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

Waning Winter

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Remember when our popsicles were icicles?

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Lloyd shot the cedar falls outside of our bedroom window.  Why, we could go into business with all of these popsicles!

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While John is on Bonaire for a 9-week vacation, we are taking care of Jasmine.  Our appointment with a vet happened on a day Jasmine would rather forget.  Bundled up in my mother’s soft afghan, it was snowing ‘cats and dogs’ when we left the house.  Can’t you just hear Jasmine singing “O what a beautiful morning . . . everything’s going my way!”

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The vet gave her a thorough checkup, and prescribed drops to clear up what may have been an allergy that caused matter to form in her eyes.  Heading out of the Doon Hospital, hail was pounding down fast and furiously!

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This whole week has been ideal for the flow of maple sap.  Each night the temperature dips below zero, and then climbs up into the plus range during the day.  It’s wondrous to realize that the tall, bare maples are busy working on their two-month preparations for their spring fashion show.  They usually aim to flaunt their green finery before the 24th of May.

I was busy all day in the studio, painting the background of the stallions.  With the window open a bit, sounds of the outdoors came in. Crows flapped out of the woods, announcing that it was high time they picked up twigs and got started on their nests.  Cardinals whistled, not full throttle, mind you.  They don’t want anyone to know that they might be slightly off key, not having whistled a single note during the long Arctic-like winter.

 

 

 

 

Stallions on the Canvas!

The sketching work now completed, it’s time to get out the oil paints and brushes.  Day by day, I hope to gradually bring the stallions into 3-D.  I won’t be using black light either, such as the government has so cleverly done on the pages within new Canadian passports.  The horses will appear to breathe by means of colour – shades of colour. First I’ll begin by brushing in an out-of-focus background.  That will save  reworking the edges of the horses later on.

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Meanwhile, the chickadees visiting Cedar Hollow are busily focused on keeping their tummies full during this unusually cold winter.  They grab a sunflower seed in their beak, fly over to a branch of the pear tree, and pound out their high-protein meal, clutching the hard-shelled seed between their toes.  When outside, I love to hear the  staccato rhythm!

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The powerful beaks of the cardinals make their mealtime a much easier affair.

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The HORSES are coming, Ho-Ro, Ho-Ro!

Holding the canvas against the window for light, you can see the outline of the two stallions I will be painting.  Over eight coats of Gesso were applied to the canvas and sanded in between in order to obtain a perfectly smooth surface that will allow fine detail.  (The frame and support bars at back of canvas show through because of the backlighting.)

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The next step is tracing the earlier sketch of the stallions onto the smooth surface,  ready to paint . . . ready to bring the majestic horses to life!

Below is a photo of something I have never seen before—a red squirrel out in the snow!  I guess the poor chap has been housebound like the rest of us during what has been the coldest February in 135 years!  Hope he was able to forage enough to get his tummy full this afternoon.  His tail and coat were certainly not in the best of shape.

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Never mind.  The local paper showed an official in a photo op yesterday, driving a spigot into a maple tree for sap!  Yes, the great miracle of spring is about to unfold once again . . . even though some of us need to be convinced at this point that we will see such a colour once more as green .

 

 

What is the difference between possible and impossible?

After receiving delivery of it, Lloyd was not comfortable with the weight of the custom-made canvas from a Waterloo art store.  He felt there was too much bounce in it.  After speaking with Wyndham Art Supplies in Guelph, he made a trip over there, and ordered replacement of the canvas in a heavier, stronger weight.

The weather could not have been worse when he drove over to pick it up–snow white-outs and strong gusts of wind!  Had the canvas been just ½” longer . . . it would not have been possible to get it into the Smart car!  Mind you, I had to stay home so that the passenger seat could be collapsed in order to accommodate it!

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Lloyd and I hauled out several large sheets of boxboard last night.  He wants to construct a cardboard box for the canvas before I get going with the oil paints.  It will be surrounded with lots of bubble-wrap, and then inserted into a sturdy wood box for shipping to Utah – his next project.

In the meantime, a frequent sound you would hear near the studio is the buzz of the electric pencil sharpener as I work on sketching the two stallions onto paper.  Hopefully, that will be completed early next week.  Their outline will be transferred onto the canvas, ready for the next stage.

Mother and father cardinal brighten our wintry front yard whenever they fly in for a seed break . . . or a dinner of high-protein nutmeats!  When you were a kid, did your mother ever tell you at the dinner table not to talk – but to get eating?  It’s quiet here around the bird table as well.

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Shunted Off to the Siding

The sketch you saw earlier of a train winding through the Canadian Rockies is just that, a sketch.  It will have to remain that way for a while.

Our son John’s expertise on the web allowed ranchers in Utah to view my painting of Secretariat close up. That resulted in their commission to paint two very beautiful stallions, one black, and one sorrel.  The nose-to-nose pose of the horses melts your heart, and gives you that All is right with the world feeling.  Both horses have black manes.  It will be a challenge to do justice to such harnessed might and beauty. The canvas has been custom ordered to fit into a large frame above a stone fireplace in the cherry-wood library of their new home.  I’m hoping our Smart car doesn’t get its nose out of joint when it sees the canvas being delivered.

It was a relief to read in the Record this past week that a Christian-principled university in Edmonton, King’s University, has offered Omar Khadr admission as part of his bail application.  They developed a relationship with him over the past six years.  As you will read below, the vice president of King’s stated:  “This completely matches what we’re about:  Our mission is about inspiring and educating learners to be agents of reconciliation and renewal.”

It says a lot for this young man that his lawyer, Dennis Edney, has offered to foot the bill at King’s University.  Has it not been nauseating for so many years to read about the prolonged miscarriage of justice in this case that began when he was fifteen? https://ca.news.yahoo.com/educating-omar-khadr-just-doing-christian-university-says-162942011.html

We know a man who was a professor at King’s University  some years ago.  He happened to reconnect with us by email just this past week, which brought us great happiness.

John has had a busy, totally enjoyable first week on Bonaire once again, diving, touring, and working with the Worldwide Christian Scuba Divers.

John w. WCSD-Feb.6-15 at one thousand steps_n

Can you see the propeller of the Hilma Hooker which lies on the sea floor off the south end of the island?  A special partition had been built in it where tons of marijuana was concealed.  No one wanted to claim it as theirs . . . and somehow . . .  it sunk to the bottom!

John took WCSD to Wilma Hooker-Feb.6-15_n

Meanwhile, we are taking care of John’s Tonkinese cat, Jasmine, who has been on her best behaviour.  She has found every register in the house!

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What a cat!  She even tucks herself into bed!  See that bulge?  It moves!
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When John stopped in at Addo’s Bookstore on Saturday, he found that so far they have sold over 300 copies of Colour the ABCs. It is delightful to think of little people in many parts of the world colouring away with their crayons . . .  trying to stay within the lines of goats and lizards, salt mountains and pink flamingos!

John with COLOUR THE ABCs at Addo's-Feb. 6-15_n

For 20 years, Bonaire’s marine park has been designated as the best shore diving location in the world, attracting top divers to its reefs.  This year it won three more awards:

 

The best diving photo place
The best macro-diving location
Bari Reef was rated the most diverse dive site in the Caribbean!

 

With all of these accolades, would you like to see Bonaire’s reefs up close?  Follow John’s daily write-ups.  Do take a moment to let him know you’re going along on his dives.

 

Go to –   www.twitter.com/johnapollos

 

 

 

 

Back Home

In all the hurry-scurry involved with leaving his condo in tip-top shape for someone subletting it in his absence, John dashed over to McDonalds to grab a Big Mac.  When he drove up to the window, he heard the words, “No charge.  Someone paid it forward for you!”  What an uplift!

The final thing on his agenda last night was to safely bestow his beloved cat, Jasmine, a Tonkinese, into our care, taking time to cuddle her, and to repeat what he always says when they part, “I’ll be back.  I’ll be back.”

John was up at three this morning to catch a taxi to Pearson International Airport, flying to Houston, Texas, for a connecting flight on United to Bonaire.

“You’ve had a long vacation in Canada, and now you’re back home!

That is how the propietor of Prikichi Residence greeted John when she picked him up from Flamingo Airport .  In his phone call, he said, “And that’s how it felt.” John rented the same apartment that he had last year.

Bonaire lies just off the north shore of Venezuela (orange letters)

bonairecarib area

The next map shows the three islands often referred to as The ABCs.  (Whoops!  Someone stuck an extra “n” in Bonaire.)

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The Bonairian flag waves proudly from all government buildings.

Bonaire flag

Kralendijk, the capital of Bonaire, has many sailing vessels bobbing in its turquoise bay, and welcomes cruise ships from around the world.

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Is it any wonder Bonaire has become one of the top diving locations in the world?

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Our daughter, Dr. Joanna McDonald (2012)

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John in 2014 taking courses to become a Master Scuba Diving Trainer

John will be purchasing an underwater camera to replace the one that broke off of his equipment last year.  Lloyd and I are looking forward to seeing more of the wonders of the deep that call John back year after year.  Stay tuned!

Copy of Sea fans & purple fish-cr

 

Dream Come True

A colouring book which I created about the unique Island of Bonaire and her sister islands of Aruba and Curaçao has now been published by Addo’s Books.  The small islands are located in the Caribbean off the northwest coast of Venezuela, South America.  My husband and I served with TWR for 11 years on Bonaire, during which time our three children were educated completely in the Dutch language.  Each of them became avid scuba divers.

John recently obtained his PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer certification, and returns to Bonaire for 9 weeks on January 31, 2015.  He is delighted to now be a member of Worldwide Christian Scuba Divers Organization (WCSDO – wcsdo.org).  Forty eight of their members will be on the island the first week of February, assisting in construction of an addition to the International Bible Church and other missionary work.  In fact, 11 of the divers will be on the same flight from Houston TX as John!  They will give him a WCSDO T-shirt when they meet.  When John booked his vacation months ago, he had never heard of the WCSDO.  How do you explain the timing of their flights?

Below is Addo Stuur’s online promotion of my colouring book, Colour the ABCs:

addo_logo Addo’s Books, Toys, Office Supplies

Kaya Grandi 36 – P.O. Box 465 | Kralendijk, Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles  Tel: 717 6618 / 786 1418

addosbookstore@gmail.com

 ABC-cover

4 talen
4 lenga
4 languages
4 idiomas

$ 4,95

Bo ke rondia un keuba di pirata?
Bo ke mira un piská drumi den un mea di sleim transparente?
Pinta bo kaminda dor di e islanan eksitante A B C Aruba, Bonairu, Korsou!
E buki aki a wordu traha net pa bo dor di Eleanor McDonald di Kanada ku a biba riba e isla B for di ana 1973 pa 1984.

Kun je een rovers hol vinden?
Wil je een vis zien slapen in zijn bel?
Kleur alles van de interessante ABC eilanden: Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao!
Dit boekje is speciaal gemaakt voor jou door Eleanor McDonald uit Canada, die op B woonde van 1973 tot 1984.

Want to find a pirate’s cave?
Want to see a fish sleeping in a bubble?
Colour your way through the exciting ABC islands: Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao!
This book was created just for you by Eleanor McDonald from Canada, who lived on the ‘B’ from 1973 to 1984.

¿Quieres encontrar una cueva de piratas?
¿Quieres ver un pez durmiendo en su burbuja?
Colorea tu camino a través de las emocionantes islas ABC: Aruba, Bonaire, Curazao!
Este libro estuvo creado especialamente para ti por Eleanor McDonald de Canadá.

coral

fruit_boat

conch_and_crab

parakeets

28 pages

Eleanor

200 Years Ago

Yesterday, Sunday, January 11th, marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of Sir John A. Macdonald.  Stephen Harper paid tribute to Canada’s first prime minister by saying the Scots-born politician “forged Canada out of sheer will.”

Macdonald’s political career as a Kingston alderman began the year the cornerstone of Kingston City Hall was laid, 1843, and after his death, the first prime minister of Canada lay in state in the same room where Harper delivered his remarks.

Sir John A. Macdonald close-up

A gifted sculptor from Wellesley, Ruth Abernethy, created his likeness in bronze, which is temporarily on display in the Kitchener Auditorium, home of the Kitchener Rangers. (Some hockey fan had the audacity to put one of the team’s shirts on Sir John A.!)

John standing with Sir John A. Macdonald

Our oldest son is named John A. McDonald, and always signs his emails and correspondence with John A. In fact, he gets a kick out of using this as one of his email addresses:  sirjohnamcdonald@gmail.com

Of course, there is a slight difference in the spelling of the last name, but for some strange reason, everyone thinks the prefix of our surname is spelled with an “a” and not just a “c.”

When people meet my husband for the first time and hear the surname McDonald, sometimes they jest, “You’re not Sir John A. Macdonald, are you?”  Lloyd replies with a straight face, “No.  I’m his father.”

Sir John A. Macdonald’s history and accomplishments are engraved on the backs of the two chairs he stands beside.  The installation is called “The Conversation.”  As you thank God for the blessings you enjoy in Canada . . . sit a spell . . . and read what is engraved on the back of the two chairs Sir John A. Macdonald stands between.  Find out what this remarkable man did to make Canada one of the best countries to live in.

Writing on Sir John A. Macdonald left chair

Writing on Sir John A. Macdonald chairs

 

 

Forty Winks – 2014-11-15

Do you sometimes wish you could step off the modern-day treadmill of busyness, info overload, news of war and violence . . . into a quiet woods somewhere? a sheltered, comfy spot where you could just sit and read . . . or catch forty winks?

This hunter has found such a spot!  His faithful black and tan coon hound makes sure he is undisturbed.

Lloyd’s latest sculpture will be available on our website in time for Christmas gifting, and also at Studio 1291, Cambridge (Preston) 602 King Street East at Argyle.

Gazing at Forty Winks will slow you down, give you that good-old-days feeling . . . while lowering your blood pressure  .
                                                              .
                                                                   .
                                                                        .
                                                                              .
40_Winks_Left_side

40_Winks_Right_Side

40_Winks_Front_View

40_Winks_Back_View

All Aboard! 2014-11-09

Nearing the completion of a painting, I  experience a bit of restlessness, wondering what to paint next.  I spent a few days on the computer going through photos taken during our trip out West in the summer of 2011.

Lloyd and I boarded West Jet at the Regional International Airport situated on the eastern outskirts of Kitchener.

001-Wat.Reg.Airport, WestJet,Aug.8-11

Due to headwinds, our arrival in Calgary was later than expected.  We barely had time to catch the next flight to Vancouver.

I loved the smartly trimmed cedar hedging around many homes in Vancouver. It wasn’t the white swamp cedar which surrounds our home (named Cedar Hollow).  The leaves on these tall hedges were finer.  And how exciting it was to see palm trees!

In the ferry we took over to Vancouver Island was a long transport housing show horses on their way to a competition.  They stuck their beautiful heads out of their stalls, and enjoyed a handful of fresh hay from  their handler.

Butchart Gardens in Victoria taught me something I’ll never forget!  Make sure to have two camera batteries on hand!

013-L entering garden

Clicking Butchart’s unimaginable beauty constantly, my camera ran out of steam just as we entered the Rose Garden.  I could have cried . . . .

The magnificent parliament buildings and the impressive Empress Hotel were designed by a young Dutchman who stood in marble on a monument, blueprint papers under his arm.  Inspiring sayings were embedded on many of the stained glass windows throughout the parliament buildings.

044-Parliament - Inspiration - 8

Placed in the landscaped grounds of the ornate parliament buildings was the statue of a young Queen Victoria, so different from the matronly one in our city.

038-Young Queen Victoria;Captn.Geo.Vancouver

Hanging baskets of flowers were everywhere in Victoria.  Unusual evergreen specimens bowed their heads and drooped their arms on either side of the entry to the  Empress Hotel.

034-Splashes of colour everywhere!

Returning by ferry to Vancouver, we were fascinated by jellyfish pumping their delicate, frilly selves about in the huge aquariums.

051-Aquarium- Jellyfish

Awesome redwoods in old Stanley Park!

058-Stanley Park - Hollow Redwood-L

Booking into a hotel, we received an unpleasant jolt in the form of a letter handed to us by the concierge.  It was from the Rocky Mountaineer Railway we were to board in the morning.  They advised us that due to a strike they were experiencing, management would be standing in.  Picketers were in plain view as the “All aboard!” call rang out.

064-a-Train ride began this way

Although they tried their very best, management could not possibly relate all of the anecdotes of information that the regular train attendants would have, and often could not prepare us ahead of time to be ready to click a spectacular scene that was coming up just around the bend.

If we were doing it again, we would not have chosen the Redleaf cars, but the more costly ones with the upper domes, the ones which served hot meals.  Also, we would have taken the route that goes to Jasper instead of to Banff. The only wildlife I saw was painted on a sign, “Beware of Bears!”  At the local market, after returning home, a man waiting in line for some ground beef was from the West, and said that the Jasper leg of the trip would have guaranteed viewing bighorns, something I had really wanted to see.

Nonetheless, reading between the lines, you must have guessed that we snapped lots of beautiful scenes . . . given that it took a two-day sort to decide on the next painting!

What size is the canvas?  30” wide by 24” high.  Sketching, the fiddly part, is mostly over, and next week begins the fun of picking up the paint brushes!

Come along with us as the engineer slows down to take the curve to the right!

P1250601

Ever been encouraged by spooks? – 2014-11-03

Gentle rains seemed to come so easily this fall, almost daily, in fact.  On the last day of October, a robin rested momentarily in the pear tree where he had been showering in the rain, fluttering his wings about as if he were in a bird bath.  Refreshed, he was soon off to catch up with his kith and kin, headed for the distant  southlands.

Robin in pear tree

The previous Hallowe’en, I received my “tricks” at Cambridge Memorial Hospital, having my thyroid removed that morning.  Our porch light wasn’t turned on for the little trick-or- treaters as my husband and son were up visiting me in the hospital, making sure I had enough ice chips to suck on.

This year, our porch light was on once again, welcoming the neighbourhood children.  We took turns answering the doorbell.  As I handed out bags of potato chips and chocolate bars, a couple of boys around ten said, “We like your bushes!” (hedge circling the front yard).  “Happy Hallowe’en!” they chorused as they headed down the cobblestone walk.  On another of my turns at the door, a witch about twelve years old, said, “I like your wallpaper!”  Whoever heard of witches liking pretty things?

By 7:30, our stores of candy were depleted.   Off went the porch light, and on went a sense of gratitude for the unusual encouragement we had experienced.  I don’t think any of the trick-or-treaters, short or tall, forgot to say Thank you either.

The temperature went up to eleven this afternoon, making it an ideal time to bury some miracles around Cedar Hollow.  One thing is sure, they won’t stay buried.  Their hiding place will be exposed  come spring!

Bulbs of a dozen red tulips were pushed gently into a bed dug six inches deep beside the pond.  An inch of soil was sprinkled over their pointy noses, and then a piece of wire mesh was pressed carefully down before filling up their bed with soil.  Hopefully the wire mesh will put the wild moving company from the adjacent woods out of a job, and the tulips will bloom next spring . . .  where they were planted.  Don’t squirrels know that a clump of tulips is a lovely thing . . . but a single tulip popping up in the woods or in the middle of the lawn looks, well, kind of stupid?

White narcissus with pink trumpets and blue hyacinths were put into the sidewalk garden, all of them preparing to pull out of the black earth heavenly scents next May.  How?

Narcissus bulbs in hole

Five white snow drops were moved to a new location.  Their tiny heaters will baffle us once again as they melt their way through icy snow in early April.  Crocuses will unfurl soon after, splashing pure gold about, coaxing skinny bees to come get the energy drink they have prepared just for them.

 

Not Timbits but Pearbits! 2014-10-28

Late frost, brisk winds and rain have left many trees bereft of their leaves.  In plain view now are hundreds of tiny pears on the ornamental pear tree in our front yard.  As a result of the frequent rainfalls, it grew by leaps and bounds this summer.  It grew so much, in fact, that a grey squirrel was able to leap from one of its branches onto the bird feeder last Saturday, sending the chickadees into a tizzie!! John and Lloyd moved the feeder closer to the living room window and out of his reach.  Before the feeder’s final position got a “thumbs up” signal, I went into the house and did a Goldilocks thing:

I sat on Lloyd’s spot on the sofa . . . . .

. . . . . and then I sat on mine!

Both of us must be able to easily view the feeder.  We often eat lunch on the sofa, and enjoy the company of the birds.  Lloyd was surprised to see some juncos yesterday.  They don’t usually stop by until late winter.

A warm, steady rain fell this afternoon.  Once when I looked out, a pair of plump, black squirrels were busy in the pear tree.  They feasted on the tiny pears . . . and washed them down with an unbottled beverage . . . rain.

1-P1250553

They often put their ‘umbrellas’ up – large, fluffy tails – which covered their backs!

After combing through photos we took during our trip out West a few summers ago, I settled upon the next painting.   I’ll feature its sketch when that is done . . . and then the development of the painting on the blog as things progress over the coming weeks.  What will it feature?  From which province?  You’ll have to check back.

 

Rambling River Song

In between doing the week’s laundry this Saturday, I spent the day in the studio beneath the skylight.

During the past few days, we have been bantering titles about, and finally settled on Rambling River Song.  Listen, and see if you can hear the river gurgling bravely along in spite of the encroaching ice.

I thought the painting was done before noon, and placed it on an easel across from us in the living room where Lloyd and I could critique it while enjoying a sandwich in our lazyboys.  Lloyd didn’t like the looks of the rocks showing through the snow toward the bottom of the arch on the left.

“Kind of looks like a salamander, doesn’t it?” I said, amused, and was soon headed back into the studio to wipe it out.

If you go back to the previous blogs, you will note quite a change took place this week below the arch.  John brought it to my attention that he was having trouble with that area.

“Maybe I’m just not seeing it right,” he graciously remarked.

Oh, oh.  I knew that meant I had to go back and review the  reference material.  Foolishly, I liked what I saw in another photo, and got the perspective all out of whack by painting that into this!  “Thanks, John!  I pulled the river out of the sky.”

The inspiration for Rambling River Song came from the old stone arch above Blair Creek not more than five minutes from our home.  I photographed it several times in both summer and winter.  May this simple arch from yesteryear give you pleasure . . . and peace.

1-P1250486

 

Put out for adoption – 2014-10-17

Today Lloyd and I managed to get the allamanda vine in its large container into the cargo area of the Smart car – no small feat.  A potato sack containing a clump of the large cala lily plant sat beside it.

Destination?  Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory.

Cambr.ButterflyConserv.

Their naturalist, Lucy White, previously agreed to take the plants and relocate them in  their tropical environment.

The allamanda (or golden bells) had done well in our garden during the summer of 2013, and was carefully coddled beneath a skylight over the winter.  It was obviously stressed by this year’s cold summer, with temperatures often dipping down to 10 Celcius.  The waxy-leaved vine simply could not muster the heart to form even one measly bud.

Raindrops 2 flowers & 3 buds

(Photo of golden bells in our garden in 2013)

The giant cala had thrived in the living room this winter, delighting us with its attractive leaves.  Set out into the garden, it begrudgingly produced one bloom during the whole cool summer.  Previously when fall came, I dug the cala out, shook the dirt off its roots, and let it dry out and rest in the basement.  Come March, I potted it up, and it shot forth new leaves at an incredible rate.  However, by keeping it growing throughout the winter, I thought it would be off to the races when set out in the garden . . . but it, too, longed for a warmer clime, and just sulked.

Cala Lily 1

(Photo of cala lily taken in our garden during a warmer summer)

A kindergarten class, wearing paper crowns with butterflies on them that they had coloured, were visiting the butterfly conservatory this morning.  We have never seen so many butterflies during any of our previous visits, and were delighted to see the iridescent blue morphos flitting here and there.

BlueMorpho

The resident tortoise was swimming among the large goldfish instead of napping on a rock.  We saw him snacking on a butterfly that had fallen into the pond after its brief sojourn had ended.

One of the bird of paradise plants had grown right up to the ceiling, and at first glance, looked much like a banana tree.  Beautiful hibiscus, single and double, brightened the tropical vegetation, tiny quails scooted about, birds flitted among the foliage, and one white butterfly, its large wings etched with black veins, landed right on Lloyd’s nose almost as soon as we entered!  Welcome, Lloyd!  Glad you came!