Dahlia Drive: the Twelfth Day of Masset
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the Twelfth Day of Masset

We celebrated Epiphany when the boys were young. We would have a party; I would dress up as Old Befana and sweep out the house, bake bread and deliver presents to the children because each of them was a child of god.  (Old Befana was so busy sweeping and baking that she missed the 3 wise men passing by and so every child she encountered on her tardy trek to find them was potentially the child of god).  I definitely mix seasonal stories to fit my own vision but the gesture is much the same; into the dark of winter comes the light of children, the promise of spring warmth and a clean path for new beginnings.

The winds swept Masset clean early in the New Year and with that gust went my Sandy to Vancouver for 3 weeks to work and be an on hand father and grandfather.  I have found the stark reality of a party of 1 plus fur to be humbling.  In this quiet place on my quiet boat in the still snow where the electricity just went out all over town (as Sandy would say ‘darker than the inside of a dog’), I am offered the gift of being by myself, to myself and of myself.  No external deadlines, no co habitation considerations, just here and now.  Overwhelmed?  Yep.  Nonetheless, this is my gift from Old Befana.  I plan to flourish.
Sandy and I have been looking after 2 cats, Orange and Loki (a grey cat), at their home while their owners are away. (I am using their home as the Dahlia Drive studio where I paint and hang my clothes and listen to the trees).

 I ventured there today in 4 wheel drive to check that the cats’ water wasn’t frozen (wood heat only).  It wasn’t.  Orange was not around but Loki was there and he was really happy to see me. He purred and rubbed my legs and purred and rubbed my legs.  Normally, Sandy looks after the cats; I fear they will jump on my head and dispassionately claw my eyes out. Also, they make my eyes itchy and my breath congested. This cat was so lonely and cold that, with my new epiphany, I felt the pull to examine my bias. I sat on the couch and we cuddled for 45 minutes. He purred and flexed his claws in and out, in and out, in and out (what IS it with that?).  He rubbed his head on my chin and while I was happy I had my glasses and toque on, I didn’t stop him.  It was an extremely pleasant sharing of warmth.  I wondered how long he would need this cuddle, whether he liked having his tail pet or his belly scratched, what a cat owner would do to love their cat, how a happy cat reacts to love and then suddenly we just seemed to relax and closing time became apparent.  I had itchy eyes and a wheeze driving for a shower at the local camp site (4 minutes for $4, fastest shower ever especially since the water is freezing for the first 30 seconds) but no scratches or blood.  I will go and visit my new friend again tomorrow. 
On Tuesdays I help serve lunch at the Village church.  The home made meal is open to anyone who comes.  Last Tuesday Margaret brought the most delicious venison stew; Elsie always makes buns hot from the oven.  The minister (with the delightful name of Lily Bell) left yesterday for radiation treatment in Vancouver. Last Tuesday she invited me to her house across the street from the church.  She loves crèches and she wanted to show me her collection of 20+ different installations.  The one below was my favourite.  Nobody is left out of this barn.  All are accepted no matter shape or form:  a variety of angels, Joseph’s broken head replaced with a flower, Haida dolls and a bear as witnesses, a raven offering a berry to the baby. Above it all hung a Haida print of Jesus. 
There was a luncheon for Lily Bell on Saturday to raise money for her travel expenses.  Food as gifts, to honour the living and the dead, to raise money, to feed those with addictions or to celebrate a moment is a constant here.  There is so much food gathered in the collective larder that the offerings are true delicacies reaped from the immediate environment. The land and sea of Haida Gwaii is a rich provider and its people are rich sharers.
We house sat a beautiful home and its canine inhabitant on the Chown River for Christmas.  The owners generously offered us any of the contents in their freezer, a freezer full of deer meat, fish eggs on kelp (k’aaw), shrimp, crab meat.  Such generousity is foreign to me. Thank you Johanne and Reg and Taawagenay.

We had turkey dinner for Christmas Eve with 3 young people from the World Youth Organization (20 young people from Canada and Indonesia who spent 3 months here and just left for 3 months in Indonesia). One of the young men was a Muslim so Sandy curbed his dressing to be pork free.  We put the dogs away because in the Muslim faith, being licked by a dog has onerous prayer repercussions. We had a Muslim grace!
Sandy made sushi for Christmas Day.  We send the meat wrapped presents to our kids and Kennedy for their Christmas morning in North Vancouver.
My experience of space and time on Haida Gwaii has allowed me to view a larger inter-connection between things. For example, Radar is a crappy heeler; he is always pulling, always ahead of my leg.  I have tried treats and circles and a harness and yelling.  Nothing gets through.  On the vast plane of South Beach, with Radar running wild, I started seeing a pattern to his behaviour, giving me insight into his “heeling block”. Sandy and I would walk at the ocean’s edge and Radar, would run about 50 feet ahead of us and 50 feet towards the dunes and lie down, watching us.  As soon as we became parallel to his resting spot he would charge us, circle around us and find his next spot, 50 feet ahead and fifty feet out.  He would do this over and over again!  I would test the limits of his tolerance for variance in our respective positions (ie go really slow up to the line or run fast past) but he would never allow me to get an inch beyond his lead before charging and circling.  No wonder he won’t heel! I am sure some dog whisperer has the ‘key’ to unlock Radar’s compulsion but my point is that I would never have seen this pattern in the city because it and its repeat are so huge.  So, what else am I habitually viewing on such a small plane that I can’t see the larger story? A LOT. I used to worry about all the things I didn’t see (much like my cat worries, I feared that what I couldn’t see would, in essence, land on my head and scratch my eyes out), but now I am practicing to relax in knowing that everything lives on a much larger plane than I will ever see and that that, in itself, is awesome.
Did I say AWESOME?  Awesome, awesome Kennedy:  swimming lessons for the bald Rapunzel and her throw back Thursday t-shirt.  (#tbt is cyber speak for ‘old picture of you posted on a Thursday’). OMD (oh my dog!)
I ran a silk screening workshop for the visiting world youth. It was a great experience. One example of the process is pictured below: object to drawing to stencil to screen to screened image on t-shirt.

May the 12th day of Christmas, January 6, Tuesday, now, Epiphany awaken you to a fresh new world.
Wendy the dahlia in the drive

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