Thursday, November 29, 2012

Sky Fire

Sometimes Terry insists I stop and look out the window.
Yesterday evening was one such time.
He is a lover of sunrises and sunsets.

Last evening's sunset was spectacular!

Southwest from Our Driveway

West from Our Driveway

Northwest from Our Driveway

Just one of the countless reasons why I love him!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Human Refuse 2: Lansdowne House

Where to begin?
I planned to go to bed last night at a reasonable time and wake up before our 5:20 a.m. alarm.
Instead I stayed up until almost 2:00 a.m. reading some of my father's letters.

Some of My Dad's Letters

I didn't wake up until almost 10:00 a.m.
My ever-patient husband had gone to work lunchless over three hours earlier.
He had left behind a pot of coffee
and the newspaper just outside the front door where I could reach it easily.
He is so good, and I am so bad!

I couldn't stop reading my father's words,
his hopes, his dreams, his worries and fears, his love for my mom.
It breaks my heart every time because I know how the story ended.
Not just for him, but for others.

My father Around Three or Four
So I headed down to Terry's office in our finished basement,
and I looked at the awful mess everywhere.
The manic had been at it again!


Strewn about were books, photos, research papers, and letters.


Many of these items I have lugged about for decades.

Letters and Papers

The first step yesterday seemed so easy!
The Beginning!

The next step seems so hard!
I will do this, if I have to do it one word, sentence, or paragraph at a time!

Human Refuse 2:  Lansdowne House

     Lansdowne House is a northern outpost on Lake Attawapiskat in the James Bay region of northern Ontario.  It has moved and changed since I first went there.  In 1961 fur trapping supported the community, and much of the village activity was centered about the Hudson Bay Company trading post at the end of the peninsula.  Without a constant supply of rich furs:  beaver, otter, mink, fox, and muskrat, the community would have ceased to exist.  Clustered about the Bay was a nursing station, a Department of Transport weather station, a vacant forestry bunkhouse, and an Anglican school.  Offshore from the Hudson Bay Company was a small island known locally as "the Father's Island."  The Father's Island was the site of an Oblate Mission and school run by Father Maurice Ouimet, a French-Canadian Roman Catholic priest who devoted most of his adult life to working among the Ojibawa Indians of the region.  The homes of the Indians and the handful of white people were scattered about the government, Bay, and church buildings.   With the arrival of my family the white population swelled from eleven to seventeen.  The Indian population fluctuated depending on the season.  Sometimes the winter trapping season emptied the village of Indians, leaving a scant 150 to 200 people behind.  During the summer canoes would glide in from the lakes and the rivers in the surrounding wilderness and the population would balloon to 800 or 900 Ojibawa Indians and many hundreds of hungry sled dogs.
  The Father's Island 
as Seen from the Hudson Bay Dock
Fall 1960


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Human Refuse 1

Another journey begins today.
A long journey that I have carried in my heart for over fifty years.

I am going to tell my story of my sojourn in the North.
It changed my life forever.

It is not just my story, but the story of my family.
I have been the keeper of my father's letters for 35 or 40 years.
It was always understood
that I would be the writer who told the story.

I've done scribbles and scratches of writing about this time over the years.
I've even done bits of research.
I have a lot to uncover and process.

On the third day of my retirement,
I decided that I would walk to St. Anthony, Newfoundland - on a map.
I promised myself I'd walk the last ten miles for real.
Yesterday I passed the 289 mile mark, which puts me just a few miles west of WaKeeney, Kansas.
I have been walking every day for 171 days, through sickness and in health,
and I know that I can do it, one step at a time.

I also know that somehow I will tell this northern story.
I have faith that I can do it,
one word at a time.

This is the cast of  family characters:
My mother, Sara Margaret MacDonald MacBeath
My father, Donald Blair MacBeath
The photo is probably taken at Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia circa fall, 1947 or 1948.

We five in the fall of 1960 just a few months before we went north.
Louise (me) with Bertie, 
Roy, holding his science project bean plant, 
and Donnie with our dachshund Gretchen

So, I'll start here, with me, 
at the beginning of February, 1961,  
but I'll make no promises to stick to a strict chronology.
I will be going back and forth in time.

Human Refuse 1

     Our flight from Nakina to Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, was a corridor through which I passed from the safe, secure world of my childhood into an alien world; a world of starvation, sickness, and hopelessness; a harsh world of discrimination and exploitation.  I sat next to Chicago Bill, the pilot of the Norseman, watching the shadow of our tiny bush plane skim over the ground below.  The trees and lakes were locked in ice; no sign of life could I see in the frozen wilderness which stretched to every horizon.  The winter had drained all color from the land leaving only the stark black of the brittle trees and the dazzling white of the deep snow.  The sky glowed an electric blue. It assaulted my eyes with its clear brilliance.  My breath hung in the frigid air like smoke on a still day.  My fingers and toes tingled in spite of my thermal underwear, woollen socks and mittens, warm clothes and parka.  Gretchen, our dachshund, huddled on my lap, shivering in the subzero temperatures; her tiny boots and coat, sewn out of a cast-off jacket, were useless against the bitter cold.

     When Lansdowne House appeared on the horizon, a tiny cluster of buildings at the end of a long peninsula reaching out into an ice-bound lake, we were both relieved and appalled; relieved that the long cold flight was over, appalled at the immensity of the wilderness surrounding the frozen village.  I didn't realize it at the time, but this tiny village alone in a vast wilderness of ice and snow would have a profound effect on the rest of my life.

Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, Canada
Hudson Bay Post and Dock   
Winter 1961

     My experiences in this community and in Lac Suel and Sioux Lookout during the next three years would radically change my outlook on life.  Before coming to Lansdowne House I was a typical Nova Scotian girl, ten years old and secure.  I came from a happy family and had never lacked anything I needed.  After Lansdowne House I could never again capture the carefree innocence of my earlier childhood.  Starvation, disease, and death had become harsh realities.       

Don't Shoot Me, Ron!

I have begun tackling an almost overwhelming task:
sorting through thousands and thousands of photographs.  
I know it's doable because I've done it before!  

I spent the summer of 1968 working in the Acadia University library organizing its photo collection and identifying as many people, places, events, and things as I could.  

And now, finally, it's my time to work on my photos.

So can you imagine my delight when, 
out of nowhere - at the very beginning of my task, 
I stumbled on this photo:

Ron, myself, and Renee!

We are on the Acadia University campus in the vicinity of U Hall.
I am quite certain it's in the summer of 1964.

This is not the original photo, 
but a copy I made in the Geology Department some years later
when I was learning to print photos.

So Ron, I beat you to the Wolfville photos!  I haven't located the rest, yet!
Don't shoot me!
If you protest loudly, I promise to take down this post!
If you don't, I'll add a link to Sophie Doodle!

Sorry, Jim!  I hugged him first!

We were just friends horsing around!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Portrait with Fish

My sister Barb arrived for American Thanksgiving Day bearing a special treat:
a photo album borrowed from my sister Donnie containing some treasured family photographs.

So this holiday weekend I have learned to scan photos onto my computer.
In the album is one of my most favorite pictures of my siblings and myself.
It was taken in the summer of 1961.

Left to Right:  Barbie (5), myself (11) with Bertie (2), Roy (10) Donnie (7), 
and three lake trout barely out of the waters of Lac Seul.

My mother, my brother, my three sisters, and I
were living in a log cabin at an Indian fish camp
at Two Point, on Lac Seul, in northern Ontario.

We had been living in Lansdowne House on Lake Attawapiskat
an isolated, fly-in Indian village about three hours north of Nakina,
also in northern Ontario;
but we had been driven out with just a few hours of notice,
by a huge forest fire.

The forest fire did not threaten Lansdowne House,
but we had been living in a forestry department emergency fire fighting station,
and we had to move so that the firefighters could use it as a base to tackle the forest fire.

Roy, Donnie, Bertie, and me

We had nowhere to go.

It was in early June near the end of the 1960-1961 school year,
and my dad was the teacher at the one room Indian school.

The nurse, Mike, at the nursing station was married to Anne, an Ojibwa-Irish woman.
Two of her brothers, Fritz and John, were fishermen on Lac Seul,
and they had a spare log cabin.
Using a short wave radio, which was our only communication with the "Outside,"
Mike and Anne arranged for us to stay at the fish camp
with her brothers and mother for the summer.

Donnie (7) with John (23)
A Different Day with a Different Trout

Thus began one of the most formative chapters in my unusual childhood.  

Monday, November 19, 2012

Colored in Browns and Grays

I walked alone down into the park along Piney Creek this morning.
A hush lay on the land.

Not a leaf stirred, 
and the world was colored in browns and grays.

No sound of bird, 
no breath of wind.

No ripple touched the empty pond.

Even the fluff of bullrushes, 
among the fallen leaves,

And then,
a sudden silent movement,
a scamper of brown along gray,

vanishing into serenity.

A November palette between snows.

Pale stars beneath my feet.

A landscape soft and still.

Line and texture,
bark limned by space.

After years of seeking,

One perfect sparrow,
colored in browns and grays.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Tricksy Birds

I got my first, and only, digital camera a little over three years ago:
a Canon PowerShot SX100 IS!

OMG, the world was my oyster!

The joy of being able to shoot and shoot without having to pay to develop film.
Combine that with getting my new MacBook Pro around the same time,
and I was out of control.

I've been on tilt ever since!

I've been fascinated with birds as long as I can remember.
I was already trying to photograph hens in northern New Brunswick when I was six.

Someone in the neighborhood told me,
if I sprinkled salt on a sparrow's tail,
I could catch it and make it a pet.

I spent a lot of time running around the neighborhood with a saltshaker.

I'm still chasing sparrows!

They are the tricksiest birds to photograph!
Especially when you just have a point and shoot Cannon set on Easy to zoom fast!
This one was a hopping!

I could go to an outdoor cafe and shoot sparrows eating crumbs,
but that just wouldn't be the same!

This female mallard was one of the first birds I captured with my new camera.
They're pretty easy to catch when making baby mallards is on their minds.

Robins are tricksier, especially when they're doing tricks!

Red-winged black birds are much easier.  This little mama was frisky with spring!

How can you not love the male red-winged blackbird?
They are just about the pranciest critters in creation!

Meadowlarks have the most gorgeous songs!
But they are devilish to capture on film.
Sadly, they are gone for the winter,
but come spring the grasslands around here will be alive with the songs of meadowlarks.

This Bullock's Oriole was pure serendipity!
I was walking along in the park with my camera on and saw him out of the corner of my eye.
I barely had time to zoom out my lens and snap him.
I clicked the shot, and he was gone.
This is probably my best bird photo.

These grackles crack me up!
It looks like the one on the right, either a female or a juvenile, is telling the other one off!
My grandmother in Smith's Cove, Nova Scotia used to have lots of grackles in her yard.
They'd get in the cherry trees after the top cherries had fermented in the sun.
Then there would be all sorts of noisy squabbling going on!

Every day I walk with my camera in the hopes of catching a bird.
They may be tricksy, but sometimes I get lucky!

Western Meadowlark Singing, Enjoy! (44 sec.)

Friday, November 16, 2012

Cure for the Tropical Blues

It's a cold, bright day in Colorado, 
and I find myself thinking of balmy breezes, tropical skies, and warm water.

I just want to go to my favorite beach!

Down These Steps Is Paradise!

Don't want to iron that mound of clothes!
Don't want to bake those cookies!

I just want to feel warm sand between my toes.

Terry's First Glimpse of Paradise!

Don't want to pay the bills!
Don't want to take out the pile of recycling!

I just want to hear waves washing on the shore.

My Favorite Beach, North Shore, Oahu

Don't want to sort through the mail!
Don't want to peel the carrots!

I just want to walk under tropical skies with Terry.

Terry in Paradise

Don't want to go to the grocery store!
Don't want to clean bird poop off the deck table!

I just want to float away in warm blue water.

Louise in Paradise

Guess I'll put on Zac Brown Band's You Get What You Give album
and drown my tropical blues in a glass of milk and warm chocolate chip cookies!

Cure for the Tropical Blues!

Knee Deep by the Zak Brown Band

I'm glad I baked those cookies!
Works every time!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Central City, Colorado

Last weekend Colorado got a taste of winter coming with raw winds and spitting snow.  
Not the best day for a walk outdoors, 
but when you're walking to St. Anthony, Newfoundland, and there is not gym in sight, 
you simply have to bundle up and get out the door.
Fortunately, outdoors was in Central City, a famous mining town founded in 1859 
during the gold rush fever that brought prospectors flooding into Colorado.

The Little Kiddy's, Main Street, Central City
Date Unknown (1865-1900),_Central_City,_Col.,_U.S.A,_by_Kilburn,_B._W._%28Benjamin_West%29,_1827-1909.jpg

The first significant amount of gold discovered in Colorado
was placer gold found in 1858 
near the mouth of Little Dry Creek close to modern day Denver.
Before long prospectors were working their way up the the streams 
draining the mountains to the west of the plains.
They washed the sand and gravel in the stream beds
looking for gold and tracing its source upstream.

Black Hawk 1878-1879

In 1859 John H. Gregory found the first rich gold deposit 
in hard rock in Gregory Gulch between Central City and Black Hawk.  
Thousands of prospectors flooded what was then called Mountain City.  

This area quickly became known as the richest square mile on earth.  
By 1861 Central City was the largest city in the Territory of Colorado.  
In the early 1900s gold mining declined rapidly as the veins were mined out.  
By the 1950s the populations in Central City and Black Hawk had shrunk to a few hundred.

In 1961 Central City and Black Hawk were designated as a National Historic Landmark District.

But in 1990 it was again discovered that Thar's Gold in Them Thar Hills!  
In the name of Historic Preservation, 
a statewide referendum permitted legalized gambling
in three historic gold-mining cities in Colorado:  Central City, Black Hawk, and Cripple Creek.  
The rush was on!

Ameristar Casino, Black Hawk

One might argue that not a lot of historic preservation has happened
as a result of legalized gambling, but the towns revitalized.  
Much of historic Black Hawk has disappeared, 
but you and I can still walk the streets of Central City and imagine what was.

Clear Creek along the road to Black Hawk and Central City
(Shot From a Speeding Car!)

So early last Sunday morning Terry and I tossed overnight bags in the car 
and followed the route of the prospectors of old up Clear Creek Canyon to Central City, 
looking for our own pots of gold!

 Welcome to the Modern Black Hawk!
Wait 100 Years and This Too Will Be Historic!

The Ameristar Casino

The Ameristar is where we usually stay when we go to Black Hawk and Central City.  
It has great rooms and a wonderful spa.  
This time we only stopped for brunch at the Star Club.

William Frederick "Buffalo Bill" Cody
a.k.a. Wild Bill Hickok

The Star Club has an interesting set of paintings about the old west, 
including this portrait of Buffalo Bill, one of the colorful figures in America's past.
Cody was an American soldier and buffalo hunter who became world famous 
for his Wild West Shows featuring cowboys and Indians.  
He died in Denver in 1917 and is buried on Lookout Mountain in Golden, Colorado.
I can't help but wonder what he would think 
if he saw his portrait behind the stack of plates and napkins in the Star Club.

The artist's name is buried under napkins, 
but I think s/he got some inspiration from this 1873 portrait of Buffalo Bill.

Buffalo Bill, 1873

Star Club Brunch

My favorite Star Club station is right behind me:  the desserts!  
I may not be a fashionista, but I proudly wore my Bronco duds for the game.  
The Broncos beat the Panthers 36 - 14, and I won in the football pool to boot!

Century Casino, Central City

This time we stayed at the Century Casino 
at the corner of Lawrence Street and Main Street in Central City.

Looking Down Eureka Street Toward Century Casino
 at the Corner of Lawrence and Main, Central City

Main Street, Central City
Date Unknown (1865 - 1900)

It's fun to look at the old buildings and compare them with the buildings today.
Notice the white outlined windows in the building at the top of Main Street.
You can see the same building in the previous photograph.

Historic Buildings on Eureka Street
Reflected in a Window

Snow on Log

Even though it was freezing cold outside, I had to do my daily walk.  
The fun thing about Central City is there are literally thousands of things to photograph,
like this beautiful log in the garden by the opera house.

House on Eureka Street

Central City is filled with many old homes lovingly preserved.

Dried Plant by a Doorstep, Eureka Street
Big and Small, Lots to Photograph!
Line and Texture

Burro Statue Outside Gilpin County Courthouse (1900)
Currently the Gilpin County Administration Center

The Winner!  
A Small but Fun Strike at the Century Casino!
(Four Deuces with a Kicker)

Annie Oakley's Emporium, Inc. on Main Street

The sun came out and the sky was blue the next morning as we headed for home. 

Exiting the Central City Parkway

The Central City Parkway provides direct access to Central City from I-70.
It is a four lane highway 8.4 miles long, 
with spectacular scenery and grades of as much as 8.5%

Until next time!