stare and stare at these paintings, make a choice to add paint, increase opacity, move a line, stare again and question and re-form my understanding of the work and my own approach to collaboration – what is changing?  why and how the change?  How can I follow – willingly submit to change myself, when I cannot see the future?

I started working with bells as a response to the great political divide of the Canadian Election. Alarmed, that we are so susceptible to fear-mongering, that we permit racists and bigots to rerpresent our country and run for parliament, that
I started working with bells as a response to the great political divide of the Canadian Election. Alarmed, that we are so susceptible to fear-mongering, that my country has turned so dark, that art, science and all religions but one – or two when convenient, have been muzzled by oil and money…

Always another voice that insists on clear answers, ‘What am I trying for here?  Does this work resonate outside of my little world?  What is my statement? If challenged, could I defend the value of this piece?  I don’t know. I’m only sometimes clear with my thinking.

But we chose change, and elected Justin Trudeau, who has been swift to change our course to one of mutual respect, of collaboration with first nations, of removing muzzles from scientists, building bridges between government and constituent, addressed climate change and invited representatives from each party, and across the country to Paris for the Climate Conference.
But we rose and chose something different by giving Justin Trudeau a majority.  He and the elected have been swift to change our course to one of mutual respect.  We gave a gender equal cabinet.  We will answer for our history with our First Nations. our Scientists, civil servants, citizens are encourages to engage, witness, and collaborate with the Government of Canada.  Trudeau has invited representatives from each party and to Paris for the Climate Conference.

Discernment = Self respect.  There is no other way to choose well than from a position of strength and humility, which is perhaps the greatest form of strength.  Always the painting is stronger, more alive than I.  Always it wants something I can barely imagine to happen.  My response is to simplify.  Simplify again.

Paris. Last night at least 127 people were killed and many more injured by a terrorist group. In Paris. The western world weeps and buckles down into fear: close the borders! Protect our own! But there are bombs also in Syria, in Bagdad, in Beiruit. We do not respond to these by changing our profile pictures in solidarity...
Paris. Last night at least 127 people were killed and many more injured by a terrorist group. In Paris. The western world weeps and buckles down into fear: close the borders! Protect our own! But there are bombs also in Syria, in Bagdad, in Beiruit. We do not respond to these by changing our profile pictures in solidarity…

I look up after pause moments (knitting a scarf with cables so I need to count:  perl three, knit three, perl three, four rows, then knit one, perl three, knit three.  It’s four feet long now…), and I notice that there is a pattern also in the drawings on each canvas.  The bells are progressively getting louder, their mouths wider…

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. - L. Cohen, "Anthem"
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. – L. Cohen, “Anthem”

We shall see where change takes us.  I go willingly.

This 2015 Canadian election.

I don’t want to know how many hours I’ve spent online trying to write through and responding to ‘stick with the brand’ thinking, or the conversations that possibly should have been more focused on personal issues.

Ring the bells that still can ring,
Ring the bells that still can ring…

At the beginning of each day I tear myself from Guardian articles and online debates about the pros and cons of strategic voting and move on to more immediate and practical things, like building the integrity and health of my meagre artist’s income:  details about rehearsals and performances, venues and instruments, music part distribution, class schedules and coaching in schools, cello practise and pedagogical research about teaching; the development of a new art course about Line, Light and Colour in time for folks to make Christmas gifts; the development and manifestation of new functional art for the November Studio Tour; at home, gathering up fall bounty and cooking/freezing soups, stews, stock for the winter, putting Summer into the back shed…

...forget your perfect offering...
…forget your perfect offering…

To not attend to these things would be to exhibit a total lack of self respect.  But I’m aware that the current reward at the end of each day is permission to engage wholeheartedly in the process of this election, which grows more and more like a comic book each day.

The personal is political.  In this 2015 National Election Canada struggles to reclaim, rebuild and then manifest our Self Respect, while the world watches.

...there's a crack - a crack in everything...
…there’s a crack – a crack in everything…

I fully intended to use these days in my studio to work on the #Water project, but this election has changed my mind.

The Massie Hall #Water show has been postponed until April 2016, when the ice cracks and the streams flow again after our long long freeze.

Instead of a Massie Hall show in November, I’m opening my studio to show new work, inspired by the election, by Canada, the state of the world, and by Leonard Cohen.  That will be on November 28, we’re thinking (several artists will be involved), and you’ll hear more details from me soon.

...that's how the light gets in. L.Cohen, 'Anthem'
…that’s how the light gets in.                                       L.Cohen, ‘Anthem’

I’m alarmed that we have come to this, in Canada, in my beautiful riding of Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound.  I want to be represented regionally by a states-woman, who can articulate my concern to Ottawa, about Truth and Reconciliation with First Nations people, about the toxic distortion of human governance that is Bill C-51, about climate change and the development of clean energy sources, about access to our own locally grown food, about poverty and dignity and full support for the arts in this country.  Our Beloved CBC under threat via TPP.  Our Beloved lakes, streams and waterways sold to China through FIPA.

I’m painting ships bells that call all hands on deck.  They will be hung at The Bean Cellar in Owen Sound the week after my studio tour, on December 4.  I’ll be posting them here in process until then.

Please Canada.  Election day is tomorrow.

Please vote for Self-Respect.

These days the greater part of my awareness is below the ground amid the roots of plants I’ve put there  – encouraging them to reach down, to spread through the warm rich mix of compost, loam and peat moss I’ve made for them  – drink drink, feed, grow.

Above ground the signs are good – everyone is standing up tall and strong, producing flowering buds (some for the first time in years) and spreading out as far as possible to catch the sun.

my favourite elm, leafing out again over the north garden
my favourite elm, leafing out again over the north garden

These plants are themselves the meeting point of earth and sun – where miracles occur.  No matter how often I witness this burst of spring growth I’m still astonished by it.

What a will to live and be huge!  What tenacity! – to come out from under three feet of snow and in two short weeks grow from dormancy to golden green and glorious and sweet sweet scent and bloom!

these blossoms are SO heavy - most years their stems can't hold them up, esp after a rain.  Strong stems this year....
these blossoms are SO heavy – most years their stems can’t hold them up, esp after a rain. Strong stems this year….

We exist in partnership, these plants and I.  They cannot choose where they will grow, are entirely reliant upon my attention for this.  Some feel aversion to others and demand to be moved elsewhere.  Some need more space, some need more sun, others less, some more water, some want their roots exposed, other need them deeply covered – I can hear them telling me if I listen properly.  Once they’re settled where they want to be though – the miracles happen – Ah!  What joy.

I believe it is also this way with music education.

celli rehearsing for trio performance in Kiwanis Music Festival this April
celli rehearsing for trio performance in Kiwanis Music Festival this April

Here in this small small town that has witnessed so many big musical triumphs by it’s young musicians, we are in need of a soil change and some enlightened educational planning.  There are very young players who have no access to decent instruments (soil), positive and consistent guidance into proper technique and a regular place to play together (sun).   Very few schools offer string programs now, save for two exceptionally strong programs to the east.  Strings are the heart of any orchestra – without them you can’t play the beautiful classics that so inspire kids to make the world a better place.

OSCVI is a highschool 150 + years old with a rich musical tradition that I am and so many others are a product of – this year the orchestra program at OSCVI was cancelled, for lack of string players.  For me, and for so many others who were enriched by the music from OSCVI, this feels like a sucker punch.

This is not acceptable, to have no school orchestra in this town.

I don’t believe it – that kids don’t want to play stringed instruments anymore.

They are there – the kids who want to play.  They are there, the parents who will support them.  They’re just not getting any sunlight.

Edouard Bartlett - a great gardener of young players.  Photo by John Newton of Ed at Heinl's with a Stradavarius violin, looking cheeky.
Edouard Bartlett – a great gardener of young players. Photo by John Newton of Ed at Heinl’s with a Stradavarius violin, looking cheeky.

We need to change this.  We really really do.  Music allows kids to blossom in a way that academic achievement never will.  In fact, learning to play an instrument well, and in concert with others can only support academic achievement – but this is a by-product.

The real benefit of playing music with your peers is that you learn step into your confidence, accept who you are, respect yourself and others, and learn how to love learning.

Then miracles happen.

Shall we prepare to be astonished?