Bearspaw

November 14, 2013


Bearspaw by Maureen Flynn-Burhoe

 

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Bearspaw

Bearspaw 
12″ x 24″
Acrylic on Gallery Canvas
Shown in Federation of Canadian Artists exhibition Calgary Branch

It was a cool fall evening and the rolling foothills of the Rockies were still an enigma to me. I was still learning the names of plants like silverberry (also known as wolf willow), which were used by the Blackfoot. Its shades of grey differed from those of the ubiquitous poplar. I wanted to capture the rich tapestry of textures in the colours unique to the foothills. I wanted to capture the shapes carved in geological time as the glaciers melted, cutting furrows and creating the Bow River with its origins in the distant Rockies. I was beginning to learn the names of the peaks, the High Rock Mountains to the left and the distinctive Devil’s Head to the right. I could see a scattering of people, families, some walking thier dogs, meandering along the winding trails, becoming miniaturized the farther they went. The gullies were deep as they reached the bottom their voices could be heard as if from some strange space. It was cold and I was wearing my Dicken’s painting gloves and was wrapped in blanket. As usual I was chasing the light. The most dramatic light for painting is that half light when the sun is setting or rising. But as every plein air artist know, one has to work quickly to catch the rapidly changing light. I returned a second evening and then finished the details in my home studio. During that period I was listening to a very dark apocalyptic novel, Blind, and I was playing it in the background as I painted at home. It had an impact on the mood of the painting. But the sunburst provided that sense of hope on the distant horizon. Very Sturm und Drang

Notes

Silverberry, Wolf Willow, Misisaimi’soyiis (Blackfoot), Binomial name: Elaeagnus commutata

For more about Blackfoot see Glenbow Museum. (2005).  Nitsitapiisinni Exhibit. Calgary, Alberta: Blackfoot Gallery Committee

Photo of Silverberry on Flickr

See Plein Air Gallery

© 2013 Art by Maureen Flynn-Burhoe. Last updated October 2013. meta4site@gmail.com


DRAFT long term project

1927 German philosopher Martin Heidegger wrote his most important book entitled Sein und Zeit Being and Time. It strongly influenced existentialism, hermeneutics and deconstruction. Heidegger’s Dasein is uniquely characterised by the openness of its way of Being. Google books

“With the ‘cogito sum’ Descartes had claimed that he was putting philosophy on a new and firm footing. But what he left undetermined when he began in this ‘radical’ way, was the kind of Being which belongs to the res cogitans, or—more precisely—the meaning of the Being of the ‘sum’. (Heidegger 1962: 46).”

1853 American novelist Herman Melville (1819–1891) wrote the short story entitled “Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street” which first appeared in two parts in Putnam’s Magazine. His character is

1849 Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard’s (1813-1855) book entitled The Sickness Unto Death was published. In it he described soul sickness and the relational self:

“The self is a relation which relates itself to its own self, or it is that in the relation [which accounts for it] that the relation relates itself to its own self; the self is not the relation but [consists in the fact] that the relation relates itself to its own self. Man is a synthesis of the infinite and the finite, of the temporal and the eternal, of freedom and necessity, in short it is a synthesis. A synthesis is a relation between two factors. So regarded, man is not yet a self (Kierkegaard 1849) [Through a process of becoming. . .] “By relating itself to its own self and by willing to be itself, the self is grounded transparently in the Power which constituted it.”

1843 Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard’s (1813-1855) book entitled Fear and Trembling was published.

1781 German philosopher Immanuel Kant published his book entitled Critique of Pure Reason. Tsutomu Ben Yagi (2009) argued that,

“For Kant, being self-conscious implies having experience and recognising that as one’s own (ibid.: 152-153). Based on his analysis, Kant thus arrived at the transcendental unity of apperception as the highest function of the mind which unites one’s experience under one subsisting subject. Though Kant’s exposition is quite different from that of Descartes’, he still maintains the idea that formal deduction provides legitimate knowledge for us (ibid.: 13-14, 25-26).”

1641 1641 René Descartes published his treatise entitled Meditations on First Philosophy in Latin “Meditationes de prima philosophia, in qua Dei existentia et animæ immortalitas demonstratur.” He began work on the Meditations in 1639. Descartes argued that our essence lies the state of being conscious. We are thinking beings res cogitans (Meditation 2). Extended objects/things res extensa (books, plants) are not conscious. It is argued that Descartes failed to fully explain the fundamentally characteristic of res cogitans.

René Descartes’s diagram illustrating dualism. According to Descartes, the pineal gland (shown here behind the eyes) transmitted messages from the eyes to the muscles mechanically. The pineal gland became the bridge material/physical (body) and the non-material/immaterial/non-physical substance/world/universe (mind). Through the pineal gland stimuli/inputs passed via sensory organs to the epiphysis in the brain and from there to the mind. Descartes mind and body

Selected Webliography and Bibliography

Heidegger, M. (1927). Being and Time. (J. Macquarrie & E. Robinson, Trans.) San Francisco: Harper.

Heidegger, M. (1982). The Basic Problems of Phenomenology. (A. Hofstadter, Trans.).
Bloomington: Indiana UP.

Heidegger, M. (2000). Introduction to Metaphysics. (G. Fried & R. Polt, Trans.). New
Haven: Yale UP

Lorentzen, Jamie. 2010. Sober Cannibals, Drunken Christians: Melville, Kierkegaard, and Tragic Optimism in Polarized Worlds

Yagi, Tsutomu B. 2009. “Beyond Subjectivity: Kierkegaard’s Self and Heidegger’s Dasein.” Perspectives: International Postgraduate Journal of Philosophy. University College Dublin.

“Tsutomu Ben Yagi’s paper ‘Beyond Subjectivity: Kierkegaard’s Self and Heidegger’s Dasein’ (2009) considers the departure made from classical notions of subjectivity by these thinkers. He argues that their temporalisation and finitisation of subjectivity leads away from a metaphysical understanding of subjectivity and moves towards a more existential understanding that breaks most successfully from the history of metaphysics with Heidegger.”


Sitting in her forest green long velvet dress storyteller and word magician Orunamamu perused the small book of poetry looking for the poem our host had read just before her arrival at the neighbourhood friendship potluck gathering. I had told her about it because I knew she would like it. Something about the combination of courage, gaiety and the quiet mind.

On my hands and knees in my ridiculous but practical hort outfit I spend hours tending to dozens, maybe even, hundreds of plants, perennials, heritage, gifts, volunteers, seeds, flowering, vegetables, herbs, invasives (too enthusiastic at the wrong place and time).

The garden is one place where some of us find courage as we see the tiny new growth on a plant that has looked forlorn for months, barely alive in the fall many of them transplanted perhaps too late in the season surviving somehow the trauma of roots being wrenched apart, moved far from the others in a cold place that will only get colder. Death would have been a logical conclusion but somehow they survived protected by layers of mulch and snow and God’s grace.

I never use the old word gaiety but it does describe the “sweet moment” of gardening when you see a clump of early blue violets flourishing in an urban garden in Calgary, a reminder of my older sister’s uncanny ability to speedily find and make a wild blue violet bouquet; single shooting star plant chosen for the garden because of the Garry Woods fields on Vancouver Island; a single brilliant orange poppy opening in May; and too many to describe because the garden and the robins are waiting.

A quiet mind in an anxious world where even one’s own home and garden is temporary and insecure.

Two years ago the 1950s bungalow across the street with its very old heritage garden was demolished, the fertile ancient river bed soil was scraped away and a duplex quickly filled the entire lot. The front landscaping is as polite as that in any new development.

Last year a neighbour sold and moved back east. The new owner tore out the old garden that had been tended for 15 years replacing it with more practical grass which requires less work in their busy schedule.

On the corner one of our oldest neighbours has finally agreed to his family’s desire to sell. The house was built in 1945 and moved in the 1950’s and is surrounded by a horticultural heritage garden, sun rooms, inviting comfortable sitting areas in every corner, sheds overflowing with tools . . . It too will be sold, demolished, the garden uprooted, the topsoil scoured and replaced by other built forms like the one next door, and the one next to that and the next one: walls of sensible stucco with ubiquitous earth colours coordinating with other homes, designs and forms. Perhaps its what postmodernism has become in the booming housing market, picking up on details from Tudor, Victorian, Queen Ann, etc from here and there and tacking them on superficially. Their height is maximized to the zoning limits and the walls extend to the edge of the property. The intelligent pragmatic architecture and materials of these buildings will be easily recognized in the future as D1 of the 21st century many surviving only as photos since the actual buildings are not made to the same standards as pre-1980s. Fortunately the set back gives room for some old trees and tasteful, smart urban landscapes spaces.

This is not “my” garden. I for a short period of time am simply the worker for the robins, plants and the worms. It is a gift to the street. I work outside the fence. I have to be realistic.

As I dig up ancient river stones I write on them, words that I then reread when I am taking out the braids in the rhizome of roots.

But for today I will compost, mulch, feed, plant, transplant, water, tidy, admire, get tired, feel courage, gaiety and enjoy fleeting moments of a quiet mind.

Locating the Concept of  Success

"We thank Thee for this place in which we dwell;
for the love that unites us;
for the peace accorded us this day;
for the hope with which we expect the morrow;
for the health, the work, the food, and the bright skies,
that make our lives delightful;
for our friends in all parts of the earth,
and our friendly helpers in this foreign isle.
Let peace abound in our small company.
Purge out of every heart the lurking grudge.
Give us grace and strength to forbear and to persevere.
Offenders, give us the grace to accept and to forgive offenders.
Forgetful ourselves, help us to bear cheerfully the forgetfulness of others.
Give us courage and gaiety and the quiet mind.
Spare to us our friends, soften to us our enemies.
Bless us, if it may be, in all our innocent endeavours.
If it may not, give us the strength to encounter that which is to come,
that we be brave in peril, constant in tribulation,
temperate in wrath, and in all changes of fortune,
and, down to the gates of death,
loyal and loving one to another.
As the clay to the potter,
as the windmill to the wind,
as children of their sire,
we beseech of Thee."
Robert Louis Stevenson

Stevenson wrote the Valima Letters after he and his wife Fanny settled In the village of Valima on Upolu island, Samoa. He also became an much-appreciated activist highly critical of European colonial administrators worked very hard on land he had purchased in Vailima. He published A Footnote to History. He died in 1894.

http://wp.me/p1TTs-qH


When I worked at the National Gallery of Canada as contract art educator in the 1990s I remember viewing an art clip in which the videographer chased a plastic bag in a mundane urban setting as it was picked up by the breeze and eventually carried out over the waters. The sound track consisted of transient noises including the videographer’s breathing and footsteps which increased in intensity when the breeze picked up.

This Noruz film directed by Ramin Bahrani entitled Plastic Bag (2009) expands on this concept into a 20 minute saga narrated by Werner Herzog who gives a dramatic rendering of the journey from its creation, discovery of its purpose, the meaning of its existence, finding love and freedom, then eternal entrapment in the plastic vortex with 100 million plastic objects in the Pacific Ocean.


Charles Taylor’s book entitled The Ethics of Authenticity was first published in Canada under the name “The Malaise of Modernity” which was broadcast in November 1991 on the CBC’s Ideas series. By 2003 it was in its 11th printing.

Three Malaises of Modernity.

1. The first malaise concerns the dangers of individualism and the loss of meaning.

“. [...] The worry has been repeatedly expressed that the individual lost something important along with the larger social and cosmic horizons of action. Some have written of this as the loss of a heroic dimension to life.  People no longer have a sense of a higher purpose, of something worth dying for.  Alex de Tocqueville [author of Democracy in America] sometimes talked like this in the last century, referring to the “petits et vulgaires plaisirs” [“petty and vulgar pleasures”] that people tend to seek in the democratic age.  In another articulation, we suffer from a lack of passion.  Kierkegaard saw “the present age” in these terms. And Nietzsche’s “last men” are at the final nadir of this decline; they have no aspiration left in life but to a “pitiable comfort.” This loss of purpose was linked to a narrowing. People lost the broader vision because they focused on their individual lives. Democratic equality, says Tocqueville, draws the individual towards himself, “et menace de le renfermer enfin tout entier dans la solitude de son propre coeur” [“and threatens finally to enclose him entirely within the solitude of his own heart”].  In other words, the dark side of individualism is a centring on the self, which both flattens and narrows our lives, makes  them poorer in meaning, and less concerned with  others or society (Taylor, Charles. 1991. “Taylor 1991:4 .”

2. The second malaise is the disenchantment of the world.

“Once society no longer has a sacred structure, once social arrangements and modes of action are no longer grounded in the order of things or the will of God, they are in a sense up for grabs. They can be redesigned with their consequences for the happiness and well-being of individuals as our goal. The yardstick that henceforth applies is that of instrumental reason Taylor 1991:5 .”

3. The third malaise concerns the atomism of the self-absorbed individual who is so “enclosed in their own hearts” and comfortable in their own homes that they no longer participate actively in self-government. This results in an “immense tutelary power” of a mild and paternalistic government, democratic in form with periodic elections but in reality a form of soft despotism as predicted by Tocqueville. (Tocqueville 1835) cited in Taylor 1991:9 .

“After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd. I have always thought that servitude of the regular, quiet, and gentle kind which I have just described might be combined more easily than is commonly believed with some of the outward forms of freedom, and that it might even establish itself under the wing of the sovereignty of the people. Our contemporaries are constantly excited by two conflicting passions: they want to be led, and they wish to remain free. As they cannot destroy either the one or the other of these contrary propensities, they strive to satisfy them both at once. They devise a sole, tutelary, and all-powerful form of government, but elected by the people. They combine the principle of centralization and that of popular sovereignty; this gives them a respite: they console themselves for being in tutelage by the reflection that they have chosen their own guardians. Every man allows himself to be put in leading-strings, because he sees that it is not a person or a class of persons, but the people at large who hold the end of his chain (de Tocqueville 1835.” Democracy in America).”

de Tocqueville, Alexis. 1835. “What Sort of Despotism Democratic Nations Have to Fear.” Democracy in America.

Taylor, Charles. 1991. “Three Malaises.” The Ethics of Authenticity. Harvard University Press. pp. 1-12.

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