We Are The Dreams of Our Ancestors and The Dreamers For Our Descendants

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“Our relationships with the places where our feet are planted are everything. In the physical sensory world, and the imaginal world which envelopes and penetrates it. It doesn’t matter whether we’re in these places forever, or for just a little while….All that matters is that, wherever we find ourselves in this world, we connect deeply there. For as long as we’re in a place, with as much love and respect as we can muster. That’s where the virtue lies, for me.”

‘The land carries its own memory, and a rich, earthy, planetary wisdom. The memory and wisdom of the ages. And we’re made up of it. At some very deep level, each one of us participates in that wisdom borne by the land.
‘Because we’re made of the land. Every cell in our body. There’s not a bit of us that isn’t created and then forged from the various places we’ve lived in.’

‘And what treasures we can uncover, if we remember it. If we learn how to dig deep, how to stop paddling about in the shallows and penetrate beyond the superficial into those deeper, older, planetary – cosmological, even – layers of the psyche. If, to use a phrase I coined many years ago now, we choose to let ourselves fall into the land’s dreaming. And so learn how to truly participate in the land’s psyche. In the world psyche – the anima mundi, the world soul.’

Sharon Blackie

“Wherever you stand, be the soul of that place.” – Rumi

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I was born,  raised, and have lived my entire life in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. I am a 4th Generation Canadian, with a complex, mixed heritage, including at least eight nationalities that I’m currently aware of, running through my veins. Celtic, Central and Eastern European, and even Indigenous to name a only a few, although you’d never know it if you judged me solely based on my appearance. I am a cultural hodgepodge, and I’m sure a DNA test would likely reveal that it’s even more complicated than all of that. I am a child of the world, and that is reflected in my diverse cultural interests, where I have chosen to travel, and what I choose to learn and share with the world. The embracing of diversity and desire for global connectedness runs deep in my genetic lineage. I have continued to let my heart and soul be my guide, despite these interests often being misunderstood, over-simplified and criticized based solely on how I look.

The truth is, my complex cultural background means that I don’t identify with just one place, people or culture, but many, and as a proud Canadian, I regularly feel immense gratitude and comfort, living in a country that is so culturally diverse and welcoming, for the most part, of that diversity. I have, as of late, been re-connecting with my heritage and the knowledge of my ancestors. How better to understand ones-self than to understand who and where they come from. I have been reading and learning about Matrilineal DNA, which is now used to trace family trees, because unlike DNA from fathers, a mother’s DNA is passed un-changed from mothers to children of both sexes, along the maternal line until all female lineages converge. Ultimately, what that means in simplified terms is, we can trace our DNA in a clear line through our mothers, and our mothers’ mothers, back through many generations, but we cannot do this through our father’s and our father’s fathers. I was contrastingly, both utterly flabbergasted and notably underwhelmed by the obviousness, when I learned the matriarchal nature of the very building blocks of humanity. The irony of learning this truth while at the same time becoming more and more conscious of and infuriated by the oppressive nature of our Patriarchally constructed society, was not lost on me. More on this another time! Science, in its purist form, is our friend, because it opens us up to question things and be open minded to theoretical possibilities. That said, our instincts and intuition are equally important, sometimes more so, in the short term in particular. I’m sure I’m not the first woman to say that on a deep-seeded (pardon the pun) internal level, I already knew this fact, but it took scientific evidence to convince me. Note to self, once again, you’re intuition is usually ahead of the curve. Trust it.

I have also been learning about the quickly growing study and theories around Epigenetics, and the mind boggling evidence that so far suggests our genes can in fact change based on external stimulus, such as traumatic experiences, or repetitive thought patterns and emotions, and in turn, those altered genes can then be passed down through generations. The implications around curing genetic diseases, the nature versus nurture debates, or limiting beliefs based on the genetic lottery we are born with, the good and the not so good, are incredibly exciting to consider.  It would appear that we are so much more than the physical characteristics and pre-dispositions of our ancestors. We are also their dreams and their fears. Their gifts and their traumas. We carry not only their blood and tissue, but their experiences within us, as well as the potential capacity to transmute the parts that do not serve our greatest good or personal evolution.

All of this information together, for me, peaks my curiosity and begs the question, are we not then, on more than an experiential level, but on a cellular level, also made up of the places that we live and the places that our ancestors have lived? And in particular, are we not deeply connected and informed by the land in which our mother, grandmothers and great-grandmothers have walked? Is it possible, that we carry knowledge of the lands of our ancestral grandmothers lived and visited inside of our genetic coding? Even though I am fourth generation Canadian, I find a deeply rooted connection and attraction to places in the world that I have never set foot on. Places, that the ancient stories and pictures of, sing a song within me that transcend my limited ideas of my culture or borders and draw me towards them for some reason or purpose. There is knowledge within me, my blood and bone, that seems disconnected from my blonde hair and blue-green eyes, and yet other parts of me that are deeply connected to my appearance. Why, when I visited Turkey, in the Middle East, did I feel a deep sense of being a hop-skip-and-a-jump from home, when in reality, home was on the other side of the world in Canada? Why do depictions of ancient Egypt and endless seas of golden desert make me weep with longing? Why did this white girl feel every fibre of her being come alive with familiarity when she began to study bellydance? Time for that DNA test maybe? Or, maybe there’s even more to it than that. Humanity is not stationary. Scientific evidence traces the birthplace of humanity to Africa. There is innumerable evidence of cultural interconnectedness through travel, trade and marriage throughout the world for millennia. Viking symbols and runes etched with ancient knives into stone structures in the Middle East; jewellery, fabric and weapons being found all over the world in the graves of people not native to those cultural artifacts; the ancient Celtic triskele being used in the U.S. Department of Transportation, a coat of arms in Germany and national flag of Sicily. Our democracy here in North America is based on that of ancient Greece, our letters are Latin and our numbers are Arabic. Unless you are Indigenous to North America, every single one of us are either immigrants ourselves, or fairly recent descendants of immigrants. The bottom line is, that most of what we have come to know as Canada was built upon foreign ideas with an entirely different land and culture, and that past information is stored within our DNA, according to current science. My familial experience being in Canada is less than 150 years old, which within the measure of genetic lineage, is a relatively short time.

So what does all this mean? Well, for me, it is an inspiring seed of an idea that warrants further investigation. It is a reminder that we are far more complex in our make-up than we may currently understand, and we do ourselves a disservice when we over-simplify one another into cultural boxes, borders and surface appearances. There is so much more to an individual than meets the eye. This thinking inevitably leads to an us versus them mentality, and history has shown us time and again what horrors the implications of that can turn into. These new scientific discoveries and theories suggest possibility for our future, and it nudges me towards better connection and understanding of my own personal heritage, but more than that, it encourages me to enquire about the places my ancestors came from, where they travelled, settled, and what may have been going on in those places at that time in history? All of it, would potentially have an impact on my make-up, and that of my children, according to current modern science, and quite frankly, according to the long-time teachings of Indigenous peoples all over the globe.

As a central Canadian, living in a province with a significant population of Indigenous First Nations, might I suggest that maybe it’s way, way overdue for us European descendants to listen up and learn something about the stolen Treaty 1 Territory land we are all standing on? I did not personally choose to come here from Europe, but I do live here now as a result of my ancestors, I am raising my family here, and with every choice I make, I am setting the tone for future generations. If I apply the ideas about matrilineal DNA and epigenetics not just to myself and how my ancestry has impacted me, but to how I in turn will impact my descendants, wouldn’t the connection, understanding and knowledge of this land that I walk on every day, it’s history, it’s geology, it’s plant medicines, it’s animals, be an important responsibility? I love the idea that we are the manifestation of our ancestors wildest dreams. If that is so, what can I do to make them proud? Well, that leads me to an obvious question, what are my wildest dreams? What do I hope for, for my own descendants? I want them to know that I worked for a better world, that I cared about people and that I loved this planet and all her mysteries deeply. I want them to know that I dreamed and worked for unity, diversity and global community. That creativity and connectivity of people and land was deeply important to me. I want them to know that I loved this place that I live, it’s intense and extreme seasonal changes, and the hearty, incredibly creative people that our long, cold, dark winters produce. Above all, I want them to know that I did my best to become the soul of this place where I was born, while reaching for my dreams. That I listened to my heart and my intuition and let it be my guide in all things. If it is so, that I can pass on my experience to my descendants, it is my wish that it brings comfort and hope that I did not just live in this place, on this land, but instead, I allowed myself to connect deeply to it and become a part of it, as I believe nature intended.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

STYLING, HAIR & MAKEUP BY: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams

WARDROBE BY: Patron of Dreams Shop

WEARING: 

 

 

 

Opalescence

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Opalescent: Something that is opalescent reflects light and changes colour like an opal.  – Cambridge Dictionary

Opal: A precious stone whose colour changes when the position of the person looking at it changes.  -Cambridge Dictionary

The opal, also known as the “Eye Stone” is known for it’s ability to bring a person’s personal characteristics and traits to the forefront as well as bringing unresolved patterns or tendencies that require self examination to the surface. This self evaluation can lead to profound personal transformation. Opal boosts creativity and originality. It is considered to be a karmic stone, showing us that what we put out into the world will come back to us. Also, how we perceive the world, will be shown to us like a mirror reflection.

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Each of us are like the opal, a complete spectrum of colours that changes from different perspectives. When people look at us, they see a reflection of themselves. You show them their hopes, their fears, their insecurities, their desires. They look at you and they see what they like and what they don’t like about the world in which they live, which is really just a reflection of who they are, or rather, who they believe themselves to be based on their life experience. People look at you only in relation to themselves, which is why no two people see you in exactly the same light. Every person who lays eyes on you sees a different colour depending on the perspective they are coming from. People see you in relation to the stories they tell themselves about the world. In truth, no other person can really see you, even though you are there in all of your glory. You are the only one who can actually see yourself, but you will never see your true self in a mirror. When we see with the human eye, we see only a reflection of our beliefs, our world views and our current state of mind. Who you really are is deep within you and can only be felt with the heart and the spirit, not seen with the human eye.

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Although we cannot see people as they truly are, what we can do is feel people, but we are so trained in our society to see with our limited sense of eye-sight, that we have neglected to develop and maintain our ability to experience and know one another through feeling. This ability, which all of us have, requires a deep sense of compassion for others and the ability to feel beyond the sensory information coming in all directions from our basic five senses. The five senses while important and useful for moving around and experiencing our physical world, can be very distracting and overstimulating which keeps us trapped in a constant state of reacting to our surroundings. It is difficult to live an intentional life with focus, direction and action when we have become a slave to our senses and are continually responding to stimulus. And let’s face it, we live in a society that is designed to bombard our senses with stimulation. We take the sensory information in and believe it to be truth, instead of just information reflecting our current attitudes and perspectives. What I mean to say is that your state of mind effects your mood and your mood can make your sensory perspective very different from one moment to the next, and very different from one person to the next. For example, loud music when you are in a bad mood can be irritating, but the same loud music when you are in a good mood may make you want to get up and dance. Both situations are the same, the truth if you will, but your perspective means that you experience the same stimulus in a very different way. What this means is that your reaction or perception of the situation has nothing to do with the situation, but has everything to do with your personal perspective and current state of mind when you experience the music.

Do you see what this means?  It means that how you experience the world around you and the people in it, is really just a reflection of your inner state and relationship with yourself. It is a reflection of your beliefs, your views, your expectations, your understanding of the world from your life experience and your current attitudes. You tell yourself that it is truth, but there are billions of people on the planet and each of us is experiencing our own personal story as truth. This is why you can have two people being exposed to virtually the same circumstances, yet each of them experience it very differently. It is not your circumstances that determine what kind of life you have, but the way in which you experience and react to those circumstances. There are so many examples of people born into poverty, abuse, and horrendous circumstances who manage to rise above it by sheer force of will and attitude about life. There are many other examples of people who have been born into wealth and affluence with every need being met, and opportunity given,  yet they waste their life away doing nothing of consequence and often loosing themselves in a life of drugs and disfunction. If the victim narrative is deeply engrained in you, this is going to be a bitter pill to swallow, because ultimately, it means that you have far more control over your life experience than you think you do, and you have to take responsibility for your own happiness or misery. You may not be able to control the circumstances or events that occur in your life, but you do have a choice about how and what you react to.

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Here is the true freedom gleaned from this understanding. The way that you see other people and experience your life is constantly acting as a mirror to tell you what your state of mind is and the current state of your relationship with yourself. Every reaction to other people or situations is an opportunity to learn about you and become more self aware. How strong your reactions are can tell you a lot about your pain, issues you haven’t dealt with, and it sticks a pin in exactly what your fears and insecurities are. Ugh, I know, it’s rough, but it’s also a gift, if you self-examine and use the new found understanding of who you are to transform into a better version of yourself. Here is the other gold nugget. If your reactions to and understanding of others is a reflection of you, then their reactions to you and understanding of what you are all about is a reflection of them. Their perception of you, good or bad, has absolutely nothing to do with you. Their opinion of you and reaction towards you is not your responsibility. Whether they are criticizing you or praising you should not determine how you feel about yourself. All you are responsible for is working on yourself, taking responsibility for your feelings and emotions and how you react or don’t react to people and circumstances. When what you say, what you do, what you wear, or how you live your life causes people to respond angrily, or with judgement, it shines a light on the things they themselves need to heal. Often the differences we see in others invokes deep seeded feelings of fear of the unknown and triggers all the ways in which we ourselves have adapted who we are in order to fit in and belong and not make others feel uncomfortable. Deep down many of us are hurting because of this because all we want is to be loved and accepted for who we actually are. We are tired of suppressing ourselves to be more acceptable to the status quo.

So what is the lesson in all of this? Well, what I have come to learn is that many people are holding other people and circumstances responsible for their own happiness. They believe that they would be happier and their life would be easier if other people and situations changed. This is a terrible and disempowering trap, that can only lead to depression. I have learned to become more aware of my own reactions towards people and situations and do my best to explore and investigate why I feel the way I feel and determine if what I am perceiving is indeed truth, or if my reactions are just a symptom of my own personal fears and insecurities. Because of this, I have felt more empowered, more in control of my own life experience and far less emotional and volatile. I have been taking responsibility for my perspective and spending a lot more time understanding myself and nurturing my relationship with myself, and a lot less time holding other people accountable for my happiness. We tend to focus our attention on understanding others and how they appear to be towards us. This is the ego perspective. Try looking at yourself instead when something that someone says, does, or doesn’t say or do hurts you or upsets you in some way. You cannot change them, but you can heal your own perspective. Also, you don’t have to agree with someone’s lifestyle, world views or appearance, but you also don’t need to allow that difference of opinion to make you volatile, or feel you must impose your opinion or educate another about the way it actually is. That’s your self-important ego talking. You can have strong opinions and views without losing your sense of inner peace. Social media is a perfect example of people running rampant with volatile reactions to every post they don’t see eye to eye with. Either blatant personal attacks of character, or my personal fave, the self-righteous armchair activist who seem to say “There, I’ve given you a piece of my well-educated mind and taught you a lesson with my well-sourced arguments! It’s all in a days’ work!”, like they’ve actually accomplished something by arguing with people on Facebook or Instagram. You are giving all of your power away when you do that because you are robbing yourself of peace and happiness in that precious moment, while you type angry, hateful, or self-rightous truths from your perspective towards another human being. All the while blaming them for robbing you of peace and happiness, and convincing yourself that it’s your job to change them. You quite literally poison yourself with the poison you are trying to shove down someone else’s throat. Hurt people, hurt people. You react so strongly because of old pain or fear, that has nothing to do with the person you are directing your anger at, they have just touched a trigger point within you. A hot button that needs your attention. A place within yourself that needs healing. When you become aware of this, you become aware that the entire human race is experiencing the same thing. This knowledge plants a seed of compassion towards others in your heart. Even if their anger or negativity is directed towards you, you can maintain a state of peaceful awareness because you recognize that they have their own pain, fear and insecurity that they are living with, and they are possibly completely unaware of it. When it spills over to you and you react strongly, it just feeds the monster that you are disapproving of.

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“A life of reaction is a life of slavery, intellectually and spiritually. One must fight for a life of action, not reaction.” – Rita Mae Brown

“Non-reaction to the ego in others is one of the most effective ways not only of going beyond ego in yourself but also of dissolving the collective human ego.”

– Eckhart Tolle

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Here are some of the philosophies that I try to live by. When you heal yourself, you heal the world. Stop giving your power away to those who have no capacity to understand who you actually are and are not responsible for your happiness or life experience. Take responsibility for your own life and your self-worth and stop letting the praisers and criticizers decide how you are going to feel about yourself. Make your own personal growth and healing your top priority because it is your relationship with yourself that will determine your relationships with everyone and everything around you. Every time you are about to criticize someone else, stop and self-assess. What is going on inside of me that makes me feel this way? There is always a gem of self-discovery in there that will make your life easier if you face it. You can only respond to the world from your current state of awareness and consciousness. When I look at people and situations, I want to see all the colours of the spectrum like an opalescent symphony from a place of self-awareness and compassion. I know that this requires me to work on myself. To get honest about my issues, to stop holding others accountable and take responsibility for me. I want to live in a world where people would rather spend their time bettering themselves than trying to force others to change because they understand that you can’t control other people, but you can control how you react to people. And one by one, each of us begins to react to one another from a place of self-awareness and compassion, and before you know it, we have transcended a pain and fear-filled society and we can finally begin to feel one another for who we actually are. It is then, I believe that we will begin to discover what we are truly capable of, and just how colourful and opalescent we really are.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

STYLING, MODELLING, HAIR & MAKEUP BY: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams

VINTAGE FASHION: Dress from Wildwoodrose Vintage Market (note: the next market is on June 9th in Winnipeg at Old Market Square! I will be selling vintage there this year!!!). 70’s leather skirt from Shop Take Care . Shop Take Care is sells vintage, consigned fashion and goods from local makers and artisans. Vintage coyote-fur hat. Vintage scarf.

CURRENT FASHION: Thrifted Mukluks from Manitobah Mukluks. Sunglasses from Urban Waves Winnipeg. Rose Quartz necklace from BCP Jewelry

LOCATION: Red River Mutual Trail in Winnipeg. PONTAGON, the Faculty of Architecture’s warming hut installation at the Forks, in collaboration with the City of Winnipeg’s Walk/Bike/Bridge project.

Old Fashioned is the New Fashion. The Opera.

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“An opera begins long before the curtain goes up and ends long after it has come down. It starts in my imagination, it becomes my life, and it stays part of my life long after I’ve left the opera house.” – Maria Callas (Greek-American Soprano Opera singer)

If you have never been to the opera, you are missing out on one of life’s exquisite experiences. There is such an abundance of history, beauty, passion and talent that goes into the creation of this performance art that it’s quite thrilling to behold.  Just take a moment to consider the complexity and orchestration of different components involved in bringing an opera to the stage.  The opera requires composers; writers; musicians; singers; costume designers; set designers; construction crews; makeup artists; hair stylists; lighting and sound technicians.  The list goes on, and each of the people involved has spent months preparing for each performance and years of study and practice to perfect their art.  The opera is a veritable bounty of passionate individuals who devote themselves to creating an experience for you that can bring you to tears, invoke full belly laughter, or invigorate and inspire you.

We all love to be entertained. In today’s modern world we spend our time and dollars on entertainment in the form of dinner out at a nice restaurant with friends, a date-night movie, or late night drinks and dancing. While those experiences are wonderful, they are common, and just don’t provide the magic and atmosphere that live performance does. As someone who has spent her fare share of time in the performance world (you can ask me about my colourful past experiences on stage when I see you at the opera), there is an extra level of energy and communication that occurs between the audience and the performers that only a live performance experience can provide.  To know and understand that an entire whirlwind of people and activity is happening backstage while the mirrored hustle and bustle of patrons arrives and finds their seats is thrilling. As much as the audience is excited and in anticipation, so are the artists who are anxiously preparing to perform for you. That energetic tension is exhilarating and it’s part of the beauty of the opera.

I have heard some say that they think the opera is “old-fashioned” or “out-dated”, or even that “it’s not relevant anymore”, typically from those who have never been to the opera.  I say, what a tragedy to not see that opera, just like classic literature or Shakespearian plays, provides an emotional journey into the human condition, which has not changed, even though our social structures, ways of dressing and speaking has been through many iterations.  People are still emotional beings. Love, hate, joy, sorrow, passion, romance and intrigue are still very much the same in this day and age as they were, and going to the opera can remind us of that. The opera, just like old movies, can bring historical ideas or values that are considered controversial or inappropriate by current standards into the light. To perform it, is not to say it’s right or wrong, or to have an opinion about it or not, it just shines a light on a part of our history, and can serve as a reminder of how different things are now. It can start intelligent conversations about meaningful things. The opera makes us feel something, and isn’t that what all good art is meant to do?

Let’s also not overlook the experience leading up to the performance itself.  There is something very romantic about getting dressed up (with a now modern and relaxed dress-code), and entering the majesty and opulence of a theatre or opera house.  In Winnipeg, we have the Centennial Concert Hall with its massive sparking chandeliers, vast staircases and hardwood detailing throughout. The process of checking your coat, having a glass of champagne or espresso from the coffee bar, gathering with friends and revelling in the anticipation of being transported to a different time and place is nothing short of magical.

The Manitoba Opera’s production of Werther by Jules Massenet will be in Winnipeg on
April 29, May 2, and May 5, 2017.  I will definitely be there, experiencing Werther for the first time!  Come and join me and experience the romance of the opera!

Also, stay tuned on Instagram for an upcoming “giveaway” in collaboration between Patron of Dreams, Manitoba Opera, and fashion designer Lennard Taylor!

(Don’t miss out on their BOGO deal for Werther tickets. Use coupon code: BOGO for this limited time offer!)

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About the opera Werther:

Werther (pronounced “Vare-tare”) is an opera by French composer, Jules Massenet, that tells the story of the idealistic young poet who cannot live without love. Sets and costumes for this production are provided by L’Opéra de Montreal, reset in America in the 1920s. Costumes were designed by Sabrina Barilà of Barilà in Montreal, who creates edgy, urban women’s clothing with a touch of whimsy and romance. 

Note: The opera is sung in French with projected English translations (so you can read along and always know what’s happening!)

Synopsis: Werther is the tale of a young poet who meets the woman of his dreams, only to find that she is engaged to another. Werther tries to stay away, but his tormented heart aches to be with her. Her marriage sends Werther into a dark downward spiral; a final rejection drives Werther to suicide. His beloved declares her feelings for him as he breathes his last breath.

“I have so much in me, and the feeling for her absorbs it all; I have so much, and without her it all comes to nothing.”
― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media.

LOCATION: Shot at the Centennial Concert Hall in collaboration with Manitoba Opera and fashion designer Lennard Taylor.

FASHION STYLING, ARTISTIC DIRECTION, HAIR & MAKEUP BY: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams

MODELS: Gregory Chomichuk and Tara Cole-McCaffrey

FASHION: Gregory’s Outfit: Jeans, top and jacket by Lennard Taylor. Yellow pashmina scarf from Sears; shoes from Winners.

Tara’s Outfit: Fringe shirt-dress and vest by Lennard Taylor. Beret hat from the Haberdashery, and shoes are thrifted Madden Girl.

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Juicy Facts about Werther and Upcoming Events:
The opera is based on the novel The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. The over-the-top romanticism of the novella captivated (mostly younger) readers when it was first published in 1774. This work was considered to be the beginning of the Romantic Movement, and achieved incredible popularity. The fervour surrounding this novel eventually came to irritate Goethe, as he found it difficult to escape his legacy as “the man who wrote Werther.”

Emulation of the protagonist was fashionable, and copious amounts of fan art and fan fiction were created by young men and women who loved the tale. But there was a sinister side to the mimicry. Officials in Leipzig, Germany, feared that a wave of suicides would follow; they successfully petitioned to ban the novel. The book was subsequently banned in Italy, Denmark, and Germany. Fear of a suicide contagion was potent. Copycat suicides would come to be known as “The Werther Effect.”

FASHION FRIDAY launches at Werther
A night at the opera is always an evening that features a dazzling array of personal styles on display throughout the Centennial Concert Hall. In celebration of this beautiful diversity, Manitoba Opera is launching Fashion Fridays.

Beginning with Closing Night of Werther, Friday, May 5, and the Friday performances of subsequent productions, a roving photographer will be on the hunt for patrons with “notable style.” Photos of notable style makers will be posted (with permission) on Manitoba Opera’s social media channels after the production.

Notable style may encompass bow-ties and pearls, leopard print and paisley, or jeans and that special t-shirt. One thing is for sure, Manitoba Opera patrons have inimitable style, whether in gowns, jeans, or anything in between!

 Upcoming FREE events:

The Werther Effect: Romantic-Era Perceptions of Suicide
Dr. Michelle Faubert
Thursday, April 20, 7 pm
Carol Shields Auditorium, Millennium Library

Opera Primer: Werther
Don Anderson
Sunday, April 23, 2 pm
Theatre, Université de Saint-Boniface

LOCATION:

Centennial Concert Hall
555 Main Street
Phone: (204) 942-7479
Email: mbopera@manitobaopera.mb.ca
www.manitobaopera.mb.ca

Note: All italicized text in this post was provided by Manitoba Opera

Warrior of Diversity

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“Human diversity makes tolerance more than a virtue; it makes it a requirement for survival.” –Rene Dubos

“Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one”
John Lennon, Imagine

“Whatever you are physically…male or female, strong or weak, ill or healthy–all those things matter less than what your heart contains. If you have the soul of a warrior, you are a warrior. All those other things, they are the glass that contains the lamp, but you are the light inside.”
Cassandra Clare

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It’s okay to be different.  It’s okay to be an individual.  It’s okay to be these things because there is no such thing as being completely the same as anyone else.  We all have similarities and things that we have in common with one another, but there are no two people on planet earth that are exactly the same.  Even identical twins have differences. We are, by nature of being human, very diverse. Each one of us is a complex combination of various traits.Yet, it seems deeply ingrained within humanity to attempt to categorize and label one another so that we know where each other fits within the puzzle of belonging. It tricks us into feeling safe and secure. I know who and what you are, therefore I know where I stand in relation to you.  Unfortunately, this always seems to result in an over simplification of one another and inevitably results in us deciding whether another human being belongs with us, or with them. We focus on the differences so emphatically which leads us to take sides, choose teams, we exclude, we ridicule and we reject, until we have separated ourselves from each other so efficiently, that we as people, loose the ability to see past the labels and categories to the essence of sameness that lies underneath.  The sameness, that is ultimately, our individuality and difference.  It’s a conundrum.  We are all different from each other in some way, yet our focusing on the differences instead of the similarities is what divides us and leads to separation at best and hate towards each other at worst.

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Let’s look at the past. If we look back throughout history to the beginning of humanity, we can see a pattern. People began living within small groups or communities with a basic set of rules and values that everyone agreed on and followed, until an individual had a different idea or opinion.  This created conflict within the group if one person, or a few people were not willing to conform.  Often, this led to that individual or individuals, being rejected by the community and they became outcasts.  Quite literally, they were kicked out, or they left of their own volition.  If their ideas were so different that no one agreed with them and went with them, they would often parish, and their ideas would parish along with them. If a few people agreed with them and were brave enough to leave the larger group, this led to the development of another separate community that represented new ideas.  This pattern has repeated over and over and over and created a diverse human civilization. When we look back at history, we can clearly see that the world is not the same as it was in the 1800’s, 1930’s, 1960’s, 1990’s, etc.  Every new generation has new ideas, new values and new dreams about how they want to the world to be.  If history has taught us anything, it is that the old ways die out and the new ways determine the future of humanity.  If you want to know where the world is going, whether you like it or not, look to the youth of your community. Look to the new ideas and values. Whether you agree with change and evolution or not, history has shown us that it is inevitable.

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When we look back at human evolution, it becomes clear where we got the idea that being different, or not conforming was bad. It often lead to conflict and separation.  It meant being rejected and having to survive on your own.  It meant having a tougher path and possibly death, yet we can also see how incredibly important it was to human development.  Each individual that challenged the status quo, lead to the evolution of the human race.  We now live in a time, where human diversity is so incredibly vast that it is becoming more and more difficult to label and categorize people. Yet, we still try our level best to continue doing so.  We sort other people constantly.  He/she is the same as me, he/she is different than me. Us and Them. Yet, it is almost impossible to know someone’s ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, political views, or basic values, just by looking at them. There were times in history where this was much more obvious and simpler to do, but it is far more challenging in today’s world. There are a few obvious exceptions of course, like clothing intended to signify someone’s religion, but generally speaking, we still make far too many assumptions about one another based on very little actual information. We also get very frustrated or even angry when we can’t easily put people into boxes, or if our assumptions based on appearance lead us to reprimand people for cultural appropriation, or mis-representation, without actually having the slightest clue what someone’s culture, life experience, or up-bringing has been.  Just when we think we have someone pegged, they surprise us with something we never knew about them.  For example, most people don’t know, that I have at least six different ethnicities in my heritage, one of which is Mi’kmaq (First Nations people indigenous to Canada’s Maritime Provinces).  You may just see a white girl with naturally blonde hair and blue eyes, and an Irish name.  The truth is, I am much more diverse than that.  I have also been asked on many occasions if I am Scandinavian because of how I look.  I have a diverse heritage, but Scandinavian, the ethnicity I apparently look the most like, isn’t part of it. Funny now, that I married someone who is partly Scandinavian, and so now my children are, so it has become part of my family’s culture. My story, is a common story, especially in Canada, and it is becoming more and more common with the globalization and integration of many cultures, religions, ethnicities, etc.  Inter-racial marriage, adoption, mixed families through marriages, not to mention all the people who live and raise their families within a culture that is not their culture of origin. Our ancestors fought for generations to allow the diversity and integration that is now common, to become socially acceptable. Lest we forget how it used to be, and the intolerance that previous generations had to endure.

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So, I ask myself, given the state of the world, what if we are at a tipping point in humanity, where a pattern that existed to focus on the differences between people in order to sort and separate for the sake of creating human diversity, is no longer in our best interest for our evolution?  What if, we have become so diverse and so separate now, that the only way for us to evolve further is to switch our focus to the sameness and oneness that is humanity?  What if carrying on in the same manner as we have been with a population as large and diverse as it currently is, will only lead us towards conflict and self destruction? I mean, how separate can we possibly get before it all falls apart? History has shown us again and again that too much separation makes us vulnerable. We know innately that we are stronger together, and I can’t help but notice that a shift in much of society has been occurring.  A shift towards inclusion and tolerance and in the allowing of each individual to just exist without a constant need to label them. This shift becomes quite obvious when you listen to the youth.

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To see just how complicated the world has become, just watch people ordering a coffee at Starbucks or buying a pair of jeans, there are so many options now, it’s overwhelming.  It is also overwhelming to try to constantly put people in boxes.  Gay? Straight? Bi? Male? Female? Trans-Gender? Religion? Ethnicity? Culture? Age? Liberal? Conservative? Rich? Poor?  AHHHHHHHHH?!!! Let’s not even get started on all the sub-cultures, sub-religions, etc. The diversity makes some people so frustrated, that they flatly refuse to even acknowledge some of the diversities that exist. They can’t even process more categories so they simply say, “There is male and female, that is all!  Blue and Pink.  End of story.” Well, here’s another perspective. If the complex diversity of people makes you feel threatened, or confused and overwhelmed so much so that you don’t even want to acknowledge it’s very real existence, why not stop trying so damn hard to label and categorize everyone, and just see other people as human beings instead? Admit it, trying to figure everyone out and sorting them into boxes gives us anxiety. So, let’s stop! Ask yourself, what is the point?  Why spend your time and energy doing that? To what end, and for what purpose? Why not take a load off of yourself and surrender to the simple fact that we are all Humans? We all live on planet earth, we all have a heartbeat, we all come from a woman’s body, we all have families and friends, we all feel love and fear and a multitude of emotions.We all breath air and look up at the same starry sky.  The sun rises and sets on all of us and we all move through our lives within the same 24 hours per day. We all are born, we live life and we die. We are also, each and every one of us, complex and diverse individuals.  This too, makes us the same.  We are one people. One race.  The Human Race, and our diversity is our strength.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

STYLING, HAIR & MAKEUP BY: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams

VINTAGE & THRIFTED FASHION: Fur hat, fur coat, mukluks, military-style cropped jacket, leopard print skirt, necklace, belts and rings.

CURRENT FASHION: tie-dye tights and faux septum ring from Urban Waves Winnipeg,  black military-style coat by Ralph Lauren.

Paris in The Prairies

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“She gave up on life as she knew it
to find life as it should be known…”

Niki Trosky (Winnipeg Author, from her book Love Life)

“Our life is composed greatly from dreams, from the unconscious, and they must be brought into connection with action. They must be woven together.” –  Anais Nin

“As you navigate through the rest of your life, be open to collaboration. Other people and other people’s ideas are often better than your own. Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.” – Amy Poehler

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About a year ago, I was having coffee with my Grandma and telling her about my frustrations and how I impatient I was feeling about life. Things weren’t happening quickly enough for me.  I wanted to be where I wanted to be already, I was tired of how it was, and I wanted change…now.  She smiled in that coy knowing way that Grandma’s sometimes do and said “bloom where you’re planted.”  When you are as impatient as I was at that particular moment, that statement is as irritating as nails on a chalkboard, but it was truth at it’s purest and so it sunk deep into my thick irritable skull for later when I was ready to receive the message.  It took a while, but I kept turning the phrase over and over again in my mind trying to grapple with what it really meant.

As we begin a New Year, I think I understand it’s meaning, not in the intellectual way I originally did, but in how to apply it practically to my life .  It resonates with me as a message to stop living in the future and be present.  To slow down mentally and stop looking for the greener grass somewhere else. To open your eyes to the beauty and opportunity and joyful moments happening right where you are and revel in them, for one day, they will be gone, forever.  We tend to be so trained by society to be goal oriented and focussed on our future ambitions that life is quite literally passing us by while we are dreaming of something bigger and better.  I am as guilty of that as anyone.  Dreaming big and having rich desires and hopes for the future is good, and healthy, and normal, but being so focussed on the star you are reaching for that you fail to realize you are up in the cosmos and really need to be present in this moment, with these people, in this situation, is a kind of tragedy.  This is what they mean when they say “don’t dream your life away!”.  Not that you should not dream, or that dreaming is a waste of time, but that you should not allow your dreams for the future to rob you of your present.  Life is happening now, and now is all there is.  Yesterday is gone and tomorrow may never exist.

Necessity has had me firmly planted in the role of Mother and homemaker over the last few years and it’s been too easy to isolate myself and become too comfortable being alone and doing things independently. My shift in focus to my passion for fashion styling and now blogging has re-ignited my desire to connect with people, collaborate and be a part of a rich community of like-minded people.  Blooming where you’re planted as a creative person is not a difficult thing to do when you live in a city that is overflowing with artistic people.  Winnipeg has such a rich and diverse culture of music, art, dance, writers and fashion, that there is always something interesting to do and be a part of.  Even better than that, we are known as an extremely “friendly” city. This may seem silly or insignificant to some, but to someone like me who is looking to connect with people and collaborate, being surrounded by friendly, open and kind individuals who are more than willing to open their arms and hearts to you is such an incredible relief and also incredibly inspiring.  Not to mention that this is just the kind of positive and open attitude that gets shit done.  Inclusion not exclusivity.  Collaboration, not competition.

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I’m in love with Winnipeg and all the people here that inspire me every day! I have been incredibly blessed to have met and worked with so many skilled and talented people already it’s baffling.  And there are so many of you I haven’t even met yet, but I want to!  I’m so excited to meet you and create something together, and I’m not embarrassed or afraid to look silly by admitting that. I want to make cool shit! Not pretend that I’m too cool to approach you and too chill to get super excited about sharing inspiring ideas with you.  There are so many opportunities to co-create that have yet to manifest.  It’s a very exciting time to be alive!  The world is starting to figure out that we are so much better and stronger together and our reach is so much further and more potent when we can put fear and ego aside and realize that success for one of us is ultimately success for all of us in the same creative world.  A high tide raises all boats.  We can raise the tide together much more effectively and for the greater good if we work together, support one another and cheer each other on.

So, if you see me in the street, or at a coffee shop or an event, come and say hi!  If you have a great idea for a collaboration, let me know, whether we know each other or not. I don’t bite, and if you tell me you read my blog, my mind will undoubtedly be blown because I’m still flabbergasted when anyone I don’t know tells me they read my blog. Ultimately, if you have creative ideas that will improve the city that we live in, or the industry that artists work in, I’m in your corner.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

STYLING, HAIR & MAKEUP BY: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams.  Hair cut and colour by Kitty of Berns & Black

VINTAGE FASHION: Chinese silk jacket from Ruby Slipper Vintage

NEW FASHION: Grey Triat Coat by Lennard Taylor (it’s impossible not to look chic in this universally flattering coat!); Black beret and skinny scarf from the Haberdashery (Winnipeg, if you need a hat, this is the place!); Black booties by A.S. 98 from Rooster Shoes (you won’t find this quality of shoes or diversity of unique styles anywhere else in Winnipeg); Faux leather pants, striped shirt, and fringe bag from H&M.

COFFEE: Parlour Coffee

Merry Little Christmas

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Santa Claus Is Back In Town

Well, it’s Christmas time pretty baby
And the snow is falling on the ground
Well, it’s Christmas time pretty baby
And the snow is falling down
Well you be a real good little girl
Santa Claus is back in town
Got no sleigh with reindeer
No sack on my back
You’re gonna see me comin’ in a big black caddilac

-Elvis Presley

This was my favourite Christmas song growing up. No really, it was!  I listened to it over and over and over again.  It may in fact have been the first time I was exposed to old-school rock and roll, and it blew my mind. You really have to listen to it to appreciate it’s magic, because the lyrics leave something to be desired.  Full on rock and roll, groovy Christmas, with some subtle sexiness on the side (which Elvis did oh so well), oh and an amazing jazz piano solo.  Now I rock out to it with my own kids. Tradition.  It is not something I would have guessed would become so important to me, but it is.

Christmas means different things to different people. During a really difficult time in my life when I was at the tender age of 20 and planning to move out on my own for the first time, I really started thinking about what the holidays really meant to me.  It was a tumultuous time on my Mother’s side of the family with an immense amount of change being imposed on me and for the first time in my life, I was an adult, living on my own, paying my own way, and I was in a position for the first time ever in my life to choose for myself what I wanted. So, out of a really difficult situation that hurt me deeply and left me feeling really alone, came a really wonderful opportunity (as often happens).  The opportunity to really do some soul searching and decide who I was and what I believed in and valued. I was extremely fortunate to have a really solid group of friends around me and my then boyfriend who was later to become my husband and partner for life.

After digging into my own heart for answers, I realized that what hurt the most about everything I was going through with my family was the loss of history and tradition.  I realized that the real glue that holds a family together are the things that we repeat. Our rituals. We have all kinds of new experiences every day, but tradition allows for a regular check-in on our roots and they become the milestones for the passage of time.  All you have to do is look back at old photos.  Before the era of smart phones, people only pulled out their cameras during special occasions (a.k.a. traditions).  Most of my childhood photos were from Christmas, Easter, Summer Holidays and Birthdays.  Our traditions are our culture. It is the fabric that holds us together.  It is the music we listen to, the food we eat, the sayings and expressions we say, and all the rituals we carry out together in bond.

So, I started over.  I began again from scratch and I built my own traditions.  I dug in my own roots, deep and wide, and made my own glue, thick and strong.   At first, Gregory (then my boyfriend) thought it was all a little too much.  I insisted that we go and get a real Christmas tree on the first weekend of December, every year without fail.  I made sure we blasted Christmas carols in the car on the way.  I decorated every square inch of our apartment and made a Christmas list of all my favourite classic Christmas tunes, which I played constantly until New Years.  I trekked down to the other end of the city every year to get fresh  perogies made by local Ukrainian ladies.   I learned how to make a turkey and wrap gifts like a champ. I was an epically annoying Christmas elf that Gregory learned to tolerate!  Then we had children.  Then, Gregory got it!  I had been nesting.  Digging in the roots and building a strong foundation of tradition.  When he saw how much joy they got out of it, and how much more magic was created by their knowing expectation of all the fun and magical rituals that were awaiting them as the holiday season approached, he understood. It’s about belonging.  When you know the rituals and are part of the traditions, you belong, and the bond is strengthened. This was what I was building.  Every year, my sons know what to expect and we all take comfort in the traditions that bring us together and strengthen our connection.  We drink eggnog, sing carols and decorate the tree.  We eat together, we laugh together and we build memories together.  So, what does Christmas mean to me?  Christmas is about traditions that stand the test of time and ride the waves of change unscathed.

Merry Christmas everyone and the most joyful and prosperous New Year from our family to yours!

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

STYLING, HAIR & MAKEUP BY: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams.  Hair cut and colour by Kitty from Berns & Black

VINTAGE: Shoes from Buffalo Exchange, Beret from Ruby Slipper Vintage, Blouse from Value Village Thrift.

NEW FASHION: This incredibly adorable and insanely perfect for the holidays Velvet Colorblock Mini Dress by Tony Chestnut Design (An amazing Winnipeg designer who is rocking my world these days! You need to check out her work!) Knee-high socks by American Apparel.

A Marriage of Geek and Glamour

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“For too many centuries women have been being muses to artists. I wanted to be the muse, I wanted to be the wife of the artist, but I was really trying to avoid the final issue — that I had to do the job myself.”
― Anaïs Nin

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“The ‘Muse’ is not an artistic mystery, but a mathematical equation. The gift are those ideas you think of as you drift to sleep. The giver is that one you think of when you first awake.”
― Roman Payne

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“NO MUSE IS GOOD MUSE

To be an Artist you need talent, as well as a wife
who washes the socks and the children,
and returns phone calls and library books and types.
In other words, the reason there are so many more
Men Geniuses than Women Geniuses is not Genius.
It is because Hemingway never joined the P.T.A.
And Arthur Rubinstein ignored Halloween.
Do you think Portnoy’s creator sits through children’s theater
matinees–on Saturdays?
Or that Norman Mailer faced ‘driver’s ed’ failure,
chicken pox or chipped teeth?
Fitzgerald’s night was so tender because the fender
his teen-ager dented happened when Papa was at a story conference.
Since Picasso does the painting, Mrs. Picasso did the toilet training.
And if Saul Bellow, National Book Award winner, invited thirty-three
for Thanksgiving Day dinner, I’ll bet he had help.
I’m sure Henry Moore was never a Cub Scout leader,
and Leonard Bernstein never instructed a tricycler
On becoming a bicycler just before he conducted.
Tell me again my anatomy is not necessarily my destiny,
tell me my hang-up is a personal and not a universal quandary,
and I’ll tell you no muse is a good muse
unless she also helps with the laundry.”
― Rochelle Distelheim

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I am both Geek and Glam, and so is my beloved, Gregory Chomichuk.  We share a love of books, film, art, the strange, the fringe, the beautiful and the underground.  He makes graphic novels, kids books and fine art.  I style wardrobes, bellydance and tell stories with images. Finding one another at such a young and idealistic age (I was 21, he was 23) has posed both tremendous challenges and growing pains, as well as rewarded us with a consciously created and curated life together. Side by side, we grew both together and independently, purposefully giving each other space and respect to become who we are as individuals.  We are united.  We are each others greatest supporter, we share everything and work diligently to constantly create circumstances where our passions and interests can overlap and intersect.  But, we are not the same.  We disagree on many things.  We do not love all the same movies and books and topics of conversation.  We do not understand the intricacies of one another’s work, nor do we trip over ourselves trying to. And we are absolutely not one another’s greatest fan!  Truth be told, I’m not even a fan of comics.  YES, I just said that! It is not a genre that has ever drawn me in, aside from a small handful. You see, our strength is our differences and our unwavering and ever conscious encouragement towards being ourselves. I don’t have to love comics to love my Husband. He, like myself, is much more than the work he does and no fan will ever know the truth of the Man. What I love, respect and admire, is his passion and drive to do what he loves no matter what.  The life we have built together, now including our two sons and two dogs, has us riding the waves of deep connection, while at times being oceans apart.  The constant ebb and flow has created a strong foundation while allowing each of us to grow into the people we are aspiring to be. When we wrote our wedding vows many moons ago, we included our intention to continually inspire one another.  We understood that working towards bettering ourselves and keeping life interesting and always evolving was one of the magic ingredients to a happy lasting marriage. There is still an air of mystery within each of us that keeps the other guessing, and our perpetual forward movement provides endless surprises and fulfilling experiences. We keep each other on our toes, so to say. He is my Muse and I am his. Together we share the non-glamorous as well as the glamorous sides of our life. He takes out the garbage and I do the laundry and together we build an empire and celebrate our victories with our Princes. It isn’t perfect, and it isn’t always easy, but it’s authentic and intentional and a glorious masterpiece in progress. We are powerful on our own, but together, together we are a force to be reckoned with.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

STYLING, ART DIRECTION, HAIR & MAKEUP BY: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams

FASHION: Great Gatsby sweatshirt, glasses and beanie (embellished by me) from Urban Waves in Winnipeg. Over the knee leg warmer by American Apparel.

VINTAGE: Thigh-high boots from Ruby Slipper Vintage, scarf from Value Village Thrift

BOOKS, PRINTS & ART BY:   GMB Chomichuk

BOOKS (Available for purchase on-line):

1.Infinitum– Time travel noir. A murder mystery that asks the question: Is love a force of nature or a force of habit?

2.Midnight City: Corpse Blossom + Midnight City: Flesh Tree– Pulp era mystery men and woman fighting a secret war against a mythos inspired by the horror auther H.P. Lovercraft.

3.Underworld– True crime, dipped in greek mythology set in Winnipeg in the 1980s.

4.Cassie and Tonk– All ages adventure about a girl and her robot at the end of the world.

5.Rust and Water – All ages graphic novel about two unlikely travellers learning to find a common language and alter the collision course of violence between their two cultures.

6.Moonshot– Indigenous comics collection

7.The Imagination Manifesto– Five interconnected stories that share a central theme- what happens when the things we believe in start to come true?

8.Fractured  Tales of the Canadian Post Apocalypse.

9.Will I See?– Illuminates the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women.