Art is Essential

I got a bag of art handed to me from a passing car. The car slowed down just enough for a physical distance exchange. It was a prize I’d won in a raffle to raise money for a West End pottery studio: Mud Makers Studio is trying to keep their shuttered shop alive through the pandemic.

I can’t tell you what a delight it was to receive a brown paper bag containing art!! The things in that bag are magic creations made by the hands of artists who obviously delighted in shaping, glazing and firing the clay. And there were some bright and beautiful prints on paper too.

The very next day, while I still revelled in the good feelings from the objets d’art, a book arrived in the snail mail. It’s a book of still life scenes by Toronto artist Anna May Henry. Called “Make a Living”, every page presents a dreamscape of images and text that explore the phenomenon of the have and the have nots. One of my favourite works involves a box of chocolates; no spoilers here.

I love art made by people who’ve put their heart and soul into it. In fact, that is part of my definition of art. There are those who make nice shapes or colours on canvas or who add nifty words to clever sentences but until there’s heart and soul, it’s only words and paint. Heart and soul is also why I like children’s art so much – theirs, of course, is a more innocent variety.

What I see in any adult artist I admire is that they’ve studied and worked at their medium: played at and cried over it, broke their hearts and busted their bank accounts for it, given it up but come back to it time and again. In other words, they’ve invested their souls and laid bare their hearts for the sake of art.

It’s that same constant practice and learning that makes me an artist. At times when I’ve not been able to study and create, I’ve lost the whole sense of it. I’m fortunate that it always returns. But I think that for some people, unable to continue exploring their creative impulses, the joy of creation leaves them forever. And that could explain a lot of twisted behaviour: bitter battles waged over petty grievances or family members cut off due to self-righteous trifles: people who probably knew art once (maybe only in childhood) and then it was taken from them or they threw it away, never to return.

For me, it always comes back – maybe in the mail in a slender brown envelope or out of a car window in a brown paper bag – or if I’m lucky, in the form of my own work. Art is salvation, art is love, art is essential. Support your local artists; they’re essential.


Print from the art bag, signed WL

Small dish from the art bag, signed VV

Making A Living by Anna May Henry

Little bowl from the art bag, signed: VV.

World’s Most Amazing Dog

All through her childhood, my youngest daughter wanted a dog. I finally said yes when she was 15 & she wasted no time finding a pup on Kijiji. The owner was asking $100, so my daughter & her friend pooled their cash & went to meet the dog. It was love at first sight.

The owner told the teenagers to keep their money, saying he only advertised that amount so he wouldn’t get irresponsible people picking up a free dog for who knows what purpose. That first night in her new home, we made every effort to make the confused pooch feel comfortable. Pretty soon she was wagging her tail & settling in. Her name is Nixie.

On the couch in our sunroom, Nixie used to sit like a person gazing out the window. As far as we’re concerned she is a person! But in the dog park, she’s all dog, playing with a ball or other dogs & running as fast as possible. Her favourite game has been to lead other dogs on an obstacle race, charging around logs & under picnic tables, performing quick turnarounds & tricky deeks. In all seasons, the fun never stops for her in the park.

Until recently, that is. A couple of months ago she started refusing to go up stairs, which was challenging, as we live in a 2nd floor apartment. Then she’d yelp with pain when jumping up on the couch or bed. She is only 5 years old. She’s been homebound now for almost 2 months and stays almost all the time on her blanket on the floor. We hoped the rest would lead to healing. But it hasn’t. She’s seen two vets but they can’t diagnose without an MRI.

MRIs are expensive. And so, a fundraiser! I am so grateful for all who have donated to & shared our campaign to help Nixie thus far. To us she is truly the World’s Most Amazing Dog. Let’s keep this funder going and get Nixie a diagnosis & on her way to better health!

She Gets Too Hungry…

…for dinner at eight… So my beloved cooks earlier than eight & it’s always sublime. First a glass of pink champagne. Then, a plate of pickles and chips. Aaron pickled these beets. And then he pickled the eggs in the pickled beet juice (the chips are out of a bag)


Chowder with baguette & olive oil…




I’m also very hungry in the morning and so he makes this…


Or this – star fruit, dragon fruit, prickly pear, yogurt with good stuff on it!


And that’s why this lady is devoted to this guy (or one of the reasons anyway).

Next up: Snacks!

The Bain Push

Jake Gittes leans on a doorbell button but, inside, Ida Sessions won’t hear a sound. She’s dead. The “push” pictured below is just like the one Gittes was pressing but it isn’t L.A. circa 1938 and it isn’t the movie Chinatown. This push is in the Bain Co-op (Toronto) which was built in 1913. The Bain has a variety of pushes, as they were first called.


The ancient and non-functioning pushes reside next to the more modern and sometimes-working renditions. Two varieties from different eras pictured below – two, because the postman always rings twice.


The old buttons – dead as Ida Sessions, dead as a doorbell – are covered in layers of paint.


Joseph Henry invented the doorbell in 1831. The push later became known as the “push button”.


Bells, buzzers or chimes for your home or office – these all really hit their stride in the postwar 50s. No doubt my co-op had doorbells from its inception, as some units are located on the 2nd floor with their front door at ground level.



Burning the midnight oil, I look out my window & see these little glow-spots on my neighbour’s stoop. They’re threatened by encroaching light pollution and occasionally rivalled by a cigarette flaring up as some insomniac takes a drag in the shadows. “Forget it, Jake. It’s the Co-op.”


Trashing My World


6 a.m. – A loud crash-boom from the street. I awake instantly and go to my window. A large man is standing amidst the street trash wielding a sledgehammer. Repeatedly he brings it down on a small black box sitting on the sidewalk – a microwave or computer or stereo. Crash-boom! Finally he stops and bends down to withdraw the box’s heart, some kind of motor. Severing its arteries, the last wires that hold it to its battered body, the man takes his prize and his sledgehammer, gets into his idling car and drives off.IMG_5540_phixrI live on a street of great garbage: good finds for your house or garden, stuff to upcycle or restore to its old glory. But of course, there’s a downside, like the lumberjack at dawn, or the many idling cars that spew exhaust into the air while their drivers pick (city by-law limits idling to 30 seconds but many motorists are oblivious) or the professional pickers who noisily rummage around through metal bits at 2 am. And, of course, one must become an expert in pest detection and control if one is to consider street furniture or objets d’art. I know people who steam clean found items and then wrap them in plastic for months before bringing them into their homes.IMG_2317_phixr_phixrSaving these wonderful discards from landfill is another great reason for rescue but you need to know what you’re doing. And if you’re doing it outside my home, do me and the air a favour and turn your engine off while you pick. Also, ssshhhhh…please…especially if it’s morning. Merci!