Dragonfly: Tales from the Phantom Rickshaw
The web journal of Markus, Emily, Taliesin, and Rhiannon, coming to you from the temperate rainforest of BC.

before Fri, Mar 19 2010, 4:19pm: [back to start]

Emily: Yes, we're still here! Fri, Mar 19 2010, 4:19pm  
Just a quick update, for those who wonder where we've gone...

Tal is busy with lots and lots of art (drawing/cutting/gluing/sculpting inside, and building stuff outside) and reading at home, these days, as well as his classes, which at the moment include contemporary dance, circus school, and EcoKids (ecologically-oriented science class). He's 8, now - a bit quieter and a bit bossier (!) but increasingly proud of himself, and this is wonderful.

Rhiannon is hell-bent to read and write, right now. She reads at least one book every day, and produces heaps of her own, self-directed writing projects, as well as worksheets for the rest of us to complete! She just got a bunch of new workbooks, and is exceedingly happy. She is the workbook queen. She currently takes contemporary dance, circus school, Serious Play (art class), and joins in for the barre segment of Mama's adult ballet class.

Markus is in the process of acquiring a lobster-tail for his boat, much to his great satisfaction. He just has to wait until the tide is low enough to retrieve it from where he and the previous owner stashed it, after they removed it from the bottom of the imperiled boat it came from. I didn't know what that was, but Markus explained -- it's a protective cage-like enclosure for a propeller, to keep it from being destroyed by deadheads, etc. I think the ferry needs some of those! (I say, naiively.) He is happy with his work, these days, and busy at home, too, with all the yard work and studio-building that is still happening.

Me: I'm intensely busy with the management side of putting on the MAMA exhibition & performance (and touring it; yipes!). I said at some point to my mother and a friend that I feel totally out of my league with this show, and Mum said "This is your league, now." Frightening, but I remind myself that I cried myself to sleep on the first night I lived in the big city of den Haag, the Netherlands, in a tiny room looking out onto the huge, loud, brightly-lit city. Two days later I was well on my way to learning Dutch, and didn't feel at all frightened, any more. I will handle this just fine. I'm very happy to be back at ballet, again, and thrilled that, as the kids grow more mature and Markus finds joy in his little projects (currently he's developing a gps mapping system in his free evenings), all of us become a little more bonded in our life-journey, together.

Taliesin: more-than-skyscraper Sun, Feb 14 2010, 10:58pm  

Emily: making valentines cookies Fri, Feb 12 2010, 9:52pm  
Emily: it's sunny! Sat, Feb 6 2010, 9:54pm  
Time for family yard-work days...

...if you are a dog, that can have many interpretations (this is one of Hazel's favourite positions).   
Emily: wilbur Tue, Feb 2 2010, 9:57pm  
Wilbur is Uncle's pig (on the left). And since we happen to be reading Charlotte's Web, right now, Uncle and Ginger stayed one evening to read a chapter with the children and Wilbur, who is on an extended vacation at our house.

Emily: Our Big Town Vacation!! Sun, Jan 31 2010, 9:59pm  
We went to Vancouver, spent enough money to get a reasonable hotel with a pool, and then just hung around downtown having fun for four days. We visited with Auntie Chloe, went to the library and took a load of books back to our hotel room, had Ukrainian dinner with Great Grandma (and everybody else too, of course), went to the BC exhibit at the VAG, skating at Robson Square, wandered around looking at cool things (check out the car), watched Miss America and cartoons on the giant TV, ate Mexican, Japanese and Indian, and... played hide and seek endlessly in the hotels copious amounts of big empty cupboards!!!

Check out Mama's beautiful new skates!!

When we came home we were not only relieved to be leaving the city (just the feeling we hope for after a great but exhausting 4 days of urbanity), but were greeted with this lovely view of our dear home:

Emily: Does Violence Serve Us At All? Wed, Jan 13 2010, 12:11am  
My kids have asked me probably 100+ times why Canada would send soldiers with guns to fight for peace? How can a soldier be a "peacekeeper"? Why can't they just send a letter to the other country to ask them to stop fighting? How can we make peace by shooting? My answers are always inadequate.

I have been anti-Olympics for many years. But today I was watching the video below, and really had to think hard about my involvement in the protests and rallies.

This video has a great description of problems with the Olympics, but then it goes into a list of anti-Olympic actions, and I was quite taken aback at the violence of many of them. I like a lot of what no2010.com does, and the kids and I are intending to attend the upcoming Vancouver rally; I happily wear the no2010 logo all over the place. But when I watch this video, and witness the stupid violence and hatred being proudly catalogued, I have to wonder if it isn't working against the goal.

I do understand where the anger comes from; I am angry, too. There was a time I couldn't drive out of Horseshoe Bay, past the failed Eagleridge Bluffs protest and the construction devastation without choking up. Now I just look at it sadly across the water; I'm almost used to the scar. I know the anger will keep fading.

But so many people are resorting to violence, and it doesn't seem to be going anywhere. When we fight the games with force, they push back equally hard. When people smash vehicles and windows, trash offices, steal and deface private property, it just causes Olympics organizers to be more stubborn in their pursuit. And I can imagine that naive onlookers who otherwise might have supported the cause are more put off than inspired by the anger and hatred being displayed.

Worst of all, this leads to an escalation of violence. The Olympics (and BC Liberals) commit all sorts of violence and destruction to our land, our livelihoods and our social infrastructure, and we kick at them with our angry feet and sharp words... so what do they do? Fight back with more security. We're forcing them to create a police state. Do we have anybody but ourselves to blame?

I am certainly not going to begin supporting the Olympics, but just like guns don't make peace, violence doesn't heal wounds.

Here's the video:

Resist 2010: Eight Reasons to Oppose the 2010 Winter Olympics. (LOW RES) from BurningFist Media on Vimeo.

Taliesin: MAMA frenzy Wed, Jan 6 2010, 2:35am  
I feel like superMAMA right now: superMAMA who is going to crash like Super Grover -- SMASH! Into my bed.

It is nearly 2 AM and I've been up 3 nights in a row frantically getting ready to promote the MAMA project to galleries and venues. I finally have enough work done (4 of the 20 or so paintings) that I can start sending out proposals, but I'm late late late!!! So I've been writing blurbs, proposing sponsorships, etc, and just spent all night putting my CV in html format for my new website: moontreeart.com I guess now (another day, though) it's time to start updating the links on THIS website... many of them are dead, since our Bowen server just dumped us unceremoniously, a few months ago. Poof.

And I finished the MAMA blog, just so I have a place to direct people to, when they ask questions. mama-art.blogspot.com

Rhiannon: Cooking dinner with Pappa Sun, Jan 3 2010, 10:56pm  

Emily: Victoria for New Years! Sat, Jan 2 2010, 10:16pm  
Auntie Julia made gingerbread train kits for the kids -- complete with gluten/soy-free candies for decorating, pre-cut gingerbread pieces and hand-drawn plans!

We visited with Selenne and Ulie, hiked around with the dogs and Grosspappa, and did all those lovely things we cherish about visiting Victoria.

Emily: faith Thu, Dec 31 2009, 11:12am  
Many years ago, now, my Dad told me he had given notice on his toy shop’s rental space. He couldn’t afford to rent as much space as the new landlord wanted him to, and the landlord wouldn’t rent him any less. He gave notice before he had secured another location. He had to be out by the end of the month. The month was December – December in the toy business. There was no time to be out looking for a new location, and not many spaces were becoming available at that time, either. On a visit with my Dad, I asked him how the search was going. If my memory is trustworthy, it was about 10 days before Christmas.

He replied that, well, he was hoping for Edgemont, but he was also considering Westview, since those were neighbourhoods he liked, and both closer to his home. Edgemont has about 50 shops, and Westview maybe 15.

Ummm… but he was looking elsewhere, too, right? I mean… it’s highly unlikely he’d find something in one of those tiny shopping areas, on such short notice and … NOW.

Nope. He wasn’t.

Well, surely he’d booked storage for all his stock, then, hadn’t he?

Nope. He was going to move to Edgemont.

He had faith.

Oh God – not this again. My father is a Baptist, and I am not. He would say don’t take the Lord’s name in vain. I do not believe in God. I would not put the future of my tiny toystore and all my life’s effort at risk just because I’ve decided I want something far out of my grasp, and then trust in God to provide it.

Had I ever heard of the Mount of Olives?

Of course not.

…the mountain where Jesus provided the people, bla bla bla… The people had faith and Jesus provided. It was a lovely story – really. Just not in my faith-book. My Dad said he had faith, too.

Uh huh.

Three days or so before Christmas I phoned to see how my Dad’s search was going, and to offer to help him arrange storage. He seemed to have found something, exactly where he wanted on the main street in Edgemont, but it wouldn’t be available until March.

So the storage?

Nope. He had faith.

The day before Christmas my Dad was clearing some snow from in front of his shop, and the neighbour – a man who Daddy had previously helped – came to ask how his search was going, and to offer him his empty warehouse for the lag time between leaving the old store and moving into the new one.

Problem solved. My Dad had faith and Jesus provided. Or somebody did. I still don’t believe in God, but I do believe in faith.

We just watched Miracle on 34th street, and I was struck by the significance of the “in God we trust” plot twist (the lawyer convinces the judge that Santa is real in the same way that God is real; invisible though he may be, millions of people put their faith in him, and if we lost that faith the fabric of our society would disintegrate). It doesn’t have to be God or Santa or the Easter Bunny; not even fairies or the Central Bank or love; it can simply be faith itself. I absolutely could not stand the movie “the Secret”. I found it shallow and stupid, but at its core it was about having faith. Numerous studies have shown that people who have prayer – whether by themselves or by other people they are unaware of – heal faster on average than those who don’t receive prayer. Obama won with a slogan of pure faith: Yes We Can! It doesn’t matter how or why or even what; we just trust that we can. The magic is not in the entity or power that is believed in; it’s in the belief itself. I believe in wishing.

When I was in grade 5 I went on a class trip to the Flying U Ranch. My class took the water taxi off Bowen Island in the early morning, and I wished fervently upon Venus that the boy I loved would ask me out. I wished and wished and wished with all the faith I had until I could no longer see the star, and then I wished the same thing in every tunnel we entered on our trip up the Fraser Canyon to the ranch. Not only was I one of the least popular girls in my class, always the last picked for teams, only 10 years old, and absolutely terrified to talk to the boy in question, but he was by far the most popular boy, doted on by every girl, and in no way desperate for a date. Girls had fist-fights over him, and yet none of us dated anybody, yet. Those wishes were prayers.

On the last day of our class trip, there was a dance. I dreaded parties. I went to my cabin and sobbed the evening away while everybody else danced. Actually I was lying on the bed, drawing a very miserable picture of everybody else dancing, and myself crying. I still have it. It’s half finished. There is a funny-looking line where the pencil slipped when I suddenly stopped drawing. Knock at the door. … Yes? … Emily? Of course it was him – I was so shocked I fell off my bed and onto the floor, and, as I stumbled up to my feet in front of him, he asked me to dance with him. In hindsight, it doesn’t matter whether my teacher encouraged him to ask me, or whether he came to my cabin out of pure true love. That night not only my faith in wishes was bolstered, but my faith in a world that sometimes seemed to have abandoned me. I have spent most of my life trying to build up the courage to like myself; to have faith in myself and my ability to just be good enough. In my head I know that it’s all in my head. But it’s only faith that can make that leap for me.

My Mum and Pappa taught me atheism, but they also taught me faith. They put faith in the land and fed us. They put faith in their own ability to create a life together, and a beautiful home out of a piece of forest. It wasn’t easy, but they had faith and they prevailed. They put faith in love to lead us through our differences, and faith in me, recently, when they bought me an etching press for a career they can hardly fathom. We put faith in the vast universe, every day, when we leave our loved ones and our dreams and trust that we’ll find them again. Our faith is broken, sometimes. It has to be. But it's also what allows us to carry on. Faith goes on.

Right now my Dad is recovering from surgery after a fall that cracked his spine. His God sure hasn’t given him an easy row to hoe, but he is stalwart in his faith, just like he’s stalwart in his refusal to use a walker, much to my fear and dismay. His Parkinson’s seems, if anything, to have deepened his faith in his God. I guess God is there when you need him, just like parents, stars, love and Santa Claus.

I still don’t believe in God, but I believe in faith.

Taliesin: Hallowe'en Poem Mon, Dec 28 2009, 7:37pm  

Way down in the dungeon in the hills so dark
where all could be heard
was the flutter of bats and the trickle of water
where the man lay dead, eaten by an otter.

Emily: Tiel and Hazel are best friends Sun, Dec 27 2009, 10:22pm  
Emily: Merry Christmas Fri, Dec 25 2009, 11:30pm  
This year was no more perfect than any year; Ginger was away, and Pappa was sick, but we managed to call the two families we weren't with on speaker-phone, and to celebrate for two days on Bowen, in peace and love. We have been visiting with dear friends, making and consuming beautiful foods, and singing songs of happiness. Then this evening I kissed my smiling mother goodbye, and headed out into the moonlight, my arms laden with an assortment of treasures, supplies and foods. I followed my husband and children on the one-minute journey down to our own woodstove-warmed home for the night, and I thought how lucky we are to have love -- to have not only the ability but also the desire to fill our hearts with our beloved family.

Merry Christmas!

Here are some photos:

Christmas stockings to open in the big bed!

Fancy dinner at Mum and Pappa's house:

Emily: Joey's Escape Wed, Dec 23 2009, 2:51pm  
Joey was my best friend when he started to go to war.

The second day of Joey's war, he escaped from the war building, where he was staying at night, and came to this party that I went to, too. I saw him there, and said "how are you here?" and he said "I escaped from war", and then Joey went to bed and I did too, after the night party.

Then we slept and slept until the morning came; and then we went to the morning party. He made it, and it was his escape-from-war-party.

And then after his escape-from-war-party, I went away from it. My husband was still at it. But I was watching one of the the South America home people cleaning their house for Christmas, when that finished. The end.

by Rhiannon

Emily: Holiday Burn-Out and Recovery: Happy Midwinter! Mon, Dec 21 2009, 1:04am  
I can post about this now, because I'm in the recovery-phase. This is an annual event in my household. I like to post about our beautiful, pastoral, loving December festivities (because they really ARE that great), and I leave out the less happy tidbits. Not this year. I discovered on Friday at our homelearners' potluck that most of my friends were in a similarly dazed state of total holiday burn-out. It's apparent in their stunned eyes, in their shaking hands, in their tears, and sometimes in their anger. Every year we put so much responsibility on our shoulders, and so much activity on our calendars, that there is no way in hell we could possibly do it all, and survive. But we feel obliged to try. This is what Christmas/Midwinter/Chanukah/etc. is! Time to celebrate!

One of my passionately loving friends appeared at my door on Friday with a beautiful package of handmade ornaments and a lovely swag for my gate. I thanked her, knowing the amount of work she and her kids had put into it all, and she admitted that she'd been up until 2, recently, to get it all done.

This past two weeks has been wonderful, while off celebrating, but pretty miserable at home. The kids are on a rising fugue of anticipatory adrenaline-fueled emotions, and I am headed for the same crescendo, as I cook and clean for the succession of equally important and wonderful events -- often more than 1 per day.

So, now that I'm on the upswing, here's my recovery-story:

Suki and Jon planned to come with their kids for an early midwinter dinner. I really wanted them to come, and it was also our first holiday party at our house, this year. When we got up that morning, after a week of parties and other events, the house wasn't decorated at all, and was a disastrous mess. I spent all day cleaning and decorating and making some curry dishes and apple cake, and Markus spent all day walking Hazel and the kids, fixing the toilet, and helping me clean. Somehow also in that time we all managed to go up to the neighbours' property and get a tree. Tali sawed it down himself with his own saw!!

Our friends were to arrive at 5, and at 4:45 the tree was not decorated, the floor was just finally being vacuumed, the dinner was nowhere near ready, we were still wearing dirty work clothes, and the children were racing all over the house squealing Christmas songs and knocking over the things we were tidying. So I phoned and told Suki that she simply could not come until 6; and she heard in my voice that I was close to tears. She said "don't worry; just relax. We're having a martini, and we're going to come bring you one at six. I don't care if dinner never gets done. I have a big salad. We'll eat that." I hung up, took a deep breath, and by 6pm our house was ready, dinner was done, everybody was dressed nicely, and Suki was late.

So we all sat down and waited. And there in our beautiful living room, with the decorated tree full of candles, the lanterns sitting out, ready to light our way to the orchard, we all silently forgave each other, and enjoyed the first few minutes of our midwinter. Suki, Jon, Kai and Hunter arrived just after we'd all recovered, and we had one of the happiest family celebrations I can ever remember. Even the 4 kids were full of love and tenderness. At one point Tal just sat on the couch listing his affections "I love my parents, and my sister and my best friend and his sister and his parents...." His best friend hopped around on the couch beside him, grinning.

Thank you thank you, Universe, for people who love us enough to not only forgive us our meltdowns but to help us through them. At one point last week I was so angry with the kids that I said I didn't even want to have Christmas -- maybe we just won't have it at all... and Annie flamed her livid voice across the room at me: "You can't make there be no Christmas because Christmas is about love and you still love us!!!" I wish I had been strong enough to thank her at the time, instead of realizing many hours later that my 5-year-old is sometimes much wiser than I am.

Happy Midwinter, everybody. The light is born in the longest night.

Emily: Tali cut down the tree this year -- with his own saw! Sat, Dec 19 2009, 10:28pm  
Wes and Cile are clearing some trees, and let us take Christmas trees from among them. We found one that was so beautiful, but so enormous, that the but was a good 4 inches or so in diameter. But Tali persevered, and we got the tree home! Then we had to cut off about 4 feet to make it fit in the house!

Emily: I Painted in my Studio!!! Tue, Dec 15 2009, 10:52pm  
Well, my studio now has floors, water, power (temporary by extension cord, but it works), and shelves with my stuff on them... and my new etching press -- all in pieces on the floor, making the place feel at once like an honest-to-goodness dream-studio, and also disheveled enough to be my own. I felt at home there for the first time. :--) So finally I got to work on my MAMA project, last night. I finished one painting I'd started earlier, and started a new one. Only about 16.5 more to go before the show!! (eep -- I'm starting 3 months later than I planned!) Eventually, despite the heater on high, 15 candles burning, and a perpetual cup of hot water with which to rewarm my fingers, I got too cold and had to go back to the house.

But I made a personal discovery: I am part of a long line of artists. I have a place in the art-world. Uninteresting though that may sound to readers of my blog, it's a big deal for me, so I'm writing it down here to remember.

I have always resented the popular direction from art teachers: "place yourself in the art world"; "align yourself with other artists"; "discuss your influences". (What the hell?! My influences change by the second, and 99% of the time have absolutely nothing to do with formally recognized art-forms!) But yesterday I was painting a painting of an old woman. It wasn't the woman I had photographed, whose image hung taped to the bedsheet I was painting; it was a bit of a few other people, all now dead, who drifted back and forth between my eyes and the sheet. One of those people was Jessie Binning, and it was no surprise, because the woman in the photo is leaning on her hand, similarly to Mrs. Binning (as I called her when she was alive), on a poster advertising an exhibition of her late husband Bert's art. That poster hangs in my hall and I see it every day. I never knew Bert; he died around the time I was born. I only knew his art through my parents' and Mrs. Binning's enthusiasm. The things he is most renown for (such as the mosaic on the BCHydro building, among other similarly grid-oriented works) have never interested me. But I do love his drawings. They are free and lively and interesting; the opposite (in my view) of his geometrical work. And last night I was painting with one of Bert's paint brushes, which I inherited when Mrs. Binning died.

OK, this sounds like it's dragging on and on. But really that was the nature of my discovery: long, drawn-out, and cluttered. Not only did I realize that I was, after all, influenced by an artist who has been under my nose (though dead) all my life, but also that he cared for his brushes as badly as I do! That meant a lot to me. I like my brushes old and worn, and I loved the feeling that this old, worn, paint-encrusted brush was my connection with the "art world". And I loved the feeling that it didn't matter, except just in that particular moment. Nobody asked me about it, and nobody cared. So I could allow myself to just enjoy it!

I could search for all sorts of meaning in that if I wanted to, but my thoughts drifted to Ursula. I gave the old woman Ursula's forehead...

That is another story.
Emily: Zie ginds komt de stoomboot, en ook Santa Claus! Sun, Dec 13 2009, 10:32pm  
Yes... it's a complicated story...

Tali was sick at Sinterklaas, so we emailed him and requested that he come later than usual. He didn't mind at all (he was very busy, anyway). He went to visit Santa Claus, while he waited. Meanwhile, Tali got better, and, before Sinterklaas came to see us, we went to Squamish to ride on the Polar Express, and have a visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus (she told Annie her name is Jessica).

Tali didn't want to see Santa Claus in Squamish, so only Annie saw him. Later, Sinterklaas wrote to us that, during his visit to the North Pole, Santa mentioned that Tali must be very sick indeed, since his sister came to Squamish without him. Oops! Santa didn't even know Tali was there! But he did send a bell home for Tali, anyway.

Here are the photos, and a video of the kids with their ever-improving dutch:


Emily: skating at Tretheweys! Sat, Dec 12 2009, 10:47pm  
The neighbours' pond froze just long enough to skate twice, this year, and happily, Uncle Adrian managed to join us. We finally convinced Markus to put on a pair of Ryan's skates, although he said he'd only skated a couple of times about 30 years earlier... and he amazed us all! As soon as he stepped onto the ice, he skated beautifully. It was just the inspiration needed to get Annie skating hands-free for the first time! The ice was beautiful, and in many places we could watch the slow-moving water, bugs, and lilies, underneath.

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