Wednesday Wander – Pacific Northwest Totem Poles

totem-1These tall, beautifully carved objects are totem poles, part of the culture and artistry of the First Nations people, specifically those of the Pacific Northwest. The great forests that once covered the misty Pacific shores were home to vast red cedar trees, traditionally used to make the poles. Now only pockets of that forest remain, glimpses of the long-ago.

totem-2The top photo was taken in Vancouver’s Stanley Park, a piece of the old forest preserved on the very tip of the gleaming city. I used to live across the road from where the park began, and often walked there with my dog, taking trails past hidden lakes and tangled undergrowth. Once you’re among the trees, it’s easy to forget you’re in a city. It’s a marvellous place.

totem-3The second photo was taken in Vancouver as well, at Capilano Valley, and the above image was taken at Victoria, on Vancouver Island. The figures on the poles are stylistic representations of known ancestors, natural objects and animals, and supernatural beings, and they were used by different families or clans as storytelling devices, funerary containers, and even as shaming devices, only removed once the wrong was righted or the debt paid.

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Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

This final totem pole, randomly enough, is in Berkhamsted, an historic town quite close to where I live. And how did a totem pole find its way into the heart of England? Apparently, during the 1960’s, Berkhamsted resident Roger Alsford worked at the Tahsis Lumber Mill on Vancouver Island. During strike action he was saved from starvation by the local Kwakiutl community, who looked after him. In gratitude his family, who owned a lumber mill in Berkhamsted, commissioned the totem pole to be carved by First Nations artist, Henry Hunt. In 1968 the completed pole was shipped to England and erected at the lumber yard. It’s now private apartments, so you can’t get close to the totem any more, but it is still visible from the canal.

Thanks for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time!

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Wednesday Wander – Arthur’s Seat, Australia

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Arthur’s Seat is the promontory to the right of the picture. The car ferry in the foreground runs between Sorrento and Queenscliffe, a journey of about forty-five minutes across the Heads, or several hours if you were to drive around the bay.

Urf, it’s another hot night in the UK. Thunderstorms are on their way and I for one cannot wait. There’s nothing like the refreshing change, the ozone in the air, the fury of the elements – at least while I’m indoors ;-). When the weather is humid like this it reminds me of Australia, of several days in a row where the air would lie hot and heavy, the temperature above 30 degrees before 9am. Then the cool change would come, sometimes with thunder, sometimes just a fresh breeze, the temperature dropping literally in minutes.

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Looking back along the bay towards Melbourne. You can just glimpse the towers of Melbourne at the extreme left of the horizon, giving you an idea of the vastness of the bay.

Before we came to the UK (or returned, in my case), we lived on the Mornington Peninsula, just outside Melbourne. It was a beautiful place to live – we were there for seven years, and I just loved it. There are several tall promontories overlooking Port Phillip Bay – Mt Martha, Mt Eliza and Arthur’s Seat, named for the original in Edinburgh. Arthur’s Seat is the highest of the three and the views from the top are spectacular.

Looking towards the entrance to the bay.
Looking towards the entrance to the bay.

In the photo above you can see the small towns strung along the curve of the bay – Dromana, Tootgarook, Rosebud, Rye, Blairgowrie, Sorrento, and the millionaires playground of Portsea. We lived in St Andrews Beach, on the ocean side of the Peninsula, where the land starts to curve towards the head. We were only a few minutes walk from the beach, waves pounding just beyond the dunes – I still miss hearing them at night.

From the top of Arthur’s Seat, the land stretches back in a ridge, the rich soil home to farms and vineyards, lush eucalypt forests and small towns. It is glorious.In fact, I think I’ll be wandering to this part of the world again, both in real life and on this blog. It’s a wonderful place to be.

Thanks for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time 🙂