The Totem Pole Quest

On July 28th I was sent on a quest by fellow Kiwi blogger, Gallivanta from Silkannthreades. A totem pole quest.

For real?


She dedicated a post to me in honor of the release of my third book, Nola Fran Evie. But the dedication came with a proviso…I had to locate a totem pole by Chief Lelooska somewhere in Portland.

The only clue Gallivanta provided was that a replica of the totem pole stood 7,000 miles away in Christchurch Airport, New Zealand. (Who knew?!)

And so I began my quest.

Totem Pole, I'm comin' to get ya!

Totem Pole, I’m comin’ to get ya!


Like any modern-day hero, I used my trusty compass, the Internet, to search for the totem pole. I wore a smug look on my face as I let Google do the work for me from the comfort of my home.

But, I couldn’t find its exact location.

However, I did step into the world of Chief Don “Lelooska” Smith, a great man who was given a great name at the age of 12—“He Who Cuts Against Wood with a Knife”.

And cut against wood with a knife is what he did…all his life in beautiful Oregon. The man carved thousands of masks and over a hundred totem poles, including the one I was hunting with the replica in New Zealand, until he died of cancer in 1996.

So, what’s with the New Zealand connection?

During the 1959 Oregon Centennial Exposition, the intricate pole was carved from cedar to honor Oregonian soldiers who participated in Operation Deep Freeze, a famous multinational series of exploratory missions to Antarctica during the late 1950s.

The base for Operation Deep Freeze was Christchurch Airport.

(And, you silly things never thought you’d learn anything on this blog.)

I was frustrated that I couldn’t find where the totem pole was today in Oregon and began to think that I was failing my mission. As I’m not the quitting type, I kept digging and digging and digging online, which eventually led me to…


Aha! I found you, Totem Pole!

Ecstatic, I called the zoo to plan my heroic visit. After weeks of online research I imagined staring proudly at the totem pole, and how I would gleefully show Gallivanta that I had completed the totem pole challenge in less than a month.

But…the totem pole wasn’t there.

I panicked. Surely the zoo didn’t get rid of this exceptional piece of tribal artistry that had been living there for decades. Surely not!

I talked to one person, then another person, and yet another person until I found Wayne, the mighty project engineer. He said…


Last year the Oregon Zoo began a major transformation to create the Condors of Columbia, which opened in May, and Elephant Lands, a project I’m very excited about which is opening in 2015. This expansion will quadruple the space the elephants inhabit, drawing on more than fifty years of research and science-based care to build a natural environment to honor the animals.

Come on, who doesn’t love elephants?!

During this time, the pole underwent a hefty restoration process—repairing cracks and rot, as well as painting, cleaning and detailing the carving. It was an intense team effort led by Lelooska’s brother, Chief Fearon “Tsungani” Smith, assisted by zoo volunteers, and overseen by the Lelooska Foundation.

This totem pole’s kind of a big deal.

Wayne and the Oregon Zoo were excited to hear about my totem pole quest and were generous to bring my husband, Mr. H, and I to the zoo when the totem pole was back in action.

It was finally happening. Now at the end of September, I was coming to the end of my quest. I was beaming with pride, eager to see the elusive totem pole I had chased for two months.

Then, I did something so typically Britt…


totem pole fail

Totem Pole Fail!

I went on the wrong day, before the pole was resurrected.

Good one, Britt!

I know, I know. But, we made the best of it and enjoyed a leisurely stroll through the zoo.

The bear and I had matching outfits.

This bear and I had matching outfits.

This goat trio looked like they were posing for an album cover.

This goat trio looked like they were posing for an album cover.

bobcat in cave

This bobcat let us hang out in his cave.

I skipped the carcass feeding. But Mr. H seemed satisfied.

I skipped the carcass feeding. But Mr. H seemed satisfied.


The following Monday I sheepishly admitted my mistake to Wayne from the zoo. He was nice enough to pat me gently on the head and invite us back for another visit when the pole was actually there.

Then finally…


Totem Pole Tada!

Totem Pole Tada!

This is truly one of the best zoos I have ever been to and I look forward to Elephant Lands opening next year. A big thank you to Wayne and the Oregon Zoo for being so awesome during the totem pole quest.

Gallivanta, you stinker…totem pole quest COMPLETED! :)


The Life Enthusiast Chronicles with Gallivanta

Last month Andrea Stephenson of Harvesting Hecate revealed how crucial it is to remain curious in life, to explore every piece of the world, inside and out. In my monthly series, The Life Enthusiast Chronicles, beautiful beings from all over the world explain why life is so awesome to them.

This month I’m overjoyed to bring you guys Gallivanta from Silkannthreades all the way from New Zealand. Gallivanta’s blog is always playful, positive, intelligent, and inspiring. Even simple photos from her garden seem to awaken something special in all of her readers, including yours truly. Her youthful zeal shines through her words and I always leave her blog smiling big. 

To show you all one example of what a lively woman she is, back at the end of July Gallivanta sent me on a totem pole quest in Portland. Yep, a totem pole quest. I’ll write about my discovery next week, so stay tuned!

On a side note, I feel pretty darn special after working with her on this project, because unlike so many of you out there, I know her real name. (Don’t worry, Gallivanta…your secret’s safe with me.)

Delight us, Gallivanta…

 Hello. Kia Ora. :)

Sheep in the Square

Sheep in the Square

 So pleased to meet you.

Only woolly threads here.

Only woolly threads here.

I am Gallivanta of Silkannthreades, and I am feeling rather sheepish about being here, as a guest on the Life Enthusiast Chronicles.

Because I am not so much an enthusiast, as an observer who quietly enjoys watching the world go by, and wondering what it all means…

What do you think of the new view?

What do you think of the new view?

 …and how it all knits together, or doesn’t.

The yarn unravels

The yarn unravels

Don’t get me wrong. I love life, but in a contented, sipping cocoa, knitting granny’s bed socks by the fire, sort of way. It’s my natural inclination but, really, these days I haven’t much energy for anything else.

You see a lot has unravelled since our city was hit by the big earthquake on 4 September, 2010. And, as if that weren’t bad enough most people then had the stuffing knocked out of them for a while, when the deadly 2011 earthquake erupted underneath us with the force of 15,000 tonnes of TNT.

It takes some time to stand up again after a blast like that. And when you do arise, you alternate between exhaustion and bone-weary exhaustion. Enthusiasm becomes subdued, takes a back seat for most folk, but it is definitely still there.

Every now and then, it pops up somewhere to remind us of its presence and to allow us an exuberant whoop of pure, silly joy. 

Did we surprise you?

Did we surprise you?

And to forget for a moment that, behind today, are the days that changed our lives, and continue to change them.

The Dark Days

The Dark Days

Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, for without the shake-up of the quakes I wouldn’t have started my blog; I wouldn’t have met the ultimate life enthusiast, Britt, and so many other wonderful, positive bloggers, happy to come along for the ride, as I bleat about the small joys and little woes of my ordinary life.

That’s something to think about, eh?

Oh, and here’s another thought. What’s with this using woolly threads in my post? They are not silk, as in Silkannthreades!

Well, since we don’t have much silk in New Zealand, wool has to be my visual substitute. And, some New Zealand wool, let it be known, is every bit as fine as silk. :)

Not bad, eh? What do EWE say?

Not bad, eh? What do EWE say?

Thanks so much for having me, and, just so you know I am not really a woolly sheep.

Here are some of my favourite photos from my blog.

The first one is me, as a little one growing up in Fiji. The last photo is me, growing older, in Christchurch, and the middle drawing is how a lovely blogger friend sees the little girl who continues on, in me, despite the woe of recent years.

Looking forward; Gallivanta circa 1958-59

Looking forward; Gallivanta circa 1958-59

and healing

and healing

Power of the flower

Power of the flower

And, finally, a last little stitch to hold together all the threads of this post……

The poetic theme of my blog

Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know,
Thro’ the world we safely go.

Joy and woe are woven fine,
A clothing for the soul divine.
Under every grief and pine
Runs a joy with silken twine.

William Blake (Auguries of Innocence)

© silkannthreades

Remembering Reading

Kindle cat

Reading…remember that?

That gorgeously uninterrupted time when you snuggle with your imagination. When you travel to a faraway place you’ve never been to before, but you get to wear your most ridiculous jammies. When you experience life from another person’s eyes, but you’re still you…only a little better.

When I took my social media and blogging hiatus in SeptemberI knew exactly how I was going to fuel my less technology driven world. With books.

Rather than scanning my Facebook feed while drinking my coffee in the morning, I read a chapter. Rather than coming up with 140 characters of sensational wit for a tweet, I read a few paragraphs. Rather than speeding on the social media freeway, I slowed down, pulled over even, and finished a great story.

Four great stories, actually.

At first I wasn’t sure what I was going to read during my month of remembering reading. My to-read list is substantial and there is plenty to choose from, but what I challenged myself to do is this…

Read the classics that slipped through my fingers. 

You know the ones, right?

It’s that book that everybody hated in high school, but you read something else that everyone hated. It’s that book that’s always referenced in a discussion, joke, or film and you’re totally clueless. It’s that infuriating quote everybody likes to say. It’s that cool, infamous character you never got a chance to meet.

It’s that book.

Don’t ask me how, but these are the stories I missed out on over the years…

pride and prejudice


the alchemist

the catcher in the rye


That’s right, Kiddos. I missed The Catcher in the (freaking) Rye!

Although it took my American ass fifty or so pages to understand the language, Pride and Prejudice was my favorite of the four. But, I surprisingly ended up loving Salinger’s gritty little number for very different reasons.

I’ve decided to continue my classics tackling book project in October.

See that picture of me and Aphrodite the cat up there? Besides my bird-covered pajama pants matching her pink nose, the book we’re finally reading on my Kindle is—wait for it—Jane (freaking) Eyre.

Wow! You missed that one too, Britt?!

Damn skippy!

You know something? I always hear people say they don’t have time to read. Always.

Naturally, as a writer this scares the crap out of me. It appears there are still a few of us out there squeezing in quality time with books, so I’m gonna keep writing some.

We can blame our jobs, obligations, and to-do lists. That’s the easy thing to do. But I think if we all really look at how we’re spending our spare time, we can make more room for reading.

Is that TV show really better than the incredible book collecting dust on your shelf? Is everybody’s business on social media honestly more entertaining than a story an author took years to create?

I think you know what the answer is. Remember reading…it’s good stuff.

So, I have to know. Which classics did you guys miss out on that you either read in recent years, or are going to grab and read right now?


The Lovers Bench Is Gone

The other day I learned some sad news when I went on my favorite hike. At the viewpoint, the lovers bench was gone. Forever.

Back in May I wrote a post called The Bench Where Lovers Had Been.

I usually do the same hike every week, about two hours round-trip from my house. Toward the end of the uphill hike, there are countless switchbacks to really make you work for it.

But at the top of the hill is the greatest reward, a downtown Portland and Mount Hood view enjoyed from the comfort of a weathered bench. The lovers bench.

I played a little fiction game each time I went up there. I’d pick out a couple carved in the bench, then make up a boy meets girl story in my head before heading back home.

Over the past few months this bench even inspired me to consider writing my first short story. (Consider, meaning I haven’t started a damn thing. But I intended to after more quality time with the bench.)

Anyhoo, this was the bench then…

Carved Bench

Bench Carving

This is the bench now…

bench pittock mansion

bench with roses

So many professions of love tattooed on the decrepit wood had vanished. This strange, smooth wood no longer held stories of romance, foolishness, and hope.

The fresh and shiny bench didn’t woo me at all. To tell you the truth, this guy was kind of a son of a bitch…um, bench.

Yep, he was a real son of a bench.

I preferred the refreshingly true one from before, all genuine and battered, even if it was a splinter in the butt waiting to happen.

Reluctantly I sat down on the impostor and sipped my water in silence. The city continued on below, as if it never had a single thought about that bench on the hill above.

My fingers ran across the perfectly even surface, searching for the charming grooves that were once embedded in the wood. Craving those carvings of love.

Then I looked down at the brand new black armrest and smiled.

There it was…the very first one. And, a new lovers bench was born.

love graffiti