Poetry Rings

Louise McKinney Waterfront Park
Louise McKinney Riverfront Park, Edmonton, AB

beginnings just appear
so like a drowsy eye
 
suddenly awake
where a river wells up
 
uncoiling from the ice
where snug beside the land
 
it lay dreaming at
our feet in quiet sleep

E.D. Blodgett

In September 2008, poetry rings decorating 40 light standards in Louise McKinney Riverfront Park were unveiled. Etched on each one was an excerpt, in one of six languages, from Poems for a Small Park by Edmonton’s former Poet Laureate, E.D. Blodgett. The poems and their method of presentation were specifically created as public art for the park and, in 2009, the installation won an Edmonton Urban Design Award of Merit.

“Like time and history, the river is always flowing away, always moving on, so, I’m trying to punctuate, slow down that flow with these poems,” says Blodgett. – Edmonton Journal, September 4, 2008

poem samples, cree, cree syllabics, french, english
The poems were written in English and French and translated into Cree, Michif, Chinese, and Ukrainian to recognize the multicultural nature of the city.

With sweeping views of the North Saskatchewan River, it’s easy to take a seat and find your own inspiration, here, on the river.

All photos, except where noted, copyright D. MacLeod. All rights reserved.

Don’t Fence Me In

The Town of Battleford is situated close to where the Battle River flows into the North Saskatchewan. It was designated the capital of the North-West Territories in 1876. Many of the town’s early buildings have been maintained and are still in use, and the Fort Battleford Historic Site, the Fred Light Museum, and the historic North-West Mounted Police Cemetery are open to visitors on a seasonal basis.

While Battleford is a history enthusiast’s dream come true, the City of North Battleford has an entirely different feel to it. North Battleford was established on the north bank of the North Saskatchewan River in the early 1900s when it became clear the Canadian National Railway (CNR) would bypass Battleford, by not crossing the river. Today, the Battlefords have a combined population of approximately 19,000, and are home to a vibrant, and varied artistic community.


I can’t tell a story in the white man’s language, so I say what I want to say with my paintings.

Allen Sapp

The artistic mix includes a performing arts troupe, music groups, two roadhouses for all entertainment tastes, and two pretty amazing world-class art galleries: The Allen Sapp Gallery and The Chapel Gallery. In addition to a few outdoor murals, North Battleford especially, has also installed some really interesting pieces of public art. Here are a few:

Don’t Fence Me In by Donald R. Hefner

Don’t Fence Me In by Donald R. Hefner, Saskatchewan Centennial 2005 (constructed from barbed wire). Although I love the symbolism of the barbed wire and its texture, in reality, the buffalo hunt had pretty much disappeared from the Canadian plains, and been replaced with cattle ranching, by the time the first settlers arrived in the 1880s-90s.

In 2014, The Prairie Sculptors Association held a two week symposium called Shapeshifters at The Chapel Gallery, “building a number of monumental sculptures from iron, wood and recycled materials.” A few of the finished sculptures remained near the Gallery, while two were relocated to the walking path between The Chapel Gallery and The Allen Sapp Gallery.

A Man in a Canoe by Kevin Quinlan

A Man in a Canoe by Kevin Quinlan (constructed with rebar). Interesting choice of location, just below the CNR freight yards, where it juxtaposes indigenous peoples’ method of transportation with the trains that brought in white settlers.

Wapiti
Wapiti by James Korpan

Wapiti by James Korpan (constructed with metals and found pieces). The word wapiti is an anglicized version of the Cree word for elk, which is waapiti.  The full story here:

… Across the Atlantic Ocean, Brits use elk to describe the animal we all know as a moose. When British settlers came to Canada, they saw how much larger our wapiti are than the European red deer, and they thought it had to be related to the European moose – or as they called them – elk. Despite its huge size, the wapiti is a type of deer; one of the largest species of deer, in fact.

Canadian Rangeland Bison and Elk

Both sculptures, A Man in a Canoe and Wapiti, are visible from the road, on the drive into North Battleford’s downtown core. The Wapiti is my favourite though, and up close it is spectacular.

All photos, except where noted, copyright D. MacLeod. All rights reserved.

A Tale of Two Calendars

Canada geese with melting snow
Canada geese with melting snow, Edmonton, AB

After a lot of years living on North America’s Central Flyway, I’m pretty familiar with the waterfowl migrations that come along with spring. Each March, I begin my wait for the great flocks of Canada geese, snow geese and all the other migratory birds that advance northward with the melting snow.  I’m sure all of us look forward to hearing the honks overhead as the first V of geese flies by.

In University, I chose a roundabout path to a degree in history. My course load was all over the map in terms of focus; I’d go off on a tangent if something interested me or inspired me. For example, an evening course on the policies of the Arts in Canada led me, after a detour or two, to a couple of years studying the Cree language. I’ve since lost any conversational ability I may have had but I have retained some of the vocabulary.

I find the Cree language much more connected to the natural world around us than English, and much more descriptive, as well. Many Cree words were constructed after first contact and reveal the influence of European culture on Indigenous peoples. However, much of the language remains very reflective of the deeper rhythms of life.

When I flip the page on my fridge from February to March, I know the geese are on their way, even if the calendar doesn’t specifically spell it out for me.  The Cree word for March, though, does exactly that because niskipîsim means the goose moon.  Other ‘goose’ months are May, opiniyâwewipîsim, meaning the egg laying moon; June, opâskâwehipîsim, translates to the egg hatching moon and August, ohpahowipîsim, is the flying moon.  Names like these seem so much more relevant than those of the ancient gods that label my calendar, now.

In any case, it’s been a heck of a winter all the way around but, finally, the temperatures are warming; the snow is melting and, best of all, the geese have arrived. There’s nothing on the calendar that says they’ll turn around and go back if the weather’s too cold, but that’s exactly what happened in Winnipeg in 2014 – for the first time on record. I hope it doesn’t become a habit!

All photos, except where noted, copyright D. MacLeod. All rights reserved.