Category Archives: Old Souls

12 Days of Christmas 2015 – Day Five Fiction

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

Reid Dickie

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.


 Don’t Panic

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.


Filed under 12 days of christmas 2015, Fiction, Old Souls, Winnipeg, Writer's Life


My friend Candis’s store on Corydon. Check it out!


1 Comment

March 29, 2015 · 5:50 pm

Happy Birthday John Cleese

cleeseOn this day in 1939 John Cleese was born in Weston-super-Mare, England and the futures in absurdity went through the roof. John had a few witty things to say over the years including  “He who laughs most, learns best” and “I think that the real religion is about the understanding that if we can only still our egos for a few seconds, we might have a chance of experiencing something that is divine in nature. But in order to do that, we have to slice away at our egos and try to get them down to a manageable size, and then still work some practiced light meditation. So real religion is about reducing our egos, whereas all the churches are interested in is egotistical activities, like getting as many members and raising as much money and becoming as important and high-profile and influential as possible. All of which are egotistical attitudes. So how can you have an egotistical organization trying to teach a non-egotistical ideal? It makes no sense, unless you regard religion as crowd control. What I think most organized religion—simply crowd control.” and  “I find it rather cleese wareasy to portray a businessman. Being bland, rather cruel and incompetent comes naturally to me. ” and “I can do anything I want, I’m eccentric!” and “I think the problem with people like this is that they are so stupid that they have no idea how stupid they are.” and “Creativity is not a talent. It is a way of operating.” and “This is the extraordinary thing about creativity: If just you keep your mind resting against the subject in a friendly but persistent way, sooner or later you will get a reward from your unconscious.” Dead/Not Dead John celebrates his 75th birthday today. One final word: “We don’t know where we get our ideas from. What we do know is that we do not get them from our laptops.” Oh I almost forgot,  “Your Mother was A Hamster and your Father Smelled of elder berries”

1 Comment

Filed under birthday, Humour, Life and Life Only, Old Souls

Lycanthropy The Good Old Days Part 24

Snapshot 1 (21-09-2014 11-25 PM)

Disturbing our practice.

Don’t treat me like practice.

Tell them sorry I have practice.

Practice chaos and disorder.

Click pic to practice. 

Practice colours.

Practice til later.

Companion video explaining how it works

Leave a comment

Filed under Ancient Wisdom, Art Actions, Education, Guff, Old Souls, shamanism

Life Among the Lions

kevin richardson go 2

Reid Dickie

I have blogged before – here and here – about Kevin Richardson and his rapport with wild beasts, specifically lions and hyenas. His other videos and his book, Part of the Pride: My Life Among the Big Cats of Africa, are inspirational and soul-building. In a match made in marketing heaven, Go Pro cameras and Kevin teamed up and created a 15 minute video that gives you a Kevin’s-eye-view of the experience of physically playing with lions and hyenas. At one point the critters even chew on the camera. Click the pic and join 15+ million others who have watched the big cats play!

Leave a comment

Filed under Ancient Wisdom, Inspiration, Old Souls, Soul Building

Reid’s 2013 Year-End Review


Reid Dickie

The mighty Avenger (actually two different ones from Enterprise) and I logged over 25,000 kms again this summer, almost all of it in Manitoba. I got around and I’m so lucky to have an outlet to report what I saw, did and wondered along the road. The picture above, called Oh Susanna The Covered Wagon by R. Atkinson Fox, I found in the Carberry Plains Museum.

I drove a diversity of Manitoba highways this summer and can attest to the fact that there was a lot of highway infrastructure work being BRANDON 067done in all areas of the province.  Some of the work was more major ranging from seal coating to total reconstruction to replacement of bridges. Overall the condition and driveability of rural roads in summer is far superior to the streets of Winnipeg whose condition now approaches third-world status in all seasons.

In my travels this year, I was struck by the resilience of people and Nature to repair and recover from the 2011 flood, by the importance of local heritage which was celebrated in several places this summer but disdained or denied in others, by the generosity of people in sharing their stories, ideas and images with me and by the jolt a double homicide caused in a small village. For the view from Reid, read on…

Fresh Events

Carberry Heritage Festival


On this blog I have long touted the glorious heritage examples that still exist in Carberry, MB, posting 51 times about some aspect of the town’s past. When I heard Carberry was organizing its first ever heritage festival I wanted to play a part. I met with the organizers, created and distributed a media release to help promote the event and documented all the days’ events. This is a picture of an old Linotype typesetter in the office of the Carberry News Express. Below members of the Manitoba Muzzleloaders show their weaponry at the Carberry Heritage Festival.


Though the weather was cool, the festival drew a sizable crowd, enough to convince the organizers and business people of Carberry to make it an annual event. I am glad Carberry took the initiative and expanded on their unique heritage status. They have much to be proud of.

I did several reports on the heritage festival, a video of the events plus this post about how to load and fire muzzleloaders and the new video below of classic cars, trucks and farm implements at the festival. Heritage comes in many forms. I always love it when a new/old song enters my awareness. This happened on the Friday afternoon at the Carberry Heritage Festival when I was taping the events. An elderly lady sang and played guitar on the sidewalk for festival goers. I caught a snippet of her singing a great old song called Waltz Across Texas which I included in my video of the festival. The song echoed

tubbvery dimly in my memory but I couldn’t recall the original singer. Ernest Tubb was a 20-year country music veteran when he recorded this wistful, sentimental song in 1965. There is some confusion as to who wrote it. Ernest’s nephew B. Talmadge Tubb is usually credited sometimes with his uncle Ernest, sometimes not. Watch Ernest perform Waltz Across Texas, basically defining a whole generation of country music, one that even as the song rode the charts was passing from the public mind.

Yardfringe, Dauphin

YF 2

After I heard the term “Yardfringe” for the first time I went to Google and discovered the only reference to it was in Dauphin, MB. Something was abubble in Dauphin! Yardfringe is a variation on fringe festivals but the wrinkle is people bike from venue to venue which are in people’s backyards, people who have developed some sort of entertainment for the fringers to watch at no cost.  It’s an idea whose time has come, can be easily and cheaply promoted via social media, can apply to small cities or even big city neighbourhoods and has virtually no infrastructure. In October I wrote extensively about Yardfringe and interviewed one of the event’s co-founders.

Garland Airplane


This is a picture of your humble scribbler posing with the Vickers Viscount aircraft parked in tiny Garland, Manitoba. The plane has been anchored there since 1982. One of the many helpful people I met this year was Don Fyk, the plane’s owner, who shared his fascinating story with me. Read the whole story and watch my video tour of the exterior of the plane.

Flood Recovery

Since I covered the 2011 Manitoba flood in depth, I feel compelled to follow-up with the latest news. This summer several of the places devastated by the flooding Assiniboine and Souris rivers made a recovery. Two stories dealt with crossing rivers but in different manners.

Stockton Ferry

stockton 2011

This is a picture of the Stockton ferry in 2011, beached by flood waters. The infrastructure for the Stockton Ferry, the last remaining river ferry in southern Manitoba, was destroyed by the flood, washed away leaving twisted metal and broken cable. This video shows what the ferry looked like after the 2011 flood. As of summer 2013 the ferry is back in operation, carrying local traffic across the Assiniboine eight hours a day.  This video shows a ride on the restored ferry this past summer. The Stockton ferry restoration is an appropriate and successful response to the flood damage, which I can’t say for the town of Souris.

Souris Swinging Bridge


Unfortunately for Souris their old swinging bridge, the main tourist attraction to the place and a significant piece of local history, has been replaced by a bridge that doesn’t swing. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t budge the bridge. Boring! Too bad the engineers who designed this thing didn’t consult with any heritage people. To continue calling it a “swinging” bridge is dishonest at the very least. Not a success. This picture is the new unswinging bridge.

Spruce Woods Park


Again this year Spruce Woods Park was one of my most frequently visited sites. I took this picture this summer from Hwy #5 in Spruce Woods Park. The row of grey dead trees in front of the verdant ones in back were drowned by the flooding Assiniboine in 2011. They stand as a stark reminder of how the park looked then. This year and last, man and nature collaborated to rebuild and renew one of Manitoba’s best parks. Visitor amenities – campgrounds, trails, services – are almost back to pre-flood standards. The covered wagon rides to the dunes are back. A new office and other buildings that were swept away still need to be replaced. Another success story. Two out of three isn’t bad, considering how much government must have been involved in all of them.

Special Places

Spirit Sands


I hiked Spirit Sands half a dozen times this year from May to October. As I reported in my posts, every hike offered plenty of subtle changes in the open meadows, deep forest and wind-shaped dunes.


Though not formally recognized as a desert, active sand dunes on the open prairie is enough of an anomaly to be called a “desert” at least as a hook to garner tourists. However, of late Nature hasn’t been playing along with this tourist game. At Spirit Sands the reverse of desertification is occurring. The dunes are becoming overgrown with native grasses, flowers and wolf willow, all hardy in dry places. The lure of open sand dunes is being rapidly dulled by the burgeoning plant growth on the sand.


When Linda and I started visiting Spirit Sands in the mid 1990s, there were large open areas of sand with moving dunes fringed by some growth. Stepping off the top rung of the log ladder and seeing a desert spread out before you was truly a Manitoba “Wow” moment, right up there with polar bears. These days there is a more muted response to the first glimpse.


While Nature proceeds apace, humans are responding rather predictably. Those for whom Spirit Sands plays a financial stake in their lives have started rattling some cages. Options being presented include a biotically-respectful plowing up of the overgrowth to open up the dunes to the prevailing north-westerlies, get the dunes moving again and restore their “Wow” value.  I expound further on this in my September hike report.  All the pictures in this item were taken on my September 2013 Spirit Sands hike showing the current state of the extensive overgrowth.

The Vondarosa

My cousin Vonda resides on her family farm on the northern edge of Riding Mountain about two miles from the park. I’ve been visiting the area since I was a child so the distinctive bulge on the horizon we call Riding Mountain is an indelible and pleasant shape threaded through my memory. I am grateful there is still close family on the land and to be a welcome visitor to the Vondarosa. Here’s an account of an early visit last spring.

An evening drive back across the rolling plains with the blue Duck Mountains bulging on the western horizon and deeper blue Riding Mountain looming in the south and growing larger as we approach. At the Vondarosa, we sat outside, drank wine and watched the five cats and three dogs at play, living their idyllic lives in the throws of a long dense valley with a spring stream that surges then trickles then disappears flowing through the yard. The throws are the wide mouths of valleys as they flatten and disappear into grain fields that stretch away. Vonda’s place is exactly at the edge of a throw, sheltered by the valley and mature trees. It feels perfect! For me, it’s one of those in-between places that shamans experience great joy inhabiting. There are several places on her land that have powerful spiritual energies, especially the plateaus above the farm yard and the vortex in her yard and on the western edge of her land.


Birds sang and fluttered, dogs barked, distant trees sang on distant breezes, the sun poured red honey over the edges of the valley then set scarlet and hopeful between two granaries. Twilight ensued at its leisurely pace; the silence deepened. Sweeping down the valley toward me I felt the glorious wildness: the muscular lope of the cougar, the gnawing spring hunger of a bear, the spray of fear from startled deer, itches under the bark of a hundred million spruce trees, all aching along as evolution persisted around me, inside me on the brink of a mountain.


Finnegan (cat) Rebel (dog) Reid (human) at the Vondarosa.

ALONG THE ROAD TO DAUPHIN 018One of my duties at the Vondarosa is gathering dead wood from the bush surrounding the yard, hauling it to the fire pit and assembling it as artistically as possible. The evening bonfire unites day and night in a ritual blaze that competes only slightly with the realms of stars overhead. Among the stars in the pitch black night travel satellites and, at dusk, when the light is just so, the International Space Station floats past. The embers glow, sleep.

Pitter Patter

Percy Criddle’s Telescope


Regular readers of my blog will recognize the name Percy Criddle as a Manitoba pioneer from England, eccentric as the day is long. Percy fathered a brood of exceptional children whose talents and efforts gave science its first serious glimpse of prairie flora and fauna, provided decades of accurate weather data and left behind a true Canadian story as yet untold but deserving of a movie.

criddle hypno

Percy had some training as a medical doctor so his talents were put to use on the virtually doctorless prairie of the late 1800s, early 1900s. I posted about Percy’s medicine chest, showing some of the foibles of early medicine. Check out the ingredients in Hypno-Sedative. Chloral was basically knock-out drops.


On a day trip with old friend Mark, we visited the Sipiweske (sip-a-whisky) Museum in Wawanesa which has many relics from the Criddle-Vane homestead. Among his fancies, Percy included astronomy. His dear friend J. A. Tulk back in England bought a telescope for Percy and shipped it to him in 1886, four years after the family arrived in Canada. Now in the collection at Sipiweske Museum, Percy’s telescope – it’s blue! – stands in a place of honour among the artifacts.

MCC Thrift Shop of the Year

I know, Mennonite Central Committee thrift stores don’t compete with each other; they all do good work making things better locally and globally. Last year was the 40th anniversary of the stores. You can read more on their background in this post.

As a veteran thrifter, I visit rural MCC stores regularly every summer. Manitoba is gifted with a dozen of them outside Winnipeg. I visited all but one of them at least once this summer, usually finding a few neat/strange things along the way.


Using the criteria of interesting and unpredictable stock, reasonable prices, friendly staff and general cleanliness of the store, I proclaim that the MCC thrift shop in Portage la Prairie is my personal MCC Thrift Store of the Year. I visited it over three dozen times last summer and walked out without buying something maybe three times. The large PLP store, which opened in 1983, is located on Saskatchewan Avenue, handy on my many visits westward.

The store is well managed in the new era sense of thrift stores. The manager, Kevin, wears a headset phone, his staff are kind, helpful and enthusiastic, the store is clean and very well organized. While jumbles are fun for a few minutes, you can’t beat a nicely presented display of similar items which the PLP store excels at. All day this store rolls out racks and racks full of their latest donations. They usually have sales on certain categories of items. They keep a large stock of costumes which are available year round plus they offer a silent auction which can be viewed in-store and online. There is a large parking at the rear of the store.


This life-size mask is a handmade, hand-painted souvenir from Venice, Italy, a city known for its elaborate masks. The Carnival of Venice which ends when Lent begins, is an annual affair where masks are worn, each mask representing a certain aspect of Venetian history. I bought this mask at the PLP MCC for $5, making it one of my best buys of the summer.

Steinbach and Brandon both have large MCC Thrifts but they are runners-up to PLP. All the MCC stores in Canada and the United States are listed here.

PLP has two other thrift stores which I occasionally stop at: United Church’s McKenzie Thrift Shop on Saskatchewan Ave, and St. Mary’s Anglican Thrift on 2nd St SW.

Clinker Bricks in Edmonton

I visited my cousin Barb and hubby Larry in Edmonton over the summer and they introduced me to a building material I had never heard of before – clinker brick! Huh? That’s what I said.


This is hundred-year-old Holy Trinity Anglican Church made with clinker bricks – misshapen bricks  cured too close to the fire. They were a trendy item in Edmonton for awhile; ritzy houses often had clinker features. Read my post all about clinker bricks.


Lyons Mansion

It’s a pile next to a busy highway whose only job is to disintegrate brick by brick, bird’s nest by bird’s nest, lath by lath into the prairie. My video tour of the inside of the old Lyons mansion near Carberry garnered plenty of YouTube views this year. So did my tour inside and out of the old stone house along Highway 21. If you haven’t seen either, click the pics to watch.


Snapshot 26 (14-11-2011 3-25 PM)


This is the big old barn caving in on itself behind the Lyons mansion.

So God Made a Farmer

Dodge Ram used part of Paul Harvey’s touching tribute to farmers in a Super Bowl ad. Originally read to a gathering of the Future Farmers of America in 1978, Harvey’s speech was edited to fit into the two-minute commercial. Here is his entire tribute to farmers including the two sections omitted in the ad.

And on the 8th day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, “I need a caretaker.” So God made a farmer.

God said, “I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, milk cows, work all day in the fields, milk cows again, eat supper and then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board.” So God made a farmer.

“I need somebody with arms strong enough to rustle a calf and yet gentle enough to deliver his own grandchild. Somebody to call hogs, tame cantankerous machinery, come home hungry, have to wait lunch until his wife’s done feeding visiting ladies and tell the ladies to be sure and come back real soon — and mean it.” So God made a farmer.

God said, “I need somebody willing to sit up all night with a newborn colt. And watch it die. Then dry his eyes and say, ‘Maybe next year.’ I need somebody who can shape an ax handle from a persimmon sprout, shoe a horse with a hunk of car tire, who can make harness out of haywire, feed sacks and shoe scraps. And who, planting time and harvest season, will finish his forty-hour week by Tuesday noon, then, pain’n from ‘tractor back,’ put in another seventy-two hours.” So God made a farmer.

God had to have somebody willing to ride the ruts at double speed to get the hay in ahead of the rain clouds and yet stop in mid-field and race to help when he sees the first smoke from a neighbor’s place. So God made a farmer.

God said, “I need somebody strong enough to clear trees and heave bails, yet gentle enough to tame lambs and wean pigs and tend the pink-combed pullets, who will stop his mower for an hour to splint the broken leg of a meadow lark. It had to be somebody who’d plow deep and straight and not cut corners. Somebody to seed, weed, feed, breed and rake and disc and plow and plant and tie the fleece and strain the milk and replenish the self-feeder and finish a hard week’s work with a five-mile drive to church.

“Somebody who’d bale a family together with the soft strong bonds of sharing, who would laugh and then sigh, and then reply, with smiling eyes, when his son says he wants to spend his life ‘doing what dad does.’” So God made a farmer.

Heritage Breakdowns

Negrych Family Homestead, north of Gilbert Plains


This building, a long-shingle bunkhouse in the vernacular style of the Carpathian Mountains in Ukraine, is the iconic image of Negrych Family Homestead, the best preserved, most complete Ukrainian homestead in North America. Built between 1897 and 1910 by the Negrych family using materials found on their land, the place is a heritage treasure that is tended with much local love and pride. In 2012 my cousin Vonda and I visited the homestead and were given a full tour by Madison, a knowledgeable and enthusiastic DAUPHIN AUGUST WIGO RUH 037young woman from the area. It was a summer job that she found very fulfilling. The buildings, relics and background information combined to create a unique experience. We came away with greater appreciation for how pioneers survived and thrived on the raw prairie and new respect for their resourcefulness.

This year was a much different story. For reasons I don’t know, no funds were available to hire summer students to give tours and help maintain the site. The only opportunity for a guided tour this year was if you happened to arrive when one of the volunteers was mowing the grass. It is disgraceful for a site like this not to be available which is why I uploaded an eight-minute tour of the Negrych Homestead.

Dalnavert, Winnipeg


Built in 1895 Dalnavert still stands at 61 Carlton Street as one of Winnipeg’s finest Queen Anne Revival houses in a neighbourhood once richly endowed with houses in the style. Beyond the sheer grandiosity of the building, lovingly restored, maintained and run as a museum by the Manitoba Historical Society (MHS), is the provenance of its occupants. Sir John A Macdonald’s son, Sir Hugh John Macdonald, prominent Winnipeg lawyer, lived with his family in the house giving it an aura of importance and justifying its national treasure status.

But Dalnavert is in trouble. Closed since September 2013, the house/museum has run into financial difficulties prompting the MHS, the site’s owner, to ask for sound doable proposals for the future of Dalnavert. The deadline is January 17, 2014.

Shaver House, near Killarney


I included the historic Shaver house in last year’s 12 Days of Christmas. Built in 1901 and located just north of Killarney MB it’s a unique example of prairie brickwork and style. Recently the house has been a bed and breakfast run by the personable Pam and Paul La Pierre. Sadly the house burned down on May 8, 2013. Heritage lost. Watch my short video of the Shaver house.

The Dollhouse, formerly way out MB Hwy #2


Among the most popular videos on my YouTube channel is my report on Saskatchewan artist Heather Benning’s Dollhouse, a poignant work of art out on Highway #2 almost at the Saskatchewan border. At least it was a poignant work of art until Heather decided to burn it down which she did in April 2013. Artist’s prerogative. This is heritage lost in a way but I’m sure Heather will creatively built on it so its statement did not die in the flames. Watch the video and read the updated story. 

Murder House


I grew up in a small town of about 800 people in western Manitoba. Crime of any kind, other than the occasional bootlegger, was rare and usually committed by drifters. Most small communities aim to maintain a state of grace – an often-fragile balance between people and their individual and collective needs and expectations based on fellowship, caring and tolerance. Sometimes one person can upset the balance to such an extreme the whole community falls from grace.

ETHELBERTDAUPHIN MAY 28 2013 007In August I reported on events in Ethelbert, MB (pop. 312) as a short intro to pictures of a house and yard where a double homicide occurred in January 2013.  Elsie Steppa, 81 and her nephew Clarence Thornton aka Harry Jones aka Jesus Christ, 50 died of “blunt force trauma” in a little white stucco house next to abandoned railroad tracks. For me, the event has an irresistible bouquet of surrounding elements and, as it turns out, images.ETHELBERTDAUPHIN MAY 28 2013 010

On two occasions this past summer I took video and stills of the murder house in Ethelbert which, though padlocked, hadn’t been touched since the investigation. These images comprised my August post and received a variety of responses.

Thornton aka Jones aka Jesus Christ was a violent unpredictable man who was banned from most area churches due to his erratic and threatening behavior. He couldn’t get along with anybody. Still needing a church to preach in, Jones secretly adopted as his own several long- abandoned churches out in the ETHELBERT JONESbush. He stole plastic flowers from cemeteries to decorate his church and altar. He wore vestments stolen from churches and set up his own altar lit with candles. Jones preached for hours, sometimes days from his lonely pulpit, all the time to an empty room with the prairie wind whistling between collapsing walls and roofs.

This summer the details of this story have come to me in often CARBERRY MUSEUM JONES CHURCHES PICS 027serendipitous ways. One such example is gaining access to two of the abandoned churches Jones decorated and preached in. I took dozens of pictures of the churches and evidence of Jones’s using them. Some of the pictures are quite shocking.

Combining the pictures of the house, yard and churches into a little movie I offer you Murder House in the Rain, 4:50 of visual CARBERRY MUSEUM JONES CHURCHES PICS 025reportage. I aim to creates moods, atmospheres in my videos work and Murder House in the Rain is all mood! Jones kept two large dogs to guard his paranoia. The dogs on the soundtrack fulfill their role, sudden and near. Click this pic to watch the video.

Ethelbert mayor Mitch Michaluk told me that the murder house (my terminology) and property went up for tax sale on December 9, 2013. It has back taxes of $1200 owing on it. Though it sits on a serviced lot, it’s unlikely anyone will buy it. Its fate? Probably demolition by the village.

Payton Saari, 20, of Ethelbert was arrested and charged with two counts of first degree murder. He has yet to enter a plea.

Ten Manitoba Sights in Two Minutes


Though I have created several dozen videos and over 100 blog posts this year, there is still a wealth of bit and pieces that I want to share. In this new video see ten Manitoba sights in two minutes. Click the pic to start the tour.

Schools Page

This year’s best new page is my Schools page (at the top above the header picture). Included on the page are articles and pictures of ten Winnipeg schools that have been demolished, features on spiral fire escapes, the origins of junior high, my memories of attending a one-room schoolhouse, educational innovators like William Sisler and J. B. Mitchell, heritage schools in rural Manitoba and my mom’s Grade 11 exams from 1930 plus much more.


This is now-demolished Somerset School, constructed 1901, demolished 2005. I offer it because in the last few months I have met two people, both in their mid 30s, who attended Somerset when it was temporarily part of nearby Sacre Coeur School. Though I have extensive pictures of its exterior I wasn’t able to get access to photograph inside before it was torn down. A chain drugstore stands in its place on Sherbrook Street.  

I have researched and written extensively about most of Winnipeg’s grand old schools from the early 1900s, many still in use today. You can expect features on them to begin appearing on my blog in early 2014.

Culture Bound

In the final episode of Breaking Bad in the shot-up clubhouse, Walt answers dead Todd’s cellphone whose ringtone is a male voice singing, “Lydia, O Lydia, Say have you met Lydia? Lydia the tattooed lady.” It’s Groucho Marx singing a song from the Marx Brothers movie At the Circus (1939) in one of their wackier musical scenes with nuthouse choreography and Groucho the biggest ham in the room, no small feat.

groucho 4

The zany tune was written by Harold Arlen (Over the Rainbow, Stormy Weather, That Old Black Magic), with lyrics by E. Y. Harburg (Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?, April in Paris, It’s Only a Paper Moon). The lyrics are a hoot! As an example he rhymes Amazon with pajamas on. Click Groucho for the song from At the Circus.

I watched plenty of movies this year but have just two to recommend: Stoker and Let Him Be.


Stoker is South Korean writer/director Chan-wook Park’s twisting tale of changes in an American family. Mia Wasikowska gives another seamless performance. Park should be listed with the actors as his presence as a director is never far from evident. Beautifully rendered, well-crafted yarn and a perfectly tacky use of Summer Wine by Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood (1967).


Let Him Be is a docudrama in which a bright young filmmaker has evidence that John Lennon is still alive and living in a village north of Toronto. He goes exploring for answers with startling results. There are two moments, including the ending, that sent shivers up my spine. That’s all I will tell you. It came out in 2009. I found it in the Winnipeg Library System. Find it.

New Friends

Michele and Larry, Karen, Don Fyk, Amber, Jeremy, Jesse, David, Jim, Sylvia, Johnny, Larry, Cathy and Pat. Great to know you!

Wrapped. Rapt.

Thank you for reading my blog. The year sailed by with joy and gratitude and, when I forgot, appropriate reminders to be joyful and thankful. Thank you Great Spirit for all this perfection in which are utterly immersed and to which we are inextricably bound. Joy and Gratitude.

I will end the year with two pictures of my namesake, Ezra Reid Scholl, who is now 14 moons old. Happy New Year!

Dec 2013 c

Leave a comment

Filed under Carberry, Dauphin, Death and Dying, Education, Family, Festivals, Flood, Heritage Buildings, Heritage Festival, Hope, Local History, Manitoba Heritage, Natural Places, Old Souls, Parks, Pioneers, Prairie People, Schools, Soul Building, spirit sands, video art, Year-End Review 2013

Kevin Richardson – Lion Whisperer

Previously, in a post called Friendship Between a Man and 38 Lions, I showed the amazing relationship between South African lion whisperer Kevin Richardson and a pride of lions. Click the picture below to see a different clip of Kevin with a lioness and her cubs. It will make your day.


More about Kevin and his affinity for wild animals at Kevin Richardson.

1 Comment

Filed under Ancient Wisdom, Old Souls


Reid Dickie

“I’d rather have two good friends than 500,000 admirers.”   e.e. cummings

“We love those who can lead us to a place we will never reach without them.” Norman Mailer

“Hold a true friend with both your hands.” Nigerian proverb

The odd time that a pre-read copy of The Globe and Mail, Canada’s “national” newspaper, shows up in the coffee shop, I make a point of perusing it. I always find something interesting on the Facts and Arguments page. It happened again this week.

A clip item referred to a website called and gave as an example of its content – The Five Types of Friends Everyone Should Have by Ryan O’Connell. Ryan is the self-described “brat” who writes and edits Thought Catalog. He encourages writers and thinkers to submit “fun stuff.”

I like anything that gives me a new perspective on myself and/or my life, teaches me something new and/or shines a light into a dark place and/or gives me numerous opportunities to use and/or, which I will stop using immediately. Anyway, the ‘five friends’ idea captured my attention. As I read through Ryan’s list I reckoned if I have each kind of friend in my life. I’ll tell you what I found after you read the list. See if you have such friends.

Abridged and in no particular order:

  • A friend who is always down for whatever whenever, a spur-of-the-moment friend who you don’t have to book weeks in advance;
  • A friend who is slightly cooler than you so you get to go to wild parties and have unexpected encounters;
  • A friend whom you truly admire, for whatever reasons;
  • A friend who doesn’t know any of your other friends, your under-the-counter friend, maybe;
  • A friend whom you’ve known all your life.

How did you do with the list? Got a friend for every occasion?

Luckily I can claim to have a person in my life who fulfills each of those roles. I won’t name them but they are all solid to the list and special to me in their own ways. If I were in dire straits and needed any of these friends, they would be there for me in a flash. Every day I am grateful for this boon. Ryan’s piece is here.

I’d like to add three other kinds of friends to Ryan’s list that we would all benefit from having:

  • A family member who becomes a friend, someone with whom you have a relationship that goes beyond familial requirements, you truly and easily like each other;
  • A friend who becomes family, someone who truly and easily creates the warmth and conviviality of a loving family without any blood relationship;
  • A friend you haven’t seen in over 30 years but you’d feel comfortable calling out of the blue.

Again I am fortunate to have such people in my life.

I want to elaborate a little on that last friend type. Also attending the Radio and Television Arts course I took at Ryerson Polytechnical Institute in Toronto in the late 1960s was a guy named Ted Barris. He was bright, curious, a people person and a lot like me. We hit it off right away. I was familiar with his family name from Canadian TV. His dad was Alex Barris – think the panel on Front Page Challenge.

The last time I saw Ted, he was passing through Winnipeg in the early 1980s on his first book tour. He stayed with Linda and I and we had a fine time. A few decades passed, life happened and the week or two ago I suddenly thought of Ted, wondering how he was doing. Quick Google search and there was his website and contact. Quick email and we were in touch again.

I called Ted last night and we gabbed for half an hour. He told me about his family. His daughter Whitney will be appearing in MTC’s Assassins in January.  He teaches at Centennial College in Toronto and writes every day, currently working on his 17th book! Our conversation was easy and casual even after so many years having passed since we spoke. Ted is also the kind of friend you can blog about and he doesn’t mind.

I am rich with friendship in its many forms. The richness has shown me that the underlying pulse common to every important friendship is love, a basic human response to another being, a caring understanding that persists no matter what happens.

In the recent movie The Master (go see it!) there is a scene where they show the album cover to the soundtrack for a 1973 Lindsay Anderson film called O Lucky Man starring Malcolm McDowell. Alan Price, original keyboardist with The Animals, wrote and performed terrific songs for the movie. The title track lyric leads with, “If you have a friend on whom you think you can rely you are a lucky man.” By this definition I humbly acknowledge my luck once again. Hear and see Alan Price sing the song in the opening scene of the movie.

For another take on friendship watch poet Henry Gibson recite his verse on Laugh-In.

“Yes. I have a truck. No. I’m not helping you move.” – T-shirt at On the Run in west Winnipeg defining the edges of friendship.

Coda: there is also the kind of friend who names their child after you but that’s a whole other post!!

Leave a comment

Filed under Ancient Wisdom, Friendship, Linda, Love, Old Souls

Kateri Tekakwitha Already Canonized!

Reid Dickie

On Sunday, October 21, 2012, the Catholic Church will canonize to sainthood Kateri Tekakwitha, a 17th century Mohawk converted to Christianity by the Black Robes. She will be the first North American aboriginal to attain such eminence.
Clueless as ever, our mainstream media is making claims that she was “Canadian” while US media claim her “Americanism.” Both wrong! Neither Canada nor the United States existed in 1680, the year of her death. Her nation was and is Mohawk. Besides, she has already been canonized!

Huh? Yes, canonized in Canadian literature by no less a figure than Leonard Cohen. Kateri Tekakwitha is one of four central characters in Leonard Cohen’s second novel, Beautiful Losers, published in 1966. In addition to Cohen himself, the book’s characters include Cohen’s wife Edith, a native of the same tribe as Tekakwitha, his radical friend F and our martyr, Kateri.  Revolving around a statue of her Cohen sees in Montreal, Kateri’s life and martyrdom are described in graphic terms.

Cohen retreated to Hydra, a Greek island in the Aegean Sea, for two eight-month periods in 1964 and 1965 to write the novel, largely inspired by fasting, amphetamines and hashish. This is a shot of Leonard at his Olivetti writing Beautiful Losers.

In retrospect Beautiful Losers is the first truly postmodern Canadian novel. History, culture, sex and politics commingle in an uneasy relationship topped with large dollops of absurdity. I read this as a teen and have lived with its images ever since. Particularly memorable are the indoor fireworks scene and the scene where Cohen and F masturbate in the car while driving to Ottawa after F gets elected to Parliament. The novel hasn’t, as yet, been made into a movie but its time is right!

Full of grace and humility, this is the preface Cohen wrote for the Chinese translation of Beautiful Losers in 2000. He describes how the book feels to him forty years after its conception.

Dear Reader,

Thank you for coming to this book. It is an honor, and a surprise, to have the frenzied thoughts of my youth expressed in Chinese characters. I sincerely appreciate the efforts of the translator and the publishers in bringing this curious work to your attention. I hope you will find it useful or amusing.

When I was young, my friends and I read and admired the old Chinese poets. Our ideas of love and friendship, of wine and distance, of poetry itself, were much affected by those ancient songs. Much later, during the years when I practiced as a Zen monk under the guidance of my teacher Kyozan Joshu Roshi, the thrilling sermons of Lin Chi (Rinzai) were studied every day. So you can understand, Dear Reader, how privileged I feel to be able to graze, even for a moment, and with such meager credentials, on the outskirts of your tradition.

This is a difficult book, even in English, if it is taken too seriously. May I suggest that you skip over the parts you don’t like? Dip into it here and there. Perhaps there will be a passage, or even a page, that resonates with your curiosity. After a while, if you are sufficiently bored or unemployed, you may want to read it from cover to cover. In any case, I thank you for your interest in this odd collection of jazz riffs, pop-art jokes, religious kitsch and muffled prayer æ an interest which indicates, to my thinking, a rather reckless, though very touching, generosity on your part.

Beautiful Losers was written outside, on a table set among the rocks, weeds and daisies, behind my house on Hydra, an island in the Aegean Sea. I lived there many years ago. It was a blazing hot summer. I never covered my head. What you have in your hands is more of a sunstroke than a book.

Dear Reader, please forgive me if I have wasted your time.

Los Angeles, February 27, 2000

Leonard Cohen

Hear Leonard read from Beautiful Losers

Leave a comment

Filed under Old Souls, Spirit

Still…Just This

Once again – Ken Wilber’s timeless message.

In the heart of Emptiness there is a mysterious impulse, mysterious because there is actually nothing in the heart of Emptiness (for there is nothing in Emptiness, period). Yet there it is, this mysterious impulse, the impulse to…create. To sing, to shine, to radiate; to send forth, reach out and celebrate; to sing and shout and walk about; to effervesce and bubble over, this mysterious exuberance in the heart of Emptiness.

Emptiness empties itself of emptiness and thus becomes Full, pregnant with all worlds, a fruition of the infinite impulse to play hidden in the heart of your own deepest Self. If you rest in the Witness, settle back as I-I, and look very carefully for the Looker – if you turn within right now and try to see the Seer – you won’t see anything at all, for you cannot see the Seer. All you will find is a vast Freedom and Emptiness, in which the entire Kosmos is now arising. Out of the pure Emptiness that is your deepest suchness, all worlds arise. Your own impulse of looking has brought forth the universe and here it resides, in the vastness of all space, which is to say, in the purity of your own primordial awareness. This has been obvious all along; this you have known, all along. Just this, and nothing more, just this.

Ken Wilber from One Taste

Leave a comment

Filed under Ancient Wisdom, Old Souls, Soul Building, Spirit

Two Debbies – Fiction

Reid Dickie

The two Debbies are sisters-in-law. They each married one of the Wilcox brothers. During their teens and early twenties, the Wilcox boys, Randy and Earl, were strong-willed and wild, in love with fast cars, hard liquor and tonight’s girl. That all changed when, in the same month but unbeknownst to each other, both brothers met, fell in love with and proposed marriage to a Debbie.

It was a double wedding. The four honeymooned together, or as Randy called it, “hornymooned.” Both Debbies recognized in these rough men the potential to be faithful husbands, special fathers and solid providers. They just needed a little tweaking. The Debbies are nothing if not great tweakers.

That’s how the two Debbies came to be sisters-in-law.

Both Debbies are nurses, one in the emergency room, and the other on the pediatrics ward of the same big-city hospital. They’ve seen everything. They are compassionate caring women, devoted to their patients and to their jobs. Why else, but for sheer love of the craft, would people work twelve hour shifts doing stressful work? They both became consciously aware, on the day they graduated from different nursing schools twelve years earlier, that this was a perfect fit; they were born to do this work. It is their dream job. And they just did it, while raising two children each, tweaking husbands and having fun.

That was the large lesson both Debbies learned from their mothers – have fun! It proved to be good advice under many circumstances, especially when dealing with unruly husbands or patients. Knock them off balance with a little fun. Why not? Life is short, as both Debbies see everyday.

That’s how the two Debbies came to be best friends.

Fun relieves stress. Having a best friend does, too. They arranged their schedules so, once a week, they have the same day off. Today they are both grocery shopping at Careway, the big supermarket chain, each with an empty cart and a long grocery list, neither looking forward to the chore.

They survey the large well-stocked colourful produce section and give the handsome produce man – his nametag says Luther – a good long ogle. Just loud enough so Luther can hear them, the two Debbies agree they’d like to see him wearing just the apron. They both smile at Luther before he goes on his break. Too bad. He was getting cuter by the minute. They decide to leave some hints for Luther when he returns from his break.

Debbie takes a long English cucumber, pairs it with two nice round melons and some parsley, and sets the phallic tableau on a bed of yellow beans. Debbie gets two eggplants and sets them on either side of a long yellow squash with bean sprouts tucked around each side. Debbie sets several little yellow and red hot peppers between red cherry tomatoes, tucking a set in among the arugula, another atop the oranges and another in among the grapes. Debbie takes two bananas and places them in a vaginal shape surrounded by broccoli. In a few minutes they left a dozen little suggestive tableaux, some obvious, others surprises to come across while browsing.

By the time Luther returns from his break the two Debbies are just walking away from produce, their carts carry their choices. It takes Luther several minutes to figure out what happened.

The manager of the Careway is indignant with the two Debbies as he confronts them on the floor of the store. They admit to having some fun while shopping but don’t own up to the dastardly produce porn. They let the manager fume and fuss over this, which he does! Profusely. They knock him off balance when their good natures suddenly turn sour as they accuse him of unprofessionalism and, without proof, placing blame where it doesn’t belong. The two Debbies get a couple of swift verbal kicks at the manager before they knock him off balance again by returning to sweetness and frivolity. This draw a bit of a crowd as the increasingly red-faced manager realizes he’s lost control of the situation.

“We’re the Shenanigan Sisters, I’m Sheena, she’s Treena, and our quite large husbands, Buck and Tuck, are around here somewhere,” informs Debbie.

Exasperated by these women who seem to be one step ahead of him all the time and, worst of all, don’t respect his position in the store, he has no option. He informs both Debbies they are no longer welcome in his Careway and invite them to leave immediately. Their response is laughter, so sudden and sincere that the store manager’s face turns impossibly redder with embarrassment. Other customers join in the glee.

The two Debbies abandon their half-full shopping carts, take down the name of the store manager, “so we can send you a Christmas card,” Debbie says, and, along with several other customers who sympathize with their situation, leave the Careway holding their sides from laughter, never to return.

By then Luther has discovered most of their creations.

Later that afternoon a pair of blue-haired ladies will get a chuckle out of their discovery tucked away in a manger of romaine.

That’s how the two Debbies came to be outlaws.

Leave a comment

Filed under Fiction, Friendship, Humour, Old Souls, Soul Building

“At death we are released into imagination and what we see is…”

Dr. Kenneth Ring has done countless studies of people who have had near death experiences (NDEs) and compared their experiences with those of shamans from various cultures. I have brought together several of Ring’s quotes in this regard and offer them here for their clarity and evocative nature.

 “The plain of experience entered by NDEers is the same as that accessed by shamans. The key to entering is imagination, not imagination as viewed by outmoded Cartesian dualism (choice is between mind or matter) but a third realm that is objectively self-existent, the cumulative product of imaginative thought itself, an imaginal place. The third realm depends not on sensory perception or ordinary cognition but on certain altered states of consciousness that destabilize and disturb the two above states. The imaginal realm is ontologically real.

“Imagination then becomes a kind of organ of perception, a creative power, that discloses a world of form, dimension and persons which can be directly apprehended. What we apprehend is our own inner spiritual state, our soul. Thus soul and imagination are indissolubly bound to each other.

“The natural language of the soul is the image, as Aristotle stated. Soul is imagination. Imagination is a purely spiritual faculty and exists even after the body has disappeared. At death we are released into imagination and what we see is the soul’s own image which is light; one’s pure soul essence undefiled by character and body. This primordial light is refracted through the prism of the soul yielding an imaginal world.

“The shaman has learned to see with the eyes of the soul and experiences the realm with a fully awakened imagination.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Ancient Wisdom, Old Souls, shaman, shamanism, Spirit

Two Pontiacs – Tom and Lyle

Reid Dickie

A pair of inspired and inspiring short stories from two masters of the territory. The first one is Tom Waits with an improv yarn complete with context, audience and story arc called The Pontiac. It’s from his Orphans triple CD set.  Click the cover and Tom will expound for you. Lovely!

For sheer spookiness and concise yet ambiguous visions, it is hard to beat a tune from Lyle Lovett called Pontiac, the title tune from his second album released in 1987. Lyle evokes a remarkable story in a mere 108 words! And here they are:


 I park my Pontiac
Down the hill out in back
Late every afternoon
With a coke and a cigarette
And all of the neighbours there
They see a nice old man

And the girl there across the street
She sits on her front porch swing
She never realized
What I told her with my eyes
How back in the second war
I killed twenty German boys
With my own bare hands

And the woman inside my house
She won’t stop talking
She never says a thing
She just keeps talking
And I might just leave her still
After the sun goes down
And I smoke this cigarette

Basically it’s an old man’s well-encapsulated lifestory but we sense his story isn’t over yet. Ominously he hints that the next chapter might suddenly include silence in the house, perfect permanent silence. This pivots on the various meanings of the phrase, “leave her still.” He has killed before with “his own bare hands.” We are left to imagine what will happen after the sun goes down and he finishes his cigarette. This would make a fine story for a movie in the right writer’s hands. Now watch Lyle’s video of his great song.


Filed under Fiction, Images, Music, Old Souls, Spirit

“Waste Land” – Another Great Doc!

Reid Dickie

I have another documentary to recommend. Three years in the making, Waste Land follows Brazilian-born Brooklyn artist Vik Muniz back to his native Brazil and to the biggest garbage dump in the world, Jardim Gramacho, just outside of Rio de Janeiro. Muniz returns home to create images of the catadores, a group of about 2500 people who climb mountains of trash to pull recyclable materials out of the tons of garbage deposited daily. Vik’s original plan had been to “paint” the catadores but wound up having the garbage pickers create large images of themselves out of garbage and photographing the results. The despair and the dignity of the catadores is obvious and heartfelt throughout as is the transformational power of art. Suddenly given self-images and seeing their faces on the walls of an art gallery changes the lives of everyone involved in the process. Uplifting and provocative, Waste Land, directed by Lucy Walker, will inspire your imagination and invigorate your spirit. Click the pic to see the trailer.

Leave a comment

Filed under Art Actions, BEAUTY, Film, Hope, Old Souls, Pioneers, Soul Building, Spirit

Friendship Between a Man and 38 Lions

His name is Kevin Richardson. He is a lion whisperer.

Click pic to watch video

Leave a comment

Filed under Critters, Old Souls, shaman, Spirit

Forcing a Light – Bruce Springsteen One and Two

Reid Dickie

“Sandy, the fireworks are hailin’ over Little Eden tonight, forcing a light into all those stony faces left stranded on this warm July.” – Bruce Springsteen

My high school English teacher, Mrs. Smith, along with my teacher Mom, instilled in me a deep appreciation of images conjured out of mere words and the power that ability holds. They made me realize that to stimulate the imagination of others using language carries a mysterious power, creates a direct bond between people and satisfies our need to share experiences. I have pursued the satisfactions of words ever since, in what I write, what I hear and what I read. I am always listening for an original turn of phrase, a dazzling metaphor, an unexpected linkage of images to include in my writing. I admire writers who do this with alacrity and clarity. Annie Proulx’s best work is a cascade of exciting and unexpected images. Almost every page of her fiction offers something that makes me think, ‘Yes, that’s a unique way of expressing it.’ Annie intimidates me and inspires me with her imagery.

Songwriters have garnered my admiration for their abilities to build pictures with words, especially Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Tom Waits and Bruce Springsteen. Last summer, when I listened to music on my travels in the mighty Avenger, it was almost always Bruce Springsteen’s first two albums, Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ and The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle, both released in 1973, the year Bruce turned 24. That year I started at CFRW-FM in Winnipeg doing a free-form evening radio show that often spun tracks from Greetings… When the second album came out in the fall, it became a huge hit on my show with listener requests every night. The Boss had arrived!

This revealing picture of Bruce was taken by Lynn Goldsmith and appears in her 1995 book Photodiary. Opposite the full page picture the copy reads: “Once during a studio shoot Bruce started taking off his clothes. I yelled at him to stop. He thought it was funny. I was angry. I told him that if he ever took his clothes off for any photographer he’d be putting himself in the position where one day the pictures could be published.”

 The work on Bruce’s first two albums reflected and, to a degree, created American mythology, some of it dredged from adolescent fantasies, some captured from flocks of fresh and fleeting visions in the form of stream of consciousness rants.


Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.

released January 5, 1973

Greetings… consists of nine songs, all written and arranged by Bruce. Every song is infused with youthful vigour and keen enthusiasm, images tumble by as a peculiar cast of characters emerge, live their short urban lives then recede only to be followed by others. The album quickly, and somewhat justifably, earned Bruce the title of “the next Bob Dylan,” an endless quest of 1970s rock journalists. Bruce’s encyclopedic knowledge of 1950 and 60s rock and roll combined with the heavy influence of American movies meant the images from Bruce’s first album already felt familiar. Most songs on Greetings…, especially Lost in the Flood and The Angel, have great cinematic flare. Bruce writes what he knows. His milieu is the big city and seaside resort as experienced by a bright curious American boy. Right from the album title through the postcard cover design to the last track, Bruce invites you into his world. His vision has knowable, safe parameters and sources; he is confident that his world is worth visiting and he is ready to show the rest of the world why.

I always like to know the first words of an artist’s career, meaning the first lyrics they sing on the first track on their first album. In Bruce’s case, Blinded by the Light kicks off Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. with these words: “Madman drummers bummers and Indians in the summer with a teenage diplomat in the dumps with the mumps as the adolescent pumps his way into his hat.” That’s a helluva start to a career! And only the beginning as a rampage of characters follow. In 1977 Manfred Mann’s Earth Band had a #1 hit with their dreadful version of this tune but you need to know the original. It is Bruce’s first song.

Growin’ Up is a wistful mid tempo rocker that demonstrates Bruce’s evolved perspective on vanishing youth. Bruce was 23 years old when this album was recorded.

Mary Queen of Arkansas appears to live on Dylan’s Desolation Row having just returned from My Last Trip to Tulsa on Neil Young’s first album. Harrowing, sparse and personal yet lyrically opaque, Mary has just enough ambiguity and heartbreak showing through to make us yearn along with the poor confused boy.

Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street? One of rock’s great question songs, it’s a peon to entertaining yourself by people watching while riding the bus. A favourite line is, “Man, the dope’s that there’s still hope.” Bruce conjures another wild cast that build to a gorgeous cinematic finale.

“Everybody’s wrecked on Main Street from drinkin’ unholy blood,”  – an apt description of the misfits and cops who populate Lost in the Flood. Three things about this track: it has some of Bruce’s most dramatic poetic images that build in an enticing musical and lyrical swell, Steven Van Zandt makes his first appearance on a Bruce album providing “sound effects” (he’d next appear on Born to Run two years later) and I love this track. It takes me there every time! Back in the day, that was the end of Side One of Greetings…

The Angel is the outline for a movie, sung plaintive and plain with a denouement I wish I’d thought of. It demonstrates that right from the get-go Bruce wasn’t afraid to use quiet strings and solo piano to frame his stories.

For You is another cascade of brief but urgent glimpses into the psychic field between devotion and rejection, disease and healing and all the angst contained therein. Bruce and the boys relay the emergency convincingly.

One of Bruce’s sexiest grooves, Spirit in the Night is my favorite track here. Today Martin Scorsese would direct the movie in which this is but one marvellous scene. The characters are high, happy and horny and the events at Greasy Lake are your basic orgy on the beach. Body and soul unite in a magical sex flight “where the gypsy angels go. They’re built like light,” one of my favourite Bruce characterisations. Clarence, who is under used on the album, establishes and maintains the bubbling groove and reenforces it with a fine break. Wild Billy has “a bottle of rose so let’s try it” which I take to mean Wild Irish Rose, a long-time harsh and cheap bum wine. The hint of sadness in Bruce’s voice in the last verse when they leave Greasy Lake makes me feel very nostalgic for youth, for the freedom the unknowable future encourages.

As if he foresaw or richly imagined the life and work ahead of him, such as  becoming a Planetary Treasure, It’s Hard To Be a Saint in the City is tongue-in-cheek bluster from one of the coolest guys Bruce ever described. Pumping along, high definition city core images arise then sink back into the steam in the street. The tune and album end with a burbling fadeout.

The E Street Band was in its formative stages on Greetings… The only players here who became permanent band members are saxman Clarence Clemmons and Garry Tallent on bass. The album suffers from muffled production by Mike Appel and Jim Creteros. The biggest drag on the band is the ham-fisted drumming of Vincent Lopez, one of rock’s worst over-drummers. Otherwise the playing is worthy of the songs, Bruce the lone guitar on the entire album.

In order to save some of the cash Columbia Records had advanced to Bruce, Greetings… was recorded quickly in an inexpensive studio in Blauvelt, N.Y. and it sounds like it. The tunes and the songs are there, the talent is evident and the whole album has the feeling of being just the tip of a very large iceberg but the production detracts more than it should. Nonetheless an auspicious beginning!

The album only sold about 25,000 copies in the first year of its release, but had significant critical impact. On its 2003 list of the 500 greatest albums of all time, Rolling Stone ranked it #379. It’s #57 on my list.


The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle

released September 11, 1973

This was the convincer for me. Like Axis: Bold As Love, Hendrix’s second album, The Wild… proved without doubt Bruce was a force that the future required, beckoned, quickened. Although again produced by Appel and Cretecos and recorded at 914 Sound Studios, the same studio as the first album, this outing is less muddy than the debut, in fact almost throughout it’s downright bright. Future permanent E Streeter, Danny Federici, turns up on keys, everything’s bigger, even Vini Lopez steps up a little – maybe it’s just how he was recorded this time. Again Bruce is the only guitarist on the album. The Wild… is attractive, convincing, eloquent, beautifully sequenced so every song complements and contrasts the ones around it and Clarence gets to wail!

The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle kicks off the escapade with clattery horns resolving into a smooth groove maintained by Clarence that bounces around under a story of sexy youthful diversions performed by a fleeting cast. The last minute and a half feature a sweet guitar break followed by a funky percussion workout to the fade. Sweet and a perfect introduction the next track.

One of my all-time favourite Bruce songs, 4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy), like all great rock and roll, is about fucking and the pursuit thereof. It’s Sandy’s big chance for sex with the needy poet boy from the beach. The fireworks of the first line promise orgasms later. Throughout he’s telling Sandy what he thinks she’ll buy, what will make her sexually sympathetic to him. He mentions getting stuck on the tilt-a-whirl, shares boardwalk gossip, explains his break-up with his waitress girfriend, tires of the factory girls who tease him, generally uses all his “lines.”  To create empathy, he tries to explain that he and Sandy are the same stuff, know the same lives.  I like how during the line “And the wizards play down on pinball way” Bruce’s acoustic guitar imitates Pete Townsend’s work on Pinball Wizard. Near the end of the song Bruce promises that if she loves him tonight he’ll love her forever. The delivery of the word forever is truly marvellous – a mixture of sexual urge, youthful promise and doubt with a huge scary question mark beside it which acknowledges the understanding between he and Sandy on this potentially special night! Beautiful! But he’s quitting the beach scene and encourages Sandy to do the same, to give up the “carnival life.” Although the song ends without a denouement, I like to think it all worked and they had mad, once-in-a-lifetime sex under the boardwalk that night creating more fireworks as promised.

Kitty’s Back is the perfect companion piece to Sandy, filled with seaside characters and their relationship to Kitty. Bruce’s sweet guitar playing sets the tone for the piece which has a free-for-all break that allowed most of the band members to improvise during concerts. This tune and Rosalita were the album’s most requested songs on CFRW-FM. 

Continuing the fast-slow-fast-slow flow of the album, Wild Billy’s Circus Story ends side one with a delightful visit to the circus and some brief glimpses of its odd denizens. Garry Tallent pumps the tuba, Federici provides accordian and Bruce strums guitar and mandolin to create a midway atmosphere so pure and convincing you can smell the hot dogs, taste the cotton candy and hear the screams of the roller coaster riders. Bruce writes what he knows yet the tune only hints at the drama that awaits us.

Side two consists of three epics starting with Incident on 57th Street which features Spanish Johnny and his adventures in bed and out on the street. Here’s Bruce’s opening description of our hero: “Spanish Johnny drove in from the underworld last night with bruised arms and broken rhythm and a beat-up old Buick but dressed just like dynamite.” The whole song could be the outline for a great movie script. The track is dominated by gorgeous piano and organ work from Federici and David Sancious and a bunch of tedious over-drumming from Lopez.

Fuelled by Clarence’s sax and Sancious’ organ, Rosalita (Come Out Tonight) rocks! A long-time concert closer, it’s the story of our poor boy pursuing beautiful Rosie, his “stone desire,” against the strong will of her parents. He’s sure things will work out because “The record company, Rosie, just gave me a big advance!” – one of Bruce’s happiest deliveries.

New York City Serenade offers romantic mythology couched in dramatic piano work from Sancious. The entire epic floats, buoyed by Sancious’ piano and string arrangement and Clarence’s sexy sax wail. A new cast arises, starting with Billy and Diamond Jackie getting it on in the backseat of Billy’s Cadillac at “midnight in Manhattan” with hookers, jazz musicians, small time crooks in “a mad dog’s promenade.” Clarence’s contributes glorious sax throughout. On a personal note, there are two lines from this song that I have said aloud to myself every night for the past 20 years just before I fall asleep. These words have become my day-ending mnemonic device to induce sleep: “Shake away street life, shake away city life.” Works every night.  Thanks Bruce!  

In 2003, The Wild… was ranked #132 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. On my personal list, it’s #17.

FM radio caught on to Bruce right away. He was hopeful, humorous, intense and great fun! For me, from the beginning, he was a breath of fresh and honest air in a growing sea of mediocrity dominated by phony bands like Kiss.

Bruce Springsteen changed my life. Find out how in this post

Next my Bruce post is Born to Run. Coming soon to blog near you.   

Leave a comment

Filed under BEAUTY, Family, Hope, Linda, Love, Music, Old Souls, Spirit

The Convent B&B, Val Marie, SK

Reid Dickie

I’ve spent more glorious nights at The Convent Bed & Breakfast than any other lodging on my prairie travels. Its appeal is powerful and pleasant, relaxing yet stimulating at the same time. The combination of a serene old building and the caring owners creates a peaceful and rare experience. The picture above is The Convent’s charming dining room overlooking Grasslands National Park.

Val Marie (pop. about 130) is located at the western end of Grasslands National Park and features the park office and visitor centre. It’s about an hour south of Swift Current off the Trans Canada Highway. Few accommodations for travelers exist in the little village making The Convent even more precious. An actual convent used as a teaching facility into the late 1960s, the Ducans converted it into a bed and breakfast in the late 1990s. They retained many of the features, such as blackboards, chapel including confessional and woodwork from the original building. Take a video tour of The Convent inside and out with me by clicking on the pic below.

Leave a comment

Filed under Accommodations, grasslands national park, Heritage Buildings, Old Souls, Saskatchewan, Spirit

Lioness: New Amy Winehouse CD

Reid Dickie

How great! There is at least one fine collection of tunes remaining from Amy’s career that gives us a glimpse into her various styles. It’s no Back to Black, lacking that album’s musical cohesion, inspiration and chutzpah but it is a worthy set that detracts not at all from Amy’s genius. Lioness: Hidden Treasures offers twelve tracks: four new Amy originals, two new versions of Back to Black tunes and six covers. It’s worth track-by-track tracking.

Lioness kicks off with a swinging reggae version of Our Day Will Come, the Ruby and the Romantics #1 hit from 1963. Exquisite male backing vocals and a bubbling band buoy Amy’s hopeful, almost joyful vocal.

Amy has written several explicit and honest songs about sexual adventures. In this vein, Between the Cheats, a witty title for a witty song,  describes a couple who are cheating on each other and know it.

Next Amy covers herself with a whole new arrangement of one of my favourites from Back to BlackTears Dry on Their Own, the original version here, was a ballad and benefits from a subtle string arrangement. Amy’s voice carries a lot of sultry pain, a satisfying glimpse into her first thoughts about the song.

Amy’s cover of Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? (Shirelles 1960 #1) is a desperate plea for a future, for hope which is beginning to fade since Our Day Will Come. Darkness is gathering. The arrangement reminds me of David Foster. I expected Seal to start singing. I have heard Amy’s stripped-down moody version of this tune which I prefer.

Like Smoke featuring NAS has Amy contributing a sweet chorus between which NAS raps. He’s annoying while Amy howls and purrs.

Singlehandedly Amy imprinted an obscure song by Liverpool’s Zutons into the mental file called Melodies-that-play-by-themselves-in-our-heads. Valerie, here the ’68 version, has several versions. This one was Amy’s favourite. It swings but with an undercurrent of sadness.

The Girl from Ipanema (Stan Getz and Astrud Gilberto 1964 #5) gets a nice modern spin from Amy, refreshing and apparently one of the first songs she recorded back in the day.

Half Time was written before Frank, Amy’s first album, came out but never made it onto the set. A lovely ballad, Amy is in fine sexy form.

The one-take demo version of Wake Up Alone from Back to Black is just spooky.

Another new song Best Friends, Right? is a great bitchy song that Amy often opened live sets with in the early days. This was recorded in 2003.

Body and Soul (Jack Hylton 1930) is a jazz standard that Amy covers in a duet with Tony Bennett. Recorded at Abbey Road Studios in March 2011, it was Amy’s final studio recording. At times Amy sounds so much like Billie Holiday it’s astonishing. Amy’s pain and experience are palpable in her delivery. Watch them sing the song together.

The set ends with Leon Russell’s A Song for You. Leon can die happy now. The ultimate version of his best song has been recorded. In fact, in one take. Amy was a fan of Donny Hathaway and here she uses much of his phrasing. Again the tear in her voice reminds me of Billie Holiday. The song ends with Amy, in her thick accent, talking about Donny Hathaway, saying “He couldn’t contain himself.”

I like most of the covers here, especially Our Day Will Come and Valerie. Both new arrangements of her songs are terrific as are most of her new songs. I could have done without Like Smoke, or at least without NAS. The album that began bubbly ends sad and alone, addiction and genius meld and separate. While the mood of the set progressively darkens, I find Amy’s voice, phrasing and presence so fascinating and extraordinary that the gloom matters little. It feels like an honest part of her. It will be interesting to hear what else is stored in the Amy vaults. She often did several versions of her songs so similar sets to this may be in the offing. There is live material waiting for airing as well, I’m sure.

Leave a comment

Filed under Linda, Music, Old Souls

Happy Birthday Tom Waits

“I like beautiful melodies telling me terrible things.” The genius in the basement turns 62 years old today. Let’s celebrate with Tom’s thoughts!  “Champagne for my real friends, and real pain for my sham friends.” “There ain’t no devil, only God when he’s drunk.” “We are buried beneath the weight of information, which is being confused with knowledge; quantity is being confused with abundance and wealth with happiness. We are monkeys with money and guns.” “A gentleman is someone who can play the accordion, but doesn’t.” “The big print giveth and the small print taketh away.” “I’ve never been a fan of personality-conflict burgers and identity-crisis omelets with patchouli oil. I function very well on a diet that consists of Chicken Catastrophe and Eggs Overwhelming and a tall, cool Janitor-in-a-Drum. I like to walk out of a restaurant with enough gas to open a Mobil station.” “Apparently the highest compliment our culture grants artists nowadays is to be in an ad — ideally naked and purring on the hood of a new car. I have adamantly and repeatedly refused this dubious honor. While the court can’t make me active in radio, I am asking it to make me radioactive to advertisers.” “Commercials are an unnatural use of my work. It’s like having a cow’s udder sewn to the side of my face. Painful and humiliating.” “George Bush is a fan of mine, he came to see me in the Seventies. His coke dealer brought him.” “The world is a hellish place, and bad writing is destroying the quality of our suffering.” Watch Satisfied from Tom’s new CD Bad As Me.

1 Comment

Filed under Momentous Day, Music, Old Souls

Happy Birthday Bjork

“I’m a fountain of blood. In the shape of a girl.” Only the coolest person in the world would say something this pure. Of course, I mean Icelandic singer-songwriter Bjork and today this World Treasure turns 46 years old. Let’s explore some of Bjork’s other thoughts. “It’s incredible how nature sets females up to take care of people, and yet it is tricky for them to take care of themselves.” “People are always asking me about eskimos, but there are no eskimos in Iceland.” “Compared to America or Europe, God isn’t a big part of our lives here. I don’t know anyone here who goes to church when he’s had a rough divorce or is going through depression. We go out into nature instead.” “Usually when you see females in movies, they feel like they have these metallic structures around them, they are caged in by male energy.” “When I was a teenager in Iceland people would throw rocks and shout abuse at me because they thought I was weird. I never got that in London no matter what I wore.” “I am a grateful grapefruit.” Bjork’s website is wild! Watch her perform Venus As a Boy live

Leave a comment

Filed under birthday, Music, Old Souls