Keirartworks's Blog

hmmm. hmmm? Observations, actions and connection points through art.

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A reciprocal boat

Sometimes the boat NEEDS to sink, little miss willpower.  Sometimes it’s just time to release Her.

Boats are practical things that keep you afloat on water, carry what you need for a journey, bring back what you harvest.  They are all female.

Boats are dreams, freedoms, passions, yearnings. They are shared, protected, obvious solitudes.  In them you can aim yourself to the far horizon, traverse the foreign deep and sing the sky.  They cradle in a soft wind, scream in heavy weather.

Without exception, boats require maintenance. Care.

A reciprocal boat carries two, each with her baggage, each with his wounds which, if utilized correctly can transform into oars, a sail.  A tiller, a keel even, to stabilize a fragile idea in rough weather.  Ingenuity is required, shared goals, a willingness to do all the work made necessary by journey.  If one refuses to bail while the other catches the wind, forgets to balance the agreement of labour and care, well then there is no crew, and the boat, She knows it. If there’s no crew to attend to the moment, then eventually, inevitably, down She goes, in sad, sorry relief.

That one sank four years ago, on September 3, 2013. In the course of that time I’ve sung her Her to peace in honour of her ten years of service. Despite a poor crew.

There are fair weather boats, full of jolly shout and sun.  These are white white above but deep and heavy below with a labouring few who may never be seen.  These know Her engines, Her faults, Her upper deck requirements and tend them, cursing the dark.  Below the cursings, deeper still in the hull are dungeons where the scapegoats molder, banished for being born out of place.  Light above, heavy below, She knows full well she cannot be sustained, but grinds the tending souls to breaking point in any case, for the sake of Show.

One like that finally sank three years ago, in long, slow stages.  I watched her break apart and go under, still raging.

It was not beautiful, or poignant.

The boats still out there are better made; They need maintenance at dock, newer crew, so in They come, a float of dignity and good lines, for repair and Captains who understand the weather, yearn for the horizon.

Still others wait ready, clean holds full of nourishment and good sense.

Me, I’ve found safe harbour. Deeply grateful for the peace after the storms.  I repair, rebuild and absorb new information here, I check the shore for the next journey.

I’ll know Her when I see Her; we’ll sail when the wind is right.



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Colour Pages #3: inside blue

Blue is internal.


It’s the other side of sunlight, where solitude lives.

Demons also live there.  If you don’t make friends with the demons and fully acknowledge their right to live in the shadows, they grow malevolent.  Eventually, inevitably the malevolence comes to find you in the dark, biting.



This is an excellent method for self-administered shock therapy, though it can be very dangerous.  The fallout is messy, often requiring years of clean-up.


If you can imagine the colours of this painting inversed,  then you get a window into what was happening in my world while I painted it- some very serious shock-therapy at the time (two years ago now, and the cleanup is progressing nicely, thank you).


A blue story might happen in the shadows under an overpass and never be told.  In a rich dream barely remembered in the morning, blue would be the awareness of vulnerability.  Blue is a difficult question left unasked, a knot of trauma buried in your body and waiting to be acknowledged.

It’s slippery and changeable, the blue of shadow, of vulnerable.  It beckons….what IS that in the corner?  under the bed, in the basement, in the closet…

from #Selfie (2014). inverse image of me on white indian cotton.

from #Selfie (2014). inverse image of me on white indian cotton.

But if you turn on the light, blue is gone.  It does not survive glare.

So, gentle blue.  Patient, kind, tender.  Blue of sadness just before sleep, when a small thing is remembered from the day and filed in a dream.  Blue of rich and enduring peace, as deep and calm as the ocean floor.  Restful blue, healing blue.


The blue of silent, joyful, floating surrender, unwitnessed by anyone but yourself.   This is the blue that connects you in the most profoundly human way to everything else in the ecosystem you are an integral part of.

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This morning’s texture

The rain on our tin roof keeps me dreaming past the appointed 6 am, then 7am, and even the waking realization of this isn’t jarring.  Now coffee’d and downstairs beside the fire, I gaze out the window where the cat uncurls into a stretch.  It really should be snow, but the effect is the same:  a deep deep heartbeat of peacefulness as the cat re-curls herself.

a rock-wall on Lindenwood trail behind our house


There is sociology study all over the couch and table in front of the fire – it sounds like paper flip, <sniff>, pen scratch, blanket shuffle, paper flip, <breathe, sigh>, paper flip, pen scribble, <clear throat>, fire crackle, woodstove click-click, ping (as it heats up again).  The old fridge – Hazel’s fridge – roars its fan over this, but even through that I hear the rain outside.  There it is, through the big window – straight down rain as steady and familiar and comforting as day following night, the North Star, Orion’s Belt, the Milky Way.  The grass outside glows green – drinking drinking.

same trail, glowing green


In my head a radio is always playing on low volume – is everyone like this?  I don’t get to choose the playlist – it can be anything from an irritating pop song, a Brahms sonata to God Save the Queen (all versions).  Happily my radio selection is appropriate to the morning – Sting’s version of  Gabriel’s Message, performed in Durham Cathedral.

same trail, same day


The simplest of things astonish me today, at 8:20am.  I think I’ve been altered on a cellular level by the movie Life of Pi .

I’ve seen it twice now, so those incredible Ang Lee / Yann Martel images are now imbedded in me, to my everlasting delight and wonder.

Happy Tuesday everyone.


Reflections in Cordwood

June 10, 2006. Our House.

It’s as good a time as any for reflection.

6am, still dark outside in the northern hemisphere. I sit at the downstairs table beside a pinging wood stove.  It’s beaming heat onto the cat, who’s a puddle of contentment.

We began this house project in 2006 with the enthusiasm and energy of young saplings reaching for the sky.  Much of the material we needed we gathered from the townships around us in the spring, while we made 32 300 lb cornerstones (with celtic knot imprinted) out of concrete.

building site in April 06, before we poured foundation in June.

We bought a trailer to live in and another to work from, borrowed an old tractor to run an old buzz saw to cut the 1000 cedar rails we’d hauled out of overgrown fence lines (with permission) (see for that photo of Grant using the buzz saw).  We hired a marvelous young 15-year-old to live here and help us all summer (now forever part of the family, Stephan), lived outside, slept in an old trailer, and welcomed any help from whatever family and friend walked down the driveway.

This is our lane, same summer. Note the dreamy quality.
We had no hydro or land line at this point, nor was there cellular service available, so we had to make calls from the road. This was unbelievably liberating.

By June we had settled into a routine – every weekday the hired crew would arrive at 9am and we’d haul ourselves back into the sawing and drilling and moving and hammering, into the ever-present roar of compressors, nail guns, skilsaws, buzz saws, mortar mixers, shovels, aggregate and questions.

Cordwood begins, August 2006. West side of house.

and it continues, as the frame goes up....

My parents became cordwood experts and came tenaciously every week (or whenever we could prep for them & mix mortar) for three years. Lots of others came with trowels, & good will, thank heavens. Cordwood takes love and community.

This is October 3. The rock pile is our water line from the well to the house.

We were resilient, engaged, enthralled, exhausted and, by October, overwhelmed.

Late fall 2006 the snow came early and sober reality began to replace our dogged enthusiasm:  this is a big project; we will not be finished any time soon.

We were also feeling desperate for time without crew or volunteer help to host and manage.  We learned the law of self-building projects:  if you want the help to keep coming, anticipating and ttending to their needs must become your prime directive.  This demands great planning, infinite patience, and positive support no matter what – by fall we were feeling a BIG need to focus a little more on remembering who we were and why we took this project on in the first place.

By then we had walls, a roof, and the skeleton of a space inside – cement floor, bare joists covered with sheets of 3/4 plywood, bales and bales of Roxl insulation waiting to be stuffed between rafters & studs, venting and vapor barrier to finish in the ceiling.  I learned to love tuck tape.  Inside doors and walls were blankets nailed to 2×4 frames, privacy was next to non-existent.

My daughter, finding peace wherever she could...

Our Gothic front door was covered by a sheet of 3/4 plywood and screwed shut against the cold. Outside there were electric blankets protecting fresh cordwood and mortar from freezing.   In December, we watched in horror as a huge dozer pushed dirt into great mounds & tore up ash trees, just so we could flush our toilet.  I know I wept.

We moved out of the trailer and into the house in January, when the in-floor-heating was turned on.  I think our guy took pity on us – certainly the house was not completely sealed, but by then our boots were freezing to the trailer floor, which had no reliable heat.

...better than the trailer....

What a relief.  We cheered ourselves, camped in the midst of our construction chaos, that a mere six months before, none of what now sheltered us had existed.  We now had a kitchen (tho no sink – we used the laundry tub), a new incredible, efficient woodstove to warm us, a toilet that flushed, a bathtub that filled with warm water, windows that were in their proper places (no wind or rain!!!), electricity to run the coffee pot, fridge and stove that worked and a roof to keep us dry.

Incredible, impossible, heady and empowering.  Ha.

We did not live easily in the miracle, by any stretch.  While the work on the house was rewarding (unlike with a reno, every improvement we made in our living space was done for the first time – always a celebration), it was very hard on all three of us psychologically.  Internally I was desperately trying to hold on to my art, my love for language – tenacious about my commitment to accepting music gigs (That first summer I played and sang as one of a 3-member pit band for david sereda & Joan Chandler’s excellent debut musical Tom, about Tom Thomson the painter, who was born here).  But work on the house dominated – we were still its servants, every waking minute.  In 2007 I started digging a garden – that work brought me back to myself (pictures below).  There’s something deeply old and comforting about communing with the soil under your feet, and introducing plants & nutrients there.  For me, those weeks of digging anchored me here in this place – I became the garden, and the garden, me.  We discovered we like one another.

My daughter was ten when we moved into the trailer – the difficult grade 7 & 8 years all happened with a house that was a construction site – I’m sure she’ll either need therapy or she’ll become the most adjustable adult on the planet.  She always had pluck – after this experience, she’s got superpluck.

My husband was holding down a full-time government job, and coming home most nights to continue manifesting this project we called ‘home’.  There are not many people who can do what he has done, and continues to do – envision, design, engineer, collaborate and build a place this unique, efficient and beautiful, while at the same time manage a career, and a business, and commit to competitive curling all winter (he’s really good).

2007: upstairs the ash floor is laid and finished (took 9 months), drywall installed, mudded, sanded and painted by Grant, stairs built, , cordwood continues  – on north and east walls.

Many thousands of 3" screwnails and nine months later, we had a floor/ceiling, and could stop defying death walking upstairs on overlapping sheets of 3/4" plywood. The wood is ash - I cut most of the pieces on my dad's chop saw (which is now featured in a painting). We coated the ceiling side with Tung oil, and finished the floor side with heated lindseed/antique varnish /turpentine (I think turpentine - I'll check). - A recipe from a pub in Wales.

Grant and Alain making the illusion of 'straight' and 'flat' with drywall. G is very good at it - one of the few who actually enjoys the process. We had acres to do tho, and I know he wouldn't willingly go back there to do it again.

I started the garden that year while they were drywalling:

two cherry trees, some baby cedar from the Saugeen Valley Conservation annual tree sale, and a chestnut to replace the one at the old house where Dom and I lived. The garden is small, but it grew...

...and grew, until it was this size in 2009. Since then I've been shrinking it - the old quarry it's in grows rocks, and we really need raised beds for veggies. That's this spring's project.

The trailer (second-hand) was a lovely idea to begin with - I'd never spent any time in one ever. Then I slept in it for 9 months & deep into the winter. No washroom, no heat, no water. By the time it left I was happy so happy to see the back of it. It's now owned by someone who can give it it's proper due in TLC.

We threw a half-way-house party in November of the next year, when the second floor was in place, the drywall up, mudded, sanded, primed and painted, the stairs were installed, the kitchen sink was in, and the trailer was GONE.  Woo hoo!

That was a GREAT party.

Every year since that first winter we have leaped ahead in some way, and burned out in others, only to rise again to push forward some more – the story only begins here.  But that’s another post.

Daylight in the northern hemisphere. This was taken in 2011, when I was sitting at the downstairs table, where this post began.

More to come.  Thanks for reading.


Impossible Beauty

It began yesterday morning when the temperature dropped.  This dreary, straight down rain we’ve felt so wrong about all month became soft floating flakes of snow – wet enough to stick to every branch, every bough, thick enough to cover last years piles in a pristine white eiderdown.  Less than a day later I wake to find myself surrounded in pure white floating dancing wonder.  I have yet to see another natural phemomenon that transforms the world so profoundly, that so clearly gives all who live within it permission to go inward.  Entranced in the big window, I sit with my face twelve inches from the swirling sculpted outside.  The sense of it is sinking in – I can feel in my whole body that Winter is Here, Now.


It’s time, the Ojibway will say, to tell stories.  Time to gather together and slow ourselves down so we can share them, repeat them, sing them to one another.  To write down the thoughts that so easily escape and dissolve in other, busier seasons, to build hearth-fires and keep them burning, to notice subtle things about people and respond to them, gently, as you would offer a story, gently.  As the days grow longer here, they also grow colder – so we enter the season in which warmth replaces light as the generous thing to offer.  I do love this about us, here.

looking out from the warmth

Inside there is peace too.  This Christmas has been marked by a steady (but not punishing) schedule of visits, gatherings and meals, none of them fraught with tension or angst, melodrama or frustration- rather a sense, for me anyhow, of deep joy, true appreciation, and contentment.  We’re still not done – there are at least four more important gatherings to join, a huge turkey and a ham to consume (on two separate occasions, thank god), hikes through the snow with cameras and conviviality, books to read together in a house with others reading books, letters to write, and – for me, because Christmas Day came at us headlong like a steam engine full of Vivaldi Glorias & Corelli Concertos – presents to finish making.

I'm sitting right beside this deck, on the south. The snow has now completely covered the rock. Bye bye last year, hello the lovely 'in-between' of Winter.


I dreamed last night that I had forogotten to bring my cello to a recording session. No panic, in the dream – I simply went home to retrieve her – but it was a clue – I need to reconnect, in a deep & meaningful “winter” way, with my friend.  To release her chocolate tones again and again, more and more specifically. To play the Faure, the Saint-seans, the Dotzauer & the Bach with her into my new gadget, so I can hear them back, polish.  And soon, to write and sing my own, which will feel like building a warming fire, and keeping it lit.

Happy Wednesday all, & thanks for the beauty.



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Up from dear never-stop, incredible Pakistani meal walrus-friend Toronto tonight, in dense blowing fog.

We could feel the land breathing as the car hydroplaned through darkness and blur. When we got to high country above the fog into achingly bright stars we saw great flashes of sheet lightning to the north, with blistering great cracks of yellow/orange in-between. Radio loud & good.

we choose ‘through Owen Sound’… note a certain clothing style specific to here outside the bar…. count the lights on the parkway beside Kelso (16 on the left – blurry in fog tonight)…. past Indian River, East Linton… the landmarks get smaller, more specific to walking memories…. glide gentle through giant red pines, to the final, full stop. A pause before the keys turn to utter quiet.


Once again, home astonishes.