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Monday, December 22, 2014

For me, God is in the birds and trees

Posted by Dawn-Ann on August 18, 2012

The hills were silent again except for one birdsong, and it cheered me slightly. See? If there were no other proof of the existence of a bigger reality than birds, they would do it for me.

~ Anne Lamott, Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith

Life is an adventure

Before I start my new reading adventures, I’d like to finish up a couple of books I am already reading.

One book is Anne Lamott’s Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith and the other is Hugh A. Dempsey’s Always an Adventure.

I have very eclectic tastes – what can I say? And normally I prefer non-fiction, which is why King and Tan are such departures from the norm for me.


Annie never disappoints. Her books are filled with humor and wisdom and nitty-gritty life experience. I actually met her once – we have a mutual friend in the Bay Area. Her observations on everything, from raising her son Sam to overcoming addiction, are always very thought-provoking and – well – human.

Hugh Dempsey’s book is a fun read for a different reason. That is, if you’re a nerdy historian adventurer-type person. A local figure, Hugh was instrumental in building the first historical collections of Calgary’s Glenbow Museum. He married a Blood woman from the Cardston area and traveled, explored and archived his heart out, writing about his journeys as he went. My dream!

I met Hugh, too, during a reading he gave a year or so ago. I had never heard of him before (a fact I’m a little embarrassed about) and immediately snapped up four of his books – all of which he signed for me while politely inquiring about my interest. Such a kind, knowledgeable gentleman.

People like Anne Lamott and Hugh Dempsey are the people that have helped shape my life and my self over the years. They have helped me define who I am and what is important to me – and even, sometimes, how to deal with life’s ups and downs.

Kirkpatrick wisdom

Posted by Dawn-Ann on February 7, 2010

The more research I do into the Kirkpatrick clan, the more I love and respect ‘em. No doubt there were exceptions, but for the most part I’m finding tales of love, strength, dignity and loyalty. Those who knew them seemed to be unwaveringly devoted to them. The Kirkpatricks as a whole lived life with a wicked sense of humour, strong family ties and a mighty work ethic.

My grand-uncle, Samuel D. Kirkpatrick’s “words for posterity” pretty much sum up the family code: “Live life with enthusiasm, with moderation, with service, and sympathy for less fortunate people in the world.”

More examples of the Kirkpatrick viewpoint:

Family legend tells that when many Native children in Canada were being put into residential schools the B.C. Kirkpatricks refused to break up their families in this way. They chose to remain strong family units, teaching their children how to play musical instruments and become industrious, contributing members of society. (Most of us Western Canadian Kirks have at least a smattering of Native blood.)

Another family legend tells of how some of the first American generations went south to Georgia, then came back north again because they were disgusted with the idea of slavery.

Going back even further to old Scotland, we see this about Sir James Kirkpatrick (d. 1804) in Records of the Closeburn Kirkpatricks by Major-General C. Kirkpatrick:

The Dumfries Weekly Journal of the 12th June 1804 described him as “the representative of an ancient and respectable family, which had inherited that estate in succession, for upwards of seven hundred years. Descended from this ancient race, he was inferior to none of his predecessors in that generous spirit and fortitude by which they were distinguished. Mild, gentle and courteous in his manners, he possessed at the same time that firmness and stability of mind which made him tenacious of his purposes, constant in his friendships, and steady in his principles. His principles were no other than the two great sources of human excellence – piety to God, and benevolence to men”. etc.

In another obituary reference to him it was said:- “His publick character was strongly marked by disinterestedness [free from bias or partiality] by generosity and by a firm determined spirit. Possessing in a high degree all the publick and social affections, he was always amongst the first to promote any measure which he considered as of general utility and never suffered his own private interest to stand in the way of what appeared to him to be a publick good. Warm and stead in his friendships, he never deserted those to whom he once attached himself, nor declined any exertions, however inconvenient for himself, that could [be] beneficial to them.

When I was tramping through graveyards in Scotland, over and over again I saw words like “deeply loved” and “we miss thee, dear” on Kirkpatrick gravestones.

But the story that has moved me the most in my genealogical studies so far is the tale of Alexander Richard Kirkpatrick of Dublin, Ireland (1813 – 1891). He was a scholar at Cambridge and was called to the Bar in 1840, according to Chronicles of the Kirkpatrick Family written by Alexander de Lapere Kirkpatrick.

From the book:

Mr. Kirkpatrick was beloved by all who knew him, rich and poor; the grief evinced by the latter at his funeral was very striking, and many and most touching were the tokens received by his family of their affection for him. Whilst on his other properties it was said by both Priests and others that they had never seen such deep and widespread grief, extending even to the children. He was carried to his grave by his own tenants, several of them quite poor, who had come a long distance, and at no small cost, but they looked on him as a Father and a Friend.

Wow. Would that we all could be remembered this way upon our passing.

Kirkpatrick and Bowe history – wild football game at Alkali Lake

Posted by Dawn-Ann on July 3, 2009

Samuel Davidson Kirkpatrick as a young man, probably around the time he is writing about here

I am preparing a family history binder for the Kirkpatrick Family Reunion this weekend and was reading some of Great Uncle Sam’s writings last night. Uncle Sam was a prolific writer and his stories are a boon to anyone trying to put together local family history. He was born and raised in the interior of British Columbia. His father, Thomas Gilham Kirkpatrick, is considered the “patriarch” of our branch of the clan.

I thought I’d pass along this┬ápassage, as it shows a bit about both the Kirkpatrick sense of fun and their pioneer spirit. I tidied up the spelling and grammar to make it a bit smoother to read. By the way, the “Jim” in this story is James Douglas Kirkpatrick. Enjoy!

On Sunday I went with John Sr. and his cowboys. We coralled a buch of wild horses and brought in a half dozen to be broke to the saddle. Every night after supper the Indians gathered around and their best buckaroos rode those wild horses. They put on a miniature rodeo.

There was a big crowd on hand and they all enjoyed the fun. Those riders were game and very seldom thrown. Of course, they did not comply with the rules of our modern stampedes, but they put on a good show. There were no shutes; the horse was brought out to the center of the yard with just a neck rope and a hackamor. He was snubbed to the saddle of another rider and a blindfold tied over his eyes. Then a cowboy grabbed the horse’s ears and pulled his head down between his elbows and held him while the saddle was cinched on. The rider stepped up, pulled his hat good and tight, then mounted. He grabbed the horn with both hands and shouted, “Let ‘er go, Gallagher!” The blind was pulled free and they were in action.

The rider usually lost his hat on about the second jump, as when a rider pulls leather his head is bound to flop.

By this time I was thinking about heading for home but Jim said wait another week. I want to take you on a grizzly bear hunt next Sunday. This appealed to me, as I had a rifle that I was proud of, so I remained another week.

Jim, John [Bowe] and I went out Saturday evening to what was known as the Milk Ranch, about 12 miles east. An Indian reported to Jim that a steer had been killed out there by a grizzly bear. We stayed overnight. There was a cabin, a barn and a fenced pasture.

We were up before daybreak and went on foot to where the steer had been killed, but there was nothing left but bones. The bears would not be back, so after breakfast we saddled up and Jim took us out to where he had killed a huge grizzly a month or so before. The coyotes had done a good job on that carcass.

Then we separated and roamed the back country, hoping we would spot a bear, or perhaps another kill, but found nothing. It was easy going through open timber with small meadows and pools of water where we saw bear tracks, but no bears. After lunch at the cabin, we headed for the Home Ranch. Again we separated to see what we could find. There were plenty of live cattle but no dead ones. We had no luck, but had a fine trip and I saw a lot of ideal cattle country.

I expressed my intention of leaving soon. The folks wanted a day or so to make orders for things needed that could be sent out from Clinton by the weekly stage. They gave everyone a chance to add to the list, so it was agreed that I would pull out Wednesday.

On the last evening we had a football game. Jim had got in some balls the year before and taught the Indians the rules of the game. They were eager and soon became experts in maneuvering a ball with their feet.

The playing field was from near the ranch house north. Jim said, “Okay, we will have a short game; 30 minutes without changing ends.” Sides were chosen; I was among them. The rules called for 11 men a side, but I’ll swear there were 20 a side in this game. Jim did not play; he was to be the referee.

We took the field. Jim tooted his whistle and the game was away to a flying start. Within minutes, positions were ignored and rules were forgotten. Everybody chased the ball. There were so many players on the field you couldn’t drive the ball without hitting someone. The old chief sat on a post near the barn, shouting at the top of his voice in his own language. It seemed everybody was shouting orders to their partners and no one was listening. One minute the whole gang was rushing towards the north pole and the next minute they were like a flock of geese heading south. One man got a black eye when hit by the ball. Very often one man kicked another instead of the ball, but the Indians all wore moccasins so there was never anyone hurt. I was kicked twice on the shins, once on the rear end, but I rushed madly on.

I wanted to get a kick at that ball. Sad to say I only got one chance, then I missed as the ball was breaking all speed limits at the time, heading towards the enemy fullback, who sent the ball high over the gang near our goal and resulted in a goal being scored a short time later. Time was running out on us. The game went on and it seemed to me our team was tiring. We lost ground and it was our goaltender that turned the tables, making a long pass down the field, where a couple of our boys took posession of the ball. Then, after a brilliant display of the Highland Fling, a bit of hopscotch and a final twist, a goal was scored and the game tied and one and all, everyone was satisfied. The Indians went up the road, all talking and laughing. The old chief with his cap in his hand was still shouting at the top of his voice. So the knowledge and pleasure that was brought to those people by brother Jim will never be forgotten.

Well, that ended my visit at Alkali Lake and, believe it or not, this happened 65 years ago [ca. 1900].

I paid it forward

Posted by Dawn-Ann on October 25, 2008

If you read my story called Pay $5 forward, you’ll know that I’ve been carrying a crumpled $5 bill around in my coat pocket for a while. I’ve been waiting for just the right opportunity to pay it forward since the day it was given to me by a dear little Native woman on the train. Well, you’ll be glad to know it went out yesterday. I was waiting on the street corner downtown at lunch time, when another little Native woman walked through crowds of people, directly to me in a bee-line, as if she’d spotted me from a mile away. I watched her approach and somehow I knew. Sure enough, she asked if I had some change for a cup of coffee. Without hesitation I said, “I sure do,” and dug the bill out of my pocket and placed it in her hand. Her eyes glowed with gratitude and last I saw her, she was heading to the nearby McDonalds for some lunch. It warmed my heart.

My dad said his auntie, also a little half-Native woman, would have said my experience on the train was a visit from the Elders. He said perhaps it was a visit from Aunt Alice, who always carried wads of $5 bills around with her (she liked to bet on the horses). He said maybe she was passing along her gift of second sight to me. Thank you, Aunt Alice. I am truly grateful.

Why I love my job (well, part of the reason, anyway)

Posted by Dawn-Ann on October 24, 2008

That ol’ nine-to-five is a whole lot easier to bear if you love the work you’re doing and at least respect the company you work for, am I right? Currently, I am on contract with EnCana in Calgary and the longer I’m there, the more I love it. Not only do they take really good care of their employees, but the people I work with are, without exception, bright, hard workers that also happen to know how to laugh and have fun. (Plus, I’m doing nerdy stuff in the web department – does it get any better than that? I don’t think so.)


The so-called “corporate culture” of what some might view as just another one of those heartless “big oil” companies was really made clear to me when I read a recent article that featured. Native Canadian concerns being near and dear to my heart, I was really tickled about this:

EnCana had already decided where it was going to build its oil sands processing plant in Foster Creek when it did something that would make your average oil man choke: It asked the tribal council of the Cold Lake First Nation if the plant’s location was acceptable to them, even though the land wasn’t on their reservation.

Turns out EnCana’s site was where the tribe’s roaming ancestors were buried. So EnCana moved its plant site several miles away. It also rerouted a road around a former gathering ground of medicinal plants and a rock that was, according to the council, imbued with spiritual properties.

Read more here.

This was the sidebar for a bigger article about EnCana called Frick and Frack.

Pay $5 forward

Posted by Dawn-Ann on October 16, 2008

I had the most unusual experience on the train home tonight. I was sitting there gazing out the window, my mind a million miles away, when I heard a voice beside me say, “Excuse me. Do you drink coffee?” I looked over and saw a Native woman about my age. I said yes I do drink coffee – in the mornings when I’m trying to wake up. With that, she slipped a $5 bill from her pocket into my hand. I sensed an importance to what she was doing and held the crumpled bill, waiting.

With a soft voice she launched into a story about how someone had given her five fives today and she felt that she couldn’t keep them all; that it was in some way bad luck. I didn’t understand much of what she was saying. She talked around in circles, embarrassed, yet seeming compelled to carry on. Her words kept tumbling out; then she’d laugh and make a self-deprecating comment.

I kept watching her while she talked, maintaining eye contact. Something about this interaction held me spellbound and I wanted to show the utmost respect to her. Finally I said, “I think I understand.” She laughed. She thought I meant I understand you’re nuts, Lady. But I said, “No really. It’s like giving back in a way.” She looked me dead in the eye, a small smile playing around her lips, grateful that I’d caught on. “That’s it exactly,” she said.

At that moment we arrived at my station and I got up to leave. “Have a wonderful evening,” I told her. She smiled and returned the greeting, her happiness making her face beautiful. All the way home I thought of her and wondered if I’d ever see her again. Something happened there tonight, some kind of graced moment that I’ll remember for a long time. I decided to keep the bill in my coat pocket, ready to pay forward to someone else when the right moment presents itself.