Category Archives: 12 days of christmas 2015
My Churches page features over three dozen lovely churches most in rural Manitoba. One exception stands in downtown Winnipeg. I hope it will inspire you to explore the page and discover our rich religious heritage.
Holy Trinity Anglican Church
Graham and Donald
Adding medieval charm to an ever-changing downtown corner, now with the Millennium Library, cityplace and the MTS Centre as its cornermates, stands Holy Trinity Anglican, a striking example of delicate High Victorian Gothic architecture. The third church on this site, construction was completed in 1884.
This limestone church’s design marked a new level of sophistication of design for Winnipeg. Architect Charles Wheeler created the plan right down to the coloured stained glass clerestory windows. Wheeler’s other buildings include Dalnavert and the first Dufferin School.
Holy Trinity’s many Gothic features enhance its medieval feeling with an enormous number of pinnacles, buttresses, gable ends, orbs and finials all intending to move your attention heavenward.
The church was designated a National Heritage Site in 1990.
The Old Way of Seeing: How Architecture Lost Its Magic (And How To Get It Back) by architect Jonathan Hale clarified why some buildings appeal and seem to sing while others are disharmonious and ordinary. The secret is the Golden Section, the system most architects working before 1840 used to create human spaces, spaces that resonated with our bodies and spirits. I started to use Hale’s schematics on heritage buildings of all kinds to determine if the Golden Section was employed or not and discovered subtle and essential qualities that empathetic places all have. Published in 1994, the book is still available. Holy Trinity Anglican is a fine example of many of the capacities of the old way of seeing.
On my Sacred Places page there are 25 written and video reports of personal visits to sacred sites on the prairies. Rather than feature one site I suggest you scan the list and select one or two interest. The picture above is of Castle Butte. Additionally five essays explore aspects of the sacred as manifest in these sites. I am grateful to Ken Wilber for bringing his insight to some of my experiences. When visiting sacred sites it is beneficial to you and to the spirits if you practise safeguards.
- Maintain optimum mental and physical health.
- Practice interaction with vibrations at local ancient sites.
- Do not preprogram information about the area you plan to visit.
- Begin work in relatively untraveled regions.
- Eat lightly before visits
- Transmit less and receive more.
- Never enter a site in ‘neutral’. Always manifest a positive aura of protection at all times.
- Always discharge energies after leaving a site.
- Systematically record observations and experiences.
- Be patient in waiting for results.
- Travel alone whenever possible.
- Be careful in your handling of words and intonations at ancient sites.
My Houses page features 41 classic Manitoba homes in 21 communities. There are a few instances where prairie houses overlap with artistic vision creating an entirely new way of seeing the architecture and the land. Today I feature two such sites, both of which succumbed to fire for very different reasons.
The Criddle/Vane story is unique among prairie settlement. Eccentric Percy Criddle loaded his wife, mistress and nine children up and moved them from the finery of London to the bald Canadian landscape in 1882. Years of hardship ensued. Four more children were born on the homestead. The family had wide and varied interests – music, art, sports, astronomy, entomology – and pursued them all with vigor making the site a hotbed of artistic and scientific activity for decades. About 1900 Percy built a huge two story wooden house with eight bedrooms on the second floor. It stood for 115 years on what is now Criddle/Vane Provincial Park. Alas, arsonists set the old pile on fire in June 2014 and nothing remains of the structure. Luckily I had shot several videos of the houses. This report is a tour of the house’s interior. Four a more complete tour of the park check out this report.
The Doll House by Heather Benning
As a succinct statement on the collapse of the family farm Saskatchewan artist Heather Benning created The Doll House in 2007. She modified a long abandoned wooden frame farm house on Highway #2 just east of the Saskatchewan border. This report provides detail on the project along with its destiny.
Dick Tool Co Art
DickToolCo Art page offers detailed glimpses into the collaborative art Linda Tooley and I created between 1977 and 1983. Our approach was relentlessly genre-busting combining film, video, photography, environmental art, abstract, collage, mail art, performance art and on and on. Dozens of examples abound on the page.
For an example of our video art click the pic above to view Kangaroo Birth Cycle Coat, a commercial parody of furriers from 1981.
Many pages on my blog relate in some fashion to Manitoba’s rich built and cultural heritage. The MB Heritage page features seventeen sites including this classic. Who can resist an old red barn?
Old Red Barn
About 300 yards from the north boundary of Riding Mountain National Park, in a long-abandoned farm yard next to some tumbledown buildings, stands this beautiful old barn, striking a dominant pose against the backdrop of yellowed birch. Still retaining some of its red colouration – the traditional recipe for barn paint was cow’s blood, rust, lime, milk and linseed oil – and withstanding the northwesterlies with the help of a tall thick windbreak, the old place demonstrates classic massing and materials. The tiny and sparse windows meant a rather dark barn but they helped retain heat in winter. The barn tilts to the rear a little, the first sign of a future tumbledown.
I included this barn in a short video piece called Portals to the Past
As the page header says, I’ve already wasted my time making these, now it’s your turn. My Guff page collects 60 bizarre and unusual posts and videos I have created over the past five years. Words, found images and sounds are the sources. Many demonstrate my oft-dark, sometimes unreachable sense of humour, most are very short – perfect time wasters. I have picked two for inclusion today.
God Is at Home, We are in the Far Country from Guff page, click pic for video
What He Rebels Against from Guff page, click pic to watch video cut-up collage
There are 51 day trips on my Day Tripper page, all in Manitoba, several that can be stretched to two or three days. Spruce Woods Provincial Park about 2 hours west of Winnipeg offers diverse experiences communing with nature in all seasons. More of a night trip my post called Gathering Moonlight at Spruce Woods Park reports on one of my many all-night hikes to Spirit Sands, this one on June 2012.
Gathering Moonlight at Spruce Woods Park from Day Tripper page
“The moon’s a harsh mistress, it’s hard to love her well,
The moon’s a harsh mistress, the sky is made of stone,
The moon’s a harsh mistress, she’s hard to call your own.”
– Jimmy Webb
These are the buttery days of a new ancient summer. In their fluttering perfection, butterflies dot the world. Their true colours range from solid black through red, orange, yellow to iridescent blues, always stoned on some intoxicating nectar or other. Dragonflies have started to appear; mosquitoes aren’t far behind. Such was the world I entered Monday when I checked into Yurt #4 at Spruce Woods Provincial Park for a two-day stay.
Ensconced on my deck facing WNW, the temperature around 28 degree C, I have found a little Eden. The late afternoon breeze plucks music from the oaks and cottonwoods along the Assiniboine River, which I can see shining below. A dozen kinds of birds twitter in the trees, their songs striving to capture the counterpoint of the afternoon. They are successful every moment.
A huge yellow butterfly with blue trimmed wings dances above my glass of wine. Unable to resist, it lands on the rim, sips delicately and does a backward somersault off the glass into its fluttery world. My plan is to await dusk then hike out on Spirit Sands to watch the full moon rise over the dunes.
The day is cooling perfectly as I head out to Spirit Sands about 9:30. The golden sky deepens to red then crimson then purple and darker as I surmount the log ladder up the dune face. Arriving at the place on the dunes Linda and I always visited, I hear voices among the trees below. The last of the humans are clearing off the trails. I am alone.
As I await moonrise, coyotes howl in the west and are answered by others in the east. The flies and mosquitoes find me extra attractive with my coating of sweat from the hike. As a slight evening breeze cools my skin, a pale glow on the northeastern horizon heralds the full moon. It swells into view bulbous and red, and I am filled with bliss and gratitude for this witnessing.
I spend an hour watching the night deepen and the moon whiten. Hiking back during the very last moments of twilight, the shadows are flecked with occasional fireflies. After decades of gathering moonlight, the long-fallen bodies of blown-down trees shine like silver. Standing armies of wolf willow glow eerily in the moonlight.
Back at my yurt I light a fire and watch the stars come out. Hundreds of fireflies flicker on and off in the trees around my yurtyard. Fireflies are a positive sign of a healthy habitat. Crickets and choruses of frogs, the small cries of night birds, crackle of the fire and rustle of the constellations harmonize around me.
After a long sound sleep I awoke Tuesday to another perfect day! I took a drive to the nearby Criddle/Vane homestead (blog post to follow), toured the area a bit, lunched at the Robin’s Nest in Carberry where I see the temperature to be even hotter tomorrow. The Robin’s Nest is a quaint little restaurant and motel along the TCH. I recommend it for its good country food, friendly staff and it’s now licensed.
Back at Yurt #4, the drone of a bumblebee intoxicates me in the heat. A red-headed woodpecker taps out a secret message on the trunk of a gnarly old oak. The park is still and quiet today with just the warbles and sighs of the denizens. The day wears away and night captures the land. Like stars, the fireflies are continuous tonight. Everywhere I look I see them, flitting through the treetops or winking shyly from the pitch-black understory. As I stand, a firefly zips by my face exploding like a tiny flashbulb.
Crickets and frogs keep time with the pulse of the night and, later, dozens of coyotes in all directions create an exhilarating aural experience making it sound like the whole world is composed of nothing but coyotes and their haunting theories. Another thoroughly restful sleep ensues.
Crews continue working to bring Spruce Woods Park up to its standard before last summer’s flood. Today as I was pulling out I noticed the road to Spirit Sands was cut and a large culvert was being inserted under the road. The ditch along the highway is being worked to remove some of the flood cake that still coats parts of the park. Daily horse-drawn covered wagon rides to the dunes and punch bowl begin in July and summer nature programs are scheduled. So whether you are gathering sunlight or moonlight, the park’s numerous trails await your hiking boots and your curiosity. (Take water. Do a tick check.)
Two other things to mention about Spruce Woods:
- Turkey Vultures: from my deck I saw several large black birds soaring high on the thermals when I arrived on Monday. I took them to be ravens due to their size. Later they soared lower and I saw they were turkey vultures with their stubby necks and bright red heads. Abandoned farm buildings around the park make excellent nesting places. I also saw turkey vultures perched on the roof of the ruins of the Lyon’s mansion just outside Carberry north of the park. The old house would be a perfect site to raise their bulky young. I will keep an eye on both locations to see where they are actually nesting. I have blogged about turkey vultures and the Lyons house before;
- Sundance: a large sign at the Epinette Creek turnoff pointed toward a sundance being held this week in the park. Sundance is a days-long ritual of sacrifice and transcendence where prayer, piercing and offerings of flesh open the path to personal healing. The public is welcome, however, please remember, no drugs, no alcohol at sundance.
The fiction I have written has tended toward short stories, due in part to there being a better likelihood I will know when the story is finished; anything larger attracts doubt, difficulty and potential for dangling dénouements. That said I recently finished, yes actually finished, a novel of several hundred pages and proportions. Writing Play the Jukebox (it’s fourth and final working title) was among my life’s most rewarding experiences. Getting lost in the lives of dozens of fresh beings for eighteen months then coming out the other side covered up in aces I am confident the thing is finished. I look forward to my editor’s comments and my responses to them. Writing Play the Jukebox (it’s fourth and final working title) was among my life’s most rewarding experiences. Getting lost in the lives of dozens of fresh beings for eighteen months then coming out the other side covered up in aces is hard to diminish.
There are two dozen short stories on my Fiction page. In Panic Don’t Panic I take you right down to the concrete on the streets of Winnipeg and introduce some of its denizens.
Panic Don’t Panic from Fiction page
A steamy prairie wind blows in from the west, the city swelters, the garbage blows up and down Graham Avenue. Come Soon Summer does a finger check because the wind told her to. She curls her fingers toward her and counts. One two three four five. One two three four five. Yup, all there, even the one with the dirty plastic band-aid on it. Someday she will look under the band-aid and see what is there but not today.
She knows the finger stealer is nearby. Perhaps it’s the white man who thinks he’s cool in wrap sunglasses. Maybe it’s the old black lady with the thick glasses and the polka dot shopping bag. Or it’s the tiny drooling googly-eyed baby in the huge plastic carriage, or its mother, the thin distracted woman sipping a take-out coffee through a straw as she navigates the giant tram through sidewalk traffic, picking away at some black thing in her hand, the plugs in her ears telling her how to be in the world and what to do. Whoever it is, there is danger.
Come Soon Summer hears all about the danger from the wind through the elm saplings along the sidewalk, the whish of the bus tires on hot cement and the chattering in her head. There is danger. One two three four five. One two three four five.
When she remembers where she lives, Come Soon Summer can always go home, back to the little boxy house in the bush by the little stream that drowned somebody every summer for twenty five years but never drowned Come Soon Summer, not even once. In the house she sees her half-brothers Ilis and Orlis feet up watching some game on TV, eating zesty chips from crackling bags and bubbling water from plastic bottles. She sees first their feet then their legs being removed by the diabetes and she sees the spinning spokes of their wheelchairs create fluttering birds in the late afternoon sun. She spirals into the flickering light, her fetch overshadows her ghee. She doesn’t understand her thoughts.
Come Soon Summer finds a piece of thick blue chalk on the sidewalk. It is a finger, she thinks, someone has lost a finger. She counts her own fingers. One, two, three, four, five. One two three four five. All there.
She picks up the chalk, which has fallen out of a girl’s bag as she ran from the library to the waiting family car. Is the library on fire? Come Soon Summer asks herself again and again until she can’t remember the question anymore. That’s how she likes it, when she can’t remember the question anymore. She is holding chalk with all her fingers. That’s all. That’s all she knows, needs to know.
She remembers she can write. She can’t think of anything she needs to write or even wants to write. Come Soon Summer has no words. She stands weeping wordlessly as the library door swooshes open and closed.
She remembers the only two words any of us really need to know. They come rushing at her, toward her and she captures each one before it gets lost inside the word zoo building. Together the two words squeeze out small music in her mind.
The blue chalk is becoming moist and crumbly in Come Soon Summer’s hand. She now knows she needs to write and she knows what she needs to write. She kneels and applies the blue chalk to the red brick sidewalk in front of the library. A wad of gum sticks to the chalk. She flicks it away and feels the chalk expressing her command beneath her hand. She feels powerful. Her words appear large and blue.
Slouched against the stone building Come Soon Summer watches as library patrons walking in and out scuff her words away, her important message, her blue lines disperse like clouds in a red brick sky, vaguely tinting the soles of boots and shoes that later at home cats will sniff and sneeze from the blue dust of her chalk.
Come Soon Summer sneezes just as a woman in office clothes bends toward her offering her a loonie. Come Soon Summer takes the metal thing and smiles widely at the woman, revealing her blackened and broken teeth and the dark gums that still keep some of them in place. Come Soon Summer looks at the metal thing in her palm and suddenly lets out a yelp that startles a library patron who is chaining up his bike at the rack. One of her fingers is gone! Another yelp! Gone! One of her very own fingers! Counting one, two, three, four… only four, one gone! She curls her fingers toward her and counts again. “One two three four…” Still one short! Panic, Don’t Panic, Panic, Don’t Panic!
Something else is going on.
Come Soon Summer looks across Graham Avenue into the churchyard of Holy Trinity Church where men are shouting and hooting. Coming on the run around the side of the church is a barefoot young Cree man pursued by four slightly older native men, all of them high as kites on whatever they managed to steal from Canadian Tire that day. The boy runs through the iron gates into the traffic on Donald Street barely dodging cars. Traffic clears and his pursuers easily catch him on the sidewalk beside MTS Centre. They strip off his torn t-shirt and hold him as they take his jeans and run across Donald waving his clothing victoriously in the air. They stand across the street, pointing at his nakedness and shame, their laughter sounds like coyotes.
The naked man’s name is Shaq, actually Shaquille. Short on heroic role models of their own, Shaq’s young Cree parents named him after a black American basketball player due to cross-cultural empathy between downed natives and suppressed American blacks. Shaq is not seven foot one, he’s five foot ten. His smooth young body carries two souvenirs. Along his right side above his waist is a foot-long scar, still red from a knife attack by his drunken sister three months previous. Shaq almost bled to death that time. A sharp indentation on his right shoulder reminds him of the bullet that he caught on Alfred Avenue in the North End when he was eleven. Friendly fire, the cops called it.
On the sidewalk next to MTS Centre, Shaq quakes in anger, his head and long black hair shake as he clenches his fists by his side. Throwing back his head, he lets out an enormous existential wail of angst that echoes back and forth between the old church and the brick and glass boogie room. As he wails, his arms and clenched hands rise skyward, fists shaking over his head. His prolonged, resounding howl sounds like Wolf.
Naked and howling Shaq feels perfectly alone. He reaches inward and draws out his power animal fully, becoming Wolf on the sidewalk next to MTS Centre, powerful, brave. He howls again and again, each more desolate, more authentic than the last. He looks down at his naked body and howls again, this time tinged with a little laughter but ever Wolf. He throws his fists open and claws flex out of his fingertips. He leaves scratches on the afternoon sky.
His tormentors, though still curious what he will do next, lose interest in the game and throw his t-shirt and jeans onto Donald Street. Shaq watches as cars run over his clothing again and again. Clothing seems so irrelevant now, so unnecessary, so imperfect. I am perfect, Shaq thinks. When the traffic clears, he walks into the street, retrieves his wardrobe and dresses in the middle of Donald Street while drivers honk around him. Smiling and baring his teeth, he gives each one a fond finger.
At the same time as Shaq is naked and howling, behind him and proceeding along the sidewalk next to MTS Centre Come Soon Summer sees an orderly double line of poisonous mushrooms, orange bobbing mushrooms, the most dangerous kind!
In fact, they are not poisonous mushrooms, or even mushrooms. They are the Grade Two class from Our Lady of In Spite of Ourselves Catholic School – all twenty two of them, each wearing a neon orange hat for easy spotting during disasters – under the management and advisement of two obese diabetic women who are not their teachers but teacher’s assistants assigned the dirty job of tending the small flock through the maze of downtown, treacherous filthy downtown with its lurid crime, lack of predictability and unbenign deaths as seen on TVs in Squash Squander Heights and other suburbs surrounding Winnipeg. The women and their entourage are headed toward the Millennium Library for Storybook Time with Gerty Glucosemeter.
Both Eleanor Fecunder and Sessious Pindrover, minders of the little herd and both mothers though not of any of the children in their tow, are wearing similar toxic orange hats. The children have been trained to look for “the lighthouse of an orange hat if they are feeling lost.” As a result, child snatchers now, as a rule, have a neon orange hat in their glove box. Neither Eleanor nor Sessious know this or even care. They just want to get the herd to the gee dee library without any of them being flattened by a bus.
Sessious, leading the line, is the first to notice the commotion of the Indian boys. Her heart rate jumps thirty beats a minute, her eyes widen and her pupils dilate in a strange reaction to the anti-depressants she gobbles daily. She sees the naked man, turns toward the children and screams at the top of her lungs, “STOP!”
Bumpily, all the children stop, most are frightened, some start to cry. Eleanor, riding shotgun at the rear, finally sees naked Shaq and yells at the top of her lungs, “RUN!!” Confused, the children start to run past Sessious and Shaq. All of them turn to look at Shaq. Waiting for the light at the end of the block, some children still cry, others, curiosity enflamed, stare big-eyed at the man howling on the sidewalk. Storybook Time with Gerty Glucosemeter turns out to be rather anti-climatic. All the mushrooms make it through the ordeal, none squashed, all home safe and sound.
That evening, around the dinner table in the Bubbler household on Pillsbury Crescent Roll Crescent in Plunging Plover Plateau, Dad (Blair) asks his seven-year-old Son (Seth) what he learned in school today.
“I saw a wolf.”
Dad (Blair) is surprised. “You saw a wolf? Really? Where did you see a wolf, son?”
“Downtown, when we went to the lyberry, there was a wolf howling on the sidewalk. He had no clothes on.”
Dad (Blair) smiles at his son’s active imagination.
Raised in rural Manitoba I developed an early appreciation of birds evidenced by the complete collection of Red Rose Tea Bird Cards on this page. My travels on the prairies including several unexpected birds. Find them all my Birdland page.
CEDAR WAXWINGS IN BRANDON
It was a strange April day in Manitoba: temperatures around 30 degrees C and clear blue skies all weekend long. I was staying with my cousin, Duncan, in the east end of Brandon. On the day I arrived, Duncan pointed out an ornamental cherry tree in his neighbour’s backyard that was loaded with shriveled red cherries. Unfit for human consumption, the cherries are a delicacy of certain birds that, according to Duncan, each spring swarm the tree and feast on the cherries, now sweetened by winter’s freezing and thawing.
The next morning, as if induced by my cousin’s comment, the tree was alive with cedar waxwings. Famished from their long migration, the waxwings cover the tree and the ground below, ravenously eating the cherries. A flock of birds flies up from the ground into the branches and the ones from the tree swarm to the ground, excited birds, appetites whetted, blissful on a hot strange spring day.
The air was vibrating with the shrill keening of the waxwings. Several large still-bare nearby trees were decorated with more cedar waxwings waiting to feed, hundreds of birds in all. Flock after flock dined at the cherry tree.
Several curious species – robins, blue jays and starlings – arrived to see what all the commotion was about. These birds prefer feeders and worms to cherries but waxwing enthusiasm was contagious. The feeding frenzy went on most of the morning then the flock was gone, the air still, quiet, hot.
In a few weeks, the cherry tree will be smothered in tiny white and pink blossoms that perfume the air with a sweet smell. By then subsequent flocks will have stripped all the cherries from the tree.
Cedar waxwings have the ability to digest a variety of berries, some of which are poisonous to humans. Gorging themselves for hours, waxwings have been known to get a little drunk if the berries have fermented.
A sleek, beautiful creature, cedar waxwings are strikingly identifiable: the brown topnotch crest and breast with grey wings and tail, the yellow wash over the belly, the dark eye mask and throat marking, the yellow tail tip and the distinctive waxy red drops on the wings which give the birds their name. The females are somewhat plainer. Cedar waxwings are one of the few birds whose numbers are increasing in North America.
Coniferous trees are favoured places to build their deep nests. Chicks are born late to ensure a supply of berries and bugs for their growth. I remember seeing waxwings as a kid in western Manitoba. Apparently they abound in Assiniboine Park in Winnipeg but I haven’t seen one in our neighbourhood for years. The last time I saw one was a few years ago at Last Mountain Lake in Saskatchewan. I was camping next to the bird sanctuary and saw a nesting pair.
What a hopeful sign it was to see a huge flock of excited birds so eager to fulfill their biological imperative. I had begun to wonder if there were large flocks of any birds remaining. It was good to see an old friend return with such vigor.
What is Shamanism? from FAQ page
The six Frequently Asked Questions on my blog all deal with some aspect of my personal spiritual practise – shamanism.
What is shamanism?
Personally, shamanism provides a method for me to experience life beyond the rational mind and its limitations. Ever since I was a young child I knew there was a place where imagination began, where great powers and incredible beings existed to help us and heal us. I spent forty years trying to find a way to get there. In 1994, I discovered a little book called The Way of the Shaman by Michael Harner. He laid out the core elements of shamanism as it had been practiced for over 50,000 years, adapted the techniques and technology for modern people and, suddenly, I had access to the spirit world. I had found my way!
Using a sonic driver, in my case drumming on CD, the daily mind is distracted. Then, having access to that mythical 90% of the brain we don’t use, the psychic and subtle worlds are revealed. I enter these worlds with powerful intent behind each of my journeys there. Intent, while a good list filler in ordinary reality, in non-ordinary reality becomes an enormously powerful tool. The shaman’s work is to apply the intent and watch for the intentional and unintentional to occur and discern their meanings. Power animals and spirit helpers act as guides, protectors, companions and teachers. More often than not, my clarity results from their explanations of events.
Mircea Eliade, the historian and philosopher who wrote the seminal work on the topic called Shamanism, subtitled it Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy. What the shaman knows that few others know is the secret of the trance, which is: the trance plus intent opens access to the scene of freedom, to the source of creativity and to sheer ecstasy, all achieved simply, safely and without drugs. Ecstasy is a major factor in all the reports in this series. I spend a lot of time there.
You find my FAQ page here.
This year’s 12 Days of Christmas will feature one daily post from 12 of readreidread’s best pages. This will show the diversity of my blog content while revealing the range of my personal interests and some of the blisses I have followed in my life. The pages are all listed above my home page header picture. I begin with an excerpt from one of my favourite and most satisfying projects – The Lonesomes.
Old Friends from The Lonesomes, 2013 video project
The 16 stories that comprise The Lonesomes offer life and death at play on the open prairie. Change is chronicled in personal events, measured by lifetimes. The stories tell of the desperate births of people, towns and ideas, of mystery, trickery, love, revenge and bizarre deaths, glimpses of the human condition that resonate deeply with people everywhere, city and country, town and farm.
To watch the Old Friends segment – about 4 minutes – click here.
Watch The Lonesomes in its entirety – about 45 minutes – by clicking the picture at the top of this post. rewind to zero as video starts a few minutes into it.
Feedback always welcome.