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Monday, November 28, 2011

November Paradox


Because the leaves turned and fell so gradually this year, it seemed as if I could actually see that each day there was a little more light coming in my windows, sometimes reflected off the golden leaves under the trees.  The clarity that winter brings was so apparent this weekend, with light that studied the texture of bark, the rustle of grasses, the transparency of the dried leaves that hung on my clematis.  The light and the warmer weather encouraged me to stay outside and study the world instead of huddling inside, noting the pebbled surface of snow, how solid and stubborn it had become in the warmer weather.  I filled the bird feeders and stayed outside to watch the nuthatches and the single pine grosbeak peck at the seed.  Three or four flocks of pigeons flew in clustered scallops; as they turned, their wings were silvered with the light

But November changes when the blue hour arrives.  If I'm not cooking, I sit in the living room, probably with a cat or two, and watch that unusual, indescribable blue come over my back yard.  The birds are long gone, and the wind has probably died down.  So the back yard is still.  I can't decide whether the blue is serene and comforting--because I can only see it from indoors--or a kind of implicit threat.  Dennis Arbuthnott, a counsellor I talked to about Soul Weather and about the effect of weather on our moods, says that everything gets harder for us in November.  It's harder to see our lives and our actions clearly; it's harder to have the energy for the things that must be done; it's harder to exercise self-control. 

This November, I've found myself flooded with memories at the most unlikely moments.  When I'm waiting for Veronica to pick up special food for her cat.  When I'm sitting at a red light.  When I'm driving in the dark in an unfamiliar neighbourhood.

The other night when I was lost somewhere on the western edge of Lakeview, I remembered driving with my father to see his Aunt Nell on Christmas Eves, driving somewhere we never went otherwise, a sampler box of Whitman's chocolates with its cross-stitched cover on my lap.  Wherever it was we had to go, there were Christmas lights (something fairly rare in the fifties) that glittered and winked, lighting up my vague unease.  I was still young, so my impression of her living in a dormitory about the size of an elementary gym is probably quite inaccurate, but I know that the large room was full of beds and that there was no privacy. One had the vague sense that her living here was punishment for something, probably for being old and unwell.   My sister Karen has filled in some of the anxiety this memory brings:  my father visited her faithfully every year, and Christmas Eve really didn't start until we returned--something my mother resented.  But there's another mood in this memory that I can't quite name.  I have no sense that my father went to see her regularly; I only remember these Christmas Eve visits.  So this silent, capable man who is driving us:  what is he thinking?  Is he feeling guilty for not visiting at other times of the year?  Does he see this as a simple duty he must discharge?  What role does my mother's impatience play in this pilgrimage?  What is his tie to Aunt  Nell, given that he lost his mother when he was in his early teens?

This summer while I was at St. Peter's Anne Pennylegion said that we all grieve differently and that grief takes on quite different forms.  When my father died four years ago, I felt mainly relief.  He had been absent for several years and had been getting his nourishment by a feeding tube because he so often refused to eat.  Except one afternoon when I listened to the Faure Requiem, a piece of music he loved, or when I caught snatches of the Brahms Violin Concerto, another favourite, I didn't really grieve my father.  I told myself that this was because I mourned him each time I left Atlanta, and indeed I have a trail of poems to prove this.  But now I think that my mother's death has left me with the freedom and clarity (it's a long story) to see him more warmly.

November has its morning blue hours:  I sit with a cat and a cup of coffee, having finished the newspaper but not feeling quite ready to rush into the day.  And I can watch the morning blackness turn to blue.  And then in some moment when I'm not looking--perhaps I'm reading already, or perhaps Twig is sitting in my lap looking intently at my face and I'm returning the look, and the blueness lifts and clarity returns.

My father thought his daughters could do anything they set their minds to.  He believed we needed a university education:  to tell you how rare that was, I'd have to say that none of my cousins on either side of the family went to university.  He made me his buddy when he worked around the house, so I can now re-wire sockets or install new lights.  I'm not a bad carpenter:  I can cut molding at an angle and even have my very own mitre box.  He loved the Brahms Violin Concerto, and often put it on in the evening after I went bed.  But he also loved Quackity Sax.  I think I'll leave him with his contradictions intact, and simply turn the memories over in my hands and my mind when they come.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Mindful Sundays


When I was a kid, my poor father complained about never getting enough sports.  The three women in his family would whine "Do we have to watch this?" unless the University of Michigan was playing in the Rose Bowl.  Now I love football Sundays.  Bill, who retains his loyalty to the Blue Bombers from his Winnipeg days, wanted to spend the afternoon watching the two semi-final games for the Grey Cup.  Now of course he's in a great mood, thinking about how Winnipeg is going to "whup" BC next weekend, though he's also a little nervous about the home team advantage.

But what I love about football Sundays is the opportunity to go guiltlessly to my workroom and spend time reading and working on quilts.  Today I was trying to get the blocks for the bluegreygreen quilt into rows that I could then "marry," as my mother used to call it, before I created a border of blocks turned on point.  I'm about half done.  As I pieced, I watched the sun move across the floor.  Sheba, who has her spot at the narrow end of the ironing board, supervised while Twig slept on the end of the bed.  I'd take breaks reading Frances Itani's Requiem or practicing the guitar.  Time stretched like a lazy cat in the meditative space I created.

Matching up those tiny triangles at the corner of the blocks kept my fingers busy, allowing my mind to drift over my thoughts about Requiem:  about how I'd have liked the narrator's voice to be less formal and more visual, but how important and touching the story is.  Bin Okuma seems to lose everything three times over:  first when his family is rounded up and interned in the interior of British Columbia.  Not only is their house and fishing boat taken, but the family is charged for towing the boat to the Navy yard.  The community they belong to on the Fraser River finds ways to house themselves and earn money growing tomatoes and keeping gardens.  While the outhouses continue to be terrifying for Bin, the community does manage to create bath houses and root cellars.  His second loss occurs on the happiest day of his life, a day when his father has put aside his characteristic anger about Bin's dreaminess.  We learn this is only because Bin is being given away to an elderly widower who has no children.  Though growing up in Okuma-san's household is much more peaceful, although his new father manages to find paper so he can draw, Bin's anger at being given away coexists right beside his gratitutde for Okuma-san's generosity and patience, for the introduction to art and music that he experiences in his home.  Finally, the loss that precipitates the "road trip" story that holds the novel together is the death of his wife Lena.  Requiem is a story that repays thought while you fingers feel the seams to make sure they're meeting in just the right way:  a story about loss, about the redemption of art anbd music, about the difficulty of letting go, about home and the various kinds of homelessness, about what our culture does to those who are different.

Perhaps it's ironic, but I also spent quite a lot of that time thinking about the future of the Occupy movement.  What could be more representative of home, besides bread or soup, than a quilt?  And what could be more "un-home-like" than living out of a tent in a public space and asking whether our society really does what it  can to make everyone feel at home?  And what could make them feel less like an integral part of the fabric of society than to have the police move in and put eviction notices on their tents--when they weren't taking them down and putting them in the trash?

I'm hopeful that the Occupyers will find other ways to help their ideas remain visible; some groups seem to already have spent time thinking about how they'll cope with this expected outcome.  Yet in this time of tweets and sound bites, our attention span is ridiculously short:  if the media doesn't keep its ear to the ground about what this group is thinking, the momentum will be lost, and I'm afraid the media doesn't care a lot about what's not in our face.  But at the same time, this idea that can't be evicted tells us that we have to change our way of thinking.  Even if they continued to live in their tents, the change has to be supported by those of us who vote.

First, we have to stop thinking about taxes as a dirty word.  They are, rather, the cost of our collective well-being.  Some of the most highly-taxed societies in the world, like Norway, also have the greatest sense of well-being, which is another way of suggesting that individual wealth and success shouldn't perhaps be the most important item on our agendas.

We have to stop thinking of leadership as what you do or don't do in order to get re-elected four years from now.  Leadership requires long-term thinking and a willingness to take some risks for the collective good.  Yet we continue to elect governments based on immediate promises (often for no new taxes) rather than long-term vision.

While capitalism seems to be the best system human beings have created, it's far from perfect, particularly in the current form that emphasizes the individual's success and the individual's needs and desires.  So we're really going to need to re-think the relationship between individual desires and society's well-being.  Interestingly, Requiem has some sense of what that might be like: a group of sixty families in shacks backed up against a mountain managed to have enough to eat and continued the education of their children even under very difficult circumstances.  Minimalism helps you figure out your priorities, whether you're in an Occupy camp or unjustly interned in the middle of nowhere. 



On another note altogether, people have been asking whether there will be something akin to a Ken Probert Scholarship.  To answer that question, I'm simply going to paste in an email from the English Department Head, Nick Ruddick:

Before his death, Ken Probert gave $10,000 to the U of R towards a new English Dept. scholarship. This gift will now be used to create the Dr. Ken Probert Memorial Scholarship, with the English Dept. itself to decide the scholarship criteria. The current fundraising target for this scholarship is $5,000. This amount, added to Ken’s gift and with all funds then matched by the University, will generate a scholarship of $1,200 per year.

Further information about how we might help achieve the fundraising goal is now available in the Dept’s main office. Please do pass on the news about the scholarship to Ken’s former colleagues and students.


The Department's phone number is 585-4320.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Ken Probert


Yesterday was Ken Probert's funeral.  That the Speers Funeral Chapel was full; that the groups represented included a large family (the men wearing brightly-coloured Converse sneakers), many U of R faculty and students, Moose Javians, the Regina writing community, and old time friends and drinking buddies; that the word "generous" was on many people's lips, but that we also said there were parts of his life that eluded us--speaks of his complexity and of a largeness in his life that I don't think he entirely recognized or believed in.

Nick Ruddick came the closest to admitting the mystery of Ken when he said that although Ken regularly dropped the Sunday New York Times or a bag full of New Yorkers on his front porch, although they were hired at the same time after spending a year teaching together at the University of Manitoba, although they worked together for 28 years, Nick didn't know Ken particularly well.  Nick read "regrets" from people like Joan Givner, who remembered Ken's skills in the kitchen and his great recipe collection, and from Bela Szabados, who talked of what it was like to work with Ken on a collection of essays and of the myriad kinds of intelligence he brought to that task.  A former student who became a close friend, Rebecca Gibbons, spoke of Ken's generosity and insight as a professor.  Ken's U of S roommate, Rob Pletch, talked of their post-B.A. days seeing the world together, sharing the fact that Ken had spent two weeks in a cave in Crete--something I certainly never knew. Rob also talked about how Ken would throw himself into projects at Rob's Kenosee Lake cottage, but that he was also ready with a critique of the project--something that seemed more like Ken.  So we glimpsed, in the former part of our celebration of his life:  Ken the encouraging presence for creative writers; Ken the colleague who always knew what one was interested in and brought books, titles, newspapers to your door;  Ken the cook; Ken the editor; Ken the guy's guy who liked football, sailing, projects at the lake.

When Ken retired in 2010, I was asked at the last minute to speak; this was no stretch because I'd long had two favourite Ken Probert stories.  One involved a graduate student of Michael Trussler's who needed an emergency loan for a hearing test.  Ken took $100 out of his wallet, handed it to Michael, and said "I don't want this back, and I don't want anyone to know where it came from."  This was vintage Ken:  the generosity and the self-effacing humility.  The other was frankly autobiographical, but describes an important facet of Ken's personality.  I walked into his office one day and said--not very articulately--"Ken, I can't do this."  Ken closed his door, seated me in his comfy chair, and said "Kathleen, you have to stop trying to be so perfect."  In spite of not giving him much to go in with my cri de coeur, Ken knew exactly what needed saying.  I think Ken frequently knew how it was with us, his colleagues and his students.  For some reason I can only guess about, he didn't want us to know how it was with him.

Ken loved beauty.  In spite of his colour-blindness, it was clear from his conversation that he knew the great works of art and the role their iconography played in our cultural lives.  He loved music passionately and with a catholic taste I hope to be able to emulate when I'm eighty.  (I'll need the next twenty years to work on it.)  He loved Bach's music in particular, especially the Cantatas, and phone calls from Ken were often accompanied by the gorgeous sound of his carefully-constructed stereo system.  He could suss out the beauty from a line of Yeats or Eliot; he grasped and revelled in the beauty of Henry James's thick and complex world view.  He loved the contemporary world of ideas; so frequently a Saturday or Sunday phone call came from Ken telling me about a Canadian author who was being interviewed on CBC Radio.  And I think he simply loved having all this at his fingertips.  Rob spoke of Ken's pipe--an early affectation perhaps, for the man of culture?  Yet Rob was right:  he was never arrogant or elitist about what he knew. 

I've known about Ken's death for five days now, and I still can't take it in.  It saddens me enormously, often when I'm in the kitchen doing something absolutely pedestrian like chopping vegetables with one of the several knives he gave me and think that Ken will never again be part of the beautiful, magical dailiness of life that is sometimes a matter of getting by and sometimes a celebration. At the end of her collection of poems, Men in the Off Hours, Anne Carson writes of thinking about her mother's death at the same time she's looking at some Virginia Woolf manuscripts that have Woolf's cross-outs and revisions.  Carson writes

"Reading this, especially the cross-out line, fills me with a sudden understanding.  Crossouts are something you rarely see in published texts.  They are like death:  by a simple stroke--all is lost, yet still there.  For death although utterly unlike life shares a skin with it.  Death lines every moment of ordinary time.  Death hides right inside every shining sentence we grasped and had no grasp of.  Death is a fact....Crossouts sustain me now.  I search out and cherish them like old photographs of my mother in happier times.  It may be a stage of grieving that will pass.  It may be that I'll never again think of sentences unshadowed in this way.  It has changed me."

Perhaps Ken had insight into my moment of angst because he was also hard on himself.  Yet I've told the story of his comforting words to several graduate students who have gotten to that point in their writing where they're convinced they have nothing important to say.  The story almost always brings first tears and then relief.  Our stories about Ken will remain the crossed-out words that are sustaining.  Please add your own stories here if you wish.

I called the Saskatchewan Writers Guild on Thursday to see if they had any photographs of Ken hosting one of the many reading series, offering introductions that were insightful, quirky, and always always generous.  They could only give me a photograph to "publish" on my blog if they knew who had taken it, and this came down to the very dated photo you see above.  Ken was the host of the Signature Reading Series at the MacKenzie Art Gallery.  I had been here only a year and was reading from my first book of poetry.  I remember him saying that I already had a reputation as a fine teacher--words that encouraged me in some of the dicey moments we all have in the classroom.  The other people are Rosemary Sullivan and Brenda Riches, who also died far too young, on the left.  The photograph was taken by Christiane Laucht Hilderman in 1991.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Jamie Parker at St. Cecelia

We have water in the basement again.  I inherited a rented water heater when I moved to Regina in 1990, and was told it was a good idea:  that our hard water was hard on water heaters.  It had begun to look alarmingly rusty about a year ago, and I talked to the company about this, but they told me that as long as they continued to service it, it would be fine.  Skeptical, but also wanting a more energy-efficient furnace and water heater, I decided about six weeks ago to go through the environmental audit in preparation for new ones.  I will get a new furnace and water heater tomorrow.  Which is, of course, why the old water heater started leaking yesterday.  We had quite a mess before we even discovered it, and spent yesterday (and last night, taking it in turns) emptying every hour the only thing that would fit under the water heater and catch the drips:  a 9 X 13 baking pan.

Which is why we threw caution to the winds last night and went to hear pianist Jamie Parker, who was playing in the new St. Cecelia series.  We came back to a small lake, but it was worth it.

As you have doubtless figured out, I have some strange habits.  One is to go to concerts of course for the music, but also to people watch.  I'm curious about what people take away from concerts.  These concerts are scheduled for 7 p.m. on Sunday night, which is perhaps one of the reason there were so many relatively young kids there, as well as quite a few adolescents.  It was charming to listen to young beefy men and willowy girls with their long hair on top of their head talk about the repertoire they were working on, and how close they were getting to nailing it  It was moving to watch the five-year-olds melt into their mothers' arms and listen sleepily, or even stand up and move in time to Parker's wilder choices.  But mostly I'm simply curious about how we respond to something as mathematically abstract as the 12 notes of our octave.  I blame Diane Ackerman for this.  Thinking about whale song in her gorgeous essay "Moon by Whale Light," she considered the mystery of whales' need to sing in a rather metaphysical way.  Whales have huge brains, and brains take a lot of energy, so what are they doing with them? Here's my favourite quotation about consciousness:

"After all, mind is such an odd predicament for matter to get into.  I often marvel how something like hydrogen, the simplest atom, forged in some early chaos of the universe, could lead to us and the gorgeous fever we call consciousness.  If a mind is just a few pounds of blood, dream, and electric, how does it manage to contemplate itself, worry about its soul, do time-and-motion studies, admire the shy hooves of a goat, know that it will die, enjoy all the grand and lesser mayhems of the heart?  What is mind, that one can be out of one's?  How can a neuron feel compassion?  What is a self?  Why did automatic, hand-me-down mammals like our ancestors somehow evolve brains with the ability to consider, imagine, project, compare, abstract, think of the future?  If our experience of mind is really just the simmering of an easily alterable chemical stew, then what does it mean to know something, to want something, to be?  How do you begin with hydrogen and end up with prom dresses, jealousy, chamber music?  What is music that it can satisfy such a mind, and even perhaps function as a language?"

Our love of music is physical.  When I was at Banff, working on that grand piano, I remembered the physical pleasure of  playing relatively simple things on a wonderful instrument.  (I need to get my own piano tuned.)  What I love about the guitar is holding it up against my body, so the sound resonates throughout me, as well as in the air around me.  But there are still a couple of mysteries.  Why does Brahms speak to my body, while Bill Evans or U2 speak to yours?  How are these languages our bodies and minds translate?  I'm sure some of it is almost universal.  Give a piece of music a driving beat, whether it's the line of a bass guitar or octaves in a classical pianist's left hand, and we all have the same urge to move.  Some of it is surely cultural.  You know that it's way more hip to listen to Lady Gaga than to Debussy; to some degree your taste is shaped by the musical culture around you.  Yet how can I, the classical nerd par excellence, know that a song by Arcade Fire or Moonalice is fabulous?

Jamie Parker confessed to being a night owl.  He usually practices, he told us, between 9 p.m., when he puts the kids to bed, and 3 a.m.  Then he takes the dogs for a walk.  So appropriately he'd given us a program of music associated with the night:  from Schubert's Traumerei or "Dreams" to Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, whose presto he played at breakneck speed--letting the dogs out, he called it.  This thematic approach allowed him to play some things we wouldn't hear on the standard "two sonatas" program, including some I can actually play, like the Brahms Opus 118 "Intermezzo."  So he clearly wasn't going for a program that would impress us, but rather one that allowed us varied occasions for reflection, thought, and daydreaming of our own.  He played each piece as if it was a gem that deserved all of his musical, thoughtful attention and every tonal colour the piano could provide.   His informal program notes were in turns informative, touching, and playful.  At one point, he even made the sound of a Hungarian frog Bartok refers to in his "The Night's Music" from his "Out of Doors Suite."  There was lots of solid information about how the music worked, but also confessions about how the music had moved him.  It was worth the lake when we got home, and gave us a much needed balm, a reminder of the way beauty and art can sustain us and are really more important and much more enduring than relatively unimportant inconveniences (in the grand scheme of things) like water in the basement.

So I'm thinking about Ackerman's whales again.  Somehow scientists have concluded that there's information in whalesong, though we haven't been able to decode it.  Perhaps the whales are more interested, though, in soothing or expressing; maybe this is a whale's version of a purr of satisfaction over tasty plankton or a slipstream of water that strokes them in a pleasurable way.  Maybe they're waiting for the water cooler to arrive.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Play

What do Halloween, the World's Series, my cat Sheba and art critic Dave Hickey have in common?









A celebration of play, of playfulness.  Play, particularly play that is purposeful and rule-bound, is often thought of as one of the things that makes humans different from the rest of the animals, but two of my cats, Sheba and Ivy,  have both challenged this idea.  Each of them created "rules" for their play that made it more challenging.  Sheba's idea of a good time is to bring me one of her crinkly mylar balls, drop it at my feet, and go stand in front of one of the chairs in the living room.  The rule is this:  when I throw the ball, she'll be standing on the floor.  But by the time the ball is over the chair, she'll be in it and will bat the ball off somewhere else that makes it interesting to scuttle and chase.

Even if we're not cats, we need to play.  Play allows us to make things complicated, to ask "what if?" to stir things up a little, even to translate one inexpressible perception or feeling into another that comes closer to expression.  Play seems to be very close to both art and craft.  In fact, the kind of play we do may determine whether we're working in the arts or the crafts.  The crafters will kill me (but leave a comment below before you do), but I'd say the play of craft is more whimsical and less risky.  It doesn't take itself terribly seriously.  You can knit socks for sign posts, or cover a bus in knitted graffiti without saying anything in particular, or with the intent of leaving a trenchant message.  "Content" isn't a big deal; meaning is even less than a big deal.  Just have fun, and leave a trace of that sense of fun on the world.  Google "guerilla knitting" and see how much fun people are having.  Some of the fun has meaning, but it doesn't worry about meaning.

Of course, Halloween costumes (given that mothers don't always have time and expertise) lean toward the commercial:  there are Supermen and Spidermen and the easy ghost. But my colleague Medrie is an ace seamstress and her son Rowan has an outside-the-box imagination, so he was a Jedi-Triceratops.  That is, he had a wonderful dinosaur costume but also carried a light sabre.  Apparently the original "guising" or wearing of costumes stems from a time when it was believed that souls wandered the earth, some of them seeking vengeance, until All Souls' Day.  The living dressed up so they wouldn't be recognized by the vengeful (not the Grateful) dead.  I'm having trouble following the line from this Sixteenth-century practice and a kid in a triceratops costume, but maybe I'm not being playful enough.  Perhaps one affirmation of life is play.


What is certain is that even as adults we need to play.  In a walk down Thirteenth Avenue on Tuesday (my brain, exhausted with aesthetics, was offline, so I needed to walk), I stopped into Paper Umbrella, a place that encourages play in wonderful ways.  The little easel by the desk had a notice about a Saskatchewan Bookbinders and Book Artists' event, so we talked casually about how much people need to be creative and playful.  He told me that there are quite a number of groups that meet to encourage play, one of them devoted entirely to paper.  Trying to find information on the bookbinders' event, I ran into another one also occurring this weekend.  So you can take your pick and go to the True Knit Art Show 3:  Craftermath  on this weekend at the Riddell Centre, offering us "renegade art and craft from great local artists."  On the same day, the Saskatchewan chapter of the Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists' Guild will have a show of hundreds of handmade books at 42 McMaster Place between 1 and 4.

The quilt at the top of the post is called "Sunflowers in the Night Garden."  It was made for my wonderful sister-in-law, Gloria, who has this thing for sunflowers.  But of course play, as Rowen well knows, involves doing something differently; it's a kind of jazz riff on the world of appearances, the world of stereotypes and cliches.  So I couldn't just make Gloria a quilt that looked like real sunflowers, straining, as they always do, toward the sun;  I wanted to think about sunflowers at night.  And instead of trying to make fabric look like real sunflowers, I used a traditional Mariner's Compass pattern to simply suggest sunflowers.  Your eyes have to play a little bit as you look.


This is one of my more recent "what if?" quilts.  The pattern is a conventional "log cabin," which usually begins with a red square in the middle and then builds up the block in strips of light or dark fabric.  As the name suggests, it's a very North American design, most often made in bright calicoes.  But what would happen if I combined the American design with the softness of Japanese fabrics? 






In a recent post, I tried to wax eloquent about the fall colours I was seeing.  I even tried taking photographs, but they were, as photographs, too washed out.  So I asked another "what if?" question.   What if I used an American block in a really small scale (the round object is my thimble, so you can see how small the pieces are), along with the soft colours of Japanese fabrics to explore the way you need to see the landscape this time of year?
In his essay, "Frivolity and Unction" (I almost typed that "fun/ction") Dave Hickey talks about a 60 Minutes episode where Morley Safer takes on the pretentiousness of the art world in a Sotheby's auction room.   Apparently Safer's critique was way off base, entirely uninformed, and created quite a righteous stir in the art world.  He queried things like the "emotive content" of abstract art.  But Hickey was okay with it.  In fact, he thinks the art world might be better off if it were a bit more playful.  "We could just say:  'Okay!  You're right!  Art is bad, silly, and frivolous.  So what?  Rock-and-roll is bad, silly, and frivolous.  Movies are bad, silly, and frivolous.  Basketball is bad, silly, and frivolous.  Next question'?"  He thinks that if we take art off its pedestal, next to other things we value, we could talk about it a little more vigorously, a little more adventurously.  It art isn't on a pedestal, we don't need to be qualified specialists to talk about it.  Might that not get a more democratic, more playful conversation about art going?

I took the photograph of that wonderful horse at the Minneapolis Institute of Art this summer.