Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Dec 2015

Memories of Ponte Vecchio...

Looking over the year past is the task of the month. Our media is filled with lists of the best books, movies, songs, TV shows, news, etc. ad infinitum. On a personal level we try to make sense of how our own memories stack up as a part of the whole. AND this year I have some remarkable memories. Looking through my image files for this month's missive showed me events and adventures that have excited and nurtured my heart.

The end of the month, then, brings us the opportunity to determine what we want from our new year. Like the people crossing the Ponte Vecchico in Florence, we all need to prepare for our journey and to know where we're going... and maybe even why.

Resolutions seem rigid to me and they tend to fail when they confront an obstacle. In my world, determinations are purposeful intentions, giving rise to flexible decisions that enable me to stay in tune with my intentions as Time finds ways to muddy the waters around me. See?

I've been writing some new things recently and I look forward to telling you about them by the time the coming year starts feeling a little old around its edges. In this way my year past is carrying over into my year-to-come. I always relish my New Year's Eve review of last year's determinations and setting my new intentions. I like keeping my list to just a few major notes, to create a workable chord for the whole year. Some years I even choose a theme song to represent my new intentions. Of course, because I obsess, I make my notes to myself with beautiful type and enjoy choosing colours, backgrounds, and textures that enhance my determinations.

I invite you to review your own year past and to prepare your own notes to yourself of determinations all ready for New Year's Eve. Write them by hand on a little cocktail napkin as you raise your glass if you like. See what you think...

and remember Vonnegut's request:

I urge you to please notice when you are happy,
And exclaim or murmur or think at some point
"If this isn't nice, I don't know what is."

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Another November 11th

Remembering Van...

With warmest thanks to Van's son Julian
for this image and more.

It's almost 11:11 of 11-11-11
But this isn't about numbers…
A simple row of ones.
Or maybe it is.

It's about the number 1
Already being too many.

It's about forcing
Sweet innocent children
To become trained killers.
It's about sending them out
To kill and be killed.

The number 1 Is already too many.

I met Arthur Charles VanTowsey
In Sydney. He was already 60.
He told of his youth in Auckland.
House filled with musicians
And singers from afar...
Guests of his
Pianist and organist father Arthur Cyril
And his
Opera singer mother Mamie.
There was always noise
In that home...
Noise of rehearsals,
Noise of friendships,
Noise of children.

In his early work
Van delivered telegrams
First on his push bike
And later on his motorbike.
He carried little tree seedlings
And planted them along is routes.
Go to Auckland and look for them.

It was a time and place
Of quiet confidence 
That each person
Could (and would)
Make a difference
For the benefit of all.

Van and his mates
Felt the distant sting
Of England's raging
Push against the Nazis.
They tried to understand
Why the US was not part.

But knowing their part,
This band of friends
Rushed to join the fight.

They trained together.
They became defenders
Of the just
And killers
Of the unjust.
They eagerly awaited
Their time to get
Over there.
Units trained and were sent out.
Units trained and were sent out.
Units trained and were sent out.
And Van noticed that
Training periods were being
Shortened and each battalion
Was sent out sooner and sooner
Than the one before,
Each training always less.

Van wrote to the prime minister
Protesting that the jewels of
New Zealand's future
Were being sent unprepared
To certain slaughter.
The prime minister
Did not respond.

Van and his mates
Were sent to England,
Then onward to Egypt,
And finally to Crete.
They fought.
They died.
In the midst of one battle
Van watched as his boyhood friend
Pushed a trolley of supplies:
A sudden blast
Blew off his head.
His hands remained on the trolley
And his body continued
To walk forward headless...
Before finally collapsing.
At the end of that day
Arthur Charles VanTowsey lived,
Wounded but alive,
One of only five left
Of the original 21st Battalion
Out of New Zealand.
The last of the band.
The last of the hope.

I remember Van's tears
Each Remembrance Day
I spent with him in Oz.

It wasn't abstract for him.
The number 1
Already too many.

Bette Forester
Toronto, about 10:15 am 11 Nov 11

Friday, October 30, 2015

Nov 2015

Sunny & hot in San Antonio...

Yes, Texas. Twas my university reunion... a Big Event.Trinity University is alma mater to a slew of us still around to talk about it. It's mostly perched atop the cliff of an old quarry. From there one can see for miles around, including the San Antonio skyline. That's why it's called the Skyline Campus. That's the upper campus. The lower campus sits at the bottom of that cliff face. All beautiful and dramatic. The school itself started in 1869 and moved to its current campus in 1952 with buildings designed by now-famed architect, O'Neil Ford.

I attended the reunion with Phoebe, the woman I met during my time at Trinity. The woman you've seen on these pages before. She who now lives in Portland. She who weaves. For years Phoebe was among those who wove tapestries for Mark Adams, including these that now hang at the San Francisco airport Terminal 2. We were both sculpture majors at Trinity, under the tutelage of one Philip John Evett. The one and only. He's now retired from teaching. His current work is more vibrant than ever. Go see.

So: top pic shows Phoebe et moi as we wandered about in that 35° C (95° F) sun, Phoebe with Henry Moore (there's a Barbara Hepworth only a short walk away!), me with Evett, and lastly the now-remodelled and expanded art building where we spent so many hours drawing, painting, carving and welding all those years ago. Wandering the hallways and peering into the classroom-studios I felt the lure of The Work and memories of meeting others who also felt that lure then, too.

Evett's show here, was mounted to honour him during our reunion. Lots of us returned to stand with him again, to admire his work and just to remember. Somehow he remembered all of us.

After our reunion weekend, Phoebe and I adjourned to the gracious old Menger Hotel in downtown San Antonio, across the street from the Alamo. There we wandered the old-made-new River Walk and revisited some favourite haunts, including breakfast at Shilo's Delicatessen, a landmark for longer than even we can remember. PLUS, after all these years, I finally met Phoebe's three siblings! They joined us at the Menger and we meandered some more together and celebrated with some perfect Mexican food above the River at Mexican Manhattan.

I returned to a Don Valley that's gradually merging greens into oranges and yellows and daily adding more in preparation for just giving up and dropping everything until the light returns. I do love my Canadian seasons. Snow and ice, not so much.

Have a great Mo/November
Be sure to remember
To remember
On the eleventh:
Et al.
His birthday
And pleas
For humanity.

As former Trinity dean
Coleen Grissom reminded,
I entreat you with some
Always apropos
Kurt Vonnegut words:

I urge you to please notice when you are happy,
And exclaim or murmur or think at some point,

"If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Oct 2015

PDX threads found in New Jersey...

Kate and David (the David from Portland, not last month's David from Florence!) have bought a condo in Union City! Just next to Hoboken. The day they they got their keys they celebrated by planting their little square foot of old PDX carpet, Q.E.D.

Some of you might ask, What? Why? But you others know: originally designed by SRG Architects and installed in the Portland International Airport in 1987, Portlanders have since marked their departures and returns with pictures of their feet planted somewhere on the many acres of this carpet. Or their dog on the carpet. Or their donut on the carpet. These days the PDX carpet even has its own Instagram account where they post their images: https://instagram.com/pdxcarpet/

This year has marked retirement for the iconic carpet—much to the dismay of locals and visitors alike. I was fortunate to have seen the original carpet for myself when in Portland for Thanksgiving 2013. The new design uses similar colours, but it's not the same. Not the same at all. Google it.

The good news is that the old carpet has reappeared in many clever guises. This square, of course, but there are also framed squares and sling back chairs and magazine racks. Google them.

And speaking of Portland... Phoebe, now of Portland, and I are shortly going to our university reunion in San Antonio, Texas. We are all aflutter with excitement and plans. We hope to see friends and profs... in particular our scultpure prof, Philip John Evett: http://www.philipevett.com/

But, back to Kate and David in Union City. They are busy painting and packing and dreading the overwhelming manual labour that is moving... all to come to fruition in these next three weeks... all while they're working full time. I invite all of you to join me in sending them happy and restful vibes.

Or you're welcome to just drop by their Brooklyn apartment and help them carry heavy boxes down the stairs!

Happy October ya'll.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Sept 2015


I thought I was off to visit Kate in Brooklyn... but that all changed very quickly when she and David met me at Billy Bishop Airport as I emerged from the new 10-stories-deep tunnel.

I didn't find out where we were going until we arrived in Rome about 7 hours later!

We visited the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel, where a kind guard suggested I might be more comfortable in a wheelchair. Yes! David was my pusher and I was able to see everything with no compromises. There were no photos permitted in the Sistine Chapel, but it looks like they each grabbed one of all the necks craning upwards and Kate took one of the floor, which she proclaimed to be underrated.

That afternoon we took a fast (250 km/h !) train to Florence where another surprise awaited: Peter and Lisl joined us! The next day we ALL visited my obsessively favourite sculpture, Michelangelo's David. And later, the Uffizi Gallery, home to lots of art including Botticelli's Birth of Venus. Peter became my wheelchair pusher there and we accidentally exited the gallery. He had to find a way back in to return the chair after the entrance closing time!

We relaxed and chatted over wine on our airbnb apt’s rooftop terrace then ate another fabulous meal nearby.

Peter and Lisl were off to Athens to a wedding the next morning. We hung out in Florence another day then returned to Rome and visited the Vatican again: this time to see Michelangelo's Pietà, along with St. Peter's Basilica.

I’ve made a slideshow to show you some highlights, including the St. Peter's Piazza lady's lav and the Pope's chair collection and poetry pasted to Florentine walls.

We ate glorious food, especially gnocchi and gelato. We wandered cobblestoned streets and gawked. We saw lots of art, some with bees found with David’s eagle-eyes in the Vatican Museum. In Florence Kate spotted some Gucci fashion windows featuring bee details. Kate and her David even found a cat sanctuary on the site of Caesar's assassination!

Go watch my little slideshow… it’s only 2.5 minutes and you can see us all smiling a lot. OK I also cried from time to time. It was obviously my party and I wanted to.

AND for those of you inclined to poetry, here’s a sonnet from the master himself:

for Tommasco de’Cavalieri
by Michelangelo Buonarroti

With your fair eyes a charming light I see,
    For which my own blind eyes would peer in vain;
    Stayed by your feet the burden I sustain
    Which my lame feet find all too strong for me;
Wingless upon your pinions forth I fly;
    Heavenward your spirit started me to strain;
    E’en as you will, I blush and blanch again,
    Freeze in the sun, burn ‘neath a frosty sky.
Your will includes and is the lord of mine;
    Life to my thoughts within your heart is given;
    My words begin to breathe upon your breath:
Like to the moon am I, that cannot shine
    Alone; for lo! our eyes see nought in heaven
    Save what the living sun illuminated.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Aug 2015

It's not all about the storm...

Yesterday we Torontonians (and beyond) were entranced by a dramatic wall of storm that rolled in suddenly and made a lot of light and noise. I watched from my balcony, then rushed inside as the cloud totally engulfed me. The rain beat against my windows... then it was all over. The clouds retreated overhead taking their lights and noises east with them. Dark time was all clear, then later another line of rain and lights and noises. Our morning brought another glorious sunrise... facing west I see it all in reflection of the city skyline.

I'll admit, I took this partic sunrise a couple of days ago, just to catch that blue moon!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

July 2015

Batman & Petunia:
a tale of 2 cats & 1 pizza box

Kate and David met in California over 3 years ago now.
When they moved to Brooklyn together their respective cats
came with them. Batman & Petunia have been mostly
less enthusiastic than their people about sharing their spaces.
They have found common ground in watching out the window
for squirrels on the fire escape. They sit at full attention,
side-by-side perhaps even forgetting about each other!
Their latest dispute, however, is over this pizza box.
Could it be that each recognizes how perfectly the box graphics
echo the arch of furry sleeping back? After all,
they are cats and vain.

Thank you to Kate for the on-going updates!

Monday, June 1, 2015

June 2015

Discovering Ethopian delights...
warm friendship and a spice-laden adventure.
~to be continued.

Thank you to Nancy (Hoochie's mama) for introducing me
to more of what our city has to offer...
and welcome to Nancy's wife Katherine
who will be joining the Toronto adventure later this month.
June is indeed the month of brides!

Friday, May 1, 2015

May 2015

Sands of Time... 
Waiting patiently for our footprints
To delight with our dance!

from Kate on Coney Island
when it was spring
for that one day last month

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Apr 2015

Gumbos are made of this...
First onions and garlic,
Of course.
Next chorizo,
The real Mexican kind.
Then tomatoes, herbs,
And the most important:
How I rejoice
When I find okra.
I spent too many years
Bleak deprivation...
Now restored:
Crop added to
Canadian rotations
And tastes.
I re-discover
Each spring.
As if the first gumbo
Since time began.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Mar 2015

Memories are made of this...

Objects created over time
Discover each other
On a shelf in my studio.
Guy Willingham, beloved husband
To my favourite Aunt Florence
Sat on his Dallas front porch
And whittled this little figure
Of me! He also whittled a figure
Of my dad. I'll show you another time.
The little bowl was gifted to me by
Philip John Evett, my university
Sculpture prof who showed me
The magic that can inform
Shapes and textures... as well as colours.
The bowl is pre-Columbian and sits
Exactly in my palm.
Do you suppose its ancient creator
Made it while sitting on his own front porch?
Did it sit exactly in his own palm?
The clay and glass piece is a more recent
Creation made by sculptor Bill Grace
In Barbados. Not long before his
Recent passing he sent me
A rather silly e-mail joke
For no apparent reason,
Explaining it with the words
I put on the sticky note
Behind my little whittled head.
Bill claimed it a typo.
I think not.
Now I bring them all together
And present them to you,
Just beecause.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Chinese New Year 2015

Canada Post does it again.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Feb 2015

Groundhog Day in TO

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Jan 2015

I offer here
A memory from an old slide.

The year is 1965.
Twas January then, too.
My graduate show
At Trinity University
In San Antonio, Texas.
Maybe there will be
More memories to come.

This new year
Begins on Throwback Thursday.
I’m thinking this may portend
A whole Throwback Year.
We’ll see, shall we?

In the meantime
The idea spawns
Feelings of fond anticipation
For faces long forgotten.
I scan slides from a past
That traces my traces
And those of my family,
My kids in particular, of course…
And those of my friends.
Faces and names
I can now re-connect.
I even Google some I’ve lost
To see what they’re up to
These days.

This one lives in New Mexico
And blogs about chorizo.
This one is still in Sydney
And owns his own business.
This one married a guy
I remember in a totally other context.
Did I introduce them?
I don’t remember for sure, but
I think
I did.

They all look so young.
I wish we had taken selfies
In those days.
I’d like to remember me,
Young too.

And food.
I wish we had taken food shots.
Chicken-fried steak in Dallas,
An option I seldom chose,
But which now I somehow miss…
And cafeteria feasts in Highland Park.
I remember some glorious
Meals in Mexico:
Unlimited guacamole and pollo pebil.
Mixed grills in Oz.
I love that you don’t
Have to choose among
Your favourite bacon,
Sausage or ham.
You get to have them all.

Shrimp-filled avocados
In Maroochydore…
Where koalas hung out
Sleeping in avocado trees
During the day, then
Crossed the road at sunset
For the eucalyptus leaves…
Because koalas never drink
In the home of the black swans.

And what about that
Thai liver with peanuts
In Seattle?
No slides of that
But it was the best liver
On the planet.
Besides, I was born
In Seattle.
But that was before
I ever took any slides…
So I have an excuse
For not recording that part.

Then there are all the
Places to remember.
Mexican cities and pyramids.
Sydney’s zebra crossings
And her Harbour Bridge
And her Opera House
The year it opened.

Vancouver, the lush…
Where even I could
Keep houseplants alive.
It rained the day
Three-year-old Peter
Held a baby koala
In Brisbane and I dared
Not carry my camera
Through a flooding deluge.
I’ll have to remember
That in my mind.
I do, still.
Trust me.

Of course, I have all those
Black and white Kodak moments
That my parents snapped.
I definitely look young in those!
Then there are the ones
From my mum’s and dad’s
Younger days.
And some from even before:
All ancestors
Whom I need to label
For familial posterity
‘Cause I’m the keeper.

Look how cute little Peter
And little Kate were.
They still are.

Slides turn into prints.
Eventually digitizing
Catches up with the
Already digital.

Throwback Fifteen, then.
I’m tracing my own history
Along with the history
Of home photography:
Old posed sepia, Kodak snaps,
35mm slides, then colour prints
Processed by Black’s.
All give way to digital camera
And eventually iPhone.
Oh! And Photoshop!!!
Oh my!

Seeing, after all.
Is believing…
And believing can be
Like all memories:
Polished for emotional
     And sharing.

Happy New Year!
Happy reminiscing!

~Bette Forester, Toronto, 1 Jan 2015