Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Undesired Adventure

November 29th, 2016, after a grueling two weeks at Foothills Hospital, Bill takes me home

Posting further about The Friendship Tour and any summer/autumn art adventures have been pre-empted by major surgery. Three weeks ago yesterday I had a tumour, with part of the colon it was residing in, removed as well as a radical hysterectomy.

In mid July my bowel movements became abnormal. Blood in my stool prompted the colonoscopy on September 19th. The scope couldn't get past the mass in my Sigmoid colon. A CT scan revealed a 4cm probable malignant growth. The pathology report was a month in coming back. Although the growth was in my colon its cells were from somewhere in my reproductive system. At the Tom Baker Cancer Centre (Foothills Hospital, Calgary) on October 25th we met with a wonderful team of women at gynaecology oncology. October 28th I was given November 15th as my surgery date - a date which is my mother's and my brother's birthday (both 
deceased)My colon was so inflamed it couldn't be reattached to my rectum. I awoke from the operation with a stoma and an colostomy bag. This is temporary and will be surgically reversed in 3-6 months.

As if the surgery, with a general anesthetic, wasn't tough enough the added, countless complications made things insane. I contracted pneumonia. My breathing was difficult and shallow so I was put on oxygen for a few days and was given two units of blood.   

A chest x-ray revealed a small clot in a lung. For that, and for a month, I'm self injecting a blood thinner daily.  

Fluids built up under the incision and manifested in a distended stomach were the staples which had been touching close to one another were becoming somewhat separated. I think it was day five when they removed half of the staples and drained the fluid. There was no infection and the sutured fascia down in the wound is clean and intact. After that the wound, which is a great crevasse some 3" long x 1" across and 1" deep is dressed (unpacked and repacked) daily. I was most impressed that both Denise and Laura (and Bill took a peek as well) witnessed hospital dressing changes without gaging, flinching or fainting. Since being home a home care nurse comes in every day to change the dressing. The wound will slowly heal from the inside out. 

Taking narcotics for a week gave me nightmares so I discontinued them. I take only Tylenol extra strength as needed. During my hospital stay I had a total of three foley catheters. The last one was a constant irritant. As a result of the surgery my bladder is so traumatized (nerve end damage) that it rarely voids any urine of its own volition. I have to self catheterize to fully drain it. This is called and in-and-out catheter. Although it may take a while I'm counting on my bladder returning to full function. 

When I'd been in hospital for nine nights Laura, with the nursing 14-month-old Everett, flew in from Manila for five days. That was the very best tonic, I really started to improve once I held our baby in my arms.

November 24th, Laura and Everett arrive from Manila

Bill and Denise visited every day. Larry and Avery came often. Hospital food is so abysmal that the family made and brought me delicious soups, breakfasts and suppers.

Most of my crazy kids at the end of my bed.  Missing are Adam and Amira

The final complication was a lump in my esophagus. The first throat scope couldn't get past this. I was given antibiotics and, for three days, was put on a clear fluid diet while the lump reduced. A smaller scope was used the second time. They were able to reach down into my stomach. The problem is simple but annoying - acid reflux. I've never had that before. I’m on a proton pump inhibitor to keep stomach acid from erupting up into my esophagus.  

We were told I'd be hospitalized for 5-7 nights but I spent a full two weeks in hospital. Once all the complications were under control I was ready to go home. The night before being released my surgeon came and sat on the side of my bed to deliver the pathology report to me and Bill. The cells of the tumour came from an ovary. Dr. Glaze said that she had got all the cancer out of me. I made her tell me that three times, she said it's “Gone, gone, gone.”  Even so she has recommended a round of chemo to prevent it from returning. This won’t commence until after Christmas, in the new year.  

Without trying I lost ten pounds from June to surgery and a further seven in hospital. My energy levels are low and I tire easily but my appetite is good, I am eating larger meals which will no doubt fatten me up. For the first couple of days I confess to not caring if I lived or died but after enduring those I wasn't going to cave in. My relentless spirit was back and I'm committed to being completely healed.

Visiting out of the Lilliputian double room 

It was mid afternoon when we left the hospital under a clear blue Alberta sky when the mercury was at a happy plus 7º celsius. Bill honoured my wish to spend a couple of hours with the family at Market Mall before going home. On the short drive to the mall, like a dog with is head out the passenger window, I sucked in the fresh air. At the mall the big girls had borrowed a scooter so I could get around with ease.   

The mall wasn't busy and we enjoyed just touring the aisles doing a little shopping
I'm not sure who enjoyed this more, me or Everett

Something I really wanted was to have the family photographed, not with Santa, but at his court ...

Look at all those happy faces

We've been home a week now which has made me and Bill feel so much better. Even though winter has struck with snow and frigid temperatures (yesterday's low was minus 27º celsius) we get out walking most days. Although my energy levels are low I can feel my strength returning.

The love and energy pouring in from everywhere can literally be felt. To everyone who paid hospital visits, sent healing vibes and prayers, cards and emails of support, gifts, flowers, and mountains of food we are incredibly grateful. Special thanks to the three friends who sent in the amazing energy healer, Verna. She's coming to see me at home tomorrow. 

Onwards and upwards. I just know the next adventure will be a great deal more fun than this one!   


Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Friendship Tour - part one

Ontario and Quebec May 18th to June 12th, 2016  

The purpose of The Friendship Tour to reconnect with friends and family we hadn't seen in a number of years was its own reward. We flew from Calgary to London, Ontario where we were met by Lori McCluskey, with whom we have a precious, long history. In Hamilton, Bill attended high school with her husband, Ed, who departed this world much too early, eleven years ago. We enjoyed Lori's hospitality, plus her son and his wife made us most welcome at both their Turkey Point cottage and their home. Bill is Eric's Godfather.

Lori, at Eric's and Roseanne's Thames River side home, May 23rd
The McCluskeys were who saw us off at Tobermory when we permanently left Ontario for Alberta, August 31, 1972

Lori has been west a number of times, with and after Ed's death, but it had been years since we'd visited her home. What a thrill it was for me to be reacquainted with several antiquated Saltiel paintings, none of which I had a photographic record of ...

Tug Boat Sunset 1971 oil on canvas 18" x 24"

Miniature oils 4" x 5" - Mount Rundle 1973, Cascade Mountain 1974, The Three Sisters 1973

Cougar 1972 pencil drawing 9" x 12"

Lynx 1972 pencil drawing 10" x 8"

A few short months after we were settled in Banff, the McCluskeys came west and spent Christmas with us - actually two Christmases in a row. Upon seeing and being gifted the two drawings above, it was Ed who suggested we make prints of my Rocky Mountain wildlife. In 1973 we started, and gradually enlarged our successful business of reproducing my art.

Leaning Shed 1976 watercolour 8" x 10"

Our next stop was Grimsby, Ontario to spend a couple of days with our Best Man, Bob, and his wife Christine. Bill and Bob went to high school together, also with Ed. At the time of our wedding Bob had not yet met Christine.

 The East Chapel, Timothy Eaton Memorial Church, Toronto, September 13th, 1969

May 19th, at Christine and Bob's exquisite home and delightful yard
Niagara Falls with Christine and Bob, May 20th

The Matoteks indulged us and honoured my request to visit nearby Niagara Falls and Niagara on the Lake. Bob and Christine didn't have a painting of mine but I rectified that on this trip with a thank you gift ...

Psychedelic Iris 2010 acrylic 14" x11

 To be continued ...

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Central Technical School, 50 years Later

Richard Wessell, Mark Thurman, and me with Dustin Garnet, May 27th, 2016

Flash back to June 1963.  Barbara Tenny, Mark Thurman and me

Dr. Dustin Garnet wrote his thesis on the art education at Central Technical School, he has also been an art instructor there for the past decade. It was a supreme honour for me to be one of the ten people he interviewed for his thesis. My post on our interview is here. Just prior to meeting Dustin at the school this spring, I was delighted to receive a hard copy of STUDIES in ART Education, which includes his article Alice's Story: Insights to the Artistic Community of Central Technical School in the 1960s. 

Below is the building where we had our academic studies, reduced as they were to english, economics, science and physical education (in our final year) to accommodate our heavily weighted art subjects which included anatomy, history of art, commercial art, design, life drawing and painting, still life, illustration, lettering, research and museum. Yes museum, because the Royal Ontario Museum is a short walk from Central Tech. We had a half day painting at the ROM, once a week.

"The Main Building" as we called it is most impressive.  May 2016

Before the art building was completed art classes where held in six studios up in the very top of the tower.  Today they are mathematics classrooms. 

Climbing the steps to the tower studios, May 2016

The foyer of the old building is grand ...

It's hard to fathom that we graduated this amazing facility, 50 years ago. An impeccably timed highlight of Bill's and my Friendship Tour, to Ontario and Quebec in May/June (a story for another day) was having Dustin tour us, and two of my classmates, through all of the studios of what is now called the The Art Centre as well as the old, stone school which opened in 1915.

The Art Centre with its amazing north facing windows, May 2016
The foyer inside the front doors of the The Art Centre, May 2016

Dustin began the tour on the top floor of The Art Centre which was, in or time, Virginia Luz's class. We moved along into Dawson Kennedy's then Kathleen Kennedy's studio. In the last top floor studio, which I recall as being shared by Bob Ross and Doris McCarthy, life drawing is still instructed.

Life drawing studio

Here are some of my classmates back in April of 1966 ...

Barry Corston behind John Williamson (RIP) Sandra Ko, Ula Ahonen and Cynthia Jakubowski

There were times when models didn't show up and when this happened one of us students would pose. Here you have three former students hamming it up as models ...

Mark, myself and Richard

Me and Mark, life drawing April 1966 - oh how young we were!

Sculpture and print making was not a part of our curriculum. These studios were used by the special art students who studied only art. To enter the special art program, in the 1960s, students had to have previously achieved grade ten in a regular high school program. I did work in the sculpture studio but not until after graduation and as a night school student. 

Clay sculptures in the sculpture studio
The print making studio is a fully equipped masterpiece

Dustin's class back in January 1966.  Lisa Shallhase and Sally Simone working on a lettering project, Richard Wessell looks on

Dustin's studio/classroom today

From the very onset the tour took on a most surreal quality. As we made our way through the studios and halls all sorts of rich memories came flooding in making it difficult to be in the present. After a work week, in abnormally high temperatures without air conditioning (which hadn't been turned on yet) Dustin begged off joining Bill, Mark, Richard and me for a pub supper. I can't speak for the others, but I couldn't shake the sensation of travelling through time until I'd slept that night. 

What a wonderful gift you gave us, Dustin. Many thanks for a treasured opportunity to visit our alma mater with you.   

You may enjoy delving into Central Tech further. Here is the original blog post I wrote and some of the art I created while there. Here you'll see art by my classmates.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Roses

THE ROSES (Three Angels Surrounded by Love)   oil on panel   12" x 16"

During our stay in Victoria this past winter, as I was about to settle into a painting session at a friend's studio, I spied Marcela's version of THE ROSES. I asked her if she'd mind my trying to emulate it. Her answer was not only "Please do", she happily described the process, she'd learned in a workshop, loaned me the amazing transparent reds to achieve the look and sent me away with her reference photo so that I could finish it at home.

March 19th, 2016, in Marcela Strasdas's studio with Sharlene Stushnov-Lee  

THE ROSES at the end of our time in Marcela's studio

When I began the painting I had no plan for its destiny but once home, as we were planing The Friendship Tour to conclude with a 25th wedding anniversary celebration, I decided that it would make the perfect gift. My cousin Claudine and her husband Marc have two sons and a daughter. It came to me that the white roses symbolized the three kids and the red roses were the surrounding love which the parents have always shown and continue to bestow upon their children. With this love and support Adam, Nick and Ericka have thrived and blossomed to become the incredibly creative adults they are.

Finishing THE ROSES in my backyard playhouse, May 4th, 2016 

Presenting THE ROSES, June 2, 2016

The Friendship Tour took us on an amazing journey, we stopped at many places in southern Ontario and Quebec - but that's a story for another day. Toward the end of the tour we spent several days with Claudine, Marc and family enjoying the comforts and warm hospitality of their home in Longueuil (south shore Montreal).

Yours truly with my Aunt Loretta, Claudine, Bill, Marc and Ericka, June 7th, 2016 

On June 7th, we bid the family farewell, pretending that this was the last they'd see of us on our trip, only to return a few days later to attend their surprise party but I don't think we fooled either of them. Still it was an honour to be a part of the grand event where family and friends came together to honour Claudine and Marc ...

Ericka, Virginie (Adam's fiancee), Nick, Marc, Claudine, Adam and Claudine's mom, Loretta (my mother's sister) June 11th, 2016

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Grassi Lakes, My Spiritual Place

Upper Grassi Lake, May 9th, 2016

It's easy to be smitten with Grassi Lakes. The mountain jewels are nestled in a gap between Ha Ling Peak and Rundle Range. There, in 1990, above our then home in Canmore, Alberta, after exclusively painting only indoors - for twenty-five years - I ventured forth to create my very first plein air painting ... 
Grassi Lakes #1 MYSTERIOUS DEPTHS   12" x 16" oil on masonite   completed in three hours, September 26th, 1990

The abstractness of Mysterious Depths disturbed me. It's simplicity looked like child's play so I hid it away in a closest. It was eighteen months before I found the courage to paint on site again.

Meanwhile, retreating to the studio, I painted Lady of the Lake (aka Margaret Discovers Alice Lake) featuring Maggie Ecclestone (at the Lower Lake) for the juried exhibition Return to Exceptional Pass hosted by and held at The Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies (Banff) in January and February 1992. 

LADY OF THE LAKE (Maggie Ecclestone) 1991 studio oil on canvas 24" x 40"

After I had faced my fear of plein air painting I went out often, returning to Grassi Lakes a number of times which resulted in a series of 13 oils painted in 1992 and 1993. 

When working on site I simply don't have time to fuss with details. Plein air painting enabled me to let go of my obsessive realism. The new approach carried over into my studio work as well - it too became more painterly.

Painting on the shore of the Upper Lake August 4th,1992

Grassi Lakes #8 WHERE ROCKS MEET WATER   oil on canvas 12" x 16"   September 2nd, 1992

Grassi Lakes #11 SPRING AT GRASSI  oil on canvas 16" x 12"   May 9th, 1993

Painting the Upper Lake from the gully, August 27, 1992

Grassi Lakes #6 FROM THE GULLY  oil on canvas 16x12   August 27, 1992

Often I was joined by other artists but my most regular companion was Zelda Nelson (1943 - 2015). Below is the painting of a tree stump by the Upper Lake that she gave me ...

"WANAGI" - soul, ghost, spirit - watercolour 1992  5x6.25 by Zelda (who was Zelda Henricks at the time) 

FIREWEED AT GRASSI LAKES   1994 studio watercolour 7" x 10"   collection of Mary Shilabeer and Tom Matier

My favourite vantage point of the Upper Lake is captured in the small watercolour above. It begged to be painted larger and so in the spring of 1995, I used it as the study for a 4 x 6 foot canvas ...

FIREWEED AT GRASSI  in progress   4 x 6 foot oil on canvas  April 1995

My studio at home was too small to accommodate such a large canvas so I approached the Canmore Artists and Artisans Guild about using their gallery space weekdays - because it was only open at weekends. Fridays, I'd move the large canvas behind the wall (above) and reinstall whatever art was part of the current exhibition. I really don't recall why I put the painting on hold for so many months but I was motivated to finish it for my solo exhibition Saltiel, Routes Without Limits which showed at The Whyte Museum, Banff from September to November 1997. To this day I still enjoy the curator's written description about the style which emerged as a result of plein air painting "... subsequent paintings continued this distraction of abstraction."

FIREWEED AT GRASSI LAKES   1997 oil on canvas   4 x 6 feet   collection of Carol and Gord Godfrey 

Beyond the plein air series and into this century I painted several more Grassi Lakes paintings. Although it's been a number of years since my last (below) I'm certain I'll paint them again.

GRASSI IN APRIL #25   2007 oil on panel    12" x 24"  collection of Susan Dorion and Jim Wilker

A little about why Grassi Lakes is my spiritual place. At a time when things were rocky in my life, I sought an outdoor place where I could have solitude. Somewhere beautiful. Somewhere that was quiet and easy to reach. Somewhere that I could meditate. To be there alone was possible then, but today it's such a busy place that at almost anytime of day, any day of the week it is overrun with people.  Weekends are simply impossible. In 1993, before coffee or breakfast I power walked the 2.2 kms up to, spent twenty minutes at and power walked back down for 41 consecutive days. The only reason my ritual was interrupted was because of a painting expedition.

Getting into position at the mouth of the shallow cave above the Upper Lake May 9, 2016

In my happy place, May 9, 2016

View, of the Upper Lake looking down from the mouth of the cave, May 9, 2016 

View looking up to Ha Ling Peak from my perch in the cave, May 9, 2016
A Great Horned owl returns each spring to nest in the higher cave.  Happy to see her, but her young were not visible on May 9, 2016

Visiting the lakes wasn't always about painting or meditation. Many friends and family have been there with me enjoying picnics and fun times. In 1993 I began a circle of stones which I recessed into the earth to make them flush with the surface. Over time, I added other stones. This was my way of honouring all who had accompanied me there both in reality and in spirit. The circle is next to an uprooted, decomposing tree root where the water rushes between the two lakes. Today it is so overgrown that even I can't find it but I know it is still there buried in nature and in time. 

My circle of stones July 9, 1996

My circle of stones identified

We don't live in Canmore now and it's often weekends when we visit. However, last Monday, following an unseasonably sunny and hot weekend (which, I have been told, saw outrageous traffic at Grassi Lakes) it dawned overcast, snowy and cold. At 8:30am Bill and I went to the lakes anyway. It was a sublime gift to find only one car at the trail head parking lot and nobody at the lakes. It wasn't until we were about to depart the lakes that we saw another couple arriving. Coming down the trail we met a number of people hiking up. 

I am most grateful for this recent visit, it was a most precious gift of divine intervention.