Ruby Slippers

My one way ticket back to Kansas

When the real­ity of life is too much, as human beings we have our imag­i­na­tion, our made-up, make-believe worlds to help us nav­i­gate the unimag­in­able. For artists and cre­atives, I can only think that we are some­how super-charged with imag­i­na­tions — for the best, and for the worst. This week, I found out I’m fac­ing 18 weeks of chemother­apy. That’s scarier than any Stephen King novel yet. What fright­ens me most is not the ran­dom invad­ing can­cer cells that MIGHT be in my body, but the side effects of the poi­son that the wicked witch is about to unleash. I will not recount the details so that you, dear reader, might be spared the night­mares that have plagued us all week. Far worse than the fly­ing mon­keys of Baum’s imag­i­na­tion, things like neu­ropa­thy are unimag­in­able for me. How can I think of the pos­si­ble nerve dam­age to extrem­i­ties — hands, feet, well-trained artist’s fin­gers and hands. @#$%

I’ve been search­ing for one good rea­son — just one good thing about chemother­apy to get me through this, and it was through an idea that Grace The Good Witch had this week, and a fancy red pair of run­ning shoes I spot­ted yesterday.

Grace said to me, “Mommy, I know what we can do — let’s just pre­tend that you have a fever for a long time.”

Bril­liant. I can go with that. “It’s just a fever.”.…but the “let’s just pre­tend” is even bet­ter. Why didn’t I think of that? Let’s just pretend…and this night­mare too shall pass.

Only the fear or more hor­ri­ble side effects can get me into the dentist’s chair, and there I was yes­ter­day. Tense.…I imag­ined being on North Beach in Haida Gwaii while the scrap­ing and scratch­ing went on. After awhile, it turned into the sounds of crash­ing waves, seabirds and the wind whis­per­ing in the sea­grass behind me. Ta da.…done.

Feel­ing like maybe this whole, “Cal­gon, Take Me Away” approach might be actu­ally work­ing, I stopped in at my friend’s shoe store. A pair of red leather run­ning shoes just jumped off the shelf, onto my feet and remained there. Oh dear.…I really am leav­ing Kansas on a cyclone.

My Magic Wand

My Magic Wand

Yes­ter­day was sad for me. I had an exhi­bi­tion of some paint­ings open­ing at the Kaay Cen­tre, Haida Museum in Haida Gwaii and I so wanted to be there with my friends and fel­low artists. Wicked Witch Tests kept me from them. How­ever, once the ruby slip­pers were on my feet, it seemed that sud­denly I was with every­one if I just clicked my heels together. Fol­low­ing the yel­low­brick road, I went into the Kitchen Store.…and there on the shelf, a red wand in the form of a com­pact kitchen latte frother jumped RIGHT into my hand. AHA!.…this shall be use­ful to cre­ate those magic con­coc­tions to keep me healthy and pro­tect me as I ven­ture into the Witches’ Cas­tle! My friend Bir­git, the Good Witch of Kitchen Store also found a spe­cial con­coc­tor guar­an­teed to make me smile as I brew the herbs and tinc­tures to bat­tle the evil chemo sick­ies. (stay with me.….)

Papa's Reads - Ernest Hemingway

Read­ing Papa

A lit­tle fur­ther along the yel­low brick road, I hap­pened upon Josey, The Benev­o­lent Witch of Book­ery and there I found what I was look­ing for — food for the mind, the Great Oz Ernest Hem­ing­way book­ery them­selves to carry spells of imag­i­na­tion of the great seas and wars.

That night, as my good friends gath­ered in Haida Gwaii to launch the show from our Gwaii Haanas trip, I felt the love across the sea, the moun­tains and the rivers. Tucked into my bed, ruby slip­pers by my side, my Cow­ardly Lion lov­ingly read “The Old Man And The Sea”. I clicked my heels, drifted off after Chap­ter One and found myself in Haida Gwaii.

Today, I face the nuclear MUGA. No wor­ries. Got my wand, my rubies and Ernest.




The Kendrick Ladies with their beautiful smiles, in front of some of the works in Haida Gwaii

The Kendrick Ladies with their beau­ti­ful smiles, in front of some of the works in Haida Gwaii

And here is my dear artist friend, Dar­rell Oike read­ing from the mes­sage and poem  I sent on the wind…

Darrell Oike reads

Artist Dar­rell Oike reads my mes­sage and poem to accom­pany the open­ing of the Haida Museum exhibit. Photo Cred­its: Clint Kendrick

“Can­cer has a way of turn­ing your life upside down, although those of you that know me well, know that it’s picked the wrong per­son to hag­gle with. Death…or the threat of it, is all that is keep­ing me from you today.  I did a bit of retail ther­apy after an appoint­ment and picked up some “ruby shoes” this morn­ing. I’m wear­ing them now. I wish, like Dorothy, that they’d trans­port me out of Kansas and into this room, this Oz…this…….. Haida Gwaii.

My time in Haida Gwaii and Gwaii Haanas National Park was sacred and spe­cial. From the time I arrived there, I knew that I needed to bring my fam­ily to see this incred­i­ble place and know it’s peo­ple, it’s flow and it’s lifestyle. That will hap­pen soon.

While the land, the sea, the flora and the fauna all play largely in the mind when one encoun­ters such abun­dance and diver­sity, I’ve come to pon­der our place, our inte­gra­tion and our respon­si­bil­ity as human beings to change how we are – to rebal­ance —  in order to main­tain the syn­ergy with all that is around us. The ances­tors and those that came before us knew this. We have just to deeply lis­ten to our­selves, the land and the sea to find the good way again. This is the way of the artist.

No artist worth their salt can engage in deep research and sub­ject mat­ter from a dis­tance. They must be immersed, involved and see them­selves as part of the work, the place and the spirit. Any­thing less is just clin­i­cal obser­va­tion – which as sci­ence, has it’s place, but in art….requires the immer­sion of the soul, the heart and the emotion.

With an eye to the objec­tive – the rep­re­sen­ta­tional, but with a paint­brush filled with move­ment, spir­i­tual guid­ance and immer­sion, I seek to cre­ate new works that describe three aspects of Gwaii Haanas – the real, (the touch­able), the spir­i­tual and most impor­tantly the super­nat­ural – the space in between where I most often find myself. I seek to inte­grate myself and my fam­ily mem­bers in those works in order to explore respon­si­bil­ity and iden­tity within the con­text of those three worlds that I feel and see in Gwaii Haanas and all of Haida Gwaii. At home in my stu­dio there now sit no less than ten mon­u­men­tal works in progress inte­grat­ing the fig­ure, the land­scape and the sea of Gwaii Haanas and Haida Gwaii.

It is with love that my fam­ily and I wish to thank those that guided me safely through this won­drous place. A huge thank you to Parks Canada, Chris­tine and Terry for cham­pi­oning such an impor­tant pro­gram, Heather for tak­ing it out­wards to the pub­lic beyond and to the Haida Museum Board Mem­bers, Nathalie, Jenn and Jen­nifer who so skill­fully engaged us as a fam­ily. This part­ner­ship is impor­tant. It needs to con­tinue to wel­come those of us who come from afar in a touch­able, tan­gi­ble experience.

I want to thank Tana Hooper and Clint Kendrick and their fam­i­lies for wel­com­ing us with arms open, keep­ing us safe, fish­ing me out from the Pacific Ocean and teach­ing us so very much in such a short period of time.  Both of these ded­i­cated Parks Canada employ­ees should be com­mended for their pas­sion, their pro­fes­sion­al­ism, guid­ance and pas­sion around this pro­gram. They have both con­tin­ued to be sources of infor­ma­tion and research as I begin a larger body of work.

A spe­cial thank you to Benita Saun­ders for her incred­i­ble hos­pi­tal­ity while I was here. It is an hon­our to have stayed with you and I am for­ever grate­ful. I felt wel­comed and loved and well cared for by this entire island com­mu­nity before I even stepped foot off the fairy. Haa’wa.

To Fanny and to you Dar­rell, as you now read these words, I am proud to call you brother and sis­ter. I am in awe of your insight as artists and human beings and I am for­ever in your debt for your teach­ings. I know we will work together again soon…..(I’m writ­ing the grant….ha ha!)”

In clos­ing, I’ll leave you with a poem in the lan­guages I know…

Oki Niksokowa. Is dee daniko, Iniski­maki, itan  Makoy­it­sikin iki­mopii Siksika

All My Rela­tions — I am Iniski­maki, Sacred Buf­falo Stone Woman, adopted daugh­ter of Elder Tom Crane Bear, Wolf­shoe of the Sik­sika Nation.


Greens and yel­lows as I have never seen

Roll, enve­lope and hold me

Life….and death….so close together

Waters, clear and dancing

Dan­ger­ous, abun­dant, changelings

Roll, enve­lope and hold me

Death….and life….so close together

Trees, Twist­ing, Spir­it­ful and Overpowering

Wide, Wet, tall, grow­ing on each other as if starving…or mak­ing love

Roll, enve­lope and hold me

Death…and life…so close together

Life…death….the space between.

Roll, enve­lope and hold me

This is my Gwaii Haanas.

Haa’wa Iksookapi Thank you

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  • Intri­cate Knot

    My imag­i­nary world has always been there for me through­out all my “real” world tra­vails. It is a tremen­dous resource. I truly do not know what peo­ple of lit­tle or no imag­i­na­tion do when dif­fi­cult times unfold. I sup­pose they lose their minds. What­ever you need to do to get through this, so be it. And you will need to make use of your imag­i­na­tion, sense of humor and every skill, trick, gift, loved one, and magic that is yours. After read­ing the words in your beau­ti­fully writ­ten post, I feel cer­tain that you pos­sess every­thing nec­es­sary to get through this and out to the other side of those 18 weeks. Keep see­ing that.

    I am wish­ing you all the very best on your journey.

    The poem you’ve included is amazing.

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