Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Memories of P.E.I.

P.E.I. Bikers

Me, kissing my 100 year-old grandmother, Jeanette Birch

View from the air, just leaving the Charlottetown Airport

I was in Prince Edward Island over the July long weekend, and I saw a lot of things.  I saw things that I thought were interesting.  I saw things I never thought I'd see. And I saw things I didn't want to see.

I was in PEI for a funeral.  It was the third funeral in four months for my mom's side of the family.  Uncle Allan passed away earlier in the year, followed by the untimely death of my cousin Gary, and then my cousin Nancy died only six weeks after that.  I had missed the first two funerals.  I was going to make it for Nancy's, come hell or high water.  I needed to be with my family.

I am at a point in my life where I'm remembering all those things my grandmother said.  And she said a lot of things that didn't make sense to me when I was younger.  I suppose that's the way it goes.  As I boarded the flight to Charlottetown, the voice in my head was hers: 
"Oh, you'll find as you get older that you'll only see your cousins at weddings and funerals."  
I remember seeing my cousins every summer and thinking that I was going to live forever. I think that phrase (lodged in my brain circa 1970) was her way of saying that I was going to be shocked at how time would fly.  And I am shocked.

When did everyone get so old? 

When did I get so old?

At the funeral home, hugs were followed by tears and smiles.  God, it was good to see everyone.  It did my soul a world of good.  In just a short while, I felt I was back at the annual Henderson family picnic again.  All the warmth of being part of a clan flooded back. 

Over the weekend, I met Gary's partner Bernadette and immediately felt a connection.  She was very philosophical about Gary's death.  "He's not gone, you know," she said.  "I feel he's right here, beside me."  I believed her.  Gary was very stubborn.  If he told Bernadette he wasn't going, then he isn't gone.  She told me they are going to scatter his ashes, but haven't decided where.

I feel that Nancy is gone, however.  She died unexpectedly, but I suspect she was bone tired, deep in her soul.  She struggled with mental illness her whole life, which polarized her family.  For a few, I know her death was a relief.

Before I left, I made sure to visit and kiss my 100 year-old grandmother, Jeanette Birch.  She told me that she felt it was a sin not to use a God-given talent and was very proud that I was using mine.  She also said a lot of other really nice things that she hadn't told me before, which I felt was a gift.

I left Prince Edward Island stronger than when I arrived.  In one very packed, very emotional weekend, I heard words of love from my grandmother.  I heard words of encouragement from Bernadette.  I picked up just where I left off with my cousins Janice, Gordie, Kathy, and Marilyn (four of my 30 first cousins).  My aunts Anne and Bertha took me to the shore to collect pottery shards and beach glass.  We stopped at the graveyard to say hello to my grandfather, Laurie Birch, who died six years ago.  I ate mussels, saw a biker convention, watched fireworks, and wondered about the price of cottages (astronomical).

I left with a different feeling about funerals.  It felt good to go to Nancy's funeral.  I drank in all the love and gave love.  With my clan, I celebrated her life.  Because Gary and Uncle Allan were still fresh in our minds, we were celebrating their lives, too. I reconnected, laughed, cried, hugged, and patted. 

I felt whole again. 

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Altared & Bridaled

Altared States

Bridaled Ambition

I recently had some fun with a mangled Barbie doll and a circa-1980s tin newspaper printing plate featuring ads about weddings. I messed around with the sepia setting in Photoshop, pumped up some random colours, and voila- vintagey glam photos. Yes, that is a black bar across Barbie's mouth. No, she doesn't have any arms. Such is the state of many Barbie dolls in my Art Lair.

Having gone through this photo shoot, now I understand the tedium that Vogue editors experience when they're looking for the perfect shot for the next magazine cover. Each tilt of the model's head suggests a different mood, even in a Barbie doll. Eyes aimed up, she looks like she's dreaming. A slight tilt downward makes her look sad. Shadowy lighting can make a face look demonic (especially with a black bar over the mouth). When I checked my results for the photo Bridalled Ambition, for example, there were 15 shots of almost the same pose, but there was only one shot that captured the emotion I was going for: vacant yet jaunty.

The second photo was originally entitled "The New Gibson Girl" but my friend Sally Tubello suggested the title, "Altared States", utilizing a brilliant play on the words altar and alter. Following Sally's fabulous lead, I then renamed the first photo "Bridaled Ambition", making a play on the words bridal and bridle.

I love it when everything comes together. I am happy with my results. A special thank you to Sally for her linguistic prowess. The World is lucky that she's using her powers for good.

More Margarine

I think my family is thoroughly convinced that I've finally gone off my rocker with this project.

I just love opening each new margarine container and having a laugh at how the dollop looks vaguely phallic, or like some type of micro-organism.  No one in my family is allowed to dive into the new margarine container until I've had a chance to photograph the dollop. 

This is photo # 6 in my Margarine Series.

The older I get, the more I realize that it's the small things in Life that make living so interesting.