Friday, August 23, 2019

Jumping Mouse

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This is an attempt at  retelling of a "plains Indian" story I read a long time ago in a powerful book called The Seven Arrows by Hyemeyohsts Storm. These are tales of tribes called by their white man names Cheyenne, Crow and Sioux. Their actual names, according to this author, were Painted Arrow, the Little Black Eagle, and the Brother People, names with true poetry and power. I hope to honor my fellow author, John Wisdomkeeper, who has spent his life reclaiming his heritage, by offering a First Nations' tale for this month's blog. We will walk through the four directions and then upward toward the Sacred Mountain.

Little mouse was busy, as are all of his kind, searching, searching, gathering seeds, eating seeds, but today there was a new sound, a roaring, roaring in his ears.
"Do you hear a noise, my brother?" He asked another mouse who was nearby, also busy with his work.
"No, no, I hear no noise. Let me be now. I am busy with my work."
But the first mouse still heard the noise and it puzzled him. He asked the same question of the next mouse he encountered, as they scrambled through the grasses, but the answer here was rude: "Have you lost your wits? I hear no noise. Go away; I am too busy now."
But the roaring did not stop. Then the mouse heard a voice.
"Little Brother, I hear the noise. It is the sound of a river."
Little mouse looked up and saw a Raccoon.
"Would you like me to show you?"
The mouse thought when I find out it will be a help to all the others, perhaps with our examining and collecting, the work the Great Spirit has set for us. So he went with the Raccoon and soon he saw the river.
The river was astonishing. It was large; it roared; it cried; it sang. The mouse was dumbstruck.
"It is a Great Thing," said Raccoon. "Let me take you, small seeker, to meet a friend who lives here. I too need to go about my business here at the river."
They walked along the edge until they found a quiet backwater they found some lily pads. Upon one of these sat a frog.
"This is my friend," said Raccoon. "He was seeking to know about the river."
Raccoon left the mouse and went about his business of of finding food and washing it in the river.  The mouse had never met a Frog before--so green and very strange, half in the water and half out of it.
He as filled with wonder when the Frog spoke and said, "I have the gift of living above and below water, and my name is Water Keeper. Would you like a Medicine gift from me?"
"Oh! A Medicine gift for me? Yes!"
"Crouch down and jump up as high as you can, look up as you jump, and you will see something," said the frog.
Little mouse did as he was told and as he jumped, he suddenly caught sight of a prairie and beyond, a most beautiful mountain. When he fell to earth, though, he slipped on the mud and fell into the river. Angry and scared, he pulled himself out, shaking off the water.
"Never mind being wet," said the Frog. "Did you see the Great Medicine?"
The mouse had to admit that the sight was the most wonderful thing he'd ever seen.
"Now you have a new name," said the Frog. "Jumping Mouse."
The mouse returned to his people, but no one cared about what he had seen. They were all too busy. Besides, he was all wet and maybe, they thought, crazy. Still, Jumping Mouse continued to think of the wonder of the great world that he had seen.
Now the prairie called to him, but because it was open, it was a dangerous place for a mouse to go. Still one day, he decided he would run out upon it and try to reach the sacred mountain. So, although he was terrified, he ran and he ran, fearing any moment that an eagle or other bird of prey would find him and eat him. At last he found a patch of sage and grasses and went in to hide. There was another mouse there and he asked Jumping Mouse to stay with him there, for there was plenty to eat and much to investigate, there under the sage. "Can you see the Sacred Mountain and the River from here?" 
"No, I cannot see them, but I know they are there."
This was not good enough for Jumping Mouse. The desire to stand upon the sacred mountain filled his mind, and he knew he'd have to go on, despite his terror of the eagles. So, after resting and eating, he dared to cross the prairie again, running this time till his heart was near to bursting, always fearing the shadow which could so fatally fall upon him. 
Finally, he found another patch of grass and brush and ran in, glad to be alive and puffing and panting. When his own breathing quieted, he heard the sound of another's breath coming and going, only very hard and loud and pained. He crept toward the sound and saw an enormous Being, so huge, so very woolly, lying in the brush.
"I am Buffalo," said the Great Being, when he saw the mouse staring in wonder at him. "But I am dying."
"I am trying to reach the Sacred Mountain and wondered if you could help me get there, but now I see you cannot. I am very sorry you must die. You seem far too great a Being for such an ordinary fate."
"I can only be cured by the eye of a mouse."
Jumping mouse was very frightened at that. He ran away into a mound of grass to hide and think. He thought for a long time and finally decided that he had two eyes and that he could spare one. So he returned to the Buffalo and said, "Brother Buffalo, you may have one of my eyes."
And it was gone! The mouse felt even more frightened now, with only one eye to see the world through, and so many eagles hunting everywhere.
After a time, Brother Buffalo stood up and said "Now I am well, Little Brother. I give you my thanks and the thanks of The People to whom I will be a gift because of what you have given. I will soon be a give-away Gift to the People as Creator intended. Let me take you to the foot of the Sacred Mountain. Walk beneath my belly and do not fear I will step on you, for I walk the Sun Dance Path."
So Jumping Mouse ran along beneath the belly of the Buffalo safe from eagles until they reached the slopes of the Sacred Mountain. Mouse looked up and up, seeing the rocky way ahead, but wanting to climb higher. The Buffalo spoke and said, "I can go no higher up these rocks, for now I must return to The People to become a Gift to them. You stay here, Little Brother, safe in these rocks, and another Guide will come."
The mouse was still very frightened when the Buffalo left, for above him, even with one eye, he could see the eagles circling. 
After a time, a wolf came down the slope, but he was walking in circles. When Jumping Mouse spoke to him, he only said, "Wolf- Wolf -Wolf." Wolf moved slowly and stumbled as he went, like a man who had drunk too much of the stinging water and lost his mind.
In Jumping Mouse's mind a voice, said, "You must give your other eye to the Wolf, little Brother if you wish to reach the top of the sacred mountain."
Jumping Mouse shed tears. How would he see the Sacred Mountain he had so longed for when he was blind? The smells, the sounds of wind and birds and trees, would be all that was left for him. Nevertheless, he would at last reach the top of the Sacred Mountain! And so he gave up his remaining eye.
"Thank you, dear Little Brother," said the Wolf. "Now I have my wits again, and I will take you to the top of the mountain." Very gently and carefully, the Wolf led Jumping Mouse along, up and up, until they reached the side of a lake. Jumping Mouse could no longer see, but he could smell the clean fresh water, and he and the Wolf drank deep and refreshed themselves.
"Now I must leave you here," said Brother Wolf, "for there are others I must guide to this place."
Jumping Mouse understood that the Wolf followed his duty, but he was terribly afraid, for he could tell by how the wind blew that this place was without cover. He felt sure that the eagles would find him here. 
He sat there, by the lake, feeling the sun on his back, until a shadow passed over him. He crouched down low and waited for the claws of the eagle. 

Jumping Mouse awoke. His vision was back, both eyes, but very blurry. "I can see! I can see!" he cried. All the colors were bright, so bright and beautiful that he could almost hear them. He heard a voice, saying, "Hello, my Brother. Do you want some Medicine?" 
"Some Medicine for me? Yes! Yes!" Jumping Mouse replied.
"Then crouch down as low as you can and jump as high you can."
Jumping Mouse did so, crouching low and then jumping with all his might and main, with the pure joy of being alive. This time, the wind caught him and blew him upward, Higher and Higher. 
"Do not be afraid," said the Voice. "Hang onto the wind and trust."
Jumping Mouse did. He was going higher and higher, wind blowing around him, sun shining. His eyesight had cleared and now he saw the Sacred Mountain with the beautiful clear lake below him and the wide prairie beyond. There, on a lily pad in the Medicine lake, he saw his old friend, the Frog, Water Keeper.
"You have a new name now," shouted the Frog. "You are Eagle."

~~Juliet Waldron
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Red & White, at War in the World, and in her Blood.

about what he had seen.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Soul in a Heat Wave

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I've just returned from a retreat, a week of living in a cabin at an old boy scout camp with a host of other like-minded beings.  The venue had some comforts, unlike the tent and bunk house communal camping I've been used to. Each cabin had electricity, facilities for light cooking, a couple of flush toilets and showers.  There was also a small common room and a deck, which was mostly used at night for star-gazing (meteors!) and heart-to-heart sharing.

Three meals a day were provided by kitchen staff inside a large shed-like building whose cement floor,  not leveled, sloped down the hill. There was a tin roof, and just enough wall to interfere with the airflow. At the bottom of the hill was a rectangular pond created by damming the outflow of a hillside spring. The rooms in my cabin were small and crammed with beds, leaving only a narrow path in which to navigate. In other cabins I visited, the plan was open, with bunk beds lining the walls and a pair of couches in the center.

We had fans, but besides cold showers,  the pond, or the bone-freezing heart-of-the-rock water from the creek, we had no way to get cool. The week busied itself with setting all kinds of records for heat and humidity.

We had come for Spirit and Renewal and Guidance through communion with the Earth. Although I received many blessings, just as I'd hoped, at that camp in the Appalachian foothills, I came face to face with Mother Nature wearing one of her fiercest aspects. Personal survival had become a big part of the lesson plan.

My historical writer self began to manage the situation in it's own bent little way. Lying down in my room wearing next to nothing after lunch, I practiced the venerable hot weather tradition of siesta--don't move an inch or sweat will pop out in sticky freshets from every laboring pore--to collect and categorize various physical sensations, starting with the slightly moldy smell which oozed from the walls during each burning afternoon. "Get Experience" said Jimi Hendrix, and I collected this in a mental notebook, from the drone of the fan to the images that arose during a heat-trance nap. When the fan in my room turned, it blew air at the same temperature as everything else, so there was no sensation of cooling, that little breeze which can bring relief.

On my way to a meeting, I'd wrap a cooling towel around my neck, wear a hat and scurry from one shady spot to the next. I was constantly reminded of the remarks of a friend after a move to Florida:  "The air is 98 degrees and the water is 98 degrees and your blood is 98 degrees..."

Although we weren't living the cushy 21st Century life most of us are used to, we're far more comfortable and a lot safer and better fed than we'd be if we were migrant agricultural laborers, and leagues better off than 1930's dust bowl refugees and today's homeless people on the streets of Mumbai. After all, we didn't have to work in the fields or shovel bubbling macadam onto a road, we only have to attend classes and feed our souls. We are cooked for (brilliantly, I might add) and cleaned up after. We were safe within our community, which had planned this event and which now sheltered us.

To some, this 1950's era venue might seem rough, but we've all camped together in places where you had to walk distance at night, flashlight in hand, just to relieve yourself inside a fiercely aromatic porta-potty, so this new campground is a comfort upgrade. Nevertheless, when we were this hot, there was a definite feeling that we were also getting a lesson that was personal and separate from our studies or spiritual work. This lesson was visceral, teaching that we, without our the protection of our modern house-machines, without the infrastructure  our society provides are puny creatures, completely at the mercy of the good will of others and our planet's disturbed systems.

Stripped of that ever so recent invention, a/c--I remember the days before only too well--you must attend to this sack of biochemistry and water where your proud spirit resides. You must put salt and sugar into your water bottle each time you replenish it--and you need to dump gallons down--to keep heat stroke at bay. Without the shelter of our complex material culture, I was forced into living fully in the present, as I walked from tree shade to tree shade, minute by sweaty, thirsty minute. It was a valuable lesson to remember that I--a human being, stripped of all that customary, comfortable 21st Century armor, only exists at the pleasure of the planet--that fragile terrarium at the bottom of which we all reside.

~~Juliet Waldron

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Wednesday, June 26, 2019

The Cariboo Wagon Road by A.M.Westerling

During the early days of the Cariboo Gold Rush in British Columbia, getting there presented a serious challenge to the miners as Barkerville was located 400 miles north and east of Yale. Thick underbrush clogged the mountainous route and some of the mountain passes still had five feet of snow in April. Parts of the journey north were extremely dangerous and horses and their owners would often fall to their deaths over the mountains or drown in the swift and deep waters of the Fraser and Thompson Rivers.

However, the success of the gold fields and the great influx of people made it necessary to improve access. The governor at that time, Governor James Douglas, determined that a safe road was required and the Royal Engineers were engaged for the task. In October of 1861, Colonel Richard Clement Moody recommended that the Yale to Barkerville route through the Fraser Canyon be built for the benefit of the country. The Royal Engineers assessed the route and suggested it be built in sections: Yale to Spuzzum, Spuzzum to Lytton, Lytton to the Lilooet Junction, Lilloet to Fort Alexandria, and Quesnel to Barkerville.

When it was completed, some people called it the "Eight Wonder of the World."

While doing research for the book, my sweetie and I took a bit of a road trip through the Fraser Canyon. You can still see a portion of the original road in the Skihist Campground, just outside of Lytton on the Trans Canada Highway. 

We followed the highway all the way through the Fraser Canyon and stopped to take these photos at the summit of Jackass Mountain. Far below you see the Fraser River.

Rose and Harrison meet on the final section of the road between Quesnel to Barkerville. It was a particularly difficult section to construct because of mud, swamp and fallen trees. 

For more information on the Cariboo Gold Rush, this is a wonderful website:  

You can read all about Rose and Harrison's gold rush adventures in Barkerville Beginnings, available at your favourite online store HERE

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Caribou & Men

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The aboriginal people of NWT were hunter/gatherers when the European colonists "discovered" them. The 1st Nations were already on the land, and many said that Creator had shaped men from the mud that was found between the caribou's toes.  In those days, men and animals journeyed through an immense landscape every year, following the caribou that fed and clothed them. Every bit of what they killed was used, every scrap of sinew and hide and meat.

The great herds moved unobstructed across the land like water and wind. The people followed. They original inhabitants didn't kill for "fun;" they killed by necessity. Sometimes, when the game traveled on new path or their numbers declined (for one reason or another) the people starved. In the old days, the human population cycled up and down along with that population of prey animals.

The Woodland Caribou is a kind of specialist, different from the Barren Ground Caribou--the one you see on long harrowing journeys if you watch wildlife shows. The Woodland Caribou live and feed in old growth conifer forests where lichens and mosses grow. Trees of 85 to 150 years of age are the perfect hosts for the aerial and ground plant life on which these caribou depend. This means that undisturbed old growth forests are of prime importance to their survival.

Mining exploration had been going on in the NWT since earliest times, ("Yellowknife" refers to the gold blades some members of that tribe once made) but it wasn't until the 1990's that the digging began in earnest now with heavy loud modern machinery. The data shows it is not coincidental that this is the time when the numbers of the Woodland Caribou began to diminish. Mining didn't begin in earnest until the 1990's. It is not coincidental that this is the time when the numbers of the caribou began to diminish.

Toxic waste is a typical by-product of mining; moreover, that industry does not have a good record of cleaning up after itself anywhere, but logging at first seems to have been the hardest on the caribou. Not only noise, dust and continuous human activity, but the clear-cutting of the ancient forests--both the soil disruption and the removal of the trees -- cut severely into the supply of lichens and mosses, (some aerial, some ground dwelling) upon which the woodland caribou depend.

Roads, pipelines, seismic and now hydro lines create clear highways along which predators such as Lynx, Wolf & Bear can travel deep into what were once once (nearly) impenetrable forests. Now these predators hunt the Boreal Caribou where they have long been accustomed to resting, feeding or giving birth, times when they are particularly vulnerable to attack. This kind of habitat fragmentation affects all migratory animals which now share a planet with humans.

Caribou are named for the places the places where they calve. One herd that is failing spectacularly--much to the dismay of the 1st Nations people whose ancient way of life is threatened--is the Bathhurst herd. Once as many as 500,000, now there are less than 10,000. The numbers continue to fall.

This year there is a proposed permanent road north, again through what was once boreal forests, an extension of Highway 3 north to Whati', the haven in the wilderness for which my characters, Sascho and Yaotl, search after their escape from the Residential School. Families who live in Whati' year round now will be benefited with cheaper goods, but once again, their ancient ally, the caribou, will suffer -- and diminish.

Noise will be another as yet not much studied factor -- which affects the caribou and the other animals who are accustomed to living in the area of the proposed Whati road. Studies done in 2012 by the University of Idaho showed that simply broadcasting a recording of road noise--in this case of a heavily used climb in Glacier National Park--was sufficient to drive animals away. Some bird migrations that were documented as common in the roadless test area used by the "phantom road" study completely ceased. We humans don't have to do much it seems to disrupt Nature's once perfect balance.

Things don't have to be this way. Governments, industry and communities could work together to create local plans and solutions. Federal budget incentives could be used as both carrot and stick to assist caribou recovery. Sustainability must become the mantra for all who live and work in the NWT, if they want the caribou and some part of their ancient way of life to remain. 

~~Juliet Waldron

Volumetrics, Why noise pollution is more dangerous than we think by David Owen, May 13, 2019, The New Yorker

Monday, June 17, 2019

"Broken Talkers", the Maliseet, by Diane Scott Lewis

The second First Nation's people of New Brunswick, Canada, that I included in my novel, On a Stormy Primeval Shore, were the Maliseet:
This tribe is Algonquian speaking, called Wolastoqiyik or "People of the Beautiful River"; but the Mi'kmaq (showcased in a previous blog) named them "Maliseet" or broken talkers because their language sounded like a broken version of their own.

Maliseet making camp, c. 1864, Canadian Encyclopedia
Indigenous to the Saint John River Valley, Maine, and Quebec's St. Lawrence River, the Maliseet fished and hunted these areas for thousands of years. They considered the Mi'kmaq their allies. Eventually the Maliseet turned to farming as well. They lived in wigwams in walled villages. They made tools out of wood, stone, and ceramics. Canoes, weapons and eating utensils were also created. The Maliseet have a rich cultural history, similar to the Mi'kmaq, such as decorating clothing and baskets with painted porcupine quills.

The Maliseet bands were governed by one or more chiefs who sat on tribal councils with representatives from each family.

Drums played an important part in their ceremonies and united their communities.

When the European settlers arrived, first the French in the 1600s, then the British in the 1700s, the natives has their agricultural territory on the river confiscated, and they were pushed to the less fertile parts of the country. In the nineteenth century, they were sent to Reserves, but later filed land claims to recoup their losses; some were successful.

While the Europeans tried to convert the natives to Christianity, many clung to their original beliefs. "Smudging" -- the burning of sweetgrass to cleanse the spirit -- is one. Their Creator, Gici Niwaskw, is not assigned a gender. The Creator formed the entire world, but taming the landscape is performed by the cultural hero, Gluskabe.
Gabriel Acquin, Maliseet hunter, c. 1866: Canadian Encyclopedia

Today their distinctive language is fading out, but efforts are being made to preserve their language and culture.
Source: Canadian Encyclopedia
To purchase On a Stormy Primeval Shore or my other novels at Amazon or All Markets: Click HERE

For further information on me and my books, please visit my website:

 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.


Saturday, May 25, 2019

The Wonder of Words by A.M.Westerling

Dialogue is one of the most useful tools an author has. You can use it to move the plot along because the characters tell what’s going to happen rather than the author. It happens in real time so it’s a nice change of pace. It presents information such as back story (one character talking to another.) It’s also useful as another means to develop conflict – one character arguing with another. However, as an author of historical romance, dialogue is an important tool to identify a character. Word usage and slang defines a person and consequently defines the era in which that character lives. 

When I write dialogue, I have my trusty Merriam Webster Tenth Edition Collegiate Dictionary by my side. (It’s a little frayed along the bottom, an indicator of how much I pull it off the shelf.)  

I use the dictionary to check when a word came into usage and for that you can blame my technical background on my obsession with details. For example, I wanted to use ‘poppycock’ in the book I’m working on now. It came into usage in 1865 which doesn’t work for my story as it’s set in 1800. 

Katherine Pym, co-author of Pillars of Avalon (along with Jude Pittman), Book 5 from the Canadian Historical Brides Collection, does a terrific job of using dialogue to define the era. Here’s an excerpt from the book:

“Aye.” Frances dashed some numbers along another line. “The warehouse is large, it only seems empty.” She regarded Sara with a smile. “You’ve done very well provisioning the fleet. Do not think otherwise.” Something caught her eye. “Oiy, you there, where’s the other barrel of wine? I shall not have any thievery committed under our very noses.” Waving her ledger, she advanced sharply on a fellow carrying a cask upon his shoulder.
“What does you want, young lass?” he snarled at her. “Shouldn’t you be home with thy mamma, eating mashed gruel?”
Frances’ back stiffened and Sara knew the man would regret his impertinence. “I beg your pardon? Do you have an incontinent liver that needs correction? I shall call the Watch and have you carried away for rude and disorderly behaviour.” She leaned forward and hissed. “It will surely happen. Now, answer me truthfully. Where’s the other cask of wine?”

Reading this, you know it’s not a contemporary story. Words and phrases like oiy, thievery, thy mamma, mashed gruel, incontinent liver, call the Watch, suggest an earlier time period.

The following excerpt from Barkerville Beginnings, Book 4 of the collection shows another example of how speech defines a person. It’s obvious Robert McTague is a Scot by his word usage ie “me da’s croft” “ma’self” "nae" and his reference to Culloden as well as calling Harrison a “Sassenach”. 

Not only that, in talking to Harrison, Robert gives us a little information on Barkerville ie how many miners there were during the height of the Cariboo Gold Rush. As well, a  bit of back story for both characters is revealed ie Robert comes from a poor farmer’s croft and like most other miners has travelled a fair distance to get to Barkerville and Harrison knows a thing or two about horses. 

Harrison entered Mundorf Stables. “Hello,” he shouted, scanning the stalls. Most were empty and through the open double doors at the rear he noticed his mule team huddled together in the corner of the pen. Nancy, ears pricked forward, hung her head over the top rail, no doubt plotting her escape. At least they were here where he’d left them last night so it appeared the livery owner was a trustworthy sort. However, trustworthy enough to negotiate some sort of bargain remained to be seen.
A red-haired man with a full red beard wandered out from one of the stalls. Harrison recognized him as the fellow he’d shared his breakfast table with this morning.
A grin ripped through the man’s beard, revealing front teeth buckled together. “Well, look who’s here.” He gestured to the map under Harrison’s arm. “See you took my advice and went to the commissioner’s office.” He held out his hand. “We didn’t get around to exchanging names this morning. Robert McTague.”
The Scottish burr in his voice sounded out of place and Harrison knew from their brief chat at breakfast that the other man had also traveled halfway around the world to join in on Cariboo gold fever. He grasped Robert’s hand, giving it a good shake. The other man’s firm grip put Harrison at ease immediately.
“Harrison St. John. I made it there but I don’t know what to do now. Other than see to my livestock.” 
“I’m here doing the same thing ma’self. Rode in on my horse but he didn’t take too well to the trail. I’m resting him up for now and hoping for the best. Hate to shoot the beast although I hate to see him suffer too.”
“Been here long?”
Robert shook his head. “Maybe a week. But long enough to know this isn’t quite what I expected.” He laughed. “I’ve washed a few pans of gravel on some of the abandoned claims and only found enough gold dust ta pay for my food but I hate to give up. There’s naught for me back home.”
“Aye. Me da’s croft is full to bursting so I thought to make my own way in the world. From your accent, I’d wager you’re English.”
“Indeed. By way of Manchester.”
The other man chuckled. “Well, we won’t talk about Culloden, now will we?”
Harrison grinned. “No, I think not.” He pointed into the stall. “Is this the fellow you’re nursing?”
Robert’s face fell. “Aye. That’s Brutus.”
“I know a thing or two about horses. Let me take a look at him.” He ran his hands over the animal’s withers, flanks and on down its legs. “He feels sound enough. A bit bony perhaps but I’d give him another day or two of rest and some good feed before you decide anything.” The horse, a bay gelding, rubbed his nose against Harrison’s shoulder and for an instant he felt a pang of regret for the four he sold to finance his journey here. One day, he vowed, he’d have another set, equally as fine as the first.
“I’d thought the same. Time is the best healer.” Robert patted the horse’s nose.
“Do you know many people here? Have you met a fellow by the name of Edmund Chadwick?”
“Nae, can’t say that I have. But hearsay has it there’s upwards of ten thousand men here and up and around the hills. Could be he’s not made his way into town for some time. These miners can get caught up with the fever and not wanting to leave their claims unless necessary.” He clamped his lips, which made the hairs of his beard stand up around his mouth like a pin cushion, and regarded Harrison through narrowed eyes. “I’m looking for a partner. Two heads being better than one and all that. Until now, I haven’t met anyone I’m wanting to spend time with. But I’m thinking a Sassenach might be a good choice. You lot being pigheaded and all.” He chuckled and held out his hand again. “What do you think?”
“Partner? You don’t know anything about me.”
“You’ve a flair for horses and Brutus has taken to you, that’s good enough for me. And like I said, you Englishmen are pigheaded as far as I can tell. That’ll stand a man in good stead out here.”
Harrison stared at the other man’s outstretched hand. His first inclination was to decline the offer until he noted the trimmed, albeit dirty, fingernails and the calluses on Robert’s palm. The sign of honest labour. He raised his gaze and studied the other man’s face. Or rather, only his eyes and forehead seeing as how his unruly beard covered everything else including his neck.
Robert returned his gaze with guileless blue eyes. “Well?” he prompted.
Still Harrison didn’t reply. Here he was, in Barkerville, with a wagon full of supplies and nary an inkling of what to use them for. It might be helpful to have a partner, especially someone already familiar with what to expect. It made sense that the two would be stronger and more productive together. Besides, half of something was better than all of nothing.
He grabbed the Scot’s hand. “You’ve got yourself a partner. Where to now?”
“Let’s find a saloon. The whiskey out here is rotgut but ‘tis good enough to wet your whistle and raise a toast or two to God and country.” Robert chuckled. “And Cariboo gold.””

Dialogue makes the characters and story come alive!

You can find "Pillars of Avalon", "Barkerville Beginnings" and the rest of the Canadian Historical Brides Collection here: 

Thursday, May 23, 2019

First Nations Pipe Ceremony over Okanagan Lake

Union of the Sacred Pipes ~

Reposted to honor of fellow author John Wisdomkeeper, who could use all of your thoughts and prayers during his time in hospital. 

In the hills around Okanagan Lake Valley is a place called Bear Creek.  As I hiked through these rocks, the echo of fast rushing water vibrated like thousands of flutes playing to the rushing waterfalls that all flowed into one giant lake.  One day I mediated on a large rock in the middle of the Creek - the only access being to jump a log jutting into the water.  Opening my eyes to father sky, I watched crows chase a golden eagle.  The eagle flowed upward in ever expanding circles, and the crows followed, but the eagle flew higher and higher.  A fine mist rose from the rocks and powerful medicine herbs waved in the gentle breezes.  The sweet smell of Lavender and the pungent tang of pine filled the air.  When I stopped and listened closely I heard the footsteps of the ancestors passing through the canyon - stepping from stone to stone - as they followed the game trails.
The People and The Spirits are not gone. Clothes have changed, 
but the soul of both is constant.

One day a white brother came to visit from Texas - a police officer - who loved the culture as I do, and wanted to share the pipe with some of the Native brothers.  We climbed a trail through a ravine of rocks to an old sacred clearing.  At the entrance to the clearing--a circle of rocks covered by moss and surrounded by juniper and Saskatoon bushes--we stopped and I offered tobacco, asking the ancestors to welcome our visitor.  The winds stopped, and a peace settled over the clearing, inviting our entrance.  We sat together, on the ground, waiting for some brothers who were pipe carriers to join us.

 One by one each brother showed up from his journey.  One brother traveled from a rain dance ceremony; another brother came from the sweet grass fields in Montana; a third brother came late, joking that as he had traveled the shortest distance he came on Indian time.  My friend from Texas offered a medicine bundle from his home region and asked for prayers for his family.  He explained that he had spent a lot of time studying and learning the culture of the Cheyenne, the Apache, the Arapaho and the Hopi nations, and to him it was a great honor to come to this sacred ground where lay the bones of ancestors who had traveled here before, and join with this group of pipe carriers for other Native nations.

Together we sat down in a circle and opened our medicine bundles.  Father sky peered over our circle like a bright blue blanket streaked with orange and fringed with white clouds. Wisps of white floated around us as the spirits of many ancestors, gathered around our group as we prepared to share the sacred pipes.

We began by filling our smudge bowls with sage and sweet grass, which we lit and fanned with eagle feathers until the smoke drifted towards Father Sky.  Each of us reached into the smoke and brushed our arms and legs and heads with smoke to cleanse the hardships of our travels and prepare ourselves for the ceremony.  The pipe carrier facing the North started the traditional song of offering to the ancestors, and one by one we joined into the song, lifting our voices to invite the ancestors to travel across the spiritual realm and join us in our ceremony.  As one, we bowed our heads in the circle, sharing prayers for our loved ones and the great nations, asking for blessings for all mother earth’s living and spiritual beings.  We offered prayers for the animal kingdom, the plant world and the mineral world.  The pipe carriers lifted their pipes, pointing the stems to each of the four sacred directions requesting blessing for the circle, and then the pipes were lit. As we passed the pipes, we shared the stories and teachings of our ancestors, and laughed together at the antics of trickster and the pranks he had played on our friends and elders over the years.

When we fell silent, each of us settled into the peace and harmony that had fallen over the sacred circle.  In the darkness the voices of a thousand crickets hummed in harmony, and beyond our circle the coyotes howled to the night spirits.  Grandmother moon rose into the sky and shone her light over our circle.

When the pipes were out, we packed our medicine bundles.  Standing, we joined hands, offered prayers for a safe journey for the travelers, and returned to each a hug of friendship and a common wish for a future reunion of the pipes.

John & Friend

John Wisdomkeeper
Sus' naqua ootsin'

Read John's personal story: 
Along the Red Road

Juliet Waldron's historical novels:

Friday, May 17, 2019

Apple Peels and Snails to Snare a Husband by Diane Scott Lewis

My Canadian Brides novel turns on a betrothal gone wrong. To celebrate May, I leave Canada and travel to England, and the serious search for a mate in the eighteenth century.

Folklore abounds in the villages of England around the single girl’s search for a husband—as in the eighteenth century marriage was what most young women had to look forward to, or they’d be ridiculed and regulated to spinsters, farmed out as governesses, or forced to live on the charity of their family.

Most of these search-for-true-love customs revolved around the seasons.

At the ruined Abbey of Cerne Abbas in Dorsetshire, girls flocked around the wishing-well in all seasons. To obtain their heart’s desire, they’d pluck a leaf from a nearby laurel bush, make a cup of it, dip this in the well, then turn and face the church. The girl would then “wish” for presumably a man she already has in mind, but must keep this wish a secret or it wouldn’t come true.

Other customs included, in Somersetshire on May Day Eve or St. John’s Eve, a lass putting a snail on a pewter plate. As the snail slithered across the plate it would mark out the future husband’s initials.

On another ritual to this end, writer Daniel Defoe remarked by saying: “I hope that the next twenty-ninth of June, which is St. John the Baptist’s Day, I shall not see the pastures adjacent to the metropolis thronged as they were the last year with well-dressed young ladies crawling up and down upon their knees as if they were a parcel of weeders, when all the business is to hunt superstitiously after a coal under the root of a plantain to put under their heads that night that they may dream who should be their husbands.”

Throwing an apple peel over the left shoulder was also employed in the hopes the paring would fall into the shape of the future husband’s initials. When done on St. Simon and St. Jude’s Day, the girls would recite the following rhyme as they tossed the peel: St. Simon and St. Jude, on you I intrude, By this paring I hold to discover, without any delay please tell me this day, the first letter of him, my true lover.

 On St. John’s Eve, his flower, the St. John’s Wort, would be hung over doors and windows to keep off evil spirits, and the girls who weren’t off searching for snails in the pastures, would be preparing the dumb cake. Two girls made the cake, two baked it, and two broke it. A third person would put the cake pieces under the pillows of the other six. This entire ritual must be performed in dead silence-or it would fail. The girls would then go to bed to dream of their future husbands.

On the eve of St. Mary Magdalene’s Day, a spring of rosemary would be dipped into a mixture of wine, rum, gin, vinegar, and water. The girls, who must be under twenty-one, fastened the sprigs to their gowns, drink three sips of the concoction, then would go to sleep in silence and dream of future husbands.

At All Hallows Eve, a girl going out alone might meet her true lover. One tale has it that a young servant-maid who went out for this purpose encountered her master coming home from market instead of a single boy. She ran home to tell her mistress, who was already ill. The mistress implored the maid to be kind to her children, then this wife died. Later on, the master did marry his serving-maid.

Myths and customs were long a part of village life when it came to match-making.

In my novel, On a Stormy Primeval shore, which takes place in eighteenth-century Canada, Amelia is slated to wed one man (a match made by her father), but refuses him, and through no effort of her own, the perfect man comes along in the guise of Gilbert, an Acadian trader. A bear is involved...

A short blurb:

In 1784, Amelia sails to New Brunswick, a land overrun by Loyalists escaping the American Revolution, to marry a soldier whom she rejects. Acadian Gilbert fights to preserve his heritage and property—will they find love when events seek to destroy them?
To purchase On a Stormy Primeval Shore or my other novels at Amazon or All Markets: Click HERE

For further information on me and my books, please visit my website:

 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.

Source: English Country Life in the Eighteenth Century, by Rosamond Bayne-Powell, 1935.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

A Trip to Tucson by A.M.Westerling

Okay, so Tucson doesn’t really have anything to do with Barkerville and the Canadian brides collection other than there was a fair bit of mining in the area about the same time as the Cariboo Gold Rush. Silver and copper mostly and gold later on once Arizona opened up a bit more.

So why Tucson? My sweetie and I head south every March to get away from the Canadian winter. Actually, it’s not that we mind winter so much, it’s that Calgary simply doesn’t have a spring! March is dreary, brown and interminable so although we don’t do the full on snowbird thing, we do spend 5 or 6 weeks touring the southwestern U.S. to get away from it. We don’t plan anything other than we know we’ll hit the I15 which is a straight run south for us. Usually the road is pretty clear but we hit a snow storm this year in Montana. 

Once we reach Las Vegas, we sit and thaw out for a few days then start watching the weather to decide where to go next. It was a cold spring everywhere this year so we drove further south than we usually do and ended up in Oro Valley, on the northern outskirts of Tucson. Tucson is a great spot, with lots of interesting things to see and do plus it’s not a mega city like Phoenix and area which suits us perfectly. 

We tend to visit railroad museums wherever we go and Tucson was no exception. The original train station is right in the heart of the city and has a small museum plus a vintage steam locomotive. 

Why railroad museums? My husband is a model railroad enthusiast and of course I love any kind of history so win win! Anyway, you always discover something new when you’re out and about and imagine my surprise to discover that Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday shot and killed a fellow by the name of Frank Stilwell in revenge for the death of Wyatt’s brother Morgan. Where? In Tucson’s train depot! A bronze statue commemorates the event. That worried look on my face? Those fellows have rifles pointed at me!

Of course I’d heard of both Earp and Holliday which is why it surprised me to learn they’d been in Tucson all those years ago. Little tidbits like that really bring history to life for me and as I stood on the railroad platform, I could just imagine the men laying in wait for Stilwell. I could imagine the horrified gasps and whispers of onlookers, the warmth of the sun on my shoulders, the dry smell of dust, and the slowly spreading crimson stains on Stilwell’s clothes. (You can read more about it here:

I did the same thing the various occasions I visited Barkerville. I wandered the wooden sidewalks and imagined the town as it might have been 150 years ago. I imagined the streets crowded with wagons, mules and cattle, the smell of wood smoke, the clang clang of the black smith’s hammer, the thump of boots on the walkways, the shouts of joy from miners who struck it bit, and the sobs and groans from those who didn’t.

Anyhow, as a writer of historical romance and fiction, my goal is to bring history to life for my readers. I try and envision life as it might have been for my characters, a kind of time travel if you will. If I can take you back to a different era, then I feel I’ve accomplished my goal.


Find Barkerville Beginnings at your favourite online store here: