Monday, June 19, 2017

Life... in the "BIG Onion"



Allison standing before one of her favourite paintings "The Adoration of the Magi" by Paolo Veronese. (c 1580) This is truly... the real... "Shock and Awe"

Wednesday, June 14th

Strange... this emotional state of  grief. Hard to describe. Hard to understand. Hard to cope with and mostly...  hard to forget at this stage beyond mere minutes. Sometimes... "like fog on kitty cat feet", it creeps up on you." At other times, it seems to totally swallow you like an avalanche or tsunami. Its cause is always obvious. How to climb out of its grasp safely is not.

Took a necessary break here in the composition of this post... just plain... outta steam!

Friday, May 26th marked the first month anniversary for Allie's passing. Though I readily recognized the fact and placed it on my calendar, I truthfully felt less of the destructive side effects that I had faced almost hourly in those first part of the month. The "missing" remains of course and in its full intensity. At some points in my day, I even feel guilty that my grief has even lessened so soon after her death.

There is no magical passageway to bypass grief... except to pass through it.  I can liken my own ongoing process of passage through my grieving to the common act of peeling an onion. The first cut releases an overwhelmingly punishing attack on the eyes (depending on the size and variety of the onion) and triggers uncontrollable and even painful floods of tears. These emotional responses must be endured and some people even look to strategies like cutting it under water in the sink to diminish its effects. But for most of us, we simply endure and carry on until gradually... our tears and the painful experience diminish and subside to become a distant memory.

The "big onion" metaphor can be further extended to describe how grief must likewise be pared or peeled away in layers until we get to the heart of the loss and can better understand the overall implications and realities which will allow us to create a new "normal" to replace the old one which has disappeared forever. It is only then that the seeds of new hope... meaning in life... happiness and a new life of joy can be planted and begin to flourish to enable one to create a new life without the departed member or loss suffered.

I am certainly still peeling... and reeling over Allison's tragic death. I still have a long way to go before I can finally find and fully enjoy that peace I seek. But my own journey is underway... independent of everyone else involved. I accept that Allie has gone and will not return. I accept that her spirit and energy have left this physical and frail existence that we call earthly life. In better terms, I also realize and am thankful that her long suffering is over. I am deeply saddened ... even angered that I must accept that her dreams... good works and personal possibilities have ceased at the same time.... except

That she pleaded with her Mom, her brother and I that we continue to live out our time in her honor to enable her spirit and work be continued despite her premature passing. I have promised/committed to make that so for as long as I have the time and energy to carry forward the gifts that she left with me.

I have plunged myself into the act and process of recovery, first by reading a marvelous guide/handbook by Bob Deits entitled "Life After Loss". I most heartily recommend it to anyone suffering any type of loss in the full spectrum of loss possibilities arising out of situations arising from death, financial, marital, or health issues. All qualify as losses that likely require professional support, counselling and considerable time to bring about closure.

I have made arrangements through my personal physician for counselling and am currently on a waiting list... which is why the book came first. I am as well researching a subject in preparation to get back to my painting. Painting for me has always been meditative and necessary to my overall well-being. Some ideas are presently floating about.... so stay tuned...

 I would like to end this post with a piece of art... not mine... but one brought to me by a young woman, "Meenie" (allie's word) for Maureen... who was so influenced by the two year old Allie that she was moved to make this wonderfully tender objet d'art/tribute that she delivered to me here in Rockport when she learned of Allie's passing. Allison would have loved this tribute so. It speaks of the plain and simple manner of Maureen... blended with a sensitive creative heart. It's price-less... to me for it captures in the simple eye of a child... the very essence of life that enjoined Allie and I since she was born!



The small "stone angel" portrait is simply titled: "Bruce and Allie... 1982." Doesn't it say everything???


Father's Day 2017 has been particularly difficult for me. This year marks the unexpected departure on a day where our family generally comes together... at least by mail or on the telephone. All of my children "checked in"... making the day more bearable  and less painful for me. I feel deeply blessed for this gift of love from each of the other four.


This is the face of a Venetian card made for glass bead work on handmade venetian paper that I received from Allie last Father's Day. This was the message of hope and love that accompanied it au verso. She always sent such a personal card in appearance... always accompanied by inspiring and uplifting words. Last year's card and message to me form the very foundation of my spiritual journey and strength. I owe that largely to her and my other children.


Is "She" gone???... NEVER!... for I carry her in my heart until I too reach the other side.


This is a small cast pewter amulet that Allison asked me to carry... and I did so throughout her valiant and courageous struggle against breast cancer. Do I [still] believe in miracles? Yes I do!

Allison was that miracle in my life... and for many others that she met and served in her too brief existence.

"I" love "You" ... FOREVER Jemima Puddle Duck!!
XXXXXOOOOOXXXXX
Dad



Life was good!

In closing out today's [too] lengthy Father's Day post, I wish to offer each of my other four children my thanks and rich blessings of Happiness ... Health... Peace and Joy in your own journeys! I love you all dearly... and equally for your unique contributions to my life and Happiness.

Love ALWAYS!
Dad
XXXXXOOOOOXXXXX

Monday, June 5, 2017

Hello... Goodbye

I have been experiencing great difficulty in becoming able again to express my thoughts and creative ideas freely here in this blog. Grief of this nature is very much like a tsunami. It wreaks unexpected havoc and fear... and leaves total chaos and disorientation in its aftermath. When one tries in desperation to reshape past meaning in one's life..., one is inevitably brought face-to-face with the reality that "normal"... as it was defined and felt in the past... has been forever swept away.

One can only move forward when this fact has been accepted... and the task is assumed to journey forward... searching for chards of the past which can be healthily carried forward to reconstruct a "new normal" which incorporates these and other changes to build a new foundation upon. Strangely, the Universe continues to serve Me" faithfully, as it always has in the past and for that...
I feel greatly blessed!

I very much enjoy watching one television series which focuses upon airport arrivals and departures for family members reunited after too lengthy physical separations. It always gives me pleasure and renewed hope that the world is not nearly as chaotic as the media portrays daily. Or worse still, that the planet is hopelessly consumed with madness and inhumanity (as witnessed most recently in London). I need to be reassured that people still matter - that goodness can prevail. I would choose not to continue forward if I were forced to believe, or accept otherwise.

My Faith and optimism have been greatly challenged by Allison's tragic passing. To say or pretend otherwise would only be dishonest. To surrender Faith however, would be to demean and  diminish the importance of Allison's magnificent "presence"... and the lasting legacy of the "presents" which she offered so generously to so many.

During the course of her difficult two year struggle to defeat the cancer that relentlessly ravaged her body, her Faith and Hope were not simply challenged, they were even dashed on many occasions along the path she was forced to walk. Most of us could never have walked that walk. It was Calvary for "Her"and then some... but she required very little propping up to continue bravely and hopefully onward.

Looking back over the many quiet conversations we had when these difficult and challenging moments arose, I would often offer that "Faith is not Faith... until it is challenged and is put to the test." But in the end... Faith alone was not enough to assure Allison the "miracle" that she  (and I) never stopped believing was possible.

Allison's journey has been fully run. She looked death straight in the eyes with great Dignity, Courage and Grace. Some would offer that it was all in vain when death swept her from "The Now". But I would offer that the "Now" ... and the "Future" that she was forced to forfeit... have been replaced by an unforgettable lesson of giving and grace that forges a highway from her Past... through to a Present and Future that she will not be physically present to see or enjoy. That Future will still continue to offer her gifts and shining presence ... passed forward to each of us who lived with... and loved her.

She will walk with each of us forever and the memory of her Faith in each of us will help shape not only our own personal actions and deeds. Her teachings and example will be passed forward to young men and women of that Future to build who will shape their own Faith and contributions to future generations. I faithfully believe in, and subscribe to this definition of... "Eternal Life."

She implored her Mom, brother Andrew and I to continue our journeys to honour her and not to let her loss diminish our own journeys. We each have struggled with the promise we each made to her in this regard. That struggle will take much time to actually occur. Perhaps... it never shall fully.

In today's post, I am presenting a first tiny step forward for me artistically in resuming my journey. It is a painting which in many ways lies outside my "normal". It was begun during our winter foray to the Barbados in what I consider is a true example of Eden here on earth. This magnificent garden was passionately created over nine years by its Creator, Anthony Hunte. Despite being dyslexic - his own revelation offered during tea... he is, however humble in spirit, a veritable walking floral encyclopedia with a vast love and knowledge of his many floral residents.

I have added some time and odd gestural flourishes to the first plein air version... but felt that the painting represented an unusual expressionistic response from me... to being floridly overcome in his sanctuary. I choose to leave it appearing to "shimmer" with flashes of broken form and color. It feels to me an honest interpretation/repesentation of the feeling and the place simultaneously. There is a distinct feeling that Diana is as overwhelmed by her tropical residence... as I was overcome while painting it.


                                                  "Anthony's Eden" - acrylic on canvas 30x24 inches

 I wish to thank those friends in my life who offered their loving support and uplifting words of encouragement. My love of dearest Allie combines with their presence to motivate me to search for new meaning and the courage to continue this blog and my painting. I do so to honor her.

In closing... I choose Hello... and never Goodbye.... sweet girl of mine. I love "You" forever Jemima!

Dad
XXXXXOOOOOXXXX

Good painting .... to ALL!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

In Memoriam... for Doctor Allison Morgan Sherman




                                                     Doctor Allison Morgan Sherman
                                                  October 29th, 1979 - April 26th, 2017    


Dear Friends,

On the sunny Spring morning of Tuesday, April 26th, 2017 at exactly 7:30 am... the spirit of our blazing comet ... sweet Allie passed peacefully and quietly beyond the light of this earth. She did so ever so reluctantly, but bravely... and with the loving presence of all of her family surrounding her - each offering offering her their permission to leave.

Death can lay claim to no victory in conducting this cruel act against one so undeserving of his malicious and contemptible actions. Neither can he be proud of his act of painful vengeance that she endured so defiantly and bravely... right up to and including her final earthly breath. She remains our undefeated and indisputable champion of life!

I am usually a man of [too] many words... but I can honestly admit that since then and right up until this moment, my voice has been absent and my thoughts... simply scattered... and "I"... detached from almost everything else in life that for the moment seems trivial in meaning to me. But that too... shall pass... perhaps... with time. But for now at least, I am still struggling to regain my direction and purpose.

Tributes for her have poured in literally from around the globe since her demise and all help to soothe our family's loss. However, Allie was the very hub of our blended families - the very heart of it really. For each of us... and in our own way, we never ever believed that she wouldn't physically defeat her enemy. Though that battle victory was not actualized... her spiritual conquest of the disease was fully won.

Her spirit and her legacy are best summed up in this favourite quotation which best describes her mantra... and her passed challenge to we who survive her:

"In the end, only three things matter: how much we loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you."
                                                                  Buddha



 This wonderfully intimate Venetian "Allie" moment was captured by her colleague and friend Professor Peter Coffman. He created a series of plaque mounts so aptly titled: La Venezia di Allie which were offered at silent auction at a fundraiser to help defray the expenses of her three month medical treatment in Vienna, Austria. Deb and I brought this one home to be with us permanently.

The beautifully photographic masterpiece is Peter's... while the quotation comes directly from Allie. She did in fact get to see the actual images and finished plaques.

I will add further followup to this brief post at a later date. There are no more words ... today.Except that I wish all of you... Rich blessings of Health and Happiness!!! Hug your children and tell them how much you love them... each and every time that you must part. It may be the very last time that you have the chance to do so.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Digging deeply...


                                                                       "Forest Spirits"

                                     Kindred spirits!... I love you FOREVER Sweet Heart!

I dug deeply into my photo archives in search of a photo which best expressed my feelings and emotions surrounding our celebration of Easter 2017 and an appropriate photo upon which to base my return to posting on this blog site.

We did enjoy our warm winter hiatus in the Barbados with my daughter Lisa in December and a refreshing visit with Deb's family and grand girls Ava and Ella for two weeks in mid February. It was a time for recalibrating... reevaluating and planning our future.

Allison's illness continues to hover even more menacingly as of late and I must admit my creative spirit has struggled to manifest itself. Life has simply become day-to-day and art simply has been a secondary diversion... a necessary one still... but hardly joyous as it usually is for me. My attention has been drawn totally to a role of love and support as it is required by Allison, Joan and Andrew. Deb has had my back wonderfully to allow me to do so.

I did get to read a lot... wonderfully uplifting books that for too many months had laid unnoticed. "My Spiritual Journey" by the Dalai Lama...  and Viktor E. Frankl's philosophical masterpiece "Man's Search for Meaning" served to somewhat buoy up my beaten down spirit enough to activate my painting urge in a preparatory way for my return to Canada.

I reached back to where my search for artistic expression began... a series small expressive post card watercolours structured and strengthened by the addition of India ink. Each of these were based upon digital images gathered from this Bajan paradise that I found myself immersed in. Gradually "the flow" returned and with it a renewed spirit.

I even managed to spend an entire day in Anthony Hunte' s floral Eden painting a 30 x 24 inch canvas fully en plein air. Being a guest in this man's Garden of Eden made my spirit soar... so much so... that I resisted finishing the painting so that I might use the experience to transcend my usual painting approach. I just managed the courage to proceed and got back to it just two days ago here in the studio. I like where it is going.... but that is a truly florid and exceptional story for another day...

Stay tuned...

Once again... we struggle to regain positivity on this Good Friday. How could one view it as anything else than the nightmare this dreaded illness has become for Allison and each of us who love her so. Where did goodness and God go???

God has NOT left my heart. I reach our to him in my usual prayers... asking for the strength and courage to remain Hope... full and Faithful. We have been "lifers"... He and I.

I hesitated in posting this... or anything else... lest it offend or seem trivial. But it is my Truth alone and I do not press it upon others... even family members. So I decided to proceed. My writing has always been as important as my painting in reaching out. They have been inseparable really.

My Art and Writing have always been  gifts that I have viewed as being something that I was given to be shared with others who shared my journey or thoughts. They record my Gratitude for the many smallish blessings that I continue to enjoy during the life that I have been given.

I choose to humbly share it here as an article of Faith for each of you to enjoy and apply in your own small corner of existence if you so choose to.

Good Painting ... to ALL!!!
Happy Easter... and rich blessings to ALL!!!











Sunday, December 18, 2016

A Second Winter's Tale...

I am afraid that I have been dodging the task to sit down and write this second tale. Quite frankly, my mind... energy and spirits were high jacked the recent dreaded news that Allison's breast cancer had returned and far too quickly after what we had all believed and hoped would be its defeat.

Needless to say... everyone was left feeling helpless...  disconsolate and completely disoriented by the prospect of more chemo... never mind the long term implications for Allison's health and well-being.

 At the epicenter of this emotional tsunami was a steadying "Light"... and force; it was Allison in all of her courageous might and glory. Her stoic defiance and Faith in the face of such a relentless enemy gave each of us the necessary strength and courage to reform of family phalanx... based upon that very strength that she had chosen to embrace and follow. To deny that act of courage... would be to dishonor "Her"... and all that we love and cherish about her.

The news has most certainly drawn us all together... but as well it has caused us to revisit and remeasure "what" truly is most important in life. Many of those previously perceived "necessities" no longer have any value in our future.

The greatest gift is quite simply our personal health. As well, each of us possesses a precious handful of close  family and friends... always close by; the ones we unfortunately believe will always be at arm's length. We have quickly seen this misconception evaporate before our very eyes... in the very blink of an eye... delivered to us in a somewhat clinical and cold manner... and by a well-meaning stranger to our circle.

In the face of this unsettling news... Allison and Andrew have set course to making plans and investigating strategies for alternate treatment options. We are indeed blessed to have Andrew's good heart... strong background knowledge in genetic and biochemical theory. His contact through his current pharmaceutical link to all major hospitals in the Greater Toronto region have provided us easier and quicker-than-usual access to experts and trial studies.

A 'regular' Christmas is hardly in the cards for any of us really. Deb and I had a plan to escape to the Barbados for a long-awaited holiday and visit with my other daughter Lisa. We felt that we would have to pass on that adventure for now... but Allison is insistent that we proceed with our plans. My heart is torn... but Deb and I have put together a flexible contingency plan which would offer me a hasty return... should that become necessary.

We will leave Rockport from Ottawa Airport on Monday, December 19th... per Allison's wishes and we shall return on February 22nd if fortune smiles upon all of us.

Wishing all of my blogging friends the blessings of Good Cheer!... Good Health and Good Painting in 2017!!

God bless... "one and ALL!


Merry Christmas!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Two Winter's Tales... Tale # One

This post presents my long time perspective on life and its impact upon the human experience. Life is built upon paradox. Simply put... "for everything (in life) there exists an opposite and equal effect to be exerted and experienced."

Usually, the two opposing and polar opposites seem to be suspended in perfect equilibrium. Neither appears to dramatically dominate or persist for an indefinite period. The middle space or fulcrum of life maintains a suspended sense of harmony.

November physically presents a physical manifestation of this precarious fulcrum in the natural world. Just lately, our family gathered at a lovely upriver cottage to celebrate our belated Thanksgiving during a weekend. What began as a truly "Indian Summer" experience with wonderful October-like weather and colour changed dramatically and abruptly into an early and unexpected snowstorm nightmare... even by river standards. The pendulum had swung without warning... catching us all in an unprepared and bewildered state.

What had just earlier been idyllic on the Saturday morphed into distinct danger and bewilderment for all of us attending. Even more so for my son Andrew, his wife Melissa and their two young children Mr. Mac and newly-arrived Whitney. It was again idyllic for Deb and I because it was our first opportunity to see and be with grand baby Whitney... and HOW VERY GRAND she is!!!


They had a four to five hour journey to return to their home in Southwest Ontario on a most treacherous and heavy truck-travelled 401 Highway. The highway was already being reported as being hazardous for travellers on travel warning information sources.

While they did manage to crawl home safely, the effects of the sudden storm continued across southwestern Ontario right into the Thousand Islands and Rockport throughout Sunday evening and into Monday. We awoke Monday morning to nothing less than a fully-fledged winter.

This complete version of winter with all of its trappings of a first major winter snowfall still continue to arouse the child and artist within to get out and "play" in it. It seems to me that the first snowfall always to erase the drabness and absence of real colour that too quickly gave up ghost and vanished along with October. Or perhaps... on this particular gloomy moment in my life... it helped to erase some the darkness that lurks too uncertainly about in the corners of my mind.

Andrew had asked if we might "board" Tilly, their eleven year old vizla "paw person" because of the hardwood floors in the borrowed cottage. Tilly had experienced a nasty fall when her long-nailed paws splayed out suddenly and the ensuing fall injured her sufficiently enough to discourage any sense of trust in slippery floors.... or in skating on hardwood floors.We had always enjoyed her company and welcomed her visit with open arms into our midst.

We did the usual grand"paw" spoiling routine with treats and copious walks... both quite extraordinary bits of attention in her young child-dominated sphere of daily existence. She caught on quickly and rebelled and sulked, as was her custom when Andrew came to fetch her. We willingly offered an extended vakay opportunity and Andrew accepted because we all had an appointment to attend with Allie's oncologist on Thursday. No sweat!

It was during one of our more extended walks into that new snowy world at the beginning of the storm that I suddenly became aware of countless design patterns that winter offered to my open mind and imagination. So great was their combined influence upon my "imagineering" nature that I dashed home... picked up my camera and warmer clothing and headed back out immediately into what I knew would be temporary and rapidly changing conditions.

Rather than fill more space with colourless expletives, I will shift into the visual language that we all share and understand in degrees to reveal and share my experience with you. Please enjoy... First Winter Snow... Rockport in 2016 !


"Islandsview"... wrapped in her fluffy, soft ermine winter costume... fifteen to twenty cm deep!


Leaves grabbing snowy white light by trapping snow... against a contrasting asphalt backdrop.


Snow-laden spruce gloves sheltering its roots from the storm and its cold


Many hands outstretched... and entwined... anxious to be part of the grand design of winter


Do you see what I see....???? I wonder... A painting perhaps???


Even fences carry the signature gestural handiwork of the sculptural hand and eye of the storm


Be they natural and wooden... or man made and metal... their architectural aspects are simply enhanced and magnified by winter's touch.


Top to bottom...

Side to side... snowy creations untouched by the human hand or mind... yet!


Here and there colour is permitted to seep through and contribute warmth and variety to winter's frigid tapestry of designs


Leaves play back n' forth... either accepting or rejecting winter's invitation to dance


Rapidly dying fall berries are given a reprieve... and willing step forward to become truly...  "fall preserves".


Final dashes of autumn red accents make fitting accessories for winter's white gown...


Even the tiniest of the towering spruce family members stand tall on their own... perhaps for the very first time.



"Stairway to Heaven"..... Remember that "oldie-but-but-goodie" folks??? But no... this one is a "cover"  that I prefer to call "Stairway From Heaven"... HA HA!!


Because this is the view seen in the opposite direction


And on this snowy day of Thanksgiving... there is this a propos snow-covered reminder that...

"All blessings... including the clean winter snow... fall from the Heavens... from the hand of Whomever you wish to worship and give thanks."

Be thankful!....

What could you do with this infusion of creative juices... images and ideas? Whatever you wish!... and with my fullest permission and blessing to do so!


I will close out today's already too lengthy post with this one last image from our now sleeping garden. These three pink tea roses hang on... even thrive, when the rest of the garden has gladly surrendered to winter. Like these hardy and grateful pink roses, I squeeze out the very last drop of the succulent juices that enrich my journey!

I am greatly blessed... and remain grateful... but greatly tested this morning.

Stay tuned for Winter's Tale # Two to follow...


Good painting and a belated Happy Thanksgiving to  ALL!!!

Saturday, November 12, 2016

"Let your Light so shine..."

I have just completed and forwarded an early morning email to Allison hoping to confirm a plan for today that we jigged together during my Remembrance Day morning visit with she and her Mom Joan. Hmmm... where did that all come from???

If you read and will recall... it was in my intended "plan" for observing Remembrance Day 2016 to visit the Band Room at Royal Military College to see the reproduction of my painting gift to Matt Dawe's family as it hung there and to pay my respects through that visit.

I had made a wonderful chicken stew - a supreme comfort food on my winter medley of favorite foods and Deb added her beyond delicious apple sauce to be shared with Allison and Joan. I (as is the usual custom) caught the ladies in their night attire - late risers they are! HA HA!!

While visiting over a nice cup o' Joan's great java we took in some of the National War Memorial service underway in Ottawa with host Peter Mansbridge, CBC's iconic version of Walter Cronkite in the hay day of good television broadcasting. Can't even mention Wolf Blitzer in the same mouthful of words of comparison or praise....

During the ensuing conversation, I suddenly and firstly realized... that I had never seen the National Remembrance Day service... except on the evening news in dribs and drabs. I realized too... the ordeal... no battle that my daughter had experienced in the last year was sadly still unfinished and that she could well need and enjoy my presence here on this particularly cold Remembrance Day.

What happened in my thoughts and planning at that time closely resembles what often becomes the path during my painting process. What I intend at the beginning seems less important... less pertinent and less satisfying to my need and intent. I simple shifted gears... "imagineered" and took the path less travelled to create a new Remembrance Day observance.

"And it made all the difference"... for all of us yesterday.

Strange how the Universe chooses the time and place to visit you. Stranger still... that it can either choose to pick "You" alone... or a group... or a Nation at large. We in Canada were given yet another reason to experience a great sense of loss... that ironically... fell upon us on Remembrance Day,. It will remain after this Nov 11th... as "the day the music died."

Leonard Cohen, our beloved and iconic francophone poet and balladeer passed away on November 10th at the age of 82. Unexpected?... perhaps. But anticipated with any sense of it happening? Not. It seems unfathomable to all who loved and treasured his gifts that his raspy voice would someday be no more. And yet... it is prophesied and given substance within his own imagination and reality.

And his prophetic words ... songs and spirit easily cross the border that separates our two nations. No fence can be built that is strong enough to constrain its message. I could choose any example from the treasury of his music... the music that has guided my life and given me uplifting courage during my own personal Darkness and struggles.

Good bless and us all safe!!! Pray that Cohen's words are correct. Contribute your own peaceful "Light"... you in your small corner... and I in mine!!!

In closing out today, I shall let Leonard Cohen's hymnal "Democracy" ... "Dance us to the end of love."