Noun: celebration (plural celebrations)
• The formal performance of a solemn rite, such as Christian sacrament
• The observance of a holiday or feast day, as by solemnities
• The act, process of showing appreciation, gratitude and/or remembrance, notably as a social event.
•A social gathering for entertainment and fun; a party.

Source: Wiktionary

What moves you? What concerns you? Perhaps you have your own story or would like add an caption to an existing image?

We invite you to engage with the art & stories throughout Talking Water Project.

We intend this site to allow you to immerse yourself into a conversation about water through the import that art carries!


(Stories) Art on a Flood Threatened House

Okay, it wasn’t perfect. But it wasn’t a bad name, we first called ourselves “The riverbank loan and savings company”. There we were, four artists : Rhian Brynjolson, painter, storyteller; Sam Baardman, songsmith, photographer; Debbie Schnitzer, poet, novelist; and Bob Haverluck, who draws pictures, then writes stories,poems or something on the bottom of them. We all live on the banks of the Red river, or nearby. Together we understand the river, lakes, earth, air to be not property, not a possession, but on loan. We want to help save the river and all, for our grandchildren or yours. So we first called ourselves, The Riverbank Loan and Savings Company. Now one of us kept saying, ”When people hear that name, none of them seem to know what the hell its supposed to mean. We need a different name.”

Now don’t be thinking we spend all our time on what to name the artists’ collective. We spent time figuring out how our art might lead people to the water, if not make them drink, deeply. As well, we mused together over the delight at each of us finding inspiration in one another’s work. “All art is theft”, declared the poet Eliot and we freely stole bits and pieces from one another. It helped that we all agreed that rivers, wetlands and lakes were something to celebrate big time. Together we also saw these beauties again and again abused, endangered, needing protests on their behalf. Celebration and protest of endangered waters. Maybe that helped us agree on the name we finally settled on: River on the Run.

“River on the run” is part of a closing line from words written on one of Haverluck’s drawings. The picture is of this character, presumably an artist, looks slightly demented to me. Pointing away from himself, the artist is holding up a duck who looks outraged,alarmed or both. Perhaps petitioning the heavens. The caption reads:

Against the arguments
of the stock exchange and
the end of a gun, the
artist aims
a loaded duck. And
a handful of cranberries,
black spruce in an Algonquin
bush. A general strike .
A locomotive and a horse.
Some woman named Suzanne.
A poet planting seed catalogues.
And a river
and on the run

Against the Argument

Against the Argument

The artist, it seems is toe to toe with the ruling order, armed with a circus clown’s toy box of cultural icons and sister mother nature’s offspring? Included, are a handful of cranberries, a forest and an endangered river on the run north. On the run from her attackers . Do the assailants include Manitoba Hydro Corporation who for decades has engineered our great rivers and lakes, turning them into sad reservoirs for the convenience of ever more hydro-electric generation? Is the wounded water on the run from farm field herbicides, pesticides and industrial fertilizers, the sewage of hundreds of thousands of factory farmed pigs invading by way of field drainage ditches? Is it also mayor Sam’s and council’s willfully inadequate sewage treatment plant that harries and haunts the river? Who endangers her and all her relations and who joins in the attempts to give her more voice? Maybe artists joining together can do a little towards rivers well being. Maybe calling the artists “River on the Run” isn’t a bad idea.

Whatever little we were to do, we knew the the wisdom of doing our homework. So we read and sought out conversations with and about the different forces at work in waters endangerment and waters well being. All of us are readers and all of us relished our conversations with water biologists , researchers , activists… and as well, spokesman for factory farming of animals, for engineering rivers and lakes and for defending the dumping half treated human excrement into the rivers. It all fed the use of poetry, drawing, painting, storytelling , photography, song in the keys of celebration and protest, delight and lament.

These became the stuff of several joint exhibitions , coupled with performances in small town and city, halls and house concerts .(Susan Israel often helped us with these.) In 2010 we began teaming with other artists out of the Arts of Water Artist’s Symposia, Jamie Olievero, Scot Douglas, Ellen Peterson, Gerry Wolfram, Derek Eides and others . River on the Run’s Venues included galleries, church halls, the West End Cultural centre and hotels, hotels where we were invited to be part of three international science based conferences on the well being of the waters.

There is some readiness among scientists, ecology educators and activists to invite artist to bring their right brained angles of vision. You, as well as I, know art can offer ways of seeing, thinking, feeling , knowing the world different from empirical sciences necessarily reductionist approach. Matters of seeming fact presuppose narrative frameworks, need conversations about values and visions such as artworks can provoke. Art can articulate a deep sense of the world that helps disturb the false peace of a science in the service of “nature as a mere resource” , as a “system to be developed for human exploitation.”

Art must, to our way of thinking show forth sister mother nature in ways different from this. Different from the iconic scientist Francis Bacon, who championed learning from nature mainly in order to master her. Francis Bacon, tragically one winter afternoon, spent too long in his back yard, enthusiastically stuffing snow and ice up the ass end of chickens, caught pneumonia and died. There is nothing on record to confirm the rumour that several chickens were seen at his funeral. Who of us wants chickens, caribou and rivers showing up at our funeral just to be sure that were finally dead?
During the 2009 spring flood, we noticed a derelict house on the riverside of Scotia Street, where most of our group live. Could the house become an art piece about the river waters, that now were all the news. Sam talked to the owners. Got us permission to have a go at it. We began on a side of the house facing up the street printing out large one of Debbie’s poems

Dear human …
Thank you for the dike
it is true that
sometimes I am more full of myself
than I ought to be…
in my eagerness to river after ice …
you make shore of me. So tender when you stack..
You dike me
you really
dike me …
( remember that I do not carry
your refuse lightly)

Along the lengthy wall with the poem were numerous prints of sam’s photograph’s. Intriguing and unsettling images, near parables of river and lakes relations with humans.When folks followed the bread crumbs along that wall they found a poem by Rhian and more of Sam’s alluring photos. At the back of the house they were four feet from the dike. On the nearby sandbags making up the dike, we wrote out phrases and lines of poetry and made a few simple drawings.

Had folks first approached the house from the north they were faced with a couple of mural sized line and wash drawings. One was of a man being attacked by ducks. One duck was attached to his lip. Another duck was fixed to his nose, another to his ear. Below this piece of Haverluck’s was the writing: The ducks gently savaged the old man from asleep to awake.He thinks , “The canards have gone beserk. Gone nutso at humans turning their lake into a toilet.” Then the old man whispers, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”

One sunny afternoon Sam arrived at the front of the house to hear melodious voices from the side. He listened. It was the voice of two teenage girls. They were reading aloud to one another, every word written on the walls of the derelict house.They were mending the necessarily broken circuit between the artwork and the listener, onlooker. They were accepting and opening the package the house was trying to deliver.

The abundance of walkers, going up and down Scotia on those spring days found the art house waiting for them in ambush. TV cameras and a newspaper reporter soon appeared, giving publicity to the event. After about twelve days, a real estate dealers complaints meant we whitewashed the place as earlier agreed. However, the art house had done its job, intriguing hundreds of viewer , leaving them musing more deeply about what might better make for the well being of our relation to the rivers and waters.

Some of the work of the above artists are found elsewhere on this site. As well, the website offers more related pieces and background.

Talking Water Project|Bob Haverluck (2013)

(Stories) A Creek & a People Restored

A little girl laughs as she splashes in the Diebold Creek that runs once more through the Kumeyaay Nation, in southern California. This creek in years past had nurtured their wetlands. In the shade of the oak, willow, and pine trees that again grow here, her mother picks the grasses that she will weave into baskets using the simple and elegant patterns her great grandmother wove.

As she picks, she remembers when she was a little girl how barren and dry this creek bed was. The area was so desolate. The creek bed had become a 12 ft. deep ravine, where water flowed for only a couple of weeks after a heavy rain. The native grasses of the wetlands had been over-grazed and reseeded with European grasses. The mighty oaks that provided the shade for the more fragile willows and pine trees had almost disappeared having been over-cut and not replaced.

Post: Restoration


Post: Restoration


She thinks about when the Spanish settlers first saw the lush wetland grasses. They assumed it was natural pasture land, instead of carefully cared for ancient grain fields. The ranchers, continually wanting more grazing land did not listen to how her wise ancestors had understood and cared for these wetlands. How they had broadcast seed, transplanted seedlings, enhanced the ground water, and controlled erosion. By using controlled burns, they cleared underbrush and opened seeds to grow. Instead, the ranchers drained the swamps, not realizing they were part of the delicate ecological balance. Then, believing the oaks were just in the way, they cut them down or sold the logging rights which were not theirs to sell.

But fortunately the story doesn’t end there. Just twenty-seven years ago Mike Connolly gave up a well paying job as an aerospace engineer, to come to the Campo Reservation, homeland of his mother. In 1990, the General Council of his band created the Campo Environmental Protection Agency (CEPA). He and six other staff members have honoured the traditional knowledge of their original environmental specialists called Kwasiiay. They followed the wisdom of the elders about placing large boulders in the stream bed to slow the water and catch the silt. Since 1992, they have combined this knowledge with modern methodologies including the use of heavy equipment to re-grade the creek bed and banks, to add 200 tons of rock, and to use geotextile materials as foundation for the rock.

And that wasn’t all. They built a nursery so they could plant and nurture native oaks, willows, cottonwoods, cypress and pines. They used these saplings in the reforestation program, not just along the creek, but throughout the community. Now people can landscape their yards with beautiful trees and plants that are hardy, and require less water.

The native trees provide much more than just beauty and shade. Acorns and pine nuts were once part of a healthy diet. It is hoped that re-introducing these nuts into their diets will help prevent diabetes and other diseases.

Post: Restoration

This creek was badly affected by years of cattle grazing. There was no water on the surface. The soil and decomposed bedrock were dry. The only permanent water was underground in bedrock fractures.

Post: Restoration

Now there is water on the surface in the stream bed, and the layers below the surface are also saturated with water.

It’s incredible how this community has turned around since 1992. What was becoming desert is now lush and the native animals are returning. Traditional medicine, food, and construction material grow and are used once more. The water table rose 20 feet, again providing adequate water for the residents. There were so few living here, as there was no way to make a living. With new jobs, and the possibilities of starting more, people from the reserve are returning home. CEPA is planning to expand the restoration to other streams on the reservation. And there’s a new initiative shared with the Western Regional Air Partnership to help regulate air quality as industrialization increases. As well there’s a wind power plant being built. The last cattle are gone, and with them the nitrates from their waste, the overgrazing, and the destruction of the baby plants so necessary for replenishing the different species.

People now dare to hope. There is a growing pride in their culture, and respect for the wisdom of the elders. The children are learning in school about the care of their sacred resources, and that the stories of the elders are not just stories but science that still works!

The Kumeyaay are learning again that water is sacred and want to keep it alive spiritually. Their Creator came from a place of water, and built the land up from water. People are made from dirt and water and as part of creation are caretakers of the earth. Their tradition teaches how to live in harmony and at peace with each other, all other creatures, and creation. They leave enough nuts and grain for the other animals, manage the land, keep it healthy and productive, store water, and respect all life. Living intentionally, and with respect in creation, the Kumeyaay are showing that people can affect the environment in a positive way.

Talking Water Project|Bev Ward (2013)

(Stories) River Landscape, River Inscape, River Escape

The river was never just part of the landscape, it was where Stanley and the other children played, swam, skated, and snared rabbits along its banks for mom’s stewing pot. The river was where you could see the marvel of thousands of pickerel and jackfish journeying to spawn in the spring and then returning to their other home in Lake Winnipeg. (The tenth largest fresh water lake in the world.). Much of the well being and life of this first nations village had this little river, Fisher River running through it. Like many other first peoples‘ communities built on lakes and rivers, the waters and their shoreline was and is the lifeline. And so was this river to the young boy Stanley, who like many other children, was taken from his home and sent to a residential school on the other side of the province.

Cartoon: Postcard

A Love Bond!

For generations, residential schools, it was argued readied first nations children for living in the dominant society. Children were not simply to be taught courses of learning: english language and literature, math, science etc. They were to be taught a different way of life and made to unlearn the life they had known. Children were not helped to build on the good things they already knew. Children were often punished for speaking the language and therefore the love, they learned at their family’s knee. The language which was so crucial to feeling, seeing, thinking, remembering their world of relations. Residential school usually meant not only learning to forget who you were, but to forget the pleasure in who you were. How incredibly difficult to know the goodness of your “being” in such a “bullydom”.

But sometimes, a person is given to find a place, a time, a doing of something that helps them remember deep down with pleasure who they are.( Such pleasure does not exclude times of sadness, or loneliness.) At the school,where young Stanley went , there were what was called “free time”. Students could go into town on who’s edge the school was located. They could buy a trinket at the general store or perhaps have a coke at the Chinese restaurant. Instead, Stanley and his friends Gus and Arnold would go across the fields into a bush where a little river ran. In the late summer and fall, the river ran clear like the river at home. But this river had more shale rock than limestone and granite. While the bush had no spruce trees, it had lots of poplar and willow. Red and yellow. In places there was tall grass and reeds, and where the water was quite, there were marsh marigolds. Familiar birds: Finches, Song Sparrows, Chickadees, Nuthatches, Grosbeaks and Sparrow Hawks. Sometimes, the terror of mice, the Snowy Owl. It wasn’t home, but, the river and all was enough like home to help remember home, and who you really really were.

Sometimes Stanley and the others would snare a rabbit. Light a fire. Roast pieces of rabbit on sticks. By the rivers of Babylon, they sat down, ate rabbit by that river, and remembered home. Listening to the river sounds, tasting food from the river shore, and in Cree telling stories of times with uncles and aunties. Stanley remembered being with his mother in the kitchen, helping his father chop wood and build new steps, The sitting by the river, eating rabbit by the river re-membered Stanley. Joined him again to the goodness he was given and to which he belonged.The river landscape, he once lived, became for a time loud and tasty inside. Home was nearly inside him, was inscape. And it let him escape the forgetting.

Rivers, like rabbits can keep more than our body alive. For sacrament, symbol nourished creatures, rivers and their lively water can slake many kinds of thirst.

Talking Water Project|Bob Haverluck (2013)

(Stories) Water, Water, Water

Following Sunday worship, Bill an elderly member of the congregation would often visit with Ian, the minister. Bill lived in the L’Arche community, a community for specially abled adults . (It’s been said that there are two kinds of people: those who are disabled and those who are not yet disabled.)

One Sunday, Bill says, “ Ian, I would like to get baptised.”

And Ian asked, “Why would you like to do that Bill?”

“ I think it will refresh me… and Ian, could we have lots of water.”

Baptism Sunday soon came. The baptismal fount was brimming with water. There was soon water, smiles, words of blessing splashing everywhere. It was a gladsome day.

Cartoon: General

Falling Water

A few weeks later, word came from Bill’s L’Arche home, that his health was very poor. He was not able to leave his bed. But he would like Ian to come and visit. An hour later, Ian was welcomed in and shown to Bill’s bedroom door. At Ian’s knock, Bill’s “Come in” was heard through the door. As the visitor opened the door, he saw a room of watery blues. The carpet was blue, the ceiling was blue, and walls with many pictures of lakes and rivers were blue. The bedspread was green.

In bed, Bill was holding the bedspread up under his Ian approached , he said, “It’s good to see you Bill. How are you doing?”

In reply, Bill just slowly pulled back the covers to show dark blue sheets and said, “WATER, WATER, WATER!” And laid back with a smile.

Not many days later, Bill died. At his funeral, Bill was remembered as a Celebrant of WATER, WATER, WATER. A celebrator of water in a world, largely indifferent to its importance for Bill, and the rest of us. …

Ashes to ashes,
dust to dust,
water to water.

This is a version of the story, I remember Ian telling me as we sipped several ale together on a cold October day in 2005. Ian’s fine collection of spiritual meditations on water has a slightly different version. See Ian Macdonald Living Waters Toronto, 2006. So maybe this version is most truthfully told by both Ian &Bob, like several of the other stories we near brothers tell for and on one another. Bob Haverluck Jan.14,2013)

Talking Water Project|Bob Haverluck (2013)