Categories
General Poems and Prose Poems

Life at the Roots (2017 Version)

Recorded by Sean McDermott at Offaly Road Studio, 2022. Read by the author.

One fall day,

a logical gully

guides me down the slope to Highland Creek.

My steps disturb a creature

who escapes under the cover of leaves,

defining a ribbon of movement

that lifts the rustling shelter as it flees.

With anonymous grace,

the animal testifies to life unseen but more real than this poem,

fusing threads of instinct without pause.

One summer day,

I cycle home from the college on Ashtonbee Road,

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 red winged blackbirds.

They fly straight up from the reeds,

rising in a startled mass of flapping.

Like verses that nest unknown within us,

it takes a sudden whoosh of wheels or wings

to show life at its roots, a wild relentless freshness

that we cage with fear.

One spring morning,

dark green shoots

grow from my breasts, pushing up, pushing out.

Cautiously, I tug a shoot from my left aureole

and a curly leaf unfurls in my hand.

I tug more leaves and yet more leaves,

shocked by the secret depth of my roots.

Raw soil spills over my fingers,

and one last strong yank

yields a golden onion.

My vegetable offering

hints at the body’s food, the push of streams,

breath of reeds, and the resilient moss veiled by fallen leaves.

I believe in succulent roots

that answer winter prayers of the famished

who trace patterns of desire on the waiting Earth.

Categories
General Photography

Late Autumn Mist, Skies, Reflections, Shadows, and Milkweed Pods

High Park, Toronto
Near Warden Avenue, Scarborough
Finch and Birchmount Sunset, Scarborough
Spring Creek, High Park
Farlinger Ravine, Scarborough
Gatineau Trail, Scarborough
Gatineau Trail, Scarborough
Discarded Mirror, Warden Station
Milkweed Pod, Scarborough
Milkweed Curtsy, Gatineau Trail
Milkweed Pod, Scarborough
Categories
Artwork General Photography Poems and Prose Poems

Anguish: Excerpt from Visualizations for Heartbreak: Words, Photographs, and Collages by Catherine Raine

Transcript read by the author

Your anguish is a force, a separate soul that cries out for solace and remedy. A thousand words of comfort rise from the ache in my throat, but they cannot restore the beloved person who abandoned you. Into this void, my voice may drop like a stone.

A picture containing animal, food, standing, cake

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It hurts to see you cry, face in your hands, unable to sleep, eat, or even feel real. Dizzy from the shock of sudden desertion, each second refuses to pass, remains incomplete. Your injured heart has lost its rhythm and your movements seem leaden, as if masses of melted tar are dragging your arms down every time you lift a glass.

A picture containing sitting, green, table, colorful

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While your body slows to glacial time, the brain accelerates as it struggles to comprehend this alien reality that cannot be happening but is happening anyway. Like a never-ending game of tether ball, your thoughts spin faster and faster into smaller and tighter circles, shackled by panic to the iron fact of loss.

A picture containing riding, wave, water, surfing

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If I had the power to heal you, I would gather the softest banana leaves in creation and soak them thoroughly in shea butter. Then I’d wrap them round your head to cool and cradle your brain, drawing out the poison of self-punishing thoughts, soothing the pain, and smoothing the wrinkled loops of endless tormenting questions.

A close up of a green plant

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For your heart-wounds, I offer a poultice composed of clay, feathers, and ferns to press against your chest as if in prayer. The heart-poultice cannot mend the cracks, but it honors them with love. When the minerals and soft coverings touch your skin, they ease the hurt, giving you precious minutes of relief.

A painting of a person

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A picture containing table, indoor

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And for your whole body, a pool has been sunk into the cursèd room that most haunts you with memories. The pool is not very wide — the width of three ordinary bathtubs — but it is fathoms deep. The sides and bottom of the pool are made of peat-black marble, turning the water so dark that it gathers you into oblivion. When you sink into this personal well, the only things you experience are the present sensations of cool healing water, your steady breath, and the kind red beating of your heart.

(Thank you Sean McDermott for making the recording! For a physical or digital copy of Visualizations for Heartbreak, please contact Catherine Raine at cafrinie@yahoo.ca).

Categories
General TPL Talks and Programs

Informative Event for Artists

On a winter evening in 2011, I attended “Calling All Artists!” at Northern District Library. The massive turnout filled a huge meeting room and had staff scrambling to add rows of chairs to accommodate all the Toronto artists eager to learn more about exhibiting their work at the Toronto Public Library.

Four speakers talked us through the application process. The person  in charge of TPL’s Art Exhibits went over the application form in detail. Greg Astill promoted the services of the popular Digital Design Studio at the Toronto Reference Library. Then we learned more about displaying our art to its best advantage from Carol Barbour, TPL Gallery and Exhibits Curator. Finally, Susan Cohen discussed the business and marketing aspects of the art profession. She generously gave us the benefit of her experience as Program Director for Cultural Careers Council Ontario.

I took away many helpful ideas from the information session, but two of them stand out the most.

First, Ms. Cohen emphasized the crucial importance of a clear and concise artist’s statement: “You need to know exactly what you are doing and why you are doing it.” If our marketing vision is not clear to ourselves, how can it be clear to our viewers and potential customers?

Second, Ms. Barbour advised us to demonstrate strong artistic commitment not only in the careful planning of exhibit details but also in researching the galleries and walls of the thirteen libraries to which we can apply. Our applications will be even stronger if we can make a case for why our work belongs in a particular space. To emphasize this point, one of the speakers said, “For example, large abstract works would not be appropriate for a small, intimate gallery like the one at Yorkville. They would be perfect for Northern District’s Skylight Gallery, though.”

As I was reflecting on the curator’s advice, it occurred to me that my library blog could facilitate the research element of the application process. (For new readers to Breakfast in Scarborough, I have visited, written about, and photographed all 100 branches). The thirteen posts listed below offer glimpses of each library’s unique atmosphere and should give TPL exhibit applicants a sense of which one might best showcase their work.

To check out the specific branches that host community exhibits, please click on the hyperlinks below:

Agincourt

Albion  (photos in this branch were taken before the 2017 rebuild)

Bloor/Gladstone

Deer Park

Don Mills

Leaside

Mimico

Northern District

North York Central

Oakwood Village Library and Arts Centre

Richview

Richview’s gallery was site of my first library art exhibit!

Woodside Square

Yorkville

Three cheers for art in the libraries!!!

Categories
Collage Workshops General

“Art for Everyone” Collage Workshop for International Students

Categories
General Photography

Rooting for Monarch Butterflies, Bumblebees, and Lakes

Scarborough, 2022
Scarborough, 2022
Lake Ontario, 2022
Categories
General Photography

Wildflowers, a Cornfield, the Missouri River, Hosta Plants, a Sunset, and a Bluetailed Skink

Scarborough, Ontario
Near Cooley Lake, Missouri
Missouri River
Missouri River
Liberty, Missouri
Chamois, Missouri
Bluetailed Skink, Lee’s Summit Missouri

Categories
Artwork General Photography Poems and Prose Poems

Rage: Excerpt from Visualizations for Heartbreak (Words, Photos, and Collages by Catherine Raine)


Recorded by Sean McDermott at Offaly Road Studios, 2022. Read by the author.

Once the reality of betrayal shatters the numbness, your rage awakens molten creativity and revives the blacksmiths and glassblowers of old. Your curses blast the forge and explode in the fire, where they transform into a glowing orb with fierce swirls of crimson, orange, and yellow.

The fiery globe is too hot for human hands to touch, and curious viewers must back away from its dangerous fragility. But when the orb cools, when it settles into itself, thousands will flock to this glass masterpiece, magnetized by its primal beauty.

The rage orb electrifies viewers and powerfully connects them to the anger of our hurting world, for this beautiful object has been forged and burned and spun from the rawest materials on earth: the fury of the wronged and the anguish of the betrayed.

When the orb is tilted at different angles, flashes of violence appear, open wounds that seethe beneath the fragments of a shattered heart. Critics may find your art disturbing or claim it contains glints and flints of revenge, but I say, “No, not traditional revenge or actual violence. Only the satisfaction that comes from refusing to bury pain inside. It takes courage to harness anger’s explosive energy and hurl it into a new form, sowing seeds of fire into grief’s deep furrows.”

Although the orb’s creation has not exorcised anger for good, it has given you some peace. Its presence is a testament to the value of authentic feelings, no matter how uncomfortable, sharp, or bitter. As you navigate this strange land of loss, you bring rage with you, for it is a righteous guide that divines underground springs of truth.

(Thank you Sean McDermott for making the recording! For a physical or digital copy of Visualizations for Heartbreak, please contact Catherine Raine at cafrinie@yahoo.ca).

Categories
General Photography

Highlights of Spring and Summer 2022

Liberty, Missouri
Lake Wilcox, Richmond Hill Ontario
Oxtongue River, Dwight Ontario
Lake Wilcox, Richmond Hill Ontario
East Point Park, Scarborough Ontario
East Point Park, Scarborough Ontario
Liberty, Missouri
Royal Botanical Gardens, Burlington Ontario
(H)our Glass Sculpture, Ted Fullerton (Royal Botanical Gardens, Burlington Ontario)
Royal Botanical Gardens, Burlington Ontario
Royal Botanical Gardens, Burlington Ontario
Categories
General Photography

Beach Walk from Guild Park to Doris McCarthy Trail, Scarborough

Categories
Artwork General

Thrift Store Purchase Inspires Collage Collaboration

Painted canvas purchased at Value Village, December 2021

Last December I bought a painted wooden canvas that an anonymous person had donated to Value Village. After studying it, I decided to follow some of the patterns of the paint swirls, adding tissue paper, thread, dots of acrylic paint, and handmade papers to the canvas.

Colourfish Swimming, 2022

For example, the dark purple shape in the top left quadrant of the substrate suggested the eye of an aquatic creature swimming among waving pink fronds and flowery fragments. Black thread made the imagined form of the creature, now called Colourfish, more discernible.

Detail from Colourfish Swimming, 2022

To the artist who gave their canvas to Value Village, thank you very much for your generosity! If you had never lavished the board with violet, lavender, pink, green, and apricot paint, the Colourfish would have been deprived of the habitat most suited to its playful temperament.

Categories
General Photography

Ellen’s Sockfish

My friend Ellen made this cloth creature in the Art Gallery of Ontario’s cafeteria one day in 2010. As we talked, she sewed the sweet green eyes and fashioned eclectic ear-gills that poke through the pink mesh.

Thread, needles, fabric, ribbons, and socks spilled from two bags I had brought from home, and our heads bent over our work as we talked.

Before we left the gallery, I took some photos of Ellen’s creation. I love how her hand both protects and presents the sockfish. Animated by playful colours and textures, its energy is bright.

Expressing movement, personality, openness — it seems eager to be on its way, tail swishing in the current.

I treasure the memory of that artistic afternoon with Ellen and all the times we met to write, make collages, or exchange ideas. With character, originality, and grace, she practiced friendship as an art form. I’ll never forget Ellen’s creative and loving heart that continues to bless. I miss my dear friend.

Categories
General Photography

Lathrop, Richmond, Missouri City, and Liberty Missouri

Lathrop Missouri (2022)
Ferris Theater, Richmond Missouri (2022)
Town Square, Richmond Missouri (2022)
Town Square, Richmond Missouri (2022)
Missouri City Snowcowboy (2022)
View from the Odd Fellows Home, Liberty Missouri (2022)
Liberty Missouri (2022)
Liberty Missouri (2022)
Liberty Missouri (2022)
Categories
General Photography

Organic Ice Etchings

Gatineau Trail (2022)
Categories
General Photography

Ice Statements

Guild Beach, Scarborough (2022)
Guild Beach, Scarborough (2022)
Guild Beach, Scarborough (2022)
Guild Beach, Scarborough (2022)
Guild Park and Gardens (2022)
Guild Beach, Scarborough (2022)
Guild Beach, Scarborough (2022)
East Point Park (2022)
Categories
Artwork General

Animal Spirit Guides Inspire Collage Art!

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I bought Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm’s The Druid Animal Oracle Deck  in 2008 in hopes of developing collage workshops based on animal teachings. My friend Ellen Jaffe, a poet and teacher, found the idea interesting, so we gave the deck a trial run at a 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

After Ellen made her selection, we took turns reading from an interpretive booklet provided with the deck. From the section on Wolf, I learned that its keywords are “Intuition, Learning, (and) The Shadow” and that Wolf encourages us to honour “the inner power and strength you feel when you spend time alone” (p. 22).

Following a discussion of the teachings, I pulled out a folder of images that I had collected for the animals contained in the deck. Each animal had its own transparent sleeve full of pictures, and from Wolf’s sleeve I selected a few photos for my collage.

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

Having enjoyed our artistic experiment with The Druid Animal Oracle Deck in 2010, Ellen and I decided to offer a workshop called “Collage Your Animal Spirit Guide” at a music therapy facility in 2011. The session took place in Hamilton, Ontario and opened with all six participants selecting a random card. After reading aloud from the booklet about the selected animals, everyone received a set of pictures on which to base a collage in addition to backings, scissors, and a glue stick.

As we settled into our work one by one, minds humming in collective concentration, a silence like a seventh presence filled the room. After an hour of tearing, cutting, shaping, and gluing, we shared our artwork, celebrating each piece in turn.

Illustration by Bill Worthington
Illustration by Bill Worthington

Otter was my personal animal guide that day in Hamilton. 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” (p. 32).

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

To suggest flow and movement, I included 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, seven other collages have been inspired by engagement with the Druid Animal Oracle Deck. After a gap of two years, I retrieved the deck when my mother was visiting me in Toronto. This time, Eagle rose up from the pool of 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, and the booklet further 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” (p. 24).

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The Knitted Eagle, Catherine Raine 2013

My eagle collage depicts a rare species of knitted raptor, a bird who is 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 Mom’s visit, my friend Noreia and I consulted the animal spirit guides and made collages in a North York food court. This time, the card I picked belonged to Raven.

Illustration by Bill Worthington
Illustration by Bill Worthington

Raven represents “Healing, Initiation, (and) Protection,” and its message “may  . . . mean that we can come to a resolution of the opposites — experiencing that in darkness there is light, and in light darkness” (p. 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

A subsequent session with Noreia saw us spreading out collage materials and the deck on a large wooden table at Balzac’s Coffee Roasters. I chose Frog, whose key words are “Sensitivity, Medicine, and Hidden Beauty and Power” and who reminds us to “look for the beauty and the magic behind appearances” (p. 19).

Illustration by Bill Worthington
Illustration by Bill Worthington

Carr-Gomm’s booklet also 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” (p. 19).

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Frogs’ Mosaic Green Room, Catherine Raine 2013

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

Goose followed Frog as the next creature-collage inspired by The Druid Animal Oracle Deck. At Noreia’s suggestion, we auditioned a different wooden table at a new coffee shop for the session, and it proved to be a goose-friendly venue.

Illustration by Bill Worthington
Illustration by Bill Worthington

When I turned to the booklet’s page about Goose, I discovered that its main attributes are “Vigilance, Parenthood, (and) Productive Power” (p. 27). Additionally, Goose’s talent for attentive parenthood and soaring flight “shows us that it is possible to be both grounded and spiritual in our daily lives” (p. 27).

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

After Goose, Seal surfaced as the next animal spirit mentor during an oracle session that Noreia 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” (p. 40).

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

Cat followed Seal to serve as a guide in the series, and Carr-Gomm’s booklet explains that “Cat brings us the ability to observe situations quietly, without judgment, before making decisions” (p. 17). 

Illustration by Bill Worthington "Cat brings us the ability to observe situations quietly, without judgment, before making decisions (Carr-Gomm booklet, p. 17).
Illustration by Bill Worthington

For Flying Flower Cat, a calm and grounded mind provides the ideal springboard for flight.

Flying Flower Cat, Catherine Raine 2014

Finally, Salmon has been the most recent educator chosen from the deck, but other animals patiently wait for their turn to advise. As for the nine creatures who arrived from 2010 to 2016, I’d like to express my gratitude to Wolf, Otter, Eagle, Raven, Frog, Goose, Seal, Cat, and Salmon for their energizing insights and creativity!

2022 Update

Salmon’s collage is dedicated to the memory of Ellen S. Jaffe, who loved consulting The Druid Animal Oracle Deck and making art in community.

Illustrated by Bill Worthington

As the oracle deck’s booklet relates, Salmon responds to upstream challenges with “wisdom and inspiration” (p. 30), and Ellen exemplified this spirit when she wrote poems about living with (but not being defined by) cancer. Like Salmon, she created an arc of beauty in adversity: turning to the sanctuary of art, reciting poems in her head during scans and treatments, and imagining the counsel of her late father, a doctor.

Seized by Loss, Catherine Raine 2016Seized by Loss, Catherine Raine 2016

Ellen died the day after her 77th birthday, cocooned in a cycle of return to her “beginnings . . . and perhaps beyond” (p. 30). While she was here with us, Ellen inspired, encouraged, and connected hearts with her poetry, activism, counseling, teaching, mothering, and friendship. For example, after hearing news of my grandmother’s death in 2008, Ellen introduced me to the phrase, “May her memory be a blessing,” explaining that it is a Jewish prayer to comfort the family of the deceased. Her compassionate words consoled me then and return to me now with a message of solace.

Ellen’s example shows what it means to live a life that blesses others, and in her legacy “lives the dearest freshness deep down things” (G. Hopkins’ God’s Grandeur, 1877) that soften the pain of loss. Ellen, thank you for being my friend and mentor. Your memory blesses, has blessed, and will bless us for generations.

Categories
General Photography

Winter’s Shadow Swoops and Stripes at Bluffer’s Beach

Bluffer’s Beach, Scarborough (2022)
Categories
General Photography

Fall to Winter From the Bluffs

South Marine Drive Park, Scarborough (2021)
Cudia Park, Scarborough (2021)
East Point Park, Scarborough (2021)
East Point Park (2022)
East Point Park (2022)
East Point Park (2022)
East Point Park (2022)
East Point Park (2022)
East Point Park (2022)
East Point Park (2022)
East Point Park (2022)
Categories
General Photography

Found Shadows and Reflections

Scarborough Sidewalk, 2016
Lee Lifeson Art Park, Toronto, 2016

Outside Kennedy Station, 2017

Holland Nature Reserve, 2017

Liberty, Missouri, 2017

The Afghan Blanket and the Gift Bag, 2017

Outside Scribbler’s Coffee Shop (Kent, Ohio), 2018

Construction Shoring near Kennedy Station, 2018

Sidewalk by Woodneath Library, Kansas City, 2018

Traffic Island Park, Toronto 2018

Rouge Park, 2018

Rouge Park, 2018

Aga Khan Museum, 2018

Rain on the Parking Lot Outside Adonis Supermarket, Scarborough, 2018
Winter Light Display, Liberty Missouri, 2019
Tractor in Cinema Parking Lot, 2019
Wall Theater, 2019
Puddle on Eglinton Avenue, 2019
Sunrise Shadow Etching on a Fence Post at South Marine Park, 2019
Evening Walk in Scarborough, 2019
Kirkwood Amtrack Station, 2020
Stool in the Upstairs Studio, 2020
Port Union Waterfront Park, 2020
Shadow of a Plant on the Inside of a Garden Waste Bag, 2020
Construction Banner Creates Screen for Shadows, 2020
Weed Art, 2020
Reflection through Opaque Window, 2020
Morningside Park, 2021
Morningside Park, 2021
Rotary Park, Liberty Missouri, 2021
Creek beside Humber River (Near Old Mill Station), 2021
Creek beside Humber River (Near Old Mill Station), 2021
South Marine Park, 2021
Guild Park and Gardens, 2021
Discarded Mirrored Cabinets (Scarborough), 2022
Mill Street Tree Shadow (Liberty, Missouri), 2022
Quiet Presences, Scarborough Sidewalk (2022)
Union Station Hotel, Saint Louis (2022)
Categories
General Photography

Milkweed Pod Study