August 31, 2005

Now to get away from it all!

I�m off to Prince Edward Island for a few days. I�ve never been there before and am very excited about this trip. I�ll be staying with some good friends on the north shore.

It's raining. A perfect day to get away.

Off now to pack the car!

Posted by leya at 06:19 AM

August 27, 2005

Watching the breeze go by

Yesterday, sitting (and reading) at the Toyota dealers� while getting my car serviced, the man next to me was greeted (fondly, it seemed) by one of the car salesmen. The man then turned to me and said �They think I live here!� And then he went on to tell me he brings five cars in for service: his own, his wife�s, his daughter�s, his aunt�s, and another family member. He seemed to want to chat, so I put my book down, and heard about all his other cars, his �78 sports car and his big Chevy truck. We talked about cars for a while (a favorite topic for me) and then, as he changed the channel on the ever present TV in the waiting area, on to TV shows. He wasn�t interested in the news. It is too depressing. He watches some game shows, one of which was on the television at the time (�So You Want to be a Millionaire�) and he explained what the routine was to me.

Then he mentioned �Coronation Street� and even the man sitting next to him perked up, put down his book and joined in the conversation. I too have been enjoying watching it and I�m not much of a TV person. It took me a while to get into it, but I do enjoy it�s quirky people and their stories. Although sometimes I get tired of their continuous problems and turn it off. Isn�t anyone in a TV series allowed to learn from their mistakes? My (new and brief) friend explained to me what had happened in the few shows I missed last week, that Sunita had been released from jail (thankfully). Someone, at least for a while, could be happy, maybe. He thought it was just great, now, that CBC is running a full hour of Coronation Street daily. When he and his wife went away on holiday for a week, they taped the shows. On return, they spent the first day catching up, watching Coronation Stree. Sitting there waiting for our cars to be fixed, we all agreed that it is often hard to follow the accents, know what they are saying. He said his wife turns up the volume when Ashley is speaking, and the topic turned to accents. He mentioned that even if you lined up people from all over Nova Scotia he could tell where they were from because of the wide variety of localized accents here.

I really do miss the programs on CBC Radio. Now, with the labor dispute, the lock-out of personnel, I�m listening to repeat programming most of the day. Sometimes it�s programs I�ve heard before, sometimes one�s I�ve missed. Usually interesting, nevertheless. But I miss the commentators, people�s whose voices have been in my life for twenty-one years now, voices I�ve begun to know well, voices of people I feel are my friends. They are in my home (and car) almost every day. I sincerely hope this labor dispute is settled soon, although it doesn�t seem like it right now.

One of the issues is contract employees� status. I�m one of them, a contract employee, at the Art College where I teach. It seems that�s the way employers save money. With all the insecurity in the world at large these days, not having secure jobs is a big problem. For me it means not having vacation pay, sick leave, a decent salary and most important, a dental plan. Sounds lousy, but it does give me the time and mind to be with my true love, painting. And I have seen how hard it is for the full-time faculty to spend time in their studios. I don�t have to be on committees. That�s good. I�m not good on committees; I�m too impatient. I love teaching and I love painting and I do appreciate my schedule as it is. But I wouldn�t mind more fringe benefits--no, not at all.

Posted by leya at 01:51 PM

August 26, 2005

The memorial scuptures at Peggy's Cove


Peggy�s Cove is one of my very favorite places to go (I think I have said this before). Somehow, even with the intense waves and expansive rock formations, it feels so peaceful. They have one of the most beautiful monuments there, dedicated to the people who lost their lives in the SwissAir 111 crash (in that area) September 2, 1998, and to the people who helped clean up afterwards. There is also a beautiful monument in Bayswater. I remember hearing a strange sound that night, 10:31 pm, and I live quite a distance away. But sound travels, better than the plane did.

I�ve picnicked on the rocks at Peggy�s Cove. But that was before all this. It was easier to walk around then; now it is a protected natural landscape. And always magical.



Posted by leya at 01:04 PM

August 20, 2005

Watermelon days, zucchini nights

One of the true glories of summer for me is in the rich sweetness of watermelon.



Then there is nature. The other day when I was out swimming with a friend, we saw about three loons poking there heads up, no more than twenty feet away. Then one by one another head appearedfour loons, five, six, eleven and finally twelve loons in a line. They stayed there a while, looked at us, then dived into the water and came up again far on the other side of us.

In the water by the shore, though, was a dead eel, rotting on a rock. One of those loons could quite possibly have dropped it there, discarding an uneaten (inedible?) dinner. And climbing into the water from the dock, I saw a small spider weaving a web on the ladder. I also saw a big water spider nearby. After the swim, the little spider was gone. Eaten by the big spider? The forces of nature.

And now the nights are cool and summer is almost gone. How quickly it all changes.

Posted by leya at 07:14 PM

August 17, 2005

Even in the fog at night,

mysterious and powerful, Peggy's Cove is one of my favorite places. If I lived closer I would go there more often.





Posted by leya at 12:31 PM

August 15, 2005

The Halifax waterfront is alive and well

There is a sculpture of a big wave on the boardwalk. Children love to climb it and sit on top, survey the activities.


For the Buskers Festival last week, they put up a giant lobster for the childen to climb and jump around on:


There was a wonderful trio of break dancers from the Bronx:


and a jazz group, Oka, from Australia with a didgeridoo player:


and some amazing face painters:


and popcorn and cotton candy for treats:



Posted by leya at 06:41 PM

August 13, 2005

Running the river

Waiting for the tide to come in:


The boats waiting to go onto the river:


and the coats waiting to be used to break the wind (getting soaked with water from the river was unavoidabe!):


There are some great shots of the rafts tossing on the water on the Schubenacadie River Runner's website. I didn't realize they had waterproof cameras for sale there until after the ride, but I probably couldn't have gotten many good pix anyway--no time to let go of the boat ropes as we were perched on the edge of the zodiac. As it is, I kept falling into the boat. Better than falling into the river! After the tide began to calm down, we were able to jump in the river and swim with the subsiding tide. It was not even necessary to swim; the tide just pulled us along. After the ride, they had a shower and hot drinks ready for us. An altogether memorable afternoon. A great way to feel connected to the forces of nature.

Posted by leya at 02:43 PM

August 12, 2005

Definitely summer

I had company this past week. The best kind�the kind who are so enjoyable you don�t want them to leave. It was Tamar�s best friend and roommate, Cathy, from University, her husband and twin seven year olds. In a whirlwind few days we rode the Tidal Bore on the Schubenacadie River in Maitland, went to the Citadel, the Busker�s Festival in Halifax, toured Peggy�s Cove, swam, went out on the paddle boat and picnicked by my lake.

What I liked so much about being with Cathy and her family was that they treated me not as Tamar�s mother but as a friend. We shared activities and thoughts. I hadn�t seen them since Tamar�s wedding and we have all made big changes in our lives�moves, children, careers. It was an interesting and full adventure, getting to know them better. I hope they come back next year, maybe even when Tamar and Company are here. It�s nice to have a houseful.

It�s quiet now. I worked in my studio this morning, went for a swim with a friend this afternoon, a long swim in my lake. It was very refreshing. And comforting to have company for a swim after almost a week of constant companionship. Not to have too fast a withdrawal from all that excitement. Everything is back to normal, more or less. I�m going to sleep well tonight.

Posted by leya at 08:44 PM | Comments (1)

August 10, 2005

I went to a party the other night

and was chatting with another artist, one of those people who has enormous talent and intelligence but not the discipline necessary to produce the work, a common problem, unfortunately. And the amount of time you have to spend alone in order to paint is hard for him. He is thinking about teaching, a good choice for this person, and he started asking me how I teach. A difficult question to answer. It depends a lot upon the class. I told him I try to configure a progression of assignments so there is development in the process. And I focus as much as possible on process, not product. Then he asked me how I was taught, how I learned, basically how come I have the necessary discipline and did everyone in my school work the same, were we taught to mimic a style. I was taught to see how things worked, to get into the process of creativity, the process of making things happen, to think more about how I was working than what I produced and also, no, we did not all work alike. I think differences were respected but there was definitely the development of a self-critical eye. It did take me years after leaving art school to know what I was creating, what I was looking at, how (if) it did or did not work.

Then he asked me why I left art school, didn�t finish (if such a thing does actually happen, finishing studying, that is!). I have two answers to that, the superficial answer and the more in depth answer. The first is that I spent the summer in Manhattan and hung out with practicing artists and liked it, wanted that life, one of painting and not being in school. It was a wonderful summer. The man (painter) living in the loft below the one I was subletting told me the best way to meet people in Manhattan was to give a party. So he called up his friends and we had a party. In those days �everyone� hung out at the Cedar Bar on University Place. And a phone call to the Cedar Bar brought the rest of �everyone� to �my� party. For the next couple of months it felt like I belonged there. Sometimes I would hear that Barnet Newman or Mark Rothko (or another famous painter) was at the Cedar Bar and I�d go down there, chat with friends, and stare at the revered artists. (Years later I met a woman who used to call up her artist idols, such as Louise Nevelson, and hang up when she answered. Just wanted to hear her voice.)

That summer I had part-time jobs with a temp agency but found it harder and harder to be locked up in cubicles all day. Eventually I got a job at the Metropolitan Museum of Art selling Christmas cards in September. Despite the magnificence of the Museum and the joy of eating in the staff cafeteria, only a few people buy Christmas cards that early and the job was very boring, By October my attitude was not what they wanted and I was fired. Meanwhile I found it much harder to paint on my own than I expected. Winter was coming and my friends were busy with other things so my romance with Manhattan was challenged. It took a while (many years) to sort things out, to learn how to be a self-motivated, disciplined artist.

The other reason that I quit art school is, maybe, that I had done extremely well in school and was afraid that I couldn�t live up to their expectations of me. So here I am, many years later, teaching and trying to tell students self-discipline is the most important thing I can teach them, that they know best what they want, and they are the best critic of their work, yet it takes discipline to develop that kind of knowledge to a place where it is a constant. And I am painting and putting the work out in the market place. I still wonder what it would have been like if I had continued with art school, finished the program. But I�ll never know for sure.

Posted by leya at 07:01 AM | Comments (2)

August 05, 2005

Into the room the . . . come and go

(In the opinion of one) Im a certified crackpot. Sitting on my dock with some friends the other day, one asked me how long the lake had been there. I said at least a couple of centuries. When I first moved into my house, I had some spooky experiences, the kind you read about in books. Lights would go on and off without my touching them. I felt a presence in the rooms, especially in my living room. Then one night when I was lying in bed, just before going to sleep, I saw a figure float into the room. It was a young girl, around eighteen, in a long wedding dress, with a large bouquet of flowers (dead, of course). She was eerily transparent, obviously not substantial. I sat up in bed and said, very loudly: What are you doing here? and she left. Never returned. Before the houses around here were built, mostly in the past fifteen years, this land was woods; no one lived here for a long time, several centuries.

Then I told my friends about the ghosts I saw when we lived in Richmond, Virginia. Thinking back on it, they must have been from the Civil War. Always at night. I would see a long line of ghostly figures, mostly just bones, walk into my bedroom in single file, over and over, for what seemed like hours. I never told anyone. Just watched in terror. It was only much later that I thought about them as ghosts, lost, disembodied spirits.

Of course, one of my friends didnt think these were stories a rational, grounded person would relate (or experience). He told his partner later that he liked me, respected me, but couldnt accept that I saw ghosts. So I am now labeled a kook. But this was my experience, the ghosts, that is. I dont believe or not believe in ghosts. It just happened. I didnt ask for it; I didnt look for it. And I dont mind being considered a crackpot. I know Im okay.

Posted by leya at 12:01 PM | Comments (3)

August 03, 2005

And then the sun also rises



Posted by leya at 02:19 PM | Comments (3)

August 02, 2005

Sunset in the water

Night before last, as the sun was setting, the sky over (and in) the lake was dressed up in her finest. As I was standing on my dock taking pictures, a family came by in a canoe and we shared our wonder at the beauty.





Posted by leya at 09:24 PM | Comments (2)