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I was standing in front of my open closet the other day looking for inspiration, and not getting much I am afraid. I haven’t bought any new clothes for a while, and truth be told I am bored with most of what I own.
Yesterday I did a big clean out, keeping only those things I still love and hauling off three bags to the local Salvation Army thrift shop. I bet if I did a further cull today I’d find another bag or two to donate.
While at the Sally Ann I did see one skirt that I liked and brought home with me…it reminded me of an old apron that my grandmother wore for years (I’m a sucker for anything reminiscent of the 50s) but it is a summer skirt so not going to help me out now. Time to get out the sewing machine I guess. I’m not much for retail shopping (I find the quality leaves a lot to be desired even in the more expensive brands) and the pickings have been slim of late at the local consignment stores.
What a remarkable year we’ve just gone through…a grand baby who has given us great joy, trips to Ireland, San Francisco and the East Coast, one of the best summers and autumns weather-wise that I can remember, the realizing of a dream by helping to launch a local food co-op, some personal accomplishments on the yoga mat…so many good memories! And I am very excited about what lies ahead in 2014. Life just doesn’t get better than this!
Happy New Year everyone.
I’ve been looking for some time for a dress or skirt to wear with my beloved Kitschy Kitschy Boom Booms. And yesterday I think I found the perfect match!
I went in to a local consignment store (to take in three pairs of shoes I was ready to say good-bye to), and I came across this skirt.
The photo doesn’t do it justice. It’s a vibrant turquoise silk with lots of swish and swing. It was made by a local woman who used to be a designer. I love the fact that she used purple raw silk as part of the attached crinoline slip.
What I don’t like is the waist band, which is made out of a stretchy material. It’s warped and the tailoring is not up to par.
I’ll find a small piece of silk and replace the band. I also hemmed the skirt – she had finished it with a serger but had left it at that, and I don’t care for unhemmed clothes. In any event, when I’m finished with it, I think I’ll have a skirt that I love and that I’ll wear for years.
The arrival of a baby in the household is always an adjustment for everyone, including the family pet. Watch as Chanel meets Caleb for the first time.
Meet Caleb, born today at 10:41 a.m. Congratulations Iris and Wade!
I’m starting to work on a new project. This one will be some time in the making but the photo gives a hint as to what it’s about. I am also looking for as many people in Whitehorse as possible who wear and love Fluevogs and who are willing to be in a creative group photo featuring your footwear. Let me know if you are interested.
Spent the day in Teslin yesterday at a big Tlingit First Nation celebration. Tlingit come from many parts of Alaska, B.C. and Yukon to celebrate their culture with song, dance, crafts, games, etc. Here are just a few images from the day:
Note these woven blankets: they are made from goat’s wool. The yarn is hand spun, then hand dyed, then woven on a loom. It takes about two months to prepare the materials, and another 1 to 3 years to weave the blanket. Below is a photo of a woman working on a child’s version.
Elder Paddy Jim teaches others how to make a fish trap out of willows.
There would have been boat races. However someone recently went missing in the lake and the body has not been recovered, so as per tradition there were no activities held on the water during this festival.
Sorry for my long absence. I’ve just been so friggin’ busy!! I have so much more to say about Ireland. And our new grandchild who’s about to enter this world. And what a glorious summer we’ve been having. And other stuff too.
However, it’s a Friday night after a really crazy work week and I am brain dead. Stay tuned tomorrow after I’ve had a good night’s sleep!
It’s probably no coincidence that it was Irish musician Bob Geldof who spearheaded Band Aid, raising something like $14-million for famine relief in Ethiopia in the 1980s. It’s also likely no coincidence that per capita, the Irish apparently give more money to famine relief than just about any other country in the developed world.
Ireland has had an intimate relationship with hunger. It wasn’t much more than 150 years ago that Ireland lost about a quarter of its population when the potato crops failed several years running. About a million people died and another million emigrated to North America and other places around the world.
I won’t go into all the details about the cause of the famine. There’s a lot more to it than a bunch of rotten spuds but you can read about it on the web. Suffice to say this period in history has deeply marked the Irish people.
There are something like 15 famine monuments and museums around the country. I saw two of them; both were profoundly poignant and powerful.
I think of my own great-great grandmother Hannah Sarsfield, who apparently was able to secure a spot on a ship coming to Canada by offering to take care of one family’s children. It is said she didn’t have any food with her, and only survived because the ship’s navigator, my great-great grandfather James Coleman, took a shine to her, fed her, and ended up marrying her. Who did she leave behind to come to the New World, and what suffering did she endure? She was one of the lucky ones. On some boats, one in five people died during the journey. They didn’t call them Coffin Ships for nothing.
Contrast that with today, where no Irish B and B operator worth his or her weight in potatoes will send you out the door without a massive 1,450+ calorie breakfast. Below are examples of our ‘first course’, that consisted of fruits, breads, cereals, cheeses, etc. followed by a hot plate typically made up of eggs, bacon, sausage, black pudding, white pudding, beans, fried tomatoes, and sometimes mushrooms. In Northern Ireland, potato pancakes got added to that list.
When Joe and I protested that we couldn’t eat another thing, rubbing our rapidly expanding bellies, our hosts would say things like, “Well, you need a breakfast to keep you going all day”, and “Travelling around actually takes a lot of energy. We can’t see you going hungry.”
My theory is that this all leads back to the Great Famine. The Irish lived the unspeakable horrors of starvation, and to think about anyone going hungry these days must be incorrigible for them.
There is lots of information about how the Giant’s Causeway on the Northern Irish coast was formed by volcanic eruptions more than 60 million years ago. As the surface of the lava flow cooled, it contracted and crystallized into hexagonal columns. As the rock settled and eroded over time, the columns broke off so they now look like steps of various heights.
But the locals know that the Giant’s Causeway was really the home and playground of a giant Ulster warrior named Fionn mac Curnhaill (or in English, Finn MacCool…I kid you not). Finn built a series of stepping-stones all the way to Scotland so he could spy on his rival and fellow giant, Cullihin. When he realized that Cullihin was much larger than him, Finn came running back to his wife – with Cullihin in quick pursuit.
Finn’s wife Oona was the clever one in the relationship. She dressed Finn up as a baby and put him to bed, warning him not to say a word. When Cullihin showed up looking to fight Finn, Oona asked him in for tea. She explained that while Finn has stepped out for a while, perhaps Cullihin would like to see their baby.
Cullihin was amazed at the size of the infant, and decided if the babe was this large, then Finn must be huge. Cullihin made a quick retreat back to Scotland, smashing the stepping stone bridge as he went.
Looking around the causeway, there are all kinds of signs that Finn, Oona, and Finn’s grandmother really existed (and still exist).
Stepping on to Inishmore, the largest of the Aran Islands and a 45 minute ferry ride from Galway, is like going back in time. This island of about 800 people (the population grows to more than 1,000 in the summer) is Gaeltachtai, which means Irish (Gaelic) is still the predominant language. The island didn’t get electricity until 1972. The one bank opens every Wednesday for four hours. Inishmore has one doctor, one police officer, and five bars. In the words of our local guide, “We have our priorities right!”
This is a place of such desolate beauty that it makes your heart hurt. It’s a place where people have eked out a living on nothing but rock. The stunning 2,000 year old Dun Aengus fort was built of rock on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic. The walls that crisscross every inch of the island were constructed of rock. And the most delicious food is grown here in soil built upon the rock over centuries. This was done by people collecting sand from the beaches, composting seaweed, and digging what little dirt they could find from between the cracks of rocks. There was a film made in the 1930s called “The Man of Aran” that shows life on the island. Definitely worth watching!
Our guide said because of the salt content in the seaweed, the vegetables take on a special taste; not salty but incredibly flavourful. I can vouch for that…I had a bowl of vegetable soup that was probably the culinary highlight of my trip. It was exquisite.
As a place that has relied on the sea for sustenance, Inishmore is steeped in tragedy. Our guide Michael told us that every single person on the island has lost someone to the sea. I later asked him if people could still make a living fishing, and he sadly shook his head. He was a commercial fisherman for seven years and says he loved it. He had to give it up to pay the bills. That’s when he became a tour guide. The fellow driving the tour bus behind ours had the very same story to tell. “The Atlantic takes no prisoners,” our guide said.
There was a huge cultural festival taking place on the week-end that we were in Derry in Northern Ireland. Folks were celebrating St. Colmcille, who was the founder of the city. In the wake of a great battle about 1,500 years ago, St. Colmcille had apparently left Ireland for the remote island of Iona, Scotland. This festival marked his imagined return to the city.
In spite of all the merriment, I have to admit to feeling a bit on edge the entire time I was in Derry. While there is no longer any outright fighting between the Loyalists and Nationalists, I got the sense that strong feelings were bubbling away barely below the surface.
Two stories: Joe and I were in a restaurant eating lunch. A man came in who appeared to be under the influence. The staff wouldn’t serve him. Angry, he grabbed a balloon attached to a baby carriage in the restaurant and stamped on it, causing a huge loud bang that made us all jump. The noise was so loud; it sounded like a gun going off.
Later, Joe and I were walking in the area of Derry known as ‘Bogside’, where much of the unrest took place in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. I was looking at the large murals painted to mark some of the big events during the Troubles. All of a sudden a water balloon exploded on the ground just inches from my feet. I looked around and couldn’t figure out who had thrown it or where it had come from. Joe said it was probably just some kid playing a joke. Maybe, but regardless, I felt uneasy.
Back home after two wonderful weeks in Ireland. There is so much to write about, but I think the logical place for me to start is Kilmainham Gaol (Jail) in Dublin. It, more than any other place I saw there, sums up the story of Ireland’s social and political history from the late 1700s onward.
The oldest part of the jail (known as the West Wing) opened in 1796 and was considered state of the art at the time. Hard to believe, viewed with modern eyes. There was no glass in the barred windows, and prisoners were given one candle every two weeks for warmth. If their candle burned out before the two weeks was up, they were out of luck.
Many of the people housed at the prison in the early to mid-1800s were debtors. With the coming of the Great Potato Famine, children as young as six or seven were arrested for stealing a loaf of bread or some such. Sadly, these children had a better chance of surviving in jail, since at least they had a roof over their heads and some meagre food rations. Outside of jail, they likely would have starved. At the peak of the Famine, jail cells were crowded with five or six people when they were designed for one. The overflow slept in the dark, dank hallways.
In 1864, a new section of the jail known as ”the East Wing” opened. While conditions were more humane, the old wing continued to be used and held prisoners that were to be executed.
This included the 15 or so men who led the Easter Uprising in 1916 and who were executed by firing squad. Essentially this group took a stand at the city’s main post office, declaring Ireland to be a republic separate from England. British troops moved in and quashed the uprising within six days, and the leaders were carted off to the jail and very soon after were killed.
There are some heartbreaking stories related to this period. While visiting a tiny museum in Sligo, I came across a letter that one of the leaders – Patrick Pearce - had written to his mother just hours before he was shot. Apparently the authorities refused to allow this letter to be delivered to her, but it later came to light. Patrick writes, in part:
I have just received Holy Communion. I am happy except for the great grief of parting with you. This is the death I should have asked for if God had given me the choice of all deaths to die…a soldier’s death for Ireland and Freedom.
We have done right. People will say hard things of us now, but later on they will praise us. Do not grieve for all this but think of it as a sacrifice which God asked of me and of you.
Good bye again Dear Mother. May God bless you for your great love for me and your great faith, and may He remember all that you have so bravely suffered. I hope soon to see Papa, and in a little while we shall be all together again. I have no words to tell you of my love of you and how my heart yearns to you all. I will call to you in my heart at the last moment.
Your Son, Pat
Another of the leaders, Joseph Plunkett married his sweetheart Grace Gilfford just hours before he was executed. They were married in the chapel and he was then led away. They had about 10 minutes together, but the story goes that the guard kept interrupting them, so really they had no time alone at all. Grace would later become a prisoner at the jail during the Civil War.
Then there’s the story of James Connolly, another of the Easter Uprising leaders. He was badly injured during the fighting and the doctor said he only had a day or two to live, but the authorities insisted on executing him anyway. He was unable to stand in front of the firing squad, so they hauled him into the exercise yard on a stretcher, tied him upright to a chair, and shot him. His body was thrown in a mass grave with no coffin along with the other leaders.
It was in part because of how James Connolly and others were treated that public sentiment turned against the English. Until then there hadn’t been much support for the uprising, but after the executions that all changed, and soon after Ireland gained its independence.
Of course the fighting didn’t end there, and there were more executions in this jail at the hands of the Irish than there ever were when it was under British control. More on that chapter of Ireland’s history coming soon.
My feet are already tapping! Slán go fóill.
My first conversation with Madeleine Gould took place in the late 1980s, in my role as a reporter with CBC Radio in Whitehorse. The strong-minded Madeleine had applied to join the Yukon Order of Pioneers, a male-only, 100 year old club whose job it was to preserve Yukon and YOOP history.
She was refused membership, took it to court, and the case dragged on for more than nine years and went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. In the end she lost, but she certainly didn’t go down without a fight. I remember seeing a photo of her and some other Dawson City women, carrying placards in a local parade that said, “No Yoopie, No Woopie”.
Madeleine passed away a few years ago at the age of 88. So imagine my surprise when I stepped into the Dawson City Museum the other day and saw her and her long-time husband John standing behind a bar.
We had a bit of a chat, her reminiscing about her time at her husband’s mining claim back in the 1940s and 50s. It wasn’t the first time I heard her say that their cabin had running water, but only when she ran up the hill with the buckets.
Good to see you again Mrs. Gould!
Generally I have a great deal of respect for Mother Nature. Normally I don’t mess with her. But there comes a time when enough is enough. There comes a times when you have to fight back. There comes a time to bring out….the BIG-FLOWY-SUNSHINEY-BRIMING-WITH-POSITIVITY-FREAKISH-YELLOW-SKIRT!
You see, in spite of the snow storms raging just hours north of me this May long week-end, and in spite of snowflakes flying in my own neck of the woods this morning as I sat in the truck waiting for the garden centre to open, none of that mattered. Because I was wearing THE SKIRT. And as soon as I stepped outside the vehicle, I could almost hear Mother Nature gasp. This was not a line of defense that she was expecting, nor obviously were her minions the snowflakes; they immediately scattered and retreated.
Take that, Mother Nature! Bam! Into my greenhouse go the tomato, zuccini, oregano, thyme and basil plants.
Pow! Into my outside garden beds go the lettuce, radish, pea, kale, spinach, and swiss chard seeds. The root crops will be next.
Sock! Zow! With my yellow skirt, me and my garden are invincible. Hell, together we could grow orchids in January!
This skirt has a bit of a story (no surprise given its magical powers).
It all goes back to last December. I was not only dealing with the deep dark Yukon winter, but my health was suffering…some stupid rash that decided to have a field day with 90 percent of my body. On the day I was feeling most sorry for myself, I stumbled across the most wonderful blog; in particular this post.
In my current state of mind, that skirt seemed to me to be my salvation. I desperately wanted, no NEEDED it to travel to the Yukon. But of course there were many, many ahead of me waiting to receive its positivity and healing touch. I eventually resigned myself to the fact that the skirt and I were not fated to meet.
Weeks later, I came across a bright yellow sundress in a local thrift store. As a dress it was about five sizes too big. But I saw the potential. I knew it was another FREAKISH POSITIVITY SKIRT in the rough. So I lopped off the bodice and turned it into a jupe extraordinare.
My first thought was that it could be travelling around the world at the same time as Melanie’s skirt, in parallel universes. I had visions of them meeting up at the end of their ventures and swapping intergalactic travel stories, reminiscent of the conversations Marc Garneau and Chris Hatfield might be having right about now. But Melanie very gently explained that for this time out, the original FREAKISH SKIRT is destined to be on a lone mission. So LITTLE SISTER FREAK must bide her time in the Yukon. I still hold out hope of a meeting of FREAKS at some point in the future.
Thanks Melanie for your continued inspiration by way of your art, your clothing, and your blog posts. They always put a smile on my face!
The glorious sun has found us…something that for much of the time over the past several weeks I did not believe was going to happen. This makes me feel giddy and hopeful and excited. And it makes me think of this song by Mary Chapin Carpenter:
The past comes upon you like smoke on the air
You can smell it and find yourself gone
To a place that you lived without worry or care
Isn’t that where we all once came from
Green leaves and tall trees and stars overhead
And the sound of the world through the screen
But now you sleep with the covers pulled over your head
And you never remember to dream
You think you’re just standing still
One day you’ll get up that hill
In the age of miracles
Is one on the way
Greenland is melting, the west is on fire
But don’t ever stop praying for rain
It’s a curious place between hope and desire
Different gods, but the prayer is the same
And thousand-year storms seem to form on a breeze
Drowning all living things in their paths
And when a small southern town finds a rope in a tree
We’re all once again trapped in the past
It seems we’re just standing still
One day we’ll get up that hill
In the age of miracles
Is one on the way
We can fly through space with the greatest of ease
We can land in the dust of the moon
We can transform our lives with the tap of the keys
Still we can’t shake this feeling of doom
But I woke to find monks pouring into the streets
Marching thousands strong into the rain
Now if courage comes dressed in red robes and bare feet
I will never be fearful again
If I’m just standing still
One day I’ll get up that hill
In the age of miracles
Is one on the way
Seems we’re just standing still
One day we’ll ride up that hill
In the age of miracles
There’s one on the way
There’s one on the way
There’s one on the way
There’s one on the way
There’s one on the way
There’s one on the way