66 Years in the Making!
3 Plays for a Quarter!
Yes, it’s true!
Download the Jukebox for free:
play-the-jukebox PDF version
play-the-jukebox-reid-Dickie ZIP file epub for tablets and ereaders
With gratitude and love I dedicate this book to my parents, Helen and Bruce Dickie, whose gifts I used every day of my life, and to Linda, who lit my way.
Available now at McNally Robinson
Moments away from puberty, young Jim Crawford begins to discover how his newly effervescent maleness gives fresh meaning and expression to manhood in his family, friendships, community and beyond. Set in a small Canadian prairie town just as the tumultuous social and cultural changes of the 1960s begin, Play the Jukebox is a character-driven story entwining bright wholesome and dark pathological expressions of masculinity. As his own unique gifts reveal themselves, Jim learns the heights and depths to which men will go to defend family and future and how shared experience creates diverse forms of camaraderie between men and women.
Jim’s life revolves around pop music and records. The 45 – the little record with the big hole – is king; radio disc jockeys, record players and jukeboxes spin the seven-inch discs constantly. He discovers intimate links between hit songs and his own development as he travels from town to town changing the records in jukeboxes with Percy Peel, a mystery media mogul who leaves lasting impressions on Jim. As they did for millions of 1960s youth, The Beatles play a defining role as one of Jim’s change agents.
McNally Robinson: If you are coming into one of our stores, we suggest that you confirm that the book you want is in stock by emailing the location nearest you: Grant Park, Saskatoon, or by phoning the location nearest you.
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.
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.
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.
I love the Canadian prairies. Here’s a few more of the thousands of reasons why.
A brisk south wind blew in warm temperatures about 25 degrees C. The clear sky beckoned me westward along Hwy #2, past the parade of little towns I’ve come to know so well. When I arrived in the parking lot of Spirit Sands, I was alone, the only vehicle. Two hours later there were a dozen cars and half tons lined up, people grabbing onto a hot day in September for the rarity it is.
Stripped down to cap, shorts and hiking boots, I headed out on the trail. Through the mixed forest at the start of my hike, the flora was beginning to take on fall colours. The greens are paler, less convincing. Some of the trees are fading to yellow. Scattered everywhere and the most colourful thing in the park today are the arrays of yellow-red-orange poison ivy.
Shy against the sand, the glossy red hips of wild roses gleam out, the eerie white berries of creeping juniper and the bright red fruit against the shiny green leaves of bearberry add small blasts of colour.
Overhead goose music filled the sky several times, most other birds now gone. A few murmurations of blackbirds propelled across the sky on the drive out.
The dunes in autumn are at their lushest, a growing concern for some people as the open dunes succumb to ground cover, mainly big bluestem, which is drought hardy, and wolf willow, the silvery shrub. Assorted sedge, cinquefoil and such have found purchase on the open sand, too. Though less abundant this year, horsetail abounds in damper areas like the oasis.
The problem, as seen by some in the tourist industry with stakes in the state of the dunes, is that the open dunes need to be freed of the growth, plowing it up and taking it away. This would restore the open sand, the wind would continue to move the dunes forward toward the forest and the unique tourist attraction of a desert in the middle of the prairie would be reinstated.
There are several “Wow it’s a desert” places to enter the dunes: at the top of the two log ladders from the eastern trails and out of the mixed forest trail on the south side. This area is where the covered wagon rides first approach the dunes. In the last five years the first dune face the tourists see from the wagon has become almost completely overgrown, diminishing the effect of the open sand. The same holds for the log ladder entrances. Vistas of the dunes now include large overgrown swaths, especially noticeable on the three rows of dune faces. It isn’t anything like a desert anymore.
Traditionally, since Duff Roblin established the system, provincial parks have been sacrosanct places where interference with natural forces is taboo. Apparently, and ironically, Shilo, the military base which uses the dunes just north of the park, rousts out the flora with its training exercises enough to have more open sand than the park.
So, what are the options? Leave it as it is and let Nature do the do. Sounds fine with me. Plow up the overgrown areas (tricky on some of those steep faces), clear-cut the place basically and let the wind do its do renewing the desert. Sounds fine, too. It really doesn’t matter what we little humans do in our hurry and scurry, using our big brains to try to control everything. Nature bats last. Always has, always will.
I suppose the next step is in the hands of the provincial government. Heaven help us! This bunch of past-their-due-date burn-outs are spinning, clueless and unruddered, in one spot where their banality is surpassed only by their irrelevance. Unfortunately if the NDP are the whoopee cushion, the PCs are the exploding cigar. The usual choice!
However, now that the “problem” at Spirit Sands has been identified, the “solution” must be studied and studied to make sure lots of money gets into the hands of the correct consulting agency. What better way to end a rant than with a truth for every day of our lives: “We are governed by the least among us.” – Terence McKenna.
I don’t know the author of this but it has appeared with variations online for awhile. This is my favourite version. The empty mayo jar equals our empty awareness.
The Mayonnaise Jar and Two Cups of Coffee
When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and the two cups of coffee.
A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.
The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.
The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous ‘yes.’
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.
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
Hear Leonard read from Beautiful Losers
This amazing image is one of many dazzling captures in the 2012 National Geographic Photography Contest. Photographer Ashley Vincent captured, Busaba, a well cared for Indochinese Tigress whose home is at Khao Kheow Open Zoo, Thailand, enjoying her private pool then shaking herself dry. View more of the award winners at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2205906/The-world-Sublime-images-nature-best-vie-prize-2012-National-Geographic-photography-competition.html
I’ve covered lots of Manitoba ground over the last ten days and the signs of change are everywhere, not just in the fields where the harvest progresses apace sending plumes of chaff and dust into the air. The red maples flame as loud as our flag. Always the leaders in changing colour, cottonwoods burn yellow in the dry dusty sun of late summer. Greens start to fade as russet and pumpkin shades emerge. An especially good summer for poison ivy, now its scarlet and orange leaves form bright carpets in the understory of shallow forests and along the ditches of the TCH. This year mountain ash are laden with large clusters of hot red berries awaiting the first frosts to sweeten up for the jays and waxwings.
Murmurations of blackbirds weave and dive across the highway coordinating their aerial sonar for the long flight ahead. Tiny flocks of LGBs (little grey birds, thank you Ed Abbey) polka along with the Tragically Hip on the mighty Avenger’s CD player. Vs of geese broadcast their lonesome message across the land. Red-tailed hawks populate telephone poles keen-eyed for their next meal, an easier feat now those nice farmers have cut down all the long crops making the yummy wee critters more vulnerable.
Generally critters get more mobile at this time of year in anticipation of winter. They plan ahead like the garter snakes who are now heading toward the nearest karst that’ll take them down below the frost line where they can overwinter thus many flattened snakes on the highways. Night critters like skunks, raccoons, porcupines and badgers populate the shoulders in larger numbers now than during the hot weather. Ravens tug at the carcasses. Nature bats last.
I caught this cluster of wild bees and several of their honeycombs over the entrance to Zoria Hall, a popular dance hall now and ago. There was honey dripping down the wall! It was a cool windy day so the bees were inactive.
In the cemetery next to the Zoria church was this beautiful white angel turning black with time.
Still driving around…
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
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.”
I’ve traveled in three different directions from Winnipeg in the past week. First I headed northwest of Winnipeg toward Dauphin, one of my instinctual homes, a familiar haunt. Along Hwy #5 east of Riding Mountain National Park the clear view stretched for miles. I passed through two towns I’d never visited before, Laurier and Makinak, both on the northeastern edge of RMNP. In Makinak, in addition to a couple of old no-name churches, I found this storefront with living quarters above and to the side and a picket fence balcony, rather New Orleans style.
My trips included a days loop through several communities that I had never visited north of Dauphin. On a mission of heritage recon, my cousin Vonda and I set out, first to Gilbert Plains to get a peek at an old building that housed an interesting method of supplying beef to families before electricity. Then north to the Negrych Pioneer Homestead, one of the best preserved and complete Ukrainian homesteads in North America. The site includes this rare handmade clay bake-oven or peech. The oven is located in an extremely rare Canadian example of a traditional long-shingle Eastern-European style roof. Vonda commented on it looking very Hobbitt, very medieval. The gable end covering forms a protective porch over the entrance. Well-tended and obviously loved, we were a bit ahead of the July/August season and realized it would be much enriched by a tour guide. I’ll return with video camera in hand for that!
Northward we went to Garland (pop. under two dozen) in search of a designated heritage site, Andrew Kowalewich General Store from 1913. Alas, it was gone, torn down about ten years back by a subsequent generation. This is what it looked like.
Frank, at Garland’s current general store, showed us the artifacts he and his brother had collected in the area. Arrowheads, pounders, scrappers, fire spinners, dozens of curiosities from the past. We found Garland Airport – a real jet next to the street – and here you can see lovely flight attendant Vonda welcoming you aboard AC flight 620 from Garland to Rome non-stop.
After a picnic lunch in quiet Garland, we backtracked a bit and went to Winnipegosis. Onward to Sifton looking for Holy Resurrection Church with its squat onion domes and vertical massing. Alas, also gone, eaten by fire in September 2010. Here is what it looked like.
We finished off our day trip by revisiting the giant sinkhole near Keld that occurred at this time last year. I created a short video update on the site. Despite two of the sites I went seeking being gone, the trip was a success for the accidental discoveries like the two old churches in Garland that I’ll be featuring soon along with all the sites mentioned here.
Along Hwy #10 Vonda pointed out this old bridge with concrete balusters that was probably where the original Hwy #10 crossed Garland Creek. There is a tree growing out of the centre of the bridge. Vonda knows of other heritage gems north of Dauphin so we’ll be embarking on another heritage recon mission soon. Stay posted to this blog. Thanks for that, by the way, that staying-posted thing. Much appreciated.
In Ladywood I saw this retired store right along Hwy #12 that is now a family home. The flexing and rolling grey clouds, beggingly bright blue patches of sky and silky mists of rain were the perfect palette for its yellow roadside declaration of independence.
Next week is shaping up to be somewhat more relaxing with a day trip or two to quell the wanderlust. Have you ever been hit by lightning? What was it like?
I am such a lucky man! I had my seventh hike so far this summer on Spirit Sands in Spruce Woods Park today. After a cool rainy week, the weather is warming. No wind, a few popcorn clouds and an upbeat attitude made it a perfect day for a hike. The hoary puccoon – it’s just fun to say, go ahead, say it out loud – and three-flowered aven are still blooming wildly everywhere, tiny violets wave trailside and the poison ivy is having a great year. I loll at the special place Linda and I have on the dunes. Back at the parking lot two and a half hours later I’m a little sunburned but happy and calm.
This is a shot of the kiosk at the trailhead with The Sentinel in the distance.
At Marsh Lake I pitch my camp chair between the four red maples located at the picnic shelter. All four trees are in full delicious bloom as witnessed by the bees and butterflies swarming the trees. The air is abuzz with happy insects and redolent with the precious scent of the maple blossoms. In the fall these maples turn blazing red. I saw my first red-tailed hawk of the summer in the park today
It appears Spruce Woods Park will have its amenities mostly prepared for the full tourist season in July and August. Other than the lower campground, most of the park will be in operation. Access to the campground and day use area is much easier now off Hwy #5. Crews are working on further repairs to the washed-out sections of the highway through the park.
I’ll be back to Spirit Sands later this week and again next week when I’m booked in at the yurts. Check for wood ticks. Happy hiking!
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.
Located in the Kosiw district south-southwest of Dauphin, MB, near the northern boundary of Riding Mountain National Park, the Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church of Sts. Peter and Paul is a fine interpretation of a type of traditional church architecture found in Western Ukraine. Overlooking pastoral rolling farmland, the cruciform wooden church with its five, eight-sided, metal-covered banyas (onion domes), including the large two-tiered central dome that opens into the church below, has served area pioneers and their descendents since 1921. The figure of the arched sash windows is doubly replicated in the attractive entrance to the place. On the same sheltered grounds is a well constructed wooden belltower, typically separate from the church proper, housing two bells. Watch my one-minute video of the church.
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.