Thursday, December 31, 2020

Jan 2021

Contemplating faces of the past and the future...

My Balcony Buddha
Quietly contemplates
Alms of snow
In his hands...
Here & now.

He ponders
Faces of the past
Faces of the future.

What does he know?
What can he tell us?
What do those faces

Are there messages
In the faces?
In the fonts???
Can my Balcony Buddha
Decipher desires?
From typefaces????

I choose to depict
Our New Year’s numbers
In Linotype Zootype.
I like the curvy boldness
And how this year’s
Numeral One
Asserts its straight
Against that very

And all this with a
Bird’s eye view
Of past and future.
I like to think
I’m watching
My future unfurl
From my aerie...

Able to watch
And remain firm
Then venture forth
Back into a
Brave-again world…
Not new, but renewed.

What font do you choose
For your New Year?
What will your choice
Tell you about your own
Future prognostications?

I've accidentally invented
A new profession
For myself:
Personalized typeface readings.

Want me to tell you
About your choice?
Just send me a pic or a pdf
Of the numerals 2021 set large
In your typeface of choice.
Also tell me the font name.
I'll send you an interpretation...
Free (for a limited time only).

In the meantime,
Enjoy your celebrations
And (like last month from Maude Lewis)...
Don’t forget the cats.

If this isn't nice, what is?

              ~ Kurt Vonnegut, of course

Monday, November 23, 2020

Dec 2020

Maudie did it...

Not I.
I just present it to you here...
In all its joyful mien.
But then
Presented it first
So I'm really
Passing on her
Special Delivery.
Produced by
Canada Post
In honour of the season
In honour of Nova Scotia's
Own folk artist,
Maud Lewis.
She, whom the movie
Maudie made visible
To the many of us
Who had been
Bereft without
Even knowing it.

Now we can be
Joyous folk,

Hélène L’Heureux
Designed stamps
And souvenir sheet
For Canada Post.
I did nothing but
Add this month's
Calendar and postmark.
Thank you Hélène.
Thank you Canada Post.
Thank you Maud.

May your own
Winter scenes be filled
The the warmth
Of folks both
Inside your bubble
Folks far flung.
And cats, too.
Don't forget the cats.

If this isn't nice, what is?

              ~ Kurt Vonnegut, of course

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Nov 2020


Alfie and Canadian Ex-pats...

Every month I choose an image
To share with you
And that I want to live
On my desktop
For the whole month ahead.

I prepare the calendar and stare at it...
Trying to decide what
Parts of it are drawing me to it...
And which parts of it
To focus on for you.
Often I ask Google for details
To tickle my internal thesaurus.
I stare and ask myself
What's it all about?
Alfie?Kate sent me
This gently autumnal image
From a recent walk
At Reservoir #3 in Jersey City...
Just a few blocks from her home
On a cliff above Hoboken
And across the Hudson
From Manhattan.
They're called Canada geese,
Of course. Each generation
Follows the same flight path
Every year, knowing where
To find the best marshy areas
Even in the midst
Of a highly-peopled landscape.
As an artist, I'm always drawn
To reflections... and here we have
Reflections of the trees and
The geese and the clouds.
And look at how light the edge
Of the water is where it meets
The trees... a dividing line,
As it were,
Between the trees and their own reflection.
And then there are the ripples...
Rapturous evidence
Of life's constant motion.
And back to the clouds:
They all have names, eh?
I sometimes remember some of them...
Cirrus... cumulus... stratus...
Then I am reminded that
An amateur meteorologist
Gave us those names way back in 1802.
This month I can't seem to focus
On just one aspect to write about...
So you'll have to decide for yourself.

I hope you will enjoy having
These geese ex-pats hanging about
On your own desktop this month.

Have a great Mo/November
Be sure to remember
While you're remembering
On the eleventh:
Et al.
His birthday
And pleas
For humanity.

If this isn't nice, what is?

              ~ Kurt Vonnegut, of course

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Ah, the glowing begins...

For the past seven years
Since I've been living
Here in my 18th-floor
Looking westward over the Don River,
I've shown you the autumn colours
In their more developed glory
At the end of October.

But this year, sequestered as I continue to be,
I'd like to show you how autumn glows
As it all begins.
Ever since moving to Toronto in 1978
The view of the west bank of the Don River
Has marked my tracing of the seasons.
The habit:
Sit on the south side of the subway car
Next to a window
Facing west...
And marvel at how much difference
Each day brings...
Mornings and evenings.
But especially the mornings.

These days my altitude has altered
But my wonder continues
This month I offer you
Yesterday's view of that same west bank
At dawn...
When the sun is just high enough to
Light the skyline buildings
And to pick out the glowing oranges
Yellows that I watch
Each day.

I can't really count the leaves
As they change each day,
But I feel the incremental
Shifting. Almost hour-by-hour.
The sun rises further south
Each day, of course.
And later, too.
These are some of my
Daily noticings.

Others include
How flexible my ageing
Frame feels.
How dust motes float
But seem to show their
Landing spots as the sun
Progresses in its daily descent...
Just before its glare becomes
Altogether too much and I must
Pull curtains across my
Glorious view...

Only to open them again
After the sun sets
My nighttime views...
Sans colours in the valley,
Of course,
But skyline alit
As if to say
I'm still here.

Me, too.

If this isn't nice, what is?

              ~ Kurt Vonnegut, of course

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Sept 2020


We're all inside looking out...

Our times are marked
By the ways we're staying
And the ways we're keeping
Others safe...
With masks and distance
And just plain staying home.

There's a vigilance
That comes with our
Like Kate's Batman, here,
We want to know
What's going on...
Out there.
We want to be
Out there...
And in the thick
Of it,
Whatever "it" is.

But we're stuck
In here contemplating
Our own versions
Of bugs and squirrels...
Of the smells of forbidden
Street food.

Wait! Is that a pigeon
About to land
On MY balcony????

If this isn't nice, what is?

              ~ Kurt Vonnegut, of course

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Aug 2020

Keeping my distance...

Spring has truly turned
Into a steaming summer
As attested to by
Colours bursting forth
Far and wide.
Online images show us
Tulip fields
Without us!
Parks and ponds
Without us!
Forests and glades
Without us!
And the blooms
Frolic unabated
In our absence.

Seems Mama Nature
Knows her part
And is splendidly keeping
Her show on the road...
With the ever-buzzy aid
Of some dusty-bottomed

Kate found this evidence
On the north side of her NJ home.
She says these clustered blooms
Remind her of a basket of
Playmobil flowers.
I see sunflowers, tulips,
And daffodils.
But what are these
Bee magnets called?
Do you have any clues?
The bee, of course
Doesn't care.

If this isn't nice, what is?

              ~ Kurt Vonnegut, of course

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

July 2020

Thinking today of Don Watt and the scope of just one visual message...

As most of you know, I was fortunate enough to work for Don Watt for several years at his Bayview studio here in Toronto. He was the unattributed designer of the Canadian flag. It's a symbol now recognized instantly everywhere and brings particular pride and unity to the people in this beautiful country. Don left us in 2009 and I'm still saddened, in particular at this time of year.

One summer while I was working for Don, he invited all of us and our families to his King City farm for a big afternoon of hanging in the sun, swimming in the pool, and eating juicy barbecue. I took my two grandsons, Lucas (then 4) and Jackson (then 6). Lucas was even wearing a shirt with a Canadian Flag on it.

I had borrowed Peter's car for the drive and on the way there I told the boys about how Don had designed that flag. Each time we saw a flag as we drove (and there were many), I pointed it out to them, saying, "There's another one of Don's flags. Look how one great symbol can make so many people proud."

Finally, Lucas said,"He must get very tired painting all those flags!"
"Yes, I did," said Don when I told him as part of introductions, "but every one was fun because I love seeing people enjoy my work."
If this isn't nice, what is?

              ~ Kurt Vonnegut, of course

Thursday, May 28, 2020

June 2020

June is quietly considering busting out... maybe just a little...

.... or maybe June's just going to melt us all away. The air hangs thick and pungent. I visit the world from my 18th-floor eyrie and watch outside people (and their doggies) coming and going and distancing socially. I think that must be easy since there are not very many of them. I mostly can't tell from up here if the humans are wearing masks, but in my heart I believe they are. I haven't ventured out for more than 11 weeks now, but I have a couple of cloth masks ready for the "right time"... and supplies to make some more, should the mood (and momentum) discover me. Urgency is not a part of my equation.

But wishful dreaming is. I have a list of things to do once I'm liberated. I know that'll be in stages, but my list is for wishing, not planning... yet.

In the meantime, my balcony Buddha supervises my outdoor barre (aka balcony railing) exercises and my indoor tai chi and even some seated tap dancing—especially with Bojangles' birthday just past.

...and that reminds me...
San Antonio, Texas.
Over a half-century ago.
Listen... that's me practising
My tap dancing.
The music's Sweet Georgia Brown,
Sometimes in Dixieland
But most often a simple piano solo.
I can't remember who played.
But I do remember
The steps...
And I do remember
The smells.

I tap and tap
Change combinations
Ad infinitum.
Childhood home
Comes equipped with
Screened back porch.
Perfect practice room
Away from reading
And television-watching parents.
Here I can crank up
That music and
Tap with all my might.

Oh, yes,
I did mention Smells,
Didn't I?

Hot summer sun is filtred
Through live latticed walls of
Honeysuckle and Jasmine.
Vines are thick with tendrils
Intermingled with blossoms of
Unforgettable fragrances.

I tap and tap,
Wipe face
With towel that
Hangs 'round neck.
I gulp air filled
With sweetness
Stirred by breezes,
Where each gust mixes
Potion with
New variation on
Nectar's theme.

How can I describe
Maybe you've known
Maybe you've known
Have you known them

They smell of
Sun and
Dancing dust motes.
They smell of
Joy and movement.
They smell of
Nature's hopes
And promises.
They smell of
Effort to be better:
Quicker and slower.
Shuffles and flaps.
Turns and cramp-rolls and kicks.
Black tights.
Gold lamé Cuban heels.
Capezio taps.
They smell of
Sweaty terry cloth.
They smell of
Soft rustlings.
They smell of
Butterflies and
Oh yes,
And bees.
Of course.
They smell of
They smell of
Memories in my bones.

I'm showing you
Some of my memories here,
Evoked by smells past.
Just relax and drink them in.
This summer I invite you
To notice each day's smells...
To remember smells past
To find ways to enjoy...
And describe
Your smelliest summer ever.

The joy is still around us.

If this isn't nice, what is?

              ~ Kurt Vonnegut, of course

Sunday, May 3, 2020

May the 4th

This month's red-letter day...

I know you know. Unpack and polish your light sabres, then relax with a margarita, or ten.

This month I've decided to give us al a little alternative calendar to use for a few days... just to get us unto the spirit of the times—or is that, the spirits of the time?

If you'd like to have this version for your own desktop for a few days, I've put the usual higher-resolution in the folder linked at the right.
If this isn't nice, what is?

              ~ Kurt Vonnegut, of course

Thursday, April 30, 2020

May 2020

Batman shows us how it's done...

Now, my friends,
Let’s let the earth breathe.
We can doze and stretch
Like Kate’s Batman
On his bright, bright, bright
Green chair
On a bright, bright, bright
Sunshiny day.
I think you can sometimes
Judge a book by its covers,
Especially when those covers
Look like these:
An embossed dust cover
Over a paperback cover!

Each day I open
One new page of
Béa Gonzalez rich book,
The Mapmaker’s Opera.
I’m reading it slowly
On purpose.

This is part of my work
As artist-in-residence,
Sequestered doyenne,
Locked-down grande dame,
Quarantined mémère,
Sheltered Nana-Bee.

As I finish reading each page
I stop and grab a pencil.
Circling a word here and there,
I find a poem
From Béa’s lush words
On her page.
Eventually, I will have read
And enjoyed
All her pages and
I’ll have a whole book
Of my own little found poems
Bound between
These glorious covers.

There is no deadline…
There is only process,

Here’s my Page 6:
     Heart diseases
     Hint of mockery,
     Parchment transformed
     By trembling names.
     Something secret…
     Years of mysteries,
     Once again.

And my Page 9:
     The red spot…
     Wait at the edges
     Of mortality
     Pause briefly.
     Oh! Hush!

Like Johnny and Jimmy said,
We can see clearly now
All obstacles in our way!
We’ll be ready to
Have our own
Bright, bright, bright
Sunshiny day.

Johnny Nash 1972

Jimmy Cliff 1993 (for movie Cool Runnings)

and this utter delight from Bobby McFerrin 2011


And about found poetry: Austin Kleon's Newspaper Blackout. NOTE: I have chosen to circle words in pencil instead of blacking out the unused words because this book is so beautiful and I don't want to let black ink bleed from page to page. I'm very disciplined, however. Once I've completed a page I will not go back and add words.

If this isn't nice, what is?

              ~ Kurt Vonnegut, of course

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

April 2020

Just look at what the sun is bringing forth...

As many of us shelter in solitude,
Or cling together in personal situ,
Last month's promise of sunshine
Is unwrapping the way.

This is
Farley Hill National Park
In Barbados.
The 1818 mansion, setting for
Movie Island in the Sun, burned
The year I graduated from university.

It's perched atop a hill, overlooking
Both the Atlantic to the East
And the Caribbean to the West.

I think we all would like to
See life with a 360° perspective...
Only maybe we'd like our degrees
To be time-stamped.

This sun-drenched garden,
Glimpsed through long-abandoned windows,
Offers us all reminder

Of the sun's arc of promise.
And of Nature's determination
To renew...
To persist...

In the meantime, my friends,
I'll be watching from my balcony...
and thinking of you

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Pi Day 2020

Happy Pi Day, Ya'll

Friday, February 28, 2020

March 2020

The flowers that bloom in the spring, tra-la...
Bring promise of merry sunshine!

My balcony Buddha sits
In brief sunny aftermath of blustery
End-of-Feb snow whiteout...
While Spring’s promise
Explodes on my side of window...
And brings sweet memory.
Lubbock, Texas, spring of 1954.
First poem I ever learned...
By heart:

She wore her yellow sun-bonnet
She wore her greenest gown;
She turned to the south wind
And curtsied up and down.
She turned to the sunlight
And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbour:
"Winter is dead."

~Daffodowndilly, by A.A. Milne
The Grade 3 version of me
Knew naught of Spring
Nor of her promises.
I guess it got cold in the winter
But I don't recall any snow.
Craig Cooley and Eileen Lamplighter
And I still rode our bicycles
Around the neighbourhood
Dodging ubiquitous tumbleweeds.
I had no awareness of daffodils, either,
But our teacher showed us pictures
And had us make daffodil pinwheels
From yellow craft paper.
Craig and Eileen and I had great fun
Running home holding ours on high
As they whizzed and spun.
But, it was this poem
That captured my soul.
No, I didn't remember all of it.
I had to look it up.

But, see?
Sixty-six springs later
I know snow
And I yearn for spring
I am still captivated.

Many thank yous to Roy for the daffs!

If this isn't nice, what is?

              ~ Kurt Vonnegut, of course

Friday, January 31, 2020

Feb 2020

Should We Say Year of the Rat?  ...or the Mouse?
Yes, the Year of the Rat is what everyone sees, but a local shopkeeper who is Chinese, tells me she always says "Mouse." She explains, "It's like Mickey Mouse! So much more friendly."  Of course, the Year of the Rodent-of-Some-Kind is all about tenacity, but also about fertility. Fertile tenacity. Tenacious fertility.

Of course, from an astrological point of view, fertility is about creativity—all forms of creativity. What a great focus for the year!

The Chinese year is a lunar calendar, of course, with the New Year falling on the New Moon between Jan 21st and Feb 20th. I have recently started teaching people how to track the moon's phases. Of course, I use astrology as the base for observing today's phases compared to our personal astrological natal chart. I'm pretty excited about sharing my reflections with others.

Here I show you my New Moon to New Moon announcement along with Canada Post's 2020 Year of the Rat/Mouse stamps. The Year of the Rat marks the first in the 12-year cycle.
As the Canada Post site says:
  • As legend has it, the rat earned the primary position thanks to its cunning nature. According to one story, the Jade Emperor based the 12-year cycle on the order in which the animals arrived at the heavenly temple. The rat persuaded the tireless ox, which was sure to win, to carry it to the finish line. Just as the ox approached the temple, the rat jumped down and scurried ahead to take first place.
  • Designed by Albert Ng, O. Ont., and Seung Jai Paek, the stamps present the traditional story of the wedding of the rat’s daughter in the style of folk art known as Chinese farmer painting. The permanent domestic-rate stamp depicts the bride on her way to her nuptials, while the international-rate stamp shows the happily married couple.
  • “A merry wedding procession of rats is a common folk-art motif associated with the Chinese New Year,” explains Ng. “The snowy scene, reminiscent of Canada or northern China, joyfully captures the celebration of the wedding – and the coming new year.”
Whichever name you choose to call them, these gnawers are getting married in the highest style marking their hopes for a prosperous year—and a lifetime filled with joyous creative issue.

On that note, I wish each of you a fecund year of your own favourite definitions of creativity.

If this isn't nice, what is?
              ~ Kurt Vonnegut, of course