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Gerald's Page Journal entries from July 5, 2010 to December 31, 2011


December 13, 2011 The dark days of winter are here but with a layer of white frost the darkness seems to take on its own beauty. These images are from the morning of our first real frost of this winter.

Down at the level of the pond, and looking toward the south end of the pond at Friendly Forest.

In the area where vehicles can approach the house. The leading corner of the house has its roof edge just 4 feet above ground level. This is the side deepest into the hillside.

This is a view of the opposite diagonal corner of the house as viewed from the pond. The blue is a tarp shielding the outsie of the wood shelter. The lowest foundation level of the house is approximately 10 feet above the current water level of the pond.

Edward was waiting impatiently for me to finish snapping photos as he had determined we should be going for a walk on the forest trails instead of dawdling around in the yard.

December 09, 2011 It has been a long time since my last entry on this page. That reflects the pace of activity here at Friendly Forest. Wonderful autumn weather permitted me to do quite a bit of trail work as well as to prepare the area for winter. I had committed to participating in Prince Albert's Art show, Evergreen, and that put pressure on me to generate more attractive wood items.

I thank all who stopped at my table during the two day event that took place when winter first really arrived with a blizzard.

When I finished that and packed things away here I got busy doing several custom projects I had accepted. When the weather turned nasty with quite cold temperatures I had to put protective boots and cover on my dog friend, Edward, He was most patient with me as I struggled to put them on. When we got outside he was not used to the smooth bottoms and would find himself sliding when he wanted to stop, even sliding into trees and other obstructions. He adjusted and soon was jumping over fallen trees and other objects. I can guage how cold it is by how soon he wants to get back into the house when I let him out. When the weather is good he much prefers to be outside as long as he knows I am near by.

Cross-section of a birch tree with burl growths. I sanded it down and added the forst flora images and hen returned it to the person who had given it to me.

A large chest in Black Walnut was a major undertaking and I am pleased with how it looks.

I have now also started to prepare food in larger batches. The cold weather gives me expanded cold storage space, and with the shop closed for now, I have a bit more time as well. I prepared a concentrated pasta meat / tomaoto sauce that only requires the addition of some tomato soup to make it ready for serving over a bed of pasta. As it is, it also is great as a lasagana sauce. This week I have been making Thai spring rolls and Tourtiere pies as well as a few raisin sour cream pies. I am ready for holiday guests... or nearly ready.

September 28, 2011 The weather continues to be wonderful. I have been enjoying the forest vistas and aromas that are so special at this time of year. I took my camera on a few walks and have posted some images on the Forest Photos Gallery 8 page. I hope it wil encourage you to get outside and appreciate yur won surroundings no matter the season and no matter the location.

September 24, 2011 Earlier in the week I tried to give Edward a haircut. I can testify that the hair is shorter but i know dog groomers will snicker under their breath when they see it. It has been nearly 14 years since I last used clippers on a dog and that was with my Airedale Terrier. I will vouch for the great patience that Edward displayed.

I have also been getting some shop time in and the results can be seen on my Recent Work Gallery page.

The weather has been so spectacular that I have not only finished doing the clearing work required on existing trails, I have even started work on new trails. Freedom Way along the south west portion had a section that was under water and blocked with a lot of deadfall trees. I have made a new connnecting trail a bit further into the forest and back from the highway.

Since SaskPower destroyed the entire South section of Kings Loop I have avoided that blighted area always vowing to rebuild a trail further into the forest to reconnect the two ends of Kings Loop. I have finally started to do so.

I do not know how far I will get this fall, but once I have a good start the motivation to complete it is there. The initial section had taken me about a month to cut and trim and I do not expect another month of good weather here.

Winter firewood requirements, wood for winter Inipis and rocks for the Inipis also need to be gathered.

Standing under a star-brilliant night sky with a very slight breeze rustling the Tembling Aspen leaves and expressing the thanksgiving of Directions Prayer is a wonderful and powerful eperience that could not really be duplicated in an urban environment. It is at moments of wonder like that that I come to a truer evaluation of my position in the Universe. When we stand for worship in a church built by human effort we surround ourselves with our own works, no matter how plain or wonderful that may be, and those images frame our sense of place and being. Weather permitting, of course, we would do so much better to step outside and whisper our worship in full view of our Creator's space. The "Temple / Church" religions we create have way too much of our sense of self-importance in what they are and what they do.

September 20, 2011 Over the summer I have been privilegede to host various visitors to Friendly Forest. Two friendsfrom Regina were ble to spend a few days over the weekend and the weather co-operated to make it a very good experience. One friend decided to put words to paper and then sent them to me. Click here to see a Visitor's Reflections on Friendly Forest.

August 18, 2011 This week I have been able to do some more trail work but there is much to do yet. Summer storms have knocked down a lot of trees across the trails and the wet early snow of last winter laid many Hazel Nut, Pincherry and other shrubs into the paths. Many of these still need to be cut off at the base and removed from the path. While this is necessary every few years in any case things have been advanced because of the snow loading last November. I have also been able to spend some time in the shop.

While trail clearing I found an Aspen burl and decided to see if I could turn it on the lathe. I was really pleased with the outcome. The colours and shapes make for a very interesting piece. I had also dragged a fiew of my Birch blocks from the rising water near the house and decided to split one of them to see what had developed inside. I found really intense colours and patterning in the spalting birch and the wood was still solid. I was able to get three pieces from that effort.

While in the shop I also experimented with some spruce. I had turned a few pieces a few years back but that effort was for a practical shop application. I wanted to see how it could work as a plate / platter and as a larger three dimension vase with the addition of aniline dye. The effect was significantly different than an application of the dye to Birch wood. I was very pleased with the outcome.

I have posted images of this shop work on my Recent Gallery page.

August 7, 2011 I find that my entries to this page have been rather infrequent and that has caused me to pause a bit and consider why this might be so. I do not have an answer yet but the very question suggests there might be something deeper worth sorting out.

I find that it is a little thing like this question that appears , as if out of nowhere, that may have a more serious import for me. As I go along my daily tasks and experiences a lot of data runs through my brain and thoughts begin to form that have a more reflective character , and then often find themselves shuffled aside as new data comes whizzing into the field. Perhaps it is that an accumulation of thoughts requiring more reflection and being neglected, eventually push hard enough on consciousness and demand some time out for review.

Visitors to my home may have noticed a very large wasp nest mounted directly above the entrance door. It is on the inside wall and might not be noticed unless one looks up. When it is noted I offer to tell the story behind that large grey object.

I tell of how wasps built it over the period of a whole summer on the underside of a flat board that I had covering a lid-less metal ash can in my yard. It grew to a diameter of about 10 inches before winter came and ended that colony. I took the board, cut around it, and added a support piece and then mounted it onto the wall above my door.

The story is that a wasp nest located near the entrance of a home will keep out those with negative intent or who seek to do harm. If they should enter, they will be uncomfortable and will leave in a hurry. In my telling of that story I comment that since my current guests had been able to enter and had a comfortable visit, they must be good and positive people.

Over the past few months I have had two situations where I have come to wonder if that story actually had merit. There have been a few situations where individuals who I had considered of positive character and intent had actually been having sharply negative thoughts about me or sharply negative reactions to something I might have said or done, but unknown to me, suddenly got up and bolted from the house as if being pursued by a storm of angry wasps. I was very surprised by those situations and still do not understand the objective basis for the sudden departures The rather unusual nature of the situations and the uncharacteristic haste of the departures brought the wasp nest story to my mind and caused me to consider that it might have more merit than I had attributed to it before.

I continue to spend quite a bit of time with Edward, my black canine partner. Our pack bonds are very tight and secure and I trust in that strength. What is not always a sure thing is the question of who is Alpha in this pack. Edward has a very "dominant" personality and at times decides that he does not need to comply with my commands. I, of course, disagree with that assessment on his part and that leads to a confrontation which I am required to win. He is a strong dog, determined and still playful, and would like to make such disagreements into a game which he expects to win. From my side I know that an unhesitating compliance with certain key commands from me is essential to his safety. I need to be acknowledged as "Alpha" all the time, not just when it suits him to see me in that role. One thing that might be confusing him is that I let him off-leash. When he is on leash one could not expect a more compliant and responsive dog. He is totally responsive and well mannered at those times. When off-leash however, he can actually run ahead of me and do things on his own choice, and that might mean that I am not alpha, and so he can take on that role. I need for him to accept that he can have off-leash freedoms but that this does not mean he has command of the situation.

There is also the question of his interaction with guests at Friendly Forest. He is just fine with women guests but is more likely to see male guests as potential threats to his position in the Friendly Forest Pack. A male guest needs to be scrutinized very thoroughly and a determination made as to how the newcomer fits into the scheme of things here. If he sees the male guest as a someone who might usurp his number two / Beta position, he will exhibit dominant behaviours toward that guest. I need for Edward to accept that ALL human guests here are not a threat to him but must be accepted as having a higher ranking than he has. I hope that lesson gets learned. If it is not learned I will need to be vigilant or secure him away from these guests.

He has become very protective of both our home and of me and it is a good idea for a guest arriving here to wait for me to greet them before they walk into the house. Once he has seem me greet a guest his tail starts to wag and things are just fine with the possible exception of the Beta status thing I referenced earlier.

I need to especially thank Willie Baessler for helping me out with Edward's food requirements. This Standard Poodle is doing very well on this diet.

On July 31 a local park support group hosted an art and crafts sale at Spruce Point at Christopher Lake. I was an exhibitor and appreciated the work done by those volunteers. I enjoyed seeing many friends, the positive comments on my wood work items, and those who honoured me by purchasing some items. My wood working philosophy has been that I need to sell my old mistakes so I can afford to make new ones. This is actually very true. To get really good at an art one must learn over a lot of time and effort. However, if there is no outlet for current products there will be neither incentive nor resources to continue the learning experience. I am at the place where I would like to recall and destroy a lot of my early work as it is now an embarrassment to me. With good fortune I will still feel this way in years to come when I am thinking about what I make today.

I show some of my current work on my Recent Work gallery pages.

July 15, 2011 Full moon and Inipi day today. Yesterday we got 3 inches of rain.

Put a damper on day plans so I was able to continue work on a custom wedding gift order.

Edward has his first Saskatchewan haircut thanks to the help of my sister who does professional dog grooming in Prince Albert. He is still making happy adjustments to living out here and my delight with him grows each day. Here he is in a favourite spot where he can keep an eye on things going on in the yard. The photo was prior to his new haircut.

I was happy to host a pot-luck farewell gathering for two very good friends earlier this week. While I was able to welcome 36 guests and had set up for up to 42, it did make me wonder why it was that a guy living alone with a dog has a home and furnishings that can accommodate such a gathering. I guess it is a testimony to the flexibility I was able to design into my home and to my pack-rat tendencies which never sees me throw anything out. In any case, while I will miss my friends who are moving to Ontario, it was great to be able to have so many friends gather to wish them well and farewell.

June 8, 2011 Progress continues with me and Edward. I am now abe to let him off leash with quite a bit of confidence that he will stay close or come back on my call. I have not had him in pursuit of anything yet to test how he would respond under those circumstances, and I hope I have time for some more return training before that would happen. I am most happy with is his return to a normal healthy appetite. He is eating his food with gusto and is even willing to explore a bit. I still wonder what factors were operating during the nearly three weeks of very poor appetite. He had a rabies inoculation the day before he came to me and I wonder if that and the trauma of the relocation were causative factors.

I have been doing some work in the shop as well. I completed a custom box to be used as a wedding gift ( no photo), have added decoration to the second large memory box / chest, and also completed a custom item to be used for my High School reunion later this summer. Two bowls were turned green and with the way they were hollowed, the wood contracted and created an oval shaped bowl. They still need a bit of work on the interior to make them ready for use in a kitchen.

These items can be viewed in more detail on my Recent Work page


I have also finally done the conceptual work on a custom request for an altar for a school chapel. Although I am completely comfortable working from blue print drawings I know others find it hard to conceptualize a finished item from just the two-dimensional drawings, no matter how detailed and precise the scale used. As a result when working with others I find it useful to make a scaled three dimensional model. I had done this when refining the concept fort the Chapel furniture at St. Mary High School and now am doing so again for the current proposal.

May 26, 2011 This morning I finished off a special order "Memory Box / Chest." It is one of the largest that I have made in this style measuring 22 inches long, 13.5 inches deep, and 13 inches tall at the apex of the lid. I had not made any of these for a few years and it nearly seemed as if I was learning how to do it for the first time ... but not for long.

May 20, 2011 Spring winds are warm and the forest is greening, but the warm weather has also put the forest on extreme fire hazard alert. All open fires are banned in the entire forest area and near it. Campers in this area for the long weekend need to be prepared, and I genuinely hope that alcohol / drug - fuel led idiocy does not start fires to threaten all of us.

I have taken some time to work in the shop on some custom orders. I have completed 4 custom order cremation urns in Black Walnut with a walnut / birch and red cedar band . Although of the same pattern, the walnut grain of each is distinctive.

This is now my new friend and forest companion, Edward's, second week with me. He was with me in the shop watching my every move to the point that I imagined that if I stepped out he had seen enough to just continue with the construction underway. From a situation where he spooked at the sound of even the quietest motor a week before, he now appears totally comfortable. When I emerge I can take off my coverall to rid myself of most of the sawdust and clinging shavings and then just wash my hands and face. Not so with Edward, whose tight curly hair traps not only dust but also every wood particle that comes in contact with him. So on our return to the house he needed a brushing and a good shower. The following images were shortly after the shower and his hair is still damp. His proud and regal stance are always a delight to see.

May 14, 2011 We have warm winds at Friendly Forest , and since things have not greened up well yet, that means extreme fire hazard.

Last week I made a trip to Red Deer Alberta to Coronado Kennels to meet a 6 year, 5 month old black Standard Poodle named "Edward."

It was a long drive from here and I was not sure what I would find. Edward was not so sure of me either, and displayed his unwillingness to be with me in some most undeniable ways. Still, I saw in him a personality and spirit that I really do appreciate in dogs, and I also trusted June (The breeder) that this could be a good match, Edward and I.

I had planned to keep the week free of commitments which would take me away from home so that I could spend maximum time to support a new bonding process. I reasoned that pack animals will sleep together in a large den if possible, and that if we were going to become a new pack it might be a good idea for me to sleep as close to Edward as possible. So I took a mat and bedding and slept just inches from his crate door so he would get used to my smell and my breathing etc. By the next morning things had improved but we still had a long way to go. He has settled down and settled in in a wonderful way and I know that my instincts about his personality and mine matching seems to be right on. What an amazing animal.

I still miss King terribly, and I know that will not go, and that Edward will not replace that special relationship. That is why I wanted a dog that would be distinctly different than either King or Thrum. Each relationship deserves t o be on its own merits and not having to operate under constant comparisons.

In the coming week I will get back to work in the shop. Edward is unfamiliar with machine noises such as I have in the shop so I will have to either introduce him to that gently or keep him away from those sounds for the time being.

I have also been taking Edward along the forest trails here at Friendly Forest and he seems to really enjoy these walks and the sounds and smells that go with it. But I am also now fully aware of the damage done by the first wet snow we had last fall, and how it broke trees and bent many smaller shrubs down and across the paths. Last winter I had cut enough of them to permit snow shoe navigation, but things really need some serious work to bring it back to good walking trail condition.

Tuesday is also Full Moon and the day for my monthly Inipi. I am looking forward to that time again.

April 12, 2011 I have been cleaning in my shop and in doing so came across a rough cut piece of apple wood donated by a friend. I was tired of cleaning anyway, and it seemed like a good time to make a new mess by using the lathe to turn some bowls from the wood. It was irregular, from narrow to wider and thin to thick and a bit warped, so it did not seem like a good prospect for slicing into boards. I managed to get the maximum out of the wood and achieved a set of four bowls. The smallest, narrowest but deepest one seemed to ask for some accent to distinguish it so I turned a lid out of a small piece of Bloodwood that I had. The creamy sapwood and the high contrast heartwood made for very attractive pieces. I finished all four with bees wax. All four can be seen by clicking on the image of the small canister.

April 9, 2011 Spring is here and the snow is finally melting. At least where I am the melt is gradual and I have not seen signs of serious flooding yet as has been feared. I hope it works out OK.

It is now a week since I lost my best friend, There is a huge hole in my home and in my heart. We shared nearly every moment, day and night, for 13 years. He was a very intelligent and happy dog who always wanted to be near. When other dogs came to visit with their owners King would share his food and water bowl without any sign of protest (Perhaps he did not like the food I gave him that much in any case and was happy to see others eat it), but he was not willing to share me. When I took care of other people's dogs at various times King was not about to let them get signs of affection without deciding that he needed to set the record straight; I was his, no questions to be asked about that! The one reason the time with Elmo worked was that Elmo was willing to back off when King wanted to assert his ownership over me. At times it was funny, but it also felt good to be number one in some one else's life. I understood that and appreciated it and that is why there is such a huge hole here.

A week ago I went through the ashes and blackened coals of the cremation fire and separated the surviving bone fragments. Today, with the warmer weather, I washed off the ashes and placed the bones into a bag which I will later bury when the weather permits.

I find that I have been creating simple rituals and gestures relating to his death and to his remains, and would feel that something was not right if I had not done so. This reinforces for me the human need we have to ritualize our losses and grief. I understand that King had no need of any of that, but I did, and that is what funeral rites are about.

With the warmer weather I can also go out to my shop and not have to light a fire. I have several projects waiting my application and I decided that the shop was just too messy and cluttered to allow me to begin with a good mental state. I would have to do the dreaded thing of actually cleaning it up. Shudder!!! I will get it done, but cleaning up my own mess is my least favourite thing to do, be it in the kitchen or in the shop. I can tolerate a certain level of disorder, but there is a tipping point beyond which I must do something to rectify things.

I am known to say that we have two really wonderful seasons here; between snow and mosquitoes, and then between mosquitoes and more snow. We are entering on the first of those two periods. There will be signs of new life cascading onto the earth to the degree one cannot even keep up in one's awareness. I am in great need of that renewal experience after a long winter with too much illness and too many deaths. I know that living the Sacred Hoop will lead us through cycles of life and death, and that is of itself a good thing ,,, but experiencing the new life cycle is a much greater source of joy that the end of the cycle.

In our Christian cycle Easter is coming soon too, and that victory over death for all is a wonderful thing to celebrate.

A recent project in spalting birch and purpleheart wood.

April 1, 2011 This late winter has been a time of loss and separation for me. After about 6 weeks of dealing with my Mother's estate and things that come with that, This morning I was with my very best friend, King, as he died.

King has been failing for quite a while and the past few days the loss of capacity has been significant. Yesterday I debated about going to the funeral of a former confrere, Fr. Leo Hinz OSB and staying behind with King. I asked the spirit of his former owner, Wayne, to come and be with King while I was away. And I went to Humboldt, and then went through Watson to sort a few more things in my mother's house. On my return King clearly was getting close to the end, and I brought a mat and blanket to enable me to sleep by his side. That is why I was inches from him when he breathed his last breath at 06:30 this morning.

With each loss we are diminished even as with the presence of those in our lives, we had been enriched. The degree to which we have been enriched far exceeds the loss we know when they go to the other side.

By 08:00 I was lighting the match to return King's body to the earth which gave him life and which now takes back the elements of his body. I thank Wakan Tanka for the gift of his Spirit, and pray that that spirit which knew and gave so much love, might now also be fulfilled .

February 19, 2011 It has been a full month. My mother has been ill and died one week ago. The funeral Celebration was held in Holy Guardian Angel's Parish in Englefeld. All surviving members of our family except two grandchildren and the great grandchildren were able to attend.

My mother had kept a journal over the years since my father's death and it contains special messages for the family. For family members who have been unable to open the pdf attachment I have sent to them, please contact me directly and I will find a way of getting it to you. I also have it on much larger scanned image files that would require download to a CD or flash drive. if you are planning to make your own print pages you might want higher resolution files.

January 19, 2011 Today is another full moon and the day for Inipi prayer at Friendly Forest. This morning it was a daunting situation with the thermometer reading minus 28 degrees Celsius and with a wind making wind chill even lower. As I lay under warm covers and it was still dark outside, my mind started to consider ways of making the experience easier on myself; perhaps I could do much of the ceremony indoors ... perhaps if I waited it would warm up more .... since no one else was expected to arrive to take part in the ceremony today, perhaps I could postpone it all together?

Well, I dressed up and went out and started to prepare the Sacred Fire, and then added the Tunkas and the additional wood. When I climbed the hill to go to my shop to get two pails of wood shavings to help start the fire the extra exertion of the climb had me breathing harder and taking in colder air into my lungs. No a good plan. So I paused and caught my breath and resumed breathing through my nose instead of through my mouth. Hey, there was nothing that said I needed to sprint up the hill!

As I type these observations the fire materials are ready to have a match strike the flame, and I have inserted an interior car warmer at the end of a long extension cord and it is adding some warm air to the Initi itself so it will not be totally frozen when I go in later.

I stopped and checked my emails and found the monthly "Straight Goods " Newsletter there. There was a short article by Richard Wagamese. It was about "How an Indian Prays", and had the key phrase "Always ask for nothing, she said. Just give thanks for what's already here. It's how an Indian prays."

I had come across earlier versions of that same directive and have found that it is indeed a good way to pray. When I begin to think about what I already have and start to give thanks I am overwhelmed with the realization of the incredible goodness of Creator, and the sure knowledge that I do not need to ask for anything other than the love which has been so fully manifested to me. I might ask for good things to happen to others but I really have no need to ask for more for myself. When I do start to ask for good things to happen to others I am also then in tune with thoughts about how I might be asked to be that helping hand of Creator for those very things.

An "attitude of gratitude" has been said to be the formula for a happy life, and it is indeed true. On the same vein, another wag said that there are two kinds of people, happy ones and miserable ones. The happy ones look at what they have and give thanks, the miserable ones consider what they do not have and feel cheated and deprived an so are unhappy. The glass half full or half empty thing. I do not believe that these core attitudes are simply a matter of a person choosing to be one way or the other. We have pre-dispositions to be one way or the other that come from our genetics, our upbringing, our education and from what we have learned along the way. Depression or optimism are often how we have been cast in life, and are parts of the package we are asked to use in creative ways. It is probably true also that how I am for another can influence how that person sees his. her own world, and so it is my responsibility to be a "good" element of their experience so that they can know the love of Creator through a sharing of the gifts that I have been given.

Such reflections often form part of the second "door: of the Inipi prayer, and it looks as if I have a good head start on it and need not reflect on how cold it might be when I go to bring the rocks into the womb of Earth Mother.

It is a good way to begin the New Year.

December 24, 2010 Today is a busy day with final preparations for a Christmas Day celebration at Friendly Forest. However, the frosted trees have made this such a fantasy land that I took a few photos on December 22 and wanted to post them to share a bit of the beauty that surrounds me each day. On Christmas day the table at Friendly Forest will seat either 12 or 14 people whose presence in friendship is another version of the beauty that surrounds us as we are gift to each other . And as the creatures of Earth are gift to each of us, we are called to be respectful of that gift, and live so that we too have that kind of relationship to our fellow creatures. Christmas is the celebration of Incarnation in Christian tradition which borrowed so many images from Solstice celebrations of the ancient world. It was a good tradition to borrow from, and we can remember that the Incarnation was part of a redemptive action for all of Creation, not just for people. As it was the Word which breathed the Spirit to make all that has been made, so it was the Word which became flesh to renew all of that same creation. And so we rejoice together. Merry Christmas / Happy Solstice to all my friends.

Solstice was celebrated in a great way at Friendly Forest. It followed on a full eclipse of the moon which was in its fullest display of the hidden presence of the sun on the other side of our earth planet. At Friendly Forest I watched most of the eclipse and then sent to bed at about 02:30 so I would be ready for the Inipi Celebration / Prayer to be held here the following day. I had three friends join with me and our prayers rose to Creator in many languages; English, German. Cree, Dakota, and others e xpressed in song and word. A wonderful meal of shared food completed the celebration.

November 30, 2010 Yesterday I was able to visit with Rigmor Clarke, a landscape painter who lives south of Shell Lake Saskatchewan. I consider her a good friend and I am a huge fan of her paintings and attitudes toward life. Once again, she presented me with a wood working challenge. This time it is to build a replica of an old-style grandfather clock.

I also completed a five-unit series of gift packages. They consist of a cedar wood box that holds a rolling pin and a pastry cloth. The rolling pin is of birch wood and the box top and bottom are Baltic Birch on which I have added images of Friendly Forest flora using my pyrographic tools.

All five units can be viewed on the Recent Gallery Page.

At this time of year we are only three weeks from Winter Solstice and our daytime sunlight is very muted. Although our human eyes make the adjustments, the camera lens does not make such compensations. Yesterday morning it was overcast and things look like this:

November 25, 2010 We have a morning with minus 29 degrees Celsius again and that makes it a good morning to keep the wood fire well stoked and to finally take a "relaxin" attitude. I had obtained a Blueray disc of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, London Calling, Live in Hyde Park. I have it on now and am really happy with that purchase. There are a few rock stars whose work I really appreciate, and Bruce Springsteen has been near the top of my list for many years now (we are both long in the tooth now). In fact, this is the only rock musician that caught my interest enough to read two Springsteen biographies.

I like his lyrics and the melodies as well as the incredible energy he brings to both live and recorded pieces. Sometimes the energy seems subdued and low key, but even then I pick up on intensity that I find in very few others. To the Boss, my hat is off to you!

With the onset of winter and rather deep initial snow, breaking trail on my snow shoe paths is going to be a bit more work than some years. The regular snow shoes I use are a bit short for soft deep snow so I invested in a larger pair. This time I also purchased a set of "gaiters" to help keep snow from getting into my shoes and from forming ice packs on the back of my pant legs as the warmth of skin against fabric and the dusting of snow generates a rather unpleasant ice experience.

The early snow started with rain and wet snow that froze to trees and shrubs. The added weight of subsequent snow fall has weighted many trees and shrubs down beyond their capacity to remain upright and sections of path are crossed by overlapping trees and shrubs. Over the next while I will take along a large saw and pruning shears to re-establish open walking zones for the rest of the winter. Additional trail work will be needed next spring since trees and shrubs once bent over and frozen like this are not likely to recover their former upright positions. So, already my work agenda for next spring is being filled in!

November 22, 2010 Winter has settled in with a good storm and cold weather. I got to see the storm from the vantage point of a car on the highways last week Thursday as I made my way to where my mother lives. It was right in the pocket where the storm made visibility less than a few car lengths. It was scary and I was very relieved to be able to turn off into the town where I was going.

On my return late Saturday I was fortunate to be able to drive in to my garage despite the snow accumulation on my driveway. I was able to leave the snow blowing and shovelling till Sunday morning. When that was done, I headed off for Sunday services. On my return I had to get the fire ready for the Inipi ceremony I was able to conduct in the evening. November 21 was once again, the day of full moon. When the thermometer registers minus 23 degrees C., the heat from the rocks brought into the Lodge is most welcome and truly reminds me of how the gifts of Creator , including the gifts of the Sun and its light and heat, are present to us even in the coldest and darkest times of the winter, and how the trees have captured that energy and are ready to release it so that "the people may live."

Coming in to the house for the post -ceremony feast the food we were able to share also was a wonderful testimony of gifts from the summer winds and the earth being present to us during the lean months. Modern electricity and deep freezers certainly help in that process!

I have been working on a few custom projects, (still have one to go), and then hope to be able to settle down for some long-delayed reading time.

Custom tray in birch and padauk woods. Pyrographic images with aniline dye colour additions.

Tray which is intended for my own use here at Friendly Forest.

A cedar cabinet made to customer's specifications. Panels are laminated cedar boards with dove-tail corners. The cabinet doors have full-through mortice and tenons and have a glass pane insert. The knotty cedar is was given aTeak oil finish.

Prayer flags from various Inipi times which hang on an Aspen tree as a continuation of the prayers we earth-bound creatures send upward to Creator. Tying the prayer flag to a tree represents our continuing prayer and is a reminder to me that this is what I am called to do. When Spring arrives all such" prayer reminders" will be taken down and given to a fire.

A Blue Jay and a much smaller Chickadee rest on the branches of an Aspen tree near my window. Both birds had been at my feeder and their silhouette stand out against the winter snows on the ice and on the trees on the other side of the pond. The Beaver Lodge, home of my neighbours, now also lies white under the winter snows.

October 25, 2010 It rained most of Sunday and Monday, and then, overnight, the temperatures dropped and we woke to snow and wind when morning came. The snow and wind have continued all day but we have not had the extremes witnessed in other parts of Saskatchewan .

On Sunday evening I hosted a house concert featuring two really great artists from Prince Albert; Laurent Fournier and his daughter, Megan Fournier-Mewis. Laurent's guitar virtuosity and Megan's incredible voice brought us a sweeping range of music and song styles that moved all of us. There was a joy in the music and the artists which swept into those who had come to enjoy the evening.

My house capacity for an event like this is about 40 people, and though things were miserable outside, the smiles on those who walked in with delicious desserts to be shared, were infectious and a good indicator of the good time we all had.

Thank you Laurent and Megan. It was a great delight for all.

During the days preceding the concert I applied my efforts to de-cluttering my house and doing some late summer / fall cleaning. I should do this more often with no more motivation than to have a home that is more enjoyable because it is more in order.

The great weather we had for most of October allowed me to complete nearly all of the outside tasks that I had to do. A few things still need attention but if winter is really here in full force, they can wait till spring.

King, my canine friend made me get up three times last night to let him out. I suspect it was more to explore the snow than it was to relieve himself. When ever I start to get irritated about being woke up and having to let him out and in again, I quickly remember that I will not have that opportunity for much longer, and that I need to accept that as part of having the delight of his companionship for a little while longer.

Once things got a bit brighter outside I took my camera to capture two images taken through the windows of my house; one over the pond and one out to the parking area near the house. Later I dug out my snow boots and snow shovels and cleared a path to my wood pile and then brought in firewood to fill the wood box for a few days use.

Even the beaver seem to have hunkered down for the winter

I will need to clean out my garage so that I can actually get my car inside so I do not have to deal with the kind of snow clearing that is awaiting me before I can get to the road.

October 17, 2010 I am starting to slow down a bit as most of the major pre-winter tasks are complete or at least under control. The weather has continued to bless us with generally warm days and clear skies.

I hosted a Thanksgiving dinner and I enjoyed having my friends to celebrate the day.

I finished hauling the last of the cut firewood down to a place near the house. Much still needs to be split and stacked so it will season better next summer. With the aspen wood I find that a winter and summer season is generally enough to allow the excess moisture to leave the wood.

I climbed onto the roof of the house and cleaned the chimney and pipes. I even managed to go into the area of the forest where I harvested the firewood and clear away the limbs that were trimmed. They too will need a year or so to dry before they can be safely burned. Since I live in the forest zone, open fires are only permitted between November 1 and March 31.

Some corners of the house have also been getting another cleaning / clearing. I will be hosting a house concert on October 24, and that is a good incentive to have things neat and uncluttered. I am especially bad about hoarding books , papers and magazines. I reluctantly tossed political material from nearly 10 years ago and even things older than that from my first retirement years. I am sure that in some corners I could find materials from my time as a teacher or school administrator.

I received a call from one of my own high school classmates letting me know of plans for the 50th reunion of our high school graduating class. Wow! That is a strong dose of reality.

This morning I also picked off the final tomatoes from the plants in my greenhouse. They really are not growing any more, and it does not pay to try to add heat to avoid the impact of sub-zero evenings. We have been most fortunate in that we have only had a few, and then the temperatures were still not really cold..

Friday, the 22nd is full moon and the day I will take for the Inipi ceremony here at Friendly forest. I look forward to taking that day for reflection and the special prayers.

October 1, 2010 Fall is definitely here at Friendly Forest, and we have had a continuation of some really wonderful weather. I have been trying to take advantage of it while not presuming on it.

I have taken down the tipi at Eagle Camp, hauled the canvas home and have used a pressure washer to clean it. The extended periods of rain and high humidity had allowed a thin layer of green algae to grow on the canvas surface, giving the tipi a green tint , especially on the East and North sides where there was less drying opportunity. The good news is that this was just a surface growth which has not affected the canvas itself. It washes off very well. The tipi has an 18 foot diameter when set up, and that makes the covering canvas a very large piece. Laying it out for washing and then drying took a good part of the parking space I have near the house. There was enough sun and a slight wind to dry the canvas so I could fold and store it. Last year, by contrast I waited till after our Thanksgiving to take the tipi down, and then had to drag it into the house and slowly fold and refold it to let it dry out. That process took over a week to accomplish.

I also used up the last of the cement I had to make concrete. The crawl space under the house has an area that had sloped, open earth . I had not managed to properly cover it with vapour barrier when I was building the house and the slope would have caused a gravel cover to slide off. So I knew that eventually I would have to do what I am now doing; I am surfacing the vapour barrier with a few inches of concrete. The space requires the construction of some vertical walls as well as sloped areas, and that meant an incremental approach to the task. For me that allowed my body to adjust over a period of time.

I was mixing the concrete in my parking space, dumping the mix into a wheelbarrow, bringing that down to the house, shovelling the concrete into strong pails, dragging these into the mechanical room where I have the opening to the crawl space, and then lowering the pails into that space (about 6 feet deep at that point), and then crawling down a ladder after the concrete and spreading it , and then resurfacing and doing it all over again, and over again, and over again and over again.

It would have been simpler to do with two people, one operating above and the other in the crawl space, but that was not an option for me.

I have also started to get my firewood supplies for the winter of 2011-2012. I have to fell aspen trees that have started to die or are near the end of their growth period, bucking them into stove lengths, and then splitting and stacking and getting it under cover to cure for a year before use. Since the base of many of these trees is 12 inches or more, and they are green, they are heavy! I actually delight in the fact that my aging body still can do this kind of work, even if muscle aching and arthritis problems in my hands are somewhat limiting.

I know others my age who can no longer do this kind of work, and others my age who have already died.

There are many things to recall as I prepare for a Thanksgiving celebration later this month.

September 22, 2010

September 13, 2010 The forest is changing in preparation for winter. The birch trees seem to be losing leaves before other trees. Perhaps they are determined to not be caught by real winter as was the case last year. Aspen trees, with few exceptions, seem to be clinging to the green growth patterns. Probably the heavy rains this summer and fall have encouraged that response. It is now mid September and although the temperatures overnight have dipped very low, they have not yet produced a killing frost. I took precautions lat night and covered two garden plots where I still have some things growing, but I know that will only help for a short while if the temperatures continue to chill.

With a week of rain I did more shop work and have completed three series of boxes and two cremation urns. Although they are not yet finished in all details, the basic work is complete. Again, I have posted the full images on my Recent Work Gallery page.

On another topic, I will soon need to put up firewood for the 2011-2012 season. I am negotiating for some extra help with this, and I also need to acquire a supply of stones to be used in the Inipi prayer ceremonies during the winter. There are a lot of things to get done and I hope that my body and the weather cooperate.

September 23 is full moon again and the day I plan to lead this special prayer time at Friendly Forest. I always look forward to these special days.

September 8, 2010 After a short period of rather decent weather the rains have come back to be the bane of our desperate farmers. When rain and a bad summer cold / flu come to Friendly Forest, I tend to spend un seasonal time in my shop and do work with wood. I have posted some work from the past few weeks on the Recent Work Gallery page.

(Mary Lou, if you check this, you can get a preview of the two pieces you requested me to make.)

My inventory of boxes was also getting low and I have had a few requests along those lines, so I have started a few series of box units. At various stages of construction and finishing, they are not yet ready to be photographed for this site.

When I needed to take my computer to Saskatoon to have the hard drive replaced ( it works just fine now), I had about 5 hours to spend at Waneskewin Heritage Park just outside of Saskatoon. Last week I got an opportunity to return with a group tour from Prince Albert and area. The day also included a visit to the Batoch National Historic Site. I enjoyed both visit times and was very impressed by the gentle courtesy of the staff at both locations. You were helpful and open and considerate.

Now that Waneskewin has re-opened after extensive renovations, it is well deserving of a return visit even if you have been there before. I especially enjoyed the Portraits of the North and the Allan Sapp gallery shows.

As fall come to Friendly Forest the trees are changing colour and leaves are dropping. Under story plants are showing their pale yellows and brilliant reds in contrast to the dark browns and deep greens of other ground cover. This rapid change of seasons reminds me of my journey on the Sacred Hoop of this life, and the knowledge that my seasons are rapidly advancing as well. Just as each annual season has its special delights and gifts, so too the seasons of our life. There are way too many good things to experience now to regret things that are no longer here.

My dog friend King is still with me though his 17 years are really showing in his physical limitations. Because of reduced mobility I am leaving him at home more often when I leave home for shorter periods. He does not appreciate that, and the first thing he does on my return is sniff my pants to see if I have been with another dog. If his nose suggests I have been spending time with some other four-footed friend, he will stick close to me for at least a half a day ... much more than is the case if I have not had contact with another dog during my absence from home. I am not sure if his response would be equivalent to "jealousy" in humans, but it seems to have similarities. There is always danger in anthropomorphizing animal behaviours, and while it may not be that dogs are like humans, I remember that dogs and humans are social animals, and our social evolutionary paths are very likely to have created similar behaviour patterns... and so, it is not that dogs are like people, or people like dogs, but that we both have "pack" / "social" behaviour patterns within our collective genetics.


August 8, 2010 Recent work:

July 31, 2010 Tomorrow there will be a sale of art works at Spruce Point on Christopher Lake. I will set up there and offer many of my more recent works for public viewing and potential sale. Since it is out-doors, we all hope for the rain to refrain from coming during those hours...

I have been having startup problems with my iMac computer over the past weeks, and all previous attempts to resolve things with the assistance of the Apple tech people, has failed. The next step may be to do a complete erase and reinstall operation. I have been told that then I will be asked to not restore my programs and software for a few days to see how things work at that stage. Then if things are OK, to reload the programs and see if the start - up issue resume or not. The risk is that if the problem resides in somewhere in my data, that would bring it back. To this point a re-install has not done anything good. A disk diagnostic says the disk is fine, and the problem is only at initial start up after a night of shut-down. Since the issues arose after I downloaded the latest update SnowLeopard 10.6.4, I am assuming the issue resides there.

So for a while I may not have access to my email archives etc, and may not be able to carry on normal communications with my contacts.

July 20, 2010 During the past week I was again privileged to be able to attend a Sundance experience. I was only able to attend for a few hours for each day, but those hours were wonderful times for reflection and prayer. I have a great respect for the organizers, for the dancers and their families. They undergo great sacrifice in support of "the people". The weather was too hot or too cold and the distress that adds to the fasting and sacrifices of the dancers must have been significant. On the remote chance that anyone responsible for the experience reads this, I say a genuine thank you, and the assurance that my prayers were there in support of the things for which you prayed.

I have transitioned the software that I use to maintain this web site from my older Windows OS to my Mac OS. When I got my Mac computer I installed a Virtual Machine and moved over the entire hard drive from my older PC. That allowed me to keep my older software and other things that required a PC Windows environment to work. Subsequently I also obtained Adobe's CS3 suite of programs designed for the MAC OS. That included a new Dreamweaver. However, I failed to take the time to learn how to move over my web site files to the new Dreamweaver and continued to maintain it from the VM. That wasted a lot of time. I would download photos from my camera into my MAC and manipulate them using software there, and then move them to the VM and into the Site files, and then update the web site from there.

Then the other week I started a web site for some friends and used the new Dreamweaver on my MAC. That was the incentive I needed to deal with my own web site. Then I also ran into problems; I followed instructions to create an export file from my VM Windows Dreamweaver program, but for reasons I could not figure out, it would not move over to my MAC desktop. Searches for answers on the Adobe site and on general Google searches did not provide any answers that worked for me. Finally I just created a "new" site definition and connected to my web site files on my remote Server in Prince Albert. And then proceeded to download all of the files from there. That took over three hours and confirmed for me how large my site had become. But it seemed to work and I can now do things from one program source. Nice! It is at times like this that I recognized the limitations of being totally self-taught on these computer issues.

July 5, 2010  Today was supposed to be a day with work outside.  The sun was out and the skies wonderful .. for the first few hours and then the skies rained again.  Consequently I started a new web site  on behalf of a few friends who want  a forum in which to express  eco-left perspectives and analysis.

After a bit of frustration  resulting from not remembering all of the  initial  set-up and connection protocols, I did manage to get things started.  At one stage I got up to refill my coffee cup and looked out of my window: 

I got my camera and took a few more images;

These beautiful forest creatures are two of the excuses I have for not having much of a garden this summer.  Before they became aware of me watching them, they were  enjoying  an early lunch in my garden plots.

On Canada Day I invited friends and neighbours to join in a pot-luck celebration.  Soon my guest list had expanded to 28 persons and that necessitated me dragging out  two extra tables and chairs from my storage area.  I am happy that I planned for  the open / flexible space on the upper level of my home.  this allowed all 28 to be seated at tables in the same  area near the kitchen where all the very delicious  food was laid out.

The left-over food  was put to good use as the following day I  was joined by  the family of a friend who had died earlier in the week.  I listened to their stories  about  an incredible lady, Joyce, and then,  after they left I  scrambled to  piece these stories together into a Eulogy that was delivered at the funeral service the following day.

The family also honoured me by selecting a cremation urn from me.  They asked me to add her name and a red rose, and during the funeral service I came to better understand why the rose was  the proper image for the urn.





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