Freedom Artist, Writer, Traveller

Author: Erika (page 1 of 4)

beautiful teeth

Mother of Pearl


I am healing my teeth.  

My whole life I have worried about them. The fear came into my dreams. I dreamed they were loose and fell into my hands, one by one. I dreamed they were porcupine quills. I kept my mouth closed, turned away from the mirror. The dentist’s office was a virtual torture chamber. I broke out in a cold sweat,  my blood pressure shot up. Once a dentist refused to pull a tooth until I had brought the levels down.  Did he think I was going to have a heart attack? It made them nervous. The mere touch of their cold metal tools sent an electrical charge through me. Give me more anesthesia,  more  laughing gas, or put me out… Read more


“Artemis” -oil pastel on paper, Erika Connor 2008

The old Celtic name,  Conchobar,  means  ‘lover of hounds’, and this is the origin of my family name, Connor.  The strange thing is: I’ve never had a dog of my own, and yet wherever I go, dogs always find me.

I take care of other people’s dogs. They somehow become my allies. I dream about them, walk with them.

There must be twenty-five or more that have touched my heart at different times in my life, from the foundling of my childhood to the three dogs of the mountain. These are the stories of the dogs and how they transformed me.

View from a red cabin

Living without electricity and running water is an experiment I’ve been developing over time. It started one summer, seven years ago, when I bought a used fifteen-foot ‘Pilgrim’ camper and parked it in the fields of a friend’s farm. I was living in a small boat on a sea of grasses. I kept my food in a ‘flower pot’ fridge, (an African invention, using two ceramic pots, one inside the other, with damp sand in between, and a damp cloth overtop.) I washed in the creek, cooked on an open fire. At night the sky was lit by stars. The coyotes sang. The candles flickered in my windows. Read more

winter windows

Winter is over. It’s a miracle. My door is open to the mist on the distant hills, to a valley uncovered, turning gold to green. The birds return. Their voices ring like echoes in a bare room, because for so long there has been silence. Suddenly, there is movement. I think of the vultures, and then they appear. I wonder where the loons are, and then they arrive on the lake and I hear the first haunting call. Every day a new bird arrives, the robin, the thrush, the starlings and goldfinches. The speckled trout leaves are up. Eight cords of wood are down to one. Rain barrels are overflowing. No more gathering snow and waiting for it to melt on the stove. No more clearing of pathways. I came through. I pull back the mattresses and plywood boards that closed off the upper floor for six months. I pull up the plaid wool blankets and blue sleeping bags from the floors. I take down my blanket contraption, three blankets tied with rope to a thick branch and hung on a nail.  It  enabled me to open and close the door freely and keep out the wind. Read more


The coals stay lit from the beginning of November until the middle of May, almost like the ancient fires kept burning in the temples. a continuous line through time. Or like the live coals that were carried on prehistoric journeys, wrapped in grasses and birch bark. Each morning I rake the ashes and find the little red coals buried underneath. I align the kindling, fallen branches, and newspaper or birch bark or cardboard, so that the flames are fed, keeping the door slightly open, waiting. I build a fire house. Each one is different. It foretells the kind of day I’ll have.

Fire is my most precious element. Without it, I could not live here. Read more

Dogs of the mountain


Everything on the mountain is their territory:

The small farm on the summit, the chickens, ducks, rabbits, goats, and cats, the donkey, the pig, the trout in the pond, the cliffs and the lake, the road, the forest of maple, oak, cedar, the pines, the mossy rocks, the squirrels, groundhogs, racoons,  porcupines, the ravens, all the creatures, and me and the red cabin.

I hear their footsteps in my sleep when they walk across my verandah. They leave bones on the land. How will I ever leave them? Read more


The lake sits below the mountain like a mirror. 

I always feel like I’m in another country, one that does not exist anywhere. It is timeless. It’s like anything is possible, if I just step past my limits and have faith. The raven fledglings are dancing over my head, learning to fly.  I can feel the wind in their wings as they soar off the ledge, suspended over the lake. Sometimes the hills are reflected so perfectly in the stillness, that it’s hard to tell which world is more real. When you look at it sideways, it forms a whole: one land mass suspended in the water/sky. The wind makes silver patterns across the surface, travelling as it does through the grasses, running across, then lifting. The sun makes waves of gold, storm clouds stain deep purple, sunsets leave pink and red wakes. The water holds everything, the stars and the moon. When you see this you realize that everything is just a reflection. You want to hold it in one thought, but the mind can’t sustain this. It drifts and separates into two, inside, outside, with your self in the middle. Read more


She is the only one, of all the dogs, that comes down with me to the lake.

I lie on the dock, listening to the sound of her splashing with the stick. She pushes it down with her paws and looks at it under the surface. She puts her face underwater. She breaks it up with her teeth, and then has to choose between all the broken pieces. Or she goes looking for another one on the shore and finds a giant rotten log that she yanks out from underneath its forest covering. She never bothers me. She entertains herself. Sometimes I lean over the dock and she nudges the stick to me. Then I throw it across the water and she swims out for it. She’s  like a black seal, Selkie from the Otherworld. Read more


It’s been two months since I last tasted sugar.

I never realized how powerful it was. How deep…It’s like a bloodstream through the land. The earth has a natural sugar system that flows  in streams and tributaries and pools. The trees pull it up through their millions of roots. Any creature will know of the taste in sweet new grass and shoots,  in dried berries in the fall. Water tastes sweet. There is a balance of how much will sustain the earth, and how much will flood it. Read more


I live up here with the vultures.

Every morning, like clockwork, the wind comes up from the lake and cools the air. The wind blows away the poor mosquitoes. It pushes my door open, and comes through the windows. It dries out masking tape and duct tape, pulls out tacks. Papers and photos go flying around. It rattles the windows in their casings on the south wall. The old caulking, scorched by the full sun, is crumbling loose and one of these days the windows are going to fall out. Tools creak on their nails underneath the cabin. Wind blows my clothes off the line. Things go missing. The turbine vent on the roof spins round and round, clattering like a prayer wheel.  Read more


Saplings nod and bob like little green people on the forest floor. One day, they will be trees.

I am on top of a small mountain and the trees grow up on every side. Fifty years ago, it was open and the cows were grazing up these slopes. I see this happening on the cliffs behind me where the neighbour’s goats and donkey graze. They create a beautiful tended lawn among the sculpted rocks, where you can sit and contemplate, looking down at the lake. But take away the goats and it will go wild again. Where there is space, there is light and rain. The earth is just waiting. The trees will conquer.

 I was just another seed floating in on some wind, coming down to settle, place. The first year I cleared, cutting back the overgrowth. The little maple seedlings I pulled by hand. The saplings I cut with shears. The infant trees were too thick, so I pruned the branches. The trees reached out to the cabin, grazing its walls. They climbed up to fill my eastern window onto the valley. They wanted to fill the sky. Read more


Over the hill, in a little nook in the forest overlooking the lake, is a little house of half round log siding, painted red  like my cabin, with a tar paper roof that has grown moss. 

Inside, the methane creates garlands of frost, and when it’s cold I can feel the warmth rising from the hole.  In alchemy the nigredo stage is where the substance simmers and putrefies. Once I saw a mouse on the window ledge. They come for the warmth. My mother always told me that in her day ‘shit’ was called ‘farmer’s gold’. Read more

The Boxer

Of all the dogs on the mountain, the boxer has the greatest heart.

He is, by far, the most beautifully-shaped. Small wide head, long neck, sloping haunches, long legs, four dainty white paws and a smooth cinnamon brindle coat, but his elegance is eclipsed by a flat flappy snout, wide saucer eyes, and clownish face. I held it against him in the beginning. I hope I am forgiven. Read more