Original submitted photo and resulting painted portrait, 2020. Copyright People of Canada Portrait Project 2020
1. Where we you born?
J – Arcola, Saskatchewan
C – Victoria, BC
2. Where do you call home now?
Both – our “home quarter” is SW31-5-4-West of the 2nd – by Browning, SK - just east of Lampman, SK
3. What are your occupations?
J - Farmer – Grain
C – High School teacher (English, Art, Theatre, Social Studies), I also have a custom Cake baking business.
4. If you could attempt any other profession, what would it be?
J – Meteorologist or something to do with the study of history
C- I would run a whole foods café/gallery/coffee house or I would be creating trailers for film and television.
5. What are you passionate about?
J – My farm, hockey, politics (not so much politicians) art and jazz/blues music
C – Education, young people, food, theatre and art, custodianship of the environment and its people, First Nations reconciliation.
6. Do you enjoy Canadian music? Who are some of your favourite musicians?
J – Yes. Stan Rogers, Tragically Hip, Gordon Lightfoot, Stompin’ Tom, Oscar Peterson, Glenn Gould, Jann Arden, Neil Young, Jack Semple.
C – The same as Jeff, but add Joni Mitchell, Great Big Sea, Metis Fiddle music, Oscar Lopez – I love music that tells stories, lyrically or aesthetically. Not enough room to write about the Canadian music I love.
7. What do you like to do on a Sunday?
J – Work, sleep in when not farming, brunch, reading, BBQ, watching sports
C – Cook and bake, design cakes, read articles to learn new stuff, hang out with our cats and dogs, play games or cards, kayak on our little dugout (pond) behind our house, garden. I like to be busy.
8. Politically speaking, which way do you lean?
J - Left.
C – Farther left.
9. Do you play any sports? Favourite sports to watch?
J - I used play every sport when I was younger. I was a sprinter all the way through to the end of high school. Played defense in hockey for many years. Also, golf. I watch ALL sports.
C – I am not really a sports person, but I love to kayak and sail. In school I liked volleyball, field hockey, and badminton.
10. Do you have a hidden talent or hobby that you enjoy?
J - Singing, mostly Sinatra. Love to read, non-fiction.
C – I sing, mostly jazz and jazz standards, but also folk and roots. I think I’m a pretty good theatre director and designer, it was my old career before I moved here, and I miss it. I’m addicted to hobbies, so my hobby is having hobbies.
11. How do you celebrate your culture? and what are your family traditions?
J - We had harvest meals every fall – Mom would bring food out to the field and we would eat as a family during combining time then get back in the combine and grain trucks. She made the best bread and pies. We’ve had the farm for 4 generations, almost 125 years. We still do harvest meals, but not as often as back in the day.
We went to our small country church for Candlelight Xmas Eve every year, then we would come home for Shrimp Toast and open gifts.
We do things around Christine’s family traditions, she uses our grain to make the wheat dish at Uke Xmas every year and I walk it around the house, and we celebrate the traditions of the place around us, so for example we go every Feb to Winnipeg to the Festival du’Voyageur which is a large Metis celebrations with food and music and drink and events. We try every year to see Jack Semple, who is a Sask blues guitarist – and we also go to Victoria, this is our family Christmas tradition.
C – My Mom is Ukrainian, and my Dad is from Budapest, I do a lot of traditional celebration mostly centered around food because I love to cook, and our kids do too. For example – we do the 12 course Uke Christmas supper, I bake my Dad the Hungarian pastries his Mom used to at Xmas, we decorate the tree using some of the candies that were from my Dad’s family tree back in Europe. Dad makes goulash in a pot on a tripod over a fire in the backyard with my brother and we try to get him to do that whenever we are home in Victoria.
We decorate A LOT for Xmas – and yup, it’s a Canadiana theme.
We travel every summer to BC from SK. When we hit the heart of lumber country around Salmon Arm/Chase, B.C. we have to stop the car and get out to smell the pulp mill. When we drive through a mountain tunnel in BC, we hold our breath and put our palms on the ceiling of the interior of the car the whole way through the tunnel to see who can last, even the driver.
Please don’t report us to the police.
12. What is the most important issue to you as a Canadian citizen?
J - Social issues, in particular health, education and environmental issues – keeping of the land.
C – First Nations reconciliation.
13. Where do you go to be in nature?
J - I can’t get away from nature we have 6000 acres that surround us, not that I would want to, but it’s probably 80% of my day, every day, every season. 100% when not sleeping, in the summer and fall.
C- I hacked out a walking trail around and raked up a “beach” on one the edges of our dugout in the big bluff of trees on part of our property. It gives me great comfort to walk, sit and kayak there.
14. I have three days in your neighborhood, what must I not miss to get a real sense of life in your part of Canada?
Both - Go to a grain elevator, get on a combine or in the grain truck, kids’ hockey game, drive the back roads (grids), go to a potluck fowl supper, the Christmas concert, walk across a field, a house concert, visit the old guys on coffee row at the café or at the local mechanic’s shop who put a coffee pot on one day and unintentionally ended up with the local hangout for farmers, ride a Zamboni, community curling, go to our local “5 mile restaurant”, an artist colony or folksy music venues, the rocky bluffs of Roche Percee, Sask.
15. Do you have a favourite museum or art gallery?
J – Royal BC, RCMP museum, Mackenzie Art Gallery in Regina, the old museum in Deadwood, South Dakota, Cannington Manor Historical Site, Batoche, too many to list.
C- Royal BC, Batoche, I love the Met and MoMA, Musee d’Orsay, and the most beautiful little gallery I’ve ever seen was in Orieveto, Italy.
16. Mounties, hockey, maple syrup, beer, maple leafs and eh…do you partake?
Do you wish Canada would get over all the stereotypical icons of Canadiana?
J - 100% all in. No, I’ve come to embrace and sometimes even make good fun of it.
C – All in too. We redecorated our old farmhouse, which is a summer home for our European student farm interns, in 100% Canadiana
17. What does being Canadian mean to you?
J – A sense of equality, trying to help those who need it or can’t help themselves.
C – It’s a sense of being really grounded. I think about the expanse of Canada, the land and sea and the diversity of people and it gives me back my perspective. I think being grounded and helping others find or restore their grounding is a proud and uniquely Canadian thing.
18. I see you wearing a NASA t-shirt, are you interested in the universe and space exploration?
J - Well I got that NASA shirt at the Kennedy Space Centre which was mind blowing. I am very interested in space, origins of the universe and continuous learning.
I see you wearing what looks like a ‘Wet Coast’ t-shirt with a green VW van – is there a connection to the West Coast of Canada for you?
C - That’s my “West Coast” redvan.ca tshirt. I got off the ferry in Tsawwassen, left my kids in the car and jumped the chain link fence to get to the vendors village to get that shirt because he was sold out of it on the Island when I was in Coombs.
I was born and raised on the Island during the last vestige of the old school hippie hey days of Sombrio Beach, bush parties, log rolling, fiddle heads, and Gulf Island festival hopping. My plaid, flannel lumberjacket smelled of beach camping smoke and bull kelp for years after I moved. I went to school there and did my theatre degree at UVIC. Margaret’s Bay Beach and Mt. Doug in Saanich were my home beaches growing up, my parents still live there, our cabin was in Leechtown.
That shirt and that Island is my heart. I love it so much that I was shocked that it even had the capacity to make a scrap of space for the prairies; which it sure did, but we’ll retire back on the island.
19. Where in Canada would you like to explore that you have not yet?
J - How much time do you have? So many, but my top 3 are: Montreal, Cape Breton, Whitehorse or the Yukon.
C – Far north and the far east are next on my list. I would like to see as much as I can.
20. How do you feel about having your portraits painted? And who took your photo that you submitted?
J – Umm, I feel strange because portraits are usually done of important or famous people, and I don’t view myself as either.
C – I’m feeling a little of what Jeff is feeling too. But I think it is really important to chronical everyday people and tell stories. In theatre and in teaching I do that too, it’s important.
Our son Carter took the picture in the field right beside our house.
Wow! we love this story and all the glorious details that paint a beautiful, and cultural view of what being Canadian means. We think a novel is in your future, write it down and share it with Canada! No matter where we were born we all relate to those simple joys of life and family traditions. Thank you for sharing your story with us.