“Summer 2013- Flood; Consume”
acrylic on canvas by Kate Sara Bennie
from the artist’s website – used with permission
My friend Kate Sara Bennie works at the Tea Trader shop in the Inglewood neighbourhood of Calgary. She’s an artist. She works enough to pay her rent and feed herself but otherwise protects her time to paint and to just be still. Being still lets daydreams and flashes of places distill within in her – which of course, often leads to more painting.
In this installation I’ll talk a bit about Bennie and the story behind the painting above.
Thursday June 20 – 2013
Elbow River near Hwy 8 and 22 at Bragg Creek roundabout
photo – Cole Anderson
When the going gets tough, cooks get cooking.
This past week my city, Calgary, Alberta, had the worst flood in its 129 year history. My husband and son mopped, shoveled and dragged mud, drywall and the remnants of our friends lives, now rubbish, from their homes. It was dirty, stinky, nasty, gut-wrenching and emotional work. Where was I, you might ask? I was where you can always find me when the going gets tough – in my kitchen.
Disasters are extreme. I did an extreme amount of cooking this week to match. I’ve been cooking a long time. I have developed a repertoire of recipes that I’ve made time and time again when people I love are under duress. I make these recipes in particular because they are the ones I nearly always have the ingredients on hand for. They are also the ones that people tell me that they enjoyed the most and that stood out for them. People ask me for these recipes once they’ve tried them. They are practical but seem to have just the right amount of deliciousness in them to show the care I’m wanting to transmit. I’ll share those recipes here and perhaps they’ll become something you can add to your repertoire for when you have friends in need.
Elbow River Fall 2012
Elbow River – Winter 2012
Elbow River Spring 2013
Elbow River – First day of Summer 2013
I decided last fall I would snap the odd photo from this one spot I always pass on my walks around my neighbourhood. Without fail the view of the Elbow River from this hill always makes me pause for a moment to enjoy its beauty and tranquility. I love the sound of the running water and think of it as bringing life where ever it goes. I treasure having something in my day that causes me to stop and feel the joy of being alive and in the moment for even one moment. Nature has the power to engage all of our senses and help us live in the now. Even a moment of not racing ahead to my to do list or not dragging the past like an old sack behind me can deliver a little transcendence. Nature is a true blessing in this regard.
Nature also has the power to scare the bee-jeepers out of us. Today we are experiencing the worst flood in Calgary’s history. Today’s walk around my hood was engaging all my senses but not in a relaxed and joyful way. The last photo in the study above was taken a few hours ago. The Elbow River has become a raging torrent and as I stood and watched it from my usual perch, I was deeply saddened as I know the wrath it is wreaking on my friends downstream. I could hear the thunderous power this avalanche of water is gathering as it hurls itself towards the city of Calgary just around the bend. I could see the earth and debris it is tearing up and dragging along. Everything in its wake is powerless. It is in fact designing a whole new riverbed as it goes. I’m not sure the double bridge around the bend will even hold up under its forces. I could have gotten away from here but I wanted to stay. Being one who savours food I have a pantry, fridge and freezer full and I might be needed by my neighbours. Like all Calgarians, I’m longing for the flood to hit its peak and begin to recede so we can rebuild our beloved city.
I just spoke with a dear friend who told me her home is under 10 feet of water. Another is in a Best Western motel and can’t locate her father-in-law. Still another fears her home might be dislodged completely. I’ve got oodles of friends on Facebook joking about their new riverfront property and hiding anxiety about the mess they’ll soon face. Still others have texted to let me know they are okay. They have not been able to get back to their homes but they are dry and safe and happy to be drinking wine with friends or just watching movies with their kids as they hang with relatives. My friends that I do business with in Inglewood have called and emailed to say they might not be able to do a food tour with me tomorrow. Good grief! – the grace they had to think of me and my little business at a time like this astounds me.
I pause in the helplessness of it all. I pause and think about those friends. I was surprised as I talked to people who not once did I hear worry, pity or defeat in anyone’s voice. I heard strong people calmly accepting what nature is doling out. I did not hear anyone talk about the things they were losing. I heard them talking about what a miracle it is that all are safe and how happy they are to be with their families. I heard them making plans for rebuilding as soon as they possibly can.
I felt helpless. They seem strong. Perhaps I only feel helpless because I can’t help them at this moment. I know what I need to do. I’m going to rest and I’m going to do what I always do in times of trouble…GET COOKING! I need to be ready to feed my friends. That’s something I’m good at. That’s something they’ll need when this initial calmness dies off and they are left in grief, shock anger and despair when they return to face the reality of the devastation this flood will leave in its wake. We may have to gulp the food I’ll cook down in moments spread here and there between days of clean up in the weeks and months to come. We may not be able to savour our food in the days to come but we can savour friendship and savour the gift of life even when nature threatens our life with its amazing power.