Saturday 1 July 2017

So Long, A Line from Linda

It was six years ago this past May that I sat down and wrote my very first blog post at  I hoped to make a post once a week but it quickly turned into a daily affair.  Whereas most blogs are abandonned in the first year, and 60 to 80 % in the first month, my blog has endured.  From the start, I had three goals for my blog:

  • that it give me the self-discipline to write regularly
  • that it serve as a forum to showcase my writing
  • that it serve as a way to network with other writers

But A Line from Linda has served as so much more.  It has given me a voice.  It has given me the opportunity to research and write about topics that I knew nothing about like art (; topics that are near and dear to my heart like adoption (; topics that I have researched for my books like East Prussia circa WWII (; and Victorian Britain circa 1900 (; trips that I have taken (http://a); new picture books that I have discovered (; how old books came to be published like And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street (; and people whom I love (, ( and (

I am sad to say goodbye to A Line from Linda.  However, this summer I start a new chapter in my life.  Because I have been accepted in the French Masters Program at McMaster University, I have to turn my attention to my thesis, "L'Exode".  I will be spending the summer reading the letters written by French men and women fleeing Paris, the Nazis at their heels, in June of 1940.

To my blog followers, I say thank you.  Thank you for taking the time to read my posts.  Thank you for sharing a small part of my life.  So long!

Friday 30 June 2017

Living Room

She is the subject of many of Alex Colville's paintings:  To Prince Edward Island, Woman at Clothesline, Woman on Ramp, Stove, Nude and Dummy, Family and Rainstorm, Departure and Woman Carrying Canoe, to name a few.  Rhoda Wright was the love of Alex Colville's life.  They were married for 70 years and raised four children.

It is appropriate then that I end a month of blogging about Alex Colville with another painting featuring his wife, Living Room.  The ease of their relationship is evident in Alex's artwork.  In Living Room, the couple sits side by side, Alex in his chair, Rhoda at the piano, the dog in between them.  It is like there is no need for words.  They know each other's thoughts.  Rhoda passed away in 2012 and Alex followed only six months later, united forever.

Thursday 29 June 2017

Prince Henry Refueling in Corsica

"I felt my job was simply to report.  I tried very hard to do the best stuff I could do as a war artist.  I thought at least because no one was shooting at me, I could try and do reasonably good work." 
(Alex Colville)

A sailor trains his telescope on the Canadian ship Prince Henry, stationed in the Mediterranean off the coast of Corsica.  Azure waters fill the foreground; partially bare foothills fill the background.

In 1942, artist Alex Colville enlisted in the Canadian Army and rose to the rank of second lieutenant. Two years later, he accepted an appointment as an official war artist, travelling to Yorkshire, the Netherlands, northern Germany and the Mediterranean.  It was while stationed at the latter that he painted the Canadian ship Prince Henry, in the process of refueling at the French island of Corsica.

Wednesday 28 June 2017

Tragic Landscape

Tragic Landscape circa 1945 courtesy

Alex Colville's Tragic Landscape features a German soldier lying dead in a farmer's field.  A cow, indifferent to his plight, is walking away.  A farmhouse sits in the background.  Menacing clouds hover overhead.  Tragic Landscape contrasts the terror of war and the peace of nature.  

Alex Colville was an official war artist for Canada during the Second World War.  Stationed in Deventer, Holland, he came upon a German paratrooper of lying face up in a farmer's field.  "He was about twenty," explained the Canadian painter.  "They [the Germans] would fight right to the very end.  They had put up a tremendous fight until they were all killed."  Tragic Landscape hangs in the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.

German soldier from the Luftwaffe in Holland courtesy

Tuesday 27 June 2017

Low Tide

A lady reclines on the deck of a boat, a hat covering her face to block out the sun.  Her husband, knee deep in water, appears to be adjusting the anchor.  In the background stretches a peninsula of sand, partially covered in reeds.  Low Tide, painted in 1987 by Alex Colville, is somewhere in Nova Scotia, where he lived much of his life.  The painting features a woman who is most likely his wife, Rhoda.  The scene is one of ease:  the tide eases in and out.  The husband and wife demonstrate a sense of ease with their relationship.  There is no sense of urgency.  They could stay there forever.

Monday 26 June 2017

French Cross

"French Cross is a sombre reminder of past animosity between French and English in Canada, and of the sufferings of ordinary people who happen to be caught in national or international power plays."(Alan Reynolds)

Alex Colville's painting French Cross is both peaceful and menacing.  The Christian cross represents the hope of Jesusand His resurrection while the grey clouds might indicate a coming storm.  Grand Pre, or Grand Prairie, is where the Acadians erected dykes to prevent the sea from encroaching on their farmlands.

French Cross features a monument erected in 1924 at Grand Pre, Nova Scotia to honour the Acadians (French population) deported to the Thirteen Colonies by the British, known as Le Grand Derangement.     In 1755, the army of King George II gathered the men of the area together at a church, burned their houses and barns, and forced them onto ships heading south. (  The British population was more established in the Thirteen Colonies at the time and therefore the King reasoned that the French would pose less of a threat there then in Nova Scotia.  The expulsion ejected the French from their land, some of whom had been there since 1604 when Acadia was founded.

"French Cross is a sombre reminder of past animosity between French and English in Canada, and of the sufferings of ordinary people who happen to be caught in national or international power plays."  But at the same time, the Cross reminds us that the future brings hope. While the Acadians were persecuted, their history and culture survive.  While most of us are familiar with the Acadians (Cajuns) of New Orleans, not all of the Acadians got on the ships heading south. Some hid in the forests of New Brunswick.  That is why today, New Brunswick retains a significant French population (about a third) and is officially bilingual.  "In spite of their struggles, they are not 'separatist'."(  The Acadians remain an integral part of Canada's culture, honoured by both Alex Colville's painting and Henry Wadworth Longfellow's poem, Evangeline.

Sunday 25 June 2017

The River Spree

While living in Berlin, Germany, Alex Colville partiicpated in the Kunstlerprogramm, a one year grant offered to artists in film, literature or the visual arts which started in 1963.  Alex Colville received the grant in 1971, at which time he painted at least two works, Berlin Bus ( and The River Spree.  The Spree is the river on which the original Berlin centre was built.  Spanning 400 kilometres, it runs through Saxony, Brandenburg, Berlin and the Czech Republic.  Tourists taking cruises on the River Spree might pass by the Berlin Cathedral, the Reichstag and the Schloss Charlottenburg.  Museum Island, which includes a collection of five museums, is located in the middle of the Spree.

Bode Museum on Museum Island in the River Spree courtesy