After Life

On Saturday night, I can normally be found on my couch, in my velvet pyjama bottoms and faded Gudetama t-shirt, using my partner’s chest as a makeshift pillow as we watch nature documentaries on Netflix. The cocoon of our living room offering the solace craved by two introverts after a hectic week. A recent switch in our predictability though—at my unknowing behest—brought this splendour state to a sudden halt as I was confronted with memories that I’ve tried to keep at bay.

It was a simple change. Watching a new program listed in my recommendations list that was written, directed and starring one of my favourite comedians, Ricky Gervais. I assumed it was a comedy, and, at times, it is but ‘After Life’ is moreso an unflinching, uncomfortable, honest portrayal of grief and how it leaves those left behind to grapple uncharted emotions after losing a loved one. As we watched it on this particular Saturday night, I tried my hardest to hide the tears streaming down my face. To somehow cloak how relatable what I saw on screen was to my own reality. My partner knows … but I’ve always felt that until loss this deep happens to one personally, you don’t really understand. His parents are alive and healthy. It’s been five years since my father and best friend passed away in a matter of months after an unexpected terminal cancer diagnosis. And it’s been five years since my mother was hurled into a state of loneliness and depression that I, as an only child, have made my main duty in life to offset. It’s been a lot to shoulder and I feel the weight of it every day.

A scene in episode three really hit a nerve. In it, the main character reflects upon memories of the wife he lost while at one of their favourite places, the beach. The contrast between the love and laughter of the past with the sorrow and sadness of the present was incredibly well-acted. It made me ponder how I would feel, how I might viscerally react, during an upcoming trip to a place my father and I shared so many beautiful memories including our last adventure together just two months before he passed.

For in one week, I would be flying to Paris. It is a place forever intertwined with my own life story. A city that has provided inspiration, enchantment and hope (in addition to maternal family lineage).

I had no idea what this chapter would bring.

But I knew his ghost would be present.

Intertwined locks for both my father and I placed on Pont de l’Archevêché, near Notre-Dame Cathedral visible in background, in 2014 (©Deborah Clague).

Intertwined locks for both my father and I placed on Pont de l’Archevêché, near Notre-Dame Cathedral visible in background, in 2014 (©Deborah Clague).

France Gallery Updated

The France Gallery has been updated with pictures of my most recent trip. Check it out in full here.

Notre-Dame Cathedral fire, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Notre-Dame Cathedral fire, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

The 7th Arrondissement, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

The 7th Arrondissement, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

The Louvre at dusk, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

The Louvre at dusk, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Yellow Vest Movement vandalism on the Champs Elysées, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Yellow Vest Movement vandalism on the Champs Elysées, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

David Blackwood

I wandered an art gallery on a recent lazy Sunday afternoon, taking in a somewhat underwhelming feature on work that claimed to define the Eighties, when I chanced upon a small, almost hidden, exhibit located in a side room that showcased Canadian artist David Blackwood. Upon entering the space, I became completely enthralled by his art—the style, the intricacy of his line work, the restrained, yet impactful, use of colour, and the haunting visual narrative he shared of his home province of Newfoundland. It was spellbinding. I am absolutely in love with his craft.

I’ve never visited the Maritimes but feel I’ve gotten a glimpse into this magical world and am left truly inspired. Check out selections from David’s body of work below:

Wesleyville: Seabird Hunters Returning Home, David Blackwood (1991)

Wesleyville: Seabird Hunters Returning Home, David Blackwood (1991)

Great Mummer Unveiled, David Blackwood (2002)

Great Mummer Unveiled, David Blackwood (2002)

Three Mummers on Winsor's Point, David Blackwood (1979)

Three Mummers on Winsor's Point, David Blackwood (1979)

Vigil on Braggs Island, David Blackwood (1973)

Vigil on Braggs Island, David Blackwood (1973)

Loss of the Flora, David Blackwood (1993)

Loss of the Flora, David Blackwood (1993)

Canadiana: St. Norbert

I grew up in St. Norbert, a community on the southernmost edge of Winnipeg. It offered the best of both worlds for my formative years - adjacency to a multi-cultural city known for punching above weight in regards to artistic output and a landscape that invited exploration with its fields, forests and historical ruins. My imagination was constantly stimulated and inspired.

Some of my most vivid memories involve exploring this land with a faithful companion and in my three dog life, a ninety pound lab-cross named Reggie often played this role. Taking him out was never a ten minute jaunt but rather a multi-hour journey in which I patiently waited as he chased wild hares, marked every tree, and even stood ground against coyote while I nervously tried to coax him to retreat in the opposite direction. This time spent in nature on the periphery of society gave me deep appreciation for nature, wildlife and our need to conserve it.

The next piece in my Canadiana Collection pays homage to St. Norbert, as well as the magical places (and creatures) I encountered while living there.

Prints and other merchandise available at society6.com/oblada.

St. Norbert/Magical Woodland (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

St. Norbert/Magical Woodland (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Recommended: Dogs of Instagram


It’s no secret that I love dogs. I feel they are angels on earth and have provided some of the best companionship I have ever known in life (growing up as an only child, that meant a lot). Below is a list of the most heavenly of these creatures I follow on social media:


@beautoxrescues

This is HANDS-DOWN my favourite Instagram account to follow of any genre. Beaux is an absolute delight that makes me smile and laugh daily. His positive reinforcement—that every day can be the best day ever—are as good as any Buddhist mantra. Beaux was born with a cranial deformity due to lack of room in his mother’s womb amongst a litter of seven puppies. Because of this condition, his breeder gave him away to someone that didn’t have his best interests in mind, leaving him chained up in a backyard for years with little food and virtually no veterinary care. He was eventually rescued and made his way into the home of a family that spoils him more than I spoil my Monty (and trust me, that’s a lot). Today, he’s quickly becoming a social media sensation whom I’m sure will have his own line of ties some day.

@thatmidgelife

Midge is a senior dog that was recently adopted from a rescue in the Los Angeles area. Midge is also one of the cutest animals I’ve ever seen. Seriously, look at this face!

@maggiethewunderdog

Maggie has had a tough start to life. She suffered from horrendous abuse that included being shot at, which resulted in blindness, and having her ear cut off. Despite facing these cruel hardships, she has regained her trust for humans and is now adopted by a loving family that provides all the love, cuddles and Milkbones her heart desires (and deserves). I love seeing happy endings like this.

@mugsyhapoochi

I first saw Mugsy on a news report about animal cruelty. She was adopted from a rescue organization in Iran that cared for her after having corrosive acid thrown at her face. Mugsy now lives the good life in Vancouver where she is receiving further surgical procedures to treat her injuries. She may look different but her loving spirit proves that beauty is only skin-deep.

@jackhecan

Jack is a special-needs pet that was paralyzed after being attacked by another dog. He has no feeling in his back legs or bowels and uses a custom wheelchair to scoot around and do zoomies. He was adopted last year from a shelter and his new family aims to dispel the myth that a disabled pet is more of a challenge.

@pirate_marie

I first encountered Pirate’s story via a Dodo video (that, like most of them, made me cry). Pirate spent over seven years at an Oahu, Hawaii, shelter without being adopted. Finally, the right family came along and welcomed her into their home where they have committed to providing an indulgent, spoiled existence for her remaining twilight years. Well deserved and well worth a follow to see how unconditional love doesn’t diminish with age.