Art / Blogging / Culture / Cycling / Food

Blogging is Painting My Story Robe

The Blackfoot Indians in the prairies passed on their history and collective memory through storytelling and in pictographs. Painted images on tanned buffalo leather hide are called story robes. Occasionally they painted stories on tipi covers, blankets and rocks too.

One of several painted stories on a Siska story robe made of tanned buffalo hide. Glenbow Museum, 2013. Photo by J. Chong

One of several painted stories on a Siska story robe made of tanned buffalo hide. Glenbow Museum, Calgary AB 2013. Photo by J. Chong

Blogging is our 21st century painting and wearing our story robe.

When I began blogging, it was about living in an Olympic city, 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver BC. My blog wove in observations and snapshots from my bike saddle.

However, my blog scope had to expand more than just the Olympics and later, more than just cycling. I mentioned awhile ago in a guest blog post, I certainly wanted to avoid spinning a dull daily cycling training blog. Would  other wannabe cyclists be

Story robe from Siksika First Nations, part of Blackfoot native Indian group. Glenbow Museum, Calgary AB 2013. Photo by J. Chong

Story robe from Siksika First Nations, part of Blackfoot native Indian group. Glenbow Museum, Calgary AB 2013. Photo by J. Chong

inspired by insights, on my sweat, nutritional intake, timing and hill ascents? I doubt such  boring repetitive verbiage would lasso back any reader, months from now. I did the hill or I didn’t do that hill. Move on.

My Cycling or Work Performance– To Fade into Oblivion
Certainly, cycling techie details or my sports physiology, are the last things my family and friends will want to read about me. Nor do they care about my thoughts related to

Magnificent bald eagle spotted high up in cedar tree. during a bike ride.  District of West Vancouver 2013. Photo by J. Becker. Hopefully what I see on bike is of lasting value to others, not my cycling performance.

Magnificent bald eagle spotted high up in cedar tree during a bike ride. District of West Vancouver 2013. Photo by J. Becker. Hopefully what I see is of greater value to others, not my cycling performance.

my career and profession. I am formally trained and career-wise, a  librarian and information professional. A lot of us library folks initially blogged to show for work-related reasons, we could master this relatively simple skill. A lot of my colleagues latched onto it earlier than I did.

However, I don’t see much more unique fodder I could add to  blogosphere on library information science amongst thousands of other  librarians. If I blogged anything work-related, it would be human stories on intriguing people and events that I’ve had the privilege to encounter during my career.*

Tiny 3 inch lizard spotted while we stopped during bike ride. Lahaini, Maui Island. Hawai'i 2010. Photo by J. Becker

Tiny 3 inch lizard spotted while we stopped during bike ride. Lahaini, Maui Island. Hawai’i 2010. Photo by J. Becker

My Blog Topic Tasters
Cycle Write Blog to me, captures the synergy of cycling and writing where one feeds the other. Cycling is just a wonderful, convenient narrative thread for me to knit together my stories for my robe, on only a small part of my life journey. As you can see, those stories aren’t exclusively about cycling at all –art, food, culture, history and travel.

Fish mosaics embedded in rocks by beach along the Pacific Spirit bike Trail in West Vancouver. 2013. Photo by J.Chong

Fish mosaics embedded in rocks by beach along the Pacific Spirit bike path in West Vancouver. 2013. Photo by J.Chong. Lion’s Gate Bridge in background.

These are personal favourite hobbyhorses below and reasons for why I trot out some stories and observations:

Art - a lifelong interest since I was a kid. I packed in art courses galore in school. However, I never took any art courses at university. Didn’t  think it would earn me a living no matter how talented I was.  Then when I started working full-time,  I ended up being an evening art course dilettante and art dabbler.  I have massive stock of art supplies I’m still trying to wade through. My art play occasionally pops up on Cycle Write.  Even my family members see some of my art for the first time –on this blog. I live several thousand km. apart from them.   I also enjoy art galleries and all art forms.

Lunch bike stop at Cascadia Bakery, Victoria BC. 2013. Photo by J. Chong

Lunch bike stop at Cascadia Bakery, Victoria BC. 2013. Photo by J. Chong

Food - an all favourite subject world uniter. We all need food. Therefore, we all have opinions. It’s not a starring topic for my blog. I just latch onto what I think, are lesser known food dishes or showcase an ingredient not familiar  in mainstream North America. No, I don’t offer heirloom recipes because I’m lazy. That means I have to test ingredient proportions properly. Ok, I might. If you ask nicely.

Painting bag and painting stones that served as brushes for painting a Sisiska story robe. Glenbow Museum, Calgary AB. 2013.

Painting bag and painting stones that served as brushes for painting a Sikiska story robe. Glenbow Museum, Calgary AB. 2013.

History - usually I zoom into the people side of things. It’s not really about the artifacts, dates or event. I’m a believer that people, a community and a nation, can improve their future if they know and understand their own history. I’ve had a personal interest in historical experiences of the Chinese in Canada and the U.S. I’ve amassed a little

My father. Unknowingly he immigrated to Canada-- just 3 years after the Parliament of Canada granted Chinese-Canadians the right to vote in 1948. Photo taken in southern Ontario, approx. early 1950's, in his early 20's.

My father. Unknowingly he immigrated to Canada, just 3 years after the Parliament of Canada granted Chinese-Canadians the right to vote in 1948. Photo taken in southern Ontario, approx. early 1950′s, in his early 20′s.

collection of books, both non-fiction and novels in this area. You cannot plan your future a lot better if you don’t know where you are now and how you got there in the first place.

Culture - See history. It’s all fused along with food, art too.

Cycling 35 km. towards Victoria on Lochside bike route from Swartz Bay B.C. Ferry terminal. Vancouver Island 2013. Photo by J. Becker

Cycling 35 km. towards Victoria on Lochside bike route from Swartz Bay B.C. Ferry terminal. Vancouver Island 2013. Photo by J. Becker

Cycling - Yes, I’ve done a lot of cycling. But I’m not a racer nor randonneur. Some years I did rack up 7,000 km. annually.  Recently it’s under 2,500 km. so far this year. I’m way past beating up myself. I’m just happy to bike daily. That’s good enough for me. I just bike for transportation, fitness, health and fun. Yes, there’s all sorts of cycling culture. No, I don’t have a fixie bike. I’ve never had a bike with dropped down handlebars and don’t plan to get one. No, I don’t plan on cycling in high heels. That doesn’t sound safe to me.

Ornate church paintings considered as "written" (for Eastern Orthodox Christian Church) because for centuries, they depicted biblical stories for illiterate Christians. St. Vladimir's Church. Calgary AB 2013. Photo by J. Chong. Alberta has several well preserved churches across the province to serve its large Ukranian community.

Ornate church paintings considered as “written” (for Eastern Orthodox Christian Church) because for centuries, they depicted biblical stories for illiterate Christians. St. Vladimir’s Church. Calgary AB 2013. Photo by J. Chong. Alberta has several well preserved churches across the province to serve its large Ukranian community.

Travel - It’s all fused with all of the above topics. Sometimes you’re not sure if I’m actually living or visiting a city.  Great, ’cause you can be a tourist in your own home city too. Suffice to say, that I write as a Canadian who’s lived in Canada all her life.

Brilliant fall colours and mountain cliffs near Sante Fe, New Mexico. Oil painting 2006. By J. Chong.  Area inspired painter, Georgia O'Keefe who lived in on her farm, she named Ghost Ranch.

Brilliant fall colours and mountain cliffs near Sante Fe, New Mexico. Oil painting 2006. By J. Chong. This area inspired painter, Georgia O’Keefe, who lived on her farm, that she named Ghost Ranch.

So I wear these prime subjects on my story robe. The story ink is already embedded into my garb. Unlike war stories that might be found on certain story robes, my blog robe doesn’t have much ranting. It just takes a lot of energy for me to rant …to a bunch of strangers. I’d rather rant and get useful feedback from friends and family who know me well.

Church. Big Hawai'i Island 2002. Photo by J. Chong

Church. Big Hawai’i Island 2002. Photo by J. Chong

After all, a blog is just like a story blanket with limited space. There’s only a slice of time for me to blog for you.

Blog Appetizers
Chong, J. Blogging and Cycling: It’s Like a Drug. Guest blog post in One Cool Site on Blogging Tips, Nov. 21, 2011.

* Observations at different jobs: A well known Canadian, construction site culture.
Witnessed celebratory entrance of this Canadian wheelchair athlete at the end of his worldwide tour to raise awareness for spinal cord injury. He visited our organization, a rehabilation hospital for adults with spinal cord injuries.

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Finally Getting the Right to Vote.  Includes a very short videoclip on the Chinese Canadians soldiers and nurses  who served overseas during WW II for Canada which galvanized effort to change federal law. Previously even a person of Chinese ancestry, born in Canada, could not vote.

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30 thoughts on “Blogging is Painting My Story Robe

  1. Great metaphors in this post. I had never heard of story robes, but you are right–they sound a lot like blogs. And I love the correlation between biking and writing. I wrote a post once that was Freshly Pressed that compared blogging to the front porch culture of decades ago, and I once did a post called something like “Why I Pedal WordPress Bloggers: My Life in Bikes.” Hope you have a lovely Sunday. Didn’t know you had done a guest post for timethief. Going to check that one out. Love the new look, by the way.

    Hugs from Ecuador,
    Kathy

    • I’m gonna check out your pedal wordpress bloggers. I assume it’s in your present blog. I love the metaphor of front porch culture and blogging, Kathryn! So true. I don’t have a front porch, just 2 highrise balconies.z:)

  2. Jean, love this post! I am drawn to stories. Whether they’re told orally, with pictures, or the written word. It is our stories, woven into each others’ stories over time that tell the story of humanity.
    Diana xo

  3. So many stories in one life! And your Dad is so thin! I appreciate how you stitch the parts of your life together, food, art, cycling, environmental concerns. Gives me hope for the world. A little anyway.

    • I’m sure you have way more stories too, jbw. I suspect my father now is the same weight @85 yrs. Meaning he’s lost weight back to the time of his entry into Canada. Right now he’s 98 lbs.: he has prostate cancer. So a loss of nearly 8 lbs or so over the past few years. Living in Alberta where the economy is highly dependent on oil, gas and agriculture, environmental concerns should be at the top of politicians’ priorities. But the industries such as oil tar sands rule over a lot of protests. Very different in British Columbia where most citizens want to block the oil pipeline from Alberta. I just bike.

  4. Loved the “ado” part. Well, you seem like you are so many things, so well rounded, then you definitely have nothing to worry about. Just mix it all up, ’cause I do agree about not having a monotonous pattern for posting. But you know what in the end, like I always suggest, “blog the way you are”.
    I only did it once, cycling and taking pictures of the things I see. It’s about time that I do that again as it has been awhile.

  5. Dear Jean,
    This post is fabulous. As I lived on the prairies for many years I was aware of story blankets so the your title thrilled me. I love the way you wove in the metaphors here and your stories. I remain your biggest fan.
    Love,
    TiTi

    • Thanks for your supportive visits and comments, titi. Actually before I lived in the prairies, I never learned about the story robes/blankets. My education didn’t go deep enough.. but so many stories to live, to tell and little time.

  6. Dear Jean, this is a creative and warm-feeling post. I like the metaphors you use and I like your down-to-earth blog “personality.” I too enjoy cycling, stories, food, travel and for some reason it is easy for me to become seduced by visions of grandeur of becoming a grand randonneur, owning several vintage bikes, etc. etc. etc. Keeping it real here, thanks.

    • I love your blog logo of birdie with chef hat on bike. :) Your drop-by and observations as new visitor is most appreciated. So you own several bikes too? None of mine are elegant vintage, but each has story.

  7. I just love your blog and your writing because it is so diverse and I like the way you write, simply yet beautifully. I enjoy reading about your cycling adventure and I love how you show scenery and provide background to the places where you go. Love the new look of your blog by the way! I think you should put a link to this post in your about page too.

    • It’s a great suggestion Rita, once I get more time on this blog for the about page. Thx for the compliments but I’m still trying to find ways of simplifying my writing even more. Hope my blog keeps you in touch with a part of Canada which is different from Montreal, but it’s still Canada –even if cold, snowy right now.

  8. I love the story blanket. Once when I was in Arizona, my Dad showed me a huge mosaic – about 18-foot high – just off a trail. As I recall there were cows nearby. I often wondered who painted it and why they chose that location in the middle of nowhere.

    My stories also veer into several different directions. That’s just the way my mind works and I love the diversity you show on your blog. Thanks for visiting and commenting on mine.

    • Perhaps that isolated rural area had some history from long ago, Judy. Thanks for dropping by and hope to see you from time to time, earthrider.

    • Thanks for the link which I will pass to my partner since it appears some of those themes are only for self-hosted wordpress.org blogs.

      Yup, wondering about another theme. It’s a matter of finding time to change and do the detailed adjustments. We’ll see..

  9. Wonderful weaving of the various narratives of your life. Really like the analogy of the story robe in the blogging. And the Indian robe in the photo is very cool. (*whisper* I think the reblog will not only fit well here but will be quite a treat for your readers*) =)

    • Thanks for dropping by. And later, your editorial whip. :) I wish the reblog button was available for certain posts since I don’t turn on the reblogging button. I appreciate just a simple link and credit to Cycle Write. The good thing about personal blog stories is that we own our own stories because we own our family, our friends, our life experiences. I doubt people “want” to own my family and all the story baggage. :)

      • I just wrestled with the monitor the past 45 min augh. The day spread dark before me – I thought I would not have access to my blog all day and wouldn’t be able to contact you. Anyway, here I am! You’ll get your link back on the post today. =) Funny you say that: Writing parts 1-3 for the Race was the first time I talked of myself, where I come from, and Korean-Americans bc I didn’t consider any of that important enough on my blog. Didn’t want to take up readers’ time (my mantra). And I went through with it only to jump-start the series and model it for the contributors. Interestingly, the feedback on my story as well as the series has given me license – and a bud of a desire – to share more from a personal angle. Not to talk about myself but bc I see it does what I’ve said successful blogging does: hold up a mirror for people to see and think about their own past (even for the differences that stand out).

        • You’re well set on your way to loyal audience. Looks sizable too. I’m semi-slack. There are methods which I’m not using –Twitter, Facebook. Ach, blogging is enough for me. As for my personal/family history, I don’t see it as any more captivating than other 2nd generation Asian-North Americans. I dunno.

  10. My thoughts on this blog post?? Lovely, lyrical, thoughtful, and compelling are words that come to mind, Jean. Also: exceptionally fine.

    I was not familiar with story robes. How interesting to view blogging as a kind of modern-day version of same. It fits.

    Your photos, as always, enhance and illuminate your words. Many a blogger could take a lesson from you on that score– a lovely and harmonious balance between word and image.

    Loved your oil painting of the rugged terrain near Santa Fe (always great to see any of your paintings), and you framed those church interiors beautifully.

    Also loved the photo of your dad– very poignant and affecting. I was sorry to read that he has prostate cancer, I shall say a prayer for him. My own dad will turn 90 in July, and has dementia. Life is such a glorious mystery, and that B&W photo seemed to capture some of it.

    (The less said about 1950′s-era wallpaper, the better!!)

    Great post, thanks for sharing, I feel we’re all richer for your reflections.

    • Thank you for your thoughts, Mark. It’s been awhile since your happy visits have graced this blog. Your comments and musings are always welcome here. I’m sorry that your father is not well. He has lived a long life and probably rich in experience.

      It’s been awhile since I’ve painted. It occurred to me that I’m lacking space for storing my art supplies and paintings. So I’ll have to start giving them away over time to loved ones.

    • Wouldn’t be surprising story robes will resurface. But maybe we’ll be wearing robes of electronic images and words from our blogs.

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