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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Happy Christmas Season 2014

Enjoy today
 in whatever way is meaningful 
to you.

While we don't yet have snow,
the temperature has dropped. 

For me, meaningful today means
staying close to the fireplace
with wine and my writing.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Merry December 23, 2014

     It's two days before Christmas 2014. I'm concentrating on the parts of my life for which I feel gratitude. And, thinking of the events that have turned out well, when they could have as easily been disasters.

Friday, December 19, 2014

By the Twelfth Day of Christmas

I hate Christmas letters.  

Well, I hate the kind that sugar-coat real life.  Yes, there are awards, graduations and births to share, but every person's life has shitty times, too.

People fib in Christmas letters about how wonderful their past year has been.  It isn't possible to have had a perfect year, a perfect life, or the perfect family.

You know what I mean?  Yes, you do.

In a letter, I want to hear the good things but I also want to hear about the struggles, disasters, challenges and failures--the real stories.

So, here is a tongue-in-cheek ditty about one family's year.  (Any resemblance to real persons or situations is purely coincidence.)

Please sing it to yourself, to the tune of the Twelve Days of Christmas.

By the twelfth day of Christmas, the family had endured...

twelve new referrals,
eleven gooey ointments,
ten toes a-throbbing,
nine rashes itching,
eight discs in spasm,
seven bouts of hiccups,
six ribs a-cracking,
five golden scabs,
four kidney stones,
three stiff necks,
two gouty knees
and a surprise colostomy.

Merry Christmas! And keep those letters coming.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Travelling Again

I'm on the road and in the air today, heading to Long Island, New York to visit my daughter and  her family.   I'm looking forward to seeing all of them today.  

Oh yes, today is the day.  

So far, my flights are still on time and going.

Send me off with wishes for good weather, or at least good enough to be able to fly.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


After the harvest and before the snow comes, 
November offers soft shades and muted beauty 
everywhere I look.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


When I think I have everything in my life figured out, I discover I have been examining too closely.  

I have looked at minute details, become too serious and forgotten the larger perspectives.  

I step back.  And suddenly, I see how varied, expansive and beautiful the world really is.

Monday, November 24, 2014


When you think you are falling apart, look again.  
You change into another form of your self, 
beautiful and free.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Atlantic Books Today

You know those contests in which you just sign in, sign on, sign up and perhaps you'll win a prize, but never do? Well, I won.

The prize?  A 49th Shelf prize pack of books written by local authors.  What fun! 

Now I have:   how the gods pour tea by Lynn Davies
                       Savage Love by Douglas Glover
                       My White Planet by Mark Anthony Jarman
                       Grist by Linda Little
                       Portrait of Julia by Robert MacNeil
                       an "I Read Local" button
                       a cloth bag for my books

Happy reading for me.  Thank you Atlantic Books Today and 49th Shelf.

Just when you think you'll never win one of those contests...

Words in coloured print will take you to another site with additional information, if you click on them.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

We've Got Weasels

Well, not really.  We have ermines, not weasels but the w's went together so much better in the title.  

I posted on facebook this week about my encounter with an ermine; me on one side of the door with a camera and four cats trying to escape and give chase, and the ermine on the other side looking for a place to hide from the blue jays and crows harassing it.

Since then, I've been thinking about this lithe and lovely visitor at my door.  I've lived here for nearly ten years and this is the first time I've seen an ermine.  They are brown in summer and white in winter.  This one was white on a day that the snow had fallen and melted so stood out like a flash of light in a drab landscape.

I've never outgrown my need to know why... about everything.  Just ask my husband.  So why has this critter shown up in my life now? 

Yes, I know.  It was searching for food and our wooded yard provides lots of opportunities to find mice and voles.  There are plenty of squirrel tunnels under the rock walls on the property.

But on another level, why has the ermine shown up in my life and why now?

Ted Andrews in his book Animal Speak suggests that these creatures represent gracefulness, silence and solitariness.  People with this totem "uncover a lot about people in their lives as their ability for silence enables them to go unseen and unheard, even in the company of others.  Powers of silent observation sniff out what is hidden or secretive without anyone being the wiser."

He asks these questions.  "Are you not digging hard enough?  Is there a narrow space you may have to squeeze through?  Are you missing the obvious?  Are others around you being fully honest? Are you trusting your own feelings and senses--regardless of others?"

Something to think about.  And I do like to hang on like a weasel to new ideas.  Ahem, like an ermine.

Words in colour will take you to another site with additional information, if you click on them.  This photo is blurry because both the ermine and I were moving fast.  I feel lucky to have been offered the chance to take this photo.

Monday, November 17, 2014

November Evening

November evenings offer muted colour; evergreens against the ghostly outline of deciduous trees.  The leafless trees, at rest for the winter, comfort me, give me permission to drop responsibilities, to focus inward and rest.  

To rest and let go.  

Rest and be.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Friday, November 14, 2014

What is Actually There?

We release our expectations of what we think we should see, and then see what is actually there.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Time Out of Time

One of the great gifts of art-making is an experience of "forgetting" ourselves and our self-consciousness, and stepping into something much bigger.  Photography can connect us to time out of time. (Quote from Eyes of the Heart by Christine Valters Paintner)

Like photography, poetry is a tender process.  We forget ourselves and let go of expectations, experience light and shadow, storytelling and re-framing, experience something new or something familiar in a new way.

Both photography and poetry offer a fresh mirror back to us.

Words in coloured text will take you to another site with additional information, if you click on them.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Prepare for the Coming Season

This chipmunk lives in our rock walls, one of many small animals who cohabit this property.  

As we prepare for winter, bring in outdoor furniture, wrap fragile shrubs, trim branches, mulch leaves, we let the chipmunks and squirrels harvest anything they want and need from our yard. They've cleaned off the grapes and are gathering rowan berries, stag-horn sumac cones, acorns, evergreen cones, and barberry bush fruits.

This little fellow's pouches are swollen with loot, to stock his larder for the long cold months ahead. Good for him!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

See with Fresh Eyes

See with fresh eyes and be open to possibilities, ready to receive what is offered.  

Sit with the gifts, notice the seeds of photos and poetry. 

On Friday, the surprises were chickadees at the birdbath and a poem about reflections on glassy water.

The photography weekend continues to offer its lessons, the most wonderful being an increased awareness of the world inside me and the reflections outside me.

I am grateful for this attuned vision and for the delightful company of chickadees.  

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Photography and Poetry

Photography can be a practice of cultivating the capacity to see things as they really are.  

Poetry, if written well, can be the same. 

Both offer new awareness, share the essence of truth, open the heart.

Allow a pathway inward to the a-ha moment.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Be Still: Contemplative Photography

Henry Miller said, "The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably significant world in itself."

Giving close attention, seeing beyond seeing, and walking while waiting for nature to reveal itself...these were exploration topics at last weekend's photography workshop offered at the Tatamagouche Centre in Nova Scotia.  

We spent enjoyable time learning that throwing away photos, with which we weren't quite happy was a form of "labeling" and doesn't respect our own abilities.  We found that dawn's rain and afternoon's drizzle offer up many lush photos, that Tatamagouche has a view of the bay, huge old maples, a river, rock walls, walking paths, stands of old pines and open fields, each an opportunity to be amazed, to make photographs and to learn about cropping, colour pushing, fill light, balance, rules to be followed and rules to be broken.

We were awed.  We marveled.  We saw the world with fresh eyes. 

We had fun, ate good home cooked meals, worked hard, then played and went to bed tired and happy.

Who could ask for anything different?

Words in colour will take you to another site with additional information, if you click on them.  Photos and words are copyright Carol Steel 2009-2014.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Contemplative Photography

I'm off on Friday, off on an adventure to Tatamagouche to learn more about photography.

The Tatamagouche Centre is a non-profit education, conference and retreat centre located in the village of Tatamagouche, on Nova Scotia's north shore. 

"Be Still: Contemplative Photography" encourages participants to explore the making photographs as a meditative process and path to self-discovery.  The workshop runs from Friday evening until early Sunday afternoon and includes creativity exercises, reflection time, sharing and analysis.  

We'll have the opportunity to go out for two dawn photo shoots, plus trekking along the shores of the bay and the expansive wooded grounds during other periods of the day.  It's supposed to rain on Saturday and Sunday, and is certainly pelting down as I write at suppertime on Thursday.  The dawn photo shoots might be dull, damp affairs.

I've heard from friends who have attended in the past.  They are full of enthusiasm for the program.  And their photos show a new depth and richness because of the time spent learning more about who they are and the art of photography.

I'm excited to be going and looking forward to working with Janice MacLean and Gordon Williams, both talented photographers and facilitators.  

My rain boots and gear are packed and ready.

Words in colour will take you to another site with additional information, if you click on them.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Art Across the Marsh 2014

Ghita's laneway

The busy weekend left us little time for one of my favourite treats, the "Art Across the Marsh" tour of artist studios in the Tantramar area.  (www.artacrossthemarsh.ca)  We made the most of the few hours we had on Sunday afternoon, enjoyed the company of family, the autumn colours and four of the nineteen venues.  

We squeezed in a quick visit to the Winegarden Estate Ltd. in Baie Verte NB  to pick up a bottle of raspberry wine.  Why not?  We were passing by anyway. (www.WinegardenEstate.com)

Ghita's nasturtiums

An artist's studio fascinates.  It is an intimate space of personal creativity which says so much about the artist, draws the visitor into their world and routines, disciplines and work. It is a serious place where the desire to be authentic and true to skills and gifts meets the slogging hard work of trial and error, of honing and expanding the craft, offering new ways to view the world. 

It was a privilege to watch Marilyn Cook working on a gorgeous silk painting in her cozy studio,  a rustic wooden building surrounded by heritage flowers and views out to the Shemogue Marsh.  (www.cooksilk.ca)   

Ghita Levin's property is sheltered from the road by a long lane that opens out into a yard with both a studio and gift shop.  Ghita's wood-fired pottery reflects the wild beauty that hugs her home and the herons, crows, owls, frogs and dragonflies which share those woods and marshes.  (www.ghitalevinpottery.ca)

In front of Ghita's studio

We stopped at the Tidnish Bridge Art Gallery and chatted with the painters, photographers and potters.  We couldn't visit their studios as they bring their creations to the gallery.  They explained, "Working as a co-operative allows us to have an affordable venue to show and sell our work."  Outside their building, we took photos of the river and marshes that edge the property.  It was such great weather and the light so inviting. (www.tidnishbridgeartgallery.com)

It would be a luxury to purchase something from each artist, to support their work and to bring their vibrant art back to our home, but we have neither the space here nor the funds to buy very much, other than a couple of small gifts for others.  Still, it is an enriching experience to walk around the shops and studios, to hear the artists' passion for their creations and to learn how they channel vision into tangible form.

Our time was nearly gone, when we arrived at the studio of Thaddeus Holownia, built on the site of the former home of the poet John Thompson.  Thaddeus, accompanied by his two well-behaved dogs, gave us a tour of the letterpress printers, chatted about his large format cameras, his photographs and graciously answered all our questions.  When we left, he gave us directions for going home another way, so our day ended with the impressive views from the High Marsh Road:  distant dark cows grazing on golden marshland spreading for miles, tinged with dusky clouds hanging low on the horizon.  Breathtaking!

I am humbled in the presence of someone who loves what they do so much they don't think of it as work.  They speak about their art as something irresistible, part of themselves, who they are and who they must be.  I am grateful to those artists who opened their lives this weekend so we too could be part of their worlds. And sorry that time didn't allow us to visit each one on the tour. Perhaps next year?

"Art Across the Marsh" reminded me, each of us has gifts to share; not all are visual artists or work in clay or silk, but we each have unique selves to offer to the world. 

And don't our personal passions and talents drive each one of us? Aren't we always more content when we recognize our own abilities and pursue them?

I think so.

Words printed in colour will take you to another site with more information, if you click on them.

Monday, October 20, 2014

An Archaeological Dig

Cleaning the basement.  This has been our focus the past week in preparation for the semi-annual "Big Garbage Pick-up" in our town.

The process showed us we don't need to keep all the cartons for every darn thing we've purchased during the past ten years of living in this house.   And we don't need items we haven't unpacked since moving here: bowling shoes, ski boots but no skiis, knick-knacks (when did we think those were pretty?).

Sure, we have the space to store everything we want to keep.  The basement isn't used for anything except storage.  And we have filled it.

But to no good end.  We have forgotten what is there, can't find it, if we can remember and now feel overwhelmed with the cluttered mess lurking at the bottom of the stairs.

We threw out an embarrassingly large pile of soiled cardboard and packing stuff, nonredeemable garbage.  And are waiting for the garbage pick up to remove it from our property.  Bless them for offering that service.

Anything good or useful is going to a organization that resells clothing or small housewares and donates the funds to charity. Anything someone else wants goes, if they come to fetch it; one person took all our wine making equipment.  A couple of kitchen gadgets we thought we had to have (but used once) are in new homes.  Recyclables will go to the appropriate depositories.

What's left?

We ran out of energy and ability to say yes or no to the choices by the time we hit the boxes of photos.  We'll save that for sorting another time.  The useless bits of wood and wall board will go to the dump when we can borrow our friend's trailer to haul the stuff away.  The 10 file boxes of paperwork from our past lives will require a call to a shredding company.  Hazardous waste, an old propane tank, batteries, empty paint cans will go to the HW pick up next Saturday in Riverview.

After the basement floor appeared again and we washed the dust from ourselves, we decided:
we will be discerning and disciplined about any new purchase;
we will remind ourselves that we already have everything we need;
we will enjoy the new found space in our basement and will not re-fill it.

The declutter process feels healthy and encouraging.

What's next?  The upstairs den, which is the whole top floor of our house.  It is a TV room, a reading room, a spare bedroom for company, a toy room and my knitting storage area.

Yikes!  Another dig through dust and stuff.

Now, we have a goal and are looking forward to seeing our way though the piles, to spacious rooms and to regaining control of unhealthy accumulation.

Who knows what possibilities will open for us?

New ways of being more responsible for our lives, and perhaps downsizing to a home with less space for unneeded junk.

We can do anything we want.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving Monday

Light shimmers 
 in the darkest times.

Sometimes we concentrate so hard on the darkness,
we forget to see the light 

suddenly, we are overwhelmed, speechless.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving weekend

and I am grateful for bright leaves

floating on amber ripples.

I am grateful for the ebb and flow of life,

for coloured carpets in the shady woods,

and for the small creatures 
who find nourishment

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Fall Oranges 2014

Fall paints my yard orange.  Not everywhere, not everything, but enough to raise my spirits.  The colour radiates vibrant energy, makes me smile.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Autumn Reds 2014

Some falls there is an abundance of yellow, brown and orange but reds are rare.  This year the leaves are brilliant as usual and reds are everywhere. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Purple Finches at the Feeder

Their muted rose and tan match the colours of sedums and hydrangeas in the garden, and the weigela leaves turning toward autumn.  I'm stuck inside nursing a head cold, but still thrilled to be able to sit and watch the colours changing through watery eyes, between sneezes ... a Monet-like blur.