Eli Halpin ~ BLOG

Eagle Raven Wolf Bear Sister

"Eagle Raven Wolf Bear Sister"  40" x 32" oil paint on wood

This painting is my sister Kate, laughing and kissing a totem pole on our road trip from Alaska to Oregon. Kate was born and raised in Alaska and when she graduated from high school she wanted to come live with me in Oregon. I am seven years older than Kate so I had already moved away from Alaska and set up a life in Portland Oregon. Anyone who has the pleasure of knowing Kate knows that she is an adventure on wheels and as a bonus, she is H.I.L.A.R.I.O.U.S. The perfect travel buddy.

The drive took us about 3 days and all of my memories are of us in a blur of laughter. We almost wrecked the car from laughing so hard. Plenty of times I almost peed in my pants a little bit. Anyone who knows me, knows that when I laugh too hard tears fall out of my eyes. I look really weird when I laugh. We blasted music, brushed our teeth while we drove, pulled over for quick picnics and got out of the car for wild animal photo shoots, OF COURSE! Kate had a cute little fire maker stove and she would light it up and cook us veggie dogs with sprouted buns, cheddar cheese and yellow mustard. She is one of those true survivalist types that could survive anywhere no matter what is happening. She always has a head lamp on hand and a miniature dish soap tube complete with a 1" x 1" dish sponge, the yellow kind with the green scrubby side on it, tucked away somewhere. She went to college and became a Scientist, she lives on a 40 acre carnivorous plant farm and she owns a canoe. When I go to her house for a visit she lets me look at bugs through her industrial strength microscopes. Yeah, she's pretty cool.

I love totem poles. A lot of the totem poles I grew up around are made by the Native Americans of the Tlingit, Haida, Tsimshian and Kwakiutl.  I appreciate their bright red, turquoise and white paint, their funny faces and the reminder that we are all connected. They are also a good reminder to watch the F out for bears. I have a phobia of bears and there were plenty of times on that road trip outside of the car that my heart raced when I realized a bear could walk up on me any minute. When I was a little girl my Dad would warn me about the dangers of bears. His method worked very well. We spent a huge chunk of our time sleeping in the woods in tents and makeshift cabins (see previous post lol). While sitting by the fire before bed my dad would inform me in great detail how Grizzly Bears were everywhere and they can eat me whenever they wanted to. They can smell from 10 miles away, they can smell the dinner in my stomach and there was no outrunning them, so don't even try. Climb up a tree if you want, they will follow you. If they felt like it they could rip me open and eat the hot dogs out of my stomach. Don't take any candy bar wrappers in your tent! He would yell this to me and follow it up with a gruesome true story straight out of the newspaper about a family that got mauled by a bear that busted into their cabin window and tore all the skin off their grandma's back... or the man and wife who had a bear bust down their front door and the guy ran away to get help while the woman ran up to the roof to hide, only when he returned it was too late...  OR the story about the bike rider who had his eyes eaten.. you get the idea. My dad thought this ritual of story telling would scare me into being careful. It worked. My dad would also take this special time to make it clear he wished I was a boy. But instead he got me, a real girly girl. I'm the kind of girl who wants to live and breath pink, glitter, horses, hugs, kisses and kittens. I mean, I'm tough too, but that tough part clearly came from my Dad. He toughened me up.

I hadn't been back to Alaska in a few years before that road trip adventure and I found myself back in that vulnerable place, the place where bears live, the place where I was a sausage and the bears could smell me. It could happen while I was washing my face in a river, walking on a trail to a hot springs or while we were eating our hot dogs. Kate isn't as scared of bears as I am though, so her toughness helps me cope. 

Kate also paints beautiful scientifically illustrated paintings. Her website is katehalpinart.com.
Take a look!

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