November 10, 2017

I had the great privilege of attending the English class at Yukon School of Visual Art (SOVA) and facilitating a creative writing exercise in character development. I am always amazed by the elasticity of the youthful brain and where that imagination goes. Inspirational. I thoroughly enjoyed spending time and watching teacher Jeffrey Langille gently and skillfully guide his class. Jeffrey works with video and photography and captures what most of us miss.

“In his video work, Jeffrey Langille considers the capacity of cameras to register events differently from human perception and to convey the slow time of many occurrences. His work involves using landscape stillness as a theatre for the arrival of change, whether human, geologic, or atmospheric. Writing and research are an integral part of his working process, which includes video, film, and photography.” (www.yukonsova.ca)

Another teacher at SOVA is Jeremy Herndl, a talented visual artist. I was able to have my own private gallery showing of one of Jeremy’s paintings. Though I am not certain of the exact dimensions of the painting, suffice to say it was very large and I couldn’t help wondering how an artist is able to provide such detail on a canvas of such a size. Check out his website to view some of his fine work.

http://www.jeremyherndl.com

2017 11 10 Jeremy painting

Another piece (below) by Jeremy

of his Wilderness collection

2017 11 10 Jeremy Wilderness

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November 8, 2017

I came all the way from Wolfville, Nova Scotia to Dawson City, Yukon, travelled the 7,392 kilometers to hear the extraordinary music of Beòlach, a multi-talented group performing the magic of Cape Breton music. I didn’t come all that way just for the music, but had that been the reason, it would have been well worth the trip. I think it’s rather comical that I came from Nova Scotia to hear Cape Breton Music in the Yukon Territories. “That’s ironic,” a few people said to me at the concert last night. I was wearing my Nova Scotia sweatshirt, just because.

The line-up of performers had a deep pedigree: Mairi Rankin on fiddle, yes, of that Rankin Family lineage; Wendy MacIsaac, the other fiddling genius, cousin of Ashley MacIsaac; Mac Morin, quite possibly the best piano player I’ve heard since Gord Mackintosh played the piano at my house when we were in high school; and Mattie Foulds playing bagpipes, guitar, and various whistles. Beòlach is the Gaelic word for lively youth, and lively they were.

2017 11 08 Beolach

            To say the music was uplifting, energizing, smile-creating, joyful, would be understating it. There was not a soul in attendance that was not tapping a foot or hand or bouncing in their seat, with smiles across the board. Little children were up dancing. In fact, during the encore, Wendy MacIsaac had a large group from the audience up performing a square dance, teaching them as she went. The whole evening was beyond wonderful.

In no small way, this was made possible by the help of Peter Menzies, a musician and teacher who came to Dawson in 1981, digging in and finding any and every way possible to help grow music locally and provide opportunities for residents to enjoy, celebrate and learn music, “to provide an inclusive place for music,” Peter says. He is especially keen to pass on the torch of fiddle music to the youngsters here, creating the North Klondyke Highway Music Society and rebuilding the fiddle tradition here in Dawson. “We all become part of the framework to achieve the restoration of fiddle music appreciation and skill,” explained Peter during intermission. Residents come out and support the events that bring the professionals to Dawson and in buying a ticket we are encouraging the very rebirth of fiddle music that once was a music staple here in the Yukon.

2017 11 08 Peter Menzies fiddlers

THE NORTH KLONDIKE HIGHWAY MUSIC SOCIETY

Music connect us, no matter the genre and it provides for a healthy community. Fiddle music has “inspired Canadians to dance for over 400 years,” said The Fiddleheads in The Fiddle History of Canada presented to Yukon residents in April of 2017.

The highlight of the evening for me was the final encore. Mac Morin’s brother and family live here in Dawson. Mac’s little nephew climbed up on Mac’s knee at the piano and placing his hands overtop those of his uncle, the little boy played along with a look of sheer bliss on his face. He won’t be forgetting that anytime soon and who knows, it may very well have been that moment that will inspire him to play the piano when he grows up.

2017 11 08 Mac Morin and nephew

If you ever get a chance to hear the music of Beòlach, grab it!

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November 1, 2017

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I’ve been busy, or pretending to be busy, battling being homesick, facing sorrow, wrestling with self-doubt. And while I was busy, winter increased its volume, took control of the days and is shortening them with decisiveness.

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The river is trying to freeze, ice easing out from the sore like a stain on a tablecloth, chunks of ice getting bigger and bigger, colliding with one another, choosing teams.

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Robert Service’s cabin continues to look at me from up the hill, saying “get on with it”, without patience for my hesitant writing.

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The sun takes almost the entire day to find its way up the hill to me and most days can’t be bothered.

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Though I know it is warm and green at home still, the leaves protesting the change in seasons with flare and beauty. Here winter is bold, shouting and I can’t help but appreciate its beauty.

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I attended the Wine Odyssey at the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture, an annual fund-raiser, pairing up wine tasting with delicious appetizers. I came home realizing I had participated in a wine-drinking event rather than wine-tasting, the portions perhaps a bit too generous. It was a splendid time, this pianist and drummer entertaining us the entire evening with extraordinary sound.

 

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Gratitude – Post 96 – Annie

I am grateful for Annie Lahti.

I heard this morning, as I write this on October 29, that one of the most precious people in my life has gone. I can scarcely imagine the sun will continue to shine without her, that spring will ever come again and that I will find my way home. I write this for her.

Annie

Dear Annie:

I would have sat at your bedside these last weeks had I been able, had I been allowed to abandon my post in the Yukon. I would have held your hand, whispered my favourite stories, stories of you. I know you were surrounded by your family, surrounded by love, with Mandy as the vigil in the end. You didn’t need me there, my love quietly and securely tucked inside your heart, but I needed to be there for my own comfort, for my own needs. This is my letter of gratitude to you, repeating the stories and memories I have told you over and over for all these years and though we were separated by too many miles you were never far from my heart, never forgotten, always missed.

I would have thanked you for filling my heart with love, when I was little. Remember the day you came to gather me up to take me to your house. I was four, afraid and sad to leave my dad, my mother gone back to teaching, my dad needing to farm without the perils of me tagging along behind him. Remember how we laughed years later about my struggling and screaming as you and Aarne drove me in your station wagon, up my lane and next door to yours. You opened the glove box of your car, while holding me securely on your knee and showed me the cut-outs you had there, the surprise to stop my wrestling to get free. It worked and within a matter of hours your home became mine, your table the only one I ate at without complaint, without excuses, without resistance. And before long my dad would turn me lose at our barnyard gate and I would race across the field to you, take your hand so we could walk the rest of the way down your lane together.

All the memories flow in together, forming a collage as I sit here, not bothering to stop the tears. I am transformed into the princess with flour sack cape, weaving her way through the sheets hanging in the basement on rainy Mondays or outdoors in the sunshine, my kingdom, the wringer washer gurgling and sloshing the laundry in its soapy tub, your skilled hands guiding the soggy clothes through the wringer to magically press out the water, your hand warning me to be careful. I am gathering eggs with you, basket in my hand, squatting down under the sloping ceiling of the chicken coop, my hand tentatively sneaking beneath the warm feathery belly of the resting hen and stealing her eggs, her clucking in annoyance. Remember when I fell, tripping over stones and broke all the eggs but one, and you never scolded, never frowned or looked annoyed, but wiped my knees and my hands while saying we would try again tomorrow. Remember hunting in the mow of the barn and the attic of the shed looking for kittens, calling out muddy-ka, mother cat you explained.

I lied in the straw in your cozy red barn while you and Aarne milked cows and I cuddled calves tied with a bit of sisal twine and then we lugged the milk to the milk house down by the creek, a cool and dark and sacred place, separating the milk from the cream and filling the cream cans. Or while you made donuts, snapping and sizzling in the oil, I built castles and barns with Ralph’s Sta-Lox building bricks until I was allowed to shake the donuts in a paper bag to cover them with sugar, taking a few home to share.

I can’t choose a single memory, can’t refine it down to one image other than crawling on to your lap, and placing my head against your chest and knowing I was safe and loved, a feeling that resides in my heart and always will.

Thank you, Annie. I would have begged you not to leave me had I been there. But I wave with love, sending you off with my grateful heart. Until we meet again.

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October 20, 2017

I have a new grandson, born this morning at 2:50 a.m. Eastern Standard Time in Newmarket, Ontario, 6000 kms away from Dawson City. If I could, I would teleport from here to there. I’m just barely keeping myself from running out the door and down the street and not stopping until I have gathered his perfection into my arms and breathed in his essence and whispered in his ear about my unconditional love, that I will be his champion, I will hold the world back when need be, when it is crowding in on him and blocking the beauty, that I will applaud his extraordinarily ordinary moments and I won’t mind a bit if he spits up on me.

This glorious isolation has never felt so isolating, as it does this minute, where the only place I want to be is with my daughter.

Breathe, I tell myself. Breathe. But I’m not sure I can.

 

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October 19, 2017

“Welcome, Winter,” I keep repeating, while the temperature drops. “Welcome.”

2017 10 19 up the Yukon

The Ninth Avenue Trail was still passable yesterday and I had a refreshing hike. Not too cold yet.  Yet.

2017 10 19 winter Berton House

My little house is warm and comfortable.

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October 14, 2017

It’s official. The seasons have changed. Life marches on even when we cling to something we can’t hold on to.

2017 10 13 looking up The Yukon River

I’m still able to hike the Ninth Avenue Trail, thankfully, and the above view is my favourite, standing just beneath Moosehide Slide.

2017 10 13 winter is coming

The water in The Yukon River has taken on a green hue and though it is frightfully cold, it looks almost inviting.

2017 10 13 snow on Moosehide Slide

The cloud and snow cling to Moosehide Slide.

My parka is out, my mittens and toque are poised to keep me warm and I’m ready to challenge Yukon’s winter. We’ll see won’t we.

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