Thursday, May 28, 2009

SkyWatch Friday #46 ~ Cool Blue Skies

Sleeping Beauty Mountain from the Kwuna ferry
It may be almost summer but it is still cool

looking west toward the San Cristavol Mts from the little ferry
and there is still lots of snow on the mountains
Sleeping Beauty Mountain from the Queen Charlotte Visitor Kiosk
but the skies are blue!
Click on any photo for great detail
For more beautiful skies from around the world why not join us at SkyWatch Friday

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

It's ABC Wednesday.
here and join us!

This weeks letter is "S" for....

Stormy Skies

Shifting Sands

Stately Spruce

(big) Slow Slimy Slug

Sumptuous Seaweed

Stunning Sea Stars

Sonorous Sealions

Senuous Shells

Serene Seas

all Staples of our Sacred Space on Haida Gwaii.

Monday, May 25, 2009

MyWorld Tuesdy ~ The Cats of Parliament Hill

I have lived in and love Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. It is the Captial of Canada, rather conservative but has grown up rather nicely. Each time I visit my daughter and son-in-law, I or we visit Parliament Hill not to see the seat of Government but to visit the "Cats of Parliament Hill"

There is a story that Colonel By brought hundreds of cats with him when he built the Rideau Canal in 1826, to take care of the rodent population, but
unfortunately that cannot be confirmed. What can be confirmed is that cats were employed in the Parliament Building (as in many other building) as pest control until 1955 when they were replaced by chemicals. Until 1970 ground keepers fed the cats in various locations, when Irene Desormeaux began feeding the cats where the existing colony now resides.

Rene Chartrand began helping her in the mid-nineteen eighties and began building some wooden structures (some of which can still be seen) for the cats to keep warm in. In 1987 when Irene passed away, Rene took over and loyally fed the cats.. It is said that Rene visits his charges twice a day and has only missed one day...when his wife passed. He was honored with the Humane Society of Canada's Heroes for Animals Award in 2005.

While the government does not contribute funds it celebrates the nature of his creation. "The contrast between these modest shelters and the formality and tradition of the Parliament Buildings is a symbol of compassion, one of the important elements of Canadian society," says a Parliamentary page devoted to the "cat sanctuary" on the government's website.

There are currently around twenty eight cats on the premises. The cats are all spayed or neutered, and receive free inoculations and care from the local Alta Vista Animal Hospital. The care of the cats is entirely reliant on personal donations and volunteerism, and is estimated to cost CAN$6000 annually.

While formally intended for the cats, the effort also benefits countless raccoons, groundhogs and squirrels who partake in the cats' benefits. Since 2005 a support team of five volunteers has been established to help René with the maintenance of the colony.

There is also a blog dedicated to the The Cats on Parliament Hill with lots of great photos and updates.
The first photo is not mine it is courtesy of wikimedia Commons

To visit other great places from around the world why not join us at MyWorld Tuesday.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

SkyWatch Friday #45 ~ Chaos

Friday afternoon a 'Southeaster' blew up with sustained winds overnight of 100 kph (60 mph). The strait of water that seperates Haida Gwaii from the mainland of British Columbia is considered one of the four most dangerous pieces of water in the world when she is not happy....her name is Hecate meaning chaos among other things and she was not happy!

The Hecate is shallow, 80 to 300 ft.(24 to 92 m.) with a sandbar bottom and twice daily tides of up to 24 ft (7.4 m.) flooding and ebbing from the north and the south. A 'southeaster' can start like the flip of the switch and the strait is in chaos almost immediately. The winds blew all night Friday and were still blowing Saturday morning when we took our first walk on the beach. The walk did not last long, when you walked into the wind it was like an exfoliation treatment and it hurt!
The sea is beautiful when she is in chaos and you are on shore!

Second walk of the day, the winds were still blowing but the sky was starting to clear.

There was no rain with this storm but the winds were so strong that they blew the tops off waves and created a shore line mist. The sky was getting lighter.

The gulls were in their glory on the wind.

We walked with our back to the wind on the beach and retreated to the dunes and tree line for the walk home. As you can see the trees are anchored to cope with the Southeaster.

After super the winds settled and our third walk was more pleasureable. The sea and sky were still in chaos.

The clouds streaked across the sky as if chasing the winds.

And everytime you looked up the colours were more striking and dramatic.

As the skies cleared to the east the sea reflected its beauty.

To the north the chaos was settling. These photographs were taken all on the same day on the same beach.
Click on the photographs for some great detail.
For more beautiful skies from around the world why not join us at SkyWatch Friday.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Pole Raising Continued.....

Xaad Xilaa Gyaahlaang Gyaa'aang
Haida Medicine Story Pole

Before I start the description of this pole I must apologize for not having a "free" photo (free of ropes) of this pole. By the time we left the feast it was too dark to get a photo so it will have to wait until I am in Old Masset again. ~ Carolyn

First Figure(above and below ropes): Chiefs Son. He is wearing a bear headdress and holding a copper shield. He has gone to Taan(bear) Mountain to fast. He also takes Devils Club for ten days. During the purification he recieves a visition, a song, names, story or something valuable. The copper is a symbol of wealth. It has a carving of Devil's Club on it.

Second Figure: Mouse Woman, Kagan Jaad. She is a little lady. She gives medicine and advise to the hero of the story for help she has recieved.

Third Figure: The Shaman is a person who can travel to the world of the Supernaturals. He is wearing a crown of mountain goat horns and a cedar bark headband. He has a bone in his nose.

Fourth Figures: The Watchmen (in the hands of the Shaman), they hold the future of Haida Gwaii. These Watchmen represent the communities of Old Masset, Masset and Port Clements coming together to build the Northern Haida Gwaii Hospital.

Fifth Figure: Is The Sacred One Standing and Moving. He wears Wasco, seawolf ears with pilot whales inside to represent the Wasco skin he wore for protection in his ordeal to hold up Haida Gwaii. He also wears a Raven's Tail blanket with designs. When he gets up to move there is an earthquake.

His sister is a supernatural creek woman. Her name is Elder Berry Flute Player. When there is an earthquake the Raven says, "Don't spill the duck grease".

You need to know the legends to fully understand what all these figures represent and only the Haida can truly appreciate what they mean but I am so honoured that they are shared with us.

Please click on photos to help identify figures on the pole and see previous post for the pole raising. ~ Carolyn

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

MyWorld Tuesday - A Haida Pole Raising

In the culture of the Pacific Northwest a totem pole is raised to celebrate a chieftanship, marriage, death, important event or to identify who lives where. The Haida totem poles are legendary and can be found in many private and public collections and museums around the world. The art of pole carving nearly died out with the decimation of the First nations cultures from smallpox, influenza, church and government. In the Haida Nation it was Bill Reid who started the rebirth of this almost lost art and mentored others. Today there is a strong and vibrant resurgance of these beautiful poles.

Today we were invited to witness the raising of a pole dedicated to "Communities Working Together" to build the newly opened Haida Gwaii Hospital on north Haida Gwaii. The old 4 bed army hospital no longer supported the community needs, however there was no money in the public coffers to build a new the communities took it upon themselves to find the money through provincial, federal, municipal and foundations grants to build the infrastructure and then leased the building back to Northern Health. This pole is dedicated to the community spirit that saw this happen.

The Haida Village of Old Masset commissioned the pole and then contracted the carver. The story of what the pole represents is told to the carver and then he sets out to design and carve the pole with the help of other carvers and in this case apprentices. The right cedar tree must be found, which is becoming more and more difficult with industrial logging. The tree is cut down and prepared for the is blessed with eagle down, peeled, cut to size, in this case 60 feet and split to hollow out the back. This prevents the likelihood of the pole splitting as it dries. The pole is carved and painted... never on time and always over "budget"! It is not uncommon for a pole to be raised with the paint still wet!

When the pole is ready, a hole is dug about 15 ft deep on an angle so the pole can be "walked" into the hole. It is braced at the bottom, cedar braided ropes are tied just below the top crest figure and under the guidance of the loudest chief and with everyone helping the pole is slowly and carefully pulled up.

It is truly an amazing sight to witness a pole being raised. It is a precision exercise and can easily be toppled if someone is not paying attention. Once up, it must be leveled(front to back and side to side) and straightened to the carver's satisfaction.

Today as the pole was being twisted so that is was facing straight out to sea the base of the pole cracked as the pole slipped off a rock in the hole and dropped several inches....we all held our breath!

You can see the crack at the base of the pole which was bound by rope above and around the split until rocks, sand and gravel where filled in to secure the pole. Everyone is encouraged to help throw in the rocks and shovel the sand.

Once filled in the pole will never come down. It will decay before it is blown down.

When the pole is secure, climbers will go up the pole and untie the ropes. The pole stands facing the sea in a u-shaped court yard in front of the hospital. The grounds will be landscaped with indigenous vegetation and benches for staff, residents and visitors to enjoy.

The carver, Christian White(in white t shirt) and his family.

To thank everyone for honouring their invitation a feast or potlatch is held where there is much eating, drumming, dancing and speeches and each person will be gifted for coming to witness this great event. As the Haida history is an oral history it is important for people to witness such events so that they may retell the event they have witnessed and for doing that you are paid! More to come.....

Please click on any photo to get a better look.
To find out more about other interesting places around the world why not join us at MyWorld Tuesday

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Scenic Sunday

The Great Hall of the National Gallery of Canada looking towards the Library of Parliment in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

The National Gallery of Canada and Ottawa River from Parliament Hill, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

For more great photos go to Scenic Sunday.


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