Monthly Archives: May 2021

The Canadian Woman Who Painted The United Nations

Lester Pearson sitting as the representative for Canada at the United Nations

Before he became the prime minister of Canada Lester B. Pearson was the Canadian ambassador to the United States. He played an important role in the founding of the United Nations in 1945.

When the international organization met for only the second time in an old exhibition hall in Flushing Meadow New York in 1947, Pearson decided the momentous occasion should be recorded by an artist.

Artist Pegi Nicol Macleod at workphoto from the University of Toronto archives

He chose a Canadian artist who happened to be living in New York at the time, Pegi Nicol MacLeod. She did a number of paintings of the session.

At the UN by Pegi Nicol MacLeod- photo taken at the Winnipeg Art Gallery in 2018

Since Pearson commissioned the United Nations paintings you might think Pegi Nicol MacLeod would have painted him at the speaker’s podium, but the person at the podium in this artwork looks suspiciously like a woman.

Pierre Berton gives a detailed and colourful description of this meeting in a November 1947 article in Maclean’s magazine.

Photo from the November 15, 1947 issue of Maclean’s magazine. You can see the map and podium and side balconies just like in Pegi’s painting.

The photo in the magazine matches Pegi’s painting.  

In the sea of men, Pegi appears to have included three women- one on the podium and two in the bottom right corner of the painting.  According to Pierre Berton’s article, the wives of many of the delegates were in attendance and the ushers were women. The head of the Indian delegation was a woman Mrs Vijaya Lakasmi Pandit. Could she be one of the two women on the right or is she at the podium?

Pierre Berton also mentions the names of some female journalists at the meeting and if you look in the press box just underneath the podium some of the journalists could be women. I think it is interesting that in a meeting dominated by men Pegi chose to include quite a number of women in her painting.

This is another one of Pegi’s paintings of the United Nations meeting in 1947from the Mayberry Fine Art website

Sadly in 1949 Pegi Nicol Macleod died of cancer. She left behind more than a thousand works of art including her paintings of one of the first meetings of the United Nations.

Untitled painting by Pegi Nicol Macleod – from Wikipedia

Pegi Nicol Macleod is also well known for her paintings of women who served in Canada’s armed forces.

Other posts……….

De Ja Vu at the United Nations

Between Dog and Wolf

Warli Art

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Filed under Art, Canada, History

Locked Away

I read the heartbreaking news about all those little bodies found in a mass grave on the grounds of the residential school in Kamloops just before I read the second of two revealing articles in the Winnipeg Free Press about conditions at the Stoney Mountain Federal Penitentiary. And it made me think about how we started locking away Indigenous people over a hundred and fifty years ago and how we still do that.

The Dakota Boat by W. Frank Lynn shows Indigenous people observing the arrival of a boat carrying immigrants at the Upper Fort Garry site in Winnipegphotographed at the Winnipeg Art Gallery

We took away the land Indigenous people lived on and locked them away on reservations. Most couldn’t leave without a pass from the Indian agent in charge of their reserve. They needed a pass to visit their children in residential school, take things to sell at local markets or attend cultural celebrations on other reserves.

Reserves were often located on less favourable land where it was hard to farm or make a living. Canadian laws made it difficult for residents to hunt and fish. Today there is often not enough land on reserves for people to have adequate housing and since many reserves are isolated some don’t have basic services like clean water or good education and employment opportunities

The Scream by Kent Monkman shows children being forcibly taken to residential school. – photographed at the Winnipeg Art Gallery

We locked Indigenous children away in residential schools taking them forcibly, if necessary, from their parents when they were as young as four years old and keeping them till they were sixteen. We know now that residential schools were places where children often lacked nutritious diets, were separated from their siblings, were forbidden to speak their Indigenous languages, were subject to harsh punishment and sexual assault, exposed to contagious diseases, received inadequate medical care, did unpaid labour in unsafe work environments and had their traditional cultural practices vilified. Families today still suffer from the long term impact of residential schools the last of which shuttered its doors in 1996.

Reincarceration by Kent Monkman is a painting of the Stoney Mountain Federal Penitentiary and illustrates its impact on Indigenous Manitobans. Photographed at the Winnipeg Art Gallery

And we are still locking Indigenous people away in our prisons. Here in Manitoba, 75% of the people incarcerated in our correctional facilities are Indigenous even though they only represent 15% of our population. And as the Free Press article pointed out the conditions in which they live in the Stoney Mountain Federal Penitentiary are far from humane. In the last four years, there have been 23 inmate deaths there caused by suicide, drug overdose, gang violence and “apparent” natural causes. Half of the inmates contracted COVID-19.

The building is old without many of the modern features that would make for greater safety and there aren’t adequate medical and mental health resources for inmates. Many are housed in century-old cells that prison reformer Agnes Macphail claimed at the time they were constructed were already dangerous and unfit for human habitation.

How do we make retribution for how we have locked away Indigenous people in the past? How do we change things so the practice doesn’t continue? I think we need to ask Indigenous Canadians to tell us how we do that and then we need to listen to what they say.

Other posts………..

The Scream

Incarceration

The Dakota Boat

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Filed under Canada, History, winnipeg art gallery

The Trees of Rideau Hall

When Prince William and his wife Kate visited Canada in 2011 they planted a hemlock tree on the grounds of Rideau Hall, the home of Canada’s Governor-General in Ottawa. It is a tradition that when someone famous visits Rideau Hall they plant a tree.  On our visit to Ottawa, we took a tour of Rideau Hall and the park surrounding it and I made some notes about the trees I saw.

There are 150 trees planted by famous visitors on the Rideau Hall grounds.  Many of the trees have grown large and their boughs stretch wide and high.

One thing I noticed was many of the people who planted the trees at Rideau Hall had made a positive difference in our world. 

There is a brass marker at the base of each tree telling you who planted it, when it was planted, as well as what kind of tree it is.

I saw a sugar maple planted by Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first democratically elected president. The anti-apartheid activist spent twenty- seven years in prison and became a worldwide symbol of hope to those fighting for freedom and equality.

Diana, Princess of Wales has a tree in Rideau Hall Park. This popular British royal used her notoriety to draw the attention of the world to the needs of people with AIDS and the victims of land mines.

In July of 2011, when William her son and his wife Kate visited Rideau Hall, they stopped for a few moments of silence beside the tree Diana had planted, just after planting their own tree.  Following in the footsteps of Diana’s dedication to public service the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have established a foundation that promotes mental health and wellness.  

John F. Kennedy planted a flourishing red oak tree. Kennedy inspired the establishment of the United States Peace Corps. The organization has sent 200,000 volunteers to 140 countries to help those in need.

When Kofi Annan visited Canada Adrienne Clarkson was the Governor-General living at Rideau Hall.

There’s a tree planted by  Kofi Annan of Ghana, the former Secretary-General of the United Nations.  He won the Nobel Prize for his efforts to bring peace to conflicts in Iraq, Yugoslavia, Nigeria, Libya, East Timor and the Middle East.

Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko greet Governor General Michaelle Jean at Rideau Hall before planting their tree

Japan’s Emperor Akihito has a tree at Rideau Hall. In 2011 after a tsunami devastated his country he did something no Japanese royal has ever done before. He made a live television appearance to talk to his people to reassure them and give them hope and then he and his wife visited shelters for storm refugees. 

Many of the famous people who have planted trees at Rideau Hall have used their lives to serve others, and make a difference in the world. 

 Other posts……..

The Beginning And End of Life

I Sat in The Speaker’s Chair

Canada A Country For All Seasons

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A Book Is A Dream You Hold In Your Hand

Stepping Stones written by Margriet Ruurs and illustrated by Nizar Ali Badr is published by Orca Books with text in both English and Arabic

I bought the book Stepping Stones as a gift for my grandchildren recently. Their mother is a physician in Saskatoon and part of her job is working in a clinic for refugees. I thought Stepping Stones, which tells the story of the immigration journey of a Syrian refugee girl named Rama, would help my grandchildren gain a greater understanding of the importance of the work their mother does. My oldest grandson is very artistic and I knew he would be intrigued by the beautiful illustrations in Stepping Stones that were made with rocks.

I am almost embarrassed to admit that at the time I bought Stepping Stones I didn’t even look at who the author of the book was or learn anything about its story.

Screen shot from the Prairie Horizons writing conference hosted by the Saskatchewan chapter of CANSCAIP

Then last weekend I attended the Prairie Horizons conference for children’s authors. Normally it is held in Saskatoon but this year it was online. The keynote speaker was none other than Margriet Ruurs the author of Stepping Stones and she told us the story of the book.

Photo of Margriet Ruurs from her Facebook page.

Margriet has written and published some forty books for children. She lives on Salt Spring Island in British Columbia but has travelled the world. Margriet was on Facebook one day and came across the work of a Syrian artist named Nizar Ali Badr. She was fascinated with his beautiful creations that were made from rocks he collected from a beach near his home. As he finished each piece of art he took a photo of it with his camera.

Artist Nizar Ali Badr at work – Photo from Orca Books

Margriet wondered if she could use his art to illustrate a story about a refugee family. You can imagine the energy and persistence it took for Margriet to connect with an artist who lived across the world and didn’t speak the same language, make arrangements to use his artwork, write a story that dovetailed with his pictures, and convince a publisher to take on the book. At the conference, she explained it all in fascinating detail and you can get an idea of the process from this CBC video or from this page on the Orca Publishers site.

What is even more fascinating is what has happened with the book since it was published in 2016. Stepping Stones has won a bevvy of awards and has been translated into many different languages. Margriet decided to donate her share of the royalties from the book to organizations that help refugees, and that as well as other efforts initiated as a result of the publication of Stepping Stones has raised more than $100,000 so far. The book has solicited countless accolades including an endorsement from the Pope.

My Librarian is a Camel by Margriet Ruurs is published by Boyds Mill Press

At the conference, Margriet also told the story of two of her other books The Elephant Keeper and My Librarian Is A Camel. The publication of both has been instrumental in raising support and awareness for important environmental and literacy endeavours. Her stories about these books were riveting and by the time Margriet was finished her keynote address at the conference I was in tears.

Margriet told us that a book is a dream we hold in our hand. An author never knows when they write a book what can happen with it, what the book can do to make people’s dreams come true, how a children’s book we write might play an important role in changing the world.

Now I can hardly wait till the pandemic is over and I can visit my grandchildren in Saskatoon again so we can read Stepping Stones together and I can tell them all about the story of Margriet’s book. I wouldn’t be surprised if a few more of Margriet’s stories didn’t find their way into the Grandma bag of books that always comes along on my visits.

Other posts……….

My Parents- Refugee Supporters

Thoughts on Refugees

This Woman Should Be A Saint

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Snitches Get Stitches

‘Snitches get stitches’ is a term being bandied about in Manitoba as people discuss the current government restrictions designed to stop the spread of COVID-19.  The person who mentioned the term to me said in certain neighbourhoods in our province, residents feel free to violate lockdown protocols because there is a ‘snitches get stitches’ ethos in the community.  

Spying on neighbours illustration from the India Times.

I had to look the phrase up in the urban dictionary to learn it has its roots in gang culture where it means that snitches -people who report on others to the police or government agencies, will receive stitches- some kind of abuse usually of a physical nature, for betraying them.  I suspect that ‘snitches get stitches’ may not actually be happening in Manitoba neighbourhoods, but it is a dramatic way to describe the prevailing attitude of the folks living in some communities. If you report neighbours to the authorities for disregarding the limits imposed by the lockdown you will damage your reputation and your actions may be subject to public criticism. 

A friend on social media passed on a post about why you shouldn’t report neighbours to the police if you notice them violating government COVID-19 regulations. It reminded people that it is your neighbours and not the government who will come to your aid when you need to borrow a garden tool or a cup of sugar.  They keep an eye on your property while you vacation and their children are probably classmates with yours. Is it more important to maintain a cordial relationship with your neighbours than to follow government regulations albeit ones with the intent of stopping the spread of COVID-19?

So, what would I do if my neighbour wasn’t following the mandated health regulations? I know what I should do.  I shouldn’t call the authorities.  I should talk to them myself. I should have the courage to let my neighbour know their violations of the COVID-19 regulations make me uncomfortable, and I should explain why. If my neighbour and I have had a cordial relationship in the past and I was a good neighbour before the pandemic, odds are they will listen respectfully as I voice my uneasiness about their actions. 

We may have to text our neighbours about our concerns or talk with them on the phone.

I think I’d need to be personal in my approach indicating that my request for them to follow regulations stems from worry for a family member who is an essential worker, or a friend who is immune-compromised or a child who has not yet been able to receive a vaccination. I might point out how rapidly variants are infecting people. A face -to -face conversation could be awkward, if not against lockdown rules, so I might opt to do it by phone or even leave a letter on their front porch along with a plate of home baking. I would start by stating some reasons why I appreciate having them for a neighbour and then voice my concern. 

Sometimes a neighbour may just need a helping hand in order not to break restriction rules

Someone told me about their neighbour who was violating health mandates, but they knew it was because of a family medical emergency and the neighbour’s lack of financial resources. They decided initiating a discussion about regulations would only add to their neighbour’s stress. In an instance like that offering a meal, some money, or connections to community agencies that could provide support and help, is undoubtedly the preferable course of action. 

I think there are times when we will have to report a neighbour because we have tried other avenues and they continue to violate regulations in a way that puts the health of our community in jeopardy.  But hopefully, it can saved as our last resort. 

Other posts……..

Aren’t They Holdable?

Drawing on Past Experiences To Quell Anger

The Long Year

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Filed under COVID-19 Diary

It’s Not An Elm!

The leaves on my first tree are so green and plentiful now.

As my regular blog readers know I’ve adopted four trees in my neighbourhood and over the course of a year, I am going to try to get to know them as friends. This is the third post I am doing about my trees and the big news is that the tree I thought was an elm is not an elm.

This isn’t an elm tree! It’s a cottonwood!

Tree expert Ariel Gordon whose book Treed inspired my tree friends project read my last post and commented that she was sorry but the tree I’d been identifying as an American elm wasn’t an elm at all. She had a couple of guesses about what kind of tree it could be but she wasn’t exactly sure.

So I put a photo of the tree’s leaves into my Picture This app and it said the tree was an eastern cottonwood also known as a necklace poplar.

However, when I put a photo of the flowers on the tree into the app it said the tree was a western cottonwood also known as a Freemont cottonwood. So my elm is actually a cottonwood although I don’t know for sure what kind eastern or western.

My cottonwood has grown so much leafier and greener in the last couple of weeks as you can see in these comparison photos.

Also, the flowers at its base that were hiding in their leaves the last time I visited have now blossomed and are looking lovely.

My prairie crabapple has some gorgeous blossoms now but it is not blooming nearly as fully as the other three prairie crabapple trees surrounding it.

I know I shouldn’t compare trees, but it’s hard not to.

I am wondering if my crabapple tree isn’t flourishing like its neighbours because I noticed the last time I visited that it had this scar on its trunk where a branch must have broken off in another year.

I was so sad to see when I visited now that another branch had been broken off. Who would do that?

I am a little worried about my lilacs. Other lilac bushes all over the city are in full bloom and mine still don’t look like much. My husband Dave says to be patient. They will bloom yet. I hope so.

When I visited my aspen the wind was blowing the leaves and it looked really lovely to see them waving in the breeze so I made a video. You can see it here.

I will visit my trees again in about ten days and will report back to you.

You can see all three of my posts about my tree friends here.

The Tree of Life

The Trees of Tunnel Island

Wind Blessings

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What’s In A Park?

Did you know the very first children’s hospital in Winnipeg was located on the grounds of the current Michaëlle Jean Park? I have driven through the park on my bicycle many times but yesterday I decided to stop and look around. The park is at 65 Granville Street.

I found this monument which marks the spot where the city’s first health care facility dedicated to children was opened in 1909.

The first Winnipeg Children’s Hospital was in the home of Manitoba’s former Lieutenant Governor and his wife Sir John and Lady Agnes Schultz. (Photo from the Manitoba Archives. )

In 1905, the Winnipeg health officer counted 513 infant deaths. One in every eight children born in the city died before their first birthday. The need for a children’s hospital was clear. Staffed largely by female volunteers the hospital outgrew its early quarters quickly and in 1911 a new Children’s Hospital was built on Aberdeen Avenue.

I also found this stone in the park placed in the memory of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls, Men and Boys and members of the LGBTQ community. The memorial mentioned a bur oak tree but I couldn’t find it. There were pines, cedars, and cottonwoods nearby but no oak. I wanted to know what had happened to the tree.

This art piece is another feature of the park. It was created by Becky Thiessen and Gabrielle Funk as part of an art project sponsored by the Norquay Community Club. I was curious how old the girls were when they made the mural and how old they are now. Do they ever return to visit their colourful artwork?

There’s some colourful artwork as well on this concession stand. An elderly gentleman who looked somewhat disorientated was seated at the picnic table you can see here in the shade of the building. He took out his watch and asked me when the Victoria Day barbecue would start. I told him I was sure there wouldn’t be any activities in the park today because of the pandemic. He looked so disappointed!

You can find all kinds of playground equipment for kids to enjoy and a splash pad but of course yesterday no one was there due to pandemic restrictions.

The park is located right on the river and there are some beautiful views from its banks. I watched a pair of Canada geese swoop down for a spectacular noisy landing while I stood there.

Michaëlle Jean plants a tree at the park named in her honour in 2010.

Michaëlle Jean, the park’s namesake, was the Governor-General of Canada from 2005-2010. She was the first Haitian Canadian and Black person to hold the office.

What’s in a park? In the case of Winnipeg’s Michaëlle Jean Park all kinds of interesting things!

Other posts……….

Discovering Peanut Park

Go To the Park

Wild Grasses- A Love Story

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Queen Victoria Made Them Popular

My grandmother Annie Schmidt’s birthday book

Today is Queen Victoria’s birthday. The British monarch was responsible for creating some interesting social trends. It was because of her, for example, that birthday books became popular. Birthday books had spaces for each day of the year and you recorded the birthdays of friends and family members in the appropriate spots.

Birthday books were first created in 1866 by a Bristol publisher named W. Mack but they really only grew to be widely popular items when it became known that Queen Victoria checked her birthday book every morning. Initially, the books were published with Scripture passages assigned to each day of the year. Later poetry was featured either by a variety of authors or a single author like Shakespeare or Rossetti.

Years ago while helping my Aunt Viola Schmidt move I found two birthday books that had belonged to my grandmother Annie Jantz Schmidt and her sister Matilda Jantz.

My grandmother’s birthday book is called The Birthday Book of Beauty and for each day of the year, there is a quote from a famous poet about beauty. Grandma received this birthday book in 1911 when she was 19.  She kept it up to date for many decades.

My Mom’s birthday July 11 features a poem by Longfellow about the rain

Grandma married Peter Schmidt in 1917. The names of her children born in the 1920s  are all in the birthday book. My Mom shared her birthdate with her cousin Verna so both their names are recorded for July 11 although Verna was born in 1913 and Mom in 1925.

Grandma also entered the names of her grandchildren born in the 1950s and 1960s. My name is recorded on my birthdate October 16th. The poem by Keats for my birthday talks about the simple loveliness of English girls.

My brother Mark born ten years later on March 5th was assigned a more well-known verse from Keats, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.”

Grandma has recorded two names here for September 4, her sister Matilda Jantz who was born in 1885 and her niece Edna Ewart who was born in 1911 the year Grandma received her birthday book and sadly also the year her sister Matilda died.

My grandmother’s sister’s birthday book

After my grandmother’s older sister Matilda died her book came into my Grandma Annie’s keeping. Matilda’s book was much older than my grandmother’s although it is not dated.

Matilda my Grandma’s oldest sister records the birth date of their middle sister Marie on February 12th, 1889 in her birthday book.

Matilda’s birthday book is in Gothic German script and features Bible verses rather than poetry.

My Grandmother Annie and my Great Aunt Matilda’s birthday books are real family treasures. I am so grateful to my Aunt Viola for keeping them all these years.

It’s fitting that on Queen Victoria’s birthday my post pays tribute to a birthday tradition she helped to establish.

Other posts……..

All Those Doilies

My Grandmother’s Shoes

My Grandparents Were Readers

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My First Interview

I was so pleased when Jordan Ross from The Carillon called, asking to interview me about my novel Lost on the Prairie. Jordan and I met in a park near my home where he took photos and asked some really interesting questions. I love the article he wrote. You can read it by clicking on this link.

For every post I do about my book I want to provide links to posts I’ve written about the work of other Manitoba authors as a way to acknowledge that my book would never have been published without the supportive writing community we have here in our province.

Once Removed by Andrew Unger

Here the Dark by David Bergen

Knuckleball by Roger Groening

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10 Good Things About Dandelions

A couple of days ago my friend posted a photo on Facebook of her granddaughter picking dandelions. The little girl looked like she thought those dandelions were the most beautiful flowers in the world. That got me thinking about how we always malign dandelions. “Aren’t there some good things about them?” I wondered. I decided to look for positives about dandelions and make a list.

Dandelions photographed yesterday in a park near my home

1. Dandelions have lots of health benefits and have a long history in the healing arts. Long ago dandelions were prescribed for a whole raft of ailments. Today herbalists are exploring ways that the dandelion may be helpful in combating cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure and skin damage, reducing heartburn, protecting bones and improving brain function.

2. Dandelions are good for your lawn. Their roots spread out to help ease erosion, aerate and loosen the earth and pull nutrients out of the soil and make them available to the grass around them. Dandelions actually act as a fertilizer for your lawn.

Trying to draw a little again after too long a time away from what was once a daily practice to stretch myself by doing something which is challenging for me

3. Dandelions provide food for bees and butterflies. They are rich in both pollen and nectar. All kinds of birds, a host of different species of mammals and even domesticated farm animals eat different parts of the dandelion.

4. Every part of a dandelion is edible from the roots to the blooms. You can dip the flowers in batter and fry them or use them to make dandelion wine. You can sauté the leaves with ginger and have them as a vegetable dish or chop them up and put them in a salad. The roots can be brewed to make a caffeine free coffee. I even found a recipe for tossing pasta with chopped up dandelion stems.

Stopped on my bike ride yesterday to capture this sea of dandelions

5. Dandelions are early bloomers so they add a pop of colour to the landscape which can be grey and drab before other things begin to flower.

6. Dandelions have a long and important history. The ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans and Chinese have all used dandelions as part of their traditional medicinal collections for over a thousand years. Historians think dandelions may have come to North America with the Pilgrim settlers who brought them along for their medicinal benefits. Long ago Japan had horticultural societies devoted to dandelions. The plant was once world famous for its beauty and Europeans treasured it as a beloved garden flower even making dandelions the subject of poems. It is only in the 20th century that dandelions came to be seen as a nuisance weed.

7. Did you know German and American scientists funded by the Bridgestone Corporation are trying to discover a way to turn the milky white root sap from the Russian dandelion into rubber?

8. Dandelions are a kind of natural calendar. When we see them blooming we know its spring. They are also a kind of natural clock because they open in the morning and close in the evening.

9. Dandelions are fun. Once they have gone to seed you can blow on them and make a wish. Kids can make dandelion chains and use the flowers for print making. I even found a recipe online for making dandelion play dough.

10. Dandelions can be a source of wisdom. They remind us ………..

To treat everyone with respect because everyone’s life serves a purpose.

You can survive even in the harshest of conditions.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Be stubborn in your commitment to grow.

Proclaim your presence with confidence.

After compiling this list I realize dandelions don’t deserve their negative image. There are lots of great things about them!

Other posts………

Wild Grasses A Love Story

Wild Flower Inspiration- Moose Lake

Weed Sorting

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