Colour Pages #7: White


It’s dark down there – difficult to see, to dig and keep digging.  At the bottom of it, when you get there, you find an understanding that changes the shape of your world.    LindenwoodtrailLookout

I’ve just watched a film about a young prosecutor with great natural integrity who is working in Frankfurt just after WWII.  He is drawn to dig for answers in places where his colleagues are oddly reluctant to go, specifically about what happened at a work camp in Poland.  What happened at Auschwitz is revealed to him through the stories of survivors and he realizes with growing horror that all 8000 soldiers who worked at the camp are complicit.  That everyone who knew what was happening, what had happened, and did nothing, was complicit.


A culture which covertly rewards cruelty and entitlement to violence is a culture grievously sick.  It’s a culture of people who need desperately to examine and understand their own internal darkness.  It is us, our blood memory.

We are all of us in need of Truth, and then the reconciliation that leads to healing.


Here’s an excerpt from a story I read on social media this morning, published by “A Mighty Girl” (an organization that collects such stories and offers them as empowerment to young people)

Twenty years ago today, Keshia Thomas was 18 years old when the KKK held a rally in her home town of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Hundreds of protesters turned out to tell the white supremacist organization that they were not welcome in the progressive college town. At one point during the event, a man with a SS tattoo and wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with a Confederate flag ended up on the protesters’ side of the fence and a small group began to chase him. He was quickly knocked to the ground and kicked and hit with placard sticks.

As people began to shout, “Kill the Nazi,” the high school student, fearing that mob mentality had taken over, decided to act. Thomas threw herself on top of one of the men she had come to protest, protecting him from the blows, and told the crowd that you “can’t beat goodness into a person.” In discussing her motivation for this courageous act after the event, she stated, “Someone had to step out of the pack and say, ‘this isn’t right’… I knew what it was like to be hurt. The many times that that happened, I wish someone would have stood up for me… violence is violence – nobody deserves to be hurt, especially not for an idea.”


Colour pages 1-6 are meditations on red, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet.

White is made of all these colours, in balance.  Enlightenment.


I offer that white is kindness – a simple act of compassion that can unravel any knot of negativity, ease pain, transform anger into forgiveness.  Firm, clear and clean, the white of compassion is a balm to the discolourment of pain.

"Sorrow", otherwise known as Mother Canada, from the memorial at Vimy Ridge
“Sorrow” from the memorial at Vimy Ridge

White is a still, safe, tender place where stories can be told, and heard.

It’s where we find the courage to heal ourselves.

If if if, say the Bells of Cardiff

The soft November morning spills sun across these paintings that were born two days ago.  I awoke today into the same magic I felt as a child on Christmas:  bees, bells, and frequencies, all over my studio walls, all transforming into their new place in paint before my eyes.

You owe me five farthings,  Say the bells of St. Martin’s.

photo by Robbin McGregor, bee-keeper friend
photo from 3 weeks ago by Robbin McGregor, bee-keeper friend

How can the world be less than benevolent, when this is so?  Time for listening and responding, for empathy and awareness – there is time for these things, and plenty more for acceptance and then, collaboration.

When will you pay me?  Say the bells of Old Bailey.


After a year of building income so I can spend serious time in the studio I am so grateful to be here.  Images of Robbin’s bees drinking water over prints from my feet resonate and make sense in this place.  Image, symbol, thought and intuition can swim freely in this room, and then speak, when there’s time to listen.  And now there is.

When I grow rich,  Say the bells of Shoreditch.


In five and a half weeks I will paint ten paintings – to show at Open Studio day on December 5, then to hang on the Bean Cellar walls until Feb 2016.  I’m hoping that somewhere in that time (at the Bean) we will gather to sing and celebrate Leonard Cohen, whose songs have been singing these paintings awake.

When will that be?  Say the bells of Stepney.

I do not know,  Says the great bell of Bow.

ships bell for the first painting (loud!!!), tibetan bell for the second. I'm photographing all the church bells in town that I can find for the rest. 'All the bells that still can ring...'
ships bell for the first painting (loud!!!), tibetan bell for the second. I’m photographing all the church bells in town that I can find for the rest. ‘All the bells that still can ring…’

These paintings are full of sound – clanging, pealing, ringing, dinging…. offset now, thanks to Robbin, by a soft, comforting buzz from the bees.

I’m looking forward very much to sharing this marvelous space with visitors and fellow artists on December 5, and to singing & hanging at the Bean again, where I’ve had many art shows over the years.  It’s important to me to put these pieces in a place where people go to do everyday things – eating, talking, laughing, crying, debating, drinking coffee. I do all of that in this studio while the paintings come to life – along with my fellow collectivists who visit.

But before Studio Tour and art show/ live music happen, I exult in the privilege of working with these paintings as they come into full voice.


Here comes a candle to light you to bed,

almost done
almost finished

And here comes a chopper to chop off your head!


‘The Bells of Rhymney’ is a song first recorded by folk singer Pete Seeger, then The Byrds, using words (published 1938) written by Welsh poet Idris Davies after a mining disaster that occurred in 1926.  Quoted in the blog is the nursery rhyme that Davies used as his template, also a (rather chilling) children’s game known as ‘Oranges and Lemons’, which I played as a child.  I quoted Cohen’s ‘Anthem’ two weeks ago, and

three strong bell poems make a show.

Reference & for the Record:

Bells of Rhymney:

Is there hope for the future?
Say the brown bells of Merther
Who made the mine open?
Say the black bells of Rhonda
And who killed the miner?
Say the grim bells of Lina

Who aband’ us in court?
Say the bells of Newport
All will be well if-if-if-if-if,
Say the green bells of Cardiff
Why so worried, sister why?
Say the silver bells of Whye
And what will you give me?
Say the sad bells of Rhymney

And here, for the record is Cohen’s Anthem, from his 1992  album ‘The Future’:
(I will thread parts of this through the next post….)

The birds they sang At the break of day

Start again, I heard them say

Don’t dwell on what Has passed away

Or what is yet to be.

Ah the wars they will Be fought again

The holy dove, She will be caught again

Bought and sold And bought again

The dove is never free.

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in.

We asked for signs, The signs were sent

The birth betrayed, The marriage spent

Yeah the widowhood, Of every government

Signs for all to see.

I can’t run no more With that lawless crowd

While the killers in high places Say their prayers out loud.

But they’ve summoned, they’ve summoned up A thundercloud

And they’re going to hear from me.

Ring the bells that still can ring…

You can add up the parts But you won’t have the sum

You can strike up the march, There is no drum

Every heart, every heart To love will come

But like a refugee.

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack, a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in.

That’s how the light gets in.

That’s how the light gets in


Drippy Sunday morning; the world outside has shrunk …which appropriately rhymes with Funk, because Funk is precisely what I’m in.

… niggly, prickly snappish me with a million essential things to attend to but instead I chop a fridge full of vegetables and chicken into tiny tiny pieces, beat up a dozen eggs, fry severed onions into carbon, do five sets of loud dishes and answer every question with a maximum of two wedged-out words …


“Mom, can I have a hug?”

Grunt. “May I.”



I don’t know why I’m feeling this way.

While chopping onions I feel grim satisfaction at my power to slice through, to un-make a still-living thing.  While I feel this I think about art and manipulation and rage; growth and green and death which in turn makes more growth and green.

It is possible to smile though a clenched jaw.

buried in this pile is a garbage bag with kitty litter in it that the truck didn't take away, even though it was tagged.  I don't want to think about it.
buried in this pile is a garbage bag with kitty litter in it that the truck didn’t take away, even though it was tagged. I don’t want to think about it.

Of course we are all far too busy for real sanity – what did Norm Bell tell me at the afternoon TOM Gallery opening today… that our generation is the last that has experienced what we now think of as ‘down’ time. (Link to a review of Michael Harris’ book, The End of Absence – thanks Norm)

I do remember, in my bones, what it felt like to be empty of everything but the sky I gazed into, far away from any connection to the rest of humanity or it’s obligations or measurements of my time and effectiveness and function.

I remember the micro sound of a caterpillar chewing leaves beside my head – wondering what the sound was, discovering it’s origin then …wondering in a larger way that I could hear it at all, so small a thing…


I write from tomorrow about that volatile place I was in. It has taken me to my studio, where I wake to the clutter of promise, the smell of colour, the yearn and memory of cello.

I know what to do, when yesterday I did not [I will dig into paleontology and paint artifacts]. Yesterday in the storm of my own inexplicable rage I felt battered and almost violently unexplained.  At the gallery in a crowd of people I know well I felt awkward, too-strong and my words, like a pack of battling cousins came out sideways, fist or feet-first.  Yesterday it was next to impossible to find compassion.

I’ve read somewhere recently about the making of art that it comes from these places of unexplained pain, answers the pain through process, then tells the story.  This could be so, for those who must make art, must make, must … self-provoke?

I miss this.
I miss this.

I do love winter.  We get more beautiful winters here than anywhere else in this vast province, (larger than France and Spain, combined).  Perhaps it was the melting of the white into dirty brown that set me off unexpectedly, traversing the landscape through my own unstable lava fields.  I know I’ve been missing green, and gardening, but I strongly suspect that there’s more to my rancour than this.

I have a day in my studio to paint, to practise and to tick things off the long list.  Another tomorrow, then Wednesday and Thursday.  Friday afternoon we will travel to Toronto to visit with good friends, and on Saturday I will visit the Zoo, which is wonderfully peaceful in the wintertime.

I’ll say hello to the river otters for you,

river otter
river otter