We had retired from the constant noise of the big city to a quiet place in the country we called High Reach, where we learned that we were to become grandparents for the first time. Our son’s growing family would need more space during weekend visits, and it was time to finish the basement by constructing a separate apartment with a private walkout.
It meant finding a new home for all my woodworking equipment and materials, so the idea for a small workshop under the back deck emerged, and made practical sense. It was an opportunity to build, and my first choice for materials was a traditional board and batten cladding to cover the exterior. I love the rustic texture and piney fragrance of rough-cut pine, and I’ve used it on many projects. It weathers to a warm grey, and it reveals the interior character of the tree that it came from.
As the new workshop grew under the back deck, it became evident that it would require a bit of engineering to control water, ice, and snow from above. Big doors and windows would facilitate the easy movement of construction materials.
The announcement of a new life in the family was welcomed with instant joy. I wanted the workshop to commemorate the event somehow, so I decided to decorate the exterior with a bold sign declaring: “Granddad’s Workshop”. The large side doors were hinged to swing open like shutters, and this looked like a good place to make my sign.
My morning body is usually calm and ready to take on fine, detailed work like lettering. One early morning as I began to draw letters on what was to become a cardboard template for “Granddad’s Workshop”, my momentum suddenly disappeared, like air rushing out of a balloon. It no longer felt like the right thing to do. As my original concept faded away, more exciting thoughts, like new life from old, began to visit me.
I went down to survey the workshop from a different perspective, a shamanic perspective. The side doors faced east, the direction of the morning sun, and these doors would be the first thing to be illumined as the solar wind rushes ahead of the rising sun each morning, and sends waves of charged particles over the waters of the Bay of Quinte, behind my home. To my shamanic eyes this was a sacred spot, a place where human and divine energies converge each morning to begin their daily journey that ends at sunset.
I brought the pine doors inside, and as I admired the intimate beauty of the heartwood that would be my canvas, the heady fragrance rising from the pine boards filled the house, and me. The raw wood was pregnant with potential, and my thoughts began to reorganize in a new direction. I began to sense subtle creative impulses, which felt more appropriate and compelling as the wood whispered a higher purpose.
As a shaman working to heal communities of their colonial wounds, I’ve spent years writing anti-colonial, and anti-war articles, so many of my daily thoughts cascade in these directions.
Shamanic healing is inspired and guided by helping spirits, and I felt I was being led by my heart to something bigger. Perhaps it was my long and close relationship with the bird world that opened the door to their ancient secrets, and allowed the Phoenix of healing compassion to form in my heart, and emerge. I felt it‘s energy over me for the next three weeks, as I recreated it stroke by stroke, colour by colour, and brought it to life with dormant skills that surprised me.
Now, the completed firebird smiles back at me and the world, as it reveals it transformative, healing colours.
It’s message to my grandchildren will be:
We are divinely eternal.
The Construction of the Canadian Phoenix
• Two panels of rough-cut pine boards provided a 6 x 3 foot wooden canvas. On this textured surface, I began to draw feathers styled after Egyptian artwork depicting Isis and Osiris, until the feathers formed a wing. [Osiris may have inspired the Phoenix myth].
• The traditional Phoenix wears the colors of sunrise, but I updated my 21st century Phoenix with today’s most significant colors, which happen to be my working colors. For 40 years I protected workers in the nuclear industry under the universal nuclear warning symbol, which in its purest form is a magenta trefoil, on a field of yellow. Magenta is a spiritual color because it exists in our heads and does not occur naturally. We experience magenta in our brain when it processes a specific frequency [vibration] as a color. Yellow has always been the color of high spirituality. I dressed my bird in three shades of nuclear magenta, mixed with other sunrise colors.
• I adorned her body with seven raw crystals of amethyst from Northern Ontario. Amethyst has the ability to absorb spiritual energies by charging or altering its crystal structure, and releasing it as healing energy when needed.
• The blue triangles on the bird’s tail represent essential male and female energies in balance.
• The nest below the bird, reveals the greatest mystery of human life. It shows how the yellow egg [human spirit] separates from the large blue triangle [our physical body] at the end of life, to renew itself as the spiritual seed preparing for it’s next life.
• The outline of the Phoenix wings forms a big friendly smile.
I’m not an artist, but every morning, as I reached over my work table to pick up my art tools, a gentle warmth would start up my hands, and spread over me. For the next few hours, I would slip into a soft trance state as my mind focused on the magical firebird. My arthritic hands seemed more fluid, and moved deftly as they manipulated droplets of paint into wooden crevices. The creative process can lift us out of depression, and as this art work grew into a meditative process, I began to feel gentle healing taking place on many levels. Those were wonderful weeks when I felt the warm flow of the universe carried in the colors I was using to materialize the Canadian Phoenix. The healing had started.
Many Cultures Have Appropriated the Universal Phoenix
The Phoenix has been an ancient symbol of great change, resurrection, and freedom from death. It was a popular symbol on Christian headstones until the 4th century, when Emperor Constantine the Conqueror imposed the Roman Cross on Christianity to become the symbol of spiritual colonialism. The Phoenix will be the harbinger of healthy change, from colonial Canada to ethical Canada.
Uncovered Crimes Against Humanity Cancelled Canada Day 2021
Our usual national celebrations on Canada Day were cancelled this year, after the discovery of hundreds, and possibly thousands of native child graves hidden for generations on various Christian Residential School grounds. The Canadian flag was flown at half-mast in Ottawa, as Canadians finally woke up to the crimes that were committed by their state, in partnership with state churches, against generations of indigenous children and their communities.
I had applied earlier to our County government to participate in the annual exhibit of local art on Main Street on Canada Day. When Canada Day celebrations were suddenly cancelled because of the shocking news, I erected it beside the highway to open doors to the difficult healing work ahead.
Steve is a lifelong community activist, who’s main interests are human rights and public safety. He found the shamanic path to be a natural fit, and believes that discovering our spiritual sovereignty and growing it, will heal and liberate us. Read Steve’s Unconventional Autistic Perspective.