Sunday, 30 June 2013

Empty Headed Leadership!

Here one can envision what is coming.

Question: What kind of person would it be that sit's on the Throne of Swords?

Leadership is continuing to be an issue these days. The fact is we as a human race have a lot of history behind us and you would think, by now we would know better.  We are all aware of many leaders in history who have lead everything from families, communities, political parties and very large nations astray. And many of these have happened in the last few centuries. 

Remember the saying, "We have to learn from our mistakes." 

Guess what, we still have leaders TODAY who are doing the craziest and the most bazaar, hurtful and things, leading their fellow trusting human beings into trouble. Using their positions for a variety of personal selfish ambitions bringing about factional battles or wars that should never have happened. The end result being the deaths of millions of the very people they are to lead. Or, betraying them by making mistakes in their own personal lives to the point of getting arrested and slapped into jail. Or, on the local level, dividing communities, destroying initiatives or groups because of personal agendas. 

In fact, here in Canada, we have mayors of major cities who are being investigated for criminal activity. One of which is now sitting in jail. We apparently are not learning from our past.

"Power, it seems certainly can and will corrupt the seemingly nicest person. And we chose these people. We who voted this seemingly nice person(s) into leadership or to the committee, or political party  have to bear the burden of the far to many disasters that often ensue.

It is exactly this kind of leadership I'm representing with the head you see above. Empty headed Leadership! (You can see I'm hollowing out his head, so seems appropriate right now to see it that way.)

Well, that "empty headed" joke is more applicable than we think. It often turns out that leaders make such empty headed decisions. It dose actually apply to the kind of person who would lead from a Throne of Swords. The wolf head represents what we have come to know as the "alpha" (Male or female) leadership idea. 

Look at this comment from Dr. Prasad, "Alpha males lead by using the command and control approach, which is becoming less important in an increasingly service oriented world that depends on innovation and team participation to survive." (Samuel Prasad, Ph.D.)* 

Dr. Prasad has a long list of characteristics unique to both the non Alpha and the Alpha Male leader. Let's look at some of the Alpha Males characteristics: wanting to make decisions immediately,  being very blunt, little or no patience, tries to outwork everyone, suspects positive people, lusts after competition, make's quick judgments usually based on externals, and not surprisingly tends to self destruct often quite quickly.

As the comedian says, "Remind you of anyone!"

He makes the point that true leaders do not use the word "I" as they are thinking not of themselves, but of the team and the best for the team. They are working at what the team is thinking and moving ahead, building on the shared ideas of the team. Quite different from the Alpha Male leadership described above.

Think about it, we have not even begun talking about the wolf pack yet and the Alpha leadership that happens there!

Begs the question, what, as humans, is our problem with leadership? 

"Benjamin is the ravenous wolf; in the morning he shall devour the prey, and at night he shall divide the spoil." 
Gen. 49:27

Saturday, June 30, 2012 "Alpha Leaders vs. Alpha Males"

English Garden, Winnipeg MB
June, 2013 By Cliff Derksen

Saturday, 29 June 2013

It's all About the Gear, One.

Mike's view from the saddle.

Mike was becoming quite annoyed with his horse. She would not stop trying to slow down and eat grass as he rode to school. His father had warned him, "Don't let her stop to eat while you are riding to school!"

It was a day of firsts. It was Mike’s first day beginning the second grade. It was also his first day ever riding their white with gray coloured horse “Doll” to school. For the whole year of grade one, James, Mike’s dad had always driven him to school so this was a big change. Mike was on his way to the communities schoolhouse, which, if you went by the gravel roads would be two and a half miles away. Mike would make the ride shorter by using the neighbours fields. It was what his dad called "riding as the crow flies." 

When Mike jerked on the reins Doll would bring her head up with a protesting snort. He’d cluck, punch his heels into her sides, shake the reins and she’d begin to move forward again. For a little way that is, and then, she’d slow down and stretch out her neck, sniffing and checking if she'd be allowed to stop and try to eat again. Possibly sneaking a bite before Mike would realise it and jerk the reins again. After a while Mike just got tired of the work of jerking her head up and let her eat every once in a while. For only a little while only, of course.

Make’s dad had gone to a lot of trouble to get him ready for riding to school. He’d taken care to purchase a horse quiet and tame enough for his son, who was seven going on to eight years old. He had purchased the horse during Mike's first year, so he could get used to riding. 

Mike had ridden Doll to get the cattle in the morning for milking. and other odd jobs but this would be Mike’s longest ride. It would be his very first ride all alone for the two and a half mile journey to school. He would be very much alone going through unfamiliar territory for such a young fellow.

James had also purchased a saddle for Mike to use. The they had never owned a saddle before. In fact, not much of any riding had ever been done. Things change when you have children and James was finding that out. He had found an old army saddle for a great price. It would help stabilise Mike on the horse, plus keep him clean for school. 

When his dad had boosted him up into the saddle that memorial first morning of school, Mike had felt very special. He'd never sat in a saddle and he felt like a real cowboy. His father took his time carefully adjusting the stirrups to fit mikes leg length. The final touch was his dad tying his lunch pail to one of the leather straps at back of the saddle. 

Mike could not wait to get started on his way to school. He had trouble concentrating on his fathers final instructions. He was looking forward to the freedom, being out there all alone on the wide empty prairie, riding his horse. His imagination picturing a cowboy wearing a huge cowboy hat herding his cattle to pasture. Meanwhile, his dad was still talking, explaining something about bales of hay he'd left at the school for his horse. 

Then, just before he let go of the bridal, his father stopped, looked up at Mike and repeated the one thing he was concerned about. “Mike,” he said seriously looking up into his eyes, “never let the horse eat while you are riding. It will only get you into trouble, so be careful, do not let her eat grass along the way.” Mike said he would not let her eat, and then, finally, his dad let go of the bridle. He was free to go. He leaned forward, clucked softly wiggling the reins and Doll moved towards the driveway.

His horse went into a trot and he stood and sat in time as his father had taught him. It felt like the saddle actually made him higher on the horse. He loved this so much better than walking, he could see all around for a long distance. 

He was watching the horse's ears swing back and forth when he noticed it. It changed everything. He could not believe he had not noticed this before. He yelled "whoooo" and yanking on the reins. His horse came to a standstill. He leaned over to the right, standing in the stirrup to get a good look. His horse was wearing a "harness bridle!" 

He'd been so excited about getting to school and showing off to his friends. This was to be his statement of high accomplishment, riding alone to school, with a saddle even. But to have his horse wear gear meant for a "work-horse" was just too much. This was absolutely embarrassing. No cowboy's horse ever had "blinders" on! He sat hunched over his saddle horn, so disappointed. It was bad enough that his horse was half Clydesdale, but this was just too much.

As he began to turn the problem over in his mind, he did not notice his horse was calmly grazing, moving along having a meal. 

What was he to do? He had an idea...

"In you, O Lord, I put my trust; let me never be put to shame."    
Psalms 71:1

(Autobiographical fiction)

Winnipeg's "English Garden"
June 2013
Photograph by Cliff Derksen

Monday, 24 June 2013

Out of Control

"100 Masters" Only in Canada art Show,
May 11 - August 18, '13
Winnipeg Art Gallery

"Spring Session"
Gallery In the Park, Altona, MB
Show open till August 5, '13

We often say to one another how we need a “quiet” weekend. That we've been working hard and deserve a break. And then we see the powers of the universe descend on us and by some weird circumstantial process create a weekend like we've never imagined. That’s what happened this past weekend.

Friday afternoon, my wife and I went to the “100 Masters” art show at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. A show everyone was raving about it, and the media was talking about it. We decided this was the time, and we went.

It was of course “awesome”. The curator had gone to all the major art galleries in Canada and asked them, “Give me the best pieces you own and I’ll show them for you in Winnipeg!” Of course, that’s setting up a real “pissing contest” between galleries, no wonder he had no trouble getting stuff to show! Everyone trying to upstage the other. Now that’s “collaboration!”  Great for us in Winnipeg anyway. I've made a note of that technique for my motivational management skills.

Saturday morning I got up early, finishing and publishing a story for my “Stories from the Farm” series. Our kids and grandson came over for lunch and we spent the day together. Walked around a farmers market nearby. Bought some rhubarb pie for supper, met some friends and came home to prepare a BBQ supper as we had a guest couple joining us for the evening. We spent the whole evening visiting in the gazebo in our backyard. It was fabulous

Sunday of course was church. I text-ed the pastor a note of encouragement before the service, part of which to my surprise he later read to the audience. (Fortunately he didn't mention my name.)

On our way home we decided we’d worked hard and since we’d seen one art gallery, why not run out to Altona and see another. We were in the mood now to see more art. Plus, we could see the kids, if they were free. The decision was made.

As we puled up to our house to quickly eat and go, we are greeted by a surprise visitor we knew only by family connection. She was sitting on a wicker chair in our porch, telling us she needed a ride home! Where is her “home?” It’s a small town right next to Altona. It’s not even out of our way. Wow.

We enjoy the art at the “Altona Gallery in the Park”, have a quick coffee with our children, and we’re on our way back to Winnipeg in no time.

Oh, I must mention that we encountered two fierce rainstorms, one on our way out and the other on our way back. So intense that cars were stopping, or driving slowly with their 4-way’s on!

At 6 pm we joined up with Syras and went to another event celebrating a milestone in the life of a youth in the Young Adults group we’d been part of all winter. She’d also invited us to join her for coffee after with friends and family at her house. We ended up sitting around the dining room table with this amazing family and sharing family stories back and forth. Syras, our son, of course revels in this kind of thing and indulged himself sharing embarrassing humorous stories about us, his parents. It’s his very favorite thing to do it seems. It was an evening that had it all. Serious stuff plus uproarious comedy. In a matter of two hours or so, we had made friends with this special family. A delightful evening of celebration and fun.

Were we tired? Yes. Did we feel good? Yes, we felt great.

One thing though. My apologies for not having written my art blog. As you can see, even though I had something to write, I had no time to do the writing on this “quiet” weekend as I’d hoped. I’d left it too late and the weekend went out of control, not giving me any room to do it. “Providence” it seems, took control of the weekend.

Thank you for your understanding and have a great week.

"At his direction they (the clouds) swirl around over the face of the whole earth to do whatever he commands them."
Job 37:12

English Garden, Winnipeg MB
By Cliff Derksen
June, 2013

Saturday, 22 June 2013

It's A Nightmare!

(A note from the author: The author has jumped in where angels fear to tread, and is learning what it is to write. Decisions have had to be made regarding the genre and the wisdom of not using real names and places. So to protect himself from getting shot by past friends, you will notice a few small adjustments. For example, most obvious is that the protagonist will in the future be known as "Mike".)

After Donna left, Mike felt disconnected, "out to lunch," his dad would have said.

What his father did not know was that his son’s mind was completely occupied with anything but fencing. He’d just fallen in love and was completely and hopelessly distracted.
Mike was on automatic, dreaming about Donna. He watched his father swing his sledgehammer, a tune going through his mind to the beat of the sledge blows “I love Donna, bam,… I love Donna, bam…”

When the posts were all in the ground, his father rolled out the barbed wire alongside the fence. Mike sat on the tractor seat, Donnas' face floating in his mind. From a great distance he heard his father calling, interrupting, asking him to fetch the wire puller. He moved like Frankensteine on automatic. He could see himself drawing her in his scribbler, shading in her hair floating like a cloud around her face.

Later, His dad stood Mike the "zombie" alongside one of the fence posts measuring and explaining the height at which the wire was to be nailed. On Mike this was the midpoint between his hip and knee. The top one would be attached two hammer lengths higher. He filled both his pockets with nails, and they began, each moving in the opposite direction.

The sounds of their hammers rang through the quiet prairie air. Mike, glancing up into the sky thought he recognized Donnas' facial profile in a cloud off in the distance. He was thrilled and kept glancing towards it, thinking he’d draw a profile of her when he got home.

A few posts down the line he was brought out of his romantic haze when he realized he was feeling some pain around his upper thigh area. Looking down to figure it out, he could see the ends of the nails sticking out through his jeans. Not only that, they were also sticking through his pocket lining on the inside, poking and scratching his legs. No problem he thought as he adjusted his overalls and carried on.

It wasn't long before he found himself holding his pockets up with his hands, attempting to keep the sharp nails away from his legs as he moved from post to post. This caused him to walk in a waddling fashion. He was glad Donna wasn't around to see it. He looked like a sick duck.

As the pain increased his progress slowed. He looked towards his father, he was out of earshot and the tractor was at the far end of the line. He continued waddling along, moving ever more slowly. Every move was painful and agonizing. He was sure he was bleeding, imagining blood running down his legs into his socks and shoes.

He was taking more and more time at each post, carefully, slowly measuring, setting the nail, holding the post steady with the left hand hammering home each nail with slow deliberate blows. His heart sank as he looked ahead to see how many posts were left. He took a peek in his father's direction and surreptitiously, in a rather futile attmpt to lighten the load, began chucking nails out into the grass.

Even the very movements of hammering gave him severe shots of pain, the nails lacerating his tender skin as his body swung back and forth. He was not thinking of Donna anymore.

Just when he felt he could not go on, he heard the best sound of all. He heard the tractor start up and begin to move in his direction.

That evening, when he came in with two pails of milk to put through the cream separator, it took only 30 seconds for his mother to stop in her tracks, turn and look at him with that quizzical look. "What’s wrong Mike, you are walking weird?” she declared.

 For Mike this meant danger. He immediately realized he’d forgotten to mask his throbbing pain in the presence of the “all seeing mom!” He tried hard to act normal, hide the pain. “Nothing’s wrong mom.” he mumbled.

It was in times like this that he feared his mother. She still considered him a “child.” That she still had all the full rights of a mother despite the fact he was already 12 years old. He considered himself beyond the motherly, no holds-barred, bodily “checks” of embarrassment. Her checking his ears for cleanliness on Sunday morning was one thing, but her checking out his upper thighs was, he thought, out of bounds.

As she came closer, under her intense gaze, the pain in his legs seemed to increase. He tried not to be flustered as she stood beside him, scanning him from head to toe. He likened her to an aboriginal tracker or scout who could see things no one else could see. He was actually convinced that she could read his mind. He tried to avoid eye contact, hoping, that way to escape this brush with "death by embarrassment," with some kind of dignity.

With his thighs in such pain, he would have to try to do things differently. But, that was a problem; he’d never practiced any “new moves" around the cream separator, since he’d never had this kind of injury before. He suddenly felt the pressure and the panic rise. How was he going to do this without his mother seeing his pain?

The pails were heavy, full of milk. He had to pour each one through the screen sitting above the huge bowel at the top of the separator. He knew he should just tell her. Why was he doing this to himself? He kicked the riser into place, picked up the first pail. He paused. He could see a picture in his mind's eye, him standing before his mom, his pants down and around his ankles, in his gitch! "No way was that going to happen," he thought to himself and made his decision.

He stepped onto the riser and heaved the pail up onto his thigh to get his harm under it. The bottom rim of the metal pail, weighted with milk, gouged into his wounded thigh, He immediately felt the searing pain shoot through his body. His body winced violently, he yelled as he lost control, the pail tilting away, milk pouring out as it descended to the floor with a thud. He stood hunched over on his riser, and even in his pain could not help watching in wonder and horror as the milk spread everywhere, under the stove, and beyond, further and further stretching out in a huge circle on the kitchen floor.

Later, he lay in bed relieved, his eyes closed. He was so tired, but he felt better, his mother having fussed over and nursed his aching wounds. His last thought as sleep descended, was that the drawing of Donnas' profile would have to wait till tomorrow.

He dreamed of Donna. She was beautiful. More beautiful than he’d ever imagined. She had this dreamy appearance, wearing a beautiful white dress, glowing around her, with her big work boots on her feet. When she began to come towards him hands outstretched, his initial feelings of wonder quickly dampened. He began backing away but she kept coming closer and closer. He panicked turned and ran. But his legs didn't work right, he had trouble running, they were sluggish and slow. He looked down and was horrified to see his legs were stuck full of quills. Porcupine quills, all over his legs. He turned to look back and Donna was gone. Instead he saw undulating waves of hundreds of dark porcupines chasing him. Spreading slowly but surely in a big circle, all over the ground, gaining on him, surrounding him, closing in on him, he screamed his body twitching violently.

He woke up, aware of his legs churning. He was in a cold sweat, fully awake, trembling. His eyes wide open staring straight up at the slanted ceiling of his moonlit bedroom. 

"This man Daniel,...was found to have a keen mind...and also the ability to interpret dreams..." Dan. 5:12 

(Autobiographical Fiction by Cliff Derksen)

Spent some time yesterday taking photos
in the citie's public English Gardens.
June 20, 2013

Sunday, 16 June 2013

An Unexpected Crush

Donna stood there for a moment, considering me with a quizzical eye, her head tilted.

This was very embarrassing. I'd just missed hitting the fence post in a very embarrassing way, the sledge hammer flying forward out of my hands. All observed of course by Donna and her dad. I stood atop the wagon waiting.

Donna was older, four or five grades ahead of me. The family was all girls. With no boys on the farm, these girls were doing whatever any guy would do, driving the tractor, the combine, doing the chores plus any other necessary tasks around the farm. Including I suspected fencing.

She came across the fence-line, and looked up at me from the back of the wagon. "Did your Dad teach you how to do that?"

I had to think, it felt like a trick question. I didn't want to blame my dad and yet my performance probably told her no one had really trained me for doing this. I tried avoiding the question, "Just a freak accident." I blurted.

"Do you want me to show you how to do it?" she asked. "Sure." I said, surprised.

"Well then, come on down with that thing and we'll practice right here." pointing generally to the side of the wagon.

Without a word, she took the sledge from me and set herself up facing the rear tire. "Now," she said, "Just watch, I'm going to hit the top of the tire. Watch my hands and how I do it." With that she grabbed the handle, the hammer rose over her shoulder, paused a moment, then, rose up, arcing over her head and slammed onto the top of the rubber tire, dust flying. To my amazement, she went into motion again and without a pause smacked the tire a few more times. Then she put the hammer head on the ground and turned to me, leaning on the handle. Her chest heaving with the exertion.

I stood in amazement and wonder. I had never seen anything like it. My mother did chores sometimes, but basically worked in and around the house. I could not get over the sight of this woman, in a dress, wearing big work shoes, whacking a tire with such ease. She must have read my mind. "I always work with my dad when we do the fencing and we take turns hammering the posts into the ground, so I get lots of practice."

She began by talking about the use of the sledge. She talked about the basic styles of using it, her style not being the windmill style my dad used. Then she went through the motions slowly, demonstrating and talking through each movement. Lifting the hammer over her shoulder, then off the shoulder into the air, and as it arced sliding her front hand down the handle, her hands together at the end of the handle as the sledge hammer crushed the top of the tire. Wham! She let it bounce off onto the ground again leaning on the handle.

I was speechless as she instructed me to take her place facing the tire and placed the sledge into my hands. She basically had to drag me there as I was in a very confused state of mind. For as much as I wanted to know how to do this, I found it suddenly hard to listen and concentrate. You see, she was now physically very close to me. Guiding me, placing my right hand just above the mallet, then demonstrating by moving my right arm and hand holding the hammer, up over my shoulder, with the left on the end of the handle holding it high over my head. This she said was called the "loaded" position. All I could think of was that her feminine body was moving around me, as she was setting me up, back and forth, often inches from my face. To further complicate matters I became very aware of her hands touching, gripping and guiding mine, feeling the warmth and heat with every touch. I was surprised by the intensity of my awareness of every movement and touch. 

Then, all the while she was setting me up she was also talking. I knew It was important but with all the sensations invading my mind it seemed like her voice was a great distance away. But in spite of the explosive sensitivity to the touch of her hands on mine, the odd word would break through the sensations. This was weird, new and very dizzying. Donna of course seemed completely oblivious to my situation, touching and moving so close with careless abandon. It was confusing, disconcerting and great, very great, all at the same time.

I was so disappointed when she backed away. It suddenly occurred to me, I should not be feeling good about something like this. I was sure that  I was sinning in some major way and immediately began to feel a huge load of guilt.

"Mike, Mike, hello," I could see her hand waving before my face. How embarrassing. "You ok?" she squinted into my face. It all came rushing back. I felt like such an idiot. I was sure she knew exactly what I'd been thinking about. Another wave of embarrassment hit me. 

It was time for me to do it myself. Of course, due to my distractions, I was not confident that I'd heard everything. The spots she'd touched or brushed against, still reverberating with heat. But I did my best. She jumped right back in near me, her hands wafting over mine, my heart pounding strangely, as she casually and carefully clarified things to set me up again. 

I was surprised at the disappoint I felt when she noticed her father showing up at the truck. She quickly told me I did well and deemed me ready to finish hammering in the fence post. Then she was gone.

When she turned to get into the truck she waved good-bye and I was once again, alone on the wagon. She had actually waved goodbye! I was so smitten! As I prepared to continue hammering in the fence post, I could not get Donna, her presence, her touch, her voice out of my head. I kept looking at my hands and arms, still aware of exactly where she'd touched me. Somehow everything had changed. I had discovered that there were women in this world! I had discovered that Donna was amazing. A tune of my own making "Donna...Donna" began weaving through my head. Suddenly I was aware of what a beautiful day it really was. "Donna" had sad I was ready to knock that post into the ground! Wow.

"Strengthen me with raisins, refresh me with apples, for I am faint with love"              Song of Songs 2:5

The Lilacs in our front yard
waft their intoxicating scent
into the air.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

The Probe in Action.

 The Probe has done it's work.

Ready to be put together again.
I know, this looks vicious. Like the comedian says, "Remind you of anything?" Uncomfortable memories.
Sculpting with clay sometimes looks like pretty gory stuff. I probably should be more careful what I show you about some of the process we sometimes have to go through. I am realizing that a lot of people have very a  romantic idea of the pieces they are looking at and/or purchasing. Many do not even want to go near an artist's studio, because they don't want to know about the "workman like shop" the place might look like. Or see something they may feel is "disgusting."
This here is one of those things, and I apologize if I am spoiling something for you. 
Also, I quite enjoyed seeing the "powerful" and "evil" king having to go through this ignoble, humbling process!
I have changed my general approach to sculpting. I used to make my pieces from slabs of clay, making the figure hollow right from the beginning. Now, I chose what to make hollow and what to carve from solid clay as I encounter each piece. This piece was a combination of the two. Because of it's larger size, it was a lot easier to create it from solid clay. Then from the mid chest area I began to make him hollow due to the weight of the clay. With him bending forward in the sitting position that became an issue with it slumping and needing to be braced up. I had already decided to have his arms resting on his knees, so I make rough arms which helped stabilize the figure while the clay was still wet.
The funny part was that the lower legs below the knee could not take the weight, and so that is where I included extra support. The reason I say "funny" is that they went into some weird shapes making the "strong" king look rather weak in the legs. Some chopsticks cut to the right length became handy supports for that part.
My challenge was hollowing out the upper thighs. I have had this problem before, but this figure is much bigger and his legs are longer, so it was impossible to "dig" them out without drastic measures. I just did not want to cut up his legs into sections to do this. So this was the time to purchase "the drill bits" needed for just this kind of a job. I found just the right ones for the job, a set which came in three sizes. Using an extension, I was able to hollow the leg out clear to the knees. Fantastic. The legs below the knees are thin enough and will not need to be hollowed out.
"For an empty-headed man will be wise, when a wild donkey's colt is born a man." Job 11:12

Not only are the flowers blooming
but the mosquitoes are also out! Yup, that's a mosquito!
Below is another view of these amazing early flowers in our backyard.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Big Hammer, Very Small Post.

I could see my father working further down the fence-line. He was focused on the task of making fence-post-holes, the crowbar rising and falling rhythmically into the dry summer ground. He had left me on the wagon of fencing supplies, parked alongside the fence-line with instructions to follow him, pounding the for-mentioned fence-posts into the ground. 

My excitement of being alone, and in charge, on the wagon with all the supplies was quickly waning. The "I'm the King of the Castle" ditty quickly vanished as I began preparing to pound in the first post. First, I had to chose a post from the pile in at my feet in the wagon.

I considered this choice very carefully. The reason was that this was just the thing I'd been dreading. I would have to strike the seemingly very-very small top of a post with a lot of force, with a very large heavy hammer. A hammer with, by the way, a very long handle. I had envisioned this in my mind many times, but there all of this seemed so easy. Now, with real posts and a real sledge hammer laying before me I suddenly felt pretty panicky. Reality was setting in. I picked the fattest post I could find.

Next I began pouring water into the hole from the height of the wagon. This was easy and fun. I lingered, pouring it in drips, watching the arc of the water, wiggling the pail sideways watching the water go back and forth. I also watered the weeds beside the hole as it was very dry for them I was sure. All, of course, to prolong the inevitable. Knowing full well that my father would be frustrated with me for wasting water and time. I glanced in his direction, no problem he was busy.

I picked up the "fat" post I'd chosen and stuck it into the hole, leaning over to position it in line with the rest of the fence. 

Then, I picked up the sledgehammer. I loved the feel of the handle, a very smooth oval shape. Not round like a broom handle. I needed to get to know this thing. Next I held it by the hammer end. This way the handle seemed so light, and I could swing it around so very easily. I looked at the fencepost, tapping the top with the handle end, wishing that I could pound it in with that end of the tool. At least I could control that end much easier! Of course the post just stood there laughing at my feeble efforts. I began using it as a cane, handle end down. I self consciously glanced up and noticed my dad had stopped and was staring in my direction....  

The moment of truth had come, I grabbed the handle, my left hand at the end and my right hand near the hammer. I placed it on the top of the post. It wiggled. I was reminded that I had not yet "set" the post in the hole. I slid my right hand to the very head of the sledge, and grabbed the post with the left as far down as possible, as I was afraid I'd slip and hit my arm while taping the post in. Again I placed the hammer on the top of the post. The post moved, my hammer wobbled. When I tried to lift the hammer to tap the post I had no leverage as my left hand was way too low as it steadied the post. I had to slide it up much higher so I could actually lift the hammer with my right hand. I felt like a total idiot and wondered if my dad was looking.

I decided I'd lay the hammer on it's side and in this way managed to strike the post a few times. It did move down a bit and did become more stable. As I repeated this I gained more confidence, striking harder and getting some results. So now the post was finally "set."

It was time to strike the post for real and so resumed my original pose. My left hand on the end of the handle and my right close to the hammer end. This I felt was necessary for control. I certainly had no confidence in any kind of swing with both of my hands together at the end of the handle! I placed the hammer on the target, and began with light taps on the top of the post. I was quite satisfied with the results and my confidence slowly grew as my taps turned to "hits." The post was slowly moving down with each strike. The problem I discovered was that my power was limited in this position as I was not able to really put full weight and power into the swing as I'd hoped. The harder I swung the more vibration I got, jarring my right hand located low on the handle, going up my arm and into my shoulder and neck area. This was very disappointing. It became clear to me that for the post to really go into the ground I was going to have to hit it much harder than this stance seemed to allow. But, I was certainly not ready to do the "windmill" like I'd just seen my Father do.

I needed to experiment. Possibly something between the windmill and my first idea would work. I grabbed the handle halfway up with both hands together. I placed it on the post, then pulled it off letting the hammer swing down between my legs. I let it swing back and forth increasing the momentum till I was ready, then swung it forward all the way up over my head. The change in weight caused me to scramble back and forth to keep my balance. I looked at the post, shuffled my feet till I thought I was in the original spot. Then, with all my might brought the sledge down onto the seemingly very small top of the post.

At contact I had two sensations at the same time. I saw something glinting in the sunlight, slashing through the air before me. And, my hands were instantly numb with vibration and shock. I stood dumbly staring at my "empty" hands. What in the world had just happened?

As I stood there in a daze of numbness, I became aware of a half-ton truck slowly coming into my consciousness. It was rolling to a stop in a circle of dust on the other side of the fence before me. May heart sank. Had somebody actually seen me do this? Oh no, how embarrassing!

Two people emerged from the dusty work vehicle, huge smiles on their faces. It was Jack, one of my uncles and his daughter Donna. They lived next door about a mile away and often just dropped in unannounced, usually during some kind of embarrassing moment, just like this one. I realized they had totally seen my disastrous attempt at striking the post.

My uncle, chuckling way too much came towards me, picking up the sledgehammer as he came towards me. "I saw what happened Mike," he chortled, his weather beaten face all wrinkled up in a huge smile, "you know that post saw it coming and jumped right out of the way."

He handed me the hammer with a wink. "Don't worry, you'll get him next time!"

He went off to talk to my dad, chuckling, leaving me mortified, with a giggling Donna!

"Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life..."                Matthew 7:14

Spring Buds


Saturday, 8 June 2013

King of the Castle.

Every summer it happened like clockwork. My father would declare a particular day to be a "fencing day." And, no, this was not about sword fighting! 

Invariably, it would always be a day of wonderful weather. A day I could have really enjoyed as a day of play! Who want's to be sweating out there in the sun when you could be playing in your shaded sandbox, or living in your imagination? I could be spending the day imagining myself as a scout sneaking up on my enemy soundlessly, through the tall grain I'm crawling through. Only to get it from my dad a week later who suddenly would be on a rampage because he noticed a mysterious trail of broken wheat in his "precious" grain field! (I know, still a little bit of stuff there!)

From my perspective as a kid, the only a few good things about fencing. One was getting to go out, away from the farmyard into the open prairie. Usually along some side-road, trail or even just out in the middle of nowhere. Once the tractor was shut off the silence was overwhelming. Bird sounds like the song of the meadowlark became music to the ears. The rustling of the wind moving the grass. The dust-devils crossing the prairie in the hot sun were simply magical.

The other best part was lunch time. Here my father and I sat down on he edge of the wagon, opened the big black barn-shaped lunch box to see what mom had made for us. It was not just the food, which was good, but also the breaking of bread with my dad. It was one of the few times I might connect with him in some way. My dad was always "doing" something and so I often felt distant from him. I yearned for his personal attention, approval and affection. Having a meal alone with him was for me always a hope that I might "connect" with him in some meaningful way.

The thing I really dreaded about fencing was the knowledge that one day, I would be called on to wield that sledge-hammer. When my father used this tool there never seemed to be any issues. He stood on the wagon parked alongside the fence. He placed the pre-sharpened fence-post into the water filled hole he'd prepared. Then holding the post in position with his left hand, he'd give the post a light tap or two, to set it in place, with the sledge hammer in his right hand. He would eye the post, lean forward to make sure it lined up with the tops of the row of posts along the fence. (It had to be a straight fence!) Wiggle the top of the post into place and tap it again two or three times to make it sit in just the right alignment. Then he would step back and in one smooth motion, let the sledge swing down, his hands sliding together to the end of the shiny wooden handle, the hammer without wavering, moving in an arc, hesitating behind him, then accelerating, arcing over his head, connecting sharply with the top the fence-post, driving it onto the ground, muddy water squirting up from the hole. Then, pulling the hammer off the post, let it fall repeating the process in a continual rhythmic cadence, until the post stood in the position it would be destined to hold for several years ahead. Until an erring animal pushed it over or rot would seal it's fate.

To my surprise, my dad, took the crowbar and began moving down off the wagon and along the fence-line to make new holes for posts. He left me on the wagon with the assignment to hammer in fence-posts. Since, he said, I'd seen him do it often, this should be no problem! One thing he emphasized  "Make sure the posts are in line with the existing fence."

I felt a rush as he moved down off the wagon. My day had come. It reminded me of the game, "king of the castle", for some reason I was now king of my own castle. This wagon, with all the stuff on it was "mine!" I'd knock in those posts, start and drive the tractor up the line for the next post. Wow. I looked around my castle and I was excited. This was the life!

Now, I thought, what do I do first?

"Then a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power over Egypt."      Exodus 1:8

Autobiographical Fiction by Cliff Derksen

Finally, spring has sprung!


Saturday, 1 June 2013

The Artist Procrastinates

Editor at Work

Apparently, I have to get my hands out of the clay and begin to sculpt using words on paper. I suppose I could keep making as many sculptures as I like but unless I tell someone, no one will know about them, and no one will actually see them. 

It seems I must overcome my "fear" and my procrastination and simply do it. I find it difficult to "push" my own work. I feel much more comfortable showing it and letting the art speak for itself. I don't mind writing about it in the sense of what it means or about how to do it technically but this.....this is different. This is "advertising" the essence of my expression. Advertising my own personal ideas, thoughts and feelings. 

I have even had a letterhead designed! Notice my graphic artist (our daughter Odia) used my signature to make up my letterhead! Pretty amazing eh? It's a great idea and I love it. Too bad it's about me though. That's disconcerting.

It seems a lot of artists have a lot of problems with creating an "Artist Statement." Here's what an artist career coach said about writing an artist statement. "....pretend that you have a lot to say that is neither self important nor trivial, but is rather relevant, revealing, and wonderful. Imagine that all of your objections to writing have been overcome and you are simply going to write whatever you believe to be true, at the moment, about your work."

That word "pretend" doesn't work for me. I must be real, authentic and all that good stuff. Let me try this idea instead, why not the truth? I could simply use my real personal story. I've heard people describe life as telling your story. That is what I need to do. I will use "story of my life experience" to make my pitch. I'm thinking I need to simply share what that story did to me. To share how I was inspired to create through the tragic murder of our daughter. The impact of the loss, the pre-trial in 2010, then the five and a half week trial in 2012, and just recently now in May of 2013 the appeal. How these events energized my desire to create. How I learned to do my grieving, my healing and my own therapy through the amazing process of creativity. How the creative process seemed a safe place for me, so safe in fact that I could create work that expressed the greatest inner heart pain that I could ever imagine. The searing pain of a fathers' loss.

Now that I'm thinking about this, it makes writing about my art history or even art techniques rather trivial. 

Thanks again everyone. Once again, just writing about this here has given me ideas, direction and the confidence to move forward.

Thank you.

"...that you may know the way by which you must go, for you have not passed this way before."      Joshua 3:4b

The first event at the new Winnipeg football stadium "Investors Group Field" was the annual "One Heart" event, where once a year over 60 churches come to worship together. It was awesome. 

Monsters Are Out There.

Stories and Lessons from the Farm 3

Every farm in our community had a yard-light. When I looked in any direction from our yard on a clear night I could make out some of them. When we drove home from a hockey game or a church function at night I could see the many familiar farmyards lit by their lights, marking our way. The Siemens, the Hams and so on. 

What was very interesting was the many bugs of all kinds, attracted to the light. They buzzed around them in droves during the summer nights. I loved to lay on the damp grass watching their bodies and wings glimmering and dancing against the backdrop of the black night above them, their undulating hum music to my ears. 

I always felt both a strange fear and an attraction to this spot of light on the yard. The shadows stark and deep played tricks with  my eyesight. Strange sounds emanated from the darkness. I imagined there were all kinds of fearful wild creatures lurking just beyond the light all around me. I tried hard not to think about them for this was a test. A test of courage.

There was also an ever-present unearthly dark shadow under my body. It moved in a contorted way under my feet, undulating weirdly over the uneven ground, grass, and objects beneath me. When I ran around near the light post it was short and squat but as I moved away it grew and extended itself into a contorted lengthening figure of some other worldly strange creature. I did not know who or what it was. I'd run the whole circle and watch the shadow run with me, stretching itself right into the darkness, making itself one with the night and disappear into the mystery of the beyond. 

To make matters worse my dog Ricky would join me under the light, ruining, sniffing, zig-zaging, his shadow moving, stretching  bulging, dancing as he ran. He'd disappear into the night beyond the edge of the light and I could hear him breathing, moving , then silence and I would lose track of where he was. Suddenly he'd  burst back into the light giving me a fright. 

I felt I had to spend time under the yard light.  It was after all, a real test of my courage. Would I be able to stay under the light without running back into the house in a panic of abject fear? I did not like to stop moving because then the sounds of the night would slowly increase in volume. Everything sounded erie even if I knew what it was. Frogs and crickets sang into the night. During the day I never gave them a thought, but at night it was different. They kind of hid the sounds the monsters out there made. The rustling, the snapping of twigs, the groans, the wind. Yes, the wind was really bad, for these monsters would be breathing and you couldn't tell the difference from the wind. So I knew there were monsters out there beyond the edge of the light.

My parents, being adults, of course "had to tell me" there were no monsters out there in the dark. My mind would never really believe them.  The reason was very simple, it was because I could tell by their tone of voice that they were just saying that to make me feel better. It was like they protested too much for me to be convinced. 

You see, to tell you the truth, I had gone into the darkness myself. I had personal experience. I knew, for a fact that I'd heard sounds in the dark that I'd never heard during the day. I was very sure the that there were some strange and scary "things" out there. 

Then it happened. My Dad came out of the house with the water pail for drinking, asking if I'd could go to the well and bring some water back to the house. He turned and disappeared into the darkness. I could hear his steps as he walked, then I heard the door close. I stood alone in the circle of light, surrounded by darkness holding an empty metal water pail.

Our well was a very very long way from the house! And it was in the dark. Blackness. No streetlights, no houses with window lights, no cars, nothing! I felt very alone and fearful. As I stood there all my senses went into even higher sensitivity. I could smell way more stuff, I could hear a lot of things out there, but I could see nothing at all. Nothing! 

My mind was racing. What would be the best strategy? Do I walk slowly or do I run like mad? If I can't see, running would be crazy, I'll fall over something, like a monster and kill myself! If I walk it will take forever and I'll just go stark raving mad with fear...

I began planning and "visioning" my run like an Olympic athlete. I had to go clear across the yard, duck under the one log fence gate, angle to the left going uphill, find the pump spout and hang the pail on it. Then move off to the left again to a grainery, find the switch and turn on the pump.

I leaned forward into a sprinters position and burst into a run, crashing through the darkness barrier, concentrating on running faster than any monster alive. I was surprised to hear the loud jingling and jangling my pail was making as I swung my arm during my run. I was strangely comforted by the sound. Might scare away the bad guys. The nerves on my back prickled with sensitivity and anticipation of the grasping flesh tearing claws of some huge creature I was sure was right behind me. 

I suddenly panicked  realizing I'd have to slow down for that "one log" gate. So much was happening and had not considered not seeing that log. My mind became conscious of sight, to my amazement, I could see, at least sort of. Of course, my eyes were adjusting to the darkness. Meanwhile, several things were striking me at the same time. I was fast approaching the log and had to think about slowing down so as to duck under it as fast as possible. But I also desperately felt I needed to peek behind me should some "animal" be right there ready to pounce. If in fact that was the case, slowing down would be a bad idea.

Then, with me moving in full stride, the log came rushing toward me. I slowly became conscious of the fact that the log was not set across the gate level with the ground, but that the one end was on the ground to the right side of the gate post. So ducking under was suddenly not an option....I passed over the log, attempting, in the trickery of the moonlight, to judge; take off, leaping height and distance as it related to my "as fast as I could run," running speed. I felt two things, the whack of the log on my shin and the full body length rolling tumble on the hard packed earth in front of the barn. 

When I opened my eyes I could see in the darkness. I slowly got up aware of several new aches and pains, especially one on my shin. I sat there, just because I could. I looked and saw the pail way ahead of me. I waited, thinking. A cow snorted, I turned and saw her looking at me over the water trough. Here I'd hoped no one had noticed. Then Ricky torpedoed his wet nose into my face, thinking it was play time...

As I filled the pail I realized I'd failed the courage test, but, now I knew I'd have a few good scrapes and bruises to show everyone. I  walked painfully all the way back to the house. Just when I got to the door I realized I'd forgotten about the crazies in the dark. Mmmm maybe I had not failed the test.

"Fear came upon me, and trembling, which made all my bones shake."     Job 4:14