Mind, Motion & Matter

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The Moose & Marc Chagall

Wondering what a moose has in common with Marc Chagall? In the past month or so these were a couple of highlights in my little world, that never made it to the blog-o-sphere due to the now intermittent pace of my posts. In January of 2011 at this time I had not missed a day of blogging for a total of 21 posts while this will be my second post of the year.

St. Albert, grain elevator

St. Albert, a suburb of Edmonton, Alberta, enjoyed a spell of warmish winter weather during my four day visit in December. The path along the Sturgeon river was runnable and in many ways much more pleasant than my summer runs (see Running with the Mosquitoes) where at times one must concentrate on keeping  your mouth closed to avoid getting a mouthful of insects. I did a stretch of the Sturgeon river path, hitherto unexplored and was rewarded by the sight of an icon of the prairie landscape, a grain elevator, something I’ve grown to to love.

Click here for Big Lake webcam photos

A short stretch through an older section of St. Albert led me to a winding road flanked by parkland. About 150 feet ahead, I noticed a large creature, with an awkward loping stride crossing the road. Was it a horse? NO, it was a moose. I grabbed my BlackBerry and whilst fumbling with cold hands, missed capturing  the moment. My dismay at missing this photo opportunity changed to concern that the moose might decide to trot my way. I reversed direction and found myself looking over my shoulder regularly, just in case.

This was the second moose sighting of my life, the first a couple of years ago, sighted just off the highway while driving near Parry Sound. I wonder how many Canadians have actually seen a moose in the wild? I learned that this is fairly common in Alberta although my 95 year old father-in-law a resident of St. Albert for over 45 years has never seen one. I discovered that I my sighting took place about three miles from Big Lake where many a moose and other creatures are to be found.

Second trip to the Chagall exhibit

As for Chagall, due to the disappointment of missing a trip to an art gallery while  in NYC to run the marathon with my sister as support crew, we did a tourist day in Toronto. Our first stop was the AGO for the Chagall exhibit. Featured alongside Chagall were his Russian avant-garde contemporaries. The most striking contribution from this group was the film, Man With a Movie Camera by Dziga Vertov a film which as a film aficionado in the early-eighties, I viewed in a tiny room of the U of T film library housed in the basement of Sigmund Samuels library. The film released in 1929 is notable for it’s unabashed experimentation with this new art form and was projected onto a very large screen in a prominent area of the exhibition. Bravo AGO, you are doing a great job of making our gallery a world-class venue.

In 1981 during a three month solo tour of Europe I visited the Chagall Museum in Nice, France and more than half a lifetime ago, made this entry in my travel journal.

Saturday, February 21, 1981

. . . the Chagall Museum and there was a small chapel in which a girl was practicing on a harpsichord painted by Chagall, if there was one moment which I might say was THE moment I was looking for here in Europe I would probably choose that one.

Chagall Harpsichord painting – Meeting of Isaac & Rebecca

While the number of Chagall paintings and drawings in the AGO exhibit was limited, the selection of 32 works was quite satisfying to this Chagall lover. I signed up for an AGO membership and I returned in late-December with my husband for another visit.

Paintings done by Chagall of his hometown Vitebsk (Belarus, then part of the Russian Empire) are testimony to the power of art to elevate the ordinary into the extraordinary. In December I had an invitation to experience an extraordinary marathon in Russia. To begin with my friend was looking for some who would help provide the appropriate reading glasses to the Buryat people. The training for this is very simple and is done by Agape.  At the end of the mission I was invited to participate in the 8th Annual International Baikal Ice Running Marathon. This marathon is run on a frozen lake with the route mapped out by satellite in order to insure safe ice running. Due to my volunteer commitments this year I declined but for my friend this will be his very first marathon attempt. Imagine that!

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NYC Marathon, No Longer an Abstraction

When I registered for the NYC marathon, I was not entirely committed.  I was able to get automatic entry based on my time from the California International Marathon (CIM) run last December and entered in advance of firm commitment as major marathons have been filling up in record time the past year.

California International Marathon

Running guaranteed entry time for NYC at the CIM

If you do not have a qualifying time you are entered in a lottery however all potential entrants must pay $10 to acquire a NY marathon runner ID and once entry is confirmed your credit card is charged for the entry fee.  I seem to recall a few years back having paid about $100 to enter so when my credit card bill arrived with a $273 price tag plus $10 charge, I was surprised.  Up to then I had viewed my entry as something of an expensive reservation. Thus it is that I am now commit to serious marathon training.

Sunday is the day when I tally up my miles for the week and this week the total stands at 45 miles.   I consider this my rock bottom minimum mileage at any given time but I have recently fallen off that wagon.  In spite of heat and humidity for my 14 miler yesterday, I was able to complete the distance fairly comfortably, aided by the pace-moderating factor of a companion who is on the comeback trail from a calf injury. I ran about 150 miles in June and my target for July will be to get over 200 miles, including increased quality and a long run of at least 17 miles. I’m also going to get back to regular weight training to start on Tuesday.

Sunday afternoon was spent at the Art Gallery of Ontario enjoying a bit of New York that has recently arrived in Toronto, Abstract Expressionism New York, Masterpieces from the Museum of Modern Art.  This is the first time that a show of these modern masters has left New York.  As an art student in the 70’s I and my artistic peers were naturally enthralled by this group which included; Jackson Pollock, Barnet Newman, Wilhelm De Kooning and many others.

"Edge of Town" by Philip Guston

The work that I found most interesting was Philip Guston’s, Edge of Town from 1969 which expressed his frustration with the lack of explicit social commentary in art during a time of great upheaval with civil rights at the forefront.  The work above with its cartoon like depiction of the Ku Klux Klan is an indicative work, informing the article Philip Guston: abstract expressionism’s provocative pioneer and ultimate critic, a biography from Museum Today.

The November marathon trip to NYC will be a short one as it will be a busy period at work. With careful planning, I hope I can fit in a visit to  an art gallery or two. With eighteen weeks to marathon day the countdown begins NOW!