Friday, July 21, 2017

One Last Pie

Suddenly, the days are going by so quickly. In only two more days, the movers will be here. We have been labouring at packing up all of our belongings. The movers will pack the fragile items, art, and electronics. We are packing all the rest. It is physically exhausting.

Yesterday, I finished packing up my office at my workplace and walked away from it for the last time. Rob came with the pickup truck and handcart and loaded up 21 extremely heavy boxes of books and papers. They are banker's boxes, much smaller than the boxes I used when I moved into this office one year ago. I figure that with all the books that I have given away, and all the files full of paper that have gone to recycling, I am keeping only about one third of what was in my office. Still, 21 full boxes -- that's a lot to move.

This month we have experienced many "lasts." The last sushi meal at our favourite Japanese restaurant. The last haircut with my wonderful stylist. The last painting session with my painting buddies at the community art studio. The last pie.

A Raspberry Pie -- It Was Delicious!

A few years ago, I tore out one of the decorative garden beds in our backyard, and planted some raspberry canes, strawberries, and rhubarb. It took them awhile to get established, and this year the raspberry canes are heavy with fruit. So earlier this week, I picked raspberries and baked a raspberry pie. It seems I have finally figured out how to adjust my pie crust recipe for this dry climate; the pie was really good. But now we are off to the coast to move to our new home which has lovely gardens but no raspberry canes or vegetable beds. So we had to have one last pie!

Rather than moving all of our furniture, we donated some of it to a local charitable organization. On Tuesday, two fellows came by with a truck and took away our couch, loveseat, a table, some bookshelves, and so on. However, they took one look at my old oak office desk and declined to take it. They said that no one wants big old oak desks anymore, even for free.

I bought the desk from an office surplus store for next to nothing, and have had it for more than 20 years. However, I had decided that it would not be coming with me to Vancouver Island. The desk was too heavy for Rob and me to move out of the den. So Rob dismantled it, and I am sad to say, cut it up with his circular saw and took it to the dump. He was kind enough to wait until I left the house, because he knew how upset I was about it. The photo below shows my last glimpse of my desk.

Rob Dismantles the Desk

Something we have really liked about living here are all the wonderful hikes and walks in the area. I already have written about our last hike at Waterton Lakes National Park. We have discovered many camping and hiking areas on the eastern slope of the Rockies. Police Outpost Provincial Park is another favourite. Our last day of skiing at West Castle Mountain in March was the best powder ski day we have experienced at that ski hill in all our years skiing there. We were having so much fun skiing that we forgot to take pictures!

One of the things we have loved about our home is that is located right on the edge of the river valley. There are a number of trails nearby that we can access into the coulees and they go for miles.


One of my Last Coulee Rambles with Kate

Last Walk Down to the River with Rob

It has been interesting exploring the small towns scattered across the prairies. The autumn that I had a broken foot, we did a lot of touring by car. Some of the towns are quaint, some shabby or desolate, and some are insular and smug. One little town that we like a lot is Nanton, and also the Coutts Centre near it.

Last Visit to Coutts Centre

It has been an interesting five years. We won't miss some things about the place, such as the terrible drivers, the overt racism, and the extreme conservatism. We are eager to move back to BC, and we love our new house, and its location by the ocean. Now we just have to make it through the move itself.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Big Changes are Happening!

Well, we are right back into the groove of our messy old ways of housekeeping. But this time, we have a good excuse. Our house has sold, and we are packing! Yep, it has finally happened.

We have a confirmed move date. The movers will be here two weeks from today. As we are packing everything except the fragile items, art, and electronics, we have a lot of packing to do.

The Moving Dates

Rob already has started on the packing. Since the conditions came off on the sale of the house a few days ago, he has packed the entire family room (aka the man cave). He has brought home boxes and made a dump run. Meanwhile, I have been going off to the office frantically trying to wrap up a project before the move. Then I will pack my office.

Mountain of Boxes

Although I haven't packed much yet, I haven't been completely uninvolved with the moving plans. I have been doing the coordinating and arranging. I have arranged the move dates, and a pickup of furniture that we will be donating rather than taking with us. I have been working through the checklists of moving tasks, and stripped beds not in use and washed all the bedding in preparation for packing. I have begun going through our home filing cabinet sorting and throwing away papers - so much paper! How did we ever accumulate so many files of useless junk?

Recently, my son made a final visit here to sort through all his stuff and decide what to keep and what to donate or toss. He packed up his room. Now he has gone back to BC and is house-sitting our new house for us.

While he was here, we took some time out for a day hike on the eastern slope of the Rockies. We did one of our favourite hikes, one to Sofa Mountain. It is a hike up into a cirque, mostly through alpine meadows. The scenery is spectacular, and includes three waterfalls. At this time of year there are so many wild flowers. Of course, we picked a really hot day for our hike, and we're glad that we had brought a water filtering pump so that we could replenish our water bottles in the creek.

Jude, Rob, & Kate in the Lower Meadows

Wandering Through the Cirque

Hikes to Sofa Mountain and elsewhere in Waterton Lakes National Park will be one of the fond memories that we will take with us when we leave this area.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Painting Canada's Landscapes

     Prairie Landscape

I began painting several decades ago. I started taking community workshops in oil painting when I was a highschool student in a small northern Canadian town.

I was part of the baby boom generation that created a bulge in the school system. There were more students than classrooms or teachers. During my elementary school years, it was typical to be placed in classes of 40-42 students. We pushed our desks together to make double rows so that we could all fit into a standard-sized classroom. By the time that I reached junior and senior high school, the demographic bulge was putting pressure on the availability of elective courses. For example, in Grade 8, there were not enough spaces in Home Economics classes, so a few girls were allowed to opt to take shop classes instead, for the first time ever.

One of the ways that the bulge affected me is that my highschool discontinued offering Art 11 and 12, and the teacher was reassigned to teach other courses. I always had loved doing art, and was disappointed that I would not be able to take Art as an elective in highschool. So, I signed up for evening adult art classes.

My parents bought me a portable easel, and I used my babysitting money to invest in a starter set of paints, brushes, and canvas boards. Our instructor, Quentin Robbins, taught us the basics of oil painting. On wintery nights, we painted a series of still life scenes that he set up for us, or scenes from photos. However, Quentin's real passion was painting landscapes. He especially like to paint rural scenes of old tumbledown barns.

I discovered that I too loved to paint landscapes. I continued to sign up for painting workshops as a teenager. However, after I left my hometown, I rarely had opportunities to paint. Sometimes a decade would go by between periods of painting. But this last five years, I have made it a priority to find time to paint. I haven't painted as much as I would like -- maybe 2-3 hours a week or every two weeks.

      Plein Air Painting at Coutts' Centre

One of my new discoveries has been en plein air painting. I love to stand outside in a field or near the mountains, painting. One truly gets a sense of a place by painting on location. Sure, there are bugs, wind, changing light, and weather to contend with. But it is such an intense experience.

A couple of weekends ago, I attended a plein air paintout at the Coutt's Centre for Western Heritage in southern Alberta. It is a family homestead that Jim Coutts donated to create a heritage centre. It is a spectacular location for painting outdoors, with a number of heritage houses and barns on the homestead, gardens, fruit trees, wooded areas, and a pond. The mountains are visible in the distance, and there are many sculpture pieces tucked away along the various pathways.

I set my easel up at the edge of a lawn dotted with large boulders. They were arranged similarly to a sundial, but one of the other guests told me that he believed that they represented a teepee ring. Beyond the circle was an area of tall grass, then bushes, and behind that a barn, trees, and sky.

Because I wanted to finish my painting during the day, I used a small canvas, 11x14 inches. Although I prefer to paint larger, I have found through experience that that I cannot a finish a painting in one session if I start with a larger canvas.

My position behind a large cluster of bushes was perfect; it protected me from the wind which otherwise might have blown my easel over. The only problem was that there was no shade there, so I was standing in full sun all day. However, I slathered myself with sunscreen and went to work.

It was a magical day. Although I find that my plein air landscapes have a rougher, less finished look, there is nothing like the experience of being immersed in the landscape and really looking closely at it.

      Blocking in the Willow

I also have started a small studio painting recently. It is from a photo that I took in Grand Forks, BC, in the springtime. A couple of large weeping willow trees near the river were just coming into leaf. The evening sun illuminated them, creating a brilliant yellow flow of colour. I haven't gotten far with that one yet. My painting time has been limited with all the of business of buying and selling houses and preparing to move.

Painting is a wonderful mental holiday from everyday tasks and worries. Landscapes, to me, represent something important about Canada. This is why I am writing about landscape painting on Canada's 150th birthday.

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