Monday, July 1, 2013

Calgary floods

Today is Canada day and I will be celebrating it in Trafalgar Square - but my heart will be in Calgary with my friends and family and fellow Calgarians, who are recovering from the worst flood the city has seen since the 30s.

Last Friday, on the day of my book launch, I woke up find Facebook full of messages about people being evacuated from all the neighbourhoods surrounding the river. On Saturday I saw video footage of the very dark, very flooded downtown core.

I am not just a Calgarian but an Inglewoodian. I was born and raised in a house that is now 101 years old and stands just one block from the Bow River. It's age was the thing that saved it - the basement being built when concrete was cheap and the walls could be made thick. Other neighbours haven't been so lucky. Our dear neighbourhood watch, who has been a fixture of the community for longer than I've been alive, has lost his home entirely as it sinks into the sodden ground.

By Sunday the photos being posted online had gained iconic status. The flooded Stampede Grounds. The warped LRT tracks (Roller coaster to work, anyone?). The Saddle Dome full up to the eighth row and Harvey the Hound's head, covered in mud.

And then there was where the sidewalk ends...

The Calgary bike path 

As a kid growing up in Inglewood, the bike path and the river were our playground. When I was over in April I rode my bike along this path, as I'd done hundreds, if not thousands of times before. It was the last time, because now it's gone. Taken away by the sheer power of flood water.

This was where we played Kick-the-Can. This was where we would watch beavers and porcupines at dusk. Last summer my dad photographed a young bald eagle in one of the trees that's now gone - swept away in an unstoppable tide.

 Inglewood is intersected by both the Bow and the Elbow, and it's green surroundings and proximity to the Wildlands, bird sanctuary and fish hatchery make it hard to believe that it's an 'inner-city' neighbourhood located only ten minutes from downtown.

When I was there in April I attended a collaborative art project being supported by the city. The idea was to celebrate the river by celebrating the neighbourhoods that run along it. I was so inspired because Inglewood truly is my favourite place on the planet - of all the places I've travelled thus far. I decided I wanted to tell my stories through some sort of web comic or graphic novel. To share how growing up in Inglewood has influenced so much of who I am and how I live my life.

This project now means more to me than ever before but it's going to be a long time in the works. As it is, I want to do something NOW. In a different time and place I would have the airfare to fly home and jump right in to the clean up effort.

Barring this I have decided to offer the only other thing I have - my artwork. I will donate the total sale of any of my prints or originals to flood recovery efforts. Together we will rebuild our beautiful city.

Happy Canada Day and all my love to everyone in Calgary.
 I'm so proud to call it my home, no matter where I might be in the world. 

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