Canada Day: July 1st

The shade was creeping over my body, bringing a cool blanket over my hot skin. I yanked my cap up to replace the hot air around my head with colder fresh air. It was a habit I’d continue throughout the day as the sunlight became hotter and the sweet delicious shade became scarcer. I wiggled on the curb trying to get some feeling back after sitting on the pavement for over an hour. Though a solitary figure from the Declercq clan, I was far from alone. Around me people gossiped and greeted each other from their lawn chairs and blankets. Ever few seconds a cheerful cry went up as someone recognized another whom they hadn’t seen in months or weeks or years. A small child at my side turned to her mother and asked in a voice I could fondly recall from my own youth, “mom, when’s the parade starting?” The youngster settled back with a huff when the answer was ten minutes, which as we all know is a decade in a child’s time frame.

After ten restless minutes the sight of three Royal Canadian Mounted Police leading the parade around the corner erased all tension from waiting. The parents gave a gasp of relief and settled back to watch their children sprint back and forth with candy. The parade had begun and so had the Canadian celebration. Continue reading “Canada Day: July 1st”

Flying Around The County of Newell, Alberta

The first thing I saw was blue sky. A serene, baby blue. A sky only seen in summer with fluffy cumulous clouds lazily drifting by like bundles of floating cotton-candy. My stomach slouched as I felt the wheels rise off the ground. My heart skipped around in my chest as though it were tired of the secondhand images from my eyes. My eyes meanwhile ignored the clamouring of my heart and peered earnestly ahead searching for the horizon.

Then the nose of the small Cessna 180 dipped down and my stale static perspective of my home for 18 steady years and two summers found itself chucked out the door.

After snatches of discussion with Terry Wagner, the pilot and my guide for the morning, all sounds dwindled away except for the buzzing of the turbine beyond the cushion of my headphones. I found myself lost in the geometry of the land. I’m not usually interested in landscapes, but the patchwork of crops, perfect spheres from ever circling pivots and roads that went on forever caught me in their snare. I was enthralled by the mundane and entranced by objects I wouldn’t have given a second thought on the ground.

The skies revealed a new world. And things I’d never seen before. Continue reading “Flying Around The County of Newell, Alberta”

Aboriginal Day (Men): June 21

Behind me children of nationalities across the world watched a tradition that I could confidently call something born of Canada and the land the country itself was born from. As nation we like to describe Canada as a patchwork of nationalities, which ultimately means we have a hard time defining ourselves. What is a Canadian? What it does mean to come from Canada and live within it? We call ourselves peacekeepers, environmentalists and liberal thinkers for the most part. And yet we just as easily contradict those ideal images. For example our suppression and continued stubborn misunderstanding of the unique nations within our own, which we arrogantly clutter under three names, if that. Often we only use one set of words that mean the same thing but are deemed more or less politically correct: Aboriginals, First Nation Peoples, Natives, Indians. Continue reading “Aboriginal Day (Men): June 21”

National Aboriginal Day: June 21

The first time I saw men and women performing traditional dances in aboriginal regalia was at a tiny tot pow wow hosted in the gymnasium of my university. The event was a celebration of children. When the dancers first entered the gymnasium floor they danced in a wide circle, “flattening the grass” of the dancing area as their ancestors did before them. Then the different categories of dancers proceeded to astound and delight with light and sure feet. Like the deer, birds and butterflies they mimicked the dancers swiftly pranced and ducked. But they had nowhere to go in that gymnasium, no sun and sky to embrace so they circled and stayed close to the ground.

This time I was witnessing the dances in a small school theatre and the dancers seemed even more out of place than the gymnasium. The fancy shawl dancers twirling and fluttering like butterflies seemed caged in the confides of the stage.

Originally the dancers were to be hosted outside a school called Griffin Park, but rain drove them indoors to save their delicate regalia.  Continue reading “National Aboriginal Day: June 21”

Kinsmen Pro Rodeo: June 7th and 8th

The big screen at the far end of the arena displayed what I couldn’t see from my place in the stands. In all his pixel glory a cowboy is twisting a strip of leather and rawhide around his hand and the saddle so he can create a suitcase-like grip. With each second he is tying himself more firmly to the bronc’s back. I can’t help recalling what a former classmate said when I interviewed him earlier about being on the rodeo circuit as a saddle bronc rider. “It was the most comfortable, natural thing for me to do and it’s what I like the best,” he said.

“I wasn’t interested in tying myself to a bull.”

There is a bang as the horse shifts in the stall, jostling the cowboy and causing the men around him to jerk back. After a moment the spat is nothing more than a memory.

Seconds later the door flies open. The horse leaps out with explosive energy. Flying out like a coiled spring it bounds forward kicking at the air in energetic earnest. The crowd is cheering trying to glue the cowboy to the bronc’s back with their enthusiasm.

Points will be awarded to both the bronc and the cowboy for their performance. This is a shared moment, a split effort, a reenactment of a historical bond—bound to less than 8 seconds in time. Continue reading “Kinsmen Pro Rodeo: June 7th and 8th”

Little Britches Rodeo: June 7th and 8th

My right knee dug into the soft dirt of the open air arena as my toes ground the dirt inside my shoes. With clouds passing intermittently overhead my dollar store hat was doing a great job of keeping the sunlight from my hot burned face. Everything outside of the small radius of shade made by my cowboy hat was warm. My nose was sore from being mashed against my camera but I ignored it. My attention was fixed on the gate. Advertisements flickered in the background as my camera swayed. Seagulls called from the blue sky.

BANG! The gate flew open and a white ball of wool came barreling out with its passenger hanging on for dear life. The crowd roared in excitement. These people were cheering on the small child clinging to the sheep’s back. Continue reading “Little Britches Rodeo: June 7th and 8th”

Alpacas in Alberta

I quivered slightly as I dipped forward before gaining my balance again. The sun warmed my back and brightened the stark wooden enclosure. Cloud shadows flitted across the dust, deepening the grooves and highlighting the ridges of the uneven ground. Twenty hairy faces gawked back at me. There was an uncertain energy to the group. Standing with my face angled over the fence wasn’t easy but I really wanted that kiss.

But the alpaca wouldn’t have it.

Must have been my personality. Yep, you read right. I was hoping for a kiss from an alpaca. Because I mean, how could anyone resist this face?

Continue reading “Alpacas in Alberta”

Rang De Basanti: April 6th

Puffs of green, yellow, purple, red and pink rose from the crowd as excited individuals snuck a few more bouts of colour play before the countdown began. Feeling the excited energy, I could barely contain myself as I sifted my fingers through the fine flour-like powder in my small zip-lock bag. It was a vibrant yellow. And I had it and the other colours strewn all over myself from people sneaking up on me and smudging my skin and clothes. 10-9-8. The countdown had begun. The DJ shouted over the crowd trying to contain it so we’d all release our colours in one brilliant explosion. 7-6-5. Digging my hand into the bag I clutched a handful of yellow and forced back a toothy grin. To smile like that now would mean a mouthful of coloured dust. 4-3-2. I forced myself to shift my eyes to a squint though I wished to open them wide to witness all the colours about to emerge. 1. It was everything I had imagined. Continue reading “Rang De Basanti: April 6th”

Pride Parade: April 5th

Red shiny strands of synthetic hair were plastered across my face causing me to spit and sputter as I irritably pulled one strand from my lips. My shoulder-length wig was in my face for the thousandth time, reminding me why I don’t have long hair anymore. On the upside, the reason I was eating my wig was because I was grinning and laughing. I had on a set of rainbow leggings and was flaunting a lovely rainbow scarf hand-knit by my grandma. Continue reading “Pride Parade: April 5th”

Japanese Culture Presentations: March 28th

How to draw anime was the title of the workshop. And it had me at anime. Depositing my camera into my bag I pulled a piece of paper close and clutched my pencil excitedly. Nervous giggles and confessions of lacking drawing skills came from those in attendance. Like the wind passing through a forest of leaves, the sound of papers shuffling tickled my ears as we set ourselves up.  The small group grew quiet as the presenter stepped forward. Continue reading “Japanese Culture Presentations: March 28th”