the view at 65 is worth it

Friday, December 31, 2010

“The last entry of 2010”

I finished the year by completing a creative writing project I began in 2004. It took seven years to write. “Cerulean Odyssey: the long distance voyager,” is a 7 volume epic poem comprising 110,934 words and 20,729 lines in 715 tableaux ( individual poems ). This is the longest epic ever written in Canadian literature. Parts have been “published” (I should say “printed”) using POD (Print On Demand). It was not an assignment of any kind, but something I wanted to complete before I began my second year of graduate studies. Writing poetry has been a part of my artistic journey since the beginning, but only now do I feel ready to take the next step, and that is to partner with a bona fide publisher ( not POD ) to publish the epic. Hopefully in 2011.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

“The other cohorts”

Another year has come and gone and the prospects for 2011 look bright as I enter my second year of graduate studies. That includes looking forward to the Spring Institute in May at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. It will be a sweet reunion as I meet my fellow “cohortians” again. Many of them were very encouraging throughout 2010. The challenges of my first year were often overwhelming. But I am satisfied with the results having achieved a very comfortable grade for all my work. But, there is another cohort, a special group of people who provide an immeasurable amount of motivation in my journey as artist, author, mentor, student, husband, father, grandfather, and friend. They are my family both immediate and extended. Each a treasure. Each the real reason why this wonderful tapestry of life looks so good. To them and to all my university “cohortians,” I wish you a compound blessing for 2011, hoping you will find meaning in what you do and encouragement and comfort in those who travel with you and those you meet along the way.

Friday, December 10, 2010

What happened to the light?

Sure there was "light at the end of the tunnel" in early December (my previous entry), but then I found out my next major course begins the first week of January 2011. I thought I'd have a few more weeks of R&R. Oh well. The course is titled: Organizational Communications.In literature there's a term called "pathetic fallacy," referring to nature itself being in sympathy with deeds committed. Perhaps the view over Nanaimo in my stormy sky photograph, taken yesterday morning, is a sobering reminder that there's still a whole lot of work to do. But, as I prepare to enter the second year of my "back-to-school-at-65" odyssey, I remain optimistic and motivated. Good grades are helping a lot too. Plus my second book of poetry, "Cold Winter Breath," is now published. If interested, just go to and type my name in the search bar in the "authors's information" page. And last but not least, a blessed Christmas season to everyone, and best wishes for well-being and fulfillment in the new year, 2011.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

"Light at the end of the tunnel"

There are 2 weeks left in my current core course that explores critical thinking, and 4 weeks left in the two electives I undertook at the same time. It’s been a grueling pace since September 6, but worth every moment. No details, but suffice it to say volumes of reading, endless online research, keeping my thoughts from wandering or tuning out, writing, and more writing. My secret? Lists. The good ol’ pieces of paper with lists and list of list. I regularly update the lists, rewrite them and check them frequently. Love making checkmarks when a task is done. Prioritize from most important at the top of the list and things that can be “carried forward” at the bottom. Make a short “to-do-today” list and crumple it up when done. Great therapy. By Christmas I will be just over half-way through my graduate program. Then there’s a big break till the next courses. Ah, the studio is calling me! Be encouraged those of you who follow this blog. If I can do it so can you.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

“Whales and Porpoises,”

Why I live and study on an island, and my university is a province away. A glorious moment amidst the chaos of life. The other day, my wife Alice and I went to Berry Point, a favourite place on the island just a couple of minutes away. It affords a spectacular wide-angle view of BC’s mainland and coastal mountains, Johnson Strait, and Vancouver Island. Suddenly! A commotion in the distant water. A mile long school of porpoises were chasing each other through the ocean, many flashing bright as they jumped out of the water. Another visitor to the Point, yelled, “whales!”. Three pairs of large Orcas, each about a half mile apart, came cruising past us. Spectacular. One pair came so close who could hear ( and see ) their blowholes. Somehow it put a kick in my step again to go back to my study and work on that Cloud Computing paper.(Not my photograph. Courtesy Google Images but a close match to what we saw).

Sunday, October 31, 2010


I’m sure you have all faced some time(s) when you felt so overwhelmed with things to do and life to live, you got more and more stressed out about deadlines, commitments, obligations, etc. I reached such a moment last week. Carrying 3 courses at the same time, each with lots to research online and in book form, and with many essays to write, I began to feel crowded. Living on a small island suddenly felt like prison and when I planned to get out and go for a long drive up big Vancouver Island, the weather turned sour. It’s that time of year called rain, fog, rain, fog, and then some. I have to resort to a very effective method, proven solid over some 40 professional years. That is, the making of “to do” lists - on paper. No online file management programs, just scraps of paper I keep in one place. Small scraps so that when the task is done, you crumble the scrap in your hands and toss it. Job done.” Great cathartic moments. At least now I won’t feel so silly on my beachcombing adventures.

Monday, October 18, 2010

"Monday, Monday...."

Remember that song by the Mamas and the Papas? Well, Monday, Monday is my early morning escape from this small island to indulge in drawing coffee shop people, writing and reading, including “hitting the books” for my graduate studies. Not a bad experience with a Starbucks Grande Vanilla Latte Extra Hot with and Extra Shot ( of vanilla ). Some errands perhaps, a drive into the mountains, and back by mid-afternoon, just in time to catch up on emails, eClass discussions online, and planning the rest of the week. Some would say perhaps “way too structured,” but I learned the structured skills in my fine arts journey and they work. And, believe it or not, I actually end up with spare time.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

"Soup's On!"

Every Saturday I make a 6 litre pan of thick tasty spicy soup, usually vegetable chowder with either chicken or beef stock base. The pan lasts me all week. In fact, I’ve got a bit of a reputation for my homemade soup, as well as my pancakes, which earned me the nickname “pancake man” among the island’s children. I started making pancakes, the pan-fried “crepe” kind, when I was very young. They earned me a few nickels from a roadside stand I’d set up. Of course, after I got married and our 6 children and grandchildren began gracing our lives, it was pancakes every Saturday morning. The secret of my success? More than just taste. The real secret is dependability. People could set their calendars by the times I set for making soup ( and pancakes ). Dependability is an ingredient of integrity, as well as patience, kindness, faithfulness, and love, all the great ingredients of a soup called life. The kids are no longer at home and only when they visit do I make pancakes. But, the soup’s still on - every Saturday.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Sign of the times

It's difficult for an artist to maintain the integrity of their original artwork. In an age where digital technology allows everyone to make perfect copies every time, who knows whether you are seeing the original or a copy? One artist was asked, "How many works of art have you created?" The artist answered: "Two thousand, and five thousand of them are in the United States."
Going back to school, in part, is also a personal quest to be a voice for the recognition that original art deserves. Somehow, spending 45 hours on a drawing is not the same as Google Image Search and "save-as." The image shown is a digital copy of a photograph of my original oxidized silverpoint drawing of a pewter vase. Can get confusing, right?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

3:00 pm, September 14

A day in the life of a 65 year old student. It happens to the best of us. That mid-afternoon time for a special kind of research. Deep into the abyss of my mind I search for clues to finish my online discourse and hope as well to find resources to get my head around a group project ( online ) and two upcoming academic papers I have to write. I began at 7:00 am, after breakfast, with a quick lunch break at noon, until my brain said “enough’s enough! 3:00 pm - research time!" I will probably take the rest of the afternoon off, except for some time in the studio to finish the day. But, then there’s that temptation to check my emails…..

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

From the Scriptorium

Enough of the ideal outdoor shots. Here's where "Back to School at 65," happens. Two shots of the study room and the view from my window. Don't be fooled. I was not in the picture because I just stepped out for a vanilla latte. But otherwise, I'm there in the scriptorium from early morning to middle of the afternoon, sometimes later. Writing, thinking, browsing, managing files, planning, creating, and more managing of thoughts, ideas and assignments. Loving it, but finding the challenges daunting. The secret? Lots of lists and notes. You can see my time-frame calendar taped to the closet doors. It really works. My escape is the studio on the other side of the house. A new drawing awaits me impatiently. And a happy back-to-school to everyone.

Friday, September 3, 2010

One last reprieve

There’s a stack of books and other course readings waiting for me as September begins my Fall research. So, to get a last reprieve before I plunge in, I went for a long drive and discovered “Nymph Falls,” about two hours “up island” as we say. An awesome sanctuary, a place of retreat to prepare my mind for the journey ahead. We all need places of retreat. My studio is a place of retreat, especially when I turn the music on and get lost in a big drawing. Retreat is not defeat. Retreat is as necessary as breakfast and a steaming vanilla latte. I knew of a pastor’s wife who had many children. When she needed a retreat, she’d sit on a kitchen chair and pull her apron over her head. Her 11 children knew that mom was in her sanctuary and on a retreat and they left her alone. She was the wife of John Wesley (1703-1791), founder of the Methodist church. That was before Facebook.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Elevator Presentation

My friend said, “give me an elevator presentation of where you’re at.” I said, “one course finished, the next one starts in a week, plus my proposed independent study has turned into two courses and both have been accepted.” He said, “phew! That’s a plate full.” I said, “Indubitably.” Which by the time we reached the metaphoric next floor, had grown into a huge awareness. I said, “my next four months will be booked solid.” It means putting studio time on hold, for now. But, I knew that would happen. In fact, all this “back-to-school-at-65” stuff is really like one giant canvas to me, in or out of the studio. Perhaps that’s a better view of life ( one large canvas ) than just the accumulation of major and minor incidents subject to the nods of approval of society. I can only imagine what the canvas will look like once I get to the top floor.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Summer Elective Sunset

At last. The sun set on my summer elective course called "Digital Tribes." Another course completed. It's a challenge doing the whole thing online with discussions, readings, research, and writing essays. No comparison to actual classroom settings. In fact, the hardest part was staying motivated to participate online because texting, or typed discussions, is about as "technically advanced" as smoke signals.
The hot humid spells we've been having haven't helped either. But, not to complain about the weather. It has otherwise been a spectacular summer, except for the smoke from forest fires that keeps drifting from the mainland in our direction. I'm already looking forward to May 2011, for the next Spring Institute, live in Edmonton. I've got about 2 weeks before the next major course starts - "Exploring Critical Thinking."

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Dealing with the stress of it all

Sometimes things overwhelm me. Having taken up the challenge to go back to school did not prepare me for a mind that won’t shut off. I’m thinking 24/7 about essays, online discussions, research, and the long range goals of graduate studies, not the least of which is the culmination of all work into a final Project Portfolio. In addition there are of course all the other daily matters of life and relationships. My studio is clamoring for me to spend some more time there. In fact, it can all get downright stressful. How to deal with the stress of it all? Do something beautiful. It’s not what stress does to you. It’s what you do to stress. Doing something beautiful, such as spending time on a detailed realistic silverpoint drawing instead of my abstract art, is an antidote to stress. You may not draw, but I am confident there’s something beautiful you can do. Go and do it. When stress builds up, deal it a hand of beauty. It really works.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Warning: cyber eyes!

I’ve spent the last month working at home on a summer elective course called “Digital Tribes.” Really good stuff. Probably spent more computer time studying on eClass than anything else. I did manage to begin a large silverpoint drawing in the studio, but it’s only 50% finished after one month. When I do a detailed drawing, I really have to watch out for eye strain. Sometimes I draw for so long, when I’m finished the whole world looks like tiny pencil strokes. However, that does not compare to the effect of spending hours staring into a LCD computer screen. I call it “cyber eyes,” and it’s a real problem. I have low prescription glasses for driving, and I use quality reading glasses. But, even with those, after hours on the computer, I feel fatigued and my eyes can actually get bloodshot. Funny thing. Not so when reading a book. And I don’t think it’s just because I’m 65. It’s a warning to all computer users. Take good care of your eyes. And “cyber eyes” don’t make good “bedroom eyes.”

Friday, July 23, 2010

It’s my dime

The real satisfaction of graduate research is what matters most and that is how I think about things. It’s not just about gathering what everyone else thinks and then collating the findings into some sort of order that suits my point of view. What if no one thinks like you? Or you have a distinct and not-too-popular viewpoint? The matter is complicated because you know deep in your heart you’ve got a lot to say. It’s been perking there for 65 years. Yes, I’ve said it before in essays, newspaper columns, commentary, etc., but now it’s different.

I have chosen to embrace a scholarly art form called graduate studies for the sole purpose of helping me articulate what it is I’ve been thinking about, and to say so in an intelligent, critical, and comprehensive way, with all the input I can get from texts, reading materials, and the valuable contributions of my fellow cohort and professors. It also means not being afraid to step outside the box and create my own independent study as an elective. Some may say I am verbose, wordy, but that’s just the way I do critical thought. Gone are my advertising agency days when a small paragraph of copy and a catchy headline, or an 8 word billboard, were all I needed to write. That by the way is a lot harder to do than you may think.

I write for myself. I present it for others to read and respond to. I participate in an open source dialogue and a greater discourse among many. I submit essays and research papers. I write more than is required. One paper required 3500 words. I wrote 6000. But, hey, it’s my dime. I’m paying over $20,000 for this part of my creative journey and the money is not coming from savings and investments. It’s my old age pension. I intend to make every dime count. I’ll do the editing after two years, when I have to present my Research Portfolio. Do I detect the beginnings of a rant?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A long entry about back to school challenges

(from my online group discussion on Grant's "technological dependency").
If my 2010 online graduate study does anything at all, besides the acquisition of knowledge, it keeps alive ( at least in me ) the tension between traditional study and research with “warm” books and paper, and the “cold” techniques of computer mastery.
Many of the skills required for this online course were in some form or other pre-existent, such as typing. After all, I had an electric typewriter back in the 70’s and my first computer sat staring at me as long ago as 1987. DOS. Brrrr. Like hypertext later on. Bizarro. But, I still “hit” my keys as if it’s a manual Underwood typewriter, and my skills of using more that two fingers is as yet undeveloped.
I decided with my summer elective course to do all the work paperless, at least to the best of my ability. Rather than spreading books and essays all around my desk, I choose to read everything on my glaring 24 inch screen. No special task-lighting to feel very comfortable. Now all the lights in my study are on, to balance the brightness of the computer flat-screen.
A major adjustment was learning to read documents online, especially pdf files, printed in “mice-type.” The golden rule of intelligible typography is called the “book face,” and its minimum size is 12 pt. Hard to find these days, when a lot of text is as small as 10 pt. type.
Squinting, bending forwards, adjusting reading glasses, etc, may seem trivial, but they are part of my adjustment to online study.
Indirect contact with my writing, using a mouse (just can’t handle that itty-bitty finger pad), is a step backwards from real-time, real contact between pen and paper. I bought a large tablet not long ago. It sits in my closet collecting dust. I can still draw faster and better with a pencil, than I can with all those intermediaries between my brain and a “paper-like” visual surface. Maybe I’ll give the tablet to my godchild. She’s young but she’s an avid and computer-savvy anime artist. I still write and edit my poetry first-hand longhand, and only transcribe into a digital file later.
And if computers have any “life” at all, it is a clandestine conspiracy to mess with my head, every step of the way. A pen, a pencil, I have mastered them, but Microsoft Word? I know how to type, cut, paste, edit, save etc, and I’m fairly proficient. Have to be in order to have any peace while writing epic poetry and my third novel in progress.
But, all the time, there’s this invisible techno-wizard who keeps changing at random my font from Arial to Times New Roman, from medium to bold, and from black text to grey. Not to mention those arbitrary margin changes and indents, or the bullets I never asked for. I try hard not to hit two keys at a time ( God help those with Blackberries ), but sometimes even the best of keyboards are too small for my flying two-finger typing. Then suddenly, without warning, the screen freezes and I panic because I haven’t saved my writing as yet. Sometimes, even the toolbar with file, edit, view, insert, format, tools, table, window, and help, are still a mystery. When I turned 65, my children bought me a Staples-brand large calculator, 12 X 19 inches. Awesome.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Digital tribes

It’s back to the books, or to be precise, back to a computer screen in the absence of books. Although I have to print some of the material, just to give my eyes a break,I do have a large screen as big as a double page spread. After a generous month of studio work since the university's Spring Institute of May (did some nice drawings), I am ready to punch the clock again for my summer elective course. It has an adventurous title: “Digital Tribes.” Some oil for the gears, my pith helmet and jungle outfitters gear, and I am ready to explore and discover digital tribes in the heart of cyberculture. Might discover a rare virtual community, and who knows, perhaps even encounter the mythical proprietary hacker, King Kong. We're supposed to have a heat wave this week, so I'll do my eClass early in the morning, and keep studio work for the afternoons. I’ll keep you posted.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

inside the artist's studio

Thought you might like a visit to my studio. It's my hang-out, work place, study corner, retreat centre, sanctuary, and chapel, all in one. Here's a link to the youtube video ( 3 min. )

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Oh deer!

Been doing a lot of reading about uncertainty reduction and predictability as part of a research paper. But then this fella appeared outside my studio. The young buck helped me remember that as much as I would like to reduce uncertainty by predicting the events of the day, especially as I get older, there remains a thrill of the moment when an unexpected something catches me by surprise. Next week I start my summer elective course. It’s called “Digital Tribes.” Oh deer! No doubt the research will have many surprises.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Beats writing research papers

Gotta admit, she’s one fine picture. I’m holding Keanna, just a few hours after birth on Saturday morning, June 12. It’s our 5th grandchild and she is a wonderful reminder that life is more than just research papers, textbooks and academic degrees, as much as I enjoy them too. But, a newborn baby wins every time. Perfect timing. In between the end of courses 502 and 503 and just before the summer elective of 597.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Always wanted to do this

Always wanted to do this. It’s my first studio piece since the Edmonton Spring Institute. My passion for old documents gave me the idea to create one myself. It’s done in metalpoint media on paper with an ink rubbing of the text. It’s not meant to be read of course. Just so there is no confusion, it’s not an old document or a copy thereof. It’s an original drawing I made to look like an old parchment. It’s 30 X 22 inches. Plus it’s good to be in the studio again. Enjoy.

Monday, May 31, 2010

The best soup ever!

It’s been a week after and I’m still stuck in overdrive. Needless to say, a research paper that’s due next Monday helps drive the machinery of learning with deadlines. But every Saturday morning I make a 6 litre pan of the best homemade soup. Think creamy thick vegetable with a perfect secret blend of spices and a chicken stock base, so rich, the aroma makes me dizzy. I make enough to last me all week, and anyone else who would like some. Lunch – the proverbial large bowl of my soup, a freshly baked Kaiser with ham and cheese and a touch of Dijon. Now, that’s fuel in any engine to keep up the drive for better research and a passion to continue. Could have used some of that in Edmonton. Wouldn’t that make a superb Project Portfolio – Soup as metatheory. Check out the island picture. I thinks that’s me 3 cars back from the front.

The ol' ferry home

I think that's me 3 cars back from the front. That's Vancouver Island on the horizon.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Goodbye Edmonton

Goodbye Edmonton, goodbye MACT 2010, until I see you again. Lest you forget, you may be distant from my island home but you are as close as my heart and memories. I cannot forget you nor do I want to. We have much to do as a newly created community of friendship and scholarly kinship. Yes, I had my doubts. Now that the Spring Institute is over I don’t mind sharing them. When our oldest son was critically injured in a vehicle accident in Vancouver on February 11 ( broadsided by a 10 ton truck leaving him near death ) the next two months were extremely stressful for Alice and I as he needed all the help he could get. It meant a lot of commuting from our island home to Vancouver. It was difficult to stay focused on the fact I was going back to school and I was prepared to drop the whole thing if my son needed me. Thank God, our son ( he’s 40 ) became our “miracle baby,” and he had a remarkable recovery. By early April, I felt confident I could re-focus on the Spring Institute. My son’s journey is a long climb back up the mountain of full recovery, but he is doing well by himself again. So, unbeknownst to you my fellow cohortians, your friendship and collaboration meant a lot. And I thank you. Now, where’s that elective I signed up for? It’s gonna be the summer of island love, I mean theory, I mean ….. I need a rest.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A tranquility moment

I had been acutely aware of the amount of stress during graduate studies in such a compressed time frame as our May, 2010 Spring Institute at the University of Alberta. Very soon I realized that this stress was not just my own. The faces of everyone showed how we hit saturation and could go no further unless we took a moment to regroup, repair, and re-kindle. For that reason I created a 3 minute little video clip using my drawings as a moment of reflection, with no dialogue, no text, just a gentle sound track. My fellow cohortians appreciated the gift, so I decided to share the gift with you. It’s on Youtube, and here’s the link. Hope you can connect.

Please don't squeeze me

It’s the day before tomorrow. One day to go, and the Spring Institute will be finished, at least on campus. However, the journey continues in my island studio. But, I will need to warn fellow islanders, perhaps even wear one of those atomic energy warning labels on my sleeve. You see, the reason is, I have become an ecological time bomb. Squeeze me and I’ll rupture into an avalanche of metatheory, traditions, linguistics, cybernetics, social networks, protocols, file sharing, and a host of names and acronyms that feel like the proverbial Noah’s flood. It’s like Gabriola Island’s rainy season, when so much rain falls, the earth is saturated and the rest runs in small waterfalls and bit torrents ( I know, couldn’t resist ) down the road, through culverts, “over hills and through the valley,” to end up in the ocean and to start all over again. Yes, you may hug, but be warned. Tbc.

Monday, May 17, 2010

So what have I learned so far?

One thing I have learned is that the cliché about “rusty brains,” is only partially true. Add a good measure of the oil of learning and those gears will soon hum with activity again. Except for that habit of having an afternoon nap ( aka HPI – Horizontal Processing Initiative ), I’ve managed to survive the first two weeks of “back to school.” Tons of work, more tons of reading and writing, making presentations, and little sleep. But my vocabulary has grown, my insight expanded, my thoughts clearer, and the whole reason for going back to school is beginning to come into a clearer focus. Not bad eh? Except my legs complain from all that walking and I have not been very efficient in getting regular balanced meals. Too many vanilla lattes ( hey, they sell them right inside our university building ), big homemade muffins and Subway sandwiches.Mmmmm.
I see it’s almost dinner time. Oh yes. I also learned to be patient. With myself.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Friday, May 14, 2010


One week to go, but this time no TGIF. The Spring Institute is only a preview of what’s to come, and despite the rollercoaster ride of graduate studies compacted into three weeks of intense on-camps work, I actually am looking forward to a summer and fall of study. Mind you, this time it’s from the spacious enclave of my studio. Did I mention it has three large windows, glass sliding doors and two skylights. And then there’s nearby Berry Point with a panoramic 200 degree view of coastal BC, just 3 minutes from my house. I make the 2 ½ hr drive to the Pacific Rim on the West Coast of Vancouver Island at least once a month. Imagine an endless Wild West sandy beach, where on a very busy day there are never more than maybe 80 people. Hello downtown Edmonton. But, the big city’s been kind to me. The smiling people who make those awesome coffees at a host of cafés are as welcome as the vanilla bean lattes themselves. Make sure you check the picture I’ve posted of my studio ( next entry ). Not braggin’. Just looking forward to solitude. And getting back to some creative work. But, should you ever make it to “the coast” feel free to come and see me.

my place of solitude

Ah, the studio, my sanctuary, my refuge, my place of solitude, and the view, trees, trees, more trees, very tall trees over 100 feet tall, trees that creak and groan and fall over during those roaring Pacific windstorms we get, and the power goes out. Solitude, yes, but not always stress-free. But, there’s always my big jar of double salted Dutch licorice which keeps on being filled by a fan of my journey. Enjoy.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Put my foot in that one

I had conceived a brilliant idea for a new interactive social network.
So “MACT 2010” and right in there with all my fellow cohortians. After all, I am capable of new thoughts despite my ‘seniors’ status, right? Thoroughly impressed by three fellow graduate students who gave a brilliant presentation on Twitter, I proposed they start the network. I even asked if I could join their club. One student remarked that the idea was interesting ( not his words, but I was determined to believe he thought so in his head ). But his words were ”that’s so 1994.” Undeterred I pressed ahead advocating the merits of my creative deliberations. “But, it is a good idea,” I replied. Another member of the club smiled and said, “1994? I was in grade 10.” The resulting roar of laughter could be heard throughout Enterprise Square. I mumbled my parting shot, “but 1994 was good year.”

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

a valuable lesson

Cohort 2010 is the name of our group as we study, research, and discuss together at Enterprise Square in downtown Edmonton. We are a mixed lot yet there is a collective energy among us all including the professors, that I have not experienced in a very long time. We all have lots to contribute, yet everyone respects the other’s “place in line.” No free-for-all and everyone can speak freely. No one is “lording it over” the other. Refreshing. We are a diverse group, yet there is an unspoken professionalism that we truly care about one another’s thoughts and opinions. Twice refreshing. They’re even open to a Gabriola hug. The content and context of what we study together and on own are mind-boggling, often confusing and intimidating, but then there’s that epiphany when the lights go on and you understand. You can disagree with conventional thought or challenge every author’s contribution in the course reading material. So, what’s the valuable lesson? If the heart’s in it, then the rest will fall into place. I see a lot of heart in Cohort 2010.

Monday, May 10, 2010

How to escape noise?

A restless Sunday morning while northbound on highway 2. Going for a long drive – anywhere. They were noisy at TH. Just a few pages of coffee shop people this time. My head is swimming in metatheory. Through Westmount towards Slave Lake. Noise following me in the shadows. Then there were the voices of my loved ones. I miss them very much. Back on campus in my cell, I have company all afternoon. Gordon Lightfoot, The Doors, Iona, Toby Emerson, Ennio Morricone, and Dire Straits. Life without television. And they can only connect me to wireless on Monday, when the office is open and I’m downtown attending classes. Even knowledge has bureaucracy. Those who stroll on campus look down at the pavement. I checked. It wasn’t my cologne. Nobody smiles. But it’s the noise of loneliness that drives my thoughts. But, there was an escape. I fell asleep while praying. I woke and the noise was gone. But, what’s with the rabbits? UofA, like UBC, VIU, and UVIC, all have resident rabbits. Lots of them. They stare at me. Is it a new campus security initiative? I was sure I saw a couple of them with bunnycams.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Our "head office" downtown Edmonton

Excellent location. Scholarly pursuits surrounded by coffee shops. Inside view is the Atrium. Now if only our classrooms looked like that....

Week 1. Phew! What a ride!

I’m not one for mountain climbing. Like to watch it on National Geographic, but personally, I prefer a paved highway. Mount Washington, about 1 ½ hrs. north from where I live, is a spectacular snow-covered mountain, one of the best for skiing in BC. Don’t do that either, but loved the Winter Olympic’s giant downhill events, on TV of course. There’s a paved highway to the top. I don’t do rides at theme parks either. Not so this past week. Had to climb a pretty tall mountain called “sociopsychological theory,” and race down its rollercoaster slope, otherwise known as “stand-up presentation time with back-up Powerpoint.” But, I had a tremendous partner for the event. I think we aced it. Oh yes, forgot to mention. We had a blizzard this week. Got blown off my feet ( almost ) in a cool way. Haven’t had to “bend into the wind” for a long time. But there’s always week 2.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Day 1: thump, thump!

At first I thought it was the sound of steel wheels pounding down a track as two freight trains, No.’s 502 and 503 came barreling towards me. Somebody! Help! But then I realized the thump thump was my own heart beating with anticipation at the prospect of having to answer the question, “so Gerrit, can you tell us something about yourself?” A dangerous question to ask me, so say my friends, unless you have at least an hour to spare.
But then, isn’t that the grand design of communication, to say much with little? Dare I say, perhaps Twitter is a better deal than Wikipedia? But how to define “much” and “little?” Well, tomorrow is another day.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Meet‘n Greet Jitters

There we were - a cohort of some 30 people, dressed business casual, our only communications tool a name tag on a string. Easy for short people, but when you’re tall like me it means a lot of bending. What a thrill to meet so many interesting people, from literally all over the country and overseas, and faculty members too. Within minutes, conversations sprang up as if we were at a family reunion waiting with anticipation to tell our stories since last we met. Wonderfully catered, a quick tour of classrooms, introductions, and whatever jitters I had accumulated over the long drive from Gabriola Island to Edmonton, soon dissipated in the anticipation of friendships to be born during our Spring Institute. Tomorrow it’s “show time” at 8:30 am, unless I count coffee and muffins at 7:30 as the real curtain’s-up at centre stage. But, I confess, I missed my afternoon NAP ( Not Actively Participating). I must not underestimate the degree to which I will be engaged in a scholarly pursuit of something as enigmatic as theory. Intimidating sometimes. Tiring for sure. One fellow cohort member said “I’m good till midnight.” Me? I’m done for the day and it’s 5:30 pm. Tbc.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

happy trails

The ferry leaving our small island on early Thursday evening was nice, and so was the Friday 5:45 am view of a full moon setting over Vancouver Island, but when I got to Rogers Pass, brrrr. It was the 1st of May. Banff was better.

Friday, April 30, 2010

My family was so glad to see me go

I must have talked non-stop during the week before my departure for Edmonton. I didn’t know I was that nervous. My apologies to family and friends. You lent me your ears and I kept them. Nevertheless, the big day came this morning. And of course I could hardly sleep both nights before. You’d think I was a kid again about to leave for Disneyland. Maybe I am. But at 65 I’m supposed to be “in need of” long sleeps. Ha!
I was wide awake at 2:00 am to catch the 5:15 am big ferry from Nanaimo to Vancouver. I caught a bit of sleep in my car on the ferry. That’s when the rain started. All the way to just south of Merritt. Did I say torrential rains and snow flurries and fog? All three. But, a sunny reprieve in Merritt and through Kamloops. Decided to stop for the night in Salmon Arm. I’ve got a small pot of coffee brewing in my comfortable hotel room. It’s quiet and tomorrow I head through the big Rockies themselves towards Calgary. I can’t stop thinking about my course material and I’ve read and studied so much, that if anyone gave me a hug right now, I’d probably leak. LOL, tbc.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Overwhelming? Betcha!

Think of it. By the time April rolled to midway, I had 4 texts to read plus two binders full of course readings. And all in preparation for the Spring Institute starting May 2, 2010. Add to that 2 reflective essays ( all be they short ones ), a book review and preparations for an in-class assignment, not in the least of which getting used to working with eClass trying to find who is discussing what and the latest news, plus arranging for accommodations in Edmonton and trying to figure out how to get my student card ( did I mentioned writing big cheques for tuition and assessment fees? ), no wonder I needed a noon-time nap. Overwhelming? Betcha! But, I confess, I knew that was coming so I prepared ahead of time.
65 years old but upstairs ain’t no attic dustbowl yet.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Keeping on top of it all

In September 1963, I left for downtown Toronto to attend the Ontario College of Art & Design, which would be my home for the next 4 years. Imagine coming from a small southwestern Ontario town of Wallaceburg ( pop. 9000 ) to arrive in a big metropolis of well over 1 million people. Petrified to say the least. In my pocket was a small map my father had drawn. It was a simple square. On the left ( West ) side he had written Hwy.427; on the East side he wrote DVP ( Don Valley Parkway ); at the top 401, and at the bottom Lake Ontario. “There,” he said. “No matter where you travel in downtown Toronto, when you hit any of these 4 sides you’ll know exactly where you are. You will never get lost.” I studied and worked in Toronto from 1961 to 1982, and I never got lost once.
So, to keep on top of all my university studies I’ve had to draw another square in order not to get lost in the complexities of eClass learning. Left side, course 502; right side, course 503; top, “Readings” and bottom, “Writings”. I’ll try not to get lost.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Wind, Rain and Power Outs

“When Cyberspace is down.”
Just when I thought I was back on the learning curve, our “metanemeses” struck again. A violent Pacific wind and rain storm struck, knocking out power at 8:45 am. No cozy “storm watching,” snuggling with hot chocolate. Power out means no water, no toilets ( good thing we have a rain barrel for the necessary flushes – I know, “to much information”), no heat, no light, brrrr, and no computer. I had planned to spend time familiarizing myself with eClass. I couldn’t even access Big Wave Dave to check how bad this one was. Power came back on 9 hours later, and Big Wave Dave says it’s supposed to subside later tonight. But there is a secret to survival. It’s called hardcopy. I read lots.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Falling off the learning curve trying to go "live"

Yes, I was all excited about my first “live” eClass session with my fellow students and faculty. I was up early because of the time difference between the coast and Edmonton. There I sat, headset on, microphone in front of my face, online, and right into the eClass home page. That’s when everything stopped. I tried for 30 minutes to wiggle and weave my way ( kinda like browsing ) through all sorts of links and buttons. To no avail. I ended up missing the whole thing.
“Was it my age,?” as I wallowed in self-pity.
“Have I made a big mistake venturing outside the world of distance studies where I am more familiar with things on paper?
I had to catch the ferry into town and the fresh ocean breeze did blow away the regrets, as did a visit with my granddaughter who was also on the ferry. So, I climbed back on the learning curve determined to try again. Later in the day I was able to access a recording of the live session plus show eClass that “I had been down but not out.”

Saturday, March 13, 2010

I can't stop thinking

I should have known that going back to school at 65 would kick-start some remote trigger somewhere to creative thinking. And not about the study courses either. Like RAM, Random Access Meandering through a brain that’s been trained to think visually. Just can’t help it. It’s not that I don’t have anything else to do getting ready to go back to school. My mind teems with ideas, work-in-progress, if I want to sound professional. So, I’ve started a new series of fine art drawings to keep myself from getting into trouble. Plus, I’m tackling the arduous task of figuring out how to post reliable material into Wikipedia’s encyclopedic reservoirs. The news series is called “The Cerulean Dream Cycle.” So, if you’re really interested, think of it as my university “communications and technology” project and check it out on

Friday, March 5, 2010

Countdown 58 days to Spring Institute

It’s just 58 days before I drive to Edmonton to attend the Spring Institute at the University of Alberta, and mark the formal beginning of my graduate studies. Actually the trip will probably begin a couple of days earlier to afford myself some special time with my grandchildren in Kelowna, plus savor the never-ending majesty of coastal BC and the interior mountains. I’ve driven through the Fraser Canyon, Marble Canyon, Kicking Horse Pass, Rogers Pass, the Columbia Icefields Highway, to far-reaching valleys in between and beyond, many times over the years. Each time the trip was a profound inspiration to never “retire” from the awesome journey called life. I hope I can sit still long enough in Edmonton to take in all the lectures and stop listening to that inside restless voice that whispers, “there’s a place you haven’t seen yet. It’s being prepared and waiting for you.”

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Onward despite setbacks

On Thursday February 11, 2010, my oldest son had a very serious vehicle accident. He was critically wounded and rushed to hospital. My wife and I began commuting between our island home and Vancouver. It’s 25 minutes from our ferry to Nanaimo and then another 2 hours by big ferry to the mainland. Plus hours of waiting in ferry lineups. Of course my mind began racing in all directions. Life would not be the same for my son anymore, at least not for a very long time. Would it be different for me? I mean, my children come first - always. Do I cancel my graduate studies? I didn’t panic, but a father’s heart can have many directions, especially when there’s nothing to do but think. So, I packed my course textbooks and notes and immersed myself in preparing for the Spring Institute. Round trip in a day meant about 4 hours of study. Onward despite setbacks. Our 40 year old son became our “miracle baby,” and just over a week later, he began walking again. A sense of peace returned into our lives on our island enclave. Mt. Arrowsmith still looks inviting. There is much to do, but I press on.

In search of a school

In search of a school.
As long ago as 2005, I began researching various possibilities for going back to school. My interest was focused on studying and writing about communications based on my background in the business world as owner and creative director of a national advertising agency, a background that ran a parallel course with my journey as an artist. They were good ‘ol 70’s and 80’s of poofy hairdos, bell-bottoms, orange and green acrylic shirts, lapels and collars as wide as wings, and I wasn’t the only one. Back to my search. I especially wanted to track the issue of communication and technology along arts leadership lines, based on a personal conviction that much of what has been traditional and very good has been tossed out for what is contemporary and rather meaningless – disposable is probably a better word. Disposable means something ( or someone ) just vacated the top-of-mind- awareness position and there’s a space for a new-and-improved version of what we already have. Great for consumerism though.
Since I already held an associate degree from OCAD University and a BFA as well, my next step was to look towards and MFA or MA. With all my personal, family, ministry, community, and studio commitments, going “back to school” in the conventional sense was not an option. No sour grapes, but it has to be said: “Canada is a lousy place for arts education beyond a traditional bachelor’s degree. A wasteland with no prospects for a quality, high-end studio program unless you’re willing to pack up and abandon your family and community.” The US was out of the question for the same reasons, especially the plethora of diploma and degree mills. There was a PhD available for $500.
Back to Canada. However, there was some light on the horizon in the form of “other” masters degree graduate studies by distance learning. Distance learning is a respectable and worthy academic resource and that’s the route I chose. “A Masters of Smarts degree,” said my godchild.
The University of Alberta MACT program was an excellent choice. I was most impressed by the way I was treated, not gratuitously because I’m 65, but in a genuine scholarly way. In fact, one faculty staff member, said, “we love having someone just like you in the program.” So here I am.
I received notice at the end of January ( 2010 ), that I had been accepted. In the meantime, I had begun some advance reading of one of the course texts. Challenging to say the least, especially with all that new vocabulary. But I have an “old and traditional” dictionary of the American Language, dated 1890, whose editor was Samuel Webster, before they named the dictionary after him. Cool. Electricity is described as a liquid. I’ve been told, my fellow MACT conspirators constitute a “cohort.” So, it’s meta-patience time till May when I meet them all at the Spring Institute in Edmonton. In the meantime, I have to stop myself from smiling because our BC winter’s gone ( early ). We have had no snow on the island, and I’m excited about my new adventure, despite the forlorn hopes of 2010 Winter Olympics enthusiasts who keep praying for cold and snow.

Who decides?

Who decides?
I do need to offer another, more serious perspective, albeit a brief one. Who in fact tells us we are too old, or too feeble to scale our vision of Mt. Everest, or Mt. Arrowsmith? ( That’s Mt. Arrowsmith at the top of this blog. I photographed the mountain during a recent winter. It’s just 20 minutes from where I live and visible from our small island ).
Canadian culture is market-driven. Art is market-driven and not artist-driven. That’s our loss. Bureaucrats and politicians decide who’s professional and who’s not, who’s in and who’s out. Postmodernists profess everyone is an artist and the deconstruction of art’s fabled canons leaves nothing but a plethora of nothingness, bound by an irrational fear of becoming un-Canadian, or worse – American.
But any fears of being swallowed by culture americana is really unfounded. Surprise. The Americans are not the enemy of Canadian culture. Canadians are. At least Americans seem to recognize what and who an emerging artist is.
I will fight for as long as I can to preserve the title “emerging artist” for any artist of any age, who chooses to emerge from a boxed-in place and present culture with a breath of fresh air, past or present, and not just the artist who rides the default slide into the predictable culture of youth. As much as I love and admire youth for their vitality, I concur with Canadian comedian Dave Broadfoot, the Honourable Member from Kicking Horse Pass, that when I turn 65 ( he said 70, but I take the liberty ), “I can say anything I want.”
And they had better listen as I have a lot more to say than simply asking for a senior’s discount. Canada’s aboriginal people believe wisdom resides with the elders. They are the elders, the keepers of history, who direct the courses of life. And I agree. But the market prefers youth, because they are better targets for the slow but steady metamorphosis of an undiscerning teenager into a conspicuous consumer. Brand loyalty over wisdom-loyalty any day. Who really decides what’s right? Mass media? God help us.
At the risk of excluding anyone else, I ask who is worth listening to? It’s the elder artist historian, who merges the creative streams of life into the experience of history, to form a basis for truth beyond the reach of politics and the stock exchange. Call me whatever, but that’s the reason I’m going back to now school, not old-school. To offer, in the words of an ancient king: “like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in the right circumstance.” And that circumstance is now. To be the elder artist historian who embraces communications and technology as a resource for informed leadership, by the grace of God.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Official launch of blog

Thursday, February 10, 2010, in a private ceremony attended by me, I and myself, in my computer room cum once-spare-bedroom ,was the official launch day of my blog “Back to School at 65.”

To all who aspire to reach 65 and beyond

To all who aspire to reach 65 and beyond, I commit myself to writing this blog as an encouragement to you and advocate that 65 is not synonymous with “out to pasture,” nor is it “retirement.” And if there’s anything I wish to accomplish in this metanarrative, it is to say with conviction, the best is yet to come. At least, now that the flesh has quieted down ( age has a tendency to make me more realistic about mountain climbing and dare-devil bravado ), I am about to enter a revival of my childhood years, that wonderful time when I could soar with the eagles and imagination knew no bounds. A revival where no digitally-mastered, mind-numbing, dummying-down, info-commercial-riddled, consumer-driven, viagra-worship world of pseudo-achievement has a hold on me. It’s been a long haul through that seemingly never-ending modern jungle, but I am glad to say, when I got older, I began to see new light, a confirmation that the city was actually within reach.

Connecting Knowledge and Experience

Connecting knowledge and experience….
But why go back to school? Simple, and I don’t mean it in a simplistic way insinuating it will be a breeze. I know I am in for some serious mental stretching, self-analysis, challenges, doubts, uncertainties, victories and defeats. Nevertheless, the process feels like a grand adventure.
So why? I am an artist first and foremost. I don’t think of myself as a scholar, but I love to study. In fact, I have always maintained a personal view regarding that special connection between theory and practice, the creation of art and the study of life, called discipleship. That special connection is an inseparable bond between knowledge and experience, especially when building on the foundation stones of other masters, a bond that has grown out of favour in our contemporary age. Or, to put it in more prosaic terms, “to follow in the footsteps of masters,” which has been my credo for over 46 years, since first enrolling as a young art student in September of 1964, at the Ontario College of Art & Design (OCAD University) in Toronto, and validated 5 years later when during our honeymoon, I stood in front of Michelangelo’s work in Florence, Italy. Since then, my aim has been to focus my life on following in the footsteps of masters, including to find through writing of epic poetry, the “city not built with human hands,” or as Augustine called it, “the City of God,” the essential fabric of a living tapestry called the Kingdom of God.


This blog is dedicated to the invaluable encouragement and faith of my wife Alice, my entire and extended family of children and grandchildren for whom “father,” and “opa,” as well as “godfather,” are a comfort and inspiration. Then there’s the care of one-of-a-kind friends such as Michael, Wayne, Verna, Alisha, Ciaran ( you know who you are ). And last but not least my mentors, among whom I am proud to name Michelangelo, John Gould, David Owen Campbell, C.S.Lewis, J.R.R.Tolkien, Oswald Chambers, and Paul of Tarsus.

Raw Data

I will try my best to keep this blog as close as I can to a written form of raw data, and not attempt to write a more profound work of literary prowess. In fact, I may even try out my new voice-to-text software and convert my propensity for endless chatter into legible text. In other words, it’s a discourse without borders yet within reason, thoughtful yet unapologetic. All errors and omissions are intentional.

Good News

On January 28, 2010, I received a letter from the University of Alberta to inform me that the admissions committee had formally recommended my name to the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research. The letter stated I had been “selected from a strong slate of candidates.” Nice to know it’s still in me at age 64. April will be a month of preparation, even though I started studying before the new year already, just to become acquainted with the research material. Classes start officially at the Spring Institute on campus, on May 3, 2010, after a Welcome Reception the evening before. Rest assured – it’s good for the heart and mind.

How I got here

So how did I get to that place of choosing to go back to school at the young age of 65? Needless to say, the prospect of turning 65 on April 15, 2010, contributed a great deal to my decision to go back to school. On September 15, 2009, I sent my application for admissions to the University of Alberta, Canada, to undertake graduate studies in Communications and Technology. My goal? A Masters of Arts degree and hopefully, perhaps somewhat optimistically a doctorate degree. And yes, despite my usual criticism of an over-digitized, saturated information age, that same digitized technology has made my studies possible because of UofA’s most welcome distance learning and live online streaming program.

accutane lawsuit