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My favourite month of the year is October because the weather cools, because pumpkin spice everything, because Halloween, because wine, wigs and pretending you are a supermodel in a George Michael music video just feels especially right on a Friday night: 

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Culture Days

Culture Days is an annual celebration of Canadian culture that allows citizens to engage and interact with artists, cultural organizations and municipalities from coast-to-coast. This nation has such a rich history and tapestry of backgrounds; with its diversity and inclusive nature, I am proud to call Canada home. 

This year I visited Batoche National Historic site in Saskatchewan to learn about metis history, the leadership and legend of Gabriel Dumont and Louis Riel, and enjoy the beautiful autumnal colours lining the South Saskatchewan River. 

 Hiking and enjoying the beautiful fall colours at Batoche National Historic site in Saskatchewan, Canada.

Hiking and enjoying the beautiful fall colours at Batoche National Historic site in Saskatchewan, Canada.

 Tour of the rectory by a costumed guide, Batoche National Historic site, Saskatchewan. 

Tour of the rectory by a costumed guide, Batoche National Historic site, Saskatchewan. 

 Metis beadwork, Batoche National Historic site, Saskatchewan. 

Metis beadwork, Batoche National Historic site, Saskatchewan. 

 Interior of church at Batoche National Historic site, Saskatchewan. 

Interior of church at Batoche National Historic site, Saskatchewan. 

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 Cemetery at Batoche National Historic site, Saskatchewan. 

Cemetery at Batoche National Historic site, Saskatchewan. 

 Earlier this year, I found out that my grandfather – also named Joseph Ouellette – passed away. Seeing this headstone at the cemetery in Batoche National Historic site made me curious about my maternal family history, of which I know very little. 

Earlier this year, I found out that my grandfather – also named Joseph Ouellette – passed away. Seeing this headstone at the cemetery in Batoche National Historic site made me curious about my maternal family history, of which I know very little. 

 I got to try moose meat, deer meat and elk meat, all of which I thoroughly enjoyed. 

I got to try moose meat, deer meat and elk meat, all of which I thoroughly enjoyed. 

Recommended: Instagram Artists

I would once again like to shine a spotlight on some talented/thoughtful/vulnerable/strong female artists, illustrators and cartoonists that I've discovered on Instagram. Every day as I scroll through my feed, their art provides a connection to something bigger; their work a link to the shared experiences that 21st century women often don't discuss for fear of apathy, judgement or embarrassment (including taboo topics such as anxiety, depression and dealing with fuckboys). Worth a follow. Worth a like. 

@jane_newland: 

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Becoming the Warrior

So many holidays spent camping up in the Rockies. Western Canada feels like home to me. The mountains feel like an al fresco cathedral that offers salvation. Because I had visited so often in my youth, there was a time I stopped looking. I stopped appreciating their natural wonder. I was moody and pensive, instead turning inward to explore the world of the woman I would become. Books helped form that person. I recall the literature of the time; it wasn't of Austen or Yeats. Oh no. I still haven't delved into that, to be honest. The books of my youth were pure fantasy. Tolkien played a part, but so did some role-playing gamebook authors that heavily influenced the "choose your own adventure" of my life. 

I would bring these books on the trips out west and read them at night, in my top bunk of the trailer under the stars, and imagine myself being the hero ... and occasionally the villain. Life is never black and white, after all. Those shades of grey run through us all. The words were engrossing but the illustrations really engaged my active imagination. Heavily detailed pen and ink, as realistic as could be for drawings of worlds that only exist in the id.

When I was a kid, I loved to draw. It started rudimentary, of course, but later evolved to mimicking what I saw in these exact books. My teachers didn't even scold me for sketching rather than paying attention in class; in fact, they actively encouraged me to pursue a career in the arts after seeing the creations I would share in the margins of my homework. I recall one particular illustration I made of a scene from Romeo and Juliet that a teacher from an adjacent French-immersien school requested to keep and frame for her office. I was so proud. They even counselled me to get into advertising, rather than fine arts, as it would bring money. But now that I have money, I want that name. I want that credibility. I want that impact of influencing a young girl – just like I once was – to picture herself as the hero of her life. 

I reflect on this because of my recent excursion to the Rockies, where I didn't read under the stars but I did take time to stop, look and appreciate not only what was before me in all its natural wonder, but also what lay behind me. It is interesting to me how random connections in life can lead us to where we are today. That some "nerdy" gamebooks like this could have ignited a spark that would light my future. 

I'm an adult now and while my originals of all these books have been long lost, eBay (and much of my paycheques) has reunited me with a lot of them. They bring me back to my youth. They bring me back to the mountains. To being that warrior in my mind. To becoming that warrior in real life that I always imagined I'd become. 

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Now

It was all too brief, but Banff National Park always delivers a memorable holiday: 

 Hiking near Bow Falls with the iconic Banff Springs Hotel in the background.

Hiking near Bow Falls with the iconic Banff Springs Hotel in the background.

 Bow Falls

Bow Falls

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 Enjoying the view while driving the Columbia Icefields Parkway. 

Enjoying the view while driving the Columbia Icefields Parkway. 

 Hiking up to Athabasca Glacier.

Hiking up to Athabasca Glacier.

 Inukshuk near the edge of Athabasca Glacier.

Inukshuk near the edge of Athabasca Glacier.

 Adding a stone, making a wish.

Adding a stone, making a wish.

 Despite sweating in the heat earlier in the day, I was absolutely frozen at the top of Athabasca Glacier. 

Despite sweating in the heat earlier in the day, I was absolutely frozen at the top of Athabasca Glacier. 

 Hiking a beautiful valley in Jasper National Park.

Hiking a beautiful valley in Jasper National Park.

 These guys stopped traffic.

These guys stopped traffic.

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 Dining at Seoul South Korean Restaurant in Banff. He asked for "as spicy as you can possibly make it ... and then make it spicier". No heart attacks or other health issues reported, thankfully. 

Dining at Seoul South Korean Restaurant in Banff. He asked for "as spicy as you can possibly make it ... and then make it spicier". No heart attacks or other health issues reported, thankfully. 

 Hiking the jurassic landscape at Horseshoe Canyon near Drumheller, Alberta. 

Hiking the jurassic landscape at Horseshoe Canyon near Drumheller, Alberta. 

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 Roar! The  World's Largest Dinosaur  primed to attack. 

Roar! The World's Largest Dinosaur primed to attack. 

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 What kid –  and kid at heart  – wouldn't love visiting a town with giant dinosaur statues near every intersection? I love it! 

What kid – and kid at heart – wouldn't love visiting a town with giant dinosaur statues near every intersection? I love it!