Category Archives: Nature

Hyphenated Lives

Sun-Poe by Reena Saina Kallat. The sunbird is the national bird of Palestine and the hoopoe is the national bird of Israel

The drawings look like something you would see in zoology or botany textbooks.  Hyphenated Lives is a collection of art pieces by Reena Saina Kallat that depict hybrid specimens of birds, animals, trees, and plants. They were created by merging two species that are the national emblems of countries that have at some point been politically partitioned. The purpose of national symbols is to unite people but these drawings merge symbols from countries that have been separated. The artist illustrates that not only people but also elements of the natural world are interconnected and also suggests that sometimes nature can defy the barriers set up by politicians. This is the Sees-Yal tree.  On the left, you see the Sessile Oak the national symbol of the Republic of Ireland. On the right, you see the Royal Oak an important symbol in England since legend has it that Charles II hid in an oak tree to escape Oliver Cromwell’s soldiers.   In 1921 Ireland was partitioned, with southern Ireland becoming independent and eventually a republic and Northern Ireland remaining part of the United Kingdom.  Although the relationship between northern and southern Ireland is relatively peaceful right now from 1968-1998 there were thirty years of terrible conflict between the two that resulted in thousands of deaths. Some of the Hyphenated Lives pieces, like this one, feature electric cables. They are a symbol of the way ideas and information can be transmitted bringing people together.  Often however Reena Saina Kallat has them morph into barbed wire barriers.   Behold the Ti-Khor. On the left, you see a tiger, the national animal of India and on the right the markhor, an endangered species of a wild goat that is the national animal of Pakistan. In 1947 a provision of the Indian Independence Act which separated India from Great Britain also separated Pakistan from India. This partition created along religious lines- Pakistan largely Muslim and India largely Hindu- created a refugee crisis and stirred up large scale violence that resulted in the loss of millions of lives. The relationship between Pakistan and India continues to be a troubled one. The Edel-Lip is a hybrid of the Edelweiss the national flower of Austria and the tulip the national flower of Hungary. Austria and Hungary both belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Empire from 1867 to 1918 but after World War I became distinct and separate European countries.  In 1945 the advance of communism in Hungary and the erection of the Iron Curtain which Russia used to separate its European allies from the West created a barrier between Austria and Hungary and Austria took in thousands of refugees from Hungary. The Iron Curtain came down in 1989 and in 2007 an agreement between Austria and Hungary allowed citizens to move back and forth freely between the two countries.

This art piece is called The Jordan River. The  Jewish state of Israel was established in 1948 in an area previously called Palestine that was home to Arab Muslims who became displaced refugees when Israel was established.  Adjacent to Israel to the west of the Jordan River is an area called The West Bank that holds many sites of cultural, historical and religious significance for Jews, Muslims and Christians and there has been a long history of violent conflict as both Israelis and Palestinians have tried to claim this territory. The Jordan River is the primary water source of the area and so it has been at the heart of the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine. The Pea Yel bird is a combination of the peacock which is the national bird of India and the doyel or magpie robin which is the national bird of Bangladesh. The Partition of Bengal in 1947 divided the province between India and Pakistan. Predominantly Hindu West Bengal became a state of India and predominantly Muslim East Bengal which would later become Bangladesh became a province of Pakistan.  

Hyphenated Lives is currently on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery as part of the Vision Exchange exhibit that features artists who have their roots in India. I find Hyphenated Lives very thought- provoking as I try to envision other combinations of living things that could illustrate the establishment of a relationship between countries or groups of people that have barriers real or imagined between them. 

Other posts………..

Animal Wisdom

Nature’s Artwork

The Book of Creation

 

 

 

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Filed under Art, Nature, Politics, winnipeg art gallery

Sedna is A Planet

Sedna the Enchantress by Abraham Anghik Ruben

I honestly don’t think I am exaggerating when I say I’ve told the story of Sedna, the Inuit goddess of the sea, over a hundred times in the seven years I have worked at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.  We almost always have a sculpture, painting, print or some other artistic representation of Sedna on display in the gallery.  A quick look through the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s online catalog reveals some fifty artworks with the word Sedna in their titles. 

Sedna in a water and ink drawing by Heather Campbell entitled Methylmercury

Sedna was an Inuit girl whose tragic story reaches its climax when Sedna’s father cuts off her fingers and they are transformed into all the creatures of the sea.  Sedna becomes a sea goddess and Inuit hunters pray to her when they want to find animals to hunt. 

Sedna with Fish- a print by Pitaloosie Saila

As familiar as I am with the Sedna story I only discovered last week that there is a minor planet in the outer reaches of the solar system named after her. It was discovered by Michael Brown, Chad Trujillo and David Rabinowitz in 2003. Sedna is almost as red in color as Mars and has an elongated orbit of 11,400 years.  Michael Brown explains they chose the planet’s name because it is the coldest planet in the solar system with an average temperature of -237.6 degrees Celsius.  So it seemed appropriate to name it after Sedna who is said to live in the frigid waters of the Arctic Ocean.  Sedna has no known moons and is about 13 billion kilometers away. There is some controversy over whether Sedna should be called a minor planet, dwarf planet or simply an astronomical object but there is no question about Sedna’s existence.  That will be an interesting fact to add to my Sedna story when I tell it at the art gallery in the future. 

Other posts…………

Stories in Stone

She is Gripped By Terror

Creation Stories

 

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A Carol for the Sunrise

Sunrise Carol  by Daniel Elder

sunrise-at-jessica-lake

Sunrise at our friends’ cottage at Jessica Lake

Silence preceding the moment of morning,

dawn on the negev desert

Dawn on the Negev Desert in Israel

Nature is napping ere dawning of day,

sunrise praia da luz

Sunrise from our kitchen window in Praia da Luz Portugal

dim glow the stars after night sky adorning, 

taj mahal at dawn

Photo I took of the Taj Mahal at dawn

All Earth prepares to tuck twilight away.

Early morning light on the Johnson Trail in Utah

Last night we attended a concert called Mosaics performed by the Sonolux Choir at Young United Church.  One of the many beautiful songs they sang was Sunrise Carol by Daniel Elder.  I loved the words.  They reminded me of some of the sunrises I have watched. 

Other posts………

The Taj Mahal at Dawn

The Dawn Chorus

Batter’s Up At Dawn

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The Religion of Trees

Tree Movement by Emily Carr. Photographed at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. 

In an April 22 article in the religion section of the Washington Post writer Matthew Sleeth reminds us that Friday was Arbor Day, an American holiday where people are encouraged to appreciate trees and plant trees.  Here in Canada different provinces recognize Arbor Day in a variety of ways.  The folks in Ontario sponsor an entire Arbor Week which began on Friday.  Here in Winnipeg there will be an Arbor Day celebration on June 1 in St. Vital Park.  You can learn more about that here.  

Trees by Dorothy Knowles. Photographed at the Remai Modern in Saskatoon. 

No matter when Arbor Day is celebrated the point of Sleeth’s Washington Post piece is that all people of faith, but in particular Christians, should be busy planting and protecting trees world-wide. He says trees are mentioned in the Bible more often than any other living thing.  

Olive Trees by Vincent Van Gogh. Photographed at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

Revelation 22:2 suggests that the leaves of trees might bring healing to the nations of the world. Could caring for trees and our environment be a cause that unites the world?

A glass mosaic called Ash Trees in the Late Afternoon by my cousin Sharon Loeppky. Photographed at the Mennonite Heritage Centre Gallery in Winnipeg. 

In Genesis 21:33 Abraham plants a tree as a symbol for the signing of a peace treaty. Could reforestation projects be a way for countries to come together in peace to replenish the earth’s tree population?

Tree Children by Winnipeg artist Leo Mol. Photographed just outside the Richardson Building in downtown Winnipeg.

What a different world we might have if everyone acted like “oaks of righteousness” the way  good people are described in Isaiah 61:3.  Jesus said in the beatitudes that righteous people are gentle peacemakers. 

Root Dress by Barb Hunt. Photographed at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.

In the comments on Sleeth’s article in the Washington Post people are very derisive of any person of faith who dares to say they want to protect trees or the environment.   They claim most religious people believe their god has provided the blessings of the natural world for them to dominate and exploit. One commentator cites the way former American Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt who was given his post by Donald Trump used Bible verses to justify policies he put in place that had potentially devastating consequences for the environment.

Poplar Woods by Lionel LeMoine Fitzgerald. Photographed at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. 

And here in Canada we have little reason to be smug about the attitude of our American neighbours. Ironically on the day before Arbor Day the government of Ontario announced it will end a program that aimed to plant 50 million trees in their province. 

Metchosin by Emily Carr. Photographed at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.

On the weekend just prior to Arbor Day Christians began their celebration of Easter, a time of new beginnings, new life and new hope.  Planting and caring for trees can be a way to celebrate all those things.

Other posts……….

Happy Earth Day

Imitating Emily

Two Trees

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Happy Earth Day!

Isn’t our earth just the most amazing place? We need to treat it with care so our grandchildren will be able to enjoy its beauty the way we have. 

Wild waterfall in Laos.

Majestic Grand Canyon in Arizona

Lucious lipstick plant in Bali

Pungent pine in Portugal

Blooming bugambella tree in Mexico.  

Rippling Baden See in Germany 

Icy crystal clear waters at the foot of Jade Snow Mountain in Yunnan China

Vibrant rainbow in Iceland

Trailing trilliums in southern Ontario

Rugged rocks in Utah

Towering trees in Akaka Falls State Park Hawaii

Refreshing waterfall in Costa Rica

Spectacular caves in Halong Bay Vietnam

Gorgeous island scape in Hong Kong

Ever changing waters of Moose Lake Manitoba 

Branching birch in Newfoundland

Beautiful beach in Fiji

Steamy Wai O Tapu Thermal Field in New Zealand

Marvelous mud at the Dead Sea in Israel

Happy Earth Day!

Other posts………..

Lessons From Oscar

Trees

Waterfalls

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The Woman Who Loves Giraffes

I cried often during the movie The Woman Who Loves Giraffes. It’s the story of Dr. Anne Dagg, a Canadian who went to Africa in 1956 to study giraffes for a year. She observed them for ten to twelve hours a day making copious notes, keeping charts, filming and photographing them. Anne was 23, just out of university, and had been in love with giraffes ever since seeing them in the zoo as a child.  Anne went to Africa before Jane Goodall had begun her research with primates and so there was no precedent for a young woman doing such a daring thing.  But Anne’s mother encouraged Anne to go and follow her dream.

Anne came back to Canada after her time in Africa. She married and had a family.  But she was determined to return to Africa to further study her beloved giraffes. The only way to do that was to become a tenured professor and get a research grant.  So while raising her three children she obtained a PHD in animal behaviour.

Some of Anne’s books about giraffes

She wrote a textbook about giraffes and had dozens of articles printed in prestigious science periodicals.  But when in 1972 after a very successful teaching stint she applied at Guelph, Waterloo and Wilfred Laurier universities for a tenured position she was rejected despite her numerous academic awards and ground breaking research, because she was a woman. One university told her she should be looking after her husband and children, not teaching science.

Her dream to go back to Africa and study giraffes seemed doomed but Anne, appalled by the way she had been treated because of her gender, became an activist, writer, speaker and advocate for women’s equality in academia.

Almost unbeknownst to Anne her books and articles continued to be the ‘bible’ for scientists interested in studying giraffes. In 2010 Amy Phelps, the giraffe keeper at the San Francisco Zoo decided she was going to track Anne down and invite her to a conference for giraffe care professionals.  At the conference Anne was thrilled to be the first recipient of an award for giraffe research named in her honour. Anne started communicating with other scientists and was delighted to be making new connections with giraffe devotees all over the world. 

Director Alison Reid wanted to write and produce a movie about Anne’s life so arrangements were made to film Anne in Africa visiting her beloved giraffes once again.  Anne was in her 80s but her dream to revisit Africa was finally realized. While in Africa Anne was saddened to learn how the giraffe population has been reduced by 70% since her first visit in the 1950s.  The future of the giraffe is bleak. So Anne has begun another crusade- speaking, writing and fundraising to save the giraffe. 

Anne’s story moved me to tears. I loved her independence and passion. I loved the way her mother supported her.  I loved it that she fought for herself and that she used her experience as inspiration to fight for other women.   Mostly I loved that in her eighties her contributions were recognized, her dreams realized, and she had the courage to tackle new challenges.  It makes someone like me who is in her sixties realize that many good and exciting things might still await me on life’s journey. 

In February of 2019 the University of Guelph hosted a screening of The Woman Who Loves Giraffes. They invited Anne and gave a public apology to her for the way the university had treated her.  They also announced they were establishing a Dr. Anne Dagg Scholarship for research to be awarded annually.  Way to go Anne!

 Other posts……….. 

Animal Wisdom

Finding the Elusive Quetzel in Costa Rica

The Matilda Effect

 

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Filed under Canada, Nature

Inspiration to Speed the Coming of Spring Weather

“That is one good thing about this world…there are always sure to be more springs.”
― L.M. Montgomery in Anne of Avonlea
pink bike and tulips spring
In winter I plot and plan. In spring I move.  Henry Rollings

I want to pay attention to springI am going to try to pay attention to the spring. I am going to look around……and look up. I am going to…… listen.  Anne Lamontwedding in japan“If people did not love one another, I really don’t see what use there would be in having any spring.”
― Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

purple flowersFor now the winter is past. The rain is over and gone.  The flowers appear on the earth. The time of singing has come. – Song of Solomon 2:11-12

canada geese on school playground in winnipeg“Despite the forecast, live like it’s spring.”
― Lilly Pulitzer

winnipeg river in springIn spring the river rises as high as the sea.  -Zhang Ruoxu 

leaf after a rain 2012There shall come Spring rains

When all seems lost to the cold decay

And winter shall release its icy reign. 

-Sheri Walters

cherry blossoms spring japan

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now

Is hung with bloom along the bough.

A.E. Housmana toast in rome

Toasting the sun,
See spring twirl
Flower-cups in the air.
Would I could wipe from your brow,
World,
The furrows of care!

-Salomeja Neris

 

spring in the window

“I glanced out the window at the signs of spring. The sky was almost blue, the trees were almost budding, the sun was almost bright.”
— Millard Kaufman

The photos in this post were taken in Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Moose Lake, Rome, Portugal, Kyoto and Hiroshima

Other posts…….

Icy Inspiration

Australian Inspiration

Inspiration on a Walk in Sedona

Fiji Inspiration

 

 

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Filed under Inspiration, Nature