Category Archives: Life and living

The Month of Love?

Margaret Mair, World in our Hands, Christmas 2011, Original Art

Margaret Mair, World in our Hands, Original Art

February, I’ve read, is the month of love. A wonderful idea, warm and comforting to think about. But what kind of love, and how should we celebrate it?

Thinking of love we think of people first, of lovers and family and friends. And so we should. But what about love for the world we live in?

This earth sustains us, feeds us, gives us the water that we drink and the air we breathe. And it’s state affects us all.

Which means they are woven together, these loves. We want those we love to live in a world that is good, that they can enjoy, that sustains them. And in loving the earth we find ways to create that kind of world for them. And for those who will follow us all.

It is so strong and yet so fragile, this world. Seen from space, as the astronauts see it, it is a small blue marble whirling through the immensity of space, carrying us and all that makes life possible for us.

Down here we each see a much smaller view, circumscribed by our own horizons. We live in a smaller world within the greater, and act as our lives within that world suggest we should. When we think of the world we love, we think of the world we know.

And so our actions often seem insignificant to us.  After all we are each only one, and what effect can one person have? Yet there are so many of us that, paradoxically, it becomes more and more important what each one of us does. For the sum of our actions has a greater and greater effect.

So as you think about love I hope you will think about loving the world we share, and honoring it with thoughtfulness.  For the love of those you care about.

Sunrise, Sunset – Playing in the Digital World

Margaret Mair, Sunrise/Sunset, Digital Image

Margaret Mair, Sunrise/Sunset, Digital Image

The holidays are just past. They’re a time for playing, so I spent some time playing with one of my toys – a digital drawing program on my phone. Creating shapes and playing with color are a pleasure, and when even the act of creating is pure play then creating can only be pure pleasure – and the process more important than the results.

And then I played with words:

Sunrise, sunset,
rolling over
night to day to night.
beginnings, endings,
renewings –
smile hello, wave goodbye,
cry hello again…

It’s all endings and beginnings, and life flows on in between.

Last year ended with storms of wind and snow and icy rain. This year is starting with winds that toss the waters and sing in the window cracks, making cold into bitter cold. Old year, new year, the days come and go in much the same way, and weather doesn’t care much for our attempts to corral and predict it with dates and times and seasons. It has its own cycles.

And so do we – wake and sleep, give and receive, work and play, birth and death. Each part of the cycle has its place.

So let us not neglect play, an activity ripe with possibilities and full of joy and discovery. For life, like weather, doesn’t care much for our attempts to corral and predict. As John  Lennon said, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans…”

Wonder what life will bring this New Year?

On Joy and Sorrow and Christmas Wishes

Margaret Mair, Nature's Cathedral, Original Art

Margaret Mair, Nature’s Cathedral, Original Art

I know what I want for Christmas. I want Love. Because with Love, Peace and Joy are possible, Respect is always there, and Sorrow becomes more bearable.

No matter what the season joy and sorrow entwine, intermingle. We find that the higher the one, the deeper the other. It’s only in times of contemplation that we look back and, weighing them, find they both have their place in our lives.

Joy comes from rising above sorrow; sorrow from losing that which has given you joy.

“When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.
Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.”

So wrote Khalil Gibran in Joy and Sorrow.

As I write many of us are consumed by sorrow at the deaths of the young children in Newtown. Deaths that came before they had time to experience their full share of life, of joys and sorrows. And we hurt for the adults who died with them, and for the families and friends left behind.

Faced with such sadness, how do we find our way back to joy and not wonder at ourselves for feeling happiness again? And yet we cannot live always in sorrow – we are creatures of hope, looking forward to better things and trying to find our way to them.

Perhaps the greatest joy will come in finding ways to make this world one in which such heartrending things will not happen so easily. In contemplation we may look at the path that took us here; with thought we may learn from all that happened along the way; with hope we may find a new way forward.

I am hoping. And wishing hope and love for you.

Because Death is Part of Life…

Albert Anker, Ruedi Anker, 1869

Albert Anker, Ruedi Anker, 1869

Death comes to visit in many different ways.

Sometimes the loss is heartbreaking, a child gone too soon, a young person whose life abruptly ends, a parent lost to a young family.

Sometimes it feels as if we should have been prepared, knowing that illness or age would soon bring an end to life.

Sometimes, especially as we grow older, we catch a glimpse of our own deaths in each loss.

Recently my family lost some of our elders. They are a generation rapidly diminishing, and one which, through their lives and thoughts, helped shape the people we are now. They were ready to let go of life, but we found ourselves not ready to let go of them.

Artists have frequently dwelt on the horrors of death – death in war, death from terrible illness, murder. The true horror for most of us is the sense of loss we feel, a sense which echoes and re-echoes with each going. And yet there are artists and writers who offer comfort by sharing a different vision, by creating beautiful images that lead us to take another look.

One that stays with me is the one above, the painting that Albert Anker created of his young son Ruedi, resting so peacefully in death. There is love in the beauty of it, and in the care with which it was painted.

And these words that Kahlil Gibran wrote in “The Prophet” are beautiful in their own way, an almost intoxicating description of death:

“For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?
And what is it to cease breathing but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?”

For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.”

In life there is always death. Both are part of the cycles of nature. As each year passes we see death and rebirth; Winter strips the leaves of trees and browns the grasses, sends animals and birds into hiding, freezes water into stillness. Then out of Winter comes Spring; we see the natural world return to life again, see new leaves and blossoms and fresh shoots of grass and young creatures born.

Dark follows light follows dark. Each day ends, and after sunset comes the night. We create pools of light to keep the dark away – yet it is still there and all the light we create cannot banish it completely. Then after the night comes the sunrise, and light stronger than we can make returns.

There are cycles in nature, of light and dark, death and birth. Though individuals go, the whole lives on. And the lives of those we have loved live on in us, in our thoughts and in our hearts.

This is Where I Work…

My work space, photo by Margaret Mair

My work space, photo by Margaret Mair

My workspaces have changed over the years, from space on tables to whole rooms to the cabin and cockpit of our boat to the corner of our apartment that I am using now. The main consideration, always, is light. Good light, through most of the day (and good light bulbs at night).

This space is a relatively small one, which means I have to think about my work flow – about what I’m going to work on and how it will fit in with any deadlines I am working with. Smaller spaces make choosing necessary; choosing makes me think more about what I’m doing.

The light here moves around through the year, comes in at different slants through the window beside me as the seasons change. And it changes from day to day. A bright day means lots of light, and lots of shadow; a foggy, rainy day softens and spreads it.

Window view, photo by Margaret Mair

Window view, photo by Margaret Mair

I suspect not everyone would enjoy the view from my window, but it has beautiful and ever-changing things within it, things that interest and inspire me.

The water changes with every change in weather, light and wind. It throws back the sunlight, absorbs the grey of the clouds, hides under the fog. At night the lights shine off it, creating shimmering patterns.

Lights on the water, photo by Margaret Mair

Lights on the water, photo by Margaret Mair

The trees go through their seasonal changes. Leaves come and go, change color, shine in the rain or dance in the wind, grow shapely on the branches or lie withered on the ground.

The tree with dancing leaves, Margaret Mair

The tree with dancing leaves, photo by Margaret Mair

Sunrises are hidden, marked only by the growing light outside. But sunsets are there for the seeing, in all their variations, from quiet and soft, violet and magenta, pale oranges and yellows, to spectacular crimsons and reds, full of color.

Sunset from my work space, Margaret Mair

Sunset from my work space, photo by Margaret Mair

It’s like this in every place I’ve worked; areas of beauty, places of inspiration, a whole world inviting observation.

For now, that place is here.

Just for Fun, 1

Margaret Mair, Just for Fun, Original Sketch, 2

Margaret Mair, Just for Fun, Original Sketch, 2

This year there have been some months during which I could not paint.  But I could draw, and play with pencils and pens.  So that’s what I did.

And now that I am taking a small break to visit family and friends, I thought I’d share some of my playing with you.

I love trees, in all their variety.  Dressed up in leaves and flowers, stripped down to the bareness of trunk and branches.  So of course I played with the idea of a tree…

And sunsets.  A friend said “Consider sunsets.”  So I have been.

Here’s the first sketch – just for fun.

And I hope you find time to have some fun too.


BlackOut SpeakOut – For Canada

Today I am using my blog to BlackOut SpeakOut for Canada. The message? To decision-makers: Protect our Canadian values. Our land, water, and climate. Our communities. Our human rights and democracy. Continue reading

Notes: On Color in Spring

M. Mair, Flowers in the Sunset, Original Art

Margaret Mair, Flowers in the Sunset, Original Art

Seasons are not the same everywhere.

I grew up in a place without Spring – or winter. The closest thing to spring was the coming of the May rainy season, when grass grew greener and the poui trees lost their leaves and burst into flower for a short while; when, if all went well, the reservoirs filled; when the sweet sop was ripening and we looked forward to buying bunches of guineps from roadside stalls.

So when I moved to this northern place both spring and winter were a revelation, strange and cold and beautiful.

My first real winter was an adventure in learning about cold and snow and the shortness of days and the slipperiness of ice underfoot. Unaccustomed to months of short days and much time spent indoors, to rising to dark mornings, and nights that fell before the day’s activities were done, I welcomed my first Spring with joy and appreciation. There was a sense that life was expanding again, and we would enjoy the return of green and sun and warmth.

I remember sitting outside on damp, green grass with my books, “studying”, enjoying being in the barely-warm sun with my friends. It was time to breathe deeply and stretch out again, to shed coats and boots and dream of summer clothes and sandals. We were re-emerging from the clutch of winter and the depths of indoor life to the freshness, openness and changing colors of outdoors.

It took me a while to be aware of the many different colors of spring. The yellow-greens and deep reds of buds, the browns and greens of new branches, the deeper brown of mud, the gritty grey and lacey black of disappearing, smutty roadside snow. The coy blues of the periwinkles, the fragrant purple of the lilacs, the sunny yellows of the forsythia and the dandelions. The evergreens seemed a softer green. When the spring rains came they washed the air clean and made the new leaves shine.

And when the sun went down it added its sunset colors to the colors of the day.

On The Way Back

Margaret Mair, Man Mountain Emerging, Watercolor, Original Art

Margaret Mair, Man/Mountain/Emerging, Watercolor, Original Art

It’s time to come back.

Finding your way back to your normal life is a very important part of recovering from illness.  Maybe life is not, will not be exactly as it was before, but you hope it will be something like.  Because when your life changes, it changes you.  Not just physically, but mentally.  I probably do not know, yet, how I have changed.

But some things do not change.  Making art and writing about art and sharing interesting things artists have done or are doing are all part of my normal life.

And I’ve decided that writing about and sharing art are a part of my life that I can pick up now, even if I’m not writing as often or as much as before.

It’s even more important to me because I am not painting again yet. I’m adjusting to having one fuzzy, blurry eye, wondering how much vision it will have, struggling with depth perception. Meantime I sketch, concentrating on the shapes, the outlines. I think. I imagine what I will paint, and am glad I can.

People talk about fighting an illness, conquering a condition, but it’s not like that for me.  Recovering feels more like emerging.  More like a long slog along a dusty road, a hard climb up a steep mountain, a crooked walk along a winding path, leading to re-emergence into the world as I knew it. There are corners to turn, milestones to pass, obstacles to climb over.

And that’s why my watchwords now are: Onward and upward.  One step after another. I’ll travel this path, even if it’s just a little way at a time.

An Unexpected Interruption

Margaret Mair, Friendship, Original Art

Margaret Mair, Friendship, Original Art

Dear friends and followers,

Sometimes life throws you a curve, and you find you need to take a different direction for a little while.

I love the work I do here, sharing my paintings, my passion for art and my interest in the lives, ideas and work of other artists.

But earlier this month I found myself facing a very unexpected situation.  Childhood chickenpox came back to visit as a form of shingles in and around one ear, leaving me with a condition called Ramsey-Hunt Syndrome.

Briefly, this means that I’m left with a droop to one side of my face, and a loss of the nerves on that side that help me hear, help me balance, help me control my tongue, let me close my eye.  Over time – months – I will recover function.  Nerves will try to repair themselves, other nerves will compensate.  I will learn to do things in new ways.

But this means that for now it’s time to put my energy into doing all I can to help my body recover.  I am very glad that my mind is not affected, and I still have my love of and passion for art to help support and sustain me.  Even more importantly I have the loving help of family and friends, and the support of the doctors who diagnosed my condition and of the professionals and the staff who work with them and who are and will be working with me.

I’m at the bottom of the hill, beginning the climb.  It’s onward and upward, a step at a time, looking forward.  There will be hard work, challenges and smiles along the way.

And until I am back here on a regular basis, I wish you all time to enjoy the beautiful things around you and space to find your own happiness.

Until then…