Thursday, July 31, 2008

Street Step Circuit ~ downtown Port Arthur

click on image to enlarge

This is a map I sketched as part of mapping the places I walk (and run!). It was part of the bioregional mapping I did for last month's contribution to my writing group, RedShoes on Court. I call this map the Street Step Circuit because it's all about running up the many stairs around downtown Port Arthur. This is a great --and challenging workout -- for getting the heart pumping and the lungs into optimum health! This area of town (downtown P.A.) used to be, many millions of moons ago, the shore of the ancient lake that preceded Lake Superior, so there are a lot of steep hills and sudden inclines. Last time I did the circuit, I did the loop in 35 minutes, but I must've had a lot of energy that morning!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Midsummer Garden workshop this Friday

click on image to enlarge

My prayers were answered. Just the other morning I wrote about my colourful days in Mexico because, why? I had been feeling a bit blue. It's how I work: if feeling disillusioned, overwhelmed, or a bit down, just look for beauty and share joy. Rather than wallowing, by searching for beauty I unearth the reminders of how blessed I am.

Walking along the waterfront the other morning, no matter how many murmelis popped up in front of me, I had been ruing about how to rally folks to get the Midsummer Garden on its way? Where will I dig up volunteers? Everyone thinks it's a great idea....but where are the bodies? The helping hands?

Well, by the blessing of heavens and the earth, after I sent out that post, I received an email from Bryan, who is part of the Roots to Harvest garden that has recently emerged at the site of the old Cornwall St. School. He was wondering if I needed any help as he has a crew of rangers coming by on Friday, and they are eager to help other urban green space projects.

I stared at that email like it was a piece of chocolate cake. Too good to be true! It was like the movie August Rush: just send the message out there and keep your hope alive and it will come back to you answered. Yes! Of course, I'd love to take up this generous offer of helping hands! So, now there'll be a crew of folks to help shovel topsoil and make flower beds for the Midsummer Garden. Starting at 12:30, the Willow women will set up another garden stone workshop, so with the ones that were made during our Midsummer Festival, we will be well on our way to collect the stones for our diversity path that will weave among our flower beds.

Here is the signature tree of the Midsummer Garden. The saving grace. The one who called out and said she did not want to be ripped out and made into logs for someone's sauna. Who called out and said, enough parking lot over here already! She will be one of the focal points of the garden. We will create a small clearing before her for poets, musicians, performance pieces, or a small play on a summer day or evening. In the center of our garden will be an Anishnawbe sacred plant circle. It will honor on whose land we are on, and its healing power of sage and sweetgrass will remind us of the gifts that Mother Earth gives us each and every day.

Here is what we are working with. I've sent out an invitation to ask anyone interested in helping me transform this ugly empty lot into a flower garden to show up on Friday, in the morning to make beds and the afternoon to make stones. I'll get some pulla from Mike Setala at Kivela Bakery for break time, and who knows, maybe Urho will get his old accordion out of the shed and play us some oldtime Finnish dance tunes to make our work easier.

Also, if anyone has perennial flowers or shrubs to share, please bring them to our lot!
See you there!

A sunflower cross with a butterfly eye.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Sasquatch in NWO

Well, I did have a murmeli moment this morning, as I came across a groundhog who seemed interested to sniff me out as I whistled to him, but some women from Grassy Narrows had a sasquatch moment. This colourful footprint could not have been its footprint, as they report it having 6 toes and heading off to the beaver pond, so it definitely hasn't been around here. This artprint is part of the art on the street found on the ground of our infamous blue overpass to the marina. And this footprint is headed townwards; I doubt a sasquatch would be heading that way. Not even too many folks go downtown anymore...

Monday, July 28, 2008

my colourful days in Mexico

I feel like some cheery colour today so I decided to look in my archive of photos that I took while in and around Cholula, Mexico last June. These dogs were peeking out of a doorway in Cuetzalan.

Our Lady of Remedios altar. Our Lady cures all. This is a small shrine/chapel at the foot of the Cholula pyramid.

Tapestry on the wall in the weaving room of the living folk museum in Tlaxcala, The Musuem of Popular Arts and Tradition. An elderly male master weaver was working on a large loom below this tapestry; outside the door an elderly woman master weaver was making a sash on a very long loom, one end which was wrapped around her waist. When she saw me she got up and wrapped a very long bright red sash tightly around my waist. I could hardly breathe. I wondered, do the women wear these sashes this tight? How do they get any work done? I could hardly bend at the waist.

Weaving and textile arts in Mexico are outstanding. I bought a 5' long, 1' wide blue bird hand embroidered wall hanging from a peasant women in the market for $15. Its blue and white reminded me of the colours so beloved by Finns. I don't know the significance of the swan in Mexican symbolism or mythology, but in Finland the joutsen is the national bird, and figures larger than life in The Kalevala. A mystical swan swims in the Tuonela river, which is the boundary between this world and the next..

Alphonso, a grad student at the globalization and gender sessions (and the only male among us women!) invited us to his home one day for dinner. He lives in an old part of Puebla, in a gorgeous place that used to be convent, but is now a number of apartments. His home is on many floors. Between the kitchen and the living room you can see this mosaic and if you look up you see the sky. I laughed and told him if his home was in Thunder Bay, in the winter he wouldn't be able to get into his living room because it would be blocked with a wall of snow.

These are the stairs to the sky.

From the rooftop of Alphonso's home you can see the dome of the pink convent.

and right in front of it, someone else is storing their garbage on the roof.

Alphonso's kitchen, where he made a gaggle of women a very delicious meal.

One day a small number of us women went to Zochitecatl, where there are 3 pyramids and a small repository of artifacts, almost exclusively icons of women, found hidden from the Spanish colonizers. The place of the flowers pyramid, the place of the serpents, and the place of the spiral pyramid are together at Zochitecatl. The spiral pyramid is named so because pregnant women used to walk up to its flat top by spiralling along its outer stone path, which winds around and around; they did this when the time of delivery was near to birth their baby on top. Atop the spiral pyramid there was a magnificent jacaranda tree that cast a delicate shadow on the ground, and provided us some shade from the blazing sun. Someone had placed this bridal wreath onto its branches.

That's Abetha's bag in the corner. She thought she bought an authentic Mexican woven bag in the market; later she saw a Made in India tag inside. I laughed and said, like the red senorita skirt I found in a small boutique. It looked so authentic, but I too found "Made in India" inside. We were horrified, of course, thinking, I guess the Indian people make even less wages than the Mexicans. Both the bag and the skirt were cheap, as in a pittance.

Atop the place of the flowers pyramid at Zochitecatl. This portal is aligned to face Popocatepetl.

The garden of roses path I used to walk in the early mornings at the Universidad de las Americas Puebla.

A shop I visited close to The Place of Our Dear (Earth) Mother, or Tonantzintla.

A peasant farmer arranged these roses for sale on the sidewalk in Atlixco.

I have a story about my encounter with this peacock. It's waiting behind the Hummingbird of Hope and the Blueberry Time-bomb stories.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

golden dragonfly with gossamer wings

If it weren't for its glowing golden body, I would've easily missed the dragonfly that came to light on the Diablo ninebark as I was tending to the flower garden. At first I wasn't even sure that it was a dragonfly as its wings were so translucent as to be next to invisible.

As it wrapped its arms around the flower cluster, I noticed small golden dots that helped trace the outline of its wings. I also noticed its enormous eyes shift to look up at me.

Its gossamer wings reflect and refract the sun, glint iridescence. No wonder the medicine of the dragonfly is the power of light.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Place where Thunder Birds Nest, Part III

When my sisters and I trekked to the Place where Thunder Birds Rest, we sat down on the rocks and wrote out the sounds that were murmuring. Our first line had to be:

Music is everywhere.

It lives in the folds of our hearts and the sky above.

Its melody escapes from sparkling waters, chimes from puffs of white clouds.

Music orchestrates the land busy with noise. Small insects dance, the beating of their wings fill the air with a whir and whiz.

Music creeps from moss-covered stone steps, calls a cappella from clifftops.

Thunder Woman beats the sound of life with her drum, gathering the thunder birds to her breast.

From across Turtle Island, the sound of their wings thundering signals the calling,

the return to their nests.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Murmeli mielessä

That means "groundhog on one's mind" in Finnish. My sister, Della, is enchanted with groundhogs. My sisters and I have walked along the waterfront twice in the last week, and although I have pointed out all the usual spots where he comes out and cranes his neck over the rocks (or pops his head out of his burrow), the murmeli [groundhog; woodchuck; whistlepig] did not show.

He did not creep up on the rocks to sniff the morning air. My sister Della is eager to see a murmeli because her theater troupe back in Ballinaclash are performing a play they have written that has a groundhog/man as a character.

It is a fairytale-like play in which men have became banished from earth. However, one old powerful woman suspects that some men did not disappear but hid away in the form of groundhogs.

So, the male character in the play has to act and look like a groundhog.

In that case, much of his time would be spent standing on the side of the stage either looking around or standing still and chewing greens such as leaves and twigs.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Place where Thunder Birds Nest, Part II

reaching for the sun

fingers of moss dripping

cornucopia of mosses and healing medicinal lichens

baby ferns squeezing out of Grandfather rock

emerald enchantment

reindeer lichen cap

a wee wood strawberry

bird snack

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Place where Thunder Birds Nest, Part 1

Sometimes your eyes can play tricks on you, you know.

This morning my sisters and I went to walk along a rocky road that runs along the foot of The Place Where the Thunder Birds Nest. This place is also called The Place Where the Thunder Beings Rest. This place is on Fort William First Nations reserve.

In Ojibwe, Thunder Birds are Animiki. They are magnificent thunderers who inspire people to see in new ways. Thunder birds are immense spirit beings whose wings flapping make the sound of thunder over the skies of Thunder Bay. Mary Lou at Mushkiki first told me the name of this sacred place where Thunder Birds gather from all over Turtle Island.

We packed coffee and the munkkis [donuts]our mother made. It said rain all day, but we went anyway. The path we walked was full of bird song. A whistling bird kept calling, but hid from our eyes. Small yellow birds darted across our eyes. Nuthatches, too, teased us. High above us, we saw what appeared to be faces in the stone.

The cliffs show nature to be a shapeshifter.

Atop the cliffs, hawks, eagles, ravens, and crows overlooked the bay, then shrieking, soared high among the stones. Because it is so quiet here their shrieks ring loud.

Lower down on the ground, my sisters and I saw an altar on the shore. This one is made of an old driftwood. It is a birds' altar, for they carry their prey to its table top.

We also saw that someone had placed some objects on a large smooth flat topped stone.

We saw a small tombstone-like rock standing among the scree.

The trail begins on the eastern side, along a bay on Lake Superior called Squaw Bay. My friend, Sharon, said it is actually called Squall Bay. The word 'squaw' has been grossly denigrated in English by the settlers and people today, too, but in its original meaning it is a powerful word. Marge Bruchac says the word "Squaw means the totality of being female." Marilyn Dumont writes that "Indian women know all too well the power of the word squaw" in her Squaw Poems.

My sisters and I walked along the rocky road to the far end of this cove, where we found a trail that we had never noticed before. It is difficult to find, but if you follow it down to the lake, it leads to

a hidden cove. An immense age-old lichen-covered stone rises out of the water like a wall. As you can see, a girl looks out from the end of this wall towards the far shore?

The Place Where Thunder Beings come to Rest and Nest from all over Turtle Island was re-named Mount McKay by the settler population, after some guy McKay. You can watch Winona LaDuke tell of the importance of language; she uses the example of "Mount McKay" to explain Indigenous philosophy and laws, and questions the penchant for "naming big mountains after small men."