Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park

In the beautiful Province of Alberta, Canada, near the southern border with the United States and East of the town of Milk River lies a fabulous natural treasure known as Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park.


The entrance to the park. 

The rock formations called Hoodoos are everywhere in the park.  They come in unique shapes and sizes.  The Hoodoos are the results of thousands of years of erosion.  Glaciers exposed the sandstone bedrock in this region during the last ice age.  Rain and wind softened edges while frost split off large blocks forming cliffs.


Two different views hiking along the Hoodoo Trail.


My dad and I hiked the Hoodoo trail on a lovely Friday in October.  I think this is the best time of year to hike this trail because there is less chance of running into a rattle snake.  We did see lots of other animals: deer, a coyote, pheasants, woodpeckers and other birds we couldn’t identify.  We also saw lots of animal tracks.  The photo below is of bird tracks; but, I do not know what kind of bird made them.  If you can tell by the tracks what bird it is, please let me know in the comment section of this blog post.


There is an abundance of plants that grow along the trail.  Some of the most colourful and interesting patterned is the lichen that grows on the rocks.


Another section of the trail goes through an Aspen groove.  The leaves had fallen from the trees.  Their bright yellow colour carpeted the trail in some areas and lined it in others.


As some of you may have guessed from the title of this post, there are petroglyphs (images carved directly into the rock) and pictographs (images painted onto the rock) in this park.  This area is considered sacred to the Blackfoot people.  Rock art is described by them to be work of the spirit world.  It is believed that the rock art may have been created as parts of rituals and vision quests.


Above is a photo of two petroglyphs.  One is toward the center closer to top of the photo and kinda looks like a hand (it is considered to be a bear paw).  The second one is on the right side towards the bottom of the photo and kinda looks like a long cigar shape with possible horns and feet (it is considered to be a bison).  Both the bear and bison are sacred animals.


Very faintly, You should be able to see a pictograph of a bison from a hunting scene.  He was painted on the rock using a red ocher pigment made from crushed iron ore mixed with water.

Below is an image of the entrance to Police Coulee and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police post established there.  This coulee crosses the Montana (United States) and Alberta (Canada) border.  This coulee is protected and has limited access because it is home to unique species of animals, rock art, archaeological sites, and historical sites, making it an important feature of the park.  Friends who live along the border had told me stories about whiskey smuggling through Police Coulee.


“By the 1870s, European traders had established themselves throughout Blackfoot territory, and exchanged furs for knives, pots and other useful items.  Some traders also sold them a deadly product – rotgut whiskey.  Police Coulee became a favourite route across the border for whiskey smugglers.  The Mounties marched west in 1874 to stop the whiskey trade, eventually establishing a post at Police Coulee in 1887.”                   -Hoodoo Interpretive Trail, Self-guided Trail Brochure


For readers from north central Montana and south central Alberta, you will recognize the Sweetgrass Hills in the background of the photo above.  Standing at an elevation of 2,128 meters above the prairie, the Sweetgrass Hills are an iconic and navigational feature of the area.  Also running through this photo is the Milk River, part of the Missouri river drainage system.  The river has helped carve and shape the park that we see today.  At times during the hike, we could hear the gentle flow of the river in the background.


4.4 kilometers round trip, the Hoodoo trail is fairly easy.  There are lots of ups and downs and steps to climb.  However, I think this adds to the uniqueness and fun of this trail.  We were lucky to have the entire trail all to ourselves most of the day.  It wasn’t until we were almost finished that we encountered other hikers.


Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park is an enchanting place.  It is rich in history, myth, geology, wild life and Native American Spiritualism.  I highly recommend visiting this amazing place if you are ever in the area.

Too Much Stuff

“Happiness is not found in things you posses, but in what you have the courage to release.”  -Nathaniel Hawthorne

I like paper.  I have always liked paper.  It started with paper dolls as a child and has never gone away.  I like the way that it feels.  Super smooth and refined running the gambit all the way to rough and full of texture.  I like variety in colors and patterns.  I like hand-made papers, papers with kimono patterns, fancy marbleized techniques, papers that feel like cloth and others that have been smoothed mechanically.   I can tell by touching a sheet of paper what it has been made with and the weight of it.  I like the possibilities that paper provides.  As a collage artist, I use a lot of paper in my work.

I was showing a friend some paper that I was using for an installation piece.  He said, “This is a lot of paper.  How much paper do you need?”  We have only known each other for a couple months at that time and he was new to my art and creative process.  I looked at him and smiled, “You can never have too much paper.”  He laughed and said, “For your artwork that is true!”

This got me thinking about stuff in general.  How much stuff does one person need?  I have seen the terrifying preview for a television show about hoarders and someone being buried alive.  I have also seen the program about tiny homes and listened to the interviews from people who want to be free from stuff.

Our consumer driven society pushes people to purchase things.  Advertisements sell us images of perfection and products that will “make” us, our homes, and lives more “beautiful” or “youthful” if one purchases this or that product.  This compulsion to have more drives one to purchase things that they do not want nor need.  And after the purchase has been completed does the luster wear off and buyer’s remorse set in?  Or does one rush to the next purchase?

I began to wonder, am I owned by objects? Do they control me?  Not a pleasant thought.  Then I wondered, how does one go through and decide what they really want and need?

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” -William Morris

I am inspired by the life and work of William Morris who lived from 1834-1896.  He was an English thinker, designer (carpets, patterns, and typefaces among other things), author and publisher.  He was saddened by the poor-quality, cheap and soulless decorative art that was mass-produced in 19th- century industrialized England.  I sometimes wonder would he be horrified if he were to see our modern society of mass-produced cheap and disposable items?  He instigated a revival of traditional arts and crafts, establishing his own working community.  The goal of his Arts & Crafts Movement was simplicity, beauty and craftsmanship.


Since I did not have the arts and crafts community of William Morris, I turned to a modern organizing guru, Marie Kondo.  She is the author of the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.  Known as the KonMari method, it is the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing.  One starts by discarding and then organizing the space, thoroughly, completely and in one go.  I found this book challenging and amazing all in one.  There is so much helpful advice and encouragement in it.  One thing that I found particularly helpful and empowering from Marie Kondo’s book was what I call the joy principle.  Does this bring me joy?  Yes.  Keep it.  No.  Get rid of it.

In preparation for my move, I had been cleaning up and going through my possessions.  I used the joy principle when deciding what to get rid of and what to keep.  I had a couple yard sales and given boxes of stuff to charitable organizations.  Some things that are special I have given to family and friends.

I do think that there is a healthy amount of possessions.  And what that amount is, depends on the person.  For me, there has to be a variety of paper to work with for my art.  For a friend who is a mountain biker, owning three or more bikes is necessary.  The bikes have different purposes.  For another friend who quilts, fabric is a constant staple.

What are some of your favorite things?  What is necessary for you?  What brings you joy?

Slade House

Just in time for the spooky season of Halloween, I read the novel Slade House by David Mitchell.  This novel takes place during the month of October over a span of 36 years.  I had read a review of the book when it was first published and was intrigued.  The review ended by saying that this is not a typical haunted house.

The description on the book cover starts with the sentence “Keep your eyes peeled for a small iron door.”  It is the kind of sentence that grabs your attention and draws you in.  Very much like Slade House does to its guests.


The rest of the description from the book cover is as follows:

“Down the road from a working-class pub, along a narrow brick alley, you just might find the entrance to Slade House.  A stranger will greet you by name and invite you inside.  At first, you won’t want to leave.  Later, you’ll find that you can’t.  Every nine years, the residents of Slade House extend an invitation to someone who’s different or lonely: a precocious teenager, a recently divorced policeman, a shy college student.  But what really goes on inside? For those who find out, it’s already too late…”

The reason this isn’t your typical ghost story or haunted house is because it is not scary in the sense of horrifying.  It is more suspenseful.  Like a Hitchcock film, the tension keeps building and building right up to the ending.

I have a conflicted view of the ending.  It is brilliant and could lead to another book.  On the other hand, I don’t know that I want this person to survive.  If you have read or planning on reading this book, I would love to hear your thoughts on the ending.

I highly recommend the novel Slade House  by David Mitchell.  It is interesting and different.  Magical in a new creative way.  To me, it illustrates that all people are important.  That life has value and meaning.  I could relate to the characters and their lives.  (However, there are two characters who view the lives of others only in how they can be used for their benefit.)  The novel also asks questions about what we view as reality.  How much of what we perceive is real?

If you are looking for a different kind of story, beautifully written with interesting characters and a hint of spooky, this novel is for you.  Enter into the magical world of Slade House, if you dare.

37 Seconds

The movie “Mr Magorium’s Wonder Emporium,” in my humble opinion, is one of the best movies ever filmed.  It has many powerful messages about creativity, friendship, keeping child-like wonder in your life (especially if you are an adult) and believing in yourself.  The theme that I am focusing on for this post is of time and being in the moment.

If you have not seen this movie, I cannot recommend it enough.  I will try to not spoil anything for those who haven’t seen it.  But you will need a little background to set up the scene for the quote.

Mr. Magorium, the owner of a magical toy store, and Molly Mahoney, the store manager, are in a clock shop.  They are setting all of the clocks to chime at the same time.  When they have completed this task Mahoney says something like “37 seconds.  Now we wait.”  And Mr. Magorium says the following:

“37 seconds.  We breathe.  We pulse.  We regenerate.  Our hearts beat.  Our minds create.  37 seconds well lived is a lifetime.”  -Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium

What Mr. Magorium is describing is being in the moment.  Experiencing your life.  Even and probably more importantly, at times when you don’t feel like you are “doing” anything.

For example, waiting in line.  I know that a lot of people don’t like to wait in line.  They take out there cell phones.  Scowl.  Complain loudly.  I don’t mind it.  I take that time to look around me.  Listen to the conversations of others or the music over the intercom system.  I notice the colors, what people are wearing, and their expressions.  I have heard and seen some pretty crazy things while waiting to check out my groceries.  Some of these things end up in my art, blog, creativity classes and writing.

In yoga, one of my favorite instructors, is always talking about the importance of breath.  She tells her students to focus on their breathing.  With each breath, she says become aware of your body, calm your mind, and enter into awareness.  My yoga instructor is not only teaching yoga; but, how to be in the moment.

So often, I hear people talk about how fast time flies.  This is usually said as a regret.  How things have been missed because they didn’t have enough time.  We cannot control time.  But we can control how we experience it, by being in the moment, and how we use it, by living your life to the fullest.

Breathe!  Pulse!  Regenerate!  You are alive.  Your heart beats and your mind creates.  Live every moment experiencing your life.