Monday, April 30, 2018

Mr. Shwarma

I left the hotel to find something to eat and along the way there was a food truck called Mr. Shwarma. The wrap was so delicious on Friday that I was drawn back there the next day to try the lunch box.  If once is good, twice must be better.

I ate outside of the subway station, sitting on an iron bench and watching a small green commons, idling noticing the different kind of pigeons that were poking in the grass.

A man came along with a cart into which one might normally put their groceries if they were carrying them home.  But he brought out bags of bread crumbs and spread them out for the birds.  And now I could see the real pecking order of the gulls, for suddenly the big white ones flew in and the others hopped aside to let them finish before they proceeded to get their fill.

I watched a yellow tug in the harbour.

 I didn't ever see the load it was pulling.

I watched the rope snap forward and back.

The tug didn't seem to be making any progress.  I began to wonder what size of load it was carrying.

But when in Vancouver, it is not a good idea to stand and watch too long, for there is too much to see.

Still I had to take a picture to prove to myself that there was a little yellow tug and that it didn't seem to get too far.


On Missing the Ferry

We were 7th in line from getting on the ferry.

That is not bad.

Rebecca says that once her family was the first in line: the car that was not let on the ferry.

So she and I sat for 2 hours in the ferry terminal waiting for the next boat.  We saw a wonderful sunset and each had a bowl of  hot Thai or chicken soup.

Not a bad ending to what had been a perfect day.

I sat in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery, waiting for Rebecca's conference to end so that we could finish our trip to Victoria.

I saw a busker preparing his act, trying to draw in a crowd.  The steps to the main door of the gallery are no longer used.  Instead people use what is probably a flight and a half to lay in the sun or to sit and wait for their loved ones who are shopping.  The people on those steps were his target audience.  Shoppers streamed up and down the walking plaza and the busker tried to get the less hurried ones to stop.  He was so funny that already I was laughing and his performance had not started.  Of maybe his performance had begun.  He laid down on the sidewalk in front of a young mother who was pushing a stroller, not letting her get by.

He called out to an old man, "Father, Dad, stop, I haven't seen you since you went to jail."  The old man had no idea that he was calling to him.

The busker threw off his white tae-kwon do jacket as though he was doing a strip tease and it fell behind him, right on the head of a man walking by.

I had already forgotten about all of this, until I was trying to remember what it was that had happened before that lovely sunset.


Stir Fry

... an old family recipe ... almost heritage ...
This is the best stir fry I have ever done. At least according to Alex the minute it came off of the stove top.  Rebecca does have a lovely gas stove, and a ring, a wok, a lid, and just enough food to create the stir-fry.  

This was the last of anything that was in the fridge:  a bag of mushrooms, some carrots, an onion, some frozen chicken breasts, and a piece or two of broccoli from frozen food.

I can't imagine what it would have tasted like if I had remembered to add the garlic as I was cooking it.  He would probably have swooned at that.


Vancouver at the Sutton

We used goggle to help us find the hotel in Vancouver.

Sutton Place.

Suddenly we were upon it and drove around the crescent that was at its entrance – filled with taxis and other vehicles from which people were disembarking.

Rebecca asked an attendant, “Where is the parking lot?” He answered, “To the left … if you want to park your own van.” I should have written, he answered with attitude. As we drove down the ramp we both burst out laughing and mocking him. “If you want to park your own van.” That is what we do every time we drive somewhere – park our own cars. No used giving us attitude over that.

This was not a foretelling of what was to come. The rest of the stay was absolutely pleasant: the check-in, the ride up the elevator, the walk to the end of the hall, the far end. The one thing about having an end room is that there is a view both to the south and the east in our experience.

I follow the Wyona Bates protocol on entering a hotel room. Just get that snack tray off of the counter and into a bottom shelf where the bartender can count it along with the alcohol and where it doesn’t use up valuable counter space.

Then I turned a chair around and gazed out the window as the sun was beginning to set.

Rebecca showed me that we could see all of the way down to the harbour, see the water, see the mountains, and enjoy the images of other buildings in the wonderful glass facia that surrounded us.

Some of the buses still run on trolley wires, so I would watch the careful right hand turns that they would make on streets.

And I was reminded of the street cars of my youth.

... straight down the street to the harbour ...
The bus shelter had a glass top, so I could see the people as they would line up for public transit. I was reminded of how really polite Canadians are, queing up so that they all know their place in the line up of patrons waiting to get on the bus.

Later as I walked by them, I noticed that they are orderly, getting on the buses as though they have numbered tickets, only a few being able to squeeze on at a time for the buses are already full by the time they get to that stop during the Friday evening rush of people hoping to get back home from work as quickly as possible.

It wasn’t until the last day that I saw a beggar on the street holding a paper cup and jangling it through the day. He began his shift before 8 am and was still there at 5:30 pm. “Homeless and 60+”, read the cardboard sign. He sat cross-legged on the sidewalk, rocking back and forth, sometimes smoking a roll-your own cigarette, maybe from butts he had found on the street.

For most of the day his shirt was off, aging wrinkled skin on a skeleton of bones.

His body was a sharp contrast to the images in the window across the street, the supple female skin of the young models in the Victoria’s Secret window.  In the evening the pink of the windows on that large shop blaze out on the darkness.

I have never been in a Victoria's Secret store that large. 

I saw another old man in there.  He was slouched in a large comfy arm chair and ahead of him was a magnificent stair case leading to the basement of the store.  I wondered if his wife was shopping.  On the wall as you walked down the stairs and also at least one storey above were pictures of the lingerie being flashed on the screen.  Many pics, in random order.  Gorgeous colours.  Of course the lingerie products were on the exquisite bodies of beautiful models.  The models were wearing glitter, feathers, costume jewelry, beautiful shoes, flowing sheer gowns -- anything to make the lingerie seem like a must-have product.  He didn't look as though he was enjoying the show as much as I was.  He only felt lethargy, it seemed, slouched there, bored.

 I also walked to the Harbour, along the breezeway, through the cruise liner facilities, down to Chinatown, through Granville Island.

My first trip back to Vancouver after about 35 years, and that trip is one to a trip even 35 years before that.

Time marches on as did I.


Cedar necklaces

Rebecca adds the component of producing a necklace to accompnay the artwork done by her colleague in their joint "I Testify" project.

She had given away everything she had produced and so part of her journey back to the Shuswap this April was to make more necklaces of pottery.

She finished the task by making series of necklaces.  I like the look of these, just coming out of the kiln, what she calls the cedar series.    She has take pieces of a cedar branch, pushed it into the clay, fired the clay and only the ash is left. 

Two more glazes have to be done.  But Ilike the look of these -- the ash still present.

Plus, this is my favourite of all of the necklaces.  I picked out 5 I wanted.

Unfortunately I am only allowed to take one.


Coquihalla from east to west

 ... one last good-bye from the view where the kiln is located ...
We had to get to Vancouver by evening.

And we couldn't leave until the kiln had been cracked at the Shuswap.

And then another wait until everything in it was cool enough to come out of the kiln and into packaging to get it back to Victoria.

Rebecca wanted to leave at noon, but no later than 2 pm.

And it was 2 pm that saw us rolling out of Salmon Arm and on our way to another of Canada's wonderful highways.

I was ooh-ing and ahh-ing over its beauty and Rebecca said, "It is no wonder people save up a lifetime so that they can drive along this stretch of highway."

That put the drive in perspective to me.

She kept telling me to take out my camera and shoot some pictures.

I was content to just let the miles roll by and enjoy the vista around every new curve.

The next thing I knew the sound in her voice was more like an order.

"Take out your camera. Be more like Bonnie.  Take pictures.  I can't see it.  I have to keep my eyes on the road and I want to see what is happening on both sides of us when we finally get there."

Cameras, now-a-days, don't need much help.

And that is doubley true when the camera is on a phone and there is not much more to do than point and click.

I don't think the pictures ever capture it all, for part of the joy is the 180 degrees in front of me, which can't be picked up by one of these images.

Still, a joy again to ride the Coquihalla.


Cendrillon attendance

Image from New  York Classical Review
From Mary:

We went to see the Met’s production of Cinderalla on Satruday in the theatre.

Some fantastic costumes.

Absolutely fantastic.

 But I have to say, the French style of opera is not my favourite.

I’ll take Puccini any day.


From Arta:

I went to the opera as well.  Here is what Broadway World has to say about it.  I try to read the reviews before I get there, but in this instance, I was just lucky to get on the bus and go to the Cinemas at Tillicum Plaza.

The half time interviews really work for me.  I didn't know one note in the opera.  In fact, I thought I was going to the other Cinderella.  I also want to read Operavore and I am sure I will get to it.  Just not today.

Here is the trouble I have at the opera.  If I don't go with some hard candies to suck on, or a can of Coke to keep me away, I sometimes drift in and out of sleep.  When I see the pictures on the reviews I think, hey, I didn't see that part.

Oh well.  Half an opera is still a plus for me.  Not the deep soulful music of Manon.  But I liked hearing that the conductor thinks it has all of the craft of the earlier Manon and even more, since it was written at a later date.  I will probably go back to the repeat and take my Coke and candy.  In the case of opera, the treats are medicinal -- stay awake meds.


Caravaggio – The Soul and the Blood

I am  trying to keep up with the shows that come to theatres about the lives of great artists.

I noticed that this one is coming May 2nd, at least here in Victoria, B.C.

I lifted the following from the Cineplex cite that tells what is going on in its Gallery Series:
Caravaggio -- The Soul and the Blood is a moving journey through the life, works and tormented existence of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, one of the most controversial and mysterious figures in the history of art.
It is one of the first Italian films to be shot in 8k. Caravaggio was a revolutionary artist and, as a result, often little loved by his contemporaries. He travelled all over Italy in search of fortune or perhaps in search of himself, escaping from the enemies he invariably made along the way. Milan, Florence, Rome, Naples, Malta: 5 cities, 15 museums and 40 of the most famous artworks in the artist’s typical style, filmed in the places they were specifically created for, or in major museums in Italy and the rest of the world where they can be found today. This Art Film tells the story of Caravaggio’s artworks through in-depth research into documented evidence, placing a particular focus on his life, a life of light and shade, contrast and contradictions, of being a genius and living on the wild side, finding echoes of his personal experiences in his masterpieces."

Costco, Hawaii Style

Just taking a few minutes to write about what is happening here. We caught our WestJet planes as planned.While we were at the gate we repacked one carry on so we could check it under the plane. We arrived at the hotel a couple of hours earlier than check in but they let us into our room and we unpacked while the lady was cleaning our room, washing and changing the sheets. We left and did a walk around Waikiki, went to a market, happened to go by 'Cheesecake Factory' which called our name so we ate there.

When checking what I had unpacked I could not find my pills. Making a long story short, somewhere in transit including my bedroom, my pills did not arrive. Thought I might get away with over the counter stuff but last night was feeling not so good so today I went to the walking clinic and got four prescriptions for medication so I don't hurt and so my heart keeps beating.

The day after we arrived we had to be out of our 12th floor room by 8:15 a.m. because the generator was being changed; minimum 6 hour job. So we left we my walker, took the city bus to Aloha Stadium where there is a huge outdoor market. I used the walker to walk and then when I stopped to shop, Greg found a shady place, sat in the walker and waited for me.

He likes the walker for sitting.
... food court in Hawaii ...

We never returned home until 8 p.m. because the bus happened to go by Costco so we got off and had supper at Costco.

Costco has so many kinds of Macadamia nuts but we could only buy what we could carry.

Today we took long ride up the coast, 2 hours, but never saw the coast, but did see Hawaii.

What is surprising all the time is I am expecting to see a Foreign Country and I see Walmart, Home Depot, Costco, Walgreens, CVS...all the stuff we see in Texas or at home.

What happened to the Foreign Part?

Tomorrow we are taking a two hour bus ride to the North Shore.

This time we go through the mountains. I can see why people get Hawaii fever and keep coming back. There is no culture shock to be had, maybe American Shock but it is quite like home but you have to fly over the ocean to get here. Hawaii did not become a State until 1959.

Just one more Macadamia Nut Shortbread cookie before I go to bed.



Sunday, April 29, 2018

Nathaniel Bates Arrives Home from Japan

"Welcome Home!"
From Marcia Bates:

Nathan’s plane came in 40 min early, so the only person there to greet him was me.

I am the lucky one!

But I had a sign!

Art and Zack and Audra arrived 5 minutes later, and came to the pick up area since we were ready to go.

Iconic Peters!  We have all had burgers there.
I wanted to take him for burgers and shakes, so what better place then Peters Drive In.

We were there for 90 minutes, enjoying the heat and fun conversation.

Lurene and her 2 girls joined us, and Charise came a little while later.

The girls sure enjoyed their gifts, actually we all enjoyed our gifts.

It was great to have a couple of hours with Nathan, and we know he was so tired and might not remember it all.

But we sure do!


Friday, April 27, 2018

Spot the Johnson

Mary sends three pictures of Rhiannon

I was invited to see Rhiannon receive an award today.

The perfect award for her.
Spot the Johnson

Before and After

Mary writes text that says she gets her hair cut every three or four years.
Before ...

and after ....

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Trip to Hawaii

Hi all from Wyona

We made it to Hawaii.

We have to be out of our room in 10 minutes.

We are on floor 12 and all electricity is off for the day, no elevators and no one can use the stairs.

Work is being done.

So we are off.

Greg and I both had aisle seats on the way over so we were happy.

I am taking my walker so I can sit while Greg shops.

We went to Cheesecake Factory last night. My favourite salad is back and the big burrito.

We are off right now to the outside flea market.



Photo: Bonnie Johnson on Highay 95 in BC

The photo only shows the animals on one side of the highway,
not on the side of the highway where they were stopping us.

Yes to tourism in Canada!
I am caught in the crunch between having a full live and trying to carve out just one more hour to write about it.

That said, the ride back from Invermere, BC was everything a tourist in Canada could wish.

Mountain goats on the roads (who weren't moving over and thus we had time for pics), mule tailed deer in the fields, beautiful valleys, surrounded by the Kootenay Mountains, and a car full of gas ($1.50 a litre for those who are watching summer prices), and time to talk about being at the Secwepemc Spring Gathering.

We finally have delivered Bonnie back to her home in Salmon Arm.

We have been at my house for two days and she has dropped in both days.  It has hard for the three of us to cut the ties that bind.

Last night Moiya invited us to dinner.  She said we could be "company".  Growing up, our neighbours always had company and she had to go home when they came.  Moiya asked our parents why they never had company.  All we had was non-stop people coming for suppers.  Thus we went to her house as company.  Now I know company means Christmas dinner.  Sirloin steak was what she said she was having.  She didn't tell us about the butter-fried mushrooms, the dilled carrots, the cheese-sauced cauliflower, the baked potatoes with every topping in the world, and the pull apart cheese bread.  Nor about 3 kinds of ice cream for dessert -- the best we have ever tasted.  Now that is company.

Today Rebecca and I are going to Vancouver.  Rebecca and I are splitting up.  She is going to a conference and I am going to the Museum of Anthropology on the UBC Campus.

Again ... trying to choose between having a life and writing about one.  Some will argue that they are not mutually incompatible, so what am I doing wrong?


Saturday, April 21, 2018

Water Gathering

Sign on grey van in background:
Give in to sin!
The phrase “the best day ever” might come to be replaced by “another spectacular day for me”.

Rebecca made breakfast.

We have not drawn straws as to whom should do that.

Indeed, there has been no dividing up of the jobs to be done among us.

panorama view along Invermere Highway
We knew we had to be in charge of our own breakfast this morning which lead us to a Save-On Foods last night and a charming half hour looking at wonderful produce to put into an empty fridge.

Bonnie had blackberries and strawberries in her hands before we had even grabbed a grocery chart.

Rebecca had an idea to buy cremoni mushrooms to be fried up into an harvarti cheese omelette in the morning.

That required a bit of butter and then some garlic aioli to spread on a loaf of whole wheat bread which we had brought along to cut costs.
... rock protrusion in hill on highway ...
All we could think of that we hadn’t purchased was salt and pepper but one never finds that out until trhing to make a late night toasted tomato sandwich. Most of the time we spend laughing, or looking at the spectacular views of glaciated mountains, both to the east and the west of us. I guess that is why they call this the Columbia River Valley for there are snow capped mountains in every direct.

The Secwepemc Nation is represented by 17 tribes and has a membership of 10,000 people.

I am trying to look for a metaphor that will quickly encapsulate what I have learned today.

We are gathered to talk about water.

The presentations have been about water today, mostly focusing on the Columbia River Treaty which is a transnational water treaty (1964), originating because Americans had built on a flood plane in Portland, Oregon and needed to control how the water from Canada arrived there. In return Canada is paid for some of the hydro that is generated by dams owned by Americans.

Kicking Horse River in Golden
The hurtful part to the treaty is that the Americans asked if there would be an impact to the Hoover Dam when it was built, for the salmon would no longer be able to access the waters of the Columbia. The Canadians said no problem to that. When it was discovered that the salmon could no longer get back to Canadian waters on their return home, and that the indigenous people would no longer be able to fish as they have done for 10,000 years, our government solved the problem by sending the indigenous people canned Spam. And here is the metaphor for the day. Is there a way to unwind the gifting of Spam since fishing for an abundance of salmon is no longer possible? Maybe that is not a metaphor.

I didn’t get in my 10,000 steps today. Instead I listened intently to speakers, wrote notes as I listened, and was attentive to the questions and answers at the Speakers Forum. I was weary and Rebecca told me to go up to the hotel room to have a nap. But how could I do that when the next speaker seemed to invite even more of my attention that the ones before them had. There was a break-out room for Elders, where they could have massages, drink hot herbal teas (I tried one made out of horsetails), rest on couches and refresh themselves for more lectures. I prefer to doze in and out, sitting on the same chair, surrounded by my notebook and coloured pencils, none of which I have the time to use. “Must not miss one word.” That is my motto.

The programme said that the salmon feast would begin at 6 pm.

However rain flooded out the gathering tent this morning, so the feast was broken into 2 separate venues, much to the chagrin of the organizers who like to have people meet together.

walkway along Kicking Horse River in Golden
I came back to take my nap for the hour before the feast. When Bonnie and I arrived at the appointed time it was over.

“Didn’t you hear that the time was also changed, up to 5 pm to 6 pm?”

No, I didn’t hear that and when I arrived at 6:15 pm the feast was so finished that the caterers had cleared away all of the dishes and were getting reading for the next event in that space.

Must have been some feast!


The Shuswap Tribal Nation Summer Gathering at Invermere

Revy Motel sign says
"Your mother called and said
to stay with us."
Bonnie and Rebecca attended the Winter Gathering of the Shuswap Tribal Nation in 2017. 

Now another gathering is happening and both of the women have been invited. Rebecca asked if I could come along,

 And that is how the road trip started, a four day conference in Invermere.


Or maybe not.

The three of us driving down the highway, one with a latte, one with a green tea and me, so happy to be going to Invermere, a place I never thought I would see.

... selfie in front of Salmon Arm Art Gallery ....
... the beginning of our trip ...
Rebecca doesn’t drive the highway going East from Salmon Arm very much so we kept hearing her gasp about the beautiful views.

I think she has been on the west coast so long that she has forgotten the drive through the Rockies.

Bonnie showed us a lovely coffee shop called La Baguette in Revelstoke, beautiful brioches and a wonderful fig and date croissant.

The shop was filled on the restaurant side and on the take-out side. I think the shop will thrive for the new ski hill there brings in international tourist travel through the winter season.

We didn’t know what to choose at the counter. Finally Rebecca said, we are going to do this Wyona-style. Buy one of everything and then share it.

She had the clerk cut all of the pastries into four pieces. We ordered a couple of side salads as well. I could tell by the look on the clerks face, that this is the first time she has been asked to do that, but she was happy to facilitate.

food from
La Bagette, Revelstoke, BC
I saw a couple of new mud slides which caught my eye. We turned south at Golden. The new highway was #95, driving by the Purcells on one side of us and the Rockies on the other side. We were headed into the East Kootenays to the Copper Point Resort at Invermere. We pulled off of the highway a number of times. I think it was the beautiful valleys on the Purcell side of the road that captured our eyes.

Deer either crossed the road in front of us making Rebecca slow down, or we saw them on the hills or gathering in the valleys. There was even deer road kill along the way, but not ours.

Rebecca had booked a room for 4, the three of us and her friend Jess, from ILRU. The suite we are in has everything. A washer, a dryer, two gas fireplaces, a loft (that holds a single bed and a trundle), a king sized bed, a leather pull-out couch, 2 bathrooms, a fully equipped kitchen and a fridge that holds all of the food that we picked up at Save-On Foods. A good thing Bonnie put back the Teflon frying pan that she was picking up in the store for the omelette in the morning. The kitchen has fully furnished kitchen cupboards, pots and pans, a toaster – nothing is missing.

picturesque inveremere, B.C.
There are fabulous plans for tomorrow, two streams of classes – on the one side, learning about water politics, and on the other side, deer tanning, tea making and sweat lodge making.

At the Indian Taco supper, Kenson Thomas was dressed in leather and fur regalia and told “The Story of Sucker Fish”. I have read the story, but never heard it told with all of its dramatic interpretation. I found myself laughing in many of its parts – who knew that coyote was hoping to have a few hickeys before the night was finished?

balcony selfie, 4th floor, Copper Point Inn
Invermere, BC
Bonnie Wyora figured out that we only had 20 minutes to get to the hot tub after we had made our way to our hotel room from the gathering. Rebecca and Bonnie swam laps in the outside pool. I just let the water jets of the hot tub do their job on my back.

The most unusual part of the day, though not my highlight? There is actually a TV in the mirror in the bathroom. I can brush my teeth and watch TV at the same time. Not that I care to learned to operate that feature, But Rebecca did give me a demo.


Thursday, April 19, 2018


Rebecca writes "On Compression or There is a Crack in Everything"

Process is an important site for learning things.  And I have been learning things in the process of working with clay, particularly working with it in an effort to create pendants that I call "multijuridical musings" (pendants in which different colours/legal orders interact with eachother).

Clay is sometimes a forgiving medium to work in, and at other times, it is less forgiving.  This summer, the clay reminded me that time matters.  I have always found waiting for the clay to be 'at the right stage' is one of the difficult parts for me.  

So here is the 'recipe' or 'process' for the pendants I was making this year,
  • Take a bit ball of clay.
  • Divide it into smaller balls.
  • Add powdered oxide/stain to the individual balls to transform their colour.  Remember that the process of adding oxides is messy. If I don’t clean up after each colour, its trace follows me to the next ball of clay, muddying the colour.
  • Once the individual balls of colour have been made, wait.  Seriously.  Wait. They need to dry out a bit.  The plan is to put the balls of clay into conversation with each other, but if you do so when they are still too soft,  the colours will blend and you will end up with a new ball of a different colour.
  • Once the balls of clay are a bit firm, cut them into smaller segments.
  • Layer them into each other.  
  • Take time to ensure no bubbles of air have been captured while you are layering the clays together.
  • Knead briefly.  Then wait.   Again, the clay needs some time to firm up before being moved around.  Then, knead again.  
  •   If you knead them too much, the colours will blur.  If you don't need them enough, there will be no internal movment.
  • It is hard to know if I have kneaded the clay enough without cutting it open.So..  guess, and wait and hope.

fired and out of the kiln
my part of the Testify! Indigenous Laws + the Arts project
And it is hard to know when enough is enough.

I hope for the colours to be tightly or loosely swirled against each other.

When the clay has dried enough I take a metal rib and begin making slices through the clay.

If I am too soon, the blade of the clay will blur the edge of the colours.

If I am too late, it will be hard to cut and I risk cracking the slice, or cutting my own fingers against the edge of the rib.

I smooth any edges of my product, taking care not to muddy the line of the clay.

If I don’t smooth the edge, then the piece fires and the edge will be transformed into something with the sharpness of a knife.

... lining up the cracks ...
Every touch of my fingers on the piece leaves a trace of my hand and any dust lingering there. In short, minimize contact with the piece. It needs to dry somewhat before I proceed to the next stage. I watch it during this phase as the edges will continue to curl. It is best to lay something flat on top to hold the pieces flat while they are drying. It is best if it dries slowly, but again, if I am in a hurry there are tricks to speed the process along.

The phase of cutting is both magic and repetitive. Each slice reveals something unexpected.

Each piece requires careful handling to pull it away from the main piece without muddying the colours.

Watch out for repetitive strain injury.

I watch out but I can’t stop myself. I continue well beyond the point when a rational person would stop for a rest, part of the intrigue of wondering what the next slice will reveal. Once the clay is firm enough to be handled, I take a cutting hole tool and make a chord for a hole or a chain. If the clay is too soft, I will muddy the piece. If it is too dry I risk the clay cracking. I wait for the clay to dry.

This is one of the next big places of loss.

... such a beauty before cracking ...
Will the piece dry without cracking? This time around, I saw the one of the batches of clay, my favourite, was drying in a way that left a huge crack appearing in more than ½ the centre of the pieces. I have been thinking about why.

I remember the discussions about the bottom of clay bowls.

When I am throwing a bowl, one of the first stages is to make sure I have adequately compressed the bottom.

That is, I need to run my fingers back and forth across the bottom, applying pressure to force the clay molecules more tightly against each other.

That is, I must apply pressure.

If I don’t apply pressure this is the mostly likely place for a crack to emerge.
Sometimes I see the crack as the pot dries.

... necklaces sitting on the tool I use for compression ...
Sometimes the crack only emerges when I fire the piece for the first time.

I can’t tell you the number of pots I have grieved for, pots that have been heavily invested with love, only to emerge from the kiln, looking as beautiful as they did when I put them in, but having a crack across the bottom, rendering them unusable

Sometimes the crack doesn’t emerge until the second firing, after the glaze has been applied.

Many the mug I have, that is now a pencil holder, since any beverage that is added to it will leak out through the fine crack in the bottom.

In short, my weakness?
... tools of the trade ...

Failure to apply adequate pressure.

Fear that the pressure I will apply is too much.

And so I am left with a batch of necklaces, the ones I thought most beautiful in the making, so beautiful that I feared to apply any pressure to the centre, worrying only about the edges.

At first I thought I would throw them out.

But I think I will fire them through to the end of the process.

They don’t need to hold a liquid.
... measuring for shrinkage ...
But I think they will be holding the trace of a thought.

A question about the challenge of finding the right amount of pressure to apply.
 Or maybe just a reminder for me to think about the places where I fear having pressure applied to me. 

Maybe there is a way for me to think about my own capacity to understand the pressure at the centre, and particularly the pressure early in a process as being useful for what will later be possible. 

So maybe the insight is not for me to apply more pressure to others, but to think about myself as the clay.


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Taking a Walk in the Woods

Text by Rebecca
Photos by Rebecca
... tree shadows ...

On Sunday Arta and I decided to take a walk on the property to get our Fitbit steps in.

What started as a walk ended up as a stroll to the far end of the property and eventually, a walk up the path that has been maintained by Glen and Greg to join up at the end of the Sicamous Trail.

At each moment along the walk, I thought we were just going a few steps further until we finally decided to commit to going right to the highway or turning around and going back home.

It was the first sunny day in a week.

The ground was incredibly wet.

The moss was soft under our feet and the forest around us had rich green colours.

... a standing mother log ...
We stopped along the way to note the place where a large tree had fallen and torn apart the trail.

We lay in bed this morning for the first hour talking about yesterday’s walk and thinking how fun it would have been to take the little kids on the walk.

Our conversation turned to the pedagogy.

How does one create a walk for kids that is entertaining for them and that also attaches them to the land.

What stories could be told along the way, stories that would teach them about plants, animals, the land, history, their relations, seasons and more.

I was thinking about reading Andree Boissele’s dissertation.

In the first chapter she talks about the Stolo field school and going out on the land with elders.

On reading that chapter I was struck by the realization that one of the reasons to tell stories out on the land is to enable the elders, themselves, to better access the knowledge they have.

"I am wondering if I can make it across this water
without some help with my balance."
Landmarks are attached to stories, experiences, seasons, and stuff in ways that enable one to recall and bring to mind other pieces of information. As we went on our walk,

Arta would stop to point out where Wyora had wanted to build a house, where Glen had built his tree house, the different names that we have given to the streams we crossed, the place where Glen the tree had fallen in the woods and Glen had been able to tip the trunk back into its hole and restore our path.

 At one point as we were climbing up the hill, grasping for branches to help pull us up, I grabbed onto a cedar branch and scrambled up the hill. The branch was springy and the needles were soft against my hand. I found myself remembering that on the west coast the cedar are referred to as the generous ones.
The walk also gave us a chance to talk about LaRue and the different ways people did or didn’t feel connected to the land.

To know something is not always to love it. To know something in greater detail changes your relationship to it.

... a drop of water held by a leafy cup ...
So how might we create ways for the young people on the land to build an intimate relationship to it.

And could we do this in a way that acknowledged the stories that were on the land before we arrived here. That pulled to my mind the story of The Cedar People that had been told to me by Earl Plaxton Junior on a walk up Mount Pkols in Victoria last summer. I knew that if I had the children with me, this would be a place where I could tell that story. Indeed, since much of the trail had been well maintained and we had both talked about how generous Uncle Greg was, in doing the work to make this trail accessible for anyone who wanted to use it, we started referring to Uncle Greg as the generous one.

 All last summer we spent time reading Indigenous stories to the young children, seeking to make those stories part of their own lives. But it did occur to us that there is something quite powerful in telling those stories out on the land because it is one thing to tell a story about cedar and it is another thing to hear the story while standing beside a cedar where you can see it, touch it, smell it, listen to the birds in the trees around it, to the sounds of the forest around it. And also see cedar branches nourishing the forest floor, feel the bark, the branches, the light dappling the forest floor through the branches. We could also see branches on the forest floor that had broken off because of the heavy snowfall in the winter. So looking around us it was possible to make time visible in the moment. To think about what had fallen and why and to see new life growing out of branches that had fallen in years past, the fallen branches continuing their form of generous giving to the environment around them.
... the minutia of the forest floor ...
So our discussion turned to making a book or a resource or a photo journal gathering together some pathways through this walk in the woods.

If I am taking the kids out in the woods, it is helpful to be prepared. Stories about the cedar could be told just about anywhere in British Columbia, for you will see one on any part of your path.

So the goal here, for the LaRue folks is a blog post of this walk with some tales and stories gathered around it. Share some stories than can be attached to the land if you want to walk this path with your children or your grandchildren, this summer or this winter.

At one point in my own life, I spent a long time worrying about whose stories belonged to whom.

I still think those are important questions.

... just checking to see if the deck has come back ...
But I also think there is some urgency to the question of how we attach ourselves to the land and stories, wherever those place might be.

And there are some good reasons for thinking about how to do that in a way that attaches to the world that we live in, no matter where that is.
I keep bouncing back and forth between what is a blog post, what is for a pedagogy piece and what is for my work.

It feels scary to say land based learning, like there is something in it.

Like I wouldn’t go camping or take a bunch of people out into the woods, if I didn’t know where I was going.

So I know that people worry about the dangers of doing things that you don’t know. But there are also dangers in failure to engage.

... high on Pilling's Road ...
In some ways it seems more important than ever to build relations with the world around us and part of this means being more attentive to our environment and attaching stories to those places.


As an example of this, on our walk we spent a lot of time thinking about water. We stopped by a small bed of moss. We noticed a sparkle on the ground. There was a small patch of tiny flowers, each of which was holding a large drop of water. They seemed jewel-like.

 It was tricky to find a way to capture that in a photo. I stood in one direction and my body blocked the sun, casting a shadow across the flowers. From another direction the beads of water produced a glare on my screen. In my first photo the drops of water were too far away to be visible. Magnified close up, there was a loss of the sense of scale.

 And in any event, I am not a great photographer, so the photo was blurred.

... looking down at the railroad track ...
That was just all in the nature of trying to capture the photo in one degree. It made me think of how much time I spent standing at that spot, trying to capture that image, one that is burned more significantly into my memory than my camera shot. I certainly spent more time with the photo than anyone will spend in reading the blog. A mini-flash back to my most recent trip to London and my gallery walk in the National Gallery where the guide asked us to guess how much time the average visitor spends looking at an individual painting. He told us five and a half seconds, just long enough to cast their eyes across it, or just long enough to point their camera and take a photo look at later. He told us that he thinks it is just fine for people to take photos, though he reminded us that each photo in the National Gallery’s collection is posted on line in high definition and in good quality.

... looking up out of the dark forest to the sky ...
On that day we saw only five paintings.

One 1/3 hours, five paintings and we stayed 15 minutes with each painting.

His goal, he said, was to have us build reationships to those 5 paintings. I am smart enough now to bring one of those waling stools, so I don’t stand.

I punk myself down in front of the painting, so, standing or sitting we spent 15 minutes while he talked about the artist, the time period, the images, the economy, the dog in the painting, the clothing worn by the sitters.

And by the time we left each of those paintings, I felt as though I had a new friend.
I could have done this in a history of art class.

Indeed, that is how I have done most of my learning.

But there was something quite different about being up close to the painting itself. I could see the brush strokes, the hand of the author was visible in a way that it isn’t in the reproduction.

I can also bring to mind the voice of the gallery guide, where I was sitting in relation to other people in the room, which side of the room the painting was hung on, the room around the painting.

All of this, just a way of getting back to that bead of water nested in the petals of that plant.
I don’t know how long Betty or Alice’s attention would have been held before that plant was poked.

 I can imagine having ready to hand, a story about those beads of water because if you are watching the forest floor after the rain you will find one.
... only bent bark is left ...

 And probably in the back yard of some’s lawn as well. 

There was water in the moss.

Last summer, walking on the moss there was some crunch. On this walk the moss was a cushion, a sponge.

Not enough to get my shoe wet, but enough to feel when I pushed my hand into the moss and lichen on the trees. 

We climbed over a large old log that laid across the plant.

To get over it, you simply had to sit on the log and then swing your leg over the top.

... green and white on a bed of red ...
The log was covered with moss.

When I stood up, my jeans were full of water from that one.

The moss gave up its water.

There was a mushy area where someone had laid logs across the water to keep one’s feet from slipping into the mud. This is where the water was running through a cloud full of silt.

 Some of the water ran through culverts.

 We watched a beautiful waterfall above us.

... just a small rest on the upward climb ...
 I guess there was an occasion to think about water that runs, water that sits, water that is captured. There was no place to get a good drink from any of the clear streams. We couldn’t kneel by any of the streams. Too wet. But those little flowers had gathered water as a drinking bowl for someone.
Along the way it felts as though the birds were in conversation with us.

We also talked on the walk about stories that are laid on the land from our family. We walked down old Pilling’s Road knowing that in a month or two there will be wild strawberries there.

We looked for the tell tale leaves.

We saw the burdock which is a completely storied plant for me, walking along, picking the seeds and throwing them at others.

Burdock is part of the game. And as a child I knew this was part of the reproductive cycle. Was it waiting for young children to transport it from one spot to another.

... the Spring forest in its whites and greens ...
We had been talking about this because people talk about oral culture as though it is somehow inferior to written culture.

But when we look at the stories with the children, the stories come alive with the children, more than in the reading. And when stories are told orally in a context where there is something to look at, or something to attach the story to, it is all the more powerful.

It is easier to talk about burdock tea while holding a burdock ion your hand.

This does bring up the question of time.

A burdock when it is dried, a burdock when it is dried, a burdock when it is in blossom. Fireweed makes most sense in some stories when you can see the wisps of white seeds floating oni the wind. There are reasons for stories to take account of time
... a photo  never shows how steep
the trail really is ...
Part of what made the walk interesting was seeing how much water was coming down in the streams. So much water. Streams that I see as only trickles in the summer, now overflowing their banks. Good metaphors for time. The lake was frozen at one point. There the water becomes a surface. It looks like nothing is happening. And then there is a flood of action. You can turn anything into a lesson. Is the water water, or is it a metaphor? We were having all of these conversations about time to wait, and to acknowledge that a season has not quite arrived, or that the water level at one time won’t be the water level always. I can show kids where the strawberries will grow, but I can’t show them the strawberries if I take them on a walk right now. So this isn’t the moment for that story.

But it is also knowing that there are other things. There is what the land has available and then there is the need of the person interacting with it. You can draw many stories out of the land at different times. There is so much there. But it is helpful to know what the need is before drawing out the story.

... at the end of the walk the clouds are lifting ...
Something is almost always in season. A person doesn’t’ have to theorize that all culture is oral culture before theorizing what orality can provide.

Being able to access text and image is useful.


I can think about taking kids on walks.

Can I take kids on virtual walks and can it provide links for me to do something similar in my back yard. How do I get my children to have skills to attaching themselves to the world they are in? If I go on the walk and say here is a bird, or here is a budock, who cares. Give me a story with that thing.

To drop people off at the Sicamous Trail end
go down the Trans-Canada until the
road narrows to one line each way.
There is where the deer lay down for the night.

Here is where a moose peed in a stream.

Here is where the road got washed out. Here is where Cohl got strangled on a motorcycle. Which road does one take to get back to the cabins?

We tell those stories one way or another.

When we left, I thought we were just going to walk back and forth on Pilling’s road But no, Arta, just wanted to look first here and then there. The two pottern kiln’s Then the stream between Wyona’s and Moiya’s. Greg’s enthusiasm for clearing a path. One story lead to another, until when we got to the top of the path where the question was, should be walk all of the way to Sicamous?

I said no way.

But that is the story I always asked when I was young.

Can I walk to Sicamous? Can I run to Sicaomous? Can I skip to Sicamous? Can I paddle to Sicamous? Can I bike ride to Sicamous?