Wednesday, October 26, 2011

autumn chronology: mid-september, north saskatchewan river

fire-rim tortoiseshell butterfly on the sand cliffs

flowers on the receding slope

gull + reflection

the leaning pines and firs

lichens on the limbs in the caragana
remnants of keillor road, looking southwest
looking northwest from the point

through the fence at the point, leaning trees at the ridge

autumn chronology: early september, riverlot

grove along the back fence

elusive haystack creature

luminous thistles, early evening

hay rolls in the big field

grasses and webs

wheat just before the harvest

dried cow parsnip

blue button (or field scabious)

sunset and the harvested hay

Monday, October 10, 2011

end of july

Napping mallard duck

Frost/White Heath/Old Field Aster (so many common names)

Young crow in a saskatoon bush

Goldenrod in full bloom

Chipping Sparrow

Mourning Cloak Butterfly

Lichens and bracket fungus
A bald eagle (someone I've never seen before within the city)

Gathering cumulus

* * *

"…in the desert there is everything and there is nothing. Stay curious. Know where you are—your biological address. Get to know your neighbors—plants, creatures, who lives there, who died there, who is blessed, cursed, what is absent or in danger or in need of your help. Pay attention to the weather, to what breaks your heart, to what lifts your heart. Write it down."

* * *

This isn't the desert, but the North Saskatchewan River valley, back in the middle of July, moving into the last half of summer. Right in the middle of Edmonton but I easily forget that every time I'm there. I loved my house there, just three blocks from the woods -- carrying my skis there in winter, to strap them on and head down a twisting, slick slope to the bottom on the ravine; the rest of the year, sprinting past cars crawling and grumbling through rush hour to disappear into chickadee calls and the sheltering caragana bushes.

These photos are all illustrative of the transition between July and August, a particular time in which summer has ripened fully and is not yet beginning a slow fade. The wildflowers -- asters, goldenrod, tansy, campion, harebell, thistles-- are healthy, bright, and thickly abundant, and edible plants like burdock are blooming, but hazelnuts are still green in their fuzzy, beaked shells. Saskatoons ready and bright as a young crow's eye, kalyna and chokecherry just on their way. No geese are leaving the lakes yet, and ducks sleep and sun themselves as their young ones swim nearby. Chipping sparrows have emerged, arrived on their way south from the boreal birthing grounds, and chickadees call out and chatter, everpresent residents in the sun-warm pines and birches. The clay of the riverbank is fragrantly alive with sage, with mourning-cloak butterflies resting longer, soaking in light, the border of their wings pollen-golden. In the distance, a bald eagle opening its wings over the river, as if to embrace the whole valley in its span, take it in, carry it away. In the distance, the thought of a thunderstorm, piled clouds storing lightning; in the distance a changing, in the distance--fall.

And it is autumn now, and it has been rough, this past summer. But I am so grateful to be here, in my home, for this season; to be able to walk in these places that I love so much, to remember them and honour them, is one thing that does lift my heart. When I was in the Sakha Republic, I learned a fair bit about Sakha beliefs, and I was especially drawn to the Sakha explanation of the physical, tripartite soul. You have a soul inherited from your mother (iye-kut), and a soul from the air of your first breath (salgyn-kut), but you also have a soul from the earth (buor-kut), that enters you in the place from where you are born, from where you first touch the ground. And if you stay away too long from home, you get soul-sick, if you go for decades you might even die. You need to physically return to this place where you were born to periodically receive its nourishment and energies. No matter how you adapt to living elsewhere, or even come to love other places, they cannot give you what your home-place can give you, because that is where your soul was born, that is the place your earth -soul is made of. You must go to it, honour it, and take care of it, you must learn it and know it and love it well, and allow it to replenish you.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

a shop full of stones

Necklaces, September 2011.

So, I finally made an online shop in which I have offered for sale some of the beads I've been making all summer. You can go visit it here, on Etsy, to see more of the above sorts of adornments. Most of the beads and artefacts are things I have gathered or inherited; the only things that are really new are the brass chains (so they are pretty sturdy!) The pieces are all connected to Ukrainian-Carpathian aesthetic; whether made of vintage beads from Ukraine or consisting of more-newly-acquired amber and carnelian, the colours, shapes and forms are all linked to the folklore and material culture of the Hutsuls and their neighbours. I have so many treasures that sit in little wooden boxes in the basement, beads and rocks and trinkets; I wanted to take them out and refashion them, recombine them and let them be worn.

These paintings by Polish painter Kazimierz Sichulski for an idea of the Hutsul women's ornamentation that I am inspired by:

A Hutsul Bridesmaid

HucuƂka, 1906

Hutsul girl with a bouquet of hearts, 1906