Tanya Tagala and Sheila Watt-Cloutier at Convention

Thursday was a beautiful day. Cayley and I attended Teacher’s Convention together.  I’m proud that my daughter has chosen the teaching profession and prouder, still, that she takes her profession to heart.  She is a strong woman.  We share in a lot of the same concerns for our planet and its people.  We also really believe that there’s a lot of power in education and that it is essential to change, healthy perceptions and strength of character.

I have been blessed that over the last while, I’ve had a number of strong women coming into my circle,  These include artists, writers, mentors and friends. I feel in awe of their abilities to inspire and build up communities, families and their own experiences in so many impacting ways.  Strong women have always been in my life; don’t get me wrong.  But, recently, I’ve been really looking at what these women have done to influence me.  I’m noticing them more.

Our sessions in the afternoon began with a talk by Tanya Tagala, author of Seven Fallen Feathers and All Our Relations.  (No photos for any convention sessions, so, I’m sharing one of the Massey Hall lectures delivered by Tanya…very similar content.)

//www.cbc.ca/i/caffeine/syndicate/?mediaId=1578044483527

This was a very powerful talk, delivered with humour, honesty and generosity.  Tanya’s first hand experiences and personal narratives increased our understanding of our story as Canadians.  I know that many of my readers do not feel as I do on issues of Indigenous peoples and their rights.  We are willing to fight for the rights of others, but so often neglect our responsibilities to our Indigenous, Metis and Inuit neighbours across the nation.  I just don’t see how we can walk away from the treaties that our ancestors signed, in good faith.  We are all treaty people.  This is not an imagined past.

I value Tanya’s work; her writing and her voice.  She is strong and positive and she speaks the truth.  Every child deserves safety, clean water and shelter….it is not a child’s fault that they were born under the weight of history!

Cayley and I went for a movement break after the talk.  We were quiet for the most part, but talked a bit about the open mic question session and what questions we feel are still unanswered for us. We were reviewing, in our minds, what needs to happen to shift our delivery of content in our classrooms.  It was lovely to meet up with Lana and Heather during the break.

Next, we heard, in the same hall, Sheila Watt-Cloutier, a beautiful woman who I had met a Mount Royal University some years ago, with my sister-friend, Karen.   I feel blessed to have had a second opportunity to hear Sheila speak and encourage my readers to take the opportunity when you can.  Please read her book, The Right to Be Cold.

Sheila shared a great deal of information and global concern for the melting north and the melting permafrost.  We need this global cooling system.  There are species that now arrive in the north, never-identified by the Inuit peoples.  This strikes me as a manifestation of our consumption and greed.  It is so easy to forget Canada’s north, abandoning her for all of the social and economic concerns of the south.  We need to make these connections and be more deliberate in our protection of her.

There were such stiff rules about picture taking…and procedural rules around book-signing, but Cayley managed to grab a quick photo from a distance of Sheila and me, together, in conversation.

This is not a very becoming photograph…but…I took an opportunity to chat, give a context and express my interest.  Sheila is a beautiful, authentic and very smart woman who has accomplished great and wonderful things in her life.  Thanks, Cayley for sitting on the sidelines and capturing this engagement.  Does it seem like anyone around me is concerned?

After the session, Cayley and I went To Bar Anna Bella’s for a cocktail and to bond.  It was a lovely relaxed atmosphere and we were all on our own.  I had the Osmoz Gin from France.  Yum!!  Magic!

As we left, the winter festival was setting up.  I found it ironic and a little sad that this is what met us just around the corner.  Interesting that a great big ‘plastic’ igloo should appear out of nowhere.  Calgary moved on to the Glow Festival.

 

 

 

 

An Hour With Anna Gustafson

Sometimes it feels like I’m flying in to the evening programs at Esker Foundation.  The trek north on Deerfoot Trail is never optimal around the dinner hour.  It seems that the folk who have struggled their way south through rush hour traffic have made their way home for their wardrobe changes and are then all headed back to the core for their evening events.  Calgary is such a sprawl!  All that aside, when the program lists are published for the Esker Foundation, I always try to log on and register and fill in my calendar for the coming months.

Today, Anna Gustafson delivered a ‘making’ workshop at the Esker.  These programs are especially inspiring.  Because I wasn’t able to fit this one in, I was really motivated to listen to her talk last night and to see her work in Esker’s Project Space.  This exhibit, titled Object Lessons is accessible from the huge picture windows on street level 9th Ave SE.

Anna spoke about her transition from a piece titled Ghost Salmon (very serendipitous) into her shrouded works.  Initially, the image that she projected on to the screen of her Ghost Salmon work brought me back to some ideas I had once explored in my own studio.  My brother, Cliff, who runs a salmon charter in Comox named Cliff’s Chinook Charters, now has this piece at home with him.

Anna described her connection with other species and her sense of urgency around having a deep regard for sustainability.  I felt as though we were connected in our thoughts through some sort of umbilical…I was captivated.

Enjoy Anna’s beautiful website and click on this link in order to read through her process.

As she spoke about shrouding objects that represent our full-on consumption, I thought very much about the bags of litter I picked for such a long period of time at a single pond here in south Calgary.  Nothing ever seemed to change about the landscape that I picked….after months and years of clearing the flats, new litter would just move on in.  It came in waves.  It was no wonder that Anna’s fish nets filled to the brim with shrouded single use plastics hit me in the gut.

The exhibit is happening, in partnership with the New Gallery and Anna Gustafson is extending an invitation to the public to help her with the harvesting of particular household objects including remote controls, film and slide projectors, film cans, slide carousels, flashlights along with white cotton and linen fabric for shrouding. Donations can be brought to The New Gallery from 3 February to 19 April.

Anna has a very detailed record of where she is gathering these objects, as seen below.

I find it interesting that as I attended a second event last evening, I should still be thinking about Anna’s work as I encountered this display.  Well done, Anna, and thank you.  Thank you, Esker Foundation.

January 19, 2020

I wasn’t going to write today, but here I am, a glass of Malbec to my right, and so much to think about.

Today would have been my brother’s 66th birthday. I turn 65 in May. He and I were so very close. It pains me that we didn’t share as much in our later years. He became a private man. Still, we made time to share good meals with friends. We enjoyed live music together. We were both very proud of our city. I love all of the growing-up memories of John. He was sometimes rebellious. He was robust. He was quite a live wire. I like the memories of him grilling steaks and burgers. He knew what he was doing there.

I have been thinking about John all week. Birthdays celebrated with families are so special. He should be here to celebrate with us. Now, he is ‘with us in spirit’. That’s something people say…but words like that just crack open my heart and cause it to bleed, all over again. I feel bad for people who try to make just the right remarks when you’ve lost someone you deeply love. I’ve often been one of those people. Let’s face it, there are no really helpful words. Best to just say ‘I’m sorry’. I don’t blame or judge people for things that they’ve tried to say. I know that their intentions are good. Grief does weird unbelievable things to a person. There’s no real understanding it. I miss John, though, every day…just as I miss my mother.

Family went out for lunch together. I liked being with John’s son. We were ‘hospice buddies’ and call ourselves that to this day. There’s no way that one can know what that experience is like until one might find themselves living it. I take a moment as I’m typing and lift a prayer for families who are in the midst of all of this. I take a moment and pray for the beautiful hearts who give palliative and then hospice care…and the nurses…the doctors. A tear drops.

Our family was the very best through the pain of losing John. If family does work. We did our best work through that time.

My grandson broke out into a lively version of happy birthday when he received his vanilla ice cream on dry ice. He even got the part about ‘Uncle Johnny’. His timing was impeccable. A Moxie’s lunch to celebrate my brother was the perfect choice.

From the lunch and our good-byes, I had to head right for the river. For one thing, the temperature was steadily moving up and was -11 when I pulled up in front of the house. I can clear my head at the river. Through John’s last months, I always felt uplifted while at the river’s edge, even on particularly difficult days.

I first walked along the bank in a north west direction. Across from me, the beauty and tranquility of deer and geese. After five days of -30 to -40 temperatures and a bad wind chill, it seemed that all of nature was breathing deeply in and breathing deeply out. Such a lovely thing. Interestingly enough, in the icy times of winter, I always notice that the deer consume the geese droppings. Such was the case today. Vegetation must be minimal by now and what better way to consume some nutrition! Nature cares for itself in so many different ways.

Once heading south on the path, I experienced the most remarkable moment! In a flash, a coyote rushed out of the tall grass and a deer bound into the frozen river. The coyote lurched to a stop on the very edge of the ice. I was frozen…couldn’t move…didn’t even think about capturing the moment on my camera. Too late, I recorded the deer’s challenging swim and its exit from the cold water. I watched until it found its way, some distance, up onto the bank. It wobbled on the ice and then bolted for the cover of the brush.

I was relieved but remember pausing to wonder how all of the beautiful creatures that inhabit the river valley manage to eek out a living.

Continuing on my hike, I was mindful that the coyotes are hungry. I figured that if one coyote came out of the brush, there were others. They work diligently together in order to eat, especially in these circumstances of frigid temperatures. Above me, to the left, I saw two. Do you want to observe a coyote? Listen for the Corvids (Magpies, Crows and Ravens) because all follow close behind the predators.

Sure enough.

I was pleased to observe this young beauty consuming something. It was either a rabbit or a pheasant. I could hear the pheasants articulating in the high brush as I made my way south. Looking closer, a Raven decided to peck away at the carcass.

Around this time, I bumped into Lloyd. I really can’t believe the distance he walks down in this same spot, in fact, he goes so far as to cross the ice to the island almost every day. He asked, in his jovial way, ‘Why he hadn’t seen me lately?’ And I told him that apart from one day during the deep freeze I came down to make my typical observations. He walked with me as far as the beaver dam. Together, we looked at the reflections on the smooth pond ice. He told me a story of skating ponds in his childhood….such magic! Walking, I told him about the incident with the deer. We parted ways. As he left, he said, “I hope you spot your eagles”.

The remainder of the walk was very peaceful. I thought that I might discover more deer, given that the stressed white tail flew out from this side of the river, but no sightings. Several beautifully large and articulating Ravens flew amongst the bare branches. All was magical. Then, as if from nowhere, the young Eagle appeared. I haven’t captured any really clear photographs, but I would guess that it was either one of the one year olds from last summer’s nest, or a two year old. Its colouring is getting to be mottled. One thing for certain, it wasn’t the Huntress, one that I expected to see. A Raven flew in and gave this youngster some company for a short while. Dad was no where to be seen.

This day was a beautiful day. Again, it reinforced the fact that life is filled to the brim with both beauty and brutality. We have no choice but to take it all and in whatever ways it makes its way to us. We can control the ways that we respond, but apart from that, we should always keep a Plan B in our back pockets.

Arriving back to the car, I cranked up the heat and checked my messages. Doug sent a link to a marvelous series of photographs. I think that the images exemplify everything I believe about nature, life and the wonder of it all.

If you have a chance, take a look.

Here at home, safe and warm, a friend from the river, fired off a message to me. I was eating from a hot bowl of stew at the time. The message was about a deer that was wounded and down, just beneath 130th Ave. She met Lloyd while out on her hike (love my network of river friends) and thought that this deer was possibly the character from my narrative. I will never know. Initially, I thought, by description, the deer was above the bank, but as the information became more clear, I learned that this deer is wounded and is out on the ice tonight. It would be an impossible thing for anyone to assist it tonight, impossible to keep it from its suffering. While this is upsetting to me and to my friends, we have sometimes no choice but to accept what we can’t control. I’m hoping that the coyotes/eagles are able to make good use of its sacrifice.

This, it turns out, was quite a day. Blessings to those of you who have sent wishes today. Blessings on my father.

The Year of the Mugwump

It was 1973 and I was fresh out of High School. Somewhere in my archives, this morning, once receiving a message from a Lethbridge friend, I found, without too much looking, a copy of the University paper, the Meliorist. I laughed out loud as I read the profiles for our Mugwump Party. And guess what? We got in! I served my first year as part of the student council. This is where I met dear friend, artist and intellectual, Phil. I wanted to publish bits of this quickly and move on to the list of things to do for today.

How would I describe my importance to Mugwump, as I look back?

First Year Votes
Female Votes
No Fear of Speaking
Opinionated
Also, Easily Influenced

As I look at the profiles of these folk, I still feel very proud of these gentlemen. They DID influence me and my thinking about a lot of matters. It was through 73-77 that I formulated values and ideas that I still hold. The U of L was a perfect fit for me. I know that Phil continues to be a very strong artist (I own one of his wonderful pieces) and an involved activist. I wonder what the others have been up to.

Before I leave this…a few more gems.

Climate Strike

My feet are still cold.  But, now I’m dry and in a minute, I’m going to pour a glass of wine.

I started my day by posting a whole number of paintings I’ve done over the last years, some of them exhibited in a beautiful little gallery in Lethbridge by my cousin, Jo, and her then-partner.  I threw images out to Bookface Land (coined by my friend, Doug M) in order to cause people to think…not about the art, but about our planet and I sort of hoped they would think about the planet in terms of the subjects being vulnerable pieces of that planet.

I called this work, A Covenant Series, and for those of you who are not ‘into’ religion, I think it is obvious by that title, that I am.  At the very least, I’d have to say that my life is rooted in scripture.  The painting, above, is titled Genesis and at the base of all of the pieces in this body of work, I have submerged actual passages from scripture.  You see, I’m not afraid to admit that I am religious.  In today’s world, religious people can even be a little refreshing. It’s way more acceptable, however, today, to say that you are spiritual.  In that way, a lot of hard stuff can be avoided, like the horrific actions of people on other people, often in the name of religion.  Let’s start with residential schools!

Back to the subject of this post…

Human beings, as a species, have a responsibility to be stewards of the earth, water and air, as well as every living creature on/in them, and that includes caring for one another.  If you’re NOT religious, I think that this makes sense as well.  Don’t you think?

Long story/short, I have, along the way, painted some of my own fears down onto panels…fears of losing beautiful parts of our world.  Sometimes these paintings expressed themselves as landscapes. Sometimes, particular species were investigated.  Most recently, I’ve been focused on a single bush through a year.

And as several readers know, I have been very caught up in the life of a family of Bald Eagles at the edge of the Bow River.  We are so very blessed.

In the novel, The Diviners by Margaret Laurence, Morag, the protagonist is sitting and conversing with her young daughter, Piquette.  Piquette, a Metis, turns to her writer-mother and asks what a buffalo is.  The conversation between the two of them has always impacted me, as has the connection that Morag has with her river.  The fact that this child had lost connection with such an iconic animal and that she looked to her mother to describe it, caused me to think that I must begin documenting…the landscape…the river…animals.  I became a crazy lady, visiting places like Maycroft Crossing in order to see the Old Man River before the dam.  It seemed I needed to be able to collect and document life as it was for the sake of my children.

Curtis Running Rabbit-Lefthand delivered a powerful Land Acknowledgement and then offered a very few words.  His words created the one point in the afternoon of speeches that made me cry.  No, there was one other young female University student who also caused me to cry, speaking of the things that make her afraid.  Curtis talked about us being Treaty people.  In the context of this entire day, for me, it was exceptional.

Treaty and Covenant.  The one thing I know for sure anymore is that I am hell bent on protecting my grandson.   And, as I explore what this means, I feel like I can’t make very many promises.  I can’t promise him that he will have a beautiful world full of the magic of so many species of animals and birds and insects once he is a man, the age of his father.  I can’t make promises because the world isn’t sustainable.  Destructive fires are burning. Children, the world over, are starving. Traumatic climate events are more frequent. Consumption is unreasonable. And human beings are in a denial stew (something that I believe rises up out of fear).

What I am empowered to do, however, is to have my grandson see me as a Treaty person.  I want him to know that I will do everything in my power to care for the planet and the people in it.  I will be an exemplar for him.  I will stand up to injustice.  I will speak the truth.

I’m proud of those Calgarians who showed up today.  I’m proud of those participants in our great nation, Canada, who are listening to young people as they demand action. I am grateful to people the world over who have a concern for the health of our world.

The weather today in Calgary was crappy.  And tonight we get snow.  But, my heart is warm and I am determined in my walk, more so tonight than any other time on my journey.

 

Fly Me to the Moon

This week has been filled with the magic of flight, whether that is metaphoric or quite literal.  This is the time of the season when every variety of wee bird or raptor seems to be in flight training and this year’s observations are even more magical because this is the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 space mission and the successful landing on the moon.

Here, a wee Northern Flicker, sound asleep OR knocked out on a paved pathway near the edge of the Bow River.  I thought he may have come to a sad ending, having likely fledged from a nearby tree, but, at my prompting, he stirred, panicked and disappeared into the wild flowers, a place that increased his possibilities, I’m sure.

Every new life is extremely vulnerable right now in the river environment and the adults of every species are doing phenomenal things, given the brutal thunder storms, hail and huge winds.  Finally, these past two days, we have had a reprieve from awful weather.

I was just 14 years old and living with my air force family on CFB Hornell Heights perched on a hill above North Bay, Ontario when the space program was initiating such wild adventures into the unknown.  That summer I would have just finished up my grade eight year with Mrs. Penner at Paul Davoud School and would be beginning grade nine at Widdifield in the city, the following autumn.  Mom would have already sewn me summer pop tops and jam jam shorts.  I was excited for time at the base swimming pool and my little sister would have been two years old.  We had a black and white television set and I would have been snipping out important news stories from the North Bay Nugget and pasting them into my scrap book. (some of them are featured below)

In my record box, (bright green floral vinyl), I had my single-play records including Revolution and I Want to Hold Your Hand by the Beatles.  It was the first summer that I would, under my brother’s chaperone, be allowed to attend Teen Town dances.

My entire family was excited about the Apollo Space Mission.

We watched the moon landing, together, on the television.  I remember the images.  I remember looking up at the moon that night, the silhouette of the huge lilac bush outside my window, and being afraid for those men, so far from home.  It was truly unbelievable.

Well, this past weekend, we shared in the memory of that experience, now 50 years ago.  On July 20, I read poetry and watched the second eaglet fledge.  For me, the day was a celebration of flight.

On the evening of July 19, there was a tremendous storm brewing.  I watched, with great amusement as Mr. and Mrs. both fed Jr. #1, the little guy that had fledged three days before.  He’s doing well, having flown across the river, and having practiced moving about to a variety of places.  Over those few days I was captivated by several close visits, as well as a variety of shenanigans across from me on the river. (most amusing being a middle-aged couple manning kayaks, one that capsized and the other that became grounded minutes before a huge deluge…the two, totally unaware of a family of three Bald Eagles feasting within meters of them).  The male Bald Eagle stared at the adult male with a look that made me laugh.  I’m posting some of my recent photos, here.

On July 20, 2019, I witnessed the fledge of Jr. #2.  I considered this a huge gift on such a special anniversary.

July 16, 2019 (a visit to the river with summer guests, Angela and Preston)

July 17, 2019 (Mom and Dad spent lots of time the first two days prompting Jr. #1 to get up higher.  The fledgling seems to ball, especially on Day 1 and the adults patiently convince him/her that they can be relied upon for food, for guidance and for presence.)

July 18, 2019

Meals on the run…sharing treats with Jr….I’m just so surprised that Mr. came directly to me.

July 19, 2020

Second Fledge and little buddy is the one located in the vertical tree. Junior #1 doesn’t like that the attention has moved away from him.

July 21, 2019

Three visits to the river.  On the second, I didn’t have my camera, but I did have the company of Deb Sharpe.  Together we watched the siblings reunited on the tree root across from us.  Jr. #1 had remained there throughout the night.  Mr. and Mrs. shared the big tree on my side of the river to watch the pair of youngsters.  It was just so beautiful.  The icing on the cake is that one of the adults soared with the Year-old Juvenile that made a visit as well, chasing him, first, out of the territory.

On my evening stroll, I listened to a bag piper sending out his beautiful songs to the river…

Other species have been evident and beautiful…and new songs have been sung.  I’ve watched, but not documented American Goldfinch and have really enjoyed the Grey Catbirds, Cedar Waxwings and Eastern Kingbirds.  I’ve also really had fun speaking with different people who enjoy my love for the river.

It is a remarkable thing that human beings have traveled into the far reaches of space through manned missions as well as through the use of technology that brings images and science back to us from Mars.  It is for us to celebrate the abilities of humanity to accomplish wondrous achievements such as this.  However, it is equally as important to recognize the charm and amazing intuitive lessons that are given by other species.  It is essential that we connect with this wonder so that we become better stewards of the magic.

I’m wrapping up this post with a song that my mother used to sing to me…among others…but, this one is a good one for this celebration.

 

Mamas and the Poop They Take!

Just a quick post as I’m moving out of my bird mode and in to my bush mode.  I know that some of my readers can, off the top, relate with the title of this post.

Parenting is difficult!

I like to make observations of birds.  I’m willing to patiently watch and be still.  Like a prayer, this is what brings me a lot of peace these days.  The practice of being still is something invaluable to a culture that values ‘busy’ so much.

These days, the old trees that grow and die at the edge of the river, are singing.  There is life that emits from the boughs and trunks of trees.  I don’t think a lot of people actually notice that.  Even if you walk in your neighbourhood to the mailbox, lately, you will hear that the houses and trees of your own community are singing.  The children need to be fed.

So, in looking up at one of the trees today, I observed a European Starling entering and exiting one of the big Elms growing at the river, over and over again.  But, interestingly enough I saw her not only entering, with food, but exiting with poop.  What?  Really?

If you think about it, it makes sense.  But, YUCK!!  Can you imagine your growing family, shouting all day long from the inside of a crowded tree nest?  Can you imagine that there is a lot of house keeping required of you, the adult?  Wow!

Bottom’s Up!

EWWWWE!

This got me thinking about the intuitive selfless actions of parents for their offspring, it matters not the species.

At the House Wren nest, one adult remains very guarded of the nesting area while the other does the constant runs to try to silence the peeping worrying kids.

The Canada Geese lead goslings from one place to another, often tending other ‘people’s kids’, while a number of adults get a wee respite.  This poor image does not even capture the wee buddies who spilled in off of that rocky shore shortly after the snapping of this photograph.

Vigilance is key during these days of raising young at the river.  Magpies and Crows, Hawks of every variety, search the tall wood for untended nests.  It is the way of nature.  Keeping low to the earth and in the dried grasses of winter, the Mallards cast their eyes in the direction of the most subtle movements.

Mr. and Mrs. continue to work in tandem at the Bald Eagle Nest.  The two youngsters continue to grow very quickly.  Dad, of smaller stature seems to be doing more of the fishing and guarding from a distance than Mom.  It was beautiful one day last week when the two of them took flight together, soaring on a perfect day, just above the nest.

I think in families sometimes, Moms and Dads find it hard to leave the kids alone for even the shortest while in order that they, too, can enjoy the world and its offerings.

Bless the Moms and Dads for the poop they take.

 

Days at the River

I started walking daily at the river, once prompted by a friend.  I remember this friend in the same ways that I remember the pond, where I had for six years, taken respite from the world, from work and from my worries.  I circled the same still water and watched its changes, daily…apart from a very few days when the roads were too icy on the hill to make it there OR when I drove to Ontario to visit my mother…or to be with my loved ones when they celebrated her life.

I became a new person at the pond.  I became a soldier for sustainability there.  I became an observer of what human beings have become, in the order of dismissing their responsibilities to the earth.  My sadness grew exponentially over those years as I communicated with management and staff in many big businesses that surrounded the area, scrolled through sustainability reports,  became an activist with the City of Calgary, and talked about nothing more than what was happening in this single ecosystem.  I picked litter…garbage…most days, filling and depositing bags and bags of human filth by the one bin that remained…”$13 dollars a bin to empty”, the city worker chimed in one day when I asked him, “What is going on with our city?”  He explained that it is a vision for the city that people will learn to take their litter out with them…”much cheaper”.  I sighed.  That was when I began to lose it.  I was crying during my walks, instead of taking in the bliss of the Mergansers, the Pintails, the Coots and Grebes. 

Arriving home to upload my photographs, I would notice for the first time, plastic bags lying on the slopes as Black Capped Night Herons fed.  I’d notice a 2L plastic bottle as a backdrop to the beautiful gesture of a Great Blue Heron.  The evidence of our thoughtlessness was in my face daily.

2015 Pond Study With Litter

I left the pond about a year ago and came to the edge of the Bow River.  I’m still questioned about why the redundant act of circling the same location.  To that, I can only say that by returning again and again to the same place, one really comes to know it…much like being with one person every single day.  I really come to know this place in all sorts of weather and in all sorts of moods.  I notice.  I observe change and transition and presence with a keen eye.  New is easy to see.  I never see the same thing.  And, while there are still signs of human carelessness, I do not directly see the road development, hear the machines or feel wholly responsible to clean up other people’s mess.

I feel as though I am walking in the middle of a Clea Roberts poem when I am at the river…and that is a beautiful place to be.

Mr. and Mrs. 2018 Bow River

Please, if you can, read Clea Robert’s poem, The Forest, from Auguries.  Perhaps then, my readers will understand why I come to this same place.  Blessings for a remarkable day.

First Snow 2018

What Elephants Know by Eric Dinerstein

This was another one for the throne room…this does not mean that books in the bathroom are any less interesting than ones on my bedside table or ones next to the red couch, it just means that I choose a different genre and always something a little less cerebral than my preferred reading, fiction or non-fiction.

Another second-hand-book-find, What Elephants Know ended up next to my other books about elephants.  I liked that Jane Goodall wrote a quick recommendation.  “You will be fascinated, angered, and charmed in turn by this beautifully written story.”

Dr. Eric Dinerstein is the Director of the Biodiversity and Wildlife Solutions Program at RESOLVE and so I was very interested in the fact that he wrote a novel and I anticipated that the book would be written from a unique and knowledgeable perspective.

This was a lovely book that I’d recommend for students grade five to grade seven.  It was a quick read that left me thinking about the vulnerability of our wildlife and ecosystems.  The protagonist, Nandu, is a beautiful character who, through his young life, teaches about the numerous impacts made upon these, while exposing the reader to the vulnerability of humanity, as well.

I think this would be a wonderful book to read aloud to students.  It is refreshing to find a book that is culturally diverse and can open eyes and hearts to a different human experience.  Grade three students, in their study of India, may really benefit from this story.  Nandu’s relationships with his female elephant, Devi Kali and with the plants and other animals of the Borderlands are described beautifully.

This is a two evening (10 potty visits) read for an adult.  I recommend doing a quick review of the book before sharing with your students/children so that you know the sensitive topics that will come along.  Give it a go.

What Elephants Know

 

 

Walk With Our Sisters: Calgary

I sit here eating a hot bowl of hamburger soup for breakfast, nursing a cold that after days, seems to hang in.  The soup is comforting and healing.

There are no photographs on this particular post, but a link, here, for everything you might want to find out.  Calgary’s Walk With Our Sisters memorial installation has been two years in the works (maybe more) and has traveled Canada.  It has just a few more visits and will be retired to Batoche. This stop in Calgary is an amazing opportunity for us to connect with the journey…to think about our sisters who are missing and murdered and to think of their families and friends.  It is important for us to honour their lives and their life force because these sisters remain with us, as long as we remember.

As you will see, there are opportunities for volunteers throughout the coming weeks.  All are welcome.  Orientations are offered, but it was made clear yesterday, at my own orientation,  no volunteer will be turned away.

As most of you know, at the onset of Canada’s 150, I decided that I wanted to embark on a journey of gathering knowledge and understanding about Canada’s Indigenous Peoples.  I didn’t know how to begin.  Sable Sweetgrass hosted an online book club and this peeked my interest, so I began to read along and reflect on the authors and books that we were reading.  It was Sable who told me about the book club at Forest Lawn Public Library, hosted by Indigenous Pride with 12CSI and 12CSI Community Safety Initiative.

I attended my first monthly gathering at the library some time after that, intending to read a book a month, for a year, with a focus on Indigenous authors.  After bonding with this group and having my mind and awareness open up, I decided that I wanted to continue with the group and to enter into my own personal journey with Truth and Reconciliation and the 94 calls to action.  Michelle Robinson has been key in my life as an agent of change and her embrace is assisting me in becoming fearless in this journey.  I can not judge what other Canadians do with the knowledge of Residential Schools or with the initial shock of colonial movement across our nation.  I am responsible, first, to grow in knowledge and then to go forward to be a strong advocate on behalf of our brothers and sisters.

I was invited to volunteer with Walk With Our Sisters and this has also expanded my knowledge.  As a result, I am inviting all of my readers to participate at some level during the weeks ahead.

Last week, a lovely group of women gathered to tie tobacco and I grew new friendships and new knowledge.  I really love the fact that working with our hands created such a warm community feeling.  My mother would have loved it.

Yesterday, I attended an orientation and was blessed by Autumn EagleSpeaker’s clear and welcoming approach. Autumn is a strong woman who is a source of inspiration for these coming days.  It was evident how she has inspired so many others on this journey.  I am grateful for our meeting.  I was further blessed to  meet Christi Belcourt, artist and visionary where this memorial is concerned.  We were given an extended opportunity to preview the work that has been done to this point and to be given more information about the ceremony and protocol involved.

I loved being given the story of the shape of the Calgary installation, with consideration for the two rivers, the elbow, the native plants and medicines and the dress.  The configuration of the vamps has been very specific to each city’s Indigenous peoples along the way, while the vamps themselves represent and include a wide variety of peoples, even expanding beyond international borders.

I am really looking forward to my shift later on today, the final installation shift prior to the Opening Ceremonies tomorrow afternoon, at 2.  I hope my readers will attend.  I hope that you will even extend this to volunteering a few hours, if it is possible.

Just ending this post with a lovely video of Christi describing the world of plants represented in a large painting in acrylic.  Amazing stuff!