North and South: spring creeps in slowly

Is anyone out there a cat whisperer? I need some suggestions to help me with my old orange tomcat who plagues me nightly. I have tried Marsha’s “cat-spooning” moves with no luck and am getting tired of his mad dashes up onto the bed and onto the middle of my stomach at all hours of the night. Even though he has food and water in the bedroom, these don’t seem to interest him; neither does lifting the covers of the bedclothes so that he can come under and curl up with me interest him. All he wants is to vocalise all night long and blow bad cat breath into my face. That, and be served with cold, running water from the bathroom taps anytime anyone heads in that direction.

Here is the culprit in the morning, all tuckered out and snoozing after he has spent a hard night farting around and meowing.

 

Spring in Fort St John: dirt, dust, mud, wind, brown everywhere, dirty black patches of ice and snow not yet melted, big ponds of water on the road, flooding water, rocks on the road everywhere (used instead of salt), pickup trucks covered head to toe in dirt. The dumpster in the parking lot outside our building continues to be a source of irritation to me.

I’m like one of those nosy old ladies who peeks through the curtains at the sound of her neighbours moving around – but, it’s the sounds of people throwing bags of garbage into the bin and missing that gets to me. I’d rather not look out my window and see the garbage bin overflowing and bags of trash blowing in the wind through the complex. Ah, the joys of semi-communal living. (BTW now, about 2 weeks later, the bin has been moved to a different location and it is emptied three times a week, rather than two – my prayers were answered! Or maybe it was those photographs of overflowing garbage that I emailed to the management company …)

We woke up to a flooded garage the other day – damn! The big pile of unmelted ice that’s been hanging around the end of our building started to melt with the higher temperatures and, since we do not have a resident building manager, there’s no one to keep track of what needs to be done; in this case, to dig trenches so that the melting water flows out to the street and not into our garages. Here Ty is trying to remedy the situation with a less-than-satisfactory tool (since we do not have a shovel).

And, a design or construction flaw also hampers the water management; since the cement area between our buildings is higher than the garage floor by a few inches, the water flows down into the garage and not into the storm drain … Because the garage is also a storage area, not just a place to park the car, I was pretty upset about it and, to top it off, after I had spent four and a half hours to squeegee out our garage, water kept flowing back in through a small hole in the cement between our unit and the one next door where the absent neighbour’s garage was still full of 5 inches of water. Ty solved the problem with a bunch of sand bags which I pressed into that corner.

More signs of spring – the trees continue to bud – I am hoping for actual flowers soon!

In further art news,  Miep’s studio has aquired a new embossing-like press, handmade by a local fellow – here Charlie demonstrates the intricacies of its operation.

Some of the group attended a weekend workshop in Dawson Creek with David Langevin and were practicing his tips, still using the subject matter of spruce trees. This time, though, the colours were different than those I used when I tried this exercise back last Fall: pinks, purples, and yellows instead of golds and Indian yellows. I prefer this palette (no secret, I guess!)

I enjoyed watching Mike work on his piece; he is an oil painter and this is one of the first times that he has worked in acrylic – a master, for sure! Below you can see the progression of his landscape.

I am participating in the Flying Colours group show Points of View at the Peace Gallery North – here is the poster for it:

All the works are based on Miep’s landscape photos; the idea is that people will be able to see the variety of artists’ points of view, all beginning from the same original source starting point. Below is the piece of mine that I like best; it is a combination of digital photography, collage, and acrylic paint on wood.

And this one, unfortunately a bit out of focus: digital infrared photography and collage on wood:

Below, in the corner, are two others, both acrylic and collage on canvas, along with some other examples featuring Miep’s lovely female moose. (Since I did see one moose last Fall – at least its back end disappearing into the trees – I felt like I could include a moose or two in my paintings)

The opening was well-attended and the crowd enjoyed Charlie’s introduction to the display, as did the artists, particularly his comment that “This is a good opportunity for you to use your credit card” to the assembled masses.

Because I am a newcomer to the group, the local arts reporter for the Alaska Highway News spent a bit of time talking to me about my work and experience here; her article was published in the local paper last week. Here is the article, if you’re interested.

In other art “news”, I am working on some new landscape pieces, acrylic and collage on wood – these are in progress at the moment:

And here is the logo that I designed for Print Artists North (a group of printmakers up here who are having a series of exhibitions and a print exchange over the new few months, and the poster advertising the shows (not designed by me).

On Ty’s last set of days off, we headed out to the far side of Charlie Lake for a walk in the Provincial Park there, thinking that it was spring. For the first time since last August, I had my street shoes on and Ty had his soft-sided ordinary boots. Well, we only got about 100 feet into the trails when we realised our mistake – there was still snow and a foot deep of mud everywhere. So we gingerly backtracked, swearing to always carry our snow and mud boots in the car with us after that. No walk for us that day!

The crystal formations in the melting snow were very cool, though (literally and figuratively!)

On the lake itself remnants of the winter ice fishing season were still there in the form of charred wood patches where the fishermen had sat keeping warm while awaiting their catch.

The lake isn’t nearly as beautiful in its melted state as before with a gentle covering of pure white snow, alas.

Eliza had shown me a beautiful photo she took in one of the local parks of trees reflected in melt-water ponds; I was inspired by it to photograph reflections on my walk along the pathway north of town a week back on a sunny Sunday. One of the really nice things about the north is that it is almost always bright and very often sunny – I love that!

I think it would be very striking to blow these up room size and cover the wall with them – life size trees to walk through in one’s own home.

These photos could be from anywhere; they remind me of an art piece called Leviathan by Kelly Richardson that I saw at the Contemporary Art Gallery in Vancouver a while back. It was a huge photo/video piece taken of a Louisiana swamp displayed in a darkened room – I was very impressed by it.

Here is a photo of that piece:

You can see a short video of Leviathan here. I love her work.

We had a whirlwind Easter long weekend trip to Vancouver and quick visits with some dear friends and family. The weather mostly co-operated; some spitting rain, some dramatic cloud formations, and a bit of sun were all on the weather menu.

On a morning walk up Main Street, I took pictures of the mural art on buildings.

I am not walking as much as I am used to up here in the North, mostly because the snow and ice make it difficult in the winter (not to mention the cold). And, since Brubin died, I miss those three daily walks we used to take around the neighbourhood in Vancouver. (I miss Brubin). But I love walking around on Main Street – always something interesting to look at.

I keep trying to get in to see the shows at the Burrard Art Foundation on Broadway when I walk past, but I’m never there at the right time and it’s always closed.

Our old neighbourhood looks mostly the same, with the exception of the two gigantic towers that have gone up in the next block in our absence. They tower over our stubby little building.

One thing we did notice while walking around downtown a few times is the number of empty storefronts, more than ever. With the price of real estate and the rise in property taxes, soon there will be nothing but condos in Vancouver. Most businesses will not be able to afford to be in business anymore if this keeps up.

We stopped to take a look at one formerly ugly back alley near the waterfront which has been tranformed with a colourful coat of paint. I fear that it will take more than coats of paint, though, to make this city livable for anyone other than the rich in the not too distant future. It was lovely to see the kids playing in that alley – would love to see all the downtown alleys tranformed with art.

I really miss the greenery and flowers of the south coast, so beautiful even in the constant rain!

Of course, while we were in Vancouver we had to walk the seawall, sit on “our” wooden bench, and take a ride on the little False Creek ferries. This is the bench that we used to stop at when taking Brubin for his afternoon walk in the summers.

In the picture below it really wasn’t the liquid lunch it looks like! We were hydrating while waiting for Christine to join us for brunch.

I am now officially obsessed with reflection pictures; the bottom image is Granville Island reflected in the mirror taken from Jill’s seawall condo kitchen (essentially the reverse of the image above taken through her front window).

Leaving Vancouver, Burrard Inlet was on golden fire with the sun; the mountains are stunning from above, all snow-covered and gleaming miles into the distance.

Back in FSJ to a foot of new snow! One of the folks up here had told me that there would be 6 snowfalls between the first springlike day and when spring really arrives for good – so far we are on the 5th in the time we’ve been back since Easter! (Now, a few days later the 6th snowfall is here). Here’s the view coming into the Fort St John airport:

Since there is no greenery or flowers up here yet, Ty & I took a trip to Dunvegan Gardens, a big plant nursery up the road and spent a bit of time wandering through all their greenhouses.

The flowers are just beginning to bud and were just being brought out into the light that weekend.

For those of you who follow photographers, I’m doing an Andreas Gursky with the photos below:

Below is one of Gursky’s photos (the only difference between his and mine is that his are worth millions and mine aren’t … hahaha).

Here Ty is choosing a few small plants for our living room (which we haven’t managed to kill yet, although came close this week).

On Ty’s last set of days off, in addition to our aborted walk through Charlie Lake Provincial Park, we also set out on what I thought was a drive to a beautiful lookout point over the Peace River Valley on the road to Hudson’s Hope, only to discover to my disappointment that I’d taken a wrong turn along the way and we were heading for the Yukon on a nondescript highway journey with no beautiful views of any kind to be found. We stopped at the Shepherd’s Inn, Mile 72, for lunch before turning around. They still had those round glass coffee pots and white ceramic mugs that I have not seen since the 1970s.

All for now – See more photos here.

January snow and sun

As some of you know, I was down in Vancouver in January and it seemed that I brought the northern winter with me! It was sunny, cold, and icy for much of the time but was it ever beautiful! After being up north for six months in a landscape that is somewhat barren, although beautiful in its own way, everything about Vancouver seemed gorgeous: the trees, the mountains, the plants, the people, the architecture … I think I must have been starved for aesthetic experiences!

Especially the snow-covered mountains – I couldn’t stop taking pictures of them.

Here’s a mural message that hits home on a building at Main and 10th: the Present is a Gift. After a very stressful January, that really resonates for me!

I was happy to be able to connect with some of my dear friends while I was there – these two cuties:

And these three:

Others I don’t have any pictures of, but it was so wonderful to be able to spend time with friends that I hadn’t seen for a while.

I signed up for an introductory month of yoga at the YYoga studio in Kits and captured this fabulous end of day burst of golden glory after class one day.

Even just walking around Granville Island, which I’ve spent so much time on over the years, was like something new and wonderful after having been away.

While out walking I stopped in the middle of intersections to take yet more pictures of those fabulous mountains.

Ty & I caught the Collectors show at the Vancouver Museum, a display of the wild and wacky stuff that some people are compelled to accumulate – made me feel like not so much of a hoarder!

If I think about the psychology of collecting curiosities, it seems partly linked with acquisition and consumption; finding something “other”, alien, or exotic fascinating and wanting to absorb it into one’s own psychological or physical environment. Placing such an object in a collection or curiosity cabinet immobilises it, but also leaves it accessible to scrutiny or wondering about or appreciating (in that old sense of art or music “appreciation”). It may be that collecting objects is a way of filling a gap or fulfilling a lack … It is true that the historical curiosity cabinets or Wunderkammer did focus on the exotic and unfamiliar, at a time when everything seemed to be available for gathering and containing.

Back in 2009 when Ty & I were on Libong island in the Andaman Sea south of Trang, Thailand, I gathered up quite a lot of shells from the beach one night, making sure that they were empty. I put them on our deck, lined up in order of size – I was going to do a painting of them. The next morning, I was quite disappointed that several of them were gone and I thought that someone had come by in the night and taken them away. Later that morning I saw the line of missing shells, not empty as it happened but occupied by hermit crabs, making their stately way back to the beach – the flow of the marvellous is all around us.

I was happy to have been able to participate in the Vancouver Women’s March while I was there, a large and lively gathering of folks from all walks of life. After having been passed by while standing at the bus stop to go downtown to the march by several packed-to-the-rafters buses, one finally stopped for us – it was absolutely full of pink-hatted protestors heading to the march. I felt a bit underdressed without a pink pussyhat.

We all gathered at the Olympic Plaza waterfront and, after waiting for quite a while, headed off for the Trump Tower on Georgia.

I loved the sign below, a riff on the now-famous Baroque painting of Judith slaying Holofernes by Artemisia Gentileschi.

I knew my friend Beatrice had also gone to the march, but hadn’t seen her there. When I downloaded my photos, there she was in the middle of the picture below.

Before heading back up to the frozen north, Ty and I took the opportunity of relaxing and decompressing in Puerto Vallarta for a quick, much too short, hit of sun and warmth. Since we went at the absolute last moment without having planned anything, we weren’t able to find any suitable accommodation to book on line. So we hit the road and just walked in to several hotels in old town, where, on our third try, we found a great room on the top floor of the Posada Lily with a wrap around balcony. A great location at the epicentre of old town at the corner of Basilio Badillo and Olas Altas, the Lily is half a block from the beach and across the street from a coffee shop with great java – perfect!

Here Ty is enjoying his morning coffee on our balcony facing out over the city and watching the sun rise over the hills behind – beautiful!

We had a very low-key and relaxing time, mosieing (sp?) along the malecon

sipping cervesas and margaritas (pro tip: for a killer margarita, try the Redneck Bar at the north end of the malecon – deadly).

Some evenings saw us strolling along the beach, taking in the light show from the pier and all the sights and sounds of merry-making in the Zona Romantica.

One of our favourite places is the Isla Cuale, a green oasis of quiet, at least at the eastern end where the city cultural centre is located, and the Las Brazzas bar. This place is never busy; I really don’t know how they stay in business, but is a very pleasant place to rest on a hot day.

Behind one of the small galleries here a paper mache sculpture of the Donald as a giant pig was strung up to a lamp post.

We enjoy seeing the wares of local artists on display on the Isla; this woman is a watercolour painter specialising in images of black cats in compromising situations. We commisioned her to do a special orange cat for a dear friend.

Of course, we had to take in the South Side Shuffle, the every second Friday extravaganza of art and music in Old Town just down the road from the Posada Lily.

We had a nice chat with Nathalie, the fabulous proprietor of Art Vallarta, and her helper Michael, a performance artist, at their pop-up gallery in what used to be the ceramic studio of Patricia Gawle.

Nathalie is a great supporter of local artists and does a tremendous amount for the arts in Vallarta. In addition to the pop-up gallery and the Art Vallarta studio and gallery, another of her initiatives this year was a house installation of Tony Collantez’ work, an incredible collection of works on canvas and murals in a dizzying array of styles.

We took in the Tuesday hike from Boca to Las Animas organised by Calgarian Doug, along with about 35 other people who packed the bus heading south to the trailhead.

Some folks like to do this hike at super-speed; others, like us, at a more leisurely pace. After the first half hour, the crowd thinned out and spread out along the route.

While we were hiking the day was slightly overcast, which made the walk a bit more pleasant than doing it in the blazing sun.

Since I was now familiar with the route, it did not seem as onerous as the first few times I walked it.

Here Ty is happy that after two hours the end is in sight!

We enjoyed a great lunch at the usual spot, the Caracol restaurant, with the rest of the crew.

A surprise addition to the day was a late afternoon baseball game with the locals at Quimixto, the next village south along the bay where the folks from the restaurant live. Some of the hikers had brought down and donated baseball equipment to the village, including uniforms, bats, balls, and gloves, and had challenged the locals to a game. After lunch and a rest on the beach we all piled back into a panga and headed south for the 15 minute ride to the village.

The game took place at the elementary school field, an expanse of dirt with a view of the ocean.

Before the game proper got going, Ty played a bit of ball with the kids.

Since at this point there were about 30 people for “our” side, not all of us played; I sat it out and Ty played for the local team instead.

While it was a casual, pickup game, all of a sudden when things got going, the Canadians got quite competitive, practicing their most blazing throws in the late afternoon sun. Unfortunately, while everyone could throw pretty well, no one seemed to be able to catch …

All the local guys were heavy hitters, belting the ball into the far distance where our team scrambled without much success to catch and throw it back in.

After a few foul balls, Ty blasted one out to left field and got on base.

Even though we lost 12 to 1, the team were good sports, buying the happy winners a beer before we hopped back on the boat for the return journey to town.

By this time, it was early evening and the sun was setting, not the most optimum time to be on the water without lights or life vests …

We were luck enough to see two humpback whales frolicing on the way back.

I also had the opportunity to plein air paint with Angie, an artist from Penticton who spends much of the winter in PV.

Angie and her husband Rob have a place in old town, and Angie now has her own studio on the main floor of the building where she can paint and display her work.

We also enjoyed spending some time with friends Beatrice and Bev, in town for a few weeks from Vancouver.

One of the most fun things to do in the evening in high season PV is the Wednesday Night Centro Art Walk. Here are a few tidbits of artistic goodies that we saw:

This little guy reminded me of our beautiful departed dog Brubin:

Beatrice taking notes:

See more PV photos here.

One thing I have had reinforced this winter is that we must savour every moment and be thankful and grateful for good friends and family. Carpe diem everyone!

Luminescence at the Deer Lake Gallery, Burnaby Mar 19 – Apr 9, 2016

Update: Amazing opening of the Luminescence exhibition at the Deer Lake Gallery in Burnaby, thousands of people, line-ups down the block. This group show celebrates the Spring Equinox with works that feature light in all its various manifestations. My video Sunset Song is featured on the wall screen. See my photos here. Read an article about the event here.

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My video Sunset Song will be screened at the Deer Lake Gallery in Burnaby in the Luminescence exhibition of works celebrating the Spring Equinox. The show opens Sat April 19 from 7 – 9 pm and continues until Apr 9. Hope to see you there!

WEBSITE - banner for luminescence (1)

Here’s some info about the work:

The video Sunset Song explores many different facets of light, both literal and metaphorical. We begin in a ruined cave house in central Anatolia, with a Spring Equinox ritual that I created entitled Nevruz Burning, a performance to celebrate the Middle Eastern New Year and the birth of Spring. Still celebrated today by Turks and Iranians, Nevruz is an ancient holiday based on astronomical calculations and involves the victory of light over the powers of darkness. During Nevruz fire rituals, such as jumping over bonfires, are engaged in as purification rites for the coming year.

Nevruz Burning, created while I was an artist is residence in Ibrahimpasa, Turkey, was made entirely out of found objects: wooden box from Shah Dede’s abandoned cave house, a skull from the Cappadocian valley, bones from the house’s sod roof, stones from a corner of the cave room itself, apricot tree branches, cotton headscarf material, golden twigs, and two banners made from garbage plastic sheets painted with a cruciform design in red and pink inspired by rock-cut church frescos in Cappadocia. In the spirit of Nevruz fire rituals, the performance, held on the evening of the Spring Equinox, saw myself and a local boy light the room and its contents on fire to purify the space for Spring.

From there, the video’s visual narrative takes us on a journey of bodies and sunsets, across fields and through canyons lit by northern lights and faces by molten lava, from sleeping figures and staircases illuminated by lightning and fire, to ruined buildings floating in a sunset sky. The journey ends in a Vancouver landscape where planetary portals to other worlds have opened up as the sun sets, through which we might slip into another realm.

Combining still photographs, both conventional and infrared, and video, Sunset Song is a meditation on the endless cycle of darkness and light, death and rebirth.

More info about the show here and here.

Happy Holidays 2015!

Oh the glory of the lights at the Van Dusen Botanical Gardens! Unbelievably, the evening we had chosen to go and see the lights, it wasn’t raining – glory be! The heavenly hosts must have been gazing down benevolently upon us. And, even better, there was no horrendous line-up to get in.

This year the light display is even more spectacular, with an additional five acres of glowing LED madness. Ty had to fortify himself with a bucket of popcorn for the trek around the grounds and found himself in the line-up with a group of grey-shrouded barefoot Buddhist nuns.

Around every corner is a new photographer’s delight; I especially love the reflections of the trees and bushes in the various lakes and ponds and the tree branches lit up against the night sky and almost-full moon.

New this year, or maybe I had just not noticed them before, are small heating hut areas, with shelters and heaters for the gathered throng to warm up; the only down side of the clear night was the fact that my extremities are always cold and my hands, even with two layers of gloves, were cold.

There are also quite a few interactive displays; this one, for example, in which waving one’s hands over a light panel causes the trees to light up in an array of different glorious colours.

Another interactive display allowed visitors to yell into a tube that generated a snake of coloured light to run through a passage and change the colour of the plastic icebergs, seen below.

Oh Christmas lights, how I love thee!

Merry Christmas All!

See more photos here.

 

 

Christmas Trees and Gingerbread

If it’s December, it must be time for the annual Christmas Tree and Gingerbread House walk through the lobbies of downtown Vancouver hotels.

We started off the trek at the Hotel Vancouver, then walked the block or so down Burrard Street to the Sutton Place to check out their Christmas Tree decorating competition.

They always have a fabulous display of orchids and poinsettias in the lobby.

We were really lucky with the weather, dry and crisp. Next up, the 25th anniversary of the Hyatt’s gingerbread house competition. Local schools and other organisations get into the act, with several categories of house awarded prizes.

Oh the wonder of it all …

Ty met his older doppleganger here – a few more years, and a bit more epic of a beard, and he’s there …

After a brief cruise through the Hotel Georgia, we spent quite a bit of time analysing the competition trees at the Four Seasons.

Barbara had to pose next to the Monopoly tree, since not too long before she had bankrupted both Ty and I in a cutthroat game at the Storm Crow Tavern.

After a nice hot toddie at the Hotel Vancouver lobby bar, we rolled back along Burrard Street to take in the light display at Saint Paul’s Hospital.

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See more pics here.

 

If I Only Had a Heart … Oh, Wait – I Do!

Heart printing

Ty and I got in on the ground floor of the Kickstarter fundraising campaign for a small consumer 3D printer, the M3D. After two years of waiting it’s here and on Ty’s workstation. For its maiden run, we are printing some small anatomical hearts in different colours from biodegradable plastic filament. Here is the first one, a half-size cherry red baby.

Heart printing2

First the printer lays down a “raft” of plastic which serves as a platform for the heart. Then it builds up the object with layers and layers of filament in a criss-crossing matrix. This model was set on fine and the heart produced is about 4 inches around; the details of the veins is quite good, although you can’t really tell from these photos, since the surface is so shiny. The trick to printing anything is to determine how to position the object on the print bed such that the resulting creation is both strong and aesthetically pleasing. Huzzah!

Heart printing3

Heart printing4

Burnaby Film Forum

Thanks to all my friends who came out to see my film The Fire Ceremony II: Metamorphosis win Best Technical Achievement and a lovely etched glass trophy. The screening and awards ceremony took place at the James Cowan Theatre in the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts.

 

Video Screenings!

Update: My film The Fire Ceremony II: Metamorphosis received the award for Best Technical Achievement at the Burnaby Film Forum.

After its debut in Los Angeles and recent screening at Sun Peaks, my video The Fire Ceremony II: Metamorphosis has been selected for screening at the upcoming Burnaby Film Forum. Hope to see you there!

2015 Promo Poster UPDATED

View the video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qeTb6vDrNuA

In addition, my video Fragile has been selected for the Access Code Short Film Festival in Srinagar, India in October 2015.

 

A Day in the Life of Earthwise Farm in Tsawwassen, BC

Earthwise Society is a non-profit, charitable organization cultivating sustainable communities through environmental education and stewardship. The society runs the two acre certified organic farm, one acre garden, and heritage orchard, along with a farm store, out in Tsawwassen/Boundary Bay. In addition, they have an educational program for school-age children to foster their connection with nature and show them where their food comes from, as well as being the lead agency for the Delta Food Coalition, a network of community groups collaborating on food security. Their Harvest Box and Shared Harvest programs bring fresh produce to at-risk local populations. My friends P & C volunteer their time at Earthwise once a week, doing whatever needs done each time.

The Boundary Bay Earthwise Garden is the Lower Mainland’s only comprehensive demonstration garden showcasing ecological landscape practices.The design of the one-acre garden was created to highlight ecological themes and includes a Native Plant Garden, a Habitat Hedgerow, a Dry Garden, a Rain Garden, a Bee Garden, and a Butterfly Garden, all designed to attract beneficial insects and birds and sustain them.

This day was sunny and hot, just like most of the past four months have been, and the garden is an oasis of greenery and beauty.

In addition, the Farm has allotment plots for those who would like to garden but have no access to land.

Dave, another very active volunteer, has created a bee sanctuary at the farm and lots of honey bees can be seen on the flowers.

A retired couple originally from New Zealand come to the farm every day and are single-handedly responsible for two large greenhouses full of heritage tomatoes, all different beautiful colours and exceptionally tasty.

The farm also has mason bee and insect hotels, refuges for native species.

One of the barns is home to barn swallows and nesting barn owls; the latter can be watched on a webcam screen viewable in the farm store.

This day P, C & I were sent out to the fields to pick runner beans, not an easy task since the plants are quite low to the ground in a very sunny and unshaded area. My back wasn’t up to the full task; I had to bail out when it started to complain but P & C carried on until the task was done – I was very impressed!

After a tasty lunch in a shady grove, the three of us picked blackberries from the many wild bushes.

As a reward for our time, we came home with the fruits of our labour, blackberries, beans, pears, and peaches. See more pics here. More info about Earthwise available here.

Summer Solstice Celebration for Litha

As the wheel of time turns again we found ourselves at Summer Solstice. Nearly every agricultural society has marked the high point of summer in some way. On this date, Jun 21 this year, the sun reaches its zenith in the sky.

It is the longest day of the year, and the point at which the sun seems just to hang there without moving (“solstice” is from the Latin word solstitium, which means “sun stands still”). The travels of the sun were marked and recorded by almost every civilisation.

Lots of folks joined us for an evening of celebration in Barb’s fabulous back yard. We made a communal altar celebrating Litha, the Solar goddess, created painted and collaged solar symbols to toss in the fire pit, enjoyed video projections and music celebrating fire and water, sipped beverages and nibbled tasty goodies.

Thanks to Ty who set up the sound and projection system in Barb’s back yard, I was able to screen my videos Fire Ceremony II: Metamorphosis and Fragile.

Litha celebrates abundance, fertility, virility, the beauty and bounty of Nature. Early societies celebrated Litha with Fire rituals. In the Aegean islands on the night before the Summer Solstice, hoops were set ablaze, and the villagers would guide the Sun’s return by jumping though rings of fire. Early European traditions celebrated this time of year by setting large wheels on fire and then rolling them down a hill into a body of water. Early Saxons in Britain marked Midsummer with huge bonfires that celebrated the power of the sun over darkness.

Our three-tiered altar was installed in Barb’s garden and dressed in red, topped with a ceramic head of Athena, the goddess of wisdom and craft. Each participant brought offerings to adorn the altar, including incense, candles, sheaves of grain, and other symbolic elements. Ty, Barb, and I planted red flags in the garden and swathed the altar in a Balinese sarong. Around the yard Barb added floating and stationary candles to bird baths and garden ornaments. A large orange sun pinata graced her gigantic magnolia tree. After a feast of tasty food, Randal entertained the assembled crowd with folk songs from his repertoire of guitar favourites.

As the sun grew low in the sky we painted and decorated solar offerings and later, when the sky was dark, and Venus, Jupiter, and Moon hung bright in the night time sky, we formed a procession, made wishes for the coming year, and offered them up to the Litha fire pit.

Midsummer Symbolism:

Symbols: Circles and discs are the most basic sun symbols; fire to celebrate the power of the sun, sun wheels, god eyes, mother goddess, ripening fruits, sun dials, feathers, and swords, blades. Goddesses Aphrodite, Astarte, Freya, Hathor, Ishtar, Venus and other Goddesses who preside over love, passion and beauty. Other Litha deities include Athena, Artemis, Dana, Kali, Isis, Juno, Apollo, Dagda, Gwydion, Helios, Llew, Oak Holly King, Lugh, Ra, Sol, Zeus, Prometheus, Ares, Mother Earth, Father Sun, the fey, fairy folk and Thor.

Tools: drums, rattles, bonfire, mirrors for reflecting the sun or bonfire, Earth circles of stone energy.

Colors: white, red, maize yellow or golden yellow, oranges, fiery reds and golds, green, blue and tan.

Stones: all green gemstones, especially emerald and jade. Tiger’s eye, lapis lazuli, ruby, diamonds, amethyst, malachite, golden topaz, opal, quartz crystal, azurite-malachite, lapis lazuli.

Animals: Robins, wrens, all Summer birds, horses and cattle. Mythical creatures include satyrs, faeries, firebirds, dragons, thunderbirds and manticores.

Herbs: chamomile, cinquefoil, elder, fennel, hemp, larkspur, lavender, male fern, mugwort, pine, roses, Saint John’s Wort, honesty, wild thyme, wisteria, oak, mistletoe, frankincense, lemon, sandalwood, heliotrope, copal, saffron, galangal, laurel, ylangylang, Basil, Betony, Dogwood, Oak, Rue, vervain, trefoil and verbena.

Incense: frankincense, myrrh, sandalwood, lemon, pine, jasmine, rose, lotus, or wysteria.

Foods: fresh vegetables of all kinds and fresh fruits such as lemons and oranges, pumpernickel bread as well as Summer squash and any yellow or orange colored foods. Flaming foods are also appropriate, barbecued anything, (barbecues represent the bonfires….) but especially chicken or pork. Midsummer is also the time for making mead, since honey is now plentiful. Traditional drinks are ale, mead, sweet wines, fresh fruit juice of any kind and herb teas.

Element: fire

See more photos here.