Sunday, August 30, 2015


After Labor Day, I will be taking a short trip to the Okanogan- our side as well as the Canadian side (if our wild fires have diminished) - so think this a good place to introduce a very talented artist from our end of Canada.

EMILY CARR (1871-1945) was a Canadian artist and writer heavily inspired by the Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast. One of the first painters in Canada to adopt a Modernist and Post-Impressionist painting style, she did not receive widespread recognition for her work until late in her life. As she matured, the subject matter of her painting shifted from aboriginal themes to landscapes—forest scenes in particular. As a writer, Emily was one of the earliest chroniclers of life in British Columbia. She is called a "Canadian icon". She is best known for her attention to the totemic carvings of the First Nations people of British Columbia and the rain forests of Vancouver Island.

Born in Victoria, British Columbia (just a stones throw from our island), the year British Columbia joined Canada, Emily was the second-youngest of nine children. The  children were raised on English tradition. Richard Carr, born in England, believed it was sensible to live on Vancouver Island, a colony of Great Britain, where he could practice English customs and continue his British citizenship. Richard Carr was taught in the Presbyterian tradition, with Sunday morning prayers and evening Bible readings. He called on one child per week to recite the sermon, and Emily consistently had trouble reciting it.

Emily's father encouraged her artistic inclinations, but it was only in 1891, after her parents' deaths, that she pursued her art seriously, attending the San Francisco Art Institute for two years before returning to Victoria. Later she traveled to London where she studied at the Westminster School of Art. She traveled also to a rural art colony in St Ives, Cornwall, returning to British Columbia in 1905.

In 1907 Emily travelled to Alaska with her sister, and this trip, which exposed her to the poles of the northern First Nations, seems to have changed the focus of her art. While she had earlier depicted First Nations people on Vancouver Island and in Vancouver, her attention was captured by the totemic carvings that she saw on this trip. She felt, however, that she was ill-equipped to draw or paint these poles, and she decided to seek further training in France .

Totem Walk at Sitka

Following her return to Canada , in the summer of 1912, she went north to visit First Nations villages on the Skeena River and in the Queen Charlotte Islands (Haida Gwaii). She produced an important body of work in the field, and in the fall of the year she produced the first of her major canvases of First Nations subject matter. In these works, highly influenced by her French training, she used bright, fauvist colors and, often, broken brushwork.

She showed these works in Vancouver in early 1913, hoping that the government of the province would purchase them. When the project failed, she returned to Victoria and turned her attention to other ways of making a living. She ran a boarding house, raised sheepdogs, made pottery and gave art lessons but she produced very little painting.

Haida Totems
The inclusion of her work in a national exhibition in 1927, and her introduction to other artists who recognized the quality of her work, particularly the Group of Seven, encouraged her to return to painting as her major occupation. In the summer of 1928 she made another trip north to visit First Nations villages. The work she produced between 1928 and her death is the cornerstone of her reputation.

Cedars Sanctuary
The images of First Nations subjects created between late 1920s and early 1930s were stronger and more forceful paintings than her earlier works. The fact that Emily achieved this when she was in her late fifties, in an artistic climate that was often hostile, makes her accomplishments even more extraordinary.

In the 1930s she began devoting most of her attention to landscape, particularly the forest, as subject matter. These paintings are among her most important contributions to Canadian art. They express her profound identification with the landscape of the province and her belief that nature was a tangible expression of God.

By the late 1930s, having suffered a series of heart attacks, Emily found it harder to travel. She began to focus more of her energy on writing and produced an unusual and important series of books, including Klee Wyck, a book of stories based on her experiences in First Nations villages, which won the Governor General's Award for Literature in 1941. She died in 1945, in her native Victoria, at the age of 74, recognized as an artist and writer of major importance.

Emily interpreted the Pacific Northwest landscape and its indigenous culture at a time when these subjects were unfamiliar outside of this region. I find her colors very true to the shades found on our island, especially in winter months, with her images of lush forests, deep blue seas, and the rugged contours of the land.
She had a profound love of her country, its natural beauty and power, and the pioneering spirit that continues to shape it today.

Thursday, August 27, 2015


Black-backed W.P.
Three-toed W.P.
There are five species of  WOODPECKERS found on our island: Downy Woodpecker (our smallest), Hairy Woodpecker (like the downy but a longer beak, about the size of a robin with a comma shaped black mark from shoulder to breast), Pileated Woodpecker (the largest and hence the loudest), Northern Flicker (which more resembles a dove and is the most common and the only W.P. that feeds on the ground), and the Red-breasted Sapsucker (they do not suck sap as their name implies, but rather lick the sap using small hair like projections on the tip of the tongue).

With their hard, pointed beaks, incredibly long tongues and thick, shock-absorbing skulls (one wonders why they are not brain-damaged), woodpeckers are well adapted for excavating cavities for nesting and roosting, territorial drumming, and hunting for insects and sap. Woodpeckers are made for tree living with their sharp pointed claws aiding them in scaling up and down trees. They have a short, stiff tail that helps prop them up when they are climbing. They are one of the most fascinating birds to watch.

Woodpeckers play an important role in the health of our forests. Abandoned cavities are used by a variety of other birds and the process of drilling and chipping for food and shelter also contributes to the necessary decomposition of dead trees.

Red-breasted Sapsucker
During breeding season (April-June) male woodpeckers will drum on loud surfaces to establish their territory and attract a mate. Favorite sites for this kind of "rat-a-tat-tat" drumming are gutters, downspouts and flashing. For several years we have had a Red-breasted Sapsucker going to town on the copper finial atop the monastery roof, totally driving our PWD, Koko, nuts! 

As seen in 5/12 Blog  I recently added the lovely White-headed W.P. to my list (WA).  In my travels to Arizona I have seen the Gila, Strickland's and Arizona W.P., and Gilded Flicker and Red-naped Sapsucker. In California there are the Acorn and Nuttal's W.P. and Williamson's Sapsucker; in Texas the Ladded-backed & Gold-fronted and in CT the Red-headed and Red-bellied W.P. and the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

So now?  Who else is out there? After Labor Day I will be setting out with birding friends to the Okanogan areas of WA and Canada to try and find the Black-backed Woodpecker and the Three-toed Woodpecker, two of our most northern birds and the elusive Lewis' WP.

Black-backed WP- Tom Munson
The Three Toed Woodpecker  moves into areas with large numbers of insect-infested trees, often following a forest fire or flooding. Since we are in the worst forest-fire season in history we may have a chance to see one of these beauties flying our way!  This bird is likely to give way to the Black-backed Woodpecker where the two species compete for habitat.  Their breeding habitat is boreal forest across Canada, Alaska and the north-western United States. Black-backed woodpeckers are generally non-migratory and are common in southern British Columbia where we will be.

Three-toed WP
The call note of the Black-backed woodpecker is a single, sharp pik, and is lower pitched than the call of the American three-toed woodpecker.  Both species have yellow tops so here's hoping we find one and then make the right identification!

 One of the largest species of American woodpeckers, Lewis's Woodpecker can be as large as 10 to 11 inches in length. It is mainly reddish-breasted, blackish-green in color with a black rump. It has a gray collar and upper breast, with a pinkish belly, and a red face. The wings are much broader than those of other woodpeckers, and it flies at a much more sluggish pace with slow, but even flaps similar to those of a crow.

Lewis" WP

Unlike other American woodpeckers, it enjoys sitting in the open as opposed to sitting in heavy tree cover. Lewis's woodpecker engages in some rather un-woodpecker-like behavior in its gregarious feeding habits. Although it does forage for insects by boring into trees with its chisel-like bill, the bird also catches insects in the air during flight, a habit that only a few other woodpeckers indulge in. It will be easier to identify- it does not have a yellow top!

Lewis' WP in full glory

Wednesday, August 26, 2015


Anni Morris

Whatever happened to "women's lib"?  In the beginning when it all started, I would  stare at the speaker and say, "I don't see any guys".  But soon found that all it does is confuse the person, especially if they were born in this century! 

Somewhere in another era, our society began to substitute ''people at work'' for ''men at work'' and ''humankind'' for ''mankind''. Just when we were starting to be aware of the degree to which language affects our perceptions of women, this ''guy'' thing happened.

The term ''guy'' to mean ''person'' is so insidious that I'll bet most women don't notice they are being called ''guys,'' or, if they do, find it somehow flattering to be considered one of the "guys". Some say that this slang is just a sign of the times (mindless), a catchphrase that will fizzle out.

I have seen no polls which let me know that other women resent this term,  but nuns??? Here is one who is not content to let it fly.....  to this nun it is just thoughtless!

Maybe we could take a hint from the people in the south and say:  Y'all!   Ladies, we need to unite!

Anni Morris

Friday, August 21, 2015


One of our three Land Program young people for the year is from the Netherlands. This prompted me to find a "modern" Dutch saint. One of the things I find interesting is our "misconception" of other countries.

I never realized that parts of the Netherlands, especially where Marijke comes from, is very Catholic. And yet some of our closest friends in the area are Dutch Catholics. The northern part of our state has a lot of Dutch who came to this country immediately after WWII, many to start dairy farms, others tulip (and other bulbs) farms.

was born in Tilburg, Holland in 1809. Because the family was poor, the two sons could be given little schooling and had to work for the support of the home. From an early age,  Peter felt called to be a priest. Eventually, with the assistance of the clergy of his parish he was able at the age of twenty two to begin study at the Minor Seminary. He was ordained a priest in 1841.

While still engaged in his theological studies he had been guided by his superiors in the seminary towards the missions of the Dutch colony of Surinam. Suriname is a small country on the northeastern coast of South America. Even today it is defined by vast swaths of tropical rainforest, Dutch colonial-era architecture and a melting-pot culture. On its Atlantic coast is the capital, Paramaribo, where palm gardens grow near Fort Zeelandia, a 17th-century trading post.

Bl. Peter arrived in Paramaribo in 1842 and applied himself at once to the pastoral works that were to occupy him until his death. His first duties included regular visits to the plantations along the rivers of the colony, where he preached and ministered the Sacraments mainly to slaves. His letters express his indignation at the harsh treatment of the African peoples forced to work on the plantations.

In 1856 he was sent to the leper station of Batavia and this was to be the scene of his labors for the rest of his life. In his charity he not only ministered  spiritually to the patients, but even tended them medically until he was able to persuade the authorities to provide adequate nursing services. When the Redemptorists arrived in 1866 to take charge of the mission of Surinam, Father Donders and one of his fellow priests applied for admission into the Congregation.

The two candidates made their novitiate under  Bishop Johan Baptist Winkels, taking their vows in 1867. Father Donders returned at once to Batavia. Because of the assistance he now had with the lepers, he was able to devote time to a work he had long wished to undertake. As a Redemptorist he now turned his attention to the Indian peoples of Surinam. He continued with this work, previously neglected through lack of manpower, until his death. He began to learn the native languages and to instruct the Indians in the Christian faith, until failing strength compelled him to leave to others what he had begun.

In 1883 the Vicar Apostolic, wishing to spare him the heavy burdens he had so long carried, transferred him to Paramaribo and later to Coronie. He returned, however, to Batavia in 1885. He resumed his previous occupations until weakening health finally confined him to bed  the following year. He lingered for two weeks until his death on 14th January 1887. The fame of his sanctity spreading beyond Surinam and his native Holland, his cause was introduced in Rome. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 23rd May 1982.

Saturday, August 15, 2015


P & M  on left- Bain  the Whalers

Having done the Blog on Philip Cutlip reminded me of two other (even more local) Alums, PETER & MOLLY WILSON, who met at Seattle Pacific University, fell in love and married.  We have known Peter since he was a toddler and know of his many talents. A career move to Montana and three children later (and a fourth on the way), Peter and Molly continue their music in the small town of Highwood. They spent the first months of married life teaching music classes for middle school students in China, but once they found out they were expecting their first child, they decided to look for a teaching position in the U.S. and   Montana came into the picture.

While Molly trained to be a classical violinist, with a voice like an angel, Peter can play anything from Jazz piano to the bagpipes (and anything in between- having taught himself most)! "Once you have one thing, you can branch out with ease."  Many would not agree with this!

Molly also is proficient on the viola and teaches private music lessons, when not chasing after 3 small children, all under the age of 8. She is one of the few violinists I know who can also do fiddle music and do it brilliantly!

Peter teaches music at Highwood Public School’s (90+ students K-12 ) in a day and age when most music teachers have to do other jobs to stay afloat. His goal is to see the potential in his students and nurture it while having fun in the process. He takes his students all over the West to show their talents.
Beth Rood- photo

Beth Rood- photo

Locally, Peter and Molly charm people with their talents: a St. Patrick's festival, a hoedown every year, teaching people how to Contra dance, plus for weddings and private groups. On top of all this they have a small farm and enjoy the animals they raise.

" We are dedicated to the craft of fine music making, and hope to encourage others to sing and make a joyful noise to the Lord"!

Their first CD - No More a Stranger (with Peter's cousin Brandon) is a set of Scotch/Irish and American fiddle tunes, as well as some favorite hymns with Molly on violin and voice and Peter on bohdran (the bodhrán is the heartbeat of Irish music. This ancient frame drum is traditionally made with a wooden body and a goat-skin head, and is played with a double-headed stick called a cipín, tipper, or beater), piano, voice and assorted instruments and Brandon Olson on guitar and mandolin.

Their second CD Over the River and Through the Woods is an eclectic mix of old-world, winter-season tunes; some modern surprises; and little-heard, sacred Christmas selections.  We sell both in our monastery Shop. $10  (and a bargain).

At Cowboy Poetry

Sunday, August 9, 2015


August is the month we look forward to as it is our FAB Orcas Chamber Music Festival.  I have written about this in past blogs (8/26/13). One of my favorite people- not that they aren't all talented - believe me, the best of the best- but a personal favorite as we seem to gravitate to each other, is the very handsome baritone PHILIP CUTLIP. I have only seen ( and chatted with him ) twice, but feel a bond- for some reason.

He grew up in Ellensburg, WA and attended the University of Puget Sound (Tacoma) which many of our young friends have attended.  He enrolled at UPS with every intention of completing a degree in math, then going on to grad school to eventually earn a Ph.D.  He says: music was not an afterthought, but I did not aspire to more than singing in the Adelphian Concert Choir and taking voice lessons. I auditioned for the choir director and the head of the voice department, and they were surprised to have a "walk-on" with some talent show up. Over my four years, I went from being a math major who loved music to a music major who loved math, which I guess shouldn’t be surprising. There's a correspondence between the beauty and elegance of math and that of music. They both involve analysis and logic, but also imagination and interpretation."

 After UPS he went to the Eastman School of Music for a master's degree. Then  moved to New York City. It took 10 years, more or less, before he was supporting himself solely as a performing artist.  He waited tables (I was a horrible waiter),  sang in paid choruses, and  temped in offices (again, not my forte, unless the job involved computers). "What kept me going was a combination of self-confidence and, well, bullheaded stubbornness."

His parents are still in Ellensburg, his father having  retired from 40 years as a mathematics professor at Central Washington University. His mother was a speech therapist in various capacities. His siblings still live in WA.  He says:  love my times in Washington, whether for visits, or in conjunction with singing jobs. Though I've lived in New York City for nearly half my life now, I'll never consider myself a New Yorker. Washington’s outdoor activities and beauty are simply a part of me, and I hope someday to move back here." He loves to bike, run, swim, and hike. He says he uses exercise as an outlet: " as a form of mediation and as a way to socialize and get to know a new place. There's nothing like a long, bewildering run through Milan to help you get to know the city better!"

Philip  has appeared as soloist with nearly every major North American orchestra. Throughout his career Philip  has portrayed many of opera's most well-known baritone roles including Papageno in Die Zauberflöte, Harlequin in Ariadne auf Naxos with Seattle Opera, the title roles in both Don Giovanni and Il barbiere di Siviglia, Malatesta in Don Pasquale, and Guglielmo in Così fan tutte.

He has garnered consistent critical acclaim for his performances in both North America and Europe. Established on both concert and opera stages and he has performed with a distinguished list of conductors that includes Nicholas McGegan, Yves Abel, Miguel Harth-Bedoya, Gerard Schwarz (Seattle), and Donald Runnicles.

"The man about whom the drama of Glass's opera is twisted, Orphée, is sung by baritone Philip Cutlip, one of the best among America's generation of talented young singers."
    — Joseph Newsome, Voix des Arts

"The star of the evening was Cutlip, whose commitment to the tormented character of Maurice Bendrix was moving beyond words, his diction as well as his sweetness and lightness of timbre ideal."
    — Opera News

"Cutlip is remarkable. He looks more like a movie star than an opera/oratorio specialist. But when he lets the pipes loose, the windows rattle and he shows why he is in demand on stages at the top venues in the world. This guy can sing."
    — Walt Amacker, Richmond Times-Dispatch

with his son- who is now in College

On top of it all he is a genuinely nice man- Looks?  well, you can see for yourself!!

Sunday, August 2, 2015


Blue-eyed Darner- My First ID!

Last month my oldest friend from the east coast was here visiting. We have known each other for 46 years and like me she is an avid birder.

While sitting at our pond and chatting the dragonflies flitted by.  She casually mentioned that now many serious birders in the east are into dragonflies and their relatives.  Ummm, said I. Another passion in the future?

As a small child I can remember visiting a great aunt's home in the "tulies" and my mother warning me not to go near the ponds as the dragon flies would get into my hair. Having long, naturally curly hair I was sure this spelled disaster. I am sure it was just my mother’s attempt to keep me far from the water’s edge.  So like many children, I grew up afraid of a perfectly harmless creature (I do love snakes) merely because I was told something false.

Common Green Darner
So I went to my favorite ("cheap" website for books -no it is not Amazon) and ordered Dragonflies of Oregon. There does not seem to be a guide for WA and I was sure there would be an overlap anyway.

Already,  as I write this I have identified 6 species at the pond by the guest house as well as my sheep pond.  The nice thing is you just sit by the water and they come to you. On very sunny days they seem to just bask in the reeds and plants, giving you very clear identification (well, sort of). However, I have no doubt I will soon need an expert to show me the finer points. 

These predatory carnivores (they consume vast numbers of insects) number almost 6,000 species worldwide, with 457 found in the USA and almost 100 in WA state.

Cardinal Meadowhawk
Dragonflies and damselflies are  members of the insect order Odonata, or “odes,” as enthusiasts call them.They are found on every continent except for Antarctica.  Dragonflies and their relatives are one of our most ancient living creatures with fossil records dating back 425 million years.

Their life history is in three stages: the egg, the larva and the adult.  Amazingly enough, the larva stage is the longest (from a few months to five years). During this time the larva molts 17-24 times. The adult stage is all about reproduction, and this stage lasts typically from two to four weeks (or a few months).

I was sure that damsel flies were just smaller dragonflies... ha!  You can tell a dragon from a damsel by its wing position when perched. Dragonflies hold their wings straight out to the side, while damselflies partly spread their wings or fold them together behind them and there is a difference in the placement between the eyes. Only a few species migrate; most overwinter in the larval or nymph stage.

To the Japanese, the dragonfly  symbolizes summer and autumn. It is also the symbol of power, agility and victory.  Among Native Americans, the dragonfly is a sign of happiness, speed and purity. Purity because the dragonfly eats from the wind itself .

New species of "odes" are being discovered and on average one new dragonfly species per year is discovered in North America.

Eight- Spotted Skimmer
Ecologists recognize that these colorful insects are excellent barometers of environmental health. If that is the case, our small island is in good shape!

Western Pondhawk