Category Archives: Uncategorized

Rice Paper Birds

Sometimes a new piece of paper can suggest a new direction, or a new way of seeing things. Such is the case with a gift of the most delicate pale blue translucent paper my daughter Laurel brought me from Toronto. For a while I just admired it hanging in the window with other strips of translucent paper being hung over it for effect. Eventually, two new pieces took shape.

I love flocks of rice paper birds. Playing with such sheer papers encouraged me to focus more on the abstract shapes of birds and the spaces between them (and less on the individual birds).

The birds don’t alter space.
They reveal it. The sky
never fills with any
leftover flying. They leave
nothing to trace. It is our own
astonishment collects
in chill air. Be glad

(Li-Young Lee ‘Praise Them’)

Letter to the Editor – Elegy for the Trees

Letter to the Editor of the Fort Qu’Appelle Times, December 2016

I am concerned about the practice of removing trees, “pushing bush”, and draining sloughs that is happening at an unprecedented rate on farmland in our area and beyond.

I walk our road almost daily. This gives me a chance to observe the wildflowers, the varieties of wild creatures including butterflies, dragonflies, bees, deer, coyote, fox, skunks, frogs, snakes and birds of all kind who make their life here. 

Last fall, a landowner bulldozed a group of trees that I have come to know very well. Not only do yellow lady slippers bloom in the shelter of these beautiful aspen, but many other creatures find refuge there as well. This was just one of a group of aspen bluffs and low lying sloughs in this area that was bulldozed. A year later, the piles of brush were set on fire and left to burn for a few days, then buried under the ground. Walking past now, it looks as if there never were trees there.

I called the landowner to share how sad and distressed I felt about the loss of these trees, as well as the scale of the destruction of similar places. He listened respectfully and thanked me for sharing my thoughts.  I invited him to come for a hike with me next spring to see how these wild places are brimming with natural life. I cannot tell another landowner what to do on his land, but I can share how I feel about it. Having a conversation with my neighbour may not change anything but at least he knows how I feel.

I know farmers who love the natural world and think hard about how their decisions affect the environment. I acknowledge that farmers sometimes do need to remove trees on their land. It is the  increased scale of “pushing bush” and draining marshy areas that disturbs me. Some will argue that before settlers arrived, the natural prairie did not have these aspen bluffs, although there were certainly many more sloughs and potholes than we see today. While that is true, in this radically altered landscape,  these small areas of bush and marsh not only provide refuge for a diversity of natural life but they add pockets of ecological richness that we desperately need.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, the Great Plains region lost more grasslands (including bluffs and marshes) to agriculture in 2014 that the Brazilian Amazon lost to deforestation. When roots systems are removed, the water holding capacity of the land is reduced significantly, affecting us all during both drought and flood years.

I urge landowners to think carefully before altering or destroying the natural landscape. The loss of these areas impoverishes us all. I want to be able to show my grandchildren a clutch of yellow lady slippers. I want them to hear the now rare sound of a meadowlark singing. Each small wild place matters.

Sue Bland, Abernethy, Sask.

Listen to a western meadowlark sing!

Into the Hawthornes

Down on hands and knees

through the door of thorny branches,

just big enough

and into the hawthornes

right in the middle

 

sssshhh…if you can stay quiet

long enough

they come back

the birds, the squirrels

to eat the red berries

 

if you can stay as still as a hawthorne

you can hear the soft wingbeat of a fairy

 

if you can stay quiet

you can catch the scent

of the coyote who slept here last night

you can feel the slow heartbeat of the earth

that is holding you

loving you

back to life

 

Jocelyn Duchek

“I’d Rather be Painting” – Meet Jocelyn Duchek

fullsizeoutput_1d62I am a frequent driver of Highway 22, but it took me several trips to turn onto Main Street Esterhazy to check it out. Imagine my delight to spot an art gallery – Jocelyn’s Fine Art Gallery – on Main Street. A large, airy space with good light, Jocelyn’s gallery features her own art, art and pottery by local and guest artists, a place for art classes, and a selection of art materials. I soon made a point of stopping in at  Jocelyn’s Art Gallery every time I drove Highway 22. (For those who don’t believe that art can stimulate economic activity, I have now purchased items from at least 5 other Esterhazy businesses!) I enjoyed seeing the new art as it came in, and I was curious about the dynamic woman behind all of this – Jocelyn Duchek. It is no small thing to keep an art gallery going in a place the size of Esterhazy (pop 3000). I wanted to learn more about this vital, friendly woman who is also a gifted artist, teacher and entrepreneur.

As a small girl, Jocelyn Duchek loved to sketch. She was very young when her dad asked her to draw a  moose for a hunting buddy of his. Her dad gave his friend Jocelyn’s moose drawing (regretting that later) and Jocelyn remembers that he bragged about that moose picture for the remainder of his days. Both her parents supported her love of drawing but there were not many opportunities for her to learn more. She wanted to try painting but she had no idea where or how to begin. As a teen, she continued to draw a lot and attended Fort San Summer School for the Arts. It was a fabulous experience for her but there was no real instruction. “Be free, be loose,” she was told. Jocelyn felt lost and wanted more in the way of guidance.

By the time Jocelyn Duchek was 24, she was married with three young children and little time for art. But creativity will find its outlet. Jocelyn poured her energy into sewing (which was practical as well), into creating dough art,  crafting porcelain dolls, and working with ceramics. She spent 7 years helping with her sister’s leather business sewing mukluks and purses. Eventually, Jocelyn returned to school which led to a career working with children with disAbilities , coordinating a respite program for their families, and later, working with special needs students in the school system.  Jocelyn put her heart and soul into this work but was beginning to feel burned out and tired. After about 10 years of this work, Jocelyn became gravely ill  with ulcerative colitis and required  a number of surgeries. As she slowly  began to heal, she went back to work part time, feeling that while it was time for a change in her focus, she didn’t really know what to do next.

img_1444In 2004,  a friend invited her to come to art class with Ward Schell.  Jocelyn uncharacteristically said yes instantly.  Off she went. “It totally opened my eyes. I learned how to start a painting, I learned how do a painting, I learned how to make it look 3-D. I still have this first little grain elevator I painted. I show it to students now. That little grain elevator led to another painting, and another, and so on. I would finish a painting and go “Wow! Did I do that?”  I was so very excited about painting. I just could not stop talking about the painting process to everyone I met.”

By 2010, Jocelyn’s enthusiasm caught fire and soon people were asking her to teach painting.burst She gave up her job, did some renovating in her home and had a small gallery there as well as a place to teach. The first classes were in her former master bedroom. She found that learning to teach was the best possible education – she took classes, she learned about colour theory. She eventually began taking photos of her work step by step, so that she could show people her process. “I just get lost in the zone when I am painting, so until I did that I didn’t really know how to teach what I was doing.” There was a great hunger in Esterhazy for art classes – both for adults and children. Jocelyn’s home became too small and  she tried out 2 different locations before moving to her present gallery space in 2014. Throughout it all, her husband Ken was “incredibly supportive.”

Jocelyn Duchek

“Room to Breathe”, 30 x 40

Jocelyn Duchek

“New Life”, 24 x 24 by Jocelyn Duchek

Jocelyn Duchek

“A Life That is Good”, 16 x 20 by Jocelyn Duchek

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of Jocelyn Duchek’s art is inspired by the boreal forest of Northern Saskatchewan. Each summer, she and husband Ken, along with friends and family camp at a number of lakes – Armet, Steeprock, Rocky. For Jocelyn, the northern forests are healing and rejuvenating places. “I don’t mind fishing,” says Jocelyn. “But I’d rather be painting!” The men would go fishing and many of the women would paint. She loves to paint abstracts as well using acrylics and  alcohol ink. She finds that the different mediums balance one another – the poured paint gives her a sense of freedom and looseness that complements her more representational work.

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“Fluid Aura” by Jocelyn Duchek

“I just kept offering what I felt I needed and couldn’t find in Esterhazy, ” says Jocelyn. As well as wanting art classes, Jocelyn wanted a place to display her work. Early in her art career, she applied to a few art galleries and was rejected.  Part of her dream today is to offer a place for aspiring local artists to hold their first show. She offers them guidance, encouragement and know-how.

Jocelyn’s Art Gallery continues to evolve, to thrive and to grow. Recently, Jocelyn  had a vision that will not leave her alone. “I figure if it won’ t let me go, I better I act on it.” In the new year, she and Ken are going to create a “forest room” – a meditative place in the front of the gallery. When you enter this room, you will know you are somewhere special. She herself began meditating 5 years ago. “I have always been a  very busy type of person”, Jocelyn says. “Meditation has calmed me, has slowed me down a bit which I do find also helps inspire my creative side. It is catching on in Esterhazy. People are taking yoga and becoming more aware of the healing possibilities of art as well as meditation.” Jocelyn now has meditation cushions for sale, and will soon be adding Himilayan salt lamps and other like products. “You have to be inventive in a small town. You have to think about what is needed in the town and what will bring people in. It takes running classes, hosting events, selling supplies and other products. You can’t just sell art or you’d be out of business before you start.”

“I am doing what I love best,” says Jocelyn Duchek. “I have no doubt that creating art is 100% healing. For me, painting took me back to a place deep within me, that creative place that I had left far behind.” It is a great gift to all of us that Jocelyn reconnected with that long lost creative well within.buffalo-mural

Dolores and Alma

Dolores, left and Alma, right with "Four Directions"

Dolores, left and Alma, right with “Four Directions”

I want to share this simple, sweet story.

One of things I like about hosting my own art show is that I witness when a person falls in love with a piece of art. On the second day of my show, my friend Alma told me that she loved  a watercolour painting called “Four Directions” and that maybe she could afford  to buy it in September. This was a painting I had begun for a specific project. Partway through painting this piece I learned that my art was not what the client had in mind. Funny thing, this piece had moved right into me, stirred me up  and I needed to finish it for myself – project or no project. I couldn’t not finish it! I was so delighted that it touched Alma.

I woke up the next morning with one thought. It seemed to me that the painting should be Alma’s. When I arrived at the show, I put a “sold” marker on it.

Enter my friend Dolores. When Dolores first saw “Four Directions”, her hand went to her heart and she said, ” I want to buy this painting. I just love it.” I told her about Alma.fullsizeoutput_1a4a

I pondered this the next few days and phoned Dolores with a proposition to loan her the painting for four months until Alma’s birthday, at which time I would offer it to Alma.

I intended to pick it up from Dolores and deliver to Alma, as a surprise. Then I had a better idea. These two women had at least two things in common, so I asked Alma to come and meet my friend Dolores, which she did. She didn’t even ask why!

It was the sweetest get together. These two elders have each meant so much to me, as friends and as teachers. Alma is also my relative now, by the sweet virtue of my daughter and her grandson falling in love. Alma was the presiding elder at the first women’s sweats I ever attended. We have known each other for many years. Alma offers her wisdom and knowledge, her love for her native Cree language and the teaching embedded in it to many people of all ages and all nations. Alma’s voice soothes and gentles  me.  My friend Dolores epitomizes hospitality, the generous heart. I can talk to her about almost anything. Her hospitality comes as naturally as breath. She is a listener. I always leave her home feeling nurtured and treasured, not to mention well-fed. To sit in Dolores’s welcoming home, enjoying cookies and tea while these two wonderful women got to know each other was more dear than I can say.

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Dolores, Alma, Sue with Cherie Westmoreland photo in the background

Dolores gave Alma homemade socks. We shared stories. We took a selfie! Alma carefully carried away her painting wrapped in the garbage bag Dolores had given her. The gratitude and warmth I felt for these moments and the gifts of these two women in my life expanded into the next day, and the next, and today as well.

This post is dedicated to my own mum, Alice Sylvia Frith Bland, who died 20 years ago on Hallowe’en. I feel her presence and love often. I am grateful to all the mother figures who have blessed my life, and who continue to bless it. Thank you. Hiy Hiy.

Guest Blog: Art in the City

by Lanelle Muirhead and Dominique Baggett

Su’p, I am Lanelle (left) and I and  want to tell you about Art in the City. This day was so much fun (laughing ha! ha!) and I hope that you have as much as me while reading it. (Fun, that is!)

Hello, I am Dominique (right) and this is our post about Art in The City, a day we spent with Sue, Rebekah, Ruth and Brenda way back in July. It was Rebekah’s  birthday!!!!

Brenda, Rebekah, Ashlie, Ruth (peace sign), us (Sue took this picture)

Brenda, Rebekah, Ashlie, Ruth (peace sign), us (Sue took this picture)

 

picking out our sketchbooks at Regina Public Library

picking out our sketchbooks at  Regina Public Library

We started at the doctor’s office which was not really a part of Art in the City and was really boring.

Things got better!! We went to the library and borrowed  our very own sketchbooks which we borrowed for a year (you can see them in the picture at the top.) We never want to return them.

 

Riding fake trikes outside the library

Riding fake trikes outside the library

We saw art everywhere - even on the rug at the library!

We saw art everywhere – even on the rug at the library!

 

 

Artist: Dominique

Artist: Dominique

 

 

 

We sketched in the park with our new sketchbooks.

 

Lanelle:

“Sue would not tell us where we going next. It was a surprise. But we accidentaly guessed it! I was telling a story about a henna tattoo place and then Sue said, “Was that a guess or were you just telling Dominique a story?” We were confused….Suddenly Dominique said, “Are we going to somewhere they do henna tattoos?” Sue said, “Nooooo, but you are so close.” We thought and thought and we guessed and we guessed and finally we guessed we were going to meet a tattoo artist. We were right! Sue told us we were going to meet Ashlie of Tattoo Nebula! We were so excited!!

This is Ashley, owner of Tattoo Nebula

Here is the real Ashlie, owner of Tattoo Nebula. Look how purple her walls are.

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Ashlie sharing her sacred geometry designs(Photo Courtesy of B. MacLauchlan)

Artist: Lanelle

Here is the real Ashlie!   Artist: Lanelle

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Ashlie’s hands. Her tattoos come from sacred geometry in nature, like on the book cover

 

Tattoo Nebula was deep purple inside and very magical and we learned all about tattoos. Ashlie loves mandalas. She gave us all temporary tattoos. Rebekah chose first because she was the birthday girl.

Rebekah's tattoo

Rebekah’s tattoo (Photo courtesy of B. MacLauchlan)

Lanellle on the left, Dominque on the right

Look at our tattoos! Lanellle on the left, Dominque on the right( Photo courtesy of B. MacLauchlan)

Artist: Dominique

Artist: Dominique

Artist: Lanelle

Artist: Lanelle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Photo courtesy B. MacLauchlan

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Photo courtesy B. MacLauchlan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then we went to have a picnic with the cows at the Mackenzie Art Gallery.

Picnic, Joe Fafard cows

Picnic, Joe Fafard cows… (Photo courtesy of B. MacLauchlan)

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Riding cows (Photo Courtesy of B. MacLauchlan)

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Picnic (Photo Courtesy of B. MacLauchlan)

We saw art everywhere - even in the fossils on the Tyndall stone at the art gallery

We saw art everywhere – even in the fossils on the Tyndall stone at the art gallery (Photo Courtesy of B. MacLauchlan)

meeting the statues in the lobby of the MacKenzie Art Gallery

meeting the statues in the lobby of the MacKenzie Art Gallery…where is the statue?(Photo courtesy of B. MacLauchlan)

Dominique telling us about her statue Henry

Dominique telling us about her statue Henry (Photo courtesy of B. MacLauchlan)

Lanelle and her statue Susan

Lanelle and her statue Susan (Photo courtesy of B. MacLauchlan)

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Rebekah and Ruth (Photo Courtesy of B. MacLauchlan)

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We are doing a great job imitating this statue!

At Rebekah's house, time for a rest!

At Rebekah’s house, time for a rest!

Us two snuggled under a quilt

Us two snuggled under a quilt

We saw art everywhere - a purple kitchen floor at Rebekah's

We saw art everywhere – a purple kitchen floor at Rebekah’s

Once we were done napping, we just had to have a snack. What better place than the Mercury? There were even nebulas in the art at the Mercury!

Milkshakes at the Mercury. Dominique: I was mad at Lanelle because she dipped her fries in the milkshake. Yuck!

Milkshakes at the Mercury, plus drawing in our sketchbooks. Dominique: I was mad at Lanelle because she dipped her fries in the milkshake. Yuck! (Photo courtesy of B. Maclauchlan)

 

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How could a day of art make us so hungry?

After the Mercury, we went in search of art in the alleys and on garage doors.

In the Cathedral area

In the Cathedral area. (Photo courtesy of B. MacLauchlan)

 

Pretending to be in fear of the dragon

Pretending to be in fear of the dragon (Photo courtesy of B. MacLauchlan)

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We had so much fun!

What we learned is that you can find art everywhere!

Thanks for reading our post!!

Thanks for reading our post!!

how to behave in an art gallery

Note from Poached Egg Woman: Lanelle and Dominique’s next blog will be  about how to behave in an art gallery ha ha

 

 

How Creating Art Benefits Children

 

 We focus when creating art.

Creating art is relaxing. I often notice a kind of “let down”, a “settling in” to the art activity when children and youth come to my studio (or elsewhere) to create art. Most children find it easy to really focus on what they are doing and while they are creating art, they are not thinking about other things. They may be excited about what they are creating but they are excited in a grounded and calm way. Creating art can very meditative. Studies have shown that when tested after creating art, people’s cortisol levels went down significantly, irregardless of their skill level or prior experience. This was most true with younger participants in the study. Cortisone is the “stress hormone” and increased levels of stress interfere with learning, memory, and general health as well depression and mental health.

We can draw what we see in our everyday world.

We can draw what we see in our everyday world.

Creating art helps you look at the world in new and different ways. We have fixed ideas about art. We often think we need to paint something particular like a beautiful scene or a still life. Everything around us can be the subject of our art practice; sketching common items like salt and pepper shakers, your shoes or your pet can teach us a great deal and provide inspiration for more artistic pursuits.

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Creating art helps us express ourselves. There are many things all of us would love to express but have no words for- joy, sadness, delight, confusion, peace, anger. Like music and dance, art is a wonderful way to express some of these emotions. People often feel “lighter” after working on a piece of art. Art is a fantastic way to express yourself without having to talk.

What colour do I choose?

What colour do I choose?

Creating art helps us learn to make choices and problem solve. Every step involves making a decision: what color to use, how to make a line, what size to make something. With every choice the object becomes more and more their own.

Having fun with imagination!

Having fun with imagination!

Creating art stimulates the imagination. It is such a great thing to have an active imagination. For one thing, you will never get bored. The ability to imagine other ways of being helps to create empathy in children. Imagination is thought to be “exercise for our brain” and benefits both the memory and the intellect. Through art, children create something that, until that point, was only imagined. Creating art is a terrific outlet for an active imagination.

What mistake?

What mistake?

Creating art lets us respond to our mistakes in a positive way. Some of my own favourite pieces have come about because I made what first seemed to be a huge mistake. I had to be resourceful and figure out a way for the piece to work. Responding in this way to art can help up use our mistakes positively  and solve  problems in life as well.

 

image-37Creating art brings together the generations. As a parent, I remember dropping my kids off for their activities. I loved swimming lessons or going to the library or hiking because we could do these things as a family. Creating art is something all generations can enjoy doing together.

 

Proud!

Proud!

 

Creating art offers satisfaction and a way to make where we live more beautiful. Children feel satisfied and proud when they have finished a piece. They can put it their room, give it as a gift, put on the fridge or even better, frame it and hang it in a place of pride in their home or school.

 

20160712_132534Creating art is pure fun! Creating art has a wonderful element of play, so that even when we seem to just be “fooling around” or doodling, we are learning new skills and expanding the possibilities in our life.

Hiking the Chilkoot Trail (46 photos)

I love the quote below. There are so many possible approaches to sharing our experiences on the Chilkoot Trail. I will keep this post simple – the quote below and some photos with captions.

“The Chilkoot Trail is a teacher. The long days of a Northern summer obscure the passage of time, while the thick rain forest, sinuous windings and steep descents and climbs of the trail make a mockery of any measured distance. Hikers can begin on a warm summer day in the Alaska rain forest and end up on the summit ploughing through thigh deep snow with icy sleet blowing in their faces. From there they walk through spring near Deep Lake and back to summer at Bennett. Time becomes distance. Distance becomes seasons. In June and July, there is no night at all. This delightful absence of regular order encourages the exploration of new ways of experiencing the world around us. The Chilkoot is a meeting place. For thousands of years, the trail joined coastal and interior people in trade, marriage and travel.”

From “Importance of the Site”, Chilkoot Trail National Historic Site of Canada Management Plan, page 3, date unknown (but after 2005), Parks Canada.

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At the Trailhead, near Dyea, Alaska. Happy and excited that we can start as the National Park Service nearly closed the trail due to flooding  and high waters of the Taiya River the previous day.

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Lots of mud, lots of up and down on our first hiking day

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High spirits, high waters… this suspension bridge seems to bounce when you walk on it!

You can see how high the Taiya River is here. While it made things wet we never had to wade in water any deeper than our ankle. The previous day, hikers had been up their knees and even thighs.

You can see how high the Taiya River is here. While it made things wet we never had to wade in water any deeper than our ankle. The previous day, hikers had been up their knees and even thighs.

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such beautiful roots at our first stop

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"The land is the best medicine." Breathing in the earthy smell of moss.

“The land is the best medicine.” Breathing in the earthy smell of moss.

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The beautiful moss

Up and down.

Up and down.

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My aching feet! Yes! Stopping to take boots off!

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A mud bath rinsed in glacial waters helps!

There were platforms for tents (thank heavens) and the sleeping area were kept away from the eating area due to the possible presence of grizzly and black bears. We saw neither.

There were platforms for tents (thank heavens) and the sleeping area were kept away from the eating area due to the possible presence of grizzly and black bears. We saw neither.

Finding my way across a stream. there streams and small waterfalls everywhere.

Finding my way across a stream. There  are  glacial streams and small waterfalls everywhere.

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The warden’s very scary talk the night before climbing the summit at Sheep Camp. Attending the talk is mandatory.

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The previous night’s talk scared me so much we were up at 4 a.m. and on the trail at 6 a.m. Honestly, I hardly slept.

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I found the terrain the most challenging part of the hike. This smooth bit of trail was rare. Usually we were picking our careful way over and around roots and rocks or loose rocks.

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Getting closer to the summit

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Shane liked to remind me how waterfalls give off positive ions, so we would try to soak this up! Waterfalls in abundance on this trail.

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The “Golden Stairs” are notorious – basically large boulders that you climb up just before the summit. Lots of fog as you can see. I had been dreading this the night before and surprised myself by loving it.

Another view of the Golden Stairs - you have to look closely to see all the people

Another view of the Golden Stairs – you have to look closely to see all the people

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We are so happy to have made the summit.! Sudden temperature change, but my partner stayed in his sorts for the whole hike!

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Sky is clearing!!

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After the summit, the sky did clear. Those who climbed the summit the next day enjoyed a rare clear view.

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I was so grateful for our walking poles.

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The summit is hidden in the mist behind us.

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This sub alpine part of the hike was my favourite. The wildflowers were breathtaking.

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You can see the roof of the cook shack at Happy Camp on the right below the hill. We were indeed happy to have arrived.

At Happy Camp with our buddy Noami ,age 9 (the youngest hiker we met)

At Happy Camp with our buddy Noami ,age 9 (the youngest hiker we met)

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Sometimes Shane and I hiked alone. At other times we spent a few hours with a group. We were happy to hike twice with Steph and her 9 year old daughter Noami.

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My heart burst, again and again, at such beauty!!

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Shane’s pack weighed over 40 pounds. Mine was about 35 pounds at the beginning. Our packs got lighter each day as we ate our food supply up!

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The camp kitchen at deep lake. Bear proof food lockers are around the corner.

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To me it looks like Shane is going to topple into the rushing river below. I am thankful that he did not.

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At Lindemann City ( a tent city at the height of the Gold Rush), there is a great interpretation centre inside this tent.

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This catches the beautiful aqua water of the lakes and streams.

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I like this photo because you can see the trail wind its way along.

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This is us starting out on our last day. We were lucky – this was the only day that it rained.

The rain made the rocks on the trail very slippery at times.

The rain made the rocks on the trail very slippery at times.

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A trapper’s cabin

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with a note

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Just before the end, there is a desert. Sand proved more difficult to walk on than the snow of the glaciers.

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Yaaaay! We made it!!!

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Andrea Nelson, one of 3 artists-in-residence on the Chilkoot Trail the summer of 2016. We had a good visit and were lucky enough to attend her artist talk in Whitehorse a few days later.

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From Lake Bennet t o Whitehorse by float plane.

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The view from the float plane, reminding me of the Qu’Appelle River’s meandering ways

 

Resilient Fireweed

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Fran Morberg-Green is a First Nations heritage interpreter at Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre in Dawson City. I read these words as I learned more about the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in’s long history in what we now call Dawson. Fran’s words resonated with me. Fireweed establishes itself in “disturbed” areas. Think of it’s common name: fire weed, the plant that establishes itself after a fire, the plant that is everywhere. Fireweed is nothing if not resilient.

Near Dawson City, the scorching effects of colonialization which began with the Gold Rush included deforestation of the land, rearrangement of the land (when you drive into Dawson huge piles of rocks and tailing ponds greet you), removal of traditional fishing camps, disease, fishing and hunting detrimentally affected, repeated resettlement, broken trading routes and relationships, the introduction of alcohol, loss of language and culture to name just a few. Despite all this, the people of Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in are still there and the Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre is just one sign of their flourishing.

When we first arrived, the fireweed was in full bloom – swaths of pink, magenta, violet along road sides, in the crevices of steep cliffs, along the banks of the Yukon River. Sometimes, because they are so plentiful, you stop seeing them – I mean really seeing them, in the way we become blind to the blazing yellow of a patch of dandelions during a Saskatchewan spring. Through August, the blossoms fall, revealing spiky long red capsules which contain silken seeds. The capsules open and curl, releasing the seeds. Slowly, the capsules fall off. The leaves and stem change colour – I have seen every colour from red to scarlet to salmon to  burgundy to purple/purple to orange to rust to yellow. All of this in a background of green, green, green. There are not enough descriptors  in the English language  to cover the range of shades and hues of the fireweed plant in late August. From a distance, communities of fireweed can seem to be a dusty pink, a blood red or a vermillion. I am wooed by the colours but also by the fascinating variety of postures this plant seems to take. Sometimes tall, upright and elegant, occasionally droopy and dejected, many times looking as if caught in the middle of a beautiful dance.

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Source:http://cesdreed.blogspot.ca/2015/02/martha-black-her-story-from-dawson-gold.html

Martha Louise Black (left), a champion of the Yukon, a politician and an amateur botanist urged the territory to choose the Prairie Crocus as its official flower in 1954.  She felt that fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium) was too “common” to merit special status as the territorial flower.  The prairie crocus embodied the spirit of Yukoners, springing to life even with snow on the ground after the harshest of winters. For most Yukoner’s, however, the resilient fireweed was the plant best suited to represent the Yukon. They politely waited until Martha Black died in 1957 and named fireweed as the territorial flower.

Although fireweed grows elsewhere in Canada, it is here in Yukon that it has wound its way into my heart.

Fireweed has been used for centuries for medicinal purposes; early shoots can be steamed as a vegetable, young leaves added to salad, and pharmaceutical companies use fireweed in some skin care products. Here in  Yukon, there is fireweed honey, firewood beer and fireweed tea! We bought books at Mac’s Fireweed Books, visited the Fireweed Community Market, both in Whitehorse, and enjoyed a fantastic musical duo called Fireweed and Flannel in Kluane.

I couldn’t resist including this sweet paragraph about fireweed:

 “Fireweed’s tiny seeds ride the wind like parachutes and begin new life where fate carries them.  Even in clear-cuts, roadsides and burns, fireweed plants itself and rises up – stately, steadfast and strong.  It rarely stands solo.  Fireweed builds a thriving plant community through spreading seeds and lateral root networks.  In summer, rose to violet-colored flowers bring immeasurable beauty to stark landscapes.  They are so papery thin that they appear luminescent.  I blush sometimes when I take a close look.  They remind me of the tender blaze of love, or a sweet encounter that leaves me breathless and awed.” – Elise Krohn,  http://wildfoodsandmedicines.com/fireweed/

I might not have noticed the fireweed if not for Fran Morberg-Green’s words. I might have just seen a colourful “weed”. I might have seen it, but not really seen it. Something like the resilience and resurgence of Indigenous people and communities here in Yukon (and elsewhere in Canada) – if we take the time to really look, so much is happening. I see Indigenous people rising up everywhere I look – here in Yukon in the thriving cultural centres (like Dänojà Zho) that are a vital part of each community we have visited, and are doing much to shift the dominant narrative of the gold rush. In the resurgence of carving and other art forms among young people. In the art and activism of Christi Belcourt. In grassroots movements like Idle No More. In those defending the land, at Grassy Narrows, in Northern Saskatchewan, on the BC Coast… all across this land. In the persistence and sheer integrity of Cindy Blackstock. In people learning the language of their ancestors. In ceremony. In the quiet actions of many of my friends who have broken the cycle and who are working day by day for good in their communities and in their families. In those who have the courage to speak out against injustice, again and again and again.  The list could go on and on. There is much richness and wisdom and colour and variety, so many ways for we settlers to learn. As David Suzuki recently said, “We in the dominant society need First Nationswe need something they have held onto despite everything we have done to them and that is the sense of connection to the land”, the earth as our mother, the animals and plannts and rocks as our relatives.* I echo those thoughts of Dr. Suzuki and offer  these  photos of our amazing relative, fireweed, … my own prayer for resilience and resurgence. Rise up!

*David Suzuki being interviewed by Rosanna Deerchild on CBC Radio’s Unreserved, August 28, 2016

 

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Fireweed on the Chilkoot Trail

Fireweed along the Chilkoot Trail

Fireweed along the Chilkoot Trail

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Inside these long spikes are silken seeds… horsetail in behind (a childhood favourite)

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the seeds letting loose – this is the “messy” stage

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I wish this image was in better focus but I love that it is blossoming at the same time as the leaves are turning colour… red and magenta – what could be more beautiful? Especially when surrounded by green.

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fireweed along the side of the road, Kluane National Park.

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Fireweed and yarrow, Kluane National park

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I love this dusty pink, the seeds (smoke can be seen on the bottom left)

on the St. Elias hike, Kluane national Park

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The yellow leaves are dwarf birch, trembling aspen trunks with splashes of red fireweed

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“Roots and Wings” Video (Sue Bland Art Show 2016)

This video was put together by my neighbour and friend, Ian Stephens. We had a lot of fun searching for places to display art at the farm one beautiful June evening. When shooting the “art show” parts of the video, we had not anticipated noisy preparations for the July 1 parade just outside our door. That added to the fun. I am grateful to Ian for taking the time and using his considerable gifts to help me share my art in this way.

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"exploring the Four Directions", watercolour, 20" x 20"

“exploring the Four Directions”, watercolour, 20″ x 20″

Left to right: Birds on Fire, Sampler Dragon, Rain Dancer, Peaks

Left to right: Birds on Fire, Sampler Dragon, Rain Dancer, Peaks

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