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The Place We Left: Keely O'Brien Virtual Exhibition
The Place We Left:
a growing collection of cherished and left behind places

The Place We Left is an ongoing interactive community art project, creating illustrations for participants representing places they have left or lost. It could be either in the context of the current moment (for example, a place you can't visit due to pandemic safety measures) or in the broader context of your life (for example, a childhood home). One copy of the drawing is mailed to each participant as a keepsake and connection to the place they left, and another copy is collected as an archive of left-behind but cherished places and the diverse experiences of the people leaving.

For more information or to submit your own place, visit: www.keelyobrien.ca 
Land Acknowledgement

The creation process of The Place We Left is occurring on the traditional territories of the sc̓əwaθenaɁɬ təməxʷ (Tsawwassen), S’ólh Téméxw (Stó:lō), Kwantlen, Stz'uminus and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) Nations where I am a settler.

In a discussion on land acknowledgements led by playwright and actress Quelemia Sparrow, an observation emerged that because land acknowledgements are becoming so commonplace, they can begin to feel rote or even thoughtless. Quelemia encouraged the emerging artists present to consider how we can apply our creativity and innovation to these moments, to bring larger impact, deeper consideration, and personal experience to the process of crafting a land acknowledgement. In a workshop I recently attended on anti-racism in the classroom led by consultant, facilitator, writer and artist Cicely Blaine, decolonization was framed as “the personal, political, and poetic process of unlearning, unpacking, and disconnecting from colonial mindsets, practices, and structures." The idea of applying poetics to the process of decolonization resonated for me in connection to Quelemia’s words about bringing the creative skills we already have as artists to land acknowledgements. I was also inspired by artist Barbara Meneley’s piece Unmapping Assiniboia: “A series of cartographic pieces that focus on structures of colonial claiming. Working from archival settlement maps, I draw, reproduce, and then erase the colonial tracks, digging out the grid, the railways, and the names. This is a process, a ritual of undoing. The pieces show the scars, the detritus of removal, while imagining a possible decolonized land.” 

Because The Place We Left is in itself a mapping process, and because I often use elements of cartography in my practice, I decided to create a land acknowledgement for this project in the form of a hand drawn map of the place I live and work, showing the intricate overlapping nations on which this project was created. Native-land.ca, an online map of traditional Indigenous territories, was an invaluable resource in the creation of the above drawing. It is important to acknowledge that while this project is titled The Place We Left, this map represents not only the past of this place, but also the tangible present and future of this landscape.
Keely O'Brien, Drawing 1, 2020, ink on paper

THINK OF A PLACE YOU'VE LEFT, LOST, OR MISS RIGHT NOW.

1. What is a smell you associate with this place?
Sweet, fragrant, tender and common and a bit sour... earthy

2. If this place were a texture, how would it feel?
Warm and cozy- like a hand knit sweater of soft wool perhaps from alpaca.

3. Think of an object you remember seeing there and describe it in detail. 
My baba's rye bread. round loaves, dark loaves with a long slash on the top to let the air release when baked. She always adorned them with caraway seeds and the production went on for days- first with the sourdough starter fermenting on the kitchen counter for days before deemed ready to begin the mixing stage.

4. Describe a memory or a story that happened there. 
Learning how to make bread - a slow methodical method that was brought over from 'the old country' - The Ukraine, then many stories of the old country would weave their way into our time together

5. If you had an altar to honour this place, what would you leave as an offering?
A candle, caraway seeds, a piece of traditional Ukrainian embroidery

6. Is this place associated with anyone? Who? What do they look like?
My Baba - my grandmother who was 5' 4" in height, had a limp when she walked due to a birth defect so one of her shoes was build up by a cobbler to compensate for the 2" difference between the length of each leg

7. What is the address or GPS coordinates of this place? 
Meadowlake, Saskatchewan

8. What is a sound you associate with this place?
Bird song - common one- a sparrow or robin and the wind- a calm yet present wind

9. Choose the symbol which best represents this place for you. Trust your intuition.
A loaf of bread, or a glass mason jar with a tin ring that contains dill pickles, or sauerkraut
Keely O'Brien, Drawing 2, 2020, ink on paper

THINK OF A PLACE YOU'VE LEFT, LOST, OR MISS RIGHT NOW.

1. What is a smell you associate with this place?
Roasted coffee and spices

2. If this place were a texture, how would it feel? 
Grainy like sand and salt

3. Think of an object you remember seeing there and describe it in detail.
A terra cotta water jug with a round bottom, a long neck, a small spout and a handle on the opposite side of the spout. It keeps water cold and people drink from it without touching the spout, by holding it up high and guzzling the water coming from the spout.

4. Describe a memory or a story that happened there.
On days when the sea was rough, my dad would take my sisters and me by the water, and when a big wave would hit the rocks and spray up in the air towards us, we would run back, screaming and laughing. An indelible memory.

5. If you had an altar to honour this place, what would you leave as an offering?
A sea shell, a pine cone, roasted pumpkin seeds, and pistachios

6. Is this place associated with anyone? Who? What do they look like?
A dear friend named Kawkab (star in Arabic). She has black hair with white roots, length about half way down her neck, pinned back on the sides, a wrinkly face, twinkly eyes and a hook nose. (She is 95)

7. What is the address or GPS coordinates of this place?
33.8938° N, 35.5018° E

8. What is a sound you associate with this place?
Waves lapping on rocks

9. Choose the symbol below which best represents this place for you. Trust your intuition.
The sun

Keely O'Brien, Drawing 3, 2020, ink on paper

THINK OF A PLACE YOU'VE LEFT, LOST, OR MISS RIGHT NOW.

1. What is a smell you associate with this place?
Warm earth, animal fur smell of a baby deer (fawn) and sun-warmed hydrangea flowers

2. If this place were a texture, how would it feel? 
Smooth like a sun-dried pillow case

3. Think of an object you remember seeing there and describe it in detail.
The underside of a hydrangea flower with rays of light filtering through blue petals

4. Describe a memory or a story that happened there. 
I was 4 years old (1944) growing up on a farm in South Africa. A poacher killed a doe, leaving the baby deer destitute. This fawn was 'given' to me to raise by feeding it milk from the bottle I'd been fed from as a baby. Meeting the fawn and gaining its trust is a visceral feeling that I remember as LOVE. It became my very best friend, taught me to eat rosebuds and wild begonia flowers and lay down next to me in the shade of a hydrangea bush on hot afternoons.

5. If you had an altar to honour this place, what would you leave as an offering? 
A Kinsugi bowl (Japanese technique of repairing a broken bowl with glue mixed with gold ) on a pillow of flower petals.

6. Is this place associated with anyone? Who? What do they look like? 
A Zulu man who was the family's cook and also my friend and confidante. He was a tall slender man of a deep coffee-coloured skin, kind warm eyes, with laugh lines at the corners. His cheeks were scarified (tribal markings made at his birth).I remember the dry warmth of his long fingered hands when he gently stroked away tears on my cheeks.

7. What is the address or GPS coordinates of this place? 
No GPS I know of. The farm was situated in the rolling hills of the Kwa-Zulu Natal midlands of South Africa.

8. What is a sound you associate with this place? 
Cooing doves, crickets chirping, horses neighing and the clip-clopping of the fawns hooves on the veranda.

9. Choose the symbol which best represents this place for you. Trust your intuition.
The vessel

Keely O'Brien, Drawing 4, 2020, ink on paper

THINK OF A PLACE YOU'VE LEFT, LOST, OR MISS RIGHT NOW.

1. What is a smell you associate with this place?
Wet mud

2. If this place were a texture, how would it feel? 
Humid like a steam sauna

3. Think of an object you remember seeing there and describe it in detail.
Small tadpoles swimming around in the shallow muddy water - their tiny frog legs are starting to poke out from the side of their bodies and they look like little aliens

4. Describe a memory or a story that happened there.
We were playing hide and seek but half way through they decided to end the game to go eat ice cream. No one told me the game ended. I never got ice cream.

5. If you had an altar to honour this place, what would you leave as an offering?
Cucumber horse

6. Is this place associated with anyone? Who? What do they look like?
My grandma. Old and wrinkly with beautiful sun spots all over her face.

7. What is the address or GPS coordinates of this place?
Shizuoka, Naka-Izu, Shimoshiraiwa 118, Japan

8. What is a sound you associate with this place?
A million cicadas

9. Choose the symbol which best represents this place for you. Trust your intuition.
Suitcase

Keely O'Brien, Drawing 5, 2020, ink on paper

1. What is a smell you associate with this place?
Street smells, particularly that of sun hitting fresh asphalt, the noticeable smell of a nearby canal after a monsoon rain shower.

2. If this place were a texture, how would it feel?
I'd say the texture of hands that have known, seen, and felt years and years of work. Rough at first touch, but soothing as one keeps feeling.

3. Think of an object you remember seeing there and describe it in detail.
A tricycle: a common mode of public transportation in the Philippines.

4. Describe a memory or a story that happened there.
On any odd morning, a Taho (a local syrupy soy breakfast dessert) vendor would walk past our house, yelling "Tahooooo!" Anyone interested would come outside, and purchase several glasses, once for each member of the household.

5. If you had an altar to honour this place, what would you leave as an offering?
A plateful of merienda, the Filipino term for an afternoon snack (that may or may not also count as meal): a couple Filipino red hotdogs, half a cup of steaming-white rice, a fried egg, and some canned corned beef. Oh, and Coca-cola poured into a clear plastic bag with a colourful straw.

6. Is this place associated with anyone? Who? What do they look like?
My paternal grandparents: my grandfather, semi-balding, with a moustache and thick glasses, would sit in his basement all day, painting. My grandmother, portly yet elegant, her long hair always in a bun, would make sure her grandkids were always well-fed, regardless of the time of day.

7. What is the address or GPS coordinates of this place?
14.4711° N, 121.0080° E

8. What is a sound you associate with this place?
A bell--ice cream vendors always passed by with their ice cream carts, and ringing a handheld bell to signal that dessert was near.

9. Choose the symbol which best represents this place for you. Trust your intuition.
Both the umbrella and the sun: in the Philippines, where I grew up, umbrellas are used for shad just as frequently as they are used as shelter from rain.
Keely O'Brien, Drawing 6, 2020, ink on paper

THINK OF A PLACE YOU'VE LEFT, LOST, OR MISS RIGHT NOW.

1. What is a smell you associate with this place? 
Woodsmoke

2. If this place were a texture, how would it feel? 
Like a rough-hewn board, stained with black walnut, which might give you splinters if you rubbed your hand on it too closely.

3. Think of an object you remember seeing there and describe it in detail. 
The doorknob to the room that rarely got used was white porcelain, and was painted with two pink roses, their brown and green stems entwined.

4. Describe a memory or a story that happened there. 
On August 30th, I planted a tree on the hill, overlooking the field, and right beside a starling box. I planted a red oak sapling in a hole that I dug, and spread mulch and leaves around its base. I watered the tree, put a blue protective casing around it so it would survive the elements, and I read a poem to the tree. The poem I read was I am Writing to you from a Far-Off Country by Henri Michaux.

5. If you had an altar to honour this place, what would you leave as an offering? 
An acorn

6. Is this place associated with anyone? Who? What do they look like? 
Lucy the cat - who is a black cat with white paws, a white belly, and a tiny white dot on her nose.

7. What is the address or GPS coordinates of this place?
West New Annan, Nova Scotia

8. What is a sound you associate with this place? 
The sliding of the glass kitchen door.

9. Choose the symbol which best represents this place for you. Trust your intuition.
The receptacle

Keely O'Brien, Drawing 7, 2020, ink on paper

THINK OF A PLACE YOU'VE LEFT, LOST, OR MISS RIGHT NOW.

1. What is a smell you associate with this place?  
Constant Comment tea & blueberry cobbler

2. If this place were a texture, how would it feel? 
Slightly lumpy like a hand-knit sweater

3. Think of an object you remember seeing there and describe it in detail.  
The dining room table in front of a picture window that looked out onto Seagull Island. It had 3 chairs around it and on the table, always, was the NY Times crossword puzzle, binoculars, a tea pot and placemats woven by my aunt on the loom in the next room. 

4. Describe a memory or a story that happened there. 
Age 13 - Sitting at the table drinking Constant Common tea, binoculars close at hand. Uncle Victor working on the crossword puzzle and Aunt Solveig showing me Playbills & memorabilia from when she was an ingenue at the Cherry Lane Theater in NYC. Uncle Victor asked for help with a clue that had to do with a Beatles song and then scolded, "sign of a misspent youth", when I knew the answer. 

5. If you had an altar to honour this place, what would you leave as an offering? 
A bouquet of wildflowers in a mason jar

6. Is this place associated with anyone? Who? What do they look like?
Great Uncle Victor & Great Aunt Solveig. Uncle Victor had wavy thick white hair, a trimmed white beard, stern-looking but with twinkly blue eyes. He was medium height and build, and dressed in jeans and a sweater, or sometimes jeans overalls. Aunt Solveig was petite, with delicate features. She wore small oval-shaped glasses and had wavy hair, cut about ear-length. She always looked delighted. She wore jeans and a blouse tucked in and often a hand-knit cardigan. She was about 20 years younger than Uncle Victor.

7. What is the address or GPS coordinates of this place?
Latitude: 43° 51' 29.99" N Longitude: -69° 33' 23.99" W

8. What is a sound you associate with this place? 
Rolling Stones song Angie; clank of lobster buoys & fishing boats

9. Choose the symbol which best represents this place for you. Trust your intuition.   
The suitcase - I remember my aunt kept a suitcase with books in that she carried up and down the stairs for exercise and in preparation for being able to carry her own suitcase when she traveled; wildflowers and picture window were a close second.

Keely O'Brien, Drawing 8, 2020, ink on paper

THINK OF A PLACE YOU'VE LEFT, LOST, OR MISS RIGHT NOW.

1. What is a smell you associate with this place?
The smell of mushroom compost. My parents had 3 large mushroom houses just east of our house and 2 more mushroom buildings up the hill.

2. If this place were a texture, how would it feel? 
Rough like bark - it is our old home with cedar siding.

3. Think of an object you remember seeing there and describe it in detail.
The house is 2 stories, the front door is on the left, and opens to a hallway. There are 3 gables on the sloping roof above. There are framed windows on the kitchen and living room on the main floor.

4. Describe a memory or a story that happened there.
At Christmas we had a fresh tree. We burned real candles on that tree. My job was to never take my eyes off the tree to ensure there were no chance of fire.

5. If you had an altar to honour this place, what would you leave as an offering?
A garland of flowers. All my family loved flowers. My father was a horticulturist (mushrooms). My mother grew flowers along with her huge vegetable garden. My brother studied horticulture at UBC and raised Christmas trees. I too am a flower lover.

6. Is this place associated with anyone? Who? What do they look like?
My brother and I look much alike, except recently he has grown a beard !!

7. What is the address or GPS coordinates of this place?
SE Marine Drive, Burnaby. The old house is still there - now owned by a family friend

8. What is a sound you associate with this place?
Friendly barks by our 2 dogs, Husky and Teddy.

9.  Choose the symbol which best represents this place for you. Trust your intuition.
The bathtub! The exact shape of the one in the old house. After age 9 or 10, I could no longer stretch out in it.

Keely O'Brien, Drawing 9, 2020, ink on paper

THINK OF A PLACE YOU'VE LEFT, LOST, OR MISS RIGHT NOW.

1. What is a smell you associate with this place? 
Burned bacon and dark English tea

2. If this place were a texture, how would it feel?
Rough edges with a soft core made of white shag carpet

3. Think of an object you remember seeing there and describe it in detail.
A 18 inch long 3 inch wide wooden crocodile hand carved from black hardwood my Gran brought from Africa. She bought it from an African tribes woman in 1987 and I adored its teeth made from ivory. They were extremely sharp and on display. The crocodile had its mouth open as if about to strike or for birds to land and peck its teeth. It was perfectly smooth and it’s ridged back was like a massage for my tiny hand. It lived beneath the fireplace as it had a marble extension that created a dark shelf. The croc lurked inside there with other animals she owned. She was a bit like that croc - just a floating log totally safe until she bit. It was a complicated relationship

4. Describe a memory or a story that happened there.
My grandfather had just passed away and Gran was moving to a home. She was bitter and devastated by his death. She gave the carvings to the grandchildren. My sister got first pick because she was the oldest and Gran was very traditional on inheritance. 1st born and all that Bullshit. All the large carvings went to my older siblings and cousins before I could choose. I ended up with a carved napkin holder of a Rhino. It was still special because she would use them on Sunday dinner but it was cute in comparison to the life like croc. I also got a set of French Crusat yellow porcelain coated fry pans my gramp used every day. I use them every day now. This was the true inheritance

5. If you had an altar to honour this place, what would you leave as an offering?
Ashes. Rose petals. Amethyst. Tea leaves. Silk. Tears. Ivory.

6. Is this place associated with anyone? Who? What do they look like?
Long brown hair gone grey at the roots. A round face with a scowl that hides a base of vulnerability. Brown eyes made of the earth from Wales. Flour dust on her collar and paint stains on her lapel. A beauty aged wearing white pearls.

7. What is the address or GPS coordinates of this place? 
North Vancouver

8. What is a sound you associate with this place? 
Water on rocks and soft hands playing on an electric organ.

9. Choose the symbol which best represents this place for you. Trust your intuition.
The Mirror

Keely O'Brien, Drawing 10, 2020, ink on paper

THINK OF A PLACE YOU'VE LEFT, LOST, OR MISS RIGHT NOW.

1. What is a smell you associate with this place?
Sage brush in a dry nose

2. If this place were a texture, how would it feel?
Dry gritty.

3. Think of an object you remember seeing there and describe it in detail.
Cylindrical fence post, dry cracked and creosoted, stuffed in the silty ground hedged with sun parched field grass

4. Describe a memory or a story that happened there.
Biking up the steep graded switchback hill on my copper sparkled single speed bike every morning at 5:30 am during fruit picking season to beat the heat of the day. Start dropping cherries from the due drenched trees, into the front strapped bucket at 6 am, to be done at 1pm. Winging home down the steep gravelly road, with hardly any peddle pushes, arm blistering sun and 24 dollars in my pocket. 1pm.

5. If you had an altar to honour this place, what would you leave as an offering?
Twig of 3 bing cherries.

6. Is this place associated with anyone? Who? What do they look like?
Beautiful French Canadian accented mid twenties, baked brown, in shorts and ripped T-shirt, barefoot dangling, hanging from a branch 15 feet up after his ladder fell away.

7. What is the address or GPS coordinates of this place?
Giants Head Road, Summerland, B.C.

8. What is a sound you associate with this place?
Sprinklers spitting on

9. Choose the symbol which best represents this place for you. Trust your intuition.
Sun or clock

Keely O'Brien, Drawing 11, 2020, ink on paper

THINK OF A PLACE YOU'VE LEFT, LOST, OR MISS RIGHT NOW.

1. What is a smell you associate with this place?
Lake water, lily pads in bloom, swamp mud, pine trees

2. If this place were a texture, how would it feel? 
Viscous like maple syrup

3. Think of an object you remember seeing there and describe it in detail.
One of tens of baby catfish. Almost entirely black, tiny, narrow teardrop baby fish resembling tadpoles, with tiny whiskers protruding from either side of the jaw, undulating in the shallows, two tiny pectoral fins fluttering to each side when viewed from above.

4. Describe a memory or a story that happened there.
Around 1994. My cousin took me and my mom in the tin boat around through the lily pads, and the propeller got tangled up in the rubbery, slippery stems trailing down to the lake bottom. My cousin had to pull the motor in to disentangle the propeller. The lake was calm and smooth, it was early-mid day, no one was worried - this was something that happened frequently and was no cause for alarm. Everything has a yellowish hue. The sun permeates everything.

5. If you had an altar to honour this place, what would you leave as an offering?
A transparent white smallmouth bass jig (like a fishing lure)

6. Is this place associated with anyone? Who? What do they look like? 
Booty. The old man long deceased who lived year round at the sandbar, collecting arrowheads and cleaning up floating debris. Archetypal old, mysterious lake man - thick flannel long sleeve, dark grey pants, rubber wellingtons, white beard, narrow, impenetrable eyes. Taciturn. Calm.

7. What is the address or GPS coordinates of this place?
49 degrees 11'40" North, 118 degrees 17'40" West

8. What is a sound you associate with this place?
Lackadaisical waves lapping against a hollow metal hull

9. Choose the symbol which best represents this place for you. Trust your intuition.
The sun

Keely O'Brien, Drawing 12, 2020, ink on paper

THINK OF A PLACE YOU'VE LEFT, LOST, OR MISS RIGHT NOW.

1. What is a smell you associate with this place?
Donkey dung

2. If this place were a texture, how would it feel?
Sticky like wet sand

3. Think of an object you remember seeing there and describe it in detail.
A painted “all seeing eye” on the top of a religious stupa along an ancient mountain trail. The stupa has a wide boxy base and is built up to a narrower box with a pointy roof on top. The eye is colourfully painted. The stupa has a walkway around its base, where a villager or foreigner must always pass on the left side for good fortune. From the roof are many prayer flags in five colours: red, yellow, blue, green and white. Fluttering in the wind, the prayer flags send special prayers to the people in the surrounding areas.

4. Describe a memory or a story that happened there.
I saw a young boy (long socks and runners is all I could see as the table blocked his upper body) carrying a table on his back down a rocky trail. He caught my eye as I heard his table hit the ground on every descending step. He was too short to be carrying such a large table on his back, with a strap around his forehead. For a brief moment I saw my Dad, who grew up in near starvation during the invasion of the Japanese on China. I felt his presence, his suffering from so many years ago. It hit my soul like rock. I started to cry for my dad and for all the pain he had to endure as a young boy.

5. If you had an altar to honour this place, what would you leave as an offering?
I had an opportunity to leave something behind but I didn’t because I could see garbage everywhere I looked. I believe in “leave nothing behind but footprints"Us tourists need to be careful not to pollute other sacred places with stuff or our cultural values.

6. Is this place associated with anyone? Who? What do they look like?
It is a magical place I heard about when I was a young girl and I wanted to be the first Chinese Canadian to climb on top of Everest. But due to my ghetto-upbringing, I had to wait 50 years before full filling my dream albeit to base camp only.

7. What is the address or GPS coordinates of this place?
The classic trail from Kathmandu to Everest Base Camp, Nepal.

8. What is a sound you associate with this place?
Wind. Very windy. A roar of non stop wind.

9. Choose the symbol which best represents this place for you. Trust your intuition.
The window
Keely O'Brien, Drawing 13, 2020, ink on paper

THINK OF A PLACE YOU'VE LEFT, LOST, OR MISS RIGHT NOW.

1. What is a smell you associate with this place?
Wet carpet with fans blasting to dry the room

2. If this place were a texture, how would it feel?
Soft like a baby blanket

3. Think of an object you remember seeing there and describe it in detail.
A floor to ceiling brick fireplace. Bricks of various shades of brown, except where the bricks are black from soot. There is one main facade of the fireplace about 6’ across and then each end has another 2’ of the fireplace that angles back, like a birds-eye view of a diamond. There is a black metal double door cover over the opening of the fireplace with a few beer cans hidden inside from a party that wasn’t supposed to happen. A thick wooden mantle sticks out from the bricks and a stone ledge 1’ off the ground to sit on that mirrors the mantle. It has been decades since a fire roared but the mantle has nail holes in it from holding up stockings and other decorations.

4. Describe a memory or a story that happened there.
The only computer sat on a cheap looking fake wood desk in the downstairs living room. As a curious teenage boy, I would wait until everyone went to sleep and then search the internet. The darkness of all of the lights out except for the glow of the computer screen and the tension of being hyper aware of the slightest sound of someone waking up in the house.

5. If you had an altar to honour this place, what would you leave as an offering?
A baby bunny

6. Is this place associated with anyone? Who? What do they look like?
A few people, the most prominent of which is a brown haired boy. Glasses, wearing a Korn band t-shirt, with face paint like the main character from the movie “The Crow”. He has shaggy hair that is pulled into a single pony tail that sticks up on the very top of his head, referred to as an “Apple Tree”.

7. What is the address or GPS coordinates of this place?
Terrace Drive SW, Willmar, MN USA

8. What is a sound you associate with this place?
The noise of video game controller buttons being pressed rapidly.

9. Choose the symbol which best represents this place for you. Trust your intuition.
The tree
Keely O'Brien, Drawing 14, 2020, ink on paper

THINK OF A PLACE YOU'VE LEFT, LOST, OR MISS RIGHT NOW.

1. What is a smell you associate with this place?
Pork chops frying in a cast iron pan

2. If this place were a texture, how would it feel? 
Rough like an acrylic crocheted blanket

3. Think of an object you remember seeing there and describe it in detail.
Glass jars of preserves and jams - sauerkraut, beans, tomatoes, fruit jams etc.. They were stored on shelves in a cool dark room at the side of the house.

4. Describe a memory or a story that happened there.
My memory is of all of us around a big oval table, it was my 22nd birthday and my grandmother stood up in the middle of dinner and toasted my birthday.

5. If you had an altar to honour this place, what would you leave as an offering?
A feather

6. Is this place associated with anyone? Who? What do they look like?
My grandmother. She had dark brown wavy hair and sometimes wore a wig. She would curl it for a bit of volume. She sometimes wore a kerchief on her head especially when she was working in her garden. I remember her most in long skirts, and a peasant blouse or a sleeveless shirt in summer. She had high cheek bones which she’d rub with a bit of lipstick for blush. And she wasn’t shy to use her eyebrow pencil. She loved jewellery and clip on earrings.

7. What is the address or GPS coordinates of this place?
Sunnyside Road, Happy Valley, Oregon

8. What is a sound you associate with this place?
The radio in my grandmother’s room on all night

9. Choose the symbol which best represents this place for you. Trust your intuition.
The tree

Keely O'Brien, Drawing 15, 2020, ink on paper

THINK OF A PLACE YOU'VE LEFT, LOST, OR MISS RIGHT NOW.

1. What is a smell you associate with this place?  
Fresh, clean air and water.

2. If this place were a texture, how would it feel?  
Silky.

3. Think of an object you remember seeing there and describe it in detail.
A tennis court. It had tiny grains of maroon clay all over the ground. There was a heavy cylinder that was attached to a big handle like a wheelbarrow. We dragged the cylinder around to even the clay out. When I was a kid, I would grab the cylinder and drag it around the tennis court.

4. Describe a memory or a story that happened there.
We had a cat there, named Pishi Khanoum ("Mrs. Cat" in Farsi) and a guard dog tied to a chain. Pishi Khanoum would bug the dog, sitting just out of reach of the chain. The dog would freak out. One time, I picked up Pishi Khanoum and, holding her close to me, walked towards the dog. As I got closer and closer, I could see Pishi Khanoum's tail getting puffier and her eyes getting wider. I could also feel her claws digging into my arm. She was hissing, stressed out, and glaring at me. I let go of her a little bit and, in two seconds, she jumped on top of a tree. The thing is, she was stressing the dog out, so she kind of deserved it.

5. If you had an altar to honour this place, what would you leave as an offering?
We had cherry trees there. My mom and grandmother would often spend the whole day picking cherries. We would harvest so many cherries, that we'd have enough for three months. We'd give away boxes of them to people that we knew and family members. The type of cherries that I really liked were called albaloo. They were small, extremely sour cherries. I would leave one of those cherries as an offering.

6. Is this place associated with anyone? Who? What do they look like?
I associate the place with my family. All of my extended family was able to get together and enjoy each other's company there. All of my cousins were there, as well as their families. There was enough space for us to all be there at the same time, since the property was huge. We were all in the same city back then. Now, everyone isn't in the same city, so we can't gather like that.

7. What is the address or GPS coordinates of this place? 
Arangeh, Iran (I don't have the exact address)

8. What is a sound you associate with this place?
Since I was a small kid back then, I would fall asleep in the car on the way there. The property had a really big gate, which was manual, so when the car approached the gate, my dad would have to get out of the car, open the lock, and lift the handle. The gate would make this really loud creaking sound, which would always wake me up, and I would know that we had arrived.

9. Choose the symbol which best represents this place for you. Trust your intuition. 
The bird.

Keely O'Brien, Drawing 16, 2020, ink on paper

THINK OF A PLACE YOU'VE LEFT, LOST, OR MISS RIGHT NOW.

1. What is a smell you associate with this place? 
Dry sand, dry grass, dry driftwood, and the ocean.

2. If this place were a texture, how would it feel? 
Prickly, with a light breeze.

3. Think of an object you remember seeing there and describe it in detail.
We had an agate collection in the first room of the house. It was a tan basket made from a grass or straw weave. It was full of small stones the colour of milk and caramel. The basket of agates rested on an outdoor-style patio bistro table that had a gingham cotton tablecloth.

4. Describe a memory or a story that happened there.
In the summers, we would swim in the ocean, and sometimes there would be a dock out in the water we could swim to. I remember swimming to the dock and jumping in again and again. Because it was the Pacific Northwest, we would always emerge with seaweed clinging to our skin as we climbed, wet and goosebumpy, back up into the sun.

5. If you had an altar to honour this place, what would you leave as an offering?
Poetry I love. And stories about what I'm doing these days.

6. Is this place associated with anyone? Who? What do they look like?
It was my grandparents' home. My grandmother liked to wear button up cotton short sleeves and handcrafted (often gold) earrings. She wore courduroy pants and athletic shoes. Her hair is short and wispy and white, and she has blue eyes. She was 5'3 and got shorter and smaller the older she got. She was often swaying, tapping, or humming to music. My grandpa always wore a white T-shirt undershirt and liked beige or black shorts and pants. He had dark hair until very recently, and still isn't fully white, much more salt and pepper. He has a long face and a long torso. He is still active, even now, and played competitive tennis into his 70's. His favourite winter hat has earflaps and in the summer he wears silly bucket hats with the string under his chin. He has dark eyes, and wears glasses with metal frames. I can count on my hands the number of times I have seen him without glasses on. He likes to talk with his hands and makes mouth sounds when he exhales. (for fun!)

7. What is the address or GPS coordinates of this place?
Marine Drive, Point Roberts, WA. USA - on freeman beach.

8. What is a sound you associate with this place?
The slurp of waves being sucked back along small rocks.

9. Choose the symbol which best represents this place for you. Trust your intuition.
The window 

Keely O'Brien, Drawing 17, 2020, ink on paper

THINK OF A PLACE YOU'VE LEFT, LOST, OR MISS RIGHT NOW.

1. What is a smell you associate with this place? 
The damp smell of slugs and the St. John's Wart blooming near the front door during the rainy June when we first moved in.

2. If this place were a texture, how would it feel? 
Cool and smooth, like the marbled granite of the kitchen island. Though this might not conjure up images of a cozy family home, it was around this island that we gathered for family dinner preparations. Cool and smooth is calming and comforting to me.

3. Think of an object you remember seeing there and describe it in detail.
The humongous Blue Spruce in the front yard that gave our home its name, "Big Blue". It was full, proud, and tall. It's boughs would sweep over the driveway; we trimmed its bottom branches one year and after it always reminded me of a large Victorian lady, holding up her voluminous skirt hem!

4. Describe a memory or a story that happened there.
There was an elevated playhouse in the backyard, hidden behind remnants of a cedar hedge. The kids would play back there—​​​​​​​one sliding down the fire-pole, one in the sand box below, and one on the roof, reading under the branches. It was their own secret world but I could hear them and see glimpses of them.

5. If you had an altar to honour this place, what would you leave as an offering?
A tomato! We grew the best tomatoes in the greenhouse we built therethey were a summer obsession!

6. Is this place associated with anyone? Who? What do they look like?
The elderly couple we bought the house from, the Morgans. He was tall and stooped, she was petite and spry. Smiling, they told us the house had always been filled with lots of love and family and they hoped it always would be.

7. What is the address or GPS coordinates of this place? 
Surrey, B.C.

8. What is a sound you associate with this place? 
Sirens of firetrucks, police and ambulance (all three had stations nearby)—​​​​​​​and the neighbourhood dog who, for years, would howl every time he heard one. I never did find out whose dog that was.

9.  Choose the symbol which best represents this place for you. Trust your intuition.
The vessel


The Place We Left: Keely O'Brien Virtual Exhibition
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The Place We Left: Keely O'Brien Virtual Exhibition

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