see glass

 

All winter it’s been almost impossible to walk the beach. So much forever-never-melting ice this year. And when it did melt, it just froze up the next day even icier. So, yes, it’s been impossible to walk the beach.

But… the ice is now gone, mostly, and the snow is being slowly replaced with snowdrops…

… and just the other day I was at the beach and it’s all sand and pebbles again, and ridges of stones where a recent wind storm has pushed them several metres from shore. (Given the size of stones one wonders how that is even possible.)

Seasonal differences are extraordinary but, even more extraordinary is the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) transformation of every day, the way the water changes colour, the size and sound and movement of waves, their connection to moon and tides and us.

 

And beach glass.

And whatever it’s connected to. (Sometimes cartwheeling along the shore with my nieces… those who know me… I can hear you laughing!... we imagine the maybe-stories attached to the glass we find. And sometimes I do the imagining on my own, in which case pirates with a penchant for expensive olive oil very often figure into things.)

The type of glass found in various places (these things are predictable to a point), on different shorelines, is fascinating. For instance, my Lake Ontario beach offers up big numbers of small pieces. I used to think they were a good size, but they’re really quite tiny compared to pieces I’ve since seen on PEI (though I find much less of it there; it’s possible I don’t know where to look and no one’s telling me); also small compared with what I understand is found on the shores of the St. Lawrence, and elsewhere, which begs a Why?… what makes the difference in what washes up? Not that it matters because a piece of smooth glass winking at me from the sand is a joy, no matter the size. And if it’s not quite ‘cooked’, i.e. entirely smooth, I toss it back into the water. Apparently to be fully cooked takes decades, between fifty to a hundred years on average.

If you’re still reading this it might be that you have some small interest in beach glass, or maybe you haven’t quite finished your tea yet. In any case, here’s some glassy trivia gathered from various sites for glass nerds—

Lavender glass is called ‘sun glass’ because it’s glass made with manganese, which, if left in a sunny window, will turn various shades of purple. (And can be dated to around the time of WWI, when the bleaching agent used to make it clear couldn’t be sourced and manganese was used instead.)

Red and orange are rare because gold was required to make red and orange glass, resulting in much less being made in those colours.

And that frosted look? Comes from lime leaching out of the glass over time.

But my FAVOURITE bit of sea glass trivia is that the cobalt blue pieces could very well come from bottles once made to contain poison. (Also possibly Vick’s VapoRub; Evening in Paris perfume [oh my god, the very mention of which takes me back to my family’s bathroom shelves, home to a small bottle of EIP I’d given my mother for xmas and which I pray she never actually wore though fear she did]; Noxema, and a certain brand of either Milk of Magnesia or Bromo Seltzer.) The poison angle is so much better though. Apparently when lights were dim and not everyone could read, a trip to the medicine cabinet (where, unwisely perhaps, both medicines and poisons were kept)(poisons being useful for ‘some’ things) mistakes were made. Move the poison I say but, no, someone thought it simpler to change the colour of the poison bottles, to cobalt blue, as well as the shape (triangular, etc.) so they could be both seen and/or ‘felt’ in a dimly lit room in the once-upon-a-times…

And should you be out glassing, here’s a list of glasses from the book Pure Sea Glass, by Richard LaMotte, who is some kind of travelling guru on the subject, giving seminars and talks all over the world and about whom much can be read. (And whose job wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.)

From most rare to most common:
Orange
Red
Turquoise
Yellow
Black
Teal
Grey
Pink
Aqua
Cornflower Blue
Cobalt Blue
Opaque White
Citron
Purple/Amethyst
Soft Green
Soft Blue
Forest Green
Lime Green
Golden Amber
Amber
Jade
Kelly Green
Brown White (Clear)

Happy cartwheeling/beachcombing!

 

 

my bit of sky

 

There is a framed series of photos on my kitchen wall. Clouds scudding across a Florida sky. Each photo shows the exact same square of sky above a couple of palm trees, as seen from a poolside chair so many years ago I was still using 35 mm film and my trusty Pentax.

There are only four shots. But they represent the whole morning and my idle joy in having nothing to do but read… no idea what I was reading, but possibly The Portable Dorothy Parker  (I remember her from around that time) or River of Grass,  by Marjory Stoneman Douglas, about the almost decimation of the Everglades. In other words not a novel. Am guessing my mood couldn’t have been focused enough for a novel if I was able to take notice of the sky changing every so often and carefully positioning the camera to take precise shots (film was expensive) between and above those precise palm fronds.

Those aren’t the actions of someone engrossed in a novel.

The first photo in the frame shows a clear sky with only a wisp of cloud. The second, a larger, but still small, cloud moves in from the left. By the third shot, the sky is mottled with cloud cover, though wispy still, and by the fourth, heavier clouds have moved in and I probably decided it was time to gather my pool toys and go have lunch.

I love these pictures, the memory of a holiday, yes, but also a reminder of how this follows that, how time is passed and passes, and continues…

Someone once told me they rarely look up. I was astonished — how can anyone take the whole sky for granted? But it occurs to me that maybe it comes from our habit of looking *for* something… something useful, or unusual, something to compare ourselves with, as in looking at people, or something beautiful, as in a sunrise or sunset or rainbow.

Each morning I stand outside in approximately the same place to greet the day and every day I look at the same slice of sky above a cedar hedge in the space between two very tall spruce. And every day the sky is never the same. Sometimes the colour of Laurentien pencil crayon Peacock Blue, sometimes another shade. Sometimes speckled or fluffed or water-colour-streaked with cloud. Now and then picture-worthy… most often not. Over the years I’ve seen flashes of lightning in that space, the occasional plane on its way to Toronto, and one year the Snowbirds performed for a local school named after a fallen comrade and I stood in my backyard and watched, in awe, as they swooped and ducked and dived in that very bit of sky.

It is also, apparently, part of the Trans Canada Flight Path for geese.

There’s nothing magical about that slice of blue, it’s just the one I happen to most often look at. Not from a lounge chair and never for an entire morning as you do on holiday, but just as habit. Sometimes I go outside and look up, without realizing it even, with maybe a question on my mind…

And a cardinal flies by in answer.

 

 

wordless wednesday (not always wordless)

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.”

The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery

And instead of chocolate, here’s one of my favourite posts…

https://matildamagtree.com/2014/02/14/todays-shape-3/

… proving #lovesweetlove is everywhere.
(If you find any pics to add to it… send them my way!)

Happy seeing-with-heart  day…

 

Other (not always) wordless friends:

Cheryl Andrews
Allison Howard
Barbara Lambert
Allyson Latta
Elizabeth Yeoman

 

the reason my house and car and pockets are filled with stones

 

They line stairs, window ledges and bookshelves; fill flowerpots and bowls beside my bed. And that little space in my car, the alcove-esque area above the gear shift, is for what if not stones…?

My theory for the why of this (apart from stones are lovely) is the way my dad would every now and then on a summer night after working in a factory all day and after mowing the lawn and after supper… announce that he was heading to the beach to get some rocks.

He didn’t ask me to come with him. I was a skinny kid with noodly arms. Not super helpful in the rock lifting department.

But something in the way he said he was going to the beach… different from the way he said he was off to Canadian Tire… sounded like an invitation.

And so we went.

He and me.

He to collect rocks for alpine gardens, to edge various beds or frame his collection of seashells.

And me, to skip stones, bury my legs in cool nighttime sand and wonder how long it would take to swim across Lake Ontario and what, if anything, was on the other side.

It’s possible he took breaks from the rock gathering. He may have sat on a length of driftwood at some point, lit a cigarette and wondered too about the swimming and the other side.

I don’t remember the details of these beachy missions.

Only that cool nighttime sand.

And my first pocketful of stones.

 

 

 

closing time

 
It took the better part of two days to install.

Just over an hour to take down.

The weeks in between were a sheer loveliness of spending time with my own couches in a public space and meeting people and having conversations start out of the thin air of upholstery.

The woman who told me her grandparents were happy as clams all their livelong lives together and maybe not in small part because of the mickeys of hootch they kept down the sides of their respective armchairs.

Another who said her first couch was an old door on top of bricks (for legs) and a slab of foam with fabric wrapped around it and several pillows propped against the wall.

The couch someone had forgotten but suddenly remembered hauling from a curb in Whistler and how much they loved it for the year they lived there.

The people who left me postcards.

And the strangers who sat down and talked as though we were old pals.

The kid who told me that sleeping on a pullout feels like a vacation.

And the kids who came on the last day to play the lava game and the scavenger game and ran around looking for things in the photos… a fire hydrant, geese, a porch, leaves, a rock, curtains, stairs, a dog wearing sunglasses. I loved their names— Violet, Autumn, Pandora, Audrey, Lucas, Madeleine, Maxine, Susie… I’ve forgotten some, but not the boy with the glasses and the girl who was so painfully shy.

The friends who brought me greenteacoconutmilkmachalatte, and those who were there when wine was on offer. Friends who travelled a distance to see this show and those who couldn’t come but were there in spirit. (I felt that spirit!) To friends who gave up part of a Sunday afternoon to hear me talk about how underwear affected furniture design. And to friends I missed seeing… sorry I missed you! Thank you all for coming and making this experience exactly what I hoped it would be… a stirring of memory and invitation to story.

Above all, thanks to The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, and the amazing gift that is Gallery A, for allowing me and my orphaned furniture this time and space.

Putting rubbish to some good purpose is my whole thing, after all.

That, and writing mystery thrillers set in art galleries…

 
 

what’s in front of me

 

I’ve often noticed that we’re not able to look at what’s in front of us,
unless it’s inside a frame. Abbas Kiarostami

This is how it is with me lately. Everything is frames and frame sizes and pictures to fit frames and matting to fit frames (and did you know how varied matting can be, that it comes in suede or bamboo or the texture of a basketball if that’s your thing??) And it’s not all beige either, FYI.

At this moment I may well be the most knowledgeable person within a certain kilometre radius on the subject of thrift shop frames. Go ahead, ask me who has the best prices, the biggest stock, the easiest aisles through which to maneuver a cart clunky with the oversized, the gawdy and the gilted. Ask me about how it’s important to check the BACK of the frame not just the front. (Backs can be a bugger.)

Because this is what I do now, ever since I got the happy news that my photos of abandoned couches were accepted for exhibit at ‘Gallery A’ in The Robert McLaughlin Gallery.

In this exciting new world of ‘preparing for a show’ I hunt for the tacky and eccentric. Really not so different really from my usual life…

I also clean and scrape glass (why do stores insist on putting price tags in all the wrong places?), pry off the buggery backs, measure, ponder which pic goes where and if any require basketball textured matting, and take regular coconut milk macha green tea latte breaks with my staff.

That last step is not insignificant.

The show opens next month.

(Shameless promotion, I know, but… imagine!)