Dawson City, Yukon Friday, December 5, 2003

The Robert Service School gym was packed for Dawson's annual craft bazaar. It's no longer the only such event, but it's still the biggest. Photo by Dan Davidson

Feature Stories

Christmas Shoppers pack the Bazaar
It Takes a Community to Raise a Child
The Peoples' Ice Bridge Begins in Dawson
NorthwesTel Expands Service in Dawson
Recreation Centre Name Will Honour Couple Who Worked With Youth
Highway Reconstruction Planned for Dawson Area
Mayo-Dawson Transmission Line Was the Year's Biggest Challenge
Surge Protection Program Not Part of Hydro Line Project, Says YEC Head
KIAC Nurtures Student Fine Art for a Third Year
Tr'inke Zho Children's Art Show
Shining a Little Light on Classical Music
Don McKay: A Rink Rat for Poetry
Susan Mayes: A Quiet Voice Speaks Powerful Words
Mark Zuehlke: Striking Gold in the Klondike

Welcome to the December 5, 2003 edition of the online Klondike Sun, which reproduces a selection of the photographs and articles from the December 2 hard copy edition.

The hard copy also contains Doug Urquhart's famous "Paws" cartoon strip, our homegrown crossword puzzle, and obviously, all the other material you won't find here.

We encourage viewers of this website to consider subscribing to the Sun. It would help us financially and you would get to see everything closer to when it's actually news. The only thing you would not get is the colour photo at the beginning of the on-line issues. We can't afford to print in colour.

Since we went online in March 1996 our counter has crashed a number of times. The first counter logged about 25,000 visitors. The second one, which crashed in late March 2003, logged about 51,000. The current counter went online in April 2003 and was sitting at 18,364 on December 28, 2003.

Note to Torfinn D: We don't have your land address. We'd love to send you a tax receipt for your contribution, but we can't do that without it.

Christmas Shoppers pack the Bazaar

by Dan Davidson

Even more than decorations and television commercials, the annual round of bazaars is a sure sign of the coming Yuletide season. There are three main bazaars in Dawson, all within a month of each other. The Dawson City Arts Society held its event earlier in November and the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in will hold theirs before the end of the month.

The grandmother of them all, however, is the blow-out in the school gymnasium round about the third weekend in November.

Browsers can choose from a wide assortment of goodies, home made and otherwise. Photographer Kevin Hastings had a startlingly good display of Aurora shots. Joann Vriend's pottery was a standout, as usual. The Thrift Shop brought out some of its higher end donations. There were raffles, cake-walks, school yearbooks for sale and lots of baked and sewn goods.

Santa was around having his picture taken with the kids, and there were lots of goodies to eat in the Ancillary Room next door.

All in all, it was a four hour extravaganza. Christmas just wouldn't be the same without it.

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It Takes a Community to Raise a Child

by Vera Holmes

The Dawson Childcare Association is a non-profit society that began operations in 1980. A Board of Directors made up entirely of local volunteers leads our center. We strive to provide a well educated, caring staff that will encourage and enhance children's development. We offer a warm and loving environment with age appropriate activities and stimulating toys for all children to enjoy. Dawson City Daycare is licensed by the Yukon Territorial Government for 20 pre-school children and 12 school age children and operates according to the YTG's Child Care Act and Child Care Center Regulations.

During my 5 years of Director, we have negotiated many obstacles, challenges and uncertainties. Finances mostly. Isn't it funny how money can affect so many things? Quality staffing, consistent service, age appropriate toys, educational materials and operational requirements are just a few to mention. We have even discussed closing our doors at one point.

As time passed, things started to improve. We started doing community fundraisers. Our relationship with Tr'inke Zho and the rest of the community strengthened. Our loyal long term Staff and Board renewed their energy and commitment to keep us going. We still have a ways to go before we are comfortable or where we need to be. But the difference this time is that we can actually see a bright future for childcare in Dawson.

The support we have received is what has made things turn around for us. Wayne Rachel from Callison Waste Management built and donated a new Garbage Box. Arctic Inland donated paint for the inside of the building along with other generous donations. The Westminster Hotel has consistently brought a change jar to us. Byron Shandler and Parks Canada built us a parking lot at the side of our property for parents and staff to park. John and Madeline Gould made a generous donation and the IODE has sent donations to us many times in the past. This is just a sample of the thoughtful and generous actions our town has showered our Daycare with.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the members of our community for all the support we have received in the past year. We have had many generous donations from local people and businesses. This type of support keeps our childcare community strong. It is also an investment in the future of Dawson and shows that good people working together can make all the difference in the face of adversity.

What is Community?

The best definition I found for community was in the Webster's Unabridged Dictionary, way down the list of definitions: community — shared activity; social intercourse; fellowship, communion; esp: social activity marked by a feeling of unity but also individual participation completely willing and not forced or coerced and without loss of individuality. (In order that there may be a community, there must be conscious and purposeful sharing — Ernest Barker.)

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The Peoples' Ice Bridge Begins in Dawson

by Dan Davidson

It had been less than a week since the ice stopped moving in the Yukon River, but traffic was already moving on the frozen surface by November 20 and it's looking like the route followed by the Peoples' Ice Bridge will be pretty much the same as the Official Ice Bridge when it goes in later in the winter.

John Mitchell, the community's EMO officer, says he has head from his sources that the ice is already 8 inches (20 cm) thick, which is enough to hold people, snow machine and light vehicles as long as they are careful.

As the ice froze this year the open leads which have plagued ice bridge formation seem to have filled in. The ice cakes which were floating in the river after the ferry came out on October 30 were already quite thick, and when they stopped and were cemented together by the moisture and the cold, they seem to have formed a firm surface.

Typically, citizens who want to get back and forth are not prepared to wait until the ice is thick enough for the heavier equipment used by the highways department to do the job.

Snowmobilers tend to make the first tentative trips, setting a trail and compacting it. West Dawsonites with ploughs and light loaders do the rest, and traffic is usually constant long before the official bridge is ploughed and established.

One thing which may slow things down a little is the jumble of ice on the west bank by the ferry landing. As the moving cakes slowed and hardened, a veritable wall of jumble ice was pushed up next to the bank. On the east side it looks just as if the river rose and partially flushed its ice load, but apparently that was not what happened this time.

After that, several days of -25 to - 40 temperatures seemed to do the trick. Snowmobilers have been busy since then, crossing the river and cruising up and down the river's edge between Dawson and Moosehide.

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NorthwesTel Expands Service in Dawson

by Dan Davidson

Twentieth century telephone service has arrived in Dawson City. It's a few years late, but it has arrived. NorthwesTel has upgraded the local exchange with a new digital switch which will enable the company to offer. The new switch and other changes, costing in total $310,000, will allow the company to offer Dawsonites the same land line telephone services currently available in Whitehorse.

According to a press release, company president Paul Flaherty said. "This is a significant development for Dawson City and for Northwestel."

The new equipment began operating in November and was introduced to the public at an open house held in the Downtown Hotel Conference Room on November 12.

All 1450 telephone lines in service in the community will now be able to use Call Display, Call Display Block, Call Return, Call Screen, Call Waiting ID, Call Wakeup, Smart Ring, Call Trace and Voice Mail, as well as the current services, Call Forwarding, Call Waiting, Cancel Call Waiting, Speed Call and Three-Way Calling.

All of this comes about as part of a $75 million operation named the Service Improvement Plan. So far 18 other communities in the company's service area have received these upgrades.

Of perhaps more interest to locals outside the immediate Dawson service area is the news that SIP will be bringing them normal telephone service by next year this time, according to company representatives Chris McNutt and Colin Henderson. That will include West Dawson and fringe sites along the Klondike Valley corridor.

McNutt encouraged people living in these areas to contact the company and perhaps get in an application so that the company can include them in its planning for the expansion.

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Recreation Centre Name Will Honour Couple Who Worked With Youth

by Dan Davidson


The Fifth Avenue face of the new recreation centre. Only the curling club has a main entrance (the recessed door) on this busy street now. The new main foyer is located on Fourth Avenue. Photo by Dan Davidson

Skating for the 2003/04 season has begun at Dawson's recreation centre, assisted by cold weather and the alternations to the arena that were made a year ago. Dawson's council has now begun to explore the idea of a name for its new building.

The old recreation centre was known as the Bonanza Centre, and there are some, according to Mayor Glen Everitt, who would like to see that name retained. There has, however, come forward a strong recommendation that the name for the new facility be changed to reflect the contributions to community recreation made by the late Art and Margie Fry, who spent many years providing recreational opportunities for youth in the town.

Accordingly, Council has sent down to the recreation board a proposal that the new building be given a name which reflects that heritage. The motion refers to the Art and Margie Fry Memorial Centre, but it could actually take some other, less cumbersome, form before the final decision is made.

Actual spaces within the centre may receive different names. The curling club, for instance, is already known as the Top of the World Curling Club, and that won't change unless the club decides to change it. One proposal for the arena itself is to call it the Joe Boyle Arena, after a mining entrepreneur who encouraged hockey during his years here.

The other facility in need of a name is the swimming pool, which had its successful second full season this past summer. As far as council members can determine, the old pool never had a name either, other than just the Dawson City Pool. Council put out a request for name suggestions a year ago, but nothing has come forward so far.

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Highway Reconstruction Planned for Dawson Area

by Dan Davidson


Locals check out the maps and specifications for highway work being planned in the Dawson area. Photo by Dan Davidson

It's possible that there may be some highway rebuilding in the Dawson City region next summer, possible but not certain. The stretch of road involved would run from the Callison Industrial Subdivision (km 708.7) to Crocus Bluff (km 713.8), a distance of 5.1 kilometres in total.

As yet there is no budget for this project, but territorial government officials with the Transportation Division were in Dawson on November 13 to display the proposed design and get some public reaction.

The project would take some three months to carry out, and would be done from June through August, which will mean some delays and inconvenience for locals and visitors during that time. The initial season would be a rebuilding and widening of the road bed, with chip sealing scheduled for a two week period in the following spring.

As this will cause traffic holdups, the project specifications indicate that no more than 1.5 km of road will be affected at any given time.

This section of the highway was selected because, in the words of the briefing documents, "it is ... one of the heaviest traffic sections of the Klondike Highway, with volumes similar to the Alaska Highway near Whitehorse."

In rebuilding the roadbed the project would attempt to improve the drainage on the road surface, this reducing the conditions which help to form potholes and degrade the chip seal surface.

The actual driving area on the road will not be increased, but the shoulder areas on either side will be nearly doubled, facilitating better turn-off lanes at several intersections, including the new Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in C4 subdivision.

In some places the Centennial Trail would be relocated so that it does not cross the highway so many times.

Initial estimates on the cost of the project vary dramatically from $350 thousand to $600 thousand per kilometre of highway. It could cost as little as $1,785,000 or as much as $3,060,000, or somewhere in between.

Brian Laird, P. Eng., Capital Planning Engineer, Highways & Public Works indicated that the project might provide "350 person weeks of employment ... over the time of the project." This is an approximate estimate and depends on "the work schedule, weather, ground conditions and efficiency."

The planners heard from a number of people during their session at the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in Community Hall. Members of town council expressed a desire to see most of the jobs related to this be local (Klondike) hires. Residents living along the highway had a number of concerns about possible shifts of the roadway biting into their land.

Regional Program Engineer Walter Gutowski told people that this plan was still in the consultation stages and that their concerns would be taken into consideration where possible. Some were less than assured by this, but were glad of the opportunity to see what was about to happen before it actually did.

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Mayo-Dawson Transmission Line Was the Year's Biggest Challenge

by Dan Davidson

"This is obviously not a very good first attempt at having a public meeting to discuss the annual reports of these three companies."

If David Morrison was sounding a bit chagrined in Dawson City on November 17 he could have been pardoned for it. While the chair of the Yukon Development Corporation, Yukon Energy Corporation might have been hoping for more, what he got was a relative, two employees, one reporter and a local financial planner.

Setting aside the fact that he and his table mates, Hector Campbell and Eric Hoenisch, both of Yukon Energy, had met with the Nacho Nyak Dun and the Mayo Council and the Dawson City Council earlier in the day, the evening meeting at the Downtown Hotel had to be an anti-climax, enough so that the Powerpoint presentation planned for the meeting never got past the first slides.

One of the problems might have been the dates on the three reports. Eleven months into 2003, with a number of the embryonic projects discussed in those reports already nearing completion, corporate reports for 2002 were less than fresh news.

At this point, Morrison was quite willing to say that the nearly completed Mayo to Dawson Transmission line project was the biggest item on both corporation's plates over the last 18 months. A year late and $9 million over budget, the line is nevertheless working and Morrison said that YEC was pleased to be diesel free (except for back-up and emergency purposes) in its operations.

On the other hand, he made no bones about the fact that the lateness and overspending on the transmission line were not things to celebrate.

"We don't think the public is very happy with us and rightly so," he said.

While Hector Campbell of YEC suggested that there is perhaps some excuse to be found in the fact that no one has undertaken a transmission line project on this scale since the power line was punched through for the Cyprus Anvil Mine in Faro in the late 1960s, the YDC/YEC management is unhappy enough with itself to have called for the Auditor General to look at the project and see where it went wrong.

"The big future challenge," Morrison said, "is ... that we have surplus capacities on both our major hydro systems."

People would, he said, be mistaken to think that the utility can now sit back and do nothing. The reason for the surplus is the absence of large scale mining. If anything the size of the Faro operation were to be developed, it would quickly max out the Whitehorse-Aishihik-Faro system. If anything the size of the Elsa silver mine were to start up, that would eat up any surplus on the Mayo-Dawson line.

In the meantime, however, the company needs to find someplace to peddle its surplus. For this reason, it is looking at a line to Atlin. For this reason it is now concerned with connecting people in the Klondike Valley who live along the new transmission line.

Selling that power might be the sort of thing which would actually bring rates to existing consumers down a bit because the costs for supplying that power have already been paid.

Perhaps an even bigger challenge, Morrison said, would be "getting back the reputation we need to go forward with more projects."

This might be necessary because of the time it takes to create new capacity if it is needed. Should the economy take off, due to a pipeline or some other project, it would take at least 10 years to establish more hydro generation sites.

"How do we face the future, make sure that we're ready to support economic development, and yet not burden the rate payers and taxpayers with excess capacity?"

One hundred and eighty potential hydro sites have been examined to date. In addition, alternative energy sources like wind, solar and mini-hydro have been and are being examined.

So oddly enough, the worst case scenario for the YEC would be a best case scenario for the Yukon economy.

Without the sale of some of that surplus capacity, there is a chance Yukoners could be looking at rate increases.

"We haven't applied for one - the last rate increase we had was in 1996," Morrison said. "We are consistently trying to find ways to keep rates flat. I know a lot of people think we're trying to avoid going before the Public Utility Board so we won't have to deal with the Mayo-Dawson line, but the main reason we're avoiding the PUB is so that we don't have to raise rates. It's that plain and simple."

The plan for the audit should be developed by the Auditor General's Dept. by the new year, with the work being done by spring and the report written by summer 2004.

"I'm not averse to talking about it," Morrison said, "though I am averse to speculate about it. We called for an audit because we felt that that was the best way to stop speculation, to actually have someone, an objective party, tell us what the issues were, where the contract went off the rails, what happened.

"The Public Utility Board wouldn't look at it from a financial point of view only. They'll look at it from a rate point of view."

He's not expecting to avoid that entirely.

"There is absolutely no way we'll avoid that process. We will be subject too the Yukon Utilities Board and the entire Mayo-Dawson project will be thoroughly reviewed in that public forum. Until we do that we felt that it was important that we get someone to look at this."

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Surge Protection Program Not Part of Hydro Line Project, Says YEC Head

by Dan Davidson

While the Yukon Energy Corporation's president and CEO Don Willems endorses the installation of surge protectors on homes throughout the Yukon, he is quick to note that the timing of the promotion in Dawson City has nothing to do with that community's recent conversion from diesel power to hydro power with the installation of the Mayo to Dawson transmission line.

"The surge protector program is Yukon wide," he said in an interview on October 30, noting that both his company and the Yukon Electrical Company, which actually handles most of the power distribution in the territory, are pushing the program.

Yukon Energy generates power, but distributes it in only a few communities, among them Dawson City and Mayo.

"It's unfortunate in terms of the timing of promoting the surge protectors in Dawson. It may have created the misunderstanding that the surge protectors and the (transmission line) project are related. They are totally unrelated.

"Whether that project had gone ahead to switch over to hydro or not, the surge protectors would have been promoted in any case."

Willems was responding to criticisms by Dawson's council, which stated that the need for residents to get surge protection for their homes, at a cost of about $300 per unit, was related to the transmission line project and the greater likelihood of there being power outages and energy spikes under the new supply system.

Willems disagrees with that assessment.

"They would be required no more or no less than if Dawson were still on diesel. It's good practice certainly, with the more sensitive equipment and computers around, to have a surge protector."

Dawson is not totally without diesel power, nor is Mayo. Both communities have back-up diesel generators to handle local power needs in the event of an interruption to the hydro line. Willems says they are not dependent on each other for back-up.

Eventually, the diesel station on Fifth Avenue will be relocated to a site in the Callison Industrial Subdivision. Willems can't predict when that will happen.

"It will be done based on the retirement of the diesels and things like that," he said. "If you're looking for a time line, it could be five years or up to ten years. The immediate plan is not to shut the plant down."

Meanwhile, Dawson suffered three short power outages between 5:15 on October 30 and 10:42 on October 31. They lasted only between 6 and 11 minutes, but they were a great advertisement for surge protectors.

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KIAC Nurtures Student Fine Art for a Third Year

by Dan Davidson


This mural was created during the four-day workshop. Photo by Dan Davidson

The third annual edition of the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture's Youth Art Enrichment Program once again drew young people from all over the territory to participate in three days of creative art during the third week of November.

The program was started in 2001 to provide an opportunity for artistically oriented young people to have an intense experience the equivalent of what happens for sports teams every time they go to a tournament.

This year 32 students registered for the program, which was sponsored by the Yukon Arts Fund, the Youth Investment Fund, Yukon Education, the National Film Board of Canada, KIAC and a host of volunteers.

The nearly completed results of the many hours of work were on display to the public on Saturday evening, following a banquet at the Oddfellows' Hotel.

Seven students were registered for a mural painting workshop with Nicole Bauberger. During their three days they came up with a theme, divided the work into sections, painted their individual squares and then made whatever alterations were necessarily to fit them together. Bauberger has supervised a couple of these mural/puzzles in the Yukon in the past, including one which hangs in the Dawson Public Library. They are very effective, both as displays and as teaching tools.

Ten students elected to work in video animation at the Visitor Reception Centre, with two resource people from the National Film Board of Canada. Actually NFB Animator/ Instructor Scott Kiborn and Senior Producer Svend-Erik Erikson were somewhat delayed by aeroplane problems and Haines Junction teacher Trevor Mead-Robins took the class through most of the early paces during the first day.

Kiborn told the audience on Saturday night that he was surprised when he arrived. The group had already reached the point he had intended to take them to and he was able to get a lot more done than he had expected. The videos, which were shown at the Oddfellows Hall just after the banquet, were quite something.

Ken Anderson had a group of 8 students working in soapstone carving over at the Dänòja Zho Cultural Centre. He focussed on composition and design.

"Because these pieces are all the same colour," he said, "you have to focus on highlighting certain areas with more relief carving or less relief carving."

Finally, at the Yukon Order of Pioneers building, Scott Price guided a group of 8 students through a course in experimental sculpture, working in cardboard, wire and mixed media.

In addition to the hard work, students enjoyed breakfasts and lunches at St. Mary's Catholic Church. Evening activities, including a Storyboard Contest led by Evelyn Pollock; a film night at the Odd Hall, a music night at the Youth Centre and the Grand Finale dinner were laid on to keep the energy moving.

Students arrived on Tuesday night and left for home on Sunday afternoon.

KIAC organizer Jen Shelest found herself invigorated by the energy put out by young people during the three days.

Aside from the sponsors, Shelest was quick to mention that there "was major backing by well over 50 volunteers" who helped to set up the venues, fed the students and helped with problems.

"I was really, really amazed that whenever I had a problem or a question, or needed help in any little area, there were always people there to assist me."

Most of the students this year were from Whitehorse schools, though Watson Lake, Haines Junction and Dawson were represented. In addition there were three home school students, which was a first. The average age of the group did seem to be a bit older this year.

"An event like this kind of takes me back to high school - just seeing all these really great people with amazing ideas and a huge passion for the arts," said Shelest, who pursued both fine arts and business at university. She has combined her interests this year by becoming the Programs Assistant at KIAC.

Each of the instructors had warm words for their students, for the program, and for the many people who helped to make it a reality.

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Tr'inke Zho Children's Art Show


Youngsters are educated and entertained at the art show. Photo by Dan Davidson

On Oct.21st Trinke Zho Daycare proudly presented a children's Art show at No Gold Gallery. Affectionately named "kitty town" by the preschoolers, we celebrated with family, friends and community, the artistic accomplishments of our children. Our goal was to provide an opportunity for us as adults to look at the importance of art, from scribbling onward, and the importance of creativity in all children's lives. Almost 100 people came to visit, with KIAC'S Art for Employments class coming the next day,

"to unlearn everything they have so far learned about art".

Children begin to learn about their world by using their senses; touching, tasting, smelling, listening and looking. Their senses are tools to use to interact with the environment. From people and the environment they get responses, and in turn learn about their world. Children are always having new experiences, anything from riding the ferry for the first time to the death of a family pet. Play and creative expression are ways in which children cope with and try to make sense of their experiences and of the world. Because they are experiencing so much its no wonder play is called the work of the child!

When children are provided with play materials and an environment that is free for children to choose how to use them, then children are at their fullest capacity to express and work through any and all experiences. It is the same when children are provided with a variety of Art materials and an environment that encourages free exploration of materials. For example, play dough with found natural materials like leaves, sticks and rocks, or paint-with sponges, sticks, scrappers, etc. The idea is that children are able to choose what they want to use and how they want to use it. This encourages the child to re-explore experiences and the emotions that accompany them in the same way.

Hopefully all children will receive positive feedback on their work and their play, the feedback that they receive will influence their self-concept and sense of self. It is important for us all to remember the value in the process of the art work and not so much the final product.

A big Mashi Cho to Tammi! at No Gold Gallery for allowing us to tear apart the gallery, and giving us the perfect environment to professionally showcase the creative works.

And thank you to Laurel at No Gold for putting the gallery back together!

Mashi Cho to Glenda for capturing all the memories. The photos are great!

And Thank you to Joy and Dahna for preparing the yummy snacks.

Thank you to all who came out! This was a very special night for the children to share with you the work that they have been creating!

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Shining a Little Light on Classical Music

by Dan Davidson


The Borealis Quartet played the Oddfellows Hall in Dawson in early November. Photo by Dan Davidson

What could be more appropriate than that a group naming itself after the North should give a concert in the north? Such was the case when the Borealis String Quartet came to the Oddfellows' Hall on November 9.

The recently formed quartet is based at the University of British Columbia, though its touring schedule saw the members on the road for 32 concerts in B.C. Alberta and Ontario during its 2002-03 season.

The well- attended concert began with an energetic performance of the String Quartet No. 2 in G. Major ("Compliments") Op. 18/2 by Ludwig Van Beethoven. This is a good natured piece of music ran about 30 minutes, and was a sharp contrast to what followed.

The Canadian work on the program was "Another Little Piece of My Heart" by Kelly-Marie Murphy, not to be confused with the Janis Joplin tune with a similar name. Murphy's piece, however, reflected her experiences growing up on a succession of military bases around the world.

The four movements reflect her emotional reaction to the constant movement, making and leaving friends, worrying about acceptance, and so on. Violinist Yuel Yawney told the audience that the first and fourth movements are more reflective in their approach to the emotions, while the middle movements, with the suggestive names "Aggressiveamente" and "Agitato", are about anxiety, which we certainly feel while we're playing them."

It was an effective, if unsettling, piece of work, and did indeed appear to be a serious workout for the players, who would often find themselves finishing a phrase, or even a note, that someone else had begun. The music clearly represented the emotions of the composer. One can admire such a composition without necessarily wishing to add it to one's CD collection.

The third major work on the program was depressing in another way. Felix Mendelssohn's String Quartet No. 6 in F minor, Op. 80, was the last major piece he wrote. It followed the death of his beloved sister (and so is sometimes called "Requiem for Fanny", and was finished just a few months before he suffered the first of the strokes which ended his life. It is often suggested that this sadly beautiful music foreshadows his passing.

The quartet obviously realized the need to decompress its audience after this emotional 25 minute presentation, and concluded the evening with a piece from outside the usual classical repertoire, the traditional spiritual, "Deep River". It was a soothing end to the evening.

First violinist Patricia Shih throws her entire body into her work as she plays. She has travelled widely and is a three time winner of the Canadian Music Competition.

Violinist Yuel Yawney graduated from universities in Florida and Texas and completed his advanced training in the Czech Republic.

Violist Nikita Pogrebnoy hails from St. Petersburg, Russia, and performed widely in Europe before coming to Canada.

Cellist Joel Stobbe comes to us from Germany, and has been a member of several touring ensembles on the continent.

The Borealis Quartet came to Dawson as part of the Whitehorse Concerts series. Sales of their CD, Classic Borealis (Skylark Music), which contained the Mendelsohn and Beethoven works, were brisk.

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Don McKay: A Rink Rat for Poetry

by Dan Davidson


Wilderness poet Don McKay imitates bird motions while reading his poems in Dawson. Photo by Dan Davidson

Don McKay explains his long academic career in an unusual way.

"I was a rink rat for literature," he told his listeners in the Dawson Community Library on November 6.

He explained that he was attracted to poetry early on in his studies, and that he wrote reams of what he called "awful stuff", but that he didn't manage to produce anything really worth keeping until he almost had his Ph.D. He went into teaching primarily, he said, because it was a way to hang about the fringes of the literary world, to surround himself with it and let himself keep trying.

This activity kept him busy. Since 1975 he has served as editor and publisher with Brick Books. He edited The Fiddlehead from 1991 to 1996. He taught Creative Writing and English at the University of Western Ontario and the University of New Brunswick for twenty-seven years. He has served as faculty resource person for the writing workshops at Sage Hill and Banff, where he currently holds the position of Senior Poetry Editor.

Recently retired from UNB in Fredericton, he now lives in British Columbia with his partner, Jan Zwicky.

Late bloomers can take heart. Moccasins on Concrete appeared in 1973 and McKay went on to win a Governor General's Awards for his verse in 1991, for Night Field and again for Another Gravity in 2000. He has been short listed on two other occasions, once for Birding, or desire (1983) and again for Apparatus (1997). Four nominations out of eight books (nine now) is not bad at all.

McKay read selections from several of his poetry collections, starting with Birding, and using this as a springboard for talking about his obsession with bird watching, which has provided the inspiration for a lot of his work, and helped to cement his reputation as a wilderness poet.

The writing came first, he said. He used to live near London, Ontario, and often wrote while he was outside.

"I noticed that I was noticing the birds, so I finally got myself a pair of binoculars. I realized after a while that it was the same mind set, bird watching and writing. With bird watching you're going out, trying to be mentally prepared to see the birds, going to the right habitat, but knowing that you can't compel the birds to appear.

"It's the same as a poet. It's the same sort of mental set. You have to be kinda maximally ready, but you can't force the poem. You can work away at it, put it away, come back again, put it away. Over and over again I find myself thinking that I hope it's done. I put it down, wake up the next day and it's not quite right. You've always gotta listen to that voice."

Eventually the birds worked their way into his writing and are now there so much that he finds himself apologizing for them.

McKay talked about his work as a poetry editor, which he said is a much different process from regular editing. It is more like suggestion and encouragement, rather than actually changing lines that someone else has written.

There was also some discussion about book design, and the difficulty of getting some larger publishers to be innovative in layout and cover design.

Some of McKay's work is more in the realm of the prose poem, which is almost a regular narrative. One of them featured the events of a Community Chest fund raising concert he recalled from when he was a boy. In part, telling this story is a comment on the mutability of narrative, because he and his father, who was in the concert, did not recall it the same way. Both versions are in the writing.

He was surprised, some years later, when one of the people he'd mentioned in the piece contacted him looking for a copy of the book it appeared in. The man had lost a lot of his past memory after a massive stroke, and wanted the book as part of his memory rebuilding exercise.

"You never know what kind of a life your work has, and sometimes it's not the kind of life you'd expect," said McKay.

The poet came too Dawson City under the auspices of Yukon Libraries for a visit that was supposed to have taken place earlier on, but got postponed by the rush of events. He rounded out his Dawson trip by spending part of the next morning with a group of grade 9, 11 and 12 students at the Robert Service School and getting a personal tour of the Dawson City Museum.

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Susan Mayes: A Quiet Voice Speaks Powerful Words

by Dan Davidson


The Yukon's current writer in residence, Susan Mayse, was recently in Dawson City. Photo by Dan Davidson

Susan Mayse apologises for her soft voice and moves her chair closer to the small audience in the Dawson Community Library. As the current writer-in-residence for Yukon Libraries, Mayse is visiting Dawson as part of her mandate to enhance interest in writing in Yukon communities and, where possible, meet with people who may be needing help with their own writing.

She seems to be ideally equipped for this sort of task. At her Tidewater Communications website she offers "editorial services to writers, publishers, small businesses, government and non-profit organizations" as well as promoting her own work.

As she tells her audience in Dawson, her writing is all over the literary map. She has written a thriller (Merlin's Web), won the Arthur Ellis award for True Crime for another book (Ginger: The Life and Death of Albert Goodwin), edited and completed her father's memoir (My Father, My Friend), produced a book about earthquakes (The Big One: An Earthquake Survival Guide), written poetry (appeared in the Poets Against the War collection), written essays about Star Wars, science fiction short stories (has a novel in the works and has had several stories in On Spec) as well as literary short stories, scripted and prepared a number of documentaries and stories for CBC radio shows like Morningside and Vanishing Point.

As a writer she has references at the websites for both the Canadian Writers Union and the Science Fiction Writers of America.

Aside from all that writing, she has been a scaler in a salmon cannery, a reporter, photographer and darkroom manager for daily newspapers, a late show disk jockey and a communications consultant.

Some of this comes out while she is reading the afterword she wrote to complete her father's memoir. Her own story, seldom told except in this book, she says, is that of a wandering soul who spent time in the north, time figuring out where she belonged in the world of work and culture, and has always felt a strong connection to the land.

As a writer, she is prepared to dig for what she needs to find, having taken courses in Welsh and Anglo-Saxon literature while in the process of writing Awen, her historical novel about 8th century Wales. This books began with a fragment of poetry, a memorial cross, and an unfinished border.

"I backed into this story because of three fragments," she tells her audience. Later she says that she actually started writing the book and then found she had to do a mound of research in order to write it properly. That it worked is proven by the reception that it has received in Wales, where it is part of an examination for a course of study in Medieval Welsh.

In addition to these long extracts, Mayse also reads a short story called "Flat Black", representative of her work in finding the oral voice in storytelling, and a few poems, including an anti-war piece from last year. Her voice is quiet, and yet the words carry an impact that make it seem louder. She has nothing to apologize for.

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Mark Zuehlke: Striking Gold in the Klondike

by Dan Davidson


Berton House writer-in-residence Mark Zuehlke enjoyed his three months in Dawson City. Photo by Dan Davidson

Like many a writer before him, Mark Zuehlke has struck gold in the Klondike. Sitting in the Riverwest coffee shop on Front Street twenty-four hours before heading south after three months at Berton House, the Victoria based writer settled back with a latte and a sigh.

"I'm taking away a ton of work," he said. "I've edited a novel, and written 38,000 words on the Juno book. The house is an amazingly productive environment for writing. It's been great."

The novel was the final draft of his latest Elias McCann mystery, the latest in a series about a Vancouver island coroner. The "Juno book" is his detailed history of the first few days that Canadian soldiers spent in France after they assaulted Juno Beach during the D-Day offensive in June, 1944. He has to have it finished by the end of January so that it can appear in book stores in June for the 60th anniversary.

As the first writer in about a year to make it all the way through a three month residency (visitors have been plagued with family crises and conflicting schedules for the last while) Zuehlke said he was very pleased with the community and with the time he had to work.

"Dawson is a remarkable little community," said the author of the Yukon Fact Book, who had been here briefly while working on that book a few years ago.

"What I really appreciated was the factor that the writing community here was willing to give you as much space or as little space as you needed. They would have involved you in all sorts of things if you'd wanted to, but they also accept that you might be involved just a little bit. I think that's true of the whole arts community here."

There was a pot luck dinner at Berton House. He met with the town's adult writing group. He spent a whole morning with the senior high English classes at the Robert Service School, and did a public reading at the Dawson Community Library.

"I've gained a much better appreciation of the history of the place. I think that, like a lot of people, I was stuck on the 1896-1901 phase of the place. I had far less knowledge about the after part.

"Getting out and seeing the dredge made a huge impression on me. What I really like about it is the celebration of industrial history that it represents. I don't think there's enough preservation going on in Canada of types of industry that are disappearing."

Zuehlke's interest in history shows through in a lot of his writing, not just in the Italian campaign trilogy which recently concluded with the publication of The Gothic Line. His earlier study of remittance men, Scoundrels, Dreamers and Second Sons, provided him with the template for his oddball protagonist Elias McCann, whose third adventure is now on its way to his publisher. His investigations into military history gave him raw material for McCann's personal history, as did his book on hiking around Vancouver Island, The Vancouver Island South Explorer: The Outdoor Guide.

The hiker in Zuehlke had a great time around Dawson, going out on the creeks, all around the town, up the Dempster Highway.

"Hiking along Angelcomb Peak was absolutely memorable."

He and his wife, Frances Backhouse (Women of the Klondike, Whitecap, 1995) would like to return and do the Yukon River trip in a few years time, and go hiking in Kluane.

"We'll definitely be back."

The suggestion that perhaps Elias McCann should attend a west coast coroner's convention in Dawson City and get involved in a case here wasn't brushed off out of hand. After all, McCann's girlfriend, Vhanna, runs an adventure tourism business and has taken clients into the Tatshenshini River area.

Zuelkhe's writing bug really started with the idea that he would write novels, and he has a few unpublished ones in the filing cabinet at home, some of which might see the light of day eventually. He's delighted to be doing the McCann books, even though he is probably better known now for his ventures into military writing. He detoured into that area because of an interest in history, and a fear of getting pigeonholed as a business writer. He had ghost-written a financial planning guide in 1999 and done a lot of magazine writing on that subject in order to make ends meet and he didn't want to get stuck with it. He would happily alternate histories and novels for the next few years if the market for both holds.

It may help if the McCann books get media interest. The first one, Hands Like Clouds, has been optioned for a television movie, so that's a beginning.

As for the history books, Zuehlke likes to think that history for the masses is just what this country needs more of. He decries the ill service that Canadians have received from the professional historians, saying that many of them over the years have just bee writing dry treatises for each other.

He credits Pierre Berton with showing that Canadian history could be exciting and accessible, that it could be written for the average person to enjoy. It took a while for the trend to take hold and he hopes it will last.

We were concluding the interview with some observations about the unique lifestyle he had noted in Dawson when the couple in the next booth got up to leave.

She slipped the baby into her backpack carrier and shrugged into her early winter clothing. Her partner leaned down, picked up his chainsaw, and off they went, into the crisp afternoon sunshine.

"Yes," said Zuehlke, nodding after them, "that's something you wouldn't see in a lot of places."

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