Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Thoughts in Northern Climes: Whitehorse

heading south down the Alaska highway, towards Skagway and Carcross

It is my third full day here in Whitehorse and I'm beginning to settle into a quiet daily rhythm. Ian's beautiful cats are warming up to me, and now that they realize that I can and will give them food periodically, I seem to be in their good books.
Waking up with fresh lungs filled with clean air is a fabulous feeling...then to take that feeling outside for some exercise in the brisk wind and sun on your face make a morning here truly wonderful.
As you run down the paved trail there are subdivisions quietly sitting amongst the trees, the odd cyclist, people walking their dogs and always the pacific view of snowy mountains on the horizon. I try to savour and bottle the feelings of freedom and movement, the lack of pollution and the ease of breathing as I finish my morning dash.

The sun was shrouded a bit by angry looking clouds
but rain didn't fall until later in the afternoon
The view down the hill on Hamilton Blvd.
A great 8km distance for a morning run

Yesterday Ian and I drove down to Carcross, a small town that is rather dependent on the tourism industry and thus was rather quiet when we rolled into town. Tourism season picks up in May and continues until the end of July.

Emerald Lake, en route to Carcross
We took the Alaska Highway south and I remarked on how little traffic there was. "RV season hasn't begun yet" Ian chimed in. I then imagined a caravan of RVs trundling northward towards Whitehorse and the wilderness the surrounds the city.

The view out over Bennett Lake as we look out from Carcross
Quite quiet, Carcross seemed to be waiting for the inevitable crowds of June

When we arrived in Carcross we saw not a single soul. One truck trundled down a street but for all intents and purposes it was a ghost town. Even the public outhouses were locked up. Nevertheless, appreciating a place when it ISN'T active and bustling is enjoyable in it's own right. I believe it offers a peek into the true nature of a place, when the fluctuating crowds have not arrived yet, when there is quiet, and a feeling of waiting, hibernating even. We didn't stay long but began our way back to Whitehorse as raindrops were coming down and we had errands to run in lieu of the Viking party we are having tomorrow night. If we are adopting names, I'd like to be Freya, Norse Goddess and leader of the Valkyries. Not a bad gig I think.

Marsh Lake, on the way back to Whitehorse

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Stark Beauty of Spring: Whitehorse

"Some say it’s a fine land to shun;
Maybe; but there’s some as would trade it
For no land on earth — and I'm one."
~Robert Service, The Spell Of The Yukon

Time spent in solitude, especially in northern climes, invites introspection. It makes you cherish those distant connections with friends and family even more, yet also opens you up to new possibilities of adventure. In fact, travel inherently is paradoxical: you pull your past along with you while also forging ahead into new landscapes. The weight of the past may be light or heavy, depending on your relationships. Some seek to cut the rope that holds those memories behind them as they climb, run, hike away into new valleys of experience. However the trick, I think, is to keep your loved ones in your heart, trusting that you will return to them after your sojourn away from them. And perhaps, just maybe, leaving them for a time brings your closer to them in the end.

The view from my room in Whitehorse

I am going to try to blog more frequently up here in Whitehorse as I have less distraction than when I am in Ontario, and the rhythm of my days is much different. The Yukon is so vast, it is comforting to know that there are less than 40,000 people here in the entire province!

Glacial water has that luminescent blue hue that is sublime..

A view of Whitehorse

I wanted to post some new photos that I have taken of the surrounding area on a small tour with my friend Ian. His cats are warming up to me and I have included a photo of my latest painting subject, the lovely and convivial Pumpkin. Ian informed me last night that he had briefly considered naming her "Grendel's Mother", which is a FABULOUS name. Perhaps that can be her middle name. Certainly she has a better temperament than Grendel's Mother :)

So today I shall think about our own unique histories, for each is as individual as a fingerprint. Revisit what you might have put aside or neglected or turned away from. Our past shapes our future, of that I am certain.

The lovely and incomparable Pumpkin (aka Grendel's Mother)

The Yukon River, which I have not seen since I was in Alaska two years ago near
Fort Yukon on the Dalton Highway

Have a beautiful day :)


"We wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfilment." -Hilaire Belloc

Monday, April 19, 2010

Thoughts On Exploration: British Columbia and The Yukon

A view from the ferry, en route to Vancouver Island....

“How badly I want that nameless thing! First there must be an idea, a feeling... Maybe it was an abstract idea that you've got to find a symbol for, or maybe it was a concrete form that you have to simplify or distort to meet your ends, but that starting point must pervade the whole.” ~Emily Carr

There's nothing like waking up with the sun in your eyes, and I mean that in a good way. Waking up with the sun in your eyes in a new city is even this case it is Whitehorse in the Yukon. I am here "on assignment" for the next month and if this morning is any indication, it is going to be one heck of a beautiful month.

I arrived late last night from Vancouver, where I have spent the last week. I also ferried over to Duncan on Vancouver Island to see my friend Anne. It has been two years since we have spent time together and it was such a pleasure to see her and her family once again.

Cherry blossoms were out all over Vancouver, lining the streets in pink petals.

I'll try to keep my rhapsodizing about the Western Canada to a minimum here but each time I visit I fall more and more in love with this side of the country. Maybe it isn't the West, but the coast, as I the east coast of Canada has it's quality of unparalleled beauty.

The mountain trail that I ran/walked each day I was in Duncan..

The intent of this five week journey is multi-faceted. To reunite with friends, to paint, to write and to shoot reference for future paintings. I have three commissions lined up, and this is a lovely part of being a are creating something special for friends and clients, something they will always have and that is unique to their lives and history. It is their vision, and as creatives we are a conduit to making that happen. The best commissions are the ones where the clients give me carte blanche. They say, here is the subject, I trust your vision. Do what you do. How liberating! Nothing beats that feeling.

The view down from Mount Tzouhalem, the mountain that Anne lives on...

Looking up while on a walk through the forest...intoxicating...

The weather in Vancouver was cool and refreshing. It was wonderful to revisit the neighbourhoods that I enjoy so much: Kitsilano and the West End. I took the ferry over to Nanaimo and stayed in Duncan for three nights, each day going for a hike or run on the mountain trails behind Anne's house. I remember distinctly going into town with Anne's son and her husband, and sticking my head out the back window to smell the air. It was perfumed with the scent of flowers and spring. It was remarkable...I can see why they say that our sense of smell is most strongly tied to memory.

Nefertiti, one of Ian's lovely cats whose company I will
enjoy very much over the next month..

Now I am in Whitehorse, arriving late last night. I can hardly wait to explore this part of the country...waking up to snow-capped mountains, fresh coffee and the promise of the unknown drives many a person, many an artist, many an explorer. My main objective is to take care of my three feline charges, Nefertiti, Sneggy and Pumpkin. That, along with painting and working on the book about Christopher McCandless will make the four weeks fly by. I am thrilled to be underway in the North... :)

Some of the changing faces of the landscape behind Anne's house in Duncan, BC....

"The only people for me are the mad ones,the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars..." -Jack Kerouac

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Unforgettable Ankara, Part 2

"All day I think about it, then at night I say it. Where did I come from
and what am I supposed to be doing? I have no idea. My soul is from elsewhere, I'm
sure of that, and I intend to end up there."~Rumi

The day after we walked around the beautiful little area of Ulus, older Ankara, Barb, Louise, Vicky and myself took a tour of Cappadocia a very interesting and unique area of Turkey rich in its unusual landscapes, rock formations and history. It turned out to be a 17 hour day as it takes about four hours drive south of Ankara to reach the region. Above you can see dawn coming over the hills with the Turkish flag in the foreground.

I tried to capture the moon with my camera as we sped out of Ankara at 6am

I Loved the play of light over the land as the day began..

Our polite and knowledgeable driver Burhan, who hails from Güzelyurt, a small town in Cappadocia, drove us around the region, stopping at notable places that just took our breath away. It was such a thrill to get out of the big city and into the rural areas of Turkey, where people live a slower life, a very traditional life, a quieter life.

The roads were well maintained and easy to get around to the points that we sought. The benefit of having Burhan with us is that he knew all of the out of the way places and side roads that led to less frequented places.

Old and Young..look at the stories on each of these faces..

Mt. Erciyes, the highest peak in Cappadocia
at 3916 feet is seen in the distance

We arrived in the town of Güzelyurt, which means "Pretty Town" in Turkish and stopped to gave up at the dwellings that had been carved out of the cliffs so long ago. Many are not inhabited anymore but others boggled my mind and humbled me very much to see how simply life can be lived, we just have a habit of surrounding ourselves with too much...

I loved the splash of this woman's
intense blue shirt amongst the rocks and earthy tones

Behind this broken fence I could hear
the clucking of chicken and some goats

We stopped to take photographs of the views and buildings, and, while walking up a rather steep hill, I noticed a woman sweeping out in front of a small iron gate. She beckoned me forward with a big smile and I walked up the hill to try my best to interact with her in a way that we could both understand. I managed to ask her if she would mind if I took her photograph. She shyly agreed. She then beckoned me in Turkish to follow her into her home, which comprised three rooms that had been carved out of the side of a cliff. I was quite astonished and thrilled to see this small, tidy home that she had been whitewashed, neat as a pin, and even had a small pot with little herbs growing from it. It was an intense few minutes as I tried to thank her for allowing me into her home, as well as take in the simplicity of her life, try to imagine if I could do the same, and process all of these thoughts at once.
Such a kind face. Neither of us spoke the other's language but it didn't matter.

Yes, she lives here...she was all smiles and proudly showed me her small, tidy home.

Everything in its right place...

I loved how the light was catching this small plant.
Amidst so much stone, this bit of life shone out..

On we went in the van to some breathtaking landscapes that are not found anywhere else in the world...We took hundreds of photos, photos that never seem to capture the emotion and flavour of the places adequately....but it does convey its essence I think, to a degree. We stopped in an area known for its underground city...yes, the passageways descended down for a total of 8 stories. Sometimes you had to duck and almost crawl to get into the different rooms. There was lighting along the way that helped to keep people from bumping into one another but nonetheless it was certainly close quarters. I know all of this because these facts because they were told to me by Ambassador Bailey who had visited there, as well as an elderly gentleman who offered to guide us through the tunnels. I am a confirmed claustrophobe and thus did not go on the tour..but it sounded pretty amazing....

A lovely Turkish woman at one of the many vendors we passed

This Turkish gentleman spoke perfect english and we chatted with him for a good while.

We moved on from the underground city where we grabbed a bite to eat to some amazing cave dwellings. I think we must have covered several hundred kilometres that day...we didn't return back to the residence until 10:30 at night... a long day but so unforgettable...I will blog more about this amazing day in Cappadocia soon...stay tuned!!

"The function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them. I shall use my time."~Jack London