Friday, March 28, 2008

Mission Island Marsh

Today, after teaching my 7 am yoga class, I picked up my sister and we drove out to Mission Island Marsh, which is a conservation area on the delta of the Mission River (the southern most branch) and the McKellar River, (the middle branch) of the commanding Kaministiqua River that flows into Lake Superior. It's in the southern part of Thunder Bay harbour.

We hadn't even driven to the end of Island Drive when we saw a white-tailed deer standing stock still on the railway tracks. The deer had a thick mangy brownish-gray winter coat, like a scruffy mule, that blended well with the winter landscape. It did look like a mule, with large ears, too. Could it have been a mule deer and not a white-tailed deer?

On the beach beyond the boardwalk where last year we saw the pelicans fly in across the water, we saw large deer hoof prints on the pebbly sand.

We also saw some deer hoof prints in the snow, leading back into the bush.

The dried grasses were rustling and susurating in the wind, which was biting cold although the sun was fabulously warm.

Even the willows attest to the warmth breaking through, the tips of their topmost branches dappling with pussywillows, like a praise of popcorn.

An old crow's nest hides among the tangle of poplars and shrubs. Can you imagine how invisible it is when the leaves fill in? The crows were calling out to us, warning us to get on our way!

Yellow twig dogwood stands out against the barren palette of late winter. By May it will be covered in white blossoms.

The wind from the north can be cruel. Oh horrors! this windswept tree seems to say. Does it know something I can only guess at? Where does the name Mission Island come from? Was there a mission on or by the island in the colonial days of settlers? A mission to convert 'the Indians' to Christianity? Well, I found this on Wikipedia:

"In 1849 French-speaking Jesuits established the Mission de l'Immaculée-Conception (Mission of the Immaculate Conception) on the Kaministiquia to evangelize the Ojibwe."

I went to search on my book shelves for the book that Jean Morrison edited, Lake Superior to Rainy Lake: Three Centuries of Fur Trade History, and on page 40 of the chapter written by Victor P. Lytwyn "The Anishinabeg and the Fur Trade", there is an old black and white photo (scroll down) of the Mission of the Immaculate Conception, which Lytwyn writes was founded by 2 Jesuit missionaries, Fremiot and Chone:

"the Fort William Mission offered religious instruction and material comforts to its adherents. The Anishinabeg who converted to Catholicism blended traditional spiritual beliefs with the new religion. The missionaries opposed the Superior-Robinson Treaty of 1850 in which millions of acres of land were surrendered to the British Crown and petitioned on behalf of the Fort William Anishinabeg for better terms under the treaty. TMHMS, 981.39.154."

Earlier he writes that "the move by the NWC [North West Company fur trade empire] to the mouth of the Kaministiquia River [from Grand Portage] was resisted by the local Anishinabeg who viewed this development as an intrusion into their territory" (p.33). The NWC abandoned Grand Portage because after the American Revolution it was on land America claimed.

On page 16, in a chapter by Ian T. Stuart, there is a sketch of the islands at the mouth of the Kaministiquia River drawn by Capt. R.H. Bruyere in 1802. The sketch shows the 2 old French posts, and the proposed site for the NWC. Before the Mission. The book provides information on the incursion of traders, settlers and colonial overlords onto the Anishnawbe territory on the mouth of the Kaministiquia River. I've got some reading to do...

On the way home we drove slowly, watching for deer. We didn't see any more deer, but we did see evidence of a beaver having passed through the bush.

The giant metal fish who guides you over the Kaministiquia River bridge.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

morning moon reaches out

Morning moon reaching out to black spruce. The oil from pinea mariana was once used to make spruce beer to prevent scurvy, for spruce oil is known for its beneficial vitamins and minerals. A healing cure First Nations people passed to colonial settlers and explorers. Spruce oil is medicinal, an expectorant for coughs and bronchitis. Does the moon have the flu, too? Perhaps the moon is reaching for the healing touch of spruce tips?

Here's a recipe for home-brewed spruce beer made from spruce tips:

Boil 10 gallons (45.5 liters) of water, six pounds (2.7 kilograms) of molasses, and three ounces (85 grams) of ginger for three hours; add two pounds (.9 kilograms) of spruce tips for five minutes in the boil. Strain, add milk yeast, wait two days for fermentation.

a sideways look at the railway tracks from the overpass. No, it isn't the effect of spruce beer, it was the influence of the moon.

Home for the homeless. This tent was set up on Sunday. Outdoor living in the city for 4 Anishnawbe people.

Ring-billed gulls have returned. So too American crows. The ring-billed gulls were having a morning bath and bask in the waters by the agitator at the end of Pier 3. Their Latin name, larus delawarensis means ravenous seabird. They are impressive fliers, holding their own against the strongest winds, suspended in the air almost motionless on powerful wings, like sails. The birds were wary of me, scooting out of the water to stand quietly on the ice.

As Erika Alin writes in her chapter "The Gulls of Kitchi Gammi" in her book Lake Effect, prior to the '70s ring-billed gulls were uncommon on the north shore of Lake Superior because of human encroachment onto their nesting habitat (they nest on the ground) and the popularity of their white feathers on women's hats and gowns. The birds became a protected species in 1916 and have since made a remarkable recovery. White feathery hats for women went out of style but human interference continues. I wonder how the ring-billed gulls will fare with the construction of the hotel and condominium at the waterfront?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Waverley Park big-toothed cottonwood

Have you ever noticed a tree standing naked against the sky,
How beautiful it is?
All its branches are outlined, and in its nakedness
There is a poem, there is a song.
Every leaf is gone and it is waiting for the spring.
When the spring comes, it again fills the tree with
The music of many leaves,
Which in due season fall and are blown away.
And this is the way of life.

- Krishnamurti

lichen on the deeply riven bark of the old cottonwood above. Cottonwoods are also known as poplars. The towering trees in Waverley Park, the 2nd oldest municipal park in Ontario, are also known as populus grandidentata, or big-toothed aspen. Cottonwood sounds more homey, like a welcoming tree to grace your front lawn. Big-toothed aspen sounds more like it belongs in the untameable boreal forest.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Otter is Woman medicine

I couldn't resist the playfulness of this bunny tail cloud I saw floating by in the sky over the lake, it being Oestre weekend and all things bunny going on! Besides, yesterday when I was out for my morning walk along the lake, otter came by to remind me to set aside fret and worry and laugh and enjoy life....

I don't have a photo of otter; she being too curious was too quick for me. Spying me and the dogs, Otter craned her neck out of the water like a long periscope, took one hard look at Musti and Tassu, and dove straight like a shot under the frigid waters. This sunlit icy reptilian surface is the edge of the open water Otter was swimming in. It's by the agitator that keeps part of the waters open all winter long, I guess to protect the gas pumps used by boaters? Anyway, there are no boats now so it's perfect for Otter to splash about, undisturbed, in her leisure. Her fur is extremely thick and she doesn't feel the bite of the water at all; indeed, Otter revels in its iciness.

Otter is very playful, and at first when I saw her splashing about, I thought I saw a person swimming in the lake. Her head was quite large. I couldn't believe it! What! is someone swimming in this freezing water? I hurried closer; her animalness emerged clearly as she stretched out her long furry neck, then flipped her furry tail. Although she fled in a flash from me and the dogs, I knew then that she was an otter; she was much too large for a mink. Erkki, an elderly Finnish man who I met up with today on my walk said that he saw a mink the other day running along the shore--the mink that is, not Erkki. A small perfect fish was clamped in the mink's jaws.

I was reminded by Otter that as Woman's Medicine she had come by earlier, too. Ojibwe artist Shannon Gustafson's Woman's Traditional Dance Regalia that is on exhibit at the Northern Woman's Bookstore has 2 otter accents along the breastplate. From Serpent River First Nation, Shannon has been making traditional dress regalia since she was 11 years old, and now shares her knowledge of regalia making, beadwork, leatherwork, and featherwork with others. Here is Shannon's description of the dance regalia she made:
"This Women’s Traditional Dance regalia is called the
"Northern Cloth" style. It is made from canvas, elk
teeth, beads, bones, conchs, otter fur, and shells.
The Design of the dress is inspired by the Sioux tribe."

For some Aboriginal people, Spring is the time to cleanse the blood to prepare the body for the energizing spirit that this time of year heralds. The blood is cleansed by drinking maple sap for 28 days following the cycles of the moon. Welcome is given to the returning animals and birds....Welcome, Otter! oh sister of frolic, laughter, curiosity, sharing! Woman's medicine that comes to remind us, female and male, to enjoying the blessings the Creator has provided!

These shelves of ice and water tell of the warming coming our way, of shifting balances, of change. Otter medicine as told in Jamie Sams and David Carson's Medicine Cards represents balanced female energy, always on the move, creative, friendly, adventuresome. Otter creates sisterly space for others and spreads joy, laugher and lightness . Otter's return is warmly welcomed. What otter be your animal spirit medicine?

Saturday, March 22, 2008

a call for peace

As a member of the Thunder Bay Peace coalition, and joining the World Against War week, I organized some events at our local feminist bookstore, The Northern Woman's Bookstore. The bookstore was also part of a local art initiative called Urban.Infill [art in the core] that a local art gallery, Definitely Superior, puts on to revitalize the downtown core of Port Arthur through art [on the DefSup site, scroll down to find our venue, illustrated with the photo art of our featured artist Katja Maki--my sister]. Because the timing of Art in the Core coincided with the commemoration of the invasion of Iraq, the events we planned mixed art with peace activism. The banner above I made in March 2003 from 1970s Iraqi art journals as a visual statement for a peace rally held at Lakehead University to say No to War! Well, 5 years later the war is still on, and the Americans are entrenching themselves on the soil of Iraq, building a $532 m. embassy compound of 104 acres with a swimming pool and its own water filtration plant--yet Iraqis have no clean water. So, my anti-war banner found a place today outside of the Northern Woman's Bookstore, billowing in the wind, catching the eyes of passersby.

We had a number of people speak about peace and war in Iraq and Palestine, from readings of poetry and the words of Ursula Franklin to discussions about what is happening in Iraq and Palestine today and the historical roots of the occupations. A poem by a young boy that personified the sadness of war was read by his sister and someone read a poem from poets against war. An Iraqi man spoke of his years in Iraq and the current suffering of his family. Jelena Psenicnik and Kathleen Baleja put on a dance performance specially choreographed for our gathering called "Moving Through Conflict". They began their performance with blood red sheets shrouding their bodies. It was a powerful artistic rendition of the dance of tensions and the desires for balance.

As part of Katja's "In Her Eye" art exhibit, she created the photo art above. This is a special art piece she made to commemorate women and war. She used a newspaper photo of an Iraqi woman, taken 5 years ago, who was crying in a hospital over the injuries sustained by her husband and son from US bombing. She doesn't know what happened to this women or her loved ones. But the woman's cries have come calling to her, and her pain won't leave her alone. She feels her anguish travel across the waters, and sees her tears swell up on the shores of Lake Superior. Today, we were all witness to her pain, that 5 years later, has not ended.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Watery windows

This morning as I walked back through the living room after drawing open the drapes, a dance of patterned light caught my eye. An amazing river of light was reflected on the wall from the morning sun shining through the front windows. The living room windows of this old house are original handmade glass from 1908, as you can see from the "reams" and "seeds" (glaziers' terms for waves and air bubbles) that are cast onto the wall. The softness and warmth that this window casts into the house cannot be replicated by newer standard machine - produced windows. From the '50s onwards, flat light from "perfect" windows replaced the dancing watery "imperfect" windows of the past.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Ruth the Goldfish of Norooz

well, we're waiting for Spring! However, tonight the mercury is set to dip to -19c so we are not done with winter yet. While the old crone of winter insists on clinging to us, however, many of us are feeling a bit weather-beaten by her wintery clasp. Wind-whipped. We admit defeat! We are at Spring Equinox but the lookout from where we walk the earth is still barren. Why, just the other day we had more snow, which the high bush cranberry gracefully accepted, but to tell you the truth we're tired of winter boots! A bit of green could cheer the spirits....

Spring Equinox is also Norooz, or Iranian New Year. Last Norooz, I bought a goldfish, my small way of partaking with the hope of spring that Norooz celebrates (Fataneh has told me about some of them and there are many!) I brought the goldfish home eagerly; couldn't wait to have her golden beauty flashing about in crystal clear water. I named her Ruth. I lovingly placed her in a beautiful glass bowl and set the bowl above my kitchen sink where I could admire her as I washed dishes. But Ruth wouldn't go along with my plans.

She immediately sank to the bottom of the glass bowl and slowly, ever so slowly, began to swim backwards. For days she swam backwards in circles. What! Is my fish damaged? Doesn't she like her new home! Terribly worried, I googled "goldfish swimming backwards" for any help I could glean off the net.

She needs more water. The glass bowl was killing her. She needs a lot of surface area, not a narrowing. I called son no. 1 to go dig out the old aquarium. I placed it in a dim, quiet corner, away from the bright lights of the kitchen. I set to making her a new marine home. Blue stones and glass beads to ground her. Smooth lake stones--even a few from the Irish seashore--to poke about. A few green plants to hide inside. All the while she paid me no attention, she just swam backwards in slow, maddening circles. Round and round the bottom edge of the bowl. I was afraid my hope of spring would die before I could get her in more water. That'll teach me to think I can just take a living being and put her on a shelf where I can admire her. Have her fit into my life, where I want her.

Very shortly after being placed in her new watery home, Ruth reversed. Her fishality changed dramatically. She became the friskiest fish and all traces of her past lethargic life was gone. Ruth wasn't damaged at all, she just didn't have enough of her element--water--to thrive. She flitted and frolicked in the water! ...for 6 months. Then one day, Ruth the goldfish of Norooz cavorted right out of the water. She has a new home underground in my garden.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Only 8% of the Boreal Forest is legally protected

The Boreal Forest is a dark green halo circling the northern part of Earth. Beaded with clear lakes, laced with blue rivers, studded with wetlands and bogs, and home to a wild collection of charismatic creatures from bears to wolverines and moose and martens, with untold number of migratory birds nurturing young as well as hidden beings nesting in out-of-the-way places, the Boreal Forest is a rare jewel. It is primarily old-growth forest, making up 25% of the world's remaining intact forest. So, it's not a little patch, or a remnant forest like what's been left behind in Finland; 2/3rds of it is still intact, undisturbed by roads or industry.

And, it's a healer on a worldwide scale: the trees, rich peat lands, mosses, decaying organic materials, soils, and lakes store carbon, helping to ameliorate climate change. The amazing Boreal Forest lives around me, but it is first and foremost the traditional lands of Canada's First Nations, who have been the respectful stewards of this green mantle since time immemorial.

Of course, it is rich, not only in colour and beauty and healing plants and charismatic animal spirits. All sorts of resources live within it. You might not be able to see it, but inside those green trees are mountains of toilet paper and kleenex and junk mail and cataloges. 5 acres of forest are lost every minute to logging which is almost all done by clearcutting. Some clear cuts are 20,000 acres in size. Lots of bums to wipe and noses to blow.

Interestingly, the Canadian government uses the idea of the
of the Boreal Forest to market a particular image
of Canada as pristine,
and this representation has become
central to the narrative of the
Canadian nation state, yet
it is a falsely romanticized image. And when
some people
who actually live in the Boreal Forest put their bodies on

the line to protect that amazing beauty, well...

they end up in jail.

Just yesterday 6 residents of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug
shortened to KI) were sentenced to 6 months in jail for
resisting the
exploration for resource extraction by the
Platinex mining company in
the boreal forest around their
reserve. The chief and 5
councilors were all put in jail
yesterday, so now the community has its
entire leadership
incarcerated. That's one way to disempower people

already suffering incredible poverty and neglect.

The KI community doesn't want any mining exploration done in
the forest
lands around them. They have simply stood up to say,
we don't want any
explorations done in the woods around our
reserve, in our traditional
lands that we depend on for co-existence.
The supposed economic benefit
of the mine will not benefit them,
but rather will further ruin their
ways of life because of the
disruptions to the Boreal Forest and its
creature and plant
inhabitants. Unfortunately, the Ontario government

has decided that resource extraction and the corporation
is the right that the courts will
protect, and not the boreal
forest, the animals in it, or the rights of
the KI people.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Pow wow

I went to see a friend dance tonight at the Lakehead University Native Student Association Pow Wow. A lot of people turned up. It was noisy and busy. Once the drums started, the energy in the room kicked up even further! Young and old, the whole place seemed alive to the Spirit. I have to say, the call of the drum was infectious! After the 3rd set of drummers, I felt like trying a few spins myself...but I was terribly under-dressed in my jeans. And I think moccasins or some other soft soled footwear would help with footwork, and I definitely need some pointers on the steps! I hope these photos have captured a sense of the dynamic energy and colour of the dancers heeding the call of the drum.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Girdle Action

I couldn't resist posting this ad from the '42 newspaper about the "scientific aid" that will enable women to be active in defense of their country and the world--don a girdle, i.e. "anatomical support system" (phew! that even sounds like a military weapon!). Note how the ad has been set up to look like a military battle plan pinned up on the wall. Now, I may be needing just such "action" tomorrow as I'm presenting a talk for the Touhu Tildat using my Cheez Whiz posting as a starting point. I'm speaking on Finnish immigrant mothers and daughters growing up in Port Arthur.

My friend, Mervi, found me a pink dress from the '40s to wear with 3 large shiny black buttons, a slick belt, and a full gored skirt. The thing is, I have no idea if the dress will fit. We may have to do a bit of scrounging in some back drawers for something akin to "anatomical support", which nowadays comes in more "modern" styles and more choices underwonder or unitards or belly band underwear (specifically for the "muffin top") or, heaven forbid as the image is frightening! control-top thong

Mervi also found me a big brimmed black hat, a pair of 40s platforms and an old-style black tabletop dial telephone (which I need as I go from talking about Cheez Whiz to moving "to town" and getting our first telephone...). The talks that I do are a bit like performance pieces as I act out parts. I present them half in English, half in Finnish, as half of the audience knows only English, but the other half is most comfortable in Finnish. I've done 2 previous talks like this; one on shopping and consumerism told through female milliners of Port Arthur and through a bevy of hats, and the other on how our houses and furniture changed when Finns migrated and took up middle-class values, leaving the keinu tuoli behind for the Lazyboy chair.

Here's another ad, of a dad/husband going off to work with his white scientifically enriched bread in his lunchbox that I'm posting to give Dianna a good laugh. The ad calls to mind the white fluffy bread that modern science told us was healthier for us than 'real' bread, and that went so well with the plastic cheez we desired. After writing about Cheez Whiz, I found out that, gosh! everyone has a Cheez Whiz story, too! Dianna's dad, for instance, like my isa, brought it home so her and her siblings could feel like they 'belonged,' too.

She confesses to having proudly whipped out her sandwiches at school when they were made with white store bought bread (that they called "bakery bread") rather than the embarrassing! fresh out of the oven wholegrain breads her mom baked! White bread had class connotations. You could have pretensions of being "normal" (that is, middle class) if you ate white bread. And with Cheez Whiz inside? Why, you could pass as any of the fine women who rolled dainty sandwiches up for the I.O.D.E. ! (i.e. Imperial Orders Daughters of the Empire).

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

1942 speaks from my floor

...back to the Port Arthur Chronicle-Journal from 1942 found under the floorboards of the second floor back room. There were a few days worth on the floor, and it seems that there was both a morning and evening edition--and this is at a time when there were various local and regional newspapers available. From the Chapples department store ad above advertising items to purchase to make Mother happy, it seems that not much has changed in the waist-line department, that is, women, mothers or not were (and are) expected to have minuscule waistlines no matter what. The image of the panties/bloomers is definitely not in congruence with the size of the waist drawn on this "Mother".

"Chapples Stores Limited was founded in 1915 as a family dry goods and ladies fashion store but soon expanded to become Fort William's premier department store with branches in other northwestern Ontario communities. Chapples closed for business in the mid 1970s."

I've listed a few excerpts from ads and articles that I found on just a couple of pages.

-- Under a column called Magistrate’s Court

A motorist paid a $10 fine and costs on a charge of careless driving. Two other motorists were fined $5 and costs each for driving their cars more than 40 miles an hour.

-- Under Announcements

Oil permanent, regular $7.00. Special $3.50. Phone 920 N. Peggy’s Beauty Shop, Nelson Block, opposite Waverley Hotel.

in an ad for Bourke’s Drug Store Ltd.

Free delivery to Fort William and in Port Arthur Providing your total purchase is $1.00 or more

Men, Women Over 40

Feel Weak, Worn, Old?

Want Normal Pep, Vim, Vitality?

Does weak, rundown, exhausted condition make you feel fagged out? Try Ostrex. Contains general tonics, stimulants, often needed after 30 or 40. Supplies iron, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin B1. Helps you get normal pep, vim, vitality. Introductory size Ostrex Tonic Tablets only 35c. For sale at all good drug stores everywhere.

First, the medical community of the 40s (when Dr. Spock first became lord) convinced moms to stop breast-feeding (the not-all-women-are-capable-at-mothering scientism). Women were encouraged to go with 'scientific' bottle-feeding, but then a market had to be created to 'return' babies to a natural state--via science / medicine. "Even the name 'formula' has the aura of science, offered and seen as something better, more modern, and healthier for babies." Here's that 40s scientism in practice:


If your baby is bottle-fed, be sure to watch little bowels closely. Mother’s milk is a natural laxative which helps take care of baby’s need. Lacking this, a bottlefed baby often gets fretty, feverish and suffers constipation and upset stomach. Let Baby’s Own Tablets help you keep your baby’s bowels on schedule—sweeten upset stomach—relieve the feverishness and discomfort of teething. No narcotics—no stupefying drugs of any kind. Don’t let your baby suffer—get Baby’s Own Tablets from your druggist today. Only 25c.

Below are some price comparisons:

A.W. Diggins Corner Cumberland and McVicar

Cash and Carry … Pay Less…Live Better (*this subtitle ties in with the article following)

Fresh Lake Superior Trout 2 to4 lbs. each lb. 22c

B.C. Salmon Trout Sliced or piece 2 lb. 39c [this is for 2 lbs!! Today, salmon in TBay today costs $6-8 per pound depending on if its wild or farmed, fresh or frozen]

Fresh Fillets lb. 20c

Wood’s Super Market

240 Arthur St. (Between Post Office, Colonial Theatre)

Shoulder lamb chops –per lb. 30c

Brisket boil –per lb. 14c

Shoulder veal steak—per lb. 30c

~ the next article excerpt is mind-boggling considering the normalization of debt today and the living in debt that is encouraged by governments. George Bush ridiculously told Americans to go SHOPPING after 9/11. Imagine if we too were mandated to pay all debts by the 10th day of the month following purchase as noted below. Clearly, the merchants were the concern in the 40s, as they are today (except today they are not merchants but multinationals & chains). But today banks and credit agencies feed like vampires on personal debt.

* U.S. Tightens Regulations on Buying
Charge Account Rules Are Laid Down by Government for First Time

By Associated Press

Washington. Stiff regulations controlling the installment purchase of nearly every article in common use in the American home were promulgated last night by the Federal Reserve Board which, in addition, decreed that ordinary charge accounts must be paid up relatively quickly.

The charge account rules, first ever issued governing this type of buying, provided that an article must be paid for by the tenth day of the second month following purchase.

Effective at midnight last night, the regulations were issued in compliance with President Roosevelt’s recent request that people pay off their bills and stay out of debt as much as possible…. The new list of articles include all civilian clothing, kitchen articles and dishes, linens, jewelry, accessories, all electrical appliances, umbrellas, baggage, sports equipment, furniture, and yard goods.

Along with Brothers Safely Overseas here are some of the headlines, which gives you a sense of the climate of war:

Gave Their Lives to Trick Nazis

Fort William Pilot Chases Nazi Plane

Canadian Army Train at Lakehead

Reds Force Wedge in Leningrad Front

Stuttgart Hit Again by R.A.F. Raiders

British Cruiser is Sunk in the Arctic

F.W. Man Among Unsung Heroes. PO Schoales Helped Damage Heinkel III in Patrols Over North Sea.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Rabia in my Soul

IN MY SOUL by Rabia

my soul
there is a temple, a shrine, a mosque, a church
where I kneel.

Prayer should bring us to an altar where no walls or names exist.

Is there not a region of love where the sovereignty is
illumined nothing,

where ecstasy gets poured into itself
and becomes

where the wing is fully alive
but has no mind or

my soul
there is a temple, a shrine, a mosque,
a church

that dissolve, that
dissolve in


Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The story of the little girl with a red bird in her throat

A woman, under water, Vellamo. Her story. There. Beneath the waves. She surfaces on occasion. Her face appears like a rock, a stone etched with a map of the world, from space. The lines cross each other in angles, curious. Her lined face peers back at you from water stones worn smooth over centuries. The markings on her face merge in the vanishing point of stone, sky, and spirit.

So. There is the water woman, waiting.

There is also a girl who stands at the shore, watching. She has run through the forest, fleet-footed like a forest creature, a kettu. Her long blonde hair streams behind her in the wind. And on cold winter nights when the deep snow causes her to weave in her path, to slip, slide, straighten and stumble, the tips of her hair strands paint the sky with the Northern Lights and her hair, electric, cackles and snaps in the charge of Ilmatar and Pakkanen.

The girl wears blue and red. The girl is alone. She is looking for someone, searching for something. She has left a warm home, a small dark tupa. If she had stayed in the comfort of sure warmth and the routine of chores she will be drowned by the waves that she has failed to see. Covered by the earth that she has failed to dig through for the mukulat, the small seed potatoes she placed in the hill for protection last Fall.

She would be lulled by the sounds of domesticity. Forget to hear the screams and shouts that lure from birch trees, keepers of the stories of those who failed to write down or tell their silent words. If she stays home, if she stays safe and warm, she will not be bitten by the frost, wrapped in the icy embrace of winter, chilled by the icy touch of Louhi, the Corpse Bride of the North, who pokes her long bony finger through the forest floor. Louhi, the owl woman, whose black eye peers out of the suo. Whose gap-toothed smile catches you at the river. Louhi, whose hair strands, coated in ice, dangle from the edge of old houses.

Far from home, the girl chases long shadows in the snow, knowing not where they lead. She is looking for the next blueberry patch, the one on the other side of the ridge cushioned in moss knee-high to the step, filled with rotting trunks and nettings of branches and twigs that grab at her legs to hold her back.

An almost impassable cliff face stops her momentarily. She balances, poised on the edge, looking out at a triple vista: Sky. Forest. Lake. Air. Earth. Water.

She is looking for the fire that burns in her heart. She is running towards the flames that stream from her head, the fire that uncoils in her mouth, the fire that lives like a bound spiral at the base of her spine. The fire that burns, two embers, one in each eye, a third ember glowing like a lump of coal between her eyes, lighting her path. Her glamour, glowing.

The fire is the red of the bird beating its wings in her throat, spreading its velvet cape over her heart and lungs, threads of which weave through her bloodstream, ribboning snakelike, undulating unimpeded in the waters by the rock that rises to open the way to the other side, to the roots of the tree that connects the living and the dead. The stone, curiously marked, opens the way to the path of souls, the Linnunrata, that touches down to earth on Kekri, while she stands at the shore of the lake, waiting.

tupa ~ the central room of an old-style rural Finnish home
mukulat ~ Pohjanmaan murre / dialect for children / kids
suo ~ swamp
Linnunrata ~ the Milky Way