Friday, February 1, 2019

February, the month of Love by Nancy M Bell

Find out more about Landmark Roses and my other books by clicking on the cover.

February is the depths of winter here on the Canadian prairies. One of my friends in Cornwall, across the pond, recently posted a photo of the snowdrops currently blooming in her garden. My world is full of frost encrusted trees, building, fences and long grasses bent under the weight of the hoar frost left by the ice fog of the past couple of days.

Valentines Day is the bright spot of February. It's lovely to receive cards and messages of love and good will at this time of year. It breaks up the cold dark days of winter. Although the hours of daylight have been slowly increasing since the Winter Solstice we still have a long way to go before Spring Equinox when the hours of light and dark are equal and we embark on the long joyful ride toward the Summer Solstice and longest day. When I was in grade school back in the 1960's it was a tradition that on Valentine's Day every student in the class brought Valentines for the other students. The day before we would create big paper pouches which we decorated and taped to the front of our desks. Then on Valentine's Day after lunch everyone would move around the room and deposit their cards into the pouches. Some would write who it was from while others would leave it as a secret. Even in those younger days it was always exciting to try and guess if one of the secret Valentines was from the boy I currently had a crush on. Of course, I never found out for sure, but I did keep certain Valentines for a number of years, in fact I probably still have a few tucked away in my grade school keepsake book. Those were all the rage in the 1960's and early '70s. My mom bought ours from the Regal catalogue. There was a pouch for each school year where you wrote down the year, the school, teacher, friends etc and then into the pouch went things from that year, birthday cards, pictures, report cards etc.

These days Valentine's Day is pretty low key. Earlier in our marriage, it was an occasion to go out for a fancy dinner, this slowly wound down as the time went on. Now, maybe I might get a card- this would be a highlight LOL- or he might remember to wish me Happy Valentine's Day without me nudging him. After this many years I guess it doesn't really matter. The romance is in the everyday living now not in the expensive celebration of traditional holidays.

I wish you a Happy February, Happy Valentine's Day and Happy Life!

Friday, January 25, 2019

Barkerville and Beyond by A.M.Westerling

Those of you who have been following this blog know that I am an avid camper and that one of my favorite camping vacation destinations is northern British Columbia. Words cannot begin to describe the beauty of this area. Imagine towering, thick forests, tumbling white water rivers and soaring mountain peaks and you get the idea. If you like the wilderness and outdoor activities such as hiking, fishing and camping, this is the destination for you.

We usually set up a base camp just outside of Terrace on Lakelse Lake. One thing we've really noticed is how different the rain is. When it rains in Calgary, it's usually cold and pelting rain. Our experience in northern B.C. is that although it rains a lot (forests like that need a lot of water!) it's generally a misty, warm rain.

From there, we’ll take day trips and for today’s post, I’ll share one of our more interesting tours and that was up the Nass Valley. As you drive north of Terrace, you follow the Nisga’a Highway which borders Kitsumkalum Lake. You can drive for miles in pristine wilderness, with the lake on one side and forests and mountains on the other and you’ll rarely see another vehicle or any signs of habitation. Eventually you’ll reach Nisga’s Mem’l Lava Beds Provincial Park. The Nass Valley is the site of Canada’s most recent volcanic eruption, around 1750 and lava flows cover a large area.

From there, it’s up to New Ayiansh, which replaces the original town that was destroyed in the volcano. No one knows for sure but it’s estimated about 2000 people died during the eruption. Here are the totem poles in front of the town hall in New Ayiansh and below that, the river that runs through the provincial park. The picture doesn't do justice to the colour of the water.

After this, if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can head over to Kincolith, which until recently was only accessible by boat or plane.

 If you'd like more information on the Nass Valley volcano, here are a couple of links for you:

On this particular trip, we stopped in at Barkerville on our way home. And it's a good thing we did because that definitely helped as far as research for Barkerville Beginnings! Although I didn't know at the time I would be writing a book about it...

Find it at your favourite online store here.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Dream Trip North

Ah Canada! I learned so much about NWT and even a bit about neighbors like B.C. and Alberta in the process of writing Fly Away Snow Goose. The land, so important in the story, got into my head until I began to have a fantasy about traveling to see it.

The kind of travel I envision, is the kind that, ideally, a 30 year old should undertake, but heck, it doesn't stop me from imagining. So here it goes: my dream of a northern adventure, carried out by some athletic babe ideal of my physical self at 34. (Not that this powerful woman ever existed!) For some reason, the fantasy-prone being who inhabits this body always wants some sort of hardship to accompany her dream travel. In my real crone self, each of these travel destinations would be a tough slog, only available to a stateside person with bucks.

Nevertheless, dream on! How about starting this journey in Alberta with a trip to Jasper National Park Dark-Sky Preserve in the winter as part of a dark skies tour? Where the temperature falls to -22 routinely, it would be a good thing I'm not an astro-photographer, like the adventurers whose story inspired me: folks I read about in an issue of Earth-Sky* who have taken mind blowing starry images.*

Image via Jack Fusco for the Chasing Darkness project

To see the stars glowing like Tesla-fired blue globes, reflecting upon icy water would be an incredible experience. Even virtually, it's a gift to me, these images of a glorious, nearly pristine world. If I was actually there, I'd feel the searing cold in my lungs (it probably would turn them inside out) and feel frigid air demons gnawing at any bit of exposed skin. I'd hear the crunch of the snow under a pair of massively high-tech winter boots. Maybe, in the distance, perhaps I'd hear wolves howling.

Wood Buffalo Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is also in Alberta. Here, nature proceeds as it once did, before the incursion of strangers from the west. This is a place for summer travel, I'd come prepared for the onslaught of insects and prepared to see plants and animals I've never seen before.

"Wood Buffalo National Park is the most ecologically complete and largest example of the entire Great Plains-Boreal grassland ecosystem of North America, the only place where the predator-prey relationship between wolves and wood bison has continued, unbroken, over time."

I’ve always wanted to travel back in time, and this park would offer me a window into the way the land was before Europeans arrived. Wood Buffalo Park is the only breeding ground for the magnificent Whooping Crane, a species on the edge of extinction.  Perhaps I'll imagine myself there in spring, when they arrive, calling to one another with their beautiful whooper voices!

The Wood Buffalo which lives there is another species under extreme pressure, a marvelous relic from the Pleistocene. This buffalo's woodland life style is different from the plains animal with which we down from south are more familiar. 

And then, because this is an imaginary travelogue without budget or schedule, I'd fly to Yellow Knife in the Northwest Territories and see a modern frontier city perched on the edge of the Great Slave Lake. After a few days of people, I'd be ready to begin my voyage into the North Slave, the land of the Tlicho, the tribe from which Sascho and Yaotl come.

Here, in a land of stone, water, and ever-dwindling forests I'd follow the rivers, muscle my way across portages, while following the ancient trails, like Sascho and Yaotl, on their way to Great Bear Lake, to see a body of freshwater even larger than Great Slave, a veritable ocean. Of course, this would take a very long time, a lot of supplies and a lot of willpower--even on a fantasy journey. Perhaps I'll imagine I'm back in time, in another body in another world, making my way north with a family group, working my fanny off as women always do, carrying and cooking and minding kids.

An easier way to reach Great Bear would be to make the whole thing modern, to imagine floating the Mackenzie to Tulita, then, where  the Great Bear River empties, turning east and traveling along that tributary to Deline. Here I could make a pilgrimage to the home place of the famous Sahuto'ine Prophet, Eht'se Ayah.

In March of 2016, Great Bear Lake and the surrounding area became the largest UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in North America. The people of Deline are now self-governing, their charge to protect the lake and to preserve their ancient mystical connection with it. The old ones believed that beneath Great Bear's surface a massive heart beats. This is a great magic, one which "gives life not only to the surrounding area, but to all the natural world."

Standing on the edge of this astounding place, for the grand finale, I'll conjure up a display of the aurora borealis, those shimmering spirits of ancestors, who remind us of how astonishing it is to be conscious and to be able to view these incredible wonders of our earth.

Even, in this case, if it's only a Canadian journey of the mind.

~~Juliet Waldron

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Favorite Christmas Traditions by A.M.Westerling

The 25th of every month is my day to blog here at the Canadian Historical Brides Blogspot. You know what that means – today is Christmas Day. Without further ado, I would like to wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and hope you’re having a day filled with love, happiness and good food! I know you're busy today so if you want to opt out now and stop by  again later, that's just fine. Otherwise, read on!

My family has a couple of traditions. The first is listening to Perry Como’s Christmas album entitled Home for the Holidays and it was always the first album we played when we decorated the tree. My younger brother converted it from LP to digital and gave us copies one year as Christmas gifts. I still love it and make sure to play it over the holiday season.

The other tradition is giving out chocolate letters in the initial of your first name. My mom carried that one on for years and now that she’s older and no longer able to manage it, I’ve taken it over for my own kids. Dark chocolate, not milk chocolate is our preference. Seeing as how I'm a romance writer, I will add that these two just got engaged to be married! Congratulations to my son Kevin and his fiancée Kate. :)

And that’s it for today’s post, short and sweet. I do wish you the very best for 2019! 
Are you looking for something fun to read over the holiday season? How about reading about Rose, Harrison and Hannah and their adventures in Barkerville, British Columbia, Book 4 in the Canadian Historical Brides collection?

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Sedna, a Dark Tale For Winter Solstice

For this blog, I will travel north, far above the lands of the Athabascan peoples, into the land of the Inuit.

Sedna is the Inuit goddess of sea creatures, of primary importance to the Inuit people whose food source was the seal, fish, and whales which once abounded in the Arctic Ocean. Her story is a dark one, filled with mixed signals for any modern reader, especially if raised on cleaned-up versions of these often strange and bloody stories. 

Every human group created these origin tales in ancient times, and what is now formally designated “mythology” comes from stories told around campfires where small family groups rested after their daily struggle to survive in a world which seemed indifferent to their presence.   The Inuit, like other northern human groups, were nomadic people who followed the game that they relied upon for food, clothing, and shelter. They hunted along the sea shores and across the ice.

Men and women filled different roles in this society—the men hunting and making tools, the women doing almost everything else. Sedna is supposed to have been both beautiful and accomplished. This meant she would have been able to clean what the men caught, prepare food from the flesh and prepare hides and gut to make clothing, containers and shelter. 

There are many versions of this story, but Sedna is supposed to have rejected all the suitors who came to her. Her father, tiring of this, (or food had grown scarce--depends upon which tale you read) told his daughter that the next young hunter who came looking for a wife would become her husband. And sure enough, almost at once a handsome stranger presented himself, one who promised to be a good provider and give Sedna furs, warm blankets and plenty of food, both fish and meat.   

Sadly, after Sedna went away with him, her new husband stripped off his human disguise and revealed that he was not a man at all, but a Fulmar. Instead of a warm home, she was expected to live in a rocky stinking nest and eat nothing but raw fish. The nest stank because the Northern Fulmar has a reservoir of oily nasty smelling fluid in its gut, which it can spray at will upon the birds which prey upon it, or upon men at sea who anger it.

When her father at last came to visit, he found Sedna in despair. Angry, and frightened too, that this shape-shifter had taken his daughter away under false pretenses, he waited beside her on the windy  rocks. When the Fulmar returned at night, and while he was still in his bird shape, the older man killed him. He and his daughter fled in a skin boat, but the other Fulmars, learning of what had happened, pursued them.

With their mighty pelagic magic, the Fulmar raised a great storm. The father, now fearing for his life, decided to save himself. He pushed Sedna overboard into the icy Arctic water, hoping that the Bird Spirits would be appeased. When Sedna tried to climb back into the boat, he chopped off her fingers so she could not hang on. As her fingers and blood fell into the water they became seals and whales and walruses and all the other mammals of the sea.

Sedna, transformed in this great storm of magic which surrounded her, sank to the bottom of the ocean, the Adlivum, which is the Inuit underworld. Here, in a new fish-tailed, flipper-handed form, she now rules both the dead and the wide ocean, giver of all life. It is Sedna ("The One Down There") that Inuit Shaman call upon for help when game is scarce and the people are starving. In trance, they descend into the watery darkness to visit her, to soothe her by combing her hair and massaging her wounded hands. They beg her to release the sea mammals who hide in her hair.
Sophia Kelly Shultz-explore her magical artwork here

What can we make of this ancient story? Here we have a female heroine who commits the sin of pride, who suffers and dies, and is transformed. She becomes Mother Ocean, sometimes angry, sometimes peaceful. When she is happy she sends her animals, to feed the people. If people disrespect her, she will withhold her gifts; if children do not listen to their elders and play in dangerous places on the sea ice, she is likely to snatch them away, down into the dark underworld.  

At her most abstract, Sedna reminds us, we spiritual travelers, that there are "nourishing gifts to be found in the dark, cold places that we most fear."*

*Goddesses Knowledge Cards of Susan Eleanor Boulet, text by Michael Babcock  

~Juliet Waldron

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Friday, December 21, 2018

Santa by Katherine Pym

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When a little girl my parents enjoyed round robins during the holidays. They dressed up in their best clothes and partied at each others' houses, including ours. The celebration from house-to-house lasted until the wee hours.

When they came to our house, my brothers and I were already snug in our beds asleep. Their laughter often woke me up. I’d slip out of bed and hide behind the half wall at the top of the stairs. I tried to discern the topic of conversations, catch any gossip that floated about. Music from the 45’s played in the background. Glasses clinked. Toasts and laughter abounded, my mom’s the most engaging. Everyone laughed when she did.

Once, as I crept from my room to the stairs, my dad hollered, ‘Kathy, go back to bed.’ I frowned. How did he hear me? I had been so quiet, so careful.

Once, after everyone left our house, I sneaked downstairs and ate some of the food, looked at the full ashtrays and half full glasses. Bored and too tired to remain, I went back to bed.

Hours later and all excited, my mom woke us. “Get up, it’s Santa Claus.”

I had been in a solid sleep. My brothers dashed downstairs but being the eldest and the wisest, I took my time. When I walked into the living room, a thinner Santa than expected sat in a chair with his back to the window, the curtains open.

He beckoned to us. “Come here, children,” he slowly said, his body swaying.  

Not the Santa I saw
We went to him. He seemed younger than what I had envisioned Santa to be. Black hair peeped from beneath the white wig. He wobbled while on the chair. His eyes half closed, drool gathered in his beard. Even as young as I was, I knew the guy was filled to the gills with drink. All those houses he went to and dropped off gifts must have had glasses of brandy or whatever next to the milk and cookies. Santa seemed to have preferred the brandy.

My view of Santa sank and I looked over his shoulder, out the window. It had snowed heavily, which came as a surprise. The street, sidewalks and our yards blanketed white, a full moon brightened winter’s night. The clouds had scudded away and the sky was almost blue, the world brilliant.

The beauty of it took my breath away.

Santa’s words slurred. “Be good, little children. Honor your father and mother.”

Santa faded away as I marveled at the stunning beauty, the sparkling snow under a bright full moon. A thought drifted. Am I dreaming?


Many thanks to Wikicommons, Public domain.

Monday, December 17, 2018

San Francisco Christmas Spirit

Delve into the dawning of New Brunswick's history, the Loyalists fleeing the American Revolution, and a forbidden romance, in ON A STORMY PRIMEVAL SHORE. Buy Link Below.

But now on to Christmas memories. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, in a small town called Pacheco. Almost every Christmas we traveled the 25 miles to the Big City where my father's sister, my Aunt Mary lived. Aunt Mary never had children, though she'd had about three husbands. She was a Registered Nurse, but also a free spirit who wore turbans and dangly earrings. Her laugh was uproarious. She was my Auntie Mame.
Aunt Mary as nurse

Christmas in San Francisco was magical to a child: the creeping fogs, the groan of the foghorn out in the bay, and Macy's department store with the huge decorated tree in the store's center.
Not Macy's but similar.

When older, my brother and I would leave the chattering adults and roam the city. We'd ride the clanging cable cars down to Fisherman's Wharf. A freedom most children couldn't enjoy today. I loved the old Victorian buildings, the bustle of the trollies, the fat sea lions grunting on the pier.

The city was decorated with ribbons and tinsel. Giant Christmas ornaments hung from the street lights. The store windows looked like Christmas scenes out of a storybook.

We'd wander through China Town, with the shops set up on the sidewalks.

By the time we returned to our aunt's apartment, a delicious dinner would be served. My beloved aunt and brother are long gone but I'll always have these wonderful memories from my childhood.

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Diane Scott Lewis grew up in California, traveled the world with the navy, edited for magazines and an on-line publisher. She lives with her husband in Pennsylvania.