Monday, December 23, 2019

Solstice in the NWT

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I went looking for the weather in Yellowknife, NWT, and this is what I found:

On the 22nd December, 2019, it was -28 in the early morning. By noon time it had roared up to -24, and this is an average December day day.

That is  darn cold by my U.S. standards. Some of the coldest U.S. mornings I've experienced were in January, 1969, in western Massachusetts, in a little woodland cabin with minimal insulation (read none) and a wood stove in the kitchen. On one memorable morning, it was -30, although, thank-fully, this was a one-off. We could sit at the kitchen table and extend a hand toward the outer wall and actually feel a slice of cold penetrating. However, that being said, this -28 is just an ordinary December day in NWT.

Accommodations for aurora tourists in the NWT model a higher profile lodge.

Orion blazes blue in perfect dark sky 

They have 4 hours and 57 minutes of daylight, which, on top of the temperature, has to be stressful. From an astronomy site, I learned : "Geomagnetic field conditions will be mostly quiet, with unsettled periods overnight. Watch for gentle auroras above the northern horizon and overhead." As usual, "peak activity expected in the hours before and after midnight." The higher the latitude, the higher probability you'll see the magic of our atmosphere's protective shield.

It's okay for us moderns to exclaim about cold, but imagine the people who came here between the glaciers, ever so long ago. These folks, and their descendants, until fairly recently, spent their winters in family groups sheltering beneath tents of caribou hide, and resting upon beds of spruce bows and furs. Only imagine the work that was necessary to collect the food and fuel that would be necessary to get through a long season of daunting temperatures and snow.

Before the Europeans got well dug into the north -- and that's apt, as Europeans are mostly interested in the north nowadays for what they can remove from the ground, things like diamonds and uranium  -- winter was the time you spent all the warm months getting ready for. It was easy to starve if you weren't prepared--and, sometimes, even if you were. Fish were dried, meat laid in, furs tanned and cut for clothes. Wood was gathered from the more southerly areas still inside the tree line. You were stocking up not just for the human members, but for the dogs, the original pack animals of the north. 

In the long dark, snowbound, in intense cold, family members gathered. Calorie conservation would have been necessary for everyone in this world of now limited resources, so originally, the people did not gather into large groups, but rather dispersed. Some men went with dogs to tend trap lines; keeping the fur and surviving on the flesh of whatever they caught. 

Story telling was one of the activities in the lodges, stories to teach the children and stories to pass the long frigid nights. Here was the time of teaching life-ways, transmitting skills involved in making tools of bone and stone. It was also a time for telling ancestor tales and tales about the spirits who inhabited the land. Prayers were offered to the sleeping roots, plants, to the four legs and to the fish as well as to the spirits of ancestors who danced over their heads in the aurora. Animal stories were told now, as it wasn't considered respectful to tell the stories when the animals were awake and might overhear people talking about them. In a world where survival depends upon animals (such as caribou) willingly giving themselves to men for food, this respect and sense of circle-of-life community is of prime importance. 

The Tlico flag proudly displays the old skin lodges

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~~Juliet Waldron

Saturday, November 23, 2019

A Housewife’s Tale: Cleaning the refrigerator, and what happened next.

Thanksgiving is coming. My husband cooks Indian food incessantly and our fridge is redolent of hot sauce, curry, Garam Masala, cumin etc. I decide, therefore, to clean before next week when I will be attempting to store mashed potatoes and turkey in there. I want my bland and traditional leftovers to stay that way for the brief time they will be in residence. 

Things accumulate inside refrigerators. Along with the withered cucumber and the lone apple, staring at me are four quarter full bottles of wine, cluttering the top shelf. We are not big wine drinkers and so, if we have guests who do like it, we buy a bottle to be sociable but usually end up with a bit left.

I’m always rationalizing that I’ll use the red wine in beef burgundy, and the white wine with baked fish or chicken recipes, but, somehow, as we’ve been conscientiously eating less meat this year, none of these “plan-overs” have come to fruition. Now the bottles face me, accusing me of wastefulness. I am after all, a Yankee, raised with an ethic of “Use it up. Wear it out. Make do or do without.”

Not only cleaning (never a big favorite of mine) but a decision now faces me, a test of my frugality. After some hesitation, an inner voice instructs: “Bite the bullet!” I pick up the first bottle, Beaujolais, and look at it.  Some sediment in the bottom. I uncork it; I smell it, then take a swig. Not worth spitting out, but nah! Down the drain it goes.

Next comes a bottle of champagne.  Lordy! That must have been from my birthday last February, so it’s been around for a while. A hopeful swig, ‘cause I like Champagne a lot, but it’s flat as a pancake, and so it follows the Beaujolais down the drain. Here’s a bottle of Spanish Red, strong and lively, which, after another taste, I decide can stay for around until I do make that beef burgundy. 

Next up, a Malbec. There really isn’t much left but it tastes a lot better than the others. Shortly thereafter, I’ve got the Malbec in a glass and am sitting at the table, with a box of crackers.

It’s just about 5 P.M, going dark outside early as it does since “fall back.” I notice the last, perfectly ripe pear in the center bowl. It would be shame to let it go over. Perhaps I’ll get up again and collect a knife to cut it with. As I pass the fridge once more, I remember the last slice of baby Swiss cheese in the fridge’s upper drawer.  

Soon, light illuminating the table, I’m having a civilized snack of cheese, crackers, wine and pear. My head’s a little head swirly from the wine tasting. 

This will do for supper. The fridge can wait until tomorrow.

~~Juliet Waldron 

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Wednesday, October 23, 2019

A Great Canadian Idea

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In Fly Away Snow Goose, the young hero and heroine are on the run from a punitive, frightening residential school. They hope, after surviving a long wilderness journey and rejoining their families at winter hunting camp, that they will be able to continue their lives hunting and gathering, co-existing with Nature in the same manner as their ancestors.

"It's the land that keeps things for us. Being our home, it's important for us to take care of the dwelling--the land--for wherever you go is home." ~Rosalie Tailbone

Of course, the time in which Fly Away Snow Goose is set, the early 1950's, was actually the beginning of enormous changes in the NWT. Roads were built and bush plane travel became more common. There was an influx of outsiders prospecting for diamonds, gold, natural gas and oil, all the commodities so precious to the ever-needy Western world.   The new settlers and the industries they brought with them have been a mixed bag for the original inhabitants. The elders became concerned at the growing water pollution and loss of game. They directed the next generation to find new ways to protect the land, as well as their culture, language, and way of life.

Today, as Canada works toward reconciliation with 1st Nations' people, they also face new challenges resulting from a rapidly changing climate. Instead of doing conservation by fiat and disregarding the input of Indigenous communities, Canada is beginning to create protected areas in ways that empower these original and most engaged inhabitants.

Thaidene Nëné

In a recent Audubon article, "Guardians of the North" by Hannah Hoag, I read (happily!) about the newly established  protected area, Thaidene Nëné, encompassing more than 6.4 million acres of land stretching from the easternmost tip of Great Slave Lake northeast toward the Arctic Territory of  Nunavut. The result of 30 years of careful, on-again-off-again negotiation between a host of parties--the Canadian Government,  the government of the NWT, the Yellowknives Dene, The Northwest Territory Métis Nation, the Deninu K'ue First Nation and the Lutsël K’é Dene First Nation--is that this enormous area will be preserved to not only feed but to spiritually nourish future generations of Canadians of every heritage.

It is hoped that this arrangement, achieved by the traditional method of consensus building, will not only preserve something of the tribal, ancient ways of life but serve to conserve the many species who share the environment. Protection for one of the few remaining great Northern Boreal forests will not be an easy task, but it is the kind of dramatic step that is needed in the 21st Century, where "Mother Nature is on the run." Sacred sites will be respected, water will remain clean and full of the fish--trout, inconnu, pike, burbot--and that the forests, unbroken by transmission lines, will continue to give protection to the caribou who enter them to birth their young.   

This new agreement is a monumental achievement for the 1st Nation's who were involved, as well as for the governments of NWT and Parks Canada.  I hope the establishment of such a "park," this wild Thaidene Nëné with its thousands of species, will prove to be such a success that it will become the accepted pattern of conservation for governments the world over. 

~ Juliet Waldron

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Monday, September 23, 2019

Equinox~Fear and Hope

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We have arrived at the Equinox again, when our local star appears to circle the earth's equator. This is a time of speedy sunsets and a twilight that creeps in earlier day by day. To compare, back on July 23rd in Yellowknife it was 18 hours, 15 minutes and a few seconds, but today, September 23, it's only 12 hours and 17 minutes. On December 23rd, there will be only 4 hours and 57 minutes of light in the city, and most of that will be better defined as "twilight".  Old Sol can barely haul himself above the horizon in December, peaking around at a mere 27 degrees.

The seasons change with emphasis in the North. It's time for that last big hustle of animals, birds  and those humans who still take much of their living from the land to stash what they need in fat and fur in order to get through the coming winter. So things have been in the NWT for a very long time,  through ebbs and flows which the First Nation's noted as feast or famine. Now, here in 2019, it's become obvious that the old cycles are in flux.

The Northwest Territories are warming at 3x the global rate. The worst warming is during winter/spring so now the traditional ice roads become passable later and turn to mud--or water--much sooner than they used to.  The permafrost is thawing, knocking over homes and emptying lakes. The permafrost melt water contains carbons and many other chemicals which have been locked and stored within for thousands of years. Today these are entering the Arctic Ocean at ever increasing rates, changing the chemistry of the sea water. This will eventually affect not only the red blood denizens of the landscape--mammals, birds, fish--and the green/red plant photosynthesizers with who knows what consequences.

On the Arctic coasts and along riverbanks there is greater erosion because, due to the activities of liquid water, they are suddenly in a new, ice-free world. At the same time, new species are arriving from the south; the moose and caribou and the Jack Pine forests alike are sickened by year round insect infestations.  It all reminds me of that old advertisement (for margarine?) where a voice, accompanied by wind, thunder & lightning and summoned by a wave of an angry mother goddesses' hand, declares: "It's not nice to fool with Mother Nature."

Never mind, on we go, miraculously alive on this uniquely welcoming planet, spinning on our way around the sun. We're heading into the dark times if we are in the northern hemisphere, or moving into spring and new life if we live in the southern one. We'll be doing the things human beings do every day as we scuttle around, busy, busy, busy! Inside the confines our global cultural shell, we sometimes don't see the big changes, at least, not until water fills up our basement.

Down south of the Canadian border, I rejoiced to see another new thing on Friday last--young people in the streets, carrying signs and asking for some real thoughtful science to be put to the task of dealing with what are the genuine, speedily escalating problems which threaten our world. I was so HAPPY to see those kids out there beside me, full of anger and ideas and so full of hope that they can save our beautiful planet in all its wonder and diversity--as well as themselves. 

Their presence made me want to take some time away from "Mundania" to reflect upon the great and holy mysteries inside the oldest stories. These are the ones mankind mustn't stop telling--the one about the beating heart of All-the-Waters hidden in the cold clean depths of Great Bear Lake or the one about the muskrat who "will be swimming," because she, though small and humble, is the one among all creatures who will be able to do Creator's bidding.

"We did not weave the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web we do to ourselves. All things are bound together..."  Chief Seattle.

and from the Christian Bible:

"The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell within..."  Psalm 24:1

With hope,

~~Juliet Waldron

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Sunday, August 25, 2019

On Writing Barkerville Beginnings by A.M. Westerling

Some books are easier to write than others and I don’t know why that is. I write historical romance so maybe it’s the volume of research. Or maybe it’s uncooperative characters or a matter of simply not being in the right frame of mind to craft that particular story at that particular time. I struggled a bit with my books A Heart Enslaved and The Countess’ Lucky Charm but Barkerville Beginnings was such a pleasure to write that it almost wrote itself. Let me explain:

As far as the heroine, Rose, I chose her name because that was the name of my accountant’s former receptionist and I liked the historical feel of it. I imagined Rose as a single mother because I wanted to make things as tough for her in Barkerville as I could – single moms were frowned on in those days. I can’t remember how I came up with Harrison’s name but I knew he had to be a Viscount as my tag line is “From Vikings to Viscounts, Join the Adventure, Live the Romance” and up until Barkerville Beginnings, none of my books had a viscount.

As an author of one of the Canadian Historical Brides books, I had to incorporate real people so I did. ie Wa Lee, who gives Rose a job in his laundry, Judge Begbie, (known as “The Hanging Judge” and doesn’t that tweak your interest!), Madame Fannie Bendixon, the hotelier and saloon keeper (who may or may not have run a brothel!) who also offers Rose a job, Dr. Wilkinson who treats the injured leg of Rose’s daughter Hannah, and Wellington Delaney Moses, the barber, because Harrison needed a shave after being out in the gold fields. 

To ensure historical accuracy of the book, I worked with one of historians from Barkerville, a lovely lady by the name of Caroline Zinz, and I hope one day to meet her. 

I’ve been to Barkerville so I wanted to mention the lonely grave you drive past on your way in from Quesnel. Here is Rose’s impression as she passes by:

The wagon slowed as the road neared a fenced grave, enough that Rose could read the headboard: Charles Morgan Blessing.

“Lonely spot to be buried,” Harrison commented and he doffed his hat as they drove past.

Rose nodded. “It is.” A chill tiptoed down her back at the forlorn sight, a reminder of the fragility of life in this wilderness. She craned her neck for one last glimpse before the road twisted away.

I was also quite taken with the wooden sidewalks so of course I had to mention those as well:

Looks like we’ve arrived,” said Harrison as a cluster of buildings came into view. Once again the mules, sensing the end of a long day, picked up their pace and the wagon bounced and rattled down the last little bit of the Cariboo Trail.

Rose hadn’t known what to expect but her first view left her numb. This was Barkerville? The town that gold built? This jumble of wooden, mostly single story buildings tottering on stilts alongside a wide, muddied creek? Surrounded by steep hills stripped bare of trees? How unattractive, brutally so.

The road through town was in poor shape, rutted and puddled with patches of drying mud. In consideration for pedestrians, raised wooden walkways fronted every building like planked skirts. Rose could only conclude the creek must flood frequently. Her poor boots, already soaked through once since embarking on the trip, would certainly be put to the test here.

The closer they came, the more her heart sank. What had she got themselves into?”

Here I am on Barkerville's Main Street and you can see how high the sidewalks are raised because the street used to flood quite frequently.

As an author of historical romance, it’s my job to place my readers in the proper time frame and I hope I’ve accomplished that in Barkerville Beginnings! 

Would you like to read Rose's, Hannah's and Harrison's story? You can find Barkerville Beginnings at your favourite online store here:

Or in print at your favourite book store. :) 

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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Barnes & Noble

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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Roan Rose   ISBN:  149224158X

"Juliet Waldron's grasp of time and period history is superb and detailed. Her characters were well developed and sympathetic."

"One of the better Richard III books..."

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