Revelstoke Reflections: Changing of the birds

'A little celebration of the weirdest ski season ever, and a little wing wave to all ski industry folk and seasonal workers.'


Revelstoke Reflections:
connecting through creativity

Revelstoke Reflections brought to you in partnership with Revelstoke Arts Council an online forum where Revelstokians can share their creativity and enjoy the creations of others.

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Your name/Artist name

Jess Leahey

Artwork title

Changing of the birds

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What inspired you to create this artwork?

Throughout my isolation the internet has provided some incredible examples of nature's resiliency and its quick reclamation when given a break from humankind. There were dolphins in the sparkling turquoise Venice canals. The tourist fed monkeys in Thailand, now starving, were ransacking towns in hungry rebellion. I also saw some powerful photography of densely populated spaces, void of people, like Time Square, or Grand Central Station. Looking around my environment for that perspective change, I felt it in sound.

Revelstoke is a noisy little town in the winter. The railway weaves through town clanging incessantly, avalanche control bombs radiate the valley on snowy mornings, Sleds braaapp across the river, three different helicopter companies stage here, there is a gun range, there is snowblowers, even grandmothers here own chainsaws, and when you add in that thick valley cloud for reverberation, you can turn all that noise up even more. When Covid-19 arrived, the heli-ski companies were the first in town to be affected, and our families in quarantine like the snap of a finger. Other noisy industries to quickly follow. The birds of spring were not even here yet and the helicopters were grounded … the sky was dead quiet.

When I moved here, the noise made me uncomfortable. Growing up on the north shore of Lake Superior, and later living in Banff National Park, helicopters meant only one thing: Emergency. Living here, ‘Emergency,' changed to ‘Rescue,' then to ‘Heli bombing, powder day!,' to ‘What a day to fly,' to ‘My husband is home safely.' I live right under Selkirk Tangiers staging; their flight patterns have become like a sundial for my day, like an audible clock. I never thought quiet would be so unnerving.

The title, ‘The changing of the birds’ is a play on ‘The changing of the guard’ … the formal ceremony in which a group of soldiers are relieved of their duties by a new batch of soldiers. Symbolically, its referring to the time of the year when the helicopters of the valley finish the winter season, and the Robins, Stellar Jays, and Chickadees descend on town in their replacement, changing the towns soundtrack from thumps of helicopters, to birdsong. The calendar of the seasonal worker is punctuated by a special set of ceremonies to signify our guard change, different from normal holidays … they are things like the first day of spring corn groomers, après on patios, goggle tans, or my favorite, closing day. Since we did not get our silly little celebrations this year, I wanted to make us a little ceremony to give us a little closure, something to connect us in our independent isolation. A little celebration of the weirdest ski season ever, and a little wing wave to all ski industry folk and seasonal workers.

The next guard changes in the fall, I look forward to all the racket.

Where did you create this artwork?
How is your workspace?

A lawn chair in my driveway, the only patch of my yard without snow, watching the birds.

Short bio

Jessica Leahey is a Revelstoke based artist and illustrator. Jess loves mountains... their activities, their culture, and their people.

Post Content

This post was published by a member of the Revelstoke Mountaineer staff. Stories published under the staff byline include news briefs, stories that consist mostly of media releases, social media post shares, and stories by contributors with the author's name listed in the body of the story.