Thursday, August 25, 2016

My Rare One, That Sweet Talker


Not too long ago I had another birthday. It left me feeling somewhat over the hill and worse for wear.

But My Rare One (who is a few years older than I am) made it all better.

"You'll always be jailbait to me," she said.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Immortalized in Art!

Over the years, various talented blogging buddies have positively DELIGHTED me with artistic representations of myself and/or my beloved late cat HRH. Here's the latest portrait, capturing the essence of She Who Seeks in a dream jar, by LL Cool Joe of Coolness Captured. Thanks, Joey, I LOVE IT!


Perhaps it is now time, as in any fine art gallery or museum, to mount a curated retrospective of the She Who Seeks/HRH Collection, as I grandly think of these works in my own mind. So here they are. Enjoy!

Francie of A North End Journal depicted me in all my gloved glory in one of her cartoons. It was a quick WALK-ON/WALK-OFF appearance, lol:



Barfly of Barfly F'art created a calendar page in my honour. I'm not quite sure whether those are supposed to be MY boobs or whether I'm supposed to be fondling SOMEONE ELSE'S boobs but either way, WOO HOO!


Bryan Pedas and Brandon Meyers of A Beer for the Shower elegantly and accurately captured the TRUE relationship between HRH and myself:


The boys also very kindly helped my face to remain ANONYMOUS in this group portrait of my get-together last summer with Jim of Ocean Breezes, Ron of From Sophie's View and Sophie their dog:


And Anne O'Leary of O'Leary Miniatures IMMORTALIZED Her Royal Highness as a Pirate Queen, which of course captured HRH's true inner spirit TO A TEE.


I expect the National Gallery of Canada to contact me ANY DAY NOW about featuring this retrospective in their upcoming exhibition schedule.

Friday, August 19, 2016

My Sweat Lodge Experience


["Teachings of the Sweat Lodge"
by Aaron Paquette]

In my first post, I described how a sweat lodge is constructed. But what is it like to be inside a sweat lodge, experiencing its ritual?

A sweat lodge ritual is divided into four quarters, one for each direction. At the end of each quarter, the lodge door flap is flung open, bringing the welcome relief of some cool outside air. The firekeeper refreshes the firepit with even hotter grandfather rocks for the next quarter. The intense heat builds progressively from tolerable in the first quarter to almost unbearable in the fourth quarter. People are allowed to leave at the end of any quarter if the heat becomes too much for them. But once you leave, you cannot come back during that particular sweat.

During each quarter, all persons who wish to do so may speak their heart without interruption or judgment. Sometimes there is singing or rattling. But a sweat lodge is more than simply a sharing circle in a hot environment. It is also more than just a way to promote muscle relaxation via heat. Its purpose even exceeds the benefit of physically sweating out toxins and impurities from the body. No, as mentioned in my first post, the sweat lodge is primarily designed to be a spiritual ritual of healing and renewal.

The sweat lodge represents the womb of Mother Earth. Its willow framework embodies Her ribs encircling you. It is pitch black inside a sweat lodge, apart from the faint glow of the heated rocks before they cool. You cannot see your hand in front of your face. As your skin and body become drenched in sweat, your whole environment turns watery like the womb as well. Often people lie down on their sides in a fetal position close to the earth in order to breathe easier where the air is a little cooler near the floor. And just to reinforce your status as a child being born again of the Great Mother, you enter and leave the sweat lodge crawling on your hands and knees like a baby.


I knew none of this symbolism going into our unscheduled sweat lodge. But laying there bathed in sweat in the hot darkness, it was easy to figure out simply due to the sheer unbridled power of the raw primordial Divine Feminine energy that was present. It was like nothing I've ever felt before or since.

Naively, I had not expected to get all that much out of doing a sweat, but the whole experience hit me like an ton of bricks. We emerged from the sweat lodge into the cool night air filled with stars and a full moon in the dark sky. I needed to walk around in solitude on the centre's woodland property for nearly an hour just to assimilate the experience and come back to myself. The Divine had encompassed me. You don't get over something like that quickly!

I'm so glad I had the great blessing of experiencing a sweat lodge when I did. Now that I'm twenty years older, my high blood pressure medication means I would not be able to repeat it today.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Hymns Old and New -- Spirit of Life



For about 10 years, I was a member of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Winnipeg. The UU religion (for lack of a better term) is a non-Christian, non-creedal liberal humanist movement. It is a spiritual home for theists, agnostics and atheists alike. Lesbian pagans are welcome and fit right in! I enjoyed my time with the UUs and have nothing but respect for them. My UU experience was an important, even crucial, part of my spiritual development.

Anyway, like many church-goers, UUs love to sing. One of their favourite contemporary hymnists is the spiritual feminist songwriter and social activist Carolyn McDade. Her most famous modern hymn is probably "Spirit of Life." With its beautiful melody, secular lyrics and emphasis on compassion and justice, you can see why it's so popular with many liberal religions of whatever stripe, including Christian ones.

In 1997, Carolyn McDade came to Manitoba and held a weekend choral workshop at a First Nations ministerial training centre north of Winnipeg. My girlfriend at the time absolutely adored all things Carolyn McDade and so we attended. Once we got there, the First Nations staff offered to hold a sweat lodge for us on the Saturday night. I figured "Sure, why not participate? Might be interesting." Little did I know what to expect!

Next post: My Sweat Lodge Experience

Monday, August 15, 2016

Building a Sweat Lodge


["A Blessing from the Thunderbird Sweatlodge"

When I wrote recently about attending a pow wow, dbs of think.stew commented that he regretted missing a chance to experience a sweat lodge. That made me think of the one occasion when I was lucky enough to have had that opportunity, so perhaps this is a good time to write about it.

First, a bit of background info for anyone who might be unfamiliar with this First Nations spiritual practice. A sweat lodge is a round, low, dome-shaped tent built on a strong framework of bent willow branches. Traditionally, it is covered in many thick blankets or animal skins, although heavy tarps are commonly used today.


At the centre of the sweat lodge is a round, sunken firepit in which large red-hot rocks (called "grandfathers") are placed. The rocks are heated outside in an intense blaze tended by a firekeeper, who uses a pitchfork to carry the rocks inside the sweat lodge once they are hot enough.

You enter the sweat lodge through a small opening which is then closed with a flap. People sit in a circle around the firepit on cedar or pine boughs or blankets. Traditionally, people were naked inside the sweat lodge but today, they usually wear loose fitting cotton t-shirts, shorts or nighties. No jewelry, glasses or metal clothing accessories (like zippers) are allowed because of the intense heat.


A sweat lodge should be built and operated only under the supervision and control of a trained, experienced leader. First Nations observe this rule carefully but sometimes insufficiently-trained "new age" practitioners do not. People have sometimes died in those sweat lodges due to dehydration, heart attacks or smoke inhalation. Be sure to check the credentials of anyone putting on such an event. Sweat lodges (like saunas, steam rooms and hot tubs) are not recommended for anyone with high blood pressure or heart problems.

Wednesday's post will explain how I happened, quite unexpectedly, to experience a sweat lodge. The post's subject-matter will seem to take a sharply unrelated turn but trust me, one thing leads to another. Then Friday's post will explain the spiritual nature of the sweat lodge and its ritual. I knew nothing going in and was profoundly floored by its completely unanticipated impact.

Next post: Hymns Old and New -- Spirit of Life

Monday, August 8, 2016

Let's Get Soakin' Wet!


My Rare One and I have signed up as volunteers all this week at the International Gay and Lesbian Aquatic Championships, so I won't be around the blogosphere much until IGLA ends this weekend.

The City of Edmonton and our local LGBT swim team, "Making Waves," are hosting this big event for the first time and everyone is keen to put our best foot forward! LGBT swimmers, divers, synchro clubs and water polo teams are coming from all over the world to attend. The furthest are coming from Australia and New Zealand.

And hey, if you've ever been curious to see my city Edmonton, its surrounding areas and its many attractions (including some Pride Festival and gay nightlife footage),* then take a look at this IGLA promotional video!

*(also lots of half-naked men if you're into that)



Thursday, July 28, 2016

Pow Wow Time!



A couple of days ago My Rare One and I went to a traditional pow wow held in conjunction with Edmonton's K-Days celebration. The pow wow dancers, drummers and singers came from Alberta's Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation and other Treaty 6 First Nations in the province. We watched for about 4 hours and had a great time!

Have you ever been to a pow wow? It's been about 25 years since I last attended one in Manitoba at Sagkeeng First Nation north of Winnipeg. I was long overdue to go again. And My Rare One had never been to a pow wow before and was very keen to experience all the sights and sounds.

The drumming groups with their powerful pow wow drums and traditional singing were uniformly excellent! I loved seeing the older and younger men sitting together at the drums, all clearly having a wonderful time. You should have seen the look of pure joy on some of those kids' faces as they drummed and sang as accepted equals with the other men in their circle!


[Photo credit:
Greg Southam / Postmedia]

The dancing and the dancers' regalia were pretty spectacular too. There was every style of regalia and every kind of dance, except there was no hoop dancing (at least not on the day we attended). The dancing was divided by age group, gender and kind of dance. In between each category, there was always an "inter-tribal" round dance where anyone was welcome to participate, whether or not they were in regalia or street clothes or were pow wow dancers or members of the audience.

My favourites have always been the traditional women grass dancers -- so dignified and regal as they move with small steps, caressing Mother Earth with their feet, slowly dancing like the centre of calm and strength in the swirl of energetic male dancers, jingle dancers and shawl dancers.

My Rare One's favourites are the jingle dancers, young girls and women festooned with small metal cones on their regalia which make a joyful and rhythmic tinkling sound as they energetically dance.

To conclude this post, here's a tiny jingle dancer for your delight!


[Photo credit:
Greg Southam / Edmonton Journal]