Connections, Kristen’s wonderful challenge

It’s funny sometimes how a spur of the moment though…actually, maybe it’s more accurate to say, a mind empty of thoughts, a mind in the present, how that inspires the perfect action.

I knew that the challenge word for this week is connections. I knew this for a full week and everywhere I went, everything I did, I saw connections in. But then, you might be saying, you can hardly help that, can’t you? Well, it’s true, but rarely do those connections inspire a meaningful piece of art.

Yesterday at the beach, it was gloriously warm and bright. I picked up a piece of orange nylon rope thinking I would recycle it properly, and, as I sat looking around me at the sunshine and the happy dogs I decided to save that piece of rope and weave it into something which connects.

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So I walked along the beach to find the perfect branch and some other objects and took them home.

I was going to wait till this morning to do something with them, but the evening was so lovely that I decided to start right then.

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I wove the nylon rope around the branch and thru itself.

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I found some ribbon and yarn and wove that in to symbolise seaweed and the reflection from shells.

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And then I went to get my other found goodies to add those on, phoned Robbie and went to bed.

Sent photos for the weaving to R and he said, “you’ve made yourself a talking stick. Even more connections. I like it!”

This morning my newly proclaimed talking stick lay on the dining room table.

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It sparkles in the harsh morning light, with its beads of birch bark, its combinations of man-made and natural elements, discarded and wanted, saved and used. Offers, connections, from the ocean and from my hands to your heart.

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I took it outside to greet the day and held it up against the sky.

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When you have a chance, the list of participating artists is here on Kristen’s site. :D

Hair, Nadine’s wonderful challenge

You know, I’m one of those persons who knows her art limitations. Really I do. I do but, as you probably suspect, I tend to ignore them.

Last week my friend Nadine invited me to take part in a weekend drawing challenge. Just like last time, the challenge was to take a word and depict it in an image. This word was “hair”.

Now I feel that I can draw almost anything, but believe I’m absolutely naff at portraiture. It’s true! But the more I thought about it, the more I really wanted to draw some beautiful hair on a beautiful girl. Growing up, I did the requisite copies of my favourite album covers and people’s images, (there’s a whole portfolio dedicated to Bowie somewhere at mom’s house I think), and I also remembered drawing mermaids.

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I used to draw a lot of beautiful mermaids. Some coming out of the water with long flowing hair floating on the waves, pearls and seashells dripping from their bodies, well, anyway, that’s what I decided to draw.

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So I started this morning and have my mermaid finished by lunch time. (Only one day late…lol)

Well, finished is a relative term. I believe I could be shading and refining and lifting and tweaking for another four hours. But that’s not going to happen today, because I hear the mountains calling my name. :D

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Thanks for this opportunity Nadine. And thank you for inspiring me to bring back a skill from my childhood and give it another try.

If you guys have a chance to, please pop by and visit the other extremely talented and fun artists:

Barbara, Tammie, Ariane, Carole, Demie?, Emily, Joanne, Patrice, Leena, Celine, Renilde, Kristen, Roberto, Kim, Mano, Stefanie, Nadine.
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Randomness alert!

Those Valentine’s day roses were so lovely that I wanted to hang on to them past their indoor prime and so I lay them on the cafe table out in the garden where I could see them from the kitchen. There’s something so wonderfully decedent about red roses laying on a table outside. Kind of like dropping the rose petals by the front door. When it snowed they were even lovelier. Now the snow is melting and I suppose I’ll have to compost them sooner or later. :(

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Speaking of snow, do you see Morgan there on the patio? You can just about make her out thru the railing at the bottom of the stairs. She has been the grumpiest cat from hell lately. She absolutely hates the snow and growls and spits each time she’s put outside.

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Went for a walk round the ‘hood and thru a little botanical garden near by. I was after some winter blooming flowers, like this heather, and then came round this greenhouse full of blooming calla lilies and started begonia hanging baskets and thought to myself, “man, that girl has the best job ever!”

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Speaking of gardens, remember when I told you all that I signed the garden for the open garden Art in the Garden weekend? Well, I got the call that the judges would like to come preview the garden this coming Wed to see if they will allow it and the garden looks like a tip! (that’s British for really big mess) Gulp!

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So, instead of working in the garden, I decided to clean up the garage and establish a silvesmithing studio on one of the benches. (The garage also looks like a tip.)

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I worked all day and cleared off one of the work benches and got out the varnish and decided to sand the work bench down and varnish the plywood top to make it look better, but then I thought that actually I really liked the splattered paint and cut marks and scratches, and so I sanded it only lightly and decided to get my stamps and inks and personalise the bench some more before varnishing it.

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I love it! And now I want to paint the walls and rehang the paintings and clean up the potting bench and start the seeds for the flowers and veggies, and invite people in and serve tea at Art in the Garden time, and possibly have some friends come and do some art in there and make my jeweller in there…Oh, I’m so excited for that space.

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And I have to have all this done by Wed. 8O

PS. If you’d like the calendar screensaver then help yourself. It’s right there on the side bar for you.

Sharing with Nancy and looking forward to everyone’s randoms. :D

Hello from Sunday night (I didn’t think I had THIS much to share)

Morgan

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I’ve seen a fair few 4am mornings these days courtesy of Milo who has an alarm clock in his little cat brain. It’s fine by me. I love the mornings and relish the still, quiet time. Reflective time. Chloe, on the other hand, is turning into quite the night owl. She’s having a hard time falling asleep and then sleeps till 10-ish…unless she has a morning class. What’s that all about? I wonder what evolutionary reason there might be for being a morning or a night person? Did the morning people run out and hunt and gather food for the night people who stayed awake watching and guarding against predators? Maybe…I’ll go reread my Bill Brysons and see if I can find out. :)

I’ve ordered a couple of books from Amazon and they came in a box. Naturally Morgan thought the box and papers were for her.

Lately I’ve started a new art project for the helluvit. I did some mixed media on card stock. At first I chose four pieces of card and started tearing and gluing papers together but then the four were done too fast and so I did six more. And also had to find a congratulations card for a friend’s daughter who has graduated law. Do you know how hard it is to find a nice congratulations card at Christmas time? I’m telling you…very!

Saturday evening C and I had tixs to the opera. Now I love opera, but C…not so much, but she loves listening to the pure voices. So I washed the paint and glue off my hands and we dressed and put our lipstick on and off we went to the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.

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There was a police situation in Vancouver and the worst case scenario happened and both the bridges, the only way for me to get downtown, were closed almost all afternoon. That meant monster traffic…in the rain. So I left early to make sure we got there in plenty of time. It turns out that by 6pm the traffic wasn’t so terrible and we made it with plenty of time to relax, grab a drink and have some fun people watching. The lobby of the theatre began to fill with all sorts of interesting people.

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The opera was a modern opera called Albert Herring by Benjamin Britten. Fun production, brilliant acting, beautiful voices…not a single melody in sight…(sigh). We enjoyed it but also didn’t enjoy it…you know what I mean? I promised C a good Puccini or Wagner next.

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Sunday morning dawned much brighter. Morgan wasn’t having any of it though.

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C came and cuddled up in my bed and we talked philosophy. No…seriously…we talked out the ethics and morals of Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanours. Does anyone like that movie? Imaginative, wasn’t it? C had to write a 400 word forum post saying whether she agreed with or disagreed with Rabbi Ben’s Divine Command Theory outlook on morals. But since she’s never been raised with any kind of dogma, and doesn’t even know the first thing about God, Christ…etc…it was a bit of a brain twister for her…but she got it done.

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Sunday bad-for-you lunch: home made french fries. I know…but it’s only once in a while.

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Then I got back to work on my ten cards.

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I had so much fun over these past three days making these cards that now I want to make more. I painted little surprises into each one, like birds or a cat, or villages and flowers. And I stamped each one with a special little VR stamp instead of signing them. Now I don’t know what to do with them, although my friend Dawn does a brilliant card exchange which might be fun to take part in.

Morgan still wasn’t having any of it. :)
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Now that I’ve carried on for a mile and a half and if you’ve stuck with me then you’re my brave loves… :) It’s Sunday evening now and I’m sitting in the living room beside a fire and thinking that, with all the turmoils and ups and downs and heartaches, this life isn’t so bad after all. Hope your weekend was lovely too. I’m about to go stalk all of you who I usually stalk and then some more of you and then anyone I can think of and, If I haven’t found you, if you leave me a comment, I’ll come see you too. :)

Linking with Mary for Mosaic Monday.

Visiting Sezincote House

Yesterday my dear friend Elaine and I went to visit a private house.

This is Sezincote House, a stately English house, which was built in 1795 by Colonel John Cockerrell (grandson of Samuel Pepy’s) in a Neo-clasical, Neo-Mughal architecture. However, the interior is pure English country home.

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This house is the private home of a young family, and, indeed, we heard children screaming with laughter and a movie playing from the open windows of the third floor. The rooms we could see into from the outside had children’s drawings hung up with scotch tape, and, at the end of the day, someone was playing the drums. :)

We walked to the house across a bridge with four Brahma bulls and looked down into a beautiful grotto garden which looked like the fabled overgrown morass of old India and Poe.

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Walking up to the house and around to the Orangerie gave two impressions, one: it sure is a lovely exotic looking house and two: a family lives here.

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Soon we were greeted by the family dog and cat who were greatly petted and entertained by the visitors. Friendlier than anything, they came for pets and the dog chased several tennis balls and other toys which the visiting children threw for him. He seemed to have endless energy.

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Tea and cakes were served inside the Orangerie. The lady of the house loves the smell of jasmine and huge jasmine plants took centre stage on the walls.

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Red and purple fuchsias grew in the open windows and I fell so in love with this space that I didn’t want to leave here.

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There also were other exotic plants, such as gingers and passion fruits, and the entrance to the Orangerie had colourful stained glass details which were picked up by the colour of the fuchsias.

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Did I tell you I loved the Orangerie? Lol, One more photo and I’ll stop. The ends of the gallery had mirrored windows extending the space. Don’t you love mirrors in garden spaces?

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The house from the formal garden. I loved the lily filled reflecting channels and the central fountain.

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Oops, I said I’d stop. Oh well, one more photo of the Orangerie. :)

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Then it was time to meet fellow visitors at the front door for a tour of the house.

I’m sad to say that interior photos were not allowed. You know, I don’t understand this at all. If this were my home I’d love for people to take photos and share. It must bring some publicity and more visitors paying £5 per person for the tour. Oh well, I can describe it for you.

The interior was partially wrecked by Canadian (gulp) soldiers when the house was conscripted for service during WWII, but later renovated by the famed interior designer and decorator John Fowler of Colefax and Fowler fame. The interior is part fantasy, part English country-let’s-impress-with-the-best-marble-the-best-paintings-the-grandest-four-poster-beds-available.

There are several beautiful Aubusson tapestries, some valuable Chippendale and Biedermeier furniture pieces, some important paintings, marble staircases and golden coffered and vaulted ceilings, but the overall impression I got of the interior was of warmth, exotic grandeur and a wonderful fresh, exotic scent, which, I learned from the guide, was jasmine candles, (the favourite scent of the lady of the house).

This is the only interior shot I took (very naughtily) is of the entrance hall thru the glass-panelled front door. It shows some important paintings of the grounds plus the house by Thomas Daniell, and a replica Sezincote on the left side commode, which is actually the house cigar box! You can just see the sweeping marble staircase. Oh, and the sweetest thing, the very important Biedermeier chairs had a teasel seed head tied with a ribbon on the seat to prevent visitors from using them. I thought that was charming.

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After our house tour Elaine and I stopped for a cup of tea and went for a walk thru the grounds. The grounds were designed by famed garden designer Humphry Repton.

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There is a beautiful working farm on the estate but it was closed to visitors. It had a large clock tower and the clock chimed each quarter hour, so it was lovely to talk the garden listening to it chime. We walked past the elephants of the formal garden, walked past the little pavilion above the tennis court, past the front of the house along the ha-ha wall…

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…to the grotto garden. In order to walk under the bridge you had to step on these cement stepping stones in the water. We walked under the bridge and found the loveliest cement bench int he middle of the stream and stopped there for a while and listened to the bubbling water.

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The garden twists and turns along the stream which opens up into several small and one large pond. There are beautiful mature trees, some having swings hung from the branches, fields on either side with beautiful beige cows, and marsh type plantings.

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We had the loveliest afternoon visiting this house and garden, got caught up on each other’s lives and then drove back home to Northmoor.

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Sunday whirl, such a nice mind break from life!

Wow, Brenda, I love that you took these words from street signs along your trip. And I loved playing with them. :)

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bird, bridge, unstable, wild, bend, rock,
retreat, bear, lane, fallen, meadow, island

The word if is a curtain
in the right breeze it floats between the real and the dream
shows the way to a room without walls, a room part forest of fallen trees where cold is law and no birds can sing, and part golden meadow, part air and light
two parts shiver and one part desire sliding up your arm and over your shoulder and around your neck, kisses, whispers promises in your ear.

The word if is an island
with a house and a breakfast table with coffee and juice and toast
newspaper spread open to show you tragedies and miracles, deaths, births, the black and white of life.
it’s beautiful, it really is, but so small,
so small that one unstable tide washes it over and leaves a swimmy image, like a cardboard cut-out; too real to actually exist.

The word if is a neuron
it prowls in the heart and over-rides the brain and acts like a bridge to bend or bind the will so thoughts run like wild horses
and little girls and boys look at reflections on water and imagine moonlight to be a path, and the lights of the cars driving the twisty lane on the opposite shore to be the lights of some fairytale world that is almost within reach.

The word if is a shrew
it darts across your vision and hides behind rocks and retreats underground when the world is too turbulent for such a tiny thing to bear
it stays just behind the sun and walks only thru shadows and if you quietly, patiently sit beside it on the ground it will come to you and sit quietly, softly, warmly in your palm.

The word if gives you goose bumps
it is a doorway to an ideal world of yellow dandelions, of breaking the dandelion stem, brown juice staining your hands, blowing the clock catching it in mid flight,
wipe off your fingers or cover the new ifs with dust, cover the fact that they have not always been there.

The word if is a grand oak in autumn
it’s lived for hundreds of years of seasons of bud, leaf and drop, thru drought and monsoon and still it gives gold
you want to touch the gold, own the gold, ephemeral though ifs are

And, after shaking the tree so hard, you feel obliged to sweep up the leaves.

Admiring the light

I’ve said before that I bought this house because of the light. Because of the old-glass, single-pane, broken down old drafty windows which let in such incredible light, and it’s so true.

I love the way the light dawns into my bedroom in the morning and cuts ribbons across the lace curtains.

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And then it picks up the golden pollen on the living room side table; fallen off the euphorbia blossoms over night.

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I love that by the evening it comes streaming into the dining room and lights up anything on the dining table.

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And I love how the last rays sneak under tables and lamps playing with a bit of wood grain here, a little velvet there.

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These are the reasons there are several cameras on hand at all times in this house.
Is there such a thing as being too addicted to the light if you’re a photographer? Couldn’t possible be. :)

It was a get out of town kind of day

Ok, this totally wasn’t my fault. It’s been a warm day, the sun was shining, and I got an email from a nursery, 50 km out of town, that they were having a May Day sale. Buy one get one free on roses! Roses! Geraniums, dahlia tubers, cacti…well, actually I stopped reading because they had me at roses.

So Chloe, mom and I drove out to buy ridiculous amounts of roses and then on to have a nice lunch, in a country cafe, on the patio, in the sunshine.

Our table wasn’t going to be ready for a half hour and so I left them my cell phone number and we walked down to the antique mall and had a good mooch around.

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C’s objective was to buy that little pearly clutch she didn’t buy when we were there last time, remember?

And we generally had a lovely time hamming it up and trying not to buy everything in sight. Do we look like 1940’s movie stars? (Well, disregard the hoodies and the iPhone)

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C saw some lovely bunting made from creamy, lacy, embroidered triangles held together with a ribbon of pom-poms. How cute is that? We decided we would make our own.

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We looked into every corner and got some fantastic ideas.

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Look at this little cupboard, perfect for our mason jars full of beach glass. How hard could that be to make? One ornate thrift store frame plus some bits of wood and my skill saw.

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Over all the excitement about the roses, I somehow managed to lose my reading glasses somewhere in the nursery. That’s because I tend to hang them from my T-shirt and they tend to slip off. Usually I notice and pick them up but not this time, but found a really nice vintage pair at my 1.25 strength. Chloe found her clutch, and a pretty lacy blouse, and mom got a copy of The Diary of an Edwardian Lady. She loved my copy. Isn’t that the loveliest book? I’ve got a copy in Vancouver and one in Oxfordshire.

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Well, my phone rang much too soon. Our table was ready and so we reluctantly left the antique mall and walked to the restaurant.

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We shared a bunch of appies, looked at our loot and thought about how lucky we were to be sitting outside in the sunshine.

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When was the last time you got out of town? It’s such a good idea. :)

Belong, Belonging, Beloved. A little love letter to us, my Wordsmith Studio friends, on our first anniversary.

Yesterday I finally fell into work in the studio. I set all projects aside and simply created from my heart, created for you and for this post.

I love improvisational work, nothing feels better or truer.

It can be hard to let go, to be free, to be true. This kind of work is dangerous. What if people don’t like it? What if you…who are so important to me and so in my heart… what if you don’t like it? But it’s the purest offering I can give you.

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Let’s talk about this insane thing we did. A year ago this April, we came together, complete strangers, over a challenge to grow our on-line presence at Robert Brewer’s My name is not Bob blog.
We took a chance. We built our platforms, we circled each other, we followed each other, we read each other and we liked each other…but then we found out that we really did like each other and we started to support each other, to share more than just our work.

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We come from different corners of the world and every walk of life, but when we are asked what are we doing this for, our answers are:
Because it makes us happy.
Because it makes others happy.
Because, as our skills develop, we can feel ourselves developing as writers, as poets, as artists, as photographers.
Because the language of our art is ancient and we want to speak it proficiently.
Because we always knew we would do creative work.
Because at one point in our lives we decided to finally do what we wanted to do all along.
Because we never want to give up.
Because what we do takes courage.
Because we believe there is value in being vulnerable.
Because sharing is good.
Because it makes us laugh and cry.
Because it’s good for our soul.
Because we believe in each other.
Because we love to and because we want to, and each time we are asked we think of seventeen more reasons.

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And sometimes the work is not a joy, sometimes it is forced and no one, including our own brave little heart, believes we can do it, but we carry on.

Here we all are together, birds of a feather.
And tomorrow we will be braver and work on, and tomorrow we will be less tired and tomorrow we will share some more of our hearts with each other.

And we will create.

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In the end it’s the best way we know how to give.
A careless unveiling and then, and then we will stand in the light and shine.

And to my heart we belong together in our group.

In my heart you are worthy of belonging and you are beloved.

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A fourth journal entry for Folk Magazine with love and understanding.

The Folk Magazine Journal entry for this week asks for influence. To write my American story as part of a giant American story, the tapestry of our lives, in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

I’m Czech by birth, German by heritage, Canadian by chance, British by choice. My Austrian grandfather was in love with Vancouver, the land, the ocean, the mountains and, when it was evident that our family would not be safe in Russian occupied Prague, my grandfather decided we would immigrate to Canada and here I am. I have a dual citizenship and speak several languages. I’ve lived in Europe, (Paris, Geneva, Austria, Prague and now Oxfordshire UK) for very long stretches of time so I can say that while Canada is my country, Europe is generally my home town.

I must say that I don’t know a lot about American history. I know of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. but only understand his basic premises and I hope that’s enough for me to talk about what I would like to talk about in this post.

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I have a story, a beautiful American story to tell.

Over twenty years ago, my then husband and I drove down the American Pacific coast on holiday. I was pregnant with my last child and so over the top emotional…you know how that goes. We were at Fisherman’s Warf in San Francisco and I just stepped out of the car when a man ran past me shoving me violently into the side of the car and another man ran past me directly after him chasing him with a knife. I was shaking and completely inconsolable and we got back into the car and drove to Oakland to the hotel we were staying in.

I gathered my strength after several hours, and after much persuasion, and seeing the lights at the Oakland Coliseum, we decided to go to the baseball game.

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Now please know and understand that I was never, NEVER, EVER going to set foot in San Francisco ever again. But then we found our seats and beside us were the most wonderful, loveliest, most loving people I had ever met in my life. Some of them invited us to stay with them, all of them sympathised and many told us of the wonderful and beautiful San Francisco I had given up and abandoned forever without ever giving it a chance.

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So this brings me to my MLK Jr. story. It’s so important to know and understand your whole community, everyone, whoever they are. Look thru understanding and loving eyes. Having been a political refugee, an immigrant and living as I do in different parts of the world, I come across prejudice sometimes but I truly think that, by knowing and accepting without judgement people of all nationalities, races, sexual orientation, religious/or not persuasion and welcoming them into my life, these prejudices can be dispelled and the vitriol neutralised.

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What would I do without my writing group Wordsmith Studio, (mostly made up of American members) who support me and love me and accept my quirky ways? Where would I be without my Seattle friends and closest American neighbours who I impose on each year? Who would I be without those generous Oakland A’s fans who held my hand and helped make San Francisco one of my most favorite and romantic places to visit?

So, on this third Monday in January, I would like to wish a Happy MLK Jr. Day to my lovely and loved American friends, I’m so happy you are all in my life. I hope to keep learning your stories and continue to be a part of the tapestry of America in my own Canadian way.

Journal 1 entry here, journal 2 here, journal 3 here.

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