The Test/Heartfelt (Voice and Vision 2021)

Voice and Vision is an annual collaboration between Airdrie and area artists and writers. We meet in May, each bringing an initial piece, and we are randomly paired. We then create a response piece — the author a response to the artist’s work and the artist a response to the writer’s work — which is revealed at the Grand Gala in September. This year, I was paired with Jean K. Blackall. This post features my initial piece, The Test, and Jean’s response piece, Heartfelt. Next week, I will post Jean’s initial work and my response piece.

Owl returns stolen shoestring to Cormorant
Heartfelt When I began working on this collage, the cormorant, all in black, suggested hijab to me — I spent a few years in Saudi Arabia. I could not get that out of my mind, and then the terrible crime of a young man running down a family in London occurred and I just had to make this cormorant a female in hijab. The painting is about repentance (of our society) for the way we segregate and separate Muslim people, leading to young people learning hatred rather than love. That is the understory of the painting, but it is also about the repentance for things said, unsaid and done between friends. Jean K. Blackall, artist. (acrylic and mixed media with hand-dyed paper and found objects; 16x 20 inches)

Cormorant sulked in his basement.
He was angry at old Hooty Owl.
“He’s stolen my favourite shoestring,
That light-fingered, treacherous fowl.”

“We used to be very best buddies
Which many folks thought really weird,
But, oh, we had such fun together
Playing o’er river and field.”

Owl, who’d taken the shoestring,
Sat up in his tree, all forlorn.
He looked at his purloined possession
Once prizéd but now oh so scorned.

“This shoestring, I thought, would be perfect
To spruce up my family’s nest.
But now I see I was mistaken
For friendship is by far the best.

“I miss my old friend, Mr. Cormy,
Estranged is not how we should be.”
He sighed, and he made his decision
Way up on the top of his tree.

Owl picked up that tattered old shoestring
And flew with it back to his friend.
Said, “Cormorant, I am so sorry,
I hope I can make some amends.”

“I regret my rude rash act of thievery.
Your shoestring I gladly give back.
It’s only a thing – I have plenty –
It’s friendship that I truly lack.”

Cormorant looked at his shoestring.
He sighed, then he smiled. “Old Friend,
I missed you much more than that shoestring.
Our spat can now come to an end.”

The moral of this little story
I hope you, Good Friends, take to heart.
A “Thing” is just not worth the having
If it’s going to drive you apart.

#VoiceAndVision #ArtistAuthorCollaboration #NonsensePoem #SocialCommentary #Friendship #Repentance #Othering #Forgiveness #MargaretGHanna

The Plan

[From Voice and Vision 2020: my initial piece]

They rehearsed every step with her till she knew them by heart.

Shortly after lunch, she strolled into the market and browsed the stalls. At exactly 2:23, she approached the designated vendor in the designated stall selling the specified doll. They haggled over the price – it had been agreed upon even before The Plan was activated, but bartering was essential for its success. Negotiations concluded, she handed over the money and took the doll.

She sauntered through the market, examining other items. She heard a commotion behind her, tromping footsteps, things knocked aside and broken, then angry voices shouting her name. Why were they calling her? How did they know her name? She turned to look. A bullet ricocheted off the pavement, too close for comfort. This was not part of The Plan!

Her pulse quickened. She searched for a place to hide, but the stalls were jammed together with no space between. She panicked and began to run. Five soldiers dressed in black appeared from between the stalls, pointing their high-powered assault rifles at her. “Stop!” they yelled. She was trapped. She clutched the doll to her chest and screamed.

And sat bolt upright in bed, clutching the blankets. Her heart pounded, her breath came in great gasping gulps of terror. It’s okay, it was just a dream, calm down, breathe, she told herself.

But what was she holding? It didn’t feel like blankets. She reached over and turned on the light.

And shrieked.

She was holding the doll.

“Everything’s OK” by Verone Solilo. (Acrylic on canvas)

Verone‘s response to “The Plan”:

This painting was done in response to an intriguing short story about a woman waking up from an adventurous, but frightening dream. It reminded me that the things that cause us anxieties, can often be remedied by showing ourselves the same kindness that we would show a small child, frightened by a nightmare. That inner child, who still retains his/her innocence, creativity and wonder toward life, sometimes needs a hug and some comforting words … “It’s Okay, it was just a dream, calm down, breathe.”

#VoiceAndVision2020 #CreativeCollaboration #VeroneSoliloArtist #MargaretGHanna #Fiction #948-ARTS

First Date

First Date by Verone Solilo. Acrylic on canvas (Artist’s statement is below)

[From Voice and Vision 2020: my response piece to Verone’s painting]

She was the most popular girl in high school – beautiful, witty, talented.

I was the class nerd – brilliant at math and sciences, lousy at sports and small talk.

Somehow I found the courage to ask her to the graduation dance. I couldn’t believe my ears when she said, “Yes.”

The big night, I fidgeted in her parents’ living room, only half-listening to her father’s lecture. I gasped when she swept into the room, resplendent in red. God, she was beautiful!

After the dance, she giggled and grabbed my hand. “Let’s go dance in the park.”

We danced in the bandstand, then walked among the blossom-laden trees and talked about our futures till the stars dimmed.

That fall, I went to MIT and began my career as a theoretical physicist. We lost touch.

Thirty-some years later, I returned home for my parent’s 60th wedding anniversary. The hall was crowded with people I hadn’t seen in years. I almost dropped my drink when she walked in. Age had only made her more beautiful. Her face lit up when she saw me. “Do you still dance?” she asked.

My heart skipped a beat. She remembered!

Before we could talk further, I was whirled away to give the toast to my parents. An hour later, I saw her leaving. I ran after her. “Stop! Wait!”

She turned, her eyebrow cocked. “Yes?”

“Um, um.” I was again the tongue-tied teenage nerd. “Let’s go dance in the park,” I blurted.

She laughed, then took my hand. “Let’s.”

Verone’s Statement:

This [painting] was inspired by a memory. When I met my husband at 16, our first dates were bike rides to Wascana Park, in Regina, Sask. This is a gorgeous park that has lots of paths winding around the lake and through the mature trees, well-groomed lawns and flower beds, and Canada geese. It also boasts a beautiful white bandstand/pavilion, which is set in this lush urban forest. I recall that pavilion being the perfect rest stop since it was halfway around the lake. I’m sure ours was not the only first date at the pavilion that blossomed into lifelong love. Lovely memories.

[NOTE: The Bert Church Theatre interviewed Verone and me about our joint contribution to Voice and Vision 2020. You can listen to it here.

#VoiceAndVision #CreativeCollaboration #VeroneSoliloArtist #MargaretGHanna #948-ARTS

Voice and Vision, 2020

Up for a challenge? Pick any work of art and, in 250 words or fewer, write a story inspired by the artwork.

Or, if you’re an artist, pick a short story and paint/sculpt/sew something inspired by the story.

This is the premise of Voice and Vision, an annual challenge to artists and writers in the Airdrie area. Here’s how it works.

In May, an equal number of artists and writers meet, each having brought an original piece (writers are limited to 250 words, the art work to 24″ x 24″ although it can be any medium). Writer and artist are randomly paired and then the fun begins. The writer must create a story in response to the artist’s work, and the artist must create a work of art in response to the writer’s story.

Voice and Vision is challenging – artist and writer are forced to venture outside their normal “boxes.” It creates new friendships and strengthens existing bonds. We laugh a lot, sometimes cry, and always stand in awe of what our sister/fellow artists and writers draw out of one another’s work.

This year, I was paired with Verone Solilo. We challenged, surprised and inspired each other with our creations. I will post our collective works in early October.

The public reveal of writing and artwork occurs on September 26 as part of Artember. This year, due to COVID, the Voice and Vision Gala will be live-streamed on the Airdrie Public Library’s Facebook page beginning at 7:00 pm MDT (1:00 am GMT). You’re welcome to tune in to hear and see the work of all the writers and artists. I hope you’ll join us that evening (or whatever time it is where you live).

My thanks to Airdrie Public Library, especially Pam Medland, Director of APL, for both encouraging and participating in this project, and Chantal Patton and Eric Pottie for setting up Zoom so this could happen in spite of COVID. Alberta Culture Days provided financial support of the V&V Gala.

#VoiceAndVision #ArtistsAndAuthors #AirdrieAuthors #AirdrieArtists #CreativeChallenge #AirdriePublicLibrary #Artember #MargaretGHanna

In the beginning . . .

Cindy Zampa: Cosmos 2 (used with permission)

In the beginning
chaos and confusion reigned

I did not speak.

The miasma of elements and energy swirled
drifted to and fro

I did not speak.

The unspoken word is formless, shapeless,
full of potential, opportunity, future, hope

The spoken word takes flesh and form,
is solid, fixed.
takes its own course with consequences
unimagined and unimaginable.

What is spoken cannot be unspoken
what is done cannot be undone

And thus I dared not speak.

But then you took my hand in yours.
I looked into your face,
saw Wisdom in your eyes,
heard you say, “You are not alone,”

And then We spoke.

(Inspired by Cindy Zampa’s Voice and Vision 2019 painting Cosmos 2. The poem combines elements of two Judeo-Christian creation stories: the first chapter of the Book of Genesis and the creation story as narrated by Wisdom (a woman) in Chapter 8 of the Book of Proverbs.)

You can see more of Cindy’s art here.

#VoiceAndVision2019 #Creation #Poetry #SpokenWord #CindyZampa #MargaretGHanna #Meditation

Best Dressed Nest Competition

“Finders Keepers,” mixed media. Melissa Bruglemans-LaBelle, artist

“How does it look, Mitch? Do you think three pieces of Mojo wrapper is too fussy?”

“No, not at all, Madge, they nicely complement the origami paper. You were right about eliminating the feather. It is just so . . . brown! Now, a goldfinch’s feather would be perfect. I regret not getting one of those Tanagers’ feathers when they were passing though last year.”

“Yes, but look at those Swarowski crystals, you’ve arranged them so well, they really set off the curve of the nest.”

“Now if only we could work in those buttons, then we could say we had the competition all buttoned up. Ha, Ha, Ha!

“Oh Mitch, you’re such a card. By the way, I heard Sid is one of the judges this year.”

“Sid? The sparrow from the apple tree? Ya gotta be kidding. What does he know about interior design? He thinks a bit of shredded plastic is haute couture.”

“Yah, I know, you’d think they’d get someone more knowledgeable. At least Jay and Woody are on the panel. They know quality. Just be thankful that old Loon isn’t on the panel again.”

“You’re right, Madge. Look, the judges are leaving the Redbreasts. We’re next.”

“Wait! What’s that cracking noise? Oh no! One of the eggs is hatching! No, not now! That will mess everything up!”

“Quick, Madge. Sit on the eggs and look nonchalant. Here, wrap this fur around your neck. That’ll distract them. Oh, hello judges, come on in. May I give you the tour?”


(“Finders Keepers” was Melissa’s initial submission to Voice and Vision 2019, and “Best Dressed Nest Competition” was my response. This was the most fun I’ve had in a long time. I had originally planned to write a serious piece about how we are easily distracted by shiny things but somehow the magpies acquired the names Mitch and Madge, and you just can’t write anything serious about Mitch and Madge.)


#VoiceAndVision2019 #Melissa Bruglemans-LaBelle #Humour #WritingForFun #Birds #MargaretGHanna

Mona’s Choice

(a sequel to “Evie’s Choice”)

“Do you think we’ve made the right decision?” Mona turned from the counter, potato peeler in hand.

Fred finished setting four places at the table. “Would you rather they were sent to live with a foster family?”

“Oh, heavens, no. It’s just that, well, are we too old to be raising our grandchildren?”

Fred put his hands on her shoulders. “Mona, to me you will always be that young, good-looking, smart-ass girl I tried to pick up in the university pub.”

Mona laughed. “You were the smart-ass. And you still keep sweet-talking me.” Her face sobered. She shook her head and sighed. “Those kids have been through so much. They’ve lost their mother, their dad’s in jail. Who knows what they saw or heard all those years.”

Fred leaned against the counter beside her. “I can’t imagine what they’re feeling now, probably anger, hurt, confused, who knows what else.”

“Somehow we have to show them that isn’t normal, that isn’t the way two people love each other. But are we up to the challenge? That’s what worries me.”

Fred put his arms around her and kissed her. “All we can do is show them love, and be patient. It’ll take time, that’s for sure.”

Mona heaved another sigh. “Time, love and patience – I hope that will be enough.”

“We’re in this together, remember.”

The doorbell rang. Mona tucked a stray lock of hair behind her ear.

“That will be the social worker with the kids. Let’s go welcome our new family.”


(This story was not part of Voice and Vision 2019; however,  “Evie’s Choice” cried out for a sequel because other people now have to make choices.  Perhaps more sequels will appear as the children make theirs.)

#DomesticViolence #VoiceAndVision2019 #MargaretGHanna

Evie’s Choice

“Evie’s Choice”  Melissa Bruglemans-LaBelle. Mixed media

“Evie, how many times has this happened? You have to leave him before it’s too late.”

“I can’t, Mom.”

“You mean, you won’t.”

“No, I can’t! I have to stay for the kids.”

“Evie, take them with you. Go!”

“Oh sure, easy for you to say. Remember what happened last time? He beat me up, broke my jaw, threatened to take the kids away. It’s easier to stay. Besides, I love him. And he loves me.”

“Loving you means beating you up? Really, Evie.”

“Well, he does. He always apologizes afterward. Besides, it’s my fault. I do things that make him mad and then he loses his temper . . .” Evie shrugged.

“That’s his problem, not yours. Go to a woman’s shelter. You’ll be safe there.”

“There’s no such thing as a safe house, not from him.”

Evie’s sleeve slipped up as she drank the dark bitter coffee. Mona saw fresh marks.

“You’re using, aren’t you? Aren’t you!”

Evie slammed her cup on the table.“So what if I am? What’s it to you, anyway. Leave me alone, it’s none of your business.”

Mona clasped her daughter’s hand. “Leave him. Please! I beg you!”

Evie yanked her hand away and stood up. “No, I can’t. I’ll be fine. Good-bye. And don’t try to call.”

She stormed out the kitchen door, slamming it behind her.

“Oh please, dear God!” Mona stared at the door, then buried her head in her hands and wept.

That was the last time Mona saw her daughter – alive.

(This was my initial submission to Voice and Vision 2019 when I was paired with Melissa Bruglemans-LaBelle. I knew it was a difficult piece, both to read and to create art in response to it, but Melissa rose to the challenge. Her painting (using coffee and found media) captures the pathos, the tragedy and the horror of the story.)


#DomesticAbuse #VoiceAndVision