Friday, January 27, 2006

An artist from Winnipeg

I was told from sshhh ... a very reliable source born there, that some of the greatest in Canada come from Winnipeg. From singers like Neil Young, and Burton Cummings of The Guess Who to writers like Carol Shields (The Stone Diaries) and Miriam Toews (A Complicated Kindness), there is tremendous creativity in minus thirty degrees. My sister-in-law is not only very pretty, smart, and kind, she's also a wonderful artist. I like the mood in this watercolour of hers. Need a portrait of yours for posterity? She can do it from a photo. To find out more about her work, you can e-mail Charmaine Johnson Putnam at:

© Charmaine Johnson Putnam

Thursday, January 19, 2006


Went to see Umoja, a South African show in which dancers, singers, and drummers infused us with their vibrant energy. Colourful costumes, voices that belt out with joy or mournfulness, frenetic drumming, and then, the dancing. Powerful, sensual and compelling. Rhythmic foot stamping, hip grinding, pelvic tilts, zapping kicks, and jumps. My feet were moving on their own, itching to hop on stage with them. The drums were pounding, taking over the pulse of our heartbeats, making the spectators one with the performers. At the end of the show, when the crowd was invited to dance, not one person hesitated. Young and old of all colours were wiggling their hands, and rolling their hips. It was Umoja (the spirit of togetherness).

Monday, January 09, 2006

A weekend in Montreal

Montreal was white with snow. We strolled along the Vieux Port, and stepped into a photo gallery. A young Québécois photographer working there: J'aime prendre les photos des gens dans la rue. On me dit que je suis bon. He's good at taking photos of people... Ever since Montreal released all its crazy people on the street, it's been more interesting taking portraits, he said. He told us where to eat and dance in Montreal.

Marché Bon Secours was a treasure trove. I love Quebec craftspeople, that they're willing to take risks, and are so bold with shapes and colours. Bought a few things I don't need, but they just looked so neat and different. Slippers, wallet, another hat ... How do I rationalize these purchases? They're a tiny contribution to the Canadian economy. They also brought goodwill from our Québécois vendors who were thrilled that Torontonians could speak French so fluently.

Commencer l'année avec une visite à Montréal, c'est comme respirer une bouffée de joie. Marcher dans les rues est une petite aventure en soi. Les gens se regardent. Il y a des échanges, une curiosité, une connection. Parler français, c'est déjà plus chaleureux. Ici, on célèbre la vie, les petits moments de bonheur et on est heureux. Ma copine et moi, on s'est amusé avec une telle intensité qu'on ne sentait plus le froid.