Archive for the ‘fond du lac’ tag
This is the last photo in the Northland series, photos from 2005. I took this photo on a weekend, like most of the autumn and early winter photos. Weekdays were filled with work in the school, the band office and the education office. During the week, what little time was left was usually found in darkness as darkness came earlier in the north. In this photo, I managed to catch children at play in the snow even though it was quite cold outside. Being so far north, the snow never got too deep because of the cold temperatures. Yet, in spite of the cold and the weak light, there was still a desire, a spirit for play.
My experience of the northlands in 2005 was more about approaching the soul than it was about being the Education Manager for the reserve. It was as if, the process which was rough and at times brutal, was an illustration to me of the power of alchemy, of the work of transformation. And I emerged transformed. I emerged perhaps more aware of my own soul.
… soul … eludes reductionistic definition; it expresses the mystery of human life; and it connects psychology to religion, love, death, and destiny. It suggests depth … (Thomas Moore, cited in Hillman, Blue Fire, 1989, p. 5)
The first snows of winter on the Dene First Nations reserve of Fond du Lac. It is amazing how the land changes its complete aspect when blanketed by fresh snow in early winter. The land becomes a fantasy land, a fairy land. The reality of cold temperatures can’t compete with the vision which beckons us to enter. The silence becomes deeper and softer in comparison with the silence of the bush that existed in spring, summer and fall; a more muted silence. This is a place of magic, not a place of messy humans. It is a place of promise.
The promise one is given when beginning the journey, the inner journey into darkness, is real. There is magic and mystery that will serve to protect and guide one in search of healing one’s soul. Let the journey begin.
In a moment of stillness, a thin film of ice forms even though the sun’s rays are present. There is beauty in the crystallization of the surface waters. The moment is one of relaxation, one of tranquil acceptance of the coming winter. Yes, there will be cold and ice. But for now, it is time to sit in the sunshine and to drink in what remains of the sun’s warmth.
Life on the reserve was in tune with nature. During moments when the weather stormed, the community was extremely agitated. When moments such as this appeared, the community breathed a sigh of relief and found a way to smile.
A plane is coming in for a landing at the small airport just outside of the Fond du Lac reserve community. There are no roads that are maintained allowing the outside world to penetrate too deeply into this northern settlement. At times during the year, a trail can be navigated by those unconcerned about the torture on their vehicle, a journey of hundreds of kilometres through an empty landscape, empty of human presence. And, during the summer, boats serve as the predominate form of transportation between communities along the stretch of the lake and river. This place exists in relative isolation and because of that, has a measure of insulation from the larger southern society.
Images such as this one seem to work a magic within me. Whether I have taken a photo of such a scene or simply allowed a scene to be witnessed, the images are powerful as they work often unspoken within my psyche. James Hillman, a post-Jungian speaks and works from his understandings of Jungian psychology, from a viewpoint he calls Archetypal Psychology. As withing Jungian psychology, Archetypal psychology understands images as psyche (“image is psyche” – Jung, CW 13). Hillman states:
… the soul is constituted of images, that the soul is primarily an imagining activity … (Hillman, Archetypal Psychology,1983, p. 6)
With this in mind, the photos I take have ceased being a recording of time, people, place or event; the photos are more than factual pieces of evidence that indicate my presence on the opposite side of the camera lens; the photos are also about imagining, about connecting with a larger, archetypal world, an alchemical inner world. In discovering these scenes, I continue the journey of self discovery in relation to the larger whole.
This is a view of the eastern end of Lake Athabasca in northern Saskatchewan. This is also the starting point for the Fond du Lac River as well as the location for the Fond du Lac Dene Nation Reserve. The scene is typical for a lake in the northern Canadian Shield – water, rock and scrub trees and brush. Lake Athabasca is a huge lake and a deep lake. It isn’t always as calm and quiet as seen above. Sometimes the water is tortured and tries everything to break out of its boundaries. But in the end, it is held in place.
Water is symbolic of the unconscious. Such a huge body of water such as this one allows one to see the true depth and breadth of the unconscious which extends beyond what one can understand as one’s personal repressed contents. There is too much mystery, too much depth, too much unknown and darkness that is hinted at when we see large expanses of water.
This is the second in a series of photos from the fall of 2005 while I lived and worked on a Dene Nation reserve in northern Saskatchewan. These berries are wild fruit called Ground Cranberries. Living and working in the southern part of the province I had picked and eaten both low bush and high bush cranberries. These northern berries were plentiful as I wandered along paths and game trails during hours when work was set aside.
Fruit found in a harsh and rough environment becomes that much more appreciated. The site where I found these berries was quite close to the 60th parallel that separates the Arctic regions from the western provinces of Canada. It is a place of rock, water and scrub trees. The land appears wild and unfriendly, an extremely lonely kind of place.
Yet within this, as within any harsh environment, there is more than first meets the eye. Looking closely, there are surprises hidden between exposed bedrock and the thin spruce and pine that feed precariously off the thin layer of soil covering parts of the granite bedrock.
There is something here that is reassuring. On all journeys, even those that are through the darkest of hells, there are small spaces that offer sustenance, food for the soul so that there is hope for emerging from the journey stronger and wiser.
For the next series of photos, I will be using photos taken in Northern Saskatchewan when I lived on a Dene Reserve and served as the Education Manager for the reserve. This photo was taken in August, 2005 using an HP Photosmart camera with 5.1 MP rating. The camera has long gone though the photos remain.
This photo features wild raspberries against a backdrop of Canadian Shield granite along the shores of Lake Athabasca. For a brief time, the raspberry vibrates with a brightness as though ready to change the world of water and stone. Swelled with its fruit, it lives as though it was more than one small moment of brightness.
When I took the job as Education Manager, a job that was a combination of school principal, Directer of Education, and Post-Secondary administrator, I had thought that my recent retirement from the provincial system was leading me into a way to provide needed service for the north.
I had begun my teaching career not too distant from this Dene reserve in September, 1974. At that time, I had promised myself that I would return when I retired, hopefully to stay. I didn’t know then that staying was not really an option as I was an outsider in too many ways. I was an outsider in 1974, but by 2005 I had become even more different. And that difference resulted in my hopes for being an agent of positive change for the reserve, being crushed.
After all of my life experience and my training in human psychology, I had allowed hubris to distort the lens through which I saw this reserve community. I heard and understood the words of the reserve leaders, words that I resonated with and supported. In making decisions based on the dreams and hopes of these leaders, I began to experience a huge disconnect from what was hoped for and what was actually possible. I pushed too fast and too hard to bring their vision to life. I forgot that I wasn’t the leader, I was supposed to simply follow, listening carefully and then clear the path through the arts of administrivia – no more. To do more was to be blind to reality. To attempt to do more was simply an act of hubris.