Hiking in the Dolomites

We started our via Ferrara tour in Valli del Pasubio. It was a gentle introduction to Ferrata but with temperatures continuing to be in the 30’s C we felt like we were hiking in a sauna. This Valley, as in many areas of the Dolomites, is full of reminders of the fighting that occurred between the Italians and Austrians during World War One. Each spring when the snow melts and the talus shifts, bones rise to the surface of the slopes. An Ossuary has been built to honour the remains of these unknown soldiers.

Truth Stranger Than Fiction!

(photo credit: NASA)

A well summarized version of 2020 so far (credits to whoever wrote this, not me)

Dear Diary 2020 Edition,

In January, Australia caught on fire. I don’t even know if that fire was put out, because we straight up almost went to war with Iran. We might actually still be almost at war with them. I don’t know, because Jen Aniston and Brad Pitt spoke to one another at an awards show and everyone flipped the f— out, but then there was this thing happening in China, then Prince Harry and Meghan peaced out of the Royal family, and there was the whole impeachment trial, and then corona virus showed up in the US “officially,” but then Kobe died and UK peaced out of the European Union.

In February, Iowa crapped itself with the caucus results and the president was acquitted and the Speaker of the House took ten years to rip up a speech, but then WHO decided to give this virus a name COVID-19, which confused some really important people in charge of, like, our lives, into thinking there were 18 other versions before it, but then Harvey Weinstein was found guilty, and Americans started asking if Corona beer was safe to drink, and everyone on Facebook became a doctor who just knew the flu like killed way more people than COVID 1 through 18.

In March, shit hit the fan. Warren dropped out of the presidential race and Sanders was like Bernie or Bust, but then Italy shut its whole ass down, and then COVID Not 1 through 18 officially become what everyone already realized, a pandemic, and then a nationwide state of emergency was declared in the US, but it didn’t really change anything, so everyone was confused or thought it was still just a flu, but then COVID Not 18 was like ya’ll not taking me seriously? I’m gonna infect the one celebrity everyone loves and totally infected Tom Hanks, but then the DOW took a shit on itself, and most of us still don’t understand why the stock market is so important or even a thing (I still don’t), but then we were all introduced to Tiger King. (Carol totally killed her husband), and Netflix was like you’re welcome, and we all realized there was no way we were washing our hands enough in the first place because all of our hands are now dry and gross.

In April, Bernie finally busted himself out of the presidential race, but then NYC became the set of The Walking Dead and we learned that no one has face masks, ventilators, or toilet paper, or THE FREAKING SWIFFER WET JET LIQUID, but then Kim Jong-Un died, but then he came back to life … or did he? Who knows, because then the Pentagon released videos of UFOs and nobody cared, and we were like man, it’s only April …

In May, the biblical end times kicked off historical locust swarms and then we learned of murder hornets and realized that 2020 was the start of the Hunger Games but people forgot to let us know, but then people legit protested lockdown measures with AR-15s, and then sports events were cancelled everywhere. But then people all over America finally reached a breaking point with race issues and violence. There were protests in every city, but then people forgot about the pandemic called COVID Not One Through 18. Media struggled with how to focus on two important things at once, but then people in general struggle to focus on more than one important thing, and a dead whale was found in the middle of the Amazon rain forest after monkeys stole COVID 1 Through 19 from a lab and ran off with them, and either in May or April (no one is keeping track of time now) that a giant asteroid narrowly missed Earth.

In June, science and common sense just got thrown straight out the window and somehow wearing masks became a political thing, but then a whole lot of people realized the South was actually the most unpatriotic thing ever and actually lost the Civil War, and there are a large amount of people who feel that statues they don’t even know the name of are needed for … history reasons … but then everyone sort of remembered there was a pandemic, but then decided that not wearing a mask was somehow a God-given right (still haven’t found that part in the bible or even in the constitution), but then scientists announced they found a mysterious undiscovered mass at the center of the earth, and everyone was like DON’T YOU DARE TOUCH IT, but then everyone took a pause to realize that people actually believed Gone With the Wind was like non-fiction, but then it was also announced that there is a strange radio signal coming from somewhere in the universe that repeats itself every so many days, and everyone was like DON’T YOU DARE ATTEMPT TO COMMUNICATE WITH IT, but then America reopened from the shut down that actually wasn’t even a shut down, and so far, things have gone spectacularly not that great, but everyone is on Facebook arguing that masks kill because no one knows how breathing works, but then Florida was like hold my beer and let me show you how we’re number one in all things, including new Not Corona Beer Corona Virus. Trump decides now is a good time to ask the Supreme Court to shut down Obama Care because what better time to do so than in the middle of a pandemic, but then we learned there was a massive dust cloud coming straight at us from the Sahara Desert, which is totally normal, but this is 2020, so the ghost mummy thing is most likely in that dust cloud, but then I learned of meth-gators, and I’m like that is so not on my f-ing 2020 Bingo card, but then we learned that the Congo’s worst ever Ebola outbreak is over, and we were all like, there was an Ebola outbreak that was the worst ever?

In July … Aliens? Zeus? Asteroids? Artificial Intelligence becomes self-aware?

Sharing A Beautiful Artist

(The following article is from thisiscolossal.com a wonderful site of all things to do with art)

In The Redemption, photography-based artist Tawny Chatmon celebrates the beauty of Black hair through a series of arresting portraits superimposed with 24 karat gold flourishes. Each photograph features a solemn child who’s dressed in hand-painted ornate, gilt garments that are inspired by Austrian painter Gustav Klimt’s Golden Phase. “These portraits are meant to act as a counter-narrative and redemptive measure to uplift and elevate Black hair, tradition, and culture freeing us from negative stereotypes,” Chatmon says in a statement. “An intent, not to be confused with seeking validation, but rather an unyielding affirmation of Black beauty.”

By evoking Klimt, the Maryland-based artist hopes to elicit similar feelings as when considering some of the painter’s pieces like “The Kiss,” for example. “I remember being drawn to the details, the poses, of course, the gold, and the grace,” she says of her initial reaction to his pieces. The ornamental additions immediately signal beauty, which has many different meanings for Chatmon.

Beauty is every child in these portraits. Beauty is individuality and nonconformity. Beauty is something that you saw, that you can’t stop thinking about because it made such a good impression on you. Beauty is the way I felt when I got to hold each of my babies after giving birth to them. Beauty is motherhood. Beauty is when my 15-year-old son makes it a point to hug me every night and tells me he loves me. Beauty is goodness. Beauty is knowing you’re beautiful even in a world hellbent on making you think otherwise.

To explore more of the artist’s layered photographs that consider both personal and cultural conceptions of allure, grace, and strength, head to her site and Instagram.

Response to Just Wondering

Thank you to my friend Meghan for sharing this with me in response to my previous post questioning whether we really can see and feel what others see and feel.

We Are Not In The Same Boat

I heard that we are all in the same boat, but it’s not like that. We are in the same storm, but not in the same boat. Your ship could be shipwrecked and mine might not be. Or vice versa.

For some, quarantine is optimal. A moment of reflection, or re-connection, easy in flip flops, with a cocktail or coffee. For others, this is a desperate financial & family crisis.

For some that live alone they’re facing endless loneliness. While for others it is peace, rest & time with their mother, father, sons & daughters.

With the $600 weekly increase in unemployment some are bringing in more money to their households than they were working. Others are working more hours for less money due to pay cuts or loss in sales.

Some families of 4 received $3400 from the stimulus while other families of 4 saw $0.

Some were concerned about getting a certain candy for Easter while others were concerned if there would be enough bread, milk and eggs for the weekend.

Some want to go back to work because they don’t qualify for unemployment and are running out of money. Others want to kill those who break the quarantine.

Some are home spending 2-3 hours/day helping their child with online schooling while others are spending 2-3 hours/day to educate their children on top of a 10-12 hour workday.

Some have experienced the near death of the virus, some have already lost someone from it and some are not sure if their loved ones are going to make it. Others don’t believe this is a big deal.

Some have faith in God and expect miracles during this 2020. Others say the worst is yet to come.

So, friends, we are not in the same boat. We are going through a time when our perceptions and needs are completely different.

Each of us will emerge, in our own way, from this storm. It is very important to see beyond what is seen at first glance. Not just looking, actually seeing.

We are all different ships during this storm experiencing a very different journey.

Realize that and be kind.

Unknown Author.

“It is very important to see beyond what is seen at first glance. Realize that and be kind.”

Big Bad Wolf In The Mirror

It’s impossible to not feel something watching the marches and protests that are continuing throughout the United States, Canada and around the world. Some of the feelings are difficult to name and sit with. As a white, middle class female I have lived a relatively privileged life. It’s difficult to face how insidious racism is in our society and accept how unconsciously I may have been contributing to it. George Floyd’s death has ripped open a scar that will never be the same. The bleeding may stop but the wound can either heal or the infection become worse. I am asking myself, how can I, right now, look deeply at any way I can add love and compassion to question long held beliefs so that I may contribute to healing.

When did we become our own worst enemy.
Minnesota, land of 10,000 lakes -
they're practically Canadian.
A border and a name is not enough to claim
we are any different.
When did we buy into the lie
our leaders would have us believe
that they are looking out for our best interest.

An egg placed in hot water
becomes soft cooked after three minutes,
hard boiled after twelve,
after that shells may crack.
Gunshot explosions
when the pot boils dry
have us diving for cover.
Yolk sticks to the stipple
like only something contained 
and under pressure, can.

The world placed in a cell phone lens
becomes agitated in eight seconds,
the time it takes 
to form a first impression.
After eight minutes and forty-six seconds
it boils over, multiple "moments of truth"
crack
a two-hundred year old shell,
a police car, a parking space, a man's face
on the asphalt
When did a plea for mercy
become something to taunt,
a knee on a neck, an eye turned away

I have to remind myself to not look away,
to feel the discomfort, to see the obstacles,
see how we use our language,
the toys we give our children,
the messages in their spaces of learning,
Barbie and Ken in their Malibu home,
masculine control of naming and explaining.
What can we learn from Black Americans,
from people of color, 
how they inhabit their bodies
how they live in the world.

I have to remind myself to not look away.
The message sticks
like only something contained 
and under pressure,
can.

For The Unsuspecting

Dear Readers, with Mother’s Day this past weekend I had planned to write a poem to my mom thanking her for all she has done raising myself and my siblings. But the poem that arrived on the page is very different. My stepfather, of seventeen years, passed away a year ago on May 9th. I have definitely been thinking of him as the anniversary approached and that inspired the following poem.

For The Unsuspecting

This poem can’t make the snow stop falling or take away the cold. It won’t warm your bed at night or make breakfast for you in the morning. This poem can’t change a tire, change the oil or replace a spark plug. It can’t find a new lover for you even if you stand under the Flower Moon and recite it three times backward. This poem cannot make the bed, wash your hair, sweep the floor or stir the soup. It won’t make the clouds cross the sky any faster or the night feel less dark.

This poem is a small engine that fails to start. It is broken, rusty, a piece of metal without any use. It doesn’t haul water. It doesn’t cut grass. What it does do, is shred itself beneath the yellow roses. It blends with the soil and rots away. When you think it has completely disappeared and left your life, it blooms on a sunny day in June.

A Couple Of Things They Don’t Tell You

Here are a couple of things they don’t tell you about sheltering in place. They don’t tell you how one day will blend into another, how you will have to look at your phone or computer calendar to know exactly what day of the week it is. You might rise earlier to catch the sun coming up or sleep later and wake with a dream chasing you into your day. They don’t tell you when you shelter in place how much you will miss your grown children – the ones you only saw once a week anyway but with the virus senses are heightened and each moment has an urgency to it. It feels like all the love you have must be funneled into this moment in case it passes and the opportunity isn’t here again.

When you shelter in place they don’t tell you how filled with emotion you will be when an ad hoc parade rolls down your street. How hearing horns honking will lift your head from the trowel in your flowerbed. How you will move to the front yard in time to see banners with the names of teachers, proclaiming how much they are loved and missed. Your hand will automatically go up to wave and tears will automatically fall for people you don’t know and for a mascot you don’t recognize but the outpouring of heartfelt sentiment is real and palpable. You see your neighbors, who have also come out onto the street, put their arms around each others shoulders. As the parade disappears everyone lingers, looks in the direction the parade has just gone, holding on to the love just a little longer. With a little wave, or half smile, people slowly walk back to what they were doing. They don’t tell you that when you are sheltering in place you will feel alone even among your neighbors.

Or how spending twenty-four/seven with your husband, the man you love, can feel like a little too much time together. How you have no doubt you want to be together but even in this time of sheltering and craving time with others, you still need time to be alone, to be still with your thoughts, to just breathe.

They don’t tell you how the joy and beauty of seeing your friends on Zoom can quickly swing to heartbreak when you realize how long it has been since you’ve hugged any of them. No one tells you how difficult it is to perform for your friends, cello notes ringing loud and clear… you see their faces but can’t make eye contact, and you see their hands are clapping but you can’t hear the applause. No one tells you when you shelter in place how much you will miss the subtleties of human contact, the shift in posture you read in a conversation, the slight inflections in one’s speech, the things lost with the delay of video links. No one tells you that playing bridge, a game you love, will become just a game. What you really loved was the analysis of the play of the hand afterward, the laughter, the teasing, the small talk. Typing in a chat box doesn’t compare. Nothing can replace the feeling of security and realness of gathering in the same room – even if all you do is smile and let the energy of their being wash over you. I can’t wait to be drenched.

God of ACCEPTANCE

The landscape painter at the artist colony in the country
noted for its messianic light, its sparse, hard-to-capture
beauty, complains she's come all this way to paint al fresco but
the mosquitoes have driven her inside, no matter the netting
on her hat, her cuffed sleeves and pants, a heavy does of Deet.
They bite through everything. And when she tries to snap a
picture, a breathy handkerchief of mosquitoes flutters over
the lens.  What can I do? she moans, trapped in a dull and
narrow room, thinking of booking a ticket back to her studio
in Vancouver.  Paint the mosquitoes, god replies.

Lorna Crozier
from God Of Shadows
2018 McClelland & Stewart

(image credit: Trichy Insights)

April 23, 2020

The past few days, just when I thought that I am adjusting to this strange new world where everything is familiar but unknown at the same time, I have been thrown “off course” again by the senseless killing that has taken place on Canada’s east coast. I am filled with a sense of time that feels like I’m in a fun house with the crazy mirrors that reflect altered images, a warped me. My words are held in a lump in my throat so instead I share with you the words of Joseph Campbell:

“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.”

(photo credit: Sebastien Gabriel)