Tag Archives: shoal lake

My Cathedrals

SL TREES

Reid Dickie

We moved to Shoal Lake in 1957 when I was eight and I left for the city at nineteen. Those are formative years when one grows from an egocentric to sociocentric worldview, taking the role of the Other, starting to think about thinking and finally feeling like a citizen of the planet. Just before I left home, my father said that no matter where I roamed or what I accomplished in my life, I would always think of Shoal Lake as my hometown. He was right.

My cathedrals were somewhat more humble than the stone behemoths the word usually conjures. Though it was a town of 800 with five spired churches (Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Baptist, Anglican, United), my cathedrals were the movie theatre, the town hall, the high school, the ice rink, the train bridge and the spruce grove by the lake.

The only cathedral left standing today in 2015 is the grove of spruce trees that decorate a slow incline up and away from the water’s edge at the north end of the lake. They were planted in 1928 as part of the village landscaping. The trees wrap around the closest thing the lake ever had to a beach, vulnerable to the prevailing, often harsh, northwest winds. During their eighty-seven years, the trees have adopted a slight lean away from the wind.  It’s not a thick grove but an airy and light stand with sky at the top end and water at the bottom. Underfoot lies decades of brown needles thatched in slow decay.

By the 1960s the spruce were at their most verdant, early maturity brought a luscious deep green to the shore when viewed in perfect morning light. It was under these sheltering branches that many rites of passage and epiphanal moments occurred for my friends and me. Here bonding moments so serene, proving moments so intense and our  love for the whole wide world, created new beings out of us. Boundless expressions of song sang with spruce gum and lake water in the hot sizzle of the metal camp stove, our incense and laughter echoing beyond the trees into the starry night. Acoustic guitars strummed to bleeding during long rambling confessions of angst, love and guilt, inspired by the Doors’ The End. In this confessional, the trees listened patiently, ever returning each of us to sanctity, to grace.

Today the trees are past maturity; their trunks three-quarters bare of branches, the foliage now a rickety umbrella high overhead. The bare overripe spruce are easy pickings for wind; they creak now even in small breezes. Crushing windstorms from the northwest break off the old trees regularly. Yet they remain my one cathedral, still bending in the wind, becoming more majestic in their age and decline.

To walk among them now is to hear the echoes of old friend’s young voices and see them splashing in the shiny water; it is to hear the blues played on a harmonica at the edge of a prairie lake by a farm boy whose father works him like slave. During spring break-up on the lake there are a few days when tinkling needles of ice produce the sound of delicate wind chimes as they float in the cold water, playing counterpoint to the trees combing sighs from a passing breeze. When I walk among these trees today I am among friends, closer to the wisdom of age and experience that we intuited as youth but only recognize now as we grow long in the tooth.

How we worshiped with vigor and hope at that church of green timber! Confusing, hormone-befuddled days turned into evenings of comradeship, peace and caring, of understandings that curious youth bring only to each other. Spirit lived in my cathedrals then and still does today. The link we share with our past when using the local knowledge of a place and its landmarks allows us to discover Spirit in yet another form.

Even though today grass grows thick over my parent’s graves in Shoal Lake Cemetery and I have few friends left in the town and fewer reasons to return, Shoal Lake is still home in the sense of it being the repository of my growing and changing. It is where memories reside. It will always be home to the cathedrals that played significant roles in my youth, cathedrals that time and progress have taken away. When I left Shoal Lake, I forfeited the right to own my cathedrals anywhere but in memory. As it should be.

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Filed under Ancient Wisdom, Churches, Hope

The Lonesomes #10 – Squatters

Snapshot 14 (06-02-2012 2-04 PM)

Click pic to watch The Lonesomes #10 – 5:30

Squatters

A resourceful pioneer scares off an opponent and his dream ensues.

Reid Dickie

Script

ELDERLY MAN

Greetings. I’m Angus Marshall.

I wanted that whole quarter section of land at the end of that lovely blue lake but Aubrey Briers, a farmhand from Ontario just like me, was squatting on it, just like I was. Off in one corner Briers built a lopsided sod hut that looked about to be tumbling over any minute. I don’t know how long he’d been there but I was keen to find a way of getting rid of him so I could build my little dream.

What was my little dream? Well, before me stretches to the south a narrow shallow lake, five miles long. A little stream comes in from the north and feeds the lake. The land around rolls in gentle fashion, rich for farming. I feel in my Scottish bones that a town will grow on this very spot.

(BECOMING WISTFUL) One evening when I was sitting under a cottonwood tree watching the sun reflected off the lake, the shimmer of light and water sent a vision afoot over the landscape. Suddenly around me I saw little houses, churches, hotels and stores built along a railroad track, people scurrying about building and doing, building and doing.

I saw yet-unborn Marshalls: my sons and daughters walking on this land, growing and building here, too. And sharing, always sharing, for if the Good Lord teaches us anything, He teaches us that “there’s enough.”

Sitting under that old tree, I suddenly heard a sound from the future, the wet lonesome whistle of a steam train in the distance. It would be eleven years before the track was laid through here but I heard that train coming just as plain as day. I knew at that moment a town would arise here.

That was my dream but Briers was in the way. I needed to get rid of him. He didn’t know me very well. I liked it that way so I came up with a plan.

I waited until the next starless night, dark as a dungeon. I had an old horse collar with a couple of cracked bells that sounded eerie so I put the horse collar around my neck and went to visit Briers. When I got to his hut the thought occurred to me to just push the precarious pile of mud over and smother him. But I didn’t need to resort to murder to get what I wanted.

I started to howl like a wolf which got Brier’s attention. When he came out of his hut, I introduced myself as Satan and asked if I could be of any service to him since he was squatting on Satan’s land. I transformed into a horse and snorted and neighed and whinnied, pawed the ground, telling him I lost my wagon a few miles back and would he help me fetch it. And so on, mad gibberish. Briers didn’t know how to react so he went inside his hut. I could hear him securing his door. As I left, I shouted I’d be back every night to see if he needed anything from Satan. (SMALL CHUCKLE)

It rained hard that night. The next morning, when I stepped out of my little hut, I saw a different landscape. No longer did Briers’s hovel stand out against the raw horizon. In its stead lay a pile of mud. I rushed over thinking the hut had finally fallen onto Briers and smothered him but a thorough dig among the muck revealed no Briers…or anything for that matter.

I never saw hide nor hair of him again. He had vanished. Gone as gone can get. I claimed that whole quarter and the rest of the section, too. (PAUSE) That’s why this town is called Marshallville and not Briersville.

That’s also why the war memorial in town has a monument that looks just like Reginald, my first born, who was gassed at Ypres in 1915. (PAUSE) People call the monument The Unknown Soldier (PAUSE) but I know who it is, (PAUSE) I know who it is.

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Character Backstory

Now we move off the farm into town and hear stories of town life starting with the genesis of Marshallville as explained by its founder and namesake.

Angus Marshall is in his late 70s and looks back over a long life to recount a turning point.

The first paragraph sets everything up. Take it slowly, evenly. Tho Angus and Briers are equals in their squatting rights, being a wily Scotsman, Angus has the edge and he knows it.

The second, third and fourth paragraphs become increasingly wistful as he recounts his dreams and visions. Paragraph five about the train gets almost spooky.

In paragraph six we return to the Briers problem. Here Marshall has a firmer tone.

Marshall gets great enjoyment recounting his plan in action in paragraphs seven and eight ending with a chuckle. Paragraph nine tells of the morning after and paragraph ten the plan is a success. He gloats a little over the town name, affirming his significance in the town.

The last paragraph explains what we have been watching for the last four minutes. Angus’ tone gets a little spooky here. He is still grieving. The implication is that Angus paid for the monument and had it built to his specs. His personal assertion of the statue’s identity is very satisfying for the old man. He tells his story with wisdom, kindness and understanding gained by a long hard life on the prairies.

The story and the image are both quite personal for me. The story is, in fact, the true story of the founding of my hometown, and the war memorial stands in the first village I lived in.

The genesis of Shoal Lake, Manitoba rests with Matt Thompson, the original settler who had to scare off another squatter to claim his land. My story, based on reports in the Shoal Lake history books, follows events closely including the horse collar and feigning madness. For the purposes of The Lonesomes, this is how Marshallville came into being.

Steve Black did a wonderful job bringing Angus Marshall to life.

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Location Information

The first town my parents and I lived in after I was born was Margaret, Manitoba, south of Brandon. I have vague memories of it since we moved when I was about four years old. I have returned to Margaret since and noted the lovely white statue of the soldier that sat in the small park. I wanted to use the statue for The Lonesomes but when I returned to shot it, it was no longer in the village park.

Fewer than a dozen people still live in Margaret. I chatted up the postmistress who said they had moved the statue to the cemetery just outside of town which is where I shot the scene. The water effect I created in my backyard and applied to the image.

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Filed under Prairie People, The Lonesomes, video art

Art Moderne Texaco Station Update

Reid Dickie

Nothing says turn up the tunes, point her toward the vanishing point and step on it like an old Texaco filling station!

Previously I have posted about the Art Moderne Texaco filling station in my hometown in western Manitoba and its designer, Walter Teague. I have few old pictures of the place as it appeared back in its heyday as the Texaco gas station in Shoal Lake. Today it still serves relatively the same purpose. The garage and tire repair are gone, replaced with a convenience store called Central S. You can get gas, wash your car and buy a Pepsi, too. Plunked down in the middle of town, it is still the best location in Shoal Lake.

I recently took pictures of how the structure looks these days. Even though it is completely covered in grey vertical cladding, almost every detail from its original design can still be seen on the building. The rounded corners on the building, the roof and entrance, the prominent stepped signage, the symmetrical windows where the garage doors were, the darker trim at the cornice and around the projecting sign, all still visible, all smooth and optimistic, all telling you that the future is bright! Despite the matching grey Manitoba sky beyond, the colour has a warmth, an inviting neutrality. I had forgotten that the building isn’t square on the lot. “It’s squee gee,” as Mom would say. It doesn’t parallel the facing street, The Drive, but tilts slightly toward the intersecting Station Road, Shoal Lake’s main drag.

The 21st century mists of Art Moderne still lurk about the old place, passing along pleasing reminders of gentler, less-preoccupied times to anyone who can slow down and notice them. Take a deep Art Moderne breath, old friend. You’ve earned it.

I will add this update to the original post on Texaco Art Moderne filling stations and Walter Teague.

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Shoal Lake August 19, 1889

Reid Dickie

Shirtless, Rainer Slate stumbled through the open front door of Batter’s Apothecary in Shoal Lake, fell face down onto the oiled wooden floor and passed out. Borden Batter paused at his mortar and pestle, peered over his round glasses and surveyed the prone lout.

“Glynnis!” he shouted. “Someone’s here to see you!”

Glynnis knew exactly who her visitor was by the tone in Batter’s voice. With sweat trickling into her eyes from a mid August heatwave and a swollen lip she’d bit minutes earlier throbbing angrily, Glynnis paused, listened and slumped her shoulders in resignation.

“Idiot,” she groaned to herself.

She felt only slight relief at getting away from the stubborn nut press that was supposed to extract oil from almonds for salves and unguents but fought her every turn. Glynnis split the heavy brocade curtain, peered into the store and saw her half-naked unconscious husband.

“Idiot,” she said stepping around him. She bent and turned him over; a small trickle of blood ran from his lip.

“Rainer. Rainer!” She shook the unconscious man, his big head lolled back and forth on his broad shoulders, tongue slavering his chin.

“Rainer!” she shouted. There was a flicker on Rainer’s face, a sliver of consciousness passed through him. She shook him again. Blood from his lip spattered on his bare chest.

“Wake up!”

Borden Batter stood over the sorry pair, pudgy hands on his hips protecting his kidneys from the sad tableau he saw below him.

“Rather like a large drunk puppy, wun’tcha say, Glynnis? I can smell the hooch from here. The Portuguese have a saying…”

She cut him off. “No more sayings Borden! You’re not helping. Rainer! Rainer!” Her voice become more frantic, her cut lip turned purple.

Rainer’s eyes flickered open ever so briefly then their brown richness disappeared again into stupor.

“Idiot.”

She let his head drop heavily on the floor. It landed hard with a loud thud.

The knock seemed to bring Rainer around.

“What’s burning?” he asked, sniffing the air, becoming more alert with each whiff. “Smells like wood smoke. You smell it too?” He was trying to get to his feet.

Glynnis and Borden both sniffed but smelled nothing, no smoke.

Rainer slumped back down onto his side. “The fire is making me warm and sleepy,” he said. He started to curl into a fetal position but Borden interceded.

“Oh no, you’re not passing out here again, ever!” Borden gave a quick boot to Rainer’s shoulder. This caused his body to unfurl enough that Glynnis could get him to his feet.

“Out the door. Come on, Glynnis. Let’s move him outside.”

“Yes, yes.” The disgust in her voice was undisguised.

Between the two of them, they managed to deposit unconscious Rainer with his back against the alley side of the livery stable two doors down. Before he turned back to his store, Borden Batter peered over his spectacles at Glynnis.

“You’ll never get out of here if you stay with him and he keeps up like this. As sure as there are pork chop bones at an Anglican picnic, you’ll be stuck in a shack with him and his gruesome family all your life. With how many babies? Oh, right, none. Because this one,” he pointed a haughty thumb at Rainer Slate, “can’t plant a seed.” Borden pursed his thin lips into a smile, which evolved into a leer as he walked past her.

“Don’t malinger. Store’s open,” he spat.

At that moment Glynnis couldn’t decide which of these two men she despised more.

“Ouch.” Coming to, Rainer suddenly grabbed the back of his head.

“That was five minutes ago. You’re just feeling it now? That’s how drunk you are? Idiot. Where’s your shirt?” Glynnis could barely look at her husband.

“Something’s burning.”

“Don’t get going on about that again. Nothing is…”

“If it’s not burning now, it will be.”

“You are just trying to spook me, Rainer Slate, you devil. You always have been good at that.” She ran her hand over his chest.

“I smell smoke. There is something else mixed with the smoky aroma, something subterranean, mysterious, even sinister. Something that tastes like it came out of a thousand-year-old bottle. Elegant mischief. I can’t actually name it. I am not able to name it.” He gently rubbed the back of his head. A small lump was forming. “Ouch.”

Glynnis was more than a little spooked now. Subterranean? Sinister? Elegant mischief? She had heard her husband speak mainly in monosyllables in the four years she had been married to him and the year she knew him before that. He was an uneducated lout, a description Borden Batter had applied, accurately, pathetically, to her hapless husband on every appropriate occasion.

“Why can’t you name it,” she asked, curious where this would go.

“Smelling the smoke is a memory. A memory from the future. A burning bush with berries hanging red and delicious, temptation’s fruit luring us back and forth, swinging like a pendulum.”

Slate suddenly stopped talking, his mouth agape. He looked at his wife. She saw a little fear in his eyes.

“Somebody is going to burn down Shoal Lake.”

He said it without thought or inflection, a voice from a subtle wise place within him.

“Somebody is going to burn down Shoal Lake.” His words echoed in the narrow alley.

“Damn that hurts.” He rubbed the growing lump on the back of his head and pulled his hand back to see if he was bleeding. There was a small red smear on his fingertips. “I’m bleeding. How did I get this?” he asked Glynnis.

“I don’t know,” hoping her disgusted tone would hide the lie. It didn’t.

“You’re lying.”

“You must have gotten it when you fell in the store. Luck had it, there were no customers when you came in. Or dropped in.”

He knew she was still lying but chose to let it go. He laughed instead.

“I did drop in, didn’t I?” He smiled his unabashedly cute smile at her, which always melted Glynnis’ heart in an involuntary way she’d come to recognize as love.

Glynnis stared at her handsome half-naked man.

“I have such a headache,” Slate said wrapping his hands around his head as if it was a delicate glass bowl.

“Who’s going to burn down Shoal Lake?” she asked.

“I don’t know who but it’s because of politics, land, jealousy, greed, the usual reasons. I must lie down.”

Slate rolled onto his side and stretched out on the rutted dirt in the alley. He carefully placed his head to avoid contact with the swelling and closed his eyes.

Glynnis made no effort to keep her husband conscious. She let him go, let him sink to wherever he needed to be at that moment. She was spooked, truly, abundantly spooked. Who was this unconscious man at her feet who looked like her husband but talked like a professor? How can a fool be cured? What change had occurred in the past few minutes? What will happen next? These questions all suddenly, overwhelmingly, flooded into Glynnis’ mind.

She had to sit on her folded legs to accommodate the dizziness. She touched her husband’s trousers. They were damp and crumbly. She tasted the contents of a thousand-year-old bottle. Her vision became hazy, details dissolved in a fog of unrecognizable shapes. She heard a fond humming that made her feel nostalgic and happy. Some old songs all in a jumble, tumbling, crumbling then…she passed out.

“GLYNNIS!”

It was the shrill voice of Borden Batter at his most furious. His hands gripped his sides so tightly his knuckles turned white.

“GLYNNIS! WAKE UP!”

***

Three weeks later, on September 10 1889, a stiff northwest wind propelled a fire from one end of North Railway Avenue to the other, wiping out eight businesses including two hotels, livery stable, general store and Batter’s Apothecary. The fire changed the shape and destiny of Shoal Lake, provoking businesses to open along Station Road, south of the tracks.

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Filed under Fiction, Local History, Pioneers

12 Days of Christmas Day Two

St. Josaphat’s Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Shoal Lake, MB

Illustrating my hometown bias, here’s a second church in Shoal Lake. Located across the street from yesterday’s church, this white wooden Catholic Church has three modest onion domes dominating the façade. The domes and their drums are octagonal with heavy iron cross finials. The three arched windows on the front elevation compliment the domes. The entry pavilion to the rectangular nave is bracketed by the slim corner towers. This church was built in 1945 to replace the 1892 building they had bought from the Anglicans in 1919 for $1,000. The old church became the IOOF Hall and was moved to Fourth and South Railway where it still stands.

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Filed under Churches, Day Tripping, PRAIRIES

12 Days of Christmas Day One

In 2005 Linda and I began sending out Christmas greetings in the form of an email a day for the 12 Days of Christmas with a new theme each year. We sent churches, schools and houses. Instead of emails, this year I am continuing the tradition with a daily post of a beautiful church in rural Manitoba on this blog. Share them with your family and friends. Enjoy! 

St. Helen’s Roman Catholic Church, Shoal Lake, MB

 The sun rises on one of five churches in Shoal Lake. Built in 1940, this small wooden Gothic church preserves the holiness of St. Helen, here bathed in early morning Manitoba sunshine. It was built as a part of the mission of the Parish of Elphinstone. The nave is a typical rectangle with a low-pitched front porch added later. The tower supports a belfry and an octagonal steeple topped with a heavy cross. The louvered arched openings on the tower have a sunburst pattern complimented by the rose window beneath. The lancet windows along the side are edged with coloured panes.

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Finding My Audience – ReadReidRead.com First Anniversary

Reid Dickie

It’s hard to believe a year has passed since I started this blog. A year ago I had several intentions for ReadReidRead: as an ongoing celebration of beautiful Linda, as an outlet to share my enthusiasm for local heritage in its many forms; as a canvas for my personal cultural interests, as a platform for my spiritual experiences, as an inspiration for others and as a way of finding my audience. Today I can humbly and gratefully say I have fulfilled those intents to a degree I never anticipated.

Linda’s presence on the blog is always very strong and loving.  There are numerous pictures of her scattered throughout my posts. Search in the Linda Category for my many tributes over the past year. In the Gallery you will find some adorable pictures of Linda from her childhood.

I’ve written extensively about local heritage over the past ten years and enjoy using the blog to share my pictures and thoughts on heritage buildings and events. I have a personal collection of over 1000 pictures of heritage sites that I will be drawing from for future posts. Creating videos has added a whole new dimension to my heritage reporting. Check out Churches, Houses and MB Heritage pages for dozens of heritage examples.

Culturally, everyone from Salvador Dali to Ralph Eugene Meatyard (maybe not that big a step), Bjork to Wm Burroughs (ditto), Fellini to DickTool Co have been homaged on my blog this year. Personal experiences like hearing Eleanor Rigby for the first time in 1966 and seeing Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band in Toronto in 1969 to more recent encounters with various art forms have been vented on the blog. For a chronology, examples and links to the art Linda and I made when we first united, check out the DTC Art page.   

Practicing shamanism and incorporating its wisdom into my life has guided me to share my experiences via the blog, not with an agenda to convert you or change your mind about anything (I have nothing to sell) but to simply tell my story, share my glimpses into the hidden places, into other possibilities and report what happens. There are dozens of posts and pages relating directly to my shamanic experiences on the blog. Numerous Categories apply. Check out About, Sacred Places and FAQ pages for detailed reports.

Because of the blog, many readers have contacted me this year, most often about heritage related matters. I have connected people with places and with each other, found knowledgable people to answer obscure questions and given specific directions to heritage and spiritual sites on the prairies. Inspiring people to seek Spirit on the Canadian plains has created enormous opportunities for personal gratitude. One of the most satisfying and humbling experiences in my blogging life was when my friend Chris Scholl said I inspired him to create his thoughtful, thought-provoking personal blog, Love Art and Fear. I inspired myself to create another blog devoted entirely to the history of my hometown, Shoal Lake, MB. The DickToolCo channel on YouTube and two hundred pictures on Flickr are more outlets for creative fun!

I have attracted a blog audience that far surpasses my wildest expectations when I started typing away at this a year ago. Almost 88,000 hits in the year equates to about 240 hits a day. I seem to have found an audience and I thank you, every one of you who has landed at readreidread.com for whatever reason, I thank you; everyone who subscribes to my scribblings and guff, I thank you; all the befuddled and wild-eyed who suddenly find themselves in Reidland, I thank you (be brave); everyone who finds out shamanism isn’t what they think it is by reading my blog, I thank you.

Besides simply giving me something to do almost every day, my blog has provided an outlet for my diverse interests, improved and expanded my computer skills and offered satisfactions I never dreamed possible.

What’s in the future for ReadReidRead? Carrying on the festive tradition that Linda and I began six years ago, I’ll be posting a daily feature to celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas. This year I have selected 12 Manitoba churches, which begin Wednesday, December 14. My year-end review is in the works and will be posted December 31. All the original intents of the blog still apply and I can assure you my diversity and curiosity will continue to be fully represented. Is blogging still fun? It’s a blast! Even after 565 posts!

Thank you for visiting my blog this year. Be happy. Reid

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Filed under BEAUTY, Blog Life, Linda, Local History, Music, Prairie People, shamanism, Soul Building

Early Refrigeration – The Icehouse

Reid Dickie

Until rural electrification reached small towns and farms via Manitoba Hydro in the mid to late 1930s and refrigerators became available, the icehouse played an important role in keeping perishable foodstuffs from spoiling.  A small building, often wood frame or made of fieldstones, was built near the house. Blocks of ice were piled inside and covered with sawdust to keep them from melting during the hot summer months.  A fresh supply of ice was added to the building every winter. This is a typical fieldstone icehouse that was built around 1890 and still stands in Shoal Lake, MB today.


Before electricity, Shoal Lake Creamery organized “ice days.”  Because the creamery stored vast amounts of ice to keep the milk, cream and butter from spoiling, when word got out that the creamery was cutting ice, townspeople and farmers from far and wide converged on the lake to get their share.

Hand powered saws cut long strips about 24 inches wide and cut again into sections about 3 feet long. Clydesdales provided the horsepower to pull the blocks of ice out of the water and onto the waiting sleighs.  The horses had done this job for so many years that they didn’t even have to be driven.  They simply went around and around waiting patiently until the hooks were fastened to the ice blocks and a soft “get up” was all that was necessary to put them into action.

Once the ice was hauled home, the blocks were slid into the icehouse and covered with a good layer of sawdust, which effectively kept the ice from melting all summer. When the sawdust lost its insulating power it was replaced with fresh aromatic sawdust.

Most kitchens had an icebox with a compartment at the top holding a block of ice releasing cold air over the perishable food below.  The ice had to be replenished every day.  Ice boxes had drip pans which caught the water from the melting ice. Often forgotten, the drip pans overflowed onto the kitchen floor.

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Manitoba’s Official Mounted Police Museum

Reid Dickie

Every Canadian province has an official Mounted Police Museum. In Manitoba it is located in Shoal Lake. In my video report find out why this is an extremely appropriate town to have the museum.

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Filed under Day Tripping, Local History, Manitoba Heritage, Pioneers

Art Moderne Texaco Filling Stations

Reid Dickie

This article, minus the Dauphin update, originally appeared in Crossroads This Week in 2004 under the title The Treasure in the Middle of Town. Today it also appears on my blog about my hometown’s history www.shoallakehistory.com

Art Deco well-clad

What do Kodak Brownie cameras, bullet trains, Spartan radios and the Central S building in Shoal Lake have in common? The answer: the same person, an innovative American industrial designer named Walter Dorwin Teague, designed them all.

Teague’s most popular camera design for Eastman Kodak was the Bantam Special. Perfection!

From Pendleton, IN Teague worked as an illustrator and commercial artist, notably for Time magazine. A trip to Paris in 1926 exposed him to new ultra-modern designs and materials that captured his imagination. Hired by Texaco to design service stations, Teague employed architectural elements from the Art Deco and Art Moderne schools. The Central S building is a classic example of this style and one of the few remaining in western Canada.

The building, on prime real estate at the intersection of Highways 21 and 42 in the centre of Shoal Lake, was constructed in 1936. It opened for business on July 31 of that year as the Red Indian Filling Station, the brand name used by the Frontenac Oil Company. Formed in 1873, the McColl-Anderson Oil Company in Toronto consisted of a refinery and lubricating oil and grease facility. Around the turn of the century, they shortened the name to McColl Brothers. A merger with Frontenac Oil in 1927 gave the McColl-Frontenac Oil Company Canadian operations from coast to coast. About this time, Texaco began acquiring shares in Frontenac, gaining control of the company in the early 1930s. In 1941, they formally changed the name to Texaco and the brand to Sky Chief and Fire Chief products.

Texaco service stations became a common site along highways all over North America. Unmistakable they had bright white stucco finishes, forest-green stripes and large red three-dimensional stars around the upper area below the roof along with a freestanding signpost bearing the red Texaco star logo on a white disk.

Teague created two designs for Texaco service stations: a small one like the Shoal Lake building, and a larger example with a breezeway supported by angled pillars that covered the pump area. The prominent decorative detail was the large, 3-D red star taken from the Texaco logo and duplicated on the company’s uniforms, prompting the advertising slogan “You can trust your car to the man who wears the star.” There were about 10,000 such service stations on the continent by 1950, most of them in one of Teague’s two cookie-cutter styles.

Teague’s industrial projects always represented the dynamic progress of the 20th century, the streamlined machine esthetic suggesting motion and speed, denoted here by the jutting rounded tower bearing the company name. Elements common to Teague’s designs are all evident in the Central S building: flat roof, rounded corners, symmetrical facades and raised signage, both modern and economical at once. Front doors on both sides of a protruding curved entranceway compliment the double service bays. There was another bay entrance on the east side of the building. Inside was a small storefront area, office and storage behind that and the service areas on either side joined by a wide, open backspace.  The building, though small, gives the impression of stability and confidence. Yet there is a charming lightness and optimism to the design that appealed to the newly mobile to “Trust Texaco.”

            The large version of Teague’s Texaco stations with breezeway.

Owned by Texaco until 1953, the service station was leased to Dean Brothers, Mr. Burns, Roy Garlick, McLean’s, Mr. Kashton, Louis Bart and John Byram. It was bought in 1953 by John Decelle who operated it until 1960. The small furnace room at the back was added on during this time. Roy Garlick ran it for a few years, followed by Doug Susinski, Don Wiburg and Bill Schwaluk. With the absorption of Texaco into Chevron, Bill Stebnicki bought the building in 1987 and it became the Central S convenience store. Today Mickey and Yvonne Shust are the proprietors.

UPDATE: Posted August 11/2012

Nothing says turn up the tunes, point her toward the vanishing point and step on it like an old Texaco filling station!

Previously I have posted about the Art Moderne Texaco filling station in my hometown in western Manitoba and its designer, Walter Teague. I have few old pictures of the place as it appeared back in its heyday as the Texaco gas station in Shoal Lake. Today it still serves relatively the same purpose. The garage and tire repair are gone, replaced with a convenience store called Central S. You can get gas, wash your car and buy a Pepsi, too. Plunked down in the middle of town, it is still the best location in Shoal Lake.

I recently took pictures of how the structure looks these days. Even though it is completely covered in grey vertical cladding, almost every detail from its original design can still be seen on the building. The rounded corners on the building, the roof and entrance, the prominent stepped signage, the symmetrical windows where the garage doors were, the darker trim at the cornice and around the projecting sign, all still visible, all smooth and optimistic, all telling you that the future is bright! Despite the matching grey Manitoba sky beyond, the colour has a warm, an inviting neutrality. I had forgotten that the building isn’t square on the lot. “It’s squee gee,” as Mom would say. It doesn’t parallel the facing street, The Drive, but tilts slightly toward the intersecting Station Road, Shoal Lake’s main drag.

Rarified 21st century mists of Art Moderne still lurk about the old place, passing along pleasing reminders of gentler, less-pre-occupied times to anyone who can slow down and notice them. Take a deep Art Moderne breath, old friend. You’ve earned it.

END OF UPDATE

As a fine example of Art Moderne architecture, the building stands among a dwindling number of such historic places left in Canada. Its geometric form, precise location for striking visual appeal and the renown of its creator conspire to make this a little treasure worthy of preserving.

I’ve known about it for years and finally got around to photographing a twin to Shoal Lake’s service station, this one in Dauphin, MB also designed by Teague. Built in 1936 and formerly Greening’s Garage it now houses a computer business. The sweeping sign with the rounded receding corners prominent at the front, the flat roof, the horizontal lines, and sleek, sensuous curves of the building overall suggest movement and speed to match the modern automobiles. All this is evident in the Texaco picture, the same as the Shoal Lake version.

Today most of the openings have been closed and the place stuccoed but the sign is still the same. Although covered over, the rounded front entrance remains intact and the paint job kept the horizontal stripe along the roofline, two distinctive elements of the style. Originally set back from the street to accommodate gas pumps, without the pumps it still stands out positioned on a street corner. By the way, the company Walter Teague started in 1926 is still going strong today creating innovative and award-winning industrial design.

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Summer Mobility

Reid Dickie

On the road again!

I picked up the summer car from Enterprise Car Rental on Monday and the tradition of the Mighty Avenger continues. Last summer I rented Avengers from ECR and drove 27,000 kms between the two of them. This year, due to the fine efforts of manager Brayden, I have the new generation of Avengers to accompany me – a 2011 SXT in a ghostly silver colour with less than 6000 kms on it, just a baby really. We’ll be getting to know each other well over the next few months.

My wanderlust isn’t as powerful or compelling as it was last summer. I am well into the acceptance phase of my grief for Linda. I feel incrementally more peaceful everyday, more comfortable with my new life. I’m not sure exactly what adventures the Mighty Avenger and I will have this summer. A few sacred places are beckoning me back.

I do know my first road trip will be this Friday to attend the funeral of a well-respected friend from Shoal Lake, Joe Fikkert. I grew up with his sons, worked in his bakery and always enjoyed the company of this jovial intelligent man and his lovely and talented wife, Joan. I proudly own one of Joan’s wonderful paintings. Without stint, Joe served his community long and well and will be missed by many. So long Joe, it was great to know you.

Be assured that wherever my travels take me, I will always return here, to ReadReidRead to report what happened.

On the way out and back on Friday, I’ll cover some of the flooded areas so will have pictures and first-hand information here upon my return.

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Mom

Reid Dickie

Often, when Mom, Dad and me would go for drives to visit relatives, usually never more than an hour and half away, Mom would regale Dad and I with a spontaneous story. Her imagination was so quick and bright that she could spin a verbal yarn that lasted exactly the length of time it took to drive to Brandon or Dauphin or Hartney with the denouement happening just as we drove into the driveway. She even did various voices and accents if The Muse was being especially kind to her that day. Amazing!

         One of her recurring  stories followed the adventures of the Jones Girls, four sisters who lived on a horse ranch in Kentucky. Partially based on one of her lifelong friends, May Lee Scott, episodes of the Jones Girls never failed to compel, excite and stimulate us as we rode across the wide Canadian prairies in our little Chevy.

          I owe the vast majority of my creativity to Mom and her unabashed connection to The Muse which, along with car ride stories, spawned quirky short stories, poetry and even radio station contest jingles which she frequently won. I can think of a vacuum cleaner and a set of dishes we used for years that Mom won in a contest on CKDM Dauphin or CKX Brandon.

      This is a short poem about bachelors Mom wrote and sent in to a CKDM contest that won the set of dishes:

Why bachelors some men stay, that is the question of the day?

I humbly submit this little jingle, to tell you why I think men stay single.

They value most their independence, they shun the confines of a woman’s tendance

Some claim an unrequited love! Others a lack of God’s gifts from above!

But I still say they just want to be free. PS Thank goodness one changed his mind and married me!

         She was a teacher mom who’d graduated Normal School in 1932, taught during the Dirty Thirties and on into wartime while Dad was overseas during WWII. Though beset with frequent migraine headaches, Mom was well read, funny and worked part-time as a teacher’s sub, salesperson and postal clerk. She organized a book club in the little town which allowed me access to adult authors like Robert Ruark, Ian Fleming, Arthur Hailey and Leon Uris. I remember struggling to understand their syntax and their meaning.

       Mom’s gift to me is the gift of the gab, as the adage says. In print, in person, on tape, on the air the gift translates through media and every time refers back to Mom’s original present to me. I am so grateful to her for this wonderful legacy. I only wish she could have had a computer to easily spell out her stories as I spell out mine. I can only imagine what tales might have arisen from her if she’d had a Dell instead of a sewing machine.

Mom died eighteen years ago today. She died exactly as she wanted to – in the little hospital in the town where she’d lived for 36 of her 80 years with her family around her, natural causes her final diagnosis. I thank her daily for the creative wonders she passed along to me. Today Mom, I offer you  special thanks for everything you gave me and everything you taught me. I am filled with gratitude. I love you. Reid

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The First Time I Heard “Eleanor Rigby” by The Beatles

Reid Dickie

            It was a Friday, August 5, the day after my 17th birthday, 1966. My after-school and summer job at the Shoal Lake Locker Plant mostly consisted of stocking shelves and sweeping up. Once I turned 16, my other duty was delivering groceries around the little town to people who’d called in or were too elderly to carry them. The store had a Chev they’d knocked all but the driver’s seat out of, making room for the deliveries. I piled in the bags of groceries with the family names written on them. I was expected to know where everyone lived and I did. It was a small town.

            I enjoyed getting out of the store, driving around my familiar little town listening to the radio. CKY, Canada’s Friendly Giant, 50,000 clear channel watts out of Winnipeg, had been shouting all day about having an exclusive on the new Beatles single and would play it at precisely 4:55. The DJ kept telling us we wouldn’t believe our ears. They wouldn’t even tell us the name of the song. I was a zealous fan. The Beatles defined and informed a large part of my youth. I was excited.

            Setting the stage musically for Eleanor Rigby‘s arrival, the previous five singles The Beatles released were Paperback Writer/Rain, June 1966, Nowhere Man, March 1966, We Can Work It Out/Day Tripper, December 1965, Yesterday, September 1965, Help, August 1965 – solid rock tunes but for Yesterday, with plenty of chiming guitars and backbeat, each a musical advance showing growth. The Beatles loved to surprise us but I was completely unprepared for what was coming next.

            The day was hot and I was sweaty in the old car but the breeze felt cool and in a few minutes there would be a brand new Beatles song in the world. Life was good!

        Just as I was pulling into Richcoon’s driveway, as relentlessly promised all day, CKY announced they would play the new Beatles 45. I sat in the Chev, fully baited. Eleanor Rigby played. The announcer said he was going to play it again and did. The voices were right but not a guitar or drum within earshot, instead a string octet supporting a wailing tale of desolation and woe. Nothing like this had ever happened before! My little Shoal Lake Locker Plant delivery boy’s mind was blown right there in Richcoon’s driveway. I carried, rather floated the groceries to their door, got back behind the wheel of the Chev and just sat there, confused, queasy, thinking, “Is this the end of the world?”

            It wasn’t.

Eleanor Rigby was one of the first story-songs The Beatles, usually Paul, wrote. Norwegian Wood on Rubber Soul hinted at the future but their little movies continued with When I’m 64, Penny Lane, Bungalow Bill and so on. There is a tombstone in a cemetery in Liverpool, England with the name Eleanor Rigby on it. Whether McCartney knew that and used the name intentionally isn’t known. He claims the first name he tried in the song was Miss Daisy Hawkins but eventually named it Eleanor after actress Eleanor Bron who starred in The Beatles movie, Help.

            Revolver, the album Eleanor Rigby came from, was released the following Monday, August 8 and provided a radical setting for The Beatles new eloquence and their increasingly precise pop sensibility. An instant classic, Revolver is at the top of many people’s all-time favourite album lists, including mine. Timeless yet surprising pop songs, quantum leaps in story-telling and sonic adventures combine to make Revolver a stunning achievement in pop culture.

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Have I Found What I’m Looking For?

Reid Dickie

“The unexamined life is not worth living.” – Socrates

            I was sitting in the Tim Horton’s at Stafford and Corydon and I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For by U2 came on the radio. (I know, Socrates, Tim Horton and U2 in the first three lines with Ken Wilber and St. Francis of Assisi yet to come! Please bear with me.) It got me wondering if, in my lifetime, I have found what I’m looking for, a question that demanded some serious introspection. Then I thought Chris and I could both blog on the question and post on the same day. People could compare and contrast our answers. Chris jumped at the idea. He is twenty-five years my junior and had an upbringing much different from mine. This should be interesting.

My search for an answer started with making a list of the most important things I have gone looking for in my life. It turned out to be a six item list: Love, Friendship, The Muse, Happiness, An Audience and My Life Purpose.

  • Love: When I was a romantic lad growing up in Shoal Lake in western Manitoba, I had an imaginary dream girl, the perfect woman who would love me forever, cherish everything about me, forgive all my sins and die happily in my arms, all the same things I would do for her. Her name was Johanna, inspired by Bob Dylan’s Visions of Johanna. I held onto my vision of Johanna through high school, took her to Toronto with me to learn radio announcing and brought her back to the prairies where I started my career. Still not having found my Johanna by that time, I was starting to lose hope, thinking it was all just a childish thing ready to be discarded. However, I kept searching and I found her. She was just using another name – Linda. I am among those incredibly fortunate men who found a perfect soul mate to love and understand him. I found the love I was looking for in full measure.

  • Friendship: At The Celebration of Light and Linda last fall, I was joined for a photograph by five guys I went to school with 50 years before. It is a most telling picture showing deep camaraderie and love. I could call on any one of these men today and they would help me, no matter what, and I would do the same for them. These are lifelong friends with whom I share common childhood experiences and mutual admiration. I have human friends of all ages and endeavours and find them stimulating and satisfying. My closest friendships feel more like family. Through shamanism, I have a pantheon of spirits who are also my friends but of an entirely different order. I have found the friends I was looking for.

Six buddies from Shoal Lake: from the left Terry Lewycky, Dennis Lewycky, Ernie Bart, myself, Mark Fikkert, Ron Bart

  • The Muse: My creativity is a family legacy from my mother and her father. Imaginative and always ready to tell a story, real or imagined, my teacher Mom exhorted me to get inside my own head and discover what’s there. I’ve had an eager and unabashed connection to my imagination ever since. On my About page, I wrote (quoting myself, writer’s bliss!): “I seem to have tapped into the source of an endless stream of ideas that flow like quicksilver through my mind, some of them getting captured and sent far and asunder in my own words. As Terence McKenna said, ‘Imagination is where we are coming from and imagination is where we are going to.’ I have honed my imagination to a fine nib that dips into the rainbow ink of many worlds, leaving behind a sometimes elegant, sometimes smeared trail of word crumbs. If they ever help anybody find their way home, my job is done.” Finding a life partner like Linda, equally imaginative and creative, was an unexpected bonus. Looking for The Muse is a process, it never ends. I have found The Muse and an ongoing connection to its process.
  • Happiness: The big truth here in ordinary reality is we only get little stabs at happiness, not long blissful swaths of it. The happiness we do experience is seldom of our own making, often artificially induced, always fleeting. Needy egos, the bind of the mind and the rolling thunder of life’s experience keep us from sustained happiness. Developing an inner practise like shamanism opens up new realms of potential happiness often leading to bliss. My power animal, Tiger, brings joyfulness into my life daily. Linda made me happy during her life and continues to do so after her death. Her consistent message is “Be happy.” Although this is not the forum to detail this, using wisdom flowing from her new vantage point, Linda has shown me a glimpse of heaven to illustrate why I should “be happy.” I have found happiness wherever I looked.     
  • An Audience: Both Chris and I are seeking our audiences this year. In my life, I have frequently had an audience: as a radio announcer, as an artist and performer, as an old friend prowling the stage of The Park Theatre at The Celebration and now with this blog. Today I’m finding my next audience in a whole new way. The content – me – is the same but the format is new and exciting, awash with instant possibilities combining images, video, audio and words. I am finding my audience here, view by view, in this burning ground of history where everything is immediately retrievable while the whole world watches.  
  • My Life Purpose: It’s not radio, not retail, not any of the myriad odd jobs I tried. It’s not even writing. My life purpose became clear to me when I was 45 years old. 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! Though it would take me a few years to realize it, I had found my purpose, as well. Widely traveled, I visited dozens of ancient sacred sites on the Canadian prairies, performing rituals and exploring the realms opened up through my daily practice of neo-shamanism. Discovering my spiritual calling, my purpose has enriched my life beyond measure. 

St. Francis of Assisi said something so profoundly simple in its truth that it took me years to understand it. He said, “What you are looking for is what is looking.” I knew the things I was looking for, that was the easy part. But what is looking? I pondered this many times. My searching and scrambling seemed to be what I wanted but I never had any real perspective on myself until I figured out what St. Francis meant.

So, what is looking? Our very essence, this vast empty awareness in which we and everything we experience and perceive arises, that’s what is looking. Call it Spirit, cosmic consciousness, God. Ken Wilber calls it “the deepest suchness of our being where all worlds arise.” Spirit is what’s looking, partaking of the world through my eyes and my being, in fact, everyone’s eyes and beings. Spirit is the tireless watcher, the eternal Witness to all that arises. The most satisfying discovery of my life had always been plainly obvious. To experience it, all I did was get out of my own way.

The Answer: Yes, reflecting back over six decades I can honestly say I have found what I’m looking for and I have been found by what is looking for me. In both cases, it is Spirit. If I die tomorrow, I’ll have a smile on my face.

However, although satisfied so far, I am still committed to the search, to learn my whole life long, to shine my curiosity into new realms and discover what’s there. I can report today that what’s there is incredible!

Check out Chris’ blog to see if he’s found what he’s looking for.

 Chris welcomes the world to his blog.

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Filed under ken wilber, Life and Life Only, Linda, shaman, shamanism

12 Manitoba Heritage Houses

           These are the same 12 Manitoba Heritage Houses on the 12 Houses page at the top. I’m making them into a post with a link to their page so as I can allow their many tags to be available online and make them easier to find. Right now WordPress doesn’t provide tags for pages, just posts. This will get around that.

           If you haven’t checked out 12 Manitoba Heritage Houses or even if you have, now is a good time. I’ve added some interesting links that weren’t there previously. This series originally appeared as a 12 Days of Christmas project Linda and I sent out in 2007 which accounts for the format. Each house merits a grand picture and short description.

           Take a drive with me around Manitoba, stopping in some delightful places and catching glimpses of twelve precious and well-maintained houses that passionately preserve our heritage.

12 MANITOBA HERITAGE HOUSES

DAY ONE

Janz House, Third St. & Fifth Ave. W, Souris, MB

              To accommodate the superintendent and his family, the Canadian Pacific Railway built this elegant wood frame more…

DAY TWO

Beechmount, 134 West Gate, Winnipeg, MB

            Built by barrister Lendrum McMeans in 1895, it was bank manager John Benning Monk who named it more…

DAY THREE

Brick Bungalow, 1604 College Ave, Brandon, MB

              This brick bungalow’s distinctive low-slung porch roof offers a deep sheltering space to enter the home. The more…

DAY FOUR

J. D. McLean House, South Chestnut  Street, Shoal Lake, MB

            J.D. McLean, a tinsmith and hardware merchant, built this delightful two-storey Queen Anne style house more…

DAY FIVE

Brick two-storey house, Third & Cliff, Wawanesa, MB

           This eloquent two-storey Queen Anne style house demonstrates the early prosperity of Wawanesa. Executed more…

DAY SIX

Mansard roof house, 415 Kerby St., Miami, MB.

           Well-kept and charming, this fine example of a mansard-roofed house was built around 1900. The house more…

DAY SEVEN

Classic Two-Storey, Garwood Ave, Winnipeg, MB

         Built in 1914 when its west Fort Rouge neighbourhood was being developed, this standard off-centre more…

DAY EIGHT

McBurney House, Third St & Fifth Ave W, Souris, MB.

        This house is a beauty! Built in 1909, architect Charles Hawkins Brindle loaded the house with Classical more…

DAY NINE

One & a Half Storey, Blight St, Miami, MB.

         Another lovely pridefully maintained home in little Miami. This classic example of a one and half storey more…

DAY TEN

Former Paterson/Matheson House, 1039 Louise Ave. Brandon, MB

           This splendid 1895 house exudes extreme Queen Anne style dripping with Eastlake decoration. The great more…

DAY ELEVEN

Brick Gingerbread House, 510 Fourth at Simcoe, Carberry, MB

              Take a moment to drink in the detail and the overall Seussian effect. The picturesque roofline features more…

DAY TWELVE

Brick Gingerbread House, 228 Fifteenth St, Brandon, MB

           A coin toss decided which gingerbread became Christmas Day house. Appropriately, this unusual place more… 

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BE HAPPY! Reid’s 2010 Year-End Review

           I begin my year-end review with a picture taken New Year’s Eve 2009, one week after Linda died. Snapped by dear Kenny at his celebration, people who saw the picture thought Leonard Cohen had attended the party.

         Alas, it is I, the horrors of the recent past inscribed on my face, a small attempted smile, sad eyes.  Since Leonard Cohen is 14 years my senior, I guess I got a little behind in my Fountain of Youthersize. I will conclude my year-end review with a picture from New Year’s Eve 2010.

TRAVIS

            When a good person dies, their benevolent energy is released into the world. It hovers nearby, surrounds those the deceased loved and provides angels to ease their grief. Evident angels bring casseroles and pies. More subtle angels appear seemingly by coincidence. You can recognize them because they always turn up in a timely fashion and they always know what to do. Travis was one of Linda’s angels.

            A licensed massage therapist, Travis was recommended to me in early January to iron out the tension and kinks my body had accumulated over the past few months. The moment I saw Travis I knew he was an angel, an Old Soul come to help. That day I received the best massage of my life. He knew what to do, what I needed. The subsequent seven massages he gave me became increasingly healing. While I tried to come to some kind of reckoning with my state of shock after Linda’s death, Travis kneaded and stroked grief out of my body with kindness, compassion and love. His hands found the pain of grieving my body held and gently, with coordinated breathing, released it, leaving me more relaxed than I’d been in months, unbound, at home in my skin again.

             It is a luxury to be understood. Not only did Travis recognize the needs of my body by relieving its tension, he realized my mental condition and offered solace of the most intense kind. Soul to soul, a bond formed between Travis and me that silently acknowledged the pain and the process required to survive it. In that bond, hope took root, was nurtured, grew and helped me immensely with proactively processing my grief for Linda.

Travis. Can you see the light behind his eyes?                    Click any picture to enlarge.

           Travis showed me grief wasn’t new to me. I had grieved for parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends and pets in this life and others. Death is necessary. We are all tomorrow’s food. Grief ensues. I knew the territory and I knew the steps. I printed off the 10 steps of grieving, tacked them up at my desk and used the list as a map to figure out how to get through this.

            Travis returned to Vancouver in late March to his family and to pursue his career there. We have kept in touch in many ways. I have a feeling Travis and I will be reunited soon and he will again act as a catalyst to propel me fully into my new life.

THE DISTANCE

      The distance: just over 27,000 kilometres in 6 months from mid-May to mid-November, averaging 150 kms a day all over southern Manitoba and Saskatchewan. The vehicle: The Mighty Dodge Avenger.

The Mighty Avenger

      I am proud to report that at age 61 I have never owned a car or any motor vehicle in my life. I drive but choose not to. I am independent. This summer I needed to be mobile, to escape this hive and haunt the blue dome that nurtured and inspired me growing up in little Shoal Lake. I needed the elbowroom, the mental room to deal with my grief over Linda’s death, to run the grieving steps in a wide-open space that I knew and that knew me. Enterprise offered me a great deal on a month-to-month rental with plenty of free kilometres. I could not resist and didn’t. The Mighty Avenger arrived in my life. A little sporty, a little daddy, peppy and utterly reliable for the ensuing thousands of kilometres we spent together. We were a team.

   The Mighty Avenger at Pine Cree Park, SK, the farthest west we traveled this summer.   

            At the end of July, Mother Enterprise decided the 2009 Avenger had reached it rentability zenith and was ready to be sold, put out to pasture. Just like me! A lovely irony! I will always cherish and admire how the Mighty Avenger easily contributed to my personal mythology as I created a new life for myself, how every mile it accommodated Linda’s spirit and all the wild spirits we found along the road.

      We’d been comrades in kilometres from Bannock Point Petroforms in the east to The Convent B&B in Val Marie, SK in the west. We’d driven PLP to Wpg during the Once In Fifty Year rainstorm in late May, basked in the heat next to an ancient dancing ground at the top of the highest hill around, maneuvered the blind hills and vales of the Missouri Coteau and the sharp curves of the Canadian Shield with aplomb and dodged most of the gophers we encountered. After traveling 1800 km with me in the Avenger and driving part of the way, my friend Chris can attest that the Avenger is a most amicable driving machine. The Avenger is a mighty sweet ride! Arriving at Enterprise, I turned in my reliable friend, anxious about its replacement.  

The Mighty Avenger and I stopped on a tablerock on the Canadian Shield. 

      Little wheel spin and spin, big wheel turn round and round – it was another Avenger! Same design, same colour but a year younger, fewer kilometres, just a kid really. I would more than double the 14,000 km it had already gone. The myth of the Mighty Avenger lived on as we prowled the prairie hill and dale together.    Our adventures are recounted in most of the 12 Sacred Places reports 

      However, after six months and one week, it was time to say adios for good to the Mighty Avenger. I had extended the rental for three extra months and never regretted a mile of it. Over the summer, I kept all the gas receipts from the Avenger but never totaled them. I waited til just before I gave it back to add them up. Not to say it was hard on gas, it wasn’t but the whopping total made our parting much easier!

      My friends keep asking if I miss the Avenger but I don’t. I enjoy the slower lifestyle, the pace of walking, being patient, it’s familiar. I do miss one thing about it though: hearing the great break in “I’ve Got You under My Skin” by Frank Sinatra, arranged by Nelson Riddle, really loud going 110 kms an hour down a perfect highway aimed at the vanishing point.

ON THE ROAD

CHRIS

      When traveling any path, it is essential to have as many allies as possible in as many different worlds. I am blessed to have my young friend Chris as a spiritual ally. We’ve been friends for 12 years, grown together spiritually, traveled together, aided and abetted each other’s development and personal evolution. We are Old Souls, the ones who find each other in times of need and know what to do.

      If you have followed 12 Sacred Places, you have heard of Chris often enough to make you curious about him. In addition to being an effective and respected therapeutic drummer, imaginative musician, Old Soul and a fine writer, Chris is a deeply spiritual man. He is an embodiment of Universal Love. It shines from his eyes. Time and again when we talk of our lives and our challenges, Chris distills everything to Love for which he is a positive change agent and future attractor. His smile inspires hope.

     Over the years we’d discussed traveling together to the sacred places I told him about. This was our year. Starting solstice sunrise in June (Day 6 of 12 Sacred Places) we spent five blissful days together on the road, traveling through southwestern Manitoba into southern Saskatchewan visiting a dozen ancient places, contacting local spirits and getting grounded. Total kms of shared driving:1867 kms.

      To have an intent then watch for both the intended and unintended to occur is the heart of every sacred journey. Chris and I began our June journey with a simple intent: to humbly visit sacred places seeking grounding and discovery. Although I had driven this path many times, the journey was new to Chris, but being Old Souls, together we cleared the path to our intent. The journey gave both of us the clarity, courage and strength necessary to deal with our life changes.

        Sometimes Chris liked to get out and run along side the Avenger. I always waited for him to catch up when I left him in the dust.

All Mod Cons

       The town of Boissevain, MB in the southwestern part of the province is served by twin water towers, the tallest things in town. Of course, one is hot, the other cold, as you can see.

  BEST HIGHWAY: MB Hwy #68 west of The Narrows 

         Manitoba highways are still superior to Saskatchewan in some areas. The best road was MB Highway #68 west of the Lake Manitoba Narrows. Smooth and easy, no patching and few winter lumps. Infrastructure cash flowed like water this summer with highway construction around every corner of my travels. Brand-new sections of TCH between Portage and Brandon are so smooth they resemble runways and flight feels inevitable.

WORST HIGHWAY:  SK Hwy #18

          The worst is easily SK Highway #18 which I drove three times this summer. Seemingly, I just couldn’t get enough of it. Along the US border west of Estevan the highway dissolves into something the road map calls “thin membrane surface.” It means 100 yards of gravel, 100 yards of broken pavement, 100 yards, of not so bad pavement, back to gravel, no gravel and so on for miles and miles. Some of the most spectacular scenery in Saskatchewan, a dozen ancient holy places, constantly changing landscapes and geology and a broad assortment of rural eccentrics can all be found along Hwy #18 but I still don’t recommend driving it. You can deek in and out of many of these places from much better, more drivable Hwy #13 to the north.

      Curious Cowboy Picture

      On my second visit to Val Marie, SK in August 2001 I met a local woman named Lise Perrault.  Besides collecting original volumes of western writer Will James and offering interesting well off the beaten path tours of the mysterious Frenchman Valley, Lise was a painter with a unique folk art style. Her depictions of the prairie she saw every day and the critters who roamed it brim with simple honesty both in subject and style. Lise is in a personal care home now and her paintings have largely disappeared or been sold by her family.

      Today the Val Marie Museum retains two of Lise Perrault’s most evocative works. Painted in 1982, one is a hilly and treed vista that may have been the lowlands of the Cypress Hills just west of here.

           The other, from 1998, depicts two cowboys shaking hands in the middle of the prairie. Nothing in the picture suggests the men’s motive or meaning, no points of reference. There is amicability between them but mystery as well.

           It made me think of Brokeback Mountain, Annie Proulx’s well-spun cowboy story. Proulx writes mainly about Wyoming and Wild Westerners, so Val Marie, with its similar landscapes and lifestyles, could well have been a place she visited, saw Lise’s picture and got the notion for Brokeback Mountain. I asked several people in Val Marie if they knew of a visit by Annie Proulx. No one had. I’m probably just adding on here.

 Best Accommodations of the Summer

       I stayed in 30 different hotels, motels and inns over five months this summer, returning to a few of them several times. Quickly I realized there are two completely different business plans going on in hostelry. Most of them rent rooms for people to sleep in. Sounds right, what they do. A few others, the really good ones, sell sleep. They rent rooms too, but they also sell sleep. Big difference. That accounts for the hundred-dollar price gap between the Ramada Inn in Weyburn and Barney’s Motel in Brandon.  

       Ramada in Weyburn is Best Accommodation of the Summer thanks to their $4000 Simmons industrial mattresses that feel like you are being held in the hands of God, stylish and sophisticated décor, pool and hot tub, great continental breakfast, tremendous highway and railway view and a good night’s sleep.

      Also in Weyburn, the Canalta Inn is a runner-up. Next door and related somehow to the Ramada, Canalta Inns, an Alberta company with hotels in the three western provinces, offers almost comparable accommodation including a hot tub and wonderful wet steam room. They, too, are selling sleep.

       Adding charm to the mix, I recommend The Convent Country Inn in Val Marie, SK. An actual convent, saved from demolition at the last minute, is now a serene yet playful bed and breakfast run by wonderful people. I first met Robert and Mette Ducan over ten years ago not long after they had opened their venture. With years of experience behind them, they are expert hoteliers now. Here is a hot tip for recent empty nesters ready to take on a new adventure: The Convent is for sale! The all-in price is reasonable and the location exceptional. This is a Do Not Miss opportunity. Investigate.

The front entrance of The Convent Country Inn. The red brick has a beautiful patina, the renovations retained the serenity of the building and most of the interior design including the chapel. It’s for sale! (The building isn’t tilted, my picture is)

 

Worst Accommodations of the Summer

       A shoo-in, a hands-down winner for Worst Accommodation of the Summer: Miniota Inn, Miniota, MB, a shrinking village at Highways #83 and 24. What makes it a winning loser? Let me count the reasons. Comprised of either six or eight seedy rooms, the joint is just an excuse to have a pub to service the eight local alcoholics all of whom howled late into the evening. The room reeked of cigarette smoke and when I asked the guy at the desk, so to speak, for non-smoking, he said, “Oh, everybody smokes.” Ah, I was in the wrong town.

      Nonetheless, I stayed the stinking night on a flat saggy mattress below a rendering of Michaelangelo’s Creation on black velvet (truly) which was not bolted to the wall yet survived pilfering, that’s how bad it was. Adam appeared to be wearing jockey shorts. I wondered what velvet delights haunted the other rooms of Miniota Inn and shivered.

      Wait! There’s more. Miniota Inn wins again! A double winner! Add in Worst Restaurant Service of the Summer! My evening meal in their restaurant was reasonably easy and edible, breakfast more of a challenge. A hobbling, elderly man, I guessed in his mid 80s, was the morning waiter and cook, again so to speak. Morning clientele consisted exclusively of working and retired guys getting away from the wife and kids early to spend a few minutes of mindless camaraderie with men of similar destiny. The demands of the morning men were simple: coffee, cream, sugar. Luckily, for the waiter coffee is self-serve at the Miniota Inn giving him time to sit and wheeze. When I ordered toast, a completely new order of expectation, confusion and amusement kicked in. I eventually made my own toast when he brought out the toaster for me to use. This is somewhat of a default win for Worst Service since I thought the toast I made was just fine and I smiled when I brought it to my table.

      Wait! Even more? Yes! Miniota Inn is a triple winner! Not only was the inside ambience and décor of my room toxic in so many ways, the view out my window was Worst View Out a Hotel Window of the Summer. Here it is.

 Any guesses?

      Strangely, the lawn surrounding Miniota Inn is actually a miniature golf course. This structure suspends a swinging pole over the hole (Par 3) as its challenge. I shivered imagining the view out other windows here. Nutshell: Miniota Inn – don’t stay there.

          Runners-up: Barney’s Motel, Brandon, MB for the red ants in my room (Day 8 of 12 Sacred Places has the scoop on Barney’s); and Whitewood Inn, Whitewood, SK for dilapidation. The room was rumpled and over medicated. Their hot tub had a foot of what looked liked creamed corn in the bottom of it and nothing else. Their pool was jittery and toxic but alas, their dry sauna worked up a sweet sweat for a travel-weary Joe. Still, don’t stay at either of these joints.

Big Beaver, SK

            Situated SSE of Regina about 10 miles from the Montana border, Big Beaver claims a population of 20 people. At its height in the 1920s, Big Beaver boasted 300 people, a six-room schoolhouse and four grain elevators, including, in 1925, the biggest inland grain terminal in the British Empire. Today, serving the hamlet and area is Aust’s, a classic country general store. Their motto is “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it.” Aust’s, one of two businesses in Big Beaver, offers the full gamut of merchandise. Groceries, farm supplies, stationery, clothing, garden supplies and a myriad of merchandise fill three large joined wooden buildings. Each room has its own distinctive odour, rich and rural. There is even a “coffee shop” with classic advertising and a few locals who love to jaw with strangers.

             My first of three visits to Big Beaver was in June with Chris. As we pulled up, I commented we would buy something completely unexpected and we did. See us sporting our new Big Beaver t-shirts.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Texaco Sign 

      This sign has a nostalgic meaning for me. My dad was a Texaco consignee (he delivered gas to farms and stations) for 10 years in Shoal Lake, MB. I grew up there and worked with him, even delivering fuel myself when I got my license. Dad wore a Texaco uniform and cap that featured the big red star with the green T emblazoned on the white circular background. The slogan of the day was, “Texaco. You can trust your car to the man who wears the star.” I saw this perfectly restored sign in front of a business on the outskirts of Dauphin, MB with the threatening sky beyond.

Best Music On The Road

Dave Matthews

Big Whisky & the Groo Grux King is Dave’s best music in 5 years.

Tom Waits

Joni

Frank Sinatra

Van Morrison

Martin Sexton

The Hip

Chris Scholl

CELEBRATION OF LIGHT AND LINDA

Leonard Cohen

Classic Country Vols. 1 – 4

CLASSIC COUNTRY

CLASSIC COUNTRY 2

CLASSIC COUNTRY 3

CLASSIC COUNTRY 4

 

Traveling Companions

      No matter who or if anyone sat in the passenger seat, Linda rode with me every mile this summer. We developed a loving contraction, for lack of a better term, where she watched over me, softened my loneliness, understood what I needed to do and believed it would be done.

      Webbed Flight, my spirit helper and guide, traveled most of those miles with me as guardian, less for me than for deer on the road. If I was approaching a deer, Webbed Flight gave subtle but firm notice of it. I dodged three deer that way this year. Sometimes he even predicted roadkill deer. Some of the sacred places resonated deeply for him.

      In addition to Chris, I was blessed to have several other organic beings share the road with me this year. Old friends joined me on some of my jaunts about this summer, like Terry, dear friend from my hometown. Together we explored eastern Manitoba in the Whiteshell and Pinawa area. I have known Terry for 50 years, both of us are mostly retired and we “pick blueberries,” our name for driving around, getting out of the car, exploring and just generally living. Easy company, fine sense of humour and long shared history make Terry a welcome passenger anytime. This is Terry’s picture of a metal sculpture in Pinawa.

 

      My good buddy Mitch comes from Emerson, MB (named for Ralph Waldo Emerson), which I had never visited til this summer when he gave me the guided tour one hot August afternoon. With his great memory for detail, I got the inside scoop on Mitch’s youth in his little town. It felt very similar to my upbringing in a similar environment, familiar, friendly and warm. We visited historic site Fort Dufferin, or the remains of it, just north of Emerson on the banks of the Red River. The site resonated strongly for both of us. Mitch’s diverse background meant he had a story about something along the way nearly every mile. We explored north as well, venturing out to Hecla Island, which was new to both of us. Very enjoyable company with fascinating stories. 

      Another friend from my youth, Susan, met me for lunch several times in Minnedosa, MB this summer. We ventured into Brandon one Sunday for lunch then toured around south of Brandon where I first lived. Sharing comparable life situations, it was terrific to have her company, familiar and easy, comforting and true. 

Working Up an Appetite

Off by itself under a tree in Rounthwaite Cemetery southeast of Brandon I found this simple epitaph.

 KEN WILBER

    No, this isn’t Ken Wilber. It’s a large knot on a tree bending toward the trail around Marsh Lake, an oxbow of the Assiniboine River in Spruce Woods Park, MB . Linda and I discovered this on our first hike there years ago. Pucker your imagination a little and it looks like a face, the North Wind in fact blowing down the trail! I just couldn’t review the year without mentioning Ken Wilber. Done. You can watch Ken stop his brainwaves on my blogroll. You really can. Similar reason to mention: Bill Hicks.

HONOURING LINDA

 

            Honouring and memorializing my beautiful Linda took three significant forms this year, all of them tremendously satisfying and healing for her friends and me.

 The DickTool Kit

             Thirty-five years in the making, nine months in production, The DickTool Kit, a compilation of Super 8 film, video and audio created between 1976 and 1984 by Linda Tooley and Reid Dickie, became reality this year. Linda and I had often talked about putting the old video art we did in our youth onto a DVD and giving it to friends. The actual DickTool Kit turned out to be more comprehensive. The limited edition of 100 Kits wound up consisting of four DVDs, one CD, a 64-page book I wrote describing The Kit’s content and some memorabilia from IF…, our vintage clothing store, all tucked into a metal box. Over six hours of DickToolery!

            Operating both as an archival project and homage to beautiful Linda, The DickTool Kit celebrates us when we first fell in love and how we used the enormous creative energy our union ignited. As it says in the accompanying book, “These are the images we chiseled onto the cave wall and lit with a tiny flickering fire.” How wonderful to be able to share them with our friends and family decades after they were created!

          I first approached Video Pool, the Winnipeg artist-run video production studio, about converting our analog video tapes into digital files on February 3, 2010. Rick Fisher, technical head of Video Pool, was open and very responsive to the idea. My good fortune continued when a young technician named Nicole Shimonek offered to work on the project. Together Nicole and I spent 73 hours in the studio over the next five months viewing, deciding, tweaking and digitizing the DickToolery on the tapes.

            After we created master copies, the DVDs and CD in your Kit were printed and duplicated by Ironstone Technologies who came highly recommended by local musicians and artists. I was not disappointed. Bryan Buchalter and his crew did a fine job.

 The whole kit and kaboodle.  The DickTool Kit and all its components: metal box, book, fours DVDs, one CD, IF…memorabilia

            I had considered various materials and styles as the Kit’s container but it was love at first sight when I saw the windowed metal box at Mayer’s Packaging. Although slightly larger than I needed, the metal box eventually offered a snug fit for the DVDs, CD and book with the addition of the soft foam insert. The metal box gave me the name for the compilation, as it resembled a tool kit. 

            After several months researching through the vast files Linda and I kept about our art endeavours, I wrote the 64-page book in the Kit. The book contains details about all the individual works on the DVDs and overviews of the CD and IF you have to get dressed in the morning, our vintage clothing store. In the envelope at the bottom of your Kit you will find several pieces of memorabilia from IF… which I discovered while researching the book. The introduction to the book gives a feel for the times and the lifestyles we were pursuing.

            I hired June Derksen of Junebug Designs to design the book. She did a great job of retaining the aesthetic of the video works in printed form. Admiral Printing completed the book. All production services and materials for the Kit were purchased in Winnipeg. After gathering all its bits and pieces, I assembled each Kit myself by hand, numbering and signing each one.

           A gift to family and friends, The DickTool Kit cannot be purchased but you can see 22 of the videos from the Kit on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/user/DickToolCo More videos will be added in January.

The Dust Blows Forward and the Dust Blows Back

             Linda’s favourite place was the Spirit Sands in Sprucewoods Provincial Park. We hiked there dozens of times over the years and discovered our special place at the top of the dunes overlooking the spruce forest below and the prairie beyond – a grand vista. This is where Linda requested her ashes be scattered. She gave me a short list of people she wanted to attend and all but three were able to come.

            It was hot and windy on Sunday, August 22 when we trekked out to Spruce Woods, our convoy of three Winnipeg cars meeting Linda’s cousin from Regina at the site. At the Spirit Sands, I had hired a private horse-drawn covered wagon and driver to carry us all out to the base of the dunes, below our special place. The private wagon left the parking lot of the Spirit Sands at noon and waited for us at the dunes while we did the ceremony.

Covered wagon ride out to the dunes.

            Chris and I had done several recon missions to discover the path of least resistance up the dunes to the site. We found several routes to the top depending on abilities; some of the angles are quite steep. Usually the Sands are 5 to 10 degrees hotter than the lowlands around them. Today it’s 30 degree C with a south wind blowing, the opposite of the prevailing northwesterlies that usually shape the dunes. In spite of that, everyone made it up the dune just fine.

            Our special place has a 360-degree panorama that encompasses three different types of prairie terrain. To the east and below the high dune is a green aspen forest against the rich dark green of the dense spruce. To the south, the forest opens into savannah with the distinct wagon trail disappearing in the distance. Behind us, to the north and west, stretches the desert, red and changing, muscular and soothing. 

            Once at the top of the dune, each of us spoke of Linda, remembering her, letting her go. Each of us spread some of her ashes in a shallow trough in the sand. Fittingly, I added the ashes of our dear old cat Teedy in with Linda’s. The light wind that blows almost constantly across the sand will do the rest. I intend to join them someday. A fine place to spend eternity.

The ever-changing vista. Late autumn view from our special place of the aspens, now bare and white, against the deep green of the spruce.

            My plan offered two possibilities to get back to the trailhead/parking lot. Riding on the covered wagon was a popular option in the heat.  Linda’s cousin, our dear neighbour and I hiked the trail back. It was an enjoyable and familiar walk for me, made special by the company and the occasion. The hike is mainly through mixed forest and savannah with a few moderate climbs and quite enjoyable.

            Our return to Winnipeg featured a stop at the Summer Shack in Carberry, just north of the Spirit Sands. Linda and I feasted on their chicken burgers and chocolate milkshakes after most of our Sands hikes. The traditional was well upheld as we all had some form of chicken. For details on Spirit Sands and Summer Shack, see Day 12 of 12 Sacred Places.

A Celebration of Light and Linda

“From within or from behind, a light shines through us upon things and makes us aware that we are nothing, but the light is all.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

            Kenny suggested last January that I have an event honouring Linda. “Rent the Park Theatre,” he said. The idea appealed to me but seemed a daunting and hazy affair in my state of shock. I filed it on my mental priority list for future consideration where it waited until one day in late August while driving out there somewhere when it all came together in my head. Even the name, A Celebration of Light and Linda, came to me though I didn’t know what the light part would be.

            On September 11, I booked the Park Theatre, an innovative conversion from movie theatre to popular multi-purpose venue, for the evening of Tuesday, November 9 for the Celebration, giving me two months to plan it. Suddenly I was an impresario!

             I had the first part of the evening: a screening of Stadium Trash, a 50-minute sampler of DickTool videos from the Kit edited into fast television format and shown on the big screen at the Park. Nicole and I had come up with the new Stadium Trash. The original was half as long, submitted to Video Culture Festival in Toronto in 1983 and was one of three finalists in the General category. What to do for a second half?

            I knew of Wild Fire, a local fire dance troupe, through Chris who does live drumming for their performances at the Winnipeg Folk Festival. He said they had a blacklight show that would work for the event. I connected with Stacy from the troupe, she “got it” and our show was on the road! Wild Fire worked up a completely original 31-minute all-blacklight show to mostly original music by Chris. I never attended their rehearsals. Instead, I tried to be a mystical muse, evoking, believing. My basic direction to Wild Fire was: create a sense of wonder and send them home talking to themselves. No pressure, kids. Using a jungle theme – minimum clothing, maximum body paint – the five-member troupe excelled. I had a show.

 

    Images of Wild Fire’s performance at the Celebration

         Invitations went out to about 140 people, in Winnipeg and elsewhere. It was a hard one to turn down as we had about 110 of our closest friends at the Park for A Celebration of Light and Linda. I greeted each one personally, did a 15 minute monologue on stage (which I secretly enjoyed much too much) and presented an evening of unique entertainment, something wild, retro cool and future primitive all at once.

photo

 Detail of Wild Fire performance (time exposure)      

     My wonderful creative friends came together and made it possible for me to enjoy the event and my guests worry-free. Our friends enjoyed seeing Linda and I as young people, in our late 20s and early 30s, in Stadium Trash. For the Wild Fire performance, loud recorded music accompanied live by Chris and two other drummers throbbed through the Park, the darkness glowed with mystical figures inhabiting an arcane unknowable place where they held us transfixed for half an hour. Now and then during their show, I could hear Linda laughing in my head. She was having a ball, as was everyone else in the room. I know for a fact they did send some people home talking to themselves.

Five old buddies from high school around me at A Celebration of Light and Linda. “First you’re green, then you’re grey.” – Joni Mitchell

            At the Celebration, I reconnected with old friends I hadn’t seen in decades, had my picture taken with no less than FIVE of my high school friends who came to the Celebration, made new friends, young friends who keep me alive and interested and, best of all, Linda was well celebrated. The response afterwards was often astonishing. Here are a few quotes from emails I received.

“Great commemoration of Linda and your creative project.
Dancers were a marvelous addition and reflection on the novelty and creativity of your video art.”

“Thank you for the wonderful party last night. Suddenly I feel 25 years younger!”

“What a fabulous tribute to your wonderful lady and we could
all feel the unique love the two of you shared, through your videos and through your commentating.  We certainly felt her spirit there and you did a wonderful job of arranging that whole scenario at the Park Theatre.”

 “It was a wonderful experience. You could feel the love you had for each other, as you created your life together. I felt so energized by the end of the evening. I found it very inspirational. Linda would have loved it.”

 “Her memory will live forever in the hearts of us ‘peggers and hearing that she loved Winnipeg so much has made me open my eyes to the idea to try and appreciate our city and see it the way Linda may have.”

 “I always knew that Linda and you were quirky.”

            Quirky, indeed! That we were.

Wild Fire dancers and drummers pose with me after the performance. I’m the one in the suit. More photographs from the Celebration  http://www.flickr.com/photos/56088356@N02/sets/72157625302256879/

             The Celebration was an amazing emotional high all evening for me, buoyed by the love and respect of so many friends gathered in one room for one purpose. The high lasted for days. Linda and I had often imagined the party that unites our diverse group of friends and here it was happening around me! Well documented in both still photos and video, the Celebration will soon be distilled into YouTube format. More vintage DickTool videos will be added as well.

         When our videographer for the Celebration took ill, we lucked into Scott Carnegie of MediaCircus.TV who documented the event superbly. Here’s how Scott described the night on his website which includes a testimonial I did for him http://mediacircus.tv/2010/12/a-surprise-night-of-tribute/?utm_source=MediaCircus.TV+List&utm_campaign=4de10bf03f-MediaCircus_TV_Newsletter_November_2010&utm_medium=email

KENNY

              You’ve seen his name pop up here and there in my year-end review. Kenny worked with Linda for 15 years in retail and in the City of Winnipeg Film Office. They were an accomplished and amazing team. Kenny loved Linda beyond how best friends love each other. He loved her like family. It was a beautiful relationship. Loss has made Kenny and I true brothers. We have grieved together, understood and loved each other and always tried to find be happy in the warm afterglow of Linda’s life and love. Kenny is yet another Old Soul in my life. I am so blessed.  

 TAKE TODAY

           Okay. After a year of consciously driving my grief process over Linda’s death and reporting it willfully and honestly here and face to face with many friends, where do I stand in the big picture? Am I floundering at the deep end of the pool or floating blissfully on the the sunny surface?

          A fine friend sent me a quote by Gail Caldwell telling a friend about not knowing what to do or how to do it after the death of her partner. She writes, “He was quiet for a minute, and then he said something of such consolation that I will hear him saying it forever.  ‘You know, Gail,’ he said, ‘We’ve been doing this as a species for a long time.  And it’s almost as if – it’s like the body just knows what to do.’

           We do know what to do. Grief was not new to me, as Travis pointed out and, though intensely personal, I was able to put my grief for Linda into a larger context, follow the 10 steps of grieving and push push push it all summer. Although I have found much acceptance, I have not fully resolved some of the steps but at least I’m aware of them and how they effect me.

        I have never been alone on this journey. Never! I have found enormous clarity and inner strength from the shamanic work I have practised for 16 years, from the spirits I am connected with, from my wonderful extended family (The Four – they know who they are and that I love them all dearly), from old friends and new and all of Linda’s many angels. Thanks to all of you, I am doing well.

         Most of all, my dear Linda watches over me. always near. Her message to me in our many communications this year has always and ever been simple and direct, though sometimes not particularily easy – be happy! Be happy! I try to live that.

         On Boxing Day last year, the day after Linda died, in my journal where I’d written thousands of words about the past two months, all I wrote was that old 1960s nugget: Today is the first day of the rest of my life. Its truth rang loud and clear for me every day this year.

            Be happy!

                  Reid

As promised, Kenny’s picture of me New Year’s Eve 2010

         

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12 SACRED PLACES

12 SACRED PLACES

DAY 2

TWO FEATHERS MEDICINE WHEEL

August 7, 1997

“Entering the awe”

                Overhead a red-tailed hawk cries and soars on the updrafts, “Every moment sacred” its constant message. Here on the ground I am hatless, shirtless, my entire being brought into the moment, present once again among the sacred.

                Situated on the highest hill around, about 25 km west of Leader, SK, Two Feathers Medicine Wheel rests almost exactly on the Saskatchewan/Alberta border just upstream from the confluence of Red Deer River and the South Saskatchewan River. Since I had never seen it referred to by any specific name, I called the site Two Feathers because on my first visit here in 1996, with the wind howling high, cold and fierce, I found two small feathers impossibly stuck in the grass, resisting the wind’s onslaught. Later I discovered people call it Roy Rivers Medicine Wheel because he first homesteaded here.

        

On the right the central cairn of Two Feathers/Roy Rivers Medicine Wheel looking west above the Red Deer River on the Saskatchewan-Alberta border

              When Linda and I traveled through here in 1994, I picked up a free local tourist guide. I always take any free stuff along my journeys. It said, “Visit our medicine wheel.” Okay, where is it? I asked around, found out the present landowner’s name, contacted them for permission and directions and easily found the place first try.

            What a place! The 360-degree panorama is breath taking. I can see for miles! Below the Red Deer River shines like a silver mirror, deep ravines cut the rolling prairie to the north and east, pasture and cultivated fields complete the landscape. Tiny Empress, Alberta sits below the site on the riverbank. The usual prairie flora cover the hillside; prickly pear and pincushion cacti abound making hiking boots essential. Tipi rings dot the surrounding hills.

Illustration of Two Feathers/Roy Rivers Medicine Wheel

             The medicine wheel consists of a tall central cairn, over four feet high, surrounded by a single ring of stones that features a double line opening to the south. The cairn, constructed of beautiful, lichened stones, has an indent in the centre of it. My intent is to seek personal guidance on my life purpose. My heart pounds from the arduous climb to the place and the excitement of the moment.

              Present and welcomed, I start my ritual. Walking the outer ring of stones singing my power song and rattling in reverent prayer, I feel higher and lighter with each cycle as I spiral toward the centre sunwise. Songs, which arise spontaneously from my lips, become mere whispers as I step inside the cairn and sit in its “nest.” Easy communing here. In a few moments, I am elated, bubbling over with laughter. The message is direct, clear and powerful. Laughing and crying with gratitude, I repeat over and over “I understand. I understand.”  I feel utterly cared-for and loved, directed and encouraged.

           Lying on my side in the central cairn my sobs and joyousness soon transform into perfect peace and complete humility. I hear laughing voices ripple up the hillside toward me, stone elementals chatter and in the distance, the cry of the red-tailed hawk, guardian of the sacred. All I am is a speck on the wind.

             When I feel able, I slowly stand and carefully step out of the cairn. I circle the stones again, singing my power song and thanking the local spirits and the Creator for this day. I float back down the hill in a haze of mosquitoes, weeping, yet feeling ecstatic, utterly at home in myself and in the world.

             I have visited Two Feathers Medicine Wheel three times and each time been given the gift of guidance and foresight. Two quotes from my notes after the visit suggest its significance: I felt as if I was “entering the awe” and, later, “blissful to tears.”  My intuition says this sacred place is over 2000 years old. Though no signs of recent medicine making were visible, the place resonates with wise and ancient wisdom, born from the shaman’s drum and the humility of the vision seeker, from the howl of the wolf and the shiver of the quail, from sun, moon, wind and Spirit.

DAY TRIPPING

RIDING MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK/MOUNTAIN ROAD 

May to October 2010

            Just a 45-minute drive from my hometown of Shoal Lake, Riding Mountain National Park, otherwise “The Park,” is familiar and comfortable. I worked in Clear Lake for a couple of summers in my youth; my parents had a trailer there for a while. It is part of my history.

            This summer I drove through The Park five times, always north to south and always in the morning. Untainted and beautifully preserved, despite having about a dozen new hiking trails, The Park still offers a pristine landscape that teems with wildlife. On my drives, I spotted moose, deer, coyotes and, elk.

Grayling Lake in Riding Mountain National Park,  summer 2009. One of the last pictures Linda took of me.

              If you start it just as you enter The Park and drive the 80 kms an hour speed limit, the first Deep Forest CD lasts all the way through the drive and ends just as you leave.

            South of The Park and just past Erickson is Mountain Road, Provincial Road 357, once renowned for Philip Ruh’s magnificent Catholic Church, which burned down some years back. The highway takes you across the rolling foothills of Riding Mountain then, step by step, delivers you off the Manitoba Escarpment back onto the floodplain at Highway #5. The descent clearly features the various beach ridges of Lake Agassiz as the lake filled and receded over millennia. Finally, the last mile is a glorious chute around a gentle bend that is a thrilling finale to the ride.

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