Beautiful Dichotomy, sort of…

Art in a place where I stayed in Santa Cruz, California. © Joan Currie

Anagnorisis definition: the point in a play, novel, etc., in which a principal character recognizes or discovers another character’s true identity or the true nature of their own circumstances.

The first sounds I hear upon waking in the morning are those of the low-pitched train whistle as it approaches the station about two miles away. The intensity of the sound seems to vary depending on the weather – it is much louder on foggy days. I hear one blast at first followed by several more urgent blasts. At first, I am comforted by the sounds – sounds of a new day, sounds of my daily life in the city. But then, I think of why the whistle blasts so persistently. This station and these tracks have been the scene of a number of tragedies in recent years – high school students mostly. So those first happy thoughts quickly turn to sadness, mourning for the unknown-to-me young lives lost. Every lighthouse, buoy marker, and signal can also be a symbol for the ominous. Then I realize that I must put aside my dark thoughts and be grateful for the wonderful day that lies ahead!

Ten Beautiful Outdoor Winter Preparations…

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Dutch whaler woolen hat, c. 1650-1700, I photographed at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

…the men recognized one another only by the pattern of stripes on the caps. The men were bundled up so tightly against the fierce cold that only their eyes were visible.” Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

It’s wintertime and I plan to spend time outdoors. Despite the prevalence of winter survival videos that make life in the wilderness look so easy, the elements can be very unpredictable and conditions can become life-threatening very quickly. I have experienced some challenging times in snow country, including my snowmobile falling through the ice. Fortunately, I was able to jump away from the ice hole, but after that, I had a much greater respect for winter safety and safety in general. I travel with a buddy whenever possible and make sure I set up a communication and locator alert system with a designated family member or friend before setting out.
Here’s what I do to keep warm and safe in the cold:

1. Wear a woolen hat and neck warmer. (I have knit myself several, and always bring a couple of extra ones in case it snows heavily and they get wet.)

2. Use a waterproof shell for my woolen mittens to keep my hands warm and dry (see below). I pack spare pairs of mitten liners.

3. Dress in layers to regulate my warmth and so I can remove or replace ones if needed. I pack backup clothes as well, including a bag that I always keep in the trunk of the car. If it is really cold, I wrap a wide wool scarf around my waist and over my kidneys to keep my core warm.

4. I know my gear: I have tested my sleeping bag to be sure of its comfort rating. I pack an extra one in case the temperature drops lower than anticipated. (I use a converted quilt as my backup sleeping bag to my mummy sleeping bag.) I make sure to keep them both dry, especially since they are down-filled.

5. Take a pocket thermometer to be aware of the temperature dropping, particularly in the late afternoon.

6. Take a travel carbon monoxide detector in case I have to spend time in my car or a cabin with a gas heater or open flame.

7. Keep my phone charged and keep it close to my body so it doesn’t freeze up. Pack a backup battery.

8. A flashlight, headlamp, and high visibility reflective vest are musts.

9. Bring along extra food such as power bars and especially water – I keep a water bottle tucked in an inside pocket.

10. Car equipment: chains or cables, shovel, sand or kitty litter for traction. Snow equipment: waterproof boots with snow leg gaiters, snowshoes, boot calipers, rope, and a small axe, ice pick and knife. I mark my ice pick handle with one inch markings to measure the thickness of the ice.

My cold weather mittens with wool liners and outer shells.

Tabula Rasa for 2022…

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I make no resolutions for the New Year. The habit of making plans, of criticizing,
sanctioning and molding my life, is too much of a daily event for me. Anaïs Nin

At the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, I open my front door and let the old year out and welcome the New Year in. It is a moment of complete purity, betwixt the two years – 2022 about to begin, with no mistakes in it (yet). There is yearning, an expectant pause about what all the year might have to offer.
Unlike Anaïs Nin, I make resolutions each New Year to form a structure from which to flourish. And so, with great excitement, I face another beginning, when all things are possible!

May your New Year be all that it can be for you, too! Happy 2022!

Model: Khrystyana Kazakova

Beautiful New Year’s Resolutions, sort of…

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Looking forward to 2022…

Success consists of going from failure to failure without a loss of enthusiasm. – Winston Churchill

My father loved sports and games. He was a fierce competitor and exuberant victor. I revered him and from a very young age wanted to get in on the action. I knew that I would never beat him at the chosen sport or game, but it was thrilling just to be in his realm while I played opposite him. He didn’t believe in throwing a game or giving handicaps – if I were to win, it would have to be a completely unambiguous victory.

As the years went on, I accepted defeat – most of the time it was utter defeat, complete annihilation, actually. But in my teens I figured out a way to play against him that became enjoyable. Rather than concentrate on the final outcome, always defeat for me, I played by point spreads. To my surprise, I actually got better at the sports and games and wanted to play more often. I became a warrior and found enjoyment in the challenge! I never did beat him at any sport or game but I always had a good time.

After reviewing my 2021 New Year’s Resolutions, I realized that I had completed only three of the thirty listed. Hardly a victory. But I had a good time trying and I am actually further ahead than this time last year. I now have another list for 2022 – do I really think that I will complete it? No. But I will enjoy the challenge!

Photo by David Dodds

Beautiful Tree Trimming…

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With a little help from my friend…

The gloom of the world is but a shadow; behind it, yet, within our reach, is joy. Take Joy.
And so, at this Christmas time, I greet you, with the prayer that for you, now and forever,
the day breaks and the shadows flee away.
Fra Giovanni

Putting the last ornaments on the tree…

Santa, for sure!
Love Charlie Brown!

Photos by James and Chloe Currie

Beautiful Winter Solstice…

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Like somebody who sees things when he’s dreaming
And after the dream lives with the aftermath
Of what he felt, no other trace remaining,

So I live now, for what I saw departs
And is almost lost, although a distilled sweetness
Still drops from it into my inner heart.

From A Dream of Solstice by Seamus Heaney

This has been a year of stark contrasts for me: moments of acute pain, suffering, and sorrow but also moments of happiness, joy, and exuberance. I could not say that the lightest moments outweigh, compensate, or obliterate the darkest ones, but, because one cannot change the past, I choose to carry only the feelings and memories of the lightest moments forward.

Photo by David Dodds

Ten Beautiful Christmas Cookbooks…

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My current favorites…

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.

from The Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore

My Christmas baking marathon has begun!

Here is the list of books featured above:

  1. The London Ritz Book Of Christmas by Jennie Reekie
  2. The New England Butt’ry Shelf Cookbook by Mary Mason Campbell
  3. Real Sweet by Shauna Sever
  4. Very Fond of Food by Sophie Dahl
  5. How To Be A Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson
  6. Martha Stewart’s Christmas by Martha Stewart
  7. Christmas From The Heart Of The Home by Susan Branch
  8. Holidays, from the best of Martha Stewart Living Magazine
  9. The Canadian Living Christmas Book by the editors of Canadian Living Magazine
  10. Entertaining by Martha Stewart
Mincemeat tarts hot out of the oven!

Ten Beautiful Things I Do After The First Snowfall…

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Walking in the woods…

“Before you can have a roaring fire, you’ve got to gather a good supply of wood.” Pierre-Auguste Renoir

I love this time of year! At the first snowfall, I start preparing to stay warm and cozy inside my house but also to make the most of the splendorous winter wonderland that awaits me outdoors. Below is my list of what I love to do during my favorite season:

1. Get out all my wool toques, mittens, and scarves, the down jacket, and the snow boots with the big snow cuffs.

2. Put my flannel sheets, down comforter, and wool mattress topper on my bed,

3. Walk through the woods and try to spot a hare or Snowy owl. Listen for the bird calls of a Blue Jay, Cardinal or Bohemian waxwing.

4. At sunset, as the temperature is dropping the fastest and the wind has fallen, listen to the rare crinkling sound of the ice crystals forming on a pond or gentle stream.

5. Before dinner, light a fire in the hearth. The sounds of the damper cranking open, match striking, and wood crackling – magical. The woodsmoke settles briefly in my hair and transports me to seasons past.

6. Change the recipes from the cool meals of summer to the warm, comfort meals of winter; stews, soups, and hot meat pies.

7. Round up my Christmas baking supplies: cookie cutters, plum pudding molds, mince tart tins, and best of all, my mother and grandmothers’ special recipes and ingredients.

8. Listen to the muffled sounds of the city when the snow falls, delight in watching the snowflakes dance as they descend from on high and feel them touch my face, make a snow angel, and jump off a snowbank.

9. Get my skates sharpened, check my snowshoe strings, and find the wax for my cross-country skiis.

10. Cozy up in front of the fire after dinner with a warm blanket, hot chocolate or apple cider, and significant other… or a romantic novel.

In addition, check out the beautiful YouTube channel featuring many winter videos from Jonna Jinton in Sweden.

Photo by David Dodds

 

Ten Beautiful Things I Like About A Brewer…

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Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.
from Shakespeare’s Macbeth

  1. The way he works with his hands.
  2. The way he works with what Nature provides – hops, barley, yeast, and water.
  3. The way he has great chemistry and knows it: his pH, specific gravity, boiling point, and lovibond are perfect!
  4. The way he knows his pots and pans: mash tun, boil kettle, and hot liquor tank.
  5. The way he creates his own recipes. He is a chef who only uses his grain bill, yeast, hops, and spices.
  6. The way he brews for taste not alcohol, and believes that, “beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy” (apologies to Benjamin Franklin).
  7. The way he knows the difference between kegging, casking, and bottling.
  8. The way he looks forward to the changing seasons because they bring the opportunity for the seasonal brews (his Christmas brew is special!).
  9. The way he enjoys sharing his brews.
  10. The way he is adventurous. He values the classics but is always ready to try something new.
Photos by Mark and David Dodds

Ten Beautiful Art Books About Women Artists…

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My favorite art books about women artists and a portrait painted by me to the right.

In art, what we want is the certainty that one spark of original genius shall not be extinguished.
Mary Cassatt.

My favorite women artists are Emily Carr and Mary Cassatt: the former for her landscapes and the latter for her portraits. It was difficult to narrow it down to just two as Berthe Morisot, Cecilia Beaux, Frida Kahlo, Marlene Dumas, Joan Brown, and Cecily Brown are also contenders. What I love is the great volume of work these artists have produced and in many different mediums.

The books pictured above:
Joan Eardley by Fiona Pearson (exhibition catalogue)
Berthe Morisot by Jean-Dominique Rey
Berthe Morisot Impressionist by Charles F. Stuckey and William P. Scott
Helene Schjerfbeck by the Royal Academy of Arts (exhibition catalogue)
Vanessa Bell edited by Sarah Milroy and Ian A. C. Dejardin
The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum edited by Peter H. Hassrick
Mary Cassatt: Modern Woman organized by Judith A. Barter, Art Institute of Chicago
The Art of Emily Carr by Doris Shadbolt
American Women Artists 1830-1930 by Eleanor Tufts, The National Museum of Women in the Arts
Women Artists by Margaret Barlow (1999 edition cover shown below with painting by Mary Cassatt, The Loge)