Story Starter October 2017 – John Reuben

Our October Story Starter showcases artwork by John Reuben.

To enter, write a short piece (100 words maximum) inspired by the art pictured here. It can be any form of writing (poetry, prose, dialogue, haiku, etc.) as long as it is original, in English, and based on the featured artwork. Submit your entry in the comment 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 October 31, 2017 to submit your story. Check the full entry rules and format here.

Finalists and winners will be determined by judges selected by the OWC and will be announced in Spring 2018.

We look forward to reading your Story Starters.

About The Artist  

John Reuben

In 1978, John Reuben joined Weneebaykook Limited, a group of seven Cree artists who produced limited edition silk-screen prints, T-shirts and hasti-notes. While there, John became proficient in silk-screening techniques and discovered a flair for wildlife and acrylic painting. Weneebaykook provided him with wide exposure through many exhibitions throughout Canada, the US and Europe. Unfortunately the group disbanded in 1985 and the gallery closed.

At that time, John received the International Youth Year Award for being a volunteer artist in local schools and his work was selected by the Ontario Institute of Studies in Education for book covers for a Native children’s reading program in Ontario.

John’s donation of an original painting to the local Ducks Unlimited fundraiser in 1987 led to the submission (and first prize win) of his “Close Call-Loon in a Northeastern Regional competition. This fuelled John’s interest in auctioning off and selling many original works as well as limited edition prints. He has continued to refine his techniques and experiment with different art media while narrowing his focus from North American wildlife wetlands to the James Bay Lowlands where he finds ideas and inspiration to be limitless.

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. **

  • Images casting shadows of our lives on the smoky canvas wall. Life today, tomorrow and yesterday blend together for all to see and remember. We were here, we belonged. We tried to share. Our fate was written in he fading ink and we vanished, leaving only the marks we had made for others to ponder.

  • Maria Duncalf-Barber October 2, 2017 at 12:32 pm

    Resilience. You can’t force it, you earn it through living it.
    But creatively you can give birth to it, resilience comes from experience of life and love. When we get the courage, we write on walls and scraps of paper and breathe into our own vulnerabilities that are passed down from our cultural perspective, our resilience becomes self love, nurturing, beauty and power.
    Not being afraid to colour outside the lines of self expression, connecting, energy and spirit, connecting with world creator and artistic self expression, inspirations abound expressing emotions, imagination, using senses lets you open into a magic time.

  • Geraldine Sinclair October 7, 2017 at 9:04 am

    I spent some time in Weneebaykook
    I only went there to have a look
    What I found
    Was so profound
    Our Native Fathers looking down from above
    They say to fill out hearts with love
    Remember your ancestors and what they went through
    Be the change, stand and do
    Take inspiration from us and Mother Earth
    Rise up in harmony and re-birth
    Use your imagination to draw and paint and cultivate the land
    This is the “human” race, take your neighbours hand
    Our traditions must live on
    In our sons and daughters and in the dawn
    Knowledge brings change on

  • Robin Martin Duttmann October 7, 2017 at 4:45 pm

    The Polar Express

    Sitting in the shadows of a stunted poplar tree I am sheltered from the wind. The rising sun offers little warmth this time of year. I rub my hands together and breathe into them. The steam dances in front of me, like a sweet grass smudge. I bathe in the memories. Inspired it awakened my soul.
    Then the long low whistle of the Polar Express brings me back to the present. With a new sense of direction I rise, and follow the tracks of my ancestors northward from Cochran.


    Lost in the haze of time
    Our forefathers call out
    Reminding of the days
    The Great Spirit blessed us
    With bison foaming free
    Our waters with fish abundant
    And birds a plenty in our heavens
    Days when our elders were revered
    Our women held sacred
    And children cherished

    They warned us also of today
    Our technological jungle
    Polluted waters and heavens
    Our seniors abandoned and aggrieved
    a legacy of separation
    Longing for promised reparation
    And our children’s children lay dying in despair
    Robbed of their rich cultural heritage
    But can we still hear them?

  • Nootahwee stood as he lectured the tribe. I listened and was scared and stopped breathing as he gave instructions.

    “The bright sky makes our hunt for Windigo better. We must travel at night by the light of the red moon to have bounty. We will leave before snow settles and the sun is low.
    We paddle for many moons against the river’s current. It will be a difficult battlefield.”

    The mission was clear, the windigo must be slay, to save our tribe.

  • Nothing like the brochure had implied! Finger-painting! Like her grandchild’s. She squirmed, scratched her corduroy-clad leg, and considered the images again. They were ancient. Well. Her book club would be jealous. That was something. She moved on, muttering about the tour company’s priorities.

    The woman beside her watched her go. Then she slowly placed her finger on the vivid red sun. She imagined the faces of those who painted these rock walls. They had lived. Dreamed. Did they see this future?

    She closed her eyes, and breathed.

    We are still here. You make me proud. I will make you proud. Despite…

  • Unseen
    We have become the unseen. Only the tangible reminders like our stories written on stone will remain for a time. They are the stories of our lives, our experiences, our thoughts. They are our monuments to our existence. They are the proof that we are here although we are not seen anymore. What will happen if these disappear? They slowly erode in the face of the elements. Like them we have slowly eroded in the face of progress. Like them we will gradually be turned to dust that spreads across the land to be seen no more for eternity.

  • barren raw landscape
    scarlet sun maps hunted blood
    carnage gifts new life

  • Deeply inhaling the smell of horse I slid my arms around the paint’s neck. The wind stirred lightly rustling fallen leaves. My steed’s ears pricked forward. With a gentle nudge he chose a quiet trot but within several strides the magnificent animal broke into an easy lope.

    Holding firmly with both hands to the flowing mane I straitened my posture. Forest flew by as did villages of teepees and families taking part in the beauty of all things natural.

    With an unnecessary rudeness a lightning flash woke me and I was once again sadly in the present.

  • Wendy Barrick Rhead October 18, 2017 at 12:08 pm

    In sacred places their spirits return and our souls are awakened. Our ancestors share their stories. Their voices resonate in our souls. They watch as we learn about the important seasons of life, and lessons from their lives. They plant seeds of knowledge and as the seeds grow we become one. Only then can we be aware of who we are destined to be.

  • Grim and silent, the returning warrior stands with face streaked black and hair unkempt. Trophy feathers once awarded for bravery, rest askew on his head. No glory now. Gone too are family and home – only skeletons remain. Eyes. His haunting piercing eyes warn of pain and suffering. His finger points at the life-giving sun. Look closely. Like him, it is damaged, broken.
    All around is red. Blood. Blood. Death and destruction. What was it all for? This war.
    But the cycle repeats itself endlessly. Already waiting, a younger man still full of certainty prepares to make the same mistake.

  • It is the sun, my son. But that isn’t all. It is the stories we tell, but that isn’t all. It is the friends we make, but that isn’t all. It is the family we share, but that isn’t all. It is the ancestor’s guidance, but that isn’t all. What it is, is inside of you. But it is outside too. You must look inside yourself for truth, but you must listen to the Universe for truth as well. You must know yourself, but be open to others. You must always move forward, but be mindful of your past.

  • Maria Duncalf-Barber October 20, 2017 at 2:19 pm

    Writing on walls is as old as writing itself.
    Storytelling is older. The elders pass down what they know about love and survival. They paint from their heart, from their lives well lived. Yes, all lives have grief and demands. Then all lives have joy and acceptance.
    Home and animals and feathers denote who we are.
    Cave paintings show us that others have been there before us. We are not inventing anything. We are learning to know who we are by living on the planet and taking cues from the past. Art comes from the heart. Focus on the good.

  • The air stabbed at my southern lungs like tiny daggers, forcing me to take quick shallow breaths. Looking up at that vast sky exploding with stars against an infinite blackness, I began to feel vertiginous, and I thought of that old history book map of Canada before Canada, and the pink ink blot called Rupert’s Land that spilled across a third of the land mass, on into the western foothills, and bleeding down into present day U.S.A.—and I imagined it lifting me off the page and carrying me, spinning into some orbit beyond any reckoning I could make.


    “Wicapi Omani watches the bison run
    Beneath the blood red sun!”
    The First Nations people tell their story
    Of a beautiful man called Gord Downie
    They had named him Wicapi Omani
    ‘Man who walks among the stars’
    And they had given him an eagle feather
    He wore it with pride, even as he cried
    When this mystifying man died,
    Mourners held a candlelight vigil in Bobcaygeon
    Where the brightest constellation
    Revealed his indomitable spirit right on time
    “He was singing, dancing and always caring
    Like an eagle, his spirit soars
    As he walks on the sacred path among the stars.”

  • Rotating in empty space the earth has many stories to tell. Its known unspeakable violence and deathly silence in the cold emptiness of an airless planet. Now look closely to see how the weathered granite mirrors the past when ancient man inscribed his observations for all to see.

    The delicate movement of primal hands revealed a world long gone when fierce animals roamed freely. Now computer chips in our fast paced world lead us away from our human connections to the emptiness of a cold technology devoid of human warmth.

    Has this become our rock to leave future generations?


    “Before the Europeans came to settle, millions of bison roamed the North American plains. Their population has been drastically reduced! Humans rape and pollute the land. Governments are fuelled by greed. Even mighty empires will fall when money can no longer sustain its needs. The ozone layer grows weaker. The sun has darkened and she sheds scarlet tears. We do not always tread in the footsteps of our wise forefathers.” Still we try to spread their message; on rock walls and in storytelling: “Take heed and protect the Earth – for the sake of our children from whom we borrowed it!”

  • Behind the hieroglyphics lie ancient customs, ancient traditions and ancient tribes that were in unison with Nature’s ways and creatures. Careless outsiders from other counties invaded the land of these Peoples and the invaders lacked understanding of Nature’s balance and in so doing all was lost. Or was it?

  • 3017

    Rumours persist
    of a tribe called Digital
    in a mythological
    Valley of Silicon
    that lack rock-solid evidence
    of existence.

  • Father and Son
    Grandfather Sun
    Lines drawn, lines etched, lines carved
    Lines settled.

  • Dear Mr. Jim Lumbers, for what it’s worth, the theme of your contribution inspired mine. Cheers. P. S. Here’s hoping you can make it to the ‘Herb’s Harum’ next month.

    Dear Jenny Lamothe, I am struck by your last line, namely, “Lines settled,” for it is devilishly rich in subtle entendres. Cheers, Steve.

  • where I we walk/ed
    used to play about around
    sunsets rise new

  • where I we walk/ed
    arrow head, painted rocks
    sunsets new rising.

  • Dr Velma McClymont October 31, 2017 at 11:06 am

    Spirit Warriors

    Across the Great Plains or the prairies,
    The First Nations invoke the spirits of
    Their ancestors (Métis and Inuit) who
    Gave their progeny a mountain to climb.
    Folk art paying homage to old beliefs,
    Such as the myth of the Blackfoot sun god.
    Broad canvas honouring the Sky People
    With herd of buffalos, dogs and teepees.
    Blood brothers watching over the reserves, Their feathered headdresses frozen in time.
    Forefathers looking down on those who try
    To erase the past of the First Peoples:
    Spirit warriors who paid the blood price,
    Defending their lands, lives and liberties.


    “My people face starvation.” Takoda stared into the fire and waited.
    “You must find the Promised Land,” the shaman said. “Come. We will consult the Ancient Ones.”
    Takoda followed Mongwau to the river. A huge cliff ascended toward the Sky World. Takoda stood transfixed.
    “Behold the Rock,” Mongwau said. “The Ancient Ones painted symbols that will enable you to reach the Promised Land.”
    Throughout many days, Mongwau instructed Takoda in the interpretation of the sacred paintings.
    “My quest begins at first light,” Takoda said.
    The shaman nodded. “With the blessing of the Ancient Ones, you will not fail.”

  • “Dad, how’d those pictures get on the rocks?”

    Mel shrugged, then turned to inspect the rock wall closely. Two red horses, the latter of which lacked a tail, pranced under a red sun. Below them stood another horse, in red outline only, beneath a thin red crescent. Mel closed his eyes and conjured an image of two First Nations men. Wrinkles framed the wizened one’s eyes whose mouth stretched thin under broad nostrils. The elder pointed to the sun and explained the picture’s meaning to the expectant younger man … as Mel would now attempt to do for his son.

  • ** CONTEST CLOSED ** Good luck to all who entered! Stay tuned for our November contest, coming soon.

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

back to top