December 20, 2012 For those who are interested and did not get my generic Christmas letter, you can view it here as a PDF document by clicking here.
Edward; just waiting and watching and figuring out every move I am making. Edward had his 8th birthday in November. To help him celebrate I had my sister give him an early-winter haircut. He loves the attention of females of any species! Thank you Carol.
Still watching as he always does. Since May 2011 when he came to live with me, Edward has changed from a very dominant dog who was not very happy to accept me as the resident Alpha, to a most attentive and responsive companion who has taken command of the entire forest area here.
Hoar frost and light fluffy snow flakes cover trees and forest floor. My mother used to tell us that when there was hoar frost on trees, that meant a very wet period 6 months in the future. I recall her marking the wall calendar faithfully in the winter months but I never remember her checking that calendar 6 months later to see if the prediction actually was accurate. If it works that way, we will have another wet summer ahead.
October 30, 2012 It has been a while since I last added to this page. That usually means that things have been very busy or that not too many things of interest have been happening here in the forest.
To back up; September had wonderful summer-like weather with a prolonged period of leaf colour change since we did not get a "killing frost" here until the beginning of October. This is a full 6 weeks later than seems to be normal for where I live. Greenhouse and garden products were abundant and tasty.
I was able to enjoy visitors to Friendly Forest and even got a few things done around the place ... and then October came!
I recorded the first snow on October 4 and the weather became cool, wet and frequently white. While I had this winter's wood supply split and stacked and under cover in September, I needed to get in a supply for the following winter. The resident Beaver family have been very active taking down a large number of good healthy Aspen trees, and that afforded a lot of wood that deserved to be salvaged. Getting to where they had been dropped was a bit more difficult, and dragging out heavy green blocks of aspen over soft ground, roots and fallen logs etc was hard work and risky work for old bones and muscles. I remind myself that my bones have lost their ability to bounce when I fall. And while it was very hard physical work, I rejoiced in my capacity to still do so. In the evenings when my whole body hurt I could be happy that there was no one place hurting more than the others, indicating that I had not really injured myself during the day.
Working in snow slush with wet and slippery wood is not my idea of fun, but eventually things got done.
At this time we have received a real dump of snow that will not be going away till next spring.
During the days when outside work was not possible I worked in the shop on jobs that needed to be done there. I show a few of those items on my Custom Work Page .
I was honoured when asked to provide help to a local Metis family as they made preparations to bury a really great lady. Some years back that same lady and her family had sought my assistance in helping them prepare to say a final good-bye to one of her sons who had died. Before her death she had asked her children to have a similar service for her.
What I find really disturbing is that after hundreds of years of First Nations-European contact, there does not seem to be a ritual / Liturgy for burials that reflects the traditions and beliefs of both cultures. In my mind that comes from the absolute arrogance and disrespect of the Euro-Christians for the Native peoples of North America. While there are exceptions to such a blanket condemnation, the exceptions again prove the rule. If early Christianity had the same attitudes and practices that Euro-Christians brought to North America, I suspect that Christianity would never have become more than a strange and short-lived Jewish sect in Jerusalem.
Yesterday was another day of Full Moon. It is the day when I lead the Inipi / Sweat ceremony here at Friendly Forest. It was a good day to pray in this way.
I admit to having become addicted to following the political scene in the USA. I watch it with astonishment, revulsion, and fear that this is the kind of system the power-elites seem to want for Canada as well. Watching the process south of the border might be entertaining if the consequences were not so huge for many Americans, and people all over the world. Love it or hate it, the USA is still the single nation state that has the greatest impact on the world today. Soon we will all learn what the election outcome will be. Perhaps we can do more than just watch; we can pray.
Aug 20, 2012 This summer has been going well for me at Friendly Forest. A few evenings past two young (2-year-old) bears walked through the yard by the house. I assumed they were siblings) They had been feeding on some apples on my apple trees and had moved on to investigate the garden. They looked well fed with black shiny hair. I had Edward in the house and was not interested in a confrontation. I opened and slammed the door a few times to see how they would react. They ran off down the road and into the forest .... exactly the hoped-for outcome. It is the brazen ones that I do not want around. They must have been finding lots of food as they did not even eat all of the apples.
In the forest and along my walking trails I can find large mounds of bear scat just loaded with berry pits and seeds. They have been after the chokecherries and pin cherries and when I find a tree leaning or bent over I try to push it upright again hoping that the supportive roots have not been damaged by the bears dragging it to the ground so they can get at the berries nearer the top of the trees.
Yesterday was also a sad day as I lost another good friend to the attack of an aggressive cancer growth. I have lost too many people who are important in my life. I do not know who said this, and I am likely messing the thought up somewhat, but the statement that I recall went like this: "Each man's death diminishes me." Those I knew and who were an important part of my life; their death is an obvious loss in that I can no longer receive support and spiritual nourishment from their spirits in the ways that I have in the past. The potential for further growth to me from contact with them is ended. While I recognize this to be the case with loved ones, it is no less true when the person who died was lesser known to me or even unknown to me.
The life and goodness of our Creator resides in and animates all to whom it has been given. That life force is also a life-giving force, and I have benefited from that outpouring of goodness from my Creator through my fellow creatures.
I can only hope and pray that this positive and life-giving energy does continue in all of us, myself included, who have benefited from the lives of those now gone to the other side. We also hope and pray that since we have been called to live longer on this earth, that we are still called and challenged to also be a positive life force to all around us, and thereby be the presence of Creator in our worlds. As a death diminishes each of us, it also challenges each of us to fill the gap, so to speak, and continue to be the goodness that we have received. (Sounds like the Gospel story of yesterday's church service: John; 6, 51-58.)
It is also the anniversary of the death of Jack Layton, and I believe that is the awareness his passing gave to many Canadians.
We have had some warm weather last week and I was clearing some shrubs from along the road into my place. It was hard work and I was perspiring profusely. Once the hat I wore was soaked, the perspiration made its way down my forehead and dripped into my eyes. Often the salt stung and blinded me, forcing me to stop and wipe my eyes. As I did so I was very aware of the benefit of having a full head of hair (which I no longer have). The hair will hold and redirect the perspiration. In the earlier days of human kind that would have been most essential during a hunt or trek. Perhaps that is why evolution allowed hair loss to happen to older men who no longer were that vital to a hunt in any case....
I have updated the gallery showing recent wood work.
Aug 09, 2012 Unlike the dominant weather pattern for the centre of North America, where hot weather and drought dominate, we have been getting more than normal rainfall and reasonable temperatures. The rather frequent rainfall has curtailed some of the outdoor activities I had planned to do and have shifted energies to shop work. I have posted some recent work here
I continue to be amazed at the transformation I am seeing in my friend Edward. After he came to live with me in May 2011 he had some real adjustments to make, as also did I. Looking back on things I better understand just how difficult it has been for him to relinquish the role of Alpha and accept that it is OK and even very good to let someone else assume that role in our home space. There have been some situations that have stood out for me as indicative of that change. One was the situation I illustrated in previous entries where he spent the night under warm covers when we were at Eagle Camp in early May. More recently we have been having a series of thunderstorms that have left him just quaking and extremely anxious. I found that he calmed down when I got him onto my bed and pulled covers entirely over his head creating a secure cave to shelter him from the storms outside. During the days after such events he sticks very close by my side, even moving from one side of a room to the other to be closer.
When I do trail work Edward loves to come along and seek out and harass squirrels and other wildlife, but when my power tools are shut down, soon he comes running down the path to locate me, only to move off again when the power tools restart. I am quite happy that he keeps a safe distance when the units are operating. it is safer for him and for me.
Visitors to Friendly Forest still present Edward with some concern. He is excited by a visitor and now settles down much sooner than before, and then takes a location right next to me. Only if the visit is longer and obviously boring for him, does he find a comfortable chair or sofa to rest on while watching all that unfolds around him.
He has me rather well trained. From a morning food routine to sharing of food to rather frequent cuddle and petting sessions where he perches beside my chair or leg when standing and waits for the signs of appreciation for him from me. Where the early impressions he gave me were of a strong dominant dog quite happy to watch over his kingdom and its inhabitants, he now shows he is a happy, active dog loving tender signs of affection and praise. He is at my side 24/7 unless I need to keep him at home when i head to town or church and it would not be safe for him to be in the car. He loves travel. I use a leash only when company arrives and I sense he is nervous or unsure, and then only till he relaxes. I have no concerns about him running off even when he seems to disappear into the forest. He will be close at hand and a call will bring him leaping out of the trees to see what I am up to. It is a huge change to his lifestyle but one he has made a happy adjustment t .I am blessed again by the presence of a wonderful friend.
July 15, 2012 Today we have respite from hot weather. We long for the advent of summer and when it does come we are not well prepared for temperatures that approach 40 degrees C. with the humid ex in consideration.
The hot weather with lightening storms at night has started forest fires further north and the winds have brought smoky air that settles over the pond and over the land. Driving affords a layered view of the landscape with near elevations in better detail and distance tree lines a pale blue-grey, much like the effect of high moisture when driving in mountains.
The very high water in the pond at Friendly Forest has supported a lush growth of reeds and grasses right by the house. Both beaver and muskrat come in to grab bunches which are then delivered back to the lodge. The only thing that is saving the trees near my house is the fact that a few years back I created steel wire skirts for quite a few trees.
In my garden I have a bed of sweet grass and yarrow and another that features a lush growth of wild Bee Balm and Giant Blue Hyssop along with some Buffalo Sage. In addition to being very attractive to our eyes, the pollinating insects love them and shortly I will harvest many of them to replenish my medicine supplies. In years past I relied only on wild growth areas, but some of the places where I used to harvest these plants are no longer available or highway crews mow them down before they have a chance to blossom. I transplanted a few and they have thrived here, and assure me at least a few for my annual harvest.
I observed Summer Solstice with a day of prayer and ceremony at the Sacred Hoop Trail, renewing the cardinal points with gifts and renewing the marker prayer flags as well. It was a good day and there were only a few mosquitoes to distract me from my reflections and tasks. I preceded that with a trip throughout the forest to gather up prayer flags from the previous year. I brought them home and gave them to the fire. The Initi also got a good cleaning and a renewal of the flags that hang in there.
During the wet days we had a few weeks back, I undertook to clean and paint walls in my home that had not been touched in over 20 years. I actually found a few places behind doors and in a few corners where I had never even applied primer paint. That was another declaration of my willingness to build but my great reluctance to do finishing work. I do admit that those walls look better, but over the years there was always something that seemed more pressing and more enjoyable to do. That kind of procrastination is possible only because I have had no one here to insist that I get the job done. My dog friends did not seem to mind it at all and my guests have been too polite to bring it up .
June 22, 2012 Over the past days I have been dealing with old and new elements in my life, with happy and sad, with memories and new experiences. The weather has reflected the volatility of this time.
On June 19 I made preparations for my annual renewal of the Sacred Hoop Trail, and was able to get in trail maintenance and clearing for over half of my trail system. At the end of that my aching body seemed to be in need of some renewal of its own. Recently I found out that one friend has been making a remarkable improvement in his fight with an aggressive brain tumour, while another lost his battle with lung cancers. I celebrated the delights of my new friendship with my dog Edward while I finally buried the cremains of my former former dog King.
I took time on the day of summer solstice to renew the Initi and the yard, and spent the first half of that day renewing and feeding the Sacred Hoop trail at Friendly Forest. That was followed the next day by a round trip by car to accomplish the final actions required of me as the Executor of my deceased mother's will.
This morning I burned the prayer flags that I had gathered from the trees on which they had been hanging over the past year. There were a lot of them! As they represent the prayers of many visitors and friends and also the special prayer intentions I had over the past year, it was a good time to reflect on how Creator and Creator's Spirit Helpers have been in our lives . A simple whispered "Thank You" is so inadequate as an expression of what we give for all that we have received, but it is all that we really have to give, and all that is asked of us to give.
May 25, 2012 Some images from the 4 days spent at Eagle Camp:
Edward was with me for that time. It was his first time staying at Eagle Camp and he did very well. He explored territory but was very content staying in the Tipi, especially when it got cool at night. When I let the fire die down the evenings were very cool, and Edward found comfort under the Bison robe. (June you should be very proud of this wonderful gift from Coronado Kennels.)
Eagle Camp Tipi with washstand in front, and the wheelbarrow that hauled things out there.
Over the years I have replaced the open fire pit with a small cast iron stove with a short 4 foot long pipe. It burns much less fuel and is more efficient and the smoke exits the tipi more efficiently. For anyone who plans to use a tipi in cool or cold weather and wants a fire, I would recommend this option. I have added a rain cap with a mesh spark stop to the rain cap and that adds to my own sense of security with a fire in the living space. In the photo you can see the concrete collar that I had poured to contain the fire when it was an open fire.
Finally deciding to get up for a new day...
On alert near the East Gate smudge stand.
The Waluta made back in 2004 stood guard again and reminded me of what I was trying to achieve.
May 20, 2012 This year I have been able to resume my practice of undertaking a four-day "fast" as part of my efforts at spiritual growth. The first of these was 8 years ago during my Hanblechyapi / Vision Quest. At that time the fast was strict with no food or water for the duration, and though I did not know what was happening at the time, I experienced some rather severe kidney distress due to the dehydration. I learned, and in subsequent years I do take some liquids to avoid that outcome, arguing that the experience is to be about prayer, not wrecking the body.
I understand the practice of giving a gift when one seeks to receive something; like offering tobacco when asking to collect some plant medicine or any other gift we receive from the earth or from one another. When we turn to our Creator and ask for some help and we give only what we have already received as a gift from the earth, it may be good, and it may represent us, but it is not really from the core of who we are. Only when we give of ourselves are we giving that which is more integral to our spiritual quests. In this regard fasting has been a global and multi-cultural expression of that personal effort. The sacrifice of a Sun Dancer is also a more specific expression of that willingness to give to Wakan Tanka / Creator / God what is "of us" as we ask for help for others who are in need.
It is in my understanding that one can ask for spiritual and even physical help or healing for oneself, but most often, the gift of self inherent in the sacrifice, is for the benefit of others, for "Oyate", for the community.
A simple cursory refection of my situation shows me that I am already the recipient of unwarranted and wonderful gifts. My prayer is one of gratitude and one of asking for the gifts of Bear and Thunderbird, to bring Creator's healing powers to so many friends who are seriously ill.
I recall a distinction attributed to Frank Fools Crow, between "healing" and "curing". The attribution says that "healing" is essentially coming to the awareness of the infinite and incredible love that our Creator has for each of us individually, and that it is a love to which we can surrender all of our concerns and in which we can have full trust. When "healing" has happened, it may also be followed by a "cure" of the illness, but not always. When one is able to fully surrender in the profound trust in Creator's love, then the body too is freed from all negative attitude and can seek to cure itself, with or without the intervention of medicines etc.
I have always found that insight to be a very helpful one, and while we hope for and pray for "cures" for our friends, we most especially pray for their "healing".
For anyone reading this, while I am on this fast, or at any other time, pause for a moment. Reflect on the great gifts that you have received, and so know more deeply the fact that you are loved ... and so you too will experience true healing.
My friend Edward accompanies me at Eagle Camp in Friendly Forest. The nights have been cold and damp, and he has found it wise to also seek shelter under the fur of Brother Bison. I will post a few photos later.
To my friends Ken and John, I thank you for your ongoing concern about me during this fast, and for the sign it is of our enduring friendship.
May 12, 2012 Aspen leaves are breaking from winter buds and many other signs of Spring abound at Friendly Forest .... and it is still too early for mosquitoes. Alleluia!
Over the past month I have cleaned two large pieces of Diamond Willow. One had been hiding in a dusty corner of my shop for over a decade, and the other was one of several beautiful pieces given to me by a friend who thought I might be able to make something useful from them. Since he was interested in a coat tree I used the largest and most interesting piece and constructed a coat tree for his family. I purchased the cast iron hooks from Lee Valley. The base is constructed from a 24 inch diameter steel disk with a 10 inch long piece of 4 inch diameter pipe welded to it. The Willow base is secured with expanding insulating foam.
The other piece just was too special to even consider adding hooks to it and I simply added some braided leather straps, and it is serving as a tree on which I will hang some of the ceremonial objects I have.
This piece stands just over 8 feet tall.
While photographing the Anderson Coat Tree, Edward moved into view and posed for a photo. This image shows another side of the coat tree.
May 8, 2012 A mild winter by Saskatchewan standards, is past and we are having a slow, cool and rather wet spring. As someone who lives in the forest I have mixed reactions to the cool and rain or snow; I would like to be out enjoying the warm weather and the slow emergence of new life in the forest and the return of migratory creatures. But I also appreciate that the slow greening of the forest floor and the emergence of leaves and flowers on the trees means that the critical spring forest fire hazard is less likely.
I have had the pleasure of welcoming old and new friends to Friendly Forest. (When I anticipate visitors I have the added incentive to do some house cleaning and preparing more appetizing foods.)
My dog Edward has come a long way in being able to accept visitors without feeling that his status is being threatened. Edward has been at Friendly Forest for one year now, and has had to undergo a huge transition from his former life at Coronado Kennels at Red Deer. He has bonded with me and this forest home in a wonderful way and he and I both prefer to forget some of the more difficult elements of the transition to this new life.
The forest trails seem to bring pure delight to Edward and though he races and leaps and explores with great energy and enthusiasm, he still makes sure he stays close to me and will not go off exploring the trails on his own. He will race ahead till he comes to a fork in the trail and wait till he determines which fork I am about to take, and then runs ahead to the next decision point. He will detour from the path to explore small animals among the way and then return tailing prickly branches of wild rose or raspberry. At least the burrs and seed plants have dropped the seeds that used to coat his hair during late summer and fall. He is now 7.5 years of age and is showing no signs of slowing down. he has modified his food tastes to the point where he believes that anything I eat should be shared with him as well. This is a total change from his eating pattern when I first brought him to this new home.
Saturday was full moon and the day for the Inipi prayer at Friendly Forest. I wish to thank the five friends who took time and travelled long distances to pray here with me. I am starting to set up Eagle Camp and will also be planning my Spring Fast days. It would be nice to do that before the full emergence of the mosquito populations.
March 17, 2012 I have had some wonderful assistance in trying to identify the black fungus growths on dead birch trees around the pond.
I also purchased a Stereo Microscope for my own use at Friendly Forest. After many years in a High School Biology Lab with many many hours teaching students how to use these instruments and maintaining them, I was not too eager to get one of my own over the years between then and now, and simple eye loupes served my purposes when I needed to see things magnified beyond that provided by a hand-held lens. So far I am most pleased with the unit and with the great price I got it for. At first I tried to source it through science suppliers like Boreal - Northwest, Sargent Welch or Wards and found prices rather high ... and also found that the Canadian suppliers for these firms wanted about 30% more money for the same unit through their US catalogue. I contacted them and asked why such a disparity and got the usual untruths about inventory and extra cross-border costs. I felt sorry for the sales rep having to provide these excuses which do not hold up. The Canadian dollar has been at parity or near parity for quite a while now, and large firms with Canadian outlets have efficient border-crossing channels, especially on duty free items. The only valid reply would have been that they can and will gouge the Canadian customer as much as they can get away with!
I continued my search and found a much better unit at a much better price from a Canadian source which was selling via Amazon.ca. That channel got it to me for a 70% reduction over list price and with no shipping charges. I do appreciate being able to comparison shop on the Web. In days past the customer was much more a hostage to a few suppliers.
I was also asked to customize another cremation urn;
I completed a series of French rolling pins with storage boxes in cherry and birch wood, and with a supplied cotton pastry cloth. I had made some in the past but with the more common flat and shorter pin, and with a cedar wood box. They proved to be popular gift items and since I was interested in making a French Pin for myself, I made a series of them;
During our winter months I have not been clipping Edward's hair and now he has grown a long and warm coat. However I wonder if his breeder friend June would even recognize him. I keep him clean and he is comfortable indoors as well as outside and the extra hair enables him to enjoy the winter forest trails. However, when he comes in he is sometimes covered with ice balls that formed in his hair and I have to contend with pools of water over much of my floor. He has continued to bond with me and this new home space, and I am most thankful for his presence in my life at Friendly Forest.
February 8, 2012 This is the day after the Full Moon. I was able to experience a special prayer time in the Initi and am most grateful for all of the support I was given.
Over the past month or so I have been collecting a special black fungus that is growing on some of the dead / drowned Birch trees that surround the pond at Friendly Forest. These have been growing on the tree sticks standing in the high waters and have not been found on the large birch trees that are still on higher ground. I have concluded that they have been the result of the special conditions experienced by these dead trees. I have created a page with images of this special fungus as it appears on the trees. Click here to go to this special page.
If the reader of this page has experience with this fungus or knows more about it, I would appreciate hearing from you. Use the information on my CONTACT page to reach me.
January 13. 2012 My friend who had been in hospital since last week lost his battle and passed to the other side today. For the loss this is to his family and to his friends, it is a sad day. For his Spirit I am sure it is a day of release and fulfillment as only the full experience of our Creator's love can bring to a creature.
I mourn his passing.
January 8, 2012 I have just archived previous entries from this page. If you wish, click the link below to go to the latest archive page which also contains an index to earlier archived pages.
Our winter has been incredibly mild with record-breaking high temperatures for this time of year. While it clearly has its plus side, we do not know what the negative impacts are or even what it might be telling us in terms of longer-term climate change patterns. In this part of Saskatchewan we rely on long periods of very cold weather to slow down or destroy various forest pathogens or parasitic insects. Without such severe conditions we do not know what will be the result.
We have had relatively little snow cover here, and further south the ground is bare. That too has its consequences for the survival of certain sensitive plant root systems.
I have been taking forest hikes and recently have been going along the inside of the pond. I now trust that the ice is thick enough to be safe to walk on. In doing so I have been walking between the dead trunks of trees that have drowned out over the past years of excessively high water. I took some tobacco to make an offering before harvesting some birch fungus growths that I use for various purposes. While doing this I noticed another type of fungal growth that I had not noticed before. I am trying to investigate the nature and potential uses of this discovery. Checking out my plant medicine books I have not found much to help me so I turned to the internet. There I have found quite a series of reference sites that I believe are about the fungal growth that I have harvested.
This is a link to one of those pages:
A good friend and mentor is seriously ill in hospital right now and each time the phone rings I get anxious as to what I might hear when I pick it up.
Tomorrow is Full Moon and my regular Inipi day. Forecast is for continued warm weather and going out there will be a strong contrast to last year at this time with temperatures approaching minus 30 Degrees C.
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