Monthly Archives: May 2011

Manitoba Flood Update – May 31

Reid Dickie

We’re not out of the woods yet. Keep rubber boots handy.

As I left Brandon yesterday afternoon about 4:30 an ominous black sky promised wild weather ahead. Three miles south of Brandon on Hwy #10 (I came home via Hwy #2) it was raining hammers and nails. I had to pull over several times due to zero visibility, light the hazards and wait out the deluge. The lightning flashed and the thunder roared around me, ditches filled, fields turned into lakes again just like earlier in the spring. It was a classic prairie storm that the ancient Brandon Hills took with a small sigh and tried to absorb.

Manitoba is saturated. After last year’s wet summer and fall, the ground is unable to absorb any more moisture. Heavy rains like this one damage seeded crops and hamper seeding efforts. Every region is behind in seeding this spring. The central part of the province has 50 to 60% seeded, the eastern region between 25 and 40 percent of cereal crops are seeded and in southwestern Manitoba farmers have managed just 10% of the seeding so far this year, according to the latest crop report from Manitoba Agriculture.

Rainfall amounts varied yesterday but some were substantial: Souris received 88 mm/3.5 inches, Boissevain 64 mm/2.5 inches and Brandon 53 mm/2.25 inches. The headwaters of the Assiniboine also received heavy rains this week. Manitoba Water Stewardship is predicting an increase of at least 2 feet in the Assiniboine over the next week because of the new water.  Sioux Valley First Nation have begun new evacuations. 

Today most of the southern part of Manitoba, including the major lakes, is under a wind warning with gusts up to 90 kmh with showers in most areas. This is putting extra stress on dikes and on emergency crews in Brandon. Minor breaches are occurring but so far the pumps have managed to stay ahead of the leaks.

Wind-driven water in the lakes including Lake Manitoba, Dauphin Lake, the Shoal Lakes is washing on land and many properties are inundated. Hundreds of people around Lake Manitoba and area are now on mandatory evacuation. How much new overland flooding will result from the rain and wind will be better understood by the weekend.

Elsewhere the Grand Valley west of Brandon, though still heavy with water, hasn`t overflowed the Trans Canada Highway. Spruce Woods Provincial Park remains closed but for a few of the high ground camping spots and yurts. All aspects of the park remain off-limits or inaccessible, Hwy 5 is still closed so camping access is via Steel`s Ferry Road off Hwy 2.

Overall, we are getting exactly what we don’t need this week – more water and high winds. Depending on the flows, precipitation and winds over the next few days, the status of our flood situation  may change drastically. Stay tuned.

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Happy Birthday Walt Whitman

“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.” That deft response well describes its speaker, Walt Whitman. More of Walt’s words ensue:  “He most honors my style who learns under it to destroy the teacher.” and “I am for those who believe in loose delights, I share the midnight orgies of young men, I dance with the dancers and drink with the drinkers.” and “I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars.” and  “In the confusion we stay with each other, happy to be together, speaking without uttering a single word.”  Whitman was born on this day in 1819. Not dead/Dead since March 26, 1892. One more life lesson from Walt:  “Be curious, not judgmental.”

 

 

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Faces of the Flood

A series of photographs of people’s faces as they deal with Manitoba’s flood. Click pics to enlarge.

Matt Janzen reaches across his 5 foot dike to hand his 2 year old daughter Kaitlyn to his wife Melanie at their home just outside Elie, Manitoba Thursday.  The family have one of the lowest homes in the community and will have to leave the dike in place for a minimum of 6 weeks.  May 12, 2011. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press)

Members of 2nd Battalion Princess Patricia’s Light Infantry help load sandbags onto helicopter slings to be transported to weak sections of the dike running along the Assiniboine River 25 km from Portage La Prairie, Man. Thursday, May 12, 2011.   (The Canadian Press/Jonathan Hayward)

Mexican migrant workers sandbag the home of Jeff Connery near Hoop and Holler Bend, Manitoba.  May 11, 2011. (Joe Bryksa / Winnipeg Free Press)

Members of 2 PPCLI  Shilo reinforce a dike on the Assiniboine River off Hwy 430, north of Oakville, MB Thursday.  May 12, 2011. (Joe Bryksa / Winnipeg Free Press)

There was no shortage of help on the James Valley Colony Wednesday as everyone, including young girls, helped pitch in to move sandbags to dikes being built around their colony. May 11, 2011. (Joe Bryksa / Winnipeg Free Press)

Flood relief workers at Breezy Point April 8, 2011 (Photograph by Stan Milosevic)

Members of the Canadian Forces carry sandbags to a home located close to the Hoop and Holler Bend near Portage La Prairie, Man, Thursday, May 12, 2011. (The Canadian Press/Jonathan Hayward)

 

John Bray does last minute sandbagging at his father’s home near Oakville, Manitoba Thursday morning while his dog Lucky keeps an eye out. Their home is next to the Elm River.  May 12, 2011. (Joe Bryksa / Winnipeg Free Press)

Friends, family and volunteers sandbag a home on Cloutier Drive near the Red River in St. Norbert. April 9, 2011 (Photograph by Stan Milosevic)

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My Favourite Flood Picture

Dave Barnes, with his dog Jack, looks over the expanse of flood water covering his property in Brandon’s east-end. Friends and volunteers helped Barnes surround his home with sandbags and protect it from the surging Assiniboine River. This poignant photo of dog and master sharing an anxious moment was taken by Brandon Sun photog Colin Corneau on May 11, 2011. I highly recommend Colin’s fascinating collection of black and white Brandon photographs here.

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Sacred Places and Consciousness Part 2

Reid Dickie

Part Two

“Shamanic journeys provide opportunities to explore beyond our customary way of life and discover aspects of ourselves that are not evident in modern society or that are not culture-bound.” – Tom Cowan

If you haven’t already done them, I highly recommend you do three things before you proceed:

  • read Part One
  • print off and study both maps
  • read my FAQ page

Did you find yourself on the consciousness map? Bits and pieces of you all over? Personal growth is like a game of snakes and ladders. Each of us moves through these changes (or Fulcrums in Wilberese) with varying degrees of grace, growth and completion. Often, somehow, we are stepped on along the way, our growth stalls causing aspects of our being to mature at different speeds and times, if at all in severe cases. We may advance in mathematical cognition but be held back in emotions; advance in musical ability but be held back in social integration. No one passes through all the stages cleanly and sequentially, completing each one neatly and moving on. Mostly we are all over the board all the time until the higher abilities, call them adequacies, are developed and accessible to you. Then your focus is keen and sure, your vision is pure and honest. You are truly evolving. Sometimes you are still all over the board, too, but it’s way more fun now that you know what’s happening to you.

As you can see, development of consciousness is very much a hierarchy of abilities, a continuous increasing of adequacies. The higher we climb, the deeper we go, the more worlds open to us – more depth, more inclusion. Using a ladder metaphor, every rung presents new opportunities, accesses and includes more realities and brings us closer to Spirit. We know this because of the developmental changes you and I have experienced already to get to the point in our evolution of consciousness where we are able to read this page.

Much of what I describe in this essay is above Rational (F5) and well beyond the monological gaze of scientism. It is wisdom attained through inner work, through contemplation and introspection, by observing inner experiences and realizing they are as valid, as real, as consequential as exterior events. The change from the limitations of the exterior world to the utter limitlessness of the interior looks huge from the outside, but is much easier and more familiar when you begin looking at it from the inside out. Let’s do that now.

In our ordinary, daily consciousness most people operate on a Rational level (F5), the stage where we are able to think about thinking. Previously we could think about and act upon exterior realities. Attaining the Rational opens the new ability to reflect and act upon our own thoughts. Nothing that follows in this essay will make any sense at all to your Rational mind so try to see it as part of a complex network of interactions from the slightly higher Vision Logic level.

Above Rational exists Vision Logic (F6) where body/mind integration allows us to see patterns and networks of interactions. We become aware that both our mind and our body are experiences, objects that we can transcend and, thus, placing ourselves on the verge of the Transpersonal. Vision Logic adds up all the parts, discerns meanings and acts accordingly from practical to frivolous. It’s a rather lonely place where we are able to ask ourselves big questions, like “Why am I here?” and “What’s it all mean?” and where we can see all perspectives without favouring any particular one. Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard said about Vision Logic, “Here the self can no longer tranquilize itself with the trivial.”

I can report from experience, this place Kierkegaard describes is one of the loneliest a human being can inhabit. Described as warrior’s limbo or the dawn of self-actualization, it’s an uncomfortable in-between place where I had fresh clarity about my past, present and the world but virtually no certainty or clear understanding about the future. I had the big fat questions but scrawny little answers to gnaw on. I felt adrift in inklings, foggy possibilities loomed.

Writing this piece I have realized how many of my friends, both lifelong ones from childhood and ones gained over the last 15 years, are capable of and often employ Vision Logic in their awareness, work and worldview. The number is quite large and wide ranging, and includes young and old filmmakers, teachers, artists, musicians, massage therapists, writers, veterinarians, creative bureaucrats, real estate agents, doctors, actors, roofers and more. I can see how this same ability spread across a spectrum of careers was used differently by each individual. In some cases, it defined their individuality, on others, merely enhanced it. In a few cases they have transcended Vision Logic and, perhaps unwittingly, employed Psychic and Subtle techniques in their professions. This makes me blissful that my little life has attracted so many seekers, so many unabated curiosities, so many Old Souls, and even more joyful if I have contributed in any small positive way to their journey. That said, Vision Logic across the general population is rare.

The cure for warrior’s limbo, for the sad side of Vision Logic was to include and transcend it, turning it into a comfortable in-between place where spirits and shamans meet. That’s what happened next. The real process of personal discovery began in earnest for me in worlds inhabited by spirits and power animals.

Fulcrum 7 is the Psychic realm where most shamanic work begins. This is the beginning of the Transpersonal stage when my awareness, no longer confined to my body or ego, explores deeper regions of my being using shamanic drumming and intent. The Self has been transcended and transformed into its essential wisdom making new Psychic abilities possible. Through the discipline of shamanic journeying, I expand my awareness beyond myself to include the Psychic world in a deep, meaningful and inclusive way. More depth, more inclusion. It is a technique, an adequacy I have acquired, like being able to ride a bicycle or play pool. I can turn it on and off. It is rarer than Vision Logic in this culture.

One reason shamanism is effective in the Psychic realm is because here I have one foot in gross reflecting reality and the other in the Transpersonal. As my awareness becomes more inclusive I internalize more of the exterior world. I am transcending myself to include all of Nature because this is the scene of Nature mysticism. In this union with Nature, power animals arise as I begin to live more from inside than out, trusting intuitions, keenly watching for the spontaneous and unexpected during journeys.

In Psychic there is an enormous amount of information available that is in constant confusing motion, causing infectious, unusual empathies to build between my awareness and that of spirits and between spirits. I’m not a psychic so I rely on my spirit helpers and power animals to sort through all this information for me. Over the years, as this information passes back and forth between realms, I have developed honest and intimate friendships with spirits. This is what the Psychic allows me to experience – gathering arcane information.

Beyond the Psychic and even rarer is the Subtle realm (F8) where experiences are actually the seed forms of my existence. Sounds heavy! What’s happening is another expansion of my awareness, now including the Subtle. It’s the same process – more depth, more inclusion. I encounter processes much subtler, much more ephemeral than gross waking awareness. Information in Subtle comes in gentle forms with gentle names such as bliss currents and inner luminosities, expansive states of compassion, nothing like the experiences of my everyday reality or any previous realm. Patience and slow pulsations settle in my being. It is calm, peaceful but I am not alone.

As Psychic has Nature mysticism, Subtle has Deity mysticism. Here the union is with deities, fusion with my original pattern, the archetypal forms which arise out of sheer Emptiness. The potential now exists for coming face-to-face with the Divine. My spirit helpers are especially strong and easily accessible in Subtle. In Subtle I get the first intuitive glimpses of the Emptiness, opening up the possibility that the Kosmos emerges straight out of Emptiness and that I am simply a Witness to that arising. This is what the Subtle allows me to experience – fusion with spirits and a hint at The Source.

Higher and extremely rare, remember this is a hierarchy of abilities, is the Causal realm, so named because it does, indeed, cause everything. Something has to! Infinitely drenched in utter fullness, it is the home of my empty awareness – the Witness. Which witnesses what exactly? It sees the Causal as the scene of freedom and the source of creativity. In Causal, there is an overwhelming sense of freedom, of release, of detachment from everything I witness and then I realize I am this vast expanse of freedom, this limitless source of creativity through which all objects come and go. Witness is itself the Causal unmanifest. It is pure Emptiness. No surprise, for this is the realm of Formless mysticism. Deeper, more inclusive, this is what the Causal allows me to experience – having access to The Source.

Above that is Nondualism, the reality of all states and the source of awareness itself. Can’t report much from a place I haven’t consciously been.

Based on peak, plateau and adaptation of various realms, here’s how the stages of consciousness play out for me today: I have adapted to Vision Logic and upper Psychic/lower Subtle, meaning my awareness has expanded to include power animals and spirit helpers which are accessible at any time. I have plateaus at Subtle meaning, mostly during journeys, I have intense encounters with pantheons of spirits, many of them family members, usually when doing a healing for someone near or familial. My peak experiences into Causal are mere glimpses, fleeting and infrequent yet forceful in attracting me toward Spirit. Momentarily tasting the freedom, seeking the root of the Witness, grabbing for an iota of creativity when needed for a story or article, those are my brief experiences of Causal. Simply relaxing back into the Witness for a few seconds in my chair centres me and supplies the next idea or notion. Each experience contains a seed, an element of growth, a lesson. My life journey directs me to seek out every one.

I learned shamanism from Michael Harner. In his book The Way of the Shaman, he identifies six core elements that most shamans worldwide use in their practice:

  • call to heal – called rather than choosing the path
  • shamans move in two worlds: ordinary and non-ordinary reality (NOR)
  • shared conception of NOR and belief in the spirit world
  • access NOR through altered states of consciousness
  • harness the sacred and healing energies of objects
  • responsibility to community to heal and celebrate the sacredness of life

            In core shamanism, we fully accept and acknowledge that spirits exist. I have known spirits exist all my life. Another element is that shamans journey to either the Upper World or the Lower World. That’s where the spirits are. That’s where the power of the shaman’s intent, another basic element, is multiplied many fold. That’s where I meet my helper spirits and power animals, more core elements. That’s where my intent is focused and where I watch for the results as well as the unintended to arise. Both Upper and Lower worlds for me are usually in an imaginal natural place, a shallow stream in a narrow sunny valley is the most common place I go but I’ve met spirits in clouds, under the bark of trees and inside a wolf’s belly.

How does intent fit in? Good old intent! Besides sweetgrass and sagebrush, the best tool I have in my medicine bag is intent. Here’s how it works. A friend recently called me, frantic because he couldn’t find the master copy of a script he’d been working on and his computer had died. He specifically asked me if I could help him find the script. That’s the first thing – the problem and its obvious solution – he asked me to help and told me why. The intent was established. I journeyed in trance and in the Lower World I stated my intent and asked if any spirits could help. Bear, one of my power animals, quickly told me the answer and we moved on to other business (I often have several intents per journey – more efficient). I told my friend his script was under the backseat of his car to which he replied it was never in the car so that’s not possible. He was adamant. The script was behind the backseat. I’ve worked with him before using shamanism so he wasn’t surprised I found it for him.

How did that work? I intended to know the answer to the problem. I stated that intention as part of the reason for this journey. In trance I increased the power of that intent by announcing it in the Lower World and asking if a spirit knew the answer. How did Bear know? As I mentioned, there is an enormous amount of information moving around in the upper stages of consciousness, especially in the psychic and subtle. That’s why good psychics have an easy job. I access that information through spirit helpers like Bear. I ask for the spirit’s help and keep on patiently asking until an answer or answers arise. Knowing and being have coalesced.

Another example, less specific this time. At a weekend shamanism workshop we were doing various exercises, journeying for each other. A young fellow, Troy, asked me to journey about any possible job prospects he had, especially regarding a move to fulltime as a educational assistant. I took that intent into trance and posed it in the Lower World, several times to no avail. If it doesn’t work there, try the Upper World where I traveled in the same journey, posing the intent there. Eagle, one of my power animals, sailed next to me through the azure sky, opened its wing wide and showed me children playing in a pool on the underside of its wing. I couldn’t hear the kids, just see them. I asked Eagle if that was specific to Troy’s question and it was. I told Troy what Eagle showed me about the pool and he couldn’t make anything out of that. So the answer was not so clear…yet. That was Sunday. On the next Thursday Troy called me all excited. He’d just gotten a fulltime job with the school division that involved taking kids, some of them deaf, to the Pan-Am Pool twice a week. As in the case of the script, shamanism did not interfere with the world in order to get the answer for Troy. It just pointed toward the answer and said be patient. But the process, the how, was the same: high intent, stated in trance, patience and alertness.

I have tried to explain the nature of the various stages of consciousness available to us. In Part 3, I will share some of the specific inner experiences that occur at each stage and how they relate to sacred places, and give greater background into the significance and use of spirits.

I am indebted to Ken Wilber for giving me a philosophical context for my shamanic experiences. Having the benefit of his work and the language he uses to describe various stages of consciousness, adds greatly to my work and takes nothing away from it. Again I recommend Ken Wilber’s book A Brief History of Everything if you want more detail.

This essay is permanently on my Sacred Places page.

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Peregrine Falcons Nesting in Brandon, Too!

When I posted the first story about the falcons in Winnipeg a few days ago, the Brandon cam wasn’t up and running. Today it is and what a great angle on the future festivities! The nest is situated high atop the McKenzie Seeds Building in downtown Brandon. There are two tabs along the top of the image, one for Winnipeg nest, one for Brandon nest. Click pic for both cams.

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Canada West – Homes for Millions

This promotional poster touting western Canada as the last and best place in the world to farm came out between 1896 and 1911 while Sydney Fisher was federal Minister of Agriculture. Still offering free farms and stooks as far as the eye can see.

Watch my video on free farms

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Happy Birthday Bruce Cockburn

I first met Bruce Cockburn when he was an aspiring young folk singer who played The Onion, a subterranean folk club at Ryerson in Toronto in the late 1960s. This was before his first album was released. Bruce was a gentle soul who wrote delightful and intelligent songs and backed himself up as a virtuoso guitarist. Bruce was born today in 1945.  Here are a few gems from Bruce: “I wear my shadows where they’re harder to see, but they follow me everywhere. I guess that should tell me I’m travelling toward light”and “The second half of the ’60s really was a kind of learning period, in terms of writing, for me.” and “The trouble with normal is it always gets worse.” Bruce performs If I Had A Rocket Launcher.

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Manitoba Flood Update – Friday, May 27

Reid Dickie

The flood situation in southern Manitoba is beginning to stabilize with water levels dropping. I took a drive out the re-opened Hwy #75 south of Winnipeg this week and found many fields, especially around Morris and south, still covered with standing water from recent Red River flooding. Conservative estimates say 50,000 acres of Manitoba cropland will not be seeded this year due to flooding.

“High five, Team Brandon!” That’s how Brandon mayor Shari Decter Hirst summed up local response to the flood crisis. The Assiniboine River is subsiding slowly by about 4 inches a day. That’s not expected to change very much for the next two weeks. Good news for the 1400 people still evacuated from their homes on The Flats in Brandon, they will be able to return home this weekend working to a schedule the city has drawn up. Confident that the worst is over, the mayor announced a Victory Party for Brandonites will be held July 1st at the Keystone Centre to celebrate the sense of community and accomplishment that follows the flood. A parade and fireworks will bracket the day’s festivities.

Major flooding is still threatening farms, cottages and permanent residences around Lake Manitoba and an urgent call for volunteers went out this week. High schools and the general public responded and sandbagged many properties in the Twin Beaches and Lundar Beach area. The call for volunteers was urgent because Operation Lustre, the code name for the military’s Manitoba flood fighting efforts, is over and the troops, all 1800, have left the province, formally and prematurely thanked in the legislature. Between the high lake level, the likelihood of the prevailing northwest winds whipping the waves onto the shore and lack of government back-up to protect properties there is still plenty of anxiety around the lakeshore.

I drove out to Portage la Prairie yesterday to check out the amount of water in the Portage Diversion. Though it has declined a few feet from last Friday, the Diversion is still carrying an enormous amount of water into Lake Manitoba. Rain and showers are predicted for Manitoba and eastern Saskatchewan for the weekend.

As the water moves northward, Lake St. Martin is flooding out a First Nations and threatening the area. The three Shoal Lakes in the Interlake have stabilized and are expected to slowly subside over the next month. Now that the major threat has passed in the south, the flood, though still happening, is being largely ignored by the mainstream media. The provincial government has stuck its head back in the sand and is pretending the flood is over.

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Manitoba Heritage Building – Octagonal Wooden Silo

Reid Dickie

Octagonal wooden silo, Rural Municipality of De Salaberry, MB

Ghosts of a bygone era, their scale puny by today’s standards yet there is a mystery, a dense past contained within the weathered and lichened boards. This example, given a sensuous curve over the decades, is situated in the Rural Municipality of De Salaberry in southern Manitoba, one of three such structures in the RM. The local heritage buffs proudly refer to them as “our litttle Eiffel towers.”

Octagonal wooden silos and barns were  built mainly between 1850 and 1900, the advantage being the interior corners were less acute creating more storage space. Typically, polygonal silos  – some were 16-sided – had a hipped roof like this example, sometimes a dormer on the top as here which was used to fill the silo. More often a trap door covered the ingress opening.

The relics in De Salaberry RM were likely built around 1885 by the original landowners and used well into the next century. The silos were formally turned up when the RM conducted an inventory of local heritage buildings in 2009. They discovered 65 potential heritage sites from silos to churches to houses to various architectural styles that represented the various ethnic groups who settled the region, including French, Metis, Hutterite, British and Ukrainian.

Check out the fate of another octagonal grain silo near Carberry.

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Peregrine Falcons Nest on the Cliffs of Downtown Winnipeg

Following an alarming decline during the 1950s and 1960s, this spectacular falcon, also called the “Duck Hawk,” is on the increase again, now that DDT and other pesticides that caused thinning of eggshells have been banned. After an intensive program of rearing birds in captivity and releasing them in the wild (a process called “hacking”), this large falcon is reclaiming nesting grounds from which it disappeared a few decades ago. Although their habitat is mainly open country, especially along rivers and coasts and near lakes, a favorite nesting site nowadays is a tall building or bridge in a city. These urban Peregrines subsist mainly on pigeons.

Since 1989, pairs of reintroduced Peregrines have nested high atop the Radisson Hotel on Portage Avenue in downtown Winnipeg. Characteristically, Peregrines return regularly to favourite nesting sites. One pair after another has used the same spot in England since 1243. Since 2006, CBC Manitoba has provided a falcon cam in the nest of the downtown birds. This year, the chicks have just hatched so the feeding frenzies now begin. Click pic to start live falcon cam.

The Peregrine Falcon has been the favourite of falconers for over 3,000 years, ever since the nomads of central Asia first pursued game with trained hawks and falcons. Extremely acute eyesight, even in dim light, allows falcons to be very effective hunters around dawn and dusk.

Peregrines often migrate very rapidly between breeding and wintering areas, flying as much as 500 km per day. A female Peregrine that nested in Edmonton flew to Mazatlan, Mexico, in less than eight days and returned in six days.

With the exception of Antarctica, New Zealand, and Iceland, the Peregrine is found around the globe. Twenty-two subspecies are recognized throughout the world. Their great powers of flight have enabled them to establish nesting populations in the Arctic, and as far south as Tasmania, South Africa, and the Falkland Islands.

Peregrine Falcon Range Map

Peregrines breed from Alaska and the Canadian Arctic south locally through the mountainous West, and sparingly in East. Winters coastally, north to British Columbia and Massachusetts.

This post can also be found permanently on my Birdland page.

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Happy Birthday Dorothea Lange

No, that’s not Dorothea Lange. If you don’t recognize the name you’ll recognize this photograph she took. Dorothea Lange, born this day 1895, was one of several photographers hired by the U.S. government to document the Depression. Created in 1935 as part of the New Deal, the Farm Security Administration was set up to combat rural poverty. The FSA had a highly influential photography program meant to portray the effects and challenges of the Depression on rural America. Photographers, such as Walker Evans, Gordon Parks and Dorothea Lange, were given assignments, often scripted and specific, sometimes allowing the photographer freedom, to document the rural poor to show the progress of the government programs. Dorothea Lange’s photograph became the icon of the program, published in newspapers and magazines around the country and helped relate “people to the land and vice versa,” said Roy Stryker, the program’s chief. And what did Dorothea say? “The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.” and “Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still.” and “… put your camera around your neck along with putting on your shoes, and there it is, an appendage of the body that shares your life with you.” and “…Art is a by-product of an act of total attention.” Dorothea’s work broadly defined the documentary photograph genre, influencing and inspiring several generations of clickers. Not dead/Dead since October 11, 1965.

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New Page Added – Heritage Buildings

In addition to heritage houses and churches, I now have a page devoted to Manitoba heritage buildings that don’t fit either of those categories. The first two buildings featured are Brandon’s Central Fire Station, today’s post; and Stonewall Post Office. I will be adding more buildings regularily. Pages are listed along the top above the header picture.

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Manitoba Heritage Building – Brandon Central Fire Station

Reid Dickie

Brandon Central Fire Station, 7th & Princess, Brandon, MB

Brandon’s Central Fire Station began its existence in controversy as a replacement for an 1882-83 fire hall on this same site that was a High Victorian Gothic design by British architect Arthur Thomas Timewell. Timewell was deeply influenced by English architect John Ruskin, an advocate of Venetian Gothic designs. The 1911 replacement we see today was created by local architect W.A. Elliott in the Chateauesque style with an Italianate tower. It was built by A.E. Bullock for less than $40,000. The two styles integrate completely into a picturesque result.  The roofline is a swooping statement ending in the exclaiming tower! The steep pitched hipped roof with flat top is punctuated all around by small dormers with steep flared gables. A wide dormer in an eyebrow shape looks out from the front and back. The contrasting white trim on the cornice and stringcourses gives the red brick a striking appeal. The fenestration on the front elevation is a fine balance of double windows over each garage door with the dormers and eyebrow centered again above them.

The Italianate tower is a beauty. Towers were used to dry hoses and played an essential role in early fire fighting. The little invisibly pitched roof has wide eaves with huge carved brackets and pairs of arched openings with small wrought iron balconies. Beneath the balconies is a delicate bit of corbelling. The tower has corner pilasters, which give it a sturdy feeling. Originally the tower contained a large fire bell, known as “Coronation Bell” named in honour of the coronation of King George. The bell weighed 1995 kg and a base of 1.58 metres. It was removed in 1971 to reduce the stress on the tower. The brickwork around the sides on the main floor has alternating relief courses that give the building a sense of stability.

The old fire hall no longer serves its intended purpose and waits empty for its fate. Brandon now has a spiffy new fire hall, all glass and concrete, that, ironically, also came into existence with controversy. The location of the new fire hall, situated in the valley, meant that if the river flooded, access to the north part of the city would be cut off and the ability of engines to cross the crowded 18th Street bridge to get to the south part of the city was held in serious question. With this year’s flooding, the first scenario played out, forcing Brandon fire officials to station several pieces of fire fighting equipment in the lot of a car dealership north of the river in case the bridge was impassable.

Now that it’s empty, maintenance of the building seems to be lax which is a pity since it is a fine example of architectural blending producing unique results. The destiny of Central Fire Station remains in limbo. One of the campaign suggestions of Brandon’s new mayor, Shari Decter Hirst, was to use it as a micro brewery complete with brew pub which seems a suitable use as long as its heritage integrity is maintained. Recent changes in provincial liquor laws could bring that idea closer to fruition. To demolish this classic would be a crime against beauty.

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Happy Birthday Bob Dylan

To these humble though experienced ears, the five most influencial musicians of the 20th century were George Gershwin, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, The Beatles and Bob Dylan. Today, rather unexpectedly, Bob Dylan turns 70 years old. Though he needs teleprompters to remember all those amazing lyrics, Dylan is still at it. He starts a short tour of Europe and the Middle East next month. Beyond his lyrics, here’s a few mental gems from Bob Dylan: “A song is anything that can walk by itself.” and “All this talk about equality. The only thing people really have in common is that they are all going to die.” and “Being on tour is like being in limbo. It’s like going from nowhere to nowhere.” and “I accept chaos, I’m not sure whether it accepts me.” and “Money doesn’t talk, it swears.” and “People seldom do what they believe in. They do what is convenient, then repent.” and this could go on and on. Happy Birthday Bob and I thank you for writing and recording my third favourite album of all-time, Blonde on Blond, in 1966 when you were just 25 years old! My review of the album follows. The picture is a doctored still from Dylan’s classic video for Subterranean Homesick Blues done in 1965 as the opening sequence for D.A. Pennebaker’s documentary about Dylan’s tour of Britain called Don’t Look Back.

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Reid’s All-Time Favourite Albums Mixed Up – #3

Reid Dickie

#3.   BLONDE ON BLONDE – Bob Dylan 1966

       The story so far: scrawny Jewish kid from grimy mining town Hibbing Minnesota, in the thrall of a muse shared by Woody Guthrie and other patriotic American dissidents, flees to NYC and instills himself in the burgeoning “folk explosion.” Writing and performing his protest vision to increasingly enthusiastic folkies and recording three albums of great folk purity, he wears his folk troubadour mantle with appropriate dustiness.

      Under the sway of big city life and its denizens, he transforms easily into dandified street hipster, tousle-haired and poetic, his new muse the Symbolists, Rimbaud et al. This new electrified personality demands a different music, electric, bluesy and peopled with his strange new friends and their antics. He creates two albums (Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61 Revisited) of blues-pierced rock and roll with snarled chaotic images ranging from street scenes to bible stories, almost hits #1 on the pop charts and, unfazed, continues his transmogrification.

     To create the third album in his rock and roll trilogy – an unintended trilogy as history would demonstrate – Dylan went to Nashville taking just Robbie Robertson of the Hawks, and Al Kooper on keys. Everyone else is a veteran Nashville studio musician. And the result: Dylan’s masterpiece.

      As a Zen master put it, “When I heard the sound of the bell ringing, there was no I and no bell, just the ringing!” This is the ringing. The levels of invention on this album are astounding. Seasoned Nashville session musicians mix with raw young rock players under Dylan’s hallucinatory wand to create four sides of inspired new music. Blonde on Blonde scratched into the wall a new meaning for the term rock & roll.

   It was the first double rock and roll album ever released. It changed the way musicians, fans and the music industry felt about LPs. It shockingly expressed, for the first time that a song could take up a whole side of an album and that was okay.

   From the howling homage to the Beatniks – Rainy Day Women #12 & 39 – that opens this creation to the final notes of the stoned epic to his new wife Sara as of 1965,  Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands that consumes all of side four, there is seldom a moment not awash with musical and/or poetic eloquence. This was the album where Dylan demonstrated he thoroughly understood rock and roll, too.

    We’d heard the evidence of his folk roots and those understandings. We’d listened along as he grew into a relatively comfortable blues player. Like a Rolling Stone became an unlikely Number Two hit and established Dylan’s rock & roll wrinkle, a wild cascade of images and vitriol over the raw shriek of bastard guitars and clamoring keys. Like a Rolling Stone’s visceral form left vast areas of refinement available for Dylan to explore. Blonde on Blonde was the earnest beginning of that exploration.

    An even more unlikely hit for Dylan opens the album, Rainy Day Women #12 & 35, got to Number Two! Here we have a whorehouse full of Beat poets, all very horny, high on wine and pot, yowling their mantra for a generation “Everybody must get stoned,” backed up by a German mariachi band, also drunk and high. It’s a marvelously ridiculous introduction to the subtleties that follow.

    Next is the lowdown blues of Pledging My Time, teeth-filling-rattling harp in the forefront throughout while a concoction of musicians simmers away behind him.

   There are several songs I absolutely love from this album and Visions of Johanna is the first to appear. It is my favourite track here. This is the newly transplanted urban poet keenly observing the crazy strangeness that the city produces in people, cautiously dipping his body and his mind into relationships but always ruled by an infatuation with Johanna, a vision of unattainable beauty and his life’s fulfillment. He’s having fun with it though.

“See the primitive wallflower freeze,

When the jelly-faced women all sneeze

Hear the one with the moustache say, “Jeez,

“I can’t find my knees.””

   (Sooner or Later) One of Us Must Knowis another of my faves, an edifying, almost hymnal organ/piano rant with Dylan trying to “explain” a relationship, even taking some responsibility for the way it turned out. The spookiest line in this tune is “You  told me later as I apologized, you were just kiddin’ me, you weren’t really…from the farm.” At once accusative and spiteful yet loving, there is something about how he says those three words that is still wonderfully enigmatic in meaning and delivery. So ends Side One. Three to go. This is vinyl, remember.

      I’m convinced Dylan either worked on or spent way too much of his youth on midways. There is a carnival atmosphere to some of his material. I Want You, follow-up single to Rainy Day Women, getting to #20 on Billboard, is stoned Bobby Vee meets the guy who plays the organ at hockey games. The candid title seems to justify every strange thing that happens in the song, all because “I want you.”

    Southern music, cool, smooth and sublime, describes (Stuck Inside of Mobile With the) Memphis Blues Again. Some of Dylan’s most surreal images and characters emerge in this song. It’s sticky with desire, murky with symbols transforming into concepts. And I love the ending!

     Barroom brawls are happening in the background of the haute Chicago blues number Leopard Skin Pill Box Hat; snaky guitars feed a hungry piano being chopped in two with a dull axe. Add another full measure of vitriol! This was a single, peaking at #81!

     The fourth and final single from the album ends side two, Just Like a Woman, peaked at #33. Who could possibly resist “her fog, her amphetamine and her pearls?” The song is about a small increment of his personal evolution that happened, to Dylan’s surprise, at the end of a relationship.

   Those eight songs would have comprised any normal album of the time. But we have two more sides that expand on the themes and format of the first two. Back to the carnival for Most Likely You Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mine, another cranky ending to a relationship, another favourite.

     Temporary Like Achilles follows the second track/blues format. It’s a slow, crisp number with the great line “I’m trying to read your poetry but I’m helpless like a rich man’s child.” The organ in the break is bubbling up from a very deep pool, likely played by Al Kooper.

     Absolutely Sweet Marie follows, a bouncy rocker with another mystery tableau peopled by Marie and friends. Dylan’s harmonica break is, simply, nuts.

    The most delicate setting backdrops another tale of a bizarre relationship with 4th Time Around. The floppy melody carries a yarn about a one-night stand with some serious drug use and the morning after; off-kilter observations and events flow in and out of the collage. (Legend has it Dylan played this tune for Lennon and McCartney before he had recorded it. Soon after he got a thematic re-write of it on Rubber Soul (#16) called Norwegian Wood. Legend has it.)

    Obviously 5 Believers is the album’s last romp, clangy guitars, blues harp and honky tonk piano conspire in this yearny tune.

     Side Four is all Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands, about 11 minutes of Dylan at his hallucinogenic best. In an album full of such moments, here he manages to evoke in a dream a hovering feminine wraith that haunts his consciousness to the point that “a warehouse eyes my Arabian drum.” Now that’s serious fantasizing! Pour on the churchy organ, tap out a rhythm on a wastebasket, refer to “the farm” again in an eerie nostalgic way and keep the joints lit. (This was when drugs were still fun for Bob.) The song, the side and the album end with another harrowing harmonica blow from Dylan.

    The next step on his journey is complete.  

Favourite Track: Visions of Johanna

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The Flood Moves North – Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Reid Dickie

Reminder: hover cursor over picture for caption/comment

“Get rid of God and religion and replace it with a government which pretends to deliver redemption with a cheque book; but how does the rational age god guarantee redemption without perpetual motion of the second kind? This is a thing of beauty: subsidize the destruction of nature (soil, water, specie) and then compensate the recipients when their subsidy cannot be collected because big bad old nature huffed and puffed. Yes it is a thing of beauty for the middlepeople who collect taxes, distribute subsidies, and then offer compensation for the inconvenience of failed assumptions while they pay themselves for all of the transactions involved. And we only have to sacrifice with infinite debt to accomplish this thing of beauty.” comment by Eco Bimbo on Free Press story about Manitoba government spewing $175 million around for compensation and more protection from future floods.

Meanwhile, for the rubber boots brigades around Lake Manitoba, things just keep getting worse. Two-thirds of the water coming down the Assiniboine for the past two months has been diverted their way and their front yards and basements are full, their riprap rocks swept away, properties flooded and an ominous sense of dread builds when they hear the northwest wind get up. Properties all around Lake Manitoba are flooded including Oak Point, Twin Beaches and Johnson Beach on the east shore. Delta Beach on the south shore has a voluntary evacuation of 30 permanent residences in place tonight. Big winds came blasting in from the northwest yesterday wrecking havoc along the virtually unprotected south shoreline, especially Delta Beach. Many residents are saying they had no warning and no help from the government. Manitoba Water Stewardship claims 100 military personel are in the area assisting and another 100 along the Assiniboine. Where did the other 1500 we had a week ago disappear to? They are needed. This ain’t over yet and somebody should probably tell MWS and the military that, soon.

Lake Manitoba outflows via the Fairford River, which is dammed right at the lake. It drains into Lake St. Martin, around which two First Nations are flooded out, then, via Dauphin River into the north basin of Lake Winnipeg then into Hudson Bay. According to today’s Flood Bulletin from MWS, “the Fairford River water control structure continues to operate at full capacity. Outflows from Lake Manitoba on the Fairford River and further downstream on the Dauphin River remain high.” So more water is being dumped into the big lake than its outlet can handle thus flooding. No brainer.

Inundated, St. Ambroise Provincial Park, which juts out into Lake Manitoba, Lundar Beach and Watchorn campgrounds on the lake, will not open this year. Tonight the waters from the weekend storms are surging gravity-driven toward their destiny in wide Hudson Bay and, as the flood moves north, the people in the way take their turn holding their breath.

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Spruce Woods Provincial Park Flooding – Tuesday, May 24

Reid Dickie

It appears my favourite provincial park won’t be hosting many visitors in the near future as the Assiniboine is having its way with the little place. According to Manitoba Highways, Highway #5, which passes through Spruce Woods Provincial Park and provides its major access route, is still closed between Carberry and Glenboro. Though the bridge is holding, the road north and south of it has been washed out. The department is hoping the bridge holds and will be safe for use after the river subsides. Regardless, the section of Hwy #5 through the valley will have to be resurfaced.

Manitoba Conservation in Carberry told me today there is currently very limited use of Spruce Woods Park with just the upper campground and the yurts accessible and available. Six of the thirteen yurts were in use over the long weekend. Access to upper campground and yurts is from Hwy #2 using Steel’s Ferry Road. See the map.

There isn’t much to do in the park because all but a short section of one trail, Spirit Sands, Punchbowl, Marsh Lake and lower campgrounds are closed due to flooding. The park office is still flooded with water almost to the eaves. Re-opening the park depends on when the water subsides, the amount of damage the flooding caused and how long it takes to complete repairs to roads, buildings and sites. Most of the park will be closed until July 28 when the situation will be reevaluated. Reservations are being taken for yurts and the upper campground at the provincial parks call centre: 1-888-482-2267 or 948-3333 in Winnipeg. Good luck.

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Filed under Accommodations, Flood, Natural Places, Parks, Sacred Places

The Chemistry of Decomposition explained by Chemical Girl

click to enlarge

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Filed under 1950s, Ancient Wisdom, Passages

…the paper it’s printed on.

” Let us not be satisfied with just giving money. Money is not enough, money can be got. Let us more and more insist on raising funds of love, of kindness, of understanding, of peace. They need your hearts to love them so spread your love everywhere you go.” – Mother Teresa
 
From the Things-To-Give-You-Pause-and-Perspective file: My friend Chris has a eye-opening post about what money and debt actually is on his blog today at http://loveartandfear.com/2011/05/23/8-things-you-may-not-know/

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