Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Lord Provides...

Our world has changed in a month.  Uncle Joe, who was perpetually the first to respond to the Wood Buffalo Update, has left us, though not before leaving an impression on the world that will resonate for generations.  I will miss his thoughtful observations, words of encouragement and the flavour he added to life.

My time at Keyano College came to a close on May 30th, as I handed in my keys and walked out the door after 15 years.  I spent the next week working a short-term contract for Arts Council Wood Buffalo, helping the new executive director get introduced to the organization and the community.  A promising seed that had been planted one month earlier broke through the soil last Friday and I began my new job the following Tuesday.  In the end, I was unemployed for one single day.

Backing up just a bit, Heather and I made the big leap to incorporate last month. I knew that the direction I was going would include a substantial amount of contract work.  So, rather than the two of us each having sole proprietorships, we decided to get Birdsong Connections Inc. off the ground.

The decision made, we went through the incorporation process, got our business license and unveiled a logo.  Designed by my friend Adityo in Indonesia, it speaks to both Heather and I in terms of its earthiness, elegance and simplicity.  Response to the logo has been phenomenal.  I did my first contract on Thursday, organizing the hiring of artists for a Suncor event.

Heather will soon be launching her H3 program as part of Birdsong Connections.  I won't presume to explain it, except to say that while I will be working with organizations and systems, Heather will be working with individuals to help them work toward a healthy, happy, harmonious life (hence, the H3 program name).  She will be continuing the bulk of her other work through the Ananda Center for Balance: yoga instruction, yoga teacher training, reiki, craniosacral therapy, etc.

She is away this weekend at some training sessions down south. Despite being out of town, she still was able to audition for TEDx Fort McMurray over Skype yesterday.  She had put this aspiration out to the universe a year ago, and followed through with her dream to present "the talk of her life" as part of this prestigious event scheduled for September.

My new job!  I am the Director of Communications and Community Impact for the United Way of Fort McMurray.  In addition to leading the communications effort, I will be team lead on the development of a major social profit (nonprofit) shared space centre in Shell Place, which is the new addition to the Suncor Community Leisure Centre on MacDonald Island.  Already the largest community recreational facility in the country, it will be even larger when the new development gets opened up in spring 2015.

I'm currently working out of The Redpoll Centre, also a social profit shared space, just a lot smaller than the one we'll be opening up at Shell Place.  It is a convenient three block walk from the house.  Dad was pretty excited about this fact.

As with every job, there is a learning curve, which I'm going through in earnest right now. Thankfully, I had been collaborating with the United Way on several other initiatives over the years, so I have a healthy head start.

While Heather was out of town this weekend, I set out to paint a large portrait of Metis elder Elsie Yanik on a spot on our shed that had been tagged out in the back alley.  She is 96 years old and received an honourary doctor of laws degree from the University of Alberta on my birthday, just a few days ago.  I had run into her at an event two weeks ago.

"Elsie, I have some disturbing news for you," I said.

"What's that?" she asked.

"I'm going to be painting a portrait of you, 8-feet tall and 5-feet wide."


"When I'm done, I'll be sure to bring you over to see it.  If you don't like, be sure to lie!"

She laughed and laughed.  I hopes she likes the end result. She's pretty excited to see it.  I just got off the phone with her. Had she not been in her sleeping clothes, she might have allowed me to pick her up to see it tonight. Instead, we will bring her over on Tuesday.  I can't wait to post the picture of Elsie getting a #SelfieWithElsie.

My public art project was capped off by the installation of a simple bench made from boards that Ben found along the Athabasca River today.  It's an amazing spot, a perfect sanctuary for reflection...when the mosquitos are not biting.

Happy Father's Day from all of us to all of you.

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