February 28, 2005

New York, New York, New York

Im going to New York City in a couple of days. Im really looking forward to it. At this point everyone here in Nova Scotia is tired of winter and anything above freezing would be a relief. And it is always good to get away at the end of a long winter. Spring in New York is usually quite nice. Of course Ill only be there for five days, not enough to experience good weather but probably enough to be glad to go home. Usually after three days I am ready to leave the hectic pace of the city. I guess I have become a country girl.

When I lived in NYC I never thought I would leave. Then one day I was done with my life there. And I moved here. It felt like I was being sucked up by an unknown pull, a vacuum cleaner straightening up and sorting out my life. It wasnt like I had any great revelation. It just happened. I had bought a loft in Manhattan for very little and sold it for enough to leave easily. So I did.

Before that, New York had always been the center of the universe for me; anything I could every want was there. The excitement of the city, the culture, the people I knew, the pace. Now its a great place to visit, but I wouldnt want to live there.

Im going to New York for my aunt Marcellas 100th birthday celebration. Marcella is a feisty old lady. Shes my mothers youngest sister. Although I havent seen her in a year (on my last visit to NYC), I hear she is pretty much totally aware with only a little short term memory loss and some physical weaknesses. She came to visit me here when she was 84. We went for a trip to beautiful Cape Breton, stopping at the Alexander Graham Bell Museum in Baddeck and then visiting the fortress and spending a night in Louisburg. She insisted on doing everything I could do, never admitting fatigue, always curious, enjoying the scenery but mostly the people, chatting with everyone. She has lived in the City in her own apartment all the time that I have known her. So when, on the last night of her visit, we stayed at a B&B in the country near the airport, the silence and lack of proximity to other houses and people made her feel very uncomfortable, even agitated. She is more relaxed in New York where you get run over by people if you dont move quickly on the sidewalks. (Ill have to practice walking faster in the next couple of days so I wont be surprised by the pace when I get there.)

It, no doubt, will be a lot of fun to be in New York again, good to see family, and a wonderful chance to see my friends again, the ones I left behind when I moved here.

Posted by leya at 06:50 PM | Comments (2)

February 27, 2005

Dear Deer

Yesterday I looked out the window to see a deer nibbling on the branches of some trees that were piled up to be chipped when the snow clears. This time, instead of running outside with my camera and scaring the deer away, I took some pictures from inside:


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Deer are such beautiful, graceful animals, so beautiful in the winter when they can do so little harm but such a menace in the summer when my garden is abloom. My friend Gwen puts out apples for the deer. I put out deterrents (net covers in the winter; rotten egg spray in the summer).

Posted by leya at 07:44 AM

February 26, 2005

A day of dreams; may all your (good) dreams come true��.

Thursday night I dreamed I received a Canada Council �B� Grant. In the dream I was very surprised as I hadn�t applied for one. But I wasn�t complaining!

Then on Friday, I went to my mailbox (which I do about once a week--I live on a back road so the mailboxes are about five kilometers from my house). Amongst the bills, there was an envelope from the Nova Scotia Arts Council. I looked at it and thought: �I�m not in the mood right now for another rejection,� and waited to open it. I hadn�t remembered when I had put the application in, whether it had been turned down yet or not, so I wasn�t really expecting anything.

When I finally did open the envelope, I noticed the first sentence: �I am pleased to inform you��..� Nice. A much appreciated relief. And confirmation. A Creation Grant to continue painting. My dream had been (in essence) prophetic.

When I told my Pilates instructor that evening, the wonderful dancer Jacinte Armstrong (of Verve Mewundo), said my dream was better than hers: she woke up at 2 am, from constant dreams that she was teaching Pilates. And after days of teaching Pilates, that�s a little over the top!

Then last night (at the opening reception for the Rodin exhibit at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia), when I told my friend Janice Jackson (the great songster) about my dream grant and real grant, she said she had a dream about me just the night before. In her dream I had opened a gallery exhibiting my work. The gallery was on the third floor above a dress shop, The Clothes Horse, on Argyle Street. And the paintings I was exhibiting were very different from what I usually do. These dream paintings were on irregularly shaped canvases in blacks and whites and mostly grays. Is this a message? Something to think about, no doubt. Messages from dreams.

Posted by leya at 04:06 PM

February 23, 2005

A lesson in how to enjoy winter

It�s snowing outside right now and another of my birthday gift calla lilies is blooming.

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Posted by leya at 01:38 PM

February 21, 2005

Good night Irene; I'll see you in my dreams

Michael Enright interviewed Robert Thurman, a student of the Dalai Lama and teacher of Buddhist Studies at Columbia University, yesterday morning on CBC radio (The Sunday Edition). (Yes, Robert is the father of Uma.) The topic was anger. And there was a lot of laughing between the two of them about the topic. Obviously anger as a topic can be funny because we all experience it at some point and sometimes we react in very silly ways. Mr. Thurman was saying that anger comes as a result of frustration. It is important, therefore, to do something to relieve the frustration before it builds up into an explosive, aggressive situation. Intervene before you blow up, lose control.

He said it is necessary to observed our own reactions so that we know when anger will be a result. Or if we cannot change a situation, we can use the energy to get away from it, to change ourselves if we cannot change things outside ourselves. We need to cultivate the ability to be non-violent. He used the analogy of martial arts skills: when an opponent attacks, stay cool, step aside or turn the energy back onto the opponent to subdue it.

This discussion reminded me of when I had an interview with the Vajra Regent, Osel Tenzin, the day after I had taken Buddhist refuge vows, twenty-five years ago. I had been a regular practitioner and student at the New York City Dharmadhatu (now the Shambhala Centre) for about six months but had been uncomfortable about many things I saw and some of the ways people behaved. When I asked about this, about what to do when I was upset this way, he told me to respect my observations but step back from them, let the anger cool and then proceed, if necessary. When you act from anger people do not listen. It just generates more anger. No matter how much intelligence is in the observation, if there is too much heat in the expression, it is lost.

I always remembered that conversation. Having a tendency to be a bit hot-tempered at times but not having appropriate skills to make the anger useful, his words have been very helpful.

Posted by leya at 08:07 PM | Comments (1)

February 20, 2005

Just my opinion here; no harm done

I went to a really bad (in my opinion) dance performance the other night. I had seen the dancer once before, several years ago, and hadnt liked her then. But I am always willing (I think) to give someone a second chance. Just not a third!

In this case her personality was stronger than her dance moves. And her persona was not pleasant, inviting. The music however was exceptional. Worth sitting through the uninspired moves on the dance floor. Most of the time I was sitting there choreographing possibilities from some of the pieces of the performance that did appeal to me. But overall, I was not impressed with the performance (other than the music).

But Halifax is such a small town that it is hard to express opinions here without offending. Too bad. You never know what and how a comment is going to come back to you. But I just didnt enjoy the dance. Thats all.

Posted by leya at 08:15 PM

February 16, 2005

All He Ever Wanted

I was happy to finish Anita Shreves All He Ever Wanted. It was a difficult book to read, different from her other novels. Difficult to develop any compassion for the narrator. He was so despicable that I just wanted to slug him, really.

The story takes place around the turn of the 20th century. Nicholas Van Tassal is a teacher of literature and rhetoric at a small New England college. And he uses language (the story is told in the first person singular) that is very stilted and controlled, just as he describes himself to be in the narrative. Very proper and controlling.

It is a painful, sad story that he tells, of his unrequited and undying love for his wife. His actions are so unpleasant that it is hard to read. The pace is slow, the details of the period and the story precise. Obviously the writing is intense and believable. Shreve plumbs the depth of desire, love and jealousy in intimate and immediate detail, proving amazing writing skills. Yet I dont know if I would recommend it. Overall, it is very good writing, a fascinating, complex story but not a story I enjoyed (in the conventional sense) reading. But then, life is like thatnot always easy to take.

Posted by leya at 05:55 PM

Dog gone dog ghost

Mikka left his imprint in my house. I still expect to see him when I come into a room; I just put his food bowls away; I still think he is going to need a walk soon, etc.

But he�s back to his own home now.

Posted by leya at 05:53 PM

February 13, 2005

A shaggy dog story

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Mikka is here for the weekend. I�ve borrowed him, a rent-a-dog. It�s nice to have a warm body in the house. To burn off some of his energy (and to take a nostalgic trip to my old home), we went for a walk in Duncan�s Cove yesterday with Suzanne and her dog. Although there are some new houses in the area, the village looks about the same. A quiet little gathering of houses waiting for something to happen, waiting for ships to come in, for storms to gather over the ocean.

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I used to go for long walks along the bluffs with my dogs, Katie and Sebastian. When Sebastian died (at three of cancer), Katie went out that night into the brambles and howled at the moon until I was able to bring her in. As charming as Duncan�s Cove is, with interesting, friendly people living there (mostly in the arts), I don�t miss it at all�the intense winds from the ocean and the feeling of isolation that comes with it.

There were some interesting ice formations along our path:

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Then today was another sunny afternoon and Mikka and I spent the afternoon throwing the object of Mikka�s affection, his Kong, into the snow for him to catch, dig and chew. He also chased squirrels (who outran him up trees).

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Mikka's favorite toy:

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It's indestructible, great to chew, fun to throw around, to toss in the snow, to chase, catch and dig up and chew some more.

He goes home tomorrow. I�ll miss him.

Posted by leya at 03:52 PM | Comments (1)

February 10, 2005

The rooster (or in this case hen) crows!

Yesterday was the Buddhist and/or Chinese New Year. There were celebrations of many kinds: meditation, talks, drink, food, socializing, etc, to welcome in the year of the wooden cock (yes, I know!). My day started at 7 am with a group meditation practice at the centre in Halifax, then breakfast, socializing, more mediation, then over to Pier 21, that stage that has hosted much activity, men coming from all over the world recently to talk here, one Tibetan from Vancouver, one Tibetan from (currently) here (mostly), and a Texan.

At the Pier we listened to the telephone company conducting an international hookup between the 101 Shambhala Buddhist meditation centres around the world. And then in his address Mipham Rinpoche, the director and head of the organization, encouraged us to develop compassionate thought and action over the coming year.

It was all very moving and friendly, cheerful, soft. (I had wet, teary eyes throughout.) Leaving the building I heard a couple mention they needed a ride home. So I offered my services, happy to have more than just me and artwork in my large vehicle. When they gave me directions to their house, I mentioned that, yes, I knew where they lived. I told the woman I had had a reading with her many years ago (she is a respected psychic astrologer in Halifax). And then, without censoring my comments at all, I said: �You killed off most of my family, but they are still alive, thankfully.� (She really had said many things to me that day which were all wrong, including a car accident for me that I missed, divorces that didn�t happen, children that weren�t conceived, and the family members who, thankfully, haven�t died.)

Fortunately, she was sitting in the back seat so I didn�t have to look at her after that uncensored outburst! I did quickly change the subject to more neutral topics to try to make amends, be more compassionate, but it was actually something I had been wanting to say for those many years after that misguided reading. And maybe it was misguided to tell her how off she was after that many years but I certainly hadn�t planned it nor knew that I could be so blunt with her.

But, nevertheless, in many ways I am thankful for how awful the reading was. It broke my addiction to thinking someone else had an answer to my puzzling life journey!

Posted by leya at 07:16 PM | Comments (1)

February 08, 2005

Catch the Light on Snow

It seems there are so many good books these days, so much good writing, so much to read. I�ve been very fortunate to have friends who read similar types of books so we pass them back and forth. I just received a shipment from a friend who keeps me supplied periodically with a great selection. This time I finished the first book almost before the box was open.

Light on Snow by Anita Shreve is without doubt on my one of the best books list. With direct, spare prose she tells the story of a father and daughter who, living isolated in the woods of New Hampshire, find, in the middle of winter, a newborn baby when taking a walk in those woods. The story that follows is like watching a precious flower opening up, difficult, delicate, sensitive, magical.

The story is told in the voice of the twelve year old daughter in first person present (even though she states that she is now thirty, at the time of writing her story). The immediacy of the telling (in first person present) gives it great power as she relates how her father took her away from what had been a happy childhood in Connecticut after the death (in a car accident) of her mother and young sister. Even with its dark story-line, the writing is so perfect, the emotions so honest, that it doesn�t feel bleak. Her anger and his grief are beautifully portrayed. As is the resolution and personal growth experienced through the discovery of the baby.

This was the third book I have read by Anita Shreve, and by far, the best. Both The Pilot�s Wife and Sea Glass were beautifully crafted, intensely felt, interesting stories, yet lacked the depth I felt in Light on Snow. So, as there was another novel by Shreve in this current box, I began it (All He Ever Wanted) with enthusiastic expectation. Only to find it so very different in tone and style that I was, at first, put off and not sure I wanted to continue. But, as it is hard for me not to finish a book, I am nearing the middle of the novel and finding it beginning to catch my attention, albeit in an entirely different way than the other three of hers. But more about that later.

Posted by leya at 06:46 AM | Comments (1)

February 07, 2005

A touch of sun on the coming of spring

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For my birthday in November I received some calla lilies, now blooming. Such a wonderful treat to see their perfect blooms when there is still huge piles of snow (although melting with this lovely warm weather we are currently enjoying, a few degrees above freezing) still on the ground.

Posted by leya at 08:32 AM | Comments (1)

February 06, 2005

Cause Celeb

Cause Celeb surprised me in the depth of its message. I thought it was going to be a light piece of fluff, something to amuse me, send me off into sleep with nothing too stressful to ponder. And indeed, its humorous passages often left me a bit cold. Otherwise, the description and portrayal of dysfunctional relationships, as one couple and also in society in general, was very vivid and moving.

The novel, written by Helen Fielding (author of Bridget Jones' Diary), is about Rosie Richardsons crusade to save the swelling population at a refugee camp in the African desert from starvation. Rosie left London after the dissolution of a bad relationship. Faced with a famine caused by locusts, she approaches the problem with missionary zeal. Using her connections in the London celebrity world, she plans a fund-raiser. The unexpected and expected twists of the plot line as character development unfolded were more interesting to me than the attempts at humor. But altogether it was a worthwhile read, in its revelations and insights on the subjects of fame and altruism, and especially its portrayal of a (needy) girl becoming a (strong) woman.

Posted by leya at 07:33 PM

February 04, 2005

Buried and abandoned

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Looking out the window of the drawing studio at school, this picture struck my fancy. Bicycles, patiently waiting for spring.

Yesterday it warmed up enough that I was able to run my car through a wash only to discover underneath all that salt and caked on snow and dirt was a long scratch running along the entire side of my car. It looks like someone took a key and had some perverted fun. Freaky, what�s underneath that snow. All kinds of surprises.

Posted by leya at 07:57 AM

February 03, 2005

A gathering of many thoughts minds places moments

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I took this photo looking down out the window at Pier 21 in Halifax, which once was the docking place for immigrants to Canada. This is where, this past week, over 300 people came to see and hear Dzongsar Khentse Rinpoche give dharma teachings. People came from all over, from Holland, Germany, Brazil, Seattle, Vancouver and many other places. And fittingly the dharma teaching event was held at Pier 21.

About twenty years ago I had an exhibit in a New York gallery. Most of my immediate family was there and as my dad was an immigrant from Latvia when he was six years old, we all went to Ellis Island to see where he landed. New York City is beautiful in the spring. I remember it was a bright sunny day in May and we were enjoying being together as a family, a group of people who saw each other infrequently, living in various parts of the U.S. and Canada.

While we were walking to the buildings, my sister�s husband asked my dad what he remembered about the place. He said �I don�t remember a darn thing. Just that they gave us bananas. I had never seen one before and didn�t know what to do with it.�

Later, in the theatre where we watched a film made up of slides and stories by and about immigrants, an older man told a story of how when he came to America, they gave him a banana and he had never seen one before and he �didn�t know what to do with it.� Meanwhile my dad, then in his late 80�s, was dozing in the seat beside me.

Sometimes during the talks, I looked around the room to see people nodding off and sometimes, with the schedule being so intense and with the traveling back and forth every day (I don't know how my neighbors do it; I am so lucky to work mostly at home!), I felt like dozing off as well. But then I would remind myself that this moment would only happen now and I would wake up to it. And be glad I did.

Posted by leya at 08:41 AM | Comments (3)

February 02, 2005

Travellers & Magicians

One of the (many) highlights of this past week was the premier of a film by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, Travellers & Magicians. Under the name of Khyentse Norbu, Rinpoche has given us a movie of great beauty. Set in the tiny Buddhist country of Bhutan, it tells the story of one young man who wants to leave his quaint (and boring) village to go to the land of Adventures, to leave a job as an officer in his village to go pick apples in America.

Not much happens, so to speak. Just some people waiting for a bus. But so much happens, so rich an experience of waiting for that bus.

Khyentse Norbu said he made The Cup (his first film which won some critical acclaim) for the audience and this one,Travellers & Magicians, for himself. I found this was a much better piece of artwork, more like some Japanese films, perfectly crafted, mysterious and profoundly moving. An exquisitely tuned connection between the action of the mind and of the scenery.

The movie is scheduled to open across Canada and the United States. If it is anywhere near you, dont miss it! A very beautiful film.

Posted by leya at 08:50 AM