Sunday, June 28, 2009

Midsummer Magic

A cordial invitation to fairy followers near and far to join us for Midsummer Magic at Sovereign House, featuring paintings from The Illustrated Fairy Gazettes and Posy's Fairy Wardrobe.

This is merely a flutter away for some of us, across the 12-Mile Creek bridge in Bronte and down West River Street. There is a path through a fairy glade to Sovereign house, overlooking the lake.

Mazo de la Roche, author of The White Oaks of Jalna books, lived in this house from 1910 to 1915.

Saved from demolition by the Town of Oakville and the Bronte Historical Society in 1988 and modestly renovated with the addition of gallery space on the ground floor, it retains a quiet charm and is the perfect place for art shows.

This is the fourth year that we have hosted Midsummer Magic, and every year we have been graced by the presence of would-be fairies with best dresses, little flowered sandals and, of course, wings.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Mug Monday

"Functional fixedness is a cognitive bias that limits a person to using an object only in the way it is traditionally used."

"When I use a word" Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone "it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less". Through the Looking Glass

Prowling around the house for just one of my mugs for Mug Monday ( hosted by the talented Valerie of Acorn Moon and Pat of Weaver of Grass), I discovered that most of them were already in use for anything but their intended purpose of simply holding a warm beverage. Needles and thread were in one, paint brushes and pencils in another, pennies in a third. Even the Portmeirion milk jug is stuffed with brushes. And so it was all around the house and garden,

Old canoe paddles double as useful garden stakes,

A lidless teapot and Limoges dinner plate have been home to an African Violet since 1997 (it thrives on benign neglect),

And the cloche that should be protecting strawberries in the garden is sheltering fairies in the house.

In Psychology 101 we were told that a sign of flexible intelligence is the ability to overcome functional fixedness, to perceive new applications for existing tools. And that is my excuse for filling the charming, stylish mug on my worktable with more paintbrushes, like feathers in her cap, rather than topping her up with hot chocolate or mint tea.

Speaking of tea, where's the coffee pot?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Journeys in Bookland

My desk is strewn with complex drifts of sketches, sheafs of them stacked or sliding and crackling, faint fairies everywhere, to be sorted into order and details filled out. This is the next fairy book in embryo state, on the long road to the exciting box of glossy new volumes.

The life of even a well-loved children's book eventually comes to this, either a collectors shelf or the recycling bin. The Saturday morning dog walk took us by a community garage sale, with the usual boxes of coffee mugs, planters, used electronics, videos on vhs, magazines and once-popular novels, plus a few surprises. In a box of plain-looking and well-worn books with moisture-bent covers were these treasures.

Their very shabbiness was the draw. Some one spent hours with these once, as the crayoned-in illustrations and pencilled notes testify.

I used to colour in my books like this, I thought it made them prettier.

This chapter-page brings to mind blissful holidays spent on Prince Edward Island, as a child and more recently as mother.

In surprisingly fine condition is this volume, The Magical Land of Noom, 1922, by Johnny Gruelle (of Raggedy Anne and Andy fame), all 12 illustrations in place, with only a single water-droplet mark on the cover. I'm almost afraid to read the story for fear I might let a crumb or friendly cat-paw mark a page. I'm getting out the cotton gloves for this one!

The shabbiest volume, coverless and tattered, seems to have been the best loved. "Mrs. Herbert Strang" edited several other annuals like these. A pseudonym for Mr. Herbert Strang, it was in turn a pseudonym for two male editors. The illustrator doesn't get a mention, which is too bad,

for this illustration is my favourite.

I wonder who he or she was?

Loyalty to the crown, expressed in primary school readers, was once a part of the national identity.
There used to be a picture of the Queen in every classroom and my young school days began with the Lord's Prayer, a salute to the flag ("shoot the flag"), "God Save the Queen", and "Oh Canada". ("Two pastry gloves in all thy sons command", years later turned out to be "True patriot love" etc. And "Forgive us our trespasses" always led my thoughts astray to Winnie the Pooh and Piglet's "Trespassers Will". But I digress.) The Royal Visit in 1939 made its mark on the country, and on school textbooks.

The years go by and things change. "God Save the Queen" disappeared when "Oh Canada" became the official national anthem in 1980. Canada Day, which used to be known as Dominion Day, is coming up on July 1. There will be a street festival in the neighbourhood, flags and red maple leaf icons every where, and in the evening, fireworks in the harbour. At dusk we'll pack up the lawn chairs, blankets and snacks and make our way with the holiday throng, down the street to the lake. Adults and children will sit on the pier, children too close to the edge for parental comfort, swinging their feet over the water and applauding the test flares that go up first. Sometimes a few will start singing "Oh Canada" (with silly cheers) while waiting for the show to start.

From a daughter of the Empire, "God Save the King!"- and Queen.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


There are so many birds here in the harbour area that I could easily overload the posts with pictures of them. I was delighted today to see mother duck with her 12 (count them, 12) ducklings, newly hatched last week and all of them still present and accounted for. There are 4 drakes that seem to have a shared interest in the family and stay close to her and the brood, which may explain their survival so far.

The geese are careful parents too, very protective of their young and of each other. Their reputation for being untidy neighbours is, alas, well-earned.

Particularly devoted partners and parents are the swans,
doing everything..... synchrony

Up tails all!

And then there is the domestic partnership, blessed harmony on the home front between all the four-footed ones. Merry, the camera-shy newcomer, has settled in. She has taken to knocking my paintbrushes off the worktable at night - forgiven, so far.