Saturday, January 31, 2009

Another Saturday - They are All the Same to Me

It’s Saturday once again.

It’s hardly distinguishable from yesterday. Every day begins the same for me now.
There is little variation between my days.

I have a lot to learn about retirement. It has been six months. I have not completed the mandatory orientation so I am still experiencing a learning curve, gradual rather than steep but noticeable. I am not out of breath but out of energy.

In the past I was known for my energy and productivity and I generated energy based on the volume and weight of the demands upon my life and my time. I am wired that way. With few demands upon me the energy has also dissipated. And it was my choice. The wiring was getting a bit singed.

But wow! Here I am at Saturday once again and it hardly matters, because tomorrow will be the same as yesterday. Oh we’ll interpose some identifiables such as a Superbowl game, and a church service on Sunday whereas Friday was one of the days that my wife babysits two grandchildren each week. But all the days are lookalike days pretty much.

Here is the thing with me. I am not in touch with my feelings. Christine has told me this before but last night we were watching Richard Geer in ‘Shall We Dance,” and in several scenes Richard is sitting at his desk in his city office. I realized something last night that I have not previously admitted or even realized. I am experiencing career postpartum blues. I miss going to the office. I miss my office. I miss a place with consequential activity and the noise of other active adults and their conversation. I miss the large desk and the shelves of books and the large wall of windows and an executive assistant. I miss the way my mornings began. The predawn meditative start with cuppa joe and hurried shower and drive to the office with the north shore mountains ahead of me until I turned onto the campus environment of a stimulating academic world.

Oh, have I mentioned before that Christine has also been experiencing the effect of my life change because it has impacted her personally too. She came to enjoy waking to kiss me goodbye and to know I would be gone until supper hour. She enjoyed the luxury of a large home space not for the cleaning it required but the privacy it afforded. No interruptions except those she welcomed or initiated.

This is definitely a time of modification and adjustment and emotion factors prominently into the changes. Yet it is still good. It is still right – this time and place I am in. I am happy. We are happy. We are content. Over the next year a purposeful use of our abilities and gifts will become clear. A lifetime of accumulated ‘stuff’ will be reduced to what a smaller living space can contain. We will travel and taste and talk outside of Canada fulfilling dreams for which a desk and four walls are unnecessary. We just need one another, our health and a map and a good pair of dancing shoes.

Friday, January 30, 2009


This would be a good time to be a billionaire.
I’m serious. Of course I won’t make it into the top 100 Canadian billionaires club any time soon. These billionaires have each taken a financial hit this year, a few billion dollars – gone! But then there is a bit of a cushion upon which to fall back. And the wealthiest man in the world, Warren Buffet is 80 years old. “What will I do?” is not an expression anyone hears him say.

In this reality show called My Retirement I am spending more time thinking about money than I have ever wanted to do. My issue is that this preoccupation is forced upon me, first by the reality of a pension income and second by the reality of the Great Disruption. This toughening economic time, this darkening cloud does not have an immediate silver lining on my show.

So believe me I am more annoyed than I am jealous that entertainers and sportsmen and big business people are pulling down enough money per year to capably support every household in my very large housing development. And still people like us curiously clamour to read how much she earned for starring in that movie, or how much he is earning for each basket he makes or how much she brings in for countless chips being installed in Blackberrrys.

This has been a depressing week for Christine and me.
We received our year end RRSP investment statement and learned that within a couple of months as stocks went slaloming south we had lost thousands of dollars from a meager portfolio we had worked our butts off to assemble. I keep looking for someone to blame but it’s futile. My commitment to a God who transcends all of this, and has more resources than we imagine keeps refocusing my gaze and ratcheting up my dependence upon Him.
Mark Zuckerberg is 23 and is the world's youngest billionaire. He designed Facebook a few years ago from his college dorm room. Good for him.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


Alex Colville does not expect anything beyond this life. In the end we are all dead would summarize his view. Perhaps he might say that he has received honours and tributes enough to compensate for an afterlife. Do I wish that Colville embraced a biblical view of heaven. Of course I do. Colville is 89 years of age, has struggled with prostate cancer and bowel cancer and has a valve replacement in his heart.

He has said that his lifework is his effort to ask one question: What is life like? As Colville puts it, "You spend your whole life telling people what it's like to be alive." In order to affect this Colville has examined his surroundings of the Annapolis Valley, the shores of the Minas Basin, his home and his family. His children have been some of his models and Rhoda, his wife of 60 years has been the subject of many paintings.

He is very much aware of his age, the imminence of death, the legacy he lives and the manner in which his mortality inspires his paintings. He understands that his work has stirred interpretation and sometimes controversy, telling the CBC's Life and Times "what troubles people about my work, in which they find mystery and intrigue, may well be the idea that ordinary things are important."
CBC has done an impressive interview with Mr. Colville recently and I felt privileged to watch it on my television. Canada is proud of this artist of provocative pieces which are recognizable around the world.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Marriage Should be Better

After being married for forty-one years and after officiating hundreds of marriages over forty years, and after observing the confusion, dysfunction, dissolution and calamity of many marriages I know that marriages should be better. Whether they can be is going to always be a matter for two individuals within a marriage to determine.

Having been around the block a few times I have seen good speakers address the subject. They come around cyclically, different spokespeople in every decade as though adjusting the important value lessons within the culture of the time. Currently one of the best presenters is Mark Gungor who is the senior pastor of Celebration Church in Green Bay, Wisconsin, a church that is multi-site with three campuses. He is also a motivational speaker, author, musician, producer and CEO of Laugh Your Way America. He has been married to Debbie for 34 years and has two married children and three grandchildren. Mark has developed seminars in which he teaches in a comedic manner principles that empower marriages. I am sure that his approach could become clichéd and tiresome as all these tutorials can, but Mark is an effective communicator even on video.

The very fact that you can draw a husband and wife to the same venue to listen together is a breakthrough in some marriages. Humour and truth are a good blend for effecting learning. I could consume 30 minutes of your time right now if you watch all the links I am going to list for you. These are on YouTube

1. Men’s Brains and Women’s Brains – 10:28 minutes
2. Men's Sex Drive – 3:54 minutes
3. Ask More Than Once – 5:21 minutes
4. Rainbow – 2:36 minutes
5. Song of Solomon Girl - 4:06 minutes

Mark’s popular seminar, Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage® is available for purchase as a DVD and has now as a book. It can be a helpful personal or group study. Bailing on a marriage is a pretty common solution for people these days. In these formats, then content explores numerous subjects such as the myth of a "soul mate," the different ways men and women think, the conflicting levels of libido, and the necessity to forgive. Gungor asserts what many of us have heard before that the key to marital bliss is not romance but work and skill. Couples must work at maintaining their relationship and developing the skills to make it succeed.

Mark has been featured on Focus on the Family, TBN and ABC News. His daily radio program, The Better Marriage Minute, is heard on 250 radio stations. In the fall of 2008, his new radio talk show, The Mark Gungor Radio Show, debuted, broadcasting live over the Internet weekly. He is also the creator of a new television series, Love, Marriage, and Stinking Thinking.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


The House of Commons (Chambre des communes), our democratically elected body that consists of 308 members divided among the primary four parties in such a way that we have a minority government went back to business yesterday. Yesterday the Speech from the Throne by our Governor General contained the predictable recitation of realities.

Today the first order of business is the 2009 Budget.
Today the first order of business is the 2009 Budget. I repeat myself because I am so concerned for the sake of our country, for the sake of parliament and for my own sake as a retiree.CBC provides live coverage at 4PM ET.

Life is Changing

Life is changing and I struggle to adjust to what I’m feeling.
Too much time to think about the low cards life is dealing.
I’m not ancient but I’m ageing and I think of what will be,
Not a good approach to living to reflect on what I see.
The world’s economy is tanking and the globe is in recession.
Federal bailouts of big business try to keep us from Depression.
Haven’t worried for a long time what might occur tomorrow.
Since my children became adults, I haven’t felt the need to borrow.
I’m not working. I’m not earning and the prices spiral higher.
Didn’t care much what the cost was, now I am a careful buyer.
Have a feeling that our savings may not be enough to make it
And the feeling’s getting stronger with no way for me to shake it.
‘Take no thought about tomorrow nor the clothes that you shall wear,’
Is the counsel I’ve given others when I had so much to share.
‘Don’t be anxious but in all things with thanksgiving tell the Lord’
Believing that your next need will be one you can afford.
I have no reason yet to panic though investments took a hit
They say recovery’s round the corner and will claw back bit by bit.
Haven’t got so long to wait until the market turns around
Want to travel while our bodies are still reasonably sound.
Coffee mug in hand we ponder what our next move ought to be
Should I find work and end my life as a retiree?
It’s a toss up when you consider that the government will take
Some of what they give me when they don’t give me a break.

© Ron Unruh January 26, 2009

Monday, January 26, 2009

The World Is Not All About Youth

"In dog years, I'm dead."
I am having a little difficulty with my place in this world these past few days. It’s an inner issue about purpose and value. It may be a classic and predictable concern for retirees, but this time it’s mine. It’s not merely an intellectual question. It’s emotional. It grabs one in the gut. Christine feels it too - for herself. The issue is intensified by the downturn in respect from younger people towards those with age.

When I was a young person I respected my elders. That was attributable to my upbringing as well as my own intuitive conclusion that insight and experience lived in older people and warranted deference. Vintage people with creativity and knowledge still exist today but they can be overlooked. Everyone loses when this happens.

I observe that in this internet era, youthful, innovative and technologically savvy geniuses are celebrated. Yet there are others beside the young intellects and artists who are making contributions. To encourage myself today I am reciting the stories of a few people who have done some pretty remarkable things in their senior years or in spite of their senior years. I had just finished college when Konrad Adenauer became Chancellor of West Germany at the age of 73 and left at age 83. In February 2007 Olive Riley at age 107 became the world’s oldest blogger with The Life of Riley, making her final post on 26 June 2008 from a nursing home in Woy Woy, New South Wales and dying at the age of 108. At the age of 96, Harry Bernstein published his first book in 2007, entitled The Invisible Wall, dealing with his abusive, alcoholic father. In 2008 he published his second book, The Dream, which centers on his family’s move to the United States when he was twelve. Mae Laborde, 98, standing 4 feet 10 inches with snow-white hair, rosy-red cheeks and a peaches-and-cream smile is only five years into her acting career and she has become TV’s ubiquitous grandma. When asked for secrets to living a long life, she advises to never retire. Peter Oakley, born August 20 1927 named himself geriatric 1927 on his YouTube videos which are called ‘Telling it All.’ He began the videos in 2006 and within two years he has over 60,000 subscribers to his stories and anecdotes. You must take a peek at his initial attempt. That first one has had 2,802,471 hits. They became increasingly better and funnier.

Harland David Sanders, better known as Colonel Sanders perfected a way of cooking chicken that made his restaurant highly popular. With $105.00 from his first Social Security check at age 65, Sanders funded visits to potential franchisees and thus emerged the Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants empire. He died at age 90 and was still a spokesperson for the product of The Colonel's secret flavor recipe of 11 herbs and spices that creates the famous "finger lickin' good" chicken.

So what have I learned? Not sure! But I believe I must work against my predisposition, impatience. I won’t market chicken or jump into politics but the years ahead can be constructive, creative and of value and achievement. What I require is – vision. That’s another blog.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


When I was young I didn’t understand life so I had low tolerance for eccentric people, specially when they were members of my extended family. I thought everyone had to conform to societal expectations or mine. Eccentricity is not madness. It’s oddness. An eccentric’s behaviour deviates from societal norms but otherwise eccentrics function normally enough in society. It is unconventionality at its best and it should not be viewed apprehensively or amusingly. It should be respected. In its purest state eccentricity is a kind of innocence.

I am wiser now. I now love eccentric people. I want to be one. You might say “you either are one or you aren’t.” I am not convinced about that. Eccentricity is often associated with genius, giftedness and creativity. Well that’s me. An arrogant assertion I grant you. I have come to believe that I am a secret eccentric, or maybe more accurately a person who has suppressed his eccentricity. For too long my eccentric self has been inhibited by social boundaries and finally I must let it out of the closet.

But my self analysis doesn’t appear to correspond with what sociologists know. An eccentric’s habits stem from a mind so original that it cannot be conformed to societal norms. So can I be eccentric? I think so. Sometimes eccentricity is clearly intentional. Some artists, comedians, artists even athletes maintain funny and irregular behaviour to draw attention and to exploit the benefits of such abnormality. In some cases people have embraced a public eccentricity for religious reasons.

I will have you know that I intend to be eccentric at all costs. Even if I must pretend. Ohh, that doesn’t sound genuinely eccentric, at all. There are comparable terms for eccentric. ‘Avante-garde’ is too sophisticated for me. ‘Quirky’ may be close but suggests a neurosis. I like ‘original.’ I am an original. Yes, that’s it. My artist friend Barbara Boldt decries prints and sells only her originals. Once an original is painted and sold, it’s gone. No one else can have a copy. It is one of a kind. Okay perhaps I'm not eccentric. Original - That’s me. Pretty good breakthrough for one day don’t you think?

* Photo portrait depicts Spanish surrealist Salvador Dali, an exceptional eccentric by lifestyle, looks and artistry, his behaviour sometimes gaining more attention than his art.
* Top image is of Dali's 'Profile of Time.'
* Lower image is of Dali's most famous painting, 'the Persistance of Memory.'

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Websites - I am Voting for the Bloc

Compare them yourself. Here is the new Government of USA website entitled ‘Welcome to the White House”, and here is the existing Canadian Parliament Website. Which impresses you? makes you want to read further and to explore? Now here is the official Government of Canada site, a very comprehensive information vehicle. So kudos for content on this one.

I would describe the Canadian Parliament site as unimpressive. But it is more than that. It gives the appearance of an early entrance into the internet website era, even a reluctant admission that this is the most comprehensive form of communication today. In contrast the USA government site was newly installed on January 20 2009, Inauguration Day and carries the same look and colours of Barak Obama’s presidential campaign site. It is designed to engage people in government and to increase the information flow in both directions. Our Canadian site currently is configured with small font, jammed with information on presenting pages and not at all stimulating to explore unless in serious need of information. (Did you notice how my visual images contrast the scale of my impressions of each?)

So I decided to write to the Canadian Parliament website at their invitation to say the following:
“This is not a criticism but a suggestion. Having just viewed comparatively the new web site of the USA government and our own Canadian government site, perhaps a refreshment of our Canadian site design with use-friendliness, colour, and larger font would increase user volume and ease of use. Since timing of USA's new site was January 20th 2009 might it not be timely to affect this redesign for January 26 2009 start of the next session? Thanks for reading. Ron”

Yes you can see that I even threw my art website at them in a brazen self promotion.

I would love to see a Canadian government website of which I can be as proud as I am of my country.

1. Conservative Party website is attractive, easily navigable, informative but not current and still contains the old fighting anti NDP and Liberal rhetoric.
2. The Liberal Party site is cast in red & white, plainly and simply, easily navigated but disappointingly uninformative about major issues and policies and agenda.
3. The NDP site is shockingly and tastelessly orange as in construction coveralls, but it's well designed and provides good visuals.
4. The Bloc Quebecois Party website has the mandatory English option, good visuals and colours and is very informative.
5. The Rhinocerus Party is designed in simple red and white with the goofy rhino logo, looks like a cartoon and does not work well.
5. The Green Party site is... green, well laid out, is easily understood, has very good issues and solutions lists. I am impressed.

Of the Canadian collection in terms of design and useful information I would shortlist the Conservative, Green and Bloc sites and my vote goes to the Bloc.

Friday, January 23, 2009

My Beard - On Again Off Again

Pogon is the Greek term for ‘beard’ and trophy a Greek term for nourishment or growth. Pogonotrophy is the growing of a beard and I was involved in it.

My beard was a test. What would it look like? How would people perceive me? How would I respond to peoples’ reactions? How would Christine respond to it? She has historically, not hysterically, thank goodness, voiced her objections to facial hair on me. Would it be different now that I retained it for a while? I started growing it during our family vacation at the end of August and I have maintained it for five months. Have you picked up on the past tense? Yes, it’s gone.

Here’s what I found. I did and I didn’t care what anyone thought. This maturity level delighted me. My vanity and autonomy were intact. No one rained on my one man parade. Younger generations affirmed me thinking the beard was cool and older women said it was sophisticated. Men daring to comment said it made me look like the artist I pretend to be.

I enjoyed my goatee. It was fun to wear it. I didn’t plan on removing it. I just woke this past Wednesday and knew this was a shave day. It was a practical decision. My goatee bumped into my lifestyle. I want to be in and out of the morning shower and I want to shave while I am in there. Mine was a high maintenance beard requiring daily trim time.

In my pre-beard days a hairy Hindu neighbour informed me that Jesus never told me to shave and he urged me to grow my beard. I will likely grow it again. Perhaps mine is an occasional beard, a seasonal fuzz, but it will always be an egotistical adornment. It does make me feel manly, feeds my ego and image. What my beard will not be is a faith associated growth as it is for Sikhs, Hindus, some Jews, Amish, Hutterites, Old Colony Mennonites, Eastern Christian priests and Franciscans. Neither will my beard be utilitarian as though I required it for warmth in cold weather unless the lower mainland becomes any worse in winter than it already was this year. I can still afford Mach 3 razor blades if I determine to pull even the dull ones across my mug.

Nuts, now a man walked past my house with a nice white beard and I am jealous.
Pogonology is an actual term for study of beards. How bored must one be, yet I wonder whether it comments on the sense of nakedness one feels when looking into a mirror at a smooth face where once there were whiskers?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Drew Mann

I remember him today because I must. He came to my mind and I cannot release him until I write about him. Chalk it up to a retiree’s adjustment and time to reflect.

In a 40 year pastoral career and in a couple of large churches, I have officiated many funerals. The most demanding memorial service I have ever led was for Drew Mann.

Drew was the 21 year old son of one of our faithful church women. Her husband predeceased his son. Drew’s mother also had two daughters.

At the conclusion of a Sunday evening church service, I was at the rear of the church when two policemen came to me to say that Drew had been killed in a vehicle accident. At a nearby intersection, in a car with four youth he was one of two youth who died while the other two were seriously injured. Some things you do instinctively so I gained the attention of parishioners happily engaged in casual conversation and I solemnly announced to them the news that would break their hearts. Beside me one of his young male friends dropped in a dead faint.

Drew was on the same summer church ball team as my son Jeff and me. On this Sunday night Jeff was enrolled at Trinity Western University several provinces away. My daughter was at university in Winnipeg. Drew had magnetism, good looks and athletic prowess. He was studying physical education at York University, had so much potential and wanted to be a high school Phys Ed teacher and coach. He had friends at church, at school and in the sports community. His faith had been hot and cold. Two weeks prior to dying he had uncharacteristically written a letter to Cari our daughter to tell her that he had renewed his commitment to Christ.

His mom asked me the night of Drew’s death to come to the hospital to identify him. He lay on a gurney, a big sneaker on one of his feet, and one off, his muscular body reposed in his denims and lettered jacket and his peaceful handsome face seeming to be grabbing a few ZZZ’s, but he wasn’t going to wake. I helped his mom to select a casket. On the day of the funeral I entered early into the church auditorium and was unprepared and shaken to see his baseball glove, his football helmet, a football perched atop his casket beside a picture of his lively face. Four hundred seats were occupied with double doors open to the gym where more seats were filled. His youthful school friends, most at the first funeral they ever attended, wept as they entered and as they listened. I talked about Drew’s hope and home. Weeks later his mom called me to give me Drew’s blue blazer for my son whom I would soon see at TWU. We received a phone call from Jeff some time after that western visit to tell us that the first time he wore the blazer he reached inside the breast pocket and found a small sample bottle of Drew’s favourite and familiar cologne.

I contacted his mom recently and she sent me some photos that brought this precious young man back into my heart with vivid memories. The last line of the tribute printed in the March 7, 1990 memorial program was “We find comfort in the knowledge that he is now with his heavenly Father and his earthly father.”

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Where is my muse of humour?

Don’t writers speak of visitations by muses who inspire their creative processes? I woke early today, concerned that the comic muse was avoiding me. Oscar Wilde wrote, "Seriousness is the only refuge of the shallow." I have been writing solemn blogs for a while and I need a change. I need a chuckle.

My preacher illustrated a truth with this humorous story on Sunday. A thief who broke into a darkened home was collecting stealables when he heard a voice said, “Jesus is watching you.” He peered into the darkness but could see no one and continued with his rummaging. Again the voice said, “Jesus is watching you.” Freaked, he shone his flashlight around the room until the beam settled on a parrot. The thief spoke to the parrot. “Are you talking to me?” The parrot answered, “Yes I am. I am warning you?” The thief skeptically questioned. “You’re warning me? What’s your name?” The parrot said, “Hitler.” “Hitler! The thief exclaimed. What kind of people would name their parrot Hitler?” The answer came. “The kind of people who would name their Rottweiler ‘Jesus’.”

Now I can’t recall the point the preacher’s joke was illustrating, but I needed the laugh so it’s good. And the giggle needs feeding.

I permitted the absence of the humour muse to disturb my sleep without knowing anything about muses. Ancient Greek mythology embraced a sisterhood of goddesses or nymphs, nine in number. Yes, these inspirational paranormals are all female. I have always associated a ‘nymph’ with biology and insects. I had no idea that they looked as voluptuous as the ancients imagined them in human form. The muse I need is Thalia. Her name means ‘blossoming one.’ She is the muse of comedy and bucolic poetry (country or pastoral).

I called Thalia tonight and she referred me to my funny bone. Well it’s not a bone at all. Rather my ulnar nerve runs down the inside of my elbow and affects the feelings in my fourth and fifth fingers and when it is bumped against the humerus – did you get that? Hyoo-muh-rus. The long bone from elbow to shoulder I get a strange and funny feeling. How a-musing! Oh, and did you know that the English term 'museum' derives from the Greek Μουσείον (Mouseion, which denotes a place or temple dedicated to the Muses (the patron divinities in Greek mythology of the arts), and hence a building set apart for study and the arts. I think I will be OK now. My last pearl for the day is "It was all so different before everything changed."

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


It’s here - the 20th of January 2009 - Barak Obama will be inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States. This is a remarkable, important, longed-for day, perhaps even a blessed day in the life of the USA.

Obama will be sworn in at midday. Barak Obama will place his hand on the same Bible that Abraham Lincoln used during his 1861 inauguration. Lincoln arrived in Washington by train and this past Saturday Obama and Biden and their grateful entourage recreated the final Philadelphia to Washington leg of that earlier journey. During his presidency Lincoln emancipated African and American born slaves and ended slavery in America. Obama will swear the oath of office a short distance from the spot from which Martin Luther King spoke his eloquent ‘I have a dream’ speech forty years ago. The inauguration of America’s first black President happens one day after the commemoration of Martin Luther King Day.

The momentous nature of this event and its timing relative to other historic events is neither incidental, nor can it be overlooked by anyone, not even those who despise the notion of a non Caucasian in high office in the USA, or those who simply loathe Americans. Disgusting as it is to consider, white supremacist and terrorist websites bear detestable commentaries. Security is unprecedented and sophisticated for this inauguration. A Prius it is not. The Secret Service has dubbed the new presidential limousine “The Beast.” It’s a Cadillac, customized with five-inch (13 cm.) thick armour, bomb-proof glass, interior impenetrable by chemical attack and puncture proof tires. One of Eleven people in Washington today is ‘Security.’ The security force is estimated at 40,000 people, including 7,500 active duty soldiers, 10,000 National Guard troops and 25,000 law-enforcement officers. Subways have installed explosive and chemical bomb sniffing devices.

Please! Please! I don’t want to live through it again, I can’t do it! John F. Kennedy ushered in an era of hope and promise in 1960 which ended in blood in 1963, followed by Martin Luther King’s assassination and then that of John’s brother Bobby. I was twenty-one years of age in 1963. It was the year when King’s stirring speech in Washington broke the heart of America to bring about this day when Obama with hand on the Bible, becomes the leader of the land of the free and the home of the brave. God bless America.

“Jesus loves the little children; all the children of the world, red and yellow, black and white, all are precious in his sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”

1. If you weren’t old enough to hear King’s courageous oratory, or if you would benefit from a reminder spend 17 minutes listening to this.
2. King's last speech, "I have seen the promised land." is a few minutes in length.

Oh yes, It's Bush's last day at the White House.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Andrew Wyeth Touched My Time

Art enthusiasts will be familiar with famed American painter Andrew Wyeth who passed away this week. I began as a painter forty years ago and then spent a career as a church pastor and have now returned to painting in retirement. I reflected upon Andrew Wyeth’s influence upon me, and thought this may of interest to you.

Andrew Wyeth Touched My Time

I saw his work through a young man’s eyes with untried hopes
My novice skills and promise showed
I lived to dream where whims could lead
Then Andrew’s brushwork on published pages in my hands
Like holy scrolls I scrutinized
His unrivaled design, the subjects evocatively rendered
Curtains in a breeze, a rust topped milk can and weathered boots
All things of life where Wyeth lived
With tempera and egg he laid them down with time
Celebrated pieces with national fame
My obscurity and his renown
I knew him where he walked, his habits and his loves
Never met yet mentored truly to emulate a will
To paint the things I know and see and feel
Four decades passed and I have come to paint again
An older man with time I am
And saddened by the news that Andrew’s time is gone.
Yet with the time that was
His emotion in a lifetime of treasured strokes
An artist’s legacy.

© Copyright Ron Unruh, January 18, 2009

“Christina’s World” painted in 1948 launched Wyeth’s popularity. The painting portrayed his neighbour, Christina Olson crippled from the waist down dragging herself across a farm field in Maine. His paintings depicted the wind driven landscapes, weathered buildings and the exceptional faces of the men and women of his Pennsylvania and Maine homes. After the Second World War, art critics seemed to want to divest themselves of all art but contemporary abstraction. Wyeth’s craftsmanship should have been apparent to everyone but he was the son of renowned illustrator N.C. Wyeth, and some people in the art community always regard Wyeth as nothing more than an illustrator himself. Much the same failure to appreciate Robert Bateman has occurred within the Canadian art community over the past decades.

He retained popular appeal nonetheless and became a celebrity although with reluctance. He himself said, “I am an example of publicity — a great deal of it.” “I’m grateful because it gives me the freedom to go and try to do better. But I never had any great idea that these people are understanding what I’m doing. And they don’t.”

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Technical Difficulties

I have experiencing some technical issues with the blog and I will take the weekend off and be back on Monday 19th January. I will be back!.

Blogger has experienced image uploading failures for weeks which prevent users from adding photos to their blogs and it has finally struck me ...

I apologize for the inconvenience, and hope it will be resolved soon.

Thanks for understanding. Have a great weekend.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Disillusionment is a Good Thing

Disillusionment is a good thing. That accords with the true meaning of the term itself. Disillusionment is technically a state of being freed from illusions or enchantments or false beliefs. It tends toward the loss of innocence but contrary to our notion that this is unfortunate, that loss of innocence is also a good thing. To be disillusioned is to be enlightened and undeceived. When we say were are disillusioned we customarily mean that we are experiencing a feeling that is stronger than mere disappointment because in fact we have discovered that a belief or expectation that has been central to our understanding, training, worldview or identity is actually untrue or unsupportable.

My own disillusionment during my adult years was invariably related to people. People can disappoint but when their actions or inactivity disappoint long enough, it becomes disillusionment. For example, friends and colleagues in whom we place confidence, prove to be fickle. Or, employers and employees make promises and then renege. Or, people whom we have respected, whom we have revered fail morally or ethically. We react negatively to the feeling of disillusionment when it happens to us because it can be manifested or accompanied by cynicism, suspicion, bitterness and distrust. We may only see the downside of illusion busting. Healthy disillusionment however is something which should be embraced. God endorses it. In fact it originates with God and it is manifested by understanding and clear thinking but without cynicism. Jesus did not experience disillusionment with humanity because he understood the truth about us. John 2:24-25 records that “… Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. He did not need man's testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man.” In one of Mark’s accounts of Jesus’ teaching he quoted Jesus saying, “For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.” (Mark 7:21-22)

Innocence is associated with childhood. Characteristic of an adult, innocence becomes a liability. I speak to myself as I write. If I don’t trust God’s assessment of humanity, even the ones closest to me, I wind up enduring them rather than enjoying them, because people cannot satisfy me. Only God can. They can’t be perfect enough, or pleasant enough or consistent enough. God is.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Freedom 85

Yea, yea, yea, the world economy sucks and North America’s is becoming suckier as bureaucrats realize the size of the hole we are in. Change champion Barak Obama is now sounding like gloomy gus and he hasn’t even been sworn in. But he did get elected on the theme of change. Harper and Flaherty are trying to prepare us for the new budget with dark warnings of things to come. The national economic crisis comes at the worst time for me. I am retired. I have no idea quite yet how this crisis will affect me but I was certainly under the delusion that things would remain constant when I retired.

I am supposed to be golfing. When I was 55 years old it was apparent to me that Freedom 55 was out of my reach. Then I turned 60 and Freedom 70 seemed a vapory dream. Today I am 66 and retired. So was the retirement a mistake? My reality calculator projects Freedom 85 for me because then my needs will be considerably reduced if existent at all. I probably will have the resources for Freedom 85. Oh it’s not that I didn’t see this coming. One doesn’t work in a not for profit field for forty-five years and still hold out hope of finishing with a residence, a beach house, a chalet, a motor coach and a yacht. Decade after decade there is an overcast prospect of coming to the end of my working life with only the monies that the governments provides and what I have managed to RRSP from meager wages.

We are definitely in a recession. Whether we are in a depression remains to be argued and proven. Economies have generally rebounded from recessions without government intervention because equity prices pick up. A depression is different because it does not self correct and requires help. As we see in the USA, huge monetary help. In Canada Harper and company have already given fiscal assurances. Harper was here in BC this week standing with our Premier to champion a new highway which will provide 7000 jobs. Oh yes and it will cost BC in excess of 700 million dollars while the feds put up 300 million. (Photo is of a Depression bread line)

Christine and I have saved money for a glorious vacation in 2009 with its bleak forecast. Should we sit on that money and wait out the downturn for all its dark possibilities? Nope, we are vacating. We are going to pump our monies into the economy and have a blast. Freedom 66 I call it. When we return I don’t think I will be forced to living on the street. If I have to, I will go back to work. Tim Horton’s is looking for part-time and full-time employees. Seriously. It has to be Horton’s. Starbucks speak is like speaking in tongues to me. Or I can serve pizza at Pizza Hut. Buon appetito.