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Every Child

I often think about children in December. A lifetime ago, I worked at our community school. I remember the fraught, exciting, and sometimes magical time leading up to Christmas  as we tried to make the best possible memories for our kids. Being a parent is frequently overwhelming, and in the period before Christmas, the Overwhelm Factor looms LARGE. I recall the struggle of many parents, myself included, who could not afford many gifts, and the societal pressure to give more. And more.

Working every day with children, I sensed an acute longing that ran deep beneath seasonal shifts. What every child most needed was the truly attentive presence of at least one adult. “Don’t worry so much about all the gifts,” I wanted to say. “Spend time with your kids. Ordinary time, and special times, too.” Of course, often the advice we give, is the advice we ourselves need.  As a parent myself, I knew how hard  being truly present to my children could be. Some days,  I could hardly be present to myself! But there were moments…perhaps on a walk, or cuddled together reading a book. Baking together. Learning to skate together.  Stopping to watch a snowy owl on the way home. If December is about children, in our rush to “get it all done”, we often overlook the gift of simple (and not so simple) presence and attention that every child needs and longs for.

September 30, 2021

Continuing to think about children, I travel back in my mind to September 30th, 2021 – the first ever National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Canada. A day set aside for survivors and intergenerational survivors of Indian Residential  Schools to ask Canadians  “to see us, to hear us and to believe us,” after unmarked graves were unearthed and confirmed at former residential schools across the land. As this day approaches, my husband and I are spending a few days along the shores of Lake Superior. I feel a heaviness welling up inside me as September 30th approaches. How will I mark this day? I  intended to be at home, joining a walk from the present Okanese School to the site of the former United Church run residential school, both on the same reserve. As we drive, we  listen to the stories of  survivors on the radio. I  think about the  people I know – family, friends, neighbours of all ages- who have been deeply affected by the legacy of these “schools”.

That evening, I collect random pebbles as I walk the beach.  Each is so beautiful and unique. Long smoothed by the motion of water over sand, they come in beautiful colours –  dusty rose, slate gray, white, ochre. I get an idea. I drop to my knees and smooth out a circle on the beach with the palm of my hand. Smoothing sand is soothing. Listening to the rhythmic sound of the waves rolling in calms me. I remember many contented moments as a child, doing just this, smoothing sand and arranging pebbles. Absorbed.

I collect more pebbles. I choose slate gray pebbles to spell  the word “EVERY” in capitals in the circle. Slate gray gives emphasis to this word. No child is left out.

For the word “child” , I use all the colours of pebbles spelled in lower case letters. Somehow, lower case letters seem vulnerable, like children are vulnerable. With each pebble I place, I think of a child I have known or who I know now. Some are thriving, others are getting along. Too many died way before their time from violence or suicide, drugs or a car accident.  A legacy not only of residential schools, but also our colonial and genocidal actions, past and present. I notice how the sand quickly covers some pebbles, rendering them almost invisible. I clean the sand off each pebble, so that each can be seen, can takes its proud place in forming this word.

The verb “MATTERS“, I spell out in capital letters in dusty rose – the colour of the heart. I think of the many ways we invisibilize children, especially those children who are not “easy”. I remember the times I have dismissed a child’s feelings. I consider how the unmarked graves are material (matter) evidence for something Indigenous people have always known.

Around the edge of the circle, I poke clusters of pine needles into the sand. The pine needles provide a border, some protection maybe, but what is inside the circle is now open to the air. All wounds need air in order to begin the process of healing. I find two wrapped orange lollipops which are from a feast I attended in honour of children who never made it home. These go on either side of the word “child” signifying the pleasures of childhood these lost children  missed.  Spelling these words, smoothing the sand, and thinking about so many friends and relatives allows the heaviness in me to shift a little. Creating this beach art feels exactly like a prayer.

Every Child Matters – Lake Superior, Sept. 30, 2021

The Orange Shirt at the End of Our Lane – Every Child Matters

When we returned home, our daughters welcomed us with an orange shirt at the end of our lane. The orange shirt remains there. Each time I see it, I feel a slight jolt inside.  It has blown in the wind, fallen on the ground and been hung again. Each day it changes. I don’t want to get used to the orange shirt. I don’t want to forget.

The orange shirt reminds me….

EVERY      child     MATTERS                                                                                                                                                    Every child matters. See us, hear us, believe us. Truth before reconciliation.

Listen. Learn what I can. Unlearn what I grew up knowing. Learn about past injustices but learn also about present injustices. Learn from the brilliance and wisdom of Indigenous people. Listen.

I can offer my support in practical  and respectful ways as our neighbours and friends begin a ground search for lost children at the former Lebret Indian Residential School. Volunteers, food, money are needed.  I can also offer my prayers.

Back when I worked in the community school, we had pins that said  “It takes a village to raise a child.” So many wonderful people and creatures helped us raise our children. Can I be part of that village? Can I give back? Can I help lighten the load for other parents and grandparents?  I can try.

Every day the orange shirt reminds me that I need to live as if “every child matters”.              Every day, the orange shirt challenges me.

I am alert for the openings that help me truly live as if every child matters.

Every child matters … every day.

Orange Shirt Design by L. Delorme

 

Amaryllis

 

I have been enjoying reading accounts of people who have taken up a creative pursuit during the pandemic. In some cases, they are people in the latter half of their lives. I have particularly enjoyed watching some young people for whom creating art during the pandemic has been lifesaving and who are sharing their creations via social media. The time and space to create art has been one of the blessings of living in an otherwise limited world.

A dozen years ago, I enrolled in what is now called the Prairie Jubilee Experience. Back then it had a much longer title. My own desire at the time was to explore my spiritual life more intentionally and with some guidance along the way. This was exactly what I needed at the time. One of the unintended benefits of taking part in this two year course was that creative expression of all kinds was encouraged. We could write papers or we could hand in a painting (or a video of a dance). Throughout my life, I always found one way or another to express myself creatively, but this opportunity opened up new possibilities for me. Ultimately, I felt led to spend more and more time creating art, and to share my love of artistic expression and nature with others.

Once the course was done, however, I wasn’t quite sure how to move art into a more central place in my daily life. I could paint or create a collage in response to a spiritual question, but what would I paint without such a prompt? I decided to begin with what was right in front of me, to spend a little time each day painting the amaryllis that was growing in our window sill.

Here are some of those early watercolour sketches.

It was a great delight to observe subtle changes in the amaryllis each day. I didn’t know it then, but painting was one way to “befriend a flower”. The energy of the amaryllis astounded me. Each day, there was marked progress. All of this was happening at the same time as much inner growth was happening inside me. Then, one day, I had an epiphany. I thought I had chosen the amaryllis as my subject, but in fact, the amaryllis had chosen me. I felt there was an amaryllis inside me, reaching for the light and growing just like the one I was painting.

Since that epiphany, I have  learned that what I choose as subject matter is seldom random or arbitrary. Very often I am inspired by the very plant, or hill, or tree or colour that I need as teacher or medicine. I discover this as I paint or cut and glue papers to create an image.

Inside the Bloom, watercolour

“Inside the Bloom” framed…reflecting the outside world and in the very window the first amaryllis was in

another watercolour inspired by Amaryllis

 

Farewell, Kerry Farm Ice Rink

It’s the beginning of March, and the feel of spring is in the air.

Secret Wish: I am holding out for a blizzard or two, as we need  more moisture in Southeastern Saskatchewan.

Just before we move into spring, I will share these photos of the grasses, leaves of Grandmother Willow and that noxious weed, Baby’s Breath, as they are found in around the Kerry Farm Ice Rink, and inside the ice of some lanterns (now melted). I love them all. I love how their forms are expressed in ice, that temporal art form.

Canary Reed Grass in ice lantern

Canary Reed Grass

Although canary reed grass is an invasive species, I love her form, especially in winter against the whites and blue and purple shades of the snow.

Willow leaves on ice


Willow leaves in ice. Lantern mold is an ice cream pail.

Willow leaves in ice lantern, bottom view

Grandmother willow

Baby’s Breath in ice and growing nearby in snow

Invitation: Living into “An Economy of Abundance”

Hawthornes-  the haws are still  available in Winter (my substitute for a photo of Saskatoons in winter)

Prelude

Early in December I was invited to take a meditative walk and see if something in the natural world caught my attention. What I especially noticed was how many Saskatoon berries were still on the bush. Most were dried like raisins. I ate a handful and found them full of taste. What a sweet surprise, I thought…after all, the birds, the squirrels, the bears and we humans ate our fill of Saskatoons in the summer, and yet, there were still some left over!! What abundance! How marvellous – to savour this summer taste as the days grow darker!

A few weeks later, Robin Wall Kimmerer, published “The Service Berry: An Economy of Abundance” in Emergence Magazine. Wouldn’t you know it? The service berry is also called the Saskatoon berry! This excellent essay celebrates the abundance and gift of this “best of the  berries”.  Wall Kimmerer also explores gratitude, reciprocity and the gift economy using the Saskatoon bush as guide and teacher.

This essay struck me as beautiful medicine for the next decade, as well as a call to action or perhaps (worded differently) – an invitation to respond creatively and “live into” the community Robin Wall Kimmerer envisions. While some of us are anxious to return to “normal”, I think many of us would qualify “normal”. The pandemic has enabled us to see ever more clearly how our culture of excess has not served us well, and how it has favoured some at the expense of so many others and so much else (including care of the earth). Robin Wall Kimmerer is a  wise visionary and leader,  who so clearly articulates the need for a change in our priorities and direction. She does so poetically. Even better, we can read the essay or listen to her read it to us, or both!!

Here’s the invitation:

Please consider accompanying me as I read and listen to Robin Wall Kimmerer’s essay “The Service Berry: An Economy of Abundance”  over the next few months. I have divided it into 4 sections, simply because there are many ideas here and reading over a longer period of time allows us to sink into these ideas. We will take approximately a month to read and respond to each section.

I invite you to comment on a particular quote (or quotes) that stirred something in you.

I also invite you to respond creatively, if you feel called to do so. You might feel called to respond to one section and not another. Or to all four. Or to none. All are good.

A perfect example of a creative response

What do I mean by responding creatively? Think of some of the creative people you know – people who decorate their homes with that special touch, poets, make up artists, beaders, ice lantern makers, cooks and bakers, welders, tattoo artists,  wood workers, dancers,  music makers,  knitters and crocheters, story tellers, leaders in ceremony, healers, potters, sewers, seamstresses and quilters, entrepreneurs, song writers, mothers and fathers, aunties and uncles, graphic artists, tic toc creators, gardeners, worship leaders, cake decorators,  photographers, people who dress with flair, nail artists, sculptors, gardeners, snow fort builders…the list could go on and on.

A creative response could also be an action –  sharing a gift,  taking care of a piece of land, nurturing a small garden, writing a letter, “paying it forward” in a way that nurtures connection. Receiving a gift could also be a creative response – for many of us receiving well is harder that giving or sharing. As Wall Kimmerer notes, we are receiving gifts all the time and sometimes we become alert or especially aware of a particular gift we have long taken for granted.

To some extent, we are already living into “an economy of abundance”. It feels to me that doing this together in response to Robin Wall Kimmerer’s essay brings a degree of intention and community which  will make a difference  for each of us, and perhaps ripple out.

Sharing Our Responses and Comments

Your comments and creative responses will be shared on a dedicated website (with your permission). I hope to get this website up this month (February 2021).  I will send you the link to the website when it is available, and regular updates or reminders now and again. You can send your responses to me by email.

Other ways of becoming community may emerge naturally as we accompany each other in considering and living into Robin Wall Kimmerer’s ideas. If you have thoughts about how we might share our responses  with each other, please send them on to me.

How To Join In

E- mail me at poachedeggwoman@gmail.com if you are interested in taking part in some way or have questions. You will receive an e-mail with a link to each section we are reading, and subsequent e-mails with links sharing how people are responding.

Feel free to share this with others who may be interested.

Here is a  PDF of Section 1 of the essay – Robin Wall Kimmerer SECTION 1

Here is a PDF of Section 2 of the essay – Section 2 – Reading Robin’s Essay

Here is a PDF of Section 3 of the essay – Section 3- Robin’s Essay

Here is a PDF of Section 4 of the Essay- Section 4 PDF

Photo used with kind permission of Chantelle Bonk

 

 

"Sylvia's Prairie", watercolour

Sylvia’ s Prairie

Years ago I made a choice to let go of my perennial garden so that I could spend more time in Pheasant Creek Coulee with the wildflowers that were already there. Flowers requiring no care at all. I felt some sadness about this choice, but have been thrilled about the time it has freed up for me. I especially love to spend very early mornings painting in the coulee once the ticks have disappeared.

This Covid summer has been no exception. In fact, life without playshops and art sales has offered me not only MORE time in the coulee, but also daily visits! What I have most noticed is how the more I get to know, the more I realize I have not noticed before. How could I have missed that, I think? I note that I miss so many things. “I see, but don’t see”. There is always a new surprise or mystery when I visit the coulee. We see and experience the natural world with strong filters. Happily, daily visits disturb some of my filters.

Showy Locoweed (the flowers not out yet, but an impressive plant, so furry and luxurious!)

Showy Locoweed in bloom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A great joy has been wondering about the mystery of an emerging plant – before it blooms. Who are you? What colour will you be? In the case of Showy Locoweed, it was several weeks between emerging leaves and eventual blossoms. Well worth the wait!

Now, I am appreciating the varieties of seedheads, and finding great beauty in this stage of plant life. How can the delicate pink and white bell shaped flower of Spreading Dogbane become a brilliant red pod sometimes measuring four inches long?

Spreading Dogbane-the pod

Spreading Dogbane- flowers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These last few weeks, I have perched on my stool, looking down. I am intrigued by the shapes and forms and postures of plants. I have always loved the distinctive shape of Indian Breadroot* or the particular curve of milk vetch leaves on the stem. Or the deep green of Indian Breadroot contrasted with the silvery green of wolf willow and sage.

“Underfoot”, Watercolour, 14.5 ” x 14.5″

My first painting, entitled “Underfoot” highlights the leaves of Indian Breadroot when the blossoms are dying. In the background are the fading leaves of the prairie crocus. At this time ( early July) Ascending Purple Milk Vetch (blue) is in full bloom, as are Gaillardia (yellow) and Hedysarum (pink). Broom is just coming into bloom and it’s bright fake grass green colour contrasts with the other shades of green.

Detail of “Sylvia’s Prairie”

“Sylvia’s Prairie” was painted over several visits the last ten days of July. Silver Leaf Psoralea ( a cousin of Indian Breadroot) is highlighted in this painting and I love how its silver leaves contrast with the green of Western Wild Bergamot (shown here without blossom). Other blooming plants include Purple Prairie Clover, Harebell, Pink Prairie Onion, and Low Goldenrod. Flax seeds and the empty rust coloured seed heads of groundsel as well as wild licorice leaves are here also.

The title of this piece came as a wonderful surprise. Once I was finished and was looking at this painting from a distance, I thought, “These are Sylvia’s (my late mum) colours.” In fact, I could imagine her wearing a shirt just like this. I was struck by how our parents are always with us, even when we have no idea they are present. Years ago, when my mum visited the prairies, she loved to smell the sage. She always picked some to freeze in a baggie, and pull out from time to time, just to breathe that distinctive prairie smell deeply. So, it fits that two types of sage are in this painting as well – women’s sage and pasture sage.

In some ways, I am pleased with “Sylvia’s Prairie”. Yet, at the same time, some dissatisfaction  pushes me to explore further. I like the energy and movement in an earlier attempt to get to know Silver Leaf Psoralea (below). I begin August wanting to spend more time getting to know Silver Leaf Psoralea better by sitting with her, drawing and painting her, trying to express other dimensions of her incredible beauty and wildness.

* Indian Breadroot is also known as Prairie Turnip.


Pheasant Creek – Some July Wildflowers

Western Wild Bergamot

Western Wild Bergamot, a wonderful peppery  leaf added  to tea

Skeleton Weed

Hedysarum, above and Northern Hedysarum, below plus a little yarrow

Northern Hedysarum

Juniper is not a flower but so lovely and fresh with new berries coming

Low milkweed started blooming in June, but I am discovering patches of her for the first time, and she continues to bloom in July

Green Milkweed

Silvery groundsel going to seed…in this photo the seeds of the bottom three have flown away. I painted this seedhead last winter not knowing what is was

Smooth Camus, close up, new to me this year

Smooth Camus

Late Locoweed (see May for Early locoweed)

Harebells

Giant Hyssop

Skunk bush

Western Red Lily

Wild LIcorice

Brown Eyed Susan’s

Many flowered aster

Purple Prairie Clover – who could resist this plant?

White Prairie Clover, cousin to Purple Prairie Clover

Dotted Blazingstar

Short Stemmed Thistle

Short Stemmed Thistle

Field Geranium, naturalized

Red Clover

Plains Cinquefoil

Yellow Evening Primrose

Yellow Evening Primrose

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PInk flowered Onion

PInk flowered Onion

Gaillardia (Blanket Flower)

Spreading Dogbane

Showy Locoweed

Beautiful Sunflower

Silverleaf Psoralea

Smooth Aster

Prairie Coneflower

the seedhead of yellow flax

Hairy Golden Aster

“Underfoot”, Watercolour, 14.5 ” x 14.5″

“Early Morning”, Watercolour, 10″ x 8″

 

Pheasant Creek – Late June Flowers

In my humble opinion, June is the best month for wildflowers. There are so many new flowers coming to blossom, it is hard to keep up. Interesting seed heads to observe from earlier plants. The leaves of plants that are coming soon have emerged. It is also a beautiful month, unlike any other for startling prairie skies. Of course, the plants bloom long after my  contrived two week time periods. And yet, keeping note of the plants as they bloom has me noticing more. The more I learn, the more I notice.  The more I learn, the more questions I have. What a privilege it is to walk the same hills daily, to notice the ever changing plants and shrubs as well as the birds, animals and insects.

A beautiful year for wild roses

Gaillardia (or blanket flower)

Goatsbeard started to bloom at the beginning of June. the seedheads, like very large dandelion seed heads just came out at the end of June.

Ascending Purple Milk Vetch

Spreading Dogbane

Showy Locoweed. I have been admiring the furry leaves for many weeks. Finally, at the end of June, the first blossoms show up.

False Dandelion

Close up of Prickly Pear Cactus

Prickly Pear Cactus catching the last sun of the day

Harebell (and a small bit of bedstraw)

Western Wallflower (a member of the mustard family)

Caraway

Smooth Fleabane

Low Milkweed

Hedysarum (began blooming in early June)

Yarrow

Prairie Lily

Buckbrush

the plums of ground plum or are they?

Alfalfa…this is in the meadow as I approach the hills. Many people haven’t seen it before and comment on her beauty- in all shades of purple and cream

Fritilitary enjoying alfalfa’s sweetness

Hawksbeard (not sure which one) with chamomile in background

White Water-Crowfoot

Nuttall’s Atriplex (Atriplex gardneri) Antelope, mule deer, rabbits, and mourning doves graze on it. Its leaves are an important food source during the winter because of their persistency. It is especially important for sheep because it contributes to the minimum nutritional requirement for maintenance of gestating female sheep

Just at the end of June, the first prairie coneflower blossoms

Low Goldenrod

Which vetch this is I am not sure

 

Sources: Saskatchewan Wildflowers Website by Glenn Lee and Facebook Page of Saskatchewan Native Plants- Saskatchewan Native Plant Society 

Pheasant Creek – Early June Flowers

Despite the dry hills, it has been hard to keep up with all the new blooms and emerging plants this first two weeks of June. The air has been permeated with the distinctive smell of wolf willow in bloom – a prairie smell unlike any other. For most of this time, all the plants shown in my  late May post (with the exception of the fruit bushes) have continued to be in bloom as well. Even though 22 plants are pictured here, there are also plants I have seen which are not included here (cut leaf anenome, wood anenome, some milk vetches among them) and plants that I have missed altogether. Keeping this record is helpful to me. I notice more.

The first tiny gaillardia…almost like a dream of gaillardia!

Goat’s Beard

Wolf Willow – this beautiful scent filled the air the first week of June. Nothing like it!!

Indian Breadroot, also known as wild turnip

Indian Breadroot (This is a favourite plant of mine)

White Beard’s Tongue. Usually I have also found Blue Beard’s Tongue but not this year.

Love the colours in this young Saskatoon

Wild Rose

Twining Honeysuckle

Red Osier Dogwood

Yellow Flax

Silvery Groundsel dotting the hills right now

American Hedysarum

Scarlet Guara

Yellow Umbrella Plant

Cream Coloured Vetch

Fleabane (Smooth?)

Northern Bedstraw

 

 

Pygmy Flower – after blooming, also known as Fairy Candelabra

Scarlet Mallow

American Vetch

Short stemmed thistle

Meadow rue – found in the woods of Pheasant Creek

This is three flowered avens after blooming – you can see why it is called Prairie Smoke

Pheasant Creek – Late May Flowers

Some of the flowers shared in an earlier blog (Pheasant Creek- Early May flowers) are also shown here because they really come into their own in late May. Many of the early May flowers are earth huggers. In late May,  some plants grow a little taller. Late May is also the time when Saskatoons, chokecherries, hawthornes burst into blossom and new leaves emerge. I have included some photos of both here. The new plant for me this time is right below. As I write this, my favourite coulee smell – the unforgettable scent of wolfwillow in bloom is everywhere!

(Thanks to Debra for the help!)

Purple Rock Cress, I think. Not sure (see below) Easy to miss. I had been wondering what the tall quick growing stems would turn out to be, which is how I noticed it when it bloomed.

On the right is an enlargement of what I think is purple rockcress. Another rockcress, called reflexed rockcress has seedpods which point down as with the two plants in the centre. I will update this as I learn more.

Although early locoweed is out by the end of April, it was in its full glory the third week of May.

Look carefully and you can see clumps of creamy yellow early locoweed dotting this hillside

Western Canada Violet

Hoary Puccoon

Narrow leaf puccoon. Seems to like the lower slopes of the hills. Cousin of hoary puccoon.

Clustered Oreocarya. I am especially partial to soft and furry leaves like these.

Fairy Candelabra is the name I love (Androsace Septentrionalis)

I see lots of Mouse Ear Chickweed in the coulee. (Cervastium Arvense)

Flax, not looking so blue in this photo

Heart Leafed Alexanders

Pale Comandra with the flowers open. Very common but for much of May the flowers were closed.

Lanceleaf Paintbrush

Silvery Groundsel. I realy like her crooked stem and how the petals come out sort of here and there.

Seneca Root close up…there is a little purple in these which we don’t see here

Clump of Seneca Root…easy to miss

Three Flowered Avens

Wild licorice emerging. I did see some in bloom but did not get a good photo.

on the left Indian Breadroot (also called Wild Turnip) beside some sage. Indian Breadroot is a favourite of mine.

young aspen…love these colours

Saskatoons in bloom

Hawthorne blossoms just ready to pop

Spanking new birch leaves

Chokecherry blossoms

For me, the smell of wolf willow in bloom is absolutely prairie!