Thursday, December 13, 2007

Yellowknife loses the Fish Lady

I returned home from holidays this week to sad news - Nancy Buckley, Yellowknife's Fish Lady, passed away on December 4. She died suddenly, of natural causes. She was 46.

Nancy and her husband, Archie, own a fish plant on the edge of Jolliffe Island, just across the channel from the government wharf. On a winter's afternoon, I'd whip over there on my snowmobile to pick up fillets. Sometimes trout, sometimes jackfish, but more often than not I'd get their fabulous white fish. I'd clump up the steps of the plant - a prefab industrial building - and down the hall to the shop. Although people came and went all the time, I usually had to ring the bell. Through the door across the hall I'd see Nancy filleting. A slip of the knife, and she'd finish the one she was working on, then come help me.

I've always thought of Nancy a bit of a Flower Child - she had long straight hair, wore comfortable clothes and was always happy, always smiling. The Buckleys charge for fish by the fillet, and if she thought one of the pieces was too small, she'd quietly slip an extra into the bag. "Give those a little shower before you cook them," was her usual advice.

In the summer, when the fish plant was not accessible, she'd sell fish off the back of her truck in front of the KFC.

She was a Yellowknife icon.

If you want some idea of the impact of her death on the community, check out the CBC North website. CBC has been reading some of these tributes on the morning show this week.

Her funeral was held this afternoon. Bet the place was packed.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

My secret life

I spent last weekend in beautiful Burnaby, B.C., at a workshop for belly dance instructors.

Yes, it's true - not only do I belly dance, I've been teaching others how-to for the past year and a half.

Some people in Yellowknife are aware of my secret identity as a belly dance instructor - the City of Yellowknife Recreation Guide is a well-read document, after all. But many friends and acquaintances are just too darn busy with their own lives to notice. And when they do, most think it's cool - belly dance has a bad rep in some quarters, but Yellowknife is an easy-going place.

I started belly dancing about four years ago, and recommend it for writers, students and others who spend long stretches of time sitting at a computer. Wrist circles are great for loosening up tight muscles in the hands and forearms, and my massage therapist has had much less work to do on my upper back since I started doing shoulder rolls. And anything that get the blood circulating and more oxygen into your system is a good thing. It's also a really good excuse for spending far too much money on fabulous costumes and jewellery.

The workshop gave me a lot of ideas about how to improve my class, and I was introduced to some new moves I need to master. Also had an opportunity to see some of the local dancers perform on Sunday night - they're a talented crew down in Vancouver.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Winter hits the north country

The snow is here, and this time it looks like it's staying. On Wednesday afternoon I went out to run some errands, only to find I had entered the snow globe zone. I had to walk into the wind, and by the time I reached my destination - an entire two and a half blocks away - the front of my black leather jacket was solid white. Minutes later the snow in my hair started to melt. I was cutting through the drug store when one of the cosmetic ladies caught sight of me. She didn't actually gasp, but her eyes went really wide before she recovered herself and said something sympathetic about the weather. I didn't bother to look in the mirror until I got back to the office. Good thing the weather hit after my lunch-hour United Way meeting. Hard to make a good impression on community leaders with streaky make-up and Gorgon-like hair.

While I was struggling into the wind, a man passed and said "Typical September weather, eh?" He's right, of course. Despite our lousy fall, winter is on the late side. Too bad Old Man Winter couldn't have held out for a few more days, and let the trick-or-treaters do their thing without biting wind and icy streets.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Radio days

Just spent three days in a how-to-write-radio-drama workshop with seven other Yellowknife writers. It was back to the future for me - I took part in a couple of radio drama workshops in the late '80s/early '90s and wrote some skits that aired on CBC Mackenzie. Surprising how much a person can forget in fifteen years . . .

We were all asked to come up with an idea for a skit (or a series), write a first draft, listen to a table read, write a second draft, and hear it read again. I was encouraged to find that I can still write under pressure - and what's better - revise under pressure.

The best part was hanging around with a group of funny, smart talented writers for three days. The workshop leader was Kelley Jo Burke, a spoken word/radio arts producer with English language performance programming in Regina, who is not only an engaging instructor, but a one-person sound effects factory.

Now if I was really ambitious, I'd finish that script and pitch it to my friendly neighbourhood CBC producer.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Adventures in cyberspace

Hello and welcome to my blog, part of my new cyberspace presence, along with my website. I am a writer of short stories and a photographer of northern landscapes (both natural and man-made), living in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada.

A number of my stories have been published in Canadian magazines and anthologies. The people at Storyteller magazine have been particularly good to me and run a number of my pieces. One of these, "The Prospector’s Trail," was reprinted in a textbook called Imprints 11. Over the years, some of the students who’ve studied "The Prospector’s Trail" have hunted me down via a string of electronic bread crumbs on the internet to get information about me and about Yellowknife. Well, my little chickadees — I’ve decided to make it a whole lot easier for you. I live to serve, after all.

So stay tuned for updates on my writing, life in the ’Knife, and anything else rattling around my overworked brain.

- Cathy