Spring? … Maybe

Right now it’s about 10 degrees above and feels like Spring is here; however, we have been warned that, from the time when it first seems like Spring, there will be 6 snowfalls until Spring actually and completely arrives. It’s definitely thawing, though; the snow is melting, huge ponds are forming everywhere, mud is proliferating, and dust is blowing – freshet!

Here are a couple of photos from the beginning of March when it was still deepest winter; snow on the ground and cold with the wind chill factor.

On Ty’s week off we headed out to Charlie Lake again, to take one last walk on the still-frozen, beautiful white snow-surfaced lake. On our way down to the water we saw the tracks of a snowshoe hare being chased by a predator of some kind – fox? cougar? quien sabe?

Once again, as before, we were the only ones out there; the sound of us marching along breaking through the icy crust started to worry me as I wondered whether the ice was thin enough for us to break through into the icy cold water below.

We survived the walk, although Ty was quite bushed and had to have a little rest … haha.

We have been very busy at the studio this month; several shows are upcoming in this area for the Flying Colours Artist Association and everyone was trying to get work finished for display.

Mary did a couple of classes on linocut with stencils and brought in an abundance of beautiful coloured stencils, papers, and other odds and ends to make prints with.

A really fascinating thing we participated in on March 3 was the annual Rod and Gun Club Fundraising Dinner and Auction. This was an experience totally out of my usual sphere and much of it made me feel quite queasy.

Where the art gallery auction had only taken up half the Pomeroy Hotel ballroom, the Rod and Gun Club took up the entire space, with a huge amount of stuff related to the catching and killing of animals: a silent auction, a regular auction, bucket draws, door prizes … And I must say, the buffet dinner was expansive and excellent.

Lots of guns, including junior rifle sets for the kids; butchering equipment, shooting tables, big boys toys for chasing and transporting game, clothing, guiding packages, and the like. Also, art work by members of the Flying Colours.

Below, a volunteer is holding one of Sandy’s donated paintings aloft for bidding. I was absolutely amazed at the amount of money being spent; the bids on everything were huge – they must have raised tens of thousands of dollars, maybe a hundred thousand dollars, putting the art auction haul to shame. It’s too bad that folks can’t get as exited about art work as they do about guns and animal hunts … Charlie told us that Fort St John has the highest number of millionaires per capita in BC and perhaps in all of Canada, 4.75 per 100 people – who knew?

Somewhere around the first week of March the days became longer quite abruptly. Rather than getting light at 9:30 am, it now gets light around 6.

While it was still cold, Ty had to wear two hats rather than just one. Here he puts his woolen touque over his BC Hydro camoflague cap.

Here I am at Fish Creek Urban Forest, the last time I wore my snow suit. I have to say that I am pretty happy not to have to wear the ol’ snow suit again this year!

Irene Gut, below, is an encaustic artist who was preparing some pieces for inclusion in the North Peace Gallery’s Points of View show coming up in a week.

She uses a small iron to paint with, rubbing tiny chunks of coloured beeswax onto its surface, then runnning the iron over a smooth plasticised paper to create her works.

The coloured chunks of wax look like candies.

I have not made prints for quite a few years but I got inspired by Mary’s demos to make a mixed-media linocut for the print exchange on the theme of Our Home and Native Land. Ten artists are participating and the show is travelling around to several galleries in the Peace region of BC and Alberta. At the end, we will each get a portfolio of 10 works from the other participating artists.

I made a linocut of flowers, printed on origami paper collaged onto a collograph support, in progress above.

Carolyn is hard at work on her moose painting for the Points of View show, based on Miep’s wildlife photography, opening at the North Peace Gallery next Friday night. This moose, inspired by one of Miep’s photos, appears in quite a few works to be displayed.

We still walk along the trail north of town; just recently these condo buildings have risen from the dirt; they follow on the same design as the one we occupy; however, they are selling for considerably less than ours was going for a year ago. Such is the economy here, very dependent on the fortunes of oil and gas.

Another day, another art work … Here are a couple of my works in progress; above linocuts on origami paper and below, digital images collaged onto wooden cradle boxes.

The piece below isn’t finished yet but so far it is textured acrylic paint and collage on wood, featuring endangered birds of the Peace region and Miep’s Canada Goose photo, made small and colour-manipulated.

My home workspace is getting more and more crowded; somehow, things always seem to get out of my control and proliferate – will have to have a purge one of these days. But putting the card table in was an excellent idea so now I can work on pieces while standing – I get very tired of so much sitting!

Ty and I took a walk last weekend out along the Eastern Bypass Trail, its concrete length mercifully free of most snow and ice. My hiking boots, very warm for the dead of winter, unfortunately have very slippery soles so I have to tread extremely carefully on the still-remaining slick pockets of snow and ice.

Sandra, freshly arrived home from a month in Australia, invited me to come with her and some friends out for a hike to the Hudson’s Hope steam vents west of Fort St John. We set off about 8 in the morning for the 2 hour trip up into the Rocky Mountain foothills past Hudson’s Hope on a beautiful sunny and relatively balmy day.

On the way out we stopped at a rest area to take some photos of the Peace River Valley, soon to be inundated by the Site C dam. Fog was lying low across the river; before coming here, I had no idea that rivers could be foggy. We stopped somewhere along the way to pick up Sandra’s friend Debra, who lives with her husband in a large wooden-beamed cabin and riverside acreage far from the madding crowd. Ross hunts and collects antlers, into which he will be carving various scenes.

Along with their main house, Debra and Ross also have a wooden cabin, currently occupied by a friend and her dog.

Our route took us up past the WAC Bennett dam, seen below (this dam created one of the largest lakes in BC, Williston, the expanse of white in the middle of the image below) and onto a logging road up the mountain.

After pulling over to the side of the road, we strapped on snowshoes, just in case we needed them on the way back if the snow had melted too much to hike the trail.

The valley is beautiful and it was very nice to see some mountains once again.

The trail to the steam vents is marked in spots, although I’m not sure I would have been able to find it on my own. Much larger coniferous trees occupy this area, along with some larger aspen.

A covering of about 4 inches of snow still obscured the trail, making it quite slippery to traverse in spots; below Dora is navigating down a muddy trench.

One we emerged from the forested area, the land dropped off to the Peace River canyon. The ground was quite green, with a variety of green, orange, and yellow mosses and small groundcover.

To get down to the steam vents requires picking one’s way along a steep, narrow track that hairpins down the hillside. I made my way very carefully in my heavy boots, putting one hand on the hillside for support. I definitely did not want to trip over my feet and roll down over the cliff!

In 1793 before settlers reached the Hudson’s Hope area, Alexander Mackenzie explored the Peace River and described this geothermal area with its ever-emitting steam coming from burning underground coal seams in his journals. These steam vents reminded me of the Chimera ever-burning hilltop flames that we visited in Olympos, Turkey.

The two doggies who accompanied the group plagued us for food, always on the lookout for any dropped morsel. I was a bit worried that one of them would go over the edge in their excitement but luckily that did not happen.

The view was spectacular!

I’m not sure how long the hike is; it took us about 2 hours to hike in and a bit longer to hike out again. I was very tired after about an hour of the trip back and struggled a bit with my heavy pack and heavy boots, each one feeling like it added ten pounds to my feet. Sandra and Debra very kindly helped me out by carrying my pack and snowshoes for the last little bit. By the time I got home, I was exhausted and collapsed on the couch almost senseless. But what a great day it was!

Below is an example of some of the media things I am doing for Community Bridge, a wooden plaque with a collage thanking one of our sponsors for their support of our 2016 Haunted House. I have created four of these plaques so far – fun.

Here’s another (not very good) photo of what the plaques look like:

See more photos here.

Back in the Frozen North

All good things must come to an end and February sees us back up in FSJ, the land of seemingly perpetual winter. I really was looking forward to experiencing a snowy winter, not really having had one since I was a kid growing up in North Vancouver when the show drifts were 16 feet high and my first boyfriend zoomed around the neighbourhood in a skidoo. However eight months of it is 7 months too much!

While we were gone, the Hudson condominium building was completed and with it, the parking lot behind our place. I can tell that Spring is coming because, rather than getting light at 9:30 am, the sun now peeks over the horizon at 8 – huzzah!

I am back out at the Charlie Lake studio of Miep, where last week Mary was giving some enthusiastic artists a class on relief printmaking.

She often uses a technique called puzzle printing for her lino cuts; this involves actually cutting up the plate (as in the ravens below), enabling it to be used in a variety of different contexts.

I continued to work on the painting that I had begun before Christmas, adding some collaged aspen trees to the mix.

Friend Carolyn invited us to join her table at the annual Black History Month dinner, this year held at the Fort St John Curling Club. The food, prepared by the local black community, included a buffet of offerings from around the world.

Along with the buffet, we were treated to music and a fashion show by members of the local community who hail from parts near and far, including Nigeria, Kenya, South African, and Jamaica.

Among the participants was a lovely young woman who had taken part in the Buddy Holly production.

We had a few dances and enjoyed the festive ambience; however, Ty was working days, which means up at 5 am, so we weren’t able to last into the night.

We had our first visitor from down south, Christine, in town for work. She and I enjoyed a leisurely skate around the deserted skating oval.

Possibly it does get crowded here during public skate times, but whenever I’ve been there, usually I’m the only one on the ice. Yesterday I skated again while a couple of hockey games were played on the rinks below, the cheers reverberating as the local team won 6 – 2. (I’m afraid my selfie skills are not well-developed, as indicated by the evidence below).

Fort St John is hosting the Masters Speedskating Championships here in March and I’m going to check it out and hopefully pick up some tips.

While Christine was here, we took in some local colour at the Open Mic Night at On the Rocks nightclub and pub, where one of the guys from Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper, was up on stage serenading the crowd.

And finally, for this month, I was the official event photographer-papparazzi for the Coldest Night of the Year Fundraiser to support Community Bridge and its programs to help the homeless, hungry, and hurting in FSJ. This fundraiser takes place in  many different cities across North America, all on the same evening. Participant teams sign up and collect pledges and local companies sponsor the event; we had 21 teams, 105 people and several local sponsors to the tune of almost $20,000 – a big success for the first year.

Thankfully it was not actually the coldest night of the year in Fort St John; that would have been back in December when the mercury went down to -41. At -13 with a light snowfall it was not too bad (although without gloves, my hands did get quite cold as I was taking pictures). I can’t believe that I actually said (wrote) that “-13 was not too bad!”

The event began and ended at lead sponsor Northern Lights College, with the 5 km turnaround rest stop down 100th Street at North Peace Savings & Credit Union.

Folk young and old came out to support the cause.

I was happy to take part, and even happier that the weather cooperated!

See more photos here.

From Fall to Winter overnight …

Well, it’s been a fast and furious couple of weeks up here in the north country; we’ve gone from late summer to mid-winter between the middle of September and the beginning of October. The wind is strong in this part of the world, and if it’s blowing from the north, cold!

Although I don’t think anyone can accuse the city of FSJ of being beautiful, there are areas in the surrounding countryside that are lovely. And along the ridge just north of the city there are some places with beautiful views out over the Peace Valley.

On the bypass road that runs around the edges of the city, we found an abandoned farmstead with decrepit old wooden structures rotting in the fields.

Fall lasted about two weeks and the aspen trees turned yellow and gold.

We have been spending quite a bit of time with the cast and crew of the Buddy Holly Story, attending rehearsals at “The Space”, a quonset hut on the edge of town that serves Stage North as a rehearsal space.

Here is the Director Blair Scott in action, getting the Hayriders ready to go for their first song of the show.

Have a listen here. To plays the videos, first click on the image, then click again to start the video. Unfortunately, there was a bit of a problem with the sound on my video towards the end …

And here are Buddy Holly and the Crickets, going from country to rock ‘n roll.

Ty enters stage right carrying a keyboard. We are really enjoying being part of this production; it’s been great fun!

We are both working on the projections for the show, and have spent a fair bit of time in the theatre of the North Peace Cultural Centre where the show will take place the last two weekends of October.

We have put together two large projection screens from king size beds sheets sewn by the Sew it Yourself shop, four metal pipes, and lots of hardware. They will be hung on either side of the stage for videos which I edited of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper playing at the end of the show. This necessitates three laptops, three digital projectors, 150 meters of HDMI cord, and lots of metal hardware.

Oliver, the General Manager of the Cultural Centre, has been very generous with his time in helping us to put this all together.

Here’s a shot of the top of one screen, showing how it’s attached.

This is what it looks like with the big back screen and one of the side screens; the third one will hang down from stage right on the other side.

Here’s a little promo video I put together for the show.

Back when it was still Fall, we spend a bit of time getting to know the neighbourhood, strolling through the subdivisions around here.

This artificial pond has been made just down the road from our place. We are both amazed at the number of RVs parked in people’s driveways here; on some streets every home has a gigantic motorhome or RV next to the house.

I started taking bellydance lessons about a month ago at the Studio2Stage dance lesson emporium, with Suzon Tremblay, a very talented dancer and artist.

Unfortunately, my picture of her is not in focus.

Bellydancing is much more difficult than I thought, with hundreds of moves, some of which are difficult for this old, inflexible body. I am bad, but hope to get better during the course of the class.

Winter came early, very early – September 30, to be precise …

Here’s the view from our kitchen window. Although it’s no longer snowing today, there’s still snow on the ground and more expected tomorrow. We are having the snow tires installed this weekend. Already the temperature is hovering between 0 and minus 5 and it’s only the beginning of October. I wanted to see a snowy landscape, just not this early in the season!

I still need to get some serious winter gear; here’s a picture from the outside of the rehearsal space on the east edge of town.

Other than that, I am working on my landscape photo series and getting ready to do some painting. The landscapes are getting more fanciful – here’s a taste.

Aspen Landscape with Eastern Phoebe & Harvest Moon

Aspen Landscape with Phases of the Moon

 

Greetings from the North!

The view flying into Fort St John. Wow, it’s been a fast and furious month since I’ve landed in FSJ with Aran the cat in his carrier. The beast turned out to be a pretty good traveller, once he got over the shock of going through security at Vancouver airport.

After a pretty good dose of culture shock for the first few weeks, I am starting to settle in up here. I have decided to focus on the things I like every day rather than feel sad about what I’ve left behind. First up on that list is the people that I have met here, a wonderful bunch of very friendly and active folks from many different facets of the community, artists, theatre folks, yoginis, environmental people …

One of the very first things we did upon my arrival was to walk around the neighbourhood and check out the prospects. There are two sweet little “metaphysical” stores, Earthly Treasures and The Wisdom Tree, selling crystals and other goodies for spiritual contemplation.

The Arts Post is a nice studio space with a very active group of potters.

Possibly I might try to get back into ceramics here – the studio is well set up.

I have also connected with the Flying Colours Art Association, a wonderful and welcoming group of artists who have workshops, exhibitions, and a great studio to work in every second week. I hope to get into the studio and do some painting by the end of September; at the moment I’m working on a new series of infrared photographic images of the northern landscape. Here’s an example:

peace-river

On the main drag through town is the Blacksmith Yoga Community studio, in the green building in the picture below. It’s a vinyasa studio, a style of yoga that I used to do with Kathryn Turnbull at the Roundhouse in Vancouver, but more demanding than what I’m used to. The first few sessions left me with pretty stiff muscles!

We are living in a new area at the western edge of the city, where townhomes and condo buildings have been constructed – at the moment we are in the middle of a construction site with trucks and machines coming and going. The number and size of the pickup trucks around here is amazing; even though our new car is the biggest I’ve ever had, it seems tiny in comparison. It still feels very decadent to me to just be able to hop in the car and go wherever I want after not having had a car for five years. (Thank you so much to all the friends who have so kindly given us lifts places over those years!)

Our unit is the second from the end in the left-hand building pictured below.

We checked out the Fall Fair north of the city last month, getting a feel for the country life.

A really active group here is the Spinners, Weavers, and Quilters and they had a big display of their work in one of the buildings.

We watched the cattle show, in which various groups of people brought in their beasts and paraded them around the ring for the judge’s assessment, some more skilfully than others.

We also saw some of the sheepdog show, with various doggies shepherding sheep into pens.

Horse-riding is also a big thing in these parts.

I had ridden past the Fort Bowling building on my bike when heading to the yoga studio but was unsure if it was actually in business or not. But, yes, it is definitely in business and we gave it a whirl. My arm was not really up to it, though – will have to strengthen the muscles to up my game.

It was fun, except for the burning pain in my forearm! Check out my style – I actually got a few strikes (a few less than Ty, though …)

On the northern edge of town is an urban forest called Fish Creek, a nice place to walk on a sunny day. I was a bit nervous about the prospect of bears, though; however, we did not see any evidence of them that day.

One of things that I do love here is the aspen trees; they are everywhere up here. We noticed right away that the trees are much, much smaller here.

Very close to the city is Beatton Park and Charlie Lake, a lovely picnic area.

There are paved separated bike paths along the main street and around the perimeter of the city, a very nice feature.

Since it is mostly flat, the city is pretty easy to get around on bikes. And not very much traffic, either, compared to what we’re used to.

On Ty’s week off, we took a road trip to Grande Prairie, Alberta, to get snow tires and see a bit of the countryside. The journey takes about two and a half hours each way, travelling south through Dawson Creek and Beaverlodge. We stopped and checked out the Philip J Curry Dinosaur museum in Wembley, Alta on the way.

This area is full of fossils, some of which are on display here.

Ty is not trying to steal a dinosaur bone; this pit is for visitors to practice being paleontologists by dusting the dirt off bones.

On the way back, we stopped in at the Dawson Creek Art Gallery, located in a decommissioned grain silo.

One of the really fun things that we’re doing is getting involved with Stage North, the local theatre company. They are producing the Buddy Holly Story, on stage for two weeks the end of October. Ty and I are helping out with projections and as stage hands. Ty is designing a projection system for videos that will play during the performance.

I’ve been to one rehearsal so far and thought it was great. Here are a couple of video clips of three of the songs they’re working on.

https://goo.gl/photos/FbeELESUrMGCbhnf8

https://goo.gl/photos/3yWnEo6vXowpxWgG6

Good times!