Barn Memory, Prose-Poem by Catherine Raine (2007)

I am a ruined barn, empty but smelling of ancient hay. I sit in a lost valley, no longer a shelter nor part of a living farm. I used to be warmer, to glow orange from lanterns on February mornings, to retain animal heat. Now my shadows fill in their outlines, brief flashes from the highway my only relief.

I am tired of being a relic, a rural ghost that attracts photographers from the city. Their insulting attention reminds me that I am just a skeleton of economies past, a symbol of romantic decay.

All my sounds are whispers and echoes now, where once I heard grunts, shouts, whinnies, cries of pain and hunger. It’s so quiet now. Ruin is quiet. My unsteady walls feel dry, brittle, so straw-like that one warm hand on my door would set me ablaze. I welcome this fire, this sweet extinction into ashes.

When it rains, I feel the blessed water soaking my beams, splashing through broken panes, swelling the hayloft floor so that I forget my ladder is broken and my stalls now shells that once held a family’s wealth and sustenance. I miss being whole. I miss being real. I miss the animals I used to protect.

(The audio recording below is from my reading of the poem at The Urban Gallery on Saturday October 25th, 2014)

 

 

External Validation 1987

Constructing and deconstructing this collage has given me the chance to play with ideas of aging, identity,  and the artifacts of external validation such as grade reports, standardized test scores, photographs, newspaper articles touting achievement, and even a badge from a 1987 teen pageant that I attended at age 18. It felt cathartic to glue down and tear back these defining layers of personal papers, creating something new from the documentary “evidence” of academic perfection and parental approval, examining the official proof of my self-worth.

The following photos show the process of collage and then décollage that constructed “External Validation 1987.”

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Hold it together, sister
1987 Miss
1987 Miss (fellow contestants)

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Winner of Miss Teen Missouri 1987 (spoiler: it's not me!)
Winner of Miss Teen Missouri 1987 (spoiler: it’s not me!)

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Contestant #101, Catherine Raine
Contestant #101, Catherine Raine

 

My senior-year class photo
My senior-year class photo

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The first tear
The first tear

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Holiday Collages by Catherine

Along with flip flops, sunscreen, and a hat, I did not forget to take my collage bag with me on vacation! I made the following collages on rainy days and quiet evenings in a hotel in Elliot Lake, Ontario.

Autumnal Window, Catherine Raine, 2014
Autumnal Window, Catherine Raine, 2014 (Cat image by Aki Sogabe)
Jump Over the Potion, Catherine Raine, 2014
Jump Over the Potion, Catherine Raine, 2014
Pottery Boat of Solitude, Catherine Raine, 2014
Pottery Boat of Solitude, Catherine Raine, 2014
Pottery Boat of Solitude, Catherine Raine, 2014
Pottery Boat of Solitude, Catherine Raine, 2014
Urn of Fashion Regret, Catherine Raine, 2014
Urn of Fashion Regret, Catherine Raine, 2014
Urn of Fashion Regret, Catherine Raine, 2014
Urn of Fashion Regret, Catherine Raine, 2014

Wispy Walker Paper Doll Clothes Repurposed

As my mother clears boxes of old papers from her house, hundreds of pieces of ephemera have surfaced from previous decades, including a set of Wispy Walker paper doll clothes that I played with in the 1970’s. The pantsuits, nightgowns, and dresses were too unique to simply throw in the recycling bin, so I kept them to become the stars of twelve collages.

Peace Out Pink and Denim, Catherine Raine, 2014
Peace Out Pink and Denim, Catherine Raine, 2014
Peace Out Pink and Denim, Catherine Raine, 2014
Peace Out Pink and Denim, Catherine Raine, 2014
Peace Out Pink and Denim, Catherine Raine, 2014
Peace Out Pink and Denim, Catherine Raine, 2014
Blue-Green Twirl, Catherine Raine  2014
Blue-Green Twirl, Catherine Raine 2014
Blue-Green Twirl, Catherine Raine  2014
Blue-Green Twirl, Catherine Raine 2014
Groovy Conversation, Catherine Raine 2014
Groovy Conversation, Catherine Raine 2014
Groovy Conversation, Catherine Raine 2014
Groovy Conversation, Catherine Raine 2014
Groovy Conversation, Catherine Raine 2014
Groovy Conversation, Catherine Raine 2014
Beaded Grebe Paper Doll, Catherine Raine 2014
Beaded Grebe Paper Doll, Catherine Raine 2014
Beaded Grebe Paper Doll, Catherine Raine 2014
Beaded Grebe Paper Doll, Catherine Raine 2014
Another Pink and Blue Day, Catherine Raine 2014
Another Pink and Blue Day, Catherine Raine 2014
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Another Pink and Blue Day, Catherine Raine 2014
Couture Grebe and Fashion Colleague, Catherine Raine 2014
Couture Grebe and Fashion Colleague, Catherine Raine 2014
Hummingbird Prophet on Wheels, Catherine Raine 2014
Hummingbird Prophet on Wheels, Catherine Raine 2014
Hummingbird Prophet on Wheels, Catherine Raine 2014
Hummingbird Prophet on Wheels, Catherine Raine 2014
Hummingbird Prophet on Wheels, Catherine Raine 2014
Hummingbird Prophet on Wheels, Catherine Raine 2014
Walking the Pocketwatch, Catherine Raine 2014
Walking the Pocketwatch, Catherine Raine 2014
Walking the Pocketwatch, Catherine Raine 2014
Walking the Pocketwatch, Catherine Raine 2014
"No, I Do Not Require a Ghostly Butler Today", Catherine Raine 2014
“No, I Do Not Require a Ghostly Butler Today”, Catherine Raine 2014
"No, I Do Not Require a Ghostly Butler Today", Catherine Raine 2014
“No, I Do Not Require a Ghostly Butler Today”, Catherine Raine 2014
"No, I Do Not Require a Ghostly Butler Today", Catherine Raine 2014
“No, I Do Not Require a Ghostly Butler Today”, Catherine Raine 2014
Circulating Paper Dolls, Catherine Raine, 2014
Circulating Paper Dolls, Catherine Raine, 2014
Circulating Paper Dolls, Catherine Raine, 2014
Circulating Paper Dolls, Catherine Raine, 2014
Circulating Paper Dolls, Catherine Raine, 2014
Circulating Paper Dolls, Catherine Raine, 2014
Multiplying Layers, Catherine Raine, 2014
Multiplying Layers, Catherine Raine, 2014
Multiplying Layers, Catherine Raine, 2014
Multiplying Layers, Catherine Raine, 2014
Multiplying Layers, Catherine Raine, 2014
Multiplying Layers, Catherine Raine, 2014
Multiplying Layers, Catherine Raine, 2014
Goth Bird Stands Tall, Catherine Raine, 2014
Goth Bird Stands Tall, Catherine Raine, 2014
Goth Bird Stands Tall, Catherine Raine, 2014
Goth Bird Stands Tall, Catherine Raine, 2014
Goth Bird Stands Tall, Catherine Raine, 2014
Goth Bird Stands Tall, Catherine Raine, 2014

Laundry Meditation

IMG_8548On a washing day, I place the white basket on the patio table, move the line into position, and grab some single socks. As I administer the stability of clothespins, I relish the sun on my face and the breeze that moves the tall thistles and Queen Anne’s lace.

My hands attach the socks, shirts, towels, and pajama bottoms to the line, connecting me to a pre-electric time when the power of the sun was central not alternative.

IMG_8549Full of solar gratitude, the pulley and I send the clothing further down the line, deeper into the garden. It is exhilarating to feel like a sailor who unfurls her sails for the wind to catch them. I scootch the entire set of washing as far as I can, until the first sock is almost touching the top of the plants. Each time, it is a great sideways launch into the unknown, pennants of the sky meeting green messengers of the earth.

IMG_8561Task finished, I stand on the deck to admire the animated line, smiling at the dance of billowing cloth that the wind creates as it plays with pant legs and flowing hems. I observe the moving shadows cast on the grass below. And I breathe the scent of summer warmth that the laundry will later hold in memory, releasing sunshine on thankful skin.

Jenny’s Purple Tuftscape

Four years ago today, I lost a childhood friend to cancer. She was only forty-one years old. To celebrate Jenny and her love of all things purple and fun, I’d like to dedicate this tufted art piece to her memory. I communed with her playful, artistic spirit as I built layers of paper with matte medium and then began a process of décollage.

The photo-chronology below begins with the first layer of collage, builds to the top layer, and then documents the process of tearing away and other alterations.

Jenny's Purple Tuftscape, Catherine Raine 2014
Jenny’s Purple Tuftscape, Catherine Raine 2014
Jenny's Purple Tuftscape, Catherine Raine 2014
Jenny’s Purple Tuftscape, Catherine Raine 2014
Jenny's Purple Tuftscape, Catherine Raine 2014
Jenny’s Purple Tuftscape, Catherine Raine 2014
Jenny's Purple Tuftscape, Catherine Raine 2014
Jenny’s Purple Tuftscape, Catherine Raine 2014
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Jenny’s Purple Tuftscape, Catherine Raine 2014
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Jenny’s Purple Tuftscape, Catherine Raine 2014
Jenny's Purple Tuftscape, Catherine Raine 2014
Jenny’s Purple Tuftscape, Catherine Raine 2014
Jenny's Purple Tuftscape, Catherine Raine 2014
Jenny’s Purple Tuftscape, Catherine Raine 2014
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Jenny’s Purple Tuftscape, Catherine Raine 2014
Jenny's Purple Tuftscape, Catherine Raine 2014
Jenny’s Purple Tuftscape, Catherine Raine 2014
Jenny's Purple Tuftscape, Catherine Raine 2014
Jenny’s Purple Tuftscape, Catherine Raine 2014
Jenny's Purple Tuftscape, Catherine Raine 2014
Jenny’s Purple Tuftscape, Catherine Raine 2014
Jenny's Purple Tuftscape, Catherine Raine 2014
Jenny’s Purple Tuftscape, Catherine Raine 2014
Jenny's Purple Tuftscape, Catherine Raine 2014
Jenny’s Purple Tuftscape, Catherine Raine 2014
Jenny's Purple Tuftscape, Catherine Raine 2014
Jenny’s Purple Tuftscape, Catherine Raine 2014
Jenny's Purple Tuftscape, Catherine Raine 2014
Jenny’s Purple Tuftscape, Catherine Raine 2014
Jenny's Purple Tuftscape, Catherine Raine 2014
Jenny’s Purple Tuftscape, Catherine Raine 2014
Jenny's Purple Tuftscape, Catherine Raine 2014
Jenny’s Purple Tuftscape, Catherine Raine 2014
Jenny's Purple Tuftscape, Catherine Raine 2014
Jenny’s Purple Tuftscape, Catherine Raine 2014
Jenny's Purple Tuftscape, Catherine Raine 2014
Jenny’s Purple Tuftscape, Catherine Raine 2014
Jenny's Purple Tuftscape, Catherine Raine 2014
Jenny’s Purple Tuftscape, Catherine Raine 2014

I miss you very much, Jenny! I’ll never forget your hilarious laugh, astuteness, and loving smile.

Animal Spirit Guides Inspire Collage Art!

IMG_8185Four years ago, I bought Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm’s The Druid Animal Oracle Deck  with the intention of offering collage workshops based on animal teachings. My friend Ellen Jaffe and I gave the deck a trial run at a home yoga studio, each of us selecting a card at random without looking at the illustrated side. I chose Wolf.

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Illustrated by Bill Worthington
Illustration by Bill Worthington

Ellen and I took turns reading about the selected animal from a booklet provided with the cards. I learned that wolf’s keywords are “Intuition, Learning, (and) The Shadow” and that wolf can encourage us to not to be afraid of “the inner power and strength you feel when you spend time alone” (22).

After discussing the meaning of the cards, I pulled out a folder of images I had collected for the animals contained in the deck (each animal had its own transparent sleeve full of pictures). From an assorted set of wolf pictures, I selected a few for my collage.

Forest Wolves, Catherine Raine 2010
Forest Wolves, Catherine Raine 2010

As a follow up to our experiment the previous year, Ellen and I facilitated an art workshop in 2011 called “Collage Your Animal Spirit Guide” at Fermata‘s Music Therapy Centre in Hamilton. Each of the participants selected a random card, read from the booklet about their card, and received a set of pictures on which to base a collage. A beautiful silence, palpable with concentration, filled the room, and it was wonderful to share the finished pieces with each other at the end of the session.

Illustration by Bill Worthington
Illustration by Bill Worthington

My personal animal guide for the day at Fermata was Otter. According to Carr-Gomm’s explanatory booklet, Otter “invites us to play, to ‘go with the flow’ of life and experience — to become a child again” (32).

Flower Hatted Otters, Catherine Raine 2011
Flower Hatted Otters, Catherine Raine 2011

Trying to capture the idea of flow and movement, I found some swirling fish and active grasses. For playfulness, I gave the otters and their fish friend some red flower hats.

Flower Hatted Otters, Catherine Raine 2011
Flower Hatted Otters, Catherine Raine 2011

In addition to art sponsored by Wolf and Otter, five other collages have been inspired by engagement with the Druid Animal Oracle Deck. After a gap of a few years, I got the deck out again when my mother was visiting me in Toronto. This time, Eagle surfaced from among the cards laid out on my kitchen table. (Mom selected Hawk).

Illustrated by Bill Worthington
Illustration by Bill Worthington

“Intelligence, Renewal, (and) Courage” are Eagle’s key words. The booklet asserts that Eagle “will . . . show you how to renew and rejuvenate yourself, by demonstrating the art of plunging — at the just the right moment — into the lake of the heart” (24).

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The Knitted Eagle, Catherine Raine 2013

My eagle collage ended up depicting a rare species of knitted raptor, a bird who is surprisingly at home in the water as well as the sky. Much less predatory than its non-textile cousins, the knitted eagle enjoys a quiet life of introspection.

The Knitted Eagle, Collage by Catherine Raine, 2013
The Knitted Eagle, Catherine Raine, 2013
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The Knitted Eagle,  Catherine Raine 2013

Several months after my mother’s visit, another friend and I decided to consult the animal spirit guides and make collages in a food court in North York. This time, the card I selected belonged to Raven.

Illustration by Bill Worthington
Illustration by Bill Worthington

Raven is all about “Healing, Initiation, (and) Protection.” The booklet suggests that the Raven’s message “may also mean that we can come to a resolution of the opposites — experiencing that in darkness there is light, and in light darkness” (20).

Ravens Three, Collage by Catherine Raine, 2013
Ravens Three,  Catherine Raine 2013

In my collage, three ravens consider life among the swirling patterns, discerning mysteries with their keen eyes.

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Ravens Three, Catherine Raine 2013

In a subsequent session with the same friend I’d met at the North York food court,  I chose Frog, whose key words are “Sensitivity, Medicine, and Hidden Beauty and Power” (19).

Illustration by Bill Worthington
Illustration by Bill Worthington

We started our collages at a coffee shop with a large wooden table, and I completed mine at home. The resulting piece emerged with the help of paper, stickers, paint pens, and watercolour.

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Frogs’ Mosaic Green Room, Catherine Raine 2013

Carr-Gomm’s booklet states that Frog is “a companion of the rain spirits” who can “help you develop your sensitivity to others, to healing and to sound through your skin and your whole body” (19).

Frogs' Mosaic Green Room, Collage by Catherine Raine, 2013
Frogs’ Mosaic Green Room, Catherine Raine 2013

Frog also encourages us to “look for the beauty and the magic behind appearances” (19).

Frogs' Mosaic Green Room, Collage by Catherine Raine, 2013
Frogs’ Mosaic Green Room, Catherine Raine 2013

Goose followed Frog as the next creature collage made in response to The Druid Animal Oracle Deck. My friend and I auditioned a different wooden table at a new coffee shop for this session, and it turned out to be a goose-friendly venue.

Illustration by Bill Worthington
Illustration by Bill Worthington

When I turned to the Carr-Gomm booklet to find out more about Goose, I discovered that its main attributes are “Vigilance, Parenthood, (and) Productive Power” (27).

Geese Like Pink, Catherine Raine 2014
Geese Like Pink, Catherine Raine 2014

One possible interpretation of the card’s meaning is that “goose, with its strong attachment to family and the ability to fly extraordinarily high from one continent to another, shows us that it is possible to be both grounded and spiritual in our daily lives” (27).

Geese Like Pink, Catherine Raine 2014
Geese Like Pink, Catherine Raine 2014

Finally, Seal was the most recent animal spirit mentor to appear during an oracle session that my friend and I conducted at a home retreat.

Illustration by Bill Worthington
Illustration by Bill Worthington

Symbolizing “Love, Longing, and Dilemma,” Seal can “act as a guide and companion through the watery realm of the emotions and the Otherworld” (40).

Wistful Seal, Catherine Raine 2014
Wistful Seal, Catherine Raine 2014
Wistful Seal, Catherine Raine 2014
Wistful Seal, Catherine Raine 2014

After Seal, who knows which animal will be the next guide? As for the seven creatures who arrived over the past four years, I’d like to express my gratitude to Wolf, Otter, Eagle, Raven, Frog, Goose, and Seal for their energizing insights and creativity!

Flying Flower Cat, Catherine Raine 2014
Flying Flower Cat, Catherine Raine 2014

 

Eleven Letters from Eric from 1986 to 2002

The collages pictured here take inspiration from eleven letters written by my hometown friend Eric Canuteson. He wrote the first one in 1986, and the last one I received arrived in 2002 before e-mail took over as our means of correspondence.

Near the end of 2011, I was devastated to learn that Eric suffered an untimely death at age 43. I had trouble believing that the teenager I had passed notes to during Greek and Roman History could be gone. His friendship meant a great deal to me, and I wanted to honor his memory with an art project that incorporated actual text from the letters and images, people, and places he described.

Love Eric, Catherine Raine 2012 (Eric’s signature from 1987 letter)

Preserving examples of Eric’s handwriting feels really important. Messy, scratchy, sprawling – I love the way he always signed his name in really huge letters. He also was a great one for circling or putting boxes around important phrases and doodling in the margins. They are the letters of a busy, dedicated person who has taken the time to share his thoughts with a friend. I’ll always be grateful to Eric for that.

Love Eric, Catherine Raine 2012 (Eric’s signature from 1987 letter)
Love Eric, Catherine Raine 2012 (Eric’s signature from 1987 letter)

Before I started this project, I photocopied the letters because I couldn’t bear to tear up the originals. I also gathered up as many images as I could that seemed relevant to the letters’ context.

Love Eric, Catherine Raine 2012 (Eric’s signature from 1987 letter)

The next collage, “Eric’s Excellent Intellectual Adventure,” takes its theme from the first letter Eric ever sent me. He had just started his freshman year at Colorado College and I was in my last year in high school. Postmarked September 24, 1986, it describes his classes, first term paper, and grades. He also asked me to pass on some messages to his former teachers, including a tongue-in-cheek summary of his political views.

Eric’s Excellent Intellectual Adventure, Catherine Raine 2012
Eric’s Excellent Intellectual Adventure, Catherine Raine 2012

I used the actual postmark from the envelope for this collage. The postmark and the political figures Eric mentions place our friendship in historical context, for his letters are both cherished personal souvenirs and valuable documents that give us a snapshot of an era. It seems an obvious point, but it still astonishes me that Eric’s first letter existed in a world before South African apartheid ended, before the Berlin Wall fell, before Clinton (sandwiched between the elder and junior George Bush), before 9/11, and before Obama.

Eric’s Excellent Intellectual Adventure, Catherine Raine 2012

I am a Liberal and always have been one.

Reagan Sucks.

Rehnquist Sucks (Rightquest)

Death to Fascism.

Daniel Monion is a joke. (It took me awhile to figure out that Eric was referring to Daniel Moynihan. It didn’t help that I didn’t remember who he was).

Support the ANC!

I hate Republican business majors.

There aren’t any here, thank God.

I really like how he put the title “Mr.” in quotation marks next to his name. At age 18, maybe he didn’t comfortably inhabit the title Mr. Eric Canuteson, so he left the “Mr.” outside the box he drew around his new contact details.

Eric’s Excellent Intellectual Adventure, Catherine Raine 2012

The same letter of September 24, 1986 testifies to Eric’s academic success in his crucial first year of college. With Eric’s ambitious spirit and fierce intelligence, he laid a strong foundation to later complete his Ph.D.

I was impressed by Eric’s go-getter attitude in all the years I knew him, but that’s not to say he couldn’t be laid back, too. I loved the part in the letter where he admits he put off writing his paper to watch an Eagles versus Bears football game.

Eagles Versus Bears, Catherine Raine 2012

I got a B+ on my very first college paper (I wrote it in a very short time because I was watching football.)

An arrow starting from the letter “a” in football points to the words “Eagles v. Bears” floating in the space above the first line of the letter.

Eagles Versus Bears, Catherine Raine 2012

The letter goes on to describe how he received an A on his final test.

I got the highest grade in the class — there were only two A’s. By the way, My class is SATIRE AND CARICATURE.

I’m taking Russian (7 hours of it, no less) in the 5th and 6th blocks. (Colorado College’s block program allows its students to focus intensely on one class at a time in a series of eight blocks a year).

Eagles Versus Bears, Catherine Raine 2012

The next letter arrived in April 1987 and introduced me to Eric’s love of Pink Floyd.

The Final Cut, Catherine Raine 2012

I listen to Pink Floyd all the time. I’m doing so right now. The album The Final Cut.

The Final Cut, Catherine Raine 2012

I always enjoyed it when Eric told me where he was or what he was listening to while he was writing his letters. It helped me feel connected to his reality even though he lived far away.

The Final Cut, Catherine Raine 2012

The song is awesome. “Not Now John.” The song is about making a movie.

The Final Cut, Catherine Raine 2012

“Who cares what it’s about as long as the kids (go).”

The Final Cut, Catherine Raine 2012

The opening line is “Fuck all that, we’ve got to get on with these.”

The subsequent paragraph of the April, 1987 letter turns its attention to another Pink Floyd album, the iconic Dark Side of the Moon. He describes the songs as “very political and philosophical.”

Dark Moon, Catherine Raine 2012

Dark Side of the Moon is a very good album. It’s about death and depression (the “dark side” of human nature.)

All That You Touch, Catherine Raine 2012

One of the songs has the classic line, “All that you touch and all that you see is all that your life will ever be.”

All That You Touch, Catherine Raine 2012

Pink Floyd tends to be very gloomy, but I like it.

Dark Moon, Catherine Raine 2012

A lot of people hear listen to The Grateful Dead. I’ve heard some Dead but I don’t like it too much. Looks like I’m not going to be a “Dead Head.”

Dark Moon, Catherine Raine 2012

By the way, Dark Side of the Moon ends with a faint voice in the background who states, “There is no dark side of the Moon really; as a matter of fact, it’s all dark.” Isn’t that awesome?

All That You Touch, Catherine Raine 2012

I’ve got to go. Love, Eric.

Eric’s next letter arrived a few months later. It’s shorter than most because he was in the middle of his freshman year finals. The shape of his letters hints at what a hurry he was in, many of them blending together, such as the way the top of the “t” in Catherine stretches to touch the top of the “h.” The calligraphy of swiftness.

Have to Study for My Physics Final, Catherine Raine 2012

Catherine,

I don’t have much time to write because I really have to study for my Physics final. I haven’t done any homework for the class and I’m about 300 page(s) behind.

Have to Study for My Physics Final, Catherine Raine 2012

I feel bad about not writing you. I like you a lot and consider you a very good friend. I hope you realize that. I just noticed that every sentence in this letter begins with “I.”  Oh, well.

Have to Study for My Physics Final, Catherine Raine 2012

Do you like The Who? I think they are awesome. The reason I’m writing is because I was listening to “Behind Blue Eyes.” Have you heard the song? It reminded (me) of the conversations we used to have about me . . . . “ No one knows what it’s like to be the Bad Man/to be the Sad Man/Behind Blue Eyes.”

Have to Study for My Physics Final, Catherine Raine 2012

Do you know where you are going to school for sure yet? Write back if you want — otherwise I’ll talk to you this summer. Love, Eric

After a letterless five months, I was delighted to receive an illustrated missive in November 1987. He wrote the first part of it while visiting the Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs.

In the Garden of the Gods, Collage by Catherine Raine 2013
Garden of the Gods, Catherine Raine 2013

Catherine,

Greetings. I am watching the sunset at this time.

Garden of the Gods, Collage by Catherine Raine 2013
Garden of the Gods, Catherine Raine 2013

I’m out at the Garden of the Gods which is a large group of rock formations.

Garden of the Gods, Collage by Catherine Raine 2013
Garden of the Gods, Catherine Raine 2013

It’s only 4 o’clock but the sun will set soon because there are mountains to the west. I wish you were here.

Garden of the Gods, Collage by Catherine Raine 2013
Garden of the Gods, Catherine Raine 2013
Garden of the Gods, Collage by Catherine Raine 2013
Garden of the Gods, Catherine Raine 2013

Two dark parallel lines frame a simple sketch of Eric’s view. A hill with three lines sprouting from it is Norad, and Pike’s Peak is labelled, too. I love how he included the precise height of Pike’s Peak: 14,110 feet. To the right, jagged rocks burst out of the informative illustration box with the caption “Rocks obstructing more mountains.”

Garden of the Gods, Collage by Catherine Raine 2013
Garden of the Gods, Catherine Raine 2013

Below the box is an apology that holds painful layers of meaning. A five-month gap between two letters in 1987 seems like a brief interlude compared to the stretch of time that continues to expand without mercy after Eric has passed well beyond the world of letters, apologies, and stamps. His silence stretches both backwards and forwards in time.

Garden of the Gods, Collage by Catherine Raine 2013
Garden of the Gods, Catherine Raine 2013

I’m sorry it has been so long since I have written to you.

  • It Isn’t To Be Polite, Catherine Raine, 2013

If you are wondering why I am writing though, it isn’t to be polite or because I owe you a letter.

It Isn't To Be Polite, Collage by Catherine Raine, 2013
It Isn’t To Be Polite, Catherine Raine 2013

It’s because I suddenly got the urge to talk to you. Why this urge? Well, truthfully, you are the first girl I ever felt really close to and you are always a friend (in the sense of friend much different than a superficial “social friend.”)

It Isn’t To Be Polite, Catherine Raine, 2013
Tightrope Walker, Collage by Catherine Raine 2013
Tightrope Walker, Catherine Raine 2013

The three-page letter continues with news of a break-up and a reflection about how the presence of Norad makes Colorado City “one of the targets for a first strike.” With a wavy line to show a time and location break, he promises to finish the letter back at college.

I had a really great Ethics course. I did a lot of thinking. My favorite quote is (in) the class was from Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Nietszche.

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The text Eric quotes comes from page 18 of this book: “there is no Devil and no Hell. Your soul will be dead even sooner than your body: so fear nothing more!”

 There is no devil and no hell.

                 Your soul will be dead even before your body.

Fear nothing further. (F. N.)

Tightrope Walker, Collage by Catherine Raine, 2013 (I like the text box and how Eric added bold-letter drama to the word Zarathustra. I wonder if the box was intended to represent the tombstone he mentions below).

I think I’ll have this quote inscribed on my tombstone if I have one (which I doubt.) I bet the religious people in my family wouldn’t appreciate the grim humor.

Tightrope Walker, Catherine Raine, 2013
Turning to a new missive dated March 8th, 1988, Eric opens the letter with a response to a debate we’d been having about Christianity.

Repression, Catherine Raine 2013
Catherine, I think your analysis of the Christian as one who would deny hatred is more than unfair. The Christian knows hatred. In fact, the hatred of the Christian is a brutal form of masochism which denies and hates with more energy than you can imagine. It’s this denial of self which is more cruel than any form of hatred you are capable of.

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Repression, Catherine Raine 2013

 

This self-hatred is linked closely with the key to Christian Ethics — that thought can in itself be a form of sin. This is the root of Christian masochism.

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Repression, Catherine Raine 2013

 

This form of ethics replaces choice in action with guilt over having the thoughts which caused a choice. An ethical system in which thought can be wrong can only lead to unhealthy repression.

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Repression, Catherine Raine 2013

 

I’m taking a class in Biblical Ethics next year. I think the prof. is going to dislike my ideas but maybe not. My minor is “Theories of Ethics.”

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Repression, Catherine Raine 2013

 

Eric’s next paragraph turns to less abstract matters.

Love Exists, Collage by Catherine Raine 2012
Love Exists, Catherine Raine 2012 (The text you see in this collage comes from a photocopy dyed with instant coffee).

Tomorrow I leave for a trip to the Grand Canyon. It is going to be really fun, I think. I’ll be gone for about a week.

Love Exists, Collage by Catherine Raine
Love Exists, Catherine Raine 2012

 

I’m going to be home in two week(s) for spring break (March 23-April 3, I think). I’d like to see you if possible. Love exists, Catherine. Don’t be depressed or alienated. I really care about you.

LOVE, Eric

Love Exists, Catherine Raine 2012

 

The third page of the letter contains a post-script dated March 18th.

Love Exists, Catherine Raine 2012

Well, I was rushing to pack for my trip and didn’t mail your letter. It was a fun trip. The Grand (Canyon) is an amazing place . . . I had a lot of time to be by myself and think.

I checked and my spring break does begin March 23 so I’ll drive with some friends and get home late that night.

Give me a call.

The exact date of Eric’s sixth letter is uncertain, but my guess is late spring 1988. Accompanying the letter was an application form and a catalog with “a lot of propaganda” (Eric’s phrase) about Colorado College.

I was thinking of transferring from Westminster College after an unhappy freshman year there, and I appreciated the concern behind his question: “Do you have a Financial Aid Form filled out yet? You should do that fairly soon and have it (need analysis) sent to the schools you are applying to.”

Herd-like Organizations, Catherine Raine, 2013

After letting me know that Colorado College “is dropping one block out of the year in the so-called ‘Eight-block plan’ (and) CC also hasn’t divested (another point they don’t dwell on in the recruiting pamphlets),” Eric responds to a story I had told him in a recent letter. The story was about how I started an Amnesty International chapter and my surprise when one of my fellow freshman approached me to say that she would love to join the group but she could not. She hesitated because she was worried that the CIA would open a file on her.

Herd-like Organizations, Catherine Raine, 2013

I also complained to Eric that I felt left out of social life at my Greek-dominant college because I was not selected to join a sorority. His reply was comforting:

Personally, I think Kappa Kappa Gamma and other herd-like organizations are a greater threat to Democracy than Amnesty International, even if the CIA and K. don’t agree with me.

Herd-like Organizations, Catherine Raine, 2013

 

The next paragraph continues:

I just started reading a book — Dead Souls, Nikolai Gogol. I think it’s going to be a really good book. I went shopping with a friend . . . who bought a book by Nabokov and a Cheap Trick tape at the Bookstore — quite a contrast.

Herd-like Organizations, Catherine Raine, 2013

 

Friday night, he and I filled out our Boto Bags* with drinks and got slightly drunk while walking around Colorado Springs. It’s really a shit-hole of a city but it was fun.

Bota Bag, Catherine Raine, 2013

Did you pick up the book by Kafka yet? I hope you like it. 

Bota Bag, Catherine Raine, 2013

 

Bota Bag, Catherine Raine, 2013

If you need to ask me something about your appl. that can’t wait for a letter answer, give me a call. Otherwise, write

LOVE,

ERIC

* Do you know what a Boto bag is? It looks like this.

Bota Bag, Catherine Raine, 2013

A circular postmark dates the seventh letter as April 5th, 1989. Eric writes:

Catherine,

It is great to hear from you, as always. I’ve been thinking of you too recently and I almost started a letter. However, my physics lab class doesn’t allow for such frivolous behavior.

Lonely and Frightening Thought, Collage by Catherine Raine 2013
Lonely and Frightening Thought, Catherine Raine 2013

Yeah, my class really sucks this block, but to answer your questions — yes, I would say that I am happy in my “pleasant by not idyllic existence.” In fact, I’m somewhat sad that I only have another year here after which, I’ll have to enter the “real world” — no more free time and lots of neat people around like the 15 years of school I have had. Of course, if I go to grad school I’ll a have a few more years — sort of a temporary extension. But I know that the Grade School – Junior High – Senior High – College cycle has been completed and from here on, I will have to make a life for myself. Its a somewhat lonely and frightening thought.

Lonely and Frightening Thought, Collage by Catherine Raine 2013
Lonely and Frightening Thought, Catherine Raine 2013
Lonely and Frightening Thought, Collage by Catherine Raine 2013
Lonely and Frightening Thought, Catherine Raine 2013
Lonely and Frightening Thought, Collage by Catherine Raine 2013
Lonely and Frightening Thought, Catherine Raine 2013
Lonely and Frightening Thought, Collage by Catherine Raine 2013
Lonely and Frightening Thought, Catherine Raine 2013

I was very disturbed to hear that you are unhappy. You are one of the neatest people I have ever known.

Feelings of Alienation, Collage by Catherine Raine, 2013
Feelings of Alienation, Catherine Raine 2013

I understand your feelings of alienation — everyone is basically alone and if you choose to explore this reality rather than drown it in social activity or religion, you will only increase the feeling of alienation. It’s worth it though.

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Feelings of Alienation, Catherine Raine 2013

Make friends when you can but never forget that you are alone. I care about you a lot but you are still alone. You may fall in love and forget for awhile, but I promise that sooner or later you’ll realize — you are still alone. So is everyone, whether they realize it or not.

Feelings of Alienation, Collage by Catherine Raine, 2013
Feelings of Alienation, Catherine Raine, 2013

LOVE,

Feelings of Alienation, Collage by Catherine Raine, 2013
Feelings of Alienation, Catherine Raine 2013

ERIC

Letter number eight was postmarked July 20, 1990 and arrived on University of California, San Diego letterhead:

IMG_1977Catherine,

How are you? You’ve got to write me and tell me what the hell’s going on in your life. As you no doubt concluded from the letterhead, I am working in San Diego this summer. I will be starting my Ph.D. program this fall.

IMG_2394
Just Kidding, Catherine Raine 2013

I want to know (how) Europe was. How have you changed Catherine? Not just in Europe, but in the last few years when I’ve seen you less and less. What are your long term plans — graduate school, job, get married and pregnant (just kidding), or something more original like mercenary, jewel thief, sex therapist, talk show hostess.

Just Kidding, Collage by Catherine Raine, 2013
Just Kidding, Catherine Raine 2013
Just Kidding, Collage by Catherine Raine, 2013
Just Kidding, Catherine Raine 2013
Sex Therapist Career Option, Collage by Catherine Raine 2013
Sex Therapist Career Option, Catherine Raine 2013

Are you looking forward to your senior year? Are you dreading it? Write back,

Love Always,

Eric

Mercenary or Talk Show Hostess, Collage by Catherine Raine 2014
Mercenary or Talk Show Hostess, Catherine Raine 2014
Mercenary or Talk Show Hostess, Collage by Catherine Raine 2014
Mercenary or Talk Show Hostess, Catherine Raine 2014
Mercenary or Talk Show Hostess, Collage by Catherine Raine 2014
Mercenary or Talk Show Hostess, Catherine Raine 2014
Mercenary or Talk Show Hostess, Collage by Catherine Raine 2014
Mercenary or Talk Show Hostess, Catherine Raine 2014

As a graduate student in Scotland, receiving letters from home was cause for rejoicing. I still remember how happy I was to receive an aerogramme from Eric in January of 1992.IMG_4065

CATHERINE

I sit a stone’s throw from the house where you lived in Liberty (“your house?”, “your parents’ house”?) — where better to start a letter to you? I came with my dad up to Jewell because I was bored . . . . . By the way, I’m sitting on the steps up to Jewell at the corner of Jewell and Franklin so I really am near The House. I’m sure you yourself sat here occasionally.

IMG_4067

Your House Isn't LIke Other Houses, Collage by Catherine Raine, 2014
Your House Isn’t Like Other Houses, Catherine Raine 2014
Your House Isn't LIke Other Houses, Collage by Catherine Raine, 2014
Your House Isn’t Like Other Houses, Catherine Raine 2014

Well, I’ll have to continue this back — Wow, I see your mother [I feel weird] — home. Your mother got out of a white car and walked up to your house. Your mother is back getting something out of the white car. Well, I’ve got to leave. I’ll just take one last look at the house and get out of here. Your house isn’t like other houses.

IMG_4068
I love how Eric wrote letters like a playwright, setting the scene and including dialogue and interior clues.

Significant break in time, place, and mood

Setting: back at parent’s house

     What is going on in your psyche?? Would you like me to come visit you sometime? [Some friendships are firmly "rooted" in place and time and have no meaning outside of a given context. Is ours? I think not; what do you think? Anyway, I will probably come if you want me to.] What exactly are you studying? Do you have to eat a lot of haggis? Well, enough questions.

Rooted in Place and Time, Collage by Catherine Raine, 2014
Rooted in Place and Time, Catherine Raine 2014

All I did this X-mas was sit around and read. Why did I just write that? It is not true. I did lots of things including: ski, go to a country bar in Denver, . . . . see several movies, try to call you. However, for the last 5 or 6 days I’ve mostly been sitting around reading. I’m reading Discipline and Punish (Foucault), a study of how the power to punish has evolved in the last several hundred years. Extremely good.  I think my parents are wondering why the fuck I would choose to read such a book for no  particular reason. 

Your House Ins't LIke Other Houses, Collage by Catherine Raine, 2014
Your House Isn’t Like Other Houses, Catherine Raine  2014

What else? I went out on a ship for the first time (only 3 days). I may be going out for 6 weeks this spring — I haven’t decided. It was weird being out on a ship even for a few days. I think I could deal with 6 weeks though. It would certainly give me time to reflect on confinement as a form of punishment and to read Moby Dick.

Rooted in Place and Time, Collage by Catherine Raine, 2014
Rooted in Place and Time, Catherine Raine 2014
Rooted in Place and Time, Collage by Catherine Raine, 2014
Rooted in Place and Time, Catherine Raine 2014

Notice that the density of information has the text has increased down the page. However, I’m fighting a losing battle and must wrap up this letter. I could use the “additional message area” but I would prefer to wrap up the letter on this page and put an “additional message” in the additional message area.  LOVE, ERIC

IMG_4069– Random Thoughts –

What’s going to happen to Salman Rushdie? . . . . . Do you like bolo ties? I have one now. I like it. How does the thought of a half-Catherine, half-other parasite growing inside of you, sucking your blood, and finally ripping you open on its way out strike you? You write the best letters of anyone I know so write back.

Your House Isn't LIke Other Houses, Collage by Catherine Raine, 2014
Your House Isn’t Like Other Houses, Catherine Raine 2014
Your House Isn't LIke Other Houses, Collage by Catherine Raine, 2014
Your House Isn’t Like Other Houses, Catherine Raine 2014

Eric’s tenth letter, the only one not written by hand, reached me in Glasgow in the summer of 1992.

“Rooting for the Monster,”  Catherine Raine 2014
“Rooting for the Monster,” Catherine Raine 2014

IMG_5895

hess deep
Ferrini, Vicki and Shillington, Donna. (2013). Near-bottom bathymetry data (2m resolution) from the Hess Deep Rift. Integrated Earth Data Applications (IEDA). doi:10.1594/IEDA/100267 (Thank you Stewart Russell for map research)
"Rooting for the Monster" by Catherine Raine, 2014
“Rooting for the Monster,” Catherine Raine 2014
"Gray Moist Liberty" by Catherine Raine, 2014
“Gray Moist Liberty,” Catherine Raine 2014
"Gray Moist Liberty" by Catherine Raine, 2014
“Gray Moist Liberty,” Catherine Raine 2014
“Gray Moist Liberty,” Catherine Raine 2014

IMG_5896

"Gray Moist Liberty" by Catherine Raine, 2014
“Gray Moist Liberty” by Catherine Raine 2014
"Gray Moist Liberty" by Catherine Raine, 2014
“Gray Moist Liberty” by Catherine Raine 2014

IMG_5897

IMG_5899

"Rooting for the Monster" by Catherine Raine, 2014
“Rooting for the Monster,” Catherine Raine 2014

IMG_5900

Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014
Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014

Between Eric’s penultimate and final letter, an entire decade passed with a new millennium folded inside. Further correspondence by e-mail followed, but I missed his distinctive handwriting. To honor the last letter, I decide to embed a photocopy of the letter in layers of paper and then uncover parts of it in a décollage process.

IMG_6910IMG_6911IMG_6910IMG_6910IMG_6910IMG_6910

Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014
Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014

 

IMG_6914

Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014
Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014

IMG_6915

Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014
Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014
Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014
Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014
Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014
Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014
Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014
Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014

My eyes teared up when random paper-tearing revealed the L-O-V of Eric’s letter.

IMG_6917

Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014
Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014
Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014
Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014
Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014
Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014
Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014

 

Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014
Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014
Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014
Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014
Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014
Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014
Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014
Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014
Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014
Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014
Quantum States Collapsing (the Scraps), Catherine Raine 2014

Eric, I miss you and wish I could ask you if you liked the memorial art. With all my heart, thank you for eleven beautiful letters and the loving friendship contained within them.

 

Quantum States Collapsing: Eric’s Last Letter

Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014
Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014

Between Eric’s penultimate and final letter, an entire decade passed with a new millennium folded inside. Further correspondence by e-mail followed, but I missed his distinctive handwriting. To honor the last letter, I decide to embed a photocopy of the letter in layers of paper and then uncover parts of it in a décollage process.

IMG_6910IMG_6911IMG_6910IMG_6910IMG_6910IMG_6910

Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014
Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014

 

IMG_6914

Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014
Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014

IMG_6915

Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014
Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014
Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014
Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014
Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014
Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014
Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014
Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014

My eyes teared up when random paper-tearing revealed the L-O-V of Eric’s letter.

IMG_6917

Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014
Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014
Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014
Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014
Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014
Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014

Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014

Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014

Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014
Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014
Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014
Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014
Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014
Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014
Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014
Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014
Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014
Quantum States Collapsing, Catherine Raine 2014
Quantum States Collapsing (the Scraps), Catherine Raine 2014

Eric, I miss you and wish I could ask you if you liked the memorial art. With all my heart, thank you for eleven beautiful letters and the loving friendship contained within them.

Boomtown Branch: Fort York Library (2014)

IMG_6315After crossing a footbridge over multiple railroad tracks, I found TPL’s newest branch around the corner from a new Tim Hortons and shiny condominiums — all on a brand new street. IMG_6101Excited to photograph my 99th branch, I began in the first-floor reading lounge, which offered sunlit construction scenes and useful red benches that spanned the length of the west wall. When the benches reached the children’s section, a bookshelf appeared underneath the perching surface, showing consideration for the height and reach of TPL’s youngest patrons.IMG_6110On the day of my visit, forty-one babies showed up for the morning’s Baby Time program. This massive turn-out forced the giant ABC letters in the children’s area into temporary exile in the lobby.IMG_6303During the 30-minute program, I enjoyed how the energetic rhymes and songs carried throughout the open space of the two levels, enriching the learning atmosphere by making it home-like, cheery, and inclusive.IMG_6128The spaciousness of the branch met the one of the defined goals of the library, which was to welcome nearby condo-dwellers who might need extra work space outside of home. I learned this fact from the Children’s and Youth Services librarian for Fort York (a friendly young woman with a few crayon marks on her business card and who fist-bumped a customer that she knew by name). She also told me that the condos were home to many young families with children, hence the impressive showing at the program.

I loved how TPL’s welcoming intention manifested itself in details such as Baby Time programs, ottomans with outlets and study pods that resembled stylish covered bridges.IMG_6158IMG_6213I also appreciated how Fort York seemed uniquely positioned as an observation post in the very heart of construction growth. From almost every vantage point in the library, evidence of a city on the edge of change met the eye.

New streetcar being tested!
New streetcar being tested!

IMG_6300IMG_6187 Even the soaring angles of the ceiling and girder-inspired plays of light from the windows suggested dynamism and flux.IMG_6191IMG_6220 IMG_6277IMG_6282IMG_6224 IMG_6243 Although rampant construction near the shore of Lake Ontario rouses mixed feelings, nobody can accuse Toronto of simply standing still. On one positive note, today’s dirt promises to be tomorrow’s Mouth of the Creek Park.IMG_6169Whether you find the changes apocalyptically irritating or simply invigorating, Fort York Library provides both a frame and an example to showcase our evolving city in all its grubby glory.IMG_6142 IMG_6141IMG_6139IMG_6195

Gray Moist Liberty and Rooting for the Monster: Eric’s Tenth Letter

Eric’s tenth letter, the only one not written by hand, reached me in Glasgow in the summer of 1992.

“Rooting for the Monster” by Catherine Raine, 2014
“Rooting for the Monster” by Catherine Raine

IMG_5895

hess deep
Ferrini, Vicki and Shillington, Donna. (2013). Near-bottom bathymetry data (2m resolution) from the Hess Deep Rift. Integrated Earth Data Applications (IEDA). doi:10.1594/IEDA/100267 (Thank you Stewart Russell for map research)
"Rooting for the Monster" by Catherine Raine, 2014
“Rooting for the Monster” by Catherine Raine, 2014
"Gray Moist Liberty" by Catherine Raine, 2014
“Gray Moist Liberty” by Catherine Raine, 2014
"Gray Moist Liberty" by Catherine Raine, 2014
“Gray Moist Liberty” by Catherine Raine, 2014
“Gray Moist Liberty” by Catherine Raine, 2014

IMG_5896

"Gray Moist Liberty" by Catherine Raine, 2014
“Gray Moist Liberty” by Catherine Raine, 2014
"Gray Moist Liberty" by Catherine Raine, 2014
“Gray Moist Liberty” by Catherine Raine, 2014

IMG_5897

IMG_5899

"Rooting for the Monster" by Catherine Raine, 2014
“Rooting for the Monster” by Catherine Raine, 2014

IMG_5900

Think About the Pink Sink

A pink sink appeared on a neighbour’s lawn two weeks ago, and I took a picture of it.

IMG_5279The rejected basin was still there yesterday, but some changes in its appearance had occurred.

IMG_5880Pink Sink Reflection

The weight of the pink sink basin is no match for the power of grass. It only takes two weeks for hundreds of green blades to hoist their pastel burden and tilt it to one side. Even the dandelions triumph over the sink and find outlets through the three holes, the ghosts of faucets past.

IMG_5733 IMG_5725 IMG_5717Where hot and cold water once rushed through pipes, new stems flourish wild, breathing spring into the openings that people tried to control. Fluffy weed seeds unfurl with defiance, daring us to complain. I love the natural disobedience of plant life that simply seizes every opportunity to grow, not caring if it’s welcome.

IMG_5734What humans see as trash and ruin, the dandelions respond to gracefully and with grit. They teach us what really matters: survival, finding a purchase, and overcoming obstacles. They create beauty where nobody thought it should be.

 

Catherine’s “Life at the Roots” Poetry Reading (May 31st, 2014)

This poem enjoyed an open mic outing (my first) yesterday afternoon at the Urban Gallery. I am grateful to Brenda Clews for organizing the event and to Stewart Russell for making the recording!

Life at the Roots

By Catherine Raine (2013)

 One fall day,

I walk the ribbed bedrock of a dry creek.

Between old dreaming stream and Flack Lake,

a carpet of fresh moss and brown duff.

My steps disturb a creature

who runs away under the cover of leaves,

pushing up against its shelter as it flees.

The unknown animal

creates a living ribbon of movement,

drawing a flight path with its body.

The tree litter shifts and rustles in its fast wake,

evidence of life unseen but more real than this poem,

fusing threads of instinct without pause.

One summer day,

I bike home from work,

thoughts distracted from the simple path

that curves by the banks of Taylor Massey Creek.

I pass a tall gathering of yellow grasses

that erupts with startled birds.

They fly straight up from the reeds,

rising all at once in a mass of flapping.

Birds of hidden presence,

you are birds of poetry and vision.

All the beauty that lies unknown within us,

waiting for a sudden movement,

a whoosh of wheels and wings

to reveal life at the roots,

a wild frightening freshness that we cage with lies.

One spring morning,

I dream that dark green shoots

grow from my breasts, pushing up, pushing out.

I tug a shoot from my left aureole

and a large curly leaf comes out.

I tug more shoots and yet more shoots,

shocked by the secret depth of my roots.

My right breast overspills with greenery, too.

Dirt mixes with the leaves,

and one last tug

makes an onion pop out and roll on the grass.

Onion, I know you.

You promise food, the push of streams,

breath of reeds, and the soft spring of moss.

I believe in your hidden roots.

Underground, you listen to famished souls

who trace desire lines on the waiting earth.

Vivacious Bridlewood Branch in Bridlewood Mall

2011

What distinguishes Bridlewood Mall from other malls is a small cemetery in its parking lot. From the picture above, it seems like the supermarket positioned the word “low” such that the tombstone is a pointing to it in a somber yet market-savvy manner. Nothing like low food prices and a shiny new library to distract us from mortality!

2011

Before I investigated the library’s new location in 2011, I haunted the ghostly site of its previous home. Looking through the window, I remembered my 2009 visit to Bridlewood Library and how I’d described a rocket made out of construction paper and aluminum foil.

The empty room was sad but it also held possibility as a set for an ’80’s dance movie like Footloose or Flashdance in which a solitary dancer turns a warehouse or some other unlikely spot into a personal stage. (Then a love interest just happens by to catch the performance, startling the dancer, who asks, “How long have you been standing there?”).

2011
IMG_4996
2014

Shaking off the dance reverie, I took the escalator down to the lower floor of the mall. As I was gliding down, I eagerly scanned left and right for the newly-located branch. I finally spotted it between Shoe Club and Shoppers Drug Mart, and I spent a few minutes taking it in.

IMG_4921IMG_4936Bold zigzags and plywood first caught my attention and projected rawness and energy. Even though Bridlewood was alive with people, it still managed to look spacious, especially in contrast to the crowded shops surrounding it. I liked the high ceilings and the thick vertical bands of colour (which reminded me of a TV screen on a station break).

IMG_4804The intensity of activity was outstanding; dynamic patrons were coming and going, reading and browsing, studying and surfing the web. Every single study carrel had a scholar, an elderly lady perched on one of the blue stools in the children’s area, and at one table two young siblings shared a chair without a squabble. I even saw one determined reader on the floor between shelves. She was happily absorbed in an atlas, oblivious to the world outside the pages.

IMG_4903IMG_4771IMG_4941 In the northeast corner of the room, an animated reading circle for children was in progress. I heard one of the teachers tell a parent, “We’re playing Scrabble. It’s a good game to increase vocabulary and spelling skills.” In an enthusiastic voice, she encouraged the kids to pick out letters (like “T” for tiger) and read the words on the game board.

2011

On the west side of the branch, funky tables and mailing tubes created a fanciful reading space in the children’s area. Even the overhead lights fired the imagination with visions of jellyfish clouds.

IMG_4844 IMG_4832 IMG_4812 IMG_4799At first I was unsure if I liked the packing tubes because they bore a resemblance to upright cigarettes, but they gradually convinced me that they made sense as interesting space dividers.

IMG_4825 IMG_4865 IMG_4803 IMG_4889 Rectangular windows in the plywood divider between the reading lounge and the children’s collection offered more fresh perspectives, in addition to artistic trees etched in milky glass facing a wide mall-corridor.

IMG_4990 IMG_4981IMG_4965 IMG_4958As I took a final admiring glance at Bridlewood, it was a joy to see so many families spending their Saturday at the library. Youngsters were picking up half their weight in books and hauling them to the check-out. Adults toted canvas shopping bags brimming with TOEFL guides and magazines. To meet the needs of so many keen readers, Bridlewood had lots of materials to choose from, including a large Chinese collection and books in Tamil, Urdu, and Armenian.

All in all, Bridlewood Library had a beautifully vivacious atmosphere that defied the presence of a graveyard in the parking lot. I loved its lively, dancing spirit!

IMG_4919IMG_5006

ESL Students’ Collages and Their Wisdom

When my students make presentations about their artwork, I love the natural wisdom which emerges. I hope you find their collages as inspiring as I do!

Sunny's Collage
Sunny’s Collage

This is my collage. We can see we have two mouse in here. On the right, we have one, oh, just so terrible. He just in the cleft and he (is) afraid the other animal will eat it. On the left, this animal can enjoy the sunshine and can in the farmland eat the rice. It’s so freedom. Oh, it’s relaxed, fantastic.

The meaning is like us. Why? Because we can in here have many rich people or people who come from the worker family. But we are the same. We are all human. So if you want to get success, you have to change. Maybe in this time, you are very relaxed or maybe in this time you are very afraid, but never mind because you can change. You can do it yourself and change your surroundings. You can get what you want. . . . . If you want to change, you have to work hard.

Paul’s Collage

First, why I choose cat? Because the cat look like cute and look like a little lazy. Traditionally people say “The cat have nine lives.” Why cat have nine lives? Because cat is very very vigilant and focused for everything. Even though they look lazy and they don’t care about anything, cat is very focused for everything. If a mouse passes his eyes, he can be very focused to get it, to take the mouse, and eat it.

Traditional Chinese master say, “You’re safe in the danger, but you die in the good life.” What’s the meaning? Does anyone read the Bible? Have the story about a Jewish king named David. When he (was) younger, that last Jewish king want to kill him. Then he run away and don’t do any mistakes for God because he’s very focused on the dangerous life. But after this time passed and David become the king,  he have a mistake because his life is so good.

For everything you need a focus. Does anybody play League of Warriors? Do you know, for this game you need a lot of focus so you can win. So everything in life you need to play like this game. Everyone need a focus. Don’t relax for everything. You understand?

Lauricelly's Collage
Lauricelly’s Collage

My collage is about the art. And this art is by Frida Kahlo. She was born in Mexico, and she was important painter in Mexico and other countries. She was a sick woman all her life because she suffered life-long health problems because of a traffic accident when she was a teenager.  She stayed in the bed all the time. She had a problem with her spinal column.

You can see the picture. She is Frida Kahlo. She had one eyebrow. In the middle, you can see arms and legs. The means the inspiration of this woman was influenced by her illness.

She did different self-portraits because she paint about her problems. She paint about her physical problem, emotional problems, and personal problems. And she has problems with her spinal column and her sexuality.

In this corner, you can see the man flying with an umbrella. He has wings, like Frida who said, “Because I have wings, I can fly.”  What is the meaning? It’s impossible to fly, but you can fly with your imagination. You can fly with your dreams.

I choose this collage because I like her story. Frida Kahlo is my superhero. She is immortal.

Lee's Collage
Lee’s Collage

Today I want to talk about Chinese history. Chinese history have about 5,000 or more years. You can see the three pictures. When you first see the three pictures, you think the three things have long history. In China, there are many museums, and there are many Chinese things in museums all over the world, for example, in the Royal Ontario Museum.

On the top left, is a bell. You can put it for ding, ding, ding. It’s a musical bell. On the right, this a jar to put some food in it. On the bottom, this is a picture of some jade.

Raymond’s Collage

At the top of my collage are two pictures, a tornado and a ship in a calm sea that is about to go over a waterfall. These two pictures tell us that in our lives we have some troubles. Some trouble will come to our lives, but don’t give up.

The bottom half of the collage has two pictures. This one is a picture of a drop of water. This one has a path and boat. You can feel very relaxed when you see these pictures. You can see that this is very calm. So every time you have troubles in your life, calm down is the first step, and you will solve it.  You may have many, many bad days, but it’s not a bad life. You will believe that solve your troubles is a good choice. Give up is a bad choice. So believe in yourself and believe in ourselves!

Joyce's Collage
Joyce’s Collage

My collage is about my future. At the top of the collage, there is a wooden bridge. All you you can see is that it is a long way. The weather is hazy. To the right of the bridge, there are many colourful clouds. In the lower right corner, you can see a house with five children and two old people inside.

The collage means a lot to me because it’s like my life. Maybe in my future I will be like that, from the hazy weather to a colourful world. I came alone here four months ago, but maybe in my future I will have many granddaughters and grandsons. They can begin to call me Grandma. So the future will be better.

Finally, here is the text from Jerry’s presentation. (Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture of his collage because he made it a few days after the other students).

There are only three pictures in this collage. Here is one cat. What is he doing? He’s a sleeping cat, and he is dreaming. The question is, what he dreaming about? Many people will think he’s dreaming of gold. It’s so exciting. But if you want to understand the truth, he isn’t dreaming of gold. He’s dreaming of freedom. Animals and humans dream of freedom. Gold is cheaper than freedom. Freedom is what all humans and animals want.

… by Catherine Raine