nature suggests and inspired by her many gifts. Through ikebana we see previously unimagined beauty in the forms of the materials we arrange, beauty we could not have created ourselves. Ikebana, like poetry, comes from the heart and expresses our own spirit as well as those found in nature. Such was the gist of my sermon, Ikebana as a Moving Meditation .

Following the sermon I proceeded to arrange what I called a flower meditation. While arranging, on my knees as in a traditional reishiki-ike, our pianist played Sakura. The resulting arrangement is the one pictured above. For the service, I had also arranged, the day before, a special two-level shoka called Niju-ike offered below.

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