ice and reflections

a few of my favourite Christmas photos


at a special place on Vancouver Island, near Victoria on a little lake
with a thin layer of crackled ice on Christmas morning


at the home of middle daughter’s family where we all gathered for feasts, music, gifts


back home with eldest daughter and husband visiting here as well
now just the two of us catching up with photos, messages and a nap or two
on this fifth day of Christmas

reflections on this year’s winding down
thoughts of dear faraway family, friends and readers
hope all are having a pleasant holiday
as we are about to cross into a new year

Winter Story 2013

Our lovely granddaughters Lael and Niamh have a wonderful Christmas tradition of composing, with the help of their mom and daddy, an animated Winter Story to share with family and friends. And once again, I’m proud to share it here. This year’s is called Twelve Days. Turn on the sound and if you wish, you can view it screen size by clicking on the icon on the lower right of the bar. You can also see their winter animations from the last few years on their site. Enjoy!

a Christmas memory


Mother & Child – etching – image size: 11 x 7 cm. (4.25″ x 3″)

I handprinted this etching in an edition of 65 for Christmas cards sometime in the mid 1980’s, I think. (The date is obscured behind the mat.) It was during a special time when I had found a wonderful print studio where I was able to take up my longed for desire to focus on printmaking. When I came across this particular framed piece in my storage recently, I recalled that it had been hanging in my late parents’ home. With those happy memories, I became inspired to use this as my online Christmas card for this year.

So my dearest friends and readers, with this I wish you a warm and love-filled holiday season, one with happy new memories to hold close. Hyvää Joulua!

seasonal treats


Some fun seasonal reading and viewing with a Finnish twist:

1. Living With Finland’s Reindeer Cowboys. Stunningly beautiful photography in this short video and in the film link to be found in the fascinating article. Image above is captured from here.

2. A Pet Reindeer watches TV

3. Santa lives in Finnish Lapland – a newspaper article from a few years ago that I’ve posted before and just came across again.

Enjoy your preparations for the upcoming holidays!

two weavings


Today I have thinking again about possible designs for this year’s Christmas cards. I usually like something red and something that has a bit of a story and is a bit personal. We have many weavings in our home, many were gifts to us or inherited from my mother. I thought I’d play with some scans of sections from a few of them. Above is one that came from Switzerland, I think. It is a reversible table runner. The other side has the red colour dominant.


This one is a section from an old Finnish weaving that had been in my parents’ home as long as I can remember but I don’t recall who made it and gifted it. I would not be surprised if it came from a great-aunt who was an amazing weaver, but there are others in the family as well. This is a small wall-hanging, also reversible, but with two layers, a very old traditional technique I believe. The design areas are woven together while the top edge is sewn together. The bottom edge has a fringe.

To me, both of these are like children’s storybook illustrations. So, I then became inspired to try a card design with one of them – can you guess which one?

Alert Bay’s Residential School


Some time before our own island hopping journey last month, some dear friends had done a similar trip a bit earlier going farther north but also visiting Sointula and Alert Bay. They warned us about a very disturbing sight at Alert Bay. Indeed, as we approached Cormorant Island on the ferry and saw the village, we were stunned by the vision of a huge prison-like brick building standing out above the smaller structures.


This is St. Michael’s Indian Residential School. It operated from 1929 to 1974. When the school was closed, the First Nations residents of the island took over the ownership and decided to leave it standing, its deteriorating condition being a horrific testament to a tragic past of cultural genocide.


The Indian residential school system was implemented in 1879 by the Canadian government to eliminate the “Indian problem”—that is, to absorb the Aboriginal population into the dominant Canadian identity, and to impose Christianity, English or French as the primary languages, and the abandonment of cultural and family traditions. St. Michael’s Indian Residential School in Alert Bay was one of 140 Indian residential schools that operated in Canada. (quote from the Museum of Anthropology page regarding an exhibition I just learned about and must go see.)


It is located right next to the U’mista Cultural Centre which I wrote about yesterday. One side about a loss of culture, pride, language and family connection, the other about reviving pride in one’s culture, language and history.


Viewing this was all very very disturbing for us all, and quite the eye opener for our European visitors. It still remains with me, making this a difficult post to write. Man’s inhumanity to man.


This scene is in the grassy treed area in front of the school. In its innocence, it still made me sad when thinking of the long ago suffering children, yet suggesting hope and happiness for today’s.

We were to learn that while we were here, back in Vancouver was a huge gathering of First Nations from across Canada for the Truth and Reconciliation Week. There were many many articles in the media about this event, but I’ll just post a few below should you be interested. Do at least visit the first one, a heartwarming story by a local well-known blogger who was there:

Walking Reconciliation by Chris Corrigan

CBC: Seeking Truth and Reconciliation in Vancouver

To Break Residential Schools’ Dark Legacy, Understand Why

ADDED later: more photos of St. Michael’s

Alert Bay history


‘Namgis Bighouse, next to the world’s tallest totem pole


the front doors of the U’Mista Cultural Centre

As I mentioned in my first Alert Bay post, we learned, unfortunately for us, that the U’Mista Cultural Centre was closed for two reasons, one that it was now on the fall/winter schedule with a Monday closing, and secondly and more seriously because of a recent fire.

In our wanderings around the village, we came upon U’Mista with its stunning doorside panels. I’m sorry I did not get a good picture of the larger structure. Unable to go inside, I thus want to point out their excellent website which I’ve been studying several times. For starters, the meaning of U’Mista is enlightening:

In earlier days, people were sometimes taken captive by raiding parties. When they returned to their homes, either through payment of ransom or by a raid, they were said to have u’mista. The return of our treasures from distant museums is a form of u’mista.

Do have a look at the gorgeous masks in the collection.

I’m grateful for websites like this and that we had managed a visit to Quadra Island’s Nuyumbalees Cultural Centre with its similar masks and other works, their stories and their sad history with the arrival of the Europeans.

Here’s more about that history.

colourful Alert Bay




amusing and colourful
on the waterfront road near the visitors centre
an urban contrast on a remote island of totem poles

more Alert Bay



Above: details of just two sections of the World’s Tallest Totem Pole. The Totem Pole is comprised of a 163 Foot and a 10 Foot pole making it 173 feet tall. Unlike most Totem Poles, which are specific to a particular family, the figures on this pole represent some of the tribes of the Kwakwaka’wakw. (from the PDF about Alert Bay’s Totem Poles)



There are several totem poles located around the village and we visited quite a number, thanks to the map. It is fascinating how unique each is. Some are fairly recently created memorials placed in front of homes of the deceased. The above linked PDF document is certainly worth a read.

island hopping, day 3 Alert Bay

After a morning at Sointula, we took the ferry back to Port McNeill, then drove right back on it for the leg to Alert Bay on Cormorant Island, about 40 minutes away. These ferry trips were a joy on another beautiful sunny day.

Our plan was to visit Alert Bay’s noted numerous totem poles and its U’mista Cultural Centre. Our first stop was at the visitor centre to get both print and verbal information and directions which were excellent. But also some bad news… the U’mista Cultural Centre was closed on Mondays! I felt very sorry that I had not rechecked the website concerning the fall and winter schedule change. We were also told that there had recently been a fire in one part of the museum so that part was closed for restoration work.

Still, we saw a lot in our afternoon there and took so many photos that I will have to show them over more than one post. Today’s focus is on the the island’s largest grouping of totem poles on the Namgis Burial Ground. Being sacred ground, viewers were requested to view these from the road, not a problem though I am grateful my husband captured some closer shots with his newer and more powerful camera.







We were given brochures which are very helpful in learning more about totem poles in general and Alert Bay’s in particular. One is available also as a PDF. I recommend the page “what is a totem pole?” Are these not amazing works of art and spirit?!