The Space Between Us

Into roughly the 8th week(??) of isolation (time has become incredibly fluid for me), and as the days pass, I think increasingly about what will be in the “time after.” Everyone is in such a rush to “get back to normal,” to reopen businesses and relax some of the protocols that have kept many of us safe and healthy – if not employed. I do absolutely sympathize with those who want to re-open their businesses, who are desperate to earn an income to support themselves and their families. It’s at least as frightening to have the economic rug pulled suddenly out from under you as it is to come face to face with a pandemic. This is about survival, on so many levels.


BUT. I am going to articulate  massively unpopular opinion.

I DO NOT WANT to get back to “normal life.” Not soon, and if I am honest, not ever.

I’ve been thinking a great deal about how ‘normal life’ breaks people and communities through its enactment of privilege, how many people are silenced in so many ways, how at its root this is all about the trade of labour and creativity to enrich the few on the backs of many – and at the expense of the environment and all other beings. How I desperately, urgently, passionately want it all to CHANGE for the better on the other side of this. How afraid I am that it won’t. And how I feel increasingly paralyzed by the prospect of a ‘return to before.’


This is true for me in relation to the broader culture in which I live, and for the sector in which I work. This is a moment in which we could – and should – recognize that not only will the ‘new normal’ be with us for a long time (2 metres for the win!), but the ‘old normal’ is something that we should neither wish for nor return to. It also may be moot – because the ‘old normal’ may not exist for much longer, regardless of what some (or most) people desire.

“Normal” or “business as usual” has been exposed with utter clarity by the pandemic:  the glaring gaps in care, the enormous disparities that are actively cultivated and maintained by the systems in which we live and work. How many people have no choice but to risk their health and that of their loved ones & work in this time, in order to survive; how the most vulnerable of us have even fewer options to remain safe and healthy.

How many of us have seen our entire sector shut down, cancelled, income evaporated, in already tenuous livelihoods.

So this is a point in which we can CHOOSE what kind of world we want to live in moving forward. And we need to ask these questions of ourselves – NOW – while we have the time and opportunity to do so.


What are you prepared to do to create a more equitable culture and community as we come out of this? How can we work together to make that happen?

What aspects of ‘normal life’ are you happy to see gone?

I leave you with these questions – and encourage your replies … and also with an excellent essay by Lou Sheppard; they articulate far more eloquently than I some of the things that have been worrying me about what comes next.

Take Care of Each Other.

A time of Gratitude

It has been a quiet, gentle day. No hubbub.


A day to watch snow fall. Play some music. Make food and eat it.

Tomorrow will be busier; family coming over for a shared meal, gifts exchanged – a different kind of energy, no less delightful for all of that.


And tonight – a chance to pause again, and wish everyone a safe, happy, and peaceful night, filled with laughter and love. Be gentle with each other, and with yourself. The light is coming back, and now is the time to nurture new ideas and projects, to welcome change and the turn of the wheel for another year.


My thanks to those who read my posts here, on whatever platform. I am grateful for the privilege of being able to share my thoughts with you.


I wish each of you the Very Best this Season has to offer, however you may enjoy it.

Be well and take care of one another.

One more Week, and an Event!

This is the last week that 21st Century Nesting Practices is on exhibition at the McMullen Gallery. Amazing how fast the time has gone by!

The exhibition closes  on Sunday February 25th; morning of the 26th, I’ll be in the gallery, packing up the work.

In the mean time though – pop in if you have a chance, and if you like poetry as well as visual art, there’s a special event happening in conjunction with the exhibition this week:


I had the pleasure of working with these lovely writers a few years ago – and I am so happy that they are bringing their work to the gallery to share in amongst all my nests!

Almost all of the bird’s nests in 21st Century Nesting Practices are in fact magpie nests – that resilient, ever-so-smart-and-sassy bird that is such a big part of the avian landscape here.

I’m looking forward to this very much – and hope some of you can make it too.

21st Century Nesting Practices

I am extremely happy to say that the McMullen Gallery  at the University of Alberta Hospital will be hosting my exhibition 21st Century Nesting Practices! 

This iteration of the work will feature a new video piece, and a soundscape created from a combination of my own field recordings and a selection of recordings from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology holdings.

The Exhibition Opening Reception is January 10, 2018 from 7pm – 9pm.


If you are in the Edmonton area, please stop in! The exhibition is up until February 25, 2018.

My thanks to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology for their support in realizing the soundscape for this exhibition, and to the McMullen for hosting me.

Thanks Also to Julianna Barabas & John Waldron for their invaluable assistance in making this exhibition possible.


I Took My Father for a Drive Today

A lovely piece on history, time, change – and sense of place. What place means when it is rendered in the first person, and intimately connected to the sights and sounds in a landscape? We are each responsible for the reality we inhabit, in all ways.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

My father was born and raised in Montreal in the first half of the last century. He served in the RCAF (briefly) and the Royal Canadian Navy (less briefly) during World War II. In the ’60s he…

Source: I Took My Father for a Drive Today

Greetings of the Season

It has been a lovely, quiet couple of days.

Dinner with family last night; today, a rare sleep-in, delicious brunch, a long walk in softly falling snow, turkey curry for dinner.

For me, a perfect way to spend the last couple of days: connected to the things that matter most, and disconnected from the frantic hype and drama that this time of year often brings.


And with the space and time, an opportunity to reflect.


I am very grateful for the connections I have made through this little corner of the internet, and so I want to wish you all the very Best of the Season, and for the coming year. This world can be filled with such ugliness and cruelty, but what I have found here, time and again, is that there are people out there that can continue to see the beauty in this life despite the brutality and hate that seems to swirl about unabated. There are people out there that continue to inspire, to think, to share the best of what they see in the world around them – and I am very grateful that I have the privilege of seeing some of that through the threads of connection forged here.

Thank you.


And thank you to friends and family of all sorts for being in the world and being who you are. I am often a poor correspondent, but know that I do think of each of you often, and count my blessings that you are all in the world.

IMG_7560 IMG_7561 IMG_7564 IMG_7565

I hope the Season offers something for each of you that brings a smile of delight and a moment of peace.


I have recently participated in the mail art project Journey of a Photograph … and have just sent my contribution out into the world, via the post, and on to the blog for the project.

Have a peek at my post here:



Enjoy …


Time Travel, part I

I have been continuing to delve into material for the NEST series over the last couple of years. I’m not “done” with it yet, and the work has taken a much-needed autobiographical turn in the last year.

One of the things that’s been really interesting to me in that process is how many gaps and silences I’ve found in the ‘family narrative’.  So much I don’t know, that wasn’t ever spoken of, or only mentioned in passing.

How many things I remember hearing about, but on further investigation, find that the “real” story is a little different from what I was told (or remember). Official documents with dates that don’t jive with what I’d understood to be the accepted truth for one (or more) family members.

There’s also photos and their inscriptions which fill in some blanks; more often than not though, they raise more questions than they answer … and call more received ‘facts’ into question.

I am left to tease out stories and threads, contend with gaps, accept different sorts of loss, again. Few people left to fill in or clarify information.

As I wade through this morass, and figure out exactly what to do with all of this raw material, I thought I’d share some of my finds.

So, to begin … some photos from my grandparents’ time:



This is the first home my father’s family had in Canada; a homestead in Highvale, Alberta. A far cry from the brick rowhouse in Tynemouth, Northumberland where my father and his siblings were born!



After some time in their first place, they were able to move to another house closer to Edmonton, on what was then called St. Albert Road. Still rural, to be sure, and at a time when travel was just as likely by horse and cart as by car (I was told the family had both).


This is my paternal Grandmother and Grandfather, Ethel and Alfred. I believe the photo was taken outside the St. Albert house.


I love this photo of my Grandmother and her friend; she seems happy, and it  looks as though they were having a great deal of fun on a summer’s day. That rose arbour is amazing … a bit of Jolly Olde England transplanted to the Canadian Prairie!

I don’t really remember her; not the sound of her voice or her laugh or her touch – just that she was small and birdlike. My grandparents lived with my parents and me in their old age, so it feels odd that I don’t have at least one clear memory of her. But then again, I was really young when she died.


My father as a young man, posing with his Mum. I don’t know if they were close, but it seems from this image that they might have been; he wasn’t inclined to hug people, so the fact that he’s hugging her speaks to a warm connection of some sort. She’s wearing his hat too, so it looks like they were close enough to kid around together.




I wish I’d known her better – it seems like she was quite a vibrant woman, with a sense of humour!  That grin (and the fact that she dressed up in my Grandfather’s old uniform for this photo) speaks volumes.

I wonder what stories she would tell me if she could, what her understanding of the world and its workings she would pass on … what she thought of coming here, to this country and it’s snow and space and enormous skies.

Her thread is but one I am attempting to pick up and trace, weave into my understanding of what and when and who and where.

And how all of that eventually brought me to here.




On the Road, and an interview …

It’s been a tremendous, and tremendously busy time the last couple of weeks. Said my (hopefully temporary) goodbyes to Gros Morne and the lovely people of Woody Point NL, spent a very fast couple of days in Halifax, and then was off to my next adventure – the Red Rabbit Intertidal Intensive – on the Bay of Fundy, at Thomas Cove.

Much more on that amazing experience shortly, in a future post.

Then back to Halifax for a couple of days … and now I am in the no-place that is the airport, waiting for my flight back west to Edmonton. It feels like a very long time since I’ve been in my Prairie home. I expect I will be dealing with a good bit of ‘culture shock’ for at least a few days after my landing; essentially, I have been living in rural/semi-wilderness environments for the last six weeks. Not looking forward to the noise and the traffic, and crossing the street as an extreme sport. It will be good to sleep in my own bed again, and wake up to those enormous Alberta skies again, though.

But in the mean time, I wanted to say one more “‘bye for now!” to Newfoundland, and pass on a nice little interview I did, that was just posted to Creative Gros Morne. IMG_6841 It was lovely to read Evie’s article – it brought me back to sitting in the Residency house and chatting with her, to what Bonne Bay looked like that morning … And to the head cold I had! I’m amazed Evangeline got anything coherent from me at all!  Still – good memories of a remarkable experience.



The Last Push … and what it might mean

I’ve been working really steadily in the studio the last few weeks, and that doesn’t seem to be letting up any time soon. I did take a lovely break this past weekend to attend a good chunk of the Edmonton Folk Music Festival – which was delightful – but even then, I put in several hours in the studio on Thursday and  on Friday in advance of going to the evening sessions.

… the view from the hill of the main stage at the Edmonton Folkfest …

It’s the ‘last push’ in preparations before the October Residency exhibition, in which NEST will see the light of day as an organized body of work (well, at least, it’s my sincere hope it will be an organized and coherent body of work … let’s put it that way!) The exhibition opens on October 18th – and while on one hand, that seems like a relatively long time in the future, in actuality, it’s the blink of an eye. It takes so much time to make work … time and energy and thought, and some of that effort is emotional as well, to be honest, and so really can’t be rushed. Nor would I want to rush any of this work – not the process, nor the result in each piece.

Of course, throughout the process of creating this work – well before I actually began making anything, truth to tell – I had much to reflect on and think about: the ideas that spurred the project were (to me at least) fascinating, and remain so to this day. But that’s just the starting point: the intellectual and conceptual fuel as it were. What the project has become is also a deeply personal journey; a combination of archaeology, discovery, and letting go.

I am quite struck with just how autobiographical the work has become – quite directly so. It is not in any way lost on me that my continued interest in the intersections and conflicts between the competing narratives of memory, history, and the social construction of identity has a direct and enduring relationship to my own personal lived experience. Yes, I know, an obvious thing – but the depth of that understanding and  grasping the enduring nature of that questioning is something very new. Identity and its relationship to security – to one’s sense of home and the stories and memories that come out of that first nest – can be slippery things indeed.

Whether we admit it to ourselves and the rest of the world or not, the archetypal nest is a home for the heart. We all seek that emotional space that we understand to be stable – permanent, even – in the face of ‘life’, which is really simply shorthand for continual process and all the change that it embodies. It is an old truism that ‘home’ is not a place per se – that as individuals, we contain it or hold it somehow within mind and memory. So it is at once visceral and primal – and utterly abstract. We have need of the refuge it supplies on every level of survival imaginable … . Because the enormity of that need can seem overwhelming at times, we externalize it: invest objects with emotional and symbolic import, hang on to the grand narratives of childhood and family like fetishes that provide access to that other, first world in which we lived in that nest, felt secure enough to venture forth and (at least) peek over the edge to the world below the tree.

But what if those objects are for the most part gone? What if those childhood narratives have been called into question – unverifiable, or suspect in some way? What if that sense of security (of any sort: emotional, physical …) within the primal nest held no guarantee;  what if it was a contingent thing, qualified or tenuous in some way(s)? How do these other possibilities disrupt the understanding of the nest as refuge and haven, home for the heart and body … and what effect does this have on the way we construct our-self-story through the filters of memory, and in relation to the assumptions inherent in the social discourse of race and class and gender?

Much to learn and ponder here … and this writing is a start.


I leave you tonight with and image of some recent work, and a quote from an amazing singer:

A test print from some lino cuts I’ve been doing lately …


“…you must understand that I have never really known how to describe the work as anything other than an inspired reaction to the love of and a desire to communicate an arrow from the heart.” – Lisa Gerrard

… sometimes the work is an arrow to the heart as well.