Story Starter July/August 2017 – Julia Martens

Our July/August Story Starter features work by Julia Martens.

As we mentioned when we introduced our special Ontario 150 and Canada 150 Moose Factory Story Starters contest earlier this month, for the duration of this round of Story Starters, we will be contrasting some of the newest photography of the Moose Factory, Ontario area with some of the oldest. We at the OWC are very fortunate to have access to some of the earliest photos known to exist for the Moose Factory area.

This month’s next photo is “Hudson Bay Houses”:

To enter, write a 100 word original story in English based upon the picture above and copy it into the comments section below. There is no restriction of age, location (subject to local laws), or cost associated with entering the contest. You have until midnight on Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017 to submit your story based on “Moose Factory Water Works.” Check the full entry rules and format here.

Finalists and Winners will be determined by judges selected by the OWC and MoCreebec Eeyoud Council and will be announced later this summer.  

We look forward to reading your Story Starters based on this moment frozen in time.

About The Artist

Julia Martens is a professional photographer and photography teacher in Moose Factory, Ontario, where she has lived for the last 3 years. Julia started photography in her high school dark room, and has continued her
passion as she has moved across Canada from BC.

Want to check out past contest entries? Click here.

Feeling inspired? Paste in your 100-word original entry below!

** Please note, there is a delay between comment submission and approval, so please submit an entry one time only. Thank you. **

  • I lived in that house over there.
    Sure it has seen better days. The sun has faded the paint and the wind chipped it, but it was a cozy home once. The porch has a sag now, but if you’ll look closely, you can still see the scrapes from our chairs, maybe even hear strains of our laughter as we shared stories on the rare warm Hudson Bay nights.
    But now I live here. The ground is hard and the wind is cold. The fence may be worn and my stone leaning, but I can still see our home.

  • She was always a little odd so it made sense that she would be crooked in death. The snow was too high to get to her, what with navigating the old fences and such, but being close to her, seeing her, wasn’t enough. Every day he had come to see her, either in passing or longer visits. He could hear her voice on the wind, her approval or disapproval of what he had to say, her gentle advice moving the leaves on the trees. But there were no leaves now. Winter had settled in, and with it her death.

  • Michelle St. Clair - Golding July 13, 2017 at 5:41 pm

    Only during the winter months could you be certain that there were no visitors to the tiny cemetery. There were no footsteps engraving their way through the gate of the white picket fence that surrounded the handful of headstones. The stones looked so old and lonely as they leaned towards the gate as if they were watching and waiting for someone to remember that they were still standing, though some, barely.
    I didn’t find the old cemetery to be creepy or eerie. In my opinion it was sad and lonely, much like the empty buildings that stood outside it’s fence.

  • Hudson Bay fenced off
    Entombed under snow in flat
    Boothill cemetery

  • Dr Velma McClymont July 14, 2017 at 6:44 am

    They walked this way home in Hudson Bay
    Where the cemetery stands like a sentry
    Guarding the pristine white gateway to that
    Other world wedged between life and death.

    Lost lovers snowed-under on holy ground.
    Here the queen of beauty reigns no more!
    Dead men’s bones, skeletons and corpses
    Sleep soundly and as silent as the grave.

    No more laughter in happy homes that
    Once saw passion and emotions roused
    While the hands on deck wove patchwork stories.
    Now snow frames the plain shoebox dollhouses.

    A moment in time they laid down their lives.
    Tumbling headstones mark their resting place.

  • He had trudged for a full day to pay his respects and the freak spring snowstorm made his journey miserable. But this was his obligation to his baby daughter on her birthday. Star had been sent to the school when she was just 6 and like so many others she never came home. The letter said she died from influenza, but he never accepted that. He stopped at the fence, looked at the marker and dropped his head as he wept.

  • Everyone steers clear of my unmarked mound of a grave. You can barely see it when the snow covers all. But I am here, just outside the fence, where they put the ‘suicides,’ the ones that sinned against God by taking their own lives.
    I howl into the wind that beats at those two headstones that mark where the real ‘sinners’ are—the ones who sinned against me and God. The stones are tilted, the graves never tended. Because everybody knows the truth. Yet I lie here, and they lie there on consecrated ground.

  • They watched him as he moved towards the door. Not sure what he was saying. He read, whispered really, from a small leather book.
    He moved from the house. Snow crunching. They followed. It had stormed last night. Fitting.
    They hung back as he opened the gate. He knelt at the first grave, resting his hand on the headstone. Reaching into his pocket he laid a gold chain on top.
    He murmured some more. Finally, he rose, passing the townsfolk, saying, “My job is done.”
    He walked past the house, disappearing, leaving them wondering about the stranger buried there.

  • The Hudson Houses

    this weather has gotten us to our point
    how much longer can we take this cold
    its starting to hurt
    as the cold clench our fibers
    yes we do stand tall
    but for how much longer can we
    in this tall snow that hasn’t stopped
    oh and even the constant melt
    where we can find the warm pockets
    we do love to breathe the warmth
    but together we are the Hudson Bay
    nothing else that can proclaim this
    hopefully not much longer for the warmth to come
    and the people start to flock
    these are the days we call for

  • Etched Egos
    Chipped paint grows on sagging houses, like moss on listing tombstones.
    Sacred to the memory of- names etched in stone,
    Stones that have fallen like the names of the sacred
    Peter McKenzie, Thomas Morrison, Doctor Richard Story Robins
    But sacred is not a name whispered in passing, perhaps contemplated, and then forgotten
    It is revered, commanding respect
    “Lay down your egos and see us, for we are your Founding Fathers, and only time is eternal.”

  • Michelle Dinnick July 16, 2017 at 10:40 pm

    Governor and Company of Adventurers of England trading into Hudson’s Bay…

    An ambitious name,
    When explorers came.

    Who would have guessed?

    From trading post to online store
    An adventure, first in trading fur

    HBC houses, of painted white boards, and
    Other buildings, where goods were stored

    Points blankets for fur, at the Trading posts
    An old cemetery rests; and with it, old ghosts

    Where fresh snow blankets, pristine and new
    Shielding stories, shared with a few

    History, tradition, and creativity abound
    Moose Factory offers a unique flavour, and sound.

  • I took off from this place right after the funerals and said I would never be back. But here I stand, starring at the tombstones , some heaved and weary from the burden. The travel conditions were brutal just like that day so many moons ago. The ice was thin , so fragile that three sleds disappeared into the Moose River. I am the lone survivor for a reason ; I returned to try and figure it all out.

  • The Cemetery
    The headstones had been placed as a last act of love but nature’s cruel hand invariably reached in and distorted what we tried to do. It should have been a place of rest for those within and a picture of peacefulness for those looking on. The earth had quietly received those we placed there letting us put up memorials to our loved ones. When did the earth decide to reject a part of itself? “For dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return….” goes the Bible verse. It was as if some great turmoil was happening within.

  • “Another big snow and that wall could cave.”
    Joseph grunted.
    “We should tell someone.” He knew that by the time someone came, it’d be down.
    Joseph turned and waded through the snow, which his grandson saw plod against his skeletal legs where the hospital gown failed to meet his Sorels. Without his cane, if you blamed the snowfall, you’d not know Joseph was an in-patient in the traditional healing program at Weeneebayko General, a last-ditch hope. Joseph leaned on the fence looped with dead vines. He looked at the sloped headstones, thought he’d enjoy being buried there, like a relic.

  • I went with a friend to visit a quiet country cemetery. This is where my husband had been buried.
    It was a place of stillness and peace, just like I had imagined his hometown would be. My friend thought that in my grief I had lost it as I stood there looking at the leaning headstones I burst out
    laughing. I had to explain that my dear sweet man was an architect and oh so precise. He always carried a plumb-bob in his pocket. In our first house he even had three walls replaced as they were a smidgen out of plumb. You see to me the sight of his headstone being out of plumb was just too funny.

  • White memories of a new Canadian

    A white house with small windows. A short fence around an empty yard completely covered in snow. I bought this painting back home and brought it with me to Canada. 
    As I drink coffee by the fireplace, the light dances over the frozen scenery captured in a frame.
    Now, I’m not sure if it represents a corner of my native country or the mighty winter in Moose Factory. I can no longer dissociate the two places, as they melt into one. Home.
    Warm memories of the past are brought into the future.

  • “Come back inside. You’ll catch your death.” Her dark eyes glisten and I touch her cheek. “Please. Going there every day won’t bring her back.”

    She stares. “It snowed again. I have to brush it away.”

    “Don’t do this to yourself. To us.” Such thinking. How can she?

    “You don’t care that our baby is gone.”

    I put my arm around her. She shrugs me away.

    “A year now, her tiny body has lain in the frozen ground out there. A mother feels that, you know.”

    Grief rips my heart again. I shovel a path for her to the cemetery.

  • wow I love sophia m piece well done.

  • It had snowed the night before I came back into town, a cold sudden snow that chilled me.
    Mid-afternoon, I crossed the road near the cemetery with my dog team and a sled laden with furs. The Company could wait. I walked up to the house and entered. The house my father helped me build for her. The one that should have held our children, our memories.
    “Emily?” Her name echoed. And again, “Emily.”
    We searched for days. She was last seen walking down the ice road, away from home.
    Perhaps I stayed up on the trap line too long.

  • “It’s today,” Jack said to his cousin.
    “So soon? I thought we’d do it in the summer.” They had talked about breaking into the abandoned house nearest to the graveyard. Why did the family that lived there just leave one night? These ten-year-olds wanted to find the answer.
    “It’s today. Come on.”
    They tried the door but it was barred. They got in through a broken window.
    “Do you think we’ll find out why they left in such a hurry?” Jessie asked quietly.
    “Maybe,” Jack replied from the other room.
    That would be the last thing Jessie could recall.

  • Steve Alexander July 24, 2017 at 7:24 am


    A conspiracy of wind, of weather, of a distant cinder, ghost over those frozen in granite absolutes. You, though, march, striding, striving, stutter-stepping, stumbling, in the warmth of snow, passing monikers un-Donne, absolving yourself of time, chisel and stone. Tonight, tonight, do catch the falling stars, do catch your fall.

  • Culture Shock

    This has been the only home
    he’s known
    For the last three hundred years
    None have come to shed tears
    Once in a blue moon
    During warm summer nights
    The young ones would come
    Only to run off with their fears
    As they told tales of old.
    Never again to see his kin
    Across the seas of utter cold
    He gave up everything for this?
    To live in a land so foreign
    He remembers his employers, filled with greed
    Stripped everything from a people of creed
    Whose only wish was to live in peace
    With Mother Earth and Chishemanituu

  • “A strange man, the Factor – I don’t think he would have returned, even if his health had allowed.”
    The Young Man sat at the table describing his mission, his audience held their flagons as the ship pitched in the trans-Atlantic waves.

    “Was he given a Christian burial?” the Captain asked.

    “We buried him in the church yard – beside his woman. He told me she died of smallpox the second year they were together.”

    More questions were asked but no one in the Company wanted to understand the Young Man’s answers. Dialogue was centuries away.

  • American Dream

    White picket fences
    Creating boundaries
    To keep you out, or keep me in?
    My place, my yard
    This mine, that yours,
    False sense of security,
    Protecting us, or preventing us
    from knowing one another,
    Where my grass is greener- of course-
    By the way stay off it!

  • Margaret Jean Iles July 26, 2017 at 6:02 pm

    We lay here under our cold white blanket, my daughter and I.
    Our tombstones have succumbed to weather and time, but not our love. I can still hear your laughter, and see your bright smile
    If only I could see it again, I would walk a mile.
    Your time came far too soon, if only I had understood, we would have made it through the wood. But regrets have no place now, I shall content myself with your nearness, as we walk hand in hand that last mile, fearless that we did the best we could.

  • Winter White

    Sentinels dressed in white,
    winter warlocks now,
    barren but for perhaps
    a dropped filigree trinket
    from a time before time,
    tossed in a corner,
    now forgotten.

    Outside their threadbare walls,
    whispering only to themselves
    and only inside the night’s middle gasp,
    the bodies of the lost ones
    who braved this cold frontier,
    tucked in below their crooked stones,
    their menial tasks of living in the north
    now complete, they sleep,
    no more shelter from the homes
    they’ve long since abandoned
    to the winter white they now embrace.

  • Heaved by frost, the black headstones against the white snow were a stark reminder of the harshness of the Canadian North.  At first glance, it appeared abandoned – but who was there to place the final stone?  In the distance, a porch light shone just bright enough to alert passersby.  I made my way to the porch, and gently tapped on the door.  She came slowly, her face as carved as the Canadian Sheild.  She was frail, but strong.  It seemed she had been there since before the buildings were raised.

    “What is this?”, I asked.  

    “They’ve all gone…”, she said.

  • Wind-battered houses wrinkled and old stand in defiance. Memories etched in pencil upon their walls give testament to the souls who lived within. But now they’re gone, just as winter smothered summer with her coat of ice and snow.
    Modest tomb stones in the yard beyond confirmed the lives of those who lived within, but their time had passed, no longer able to set foot on the cold floors shivering in loneliness.
    Their disembodied souls left in search of other summer days, while their dilapidated houses remained rooted in the company of the unfeeling graves.

  • Winter arrived unexpectedly that year and had come with a vengeance. The Moose River, once sparkling and fluid, came to a standstill overnight. In the coming months, it would remain entombed in ice, severing our lifeline to the world beyond. The violent storm that had ravaged our village eventually passed leaving in its wake devastation far greater than the cemetery’s uprooted tombstones. I visited her one last time before departing. Her stone’s engraving indelibly etched into my memory…
    Mary Thomas, July 1791 – October 1802
    Lost among the ice together with an Indian family
    ‘From sudden death good lord deliver us’”

  • Only a few of us will remember. Most think that the memories are horrible. I purposely do not let anyone know our secrets. Quite frankly, the seven of us do not retell. That is, until now.
    Our narrative is like no other from this era. It includes pleasantries that no one has heard thus far. Our little school house built next to our ancestors’ tombstones holds astonishing tales within its walls.
    Why have we been ashamed to tell? Did we value the mystery? Who should we share with? How should we share? Perhaps this is where we start.

  • “Quite a lean, Joe,” said Gus.
    “Sure is. Can you fix ‘em?”
    “Um hmm. In the spring. No way can we dig in that frozen ground.”
    “Figured. Is it tough to straighten them?” asked Joe.
    “It’s a science,” said Gus. “Takes patience, skill, and careful digging. Wouldn’t want to disturb anyb… well, you know …”
    “’Nuff said. Sure am glad Hudson Bay finally decided to do something to honour the original Hudson Bay company settlers. If it weren’t for them …”
    Gus nodded. “Don’t worry. Those stones will be as good as new when I’m finished.”

  • That’s my grandfathers house, second from the left. He was moved here by the HBC after his land in Winnipeg was appropriated back in the 1920’s. He was of partial Metis decent, which means he had no real rights to the land. But he was one of HBC’s best fur trappers…and one of the last. That’s his grave stone in front, standing straight and strong…like he lived

  • ** CONTEST CLOSED.** Thanks to all who entered, and good luck!

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