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The Story is in the Wood!

“ As far as I could see, south, north along the ridge, there were the Canadians. And I experienced my first full sense of nationhood”. ~ ...

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Early Concepts

Here is an early concept for the Vimy Flute.  The symbolism is straightforward though I would like to hear some ideas from you.  Feel free to leave comments here, Facebook, or Twitter.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Taking Form

         Using Remembrance Day as the symbolic launch for the Vimy Flute, Stephen took to his workshop to start the process of making the flute. I feel it is a fitting gesture to start the work on this day.  When Stephen works with the wood he allows the process to flow naturally resulting in a unique sound and look for every flute he makes. I am very excited to see what the Vimy flutes final form will be. 
What I do know is this flute will be something special, as well as a worthy tribute to our Canadian Soldiers.  The Flute is now nearing the end of its 100 year journey back to Vimy for the 9th of April, 2017. 
On this day when the flute plays out over Vimy ridge, it will be 100 years since Lt. Leslie Miller picked up the acorn and started the journey of the flute.  Over the next few months we will keep you updated as Stephen works on the flute.  Please keep checking back for updates.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Scraping the Surface of Sacrifice

It is just over 9 years ago when Cpl. Nathan Hornburg was killed in action in Afghanistan as he was attempting to help his fellow soldiers whose vehicle was disabled.  I had worked several times
with Nathan, and though I was not particularly close with him, I was rattled by his death.  He was the first person I knew directly that was killed in Afghanistan.  During his funeral I was overwhelmed with emotion as I witnessed the pain experienced by his family and friends.  I specifically remember hearing about all his different interests and aspirations. I was taken aback by how similar my own aspirations and interests where to his.  That Remembrance Day in 2007 I found myself sharing drinks with a few of Nathan’s close friends.  We were engaged in rare conversations about the difficulties and pain experienced since Nathan’s death.  I was trying to help normalize the feelings being experienced.  Afterwards I was thanked for the conversation as it had been particularly hard for one of them to open up about his feeling.  I was unsettled by this experience and started evaluating aspects of my life and my service. However, I adapted back into the routine of life until I was once again brought face to face with this same situation in 2008.
                May 2008 we were delivered the news about the death of Cpl. Michael Starker.  This experience played out just like Nathan's story.  Having

worked with Starker in the past I was struck by the loss and pain experienced by those close to him.  He left his wife and family as well as many friends behind. One of my good friends was particularly close to him and was in Afghanistan with him at the time.  To this day he struggles with this loss.  It was at the funeral for Starker where we all formed up behind an ambulance and marched with him past city hall.  As we
worked our way along the streets the Calgary Fire Department draped a massive Canadian Flag from their trucks high up across the road.  As I crossed under the Canadian Flag I was struck by the thought that… “I have only scraped the surface of sacrifice”.  Less than a year later we would lose another, Sgt. George Miok.
                Sgt. Miok was my age and was killed in December of 2009.  Miok was part of my sister unit in Edmonton and we had worked closely with him.  The entire unit felt the sting of his loss. 
Miok’s death echoed the experience of losing Hornburg and Starker.  This was third time seeing the loss and the pain carried by loved ones and friends.  Even now I am seized by emotion as I write this blog, for I know that once again I am only scraping the surface of the sacrifice experienced by others.  These and all other Canadian Soldiers throughout time have not just sacrificed their lives, they sacrificed their aspirations, their dreams, and the hearts of their loved one which break upon their departures.  I cannot for a second pretend to touch upon the immensity of this experience.  When I attempt to empathise with one of these fallen soldiers and their families I am overwhelmed with sadness.  This sadness is a fraction of what they experience. 
“Lest we forget” for me is about attempting to connect with the unimaginable pain experienced by so many through the loss of just one soldier.  We must not forget the immense sacrifice they gave for their brothers in arms, the mission, their Country and the world.  I challenge you to consider battles such as Vimy, where 3,598 lost their lives in one day or how in the First World War more than 60,000 lost their lives.  Now think of Hornburg, Starker, or Miok and multiply that loss by 60,000 and you will see it is only humanly possible to ‘scrape the surface of sacrifice’.
                This Remembrance Day I hope you to will try to ‘scrape the surface of sacrifice’ and connect with the massive loss experienced by our Canadian soldiers and their families.  I hope you can step back from the media and video games that glorify war and recognize the dulling effect they have on our empathetic responses towards war.  I hope you can engage in active remembrance by learning about a story of someone connected to you or even a complete stranger.  Without this effort to actively remember we run the very real risk of repeating the choices of the past and subjecting our future generations to pay a debt which has already been paid in full.
I hope that through the creation of the Vimy Flute I can honor the sacrifice of all Canadian Solders and help other ‘scrape the surface of sacrifice’ with me.  May we create the better future which so many have sacrificed so much for.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

The Craftsmen and Artist

The man with the all the skill
Stephen Rensink
Maya Angelou once said “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel” I attribute this quote to only those I feel who an personify it. I would like to introduce such an individual, Stephen Rensink.  Stephen is a former school teacher who truly leaves you feeling better about yourself when you meet with him.  I can imagine that this was the impact he had on his students as well. On a side note Stephen is a great team player as he really did not want me to put his picture online but let me do it regardless.  Keep that reluctance in mind because when asked he was willing to meet with CTV News to talk about his work and the Vimy flute… if that’s not a team player, I don’t know who is.
A Makwa Drone Flute
Made by Stephen
Stephen is the key player in this story as it is his craftsmanship and hard work that will forge the flute from the Vimy Oak.  When you visit Stephen’s website (http://makwaflutes.ca/) or Facebook page Makwa Flutes you will see that he “…is committed to working closely with clients to create custom made flutes with a story”.  Stephen has demonstrated his commitment to this mission as he has volunteered his time to build the Vimy Flute and thus bring the story of the flute to being. This is a testament to the high quality person Stephen is.  Though nether Stephen or myself come from a Frist Nations heritage Stephen feels that his ability to make the Native American Flute is a gift to which he is very grateful for.  Stephen does not look to appropriate any aspect of First Nations culture rather he strives to promote cultural awareness and connection through his art.  Similarly I have found the Native American Flute to be a powerful median of self expression and am grateful for my ability to play the instrument. Throughout the process of making the flute Stephen will be sending me pictures and even sound clips so that I can update you on the flutes progress.  I am so grateful to have met this man and look forward to where this project will go. 

All stories often have a key connecting players that enable the story to happen.  For the Vimy Oaks it is Monty McDonald and his dedication to the memory of his friend Leslie Miller.  For the Vimy flute it is David Bouchard.  Though I have only had very limited conversation with David I am so grateful for him. David is a speaker, author, and writer who discovered his Metis ancestry and
David Bouchard Picture from
dedicated himself to actively sharing his heritage and inherited memories for the benefit of others.  As a result of his work David has become significant figure in the greater Canadian community.   With the inclusion of art, music, and poetry to his work he makes his messages accessible to everyone.  It is the accessibility of his work that has earned him the accolades and awards he is often recognized for.  Check out his website at http://davidbouchard.com/ . 
It was about 2 years ago when I was trying to find a good quality flute maker (not a simple task I promise you).  I found out David played the flute so I decided to email him one day.  I was taken by surprise as David quickly responded and engaged with me.  He introduced me to Stephen which has ultimately led me to now and being on the verge of fulfilling a long time dream of mine.  I encourage you to check out Stephen’s website http://makwaflutes.ca/ and click on the about page, here you will find out how Stephen met David himself.  In all I am very grateful to David for taking his time to engage with and help out a random stranger.  Both David and Stephen have reinforced my belief that the right people come into your life at the right time.  The only thing that is required of you is to follow your inspiration with integrity and life will respond to that passion with the guidance you need.
Here are some examples of Stephen's work: