18 for ’18: The Totem Project

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One of my photography goals this year was to work on a project that documented totem poles. I didn’t have any reason for this other than I am fascinated with First Nations art and having a project to work on keeps my brain and body active. It encourages me to explore parts of my city or country that I hadn’t been to before.

I had to do some research on where to find them. I knew about two in Edmonton, and one of those was removed from CFRN. So that left one, the totem pole at Government House. fullsizeoutput_21b9I had seen it in passing so I was aware of it. I learned the CRFN Sunwapta pole was restored and will be apart of the new Royal Alberta Museum when it opens (it could be a rumour, but I have a reliable source). I was surprised to learn there was a totem pole on the grounds of the Alberta Legislature. fullsizeoutput_23f5I went there all the time and wasn’t aware of it. Captain and I trudged through the snow to see it. It is 50 years old and is ageing well. I suspect the Province will take it down as it becomes more decrepit rather than let it die a natural death or even restore it. I went to the Stollery children’s hospital to do some research for a piece I am writing and discovered the Totem Pole there!fullsizeoutput_244b It was covered in butterflies and was beautiful. It will live a long and healthy life by being placed indoors. On that same trip, I went to the healing garden in the Mazankowski Hospital. A pole is placed there only it isn’t First Nations, but rather from India. It also was beautiful and not technically what I was looking for, I photographed it because it was beautiful. IMG_9198The last pole I found in Edmonton was the mighty Thunderbird located at the home of the Thunderbird’s, Ross Shepherd High School. I realized I was also aware of this guy but never entered it into my consciousness. fullsizeoutput_268cIt is located next to Coronation Pool and the Telus World of Science, so I often drive by it, but as with so many things, you see things but never notice them. This is why I like working on these projects. I want to notice everything and not just see them in passing.

My travels in the spring took me to the west coast. This part of the country is filled with totem poles. I visited the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre and learned why First Nation’s art is so prolific on the west coast. It was logically explained to me. When the ocean tide rolls out, the ground is laid out in a banquet of seafood. More than you could possibly eat in a day. When food is there and not needing to be worked for, there is time and energy to be creative. This is why the art is plentiful. It was a beautiful concept. I learned the history of the poles and why they are rarely restored and often left to die where they stand. It isn’t from neglect, it is because the tree has a spirit and it lends itself to the carving. Out of respect and thanks, it is left to live out its natural life and die when it is ready. fullsizeoutput_2510I imagine some poles have been reclaimed by the land throughout the forests and they lay there becoming homes for plants and small critters. fullsizeoutput_2412We explored the Museum of Anthropology at University of British Columbia, fullsizeoutput_24f3saw the totems at Brockton Point in Stanley Park, fullsizeoutput_2489stumbled onto one on Granville Island, fullsizeoutput_24ecwent into the Fairmont Pacific Rim to see the three totems in the lobby fullsizeoutput_25c4and looked at Capilano Suspension bridge’s extensive private collection. We drove the Sea to Sky Highway and found more along the way and in Whistler. fullsizeoutput_2591Welcome Poles were placed around the village, and then we found one at the Cultural Centre. fullsizeoutput_264dI decided I have favourites. The ones I am attracted to poles that are without paint. The beauty of the wood on its own was enough for me. As someone who has an irrational fear of birds, the irony of being drawn to Raven is not lost on me. I purchased Raven art and a bookmark to keep him with me.
My entire project can be found here or over on Instagram by searching #totemproject.

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The Halfway Point

2018 is just about halfway completed. I have been reflecting on my goals and actions and wonder if I am putting my best foot forward. For me, I find having goals to reach for important to my motivation. Without them I just plod along allowing life to happen to me rather than me living my life. I have been excited about a few things this year.

  1. 18 in 2018
  2.  Scrivener Software
  3.  Totem Project

18 in 2018 is primarily a to-do list. But I have outlined it as a series of goals and achievements that assist me with the fundamental purpose of living life. I have two lists. A personal list and an Edmonton Tourist list. I have discovered my personal list to be much more fun for me. Somethings are so mundane you might think I am dead boring. For example, one thing on my list was a series of declutter projects, my closet, the kitchen drawers, my personal hygiene space in the bathroom, my bedside drawer and the cupboard under the stairs. The last one was looked upon with dread. I did not want to face that at all. One morning I enlisted help from my hubs and we got to work. The most shocking thing happened. Apparently, we had completed this task last year, and the cupboard was fantastic. That was an easy item to cross off the list. I was surprised and how light I felt after the decluttering process. My drawers and baskets all still look fresh and clean, my closet has copious amounts of empty hangers but need some rearranging because my summer wardrobe is not easily accessible. Basically, I need to thank my mom for forcing me to endure the process as a child. I never felt as good as she claimed cleaning would make me feel, but now that I am older, simplifying my life is energizing.

I have a brunch jar, a mason jar that holds bottle return money saved for brunches! We used the cash from the jar to explore restaurants in Edmonton. Our criteria are simple, we have had to either heard great things about these places or learn of new places that we are curious about. Then we visit the restaurant. So far we have ventured off the beaten path. My next brunch place I wan to visit is Pip in Old Strathcona. My jar is ready for me to empty it! I jest need to find the time.

I have only read 14 books so far this year. I say only because my goal is 40 and in six months, I am off my target of by one book. I am currently reading Eleanor Oilphant is completely fine, and I am enjoying her quirkiness. I have read some great books this year! I started following the Hello Sunshine book club (Reese Whitherspoon), she showcases women authors and mixed genres. My favourite so far is You think it, I’ll say it by Curtis Sittenfeld. I loved the compelling characters in this book and wished I could get to know them in a novel. Hopefully one of them will pop up in a novel for my reading pleasure. I don’t usually think of myself as someone who reads short stories, but Elizabeth Strout and Maeve Binchy are stellar short story authors who I have read and thoroughly have enjoyed their offerings. So maybe I do enjoy short stories? I remember reading O. Henry in grade five (Thanks Mrs. Malone!) and his stories stuck with me. I found them compelling and riveting. All those authors have inspired me to try my hand at the short story genre. Which lead me to my second thing I have been excited about this year.

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Scrivener software and Office Lense have inspired me uncreative ways I didn’t think possible from software! I usually write in my notebook at cafes or parks because Judy Blume does. (Taking her Master Writing Class was a big deal for me, and I learned so much!) Often, I write using Word on my desktop because it is 2018. I was watching an author video on Hello Sunshine Book Club page with Jill Santopolo, author of The Light We Lost, and she mentioned using Scrivener, so I looked it up and downloaded the one-month free option. This rocked my world and cured me of wanting a smartboard in my office. I combine it with Office Lense, an app a colleague encouraged me to try, and I can convert my notes to documents and move sections around Scrivener. Its keeps notes in an easy to find section or on the bulletin board beside my main document. The simplicity of this and the usability of this has rocked my world. Uploading handwritten notes to make them useful is something I dreamed about since 1988, when I was in University for the first time. Clearly, I was ahead of my time. Now if I could combine it with software from recorded notes (maybe Dragon Speech?) my life will be complete.

Photography and visual arts is a big part of my life. I love to document my adventures through digital photography. Every now and then I like to have a purpose to my photo adventures or I find I continue to capture the same things endlessly. Trees, nature paths, architecture and my dog are my favourite things to capture. I like choosing a specific subject to photograph and create a project around it. IMG_E7974Last year I focused on the Red Chair project. A series of red Muskoka chairs were captured. The purpose was to explore the offerings of Parks Canada during the Canada 150 free entry into national parks. These chairs are off the beaten path or in well-traveled places. Finding them became a fun pursuit for me. I sat in every chair I photographed to experience the view and take in the purpose of the chair. Some of the captures can be found on Instagram by using #redchairproject or by scrolling through my feed @edmonton_tourist I am considering putting the entire collection on my Edmonton Tourist Facebook page. I enjoyed the red chair project so much, I decided to photograph totem poles. It began because as a kid I remembered poles around Edmonton and was fascinated with them, I loved the Sunwapta Pole at CRFN Television station, and the poles in Jasper. fullsizeoutput_238bI even remember having a tiny one that I bought in Banff as a child. This project became much more involved than I expected and deserves its own post, so watch for that one next Sunday.

I looked at my list and I have completed 8 items. Not bad for six months! I have 10 more to attempt. Now it is summer, I can safely explore some of the ravines with my pal Captain. The small town exploration begins next Friday, I have the day off (Thanks Flex Time!) and intend to visit Lacombe and the Farmer’s Market. Calmar and Vegerville are also on that list. It is nice to have things to look forward to. So how do you organize your goals and plan your time?