Of Wild Boar and Sweet Grapes

Posted by Kitara Julian On 10:12 AM 0 comments

More tales from our five-month housesitting in Tuscany in a region where the famous and costly Brunello wine originates. There is a small window of time when hunting is allowed in the autumn. Signor, the vintner we mentioned in Monday's post, had a rifle. At the edge of his vineyard was a dense Holm Oak forest, home to families of cinghiale (wild boar). The boars love the acorns.
In the middle of the night they would sneak out of the forest --- dark silhouettes. Papa boar, Mama boar, and all the little boars. The ‘spring-offs’ would follow Papa and Mama boar, all in a neat line. Stealthily they’d approach the vineyard, cautious at first, then boldly, to feast on the grapes.
The Signor tried to scare off the cinghiale by playing a tape of loud music in the vineyards, all night, over and over. At first it worked, but the cinghiale soon got wise. Music or no music, they were not deterred from their escapades. One night I tried to approach them, but in a flash they ran back into the forest – tails up, straight as a flagpole!
was getting worried; these raids were a big problem. The summer was one of the hottest on record, with daytime temperatures around 40 C. A family of thirsty and ‘sweet-tusked’ cinghiale can go through a lot of grapes.
What to do? Take turns doing a watch, like on board a ship? But all hands were needed on deck for work in the daytime. There had to be a way to keep the marauders out if the vintners wanted a harvest this summer.
Then it occurred to me - - Signor had a rifle. Why not make a recording of rifle bangs and booms? At least Mama and Papa boar were old enough to know what that noise meant. After a loud ‘Si’, ‘No’ debate, it was agreed. They gave it a try.
The farmhouse villa where I stayed was situated closer to the vineyard than Signor and his family, so I didn’t get much sleep, hearing those loud bangs all night. I preferred the taped music myself, but the bangs and booms were not music to the ears of the cinghiale. It worked! This way everyone was assured of another harvest of wine. Cheers, Henri

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Summertime, and the 'salmon is easy

Posted by Kitara Julian On 8:50 AM 0 comments

Fresh salmon in the summer. We’re so fortunate here on the Pacific coast. Now, where else did I enjoy salmon in summertime? Ah yes, it comes back to me now. In Bella Italia, Tuscany, that’s where. I was house-sitting for five months, a renovated 13th C farmhouse. The building had been transformed into a villa and was situated deep in the heart of Brunello wine region. It was a classic Tuscan setting, overlooking vineyards and olive groves. Close by was a forest of holm oak trees, home to wild boar, cignale. My closest neighbours were in the valley, a hard-working Tuscan family who got up every morning at 4 a.m.

The father was a wonderful man who spoke no English. He was a poet of the land, the vines, the wine, the people and their history. His sons helped him out. They also had beehives for honey.

House-sitting is all very well, but I wanted to learn the language and get to know the people and wine-making procedures. The family was surprised when I offered to do some work, but quickly gave me a task. I was to put labels onto the wine bottles, all by hand. Each bottle was corked with a simple gadget, also by hand. During the very hot and dry month of August, I also helped out with watering the olive trees, very early in the morning.

By lending a hand, I was invited to have lunch with the family. Ni labore, ni mangiare!” was the Senora’s watchword.

From Canada I’d brought as a treat 6 tins of Pacific Sockeye salmon, knowing I’d be landlocked for months. Also I thought they might make nice little gifts.

After a month or two, Natasha flew out from Vancouver to join me for 3 weeks and to attend an environmental conference in Cortona. She rented a Fiat. We were gone for a few days.

When I got back, I felt like having some fish. I went to the cupboard. No salmon. . . Puzzled, I wondered where they'd gone. I was sure I put them away, but then didn’t think more about it.

Next morning I went down to the winery to work. At lunch Senora announced after the antipasti, “Enrico. Today ‘speciale’. Caserole con salmone de Canada!” Beaming, she placed a steaming terra cotta dish on the table and began to serve us.

So, that’s where my salmon swam to! I didn’t say a word, other than “Delicioso, Senora”. One of the boys must have ‘borrowed’ the tins, and never told Mama their origin. I’m sure La Dona did not know via which ‘channels’ the salmon landed in her kitchen.

It was curious because earlier I had once asked Senora when we first met if she liked fish. But being of the land, she wrinkled her nose and said ‘Ah, no”. (That’s why I didn’t offer a tin or two to them before.)

Who would have thought, when those salmon freely swam in the Pacific, one day they’d end up in a delicious Tuscan caserole, served by a hard-working but proud Tuscan family? Did I notice one of the boys looking a bit nervous? Maybe not. Ciao, Henri (p.s. Cyber-engineer Natasha will be away for a few days, so we may not be able to post anything until Thursday. Stay tuned, 'will you?)

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What about "If"?

Posted by Kitara Julian On 10:37 AM 0 comments

After reading the July 21 post in which we mentioned the great French artist, Paul Gauguin, someone asked if I could comment on Gauguin’s leaving his wife and children “to go out and paint”. What is one going to say?
If Paul Gauguin had not left his wife Mette and family (he was a successful stockbroker and Sunday painter), the world would never have heard of Gauguin. No artwork, no place amongst the French Masters. No meeting with Vincent van Gogh, or putting the life and culture of French Polynesia on the map.
This brings back memories of when I was a young boy (about 75 years ago). From school we all had a mini-blackboard to scribble on with chalk, and a real sponge to clean it.
My grandfather was a master diamond cleaver and also a diamond facetter, and a wise man. He asked me to put some zeros on the blackboard, turning it sideways so I could fit in lots of them, resulting in those egg-like, half O’s we make at such an age.
Now, my boy, what number is that? I mumbled “I don’t know, Opa, we have not learned that yet”. Then grandfather asked, “Now, put the number “1” in front of all those zeroes. What is the number now, my boy?” I whispered, “Don’t know, Opa. Is it a big number?
Yes, it is”, he replied, “very big! You see, Henri, composers (he loved music) and all the great artists are represented by that lonely number One.
There you have it. Just by placing that number one in front of all those zeroes, it becomes a huge figure - - representing the Human Family which in turn benefits from the ‘lonely ones’ for evermore.
If Paul Gauguin would have never left his family . . . ? We know the answer. Signing off, Henri

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Precious jewelry, anyone?

Posted by Kitara Julian On 10:41 AM 0 comments

Although artist and lecturer in residence on the two early circumnavigations in the '70s, we were given full passenger status and mingled with the passengers. In a previous post I told you about a "merry widow" from Brooklyn.

There was another widow aboard this sailing. She reminded me of an “Annie Get Your Gun” character. Every day without fail she’d be the first person in the bar. There she would sit, covered in diamonds and other precious gems, imbibing vodka. Sometimes she’d ask Natasha (who was the youngest passenger, at 24) and me to join her for cocktails. One day Natasha complimented her on her remarkable jewelry (diamonds, rubies and emeralds). She quickly smiled and said, “Why don’t you take one or two? They’re covered by insurance.” We pretended we didn’t hear her.

Soon after this she was worrying about what to give her son for his thirtieth birthday. Earlier on she’d told us that she owned one of the major American football teams, but hated the board meetings and whoopla involved. So, I said half-jokingly, “Why not give your son the football team? To our surprise she winked and said, “What a great idea, Henry, I’ll do that.” She strode off to see the radio officer (this was long before email) and sent a wire with news of the birthday gift.

Another passenger we’d gotten to know and become fond of was “The Major”, as we called him. He could have walked straight out of a story by W. Somerset Maugham. The Major travelled with a valet, and would often invite us to his suite along with a few other guests before dinner. We exchanged stories; he was interested to hear my father was a diamond-facetter and that Natasha and I were knowledgeable about precious stones.

The Major was a corpulent fellow well into his ‘80s, but loved to eye the pretty Norwegian stewardesses and flirted with Natasha. (We were delighted to meet him again the following year on a second circumnavigation, by which time he was in a wheelchair and had a new valet). He lived in Switzerland and also owned race horses in Bahamas. On the last day of the voyage The Major invited us to visit him next time we were in Europe.

Two years later we happened to be on a Eurail train odyssey, and made arrangements to visit The Major. At the Swiss train station, his chauffeur picked us up in a Silver Cloud Rolls Royce and took us directly to The Major’s home for ‘luncheon’. During this delightful meal, The Major turned to Natasha with a twinkle in his eye and told her, “I own a jewelry store here. I’d like you to run it, and I may end up giving it to you. Henri seems to know alot about precious stones, so it would work out perfectly; you'd never wind up in a poor house. Here again, we were tempted about jewelry, this time a whole jewelry store. We said to him, “A kind offer, we’ll think about it.” (We learned a year later that he went ‘over the horizon’.)

A postscript: there is a saying in the Netherlands “The horse that deserves the oats doesn’t always get it.” These blog posts would not be possible without the know-how of Natasha, who is the cyber-engineer. Although the text is written by me (by hand), she posts them. Together we choose the image. I don’t even know how to get “online”, much less do all those whirling and clicking movements which appear on the screen. Amazing technology! Actually, with the many questions coming in, these blogs write themselves. All I need to do is visit those little grey cells, like Hercule Poirot. Signing off, Henri

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Gulliver's Liliputs live on today

Posted by Kitara Julian On 10:31 AM 0 comments

The previous post triggered another memory cell or two. In 1975 not long after Nixon was impeached (while Gerald Ford was President), America’s relations with countries such as North Korea were hardly cordial. [We were into the first three days of another four-month circumnavigation of the world aboard an ocean liner which had mostly US passengers. News came of the Patty Hearst kidnapping. Turned out one of the passengers was her aunt, who promptly left the ship at the next port.]
There was friction amongst the passengers, a dividing line between the Republicans and the Democrats. In the restaurant some people had placed cut-out donkeys and elephants near their dining station, letting people know what ‘territory’ they were in. The European passengers and a Thai family (who were in my art class) did not know what to make of it all. Neither did the Norwegian officers and staff, nor us.
Remember Gulliver’s Travels? Gulliver becomes peacemaker between two Liliput realms. There was to be a wedding, and one King wanted the song “Faithful” to be sung at his daughter’s marriage, while the other King insisted his son’s ceremony feature the song “Forever”. Faithful!” “Forever!”, they shouted repeatedly. “It’s war!!!” Then Gulliver picks them up in each hand, and says, “What is all the fuss about? Why don’t you just combine the two, and sing together, “Faithful, forever”? They smiled and embraced each other. That was the solution for making peace. We need another Gulliver today.
Anyway to go back to my story aboard the ship. Off the coast of Brazil heading north, an SOS call came from a freighter 600 miles away and off our course. The law of the sea requires any vessel to respond. The captain changed direction, and many hours later we reached the ship in a high sea and swell. They lowered the patient from the cargo ship onto a tender, then after a few attempts managed to come alongside and hoist him up to our vessel. It was quite a procedure, like a cable car.
We learned the crew member had appendicitis. The ship’s doctor was very capable but one of the passengers who was a surgeon performed the emergency operation. The surgery was successful. Several passengers had ‘adopted’ the patient and were proud our ship had saved his life. He became the ‘darling’ with passengers pampering him with little gifts. Until, some people discovered it was a North Korean ship. (The captain was very smart, not to have mentioned this earlier.) Then several passengers grumbled, ‘Why should we have bothered?’
What can one say? A week later, the now-healthy patient disembarked in the West Indies, and thanked us all. Meanwhile the elephant and donkey factions continued to bicker. We can always benefit from a Gulliver. Jonathan Swift was a wise man, he knew human nature. Signing off for now, Henri

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It's not easy being green

Posted by Kitara Julian On 10:08 AM 0 comments

Yesterday during my stroll along the seawalk, I joined an elderly couple sitting on a bench looking over Juan de Fuca Strait. Mind you, I’m not a spring chicken either, at almost 79. (Ho-ho).

Anyway, they had just completed an adventurous road trip to the Far North. They were depressed about the glaciers melting, and the plight of the polar bears. They asked, why are we all so slow in doing something about it? Now the bees are also disappearing, they said, What’s happening?

It’s not easy to be green”, sang Kermit the Frog. Looking at the state of our home planet Earth, you can say that again. It’s also not easy, or so it seems, to keep the green. Sadly the “Administration” (funny name for a world power) of our neighbours has done zip over the past eight years to protect the environment, the animals and plants, far from it. Only fossil fuels matter, dead plants from the far-away past. Oil is numero uno on the agenda. (But soon, it will be the end of an era, i.e. end of an error.)
Not only the Administration of our southern neighbour, but right here at home we have a copycat administration. The wicks of world leaders could use some trimming, there is more soot than light present. Politicians belong to the tribe of the never-wrong. Should they be opposed, a screen will go up, then they let the world know with high-powered rhetoric, their denials for all to hear. But then, greed and morality are seldom on speaking terms. That’s the way things are! Is it truly ignorance? There’s a difference between ignorance and plain old stupidity.
And the effects, we all have to live with nowadays. When there is something wrong with our lungs, we go to the doctor. Yet, when trees are removed at an alarming and grand scale, there’s no stopping them. Are trees not the lungs of the Earth, or so we’re told? So, if we’re pilfering, are we not hurting those lungs? Will the grinding mill of nature’s timelessness prevail, in spite of us, the spoiler? Let’s hope so! Signing off, Henri

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Sail on, no matter what

Posted by Kitara Julian On 10:31 AM 0 comments

On our first circumnavigation by ship in 1974 (the one I dreamed up, the Enrichment program, and where I was artist in residence), we were just three weeks into a 4 month voyage when one of the passengers had a heart attack right beside the swimming pool.
The ship’s doctor was on the scene quickly and tried to save the gentleman’s life, but he died. Of course the passenger’s wife was shocked. She was from Brooklyn and I remember her clearly.
(This all happened not far from Papeete, Tahiti where the great French artist Paul Gauguin spent some time, immortalizing 'French Polynesia', its culture and people.)
The widow now had to decide what to do with her beloved. In the old days, captains had authority to do burials at sea, but in the ‘70s this was no longer permitted. Everyone assumed the widow would disembark at the next port, along with her late husband.
However, she stayed on. Not only did she stay on the ship, but it wasn’t too long before she had a great time, and put the Merry Widow of Franz Lehar in the shadow. And what about her husband? The passengers all thought he had been taken off the ship and transported back to family in Brooklyn.
Since I was artist in residence, we were privy to some things which the regular passengers didn’t know. What happened was she’d arranged to have him put in the ‘cooler’ near the ship’s hospital. Gradually the news spread, it’s impossible to keep something like that quiet on a ship. When asked ‘why’, she replied, “We saved for twenty years to come on this trip, and I am going all the way around the world. He’s still with me, isn’t he? And I know he would have wanted me to have a good time.” Can’t blame her. What was she going to do, abandon this once-in-a-lifetime experience? Something Sir Alfred Hitchcock would have enjoyed. Signing off, Henri

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What is Real or Not Real in Art

Posted by Kitara Julian On 10:11 AM 0 comments

Yesterday the annual Moss Street “Paint In” took place here in Victoria. Some 115 artists, professional and amateurs participated in this colourful event. The turnout was in the tens of thousands. Yours truly did not participate. The art of Pointillism tests people’s patience too much for such a venue. The idea is the artists create a new work. Interesting to note the majority were landscape, portrait and still-life genres. A few symbolist works, mostly by First Nations, and very few non-objective or abstract paintings.

This might be a good moment to ask, what is real or not real in Art. With objective paintings, the results may seem real, or realistic, because we recognize immediately flowers, people, fruit, seascapes, sky, clouds and whatnot. This gives comfort, it is familiar. And, we can judge how well the artist draws. Still, it is not ‘real’, thus it is abstract.

Years ago in the ‘60s, back in Toronto, I was a pioneer in the concept of professional artists visiting schools. Sometimes I’d do a demonstration or mix primary colours to show the kids how to create many different colours just from red, yellow and blue. Other times I’d give a slide show on various artists or movements. One day I featured the modern French masters and included one of Paul Cezanne’s splendid still lifes with oranges, much like the one you see here, painted around 1899.

One youngster suddenly piped up from the back of the classroom, “Yes! Them oranges look OK, but can you get orange juice out of them?” All the kids laughed, but the teacher and principal were not amused.

But I loved it. To have the endorsement from a young boy that indeed, I was on the right track to have left behind realistic and conventional art. And so it is. No matter how beautiful or real flowers look on paper or canvas, can we smell their fragrance? No matter how tempting the cool lake appears in a summer landscape, can we take a refreshing dip? It is all illusion.

Moving on to the Old Masters. What’s interesting is they all rendered paintings of Adam and Eve with navels. For example, this magnificent work you see here by Peter Paul Rubens. First off, these were models posing for the artists (not the "real" Adam and Eve), and second, Adam and Eve could not have had navels, at least according to Genesis. I wonder, why was it all the Popes and patrons who commissioned these works, never said anything? And through the centuries the critics or academics did not comment on this incongruity. See what we mean? What is real or not real, in Art? Signing off, Henri

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(1) Purple Carrots and (2) The Sipping Mouse

Posted by Kitara Julian On 8:48 AM 0 comments

Has anyone told their grocery store manager yet about the Purple cabbage (or purple onions or purple berries)? There seems to be something about “purple” through the ages which creates this problem of incorrectly calling things red or blue when they are really purple.

Did you know carrots were originally purple? They didn’t become orange until the 1500’s, when growers in the Netherlands used a mutant yellow carrot seed from North Africa to create a carrot the colour of the House of Orange. Begin to see what’s cooking? Purple = Vatican, Archbishop, Amethyst ring of the Pope. Then under Willem of Orange, purple carrots turn orange. Hmmm?

We were asked if any of my travel experiences stand out. One which comes to mind since we’re on the topic of food took place near Cadiz, Spain. It was a stopover during an assignment aboard “Marco Polo”. I went to Jerez de la Frontera and visited La Bodega Tio Pepe sherry winery. We were shown around the huge vats of sherry. Some had names painted on them such as Napoleon, Somerset Maugham and many movie stars, indicating their favourite vintages.

Suddenly I spotted something from the corner of my eye. It was a mouse. He was climbing up a tiny ladder, and began to sip from a terra cotta bowl.

I asked my guide what was happening. She laughed, “Ah, Senor, he’s just having a sip of sherry. Turns out many years ago, the owner caught a mouse in the act of nipping from his sherry glass, and nibbling a piece of cheese. Clearly a man with a sense of whimsy, he was tickled to see not only did the mouse enjoy an appetizer, but an aperitif as well. [When I tell this story, it reminds me how when you say to someone there are billions of stars above them, they say, “Oh yes, isn’t it wonderful.” Then, if they see a sign on a bench saying “Wet Paint”, they go over to check if it’s true.]

Anyway, management of Tio Pepe now have a few terra cotta bowls with Lilliput ladders scattered around the Bodega, so their little friends can imbibe. And now a picture of their sherry-sipping mice, ladder and all, can be found in their brochure.

"Cheers!” Or as we say back home, “May your children have rich parents.” Signing off, Henri

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The art and economy of cooking

Posted by Kitara Julian On 10:36 AM 0 comments

You could say my love for cooking started many decades ago as a child in the Lowlands when I was “Mother’s little helper” in the kitchen. We had no fridge, no electricity and no running water. Duties in summer included helping to shift the milk, butter and cheese in the moving shade. By age four I had my own small garden plot, and also rabbits.

Later in my teens during the war, having experienced real hunger and struggle, this added even more to my respect and economic approach to food. A good training ground for an artist with a bohemian, nomadic lifestyle. Maximum results with minimum ingredients.

Cooking is an art, as is grocery shopping, you know. Both require patience. We need to choose and select, not grab the first thing we see. For instance, selecting a nice, firm Purple Cabbage (which is not a Red Cabbage, that’s a habitual misnomer.)

While cooking we need patience, especially “slow food”. Then there is the art of staying within your budget. Especially these days with the cost of living going up and up. It seems only the Sun gives us energy, warmth and life without ever sending a bill.

Today with harvests from around the world readily available, menus can be dished up in great variety. Although we try to stick to buying produce grown within a 150 km radius. Fish is another story. For the moment at least, we have a good selection of mostly fresh fish here on the Pacific coast.

Because you’re such a faithful reader of my blog, here is a recipe of mine. (And for those of you who know me, it’s not one of my Slow Food extravaganzas, so don’t worry). It’s a tasty, nourishing appetizer. You need only two ingredients: a kiwi fruit, and smoked oysters or mussels. Peel the kiwi, slice in two or three cross-sections. Top with either a smoked oyster or mussel. Voila! Bon appétit! Signing off, Henri

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Juan de Fuca Strait

Posted by Kitara Julian On 10:00 AM 0 comments

We mentioned before we live right at the shores of Juan de Fuca Strait in James Bay village, Victoria. On a clear day like today, we see the snowcapped Olympic mountain range of Washington State. Our view is unobstructed so we witness endless activity both on sea and land. In spring the Camas fields (which the First Nations people cultivated for its bulb) create a carpet of blue-violet. Other than the November-March stretch when gales and storms prevail, with waves which pound right over Dallas Road, there is always a breeze.

Enthusiastic kite-flyers launch their colourful kites high in the sky, much to the dismay and annoyance of the seagulls. Also the remote-controlled glider planes, that really upsets them! The seagulls vigilantly dive-bomb those intruders of their domain.

There are benches all along the seawalk, mostly occupied by the elderly who chat about this, that and the other, reminiscing or simply observing the endless maritime activity. Freighters, floatplanes, sailboats, the “Coho” ferry to Port Angeles, Alaska cruise ships, helicopters, an odd canoe and many kayaks. Freighters are mostly container ships inbound or outbound to the Far East. And throughout the day, pilot boats travel to and fro to pick up or drop off the pilots.

The seawalk is used by joggers, young mothers with prams, elderly with their pushcarts, hundreds of walkers and dog walkers. Canines, in sizes from a small "ball of fur on four legs", to St. Bernard.

Last year the Blue Herons who had a colony nearby were chased away by a “Rambo” bald eagle. However lately we’ve seen quite a few right outside our doorstep. We love to observe their endless patience, standing like statues on a rock or in the water, waiting for their meal to swim by. A perfect study for the art of patience and concentration. Once in awhile we encounter quiet, friendly natives (or First Nations as we call them here in Canada), gazing over the waters to somewhere far away. After all, this was once the home of their ancestors. And the site where they would gather the Camas bulbs. But that’s another story .... Signing off, Henri

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"What about me?", asked Felicitas

Posted by Kitara Julian On 10:00 AM 0 comments

Wandering and exploring the way we have over the years inevitably brought us adventure and windows into the behaviour of family life. Some become will ‘o the wisps while others stay with you. We often visited Mexico’s west coast where a long-time friend had a place in the hills overlooking Bahia de Banderos in Conchas Chinas (south of PuertoVallarta).

Curious by nature, I noticed there was a local bus stop down the hill. A bus came along and I hopped on, not knowing where it was headed. Turned out to be a 35 minute ride all along the coast, for 25 cents. The bus passed where “Night of the Iguana” was filmed. You know, the movie with Richard Burton and Ava Gardner (Elizabeth Taylor was on the set.)

Anyway, it turned out the end of the line was Boca de Tomatlan. Back in those days (early 1990’s), ‘Boca’ was a sleepy fishing village about to awaken. The beach is compact so it can’t become developed. Small boats leave from Boca to take families on picnics at a nearby island. You can watch pelicans diving for their meals. There are a couple of rustic palapa restaurants which serve delicious grilled Huachinango (red snapper).

On an early visit, we sat down at a wooden table painted sky blue, covered with a red and white checked tablecloth. We ordered the Huachinango, con ajo, and a beer.

A youngster in bare feet (she was just able to look over the table top), came with a basket of garlic bread and a big smile. Her name was Felicitas. Her father brought us the beer, and her mother (the chef) delivered in person our delicious fish dish. We enjoyed the serene atmosphere of Boca. When the time came to go, we paid our bill to the owner and gave a generous tip. “Come again!”, he said. (And we did, often).

When we walked away towards the bus stop, I looked down and there was Felicitas pulling on my trousers. She held out her tiny hand. She also wanted a tip, for bringing the bread basket. “What about me?”, she said in Spanish. I thought, “Bless her!” there goes a future entrepreneur, and someone with a strong foundation for survival. Hasta luego, Henri

(p.s Feel free to forward this blog link to others, the more the merrier.)

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Goodbye Irina

Posted by Kitara Julian On 8:51 AM 0 comments
One of my daily routines, rain or shine, is grocery shopping. Natasha brings home the bacon, so-to-speak, and I love to cook the meals. The walk is a pleasant one. You can’t avoid getting to know some fellow shoppers. One, a dapper and feisty lady with a pushcart always says a friendly “Hi Sailor!” to me. (I guess because usually I’m wearing a cap related to ships and far-away places.) Irina is her name. She came to James Bay village long ago from Russia, via Saskatchewan. (One of the many 'old European’ immigrants who live around here.) For the last couple of weeks, she did not show up on her regular outings. Yesterday I learned she passed away, “gone over the horizon”. The way we all have to go, sooner or later. She looked as if there was still stamina in her, the last time we spoke. You never can tell, can you? This made me think, as I often do, how we seem to take life for granted. Since you’re on the Internet I came up with more meanings for the acronym of the world wide web “www”: World-Wide Wait [at least for those of us not on highspeed connections], and What? (the cause) Where? When? (of our demise). I’ve had three very close calls myself over the years, and relish each moment of being here. Should we not all? Life is precious. Bye Irina! Signing off, Henri

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What's bad luck what's good luck

Posted by Kitara Julian On 10:26 AM 0 comments

You never know what will come through the 'window' next. A question arrived from a curious reader, “I was looking at your website which shows your extensive career and was wondering why have we not heard of you, as an artist?” What is one to say? Maybe this question should be directed to the Canadian art establishment and the gatekeepers. Already forty-two years ago, TIME magazine featured a full page article with two colour reproductions from my solo exhibition in Paris, May 1966. You can see one of the paintings here, "Light Sprang Forth" (acrylic on canvas). It was never my motivation to paint for fame, but rather for the joy of exploring and evolving. Sure, the policies and practices of the gatekeepers caused me a great deal of unpleasantness. On the other hand, this eventually became fuel to carry on, (together with the encouragement of my mentor), something like a reverse reaction. A spurring onwards. It has been quite a ride and I hope will continue to be. If I had been caught up in the wing-clipping and restraints of the professional art scene, I'd never have had the extraordinary depth of expeditionary travel experience under my belt. Five continents, the seven seas, remote and exotic islands including St. Helena, the Galapagos, Pitcairn, Easter Island, Komodo dragon island in the Banda Sea, Fiji, the Solomons, New Guinea, crossing Lake Titicaca, rainforests, coral reefs and Antarctica, to name a few. (The other picture here shows a friend I met on South Georgia in the Antarctic, protecting his turf.) All thanks indirectly to the ill-will and negativity from the art establishment. So you see, from adversity to adventure. And evolving. Now, with my seventy-ninth "turn around the sun" on the horizon, this blog venture is yet another new direction set on the compass of my life. I hope this answers the initial question. Signing off, Henri

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Art at sea

Posted by Kitara Julian On 9:44 AM 0 comments

Received a few requests after the July 8th post about our improvised floating art classes aboard ocean liners. (A concept I dreamed up ‘way back in the early‘70s.) Here are a couple of pictures taken on our recent and last voyage aboard QE2. You can see how diligent and focused the students are. Our motto is “Small is Beautiful” and the goal is: maximum results with minimum use of materials. Minimum, meaning in my sessions on colour and creative exploration we work with 3 colours. (Watercolour and watercolour pencils.) Not a box with 12, 24, 36 or 72 colours. Only the 3 primaries: Red, Yellow, Blue. You can create hundreds of colours with these alone. A footnote: QE2 has been sold and in November will retire in Dubai. Goodbye to this venerable ship. We have fond memories of QE2, which since 1969 has sailed almost 6 million nautical miles. Signing off, Henri

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A walk through our James Bay Village

Posted by Kitara Julian On 9:16 AM 0 comments

The Swengwhung people lived here first. Hudson’s Bay Company ‘bought’ the peninsula for 75 English pounds. Immortal artist Emily Carr was born just a few blocks away. Sadly, like Vincent van Gogh, in her lifetime she was mocked and ridiculed. Now we have Emily Carr House, Emily Carr College of Art, an Emily Carr statue, in fact Emily Carr here there and everywhere. We’re so sorry, Emily . . . Never mind, she continued on doing what she believed in despite adversity and scorn, to fulfill her calling. All those critics and people who made life difficult for her are gone, while Emily’s status as an icon continues to grow.

Most of the street names here were coined by Hudson’s Bay officers. They must have been homesick or lacking in imagination since we’ve ended up with streets named Montreal, Superior, Toronto, Huron, Ontario, Michigan and Erie (?), Belleville, Oswego, Quebec and Niagara, just to name just a few.

Nowadays we have horse-drawn carriages (which I mentioned in an earlier post) that carry visitors from all directions of the compass. While they zigzag through James Bay village, at least they also get to know “Canada” a bit with all those names from other parts of the country.

James Bay village is a sidekick of Victoria. It’s a quaint and pleasant neighbourhood for walking (if it's not raining) en route to shop for groceries, strolling past many small gardens and old houses.

And how about those street names? In a way they provide a strange kind of history and geography lesson for all those visitors, so perhaps the Hudson’s Bay officers weren’t nostalgic or short on imagination after all. Signing off, Henri

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Teaching Mermaids the Splits

Posted by Kitara Julian On 9:23 AM 0 comments

These blog posts are like talking to you without you actually hearing a voice, yet it ‘speaks’. You can share thoughts, memories and experiences all in one. Like some kind of magic. But then is life itself not magical? It gives me the willies just thinking with full consciousness of all that goes on in the body. The invisible but vital systems which keep us going. So it is with all living creatures. There’s supposed to be more atoms in our thumb than grains of sand on all beaches. If that’s true, doesn’t that give you goosebumps? “Amazing”, said Charlie Chan. He also said, “Human mind like parachute, works best when open.” Good old Charlie Chan. You know what else he said, when speaking to his Number One son? It is easier to teach a mermaid the splits than teach you anything.” I wonder if he also had in mind the arrogant and indifferent world leaders. Speaking of world leaders, there is an old Flemish saying, “When the calf is drowned, they cover the well.” Maybe the calf has fallen into the well, and we’re not doing anything about it. “Another fine mess we got ourselves into”. Signing off, Henri

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the colour of the universe

Posted by Kitara Julian On 9:21 AM 0 comments
Have you ever noticed those adverts to relieve headaches never mention how to prevent a headache in the first place? There seems to be something amiss (in our brains) sometimes. We seldom look at the cause. Take butterflies. (I call them 'flutterbys', they flutter and there is no butter or fly on them). Scientists say they're disappearing. "Maybe the birds ate them?" they say. Well, before they come out of the cocoon, as you know they're caterpillars. These are eaten by birds (but birds are also at risk, remember Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring"?) and other creatures. Of course there is no chicken without the egg. So, no colourful flutterbys without caterpillars. There may be another cause: pollution?
Then we have the vanishing bees. Cause? Scientists are "baffled". That is becoming a household word, baffled, as if we know everything. Next, coffee is not good for you. Now it's not only good, but very good for you. Eggs: too much cholesterol. Now, eggs are good for you. Etcetera.
Even the colour of the universe changes. Yes, it was blue, then turquoise. Now, they say it's taupe (!?). Speaking of colour, in the early 1960's, during a visit to Prado Museum, Madrid, Spain, I encountered a couple having a fierce argument while looking at a painting. "It's green!", he said. "It's blue!", she said. On and on, their voices raised to higher and higher decibels. Finally I went over to look. It was a work by Velasquez. I observed the picture, and said quietly to the couple, "It's neither blue nor green, but turquoise."
We're attaching an image which shows 'the colour of the universe', from my Organiverse 'Starry Night' version, done in pointillism. Signing off, Henri

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the english language and challenges

Posted by Kitara Julian On 9:02 AM 0 comments
And now for something completely different. English is not my mother's tongue nor for that matter my father's. Had to learn it in order to communicate and survive as an immigrant. Just so you know what we're up against when learning a new language like English, I thought I'd pass along some of the confusion. Maybe you can send some others along?
Squirrel: but pronounced "skwirrel"
Knight (noble) and Night (evening)
Beach (shoreline) and beech (tree)
Wave (water) and wave (hi/bye)
Sea (ocean) and see (look)
Dear (person) and deer (animal)
Grave (cemetery) and grave (serious)
Plot (garden) and plot (conspiracy)
Hair (human) and hare (animal)
Rain and Reign
One Leaf/Two Leaves
One Fish/Two Fish
Bear (animal) and bare (naked)
Present (now) and present (gift)
Wait (for someone) and weight (kilos)
Vacuum Cleaner - which vacuum, the whole cosmos? In Netherlands it's a "dust sucker" which is what it does.
There are many more, it would take too much space. Speaking of the Cosmos -- where does all that Space come from, before-the-before? Before the Big Bang. Signing off, Henri

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start of enrichment programs - art at sea

Posted by Kitara Julian On 9:15 AM 0 comments

My boyhood was divided between Antwerpen, Flanders and Amsterdam, Netherlands. Both rich in art and culture. So you could say I grew up surrounded by masterpieces of the classic European schools.

Three years after the war, I joined Holland America Line as first-class dining room steward. Some of our passengers included Hollywood movie stars, amongst others.

A lengthy period of TB put me in a sanatorium for a few years. Here I began to paint. Nowadays it’s called Art Therapy. Not then. It was a must to keep from worrying about being ill.

Art became my career, or as my mentor later told me, “my vehicle to unfold”. In 1957 I emigrated to Canada.

Because of my previous experiences o/b ocean liners, I knew well the daily routine of shuffleboard, clay pigeon shooting, horse and turtle races, ballroom dancing and bridge. And, the bars opening at 9 am and closing well past midnight. Not to speak of ever-present food.

Nothing in the way of art, or introductions to the cultures of various ports-of-call.

This gave me the idea of teaching art and lecturing aboard ships. My vision was taken up by the 5-star Royal Viking Line in 1974. RVL offered us an inaugural world cruise, four months aboard their new vessel Royal Viking Sky. In exchange for superb room and board, I was Artist in Residence. Plus, we got to see the world, at a speed of 17 knots.

Enrichment programs are now a household word, but the concept was created by me.

In such a manner we’ve made three circumnavigations over the years, plus numerous shorter 30-day sailings. The latter mostly o/b venerable QE2 and other real ocean liners such as Marco Polo. (Not those mega-floating resorts called cruise ships.)

The photo here is aboard a Holland America vessel, sitting with grand masters of the Netherlands whose work I got to know so well as a boy. It was taken on my 75th turn around the Sun, aboard a visit to Oosterdam. Signing off, Henri

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modes of transport & wonders of the world

Posted by Kitara Julian On 10:17 AM 0 comments
No sooner did we mention our three circumnavigations when a question came in about what kind of transport and what would I recommend to see. Other than traditional ocean liners, my ways of getting from here to there have covered dugout canoe, dhow, schooner, mailboat, jumbo jet, rickshaw, freighter, dive boat, Piper Cub, icebreaker, helicopter, horse, bicycle, camel, ferry, train and last but not least, donkey. Ah yes, by foot too. Which sights to recommend? Tastes, expectations and wishes vary widely in the human family. Not to speak of experience. For me, looking back, five places stand out or have never left me. Pyramids of Egypt - amazing. Macchu Picchu - a wonder. Taj Mahal - the greatest ode to love in marble and semi-precious stone. Petra, Jordan - an awesome wonder. Finally, Alhambra in Andalousia, Spain - breathtaking, spine-chillling. Poetry in stone, intricate carving, precious filigree work. Gardens, fountains. All designed by the Moors with views of the snowclad Sierra Nevadas.
Of course there are more sights, natural and manmade. For pure Nature -- Lake Nakuru in the Great Rift Valley, Kenya. Clap your hands and the sky is full of bright pink flamingos, an unforgettable experience. South Georgia in Antarctica -- millions of penguins. The Banda Sea between Bali and Ambon - snorkelling and seeing 'jewels with tails and fins'. Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Enough, enough. One wonder at a time. Although life itself is a wonder and a mystery. Happy Trails! Signing off, Henri

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flowers - the first advertisers?

Posted by Kitara Julian On 9:33 AM 0 comments
Our building has an outdoor pool which is surrounded by lots of flowers in ceramic pots. Petunias, impatiens, pelargonium, labelia, gazanias and of course geraniums. Also a small rose garden -- all tended by a volunteer, a long-time tenant who lives on the ground floor suite right beside the pool. Once in awhile she gives us a cut flower after our swim. This makes me think of my childhood in the Lowlands. I was surrounded by flowers, especially tulips. Now, why are those flowers there at all? Surely not for us to adore. They're on this planet much longer than we Homo Sapiens. We know bees pollinate flowers and in turn get their nectar, future honey. Also fruit trees when in blossom need the bees to pollinate for their fruit. Hummingbirds depend on flowers, to sustain themselves, to survive on the nectar and energy it gives them. Maybe flowers were the first advertisers? They flash their gorgeous colours and scents, to compete and to survive. Not unlike Las Vegas with all the glittering casino lights. "Come to us. You'll be glad you did. The jackpot awaits you!" So too flowers say, "Come to me, my nectar is the best." So why do we cut the flowers? We don't do them a service, nor the bees (or our honey). But who does not love flowers. Shall I tell the friendly lady? Ah well, maybe not. Signing off, Henri

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Horse Power

Posted by Kitara Julian On 2:43 PM 0 comments
Talking about ships on the Alaska route, passengers at our Victoria port of call often take a horse-driven carriage around our neighbourhood, James Bay. Here at the waterfront on scenic Dallas Road, these carriages often have a long procession of cars, taxis and buses (carrying passengers from the ships) behind them, sometimes a couple of blocks long. You can sense how frustrated the drivers are, eager to pass. Often the horses travel faster than the cars. Maybe a sign of the times, with fuel costs rising. Also you wonder what goes on in the minds of those drivers 'stuck' behind true horsepower.

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near yet far

Posted by Kitara Julian On 7:47 AM 0 comments
Natasha and I live very near Ogden Point (Juan de Fuca Strait) where the cruise liners dock. From our balcony we watch the ships come and go on their busy Alaska schedule. I've sailed around the world three times as artist-in-residence and love the sea. We said, "Let's go to Alaska, the ship is at our doorstep." Turns out, this isn't allowed. Nobody can embark (or disembark) here. We'd have to travel to Vancouver or Seattle to get aboard. For security reasons, we're told. More and more this seems to be an excuse to restrict freedom to move and express. Top and bottom line is: "Where there's a will, there's a way". Since there's no goodwill, we're forbidden to embark here.

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Fourth of July

Posted by Kitara Julian On 8:24 AM 0 comments
4th of July - have received many questions about the Andy Warhol exhibit currently on view at the art gallery here in Victoria. Being an artist myself I guess people are more inclined to approach me on the subject. I am not a fan of Warhol. However his work is an honest reflection of the 'non-culture culture' of America. After all Andy grew up with Campbell soup, hot dogs, hamburgers and Hollywood movies. All these objects and subjects dominate his output. Pop(ular) art belongs justly 100% in the USA. It was mimicked in Europe, but there the artists were not raised with those non-culture culture ingredients which Warhol got his inspiration and nourishment from. Does that answer your question? Signing off for now, Henri

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On the honesty of weather, and of colour too

Posted by Kitara Julian On 8:35 AM 0 comments
Now what am I going to do with the Blog, after yesterday's "Phaedrus" quote from Plato? We move on . . . Let us say our summer here in Victoria has so far been short-lived. One or two days, and back to cool and moist climes. If we speak about true and honest democracy and equality for all, then the weather is very honest. Rich or poor, all get the same local conditions. If they walk in the rain without an umbrella, they both get wet. There is another phenomena equal to all who practise it -- the magic and mystery of colour. Colour never deceives, cheats or lies. Mixing a yellow pigment with a blue pigment always yields green. That's all for now, folks. Signing off, Henri

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Conversation as reported in Socrates 'Phaedus'

Posted by Kitara Julian On 6:46 PM 0 comments
Summer has finally reached our shores here on Juan de Fuca Strait. Being privileged to have some time, I read a lot, but also write a few lines. Then again, in August I'll be marking my 79th turn around the sun. Of course from this perspective one has a different outlook on life than when still peeking at it.
I came across this quote by Socrates on the invention of letters, going all the way back to the ancient era of Egypt. Here it is, let me know what your thoughts are. For how can we now avoid the written or electronic word?
Conversation between the Egyptian god Thoth (inventor of letters) and the god Amon, as reported in Socrates' Phaedrus:
"This discovery of yours will create forgetfulness in the learner's soul, because they will not use their memories. They will trust to the external written characters and not remember themselves. The specific you have discovered is an aid NOT to memory, but to reminisce, and you will give to your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth. They will become bearers of many things and will have learned nothing. They will be tiresome company, bearing the show of wisdom without reality."
So there you have it. What about those last two sentences?

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Should be "Netherlanders", not "Dutch"

Posted by Kitara Julian On 7:03 AM 0 comments
A Canadian is from Canada
A Norwegian is from Norway
A Mexican is from Mexico
A German is from Germany
Yet someone from the Netherlands is called"Dutch".
Who has ever heard of "Dutchland"?

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Ode to Canada Day

Posted by Kitara Julian On 11:38 AM 0 comments
Wandering from the St. Lawrence to the Fraser
from east to west coast
I witnessed pines, lakes, mountain cascades
maple and bush
beaver, moose and Canada geese
but nowhere did I see
us creating all this.

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Posted by Kitara Julian On 10:29 AM 0 comments
Humans have problems with Nature. With its size, scope, power, vitality and honesty. We have challenged, battled and are now in the process of destroying Nature. Since we are Nature ourselves, the effort and effect takes us with her. Like a boomerang. After it hits the target, it returns to the thrower.

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Is life

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