“He is not here”

I have never tasted more delicious quiche than the church ladies served on Good Friday at the congregational breakfast. Menfolk were obviously pleased when the volunteers promised to keep making pancakes—and they did! Syrup produced in local woodlots was maple at its very best! Trays of fresh fruit or yogurt cups filled with red and blue fruits were in abundance, together with glazed slices of cinnamon rolls. Such were the gastronomical goodies served at Heidelberg Bible Fellowship—where the sound of Mennonites’ clip-clopping horses is never far away.

The table centrepieces were three weeks in the making. Afterward, young Ezra Koch asked if I would like to have the one he made. How long do you think it took me to reply?

The “Case for Christ” DVD was shown, portraying the life of former atheist and editor of the Chicago Tribune, Lee Strobel. The empty tomb—portrayed by this garden centrepiece—was the key factor in dissolving his unbelief.

This Good Friday marked 25 years since our son Daniel drowned in a canoe accident. The words spoken to Martha in Bethany, Israel, are our greatest comfort:

“Jesus said unto her,

I am the resurrection, and the life:

he that believeth in Me,

though he were dead, yet shall he live:

And whosoever liveth and believeth in Me

shall never die. 

Believest thou this?”

John 11:25-26.

 

Aroma Therapy

 

Someone gave us a teensy sample of maple syrup in a glass jug not more than 3” high.  It now sits on the bathroom vanity.  One of our hostas near the side door produces white, lily-type flowers with a delicate fragrance.  Each morning I pick one of its lilies and deposit it in the little jug.  Throughout the day, I pause to pick it up by its round handle and inhale the lily’s refreshing scent.  A sniff resets one’s core gently, pleasantly―aroma therapy!

2016-08-10-Hosta Lily-Aroma Therapy

False prairie sunflowers are blooming along the backyard fence.  I’m 5’5”.  How tall do you think they are?  Goldfinches enjoy pulling seeds from their golden centres.

2016-08-08-Height of false prairie sunflowers

Too many fires have been in the news lately―Fort McMurray, California, barn fires, and even a local field of wheat―unheard of to us.  A sunset recently enflamed the pines behind us―thankfully only with fiery colour!

Day is done

Gone the sun

From the lake

From the hills

From the sky.

All is well.

God is nigh.

Sweetly rest.

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Safe Places to Sip

 

A few days ago while reading in the living room, movement caught my eye.  A hummingbird was sipping from the throats of the blue streptocarpus flowers dangling from a wall planter by the front door.  In and out of the funnel-shaped flowers he went, evidently enjoying each sip.

2016-08-01-best-streptocarpus

The last day of July, we spent the evening on the back deck by the pond with our son, John, enjoying the moderate temperature.  As dusk began, a hummingbird tanked up for the night, sipping its way around the mophead of scarlet bee-balm flowers, one tubular petal after another.  In the daytime, he usually takes only a sip or two . . . and then flies off.  Not last night.  Apparently, hummingbirds need to store enough energy to see them through the night when they remain in an almost stupor state.

2016-08-01-taken July 26-1hummer at bee balm

This morning, we finished our coffee on the back swing, reading one more chapter together in the book “Called Out” by Janet Boynes.  Lloyd saw a chickadee high up in the clump of false prairie sunflowers, safely sipping water from a chalice. If only I had the camera with me!  The large leaves enfold each other where they join onto the square stalk, forming a deep dimple or chalice.

At Cedar Hollow, the chickadees and other birds have several spots to drink from: a stone bird bath in both the front and back yards,  a rock basin in the back yard on the ground next to the steps, and, of course, the pond.  Loveliest of all, though, are the living chalices high up on the green flower stalks.  Can you see the water line near the base of the leaves on the stalk at the right?

2016-08-01-Chalice in false prairie sunflowers

2016-08-01-best close-up from top of chalice

Where do you slake your thirst these days?  With the horrendous, violent events occurring in rapid succession around the globe militarily, environmentally, and politically, have you felt the need of a fortifying drink in some safe place?

Years ago, when a Samaritan woman went for water at a well in Sychar, a Man at the well said He could give her living water.  In the conversation that followed, the identity of the Man became evident. She went back to the city and invited her people to come hear Him themselves. They came. Have you said what they said in John 4:40-42?

 

 

 

Hip, Hip, Hooray!!

When hanging up the freshly filled hummingbird feeder after breakfast, I saw two wrens flying around the Cedar Shake birdhouse on Black Pole Lane.  Does this mean that the dead wren found a few days ago may have been an intruder and not Lord Wren’s partner?  Let’s hope so.

Do you remember when we purchased a Smart car a few years ago that every chipmunk in the neighbourhood had to have a ride in it?  They didn’t exactly ask for one, but that summer, we caught 22 chipmunks in a cage, and taxied them out to their new country digs.

Last year, after Lloyd’s knee replacement, we didn’t resume our limo service.  And guess what?  We didn’t have to!

This morning, shortly after I saw this chipmunk . . . . .

2016-06-20-Chipmunk ready to eat something

. . . . . he was in hot pursuit of a trespassing chipmunk!  Ka-poosh!!  Did he chase him off in a hurry!  There won’t be 22 chipmunks around here this summer!  High-tailer, that’s his name,  has established his home somewhere under the Dutch windmill.  Woe betide any chipmunk who steps his foot inside of Cedar Hollow!  After securing the premises, High-tailer was as thirsty as a camel!

2016-06-20-chipmunk-3 drinks from rock basinHe must have been napping in his burrow when the resident Song Sparrow decided to take a bath in his rock basin, High-tailer’s basin, mind you.

2016-06-18-song Sparrow takes abath in rock basinNot everyone around Cedar Hollow gets all worked up, though.  Often as not, you’ll find Jeremy taking a snooze, dangling his fishing line in the pond.

2016-06-20b-three waterlilies and 1 bud

 

Deadly Terrorist Attack at Cedar Hollow

At 5:45 this morning, I was awakened by the melodious singing of one of our wrens.  A bit later, I heard a red squirrel chattering in its high, squeaky voice, and at the same time, a wren’s low, staccato chut-chut-chut-chut . . . the kind of scolding sound it makes if you walk too close to its home.

I went out right after breakfast to get some cultivating done in the flowerbeds surrounding the pond before the day got too hot.  On the gravel, I made a gruesome discovery.  Lying motionless . . .  dead . . . face down . . .  was a little brown wren!

Did I actually hear the terrorist attack taking place?  Was it the red squirrel?  Or was it one of those wretched trespassing cats???

When Lloyd buried its tiny body in the woods, he noted that one leg was missing.

We heard wren song now and then throughout the day, wondering how he/she could sing after such a tragic loss.  Or was he/she singing–going on line, so to speak–because that is its only way to attract another mate?

Well, the gangplank is up at Cedar Shake on Black Pole Lane, and the nursery is furnished . . .  waiting.

2016-06-20-gangplank up & waiting

Question:  Is a wren more valuable than a sparrow?

Jesus speaks in Matthew 10:29-31 – “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.”

Stupendous reality.  I wasn’t the only one who saw the little wren on the ground.  God saw it!

And while you try to comprehend that, Jesus continues with these words, which reveal His omniscient mindfulness of you and me:

“But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Fear ye not therefore; ye are of more value than many sparrows.”

 

Sold!

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. That is definitely the wren’s motto.Try as he might, some pieces of lumber just refused to go into his building project, and fell to the ground.

2016-06-10-Y-shaped sticks are a real challenge

 Some choice bits of material were hand picked from beside the steps leading to the pond.

2016-06-10-foraging for twigs

After adding each plank to the gangplank or fetching a pillow or two for the nursery, Lord Wren paused on top of the house to sing!  Now, what would our world be like if construction workers paused frequently to belt out a song?  What if a policeman sang an aria while on the beat?  Mind you, if it was classical music, the streets might be cleared of ne’er do wells.

Lord Wren’s contracting efforts were not in vain.  On Saturday, June 11, Lady Wren arrived at Cedar Hollow.  She inspected the white house nearby, Chateau de la Gourde, but let him know at once that Cedar Shake on Black Pole Lane was definitely her choice of residence this year.  See her on the fence?  Lord Wren quickly tacked up the SOLD sign!

2016-06-11-Lady Wren has chosen home

Today was the kind of windy, cold day when a bowl of chili would taste awfully good.  All kinds of birds thought so, too, and took their supper at the front yard feeder:  chickadees, a flock of gold finches, a rose-breasted grosbeak, a mourning dove, song sparrows, cardinals, and a nuthatch.  They are a congenial bunch.  You don’t hear any of them saying nasty things like, “Get your elbows off the table, buddy!”  They just share the diner with whoever flies in.  The wrens don’t join them, however.  They’re not interested in sitting in a pan to eat. They couldn’t sit still long enough, if they tried!  Supper must be FRESH, and caught on the wing!  Oh yes.
2016-06-13-Trio-gold finch, rose-breasted grosbeak, doveThe chipmunk ferrets out any seeds that chickadees accidentally drop as they carry their dinner to a branch on the nearby pear tree to hammer out the nutmeat.

2016-06-13-chipmunk

Housing Market is Hot!

The spring of 2016 see-sawed back and forth here at Cedar Hollow.  Winter itself had been reluctant to put in an appearance.  However, after all the white stuff had vanished, and the goldfinches had donned their summer jackets, winter decided to give it one last blast.  Whether they looked silly or not, the goldfinches were determined to dine at the snow mounded feeder in their summer apparel.

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Rose-breasted grosbeaks paid us a one-week visit during the third week of May.  It was hard to believe that their outfits had no resemblance to one another – certainly not that his and her look.  Their song is similar to that of the robin:  https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Rose-breasted_Grosbeak/sounds

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The real estate market in Kitchener this spring is the hottest it’s been in years!  Ordinary houses, some obviously in need of repair, receive multiple offers, and sell almost immediately at prices exceeding the seller’s asking price.

Cedar Hollow is no exception.  This afternoon, Lord Wren looked like he would be putting offers in on two houses at the same time.

He is a funny little fellow.  He first put in an appearance on May 29th, but just long enough to warble, “I’m back!”  Like the last two summers, he spends the morning singing here and there in the neighbourhood, sometimes far away, sometimes nearby.  It’s enough to give one the jitters, hoping he won’t be coaxed into residing elsewhere.

And then, after four o’clock, Lord Wren shows up at Cedar Hollow.  Here he is sprucing up Cedar Shake on Black Pole Lane:

P1270065After each installation, he renders a brief chorus.

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Now, where on earth did that piece of railing go?

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“Say!  I wonder if Madam Wren might like the Château de la Gourde?  There’s no telling what tickles a lady’s fancy.  I better work on that, too.”

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“And if you think preparing multiple houses for my lady love’s inspection and her final selection is a breeze, you’ve got another think coming, buddy!

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At the end of the day, Lord Wren let the whole world know that he was definitely interested in Château de la Gourde, nailing his offer to its front door for all to see:

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Strange.  Lord Wren has completely ignored the Swiss Chalet on Walnut Avenue. For the past two summers, that is where he and Madam Wren raised their young ones.  Maybe they thought the red squirrel didn’t comply with the neighbourhood’s noise bylaw.

If Madam Wren chooses Château de la Gourde, it is closer to the deck swing, and will be easier to photograph.

(Over ten years ago, we planted bird gourd seeds in the back corner of the yard.  Lloyd built a wall trellis for them to climb on.  As their white flowers are pollinated by night-flying moths and insects, Lloyd went out by the light of the moon with a Q-tip and dutifully smudged pollen from one blossom to another, which resulted in several beautiful gourds.)

The song sparrow has witnessed the wren’s antics before at Cedar Hollow.  She nonchalantly prepared to refresh herself with an invigorating bath – not just once, mind you, but twice!

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Click below to hear her songs:

htps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wdaE7eaayKM

 

 

 

Peeping Through

Two days ago, Lloyd and I sat on the back deck licking ice cream cones.  The ice had melted from the edges of the pond, and the thin layer in the middle grew a bit thinner as the sun warmed our shoulders.  It was only March 9th!  Unheard of!

A pink knob of rhubarb took her first gulp of spring air today.

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Delphiniums planted from seed last spring near the wall by the sidewalk garden are eager to get going.  They’re determined to beat last year’s production of tall flower stocks.

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Before Mrs. Coon gets too busy with spring house cleaning, we hope to catch her in the wire cage I took out of the upper shed this afternoon.  It seems she evicted the skunk, and hung up her own shingle above the hole dug under the front corner of the shed.  As soon as we can relocate her, we’ll fill the cavern with rocks.  Hopefully Mr. Skunk will realize he’s not welcome at Cedar Hollow.  Sorry, old chap.

Production of a Music Video 

Jessica, a Conestoga College student in Television Broadcast and Film, contacted us to see if she could borrow our studio to produce a music video.

That very morning, I had begun calculating the expenses McDonald Art occurred during the past year, and realized that having no figures to enter in the Advertising line of our income tax form wasn’t great.  In her appeal to local artists, Jessica stressed that whoever could loan their studio for her filming work would be given credits, she would include photos of their art.  With her production going on YouTube, that would mean free advertising!  Why not go for it?

Jessica arrived at ten this morning, and began hauling in equipment and props, assisted by Tanya, her mother.  Shortly after, Brandon, an actor from Toronto, arrived with his costume changes.  The story is woven around a struggling artist, who became dissatisfied with his work, but eventually found meaning and purpose.

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The title of the six-minute production will be, “The Son and His People,” with original music by Danielle Robert of Toronto.

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I had made a large pot of Cheeseburger Soup a few days ago, so Lloyd and I insisted they stay for lunch and share it with us.  We couldn’t have asked for more polite young people to have in our home, and thoroughly enjoyed our conversations with Tanya, Jessica’s attractive mother.

Tanya was drawn to Lloyd’s sculpture of the black-and-tan coon hound guarding his weary master who sat down in the woods to catch “Forty winks.”  She happens to own a redbone coon hound!  When she was a child, she loved the movie, “Where the red fern grows.”  A redbone coon hound was featured in that story, and she determined that some day, she would own such a dog.  She had to order it from the States.  We admired the beautiful orange-red colour of Daisy’s coat, and could almost feel her silky, floppy ears when Tanya shared her photo.

Jessica has more filming to do in Toronto on Tuesday in order to complete her two-year course by April.  We wish her all the best in this challenging, creative career . . . one that offers the opportunity to influence the world!

 

Pioneer Memorial Tower, Kitchener

At his newly installed bench turntable, Lloyd is sculpting an item for the homey cotton batting scenes that decorate homes at Christmastime – the Pioneer Memorial Tower.  When the sculpture has been completed, battery-powered lights will twinkle from its windows and balustrade.

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This morning we set out to take a few more photographs of the tower in order to check the height of the roof as compared to the rest of the structure.  As I opened the car door, I heard my first robin of 2016!!!

In the snow at the side of the path, we spotted a few fresh deer tracks.

Further along on the right stand the remnants of the Doon Mill erected on the banks of Schneider’s Creek which flows into the nearby Grand.  It was built in 1839 by Scottish settlers. (You can see the trail we continued on – not more than 6 min. from our home.

2016-02-27-Doon Mill of 1839

No doubt this tree flourished at the same time as the water-powered wheel served the community of Doon, grinding oatmeal, flour and barley.  Now a handsome condo for coons, its penthouse comes with a sunroof!

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Our approach hustled off a small gaggle of Canadian geese.  I managed to photo-graph the last three before they scuttled down the bank.  See the tower behind them?P1260859

Geese tracks

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The tower, built of smooth field stone with a “Swiss” copper roof, was erected in 1925 to commemorate the arrival of the Pennsylvania-German pioneers between 1800-1803.
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Winter at Last!  Arctic Blast!  Won’t last!

Factoring in the wind chill, tomorrow will feel like minus 32!  Lloyd and I will not be venturing out.  We’ll put the fireplace on and listen to Pastor Doug Searle on Bonaire.  www.bonaireibc.org.   Have you heard anyone with such a listenable style and original content?   John thoroughly enjoys attending this church.  He and the pastor often go scuba diving together.

Here in Kitchener, Ontario, November through January was practically winterless.  Without snow, the camera simply had nothing to do—only leafless trees and bare ground outside.  In fact, it sulked in the rocking chair by the window so long that its batteries ran down.

However, I scooped it up pretty fast this afternoon when I saw this:

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The hawk must surely have been hungry, as the next thing he did was hide in a low branch of the pear tree.   How he thought he could get out quickly enough from the thicket of branches to catch anything is beyond me.

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Maybe he also decided it wouldn’t work.  Soon he flew out and soared away.  I hope his GPS gets a short circuit!  I hope that he completely forgets how he got to this bit of bird sanctuary, don’t you?

Mr. Cardinal is a frequent visitor, brightening up Cedar Hollow whenever he comes by for lunch.  Normally a ground feeder, he has found the pan catches delicious sunflower seeds, and he doesn’t have to go about foraging.  Fast food at McDonalds!  Of course!

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3rd Winter on Bonaire.  Who’s Counting?

John’s car is once again parked in our driveway.  If winter decides to get serious during his February-March sojourn in the Caribbean Netherlands, we won’t have half as much driveway to clear! 

Jasmine, his social Tonkinese, is the cat in residence on the 11th floor of Queen’s Place, getting requests to go here and there for a visit by folks other than the two parties on that floor who volunteered to care for her during his absence. 

With the Canadian dollar dragging its boots, John realized he wouldn’t be eating in many restaurants this time around, but would have to resort to cooking.  I made up a booklet titled Bachelor’s Cookbook, with easy-to-fix recipes, many of which are family-sized, so he won’t have to cook every day. 

Friends found John a modern ground-floor unit at Stay and Dive.  It has a kitchenette, air conditioning, barbecue, small outdoor pool, and private front porch, and is located close to other dive shops and friends at TWR.  (John’s unit is the middle one.)

2016-01-31-Stay and Dive

His dive tanks awaited him, which were stored on the island . . . along with thrilling adventures in the incredibly beautiful waters of Bonaire!  Thrilling adventures also await those who dive vicariously with him. . .  by means of his blogs:

www.facebook.com/sirjohnamcdonald
or
www.twitter.com/johnapollos

Computers Have Likes, Preferences. You Better Believe It!

After the painting of Shorty and Diesel was shipped to Utah, the studio became a temporary workshop of sorts. Tables were cluttered with drills, screwdrivers, levels, and tools of all sorts.  The bathroom next to the studio was being renovated.  It was about time.

In opposite corners of the studio, two easels patiently hold canvases, waiting to be worked on.

2016 got off on its second day to a frustrating start!  Non-stop computer problems.

Did you know that computers have personalities? likes?  preferences?

Knowing I had signed up to take the introduction to the InDesign course from Conestoga College online, John’s Christmas gift was the installation of 16 GB of RAM to increase the speed at which the office computer performed.  It promptly went into pouting fits, freezing up every few hours!  Forcing it to shut off by holding down the ON button until the screen darkened was a scary business, a procedure that was a last resort, and one that was hard on a computer.

Its next antic was to scare the wits out of me!  Red, quivering, horizontal lines shimmied up the monitors in menacing columns, freezing the computer again!  Yikes!

It could be that it needs a new video card.  That was the consensus this time.

Lloyd became a whiz kid at unhooking the tower and hauling it up to the repair shop, not to just one, but now to a second shop!

$100 later and a new video card, the computer is as rebellious as ever!

It must need a new hard drive, was the next conclusion.  How could the hard drive be worn out?  It was only 16 months old!  Give me a break.

A 2-tarabyte hard drive was installed.  The greenbacks are flowing.

Computer carries on with its usual tantrums, freezing up!

The receptionist at the shop lamely said, “Your computer just doesn’t like the RAM.”

“That doesn’t make any sense,” I replied, incredulously.

Whoever heard of a computer not liking something?  It’s mechanical, isn’t it?  Just a bunch of metal, wires, chips, screws . . . all that electronic stuff, geek stuff!

When I informed John that I was ready to heave it out the window, he initiated a three-way call with the technician.  Surprise!  The technician assured John that the RAM he had purchased was perfectly good, and that the first repair shop had installed it properly.

I dug out a trusty magnifying glass, and read the puny–sized company name on my old RAM of 6 GB:  Kingston Technology. 

“Kingston is reliable.  That’s what I have in my computer at home,” the technician said.

Wheeler-dealer John asked if the technician would swap out the RAM he had bought, and exchange it with his shop for KINGSTON RAM.

“Sure.”

Nimble Lloyd pulled out the wires for the umpteenth time, and up to the shop we went again.  How many trips was this?  Who’s counting?

“Leave it with us overnight so we can see if it still freezes up.  We’ll call you in the morning.”

Next morning, no call.  Doesn’t this generation ever keep their word and have the courtesy to call back?

I pick up the phone again.  “It’s fixed,” was the reply.

So . . . the receptionist’s comments about my computer not liking the RAM weren’t so dimwit after all!  Computers do have personalities, likes and dislikes.   The fact is that there are no absolute standards when it comes to the manufacture of computer parts.  What works in one computer might not work in another brand’s tower.  (Thought you’d like to know that comforting tidbit.)

Back home once again, the question quickly became, “Where is everything?  Where is One Drive?”

I had spent hours uploading things to One Drive after getting an upgrade with Rogers for unlimited bandwidth.

Where is the expensive InDesign software we put in that blew our budget, and that I couldn’t enrole in the course without?

Where is my email?  Where’s this?  Where’s that? Help!!!!!!

“Don’t worry,” John assured me.  “Let me come in on TeamViewer.”

Click.  Click.  Clickety click!  He pulled in things from who knows where, and old programs came alive once more!  What is he, a wizard?

“Call the technician and ask him where he put One Drive,” John instructed.

The technician had gone for the weekend, but he would call us Monday morning.

No such luck.

Three-way call once more.

Thank God for John’s Let’s get it done authoritative tone. I was no longer in a civil state of mind.  The tech agreed that if we brought up the old (ridiculous term) hard drive, he would put it in as a data disk, and at no extra fee.  Why hadn’t he done that in the first place?  Yes, we could come right up.

Yank.  Yank.  Yank.  You bet, Lloyd is a speed freak now at dismantling this box of junk.  My lack of a sense of direction can even tell you how to get to the repair shop without getting lost!  Why, we could get there blindfolded!

By this time, we’re no longer hauling the tower up the flight of stairs to the repair shop.  No, the receptionist can jolly well come out and carry it in, thank you very much.

When she began telling me about downloading everything into OneDrive, I must have looked like a veritable troll. (My oldest sister always told me she could read everything on my face!)  For once, it was an advantage. The receptionist quickly realized that I was not about to countenance any further delays, and trotted me back to the technician.  He agreed to download the 169 GB to OneDrive at no cost.

“Leave it with me, and I’ll start the download right now, and it will run overnight. It should be done sometime tomorrow.”

I’ve heard that line before.

Checking in the next morning, Friday, only a third had been downloaded, even though I was told the process ran all night. Yes, they are open on Saturday. . . . . .

By now, I am two weeks behind on the online course.  John leaves for his annual scuba diving vacation in one week. I had hoped to be well on the way in the course while he was still available to bail me out, should I get stuck.

When I was put together, I wasn’t wired with a sense of direction, and there is no way one can be installed.  The other wires that would equip me to be tech-savy didn’t get put in either.

I try to remind myself that at least my attempts to brush colour and shapes onto canvases – which those who view them often express a sense of wonder and joy at – is something to be thankful for . . . something not of my own doing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do ’em Proud!

Early December, I picked up two gift boxes of amaryllis bulbs.  Photos on the boxes promised luscious tropical blooms.  I could picture them already!

Before Christmas, I decided to pot them up.  Inside the first box, a grotesque stem of amaryllis stared back at me, scrunched inside its dark tomb.  White as chalk, the stem, of normal thickness, kinked sidewise as far as the box allowed, bud and all.  Carefully, I put the bulb in its pot, and tamped the packaged earth around, letting its shoulders stand free.  The disappointing sight was placed on the wide kitchen windowsill.

It was too late to change the stem’s horizontal posture into an upright one.  It would simply break.  In a few days, its bud began to open.  Sunlight soon brought pink colour to its cheeks!  It bravely continued on, opening three other buds, which now matched the beauty of the pink blooms on the box!  I’ll call this bulb Ama.

The bulb in the second box appeared normal, with a hopeful tip of green showing on its crown.  It caused no concern, and was duly potted up and watered, and set beside its deformed cousin. I’ll call this one Ryllis.

What was surprising was the energy and determination Ama displayed!  Shortly after being planted, she began to produce another stem.  Yes, she would uphold the pride of the amaryllis family, and, this time, she would not be pitied by anyone who saw her!  She would do ‘em proud! 

Meanwhile, the normal bulb, Ryllis, sent up healthy looking leaves, long, tapered green ones.

Daily, I rotated both flower pots.

Altogether, Ama displayed five full-sized blossoms atop her second stem!

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Ryllis has been a flop, literally.  Twice, some of her gangly leaves flopped over, and had to be cut off, leaving her now with one leaf and no flower stem. She’ll end up in the green bin, that’s what.

A Question from Utah

Christine commissioned the painting of Diesel and Shorty in early February.  The carpenter installed it in the study of her new home on November 11th.

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“Thank you so much for this beautiful painting,” wrote Christine.  “It really means so much to me.  I cannot believe the content look in their eyes.  As I write this email, I am crying. How can an oil painting do this to me?”

When a friend in London saw Diesel and Shorty in the above photo, she emailed:

Can scarcely believe that in the short space of 8 months, the artwork moved from an “idea” to the “canvas,”  was “completed” by the Artist, “shipped” to the purchaser, and is now “gracing the fireplace” in their home!

And I’m still pinching myself that this whole experience really happened!

Are you a digger?

Spring, summer, fall . . . I checked them all, all of the local nurseries. I was hunting for the pink Obedient Plant, but they only had it in white.

Although it was November now, I couldn’t forget how lovely the spikes of pink flowers were that I photographed in one of Brantford’s public gardens two summers ago. Having never seen them before, I emailed the photo to a nursery, which identified them for me. Apparently the Obedient Plant is native to North America, where it is distributed from eastern Canada to northern Mexico, and blooms in late summer when most perennials are fading.  An amazing thing about these flowers, so they tell me, is that you can move or twist an individual floret(s) to whatever position you want them to be in, and they will stay put, which is why florists love them.

Obedient Perennial

(Pink Obedient Plant)

Brainwave!  I’ll contact the Master Gardeners and see if one of them has such a perennial.

Through the library’s helpful Info Link service, I obtained a phone number, and left a message–my plea for a piece of the pink Obedient Plant.

Gwyn phoned, a master gardener, and, yes, she had the pink Obedient plant, and I would be welcome to come get some!  She was going out for lunch, but we could come by at four.

The directions were unusual.  Two miles west of a small village on the opposite side of Kitchener, we were to look for a lane which cut through the middle of a woods on the left, its number posted on the roadside.  There were two other homes in the woods which we would pass, but we were to keep going until we reached their place at the top of the hill.

The weather was balmy, in fact, record-breaking with temperatures in the 20s.  We found the lane that cut through the woods all right, but as we continued to wend our way around the trees, we could hardly tell if we were on the lane or not because of the thick bronze carpet of fallen leaves.  Soon we saw a building through the trees up ahead.

There was no one at home in the large board-and-batten house.  Two white poodle-mixes barked valiantly behind a big window. Presently, the master gardener and her husband drove up. He invited Lloyd into the house while Gwyn took me on a tour of the spacious grounds. Before setting off, I gave her a clump of cala lily that originally came from Guatemala, and produced white, leather-like blooms often seen in wedding bouquets.  It was ready for its winter nap indoors.

Gwyn explained that she once had perennial beds galore, a large greenhouse, and a swimming pool.  As time went on, however, outdoor work had to be pared down, and the greenhouse was dismantled.  The swimming pool was changed into two individual, curved ponds looking so natural with some cattails and water lilies in them.  Someone still comes in to help her with the large vegetable garden.  Carrots and parsnips lay in a wheel barrel by the door.  From this hilltop perch one could see the surrounding farmlands stretching out to the horizon field by fence post, stream and woodlot.

As Gwyn identified the spent stalks of a clump of pink Obedient Plants in a flowerbed by the house, she asked sisterly-like, “Are you a digger?”

“Yes!” I replied without hesitating.  “I LOVE digging!!”

No one had ever asked me such a question.  Only a master gardener fully understands the energizing, creative surge one experiences when powering a garden shovel into the earth by means of one’s foot. Repeated pushes might create a curved flowerbed, or prepare a hole in which to plant some fragrant rose bush–some green wonder to bless the world for years to come!

In no time, the two of us had a large clump of the sought-after perennials bagged and stowed in the cargo area of the Smart car.

Entering the house for a cup of hot tea which she proffered, we found the men engrossed in conversation in the living room.  And what a room!  Designed by two architects 40 years ago, and built from timber on the property, it featured massive maple beams, a stone floor-to-ceiling fireplace, an end wall filled with books, a cherry-sided dining room with the largest harvest table I have ever seen, a balcony overlooking the great room where vibrant greenery hung from the high ceiling, and, off the kitchen, a cold room to store produce and jars of fruit. The tiled floor of the window-studded kitchen was heated by hot water pipes, as were the bathroom floors.

Sitting there, I verbalized the thought that because they had become so accustomed to these surroundings of mellowed wood and stone, they could not possibly realize how relaxing and beautiful the home truly was.

Our conversations covered the gamut of the recent federal elections, the exotic flowers and fungi of Australia, where one of their sons live, the challenge of aging (experienced by each of us), their two-year stint in Nigeria where he was sent to build a school of engineering under the auspices of the University of Waterloo, and the miracle of a recent kidney transplant which he was grateful for.

At last, Lloyd and I reluctantly took our leave, but not before getting their phone number. Time had flown, and supper  was long overdue,

As I gave Gwyn a hug and kiss good bye, her husband asked where his kiss was.

“Give him a kiss,” Gwyn coaxed.  This was also a first for me. No wife has ever asked me to kiss their husband before!  I planted a kiss on both of his friendly, bearded cheeks.

Thanking them again, we began our descent from the enchanted home in the woods and its hospitable owners.

As soon as the rains tapered off the next morning, I happily dug in the clump of pink Obedient Plants in the garden by the sidewalk.

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(Stalks of pink Obedient Plant safely dug in)

The weather forecast said that the record-breaking warm temperatures we had experienced would plunge, and in a few days would fall below zero, with possibly some snow.

Looking back, I marvel at the master gardener’s prompt reply to my late-in-the-season plea for the pink Obedient Plant. Just 48 hours later, and I wouldn’t have been able to dig the plants out of Gwyn’s flowerbed.  The ground would be frozen, unable to release the gorgeous plant I had fallen so in love with . . . but could not buy anywhere!

 

 

 

 

 

 

POST-IT notes

Through the archway to the back yard, you’ll notice the clusters of orange berries on the fire thorn shrub.  Although it has grown steadily over the years, hiding the ugly gas pipe and meter, this is the first decent display of berries it has been able to hang onto.  The chipmunk must be slipping, or perhaps he has developed an allergy to them!

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Leaves from neighbouring maples and from the English walnut behind us float serenely on the pond’s surface in contrast to the water beetles skating along like beginners in their jerky stop-and-go fashion.

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But look!  What are these maple Post-it notes on our neighbour’s fence?  What are their messages?

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  • Have you got the snow tires on?
  • Who is going to help get the lawn furniture into the storage shed?
  • Do you have the gas-oil mixture ready for the snow thrower?
  • Where is the de-icer for the sidewalk and driveway?
  • Got the snow shovels out?
  • Have you found your winter boots yet? You know you put them somewhere.
  • It’s time to bring out the warm, long-sleeved clothes and coats and to pack the summer things away.

Ah, such Post-it notes only land on Canadian fences, or where non-tropical climates prevail.  The changing seasons do make a lot of work, but never mind.  We can ball up sheets of newspaper onto the fireplace grate, add some kindling, and lay on two or three logs.  The mere scrape of a match lights it, bringing forth its crackling, scented companionship on the first snowy night, radiating a cozy warmth like nothing else as ever-changing tongues of orange flames curl upward, flickering and dancing about, some with sapphire blue at their base, some with white tips.

Safely Home

UPS picked up the crate containing the painting of the stallions, Diesel and Shorty, early in the afternoon of October 6th.  Their scheduled arrival time at the Grants’ home in Ogden, Utah, was one week later, October 13th.   From points 3000 kilometres apart, Christine Grant and I were regularly checking its progress on UPS’s online tracking system. I was relieved to note when it had cleared U.S. Customs, but why did it stall in Chicago for two days?  It wasn’t surprising then when the shipping company posted a notice that its arrival in Utah would be two days later than scheduled, October 15th.

Christine stayed home that day, eagerly awaiting its arrival, but instead received a notice that they had attempted delivery, and would try again on the 16th.

It turned out that for some inexplicable reason, the house number she gave us, which was clearly printed on the crate and on the affixed paperwork, was one digit out! She phoned UPS in Ogden, and fetched Diesel and Shorty home herself, letting us know by email.  The stallions were safely home, and we could relax!

Front view of Grant home

The Grants’ response on seeing their commissioned piece was a joy to read, and will be posted shortly on our website in the TESTIMONIAL pages under the HOME drop-downs .

The carpenter came out the following day to take measurements for making a large moulding to frame the painting in the panel above the fireplace.  It will take about two weeks to have the staining done and everything put in place.  Once the stallions are installed, and Christine sends me a photo of them in their new paddock, I’ll share that in another blog.

Ready for Pickup

Saturday afternoon, October 3rd, was set aside for readying Diesel and Shorty for the journey to their owners in Utah.  Not quite three weeks after his right knee replacement, Lloyd’s walker steadied him as he stood to spray four light coats of ultra-violet protection over the canvas. When the last coat was dry, John and I taped a protective sheet of paper over the painting’s surface.  I could see the stallions through the paper, and felt my first pangs of parting with the beloved horses that I had been striving to bring to life with light and dark pigments for the past seven months.

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Yesterday, a family visiting from church carried the crate up from the basement rec room for us.  Lloyd built it last spring before his knee surgery was postponed to the fall.  After John and I got the long wooden box onto the dining table, we placed the canvas inside the inner cardboard box, and secured its lid with cord.

Tying inner box shut

Lloyd had prepared sheets of bubble wrap to swaddle the cardboard box in and cushion it during shipment. 

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“This is how you do it, John,” coached Lloyd, setting the drill’s ratchet before he started screwing the top down on the crate with drywall screws.

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Our enabler and webmaster, John, puts in the last screw!  He made sure that none of the screw tops stuck above the surface where they would catch on things.

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The crate weighing 48.4 lb. stands on its end, waiting for pickup on Tuesday afternoon by UPS.

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A previous visitor from church calculated the weight for us by holding the canvas and standing on the scales, and then standing on the scales by himself . . .  teasing us that we just wanted to find out how much he weighed!  He then sat the crate on the scales and determined the total weight of the canvas and crate, essential information to have as we contacted courier companies for shipping rates.

I put my back out trying to get a slipper onto Lloyd’s swollen foot when he came home from the hospital, so neither of us were into a weight-lifting mode.  Although we can’t lift heavy objects right now, there is something we can exercise . . . and that is giving thanksthanksgiving for our son’s web-mastering skills that enabled Christine Grant to enlarge my painting of Secretariat, which is why she contacted me about painting stallions for her; thanksgiving that this lady possessed huge reserves of trust to commission a painting from thousands of miles away; thanksgiving for the honest (to be truthful, brave) critiquing from both my husband and son; and thanksgiving to my Heavenly Father for enabling me to complete the work before Lloyd’s mid-September surgery.

Diesel and Shorty should arrive in Utah around the time of our Canadian Thanksgiving, and be installed by the contractor above the library’s stone fireplace in the Grant’s new home before the American Thanksgiving!

 

 

The Story of Diesel and Shorty

“Just forget about it.  Nothing is going to happen.  It was probably just a crank call from some old kook in a nursing home,” Lloyd said.

What a bizarre experience.  A brief email from a stranger stated that they were building a beautiful home, loved my painting of Secretariat, and would I phone them at such and such a number.

Someone answered Hello, then immediately hung up!  To make sure I had called the correct number, I carefully punched in the digits once more, received no answer, so left a message.

A few hours later, I tried the phone number once more, and asked to speak to the e-mailer.  What ensued were the unintelligible sounds of children chattering and laughing!

The first two letters of her email address were dr.  Perhaps she was a doctor.  Perhaps the receptionist picked up the phone, sat it down on the desk, and what I was hearing were children in the waiting room.  Puzzled, I hung up, and emailed the lady about my unsuccessful attempts to contact her at the number she had given.

A few hours later, Christine Grant, the rancher in Utah, phoned.  She apologized for forgetting to take her cell phone with her, and said the grandkids had been playing with it.

Regarding her intent to commission a painting of horses, more than once she stated, “I’m dead serious.” She seemed absolutely smitten with the detail in Secretariat and especially his eyes.  Our son, John, who is our webmaster, created a feature on mcdonaldart.com that enables viewers to enlarge photos of paintings, and Christine had obviously done that.

Christine gave me the size of the canvas to be hung over a stone fireplace in their cherry-panelled library, and emailed me a photo of a horse she liked.  Unfortunately, I could not use it as reference material, because it was taken of someone else’s painting.

Christine asked if I would I help her look for a photo of horses.  She would phone me in a week’s time.

I spent a few days looking at an endless number of horse photos on Shutterstock’s website, narrowed my choice down to three, and submitted them, sending my favourite one first: two magnificent stallions nose to nose, whose intelligent eyes illumined their gorgeous faces.  

Christine phoned back in four days, saying she could not find anything she liked better than my favourite. I was delighted! However, neither of us liked the chopped off manes on both horses, so it was agreed that I would lengthen them.  

Negotiations commenced re pricing.  This painting would be three times the size of Secretariat.  We settled on C $15,000.  A deposit of 25% was wired, and the work commenced.

Christine Grant and granddaughter

Christine Grant and granddaughter

Lloyd hit the jackpot when he went shopping for two sturdy easels to hold the long canvas, getting two oak easels for the price of one at  Michaels!  The ever-present need to change the height of the canvas during the painting process was made easy by their ratchet mechanism.   

Lloyd rejected the first custom-made canvas we ordered, and consulted with an art supplier in Guelph to get heavier canvas, but utilize the frame from the first one.  On a very snowy day, Lloyd fetched it home in our Smart car.  Had it been ½” longer, he could not have got it in!

Canvas just barely fits in our Smart Car

Canvas just barely fits in our Smart Car

The detailed pencil sketching of the horses was done over several days on a long sheet of paper. Searches continued on the Internet to find other horses in similar poses because the source photo did not show the side of the sorrel horse or part of the black one’s back.  

Sketch

Sketch

The outline of the horses was traced onto the canvas.  To obtain a smooth surface for the detail on the horses’ faces, Lloyd helped me apply eight coats of Gesso, sanding in between each application.  

Now it was time to use tracing paper to put the detailed drawing back inside the outline on the canvas.  

In order not to muss up the edges of the horses, I worked on the background first.  Various things were tried before settling on the river, the back fence, and the tree.  Other misadventures remain a family secret – a definite advantage of working in oil!

Background finished

Background finished

From start to finish, the creation of Diesel and Shorty was a seven-month process.  The Grants chose the title in honour of two of their ranch horses who were retired but were kept on as pets.   

The trust the Grants exhibited and the lavish encouragement they channelled my way was incredible!  We were able to communicate openly and honestly with each other throughout the creative process, and have become good friends.  I endeavoured to email them photos of the work at various stages.

Asking the ranchers whether they wanted brass or silver hardware on the bridles, they left it up to me. Asked whether they wanted a blonde or black mane on the sorrel horse, they both wanted black.

My husband’s right knee replacement surgery in mid-September spurred me on to complete the work prior to that time.  As several friends said they wanted to see the painting before it was shipped to Utah, we ended up hosting an open house for its unveiling on September 12, with an article in the arts and culture column of the local newspaper one week before.

The turnout was gratifying, some coming from a distance of over two hours away.  Many were horse lovers.  A couple ladies from our church acted as gracious galleristas.  Our son did as well, taking photos of the event.  We couldn’t have pulled it off without his help.

Neighbour viewing the stallions

Neighbour viewing the stallions

Interestingly, we also had a four-legged viewer!  A neighbour, with his very calm, blue-eyed husky, intently viewed the painting together.

Eleanor in Studio

Eleanor in Studio

While the painting continues to dry before it is shipped in the wood crate Lloyd built, my husband and I experience continued thanksgiving to our Heavenly Father Who orchestrated all of the above, and enabled me to complete the commission!

Shipping crate on the ready

Crate ready for shipping

Things happened beforehand that we didn’t know were preparatory to the work that would be coming.  A year ago, my office computer died, and we ended up purchasing an additional computer for the studio.  It was extremely  helpful to be able to enlarge the photo purchased from Shutterstock whenever I needed to see certain details more clearly!

Equipment in studio

Equipment in studio

During the winter, Lloyd had installed an insulating blind over the studio skylight, which let the daylight through beautifully, but kept out the heat.  Otherwise, it would have been difficult to work during hot days as we restricted using air conditioning to off-peak hours.

I’m grateful also to my husband, Lloyd, and son, John, for their honest critiquing throughout the process . . . risking a bonk on the head!  

Lloyd is ready for the big day

Lloyd is ready for the big day

Should I be glad that I made Christine cry when she saw a photo of the partially completed painting?

Partially completed

Partially completed

Should I be glad that I made her speechless when she saw the completed work?  Yes, that’s exactly what I hoped to do, what I strived to do, and only God’s goodness enabled me to accomplish that.

Approved and signed painting of Diesel and Shorty

Approved and signed painting of Diesel and Shorty