Saturday 26 October 2019

Northwestern Ontario!

“Rocks and trees! Rocks and trees! 
I’m so f***ing tired of rocks and trees!”
- Teenage Chris Stearman reacting to driving
through Northwestern Ontario

I love husband Bill’s story about his son’s response to driving through Northwestern Ontario. You hear similar stories from people who ride the legendary “Canadian” VIA passenger train from Toronto to Vancouver: “We left Toronto two days ago – and we’re STILL in Ontario???”

The province of Ontario is indeed vast. At 1 million square kilometers, it’s larger than Texas. And the Northwestern part of the province is certainly filled with all those rocks and trees! The drive along the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 17) from Sudbury to the Manitoba border takes you through some of the most spectacular scenery in the country, especially along the north shore of Lake Superior. Every Canadian should make this drive at least once. But mixed in with the awesome scenery are many, MANY kilometers and trees. It’s not the kind of drive you undertake in a winter blizzard...which I did once, but that’s another story.

At the end of September, Bill and I drove the 2,236 km from Belleville to Winnipeg so Bill could make presentations and teach quilting classes at Winnipeg’s Keystone Modern Creative (link), a wonderful textile company in suburban Winnipeg. Of those 2,236 km, 2,094 km were within Ontario. And of those 2,094 km, 1,542 km were in Northern/Northwestern Ontario. 

Think Sudbury! Espanola! Spanish! Elliot Lake! Blind River! Iron Bridge! Thessalon! Sault Ste. Marie! Bachawana Bay! Michipicoten! Wawa! White River! Marathon! Terrace Bay! Nipigon! Huckett! Ouimet! Thunder Bay! Kakabeka Falls! Kaministiquia! Shabaqua! Raith! Upsula! English River! Ignace! Borups Corners! Dinorwic! Wabigoon! Dryden! Oxdrift! Vermilion Bay! Hawk Lake! Kenora! Whitehsell! We took two days to drive out and a more relaxed three days to drive home.

For me, it was revisiting three years of my past.  As I wrote in an earlier post, I taught in Dryden – four hours west of Thunder Bay; four hours east of Winnipeg – for three years after I returned from teaching in Australia in the 1970s. Prior to teaching in Dryden, I had never been in Northwestern Ontario. It wasn’t my first pick of a place to teach, but I needed a job. So off I went on another adventure! 

In retrospect, I’m glad I had my three years in Dryden – I made good friends, taught amazing kids, and quickly learned winter survival skills:

• snowshoeing;
• drinking;
• plugging in my car’s block heater;
• dealing with morning ice fogs;
• buying a Hudson’s Bay Company coat;
• joining the local theatre group;
• checking weather forecasts obsessively; and
• escaping to Winnipeg about once a month. 

One of my favourite stories about living in Dryden concerned the annual Santa Claus parade – a very big deal in town. A teacher friend and I organized a student clown troupe that participated in the parade. Great fun! However, because of the town’s isolation, the parade organizers couldn’t afford to hire a marching band. Solution? Everyone was encouraged to park their cars along the parade route, roll down their windows, and tune in the local radio station (“CKDR – Voice of the Great Northwest!”), which played Christmas music for the duration of the parade. The effect was magical – and a tribute to the resilient spirit of the people who call Northwestern Ontario home.

It was a time, as they say. 

I hope the accompanying photos give you a sense of this part of Ontario. Enjoy!

And a side note: I am making changes to “Making Eye Statements”. When I started the blog in April, 2016, I intended it to be a showcase for my photography. Over the three and a half years since then, the blog has morphed from being a photography blog that included writing to being a writing blog that included photos. At the beginning, the photos drove the writing; now, the writing often drives the photos. (And I thank husband Bill for that insight.) Typically, it takes at least four hours to write one of these mini essays. I love writing....but I’d rather spend the time working on photography. The upshot is that I will be featuring more photos and less writing. The blog name and URL address remain the same, but the design and content of the blog will change. I hope you understand. Feedback, as always, is welcome. And thank you for being part of the 650-odd people who visit this blog each month.

Saturday 19 October 2019

Winnipeg, Part Two: Canadian Museum for Human Rights

Winnipeg, Part Two – 
The Canadian Museum for Human Rights

“Everyone on Earth should visit this museum...”
- online review of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights,
September 28, 2019

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) (link) is both humbling and inspirational. It is Winnipeg’s gift to humanity.

Located at the confluence of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers in central Winnipeg – aka, The Forks – this impressive museum combines breathtaking architecture with immersive, challenging exhibits. It was opened in 2014, a tribute to Izzy Asper, the man who championed the idea of creating a Winnipeg museum dedicated to human rights. Alas, Asper – a respected Winnipeg politician, lawyer, philanthropist, and media mogul – never lived to see the completion of his dream.

The architects of the building are Antoine Predock and Chris Beccone, both based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Their proposal for the CMHR won an international design competition in 2003. You can see it on the back of the new Canadian ten dollar bill that is dedicated to the human rights champion Viola Desmond.

The purpose of the CMHR is, in the words of its mission statement, “to explore the subject of human rights with a special but not exclusive reference to Canada, to enhance the public’s understanding of human rights, to promote respect for others and to encourage reflection and dialogue.”

Its exhibits explore the ongoing nightmare of antisemitism and the Holocaust; the 1930s Ukrainian Holodomor; the 1994 genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda; and the continuing plight of the Rohingya in Myanmar. 

It also covers Canadian topics such as anti-black racism in Canada (with a focus on the experience of Viola Desmond in Nova Scotia); the rights of working people in Canada (with a focus of the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike); the rights of women in Canada (with a focus on the right to vote and the famous 1929 ‘Persons’ case); and the rights of LGBTQ2 people in Canada (with a focus on equal marriage). 

For me, the museum’s most moving section was its exploration of the shameful treatment of Indigenous and First Nations people in Canada. Its focus on the horrors of state-sponsored/church-operated residential schools and murdered/missing Indigenous women was deeply troubling. Unlike the Conservative Party of Canada, the CMHR does not shy away from accurately describing this treatment as genocide.  

The museum also features opportunities for personal reflections on what we can each do to further human rights in Canada and the wider world.

When you go to this museum, please do not make the mistake that I made – I could only spend a morning there, but the CMHR deserves at least a full day. The next time I visit, I intend to schedule more time at the museum.

The museum is fully accessible and offers an excellent restaurant. I found the staff and volunteers to be friendly, informed, and non-intrusive.

I hope the photos that follow give you a flavour of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and its surrounding area in The Forks. Next week, I plan to write about the experience of driving through Northern/Northwestern Ontario with Bill on our way to/from Winnipeg.

As always, thank you for reading my blog.

Exterior Detail.

Statue of Mahatma Gandhi at the entrance 
to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.
Created by the renowned Indian sculptor, 
Ram Vanji Sutor.

Main Exhibit Hall.

"From Sorrow to Strength - 
Indigenous Women and the Right to Safety and Justice."

Not part of an exhibit, 
but moving nonetheless.

The interior ramps (detail).

Early evening view.

Nearby bridge detail.

Park adjacent to the CMHR.

Saturday 12 October 2019

Winnipeg, Part One - The Quirkiness of The Peg

“Being Canadian and from Winnipeg, 
I have the spirit of a dreamer...”
- Sarah Carter, Actor

In the mid-1970s, I taught in Dryden, Ontario, in the heart of Northwestern Ontario. I had just returned from teaching in Australia, so you can imagine the shock of moving from + 40℃ to – 40℃. The reality of just how far away Dryden was from my parents’ home in Southeastern Ontario only struck me when I realized that the scale of the official Government of Ontario road map of Southern Ontario was much larger than the scale of Northern Ontario on the reverse side. What looked like a two-hour drive in Southern Ontario turned out to be a four-hour drive in Northern Ontario. I had lived most of my life in Ontario, but I didn’t realize just how huge this province is.

So there I was in Dryden – four hours west of Thunder Bay and four east of Winnipeg. To say that I felt isolated after the urban intensity of Sydney is an understatement. And yet, in retrospect, I appreciate those three years in Dryden, a topic to which I will return later this month. But this week, I want to focus on Winnipeg – The Peg – capital of Manitoba – home of the Winnipeg Jets hockey team – geographic centre of Canada. And a mighty quirky place it is!

You see, during my years in Dryden, Winnipeg meant sanity and survival for me, especially during the long – V-E-R-Y long – Dryden winters. When I first arrived, I was told that people in Dryden did one of three things to cope: they drank, they screwed around, or they joined every civic organization in town. My experience is that many did all three. My primary way of coping was escaping to Winnipeg whenever I could. (Escaping to Thunder Bay did not appeal.)

In my three years of living in the ‘Great Northwest’, I grew very fond of Winnipeg. Its theatres, concerts, art galleries, museums, and restaurants became a vital element of my thriving strategy. Ironically, by escaping to Winnipeg once a month, I was able to appreciate the many gifts that Dryden had to offer. A double blessing.

Until late last month, I had not been back in Winnipeg since I’d left Dryden in 1975. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve flown OVER Winnipeg, so when my quilt-making husband Bill was engaged to teach at Keystone Quilts in Winnipeg, I jumped at the chance to accompany him. While Bill taught, I happily wandered Winnipeg with my camera and my enthusiasms. I hope these photos serve as my official thank-you gift to this wonderful city. 

Thank you, Winnipeg! And thank you, Leslie Gislason, the owner of Keystone Quilts. I look forward to seeing both Leslie and Winnipeg again in 2021...if not sooner!

Next week, I plan to write about Winnipeg’s fabulous Canadian Museum for Human Rights, the only Canadian federal museum located outside of the National Capital Region in Ottawa/Hull. Meanwhile, enjoy these photos – and I hope you have a gratitude-filled Thanksgiving.

Park Alleys Bowling, Osborne Street

Gay Louis Apartments, Osborne Street

Gnome Gathering, Osborne Street

Our Lady of Victory Cemetery, Osborne Street

Q: Where's Waldo? 
A: Painted on a concrete wall on Osborne Street

Natural is good...

Pizza Guy, Rosedale Avenue

White Pine Bicycle Company, 
Johnston Terminal Building at "The Forks"

Closing Time at a Bar in the 
Johnston Terminal Building at "The Forks"

Grounds of the Manitoba Legislature.
I have no idea...

Sunday 6 October 2019

Cloud's Illusions...

“...I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It’s cloud’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all...”

- Joni Mitchell,
“Both Sides Now”

Husband Bill and I recently returned from a ten-day road-trip to Winnipeg, where Bill gave a series of presentations and classes at Keystone Quilts, an amazing store that caters to fabric lovers in Manitoba and beyond. In the weeks ahead, I plan to write about my experiences in Winnipeg and our travels through Northern Ontario on the way to/from Manitoba. 

Spoiler alert: my SONY camera loved this trip, to the tune of 1100 + photos! The combination of quirky Winnipeg and autumn-tinged Ontario was a photographer’s dream.

But for now....clouds.

On the last leg of our trip home, we drove along Highway 69 south of Parry Sound. The weather was unsettled, a combination of brilliant sunshine and furious rain storms. For about an hour, a fierce struggle took place over our heads as two competing weather systems battled it out for dominance. Both won. And the clouds were spectacular! 

All these 16:9 format images were photographed from inside our Mazda as it zipped along Highway 69. Photographing through a car’s windshield can be a challenge, especially when the camera wants to autofocus on the windshield rather than on what’s beyond, often highlighting the dirty windshield in the process. That didn’t happen this time, however – the clouds that roiled and broiled around us were amazingly co-operative, as was my camera. Thank you to all involved, including Bill, who was driving!

I hope you enjoy these photographs of the storm system that accompanied us for over an hour. In next week’s blog post, I plan to focus on Winnipeg’s eccentricities!