Merry Christmas from Northern BC!

Two Christmas cards this year! I couldn’t resist this doggie nativity scene (I can’t take credit for it – the original was posted by a vet in  Ireland); I’ve just added in two special friends.

Ken’s the happiest I’ve seen a wood-carver look! Mind you, I haven’t been in direct contact with many wood-carvers … He was pretty happy being the artist-in-residence in the gallery and answering all the many questions about his process. Below Diana pats the head of his alabaster eagle, perched on top of a willow wood stand that Ken also made. Ken used to be a biology teacher and principal at one of the local schools and took up carving after he retired; he’s one of the only people in this area doing relief sculpture.

Before she jetted off for Arizona Sandra had us out to her place for a hearty winter supper of fresh slaughtered chicken (sorry vegetarians!) stew with dumplings – it was delicious. I tried to get a photo of all of us in which everyone was smiling but it was not to be.

Below Ty eyes the cheesecake with homemade berry topping that Sharla’s about to consume; he fell off the no-dessert wagon that night!

Sandra’s house is all by itself in a wide open field area and driving up to it a visitor is struck by the Kudu (antelope) head that appears in her top window, the remains of a long ago trip to Africa with her husband.

Once again with the cold snap the hoar frost has appeared on the trees; this photo is from down along the river’s edge. I did not realise that rivers could be foggy; sometimes there’s very thick fog along the Peace in the mornings until the sun burns it off.

The photo below of the Peace River at sunset is by Darcy Shawchek.

I did another trip out to Freedom Thinkers Education to talk Modern Art with the grades 4-6 and play surrealist and cubist games. We are going to hang all 60 of the Surrealist Corpses up on one wall of the gallery for 3 weeks in January – my last hurrah as curator here!

December is always the Artisan Christmas Market at the gallery and we expand into the Multi-Purpose room next door for it. I was lucky enough to have 7 volunteers show up to help me put the display together and we finished this room in one day, complete with three lit Christmas Trees.

This year, for the opening kick-off for the Market, we collaborated with the Indigenous Artist’s Market and the Artisan Farmhouse, both down the road on 100th Avenue, on an art-walk style event called Candy Cane Lane, with gingerbread houses, live music, roving carollers, and door prizes.

As you can see Ty was pretty excited about it, set-up in his usual station at the bar table to welcome patrons with a glass of cheer.

 

Along with two local radio personalities, I was asked to judge the gingerbread house competition, with entries from families, adults, teenagers, and children. Here are some of them.

While we have had a lot of snow the last few weeks, it has not been cold, hardly going below zero at all (unlike last years many days of -20 to -30, and week of -40). The photos below of grain bins and fields at sunrise are by Norman Siemens.

Image may contain: sky, cloud, ocean, outdoor, water and nature

Image may contain: sky, cloud, outdoor and nature

On sunny days the landscape around our neighbourhood is much more attractive. All the buildings are now complete and the “landscaping” is finished (I would have been interested to see how many of the half-dead plants they put in will survive until Spring).

As you can see the snow-drifts are very high! This is a new neighbourhood; most of the houses were built in the last two or three years and almost all of them are gigantic and have gigantic RVs and sometimes boats parked in the front. With the economic downturn lots of For Sale signs have popped up on the streets, although, now, with Site C being given the go-ahead, maybe these houses will sell.

Below is the snowcovered pond near our place.

As our friend Marsha reminds me, this area is Big Sky country and lately the sunsets and sunrises have been beautiful. Below is the road coming back from Charlie Lake, looking out over the fields to the Beatton River valley in the distance.

Barb, an artist friend who lives out near the airport, very kindly had a going-away party for Ty & I, even though we are not actually going until later on in January.

Lots of folks from the Flying Colours art group came to toast us on our way.

I will really miss all these lovely people when we leave.

A few more weeks are left to hike with the Sunday group; last week we headed out to the Beatton Hills for a 10 km hike along the river.

Even though it was not particularly cold, in spots the road was still icy so I had to be very careful where I put my feet, since my hiking boots are super slick on the bottom. Gus the schnauzer and Bear the big dog joined us for the walk; I think Gus must be pretty well almost blind but at 15 years old he is really miraculously energetic and well-able to walk 10 km.

At the end of the road two oil pumpjacks continue their operations day and night. It is still a surprise to me to come across one of these machines in the landscape.

Along the way back Bear discovered the remains of a deer skeleton, from the looks of which the animal was very recently killed.

The sunrise picture below, taken out on the way to the airport, is by Heather Theede.

On Sunday 6 of us got together for a pre-Christmas walk and brunch in Clairmont, a “suburb” of Fort St John, located in between the city and Charlie Lake. Val and Greg have lived here for 30 years and have about 7 acres along Fish Creek. It was a beautiful almost cloudless day with a brisk, cold wind that made Gus the dog walk with a very high-stepping gait.

Since the sun does not rise very high up over the horizon even at 10 in the morning the shadows are very long and blue over the snow-covered fields.

We haven’t had a snowfall for a while so it was icy and crunchy walking over this area. My hiking boots, while warm, have very slick soles so I had to be quite careful not to slip and fall. (As you can probably tell, I am sort of obsessed about not falling!)

Our walk took us across fields over to the West Bypass road and then back again along the railway tracks, with a stop at the viewpoint over the Fish Creek gully.

Across the gully a moose stood still and watched us, never once moving. You can see it below next to one of the large spruce trees.

Unlike me, Gus had no difficulty skipping along the top of the snow. He led us down the creek bank and across a frozen beaver dam on the way back to Val’s place.

Folks around here still go out into “the country” and cut down their own Christmas trees, know as being “holiday criminals”. Sandra went out with her grandkids and dragged back this beauty now installed in her living room – it must be at least 18 ft high.

We helped Sandra and her family decorate it for Christmas.

The Cultural Centre’s Christmas party was held at the local bowling lanes, pizza followed by ten frames of bowling. As usual, I was hopeless but Ty managed to get two strikes and one of the guys we were playing with had at least 4 as he blasted the ball down the runway.

Katy and her husband tried to teach their two year old to bowl – he seemed to be enjoying the action.

There were a few people in the crowd who seemed to know what they were doing. It seems so simple; just roll the ball down the middle of the lane … not sure why I can’t ever seem to do it.

The Flying Colours artist group got together yesterday for its annual Christmas art-making and food-eating party, with laughter, merriment, and a gift exchange.

On the garage door wall to the left you can see two of my recent linocuts, a skull and heart. I am working on a series of body parts still …

Finally, for 2017, I leave you with some images of the Fort St John and Peace Region taken by members of the local photographers group; these folks get out early and stay out late to get fantastic photos of the local scene. The FSJ grain elevator out by the airport is by Heather Theede.

Merry Christmas pumpjack by Darcy Shawchek.

The photos below of the ‘hood are by Heather Theede.

Hope you are making merry with loved ones this holiday season – best wishes to all!

See more pics here.