Fallen Trees

Posted by: | November 19, 2010 | Leave a Comment

Photo Shed Simas

If you entered the dark rich hallow of the cedars on October 24 during the opening of the Fall Projects you would have come upon the poetry of Nancy Holmes in the form of living performance. Students from UBCO brought Fallen Trees (one of the 12 poems for Woodhaven on the fence line) alive in their piece, Whispers of Woodhaven.

I am a sculptor, I make three dimensional objects. I intend movement, sometimes sound, even smell and taste enter the work on occasion. Mostly my work is a stationary object installed for a viewer to observe. Performance art is an entirely different practice. It is truly a sight to behold and one I have come to appreciate more than ever over the past eight months.

Photo Shed Simas

Mallory Gallant, Kelly Young, Natalia Hautala and Tyler Hansen dressed as if they were on a forest hike or a Sunday nature walk. They recited the poem in a stage-like arena bordered by downed cottonwoods and cedar. Each student took a piece to recite. Sounds simple oui? Far from it. The performers became the trees. They were alive and dying, wanting and needing, giving and receiving, tormented and calm.

These four students managed to create a disjointed harmony of sorts that was fastened by the threads that stitched the words together. With each contorted grimace and tipping and sway of limbs, with every outstretched appeal to the sky or the earth, and with a final collapse to the forest floor the poem became a living, breathing, wanting thing alive in the moment then gone.

Photo Shed Simas

Performance art is a beast all its own. It relies on interpretation and a certain amount of disassociation, I would imagine, to remove the “self” from the work and fully engage with the idea.

Watching performance art is different from viewing a stationary object or keeping up with the visual pace of new media art. Performance art is there – and gone. As a viewer you’d miss a great deal if you weren’t fully engaged in listening, watching and silencing your mind. Being authentic and focused is essential, observation takes work. I am so glad I had the opportunity to see this piece performed. I watched trees become animate, I heard the voice of plants, I witnessed them move, shake, twist, bend and fall. But most of all I felt like I was let in the side entrance to the theatre that is Nancy’s awareness and her private observations and concerns for the land. Her secret Woodhaven came alive.

Woodhaven is closed until April 1 2011. I will continue to blog the remainder of the Fall and Winter Projects and will give critter updates and report on anything else of interest in the forest for those of you who care to know what goes on here in the deep of winter.

The Blessing Tree

Posted by: | November 3, 2010 | 2 Comments


Just for starters I have to say that the Fall Projects were nothing less than adventurous. Every one of them had enough distinctive flavour to make them palpable. Juicy indeed! It’s also going to take a while to get through all of them on this Blog so suffice to say, in the spirit of doing each justice the Woodhaven Blog will appear as usual for the coming months. With that said, onto the first.

Lois Huey-Heck and the Blessing Tree. Lois is an artist, an author and a spiritual director at the Naramata Center. The Blessing Tree is her gift to Woodhaven and the people who pass through this land. Lois used the empty bark of a fallen birch near my house and stitched and crocheted her way to these lovely pods that hang on a lone tree up the perimeter trail.

Near the base of the tree is a sign that talks about the tree and purpose of the blessing. There is also a jar that contains small scrolls of paper wrapped in the same bright red embroidery thread as the pods. The public was invited to take a scroll and discover the blessing within.

As ever, Lois’ work touches lightly on the earth and is gently sensitive while at the same time bold and forthright. She makes no apology for her effervescent connection with the divinity of nature nor does she shy away from declaring herself a woman deeply involved in having a spiritual experience on the planet.

Lois’ work remains for now although the blessing jar and the sign have been removed the tree and the pods remain. I wonder how they’ll fare over the winter. I notice that a small piece of bright red embroidery cotton has already been pulled at by the birds. Maybe Lois’ art will find a home in a spring nest or a mouse hole.

Woodhaven is closed to the public with the EXCEPTION of Saturday November 6 at 2pm until 7pm. UBCO has been granted special permission to have the park open for the final in the series, the Winter Projects. And truly, it will be a feast for the eyes, the ears, the heart and the mind. Please join us.

Woodhaven Nature Conservancy is at 4711 Raymer Road in the Mission area of Kelowna.

More Mushrooms

Posted by: | October 19, 2010 | Leave a Comment

I surrender.

Take a look at this magnificent sample of nature’s offerings. Stunning. It’s a coral mushroom, otherwise known as coral hydnum in the family hericium coralloides.

Jim Kalnin and Lois Huey- Heck arrived on the weekend to begin installing their work for the Fall Projects. Nancy volunteered for ladder duty and we made our way into the park to scout out locations for the work. Not far into the woods I spotted this beauty from the corner of my eye. Growing out of a fallen cottonwood there were two large coral mushrooms, one about a foot long and three inches tall and the other about nine inches in diameter and four inches tall.

As luck would (or wouldn’t in my case) have it, Jim Kalnin is a bit of a quasi expert on wild mushrooms. “I’ve eaten over a hundred varieties of wild mushrooms, he said. I used to pick them where I grew up in Manitoba.” I warn him not to talk about it, I try to explain that I can’t be trusted with this kind of information (see last blog for more on this). At that point his partner Lois interjects, “He’s 67, and he’s still here.” Okay, proof. I tried my best not to listen but failed miserably.


Jim demonstrated the keys to determining if a mushroom is poisonous or not and shared the wisdom of the most important lesson in wild mushroom hunting and that is to be able to identify the toxic ones first. Now that makes sense.

We marvelled at them. The purity of the colour tone, creamy white with chocolate dipped tufts like a perfectly baked Pavlova, the foot emerging from thick cottonwood bark established a firm foothold embedded in the crevices. Each eruption peaked, and dropped off the ends were vertical stalactite tendrils giving the impression of something both alien and familiar, something that may be from the ocean or may be from a subterranean cave, something that was white and precious with otherworldly notions of scarcity and sacredness, something that needed to be protected and honoured.  Something that was found in this very place called Woodhaven. I am in awe, once again, at the wisdom and foresight of Joan and Jim Burbridge. We are so fortunate to have this place in our community and so very fortunate to be able to bring art onto this land in a celebration of collaboration and response with nature.

Sunday, October 24, 1pm  Fall Projects Opening


Posted by: | October 16, 2010 | 1 Comment


I have books. I have books about birds, plants, and animals. I have books about the solar system, the deep sea, art books, cook books and a zillion “how to” type books. There’s even poetry in my collection, it’s a reference library – no fiction.

I’ve always wanted a mushroom book. One of those fancy,  full colour, photographic, information loaded page turners. The kind of book that provides all sorts of identifiers and double-checks so the distinguishing features of any mushroom I could potentially encounter in the wild would be burned into my brain so thouroughly, that if I plucked and sautéed one of those goodies I’d never get sick. But quite frankly, I don’t trust myself. If I had a mushroom book I’d be out there in the woods every autumn gathering and referencing. I’d be buttering up a pan and selecting just the right type of garlic or cream to accompany my harvest (maybe a swish of sherry for good measure). This would be an error. Even people who are expert in identifying mushrooms get it wrong sometimes. I cannot be trusted with this kind of information so I don’t buy the book. I am, however, fascinated with them.

Mushrooms have mycelium. This is the root structure that extends from the base into the host material. For educated and serious mushroom pickers it is imperative they never destroy this mycelium because maintaining its connection to the host ensures growth the following year. Of course mushrooms are never picked in Woodhaven. In fact there are provincial guidelines that determine allowable and restricted areas for cultivation. Here is the provincial website that’ll tell you where and when – if you care to do this sort of thing.  http://www.for.gov.bc.ca/rsi/publicuse/MushroomPicking.htm



So with that all said I don’t have a clue what any of these mushrooms are. I do know that the one pictured first is big. There are a mass of them at the edge of my garden and when I first saw them it was an Alice in Wonderland experience. The biggest one in the group was over ten inches across and others in the cluster were nearing that size.

There are mushrooms and fungus popping up all over the place at Woodhaven right now. Here are a few more images of what I’ve found. If anyone can identify them and knows if they’re edible or not please don’t tell me about it. My insatiable curiosity will drive me to try them and that could be an error that I may not recover from.

Sunday, October 24, 1:30 ~ Join us for the opening of the Fall Projects in Woodhaven. There will be performance, photography, collaborative drawings, sculpture, little packets of blessing and more………

The comment box is at the bottom of the page. Click on ‘comment’ at the top of the page then scroll all the way down.

Community Poetry

Posted by: | October 6, 2010 | 2 Comments

The season has come for wordsmiths to wander about Woodhaven and add their meandering thoughts to the community poetry in the park. Nancy Holmes, head of Creative & Critical Studies at UBCO, has installed a sturdy weatherproof packet against the upright post of the information board in the parking lot. It is filled with bits of paper, on them are written one or two sentences to contemplate while walking the trails. Pencils are provided and when you’re done, the notes can be dropped in the mailbox at the entrance to the park. Nancy will pick up her “mail” and weave your words into a poem that will be presented at our Fall Project opening October 24th.

Above is photo of Rose and Maureen selecting a sentence to ponder. These women (along with others) recently spent an afternoon at Woodhaven making spontaneous contour line drawings and paintings as part of a workshop with Lisa Lipsett from Salt Spring Island. Lisa was in town to facilitate a two day workshop called Creative by Nature, the basis of which is that creativity and nature go hand in hand with personal well being. Woodhaven is a natural for this type of activity.

On Tuesday the following week, Karen Close brought her eight week Sage-ing in Creative Spirit group for a similar exercise, contemplation in nature and contour line drawings.  The drawings were magnificent! The women in this group also made a contribution to the Community Poem. What a wonderful combination, mindful observation, spontaneous drawings and poetry.

Make a contribution to the Community Poem now so Nancy can pull it all together by October 24th for our Fall Projects opening day, 1:30-4:30 at 4711 Raymer Road.


Posted by: | September 22, 2010 | Leave a Comment

I like bugs.

Some scientists estimate that there are over 200 million insects for every human on the planet. That’s a lot of bugs. Bugs eat through debris and make it useful again for some other purpose at some other time. They pollinate, aerate and migrate. They jump, spin, fly and weave. The mayfly lives only for a day while a queen termite thrives for up to 50 years. Some people eat bugs while others use them in science, textiles and medicine. I like bugs, so forgiving, so useful, so very, very many of them.

This is a dragonfly that came to the pond this year. Woodhaven has many dragonflies. There are huge ones that congregate up on the dry hillside, much larger than the ones I see near the water. There are fossils of dragonflies that have a twenty four inch wingspan. That’s two feet. That’s a really big bug. Dragonflies are aerial masters. They can reach speeds of 60 miles per hour, can hover, fly backward and sideways all the while generating enough heat to burn fifty times more energy in flight than they do in a resting state. Their eyes have nearly 30,000 facets which make it easy to locate prey.

I love to watch them hover above the water, it causes a ripple that reaches to the far side of the pond and gently dissipates until the next flyover. Iridescent blue tones tucked smooth against the rich chocolate brown-black remind me of nothing else in nature I’ve seen so far with the exception of the odd tropical fish or two.


This one showed up in early August, a friend was visiting and saw it first. Good thing the camera was nearby because it ambled over a dead stump and wandered off into the gully in a matter of seconds. I’ve never seen this bug before. It’s a pine sawyer beetle. It is the largest beetle in North America and can reach two and three quarter inches in length. Their job is to excavate tunnels through the heartwood of dead trees so trees killed by infestation or forest fire will fall more quickly and be available on the ground to create habitat for even more critters. These beetles are found in stumps, snags, downed logs and even in the canopy, wouldn’t want one of them to land on me mind you. These beetles are not a common find in this area so we’re pretty lucky to have them here.

Ah! The june bug. There were so many dead ones up on the dry hillside this summer the ants had a feast. It occurred to me that this was unusual and wondered if a pesticide had been in use close by. Truly, there were dozens belly up on the ground all over the path and on the forest floor. I saved one of the carcasses, cleaned it up and it sits lone on a perfectly circular white stone where I can look at it. I guess it’ll stay there until some critter spies it and makes a meal of it. Ephemeral décor.

Our fall program is coming up October 24, 1:30-4:30. Please join us at Woodhaven for performance, interactive poetry, gifts from the trees, drawings, photography, and sculpture all being watched over by Woodhaven Border Patrol. Did I say Border Patrol?

Woodhaven is at 4711 Raymer Road in the Mission.

Bear Aware

Posted by: | August 24, 2010 | Leave a Comment

So here’s the deal, this is the Readers Digest version of the bear aware program. This version applies to walking in the woods and not about if you clean your barbecue after using it. You do need to clean your barbecue after using it this time of year as you also should wait until the morning of your garbage pick up to put the container out. Likewise, clean out bird feeders, save it for the winter when they need it, there’s plenty for the birds to eat anyway right now. This bear aware version is about walking in the woods.

There are three bears in Woodhaven, a sow and her two cubs. They arrived about 4 weeks ago. She’s a big cinnamon bear with a black face and a black bum. Her babies are all black and are great tree climbers. Like all bears she is looking for food so she and her babies can get good and fat for winter hibernation. They walk around until they find juicy berries, fresh green leaves & shoots, big boulders and pulpy tree stumps where ants and bugs and grubs might be, then they chomp and chew and gobble it all up until they’re full. They’re not likely to be full for another month or so, so that means there will be daily foraging and the nightly ripping and shredding of logs and tree stumps for a while yet.

 Bears are messy, this is a big log at the front gate that was scavenged for bugs.

This is what it looks like once the food is eaten. This is mainly full of cherry pits.


* Walk with a buddy and talk. Bears hear the low tones of human voices before they hear the tinkle of bells.

*Look around you. The forest is primarily vertical, critters are mostly seen as horizontal lines. You’ll see the horizontal line of the back of a deer or a bear because it stands out. Remember though, the Woodhaven bear is a cinnamon bear so she looks like the deer at first glance (I know this from experience).

* When you’re walking you can clap sharply a couple times every 30 paces or so. It helps to alert the bear to your location. Better that she knows where you are and moves away from you than you finding her and having to retreat. 

* Move away if you see a bear. Retreat slowly and make a wide detour around the bear to safety. If the bear senses you and sees you, speak in a low calm voice, keeping an eye on the bear at all times as you back away.  The bear needs to now you are human. The big mom bear has two jobs right now, one is to eat and get fat; the other is to protect her cubs. Don’t get in the middle of either.


* Don’t wear a headset and come jogging.

* Don’t bring food into the park.

* Don’t run madly yelling, you might start to look like prey. 


For more information see the Bear Aware program on the Regional District website, here’s a link. http://www.bearaware.bc.ca/index.htm

Woodhaven is at 4711 Raymer Road. Please come and see the current art projects in the park. Pick up an Alternate Guide and a map to the projects. Come on Sunday when Shed Simas is here and he’ll give you great directions and all kinds of info about the project.  Just be bear aware while you’re here.

More Summer Program

Posted by: | August 9, 2010 | Leave a Comment


The spring program at Woodhaven had a performance type feel about it and the summer program seems to have subtlety as its flavour forward (said like a true Okanoganite).

 Nancy Holmes’ work, with graphics by Shed Simas, imitates the Regional District pamphlet almost to the letter by design. The cover image is placed just so, open it up and the aerial map is centered with commentary to the left and the description of each zone to the right. At the bottom are notes on birds you may encounter and the back page is housekeeping details.  Looks the same but read it folks, it’s light and easy on the brain, tongue planted firmly in cheek all the way. You can pick up one of these goodies directly below the original at the “Take a Map” post at the start of the trail, take some humour and an interesting perspective with you for the walk.

Byron Johnston’s work is easy to locate, there are 4 pieces and they’re bright cotton candy pink. Each is situated at the edge of one of the biogeolclimatic zones that make Woodhaven the unique place it is. These pink posts sport an eyepiece at the top intended as a focused viewing device. Byrons’ work is all over perception and this is true to form. Look for them at the edge of the zones, there’s a map included in the Summer Program pamphlet so all the new work is easy to find.  

Michael V. Smiths’ work is an 8 minute video that follows and ant. Yup, you heard me right, an ant. Michael has a way of finding the other side of “fuss,” smoothing out the wrinkles and locating an answer that feels easy like a feather-fall in a soft breeze. If you come on Sunday afternoon Shed Simas is here and he’ll loan you the MP3 player to watch this little gem. And if you send me a note I can have one ready for you if you want to randomly show up another time. Watch this little film. It will change your day.

My work is steel and paper and sunk into the landscape marking sites of prior human occupation. I’ve marked a barn, a shed, a settlers’ midden and barbed wire property dividers. You could walk right past each them if you didn’t pick up a map at the beginning, but then again, if you did walk right past them I’ve done my job.

Woodhaven is at 4711 Raymer Road. Pick up a pamphlet from the box at the start of the trail and wind your way through the new work.  Alternately, walk quietly, listen fervently, speak minimally and empty your mind.

All photography on this blog is by Lori Mairs unless otherwise credited.

Woodhaven is at 4711 Raymer Road in the mission.

Shed Markings

Posted by: | July 21, 2010 | Leave a Comment

photo Margo Yacheshyn

The summer program for the Eco Art Project officially launched last Saturday, so glad to see such a busy and inquisitive crowd of people. I walked the park no less than 7 times that day and still didn’t get to visit with everyone, oi vey.

The first thing that greets you with this second season is the work by Shed Simas a native Brazilian and here in Canada for the past two years, he is the student assistant hired for summer support work on the project. Shed has etched a large scale drawing of the endangered Western Screech Owl into the gravel of the parking lot. It makes sense. He is South American and this drawing is reminiscent of the Nazca drawings in Peru. That he selected our resident endangered species is to his credit for going the extra step to find significant content that harmonizes with the context of the piece.  

Shed raked the parking lot, laid out a grid pattern and etched his owl into the gravel with a hoe. In this image he is watering the etched lines to give it more substance and in the hopes of creating a little more longevity for the piece.

photo Margo Yacheshyn

Here’s the owl completed. The form rocks although it’s fading as the days go by while the cars and people do their bit to obliterate its precision.

We didn’t do a formal count the day of the summer program opening but estimated about 80-100 people came through. In total there were 16 pieces toview that included a soapstone bear sculpture by Corky Hewson.

photo Margo Yacheshyn

photo margo Yacheshyn

We included maps this time around because so much of the work was subtle and definitley site specific. This work above, by Brenda Feist, is a perfect example. She has mapped systems of the body and placed the images against the backdrop of the systems of the forest. She mimicks the line that follows branches and leaf patterns with the branch-like tentacles of the ciculatory system and the systems of the body that give us life. Look closely for these, they are subtley placed, delicately executed, and powerful in their simplicity. 

Thanks to Margo for being our photographer for the day and for all the volunteers who helped out.

Come on a Sunday and Shed will be here to offer you an MP3 players that has a short film on it. 

Woodhaven Nature Conservancy 4711 Raymer Road, Kelowna

The Invitation

Posted by: | July 16, 2010 | 1 Comment

guerilla stones

It’s the end of the day and I think I hear a bird dog coming in and heading north to the airport. Two brush fires at the end of Lakeshore Road, far too reminiscent of the 2003 fires. I had to go to town this afternoon and the traffic heading into the upper mission was steady, understandable. The firestorm of 2003  missed Woodhaven by a stones throw, we were so lucky.

It’s dry underfoot here and crisp. I notice I am particularly vigilant this year with keeping track of the comings and goings. We get lulled into thinking it’s all good because there’s been so much rain. Don’t be fooled.

Saturday is the opening for the Summer Program for the Woodhaven Eco Art Project. Featured is a video from Michael V. Smith, a Nazca type drawing 60 feet in length of the endangered Western Screech Owl from Shed Simas, four viewing stations, one for each ecosystem from Byron Johnston, Brenda Feist is mapping systems of the body on plexiglass with the systems of Woodhaven as a backdrop, Nancy Holmes has created a delightful Alternate Guide for the park and I have reconfigured three of the steel works from the Dysfunctional Chair series at the Kelowna Art Gallery and built a brand new one, each will mark sites of former human occupation a midden, barns and a barbed wire fence.

 Saturday, 1:30-4:30 is the opening for the spring program at Woodhaven. Please join us, we’ll offer you lemonade, a walk in the wonder that is Woodhaven, and interesting, funny, educational, thought provoking and beautiful art. What else is there?

I know what, it’s very dry underfoot and I can’t express enough how important it is to be “fire vigilant” this time of year. We are so fortunate to have Woodhaven and all the parks and preserved land we do in this region, taking care of it is everybody’s job.

Woodhaven is at 4711 Raymer Road.

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