Farewell ritual on the Elbow River Escarpment, photo by Barbara Bickel, May 2021.

This spring found us making a major, somewhat unexpected, shift in our life with a move from Calgary, Alberta to Nanaimo, British Columbia. Studio M* is now unfolding-in-movement. It is housed centrally in our new home on Vancouver Island. This home and land is owned and cared for by our dear friends Nané and Chris, from Vancouver. We also acknowledge, the traditional territory of the Snuneymuxw First Nation and unceeded territory of the Coast Salish Peoples who have cared for this land for generations.

Due to COVID and a fast approaching moving date we did not have a gathering of friends to say farewell in Calgary and instead went for one-on-one walks. As an important part of our leaving process we enacted many creative rituals individually and together at beloved and sacred places in Calgary, Cremona, Olds, Three hills, McGregor Lake and Banff.

LEAVE-TAKING of the place that we have called home for many years of our lives, and where Michael was born and raised, was a process we wanted to be both meaningful and artistic. We found ourselves called to honor the places that have been significant. We opened ritual space at various sites, sharing gratitude and grief. Art led the way, for example, Michael made a number of visits to his parents’ grave and hung out in the Queen’s Park cemetery in Mount Pleasant, while exploring its other residents, and all the ancestors that ‘rest’ and play there. He made a stone rubbing of the headstone engraving to literally ‘touch’ through, and gain strength from his ancestral line.

Fisher headstone, digital scan of pencil crayon drawing by R. Michael Fisher, 2021

Barbara visited many of her sit spots throughout the city and Banff. With humility, she ritually left behind the small unfired clay figurines she had been creating, called Avian Ancestresses. Leaving them in these places to dissolve over time and to return to the Earth. A few she went back and visited before leaving one more time. Others are under watch by friends, some who are documenting their returning to soil processes.

The below Ancestress is on the juniper bed at the top of the Elbow River escarpment in Marda Loop with a stunning view of the river and valley. This is in the neighbourhood where our relationship flourished during the 1990s and where the first In Search of Fearlessness Centre lived. This escarpment location was a regular site of visioning rituals back in those days and continued to be in our most recent years of living in Calgary.

Avian Ancestress on the Elbow River, Calgary, Alberta, Canada. photo by Barbara Bickel, 2021

Finally, we were ready to separate and move on. It was a stunning two day road trip through multiple mountain passes. Following a day behind our life contents in the moving van, we arrived in Vancouver and were welcomed home to the coast by dear friends, despite our nomadic proclivities. They were more confident than we were that ‘we had arrived home.’

We LANDED just before midnight on the island and laid on the grass under the black walnut tree canopy at 704 Victoria Rd. We wandered with unexpected energy around the house and yard in delight with a flashlight revealing all the plants.

In the days that followed, quite exhausted with many many boxes to unpack we ignored them and instead began to explore the south side of the city. One evening we walked down to the wharf to take in the great vista of the Pacific Ocean. We had very intimate encounters with a Herring Gull, a Blue Heron, a Brewers Blackbird and a Harbor Seal. It was a great welcoming from Nature. It was all quite magical. Barbara took the photo below, as an appropriate expression of ‘being here’ although not sure what ‘here’ is yet. It seems unreal to reflect on what it may mean for our lives living in this totally new place at this point in our lives.

Island Home, photo by Barbara Bickel

An interesting paralleling impulse appeared, still avoiding fully unpacking, we both began to plot out places for ourselves to put our hands into the land of our new home. Michael in the secluded section at the side of the house began spontaneously re-arranging the commercially crushed stones that border the house. Barbara went shopping and bought soil, seeds and bedding plants and sowed her first garden box-plot (made for her prior to arrival by Chris). Both yard plots are slow art projects, with Michael meditating and ‘meeting the Stone People’ of this place and Barbara ‘meeting the Plant People’ of this place.

After the first week, Michael came up with the idea of framing our temporary time living in this home as a 704 house artist residency. Below are photos of our first artworkings.

‘Zen’ Garden by R. Michael Fisher, (wood placed by Barbara Bickel) – stones, concrete, house paint, collected trash and salvaged wooden stools, 2021.
‘Greening the World’ Garden by basil, cilantro, spinach, tomatoes, lettuce, kale, carrots, beans, beets, zuchinni, spaghetti squash, columbine, marigolds, and soil with Barbara Bickel, 2021.

And then we rest.

Barbara & Michael resting under the black walnut tree in the reclining chairs gifted to them by Al and Laura Santos, 2021.

Studio M* has a few focused projects in the next while. First, we are planning an open house artist residency event in the yard that will feature Barbara’s canvas and stone labyrinth, and a performance by Michael with the ‘Zen’ Garden. Second, when we can get ourselves to stay at a desk, we will get back to co-writing the book based on our COVID Restoration Lab Happenings of Spontaneous Creation-Making that began in spring of 2020. This book is entitled “Creative Practices for Community Care” to be published by Routledge in their Adult Education series in 2021. And lastly, a new exciting collaborative endeavor with Solar Lunar Arts is just beginning. We expect visits from you all as COVID restrictions lift

We close sharing the double rainbow that has shown up 3 times in the last week in the front of our house, which faces the ocean. These rainbows arrive in the early eve after a day of intermittent rain and sunshine and sun showers. They are awe inspiring and send a message to us that we are where we are meant to be.

Double rainbow at 704. Panorama photo by Barbara Bickel, 2021.

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