Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Winterlude in Ottawa.

My extra-extra-long weekend  in Ottawa, was full of ice sculptures, snow statues, ice slides, museum visits, sticky taffy, wobbly skating, and my wonderful family. 

My first stop was the Canadian Museum of Civilization located in Hull, Quebec, just across the river from the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa.  

The Museum was designed by Canadian architect,  Douglas Cardinal.  Of  Métis and Blackfoot heritage, Cardinal is famous for designing flowing architecture marked with smooth lines, influenced by his Aboriginal heritage as well as European Expressionist architecture.

Regardless of with what's going on inside, the outside of this building is well-worth seeing.

Darrell (my brother) had brought me to see a fascinating exhibit on religion.  That exhibit deserves to be the full focus of its very own future post.

Instead, I'll show you something that I specifically sought out on this visit.

Here is a Canadian twenty dollar bill.    Depicted on our Canadian twenty dollar bill, is a sculpture called "The Spirit of Haida Gwaii" by artist Bill Reid.

Don't we have pretty money ?

Two bronze castings of the piece, one in black, and one in deep-green, are located, outside the Canadian Embassy in Washinton, D.C. and at Vancouver International Airport.  The original plaster mold from which the castings were made, is on display in the mail hall of the Canadian Museum of Civilization.  THAT was the piece I wanted to see.

  • The Spirit of Haida Gwaii represents the Aboriginal heritage of the Haida Gwaii region, formerly called the Queen Charlotte Islands. It shows a traditional Haida cedar dugout canoe.  "Consistent with Haida tradition, the significance of the passengers is highly symbolic. The variety and interdependence of the canoe's occupants represents the natural environment on which the ancient Haida relied for their very survival: the passengers are diverse, and not always in harmony, yet they must depend on one another to live. The fact that the cunning trickster, Raven, holds the steering oar is likely symbolic of nature's unpredictability... "1.
Lemme think, "diverse, and not always in harmony, yet they must depend on one another to live."   Yep, that pretty much describes us.

Since "Winterlude" was going on, Darrell next took me to see the ice sculpture area.

This winter's milder temperatures and low amount of snow have not exactly made for good ice-sculpting conditions.  Apparently there were far more sculptures in past years.   Nevertheless, it was interesting to watch some of the teams, literally working against a countdown clock -- they had 22 hours left -- to make delicate sculptures out of massive, unwieldy, blocks of ice.

I was fascinated by a bowl of fruit that was frozen into a large ice block.

What would "Winterlude" be without poutine and fries ?  Poutine is gravy mixed with cheese curd, which some Canadians love to have poured over the top of their fries -- as if fries by themselves don't have enough calories !

Some of the ice sculptures showed signs of the damaging effect of the weather.  This octopus seemed to defy the odds as it had survived intact. 

This elaborate bar was one of the more involved pieces.

Stay tuned for tales of sticky toffee, snow forts and the world's longest skating rink.

1. snipped from Wikipedia

2. no idea why the spacing is so weird today.  Have any other Blogger folk had similar problems ?


  1. I love the Museum designed by Douglas Cardinal. Beautiful in its simplicity. It makes me think a little of some of Frank Lloyd Wright's commercial structures.

    I also love the Haida sculpture.The plaster mold is startling for it's so-pure looking whiteness. I learned a little about the fascinating Haida culture when I took my one and only cruise to Alaska a couple of years ago. What a wonderful, wise culture they were.

    Yes...Canada does have beautiful currency. I think all countries have prettier money than the States. ;-/

  2. Fantastic place. Looks like you had a great time with your lovely bro. Perhaps I should come with you next time??? Vicky xx

  3. What a tour of the nation's capital... those ice sculptures are so impressive, especially that octopus.

  4. Gosh, I seem to miss out on so much! Glad you've reconciled your fear of flying. (notice I didn't say conquered). Will definately have to do more sight seeing when I retire in 79 working days!


  5. Looks like you had a marvelous time! Enjoyed the Haida Gwaii--amazing that it's on the Canadian $20 bill. Diverse & not always in harmony--but we must depend on one another to live. A perfect thought above the deeper meaning of love for this Valentine's Day.

  6. The architecture of the Canadian Museum of Civilization building is an awesome design - what a pleasure it must be to see every day. It shows that not all of civilization is dull, practical, and unimaginative.

    The "variety and interdependence of the canoe's occupants" illustrates such a profound truth. Interdependence and mutuality are two of my favorite catchwords. Some day I would love to be free to travel and see this museum!

  7. Linda, I've visited the museum before and am always in awe of it' lovely, wavey lines.

    Lynne, I'm sure you'll make it to Ottawa some time. But it would be fun to go together.

    Amy-Lynn, that octopus was a wonder ... the weather had worked against the more delicate ones ...

    ITC - your retirement is going to be a blast !

    Kathy, that pretty much sums us up.

    Barbara, Ottawa is a lovely city to visit. They have a wonderful tulip festival in the spring.

  8. I was deeply affected by the UBC Museum of Anthropology, and by Bill Reid's Raven and the First Men sculpture displayed there. I haven't seen the Spirit of Haida Gwaii but now you've made me want to very much. So much Canada to see . . . such a short life!

    1. Gerry, here I am replying a year late. I'm back in Ottawa again to visit family and experienced Winterlude. I've never been to the UBC Museum of Anthropology or seen those pieces that are displayed there. I can tell you that the Museum of Civilization is well worth a visit if you're ever up in Ottawa.


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