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Zooming into art worlds to make COVID life better

I’ve noticed during COVID, anything to do with drawing, painting, watercolour and art in general is sold out.

You see something fantastic, get all excited, scroll down to register and SOLD OUT is more than likely to be your instant nemesis.

A recent airing of CBC’s Cross-Country Checkup asked the question, “Has Zoom made your life better or worse?”

About 98% of callers described why it had made their life better even if some of them were reluctant to admit that.

Here are some places I’ve been dropping into:

Virtual Walking Tours

It has now been 20 years since I’ve been to Paris but last weekend, I treated myself to a virtual and LIVE walking tour of the Montmartre district of Paris and it was great. It really came close to the feeling of being there in person following a guide through the streets, down the stairways, outside a famous drinking establishment, having him point out some of the places where artists like Camille Pissarro, Renoir, and Picasso lived. Redefine Essential Travel only and take a virtual trip.

www.virtualtrips.io

CBC Hot Air and Marcus Mosely’s Black History Month stories and songs

It’s Black History Month and Marcus Mosely has been leading songs and stories of Black history on one of my favourite programs on CBC, Hot Air.  I like nothing better than pouring a glass of wine, kicking back and tuning into Hot Air every Saturday afternoon at 5pm.  Here’s Marcus Mosely. Check in on it tonight.

MARCUS MOSLEY: https://www.cbc.ca/player/play/1863465027897

CBC HOT AIR: https://www.cbc.ca/listen/live-radio/1-183-hot-air

BezArtsHub

Out of Langley, visit Bez Arts Hub for live streaming music events.

https://www.bezartshub.com/events-title and of course, can’t forget Side Door: https://sidedooraccess.com/home

The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico

If you know me, you know how much I love Santa Fe, Taos, Ghost Ranch and Georgia O’Keeffe’s art and the stories of her personal history. They are offering online art classes and talks.

https://www.okeeffemuseum.org/event/breakfast-with-okeeffe-online-okeeffes-abiquiu-garden/

Ghost Ranch

Of course, you can also check out the courses being offered at Ghost Ranch at any time: https://www.ghostranch.org/things-to-do/workshops/

Whistler’s Audain Art Gallery Tuesday Night Talks

I’ve been checking into the Whistler Audain Art Gallery every Tuesday night for their Tuesday Night Talks between 8 and 9 pm.

Director and chief curator Dr. Curtis Collins facilitates a chat and visits the artists wherever they are at home to speak to images of their work.

https://audainartmuseum.com

Los Angeles Times Book Club

The Los Angeles Times Book Club is hosting free events with authors speaking about their fab books.  The upcoming book is Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy and she’ll be live on February 24th. You must RSVP.

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/virtual-book-club-with-author-charlotte-mcconaghy-tickets-139709493857

Portfolio Reviews – Diego Narvaez

While I’m at it, I will add a young Mexican artist I met at the Sooke Fine Art show, Diego Narvaez, is currently living in Sooke, B.C.. He’s doing the hard 24/7 work of being an artist in a new country, much different than his home nation, Mexico.

He’s hosting a portfolio review that you can participate in if you don’t have to work during the day. I don’t personally know exactly what that means but he’s an interesting person and artist so check it out:

https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/2021-sur-gallery-online-portfolio-reviews-tickets-141033066699?fbclid=IwAR2zZbtuynHg7uTwBclefgMx21GKq4CMrYwQLsVt8TED_sHa410aXbustkk

Oh and one more. Now I’m really getting off topic. Someone I work with told me about this. A course from the University of Alberta called Indigenous Canada. Dan Levy of Schitt’s Creek fame has conversations about Indigenous history and issues with Indigenous people. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3hcBKumEbJg

So, yes, adding my voice to the “Zoom has made my COVID life way more interesting” camp.

Here’s an old post about travelling and yurts in case you need a trip experience: http://gaylemavor.com/2016/12/

Surrendering to COVID uncertainty

Surrender: to give oneself up, as into the power of another; submit or yield.

Remember when you were a child you might have thought along the lines of, When I get to be [insert age older than current age]. Then when you got a bit older, thinking of post high school, you might have told yourself, When I graduate. When I get married. When I have kids. When I get a house. When I get divorced. When I get a new job. When I retire. Or insert whatever it was you desired.

Life as bullet train. Destination? Death! And yet, people rarely say, “When I’m dead.”

But that is essentially what all the forward thinking, the wishing, the being in our minds into the future, not right now, is what we’re saying.

The ultimate surrender is surrendering while we’re still alive. Living as if in a dream-like state but fully aware.

When people have anxiety attacks, they are guided to get into the now. Return to all the senses. What are you hearing? Can you smell anything? Focus on an object. What can you focus on to take your mind off the thought causing the anxiety right this minute?

Use “I am” statements. I am writing this blog post now. I am eating now. I am at work now.  I am doing the dishes now. Then give in to that moment completely. Savour the food. Look at the dishes, examine their form. Look at that tree, the bark, the leaves, the branches, the colour, texture, the moss up its trunk. It’s a really difficult challenge.

If we are wise, this is the kind of surrender that COVID has forced upon us. The acceptance of what is, no matter how much we might wish for a different reality. No matter how much we yearn for the imagined future.

I recall being in a meditation class about 4 years ago and someone said, Every time I try to meditate my neighbour turns on their stereo too loudly, drops something, bangs on something, and I begin to focus on the sounds and I become really agitated.

The teacher said, “Incorporate the sound. Find a way to incorporate the sounds into your meditation. To acknowledge them and fold them in.”

That was a revelation to me. I had never considered folding in the problem as the solution.

Acceptance is the fastest way to move through something.

There has never been a better time to go all Eckhart Tolle.

It has now been a year, March 27, 2020, since COVID arrived. I thought I’d share a few posts, I wrote at the beginning:

COVID life and eccentricity

I said to a friend the other day, I have nothing to say about COVID life. I have nothing to contribute. I really can’t figure out what to write on my blog. Garbage in. Garbage out. There is nothing of any interest coming in, not really, so what can you expect me to write about here?

I live alone. I see my coworkers on a Zoom call precisely one day a week. Sometimes I see my bubble buddy for a meal out. I talk on the phone. My stuffed animal, Rory the lion, brings me joy. My walks bring me contentment and relief. Reading brings me escape. Occasionally my friend from Mayne Island comes to town. This is not the lifestyle of the rich, famous, or come to think of it, even the living by pre-COVID standards.

Well, maybe I need more culture, I thought. So last night I tuned into Eventbrite on a Zoom call to hear Lisa See, a writer, and the author of my very favourite book of 2020 which was The Island of Sea Women. She was being presented by the Los Angeles Times Book Club. It’s free. Do it here. Good conversation in. That’s what I’m really craving. In person. She was coming to us from her home in California and she was as interesting as I expected her to be. Even more interesting.

Then today I wondered, What would David Sedaris say? And I’d really like to know because I had a ticket to his show here in Victoria which was scheduled for May 16, 2020 at the Royal Theatre. The ticket is still on my fridge. It’s like the kind of artefact you might find after the armageddon when the Martians arrive and every single thing is frozen in time but there are no people. The dishes aren’t done. The calendar on the wall is on the month when it all stopped. The bed isn’t made. It’s a Twilight Zone rerun. It’s creepy. 2021 is the new 2020 as they say.

The other night, I flicked across a show on Netflix with Martin Scorsese interviewing Fran Lebowitz. I actually only checked it out because I thought it was referring to that famous photographer, Annie Leibovitz. I didn’t care about Fran Lebowitz, but then I couldn’t stop watching her because it blows me away that some people, because of their fame, are allowed to just do monologues to Martin Scorsese. That’s my new definition of success. I loved how Scorsese was just this giggling, guffawing sidekick to her nonstop opinions. Where else could a woman over 50 be on a Netflix series just to spout opinions?

May 2020 is a lifetime ago in COVID time. Have you noticed there is such a thing as COVID time?  Some days it’s like somebody put on the cartoon speed-up-time roadrunner clock. And other days it’s as if you’ve fallen into the Groundhog Day of your existence. You walk into another room, forgetting why you went in there and when you come out four hours have passed.

I feel like instead of becoming more comfortable as time passes, I am becoming more paranoid, more anxiety ridden. There’s more at stake. I haven’t got COVID in 10 months and I’M NOT GETTING IT NOW! Get away from me. Maybe it’s the tone of the government press conferences foreshadowing even tighter restrictions due to THE VARIANTS. Good name for a band by the way. Maybe that’s what has set me off.

The other day, I was walking down the sidewalk and I could hear footsteps getting closer and closer behind me. Now, in the little village where I live, the city stole a strip of the road and made it into a larger sidewalk-like area because the sidewalks are so narrow that two people can’t pass.

I was getting really uptight about this person getting closer and closer to me, behind me, and the only way I could have avoided them not overtaking me was to jump onto the road, to start running, or to stop. I chose to stop. Then I turned around and said, “Have you heard of the 6.5 feet thing?” holding up my hands like I was lying about the size of the fish I’d just caught.  That’s how articulate I am when I’m pissed off. And I proceeded to say, pointing to the large area of road beside the sidewalk. “There’s this thing they created. You could go around me,” I said.

“Oh,” she said, as her dog came up to lick my pantleg, “I didn’t know I was that close.”

I didn’t say a thing. I just turned in my annoyance and kept on walking. Point made. Period. You are dead to me, lady.

Be kind. Be Calm. Be Safe.  These are the words of Dr. Henry, our public health officer celebrity. They rang across my atrophying pre-frontal cortex. But afterwards when I relayed this incident to a friend, I became fixated on the fact that I’d actually said 6.5 feet. I mean, really? Not 6.4 feet? Not 6 feet? Six. Point. Five. Feet. EXACTLY! Two metres to be exact. As if I carry around a tape measure in my brain because that’s how exacting I am as an individual (not!).  I find that hysterical now. NICE! I can only imagine her relaying that story to her husband when she got home, completely indignant.

And don’t even get me started on her dog. Of course, it was on one of those retractable leashes. Is it even possible to be considered human now without owning a dog? Isn’t it enough to have brought children into the world? Now every human can only be verified as human if they also have a dog apparently.

There. There you go. Now you know why I have not written anything since I posted about the book, The Plague. We are all the plague now, Baby.

The Plague, Albert Camus, 1947

…Thus the first thing that the plague brought to our fellow citizens was exile…Yes, that hollow that we carried constantly inside us, that precise emotion, that unreasonable desire to go backwards or, on the contrary, to speed up the march of time, those burning arrows of memory – all this really did amount to a feeling of exile. If sometimes we gave in to our imaginations and indulged in waiting for the ring of the homecoming bell or a familiar step on the stair, if at such moments we allowed ourselves to forget that the trains were at a standstill and if we then made sure to stay indoors at the time when, in normal circumstances, a traveller returning by the evening express might reach our neighborhood, these games, of course, could not go on for long. Then we knew that our separation was going to last, and that we ought to try to come to terms with time. In short, from then on, we accepted our status as prisoners; we were reduced to our past alone and even if a few people were tempted to live in the future, they quickly gave it up, as far as possible, suffering the wounds that the imagination eventually inflicts on those who trust in it.

Pondering the individuality of isolation

 I’ve been thinking a lot about how this experiment of physical distancing and how having to stay home as much as possible is such a personal experience depending on your personal circumstance.

I can’t keep thinking about the huge discrepancies that exist which is always true in life. But this crisis seems to be exacerbating that and that, perhaps more than anything, makes me feel a lot of sorrow.

No two people’s experience of it are alike… 

If you live alone. If you have a family. If you have a partner and no children. If you have school age children at home while you’re trying to work. If you still have a job or you’ve been layed off. If you were unemployed before this even happened.  If you have teenagers or young adults stuck in the house (or refusing to stay home enough).  If you live with an autistic child who no longer has the supports they need. If you were already struggling with depression. If you have a parent living with dementia and is in a care home and depending on the quality of that home, that alone would be so stress inducing. If you’re worried about your parents in another country.

Where you live in the world. If you’re an American versus Canadian or a Kiwi. 

If your husband or wife or loved one works on the front lines of health care. If you’re homeless. If you’re living in a new city where you don’t know many people. If you’re younger or older. If you’re an elder who can’t use technology versus an elder who can. If you feel loved. If you don’t.

If you have access to technology. If you were planning your wedding right in the middle of this. If you were waiting for elective surgery and are living with pain. If you’re a new immigrant or a refugee. If you’re living with a serious addiction. If you were deliriously happy before this. If you were or are in love.

If you have a faith. If you don’t. If you meditate. If you’ve been through enough hardship that you’ve had to develop inner resources to cope that now seem pretty valuable. If you’re a conspiracy theorist, an optimist, or an all-or-nothing type. If you’re a single mom. An introvert or an extrovert. If you’re living in a relationship that was emotionally or physically abusive before this even began. If you’re pregnant and expecting your first baby. If you’re a dreamer. An artist. A writer. A thinker. A runner. If you’re living with a disability.

The list goes on and on, and now for Canadians,  a senseless, inexplicable horrific act of violence layered on top.

Tonight for the first time I’ve felt a little down and a lot grouchy. So it’s a good thing I live alone. I can be however I need to be, acknowledge the feelings and it really won’t impact anybody but me.

Then a cousin in Toronto sent me a Youtube link to a beautiful choir from Saskatchewan called the Greystone Singers who you should definitely Google.  I listened to them and it made me feel a little better.  And then I found the Camden choir and it made me feel even better. It’s hopeful. If you can’t be anything else, be hopeful.

Who knew there were so many choirs in the world? And who knew you could see them singing together but apart but still so joyous and emotional just as they are in person.

https://youtu.be/2xWUL4N26vM

Corona virus and the myth of “normal”

I call this accidental pocket IPhone photo: Whirlwind. I thought it fit

I was listening to CBC Radio as I do most weekends and a retired minister from somewhere in Ontario was asked this question: “If you were still preaching, what do you think your message to your parishioners might be this Easter Weekend in the context of this novel Corona virus crisis?”

His response was very short because of time constraints but he suggested that if we learn anything, it should be that the “new normal” that keeps getting referenced is a misnomer.

He pointed out that for most of the people in the world, there is no “normal.” Normal is that mythical reality that a very small percentage of the world population gets to live because of their education and their economic wealth.

Nobody in their right mind would want to go back to the “normal” that existed immediately before this crisis because that normal isn’t something any of us should be aspiring to return to. It isn’t sustainable.

 That normal is all about the one percent.

That normal is about how as humans we are encroaching upon other species to a degree that is forever changing the world’s biodiversity to the detriment of our health; a point this novel Corona virus hasn’t got through pointing out, in an almost retaliatory way.

Normal is being okay with the inequities that exist in society with the impoverished, as always, bearing the most direct and painful impacts on their lives. They live in crisis every day.

Normal is all those problems we have shamefully incorporated into our daily life – passing street people with toques on the ground for spare change – with no collective will to change that.

Any new normal might be all the things we knew were problems but have never acted upon.

Things like providing appropriate levels of resources including services for prevention, intervention and adequate treatment for mental illness.

Things like providing decent social housing so instead of being okay with people begging for money, in every city in the world, recognizing that every person deserves the dignity of having a roof over their head at the end of the day.

Seeing the compassion and wisdom, and even financial savings to society, in providing a guaranteed universal income.

Taking one’s personal moral opinion out of how we treat drug addiction and accepting that it is, first and foremost, a health/mental health issue and then providing the resources to treat it as such.

Switching to prevention as the main medical model, not treating illness that has taken decades to develop because of lifestyle choices, including my own.

Rethinking how we change social isolation, not just in the elderly but in young adults, in seniors and in middle-aged and older men. Especially since so many of us live alone now.

Coming to terms with ethical questions about the value of any life – at one month or 100 years.

Understanding that thinking small, thinking only about yourself and your family’s well being is now a threat to humanity.

Internalizing once and for all that climate change is still the greatest threat, much more so than this virus.

I was listening to another interview where an evolutionary biologist from UBC, Sally Otto, PhD, was speaking about how humans have brought more destruction on the biodiversity of the planet than any other species. Of course, we’ve head that before. She says we’ve become  particularly good at destroying those species which could be considered “the specialists” and contributed to the greatest biodiversity in the first place.

While she says, she doesn’t have a lot of hope because of our impact on the natural world, she does have hope because of the way scientists around the world are working together with collective knowledge leading to better and quicker solutions. We see that as work on a vaccine and general research about the virus proceeds at unheard of before speed, because of global collaboration.

My friend Gwen pointed me towards this interview with Malcolm Gladwell. In this interview on the Munk Debates, Gladwell spoke to the issues I summarized above using a soccer team as the example.

A soccer team is only as strong as its weakest link. If you were going to improve the team, focusing on that weakest link and making it stronger would be the quickest way to make the entire team stronger. Our unsolved social problems are the weakest link in humanity.

I’m making mental notes of things I need to change in my own life when this is over. I expect many of you are doing the same thing.

The novel Corona virus is shining its wily contagious ways on the old normal and all its problems like never before.

We are now at a crossroads that will shape the evolutionary biology of human beings just as we continue to deliver the death blow to so many others species.

COVID-19: The Mother of all staycations

I keep finding messages. First I found a whole street of fairy houses I didn’t know existed in Victoria and then this (above), in a tree, near my apartment. I like it. Sweet.

I can take no credit for sourcing what I’m about to share with you.

My friend Susan in Vancouver sent it to me yesterday and someone sent it to her. Please share it if you are so inclined.

I started reading it while I was still in bed, early in the morning, worrying that using an IPhone in bed that I hadn’t wiped down upon waking would surely come back to bite me. You see how my brain has changed in ways that I’m not okay with?

Of course the topic is COVID-19. But it’s something that’s written with so much insight.

Yesterday, (today right now as I write this) was the first day I was feeling like, ‘oh, this, this is for real! This isn’t just some mother of all Staycations.'”

Here’s the article, The Coronation (15-30 minutes)  https://charleseisenstein.org/essays/the-coronation/

Here’s a link if you’d like to know more about this person, Charles Eisenstein.

Hope you’re staying the course, physically distancing at 2 meters, socially connecting, keeping up some weird new routine, taking time to go inside yourself, and think about what you might want to change once the crisis part is over. I hope you’re doing okay.