Wednesday, August 26, 2020

In Memory of The Milne Ice Shelf

“Look up, young ones.”

Their eyes popped open at the urgency in old Mr. Drybones’ voice.

Over their heads the aurora danced and shed its magical light, this time a dazzling curtain of red, green and yellow. It seemed to blow gently in an unseen wind. It was so quiet—not a sound, just the faint sighs and crackles of the dying fire. 

Spirits are walking...

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Ellesmere Island, part of the Qikiqtaaluk Region in Nunuvut, is about as far north as you can go in Canada. The Island provided the stony shoulders upon which a Pleistocene glacier rested. The Milne Ice Shelf--and once upon a time, many others--extended from the island into the Arctic Ocean.  These ice barrens were once hunting grounds for polar bear, resting places for seals and birds, and traversed by foxes and men, locked in an endless search for the next meal.

The Milne Ice Shelf contained a rarity too, the northern hemisphere's only Epishelf lake--a freshwater lake that floats atop and exists behind a dam of  sea ice. As such, it contained it's own precious world of plants and animals--creatures who lived in the freshwater trenches--had only recently begun to be studied by scientists.

The Inuktitut People had a descriptive name for the area long before Europeans came. Their name, "Tuvaijuittuq" means "The place which never melts." 

Ellesmere Island hasn't been this hot for 115,000 years, centuries before the Inuktitut arrived. Today the Canadian Arctic temperature is a distressing 9 F (5 C) above the thirty year average. Sea ice this year was the lowest it's been since records have been kept. 

2020 summer brought even higher temperatures, resulting in more open, warmer water. The Milne no longer had the thick buffer of sea ice it had once possessed. In August, strong off-shore winds began to blow. Satellite images showed startled scientists that forty percent of the ice shelf had broken up in just two days.  

Due to the pandemic, the scientists who are usually on the ice at this time of year were absent. They kept their lives, but lost $90,000 worth of monitoring equipment when their base camp went into the sea. All those unique freshwater worlds so recently discovered by scientists have probably vanished as well.

...The Milne Ice Shelf--and once upon a time, many others--extended from the island into the Arctic Ocean.  These ice barrens were once hunting grounds for polar bear, resting places for seal and bird, and traversed by fox and man, all in an endless struggle for survival...

Juliet Waldron

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Thursday, July 23, 2020

Covid Tales For July

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#1 The Rite A**** Husband 

Her husband has to go to Rite A****.  He needs to drive his car more than he actually needs get something. There is a (bitchy?) micro- manager voice in her head wondering why he didn’t use that trip he undertook earlier today into the feral space (anywhere beyond this house) to get the whatever X or Y he believes he needs now. She feels as if every jaunt into the world of shopping—out there in those wide macadam spaces—will bring home Armageddon, which would certainly be more than he bargained for.

And her auto-immune system was an on-again, off-again proposition these days, so she’s got a reason to be a bit on edge, doesn’t she?  And of course, after he comes in, she has to say "Please remember to wash your hands," even though it's going to annoy him.

#2 Pet Conversation 
  With Anthony

"Tony stop!"
"Stop! Tony!"
"Ow! Tony! Stop!"
(Inside my p.j.'s again)

"Quit that, Tony! It hurts."
"Tony, get down from there."

"No mice in the refrigerator! I told you before."

"Out! Out of the refrigerator!"
"Tony! Off the table.

"Get your tail out of the butter."
"Tony! Those are my toes you're biting..."

Pet Conversation 
With ~Willeford

Willeford obsessively scratches an ear. He looks like a cat in a George Booth cartoon, a non-descript tiger with outsize paws.

“Stop that! Hey!”

With some justification, my rude approach is ignored, but slowly he does stop scratching.

“C’mere you.” I pick him up carefully. The windowsill is a good place to get natural daylight. 
Our 1940’s owner-built house has little windows. It’s a local habit. These days I’d hesitate to call them, as my mother did, “German windows,” but if you don’t think that’s fair, take a look at pictures of the local Ephrata cloisters. They sure as heck didn't want any cold air to get in.

Willy’s fluff and bone body was stepped on before we rescued him. His back end has a permanent sag. He wants to escape because he knows what’s next—me grabbing him—no, no that’s not right—I’m taking a firm hold because I need to take a look inside that ear.

“Hold still; lemme look.”

Fold the ear back and sure enough, it needs cleaning.

“Wait a minute, Willyum. Gotta get a tissue.”

And strangely, he does,
Hunkered down on the sill,
Big feet forward in a full Sphinx, patiently waiting for me to take care of him.

And a poem -- Instead of a blog, these keep coming out of my head today.

Regain your faith, sky watcher
The rain must come today--
I hope so, anyway.

I’ve been watering, watering, gardens &
Husband’s new little patch of grass where
The hedge has been uprooted.
I’m usually careful with water, but now, this year,
I’ll take what comes bountifully from the hose,
It's the last dance for Nature
in this
Gasoline alley.

To neighbors I am “the weed lady”
Who allows the chicory, Queen’s Anne’s Lace, milkweed,
Echinacea, Fleabane, grow, who cultivates purslane,
Miner’s lettuce, iron weed, wild anemone and Lamb’s quarters.  
I fertilize them too.

And this year my garden is wilder than ever,
Oregano turning into bushes frequented by bees and
One small rabbit--the culprit who ate the beans.
Sage a flowering shrub in spring,
Nasturtiums, lettuce and off-beat kale
Tomatoes, horseradish, random potato plants
Burrow in the compost heap.
I'll get to them later.

Conversation with P.J. 

One of my grandgirls is autistic. Although she is twenty now, we cannot really talk to her, as in holding a conversation. It's a bridge too far to connect with P.J. face to face, much less on the phone where we cannot see one another. While on the telephone with her Dad yesterday, I overheard her singing. I often hear her talking and singing during our conversations. I have a feeling this is a way she has of participating in the world around her.

This time she sang "The Sound of Silence." She knew all the words. It felt profound, that she should like this song and know it so well, shining a little light into her submerged mind. I am always grateful to learn more about her, and perhaps to know her just a little better, our family's Trans Neptunian object.


Stay safe, everyone.

~~Juliet Waldron
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Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Fly Away Snow Goose--Dreams

An Excerpt from Fly Away Snow Goose-The runaways have braved the wilderness together, hunting, evading capture, often hungry, often footsore. Now, after an entire summer of traveling, and encountering many dangers, they have entered the Tlicho homeland. Here they've found safety and a delicious supper at the campfire of an old man and his wife.  Falling asleep in one another's arms, the young couple experience powerful dreams. 


They walked among the stars, she and Sascho. They went hand in hand, their feet upon a shining path that led across the night. As one, they gazed downward, and Yaot’l saw all the paths they had walked, all the way from Dehcho, following the Horn River until it turned west, and then their wandering through the little groves, the bush and the muskeg, where the animals had watched them pass. 

The beautiful deer lifted his head, leapt across their path and vanished among the stars. He too, was now a soul, wandering the sky. He would travel there until he faded into the body of the Great Spirit, which contained earth and all its creatures, both two-legged and four.

Then, Sascho’s hand was gone and she was alone. For a moment, Yaot’l was afraid, but now she was winged, flying. And although his hand was gone, she saw that, there, flashing beside hers was another wing, tipped in black, bravely sculling the heavens! A pure joy welled inside, for she knew that she and her husband were but two among a great flock of others, flying just below the stars, as she and her tribe went soaring toward True North…

* * *

And Sascho dreamed...

He was a bear, a young brown bear, lying down, hips up and belly flat down on earth, paws extended toward a central fire. Fire—a strange companion for a bear—but in this case it was blue and cool and it barely flickered at all.

Across the fire sat another bear, very large, and back on his haunches. He was bluish in color and his great muzzle was speckled with white. He was big, broad shouldered and old.

A long silence lay between them. The strange cool fire set the shadows dancing. Sascho wanted to hang his head, but it was soothing to stare into the light. The great bear slowly eased his front legs down until his belly too rested on the ground. Then he curled his paws against his chest and settled with a deep sigh.

“Now you feel the burden of leadership. You and all your friends might have died in that flood. Never forget; as you walk through the Tłı̨chǫ dèè, trials of life and death are always waiting.”

Another long pause followed. A shower of small glowing objects fell all around him. They reminded Sascho of hail, except for the glitter. They hissed as they landed, and when Sascho reached a curious paw to touch one, it was cool. As he gazed at it in wonder, the old one spoke again.

“You are a young bear with much to learn, before the gift of ink’on is given. You are fortunate to have found a hard-working, wise mate who will help you.”

Ink’on! The old bear had said it would be his—the gift that had come to his Uncle John, the gift which had made him a fortunate hunter, the gift that had given him power to see what others did not, to be a fount of giving to his tribe….

And Yaot’l too—the old one had said that Yaot’l would ever walk at his side! The weight upon his young heart lifted.

* * *

~~Juliet Waldron
Juliet Waldron's Website

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Indian Horse, a review

Netflix, the other night, popped up an interesting title: Indian Horse. As soon as I discovered that this was a Canadian offering that had premiered at the 2017 Toronto International Film festival, I was more than ready to give it a try. My first guess, from the image, was that it was a hockey story with a First Nations' protagonist.

CBC Image

All I know about hockey is--not much! I watched the "big boys" play on Skaneateles Lake long ago. These young men played with vigor, a lot of shoving, falling and shouting. It was an exciting game to watch, which is what I did from a venue well beyond the area marked out for the game. No walls led to occasional danger for onlookers, as you can imagine.

I loved to be out-of-doors, even in the coldest weather. That 1950's lake, once frozen to a gleaming sheet, was a fabulous playground, as long as there hadn't been too much sticky snow to cover it up. Hockey is a sport of fabulous grace and violence, pretty equally mixed.  We all know the ancient joke: "I went to see a fight, but then a hockey game broke out."

It turns out that hockey is an important part of Indian Horse, but it wasn't "embattled underdog, Saul Indian Horse, finds glory and acceptance through sports" kind of tale.  Instead, the central subject is racism and the related residential school cruelty. None of the abuse portrayed in the film--or in the original book, brilliantly written by Richard Wagamese--was new to me because of the things I'd learned -- from John Wisdomkeeper and from research -- in order to become part of the Canadian Historical Brides project and work on Fly Away Snow Goose.  

Familiarity with these stories, however, doesn't stifle the horror of the medieval punishments inflicted upon terrified children who have just been ripped away--often by men with guns--from the only world they've ever known. Residential Schools, in the U.S.A. and in Canada, have a lot of sins to answer for.

Much of the film was set in a stark, industrial wasteland, which could be anywhere in North America, those dark working men's bars in mining/lumbering towns whose business is to chew up the landscape for money and spit out earthly ruin. "Glory" is a word which reoccurs. It is used by Indian Horse's abuser, the Catholic priest who also introduces him to a game where he can fly. "Glory" also appears in the scenes at God's Lake, the secret place where his ancestors once lived and to which Saul travels in one of the penultimate scenes of his spiritual rebirth.

The movie was beautiful and sad, but I knew from the hurry at the end that the source would have even more to say. I am just now finishing the book, read in the last twenty-four hours in one giant bite. What a powerful, spare writer was Richard Wagamese, for, sadly, he's already gone. I'm looking forward to reading more of his work and truly sorry he's not still here, busy sharing his hard-won wisdom and poetic prose.

The life of the author seems to have been as full of suffering and struggle as that of Saul Indian Horse.  One of four children abandoned in the bush by parents gone off on a drinking bout, the older ones took the younger to shelter in a railway station when their supplies ran out. Here the children were found and taken into custody. Richard and the others went to foster homes. He was adopted at nine by Presbyterian zealots who refused to allow him to connect with his 1st Nations past and attempted to beat the Indian out of him. At sixteen he ran off to live on the streets. Here, drugs and drink claimed him, and he went to prison a couple of times. 

Sheltering in libraries, he began to read, and through reading found his way to his talent for writing. Against such terrible odds, eventually, Mr. Wagamese became a successful journalist. He published his first novel Keeper 'n' me in 1994. When he died in his sleep in 2017, he was sixty-two and had published thirteen books, some meditations on life, some novels. Richard Wagamese was born Ojibway, of the Wabasseemoong tribe of Northwest Ontario, and how deeply grateful I am to have discovered his true and graceful writing.

~~Juliet Waldron

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18th and 19th Century novels, some romances, some fantasies, 
many semi-biographical novels about my heroes--and heroines.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Canadian Authors Past and Present by Joan Donaldson-Yarmey--British Columbia

Canadian Authors Past and Present
Canada celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2017. To commemorate the occasion my publisher, Books We Love, Ltd (BWL) brought out the Canadian Historical Brides Series during 2017 and 2018. There are twelve books, one about each province, one about the Yukon, and one combining the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. Each book was written by a BWL Canadian author or co-authored by a Canadian and an international BWL author.
Each province and territory of Canada has spawned many well-known authors and my series of posts this year will be about them-one or two from the past and one or two from the present, the present-day ones being the authors of the Brides book for the corresponding province or territory. The posts are in the order that the books were published.

British Columbia

Stephen Reid was born in Massey Ontario (ON) on March 13, 1950. He is the author of two books but his main claim to fame is that he belonged to Canada’s notorious Stopwatch Gang of bank robbers. The gang which also included Lionel Wright and Patrick Michael "Paddy" Mitchell who was the leader, was given its name because of the stopwatch Reid carried during the robberies. The gang was also known for their politeness to their victims and their non-violent methods.
     During the 1970s and 1980s the three men stole an estimated $15 million from more than 140 banks, gas stations, and shops across Canada and the United States. With the help of an inside man they robbed the Ottawa, ON, airport of $750,000 in gold in 1974. They were arrested but by 1979 they had all escaped from prison.
     Stephen Reid was arrested in Arizona in 1980 and returned to Canada where he began serving a twenty-one year sentence at the Kent institution in Agassiz, B.C. He started writing in 1984 and sent his manuscript to Susan Musgrave who, though her home was on Haidi Gwaii off the coast of the B.C. mainland, was the writer-in-residence at the University of Waterloo at the time. They developed a relationship and were married at the prison in 1986. Reid’s first book, Jackrabbit Patrol was published that year.
     When Stephen was released on full parole in 1987 the couple lived in Sidney, B.C. where he taught creative writing at Camosun College. He also worked as a youth counsellor in the Northwest Territories. Unfortunately, he became addicted to heroin and cocaine and returned to his old ways, robbing a bank in Victoria in June 1999. This time he was sentenced to eighteen years in prison. In 2007, a National Film Board of Canada produced a documentary film titled Inside Time about Stephen Reid’s life. His second book, A Crowbar in the Buddhist Garden: Writing from Prison, was published in 2012. It is a number of essays about his life in prison and he won the Victoria Butler Book Prize for it in 2013. Reid was granted full parole in 2014. He lived on Haidi Gwaii with his wife, Susan, until June 12, 2018 when he died from pulmonary edema and third degree heart block.
Note: Patrick Mitchell wrote his autobiography titled, This Bank Robber's Life, while he was in prison. He died of lung cancer on January 14, 2007 and his manuscript was published posthumously in 2015.
Lionel Wright, was nicknamed ‘The Ghost’ because he had the ability to blend into a crowd and disappear. He was released from prison in 1994 and his whereabouts are unknown.

Emily Carr was born on December 13, 1871, in Victoria, B.C. She was the second youngest of nine children and she and her siblings were raised by parents who kept the English customs they had been used to in England. Their home had high ceilings, decorative mouldings, and there was a parlour. Sunday mornings were for prayers, and there were evening Bible readings. Emily’s mother died in 1886 and her father in 1888.
     Emily’s father had encouraged her in her artistic pursuits but it wasn’t until two years after his death that she enrolled at the San Francisco Art Institute. She returned to Victoria in 1892 and over the next twenty years she alternated between travelling to aboriginal villages in British Columbia to sketch and paint their lifestyle and going to England and France to study art. During that time she took a job teaching at the Ladies Art Club in Vancouver but the students didn’t like her because she smoked in class and cursed them. She left after a month.
     She continued to paint and even opened a gallery in Vancouver. However, it was not a success so 1913, she once again moved to Victoria. For the next fifteen years Emily ran a boarding house called the House of all Sorts. She continued to do a little painting and over time her work was recognized by influential members of the art world and she put on an exhibit at Canada’s National Gallery. She is best known for her paintings on Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest and later in life her modernist and post-impressionist styles.
     Emily Carr suffered heart attacks in 1937 and 1939. She had a serious stroke in 1940 and another heart attack in 1942. These left her unable to paint so she concentrating on her writing. Her first book Klee Wyck was published in 1941 and she won the Governor-General Award for non-fiction for the book. The Book of Small came out in 1942 and The House of all Sorts, named after her boarding house which provided material for the book, was published in 1944.
     Emily Carr died from a heart attack On March 2, 1945. She had three books published posthumously: Growing Pains (1946); Pause, The Heart of a Peacock (1953); and Hundreds and Thousands (1966).
     As an author, Emily Carr was one of the earliest story tellers of life in the province of British Columbia.

Book 4 of the Canadian Historical Brides Series:  Barkerville Beginnings (British Columbia) - A.M. Westerling) - June 2017
A.M. Westerling grew up in a small Alberta town. She loved to read and when she was in her teens, her mother introduced her to romance novels, then her father got her reading historical romance novels. Historical novels are still her favourite today. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering, from the University of Calgary, married and worked in the oil industry. She tried writing but when she and her husband had two children and began an engineering business in Calgary she set that aside.
     After selling the business years later, A.M. began her full-time writing career, concentrating on action-adventure, historical romance. Her aim is to take her readers away from their every-day lives and transport them into a different time. Her first two novels, A Countess’ Lucky Charm and Her Proper Scoundrel both came out in 2012. Since then she has had three more books published with Books We Love, Ltd.
     Besides writing, she enjoys gardening, camping, yoga, going for walks, and watching sports, especially her hometown Calgary Stampeders and Calgary Flames. She belongs to the Romance Writers of America, and is active in the Calgary chapter of the RWA.
     As she says: “History is romantic. To combine history with a love story is my ultimate joy and, I hope, yours as well.”